Sunday, December 04, 2011

Daily Devotional Sunday December 4th

“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"There is no spot in thee."
Song of Solomon 4:7

Having pronounced his Church positively full of beauty, our Lord confirms his praise by a precious negative, "There is no spot in thee." As if the thought occurred to the Bridegroom that the carping world would insinuate that he had only mentioned her comely parts, and had purposely omitted those features which were deformed or defiled, he sums up all by declaring her universally and entirely fair, and utterly devoid of stain. A spot may soon be removed, and is the very least thing that can disfigure beauty, but even from this little blemish the believer is delivered in his Lord's sight. If he had said there is no hideous scar, no horrible deformity, no deadly ulcer, we might even then have marvelled; but when he testifies that she is free from the slightest spot, all these other forms of defilement are included, and the depth of wonder is increased. If he had but promised to remove all spots by-and-by, we should have had eternal reason for joy; but when he speaks of it as already done, who can restrain the most intense emotions of satisfaction and delight? O my soul, here is marrow and fatness for thee; eat thy full, and be satisfied with royal dainties.

Christ Jesus has no quarrel with his spouse. She often wanders from him, and grieves his Holy Spirit, but he does not allow her faults to affect his love. He sometimes chides, but it is always in the tenderest manner, with the kindest intentions: it is "my love" even then. There is no remembrance of our follies, he does not cherish ill thoughts of us, but he pardons and loves as well after the offence as before it. It is well for us it is so, for if Jesus were as mindful of injuries as we are, how could he commune with us? Many a time a believer will put himself out of humour with the Lord for some slight turn in providence, but our precious Husband knows our silly hearts too well to take any offence at our ill manners.

Evening

"The Lord mighty in battle."
Psalm 24:8

Well may our God be glorious in the eyes of his people, seeing that he has wrought such wonders for them, in them, and by them. For them, the Lord Jesus upon Calvary routed every foe, breaking all the weapons of the enemy in pieces by his finished work of satisfactory obedience; by his triumphant resurrection and ascension he completely overturned the hopes of hell, leading captivity captive, making a show of our enemies openly, triumphing over them by his cross. Every arrow of guilt which Satan might have shot at us is broken, for who can lay anything to the charge of God's elect? Vain are the sharp swords of infernal malice, and the perpetual battles of the serpent's seed, for in the midst of the church the lame take the prey, and the feeblest warriors are crowned.

The saved may well adore their Lord for his conquests in them, since the arrows of their natural hatred are snapped, and the weapons of their rebellion broken. What victories has grace won in our evil hearts! How glorious is Jesus when the will is subdued, and sin dethroned! As for our remaining corruptions, they shall sustain an equally sure defeat, and every temptation, and doubt, and fear, shall be utterly destroyed. In the Salem of our peaceful hearts, the name of Jesus is great beyond compare: he has won our love, and he shall wear it. Even thus securely may we look for victories by us. We are more than conquerors through him that loved us. We shall cast down the powers of darkness which are in the world, by our faith, and zeal, and holiness; we shall win sinners to Jesus, we shall overturn false systems, we shall convert nations, for God is with us, and none shall stand before us. This evening let the Christian warrior chant the war song, and prepare for to-morrow's fight. Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.

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Today's reading: Ezekiel 45-46, 1 John 2 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Ezekiel 45-46

Israel Fully Restored

1 "'When you allot the land as an inheritance, you are to present to the LORD a portion of the land as a sacred district, 25,000 cubits long and 20,000 cubits wide; the entire area will be holy. 2 Of this, a section 500 cubits square is to be for the sanctuary, with 50 cubits around it for open land. 3 In the sacred district, measure off a section 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits wide. In it will be the sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. 4 It will be the sacred portion of the land for the priests, who minister in the sanctuary and who draw near to minister before the LORD. It will be a place for their houses as well as a holy place for the sanctuary. 5 An area 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits wide will belong to the Levites, who serve in the temple, as their possession for towns to live in.

6 "'You are to give the city as its property an area 5,000 cubits wide and 25,000 cubits long, adjoining the sacred portion; it will belong to all Israel....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: 1 John 2

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Love and Hatred for Fellow Believers

3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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The Eternal Dimension of Generosity

Today's reading: Isaiah 66:18–23

This great section on restoration ends with a stress on the bringing in of the nations as holy priests to God and the eventual creation of new heavens and a new earth. Neither our ultimate goal nor our optimal quality of life can be realized in this present world; it can only be realized in the new world Jesus will create, as all nations are brought to holiness and submission to him.

