Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Daily Devotional Tuesday 13th December

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” Galatians 4:4-5 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"His ways are everlasting."
Habakkuk 3:6

What he hath done at one time, he will do yet again. Man's ways are variable, but God's ways are everlasting. There are many reasons for this most comforting truth: among them are the following--the Lord's ways are the result of wise deliberation; he ordereth all things according to the counsel of his own will. Human action is frequently the hasty result of passion, or fear, and is followed by regret and alteration; but nothing can take the Almighty by surprise, or happen otherwise than he has foreseen. His ways are the outgrowth of an immutable character, and in them the fixed and settled attributes of God are clearly to be seen. Unless the Eternal One himself can undergo change, his ways, which are himself in action, must remain forever the same. Is he eternally just, gracious, faithful, wise, tender?--then his ways must ever be distinguished for the same excellences. Beings act according to their nature: when those natures change, their conduct varies also; but since God cannot know the shadow of a turning, his ways will abide everlastingly the same. Moreover there is no reason from without which could reverse the divine ways, since they are the embodiment of irresistible might. The earth is said, by the prophet, to be cleft with rivers, mountains tremble, the deep lifts up its hands, and sun and moon stand still, when Jehovah marches forth for the salvation of his people. Who can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? But it is not might alone which gives stability; God's ways are the manifestation of the eternal principles of right, and therefore can never pass away. Wrong breeds decay and involves ruin, but the true and the good have about them a vitality which ages cannot diminish.

This morning let us go to our heavenly Father with confidence, remembering that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him the Lord is ever gracious to his people.

Evening

"They have dealt treacherously against the Lord."
Hosea 5:7

Believer, here is a sorrowful truth! Thou art the beloved of the Lord, redeemed by blood, called by grace, preserved in Christ Jesus, accepted in the Beloved, on thy way to heaven, and yet, "thou hast dealt treacherously" with God, thy best friend; treacherously with Jesus, whose thou art; treacherously with the Holy Spirit, by whom thou hast been quickened unto life eternal! How treacherous you have been in the matter of vows and promises. Do you remember the love of your espousals, that happy time--the springtime of your spiritual life? Oh, how closely did you cling to your Master then! saying, "He shall never charge me with indifference; my feet shall never grow slow in the way of his service; I will not suffer my heart to wander after other loves; in him is every store of sweetness ineffable. I give all up for my Lord Jesus' sake." Has it been so? Alas! if conscience speak, it will say, "He who promised so well has performed most ill. Prayer has oftentimes been slurred--it has been short, but not sweet; brief, but not fervent. Communion with Christ has been forgotten. Instead of a heavenly mind, there have been carnal cares, worldly vanities and thoughts of evil. Instead of service, there has been disobedience; instead of fervency, lukewarmness; instead of patience, petulance; instead of faith, confidence in an arm of flesh; and as a soldier of the cross there has been cowardice, disobedience, and desertion, to a very shameful degree." "Thou hast dealt treacherously." Treachery to Jesus! what words shall be used in denouncing it? Words little avail: let our penitent thoughts execrate the sin which is so surely in us. Treacherous to thy wounds, O Jesus! Forgive us, and let us not sin again! How shameful to be treacherous to him who never forgets us, but who this day stands with our names engraven on his breastplate before the eternal throne.

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Today's reading: Hosea 9-11, Revelation 3 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Hosea 9-11

Punishment for Israel

1 Do not rejoice, Israel;
do not be jubilant like the other nations.
For you have been unfaithful to your God;
you love the wages of a prostitute
at every threshing floor.
2 Threshing floors and winepresses will not feed the people;
the new wine will fail them.
3 They will not remain in the LORD’s land;
Ephraim will return to Egypt
and eat unclean food in Assyria.
4 They will not pour out wine offerings to the LORD,
nor will their sacrifices please him.
Such sacrifices will be to them like the bread of mourners;
all who eat them will be unclean.
This food will be for themselves;
it will not come into the temple of the LORD.

