Friday, December 09, 2011

Daily Devotional Friday 9th December

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy."
Revelation 3:4

We may understand this to refer to justification. "They shall walk in white;" that is, they shall enjoy a constant sense of their own justification by faith; they shall understand that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them, that they have all been washed and made whiter than the newly-fallen snow.

Again, it refers to joy and gladness: for white robes were holiday dresses among the Jews. They who have not defiled their garments shall have their faces always bright; they shall understand what Solomon meant when he said "Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart. Let thy garments be always white, for God hath accepted thy works." He who is accepted of God shall wear white garments of joy and gladness, while he walks in sweet communion with the Lord Jesus. Whence so many doubts, so much misery, and mourning? It is because so many believers defile their garments with sin and error, and hence they lose the joy of their salvation, and the comfortable fellowship of the Lord Jesus, they do not here below walk in white.

The promise also refers to walking in white before the throne of God. Those who have not defiled their garments here shall most certainly walk in white up yonder, where the white-robed hosts sing perpetual hallelujahs to the Most High. They shall possess joys inconceivable, happiness beyond a dream, bliss which imagination knoweth not, blessedness which even the stretch of desire hath not reached. The "undefiled in the way" shall have all this--not of merit, nor of works, but of grace. They shall walk with Christ in white, for he has made them "worthy." In his sweet company they shall drink of the living fountains of waters.

Evening

"Thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor."
Psalm 68:10

All God's gifts are prepared gifts laid up in store for wants foreseen. He anticipates our needs; and out of the fulness which he has treasured up in Christ Jesus, he provides of his goodness for the poor. You may trust him for all the necessities that can occur, for he has infallibly foreknown every one of them. He can say of us in all conditions, "I knew that thou wouldst be this and that." A man goes a journey across the desert, and when he has made a day's advance, and pitched his tent, he discovers that he wants many comforts and necessaries which he has not brought in his baggage. "Ah!" says he, "I did not foresee this: if I had this journey to go again, I should bring these things with me, so necessary to my comfort." But God has marked with prescient eye all the requirements of his poor wandering children, and when those needs occur, supplies are ready. It is goodness which he has prepared for the poor in heart, goodness and goodness only. "My grace is sufficient for thee." "As thy days, so shall thy strength be."

Reader, is your heart heavy this evening? God knew it would be; the comfort which your heart wants is treasured in the sweet assurance of the text. You are poor and needy, but he has thought upon you, and has the exact blessing which you require in store for you. Plead the promise, believe it and obtain its fulfilment. Do you feel that you never were so consciously vile as you are now? Behold, the crimson fountain is open still, with all its former efficacy, to wash your sin away. Never shall you come into such a position that Christ cannot aid you. No pinch shall ever arrive in your spiritual affairs in which Jesus Christ shall not be equal to the emergency, for your history has all been foreknown and provided for in Jesus.

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Today's reading: Daniel 8-10, 3 John 1 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Daniel 8-10

Daniel’s Vision of a Ram and a Goat

1 In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. 2 In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. 3 I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. 4 I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great.

5 As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. 6 It came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at it in great rage. 7 I saw it attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering its two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against it; the goat knocked it to the ground and trampled on it, and none could rescue the ram from its power. 8 The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: 3 John 1

1 The elder,

To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. 6They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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Nicodemus [Nĭco dē'mus]—innocent blood or victor over the people. An elderly and somewhat wealthy Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin (John 3:1-9; 7:50; 19:39 ).

The Man Who Came to Jesus by Night

Whenever Nicodemus is mentioned it is always with the label, “the same that came to Jesus by night.” Why is this master in Israel always spoken of in this way? Was he a coward, afraid of what the fellow-members of the Sanhedrin would say if they saw him seeking out Jesus? We feel that he came by night because it was the best time for both Jesus and himself to have a quiet, uninterrupted conversation about spiritual matters. Nicodemus had been occupied all day with his teaching duties, and Jesus had been active in His out-of-door ministry. Now both could relax and talk through the night. It may be that Nicodemus had such a heart hunger that he could not wait until morning, and so came running to Jesus as soon as he could.

