Saturday, December 10, 2011

Daily Devotional Saturday 10th December

““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:5,8 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Therefore will the Lord wait that he may be gracious unto you."
Isaiah 30:18

God often delays in answering prayer. We have several instances of this in sacred Scripture. Jacob did not get the blessing from the angel until near the dawn of day--he had to wrestle all night for it. The poor woman of Syrophoenicia was answered not a word for a long while. Paul besought the Lord thrice that "the thorn in the flesh" might be taken from him, and he received no assurance that it should be taken away, but instead thereof a promise that God's grace should be sufficient for him. If thou hast been knocking at the gate of mercy, and hast received no answer, shall I tell thee why the mighty Maker hath not opened the door and let thee in? Our Father has reasons peculiar to himself for thus keeping us waiting. Sometimes it is to show his power and his sovereignty, that men may know that Jehovah has a right to give or to withhold. More frequently the delay is for our profit. Thou art perhaps kept waiting in order that thy desires may be more fervent. God knows that delay will quicken and increase desire, and that if he keeps thee waiting thou wilt see thy necessity more clearly, and wilt seek more earnestly; and that thou wilt prize the mercy all the more for its long tarrying. There may also be something wrong in thee which has need to be removed, before the joy of the Lord is given. Perhaps thy views of the Gospel plan are confused, or thou mayest be placing some little reliance on thyself, instead of trusting simply and entirely to the Lord Jesus. Or, God makes thee tarry awhile that he may the more fully display the riches of his grace to thee at last. Thy prayers are all filed in heaven, and if not immediately answered they are certainly not forgotten, but in a little while shall be fulfilled to thy delight and satisfaction. Let not despair make thee silent, but continue instant in earnest supplication.

Evening

"My people shall dwell in quiet resting places."
Isaiah 32:18

Peace and rest belong not to the unregenerate, they are the peculiar possession of the Lord's people, and of them only. The God of Peace gives perfect peace to those whose hearts are stayed upon him. When man was unfallen, his God gave him the flowery bowers of Eden as his quiet resting places; alas! how soon sin blighted the fair abode of innocence. In the day of universal wrath when the flood swept away a guilty race, the chosen family were quietly secured in the resting-place of the ark, which floated them from the old condemned world into the new earth of the rainbow and the covenant, herein typifying Jesus, the ark of our salvation. Israel rested safely beneath the blood-besprinkled habitations of Egypt when the destroying angel smote the first-born; and in the wilderness the shadow of the pillar of cloud, and the flowing rock, gave the weary pilgrims sweet repose. At this hour we rest in the promises of our faithful God, knowing that his words are full of truth and power; we rest in the doctrines of his word, which are consolation itself; we rest in the covenant of his grace, which is a haven of delight. More highly favoured are we than David in Adullam, or Jonah beneath his gourd, for none can invade or destroy our shelter. The person of Jesus is the quiet resting-place of his people, and when we draw near to him in the breaking of the bread, in the hearing of the word, the searching of the Scriptures, prayer, or praise, we find any form of approach to him to be the return of peace to our spirits.

"I hear the words of love, I gaze upon the blood,

I see the mighty sacrifice, and I have peace with God.

'Tis everlasting peace, sure as Jehovah's name,

'Tis stable as his steadfast throne, for evermore the same:

The clouds may go and come, and storms may sweep my sky,

This blood-sealed friendship changes not, the cross is ever nigh."

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Today's reading: Daniel 11-12, Jude 1 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Daniel 11-12

1 And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.)
The Kings of the South and the North

2 "Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will arise in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece. 3 Then a mighty king will arise, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. 4After he has arisen, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others.

5 "The king of the South will become strong, but one of his commanders will become even stronger than he and will rule his own kingdom with great power. 6 After some years, they will become allies. The daughter of the king of the South will go to the king of the North to make an alliance, but she will not retain her power, and he and his power will not last. In those days she will be betrayed, together with her royal escort and her father and the one who supported her....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Jude 1

1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,

To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

2 Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

The Sin and Doom of Ungodly People

3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God's holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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Micah, Michah, Mica, Micha[Mī'cah,Mī'chah, Mī'că, Mī'cha]—who is like jehovah.

