Friday, December 23, 2011

Daily Devotional Friday 23rd December

“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.” Luke 2:8-11 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"I will strengthen thee."
Isaiah 41:10

God has a strong reserve with which to discharge this engagement; for he is able to do all things. Believer, till thou canst drain dry the ocean of omnipotence, till thou canst break into pieces the towering mountains of almighty strength, thou never needest to fear. Think not that the strength of man shall ever be able to overcome the power of God. Whilst the earth's huge pillars stand, thou hast enough reason to abide firm in thy faith. The same God who directs the earth in its orbit, who feeds the burning furnace of the sun, and trims the lamps of heaven, has promised to supply thee with daily strength. While he is able to uphold the universe, dream not that he will prove unable to fulfil his own promises. Remember what he did in the days of old, in the former generations. Remember how he spake and it was done; how he commanded, and it stood fast. Shall he that created the world grow weary? He hangeth the world upon nothing; shall he who doth this be unable to support his children? Shall he be unfaithful to his word for want of power? Who is it that restrains the tempest? Doth not he ride upon the wings of the wind, and make the clouds his chariots, and hold the ocean in the hollow of his hand? How can he fail thee? When he has put such a faithful promise as this on record, wilt thou for a moment indulge the thought that he has outpromised himself, and gone beyond his power to fulfil? Ah, no! Thou canst doubt no longer.

O thou who art my God and my strength, I can believe that this promise shall be fulfilled, for the boundless reservoir of thy grace can never be exhausted, and the overflowing storehouse of thy strength can never be emptied by thy friends or rifled by thine enemies.

"Now let the feeble all be strong,

And make Jehovah's arm their song."

Evening

"The spot of his children."
Deuteronomy 32:5

What is the secret spot which infallibly betokens the child of God? It were vain presumption to decide this upon our own judgment; but God's word reveals it to us, and we may tread surely where we have revelation to be our guide. Now, we are told concerning our Lord, "to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to as many as believed on his name." Then, if I have received Christ Jesus into my heart, I am a child of God. That reception is described in the same verse as believing on the name of Jesus Christ. If, then, I believe on Jesus Christ's name--that is, simply from my heart trust myself with the crucified, but now exalted, Redeemer, I am a member of the family of the Most High. Whatever else I may not have, if I have this, I have the privilege to become a child of God. Our Lord Jesus puts it in another shape. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." Here is the matter in a nutshell. Christ appears as a shepherd to his own sheep, not to others. As soon as he appears, his own sheep perceive him--they trust him, they are prepared to follow him; he knows them, and they know him--there is a mutual knowledge--there is a constant connection between them. Thus the one mark, the sure mark, the infallible mark of regeneration and adoption is a hearty faith in the appointed Redeemer. Reader, are you in doubt, are you uncertain whether you bear the secret mark of God's children? Then let not an hour pass over your head till you have said, "Search me, O God, and know my heart." Trifle not here, I adjure you! If you must trifle anywhere, let it be about some secondary matter: your health, if you will, or the title deeds of your estate; but about your soul, your never-dying soul and its eternal destinies, I beseech you to be in earnest. Make sure work for eternity.

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Today's reading: Micah 6-7, Revelation 13 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Micah 6-7

The LORD’s Case Against Israel

1 Listen to what the LORD says:

“Stand up, plead my case before the mountains;
let the hills hear what you have to say.

2 “Hear, you mountains, the LORD’s accusation;
listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth.
For the LORD has a case against his people;
he is lodging a charge against Israel.

3 “My people, what have I done to you?
How have I burdened you? Answer me.
4 I brought you up out of Egypt
and redeemed you from the land of slavery.
I sent Moses to lead you,
also Aaron and Miriam.
5 My people, remember
what Balak king of Moab plotted
and what Balaam son of Beor answered.
Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD....”

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 13

The Beast out of the Sea

1 The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4 People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?”

