Friday, December 02, 2011

Daily Devotional Friday December 2nd

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”John 1:1-2, 14 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Thou hast made summer and winter."
Psalm 74:17

My soul begin this wintry month with thy God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind thee that he keeps his covenant with day and night, and tend to assure thee that he will also keep that glorious covenant which he has made with thee in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to his Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor sin-polluted world, will not prove unfaithful in his dealings with his own well-beloved Son.

Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: he casteth forth his ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, he is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord's sending, and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill noxious insects, and put a bound to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soil. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!

How we prize the fire just now! how pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw nigh to him, and in him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of his promises, and go forth to labours which befit the season, for it were ill to be as the sluggard who will not plough by reason of the cold; for he shall beg in summer and have nothing.

Evening

"O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men."
Psalm 107:8

If we complained less, and praised more, we should be happier, and God would be more glorified. Let us daily praise God for common mercies--common as we frequently call them, and yet so priceless, that when deprived of them we are ready to perish. Let us bless God for the eyes with which we behold the sun, for the health and strength to walk abroad, for the bread we eat, for the raiment we wear. Let us praise him that we are not cast out among the hopeless, or confined amongst the guilty; let us thank him for liberty, for friends, for family associations and comforts; let us praise him, in fact, for everything which we receive from his bounteous hand, for we deserve little, and yet are most plenteously endowed. But, beloved, the sweetest and the loudest note in our songs of praise should be of redeeming love. God's redeeming acts towards his chosen are forever the favourite themes of their praise. If we know what redemption means, let us not withhold our sonnets of thanksgiving. We have been redeemed from the power of our corruptions, uplifted from the depth of sin in which we were naturally plunged. We have been led to the cross of Christ--our shackles of guilt have been broken off; we are no longer slaves, but children of the living God, and can antedate the period when we shall be presented before the throne without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Even now by faith we wave the palm-branch and wrap ourselves about with the fair linen which is to be our everlasting array, and shall we not unceasingly give thanks to the Lord our Redeemer? Child of God, canst thou be silent? Awake, awake, ye inheritors of glory, and lead your captivity captive, as ye cry with David, "Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name." Let the new month begin with new songs.

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Today's reading: Ezekiel 40-41, 2 Peter 3 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Ezekiel 40-41

The Temple Area Restored

1 In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city—on that very day the hand of the LORD was on me and he took me there. 2 In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. 3 He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. 4 The man said to me, “Son of man, look carefully and listen closely and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the people of Israel everything you see.”

The East Gate to the Outer Court

5 I saw a wall completely surrounding the temple area. The length of the measuring rod in the man’s hand was six long cubits, each of which was a cubit and a handbreadth. He measured the wall; it was one measuring rod thick and one rod high....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: 2 Peter 3

The Day of the Lord

1 Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 2 I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly....

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Gideon, Gedeon [Gĭd'eon, Gĕd'e on]—a cutting down, he that bruises orgreat warrior. A son of Joash of the family of Abiezer, a Manassite, who lived in Ophrah and delivered Israel from Midian. He is also called Jerubbaal, and judged Israel forty years as the fifth judge (Judg. 6; 7;8).

The Man of Might and Valor

Without doubt Gideon is among the brightest luminaries of Old Testament history. His character and call are presented in a series of tableaux. We see:

I. Gideon at the flail. The tall, powerful young man was threshing wheat for his farmer-father when the call came to him to rise and become the deliverer of his nation. History teaches that obscurity of birth is no obstacle to noble service. It was no dishonor for Gideon to say, “My family is poor.”

II. Gideon at the altar. Although humble and industrious, Gideon was God-fearing. His own father had become an idolator but idols had to go, and Gideon vowed to remove them. No wonder they called him Jerubbaal, meaning “Discomfiter of Baal.”

