Friday, December 16, 2011

Daily Devotional Friday 16th December

“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”” Luke 1:30-33 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her."
Ruth 1:14

Both of them had an affection for Naomi, and therefore set out with her upon her return to the land of Judah. But the hour of test came; Naomi most unselfishly set before each of them the trials which awaited them, and bade them if they cared for ease and comfort to return to their Moabitish friends. At first both of them declared that they would cast in their lot with the Lord's people; but upon still further consideration Orpah with much grief and a respectful kiss left her mother in law, and her people, and her God, and went back to her idolatrous friends, while Ruth with all her heart gave herself up to the God of her mother in law. It is one thing to love the ways of the Lord when all is fair, and quite another to cleave to them under all discouragements and difficulties. The kiss of outward profession is very cheap and easy, but the practical cleaving to the Lord, which must show itself in holy decision for truth and holiness, is not so small a matter. How stands the case with us, is our heart fixed upon Jesus, is the sacrifice bound with cords to the horns of the altar? Have we counted the cost, and are we solemnly ready to suffer all worldly loss for the Master's sake? The after gain will be an abundant recompense, for Egypt's treasures are not to be compared with the glory to be revealed. Orpah is heard of no more; in glorious ease and idolatrous pleasure her life melts into the gloom of death; but Ruth lives in history and in heaven, for grace has placed her in the noble line whence sprung the King of kings. Blessed among women shall those be who for Christ's sake can renounce all; but forgotten and worse than forgotten shall those be who in the hour of temptation do violence to conscience and turn back unto the world. O that this morning we may not be content with the form of devotion, which may be no better than Orpah's kiss, but may the Holy Spirit work in us a cleaving of our whole heart to our Lord Jesus.

Evening

"And lay thy foundations with sapphires."
Isaiah 54:11

Not only that which is seen of the church of God, but that which is unseen, is fair and precious. Foundations are out of sight, and so long as they are firm it is not expected that they should be valuable; but in Jehovah's work everything is of a piece, nothing slurred, nothing mean. The deep foundations of the work of grace are as sapphires for preciousness, no human mind is able to measure their glory. We build upon the covenant of grace, which is firmer than adamant, and as enduring as jewels upon which age spends itself in vain. Sapphire foundations are eternal, and the covenant abides throughout the lifetime of the Almighty. Another foundation is the person of the Lord Jesus, which is clear and spotless, everlasting and beautiful as the sapphire; blending in one the deep blue of earth's ever rolling ocean and the azure of its all embracing sky. Once might our Lord have been likened to the ruby as he stood covered with his own blood, but now we see him radiant with the soft blue of love, love abounding, deep, eternal. Our eternal hopes are built upon the justice and the faithfulness of God, which are clear and cloudless as the sapphire. We are not saved by a compromise, by mercy defeating justice, or law suspending its operations; no, we defy the eagle's eye to detect a flaw in the groundwork of our confidence--our foundation is of sapphire, and will endure the fire.

The Lord himself has laid the foundation of his people's hopes. It is matter for grave enquiry whether our hopes are built upon such a basis. Good works and ceremonies are not a foundation of sapphires, but of wood, hay, and stubble; neither are they laid by God, but by our own conceit. Foundations will all be tried ere long: woe unto him whose lofty tower shall come down with a crash, because based on a quicksand. He who is built on sapphires may await storm or fire with equanimity, for he shall abide the test.

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Today's reading: Amos 1-3, Revelation 6 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Amos 1-3

1 The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.

2 He said:

“The LORD roars from Zion
and thunders from Jerusalem;
the pastures of the shepherds dry up,
and the top of Carmel withers.”

Judgment on Israel’s Neighbors

3 This is what the LORD says:

“For three sins of Damascus,
even for four, I will not relent.
Because she threshed Gilead
with sledges having iron teeth,
4 I will send fire on the house of Hazael
that will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad.
5 I will break down the gate of Damascus;
I will destroy the king who is in the Valley of Aven
and the one who holds the scepter in Beth Eden.
The people of Aram will go into exile to Kir,” says the LORD....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 6

The Seals

1 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.

