Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Daily Devotional Wednesday 23rd November

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15 NIV
Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon


"Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep."
Hosea 12:12

Jacob, while expostulating with Laban, thus describes his own toil, "This twenty years have I been with thee. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee: I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes." Even more toilsome than this was the life of our Saviour here below. He watched over all his sheep till he gave in as his last account, "Of all those whom thou hast given me I have lost none." His hair was wet with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night. Sleep departed from his eyes, for all night he was in prayer wrestling for his people. One night Peter must be pleaded for; anon, another claims his tearful intercession. No shepherd sitting beneath the cold skies, looking up to the stars, could ever utter such complaints because of the hardness of his toil as Jesus Christ might have brought, if he had chosen to do so, because of the sternness of his service in order to procure his spouse--

"Cold mountains and the midnight air,

Witnessed the fervour of his prayer;

The desert his temptations knew,

His conflict and his victory too."

It is sweet to dwell upon the spiritual parallel of Laban having required all the sheep at Jacob's hand. If they were torn of beasts, Jacob must make it good; if any of them died, he must stand as surety for the whole. Was not the toil of Jesus for his Church the toil of one who was under suretiship obligations to bring every believing one safe to the hand of him who had committed them to his charge? Look upon toiling Jacob, and you see a representation of him of whom we read, "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd."


"The power of his resurrection."
Philippians 3:10

The doctrine of a risen Saviour is exceedingly precious. The resurrection is the corner-stone of the entire building of Christianity. It is the key-stone of the arch of our salvation. It would take a volume to set forth all the streams of living water which flow from this one sacred source, the resurrection of our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; but to know that he has risen, and to have fellowship with him as such--communing with the risen Saviour by possessing a risen life--seeing him leave the tomb by leaving the tomb of worldliness ourselves, this is even still more precious. The doctrine is the basis of the experience, but as the flower is more lovely than the root, so is the experience of fellowship with the risen Saviour more lovely than the doctrine itself. I would have you believe that Christ rose from the dead so as to sing of it, and derive all the consolation which it is possible for you to extract from this well-ascertained and well-witnessed fact; but I beseech you, rest not contented even there. Though you cannot, like the disciples, see him visibly, yet I bid you aspire to see Christ Jesus by the eye of faith; and though, like Mary Magdalene, you may not "touch" him, yet may you be privileged to converse with him, and to know that he is risen, you yourselves being risen in him to newness of life. To know a crucified Saviour as having crucified all my sins, is a high degree of knowledge; but to know a risen Saviour as having justified me, and to realize that he has bestowed upon me new life, having given me to be a new creature through his own newness of life, this is a noble style of experience: short of it, none ought to rest satisfied. May you both "know him, and the power of his resurrection." Why should souls who are quickened with Jesus, wear the grave-clothes of worldliness and unbelief? Rise, for the Lord is risen.


Today's reading: Ezekiel 18-19, James 4 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Ezekiel 18-19

The One Who Sins Will Die

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:

“‘The parents eat sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

3 “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.

5 “Suppose there is a righteous man
who does what is just and right.
6 He does not eat at the mountain shrines
or look to the idols of Israel.
He does not defile his neighbor’s wife
or have sexual relations with a woman during her period.
7 He does not oppress anyone,
but returns what he took in pledge for a loan.
He does not commit robbery
but gives his food to the hungry
and provides clothing for the naked.... the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: James 4

Submit Yourselves to God

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble....”

Boaz, Booz [Bō'ăz,Bō'ŏz]—strengthor fleetness. The wealthy and honorable Bethlehemite, or Judahite, who became the second husband of Ruth the Moabitess, and ancestor of David and of Christ (Ruth 2, 3 , 4;Matt. 1:5). The name of the left pillar of Solomon’s Temple was Boaz, for “in it is strength” (1 Kings 7:21). Boaz was true to his name and comes before us strong in grace, integrity and purpose. As the lord of the harvest, master of servants, redeemer, bridegroom and life-giver, he is a fitting type of Christ.

