Tag Archives: security

Christmas Eve Devotion and Inspiration

 

Christmas Eve is a great time. Everything is done and we’re waiting for Christmas. 

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The Spirit of God testifies to and confirms the simple, but almighty, security of the life that “is hidden with Christ in God.” Paul continually brought this out in his New Testament letters. We talk as if living a sanctified life were the most uncertain and insecure thing we could do. Yet it is the most secure thing possible, because it has Almighty God in and behind it. The most dangerous and unsure thing is to try to live without God. For one who is born again, it is easier to live in a right-standing relationship with God than it is to go wrong, provided we heed God’s warnings and “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7).

When we think of being delivered from sin, being “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), and “walk[ing] in the light,” we picture the peak of a great mountain. We see it as very high and wonderful, but we say, “Oh, I could never live up there!” However, when we do get there through God’s grace, we find it is not a mountain peak at all, but a plateau with plenty of room to live and to grow. “You enlarged my path under me, so my feet did not slip” (Psalm 18:36).

When you really see Jesus, I defy you to doubt Him. If you see Him when He says, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:27), I defy you to worry. It is virtually impossible to doubt when He is there. Every time you are in personal contact with Jesus, His words are real to you. “My peace I give to you…” (John 14:27)— a peace which brings an unconstrained confidence and covers you completely, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. “…your life is hidden with Christ in God,” and the peace of Jesus Christ that cannot be disturbed has been imparted to you.

Lasting Peace

Our Daily Bread

On Christmas Eve 1914, during the First World War, the guns fell silent along a 30-mile stretch of the Western Front. Soldiers peered cautiously over the tops of trenches while a few emerged to repair their positions and bury the dead. As darkness fell, some German troops set out lanterns and sang Christmas carols. Men on the British side applauded and shouted greetings.

The next day, German, French, and British troops met in no man’s land to shake hands, share food, and exchange gifts. It was a brief respite from war that soon ended when the artillery and machine guns roared to life again. But no one who experienced “The Christmas Truce,” as it became known, would ever forget how it felt and how it fueled their longing for lasting peace.

In Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah we read, “His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). By His death on the cross, Jesus removed the “no man’s land” between us and God. “For He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14).

In Jesus we can find lasting peace with God and harmony with each other. This is the life-changing message of Christmas!

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!” —Wesley
Only in Christ can true peace be realized.

Insight

Unity is a common theme in the New Testament writings of Paul. Jesus has brought us peace with God and therefore we should also be at peace with each other. In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about peace between Jew and Gentile. Despite the centuries-old separation of the two groups, God in Christ Jesus has “broken down the middle wall of separation” (v.14). In the temple there was a wall beyond which Gentiles could not pass; it formed the boundary of “the court of the Gentiles.” However, Jesus has removed the barriers between God and us and between us and others. Now we all are “members of the household of God” (v.19).

 

Streams in the Desert

He went out to relax in the field in the early evening. Then he looked up and saw that there were camels approaching.—Gen 24:63

We should be better Christians if we were more alone; we should do more if we attempted less, and spent more time in retirement, and quiet waiting upon God. The world is too much with us; we are afflicted with the idea that we are doing nothing unless we are fussily running to and fro; we do not believe in “the calm retreat, the silent shade.” As a people, we are of a very practical turn of mind; “we believe,” as someone has said, “in having all our irons in the fire, and consider the time not spent between the anvil and the fire as lost, or much the same as lost.” Yet no time is more profitably spent than that which is set apart for quiet musing, for talking with God, for looking up to Heaven. We cannot have too many of these open spaces in life, hours in which the soul is left accessible to any sweet thought or influence it may please God to send.

“Reverie,” it has been said, “is the Sunday of the mind.” Let us often in these days give our mind a “Sunday,” in which it will do no manner of work but simply lie still, and look upward, and spread itself out before the Lord like Gideon’s fleece, to be soaked and moistened with the dews of Heaven. Let there be intervals when we shall do nothing, think nothing, plan nothing, but just lay ourselves on the green lap of nature and “rest awhile.”

Time so spent is not lost time. The fisherman cannot be said to be losing time when he is mending his nets, nor the mower when he takes a few minutes to sharpen his scythe at the top of the ridge. City men cannot do better than follow the example of Isaac, and, as often as they can, get away from the fret and fever of life into fields. Wearied with the heat and din, the noise and bustle, communion with nature is very grateful; it will have a calming, healing influence. A walk through the fields, a saunter by the seashore or across the daisy-sprinkled meadows, will purge your life from sordidness, and make the heart beat with new joy and hope.

“The little cares that fretted me,
I lost them yesterday,
… Out in the fields with God.”

Chistmas Eve

BELLS ACROSS THE SNOW

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
With its joy and with its pain!
There’s a minor in the carol
And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
With the holly wreath tonight.
And the hush is never broken
By laughter light and low,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
’Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
With the carol and the song!
If we could but hear them singing,
As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
Of the crown on each dear brow,
There would be no sigh to smother,
No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
This never more can be;
We cannot bring again the days
Of our unshadowed glee,
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
Sweet herald of good will,
With holy songs of glory
Brings holy gladness still.
For peace and hope may brighten,
And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

—Frances Ridley Havergal

GOD’S REFRESHMENT BY MRS. CHARLES COWMAN

“The journey is too great for thee” (1 King 19:7).

And what did God do with His tired servant? Gave him something good to eat, and put him to sleep. Elijah had done splendid work, and had run alongside of the chariot in his excitement, and it had been too much for his physical strength, and the reaction had come on, and he was depressed. The physical needed to be cared for. What many people want is sleep, and the physical ailment attended to. There are grand men and women who get where Elijah was–under the juniper tree! and it comes very soothingly to such to hear the words of the Master: “The journey is too great for thee, and I am going to refresh you.” Let us not confound physical weariness with spiritual weakness.

“I’m too tired to trust and too tired to pray,
Said one, as the over-taxed strength gave way.
The one conscious thought by my mind possessed,
Is, oh, could I just drop it all and rest.

“Will God forgive me, do you suppose,
If I go right to sleep as a baby goes,
Without an asking if I may,
Without ever trying to trust and pray?

“Will God forgive you? why think, dear heart,
When language to you was an unknown art,
Did a mother deny you
needed rest,
Or refuse to pillow your head on her breast?

“Did she let you want when you could not ask?
Did she set her child an unequal task?
Or did she cradle you in her arms,
And then guard your slumber against alarms?

