The Perfect Gift
Those of you who love to find just the right present for the people you love share something in common with God’s nature. He too is a gift-giver. He loves to give gifts to his children.
He gave Adam his Eve.
He gave Noah a boat.
He gave toothless 100-year-old Abraham a tiny tot.
He gave Moses an all-expense paid vacation in the Wilderness.
He gave David a kingdom and Solomon wisdom.
Jonah got a submarine ride.
The other prophets got a promise. Isaiah shares the promise with these words: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).
Most of us have had some darkness in our lives. Maybe you are living in the land of darkness now: bills are piling up or maybe your marriage is a bit rocky or you’re worried about your children.
And you don’t know if you can find the perfect present for your wish list – something that will bring light to your world. Money might help, but you know there’s something deeper causing your problems.
God knows what you need. He saw the darkness in Isaiah’s time, and He sees your darkness too. He knows just the right thing to give you.
The present that God chose to give you is his presence. His son. When God selected the perfect present for you, He did not have to wait in any long lines. He had no worries about the lasting value of His selection. He was not concerned that it might become outdated.
No, He knew this present was perfect. He wrapped it up in an unusual package and gave it to you. Out of a storehouse more immense than anything the North Pole could offer, He selected one gift. That gift is His presence with us through His son.
By the way, you can give the same thing God gave. Give the one thing your loved ones need the most: his presence in you. That would be a wonderful Christmas present! When His presence fills your life, you will be able to offer a gift of grace to those around you. You can fill the lives of your loved ones with His presence in you. You can bring joy to their world. You can exhibit holiness for their confusion. You can bring light to their darkness.
The world celebrates the birth of Christ on an arbitrary date – December 25. But Christmas can happen anytime and anywhere when Jesus is born anew in a believer’s heart. Trust that the gift God gave you is the gift you most need.
When Dr. David Jeremiah was a little boy, his family went on a vacation. They stayed in a cottage on a lake. "Whatever you do, don't go near the lake, while we are gone to the store." He went anyway and fell in the lake. Before he could get back to the cabin, his parents had arrived, and they were furious.
"What were you doing?" His mother said. "It was an accident" he said. His mother then replied, "you have your swimming trunks on, what do you mean it was an accident?"
"Well, I just took the swimming trunks in case I got tempted.”
How many times have I sinned because I walked past "a way out" in order to get as close to the wrong activity without participating. . .
. . . and then wonder why I was not able to resist sinning against God?
With me, THE WAY OUT occurs long before the temptation becomes unbearable or irresistible to me.
These days, I am focusing more on how present Jesus is with me when I think too long about any sinful activity. Realizing that he is right there in my heart helps me to deal with my unholy thoughts long before they become actions.
That's my WAY OUT!
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you A WAY OUT so that you can endure” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
“Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself THINK ABOUT WAYS to indulge your evil desires” (Romans 13:13, 14).
“Let the Lord Jesus Christ be as near to you as the clothes you wear. Then you won't try to satisfy your selfish desires” (Romans13:14 CEV).
Be a blessing to someone today!
By Alfred Donald
Paul, the church planter and apostle to the Gentile world, had been apparently placed “on hold.” He had been waiting for years without getting a fair hearing in Palestine. He exercised his Roman privilege and appealed to Caesar. Then he waited another two years in a Roman prison.
Yet the scripture gives this vivid description of Paul’s assessment of his situation: Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is because I am in Christ. Most of the brothers have gained confidence in the Lord from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the word fearlessly (Philippians 1:12-14).
Paul’s attitude was that every circumstance can be a prison or it can be a mission. Paul’s activities were changed but his life had not been put “on hold.” His ministry continued to be vibrant even through his confinement.
We will all face trying circumstances. Will they become prison bars? Or will we see a mission field? Paul did not allow the human limitations to strip the joy from his life. His joy was settled in his relationship with Jesus.
When we cannot see the way, it is wise to stay close to the one who does. These words help us remember that the Lord is in control no matter what happens:
Disappointment — His Appointment
Disappointment - His appointment''
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me.
His appointment must be blessing,
Tho'' it may come in disguise,
For the end from the beginning
Open to His wisdom lies.