III. Gideon and the fleece. Facing the great mission of his life, he had to have an assuring token that God was with him. The method he adopted was peculiar, but found favor with heaven, God condescending to grant Gideon the double sign. With the complete revelation before us in the Bible, we are not to seek supernatural signs, but take God at his Word.

IV. Gideon at the well. How fascinating is the incident of the reduction of Gideon’s army from thirty-two thousand to ten thousand, then to only three hundred. Three hundred men against the countless swarms of Midian! Yes, but the few choice, brave, active men and God were in the majority. God is not always on the side of big battalions.

V. Gideon with the whip. Rough times often need and warrant rough measures. The men of Succoth and Penuel made themselves obnoxious, but with a whip fashioned out of the thorny branches off the trees, Gideon meted out to them the punishment they deserved.

VI. Gideon in the gallery of worthies. It was no small honor to have a niche, as Gideon has, in the illustrious roll named in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, where every name is an inspiration, and every character a miracle of grace.

Preachers desiring to continue the character-study of Gideon still further might note his humility (Judg. 6:15); caution (Judg. 6:17); spirituality (Judg. 6:24); obedience (Judg. 6:27); divine inspiration ( Judg. 6:34); divine fellowship (Judg. 6:36; 7:4, 7-9); strategy (Judg. 7:16-18); tact (Judg. 8:1-3); loyalty to God (Judg. 8:23); the fact that he was weakened by his very prosperity ( Judg. 8:24-31).

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December 1, 2011

Don't Miss Christmas!

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

The Christmas rush is on! I know many of you are still looking for the perfect gift, wrapping presents, baking your famous sugar cookies, packing the car for a long trip and wrestling with overly excited children. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Stop right where you are! Take a deep breath and travel back with me to a time when there was no hope and no celebration. I can't imagine a world without Jesus and yet, many times I live my life as if He doesn't even exist. A trial comes and I try to handle it on my own. Loneliness floods my heart and instead of reaching out to Him, I withdraw into the darkness.

He then interrupts my life and fills each black corner with Light. His love flows over the pain like a soothing balm and once again, I experience the manger. Once again, He steps into the smelly, unlikely and very ordinary existence that is mine to change everything - everything! He could have come to us in many ways but He chose to interrupt the very ordinary with the most extraordinary. He could have chosen to be born in a palace. After all, He was a King. Yet His life on earth began in a manger housed in what amounted to little more than a dirty, smelly barn. The simplicity of His birth is one of His most precious gifts to me and one of my most profound life lessons.

I often wish I had been there that holy night when Jesus was born but then He reminds me I have my own manger; my own holy moment when God became a reality to me, and I worship Him!

Every year I am reminded of the very heart of Christmas -- Emanuel, God with us. God wants to be involved in the simple, ordinary happenings of daily life: where we go and what we do, the smile we give the harried stranger and the patience we wear in the crowd of impatient shoppers, the love that prompts the secret gift and the heart that constantly celebrates His birth through every sparkling light, every beautifully wrapped gift, each special meal, every card, phone call and visit.

Join me in this quest to celebrate Him and His birth in everything we do. Have a birthday party for Jesus. Bake Him a huge cake and invite neighbors to join in the celebration. Adopt a family in need. Reach out to the lonely. Look for Him in the crowd. Emanuel, God with us! Wow!

Let's Pray

Father, today I celebrate the reality of Your presence in my life. I celebrate Your birth, Your life, Your death and Your resurrection. And as I celebrate, Lord, help me to be "God with skin on" to those in need around me. Open my eyes and let me see them as You see them! I love You. Happy Birthday, Jesus!

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Put your faith in action by making a step-by-step plan to keep Jesus at the heart of your Christmas season. Give a gift to someone you don't know. Invite a needy family into your home for a special "Friends" dinner. Go through your closet and give the clothes you don't wear to those who have no clothes.

More from the Girlfriends

I pray that your life is filled with God's peace this Christmas. Don't let anyone or anything steal your joy. Guard your heart and mind and keep your focus on the birth of Jesus as you begin to prepare for the Christmas holidays. 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 through email.

