Saturday, December 17, 2011

Daily Devotional Saturday 17th December

“And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-47, 49 NIV
Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon


"Come unto me."
Matthew 11:28

The cry of the Christian religion is the gentle word, "Come." The Jewish law harshly said, "Go, take heed unto thy steps as to the path in which thou shalt walk. Break the commandments, and thou shalt perish; keep them, and thou shalt live." The law was a dispensation of terror, which drove men before it as with a scourge; the gospel draws with bands of love. Jesus is the good Shepherd going before his sheep, bidding them follow him, and ever leading them onwards with the sweet word, "Come." The law repels, the gospel attracts. The law shows the distance which there is between God and man; the gospel bridges that awful chasm, and brings the sinner across it.

From the first moment of your spiritual life until you are ushered into glory, the language of Christ to you will be, "Come, come unto me." As a mother puts out her finger to her little child and woos it to walk by saying, "Come," even so does Jesus. He will always be ahead of you, bidding you follow him as the soldier follows his captain. He will always go before you to pave your way, and clear your path, and you shall hear his animating voice calling you after him all through life; while in the solemn hour of death, his sweet words with which he shall usher you into the heavenly world shall be--"Come, ye blessed of my Father."

Nay, further, this is not only Christ's cry to you, but, if you be a believer, this is your cry to Christ--"Come! come!" You will be longing for his second advent; you will be saying, "Come quickly, even so come Lord Jesus." You will be panting for nearer and closer communion with him. As his voice to you is "Come," your response to him will be, "Come, Lord, and abide with me. Come, and occupy alone the throne of my heart; reign there without a rival, and consecrate me entirely to thy service."


"Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened."
Isaiah 48:8

It is painful to remember that, in a certain degree, this accusation may be laid at the door of believers, who too often are in a measure spiritually insensible. We may well bewail ourselves that we do not hear the voice of God as we ought, "Yea, thou heardest not." There are gentle motions of the Holy Spirit in the soul which are unheeded by us: there are whisperings of divine command and of heavenly love which are alike unobserved by our leaden intellects. Alas! we have been carelessly ignorant--"Yea, thou knewest not." There are matters within which we ought to have seen, corruptions which have made headway unnoticed; sweet affections which are being blighted like flowers in the frost, untended by us; glimpses of the divine face which might be perceived if we did not wall up the windows of our soul. But we "have not known." As we think of it we are humbled in the deepest self-abasement. How must we adore the grace of God as we learn from the context that all this folly and ignorance, on our part, was foreknown by God, and, notwithstanding that foreknowledge, he yet has been pleased to deal with us in a way of mercy! Admire the marvellous sovereign grace which could have chosen us in the sight of all this! Wonder at the price that was paid for us when Christ knew what we should be! He who hung upon the cross foresaw us as unbelieving, backsliding, cold of heart, indifferent, careless, lax in prayer, and yet he said, "I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour ... Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life!" O redemption, how wondrously resplendent dost thou shine when we think how black we are! O Holy Spirit, give us henceforth the hearing ear, the understanding heart!


Today's reading: Amos 4-6, Revelation 7 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Amos 4-6

Israel Has Not Returned to God

1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy
and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
2 The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his holiness:
“The time will surely come
when you will be taken away with hooks,
the last of you with fishhooks.
3 You will each go straight out
through breaches in the wall,
and you will be cast out toward Harmon,” declares the LORD.
4 “Go to Bethel and sin;
go to Gilgal and sin yet more.
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
your tithes every three years.
5 Burn leavened bread as a thank offering
and brag about your freewill offerings—
boast about them, you Israelites,
for this is what you love to do,” declares the Sovereign LORD.... the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 7

144,000 Sealed

1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea:3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” 4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

5 From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,

from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,

from the tribe of Gad 12,000,

6 from the tribe of Asher 12,000,

from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,

from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000.... the rest on Bible Gateway


Eleazar [Ēle ā'zar]—god is helper.

