Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Daily Devotional Wednesday 7th December

““I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly."
1 Corinthians 15:48

The head and members are of one nature, and not like that monstrous image which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream. The head was of fine gold, but the belly and thighs were of brass, the legs of iron, and the feet, part of iron and part of clay. Christ's mystical body is no absurd combination of opposites; the members were mortal, and therefore Jesus died; the glorified head is immortal, and therefore the body is immortal too, for thus the record stands, "Because I live, ye shall live also." As is our loving Head, such is the body, and every member in particular. A chosen Head and chosen members; an accepted Head, and accepted members; a living Head, and living members. If the head be pure gold, all the parts of the body are of pure gold also. Thus is there a double union of nature as a basis for the closest communion. Pause here, devout reader, and see if thou canst without ecstatic amazement, contemplate the infinite condescension of the Son of God in thus exalting thy wretchedness into blessed union with his glory. Thou art so mean that in remembrance of thy mortality, thou mayest say to corruption, "Thou art my father," and to the worm, "Thou art my sister"; and yet in Christ thou art so honoured that thou canst say to the Almighty, "Abba, Father," and to the Incarnate God, "Thou art my brother and my husband." Surely if relationships to ancient and noble families make men think highly of themselves, we have whereof to glory over the heads of them all. Let the poorest and most despised believer lay hold upon this privilege; let not a senseless indolence make him negligent to trace his pedigree, and let him suffer no foolish attachment to present vanities to occupy his thoughts to the exclusion of this glorious, this heavenly honour of union with Christ.

Evening

"Girt about the paps with a golden girdle."
Revelation 1:13

"One like unto the Son of Man" appeared to John in Patmos, and the beloved disciple marked that he wore a girdle of gold. A girdle, for Jesus never was ungirt while upon earth, but stood always ready for service, and now before the eternal throne he stays not His holy ministry, but as a priest is girt about with "the curious girdle of the ephod." Well it is for us that he has not ceased to fulfil his offices of love for us, since this is one of our choicest safeguards that he ever liveth to make intercession for us. Jesus is never an idler; his garments are never loose as though his offices were ended; he diligently carries on the cause of his people. A golden girdle, to manifest the superiority of his service, the royalty of his person, the dignity of his state, the glory of his reward. No longer does he cry out of the dust, but he pleads with authority, a King as well as a Priest. Safe enough is our cause in the hands of our enthroned Melchizedek.

Our Lord presents all his people with an example. We must never unbind our girdles. This is not the time for lying down at ease, it is the season of service and warfare. We need to bind the girdle of truth more and more tightly around our loins. It is a golden girdle, and so will be our richest ornament, and we greatly need it, for a heart that is not well braced up with the truth as it is in Jesus, and with the fidelity which is wrought of the Spirit, will be easily entangled with the things of this life, and tripped up by the snares of temptation. It is in vain that we possess the Scriptures unless we bind them around us like a girdle, surrounding our entire nature, keeping each part of our character in order, and giving compactness to our whole man. If in heaven Jesus unbinds not the girdle, much less may we upon earth. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.

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Today's reading: Daniel 3-4, 1 John 5 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Daniel 3-4

The Image of Gold and the Blazing Furnace

1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.

4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace....”

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: 1 John 5

Faith in the Incarnate Son of God

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

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Joseph [Jō'zeph]—may god add orincreaser.

  1. Poetic description of the descendants of Joseph the son of Jacob (Deut. 33:13).
  2. The Father of Igal, one of the spies sent by Moses into Canaan (Num. 13:7).
  3. A son of Asaph ( 1 Chron. 25:2, 9).
  4. A man of the family of Baniwho had taken a foreign wife (Ezra 10:42).
  5. A priest of the family of Shebaniah in Joaakim’s time (Neh. 12:14).
  6. Ancestor of Joseph, Mary’s husband ( Luke 3:24).
  7. Another ancestor of Joseph in the same line (Luke 3:26).
  8. A more remote ancestor of Joseph, Mary’s husband (Luke 3:30).
  9. A disciple nominated with Matthias to take the place of Judas Iscariot among the disciples. Matthias was chosen ( Acts 1:23). This Joseph must have been a commendable Christian since he was nominated as an apostle.
  10. The eleventh son of Jacob and first of Rachel, and one of the most outstanding men of the Bible, meriting honorable mention (Gen. 30:24, 25).