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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Lysa TerKeurst

December 1, 2011

The Best Worst Thing
Lysa TerKeurst

"He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm." Matthew 8:26 (NIV 1984)

I failed at being a wedding planner.

No one wants a planner who gets so undone by the neurotic mother of the bride that she throws up in the parking lot right beside the guest sidewalk.

Really, nothing says, "welcome to my wedding" quite like that.

I failed at being a kitchen gadget saleswoman.

No one wants to see the tip of a thumb sliced off into the veggie pizza at the exact moment I was promising how safe this gadget is.

Awesome.

I failed at being a cafeteria lady at a private school.

My assistant decided her arms were so dry she needed to coat herself with our spray butter. When we took the trash out later that day, we both got attacked by bees and forgot about the pizza in the oven.

Kids don't take kindly to burnt pizza.

I failed at being a receptionist.

It's never a good idea to just succumb to those sleepy afternoon feelings and lay your head down on the desk.

Bosses don't like workers who snore. Even if they are pregnant.

Yes, I failed at a lot during those years where I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. At the time each of these things felt like the worst that could have happened. Now, I think they were the best worst things.

Had these things been successful, I would have never discovered the joy of being in the ministry I'm in now.

I see this same theme woven throughout many stories in the Bible.

In Matthew 8:23-24 we find Jesus getting into a boat with His disciples. "Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat." Worst thing.

But in verse 26 Jesus got up and rebuked the winds and waves and things turned completely calm. The disciples were amazed. Best worst thing.

In Acts 5:12 we find the apostles being arrested and thrown in jail. Worst thing.

But in Acts 5:13 we find an angel of the Lord opening the doors of the jail and bringing them out. Later we find them with so much confidence they boldly proclaim, "We must obey God rather than men!" (v. 29) Best worst thing.

I don't understand why we have to go through cruddy stuff. And I certainly know there are many worse things to go through than what I've mentioned here.

We live in a broken world full of broken people. But isn't it comforting to know God isn't ever broken? He isn't ever caught off guard, taken by surprise, or shocked by what happens next.

He can take our worst and add His best. We just have to make the choice to stay with Him and keep following Him through it all.

Dear Lord, I know You are capable of taking my worst and turning it into Your best. Show me this truth anew today. Refresh my spirit. I want to follow You through it all. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
If you enjoy Lysa's devotions, be sure to sign up for more daily inspiration she sends out from her blog by clicking here. It's free and great for passing along to friends.

Lysa will be speaking in more than 40 cities this year.Click here to see her schedule. She would be honored to meet you!

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

When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity because your purchase 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 are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us!

Application Steps:
We live in a broken world full of broken people. But isn't it comforting to know God isn't ever broken? Ponder the promises He has made in the Bible and how He has been faithful to you.

Reflections:
He can take our worst and add His best. We just have to make the choice to stay with Him and keep following Him through it all.

Power Verses:
Psalm 37:23, "If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm." (NIV 1984)

Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (NIV 1984)

© 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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Early Christian Heresies

In our day, Oneness Pentecostals embrace Modalistic Monarchianism. The Jehovah's Witnesses subscribe to Arianism, a movement that is a later development of Dynamic Monarchianism. It is important to have a good understanding of church history so that we might not be caught off guard by old errors. Make it your aim this month to learn about one century of church history that you might be better equipped to defend the truth.

For further study:

Jeremiah 27

The Bible in a year:

Daniel 5-6

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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Early Christian Heresies

Acts 20:28-31 "After my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things" (vv. 29-30).

W e could easily apply Ecclesiastes 1:9 ("there is nothing new under the sun") to the topic of heresy. All of the theological controversies and false teachings we face in our own day have already occurred in one form or another in church history. Certain christological errors pop up again and again, and a look at past heresies will help us develop a sound Christology today.