“Ah, how quick was her mother love to see,
The unconscious yearnings of infancy.
When you’ve grown too tired to trust and pray,
When over-wrought nature has quite given way:

“Then just drop it all, and give up to rest,
As you used to do on a mother’s breast,
He knows all about it–the dear Lord knows,
So just go to sleep as a baby goes;

“Without even asking if you may,
God knows when His child is too tired to pray.
He judges not solely by uttered prayer,
He knows when the yearnings of love are there.

“He knows you do pray, He knows you do trust,
And He knows, too, the limits’ of poor weak dust.
Oh, the wonderful sympathy of Christ,
For His chosen ones in that midnight tryst,

“When He bade them sleep and take their rest,
While on Him the guilt of the whole world pressed–
You’ve given your life up to Him to keep,
Then don’t be afraid to go right to sleep.”

– See more at: http://www.backtothebible.org/devotions/gods-refreshment#sthash.MbjMAT6R.dpuf

Christ Is Our Hope and Salvation

 

Our Hope and our salvation will be born in a manger

  • No Room in the InnMother and ChildThe Birth of Jesus
  • Baby Jesus in the MangerNo Room in the InnGod's Gift
  • Birth of JesusMary, Joseph, and Baby JesusRejoicing below the Star of Jesus
  • Birth of ChristBirth of Christ Mary and Joseph At Inn
  • Holy NightMadonna and ChildMadonna and Child

 

Sharing in the Atonement

The gospel of Jesus Christ always forces a decision of our will. Have I accepted God’s verdict on sin as judged on the Cross of Christ? Do I have even the slightest interest in the death of Jesus? Do I want to be identified with His death— to be completely dead to all interest in sin, worldliness, and self? Do I long to be so closely identified with Jesus that I am of no value for anything except Him and His purposes? The great privilege of discipleship is that I can commit myself under the banner of His Cross, and that means death to sin. You must get alone with Jesus and either decide to tell Him that you do not want sin to die out in you, or that at any cost you want to be identified with His death. When you act in confident faith in what our Lord did on the cross, a supernatural identification with His death takes place immediately. And you will come to know through a higher knowledge that your old life was “crucified with Him” (Romans 6:6). The proof that your old life is dead, having been “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), is the amazing ease with which the life of God in you now enables you to obey the voice of Jesus Christ.

Every once in a while our Lord gives us a glimpse of what we would be like if it were not for Him. This is a confirmation of what He said— “…without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). That is why the underlying foundation of Christianity is personal, passionate devotion to the Lord Jesus. We mistake the joy of our first introduction into God’s kingdom as His purpose for getting us there. Yet God’s purpose in getting us into His kingdom is that we may realize all that identification with Jesus Christ means.

 

DECEMBER 23, 2014

From: Crosswalk

I Didn’t Have The Courage
RENEE SWOPE

“The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD…” 1 Chronicles 29:9a (NIV)

I didn’t want to go first. As much as I knew God wanted me to trust Him, I didn’t have the courage.

It was June 1989. I had given my life to Christ six months earlier and was on a college youth retreat. While reading my Bible one day, I sensed God wanted me to share my story. First with my large youth group, and then with others in the coming weeks. Not just the happy parts of my story; but also the hidden, redeemed-by-His grace parts.

I didn’t want to tell people the hard parts of my story, especially not my struggles with depression and anxiety. Yet I knew God wanted me to share the reasons behind the life-changing hope I’d found in Christ.

I wish I could say I gave my story freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord, to use for His glory. Just like King David and his leaders gave their gifts to build a temple for the Lord, as we see in today’s key verse, 1 Chronicles 29:9, I wish I could say my heart responded with a courageous “Yes!”

But that’s not what happened and here’s why:

I couldn’t see the why behind God’s will. Why would God want me to share my story? How could my story help people? Their smiles and seemingly happy-go-lucky Christian lives convinced me they were doing fine. I assumed their problems were minor and their need for Jesus was minimal compared to mine.

I didn’t realize pride had blocked my perspective. I thought I was afraid to share my story, but I’m pretty sure pride was the problem. Sadly, I was more concerned with what people thought about me than what they thought about God. Clinging to the details of my story like priceless jewels, I would not give my brokenness to use for others’ good or for His glory.

I didn’t have the courage to go first. I had never heard Christians share their emotional and spiritual struggles. And I did not want to be the first. What if depression and anxiety were topics under a secret “things we don’t talk about” category I hadn’t been told about? That would be awkward. Maybe if someone else went first, then I’d go next.

I didn’t share my story that weekend or in the 10 years that followed.

I didn’t have courageous willingness like King David. But eventually I became like his leaders and like the people who saw their example and “rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD …” 1 Chronicles 29:9a (NIV).

You see, God brought women into my life who followed His lead even when they didn’t understand the why behind His will. Women who recognized pride’s ability to block our perspective and keep us from God’s best.

Women who were willing to go first, which gave me the courage to go next.

Through my church, speakers at women’s conferences and here at Proverbs 31 Ministries, God has surrounded me with women who give Jesus full access to their lives and their stories because they trust Jesus more than their fears.

God uses women who are willing to go first — to give others courage to go next.

I want to be that kind of woman. A woman who is willing to say, “I’ll trust Jesus even when it’s hard. I’ll let my guard down so you can see Christ working in me. I’ll be brave so you know you can be, too. Watch, I’ll go first.”

Why? Because He’s worth it and you’re worth it. We’re worth it, friend. We’re worth the work it takes to follow Christ with all of our hearts and willingly give Him all we’ve got.

Let’s do it. Are you with me? I’ll go first.

 

Streams In The Desert

12/23/2014

The Lord’s angelic messenger came back again, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, for otherwise you won’t be able to make the journey.”—1 Kgs 19:7
And what did God do with His tired servant? Gave him something good to eat, and put him to sleep. Elijah had done splendid work, and had run alongside of the chariot in his excitement, and it had been too much for his physical strength, and the reaction had come on, and he was depressed. The physical needed to be cared for. What many people want is sleep, and the physical ailment attended to. There are grand men and women who get where Elijah was—under the juniper tree! and it comes very soothingly to such to hear the words of the Master: “The journey is too great for thee, and I am going to refresh you.” Let us not confound physical weariness with spiritual weakness.
“I’m too tired to trust and too tired to pray, 
Said one, as the over-taxed strength gave way. 
The one conscious thought by my mind possessed, 
Is, oh, could I just drop it all and rest.
“Will God forgive me, do you suppose, 
If I go right to sleep as a baby goes, 
Without an asking if I may, 
Without ever trying to trust and pray?
“Will God forgive you? why think, dear heart, 
When language to you was an unknown art, 
Did a mother deny you needed rest, 
Or refuse to pillow your head on her breast?
“Did she let you want when you could not ask? 
Did she set her child an unequal task? 
Or did she cradle you in her arms, 
And then guard your slumber against alarms?
“Ah, how quick was her mother love to see, 
The unconscious yearnings of infancy. 
When you’ve grown too tired to trust and pray, 
When over-wrought nature has quite given way:
“Then just drop it all, and give up to rest, 
As you used to do on a mother’s breast, 
He knows all about it—the dear Lord knows, 
So just go to sleep as a baby goes;
“Without even asking if you may, 
God knows when His child is too tired to pray. 
He judges not solely by uttered prayer, 
He knows when the yearnings of love are there.
“He knows you do pray, He knows you do trust, 
And He knows, too, the limits’ of poor weak dust. 
Oh, the wonderful sympathy of Christ, 
For His chosen ones in that midnight tryst,
“When He bade them sleep and take their rest, 
While on Him the guilt of the whole world pressed—
You’ve given your life up to Him to keep, 
Then don’t be afraid to go right to sleep.”