The Man Whose Dream Came True

The story of this young man who went from pit to palace and from rags to riches, never loses its charm for young and old alike. It would take a book itself to fully portray all the vicissitudes and virtues of Joseph, who kept his record clean. All that we can do in our treatment of him is to suggest a few aspects of his character for development.

Joseph was a youthful dreamer and his dream came true ( Gen. 37:5-9; 41:42-44).

Joseph labored as a slave, but was faithful in hard places (Gen. 39:1-6, 20-23).

Joseph enjoyed the presence of God and won the confidence of his master (Gen. 39:2, 4).

Joseph had physical beauty, but it was never a snare to him (Gen. 39:6).

Joseph resisted temptation. His godless mistress could not seduce him. Grace was his to flee youthful lusts. Thus he did not commit a “great wickedness” (Gen. 39:7-13).

Joseph was silent amid foul accusations and the appearance of guilt and unjust punishment (Gen. 39:14-20).

Joseph was unspoiled by sudden prosperity. When days of honor followed days of humiliation, he did not yield to pride (Gen. 41:14-16).

Joseph the interpreter of dreams proved that “prison walls do not a prison make.” He acknowledged his dependence upon God for illumination, proving that he was not a mere dreamer but an interpreter of dreams (Gen. 40).

Joseph manifested great wisdom, brotherly love, filial devotion and utter submission to God ( Gen. 43:20; 45:8, 14, 23; 47:7). He knew how to return good for evil ( Gen. 50:16-21). If we cannot have all the gifts of Joseph, who is a perfect type of Christ, we can certainly covet all his graces. If we cannot have his greatness, we can certainly emulate his goodness.

R. W. Moss says, “A very high place must be given Joseph among the early founders of his race. In strength of right purpose he was second to none, whilst in graces of reverence and kindness, of insight and assurance, he became the type of a faith that is at once personal and national ( Heb. 11:22), and allows neither misery nor a career of triumph to eclipse the sense of Divine destiny.”

11. The husband of Mary, and foster-father of our Lord (Matt. 1:16-24; 2:13; Luke 1:27; 2:4-43; 3:23; 4:22; John 1:45; 6:42).

The Man of Wood and Nails

It is somewhat unique that two Josephs were associated with Christ, one at His birth and the other at His death. Both of these godly men gave Jesus of their best. In this section we think of Joseph the carpenter, who was present at the manger when Jesus was born, even though he was not His father. While Christ came as the Son of Man, He was never a son of a man.

Joseph’s presence at Christ’s birth witnesses to a severe test that had emerged triumphant. Mary was the pure young woman he had fallen in love with, and was about to make his wife. Yet the Child she was about to bear would not be his. Seeing her “great with child,” without fanfare Joseph was minded to put her away. He never acted rashly with his espoused, although he was baffled by her condition. This serves for all time as an example of godly wisdom and tender consideration for others.

Bitterly disappointed that Mary had apparently betrayed him, yet believing, he made no haste. As a praying man he waited upon God, and his love for and patience with Mary were rewarded. God understood his mental difficulties and rewarded Joseph’s conscientious attitude toward Mary by revealing His redemptive plan. God never fails those who carry their anxieties to Him. Joseph received a direct and distinct revelation from God, and at once his fears were banished, and his line of duty made clear.

Tenderly he cared for his dear one as if the Child she was bearing were his own. Overawed by the mystery of it all, that his beloved Mary had been chosen as the mother of the Lord he as a devout Jew had eagerly anticipated, we can imagine how he would superintend every detail of the Nativity.

What holy thoughts must have filled the mind of Mary’s guardian. Where suspicion regarding Mary’s purity once lurked, strong faith now reigned as he looked into the lovely face of Mary’s Child. At last God’s promises had been fulfilled and before him was the Babe through whom God’s covenants would be established.

When it became necessary because of Herod’s hatred to flee into Egypt, Joseph cared for Mary and her first-born Son with reverent devotion until tidings came that Herod was dead, and that they could safely return to their own land. While a shroud of secrecy covers the thirty years Christ spent at home, we can be sure of this, that between Jesus and Joseph there was an affection strong and deep.

