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THE MASTERS LIST Dean W. Masters - Page 6 Empty Re: THE MASTERS LIST Dean W. Masters

Post  Admin on Tue 20 Dec 2016, 12:16 am

A New Thing – Magi

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.

Matthew 2:9-11 (NIV)
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they
had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place
where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On
coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed
down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him
with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

In this part of the Christmas story, one new thing is a star that moved to
show the magi where to find Jesus, the King they were looking for. Another
new thing is the magi bringing expensive gifts to a peasant child.

The magi brought their gifts but what can we give to Jesus? He wants us to
give him our lives. He wants us to surrender our lives to Him as our gift to
Him. The magi brought their gifts one time. We must have that one time we
give our lives to Him but then we are to give ourselves to Him every day. He
has told us how we can do that:

Matthew 25:34-36 (NIV)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed
by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the
creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you
invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you
looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Many people think of helping people especially around Christmas time but
these people are around us all the time. By helping them out during the rest
of the year we are also giving to Jesus. So our gift to Him isn’t just once
a year but day by day. May we live as David Grayson who is quoted here:

I sometimes think we expect two much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into
it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me,
I like to take my Christmas a little at time, all through
the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays- let them overtake me
unexpectedly- waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself:
"Why, this is Christmas Day!"

by Dean W. Masters


Throwing Stones

What Are You Waiting For?

Do you expect to see God at the end of your life? What in the world will
that be like? Many times, especially during bedtime stories, my children
would
ask me to describe heaven for them. I would always say that I could not give
them specific details, but I did know that heaven will be the most peaceful
place they could imagine, and that Jesus will be the central figure in
heaven waiting for them. The Jews waited 2000 years for Jesus to appear as
the long-anticipated
Messiah. Since the birth of Jesus in the First Century, Christians have
waited another 2000 years for Him to return. Muslims, too, are waiting for
Jesus
to return, something I never knew until I befriended a Muslim. In other
words, over half the population of the world today is waiting for Jesus to
return.
Christmas is all about celebrating the fact that Jesus came to earth as God
had promised. But, if He came once, why can't He come again?

The Bible asks us to live our lives in anticipation of Christ's return. We
are to be vigilant and prepared to see Jesus face-to-face -- either when we
die or when he returns to govern over a new heaven and a new earth. Either
way, we will be seeing Him soon. Are you prepared for that? One of the best
ways to prepare for His return is to help the Gospel message be spread
throughout the earth. In fact, the Bible gives us clues that His return will
be
in response to the Gospel being spread first throughout the world. Matthew
24:14 reads, "And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached
throughout
the whole world, so that all the nations will hear it; and then the end will
come."

There is great reward for those who live their lives in anticipation of
Christ's return. At the beginning of the New Testament, we are told a story
about
a simple, everyday person named Simeon. Simeon had no particular position,
rank or file with the Jewish hierarchy of the time. He was more like you and
me, no one special, other than the fact that he had a deep faith in God and
God's anticipated Messiah. I believe that Simeon's life was highlighted as
an inspiration for us to do the same - prepare for Christ's return with
vigilance and prayer. Listen to the story: "At the time there was a man in
Jerusalem
named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the
Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had
revealed
to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Messiah.
That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to
present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He
took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, 'Sovereign Lord, now let
your servant die in peace, as you promised. I have seen your salvation,
which
you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the
nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel.'" (Luke 2:25-32)

Last month, I was in the United Arab Emirates at a conference for Christian
workers who have a heart for the people in the Arabian Peninsula and Iran.
We heard exhilarating story after story concerning the phenomenal growth of
the Gospel in this particular area of the world. During one lecture, I sat
next to a man I consider to be a modern day Simeon. He was with three other
men from China. They sat humbly and reverently along with me and many others
in the room listening to the speaker explain the history of the Church in
the Arabian Peninsula. The speaker eventually noticed this particular
Chinese
man; he asked him to introduce himself. The man rose from his seat, and
said, "I am here to be in solidarity with the persecuted Church on the
Arabian
Peninsula and in Iran. I was put in jail for four years by the Chinese
authorities because of my Christian faith. They threatened and beat me and
asked
that I stop preaching the Gospel. But, I told them I could not do that.
Eventually, they let me go. The Gospel is growing so fast in China today
that there
is nothing anyone can do to stop it. God told me to help the underground
Church in the Middle East. We are part of a Chinese missionary movement
called,
Back to Jerusalem. We were told that the Gospel is now growing faster in
Iran than in China. We have come to see what Jesus is doing here, and to
help
the suffering new believers because we suffered, too." By the time the man
had finished talking, the rest of us in the room were moved deeply by the
sincerity
of his words.

At the conference, my friends and I met another man, an American, who also
reminded me of Simeon. He was giving a lecture on Yemen. He, his wife, and
four
children, had worked in Yemen for a number of years. In fact, in recent
years, they were one of the last foreign-born workers to be asked to leave
the
country because of their Christian affiliation. This humble, faithful and
brave man told us what it was like to go to work every day in Yemen during
his
last years, not knowing if he would be assaulted or killed. Other Christian
workers in his area had been murdered by radical Muslims in broad daylight.
The painful stress was still evident on his face. Eventually, he and his
family were forced out of the country. But, rather than return to the
comforts
of life in the United States, they relocated to Djibouti, an even poorer and
more economically challenged country than Yemen. Civil war is now raging
through
Yemen. Iran and Saudi Arabia are feverishly supporting the opposing sides of
the conflict. Shiites and Sunnis are killing each other at unprecedented
rates.
It is a tragedy, leaving so many lives and homes in shambles. There are now
millions of refugees and displaced people within Yemen, unable to escape.
Children
are starving. One of the few places a Yemeni refugee might be able to escape
to is Djibouti, just across the Arabian Sea. And, the American and his
family
are now in Djibouti receiving and loving these new refugees. At the close of
his presentation, the American said that the most amazing thing of all is
that the underground Church in Yemen is now exploding with growth. The seeds
of the Gospel that had been planted by these brave missionaries are now
taking
root. The new believers in Yemen are actively offering medical,
psychological and spiritual help to their fellow countrymen caught in the
ravages of war.
As radical Muslims kill more innocent Muslims in our world today, an
increasing number of Muslims are leaving Islam all together, choosing
instead to follow
the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of the world.

As I mentioned, Muslims are waiting for Jesus to return to earth, just as we
Christians are doing the same. But, Islam teaches that Jesus will descend
back to earth at the end of time in order to help God complete the ultimate
task of making the whole world Muslim. In fact, the holy books of Islam
teach
that Jesus will return for 40 years, smash all the crosses in the world,
kill all the swine, help everyone become Muslim, then return to God. By
contrast,
Christians believe Jesus will return to earth, live forever, wipe away every
tear, sin and death, in order to rule over a most peaceful kingdom now and
forever more. The prophet Isaiah said it beautifully, "The Messiah shall
judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall
beat
their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation
shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war
anymore."
(Isaiah 2:4). "In that day the wolf and the
lamb will live together, the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The
calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will
lead
them all.' (Isaiah 11:6) And, the Apostle John expanded further when he
wrote, "I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, 'Look, God's home is
now
among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God
himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and
there
will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone
forever.'" (Revelation 21:3-4)

It makes a big difference when we know what we are waiting for. By
anticipating the Lord's return, our lives become full of hope, love, purpose
and faith.
By contrast, our lives are incomplete if we are waiting for nothing in
particular at the end of our days on earth. This Christmas, seize the
opportunity
to join Simeon in waiting, working, and praying for Jesus, our Savior, to
appear. When our Lord does return, don't be caught idle with your hands in
your
pockets serving only yourself and your own interests. There is so much good
work to do to prepare for God's kingdom to come fully to earth, whether in
Yemen, China or down the streets in our neighborhoods. Join the chorus of
the ages who continue to sing, "Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let
earth
receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, and Heaven and nature
sing, and Heaven and nature sing, and Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing."

My family and I wish you a most joy-filled and peaceful Christmas.
Rev. Daniel McNerney
Admin
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Location : Wales UK

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Post  Admin on Sun 18 Dec 2016, 5:15 pm

4 Ways to Honor Your Lost Loved Ones at Christmas
Lori Hatcher

This past Thanksgiving was our family’s second without my mother-in-law,
sixth without two sisters and a brother, and thirteenth without my
grandmother.
We felt the ache, mourned the loss, and wished with all our hearts they were
still with us.

Christmas is coming, and with it a slew of family gatherings. Unless you’ve
been unusually fortunate, you’ll have an empty chair or two at your dining
room table. It’s unrealistic to think you won’t miss your loved ones, but
holidays are for celebrating, not for grieving. As you prepare for Christmas
without your precious loved one, here are a few ways you can honor him or
her:

1. Do something your loved one would approve of.

My grandmother loved to dig in the dirt and make things grow. Wherever she
lived, she always planted dianthus. I remember visiting her shortly after
she
moved to an independent living facility. She no longer had a place to
garden, but as I walked into her new building, I saw evidence of her green
thumb.
She’d tucked a tiny patch of dianthus into a square of dirt near her
doorway. To honor her, one year I planted dianthus in my flowerbed. Every
time it
bloomed, it reminded me of her.

One friend and his family are facing their first Christmas without their
father/grandfather. Knowing that his dad loved Italy, my friend is taking
his
family on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Rome in his honor.

Your memorial activity will probably be less extravagant, but it can be
equally memorable. One friend honors her daughter’s memory every season by
watching
her favorite Christmas movie, the Patrick Stewart version of
A Christmas Carol. Another friend and her family meet at Waffle House at
midnight on Christmas Eve to continue a long-standing tradition their late
father
began.

2. Be sure to include your loved one’s favorite food in your holiday meal.

My mother-in-law and I shared a love for lemon crème pie. She’d often tell
the story of how she and a friend of hers liked it so much that they’d buy a
pie, draw a line down the middle, and eat every bit of it. My mother-in-law
liked her pies extra tart, and if I made the recipe just right, she’d nod
her
approval. “Mmm,” she’d say, “that’ll lock yer jaws.”

Lemon crème pie was one of the last foods I fed her before she passed away.
Confined to a hospital bed and pumped full of medicine, she hadn’t eaten
much
in days. We wracked our brains trying to think of foods that might stimulate
her appetite. My brother-in-law brought her a hot dog from her favorite
greasy
spoon. I brought a bowl of juicy watermelon. The day I brought her a slice
of lemon crème pie, however, was a day to remember.

“Good?” I asked as I spooned bites into her eager mouth.

“Mmm,” she said, nodding her approval. “That’ll lock yer jaws.”

I ate a piece of lemon crème pie at Thanksgiving in her honor. It wasn’t
quite tart enough, but I think she’d still approve.

Like eating my mother-in-law’s lemon pie, “sharing” our loved one’s favorite
foods helps us feel connected with them. This Christmas we’ll eat sweet
potato
casserole to honor my sister Cindy and deep-fried turkey in my
brother-in-law Luther’s name. And with every bite of lemon pie, I’ll feel my
mother-in-law’s
smile.

3. Donate to an organization, charity, or cause your loved one felt
passionate about.

If your mother had a soft spot for children, adopt a
Compassion International child in her name. If your father loved baseball,
donate a scholarship to a local league to help a needy child play ball next
spring.
If your aunt had a soft spot for animals, give to a nearby no-kill shelter.

Remember, too, that donations of time are infinitely valuable and honoring
to a departed loved one. One friend I know helps serve Christmas dinner at a
homeless shelter in memory of her father. Another fills a two-hour slot as a
Salvation Army bell-ringer. (For information on volunteering, visit
http://www.salvationarmy.org/
) Yet another honors her mother, a former school librarian, by reading to
children in an underprivileged school in her city.

4. Talk about your loved one, shed a few tears, but don’t let grief steal
the joy from your family celebration.

Remember that the greatest way we can honor a loved one who has passed away
is to live every day in thanksgiving and JOY. Reflect on the happy memories.
Talk about the fun times and shared experiences. Thank God for the time you
had instead of mourning the time you’ve lost.

Holidays can be hard, but with God’s grace and a little intentionality, we
can celebrate in ways that honor and include our loved ones, even when they
are no longer with us. If you’re facing the holidays without someone
special, ask the Lord to wrap you in his love and help you feel the joy of
his presence.
Take comfort in the promise of
Psalm 30:5 :
“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Lori Hatcher is a blogger, inspirational speaker, and author of the
Christian Small Publisher’s 2016 Book of the Year,
Hungry for God ... Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women .
A Toastmasters International contest-winning speaker, Lori’s goal is to help
busy women connect with God in the craziness of everyday life. She
especially loves small children, soft animals, and chocolate. You’ll find
her pondering
the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for
Time
. Connect with her on Facebook , Twitter
(@lorihatcher2) or
Pinterest (Hungry for God).

Will The Christ Child Come?

Halfway through December we were doing the regular evening things when there
was a knock at the door. We opened it to find a small package with a
beautiful
ceramic lamb inside. We looked at the calendar and realized that the 12 days
of Christmas were beginning!! We waiting excitedly for the next night's
surprise
and only then, with the gift of a matching shepherd, did we realized that
the lamb was part of a nativity set.

Each night we grew more excited to see what piece we would receive. Each was
exquisitely beautiful. The kids kept trying to catch the givers as we
slowing
built the scene at the manager and began to focus on Christ's birth.

On Christmas Eve, all the pieces were in place, but the baby Jesus. My 12
year-old son really wanted to catch our benefactors and began to devise all
kinds
of ways to trap them. He ate his dinner in the mini-van watching and
waiting, but no one came.

Finally we called him in to go through our family's Christmas Eve
traditions. But before the kids went to bed we checked the front step - No
Baby Jesus!
We began to worry that my son had scared them off. My husband suggested that
maybe they dropped the Jesus and there wouldn't be anything coming. Somehow
something was missing that Christmas Eve.

There was a feeling that things weren't complete. The kids went to bed and I
put out Christmas, but before I went to bed I again checked to see if the
Jesus had come-no, the doorstep was empty. In our family the kids can open
their stockings when they want to, but they have to wait to open any
presents
until Dad wakes up. So one by one they woke up very early and I also woke up
to watch them.

Even before they opened their stockings, each child checked to see if
perhaps during the night the baby Jesus had come. Missing that piece of the
set seemed
to have an odd effect. At least it changed my focus. I knew there were
presents under the tree for me and I was excited to watch the children open
their
gifts, but first on my mind was the feeling of waiting for the ceramic
Christ Child.

We had opened just about all of the presents when one of the children found
one more for me buried deep beneath the limbs of the tree. He handed me a
small
package from my former visiting teaching companion. This sister was somewhat
less active in the church. I had learned over time they didn't have much for
Christmas, so that their focus was the children. It sounded like she didn't
get many gifts to open, so I had always given her a small package - new dish
towels, the next year's lesson manual - not much, but something for her to
open. I was touched when at Church on the day before Christmas, she had
given
me this small package, saying it was just a token of her love and
appreciation.

As I took off the bow, I remembered my friendship with her and was filled
with gratitude for knowing her and for her kindness and sacrifice in this
year
giving me a gift. But as the paper fell away, I began to tremble and cry.
There in the small brown box was the baby Jesus. He had come!

I realized on that Christmas Day that Christ will come into our lives in
ways that we don't expect. The spirit of Christ comes into our hearts as we
serve
one another. We had waited and watched for him to come, expecting the
dramatic "knock at the door and scurrying of feet" but he came in a small,
simple
package that represented service, friendship, gratitude, and love.

This experience taught me that the beginning of the true spirit of Christmas
comes as we open our hearts and actively focus on the Savior. But we will
most likely find him in the small and simple acts of love, friendship and
service that we give to each other. This Christmas I want to feel again the
joy
of knowing that Christ is in our home. I want to focus on loving and
serving. More than that I want to open my heart to him all year that I may
see him
again.

Don't forget the reason for the Season.
By Gaye Willis
"Will The Christ Child Come?"

A Remarkable Advent: Day 15
By shauna on Dec 15, 2016 06:00 am

Though Mary didn’t know it yet, her heart was already being pierced by the
blessed burden of being the mother of the Messiah. God had not promised her
a husband, or a house, or a long life. The angel had said nothing of Joseph.

