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Big World, Bigger God

Luke 1: 13-14
13 The angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you will name him John. 14 He will be your pride and joy, and many people will be glad that he was born.
Picture of the Angel talking to Elizabeth, Mary’s sister, about
the birth of John the Baptist
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Big World, Bigger God

From: Our Daily Bread

Big World, Bigger God

For by [Jesus] all things were created. Colossians 1:16 nasb

As we drove through northern Michigan, Marlene exclaimed, “It’s unbelievable how big the world is!” She made her comment as we passed a sign marking the 45th parallel—the point halfway between the equator and the North Pole. We talked about how small we are and how vast our world is. Yet, compared to the size of the universe, our tiny planet is only a speck of dust.

If our world is great, and the universe is vastly greater, how big is the One who powerfully created it? The Bible tells us, “For by [Jesus] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16 nasb).

This is good news because this same Jesus who created the universe is the One who has come to rescue us from our sin for every day and forever. The night before He died, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 nasb).

When facing the large and small challenges of life, we call on the One who made the universe, died and rose again, and won victory over this world’s brokenness. In our times of struggle, He powerfully offers us His peace.

Lord, I’m grateful that You are greater than my mind could ever comprehend. Help me to trust You today.

God’s grace is immeasurable, His mercy inexhaustible, His peace inexpressible.

 

Undoing Death

From: Our Daily Journey

Undoing Death

Read:

John 1:29-31
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

I once heard an amazing true story of how one man’s conversion affected untold numbers of people. When the man—who lived in a South American village—heard the good news of the gospel and decided to follow Jesus, his life radically changed. First, he stopped being abusive toward his wife. Then he began selflessly acting on her behalf. After a while, his wife started her own business and hired other villagers. As a result, the village prospered financially. In turn, many children could spend their days learning at school instead of toiling all day in the fields.

This story is just one of countless examples showing that John the Baptist was right. Jesus really does cleanse us from our sins. He really does take away the sin of the world (John 1:291 John 1:9).

Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.” The payoff or result of sin is death. Sin devours and destroys our bodies, minds, souls, the earth, our economies, communities, social and religious structures—everything. But in and through Jesus we counteract spiritual and physical death. Although we will all die physically unless Jesus returns in our lifetime, for those who follow Jesus, sin and death don’t have the last word. Jesus tells us, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25).

And not only will we live after death—but, when we follow Jesus, we begin to live fully now. Jesus came to bring us abundant life (see John 10:10). Little by little, He overcomes and takes away sin and its death-dealing effects. He is making all things new (Revelation 21:5). That’s what God’s life does. It brings new life—resurrection!—to all it touches.

 

Wrestling Before God

By Oswald Chambers

12/16/2017

Wrestling Before God

You must learn to wrestle against the things that hinder your communication with God, and wrestle in prayer for other people; but to wrestle with God in prayer is unscriptural. If you ever do wrestle with God, you will be crippled for the rest of your life. If you grab hold of God and wrestle with Him, as Jacob did, simply because He is working in a way that doesn’t meet with your approval, you force Him to put you out of joint (see Genesis 32:24-25). Don’t become a cripple by wrestling with the ways of God, but be someone who wrestles before God with the things of this world, because “we are more than conquerors through Him…” (Romans 8:37). Wrestling before God makes an impact in His kingdom. If you ask me to pray for you, and I am not complete in Christ, my prayer accomplishes nothing. But if I am complete in Christ, my prayer brings victory all the time. Prayer is effective only when there is completeness— “take up the whole armor of God….”

Always make a distinction between God’s perfect will and His permissive will, which He uses to accomplish His divine purpose for our lives. God’s perfect will is unchangeable. It is with His permissive will, or the various things that He allows into our lives, that we must wrestle before Him. It is our reaction to these things allowed by His permissive will that enables us to come to the point of seeing His perfect will for us. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God…” (Romans 8:28)— to those who remain true to God’s perfect will— His calling in Christ Jesus. God’s permissive will is the testing He uses to reveal His true sons and daughters. We should not be spineless and automatically say, “Yes, it is the Lord’s will.” We don’t have to fight or wrestle with God, but we must wrestle before God with things. Beware of lazily giving up. Instead, put up a glorious fight and you will find yourself empowered with His strength.

Be Wise And Seek Christ

Wise Men from the East

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

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Giving Ourselves in the Giving Season

From: CBN, and Nancy E. Head, author

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“What do you need?” my husband asked the director of a local food pantry during the holidays one year. The two had just met ‘by chance’.

A big smile spread across Bob’s face. “Nothing.”

Then he outlined a story about a great need the pantry staff had faced the week before. For years, a local company donated $2,000 worth of turkeys every Christmas. But the company was now gone, replaced by a larger corporate entity.

No more turkeys.

Someone had made a donation that would have put a tiny dent in this need. But Christmas was coming fast.

Then Bob’s phone rang. A local grocer was in a panic. Someone had accidentally frozen dozens of turkeys labeled “fresh”. The company could write off the turkeys. But they could not sell them.

“When would you like us to pick them up?” Bob asked.

He has regarded the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their prayer. Psalm 102:17 NASV

The holiday season is filled with stories of kindness. But only God could have “accidentally” provided so many turkeys, the exact need for the pantry’s patrons.

As miracles go, this one is small. But tiny miracles are sometimes the ones with the most power to encourage.

My friend was ringing a bell beside a red kettle. Passersby impressed her with their generous donations to the kettle and a gift of hot chocolate for her.

On social media, I read of a worn out mother trying to get her weary little ones through a restaurant lunch. A fellow diner paid for her family’s meals and helped her herd her flock to her car.

Two men in line at a busy store began to argue–each encouraging the other to go first.

My husband Paul and I were at the post office waiting to mail packages that were not quite ready to go. A stranger waiting with us helped me wrap. Paul held our places in line. She folded. I taped. The process was fun and not frustrating as it might have been.

Someone might argue that these encounters are nothing like real miracles. The laws of nature stood intact through each story.

Each encounter, though, reflects regard for neighbor over self. Each person who reached out touched others and those who stood by as witnesses.

Imago Dei–God’s image reflected in small acts of kindness. Wonderful little miracles to give hope to those in need, to a weary traveler, to a busy shopper.

Perhaps those who received their Christmas meals from the pantry did not realize the miracle of the turkeys. But we know that these meals, like manna, came from above.

We are on the cusp of the giving season that celebrates God giving Himself.

We can give the miracle of us and be imago Dei to others.