Briefly stated, we have these glimpses of Joseph:

I. He was “a son of David” and could claim royal or priestly descent (Matt. 1:20).

II. His family belonged to Bethlehem, David’s city.

III. He followed the trade of carpenter, and doubtless taught Christ how to use wood and nails (Matt. 13:55).

IV. He was a pious Israelite, faithful in all the ordinances of the Temple (Luke 2:22-24, 41 , 42).

V. He was a kindly, charitable man, treating Mary gently in her time of need (Matt. 1:19; Luke 2:1-7).

VI. He was faithful in his care of Christ, and deserved to be called His “father” ( Luke 2:33. John 1:45; 6:42).

VII. He never appears in the Gospels after Christ was twelve years of age and became “a son of the Law” (Luke 2:41-51 ), which may suggest that he died during the interval. This would explain why Jesus at His death asked John to care for His mother.

VIII. He died, tradition says, at the age of 111 years, when Jesus was but eighteen years of age.

12. Joseph of Arimathaea, a secret disciple of Jesus, whose unused grave was surrendered to Jesus. Thus the One born in a virgin womb was buried in a virgin tomb (Matt. 27:57-60; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50; John 19:38).

The Man Who Gave His Grave to Jesus

This wealthy and devout Israelite, a member of the Sanhedrin, lived in a city of Jews (Luke 23:51 ). It is to the provision he made for the body of Christ that Isaiah had reference when he said, “He made His grave with the rich” (Isa. 53:9). Of this renowned Joseph we discover:

1. He was an honorable counselor (Mark 15:43). Because of his adherence to the Law and integrity of life he was a member of the governing body known as the Sanhedrin.

II. He looked for the kingdom of God. Immersed in Old Testament Scriptures, he anticipated the reign of the promised Messiah.

III. He was “a good man and just” (Luke 23:50, 51). As the Bible never uses words unnecessarily, there must be a distinction between “good” and “just.” As a “good man” we have his own internal disposition—what he was in himself. As a “just man” we have his external conduct—what he was towards others. His just dealings were the fruit of the root of his goodness. His was the belief that knew how to behave.

IV. He was a secret disciple (John 19:38). Joseph of Arimathaea was similar to Nicodemus in his respect for our Lord as a man, admiration for Him as a teacher, belief in Him as the Christ, and yet, till now, his lack of confessing Him before men. Dreading the hostility of his colleagues on the Sanhedrin, he kept his faith secret.

V. He begged the body of Jesus ( Matt. 27:58). As soon as Jesus was dead, Joseph hastened to Pilate for permission to inter His body. David Smith observes that when the condemnation of Jesus was over—a condemnation in which Joseph took no part—he realized how cowardly a part he had played and, stricken with shame and remorse, plucked up courage and went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. It was common for friends of the crucified to purchase their bodies, which would otherwise have been cast out as refuse, and give them decent burial ( Mark 15:45).

VI. He gave his grave to Christ (Matt. 27:59, 60 ). With lingering reverence Joseph paid his last respects to the One he admired, and in the hour of sorrow helped the friends and not the foes of the righteous Sufferer. Joseph had a garden close to Calvary, where he had hewn a smoothed and polished tomb in the side of the rock as his own last resting place, in which, aided by Nicodemus, he buried the linencovered and perfumed body of Christ.

VII. Joseph, legend tells us, was sent to Britain by Philip the Apostle, and founded the Church of Glastonbury. Medieval chroniclers delighted to tell of the staff Joseph stuck into the ground. The staff supposedly took root, brought forth leaves and flowers and became the parent of all the Glastonbury thorns from that day to this.

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December 6, 2011

How to Have a Joy-Filled Christmas

Part 1

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16, NIV).

Friend to Friend

Christmas! My favorite time of the year!

  • Brightly wrapped presents
  • Houses draped in sparkling lights
  • The smell of cinnamon and pine
  • Secret shopping trips
  • Children whispering and giggling
  • Old movies that make me laugh and cry
  • Phone calls from old friends
  • Chocolate covered cherries
  • Carolers

It is obvious that something important is happening. The literal meaning of "Christmas" is "Christ's Mass" and is the celebration of Christ. Oh, how far we have gotten from the wonder and awe of that first Christmas so long ago. I believe we all want a joy-filled Christmas that truly does celebrate Christ. Yet, so often, the holiday season leaves us with very little joy and an elusive emptiness we find hard to explain. Suicide rates soar during the Christmas holidays as depression and exhaustion become constant companions. Something is very wrong. How can we experience a joy-filled Christmas?

I believe the secret to a holy and joy-filled celebration of Christmas is found in giving. It always has been. Are we giving the wrong gifts to the wrong people? Maybe we are not receiving the right gifts with the right attitude. Over the next few days, we will examine several truths about Christmas that 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.

