The sign of a virgin with child

At this time of year, we love to meditate on Isaiah 7:13 — “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel — ‘God is with us.'” (NLT)

Do you also ponder the previous verse?

“Then Isaiah said, ‘Listen well, you royal family of David! You aren’t satisfied to exhaust my patience. You exhaust the patience of God as well!'”

The kings of Aram and Israel had allied themselves and attacked Jerusalem. King Ahaz was distraught with worry. Even when God sent his prophet to encourage the king, he still continued to worry. So the Lord himself told Ahaz to ask for a sign proving the trustworthiness of God’s promise — and Ahaz refused!

So God chose the sign Ahaz would get — and made him a better promise: Not only would a virgin conceive, but the Almighty himself would come among his people in the person of Messiah Immanuel! Could there be any better proof of God’s power, love, and faithfulness toward his people?

So why do you exhaust the patience of God by worrying about your circumstances instead of focusing yourself wholeheartedly on the mission of lighting up our darkened world? God is with us!

 

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Unfruitful believers open the door for race-baiting hustlers

Does it bother you that so many churches and believers are not bearing the “much fruit” that brings glory to God? Are you concerned about the fires of rage being stoked in this country’s urban ghettos?

Did you know Titus 3 ties the two together — that doing justice for people in need is connected to being fruitful?

Verse 14 says: “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.” In fact, the majority of Titus 3 talks about the need to engage in good deeds if you have trusted God for salvation. Because God saved us, in spite of our ugly hearts and despicable behavior, we must live out that kind of mercy for the foolish, disobedient, hateful people around us.

When race-baiters fuel the rage of downtrodden souls, how do you respond? Verses 1 and 2 say “to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”

Why? “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” (v.3) Isn’t that what many middle-class Christians think about the rioters, looters, and protestors they have been seeing on the evening news?

We cannot be content to mind our own business when others are struggling and suffering desperately, whether they are halfway around the world or on the wrong side of the tracks here at home. Believers have the privilege of already living out the full, free, and forever life we received through Jesus. God’s children glorify him by being fruitful and filling the earth.

We will not be fruitful if we are not intentional about engaging in good deeds to meet pressing needs.

“Social justice” is being defined for this country by self-promoting hustlers who want to control the levers of power. If God’s children were doing justice like he expects, the race-baiters would get laughed out of town by the very people they are trying to stir up to rebellion.

And churches would be “bearing much fruit” as a result.

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When the Bible says something I don’t like …

Do you not like what the Bible teaches about hell or homosexuality? about divorce or adultery? about self-sacrifice or social injustice?

Hear the Almighty’s challenge to Job:

Are you going to discredit my justice and condemn me so you can say you are right? Are you as strong as God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? All right then, put on your robes of state, your majesty and splendor. Give vent to your anger. Let it overflow against the proud. Humiliate the proud with a glance; walk on the wicked where they stand. Bury them in the dust. Imprison them in the world of the dead. Then even I would praise you, for your own strength would save you. (Job 40:8-14 NLT)

The spirits of this age resist God’s ways. Some popular teachers ignore, distort, and explain away the Bible’s clear teaching — some of them while waving their Bibles high and proud.

Jesus, however, is the only one of us who had the privilege of declaring: “You have heard it said … but I say unto you ….” Most of us would shudder at the thought of presenting ourselves as God in the flesh, but when we presume to know better than what the Bible plainly says, we are robing ourselves with God’s majesty.

Better to join Job in his humility: “I am nothing — how could I ever find the answers? I will put my hand over my mouth in silence. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.” (vv.4-5)

When the Bible says something I don’t like, the proper response is metanoeo — allowing God to transform me by the renewing of my mind. When the Bible says something I don’t understand, the proper response is to study the Bible — allowing the Spirit to guide me into God’s truth.

The popular culture does not get to decide whether the Bible is true; Jesus proved what is true when God raised him from the dead. We don’t get to mash Scripture into the mold of our personal opinion or church tradition. We would do well to spend more time listening to God’s Word and less time hanging on every word that proceeds from the mouth of our favorite teacher.

So, having said that, click here.

