Archives For Devotional

There are no new sins, only more diverse and efficient ways of committing them. Before we let the mainstream of 21st Century culture catch us in its current, let’s hit pause for a moment and get our bearings. Perhaps it’s time to swim against the information flow.

Here are four godly disciplines to pursue in 2014 that have taken on a unique significance in the last five to ten years.

1. Pluck the I out of your iPhone.

not invincibleThe advent of smart phones has introduced an unprecedented rate of interruption into our social interactions. Phones have made us selfish and inconsiderate in ways that used to be deemed boorish and uncultured.

Formerly, if someone walked up to you and began talking while you were already engaged in another conversation, that the person would be considered rude.

But this decade has made us feel rude for not replying instantly to any interruption that hails from our phone.

You know how frustrating it is to be halted mid-sentence by a text chime tone, only to have the person you were talking with treat the “What’s up?” ping as if it were a life-and-death enquiry. I understand if Jack Bauer asked me to hold my thought while he checked the text message from the President. But very few people work for CTU or are on call to intercept a terrorist attack.

Most people answer their phones for one reason only: they heard it “Ping.” How Pavlovian can you get?

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In Luke 2:14 the angels sang these words: “Glory to God in the highest heaven! Peace on earth to those whom he pleases.”

This week I heard a worship leader explain that the lyrics of “Joy to the World” only made sense within the concept of a future millenial kingdom–a time where Jesus reigned on earth, and the ground would refuse to allow sin and sorrow to grow on it. That got me thinking–what other Christmas promises are there that are realized in a future kingdom?

Then I came across a Christmas sermon from Spurgeon on the angel’s declaration in Luke 2:14. This is what he says, and it makes for a hopeful Christmas devotional:   Continue Reading…

How many times have you heard the Christmas story?  Probably dozens of times, if you’ve been in church for any length of time.  People  hear it year after year and everyone seems fairly familiar with it, so there’s always a little bit of pressure to make it fresh/interesting with either new details that may have been previously unknown or new angles that may give a previously unconsidered perspective.

Thinking of the “new details”, I remember when I was in my first or second year of Bible College and an upperclassman told me that the names of the three wise men were Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar (I’d always thought one of them was named “Frank”).  I looked at the upperclassman with shock and awe and immediately started flipping through my bible, wondering where in the Bible he found that amazing gem of insight!

Magician

In the following years, I’ve heard probably a dozen different versions of how many wise men there actually were and where they really came from…all of which were essentially guesses.  (Roman philosophers?  Indian Mystics?  Chinese Astrologers?  Ancient scientists following a UFO?  Yes, that’s a real theory that I’ve encountered…)  Most of the “new details” that I’ve encountered have been, well, questionable (to say the least). Continue Reading…

In preparation for my yearly resolution to read through the Bible (which often runs out of fuel at points and needs fresh motivation), I have begun to carbo-load on motivation by researching reading plans and getting poised for a good year of actually doing what I set out to do.

Lotito eating bicycle

I usually make ten resolutions with the hope of keeping about four. My theory is that’s better than making none or making four and keeping one.

Anyway, I came across this funny Frenchman who inspired me to keep nibbling at my old Bible reading plan until it is done. His name is Monsieur Mangetout (pronounced mun-jê-toot), which is a sobriquet meaning “Mr Eats it All.”

His real name is Michel Lotito (1950-2007). He made his living by entertaining people who were fascinated by what he could stomach. He could and did consume huge quantities of indigestible material, including metal, glass, and rubber. (Though he complained that eating hard-boiled eggs and bananas made him ill.)

In his illustrious career Mangetout downed (these figures might seem hard to swallow, but I’m really not making any of this up) …

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December 19, 2013

God with Us

by Nathan Busenitz

It is only 6 days until Christmas.

Visit your local coffee shop, take a trip to the mall, or just drive through your neighborhood at night, and it’s easy to see that the so-called “Christmas spirit” is alive and well in American culture.

Some of the ironies of our culture’s fascination with Christmas are especially evident where I live in Southern California.

• It hasn’t snowed in Los Angeles in years, but snowflake decorations are everywhere.

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Christian Fasting: it’s one of those “fringe” things in Christian belief that people are somewhat aware of but not a lot of people are clear about.  I’ve never actually heard any teaching on fasting from any church I’ve attended, and I suspect that’s a fairly typical experience for others too.  Due to the lack of instruction on the subject, the ideas of fasting range from “something that happened in Jesus’ day that we don’t need to worry about” to “the secret to spiritual break through.”

fasting breakthrough

Both of these cannot be true.  If fasting is irrelevant, it’s not the secret to spiritual break through.  If it is the secret to spiritual break through, it’s hardly irrelevant! Continue Reading…

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
– Philippians 3:20–21 –

Citizens of Heaven_T_NVPaul has been exhorting the Philippians to follow his example (Phil 3:17) in pressing on in the race of pursuing sanctification (Phil 3:12–14). In these verses, he gives two reasons, or motivations, that the believer in Jesus should be pressing on with all our might in our fight for holiness.