Particularly important for our purposes are those heresies in the period leading up to the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Today and tomorrow we will look briefly at these heresies and the orthodox response given at the council. Three false teachings will occupy our study today:

1. The Ebionite Heresy was one of the first challenges the church faced, although it basically died out by the end of the fifth century. This heresy arose in Jewish-Christian circles and denied the deity of Christ altogether. Jesus, the Ebionites said, was a unique man, equipped in a special way by the Spirit of God to be the Messiah; however, He was in no sense God Himself.

2. Dynamic Monarchianism was a greater threat to biblical orthodoxy in the early church. This christological heresy rejected the deity of Christ as well, believing that Jesus was a mere man who was later adopted by the Father as the Son of God at His baptism. In this adoption Jesus did not share in the being or essence of God; rather, the unity they shared was moral and ethical. This heresy is sometimes termedadoptionism.

3. Modalistic Monarchianism affirmed Christ's deity, but it did not see any distinction between the Father, the Son, or the Spirit. This error conceives of one God who wears three masks: in ancient days He was the Father; two thousand years ago, He walked the earth as the Son; and since the time of Pentecost, He is the Spirit. Instead of being one essence with three distinct persons, God is one essence and one person. Historically this heresy has also been called Sabellianism, named after Sabellius, a man considered to be its chief promoter. There is some debate as to whether Sabellius actually held this specific view or some other heresy, but either way, he lacked a biblical understanding of God.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

In our day, Oneness Pentecostals embrace Modalistic Monarchianism. The Jehovah's Witnesses subscribe to Arianism, a movement that is a later development of Dynamic Monarchianism. It is important to have a good understanding of church history so that we might not be caught off guard by old errors. Make it your aim this month to learn about one century of church history that you might be better equipped to defend the truth.

For further study:

Jeremiah 27

The Bible in a year:

Daniel 5-6

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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How Did Jesus Demonstrate That He Believed He Was God?

Today's reading: Mark 3:1-6

Although Jesus made many claims about his authority, how did he demonstrate to others that he believed he was God?

One episode that demonstrated his authority is recorded in Mark 3. According to the Law of Moses, no work could be done on the Sabbath (see Exodus 20:8-11). Jewish tradition dictated that aid could be given to the sick only if the person's life was in danger, which clearly wasn't the case here. The Pharisees who witnessed the healing of this man's shriveled hand on the Sabbath became furious. Not only were they angry that Jesus violated rabbinic tradition, but they also perceived that he claimed both the authority to interpret the Law of Moses and the ability to fulfill it (see Matthew 5:17). The religious leaders, who felt threatened by Jesus, reacted by conspiring to kill him. Though tragic, their attitude and actions proved that Jesus' claims ran counter to the religious establishment.

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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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Advent-Header-2011
The Parable of the Shopper
Author unknown

My feet were tired, my hands cold, my arms exhausted from the weight of the packages, and it was beginning to snow. The bus was late. I kept rearranging my packages, trying to hold them in a different way in order to give my poor arms a rest. I still remember that day as if it were yesterday, and yet fifteen years have gone by. Nevertheless, when Christmas rolls around, I remember that day on the bus.

I was tired. I had been Christmas shopping all day long. When the bus finally arrived, it was packed with holiday shoppers in the same exhausted mood as I. I sank into the only vacant place, near the back, by a handsome gentleman. He politely helped me to situate my packages and even held some of them himself.

"My goodness," he said, "did you leave any merchandise still in the stores for the rest of us?"

"I don't think so," I moaned. "Worst of all, I still haven't made all of my purchases."

The woman in the seat behind us joined in my grief and added, "No, the worst thing is that the day after Christmas we will be carrying this same armload back to the store to exchange it."

