Sunday, December 25, 2011

Daily Devotional Sunday Christmas

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:16-20 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"For your sakes he became poor."
2 Corinthians 8:9

The Lord Jesus Christ was eternally rich, glorious, and exalted; but "though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor." As the rich saint cannot be true in his communion with his poor brethren unless of his substance he ministers to their necessities, so (the same rule holding with the head as between the members), it is impossible that our Divine Lord could have had fellowship with us unless he had imparted to us of his own abounding wealth, and had become poor to make us rich. Had he remained upon his throne of glory, and had we continued in the ruins of the fall without receiving his salvation, communion would have been impossible on both sides. Our position by the fall, apart from the covenant of grace, made it as impossible for fallen man to communicate with God as it is for Belial to be in concord with Christ. In order, therefore, that communion might be compassed, it was necessary that the rich kinsman should bestow his estate upon his poor relatives, that the righteous Saviour should give to his sinning brethren of his own perfection, and that we, the poor and guilty, should receive of his fulness grace for grace; that thus in giving and receiving, the One might descend from the heights, and the other ascend from the depths, and so be able to embrace each other in true and hearty fellowship. Poverty must be enriched by him in whom are infinite treasures before it can venture to commune; and guilt must lose itself in imputed and imparted righteousness ere the soul can walk in fellowship with purity. Jesus must clothe his people in his own garments, or he cannot admit them into his palace of glory; and he must wash them in his own blood, or else they will be too defiled for the embrace of his fellowship.

O believer, herein is love! For your sake the Lord Jesus "became poor" that he might lift you up into communion with himself.

Evening

"The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."
Isaiah 40:5

We anticipate the happy day when the whole world shall be converted to Christ; when the gods of the heathen shall be cast to the moles and the bats; when Romanism shall be exploded, and the crescent of Mohammed shall wane, never again to cast its baleful rays upon the nations; when kings shall bow down before the Prince of Peace, and all nations shall call their Redeemer blessed. Some despair of this. They look upon the world as a vessel breaking up and going to pieces, never to float again. We know that the world and all that is therein is one day to be burnt up, and afterwards we look for new heavens and for a new earth; but we cannot read our Bibles without the conviction that--

"Jesus shall reign where'er the sun

Does his successive journeys run."

We are not discouraged by the length of his delays; we are not disheartened by the long period which he allots to the church in which to struggle with little success and much defeat. We believe that God will never suffer this world, which has once seen Christ's blood shed upon it, to be always the devil's stronghold. Christ came hither to deliver this world from the detested sway of the powers of darkness. What a shout shall that be when men and angels shall unite to cry "Hallelujah, hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!" What a satisfaction will it be in that day to have had a share in the fight, to have helped to break the arrows of the bow, and to have aided in winning the victory for our Lord! Happy are they who trust themselves with this conquering Lord, and who fight side by side with him, doing their little in his name and by his strength! How unhappy are those on the side of evil! It is a losing side, and it is a matter wherein to lose is to lose and to be lost forever. On whose side are you?

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Today's reading: Habakkuk 1-3, Revelation 15 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Habakkuk 1-3

1 The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.

Habakkuk’s Complaint

2 How long, LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 15

Seven Angels With Seven Plagues

1 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. 2 And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God 3and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb:

“Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the nations.
4 Who will not fear you, Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed....”

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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COUPLESenewsheader-Bibles-Sep2011

Building Our Relationship

1 Chronicles 22:2-19

Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the LORD gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.
1 Chronicles 22:13

"Marriage is a most remarkable and courageous human act," says Ernest Boyer in A Way in the World (HarperSanFrancisco, 1984). "It's the promise of two human beings to share life together on all levels, physical, economic, and spiritual. It's a promise made despite the certainty of death, the certainty of change, and the uncertainty of everything else. There is nothing else we might choose to do that is quite like this act, nothing so foolish or so profound."

Why do so many of us enter into this "foolish and profound" commitment when we realize that it is such a difficult thing to unify two separate individuals? Why do we assume we will have success when we know that others fail?

Before his death, David shared his vision for building a temple for the Lord with his son Solomon, to whom God had entrusted this sacred task. David had spent countless hours collecting and preparing all of the materials his son would need to build a house worthy of the Lord. Then David told Solomon that if he was careful to observe the laws of the Lord, he would have success.

Likewise we, too, need to take great care in preparing for the construction of a marriage. Marriage is like a temple-a magnificent living, breathing house for the Lord. When we stand at the altar exchanging wedding vows, we're essentially agreeing to erect a temple in which to honor God. By following God's plan for marriage-loving, honoring, and remaining faithful to each other-we will have success in honoring him. When we're strong and courageous, we'll be able to overcome obstacles and persevere.

Sounds easy. But it's not.

When Dan and I were preparing to get married, we spent an entire year budgeting, envisioning, and getting quotes on bands, caterers, cakes and invitations-planning all of the elements that go into making a wedding day a success. Soon after we walked down the aisle as Mr. and Mrs., we realized we would need to apply that same kind of care to building our relationship for a lifetime, not just planning for a day.

Marriages often include struggles. Changes in career aspirations, guilty feelings over past mistakes, conflicts in other relationships-these and a myriad of other situations present many opportunities to be either the afflicted or the comforter within marriage. In these periods the one doing the supporting may begin to think, "I am not being helped by this person, only held back." But because of that foolish, extraordinary vow of marriage, he or she keeps going.

