Dec 17, 2010
Created for a church carol service at Street Baptist Church (www.streetbaptist.co.uk), Dec 2010. All pictures were obtained from Creative Commons sources. The song is by Mark Schultz, released by Word Records, Oct 2009, seemingly as a single. You can purchase it, like I did, from Amazon Downloads
To him who overcomes… —Revelation 2:7
Life without war is impossible in the natural or the supernatural realm. It is a fact that there is a continuing struggle in the physical, mental, moral, and spiritual areas of life.
Health is the balance between the physical parts of my body and all the things and forces surrounding me. To maintain good health I must have sufficient internal strength to fight off the things that are external. Everything outside my physical life is designed to cause my death. The very elements that sustain me while I am alive work to decay and disintegrate my body once it is dead. If I have enough inner strength to fight, I help to produce the balance needed for health. The same is true of the mental life. If I want to maintain a strong and active mental life, I have to fight. This struggle produces the mental balance called thought.
Morally it is the same. Anything that does not strengthen me morally is the enemy of virtue within me. Whether I overcome, thereby producing virtue, depends on the level of moral excellence in my life. But we must fight to be moral. Morality does not happen by accident; moral virtue is acquired.
And spiritually it is also the same. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation…” (John 16:33). This means that anything which is not spiritual leads to my downfall. Jesus went on to say, “…but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” I must learn to fight against and overcome the things that come against me, and in that way produce the balance of holiness. Then it becomes a delight to meet opposition.
Holiness is the balance between my nature and the law of God as expressed in Jesus Christ.
The measure of the worth of our public activity for God is the private profound communion we have with Him.… We have to pitch our tents where we shall always have quiet times with God, however noisy our times with the world may be. My Utmost for His Highest, January 6, 736 R
1 John 4:7-10
Intimate relationships are characterized by a close connection to another person and a commitment to his or her well-being. Acquaintances have superficial information about us, but true friends know our deeper emotions, thoughts, and desires.
God, who is perfect and holy, has always desired such a personal relationship with man, but human sinfulness made that seem impossible. We all have rebelled against God’s perfect authority and deserve death (Rom. 3:23; Rom. 6:23). But more than that, we were all born with a corrupt nature inherited from Adam (Rom. 5:12), and neither good works nor moral values can overcome it.
God alone could remedy the situation. His solution is to change our nature so we can be a part of His family. Nonetheless, divine justice must still be satisfied, and only a perfect sacrifice can pay for our sins (Deut. 17:1). God requires the death of someone without a sin nature as the payment for our debt. Throughout history, only one qualified: Jesus, the perfect God-man, who gave His life so we could have a relationship with the Father. Our friendship with God came at a very high price to Him—the death of His beloved Son.
The Father has done everything necessary for us to be in His family and experience intimacy with Him. Have you entered into a relationship with Him through the saving work of His Son? If not, make today your spiritual birthday by receiving Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. This Christmas season, discover the gifts of freedom, satisfaction, and joy found only in Him.
“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5)
Jeremiah provides for us a striking contrast between the self-assured humanist and the one who has placed his trust in God. The man who looks to his own abilities or those of others to save him in time of trouble is “cursed.” His existence will be one of futility, just as is that of a parched desert plant (v. 6). Why? Because his “heart departeth from the LORD” (v. 5), the source of strength and salvation.
Jeremiah uses a play on words here. The words for “man” in our text are different: the first means “warrior” or “strong man,” and the second a “normal man.” The warrior who should be strong is cursed because he is trusting in one who is weak; in this case, any other man’s wisdom or might, or even his own strength, when overestimated. What sense is there in that?
In contrast, “blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD” (v. 7). “He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, . . . and shall not be careful [i.e., anxious] in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (v. 8). Why? Because his “hope the LORD is” (v. 7). We see the warrior—one who might be considered strong—trusting solely in the true “strong man,” the Lord.
It is a tragic fact that even many Christians fall into the mindset of the autonomous humanist and attempt to live their lives (even “the Christian life”) under their own power. Do we trust in our own feeble power or in the Lord? Every heart, whether humanist or Christian, “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (v. 9). Make no mistake! “I the LORD search the heart” (v. 10); He knows our inner motives. Let us recommit ourselves to trust in the Lord and make Him our hope. JDM
(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) —Philippians 3:18-19
The Bible was written in tears and to tears it will yield its best treasures. God has nothing to say to the frivolous man….
The psalmists often wrote in tears, the prophets could hardly conceal their heavyheartedness, and the apostle Paul in his otherwise joyous epistle to the Philippians broke into tears when he thought of the many who were enemies of the cross of Christ and whose end was destruction. Those Christian leaders who shook the world were one and all men of sorrows whose witness to mankind welled out of heavy hearts. There is no power in tears per se, but tears and power ever lie close together in the Church of the Firstborn….
The whole Christian family stands desperately in need of a restoration of penitence, humility and tears. May God send them soon.
This being so, Lord, I pray this morning that You would break me and send the tears. Amen.
But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 1 Peter 1:19
In the Lord’s instructions to Israel concerning the preparation for the Passover in Egypt we clearly see a foreshadowing of the communal quality of the Christian life: “Take every man a lamb, according to the house of your fathers.”
A lamb for an house—the chosen lamb of that particular family. But when John the Baptist appeared, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” A lamb for each family was one thing—but they were all pointing to this great Lamb, which was not Israel’s lamb at all, but the Lamb of God!
Yes, there is a blessed communal quality in the Christian faith and I add that “communal” is a beautiful word that has been ruined for us by communism. There is a sense in which the people of the Lord are a people apart, belonging to each other in a sense in which they do not belong to anyone else.
I do not hesitate to say that Christians belong to each other more than they belong to their country. I will also say to you, good wives and husbands in the faith, that you belong to Jesus Christ first and to husbands and wives second.
And to you who have Christian children, that those children belong to God first, and to you second. This is where we stand for we belong to each other in the communal family of God first!
As believers we discover there is a kingdom within the kingdoms of this world. A new people within the old. A royal priesthood, a holy nation, a chosen generation—Christians sharing together in the Lamb of God, precious to one another!
God, who is rich in mercy… even when we were dead in sins. EPHESIANS 2:4-5
A human being is never really aware of the great boundless sea of the mercy of Goduntil by faith he comes across the threshold of the kingdom of God and recognizes it andidentifies it!
My father was sixty years old when he bowed before Jesus Christ and was born again.That was a near lifetime in which he had sinned and lied and cursed. But to him, themercy of God that took him to heaven was no greater than the mercy of God that had endured and kept him for sixty years.
I recall the story of an ancient rabbi who consented to take a weary old traveler into hishouse for a night of rest. In conversation, the rabbi discovered the visitor was almost 100 years old and a confirmed atheist. Infuriated, the rabbi arose, opened the door and ordered the man out into the night.
Then, sitting down by his candle and Old Testament, it seemed he heard a voice, God’s voice: “I have endured that sinner for almost a century. Could you not endure him for a night?” The rabbi ran out and overtaking the old man, brought him back to the hospitality of his home for the night.
Father, You are gloriously patient with mankind. I praise You for that, and I pray that You will prod Your believing children to go out and find those who are on the cusp of belief.