  1. The third son of Aaron by Elisheba and father of Phinehas (Exod. 6:23, 25). He was consecrated a priest (Exod. 28:1 ) and was chief of the Levites (Num. 3:32).
  2. A son of Amminadab, set apart to care for the Ark after its return (1 Sam. 7:1).
  3. A son of Dodo, the Ahohite, one of the three chief captains of David’s army (2 Sam. 23:9; 1 Chron. 11:12).
  4. A son of Mahli, a Merarite, who had daughters only, who married their cousins (1 Chron. 23:21, 22; 24:28).
  5. A priest who participated in the dedication of the rebuilt wall (Neh. 12:42).
  6. A son of Phinehas, a Levite (Ezra 8:33).
  7. A son of Eliud and an ancestor of Christ (Matt. 1:15).

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December 16, 2011

Held by Hope

Gwen Smith

Today's Truth

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19, NIV)

Friend to Friend

Have you ever wanted to travel back in time to be an eyewitness of the celestial celebration that took place in Bethlehem the night that Jesus was born? Now, I'm a bit fussy about fashion, but I'd even consider donning shepherd garb and hanging out with a few sheep for that opportunity! To see angels fill the sky, to hear the voice of God through the cries of a baby. To catch a glimpse of the brilliant Star of David, and to satisfy my curiosity as to what exactly a host of heavenly angels sounds like.

Oh, and to talk to Mary! Wouldn't that be amazing to hear what she was thinking as she witnessed, and took part in the greatest miracle ever known to man? This baby she gave birth to was God-in-flesh, a true bundle of love. What do you think she treasured in her heart as she took it all in? I'm struck by this thought: As she held the Hope of the world, the Hope of the world was also holding her. Ponder that!

The baby born in a barn that holy night long ago is the Hope of the world - the Grace that saves us - the Love that heals us. Jesus is Hope that changes our worthless into precious, our guilty to forgiven, our hungry into satisfied, and our empty into full. His presence is inescapable. We cannot flee from His stubborn grip. The psalmist, David said: "If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast" ( Psalm 139:8-10).

The Bible tells us in the New Testament that Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God, the Father in heaven and that He "holds us fast." Relish that thought. The Hope that holds us is Jesus Christ. You and I are held by Hope.

In the Old Testament, God told Joshua that He would "never leave or forsake" him (Joshua 1:5). God says the same to us. He will never leave us or forsake us; no matter the circumstances, not matter the diagnoses, no matter the financial struggle. Our faithful LORD is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can rest assured that in everything, we are held by Hope.

After His resurrection and before His ascension into heaven, Jesus said, "Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). My girlfriend Mary Southerland often reminds people that the word "always" actually means ... drum roll please ... "always!" He is always with us. Always loving us. Always wanting us to find comfort, refuge, joy and satisfaction in Him.

As a Christmas approaches and New Year dawns, let's be mindful of God's promise that we are never alone. Just like the shepherds received the headline news of Jesus' birth from singing angels so long ago, receive this glad tiding of great joy today: If you are in Christ, then you are held by Hope.

Let's Pray

Holy Father, You are more wonderful. Thank You for sending Jesus, my Hope, to forgive me, to love me, and to restore me to Your heart. I join the psalmist today in praying, "Sustain me according to Your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. Uphold me, and I will be delivered" (Psalm 119:116-117). I'm leaning into Your heavenly hug today.

In Jesus' name,


Now It's Your Turn

Are you held by Hope? Have you received the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ? Are you seeking God? He's waiting with His arms open wide. CLICK HERE to find out more about how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

More from the Girlfriends

Friend, I know that as sweet as Christmas is, it will be hard for many of you this year. Pain is no respecter of persons, and loneliness can find us in a crowded room. I pray that you will find comfort in knowing that - whether you feel it or not - you are being held by the loving God of the universe.