  1. An Ephramite who hired a Levite to be priest to his image (Judg. 17; 18 ). This unworthy character brought great calamity to Israel. Dr. C. I. Scofield says of Micah’s consecration of the Levite that it affords a striking illustration of apostasy. “With his entire departure from the revealed will of God concerning worship and priesthood there is yet an exaltation of false priesthood. Saying, ‘Blessed be thou of Jehovah,’ Micah’s mother makes an idol; and Micah expects the blessing of Jehovah because he has linked the idolatry to the ancient levitical order.”
  2. The head of a family of Reuben (1 Chron. 5:5).
  3. A son of Mephibosheth , grandson of Saul (1 Chron. 8:34, 35; 9:40, 41).
  4. A Levite of the family of Asaph ( 1 Chron. 9:15). SeeMICHA.
  5. A son of Uzziel, a Kohathite (1 Chron. 23:20; 24:24, 25).
  6. Father of Abdon whom Josiah sent to enquire of the Lord when the Law was found (2 Chron. 34:20).
  7. The prophet surnamed the Morasthite, and called Michaiah in the V.L. (Jer. 26:18; Mic. 1:1).

The Man of Strong Convictions

Micah prophesied during the reign of Jothan, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Mic. 1:1; Jer. 26:18 ). He was a younger contemporary of Hosea. He is called “the Morasthite” since he came from Moresheth Gath. Micah, unlike Isaiah, was no politician. He did not censure the habit of looking to Egypt or to Assyria for help. He denounces the depravity of the nation, and threatens the vengeance of God. Isaiah prophesied to royalty, Micah ministered to common people, the sort who heard Jesus gladly. Isaiah was a courtier; Micah, a rustic from an obscure town some twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem.

Micah was probably a yeoman, farming his own plot of land, and in vivid sympathy with the class to which he belonged. The land hunger of rich men, always to be deprecated, was positively dangerous to a country like Palestine with little foreign trade, relying mainly on the produce of the soil for the support of its citizens. The grasping avarice of large landholders doomed to poverty a considerable part of the population, and so Micah stands out as a preacher to the poor and oppressed. He regarded selfish luxury, joined with oppression of the poor, as the crowning sin of Judah. The people were heavily taxed, the Assyrians demanding large payments in tribute to satisfy their lavishness in their architectural magnificence. Thus Zion was built up with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity (Mic. 3:10). Because of such exaction and idolatry, Micah was called and empowered to declare the judgment of God (Mic. 3:8).

Micah was a man of strong convictions and corresponding courage, and as a true preacher, uncovered sin and pointed to the coming Christ. As a prophet he went against the stream and uttered truths the people did not want. For this he was consequently stoned—the usual lot of a faithful prophet. His cry, in essence, was:

Back to Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2 ). In other words, back to the Messianic hope. Back to David, who did so much for the nation, and to whom God promised He would raise up the Messiah. Back to David, the constant ideal of the monarchy. The Messiah of Israel’s coming golden age would be like David.

Back to ethical righteousness (Mic. 6:8). Micah brushed aside all former ritual in favor of a righteousness given by God, and that had a heart for the need of others. It was a righteousness based upon God’s salvation.

Back to the prince of peace ( Mic. 4:1-3; 5:2-7). Micah heralded the message that the reign of the Messiah was Israel’s only hope of peace. We know it to be the only hope of world peace. The Messianic predictions form the most significant passages in Micah.

The most outstanding incident in Micah’s prophetic career was his preaching which led to the reformation under Hezekiah ( Jer. 26:18). When king and people sought God and repented, He turned from the fierceness of His anger. The humble crofter of Philistia was chosen as God’s messenger to the people, and the secret of his power was the fulness of the Holy Spirit (Mic. 3:8).

The book Micah wrote is characterized by deep spirituality, with a simple, but not rugged style. Sin and corruption, the sighing and agony of the people over the misrule of men in authority, the insistence on return to God, are all dealt with in no uncertain tones (Mic. 1:2; 3:1; 6:1 ). Broadly speaking, Micah’s prophecy can be divided thus:

Chapters one, two and three—judgment.

Chapters four and five—comfort.

Chapters six and seven—salvation.

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December 9, 2011

God Make You Mighty, Girlfriend!

Gwen Smith

Today's Truth

But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11 NIV).

Friend to Friend

The Family Life Today show on my local Christian radio station once featured an author named Ace Collins who wrote a historical book about Christmas carols. One traditional carol they talked about was the song, "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen."

Before that day, the first line of that song never made sense to me. The title, "God rest ye, merry gentlemen," seemed too old-school-English to embrace. Was it encouraging us to sleep happily? I just didn't get it. But, I'm excited to share with you that the scales have fallen from my eyes! What I learned about this song is really cool, and I think you are going to find it fascinating as well...

Ace explained to the listeners that he had dug through a bunch of English text from the 1500 and 1600s. One of the first things he learned about this carol was that the comma in our modern day version is actually misplaced in the title. It's not "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen." It's supposed to read, "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." While that information alone might not seem to make a difference, this next bit of information will bring the main point home. His research revealed that back in the day this song was written, the word "rest" actually meant "make" or "keep." And the word "merry" actually meant "mighty" or "great."