5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand.6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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Uzziel [Ŭz'zĭel]—god is strong. There are six Bible men bearing this suggestive name.

  1. A son of Kohath, son of Levi, kinsman of Aaron on his father’s side (Exod. 6:18, 22;Lev. 10:4; Num. 3:19, 30; 1 Chron. 6:2; 15:10; 23:12, 20;24:24).
  2. A Simeonite who, in Hezekiah’s reign, led a successful expedition against the Amalekites (1 Chron. 4:42).
  3. A son of Bela, son of Benjamin (1 Chron. 7:7).
  4. A son of Heman, an instrumentalist, set by David over the service of song (1 Chron. 25:4 ).
  5. A Levite, son of Jeduthun, who assisted Hezekiah in his work of reformation (2 Chron. 29:14).
  6. The son of Harhaiah, a goldsmith, who repaired a part of the wall of Jerusalem (Neh. 3:8).

Members of the tribal family of Uzziel are spoken of as Uzzielites ( Num. 3:27; 1 Chron. 26:23).

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Lysa TerKeurst

December 15, 2011

Affair Proof Your Mind
Lysa TerKeurst

"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Matthew 26:41(NIV 1984)

As a woman thinks...so she eventually acts.

A few years ago I watched a friend get tangled up in an emotional affair.

She was a strong Christian woman who loved her family but the attraction to this other man seemed unavoidable. She tried to talk herself out of it but her heart played tricks on her mind and the justifications for letting things go just a little further soon led her to a very dangerous place. She was becoming emotionally attached to this other man.

In a moment of desperation and fear, she confided in me what was going on.

As she described how she got pulled into this place, I found myself being challenged by the realization of how subtly this had happened. She hadn't planned on being emotionally attracted to this other man. As a matter of fact, she'd always prided herself on being a woman of strong conviction and had scoffed at the idea of ever being tempted to have an affair.

It starts off simple enough - a comment made that you mull over one too many times, a conversation in which you find a surprising connection, a glance that lingers just a second too long, or one of a thousand other interactions that seem innocent yet aren't. These are the dangerous seeds that can easily sprout into an emotional affair.

Some think it is a safe way to enjoy the lure of being attracted to someone other than your spouse without crossing any lines. But God boldly and plainly says in 1 Corinthians 6:18, "Flee from sexual immorality." God doesn't say walk away from sexual immorality. No, He says to flee as if your very life is at stake!

Our thoughts are so powerful. If we want to affair proof our marriages, we must make our thoughts work for us instead of against us.

The time to prevent an emotional affair is before it ever starts.

We must never assume it could never happen to me. We are all just a few poor choices away from doing things we never thought we would.

Jesus warned his disciples in Matthew 26: 41,"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

The Life Application NIV Bible commentary says, "Jesus used Peter's drowsiness to warn him about the kinds of temptation he would soon face. The way to overcome temptation is to keep watch and pray. Watching means being aware of the possibilities of temptation, sensitive to the subtleties, and spiritually equipped to fight it."

Watching:
I now realize that I need to be aware that I am just as prone to this temptation as anyone. One of the best ways to be watchful is to be praying with and for my husband. We need to be open and honest about meeting each other's needs and investing wisely in our marriage.

Sensitive to the Subtleties:
I will have to be honest with myself that temptations do exist. When another man says or does something I wish my husband would say or do and doesn't, it can make me lessen my husband in my heart and build up this other man. This is a seed of poison.

Spiritually Equipped:
I must park my mind with the truth and the truth is I am married to an amazing man. He is not perfect and sometimes our marriage can be hard, but I made a commitment to him in a covenant before God and there are no biblical reasons in our marriage why we should ever part.