“But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.” 1 Chronicles 28:14 NASV

 

More Than a Hero

From: Our Daily Bread

More Than a Hero

We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

As Star Wars fans around the world eagerly await the release of Episode 8, “The Last Jedi,” people continue to analyze the remarkable success of these films dating back to 1977. Frank Pallotta, media reporter for CNNMoney, said that Star Warsconnects with many who long for “a new hope and a force of good at a time when the world needs heroes.”

At the time of Jesus’s birth, the people of Israel were oppressed and longing for their long-promised Messiah. Many anticipated a hero to deliver them from Roman tyranny, but Jesus did not come as a political or military hero. Instead, He came as a baby to the town of Bethlehem. As a result, many missed who He was. The apostle John wrote, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11).

More than a hero, Jesus came as our Savior. He was born to bring God’s light into the darkness and to give His life so that everyone who receives Him could be forgiven and freed from the power of sin. John called Him “the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14).

“To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (v. 12). Indeed, Jesus is the one true hope the world needs.

Lord Jesus, You are our Savior, and we praise You for coming to die that we might live.

At Bethlehem, God demonstrated that to love is to give.

 

Liz Curtis Higgs December 15, 2017
Home Is Where His Heart Is
LIZ CURTIS HIGGSFrom: Crosswalk.com

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1 (NIV)

When a group of married friends gathered with me to study the wise women found in Proverbs, I gave them a homework assignment: “Ask your husband, ‘What speaks love to you?’”

One husband said he treasured the look in his wife’s eyes when he entered the room. Another said the way his wife addressed him in conversation revealed her true feelings for him. And a third husband confessed that the sacrifices his wife willingly made on their behalf were the deepest expression of her love for him.

Clearly, these men were grateful for wives who lived out God’s Word in their homes, just as the first half of this verse describes: “The wise woman builds her house …” (Proverbs 14:1a).

Being wise means so much more than being intelligent, educated, talented or clever. It’s about knowing God. Wisdom is a female noun in Hebrew, and it’s plural. God applauds not just one wise woman but “every wise woman” (AMPC). In truth, “the wisest of women” (ESV). Isn’t that what all daughters of the King long to be?

Rather than a house of boards and concrete and roofing shingles, a wise and godly woman “strengthens her family” (NCV) and “makes her home what it should be” (ERV). Not a House Beautiful mansion or a Pinterest-ready showplace, but a grace-filled, love-centered, bursting-with-joy, covered-with-peace, don’t-mind-the-dust and kick-off-your-shoes kind of home.

And if you live by yourself in a place no bigger than a walk-in closet? It’s still home — your home — where people can be welcomed and God can be honored.

When I embraced the grace of God in my late 20s, I was a single woman with my own little urban fixer-upper. One of the first things I did was hang a huge portrait of Jesus in my entrance hall. A bit much? Maybe. But understated interior design wasn’t my goal.

I wanted the Lord front and center in my life. I needed His loving expression to greet me when I walked in the door and His gentle gaze to send me off to work. I knew the darkness I’d come from, and I didn’t want to go back.

The second half of the verse is a cautionary word, describing what happens when a woman doesn’t build her home on the solid foundation of God’s wisdom: “… but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1b, NIV). The emphasis on “her own actions” (ERV) means this girl can’t blame anybody else. She made a mess of things “by her own efforts” (TLB) and did so not with good intentions but “with her own evil works” (WYC).

A foolish woman isn’t merely careless or thoughtless or hormonal.

She’s traveling downward and dragging her household with her, eventually turning her beautiful home into an abandoned ruin. If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve seen this happen — to a family member, a coworker, a friend. No doubt some of us have had happiness in our grasp and then threw it away, even as people around us whispered, “Fool!”

Of all the don’t-go-there verses in the Bible, this one hits especially hard because it’s directed at us, sisters. So, let’s circle back to the hopeful start of Proverbs 14:1a. “Homes are made by the wisdom of women” (GNT). If we give Him the keys to our dwelling places, if we seek His wisdom and ignore the voice of our adversary the devil, then we can say with confidence, “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:25, NIV).

Lord, in our homes, in our families, in our circles of influence, help us seek to be wise women, to care for those around us, building up instead of tearing down. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

“Approved to God”

By Oswald Chambers

If you cannot express yourself well on each of your beliefs, work and study until you can. If you don’t, other people may miss out on the blessings that come from knowing the truth. Strive to re-express a truth of God to yourself clearly and understandably, and God will use that same explanation when you share it with someone else. But you must be willing to go through God’s winepress where the grapes are crushed. You must struggle, experiment, and rehearse your words to express God’s truth clearly. Then the time will come when that very expression will become God’s wine of strength to someone else. But if you are not diligent and say, “I’m not going to study and struggle to express this truth in my own words; I’ll just borrow my words from someone else,” then the words will be of no value to you or to others. Try to state to yourself what you believe to be the absolute truth of God, and you will be allowing God the opportunity to pass it on through you to someone else.

Always make it a practice to stir your own mind thoroughly to think through what you have easily believed. Your position is not really yours until you make it yours through suffering and study. The author or speaker from whom you learn the most is not the one who teaches you something you didn’t know before, but the one who helps you take a truth with which you have quietly struggled, give it expression, and speak it clearly and boldly.

 

The Lord Is With You

28 When the angel entered her home, he greeted her and said, “You are favored by the
Lord! The Lord is with you.”      Luke 1: 26-38
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The Great Life

By Oswald Chambers

Whenever we experience something difficult in our personal life, we are tempted to blame God. But we are the ones in the wrong, not God. Blaming God is evidence that we are refusing to let go of some disobedience somewhere in our lives. But as soon as we let go, everything becomes as clear as daylight to us. As long as we try to serve two masters, ourselves and God, there will be difficulties combined with doubt and confusion. Our attitude must be one of complete reliance on God. Once we get to that point, there is nothing easier than living the life of a saint. We encounter difficulties when we try to usurp the authority of the Holy Spirit for our own purposes.

God’s mark of approval, whenever you obey Him, is peace. He sends an immeasurable, deep peace; not a natural peace, “as the world gives,” but the peace of Jesus. Whenever peace does not come, wait until it does, or seek to find out why it is not coming. If you are acting on your own impulse, or out of a sense of the heroic, to be seen by others, the peace of Jesus will not exhibit itself. This shows no unity with God or confidence in Him. The spirit of simplicity, clarity, and unity is born through the Holy Spirit, not through your decisions. God counters our self-willed decisions with an appeal for simplicity and unity.

