Sunday, December 11, 2011

Daily Devotional Sunday 11th December

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.”Deuteronomy 18:15 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"So shall we ever be with the Lord."
1 Thessalonians 4:17

Even the sweetest visits from Christ, how short they are--and how transitory! One moment our eyes see him, and we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, but again a little time and we do not see him, for our beloved withdraws himself from us; like a roe or a young hart he leaps over the mountains of division; he is gone to the land of spices, and feeds no more among the lilies.

"If today he deigns to bless us

With a sense of pardoned sin,

He to-morrow may distress us,

Make us feel the plague within."

Oh, how sweet the prospect of the time when we shall not behold him at a distance, but see him face to face: when he shall not be as a wayfaring man tarrying but for a night, but shall eternally enfold us in the bosom of his glory. We shall not see him for a little season, but

"Millions of years our wondering eyes,

Shall o'er our Saviour's beauties rove;

And myriad ages we'll adore,

The wonders of his love."

In heaven there shall be no interruptions from care or sin; no weeping shall dim our eyes; no earthly business shall distract our happy thoughts; we shall have nothing to hinder us from gazing forever on the Sun of Righteousness with unwearied eyes. Oh, if it be so sweet to see him now and then, how sweet to gaze on that blessed face for aye, and never have a cloud rolling between, and never have to turn one's eyes away to look on a world of weariness and woe! Blest day, when wilt thou dawn? Rise, O unsetting sun! The joys of sense may leave us as soon as they will, for this shall make glorious amends. If to die is but to enter into uninterrupted communion with Jesus, then death is indeed gain, and the black drop is swallowed up in a sea of victory.

Evening

"Whose heart the Lord opened."
Acts 16:14

In Lydia's conversion there are many points of interest. It was brought about by providential circumstances. She was a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, but just at the right time for hearing Paul we find her at Philippi; providence, which is the handmaid of grace, led her to the right spot. Again, grace was preparing her soul for the blessing--grace preparing for grace. She did not know the Saviour, but as a Jewess, she knew many truths which were excellent stepping-stones to a knowledge of Jesus. Her conversion took place in the use of the means. On the Sabbath she went when prayer was wont to be made, and there prayer was heard. Never neglect the means of grace; God may bless us when we are not in his house, but we have the greater reason to hope that he will when we are in communion with his saints. Observe the words, "Whose heart the Lord opened." She did not open her own heart. Her prayers did not do it; Paul did not do it. The Lord himself must open the heart, to receive the things which make for our peace. He alone can put the key into the hole of the door and open it, and get admittance for himself. He is the heart's master as he is the heart's maker. The first outward evidence of the opened heart was obedience. As soon as Lydia had believed in Jesus, she was baptized. It is a sweet sign of a humble and broken heart, when the child of God is willing to obey a command which is not essential to his salvation, which is not forced upon him by a selfish fear of condemnation, but is a simple act of obedience and of communion with his Master. The next evidence was love, manifesting itself in acts of grateful kindness to the apostles. Love to the saints has ever been a mark of the true convert. Those who do nothing for Christ or his church, give but sorry evidence of an "opened" heart. Lord, evermore give me an opened heart.

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Today's reading: Hosea 1-4, Revelation 1 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Hosea 1-4

1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel:

Hosea’s Wife and Children

2 When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.” 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

4 Then the LORD said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. 5 In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel....”

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 1

Prologue

1 The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

Greetings and Doxology

4 John,

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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FRB-Christmas-Story-BookCover-SmallReading 5: The Branch from Jesse

Sometimes after a tree is cut down, a new green shoot grows out of the stump. Jesse was King David’s father, so the “stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 1:1) was Isaiah’s way of referring to David’s family. When the nation of Israel was divided and eventually destroyed, it appeared that David’s family had died out. But God promised that a “shoot” would grow from it--a new leader would be born to give the nation hope.


Isaiah 11:1-10
The Branch From Jesse
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him--
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD--
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

Further Study

JUST THE FACTS

  1. What gifts would the Spirit give this “shoot” (v. 1) when the Spirit rested on him? (v. 2)
  2. What would the “shoot” wear as his belt? As his sash? (v. 5)
  3. What animals are mentioned in this reading? How will these animals someday behave? (vv. 6 – 9)

LET’S TALK

  1. Why do you think Isaiah talked about the Messiah’s coming by using words about growing things, like the “Branch” and the “shoot” (v. 1)? What sometimes happens when you cut off a plant that still has deep, living roots?
  2. What did Isaiah mean when he said, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat” (v. 6)? What would life be like if the world was that peaceful?