There had been no direct voice from God in Israel for a long time, and here was One whose message carried the stamp of divine authority. So Nicodemus, the cautious enquirer, but a man of spiritual perception (John 3:2), sought out Christ, and listened to one of His remarkable conversational sermons. Nicodemus figures three times in John’s gospel:

He came to Christ (John 3:2 ). This master in Israel confessed Christ to be a Teacher sent from God and heard that in spite of his culture, position and religion, he needed to be born anew by the Spirit of God. His name, meaning “innocent blood,” is suggestive. Nicodemus came to realize that his salvation was dependent upon the shedding of innocent blood (John 3:14, 16).

He spoke for Christ ( John 7:45-52). As a fair-minded man, Nicodemus, although a disciple at heart and afraid to avow his faith, raised his voice on behalf of Christ as the Sanhedrin devised measures against Him. The rulers were His avowed enemies, and Nicodemus raised a point of order in favor of the One he had learned so much from. Perhaps he should have been more courageous and outspoken on Christ’s behalf. When the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus to death, there was no protest from Nicodemus. It is likely that he absented himself from that fateful meeting.

He honored Christ ( John 19:39, 40 ). After the death of Christ, ashamed of his cowardice, Nicodemus rendered loving though belated service to Christ. Openly he joined Joseph of Arimathaea, another secret disciple, in preparing Christ’s body for a kingly burial. But the dead cannot appreciate our loving attention. Mary gave her spices to Jesus while He was alive. It is better to give flowers to the living than reserve them for their burial.

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Holly Good

December 8, 2011

365 Days of Blessings
Holly Good

"He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured."Colossians 4:12b (NIV)

Inconspicuously wrapped in an envelope sealed with love - it was my most memorable Christmas present ever. In all of my 44 Christmases, I have never received such a treasure as I did a few years ago. It was a gift that provided comfort, peace and joy for 365 days. And I haven't forgotten it.

A simple box buried within the pile of white elephant gifts we were exchanging at our office Christmas celebration. As I opened the gift I had chosen, I read my card out loud:

"Last night as I was wrapping your gift, God put an idea in my heart and I wholeheartedly agreed with Him. If you are the recipient of this gift, not only are you holding a new ornament, but also a promise from me. It will be my privilege and honor to pray for you every day in the coming year. On your good days and bad days, you can rest assured that you are being prayed for by name by me. I love you. Merry Christmas. Love, Melissa"

Tears threatened to spill down my cheeks as I silently stood and hugged my friend. Her written words were an immediate healing balm to my soul. My mouth could not produce the thoughts I was longing to say aloud. I calmly folded my sweet letter and replaced it neatly in the envelope. And smiled.

Someone would be praying for me every day! Without fail. What a gift.

This was something I had never been promised before. Sure, friends will tell me that they will pray for me when I voice a struggle to them. Or someone will call me and tell me that I came to mind that day and they prayed for me. And still others will mention that I am in their prayers. But to have the comfort of a loyal daily prayer warrior was beyond my realm of thinking.

I felt comforted that day.

I also felt encouraged, confident, and optimistic.

But mostly, I felt loved. What a commitment. To me and for me. Every day.

You see, I know the power of prayer. I have experienced healing, growth, miracles and peace through personal prayer, prayer with my family and corporate prayer. I have humbly come to a place where I recognize that I must completely depend on Him daily, and it all begins with prayer.

A prayer filled life is not necessarily a belief that God will do exactly what we ask for, but a trust that He will hear our desires and know what's best for us. A trust that He will lead, guide and direct us as we seek His will. I wholeheartedly rely on this assurance.

I went home from our party that day with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my yearlong gift of prayer. In turn, I committed to also pray for Melissa each day. What a challenging year this has been for her personally - she has needed my daily prayers.

As I think of her with a humble and thankful heart, I can't help but recall the beautiful words in Colossian 4:12b, "He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured."

I will always remember that amazingly selfless gift from my friend Melissa. What a comfort. What a commitment.

What a rare gift of love indeed.

Dear Lord, thank You for friends who love us with Your love. Thank You for faithfully listening to our requests and responding as You see fit. We trust You and love You and honor Your Holy name. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa TerKeurst's blog to post a prayer request for Holly and Lysa. They will pray for you during their early morning run this week.

To connect with Holly today, visit our P31 devotions blog.

To read other writings from Holly please click here.

Application Steps:
Read Matthew 6:9-13. Jesus gave this prayer to His disciples as a model for them. How can you use this prayer, often referred to as the Lord's Prayer, as a model for your daily prayers?

Reflections:
As I spend time with friends and family, I have started to intentionally ask, "How can I pray for you?"

