YOUR YEAR OF GRACE AND FAVOR

 

The Lord longs to be gracious to you  Isaiah 30: 18 NIV

 December 31st the clock strikes midnight ushering in another New Year. Three hundred and sixty-five days to fan the flames of your unfilled hopes and dreams. A new beginning. A gift full of promise. But you must accept it, unwrap it and use it. Not everybody does. Maybe you dread what the New Year holds; retirement, the empty nest, chronic illness, unemployment, life without a loved one. Well, God loves to take people at the end of their rope and set them on the road to peace, joy and victory. He’s the expert at drying tears, calming fears, injecting courage into anxious hearts and removing the sting of old memories. He “make[s] all things new” (Rev 21:5). But He never leads you back, just forward.

Listen: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you.” What do you want to see happen this year? Does it include owning your own business? Losing some weight? Reuniting with your family? Only you can complete the question, “What if I could … ?” because you alone know what makes your heart leap. Stephen Covey says, “Begin … with the image of the end of your life as your frame of reference … Each day will then contribute to the vision you have of your life as a whole.” Seek God. Determine your goals. Write them down, then release the outcome to Him who “longs to be gracious to you.” To be gracious means “to show favor.” The desire of God’s heart is that you walk in His grace and favor every day of this year.



THE COST OF BEING BLESSED (3)

You were loyal with small things, I will let you care for ... greater things.

Matthew 25:23 NCV

To succeed at any worthwhile venture you need a thick skin when it omes to handling criticism. That’s what separates those who say they want something from God, from those who are prepared to pay the price to get it. For example, if you’ve been praying for a mate, ask yourself are you really ready for the sacrifice and responsibility that comes with marriage? Are you stable, unselfish and mature enough to provide for a family? Or, if you’re praying for an increase in your business, are you giving outstanding service to your current clients?

Remember, a peacock that rests on its feathers is just another turkey! Sometimes we’re in love with the image of success, but we haven’t counted the actual cost of succeeding. That’s why it’s a good thing God doesn’t automatically give us everything we ask for! Often we want things because they look good in the lives of others, but God in His wisdom knows it would destroy us to receive what we’re not equipped to handle.
God tests you with what you already have in order to develop consistency and strength. He wants to see how you handle the pressures that accompany the blessings He’s already given you. He wants to get you to the place in Him where you’re immune to adversity; where you’ve learned to appreciate the Giver more than the gift. And when you get there you’ll hear Him say, “You are a good … servant. .. Because you loyal with small things, I will let you care for much greater things and that will make it all worthwhile!”


THE COST OF BEING BLESSED (2)

Sit down and figure the cost. Luke 14:28 TM

How many times have you prayed for a particular thing without realizing how much it would ultimately cost you?

Success always comes with a price tag. Being blessed can be hard work. Everything God gives us requires maintenance.

When He placed Adam and Eve in the Garden, they stilI had to tend it. Jesus said when you’re “planning to build … sit down and figure the cost.” For example, when God blesses you don’t expect everybody around you to rejoice. Some people will figure your blessing came at their expense. That’s because they don’t want you to move ahead faster than they do. Or they want what God’s given you, but they’re not prepared to pay the price you’ve paid.

James says, “Where you have envy and selfish ambition … you find … every evil practice” (Jas 3: 16 NIV). And it’s not just your enemies you have to watch out for; betrayal often comes from within your own ranks. Jesus sat at the table with John the beloved on one side and Judas the betrayer on the other.

One was close enough to lay his head on Jesus’ breast while the other had sufficient access to betray Him with a kiss. You need to know who’s sitting at your table!

However, as painful as it is to be criticized by people you respect and trust, it’s worse to veer from the course God’s charted for you in order to gain their acceptance. As good as it feels to be affirmed and applauded, at some point you need to stop and ask, “How much am I willing to sacrifice to be blessed?” Your answer will determine your destiny!



WHEN IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE

How can this be? Luke 1:34 NASB

An the angel told Mary God had chosen her to be the mother of His Son, her response was understandable:

“How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Imagine how she must have felt. What would people think? How could she care for a baby? What would Joseph say? Would he abandon her? No wonder she “was greatly troubled” (Lk 1:29 NIV); if ever

something was impossible this was it. But that’s what makes a miracle miraculous!