My Facebook page will be a page of prayer today. We'd love to pray for you. Please join us

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

Tracie Miles

December 16, 2011

A Cup of Christmas COCOA
Tracie Miles

"They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness." Psalm 145:7 (NIV)

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, there's one thing that always calms my heart and quiets my thoughts - a cup of hot cocoa. Who doesn't feel warm and peaceful while sipping a cup of steaming cocoa with marshmallows piled on top?

But, there is another reason I love cocoa. Each letter of my favorite winter drink helps me focus my heart on Christ at Christmas:

"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit." Matthew 1:18 (NIV 1984)

We all know Christ is the reason for this season, yet it's easy to focus on shopping and planning instead of Jesus. This month, let's spend as much time seeking God's heart as we do searching for the perfect gifts.

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV 1984)

We can easily spend more time decorating our house to look like the holiday edition of a magazine, than we do adorning our inner spirit with God's love and compassion. Let's ask God to make our hearts beautiful by giving us His patience and kindness. Then let's look for ways to bless those around us, especially those in need.

"A happy heart makes a face look cheerful. But a sad heart produces a broken spirit." Proverbs 15:13 (NIV)

As gift lists grow and calendars get full, our physical and emotional energy can be drained. Although Christmas is meant to be a joyous season, many of us struggle with depression and discouragement during this time of the year. Let's take time each day to focus on how much we are valued and loved as children of God. The holidays are merely a season, but God's love and compassion for us are permanent.

"When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:10-11 (NIV)

Do you ever feel overjoyed to kick off the holiday season but overwhelmed by the middle of the month? If we take time each day in December to thank Jesus for coming as our Savior, we could become overwhelmed by His kindness instead. When we focus our hearts on all God has done, we won't get as easily overwhelmed by all that still needs to be done.

"...I came that they may have life, and have it to the full."John 10:10b (NIV)

Whenever I think of Christmas morning, from my childhood to the present, the word ABUNDANCE comes to mind. Abundance of presents, food and activities. But these things are temporary. What we need is the abundant life Jesus came to give us. Our hearts need His mercy, peace and love, not only on Christmas day, but every day throughout each year.

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a cup of Christmas cocoa. Will you join me? Let's take time to ponder these Christmas truths and, as that chocolaty goodness warms us, let's allow the warmth of God's love to pour into our hearts and His abundant goodness to pour out into the lives of those around us.

Dear Lord, thank You for giving me the gift of Your Son. Please help me not get so caught up in the earthly celebrations of Christmas that I forget to celebrate all I have in Christ. Remind me of Your love each day and show me how to share it with others each day of this month. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Read Tracie's featured Christmas article in the December edition of our P31 Woman magazine! A P31 Woman subscription makes a great Christmas gift!

Visit Tracie's blog for a chance to win a special COCOA giveaway.

Untangling Christmas: Your Go-To Guide for a Hassle-Free Holiday (e-book) by Karen Ehman and LeAnn Rice

Application Steps:
Share today's devotion with friends and family.

Why not print the acronym for COCOA on a gift card and tie it to a pretty cup to give as a gift this Christmas?

Have I allowed the chaos of Christmas to overshadow my love for Christ?

How can I share God's goodness with others this season?

Power Verses:
Number 6:25-26, "The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." (NIV)

© 2011 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105


Gregory the Great: Pope and Politician

Quote: "It is doubtless impossible to cut off all abuses at once from rough hearts, just as a man who sets out to climb a high mountain does not advance by leaps and bounds, but goes upward step by step and pace by pace."


Gregory (c. 540 – 604) descended from Roman nobility and was himself a propertied government administrator. But the church was in his blood. Three aunts were nuns, as was his widowed mother, Silvia, and his great-great-grandfather was Pope Felix III.

