Monday, December 19, 2011

Daily Devotional Monday 19th December

““Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),” Luke 1:68-70 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Rend your heart, and not your garments."
Joel 2:13

Garment-rending and other outward signs of religious emotion, are easily manifested and are frequently hypocritical; but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Men will attend to the most multiplied and minute ceremonial regulations--for such things are pleasing to the flesh--but true religion is too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of the carnal men; they prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly. Outward observances are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up: but they are ultimately delusive, for in the article of death, and at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than ceremonies and rituals to lean upon. Apart from vital godliness all religion is utterly vain; offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven.

Heart-rending is divinely wrought and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating, and completely sin-purging; but then it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which proud unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone.

The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour's voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation.

Evening

"Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds."
Proverbs 27:23

Every wise merchant will occasionally hold a stock-taking, when he will cast up his accounts, examine what he has on hand, and ascertain decisively whether his trade is prosperous or declining. Every man who is wise in the kingdom of heaven, will cry, "Search me, O God, and try me"; and he will frequently set apart special seasons for self-examination, to discover whether things are right between God and his soul. The God whom we worship is a great heart-searcher; and of old his servants knew him as "the Lord which searcheth the heart and trieth the reins of the children of men." Let me stir you up in his name to make diligent search and solemn trial of your state, lest you come short of the promised rest. That which every wise man does, that which God himself does with us all, I exhort you to do with yourself this evening. Let the oldest saint look well to the fundamentals of his piety, for grey heads may cover black hearts: and let not the young professor despise the word of warning, for the greenness of youth may be joined to the rottenness of hypocrisy. Every now and then a cedar falls into our midst. The enemy still continues to sow tares among the wheat. It is not my aim to introduce doubts and fears into your mind; nay, verily, but I shall hope the rather that the rough wind of self-examination may help to drive them away. It is not security, but carnal security, which we would kill; not confidence, but fleshly confidence, which we would overthrow; not peace, but false peace, which we would destroy. By the precious blood of Christ, which was not shed to make you a hypocrite, but that sincere souls might show forth his praise, I beseech you, search and look, lest at the last it be said of you, "Mene, Mene, Tekel: thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting."

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Today's reading: Obadiah 1, Revelation 9 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Obadiah 1

Obadiah’s Vision

1 The vision of Obadiah.

This is what the Sovereign LORD says about Edom—

We have heard a message from the LORD:
An envoy was sent to the nations to say,
“Rise, let us go against her for battle”—

2 “See, I will make you small among the nations;
you will be utterly despised.
3 The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rocks
and make your home on the heights,
you who say to yourself,
‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’
4 Though you soar like the eagle
and make your nest among the stars,
from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD.
5 “If thieves came to you,
if robbers in the night—
oh, what a disaster awaits you!—
would they not steal only as much as they wanted?
If grape pickers came to you,
would they not leave a few grapes?

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 9

1 The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. 2 When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. 3 And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. 4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. 6 During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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Advent-Header-2011
Welcome to the fourth week of Advent!

We begin each week of Advent with a series of short readings from Scripture to help focus your thoughts on the meaning of Christmas. Some of the devotionals later in the week will reflect back on these readings, which include passages from the Old and New Testament, including Psalms and the Gospels.

This week's Scripture reading:
(click here to read these passages on Bible Gateway)
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Welcome to the fourth week of Advent!

We begin each week of Advent with a series of short readings from Scripture to help focus your thoughts on the meaning of Christmas. Some of the devotionals later in the week will reflect back on these readings, which include passages from the Old and New Testament, including Psalms and the Gospels.

This week's Scripture reading:
(click here to read these passages on Bible Gateway)
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FRB-Christmas-Story-BookCover-SmallReading 13: The Shepherds and the Angels

Bethlehem was ordinarily a quiet town. But on the night that Jesus was born there, something happened outside of town--something spectacular!


Luke 2:8-20
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 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. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Further Study

JUST THE FACTS
  1. Who appeared to the shepherds out in the fields? (v. 9)
  2. What did he say? (vv. 10 – 11)
  3. What happened after this angel made his announcement? (v. 13)
LET’S TALK
  1. Why were the shepherds terrified to see the angel and “the glory of the Lord”? (v. 9) How would you feel if you were camping out and saw this phenomenon?
  2. What did the shepherds do after they went to see Jesus in the manger? Why?
WHY THIS MATTERS

The story of Jesus’ birth had to be told, and the shepherds became witnesses to the indescribable miracle of the Messiah’s coming. This story has amazed people for centuries, just as it amazed the shepherds and the people they told.

POINTS OF INTEREST

2:14 The hymn of the angels is called the “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” which is the refrain of the song “Angels We Have Heard on High” that we sing during the Christmas season. The phrase “Glory to God” praises the majesty of God, who dwells “in the highest” in heaven.
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Family Reading BibleToday's reading is from:
The Family Reading Bible

Additional resources:

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A Christmas Devotional

PRINCE

And he will be called...Prince of Peace - Isaiah 9:6

In ancient times, princes, whether they desired it or not, often became warriors. Rulers of nations may talk about peace, but nothing is more elusive than peace. And so, when Isaiah talked about a child who would be born, a son who would be given, who would be called "Prince of Peace," it sounded like high rhetoric, wishful thinking. Could it ever possibly happen?

When you look at the life of Jesus, it hardly appears to be a life of peace. He was in constant conflict with people who had invented their own ideas about God, and with people who really didn't want God to meddle in their affairs at all. Jesus had enemies. In the end, he died a most violent death, which had been preceded by humiliating abuse. His followers were harassed and persecuted. Fishermen died as martyrs.

Yet, it is in Jesus' sacrifice that he became Prince of Peace. Only when the chief enemies of humanity-sin, death, evil-were defeated could people live at peace with God, with themselves, and with the world.

And so, yes, he was the Prince of Peace. The angel was right in saying "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace..."(Lk. 2:14). The apostle Paul offered a sincere blessing of peace when he said: "Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way" (2 Thess. 3:16).

This is the kind of prince-a ruler brand new to the world-that the prophecies had described. So when we think of Bethlehem, we must remember that it was not the stable that made this baby unique, nor the virtues of Mary or Joseph, nor the angelic presence, nor any other feature of those extraordinary days, as important as they are. The child was remarkable, because Jesus is the only prince to truly bring a lasting peace-a peace that has lasted for millennia, and will last into eternity.

Where do you need to find peace in your life at this time? Your family? Your workplace? Your inner life? We can be assured of this, God is for peace and reconciliation, and God wants to bring order where there has been chaos in our lives.

Prayer for today:

Lord, I know there will be battles in my life, and I know that some fights between what is right and what is wrong are necessary. But help me to live in the calm and confidence that you have made it possible for me to live at peace with you.

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Resources

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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