Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Daily Devotional Wednesday 14th December

“When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”” Matthew 2:4-6 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Salt without prescribing how much."
Ezra 7:22

Salt was used in every offering made by fire unto the Lord, and from its preserving and purifying properties it was the grateful emblem of divine grace in the soul. It is worthy of our attentive regard that, when Artaxerxes gave salt to Ezra the priest, he set no limit to the quantity, and we may be quite certain that when the King of kings distributes grace among his royal priesthood, the supply is not cut short by him. Often are we straitened in ourselves, but never in the Lord. He who chooses to gather much manna will find that he may have as much as he desires. There is no such famine in Jerusalem that the citizens should eat their bread by weight and drink their water by measure. Some things in the economy of grace are measured; for instance our vinegar and gall are given us with such exactness that we never have a single drop too much, but of the salt of grace no stint is made, "Ask what thou wilt and it shall be given unto thee." Parents need to lock up the fruit cupboard, and the sweet jars, but there is no need to keep the salt-box under lock and key, for few children will eat too greedily from that. A man may have too much money, or too much honour, but he cannot have too much grace. When Jeshurun waxed fat in the flesh, he kicked against God, but there is no fear of a man's becoming too full of grace: a plethora of grace is impossible. More wealth brings more care, but more grace brings more joy. Increased wisdom is increased sorrow, but abundance of the Spirit is fulness of joy. Believer, go to the throne for a large supply of heavenly salt. It will season thine afflictions, which are unsavoury without salt; it will preserve thy heart which corrupts if salt be absent, and it will kill thy sins even as salt kills reptiles. Thou needest much; seek much, and have much.

Evening

"I will make thy windows of agates."
Isaiah 54:12

The church is most instructively symbolized by a building erected by heavenly power, and designed by divine skill. Such a spiritual house must not be dark, for the Israelites had light in their dwellings; there must therefore be windows to let the light in and to allow the inhabitants to gaze abroad. These windows are precious as agates: the ways in which the church beholds her Lord and heaven, and spiritual truth in general, are to be had in the highest esteem. Agates are not the most transparent of gems, they are but semi-pellucid at the best:

"Our knowledge of that life is small,

Our eye of faith is dim."

Faith is one of these precious agate windows, but alas! it is often so misty and beclouded, that we see but darkly, and mistake much that we do see. Yet if we cannot gaze through windows of diamonds and know even as we are known, it is a glorious thing to behold the altogether lovely One, even though the glass be hazy as the agate. Experience is another of these dim but precious windows, yielding to us a subdued religious light, in which we see the sufferings of the Man of Sorrows, through our own afflictions. Our weak eyes could not endure windows of transparent glass to let in the Master's glory, but when they are dimmed with weeping, the beams of the Sun of Righteousness are tempered, and shine through the windows of agate with a soft radiance inexpressibly soothing to tempted souls. Sanctification, as it conforms us to our Lord, is another agate window. Only as we become heavenly can we comprehend heavenly things. The pure in heart see a pure God. Those who are like Jesus see him as he is. Because we are so little like him, the window is but agate; because we are somewhat like him, it is agate. We thank God for what we have, and long for more. When shall we see God and Jesus, and heaven and truth, face to face?

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Today's reading: Hosea 12-14, Revelation 4 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Hosea 12-14

1 Ephraim feeds on the wind;
he pursues the east wind all day
and multiplies lies and violence.
He makes a treaty with Assyria
and sends olive oil to Egypt.
2 The LORD has a charge to bring against Judah;
he will punish Jacob according to his ways
and repay him according to his deeds.
3 In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel;
as a man he struggled with God.
4 He struggled with the angel and overcame him;
he wept and begged for his favor.
He found him at Bethel
and talked with him there—
5 the LORD God Almighty,
the LORD is his name!
6 But you must return to your God;
maintain love and justice,
and wait for your God always.