 

Morning

From: Biblegateway

“Friend, go up higher.”
Luke 14:10

When first the life of grace begins in the soul, we do indeed draw near to God, but it is with great fear and trembling. The soul conscious of guilt, and humbled thereby, is overawed with the solemnity of its position; it is cast to the earth by a sense of the grandeur of Jehovah, in whose presence it stands. With unfeigned bashfulness it takes the lowest room.

But, in after life, as the Christian grows in grace, although he will never forget the solemnity of his position, and will never lose that holy awe which must encompass a gracious man when he is in the presence of the God who can create or can destroy; yet his fear has all its terror taken out of it; it becomes a holy reverence, and no more an overshadowing dread. He is called up higher, to greater access to God in Christ Jesus. Then the man of God, walking amid the splendours of Deity, and veiling his face like the glorious cherubim, with those twin wings, the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, will, reverent and bowed in spirit, approach the throne; and seeing there a God of love, of goodness, and of mercy, he will realize rather the covenant character of God than his absolute Deity. He will see in God rather his goodness than his greatness, and more of his love than of his majesty. Then will the soul, bowing still as humbly as aforetime, enjoy a more sacred liberty of intercession; for while prostrate before the glory of the Infinite God, it will be sustained by the refreshing consciousness of being in the presence of boundless mercy and infinite love, and by the realization of acceptance “in the Beloved.” Thus the believer is bidden to come up higher, and is enabled to exercise the privilege of rejoicing in God, and drawing near to him in holy confidence, saying, “Abba, Father.”

“So may we go from strength to strength,

And daily grow in grace,

Till in thine image raised at length,

We see thee face to face.”

Evening

“The night also is thine.”
Psalm 74:16

Yes, Lord, thou dost not abdicate thy throne when the sun goeth down, nor dost thou leave the world all through these long wintry nights to be the prey of evil; thine eyes watch us as the stars, and thine arms surround us as the zodiac belts the sky. The dews of kindly sleep and all the influences of the moon are in thy hand, and the alarms and solemnities of night are equally with thee. This is very sweet to me when watching through the midnight hours, or tossing to and fro in anguish. There are precious fruits put forth by the moon as well as by the sun: may my Lord make me to be a favoured partaker in them.

The night of affliction is as much under the arrangement and control of the Lord of Love as the bright summer days when all is bliss. Jesus is in the tempest. His love wraps the night about itself as a mantle, but to the eye of faith the sable robe is scarce a disguise. From the first watch of the night even unto the break of day the eternal Watcher observes his saints, and overrules the shades and dews of midnight for his people’s highest good. We believe in no rival deities of good and evil contending for the mastery, but we hear the voice of Jehovah saying, “I create light and I create darkness; I, the Lord, do all these things.”

Gloomy seasons of religious indifference and social sin are not exempted from the divine purpose. When the altars of truth are defiled, and the ways of God forsaken, the Lord’s servants weep with bitter sorrow, but they may not despair, for the darkest eras are governed by the Lord, and shall come to their end at his bidding. What may seem defeat to us may be victory to him.

“Though enwrapt in gloomy night,

We perceive no ray of light;

Since the Lord himself is here,

‘Tis not meet that we should fear.”

Christmas Wrappings

 

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Christmas Wrappings

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The Drawing of the Father

From: Utmost.org

When God begins to draw me to Himself, the problem of my will comes in immediately. Will I react positively to the truth that God has revealed? Will I come to Him? To discuss or deliberate over spiritual matters when God calls is inappropriate and disrespectful to Him. When God speaks, never discuss it with anyone as if to decide what your response may be (see Galatians 1:15-16). Belief is not the result of an intellectual act, but the result of an act of my will whereby I deliberately commit myself. But will I commit, placing myself completely and absolutely on God, and be willing to act solely on what He says? If I will, I will find that I am grounded on reality as certain as God’s throne.

In preaching the gospel, always focus on the matter of the will. Belief must come from the will to believe. There must be a surrender of the will, not a surrender to a persuasive or powerful argument. I must deliberately step out, placing my faith in God and in His truth. And I must place no confidence in my own works, but only in God. Trusting in my own mental understanding becomes a hindrance to complete trust in God. I must be willing to ignore and leave my feelings behind. I mustwill to believe. But this can never be accomplished without my forceful, determined effort to separate myself from my old ways of looking at things. I must surrender myself completely to God.

Everyone has been created with the ability to reach out beyond his own grasp. But it is God who draws me, and my relationship to Him in the first place is an inner, personal one, not an intellectual one. I come into the relationship through the miracle of God and through my own will to believe. Then I begin to get an intelligent appreciation and understanding of the wonder of the transformation in my life.

Our Daily Bread, source

At our house some Christmas events are the same each year. Among them is my wife Martie’s appeal to the kids and grandkids as they attack their gifts: “Save the paper, we can use it next year!” Martie loves to give nice gifts, but she also appreciates the wrapping. Presentation is part of the beauty of the gift.

It makes me think of the wrapping Christ chose when He came as a redemptive gift to rescue us from our sinful selves. Jesus could have wrapped Himself in a mind-boggling show of power, lighting up the sky with His presence in a celestial show of glory. Instead, in a beautiful reversal of Genesis 1:26, He chose to wrap Himself “in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7).

So why is this wrapping so important? Because, being like us, He is no stranger to our struggles. He experienced deep loneliness and the betrayal of a dear friend. He was publicly shamed, misunderstood, and falsely accused. In short, He feels our pain. As a result, the writer of Hebrews tells us that we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

When you think of the gift of Jesus this Christmas, remember to keep the “wrapping” in mind!