My questions arise whenever I cease to obey. When I do obey God, problems come, not between me and God, but as a means to keep my mind examining with amazement the revealed truth of God. But any problem that comes between God and myself is the result of disobedience. Any problem that comes while I obey God (and there will be many), increases my overjoyed delight, because I know that my Father knows and cares, and I can watch and anticipate how He will unravel my problems.

 

The God Who Lived Your Life

From: CBN, and Brian Simmons

Do you ever wonder if God understands your life? Whether he really understands what it means to be human and deal with all the stuff we have to deal with—the stress and worry, the health scares and difficult teenagers, the bills and demanding bosses?

Amazingly he does! We don’t serve a distant and removed God, like the Romans and the Greeks did. No, we serve a God who, in the words of the angel who visited Joseph, “became one of us!”

As a good Jew, along with all of his people, Joseph would have been waiting for the Anointed One God promised to send to save his people. What Joseph—or his people for that matter—would not have expected was that God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, would conceive a child in his fiancée’s womb and “be known as ‘Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God became one of us!’” (Luke 1:21, 23, TPT)

Look at how various people throughout the New Testament described this monumental Emmanuel-event:

John says in his Gospel that “the Living Expression [Jesus Christ] became a man and lived among us! And we gazed upon the splendor of his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father overflowing with tender mercy and truth!” (John 1:14 TPT)

The writer of Hebrews wrote, “Since all his ‘children’ have flesh and blood, so Jesus became human to fully identify with us. He did this, so that he could experience death and annihilate the effects of the intimidating accuser who holds against us the power of death.” (Hebrews 2:14 TPT)

He doesn’t stop there, though; he goes on: “For we have a magnificent King-Priest, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who rose into the heavenly realm for us, and now sympathizes with us in our frailty. He understands humanity, for as a Man, our magnificent King-Priest was tempted in every way just as we are, and conquered sin. So now we come freely and boldly to where love is enthroned, to receive mercy’s kiss and discover the grace we urgently need to strengthen us in our time of weakness.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 TPT)

Think about this: The God of the universe “sympathizes with us in our frailty,” he “understands humanity.” How? Because he “became a man and lived among us,” as John says! He “became human to fully identify with us!”

God lived this life, which means he understands your life—all of your frailty and pain, your baggage and brokenness.

He understands humiliation because he was humiliated on the cross. He understands rejection because he was rejected. He understands sorrow because he was a man of sorrows.

Do you ever wonder if God understands your life? Well, wonder no more! Because the beauty and majesty of the Christmas season is that Mary gave birth to Emmanuel, to the God who became one of us.

May this truth give us all hope as we celebrate the first coming of the God-with-us God!

 

Sheila Walsh December 14, 2017
Give Jesus Your Baggage
SHEILA WALSHFrom: Crosswalk.com

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

I can hardly believe that the darling little boy who used to run around the kitchen dragging his toy dinosaur is now 6 feet tall and preparing for medical school.

The years seem to have gone by so quickly. I think of all the hot Texas evenings we sat on our folding chairs for football practice, swatting mosquitoes the size of small cats. I think of endless school projects and the time he created a to-scale version of Solomon’s temple. I’ve learned so much through being a mom, both the things I got right and the things I messed up. But there’s one memory that taught me a huge lesson. It was all about baggage.

“Mom, I would like to have a family meeting,” my 10-year-old son announced after lunch one chilly Saturday.

“Sure!” I replied. “What’s up?”

Christian waited until my husband, Barry, and I were seated at the kitchen table before he dropped the following bombshell.

“Today, I am running away from home,” he said.

“Wow!” Barry said.

“Yes … wow. That’s huge news,” I added.

My first thought was, I am a terrible mother! This lovely child simply can’t take life under our roof anymore.

“Did I hurt your feelings, babe?” I asked. “Did Dad say something to make you feel bad?” Christian assured us we hadn’t done anything wrong — he simply wanted an adventure.

“Think about it, Mom,” he explained, “There’s you and Dad and the dog. Nothing big ever happens here. If I don’t go now, I’ll never have stories to tell.”

I attempted to keep a straight face as he informed us that he planned to head north and would return on weekends! With that, he stuffed as many things into his backpack as he could manage … his soccer ball, the dog’s blanket, a few books and a pint of vanilla ice cream. He kissed us both goodbye and headed out the backdoor to begin his new life in “the north.”

I ran upstairs and watched from the bedroom window to see where he was headed. He walked all the way around the lake behind our house, then sat down by the tree where he and his friends like to fish. I’d decided that when he moved on from there, I’d take our dog for a walk and try and stay far enough back so he wouldn’t see me. If he spotted me, I’d simply apologize and say I had no idea this was north! Instead of moving on, though, I realized he was coming home.

That night, once he’d said his prayers and was tucked in bed, I asked him if he’d enjoyed his adventure.

“I did, Mom,” he said. “But I think I’d have enjoyed it more if my bag wasn’t so heavy.”

I thought about that for a long time. I found myself wondering, How much baggage was I dragging through my days?

I don’t mean the dog’s blanket or a pint of ice cream, but the heavy stuff of life, the emotions, issues from the past that I didn’t know what to do with, so I’d pushed them down inside. That’s when this beautiful invitation from Jesus became so real to me.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’” (Matthew 11:28).

For Us A Child Is Born

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The Christmas Story

By: Ken Barnes, author

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Isaiah 9:6    (NIV)

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The Christmas story is never complete without the Easter story because the child in Bethlehem was born to die.

Soren Kierkegaard, pastor, and Christian philosopher, often told this story to his congregation during the Christmas season. There once was a king who had great power and wealth who fell in love with a pauper maiden. He knew he should not love her, him being of royalty and her living in poverty, but nonetheless, he did. He wondered how he could capture her love. Being the sovereign monarch, maybe he should just send his soldiers and whisk her away and declare her Queen. But would she just be acquiescing to his power rather than responding to his love? He thought about showering her with gifts up to half his kingdom, but would she love him for his wealth and not for himself? He pondered his dilemma and decided that he only had one choice. He must give up his kingdom and all his royal possessions and power and become a pauper and live like the one he loved. In the end, sacrificial love found a way and triumphed over wealth, power, and position; winning the affection of the one he loved.

Jesus could have declared us righteous without dying, but it would not have fulfilled the will or the law of God.  He could have forced our obedience to His wishes, but like the King in our story, He wanted to win our love and not usurp it.