Maybe you’re out of work and trusting God to provide for your family, nevertheless you’re asking, “How can this be when I’m unemployed?” Or perhaps you’re sick and although you know that He’s the Lord who “healeth all thy diseases”

(Ps 103:3), you’re wondering, “How can this be when I still have my symptoms?” We all have times when our faith goes

through the wringer and comes out dry.

But what’s even more challenging is that Mary’s situation was caused by God. He’s not supposed to do that. He’s supposed to bless and rescue you, right? But God had a plan. Mary was about to do something nobody would ever do again. And with that plan came a promise that can sustain you during your greatest tests of faith: “The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28-30 NKJV).

Once you understand that “The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it” (1 Th 5:24 TM),

your outlook changes radically. So if you’re struggling, remember what the angel said to Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Lk 1:37 NIV), because He’s saying the same to you!



God is With Us

Christ came into a world that had problems much like the ones with which we grapple today. We often imagine that the world to which Jesus came was not complicated and that its problems were not complex. But historians tell us otherwise. They tell us that the problems of that day were similar to the problems of our day.

The world that Jesus came to was a deeply disturbed world. People faced the complexities of life with difficulty. The broke under the strain; they sought ways to escape the problems that perplexed them.

To those without the joy of living, Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and theat they might have it more abundantly: (John 10:10)

To those who bore the chafing burden of the guilt of sin, he said, “Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2 NKJV)

To the friendless he said, “I call you not servants . . . but I have called you friends.” (John 15:15)

Christmas means that Immanuel has come – that God is with us (Matthew 1:23).

It means that our sordid, failure – fraught pasts can be defeated and changed by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His victorious resurrection. It means that we can be brought into God’s family, heirs of God and citizens of heaven. Christmas means that God comes into the night of our suffering and sorrow, saying, “I am with you always” and, I will give you rest” (Matthew 28:20; 11:28)

My prayer is that the message of this Christmastime will be a personal message to you, that Jesus will be a Wonderful Savior to you, that He will be the Prince of Peace in your life, bringing peace, satisfaction, and joy.

  • Decision magazine, December 2003


Immanuel Has Come

Christ came into a world that had problems much like the ones with which we grapple today. We often imagine that the world to which Jesus came was not complicated and that its problems were not complex. But historians tell us otherwise. They tell us that the problems of that day were similar to the problems of our day.

The world that Jesus came to was a deeply disturbed world. People faced the complexities of life with difficulty. The broke under the strain; they sought ways to escape the problems that perplexed them.

To those without the joy of living, Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and theat they might have it more abundantly: (John 10:10)

To those who bore the chafing burden of the guilt of sin, he said, “Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2 NKJV)

To the friendless he said, “I call you not servants . . . but I have called you friends.” (John 15:15)

Christmas means that Immanuel has come – that God is with us (Matthew 1:23).

It means that our sordid, failure – fraught pasts can be defeated and changed by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His victorious resurrection. It means that we can be brought into God’s family, heirs of God and citizens of heaven. Christmas means that God comes into the night of our suffering and sorrow, saying, “I am with you always” and, I will give you rest” (Matthew 28:20; 11:28)

My prayer is that the message of this Christmastime will be a personal message to you, that Jesus will be a Wonderful Savior to you, that He will be the Prince of Peace in your life, bringing peace, satisfaction, and joy.

  • Decision magazine, December 2003
 


His Name is Jesus

Over 2,000 years ago, on a night the world has been pleased to call “Christmas” a Jewish maiden went to the mysterious depths of motherhood and came back with a Child. This Child was given a name –

 

A Name

that blossoms on the pages of history

like the flowers of a thousand springtimes;

 

A Name

that echoes down the corridors of time

like the music of a thousand choirs in one grand anthem;

 

A Name

that adorns the records of the centuries like the splendor of a thousand

monuments build of the purest and most precious stones;

 

A Name

that after 2,000 years of scrutiny in the galaxy of earth’s great souls

like the glory of a thousand suns;

 

A Name

that is greater, grander, more glorious and more meaningful

than all the names of the world put together.