November 22, 2011

The Secret of Discipline

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit (Proverbs 25:28, NAS)

Friend to Friend

Discipline is obedience, a lifetime process that brings us to a state of order by training and controlling our behavior. Discipline is focusing and eliminating, zeroing in on what is important in every area of life. Discipline not only leads to right thinking, pleasing behavior and balanced emotions, but also produces a purpose driven life based on right goals and priorities.

And that brings us to the discipline of our time - a dreaded and often ignored spiritual discipline for many of us. We have either forgotten or failed to realize the truth that our minutes, hours and days are precious commodities - gifts from God that can be unwrapped only once. Time is wasted unless it is invested in goals and priorities that are rooted in God's plan.

A busy life is not necessarily a productive life, girlfriends. Oh, I can hear it now! "Mary, it's true that I am very busy, but I am busy doing good things." Those words were the cry of my heart just before I crashed and burned and landed in a pit of clinical depression. The problem with my list of "good things" was that it was just that - my list - the wrong list for my life. The result was exhaustion, burnout and disobedience.

One of the most important lessons of my "pit experience" was that my perspective of time was skewed. I had poured years into making my plan successful only to discover that God resources and empowers His plan alone. Outlook determines outcome. It was painfully obvious I needed an outlook adjustment, an eternal perspective. I needed to understand the truth that my time is not really mine to do with as I please. It is a resource on loan to me from God. As a result, every plan, priority and goal should be held against the backdrop of eternity because it is from that backdrop that our priorities are validated, our calling confirmed and our time best invested.

Let's face it. If we don't set priorities - others will. Time thieves will steal our time as we allow them to impose their plans and standards on us. While it is true that different women have different priorities and different seasons of life, it is also true that one priority remains steadfast. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God..." (Matthew 6:33). Once that priority is firmly established and adhered to, the rest of life will surely fall into place.

Learning how to discipline time is a challenge for us al. I am, by no means, an expert in this area, but I do want to share some simple ideas that have worked for me.

Tithe your time. Just as we tithe our money, we should tithe our time. God blesses and multiplies the time we set aside to spend in Bible study, prayer and service.

Get organized. In 1 Corinthians 14:40, we are challenged to "do all in a fitting and orderly way." In other words, being organized is a spiritual discipline, freeing us from the tyranny of the urgent while making room for the eternal things that matter. Here are some organizational tips:

  • Buy and keep a calendar. Writing down things keeps me from wasting time and "bunching up" activities. It takes the pressure off of me to remember everything and allows me to see, at a glance, what is important. My weeks and months are more evenly scheduled and I am forced to prioritize, doing the important things first.
  • Choose one day a week to plan. Every Sunday afternoon, I plan the week ahead, recording the main tasks I need to complete and scheduling the appointments I need to make and keep. Pray over your week, asking the Holy Spirit to make clear those things ordained for each day.
  • Simplify and eliminate. Experts advise us to approach spring cleaning by dealing with one closet at a time. Break jobs up into manageable steps so that the large tasks seem doable.
  • Tackle the dreaded task first. I have discovered that tackling the job I dread the most energizes me for the rest of the tasks. I have also learned to use my best time, the time of the day when my energy is highest for the most important and the most difficult tasks.
  • Stop activity when it becomes unproductive.Sometimes, a 10 minute break will boost energy, refocus attention and get those creative juices flowing.
  • Begin a task, even if you won't have time to complete it. I hate doing laundry and frequently long for the day of disposable clothing. As a result, I do the laundry in pieces. For example, I will start the wash and answer email. I then toss the wet clothing into the dryer and work on a writing assignment. You get the idea!
  • Delegate. When we delegate work to our children, we are teaching them godly discipline. The church is filled with people waiting to be pushed out of their comfort zones in service. Look for those potential leaders and delegate.
  • Leave margins in your schedule. I tend to fill every time slot during the day. Therefore, when the "unexpected" comes along, I am overwhelmed and unprepared. Building margins of time into our schedules is a step of faith, trusting God to fill them in any way He chooses.
  • Yield to the seasons of life. When my children were small, I did not travel and speak like I do now. Do not sacrifice your family on the altar of any church or any ministry. Our greatest mission field is our home, our marriage and our children. It does not matter how much we do or how successful we are, if home and family get the leftovers of our time, energy, emotions and spiritual service we are walking in sin and disobedience.

