"Thou hast made summer and winter."
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.
"O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men."
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.
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....
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....
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).
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?