5 What will you do on the day of your appointed festivals,
on the feast days of the LORD?
6 Even if they escape from destruction,
Egypt will gather them,
and Memphis will bury them.
Their treasures of silver will be taken over by briers,
and thorns will overrun their tents....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 3

To the Church in Sardis

1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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Saul, Shaul [Sôul]—asked for ordemanded.

1. The son of Kish, and first king of Israel (1 Sam. 9-11).

A Man Who Lost His Kingdom

No man among Bible men had so many chances thrust upon him to make a success of life, and no man ever so missed them. Saul not only missed great opportunities, he deliberately abused them. His sun rose in splendor, but set in a tragic night. The downgrade of his life is the old familiar story of pride, egotism and the abuse of power leading to moral degradation and ruin. Here are the steps down the ladder:

He was a man anointed and filled with the Spirit. (1 Sam. 11:6).

In his early years he was humble and practiced self-control ( 1 Sam. 10:22; 10:27; 11:13).

Self-will restricted his influence (1 Sam. 13:12, 13).

He became disobedient and was guilty of rash vows (1 Sam. 15:11-23).

Jealousy prompted him to hunt and harm David (1 Sam. 18:8;19:1).

He patronized the superstition he had forbidden (1 Sam. 28:7).

Wounded in battle, he ended up a suicide (1 Sam. 31:4).

Having already destroyed his moral life, he ultimately destroyed his physical life. Saul’s sad story is repeated almost daily.

2. The sixth of the ancient kings of Edom, from Rehoboth on the Euphrates ( Gen. 36:37, 38).

3. The original name of Paul, a native of Tarsus (Acts 7:58). For fuller treatment see PAUL.

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Puah

Scripture ReferenceExodus 1:15

Name Meaning—Child bearing or joy of parents

Alarmed over the rapid increase of the population of Israelites in Egypt, Pharaoh ordered two Egyptian midwives to destroy all male children as soon as they were born (Exodus 1:15-20 ). He would never have employed Hebrew women to destroy the males of their own nation. The answer of the two named midwives, Puah and Shiprah, to Pharaoh’s anger when he discovered that his cruel edict was not being carried out, implies that they were used to wait upon Egyptian women who only employed them in difficulty at childbirth (Exodus 1:19). Hebrew women seldom employed midwives for they were more “lively,” or had far easier births than the Egyptians.

Puah and Shiprah are Egyptian names. Aben Ezra, the ancient Jewish historian, says that these two women “were chiefs over all the midwives, who were more than 500.” As superintendents of such a large staff to which they had been appointed by the Egyptian government, Pharaoh ordered them to carry out his terrible command just as he would give orders to any other of his officials. As it is likely that only the chief Hebrews could afford the service of midwives, probably the order of Pharaoh only applied to them. Although Egyptians by birth, it would seem as if they had embraced the Hebrew faith, for we are told that Puah and Shiprah “feared God” ( Exodus 1:21).

Receiving the royal command to commit murder, these two loyal, vigorous, middleaged women were caught between two fires. Whom should they obey? The God of the Hebrews in whom they had come to believe, or the tyrannical king of Egypt? True to their conscience and honored calling they knew it would conflict with the divine command to kill, and so “saved the men children alive.” Thus, they obeyed God rather than man, and in so doing brought upon their heads the rage of Pharaoh. Confronting his anger, Puah and Shiprah took refuge in a partial truth. They said that because Jewish women had easy deliveries, their children were born before they could reach them and assist the mothers in labor.

Cognizant as He was of the partial truth the two midwives told, God knew all about the crisis behind it, and commended Puah and Shiprah for their courage of faith. They had risked their lives for many Jewish infants. Such an act was meritorious in the eyes of the Lord, and He honorably rewarded them by building them houses. Fausset suggests that the nature of such a reward consisted in the two midwives marrying Hebrews and becoming mothers in Israel (2 Samuel 7:11, 27). Puah and Shiprah are striking witnesses against the scandalous practice of abortion, which several nations have legalized.

