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Post  Admin on Wed 11 Jan 2017, 11:08 pm

A Prayer for Reading God’s Word
By Wendy Pope

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

For a long season of my life I was a carrier of God’s Word. I read the Bible
during church when the pastor would preach, and I made sure to read enough
to fill in my blanks for Bible study. But to read, highlight and apply
Scripture
to my life was foreign to me. How could I, a “C” student, ever understand
the Bible? I wanted to be one of those women who highlighted and applied,
but
I didn’t even know where to start.

lamp-light

Then, our local Christian radio station challenged the listening audience to
follow a one-year Bible reading plan. I couldn’t fathom reading the whole
Bible, much less in only a year. In an effort to calm my fears, I took a
trip to my local Christian bookstore. If I am going to read the whole Bible,
certainly
I need a new Bible to read. For what seemed like hours, I previewed various
types of Bibles in an array of colors, styles and formats. Just when I was
about to give up, I pulled a chronological Bible from the shelf.

The format intrigued me. Short readings. An easy-to-follow daily plan. An
attractive cover. The best part: Knowing I would read the Bible in the order
the events occurred. Yes! This was the Bible for me. Slowly, I began to
understand the Bible as the ultimate guide to life, as Psalm 119:105 reminds
us,

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, but not without stumbling. The
year taught me so much. I learned Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are
difficult
to read in some parts. I learned it’s necessary to read the Old Testament to
really appreciate the wonderful sacrifice Jesus made for me as described in
the New Testament. Lastly, I learned it’s OK if I don’t understand the whole
Bible. God will continue to reveal things to me as I continue to make His
Word a priority.

Now, after reading a chronological Bible I am no longer just a carrier of
the Word, I am a lover of the Word! If you’ve always wanted to read through
the
Bible but desired a friend to come along aside you for support, I pray you’ll
take the same challenge and dig into God’s Word in 2017!

Dear God, I admit that reading the Bible is challenging for me. Yet I desire
to be more than a carrier of Your Word. Give me a hunger and thirst for Your
Truth. Lead me by the power of Your Spirit to study and apply Your Word to
my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Editor’s Note: Content taken from the Encouragement for Today devotional,
“Words That Made My Heart Ache,” written by Wendy Pope.
All rights reserved.

Waiting on God Doesn't Mean Waiting Around
Ryan Duncan

Like many Christian bookworms, I fell in love with The Chronicles of Narnia
at an early age.
C.S. Lewis had a gift for taking complex, theological ideas and rendering
them in a way even children could understand. Perhaps the best example of
this
is seen at the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
when Aslan departs the kingdom of Cair Paravel,

“‘He'll be coming and going’ he had said. ‘One day you'll see him and
another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down--and of course he has
other countries
to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't
press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.’”

As a Christian, I often struggle with the idea of waiting on God. I’m pretty
sure I’m not the only one either. We so desperately want Christ to be fully
present in our lives, constantly filling us with courage, hope, and
certainty. But God is not a tame lion, and there will be ample moments when
we’re forced
to wrestle with fear, depression, and doubt. So, how do we respond when we’re
met with God’s silence?

Aaron Ross, of Relevant Magazine, argues that waiting on God does not mean
being passive
. Quite the opposite, in fact. Ross instead points to the life of David,
beginning with his anointing in
1 Samuel 16
, and notes how David worked aggressively to become the king God promised he
would be. Ross writes,

“David’s life should teach us what it means to wait. Waiting on the promises
of God is not sitting idly by waiting for God to move, but to actively work
towards those promises. David did not just become king and then started
acting like a King, David prepared himself in learning to lead, learning
what it
was like being in a king’s court, learning military tactics, etc. ... He
actively waited on the promise of God.”

“It is in the active preparation for the promise that God molds us and often
fulfills His promises to us. Can God just fulfill that promise to us without
any of our involvement? Of course, but this is not the way that God
typically does this. The
Bible
is filled with more than just the example of David. Go read Hebrew’s 11.
This list, often dubbed ‘Heroes of the
Faith
’, is filled with people who were promised something by God and then sought
out the promise.”

Think back to all the stories written in The Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan
told the Pevensie children they would become kings and queens, but they didn’t
simply stand by and wait for this to happen. Peter became a leader, Susan
helped protect the weak, Edmund redeemed himself, and Lucy healed the
wounded.
Their actions and struggles shaped them into worthy monarchs of Narnia.
Often times, God uses our own journeys to fulfill the promises He makes in
advance.

Maybe right now you’re experiencing a period of prolonged silence. It feels
as though you’re stuck in neutral, waiting for God to show up. If that’s the
case, don’t let this time slip by. Instead, use it to study, practice, and
prepare. Real faith means pursuing God with passionate activity, growing in
faith, and standing ready for when he arrives.

God is not a tame lion, but he’s not an idle one either, and you may
discover he was guiding your footsteps all along.

What about You? What are your thoughts on waiting on God? Be sure to leave a
comment in the space below!

*Ryan Duncan is an Editor for Crosswalk.com
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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Jan 2017, 10:40 pm

Inspiration Ministries Daily Devotion

Declaring Thanks
Thursday, November 24, 2016

"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of
the enemy."
Psalm 107:1-2 NKJV

Every day, it can be easy just to focus on the problems, trials, and
challenges we face. Faced with the practical issues of daily life, our
challenges
and obstacles can seem overwhelming. We can feel hopeless, depressed,
confused, or afraid.

But the Bible tells us that, in every situation, we are to be thankful! We
constantly are to declare our thanks to God. We need to realize just how
much
we have to be thankful for. God is good, and we can trust Him. No matter
what we have done, or what we face, His mercy endures forever. It never runs
out.

As we read Psalm 107, we find many reasons to give Him thanks. He delivers
us from our distresses, helps us when we are hungry and thirsty, and leads
us
to shelter. He satisfies us when our souls are "longing." He breaks our
"chains in pieces" if we face "darkness and the shadow of death." If we are
sick,
He sends His Word and heals us. He protects us. And, if we need peace, He
calms the storm.

At times we may struggle when we focus on our problems. But the psalmist
commands us to give thanks to God ... at all times. In fact, he gives this
order:
"Let the redeemed of the LORD say so." By declaring our thankfulness, we
entrust our lives, and what we face into God's hands.

Today, reflect on your life and think about all that God has done for you.
Think about His promises. Then, start thanking Him. And continue to thank
Him.
For He is worthy! And He is good!

Today's Inspiring Prayer

Father, thank You for all that You have done for me. I am so grateful! Thank
You for Your mercy and love. Thank You that I can trust my life to You! In
Jesus' name. Amen.

Further Reading: Psalm 107

Giving Thanks Always
View this email in your browser

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of
our Lord Jesus Christ.â€
Ephesians 5:20

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
There are four types of people. There are those who are constantly
complaining and grumbling. Have you met any of these folks? I mean, they
can brighten
up a room just by leaving it. That’s the lowest level. Then there are others
who live lives of ingratitude. They don’t complain, but they never thank God
for His obvious blessings. That’s a little better, but not much better. Then
there are people who thank God for obvious blessings. When something good
happens, they’re grateful. That’s a better level. But the highest level is
to be grateful for all things at all times. That is the secret of a happy
and
productive life.

ACTION POINT:
On the basis of our Scripture today, go before the Lord and begin to think
about difficult circumstances you’re facing. Now, thank Him for each one.
Copyright © 2016 Love Worth Finding Ministries

2 Striking Truths about the Last Supper
by The Good Book Blog

By Joy Mosbarger

Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ words at the Last Supper
—or at least with some of those words. When we celebrate communion together,
we regularly hear “this is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of
me†and “this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for
you.†Recently, however, I read through Luke 22
, which includes the Last Supper and the events surrounding it. In addition
to these familiar words from the Last Supper, I was struck by some of the
other
words spoken by Jesus on this momentous occasion.

After Jesus and the disciples settled together around the Passover table,
the first words Jesus spoke were these: “I have earnestly desired to eat
this
Passover with you before I suffer†(
Luke 22:15
). As he faces a time of unimaginably intense suffering in his life, Jesus
has a deep and powerful longing to be with his disciples. Though Jesus
clearly
needed to be with his Father as he approached the suffering that was to come
(
vv. 41-44
), he also seems to have felt a need to be with his disciples—his closest
earthly, human friends. Jesus’ profound yearning to be with his disciples at
this darkest, most difficult place in his life is quite remarkable.

This desire is even more remarkable when considering the major imperfections
of the disciples, which are on display for all to see in the events
following
the Last Supper in
Luke 22
. Their immediate reaction to Jesus’ disclosure of his imminent suffering is
not sympathy, but a discussion of which one of
them is going to betray Jesus ( v. 23
). This is immediately followed by a dispute that arose among them as to
which of
them should be considered to be the greatest ( vv. 24-30
). He later asks them to pray that they might not enter into temptation
while he is alone in prayer with the Father. Instead, they fall asleep (
vv. 39-46
). Judas betrays him (
vv. 47-48 ), and Peter denies him ( vv. 54-62
). Their actions do not reveal the disciples as being intent on encouraging
and strengthening a friend in a time of great need. Yet in spite of the
disciples’
human frailties and failures, of which Jesus was well aware, he still
earnestly desired to be with them at this horrendously grueling point in his
life.

There are two truths in particular from this narrative in Luke 22
that I find most striking and extraordinary. First, Jesus loved his
disciples as they were and strongly desired to be with them. It is obvious
that the
disciples needed Jesus in profound ways. Yet, on some level, Jesus “neededâ€
the disciples—or at least he wanted them with him in this place of deep
struggle
and pain. And he didn’t want to be with them because of the depth of their
maturity; rather, he longed to be with them with all their flaws and defects
because he knew that they (except maybe Judas) loved him to the degree that
they were capable of doing so. I find it immensely comforting and quite
astounding
to know that Jesus actually wants to be with me with all my imperfections
and weaknesses—because I have a lot of them.

Second, though the disciples were with Jesus in this place of deep anguish,
they didn’t really hear what he had to say. They were more focused on
themselves
and what they perceived as their needs. They seemed to be more worried about
which of them would betray Jesus rather than the fact that Jesus was going
to be betrayed. During their last hours with the greatest human being who
ever lived, they were arguing about which of them was the greatest. When
Jesus
asked them to pray while he was alone with the Father, they fell asleep.
With momentous events of eternal consequence taking place around them and in
the
presence of the one at the center of these events, the disciples seem to be
missing the significance of Jesus’ words and the privilege of Jesus’
presence.

It saddens me to realize that often I am welcomed into the presence of
Jesus, who earnestly desires to be with me, and all I can do is think about
and
talk about me. I miss what
he is saying and doing, which is of much greater, deeper, and lasting
significance than what I am saying and doing. Jesus gave his body for me and
poured
out his blood for me; he willingly sacrificed all for me. Shouldn’t that
motivate me to recognize the eternal, incalculable value of reveling in the
privilege
of enjoying his presence and closely watching for what
he is saying and doing while I am with him?

----------------------------------------------------------

For more, visit the Good Book Blog
, a seminary faculty blog from
Talbot School of Theology.
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Post  Admin on Mon 09 Jan 2017, 11:08 pm

A New Thing – Teachers

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.

Luke 2:41-47 (NIV)
41 Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.
42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the
custom. 43 After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home,
the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44
Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they
began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did
not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three
days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was
amazed at his understanding and his answers.

The things in the account above may not be new but they are rare. At least,
they are rare when compared to the way things are today. Could you imagine a
twelve-year-old sitting around talking to his teachers? Today most of them
would rather be out playing with their friends, playing video games or many
other things. Today we do hear of young people who are super intelligent who
have at least one college degree by their mid-teens. We hear of others who
are talented in certain areas that are eager to spend time with those who
can help them develop their talent further.

The one thing that might be new here is the way Jesus understood what the
teachers were telling Him and also the answers He gave to their questions.
Why should we be surprised at this? If they had believed He was the Son of
God then they would have known that He was the Word of God.

Jesus is the answer to all our questions. WE must spend time with Him
through reading the Bible and through prayer not just to know the answers
but to know the Word of God. WE can ask him anything and He will provide
what we need. WE can talk straight to him and not have to go through someone
else. WE don’t have to ask someone else to pray for us. WE can go straight
to the throne room of God and talk to Jesus ourselves. Jesus told us to ask
and it will be given to us. Seek and we shall find. Knock and the door will
be opened.

All Christians need to have a time for daily Bible study and prayer. This
may be a new thing for you but it must be done to find out all that Jesus
has for you. Just as Jesus spent time with the teachers, each one of us
needs to spend time with our Teacher, Jesus Christ, the Word of God.

by Dean W. Masters

Slain in the Shadow of the Almighty
John Piper / January 7, 2017
Slain in the Shadow of the Almighty

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of
the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in
whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1–2)

On January 8, 1956, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Flemming, and
Roger Youderian were speared to death on a sandbar called “Palm Beach” in
the
Curaray River of Ecuador. They were trying to reach the Huaorani Indians for
the first time in history with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Elisabeth Elliot memorialized the story in her book Shadow of the Almighty.
That title comes from Psalm 91:1: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most
High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty
.”

Not an Accident

This is where Jim Elliot was slain — in the shadow of the Almighty.
Elisabeth had not forgotten the heartbreaking facts when she chose that
title two years
after her husband’s death. When he was killed, they had been married three
years and had a ten-month-old daughter.

The title was not a slip — not any more than the death of the five
missionaries was a slip. But the world saw it differently. Around the world,
the death
of these young men was called a tragic nightmare. Elisabeth believed the
world was missing something. She wrote, “The world did not recognize the
truth
of the second clause in Jim Elliot’s credo: ‘He is no fool who gives what he
cannot keep
to gain what he cannot lose.’”

She called her book Shadow of the Almighty because she was utterly convinced
that the refuge of the people of God is not a refuge from suffering and
death,
but a refuge from final and ultimate defeat. “Whoever would save his life
will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke
9:24)
— because the Lord is
God Almighty.

God did not exercise his omnipotence to deliver Jesus from the cross. Nor
will he exercise it to deliver you and me from tribulation. “If they
persecuted
me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). If we have the faith and
single-mindedness and courage of those five missionaries, we might find
ourselves
saying with the apostle Paul,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as
sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than
conquerors through
him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor
rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor
depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love
of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:36–39)

Security in His Strength

Has it ever hit home to you what it means to say, “My God, who loves me and
gave himself for me, is
almighty”? It means that if you take your place “in the shadow of the
Almighty,” you will be protected by omnipotence. There is infinite and
unending security
in the almightiness of God — no matter what happens in this life.

The omnipotence of God means eternal, unshakable refuge in the everlasting
glory of God, no matter what happens on this earth. And that confidence is
the
power of radical obedience to the call of God — even the call to die.

Is there anything more freeing, more thrilling, or more strengthening than
the truth that God Almighty is your refuge — all day, every day, in all the
ordinary and extraordinary experiences of life? Nothing but what he ordains
for your good befalls you.

God Intervened

Research into the circumstances surrounding the martyrdom of the five
missionaries has revealed the hand of God in unexpected ways. In the
September 1996
issue of
Christianity Today, Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint, who was martyred along
with Elliott, McCully, Flemming, and Youderian,
wrote
an article about new discoveries made about the tribal intrigue behind the
slayings. He wrote one of the most amazing sentences on the sovereignty of
the Almighty that I have ever read — especially coming from the son of a
slain missionary:

As [the killers] described their recollections, it occurred to me how
incredibly unlikely it was that the Palm Beach killing took place at all; it
is an
anomaly that I cannot explain outside of divine intervention
. (italics added)

In other words, there is only one explanation for why these five young men
died and left a legacy that has inspired thousands. God intervened. This is
the kind of sovereignty we mean when we say, “Nothing but what he ordains
for your good befalls you.”

Which also means that no one, absolutely no one, can frustrate the designs
of God to fulfill his missionary plans for the nations. In the darkest
moments
of our pain, God is hiding his weapons behind enemy lines. Everything that
happens in history will serve this purpose as expressed in Psalm 86:9,

All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and
shall glorify your name.

If we believed this, if we really let this truth of God’s omnipotence get
hold of us — that we live perfectly secure
in the shadow of the Almighty — what a difference it would make in our
personal lives and in our families and churches. How humble and powerful we
would
become for the saving purposes of God.

Worshiping with a Broken Heart
Rachel Coulter / January 7, 2017
Worshiping with a Broken Heart

I looked across the table at my boyfriend and replayed his words in my mind.
“I just don’t enjoy spending time with you.”

I never knew a heart could break so suddenly, so rudely — in only one
sentence. I was desperately grasping for anything to help soften the
sharpness of
those eight words. I could only muster three, “Take me home.” As we drove,
my thoughts were as blurry as the trees going by. How can a three-year
relationship
end in three minutes?

The term “broken heart” is so widely used in our society that it often
sounds romantic. In those moments, I learned just how terribly unromantic it
is
— the kind of tearing, ripping brokenness that demands your full attention,
the kind of pain that won’t let up.

A broken heart might be a woman who gets the call from her doctor that she
has miscarried. It’s the child who learns that his father has cancer. It’s
broken
relationships, debilitating depression, dreams dying and crumbling in our
hands.

I walked into church the day after my heart broke. Broken, aching hearts
fill the pews in each of our churches every Sunday. I walked into church the
day
after my heart broke. Although surrounded by community, the pain still felt
intensely personal. “The heart knows its own bitterness” (Proverbs 14:10).
The deep ache can feel as isolating as a prison cell. The enemy wants
nothing more than to lock believers in that cell of pain, and keep us
trapped in
isolation. But God wants the opposite. Here are three things to remember
when you are tempted to stay home on Sunday morning with a broken heart.

Broken Hearts Are Open Hearts

There are many sorts of broken hearts, and Christ is good at healing them
all. —Charles Spurgeon

Imagine your heart is failing and you require a very risky open-heart
surgery. At the hospital, there are several doctors who claim to be
proficient at
this surgery, but only one has a spotless record — nothing has ever gone
wrong with his procedures. Everything he does is perfect.

Would you then choose a doctor with lesser experience, or a poorer record?
Not if you value your life.

God is the only Physician who can fully heal a broken heart, and he has
never failed in his ability to heal. Sarai, David, and Hosea all suffered
broken
hearts for different reasons — a barren womb, a shameful trail of sin,
unrequited love — and God healed them all. A broken heart is an open heart,
and
an open heart is vulnerable. In this time of vulnerability, let him be your
refuge. Let him fill you with healing through the singing, praying, and
teaching
of your church family.

Pain Is Personal, Healing Is Corporate

Have you ever had a close friend going through a great deal of pain, and
they didn’t tell you? It’s painful when you finally learn about it. It’s
painful
for at least two reasons: 1) It hurts you that they are in pain, and 2) it
hurts that you were not trusted to carry their burdens alongside of them.

As believers, we are called to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
No one would argue that one man can lift more than ten men lifting together.
So why do we often ignore the hands extended to help us carry our burdens,
and try to bear the weight on our own? We may always bear the heaviest
portion,
but encouragement and support from brothers and sisters will significantly
lighten the load. Battle hurt with heartfelt singing, loneliness with
community,
and discouragement with the ministry of God’s word.

Surround yourself with God’s people, and you will see that healing does take
a village — and that the village is stronger for it. We must combat
resounding
pain with resolute worship to the Father, alongside brothers and sisters who
can pray with us and for us.

Worship Creates Perspective

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

Though suffering is never a small thing, God is always greater. Worship
refocuses our minds on God’s greatness, and puts our pain in its rightful
place
— under the reign of an already victorious Father.

As strange as it may feel in the moment, lift your hands in praise and
remember that the victory has been won. Remember that the God who holds your
life
in the palm of his capable hand is leading the victory march. “He will not
leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Standing at the top of the mountain of adoration, we are suddenly aware of
our smallness. And it’s not offensive to us at all. We find joy in knowing
that
Christ is glorious beyond our imaginations and gloriously in control of all
things, including every inch or second of our heartache. Nothing can touch
you except that which has been carefully filtered through his loving
fingers.

Let heartfelt praise remind you of his great love and absolute sovereignty,
and let these reminders bring healing to your broken heart. Worship is a
balm
for even the deepest of wounds.

All of Life as Worship
John Piper / January 7, 2017
All of Life as Worship
Copyright © 2017 Desiring God, all rights reserved
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Dominion and Authority
Sunday, January 8, 2017


"Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it."
Genesis 1:28 NASB


In the first words recorded in the Bible that God spoke to the human race, He commanded them to "subdue" the earth. The Hebrew word suggests being bold and aggressive. Conquering and overcoming.