Lord, thank You for wrapping Yourself in our
likeness! Remind us that You understand our
struggles and that we can confidently take advantage
of the mercy and grace You offer to make us victorious.
Don’t disregard the wrapping of the best Christmas gift of all.

Insight

Philippians 2:5-11 is perhaps the greatest declaration of Christ’s deity and humanity in the Bible. In His incarnation, Jesus did not replace His deity with humanity, but added humanity to His deity; He did not cease to be God, but surrendered the independent use of His divine powers and the right to manifest His own glory as God. Before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed that the Father would restore to Him the glory He had with the Father “before the world was” (John 17:5). Jesus’ prayer was answered when the Father “highly exalted Him and [gave] Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).

Today’s Devotions

From; Through the Bible

Morning

December 22

Ezekiel 3:17-19 (NIV) 17“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.19But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.

Ezekiel was called to be a prophet to the people of Judah in exile in Babylon. His calling is similar to that of the prophet Isaiah. He saw a vision of the glory of God several times. He described the same beings that fly about the throne and gave a little more detail than Isaiah did. The descriptions are fascinating. You can read them in the first three chapters of Ezekiel. Try reading it in several translations. We will all see the same thing one day, for we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of God.

Over and over God told Ezekiel that the people would not listen, but that was not to be his concern. He had to tell them anyway. God even told him that if he was sent as a missionary, those people would listen, but not this stubborn people of Judah. Some pastors wonder if they have the same calling. Our ministry is not about numbers. It is about obedience to God! There will be those that do hear, even if the vast majority does not. All are given a chance to hear and are then accountable to God with what they did with what they heard.

In our passage today, God gave Ezekiel an extra incentive to speak out what God had spoken to him. If we do not speak when God tells us to, we are the ones accountable to God for the blood of the wicked. It is obedience to God for that man to hear, as it is obedience to God for us to speak the words He commands us to speak.

Prayer: Lord, help us to be faithful to speak what You command us to speak.

Evening

December 22

Jude 1:3-4 (NIV) 3Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

Jude is a one-chapter letter of warning. Jesus had given the church the mission of spreading the Gospel to the world. As it began to do so, Satan counterattacked from several different angles. He brought about physical persecution. This only seemed to strengthen the conviction of believers. The deaths of martyrs inspired others to give their lives to Christ. The other attack came from within. Prominent men gained positions of authority in the church, but they did not continue teaching the apostles’ doctrine. By flattery and deception they influenced some in the church to hear their deceptive schemes.

This attack continues to this day. It is not always easy to spot because of the subtlety of these men. There is nearly always some form of immorality or financial gain involved. Paul, Peter and John also warned the churches about these deceivers.

It is not that they deny who Jesus is, for that would be too obvious. They deny His lordship over their lives. The fruit of their life gives them away. They draw people to themselves and not the Lord Jesus Christ. If you were to hear them speak, you would come away thinking of the man and not Jesus Christ. Jude is telling us that we must contend for the faith. Stand up to these deceivers. Expose them. Point out where they err from Scripture. Do not fear them. Point people back to Jesus.

Consider: Credentials and positions are not a guarantee of the lordship of Christ in that leader. By their fruits you will know them.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2014

From: Closed Doors, Open Windows

The Greatest Gift of All

This post is not what it appears on the surface…Please keep reading…

By now most of my friends and family know that we did not send out our annual Christmas letter…and only a very few cards to some who don’t have email or do Facebook.  And many of you also know that I had a hard time getting myself into the proper spirit for Christmas shopping, etc.
But if you have been following along the past week or so, you also will know that God came through, and He met me in my deepest place of sorrow, and gave me the strength and courage to choose JOY!

I am happy to report that after two long, grueling days of shopping and gift wrapping…I am feeling much better prepared to face this week and truly enjoy Christmas!  Thank you all for your prayers and words of support and comfort. You have blessed me with your love and wisdom, and I thank God for you.

Today has been a wonderful day of Sabbath Rest.  We had our

morning worship service here in our home, and the lesson today was taken from Matthew 13:45-46, which says:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls,
who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
Not exactly an Advent or Christmas message for this fourth Sunday of Advent, the Sunday before Christmas.  At least not at first glance.  But as the message unfolded, we were asked to imagine ourselves as a person who had been captured and held prisoner, chained to others and forced to walk many days in the hot desert, back in the days of the Roman Government, which was in power at the time of Jesus’ birth. Instead of food we were given very little water and a detestable watered down broth of some kind, just barely enough to keep us alive. As our horrendous journey continued, we were not permitted to speak or cry, and if one did, he would be severely punished by many lashes of the whip.
After many days we finally arrived in a city, where the slave auction was held. One by one we watched our traveling companions be auctioned off to the highest bidder, to be purchased as a slave to cruel taskmasters who would make the previous journey seem like a vacation.
Suddenly it was my turn on the auction block. I was forced to stand before the bidders, my clothes were tattered and torn and filthy. I had not eaten or bathed in many days. My hair was matted and dirty, my body was bleeding from the many lashes I had endured. Weak, weary, and fearful, I tried to stay conscious as the bargaining and bidding began for my life. As I struggled to stand, listening to the jeers and jests of those around me shouting all manner of ugly and disgusting insults regarding my appearance, there was One bidder who stepped forward, and with a commanding voice He spoke His bid loud and clear above all the others.  The amount that He shouted out caused all the other slave traders to stop and turn around and look.  They began to question among themselves, “Who can this be? Why would He wantthis worthless prisoner…the one who looks completely beaten and defeated…the one who probably couldn’t do a day’s work no matter how hard she’s whipped?  And what is that He said? He’s giving all that He has to purchase this piece of human refuse! Who IS He?
And who can this person be who has such value in His eyes?”
 
Finally I heard the auctioneer shout, “Sold to the Highest Bidder! Take her away!”  I was expecting to be yanked up and rudely jerked off of the block and dragged along by my chains.  But instead, my Purchaser was kneeling before me, tenderly washing my wounds, removing the chains from my ankles and wrists, holding a cup of water to my lips, lifting me up and carrying me away in His arms. As He lifted me high above my previous tormentors, He gently whispered my name and called me His beloved child. I thought I must have died and gone to heaven, but He said, “You are my precious child…my chosen one…my “Pearl of Great Price!” 

I did not quite understand then what He meant by that…but when the day came that I saw this One hanging on a cross, crucified and dying, I understood.  You see, He did give all that He had for me…He gave His life, so that I might live.  And before He died He told me all that I would need to know so that I could one day join Him.  He said,

“Let not your heart be troubled; 
you believe in God,
believe also in Me.
In My Father’s house are many mansions,
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and receive you to Myself,
that where I am, there you may be also.
And where I go you know,
and the way you know…
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
 
John 14: 1-6 
 
 

You may be asking yourself, “What does this story have to do with Christmas?”  Well, my friend, it has EVERYTHING to do with Christmas!