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December 12, 2011

Hang On!
Sharon Jaynes

Today's Truth
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me (Psalm 63:8, NIV).

Friend to Friend
Have you ever felt that this thing called life is just too hard? I know I have. Sometimes life just does not turn out like I thought it would. That's when I have to hang onto God and simply trust Him.

I remember when my son was four-years-old and I was trying to teach him how to snow ski. The first day was just horrible...at least it was for me. I felt like a down-covered workhorse as I lugged two sets of skis in one arm while dragging along Steven with the other. Clunky ski boots, overstuffed mittens, and a hooded snowsuit made it difficult for Steven to maneuver. Add all that to the slippery snow, and we had the perfect formula for a day of whining in winter wonderland.

I tried to teach Steven how to snow plow to keep from going too fast. That's when you point the tips of the skis toward the center and the backs of the skis point out. Well, he just wasn't catching on. He fell and he fell and he fell.

Finally, I came up with another idea. I made an A-frame tent with my legs, Steven stood in front of me, and wrapped his arms around my thighs. Off we went. We moved as one. If I turned left, he went with me. If I turned right, he went with me. His only responsibility was to hang on and relinquish control. And even though he thought he was skiing, in reality, I was the one skiing and he was simply along for the ride.

That is a great picture of what trusting God is all about. That's a picture of what "abiding in Jesus" is all about. We cling to him, hang on to Him, abide in Him. If He goes left, I go left. If He goes right, I go right. David wrote in Psalm 63:8, "My soul clings to You." In other words, David was saying, "I'm hanging on for dear life" Just like Steven did.

Today, as you move through life, cling to Jesus. Hang on to Him. Acknowledge His presence with you and His Spirit in you. Trust Him!

Let's Pray
Jesus, I'm trusting You today. I'm clinging to You. I'm hanging on Your every word.
In Your Name, men.

Now It's Your Turn
What do you think David meant when he wrote, "My soul clings to you." Notice he said "soul." That encompasses the mind, will and emotions.

What are some ways your "soul" can cling to Jesus as you move through your day? I'd love to hear your answers. It might be just want someone needs to hear! Log ontowww.facebook.com/sharonjaynes and tell me what you think!

More from the Girlfriends

It's finally here! Sharon, Gwen and Mary's new 12-week devotion book, Trusting God, is now available. This is the perfect book for individual study or for gathering a group of friends in what we call GiG Groups. With impactful devotions, study questions, journal pages, free on-line video intros, and an index of trust-building Scriptures...this book is a resource you'll refer to time-and-time again.

Seeking God?

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how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God

P.O. Box 725

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info@girlfriendsingod.com
www.girlfriendsingod.com

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Lynn Cowell

December 12, 2011

What's Your Message?
Lynn Cowell

"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them."Deuteronomy 4:9 (NIV)

My heart breaks as I see my girls struggle. Navigating the waters of school, I watch as waves of rejection slam against the boats of their hearts.

Often, I feel like I'm in the storm with them. Why do I feel vulnerable when I see the tears in their eyes?

Perhaps memories of my own turbulent teen years are not far gone. Painful remembrances of growing up come to the surface: confusion, a boy's brush-off, constant over-analyzing myself.

Yet my girls' struggles also bring thankfulness to my heart. I'm so grateful God sent amazing friends into my life when I was a young woman. I'll never forget friends who helped me discover that no man - be it a dad, boyfriend or even a husband one day - could fill the love gap in my heart. Only Jesus can fill what He created.

I am also thankful God placed me here, in my girls' lives, to share with them this same truth. You see, when Jesus showed me He was the only one who can fill the emptiness of my heart, He didn't just give that truth for me!

Jesus gave me His truth so I can pass His radical love onto my kids and hopefully my grandkids one day.

