Thursday, December 08, 2011

Daily Devotional Thursday 8th December

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;” John 11:25 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Base things of the world hath God chosen."
1 Corinthians 1:28

Walk the streets by moonlight, if you dare, and you will see sinners then. Watch when the night is dark, and the wind is howling, and the picklock is grating in the door, and you will see sinners then. Go to yon jail, and walk through the wards, and mark the men with heavy over-hanging brows, men whom you would not like to meet at night, and there are sinners there. Go to the Reformatories, and note those who have betrayed a rampant juvenile depravity, and you will see sinners there. Go across the seas to the place where a man will gnaw a bone upon which is reeking human flesh, and there is a sinner there. Go where you will, you need not ransack earth to find sinners, for they are common enough; you may find them in every lane and street of every city, and town, and village, and hamlet. It is for such that Jesus died. If you will select me the grossest specimen of humanity, if he be but born of woman, I will have hope of him yet, because Jesus Christ is come to seek and to save sinners. Electing love has selected some of the worst to be made the best. Pebbles of the brook grace turns into jewels for the crown-royal. Worthless dross he transforms into pure gold. Redeeming love has set apart many of the worst of mankind to be the reward of the Saviour's passion. Effectual grace calls forth many of the vilest of the vile to sit at the table of mercy, and therefore let none despair.

Reader, by that love looking out of Jesus' tearful eyes, by that love streaming from those bleeding wounds, by that faithful love, that strong love, that pure, disinterested, and abiding love; by the heart and by the bowels of the Saviour's compassion, we conjure you turn not away as though it were nothing to you; but believe on him and you shall be saved. Trust your soul with him and he will bring you to his Father's right hand in glory everlasting.

Evening

"I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."
1 Corinthians 9:22

Paul's great object was not merely to instruct and to improve, but to save. Anything short of this would have disappointed him; he would have men renewed in heart, forgiven, sanctified, in fact, saved. Have our Christian labours been aimed at anything below this great point? Then let us amend our ways, for of what avail will it be at the last great day to have taught and moralized men if they appear before God unsaved? Blood-red will our skirts be if through life we have sought inferior objects, and forgotten that men needed to be saved. Paul knew the ruin of man's natural state, and did not try to educate him, but to save him; he saw men sinking to hell, and did not talk of refining them, but of saving from the wrath to come. To compass their salvation, he gave himself up with untiring zeal to telling abroad the gospel, to warning and beseeching men to be reconciled to God. His prayers were importunate and his labours incessant. To save souls was his consuming passion, his ambition, his calling. He became a servant to all men, toiling for his race, feeling a woe within him if he preached not the gospel. He laid aside his preferences to prevent prejudice; he submitted his will in things indifferent, and if men would but receive the gospel, he raised no questions about forms or ceremonies: the gospel was the one all-important business with him. If he might save some he would be content. This was the crown for which he strove, the sole and sufficient reward of all his labours and self-denials. Dear reader, have you and I lived to win souls at this noble rate? Are we possessed with the same all-absorbing desire? If not, why not? Jesus died for sinners, cannot we live for them? Where is our tenderness? Where our love to Christ, if we seek not his honour in the salvation of men? O that the Lord would saturate us through and through with an undying zeal for the souls of men.

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Today's reading: Daniel 5-7, 2 John 1 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Daniel 5-7

The Writing on the Wall

1 King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. 2 While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. 3 So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. 4 As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.

5 Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. 6 His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.

7 The king summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom....”

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: 2 John 1

1 The elder,

To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— 2because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:

3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.

4 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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Issachar [Ĭs’sakar]—there is here orreward.

1. The ninth son of Jacob and the fifth by Leah. Of Issachar as an individual not a word is recorded after his birth (Gen. 30:18; 49:14, 15; Deut. 33:18, 19).

The Man Who Couched Down

The birth of Issachar was regarded by his mother as a kind of payment from the hand of God, “God hath given me my hire,” said Leah, “because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar” (that is, hire). In Jacob’s blessing to Issachar, he is described as a “strong ass couching down between two burdens,” or “between the sheep-folds.” Two things are here mentioned as a pair, meaning they belong to each other; they are on either hand of Issachar, as necessary accompaniments to each other and to him. Between them his lot is cast.

