Saturday, December 24, 2011

Daily Devotional Saturday 24th December

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”” Luke 2:11-14 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Friend, go up higher."
Luke 14:10

When first the life of grace begins in the soul, we do indeed draw near to God, but it is with great fear and trembling. The soul conscious of guilt, and humbled thereby, is overawed with the solemnity of its position; it is cast to the earth by a sense of the grandeur of Jehovah, in whose presence it stands. With unfeigned bashfulness it takes the lowest room.

But, in after life, as the Christian grows in grace, although he will never forget the solemnity of his position, and will never lose that holy awe which must encompass a gracious man when he is in the presence of the God who can create or can destroy; yet his fear has all its terror taken out of it; it becomes a holy reverence, and no more an overshadowing dread. He is called up higher, to greater access to God in Christ Jesus. Then the man of God, walking amid the splendours of Deity, and veiling his face like the glorious cherubim, with those twin wings, the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, will, reverent and bowed in spirit, approach the throne; and seeing there a God of love, of goodness, and of mercy, he will realize rather the covenant character of God than his absolute Deity. He will see in God rather his goodness than his greatness, and more of his love than of his majesty. Then will the soul, bowing still as humbly as aforetime, enjoy a more sacred liberty of intercession; for while prostrate before the glory of the Infinite God, it will be sustained by the refreshing consciousness of being in the presence of boundless mercy and infinite love, and by the realization of acceptance "in the Beloved." Thus the believer is bidden to come up higher, and is enabled to exercise the privilege of rejoicing in God, and drawing near to him in holy confidence, saying, "Abba, Father."

"So may we go from strength to strength,

And daily grow in grace,

Till in thine image raised at length,

We see thee face to face."

Evening

"The night also is thine."
Psalm 74:16

Yes, Lord, thou dost not abdicate thy throne when the sun goeth down, nor dost thou leave the world all through these long wintry nights to be the prey of evil; thine eyes watch us as the stars, and thine arms surround us as the zodiac belts the sky. The dews of kindly sleep and all the influences of the moon are in thy hand, and the alarms and solemnities of night are equally with thee. This is very sweet to me when watching through the midnight hours, or tossing to and fro in anguish. There are precious fruits put forth by the moon as well as by the sun: may my Lord make me to be a favoured partaker in them.

The night of affliction is as much under the arrangement and control of the Lord of Love as the bright summer days when all is bliss. Jesus is in the tempest. His love wraps the night about itself as a mantle, but to the eye of faith the sable robe is scarce a disguise. From the first watch of the night even unto the break of day the eternal Watcher observes his saints, and overrules the shades and dews of midnight for his people's highest good. We believe in no rival deities of good and evil contending for the mastery, but we hear the voice of Jehovah saying, "I create light and I create darkness; I, the Lord, do all these things."

Gloomy seasons of religious indifference and social sin are not exempted from the divine purpose. When the altars of truth are defiled, and the ways of God forsaken, the Lord's servants weep with bitter sorrow, but they may not despair, for the darkest eras are governed by the Lord, and shall come to their end at his bidding. What may seem defeat to us may be victory to him.

"Though enwrapt in gloomy night,

We perceive no ray of light;

Since the Lord himself is here,

'Tis not meet that we should fear."

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Today's reading: Nahum 1-3, Revelation 14 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Nahum 1-3

1 A prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

The LORD’s Anger Against Nineveh

2 The LORD is a jealous and avenging God;
the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The LORD takes vengeance on his foes
and vents his wrath against his enemies.
3 The LORD is slow to anger but great in power;
the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
and clouds are the dust of his feet.
4 He rebukes the sea and dries it up;
he makes all the rivers run dry.
Bashan and Carmel wither
and the blossoms of Lebanon fade.
5 The mountains quake before him
and the hills melt away.
The earth trembles at his presence,
the world and all who live in it.
6 Who can withstand his indignation?
Who can endure his fierce anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire;
the rocks are shattered before him....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 14

The Lamb and the 144,000

1 Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 5 No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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Ahio [Ăhī'ō]—fraternal or his brother.