As today's key verse tells us, "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." (Deut. 4:9) We have opportunity and influence in the lives of your children and others.

What is one truth God has revealed that you can pass on to your children, your children's children or young people in your world? Are there revelations or treasures from His Word, glimpses into His heart that He's given to you? If so, they are not just for your benefit, but also for the benefit of your family and those in your sphere of influence.

Has the Lord given you a clear understanding of forgiveness? Teach your child the process of working through a grudge.

Have you experienced the Lord's healing? Come alongside those in your life as they mend.

Do you cling to hope because God has lifted your spirits? Share that with another who's in the middle of grim circumstances.

Let's not take for granted all the Lord has done in our lives. Instead, let's intentionally ask God to show us our message so we can naturally share it with others, passing on the truth and stories of God's faithfulness for generations to come.

Dear Lord, help me be intentional today to share with my children, and others in my life, all of the truth You have set to work in my heart. Help me make the most of the message You have given me and pass Your Word on to the next generation. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

RelatedResources:
Looking for a way you can connect to your girl and learn about God's radical love together? His Revolutionary Love: Jesus' Radical Pursuit of You by Lynn Cowell is for girls ages 13-18. It is a great study for moms and girls to bond over!

Visit Lynn's website for a free small group guide for "His Revolutionary Love" as well as other free resources for investing in your child.

Visit Lynn's website where she shares ways to be intentional about sharing God's truths with your child. She's also giving away a copy of her CD "Building a Bridge to Your Child's Heart," as well as a Starbucks gift card!

When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity because your purchase supports the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. We wish we could, but we simply can't compete with prices offered by huge online warehouses. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us. Thank you!

Application Steps:
In the next 24 hours, look for an opportunity to share with your child, or someone you love, one truth the Lord has made real in your life. When you connect a teaching to a story, it helps stick in the heart of your listener!

Ask the Holy Spirit to make you aware of times your child is most open to hearing testimonies from your life. Think of these in advance so when the time comes, you are ready to share.

Reflections:
God has given revelations to me: treasures from His Word, glimpses into His heart. He has entrusted those to me not only for my benefit, but for the benefit of my family and those in my sphere of influence.

Power Verses:
Deuteronomy 6:6-9, "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." (NIV)

© 2011 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

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Relationships: Power/Influence Week 2

READ MATTHEW 20:20-28

Jesus' disciples could smell it in the air. The Master had been talking about his departure, and that meant that their own time to rule was imminent. The disciples were unclear about Jesus' role in all of this, because he was continually confusing them (or so they thought) with parables about his impending death and resurrection. While they had difficulty interpreting Jesus' words, they understood one thing clearly: As Jesus' apostles, they possessed power and authority.

The Bible records several incidents in which the disciples argued over who would possess the highest degree of power. This was clearly an issue about which these men were concerned, and this concern extended beyond themselves to their families. In this passage, the mother of James and John blatantly requested that her sons be granted the most prominent and powerful positions in Jesus' kingdom.

As we read in last week's passages, power is essential to leadership. The ability it affords an individual to influence others can be an enormous force for good. But many, like Jesus' disciples at this point in their leadership development, focus on the self-serving aspects of power. To these disciples power implied opportunity for importance. They allowed their minds to envision thrones and positions and titles. But Jesus' rebuke was stern: "None of that! Not in my kingdom."

The starting point toward responsible exercise of power is asking the fundamental question, "Why do I want it?" Many who address that question struggle with the temptation to give all the wrong answers. Some leaders expend their lives in a constant struggle to compete against and dominate others in their quest to acquire, and then defend, their positions of power. But Jesus implied that there is only one correct answer to this question: "I want power and influence because with it I can better serve God, people and this organization." Anything less than that response violates God's trust in you as one who has been granted power.

Power/Influence and Who God Is

Matthew 20 contains too much material to absorb in a single reading. Jesus made such a definitive and helpful statement regarding power that we would do ourselves a disservice by leaving this passage at this point. A few questions will help us to discover some essential ideas about this complicated-and potentially either helpful or destructive thing called power.