So, the second person of the Godhead, in all His glory and majesty, the one who always was, always is, and always will be, invades time and space, and comes to this planet in the form of a peasant child. He maintains this posture of humility as He walks this earth for 33 years and He remains obedient to His Father, even to his death, the death on the cross. But this is not the end of the story. Though He walked in meekness, there is always great power in humility, as the grave could not hold Him. He triumphs over that great enigma called death. And because He rose from the dead, the Bible promises, so shall we, who believe in the Son of God.

So, the greatest gift this Christmas morning is that great hope we have of eternal salvation. We never again have to fear the tyranny of death. The Bible says in an almost taunting fashion, “Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55 NASB)

This Christmas morning, whether we have many gifts or only a few under our tree, because of the birth of this baby in Bethlehem, His life, death, and resurrection, we have much for which to be thankful.  As someone once said, “deity met humanity,” so that humanity could embrace immortality.

Intercessory Prayer

By Oswald Chambers

Intercessory Prayer

You cannot truly intercede through prayer if you do not believe in the reality of redemption. Instead, you will simply be turning intercession into useless sympathy for others, which will serve only to increase the contentment they have for remaining out of touch with God. True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. Intercession means to “fill up…[with] what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24), and this is precisely why there are so few intercessors. People describe intercession by saying, “It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.” That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.

As an intercessor, be careful not to seek too much information from God regarding the situation you are praying about, because you may be overwhelmed. If you know too much, more than God has ordained for you to know, you can’t pray; the circumstances of the people become so overpowering that you are no longer able to get to the underlying truth.

Our work is to be in such close contact with God that we may have His mind about everything, but we shirk that responsibility by substituting doing for interceding. And yet intercession is the only thing that has no drawbacks, because it keeps our relationship completely open with God.

What we must avoid in intercession is praying for someone to be simply “patched up.” We must pray that person completely through into contact with the very life of God. Think of the number of people God has brought across our path, only to see us drop them! When we pray on the basis of redemption, God creates something He can create in no other way than through intercessory prayer.

Changed Forever

From: Our Daily Journey

Changed Forever

Read:

Mark 1:1-9
I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit! (Mark 1:8).

Loneliness. Lynsi Snyder felt it engulf her at age eighteen when her father died. Trying to fill the void, she abused substances, was married and divorced three times, and ended up still feeling alone and like a “piece of trash.”

But then everything changed. She turned to Jesus. His love filled the void in her heart as the Holy Spirit filled her with hope and joy. The heiress and president of the In-N-Out Burger chain in the US, Lynsi is now married to a godly man and runs a ministry that seeks “to unite and equip the Body of Christ to minister and bring healing to broken-hearted and hurting people through Christ’s love and by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Prior to Jesus’ ministry on earth, John the baptizer proclaimed to “all of Judea” that One was coming to “baptize [them] with the Holy Spirit!” (Mark 1:5,8). Fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi, John “prepare[d] the way for the Lord’s coming” (Mark 1:2-3). Those who were convicted by John’s words entered the waters to experience a baptism of repentance—showing they had “turned to God to be forgiven” (Mark 1:4).

Jesus came to earth to offer Himself as a living sacrifice for our sins and—ultimately—to provide an inner baptism of the Holy Spirit. Just prior to His death, He said, “It is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the [Holy Spirit] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you” (John 16:7).

When we receive salvation through belief in Jesus, we’re indwelt by and baptized with the Holy Spirit. Although our eternal life in Christ is secure, the process of spiritual transformation is lifelong. Like Lynsi, we’re changed forever even as we continue to grow to be more like Jesus as the Spirit works within us!

 

 

Christ Is Born In Bethlehem

 

Micah 5:2   (NIV)

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

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How You Can Have ‘A Wonderful Life’ – Christmas Devotional

How You Can Have ‘A Wonderful Life’

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us
Acts 17:26-27 

One thing I love about this time of year is the traditions we have in our family. One of them is sitting down to watch the Jimmy Stewart movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. You may have seen it, but it’s about this fellow named George Bailey who grows up in a small town and has great dreams and aspirations of seeing the world and making lots of money.

But through a series of circumstances that he couldn’t control, George never could get out of that little one-horse town. Every time he tried, something happened to keep him there. And to top it off, through a mistake one day it appeared that he would be sent to jail.

He was ready to end it all when an angel came to show him what the world would be like if he’d never been born. And George Bailey came to understand that even though he didn’t get to achieve his dreams, he did have a wonderful life that impacted many more people than he realized.

I’m convinced there is a little George Bailey in all of us. We want to achieve significance on a huge scale and often forget the small ways that our lives have deeply impacted those around us. Thank God for where He’s placed you and the people you’ve been able to impact. And one day when you meet the Lord, you’ll realize you really did have a wonderful life.

THANK GOD FOR THE LIFE YOU’RE LIVING AND IMPACT OTHERS HE’S PLACED AROUND YOU!

The Cure for Anxiety

From: Our Daily Bread

The Cure for Anxiety

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

We were excited about moving for my husband’s job. But the unknowns and challenges left me feeling anxious. Thoughts of sorting and packing up belongings. Looking for a place to live. My finding a new job too. Making my way around a new city, and getting settled. It was all . . . unsettling. As I thought about my “to-do” list, words written by the apostle Paul echoed in my mind: Don’t worry, but pray(Phil. 4:6–7).

If anyone could have been anxious about unknowns and challenges, it would have been Paul. He was shipwrecked. He was beaten. He was jailed. In his letter to the Philippian church, he encouraged his friends who also were facing unknowns, telling them, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (v. 6).

Paul’s words encourage me. Life is not without uncertainties—whether they come in the form of a major life transition, family issues, health scares, or financial trouble. What I continue to learn is that God cares. He invites us to let go of our fears of the unknown by giving them to Him. When we do, He, who knows all things, promises that His peace, “which transcends all understanding, will guard” our heart and mind in Christ Jesus (v. 7).

 

Jesus the Refugee

From: Our Daily Journey

Jesus the Refugee

Read:

Matthew 2:13-21
Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother (Matthew 2:13).

In recent years, the refugee crisis has shocked the world over. Images like that of three-year-old Kurdish boy Alan Kurdi, his lifeless body washed onto the shore after the refugees’ inflatable rubber boat capsized, horrified us. Too often, however, outrage has yielded little action. A year after his son’s death, Alan’s father told reporters: “Everyone claimed they wanted to do something because of the photo that touched them so much. But what is happening now? People are still dying and nobody is doing anything about it.”