Introducing the concept of authority and dominion, God was giving people the opportunity to rule His creation. To shape, explore, and develop. But also to dominate.

This authority is a powerful concept, filled with potential and danger. Throughout history, some have abused this authority, taking advantage of others. But this authority also is an important principle in the Kingdom of God.

We see this authority in action throughout Jesus' ministry. Observers were amazed "for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:22). He demonstrated authority over demons and diseases (Mark 3:15).

Showing the importance of authority, Jesus "marveled" when a centurion described how power flowed from Jesus when He just spoke a word. Why?

Because he himself was "a man placed under authority." He realized Jesus' authority in the spiritual world. Jesus described how this was an example of "great faith," and why authority is such a powerful concept (Luke 7:1-9).

Jesus gave His disciples authority, sending them out with "authority over the unclean spirits" (Mark 6:7). Before His resurrection, He declared that "all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18).

There are several aspects of this authority for believers. First, we must believe we have authority, grasp the implications, and be ready to put this authority into practice. But we also must realize the responsibility that accompanies this authority. As Adam and Eve demonstrated, God gives us choices and then holds us accountable for our actions.

Ask God to open your eyes to the reality of the authority He has given you. Be ready to apply this authority in your life, and the situations you face.


Today's Inspiring Prayer

Father, thank You for the authority You have given me. Give me the boldness to act with this authority. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Further Reading: Genesis 1


4235 cdd Walk Away Inventory
Friday January 5, 2017
Volume 18 Number 005

Today's Author: Pastor Bill

Scripture: Philippians 4:8
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble,
whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are
lovely,
whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is
anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things" NKJV

Spring house cleaning is a time of disposal. A time of organization. A time
to refocus. Clean the garage and throw away the obvious and hold a garage
sale.
Clean the carpets and wash away all the interior debris from the winter.
Wash the windows and look at the bright side of life.

In this new year, likewise it is a good time to evaluate where we're heading
with the Lord. A time of disposal, organization and refocus. If we're
serious
about where we walk with the Lord we may need to walk away from some
previous situations. Let's call this the "Walk Away Inventory for the Lord."
Sometimes
we can't do it for ourselves but just maybe we can do it for Jesus!

If you have a bad attitude, then you need to walk away and let it go
If you're feeling depressed, then you need to walk away and let it go
If someone has angered you, then you need to walk away and let it go
If someone won't love you back, then you need to walk away and let it go
If someone won't see your worth, then you need to walk away and let it go
If someone won't treat you right, then you need to walk away and let it go
If you are involved in an addiction, then you need to walk away and let it
go
If you are involved in a wrong relationship, then you need to walk away and
let it go

If someone was never intended for your life...
If you are holding on to past hurts and pains...
If you are holding on to thoughts of evil and revenge...
If you are judging others to make yourself feel better...
If you are holding on to something that doesn't belong to you...
If you are struggling with the healing of a broken relationship...
If you are holding on to a job that no longer meets your needs...
If you are holding on to a job that no longer needs your talents...
If you're stuck in the past and God is trying to take you to a new level in
Him...

Now it's your turn: List the things that need disposal, organization and
refocus that will enhance your walk with Jesus.

If there are situations that you are used to handling yourself and God is
saying "take your hands off,"
then you need to walk away and let it go so you can focus on Kingdom living.

Prayer: Father thank you for giving the strength to dispose, reorganize and
refocus my life for You. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!

Pastor Bill Team Prayer
Father please bring 1............. 2............. 3.............. into your
kingdom.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!

Copyright (c) 2017
Pastor Bill
Christian Cross Ministries
All Rights Reserved

Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Pastor Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour

"Post-truth"
January 7, 2017
God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change
His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He
not fulfill it? - Numbers 23:19
The study of English as a language can be a pretty boring thing -- at least,
until a person realizes our language is alive and has words which come and
go and change.

If you doubt what I'm saying, consider the word "gay," which today means,
well, if you don't know, please look it up. I am pretty sure that word has
changed
from when

• in the musical West Side Story , Maria sang, "I feel pretty, oh so pretty,
I feel pretty and witty and gay."
• I'm also pretty sure the word changed from when the composer of the
Flintstones theme song wrote, "When you're with the Flintstones, have a
yabba dabba-do
time, a dabba-do time We'll have a gay old time!"
• I'm pretty positive the meaning changed sometime after Judy Garland sang
"Have yourself a merry little Christmas Let the yuletide be gay."
• I'm almost positive that's not what Christmas carolers meant, when they,
in the 1700s, invited festive souls to "Don we now our gay apparel Fa la la
la la, la la la la!"

Because the English language is changing, each year Oxford Dictionaries
picks a "Word of the Year." That word may not be new, but it has, in the
previous
annum, undergone a significant change in definition or usage.

Since I was last with you they picked a word for 2016. That word is
"post-truth." The editors say post-truth occurs when objective facts are
less influential
in shaping public opinion than are appeals to emotion and personal belief.

The Oxford folk thought post-truth was especially applicable to politics.

I know more than one person who would say post-truth accurately describes
the Christian's life. They would hold that position because they believe
faith
is totally emotional and devoid of any factual information.

This is simply not true.

Yes, we receive our faith when the Holy Spirit uses the means of grace and,
yes, we have to make a blind leap of faith, but we dare not forget our faith
is also forged out on fact.

• It is not by accident Luke tells us who the rulers were when Jesus was
born.
• It is not by accident that had him tell us that He personally and
carefully investigated the events described in the Gospel that bears his
name.
• It is totally proper to say we have as much factual evidence for the life
of the Savior as we do for Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the
Great.
Indeed, we have more proof.

This is why any Christian can comfortably say the salvation story of the
Savior is not post-truth nor is it pre-truth. No, the Jesus story is God's
inspired,
unchanging whole truth, and nothing but.

THE PRAYER : Dear Lord, I give thanks for the Savior who actually and
factually gave His life so my sins might be washed away. In this New Year
may I cling
to Him. In His Name I ask it. Amen.

The story upon which this Daily Devotion is based was written by Veronica
Neffinger for Christian Headlines on November 18, 2016. The website where
the
parent article can be found is:
http://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/oxford-s-word-of-the-year-is-post-truth.html

In Christ I remain His servant and yours,

Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Lutheran Hour Ministries
Today's Bible in a Year Reading: Genesis 18-19; Matthew 6:1-18
Print this Devotion
Subscribe to this Podcast
Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin! Used by permission;
all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).

Why Do You Do What You Don’t Want to Do?
By Rick Warren

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32
NIV).

Have you ever wondered why you do what you don’t want to do? Or why it’s so
hard to do the things that you know are the right things to do?

Our sinful nature causes us to often make the wrong choice. You can probably
relate to the Apostle Paul when he says, “I don’t really understand myself,
for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate
.... So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I
want to do what is right, but I can’t”
(Romans 7:15
, 17-18 NLT, second edition).

Even after you become a believer, there’s this tension inside of you. You
have your good nature that God gave you, but you also have your old sinful
nature
that is pulling at you.

But there is a way out! Jesus promised in John 8:32 , “You will know the
truth, and the truth will set you free”
(NIV).

The secret to personal change is not willpower. It’s not a pill. It’s not a
resolution. It’s not some vow that you make. The secret to personal change
is not something you do or say.

The secret to personal change is something you know. You know the truth.
When you change the way you think, it changes the way you feel. And when you
change
the way you feel, it changes the way you act.

Behind every self-defeating act is a lie you believe. It may be a lie about
yourself, your past or future, God, or others.

Why do you do something that you know is bad for you? Because you think
there’s some kind of payoff. That’s the lie! You can only change and fulfill
God’s
purpose for your life if you start with God’s truth. If you want to change
the way you live, you have to start in your mind. You have to know and
believe
God’s truth.

When you know the truth, the truth will set you free. What you have to do is
expose and uncover the lies that you have been accepting. Some of those lies
you picked up on the playground as a kid or from TV. Some of them you picked
up from your parents or you creatively thought them up yourself. But they
are lies, and when you reject them and instead find out what God has to say,
you will experience freedom like you’ve never known.

Play today’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>

Talk It Over

• What do you think it means to know God’s truth?
• Think of the lies that have been on repeat in your head for years. Which
of God’s truths do you need to replace them with?
• What will it take for you to know God’s truth better? What changes do you
need to make in your life?
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Grace to Keep Going

Acts 15:7-11

As believers, we readily attribute our salvation
to God’s grace, but what does “this grace in which we stand” mean to us now
(Rom. 5:2)? How does it work out in everyday life, especially when we’re
going
through periods of trial or suffering?

1. The Lord’s grace releases His supernatural power within us so we can
endure life’s hardships with a godly attitude. In fact, we’ll even be able
to rejoice
in what He is doing in us through the adversity.
2. Grace builds our confidence in the sovereign Lord. Nothing looks hopeless
when we focus on Him instead of on our problems.
3. We discover the assurance of God’s sustaining presence as He walks with
us every step of the way.
4. Because we’ve experienced His care for us, we are able to show empathy
and love to others facing hard times.
5. During fiery trials, grace works to transform our character so that
others can see Jesus reflected in us.

Difficulties in life are unavoidable. So we need a daily dose of God’s grace
if we are to walk through trials with confidence that there is great reward
on the other side. If we rely on our own strength, however, obstacles will
appear insurmountable, leaving us discouraged and ready to give up.

Too often believers rely on Christ for their salvation but then try to go
solo. If God’s grace was needed to save us, then logic says we would also
need
it for the rest of our days. Only through a continuous infusion of His
sustaining power can we live a victorious Christian life.

For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please
visit
www.intouch.org .

Used with permission from In Touch Ministries, Inc. (c) 2016 All Rights
Reserved.
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Grace to Keep Going

Acts 15:7-11

As believers, we readily attribute our salvation
to God’s grace, but what does “this grace in which we stand” mean to us now
(Rom. 5:2)? How does it work out in everyday life, especially when we’re
going
through periods of trial or suffering?

1. The Lord’s grace releases His supernatural power within us so we can
endure life’s hardships with a godly attitude. In fact, we’ll even be able
to rejoice
in what He is doing in us through the adversity.
2. Grace builds our confidence in the sovereign Lord. Nothing looks hopeless
when we focus on Him instead of on our problems.
3. We discover the assurance of God’s sustaining presence as He walks with
us every step of the way.
4. Because we’ve experienced His care for us, we are able to show empathy
and love to others facing hard times.
5. During fiery trials, grace works to transform our character so that
others can see Jesus reflected in us.

Difficulties in life are unavoidable. So we need a daily dose of God’s grace
if we are to walk through trials with confidence that there is great reward
on the other side. If we rely on our own strength, however, obstacles will
appear insurmountable, leaving us discouraged and ready to give up.

Too often believers rely on Christ for their salvation but then try to go
solo. If God’s grace was needed to save us, then logic says we would also
need
it for the rest of our days. Only through a continuous infusion of His
sustaining power can we live a victorious Christian life.

For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please
visit
www.intouch.org .

Used with permission from In Touch Ministries, Inc. (c) 2016 All Rights
Reserved.
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PresbyCan Daily Devotional

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Today's Devotional

Follow Your Star

I had once given up on making New Year's resolutions, because I never kept
them. I now realize that the problem was that I had not consulted the Lord.
They were my ideas of what I should do, or what other people thought!

The image of a star comes to mind, because Epiphany, when we observe the
arrival of the wise men, is in the first week of January. When they followed
that
star, it was because the Lord had placed the goal of doing so in their
hearts.

Matthew 2:9b-11 – The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them
until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star,
they
were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother
Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their
treasures
and presented him with gifts of gold and of frankincense and of myrrh. (NIV)

We each have a star to follow as well. The Lord has placed within each one
of us hopes, dreams, and goals, but we often push these aside.

My experience has been that the quiet voice of the Spirit gets louder and
more persistent until I start listening. Even then, my response is likely to
be, "I'm busy now. I really don't want to do this" or "I am a senior; I am
past that sort of thing."

Then, I am reminded of the story of Abraham, who was told that his
ninety-year-old wife Sarah would have a son.

Genesis 18:13-14 – Then the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and
say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard
for
the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah
will have a son." (NIV)

Indeed, nothing is too hard for the Lord. We are not too old, too young, too
inadequate, if it is the Lord's idea. The Lord knows what gifts we have to
offer, and like the wise men, He will direct us to the place where we need
to give them.

Some years ago, I left a secure job because the Lord was calling me to work
in the community. I was scared because it involved becoming self-employed
and
operating with no paycheque. All my life, my greatest fear was financial
insecurity. Not only was I challenged to face that fear, but He has always
provided,
to this day. I have also had a lifelong fear of public speaking, and
although I have a good singing voice, I have been terrified when asked to do
a solo.

Once I said "yes" to the Lord, however, over a six-month period, both fears
not only disappeared, but now I also enjoy both public speaking and solo
work.
So my New Year's resolution will be to listen carefully for the Lord's
direction, then to follow my star wherever it leads. That feels sort of
scary. However,
I am determined. Why not join me in this prayer?

Prayer: Lord, I ask You to take over. Help me to listen for and hear Your
direction for my life, and to trust You, knowing that You will always be
present
to help and guide me as long as I seek to do Your will, and follow my star.
Amen.

Valerie Dunn
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Purpose Dweller Diaries

Back to Life as usual. Or is it?
By amy on Jan 05, 2017 10:50 am

Christmas break is officially over and it’s life as usual. Or is it?

We had a happy holiday. Family. Food. A trip away. No set schedule.

All is mostly well. Except that… I didn’t know how much I was dreading “life
as usual” until last night.

I woke up to a wet kiss on the cheek at 12:30 a.m. My son stood over and
startled me, mumbling something about a bad dream and it being too dark. Our
room
was terribly cold, so he started to crawl under the covers beside me.

He’s only eleven but we’re almost the same size. While the thought of a good
cuddle was tempting, I knew we both needed sound sleep to function well at
work and school.

I got out of the bed; he got in. I spent the next hour trying to go fall
back asleep in his twin size bed.

When sleep escapes me, I breathe and pray.

I had lots to pray about.

My uncle is working to recover his speech after a stroke. Another aunt just
came through back surgery a few hours earlier. Some of my friends are
struggling.
I’d received several texts from folks for whom 2017 isn’t going so well.
There are decisions and bills on the horizon. I have lots of things to
figure
out.

It was all super unsettling, but I finally slipped into sleep for a couple
hours. Then worry woke me up at 2:00 a.m.,

Hey! You can’t over sleep! You need to be in the shower by 5:00 so everyone
has hot water.
Oh, and by the way…
Don’t forget “A.”
You didn’t do “B.”
What about “C?”
There’s no time for “D.”
“E” needs to be done before you leave.
You have “F” today.
“G” and “H,” too.
Check “I.”
Call “J” back.
You forgot to email “K.”
Answer that text about “L.”

I’m not sure now, but I fell back asleep. I was up again at 3:57 a.m. The
mania kicked in for a minute, but something in me fought back,

“No! I don’t want to get up and deal with all this crap. And you can’t
make me!”

My response surprised me. “What am I, two?” I reprimanded myself.

It felt familiar though, because this list is “life as usual.”

I paused to pray, “Please help me find another way.” Thankfully, sleep
quickly came back and stayed until my alarm went off.

I pushed snooze and lay there listening- to the box fan in the hallway, to
my cat gently purring atop the covers, to my own breath.

A new thought rose up from within,

“It’s all gift… IF… I choose to see it that way.”

I ran items A-L through that filter, plus the prayers. Not in a resigned way
like, “Yes.
I know. I have so much to be grateful for- yada, yada, yada.”

But more inquisitive, like, “Wow. I hadn’t seen it that way.”

Hope flooded my limbs and not the kind I had to talk myself into having.

I often see many of my comings and goings- my life– like an open and shut
case.
Going through the motions.
Tedious at times.
Maybe even a little too predictable (read: boring) if I’m honest.

But a wave of wonder came over me this morning, and I suddenly saw…

Life as improv.

The gift of the scene and my chance to do something compelling with it.
Surprising, shocking maybe.

The plot is not permanent.

Rather Jesus hands me the story in raw form and says, “Write it like you,
live it for me.”

I put my feet on the floor at 5:08 a.m. differently. Instead of trying to
figure out how to get through the dreaded details, I decided to see each one
as an opportunity to be curious. To ask questions. To see where the day
takes me.

When handed a scene, I’m choosing to see it as a chance to create something
new.

I’m not normally big on New Year’s Resolutions. But I’m making this one
mine-

See everything as “gift” and go with it.

With curiosity, I’ll say “yes” to the scene and see where it leads me. One
scene to the next. And so on. And so forth.

Since I’m not expecting to know where the scene will go, I can detach from
the outcome. I can shrug my shoulders, and say, “Hum,” then in a tone that
rises
and falls, “Okay.” And
stay… in the mystery of it all.

This is not “life as usual,” rather it’s life as unusual.

Unusual intrigues us, draws us into the moments. Unusual takes us places we
didn’t know we would or could go before.

That’s how I want to walk out life in 2017, scene by scene, into the story
Jesus co-directs with me
Here’s to life as unusual this year. I look forward to living it with you.

Best,
amy

Recent Articles: Christmas: the thing I’m probably not supposed to say
The biggest obstacle between you and that thing you most need to do
Stressed and stretched is no way live. Let’s change it.
Screw goal setting. I’m doing this instead.
When you want to quit, it’s a sign something needs to change.
Copyright © 2017 Positive Energy LLC, All rights reserved.
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A Prayer to Keep God First This New Year
By Debbie McDaniel

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

Dear God,

Thank you that you make all things new. Thank you for all that you've
allowed into our lives this past year, the good along with the hard things,
which
have reminded us how much we need you and rely on your presence filling us
every single day.

We pray for your Spirit to lead us each step of this New Year. We ask that
you will guide our decisions and turn our hearts to deeply desire you above
all else. We ask that you will open doors needing to be opened and close the
ones needing to be shut tight. We ask that you would help us release our
grip
on the things to which you’ve said “no,” “not yet,” or “wait.” We ask for
help to pursue you first, above every dream and desire you’ve put within our
hearts.

We ask for your wisdom, for your strength and power to be constantly present
within us. We pray you would make us strong and courageous for the road
ahead.
Give us ability beyond what we feel able, let your gifts flow freely through
us, so that you would be honored by our lives, and others would be drawn to
you.

We pray that you’d keep us far from the snares and traps of temptations.
That you would whisper in our ear when we need to run, and whisper in our
heart
when we need to stand our ground.

We pray for your protection over our families and friends. We ask for your
hand to cover us and keep us distanced from the evil intent of the enemy;
that
you would be a barrier to surround us, that we’d be safe in your hands. We
pray that you would give us discernment and insight beyond our years, to
understand
your will, hear your voice, and know your ways.

We ask that you would keep our footsteps firm, on solid ground, helping us
to be consistent and faithful. Give us supernatural endurance to stay the
course,
not swerving to the right or to the left, or being too easily distracted by
other things that would seek to call us away from a close walk with you.

Forgive us for the times we have worked so hard to be self-sufficient,
forgetting our need for you, living independent of your spirit. Forgive us
for letting
fear and worry control our minds, and for allowing pride and selfishness
wreak havoc over our lives. Forgive us for not following your ways and for
living
distant from your presence.

We confess our need for you...fresh...new...again. We ask that you make all
things new, in our hearts, in our minds, in our lives, for this coming year.
We pray for your refreshing over us.

Keep your words of truth planted firm within us, help us to keep focused on
what is pure and right, give us the power to be obedient to your word. And
when the enemy reminds us where we have been, hissing his lies and attacks
our way, we trust that your voice speaks louder and stronger, as you remind
us we are safe with you and your purposes and plans will not fail. We ask
that you will be our defense and rear guard, keeping our way clear, removing
the obstacles, and covering the pitfalls. Lord, lead us on your level
ground.

We ask that you would provide for our needs, we ask for your grace and
favor. We pray for your blessings to cover us, we pray that you would help
us to
prosper and make every plan that you have birthed in our heart to succeed.
We pray that others would take notice of your goodness and could not help
but
to say, “These are the ones that the Lord has blessed.”