First truth: We must receive God's gift to us.

Luke 2:8-12 (NIV) "There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them; and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

God gave the greatest gift of all when He gave Jesus. The very heart of Christmas can be found in a very familiar verse, a verse not often associated with the Christmas holidays.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son" (NIV).

Christmas is not a date on the calendar. Christmas is a way of life. Like the innkeeper, we have posted a sign that reads, "No room!" No room in our schedules...no room in our homes...no room in our hearts and minds...no room in our lives for Jesus. We can participate in the festivities of the Christmas season but until we truly receive the gift of Jesus we will never truly experience Christmas. To have a joy-filled Christmas, we must not only recognize Him as the center of a season, but as the center of our lives. Jesus could have easily been born in a palace. His first home on earth could certainly have been a mansion. But He came to an ordinary manger and His birth was announced by commonplace shepherds instead of Kings - the greatest of all miracles in the midst of total simplicity. Today, He waits, longing to come to us in the midst of our ordinary, simplistic and commonplace lives.

Hebrews 2:17 (NLT) "Therefore, it was necessary for Jesus to be in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. He then could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people."

My friend, wherever you are today, He has been there and He understands. I truly believe that into the very heart of Christmas, God has tucked a unique longing. It is a longing for home, for something and someone eternal, a longing that can never be satisfied outside of a personal, vital and growing relationship with God. That is why Jesus came, choosing to dwell in us. To have a joy-filled Christmas, we must receive God's gift to us...the gift of His one and only son, Jesus.

Let's Pray

Father, please help me truly celebrate Your birth this Christmas in a way that pleases and honors You. Right now, I choose to focus on the real meaning of Christmas. May the joy of knowing You direct every part of this Christmas season in the life of my family and friends. Be glorified in the way we celebrate Your birth.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

I encourage you to read the Christmas story in Luke 2:1-20. Pray and ask God to show you how to celebrate Christmas this year. Have a family meeting during which you determine what it means to have a joy-filled Christmas and then make a plan to do just that.

More from the Girlfriends

No matter what your circumstances may be, you can celebrate the Christmas holidays because God is with you, girlfriend. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebook - or throughemail.

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A Christology of Feeling

1 John 1:1-4 "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes...and heard we proclaim also to you" ( vv. 1-3).

Yesterday we focused on the impact of the radical immanentism of G.W.F. Hegel in the nineteenth century. Hegel's theories, however, were not universally embraced. Schools like Princeton Theological Seminary, for example, held fast to Christian orthodoxy in the 1800s. Others attempted to hold to the uniqueness of Christ and yet were unable to totally break away from an immanentistic bent in their theology. The most influential of these men was Friedrich Schleiermacher.

Schleiermacher maintained that there was a divine element in all men, which illustrates his affinities with immanentism. Yet unlike Hegel, Schleiermacher maintained that Jesus was different from other men in that He represents the supreme perfection of the divine element in humanity. This is particularly evident in Christ's "God-consciousness": Jesus was acutely aware of His "absolute dependence" on His Father and thus He was rendered sinless.

Of course, it is true that we are all absolutely dependent on God, for "in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28 ). But Schleiermacher did not emphasize this absolute dependence in any objective kind of way. Rather, he subjectivized the Christian faith, saying that the essence of religion is the feeling of "absolute dependence." Jesus really "felt" His dependence upon the Father and that made Him the perfect man, the authentically religious man. Combined with his unbiblical view of immanence, Schleiermacher's view of religion shaped the theological liberalism that came to the fore in the second half of the nineteenth century. Soon Jesus became the great teacher and model for what it means to be dependent upon God - whether or not He was God Himself. To be sure, Jesus is the supreme teacher and model, but this is not the whole story. He is also God incarnate who reconciles repentant sinners to the Almighty through bearing the Father's wrath on the cross ( 2 Cor. 5:21).

Biblical Christianity is not pure subjectivism. There is an objective content - Christ's life, death, and resurrection - that undergirds our faith. Without this content there is no way to know if we are depending upon the right God.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Hegel, himself no friend of biblical Christianity, criticized Schleiermacher, saying that if the essence of religion was the feeling of absolute dependence, then the dog, being absolutely dependent upon people, is the most divine creature of all. Many people feel dependent on their spouses, their jobs, or the teaching of other religions, but this does not make them truly pious. Only those dependent upon the biblical Jesus, who is fully God and fully man, will ever find salvation (John 14:6).