When Israel was at war against Jabin, king of Canaan ( Judg. 4), Reuben was at ease among the sheepfolds (Judg. 5:16), but the princes of Issachar fought valiantly, jeopardizing their lives unto death (Judg. 5:18). Then it is said that the children of Issachar had an understanding of the times and knew what Israel ought to do.

The strong-boned ass used with the cart, because of its capacity for bearing heavy burdens, was the apt figure used by Jacob to represent Issachar’s great strength, a strength revealed on the field of battle. The love of ease, however, made the people of Issachar unwilling to use their strength at all times in the interests of their country. They couched down in luxury and the restfulness of a rural life. The tragedy overtaking many is their couching down when they ought to be rising up. Their prosperity induces indolence, and like the rich fool in the parable, they take their ease ( Luke 12:19). The voice from heaven still cries, “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1).

2. A Levite doorkeeper of the Tabernacle in David’s time (1 Chron. 26:5).

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December 7, 2011

Ready for Christmas?

Sharon Jaynes

Today's Truth

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

Friend to Friend

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

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

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

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

"A voice of one calling in the desert,

'Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight paths for him.'

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

The world is not very fond of the words "repent" or "repentance." But they are good words. They mean "to make a radical change in one's life, to turn and go in the opposite direction from sin toward God." Repentance involves an element of grief over the way we have lived apart from God and a decision to run toward God. That was God's idea of the way to prepare for Christ's arrival in the book of Matthew, and it is still God's idea of Christ's arrival today.

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

"Ready for Christmas," she said with a sigh

As she gave a last touch to the gifts piled high...

Then wearily sat for a moment and read,

Til soon, very soon, she was nodding her head.

Then quietly spoke a voice in her dream,

"Ready for Christmas, what do you mean?"

She woke with a start and a cry of despair.

"There's so little time and I've still to prepare.

Oh, Father! Forgive me, I see what You mean!

To be ready means more than a house swept clean.

Yes, more than the giving of gifts and a tree.

It's the heart swept clean that He wanted to see,

A heart that is free from bitterness and sin."

So be ready for Christmas - and ready for Him.

Let's Pray

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

In Jesus' Name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

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

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

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

How do you get your heart ready for Christmas. Log ontowww.facebook.com and share your ideas! It might be just the thing to help one of your GiGs to keep her heart focused on Jesus.

More from the Girlfriends:

It is hard not to get caught up in the pre-Christmas swirl of activity and lose focus on what's important. If you would like ways to keep Jesus the focus of your holiday season, you'll love Celebrating a Christ Centered Christmas by Sharon Jaynes. It's packed with helpful ideas and inspiration that will get you ready for Christmas!

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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Glynnis Whitwer

December 7, 2011

An Overloaded Life
Glynnis Whitwer

"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds." Proverbs 27:23 (NIV)

We crammed suitcases, backpacks and tote bags on a luggage cart and raced to the ticket counter. Late for our flight, we thought it would save time to put everything on one cart and run.

Every few steps, something started slipping. My husband was pushing, I was pulling - both of us trying to balance the overloaded cart. We were doing okay until we approached the elevator.

Our oldest son, seven at the time, held the elevator door open. But, as we went over the sloped curb bags started falling. Robbie, who was three and had a broken foot, stopped in front of the cart. My husband didn't see him as he reached for a slipping bag and ran over Robbie's foot.

Robbie screamed, my husband yelled for help and the elevator beeped to tell us the door had been open too long. Our son Josh started crying in fear. Within seconds, we were in a total meltdown.

If only ... if only we had left our hotel with extra time, if only we had anticipated the wait at the rental car return, if only we hadn't overloaded the cart, if only we hadn't gotten frustrated with scared and hurt children.

Regrets weighed heavy as we ran to our gate, making our flight with seconds to spare.

I wish that day was an exception, but during that time in my life I always tried to do one last thing before leaving the house, fit one more errand into an already busy afternoon, or take on more than I could handle.

The problem? I had an overloaded life.

My responsibilities outweighed my capacity to manage them. Every day I was frustrated - at myself, my home, husband and children. Why couldn't anyone get it together?! Why didn't the demands stop? Why did everyone NEED me so much?!

The day came when I couldn't deny reality any more. I couldn't blame, find excuses or procrastinate. I was falling apart, and my family was suffering. My techniques had to stop.

