Tag Archives: unlock

Jesus Loves His Sheep

 

John 10:11     “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

As the Shepherds lead and care for their sheep, Jesus loves and cares for His “sheep” (His children that He died for).  Jesus is the great shepherd, and we are  His sheep being lead to green pastures and fresh water.

He Leads Me

From: Our Daily Bread

In Istanbul, Turkey, in 2005, one sheep jumped off a cliff and then nearly 1,500 others followed! In the end, about one-third of them died. Not knowing which way to go, sheep mindlessly follow other members of the flock.

No better word picture than sheep can be found to illustrate our need for a trustworthy leader. We are all, Isaiah wrote, like sheep (Isa. 53:6). We tend to go our own way, yet we desperately need the sure direction of a shepherd.

Psalm 23 describes the trustworthiness of our Good Shepherd. He cares for us (v.1); He provides for our physical needs (v.2); He shows us how to live holy lives (v.3); He restores us, comforts us, heals us, and bountifully blesses us (vv.3-5); and He will not abandon us (v.6).

What a comfort to know that God gently but firmly leads us! He does so through the urging of the Holy Spirit, the reading of His Word, and through prayer. God is the reliable leader we need.

In acknowledgment of our dependence on the Lord, we can say with the psalmist, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.”

Like sheep that sometimes wander from the flock
In tangled paths of life to lose their way,
I need my Shepherd’s hand and watchful eye
To keep me always, lest I go astray. —Sanders
The Lamb who died to save us is the Shepherd who lives to guide us.

Insight

Today’s familiar and beloved psalm has brought comfort and hope to many. And well it should. This psalm celebrates all that the Good Shepherd does for His sheep. The greatest benefit comes in the last verse: We will “dwell in the house of the Lordforever” (v.6). God does so much to provide for and care for His sheep. However, there is an implicit idea in this text that should not be overlooked: Sheep follow their shepherd. The blessings and comfort of this psalm do not come to sheep that do not follow the Shepherd. As Jesus reminds us, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

 

Come To Christ

12/30/2014

From: Biblegateway

Those who follow Jesus’ commandment entirely, who let Jesus’ yoke rest on them without resistance, will find the burden they must bear to be light. In the gentle pressure of this yoke they will receive the strength to walk the right path without becoming weary.…Where will the call to discipleship lead those who follow it? What decisions and painful separations will it entail? We must take this question to him who alone knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow him, knows where the path will lead. But we know that it will be a path full of mercy beyond measure. Discipleship is joy.

Biblical Wisdom

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28–30

Questions to Ponder

  • What is Jesus’ “commandment” that we are to follow? (See John 15:12)
  • If this commandment is Jesus’ “yoke,” how might we be changed if we bear it without resistance?
  • Why might following Jesus’ commandment lead to tough “decisions and painful separations”?

Psalm Fragment

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long. Psalm 25:4–5

Journal Reflections

  • To be a disciple is not just to believe in Jesus, it is to follow Jesus. In your journal, reflect on the ways in which you are presently following Jesus.
  • Do you experience your discipleship as “joy”? Is the “burden” of your discipleship “light”?
  • Do you sense there are places Jesus might want to lead you where you would rather not go? If so, where are they and what is holding you back?

Intercessions

Pray specifically for family, friends, and colleagues that they might clearly hear the call to discipleship (which is the call to love and justice), and that they might experience following Jesus’ commandment as joy in the concrete realities of their lives.

 

December 30

From: Through The Bible

Daniel 7:21-22, 27 (NIV) 21As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, 22until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

27Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

Daniel has given us many prophecies relating to the end-times. Just as Nebuchadnezzar’s image ended with ten toes, the beasts of Daniel’s vision end with ten horns. A horn is a symbol of power. A little horn rises up and plucks up three of the ten horns. This is the Antichrist. He makes war with the saints for three and a half years. (time, times, and half a time) The revelation of Jesus to John gives the same scenario. The saints throughout the world will be tortured and killed because they will not bow to the Antichrist and refuse to worship him. His freedom to do this is limited to a set amount of time.

When that time is up, the Ancient of Days (God) will come and pronounce judgment in favor of the saints. Then they will possess the kingdom. We already possess the Kingdom of God if we are in Christ. We already have the blessedness of that kingdom in our heart. The prophecy is speaking of the kingdoms of the world, as verse 27 makes so clear. Rule, power, and greatness will be given to God’s people. Yet, it is still called His kingdom. That is because we are His. Just as we co-labor with Him now, we will co-labor with Him then.

Consider: This world is our training ground for learning to work with God. How are you doing? Remember the parable in which Jesus told the steward who was faithful with a certain amount of money that he was now to rule over a certain number of cities? (Luke 19) Be faithful to serve Him now and you will be prepared to serve Him as ruler over cities then.

Evening

December 30

Revelation 22:3-5 (NIV) 3No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

The city is the bride of the Lamb. It comes down out of heaven to the earth adorned as a bride at a wedding. The curse that came upon the world because of sin has been lifted. The world will be a Garden of Eden.

The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in us, the city. The authority and dominion over the earth will be restored to the descendents of the one who gave up that authority.

And what will we do? His servants will serve Him. Though we are given authority, we rule as His servants. It is what we should be doing now, serving Christ our King. Sin so often interferes and corrupts our service, but then it will be a pure and holy service.