WHY THIS MATTERS

God gave his people hope. He taught them to look for the Messiah by telling them what he was going to do long before it happened. Just as Israel looked for the Messiah, we can hope and look forward to Jesus coming again to bring a time when there will be no more violence or cruelty.

POINTS OF INTEREST

11:8 The cobra and the viper are poisonous snakes. The cobra, which can grow to eight and a half feet long, was the deadly Egyptian cobra, used in Egypt as a religious symbol. It is usually found on the north and east coasts of Africa, with a variation of the species located in the Arabian Desert. The picture of a child calmly playing near these feared reptiles was a sure sign that the Messiah would change everything.

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A Christmas Devotional

CHRIST

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. -Luke 2:11

Some people think that "Christ" is Jesus' last name. Jesus Christ, like Joe Johnson or Audrey Smith. If you have thought that, don't feel bad. It is just evidence that over the centuries our understanding of Jesus as the Christ has become so solid in our thinking that we don't think of "Jesus" without "Christ."

Jesus is his name, Christ his title. Among all the titles he bears, Son of God, Son of Man, Good Shepherd, Alpha and Omega, it all begins in the gospel story with this one incredible announcement: "He is Christ the Lord." "Christos" in Greek, and thus, "Christ" in English; "Messiah" in Hebrew, which means "Anointed One."

But what is the meaning of "Anointed One"?

In the Old Testament, three kinds of people were anointed: kings, priests, and prophets. So when we hear "Christ," we should think of Jesus in each of those three roles. He is a king, ruling in people's lives not just because they are in his realm but also because he is in their hearts. He is a priest, one who stands between God and humanity-one who sacrifices; one who intercedes, the mediator, the bridge. And he is Prophet too. Prophets had brought the words of God to the people, but the Messiah is the Word of God to the people.

In those days, when the heavy hand of Caesar Augustus dominated the Holy Land, people were looking for the Anointed One to come. They were hoping for a large army, not a multitude of the heavenly host. They anticipated a bigger and better David, not the obscure rabbi who always seemed like an outsider when he visited Jerusalem. They probably expected an orator, but did not expect the speeches of this Messiah to leave people speechless.

The very best things God does in our lives usually come as a surprise to us. So wouldn't it be surprising if we, who think we know so much about Jesus, would be startled to see him in a whole new way. We picture him in a nativity set or as the subject of praise in hymns. We picture him in art, in stories. We experience him while reading the Bible, or while listening to a Sunday sermon. But we often fail to picture him as the living, breathing manifestation of God on earth. This, the angel said, was "good news of great joy." What could be better than God existing in the midst of our lives?

Prayer for Today:

Christ, you are the King above all other kings, the high priest who has made the ultimate sacrifice, the prophet who has had the last word. Let me be astonished this Christmas by knowing more fully than ever before, that you really have come and have changed this world, and are here still.

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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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Children of God

Today's reading: Jeremiah 50:6

The theme of mutual belonging between ourselves and God is repeated throughout both Testaments. When we search for joy, comfort and security outside this covenant relationship, we are setting our sights too low-infinitely so. We become afraid when we fail to fully understand or to internalize the reality of being treasured by God (see Dt 7:7-8). Jesus teaches us to concentrate on God's fatherly care: He both can and will provide for his own (see Mt 6:25-33). This knowledge-more certain than any guarantees from our government's most trusted agencies-forms the basis for our wise and generous investment of ourselves in his kingdom.

Dr. Diane Komp, a pediatric oncologist who has over many years witnessed in small children evidences of this assurance of belonging to God, relates the following vignette:

I heard a story recently about a three-year-old who wanted to spend time with his new baby brother. "I want to be alone with the baby," he insisted. We can only wonder what concerns of sibling rivalry raced through his parents' minds as they listened to this modest but pregnant request.

The child was so earnest that they allowed him to remain alone in the room with the sleeping baby. With a sense of awe, he gently touched the sleeping baby and then begged quietly, "You've got to tell me about God. I'm beginning to forget already."

