Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Daily Devotional Wednesday 21st December

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Luke 2:1, 4-5 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love."
Jeremiah 31:3

Sometimes the Lord Jesus tells his Church his love thoughts. "He does not think it enough behind her back to tell it, but in her very presence he says, Thou art all fair, my love.' It is true, this is not his ordinary method; he is a wise lover, and knows when to keep back the intimation of love and when to let it out; but there are times when he will make no secret of it; times when he will put it beyond all dispute in the souls of his people" (R. Erskine's Sermons). The Holy Spirit is often pleased, in a most gracious manner, to witness with our spirits of the love of Jesus. He takes of the things of Christ and reveals them unto us. No voice is heard from the clouds, and no vision is seen in the night, but we have a testimony more sure than either of these. If an angel should fly from heaven and inform the saint personally of the Saviour's love to him, the evidence would not be one whit more satisfactory than that which is borne in the heart by the Holy Ghost. Ask those of the Lord's people who have lived the nearest to the gates of heaven, and they will tell you that they have had seasons when the love of Christ towards them has been a fact so clear and sure, that they could no more doubt it than they could question their own existence. Yes, beloved believer, you and I have had times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and then our faith has mounted to the topmost heights of assurance. We have had confidence to lean our heads upon the bosom of our Lord, and we have no more questioned our Master's affection to us than John did when in that blessed posture; nay, nor so much: for the dark question, "Lord, is it I that shall betray thee?" has been put far from us. He has kissed us with the kisses of his mouth, and killed our doubts by the closeness of his embrace. His love has been sweeter than wine to our souls.

Evening

"Call the labourers, and give them their hire."
Matthew 20:8

God is a good paymaster; he pays his servants while at work as well as when they have done it; and one of his payments is this: an easy conscience. If you have spoken faithfully of Jesus to one person, when you go to bed at night you feel happy in thinking, "I have this day discharged my conscience of that man's blood." There is a great comfort in doing something for Jesus. Oh, what a happiness to place jewels in his crown, and give him to see of the travail of his soul! There is also very great reward in watching the first buddings of conviction in a soul! To say of that girl in the class, "She is tender of heart, I do hope that there is the Lord's work within." To go home and pray over that boy, who said something in the afternoon which made you think he must know more of divine truth than you had feared! Oh, the joy of hope! But as for the joy of success! it is unspeakable. This joy, overwhelming as it is, is a hungry thing--you pine for more of it. To be a soul-winner is the happiest thing in the world. With every soul you bring to Christ, you get a new heaven upon earth. But who can conceive the bliss which awaits us above! Oh, how sweet is that sentence, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!" Do you know what the joy of Christ is over a saved sinner? This is the very joy which we are to possess in heaven. Yes, when he mounts the throne, you shall mount with him. When the heavens ring with "Well done, well done," you shall partake in the reward; you have toiled with him, you have suffered with him, you shall now reign with him; you have sown with him, you shall reap with him; your face was covered with sweat like his, and your soul was grieved for the sins of men as his soul was, now shall your face be bright with heaven's splendour as is his countenance, and now shall your soul be filled with beatific joys even as his soul is.

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Today's reading: Micah 1-3, Revelation 11 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Micah 1-3

1 The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah—the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

2 Hear, you peoples, all of you,
listen, earth and all who live in it,
that the Sovereign LORD may bear witness against you,
the Lord from his holy temple.

Judgment Against Samaria and Jerusalem

3 Look! The LORD is coming from his dwelling place;
he comes down and treads on the heights of the earth.
4 The mountains melt beneath him
and the valleys split apart,
like wax before the fire,
like water rushing down a slope.
5 All this is because of Jacob’s transgression,
because of the sins of the people of Israel.
What is Jacob’s transgression?
Is it not Samaria?
What is Judah’s high place?
Is it not Jerusalem?

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 11

The Two Witnesses

1 I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. 2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. 3 And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.” 5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. 6 They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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Lazarus [Lăz'arŭs]—god hath helpedor without help.