It would seem to us that if a person was highly favored, and if the Lord was
with her as the angel said, that God might be obliged to give her a husband,
a house, and a reasonably smooth life.

But he didn’t. And still she obeyed.

What a tumultuous time for the favored mother of Jesus. The scripture says
she was “found to be with child.” Did she tell her family, or was she “found
out?” There are so many questions that come to mind, and yet God in his
wisdom gives us no details about her family’s reaction.

Still, Mary was willing to be thought a fool, ready to have her morals
called into question, and willing to forego the familial comforts of
marriage and
home because she was the Lord’s servant.

This goes to show the transformative power of God’s call on a person’s life.
When God undeniably calls you to a task, your readiness is quick, your
willingness
is eager, and your certainty may cause you to appear plain crazy.

The irrevocable call of God still has those effects in the lives of
believers who say, “I am the Lord’s servant.” And after declaring our
commitment, we
must not waver, even if it means being considered a mad fool.

Because God delights to choose the “ foolish
” in order to showcase His power to those the world considers “wise.”
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rights reserved.

The Right Reason
By Skip Heitzig

For those of us who have been raised in the church, there's an understanding
that Jesus is the reason for this season. In fact, He's the reason for
everything.
We like to tell people, "Just look to Jesus; He's the answer to it all." In
reality, most people don't take the time to understand the message of
Christmas.
A lot of people simply like the beautiful trappings, the trees, the lights,
even the scene of the manger, not realizing that all the while God was
sending
us a gift.

The past couple weeks, we've considered Christmas in light of the right time
and the right person, but what was the reason? What was the purpose of it
all?
Galatians 4:5
tells us: Jesus came "to redeem those who were under the law, that we might
receive the adoption as sons." That's the reason--
redemption.

First of all, I want to consider the history of this reason. When did
Christmas really start? We have to go all the way back to the beginning: God
created
man and woman and had fellowship with them, but in Genesis 3 , everything
changed. They rebelled against their Creator, and fellowship was broken.
What
would God do to fix this? In Genesis 3:15 , He announced to Satan, "I will
put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He
shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."

I don't have the space here to mention every place in the Bible
where this promise is repeated, but you can trace it all through the Old
Testament and into the New Testament, when Jesus Christ was finally born as
a
fulfillment of that promise, sent to engage in conflict with Satan, be
killed on the cross, and then rise again from the dead. Our bondage was long
and
hard, as the Christmas carol says--"Long lay the world in sin and error
pining"--but then Jesus came at just the right time, and our fellowship was
restored,
paradise regained.

This leads to the second point--the centrality of the reason--summed up in a
single phrase: "To redeem."
Redeem means to buy back. Picture somebody going to a slave market, laying
down cold hard cash to give a slave their freedom, then taking them home and
saying, "I'm adopting you as my own, and one day, I'll give you everything I
own." God went to the slave market of sin, saw us in our condition,
purchased
us, brought us to Himself, and adopted us as His sons and daughters.

This means you never have to be in the bondage of trying to earn your way to
heaven by your own good deeds. The fact of the matter is you'll never earn
it, so you don't have to grit your teeth and try harder, because you're a
son; you're a daughter. You don't have to live in that slavery anymore,
because
you're His child.

Finally, there is the reality of the reason for Christmas--the confirmation
that we have indeed become children of God: "And because you are sons, God
has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba,
Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then
an
heir of God through Christ"
(Galatians 4:6-7
). When you invite Christ in, the Holy Spirit is also sent in, and He
produces in you an instant knowledge and confirmation that you're right with
God.
It's an overwhelming, subjective feeling that proves God's objective
declaration that you are His child, and you can cry out, "Abba--Daddy!"

That's what Christmas is about: what was lost in Genesis 3
is restored because of redemption through the death and resurrection of
Jesus Christ.This is the side of Christmas that's usually not told. We
marvel
at little baby Jesus, forgetting that His hands were destined to have a
Roman spike driven through them, that His little feet would trod the road of
sorrows
to the place of execution, and that His head was destined to wear a crown of
thorns.But that's Christmas: the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses
us from all sin (see
1 John 1:7
)--the right time, the right person, and the right reason coming together so
that we might be redeemed and adopted as children of God.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Connection Communications. All rights reserved.

Inspiration Ministries Daily Devotion

Worried Shepherds

Thursday, December 15, 2016

"In the same region there were some shepherds ... an angel of the Lord
suddenly stood before them ... When the angels had gone away from them into
heaven,
the shepherds began saying to one another, 'Let us go straight to Bethlehem
then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to
us.'"
Luke 2:8-15 NASB

Who were these men to whom the angels announced the birth of Jesus? Not
powerful politicians or religious scholars but simple shepherds. Real men
living
real lives. Men with a range of personalities. Some strong and confident.

Others timid.

At the moment they encountered the angels, we can imagine how some might
have been filled with worry. After all, their world was an unstable place.
Roman
soldiers were everywhere, and in many ways these were oppressed people.

How dark the night could have seemed. How easily they could have felt
discouraged and hopeless. They had every reason to doubt. Even the faith
inherited
from their fathers might have failed them.

They might have felt that God had forgotten them.

Then, suddenly, the angel appeared out of the night. In that moment, they
experienced a jolt of resolve and were determined to believe the message and
seek the child.
But the message might have seemed too good to be true. They may have paused
to consider who would believe their story.

Leaving their duty keeping flocks to see a baby? What would others say?
Would they say if they stumbled into soldiers, or could not find the baby?
What
would happen if any sheep were lost? If they could not find the baby?

We can see how some might have wanted to stay behind. But only in going did
their lives change.
Today, how will you respond to the message of the angels? The call of God?
Stay behind? Give in to skepticism and doubt? Or risk everything to follow
God?
To worship and serve the King?

Today's Inspiring Prayer

Father, I commit these issues to You: ___________. I cast my cares on You.
Thank You for loving me. I trust in You. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Further Reading: Luke 2

Inspiration Ministries - PO Box 7750 Charlotte, NC 28241 - Inspiration
Ministries UK - Admail 3905 London - W1A 1ZT - UK Charity No 1119076 -

© 2016 Inspiration Ministries, All rights reserved
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Heartfelt Soul Winning Brings a Bountiful Harvest

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless
come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
Psalm 126:6

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Do you know what you’re doing in the morning when you have a quiet time?
Weeding your garden. You’re weeding the garden of your mind, so that the
good
seed of the Word of God can multiply. Now, the next step is to plant the
seed and cultivate His harvest. And when you go out to win souls, water the
crop
with your tears. Read how the Lord’s heart broke over the people He longed
to embrace and love unto Himself (see John 17). Learn this same sort of
compassion
in the garden God has given you to harvest for His kingdom.

ACTION POINT:
Ask God to put you into His fields of service today. Ask Him to make you
bold, yet compassionate and wise to share His Good News.

Devotions taken from the messages of Adrian Rogers.
Copyright © 2016 Love Worth Finding Ministries, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you indicated at www.lwf.org that you
wanted to receive these devotions from Love Worth Finding Ministries.

Our mailing address is:
Love Worth Finding Ministries
2941 Kate Bond Rd
Memphis, TN 38133

Short pithy gems from Arthur Pink

~ ~ ~ ~

The nature of Christ's salvation is woefully misrepresented by the
present-day evangelist. He announces a Savior from
Hell--rather than a Savior from sin. And that is why so many are fatally
deceived, for there are multitudes who wish to escape the Lake of fire--who
have
no desire to be delivered from their carnality and worldliness.

~ ~ ~ ~

The Bible is no lazy man's book! Much of its treasure, like the valuable
minerals stored in the recesses of the earth, only yield up themselves to
the
diligent seeker. No verse of Scripture yields its meaning to lazy people.

~ ~ ~ ~

Prayer is not so much an act as it is an attitude--an attitude of
dependence, dependence upon God.

~ ~ ~ ~

It is not the absence of sin, but the grieving over it--which distinguishes
the child of God from empty professors.

~ ~ ~ ~

Instead of a river, God often gives us a brook, which may be running today
and dried up tomorrow. Why? To teach us not to rest in our
blessings--but in the
Blesser Himself!

~ ~ ~ ~

We have posted a choice selection of short pithy gems from Arthur Pink.

~ ~ ~ ~

Feel free to FORWARD these gems to others who may be encouraged or profited
by them!

Grace Gems (choice ELECTRONIC books, sermons & quotes)
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PresbyCan Daily Devotional

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Today's Devotional

Glory To God In The Highest

Isaiah 9:6a – For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. (NKJV)

Some years ago, we were on a tour to Israel with a group of fellow believers
and a pastor as the leader. Among many places that we visited, we did some
extensive sightseeing in Bethlehem by bus as well as on foot. We visited the
Church of the Nativity, the Grotto of the Nativity, St. Catherine's Church,
and Manger Square, and we walked through the Old City. To be honest, I found
it all very overwhelming. I felt that the importance of the place was
overshadowed
by the man-made places of worship, and some of the tourist attractions
seemed to me to be of questionable origin or importance.

One day, we were having lunch just inside the city, and as there was some
free time before we were to go to the next place of interest, my wife and I
went
for a walk down the street. Almost immediately, we were out of the town, and
there was a sign that said, "Shepherds' Fields". There were some benches
there,
and we sat down to gaze at the rolling hills in front of us. My mind
wandered back 2000 years to the time when Christ was born in that place.

I imagined the shepherds and their sheep in those very same hills, and the
Scripture came to mind:

Luke 2:8 – Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the
fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. (NKJV)

After some quiet contemplation, we were called back to the bus to continue
our sightseeing tour, but that sight of the shepherds' fields was on my mind
all day. In the evening, I looked up the passage which describes it so well.

Luke 2:9-14 – And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the
glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the
angel
said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of
great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in
the
city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to
you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host
praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
goodwill
toward men!" (NKJV)

Immediately the shepherds left their flocks and found and worshipped the
Christ Child.

Luke 2:17 – Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying
which was told them concerning this Child. (NKJV)

Likewise, may we leave behind the glitter and commercialism of Christmas,
and in our minds and hearts, visit the Christ Child as well, and then tell
others
about Him, each one of us in our own way.

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we thank You for Your Son Jesus, Whose birth
we celebrate each year. We thank You for the shepherds and for all others
who
have brought and continue to bring the good news about Jesus. In His name,
we pray. Amen.
Joel Jongkind


5 Ways to Experience Christmas Joy When You’re Unhappy
Whitney Hopler

The Christmas season is supposed to be the happiest time of year – at least
according to popular culture. Carols like “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of
Year” proclaim Christmas cheer, while advertisements show happy people
enjoying seemingly perfect holidays. People post their good news (but not
their
bad news) on Facebook and cheery Christmas card letters
idealize families’ lives.

But ironically, right when our culture says people should feel happiest,
they actually feel the unhappiest. A lot of that unhappiness comes from
realizing
that their lives are far from the blissful state so often portrayed in
cultural ideals of Christmas magic. The images of smiling people on
Christmas cards
and the overly effusive social media posts remind those going through tough
times about how unhappy they feel and pressure them to feel better. When
they
don’t, frustration about missing out on Christmas cheer makes them feel even
worse.

Yet, on the first Christmas, the angel who announced Jesus’ birth declared:
“...I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people...”

( Luke 2:10 ). Great joy? For everyone?

Even when you’re unhappy, you can still experience joy this Christmas. That’s
because happiness and joy are different – even though the two terms are used
interchangeably in pop culture. Happiness is based on circumstances, so you
can only feel happy in good situations. Joy, however, doesn’t depend on good
circumstances. It’s based on your relationship with a good God, which you
can rely on even during bad circumstances. You can experience Christmas joy
even
in the midst of unhappiness. Here’s how:

1. Learn from those who experienced the original Christmas.

Life wasn’t exactly going well for the people in the biblical Christmas
story. Joseph and Mary were away from the comforts of their Nazareth home,
obligated
to go to Bethlehem for a government census, which forced them into crowded
and unsanitary conditions. Since there was no room for them to stay in
Bethlehem’s
inn, they had to sleep in a stable with animals – and Mary had to give birth
there. The shepherds who would witness the angel make history’s most joyful
announcement were also dealing with tough circumstances. Working long hours
yet still living in poverty, the shepherds had to endure mistreatment from
other people who considered them less important just because of their humble
profession. Experiencing all of that stress surely made these biblical
people
unhappy.

Yet in their unhappiness, they still trusted God. It was their choice to
keep relying on God during unhappy circumstances that opened doors in their
souls
to experience joy. Through trust, they kept their connections to God strong
so they could receive the joy that only comes from God. You can do the same!

2. Give and receive forgiveness.

Carrying around bitterness in your soul will make you unhappy. Thankfully,
forgiveness frees you from bitterness, making it possible for you to
experience
the joy God wants to give you. God calls everyone who truly loves him to
give and receive forgiveness . “Forgive as the Lord forgave you,”
Colossians 3:13 urges.

It’s vital to accept God’s forgiveness, forgive those who have hurt you, and
ask those whom you have hurt for their forgiveness. Only then will the
burden
of bitterness go away, freeing you to receive the full amount of joy God is
hoping you’ll discover. Keep in mind that God will empower you throughout
the
forgiveness process if you’re willing to forgive. Think about people with
whom you have unresolved conflict or against whom you’re currently holding a
grudge.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or excusing what happened, but it does
mean trusting God to handle the situation from now on. Pray about it,
letting
it go into God’s care. If you can communicate with the person, tell him or
her that you’ve chosen to forgive. Now think about your own mistakes and
pray
about those, receiving God’s forgiveness and forgiving yourself because God
has forgiven you. Contact people who you’ve hurt through your mistakes,
asking
them to forgive you, as well.

3. Do something creative.

Creativity promotes joy. A plethora of research studies have linked creative
activities to happy feelings. For instance, a 2014 study from the University
of North Carolina-Greensboro revealed that people were most likely to be
doing something creative like cooking meals or drawing pictures when they
felt
happy.

Beyond feelings of happiness, creativity leads to joy because it points you
toward the Creator who gave you the ability to be creative. Which activities
help you express your God-given creativity the most? Play Christmas music on
the piano, saxophone, or guitar. Bake an elaborate Christmas dessert. Write
a Christmas love letter to your spouse. Design a new ornament for your
Christmas tree
. Build an original toy to give your kids for Christmas. Choose some kind of
creative project to do this Christmas season.

4. Pursue wonder.

Nurturing a sense of wonder will often bring you into contact with joyful
moments. Wonder enlarges your perspective so you can notice more of God’s
work
in your life, which gives you reasons to celebrate!

Jesus declares in Luke 18:17 that “...anyone who will not receive the
kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Children pursue
wonder by
learning with open hearts and minds. Start each day with openness, eager to
learn what God wants to teach you. Stay in frequent contact with God during
each day and night, through
prayer
. Then you’ll discover lots of wonder this Christmas that will bring joy
into your life.

5. Serve others.

Turn your struggle with unhappiness into service to people in need
this Christmas season. In the process, your focus will change from a
preoccupation with your own problems to joy as God works through you to
change the
world for the better.

Isaiah 61:3 promises that God will “provide for those who grieve” by turning
bad situations around to something good: “to bestow on them a crown of
beauty
instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of
praise instead of a spirit of despair.” God can use your sorrow to develop
more compassion in you – and when you act on that compassion by helping
others, you open doors for joy to flow into their lives and your own!

No matter how unhappy you may feel this Christmas, God wants to give you the
gift of joy. So let God hand it to you. Then rip off the wrapping paper,
open
the box, and enjoy celebrating with your loving heavenly father!

Whitney Hopler, who has written for Crosswalk.com since 2001, also writes
for
Thrive Global
and works as Writer-in-Residence/Communications Coordinator at George Mason
University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being
. She regularly blogs about well-being

KenBible.com

New Post on KenBible.com - Rejoice in Your Destiny
----------------------------------------------------------

Rejoice in Your Destiny

Posted: 04 Dec 2016 09:55 PM PST

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV)

The Christmas story is so simple that a child can enjoy it, yet so broad and
deep that no human mind can grasp it all. A Being so magnificent that He
spoke
the universe into existence from nothing—He merely expressed His will and it
appeared—this Being became entirely human and lived among us.