Who will I come across today that you I ask, "How can I pray for you today?"

As I journal my requests, I'll look for God to do a great work.

Power Verses:
Psalm 5:3, "In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." (NIV)

Psalm 145:18, "The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth."

Romans 8:26, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."

© 2011 by Holly Good. All rights reserved.

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

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December 8, 2011

How to Have a Joy-Filled Christmas

Part 2

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16, NIV).

Friend to Friend

I believe the secret to a holy and joy-filled celebration of Christmas is found in giving. It always has been. Are we giving the wrong gifts to the wrong people? Maybe we are not receiving the right gifts with the right attitude. Over the next few days, we will examine several truths about Christmas that will lead us once again to the manger, where we will worship the Christ child and experience a Christmas holiday filled with love, peace and joy.

First truth: We must receive God's gift to us.

Luke 2:8-12 "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 of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (NIV)

Second truth: We must give the right gifts to Him.

Christmas is the birthday of Jesus Christ. Yet, we celebrate His birthday by giving gifts to everyone but Him. What gifts does He want from us? What gifts are fit for the King? To answer that question, let's go back to that first Christmas and see what gifts He received that first Christmas night.

The gift of trust

The gift of trust was given to Jesus by Mary, a teenage girl who was engaged to Joseph. I can only imagine what thoughts raced through her mind when an angel appeared to Mary announcing she would give birth to a son named Jesus. I am certain she could not have possibly understood what the angel told her, but she knew the one who sent the angel, and that was enough for Mary. I can almost guarantee you it would not have been enough for me if I had been in her place. After all, she was a virgin and last time I checked, virgins cannot be pregnant. What would Joseph think? Trust shines best in the darkness. Trust is a gift fit for the King.

Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (NASB).

The gift of obedience

Joseph gave Jesus the gift of obedience. He was betrothed to Mary, and in Jesus' day, a betrothal was legally binding. While engaged, Mary becomes pregnant. Joseph knows he is not the father of this baby because he has never slept with Mary. His first reaction was to divorce Mary quietly, but an angel comes to him and explains that Joseph is to keep her but not sleep with her. Joseph's response could have been many things but he responded with obedience.

John 14:15 (NIV) "If you love me, you will obey what I command."

Obedience is not just an outward action, but an inner attitude. I love the story of the small child who was riding in the front seat of the car. Wanting to be close to his dad, the youngster stood to his feet. Dad said, "Son, please sit down and put on your seat belt." The little boy said, "But dad, I want to stand by you!" It took several attempts but the boy finally sat down. When his father bragged on his obedience, the little boy responded, "I may be sitting down on the outside, but I'm still standing on the inside." Obedience is a deliberate choice to do what God wants us to do. Obedience is a gift fit for the King.

The gift of praise

When the shepherds heard the news, they went to see Jesus for themselves. Afterwards, Scripture tells us they went on their way - praising God. Praise is a continual choice we must make again and again until it becomes a habit. A young hippie was sitting on a park bench, reading his Bible when he suddenly began shouting, "Praise God! What a miracle!" A cynic walking by stopped to ask the man why he was so excited. The hippie replied, "I was just reading how God parted the Red Sea and the whole nation of Israel walked on dry ground!" The older man snapped, "That's ridiculous! Don't you know the Red Sea wasn't a real sea at all? It was only a few inches deep." He then turned and walked away. For a moment, the young man was confused and discouraged but it was only minutes until his shouts again filled the air. The unbeliever returned to ask, "What are you shouting about now?" "Well, I just read how God drowned the entire Egyptian army in only six inches of water!" Don't let anyone keep you from praising God. Don't let any circumstance deny you the joy of praise. Praise keeps us kneeling before the manger and is a gift fit for the King.

Psalm 150:6 (NASB) "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."

The gift of sacrifice

The wise men came, bringing gifts that required sacrifice on their part because they knew true worship always involves sacrifice. They brought gold, a precious metal, myrrh, an expensive perfume like Mary later used to wash the feet of Jesus, as well as incense, a rare and expensive product used in worship.

1 Chronicles 21:14 (NCV) "I won't offer a burnt offering that costs me nothing."

Sacrifice goes beyond what is required or expected. The best gift, the most expensive and extravagant gift should go to the one whose birthday we celebrate. This year, give a sacrificial gift in His name.