Parents or religious instructors are not their true teachers. This holy imagination, a sense of spiritual origins, is intuitive in the very young. It is as if a veil descends thereafter, leaving the pilgrim in search of ways to reconnect. We older pilgrims must seek others who know the Story to tell us, too, if we would learn to hope.

Sometimes, as death approaches, the veil seems to lift in part, giving hints of that beyond, visions of angels, of Jesus, of heaven. Most of us are pilgrims in between, living with a sense of déjà; vu, groping our way back to God.

Dr. Komp goes on:

In her book, Chasing the Dragon, Jackie Pullinger tells a remarkable story about a four-year-old Chinese boy who was pronounced dead after a drowning incident.

Later, he woke and told his mother of a man who had held out his hand and pulled him out of the water. His mother asked him if he knew the man's name, assuming that it was the headmaster of the school where the accident had occurred. "Don't you know?" replied the boy. "It's Jesus."

This family had fled from mainland China to Taiwan and never had contact with Christians. His mother, who had never before heard the name of Jesus, became a Christian as a result of this child's experience.

Think About It

  • Do you view God as a father? Why or why not?
  • Why is the faith of children so inspiring?
  • In what way are you stewarding your responsibility to cultivate faith in children?

Pray About It

Father God, help me to see you as a father and to trust in your care.

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Today's reading is from the
NIV Stewardship Study Bible
by Zondervan


Discover the remarkable privilege we have as stewards of God's design for life through the study of Scripture.


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COUPLESenewsheader-Bibles-Sep2011

Cheating Together

1 Kings 14:1-18

At that time Abijah son of Jeroboam became ill, and Jeroboam said to his wife, "Go, disguise yourself, so you won't be recognized as the wife of Jeroboam. Then go to Shiloh. Ahijah the prophet is there-the one who told me I would be king over this people."
1 Kings 14:1-2

Jeroboam was in a predicament. He had served the great Israelite ruler Solomon as an official in the department of public works. Encouraged by the words of Ahijah the prophet that he would one day be king, Jeroboam rebelled against Solomon, resulting in his exile to Egypt (see 1 Kings 11:26-40). When Solomon died and Rehoboam took over, Jeroboam returned from Egypt and seized the opportunity to lure away most of the kingdom.

Originally, Jeroboam's main goal was to help the Israelites find a better government than the one offered by Solomon and his self-absorbed son. But, along the way, power corrupted Jeroboam; he did things to ensure his tenacious leadership while minimizing God's influence.

Now Jeroboam's son was sick. So the king began weaving a web of deception, enlisting his wife to dress like someone else and feign piety before Ahijah to manipulate him into giving a good report on their son. Rather than seeking God's guidance, the couple tried to use the prophet like a good-luck charm. Things turned out very badly for them as a result.

Marriage binds husband and wife into a unity that changes both of them. While individual identities shouldn't be crushed as "two become one," it is also true that we cannot remain isolated or independent from one another. But in the fusing that takes place, both good and bad things can happen.

When we share our lives well, we can strengthen our mate's resolve, nurture our spouse's well-being and encourage each other's gifts. Unfortunately, we can also have a negative impact on each other. We can entice our partner into supporting our mistakes and sins. We can ask our spouse to cover up for us when the phone rings and we don't wish to be found. We can lie for our mate in public settings. We can manipulate our spouse into falsifying tax returns or hiding assets.

Marriage makes us complicit in the morality of our mate. That is an important reason to choose wisely before we wed and to build upon a strong moral center in our relationship after we are joined. Great businesses don't collapse overnight through some minor accounting error; their foundations slowly erode as leaders make each other complicit in deceptive schemes. So it is in marriages. While we can win for a while as we help each other cheat on the truth, in the long run we build a kingdom of facades in which we can neither trust our partner's face nor clearly see our own.

On the other hand, when we learn from mistakes like those of Jeroboam and his wife, we can build a complicity of goodness that our children and friends will admire someday when they help us celebrate our silver and golden wedding anniversaries.
Wayne Brouwer

Let's Talk

  • Are we playing games of deception right now? What might we lose through them?
  • How can we keep one another morally committed to what is right? Should we schedule regular opportunities for accountability checks? What would we ask each other?
  • In what areas are we most vulnerable to temptation or sin? What do we need most from each other to strengthen these vulnerable places?
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NIVCouplesbibleToday's reading is from the
NIV Couple's Devotional Bible
by Zondervan


Designed to help you build your relationship on the one foundation you can count on: God’s Word!


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