My friend did the hardest but wisest thing she could have done in telling me about her emotional affair. It helped her to see she needed to flee and have someone else hold her accountable. But it also helped me. Her admission made me aware and alert to the dangers lurking in any kind of unhealthy emotional connection with another man.

Dear Lord, may I forever treasure my marriage and see it worthy to be protected. Help me to be a courageous woman who absolutely flees from any and every situation where there is even a hint of danger. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
For a creative idea to improve the communication and connection in your marriage, click here to read more onLysa's blog.

If you want simple tips to improve your marriage, you'll want to read the marriage books Lysa has written -Capture His Heart (for wives to read) and Capture Her Heart (for husbands to read).

Come see the downloadable Freebies on Lysa's website! Encouraging articles for lots of situations to print and share with a friend! www.LysaTerKeurst.com

Your purchase through Proverbs 31 Ministries supports the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. We wish we could, but we simply can't compete with prices offered by huge online warehouses. Therefore, we're so grateful for every purchase you make with us. Thank you!

Application Steps:
The time to prevent an emotional affair is before it ever starts. Confide in a friend or mentor to help hold you accountable in this area.

Reflections:
Our thoughts are so powerful. If we want to affair proof our marriages, we must make our thoughts work for us instead of against us.

Power Verses:
Proverbs 31:10, "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies." (NIV)

© 2011 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org



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December 15, 2011

Gifts That Matter

Part 2

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving-large or small-it will be used to measure what is given back to you (Luke 6:38, NLT).

Friend to Friend

Have you discovered the truth that we simply cannot "out-give" God? The more we give, the more we receive. And that truth does not just apply to financial giving. It is really all about the attitude behind the gift. Do you remember the Christmas gifts you received last year? How about the Christmas gifts you gave? What about the gift you gave Jesus? On Tuesday, we talked about several meaningful gifts you can give. Here are a few more for you to consider.

A gift of care Galatians 6:2 (RSV) "Bear one another's burdens."

Christmas is a time of empty hopes and fierce loneliness for many people. In fact, the holidays can be nothing more than a season riddled with pain. Every loss is magnified. Every wound is deepened. Pray that the Father will give you His eyes to see the broken lambs, crying out for help. This year, do something for someone who is hurting:

  • Invite them over for a meal.
  • Listen to them.
  • Meet one need in their life.
  • Include them in your celebration.
  • Take them shopping with you.

Christmas is always hard for me because it is a time when I especially miss my mother who died many years ago. I don't openly broadcast that fact but one Christmas, a precious older lady at our church somehow sensed that I was struggling and decided to meet a need in my life. Cards filled my mailbox. Every time I saw her, Miss Marion would hug me and tell me how much she loved me. She invited our children over to bake Christmas cookies and in doing so, became their adopted grandmother. Miss Marion died a few years ago, but her loving care and investment in my life lives on.

A secret gift Matthew 6:3-4 (TLB) "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Give a gift to someone you know in secret without them knowing who it is from and with no hidden motive and no apparent benefit to you. Dan and I had been married for three years when we first discovered the joy that a "secret gift" can bring. Dan was in seminary, I was teaching elementary school, and we were both serving at a local church. It seemed as if we were always running, always tired and always broke. At one point, the financial picture was especially bleak. We had 10 days of life to go before the next pay day and not a cent to our name. We told no one but God -- and waited. One Sunday night, we pulled up to the mobile home where we were living and started in the front (and only) door. There on the top step was a small but heavy package wrapped in brown paper. It was a brick. Taped to each side of the brick was a hundred dollar bill. God had provided for our needs through a truly generous heart, someone who had chosen to give a secret gift. To this day, we still have no idea who "bricked" us, but we often think of them and ask God to bless their gift of encouragement.

A gift of forgiveness Colossians 3:13 (NCV) "Get along with each other, and forgive each other."