7 The merchant uses dishonest scales
and loves to defraud.
8 Ephraim boasts,
“I am very rich; I have become wealthy.
With all my wealth they will not find in me
any iniquity or sin....”

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 4

The Throne in Heaven

1 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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Manasseh, Manasses[Mānăs’seh,Mānăs’sēs]—causing forgetfulness.

  1. The elder son of Joseph, who was born in Egypt and was half Hebrew and half Egyptian. He was the founder of a tribe (Gen. 41:51; Num. 1:10 ). Manasseh and his brother Ephraim were Jacob’s Gentile descendants, since both were children of an Egyptian mother. Ephraim means “the multitude of nations,” or “the fulness of the Gentiles,” and was prophetic of Christ as the Saviour of the world. The tribe of Manasseh produced two out of the four Old Testament men whose faith has been thought worthy of notice in the New Testament—Gideon and Jephthah (Heb. 11:32).
  2. The grandfather of Jonathan who, with his sons, became a priest to the tribe of Dan when they set up a graven image in Laish ( Judg. 18:30). Perhaps Moses should be read for Manasseh in the verse.
  3. The son of Hezekiah and father of Amon, king of Judah, who succeeded his father when he was only twelve years of age (2 Kings 20:21; 21).

The Man Whose Policy Was Wrong

Manasseh, the prodigal king of the Old Testament, was overwhelmed by Assyrian forces and in the twenty-third year of his reign was taken as a prisoner to Babylon where he lingered for twelve years. During these years he turned to God and was restored to freedom and his kingdom. For the next twenty years left to him, he sought to undo the wrong of the past. His long reign of fifty-five years, the longest in Jewish history, closed not inauspiciously. He died a penitent, and left a son who followed his father in his sins but not in his repentance.

Gathering together what we can of Manasseh’s life, it would seem that he was a man of policy:

His policy of idolatry . How he hated the first two commandments of Sinai, and reversed the reforms of his father! How exceedingly bold he was in his idolatry!

His policy of immorality. Idolatry and immorality go together, thus in rejecting God there came the worship of the Syrian Venus. This action let loose a flood of iniquity over the land of Judah.

His policy of persecution. Manasseh allowed nothing to stand in the way of license and open evil. Martyrdom became the cost of service. Idolatry was set up under the pain of death.

His policy of destruction . As far as he could, Manasseh destroyed the Word of God. Every copy found was consigned to the flames. God’s truth testified too plainly against the sins of king and people. So complete was this destruction of the Word of God that when Josiah, Manasseh’s grandson, came to the throne, a copy of it was found in the Temple.

But Manasseh’s eyes were opened to his sinful condition and he sobbed out the misery of his helpless and craven soul. Theoccasion of his repentance was affliction. In the prison-house of Babylon he prayed. As to the character of his repentance, he besought the Lord and humbled himself before the God of his fathers and prayed unto Him. Penniless and penitent, his cry for mercy came from a broken heart, and God graciously received this prodigal king. Alas, however, he stopped short of being out-and-out for God! He allowed the high places of idolatry to remain. It will not be possible to doubt God’s grace in heaven in the ages to come if we can but catch a glimpse of Manasseh—godly-reared, apostate, idolatrous, devilish, stricken, humbled, repentant Manasseh!

4. One of the family of Hashum who had married a foreign wife ( Ezra 10:33).

5. One of the family of Pahath-moab who had done the same (Ezra 10:30).

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LeeStrobel-Newsletter-Header-Final
A Christmas Story

LeeheadshotWhat we say and do really matters during this special season - as I found out when I was a skeptical newspaper reporter

The Chicago Tribune newsroom was eerily quiet on the day before Christmas in 1974. As I sat at my desk with little to do, my mind kept wandering back to a family I had encountered a month earlier while I was working on a series of articles about Chicago's neediest people.

