Christmas at MacPherson

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. Luke 1:68

About 230 families and individuals live at MacPherson Gardens, Block 72 in my neighborhood. Each person has his or her own life story. On the tenth floor resides an elderly woman whose children have grown up, gotten married, and moved out. She lives by herself now. Just a few doors away from her is a young couple with two kids—a boy and a girl. And a few floors below lives a young man serving in the army. He has been to church before; maybe he will visit again on Christmas Day. I met these people last Christmas when our church went caroling in the neighborhood to spread Christmas cheer.

Every Christmas—as on the first Christmas—there are many people who do not know that God has entered into our world as a baby whose name is Jesus (Luke 1:68; 2:21). Or they do not know the significance of that event—it is “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (2:10). Yes, all people! Regardless of our nationality, culture, gender, or financial status, Jesus came to die for us and offer us complete forgiveness so that we can be reconciled with Him and enjoy His love, joy, peace, and hope. All people, from the woman next door to the colleagues we have lunch with, need to hear this wonderful news!

The good news of Jesus’s birth is a source of joy for all people.

On the first Christmas, the angels were the bearers of this joyous news. Today, God desires to work through us to take the story to others.

Lord, use me to touch the lives of others with the news of Your coming.

The good news of Jesus’s birth is a source of joy for all people.

By Poh Fang Chia 

INSIGHT

One of the great themes of Luke’s gospel record is that it continually affirms that the message of Jesus’s death and resurrection is for everyone—not just for Israel. Today’s devotional declares that Christ’s coming would “cause great joy for all the people” (2:10). This important message continues later in this chapter when Simeon says that salvation is prepared in the “sight of all nations” and that Israel’s Messiah is both “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (vv. 30–32). At the conclusion of Luke’s account, the risen Christ tells the two disciples on the Emmaus road that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (24:47). This message was not intended for Israel alone, nor are we to keep it to ourselves. The entire world is the object of God’s love.

For more on sharing your faith, see the Discovery Series booklet Truth with Love: Sharing the Story of Jesus.

Bill Crowder

Preaching Like Peter

Acts 2:14-42

Peter’s first sermon takes less than five minutes to recite. Sharing the gospel doesn’t need to be complicated or lengthy. In fact, Peter’s message contains a formula we can use to outline our own testimonies.

Preparation. The disciple relied heavily on the Scriptures to make his case for faith in Christ. But Peter knew there was another important element—after being miraculously enabled to proclaim the gospel in multiple languages, he must have realized the significance of the Holy Spirit. No matter how persuasive a man’s message is, only the Spirit can open the door to unbelieving hearts and minds.

The Savior’s credentials and purpose. Peter cited the “miracles and wonders and signs” that validated Jesus as the promised Messiah (Acts 2:22). Then the disciple made clear Jesus’ foreordained mission on earth: to die for mankind’s sin. Christ willingly and obediently submitted to the task assigned by His Father.

A personal invitation. Peter wasn’t shy about convicting the hearts of his audience. “This Man … you nailed to a cross,” he said (Acts 2:23). The new preacher made sure listeners knew their responsibility in the Messiah’s death, but then gave the exciting news that Christ was alive. Those who believed were invited to repent and be baptized in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38). Any gospel message should finish by telling people how they, too, can be saved.

Witnessing to others can be intimidating. But if you are prayerful and prepared, you can trust the Holy Spirit to be with you and to handle the outcome.

Believing God

“Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.” (Acts 27:25)

Most people believe in God—some kind of god—but it’s a different thing altogether to believe God! And our text makes it clear that believing God simply means believing what He says, “that it shall be even as it was told me.” Paul spoke these words at the height of a terrible storm at sea, when it appeared certain that “all hope that we should be saved was then taken away” (v. 20). But God had spoken otherwise, and Paul believed God rather than adopting the fears of those around him. Abraham, “the father of all them that believe” (Romans 4:11), had set the example. “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Romans 4:20-21).

God does not speak to us audibly today as He did to Abraham and Paul, but He does speak far more comprehensively to us through His written Word, and we have even less excuse for unbelief than they might have had. It is a terrible offense against our Creator to question His Word. This, indeed, was the very sin of pride that led to Satan’s fall and then to the fall of Adam and Eve. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God [literally, ‘is God-breathed’]” (2 Timothy 3:16) and thus should be fully believed and explicitly obeyed, for “he that believeth not God hath made him a liar” (1 John 5:10).