Her comment brought a general chuckle from all those within earshot, including my seat mate. As the laughter subsided, he began in a quiet, melodious voice, deepened with experience, to teach me a lesson that I have never forgotten:

"Hear now the parable of the shopper," he said, speaking gently and indicating my packages. "A woman went forth to shop, and as she shopped, she carefully planned. Each child's desires were considered. The hard-earned money was divided, and the many purchases were made with the pure joy and delight that is known only to the giver. Then the gifts were wrapped and placed lovingly under the tree. In eager anticipation she scanned each face as the gifts were opened."

"'What a lovely sweater,' said the eldest daughter, 'but I think I would prefer blue. I suppose I can exchange it?'

"'Thank you for the cassette player, Mother. It's just what I wanted,' said her son. And then aside, secretly to his sister, he continued, 'I told her I wanted the one with the automatic reverse and an extra speaker. I never get what I want!'

"The youngest child spoke out with the spoiled honesty of her age, 'I hate rag dolls! I wanted a china doll. I won't play with it!' And the doll, still in the box, was kicked under the couch."

"One gift still lay under the tree. The woman pointed it out to her husband. 'Your gift is still there.'

"'I'll open it when I have the time,' he stated. 'I want to get this bike put together first.'

"How sad it is," continued his soft, beautiful voice. "When gifts are not received in the same spirit they are given. To reject a thoughtful gift is to reject the loving sentiment of the giver himself. And yet, are we not all sometimes guilty of rejecting?"

He was talking not only to me, but to all of those on the bus. They had all gathered around. The bus was parked.

He took a present from my stack.

"This one," he said, holding it up and pretending to open the card, "could be to you." He pointed to a rough-looking, teenage boy in a worn denim jacket and pretended to read the gift card. "To you I give My life, lived perfectly, as an example so that you might see the pattern and live worthy to return and live with Me again. Merry Christmas from the Messiah."

"This one," he said, holding up a pure, white present, "is for you." He held out the gift to a worn-looking woman, who in earlier years must have been a real beauty. She read the card out loud and allowed her tears to slip without shame down her painted face. "My gift to you is repentance. This Christmas I wish you to know for certain that though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. Signed, your Advocate with the Father."

"That isn't all. No, here is a big, red package." he looked around the group and brought a ragged, unkempt, little child forward. "This package would be for you if He were here. The card would say, 'On this Christmas and always, My gift to you is love. From your brother, Jesus.'"

"One final gift," said my seat mate. "The greatest of all the gifts of God--Eternal life!"

He held our minds and our hearts. We were a hungry audience. Though our shopping had left us drained, now we were being filled by his words.

"How we receive these gifts, these precious gifts from the Babe of Bethlehem, is the telling point. Are we exchangers?" he asked. "Is there really anything else we would rather have? It is what we do with a gift long after we have opened it that shows our true appreciation."

With those words he was gone. That was fifteen years ago, only a wink in time. But not even an eternity could erase the sermon, or the man.

Family Moment

We hear so often the phrase "Jesus died for me" that sometimes we forget the purpose of salvation isn't just to be glad our souls are safe for eternity; it's to follow Jesus's example--give ourselves to others. That's what the Scripture talks about in 2 Kings, and that's what Christ did for us.

The truth is, we were saved from something for something.

As a family, you can create a giving experience by going to a homeless shelter or making sandwiches to pass out, and this is a good thing to do. But what if this year you prayed for God to send a giving experience? God is more than able to answer and would delight at your willingness to be a blessing in the life of another soul--or many souls--whom he loves.

An Advent Prayer

Our Father in heaven, thank you for being the gift that holds families together, even over time and distance. Is there someone I know who needs the present and the presence of Jesus in their home this Christmas? Is there a stranger? Please show me who. I want more than ever to give your love to those who need it. You gave yourself for me when I needed it. Help me to do the same. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Today's Advent reading is from 25 Days of Christmas by Greg Johnson.

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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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A Christmas Devotional

JOY

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." - Luke 2:10-11

Great joy? Is it almost too much to hope for?