Sixty-year-old Perfecta and her granddaughters Lydia and Jenny had been burned out of their roach-infested tenement and were now living in a tiny two-room apartment on the West Side. As I walked in, I couldn't believe how empty it was. There was no furniture, no rugs, nothing on the walls - only a small kitchen table and one handful of rice. That's it. They were virtually devoid of possessions.

In fact, eleven-year-old Lydia and thirteen-year-old Jenny owned only one short-sleeved dress each, plus one thin, gray sweater between them. When they walked the half-mile to school through the biting cold, Lydia would wear the sweater for part of the distance and then hand it to her shivering sister, who would wear it the rest of the way.

But despite their poverty and the painful arthritis that kept Perfecta from working, she still talked confidently about her faith in Jesus. She was convinced he had not abandoned them. I never sensed despair or self-pity in her home; instead, there was a gentle feeling of hope and peace.

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Questions from readers:

  • When was Luke written?
  • Mystery of the missing verse

Q. In one of your videos at www.LeeStrobel.com, you mentioned the gospel of Luke. When was Luke written? I thought it was at the end of the first century.

A. You've brought up my favorite gospel - Luke's account of the birth, life, teachings, miracles, death and resurrection of Jesus. I especially appreciate Luke because he was like a first-century investigative reporter. A physician and close associate of the apostle Paul, Luke stresses in the introduction to his gospel how he "carefully investigated everything from the beginning" in order to write "an orderly account" about "the certainty" of what took place.

When was Luke written? According to New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary, the standard scholarly dating, even in very liberal circles, is Mark in the 70s, Matthew and Luke in the 80s, and John in the 90s. "That's still within the lifetimes of various eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus, including hostile eyewitnesses who would have served as a corrective if false teachings about Jesus were going around," he pointed out in my interview with him for The Case for Christ.

Read the rest of this answer and answers to the other questions!

Have a question? Drop me a line atAskLee@Leestrobel.com. We'll answer the ones with the broadest interest in upcoming newsletters.

Lee's Notes

• Why Christmas? Here are 12 reasons from the best possible source. And here are five common myths about Christmas.

• We're thrilled that Dr. Craig Hazen has been added to the speakers at our March 10 national webcast of The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask. Hazen, who earned his doctorate at the University of California at Santa Barbara, is director of the M.A. Program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University and recipient of the Fischer Award, the highest faculty honor at Biola. He's an outstanding scholar and engaging communicator.

Your church and small group can still sign up for this live event, at which we'll be addressing questions about why God allows so much suffering; whether a loving God sends people to hell; how we know God exists and that Jesus is his Son; whether the Bible is full of mythology and mistakes; why people should choose Christianity over other religions; and other issues. I'll be speaking along with author/apologist Mark Mittelberg and Dr. Douglas Groothuis of Denver Seminary. For more information visitwww.incastevents.com/questions. Sign up by Jan. 1 to get best pricing.

Read the rest of Lee's Notes!

Why did Jesus come to Earth?



In this eight-minute video from the end of my talk based on the book The Case for Christmas, I do my best to summarize the Gospel and lead a prayer for those who want to receive Christ.

Lee's Links: Suggested articles from the web
Why Jesus?
We need the Incarnation - Christmas - to reveal a good and gracious God.
Christ on campus
Christian organizations risk being marginalized at more and more universities.
The face of Jesus
Pondering Rembrandt's portraits of Christ as we celebrate the Incarnation.
Atheists & church
One in five atheist scientists attend church with their family on occasion.
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P31Header
Karen Ehman

December 13, 2011

Rubber Bands for Rina
Karen Ehman

"Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'" Matthew 25:37-40 (NLT)

"What's up with the rubber bands, Mom?"

Curiosity shone in my nine-year-old son's face as he coaxed a beige wad out of his Christmas stocking. One by one our three children discovered, nestled beneath foil-wrapped candies and glittery trinkets, a tangled mass of rubber bands.

"When you've finished, Dad and I will explain," I answered with a wink to my husband.