We could see and touch the One who transcends all matter. What we saw, what
we touched was love—pure, complete, compassionate love, in a world soaked
with
fear and selfishness.

This Being became humble. How could the sovereign source of all be humble?
The immense God became small for us. Perfect wisdom, perfect peace, perfect
love became small and simple enough for us.

In this One, our mortality took on immortality. The human has become divine.
Humility glows with Majesty. Weakness is now strength. Our darkness now
shines
with the splendor of Almighty God.

Look at Jesus Christ. He has become what we can be:

• a creature one with our Creator;
• a child of man and a child of God;
• thoroughly human, yet holy and divine.

Look at Jesus Christ and rejoice in your destiny.

O God, for me make
the waiting and hoping of Advent
no longer just a season,
but a constant hunger for You.
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What is the Hope of the Nations?
Tim Chester

“Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has
been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to
worship
him
.’”
Matthew 2 v 2

Storyline

>Genesis 11 v 1-9; Matthew 2 v 1-12 and Luke 2 v 22-35

Santa Claus is a Dutch version of St. Nicholas, who was a Turkish bishop.
Decorated trees come from Germany, supposedly introduced to Britain by
Prince
Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband. The date of December 25th was probably
chosen to replace Roman mid-winter festivities.

The tradition of wrapping a red ribbon round an orange and sticking a candle
in the top to create a “Christingle” was invented in 1747 by John de
Watteville,
a Moravian pastor. The British can take the credit (or blame) for Christmas
cards, created to promote the postal service.

Our contemporary Christmas is a truly international affair.

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved
eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
Genesis 11 v 1

So begins Genesis 11
. Adam and Eve were sent east out of Eden. Their son Cain was exiled east of
Eden. And here humanity was still moving eastward, away from God.

God commanded humanity to fill the earth. Had they done so, then a diversity
of cultures and languages would have developed. But instead, humanity comes
together on the plain of Shinar. They refuse to scatter (v 4). So instead of
diversity, there is just “one language and a common speech”. It’s the first
declaration of empire, and empires ever since have tried to impose
uniformity on their subjects.

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that
reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves.” v 4

Humanity was made in the image of God to reflect God’s glory in the world.
But instead, the whole world comes together in defiance of God for its own
glory.

Meanwhile, the Lord “came down to see the city and the tower the people were
building” (v 5). Humanity says, “Come, let us ... [reach] to the heavens”.
In response the triune God says, “Come, let us go down” (v 7). God comes
down to judge humanity. He confuses their language, forcing them to scatter.
The
place is called “Babel”, which sounds like “confused” in Hebrew. Think of
the word “babble” and you get the idea. As a result, God accelerates the
command
to fill the earth and develop diverse cultures.

Today we live with this wonderful diversity of cultures. Just think of the
food you enjoy. Italian pasta. Indian curry. French casseroles. Mexican
fajitas.
British cakes. What’s not to love?!
But along with this diversity we get division: racism, discrimination, war.

At the first Christmas, the triune God again says, Come, let us go down. But
instead of God coming down to judge humanity, he comes down in the person
of Jesus to save humanity. And to unite us in a new humanity.

That’s the meaning of the Magi. Matthew’s Gospel tells their story:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod,
Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.

Matthew 2 v 1

Where do they come from? From the east! At Babel, humanity was moving
eastward, away from God. Now humanity (represented by the Magi) are coming
from the
east, back to God. Matthew has just told us that the baby Jesus is
“Immanuel”—God with us (1 v 23). The Magi come, not to make a name for
themselves, but
to bow down and worship God-in-Christ (v 11).

Jew and Gentile were divided by bitter centuries of hostility. But here in
Bethlehem Mary, Joseph and the Magi stand together around God-in-the-manger.
Here in miniature is a picture of the empire of Jesus. The peoples of the
world are united in the worship of Christ.

So Matthew’s Gospel begins with the nations coming to worship Jesus. And it
ends with Jesus telling his disciples to “
go and make disciples
of all nations” (28 v 19). Instead of
coming together, Christians are sent out into the world. We are scattered
throughout the earth to gather in the nations.

Jesus reverses the curse of Babel. Instead of the nations being scattered,
they are brought together around his manger and around his throne. And that
process is taking place through the mission of the church.

Simeon expresses the same message in Luke’s Gospel. Simeon was a “righteous
and devout” man
(Luke 2
v 25). He was waiting for “the consolation of Israel” and the Holy Spirit
had revealed to him that he would not die “before he had seen the Lord’s
Messiah”
(v 25-26).

When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to be consecrated in the Jerusalem
Temple, Simeon took him in his arms. He was, Luke tells us, “moved by the
Spirit”
(v 27). He realised that this was the child who would fulfil the promise of
God. As he held the infant Jesus close, Simeon described him as “a light for
revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (v 32).
Simeon was echoing
Isaiah 49
v 6. The word “Gentiles” is the word “nations”. Jesus is the light not only
of Israel, but of the world.

The empire of Jesus does not impose uniformity. This is not an empire of
“one language and a common speech”. Instead there are people from every
tribe,
language, people and nation. It’s an empire that celebrates diversity. The
Magi bring with them “treasures”— “gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh”.
The
diversity of the nations is presented to God-in-the-manger just as one day
“the glory and honour of the nations will be brought into” the city of the
Lamb
(Revelation 21 v 26).

Christmas is a great opportunity to invite people from other cultures to
share your family Christmas, especially those, like refugees or
international
students, who feel far from home. Or perhaps this Christmas you could
explore a Christmas tradition from another culture. But whatever you do and
whoever
you are, remember and marvel that brothers and sisters from every corner of
the planet will be celebrating with joy the light of the world.

Meditate

Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has
been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to
worship
him.”

I cannot tell why he, whom angels worship, Should set his love upon the sons
of men.
Or why, as Shepherd, he should seek the wand’rers To bring them
back,
they know not how or when. But this I know, that he was born of Mary, When
Bethl’hem’s manger was his only home, And that he lived at Nazareth and
laboured,
And so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come.

I cannot tell how he will win the nations,
How he will claim his earthly
heritage,
How satisfy the needs and aspirations
Of east and west, of sinner
and
of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see his glory,
And he shall reap
the harvest he has sown,
And some glad day his sun shall shine in splendour
When he the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known.

(From “I cannot tell” by William Fullerton)

Prayer

Thou, whose almighty word
Chaos and darkness heard,
And took their flight;
Hear us, we humbly pray,
And, where the gospel day
Sheds not its glorious ray,
Let there be light!
Amen.

(From “Thou, whose almighty word” by John Marriott)

Content taken from The One True Story: Daily Readings for Advent from
Genesis to Jesus by Tim Chester. ©2016 by Tim Chester. Used by permission of
The Good
Book Company,
thegoodbook.com .

Tim Chester is a pastor at Grace Church, Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, and
a tutor with the
Acts 29
Oak Hill Academy. He is the author of over 30 books, including Exodus For
You, You Can Change, and The One True Light.

Welcome to the Nugget

December 10, 2016

The Best Christmas Gift Ever
By Answers2Prayer
Subscribe Unsubscribe
Devotionals
Contact us

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them..."
(Ps 127:4,5)

The best Christmas gift I ever got was both early and late. My first born
child came into this world on December 16th, nine days before Christmas. He
was
supposed to be a Thanksgiving baby, however, so when my wife went into labor
3 weeks late he had to be delivered by an emergency Caesarean section. My
first word when I saw him wasn't even a word but a sigh of relief, love, and
joy. My early Christmas present had a red, splotchy face from being overdue
but it was washed several times over the next few days with happy tears from
me, my wife, and several grandparents.

My son was named Joseph John after me and "J.J." as he was called soon
became the most cuddled and photographed child around. He was the first
grandchild
on both sides of the family and spent his first Christmas going from arms to
loving arms as everyone wanted a chance to hold him. I looked forward to a
blessed life watching my first born grow up to be a strong and smart man.

That dream, though, wasn't to turn out the way I thought it would. As my son
entered his second year we realized that his language wasn't developing as
it should. He only seemed interested in a few things and would jump up and
down over and over to amuse himself. We finally got him tested but were
given
no answers. We were only told that he wasn't normal. It was raining that day
as my wife and I drove home and finally we pulled the car over, held each
other, and added our own tears to the storm.

With the end of that dream came the birth of another. We decided to find out
exactly what was "different" about our son do all we could to help him
become
all he could be. Soon a local Doctor saw what the specialists hadn't. Our
son had Autism. In that day very little was known about Autism or what could
be done to treat it. My wife and I read every article and researched every
treatment there was to help our son. We put our anger at God aside and asked
instead for His love and guidance to help us with our boy. We enrolled J.J.
in Special Education at school and worked with him everyday at home. We were
blessed to get a loving, kind-hearted, and patient personal-aide for him at
school and she became like a second mother to him. It was by her side during
another Christmas season that my boy spoke his first sentence about the
beautiful Christmas tree at the school.

As we continued to work with my son I noticed something else too; his loving
spirit was also working on us. His smile was contagious, his cheer was
infectious,
and his innocent love was purifying. Over the years I became a better,
kinder, more loving, and more spiritual person just by being around him. He
taught
me so much about love, so much about joy, and so much about embracing life.
His language continued to improve and he became beloved by his teachers,
fellow
students, and especially by the school football and basketball teams where
he worked as the equipment manager. His loving presence became a comfort to
my days. His gentleness helped me to deal with money struggles and career
problems. His sweetness helped me when his younger brother was born with an
even
more severe form of Autism and I gave up teaching to care for them both.

Now as the best Christmas gift I ever got approaches his 28th Christmas with
me I have realized that he is the gift that keeps on giving. Like a ray of
sunshine he brightens the day of everyone he meets. Like an earth angel he
touches the souls of others with his gentle love. He shares his smile with
everyone
and calls everyone by name. He goes through his life making this Earth a
little more like Heaven. He lives out God's dream for him which is a far
better
dream than mine ever was.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas. May your Christmas and all of your days
be full of the best gift there is, the gift my two special sons give me
everyday-the
gift of LOVE. God bless you always.

Joseph J. Mozzella

Announcement:

How can decorating for Christmas help us keep Christ in Christmas? Join us
next week for "Decorating for Christmas", a mini-series by Lynona Gordon
Chaffart

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

Adoption into God's Family
Monday, December 12, 2016

"When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a
woman, born under the Law so that He might redeem those who were under the
Law,
that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has
sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'"
Galatians 4:4-6 NASB

The giving of gifts at Christmas remains a dominant tradition. It is the
norm for people young and old, rich and poor, in nations throughout the
world.
One recent poll revealed that the average shopper in America spends an
average of $830 on Christmas gifts. But thirty percent plan to spend more
than $1,000.

It often is assumed that the first Christmas gifts were the gold,
frankincense, and myrrh the Magi gave to Jesus (Matthew 2:11). Yet, from
another perspective,
the fact is Jesus Himself was the first gift. He was God's gift to men and
women everywhere.

Paul wrote that God sent Jesus "so that He might redeem those who were under
the Law." He was talking about each one of us. We are lost in our sins, and
separated from God. By ourselves, we could not be restored to a relationship
with Him.

But God wanted us to be freed from sin and to live in harmony with Him. So
He sent Jesus "that we might receive the adoption as sons."
This season remember that God sent Jesus because He loves you, and wants a
personal relationship with you. He wants you to be part of His family, to
think
of Him as your Father! It is His gift, and it is available to each of us.

What is your attitude toward God? Do you think of Him as a distant deity? Or
do you think of Him as your Father! Celebrate His gift to you: You have been
adopted into His family through Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of all.

Today's Inspiring Prayer

Father, thank You for sending Jesus. Thank You that I could be adopted into
Your family. Thank you for being my Father. In His name. Amen.

Further Reading: Galatians 4

Be a life changer!Adoption into God's Family
Monday, December 12, 2016

"When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a
woman, born under the Law so that He might redeem those who were under the
Law,
that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has
sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'"
Galatians 4:4-6 NASB

The giving of gifts at Christmas remains a dominant tradition. It is the
norm for people young and old, rich and poor, in nations throughout the
world.
One recent poll revealed that the average shopper in America spends an
average of $830 on Christmas gifts. But thirty percent plan to spend more
than $1,000.

It often is assumed that the first Christmas gifts were the gold,
frankincense, and myrrh the Magi gave to Jesus (Matthew 2:11). Yet, from
another perspective,
the fact is Jesus Himself was the first gift. He was God's gift to men and
women everywhere.

Paul wrote that God sent Jesus "so that He might redeem those who were under
the Law." He was talking about each one of us. We are lost in our sins, and
separated from God. By ourselves, we could not be restored to a relationship
with Him.

But God wanted us to be freed from sin and to live in harmony with Him. So
He sent Jesus "that we might receive the adoption as sons."
This season remember that God sent Jesus because He loves you, and wants a
personal relationship with you. He wants you to be part of His family, to
think
of Him as your Father! It is His gift, and it is available to each of us.

What is your attitude toward God? Do you think of Him as a distant deity? Or
do you think of Him as your Father! Celebrate His gift to you: You have been
adopted into His family through Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of all.

Today's Inspiring Prayer

Father, thank You for sending Jesus. Thank You that I could be adopted into
Your family. Thank you for being my Father. In His name. Amen.

Further Reading: Galatians 4

Be a life changer!
© 2016 Inspiration Ministries, All rights reserved
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The Gift of Angels
December 6, 2016

Read: Luke 1:26-45

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor
with God.” (v. 30)

Mary was about to become an unwed pregnant teen, in danger of stoning,
rejection, and separation from those she knew and loved. She was about to
travel
a hard 70 miles at full term. She was about to give birth under
less-than-favorable circumstances and lay the child from God in an animal
trough. Some
might say, “If this is favor with God, I’m not sure I want it!”

But Mary gave her willing consent, and never seemed to waver. When the angel
Gabriel told her to not be afraid, she listened, and Joseph trusted the
angelic
messengers that visited him as well. Ponder for a moment what might have
happened if either had allowed their fears to overwhelm their trust of God.

We learn from the angel’s announcement that “favor with God” does not always
equal good news for our own carefully constructed reality. The story God is
telling is so much bigger than we can imagine. When he makes his advent, we
often don’t know what to do with it, but we have a part to play in the big
story too, and are told over and over in Scripture we don’t have to be
afraid. The “mighty ones who do his bidding” are near (Ps. 103:20 NIV).

—Amy Clemens

Christmas Lights
by Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com Editor

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the
test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who
love him. –
James 1:12

When I was still a child living in Illinois, my father drafted me into his
yearly Christmas decorating. Every December, with the snow heavy on the
ground,
the two of us would bundle up and tramp outside to begin putting up the
Christmas lights. I hated putting up Christmas lights. The process always
took

forever, robbing me of my well-deserved break from school. To make matters
worse, my father had a fondness for those icicle-styled lights that were
supposed
to drip down from the rooftop in merry "winter-wonderland" fashion.

Except the high winds always blew the strands of light up into the gutters,
so once again we would have to go outside and set them right. It got to the
point where I would do anything to avoid putting up Christmas lights. I hid,
I threw tantrums, I’d sulk, and eventually my father decided dealing with
both me and lights was too much work and set me free. Looking back now, I
regret how short-sighted I was. I was so upset at having to do a few hours'
work
that I never realized how beautiful our house looked when it was all lit up,
or how fulfilling it was to know I had helped my father make it that way.

It’s funny how our Christian walk can mirror the experience of setting up
holiday decorations. At times it can be difficult, and we can resent what we
believe we're being denied, but take a look at what Paul says in 1
Corinthians 9
:

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the
prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the
games
goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but
we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like
a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I
beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I
myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” –
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Life offers us plenty of easy roads, and when it comes to living out the
Christian life, these paths can be especially tempting. The world will tell
us
to go with the flow of the current of culture, to follow the past of least
resistance, but God calls us to do differently. Christians are meant to
reflect
Christ’s glory on Earth, and this cannot be done without hard work,
sacrifice, and grace. So whether you serve God through ministry, or simply
through
your everyday life, remember to live in a way deserving of the prize.

Intersecting Faith and Life: Consider whether you are running in such a way
as to win the prize.