The Christmas holidays have a way of resurrecting past hurts. The greatest gift we can give ourselves for Christmas is the gift of forgiveness because in choosing to forgive someone else, we set ourselves free. Every 60 seconds of anger displaces 60 seconds of joy. Let go of the hurts. Forgive the wrongs and find healing.

Dan sold one of our old cars to a man who worked in the church maintenance department. A payment plan was created, the title was transferred and the man drove away, never to pay a cent. For months, I was furious, thinking of the man who had stolen our car. To make matters worse, the man then left the church to work at the grocery store -- my grocery store. Every time I bought groceries, he was there and he was smiling. Just the sight of him drove my blood pressure higher as my stomach knotted up with anger. Dan finally decided to give him the car. I decided not to give him the car until I realized the only person being hurt in the deal was me. The next time I bought groceries I walked up to the man and said, "I hope the car is working well for you. Dan and I have decided to just give you the car as a gift." I walked away, a free woman, while he stood, open-mouthed and in shock, now holding his own guilt in his hands.

A gift of teaching Romans 12:7 (NLT) "If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well."

What skill, ability or talent has God given you? Each one is from His hand, meant to be given away in service to others. Is there a young believer in your life you can mentor? What better time to share your gifts and abilities than at Christmas? You may be able to sew or play the piano, cook gourmet meals or beautifully decorate your home. Each talent and ability is a potential gift. In high school, my choral director gave me a free voice lesson each week. Consequently, I attended college on an academic and music scholarship because one woman chose to share her gift with me.

Get creative! Give a gift from the heart this year. May this be a Christmas filled with the joy of the Lord as you celebrate His birth and life.

Let's Pray

May God grant you the light in Christmas which is faith; the warmth of Christmas, which is love; the radiance of Christmas, which is purity; the righteousness of Christmas, which is justice; the belief in Christmas, which is truth and the all of Christmas, which is Christ.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Grab your Christmas list and set aside some time to pray for each person on that list this week. Do you need to rethink some of the gifts you are giving this year? It is not too late! Ask God how you can best honor His birth by the gifts you give to others.

More from the Girlfriends

No matter what your circumstances may be, you can celebrate the Christmas holidays because God is with you, girlfriend. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebook - or throughemail.

Don't miss the biggest sale of the year going on in Mary'sonline store December 1 - 15! Great savings on Books, CDs,MP3 downloads, E-Bible Studies and Video downloads . Every order is also an automatic entry to win one of three copies of Girlfriends in God's first devotional book, Trusting God.Winners will be announced on December 15.

Seeking God?

Click here to find out more about

how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God

P.O. Box 725

Matthews, NC 28106

info@girlfriendsingod.com
www.girlfriendsingod.com

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Cursed and Forsaken

The darkness over the land in the three hours before Jesus dies (Matt. 27:45 ) is a sign of God's anger at those who kill His Son as well as the curse upon humanity. "The darkness [cries] out against the blackness of our sin and [testifies] to the tremendous cost to God of our redemption" (James Boice, The Gospel According to Matthew, vol. 2, p. 623). Let us never take for granted the high price of the curse Jesus took in our place.

For further study:

Psalm 22:1-2

The Bible in a year:

Micah 3

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.

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FRB-Christmas-Story-BookCover-SmallReading 10: Joseph Has a Dream

Mary was promised to be married to Joseph. In those days betrothal, or engagement, was a very important legal agreement. But when Mary told Joseph she was pregnant, Joseph no longer wanted to marry her. Then he had a dream that convinced him that everything that had happened was from the Holy Spirit of God.


Matthew 1:18-25
The Birth of Jesus Christ
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”--which means, “God with us.”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Further Study

JUST THE FACTS
  1. Who talked to Joseph in a dream? What did the messenger call Joseph? (v. 20)
  2. What did the messenger tell Joseph would happen? (v. 21)
  3. What was Joseph told to name the baby? Why? (v. 21)
LET’S TALK
  1. How do you think Joseph felt after his dream? Have you ever had a dream that made you feel better about a situation?
  2. Why is it important that these events took place according to the prophecy in verse 23?
WHY THIS MATTERS

God wanted Jesus, his own Son, to have both a father and a mother to care for him and bring him up according to the Law of Moses and the law of the land. God worked everything out to fulfill every detail prophesied by the
prophets.