We will see His face! Our glorified bodies will be able to look into His eyes. His name will be on our foreheads. Romans sometimes branded the name of the master upon the forehead of a life long slave. When you saw him in the market place you knew who he served. The more important the master, the more you heeded the servant’s business. We will have the most important name of all upon our foreheads.

Darkness will be a thing of the past for us. The Lord who reigns within us will radiate light. All will be illuminated for us. Our eternal reign will have begun.

Consider: This is the destiny of those who are the bride of Christ. A betrothed girl waits anxiously for the day her husband will come and take her as his own. Is this the expectation of your heart?

True Happiness

Happiness begins with Salvation. It is when you are released from bondage. Happiness comes to people who are giving and doing good for others.

 

Delay May Not Mean Denial

My sons’ birthdays are in December. When they were small, Angus quickly learned that if he didn’t receive a longed-for toy for his birthday at the beginning of the month, it might be in his Christmas stocking. And if David didn’t receive his gift for Christmas, it might appear for his birthday 4 days later. Delay didn’t necessarily mean denial.

It was natural for Martha and Mary to send for Jesus when Lazarus became seriously ill (John 11:1-3). Perhaps they looked anxiously along the road for signs of His arrival, but Jesus didn’t come. The funeral service had been over for 4 days when Jesus finally walked into town (v.17).

Martha was blunt. “If You had been here,” she said, “my brother would not have died” (v.21). Then her faith flickered into certainty, “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (v.22). I wonder what she expected. Lazarus was dead, and she was wary about opening the tomb. And yet at a word from Jesus, Lazarus’ spirit returned to his decaying body (vv.41-44). Jesus had bypassed simply healing His sick friend, in order to perform the far greater miracle of bringing him back to life.

Waiting for God’s timing may also give us a greater miracle than we had hoped for.

My Savior hears me when I pray,
Upon His Word I calmly rest;
In His own time, in His own way,
I know He’ll give me what is best. —Hewitt
Time spent waiting on God is never wasted.

Insight

Martha, often maligned for her attitude in Luke 10:38-42, displays great faith in today’s passage. Not only does she believe that Jesus has a special relationship with the Father (John 11:22), she also affirms her confidence that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God (v.27).

Living in the Perfect Tense

From: Get More Strength

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

One of my all-time favorite jokes is about the guy who was applying for a truck driver’s job. As part of the oral exam to pass the driving test, the instructor said, “Let’s say you and your sidekick Bob are going down a steep hill and all of a sudden your brakes go out, and at the bottom of the steep incline is a train stalled on the tracks. What would you do?”

The applicant replied, “I’d wake Bob up!”

Puzzled by his response, the instructor asked, “Why would you wake up Bob?”

“Well, me and Bob have traveled a lot of miles together and we have seen a lot of pretty spectacular wrecks, but Bob ain’t never seen a wreck like the wreck that’s going to happen at the bottom of the hill!”

This fallen, broken world we live in is a lot like a runaway truck without brakes—on its way to sure destruction. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be caught sleeping in the passenger seat of that truck!

Thankfully, Paul makes it very clear that Jesus provided a way of escape from this fallen, destined-for-destruction world order. When he told the Corinthian believers in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that old things are passed away, he was talking about the old world order that is headed for judgment. And Paul uses the past tense to assure us that the certain doom is already accomplished. Thankfully, Jesus has already paid the price to avert our riding this world’s 18-wheeler to disaster. It is historical fact, already accomplished for those who are in Christ.

What that means for those of us who are in Christ is that we are no longer in the death grip of the “old things”: All the dark seductions of our fallen world. All the lying and deceit. All the over-the-line sensuality and immorality. All the damage and despair caused by slavery to sin. This is all the old, outdated stuff that is marked for judgment and extinction.

Instead, we as His followers are part of a “new creation.” When Paul proclaimed the good news that “the new has come,” he used the perfect tense of the Greek language, indicating a past action with continuing results. In other words, there are ongoing ramifications of Jesus’ past action to save us. In the perfect tense, His past action is intended to continue to produce results; results that reflect the new order of a life in the grip of Jesus’ love. New stuff like honesty, purity, forgiveness, generosity, servanthood, faithfulness, and compassion for those who are sleeping in the passenger seat of the runaway truck. His process of making us into a new creation is ongoing, anchored in the historical bedrock of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That means that we as His followers are, in a sense, a “work in progress” looking more and more like His new creation all the time.

At the start of this new year, it’s a good time to ask if your life looks more like the old or more like the new. As a “new creation” in Jesus, what are the results in your life that clearly reflect His new way of living? Let’s wake up to the fact that we don’t belong to the darkness of this fallen world, and gladly embrace the new dynamics that God wants to create in our lives.

Live to make progress in the perfect tense of Christ’s finished work and make it a New Year that will be a lot more like the new and a lot less like the old.

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Can you say with confidence that you are you a new creation?
  • What are some “old things” that still attract you to this fallen world? Confide in a friend who can help you take steps to avoid those pitfalls and can help you to keep on track with living in the perfect tense as a new creation.
  • We are “works in progress.” If you were to receive a Progress Report, what would it say? Ask God to show you what results He has produced in your life and what things need some attention, and then ask Him to develop those things in your life this year.

People Giving God Praise

 

The more we praise God the better we feel. Praise gives us strength.