For further study:

2 Kings 20:20

The Bible in a year:

Hosea 5-6

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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Rachel Olsen

December 6, 2011

The Gift
Rachel Olsen for She Reads

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23 (NIV)

Every year around the middle of December I find myself in a bookstore. Jazzy Christmas carols play over the speakers. The smell of coffee wafts from the café, melding with the smell of new books. Mmmm. Friendly people raising funds offer to wrap my purchases.

I'm in search of a gift - my dad and my daughter love receiving books for Christmas. So with my cup of gingerbread-flavored coffee in hand, I browse the shop with them in mind.

But I don't make it far from the café before I stop. It's always the same display table that gets me. The one filled with Christmas novels. Snowflakes or sleds adorning the covers. Else, small town scenes, blanketed in white, with the warm glow of firelight coming from the window of a grand Victorian house. They all look so inviting, so heart-warming.

I imagine myself with one of them. Curled up beneath a blanket by the Christmas tree, letting holiday cheer fill me from the pages within.

Then I realize the date.

It's about a week away from Christmas, which in my house is preceded by my son's birthday party. I doubt I'll have time to read a whole novel. And for some possibly irrational reason, I'd feel like a failure if I didn't finish a Christmas novel before Christmas. (Am I the only one?)

I lay the novel back on the display table, sniffle just a little, and continue on with my holiday shopping. This scenario has repeated many times in the past, and likely will again in the future.

But here's the thing. Each year I do curl up beneath a blanket by the tree and read a great Christmas story. It's a travel memoir of sorts. With drama and intrigue, love and murder. It's Matthew 1:18-2:23 about the birth and early years of Christ.

There are no snowflakes or sleds in this story. No Victorian style houses. No one bakes gingerbread or hangs ornaments on trees. But gifts are exchanged. Wise men bring them to the young Jesus to honor Him and celebrate His birth.

Not only that, as this story continues, it traces the outline of the ultimate gift exchange - our sin for Christ's righteousness. Our faith in Him for eternal life. It's the gift we're all in search of, whether we recognize it or not.

This story, and our key verse, shows that Jesus is God's greatest gift to us. What I deserve based on the way I have lived is death at the end of my days. What I get based on the way Jesus has lived is eternal life! There's no store-bought gift that competes with that. No sweet tale any novelist could ever tell will compare.

God has written the greatest Christmas story ever told. Every year I read this story and let Christ's cheer fill my soul from the pages within. It's not only heart-warming, it's life-changing.

Dear Lord, thank You for the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. And thank You for ensuring the story of His life has been recorded for me to read. Fill me with Your presence as I do, and help me to be as gracious and as (for)giving as You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
I actually did manage to read a couple Christmas novels this year - I started back in October. Visit She Reads for my reviews of them. While there, enter to win a Christmas novel gift-pack featuring cozy items and great Christmas novels to savor yourself, or to give to someone you love.

See Rachel's blog for more on how Jesus is the greatest story ever told, and for her top book gift ideas.

Application Steps:
Pick up your Bible and curl up with the must-read story of the season - Christ's birth in the gospels.

Reflections:
Do I know the One who lived the greatest story ever told?

Power Verses:
John 17:2, "For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him." (NLT)

John 17:7-8, "Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me." (NLT)

© 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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A Christology of Feeling

Hegel, himself no friend of biblical Christianity, criticized Schleiermacher, saying that if the essence of religion was the feeling of absolute dependence, then the dog, being absolutely dependent upon people, is the most divine creature of all. Many people feel dependent on their spouses, their jobs, or the teaching of other religions, but this does not make them truly pious. Only those dependent upon the biblical Jesus, who is fully God and fully man, will ever find salvation (John 14:6).

For further study:

2 Kings 20:20

The Bible in a year:

Hosea 5-6

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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FRB-Christmas-Story-BookCover-SmallReading 1: David's Forever Kingdom

King David loved God and wanted to build a temple for God to live in. But God said he would establish an even greater "house" -- a kingdom that would last forever. God had great plans for David’s family. Not just for his son or grandson, but for someone who would be born many generations later.

2 Samuel 7:1-17

God’s Promise to David


1 After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

3 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you.”

4 But that night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying:

5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”

17 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.