Discipline builds upon discipline, each success encouraging another. Make the commitment to cultivate the disciplines of a godly woman, then pick a corner of your life and begin. Discipline does not come naturally or easily. We will fail. But we can always begin again. Join me today in a new commitment to godly discipline.

Let's Pray

Father, I want to thank You for your unconditional love and forgiveness. Please help me focus on You and Your presence in my life each day. I pray that any stress in my heart will be swallowed up in the reality that You are faithful and that You are in control. I know You are not surprised by anything that comes my way and will transform the good into better, the unthinkable into the unstoppable and the unbelievable into fact. I praise You for the amazing way You guide me and lift me up when I fall. Today, I choose to focus on You.

In Jesus' name,


Now It's Your Turn

Read and memorize Philippians 4:6-7 (ICB) "Do not worry about anything. But pray and ask God for everything you need. And when you pray, always give thanks. And God's peace will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. The peace that God gives is so great that we cannot understand it."

More from the Girlfriends

Already feeling the stress of the approaching holidays? Get Mary's book, Escaping the Stress Trap, for practical steps to dealing with and managing stress and check out her Christmas MP3 downloads, The Secret of a Merry Christmas and Giving the Perfect Gift.

Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebook - or throughemail. Need help learning how to study the Bible? Join women across the world in Mary's weekly online Bible Study, Light for the Journey, and find out.

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Renee Swope

November 22, 2011

R-E-S-P-E-C-T ... That is what He Needs from Me
Renee Swope

"However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."Ephesians 5:33 (NIV 1984)

I have a confession to make: when my husband J.J. and I got married over 18 years ago, I took out the words "honor and obey" from my wedding vows. That line about submitting to my husband wasn't in there either. Instead, I vowed to "submit my ideas and dreams" to J.J. and trust God's leadership in our marriage.

Yes, I had some serious issues going into marriage. As a young Christian, I was afraid of the "S" word, and wanted to make sure God and my witnesses didn't catch me in a lie.

Like many women, I was terrified if I submitted to my husband I'd become a doormat and lose myself somewhere in the middle of letting my husband lead.

Regretfully, I remember the time J.J. told me it was easier to let me lead because it wasn't worth the argument to him.

You'd think that's what I wanted - to get my way - but it wasn't because my husband became apathetic. Eventually I lost respect for J.J., and it was mostly my fault. I wanted him to lead, but when he tried I'd often criticize how he led. It was a mess!

I had been praying God would change J.J. and make him more decisive, more confident, more protective and well, just more what I wanted him to be. One day, God strongly impressed on my heart that my criticism wasn't getting me any closer to my desired result. In fact, my frustration with J.J. only contributed to his own doubt as a man trying to follow God and lead his family.

The Holy Spirit also showed me I was fueling Satan's flaming darts of condemnation aimed at my husband's heart; joining efforts with the one who wanted to take J.J. out as the leader of our home. Through prayer, I realized my husband needed me to be his greatest cheerleader and his biggest supporter verbally, emotionally and spiritually.

God challenged me to keep my mouth closed when J.J. did something I didn't like or led in a way I didn't want to follow. He encouraged me to tell my husband when I saw things I appreciated and use the power of my words to build up and not tear down my man.

I started doing what God showed me, looking for and finding things in my husband that I'd never noticed. I got intentional about noticing things I respected and letting God take care of things I didn't. I made many choices to honor him in big and small ways. And you know what? I discovered countless things about my husband that were worthy of respect.