Wave after wave of barbarian armies have brought ruin to the region. His dream is to escape, though not to the monastery. "Late and long," he recalls, "I put off the grace of conversion." But in his mid-thirties he leaves behind his government post, donates his property to charity, and sets out to establish Benedictine monasteries. Later he becomes a cloistered monk himself. In 579 he is appointed papal ambassador to Constantinople, where he becomes embroiled in a theological controversy.

Gregory (at this time only a deacon) confronts Eutychius, the patriarch of the city, who argues against the bodily resurrection of believers, while Gregory insists that just as Christ's physical body was raised from the dead so also would the bodies of his followers be raised. Eutychius' treatise is condemned and burned. Gregory returns to Rome to serve as abbot of St. Andrew's monastery before he is elevated to the papacy in 590. For nearly a century the church has not demonstrated strong leadership in the West, but Gregory quickly consolidates his power. A self-described "servant of the servants of God," he defends his absolute authority over the church.

During his fourteen-year reign as pope, Gregory serves virtually as head of state during wartime, overseeing welfare for refugees and others displaced by hostilities. But he is primarily a preacher who speaks with urgency, convinced that he is living in the end times. At the same time, he seeks to bring solemnity to public worship, establishing a training school for church musicians. The hauntingly beautiful Gregorian chants date to this period, as do standard liturgies of scripture readings and prayers for each Sunday of the year.

Pastoral care is also one of his passions. He writes Liber Regulae Pastoralis (Book of Pastoral Rule) in response to questions on the topic, using the symbols wine and oil offered by the Good Samaritan to denote the balance between discipline and compassion.

Gregory also plays a major role in theological matters, particularly in advancing the concept of purgatory, with its corresponding merit of the saints, particularly those who were miracle workers. His Dialogues, filled with miracle stories, ranks high as popular devotional literature for more than a thousand years. One story that Gregory reports in his Dialogues goes to the heart of his belief in purgatory. Justus, a monk at his monastery who has earlier stowed away money, dies repentant of this sin. However, Gregory, concerned for his soul, offers a month of Masses for him. On the thirtieth day, a visionary Justus appears to another monk, announcing that he has been freed from the flames of purgatory. These thirty Masses are believed to be so effective that the practice — known as "Gregorian Masses" — continues for centuries, particularly in Benedictine monasteries.

Even as barbarians plunder Italy and neighboring regions, Gregory is setting the stage for medieval missionary outreach. In 596 he commissions Augustine, the prior of St. Anthony in Rome, and forty monks to serve as missionaries in Britain. It is a dangerous mission, and before they arrive at the destination Augustine has second thoughts and turns back to Rome. But when word reaches Gregory, he orders them to turn around and carry on with their journey. On Christmas 597, soon after they arrive, Augustine baptizes ten thousand people. The mass baptism, remembered as the "Miracle of Canterbury," paves the way for the reestablishment of the church in that region. Gregory's concern for this mission venture is evident:

The heathen temples of these people need not be destroyed, only the idols which are to be found in them. . . . If the temples are well-built, it is a good idea to detach them from the service of the devil, and to adapt them for the worship of the true God.

Gregory later promotes Augustine to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury. Augustine dies in 604, just months after the death of Gregory. Their combined efforts leave the church in this region on a solid foundation.

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


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.



The New and Living Way

Matthew 27:51 "And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split" (v. 51).

Though Jesus appeared to be at the mercy of the Roman soldiers throughout His crucifixion, what happened at the moment of His death indicates that He was in control all along. Matthew says Jesus "yielded up his spirit" (27:50), informing us that it is our Savior who gave His life over; He decided His hour of death, not His captors. God the Son determined the course of His messianic work, which at this point was radical obedience, even unto death on a cross. Note also that God directly intervened in the events with the tearing of the temple curtain ( v. 51). Matthew tells us the curtain "was torn," a passive construction indicating that someone acted upon the curtain to divide it, namely, God.