POINTS OF INTEREST

1:19 In Bible times, being betrothed meant the couple was legally promised to each other, but the bride didn’t live with the bridegroom. After the wedding ceremony, the bride’s family would have a big feast that lasted for six or seven days. Then the bride would go to live in her husband’s house.
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Family Reading BibleToday's reading is from:
The Family Reading Bible

Additional resources:

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Advent-Header-2011
The Fir Tree
By Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish writer in the nineteenth century who penned many stories like the one below. His most famous was "The Ugly Duckling." While the reality of this particular story is questioned even by the author, the truth revealed by the tale cannot be questioned. See if you agree.

In a small cottage on the borders of a forest lived a poor laborer, who gained a scanty living by cutting wood. He had a wife and two children who helped him in his work. The boy’s name was Valentine, and the girl was called Mary. They were obedient, good children, and a great comfort to their parents.

One winter evening, this happy little family was sitting quietly round the hearth, the snow and the wind raging outside, while they ate their supper of dry bread, when a gentle tap was heard on the window, and a childish voice cried from outside, "Oh, let me in, I pray! I am a poor child, with nothing to eat, and no home to go to, and I shall die of cold and hunger unless you let me in." Valentine and Mary jumped up from the table and ran to open the door, saying, "Come in, poor little child! We have not much to give you, but whatever we have we will share with you."

The stranger-child came in and warmed his frozen hands and feet at the fire, and the children gave him the best they had to eat, saying, "You must be tired, too, poor child! Lie down on our bed; we can sleep on the bench for one night."

Then said the little stranger-child, "Thank God for all your kindness to me." So they took their little guest into their sleeping-place, laid him on the bed, covered him over, and said to each other, "How thankful we ought to be! We have warm rooms and a cozy bed, while this poor child has only heaven for his roof and the cold earth for his sleeping-place."

When the father and mother went to bed, Mary and Valentine lay quite contentedly on the bench near the fire, saying, before they fell asleep, "The stranger-child will be happy tonight in his warm bed."

These kind children had not slept many hours before Mary awoke, and softly whispered to her brother, “Valentine, dear brother, wake, and listen to the sweet music under the window.”

Then Valentine rubbed his eyes and listened. It was sweet music indeed, and sounded like beautiful voices singing to the tones of a harp:

Oh holy Child, we greet thee! Bringing
Sweet strains of harp to aid our singing.
Thou holy Child, in peace art sleeping,
While we our watch without are keeping.
Blest be the house wherein thou liest,
Happiest on earth, to heaven the nighest.

The children listened, while a solemn joy filled their hearts, then they stepped softly to the window to see who was singing.

In the east was a streak of rosy dawn, and in its light they saw a group of children standing in front of the house, clothed in sparkling garments and holding golden harps. Amazed at the sight, the brother and sister were still gazing out the window when they heard a sound behind them. Turning they discovered the stranger-child standing before them. "I am the little Christ child," he said. "I wander through the world bringing peace and happiness to children. You took me in and cared for me when you thought I was a poor child, and now you shall have my blessing for what you have done."

A fir tree grew near the little house; and from this the Christ-child broke a twig and planted it in the ground. He looked directly at Valentine and Mary and said, "This twig shall become a tree, and shall bring forth fruit year by year for you."

No sooner had he done this than he vanished, and with him the choir of angels. The fir-branch grew and became a Christmas tree, and on its branches hung golden apples and silver nuts every Christmas.