We've been through so much together over the years. I have learned to follow God as I trusted many of my husband's decisions that scared me: job changes I didn't want him to make; financial investments that seemed too risky; parenting issues that were hard. It hasn't been easy, but I am thankful my husband has become the leader of our family. And I've become more comfortable following his leadership than I ever thought I'd be!

Dear Lord, I want to respect my husband and build him up with my words. Help me to measure my thoughts carefully and come to You with my complaints. I want to become my husband's biggest cheerleader and watch You do Your thing in His life. I know this is possible as I depend on You to live Your life through me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Renee's Blog for free download of powerful scriptures to pray for your husband.

What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

Capture His Heart by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
• Ask God to show you ways to respect your husband.
• Say "I'm sorry" and mean it when you dishonor him.
• Say "I forgive you" and mean it when he dishonors or hurts you.
• Let him overhear you telling someone one thing you appreciate about him.
• Praise him when his decisions turn out well and encourage him when they don't.
• Tell your husband one thing you are thankful for - about his character, his work ethic, his provision, his humor or something he adds to your family.

* Some of these ideas are from What A Husband Needs from His Wife © 2006 by Melanie Chitwood.

What do I value and respect about my husband? How often do I criticize or encourage him?

Power Verses:
1 Peter 3:15, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." (NIV 1984)

1 Peter 4:8, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." (NIV 1984)

Proverbs 17:9, "He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." (NIV 1984)

© 2011 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105



Jesus Is Arrested

Matthew 26:47-56 "Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled?" (vv. 53-54).

One of the best ways to understand biblical doctrine is to study how the same word in the original biblical languages unites two concepts. As an example, look at the relationship between the coming of the kingdom of God and the death and resurrection of Jesus. When our Savior announces the nearness of the kingdom of heaven, the Greek verb engizein ("to be at hand") is used (Matt. 4:17). The same form is used in Matthew 26:46 to describe our Lord's imminent betrayal and the whole complex of events surrounding His crucifixion and rising from the dead. God's kingdom and Jesus' death both draw near - one is impossible without the other. The teaching ministry of Jesus and the events of redemptive history that precede His incarnation are important, but the kingdom of heaven comes decisively when the Messiah atones for sin, is resurrected, and ascends to the Father.

Christ has this unity of His victory on the cross and the kingdom's coming in view implicitly when He speaks of His arrest as the fulfillment of "the Scriptures of the prophets" (26:54, 56). This is a reference to the general thrust of the Old Testament, which says the new creation cannot come unless and until God's perfect servant suffers to effect the holiness of His people ( Deut. 30:1-10; Ps. 22; Isa. 53-66; Dan. 9:24-27). Our Lord is following His Father's plan (Matt. 26:54 ), and men like Peter are wrong to view what is happening as something outside of God's control (vv. 51-52; see John 18:10-11). These events are not unexpected and Christ is not taken against His will. He has the armies of heaven at His disposal, but He does not call for their aid (Matt. 26:53 ), proving that no one needs to coerce Him into laying down His life.

Sadly, Jesus is handed over to His captors by one who should love Him (vv. 47-50). Worse still, even those who are more faithful friends of the Savior abandon Him in this hour of need (v. 56). Jesus now faces execution alone, a solitude that He will experience to its fullest and most painful extent when His Father forsakes Him on the cross ( 27:46). Matthew Henry comments, "Christ, as the Savior of souls, stood thus alone. He bore all, and did all himself."

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Christians know that we need to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us, but sometimes we have "defended" Christ improperly. Sometimes, like Peter in today's passage, we have pursued aggressive violence. Other times we have bent over backwards to show the world that Christians are not "oddballs" but are "with it" in their embrace of the culture. May we not repeat these errors as we proclaim Jesus to a fallen creation.

For further study:

Psalm 89

The Bible in a year:

Ezekiel 35-36

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living.




Jesus Is Arrested

Christians know that we need to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us, but sometimes we have "defended" Christ improperly. Sometimes, like Peter in today's passage, we have pursued aggressive violence. Other times we have bent over backwards to show the world that Christians are not "oddballs" but are "with it" in their embrace of the culture. May we not repeat these errors as we proclaim Jesus to a fallen creation.