Further Study

JUST THE FACTS

  1. Who gave God’s message to King David? (v . 4)
  2. What did God promise his people? (vv. 10 - 11)
  3. What did God promise David and his descendants? (vv. 12,15 - 16)

LET’S TALK

  1. What do you think it meant in David’s time to "establish a house"? In what ways are families important in our culture today? How is your family important to you?
  2. Who were your ancestors? How many generations can you identify? What is it like to imagine having children and grandchildren who will come after you?

WHY THIS MATTERS

God made a promise to David that he would establish a kingdom for David’s descendants. Hundreds of years after David died, God sent his Son, Jesus, who came from David’s family, to be the king of the Jews.

POINTS OF INTEREST

7:6 The "tent" God was referring to was the tabernacle that had been his portable dwelling place ever since the Israelites camped at Mount Sinai in the desert. It was intended to be used only while the Israelites were on the march. But the Israelites had lived in the land God had promised them for more than 400 years and still had not built a permanent temple--a house in which they could worship the one true God.

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TheTrueKing-700


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Life and Ministry of the Messiah

In the first century King Herod had the third largest palace in the world. It was a massive structure, with fortified walls, a company of soldiers, and towers reaching one hundred feet in the air. If that wasn’t enough, Herod also had the almost impenetrable fortress of Masada, and numerous other strongholds across Israel.

Determined to preserve his reign and bring about his vision for Israel, Herod undertook some of the largest construction projects in Israel’s history. The ruins of those sites last to this day.

From Bethlehem Mary and Joseph would have been able to see Herodium, the hill upon which Herod’s massive palace was built. His power was obvious everywhere and the promised king Jesus was a helpless baby.

Consider the faith it took then to say, like Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, and the Magi, that Jesus was the true king and not Herod; even with evidence of Herod’s might right outside the window.

Yet long ago God had promised Israel a king, and that Edom (the nation Herod descended from) would one day serve Jacob. And in the Christmas story we read the story of that coming King who would grow up to redeem the world on a Roman cross.

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Life and Ministry of the Messiah renowned teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan brings us on location in Israel and throughout the Middle East, in an adventure in biblical learning. You will discover why Jesus turned the world upside down with his compelling call to follow him as Vander Laan brings together history, culture, and geography to illuminate the Gospels. The insights you gain will transform your reading of the Gospels and inspire a deeper faith commitment.

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Advent-Header-2011
Each Tuesday in Advent, we look at the story behind a beloved Christmas song.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

When you sing this carol from a hymnal, notice that the title of the tune is "St. Louis." It's not named for a city or a saint, but for the composer of the music, Lewis H. Redner (born December 15, 1830). Here's what happened: In 1865, Phillips Brooks, the famed Boston pastor, visited the Holy Land and stopped in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. He was so moved that, returning home, he wrote this hymn for the children in his Sunday school. He handed the words to his organist, Lewis Redner, asking him to compose the melody. "If it's a good tune," added Brooks, "I'll name it 'St. Lewis' after you." Lewis couldn't come up with a suitable tune until the evening before the song was to be performed; but it was an instant hit, and Brooks did name if for the organist, changing the spelling to avoid embarrassing him.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv'n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav'n.
No ear may his His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born to us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king. -- Matthew 2:1

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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Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional

JOSEPH

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. -Matthew 1:18-19

We know so little about Joseph. He is only mentioned in the birth and childhood stories of Jesus. He was named after an ancient patriarch who used his success in Egypt to save his family and a future nation. Joseph was a carpenter who lived in the town of Nazareth. His ancestors were from Bethlehem, so when a Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, wanted a census, Joseph had to go back to Bethlehem, even though his wife was well along in her pregnancy.

The most important thing we know about Joseph is that when the time called, he displayed great faith and grace. He had found out that the woman he was engaged to be married to was pregnant. While Mary had the benefit of the an angel to explain her unique conception, Joseph had not been visited yet. All he had was Mary's word. So what was that conversation like? No, she hadn't slept with another man. Yes, she was pregnant. And yes, a spiritual being had told her that she would conceive by a unique act of God-and as though that wasn't enough-the child in her womb would be the Savior of the world.

Why did Joseph believe her? Why did he change his first plans to quietly divorce her so as not to expose her to public shame? (Engagements were so serious then, to break one off amounted to a divorce.) Why did he choose instead to take her as his wife-and then abstain from sexual relations with her until the birth of the child? If you were in his shoes, would you have believed Mary?