Such is the story told to German children concerning their beautiful Christmas trees, though we know that this is only a fable. The real Christ-child can never be wandering cold and homeless in our world, because he is safe in heaven by his Father’s side; yet we may gather from this story the same truth which the Bible plainly tells us--that to anyone who helps another person, it will be counted to them as if he had done it to Christ himself. "In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Family Moment

Kindness. When you think of that word, what picture comes to mind? Who or what do you think of? What have they done or said that has made you feel warm and that you mattered?

Every day, we have the chance to represent Jesus to anyone God brings our way. We can be kind in what we do, what we say, even in our body language (posture, eye contact) to others who may just want to see if their lives matter to other human souls.

Ask family members how they best express kindness.

Now, ask them how they can improve a little bit more in being kind to others.

An Advent Prayer

Dear kind Lord, thank you that kindness is part of your character from which we can learn. You were kind to everyone who needed kindness. You reached out to touch those who needed your touch; you said the right words to those who were hurting; you showed by every action in your life that people were more important than anything else on earth. Help us to learn from the examples you set for us, but help us to learn this lesson best. We want to be kind to others, for in doing so, we show we are being kind to you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Today's Advent reading is from 25 Days of Christmas by Greg Johnson. Greg Johnson is the author of more than 20 books. He is President of WordServe Literary Group, a Denver-based literary agency that serves more than 100 authors (www.wordserveliterary.com).
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Today's Advent reading is taken from:
25 Days of Christmas
by Greg Johnson

A classic Christmas devotional that brings together stories, devotional readings, scripture passages and prayers in a delightfully illustrated format.

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Click on the image above to watch the video!

The True Christmas Story

The Christmas story confronts its readers with a surprising truth. The true king is not the Edomite Herod in his opulent palace; it is actually the child in the cave.

When Jesus was born he did not look like a Messiah. Shepherds and Magi came to worship him, but most did not believe this could be the long awaited King.

One person who did believe was Herod; he was convinced this child would be a king, and therefore a threat to his throne. He believed it so strongly that he sent his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill the young boys and eliminate this potential rival for the crown.

Two thousand years later, the palaces and fortresses of Herod are in ruins, and his vision for Israel has long sense been lost in the sands of time. Ironically, the only reason most of us know about him at all is because of the role he plays in another story – the story of the young Jesus who he tried to kill, and who would eventually go on to start a movement which transformed the world.
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In The True Story of Christmas teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan explores the stories of two kings--the ruthless and wealthy Herod, and Jesus, creator of the universe. Vander Laan travels to the land of Israel to discover fascinating truths--biblical, archeological, and historical--about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.

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Did Jesus Believe He Was God's Son?

Today's reading: Luke 20:9-19

It's evident that Jesus had a Messianic self-understanding, but that means more than the fact that he was anointed. Any prophet or priest could claim that. No, Jesus' anointing is more than that-there is a divine sense. He is God's Son.

That's the importance of the parable of the wicked vineyard tenants. In this story told by Jesus, the vineyard owner leases his place to tenant farmers, but when the landowner sends servant after servant to collect his share, the tenants beat them. Finally, the owner sends his beloved son, and they kill him. When the parable is interpreted in its context, we see that the vineyard owner is God, the tenants represent ancient Israel, and the servants symbolize the prophets. The point is clear: God sent his Son. Otherwise, Jesus would just be one more messenger, one more prophet. No-God sent his Son, and that Son is Jesus.


Adapted from interview with Dr. Craig Evans

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Today's reading is from the
The Case for Christ Study Bible
by Zondervan


Investigate the Bible's most compelling claims: the existence of a compassionate God and the promise of eternal life through His Son, Jesus.


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Where is Home?

This week's reading: Jeremiah 29:1-14

Recommended Reading: Deuteronomy 30:3-6; Isaiah 11:11-16; Jeremiah 24:5-7; Philippians 1:21-26

Dignitaries lined the street when the funeral procession passed. Thousands waited just to catch a glimpse of the coffin. In fact, the people of the United States and all parts of the world loved and revered the deceased man so much that his remains were disinterred in Tripoli and brought to the United States for a magnificent funeral.