Further Reading

Matthew 6:19-21


Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how
much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that
ask him? Matthew 7:11 (KJV)

By Answers2Prayer
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Christmas on Francis Street

Christmas of 1965 my Dad was not home. He was a world away in the jungles of
Vietnam. I was seven. Mom was pregnant with my little brother Kevin. He
would
be born in March. My sister Melony was about nine years old. I lay in my bed
on a December night a few weeks before Christmas in our little bungalow at
1917 Francis Street in Grand Rapids.

My bedroom was the best bedroom in the house. It was a porch in the back of
the house re-purposed into a wonderful boy's bedroom, complete with a wall
of three or four casement windows looking out on the back yard. There was a
bed--really a small cot. There was a narrow dresser. (I still have the
dresser
in my basement) There was an old one-armed school chair. Mom refinished the
wood frame of the bed, the dresser, and the chair to match and she made
curtains
and a bedspread from blue fabric with an antique train print. I think she
and aunt Sue worked on the project together. I loved the room. It was my
very
own cozy place.

That night I was awake and my mind was active. Mom was listening to
Christmas music. I could see the lights from the Christmas tree reflecting
on the paneled
wall of my room. Mom had read all the child-development books and knew how
many hours of sleep a boy of seven would need, but I was unusually
high-energy
and did not go to sleep quickly at 7:30 at night. Mom was talking on the
phone to her friend Joyce Lloy. I could hear every word. I didn't pay much
attention
until I could tell she was talking about what I was getting for Christmas. I
lay perfectly still and held my breath to listen.

"Ken bought a transistor radio for Kenny," I heard her tell Joyce. My heart
raced. I let out my breath. A radio. My own transistor radio. Had I heard
right?
Could it be?

Christmas morning I opened my gift. It was not a dream. It was a real radio
of my very own mailed all the way from Vietnam. I feigned surprise and felt
guilty but I loved my radio. It was a white radio with a nice leather cover.
It was one of the first times in my life I had the sensation of "the
embarrassment
of riches." I felt very privileged to have such a nice radio in my
possession. Still it didn't really seem like Christmas without Dad there.

Shortly after the first of the year Dad came home to stay. That spring we
made a trip to Meijer's Thrifty Acres on 28th Street for a new ball glove.
Dad
taught me to throw and catch out in the thin strip of grass between our
drive and the neighbor's in the shade of a fine old Maple. At night I slept
with
the glove under my pillow to break it in and I listened to the Detroit
Tigers on my own transistor radio.

When Dad left for Vietnam my little heart was broken. We drove him to the
bus station and I cried all the way home in the back of my Grandpa's
International.
My uncle Jim tried to comfort me. Night after night I lay in my bed and
longed for him to be home with us. On Christmas I would gladly have gone
without
a present if I could have had my Dad with us.

Maybe it was then that the conviction began to form in my heart that people
are infinitely more valuable than things. Just to have a loved one present
is a priceless gift. Sustained, unhindered conversation is a rare and
wonderful treasure. Our souls long for eye contact and meaningful touch for
the very
smell of the people we love. There is nothing you can buy, no gift you can
give, that can satisfy your longing for that.

I could never have put it in words then, but that is what was happening in
my little seven-year-old heart lying in my bed listening to Christmas music
on a winter night just before Christmas in 1965.

Ken Pierpont , Riverview, Michigan

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©Copyright 2011 Answers2Prayer | Matt 10:8 "Freely you have received, freely
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Mary: Portrait of a Woman Used by God
by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

One of my favorite biblical role models is Mary of Nazareth. In her life I
have found a wealth of wisdom for my own walk with God. Her story
illustrates
many of the characteristics of the kind of woman God uses to fulfill His
redemptive purposes in our world.

An ordinary woman

There was nothing particularly unusual about Mary. She was not from a
wealthy or illustrious family. When the angel appeared to this young teenage
girl,
she was engaged to be married and was undoubtedly doing what engaged girls
do—dreaming of being married to Joseph, of the home they would live in, of
the
family they would have. I don’t believe she was expecting her life to be
used in any extraordinary way.

The significance of Mary’s life was not based on any of the things our world
values so highly—background, physical beauty, intelligence, education,
natural
gifts, and abilities. It was Mary’s relationship to Jesus that gave her life
significance. “The Lord is with you,” the angel told her (
Luke 1:28, NIV
). That is what made all the difference in this young woman’s life. And it
is what makes all the difference in our lives.

An undeserving woman

God did not choose this young woman because she was worthy of the honor of
being the mother of the Savior. The angel said to Mary, “Greetings, you who
are
highly favored!” ( v. 28
, emphasis added). That phrase could be translated, “You who are graciously
accepted.” If any of us is to be accepted by God, it will be because of
grace—not
because of anything we have done.

It’s all because of grace. Over and over again in Scripture
, we see that God chooses people who are undeserving. God didn’t look down
from heaven and say, “I see a woman who has something to offer Me; I think I’ll
use her.” Mary did not deserve to be used by God; to the contrary, she
marveled at God’s grace in choosing her.

The moment we cease to see ourselves as undeserving instruments, chances are
we will cease to be useful in the hand of God.

A Spirit-filled woman

We, too, must be filled with the Spirit if we are to fulfill the purpose for
which God has chosen us. When the angel said to Mary, “You’re going to have
a child,” Mary responded, “How can this be? I’ve never been intimate with a
man!” God had chosen her for a task that was humanly impossible.

The task for which God has chosen you and me is no less impossible. We can
share the Gospel of Christ with our lost friends, but we cannot give them
repentance
and faith. You can provide a climate that is conducive to the spiritual
growth of your children, but you can’t make them have a heart for God. We
are totally
dependent on Him to produce any fruit of eternal value.

In response to Mary’s expression of weakness and inadequacy, the angel
promised her God’s strength and adequacy: “The Holy Spirit will come upon
you, and
the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (
v. 35 ).

Don’t ever forget that you cannot do what God has called you to do. You
cannot parent that child, love that husband, care for that elderly parent,
submit
to that boss, teach that Sunday school class, or lead that small-group
Bible study .

God specializes in the impossible so that when the victory is won and the
task is complete, we cannot take any credit. Others know we didn’t do it,
and
we know we didn’t do it. We must always remember that we can only live the
Christian life and serve God through the power of His Holy Spirit. As soon
as
we think we can handle it on our own, we become useless to Him. We have to
be willing to get out of the way, let God take over, and let Him overshadow
us.

An available woman

Equipped with the promises of God, Mary’s response was simply, “I am the
Lord’s servant.... May it be to me as you have said” (
v. 38
). In other words, “Lord, I’m available. You are my master; I am Your
servant. I’m willing to be used however You choose. My body is Yours; my
womb is
Yours; my life is Yours.”

In that act of surrender, Mary offered herself to God as a living sacrifice.
She was willing to be used by God for His purposes—willing to endure the
loss
of reputation that was certain to follow when people realized she was with
child, willing to endure the ridicule and even the possible stoning
permitted
by the Mosaic law, willing to go through nine months of increasing
discomfort and sleeplessness, willing to endure the labor pains of giving
birth to the
Child. Mary was willing to give up her own plans and agenda so that she
might link arms with God in fulfilling His agenda.

A praising woman

When God puts challenging circumstances in our lives, we either
worship or we whine. I’m ashamed to say I’ve done more than my share of
whining—even about ministry. “Oh, Lord, I’m tired of traveling. Do I have to
go
there? This is so hard! Why do I have to deal with that person?” I am
reminded of the children of Israel in the wilderness who murmured
incessantly. “If
only God had just let us die in the wilderness,” they whined. One day God
finally said, in essence, “You want to die in the wilderness? Okay, you’ll
die
in the wilderness!” (see
Num. 14:2, 28–30
). Be careful what you say when you murmur—God may take you up on it.

But when Mary’s world was turned topsy-turvy, when she was faced with a
drastic change in plans, she responded in worship and praise. “My soul
glorifies
the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” ( vv. 46–47 ). So begins
her Magnificat—one of the greatest hymns of praise ever lifted up to heaven.
She worshiped God for His wonderful acts, for His mercy, and for choosing
her to be a part of His great redemptive plan.

A woman of the Word

Her prayer in Luke 1:46–55
includes at least a dozen quotations from the Old Testament Scriptures. In
those days women did not have a formal education; Mary was probably
illiterate.
But she had listened to the reading of the Word and had hidden it in her
heart. Her life and her prayers were filled with Scripture.

One of our greatest needs as women is to become women of the Word so that
our prayers, our responses, and our words are saturated with God’s way of
thinking.
The world does not need to hear our opinions. When friends approach us for
advice about dealing with their children, their boss, their finances, their
fears, their depression, or other issues, they don’t need to hear what we
think. We should be able to take them to the Word and say, “I don’t have the
answers you need, but I know Someone who does. Here’s what God’s Word has to
say about this situation.”

A wounded woman

Eight days after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph took the infant to the
temple (
Luke 2:21–35
). Simeon, who had been waiting for the appearance of the Messiah, took the
Christ-Child in his arms and blessed Him. Simeon spoke of how the Child
would
be a sign that would be spoken against—foreshadowing the cross and the
suffering He would undergo. Then Simeon looked at Mary and spoke words that
she
would not fully understand until she stood beneath the cross of her Son 33
years later. On that day she surely remembered Simeon’s words, “A sword will
pierce your own soul too” (
v. 35 ).

There at Calvary I believe that sword pierced Mary’s soul in more than one
sense. First, as a mother she was losing her Son. She was giving up His
life.
Even as He laid down His life, she gave up her Son for the salvation and the
redemption of the world.

Mothers, have you laid down your children for the sake of Christ and His
kingdom? How sad it is on occasion to see Christian parents stand in the way
of
their children laying down their lives for the sake of Christ. And what a
joy to see parents who gladly release their children to the will of God.

Another wound pierced Mary’s heart—this one even more deeply than the first.
You see, she understood that her Son was dying not only for the sins of the
world, but for
her sins. Even before He was born, she had recognized Him as “God
my Savior” ( Luke 1:47
, emphasis added). As good as she was, Mary was not good enough to get to
heaven on her own. As is true with each of us, she had to place her faith in
the crucified Son of God, who died in her place. As she stood beneath that
cross, perhaps she recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah: “He was pierced
for [my] transgressions, he was crushed for [my] iniquities... and by his
wounds [I am] healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has
turned
to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (
Isa. 53:5–6 ).

Mary was a wounded woman–wounded not only by her suffering, but by her sin.
As she gazed upon her crucified Son, she realized that He was taking her
wounds
upon Himself. And as she believed, she was healed—cleansed of her sin. Three
days later when she learned that He had conquered death and was alive,
knowing
she had been made whole by His death, she joined the other disciples in
taking the Good News of His atonement to a wounded, sinful world, that they,
too,
might know His healing salvation.

For more than 2,000 years her life has provided a portrait of godliness for
women who, like Mary, long to be used of God.

© Revive Our Hearts. Used with permission. Excerpted from Portrait of a
Woman Used by God
by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

A New Thing – The Shepherds

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 2:10-17 (NIV)
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of
great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a
Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign
to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,
praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace
to men on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone
into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and
see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So
they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in
the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what
had been told them about this child,

It was not a new thing for an angel to appear with a message but one thing
was new in the message that the single angel brought to the shepherds. The
message an angel had brought in the past had been for one person or one
group of people. This message was the Good News for all the people. Another
new thing in this account is the baby being found in a manger.

What did the shepherds do when they heard what the angel said? They trusted
the message and did what the angel told them to do. They looked in the
mangers of Bethlehem until they found a baby. After that, they went out
praising God and telling everyone what they had seen and Who they had seen.
They did not know any theology but just what had been told to them and what
they had seen. That is what they told others

This message is a message for all peoples. Like the shepherds, we need to
tell all peoples the Good News of Jesus Christ. WE need to tell them just
what we know. WE don’t have to know all the whys and wherefores, we just
need to tell them what we have been told and what we have experienced.

I saw the results of a survey on a Christian web site of atheists about what
might reach them. The one thing they thought might turn them to Jesus Christ
was testimonies of Jesus and how He has worked in someone’s life.

Jesus commands us to go teach disciples. This may be a new thing god wants
you to do.

May we obey what the psalmist has told us to do:

Psalm 9:11 (NIV)
11 Sing praises to the Lord, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations
what he has done.

by Dean W. Masters

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PresbyCan Daily Devotional

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Today's Devotional

Be Of Good Cheer

John 16:33 – These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have
peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have
overcome
the world. (NKJV)

One of my brothers-in-law has had some serious health issues this year. He
has spent many weeks in hospital, endured innumerable tests, and undergone
several
surgeries. After many attempts at resolution, all of which were ultimately
futile, he had to have a leg amputated. He has borne uncertainty, anxiety,
and
extreme pain.

And yet, when I visit him now, I don't encounter a morose or sombre
individual, moaning or feeling sorry for himself. Instead, I encounter a
funny, vibrant
man who seems determined to overcome his difficulties and live a full and
happy life regardless of the circumstances. The nurses and other healthcare
professionals
who are attending him have remarked that his attitude isn't just good for
him, it's rubbing off on other patients, who are now also taking a more
positive
outlook on their own situations. Visiting with him and my sister isn't an
obligation — though it is an obligation I would gladly undertake — but a
joy.
It's fun!

God calls us to be cheerful. He calls us to face life with hope and with
joy, buoyed and supported by our faith. When times are difficult and life
looks
bleak, let us look into the Word of God. Let us look to our faith. For
whenever we face life with hope and good cheer, we are doing as God has
commanded
us. And let us be assured that by doing so, we will not only feel better
ourselves, but also be an inspiration to others.

Prayer: Thank You, God, for the gift of faith and for the gift of joy. Help
us always to be cheerful and to face our future with hope and confidence.
Help
us to find inspiration in others and to inspire them in return. In Jesus'
name, we pray. Amen.

Scott Williams
Positive Prayer Makes Strong Relationships
By Rick Warren

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge
and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and
may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of
righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ -- to the glory and praise of
God”

(Philippians 1:9-11
NIV).

I want you to think of somebody who irritates you -- maybe somebody you’ve
got a strained relationship with or someone who just rubs you the wrong way.
I have two questions for you: Do you pray for that person? Or do you just
complain and grumble and nag and nitpick? If you prayed more, you’d have a
lot
less to grumble, complain, nag, and nitpick about. It’s your decision.

Does nagging work? No. Does prayer work? Yes. So why do you do more of the
thing that doesn’t work than the one that does?

Paul says in Philippians 1:4 , “Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all
of you with joy”
(NLT, second edition).

Paul didn’t just pray for people in his life. He prayed with joy!

Positive praying is more effective than positive thinking. All the positive
thinking in the world isn’t going to change your husband or your wife or
your
child or your friend or your situation. Positive thinking can change you,
but it won’t change somebody else. But positive prayer can make a difference
in someone else.

Do you want to know the quickest way to change a bad relationship to a good
one? Start praying for the other person! It will change you, and it can
change
the other person.

Paul even told us how to pray for others: “And this is my prayer: that your
love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you
may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the
day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through
Jesus
Christ -- to the glory and praise of God”
(Philippians 1:9-11 NIV).

From these verses, we can learn to pray for the people in our lives in four
ways:

Pray that they will grow in love: “This is my prayer: that your love may
abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.”

Pray that they will make wise choices:“... so that you may be able to
discern what is best ...”

Pray that they will live with integrity:“... and may be pure and blameless
for the day of Christ ...”

Pray that they will become like Jesus:“... filled with the fruit of
righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ -- to the glory and praise of
God.”

Pray these for yourself and anyone in your life, and watch how God turns
around the relationship you thought was hopeless. Nothing is impossible with
God!



Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin! Used by permission;
all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).

"Living a Deliverance Life"
November 21, 2016
For God the Father has delivered us from the domain of darkness and
transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have
redemption, the forgiveness
of sins. Colossians 1:13-14
In Chuck Swindoll's book, The Finishing Touch, there's a story told about
how hard it is to live in deliverance and freedom when you've been in
bondage
for a long time.