So...if we put that all together - in a modern translation - it should sing:

"God make you mighty, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.

Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day;

To save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;

O tidings of comfort and joy."

If you would allow me the freedom, I'd like to translate this even further. Call it the Girlfriends In God Revised Edition. This is powerful:

"God make you mighty, girlfriend! Do not be upset, discouraged, or frightened!

Jesus came to earth to take on our brokenness and sin so that we could be made beautiful and whole in Him! This is great news, which should bring you comfort and joy! Rejoice!"

Have a mighty Christmas! Have a powerful Christmas! Our hope is alive because 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ left His throne in heaven, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, suffered and died for our sin, and defeated death in resurrection. This is surely "good news of great joy!" (Luke 2:10).

Celebrate Christmas this year in His strength, in His peace, and in His joy. God make you mighty, girlfriend!

Let's Pray

Lord, You are mighty and powerful. No matter what I face, I want to walk in Your might instead of my weakness. Help me to remember that Your Word says: "Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

In Jesus' Name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

What do you need to be mighty in this Christmas season? Forgiveness? Grace? Understanding? Patience?

Is there something that is causing you to be fearful, discouraged, or upset? Pray about it right now and ask God for His strength to consume your weakness.

More from the Girlfriends

CHRISTMAS is right around the corner! If you still have people on your list to shop for, my newest CD, Uncluttered, is a great gift idea. The songs of Uncluttered are purposed to sweep you away from life-noise and to focus your heart and mind on the one thing that matters: your relationship with Jesus Christ. We have a low-priced bundle SPECIAL available too! For more information, go tohttp://www.gwensmith.net/store/specials.htm.

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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LeAnn Rice

December 9, 2011

When Christmas is Hard
LeAnn Rice

"He heals the brokenhearted..." Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

Looking at the calendar, I counted the number of days till Christmas. I'd done it every year, eagerly looking forward to celebrating Christ's birth or surprising someone with the perfect Christmas gift.

However, this time I was counting down the days not with excitement, but with dread.

My husband Ron passed away in April. That Christmas would be one of many dreaded "firsts" that my son and I would have without him.

Fragile, shattered and alone describe my feelings that holiday season. While everyone else seemed caught up in happy festivities, their family togetherness magnified my lonely brokenness.

Along with overwhelming grief, I was worried. How would I financially support us? How could I help my son have a fun holiday when I could hardly stop crying? It all seemed like too much.

Maybe you understand because this holiday season is hard for you too. A loved one may have passed or someone you love is battling a serious illness. This might be your first holiday separated or divorced. Just as I did, you may be feeling grief, dread or worry.

That first Christmas without my husband was fourteen years ago. Its taken time, but over the years I've adopted some practices to help me find joy during the Christmas season. I'd love to share with you today.

Honor your loved one. My husband's absence at special occasions still weighs on my heart years later. To honor his memory, Nick and I place a special ornament on our Christmas tree. It hangs front and center as a reminder Ron is a part of every celebration, because he is a part of us. Perhaps you can hang an ornament on your tree, give a gift in your loved one's honor, or make a donation in their memory to an organization that was dear to their heart. Consider making their favorite meal and sharing stories about them as you gather around your Christmas table.

Create new traditions. I always loved a big, family-oriented holiday with noise and messiness. Because my extended family lives far away, Nick and I needed to find a new "family" close by. Over the years, God has sent people to fill the empty spaces in our lives and hearts. One of my favorite new traditions is to spend an evening with my friends where I make a big Christmas dinner. We celebrate together with food, fellowship and all the noise and messiness I crave.

Share Christ's comfort. I've experienced God's promise to heal my broken heart, as today's key verse reminds us. Much of my healing has come from the love He's sent through other people. Because of this, I keep my eyes open for those who might be grieving or sad at the holidays. I've found that comforting others brings me comfort.

This year as I anticipate the Christmas season, I'll experience a familiar combination of emotions. Sadness will tug at my heart as I miss celebrating this special time with my husband, but I'm excited to celebrate what only Christ can do - heal my broken heart. The comfort He brings is one of the many reasons to celebrate His birth this Christmas season.

Dear Lord, thank You for Your faithful presence and comfort during my sadness. I pray that especially during this Christmas season my eyes will be open to others who are hurting. Please help me to love them for You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
For ideas on reaching out to others, as well as helpful organization tips, decorating, menu planning ideas, and seeking Christ in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, download our new e-book, Untangling Christmas: Your Go-To Guide for a Hassle-Free Holidayby Karen Ehman and LeAnn Rice.