  1. The beggar in the parable of the rich man. This is the only instance where Jesus gives a name to a parabolic character, and there was an idea in early times that it was not a parable but a story from real life (Luke 16:19-31).
  2. The brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany whom Jesus raised from the dead (John 11; 12:1-17).

The Man Who Lived Again

Alexander Whyte comments,

Lazarus of Bethany comes as near to Jesus of Nazareth, both in his character, and in his services, and in his unparalleled experience, as mortal men ever come. Lazarus'name is never to be read in the new Testament till the appointed time comes when he is to be sick, ...to die, and to be raised from the dead for the glory of God. Nor is his voice heard. Lazarus loved silence. He sought obscurity. He liked to be overlooked. He revelled in neglect...The very Evangelists pass over Lazarus as if he were a worm and no man.

I. He is the subject of the greatest and most startling miracle of the gospel story.

II. He was the friend of Jesus, being loved by Him. Jesus wept at his grave.

III. His resurrection threatened the life of Jesus. The Sanhedrin were determined to put Him to death.

IV. His attendance at Simon’s banquet excited the enthusiasm of the people (John 12:9, 17, 18).

After his presence as an honored guest at Simon’s house, Lazarus vanishes from the gospel story. Of all men, he should have stood by Jesus at His trial and crucifixion. Doubtless Lazarus was forced to flee, seeing that the infuriated elders determined his death (John 12:10, 11). With a deep affection for his Friend, Lazarus would withdraw more for His sake than for his own. He felt his presence only increased the Master’s danger.

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Three Faithful Women

Matthew 27:55-56

John Calvin says the women's "eagerness for instruction led them to withdraw from their country, and constantly learn from the lips of Christ...they spared neither toil nor money, provided that they might enjoy his saving doctrine." How eager are we to learn from Jesus? If these women could travel from Galilee to be with Him, can we not devote some time each day to call upon Him in prayer and study His Word?

For further study:

Psalm 88

The Bible in a year:

Hab. 3-Zephaniah 2

Coram Deo from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

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December 20, 2011

A Box of Socks

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer (Matthew 21:22, NIV).

Friend to Friend

My sister loves socks! One day, we were shopping and happened to walk into a department store where neither one of us could afford to buy a single thing. We were just passing through, on our way to find the bargains we could afford. With a sigh and a wistful look on her face, Betty said, "I wish I could afford to shop in this store." When I asked her what she would buy, she immediately replied with a smile, "Socks! I want a big box of socks. I would wear a different pair every day." I could think of several things I would have liked to buy in that store and socks was not one of them. I guess it is a matter of perspective. What was important to her was not important to me.

I sometimes think my prayer requests are insignificant and unimpressive to God. After all, He is God. Does He really have the time or the desire to hear and answer my prayers? Yes! The truth is that if it is important to me, it is important to God.

Each Christmas, Operation Shoebox collects and sends over eight million shoeboxes stuffed with small gifts such as candy, school supplies, small toys, toothbrushes, soap, and shampoo to children across the world. In Mexico, hundreds of boys and girls gathered at the church in a small village, excitedly anticipating the arrival of their precious shoeboxes.

Delightful chaos erupted as bulging shoeboxes, wrapped in brightly colored paper and ribbon were passed into the small, eager hands of each child. Wrapping paper was hurriedly ripped into pieces and tossed aside, a smile spreading across the face of each child as their long awaited Christmas treasures were revealed. However, one little boy dissolved into tears as he lifted the lid of his box and peered inside to see what he had received for Christmas this year.

One of the Operation Shoebox volunteers spotted the little boy and hurriedly made his way across the church to see what the problem could possibly be. With the help of an interpreter, the volunteer asked the now sobbing little boy, "What is wrong? What is in your box?" With tears streaming down his face, the little boy said, "Socks!" The worker instantly understood and assured the little boy that he could trade his box of socks for another box that might have crayons, a toy or a piece of candy in it.