My children were about to get a lesson in giving, even as they were receiving. Those rubber bands represented more than a way to bind up loose things; they represented the life of a child in need.

As a family we sponsor a little girl from Indonesia through Compassion International's program in her local church. Rina's smiling face in the photograph on our fridge reminds us to serve "the least of these" and be thankful for the bounty we enjoy. Each month we tuck a check in an envelope wrapped in prayer. It's our way of investing in Rina's education, spiritual growth and basic physical needs.

We regularly get updates on what she's learning at church as well as her academic progress and health. Compassion International also gives us a peek at Rina's family life and activities she enjoys. Not too long before Christmas, one sentence stopped me in my tracks: "Rina helps out around her home, caring for her younger siblings and assisting her mother with the cooking and with the family's animals. She also enjoys playing with rubber bands."

My heart sank. What! No dolls? No balls? Not even a jump rope? When finished with her chores, this precious girl passes time by playing with flimsy rubber bands. Hot tears poured as I eyed my own kids' overflowing toy box. Many items hadn't been touched in months.

That Christmas, my husband and I cut back on buying gifts for our family in order to send extra money to Compassion to purchase a special present for Rina. And, I prayed a portion of the offering would buy her a doll.

After our children had finished opening gifts in their stockings, we read Rina's report. "Can you imagine playing only with rubber bands?" I asked. "When we read that, Dad and I decided to use some of the money we would have spent on you to buy a present for Rina."

Two kids were immediately glad we did and one slightly sulked. However, we were all thrilled a few months later when Rina wrote us a letter scrawled in her own handwriting, and translated to English: "Thank you so greatly for the gift of the new clothes. And the doll." I just smiled. The previously sulking child asked if this could become an annual tradition.

Whether it's next door or across the world, people are in need. Today's key verse invites us to consider those lacking refreshment, encouragement or care. We are told that when we reach out to someone in any kind of need, it's not just a neighbor, co-worker or child across the world playing with rubber bands we are serving ... it's Jesus.

This verse challenges me to pause in the midst of my holiday hustle and consider ways I can reach out to others and make their lives better. There is always something we can do - whether it's prepare a meal for a family struggling financially, share toys with a child or spend time with someone alone. The size of the gift doesn't matter - it's the love behind the gift that does.

God chose to make our lives better that first Christmas. He gave us His Son so that we, prisoners of sin, hungering for truth, and thirsting for living water, might have eternal life. Now it is our turn. A simple gesture. Done in His Name. A life just might be changed forever.

Not only someone else's life ... but ours as well.

Dear Lord, are there those You want me to reach out to this Christmas? Speak. I'm listening. Show me how and where I can give. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Untangling Christmas: Your Go-To Guide for a Hassle-Free Holiday, Karen and LeAnn Rice's new e-book full of outreach ideas and ways to organize and simplify the season.

Enter to win a Christmas goodie basket along with a copy of Untangling Christmas. Visit Karen's blog for details.

Sponsor a Compassion Child today and touch a life forever.

Application Steps:
Gather your family or group of close friends. Brainstorm who might need some extra love or material goods this Christmas season.

What specifically could you do for them? Outline action steps and plan to follow through over the next few weeks.

Reflections:
Have I ever been the recipient of a loving Christmas gesture? How did it impact my life?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 31:20, "She opens her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her filled hands to the needy [whether in body, mind, or spirit]." (AMP)

© 2011 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

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December 13, 2011

Gifts That Matter

Part 1

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving-large or small-it will be used to measure what is given back to you (Luke 6:38, NLT).

Friend to Friend

The world would like us to believe that the success of Christmas depends upon how much we spend, how many presents we give or how many presents we receive. Christmas is about giving, but price tags do not determine the success of our giving. Giving is not dependent on the condition of our checkbooks. Giving is dependent on the condition of our hearts. I am so glad! Like you, we have to plan carefully what we buy and how much we spend on each gift. As a result, we have discovered some creative ways to give gifts from the heart, meaningful gifts that cost very little.