The scene is a marketplace in northern India where people brought their
wares to trade and sell. One old farmer brought in a whole covey of quail he
had
caught. He hoped to get the attention of passersby by tying strings to a
ring fastened to a stick in the ground, which was then tied around the leg
of
each bird. With all that secure, the birds just walked in a circle, minute
by minute, hour after hour.

Sadly, his PR ploy didn't attract much attention. It seemed nobody wanted
these birds at all. But then along came a devout Hindu man, who believed in
the
idea of respect for all life, and his heart literally went out for these
birds that were confined and were now merely walking in a monotonous circle
when
they were meant to fly.

He told the farmer, "I want to buy them all." So he did, and right after
that he said to the farmer, "Set them all free. You heard me. Cut the
strings
from their legs and turn them loose. Set them free."

But a strange thing happened. Cut loose, you'd have thought those birds
would have joyfully flown away, but they didn't. They simply continued to
march
around and around in a circle.

A little frustrated, the Hindu man shooed them off, but they only landed
some distance away and they resumed their predictable march.

Freed from their bonds they just kept going round and round in circles as if
they were still tied to the stake!

I sometimes think that in life, we Christians are a bit like these birds.
When the Bible says we have been set free -- delivered from the domain of
darkness
and transferred to the kingdom of the Father's beloved Son -- we seem to
keep walking in the circles of our own wisdom and strength. In the sermon
yesterday,
I talked about the rescue of those Chilean miners in 2010. What an
incredible story! But the rest of the story is that after that magnificent
rescue many
of the miners went back to very destructive patterns in their lives, which
prevented them from making the most of this miraculous deliverance.

So here's a thought for today: you have been delivered from sin, death and
the devil himself. Your eternal deliverance is sure in Jesus Christ. The
strings
have been cut; the strings that have kept you bound to your guilt, your sin,
your fears -- they're gone. You have a Savior who wants you not just to be
free, but free to follow Him in all things. Take a moment today and think
about what it means to live in forgiveness, to live in grace, to live in
mercy,
and act towards others the way Jesus has acted on your behalf. That's a way
of life that doesn't walk in circles but walks in purpose towards an eternal
destiny that Christ assures for all who trust in Him. That's pretty amazing
stuff.

Wouldn't you agree?

Take a chance today. Quit walking in circles and follow the Lord, who has
given you wings to fly!

THE PRAYER: Dear Jesus, because of Your life and Your death and
resurrection, You have given me real freedom, real deliverance,
wings to fly. Help me soar in obedience to You as I trust in You each and
every day. Amen.

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz
Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
Lutheran Hour Ministries
Today's Bible in a Year Readings: Ezekiel 16-17; 2 Timothy 2
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I’ll be Home for Christmas
by Alex Crain, Crosswalk.com Contributor

“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”
Hebrews 13:14

Recently, I got my parent’s old Christmas records out of storage and began
making mp3 files of them so that we could play them again around the
Christmas
holidays. Bing Crosby’s classic rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
came on. Its melancholy sound filled the air.

I pictured the war-weary allied troops hearing this song the year it was
recorded in 1943, listening to it on their radios at night, spellbound by
the
sound; longing to be back at home with their loved ones.

I'll be home for Christmas, you can plan on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe, and presents on the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me, where the love light gleams.
I'll be home for Christmas... if only in my dreams.

Does any other version of the song capture the sense of sadness to the same
degree that he did?

Believers in Christ are soldiers engaged in war ( Ephesians 6:10
). And deep within us there is a longing that nothing can suppress. We want
to be home. It’s great to know that we are on the winning side, but we often
get weary of the fight.

Hebrews 13:14
encourages us to remember and find strength in the fact that “we seek the
city that is to come.” It’s a losing battle to pursue lasting satisfaction
in
this life. The words “Here we have no lasting city” drive us to only source
of contentment: the promise that Christ is always with me (
Matthew 28:20
) and that He’s bringing me home to a place where love, joy, and
satisfaction never end.

Intersecting Faith and Life: In the words of author Randy Alcorn
, “Things won't always take a better turn on an Earth that is under the
curse. Sickness, loss, grief, and death
will find us. Just as our reward will come in Heaven,
laughter (itself one of our rewards) will come in Heaven.”

Further Reading
The Christmas Bible Reading Plan
Heaven: Home of Laughter


The Gift of Desire Fulfilled
December 5, 2016

Read: Proverbs 13

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of
life. (v. 12)

The writer of Proverbs was called the wisest man who lived. He was quite
possibly the wealthiest and most powerful too. But Solomon was human, and he
knew
what it was to be heartsick. Unfortunately, it is part of our human
experience. Neither wealth, power, fame, nor wisdom can stop it. “For in
much wisdom
is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (Eccl.
1:18).

Solomon learned that it is possible to know too much; on this side of the
garden of Eden, we’ve tasted only the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of
good
and evil. Yet when desire is fulfilled, it’s as if we’ve tasted the tree of
life, he says. We feel able to thrive anew, ready to live forever.

When I’ve forcefully fulfilled my own desires, the results have been
disastrous. But waiting, allowing God to shape my hopes and dreams, has
delivered
me to a place of life, with branches overhead to shade, and roots underneath
to sustain.

Advent reminds us of an ultimate fulfillment of desire; the “hope of every
longing heart” has come as God’s answer to our heartsick condition. We are
wanted.
Our desire for perfect love is no longer thwarted. In Christ, we can taste
the fruit of the tree of life.

—Amy Clemens

Prayer:
Giver of good gifts, thank you for Christ, the ultimate tree of life. May
our desires take shape in his shade, our lives be fulfilled from his roots.

God Became One of Us
by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

Part of what it means to be a Christian is to believe the unbelievable: that
the historical human person, Jesus, who was born in a stable in a backwater
village outside of Jerusalem some two thousand years ago, was actually God
in the flesh. This inconceivable proposition, the incarnation,
1 means that, beginning at his birth, the human baby named Jesus was “fully
God and fully man in one person, and will be so forever.”
2 God became man—forever. That infant in the cradle was Immanuel, God with
us!

Paul expressed the incarnation in this way: “In him the whole fullness of
deity dwells bodily” (
Col. 2:9
). Think of that! Jesus wasn’t just some special appearance of God, a
theophany. Nor was he merely a misunderstood teacher of love who ended up
getting
crucified. He was God in the flesh—immortal; invisible spirit clothed with
human hair, skin and blood; and supported by muscle and bone. In his
humiliation,
God had to breathe, eat, drink, and sleep. When cut he bled. He longed for
companionship and truly suffered when his friends deserted him. He is one of
our kind, and as we “share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook
of the same things” (
Heb. 2:14 ).

To this day he remains one of us. This truth is the “foundation for all our
comfort” forever.
3 The incarnation brings unceasing hope and an end to our exile, wandering,
and despair. There is great comfort for our souls in the truth that he is
just
like us. Here’s why: the incarnation tells us that even though we sin, we
are not alone; even though we’re weak and finite, he knows what weakness and
mortality are because he was weak and mortal just like us; and even though
we continually fail he has committed himself to be part of a race of
failures—and
he has done so forever. He does not use our flesh merely as an impersonal
dwelling place, like some seedy motel room he can’t wait to vacate; rather,
he
assumes our nature completely and will be the God-man forever, throughout
eternity!

He Is One of Us

The incarnation sets Christianity apart from every other religion. The
thought that God would become man is simply without parallel in any other
faith.
In no other religion does a god do anything more than tell his subjects what
to do to become like him, earn his favor, or give instruction on how, if
they’re
lucky, they might avoid ticking him off. In no other religion does a creator
god become weak and an indistinguishable part of his creation.

In the incarnation, God became so completely one of us that the people who
lived with him didn’t notice anything special about him; Jesus’s deity was
perfectly
veiled in human flesh. In fact, when he went to his own village, Nazareth,
“the people who had known him for many years did not receive him.”
4 “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” they asked. “Is not his mother called
Mary?” (
Matt. 13:55
). Even his own family didn’t know he was the incarnate one. Think of this:
“Not even his brothers believed in him” (
John 7:5 ).

What did Jesus look like? A regular Joe. His form was just like ours. Put
this book down for a moment and look across the room at someone. That’s how
ordinary
he looked. Or, better yet, look at yourself in a mirror. He looked just like
you! He had eyes, pores, hair, and teeth. If you’d seen him, you wouldn’t
have thought he was anything special. He didn’t have any sort of magnetism
that would make you take a second look. He looked like any twenty- or
thirty-something
carpenter on any construction job.

His complete identification with us shouldn’t have taken his contemporaries
by surprise, because seven hundred years before his birth the prophet Isaiah
spoke of how normal the Messiah would appear: “He had no form or majesty
that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (
Isa. 53:2
). He willingly took a servant’s form and was born in the likeness of men.
He was fully human (
Phil. 2:7–8 ).

What was baby Jesus like? Did he have some sort of radioactive glow about
him? Maybe a little halo or cherubs floating around his head? No. He looked
like
any Middle Eastern infant, wrapped in rags and nursing at his mother’s
breast. And contrary to the sweet carol “Away in the Manger,” he did cry
when awakened
by the cattle’s lowing. He cried just like us.

Unlike ancient mythological gods, Jesus was no naughty demigod stripped of
his superpowers and banished to earth as punishment. Jesus isn’t Thor. No,
God
the Son freely volunteered to become one of us and to forever take to his
person all that it meant to be human. “Though he was rich, yet for your sake
he [voluntarily] became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich”
(
2 Cor. 8:9
). The incarnation isn’t a punishment on the Son; it is an act of his love,
a “voluntary humiliation.”
5 He gladly “made himself nothing” ( Phil. 2:7 NIV
). He who had everything, who was Lord of all, God Most High, creator,
became a poor servant—your servant—out of love for you, his beloved. He came
to
serve you and win you with his love. He became one of our own so that we
could be his own.

Notes

1. Martin Chemnitz, a follower of Martin Luther, described the incarnation
in this way: “The Son of God in the fullness of time joined to Himself in a
perpetual union which shall not be dissolved for all eternity, a human
nature, true, completely, entire, of the same substance of ours, possessing
a body
and a rational soul which contain within themselves all the conditions,
desires, powers, and faculties proper to and characteristic of human nature.
This
nature is pure, without sin, incorrupt and holy, yet in it are all the
infirmities which have befallen our nature as the penalties of sin. This he
willingly
and without imperfection assumed at the time of His humiliation, for our
sakes, that He might be made the victim for us.” Martin Chemnitz,
The Two Natures in Christ, trans. J. A. O. Preus (St Louis, MO: Concordia,
1971), 64–65, emphasis added.

2. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 529.

3. Chemnitz, Two Natures, 41.

4. Grudem, Systematic Theology, 534.

5. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, abridged ed., ed. Edward N. Gross
(Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1992), 363.

2Q== Taken from
Found in Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ , by
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry
of Good
News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187,
www.crossway.org .

Everyone, Christians included, knows what it’s like to feel isolated and
alone. We’ve all wondered if anyone really understands us or truly cares
about
our lives. The good news is that we aren’t alone, and the gospel tells us
why: Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth to be forever united with his
people—to
be one of us. In fact, he has so united himself with us that the Bible says
we are literally “in” him. Far from being alone and lost, the Incarnation
changes
everything for the Christian.
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Remembering Our Place When Wronged
by Association of Biblical Counselors

by John Henderson

Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we
are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in
God's place?” (
Genesis 50:18-19 )

We find in Joseph a kind of humble grace that deserves our thought and
appreciation. His brothers had wronged him severely. They had sold him into
slavery
and death. Years later, as second in power to Pharaoh in Egypt, Joseph is
given an opportunity for retribution. It would be easy to assume that God
was
providing a chance for him to even the score. What would you do if you were
in Joseph’s place?

I am amazed by how he responded. The posture Joseph takes is contrary to our
sinful nature and wholly divine. Clearly the Spirit of God abides in him.
Mankind tends not to act in this way. None of us tend to act this way. When
hurt and abused, we tend to be quicker to punish and revile. We need help.
We need God abiding in us. We need to believe and practice what Joseph
believed and practiced.

Remember the place of God – to assume the seat of judge upon the souls of
others is to forget the Lord has already filled the seat. It is like a
pardoned
convict demanding the judge step aside so that he may evaluate and sentence
a fellow criminal. The Father has given the position of Judge to His Son.
[1]
Not one of us can bear the burden, nor would we exercise the chair with
wisdom that is fitting. We can take comfort, however, that God is Judge
enough.
He dispenses mercy and wrath in perfect seasons and proportions.

Remember the place of Self – a recipient of grace. Perhaps we are offended
in the present situation, but we have often assumed the other spot. Whether
we recall the incidents or not, the Lord remembers countless moments when
His grace was extended to us, undeserved. Our grit and savvy did not secure
our
pardon, but God’s grace in Jesus Christ. “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my
heart, I am pure from my sin’?”
[2]

Remember the ways of God – they are righteous and pure. They have always
been righteous and pure. “For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe
greatness
to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God
of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He. ”
[3]
We can trust our God. We can trust His works. Since the foundation of the
world, He has proved Himself holy beyond measure. His law is perfect. His
wrath
upon sinners is perfect. His wrath was so perfect that the sacrifice of His
Son was necessary to satisfy it. Indeed, His grace is perfect too.

Remember the ways of Self – they are prideful and distorted. Whatever true
justice we perceive and dispense is a gift from God anyway. It is not of us
or from us. If we had our way, then true grace and mercy wouldn’t happen.
Justice wouldn’t either. We cannot trust ourselves. We cannot trust our
works.
It is not our instinct to redeem, or absorb transgression, or overlook a
fault in love. The Spirit must train our hearts to believe and apply the
gospel
in these forms.

Next time we are offended, as those who counsel the word of God to life, let
us pray for the Lord to bring these
verses
and truths to our minds. Let us pray to give the same mercy we have
received. Then we will better understand what it means to be children of
God. “But
I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so
that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun
to
rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the
unrighteous. ”
[4]

[1] John 5:22

[2] Proverbs 20:9

[3] Deuteronomy 32:3-4

[4] Matthew 5:44-45



Inspiration Ministries Daily Devotion

Concern for the Lost and Needy
Saturday, November 19, 2016

"God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the
rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?
Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and
destitute. Rescue the weak and needy."
Psalm 82:1-4 NASB

Many people assume that life is a competition. As Charles Darwin concluded,
a "survival of the fittest." That we must fight, or be trampled by others.
This spirit can drive us to being consumed by ourselves, and can lead to
selfishness and greed.

Armed with this attitude, some justify anything to get ahead, or gain an
advantage. They willingly distort and lie, deceive and manipulate.

Even Christians can be trapped into this attitude. We can stop trusting God.
Just thinking like the world, we can become willing to compromise our
convictions.
But the Bible reminds us that our primary focus should be to please and
trust God. To remember that if we seek first His Kingdom, we have no reason
to
worry. We can be confident that He will provide all our needs (Matthew
6:33).

The Bible tells us that God looks for people who have this level of trust.
Who are concerned more about His Kingdom than personal rewards. Who stand
for
eternal values, ready to fight for what is right. Who are moved with
compassion for Souls, the lost, and the needy.

Today, ask God to give you His perspective on your life, and the world. Ask
Him to free you from pride and selfishness. Ask Him to give you a greater
concern
for righteousness and truth. Ask Him to give you a burden for souls and help
you to be more concerned about reaching the lost. Ask Him to help you be
less
concerned about yourself, and more concerned about using the resources He
has given you to meet the needs of others.

Today's Inspiring Prayer

Father, search me and free me from deception and sin. Help me to be
sensitive to the needs in the world. Give me a burden for souls. I dedicate
my life
to You. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Further Reading: Psalm 82


How Long?
November 18, 2016

Read: Revelation 6:9-11

How long before you will judge and avenge our blood? (v. 10)

Walking through the old market district of a city in eastern Turkey, my
guide mentioned that all the shops and businesses around us had once been
owned
by Armenians. A century ago a majority of the people in that region were
Armenian Christians; today almost none are left. My companion lowered his
voice
and added, “There are deep caverns north of the city where they say the
bodies were thrown.” In Turkey one does not allude to such things except in
a whisper.