Why did Jesus come to earth in the first place?

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, 
but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:45

Christ Brings Faith And Triumph

 

Pictures of Faith And Triumph

faith - cross silhouette and the clouds at sunsetFaith word made by leter pieces
God Nametag Introduction Welcome to Religious Faith - A...faith, happy child with arms raised
Devotion Faith Young christian woman praying against her sin...Loss of faith religion, illustrated by broken christian...
faith and trust - faith in god follow jesus and say your...Joy and Faith - Woman in nature with arms and heart lifted...
faith - whimsical drawing of the word FAITH isolated on...Leap of faith - Illustration of a person getting ready to...
Faith road signPlanting Seeds of Faith - A religious concept photo that...
faith - Happy little kids climbing over the word FAITHFaith - Inspirational stone surrounded by sand ripples Zen...
faith conceptual door - faith red word conceptual door with...faith - special black and white toned photo fx, focus point...

Test of Faithfulness

From: Utmost.org

It is only a faithful person who truly believes that God sovereignly controls his circumstances. We take our circumstances for granted, saying God is in control, but not really believing it. We act as if the things that happen were completely controlled by people. To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, or object of our faith— the Lord Jesus Christ. God may cause our circumstances to suddenly fall apart, which may bring the realization of our unfaithfulness to Him for not recognizing that He had ordained the situation. We never saw what He was trying to accomplish, and that exact event will never be repeated in our life. This is where the test of our faithfulness comes. If we will just learn to worship God even during the difficult circumstances, He will change them for the better very quickly if He so chooses.

Being faithful to Jesus Christ is the most difficult thing we try to do today. We will be faithful to our work, to serving others, or to anything else; just don’t ask us to be faithful to Jesus Christ. Many Christians become very impatient when we talk about faithfulness to Jesus. Our Lord is dethroned more deliberately by Christian workers than by the world. We treat God as if He were a machine designed only to bless us, and we think of Jesus as just another one of the workers.

The goal of faithfulness is not that we will do work for God, but that He will be free to do His work through us. God calls us to His service and places tremendous responsibilities on us. He expects no complaining on our part and offers no explanation on His part. God wants to use us as He used His own Son.

DECEMBER 18, 2014From: Crosswalk

I’m Worried About My Child’s Future
LYSA TERKEURST

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

Have you ever felt pressured to ensure your child’s success in school because you thought it meant success in life?

A couple of years ago I overheard my daughter Hope telling a friend she was glad I didn’t get all worked up over grades. Not trying to be nosey but totally wanting to be nosey, I kept listening.

She explained that she and her siblings were expected to do their best, but in the end, as long as they worked hard, my husband Art and I were okay with whatever grade they received.

For the most part, that’s right.

This hasn’t always been the case. When Hope started kindergarten, I felt compelled to help her succeed. I felt enormous pressure because I believed success in school meant success in life, and I wanted to set my child up for success.

She was a bright and articulate child. But all through kindergarten, she couldn’t read.

Then came first grade. All of the other kids in her class were reading with ease. Not my daughter. I panicked. I had her tested. I worried constantly that I must be doing something wrong as her mother.

In the end, it was a readiness issue. When she was ready, she starting reading.

Then along came my next child, who was reading at 4 years old. Finally I’d done something right, I reasoned.

But then child number three came along, and she was my slowest reader yet.

Through all of this, God started to untangle the misperception that success in school determines success in life, and as a parent, it is up to me to push, plead, demand and determine my child’s future.

Slowly, I realized God has a plan for each of my kids. As long as I’m depending on the Lord to guide me as a parent, nothing I do or don’t do will mess up their futures. I’m reassured of this with our key verse, Proverbs 16:9, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

As their parent, it’s my job to guide them, but worldly success shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. My guiding should focus on leading them into a relationship with God, where He’ll make their path straight, no matter what their grades are.

This revelation has provided such freedom.

I can celebrate when one of my kids excels in a subject, trusting that particular success is needed for whatever God intends for them in life. If, however, a child struggles and can’t grasp a certain subject — well, that’s also part of God’s direction.

Of course, working hard, doing your best and being a conscientious student is important. But in our home, grades are not the ultimate determination of success.

This child may never make marks in school that the world esteems, but giving her freedom to excel as God has designed her is already paying off. She has an eternal perspective that’s more valuable for her future than any academic accolades.

I’m convinced her struggles in school are actually God’s way of keeping her on the path He’s had for her since she was conceived. Hope was conceived only four months into our very rough start of a marriage. Art and I were two broken sinners thrust into the responsibility of trying to raise a child.

The day Hope was born I saw God like never before. His tender grace was handed to me wrapped in a pink blanket with eyes so wide, so blue, they were a sea of forgiveness forever staring back at me.

I’d never physically touched God until that day. And maybe for the first time in my entire life, His hope rushed inside of me and started rearranging and redeeming my brokenness.

Hope.

We named her Hope.

Now, we won’t talk about the conversations I had with God when His Hope kept me up in the middle of the night for months after that. And we will save the story of how His Hope has always felt it was beneath her to be the child, and she would put her hands on her toddler hips and tell me not to boss her.

We’ll save those stories for another day.

But I’ll never forget an e-mail I got from His Hope while she was on a mission trip. Hope was walking the broken roads of Ethiopia navigating poverty her mind couldn’t quite process. She bumped into sheep and a woman whose house was made of cardboard and ripped bed sheets.

Hope’s steps were steady, though her heart felt shaky as she loved on 30 kids dying of AIDS in a forgotten orphanage on the forgotten outskirts of town.

She wrote to say, “Mom, I’ve fallen in love. The kids rushed at me when I walked in and I tried to hold all 30 of them at one time.”

His Hope.

From a broken mama. Into a broken world. His Hope is still going forth like only His Hope can.

All that to say, yeah — I don’t get all worked up over grades anymore. Trusting God’s plan is the only secret I know in the gentle art of not freaking out.

Morning

From: Biblegateway

“Rend your heart, and not your garments.”
Joel 2:13

Garment-rending and other outward signs of religious emotion, are easily manifested and are frequently hypocritical; but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Men will attend to the most multiplied and minute ceremonial regulations–for such things are pleasing to the flesh–but true religion is too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of the carnal men; they prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly. Outward observances are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up: but they are ultimately delusive, for in the article of death, and at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than ceremonies and rituals to lean upon. Apart from vital godliness all religion is utterly vain; offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven.