 

Continuous Conversion

From: Utmost.org

These words of our Lord refer to our initial conversion, but we should continue to turn to God as children, being continuously converted every day of our lives. If we trust in our own abilities, instead of God’s, we produce consequences for which God will hold us responsible. When God through His sovereignty brings us into new situations, we should immediately make sure that our natural life submits to the spiritual, obeying the orders of the Spirit of God. Just because we have responded properly in the past is no guarantee that we will do so again. The response of the natural to the spiritual should be continuous conversion, but this is where we so often refuse to be obedient. No matter what our situation is, the Spirit of God remains unchanged and His salvation unaltered. But we must “put on the new man…” (Ephesians 4:24). God holds us accountable every time we refuse to convert ourselves, and He sees our refusal as willful disobedience. Our natural life must not rule— God must rule in us.

To refuse to be continuously converted puts a stumbling block in the growth of our spiritual life. There are areas of self-will in our lives where our pride pours contempt on the throne of God and says, “I won’t submit.” We deify our independence and self-will and call them by the wrong name. What God sees as stubborn weakness, we call strength. There are whole areas of our lives that have not yet been brought into submission, and this can only be done by this continuous conversion. Slowly but surely we can claim the whole territory for the Spirit of God.

 

DECEMBER 26, 2014From: Crosswalk

I Can’t Do Everything
AMY CARROLL

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me … For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9,10b (NIV)

“I don’t want to go bowling,” I said hearing a cringe-inducing whine creep into my voice.

While my entire extended family enthusiastically prepared for a fun outing, I was dragging my feet. In reality, I don’t dislike bowling terribly. I just really, really, REALLY don’t like doing things I’m not good at. And I’m terrible at bowling.

Avoidance or quitting is my natural default.

Our self-esteem driven culture says, “You can do anything you want!”

But the truth is I can’t do everything.

My dream as a little girl was to be a platinum award-winning pop star. I sang into my hairbrush and made sure I stood on the stage for every talent show my school held. But no matter how much I practiced, my heart-felt but average singing was met with tepid applause and sympathetic pats on the back from my friends.

Yes, if I’d been born just a little later, I would be one of the pitiful audition examples on American Idol — a contestant who’s convinced she’s great while the rest of the world watches with wide eyes and gasps. My family, the world’s greatest encouragers, would be at home cheering wildly while the rest of the world muttered, “Bless her heart!”

No matter how many lessons I take or how much I practice, I’m never going to progress from the choir loft to the stadium stage. It’s just not going to happen.

Singing isn’t a gift God has given me, and I don’t feel His leading to take a leap offaith. If I were to audition, it would be foolish, because it would be a risk taken from my own desires and based on an unrealistic assessment of my gifts. Simply put, there’s a clear difference between a foolish risk and an inspired risk.

I think it’s great for us to understand our limits. But I have another issue that’s not so great. It’s my propensity to give up too quickly when things get hard … when I’m challenged to do something I’m not already good at.

Recently I’ve been challenged to complete the most difficult process of my professional life. I’ve worked and struggled and fallen more times than I’d like to count. Day after day I’ve wanted to quit. And I’ve become painfully aware that this assignment is too big for me.

But this assignment is an inspired risk. It’s based on the beginnings of a gift God has placed in me and on His clear calling.

So I’ve spent time on my knees asking God for direction and just a little more fortitude.

He has faithfully encouraged me. God continues to point out He not only opened the door of opportunity, He surrounded me with others to help me develop this embryo of a gift.

Instead of doing what our culture does, passing out false praise and “you can do anything’s,” God has instructed me to rejoice that I’m really not good enough …

To do it without Him.

To accomplish it without the help of others.

To finish without perseverance (which produces character, and character hope, Romans 5:3-5).

Sometimes, when we’re given a task beyond ourselves, we just need to rejoice. It’s a good thing we’re really not good enough. It’s in those times of struggle, failure and ultimately growth that we find out God is enough.

 

Streams in the Desert

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).
“Sing a little song of trust,
O my heart!
Sing it just because you must,
As leaves start;
As flowers push their way through dust;
Sing, my heart, because you must.
“Wait not for an eager throng
Bird on bird;
‘Tis the solitary song
That is heard.
Every voice at dawn will start,
Be a nightingale, my heart!
“Sing across the winter snow,
Pierce the cloud;
Sing when mists are drooping low
Clear and loud;
But sing sweetest in the dark;
He who slumbers not will hark.”
“An’ when He hears yo’ sing, He bends down wid a smile on His kin’ face an’ listens mighty keerful, an’ He says, ‘Sing on, chile, I hears, an’ I’s comin’ down to deliber yo’: I’ll tote dat load fer yo’; jest lean hawd on Me and de road will get smoother bime by.”

Morning

From: Bible gateway

“The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.”
Galatians 2:20

When the Lord in mercy passed by and saw us in our blood, he first of all said, “Live;” and this he did first, because life is one of the absolutely essential things in spiritual matters, and until it be bestowed we are incapable of partaking in the things of the kingdom. Now the life which grace confers upon the saints at the moment of their quickening is none other than the life of Christ, which, like the sap from the stem, runs into us, the branches, and establishes a living connection between our souls and Jesus. Faith is the grace which perceives this union, having proceeded from it as its firstfruit. It is the neck which joins the body of the Church to its all-glorious Head.