What is the mission of God in a world of such horrors: genocide,
persecution, exploitation, sex slavery, poverty, terrorism, and corruption?
Jesus said
that his mission was to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45) and
to build his church (Matt. 16:18). So we proclaim the gospel to the world
and
invite people everywhere to become followers of Jesus.

But followers of Jesus must also witness to and work for the coming of God’s
kingdom, God’s reign of justice and peace here on earth. The Hebrew prophets
called it shalom–the state of things where all is right, where humans and
even nature itself flourish together in joyous harmony.

I was talking with someone about our struggle to understand all the evils of
life. He said, “I don’t ask God why anymore, I ask him when. When are you
gonna come and fix things?” We may be sure that God will; meanwhile, we join
him in working on the fix.

—David Bast

Prayer:
Come, Lord Jesus!



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December 2016

"The girl's not herself," Dad said.
"Is it the flu that's making her sick all the time?"

"I don't know," said Mom, "but she's still putting on weight.
I've been trying to get her to the doctor."

"Is something wrong, Mary?" her fiancé asked.
"Oh, Joseph! You wouldn't believe it if I told you."

And he didn't -
later when her secret was discovered
and she tried to explain ...
neither did the doctor,
or her parents,
or her friends.

The most blessed of all women
was the loneliest person on earth.

Is there not often a burden that comes with a blessing?
And with great blessing
a great burden?

Sometimes the people you love most
cannot, will not
understand.

It took an angel to persuade Joseph.
Did Mary's parents ever believe her story?
... leaving her little choice but to accompany Joseph
on that painful journey to Bethlehem?

Perhaps, you have friends or family
unable to understand
who do not accept and will not share
the awe, the sense of wonder you feel
at the blessing you have been given
by this same Christ child

making your own journey a painful one.
Embrace God's blessing, in all its wonder, like Mary,
and trust his grace to help you with the burden
to guide you each step of the way.

© David G. Goodman

What blessings are you embracing? Take time to ponder this and thank the
Lord for each of his blessings - the "easy" ones and the "difficult" ones.

Would you also take a few minutes to consider how God has blessed you and
men, women, communities and churches worldwide through Entrust?

We trust him to provide for our financial needs all year, and especially at
this season, through friends like you. Your generous Christmas or year-end
gift will bring nothing but unburdened blessing to our global team.

Merry Christmas! Embrace the blessings!


"I Almost Missed A Christmas Miracle"

Bethlehem, 2000 - The excitement was building. We were standing in the
Shepherd's Fields just outside of Bethlehem. We were ready to go into the
Shepherd's
Caves and sing Christmas Carols. Some members of the tour group had done it
with me on previous trips. For others, it was their first time - but
everyone
was excited. Bethlehem... Christmas Carols... Shepherd's Caves... Who
wouldn't be excited?

We had always done it. We had always sung carols in these Shepherd's caves -
Because once you did, you were never the same. So, I planned it so that
everyone
could experience it. My plans were about to be fulfilled. We would sing
Christmas carols inside the Shepherd's Caves in the hills of Bethlehem.

There was a problem. It was crowded. The year 2000 had bought more groups
than ever to Israel. The Shepherd's Caves were full! We waited... and
waited...
No groups were leaving the caves. Our time was growing short. We were about
to miss out on our chance.

I was disappointed. I knew what a blessing our group was about to miss. I
expressed my disappointment to God. "God, we've always sung in the caves. No
one is ever the same after they do! We have to do it, Lord. We've always
done it that way. If we don't, our group will miss out on the blessing of
Bethlehem.
Can't you work it out to open one of the caves for us?"

None of the other groups left the caves. We didn't get to sing carols in the
Shepherd's Caves. Disappointed, I led the group to the top of the hill - to
a small chapel called "The Chapel of the Angels". We would sing there - but
I knew it wouldn't been the same. It couldn't be, because we had always done
it only one way.

Once inside the "Chapel of the Angels", we started singing carols. Most of
the group had tears in their eyes as we sang "Silent Night". For them,
Christmas
already had a new meaning.

A MIRACLE - Then, it happened. A group from Germany entered the chapel.
While we were singing "Silent Night" in English, they started singing it in
German.
Two other groups entered as well. There were now four groups singing
Christmas Carols. Every time I started our group in a song, we were joined
by an "International
Choir" singing in German, French and Spanish!!! There was not a dry eye in
the chapel. Everyone called it a "Christmas" miracle.

I almost missed out on that "Christmas Miracle" - me, the "spiritual
leader" of the group. Why? Because I was so intent on doing it the way we'd
always
done it. If we didn't follow the same traditions of Bethlehem that we'd
always followed, I just knew that we wouldn't be blessed.

What about you? Does God have a special blessing or a miracle for you this
Christmas? If you're so intent on making sure that you follow the same
traditions,
that you do exactly the same things that you always do each Christmas, you
may miss out on a special blessing or a Christmas miracle.

Two thousand years ago, the people of Bethlehem were doing things the way
they'd always done them. People were working, shopping, visiting and
worshipping.
Due to the census, extended families from far-away places had returned home
and were visiting with their friends and families - swapping gifts and
memories.
In the midst of their traditional way of doing things, God performed the
greatest miracle of all - the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ.

With the exception of some shepherds, the introduction of God's Son almost
went unnoticed. Don't miss out on a miracle this Christmas just because
"We've
never done it that way before".

By David Langerfeld
Copyright (c)2000.
thedailyencourager@harrisburgonline.org


The Thrill of Hope
Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Managing Editor

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you
may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

"A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and
glorious morn."
~~ O Holy Night

Does Christmas thrill you?

Children get excited at the coming of the season, and often we might feel a
bit of a charge through experiencing their amazement, but the chores we go
through to provide that for them are often the very things that rob us from
knowing the wonder for ourselves. Plan the party, trim the tree, max out the
MasterCard, wrap, ship, take a trip. And that's assuming we aren't one of
the multitudes who find themselves with a case of the Holiday Blues.

So if Christ's coming into this world offers hope, and hope, as the song
says, provides a thrill, how do we locate that experience amid the
distraction
and disillusionment of December?

Well that's the cool thing about Hope. Just as total darkness can't hold
back the light of a tiny flame, so does even the smallest increment of Hope
provide
joy and purpose.

Here are a few scriptures I've been mulling over on the subject:

• Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not
seen"
(Hebrews 11:1 ).

Notice the parallel between "things hoped for" and "things not seen." Talk
about a paradox; try applying "assurance" to something your five senses
can't
detect. It's a challenge. The plus side is that hope, through Christ, is
available to you no matter what you see, hear, or feel. It's above your
circumstances.

• "We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about
perseverance; and perseverance [brings about]proven character; and proven
character
[brings about] hope; and hope does not disappoint because the love of God
has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given
to
us"
(Romans 5:3-5 ).

Do you ever hear people say, "I don't want to get my hopes up" because
they're afraid of being disappointed? What would you make of Paul's claim
that "hope
does not disappoint"? Might the disconnect have something to do with what
we're hoping for or expecting? Max Lucado thinks so:

"Hope is not what you'd expect; it is what you would never dream. It is a
wild, improbable tale with a pinch-me-I'm-dreaming ending... Hope is not a
granted
wish or a favor performed; no, it is far greater than that. It is a zany,
unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks
and
be there in the flesh to see our reaction."
[1]

• "Love... hopes all things...but now abide faith, hope, and love; but the
greatest of these is love"

(1 Corinthians 13:7
,13).

Ever wonder why faith, hope, and love are the greatest virtues, and
apparently in that order?

Maybe hope isn't actually something we do, but something we receive, like
grace. If it's true that "without faith it is impossible for us to please
Him"
(Hebrews 11:6 ), perhaps it's conversely true that without Hope it would be
impossible for Him to please
us. The same verse says that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Is
hope that reward?

I mean, if faith is what we give to God, and hope is what He gives to us,
then we have the dynamic of a relationship. With that in place, we can love.
So love is built on hope, which is built on faith.

For hope to exist, unfortunately it looks like there has to be hopelessness
first. A perfect world wouldn't have any need of hope. Deliverance arrives
undeservedly and perhaps unexpectedly, just as in the unlikely way God came
to earth to provide a once-and-for-all substitute for the sins of all men on
the first Christmas. That's why things can look bleak, but that's where hope
lives.

The good news is: you simply can't hope big enough, which goes back to the
idea of our minds and senses being inadequate to judge God's design and
methods,
and hope being more a function of God's involvement than our desires. I
readily acknowledge I could not have conceived of the plan of
salvation
or the virgin birth. I couldn't have imagined the plan for the walls of
Jericho to crumble, for hungry lions to turn into Daniel's pet kittens, or
the
Red Sea to part and offer up dry land. So neither do I know how my problems
will be solved, or what miracles I'll be blessed to see this Christmas.

Isaiah 9:6-7
concerns the hope of the prophecy being fulfilled that brought us a
"Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace." The
last sentence
of verse seven says it's "the zeal of the Lord" that will accomplish this.
God is excited! He's zealous (enthusiastic, passionate, obsessive even) to
bring
us this hope!

Romans 15:13 is my Christmas prayer: "May the God of hope fill you with all
joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in
hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
"

Why is there hope? Because Jesus was born. O holy night. What a thrill. God
is at work.

[1] From God Came Near, page 89

Intersecting Faith & Life: What does hope out of despair look like? There
are lots of examples in any Christian's life, but in terms of contemporary
cinema,
I know of no better example than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Go back and
watch those movies again over the holidays, keeping an eye out for allusions
to hope and hopelessness.

Further Reading

Isaiah 9:6-7
The Promises of God
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A New Thing - Mary

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 1:34-35 (NIV)
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The
angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the
Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the
Son of God.”

Luke 1:38 (NIV)
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have
said.” Then the angel left her.

In the Scripture above from Isaiah, the prophet was telling the people that
they would be returning from exile to their promised land. I also see this
as a prophecy of a truly new thing which we celebrate during this time of
year – the coming of the Messiah. In the account of Mary, we see some new
things. The Jewish people believed that the Messiah would be born of a king
to become a kingly warrior to destroy their enemies. Instead He came to
earth as a tiny baby in a humble family. Another new thing that happened was
that a virgin had this baby.

Who knows what Mary was thinking when the angel Gabriel told her she would
give birth to the Messiah. She may have been to awestruck to even think too
much. She may have thought about what might happen to her if she agreed to
go through with it. She might have thought about what other people might
think about her and about Joseph whom she was to marry. Whatever her
thoughts, she told the Lord that she was His servant.

Today people do not like to think about being a servant. That brings
negative connotations and people today want to be puffed up. They want to
feel like they are somebody and not someone who has to obey everything
someone else tells them. Most people today want to be on an ego trip and do
not want to give into anyone. Of course, slavery is wrong but we Christians
should die to self and become servants of our Master Jesus Christ. A
beautiful thing about this Master is that He is also our friend. He tells us
to take his yoke and work for Him. This may sound hard but He said that his
yoke is easy and His burden is light.

During this time of year we are thinking of gifts that we are going to give
our family and friends. What can you give to Jesus? You can give more of
yourself. Will you take his yoke and become His servant? He may want you to
continue doing what you are doing for him or He may have a new thing for you
to do. Will you go where He wants you to go and do what He wants you to do?
If you will just start on the first step then He will empower you with His
Holy Spirit to help you be the servant He wants you to be.

by Dean W. Masters

"Wait Until he Comes!" #84-14

Sermon Text for December 4, 2016
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on December 4, 2016
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Christmas seems so materialistic. How can I make sure not to spoil my kids
with more stuff?)
Copyright 2016 Lutheran Hour Ministries

Amazon will give every time you shop!

Listen to The Lutheran Hour podcast online
Text: Isaiah 11:1-10

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the
young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a
little child shall lead them......In that day the root of Jesse, who shall
stand as a signal for the peoples-of him shall the nations inquire, and his
resting place shall be glorious.

Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ Jesus is coming again! Amen.

Do you remember Christmas in the old days-and I'm not talking about the
1980s! No, I'm talking about real Christmas trees with fresh pine smell
filling
the house. I'm talking about those old Christmas lights with the big bulbs
that got very warm, but sent a bright and colorful glow shining through the
condensation on the living room windows during a chilly winter night. I'm
thinking about homemade Christmas cookies by the bin full and groups of
carolers
going door to door as Christmas approached.

Do you remember the old days? A friend of mine born in the early 1900s used
to recount stories about Christmas in her small farming community in Iowa.
Her Christmas gifts included apples, oranges, and a new purple pencil. She
didn't receive many gifts, but she was thrilled with every one of them. Her
family kept their Christmas turkey frozen by placing it outside in the
rafters of the porch. The family didn't have indoor plumbing. But she
couldn't believe
anyone would have a bathroom inside the house. Sunday afternoon visits meant
traveling in a sleigh during the winter. The children were bundled in
blankets
with warmed rocks from the fire tucked by their feet to keep them warm.

It was the old days: unplugged, simpler times, built on relationships,
slower and quiet.

Of course, the old days weren't perfect, but they had some qualities we
yearn for today. Who wouldn't want some rest from the assault of 24-hour
breaking
news reports? Who wouldn't want to escape the constant buzzing and chiming
of emails and texts? Who wouldn't be glad to hear that instead of navigating
expensive medical care online through big companies you could have a simple
face to face conversation with a family doctor?

But before we reminisce too fondly about days gone by, let's remember some
of the stark realities. Back in the 1800s, dangerous substances like alum in
bread caused serious illnesses. Before the time of pasteurization, Bovine TB
in milk caused the death of nearly half a million children in the first part
of the 19th century.

The top causes of death in 1900 were pneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis, and
gastrointestinal infections. Some of the common medicines we have today
didn't
even exist back then. Modern antibiotics weren't available. Surgical
procedures that are routine today could have saved many lives in the old
days.

Life wasn't easy or ideal in the old days. The old days could be very hard
days. Just as things aren't always the way we hope they would be today,
things
weren't the way people hoped they might be back then either. There is no
ideal time in history. In modern times, some of our best ideas turned out to
be
some very bad blunders. In fact, I'm convinced that one of the reasons we
suffer so much today is the overconfidence that we are going to solve all
the
world's problems just by our genius and ingenuity. When will we learn?

Here's some of that bravado. Back in 1972, large artificial reefs were made
from millions of unused automobile tires and dropped into the ocean. The
thought
was they would become humanly constructed reefs rich in marine life. But it
didn't happen. Instead, the old tires leached chemicals toxic to sea life.
The tires broke apart and caused an environmental nuisance-a danger to the
oceans. The bright idea not only didn't work; it was destructive.

Can you think of all the modern chemicals and drugs that have caused death
and disaster? How about technology and innovation that ended up in foul-ups
and flubs? What about the human-made disasters that have damaged our world
and devastated people's lives? The truth is this; even with all our modern
know-how
we can't quite get rid of all of our troubles and problems.

Whether it's the old days or twenty-first century innovations, life has
never been the way we've hoped it would be. In the midst of the many
blessings
and joys, there have always been problems-big problems, hurtful ones,
heartbreaking and hope-draining issues.

But, before I get you too depressed and ruin your countdown to Christmas,
let me tell you some Good News. There is a way to live in hope right now.
There
is a way. There is a promise for life the way life is supposed to be. And
this promise-this way-is very much about the true meaning of Christmas.
Listen
to Isaiah, chapter 11: "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard
shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the
fattened
calf together; and a little child shall lead them."

These words describe complete harmony, the lack of danger, the eradication
of prejudice and abuse, the end of division and violence, complete health
and
safety, and a fulfilling clarity and understanding about the way life works.

Where is this life available? Isaiah 11:1 tells us: "There shall come forth
a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear
fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him."

The key to the way life is supposed to be is not a program. It's not an
institution. It's not in a political party or in an organization. It's not
about
reminiscing about the old days or depending on the technology of the
twenty-first century. The key to the way life is supposed to be is not a
what or a
how; it is a Who-a Person. The way life is supposed to be is found in the
person of Jesus Christ. He is the promised descendant of Jesse's family
highlighted
in Isaiah, chapter 11. He is the person who is able to usher in life the way
God intended it to be. In fact, that is why the angels sang, why the
shepherds
were filled with joy, why Mary and Joseph were in complete awe, why Simeon
and Anna sang songs of celebration, and why we celebrate Christmas to this
day.
Jesus came to put an end to death, to wipe away tears, to stop violence and
division, to heal illnesses once and for all, and bring lasting peace to our
hearts and souls, even to our world. In Jesus, then, there is a way for your
life, your salvation, your hopes, and even your dreams!