Our Present Position

The word “our” in that opening phrase is thrown all the way to the very front of the sentence in the original in order to show an emphatic contrast. Sensuality, shamelessness, and worldliness characterize the enemies of the cross (Phil 3:18–19). But as for us, Paul says, our citizenship is in heaven. And because of our present position as citizens, enrolled on the register of the Heavenly Kingdom, our lives must be ruled and governed by the laws of that blessed realm.

And the Philippians would have understood this imagery of “citizenship” immediately. According to Acts 16:12, Philippi was a Roman colony. And the historical sources tell us that Philippi enjoyed an elite status in the Roman empire called the ius Italicum—which is to say that it was governed as if it was on Italian soil. Philippians enjoyed the full rights and privileges of Roman citizenship as if they had been born there themselves. And they were proud of that status. They spoke the Romans’ language, they copied the Romans’ architecture, and they even adopted the way the Romans dressed. Everything about their way of life was governed by a kingdom which they were citizens of but were not presently living in.

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November 29, 2013

Clara’s Heart

by Jesse Johnson

Joe and Jo Portnoy are part of Immanuel Bible Church (the church I pastor), and this year they have been through a tremendous trial with their only child, Clara. On Thanksgiving they told our church how thankful they are for God’s goodness, for God’s salvation, and for the constant reminder that no story ends in this life. Below is a 10-minute video we watched about how this trial has strengthened thier faith, and made them even more thankful for their precious daughter, baby Clara.

November 28, 2013

Thankful to Whom?

by Mike Riccardi

Thankfulness is a funny thing.

By its very nature the giving of thanks cuts straight across the grain of the pride and self-focus of the natural human heart. When we are thankful for something, we acknowledge that we are in someone else’s debt—that there are good things in our lives for which it just doesn’t seem appropriate to pat ourselves on the back. We pause for a few days over Thanksgiving break to think about the blessings we enjoy—the way our lives, with all their challenges, trials, and disappointments, are actually much better than we could have accomplished for ourselves in our own strength, and much better than we know we deserve.

And that seems to be the case even for unbelievers. It seems the knowledge of God and His Law that is written on their hearts (Rom 2:14–15)—the knowledge of His invisible attributes that He has clearly made visible by ordering the world as He has (Rom 1:19–20)—gets just a little bit harder to suppress (Rom 1:18) as they perceive the loveliness and virtue in thanksgiving. The inherent, objective pleasantness of the reality that someone other than themselves is most fundamentally responsible for the good things they enjoy bursts forth into their consciousness, causing them to humble themselves and thank someone else for them. Even the most prideful person will admit, if he’s honest with himself, that, strangely enough, it feels good to be thankful. We enjoy giving thanks. Something just feels…right… about it.

And that’s because we’re tapping into the reality that life isn’t most ultimately about us and making much of ourselves. We’re catching a glimpse of the reality that absolutely everything that we have—from our part-time job to the air we breathe—is owing to the beneficence of Another. You see, we are designed to humble ourselves in the presence of Someone infinitely more worthy than us. And we are designed to give praise and thanksgiving to Him for the comforts of this life. The pleasure we feel in thanksgiving is a parable from the God of the universe that teaches us that our glory is not the goal of our lives, but that His glory is.

And so if you’re reading this and you’re not a believer in Jesus Christ, can I ask you to stop and think about why, at this time of year, it feels right to deflect the glory? Would you pause a moment and think about why in the world that is? You truly feel, and therefore say, the words, “I’m thankful for ______.” But have you ever asked yourself whom you’re thankful to for those gifts? Indeed, that they are gifts and therefore have come from a Giver?

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As we all prepare to spend some time today reflecting on things we’re thankful for, let us remember that there is no virtue in treasuring the gifts at the expense of treasuring the Giver. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). This Thanksgiving, recognize that Whom you’re thankful to matters infinitely more than what you’re thankful for.

The greatest gift of all—the gift for which we should all be most thankful—is the Father’s gift of His perfect, innocent Son. His beloved Son, whom He gave to die on the Cross in order to pay sin’s penalty in the place of sinners like you and me. Who rose from the grave on the third day in order to bring true, spiritual, eternal life to all those who forsake their sins and depend entirely on Him to provide their righteousness before a Holy God. Jesus is the One who makes Thanksgiving possible. This Thanksgiving, let’s give Him the glory and honor for that.

Let’s be thankful for the gifts we enjoy. And let’s be thankful to the God who gives them.

(Reposted from Thanksgiving, 2011)

FootstoolGod does not need us, nor is He impressed with any of our works. In fact, Isaiah 66:1-2a demonstrates that all of our efforts are downright silly in light of His greatness.

Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord.

Would we build Him a house? The earth is His footstool! Even more, what material would we use in our service to Him? The oxigen we breath is His, along with every other molecule we touch! We are like the 4 year old girl who buys her parents a gift and boasts about how rich she is because she can buy such things – not recognizing that her parents gave her the money for the gift in the first place!   Continue Reading…