Proverbs 27:23 says, "Know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds." That's just what I needed to do. Although it was painful, I took an honest look at all my responsibilities, projects, priorities and tasks, and paid careful attention to what I was doing well and what I was neglecting.

I listed things I needed to do for home, work, family. What needed to be done now, and future projects. I recorded volunteer responsibilities at school and church. It took days, as things came to mind that I'd forgotten. When I was done I wanted to burn it and start over - it was that overwhelming.

Instead, I started to edit. After spending lots of time in prayer, seeking God's will in that season of my life, I crossed through responsibilities I didn't feel called to any more, and things other people could do. I whittled my list down to what I could manage given my priorities as a wife and mom of three little boys.

Some things could be edited out of my life immediately, while other commitments needed to be fulfilled before I removed them from my schedule.

Finally life became manageable. The underlying anxiety that I "should" be doing something all the time ceased. My never-ending list became a "Project" list I manage weekly. And from that list I pull the tasks that become my to-do list for the week or day.

God has since added two girls to our family through adoption, so now I'm the mother of five. And they all still need me. But, by knowing the condition of my flocks, I'm able to manage the controllable parts of my life so I can better deal with the uncontrollable parts.

I'll probably always deal with the tendency to believe I can do more than I really can. But I've realized my optimism can hurt me and my loved ones if I don't balance it with wisdom and a careful look at the reality of my life at this present moment. I've learned the hard way - an overloaded life leads to meltdowns. But a well-managed life leads to balance and peace.

Dear Lord, You know how crazy and out of control my life can be. But You've called me to a well-managed life. Help me manage better what I can control, and in doing so, prepare for what I can't control. I need Your wisdom and discernment today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Glynnis' blog today where she's talking more about creating a project management system to oversee all your responsibilities.

I Used to Be So Organized by Glynnis Whitwer

Do you ever feel overloaded? Starting January 9th, Glynnis is hosting "15-Days to Living Clutter-FREE" on her blog. She'll be sharing ways to reduce the clutter in our minds, schedules, offices and homes. Visit her blog today for more information.

When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity because your purchase supports many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us!

Application Steps:
Do you feel overloaded and overwhelmed? Take a personal assessment by writing down everything you need to do. Then prayerfully consider what needs to be edited out of your schedule.

Reflections:
What changes can I make so I have more balance and peace?

Power Verses:
Luke 12:42-43, "The Lord answered, 'Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.'" (NIV)

© 2011 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

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Neo-Gnosticism

Colossians 1:24-29 "I became a minister...to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints" ( vv. 25-26).

The liberal theology that emerged from the nineteenth century and still plagues the church even today was not only influenced by the radical immanentism of Hegel and the radical subjectivism of Schleiermacher. Naturalism, a view that holds nothing exists except the physical universe, also had a profound impact on liberalism. The result was a crop of liberal theologians who did not believe in the miraculous. Some of them even denied the existence of the personal God altogether.

These men tried to explain away the many supernatural references in the Gospels, viewing the miracles purely in materialistic terms. The feeding of the five thousand, for example, was not a supernatural multiplication of a few loaves and fishes. Instead, Jesus was able to convince those in the crowd who had brought food to share with those who had not. This theory might provide a naturalistic explanation, but it ignores the details of the Gospel accounts completely (Matt. 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15). It also shows how far those with such biases will go to deny the work of God in Christ.

Rudolf Bultmann was a well-known figure who denied the reality of the miracles as supernatural events. He taught that the disciples, because they did not live in the twentieth century, explained the significance of Jesus through legendary stories (myths). He argued that the New Testament contains a kernel of historical truth, around which are found myths like the resurrection, the ascension, and so on. Completely denying the apostolic witness (1 Cor. 15:14 ), Bultmann said the historicity of the resurrection was unimportant. Only the faith of the disciples matters. Like them, we can have a personal encounter with Christ and find our "real humanity."

Bultmann's meaning is unclear, but at the least he is advocating some kind of mysticism over against biblical faith. This enables people to make a Christ in their own image. If faith is not based on historical events, how do we know if we are all following the same Jesus? How can Christ be the object of the Christian faith if, as Bultmann's schema makes possible, we all meet a different Jesus?