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In your dark hour, here is the path to light

In the darkest hour of your most trying circumstance, will you praise God for all his mercies?

After three days in the belly of a great fish, Jonah was trapped at “the very roots of the mountains … imprisoned in the land of the dead,” yet he sang:

“When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the LORD alone.”(Jonah 2:7-9 NLT)

In the midst of great distress, Jonah knew the path forward for those who worship the One True God is to remind yourself of all his mercies.

“Then the LORD ordered the fish to spit up Jonah on the beach, and it did.” (v.10)

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God’s sovereignty and human freedom in the Lord’s Prayer

Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. Give us our food for today, and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13 NLT)

Kenneth Bailey on the six requests of the Lord’s Prayer:

Each of these six petitions involves an active God, and each specifies or implies participation on the part of the believer. That is, each involves the sovereignty of God and the freedom and responsibility of the human person. This is as follows:

1. God makes his own name holy, and I am expected to live a holy life.

2. God brings in the kingdom, and I am to work toward the goal of its coming.

3. God fulfills his will, and I am to discover that will and obey it in daily life.

4. He gives the gift of daily bread, and I must work to earn it.

5. He forgives, and I must forgive.

6. He guides me away from evil, and I must live a life of righteousness.

(Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p.105)

 

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On a dangerous road, you need to keep moving

Your journey into salvation isn’t over just because you have taken the first step. You still have much to learn, and the path leads through dangerous territory.

The apostle Paul asked the believers in Thessalonika to pray that, in his own missionary journeys, he would be “saved from wicked and evil people.”

Pray, too, that we will be saved from wicked and evil people, for not everyone believes in the Lord. But the Lord is faithful; he will make you strong and guard you from the evil one. And we are confident in the Lord that you are practicing the things we commanded you, and that you always will. May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God and the endurance that comes from Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3:2-5)

Paul’s enemies wanted him dead because he left them to join Jesus’ revolution. And in every city, Paul would be confronted by people willing to do anything — even kill — to protect their wicked way of life.

Paul knew, however, that God can be trusted. Those who trust him, he will make strong and guard them from the evil one. What was essential was that believers would always keep walking in God’s ways — practicing the things Paul had commanded.

As they stayed on those paths — walking with Jesus in the Way — they would learn more and more about the love of God. They would understand the importance of enduring trials and not giving up. They would realize that Christ is the one who strengthens them to keep walking.

As you muster the determination to take each new step — difficult as it may be, impossible as the destination may seem — you find that Jesus gives you the strength you needed to make it.

When you are on a dangerous road, you need to keep moving.


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About to drown? Trust the Lord of the Tides

In Psalm 42, the Musician cries out to God about the awful circumstances he is enduring. Things are so bad, he has nothing to eat. He remembers the good old days, when he celebrated in worship with great crowds of enthusiastic believers . Now he is alone, and the unbelievers taunt him: “Where is this God of yours? If your God is so strong and faithful, why are you in such dire straits?”

This sad, discouraged soul feels like he is drowning in a raging sea. Is this how his life ends? Towering waves pound him mercilessly. A strong tide threatens to drag him out to sea. “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Then it strikes him: Those mountainous waves are God’s waves. These deadly tides ebb and flow at the Lord’s command. Though tossed in a raging sea, our friend is still alive — and God is the one who gives life. “Each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.”

A new resolve rises in his heart: “I will remember your kindness! I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again — my Savior and my God!”

Is life too much for you right now? Do you feel like you’re about to drown? Are you discouraged to the point of just giving up?

Remember that the God who loves you is the one who created the waves that are pounding you. He is Lord of the Tides. Check your pulse. Is your heart still beating? Each pulse is a gift from God. Every single time your heart beats, God says, “I love you! There is a reason you haven’t drowned. Hang in there and trust me.”

Each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon you — even if only in the fact that he awakens you to live another day. Remember the days when he was kind to you. Put your hope in him and trust that he intends to use this storm to help you, not harm you. In the night, when you have no food but your tears, sing praise to him and pray. He is your Savior and your God! He has always been faithful — and he isn’t going to change now.

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