Where did all the Christmas joy go? How did things get so complicated? So rushed? So squeezed and cluttered? A non-stop buzz of Christmas lights and weary shoppers, boisterous television specials and pleading children. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can choose to step aside, step into a quieter moment, and read the angel’s words that came on the night that changed the world: "I bring you news of great joy!"

It was just another night of work in the field for shepherds. A chill in the air, calm and the soft bleating of their flocks. Another night of work, a night like those thousands of nights before, even thousands of years before-when the shepherd David was still a boy and stood watch in the same fields. Life hadn’t changed in a millennium. But this night, everything changed.

When the angel appeared, bathed in a glorious light, the shepherd men and boys, who were used to fending off wild beasts to protect their sheep, were filled with terror. Were they convinced by the simple words: “I bring you great news of great joy”? Probably not. Joy would have to come later. They would have to see proof.

That’s the way it works with joy. Real joy is never something that originates from within: it must come from without. Searching for joy within you is like searching for the ocean within a droplet of water. Perhaps this is why so many of us have a difficult time finding joy at Christmas. Bite into a Christmas cookie, and you might enjoy it. Open a shiny package, and you might delight in what you find inside. But joy itself-true and pure-is so much more than enjoyment.

Joy is the startling realization that God has claimed territory in this world. He has taken back what belongs to him. Every day, we can remind ourselves of this revelation: reignite this joy again and again. Joy is a thirst that doesn’t want to be quenched; a hunger that knows it will go on and on. It’s a good thing, to never get enough of God.

This "great joy," God come into the world, is “great” because it is everywhere. A joy "that will be for all the people"-is here. Now. Let us delight in this tremendous news today.

Prayer for today: Dear God, turn my fear into great joy.

This is the first post in the Christmas devotional, “Christmas Joy.” Want to read more devotionals by Mel Lawrenz?

Acquire the complete “Christmas Joy” devotional as a Kindle eBook (readable on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, or Kindle).



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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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A Scar Shaped Like Your Picture

This week's reading: Isaiah 49:8-18

Recommended Reading: Psalm 13:1-6; John 20:24-28; Romans 8:35-39

For whatever reason, from the time they're little boys guys like to show off their scars. A polite conversation with any average group of guys can suddenly turn into some bizarre, male-bonding ritual. First someone tells a story about crashing his mountain bike and the resulting scar on his knee. Then another guy regales the group about the scar left from his shoulder surgery. Another points out the scar on his hand and tells about his hunting-knife accident. Before you know it, the whole group is showing off their scars and relating the incidents behind the wounds.

Today's passage tells us that God likes to do this as well-not to one-up anyone else with another great story but to reassure us of his devotion to his people.

In truth, there is something interesting about scars: They follow us wherever we go, and the stories behind them remind us of significant people and events in our lives.

The people of Israel had certainly wandered all over the place-both physically and spiritually. After the nation had faced devastation, occupation and deportation by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian armies, the people of Israel wondered, "God, have you forgotten us?" God answered through the prophet Isaiah: "I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands" (Isaiah 49:15-16).

Did you know that God bears a scar on his hand in the shape of your picture? Of course, because God is a spirit, he doesn't have a literal hand. But you're so present on God's mind that it's as though he has engraved your image on the palms of his hands.

Perhaps the fury of whatever storm you're facing dims God's voice and blurs his presence. You might ask, "God, have you forgotten me?" How can he be present in the midst of your turmoil? But regardless of the storm's intensity, you remain in the forefront of God's thoughts. He's thinking of you, sustaining you, comforting you, giving you strength. He doesn't mentally check out. Whatever challenge you're facing isn't the worst thing that could happen to you. The worst that could happen would be for God to forget about you.

But he hasn't yet, and he never will.

To Take Away

  • Do you find it hard to accept that God knows your needs and cares for you to the extent that you're always on his mind? Why?
  • What events in your life have caused you to ask, "God, have you forgotten me?"
  • How can you foster a deeper and more constant trust in the reality that God is always present with you?

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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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