Heart-rending is divinely wrought and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating, and completely sin-purging; but then it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which proud unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone.

The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation.

OUR DELIVERER BY WARREN WIERSBE

Read Psalm 140:1-13

King David was going through another battle. He needed deliverance from an attacking enemy. “Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their hearts; they continually gather together for war. They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; the poison of asps is under their lips. Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men” (vv. 1-4). David’s enemies had hidden snares to trap him.

What do you do when you face this situation–when evil, violent, lying people are busy setting traps for you? Remember that God hears you. “I said to the Lord: ‘You are my God; hear the voice of my supplications, O Lord”‘ (v. 6). God also strengthens you. “O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, You have covered my head in the day of battle” (v. 7). If you have to do battle against the Enemy today, let God outfit you in the armor you need. Finally, God vindicates you. David prayed that God would vindicate him and that his enemies’ own sins would destroy them.

David concluded by giving thanks to the Lord. “I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor. Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name; the upright shall dwell in Your presence” (vv. 12,13). The battle over, he said, “One day I am going to dwell in Your presence, where there will be no more lying, slandering, battling, fighting or sinning.” We will enjoy the peace of God forever.

* * *
If you are a believer, God has already delivered you from the penalty of sin. Today He works to deliver you from sin’s effects. Perhaps enemies are slandering your reputation. Call upon the Lord for help. He will hear you, strengthen you and vindicate you. Let Him give you the victory today.

A SYMBOL OF DISASTER BY WOODROW KROLL

1 Kings 9:6-7But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples.”A Symbol of Disaster

In his book Present Day Parables, J. Wilbur Chapman, a late 19th-century evangelist, tells of a town where the name of Christ was never mentioned except in profanity. The citizens hung Christ in effigy in the streets. Then the town was destroyed by fire. They tried to rebuild, but an Indian massacre occurred. They tried to build again, and it was partially destroyed by fire. At last, after much bloodshed and multiple disasters, the citizens sent to the American Home Missionary Society and asked, “Can you send us a minister of Jesus Christ?” Only after Christ came to that town did the people have peace and a degree of prosperity.

God warned Solomon the same would happen to his kingdom if he or his descendants should ever turn from following Him. Not only would He remove Israel from the land, but the consequences would be so dramatic that all the nations around her also would be amazed at what happened. The people would become a symbol of disaster to warn others who might be so foolish.

Israel should be a reminder to every Christian of the dire consequences of leaving God out of our lives. As the descendants of Solomon suffered in the ways God warned them, so believers can experience much pain and loss when they live in disregard to His will and His ways.

Don’t forget God. Remember to include Him in the daily routine of your life. Don’t just take Him with you to church; take Him to the mall, to the classroom, to the health club. Ask for His guidance in every decision you make, big and little, and look for His hand in every turn of life. When He fills your life, it is full indeed.

We let God down when we leave Him out.

 

Simposious Is Back

 

Simposious Is Back

Apparently, Simposious was a casualty of a cyber attack on Word Press. Thanks to good engineers the site is saved and Back for its readers. Thank you for your patience.

 

Redemption— Creating the Need it Satisfies

From: Utmost.org

The gospel of God creates the sense of need for the gospel. Is the gospel hidden to those who are servants already? No, Paul said, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe…” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). The majority of people think of themselves as being completely moral, and have no sense of need for the gospel. It is God who creates this sense of need in a human being, but that person remains totally unaware of his need until God makes Himself evident. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you…” (Matthew 7:7). But God cannot give until a man asks. It is not that He wants to withhold something from us, but that is the plan He has established for the way of redemption. Through our asking, God puts His process in motion, creating something in us that was nonexistent until we asked. The inner reality of redemption is that it creates all the time. And as redemption creates the life of God in us, it also creates the things which belong to that life. The only thing that can possibly satisfy the need is what created the need. This is the meaning of redemption— it creates and it satisfies.

Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32). When we preach our own experiences, people may be interested, but it awakens no real sense of need. But once Jesus Christ is “lifted up,” the Spirit of God creates an awareness of the need for Him. The creative power of the redemption of God works in the souls of men only through the preaching of the gospel. It is never the sharing of personal experiences that saves people, but the truth of redemption. “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

 

 

Pictures Reminding Us Of Christs’ Birth

 

download (82)download (83)birth of christ : Jesus Nativity Scene At Birth Saint Peter and Paul Catholic Church Completed 1924 San Francisco California  Stock Photobirth of christ : three wise men Stock Photodownload (84)

  • Isaiah 7:14

    Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
  • Luke 1:30-35

    But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”  “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
birth of christ : Christmas Crib. Figures of Baby Jesus, Virgin Mary and St. Joseph on white background.birth of christ : Angel protect a Holy Familydownload (81)
birth of christ : nativitybirth of christ : Bible and Christmas time abstract background in nightdownload (47)
birth of christ : Printbirth of christ : Cartoon nativity scene with holy family download (37)
birth of christ : Christmas Christian nativity scene with baby Jesus in the manger in silhouette, and star of Bethlehembirth of christ : All the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem Stock Photodownload (44)
birth of christ : Vector illustration of the holy family of the nativity or birth of Jesus created as stained glass  Illustrationbirth of christ : Biblical scene - birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. download (45)
birth of christ : Nativity scene is a depiction of the birth of Jesus as described in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.birth of christ : Christmas Nativity Scene Stock Photo
birth of christ : christmas globe with nativity scene over blue background. vector Illustrationdownload (45)download (46)
  • Matthew 1:18-25

    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.  But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Be The Reason Someone Smiles Today

  • Today I Will Be HappySome people
  • Smile, happy looks good on youYou deserve to be happy
  • You deserve happinessSomeday there will be happiness again
  • The sun will shine againbeing happy
  • Happiness is Hot ChocolateLets be happy
  • life is too shortBe the reason someone smiles today
  • To hell with anything that doesnt make me happyYou get more beautiful everyday
  • Waiting for someone else to make you happy

Individuality

From: Utmost.org

Individuality is the hard outer layer surrounding the inner spiritual life. Individuality shoves others aside, separating and isolating people. We see it as the primary characteristic of a child, and rightly so. When we confuse individuality with the spiritual life, we remain isolated. This shell of individuality is God’s created natural covering designed to protect the spiritual life. But our individuality must be yielded to God so that our spiritual life may be brought forth into fellowship with Him. Individuality counterfeits spirituality, just as lust counterfeits love. God designed human nature for Himself, but individuality corrupts that human nature for its own purposes.

