http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6uP5AkskmE

You are stewards here. God has committed unto you your mind, your heart, your physical skills. Your spiritual gifts, preaching, teaching, helps, administration, exhortation, the gift of giving, the gift of showing mercy. These are all spiritual gifts and every Christian has them and they are your stewardship. Are you a faithful person in distributing that stewardship to the rest of the family of God? Or do you live in isolation. Are you using your ministries? Are you using your gifts, your abilities? Are you responsible in the areas of fellowship, to care and to pray and to edify and exhort and to challenge each other and to reprove each other and to restore each other? Are you fulfilling these things? This is your stewardship. And that’s why in 1 Peter Chapter 4 and verse 10, Peter says “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” God graciously has given you gifts. He wants them managed properly for the benefit of the unity of the body.” ~ John MacArthur, ‘The Mystery Revealed’, Ephesians 3: 1-4

from Charles Spurgeon~

As precious liquors are best kept in clean vessels–so sound doctrine is best kept in a pure heart and life. Who, indeed, would knowingly pour a choice wine into a tainted cask? It would be foolish to do so.

When we hear of men living in sin, and yet claiming to be children of God–we are disgusted with their pretenses, but we are not deceived by their professions.

In the same manner, we care little for those who are orthodox Christians in creed–if it is clear that they are heterodox in life. He who believes the truth–should himself be true. How can we expect others to receive our religion–if it leaves us foul, false, malicious, and selfish?

We sicken at the sight of a dirty dish, and refuse even good food when it is placed thereon. So pure and holy is the doctrine of the cross, that . . .
he who hears it aright, will have his ears cleansed,
he who believes it aright, will have his heart purged, and
he who preaches it aright, will have his tongue purified.
Woe unto that man who brings reproach upon the gospel–by an unholy life!

Lord, evermore make us pure vessels fit for Your own use, and then fill us with the pure wine of the grapes of sound doctrine and wholesome instruction. Do not allow us to be such “foul cups”–as to be only fit for the wine of Sodom!

“For the grace of God . . . teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires–and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” Titus 2:12

HT: Grace Gems

The special privilege God meant as a tool for witness, they [the Israelite's]  were to be a channel and you know what happened don’t you? Instead of them seeing themselves as a witness, instead of them seeing the difference as a way to reach people, instead of them standing up and saying, I’m different and consequently the world is going to say what’s the difference and I can tell them that God has made me different. Instead of that it became an excuse for carnal, selfish, self-glorification and pride.

It can happen with us too. We’re to be different aren’t we? We’re to be completely different than the rest of the world. We’re to walk a different walk, talk a different talk, think a different way. Read later in Ephesians and you’ll find out we are to walk not as the Gentiles walked, not as the heathen walk in the vanity of their mind. We are to walk in love. We are to walk in light. We are to walk in wisdom. We
are to walk in the spirit. Our conversation, our manner of life, our walk is to be totally different than the rest of the world. And that it is to be different because want them to take note of us. First of all, and secondly, God wants to keep us separated so different that we can’t mingle with them. It’s the same two things again. And hopefully the world will see the difference and we’ll say to them it’s Jesus Christ
that made the difference and here’s how He can make a difference in your life. And that’s exactly what Israel should have done. Instead of doing that, Israel became proud, loved the difference, celebrated the difference, became proud about the difference, and elevated themselves as if they were better than everybody else.

And I hate to think about it, but I think it’s even possible that that’s happening in Christianity or could happen. Where Christianity forms some sort of an elite that think they’re better than everybody else. And instead of really being a channel to reach the world, we become an isolated little group of people with our own little lingo and our own little deal and our own little code and our own little bumper stickers and our own little radio stations and TV stations and our own books and our own everything, and it’s us for, no more, shut the door, you know. ~ John McArthur, teaching on Ephesians 2: 11-12

nativity

 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.   Luke 2: 1-20

“Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.”
Job 5:7

“Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.”
Job 14:1-2

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.”
John 16:33

God has not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God has not promised, sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God has not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He has not told us, we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

God has not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.

But God has promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love!

“God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever!”
Revelation 21:4

~Annie J. Flint, 1919

HT: Grace Gems

              “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us! God is love.”
                                                      (1 John 4:16)

The sweeter the truth–the more backward we often are to receive and believe it. Therefore it must be presented to us again and again. What is more pleasant, than the fact that “God is love”?

Yet so quickly we doubt it, or forget it, or fail to realize it. Therefore the Gospel presents it to us again and again, and in almost every possible form. Twice within the scope of a few verses, John tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16).

Belief in this portrayal of God lies at the root of our holiness, happiness, and peace. To the extent that we believe that “God is love”–we will . . .
consecrate ourselves to His service,
enjoy peace in our consciences,
and be happy in His ways.

God loves us, and therefore He planned our salvation, sending His one and only Son to take away our sins by the sacrifice of Himself. He also sent His Holy Spirit to teach us our need of Christ and lead us to Him. And, finally, He has put His blessed Word in our hands so that through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures, we might have hope.

God loves us–and therefore He . . .
chastens us,
strips us, and
empties us.
He will not let us live satisfied without Himself.

God is love–therefore He has provided an atonement for all our sins. His justice is satisfied, and Heaven is prepared for us!

Yes, though we were sinners by nature, and deeply feel it–though we are not all that we wish to be, and deeply deplore it–yet God loves us!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, who in His love and in His pity has redeemed me!

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins!”
                                              (1 John 4:10)

~James Smith, “Comfort for Christians!”

HT: Grace Gems

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