Here is something for all of us to think about at Christmas. Think of Joseph. Think of him looking into Mary's eyes, hearing her account, knowing in his heart of hearts it was true, and having the courage to act on that faith, even though he may have had doubts. As nonsensical as it seemed, he believed it. As much as the idea of a virginal conception violates both logic and science (even the rudimentary science of millennia ago), he knew it was possible with God. As risky as it was to stay with Mary and be branded by others as the hapless dupe of an immoral woman, Joseph decided to take that leap of faith.

That is true faith. It wasn't just that he trusted Mary; he trusted God. That God could; that God might; that God would.

Prayer for today:

God, give me Joseph's courage and iron-strong faith. Give me faith to believe that, at the birth of Jesus, you really did enter this world-my world-and you are still working powerfully in it.

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, iPhone, iPad, Kindle or Android. All previous posts in this series are available on The Brook Network.

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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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Is faith enough?

This week's reading: James 2:14-24

Are we saved by grace through faith alone (see Eph 2:8-9) or do we also need good works?

James does not argue that good works are required for salvation. Nor does he say that deeds are more important than beliefs. Rather, he insists that there are two kinds of faith-one legitimate and the other illegitimate; "faith ... made complete" (v. 22) and "faith without deeds" (v. 20). Both are "belief" in one sense of the word. But legitimate faith goes deeper than "right thinking" to "right living."

Confusion may arise, however, when we recall that Paul writes that we cannot earn salvation. He uses Abraham as an example of one who received God's promise, not through human effort, but through faith (see Gal 3:6-12).

James also uses Abraham as an example, but his focus and emphasis are different than Paul's. He skips over the futility of human effort to discuss the futility of deficient faith-faith that stops at the intellectual level. Even demons have that kind of "faith," James exclaims (v. 19)!

James's point, then, is that Abraham exercised authentic faith-demonstrated by his actions. Abraham's deeds earned him nothing, but they proved his faith was genuine: Right faith led to right actions. If he had not trusted God, Abraham could never have offered his son-the fulfillment of God's promise-on the altar (vv. 21-22). Paul uses Abraham to show that people are justified on the basis of real faith; James shows that Abraham's faith was proven to be real because it worked (compare Gal 5:6).

So then, we don't need anything but faith-the right kind of faith-to be saved by God. And our behavior will show what our faith is made of, whether or not it is legitimate.

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A Christmas Devotional

JOSEPH

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. -Matthew 1:18-19

We know so little about Joseph. He is only mentioned in the birth and childhood stories of Jesus. He was named after an ancient patriarch who used his success in Egypt to save his family and a future nation. Joseph was a carpenter who lived in the town of Nazareth. His ancestors were from Bethlehem, so when a Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, wanted a census, Joseph had to go back to Bethlehem, even though his wife was well along in her pregnancy.

The most important thing we know about Joseph is that when the time called, he displayed great faith and grace. He had found out that the woman he was engaged to be married to was pregnant. While Mary had the benefit of the an angel to explain her unique conception, Joseph had not been visited yet. All he had was Mary's word. So what was that conversation like? No, she hadn't slept with another man. Yes, she was pregnant. And yes, a spiritual being had told her that she would conceive by a unique act of God-and as though that wasn't enough-the child in her womb would be the Savior of the world.

Why did Joseph believe her? Why did he change his first plans to quietly divorce her so as not to expose her to public shame? (Engagements were so serious then, to break one off amounted to a divorce.) Why did he choose instead to take her as his wife-and then abstain from sexual relations with her until the birth of the child? If you were in his shoes, would you have believed Mary?

Here is something for all of us to think about at Christmas. Think of Joseph. Think of him looking into Mary's eyes, hearing her account, knowing in his heart of hearts it was true, and having the courage to act on that faith, even though he may have had doubts. As nonsensical as it seemed, he believed it. As much as the idea of a virginal conception violates both logic and science (even the rudimentary science of millennia ago), he knew it was possible with God. As risky as it was to stay with Mary and be branded by others as the hapless dupe of an immoral woman, Joseph decided to take that leap of faith.

That is true faith. It wasn't just that he trusted Mary; he trusted God. That God could; that God might; that God would.

Prayer for today:

God, give me Joseph's courage and iron-strong faith. Give me faith to believe that, at the birth of Jesus, you really did enter this world-my world-and you are still working powerfully in it.

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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