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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Solomon [Sŏl'omon]—peace orpeaceable. The tenth son of David, and second by Bath-sheba, and the third king of Israel who reigned for forty years (2 Sam. 5:14; 12:24 ). Solomon was also known as Jedidiah meaning, “beloved of the Lord.”

The Man Who Was Full Yet Failed

We know little of the early life of Solomon. The name given him by Nathan, but not repeated because of its sacredness, implies David’s restoration to divine favor (2 Sam. 12:25). Loved of the Lord suggests the bestowal of unusual gifts ( 2 Sam. 12:24,25). It is also evident that young Solomon was greatly influenced both by his mother and Nathan (1 Kings 1:11, 12).

With reference to the character and reign of Solomon, we cannot but agree with Alexander Whyte that, “The shipwreck of Solomon is surely the most terrible tragedy in all the world. For if ever there was a shining type of Christ in the Old Testament church, it was Solomon ... but everyday sensuality made him in the end a castaway.” Taking him all in all, Solomon stands out as a disappointing figure of Hebrew history. Think of the advantages he began with! There were the almost undisputed possession of David’s throne, immense stores of wealth laid up by his father, exceptional divinely imparted mental abilities, the love and high hopes of the people. Solomon’s start like the cloudless dawn of a summer’s morning, might have been beautiful all his life through, but it ended in gloom because he wandered into God-forbidden paths. Thus a life beginning magnificently ended miserably. The man who penned and preached a thousand wise things failed to practice the wisdom he taught.

The work of Solomon was the development of his father’s ideas of a consolidated kingdom, and what marvelous success crowned his efforts. Exercising the power of an oriental despot, he gave Israel a glory, prestige and splendor unsurpassed in the world’s history. On the whole, however, Solomon seemed to rule for his own aggrandizement and not for the welfare of the people. Doubtless Solomon’s artistic and literary gifts provided the masses with beneficial instruction, but the glory of Solomon brought the common people tears and groans. The great wealth provided by David for the building of a Temple speedily disappeared under Solomon’s lavish spending, and the people had to pay heavily by taxation and poverty for his magnificent whims. Yet Jesus said that the lilies of the field had greater glory than all the gaudy pomp and pride of Solomon.

Solomon’s ambition in the morning of his life was most commendable. His dream was a natural expression of this ambition, and his God-imparted wisdom an evidence of it (1 Kings 3 ). Then his sacrifice at Gibeon indicates that Solomon desired religion to be associated with all external magnificence. Solomon’s remarkable prayer also breathes the atmosphere of true piety and of his delight in the full recognition of God. Alas, however, Solomon came to the end of his days minus popularity and piety!

This first great naturalist the world ever saw, who wrote one thousand and five songs, three thousand proverbs and who had sagacity beyond compare, took his first step downward when he went to Egypt for his queen. A daughter of Pharaoh, sitting on the throne of David, must have shocked and saddened the godly elect of Israel. With this strange wife came her strange gods.

Then came the harem of outlandish women who caused Solomon to sin (Neh. 13:26). His wives—seven hundred of them and three hundred concubines—whom Solomon clave unto in love, turned him into an idolater ( 1 Kings 11:1-8). Polygamy on such a vast scale and concession for his wives to worship their own heathen gods was bad enough, but to share in such sacrilegious worship in sight of the Temple Solomon himself had built, was nauseating to God.

Thus sensuality and pride of wealth brought about Solomon’s deterioration. In the Book of Ecclesiastes which the king wrote, he surely depicted his own dissatisfaction with even life itself. All rivers ran into Solomon’s sea: wisdom and knowledge, wine and women, wealth and fame, music and songs; he tried them all, but all was vanity and vexation of spirit simply because God had been left out.