As the Christmas season approaches, I encourage you to examine your heart and life. What gift does Jesus want from you this year? Is it whole-hearted trust? Is the Father waiting on your willingness to obey before revealing the next step on your journey? Do you live in the gear of attitude and praise? Is He asking you to lay everything down as a sweet-smelling sacrifice unto Him? The best gift we can give Him this year is our heart, soul and mind.

Yesterday, I revised my Christmas list from last year and it occurred to me that the name of Jesus is not on that list. To have a joy-filled Christmas, Jesus Christ must be in the backdrop of every gathering...every preparation... every plan and every holiday celebration. May it be so in our lives this Christmas.

Let's Pray

Father, I celebrate the birth and life of Jesus Christ who is the very reason for the Christmas season. My gift to You this year is me ... every part of my life in full surrender to Your plan and purpose. Please help me keep my eyes firmly fixed on You as I celebrate Christmas this year. May others see the joy and peace only You can give as I honor You on Your birthday.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Consider the following gifts you can give to Jesus this year. Read and memorize the verses listed below. Record them in your journal. When you are tempted to get side-tracked by the world's materialistic view of Christmas, remember the gifts that are fit for the King.

Gift of trust

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB) "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."

Gift of obedience

John 14:15 (NIV) "If you love me, you will obey what I command."

Gift of praise

Psalm 150:6 (NASB) "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."

Gift of sacrifice

1 Chronicles 21:14 (ICB) "I won't give an offering that costs me nothing."

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?

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The Lights Come On!

"Very few things bring a pastor more joy than seeing the spiritual "light bulb" go off right in front of you from a member of the congregation. Seeing folks capture what God is up to and just how much he wants to be in a relationship with them and how much it cost him to provide the way - that's where it's at...

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The Story is helping people everywhere experience Scripture like never before. Carefully selected verses from the Bible are organized chronologically. From Genesis to Revelation, you will come to understand God's story and your story intersect with it.
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Jesus Stands Before Pilate

Our God is a God of justice (Deut. 10:18 ) and is angered any time justice is not done. We likewise must be moved to work for justice, and being reminded that Rome did not deal with Jesus righteously should make us hate injustice all the more. We should be doing all we can to make sure justice is done, and some ways we can do so in our communities is by voting for honest judges and politicians and supporting ministries that work to extend justice to the unborn.

For further study:

Proverbs 21:3

The Bible in a year:

Hosea 11-14

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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Jesus Stands Before Pilate

Matthew 27:11-23 "Pilate said to them, 'Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' They all said, 'Let him be crucified!'" (v. 22).

Our study of Matthew's gospel has highlighted the opposition of Israel's leaders to Jesus (Matt. 2:16-18; 12:22-32; 16:1-4;22:15-46 ). This hatred is seen most clearly in Christ's trial and execution. Having had Jesus betrayed into their hands, the high priest Caiaphas and the other religious authorities have falsely convicted our Lord of blasphemy, a capital crime according to the Mosaic code (Matt. 26:47-68; 27:1; see Lev. 24:16 ). Since Rome does not allow the Jewish leaders to enforce the death penalty, Jesus is taken before Pontius Pilate (Matt. 27:2), and we find ourselves in his court today as we return to Matthew.

To understand why Pilate finally condemns Jesus to death, we need to know something of Pilate's character and his relationship with Israel. From his appointment as governor of Judea (circa AD 26), Pontius Pilate has shown little but contempt for his Jewish subjects, raiding the temple treasury to finance the construction of an aqueduct and even murdering some Galileans while they offered sacrifices (Luke 13:1). As such, Pilate will not be moved to kill Jesus simply because Jesus violates the Sanhedrin's religious sensibilities. In fact, Pilate's hatred for the Sanhedrin is well-known.

Therefore, the Jewish leaders do not charge Jesus with blasphemy before Pilate's bench; rather, they accuse our Lord of claiming to be "King of the Jews" ( Matt. 27:11-12). In riot-prone Judea, this is the best way to convince Pilate that Jesus must die, for the Roman authorities will do nearly anything to prevent uprisings against the Empire. Pilate, however, is not convinced that Jesus is guilty. After all, he does not immediately deliver Jesus to be crucified, but offers to the gathered crowd the chance to have Him released (vv. 15-17 ). Most commentators believe that Pilate knows of the popular acclaim surrounding this Jesus and thinks that the crowd will call for His release. In offering Jesus to the crowd, the governor is attempting to set the populace against the Sanhedrin.