As we grapple with the terrors refugees face, we ought to consider an often-ignored facet to the biblical story: Jesus was a refugee. Facing the political upheaval and violence inflicted by Herod’s regime, God told Joseph to gather up the few belongings they could and “flee to Egypt . . . because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him” (Matthew 2:13). That very night “Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary” (Matthew 2:14). In Egypt, Joseph and Mary endured the long wait, far from home, until news arrived that Herod was dead and they could safely return (Matthew 2:20).

I wonder if Mary, Joseph, and Jesus encountered compassion in Egypt. I wonder if they found people with open arms and open hearts. I wonder what kind of welcome those fleeing Syria or Iraq or Yemen find now, with us. Obviously, the politics of such matters are complex, and we do face difficult questions about safety. However, as followers of Jesus—the One who surrendered His own life for the love of the world—safety can’t be our primary concern.

Jesus knows intimately the plight of the refugee and He knows what it feels like to need welcome, friendship, and shelter. What does Jesus ask of us now?

In Your Head

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.” Galatians 1:6

I love the prayer that begins, “God be in my head.” When I first heard it, admittedly I thought it sounded a little weird. But then I got to thinking how unfortunate it is if in our efforts to get closer to Jesus we focus on our emotional experience of Him and check our brains at the door. Without His truth ringing in our heads, we’re bound to get off track.

Just look at the early Christians. False teachers filled their heads with misinformation, saying that salvation and spiritual growth could be attained only through keeping the requirements of the law. When Paul heard of it, he was astonished at how quickly they had gotten off track: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ” (Gal. 1:6).

It’s not just false teachers who lead us astray. Our world is full of twisted thinking like, “If it feels good, do it,” or “The one with the most toys wins.” Let’s face it, you and I can’t afford to check our brains at the door. In fact, intimacy with Jesus begins with getting to know Him, and it’s the facts about Him that make us want to get close to Him.

So, strange as it may sound, if you want to stay on track with Jesus, start each day by asking Him to be in your head!

God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking. —Sarum Primer

To stay on track, let God guide your thinking.

Jesus Is God’s Gift To Mankind

 

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, frankincense and myrrh.12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.    Matthew 2: 11-12

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It’s All a Gift!

It’s All a Gift!
Read: Ephesians 2:1–9 | Bible in a Year: Hosea 5–8; Revelation 2

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8

London’s Café Rendezvous has nice lighting, comfortable couches, and the smell of coffee in the air. What it doesn’t have are prices. Originally started as a business by a local church, the café was transformed a year after it started. The managers felt that God was calling them to do something radical—make everything on the menu free. Today you can order a coffee, cake, or sandwich without cost. There isn’t even a donation jar. It’s all a gift.

I asked the manager why they were so generous. “We’re just trying to treat people the way God treats us,” he said. “God gives to us whether we thank him or not. He’s generous to us beyond our imaginations.”

Jesus died to rescue us from our sins and reconcile us with God. He rose from the grave and is alive now. Because of this, every wrong thing we’ve done can be forgiven, and we can have new life today (Eph. 2:1–5). And one of the most amazing things about this is that it is all free. We can’t buy the new life Jesus offers. We can’t even donate toward the cost (vv. 8–9). It’s all a gift.

As the folks at Café Rendezvous serve their cakes and coffees, they give people a glimpse of God’s generosity. You and I are offered eternal life for free because Jesus has paid the bill.

Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17

Eternal life is a free gift ready to be received.

Only One King

From: Our Daily Journey

Only One King

Read:

Matthew 2:1-12
Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him (Matthew 2:2).

Think of any monarchy in the history of the world. The royal family may have had a few princes and princesses. It may have even had more than one queen, as did the kingdoms of David and Solomon. But there was only one king.

The king in today’s text was a madman. Herod murdered his own wives and children because he feared they would try to usurp his power. Augustus Caesar reportedly joked it was better to be Herod’s pig than his son, because out of deference to the Jews he wouldn’t kill his pig. On his deathbed, Herod ordered a stadium to be filled with Jewish political and religious leaders, wanting them killed when he died so that tears would be shed at his passing. Thankfully, these wishes weren’t obeyed.

But although Herod was a madman, he wasn’t completely crazy. He understood that there could only be one king. If the baby in Bethlehem was the “king of the Jews,” then that meant Herod wasn’t (Matthew 2:2). So he killed all the boys “who were two years old and under” in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16).

Herod’s twisted ravings reveal the sober truth of Christmas. The Son of God didn’t enter our world to prop up our own fragile kingdoms. He did not enter this world so He could rubber-stamp our plans or whatever our desires compel us to do. Jesus came to rule, because defeating all other powers is the only way He can “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The Father sent Jesus to rescue us from Satan’s “kingdom of darkness and [transfer] us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom” (Colossians 1:13-14).

Jesus loves us too much to share His sovereign rule with any lesser power. His very presence challenges all other realms. There can only be one king in your life. Who will it be?

 

Spiritual House Cleaning During the Holidays

From: J.A. Marx, Author

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A couple of years ago, God gave me a special name, one He alone calls me. This so excited me that I asked Him if He had a name for my house, too, which I had just moved into. I heard Him whisper, Beauty. Months later, He expanded that to Beauty of Holiness, letting me know that in the new life, even my home had new purpose. Talk about humbling.

I take Beauty seriously. My place is His place; He provided it. My role is to steward it well. In the same way I dust and vacuum, He’s taught me another type of cleaning that maintains His peace, joy, and love.

Some of my houseguests enter carrying burdens of sorrow or grief, and I’m grateful they’re here. I trust that before they leave, they will have sampled joy. Prior to their arrival, I asked the Holy Spirit to decorate my interior with Kindness and Gentleness, or whatever He deemed necessary.

On occasion, guests enter with burdens of bitterness or rebellion. Though it’s often unseen in the natural, the Holy Spirit will reveal this rebellion. Our heart condition, good or bad, leaks out whether we’re aware of it or not. While I don’t waste time casting pearls of wisdom to the rebellious, I do pour out love, because the Father has loved me when I’m at my worst. I’m accountable before God for my actions alone, not for those of another. He’s the final Judge.

No matter who walks into my home, they leave a spiritual footprint, similar to a carbon footprint.

“By wisdom a house is built, by understanding it is prepared, and by knowledge its rooms are filled with every rare and pleasing treasure.” Proverbs 24:3-4 TLV

When guests leave, I clean house, every time, even if I detected only good or healthy deposits. I ask the Spirit to remove all residue of sorrow, depression, and especially rebellion and bitterness, etc. All guests are welcomed with sincere love; but the fragments of chaos they unknowingly leave behind receive a pink slip. How this all works in the unseen realm, I can’t explain. I can only testify to my disturbed sleep or the strange emotional slumps that fall on me after certain individuals spend time in my home—if I don’t take time to clean.