  1. A son of Abinadab and brother of Uzzah. It was in Abinadab’s house that the Ark of God rested for twenty years after its return by the Philistines (2 Sam. 6:3, 4; 1 Chron. 13:7).
  2. A son of Elpaal, a Benjamite (1 Chron. 8:14).
  3. A son of Jehiel by his wife Maachah and an ancestor of Saul (1 Chron. 8:31; 9:37).
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Risen from the Dead

Matthew 28:1-10

The resurrection, besides providing for our justification and paving the way for the future resurrection, proves the God of the Old Testament is the one, true God, that Christ is His Son and Savior, and that in Him we have power over sin (James Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2, p. 642). Take some time today to meditate on the significance of the resurrection and praise the Father that we who trust Jesus will likewise be raised.

For further study:

Hosea 6:1-2

The Bible in a year:

Zechariah 4-6

For the weekend:

Zechariah 7-12

Coram Deo from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living.

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Welcome to week 4 of our Top 20 Countdown of Christmas Music!

We asked our visitors what their favorite Christmas songs were and compiled the results. This is our final week. Thanks for joining us! Read on for numbers 1-5:

5. O Come All Ye Faithful

Ocomeallyefaithful

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4. Mary Did You Know

Marydidyouknow

Read the history

3. Joy to the World

Joytotheworld

Read the history

Read the lyrics

2. Silent Night

SilentNight

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Read the lyrics

1. O Holy Night

Oholynight

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Read the lyrics


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December 23, 2011

Let's Adore Him

Gwen Smith

Today's Truth

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 and of incense and of myrrh (Matthew 2:11 NIV).

Friend to Friend

O come, all ye faithful,

Come everyone! Come sinners! Come saints!

Come if you're tired, hungry, lonely, or faint!

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:28-31).

Joyful and triumphant;

Come with rejoicing! Come celebrate!

We worship the One who is mighty and great!

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4).

O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem!

Come home-school mom! Come business pro! Come friend, wife, sister, and daughter!

Let's bow down low and worship Him. Praise Son, Holy Spirit, and Father!

"Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).

Come and behold Him - born the King of Angels!

Behold His majesty! Behold the matchless King!

Behold the holy One! Behold the saving Son!

He is the One deserving praise.

He is the Lord of night and day.

He is the God who reigns on high.

He is our holy Adonai.

"The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29 NASB).

O come, let us adore Him

O come, let us adore Him

O come, let us adore Him - Christ the Lord!

Let's Pray

Lord Jesus, Words can't begin to express the gratefulness in my heart as I pause to adore You! Thank you for putting on a garment of humanity to rescue me from my sin. You are holy and righteous and worthy of my praise. I bow before you today in humble adoration. I love You, Jesus and pray in Your name. Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Sing to the King! Pause to sing this song of worship (either out loud or in your soul) to our deserving Lord and connect with Him in spirit and in truth. I'll start: "O come, all ye faithful..."

Make a list of 12 reasons that Jesus is worthy of your adoration.

LISTEN to this song, Holy Adonai, which is posted on my facebook page today. (www.facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic) as a final heart-focused portion of our time together. Adore Him!

More from the Girlfriends

NEED HEALING for some heart wounds? Got a friend going through a difficult time? Gwen's book, Broken Into Beautiful,takes the reader by the hand and shows her how God delights to transform lives. To order the book, go to Amazon or visit Gwen's website: http://www.gwensmith.net/.

Connect with Gwen on her facebook page!www.facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic

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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Sharon Glasgow

December 23, 2011

The Rich Home
Sharon Glasgow

"Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions." I Kings 10:1 (NKJ)

The Queen of Sheba was wealthy and beautiful. She had everything a queen could want - gold, silver, ivory, precious jewels and servants taking care of all her needs.

Well, almost everything.

She'd heard about the famous King Solomon and his miraculous God. Even though her people had many gods to worship, none intrigued her like the Lord God of Israel. Her heart was so moved by His Name she traveled 1,400 miles across the desert sands of Arabia to visit King Solomon, a man who knew this God personally.