“Oh Faith! thou bond of union with the Lord,

Is not this office thine? and thy fit name,

In the economy of gospel types,

And symbols apposite–the Church’s neck;

Identifying her in will and work

With him ascended?”

Faith lays hold upon the Lord Jesus with a firm and determined grasp. She knows his excellence and worth, and no temptation can induce her to repose her trust elsewhere; and Christ Jesus is so delighted with this heavenly grace, that he never ceases to strengthen and sustain her by the loving embrace and all-sufficient support of his eternal arms. Here, then, is established a living, sensible, and delightful union which casts forth streams of love, confidence, sympathy, complacency, and joy, whereof both the bride and bridegroom love to drink. When the soul can evidently perceive this oneness between itself and Christ, the pulse may be felt as beating for both, and the one blood as flowing through the veins of each. Then is the heart as near heaven as it can be on earth, and is prepared for the enjoyment of the most sublime and spiritual kind of fellowship.

 

Evening

“I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword.”
Matthew 10:34

The Christian will be sure to make enemies. It will be one of his objects to make none; but if to do the right, and to believe the true, should cause him to lose every earthly friend, he will count it but a small loss, since his great Friend in heaven will be yet more friendly, and reveal himself to him more graciously than ever. O ye who have taken up his cross, know ye not what your Master said? “I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother; and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Christ is the great Peacemaker; but before peace, he brings war. Where the light cometh, the darkness must retire. Where truth is, the lie must flee; or, if it abideth, there must be a stern conflict, for the truth cannot and will not lower its standard, and the lie must be trodden under foot. If you follow Christ, you shall have all the dogs of the world yelping at your heels. If you would live so as to stand the test of the last tribunal, depend upon it the world will not speak well of you. He who has the friendship of the world is an enemy to God; but if you are true and faithful to the Most High, men will resent your unflinching fidelity, since it is a testimony against their iniquities. Fearless of all consequences, you must do the right. You will need the courage of a lion unhesitatingly to pursue a course which shall turn your best friend into your fiercest foe; but for the love of Jesus you must thus be courageous. For the truth’s sake to hazard reputation and affection, is such a deed that to do it constantly you will need a degree of moral principle which only the Spirit of God can work in you; yet turn not your back like a coward, but play the man. Follow right manfully in your Master’s steps, for he has traversed this rough way before you. Better a brief warfare and eternal rest, than false peace and everlasting torment.

Let God Help You With Stress

 

stressed people : santa claus too tired to lie on floor with many gift boxes over white stressed people : A mother is late for school and work and rushing with her children for a funny stress concept on a white isolated background.
stressed people : Christmas holiday stress. Stressed woman shopping for gifts holding christmas presents wearing red santa hat looking angry and distressed with funny expression on blackboard background.stressed people : santa claus too tired to lie on floor with many gift boxes over white background
stressed people : picture of stressed businesswoman with computer at workstressed people : young girl screams because of bad christmas stress Stock Photo
stressed people : Portrait of exhausted businesswoman in officestressed people : Portrait of stressed young housewife in modern kitchen Stock Photo
stressed people : Concept of multitasking businessman who works with more arms Stock Photostressed people : Concept of fast business with running businessman
stressed people : businessman covering his face with angry mask on gray backgroundstressed people : businessman stressed by too many tasks Stock Photo
stressed people : An exhausted businessman holding a telephone in his office Stock Photostressed people : bright picture of unhappy woman in office Stock Photo
The Load or stress Of Life Can Be Overwhelming. God Can Help You With The Issues That Are Too Difficult To Manage.

Load Limits

From: getmorestrength.org

Dec 27 2014

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it”1 Corinthians 10:13

Daddy, can I help you?” It was my four-year-old son, Matt, who was watching me carry cartons of empty pop bottles to the car. Back then you could return them for a dime apiece, so after months of stacking them up in the garage, I was off to collect the cash bonanza.

I said, “Sure, Matt,” and he picked up a carton of bottles and put them in the car. When we got to the store, he grabbed his carton of bottles and shuffled along next to me across the big parking lot. About half way to the store, obviously exhausted, he looked up and said, “Dad, I can’t carry this anymore.”

Count on it, I didn’t say, “Listen, Kid, you started this, so pick up that carton right now and finish what you started!” Of course not!

I took the carton out of his hands, because I knew it was too heavy for him to handle. As his earthly father, I understood what his limits were and helped him carry the load.

Thankfully, our heavenly Father understands our load limit and comes alongside to help. It’s hard to stick it out during difficult times when the trouble in our lives seems far too heavy and there is no end in sight. It’s in times like these that we feel like giving up—like we can’t go on. But God’s Word reminds us that “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). It’s important to note that this verse is talking about more than just bearing up under temptation. In the original Greek, the word temptation actually means “all kinds of trials.”

Ever feel like you’re in the middle of all kinds of trials? The problem with problems is that they have a tendency to drain us of our strength—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And that’s when our adversary likes to launch his attack. When we’re weak, he haunts us with thoughts like: How could a loving God allow this to happen? andGod has brought you to this place and has just left you here. Or, You’re beyond help—God can’t help you now. But when you start thinking these thoughts, you need to know that they are flat out lies from the pit. You can be sure that they don’t reflect God’s heart for you during difficult times.