Of Solomon’s actual end little is known. He is described as an “old man” at sixty years of age. Whether Solomon repented and returned to God was a question warmly debated by the Early Fathers. There is no record of his repentance. He never wrote a penitential psalm like his father before him (Ps. 51 ). We have his remorse, discontent, disgust, self-contempt, “bitterer to drink than blood,” but no sobs for his sin, no plea for pardon. Thus, with such a tragic failure before us, let us take to heart the fact that Solomon’s wisdom did not teach him self-control, and that the only legacy of his violated home life was a son “ample in foolishness and lacking in understanding,” as C. W. Emmet expresses it.

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Christ's Tomb Is Sealed

Matthew 27:62-66

The death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is not a myth invented by His disciples. He really died and He really rose again. There are many plausible arguments for the resurrection of Jesus, and many Christian apologists have put together helpful presentations of these details. This week, try to find a good resource on the evidence for the resurrection and arm yourself to defend its historicity should an opportunity ever present itself.

For further study:

Luke 1:1-4

The Bible in a year:

Zechariah 1-3

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

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Danita Hiles

December 22, 2011

Think About What Is
Danita Dalton Hiles

"Whatever is true... whatever is lovely... whatever is right... think about such things..." Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

I've decided that pre-lit Christmas trees are a modern marvel. Three parts of a tree insert together. Three plugs connect into each other, into the wall and voila! An instant, gorgeous, perfectly balanced display! Can you hear the angels singing?

Except of course when it doesn't ...light up, that is.

The day after Thanksgiving, we hauled our Christmas treasures down from the attic; dragged them into the house, box by box. Anticipation ran high as Christmas carols and cinnamon candles filled the air. Two girls and their single momma were excited to get our house all Christmas-y.

The tree was first. Bottom section, check. Middle section, check. Tiny pointed top section - all in place. Plug A into B into C and ... tada! Well, almost.

It was a 'tada!' moment except for three pesky branches that remained dark. Cords were plugged and re-plugged. Still dark. Branches were jiggled and bulbs tested. No lights.

The type A' perfectionist in me was completely frustrated, and it felt like my Christmas cheer was being sucked down a black hole of disappointment. It was a simple thing, yet in that moment the tree symbolized the many areas of my life that were dark, filled with disappointment and out of my control.

My then thirteen year old squinted at the tree, tilted her head and forever changed my perspective with these simple words: "Momma, I know! Don't look at those branches that are dark. Just look at the branches that are lit."

Hmmm, I thought. Looking at the lit branches only, I was reminded of Paul's words today in Philippians 4:8, which encourage us to find what is true and lovely and think onthose things.

Sure enough, when I concentrated on the twinkling lights, the areas of darkness seemed to disappear. When focused on the working lights, they were so bright, the darkened parts didn't matter much.

It was a great Christmas tree lesson, but one I knew Jesus wanted me to apply in my life too. I have my own dark branches that include widowhood, family health struggles and financial challenges. But lighting my way are other branches overflowing with love - His love and the love of my family. I also have friends, a house to live in, two precious girls to kiss goodnight, flavored coffee, fluffy pillows. The list goes on and on - if I focus on what I have instead of what I don't.

This Christmas, let's purpose together to look at the branches that are lit in our lives instead of thinking on those that aren't.

We will always have things we wish were different. But we also have a choice to concentrate on what isn't or think about what is. Instead of bemoaning our life's lack of Hallmark perfection, let's focus on the lit branches: things like love, sacrifice, time and togetherness.

Instead of heaping more on our to-do list, or trying to achieve an elusive Christmas ideal, let's choose to see the blessings we do have. And if we squint our eyes just right and tilt our heads, life looks pretty bright after all.

Dear Lord, thank You for simple illustrations that help us to see Your truth. You are the light of the world and our hope for the future. Please help me see the things that 'shine' in my life instead of dwelling on the darkness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit with Danita and a group of friends on A Widow's Might, where they share the dark and light branches of their lives each week.

Might you be a bright spot to a child waiting? Light up the world of a child through Compassion International!

The Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life by Louie Giglio

Application Steps:
Take time to think on what is true and lovely in your life. Maybe even sit in the dark in front of your lit Christmas tree or some candles and really see the beauty of the light - even if there are dark spaces. Ask God to show you His bright spots in your life as you meditate on our key verse.

Write ten things you can be thankful for.

Light a candle, turn off your lights and play a Christmas carol, really concentrating on the words of hope and peace. A few suggestions: O Holy Night and Joy to the World.

Reflections:
Are there dark areas I need to surrender to the Lord, once and for all?

Is there someone with dark spaces that I can bless with a card, letter or small gift?

Power Verses:
Luke 2:19, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (NIV)

Colossians 3:15, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (NIV)

Psalm 16:8, "I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken." (NIV)

© 2011 by Danita Dalton Hiles. All rights reserved.

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

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December 22, 2011

Making a List ... Checking it Twice

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).

Friend to Friend

Every year, I make a Christmas list comprised of every person for whom I am buying a gift. Beside each name, I put a dollar amount, a limit for how much money I will spend for that gift, vowing not to spend one penny more than the set limit. (Somehow, the amount I actually spend rarely coincides with the amount I intended to spend.) With every purchase, I then draw a beautiful red line through that name. Done!

I carry that list everywhere I go because sometimes I find a gift during a random shopping trip but mainly because I can't afford to let it out of my sight. There are evil people lurking in my home who will go to any lengths to find that list! You see, I am the Queen of Surprise when it comes to Christmas, so I must guard my list with my life in order to keep my "Queen-ship" status secure. Consequently, the list is hidden in various and unusual places such as a random file on my computer, in my closet, in an old purse, in a sock drawer, in a flower pot - you get the picture. I know where that Christmas list is at all times because it is my gift-giving plan for the holidays.

I wish I were just as concerned about "God's list" for my life; carrying His life plan for me in my heart and mind as I live each day, constantly making choices and decisions in light of that list, guarding it like the treasure map of eternity that it truly is. Just knowing the plan God has for me does not guarantee success. I must do the plan. That is where the choice to obey comes in. An obedient heart is a "fixed" heart and may very well be the gift God wants from us this holiday season.

Psalm 108:1

"O God, my heart is fixed!"

Psalm 40:8

"I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your law is written on my heart."

A "fixed" heart is a determined heart, a steadfast heart that is rightly focused on God and His will, His plan. When we choose to follow God's plan, the desires of our heart will line up in obedience to that plan. We will find our greatest joy in pleasing God, in doing His will because that is what we were created to do.

Maybe today is a good time to stop, go back over the list, review those life lessons we have learned, checking to see where we really are in our walk with God. Maybe today is the perfect time to revisit the manger to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ by giving Him the gift of obedience.

Let's Pray

Father, I love You. Forgive me for the times when I choose to follow my own will instead of Yours. Teach me how to fix my heart on You and give me the strength to do what You created me to do. I know Your plan is the highest and best plan for me and that I was created in response to that plan. Thank You for the purpose that doing Your will brings to my life. Today, I choose to seek You and obey Your Word.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

A new year is just around the corner. Is one of your resolutions for 2012 to have a daily quiet time? Need help? Check out Mary's Weekly Online Bible Study, Light for the Journey. And be sure to get your copy of our new 12-week devotion book,Trusting God.

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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Dirty Little Secret of Pastors #2

I’ll never forget a conversation I have with a gentlemen who just a few years later became the president of a major theological seminary. He confessed that he didn’t understand the big picture and flow of the Bible story until he was asked to be a teacher for Walk Thru the Bible ministry...

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Christ's Tomb Is Sealed

Matthew 27:62-66 "So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard" (v. 66).