Alarm spread across the face of the child as he vigorously shook his head and quickly jerked the box away from the now somewhat confused worker. Clutching the shoebox to his chest, the boy began sobbing out an explanation to the interpreter who listened for a few moments and then, with tears spilling out of his own eyes, turned to the volunteer and said, "You won't believe this!"

Taking a deep, steadying breath, the interpreter explained, "This little boy has a rare skin condition with which he was born. It seems to affect his feet more than any other spot on his body. The doctors have tried various medications and treatments but finally told the little boy that nothing will work and his feet will never heal unless he begins wearing cotton socks. His parents cannot even afford food for this boy; much less provide socks for their son. So, all year long, he has been praying for socks."

Socks were at the top of the little boy's prayer list. As a matter of fact, they were his list. The mere sight of ordinary cotton socks brought tears to his eyes as he stared in awe at the priceless gift in his hands - socks. You see, they were more than just socks. They were the profound answer from our extraordinary God to a child's simple prayer. One unknown and seemingly insignificant boy in Mexico prayed. God heard him and said "Let me take care of you."

No matter how small or trivial your prayers may seem, remember God's perspective. If it is important to you, it is important to Him. And He will take care of you.

Let's Pray

Father, thank You for the privilege of coming before You in prayer. I want prayer to be as natural to me as breathing out and breathing in. I refuse to believe the lie that my prayers are too small or unimportant for You to hear. You are my Father. You are my God and You long to hear my voice. I will bring every prayer of my heart to You.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Do you have your own "box of socks" for which you are praying? What is it?

Do you really believe that God will hear and answer your prayer?

Read Hebrews 11:6. How does your faith measure up to the faith described in this verse?

Today, pray in faith and see what God does!

More from the Girlfriends

Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebook - or throughemail. A new year is just around the corner. Is one of your resolutions for 2012 to have a daily quiet time? Need help? Check out Mary's Weekly Online Bible Study, Light for the Journey. And be sure to get your copy of our new 12-week devotion book, Trusting God.

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
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Rachel Olsen

December 20, 2011

The Man Who Almost Missed Christmas
Rachel Olsen

"His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly." Matthew 1:18b-19(NIV)

In the Bible there is a man who almost missed Christmas.

It wasn't because he was distracted with holiday parties, visiting relatives or completing his shopping list. He wasn't stranded in an airport or battling a flu bug.

He just couldn't see how his current circumstances were part of God's plan for his life.

Joseph was engaged to be married to Mary, a young woman chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus. In their culture, an engagement was every bit as binding as the marriage ceremony. So when Mary returned home from spending three months out of town and told Joseph she was pregnant, all he could think of was to divorce her quietly.

Joseph knew they hadn't been intimate - he was careful with their purity. Mary's growing belly would give him every reason to believe she'd been unfaithful. And it wasn't just him who would assume so. Everyone in their hometown probably knew Mary had been out of town for months, without him.

Law dictated she be stoned to death for being unfaithful to her fiancé. Instead, Joseph planned to quietly end their engagement and say nothing about the unexpected pregnancy. He was a man of integrity.

But Joseph was also a man who didn't fully understand God's plan, and he almost missed being part of it.

Although scripture doesn't tell us for sure, Mary had likely explained to Joseph how the Holy Spirit came to her and placed this baby in her womb. From his perspective, this was a situation to be escaped rather than accepted as something straight from the hand of God.

Scripture explains what happened next: "But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins'" (Matt. 1:20-21).

What at first looked like a huge problem, a troubling circumstance, a total reputation-wrecker to Joseph, turned out to be the most glorious thing in his life when seen from God's perspective.

From this new viewpoint, Joseph saw what an honor it was to bear this burden. What a thrill to raise and know God's own Son!

While we may not get an angel visitation, we can pause and consider this same possibility in our lives. There have been many instances when my circumstances seemed like a detour, or even destruction, of my plans. At those times I can't imagine God bringing anything good out of what just seems like trouble.

But the story of Joseph brings me hope. It reminds me that God's ways aren't my ways. And sometimes in our greatest difficulties we find our greatest opportunities and blessed responsibilities.