For further study:

Psalm 89

The Bible in a year:

Ezekiel 35-36

Coram Deo from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living.



Strobel-Mittelberg-newsletter2Questions Christians Fear

An upcoming national webcast for your church or small group and a new award-winning book feature answers to questions Christians are afraid they'll be asked.

My ministry partner Mark Mittelberg commissioned a Barna study to determine the spiritual questions Christians would most like to avoid. The results will form the basis of a March 10 training event that your church or small group can host via the web, as well as a book in which Mark offers pithy and insightful answers.

Here's my interview with Mark about this exciting webcast and his excellent new book The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask:

• Mark, your book does a tremendous job of offering great answers to the hardest questions that Christians face. Tell me how you determined which issues are the top challenges to Christians.

Thanks, Lee. The way we determined the questions Christians would rather sidestep was quite simple: we asked them! Specifically, we commissioned a study through George Barna's organization in which they called 1,000 Christians and asked them what spiritual topics they most hoped would never come up in their conversations. Guess what? They gave us an earful!

Read the rest at!


Questions from Readers

• What do you think of Bart Ehrman's comments on your book?

• Do you get attacked by atheists?

Q. What did you think of Dr. Bart Ehrman's recent comments about your book The Case for Christ?

A. Actually, I hadn't heard anything about them until someone emailed me recently and brought them to my attention. Ehrman, of course, is a recognized scholar whose expertise is on the text of the New Testament. He's a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Christian-turned-agnostic who has written books and participated in debates in which he critiques Christianity.

In an appearance at the Commonwealth Club of California, an audience member asked him what he thought of The Case for Christ. Here was his response:

"I think you can have a conversation with somebody like Lee Strobel. He's not a scholar and people shouldn't think that his book is a scholarly book. And he didn't do research; he interviewed people. He interviewed people who agreed with his point of view principally so he could make a case based on his point of view. And that's fine, but we need to recognize it for what it is. If somebody thinks that the Bible is the inerrant revelation of God – as people like Lee Strobel tend to think – then I think one can ask, ‘Is it inerrant or not? Are there errors or not?' If there are errors, then it's not an inerrant book."

Read the rest of this answer and the answer to the other question!

Have a question? Drop me a line We’ll answer the ones with the broadest interest in upcoming newsletters. Thanks to Sam Wall, former chief researcher for the Bible Answer Man radio show, who heads the “Ask Lee” response team.

Lee's Notes

• Are you on Twitter? If so, please follow me at@LeeStrobel so we can keep in touch between newsletters. I promise I won't bore you with updates on what I'm having for dinner, but I will let you know about cool stuff that's happening.

• As Christmas approaches, why not stock up on copies ofThe Case for Christmas to use as stocking stuffers, leave (along with tips!) for waiters and waitresses, and give to neighbors, friends and family members? I kept it pithy and inexpensive; in fact, many churches get it in bulk to distribute to holiday visitors.

• How can we help our children grab ahold of their faith? That was the topic when Focus on the Family interviewed my daughter Alison and me for their radio show a while back. If you missed the broadcast, Focus will be re-airing the two-parter on December 20-21 as part of its 2001 Best of the Best series. On those air dates, the audio will be posted at (Speaking of Alison, check out Vanessa Carroll's great review of her novel Composing Amelia).

• I was excited to learn recently that my Case for Christ for Kids, Case for Faith for Kids and Case for a Creator for Kidshave all been translated into Arabic! Please pray that God will use them to influence many children for Christ.

Should Suffering Surprise Christians?

Video feature

Dr. Gary Habermas, who I interviewed for The Case for Christ, makes some good points about suffering in this short video. It's a topic particularly poignant for Gary, since he lost his first wife to cancer years ago. Gary is Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University and coauthor (with Dr. Michael Licona) of The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. He's an outstanding scholar, effective apologist and a really nice guy.