If we had any doubt that Pilate had Jesus executed to prevent a riot, rather than because Christ was guilty of attempting to overthrow Rome (Matt. 27:11-26 ), the circumstances of our Lord's burial prove that the governor believed Jesus was innocent as charged. Most crucified victims in ancient Rome were left on the cross even after they were dead, and the elements and the animals took care of the mess that was left. It was not unusual, however, for Roman authorities to grant the body of a crucified person to his friends or family, provided he was not guilty of high treason. Pilate evidently did not think Jesus was guilty, otherwise he would not have given Christ's body to Joseph of Arimathea (vv. 57-60).

Like many other first-century Jerusalemites, Jesus was buried outside the city in a cave hewn in a limestone hill. The "great stone" (v. 60) that sealed His gravesite was set on an incline in a channel cut in the rock, making it easier to cover the tomb by rolling the stone downhill. It took several men to roll the stone back up the incline, which discouraged grave robbers and wild animals from trying to enter the tomb. This refutes any theory that Jesus swooned, and, not having died, regained consciousness and rolled the stone away Himself.

Other details that corroborate the historicity of the resurrection are the seal and contingent of soldiers placed at the entrance to the tomb (vv. 62-66). The seal was a soft, moldable substance, probably clay, that was imprinted with the Roman imperial seal and attached to the stone with a rope. Breaking the seal would incur the Empire's wrath - if someone could get past the guards.

The heavy stone should have been good enough for the religious authorities, but their paranoia that a story might circulate about a resurrected Jesus prompted them to seal His grave. They took these extra measures to prevent the theft of Jesus' body, so fearful were they of losing their esteem. Yet ironically, we find proof of Christ's resurrection in that their deeds were overcome. The timid disciples surely could not have broken through the guards and seal. Jerome aptly writes, "The greater their precautionary care, the more fully is revealed the power of the resurrection" (Commentary on Matthew, 4.27.64).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

The death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is not a myth invented by His disciples. He really died and He really rose again. There are many plausible arguments for the resurrection of Jesus, and many Christian apologists have put together helpful presentations of these details. This week, try to find a good resource on the evidence for the resurrection and arm yourself to defend its historicity should an opportunity ever present itself.

For further study:

Luke 1:1-4

The Bible in a year:

Zechariah 1-3

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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The Letter
Retold from public records

In the shabby basement of an old house in Atlanta, Georgia, lived a young widow and her little girl. During the Civil War, she had married a young Confederate soldier, against her Yankee father’s will, and had moved with him south, to Atlanta. Her wealthy father, angry and hurt at what he considered to be her disloyalty, both to him and the North, told her never to come back.

The soldier had died bravely during the war, and his death left his wife and child without any support. Alone in Atlanta, Margaret did washing, ironing, and other menial jobs that she could find to help her scrape by and feed little Anna. Their clothes became ragged, and they were both ill from sleeping in the damp, cold basement.

Anna loved to hear her mother’s stories about her home in the North. She sat in her mother’s lap and listened for hours to descriptions of the big, brick house in Boston, the sprawling shade trees, the beautiful flower gardens, and the wide grassy lawn. She loved to imagine the horses trotting across the meadow, the smell of bread baking in the kitchen, and the soft feel of the four-poster feather beds. Although Anna had never seen her mother’s home, she thought it must be marvelous and secretly hoped that someday they would go there to live.

Margaret often sat looking wistfully up through the narrow basement windows at the blue sky, remembering her mama’s smile, laughing with her two sisters, chasing her little brother, and sitting on her father’s lap. She missed her family and home so much. But there was nothing she could do. She could never earn enough money to pay the train fare to Boston, no matter how hard she worked. And when she remembered her father’s hurt, angry expression when she left, she knew there was little hope of ever seeing her family again.

On Christmas Eve, the landlady of the house knocked on the basement door. Anna ran to answer, and the lady handed her a letter. Margaret knew immediately that the broadly scrawled handwriting on the envelope was her father’s. With trembling fingers she pulled open the flap of the envelope. When she pulled out the single-sheet letter, two one-hundred dollar bills fell out on the floor. The letter had just three words: "Please come home."