Visit LeAnn's A Widow's Might website for practical ways you can bring hope to those around you this holiday season and throughout the year, regardless of your budget.

Application Steps:
Ask God to show you someone who needs comforting this Christmas and pray about ways to share His love in a tangible way. Their grief, as well as yours, will be softened.

Reflections:
What new tradition can I create in recognition of this new season of life?

What traditions do I want to keep in honor of my loved one?

In my sadness, have I run away from God or to Him? How can I keep turning to Him?

Power Verses:
Jeremiah 31:13, "...I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow." (NIV)

2 Corinthians 1:3, 4, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (NIV)

© 2011 by LeAnn Rice. All rights reserved.

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

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Sentenced to Death

Matthew 27:24-26 "Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified" (v. 26).

Ultimately, Pontius Pilate does not believe that Jesus wants to supplant the caesar and destroy the Roman Empire as an Israelite king. Several factors explain why he finds no fault in Jesus (Matt. 27:11-23). First, whether through outside sources or his own intuition, Pilate sees that Caiaphas and the other leaders seek Jesus' death out of envy, not the truth (v. 18). Secondly, his wife has had a nightmare about the events transpiring ( v. 19) and sees involvement in the death of Jesus as disastrous for Pilate. Finally, the response of Jesus Himself to His accusers strongly refutes their accusations. John's gospel tells us that at one point in the trial our Savior assures Pilate that His kingdom is "not of this world" (18:36) and therefore not interested in the violent overthrow of the caesar. Coupled with this is Jesus' appearance before Pilate bound and beaten, which likely convinces him that the Nazarene is no real threat to the Empire.

Jesus' innocence, however, makes Pilate no less willing to give in to his fear of a riot and have Jesus crucified to prevent an uprising (Matt. 27:26). Ultimately, this compounds his guilt - to commit the great sin of executing the Lord of glory Pilate must unashamedly cast justice aside. Moreover, the gathered mob is not excused for demanding Christ's death simply because they are following their leaders (v. 20 ). But if in this mob there are those who once hailed Jesus as David's heir (21:1-11), why do they follow along? It is because they want a violent conqueror and their expectations cannot accept that this bound man is God's Messiah. Barabbas is willing to overthrow Rome by any means necessary (Mark 15:7); thus, the people prefer him over the humble Jesus (Matt. 27:21).

Pilate futilely tries to shift blame to the crowd, and, tragically, the crowd's acceptance of responsibility for Jesus' death has been used over the centuries to justify anti-Semitism (v. 25). Many professing Christians have literally brought blood upon Jewish people, a gross misuse of the text given that Jesus and His disciples are Jewish and that the crowd is speaking for itself, not an entire ethnic group. In reality, all people are guilty of having Christ killed, for our sin made His death necessary in the first place ( Rom. 3:21-26).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

A select group of corrupt religious leaders and unjust Roman officials are those who enacted the legal procedures that resulted in Jesus' death. Yet in a sense, we all killed Jesus, because had we not sinned, there would have been no need of His death. It is sobering to realize that we put Jesus on that cross; still, He went there willingly so that we could be forgiven of our sin. How amazing is God's marvelous grace!

For further study:

Genesis 3:17-19

The Bible in a year:

Joel

For the weekend:

Amos 1-6

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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Pope Leo I

art_05_04_leo

Born into an aristocratic family ten years before the sack of Rome, Leo (c. 400 – 461) is singled out by the emperor to serve as a diplomatic envoy in settling a dispute in Gaul. While he is away, the bishop of Rome dies, and Leo is unanimously elected to fill the post. He secures power, insisting that popes are in a direct line of succession from the apostles and that anyone who rejected papal authority was not within the "body of Christ." He consolidates this authority by moving against heretics, particularly Pelagians and Manicheans.

Leo, in the judgment of many historians, is the first real pope. Not always specifying the head of the church, the term pope was used for bishops and as a broad term of respect for church officials. True papal supremacy is not clearly defined until the reign of Leo, coming to full bloom under Gregory I.

Leo's rule was theological as well as political. In 448, Leo receives a letter from Eutyches, an abbot in a monastery near Constantinople. Eutyches writes of the influence of the Nestorian heresy, but then he himself comes under fire for allegedly subscribing to the same heresy and is excommunicated by Bishop Flavian. He asks Leo to reinstate him, and when Leo fails to act, he is absolved in a "robber council," an action that is perceived to be a threat to papal power and is promptly annulled by Leo.