Joseph was given the honor of naming the baby Jesus - the very same name we call on today for help. Had Joseph walked away, divorcing Mary quietly, he would've missed it.

He would have missed Christmas. And he would have missed the life-defining lesson that God's plans aren't always logical in human eyes, but they can always be trusted.

Is there a problem you are facing today? Is it possible this could be part of God's plans for you?

Dear Lord, thank You for Jesus. And thank You that Your plans for us are plans for good and not for evil - to give us a future and a hope. I trust You today with my life and my circumstances. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Stop by Rachel's blog and leave a prayer request for whatever issues you are facing, or whatever Christmas plans you are making.

For more encouragement on how our stormiest days can hold great blessings, pick up It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know by Rachel Olsen

Application Steps:
Take time to read Joseph's story in the gospel accounts of Jesus' birth. Then process your concerns and troubles with God in prayer, and ask Him to help you replace your perspective with His.

Reflections:
Will I trust God with my present circumstances?

What step of faith can I make today so that I don't miss God's plans for me?

Power Verses:
2 Corinthians 1:10, "He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us ..." (NIV)

Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (NIV)

Proverbs 19:21, "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." (NIV)

© 2011 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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



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Three Faithful Women

Matthew 27:55-56 "There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him" (v. 55).

Knowing that Jesus' death is not the last word about Him, it is hard to get a sense of the hopelessness the disciples felt as He hung on the cross. Even our Lord Himself experienced abandonment when He died, as seen in His cry in Matthew 27:46. Yet He did not lose hope in His Father altogether as He suffered divine judgment for the sins of His people. Scholars have long recognized that New Testament figures had in mind the entire context of the passages they cited, even if they did not quote them in full. Jesus' lament over His forsakenness is a quote from Psalm 22:1, which concludes with confidence that God will hear the psalmist's cry (vv. 24, 26). Jesus' use ofPsalm 22 reveals that though He had to suffer for a time, He knew that He would finally be vindicated.

The pain Christ experienced on the cross would only have been heightened by the absence of His closest friends. His disciples left Him in His hour of need (Matt. 26:47-56), although John later changed His mind and returned to see His master die (John 19:25-27 ). Not all of Jesus' companions, however, deserted Him at the time of His death. As today's passage tells us, many women remained at the scene until the end, supporting Him from a distance because only the Roman soldiers could come right up to the cross (Matt. 27:55-56).

We know little about these women except that there were many more of them than the three Matthew names. Mary Magdalene provided financial support to Jesus' ministry and had been demon possessed before she met Him ( Luke 8:1-3). The "mother of James and Joseph" is likely Mary the mother of Jesus because His mother was there at the cross (John 19:25), and Christ had brothers named James and Joseph (Matt. 13:53-55). It also may be that the Salome we read of in Mark 15:40 is "the mother of the sons of Zebedee" in Matthew 27:55-56. This might make her Jesus' aunt, as John 19:25 says His mother's sister was also present at the cross, even if the fourth evangelist does not name her.

Whatever the case may be, it is plain that the women who followed Jesus were those who were most faithful to Him. Their loyal love was rewarded when they were the first to hear of Christ's resurrection ( Matt. 28:1-10).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

John Calvin says the women's "eagerness for instruction led them to withdraw from their country, and constantly learn from the lips of Christ...they spared neither toil nor money, provided that they might enjoy his saving doctrine." How eager are we to learn from Jesus? If these women could travel from Galilee to be with Him, can we not devote some time each day to call upon Him in prayer and study His Word?

For further study:

Psalm 88

The Bible in a year:

Hab. 3-Zephaniah 2

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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New From The Girlfriends in GodComes a Book about trusting God... No matter what!You don't have to understand God to trust him

In a culture where we tend to take control of our own lives, trusting God has become a religious platitude rather than a life-changing attitude. We say it, but do we really mean it? And what does trusting God really look like?