The tearing of the curtain has great theological significance. There were actually two curtains in the temple. One separated the Holy Place, into which only priests could enter, from the courtyard (Ex. 26:36 ). This curtain was visible to Jewish men in the courtyard, and the tearing of it would foreshadow the visible destruction of the temple in AD 70. A heavenly scene was embroidered onto this curtain in Jesus' day, and the rending of it would have resembled the splitting of heaven - fitting as the death of Jesus inaugurated the last days (Heb. 1:2) that are also characterized by the shaking of heaven (Isa. 64; Matt. 24:29).

Yet the curtain to which Matthew refers is probably the one that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, that area that housed the ark of the covenant (Ex. 26:33-34). Only the high priest could go beyond this curtain and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16 ). The rending of this veil means that access into the presence of God is no longer limited to the high priest; in the era after Christ's death, all believers may boldly come before the Almighty's throne. Animal sacrifice is no longer the means by which sin is atoned, for with the tearing of the curtain there is no longer any need to sprinkle the blood of bulls and goats in the Most Holy Place. Indeed, Jesus in His death opened up "the new and living way" through the curtain of His flesh (Heb. 10:19-20 ). The splitting of the temple curtain reveals that access to the Father is possible only through the atoning death of His Son (John 14:6;Heb. 6:19-20).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

It actually does not matter much which curtain was torn, for the tearing of either one can incorporate the meaning of the tearing of the other. Clearly, with the death of Jesus a cataclysmic change happened in the way we approach the Father, as well as with God's relationship to the temple. It was, John Calvin writes, "an opening of heaven, that God may now invite the members of his Son to approach him with familiarity." Let us approach Him in prayer this day.

For further study:

Amos 8:7-9

The Bible in a year:

Micah 4-5

For the weekend:

Micah 6-Nahum 3

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.




Welcome to week 3 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 10-6:

10. O Come O Come Emmanuel


Read the history

Read the lyrics

9. O Little Town of Bethlehem


Read the history

8. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing


Read the history

Read the lyrics

7. What Child Is This?


Read the history

Read the lyrics

6. Little Drummer Boy


Read the history




O Come All Ye Faithful

Hymn Story:

The original four verses of "O Come All Ye Faithful" were discovered in an eighteenth century Jacobean manuscript with John Francis Wade's signature. At one time historians believed that Wade had simply discovered an ancient hymn by an unknown author, possibly St. Bonaventura, a thirteenth century Italian scholar. Further examination, however, has led many to believe that Wade wrote both the words and music of this hymn himself.

Wade, a Catholic who sympathized with the Jacobite cause in England, created several masses that promoted the return of exiled Catholics to the country of England. Interestingly, the "Jacobite manuscript" including an original copy of "O Come All Ye Faithful," was one such mass. Printed in the margins of the song, Wade had called on faithful Jacobites to come together and rally against the English throne.

Though most songbooks include only four verses to this hymn, four other verses exist, three of them possibly written by Abbe' Etienne Jean Francois Borderies in 1794. One other verse has been discovered, but its origins are unknown.

As exiled Catholics returned to England, they took Wade's hymn with them. And in 1841, the words were translated into English. A copy of Wade's hymn was also sent to the Portuguese chapel in London, where the Duke of Leeds heard it and introduced it to a group of concert singers he conducted. From there it circled the globe, becoming one of our most well loved Christmas hymns.


Pilgrimage played an important role in ancient Jewish faith, with Jews traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover each spring. In fact, our only glimpse of Jesus' childhood occurs during a pilgrimage-when the twelve-year-old Messiah visited the temple during a Passover visit to Jerusalem.

As Christians in the twenty-first century, we don't speak much of pilgrimage today. Yet in the advent season, and all through the year, we're invited to take a religious journey-to reflect on the miracle of God becoming man, and to recommit ourselves to following him.