Ever the politician, Pilate will not do the right thing and acquit our Redeemer based on the flimsy case against Him. To preserve the peace he will put the innocent to death (v. 26), becoming an infamous character in world history.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Our God is a God of justice ( Deut. 10:18) and is angered any time justice is not done. We likewise must be moved to work for justice, and being reminded that Rome did not deal with Jesus righteously should make us hate injustice all the more. We should be doing all we can to make sure justice is done, and some ways we can do so in our communities is by voting for honest judges and politicians and supporting ministries that work to extend justice to the unborn.

For further study:

Proverbs 21:3

The Bible in a year:

Hosea 11-14

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.

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Thank you for subscribing to our email devotions! Although we may not know you personally, we highly value you, pray for you regularly and honor the trust you place in us.

We wanted to invite you to celebrate with us the amazing ways God has impacted countless lives through Proverbs 31 Ministries this past year. Although you may only see our devotions,there is so much more! Here are a few ways we are reaching women around the world:
Encouragement for Today devotions reach over 500,000 readers. Additionally, our P31 Woman magazine brings a godly woman's perspective to 7,000 homes each month.
Over 3,000 people prayed to receive Christ through our website and events this past year! In the same year, our staff has prayed for and responded to over 8,000 prayer requests.
Over 1,400 radio outlets now carry our one-minute message around the world. We connect over 100,000 women to God, His Word and each other through Facebook daily.

Every day we hear from women whose lives and legacies are being changed.
Here's one recent note we received:
I want to thank you so much for this devotional and especially for the posts. I have been contemplating suicide and I prayed for a miracle—read the devotional and saw the link to this blog. You don't know how much you guys have helped me. Thanks a lot.
As we look to 2012, we sense God calling us to do even more. Our desire is to lead more women to Christ, while equipping and encouraging them to be all God created them to be as women, wives, moms, neighbors, friends and leaders in their own families and communities!

As we plan for the future ministry needs, we need to prepare for growth. We are thankful for our humble material resources, but they are outdated and insufficient for the work we have. Every day we pray for our phones and computers to keep working.

Will you invest with us in the operational and practical side of our ministry, so that we may continue to bring the hope of Christ to millions of women around the world? Your donation, big or small, will make an eternal difference.
Thank you!

In Christ's Love,

Lysa Terkeurst, LeAnnn Rice and Renee Swope
Executive Leadership Team, Proverbs 31 Ministries


Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road, Matthews, NC 28105
877-P31-HOME (877-731-4663)

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God's Story, Your Story

The story of the birth of Jesus is about the God of the universe taking on flesh and blood and making his dwelling among normal people, people just like you and me.

Mary and Joseph weren’t rich or powerful, they weren’t on the covers of magazines or known in the royal courts. They were normal, they were ordinary; hard working, callused, and tired.

But when Jesus enters the world, he comes to normal people, on a normal day, in a small normal town – because he came to save not just the powerful (though he came for them too), he came for us all.

The Word became flesh, the creator of all the universe entered into creation as a baby, and this child who would be raised by two ordinary people, brought God’s saving work to its climax.

God writes his story through normal people, people like us, and through them he changes the world.
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My Most Memorable Christmas
By Catherine Marshall. Marshall (1914 - 1983) was a noted Christian writer perhaps best known for her novel Christy.

We spent Christmas 1960 at Evergreen Farm in Lincoln, Virginia--the home of my parents. With us were my sister and her husband--Emmy and Harlow Hoskins--and their two girls, Lynn and Winifred. It meant a typical family occasion with our three children, Linda, Chester, and Jeffrey, along with Peter John who was then a senior at Yale. Five children can make an old farmhouse ring with the yuletide spirit.

For our Christmas Eve service, Lynn and Linda had prepared an improvised altar before the living room fireplace. Jeffrey and Winifred (the youngest grandchildren) lighted all the candles. Then with all of his family gathered around him, my father read Luke’s incomparable account of the first Christmas. There was carol singing, with Chester and Winifred singing a duet, "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," in their high, piping voices. Then my mother, the storyteller of the family, gave us an old favorite, "Why the Chimes Rang." She made us see the ragged little boy creeping up that long cathedral aisle and slipping his gift onto the altar.