In this book you'll find:

  • A unique 12-week devotional study
  • A Bible study guide and journal page at the end of each week's study
  • The flexibility to study on your own or with girlfriends...or both!

Learn how to trust God-one step at a time.

Buy the BookBuy the eBookWatch the Video
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Each Tuesday in Advent, we look at the story behind a beloved Christmas song.

O Come, All Ye Faithful

The Christmas truce on Flanders Field in Belgium is a timeless testimony to the power of the birth of Christ. On the western front of World War I, a brief, unofficial cessation of hostilities occurred between British and German forces. It began on Christmas Eve 1914, when German soldiers in their trenches began singing "Silent Night." The British stopped firing and began singing English carols. Soon the troops were greeting each other across no-man's-land and exchanging small gifts. According to the written account of an unknown British soldier, the next morning, December 25, 1914, was foggy and very cold. Neither side began firing; the truce held. Some British troops went over to the German side to help bury a slain soldier and then returned for a Christmas worship service. "How we did sing, 'O Come, All Ye Faithful,'" he wrote his family. "I never expected to shake hands with Germans between the firing lines on Christmas Day, and I don't suppose you thought of us doing so. So after a fashion we've enjoyed our Christmas." The next day the war resumed.

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, o come ye,
to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
born the king of angels;

Sing, choirs of angels,
sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven
above!
Glory to God,
all glory in the highest;

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be
all glory given;
Word of the Father,
now in flesh appearing.

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.


"For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." -- Luke 2:11

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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FRB-Christmas-Story-BookCover-SmallReading 15: The Visit of the Magi

Several months after Jesus was born, Magi (traditionally called wise men) came from the east to Jerusalem asking about a new king. First, they asked King Herod, who was a friend of the Roman rulers, where to find the one they were looking for. Then they traveled another five miles to the town where Jesus lived in order to find him.


Matthew 2:1-12
The Visit of the Magi
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘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 be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Further Study

JUST THE FACTS
  1. Whom did the Magi say they were looking for? (v. 2)
  2. What was the name of the king who was disturbed when he heard of another king being born? (v. 3)
  3. What did the Magi do when they found Mary with her child? (v. 11)
LET’S TALK
  1. Why was King Herod disturbed when he heard that the Messiah had been born? What did he think the Messiah would do?
  2. Why do you think the Magi didn’t go back to King Herod?
WHY THIS MATTERS

The Magi were the first to acknowledge Jesus as a king. This affirmed what the angel had said to Mary: Jesus would receive the throne of David, and his kingdom would have no end (see Luke 1:32 - 33).

POINTS OF INTEREST

2:2 Astronomers have explained that the star of Bethlehem was a comet, a nova or an alignment of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. But history does not record that anyone besides the Magi saw this star. Apparently the star was a celestial phenomena God created just for this occasion.
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Family Reading BibleToday's reading is from:
The Family Reading Bible

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The Story: Adult Curriculum

The Christmas story is really two stories. The first story is about everyday people, their triumphs and downfalls, their struggles and joys, and their encounters with God; that is the lower story. The other story is about God and his plan to save the world and set all things to rights; that is the upper story.

We only see the lower story, and sometimes it can be difficult to understand how those two stories could possibly be compatible let alone headed towards a single glorious end.

The birth of Jesus, according to the lower story, was shadowed by humiliation, ambiguity, and even scandal. According to the lower story no one would have questioned Joseph if he had left Mary. According to the lower story Caesar was king and a boy born in a manger had no hope of challenging his reign. According to the lower story there was nothing special about that night.

But according to the upper story, the creator God of the universe was taking on flesh and dwelling among us. According to the upper story the salvation and reign of God were breaking into history. According to the upper story the birth of Jesus was not the scandal, it was the solution to our scandal, our sin.

Two very different stories, that came together on Christmas day.
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The Story DVD gives groups of all sizes the opportunity to learn, discuss, and apply what they have experienced during their 31-week The Story church-wide experience. Pastor and author Randy Frazee presents 31 ten-minute teachings on how the story of Scripture intersects with the story of your life.