In the Old Testament, one of God’s names is Jehovah Jireh—our provider—and He always lives up to His name. He stands ready to provide abundant grace so that we can bear up until He has finished His work in the trial (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He gives us a peace that passes understanding as we trust and rely on Him with a grateful heart (Philippians 4:6-7). He gives wisdom to see our tough times from His point of view (James 1:5). He gives us the assurance that He will stick it out with us and not leave or forsake us, so that we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What man can do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).

So, chin up! Our troubles and trials have not escaped the notice of the One who comes alongside to help when it seems like the load is too much to bear.

The One who knows your load limit promises to limit your load!

 

DECEMBER 26, 2014

From: Crosswalk

I Can’t Do Everything
AMY CARROLL

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me … For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9,10b (NIV)

“I don’t want to go bowling,” I said hearing a cringe-inducing whine creep into my voice.

While my entire extended family enthusiastically prepared for a fun outing, I was dragging my feet. In reality, I don’t dislike bowling terribly. I just really, really, REALLY don’t like doing things I’m not good at. And I’m terrible at bowling.

Avoidance or quitting is my natural default.

Our self-esteem driven culture says, “You can do anything you want!”

But the truth is I can’t do everything.

My dream as a little girl was to be a platinum award-winning pop star. I sang into my hairbrush and made sure I stood on the stage for every talent show my school held. But no matter how much I practiced, my heart-felt but average singing was met with tepid applause and sympathetic pats on the back from my friends.

Yes, if I’d been born just a little later, I would be one of the pitiful audition examples on American Idol — a contestant who’s convinced she’s great while the rest of the world watches with wide eyes and gasps. My family, the world’s greatest encouragers, would be at home cheering wildly while the rest of the world muttered, “Bless her heart!”

No matter how many lessons I take or how much I practice, I’m never going to progress from the choir loft to the stadium stage. It’s just not going to happen.

Singing isn’t a gift God has given me, and I don’t feel His leading to take a leap offaith. If I were to audition, it would be foolish, because it would be a risk taken from my own desires and based on an unrealistic assessment of my gifts. Simply put, there’s a clear difference between a foolish risk and an inspired risk.

I think it’s great for us to understand our limits. But I have another issue that’s not so great. It’s my propensity to give up too quickly when things get hard … when I’m challenged to do something I’m not already good at.

Recently I’ve been challenged to complete the most difficult process of my professional life. I’ve worked and struggled and fallen more times than I’d like to count. Day after day I’ve wanted to quit. And I’ve become painfully aware that this assignment is too big for me.

But this assignment is an inspired risk. It’s based on the beginnings of a gift God has placed in me and on His clear calling.

So I’ve spent time on my knees asking God for direction and just a little more fortitude.

He has faithfully encouraged me. God continues to point out He not only opened the door of opportunity, He surrounded me with others to help me develop this embryo of a gift.

Instead of doing what our culture does, passing out false praise and “you can do anything’s,” God has instructed me to rejoice that I’m really not good enough …

To do it without Him.

To accomplish it without the help of others.

To finish without perseverance (which produces character, and character hope, Romans 5:3-5).

Sometimes, when we’re given a task beyond ourselves, we just need to rejoice. It’s a good thing we’re really not good enough. It’s in those times of struggle, failure and ultimately growth that we find out God is enough.

Lord, teach me to rejoice in the difficult assignments, because it’s there I come to the end of my own abilities and learn to lean on Yours. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (NIV)

1 Corinthians 1:25, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (NIV)

December 27

From:  Biblegateway

Those who follow Jesus’ commandment entirely, who let Jesus’ yoke rest on them without resistance, will find the burden they must bear to be light. In the gentle pressure of this yoke they will receive the strength to walk the right path without becoming weary.…Where will the call to discipleship lead those who follow it? What decisions and painful separations will it entail? We must take this question to him who alone knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow him, knows where the path will lead. But we know that it will be a path full of mercy beyond measure. Discipleship is joy.

Biblical Wisdom

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28–30

Questions to Ponder

  • What is Jesus’ “commandment” that we are to follow? (See John 15:12)
  • If this commandment is Jesus’ “yoke,” how might we be changed if we bear it without resistance?
  • Why might following Jesus’ commandment lead to tough “decisions and painful separations”?

Psalm Fragment

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long. Psalm 25:4–5

Journal Reflections

  • To be a disciple is not just to believe in Jesus, it is to follow Jesus. In your journal, reflect on the ways in which you are presently following Jesus.
  • Do you experience your discipleship as “joy”? Is the “burden” of your discipleship “light”?
  • Do you sense there are places Jesus might want to lead you where you would rather not go? If so, where are they and what is holding you back?

Intercessions

Pray specifically for family, friends, and colleagues that they might clearly hear the call to discipleship (which is the call to love and justice), and that they might experience following Jesus’ commandment as joy in the concrete realities of their lives.

Prayer for Today

Lord Jesus, only you know where my path will lead, but I trust that, even if I do not know either the way or the destination, you are with me and before me, and I follow you with joy.

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint ofAugsburg Fortress.

God Hears And Answers Prayers

 

praying people : Vector silhouette of a children who is praying.praying people : Multi-Ethnic Group of People Holding Hands and Faith Concept Stock Photo
praying people : Bible Group Praying Together Stock Photopraying people : Dramatic sky scenery with a mountain cross and a thinking meditating person. A symbol of heavy inner struggles.
praying people : Young teen girl sitting quietly on lake pier, praying Stock Photopraying people : one african  black man  thinking pensive praying silhouette  in silhouette studio on white background
praying people : Teenage girl staying with raised hands against blue sky Stock Photopraying people : Mother and son praying and praising God
praying people : Hands reaching up to the Divine Lightpraying people : Angel praying logo
praying people : one african  black man looking up complaigning  in silhouette studio on white background Stock Photopraying people : Man with his hands up watching the sun set

The Hope of Christmas

From: Getmorestrength

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:5

We talk a lot about hope.