But what about those Scriptures that modern scientists claim to be wrong? “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:3-4). “For the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth” (Psalm 33:4). HMM

He that speaketh lies shall perish

2 Kings 5:15-27

2 Kings 5:15

Gratitude was in the stranger’s bosom, he was not like those who receive great benefits and then go away to forget the giver. His gratitude prompted him to reward the prophet as well as to praise his Master.

2 Kings 5:16

He wished Naaman to see that he was not like the mercenary priests who swarmed around him. Freely he had received, and freely he gave. From others Elisha received presents, he only declined in this case because he saw it to be best.

2 Kings 5:17

Did he want this earth to make an altar with, according to the law? We may suppose so, but we cannot be sure.

2 Kings 5:18

His faith was very weak, and he wanted some indulgence in a matter which would involve his position at court. It was a wrong request, and was passed over in silence. It may be that in due time Naaman outgrew all fear, and became as decided for Jehovah as we could wish to have seen him at the first.

2 Kings 5:20

How profane to mix up the name of the Lord with his covetousness and falsehood. A man may live with a prophet, and yet be no better than he should be.

2 Kings 5:22

Wilful falsehood, every word of it!

2 Kings 5:23, 24

What benefit could these things be when he had to hide them away and leave them. Men lose their souls to get for themselves goods which are a trouble to them.

2 Kings 5:25

One lie requires another to support it. The beginning of falsehood is as the breaking out of fire; no one knows where it will end.

2 Kings 5:27

God in infinite mercy forbid that any one of us should provoke him by untruth. Liars are not in these days punished with leprosy, but they will at the last have their portion in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: who can contemplate such a doom without trembling?

 

Since lying lips and all deceit

Are hateful in thy sight,

From crooked ways, Lord, keep my feet,

For truth is my delight.

 

If No One Else Will Stand by You, The Lord Will Come to Your Assistance

2 Timothy 4:16

It is a heart-rending experience when friends let you down or when someone you thought to be faithful disappoints you. If this has ever happened to you, you know how upsetting this kind of situation can be. Yet this is precisely what happened to Timothy when he was serving as the senior pastor of the church in Ephesus. Leaders he thought would be faithful to the end had apparently walked out and left him in a moment of trouble. The hurt and pain Timothy felt from being abandoned by those he had trusted was so intense that he had written to Paul about it.

If you have ever felt betrayed by someone you loved, you should relate very well to the words the apostle Paul wrote in Second Timothy 4:16. Paul is referring to the time he stood before the Roman imperial court to be tried for the first time. In that moment when he needed friends to testify in his defense, Paul turned to see who would testify on his behalf—only to discover that every one of his friends had walked out and abandoned him.

Now as Paul writes to Timothy to encourage him to stand strong in his own ordeal, he recalls that extremely difficult time when those close to him chose to walk away. Paul says, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.”

The word “answer” is the Greek word apologia which is a compound of the words apo and logos. In this case, the word apo means back, and the word logos is the Greek word for a word. When compounded, it means to answer back and depicts a reply, a response, or an answer. It was the old word used to describe a court trial where the accused was given an opportunity to respond to the charges brought against him.

Paul says, “At my first answer no man stood with me….” The word “stood” comes from the Greek word paraginomai. It is a technical term used to describe a witness who stands forward in a court of law to support a prisoner. By selecting this word, Paul makes his point clear: When he desperately needed the support of fellow believers, not one single friend stood forward to testify in his defense. When he turned and looked to see who would be his witness, all his friends were gone!

In fact, Paul goes on to say, “… But all men forsook me….” The word “forsook” in Greek is from the word egkataleipo, which is a compound of the words ek, kata, and leipo. The word ek means out; the word kata means down; and the word leipo means to leave or to forsake. But when all three of these words are joined to form a triple-compound word, the new word carries the idea of walking out on someone; leaving someone in a terrible condition; abandoning a person at the worst possible moment; and deserting a person in the most terrible way. In other words, it conveys the idea of abandonment. By using this wretched word, Paul is saying, “Not only did they not come forward to support me and stand with me—they walked out on me and abandoned me at the worst possible moment!”

You’d think these horror stories would have made Paul bitter; however, there isn’t a trace of bitterness in the apostle. He has learned a marvelous secret: When no one else will stand with you, the Lord will always come forward to stand alongside you, support you, and help you.

Continuing in verse 17, Paul says, “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.”

First, Paul says, “… The Lord stood with me….” This word “stood” is the Greek word paristemi, which means to stand by one’s side. By using this word, Paul tells you that Jesus Christ is not ashamed of any faithful soldier. When no one else will come to your aid, Jesus Christ is always there to rescue you. Jesus will step forward to assist you and defend you when your friends and family have all bailed out!