Help us to be known as great givers, help us to be generous and kind, help
us to look to the needs of others and not be consumed by only our own. May
we
be lovers of truth, may the fruits of your spirit be evident in our lives -
your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness,
and self-control.

Shine your light in us, through us, over us. May we make a difference in
this world, for your glory and purposes. Set you way before us. May all your
plans
succeed. We may reflect your peace and hope to a world that so desperately
needs your presence and healing.

To you be glory and honor, in this New Year, and forever.

In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

Editor’s Note: Content taken from the article, A Prayer to Keep God First
this New Year: 12 Verses of Renewal, written by Debbie McDaniel.

Today's Turning Point with David Jeremiah


Today's Turning Point
Wednesday, November 23

Wait Actively

Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and
Savior Jesus Christ.
Titus 2:13

Recommended Reading
Philippians 3:20-21
Mother to teen: “I’ll be back in an hour and then we’ll go shopping for your
shoes. While I’m gone I’d like you to clean your room, put your dirty
clothes
in the wash, and take Ruff outside for his walk. Okay?” Between the lines of
those instructions is this: “Don’t sit around and watch T.V. while you’re
waiting for me.” There is a difference between
passive and active waiting.

Listen to Today's Radio Broadcast
And that applies to the Christian life as well. We are a people in
waiting—waiting for “the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great
God and Savior.”
But Titus didn’t just write about the return of Christ (Titus 2:13), he also
wrote about what we are to do while we wait: “Denying ungodliness and
worldly
lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age”
(Titus 2:12). In other words, we are to wait
actively, not passively. Instead of being passive about loving Christ’s
return and active about loving the world, we are to be passive about loving
the
world and active about loving Christ’s return.

What does active look like? Love, service, witness, worship, good works, and
obedience. Be an active “waiter” today.

I am daily waiting for the coming of the Son of God.
George Whitefield
TURNING POINT WITH DR. DAVID JEREMIAH
David Jeremiah's Website
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A Simple Prayer

Today,
For what I am that I ought not to be,
Forgive me.
For what I am not that I ought to be,
Forgive me.
Be with my mouth in what it speaks
Be with my hands in what they do
Be with my mind in what it thinks
Be with my heart in what it feels
Work in me
...through me
...for me
...in spite of me
In the precious name of Jesus,
Amen

This Year's Motto

Continue steadfastly in prayer. - Colossians 4:2

It is interesting to consider how large a portion of the Bible
is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples,
enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible
before
we read, "People began to call upon the name of the LORD;"1 and just as we
are about to close the volume, the "Amen" of an earnest supplication meets
our
ear.

Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob--there a Daniel who
prayed three times a day--and a David who with all his heart called upon his
God. On the mountain we see Elijah; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have
multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us,
but
the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? We may be certain that
whatever God has made prominent in His Word, He intended to be conspicuous
in our
lives. If He has said much about prayer, it is because He knows we have much
need of it. So deep are our necessities that until we are in heaven we must
not cease to pray.

Do you need nothing? Then I fear you do not know your poverty. Have you no
mercy to ask of God? Then may the Lord's mercy show you your misery! A
prayerless
soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant,
the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling
asleep
in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the
honor of a Christian. If you are a child of God, you will seek your Father's
face and live in your Father's love.

Pray that this year you may be holy, humble, zealous, and patient; have
closer communion with Christ, and enter more often into the banqueting-house
of
His love. Pray that you may be an example and a blessing to others, and that
you may live more to the glory of your Master. The motto for this year must
be, "Continue . . . in prayer."

1 Genesis 4:26

Family Bible reading plan

verse 1 Ezra 2

verse 2 Acts 2

Psalms By The Day: A New Devotional Translation

A fresh translation of all 150 Psalms from biblical scholar Alec Motyer,
Psalms By The Day takes readers through a wonderful day-by-day study of the
Psalms. Translating as closely as possible to the original Hebrew language,
Dr. Motyer provides great help navigating the words given to us by the
author by providing rich historical insights into the origin and ancient
meanings
of the text. In this comprehensive, yet easy to read devotional,
Psalms By The Day is a treasure that immerses readers in the Christian life
laid out in all of its emotional dimensions.

Click here to learn more about Truth For Life

From Morning & Evening revised and edited by Alistair Begg copyright (c)
2003. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good
News
Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187,
www.crossway.org .

The Response of Adoration
By Skip Heitzig

If you as a believer had to live your life all over again, what would you do
differently? Would you pray less? Would you obey God less? Would you help
people less? I have yet to meet somebody on their deathbed who has ever said
anything close to that.

Here's my challenge to you: plan now how you're going to spend the rest of
your life--what your response to God is going to be. Because every person
responds
to God in some manner: some ignore Him, some abhor Him, and others adore
Him. Let me give you four appropriate responses out of Psalm 100 that every
follower
of God, every person who adores Him, should have: worship, serve, love, and
thank.

First, worship the Lord joyfully: "Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you
lands!... Come before His presence with singing" (vv. 1-2). I discovered no
less than eighteen times in Scripture where we are told to make a shout or
noise of joy unto the Lord. In ancient times, it was customary that if the
king
came into the presence of his subjects, they would let out a shout of
victory. It was their way of saying, "Our king is strong, and we are
victorious because
of him."Now, whenever the subject of worship is brought up, people tend to
make excuses, like "I'm not a good singer." Listen, the voice you have is
the
voice God has given you, and it's an adequate enough instrument to make a
joyful noise unto Him. When God is in your midst, if He is real to you, you
will
engage Him on some level of worship.

Second, serve Him gladly: "Serve the Lord with gladness" (v. 2). Singing
joyfully is great, but God wants more than fans; He wants followers. We
should
respond to God on some level of emotion, but we should also respond with the
motion of obeying what He says--serving Him. Spiritual maturity isn't
measured
by glorious singing as much as by glad serving. God loves a life that is
lived cheerfully for Him.

A third appropriate response to God is to love Him intelligently: "Know that
the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are
His people and the sheep of His pasture" (v. 3). The word
know means to perceive something with understanding. Your mind matters to
God (just read
Matthew 22:37 , Romans 12:2 , Hosea 4:6 , and
2 Peter 3:18 ), and in relating to Him, there are certain things He wants
you to know: His lordship, His craftsmanship, and His ownership, for
example,
as we can see in Psalm 100.

The fourth response to the Lord we should have, especially during this
season, is to thank Him consistently: "Enter into His gates with
thanksgiving, and
into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the
Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all
generations"
(vv. 4-5). Notice the psalmist gave us three reasons to thank the Lord: He's
good, He's merciful, and He's honest. Whether you've had a good week or not,
you can thank Him for His consistent character.

So, if you had to live your life all over again, what would you do
differently? And what are you going to start doing differently now? I
encourage you
to engage in all four of these things: to worship the Lord joyfully, gladly
serve Him and His people, engage your mind and learn of Him, and then
consistently
say, "Thank You, Lord, for Your mercies and Your goodness"--especially as we
go into this holiday season. There's no better time to start than now!

Copyright (c) 2016 by Connection Communications. All rights reserved.
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The Passing of Time
Monday, January 2, 2017

"A thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as
a watch in the night."
Psalm 90:4 ESV

For people in our culture, it can seem that our calendar in its present form
has been accepted throughout eternity. But many of the dates we take for
granted
were, until fairly recently, matters of controversy.

Historian Daniel Boorstin explains that, "during most of human history,"
there was "no scheme at all for dating events in one place in relation to
events
in another place." In fact, the way dates were established often was highly
divisive.

For example, beginning the new year on January 1 was a pagan practice, when
the Romans began their year. This explains "why the Church opposed
observance
of that day."

But gradually these objections were forgotten. Through the use of almanacs
and calendars, by the end of the 16th century, January 1 generally was
accepted
as beginning the "new year."

While people develop their own ways to organize time, the Bible makes clear
that God has a unique perspective. At the beginning of creation, He provided
signposts to mark time. He established days, weeks, and years to remind us
of the past, and to have His perspective on our lives. He also established a
specific calendar for His people. On His calendar, the year began on Rosh
Hashanah, celebrated annually.

At the same time, the Bible reminds us that God is beyond time. What for us
might seem like years can be as brief as a few hours to Him.

As you approach what our culture describes as a new year, pause for a
moment, and commit the future to God. Remember that He has a different
perspective
of time. "He has made everything beautiful in its time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
But His Word also reminds us that we need to be watchful, for "the days are
evil" (Ephesians 5:16).

Be careful what you do with your time.

Today's Inspiring Prayer

Father, I commit my time, talent, and treasure to You. I will invest my
resources in Your Kingdom. Help me to be faithful with everything You have
given
me. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Further Reading: Psalm 90

Unjust, Unkind, Unfair, Un-humble?

It is a bold claim we Christians make, a claim that puts us at odds with the
great majority of people on this earth. Our claim is that, by the grace of
God, we’ve got it right and they’ve got it wrong, that we know the way to be
made right with God and they do not. This grand claim is not built upon
anything
we are or anything we’ve done but solely upon who God is and what God has
done.

Some charge that this exclusive claim is unjust, unkind, unfair, un-humble.
We insist it represents reality as God has revealed it. This bold claim is
built upon several others, all of them exclusive in their own way.

One God

There is one God. This is the most foundational claim, that in all the
universe there is but one God, one supreme, uppercase God who created this
world,
owns this world, and who maintains supremacy over it. “Hear, O Israel: The
LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). There are many
competitors,
many pretenders, but they are, at best, lowercase gods, perversions of what
God created as good and very good. There is “one God and Father of all, who
is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

One Humanity

There is one humanity. This one God created one humanity. He created one man
and one woman from whom all of us are descended both physically and
spiritually.
He created these people perfect and watched as they rebelled. He created
them for fellowship with him, but saw them resist, run, alienate themselves.
We
carry their DNA in every cell of our bodies and we carry their depravity in
our every part—our bodies, souls, and minds. When it comes to our descent
and
its consequences, there is no distinction: “All have sinned and fall short
of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The one God rules in such a way that all
are accountable to him, to acknowledge him and to submit to his rule. “So
then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).
There
is one humanity, fallen into woeful futility, facing the terrible judgment
of God.

One Way

There is one way. This God has not deserted us, despite our parentage and
despite our actions. We carry inherited sin and we carry committed sin, we
carry
the burden of having alienated ourselves from God, of having committed
treason against him. Yet he offers a way to recover all that we lost. One
way. The
only way. He offers it through his Son Jesus who says, “I am the way, and
the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John
14:6). Jesus represents the path that spans the vast distance between God
and man, the road that leads from isolation to friendship. He represents the
only path, the only road, the only way.

One Mediator

There is one mediator. The separation between God and man is far too
pervasive and terrible to be solved by those who caused it. We cannot
navigate or
negotiate our way back into God’s good graces. We need someone who is
willing and able to represent us before God, to plead our case on our
behalf. Jesus
Christ is that one mediator. “For there is one God, and there is one
mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a
ransom for
all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). He
stands between the convicts and the judge to plead their case, to insist
upon
their innocence, to demand that he has already paid their ransom.

One Name

There is one name. There is, then, just one name in which salvation is to be
found. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name
under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). There
is no other name by which we can be saved other than the name of Jesus. He
is
the way, he is the mediator, he is the name, he is the one. All the benefits
he offers are ours when we plead his name, when we put our hope, our trust,
our confidence in him and him alone.

The One and Only

Is it unjust, unkind, unfair, un-humble to insist upon the exclusivity of
Jesus Christ? No, it is unjust, unkind, unfair, un-humble not to, for in
doing
so we are simply describing reality. In doing so we are offering hope.

If we are to return to God, we must go in and by and through Jesus Christ.
We must go in and by and through Jesus Christ
alone. He demands exclusivity. We cannot use Jesus to hedge our bets, adding
a little Jesus to our own efforts or to another guru or deity. We cannot use
Jesus as a preferred way while allowing others to follow their own ways,
their own paths. For Jesus is not
a way, but the way—the only way there is, the only way there ever has been,
the only way there ever will be.

The post Unjust, Unkind, Unfair, Un-humble? appeared first on Tim Challies .


25 Questions for Mary

A teacher friend of mine asked her students to make a list of questions they
would like to ask Mary. Their responses included: What was Jesus’ first
word?
Did he ever get sick? Did Jesus ever misbehave? All legitimate questions.
The fact that we can ask these questions raises an even greater one. Why did
God go so far? Why did He become a human being?

A chief reason is God wants you to know that he gets you. The Bible
says in the Book of Hebrews that he understands how you feel and has faced
what you face (4:15-16). Jesus has been through weakness and testing; he’s
experienced it all--all but the sin! So let’s walk right up to him and get
what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help!
Because of Bethlehem, you can boldly go to him!

From Because of Bethlehem

Listen to UpWords with Max Lucado at OnePlace.com
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God Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far
Tony Reinke / January 1, 2017
God Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far

John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace” is the most famous New Year’s Day hymn in
church history, first unveiled to his rural congregation on January 1, 1773.

The entire hymn is closely modeled after 1 Chronicles 17, a chapter that
speaks of King David’s past, present, and future. Newton does the same,
reflecting
on past grace, present grace, and the hope of future grace. It was a fitting
way to bring in the New Year, and it was his annual pattern.

At the start of every year, Newton set aside a day to reflect on life. He
was at one time a hardened sailor in the slave trade. He was broken and
humbled
and redeemed. And he was aware of the ongoing grace upholding his life. And
his future was completely in the hands of God’s mercy, too. Like David,
Newton
saw grace in 3D — past, present, and future.

New Year’s was a special time of reflection and worship, and the practice
was embedded into his personal disciplines. It became a hallmark of his
pastoral
work. He penned new hymns and sermons and personal letters every year to
urge his friends to take time at the unveiling of a new year to stop and
reflect
on grace. He would tell us to do the same at the start of 2017.

Past, Present, Future Grace

Newton’s most famous hymn “Amazing Grace” is the best example of this
reflection. The hymn was first unveiled in his church on New Year’s Day
(1773), and
it’s a reflection on the new year: a look back on his
past deliverances, a look around on his present deliverances, and a look
forward to his
future deliverances in Christ.

As each New Year approached, Newton patterned his thinking along this
reflective triplet.

In one letter to a friend, Newton explained the discipline,

New Years finds me employed. I compare it to a hill on the road, from the
top of which I endeavor to look back on the way that the Lord has led me
thus
far through the wilderness (past). I look around to contemplate the
difference his goodness has made between my situation, and that of thousands
of my
fellow creatures (present). I then look forward, and perceive that I am
drawing apace to my journey’s end. I shall soon be at home (future).

At the time he wrote this, John Newton, the wretched sinner, had been saved
from his sin and judgment. John Newton, the folly-prone Christian, was being
saved. And John Newton, the glorified and perfected man in Christ, would be
saved in the end.

Such confidence in grace was synonymous with his confidence in the
all-sufficient Christ.

To another friend, Newton wrote, “I hope this New Year will bring many new
blessings to you. The Lord is good. He has delivered (past) — he does
deliver
(present) — he will deliver (future). Oh, what an Altar, Atonement, Temple,
Priest! What a Sun and Shield! What a Savior and what a Shepherd have we!”

The New Year afforded Newton the reminder to meditate on the grace of
Christ.

Amazing Grace

Knowing how Newton processed the New Year — and knowing he wrote “Amazing
Grace” for a New Year’s Day service in his church — take a moment now to
read
the hymn as it originally appeared. Read it slowly, meditatively, as you
reflect on how God has delivered, is delivering, and will finally deliver
his
children.

The hymn opens with a reminder of God’s past grace:

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!

Now note the transition to God’s present grace:

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Finally, Newton concludes with confidence in God’s future grace:

The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures:
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

New Year, New Mercies

Wrote Newton in another letter to a friend, “With new years, new mercies.”

Yes, because we are in the middle of a storyline of grace, a new year brings
new anticipation of new mercies from Christ.

The new year is an opportunity to pause on the path and to stand humbly on
the hilltop of time to look back on grace received, to cherish the
sustaining
grace of God upholding us now, and to anticipate future graces yet to come
in 2017.

Will I Be Single for the Rest of My Life?
John Piper / January 1, 2017
Copyright © 2017 Desiring God, all rights reserved

Moving Forward Into the New Year
View this email in your browser

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: His going forth is
prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the
latter
and former rain unto the earth.”
Hosea 6:3

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
On this New Year’s Eve, you may be wondering what is going to happen. Years
ago, some men were on a leaky old ship in the middle of a rough and stormy
sea. One of them asked the captain, “Are we safe?” He said, “Well, the
boilers are weak and may explode at any moment. The ship is taking on water.
To
be very honest with you, we may go up, or we may go down, but at any rate,
we are going on.”

And that’s the way we are as we face this new year. Jesus may come; we may
go up. We may die, and go down and then up, but at any rate, we are going
on.

ACTION POINT:
Reflecting on this past year, allow the Holy Spirit to invade your heart,
convicting and drawing you to Himself. Ask for wisdom, courage, and faith to
continue on, whatever happens this next year!
Love Worth Finding Ministries
Copyright © 2016 Love Worth Finding Ministries, All rights reserved.
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Post  Admin on Tue 03 Jan 2017, 12:07 am

Scared

One year the youth at my church presented the musical “The Surprising
Christmas Pageant ( The Story of the Birth of Christ Told with Humor,
Mystery and Awe)” by Dennis Hartin. In this musical an angel went to Mary
and told her the message from God about her giving birth to Jesus Christ.
Then the angel went to Joseph and told him about Mary who is going to give
birth to the Messiah. When the angel appeared, both Mary and Joseph said,
“It’s an alien!” The angel then had to tell them it was not an alien but and
angel with a message from God. When the angel was finished both Mary and
Joseph said, “I would be less scared if you were an alien.” Samuel might
have thought the same thing in the following Scripture:

1 Samuel 3:10-15 (NLT)
10 And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel
replied, “Yes, your servant is listening.” 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel,
“I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. 12 I am going to carry out all
my threats against Eli and his family. 13 I have warned him continually that
judgment is coming for his family, because his sons are blaspheming God and
he hasn’t disciplined them. 14 So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his
sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.” 15 Samuel stayed in
bed until morning, then got up and opened the doors of the Tabernacle as
usual. He was afraid to tell Eli what the Lord had said to him.

This was the first time Samuel had ever heard God speaking to him. It took
god three times to get Samuel’s attention. When Eli finally figured out that
God was trying to talk to Samuel, Samuel was scared. This was a heavy load
to put on anyone.

Why don’t people listen for and to God today? You might do your duty and
read your chapter of Scripture almost every day but you don’t take time to
meditate on it and let God speak to you through it. You might spend a little
time in prayer but it is just giving God your wish list of things you want
Him to do for you. You don’t take time after your talking to allow God to
talk to you. Could it be because you are scared of what God might say to
you? You might hear God tell you to do something like God told Samuel to do
or like what God said to Moses at the burning bush. God had things for these
two people to do for Him.

When He talks to you He may have something for you to do. No matter what God
has to say, He can’t say it unless you listen. Take time to listen to God.
He may just want to say,

“I LOVE YOU!”

by Dean W. Masters

"Right on Time, Just When We Need His Grace" #84-18

Sermon Text for January 1, 2017
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 1, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2016 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Listen to The Lutheran Hour podcast online
Text: Galatians 4:4-7

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,
born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive
adoption
to sonship.

Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. Hallelujah! Amen!

A blessed, joyous New Year to you from all of us here at The Lutheran Hour!

When a new year begins, it's the right time to do some new things. Sometimes
the newness of a new year can't wait. Last New Year's Eve, a competition
labeled
as "the battle of the babies" developed in New York City. Precisely at
midnight two babies were born, rivaling each other for the title of the
first baby
of the New Year. On Long Island, a bouncing baby boy named Maxim was born.
Birth monitors confirm that at the exact same time, in the borough of
Brooklyn,
little Zayden was born, weighing in at seven pounds, one ounce. It was a
tie. No one could stop these little gifts from God from making their New
Year's
entrance into the world.

That's just how it goes sometimes. When it's time, it's time!

We've just entered 2017. Do you know what that means? Yes, later this year
the whole world will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the
Reformation.
I bet you hadn't thought about that, right? In 1517, Martin Luther, a
pastor, a monk, and professor, posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the Castle
Church
door in Wittenberg, Germany. He was calling for a serious discussion about
"getting right with God," salvation by faith in Jesus because of God's
grace.
He wanted the church to focus on the Good News of the Gospel for the people
in their communities. His small action triggered massive changes not only in
the church, but in the whole world, all as a result of unleashing the Good
News of Jesus to a new generation. It was the right time. And when it's the
right time, you can't stop it.