In 449 Leo writes a letter to Bishop Flavian. This "Tome of Leo" becomes a key document as the church continues to define orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Here Leo's definition of the two natures of Christ is deemed the orthodox position. He accuses Eutyches of seeking to "dissolve Jesus" in his endeavor "to separate the human nature from him, and to make void by shameless inventions that mystery by which alone we have been saved." Leo charges Eutyches with thinking "the Lord's crucifixion to be unreal."

Eutyches, seventy years old and the head of a monastery of some three hundred monks, refuses to appear before Bishop Flavian, convinced that the deck is stacked against him. When he finally does appear and is questioned, he waffles on precisely what he is willing to confess. But the statement he makes leaves no doubt among the supporters of Leo that he is a heretic. "I confess that our Lord was of two natures before the union, but after the union I confess one nature."

Leo regards such a confession as blatant heresy, seeking to clarify the incarnation and the twofold nature of Christ with words that rise above dry dogma: "Without detriment therefore to the properties of either nature and substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality."

Heresy is not the only matter weighing Leo down. Only a few years after the landmark Council of Chalcedon, he faces a desperate situation in Rome; barbarians again threaten to sack the city. Attila, nicknamed "the scourge of God," is making his way to Rome. One early account serves to establish Leo as "the Great" for the centuries that follow. According to the anonymous author, Attila "came into Italy, inflamed with fury . . . He was utterly cruel in inflicting torture, greedy in plundering, insolent in abuse." Leo stands strong, approaching Attila and saying, "We pray for mercy and deliverance. O Attila, thou king of kings . . . the people have felt thy scourge; now as suppliants they would feel thy mercy." This account records the appearance of Peter and Paul, who "threatened Attila with death if he did not obey the pope's command. Wherefore Attila . . . straightway promised a lasting peace and withdrew beyond the Danube."

That Leo served both as head of state and chief diplomat demonstrated the weakness of Imperial Rome since the events of 410. But his talking down Attila surely did not signal the end of the invasions of the city. Some years later, Vandal marauders moving northward from Africa pillaged the city despite Leo's pleas. For the next years, until his death in 461, he took charge of cleanup and restoration as well as ministering to those who had been taken captive to Africa.


If you enjoyed the above article, please take a minute to read about the book that it was adapted from:

ParadeofFaith-Bookcover

Parade of Faith: A Biographical History of the Christian Church

by Ruth A. Tucker
Buy the book!
The story of Christianity centers on people whose lives have been transformed by the resurrected Lord. Tucker puts this front and center in a lively overview peppered with sidebars; historical "what if?" questions; sections on everyday life; drawings and illustrations; bibliographies for further reading.



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Welcome to week 2 of our Top 20 Countdown of Christmas Music!

We asked our visitors what their favorite Christmas songs were and compiled the results. This week we're looking at numbers 15-11:

15. Away in a Manger

awayinamanger

Read the history

Read the lyrics

14. Angels We Have Heard on High

angelswehaveheardonhigh

Read the history

Read the Lyrics

13. Do You Hear What I Hear

doyouhearwhatIhear

Read the history

12. The First Noel

thefirstnoel

Read the history

Read the Lyrics

11. Breath of Heaven

breathofheaven


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Sentenced to Death

A select group of corrupt religious leaders and unjust Roman officials are those who enacted the legal procedures that resulted in Jesus' death. Yet in a sense, we all killed Jesus, because had we not sinned, there would have been no need of His death. It is sobering to realize that we put Jesus on that cross; still, He went there willingly so that we could be forgiven of our sin. How amazing is God's marvelous grace!

For further study:

Genesis 3:17-19

The Bible in a year:

Joel

For the weekend:

Amos 1-6

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

Hymn Story:

"Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" is thought to be a very old Polish carol, of unknown origin. It was published in Spiewniczek Piesni Koscielne in 1908 and speaks of the stable scene-baby Jesus lying in a manger bed with the animals nearby. It also speaks of the hillside where shepherds heard the story from the angels and rejoiced.

The short rhymed phrases move the piece forward, pointing to the final statement and the purpose of the song: "Christ the babe is Lord of all."

Devotional:

With all the presents to buy, parties to plan, and trees to decorate, the Christmas season seems to fly quickly by. Soon, Christmas has passed. And so often, a feeling of sadness creeps in as we leave the parties and put the Christmas decorations away for another year.

But why should we feel sad after Christmas? Sure, the excitement of presents and holiday specials may be over. Yet at its core, Christmas gives us a reason to celebrate all year long. A Savior has been born! And because of that, we have a hope that no Christmas tree or party could ever give us.