But you may be asking: "If Jesus came to restore all things, why is life
still so fouled up?" I'm glad you asked that question. It's a question that
reveals
the reality again of our world. It reveals the profound need each one of us
has. We are broken. Our world is broken. Even during Christmas, the
brokenness
is very clear.

Do you notice it? I do. Every year I do. I want Christmas to be just right,
but wrong things always happen. Personally, the stress of the season takes
its toll. Sometimes I try to do so much, I end up getting sick. I don't
always even get my gift-giving correct. Yvette has been very understanding
with
my fumbles over the years. As a pastor, I didn't always get to the big
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations with great joy. Sometimes I was
just
plain worn out and frazzled. Maybe that's just me. Maybe it's you, too.

But the broken world shows up in bigger ways than merely personal stress and
strain too. For many people, this season brings devastating grief and
depression.
It may be caused by the death of a loved one, a broken relationship, or an
experience in life that hurts very deeply.

Even during this special season, all is not the way we'd hope it would be.
There's no denying it. From looking in the mirror to looking at the
headlines,
you and I know something is very, very wrong. What is it?

The Bible tells us and you know this truth: the world is broken. Our lives
are broken. Evil and tragedy are real. God's Word speaks honestly and
clearly
about this fact. It tells us that the world groans with this pain-just as do
we. We are waiting, we're yearning, we're hoping for restoration. God's Word
tells us that sin has corrupted our hearts and twisted our world into chaos,
violence, and tragedy. We're all in bad shape. No matter how much we do, no
matter what we develop technologically, no matter what new innovations
happen or philanthropic efforts we initiate, the stain of sin-of a tragic
separation
from God's goodness and perfection-mars our lives and this world. We can't
solve the problem. In fact, a lot of our efforts seem to make it even worse.
That's why we need something new in this equation. We need Someone new. And
that Someone is Jesus.

Listen again to how Isaiah describes Him: "There shall come forth a shoot
from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And
the
Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and
understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and
the fear of
the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not
judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but
with
righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek
of the earth...........Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and
faithfulness
the belt of his loins (Isaiah 11:1-5).

What are these verses telling us? They are telling us that Jesus understands
the real issues and reveals what the real solutions are. These verses
promise
us a wise, faithful, and compassionate Savior Who will put an end to the
injustices in the world and will stop evil and death in its tracks. He will
do
what no one else and nothing else could do.

In fact, here's what you need to never forget. Jesus has already done
everything to make that happen starting with His birth in Bethlehem and
living a
perfect life in our place. Jesus, then, suffered temptation, trial,
rejection, opposition, bullying, grief, betrayal, abandonment, physical
suffering,
and even death. He endured it all without caving in to disobedience or sin.
He accomplished it all for you and me. And He overcame it all-including
death
when He rose from the grave. The power of sin and death was defeated through
Jesus' death and resurrection.

That's why Paul can say it straight, "O death, where is your victory? O
death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin
is
the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord
Jesus Christ"
(1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

During the season before Christmas, the season called Advent, we are waiting
for Jesus to come again. We are waiting for final and complete restoration.
That's the point of Christmas. It's more than brotherhood, fatherhood, and
just getting along. It's about salvation, rescue, and life eternal.

This is the hope of Christmas Day. Christmas is not simply a time to
remember an old story and it's not merely a family celebration for today. It
is primarily
a celebration of hope and expectation forever. Christmas tells us that God
came to help us once for all and He will return to bring to fruition all
that
He has done for those who believe in Him. Christmas proclaims to you and me
in the darkness and difficulty, in the momentary happiness and peace of this
world.... "Wait until He comes - because there is no one like Him for you!"

It was Christmas Day last year; an adventure was unfolding on the British
Isles highest mountain, Ben Nevis. It was over 4400 feet above sea level and
this mountain is a popular place for climbers, 100,000 people scale its
slopes each and every year.

But last year, the weather turned ugly as two Dutch climbers found
themselves in trouble at around 4000 feet. They learned what it means to
wait for real
rescue. Darkness began to fall when the stranded men called for help. That's
when a helicopter and rescue crew were summoned into action. Suddenly they
saw the bright spotlight piercing the darkness. The sound of a helicopter
began to reverberate all around them and the high-powered spotlight that
swept
the mountain face stopped and shone on their location. They were found. Help
had arrived-at least the first wave of help. But the helicopter couldn't
reach
them...they would have to wait. The helicopter crew radioed a
fourteen-person rescue team who was ready to ascend the slope. It took time,
but time was
no problem with help on the way. The helicopter let them know that they were
not alone. All they had to do was wait.

So let me encourage you this Christmas season, dear friend. If you are
presently feeling trapped, lost, or helpless, Jesus Christ wants you to know
your
help has come. Jesus is real. He's not merely a character in a story. He
literally walked the earth, He healed the sick, He did the miraculous, and
He
ultimately carried your sins to a real cross and conquered death when He
rose again. He promised that, by faith in Him, you will live forever with
Him.
And, already now, the bright rescue light of the Savior has identified your
location and is shining on you. Through the living Word of God His hope is
yours. His encouragement, forgiveness, and strength are available to you
every day, forever. Jesus comes today! Help has arrived! You may be on the
mountain,
hung up in an impossible situation. The temperature may be cold and the wind
may be blowing. You may be frightened and trembling. But the spotlight of
His help is shining on you and this Christmas like always. His spotlight of
grace is shining on the world through you. By faith in Him today make the
most
of everyday as you receive and shine the love of Jesus Christ through your
words and actions. People need your prayers. In Christ, lift up prayers for
those you love, for those in need. Jesus has come! He still comes today for
you and for me.

Oh, and know this. I know even with all that joy and confidence there is
still a time of waiting, a time also to wait for eternal restoration. But
even
then, you know, in Christ the day is coming when the rescue is complete. We
know it's coming. We know Jesus is alive and well. So we wait in His hope.
When everything looks dark, you know Jesus is coming again for you. When you
feel like the world is out of control, you can trust that Jesus is on His
way to rescue you. When you are puzzled and when you have big questions, you
can call out to Jesus in prayer. He hears you. He is close. He is coming.
Be ready. Be alert. Be encouraged. Just wait until He comes!

You know what I love about Advent and Christmas; it's not the gifts, the
celebrations, the parties. It's the reality that Jesus came to this earth to
save
you and me from sin and death. And that living Lord still comes to you and
me through His Word and sacraments to encourage us and to bless us. So, my
prayer
for you today in the reality of the hope of the Lord Jesus Who has come and
Who is coming again; wait for it, wait for Him! He is close and, by His
grace,
life will be better than you and I can ever hope for.

Amen.
Print this Sermon
Action in Ministry for December 4, 2016
Guest: Dr. Tony Cook

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. This is Action In
Ministry. It's a call to action in response to all that God has done for us
in Jesus
Christ. Pastor Seltz, we are just weeks away from Christmas and yet so many
find themselves in a season of waiting; waiting for hope and restoration.

SELTZ: I love this time of year, Mark. It is a time that is full of joy and
cheer, but many are struggling to find that joy in the midst of Christmas.

ANNOUNCER: We have a booklet titled What Is Christmas and it's all about
finding that joy in Christmas even when life is hard, when circumstances are
difficult.
Here to talk with us about it today is Dr. Tony Cook, one of our division
directors here at Lutheran Hour Ministries.

SELTZ: Dr. Cook, thanks for joining us.

COOK: Glad to be here. Thanks.

SELTZ: Tony, Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the
year, as the song goes, but it's often not that. Why? Why is it like that
for so
many people?

COOK: I think that while the holidays only come once a year, the problems
that we have: pain, illness, death, unemployment; these things stay with us
365
days a year. So to think that even though it's a holiday, we can set all of
that aside, doesn't normally happen. So when these holidays roll around and
we see all of these ideal pictures of family and friends and holiday cheer;
many of us reflect on the current problems that we still have.

SELTZ: It deepens the problems in a lot of ways, too.

COOK: It does. I think that a lot of people think that the holidays gloss
over the pain that we have; but, at least what I've found, is that many
times
it can make that pain even more intense.

ANNOUNCER: Now this booklet is titled What Is Christmas and that seems like
such a simple question; but for those who have lost that joy of the season,
what should Christmas be?

COOK: Well, for me, I struggle with the loss of my family members at
Christmas time and you think I don't even want to celebrate. But when you
stop to
think about it, you realize that this is exactly the time that you should be
celebrating because Christmas is about that hope. It's that celebration of
Jesus, of Him coming into the world, of remembering why He came, how the
incarnation made a difference not just for the world but actually in our own
lives.
So for me, as someone who struggles occasionally with finding that hope and
joy, it's that time of Christmas that I really don't want to back away from
but I need to lean into because there is the answer to the pain and the
suffering that we have.

ANNOUNCER: Right.

SELTZ: Yeah, when you think about it, Christmas is not an idyllic, romantic
story. It's about God actually entering into all of this. Let's talk about
that story. How does that story relate to folks who maybe aren't up for the
celebration this year?

COOK: When we think about Jesus and we think about His birth, even during
our difficult times, one of the things that we remember is the birth of
Jesus
began the process of bringing us back home to God. It was that process of
reconciliation between God and His broken creation, between God and the
broken
humanity that we all have. So, while many times we can feel isolated during
the holidays, really it's the message of unity and transformation and
reconciliation
that comes through that incarnation of Jesus. It transforms our
understanding in the end; our understanding of suffering, of loss, of trial.
At least for
me, it points me to a future. It points me to a hope.

SELTZ: When you think about it too, God is willing to pay the price to
actually come into your loneliness, to come into your isolation; so He's
bringing
a message to you right where you are like you just talked about. It gives
you another way of looking at your future.

COOK: Yeah, really.

ANNOUNCER: Let's talk about the content of this booklet and how it helps
point the reader toward the true meaning of Christmas.

COOK: I think this resource is a great one. It contains a story about a
family who had the recent loss of a daughter who had died and it shows the
real-life
strain and stress that that loss takes. It's not something that you can just
be happy and think about the holidays, but you really have to struggle and
deal with. This story walks us through this loss. It walks us through the
pain that this family experiences at Christmas and it gives us an example of
how God breaks into our lives and how He comes to help this family so that
they can find the true joy of Christmas.

SELTZ: From year to year, our circumstances, they can change or they may not
change like you were talking about as well. We might lose a loved one, we
might go through a financial crises, but like you were just talking about,
God can break in to the middle of that and bring joy right in to the middle
of that so Christmas can be full of joy when life isn't perfect.

COOK: Exactly.

ANNOUNCER: Dr. Tony Cook, thank you joining us today reminding us once again
that Jesus Christ is our hope and rescue and we always have reason to
celebrate
that.

COOK: Thanks for having me.

SELTZ: That's our Action In Ministry segment today; to bless, to empower,
and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.

ANNOUNCER: To view or download this resource, 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 December 4, 2016
Topic: Christmas seems so materialistic. How can I make sure not to spoil my
kids with more stuff?

ANNOUNCER: We are back once again with Pastor Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark
Eischer and maybe you can identify with our listener who says, "Christmas
always
seems so materialistic. How can we make sure we're not spoiling our kids
with more stuff?"

SELTZ: Well, Mark, that's getting harder and harder each and every year.
Here in the United States where we have been blessed with so many resources,
there's
a whole pop culture trying to convince us that we have to buy, buy, buy, to
be more happy.

ANNOUNCER: Let's make sure we understand what we're talking about here with
this word "materialism". It is the tendency to consider material things and
personal satisfaction more important than anything else-more important than
relationships, more than our spiritual life, and more than lasting virtue or
values.

SELTZ: Yes, stuff more than people! Materialism can consume you though. You
can become so obsessed with the next thing in order to be satisfied. The
buzz
you get from buying something or acquiring something new becomes the
stimulation you need to stay excited about life. It can become, I hate to
say this,
it can become a "religion" of sorts. You worship things instead of the
Creator of all things.

ANNOUNCER: How can we protect our families, then, from falling into that
trap of materialism?

SELTZ: Let me say it this way, you don't have to banish Christmas gifts in
order to stem the tide of materialism. The deeper issue for our listener and
for all of us is how we show love to others. What is the best way to show
our love to our kids? Is it by showering them with stuff?

ANNOUNCER: As parents, we want our kids to be happy. We want them to have
opportunities, perhaps, that we never had. It feels good, basically, to
provide
them with these blessings.

SELTZ: That's a caring motivation. I love showering my daughter with
blessings, too. But we need to be careful that giving things doesn't veer
into an
unhealthy behavior. Giving gifts to ease your guilt for not spending time
with your kids; that really can be very destructive.

ANNOUNCER: That kind of buying could be buying you trouble in the future if
you don't watch out!

SELTZ: It often does. Giving things to your kids so they stay out of your
way communicates something very hurtful. The ultimate answer to the
listener's
question is showing that genuine love to your children. That's what helps
prevent materialism. Your kids need you. Stuff might be nice, but nothing
replaces
you.

ANNOUNCER: Let's look at the way God describes this relationship with our
kids and how we raise them. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminded his
people
to teach their children to love God and live for Him. He said, "You shall
teach [God's ways] diligently to your children, you shall talk of them when
you
sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and again
when you rise"
(Deuteronomy 6:4-7).

SELTZ: We know that every parent can't spend all that kind of time all the
time with their children. There are going to be challenging situations in
life
that do separate you, I understand that. But pay attention to your children,
listen to them, value them for who they are, and take an interest in them,
and then share how God takes a great interest in them. That will keep
materialism at bay. What we're really talking about here is how to teach
your children
to be content in all things, Mark.

ANNOUNCER: Things don't necessarily build contentment?

SELTZ: Not at all. Things pass away pretty quickly. This new toy this
Christmas, and I remember this, will be forgotten by next Christmas. My dad
reminded
me of that too by the way. The new model of phone will be obsolete in a few
months. Things fade away, they pass away. But God's love never passes away.
There is a secret to being content and you probably know the verse I am
talking about.

ANNOUNCER: "I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me"
(Philippians 4:13).

SELTZ: That's it. What's the best way to prevent spoiling your kid? Love
them with God's
gracious love. Spend time with them. Talk with them. Listen to them. Look
into their eyes. Show them that they're important by being in that
relationship
with them.

ANNOUNCER: Let your love show them that stuff isn't what's all important.

SELTZ: Right, and there's no easy way to say this but just that your
relationship to them is important. I know that's hard work. That
relationship comes
from God's unconditional and eternal love for us in Jesus; and then, in
Jesus through us to those we love. Give your kids the greatest and most
lasting
gift of all: a refuge, a strength, a source of hope, a purpose for their
life in their Savior and Friend, Jesus Christ.

ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran
Hour Ministries.
Visit lutheranhour.org
Read Today's Devotion
Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009
Concordia Publishing House)

"Once He Came in Blessing" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia
Publishing House)

A Season of Hope
By Debbie Holloway, Crosswalk.com Contributor

“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”
( Zephaniah 3:17 ).

The winter festivities continue to fly by. First came Halloween and harvest
time, then Thanksgiving, and now the Advent season is upon us. For many, the
season of Advent is spent in little
else except preparing for Christmas. Gifts are bought, wrapped, and tucked
away beneath the tree. Verses are read from the books of Luke and Isaiah as
we recall the nativity story. People find it easier to remember to love
their neighbors, give to the poor, and reflect on the meaning of Christmas.

I myself have been thinking a little bit about Advent... and about hope. You
see, of the five Advent candles, the Prophecy Candle is lit first, which
represents
hope. We’re all familiar with that oft-quoted verse...

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with
child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel”
(Isaiah 7:14
).

Prophecies like these gave the Israelites hope that God would not forget
them. During some of their darkest days, prophets like Isaiah gave them
words
from the Lord as a reminder that God would not abandon them to sin and
slavery forever.
Immanuel means “God with us,” and that is perhaps the most stirring theme of
ancient prophecies.