Lee's Links: Suggested articles from the web
Happy birthday!
National Geographic marks 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible.
School matters
Is the snowballing school choice movement actually good for public schools?
Stott's prayer
Here's the prayer that influential evangelical pastor John Stott lifted daily toward heaven.
Holiness & happiness
Blogger says churches need to tell the truth about marriage: it's really about holiness.

There ARE Christians tortured for their faith

The true story of a pastor, imprisoned and tortured for his faith in Christ will ABSOLUTELY shock you!

And now, the Voice of the Martyrs invites you to request acomplimentary copy of the international bestseller, Tortured for Christ.

Get your free book

Click here to receive your copy, absolutely free of charge.

ALERT: It is highly recommended to preview this resource
before presenting it to children.

Tortured for Christ book


Why ask God to remain faithful?

This week's reading: Psalm 71:9–18

On one level, it is totally unnecessary to call on God to remain faithful. He is faithful to all of his promises. There is no chance that God will forsake his people.

However, our circumstances do not always seem to conform to this truth. We see evil in the world and trouble in our own lives and we wonder, Is God truly with us?

The writer of this psalm had had confidence in God from his youth (see Ps 71:5–6), but now that he had grown old he was worried because his enemies had sensed his weakness and had closed in on him. Their assessment was that God had forsaken him in his old age.

From this perspective—pouring out his honest emotions—the psalmist called on God to protect him. He asked God to remember his promise not to forsake him. He also asked the Lord to punish those who were persecuting him. But not only did he appeal to God’s promise; he also made one of his own: If God would rescue him, then he would tell the next generation about God’s power (see Ps 71:18).

The writer was confident the Lord would save him. He repeatedly expressed this firm conviction (see Ps 71:14–17,19–21) and concluded his prayer with a song of praise (seePs 71:22–24).



Today's reading is from the
NIV Quest Study Bible
by Zondervan

This unique Bible addresses the common, uncommon, and perplexing questions people ask about Scripture.

Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional


Having looked at attributes of God's greatness in recent weeks (see archive), we now turn to attributes of God's goodness. First, his holiness.

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty. The whole earth is full of his glory." Those were the words the prophet Isaiah heard during his vision of God high and exalted, seated on a throne, the train of his robe filling the temple (Isaiah 6:1-4). "Holy" means separate, different, unique, and this is one of the best assurances we have that God is only interested in the good. He is separate from all the evil and malice in the world-not ignorant of it-but neither is he defiled or influenced by it.

God made a bold and clear statement about his holy character long ago in the Old Testament. All those laws, for instance, were God's way of setting aside one tribe in the human race for something different, a sure signal that any of us can be elevated to and experience a different life. The children of Abraham learned over centuries about the holiness of God through the object lessons of the holy temple, holy basins, holy garments, holy days, and holy Sabbath. But they also were learning about love. Why else would God want any of us to learn of his holiness if not because, out of his deep love, he longs for us to know that life can be different.

Relationships can be right. Decisions can be just. All the laws about what the Israelites could eat and wear, and how they should sacrifice, and the holy time they should reserve for God's special purposes-they all pointed toward a single truth: God is unique.

Sometimes we run to God because he is holy and we know that the only hope that we have in this world is a God who is so different from the world that he is our lifeline out of the chaos. But our instincts often cause us to shrink back from the holy God. For some it means a lifetime of avoiding him. Whether we realize how desperately we need him or not, we often consider it too risky to approach a God who is that different. So we may shrink from the holiness of God, but we should also long to live in his holy presence because we all know that we need something and someone truly different from the vulgarities of this world. What other hope do we have that things can be different from what they are?

Starting December 1, "Christmas Joy." Check it out.

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About The Author - Mel Lawrenz serves as minister at large for Elmbrook Church and leads The Brook Network. Having been in pastoral ministry for thirty years, the last decade as senior pastor of Elmbrook, Mel seeks to help Christian leaders engage with each other. Mel is the author of eleven books, the most recent for church leaders, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement.

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