Camels can travel around 20 miles a day, so the trip would take her six months each way. She brought a great caravan of servants, loads of spices, gold and unusual woods to give as gifts to Solomon. Her heart and soul longed for riches she did not have, and she sensed they would be discovered through him.

When she finally arrived, she stood before the grandest palace she had laid eyes on. But her purpose wasn't to see the most beautiful archeological place ever built, it was to find a secret treasure.

Scripture tells us she talked to Solomon for hours, asking him deep questions about God. Based on her response, she found what she had longed for and declared, "Blessed be the LORD your God" (1 Kings 10:9a NKJ).

The Queen of Sheba took great pains to find wisdom, yet the wisdom available to her at that time was the lesser wisdom of a man. Even so, Jesus mentions the Queen inMatthew 12:42 and honors her desire for His wisdom.

The wisdom we have access to through Jesus far outshines Solomon's. If the Queen of Sheba would travel six months to find truth, how much more should we search for wisdom by opening our Bibles and hearts to Him in prayer?

When people travel to our home this week, it will not be the seasonal décor or cleanliness that will ultimately impress them. It won't be a perfectly sculpted yard or a new car in the garage. It will be spiritual insight and the presence of grace they will be drawn to - through the Holy Spirit living in us. When we share the love of our God with them they will have visited a wealthy home.

As rich as Queen Sheba or King Solomon's palaces.

Our home is where our heart is, and our heart is Christ's home - a dwelling place for the Lord. Let's be sure to spend time with Him this week so we can be filled with love and prepared with wisdom to offer our guests. May those who enter our homes this Christmas, and in the New Year to come, find treasures that people have traveled the whole earth in search of!

Dear Lord, I want every person who walks into my home to find the riches that only You can deliver. Help me to be a conduit for Your wisdom and love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Sharing Grace - Family Traditions - Gift ideas (e-Book) by LeAnn Rice

It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know by Rachel Olsen

All Things Wise and Wonderful: Applying God's Wisdom in Everyday Life (e-Book) by Wendy Blight

Application Steps:
God freely gives spiritual wisdom to those who ask for it. Seek God's wisdom through prayer and the Bible. Ask Him to help you remember all that you learn from Him, and to live it this week.

Reflections:
Do I spend more time fussing over the outward beauty of my home than the inward beauty of my soul?

Can I recall time spent in the home of a gracious, godly person? Do I remember the richness felt there?

Power Verses:
James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." (NKJ)

© 2011 by Danita Dalton Hiles. All rights reserved.

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

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Risen from the Dead

Matthew 28:1-10 "The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay ( vv. 5-6).

If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Cor. 15:14). No event is more critical to Christianity than our Lord's resurrection; its historicity is the fact upon which our faith stands or falls.

Like the other gospels but unlike the epistles, Matthew offers little theological commentary in his resurrection account. Also, he does not report everything that happened from the time the women came to the tomb to Jesus' ascension. The other three evangelists likewise recount only some of what transpired during that momentous period, selecting the details important for their audiences. Comparing the four accounts gives us a fuller picture of all that occurred. In any case, the resurrection is historically well-attested. Besides the evidence in the Gospels, Paul records Jesus' appearances to five hundred people at once, James, and himself ( 1 Cor. 15:6-8). There are also veiled references to our Lord's resurrection in rabbinic sources that go back to the first century.

Matthew tells us the angel used an earthquake to remove the stone covering Jesus' tomb (Matt. 28:2 ). Since Christ left the tomb before the stone was rolled away, this was not to let Him out of the grave but to let the women see the empty tomb. Jesus is not risen as a ghost or spirit; the women grasp His feet, revealing that His physical flesh has been raised (Matt. 28:9). That Christ's physical body is resurrected indicates matter is not inherently evil and that our eternal state will not be that of a disembodied spirit. Like Jesus, our bodies too will be raised on the last day in our glorification, and the physical world will once again be "very good" and untainted by evil ( 1 Cor. 15:35-58).