Through the familiar words of "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly," we can remember to rejoice-even after Christmas day has passed. For after recounting the story of Jesus' birth, the carol encourages us: "Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow, Praises voicing, greet the morrow."

We need not let disappointment creep in after Christmas. Instead, we can keep rejoicing-free from sorrow-because our Savior has set us free from sin. In simple actions such as reading the gospels, singing hymns of praise, or writing a letter of gratitude to God, we can "greet the morrow" with true joy, even when the earthly Christmas celebrations are over.

So if sadness threatens after the holidays, remember that the Christmas story hasn't ended. It goes on-to the cross of Calvary and the empty tomb. And ultimately, the story continues with you, for as our carol joyfully proclaims, "Christ, the Babe, was born for you!"

Facts:

Lyrics: Traditional Polish Carol Translator: Edith M. G. Reed Translation Date: 1921 Music: Traditional Polish Melody Theme: Christmas, Jesus Christ, Nativity Tune Title: W ZLOBIE LEZY Arranger: David Hugh Jones Arrange Date: 1953 Meter: 8.7.8.7.8.8.7. Key: G Scripture: Rev 17:14

Copyright © 2011 Center for Church Music


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Thanks to the Center for Church Music'sSongsandHymns.orgfor providing the content of this newsletter! Please consider donating to their ministry.

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The Joy of Giving
by Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NCV): "Each one should give as you have decided in your heart to give. You should not be sad when you give, and you should not give because you feel forced to give. God loves the person who gives happily."

Friend to Friend

One of my favorite authors, Richard Foster, writes, "Giving with glad and generous hearts has a way of routing out the tough old miser within us. Even the poor need to know that they can give. Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon greed." God loves to see us give for no other reason than the joy of giving.

The true story is told of a self-made millionaire who had lived in New York City his entire life. Born and raised in a ghetto, he worked hard and achieved much. Anyone who knew this man would testify to the fact that he was generous--to a fault, some would say. One year, the man was disturbed by an attitude of selfishness and greed that seemed to pervade the Christmas holiday season and everyone around him. Not one to condemn, the millionaire decided that since he had been given so much, it was up to him to do his part in combating greed and came up with an unusual plan. Wearing a disguise, this man stuffed his pockets with $100 dollar bills and set out for a walk on the streets of New York City. When he saw someone in need, he whipped out one of the bills, pressed it into that person's hands and with a "Merry Christmas," made his way down the street. "It was the most wonderful part of my holiday season," the man reported, and he has been doing it every since.

God is much more interested in our motive for giving than in the gift itself. If that motive is tainted with greed, the gift simply does not count. A powerful way to guard against greed is to choose joy over greed. Giving with joy is Kingdom giving! Before you give, ask yourself, "What’s in it for me?" If the answer is "nothing," then go ahead and give the gift.

When our children were in middle school, we owned what I affectionately called a "Mini-Gym." It was a set of bar bells, a weight lifting bench and a few free weights. Both Jered and Danna loved their "gym" and used it almost every day. When Christmas rolled around, we learned that two of their good friends, Jeff and Jeremy, were not going to have much of a Christmas because their dad had lost his job. Jered came up with a plan. "Mom," he said, "Danna and I have talked about it. We think that Jeff and Jeremy would love to have the gym. But we don’t want them to know we gave it to them, because they might be embarrassed. What do you think?" I thought I was in the presence of two joyful givers and quickly joined them in their plan.

A few days before Christmas, Jered and I took the gym apart and loaded it in our car while Danna found a huge red bow. Together, we made a sign that read, "Merry Christmas! We love you!" Danna blew up balloons while Jered dug out some Christmas lights. We enlisted the help of a neighbor who had a key to our friend’s house and joined in the fun by agreeing to find out when the coast was clear, unlocking the back door and letting us in. At the designated time, off we went, laughing and singing Christmas carols. We parked down the street until the neighbor called, giggling, to let us know she was all set. Once we were inside, we raced to assemble the gym, post the sign, tie the balloons and tape the lights to the front door, leading our friends to their Christmas surprise on the back porch. We then high-tailed it home as if the FBI was hot on our trail! The neighbor reported that just minutes after the boys returned, she heard shouting and "whooping and hollering." The joy of that Christmas still lingers today. Greed doesn’t hold a candle to joyful giving!