The characteristics of individuality are independence and self-will. We hinder our spiritual growth more than any other way by continually asserting our individuality. If you say, “I can’t believe,” it is because your individuality is blocking the way; individuality can never believe. But our spirit cannot help believing. Watch yourself closely when the Spirit of God is at work in you. He pushes you to the limits of your individuality where a choice must be made. The choice is either to say, “I will not surrender,” or to surrender, breaking the hard shell of individuality, which allows the spiritual life to emerge. The Holy Spirit narrows it down every time to one thing (see Matthew 5:23-24). It is your individuality that refuses to “be reconciled to your brother” (Matthew 5:24). God wants to bring you into union with Himself, but unless you are willing to give up your right to yourself, He cannot. “…let him deny himself…”— deny his independent right to himself. Then the real life-the spiritual life-is allowed the opportunity to grow.

 

Breaking The Spin Cycle

From: Getmorestrength.org

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

“[Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. . . . He is a liar and the father of it.” John 8:44

Politicians are adept at “spinning” the details of a story to advance their own agenda. During a political campaign, spin doctors massage stories to ensure that their candidate is cast in a positive light—often at the expense of the truth. This leaves us with serious questions about what the real truth is.

According to Jesus, Satan is the “spin doctor” of hell—the master deceiver who “speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar” (John 8:44). He casts himself as the one who wants to give us unfettered freedom and pleasure, carefully masking his plan to steal, kill, and destroy us (John 10:10). He even spins the loving laws of God by claiming that God’s boundaries are restrictive, simply intended to take all the fun out of living. When we buy into Satan’s damaging lies, we will eventually find ourselves empty and broken—sidelined in our journey with God.

Thankfully, Jesus warns us. He says that Satan is the father of lies. And we know Satan is lying when what he tells us contradicts God’s Word. Jesus, on the other hand, is the truth (John 14:6). So, when it comes to sorting out the spin, our only defense against the spin doctor of hell is to listen constantly for the voice of Jesus as we pray and study His Word. And that’s the truth!

The devil is crafty, deceptive, and sly;
He cleverly tricks us to swallow his lie.
But his cunning methods we’re sure to discern
If we make God’s warnings our daily concern. —D. De Haan

God’s truth stops the spin of Satan’s lies.

 

Streams In The Desert

Attention! Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who serve in the Lord’s temple during the night. May the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion!—Ps 134:1,3
Strange time for adoration, you say, to stand in God’s house by night, to worship in the depth of sorrow —it is indeed an arduous thing. Yes, and therein lies the blessing; it is the test of perfect faith. If I would know the love of my friend I must see what it can do in the winter. So with the Divine love. It is easy for me to worship in the summer sunshine when the melodies of life are in the air and the fruits of life are on the tree. But let the song of the bird cease and the fruit of the tree fall, and will my heart still go on to sing? Will I stand in God’s house by night? Will I love Him in His own night? Will I watch with Him even one hour in His Gethsemane? Will I help to bear His cross up the dolorous way? Will I stand beside Him in His dying moments with Mary and the beloved disciple? Will I be able with Nicodemus to take up the dead Christ? Then is my worship complete and my blessing glorious. My love has come to Him in His humiliation. My faith has found Him in His lowliness. My heart has recognized His majesty through His mean disguise, and I know at last that I desire not the gift but the Giver. When I can stand in His house by night I have accepted Him for Himself alone.
—George Matheson
“My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace,
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God; 
’Tis His to lead me there, not mine, but His
’At any cost, dear Lord, by any road!’
“So faith bounds forward to its goal in God, 
And love can trust her Lord to lead her there; 
’Upheld by Him, my soul is following hard 
Till God hath full fulfilled my deepest prayer.
“No matter if the way be sometimes dark, 
No matter though the cost be ofttimes great, 
He knoweth how I best shall reach the mark, 
The way that leads to Him must needs be straight.
“One thing I know, I cannot say Him nay; 
One thing I do, I press towards my Lord; 
My God my glory here, from day to day, 
And in the glory there my Great Reward.”

December 11

Through the Bible

Jeremiah 6:13-15 (NIV) 13“From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. 14They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. 15Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the LORD.

God’s cry against the people was that there could not be found one righteous in Judah. He declared that Israel was not as bad as Judah had become. The passage today lists some of the specific sins they were guilty of. It is hard for us to relate to the idolatry, worshipping carved images, but we can readily relate to the greed for gain. The greed for gain had permeated the entire nation from the beggar to the king. When our eyes turn from God to the things that He has made, we seek security in possessions. We should be looking to God who is the giver of all good things. Instead we trust in His gifts and focus on how to attain them.

The prophets and priests were all practicing deceit. The very ones people looked to for truth were deceiving the people in the name of God. In this generation we have seen a number of big name religious personalities who were caught in their deceit. How many more go uncaught? Only God knows. Consider their way of life and the fruits of the Spirit in their lives, not just their ability to impress you.

The religious leaders preached peace when destruction was coming upon them. When they should have been preaching conviction of sin, they taught that everything was fine. The heartbreaking thing is that it did not even bother their conscience. They had done it for so long that their hearts were hardened against God. A comfortable today was their only goal. They were about to face judgment.

Consider: God cannot ignore evil that goes unrepented in any nation, group, or individual.

Evening

December 11

2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-9 (NIV) 3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

The previous chapter predicted that false teachers would come, driven by a desire for pleasure and money. In this chapter, Peter warns that scoffers would also come in the last days. This began in earnest about 150 years ago. We refer to it as the age of skeptical criticism. “Scoffers” is more to the point.

They argue that the world is on a slow and steady progressive path of evolutionary advancement. Now, science is showing that cataclysmic events did occur in the earth’s history. The earth did not slowly progress with only gradual changes but has had a violent past with sudden changes. Still, man feels more comfortable to think of things going on with only gradual change if any. The return of Christ is the farthest thing from their mind. Theories of alternate interpretation have developed to put it out of the realm of drastic change.

Peter warns us that it is the patience and love of God that keeps Jesus’ return from taking place sooner. God’s time and our time are quite different. These last two thousand years are merely two days to Him. His chief concern is the repentance of mankind. “Behold, I come quickly!” Jesus said that just two days ago in God’s perception of time. He is coming again, and that will bring a drastic and sudden change to all creation.

Consider: Whether He comes today or you live to 100 years of age, our time to invest in eternity is short. The scoffers’ argument is shortsighted and blind to the love of God.

Through Jesus, Good Things Are Coming

 

Chin-up, Look up, Help’s On The Way, You Are Not Forgotten, Someone Needs You So Don’t Give Up, You Are Not Alone

Sincere Words Of Encouragement Can Really Help The Discouraged

 

The Offering of the Natural

From: Utmost.org

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).