Having been "delivered up for our trespasses," Jesus was "raised for our justification" (Rom. 4:23-25 ). Raising His Son from the dead, the Father signified His acceptance of Jesus' atonement for the sins of His people, proving that all who trust in Christ alone have their sins covered by the righteousness of Jesus and are reconciled to God. John Calvin comments, "The lively assurance of our reconciliation with God arises from Christ having come from hell as the conqueror of death" with "the power of a new life at his disposal."

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

The resurrection, besides providing for our justification and paving the way for the future resurrection, proves the God of the Old Testament is the one, true God, that Christ is His Son and Savior, and that in Him we have power over sin (James Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2, p. 642). Take some time today to meditate on the significance of the resurrection and praise the Father that we who trust Jesus will likewise be raised.

For further study:

Hosea 6:1-2

The Bible in a year:

Zechariah 4-6

For the weekend:

Zechariah 7-12

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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St. Patrick: A Legendary Life

Quote: "The Lord opened the understanding of my unbelief, that, late as it was, I might remember my faults and turn to the Lord my God with all my heart."

art_05_02_patrick

Growing out of the ministry of Celtic monks in Britain is the work of an illustrious missionary to Ireland. Patrick (c. 389 – 461) is a much-celebrated saint, though his actual identity is shrouded in legend. Indeed, historians have for centuries wondered if there were actually two individuals (Pelladius and Patrick) melded into one. The first of these individuals is thought to have died in 461, and the second in 493. History is not always an exact science, and the story of St. Patrick is too good to be set aside for want of solid data. So Patrick and his double become one, and we recognize that hagiography and biography are often blended.

Patrick is born in Britain into a Celtic Christian family of clerics — his father a deacon and his grandfather a priest. Kidnapped by a band of Irish plunderers when still a youth, Patrick is sold into slavery. For six long years he herds swine and seeks God. During this time he is convinced that he hears the voice of God telling him that a ship is waiting to take him home. He escapes and journeys to a port where he works aboard ship for his passage home. Now a free man, he finds refuge in a monastery and then returns to his home. There God speaks in a vision:

I saw a man named Victoricus, coming as if from Ireland, with innumerable letters; and he gave me one of these, and . . . while I was reading out the beginning of the letter, I thought that at that very moment I heard the voice of those who were beside the wood of Focluth, near the western sea; and this is what they called out: "Please, holy boy, come and walk among us again." Their cry pierced to my very heart, and I could read no more; and so I awoke.

For Patrick the vision is God's call, but the clerics are not convinced. In spite of one delay after another, however, he finally arrives back in Ireland in 432, now past the age of forty. His mission field is isolated and hostile, beyond the borders of the empire. There are scattered Christian communities, but his encounters are primarily with pagans who have no desire to turn away from their traditional ways of worship. They revere the sun and wind and fire and rocks, a worldview that finds magic and spirits everywhere in nature. The druid priests mount strong opposition, but Patrick eventually prevails. He trumps their magic with magic (or miracles) of his own, causing some historians to wonder if Patrick might have been the mightiest druid of them all.

In the years that follow, Patrick impresses political leaders and makes alliances that promote church growth. Within fifteen years much of Ireland is reportedly evangelized. His missionary story features perilous journeys, life-threatening opposition, kidnapping, and captivity. After some thirty years of ministry, he laments: "I fear to lose the labor which I began" lest God "would note me as guilty."

The evangelization of Ireland by Patrick and others is a venture conducted primarily by the Celtic church, as opposed to the Roman church. One of the most noted of the Celtic abbot-missionaries is Columba, who, with twelve clerics to serve under him, establishes his headquarters just off the coast of Scotland on Iona, a small barren, foggy island, battered year-round by pounding waves. Here he sets forth a monastic life of prayer, fasting, meditation, Bible study, manual labor, and training for evangelists who are then commissioned to preach, build churches, and establish more monasteries.