But what about you? Is this finally the right time for real change in your
life? What new step in life is getting ready to break through? Is it time
for
you to start something? Or is it time for you to stop something? Are you
thinking about your health or diet? Are you evaluating a habit in your life
that
needs to change right now? Has the right time come for forgiveness or
reconciliation? What is the right time in your life? Maybe you've been
waiting, watching,
and wondering. Perhaps now is the right time!

You know, there may be a real shortage of really good new news in the world
today because even the good news of our world doesn't always last. January
may seem like it brings the same old, same old. But what I want you to know
today is that God does things differently than we do. God does things much
differently than the world does too. The Bible says it clearly; He is the
One Who makes all things new in His time.

The Apostle Paul, who had a miserable old life, filled with hatred and
destruction, experienced God's renewing work at the right time. As Paul
plunged
headlong into persecuting and tormenting followers of Jesus, the risen
Savior appeared to him personally, led him out of destruction and
bitterness, and
filled him with the Holy Spirit through baptism. Paul was a brand new
person. He had a brand new outlook. He received the love and forgiveness of
Jesus
and his life was dramatically changed. Paul himself proclaimed to brand new
believers in 2 Corinthians 5: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come"
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).

Suddenly, Paul had the hope of heaven instead of the dread of another
difficult day. Right on time, Jesus brought His grace into Paul's life.

God knows all about timing; and that's why, in His Name, I ask you, "What
newness is it time for in your life?"

Over the Christmas season you celebrated God's good timing. Paul's letter to
the people in Galatia tells us what caused Christmas: "But when the fullness
of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption"
(Galatians 4:4-5).

It was the right time for Jesus to be born. God couldn't hold back anymore
as He sent His only Son into our world to make the biggest Christmas
purchase
ever. The price was high: the purpose of Christmas was that Jesus would
ultimately give His life on a cross for the forgiveness of your sins and
mine.
That gift to the world was too big to wrap: forgiveness of our sins, the
blessings of eternal life, hope that lasts forever, and a brand new future
empowered
by God's Spirit. The result was miraculous. Just as Jesus Christ was raised
from the dead, we too are raised with Him through baptism so we can walk in
newness of life just in time.

Have you been waiting for a new life, a fresh start, a brand new beginning?
Have you been yearning for help and hope? God's Word brings you the good
news
today that "now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of your
salvation"
(2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV).

The writer of the book of Hebrews calls out to you and me as the New Year
dawns. He says: "See to it...that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving
heart
that turns away from the living God...As has just been said: 'Today, if you
hear his voice, do not harden your hearts'"
(Hebrews 3:12-15 NIV).

I'm telling you directly then, in the Name of Jesus now is the right time
for you to believe. It is the right time to return to God, to repent, to ask
for His help, to let Him carry the load, to trust the risen Savior, Jesus
Christ.

I hope that you've been waiting for this time! Let it be the right time for
you. God's Word promises: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be
saved" (Romans 10:9). You don't have to solve all of life's problems or
carry
the load of responsibility for everything. You don't have to figure out
everything or know all the answers. If you're tired of weariness, your
anger, your
regrets, your failures, your struggles, let today be the day of salvation
for you. Let today be the right time to receive God's grace in your life.
Have
faith in Jesus, the One Who can handle the load, Who solved life's problems,
and Who promises to be with you always. Ask Him to be your help, your peace,
your consolation, and your salvation. It's the right time.

Sometimes you do have to wait for the right time, don't you?

The story is told of a group of women that met for Bible study. While
studying in the book of Malachi, chapter three, they came across a verse
which says:

"He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." That verse puzzled the
women and they wondered how this statement applied to the character and
nature
of God. One of the women offered to find out more about the process of
refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.

The following week, the woman called up a silversmith and made an
appointment to watch him while at work. She didn't mention anything about
the reason
for her interest, beyond curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith work, he held a piece of silver over the fire
and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold
the silver in the middle of the fire, where the flames were the hottest so
as to burn away all of the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot for what seemed
like entirely too much time; then she thought again about the verse,
"He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front
of the fire the entire time that the silver was being refined. The man said
yes, that not only did he have to sit there holding the silver, but he had
to keep his eye on it the entire time it was in the fire; too short a time,
still full of impurities; if the silver was left even a moment too long in
the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman sat silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "But how
do you know when the silver is fully refined?"

He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy--when I see my image in it."

That's right; like the silversmith has a stake in the silver's refinement,
God Himself has a stake in your life. He wants all of His blessing, His
favor,
His grace to be delivered to your life. He literally wants you to be
"recreated in His image again" as His dearly loved son or daughter! Haven't
you waited
long enough to receive this? Are you finished trying to handle life's deep
problems by yourself? Are your cares crushing you? Are you ready to live as
a blood-bought child of the Savior God?

Galatians 4; let me paraphrase it this way: "Because you are sons and
daughters, God has sent his Spirit of his Son Jesus into our hearts, so we
can cry,
'Abba! Father!' So you are no longer a slave, you're a part of the family.
And if you're a part of the family, you're an heir of God" (Galatians 4:6-7
paraphrased).

It was a just in time right time for little May Lynn. She was a newborn
brought to her first foster home in a far away Asian nation. Her parents,
her birth
parents, had abandoned her and there really wasn't any room for her in the
orphanage. And her first foster family, they merely took her in for the
money.
They neglected her, barely feeding her, not even speaking with her. But just
in time, a couple from the United States received the news that they could
adopt her.

May Lynn's 2-year anguish was over. This couple's 10-year wait was over.
They adopted one child 10 years earlier, and had been trying each year after
that
to adopt another. They saved money, they prayed, they waited, and finally,
God opened the door. It was the right time. They flew across the ocean to
pick
up their little girl and brought her home.

But just in time love even takes time too. While they were filled with joy
as a family, it didn't take long for them to realize the challenges involved
in loving little May Lynn. Her 2-year trauma in her first foster home left
her terrified of this new reality. She didn't say a word. She suffered from
a variety of illnesses. She wasn't well-nourished and had no pattern of
dependable sleep. But she was theirs. They loved her. They struggled, day by
day,
but today, little May Lynn delights in seeing her mommy and daddy with a
whole new life ahead of her; life, love, just in time.

Well, that's just a glimpse of what God has done for you through Jesus
Christ, sending His Son into this world just in time to save you and me. He
adopted
you. He made you His own. He paid the price, met the challenges, shouldered
your maladies, overcame your neglect and fear, and made you His own. You too
now have a new life by the grace of God through faith in Jesus.

So, take a hard look at the old things; the things of yesterday, without
God's grace. Are there past things that torment you, present things that
plague
you with worry, future things that fill you with anxiety? Your living Savior
will take care of it. Your life is new. It's a new chapter for you today.
Today's the day to be His own, now is the time for His freedom and salvation
by grace to be in your life.

Now is the time to live as His child, His heir; not in the bondage and
prison of your sin and guilt, but alive in His forgiveness and grace in the
freedom
that comes with following Jesus through the open door of grace, and mercy,
and peace.

And that life can be yours right now. Just like a lady I heard about who was
going through some very difficult and trying circumstances. She was
experiencing
major distress in her marriage; her job was unfulfilling and was causing her
heartache. She became so distraught over her circumstances that she just
felt
like giving up. She felt lonely, dejected, isolated. She had tried
everything, but she got nowhere. Finally she came to the point of exhaustion
and felt
that there was no way out of her terrible circumstances and she even felt
there would be no more joy in her life. Have you ever felt like that?

One day, frustrated and lonely, she just sat in her kitchen and began to
cry. Just then she noticed a small sparrow had somehow gotten into her
kitchen,
so she opened the door thinking the sparrow would simply fly out the door.
To her surprise the sparrow kept flying into the closed window that was just
above the door. She did everything she could to redirect the bird's
attention, but to no avail as it flew into the window again and again and
again. The
bird became weaker and weaker each time as it hit the glass. When the bird
got so tired that it couldn't fly, it just started to walk on the ground. As
it walked, it made its way right out the open door to freedom. When the
sparrow began to regain his strength, off he flew, free again.

It was as though God literally opened up this woman's spiritual eyes. She
realized in just about every area of her life she was behaving just like
this
sparrow. She was trying in her own way to get out of the confining
situations she was in, each time being knocked down in defeat. In reacting
harshly to
her family members - knocked down! Not giving her best at work - knocked
down! Paying back evil for evil done to her - knocked down! Saying and doing
things
that she knew were wrong - knocked down!

She finally realized that all she had to do was do just like this sparrow -
to very humbly walk in the power of God's grace and mercy and allow Him to
work out all her heartaches and difficulties and walk with Him through the
door He would open for her.

This New Year, now's the time! Like the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6, "In a
favorable time, I (the Lord) listened to you, and in a day of salvation, I
the Lord helped you." Now's the time. Look for God's gracious open doors;
don't miss what God is graciously giving you at the right time. It's the
treasure
of forgiveness. It's the blessing of a new beginning. Go to God in prayer
today even more boldly. Find a pastor, a church, reconnect with a community
of
faith and be embraced by God's love and filled with His living Word. This
New Year is the right time for you. You never know what surprises God has in
store yet for you.

In Jesus, you are no longer a slave to your own sin and helplessness. You
are God's child, an heir of everlasting life, an heir of eternal hope, an
heir
of the forgiveness of sins. You are an heir of the great blessing of sharing
the light of Jesus Christ in a dark and difficult world. You are God's
child.
It is today! Right on time, just when you need God's grace for life today
and forever. Amen.

Print this Sermon
Action in Ministry for January 1, 2017
Guest: Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and this is Action In
Ministry. As we begin the New Year, we might be pondering resolutions and
goals
for the year just ahead.

SELTZ: Mark, I know that I plan to tackle a few. One goal is to be
intentional about sharing Christ with those I encounter: friends, neighbors,
strangers,
the people around us.

ANNOUNCER: We have a booklet that we want to share with you this week. It's
titled: Live the Six: Learning to Live as an Everyday Missionary. It's about
taking the Gospel out to the streets every day and not just taking it in
while you're sitting in the church pew on Sunday.

SELTZ: Right.

ANNOUNCER: Pastor Seltz, you were a parish pastor prior to becoming Lutheran
Hour Speaker and your focus was on urban ministry.

SELTZ: That's right.

ANNOUNCER: Could you share any examples of how you performed every day
mission service outside of the regular Sunday services?

SELTZ: The goal of being a missionary, if you will, or a witness of Jesus
Christ is be yourself. Be yourself in Christ for others. Again, it's not
some
plan. It's not some program. It's just how can you be the best you that you
can be so that if others get to know you, they get to know Jesus. Now here's
one way I did it in New York City, for instance. I like pizza, how about
you?

ANNOUNCER: Sure. Yeah.

SELTZ: Okay, New York pizza on the corner, you've got to have it. I used to
go to this coffee shop and get coffee and doughnuts. Well, one of the things
we used to do in the neighborhood is we would say we're here to bless. Our
job is to bless and pray for the folks in the neighborhood and so I'd tell
people
that. I'd bring my business card and say, "I'm Pastor Seltz. Every Wednesday
we pray about the businesses in our community. I just want you to know we
pray for you. Now here's my card. If you want a specific prayer, write it on
the back and give me the card when I come see you tomorrow because I'm going
to get coffee no matter what..."

ANNOUNCER: And more pizza.

SELTZ: Right, and more pizza. But I said, "If you don't want the card, just
throw it away." Every month I would give them a new card. Every month I'd
give
them a new card. Over time, they'd start asking questions like: "Why'd you
do this? Do you really care? Do you really want to... I've got some
questions.
I've even got some prayer requests." Be yourself in Christ for others.

ANNOUNCER: And you build that relationship over time.

SELTZ: Absolutely. Absolutely.

ANNOUNCER: Yeah. Now how does God's service to us in worship prepare us for
that kind of service the rest of the week?

SELTZ: I think that's the key. People think that going to church is you
having to do something so that God will actually love you. It's the exact
opposite.
It's God coming on His terms, yes, but with His grace. So He's actually
serving you. So the whole action being in worship from a Christian point of
view
is that God comes with this incredible grace and He actually reconciles you
to Himself. He serves you back into His kingdom. That's a whole different
way
of looking at life and looking at your friends and neighbors as you serve
them like God serves you.

ANNOUNCER: People might say though, "Okay. You're a professional. You're a
pastor, so this is your job." Do you have some examples of how people
outside
of the clergy live as every day missionaries and use those opportunities?

SELTZ: Well, I've got to tell you right now, my wife's the best evangelist
of the two of us. She's way better than I am. In fact, I only get to close
the
deal when she makes friends. She's intensely interested in people and she
has this real love for people and people trust her very quickly and then
they
start to see that that's a special gift that comes from a God Who loves her
the same. One of my best examples was one day she got a ticket, and I don't
want to get into a whole thing, but she never gets tickets. My wife always
seems to be able to talk her way out of it. This time she gets the ticket
and
she goes to traffic school. Who goes to traffic school and comes back with
five new friends? And they call themselves to this day The Violators. The
Violators,
if you're listening, you know I'm what I'm talking about. These have become
our friends from all over the world, but they're our best friends and we've
had a chance to share our faith with them. In fact, every year we have The
Violators Christmas party where we sing about the good things of God.
Through
that whole process we've met friends, we've been able to share faith, we've
grown in faith together with some of those friends. It's just one of those
things. But who goes to a traffic court and comes back with new friends who
then you can share the Gospel with?

ANNOUNCER: Yeah. Yeah. Do you have examples also of ways that you've reached
people...

SELTZ: Oh, yeah.

ANNOUNCER: ...where they didn't know you were a pastor?

SELTZ: That's the thing. It's actually harder when you're a professional
because they assume you're going to tell them something. So when I'm on a
plane,
for instance, and people ask me what I do, I usually... what do you say? If
you say, "I'm a pastor," that's the end of that conversation. But I talk
about
some things and occasionally... finally when someone says, "You seem to deal
with something spiritual," I go, "Yeah. Here's a card." And I give them
Luther's
prayer; morning and evening prayer. And they start to read that and they go,
"Wow! This is pretty powerful stuff." And I go, "Yeah, actually I am a
pastor
and if there is more that you'd like to know about, I'd love to talk to you
or if not, I'd love to talk about the Lions. I think they're going to win
this
year."

ANNOUNCER: And this booklet that we're offering, Live the Six; I think it's
one you'll want to read. It will help you see your circumstances, your
opportunities,
in a whole different way. Pastor Seltz, thank you for sharing your
experiences with us today.

SELTZ: It's been my pleasure.

ANNOUNCER: And that's our Action In Ministry segment for today; to bless, to
empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others. For your free
copy
of the booklet
Live the Six
go to lutheranhour.org and click on Action in Ministry. Or call
1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316.

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for January 1, 2017
Topic: How Can I Have Hope in the New Year?

ANNOUNCER: Now Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners.
I'm Mark Eischer. Many people felt last year was very challenging for a
number
of reasons. How can we have hope for the New Year?

SELTZ: Well, Mark, first let me wish our listener and everyone a Happy
Blessed New Year.

ANNOUNCER: Happy and blessed is a good way to start the New Year.

SELTZ: Indeed it is. Sometimes it's easy to become downhearted and even
cynical about the future. The longer life goes on, Mark, the more trouble we
do
see.

ANNOUNCER: Considering all the challenges faced by the world and the
divisions within our country, we can see how people might be at a low ebb of
hope.
What answer can you give to that very real issue?

SELTZ: Well I'm not going to raise the banner of technology, new products,
political leaders, advances in medicine; I'm not even going to talk about
rallying
around our best sports teams. We do have blessings in all those areas, and
they can be wonderful things to a degree, for a time, but I'm sure our
listener
will agree that they only give temporary boosts in morale and only
short-term hope.

ANNOUNER: Right. We need something more than anything the world can dream up
or invent.

SELTZ: And that's the real and lasting hope that we find in the Bible. The
writer of Psalms 42 and 43, it gives us a key to hope for the New Year.
Listen
to what he says, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God"
(Psalms
42:5-6 NIV). The Psalmist repeats these exact words three times over the
course of these psalms. The answer to hopelessness is in our Savior, our
God,
Jesus Christ.

ANNOUNCER: Picking up two words there downcast and disturbed; that sort of
captures what we might feel at times. What does it look like to put one's
hope
in God?

SELTZ: Your question makes me think of a group of people who could have felt
very hopeless. In the book of Acts, chapter one, Jesus just ascended into
heaven. He left His followers with the promise that the Holy Spirit would
come, but He was gone. Can you imagine how they felt? Alone, uncertain,
frightened,
doubting, even hopeless maybe to a degree. What did they do? They went back
to Jerusalem, gathered together and, as the Bible says,
"They all joined constantly in prayer" (Acts 1:14 NIV).

ANNOUNCER: And that tells me that living in hope means to trust in God, pray
to Him, and wait for Him to act on His promises.

SELTZ: I love that. Isaiah 40 says it the same way, "Those who hope in the
Lord, they will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;
run
and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint" (Isaiah 40:31 NIV). The problem
is too many people, I think, are looking everywhere else for hope but here.
God's people have hope in the Lord when we wait for Him and seek Him.

ANNOUNCER: And, if our listener wants to grow in hope for the New Year, the
best place to look is at God's promises.

SELTZ: That's why, I think, the Apostle Paul's counsels us in Colossians 3.
He said: "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are
above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on
things above, not on things that are on the earth" (Colossians 3:1-2 ESV).
He
goes on to describe a life filled with the fruit of the Spirit and the love
of Christ. And then, of course, he says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in
you
richly" (vs. 16). That's a wellspring of lasting hope. It's found in the
living water God gives through His Living Word. Alone!

ANNOUNCER: Hope is not just having an optimistic outlook because everything
seems like it's going to go well. Hope is the result of trust in God even
when
things look bleak.

SELTZ: Right. Hope is born out of the fire of realizing that this world
without Jesus, it is hopeless.

ANNOUNCER: We think here of those wonderful verses from Romans, chapter 5,
where it says: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we
have
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ... And we rejoice in the hope
of the glory of God... Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings,
because
we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and
character, hope"
(Romans 5:1-5 NIV).

SELTZ: And do you know what Paul says after that? "And that hope does not
disappoint." Why, because God poured out His love into our hearts by the
Spirit.
How can our listener, and all our listeners, face the New Year with hope?
God poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Jesus gave us access
to a new place and a new outlook-one of His grace.

ANNOUNCER: And because of our living God and Savior we have every reason,
then, to hope throughout this New Year.

SELTZ: Yes we do.

ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran
Hour Ministries.
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BYE FOR NOW
By Heather Spears Kallus

Goodbye seems so final seven letters in a row,
"Bye for now" feels better this I do know.

When parting ways from this earth or simply for the day,
Bye for now is comforting - that I must say.

Bye for now provides a chance to meet again somehow,
To give or get another hug that time, it will allow.

Bye for now offers hope to all the ones we love,
That simple phrase might be a gift directly from above.

Days can feel oh so long, but years are short indeed,
Ask anyone who's lost a love "Just one more day," we plead.

All the memories in our hearts, tucked away, we keep,
Special ones leave a mark, one that's surely deep.

So, let's not say goodbye. Let's change the way we part,
Let's say, "Bye for now." It's softer on the heart.

Whether it is in a text, long e-mail, or note,
Let it be remembered bye for now is what we wrote.

Or when our time on earth has met its final date,
It's bye for now, not goodbye see you at The Gate!

Blog link:
http://sipsofsunshine.blogspot.com/2016/10/bye-for-now.html

Copyright 2016 Heather Spears Kallus. Permission is granted to send this to
others, but not for commercial purposes.

Inspiration Ministries Daily Devotion

Hiding in God
Saturday, December 31, 2016

"Rescue me from my enemies, LORD; I run to you to hide me."
Psalm 143:9 NLT

William Cushing faced a challenged. How to respond to the request of Ira
Sankey (famed for his work with evangelist Dwight Moody) for hymn to write a
special
hymn. It was 1876, and Cushing prayed, asking God to give him something that
would glorify Him. He later recalled that how words came to him as he
thought
about his life.