If it’s not in Heaven, I don’t want it in my home. Jesus defeated sin and death through His work on the Cross. His work made us the righteousness of God, therefore we don’t have to put up with any deposit attempts by the enemy.

I steward Beauty with joy. God has blessed me, and He trusts me with His blessings. He trusts you, too.

How about your home? Are you ready for holiday guests? No matter who enters your house, they leave a spiritual footprint upon exiting.

Steps to help keep peace and love burning strong:

  • Turn on praise music. Maybe let it play all night on low.
  • Use your authority in Christ to command all things/spirits not aligned with God to bow the knee to Jesus and leave immediately.
  • Speak Scripture over your home, each room. The Word of God spoken aloud has healing & cleansing effects.
  • Rejoice! And give God thanks.

’Tis the season to clean.

Everyone Is A Winner In Heaven

The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:14
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Restored Failures

From: Our Daily Bread

Restored Failures
Read: Psalm 145:1–16 | Bible in a Year: Hosea 1–4; Revelation 1

The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:14

A guest band was leading praise and worship at our church, and their passion for the Lord was moving. We could see—and feel—their enthusiasm.

Then the musicians revealed that they were all ex-prisoners. Suddenly their songs took on special meaning, and I saw why their words of praise meant so much to them. Their worship was a testimony of lives broken and restored.

The world may embrace success. But stories of past failure offer people hope too. They assure us that God loves us no matter how many times we have failed. Pastor Gary Inrig says that what we call the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 could well be entitled God’s Hall of Reclaimed Failures. “There is scarcely an individual in that chapter without a serious blemish in his or her life,” he observes. “But God is in the business of restoring failures . . . . That is a great principle of God’s grace.”

I love the comfort of Psalm 145, which speaks of God’s “wonderful works” (vv. 5–6) and glorious kingdom (v. 11). It describes His compassion (vv. 8–9) and faithfulness (v. 13)—then immediately tells us that He lifts up those who have fallen (v. 14). All His attributes are expressed when He picks us up. He is indeed in the business of restoration.

Have you failed before? We all have. Have you been restored? All who have been redeemed are stories of God’s grace.

Our stories of failure can be God’s stories of success.

 

Angels We Have Heard on High

By: Kenneth W. Osbeck

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As vast numbers of angels swiftly descended toward earth through the star sprinkled sky, the leading angel halted them with a sign. They hovered with folded wings over a silent field near Bethlehem. “There they are,” said the leading angel, “the humble shepherds who have been chosen by God to receive our message. It will be the most wonderful news that mortal man has ever received. Are you ready with your great angelic chorus?”

The leading angel drifted slightly downward so that he could be seen by the shepherds below. They were terrified! Each one of them covered his face in the brilliance of the light but earnestly listened with awe as the vision before him began to speak in his own language:

“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” (Luke 2:11).

Instantly surrounding the angel was the brilliant heavenly host, and echoing through the sky was the most beautiful singing that the shepherds had ever heard, exulting and praising God for the long-awaited gift of His Son. They made haste to see the Savior with their own eyes.

The Bible teaches that angels are the ministering servants of God and that they are continually being sent to help and protect us, the heirs of salvation. Certainly their most important task, however, was this momentous occasion announcing Christ’s arrival on earth!

Although little is known of its origins, this inspiring eighteenth-century French carol has become a universal favorite.

Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains,
and the mountains, in reply, echoing their joyous strains.

Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heav’nly song?

Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing;
come, adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

See Him in a manger laid, Jesus, Lord of heav’n and earth;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid, with us sing our Savior’s birth.

Chorus: Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis D

 

The Offering of the Natural

December 10 

By Oswald Chambers

 The Offering of the Natural

Paul was not dealing with sin in this chapter of Galatians, but with the relation of the natural to the spiritual. The natural can be turned into the spiritual only through sacrifice. Without this a person will lead a divided life. Why did God demand that the natural must be sacrificed? God did not demand it. It is not God’s perfect will, but His permissive will. God’s perfect will was for the natural to be changed into the spiritual through obedience. Sin is what made it necessary for the natural to be sacrificed.

Abraham had to offer up Ishmael before he offered up Isaac (see Genesis 21:8-14). Some of us are trying to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God before we have sacrificed the natural. The only way we can offer a spiritual sacrifice to God is to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice…” (Romans 12:1). Sanctification means more than being freed from sin. It means the deliberate commitment of myself to the God of my salvation, and being willing to pay whatever it may cost.

If we do not sacrifice the natural to the spiritual, the natural life will resist and defy the life of the Son of God in us and will produce continual turmoil. This is always the result of an undisciplined spiritual nature. We go wrong because we stubbornly refuse to discipline ourselves physically, morally, or mentally. We excuse ourselves by saying, “Well, I wasn’t taught to be disciplined when I was a child.” Then discipline yourself now! If you don’t, you will ruin your entire personal life for God.

God is not actively involved with our natural life as long as we continue to pamper and gratify it. But once we are willing to put it out in the desert and are determined to keep it under control, God will be with it. He will then provide wells and oases and fulfill all His promises for the natural (see Genesis 21:15-19).

 

Perfect Rest Through Christ The Lord

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3
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 Perfect Rest

From: Our Daily Journey

Perfect Rest

Read:

Luke 2:15-20 
The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them (Luke 2:20).

Tonight as I sit here writing, one of our family dogs lays curled up on the ottoman at my feet. I’m his favorite of all our family members, though—in truth—it probably has something to do with my keeping his food bowl full! Seymour loves to be outside, but his preferred activity is to rest all seventy-five pounds of his sweet self on my lap. On especially busy days, he remains near me, patiently waiting until I sit down.

It can be hard to find rest and peace during these busy days. Whether driven by internal or external expectations, we’re carried downstream by our fast-paced culture. Even the Christmas holidays can become little more than a checklist of tasks and events. But if we were to look back on a quiet night in Bethlehem, what would we discover?

The piercing light and sound of angelic voices broke into the still, night air, causing the shepherds to initially be afraid (Luke 2:9-10). As the angels’ exclamations and expressions of worship settled into their hearts, however, the shepherds became alert to a divine presence. Their feet “hurried to the village” as their hearts chose to make God’s timeline more important than their own (Luke 2:16). How ironic that in their urgency to make God’s activity their priority, they found true rest. They enjoyed the moment, and in doing so, God in all His glory became the center of their speech, the center of their world (Luke 2:17,20).