Greed is never satisfied and never at rest. There is always something more to be gained and someone else to outdo. Take sheep, for example. Sheep are dumb enough to eat until they are sick. They simply do not know when to stop. A heart that is filled with greed behaves the same way. I am afraid our heart motives are all too frequently self-serving when it comes to giving. Our pride is at stake, so we give to impress others. Perhaps, we give out of fear and guilt, hoping to buy God's forgiveness from our sin. People are watching, so we give in order to gain their approval. What is the solution? Giving! Giving is a powerfully effective deterrent to greed when we give for no other reason than the joy of giving.

Proverbs 11:24-25: "Some people give much but get back even more. Others don’t give what they should and end up poor. Whoever gives to others will get richer; those who help others will themselves be helped."

I once read an article that described three types of givers. The first kind of giver is the "flint." To get anything out of a flint, you have to hammer it, and even then, you only get chips and sparks. A second kind of giver is the "sponge." You have to squeeze it and the more pressure you use, the more you will get. The third kind of giver is the honeycomb. It just overflows. What kind of giver are you? Experience the joy of Christmas when you experience the joy of giving. Merry Christmas!

Let's Pray

Father, thank You for all You have given me. Help me to be the kind of giver that points people to You. I choose against my pride or any wrong motive for giving Christmas gifts this year. I choose to keep my eyes on You and my glance on the world. I love you! In Jesus' name, amen.

Now It's Your Turn

We make a living by what we get out of life, but we make a life by what we give and how we give it. Beecher wrote, "No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger. The heart makes a man rich. He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has." How do these words relate to your life this Christmas?

Take inventory of your "stuff." Make an actual list. Then set aside a time of prayer and solitude during which you give each one to God.

Consider giving an anonymous gift and recruit your family to help.

Today's Advent reading is from the Girlfriends in Goddevotional ministry. There is no Advent devotional email tomorrow (Saturday); the next email will be on Sunday, when we'll introduce a new set of Scripture passages to reflect on throughout the week.
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Today's Advent reading is taken from Girlfriends in God, a non-denominational devotion and conference ministry that crosses generational and racial boundaries to bring the Body of Christ together as believers.

Through daily on-line devotions, conferences, published books, CDs and music videos, God is using this incredible team of women to bring the hope and healing of Jesus Christ to a hurting world.
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FRB-Christmas-Story-BookCover-SmallReading 4: God's People Ask for Salvation

This psalm, or song, was written as a prayer to God when the nation of Israel was torn apart by a foreign nation, probably Assyria. God’s people had to flee from their homes and farms. They suffered many hardships. They longed for God to send someone to save them from their enemies and restore their nation. At this time, God’s people described the nation as a vine that had been planted but had now been trampled and burned.


Psalm 80:1-19

1 Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock;
you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth
2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might;
come and save us.

3 Restore us, O God;
make your face shine upon us,
that we may be saved.

4 O LORD God Almighty,
how long will your anger smolder
against the prayers of your people?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears;
you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
6 You have made us a source of contention to our neighbors,
and our enemies mock us.

7 Restore us, O God Almighty;
make your face shine upon us,
that we may be saved.

8 You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it,
and it took root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 It sent out its boughs to the Sea,
its shoots as far as the River.

12 Why have you broken down its walls
so that all who pass by pick its grapes?
13 Boars from the forest ravage it
and the creatures of the field feed on it.
14 Return to us, O God Almighty!
Look down from heaven and see!
Watch over this vine,
15 the root your right hand has planted,
the son you have raised up for yourself.

16 Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire;
at your rebuke your people perish.
17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
18 Then we will not turn away from you;
revive us, and we will call on your name.

19 Restore us, O LORD God Almighty;
make your face shine upon us,
that we may be saved.

Further Study

JUST THE FACTS

  1. Where does God sit? (v. 1)
  2. What did this writer ask for? (vv. 2 – 3)
  3. What happened to the vine? (vv. 8 – 11,16)

LET’S TALK

  1. Why do you think the writer used the word picture of a vine? Why not just say “Israel”?
  2. What did the people promise to do if God sent them a ruler? (v. 18) What did they mean by saying they would call on God’s name and not turn away?

WHY THIS MATTERS

God’s people continued to plead with God to show mercy and save them. He answered this plea many centuries later by sending his Son, Jesus.

POINTS OF INTEREST

80:1 Cherubim are a special kind of angel. They were guardians protecting the way to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. They also protected the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle and in the temple. In this psalm they are said to guard God’s heavenly throne. Cherubim are described as having wings and a combination of human and animal characteristics.

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A Christmas Devotional

JESUS

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. - Luke 2:7

Sometimes a name is just a name, and sometimes a name captures someone perfectly. The ancients inclined to choose names carefully, so as to make a lifelong statement about a person's identity. "Jesus" is a name so familiar to us, that we easily forget that it was a name with an extraordinary significance. The name an angel announced should be given to Mary and Joseph's new child. And what a name! "Jesus" means "the Lord saves."