This Week's Verse to Memorize LUKE 9:48

Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all-he is the greatest."

Power/Influence and Who I Am

Exercising power involves knowing when and how to take risks-that's no secret. But how effective are you at encouraging others to take risks? That's also a key part of transformational leadership-giving your followers the courage to step "out of the box" and rewarding their best efforts, even if they fail to produce the intended result. Sheila Murray Bethel gives us insight into this important principle. Turn to John 20:19-31.

Power/Influence and How It Works

Jesus took a risk in Thomas. Then Jesus asked Thomas to accept great risk for him, a challenge that Thomas accepted and acted upon until his death. Now that's leadership that's worth a second look!

Power/Influence and What I Do

Power ultimately belongs to God. Knowing this, Obadiah and the other prophets railed against its improper use. But in Obadiah 8-14 we encounter a high and noble use of power. As a leader, think about ways in which you can use your power in an exalted and benevolent way. Read these verses again with this focus in mind.


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by Kenneth Boa
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The Handbook to Leadership includes: 52-Week Leadership Guide, Topical Leadership Guide, Leadership Character Studies, and Books of the Bible Leadership Guide.


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Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come

Hymn Story:

When declining health forced Isaac Watts to cut back on his preaching, he turned to another task, Christianizing the Psalms. At the age of forty-five, he sat under a favorite tree on the Abney estate-property of the close friends with whom he lived-and penned the now famous words of "Joy to the World." His 1719 hymnal, Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, included the words under his original title for the poetry: "The Messiah's Coming and Kingdom."

As part of his effort to bring New Testament meanings to the Old Testament psalms, Watts based "Joy to the World" on the last half of Psalm 98: "Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth, . . . Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth." (vs. 4, 8).

Psalm 98 celebrated God's protection and restoration of his chosen people. Watts' carol rejoices in the same, as it expresses praise for the salvation that began when God became man. Both the psalm and the hymn also look ahead, to Christ coming again to reign: "He will judge the world with righteousness" (v. 9)

"Joy to the World" includes references to other Bible verses as well, including Gen. 3:17, Rom. 5:20, and Luke 2:10. Yet despite its lack of reference to Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, wise men, or the manger, it became one of the most loved Christmas carols. In a season for celebrating our Savior's birth, Watts' hymn beautifully expresses our joy at the coming of our Savior.

Devotional:

It's that time of year again-the time of busy shopping days, holiday baking, and twinkling lights. The time when schedules overflow with parties and events. The time to send out cards to family and friends. It's supposed to be the season of "holiday cheer." But in the weeks before we celebrate our Savior's birth, so often we feel anxiety and stress instead.

Years ago, Isaac Watts wrote "Joy to the World," the well-loved hymn often sung during this busy Christmas season. Ironically, Watts never intended his hymn for Christmas use. Instead, he simply intended to paraphrase the words of Psalm 98: "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth . . . for he comes. . ." (vs. 4, 9).

Amidst his poetry about Christ's second coming, however, Watts also provides fitting words for our Christmas frenzy: "Joy to the world! the Lord is come . . . Let every heart prepare him room." Prepare him room-significant words for any time of year. Yet perhaps we need to hear them the most at Christmastime, when so many things can distract us from our faith. .

This year, as the hectic Christmas season approaches, take the time to prepare your heart. Remember Christ's first coming, as a humble King and Savior. Reflect on the certainty of his return, as Judge over all. And as you think on these precious truths, you'll probably experience the best holiday feeling of all-the joy of knowing "the Lord is come" into your heart.

Facts:

Lyricist: Isaac Watts Lyrics Date: 1719 Arranger: Lowell Mason Key: D Theme: Christmas, Christ's birth Composer: G. F. Handel Music Date: 1742 Arranged Date: 1836 Tune Title: ANTIOCH Meter: C.M.rep Scripture: Psalm 98

Copyright © 2011 Center for Church Music


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Mocked and Beaten

Matthew 27:27-31 "And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him" (v. 31).