The fact that the climax of Isaiah involves worship through offerings is also instructive for us as we think about the significance of our giving. One of the ways in which we seek God’s coming kingdom is by using our resources in a way that reflects their eternal destiny—by storing up treasures in heaven, where they will last forever (see Mt 6:19–21; 1Tim 6:17–19). Take a few moments to reflect on the following brief observations regarding the eternal dimension of generosity:

Let me assume the role of “eternal financial counselor” and offer this advice: choose your investments carefully; compare their rates of interest; consider their ultimate trustworthiness; and especially compare how they will be working for you a few million years from now. —Randy Alcorn

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give. —Winston Churchill (1874–1965)

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. —Jim Elliot (1927–1956)

The only antidote I can find in the Scripture for greed and materialism is letting loose and giving what God has given you to help other people. If you do not release what God has entrusted to you, it will wrap its arms around your throat. —Chip Ingram

The great use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it. —William James (1842–1910)

I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all. But whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess. —Martin Luther (1483–1546)

We always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap. —Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008)

The less I spent on myself, the more I gave to others, the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become. —Hudson Taylor (1832–1905)

Any temporal possession can be turned into everlasting wealth. Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality. —A. W. Tozer (1897–1963)

Think About It

  • Spend some time reflecting on the quotations above.
  • How can you think about your giving in terms of eternity?
  • What are the benefits of living your life with eternity in mind?

Pray About It

Lord, help me to live with eternity in mind.

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A Christmas Devotional

ANGEL

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said: "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." - Matthew 1:20-21

Angel: 1). A spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God (Oxford English Dictionary).

What did Mary see when the angel Gabriel appeared to her? What kind of being came with foreknowledge of a supernatural conception and with words that would change her identity forever? "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you" (Lk. 1:28). How would the shepherds have described the angel with the glory of the Lord shining about? How could they encapsulate "a great company of the heavenly host," whose voices poured out a sudden tidal wave of sound, a booming chorus?: "Glory to God in the highest!" (Lk. 2:14 ). How would Joseph his own encounter with the angel? Or what would Zechariah, John the Baptist's father, say about their messengers? In the days leading up to the birth of Jesus, supernatural appearances and utterances were occurring like they never had before-an electric buzz of Heaven's voices among us.

The real meaning of "angel" is simply, "messenger." This reminds us that Christmas is about a message. It is a gospel, good news. The best news. And paving the way were powerful spiritual messengers whose very presence struck fear and awe in people (no pudgy, winged cherubs here). Their mission and their message transformed humankind-and we have never been the same.

This year, any one of us can probably think of a dozen cases in which we would like to hear a personal message from God. We have that message. It is a message individually suited to each of us, because it was sent to all of us. As the angel said to Joseph: "[Jesus] will save people from their sins." The angels' message from that cold night continues to ring through the atmosphere-centuries later, and it is as true as in its first utterance. In this mortal world that is at once be full of wonders, yet seized by sin and darkness: We have been saved.

Prayer for today: Lord, thank you for your message of hope and renewal, for your son. Let my heart receive this message new every day, and may my eyes be opened to your continued presence in this world.

Acquire the complete "Christmas Joy" devotional as a Kindle eBook (readable on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, or Kindle).



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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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The Wondrous Cross

Keith A. Mathison

I sometimes wonder how many Christians stop to think about how incredibly odd it is that crucifixes are used as works of art. Crucifixes adorn church architecture, classic paintings, sculpture, and even jewelry. But consider for a moment

consider for a moment what a crucifix was originally. It was a means of execution. In fact, it was and is one of the most ghastly means of execution ever devised by man. So horrible was it that it was reserved for the lowest of the low: slaves, pirates, and rebels. Roman citizens were exempt. Cultured Romans considered it unworthy of discussion in polite company. Yet today we wear this symbol of degrading and humiliating death around our necks. The jarring nature of this is not immediately apparent to us because over time, the symbol of the cross has lost many of its original connotations. To get some idea of the oddity, imagine seeing people wearing necklaces with images of a guillotine or an electric chair.