Family Moment

Spend some time talking together about home and what each one loves about it. Ask, "What would you miss most about home if you had to leave?"

An Advent Prayer

Father, we are so happy to be your children and to know that we will have an eternal home in heaven with you. Home is such abeautiful word, and how can we even begin to imagine your home--its splendor, its joy, its peace and comfort and love. Help us to open our home to those who are less fortunate than we are, and to share the magnificent gifts with them that you gave to us on that first Christmas. 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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The Story: Teen Curriculum

The story of Christmas is familiar to many of us, sometimes so familiar that we stop really listening. Could narrative and art help us hear the story afresh?

The is the story of the birth of a King that comes after four hundred years when God did not speak to Israel, almost as long as the time from the Reformation until today. Can you imagine how distant those promises of God must have felt? Suddenly Mary and Joseph were visited by angels, and told that Mary was pregnant with the long awaited king, the king who would take David’s throne and rule forever.

Of course, there was another king in those days, Herod. And Herod was a servant of the Roman Empire which controlled Israel and most of the known world. When he heard about Jesus he sent troops to hunt him down, but God spoke to Joseph again and Joseph, Mary, and Jesus escaped into Egypt.

Later, they move to Nazareth, and on one trip to Jerusalem they suddenly realized that Jesus was not with them. After searching for days they found him in the Temple, doing his heavenly Father’s business. The young boy who narrowly escaped Herod was learning, and growing, and in a few short years would reveal himself to be the king Israel had waited for. Except, his sort of kingship didn’t look quite like they expected.
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FRB-Christmas-Story-BookCover-SmallReading 17: From the Beginning

The Gospel of John tells us that the “word” is not only the spoken word (the message from God and Jesus’ teachings) but also the “Word,” Jesus, the actual person of God himself in Christ. He is the living expression of God’s presence with his people.


John 1:1-18
The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” 16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

Further Study

JUST THE FACTS
  1. Who was in the beginning? (v. 1)
  2. Whom did God send to tell about the “light”? (vv. 6 – 8)
  3. What was given through Moses? What came through Christ? (v. 17)
LET’S TALK
  1. What is grace? What are some of the blessings you have received because of God’s grace?
  2. What did the writer John mean by “darkness” and “light”? (vv. 4 – 5)
WHY THIS MATTERS

Long before the world began, God planned to send Jesus to live among people on earth. Through Jesus, God has shown us his glory.

POINTS OF INTEREST

1:4–5 Throughout the Bible, “light” is linked with God’s majesty, glory and goodness, while “darkness” is linked with Satan and evil. John used these word pictures several times in this Gospel and in his letters.
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Does the Bible Claim Jesus Is Divine?

Today's reading: John 1:1-2

How would Jesus respond if he were to read John's words about him? Would he recoil and say, "Whoa, John has got me all wrong! He has embellished and mythologized me to the point where I don't even recognize myself"? Or would he nod approvingly and say, "Yes, I'm all that-and more"?

On this topic, Bible scholar Raymond Brown says, "I have no difficulty with the thesis that if Jesus ... could have read John he would have found that gospel a suitable expression of his identity." Dr. Ben Witherington III, who has spent a lifetime analyzing the academic minutiae concerning Jesus' self-perception, agrees with Brown's assessment. "When you're dealing with the Gospel of John, you're dealing with a somewhat interpreted picture of Jesus, but I also believe it's a logical drawing out of what was implicit in the historical Jesus. And I'll add this: Even if you eliminate the Gospel of John, there's still no non-Messianic Jesus to be conjured up out of the material in the other three Gospels. It's just not there."


Adapted from interview with Dr. Ben Witherington III.

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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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From Mourning to Morning

This week's reading: Lamentations 3:19–33

Recommended Reading: Psalm 30:1–12; Luke 24:1–8; Romans 8:18–39

People around the world watched in horror as the video from the attacks of September 11, 2001, played again and again on cable and network news channels. But to those of us who lived in the United States, and particularly in New York City, the reality of these terrorist acts shook us to the core. Never before had a terrorist strike hit so close to home or disrupted so many American lives.