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Gnosticism, a heresy rampant during the early church, said salvation was only available to those who possessed the hidden truths of Christ. Bultmann espouses a kind of neo-gnosticism, a wholly subjective encounter with Jesus, which is the basis for many people's professed Christianity. A personal encounter with Jesus is necessary, but we do not believe simply because He "lives in our heart" (1 Cor. 3:16). We believe because He truly came, truly died, and truly rose again.

For further study:

Deuteronomy 10:21

The Bible in a year:

Hosea 7-10

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

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Neo-Gnosticism

Gnosticism, a heresy rampant during the early church, said salvation was only available to those who possessed the hidden truths of Christ. Bultmann espouses a kind of neo-gnosticism, a wholly subjective encounter with Jesus, which is the basis for many people's professed Christianity. A personal encounter with Jesus is necessary, but we do not believe simply because He "lives in our heart" (1 Cor. 3:16). We believe because He truly came, truly died, and truly rose again.

For further study:

Deuteronomy 10:21

The Bible in a year:

Hosea 7-10

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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Gentle Mary Laid Her Child

Hymn Story:

"Gentle Mary Laid Her Child," a gentle hymn of Christmas, reminds us of each element in the Christmas story through its lovely verse. It is sometimes listed in the hymnals as a children's hymn.

Mary, the manger, angels, shepherds, wise men-each is briefly mentioned in tribute to the glorious incarnation. And yet, in its short verses, the hymn speaks not only of the baby born that Christmas day, but also of the King of Glory. Because of Jesus' miraculous birth, the King is no longer a stranger to the world; Instead, the world now praises his holy name.

Devotional:

With its longing for glamour and glory, our culture doesn't seem to understand humility very well. We talk about humility as though it were a good thing, but it seems to be the proud and powerful who really get ahead. From business to politics to entertainment, it's those who push their way into the spotlight who get our praise.

Jesus' humble birth stands in stark contrast to all this. While we yearn for better homes, he was born in a smelly stable. And while we seek the attention of the popular, God's angels sought the attention of simple shepherds-people who barely registered on the social ladder of their day.

"Gentle Mary laid her Child lowly in a manger." And so began the life of God on earth. Such a humble beginning that the songwriter went on to ask, "can He be the Savior?" And surely the people of Jesus' day asked this question too. How could a baby in a manger have more power than King Herod, who ruled from nearby palaces and fortresses?

Yet in his humility, Jesus did have more power than Herod. And in a culture where business gurus are admired and superstars are praised today, he?s still the humble King who really deserves our adoration.

In this Christmas season, let's reflect on Christ's humility. And when we feel tempted to seek praise for ourselves, or to give our praise to another, let's remember our carol's concluding words about the humble baby: "Praise His Name in all the earth, hail the King of glory!"

Facts:

Lyricist: Joseph Simpson Cook Lyrics Date: 1919 Music: Piae Cantiones Music Date: 1582 Theme: Christmas, Nativity Tune Title: TEMPUS ADEST FLORIDUM Arranger: Ernest MacMillan Arrange Date: 1930 Meter: 7.6.7.6.D. Key: G Scripture: Luke 2:7

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Advent-Header-2011
Each Wednesday in Advent, we read a passage from the Gospels and consider what early church writers had to say about it.

Opening prayer

O God, who did look on humanity when they had fallen down into death and resolve to redeem them by the advent of your only-begotten Son, grant, we ask you, that they who confess his glorious incarnation may also be admitted to the fellowship of him their Redeemer; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. --Ambrose

Gospel reading: Matthew 3:1-12
(read on Bible Gateway)

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

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

John’s clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Reflections from the church fathers

Remove the Stones from the Road (Chromatius of Aquileia): Hence John prepared these ways of mercy and truth, faith and justice. Concerning them, Jeremiah also declared, "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it." Because the heavenly kingdom is found along these ways, not without good reason John adds, "The kingdom of heaven is near." So do you want the kingdom of heaven to also be near for you? Prepare these ways in your heart, in your senses and in your soul. Build roads of justice. Remove every scandal of offense from your heart. For it is written: "Remove the stones from the road." And then, indeed, through the thoughts of your heart and the very movements of your soul, Christ the King will enter along certain paths. Tractate on Matthew 8.1