Reformed theologians often describe Christ's work in terms of His active and passive obedience. The active obedience of Christ is His doing the Father's will, taking specific actions - teaching, miracle-working, obeying the Law - to "fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15 ). The passive obedience of Christ encapsulates His submission to death. We cannot absolutely separate Christ's active and passive obedience, for Jesus must actively set His mind on the Father's plan if He is to endure the cross. Still, passive obedience is an appropriate description of Jesus' nonviolent resistance to suffering (1 Peter 2:23).

This passive obedience includes Jesus' arrest, trial, and scourging (Matt. 26:47-27:31). Jesus is scourged with aflagellum, a whip made of several leather straps embedded with bone and metal. Flogging is the first part of Roman crucifixion, and the number of lashes, though unknown to us, is limited only by the extent of the flogger's sadism. Our Savior is an innocent victim, and the Father does not approve of Pilate's sentence or the soldiers' deeds in themselves. However, God is providentially using their sins to bring judgment upon David's line for leading Israel astray (2 Sam. 7:1-17). In so doing, the Father also begins to condemn the sin of every repentant descendant of Adam ( Rom. 5:12-21).

Christ's passive obedience is also on display as He is mocked in the governor's headquarters (Matt. 27:27-31). Jesus' prediction in Matthew 20:17-19 comes true as the Roman soldiers (as many as six hundred if the whole legion is in town) dress Him up as the caesar and then make fun of Him, spitting in His face. Roman soldiers customarily make fun of those sentenced to death, but given the anti-Jewish sentiment that is part of Pilate's rule, these bigoted men probably abuse Jesus with particular delight.

Our merciful Father pours on His Son the wrath we deserve in order to give us the blessings Jesus has merited. John Calvin writes, "Our filthiness deserves that God should hold it in abhorrence, and that all the angels should spit upon us; but Christ...to present us pure and unspotted in [the] presence of the Father, resolved to be spat upon, and to be dishonored by every kind of reproach."

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

The Christian faith is derided in many circles, and many professing believers throughout history have been tempted to play down the offense of the gospel or work hard to show the world that Christians are not as "uncool" as they seem. But while we must take care not to offend others with rude demeanors, we must also not accommodate ourselves to the world's values. If Christ was beaten and killed, can we not, by His Spirit, endure the mocking of the world?

For further study:

Genesis 37:12-24

The Bible in a year:

Amos 7-9

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

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

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Mocked and Beaten

The Christian faith is derided in many circles, and many professing believers throughout history have been tempted to play down the offense of the gospel or work hard to show the world that Christians are not as "uncool" as they seem. But while we must take care not to offend others with rude demeanors, we must also not accommodate ourselves to the world's values. If Christ was beaten and killed, can we not, by His Spirit, endure the mocking of the world?

For further study:

Genesis 37:12-24

The Bible in a year:

Amos 7-9

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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Prepare the Way
by Nancy Guthrie

What happens at your house when guests are coming? Do you clean up things that are messy, fix things that are broken, make plans for how you will welcome your visitors? As God prepared to send his Son into the world, he sent someone to get things ready. He had promised to do that, so some people were watching for this special individual.

Two Old Testament prophets (Malachi and Isaiah) had prophesied that before the Messiah would come, God would send a messenger to prepare the people. Malachi wrote, "Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.... Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah" (Malachi 3:1, 4:5). Isaiah had written, "Listen! It's the voice of someone shouting, 'Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!'" (Isaiah 40:3). Mark recorded, "This messenger was John the Baptist" (Mark 1:4 ). Luke wrote, "He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly" (Luke 1:17).

John the Baptist was the person God sent to prepare his people for Jesus. It wasn't food or beds that needed to be prepared; it was hearts. It was John's mission to call people to repent--to leave behind their sin and turn back to God. John prepared the people for Jesus by helping them get their hearts ready to receive him.