A homemade gift

In 1 Corinthians 4:12 , Paul teaches that we should "work hard with our own hands." This principle can easily be applied to Christmas gifts. Giving a homemade gift represents time, thought and is a part of you. When our children were small, one of our favorite Christmas traditions was to create and deliver a homemade hot chocolate mix in decorated mason jars to our neighbors. We placed the jars just to the left of each neighbor's front door, rang their doorbell and ran like crazy! I am not certain who enjoyed it the most ... our neighbors or us. But every year, we were amazed by how much the neighbors enjoyed our homemade gift. (By the way, the recipe posted on my website if you want to carry on this tradition.)

A possession gift

In Matthew 6:40 , Jesus spoke about giving away the shirt and coat on our backs. Giving something we already own can be a wonderful Christmas gift if it is something of special value to us. In other words, it is not the idea of getting rid of junk but sharing our treasure. Do not ask the question, "What can I buy for Sally?" Ask the question, "What do I have that would mean a lot to Sally?" My husband is a pastor. During a message, Dan mentioned he collects old Bibles. The next Christmas, one of our church members gave him a family Bible that had been passed down through several generations of family members. It was and still is one of Dan's most precious possessions.

A gift of time

Time is a valuable gift, a precious commodity. The apostle Paul wrote, "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity" (Ephesians 5:15-16 , NIV). When we give someone 30 minutes of our time, we are giving them 30 minutes of our lives. While Dan was in seminary, we rarely had a spare minute or extra dollar between school, jobs and babies. A close friend who knew our schedule gave us a precious gift of time. "I have no money but wanted to give you a gift for Christmas," he said, handing us a card. Inside was a coupon for free childcare one afternoon each week for the spring semester. That was over twenty-five years ago, and I still remember that wonderful gift of time.

A gift of prayer

The greatest gift we can give someone is the commitment to pray for them consistently. James writes, "Pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results" (James 5:16 , NLT). Following our traditional Christmas Eve service, an elderly lady approached Dan and said, "I don't have anything to give you, Pastor. But I want you to know that I will pray for you, Mary and the kids every morning this year at 6:00 a.m." And she did! What a priceless gift! Every time she saw us, this sweet lady asked what we needed and how she should pray. Only Heaven knows all that God accomplished in our lives through the prayers of this godly woman.

A gift of encouragement

As the writer of Proverbs says, encouragement is a powerful gift. "An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up" (Proverbs 12:25 , NIV). We assume the people in our lives know how much they mean to us. They rarely do. This Christmas, write a letter to someone you love and appreciate, telling them how important they are to you. Be specific. A written note or letter requires time, careful thought and allows that person to read your words of encouragement again and again. One of my most prized possessions is a blue wooden box our son built and gave me one year for Christmas. In that box, I store notes, letters and cards of affirmation so on my "blue" days, I can pull out a dose of encouragement. One year, I wrote a letter of encouragement to my husband and to each child. The letters were placed in decorated envelopes, tied to branches of the Christmas tree and opened first on Christmas morning.

On Thursday, I will share with you six more gifts from the heart. I pray this holiday season will lead us once again to the manger, where we will worship the Christ child and experience a Christmas holiday filled with love, peace and joy.

Let's Pray

Father, teach us to celebrate Your birth in the way we give to others. Lord, I don't want to get caught up in buying gifts that make me feel good. I want to give gifts that honor God, encourage others and point them to the real reason for this season - Jesus. Be glorified in every gift I give this year.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Read and memorize Luke 6:38 that says, "If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving-large or small-it will be used to measure what is given back to you.

What does this verse tell you about how important it is to give?

What does this verse say about the importance of the attitude behind the gift?

What does God promise to do in our lives when we give generously?

More from the Girlfriends

No matter what your circumstances may be, you can celebrate the Christmas holidays because God is with you, girlfriend.