Like the shepherds, Mary knew she was living in the miraculous (Luke 2:19). To what extent, she could only imagine, but she rested in knowing that God was weaving together what couldn’t yet be understood. May we seek to find the same wonder and rest in believing “the Lord [will] do what he said” (Luke 1:45).

 

Away in a Manger

By: Kenneth W. Osbeck

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The shepherds had an angel
The wise men had a star
But what have I, a little child,
To guide me home from far,
Where glad stars sing together
And singing angels are?
Christ watches me, His little lamb,
Cares for me day and night,
That I may be His own in heaven;
So angels clad in white
Shall sing their “Glory, glory,”
For my sake in the height.

-Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

No Christmas song is more loved than this tender children’s carol, “Away in a Manger.” With its simply worded expression of love for the Lord Jesus and trust in His faithful care, the hymn appeals to young and old alike. It is usually one of the first Christmas songs learned in early childhood; yet its pleasing melody and gentle message preserve it in our affections all through life.

For some time “Away in the Manger” was titled “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.” It was thought to have been written by Martin Luther for his own children and then passed on by German mothers. Modern research discounts this claim, however. Stanzas one and two first appeared in the Little Children’s Book, published in Philadelphia in 1885. The third verse was written by a Methodist minister, John T. McFarland, in the early 1900s when an additional stanza for this carol was desired for use at a church children’s day program.

How important it is that we take time to help our children see beyond the glitter of the Christmas season and teach them the true meaning of Christ’s birth. The most thrilling story ever known to man began in Bethlehem at Christmas.

“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head;
the stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus! look down from the sky,
and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
and fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.”

 

Nearer My God To You

For this our light and transitory burden of suffering is achieving for us a weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17). (Weymouth)

The question is repeatedly asked–Why is the life of man drenched with so much blood, and blistered with so many tears? The answer is to be found in the word “achieving”; these things are achieving for us something precious. They are teaching us not only the way to victory, but better still the laws of victory. There is a compensation in every sorrow, and the sorrow is working out the compensation. It is the cry of the dear old hymn:

Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee,
E’en tho’ it be a cross that raiseth me.”

Joy sometimes needs pain to give it birth. Fanny Crosby could never have written her beautiful hymn, “I shall see Him face to face,” were it not for the fact that she had never looked upon the green fields nor the evening sunset nor the kindly twinkle in her mother’s eye. It was the loss of her own vision that helped her to gain her remarkable spiritual discernment.

It is comforting to know that sorrow tarries only for the night; it takes its leave in the morning. A thunderstorm is very brief when put alongside the long summer day. “Weeping may endure for the night but joy cometh in the morning.”
–Songs in the Night

There is a peace that cometh after sorrow,
Of hope surrendered, not of hope fulfilled;
A peace that looketh not upon tomorrow,
But calmly on a tempest that it stilled.
A peace that lives not now in joy’s excesses,
Nor in the happy life of love secure;
But in the unerring strength the heart possesses,
Of conflicts won while learning to endure.
A peace there is, in sacrifice secluded,
A life subdued, from will and passion free;
‘Tis not the peace that over Eden brooded,

But that which triumphed in Gethsemane.


Unexpected Grace

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Unexpected Grace

Unexpected Grace
Read: Acts 9:1–19 | Bible in a Year: Daniel 8–10; 3 John

In a vision, he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight. Acts 9:12

It was an early Saturday morning in my sophomore year of high school, and I was eager to get to my job at the local bowling lanes. The evening before, I had stayed late to mop the muddy tile floors because the janitor called in sick. I hadn’t bothered to tell the boss about the janitor so I could surprise him. After all, What could go wrong? I thought.

Plenty, as it turns out.

Stepping in the door, I saw inches of standing water, with bowling pins, rolls of toilet paper, and boxes of paper scoresheets bobbing on top. Then I realized what I had done: While doing the floors, I had left a large faucet running overnight! Incredibly, my boss greeted me with a huge hug and a big smile—“for trying,” he said.

Saul was actively punishing and harassing Christians (Acts 9:1–2) when he came face to face with Jesus on the road to Damascus (vv. 3–4). Jesus confronted the soon-to-be-called apostle Paul with his sinful actions. Blinded by the experience, Saul/Paul would need a Christian—Ananias—to restore his sight to him in an act of courage and grace (v. 17).

Both Saul and I received unexpected grace.

Most people know they’re messed up. Instead of lectures, they need a hope for redemption. Stern faces or sharp words can block their view of that hope. Like Ananias, or even my boss, followers of Jesus must become the face of grace in these life-changing encounters with others.

A Christian’s grace-filled actions can smooth someone’s path to the Savior’s presence.

Freedom from Fear

From: Our Daily Journey

Freedom from Fear

Read:

Luke 2:8-14 
“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10).

Coming from a family where I was the oldest of five children, I just assumed my husband and I would easily begin having children soon after our wedding day. Our hopes began to fade however as month after long month passed with no joyful news. One morning, however, my hair stylist asked, “Have you had a baby recently?” I was shocked. She explained that the quality of my hair indicated that my body had experienced a rush of hormones, leaving her to wonder whether I’d recently given birth. I hadn’t, of course, but I soon found out I was pregnant—with twins! In the midst of my fear and sadness I heard news that ignited hope of a future filled with joy.

More than 2,000 years ago, a group of frightened shepherds received some good news that calmed their fears, restored their hopes, and brought them great joy.

The men were on the night shift, guarding their sheep. Perhaps they were huddled around a fire sharing stories when the sky lit up and an angel of the Lord appeared to the stunned men (Luke 2:8-9). “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:10-11).

God announced the birth of His Son to a group of humble shepherds—men who were marginalized by the social and religious elite of the day. In an instant, God dispelled their fear and weakness as the host of heaven declared, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:14).

As you consider the joy of the good news of “God with us” (Matthew 1:23), may you too find in Him freedom from all your fears.

 

Karen Ehman Show Your Joy to the World
KAREN EHMANFrom: Crosswalk.com, Joy To The World

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.” Psalm 13:5-6 (NIV)

When you think of the phrase, “Christmas is coming!” … what sort of emotion does it evoke?

It might be any one of these:

Panic: I only have three more Saturdays of shopping before Christmas. I’m never going to get it all done!