God knows our hearts need to be prepared to receive Jesus. During December we tend to get very busy preparing for Christmas with parties and programs and presents. But the most important preparation we need to make is to prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus in a fresh, new way. We do this by cleaning out the clutter of sinful attitudes and selfishness so that we look expectantly for Jesus to make himself known to us.

Prayer

Right now, Lord Jesus, our hearts are being prepared to receive you. Show us what must be removed, the sin that must be repented of, so that our hearts can fully receive you.

Discussion starters
  • When Luke said that John came with the "spirit and power of Elijah," he might that John proclaimed judgment for sin and called for repentance. How does an awareness of our sin help prepare us for Jesus?
  • What happens when we refuse or neglect to prepare the way for Jesus to come to us?
  • As we think about what we do to prepare for company, what similar things can we do to welcome Jesus into our home this Christmas?

Today's devotional reading is taken from Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room by Nancy Guthrie. Used by permission.
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Today's Advent reading is taken from:
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room
by Nancy Guthrie

Family-friendly devotions for every day in December, including Christ-centered Yuletide meditations, beloved carol lyrics, prayers, and discussion questions.

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Revolution In World Missions

Revolution In World Missions

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FRB-Christmas-Story-BookCover-SmallReading 7: The Messiah Will Come From Bethlehem

God gave Micah a message for the people of Israel: in their lifetime their nation would be destroyed. But God also gave Micah a vision of bright hope--with details! Micah predicted an important event in a little town in Judah that would make the town famous.


Micah 5:1-5
A Promised Ruler From Bethlehem
1 Marshal your troops, O city of troops,
for a siege is laid against us.
They will strike Israel’s ruler
on the cheek with a rod.

2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”

3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor gives birth
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.

4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
5 And he will be their peace.

Deliverance and Destruction
When the Assyrian invades our land
and marches through our fortresses,
we will raise against him seven shepherds,
even eight leaders of men.

Further Study

JUST THE FACTS
  1. What town was the prophet talking about? (v. 2)
  2. What did the prophet say about this small town? (v. 2)
  3. What would this ruler be like? (vv. 4 – 5)
LET’S TALK
  1. What do you think it means that the ruler over Israel would be one “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (v. 2)?
  2. How has Jesus’ greatness reached to the ends of the earth? Discuss.
WHY THIS MATTERS

Christ existed long before history began. He was present at the creation of the world. Jesus will rule forever as our shepherd, giving us peace and security as our “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). God chose the little town of Bethlehem to be Jesus’ birthplace long before he was born.

POINTS OF INTEREST

5:2 Though Bethlehem was a small town, it had an important place in the history of God’s people. Jacob buried his wife Rachel there (when it was called Ephrath, Genesis 35:19). Ibzan, a judge of Israel, was from this town. So were Boaz, the husband of Ruth, and David, who kept his father’s sheep and was anointed king by Samuel. Modern Bethlehem is a small village of fewer than 10,000 people. The surrounding hillsides abound in figs, almonds, olives and grape vines. The shepherds’ fields are located northeast of the town still today.
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Family Reading BibleToday's reading is from:
The Family Reading Bible

Additional resources:

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Meeting the Enemy

Ephesians 6:1-24

The idea of the devil more often solicits smirks than fear or caution in the world today. In his classic work The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis writes from the point of view of a senior demon, Screwtape, giving advice to his protégé, Wormwood, on how to influence his target. Screwtape tells Wormwood, "The fact that 'devils' are predominately comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you."

The Bible is clear that the devil is real and his schemes can be traced back to Eden. Beyond our limited vision lies a spiritual realm where the war for souls is waged. Jesus Christ has already won the ultimate victory, but battles still rage as Satan tries to make Christians and Christianity ineffective and impotent. Those battles play out in various arenas. Paul described them as "rulers," "authorities," "powers of this dark world" and "spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Spiritual warfare in unseen realms is as real as the battles waged here on earth.