Cushing, who was born on this day in 1823, had spent most of his life in
ministry. But he also had experienced personal trials. He was forced to
retire
after his health declined and his wife died. Writing hymns became an outlet
to express his faith, and what he had learned from the Lord. He also looked
at these hymns as part of his worship.

As he pondered Sankey's challenge, he remembered the "many battles" he had
experienced. He expressed "the outgrowth of many tears, many heart-conflicts
and soul-yearnings, of which the world can know nothing."

In this hymn ("Hiding in God"), Cushing wrote that God had been faithful. In
the storms of life, he felt safe clinging to "the Rock that is higher than
I," and that his soul would fly to His safety when he went through
"conflicts and sorrows."

He felt weary, and knew the pain and price of sin, but knew that he could
hide in God, who was with him anytime, "in the calm of the noontide, in
sorrow's
lone hour," and "in times when temptation casts o'er me its power."

On the last day of this year, look back and remember how God has been with
you.

He promises to be with you into the future. No matter what happens in the
coming year, you can trust Him. Seek Him with your whole heart. Be at peace
and
rejoice. You can hide in Him.

Today's Inspiring Prayer

Father, thank You that You have been my Rock in the past. I commit the
future to You. I trust You. Direct my path. Give me Your wisdom. Help me to
serve
You. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Further Reading: Psalm 143

PresbyCan Daily Devotional

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Today's Devotional

Which Way To Go?

As I look out of my living room window early in the morning, I see a seagull
standing on the rooftop of the neighbour's two-story building. What is he
looking for? Another sea gull? He looks so alone, taking stock of his
domain. The ocean is just down the street, and the mountains stretch out
behind him.
It must be quite a view for him. Which way does he go?

As we stand on the brink of this new year looking into the unknown, which
way do we go? We need to pray for direction and support — or at least I do.
This
new year will bring massive changes for which I need to prepare and pray my
way through. I am expecting to move into residential care. I don't have much
energy these days, and much looks like the view from a hard rooftop. What
shall I do? What should you do?

This verse gives me some direction and hope:

Isaiah 40:31 – But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they
will
walk and not be faint. (NIV)

I can see myself up on the rooftop ready to fly off. With God leading, I
know the way that I need to go, soaring away on wings like eagles, safely
guided.

This city has a lovely beach, and the grass has often held what seemed like
thousands of birds clustered together. As I watch the seagull on the
rooftop,
I am with it in spirit. A recent culling has left him alone, for many birds
have been taken from the area. Now, those that are left need to learn what
it is like to be alone, flying off into the future.

But you and I are never totally alone. The Bible reminds us that the Lord
Jesus is leading the way into the future. Psalm 103:5 reminds us of God,
"who
satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like
the eagle's." (NIV) No matter how hard and difficult the future is, the Lord
Jesus guides us through each day, through every problem and hard decision.
Yes, Scripture reminds us that our youth is renewed like the eagle's, even
when
we look ahead with doubt and confusion. All is safely undertaken as the Lord
leads us along through every age.

Let us take our confusion to the Lord and commit this day and the new year
to Him. He will guide us through with love and joy.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as we stand on the rooftop of the new year, may we fly
straight into Your arms where we are guided and protected by You. In Your
name,
we pray. Amen.

Iris Ford
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Small Changes with Big Results Next Year
by Stephen Altrogge

There is something about goal setting that gets me fired up and excited.
Maybe it’s the prospect of doing something awesome in the upcoming year,
like
running a marathon, or reading through the entire Bible, or finally writing
that book I’ve been thinking about. Or maybe it’s the prospect of finally
kicking
those bad habits I have, like getting up too late, or regularly eating
things that will probably shorten my life in the long run. I like to set big
goals
that will challenge me.

But in the last couple of years I’ve started to notice something about
myself: Small goals coupled with faithfulness produce the biggest results.

One example: I don’t think I’ll ever run a marathon. I would like to, but I’ve
got a bad knee and I don’t have the time required to train for a marathon.
But, with God’s help, I can discipline myself to run for 20-25 minutes a
couple of times per week. Another example: I have a hard time reading
through
the entire Bible in a year. I’ve done it, but it doesn’t work particularly
well for me and my personality. But I can read the Bible and pray for 35-45
minutes most days before my day gets going. One last example: I don’t have
hours and hours to spend working on a book or a song or any other creative
project.
But I can find 20-30 minutes a couple of times a week.

I’ve started to see that seeking to be faithful in these little areas has
wonderful long term results. The more I run, the better I feel. The more
consistently
I read my Bible, the more I grow in my walk with God. The more I work on
writing, the better I become. I’ve got two small children with one on the
way,
and I’m a pastor at a church. I don’t have huge amounts of time to dedicate
to things. But I can be faithful, and God honors faithfulness, even to
little
things.

In Luke 16:10 Jesus said:

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who
is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

In Proverbs 13:4 it says:

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the
diligent is richly supplied.

Over and over scripture
emphasizes the value of diligence. God rewards diligence and faithfulness
and hard work. We probably won’t see the results immediately, but over time
we will. It’s like building a house. When you lay the first bricks, it doesn’t
look anything like a house. But as you slowly and methodically work toward
your goal, things begin to take shape.

So let me give you a few steps to take:

Okay, now it’s your turn. What little goals will you pursue this year?

Lessons from the Fog
by The Good Book Blog

By Joy Mosbarger

A few weeks ago I had an early morning meeting that required me to get up
and leave home way before it was light. As I walked out my front door, I
noticed
for the first time that not only was the world still shrouded in darkness,
but it was also shrouded in fog. This immediately brought back strong
memories
of the years I lived in California’s Central Valley where heavy fog at
certain times of the year was commonplace. And most of those memories were
not pleasant.

In fact, most of those memories involved driving, and the primary emotion
they evoked was apprehension. My first memory of driving in the fog happened
during my first year of college when the college closed down for a “fog
day.” In my naiveté, I viewed this as an opportunity to leave early for a
planned
weekend in Southern California. I soon realized the folly of my decision
when I got on the freeway and could hardly see more than a few feet in front
of
me. Eventually I developed a strategy of getting behind a big semitrailer. I
stayed just close enough so I could see its lights. If it slowed down, I
slowed
down. If it speeded up, I speeded up. If it changed lanes, I changed lanes.
Needless to say, my eyes were intensely focused on those lights.

The fog that was present on my way to my early morning meeting was not as
thick as that Central Valley fog often was. But it was thick enough that I
adopted
my strategy of keeping my eyes focused intently on the lights of the car in
front of me, my hands tightly gripping the steering wheel. In the midst of
my intense focus, a line from one of the songs that was playing on the radio
jumped out at me... “fixing our eyes on Jesus.” The connection between the
intensity of my focus on that car in front of me and the idea of fixing our
eyes on Jesus struck me immediately. That thought was followed almost
instantly
by a powerful grief that I so rarely focus as intently on Jesus as I was
focused on that car in front of me.

Hebrews 12:1-2
tells us that we should run with endurance the race of life before us with
our eyes fixed on Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith. The
Greek participle that is translated “fixing” (
aphorōntes) evokes the idea of directing close attention on one thing
without distraction and to the exclusion of anything else. Unfortunately, I
am easily
distracted. But when driving in the fog, I realized that if I took my eyes
off of that car or truck in front of me, I could miss a lane change or a
sudden
stop. Straining to look beyond that car or to see what was happening on
either side of me could result in the failure to notice a key move on the
part
of what should be the object of my attention. Fixing our eyes on Jesus
involves a decision to turn away from all else that might distract us and
gazing
intently at Jesus alone.

And the reason we are to fix our eyes on Jesus is that he is the author and
perfecter (
archēgon kai teleiōtēn) of our faith. He is the author of our faith—the
pioneer or originator. He is the one who has gone before us and provides the
only
sure example of how the life of faith is to be lived. And he is the
originator of the individual path that each of our lives of faith is
intended to follow.
In addition, Jesus is the perfecter of our faith—the one who has brought the
life of faith to a successful conclusion and makes it possible for us to do
the same.

Hebrews 12:2
indicates that this successful conclusion and one of the ultimate goals of
the life of faith is to sit down in the presence of God. Jesus has gone
before
us and was the first to attain that goal. And through Jesus, we too can
enter the presence of God. On that foggy morning a few weeks ago, I was just
trying
to get to my meeting on time and in one piece. That’s why I fixed my eyes on
that car in front of me. But during that trip I was challenged to fix my
eyes
consistently, with the same intensity and focus, on Jesus. Because my
ultimate goal is not to get to a meeting; rather it is to arrive safely in
the presence
of God. Jesus is the only one who knows the safest and best path to that
goal. And he will lead me there if I keep my eyes fixed on him.

PresbyCan Daily Devotional

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Today's Devotional

A Morning Prayer

Each morning, missionary and author, Norman Grubb, would pray a simple
prayer:

Good morning, God.
What are You up to today?
I want to be a part of it.
May I?
Thank You, God.
Amen.

For me, this short prayer is like spiritual medicine. It frames my day with
hope. It opens my expectations to possibilities beyond my finite thoughts,
my gnawing anxieties, and my gloomy uncertainties. It reminds me that God is
fully in charge of this day. God is doing something that matters, and I can
be part of His program — yes, even today. That possibility puts meaning into
my day.

Any of us can pray these words! It's a wonderful prayer. It shifts our minds
from
our agenda for God to God's agenda for us — or rather, for anyone He wishes,
anywhere, and in any way — according to His glorious, divine purposes. To
be sure, God's agenda is far grander than what we can fathom! We can expect
surprises — every day.

Jeremiah 33:3 – Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and
unsearchable things you do not know. (NIV)

I am learning to recognize God's invitations into His agenda, even through
trivial conversations. They are opportunities for His grace to shine,
perhaps
through my faltering affirmations. I've caught glimpses of God at work in my
own heart, like when He's used troubled sinners to help me grow in empathy
and mercy. He's used fretful people to remind me of my own need to grow in
faith. Recently, I witnessed God's hand through a friend's testimony, shared
casually over a cup of tea. My part was simply to listen with joy, give
praise to God, and hold my friend up in prayer.

Today, I was reminded of God's hand in the past, through reading about St.
Patrick in fifth-century Ireland. That's the very same God still working
today
— right now! God is still just as powerful, and His grand agenda is still in
place: He's still sustaining humanity, through every breath of air, every
drop of kindness. And He's still drawing the hopelessly lost into His grace,
through His miraculous work. I want to know about it, and even be part of
it!

Oh, what a privilege it is to join God in His program for today! Do you
believe that it's possible? If so, then you can boldly pray this prayer —
each
morning:

Prayer: Good morning, God. What are You up to today? I want to be a part of
it. May I? Thank You, God. Amen.

Diane Eaton
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Post  Admin on Fri 30 Dec 2016, 11:46 pm

1 Truth to Remember When Christmas is Over
Debbie McDaniel

So often this week after Christmas can seem maybe, not so festive, or
sparkly. You might be feeling like the holiday spirit came and went by too
fast.
Maybe you never did get everything done, but now that the big day is gone,
you're already vowing to make next year even more special. Messy house
calling
your name, organization of it all begging for attention, returns waiting to
be done, toys already broken, lights going out...

Or maybe loneliness still lingers,from broken relationships or loss.
Shattered pieces of life can add more pain to the hurt already there, while
in the
midst of big holiday moments. Like we’ve been forgotten. Or too deeply
wounded…

Deep breath.

His reminder today, Christmas may be over, but He never changes. Though some
days seem to have lost their shine, He's still the same.

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. On all
the big, celebration days and on all the days in between.

We still have such reason to celebrate, we still have reason for joy, today,
and every day.

For He is with us.

Don't ever doubt. His heart is for you. In the times of joy, and the times
of brokenness, through it all, He longs to give grace and pour out His love.

May His peace and joy fill your hearts and homes more than ever before, in
these days after Christmas.

Dear God,

Help us to focus on you today, remembering that the gift of Christ,
Immanuel, is our most treasured gift for the whole year through. Fill us
with your
joy and the peace of your Spirit. Direct our hearts and minds towards you.
Thank you for your reminder that both in seasons of celebration and in
seasons
of brokenness, you’re still with us. You never leave us. Thank you for your
daily Presence in our lives, that we can be assured your heart is towards
us,
your eyes are over us, and your ears are open to our prayers. Thank you that
your surround us with favor as with a shield, we are safe in your care. We
choose to press in close to you today…

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

9 Verses to Remind Us He Is with Us:

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will
rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult
over
you with loud singing.” Zep. 3:17

“Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide
me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have
I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides
you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and
my
portion forever.” Ps. 73:23-26

“For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a
shield.” Ps. 5:12

“…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt. 28:20

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Heb. 13:8

“The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting
arms.” Deut. 33:27

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the
Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
James 1:17

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will
strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right
hand.”
Is. 41:10

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to
their cry…the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are
crushed
in spirit.” Ps. 34:15,18

Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:

This Isaiah-prophesied sermon came to life in Galilee the moment Jesus
started preaching. He picked up where John left off: "Change your life.
God's kingdom
is here." (Matthew 4:17, MSG)
By Answers2Prayer
Changes

As the year rushes towards its end here in the mountains of my home, changes
are everywhere. The sunlight suddenly seems scarce. The blue skies are more
gray. The leaves have fallen and the trees are bare. The grass has gone
yellow and snow will be coming soon.

The winds have turned bitter making my coat a necessity. Inside my home it
is time for thick socks and warm sweaters. Hot soups have replaced
sandwiches
for lunch and oven roasts heat the whole house as they cook for dinner. I
look forward to reading my books with the warmth and comfort of my furry dog
napping on my feet and my purring cat sitting on my lap. Christmas carols
are playing on the radio and I find myself softly singing along. As I gaze
out
my kitchen window, though, I know that a long Winter still lies ahead of me
and that it will be months before the world warms again and I see the first
flowers of Spring.

Yet, amidst all of these bittersweet changes I am not sad. I know that all
the seasons of life have changes that we must go through. Some of them are
pleasant
and some of them are tough.

Some of them bring us instant joy and others force our souls to grow. All of
them call on us to love. It is only when we love that we can fully enjoy the
green grass and new flowers of Spring.

It is only when we love that we can overcome the darkness and cold of
Winter.

Throughout your life here you will be faced with countless changes. Know in
your heart that God is with you through them all. God loves you through them
all. God is helping you to use every single one of them to travel closer to
Heaven. Meet each new change that comes your way with a loving heart then.
Meet each new change with a soul full of compassion. Meet each new change by
loving more, learning more, caring more, giving more, and helping others
more.
Life is full of changes, but you can make them changes for the better.

Joseph J. Mazzella

Announcement:

One of the ministries connected with Answers2Prayer provides inspirational
stories
. If you have written inspirational stories and would like to share them
with others, please feel free to submit them to me. The writer of any story
published
on our site will receive proper credit. Please
submit your story to us . Thank you.

Rob Chaffart

©Copyright 2011 Answers2Prayer | Matt 10:8 "Freely you have received, freely
give."

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in
every leaf in springtime.
--Martin Luther

Okay, here's one truth that no one likes to think about too much,
particularly after watching the latest zombie flick:

Your body will decompose.

Yuck. No need to talk about this one much. Whether your body is cremated,
put in a casket, or donated to medical science ... the result will be the
same:

All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all
return. --Ecclesiastes 3:20

What happens after that? There are several very popular theories out there
(but none of them can be backed up with the
Bible ):

• Soul sleep. This is the "eternal nap" theory. The soul still exists, but
in death it goes into an unconscious snooze forever.
• Nihilism. I call this the "poof" theory. After death, the soul and spirit
just kind of evaporate and cease to exist altogether.
• Reincarnation. This is the "repeat" theory. When any living thing dies,
its soul goes into other living things – actually becoming something else
over
and over again in a never-ending cycle of life and death.

None of that sounds like a great option, in my opinion. HOWEVER, there is
definitely a flip side of the coin of death – and it's really awesome if you
know Jesus Christ personally:

Your spirit will dwell.

For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would
prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
--2 Corinthians 5:7-8

This passage reveals the heart of a godly, and yet struggling, man. Paul
says that he would prefer to be away from the body ... he would rather be
dead.
When the body dies, our spirit is freed from tangible flesh and we can be
with the Lord at home – home, where we will be alive and aware; home with
the
Father experiencing His love without distraction; home where we belong.

Paul had this in perspective – and I think it's one of the reasons he lived
such a free, focused, purpose-driven life. Yes, he knew he had good reasons
to stay. But he knew from the heart that he would be moving on to much, much
better things, and it gave him the freedom to live powerfully and fearlessly
while on earth.

Father, conform my perspective of death to the principles of Your Word.
Release my grip on physical life, which I cannot keep, so I can live freely
in
light of eternity, prioritizing my days for the things that will last
forever. Amen.

Listen to Pete, Jill & Stuart Briscoe on the Telling the Truth broadcast at
OnePlace.com
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Post  Admin on Fri 30 Dec 2016, 12:57 am

A Remarkable Advent: Day 25
By shauna on Dec 25, 2016 06:00 am

Reflection based on Luke 2:6-7 .

----------------------------------------------------------

What a precious glimpse God has preserved for us through His word.

In a few short verses He has allowed us to peer through a crack in the wall
of the stable to see just a few of the details of that night.

Imagine Joseph hovering over Jesus’ little body–quick and quiet breathing
pumping His little chest up and down.

Imagine Joseph worshiping in adoring Hebrew whispers “Yeshua.”

On this first Christmas, just moments after Jesus was born, it probably
appeared to Joseph that the long-expected Messiah had arrived at an
inappropriate
place with no fanfare or announcement at all.

But just as God has somewhat hidden from us those first moments with the New
Born King, He had hidden from Joseph many future events.

Joseph did not yet know there was a choir of angels stirring up a ruckus on
a hillside in that region.

He did not yet know a procession of musky Shepherds were hustling toward the
awkward sight of a baby in a feeding trough.

He did not yet know the blessing of Anna or Simeon or of the looming “sword”
that would pierce Mary’s soul.

He did not yet know wise men’s gifts would also agitate the paranoia of an
insane king.

He did not yet know his little family would need to flee for their lives
under a genocidal decree from that same king.

But he knew Jesus was God’s Son, born to save His people from their sins.

And for Joseph, at this moment, that was all God chose to show him.

And it was enough.

In a sense, you and I are living in that same space–between the wonder of
all God has done and all trials and glory to come.

We know about the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb. The rest He
promised is still somewhat hidden.

We do not know when we’ll hear the diagnosis, the news, or a dreaded
announcement.

We do not yet know every detail about angels, or the particulars Heaven, or
the exact implications of an eternal Kingdom.

Though we cannot fathom the extent of future hardships or blessings, we know
Jesus and He know us.

And that is enough for now.
---------------------------------------------------
Merry Christmas, Dear Friend.
I hope you have enjoyed “A Remarkable Advent: Stories of the Ordinary People
God Chose to Fulfill His Extraordinary Plan,” and the daily readings I have
posted here.
I have sure enjoyed pondering and writing about it. I hope you have been
stirred with an affection for God and His unfathomable plan. I certainly
have been.
Thank you for reading and for joining me in quiet worship of the One who
wrote the story in the first place.
Merry Christmas,
Shauna
Recent Articles:
A Remarkable Advent: Day 24
A Remarkable Advent: Day 23
A Remarkable Advent: Day 22
A Remarkable Advent: Day 21
A Remarkable Advent: Day 20
Copyright © 2016 Shauna Letellier--Rest & Relief for Ragged Souls, All
rights reserved.

PresbyCan Daily Devotional

Monday, December 26, 2016

Today's Devotional

The Everyday Christmas Gift

Matthew 2:10-11 – When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to
the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and
worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts
of gold and of incense and of myrrh. (NIV)

If there's one thing that I've learned when I am in the corral cleaning up,
whether it be summer or winter, it's to be deliberately conscious of my
step,
for the corral is fraught with perils. Brush, broken branches, rock, and
uneven ground abound. Horses and goats break down pretty much anything in
their
path, and so the landscape of the corral is ever changing. If I don't
deliberately choose to watch my step, falls and injuries can happen quickly
and easily.

As I was contemplating this thought the other day when I was out there
cleaning up, the Lord nudged me a bit farther in regard to being
deliberately conscious
of my step as His servant, each and every day. That's when the idea of the
everyday Christmas gift floated to the surface of my mind. I thought, What
if,
every day in the new year, I deliberately chose consciously to do something
nice, to give an everyday Christmas gift to someone? What if I actually put
it on my to-do list each morning and then followed through? How might such a
deliberate and conscious choice make a difference for Christ in the lives
of others?