Don't miss the biggest sale of the year going on in Mary'sonline store December 1 - 15! Great savings on Books, CDs,MP3 downloads, E-Bible Studies and Video downloads . Every order is also an automatic entry to win one of three copies of Girlfriends in God's first devotional book, Trusting God.Winners will be announced on December 15.

If you are like me, you are easily swept into the rush of Christmas preparation. I love it - mostly. But I also want to remember that at the very heart of Christmas is Emanuel, God with us. Join me this Christmas season in a quest to celebrate Him and His birth as never before. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebook - or through email.

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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Simon Carries the Cross

Simon was compelled to carry Christ's cross, but we who live subsequent to His death and resurrection are called to take up our crosses willingly (Luke 9:23 ). As followers of Jesus, we are to bear the scorn that comes our way for living after His pattern and not the pattern of the world. Let us remember that Christ endured far worse as we suffer for the gospel, and let us look to Him to make us able to stand in the day of trial.

For further study:

Deut. 21:22-23

The Bible in a year:

Obadiah-Jonah 3

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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Simon Carries the Cross

Matthew 27:32-34 "As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross" (v. 32).

Having finished their scourging and mockery of Jesus in the governor's headquarters (Matt. 27:26-31), the Roman soldiers take our Lord and begin His march toward the cross. Evidently, the physical beating Christ has suffered at the hands of the centurions has taken its toll, for He is not able to carry His cross on His own. Thus, the soldiers compel a man named Simon to bear the weight of the wooden crosspiece the condemned man would have to carry (v. 32 ), that is, the part to which Jesus' arms will be nailed. The vertical beam of the cross is already put in the ground before the condemned arrives. Simon is from Cyrene, a Greek settlement in North Africa, and later church traditions depict him as a model of piety for carrying our Lord's cross. Yet he has no choice but to obey the orders of the centurions, and to make his bearing of Christ's cross a sign of Simon's devotion goes a bit too far. Still, it could be that Simon later came to faith, for how could he carry the cross of Christ and then not be open to the gospel message? Mark 15:21 tells us Simon has two sons, Alexander and Rufus, and the latter man may be mentioned in Romans 16:13.

Upon arriving at Golgotha, the crucifixion site, Jesus is offered wine to drink. This wine is mixed with gall, which is a bitter herb (Matt. 27:33-34 ), and some commentators believe that the potion is some kind of narcotic given to dull the pain. Based onProverbs 31:6 , Jewish women in that day would sometimes give such wine to crucified men out of sympathy; however, the problem with this reading of the text is that the soldiers, not the women, offer Jesus the drink. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that the Romans would all of a sudden want to alleviate the pain of a condemned man. Wine becomes sour and undrinkable when mixed with gall, and so it may be that the Romans offer the drink to torture Jesus further. If so, this event fulfills Psalm 69:19-21.

Either way, Jesus does not drink from this cup ( Matt. 27:34). The cup that He does drink, however, is the cup that His Father has given Him - the cup of God's wrath against the sins of His people (1 Peter 2:24). Let us be thankful that we who rely on Christ's sacrifice will never taste this cup of condemnation.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Simon was compelled to carry Christ's cross, but we who live subsequent to His death and resurrection are called to take up our crosses willingly ( Luke 9:23). As followers of Jesus, we are to bear the scorn that comes our way for living after His pattern and not the pattern of the world. Let us remember that Christ endured far worse as we suffer for the gospel, and let us look to Him to make us able to stand in the day of trial.

For further study:

Deut. 21:22-23

The Bible in a year:

Obadiah-Jonah 3

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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FRB-Christmas-Story-BookCover-SmallReading 8: The Birth of John Foretold

Many years later, Israel came under the powerful rule of the Roman Empire. The empire ruled over the Jews and made them pay heavy taxes. They still longed for a savior to rescue them and restore their nation. The right time came for God to fulfill his promise and send the Messiah. But first he would send a special messenger to announce Jesus’ coming and get the people ready to accept their Savior.