Now imagine a more widespread terrorist attack that painfully and more permanently alters your daily life. This attack destroys federal, state and local government buildings in your community. Somehow, the terrorists seriously damage local utilities, phone lines, cell phone networks and banking services. They murder many government and church leaders. Still worse, the attackers raze your home, rob you of all your possessions and kill your family members. You have no one left.

Welcome to Jerusalem in 586 BC, following the invasion by the Babylonian army.

Of course, we hope we never experience devastation this severe. However, all of us have tasted disappointment, loss, abandonment or the death of a loved one. And during those times we often feel that we’ve lost everything. Where do we turn when we can no longer feel in control of our surroundings? When we can’t fix our problems? When hope seems lost?

Through the prophet Jeremiah God reassured Judah of his great love. God’s care for us is greater than any of our current circumstances. He knows our pain and hears our cries. And his mercy and compassion are never far behind. If Jeremiah could attest to this fact even after the violent struggles of his life, then each of us can too.

Because of God’s great love we always have hope! We endure difficult struggles not because of our own determination and resolve but because of God’s great love. His love can overcome our darkest fear, greatest loss and deepest sorrow. And for every long, dark night of the soul, a new morning ascends on the horizon, bringing a new day. These words aren’t empty. They’re life-giving promises from God that all of us need during our darkest moments.

This sinful and disappointing world can’t guarantee health, wealth and success. But we do have the promise of God’s power and love. When we feel hopeless, we can submit to God’s will, wait quietly for his deliverance and rest in the promise that his love will carry us through.

To Take Away

  • Think back to a time when you felt hopeless. From God’s perspective, were you really in a hopeless situation? Why or why not?
  • What would you do differently if you were to face a similar situation again?
  • What are some practical ways you can remember God’s promises during difficult times in life?
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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

LIGHT

For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. - Luke 2:30-32

The winter solstice on December 21, the darkest day of the year, means for many of us who live halfway between the equator and the North Pole, that we have breakfast when it is still dark outside, and that by supper, the sun has long set. That slide toward the shortest day of the year seems like sinking into a black hole. No wonder people in ancient cultures celebrated the days when the sun began to return. The prophet Malachi spoke of the healing power of light: "The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings" (Malachi 4:2).

Eight days after Jesus' birth, when Mary and Joseph had taken him to the temple as the law required, a man named Simeon saw him, and his eyes were opened to the reality of Jesus' identity. His eyes saw God's salvation. There, in human form. At the right place at the right time. Brought to earth not by royalty, but by an ordinary couple. He saw in Jesus a brilliant light that would show the way to salvation, not just for Israel, but also for all nations.

Days were dark then. It was hard to know when deliverance from the heavy grip of the Romans might come. Roman taxation was heavy; the sight of soldiers in the streets was a constant insult; war was always just a rumor away. The occupiers built unfamiliar buildings. It was difficult to settle into a normal pattern of living, when on a whim, an emperor in a faraway land could demand a census that sent you packing your bags.

Days are dark now. Not just because it is late December, but also because today, more and more generations are turning their back on faith, because wars rage on, because so many families are losing their homes and their jobs, because every day the evening news brings more stories of murder, disaster, rape and abuse.

But even in so much darkness, the light will never be forgotten. Light is not an illusion; in fact, darkness has no real substance. It is nothing more than the absence of light.

We need to see salvation as Simeon did-here and now. We need to use this Christmas to look at the One who has been "prepared in the sight of all people" (Lk. 2:31). The public Savior; the beacon for the world; the light for revelation.

Prayer for today:

Lord, open my eyes as Simeon's eyes were opened to the Lord Jesus. Help me to see your light that I may live in truth and comfort in this dark world. And help me reflect your light to the many needy people around me.

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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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