Then she said, "You know, I’d like to make a suggestion to the family. The floor underneath the tree in the den is piled high with gifts we’re giving to one another. But we’re celebrating Christ’s birthday, not each other’s. This is His time of year. What are we going to give to Jesus?"

The room began to hum with voices, comparing notes. But Mother went on, "Let’s think about it for a few moments. Then we’ll go around the circle and each of us will tell what gift he will lay on the altar for Christ’s birthday."

Chester, age seven, crept close to his father for a whispered consultation. Then he said shyly, "What I’d like to give Jesus this year is not to lose my temper anymore."

Jeffrey, age four, who had been slow in night training, was delightfully specific. "I’ll give Him my diapers."

Winifred said softly that she was going to give Jesus good grades in school. Lynn’s was, "To be a better father, which means a gift of more patience."

And so it went... on around the group. Peter John’s was short but significant. “What I want to give to Christ is a more dedicated life.” I was to remember that statement five years later at the moment of his ordination into the Presbyterian ministry when he stood so straight and so tall and answered so resoundingly, "I do so believe.... I do so promise...." Yet at Christmas time, 1960, the ministry was probably the last thing he expected to get into.

Then it was my father’s turn. "I certainly don’t want to inject too solemn a note into this,” he said, “but somehow I know that this is the last Christmas I’ll be sitting in this room with my family gathered around me like this."

We gasped and protested, but he would not be stopped. "No, I so much want to say this. I’ve had a most wonderful life. Long, long ago I gave my life to Christ. Though I’ve tried to serve Him, I’ve failed Him often. But He has blessed me with great riches--especially my family. I want to say this while you’re all here. I may not have another chance. Even after I go on into the next life, I’ll still be with you. And, of course, I’ll be waiting for each one of you there."

There was love in his brown eyes--and tears in ours. No one said anything for a moment. Time seemed to stand still in the quiet room. Firelight and candlelight played on the children’s faces as they looked at their grandfather, trying to grasp what he was saying. The fragrance of balsam and cedar was in the air. The old windowpanes reflected back the red glow of Christmas lights.

Father did leave this world four months later--on May first. His passing was like a benediction. It happened one afternoon as he sat quietly in a chair in the little village post office talking to some of his friends. His heart just stopped beating. That Christmas Eve he had known with a strange sureness that the time was close.

Every time I think of Father now, I can see that scene in the living room--like a jewel of a moment set in the ordinary moments that make up our days. For that brief time real values came clearly into focus: Father’s gratitude for life; Mother’s strong faith; my husband’s quiet strength; my son’s inner yearning momentarily shining through blurred youthful ambitions; the eager faces of children groping toward understanding and truth; the reality of the love of God as our thoughts focused on Him whose birth we were commemorating.

It was my most memorable Christmas.

Family Moment

Think of all the memories we’ve had as a family during Christmas through the years. What memories do you count as the best? Why?

How could this family make our memories even sweeter than they already are?

An Advent Prayer

Father God, show us how precious each family member is this season. Teach us to number our days so that we might honor you and love others. Give us anew appreciation of how unique and beloved each of us is to the others. Amid the things that bother us the most, let us not lose sight that you have made this family what it is. Help us rest in your wonderful plan that we should go through life together for all of the days we have breath. We’re grateful, and our hearts are filled with love for you and each other. 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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FRB-Christmas-Story-BookCover-SmallReading 3: A Child is Born

This passage is another part of the prophecy Isaiah gave to Ahaz, the king of Judah. The Assyrian Empire was threatening to take over the lands that surrounded it. Isaiah warned the people about the destruction that was to come to Judah. God’s nation, it appeared, would be torn down, but it would not be dead forever. Isaiah’s prophecy is not only about his own time but also about a time far in the future.


Isaiah 9:1-7
To Us a Child Is Born
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan--

2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 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.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

Further Study

JUST THE FACTS

  1. What event was coming? (v. 6)
  2. What are some of the names this special child would have? (v. 6)
  3. How long would this king reign? (v. 7)

LET’S TALK

  1. What is it like when everything is dark? What about when someone turns on a light? How does this news bring people out of “darkness” and into “light” (v. 2)?
  2. This child would have several names. What does each of them mean to you? Discuss each one.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Though God’s people were facing a frightening enemy, God did not let them face the enemy without a message of hope for a glorious future--a time when they would live in peace, prosperity and joy.