His name was John Howard Payne. You probably haven't heard of him. But this well-loved poet was best known for composing one simple verse:

"Mid pleasures and palaces,

Though oft I may roam;

Be it ever so humble,

There's no place like home."

The prophet Jeremiah knew about feelings of home. He wrote to the elders exiled in Babylon to remind them. Although they found themselves in a strange land, they were still God's people, and God still had plans for them. Until the appropriate time, however, God spoke through Jeremiah and reminded the elders to make a home where they were: "'Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters'" (Jeremiah 9:5-6). He even instructed them to pray for the cities and lands in which they found themselves, for if the cities prospered so would they.

This directive might have seemed odd to the people in exile. Shouldn't they start a resistance movement? Some sort of an underground, covert military unit designed to get them out of that situation as soon as possible?

In a certain sense, we're in the same situation as those exiles in Babylon. Those of us who know and follow God realize that this world is not our final destination. There is a life after this one-a life more real and closer at hand than most people could even begin to comprehend. Yet instead of asking us to rush through life to get to the end, the Bible encourages us to live here, in "exile," to the fullest, for the glory of the God who put us here. As much as we might excitedly anticipate being in God's presence someday, we have an opportunity-or more precisely, an obligation-to live fully in the here and now.

If you feel like an exile living in a place you really don't want to be, take a look at a bigger perspective. God is present with you now, where you are. And he has a plan for you to fulfill until you reach your final heavenly home.

To Take Away

  • Why do you think God places us on earth to await our home in heaven?
  • When you envision the bigger perspective for your life, what plans do you think God has in store for you?
  • What impact does setting your heart and hope on heaven have on the way you live today? In what way does your life show that your hope is in heaven?
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New Men's Devotional BibleToday's reading is from the
New Men's Devotional Bible
by Zondervan


The New Men's Devotional Biblehelps apply God's Word to a new generation of Christian men. It includes a full year of all-new devotions by well-known and not-so-well-known men of God.


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A Christmas Devotional

GOVERNMENT

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders...and of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. -Isaiah 9:6-7

Government. Does that word strike a positive note in you, or negative note? The word has good and bad connotations. Over the centuries, many corrupt governments run by greedy and power-hungry people have imposed tyranny rather than justice. Their form of order is more often a form of chaos.

It's a shame that government has gotten such a bad name-because it is, at the same time, a necessary function of any society hoping to be civilized. The ungoverned life is chaos, anarchy, and injustice. Without governing, people would not volunteer to pitch in for the common good, and they would be unwilling to enact laws that require them to sacrifice and set limits on their lives And so government is a necessary constraint on our impulses and independence, a way for a person to say, "I need to have standards in my life, and I know that my neighbors and I need to live under those standards for them to be meaningful."

God knows we need governing. That's why he calls himself King, Shepherd, Master, Lord and Father-and when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the world gained its greatest governor.

Have you ever considered a governing individual, and wondered how he or she can bear the sheer weight of immense responsibility? Yet, governing-real, life-shaping authority-ultimately rests on Christ's shoulders alone "The government will be on his shoulders." Now, there is a future time when he will reign as undisputed ruler, but in the meantime he is exercising considerable governing power. Since Bethlehem, the world has changed. It is not that evil has disappeared, but its counter-the power of Christ-has been triumphant in one life after another. We see it in the person who gains victory over an addiction, in someone who stands up for justice, in reconciled relationships, in people whose characters are being shaped by the character of Christ.

We can thank God this Christmas that he did not leave us to our chaotic, ungoverned state. A shepherd-king came to stand in the Davidic line, not to be like other kings, but to govern our lives from the inside out, as he changes our hearts and enlivens our consciences.

Prayer for Today:

Lord, I confess that there is much in me that does not want to be governed. Help me to see joy in the fact that your governing will never end, and because of that, peace will increase.

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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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