We hope the weather will be good for our family vacation. We hope that our favorite team will win the Super Bowl—or at least make it to the big game! We hope that we get just what we want for Christmas.

But for many of us, hope lacks a sense of certainty. It is more like a wish—something that we want to happen but have no way of knowing that it ultimately will. So we keep our fingers crossed and “hope” that everything will go the way we want it to.

The reality is that often life doesn’t turn out the way we hoped it would. Hope is a fragile commodity. When life is disappointing, our optimism is replaced by feelings of discouragement and hopelessness. Before long we run the risk of becoming cynics who believe that there is nothing in which we can confidently hope.

This was the landscape of life when Jesus entered the world. The prevailing mood of Israel was anything but hope. The once proud nation was now a puppet state of the pagan Roman Empire. The common person lived under the defeating burden of the exaggerated requirements of the religious establishment. Centuries before, they had been promised a deliverer who would restore Israel to its former glory, but it had never happened.

Into this sense of cynical hopelessness, true Hope was born. But the tragedy of that first Christmas was that very few realized the hope that had been introduced. Hope for the forgiveness of sins. Hope for a bright future—forever. Hope for God’s presence and power in daily living. Hope that would enable us to forget the past and set our sights on stuff that doesn’t disappoint. A hope that, because of Jesus, is a certainty and not just another wish to be dashed on the rocks of reality.

I love the honesty of the psalmist who said, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” We’ve all been there. But let’s not stop there. Keep reading! “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5). Rejoice that Jesus came to give you something better than the disappointments of life on planet earth. And when by faith you embrace Him and all that He promised, you can have a hope that is no longer a fingers-crossed wish that you harbor in your heart, but rather a confident, courageous optimism that is rooted in the certainty of His Word.

Pin your hopes on Jesus this Christmas—you won’t be disappointed!

 

From: Streams in the Desert

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”—Matt 26:36 

It is a hard thing to be kept in the background at a time of crisis. In the Garden of Gethsemane eight of the eleven disciples were left to do nothing. Jesus went to the front to pray; Peter, James and John went to the middle to watch; the rest sat down in the rear to wait. Methinks that party in the rear must have murmured. They were in the garden, but that was all; they had no share in the cultivation of its flowers. It was a time of crisis, a time of storm and stress; and yet they were not suffered to work.

You and I have often felt that experience, that disappointment. There has arisen, mayhap a great opportunity for Christian service. Some are sent to the front; some are sent to the middle. But we are made to lie down in the rear. Perhaps sickness has come; perhaps poverty has come; perhaps obloquy has come; in any case we are hindered and we feel sore. We do not see why we should be excluded from a part in the Christian life. It seems like an unjust thing that, seeing we have been allowed to enter the garden, no path should be assigned to us there.

Be still, my soul, it is not as thou deemest! Thou art not excluded from a part of the Christian life. Thinkest thou that the garden of the Lord has only a place for those who walk and for those who stand! Nay, it has a spot consecrated to those who are compelled to sit. There are three voices in a verb—active, passive and neuter. So, too, there are three voices in Christ’s verb “to live.” There are the active, watching souls, who go to the front, and struggle till the breaking of the day. There are the passive, watching souls, who stand in the middle, and report to others the progress of the fight. But there are also the neuter souls—those who can neither fight, nor be spectators of the fight, but have simply to lie down.

When that experience comes to thee, remember, thou are not shunted. Remember it is Christ that says, “Sit ye here.” Thy spot in the garden has also been consecrated. It has a special name. It is not “the place of wrestling,” nor “the place of watching,” but “the place of waiting.” There are lives that come into this world neither to do great work nor to bear great burdens, but simply to be; they are the neuter verbs. They are the flowers of the garden which have had no active mission. They have wreathed no chaplet; they have graced no table; they have escaped the eye of Peter and James and John. But they have gladdened the sight of Jesus. By their mere perfume, by their mere beauty, they have brought Him joy; by the very preservation of their loveliness in the valley they have lifted the Master’s heart. Thou needst not murmur shouldst thou be one of these flowers!
—Selected

 

Morning

From: Biblegateway

“The last Adam.”
1 Corinthians 15:45

Jesus is the federal head of his elect. As in Adam, every heir of flesh and blood has a personal interest, because he is the covenant head and representative of the race as considered under the law of works; so under the law of grace, every redeemed soul is one with the Lord from heaven, since he is the Second Adam, the Sponsor and Substitute of the elect in the new covenant of love. The apostle Paul declares that Levi was in the loins of Abraham when Melchizedek met him: it is a certain truth that the believer was in the loins of Jesus Christ, the Mediator, when in old eternity the covenant settlements of grace were decreed, ratified, and made sure forever. Thus, whatever Christ hath done, he hath wrought for the whole body of his Church. We were crucified in him and buried with him (read Col. 2:10-13), and to make it still more wonderful, we are risen with him and even ascended with him to the seats on high (Eph. 2:6). It is thus that the Church has fulfilled the law, and is “accepted in the beloved.” It is thus that she is regarded with complacency by the just Jehovah, for he views her in Jesus, and does not look upon her as separate from her covenant head. As the Anointed Redeemer of Israel, Christ Jesus has nothing distinct from his Church, but all that he has he holds for her. Adam’s righteousness was ours so long as he maintained it, and his sin was ours the moment that he committed it; and in the same manner, all that the Second Adam is or does, is ours as well as his, seeing that he is our representative. Here is the foundation of the covenant of grace. This gracious system of representation and substitution, which moved Justin Martyr to cry out, “O blessed change, O sweet permutation!” this is the very groundwork of the gospel of our salvation, and is to be received with strong faith and rapturous joy.