Our world is fraught with perils. People around us are always struggling or
suffering in one way or another, and none of us always knows what they are
going through — but God does.

Therefore, I have decided that in 2017, with God as my helper, I will give
an everyday Christmas gift to someone, somewhere. Perhaps the gift will take
the shape of a letter of encouragement or a "Thinking of You" card. Perhaps
it will be a small handmade gift, or a baked item, or money. Perhaps it will
be a conscious prayer, or it could be a phone call to see how someone is
doing, or an invitation for tea — I really don't know. But God does. Because
He
does, I know that, as I pray and listen each day, the everyday Christmas
gift that He has for me to pass on to another will make a difference in
someone's
life, somewhere, for Him. For much like the wise men's gifts, they, too,
will be treasures for the King. What better gift could you or I offer to the
King
of kings and Lord of lords this Christmas season!

Prayer: Father God, thank You that each day, as Your children, we have the
best Christmas gift ever. We have the gift of Christ and all His love,
wisdom,
strength, and glory in our lives. Help us, therefore, to deliberately and
consciously choose to share Him with others every day in the coming year, as
You lead and direct us. In the wonderful name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Lynne Phipps < lynnephipps@hotmail.com >
Atlin, British Columbia, Canada

What If I Don’t Want to Sing?
Matt Damico / November 19, 2016
What If I Don’t Want to Sing?

At our church, everyone shows up ready to sing with full hearts each Sunday
morning. Nobody arrives after a tense car ride to church, or a difficult
morning
with children, or a late night of studying, or a long week of work. Everyone
is well-rested and eager to make melody to God.

Except, not really.

Each Sunday, a good portion of our churches gather for worship with genuine
anticipation for singing, praying, and hearing the word. But not everyone.
Life is too real, and the ancient fall of Genesis 3 is still too valid, to
think nobody walks into church with scars, shame, or even cold apathy.

But let’s be honest. Even the most stably enthusiastic in our gatherings
have had Sundays when we wished our hearts burned more brightly. We
experience
an inner struggle in these moments. On the one hand, we know that we should
sing because we’re at church. On the other, it’s good to be authentic and
real,
so it feels like a lie to sing when we don’t feel like it. Is it better to
be honest and silent than an audible hypocrite?

Of course, we don’t want to portray something false about ourselves.
Nevertheless, we have at least two good reasons for us to open our mouths
and lift
our voices even when we don’t feel like it.

You Have the Voice Your Neighbor Needs

People in every congregation have no voice at times. They’re not singing,
but not because they don’t want to. They’re weak and worn, and in that hour
they
can hardly speak, much less sing. Maybe it’s a young woman who can’t sing
“It Is Well” because that Sunday marks one year since her mother’s death, or
a young couple who can’t sing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” a few days after
another miscarriage.

In God’s infinite love, he has not left these people alone. Instead, he has
ordained for corporate worship to work not only vertically, but
horizontally.
In that moment, when the broken believer struggles to address God, we
remember that God has told us to address
one another with our songs (Ephesians 5:19).

When we don’t feel like singing, we have an opportunity to consider the
interests of others and count them more significant than our own
(Philippians 2:3–4).
We have the privilege, in a way, to open our mouths for the mute (Proverbs
31:8). You may not want to sing, but the person next to you, in front of
you,
or behind you may need you to sing. The sight and sound of your singing may
impress on them the truths of the gospel, or spur them to believe, with the
psalmist, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will
praise you” (Psalm 63:3).

The sight and sound of God’s people singing is a powerful, stirring
exhortation for struggling hearts to believe the truths they hear sung
around them.
The next Sunday you’re inclined to keep quiet, remember your neighbors and
sing their song.

Singing Bends Our Souls to God

Another reason to sing when we don’t feel like it is this: singing can be
the best way to start feeling like it
.

It is impossible for us to desire the right things all the time. Our wills
and affections often lag behind our knowledge. I know I should exercise
more,
but the desire is sometimes absent. I know I should pray more, but my heart
is often cold. Does that mean that when I do exercise or pray after some
self-convincing,
I’m not really exercising or praying? Of course not. It’s better to desire
everything we ought, but we need not wait to feel rightly before we act
rightly.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis articulates this with typical poignancy in
regard to loving our neighbor when the desire isn’t there:

Though natural likings should normally be encouraged, it would be quite
wrong to think that the way to become charitable is to sit trying to
manufacture
affectionate feelings. . . . The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do
not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you
did.
As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets: When you are
behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.

So it is with our singing. Let’s not wait for our hearts to burn before we
open our mouths. Opening our mouths can be an important part of kindling the
fire.

This isn’t an up-by-the-bootstraps approach to corporate worship. Lifting
your voice, when you’d rather not, can be an act of faith, believing that
God’s
word is true: “it is good to sing praises to our God” (Psalm 147:1). You may
need to pray, “O Lord, open my lips” (Psalm 51:15), but before long, don’t
be surprised to find your heart beginning to refill with thanks and praise.

Perhaps it will be this weekend. Another Sunday is coming when you will feel
a cool disinterest toward the singing of the saints. When that happens,
remember
God’s promises, remember your neighbor, and remember what a privilege it is,
and what a catalyst it can be, to sing to the one who has saved us.

Desiring God
2112 Broadway Street NE, Suite 150
Minneapolis, MN 55413

Copyright © 2016 Desiring God, all rights reserved
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Post  Admin on Wed 28 Dec 2016, 11:16 pm

One Long Extended Gift
by Chuck Swindoll

Luke 21:1-4 ; Ephesians 2:8, 9 ; Matthew 2:11

It's not too late to give some things away this Christmas. Not just on
Christmas Day, but during the days after December 25. We could call these
daily
gifts "our Christmas projects." Maybe one per day from now 'til the end of
the year. Here are thirty-two suggestions. Take your choice.

• Mend a quarrel.

• Seek out a forgotten friend.

• Dismiss suspicion.

• Write a long-overdue love note.

• Hug someone tightly and whisper, "I love you so."

• Forgive an enemy.

• Be gentle and patient with an angry person.

• Express appreciation.

• Gladden the heart of a child.

• Find the time to keep a promise.

• Make or bake something for someone else. Anonymously.

• Release a grudge.

• Listen.

• Speak kindly to a stranger.

• Enter into another's sorrow.

• Smile. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more.

• Take a walk with a friend.

• Kneel down and pat a dog.

• Read a poem or two to your mate or friend.

• Lessen your demands on others.

• Play some beautiful music during supper.

• Apologize if you were wrong.

• Talk together with the television off.

• Treat someone to an ice-cream cone.

• Do the dishes for the family.

• Pray for someone who helped you when you hurt.

• Fix breakfast for someone on Saturday morning.

• Give a soft answer even though you feel strong.

• Encourage an older person.

• Point out one thing you appreciate most about someone you work with or
live near.

• Offer to baby-sit for a weary mother.

• Give your teacher a break—be especially cooperative.

Let's make Christmas one long, extended gift of ourselves to others.
Unselfishly. Without announcement. Or obligation. Or reservation. Or
hypocrisy.

That is Christianity, isn't it?

Excerpted from Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life
, Copyright © 1983 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved
worldwide. Used by arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House.

Finding God when the World's on Fire
It's Your Ministry
Visit insight.org

Copyright © 2016 Insight for Living Ministries. All rights reserved
worldwide.

The Gift of Incarnation
December 24, 2016

Read: John 1:1-14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (v. 14)

The incarnation, in the end, is simply mystery. Even though we can never
explain the way God became a human being, poetic voices have painted with
words
that help us imagine.

The Gospel writer John says: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Charles Wesley penned: “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see.” Chris Rice wrote:
“Wrap
our injured flesh around You, / Breathe our air and walk our sod.”

The idea of God wrapping our injured flesh around himself is particularly
powerful. Jesus once said there is no greater gift than to lay down your
life
for your friends; consider how that is not only the gift of his crucifixion,
but the gift of his incarnation as well. Jesus didn’t just lay down his
earthly
life, he laid down his heavenly life for this messy world in an act of
perfect self-discipline. Scripture says Jesus learned obedience by the
things that
he suffered (Heb. 5:8), so as Advent draws to a close, ponder what suffering
may have been involved before Jesus was gently laid in that manger. May a
fresh gratitude for the incarnation dawn as we celebrate his coming.

—Amy Clemens

Prayer:
Jesus, your willingness to be wrapped in my injured flesh was a costly gift,
and I honor and love you for becoming more like me, so that I could become
more like you.

God remembers you, for you matter to Him.
Ciloa logo
December 26, 2016
Volume XVI, Issue 52
A Note of Encouragement

Send this Note to a friend.
The Hubbell image of Pismis 24-1, core of the Nebula NGC 6357

If God did that...

Many had a tough year. Things didn't go as planned. Life took an unexpected
turn. And they wonder, "Do I really matter? Has God forgotten me? Is He
there?"

Star light, star bright.

The Hubble telescope in orbit around the earth
An amazing picture by the Hubble telescope shows a huge cosmic fortress,
shaped by surrounding dust, interstellar winds, radiation, and magnetic
fields.
Light from ionized gas gives definition. And in the very center, there's a
giant star.

That star is 47,029,002,985,468,856 miles from you right now, give or take a
thousand. That's far away. In fact, 8,000 years had to pass before we could
see this picture. And what we see now is only an image from the past. But
what if God wanted us to see it?

First the star had to be formed which, according to experts, took millions
of years. But that's not enough for us to see it. The star needed a high
level
of brightness. Then it had to be in the exact location the Hubble telescope
would be scanning...8,000 years later.

What if it had all been planned?

If God wanted us to see that star, He had to do plan it a very long time
ago. But...

A man's silhouette against a night sky filled with the Milky Way
If God did that...there had to be a reason more important than sending us a
pretty picture. Perhaps there was a message for us to figure out. I haven't
forgotten you. There's hope for you yet. Do not forget me.
Maybe all three.

If God did that...then you and I are not specks on a rock floating about in
space. We are important to Him. So important that many thousands of years
ago,
He moved the heavens to create something special for us to see.

If God did that...wouldn't it be a shame if we missed it?

A very special star so long ago.

Before time...God made the heavens and earth.1 Even then, He planned to send
the One who would come to save the world.
2 For that arrival, He would make something special.

A bright and shining star on one dark night
Eons passed. A man had a vision. I see him, but not now; I behold him, but
not near. A star will come out of Jacob.3 Centuries later, God spoke.
Bethlehem, out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my
people Israel.4

Then one day, men saw a bright and shining star rising in the east.
Overjoyed, they journeyed to Bethlehem, found the promised child, and
worshiped Him
.5 The true light that gives light to everyone had come into the world.
6
A star was formed long ago. A message has lived ever since. God has not
forgotten. He is with you, even now. He formed a star and sent His Son so
you could
be His child. God did all of that and infinitely more, because...
you do matter to Him!

Take care & be God's,

Chuck
Ciloa Lawrenceville, Georgia, U.S.A. www.Ciloa.org
Ciloa is funded entirely by contributions from those wanting to share God's
encouragement with the world.
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Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You

It might be the favorite song of the Christmas season; a lullaby written to
the Christ Child many years ago in a little mountain village in Austria. You
probably know what it is. A village pastor, desperate for some music for his
Christmas Eve service since the church organ wasn't working, thanks to a
mouse
eating through parts of the organ! His composition didn't stay in that
village. It spread from the Alps around the world, and you can't have a
Christmas
season without hearing it - probably multiple times. The signature song of
celebrating Christmas, "Silent Night." Every verse ends with those beautiful
calming words, "Sleep in heavenly peace." Nice words. Not always the way it
is.

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Why We
Can't Sleep in Heavenly Peace."

While the song is directed to the baby Jesus, the idea of having that
"heavenly peace" is something for all of us. Not just to sleep in peace, but
to live
with peace in your heart. For many folks, that inner peace has been elusive
their whole life; maybe something you know all too well. There's been no
relationship,
no accomplishment, no experience, not even a religion that has given you
what your heart really desperately cries out for - lasting personal peace.
An
anchor inside that holds you steady in the most stressful, most uncertain of
times.

The Bible actually describes the condition of many a human heart I think
pretty graphically this way: "Like the tossing sea which cannot rest, whose
waves
cast up mire and mud" (Isaiah 57:20). Ever been to the ocean during a storm?
You know what that looks like. Then God uses these two words to describe any
heart without God in it, "There is no peace." No peace - the guilt of our
mistakes, the people we've hurt, the things that have hurt us, our fears
about
the future, our chronic feeling of loneliness, of lostness, of
meaninglessness. They make it hard to live in peace - to sleep in peace.

"Silent Night" is right when it refers to peace as being "heavenly peace."
It's only heaven, it's only God that can finally bring peace to the lifelong
storm in our hearts. One of the classic scriptures of Christmas suggests why
we don't have God's peace and how we can. In Isaiah 9:6, our word for today
from the Word of God, the Bible says: "Unto us a child is born, to us a son
is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." There
it is. Jesus came here to be our Prince of Peace, but you can't have His
peace
until He's your Prince.

Jesus is supposed to be governing your life. It's nice to have Jesus as a
belief, or a religion, or a security blanket. But He's the King of kings and
the Lord of lords. We've chosen to drive our own life where we want it to
go, effectively ignoring the God who made us. So Jesus may be in your
church,
but He's not in charge. He may be a compartment in your life, but He's not
in control of your life. He may be in your head, but not in your heart.

And it's only when you put your trust in Him with all your heart that your
sins are forgiven and your relationship with God finally begins. Because
heaven's
Prince went all the way to a cross to pay for your sins, to cancel what has
kept you from God and from His peace all these years. And what will keep you
from Him forever if you don't belong to Jesus. Let's get that done this
Christmas, huh?

You could belong to Jesus before this day is over. You need to reach out to
Him and give yourself to Him. And what better time than this season when He
came here to die for you? If you're ready to move from a religion to a
relationship with Jesus, if you're ready to trade the hell you deserve for
the heaven
you could never deserve, tell Jesus, "Lord, I'm Yours."

Our website is there to help you be sure you belong to Him. And I'd
encourage you to check it out whenever you can as soon as you can. It's
ANewStory.com.
I'll meet you there.

Tonight you can go to sleep forgiven and safe, with the missing part of you
no longer missing. You'll belong to Jesus. And you really can sleep in
heavenly
peace. "Merry Christmas!"

RHM Homepage RHM on Facebook RHM on Twitter RHM on YouTube RHM on
Instagram RHM on Pinterest Get RHM Email Updates
OEW Homepage OEW on Twitter Get OEW Email Updates


Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, Inc. · P.O. Box 400 · Harrison, Arkansas 72602 ·
USA

Anne Graham Lotz - Overshadowed by the Spirit
View this email in your browser

Overshadowed by the Spirit
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will
overshadow you.

Luke 1:35, NIV

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he gave her the startling
announcement that “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the
Most High
will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of
God.” When you and I place our faith in Jesus Christ and invite Him to come
live
within us, the Holy Spirit comes upon us, and the power of God overshadows
us, and the life of Jesus is born within us. We do not conceive a physical
life,
but the spiritual life of Jesus in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

It is the indwelling powerful Person of the Holy Spirit Who sets me free
from the habits of sin. But the power I possess to live a life pleasing to
God
is directly related to how much control of my life I give to the Holy
Spirit.

Blessings,
Copyright © 2016 AnGeL Ministries, All rights reserved.


Today's Turning Point with David Jeremiah
Turning Point
Thursday, December 22

True Story, Pure Joy

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.
Matthew 2:10

Recommended Reading
Luke 1:46-55
Jesus came wrapped in the swaddling clothes of joy. The words “joy” and
“rejoice” fill the original story of Christmas. The Virgin Mary exclaimed,
“My
spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). When the angel Gabriel
appeared to Zacharias, he promised, “You will have joy and gladness, and
many
will rejoice…” (Luke 1:14). When Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, she said,
“The babe leaped in my womb for joy” (Luke 1:44). When the Magi saw the
wondrous
star, “they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” (Matthew 2:10). And, of
course, the angels brought the shepherds “good tidings of great joy” (Luke
2:10).

Listen to Today's Radio Broadcast
Sometimes the emotions of Christmas are pensive and reflective, and
occasionally even sad and lonely. Those are understandable feelings as we
contemplate
an event so profound and wonderful. But don’t forget the “rejoicing” part!
This season is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus, the One who made it
possible for all of us to someday live in heaven for eternity. The
celebration of a true story should always be a source of pure joy.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!

Read-Thru-the-Bible
1 Peter 1 – 2 Peter 3

TURNING POINT WITH DR. DAVID JEREMIAH
David Jeremiah's Website
Copyright © 2015 Turning Point for God. All rights reserved.
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Eight Tiny Reindeer

At Christmas time we read and hear a lot of poems, stories and songs about
reindeer. There are those eight tiny reindeer, Rudolph the red-nosed
reindeer and the one that ran over Grandma.

Once Harold Kurtz, a missionary in the Presbyterian Church USA, spoke of
going to Siberia which is in the northern part of Russia. He visited a
reindeer herding people called Nenets. There are about 30,000 in this people
group. Harold wondered how he could let those people know of the love of God
and what Jesus Christ had done for them.

One day he saw one of the men sacrifice a reindeer to their god. He found
out this was done on a regular basis. Harold then thought of the following
Scripture from the book of Hebrews:

" Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the
true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are
continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach.
Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers,
cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? But in
these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is
impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." (
Hebrews 10:1-4, NRSV)

"But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he
sat down at the right hand of God,”" (Hebrews 10:12, NRSV)

Harold told those people about Jesus Christ giving His life. He told the
people that Jesus Christ was their reindeer. All the sacrifices they had
made were useless. There was only one sacrifice for sin and that was made by
Jesus Christ. Since Harold met with them many of the nenets have been
turning to the Lord.

We also must remember that the blood of eight tiny reindeer or millions of
animals will not pay the sin debt for us but only Jesus Christ giving His
life will if we turn to Him. Praise God we don't have to do anything to
appease God to get Him to love us. God showed his love by sending his Son to
live a human life then die on the cross, one sacrifice for sin.

At Christmas time it is nice to remember the manger but we have to leave
there and remember that Jesus came to be our sacrifice. And then to remember
that He didn't just die but rose from the dead to sit at the right hand of
God.

Prayer: Lord god, we thank You for sending your Son as a baby in a manger.
But we thank You and praise You more for sending him to be our sacrifice. In
the name of Jesus Christ who lived and died for us, Amen.

by Dean W. Masters
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PresbyCan Daily Devotional

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Today's Devotional

Immanuel

Proverbs 30:4 – Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered
the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has
established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name?
Surely you know! (NASB)

Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a
virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name
Immanuel.
(NASB)

Years ago, the pastor of my church invited a rabbi from a local synagogue to
host a traditional Passover meal for our congregation during the Easter
season.
It was an interesting experience, tasting various ritual foods, such as
matzo, bitter herbs, and charoses — a mixture of apples, nuts, and cinnamon.
Afterward,
I had a thought-provoking discussion with the rabbi regarding the Jewish
Messiah and his interpretation of some Old Testament prophecies. In
particular,
I asked him how he would explain today's verse from Isaiah. In his view, the
Hebrew word
alma, translated "virgin", should be interpreted "young maiden".

Subsequently, I researched the word alma and found that it occurs seven
times in the Old Testament. In every instance, the term implies a young girl
of
child-bearing age who is a virgin. The ancient scribes agreed with this
interpretation when they translated the Bible from Hebrew to Greek. This
manuscript,
called the Septuagint, was transcribed two hundred years before Christ;
therefore, it is an unbiased and reliable witness. But more importantly, the
event
that Isaiah described was said to be a "sign", so it had to be something
quite extraordinary.

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was born of a virgin in fulfillment of
Isaiah's prophecy. This miracle was a plan conceived by God so that the King
of
the universe could be made into the likeness of humanity without inheriting
our sinful nature. For this reason, the Babe born in Bethlehem over two
thousand
years ago can rightfully be called "Immanuel" — "God with us".

With Christmas Day fast approaching, let us take time to reflect on not only
the wonder and mystery of His incarnation, but also the amazing power of His
life, death, and resurrection. These profound truths will motivate our
hearts to praise and worship as we celebrate once again the birth of our
Saviour
and King.