POINTS OF INTEREST

9:1 The land of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali became the land of Galilee. When Jesus began his public ministry in Galilee, he fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy recorded in verses 1 - 2.

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Family Reading BibleToday's reading is from:
The Family Reading Bible

Additional resources:

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How Did Jesus Affirm His Power Over Life and Death?

Today's reading: Mark 5:21-43

Jesus performed many stunning miracles during his ministry; resurrecting the dead was among his most astounding. Mark 5 recounts the occasion when Jesus brought a dead child back to life in front of her parents and his three closest disciples (see also Luke 8:49-56).

The fact that the girl was indeed dead is evident from the people's reaction when Jesus claimed she was only sleeping. Unaware of Jesus' divine power, they laughed at him, since it was clear to them that she would never "wake up." Despite their disbelief, Jesus brought the little girl back to life.

God alone holds the power over life and death, thus Jesus' use of this power provides evidence that he has the same authority as God the Father. Jesus' resurrection of this little girl highlights his authority, his identity and his power to give life-whether physical or spiritual-to those who believe.

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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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Faithless vs. Unfaithful

This week's reading: Jeremiah 3:6-20

Recommended Reading: 2 Chronicles 26:16-21; Luke 18:9-14; John 9:41; Hebrews 10:26-31

Two words for wanderers: faithless and unfaithful.

The faithless people of Israel forgot their first love. They lost their passion for service. Though they had once enjoyed a close relationship with their Maker, they turned from him, rejecting truths they had once held dear. And so they struggled just beyond the safe harbor, battered by the seas of uncertainty.

Unfaithful Judah, by contrast, knew the truth but denied its footing in the nation's heart. An unfaithful man may say that he's on God's side, but his actions, words and priorities prove otherwise. By God's measure, an unfaithful person ranks with a traitor-wicked and treacherous. Why? Because he mocks the very relationship he pretends to honor. Simply put, he pretends to be a believer, while deep down he's a phony.

For the unfaithful, faking love for God can become an addiction. We all know people who have all the right moves. At church they pray with impressive sincerity, but at home they shred their spouses with cruel comments. This inconsistency is like a ten-foot-long fingernail screeching across God's chalkboard. It grates on the soul.

The unfaithful float through life, sinning without shame. They're in the most dangerous place imaginable. They hang in the balance. Unless they reestablish their bond with God, replacing showiness with sincerity, they will be damned.

The faithless and the unfaithful-the Bible holds out hope for both. For the former, however, the journey to the Savior seems shorter, more direct. Sometimes faithless men can learn to trust more by admitting their doubt. Slipping away from the mark and sliding back from the goal are synonyms for faithless. The remedy is simple: Return to the Lord.

Contrast that with the unfaithful person. He pretends his life is sewn up tight while he's busy yanking out the stitches with his own hands.

If you think either template fits your life, stop your wandering. Come back to your God and King.

To Take Away

  • Would you rather be the faithless man or the unfaithful man? Why?
  • Do you know any faithless or unfaithful men? How can you offer them encouragement?
  • What people or circumstances cause you to wander away from Jesus? What practical steps can you take to protect yourself from these stumbling blocks?

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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

MANGER

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. -Luke 2:7

Where is the first place a baby is placed after it emerges from the mother's womb? Today we use hyper-sterilized blankets and sanitized cribs. A Plexiglas dome, if necessary. All precautions go toward minimizing the germs the child may come into contact with.

But Mary laid Jesus in the feeding trough for an animal. The Good Shepherd took refuge that night in the sheep's manger, and when the shepherds came to see what was announced to them, how stunned they must have been.

Of course, this would not have been Mary and Joseph's first choice. They would have preferred a modest room at a local inn, had there been any vacancy. If it all took place today, maybe a red neon light would have flashed a big "NO" that made a ghastly pool of light on the asphalt of the parking lot.

There are times when "no" is the hardest thing we have to hear. Yet Jesus has seen and continues to see the "no" sign from the very human race he had a hand in creating. Many don't even want to consider him. Even in the life of a faithful believer, there is so much in us that wants to say to him, Stay out of that part of my life; keep that door closed; no, you may not spend the night.

So instead, he stays where he can. A feeding trough will do. Not protected from the world, but lying in it.

Prayer for today:

Lord, make way in my heart and mind for you today. Unlock every door. Open the most valued places. Don't let me try to exclude you from any part of my life.

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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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