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Where are the dead?

This week's reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:14,16

A few take the words “fallen asleep” literally and believe that the dead remain unconscious until the Lord returns. But most see this as a euphemism: that the body “sleeps” while the spirit remains conscious. When Christians die, their bodies go into the grave while their spirits go to be with Jesus (see 2Co 5:6–8;Php 1:23). When unbelievers die, their bodies go into the grave while their spirits go to a place of torment.

The Old Testament speaks in a limited way about the grave, where all go at death. The New Testament uses the Greek word Hades for the Old Testament concept (see Rev 20:13), but expands on it considerably. Jesus hinted that Hades is divided into two parts—one for the wicked and one for the righteous. For the wicked it is described as torment, agony and fire; for the righteous it is comfort and rest (see Lk 16:22–26).

Gehenna is another word for hell, the final place of judgment upon the wicked. It was borrowed from the phrase meaning “the Valley of Hinnom,” a place where human sacrifices and pagan worship had occurred. During New Testament times the place was the Jerusalem city dump where fires burned continually—a graphic image of perpetual torment and judgment.

When Christ returns, those who have died and are with Jesus will be given new bodies—resurrected, glorified bodies. At the final judgment unbelievers will be thrown into the “lake of fire” (Rev 20:11–15).

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Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional

STAR

They went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. - Matthew 2:9-10

In Psalm 19, David gives voice to the stars:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Vss. 1-4)

If you have ever stood outside at night and looked up at the canopy of stars, away from the city, away from noise, you may have seen that the stars have a message. In silence they speak, and their voice is thunderous.

The star of Bethlehem, a sign in the sky noted by the Magi, may have been a miraculous event, matching the miraculous entry of the Savior into the world, or it may have been a natural astronomical phenomenon, used by God as a sign. In either case, the heavens were speaking in a unique way about a unique world-changing event. Should that come as any surprise?

But note that only the observant recognized the sign, and in this case, they were outsiders. God drew outsiders toward Bethlehem with a word that he had placed in the sky. Don't ever doubt that God is speaking to the "outsider," and that those who seek will find. Christmas is both for believers, and for those who have yet to come to faith. In those days, it was a celestial sign that attracted the attention of outsiders. Today, there are many signs that Jesus accomplished something unique in the world, acts arise out of and point to his holy character.

Prayer for today:

Lord, thank you for putting your clear markers into this world and into our lives so we can know that you are real, and what you intend to do. May this Christmas be a new marker for me.

This is post #20 in the Christmas devotional “Christmas Joy”. Want to read more from this series? In addition to being posted online, the entire devotional is available in a Kindle e-book (readable on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android or Kindle).

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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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A Christmas Devotional

STAR

They went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. - Matthew 2:9-10

In Psalm 19, David gives voice to the stars:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Vss. 1-4)

If you have ever stood outside at night and looked up at the canopy of stars, away from the city, away from noise, you may have seen that the stars have a message. In silence they speak, and their voice is thunderous.

The star of Bethlehem, a sign in the sky noted by the Magi, may have been a miraculous event, matching the miraculous entry of the Savior into the world, or it may have been a natural astronomical phenomenon, used by God as a sign. In either case, the heavens were speaking in a unique way about a unique world-changing event. Should that come as any surprise?

But note that only the observant recognized the sign, and in this case, they were outsiders. God drew outsiders toward Bethlehem with a word that he had placed in the sky. Don't ever doubt that God is speaking to the "outsider," and that those who seek will find. Christmas is both for believers, and for those who have yet to come to faith. In those days, it was a celestial sign that attracted the attention of outsiders. Today, there are many signs that Jesus accomplished something unique in the world, acts arise out of and point to his holy character.

Prayer for today:

Lord, thank you for putting your clear markers into this world and into our lives so we can know that you are real, and what you intend to do. May this Christmas be a new marker for me.

This is day 20 of a 25-day “Christmas Joy” devotional. The entire devotional is available in a Kindle e-book (readable on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android or Kindle)


ADVERTISEMENT

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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