During this Christmas season, many will sing the famous words of "O Come, All Ye Faithful." In churches across the globe, millions will join in the words, "O come let us adore him," celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Yet how many will really trust in Jesus and follow him day by day? How many will be faithful in every aspect of their lives? How many will adore him through their words and actions-at work, at home, on the road, and at the mall?

As you make plans to journey to loved ones this holiday season, think about your faith journey as well. Where has your faith been lately? And where do you want it to go? In this advent season, God still bids you to "Come." And when you respond with a heart that responds to his call, you'll be bringing the Christ-child your sweetest adoration of all.


Lyricist: Latin Hymn, attr. to John Francis Wade Lyrics Date: 1751 Translator: Frederick Oakeley, 1841 Translator: William Thomas Brooke, 1884 Key: G Theme: Christmas Composer: John Stainer Music Date: 1887 Tune Name: WYCLIFF Meter: Scripture: Romans 12:1,2

Copyright © 2011 Center for Church Music


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



The New and Living Way

Matthew 27:51

It actually does not matter much which curtain was torn, for the tearing of either one can incorporate the meaning of the tearing of the other. Clearly, with the death of Jesus a cataclysmic change happened in the way we approach the Father, as well as with God's relationship to the temple. It was, John Calvin writes, "an opening of heaven, that God may now invite the members of his Son to approach him with familiarity." Let us approach Him in prayer this day.

For further study:

Amos 8:7-9

The Bible in a year:

Micah 4-5

For the weekend:

Micah 6-Nahum 3

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.



He Is - A Creative Communicator

Numbers 22:21-35

Balaam was riding a donkey on a mission that displeased God. But God used the donkey to warn Balaam against his folly. In the natural world, donkeys are stubborn animals known for their loud bray. In the supernatural world, God can use even a donkey to speak to obstinate people.

If you are stubbornly set in your ways, don't be surprised when God shows you that he is a creative communicator. He may not speak through an animal, but he can get his message across using people, events-even pop culture. God has amazingly creative ways to get your attention.



True Identity: The Bible for Women
by Zondervan

The Bible that helps you see yourself as God sees you! Find your true identity in Christ through your relationship with him.

A Christmas Devotional


And he will be called...Mighty God. - Isaiah 9:6

In the Old Testament, some of the prophecies about Christ are mysterious statements. They were so bold and so large that they were treasured through the generations, until they were fulfilled and finally understood. Isaiah's oracle about a son who would be born-Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, and all the rest-was one of those landmark prophecies. In that moment of inspiration, Isaiah revealed he would be Mighty God.

After Jesus' life, death, resurrection and ascension, his followers would piece together what he said and did, and conclude that Jesus really was one with God the Father in a way that is appropriate to call him divine. The doctrine of the Trinity would be defined later, but in Isaiah's prophesy about the coming one are the seeds of this truth.

In the Jewish tradition, nothing was more important than belief in the "oneness" of God. Not two gods, not a thousand gods, but one and only one God. So what could happen when, in Bethlehem itself, Magi from the east came bearing gifts fit for a king, but who also worshipped him? Why did Jesus allow fishermen in a boat worship him after he calmed a storm? Or Mary falling at Jesus' feet in worship in the garden after his resurrection? Or the disciple Thomas falling at his feet, saying, "My Lord and my God?"

Nobody at the start of Jesus' life, nor during his adult ministry, even hinted at anything suggesting there is more than one God. But because of who God is; because God is higher than human comprehension; because God said "us" from the very beginning: "Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1:26); because the coming one would be called Immanuel, "God with us," (Matt. 1:22-23) we can believe that Christmas represents the true entry of God into human affairs. The same God who created humanity, took humanity on himself when it suited his purposes-to save that same humanity. The God who created the world, entered it through a human birth in the town of Bethlehem.

Not any kind of god would do that. Only the one, true, Mighty God.

Prayer for Today:

Lord I believe you are mighty. I believe you can do whatever you wish. I believe you came in the flesh in Jesus.



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.