Prayer: Sovereign Lord, thank You for the miracle of the virgin birth which
made it possible for You to come to this earth as one of us, yet without the
stain of sin. May our response to this mystery draw us closer to You as we
acknowledge that You are not bound by the limitations of our natural world.
Touch our lives with Your resurrection power to experience the miraculous,
while we seek to maintain a dynamic relationship with You forevermore. In
Jesus' holy name, we pray. Amen.

Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:

"This is religion pure and undefiled that you help widows and orphans in
their distress." James 1:27

By Answers2Prayer
Christmas Cards For the Brokenhearted?

I love Christmas. I haven't loved every Christmas in my life however. The
first Christmas four months after my daughter died in a car accident was a
bad
one. The Christmas before that after my husband left, that same daughter
wept as she opened presents sent from her father. That was not a good
Christmas
either. Christmas cards, movies, T.V. programs etc., all promote the perfect
family sitting down to the perfect meal after opening lovely presents. But
what about the other people--the ones who find the sting of loss even more
excruciating at Christmas next to the template of that perfect family
Christmas?
What Christmas cards are there to send those people?

I think I could make one. It would show someone with their face turned to
heaven in the shadow of the cross with the nativity scene to one side. It
would
say, "Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow because of the child
given so long ago." The inside might say, "...He has sent me to bind up the
brokenhearted..." I have been one who has been bound up with healing from
the Son of God who spoke in the temple that day. By God's mercy, I have
enjoyed
many good Christmas times since those sad ones.

The family side of Christmas is important as our emotions are more tender at
this time of year. However, deep in the heart of every Christian is the
recognition
that Christmas is not truly about a family Christmas. It is about
appreciating the tremendous gift of salvation given as God in Christ stepped
into time
at Bethlehem to accomplish our salvation. And what does one DO with this
appreciation? How do we please God during this season? Reaching out to
others,
especially when we are sorrowful, can end up being a comfort for the giver
and the receiver--a sort of two for one. They feel better and so do we. What
visit, what meal, what kindness can we give someone else to alleviate their
painful Christmas?

That's the key: thanksgiving to God and outstretched hand to others in need.
Now there's a good Christmas card sentiment. Happy or sad, may the Lord
Jesus
bless your Christmas with joyful thanksgiving of what Almighty God did to
make a way for us to be forgiven, because of that first Christmas.

"Help me Lord to comfort others this Christmas the way you have comforted
me. Then I might please you, and in doing so, find my own peace through it."
Thanks be to God. Amen

Linda Greenfield

Inisfil, Ontario, Canada
Announcement:

Christmas is such a busy time of year. Let's all make an effort to remember
the Reason for the Season, the indescribable gift that Jesus came to this
earth
that first Christmas to give us. And don't forget that the best Christmas
gift we can give back to Jesus is to make use of His gift in its entirety:
Salvation,
peace, wisdom, liberty and deliverance, healing, protection, everything!

©Copyright 2011 Answers2Prayer | Matt 10:8 "Freely you have received, freely
give."

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“For Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my
feet from falling.”
Psalm 116:8

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
I believe that the holidays are the loneliest time of the year. Everywhere
you look, people are told they’re supposed to be happy and they realize they’re
not. They see everybody else acting happy, and they feel so lonely. Just
walking down the mall can make you feel lonely.

But Jesus has said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” (Hebrews
13:5). When I’m discouraged, His presence sees me through. When I’m lonely
His
presence cheers me up. When I’m worried, His presence calms me down. And
when I am tempted, His presence will help me out.

ACTION POINT:
Write down the last portion of this devotional thought and personalize it.
Now use it as a prayer of faith and trust.
Love Worth Finding Ministries
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Inspiration Ministries Daily Devotion

Singing Praises
Monday, December 19, 2016

"Suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host
praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace
among
men with whom He is pleased.'"
Luke 2:13-14 NASB

Music seemed to pour from Charles Wesley's heart after he committed his life
to Christ. He went on to write more than 6,000 hymns. He carefully chose the
exact words he felt were appropriate, and insisted that his hymns be
reprinted "just as they are." He could become irritated when any words were
altered.
He did not want to be blamed "for the nonsense or for the doggerel of other
men."

Perhaps this helps to explain why he became so angry at his friend, and
fellow evangelist, George Whitefield. In 1739, Wesley had written a
Christmas hymn,
called, "Hark! How all the Welkin Rings." But, when Whitefield published
this song, he changed the title to "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." He also
altered
some lyrics.

Wesley was furious. He felt that Whitefield changed the meaning of his hymn.
Wesley, a stickler for scriptural detail, knew the Bible never said that
angels
sang. With Whitefield's changes, the hymn soon became widely popular. But
Wesley never sang the altered version.

We may not know that whether or not the angels actually sang to the
shepherds, but we do know that this "multitude of the heavenly host" was
"praising
God!" And we know that singing is an important way to express praise. As the
Bible says, we are to "sing unto the LORD a new song ... Sing praises unto
Him with the timbrel and harp ... Sing aloud" (Psalm 149:1-5).

This season, remember that God deserves your praise and worship. In the
words you speak, the things you do, and the songs you sing! Today, join the
angels.
Praise God! Declare His praises, in word and song! Give "glory to the
newborn King!"

Today's Inspiring Prayer

Father, I worship You and give You glory! Thank You for all that You have
done. You are worthy of all praise! I honor and exalt the name of Jesus! In
His
name. Amen.

Further Reading: Luke 2

Be a life changer!


The Gift of Prayer
December 20, 2016

Read: Luke 2:36-38

She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night
and day. (v. 37)

Although not Luke’s intention, Anna’s story leaves me feeling undone after
only three short verses because of the lukewarm faith I live. A woman of
tragic
loss draws near to God. Widowed in her youth, she has found a home and a
“husband” in the temple. She never leaves his house, but worships “with
fasting
and prayer night and day.” No wonder the God she adores hears her voice,
giving her prophetic words straight from heaven about this baby, Jesus, and
the
redemption he will bring.

Many years later, that child grows up and teaches his followers that prayer
isn’t about meaningless repetition, but meaningful connection. It’s a
connection
that sustains him, so he doesn’t just teach it, he rises early and seeks out
the “lonely places” while others are still sleeping (Luke 5:16 NIV). And he
followed Anna’s diligent example right into eternity, where Hebrews 7:25
tells us that Jesus lives to intercede night and day on behalf of those who
come
through him to the Father.

Christ’s advent opens the door for a new intimacy with God which, if we
pursue, will make us more like Anna and Jesus too: sharing conversations
with the
King that are so necessary we want to rise early, stay up late, and worship
night and day.

—Amy Clemens

Prayer:
Giver of good gifts, thank you for prayer, that gift of conversation between
the Holy and mere mortals. And thank you for Jesus, who prays for us, night
and day!

How to Deal with Disappointment in December
Kelly Needham

I prayed. I believed. I trusted. I hoped. And in the end, I was
disappointed.

This December, like many before it, God’s response to my prayers is no. No,
your son will not be home by Christmas. No, that baby in your womb will not
live. No, that
marriage
will not survive. Dashed hopes and unfulfilled longings are familiar
companions to my holiday celebrations.

I know I am not alone. This is a particularly hard time of year for many.
Because expectations are higher, we’re more easily disappointed. Traditions
remind
us of losses suffered, Setting us up for grief. For many, this month will be
as full of heartache as it is of joy.

“God, how could you be so unkind?” In my own losses, I find myself looking
with confusion toward heaven in the same way my daughters look at me when I
withhold what they ask for. Unable to see the bigger picture, my children
are easily and quickly sent into despair. If only they knew what awaits them
under the tree.

I cannot know what God knows. I cannot perceive His divine wisdom, His
eternal perspective, His profound and unsuperficial love. I know in theory.
I affirm
in mind. But my heart drags behind, slow to recognize and accept His
faithfulness and His predisposition to do good to sinners. The aches of
unfulfilled
longings are a black shroud, darkening and blurring the abundance of God’s
kindnesses present in each morning.

Deferred hope feels like coal under the tree, a confirmation that God has
passed over you to shower His blessings on someone else this Christmas.

LONG LAY THE WORLD

The people of God ought to be experts at handling disappointment.

Abraham, promised to be father of many nations, is married to a barren,
elderly woman. After God miraculously gives her a son, that son marries a
woman
who is barren for 20 years. Can you imagine how Isaac and Rebecca felt 15
years into marriage with no child? How will our family bring about many
nations
when we cannot even get pregnant? Five more years would go by before Isaac
prayed and God finally answered.

The enslaved Israelites in Egypt would have wondered if God had abandoned
them. Where is the favor of God now? We are slaves and our children are
thrown
into the nile. Miriam surely had hope as she watched her baby brother Moses
be saved from the infanticide. But it won’t be for another 80 years that he
returns to free his people. What did she think 10 years after Moses fled
from Egypt? Would he ever return? Did he forget about his family now that he
was
safe from Pharoah in the wilderness?

By the end of 2 Kings, God’s people are taken captive by King
Nebuchadnezzar. God promised to restore these exiles to their land but He
told them they
must first spend 70 years in Babylon. Many would have died before this
promised was fulfilled. How did the people feel 50 years into the exile? How
sure
did God’s promise seem when many Israelites had known no other home but
Babylon?

Rarely do the people of God get exactly what they want, when they want it,
in the way they want it. They are disappointed, left in waiting, crushed
with
grief and filled with anxiety.

And yet, amidst the hard God continues to make promises like: I will forgive
their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31 ), a ruler
shall rise up from ancient days from Bethlehem and he shall be our peace
(Micah 5
), and he shall bear our iniquities and with his wounds we are healed
(Isaiah 53
). In fact, in the very last words of the Old Testament, God promises to
send a forerunner before the Long-Expected Promise-Fulfilling Messiah:
“Behold,
I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the
LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and
the hearts of the children to their fathers...”
(Malachi 4:5-6 )

What expectation Malachi’s words bring! He’s coming! God is sending Elijah
to prepare the way. Finally!

100 years go by. Nothing.

100 more years. Nothing. And Silence.

100 more years. Nothing. Silence. And more silence.

100 more years of excruciating, nerve-wracking quiet. Has He forgotten us
forever? Maybe all His promises were just empty words the prophets said to
keep
us from despair. Surely they cannot be true. It’s been 400 years and God has
ceased to speak. Surely He’s abandoned us.

Can you imagine waiting on God to fulfill a promise He made in the 1600s?
That is the condition of God’s people when the angel Gabriel is sent on His
mission
in
Luke 1 :

“But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your
prayer
has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall
call his name John. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the
Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah,
to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children...”
Luke 1:13
, 16-17

Gabriel’s pronouncement to Zechariah breaks the silence and precedes his
more famous proclamation to the teenage virgin in Nazareth. In just a matter
of
months a baby Boy from ancient days will enter the world He made. For long
laid the world in sin and error pining, til He appeared and the soul felt
its
worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new
and glorious morn!

THE BEST MONTH FOR HEARTACHE

Of all the months to experience heartache, few of us would select December
as our chosen preference. But I’m beginning to think it’s God’s kindness
that
allows our disappointment to coincide with the celebration of the
incarnation. For it’s in this season we remember God’s faithfulness to send
a Savior.
It’s in this season we remember God’s compassion to enter our world,
becoming like us in all respects yet without sin. It’s in this season we
remember
the humility of Christ, emptying Himself and willingly choosing the form of
a servant, being born in our likeness. What better to surround our
temptations
toward despair than a thousand reminders of a faithful, compassionate, and
humble God.

We should not be surprised by hardship, as if something strange were
happening. First, we are in the company of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses,
Joshua, Gideon,
Naomi, Ruth, Hannah, Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha, Hezekiah, Jeremiah,
Isaiah, and Ezekiel. None of their lives were a breeze. All had
disappointment,
loss, years of waiting, suffering, failure, disgrace, humiliation. Secondly,
we are the followers of Jesus, a rejected and crucified Lord, who calls us
to take up our own instrument of death and follow Him. The way is not an
easy one. The people of God don’t get everything they want, when they want
it,
in the way they want it precisely because God is kind! He plans to give us
so much more than what our small, limited, and short-sighted desires set
their
affections on.

Brothers, Sisters- Do not be alarmed or surprised by heartache this month.
Grieve what ought to be grieved; cry out to God in your suffering. But also
be grateful for the provision of this season and its reminders of a
faithful, compassionate, and servant-hearted God who came to save us. A God
who longs
to give you so much more than what you want. He plans to awaken and satisfy
superior desires, and sometimes disappointment is the first step toward that
awakening.

This article originally appeared on KellyNeedham.com
. Used with permission.

Kelly Needham hopes to persuade as many people as possible that nothing
compares to simply knowing Jesus. She is married to Christian
singer/songwriter,
Jimmy Needham, whose ministry of sharing the gospel through song takes him
all over the world. After spending many years traveling with her husband as
his road manager and violinist, Kelly came off the road to be a full-time
mom to their two young daughters.

Image courtesy: Unsplash.com

Publication date: December 19, 2016
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The World's Wisdom Bows Down
by Michael Card
[Based on Matthew 2:1-12]

An ancient superstition was current
in the East, that out of Judea at this time
would come one of the rulers of the world.
Suetonius

It has been roughly two and a half years since the close of Matthew 1
. After that chapter of the story of Jesus, recorded for us in
Luke 2
, the author of Matthew takes up the thread of Jesus’ life.

It is roughly the last year of Herod the Great’s tumultuous reign. He is
sickly, dying of gonorrhea and possibly also cancer. He has spent his entire
reign
protecting his precarious throne. His appointment first came in 40 B.C.
through his patron Mark Antony. He weathered the split between Antony and
Augustus
and was able to deftly change sides and preserve his power. In time he would
build temples and name cities for Caesar, further cementing his title as
rex socius (a client king).

In the latter years of his reign, their relationship will begin to break
down. At one point Augustus said of Herod, “It is better to be Herod’s pig
than
Herod’s son,” owing to the fact that Herod had killed so many of his own but
maintained the appearance of keeping kosher. He barely survived a plot by
none other than Queen Cleopatra of Egypt to seduce and blackmail him. He
executed his beloved wife, Mariamne, and her mother, Alexandra, as well as
his
three older sons. As he lay dying in Jericho in 4 B.C., he ordered a number
of well-loved Jewish leaders to be held in the hippodrome in Jericho to be
executed upon his death so that there would be “mourning in Israel.” His
tomb in the Herodium has only recently been discovered by archaeologists.

That the magi come from the East would have been interpreted as a particular
threat. Herod had built several fortresses along his eastern borders in
anticipation
of a threat coming from Persia. Masada is the best known and most imposing
of these forts. He also constructed the fortresses known as the Herodium and
Machaerus, where John would later be beheaded by Herod’s son, Antipas.

Herod had degenerated into a sickly, spent force. Driven mad by decades of
stress, not to mention the long-term neurological effects of gonorrhea, he
was
pathologically paranoid. With this as background, we can begin to imagine
the impact the magi’s message would have had on the fragile king. The
greatest
threat he could imagine had reared its head once more, only this was a very
real threat, not an imagined one.

The bearers of the message of the newborn king represented an even greater
threat to Herod. The magi were an elite political and spiritual force that
had
exercised authority since before the time of Daniel, who was appointed as
one of their number (
Dan 2:48 ; 5:11
). They were the interpreters of dreams (
Dan 2:2 ; 4:7
) and possessors of secret knowledge of the planets and the stars (see
Esther 1:13
). Owing to the presence of the exiled Jewish community in Babylon during
the captivity, the Jewish Scriptures had become part of the magi’s vast
accumulation
of knowledge. Though the passage is not quoted, the most likely reason for
their journey was the prophecy of the wicked prophet Balaam in
Numbers 24:17 :

I see him, but not now;
I perceive him, but not near.
A star will come from Jacob,
and a scepter will arise from Israel.

The magi appear from the East, presumably with their entourage of Persian
cavalry announcing they have come to “worship” the newborn king of the Jews.
The word describing Herod’s response can also be translated “terrified,”
“troubled,” or even “intimidated.” From what we know of Herod the Great, he
most
likely experienced this entire range of emotions.

The two groups of advisers he calls together—the chief priests and the
teachers of the law—represent the two groups that will in time band together
in
an attempt to destroy the newborn king. The chief priests were primarily
Sadducees, and the teachers of the law were mostly Pharisees. It seems
common
enough knowledge, from
Micah 5:2
, that the king will be born in the city of David’s birth: Bethlehem. Just
why the magi didn’t notice the passage before we are left to wonder.

Herod’s secret meeting with them to determine the exact time of the guiding
star’s appearance is actually a ruse to allow him to calculate the age range
of the boys in Bethlehem he will order to be executed (see Mt 2:16 ). This
number also indicates the probable length of their journey, two years.

As they resumed their journey, the star reappears and guides the weary troop
to a house where the young child is waiting. Their joy at seeing the
familiar
star once more and finding the goal of their long trek is difficult for us
to imagine. What, to me, is most significant about the magi occurs in
Matthew 2:11
. There is a doubled statement: they fall to their knees and worship him.
When we take into consideration the vast knowledge base possessed by the
magi,
and the fact that they were willing to undertake such a long journey,
indicates one simple startling fact: in all their sacred wisdom, in all
their vast
learning, they had not yet found the wisdom their hearts were longing for.
Why else would they have taken such an arduous trip if not for an aching
need
to satisfy a hunger that all of the world’s wisdom had not yet satisfied?

We must rid ourselves of the notion that because there were three gifts,
there must have been only three magi. Perhaps there were dozens of them.
Gold
is a gift for kings. Frankincense was the only incense allowed on the altar
in the temple (
Ex 30:9 , 34-38
). Myrrh was primarily used as a perfume but also in the process of
embalming (
Jn 19:39
). They were the perfect gifts for a king who was also a priest who had come
to die.

The simple fact that they worshiped the toddler king indicates that in him
they apparently found all they had been looking for. This wordless one, who
was the Word, was at the same time the wisdom of God. The wisest men in the
world recognize it and fall to their knees.

The Persian dreamers are warned by one final dream to go home by another
route, to avoid the insane Herod, who by this time was surely furious.

2Q== Taken from Matthew: The Gospel of Identity
by Michael Card. Copyright(c) 2013 by Michael Card. Used by permission of
InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

Matthew writes his Gospel to help his readers define their new identity as
followers of Jesus the Messiah. Michael Card unpacks how Matthew’s emphasis
on fulfillment confirms their Jewish connection to the Torah, while his
focus on the kingdom helps them understand their new identities in Christ.
Matthew
presents this process of redefinition as an exercise of the imagination, in
which Jesus reshapes who we are in light of who he is.

KenBible.com

New Post on KenBible.com - Christmas Is Past, Present, and Future
----------------------------------------------------------

Christmas Is Past, Present, and Future

Posted: 18 Dec 2016 09:55 PM PST

Christmas is more than just a celebration of a past event,
however wonderful or important.
The God who came to us as an infant still comes to us
personally,
gently,
quietly,
now as then.
He still comes to us as marvelous, mysterious Life,
drawing us toward Himself.

He is still the Light in every dark place,
the Star shining from the bottomless blackness,
the fresh glow in every dingy stable.

He still invites the magi and the shepherds,
the highest and lowest of people.
He still comes in stunning humility,
yet in unearthly glory.
He is still awe-inspiring in
His transcendence and
His simplicity.

The God who came
is still coming.

And He is coming again.
As before, He will come
unexpectedly,
after a seemingly endless wait, and
at just the right time.
But this time, He will come,
not quietly,
but with sound of a trumpet;
not simply,
but with all of heaven’s angels;
not in a dark corner,
but where every eye will see Him.
He will come,
not as a helpless infant,
but as sovereign Lord and Judge of all.

The God who came
is coming and
will come again
in love,
to save completely all who will receive Him.

Hidden in the Wrappings"
December 20, 2016
(Zechariah said) "that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand
of all who hate us" (Luke 1:71).
Read Luke 1:71-75.

Scattered among my Christmas memories are some dark clouds. Several
Christmases saw cancer and death stalking our family. One year it hovered
over my wife's
father; several years later it was my mother. That terrible enemy cast a
shadow over everything, attempting to swallow up our joy, peace and light.

Of course, it doesn't take as formidable an enemy as death to suck the joy
out of Christmas. The nagging problems of poor health, strained
relationships,
or financial struggles are more than enough. That's why I love the third
stanza of "It Came upon the Midnight Clear."