Second, Paul says the Lord “strengthened” him. The word “strengthened” in the Greek is endunamoo, which always refers to an empowerment or an inner strengthening. It is a compound of the words en and dunamis. The word en means in. The word dunamis means explosive strength, ability, and power. It’s where we get the word dynamite.

Thus, this word endunamoo presents the picture of an explosive power that is being deposited into some type of container, vessel, or other form of receptacle. The very nature of this word endunamoo means that there necessarily must be some type of receiver into which this power can be deposited.

What does this tell us? In that moment when Paul felt so abandoned, he received a supernatural infilling of divine power that literally supercharged him to bravely and victoriously face one of the most difficult times in his life. The moment Paul discovered he had no friends to lean on was the exact moment that the power of God filled him anew and made him supernaturally strong for the ordeal he was facing.

This was good news for Timothy—and for every other believer who ever feels abandoned and let down by friends. If anyone needed to be reminded that the Lord would stand by him and strengthen him in the midst of every crisis, it was Timothy. The young minister desperately needed a fresh infilling of God’s power so he could victoriously walk through the ordeal that lay before him.

Just as God supernaturally strengthened Paul at a time when the apostle felt hurt and betrayed, God promised to do the same for Timothy in his hour of need. And God hasn’t changed; He is still not a respecter of persons. If He did it for Paul and Timothy, He will do the same for you today!

Are you facing a disturbing situation today? Has something happened to make you feel lonely and abandoned by those you thought would be faithful to stand by your side? If this is the case, it’s time for you to ask Jesus to stand by your side. If you will ask Him for help, He will step forward to assist you, befriend you, and fill you with the power you need to victoriously conquer this difficult time in your life. So why don’t you go ahead and ask the Lord to help you today?

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, I admit that I’ve been feeling pretty lonely in the situation I am facing right now. Even though my friends try to understand, they simply can’t comprehend the emotional ordeal I am going through. But I know that You understand everything, Lord, so today I am asking You to step forward and assist me in my hour of need. Please stand at my side to help me, support me, and fill me with a fresh dose of the Holy Spirit’s mighty power so I can victoriously overcome in the midst of this challenging trial. I know that with Your Presence and power at my side, I will win this fight of faith that I’m engaged in right now.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I confess that Jesus loves me and understands me. Even though friends may desert me or fail to understand the dilemma I am facing in my life, Jesus completely comprehends the entire situation. Not only does He understand, but He is also my biggest Helper in my time of need. When I cry out to Jesus in faith, He responds by manifesting His strong Presence at my side. His Presence is with me to assist me, support me, and give me the strength I need to conquer all the attacks that come against my life. With Jesus, I can and will endure everything I face in life!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Can you think of several instances in your life when you felt extremely weak, but then Jesus Christ came alongside you and filled you with all the strength you needed to victoriously make it through the predicament you were facing?
  2. Do you know a friend who is struggling right now and feeling very abandoned? If so, why don’t you demonstrate your love to that friend today by taking the time to share how Jesus strengthened you in your past times of crisis? Your testimony may be the very thing that encourages your friend to let the Lord step forward as his Helper in his time of need.
  3. When you were facing those hard times and the Spirit of God filled you with His power, how did you know that He had touched you? What was the immediate change you felt that let you know God had just given you a new infilling of His Spirit?

 

Wholeheartedness

Giving it 110% – A rare commodity today in our National slide into mediocrity.

 

The Scriptures allow us no such quarter. Consider Paul’s admonition to young Timothy :

 

Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you

 

Literally:

  • Don’t be careless with it
  • Don’t disregard it
  • Don’t make light of it.

Reminiscent, of Jesus’ admonition regarding the talents: Use it and I will multiply it; hide it and I will take it away from you. (Matthew 25:15-30)

 

Take pains with these things

 

Literally:

  • Meditate upon them
  • Revolve them in your mind
  • Ponder these truths with the intention of applying them to your life.

Give Thyself wholly to them

 

Literally:

  • Agree with them

That is, don’t dance around the periphery. Jump into the water! Get committed!

 

Take heed

 

Literally:

  • Pay attention
  • Retain

Non-commitment and compromise are the operative values in the corridors of today’s business, political and educational sophistry.

 

No so, the disciple of Jesus. The cost of Calvary demands nothing less than “my soul, my life, my all.”

 

 

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