Although Gregory I is credited with initiating the conversion of Europe through missionary and military undertakings, the work of Patrick, Columba, and others is also an important piece of the puzzle. Indeed, this is an era when missionary ventures spurred by monastic expansion begin in earnest.


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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Advent-Header-2011
Silent Night
by Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

Friend to Friend

Tomorrow is Christmas Day. I imagine if you're like most of us, you are still scurrying about with last minute Christmas preparations. What do you think the angels were doing on that first Christmas Eve? Do you think the heavenly host had one last choir practice before their concert on the hillside? Do you think God was making sure that everyone was in their proper places on the kingdom stage before the curtain rose on the grandest drama of all time? Do you think the Holy Spirit was hovering low over the entire world, stirring the hearts of men and women to receive the greatest gift of all?

I'm not sure what was happening in the heavenly realm the night before Jesus was born. But I do know that my heart is aglow with the joy that tomorrow we celebrate Jesus' birth once again.

Perhaps you have sung Christmas carols hundreds of times in your life, but today, I encourage you to pause and read the words to one of my favorites as if you are seeing them for the first time. Read slowly. Ponder the words. "Glories stream from heaven afar"...picture it. "With the dawn of redeeming grace"... savor it. "Christ the Savior it born"... celebrate it.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm all is bright
'Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia
Christ the Savior is born
Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Let's Pray

Dear Heavenly Father, my heart quietly waits in anticipation of the grand celebration that tomorrow brings. Thank You for the gift of Your Son. Thank You for redeeming grace.

Today's Advent reading is from the Girlfriends in Goddevotional ministry.
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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 18: God's Great Gift of Love

A Pharisee named Nicodemus came at night to ask Jesus who he was. Jesus told Nicodemus why he had come from God and what he was sent to do. Then Jesus told Nicodemus that Nicodemus would have to be “born again” of the Spirit. In a few sentences, Jesus summed up the Good News.


John 3:1-21
Jesus Teaches Nicodemus
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Further Study

JUST THE FACTS
  1. What do people have to do in order to have eternal life? (v. 16)
  2. Why did God send his Son into the world? (v. 17)
  3. Why do people love the darkness more than the light? (vv. 19 - 20)
LET’S TALK
  1. Verse 16 tells us what people have to do to have eternal life. What does it mean to “believe”? Why is this Good News so difficult for some people to understand?
  2. What do we have to do to live by “the truth”? (v. 21)
  3. What does living by the truth look like?
WHY THIS MATTERS

The reason Jesus came to earth, lived and taught among people, and died for our sins is because “God so loved the world” (v. 16). Jesus is God’s great gift of love to each and every one of us.

POINTS OF INTEREST

3:14 When Jesus talked about Moses lifting up the snake in the desert, he was referring to the time the Israelites complained about the food God had provided for them. God sent poisonous snakes into the camp to punish the people. Some people were saved from death by looking up at a bronze snake that God had told Moses to make and place on a pole.
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The Family Reading Bible

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A Christmas Devotional

BEGINNING

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. - 1 John 1:1-2

Beginning. The Beginning. How much we all want to know about the beginning of all things, in order to understand the now of all things, and to pursue the way things are supposed to be in our lives today. The original design must be the ideal, the way things ought to be. The Bible's opening words: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth," delineate between a time in which there was only God, and a new time in which his magnificent creation began (Gen. 1:1).

The opening words of the Gospel of John place the Son of God right there-at the beginning: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).

Unlike any other birth, the birth of Jesus was not the beginning of a new life. Rather, one who was there in The Beginning, appeared among his creation through his birth. "The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us" (1 John 1:1-2). This appearance was no dream or vision or apparition, it was an extended visitation, a flood of revelation, an appearance of the Everlasting in terrestrial form, a real life.

"The life appeared." It was heard; it was seen; it was felt. Bethlehem was not the beginning of the life of Christ, and that's why his life can change our lives. Jesus said: "Before Abraham was born, I AM."

"I AM": I always was, I am now, and I will always be. That is why he can connect us with our original purpose.