"All you, beneath your heavy load, by care and guilt bent low
Who toil along a dreary way, with painful steps and slow:
Look up, for golden is the hour, come swiftly on the wing,
The Prince was born to bring you peace, of Him the angels sing."

Zechariah carried that same thought as he praised God for sending His Son to
visit and redeem His people, "that we should be saved from our enemies and
from the hand of all who hate us."

The truth is we do have great and powerful enemies who are out to get us.
Satan tempted our first parents to sin. That sin led to God's condemnation
and
resulted in death and hell. But God did not abandon us to their heartless
hands. He sent His own all-powerful Son to rescue us.

Come back around for the Lenten devotions this coming spring. Then you will
see Zechariah's prophecy unfold, as Jesus shows His great strength, against
all of these bitter enemies.

THE PRAYER: Gracious Father, we are surrounded by powerful enemies who would
destroy us, but You sent Your Son to win our salvation by His perfect life,
innocent suffering and death and powerful resurrection. Keep us safe in this
faith until His return. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Today's Bible in a Year Reading: Esther 1-2; Matthew 1; Luke 3
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rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).

Change Their World. Change Yours.
This Changes Everything.
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Why Christmas?
by Ron Edmondson

But your iniquities have separated you from your God, your sins have hidden
His face from you, so that He will not hear. (
Isaiah 59:2 NIV)

Why do we need Christmas? Have you ever thought about that question?
Probably not! If the truth be known, you, like me, are just so busy “doing”
Christmas,
and enjoying it too, that you haven’t stopped to consider the reason for the
celebration.

Now, I am not talking about the “reason for the season.” You have no doubt
seen and heard that. People have been wearing pins with that on it for two
weeks
and you know that it is to celebrate the birth of a Savior, but why did He
need to be born?

Here’s why (and, please, don’t miss this point this Christmas season): We
need Christmas because without it we are going to Hell! Now you’re thinking,
“What does Hell have to do with Christmas?”.

Without Christmas, without the baby in a manger, the virgin birth, the
shepherds in the field at night, the presents wrapped, the bills to be paid,
the
parties to attend, the expanded waistline…. Okay… you get the idea… without
all the neat things that make Christmas what Christmas is, we would be
eternally
lost. See, all of us are lost, without hope, because we all have sin in our
life. We are born into sin and can do nothing to rid ourselves of the sin
habit.

God is Holy, as you know, and so He cannot tolerate any sin. None! He will
not hear us through our sin, and so, if we remain in our sin, we remain
forever
separated from God.

But then there is Christmas, Praise God! Jesus did come on that dark night
some 2000 years ago! He came so that through Him we can be saved, completely
forgiven of our sins, and enter the presence of a Holy God!

There is a Christmas! We need Christmas! Thank God for Christmas today!

A Remarkable Advent: Day 18
By shauna on Dec 18, 2016 06:00 am

Reflection based on Matthew 1:24 .

----------------------------------------------------------

How many questions must have kept Mary wondering at night? Would she be a
single mother to God’s son? What would Joseph do?

With so much uncertainty in front of her, she undoubtedly placed her life,
and the life inside her, in God’s hands every night. The best confirmation
that
she had not made the entire thing up was the fluttering and stretching in
her tummy which proved God had spoken. He had done what He’d said, and it
was
Mary’s job to trust Him to continue to work His wonders no matter where they
led her.

Mary surely knew the Psalm, “ Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to
my path
.” When Joseph, by some means, communicated that God had given the word,
“Don’t be afraid to marry her,” it must have been a great light of relief to
Mary’s
uncertainty. It was as if God’s grace was shining a little lamp on just the
next step of her journey, showing how He would continue to care for her and
His son.

In our bright world blinding, blinking lights are never far away. When we
think of God’s word being a light to our path, we hope for sunlight, street
lights,
head lights, or spotlights. We want piercing brightness that shines far into
the distance so we can see what’s up ahead.

So we know the dangers.

So we can see where the road turns and where it ends.

But God doesn’t promise floodlights blazing into the uncertain darkness. If
we could see all the obstacles at once, we’d be tempted to wriggle free of
our Father’s tender grasp and run ahead or run away.

To make sure it’s easier for us to keep our trembling hand in His, He’s
given His word as a lamp, lighting just the next step at our feet.

We do well to stay close to Him, listening for His words of caution and
direction. He sees the whole way to the end, even if we can’t. He’s told us
where
He’s going. He’s bringing us along with Him, and He knows how to get there,
because actually, He
is the way.
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rights reserved.

One Thing God Wants You to Remember at Christmas
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these
is love
(1 Corinthians 13:13
NIV).

Friend to Friend

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s easy to get so busy with the
cooking, decorating and shopping that we forget why we’re doing all this in
the
first place. Sometimes, the very people we love get lost in the hustle and
bustle of packed schedules, holiday parties, and Christmas musicals.

Several years ago I wrote a Christmas version of 1 Corinthians 13
to help me keep my focus on what Paul deemed most important of all...love.
As part of our family tradition, I pull it out and post it somewhere in our
home as a reminder of what’s really important during the holiday season. And
since you are now part of the family, I’m pulling it out for you.

1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Style

(c)By Sharon Jaynes

If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of
twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family,
I’m just
another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at
mealtime, but
do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that
I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend
a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not
focus
on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and
table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices
in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures
all things.

Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf
clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure.

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, on that starry night
in Bethlehem. I am still amazed at Your great love for me. May I never lose
sight of the true meaning of Christmas, but celebrate Jesus’ birth with joy!
Help me to give as You gave--with love.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn

What are some ways that you can make sure to love your family well this
holiday season?

Are there any activities that you need to eliminate from your busy schedule
in order to alleviate over commitment? If so, what are they?

More from the Girlfriends

It is hard not to get caught up in the pre-Christmas swirl of activity and
lose focus on what’s really important. If you would like ways to keep Jesus
the focus of your holiday season, check out my book,
Celebrating a Christ-centered Christmas: Ideas from A-Z
. It’s packed with helpful ideas and inspiration. And what could be better
than giving the gift of prayer? For you married gals, check out
Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe.

Seeking God?
GirlfriendsInGod.com
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Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:
"They'll see that you take care of the poor, that you take care of poor
people in trouble, Provide a warm, dry place in bad weather, provide a cool
place
when it's hot. Brutal oppressors are like a winter blizzard " (Isaiah 25:4,
MSG)

By Answers2Prayer
Warm Socks on a Winter's Day

When I was a boy the one Christmas present me and my brothers never wanted
but always got was socks. Every year under the tree there would be a package
of thick, white tube socks for each of us. They were always quickly stuffed
in a drawer and forgotten about while we played with our real presents and
enjoyed Christmas day.

In time, however, the lights were taken down, the Christmas tree was thrown
out, and only Winter was left. It was during the cold, dark, long, snowy
Winter
months that those socks began to take on a new importance. On those bitter,
windy mornings in January me and my brothers would be huddled by the stove
in my Nana's drafty old house hopping around while we pulled on those thick
socks to warm our icy toes. Nothing felt better than feeling them thaw our
frozen feet. It was then that I was thankful to Mom and Dad for spending
what little money they had on not just what we wanted but also on what we
needed.

As I sit here 40 years in the future on a cold, Winter's day with warm socks
on my feet I can still smile back on those childhood days so full of simple
joys. I realize too that my Mom and Dad provided not just warm socks for my
feet but warm socks for my soul as well. In this often cold world they
showed
me the warmth of love. They showed me that giving is better than getting.
They showed me that hard work can fill the heart as well as the wallet. They
showed me that laughter and smiles are more valuable than stocks and bonds.
They showed me that what is important isn't what you accumulate in this
world
but what you take with you into the next.

May all of your days be full of warm socks and warm hearts. May they be full
of smiles, laughter, kindness, goodness, peace and joy. May they be full of
God's love for you and your love for others. May they feel like Summer even
in the midst of Winter.

Joseph J. Mazzella
Announcement:
Do you know someone who is not saved? Are you not sure how to approach this
individual? Why don't you encourage that person to
subscribe to our newsletter
and watch the Lord work on that individual via our newsletter? Doors will be
opened and you will receive the opportunity to share Jesus with that person.

©Copyright 2011 Answers2Prayer | Matt 10:8 "Freely you have received, freely
give."

"First Words"
December 19, 2016
(Zechariah said) "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and
redeemed His people" (Luke 1:68).
Read Luke 1:67-70.

As a child I had no problem going to church Christmas Eve, because I knew
the presents wouldn't come before midnight. My problem came Christmas
morning,
after opening our presents and playing with them, then to have to go to
church again. Obviously, at that time presents were the biggest part of
Christmas
to me.

Did Zechariah have that same problem? After all, he had been silent nine
months, and finally got his speech back. If it was you, what is the first
thing
you would talk about? Wouldn't it be your child -- the one you had waited
and prayed about for so long?

But Zechariah said nothing about his child; all he could talk about was that
other Child, who stayed in his household the last three months -- the Baby
still growing in Mary's womb. Zechariah shared his wife's amazement at how
God has come to visit His people, and this visit is not the way an angel
appears
and then leaves. Instead, God remains, becoming one of us, ready to spend a
lifetime living with us.

But there's even more to the story. Not only has the Christ Child come to
live with us, He has come to redeem or ransom us -- to buy us back from our
slavery
to sin, death and hell. Zechariah spoke of the ransom payment that still lay
more than 30 years in the future. It was then when Jesus would be nailed to
a cross, on a hill outside of Jerusalem. It is there that He will give His
life to free us from God's wrath and the eternal punishment of hell that we
deserve.

THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, Christmas is about far more than presents,
decorations and parties. It is about Your Son coming into our world to buy
us back
with His own life, death and resurrection. Fill my mouth with praise to You.
In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Today's Bible in a Year Reading: Ezra 5-7; Revelation 11
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Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You
----------------------------------------------------------
That particular Christmas I saw something I would not soon forget. I was
visiting a theme park that has a wonderful Christmas festival, including a
service
in their old log chapel. We sang some of the old carols and then there was a
short time when we had our eyes closed in prayer. As I opened my eyes, I
noticed
that someone had slipped in to the old wooden bench across from me - Santa
Claus. Yep, there he was red suit, real white hair, real white beard -
except
for his Santa hat which he had removed to pray. There was Santa Claus, eyes
closed and head bowed on his folded hands praying. Look, I've seen a lot of
Santas. I've never seen one praying before. As I visited with him
afterwards, he told me how he tried to remind each boy and girl who sat on
his lap of
the Savior who came on Christmas to die for us. That's one amazing Santa!

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Even
Santa Knows."

In this memorable Christmas encounter, even Santa knew what Christmas is
for. Christmas is the time to be telling people about Jesus. Yes, Santa and
shopping
and social demands can monopolize this season and marginalize Jesus, but
it's when we celebrate His birthday. And it's the time of year when the
hearts
of the lost people you know are softer toward Jesus and more aware of Jesus
than any other time of the year.

Christmas has been time to tell about Jesus since the day He arrived on
earth. The shepherds must have understood that when the angels said this was
"good
news" and it was "for all the people" (Luke 2:10), that it was up to them to
tell the news. In Luke 2:16-18, our word for today from the Word of God, the
Bible says, "They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who
was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word
concerning
what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed."

It was clear from day one of Jesus on earth. When you've met Jesus, you're
supposed to tell about Jesus. There's some research that shows that up to
90%
of those who know Jesus never tell anyone about Jesus. Now, they live a good
Christian life and that's important because it shows the difference Jesus
makes. But someone could watch you for the next fifty years and they're not
going to figure this out. They're not going to say, "Oh, you know, Charlie
is such a nice guy. I'll bet Jesus died on the cross for my sins." They're
not going to figure that out! You have to tell them! From the shepherds to
the
Santa in the chapel, Christmas has been the time to tell what you know about
Jesus.

The shepherds weren't trained, professional God-salesmen. They were, at
best, everyday guys with an extraordinary story to tell, and that's who you
are.
And they'll listen to you like they listened to the shepherds because you're
an ordinary person like the lost people you know. Your ordinariness is your
best qualification to be the one to tell them about Jesus. And you have the
information on which their eternity depends. Silence is a sin that could
cost
them heaven.

Take advantage of this season when Jesus is more on people's minds than any
other time. Write that letter to someone you love, thanking them for what
they
mean to you and telling them what Jesus has done for you. Have those lost
neighbors or friends over, and pray for open doors to speak about your
personal
relationship with Jesus Christ.

Give something special to people in your world - something nice that helps
point them to Jesus. Be intentional about sharing Jesus in these days before
Christmas. It may be the best - and in some cases, the last - opportunity
you will have with some of those people. And there is no greater gift you
could
give to your Savior this Christmas than the life of someone He died for!

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, Inc. · P.O. Box 400 · Harrison, Arkansas 72602 ·
USA
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The Best Christmas

The Christmas party was over. Several of the men were sitting at a table
reminiscing about the Christmas days of their childhood. The conversation
turned
to the best Christmas of their lives. As they went around the table, they
noticed one man hadn't said anything. They asked, "Come on.. Frank, What was
your best Christmas?"

Frank said, "The best Christmas I ever had was when I didn't even get a
present." The others were surprised. They had to hear the story. Frank began
to
talk.. "I grew up in New York. It was the great depression and we were poor.
My Mother had died when I was just eight years old. My Dad had a job but he
only worked two or three days a week and that was considered good. We lived
in a walk up and we just barely had enough food and clothes. I was a kid and
didn't really notice."

"My Dad was a proud man. He had one suit. He would wear that suit to work.
When he came home, he would take off the jacket and sit in his chair still
wearing his shirt, tie and his vest. He had this big old pocket watch that
had been given to him by my mother. He would sit in his chair, the chain
from
watch hanging out, connected to the fob in his vest buttonhole. That watch
was his proudest possession. Sometimes, I would see him, just sitting there,
looking at his precious watch. I bet he was thinking of my mother."

"One year, I was about twelve, chemistry sets were the big thing. They cost
two dollars. That was big money but every kid wanted a chemistry set
including
me. I began to pester my Dad about it a month or so before Christmas. You
know, I made all the same kid promises. I would be good. I would do my
chores.
I wouldn't ask for anything else again. My dad would just say, 'We'll see.."

"Three days before Christmas he took me to the carts. There was this area
where all the small merchants keep their street carts. They would undersell
the
stores and you could get a good buy. He would take me to a cart and pick out
some little toy. "Son, would like something like this?" I, of course, would
tell him, 'No, I want a chemistry set.' We tramped to nearly every cart and
him showing me some toy car or toy gun, and me refusing it. I never thought
that he didn't have the money to buy a chemistry set. Finally, he said, we
better go home and come back the next day."

"All the way home, I pouted and whined about the chemistry set. I repeated
the promises. I said I didn't care if I never got another present. I had to
have that chemistry set. I know now that my Dad felt guilty about not being
able to give me more. He probably thought he was a failure as a Father and
I think he blamed himself for my mother's death. As we were walking up the
stairs, he told me, that he would see what he could do about getting me the
chemistry set. That night I couldn't even sleep. I could see myself
inventing some new material. I could see the New York Times.. 'Boy wins
Nobel Prize!"

"The next day after work, my Dad took me back to the carts. On the way, I
remember, he bought a loaf of bread, he was carrying it under his arm. We
came
to first cart and he told me to pick out the set I wanted They were all
alike, but went through them, like I was choosing a diamond. I found the
right
one and I almost yelled. 'This one.. Dad!'"

"I can still see him, reaching into his pant's pocket, to get the money. As
he pulled the two dollars out, one fluttered to the ground, he bent over to
pick it up and as he did, the chain fell out of his vest. The chain swung
back and forth. 'No watch.' In a flash, I realized that my Dad had sold his
watch.
He sold his most precious possession to buy me a chemistry set. He sold his
watch, the last thing my mother had given him, to buy me a chemistry set."

"I grabbed his arms and I yelled, 'No.' I had never grabbed my Dad before
and I certainly had never yelled at him. I can see him, looking at me, a
strange
look on his face. 'No, Dad, you don't have to buy me anything.' The tears
were burning in my eyes. 'Dad, I know you love me.' We walked away from the
cart
and I remember my Dad holding my hand all the way home."

Frank looked at the men. "You know, there isn't enough money in the world to
buy that moment. You see, at that moment, I knew that my Dad loved me more
than anything in the world."

That is the way that God loves us. He didn't just say it. He showed it. He
gave the most precious thing anyone could give. He gave His Son. John 3:16,
says, "For God so loved the world (you and me) that he gave his only
begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have
everlasting
life."

He gave His Son, Jesus, That you and I might have everlasting life. If you
haven't accepted that great gift.. Accept it now.. Just ask him to forgive
you
of your sins and to come into your heart and be your Lord and Savior. It is
that easy to receive the greatest gift ever given.

Author Unknown

A Remarkable Advent: Day 16
By shauna on Dec 16, 2016 06:00 am

Reflection based on Matthew 1:19 .

----------------------------------------------------------

We’re told that Joseph was righteous. He wasn’t a perfect human, but his
life was characterized by seeking obedience to God. And for his
righteousness
and waiting, he was rewarded with an announcement of what appeared to be
scandalous infidelity.

His girl was pregnant.

According to God’s laws, which he tried to obey, marrying an unfaithful
woman would make him unfaithful too. So to avoid further disgracing his
family
and his bride, he meant to break it off quietly.

He’d swallow the embarrassment, follow God’s law, and endure a heartbreaking
obedience–a disturbing reversal that would not go unnoticed.

But in the face of what appeared to be an epic betrayal, Joseph was anchored
by God’s word and carried along by God’s compassion. It would have been
inconsistent
with his upright character to cast Mary, vulnerable as she was, into the
public eye to be the subject of a hundred disgusted dinnertime
conversations.

But no matter how quietly it was done, in a small town like Nazareth, the
whispers would be loud.

Difficult obedience sometimes appears to make a mess of things.

In that same synagogue in Nazareth where Joseph was headed to quietly obey
God, just 30 short years later, Jesus would stand and read from Isaiah. He
would
announce that He himself was the Promised One who would give a crown of
beauty in exchange for the ashes of grief, and the oil of gladness in
exchange
for mourning. And his obedience would also make a mess of things there in
his home town.

Sometimes God’s blessings begin in the most unlikely and unwanted ways.
Ruinous circumstances. Life-altering events. People who upend our lives. And
none
of it feels like blessing at the outset.

With the ashes of well-laid-plans scattered at our feet, we may be inclined
to run away from the mess or shake our fists at God for ruining our plans.

But our job is not to reassemble the pieces. Our job is to do what He asks.
We can present to God the unmet expectations, the betrayal, the sadness, and
the whole slew of emotional debris, and let Him do what He does best.

In the middle of a smoldering mess, God can exchange a crown of beauty for
the ashes of grief, for those who seek to obey even while standing in a heap
of broken beginnings.
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A Remarkable Advent: Day 15
A Remarkable Advent: Day 14
A Remarkable Advent: Day 13
A Remarkable Advent: Day 12
A Remarkable Advent: Day 11

Copyright © 2016 Shauna Letellier--Rest & Relief for Ragged Souls, All
rights reserved.

Will the Darkness Win?

December 16

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

>John 1:5

Every single person, at some point in his or her life, goes through a time
of darkness. Whether it be a darkness of failure, darkness of sin, or the
darkness
of sorrow, there’s no escaping the fact that darkness is all around us. This
darkness causes many to wonder, “Will the darkness win? Will evil prevail?”

The answer to that question was given over 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ
was born into the world. To many in that day, it looked like the darkness
was going to win. And while most people were afraid of the darkness of
oppression by the Roman Empire, Jesus opened their eyes to the reality of
something
even darker... the darkness of their own sin.

But in the midst of that darkness, God sent Jesus into the world to shine a
great light... a light so bright and so overwhelming that those who
experienced
it were forever changed.

God sent a bold answer all those years ago that while the darkness may
sometimes seem overwhelming, goodness will ultimately triumph over evil.
Jesus was
the light of the world, and whoever believes in Him already has victory over
sin and death. Trust Him for that victory today.

IN CHRIST, YOU CAN OVERCOME THE DARKNESS AND HAVE VICTORY OVER SIN AND
DEATH. TRUST HIM TODAY!

----------------------------------------------------------
For more from PowerPoint Ministries and Dr. Jack Graham, please visit
www.jackgraham.org
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