No Costly Attire (Chromatius of Aquileia): First, the heavenly life and glorious humility of John are demonstrated in his way of living. He who held the world in low regard did not seek costly attire. He who had no use for worldly delights did not have any desire for succulent foods. What need was there of fancy worldly clothing for one who was dressed with the cloak of justice? What dainty food of the earth could he desire who fed on divine discourses and whose true food was the law of Christ? Such a precursor ought to be the prophet of the Lord and the apostle of Christ who gave himself completely to his heavenly God and had contempt for the things of the world.Tractate on Matthew 9.1

The Axe Laid to the Root (Chrysostom): He did not merely say that the axe was barely "touching the root" but "laid to the root"--it is posed right next to it and shows no sign of delay. Yet even while bringing the axe so near, he makes its cutting depend on you. For if you turn around and become better persons, this axe will be laid aside without doing any harm. But if you continue in the same ways, it will tear up the tree by the roots. So note well that the axe is neither removed from the root nor too quickly applied to cut the root. He did not want you to become passive, yet he wanted to let you know that it is possible even in a short time to be changed and saved. He first heightened their fear in order to fully awaken them and press them on to repentance. The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 11.3

Closing prayer

O you who are everywhere present, filling yet transcending all things; ever acting, ever at rest; you who teach the hearts of the faithful without noise of words: teach us, we pray you, through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen. --Augustine

Today's Advent reading is from
Ancient Christian Devotional, edited by Oden and Crosby.
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Today's Advent reading is taken from:
Ancient Christian Devotional
Edited by Oden, Crosby

Bite-sized bits of profound wisdom from the patristic era that coincide with the Scripture readings in cycle A of the Revised Common Lectionary.

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FRB-Christmas-Story-BookCover-SmallReading 2: The Sign of Immanuel

Years after God made the kingdom of Israel great through King David, God’s people were again disobedient to his laws and commandments. The nation of Israel became divided into two: one country was called Israel and the other was called Judah. So God sent messengers, called prophets, to announce his words to the people. Isaiah gave this prophecy first to King Ahaz of Judah when his country was about to be invaded by the armies of Israel and Aram. The king was fearful; he was not trusting God to take care of him and his country. The prophecy was fulfilled a short time later when a young woman, who may have been Isaiah’s wife, became pregnant (
Isaiah 8:3–10). But the prophecy was also fulfilled much later when another young woman, Mary, became pregnant (Luke 1:26–38).

Isaiah 7:10 - 8:10

10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 "Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

12 But Ahaz said, "I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test."

13 Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. 16 But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah--he will bring the king of Assyria."

18 In that day the LORD will whistle for flies from the distant streams of Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria. 19 They will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the crevices in the rocks, on all the thornbushes and at all the water holes. 20 In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the River--the king of Assyria--to shave your head and the hair of your legs, and to take off your beards also. 21 In that day, a man will keep alive a young cow and two goats. 22 And because of the abundance of the milk they give, he will have curds to eat. All who remain in the land will eat curds and honey. 23 In that day, in every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, there will be only briers and thorns. 24 Men will go there with bow and arrow, for the land will be covered with briers and thorns. 25 As for all the hills once cultivated by the hoe, you will no longer go there for fear of the briers and thorns; they will become places where cattle are turned loose and where sheep run.

Isaiah 8

Assyria, the LORD’s Instrument
1 The LORD said to me, "Take a large scroll and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. 2 And I will call in Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah as reliable witnesses for me."

3 Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. 4 Before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.”

5 The LORD spoke to me again:

6 "Because this people has rejected
the gently flowing waters of Shiloah
and rejoices over Rezin
and the son of Remaliah,
7 therefore the Lord is about to bring against them
the mighty floodwaters of the River--
the king of Assyria with all his pomp.
It will overflow all its channels,
run over all its banks
8 and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it,
passing through it and reaching up to the neck.
Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land,
O Immanuel!"

9 Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered!
Listen, all you distant lands.
Prepare for battle, and be shattered!
Prepare for battle, and be shattered!
10 Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted;
propose your plan, but it will not stand,
for God is with us.

Further Study

JUST THE FACTS

  1. What did God want Ahaz to do? (7:11)
  2. What was the sign God promised to send? (7:14)
  3. What was the boy going to eat? (7:15)

LET’S TALK

  1. This prophecy was meant for Ahaz’s time, but it was also a foreshadowing of Jesus’ coming. Why do you think the prophet gave two meanings to these verses?
  2. “Immanuel” (7:14) means “God with us. ” When do we use the name “Immanuel” today? Can you think of a song about Immanuel?