He does indeed.

Call him Jesus, the angel said, "because he will save people from their sins." None of us can save ourselves anymore than a person sinking in a rowboat can save himself by pulling up on the side of the boat. We need a savior, and not just a theoretical savior, but one who really has the power of God to separate us from the tyranny and the guilt of sin.

Now for good reason we associate the saving work of Jesus with his sacrificial death on the cross. But there would not have been a saving sacrifice if there had not been an incarnation. Bethlehem was the start of the mission. We don't need to wait until Good Friday and Easter to celebrate the savior. The saving started at the birth of Jesus.

Mary and Joseph could not have understood all this, of course. They were obedient and named the newborn Jesus, "the Lord saves," but how and when that would be was a mystery to them. Not so for us. This side of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus we know the extent of the saving love of God.

Prayer for today: Lord, make me more aware today of my sins, and help me know that they shrink before the powerful person of Jesus.

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Myth: “He’s not a Christian, but he’s a great guy.”

2 Corinthians 6:14

I didn't know what to say when Richard asked the question. Does Kevin go to church? Hello, I thought you were going to be happy for me! I remember thinking, I've finally found someone I really like, and things are going great.

Still, Richard is my partner at work, and he and his wife know everything there is to know about me. They know I grew up in church. And they also know I dated a few guys from the church singles group. But there just wasn't any chemistry. I had always dreamed that God would have the perfect person picked out for me and deliver him right to my door. However, I was fast approaching the big 3-0, and it still hadn't happened. In fact, I had almost given up, figuring I was destined to be single for the rest of my life, and then Kevin came along. We met at the gym. I would have married him on the spot for his calves alone. However, it was his smile that really got to me. We kept running into each other in the mornings before work, and he finally asked me to go out one weekend. We talked for hours that first night, as if we'd known each other forever. He was wonderful.

Over the next few weeks, as my relationship with Kevin grew, Richard started to ask me more questions. "Does Kevin know you're a Christian? Have you told him about your faith?" I fended him off with a few cursory answers. "Kevin didn't grow up in church like you and I did," I told him. "But I think he gets it, or at least he's pretty close." Richard didn't seem satisfied with my answer. Truthfully, something inside of me cringed when I said it. But I'm not going to let anything or anyone spoil my happiness. Who's to say Kevin isn't the man I dreamed of all along? He'll probably become a Christian at some point in our relationship, and then everything will be perfect.

-Christy

Do you believe love stories like Isaac and Rebekah's can happen? Two people who aren't even from the same country brought together by God's hand. But oh, the things we're willing to believe in the midst of a man-drought. When the phone isn't ringing because no one's calling. When we spend another Valentine's Day with the cat. There's a "certain age," you know, past which all of our mothers' friends believe the odds for us finding the man of our dreams plummet. Add to the mix the complication of a Christian woman looking for a Christian man-and the situation becomes even more discouraging. We begin to convince ourselves that we somehow missed God's best. Maybe that's the problem. We just weren't open before-our standards were too high. And so, now we're not being desperate; we're being open. Unfortunately, that's when we begin to rationalize whatever we want to fit the ideal.

He's not super-spiritual, but show me a man who is.

He has such great potential-he needs someone like me to encourage him.

It's important to note that we won't change God's mind, even though we can list all sorts of factors in favor of our decision to marry outside of our convictions. The Bible's warning not to marry a non-Christian is very clear (see 2 Corinthians 6:14 ). Think about it. How will you celebrate Christmas and Easter? Or discipline your children? Will your husband understand wanting to tithe from your joint account? Will he mind if you're gone for part of every Sunday? How do you feel about having a quiet time alone? The issues range from minor to major.

If you're single and lonely, God knows it. If you're approaching a certain age, God knows how old you are. And he is not worried. The important thing is not to be married ... it's to be married to the right person. And God can bring that person unexpectedly, just as he did for Isaac and Rebekah. Feelings and emotions can be disastrously misleading in this area. That's why we have to hold onto God's Word, not a wish list, and let God dictate our decision whether or not to marry someone.

"He's Mr. Almost for now, but perhaps with one change he could become Mr. Right. Before your heart rides off into the sunset ... hold out for someone who has the same goal and the same faith. By not settling, you will have peace of mind in knowing you did what was right for yourself, your children and, yes, even Mr. Almost."

-Alice Crider

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"
2 Corinthians 6:14

See also

Genesis 2:24; Proverbs 4:23; Jeremiah 17:9; 1 Corinthians 2:14
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