Luke 1:5-25
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home.24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Further Study

JUST THE FACTS
  1. Who was Zechariah? What was his wife’s name? (v. 5)
  2. Who visited Zechariah in the temple? What was the message? (vv. 11 – 17)
  3. What happened to Zechariah? Why? (v. 20)
LET’S TALK
  1. Was Zechariah’s inability to speak a punishment or a blessing? Explain.
  2. In what way would John “go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah” (v. 17)? Why did the angel compare John to the Old Testament prophet?
WHY THIS MATTERS

God kept the promise he had made to his people through the prophet Isaiah. John was “a voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord’” (Isaiah 40:3). John preached repentance so the people could accept the Good News of Jesus.

POINTS OF INTEREST

1:5 Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were Levites and descendants of Aaron. Only men from the family line of Aaron could be priests. Groups of priests rotated serving in the temple. They presented sacrifices and offerings to God, taught and carried out God’s laws for worship, maintained the temple, lit lamps and burned incense, and talked to God on behalf of the people of Israel. Zechariah was on duty and serving as priest when the angel came to him in the temple.
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Each Tuesday in Advent, we look at the story behind a beloved Christmas song.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

In medieval Europe, there were cathedral services each evening leading up to Christmas Eve. Each service would begin with an antiphon , a choral call to worship. There were seven "Great O Antiphons," beginning with the Latin word vini("come"), followed by the Latin words for "O Wisdom," "O Lord," "O Branch of Jesse," "O Key of David," "O Dayspring," "O King of Nations," and "O Emmanuel." These choral prayers were rooted in messianic titles used by the prophets in the Old Testament, pleas for God to come. During the 1800s, various English translations of the "Great O Antiphons" were made. This well-loved British version is the work of Thomas Alexander Lacey, who was born December 20, 1853.

O come, O come, Emmanuel!
Redeem thy captive Israel
That into exile drear is gone,
Far from the face of God's dear Son.

O come, thou Branch of Jesse! Draw
The quarry from the lion's claw;
From the dread caverns of the grave,
From nether hell, thy people save.

O come, O come, thou Dayspring bright!
Pour on our souls thy healing light;
Dispel the long night's ling'ring gloom,
And pierce the shadows of the tomb.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

"They shall call his name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." --Matthew 1:23

Today's reading is from Near to the Heart of God by Robert J. Morgan.
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Today's Advent reading is taken from:
Near to the Heart of God
by Robert J. Morgan

A soul-bolstering collection that begins with Scripture, includes lyrics and an uplifting story about a favorite hymn, and ends with a prayer.

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Click on the image above to watch the video!

Deeper Connections: The Life of Jesus

When Jesus appeared on the scene, he was not what the people of Israel had expected. He claimed to be the Messiah, but what that looked like for Jesus came as a surprised to many. We see this right from the very beginning of his story.

In human terms, the story of Jesus’ birth is one of humiliation. His mother becomes pregnant as a virgin who was engaged to be married, and though Joseph is a righteous man and obeys God by staying with Mary, rumors about his birth would follow Jesus all his life. Once they arrive at Bethlehem this young couple is turned away at the inn, and Mary is forced to give birth to their son amid the animals.

For a new born king, Jesus receives a meager welcome. No royalty or priests from Jerusalem come to worship him, only lowly shepherds, the poor and oppressed, and even Gentiles.

To top it all off, this was a Messiah who did not come in power but who suffered at the hands of the rulers of Israel, and would ultimately die at their hands.

The story of Christmas is one of surprises, but the ultimate surprise is that this Messiah of humble origins who died a humiliating death was in fact the savior of the world.
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In Deeper Connections: The Life of Jesus, Matt Williams brings together leading New Testament scholars to shed light on the story of Jesus, while drawing our real-life applications that will help you live out your faith today.