Frustration: Ugh. There are so many activities this month. We are going to be running all over the place with very little time to just be together as a family at home, enjoying each other’s company.

Regret: Why did I say we’d host the family get-together? Now I have to straighten and scrub this place from top to bottom AND make the dessert I signed up to provide, as if I didn’t already have enough to do this month.

Envy: I noticed on Facebook the gorgeous holiday decorations my co-worker has in her home. They look like they are straight from an HGTV Christmas special. Our place looks like we bought ours from the clearance bin at the local secondhand store.

So many sentiments can invade our hearts and minds. But these emotions don’t stay there.

Often, they weasel their way into our behavior. We appear distracted when talking with a friend. Our frustration morphs into hurry as we frantically try to get it all done. Our regret makes us a grumpy and ungracious hostess. Our envy leads to ungratefulness and can prevent us from experiencing the joy that should come from the whole reason for the celebration of Christmas in the first place.

Are these the attitudes we want on display during the month of December? Or should we choose the attitude reflected in the old familiar hymn, Joy to the World?

Joy.

The emotion that ought to be deeply experienced during the Christmas season — and, in turn, displayed in our behavior — should be joy. Today’s key verse states, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me. 

This verse declares that our reaction to the salvation God freely offers — which began when Jesus came into the world as a baby that very first Christmas — should be that rejoicing.

In this Old Testament verse, the word translated for rejoice actually means “to exult, to go about or to be excited to levity.” What a stark contrast to the emotions we usually display during the yuletide season!

But what if we tried to take our roller coaster of emotions to God, asking Him to replace them with joy instead? If we choose to consciously thank God for the indescribable gift of salvation through Jesus, perhaps we could learn to recapture the joy of Christmas. And not just to feel it in our hearts, but to go about during the season, excited to the point of levity, exulting God in the process.

The word exult means “to leap for joy,” and it’s usually connected with a triumph of some kind. Through Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, He triumphed over death. We need not fear the future because of the miracle of Christmas. If we have responded to the gospel — the good news about Jesus offering us salvation — we too can experience a victory over the grave and dwell with God forever in heaven someday. What a reason to rejoice!

Today, let’s chase down some Christmas cheer. But not just keep it to ourselves. Parking our minds on the truth of salvation through Jesus helps us show joy to the world during the Christmas season. A spotless house and homemade fruitcake are optional.

Father, may my mind dwell this season on the incredible gift of salvation through Jesus that is the source of all joy in this life and the life to come. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

First Things First

1 Corinthians 9:24

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

 
 
Galatians 2:2

It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.

 
Galatians 5:7

You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?

Image result for pictures of physical conditioningImage result for pictures of physical conditioning
Work out and condition your body before you play your sport.
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Make sure you are spiritually strong before doing God’s work.
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First Things First

From: Our Daily Bread

First Things First
Read: 1 Timothy 4:12–16 | Bible in a Year: Daniel 5–7; 2 John

Watch your life and doctrine closely. 1 Timothy 4:16

When you travel by air, before the flight takes off an airline employee presents a safety briefing, which explains what to do if there is a loss of cabin pressure. Passengers are told that oxygen masks will drop from the compartment above and they are to put one on themselves before helping others. Why? Because before you can help anyone else, you need to be physically alert yourself.

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he stressed the importance of maintaining his own spiritual health before helping and serving others. He reminded Timothy of his many responsibilities as a pastor: There were false teachings to contend with (1 Tim. 4:1–5) and wrong doctrines to correct (vv. 6–8). But to discharge his duties well, what was most important was to “watch [his] life and doctrine closely [and] persevere in them” (v. 16). He needed to take care of his own relationship with the Lord first before he could attend to others.

What Paul told Timothy applies to us too. Each day we encounter people who do not know the Lord. When we tank up on our spiritual oxygen first through time in God’s Word, prayer, and the enabling of the Holy Spirit, we keep our relationship right with God. Then we will be spiritually alert to help others.

Lord, open Your Word to me now. Let me breathe in its freshness before I go out to be Your light to the world.

A Christian’s life is the window through which others can see Jesus.

 

A Humble God

From: Our Daily Journey

A Humble God

Read:

Luke 2:1-7
She gave birth to her firstborn son . . . and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them (Luke 2:7).

Gaius Octavius became the first Roman emperor by working behind the scenes to consolidate his power. He changed his name to Gauis Julius Caesar Octavianus, after his adoptive father, and then promoted the idea of Caesars (Roman emperors) being divine—allowing him to be considered the son of a god. Eventually, Octavius took the title of Augustus Caesar—sole ruler of Rome—whose spirit was deemed worthy of worship by his people.

Jesus, “though he was God . . . did not think equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” (Philippians 2:6-7). The actual Son of God used the emperor’s census decree to fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah would come out of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2Luke 2:1-4).

Born in a humble manger (Luke 2:7), the Son of God associated with society’s lowest throughout His ministry. This prompted religious leaders of the day to wonder why He ate with such “scum” (Mark 2:15-16). The answer was that Jesus didn’t have an agenda of focusing on Himself; rather, He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

In doing so, “he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:8-11).

Augustus was ruthless in his efforts to attain a man-made declaration of divinity. Jesus obediently emptied Himself in humility and attained the only divine name by which we can be saved. May we live out His humble ways by His power.

Repentance

By Oswald Chambers

 Repentance

My sins, my sins, my Savior,

How sad on Thee they fall.

Conviction of sin is one of the most uncommon things that ever happens to a person. It is the beginning of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict people of sin (see John 16:8). And when the Holy Spirit stirs a person’s conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not that person’s relationship with others that bothers him but his relationship with God— “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:4). The wonders of conviction of sin, forgiveness, and holiness are so interwoven that it is only the forgiven person who is truly holy. He proves he is forgiven by being the opposite of what he was previously, by the grace of God. Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, “I have sinned.” The surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it. Anything less is simply sorrow for having made foolish mistakes— a reflex action caused by self-disgust.

The entrance into the kingdom of God is through the sharp, sudden pains of repentance colliding with man’s respectable “goodness.” Then the Holy Spirit, who produces these struggles, begins the formation of the Son of God in the person’s life (see Galatians 4:19). This new life will reveal itself in conscious repentance followed by unconscious holiness, never the other way around. The foundation of Christianity is repentance. Strictly speaking, a person cannot repent when he chooses— repentance is a gift of God. The old Puritans used to pray for “the gift of tears.” If you ever cease to understand the value of repentance, you allow yourself to remain in sin. Examine yourself to see if you have forgotten how to be truly repentant.