FRB-Christmas-Story-BookCover-SmallReading 11: The Birth of John the Baptist

Zechariah and Elizabeth became the parents of John, just as the angel Gabriel had told Zechariah. Their son became the prophet who later announced the great news of the Messiah to the people of Israel and prepared them for Jesus’ coming.

Luke 1:57-80
The Birth of John the Baptist
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

Zechariah’s Song
67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come and has redeemed his people.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us--
72 to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Further Study

  1. What name did the people want Elizabeth to give her son? Why? (v. 59)
  2. How was the baby’s name finally chosen? (v. 63)
  3. What happened to Zechariah when he wrote down the baby’s name? (v. 64)
  1. Names were very important during Bible times. They often told what the child meant to the parents or described who he or she would become. Why did your parents give you the name you have? Discuss the names of the people in your family and what they mean.
  2. What do you suppose the people were actually saying when they were “talking about all these things” (v. 65)? What would you have talked about if you had heard something like this?

This story shows how much God loves us. He made sure that everything was ready for Jesus’ birth by sending a messenger, John. God kept every promise he made and did the “impossible” to make it all happen just as he had said.


1:60 In Bible times, the mother often named a child. In the Old Testament, Leah, Rachel and Hannah named their children. A few times, someone else named a child: Pharaoh’s daughter named Moses and the village women named Ruth’s child Obed. Occasionally the father named a child or changed the name after the mother had selected one. That’s why the people asked Zechariah what name he wanted for his son. He confirmed that the name of his son was John.


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

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Ready for Christmas
by Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 3:2 NIV)

Friend to Friend

It seems like everywhere you go during the month of December people ask the same question. At the grocery checkout counter--"Are you ready for Christmas?" At the bank drive through window--"Are you ready for Christmas?" At the doctor's office--"Are you ready for Christmas?"

I think the answer to that question depends on how you define "ready." Let me ask you this question: "Are you ready for Jesus?" Now that puts the idea of being ready in a whole different Christmas light, doesn't it?

John the Baptist was sent by God to get the people ready to meet Jesus. Here's what Matthew had to say about him:

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

"A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight paths for him.'"...

"People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River." (Matthew 3:1-3, 5-6).

We don't like the words "repent" or "repentance" very much. They mean "to make a radical change in one's life, to turn and go in the opposite direction from sin (another word we're not too fond of today) to God." Repentance involves an element of grief over the way we have lived apart from God and a decision to run toward the Father. That was God's idea of the way to prepare for Christ's arrival in the book of Matthew, and it is still God's idea of preparing to worship Him today.

Let's reflect for a moment on the words to this poem and then answer the question, "Are you ready for Christmas?"

"Ready for Christmas," she said with a sigh
As she gave a last touch to the gifts piled high...
Then wearily sat for a moment AND READ
Til soon, very soon, she was nodding her head.
Then quietly spoke a voice in her dream,
"Ready for Christmas, what do you mean?"
She woke with a start and a cry of despair.
"There's so little time and I've still to prepare.
Oh, Father! Forgive me, I see what You mean!
Yes, more than the giving of gifts and a tree.
It's the heart swept clean that He wanted to see,
A heart that is free from bitterness and sin.
So be ready for Christmas - and ready for Him.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, I want to be ready for Jesus today and everyday. I come to You now in repentance for my sins: my sin of selfishness, stubbornness, and rebellion. I turn from my self-centeredness today and commit to keep my focus on You. God, I cannot do this on my own. I am not able. So I ask that you fill me with the power of Your Holy Spirit Who empowers me to obey. Thank You that You have given me every thing I need for a life of godliness and truth. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. In Jesus' name, amen.

Now It's Your Turn

What do you think it means to be "ready for Christmas?"

What do you think it means to be ready for Jesus?

Go back and read the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. Notice the difference between the five who were ready and the five who were not. Which group more resembles your readiness for Christ?

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.


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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