WHY THIS MATTERS

The sign God gave to Ahaz--a virgin giving birth to a son and naming him Immanuel--is a key promise about the coming of Jesus Christ. When Jesus came to earth, God really was with us.

POINTS OF INTEREST

7:15 The land was devastated by the Assyrians, so there was no harvest. The people lived on anything they could find on the land. What they found was curds and honey; these two items refer to a simple diet of natural foods. Curds were a kind of yogurt.

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How to Raise Children

Today's reading: Proverbs 22

Family members should be allies, not adversaries

Proverbs 22:6 Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Those who employ this proverb: "Spare the rod and spoil the child" take it from Proverbs 13:24, "Whoever spares the rod hates their children." Proverbs calls punishment a form of love and says that parents who won't discipline their children are in danger of ruining them (see Proverbs 29:15). But that much-quoted maxim is only a small part of what Proverbs has to offer on the subject of bringing up children.

The overwhelming emphasis of Proverbs is on verbal encouragement and teaching. The whole book is framed as a father's words to his son, teaching him those "facts of life" that have nothing to do with biology. Again and again he pleads, "Listen, my son." Mother has equally important words (seeProverbs 1:8; 6:20). The parent-child conversation is a warm one, and Proverbs 17:6 bears out what the whole book implies: Parents and children are not meant to be adversaries, but allies in life who are proud of each other.

Proverbs on parent-child relationships: Proverbs 3:11-12; 10:1,5; 13:1, 24; 14:26; 15:20; 17:6, 21; 19:18, 26-27; 20:20 ; 22:6,15; 23:13-16, 22-25; 27:11; 29:15, 17; 31:28.

Life Question

In your upbringing, which had the greater effect: punishment and discipline, or verbal instruction and encouragement?
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At Issue - Risk

Today's reading: Joshua 2:1–24

Great risks require great risk-takers. Rarely will we take risks unless we’re certain that they’re worth it. Rahab was willing to endanger her life because she knew the risk was worth it. She knew God was on Israel’s side, and she wanted to align herself with him at any cost. In the end, her risky faith saved her life and the lives of her entire family (see Joshua 6:22–23 ). God doesn’t fail to give us opportunities to take on challenges. Our problem is that we often fail to accept his terms. If there’s something God wants you to do—do it! God will take you to the very edge of your faith if you’ll let him.

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A Christmas Devotional

KINGDOM

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. -Luke 1:32-33

Christmas represents a beginning that only makes sense if we comprehend the end. The beginning is a child-a humble birth in an earthy stable. But the end... The end is an explosion of divine glory bright enough for the whole world to see-like the birth of new star. The end is a kingdom. Jesus came to forward the kingdom of God, to open people's eyes to the power of God, to make it the central reality of their lives. "His kingdom will never end."

Contrast this with King Herod, who sought to protect his kingdom by trying to eliminate any potential rival to his throne. What Herod didn't understand was that by killing all the baby boys in Bethlehem, he was not protecting his kingdom, but showing its weakness and fearfulness. In the wake of God's kingdom and power, all human power is simply water dribbling through cupped hands, no matter how steadfast the grasp.

The kingdom of Christ is different; it will never end. There is no rival to his authority, though unbelievers will always abound. There is no one sitting at the right hand of God except Christ. No other authority was present when the earth was created, and no other will be there when the final judgment comes.

Christmas is a celebration of the coming of a kingdom. Powerful. Life-changing. Overwhelming. Don't ever think that Christmas is a way for us to wrap God up in a package, put a bow on it, and keep the whole thing under our control. A way for us to avoid God except for those extra-special religious seasons.

The first Christmas was the arrival of a king. Rulers from the east knew it, so they came to present gifts. King Herod knew it, which is why he ordered all the baby boys in Bethlehem to be killed. It is the Battle of Bethlehem, the beginning of a war in which the King of Kings is intent to take back territory that belonged to him all along, and to sweep people like us into a new benevolent kingdom.

Prayer for today:

Dear God, help me to live these days with a knowledge that you are reigning in this broken world as king. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

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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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