Disappointment - His appointment,
Whose? The Lord, who loves me best,
Understands and knows me fully,
Who my faith and love would test;
For, like loving earthly parent,
He rejoices when He knows,
That His child accepts UNQUESTIONED,
All that from His wisdom flows.
Disappointment - His appointment,
Lord, I take it, then, as such.
Like the clay in hands of potter,
Yielding wholly to Thy touch.
All my life’s plan is Thy molding,
Not one single choice be mine;
Let me answer, unrepining--
Father, "Not my will, but Thine.
Have you noticed the red doors on the meeting house of a church in our neighborhood? Nancy Kennedy is a religious writer for the Citrus County Chronicle in west central Florida. She became interested in the red doors and started researching. She learned the red door tradition dates back to churches in the medieval days.
From a spiritual standpoint, there’s an obvious symbolic reason. The red door was an emphatic representation of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, thus reminding us of salvation in Christ.
Interestingly, there is also a cultural significance. During times of persecution, people could seek asylum at a church that had a red door. Apparently, this was prevalent during England’s War of the Roses. A soldier on the losing side could hide in a church with a red door and his enemies would not harm him. They wouldn’t violate the red door.
The concept of refuge goes deep into Bible thinking as well. The Almighty is described as the ultimate place of refuge:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalms 46:1).
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble (Psalms 9:9).
Likewise, God has always provided refuge for His people. The concept was laid out by Moses in Numbers 35; then it was implemented by Joshua. The plan was to establish six “cities of refuge” in the Promised Land. A person could go there for protection; he could be free from harm in the city of refuge.
In the same way, the church of Jesus ought to be a place of sanctuary. For suffering humans, it should be a station of safety and a location for refuge.
How well do we carry that out in real life? Many churches have a sign that says, “Visitors welcomed.” Yet sometimes visitors are ignored. They might be judged by their appearance. They could be viewed with suspicion or generally made to feel uncomfortable in the assembly. In some churches, cliques exist. Preferential treatment is given to members of means, position, or social standing.
We want Cedar Grove to be a “Red Door” church. We want to be a place of spiritual refuge. That means we want to be a place where . . .
Hurts are healed.
Fellowship is inclusive.
Needs are met.
Help is provided.
Souls are saved.
Hearts are mended.
Prodigals are forgiven.
Compassion is shown.
Grace is extended.
Mercy is bestowed.
God is glorified.
Christ is exalted.
People are valued.
Love is shared.
Faith is strengthened.
Hope is offered.
Spirits are revived.
We could each ask, “what will I do to make Cedar Grove a Red Door church?”
Lord, there is no one like you among the gods,
and there are no works like yours.
All the nations you have made
will come and bow down before you, Lord,
and will honor your name.
For you are great and perform wonders;
you alone are God (Psalm 86:8-10).
The author of this psalm is King David, and he puts emphasis on verse 10: “For you are great and perform wonders; you alone are God.”
John Piper explains this as a “cause and effect” relationship. “When you say, ‘I bought a bagel, for I was hungry,’ you mean that your hunger was the reason you bought the bagel. So, when David says, ‘For you are great and do wondrous things,’ he means that God's greatness is the reason for verse 9 — that ‘all the nations will come and bow down before him and honor him.’”
God's greatness makes him stronger than all the nations of the world. The Almighty is above all powers throughout the universe. He rules the gods and he rules the nations, FOR (because) he is great and does wondrous things; he alone is God.
Doubtless all of us would agree that the Lord’s greatness is unsearchable. What’s important, however, is to realize that this is central to all of life. This is relevant to everything that is involved in building our church. The unparalleled, incomparable, unequalled, unrivaled greatness of God is utterly important in caring for people and spreading the gospel.
What we need more than anything else at Cedar Grove is to see the glory of God. Nor should we think that our smallness is an obstacle. Piper gives us another illustration: “A telescope is a very small instrument, but it helps people see stupendous realities in the sky.” God loves to magnify his greatness by shining through vessels of clay. The issue is not smallness. The issue is: have you seen the greatness of God? Have you been taken captive by the glory of his power, knowledge, and love? When we are it means that all human power loses its power of attraction over us. Have you seen the greatness of God?