God reached out to the human race in a new way in Bethlehem. Whereas in the past God spoke through the words of prophets, a new channel of God's communication was opened in Bethlehem. God "has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word" (Heb. 1:2-3).

So Christmas is about the good beginning (Genesis 1), and it is about the rescue of the now (John 1). That means that Jesus will help us regain everything that a human life was supposed to be in the first place-a real relationship with God, real wisdom, real character, real virtue. He intends to restore the image of God in our humanness.

Prayer for today:

Lord, I acknowledge that you are the only one who can begin something new in my life. Thank you for the appearance of Jesus, "the life." Help me to be a true disciple.

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About The Author - Mel Lawrenz serves as minister at large for Elmbrook Church and leads The Brook Network. Having been in pastoral ministry for thirty years, the last decade as senior pastor of Elmbrook, Mel seeks to help Christian leaders engage with each other. Mel is the author of eleven books, the most recent for church leaders, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement.
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Myth: “If I’m a good Christian, then nothing bad will happen to me.”

Genesis 50:20

This isn't what I asked for, thank you. I want my old life back.

The one where my parents were the perfect couple. Where I was the only one among my friends whose parents were still together. And seemingly still in love.

The one where I was voted most likely to succeed and everyone, right or wrong, envied my life because it seemed so perfect. And I believed it was.

I want to go back to the times when I knew You were involved in my life. The ones where I prayed and You answered. I talked to You, and You listened. The times when I knew You were alive. Loving. And on my side.

I want the life where all I had to do was show up for class, and I got good grades. Name a job opening, and I landed it squarely. Speak my needs, and my husband moved heaven and earth to meet them.

That ... that's what I want.

This ... that I have right now ... You can take this all away.

This split in my perfect family that I didn't ask for, and this side of my parents' relationship I never knew.

This embarrassment of being a college graduate and yet unemployed. The shame of being "let go" from my first real job-the one I e-mailed everyone about and was so confident I'd be successful in.

This heaviness of heart from knowing that I can't make my husband love me. This crushing realization that he may leave me for someone else someday. This fear of being divorced before I'm 30 years old.

This stagnant spirituality that barely gets me by. And makes me question all I've known up to this point.

This can all go. Because this isn't what I asked for when I first came to You. I want life the way it was supposed to be.

-Teresa

If we believe a true Christian ought not to experience adversity, then the moment our lives fall apart, so does our faith. We begin to question a fundamental issue: "Am I really a Christian? After all, if I were really following God, then this wouldn't happen to me."

Following this line of false thinking, we perceive adversity as God's punishment for unknown sin. As if God is dropping hints from heaven with every tragedy or that he has deserted us somewhere along the way. How easy it would have been for Joseph to question his belief in God and to assume God was punishing him with every misfortune (see Genesis 37; 39-40). Instead, the Bible records his remarkably opposite attitude of faith.

Similarly, we can look to Jesus as the ultimate example to debunk the idea that bad things do not happen to good people. Isaiah prophesied centuries before that the Messiah would be "despised and rejected" and well-acquainted with sorrows (Isaiah 53:3). If Jesus' life is the Christian ideal, an example in every way, then we must accept Jesus' suffering as a part of God's divine impartiality and learn how Jesus handled it. If we were to believe the claims that adversity is unfitting for a believer, then we must discount the examples of Moses, Hannah, Naomi, David, Job, Hosea, Jeremiah, Paul, Mary, John and countless others who experienced great adversity as believers.

The Bible is, above all, realistic in its approach to life. Life sometimes hurts and threatens to crush us beneath its weight. But life in the Spirit is about perseverance and peace in the midst of struggle, not the absence of struggle. To believe otherwise is to join the disillusioned throng who encounter life on its own terms and are unprepared for the blow.

"The deepest level of worship is praising God in spite of pain, thanking God during a trial, trusting him when tempted, surrendering while suffering, and loving him when he seems distant."

-Rick Warren

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."
Genesis 50:20

See also

Isaiah 53:3; Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 12:9
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