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Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional

SOUL

My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. -Luke 2:46-47

One of the worst things that can happen to a person is to live with a shrunken understanding of God, a shrunken soul. This is the perfect reason to take Christmas seriously, as our best hope for our minds and hearts to be enlarged with God's greatness.

Mary's response to the message that she would bear the savior was a remarkable song of praise, sometimes known as the Magnificat (Luke 2:46-55). It begins, "My soul magnifies the Lord," which means that because God's announcement opened her heart him in a way that she couldn't have imagined, her soul was beginning to grasp the bigness of God.

I remember the first time I looked through a telescope at the open sky on a cold winter evening. When I pointed it at the half-lit moon, I was stunned as it came into focus-to see mountains and plains, unlike the picture books I was used to, but the real thing in real time. An ethereal, bright disk hanging in the sky was now a real place to me. The telescope magnified its reality. The moon didn't increase, but my comprehension of it did.

Sometimes human beings look at God as if he were a distant point of light. But when we take his word into consideration, and if we accept it by faith, our perspective changes drastically. We see that we are living in a greater reality, with a greater God than we had imagined, and with greater possibilities in our future.

Mary knew her life would never be the same-not just her life, but the lives of countless others-because of what God was going to do. This stretched her soul, and it can stretch ours.

Prayer for today:

Lord, this Christmas, give me a larger vision of who you are. May you be magnified in my soul, and may others see that you are the focus of my celebration.

For the month of December, we’re giving all of our “Everything New” readers a taste of Mel’s Christmas devotional, “Christmas Joy”. Click here to subscribe to this email devotional, which will run the month of December. Or acquire the entire devotional as an e-book, compatible with your Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, Kindle or Android. All previous posts in this series are available at The Brook Network.

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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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Does God give anyone a chance to believe after death?

This week's reading: Luke 16:19-31

The unrepeatable reality of physical death leads directly to reaping what we sowed in this world. Jesus taught that in this parable of the rich man and Lazarus as well as when he spoke of dying in one's sins as something dreadful (see Jn 8:21-23). Similarly, Paul taught that on judgment day, all will receive a destiny corresponding to their works (see Ro 2:5-16; 2Co 5:10 ;Gal 6:7-8). New Testament teaching is unified in viewing the dead and final judgment this way.

Scripture says nothing of God's grace triggering postmortem conversions. Thus we may infer that an unbeliever's lack of desire for Christ before the grave remains unchanged after the grave. God's offer of salvation does not appear to extend beyond death.

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Today's reading is from the
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A Christmas Devotional

SOUL

My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. -Luke 2:46-47

One of the worst things that can happen to a person is to live with a shrunken understanding of God, a shrunken soul. This is the perfect reason to take Christmas seriously, as our best hope for our minds and hearts to be enlarged with God's greatness.

Mary's response to the message that she would bear the savior was a remarkable song of praise, sometimes known as the Magnificat (Luke 2:46-55). It begins, "My soul magnifies the Lord," which means that because God's announcement opened her heart him in a way that she couldn't have imagined, her soul was beginning to grasp the bigness of God.

I remember the first time I looked through a telescope at the open sky on a cold winter evening. When I pointed it at the half-lit moon, I was stunned as it came into focus-to see mountains and plains, unlike the picture books I was used to, but the real thing in real time. An ethereal, bright disk hanging in the sky was now a real place to me. The telescope magnified its reality. The moon didn't increase, but my comprehension of it did.

Sometimes human beings look at God as if he were a distant point of light. But when we take his word into consideration, and if we accept it by faith, our perspective changes drastically. We see that we are living in a greater reality, with a greater God than we had imagined, and with greater possibilities in our future.

Mary knew her life would never be the same-not just her life, but the lives of countless others-because of what God was going to do. This stretched her soul, and it can stretch ours.

Prayer for today:

Lord, this Christmas, give me a larger vision of who you are. May you be magnified in my soul, and may others see that you are the focus of my celebration.

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