Evening

“Lo, I am with you alway.”
Matthew 28:20

The Lord Jesus is in the midst of his church; he walketh among the golden candlesticks; his promise is, “Lo, I am with you alway.” He is as surely with us now as he was with the disciples at the lake, when they saw coals of fire, and fish laid thereon and bread. Not carnally, but still in real truth, Jesus is with us. And a blessed truth it is, for where Jesus is, love becomes inflamed. Of all the things in the world that can set the heart burning, there is nothing like the presence of Jesus! A glimpse of him so overcomes us, that we are ready to say, “Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me.” Even the smell of the aloes, and the myrrh, and the cassia, which drop from his perfumed garments, causes the sick and the faint to grow strong. Let there be but a moment’s leaning of the head upon that gracious bosom, and a reception of his divine love into our poor cold hearts, and we are cold no longer, but glow like seraphs, equal to every labour, and capable of every suffering. If we know that Jesus is with us, every power will be developed, and every grace will be strengthened, and we shall cast ourselves into the Lord’s service with heart, and soul, and strength; therefore is the presence of Christ to be desired above all things. His presence will be most realized by those who are most like him. If you desire to see Christ, you must grow in conformity to him. Bring yourself, by the power of the Spirit, into union with Christ’s desires, and motives, and plans of action, and you are likely to be favoured with his company. Remember his presence may be had. His promise is as true as ever. He delights to be with us. If he doth not come, it is because we hinder him by our indifference. He will reveal himself to our earnest prayers, and graciously suffer himself to be detained by our entreaties, and by our tears, for these are the golden chains which bind Jesus to his people.

Merry Christmas, The King Is Born

SIMPOSIOUS.COM WISHES EVERYONE A MERRY CHRISTMAS.

His Birth and Our New Birth

From: Utmost.org

His Birth in History. “…that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not emerge out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being the human race can boast of— He is a Being for whom the human race can take no credit at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate— God coming into human flesh from outside it. His life is the highest and the holiest entering through the most humble of doors. Our Lord’s birth was an advent— the appearance of God in human form.

His Birth in Me. “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19). Just as our Lord came into human history from outside it, He must also come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a “Bethlehem” for the Son of God? I cannot enter the realm of the kingdom of God unless I am born again from above by a birth totally unlike physical birth. “You must be born again” (John 3:7). This is not a command, but a fact based on the authority of God. The evidence of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that “Christ is formed” in me. And once “Christ is formed” in me, His nature immediately begins to work through me.

God Evident in the Flesh. This is what is made so profoundly possible for you and for me through the redemption of man by Jesus Christ.

 

The Smells Of The Stable

From: Our Daily Bread

A stable? What a place to give birth to the Messiah! The smells and sounds of a barnyard were our Savior’s first human experience. Like other babies, He may even have cried at the sounds of the animals and the strangers parading around His temporary crib.

If so, they would have been the first of many tears. Jesus would come to know human loss and sorrow, the doubts his brothers and family had about Him, and the pain His mother experienced as she saw Him tortured and killed.

All these hardships—and so much more—awaited the baby trying to sleep that first night. Yet from His very first moments, Jesus was “God with us” (Matt. 1:23), and He knew what it meant to be human. This would continue for over three decades, ending at His death on the cross.

Because of His love for you and me, Jesus became fully human. And being human allows Him to identify with us. Never again can we say that no one understands us. Jesus does.

May the Light that entered the world that night cast its brilliance into the deepest corners of our souls this Christmas, giving us the peace on Earth of which the angels spoke so long ago.

Father, help our hearts to know the
love of Christ and to honor Him
with our unyielding devotion in
this and every season. We love You.
Jesus understands.

Insight

The role of shepherd is one of the oldest occupations named in the Bible (Gen. 4:2). Shepherds were deemed irreligious and irreverent, because in taking their flock into the wilderness to find pasture, they could not perform their religious duties at the temple. And being in contact with animals (and dead sheep), they were considered “unclean.” That God would announce the birth of the Savior of the world to a group of shepherds is consistent with Jesus’ mission to save the poor and exalt the lowly (Luke 1:51-53; 4:18). It is interesting that Jesus is both the Lamb of God (John 1:29) and the Good Shepherd (10:11).

 

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.  (click on the blue words for a link to these posts).
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
And again:

This sign hangs in my living room…a very old heirloom from my husband’s grandparents’ home.  A powerful message there to remind us every single day that we were bought at a great price…the very life of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  He gave His life a ransom for us all…(see I Timothy 2:5-6)

This Christmas song tells it clearly: (click below for the song)

Bill & Gloria Gaither,  copyright 1963
“From God’s heaven to a manger,
From great riches to the poor,
Came the Son of God, a little Child;
 
From the azure halls of heaven
To a lowly manger stall,
Jesus came, and here He gave His life for all.
 