There are also battles that occur within our thoughts, our relationships, our attitudes and our everyday choices. If the devil can wear us down so that we snap at our children or belittle our husband or pass on a tidbit of gossip, he has weakened our witness.

For every battle we face, God provides us with a full set of spiritual armor. God's armor is based on truth and righteousness, faith and peace. He asks us to be armed with his attributes, not our own. Above all, we have prayer, which reaches into the spiritual realm and places the battle into the hands of the One who has already won the war.

The presence of evil need not make us suspicious or fearful. We don't need to look for a demon behind every door. But we should be alert and prayerful so that we are aware of the devil's schemes when they come and so we can fight the battle in the spiritual realm.

Reflection

  1. How do you picture the devil and the battle in the spiritual realm?
  2. What schemes of the devil have you seen in your own life?
  3. What piece of God's armor do you most need right now?

Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Related Readings

Philippians 2:11; Hebrews 2:14-18; 1 Peter 5:8-9; 1 John 4:1-4

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NIV Women's Devotional Bible
by Zondervan


The New Women's Devotional Bible helps a new generation of Christian women apply God's Word to their lives.
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A Christmas Devotional

IMMANUEL

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"-which means, "God with us." -Matt. 1:22-23

My wife and I have only seriously lost track of our daughter once. We were walking through a crowded tourist town and the streets were lined with shops. It was evening and the crowds were dense. Suddenly, I noticed that neither my wife nor I had our eight-year-old daughter by the hand. We spun around, unable to spot her. With candy stores beckoning children indoors, and winding side streets all around, she could be anywhere.

A few minutes of running around, and somehow I spotted her, a far way down a side street. The look on her face was unforgettable: "Where were you?" she asked, but her eyes said, Thank God, you are with me now. I am never going to leave your side again.

"With us." There is hardly a more central promise that God has ever made to human beings. The alternative is just too horrifying to imagine. If God has abandoned us, and that is why so many bad things happen in life, then what does that say about God? What does it say about our destiny? If God oscillates in and out of our lives, willing to be with us only as long as we don't get too obnoxious, coming and going like a father who grows lax in his responsibility-where does that leave us? If God cannot be with us, then we would have to conclude that we will never reap the benefits of divine presence, and that words like grace, mercy, love, andtruth have no meaning.

Jesus was born, but he was also sent, and Immanuel was one of his names. Immanu-el: "with us [is] God." "God with us." His body among us, his message from the heavens. He turned life upside down with the divine truths he presented. But he also left people with the sense that they had never been closer to God than when they were with him.

We don't need to stay lost. God is not indifferent to our condition. And he came to us in the most radical way, by taking our flesh, our humanity, on himself.

Prayer for Today:

Dear Lord, I need to know you are with us. Help me, this Christmas, to know, more than I have ever known before, that you have come and that we can always live in the conscious enjoyment of your presence.

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Resources

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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NIV Devotions for Moms

Suffering for No Good Reason

Psalm 6:1–6

Additional Scripture Readings: Isaiah 55:8–11; Hebrews 4:14–16

Why does a three-year-old die of leukemia? Why is a cautious, middle-aged man hit by a drunk driver and killed? Why do we suffer?

Sometimes God allows suffering so that we will be alert to our need for him. On some occasions, God disciplines through suffering. And in still other moments, suffering serves as a school in which God teaches us lessons about himself and our relationship with him—lessons that could be learned in no other way.

And then there are times when we suffer for no apparent reason. After hours of tear-stained prayers, weeks of empty Bible reading and endless sessions with learned individuals, we may still not know why suffering has been dumped in our laps.

God may not always give us answers to our “Why?” questions regarding suffering. But he will always give us himself.

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Today's reading is from the
Mom's Devotional Bible
by Zondervan


Mom, you don't have to go it alone! The Mom's Devotional Bible is a trusted source of wisdom to help you along the path of mothering.


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