Through the ordinary pains and sharing of day-to-day life, marital love matures into a love that models God's own love for us. It is in this temple we call marriage that God profoundly manifests himself, giving us the tools we need to be successful as husband and wife.
Marian V. Liautaud

Let's Talk

  • How has our love for each other and for God deepened as a result of persevering through struggles in our marriage?
  • Which one of us needs the most help now, and how can the other provide that help?
  • What can we do today to build a strong marriage relationship?
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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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FRB-Christmas-Story-BookCover-SmallReading 19: Jesus Christ is Supreme

Many years after Isaiah and Micah prophesied about Jesus the Messiah, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Colosse to tell them that Jesus was both God and a human being. Paul included this beautiful hymn in praise of the glory and supremacy of Christ.


Colossians 1:15-20
The Supremacy of Christ
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Further Study

JUST THE FACTS
  1. Paul said that Jesus Christ is the “firstborn.” (v. 15) Of what is he the firstborn?
  2. What did Jesus Christ create? (v. 16)
  3. Of what is Jesus Christ the head? (v. 18)
LET’S TALK
  1. What does it mean that Jesus Christ is the “image of the invisible God”? (v. 15)
  2. What do you think Paul meant when he said that in Jesus Christ “all things hold together”? (v. 17)
WHY THIS MATTERS

Jesus was born in a small town and lived among common people like us, but Paul gives us the bigger picture of who Christ really is and what Christ has done for us.

POINTS OF INTEREST

1:19 In Paul’s day, some people taught that matter--anything you could taste, see or touch--was evil, so the human body was evil. They said a person’s spirit was “trapped” in an evil body and could escape only by some secret knowledge. So they said Jesus couldn’t be both God and man because he lived in a body.
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Family Reading BibleToday's reading is from:
The Family Reading Bible

Additional resources:

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The Implications of God’s Dominion for Dealing With Pain and Loss

Today's reading: Job 41:11, 34

Nothing belongs to us, not even our selves. Strictly speaking, we do not even own our private feelings and thoughts. The fact that God asserts his absolute ownership at this point in the book is significant for how we understand personal pain or loss. Bitter as this “pill” may be to swallow, we have to acknowledge that God doesn’t owe us a thing. Whether he gives or takes away (see Job 1:21), or even if he allows our bodies or minds to be wracked with pain, we are to praise and adore his name. This is not to say that we are necessarily to thank him for pain or calamity (though this may sometimes be appropriate). But he does expect us to praise him in spite of and through the hard times. What would it mean for us to truly live in the light of God’s absolute ownership, to live out in our daily lives the knowledge that we have been “bought at a price” (cf. Ps 24:1;50:10; 1Co 6:20; 7:23)? And what a price!

Bestselling author Philip Yancey has delved deeply into the “problem” of pain. He addresses the quintessential human question: Where is God when it hurts? Yancey’s final thoughts from his book by the same title:

He has been there from the beginning, designing a pain system that still, in the midst of a fallen, rebellious world, bears the stamp of His genius and equips us for life on this planet.

He has watched us reflect His image, carving out great works of art, launching mighty adventures, living out this earth in a mixture of pain and pleasure when the two so closely coalesce they sometimes become almost indistinguishable.

He has used pain, even in its grossest forms, to teach us, asking us to let it turn us to Him. He has stooped to conquer …

He has let us cry out and echo Job with louder and harsher fits of anger against Him, blaming Him for a world we spoiled.

He has allied Himself with the poor and suffering, establishing a kingdom tilted in their favor, which the rich and powerful often shun.

He has promised supernatural strength to nourish our spirit, even if our physical suffering goes unrelieved …

He is with us now, ministering to us through His Spirit and through members of His body who are commissioned to bear us up and relieve our suffering for the sake of the head.

He is waiting, gathering the armies of good. One day He will unleash them. The world will see one last explosion of pain before the full victory is ushered in. Then, he will create for us a new, incredible world. And pain shall be no more.

Think About It

  • Why do people sometimes feel that God “owes” them something?
  • What is it in human nature that leads people to question God?
  • How is it possible to praise God in and through your pain?

Pray About It

With a friend or in a group, as the body of Christ, lift up each other’s pain and sorrows to God in prayer.

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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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A Christmas Devotional

EVE

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born. - Luke 2:6

On the night before Jesus was born, the shepherds would have seen the night sky the way they had seen it thousands of times before. That was a quiet night, in stark contrast to the following night, when an angel would appear with "the glory of the Lord," announcing the birth of the child-then join with a great company of heavenly beings proclaiming glory and peace.

On the night before Christmas, in the year 1968, three men looked into the night sky also, but from an entirely different perspective. Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders, the crew of Apollo 8, were further away from the earth than any human had ever been. It was the first time a spacecraft had broken earth's orbit and ventured out one quarter of a million miles to orbit the moon. In an historic broadcast on that Christmas Eve, the astronauts beamed back to earth a video picture of a small blue disk, the earth, and spoke of the "vast loneliness" of space. Then, their voices crackled over the radio: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void; and darkness was over the face of the deep."

There, on that small blue circle, the entire drama of human history has unfolded: the Creation, the Fall, war, exploration, feast and famine, marriage and divorce, birth and death. And to that blue circle God came, at just the right time, to begin to make things right in the human race.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, Christmas Eve is a time when we approach that dividing line in human history, the doorway from BC to AD, the revolution begun by the Son of God's entry into the world. Sometimes you know when you're on the eve of something big (your wedding, moving to a new home, adopting a child), and sometimes you don't. Every Christmas Eve we know we are about to mark the moment when Immanuel came.

So on the night before Christmas, find a quiet moment when you can think about what was about to happen in Bethlehem so many years ago. Think about all the ways you need someone to be your savior-someone who has the strength, the wisdom, the virtue, that you know you cannot come up with on your own.

Prayer for today:

God, thank you that, with millions of other people around the world, I can anticipate and celebrate the moment when you joined yourself to the human race to offer us our only hope for salvation.

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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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