What happened, then, to account for the change? We know Jesus was put to death on a Roman cross, but what was it about His death that transformed this symbol of horror into a symbol of hope? In the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion we read, for the most part, about what any observer on the hill that day would have seen. We do not read as much about the interpretation of what was going on until we get to the book of Acts and the Epistles. In Paul's preaching, for example, he explained from the Old Testament that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and that Jesus was the Messiah ( Acts 17:2-3). But where would Paul have gone in the Old Testament to prove that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer? There are a number of texts to which he could have turned (for example, Ps. 16; 22), but one of the most significant was likelyIsaiah 52:13-53:12.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is one of Isaiah's "Servant Songs." In the first Servant Song (42:1-9), Isaiah describes the Servant's mission to establish justice and a kingdom across the earth. The second Servant Song (49:1-6) describes the Servant's mission to restore Israel. The third Servant Song ( 50:4-9) reveals the obedience of the Servant and the suffering he endures as a result. The fourth and final Servant Song then reveals how the Servant will redeem his people. It reveals that his suffering will be the means by which he delivers his people from sin. It reveals that he will take their sin upon himself. Isaiah writes (53:5):

But he was wounded for our

transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement

that brought us peace,

and with his stripes we

are healed.

This is what happened on the cross as Jesus was crucified. He was God's Servant. He was the one whom God revealed to Isaiah eight centuries before His death. On the cross, He took our sins upon Himself and bore God's wrath. His death was the atonement for all of our sins. We who have placed our faith in Jesus have forgiveness of sins and peace with God because of what was accomplished on the cross. Is it any wonder that Paul declares to the Corinthian church: "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" ( 1 Cor. 2:2).

Think on this. Let it sink in. Christ suffered and died on the cross because of sin. Your sin. My sin. Since the fall, sin has been the problem in the world. We do not think much of sin in our day and age. We are beyond such things. Sin is an "old-fashioned" and outdated concept, or so we think.

If you want to know the true perspective on the seriousness of sin, however, look to the cross. Look at the extreme nature of the solution to this problem. If sin were "no big deal," would God have sent His only begotten Son to die a shameful death on a cross to deal with it? And what kind of love is this? What kind of love is displayed when God sends His only begotten Son to die for the sins we commit against Him? This is love of a kind and degree that we can hardly fathom. This is what changed the cross from a symbol of fear to a symbol of faith. This is what led Isaac Watts to write:

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ my God!

All the vain things that charm

me most,

I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands,

His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled

down!

Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of

nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

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Loving Those You Love

2 Samuel 9:1-13

"I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan."
2 Samuel 9:7

Many years after his friend Jonathan died, King David reached out to Jonathan's son Mephibosheth. David restored to Mephibosheth the land that had belonged to his grandfather, King Saul, and David welcomed Mephibosheth to his royal table. Why? Because David loved Jonathan and wanted to do something kind to a member of Saul's household "for Jonathan's sake" (2 Samuel 9:1).

Sometimes, I don't want to extend myself on behalf of anyone else, even my husband. But when we entered into marriage, we committed not just to love each other but also to behave lovingly toward the people we each love. This doesn't mean we necessarily have to like everyone our spouse likes. The Bible, after all, doesn't say whether or not David liked Mephibosheth. What it says is that David and Jonathan had a special love for each other (see 1 Samuel 18:1-4; 20:17; 2 Samuel 1:26); and because David loved Jonathan, he extended kindness to Mephibosheth.

One of the most powerful ways my husband loves me is by loving my sister. To be completely honest, my sister and I don't get along that well. We don't have much in common (except our faces, which are almost identical). When we're together, we seem to regress to childhood, circa 1985, when I was nine and she was sixteen. She tells me what to do, and I bristle. We get tetchy. We pick at each other like hens.

I think Griff and Leanne like each other well enough, though I doubt they would have sought each other out and become friends had not marriage made them siblings-in-law. And it doesn't really matter how much they like each other. What matters is that they extend themselves to one another.

On Wednesday nights, when I have church commitments, Griff eats dinner with Leanne and her family. Griff also volunteers to babysit for my nephew. When I am out of town on business, Leanne calls Griff and checks on him. And though Griff and Leanne do have affection for one another, they make these gestures, I think, less out of affection for one another and more out of love for me. Griff understands that eating dinner with Leanne and her family knits Leanne and me together, even though I am not at the dinner table.

When two people marry, they don't become involved with just one other person. Spouses come with a constellation of families and friends. We can ignore those relationships. We can view them as a threat to our relationship with our spouse and fight them. Or we can lovingly insert ourselves into those relationships and help grow them.

We don't have to develop intimate friendships with all of our spouse's relatives and close friends. But, as David understood, we can best honor, love and serve our spouse by making loving overtures to the people they love.
Lauren Winner

Let's Talk

  • Who are the people (besides each other and our children) we love best in the world? How have we extended ourselves in love to people in each other's world?
  • Why is it sometimes difficult to love the other people who came with this marriage? Is there someone one of us finds difficult to love? What would happen if we imagined God showing up in our relationships with difficult people?
  • Is there a cherished friend or relative whom we wished had a better relationship with one of us?
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