 

Wonders Of The Heart

From: Our Daily Bread

Our heart beats about 100,000 times every day, pumping blood to every cell in our bodies. This adds up to about 35 million beats a year and 2.5 billion beats in an average lifetime. Medical science tells us that every contraction is similar to the effort it would take for us to hold a tennis ball in our palm and give it a good hard squeeze.

Yet as amazing as our heart is, it is only one example of a natural world that is designed to tell us something about our Creator. This is the idea behind the story of a man named Job.

Broken by a series of mounting troubles, Job felt abandoned. When God finally spoke, He didn’t tell Job why he was suffering. Nor did the Creator tell him that someday He would suffer for Job. Instead, He drew Job’s attention to a series of natural wonders that are always whispering to us—and sometimes shouting—about a wisdom and power far greater than our own (Job 38:1-11).

So what can we learn from the complexity of this hardworking muscle, the heart? The message may be similar to the sound of waves coming to shore and stars quietly shining in the night sky. The power and wisdom of our Creator give us reason to trust Him.

Lord, we are Yours, You are our God;
We have been made so wondrously;
This human frame in every part
Your wisdom, power, and love we see. —Anon.
When we reflect on the power of God’s creation, we see the power of His care for us.

Insight

The experiences of Job are among the most heartrending found anywhere in the Scriptures. The loss of his children, wealth, and health drove him to question the purposes of God and wonder why He was silent. Then, in Job 38, God finally responded. And when He did, He didn’t offer Job answers—He offered Himself. The reminders of God’s greatness and power are not to be seen as cold or heartless, but as legitimate cause to put our trust in Him, even when we suffer and don’t know why.

Chin Up!

From: Getmorestrength

“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” Ephesians 2:4-5

One of my all-time favorite kid’s stories is Charlotte’s Web, starring Charlotte the barnyard spider and Wilbur the pig. The farmer’s daughter, Fern, loved Wilbur and adopted him as her pet—until he was too big for the house and had to move to the barn. Wilbur missed Fern and felt sad about being away from her. Just when he thought things couldn’t get worse, the mother hen came on the scene.

She told Wilbur that her purpose in life was to lay eggs for people to eat, and the cow’s purpose was to give milk for the people to drink. Then came the real stinger: “Hey, Wilbur, do you know what your purpose is? Bacon!”

Needless to say, the hen was not a very encouraging friend!

Thankfully, Wilbur had a true friend. When Charlotte the spider found him wallowing in the muck of despair, she encouraged him with a resounding “Chin up, Wilbur!” She wove beautiful webs over his pen with words that made him feel loved and important. The webs attracted media publicity, and people from all over the area came to marvel at this “special pig.” When it was time for the county fair, Wilbur feared again for his life and asked Charlotte to weave one more web. She knew that she had only one more web to weave and that then she would die. But out of her love for Wilbur, she wove the most spectacular web yet to prove how special he was. The townspeople were so taken with the web that Wilbur’s impending death was no longer an issue.

I love the biblical parallels in this story. The most significant one being that Charlotte gave her life to save Wilbur’s. Not only that—but she made him a special pig!

Most of us can probably identify with Wilbur at some point. All of us face problems in life when we desperately need someone to come along and encourage us—a “chin up” friend. But, at the end of it all, before God we are all losers at heart and deserve to die as the penalty for our sin. Yet God in His grace died to save us from eternal death and condemnation. And, as though that weren’t enough, He makes us children of the King and fills us with hope and confidence regardless of life’s threats. Jesus is a friend for the doomed! We can either mope around our little barnyard of life, or we can get our chin up and believe that our friend Jesus is making something special of our lives.

Next time you’re feeling down in the dumps, rejoice in the fact that you have been rescued from the grave, promised eternal life, and are a child of the King.

Now that’s a “chin up” thought that can keep you going with hope and strength!

 

DECEMBER 10, 2014From: CrosswalkShame On Me, Again
VICKIE COURTNEY

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (ESV)

It happened suddenly and without warning.

One minute I was sitting in a booth, laughing over a cup of coffee with my youngest son on his college campus (which just so happens to be my alma mater). The next minute, I’m driving away from my old college stomping grounds when the mere sight of a corner drugstore triggers a painful reminder of my past.

It just so happened to be the same corner drugstore that one of my roommates and I ducked into late one night under a cloak of darkness to purchase a pregnancy test. She was late and had assumed the worst. It turned out it was negative, but it just as easily could have been me purchasing the test.

In fact, at age 17 it had been me, which is what triggered my sudden feelings of shame that day. Back then, I was the one taking a pregnancy test, only my results were positive. This, in turn, led to my decision to terminate the pregnancy. I’ve spoken openly about this part of my past and have been walking in victory for many years, but every so often, the feelings of shame still come.

And that’s what shame does. It shows up uninvited to steal your joy and accuse your soul.

Dictionary.com defines shame as “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.”

We avoid talking about shame because it is messy.

We see the earliest account of shame in the immediate aftermath of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden (Genesis 3). Prior to their sin, Scripture tells us they were both naked and unashamed. One chapter later they are sewing fig leaves together and playing a game of hide-and-seek with God. With that one forbidden bite came our first bitter taste of shame.

Like Adam and Eve, our human instinct is to hide our shame. We attempt to cover it with modern-day fig leaves, ranging from addictions to breakneck busyness. We bury our shame beneath perfectionism, good deeds, and yes, even ministry service. Been there. Done that.

Some people are more prone to experiencing feelings of shame, while others seem better equipped to avoid its sting with a healthy understanding of guilt and grace. Those who grew up in households where shame was a mainstay of the family diet will often turn around and serve it in their own families, passing it down from generation to generation.

Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt says, “What you did was bad.” Shame says, “What you did was bad, so therefore, you are a bad person.”

Shame is not the same as regret. Regret says, “If I could go back and do things differently, I’d do this … or that.” Shame says, “I’ll never get it right. I’m a failure.”

Shame is not the same as embarrassment. Embarrassment says, “Everyone experiences embarrassing moments.” Shame says, “Yet another reminder that I’m a loser, and nothing will change that fact.”

Guilt is always connected to behavior, while shame is always connected to identity. While guilt draws us toward God, shame sends us away from God.

We can’t completely abolish painful reminders of shame that show up uninvited on the doorsteps of our souls, but we can refuse to answer the door.

And that’s exactly what I did that day driving past the drugstore when the old shame tapes began to play. I hit the “eject” button and boldly declared out loud today’s key verse,“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Over and over, I proclaimed it until, once again, I believed it. I showed shame the door. And you can, too.

Heavenly Father, when feelings of shame pay me an unexpected visit, help me immediately usher them out by declaring Your unfailing love and forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (NIV)