From a loving heavenly Father
To a world that knew Him not,
Came a man of sorrows, 
Jesus Christ, the Lord;
 
In my wandering Jesus found me,
Touched my life with His great love,
And this Babe has grown to be my sovereign Lord.
 
Chorus:
 
Redeeming Love,
a love that knows no limit;
Redeeming love,
a love that never dies;
 
My soul shall sing 
throughout the endless ages
The adoration of this great love on high!”





My friend, I am that precious pearl…and so are YOU.  This same Jesus left the “azure halls of heaven…to a lowly manger stall…Jesus came, and here He gave His life for ALL!” …and that includes YOU! YOU ARE ALSO THAT PRECIOUS PEARL!  JESUS CHRIST HAS PAID YOUR RANSOM WITH HIS LIFE.  Won’t you accept this greatest gift of all this Christmas?  The gift of your redemption from sin and sorrow…from the slavery of this old world…freely given for you, so that you might live! Yes, that IS THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL!

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

From:  Through The Bible

December 25

Ezekiel 37:3-5 (NIV) 3He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.

Ezekiel was prophesying to the people of Israel who did not have the life of God in them. They went into captivity a depraved people that were a horrible example of people in covenant with the one true God. What is needed to change our testimony from a bad example to one that honors the name we bear? What can bring life to our lifeless existence? Only the Spirit of God can make the difference.

The Word of God must be heard. “Breath” is the same in Hebrew as “wind” or “spirit”. The Spirit of God must be breathed into us. Do you remember that it was the breath of God that brought life to Adam (Genesis 2:7)? And do you remember that Jesus breathed upon His disciples and told them to receive the Spirit (John 20:22)?

In this passage God is dealing with His people Israel. It is by His command that the breath of God brings life. In the New Testament we are told that the Father longs to give the Holy Spirit to those who will but ask (Luke 11:13). If you recognize your spiritual life is lifeless, that it needs a power beyond yourself, if you need to be restored from scattered bones to a living breathing being, ask the Father. He longs to give good things to His children when they just ask.

Consider: Will you receive the breath of God today!

Evening

December 25

Revelation 3:15-16, 20 (NIV) 15I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

20Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Jesus dictated the last letter to the church of Laodicea. Though these were actual churches in Asia Minor, some believe that these represent different periods of church history, Laodicea being the last and one that we are currently in.

The indictment against them was that they were content in their physical abundance. They were not on fire with desire to love and serve God, neither were they anti-God. They were just disinterested. The opposite of love is not hate; it is apathy. They thought they had this world’s goods and the promise of heaven too.

Jesus told them that they did not realize that they were really naked and blind and poor. Contentment in this world had numbed them to their true spiritual condition.

Jesus gave them the solution. Come to Him and receive true wealth, righteous clothing, and eye medicine so they could see. He asks them to answer the door. Today He’s knocking but we are too busy with the things of the world. If we will just get up and let Him in, everything would change. Maybe we are too comfortable to get up. His words may disturb us too much. We may see our true condition and realize there must be a change, so we leave Him outside. He longs to sit and eat with us in sweet fellowship, and heal us of our lukewarm spirit. Let Him in right now; take the time to dine with Him and hear what He has to say to you.

Consider: He’s knocking. How will you respond?

Christmas Eve Devotion and Inspiration

 

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

christmas eve : Santa claus on the bike in the mountains Stock Photochristmas eve : christmas gifts
christmas eve : christmas backgroundchristmas eve : Photo of Christmastime table setting border, beautiful decorated Christmas tree isolated on white background, romantic holiday dinner, luxury white dishware decorated with golden ribbon
christmas eve : Christmas Background  Vector Illustration  Illustrationchristmas eve : Champagne bottle in bucket with ice and glasses of champagne, on yellow background
christmas eve : Christmas card with yellow and violet ballschristmas eve : Colorful fireworks on the black sky background Stock Photo
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christmas eve : Christmas houses and snow - postcard in retro style  illustrationchristmas eve : dog toasting new years eve Stock Photo

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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merry christmas photo: Merry Christmas christmas.jpg

Christmas Wrappings

christmas wrapping paper : Seamless ornament snowflakechristmas wrapping paper : A pile of Christmas gifts in colorful wrapping with ribbons under a Christmas tree..
christmas wrapping paper : Vintage Christmas card with snowflakes Stock Photochristmas wrapping paper : Colorful christmas seamless pattern with holly berries and homemade Gingerbread cookies. Vector illustration. May be used as wrapping paper for gifts.
christmas wrapping paper : Set of Christmas patterns Illustrationchristmas wrapping paper : Green ribbon and bow for festive decorations. Gift card
christmas wrapping paper : Greeting cards with white  bows and copy spacechristmas wrapping paper : elegant floral pattern as background
christmas wrapping paper : Elegant Christmas background with golden bow  Vector backgroundchristmas wrapping paper : Vintage Christmas card.
christmas wrapping paper : Seamless decorative ornamental texture with deers and geometric pattern  Template for design and decoration textile, backgrounds, wrapping paper  Illustrationchristmas wrapping paper : Red Bow Over White (with clipping path for easy background removing if needed)

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.

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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.