 

On this day, the birthday of Jesus Christ will be celebrated all over the world. It will be celebrated in various ways, in many languages, by people of all races. For a few hours many will talk of peace on earth and good will toward men. People will exchange their gifts and talk about the Prince of Peace.

  • Decision magazine, December 1987


The Prince of Peace

A tiny secluded manger with its sweet-smelling straw and its lowing cattle comprised the homely stage upon which the most striking and significant drama of the centuries was enacted. It was there that God, in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ, became identified with man. In meekness and humility He came to earth as the Prince of Peace.

During the First World War, on Christmas Eve, the battlefield was strangely quiet. As the soft snow fell, the thoughts of the young men were of home and their families. Softly one lad began to hum “Silent Night:  Wheezy tenors and throaty baritones took up the chorus until the trenches resounded with the Christmas song. When they finished singing, they were astonished to hear the song echoing from the trenches across no-man’s-land: In their own tongue the other soldiers, also sang “Silent Night.” That night they were thinking of the Prince of Peace, the Christ of Christmas.

How different this world would be if we could unite together around that “Holy Infant so tender and mild.” Earth can be as Heaven with Christ. Discord can be as peace when Christ is near. Midnight gloom can be transformed into noonday brightness when He abides with us.

  • Decision Magazine, December 1989


His Name is Wonderful

Five awe-inspiring names of our Lord Jesus encourages us, thrill us, and fill us with hope at this Christmas season.

  1. Jesus is called Wonderful. He was wonderful in His life, He mingled with sinners, yet was sinless. He associated with publicans and sinners but never partook of their sins. His enemies could find not one flaw in His character; He was without reproach.

Jesus was also wonderful in His death, the fitting climax to His selfless living. He lived for others; He died for others.

  1. JESUS IS CALLED COUNSELOR. If ever the world needed the counsel of Christ, it does today. Thousands of people everywhere in this world who have accepted Christ, the Divine Advocate, have found the Solution to their baffling problems.
  2. JESUS IS CALLED THE MIGHTY GOD. When the wrongs of the world needed righting and a fallen race needed redemption, God did not send His heavenly angelic armies to accomplish His majestic purpose; He sent a tiny, tender, helpless Babe In the person of His Son, Jesus is the God-Man.
  3. JESUS IS CALLED THE EVERLASTING FATHER. He had no beginning and He has no end. When Jesus was born of a virgin, that was not His beginning, it was His incarnation. He is the designer of the entire universe. “Before Abraham was, I am”. He said (John 8:58)
  4. JESUS IS CALLED THE PRINCE OF PEACE. We cannot have peace in our hearts apart from our relationship with Jesus Christ. He will give His peace to us this Christmas if we put our trust and our faith in Him.
  • Decision magazine, December 1989


The Hope of the World

It is God’s way to begin small. When He decided to redeem and save a world, it might be expected that He would rend the heavens and astonish the world with the terror of His majesty and the beauty of His love. But He did not. He started with a baby in a cow stable. He could scarcely have made a smaller beginning. Here in the dark cave, as a flickering torch casts light shadows of long-horned oxen on the rough-hewn logs, there is no sound but the munching of hay by the cattle. In the midst lies the young mother, forgetting for the moment her discomfort, for in her arms lies the Babe, her baby boy. About His face still plays the light of heaven from which He came. Its unclouded purity still lingers in His eyes. Who would dream that He is the King of kings and Lord of lords? Who would imagine in Bethlehem that night that He would reach down the ages, overturning kingdoms and empires, changing the world.

Cradled in the manger in Bethlehem were the hopes and dreams of a dying world. Those chubby little hands that clasped the straw in His manger crib were soon to open blinded eyes, unstop dear ears, and still the troubled seas. That cooing voice was soon to be lifted to command demons to depart to reach men of the Way, and to raise the dead. Those tiny feet were to take Him to the sick and needy and were finally to be pierced on Calvary’s Cross.

That manger crib in remote Bethlehem became the link that bound a lost world to a loving God. Christmas is not a myth, not a tradition, not a dream – it is a glorious reality. From that manger came a Man who not only taught us a new way of life, but brought us into a new relationship with our Creator.

  • Decision Magazine, December 1971



 

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