Today may seem just as dark to us now. Wars are fought all over the world,
bringing staggering civilian casualties as well as solider deaths. Children
are abused and underfed. Homelessness is evident on every inner city street
corner. Families are torn apart by greed, hatred, selfishness, and pride.
But,
just as the prophets gave hope to the ancient Israelites, we have a renewed
hope through Christ.

“And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”
(Matthew 28:20
).

There it is again: Immanuel. God with us. Because God is with us! He spoke
it over and over throughout history, and Christ affirmed it. As we enter
into
this season of Advent, is that not the greatest hope we could wish for?
Through our struggles, failures, faults, and fears – we have the blessed
hope that
Christ is not only with us, but will continue to be with us and will return
again.

Intersecting Faith and Life: Into what areas of your life can you inject
hope? Remember, no situation is too dire for God.

Further Reading

Jeremiah 29:11

He's Coming!

This shout of anticipation is the heart of Advent, the time of year when we
celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

The weeks leading up to Christmas Day are a special time of reflection on
God’s gift to us: the child Jesus.

Rejoicing in Jesus’ birth certainly brings glory to God, but sometimes we
can forget that God didn’t just send a child into the world; He sent a
mighty
Rescuer! The image of the Child in the manger should fill our hearts with
praise because we know what that Child would grow up to accomplish—He would
save
His people from their sins.

ALT

This story is not just for those of us who live after Jesus’ time, though.
The people of God have always known what Jesus’ mission would be. How did
they
know about this divine rescue plan before Jesus actually came?

Because God promised the whole plan to them, and every single part of it was
designed to become true in Jesus.

No, God didn’t just promise His people that a miracle child would be born.
He also promised that this Child would grow up to be the loving Shepherd of
His people, the place-switching Sacrifice, the resurrected Lord, and the
righteous King who reigns in glory forever. But there is yet another
promise:
this King is coming back for His people!

As we celebrate the first coming of the Expected One during Advent, let’s
also look forward in hopeful anticipation of His second coming. Let’s keep
in
mind the whole picture of who Jesus is, worshipping Him as the fulfillment
of all of God’s promises to us, “For every one of God’s promises is ‘Yes’ in
Him” (2 Cor. 1:20 HCSB).

The Expected One

The Expected One
by Scott James

© 2014, B&H Publishing Group.
Used by permission.

Today's Devotional

A Baby Idea For Advent

Years ago, a friend from a small group Bible study showed me this verse:

Zephaniah 3:17 – For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty
savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will
calm
all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. (NLT)

The phrase "take delight in you with gladness" haunted me. I wondered over
and over how the Lord God takes delight in me with gladness. Recently, a
face-to-face
conversation with a neighbour showed me how He might do that.

I was surprised to see her with a nine-week-old puppy: tiny, wriggling,
big-eyed, cute, and wrapped in her arms with a fleece baby blanket. She
enthused
in great detail over her new "baby" as she let me hold him for a minute. She
commented that even the necessary middle-of-the-night trips outside were a
joy.

Confronted unexpectedly with the positive gush of the caregiver-baby bond, I
asked the Holy Spirit, Is this what you want me to remember in future when
I ponder "He will take delight in you with gladness"?

Yes!

Going into Advent this year, as a mother, I can only imagine the love that
Mary had for her newborn baby, Jesus. And as great as mother-love is, it is
miniscule in comparison to how my God, Lord, and Saviour cherishes me and
you! That idea challenges me to sift through the disappointing memories of
my
life and re-evaluate what I thought that God was doing while things were
painful, sharp, cold, hard, and tough. It is amazing to me now, when I
recall
those events, I feel His embrace and the warm fuzzy blanket that He provided
then and continues to provide now.

This year during Advent, as we think about the love that God showered upon
the human race in Baby Jesus, let us consider how God cherishes each one of
us. If you are uncertain of His cherishing, ask Him for a demonstration.
Revelations of His love are life-changing gifts.

Prayer: Father in heaven, in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, we ask for
ever-increasing wisdom and understanding in our knowledge of You and how You
love us. Help us to realize and remember how You cherish each one of us
through Jesus. Help us to show others Your kind of cherishing. Amen.

Pat Bell
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The Gift of Wonder
November 30, 2016

Read: Habakkuk 1:1-11

Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a
work in your days that you would not believe if told. (v. 5)

The gift of wonder has more to do with what we don’t know than what we do.
It leaves space for mystery, which in turn makes room in our lives for the
living
God to astound us.

While it is true that knowing helps our faith, God cannot be fully known (1
Cor. 13:12). Hebrews 11:1 tells us faith is the evidence of things not seen.
What we do know is that Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a
manger; what we cannot fathom is why God loved us enough to be wrapped in
flesh to begin with. To fully embrace that mystery requires faith.

To children, awe comes naturally, for there is so much they do not know. The
fact that they are vulnerable and trusting leads Jesus to point to them as
examples of the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand Solomon concludes that
increasing knowledge brings increasing sorrow (Eccl. 1:18). We lose our
sense
of wonder as we grow older. The residue of the fall can speak more loudly
than our hope.

The advent of Jesus is in many ways a mystery. God did a work that we “would
not believe if told,” and issued an invitation to rest in the gift of
wonder,
allowing the mystery of God to stretch and inspire our faith.

—Amy Clemens
Prayer:
Giver of good gifts, stretch our faith with the gifts of wonder, awe, and
mystery.

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

"Jesus Is Still Here"
November 17, 2016
... (Jesus said) "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:20b
I wasn't too long in the ministry before I heard the question, "Where is
Jesus?"

The question was prompted by the motorcycle death of one of the young adult
members of my congregation. No drugs. No booze. No speeding. He was a good
kid. One day as he was on his bike, a driver didn't see him, and in a second
it was all over.

Understandably, mother and father were heartbroken. He had been their only
son.

In the days following his death, I noticed an amazing difference.

The mother's opinion was "I don't understand why the Lord took my boy home.
No, I don't understand, but I trust the Lord to do what is right. We will
meet
again."

The father felt something quite different.

Outraged at God, the father said, "Jesus is supposed to be a God of love.
Jesus is supposed to be all-powerful." From these two very basic statements
of
faith, both of which are quite right, the father concluded, quite wrongly:
"If God loved my boy and He can do whatever He wants, then Jesus should have
saved my son."

The father concluded, "Where was Jesus? I can tell you where He wasn't. He
wasn't with my boy. And if Jesus wasn't with my boy then, then I don't need
Jesus now."

The father wasn't ready to listen to me or anyone else.

He didn't want to hear how God had protected his boy through countless other
accidents that never happened. He didn't want to hear how the Savior who
lived
and died and rose to save his son, would never -- could never -- do anything
hurtful or wrong. He didn't want to hear how the Lord may have, by taking
his boy home, saved his soul from a deadly, future temptation.

Dad didn't want to hear; his mind was made up.

When I left that church and community, his attitude hadn't changed.

I pray he has changed now because the truth is Jesus loved his boy and Jesus
still loves that father as well.

So, where is Jesus?

Here is an honest answer. He is there with you, right now.

The fact that you may not feel Him, or see Him, or agree with Him, does not
change the fact Jesus is with you. He is there, protecting you from dangers
you cannot imagine.
When you feel singularly alone, when you feel there is nobody you could
count on, when you think everyone has deserted you, He is there. How do I
know?

I know because He told me.

THE PRAYER: Dear Savior, it is incomprehensible that You lived, suffered,
died and rose for us and then forgot we are here. We know Your love is real
and
You will continue to live in our hearts forever. For this we give thanks in
Your Name. Amen.

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: Ezekiel 5-7; 1 Timothy 4
Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin! Used by permission;
all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).


What Does God Love?
by Debbie Holloway, Crosswalk.com Contributor

I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your
name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from
the
depths of the grave
( Psalms 86:12 ).

There is a very famous passage in Proverbs detailing what God hates. Indeed,
throughout the
Bible
God never shows reluctance to speak against behaviors he finds detestable.
This should come as no surprise to us, being that he is holy and man has
amassed
a large amount of sinful tendencies since he first came into the world.

But what does God love? While avoiding the “bad” list – is there a “good”
list toward which we can be working? Let’s dissect Proverbs 6:16
to discern the things which God loves.

God hates “haughty eyes.”

Therefore, God loves eyes which gaze with humility. Not a false or broken
humility of despising oneself, but a genuine, Christ-like choice to serve
others,
not draw undue attention to oneself, and treat others with great honor and
respect.

God hates “a lying tongue.”

Therefore, God loves a tongue which speaks truth. Note that this does not
say a brash tongue, or a loud tongue, or a tongue which speaks its opinion
at
any and every possible moment. Rather, he loves a tongue which, when it does
speak, values honesty and artlessness.

God hates “hands that shed innocent blood.”

Therefore, God loves hands which protect the innocent. Throughout Scripture,
God’s compassion for the defenseless and the innocent is clear. He commends
his children (in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Covenant) to protect
the defenseless (Psalm 82:3-4), welcome the alien
(Matthew 25:35
), care for the widow
(James 1:27
), defend the orphan (Deut. 24:17), and mourn with those who are mourning
(Romans 12:15
). We are to be peaceful citizens, not bloodthirsty citizens, and our hands
should therefore strive to protect innocence.

God hates “a heart that devises wicked plans.”

Therefore, God loves a heart which devises good and righteous plans. God
loves our desires to serve, our desires to help, our desires to minister.
When
our hearts long to carry out God’s plans for goodness, righteousness, and
peace, it delights him.

God hates “feet that run rapidly to evil.”

Therefore, God loves feet which run rapidly to goodness. Our feet carry
enormous power. Where we choose to walk can truly define who we are as a
person.
Will we choose to walk away from a fruitless argument, or remain in an
attempt to stubbornly prove a point? Will we choose to chase after those
whom we
have wronged, falling at their feet with love and humility? Will we let our
feet wander to where the Spirit leads us, or will our feet guide us to our
own selfish desires?

God hates “a false witness who utters lies.”

Therefore, God loves a trustworthy witness who speaks the truth. When we are
beacons of integrity, truth, and honor, God rejoices. In any situation, a
witness is charged to faithfully report what happened to the best of his
ability. The greatest witness we can be is a faithful witness of God’s
redeeming
work in our lives. Will we stand boldly and speak the truth of God to the
world? Are we living our lives as false witnesses, or trustworthy witnesses?

God hates “one who spreads strife among brothers.”

Therefore, God loves one who spreads peace among his brothers. It is really
only possible to spread peace or strife. Every word we speak contributes one
of those two attitudes to our relationships. And God loves those who value
peace over 1) proving a point, 2) being heard, or 3) manipulating
situations.
With one word at a time, God wants us to change our attitude and sow seeds
of peace in our relationships.

Intersecting Faith and Life

Pick one thing that God loves and work to implement more of it into your
daily life.

Further Reading
Leviticus 19:18
Micah 6:8
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O Christmas Tree
By Skip Heitzig

I read somewhere that in a recent Christmas season Americans used 28 million
rolls of wrapping paper and 17 million packages of tags and bows, sent out
372 million greeting cards, and set up 35 million Christmas trees.

Some of our Christmas traditions are just that, traditions. Jesus was
probably not born on December 25, for example. And the Christmas tree is
based on
the celebration of the reincarnation of Nimrod. The ancient Babylonians
burned a “Yule” log (the Chaldean word for infant) in the fireplace, and the
next
day a symbolic evergreen tree was placed inside the house.

This pagan ritual is hinted at in the Bible , in Jeremiah 10:1-4
. But before you get worried, I want you to know that if you come to my
church, you’ll find a very large Christmas tree in the foyer! And you know
what?
Most people born in this country don’t know the origins of these things, and
we aren’t worshiping Babylonian gods and goddesses. It’s not about that.
(And
it’s good to remember that Martin Luther was the first guy to put a
Christmas tree inside the home.)

At the same time, what are we to do with some of these traditions? Let’s
look at what Jesus did when He was faced with a festival that had a lot of
tradition,
some of which may have been true and some not. In John chapter 10, He was in
the temple for the Feast of Dedication, also known as the Festival of
Lights,
or Hanukkah. You won’t find it in the Bible anywhere; it dates from the
period between Old and New Testaments. But Jesus was celebrating Hanukkah,
and
He used the Festival of Lights to shine the light on who He really is (
John 10:22-30 ).

And I suggest that’s what we do with Christmas. You can say, “Bah, humbug!”
You can get “Santa Claustrophobic.” You can run from it. Or you can use it
to shine the light on who Jesus really is.

People are singing the words we preach in evangelical churches every week:
Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord. Veiled in
flesh
the Godhead see! Hail, incarnate deity! Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel. Hark, the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn
king!”

At least some of them don’t know what they’re singing, but that’s where we
come in. We can redeem it by reminding them. Does it matter when He came?
No,
it matters THAT He came. Since the celebration is already ongoing, I say let’s
use it to remind them of Him.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Connection Communications. All rights reserved.

FastPass, Please
WENDY POPE

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of
many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces
perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not
lacking anything.”
James 1:2-4 (NIV)

A few years ago, our family took a vacation to the place where dreams come
true, Walt Disney World Resort, one of the largest amusement parks in the
United
States. To prepare for the trip, I read websites and blogs and interviewed
“experts” (a.k.a., friends who call Walt Disney World their favorite place
on
earth), so we could maximize our time there.

In my research, I discovered something called a FastPass, which gives you
access to the most popular rides without having to wait in long lines. You
get
a ticket ahead of time, allowing you to go to the front of the line at an
appointed time. It is ideal for girls like me who don’t like to wait.

Each evening, my family would map out our ride plan. When the park opened
the next morning, we would rush to the FastPass machine. Our ride plan could
not have worked out any better, but of course we were
where dreams come true.

Real life, though an adventure, is far from a day at an amusement park. Too
often, we want a FastPass straight through God’s pauses to move directly to
His plan. But God seldom hands out passes so we can avoid the wait and skip
to the front of the line.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as painful as it feels at the time.

A rush through the wait has the potential to stunt our spiritual growth and
dull our senses to what God wants us to learn. As the apostle James tells us
in today’s key verse, God wants us to
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything
” (James 1:4 ).

James advises those who follow Jesus not to take the FastPass through tests
and challenges. He says that a pause will actually work in our favor. Our
faith
will mature, and we will become well-developed women of God, ready for all
the good works He has prepared for us. God is the Creator of time. We can
trust
His pauses to be purposeful and perfectly arranged. God will make the most
of our pause, and we should too.

As we wait, we find ourselves in great company. Noah waited 120 years for
the flood
. Abraham and Sarah waited nearly 100 years to become parents. Jesus waited
30 years to start His public ministry. These and countless others waited on
God and in the wait experienced Him in remarkable and miraculous ways.

I know what you’re thinking: But he was Noah. They were Abraham and Sarah.
And He was Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God. They’re all in the
Bible
! Rest assured, they are indeed all in the Bible, but not because of their
perfection in waiting. Each one of them had moments of questioning God, but
they were willing to wait and do the work necessary for God’s plan to come
to fulfillment.

Waiting isn’t meant to be a grueling process. What if we view it as a pause
or an interlude, a place we can experience the peace of God while He works
in us so He can work through us? He is actively working while we wait -- a
promise that never disappoints in the end.

Dear God, waiting is hard and waiting well seems impossible. As I wait, help
me see the good around me, rather than feeling neglected and dismissed.
Lord,
when I grow impatient, remind me how You are trustworthy and have my best
interest in mind. Thank You for the good plans You have prepared for me. In
Jesus’
Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Lamentations 3:25 , “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the
one who seeks him.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
When waiting on God takes longer than expected, we might begin to doubt His
promises. If you’re looking to gain confidence in God’s plans, even during
uncertain times, join us for our free Online Bible Study which just launched
last week -- there’s still time to join us! We’re going through Wait and
See:
Finding Peace in God’s Pauses and Plans,
a brand new book by Wendy Pope.
(c) 2016 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries

Never Alone
View this email in your browser

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” John 14:18

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
The late Dr. Paul Tournier, great Christian psychiatrist from Switzerland,
wrote that loneliness is the most devastating malady of this age.

What is loneliness? Many confuse it with being alone. But you can be alone
and not lonely. Your loneliness does not have to overwhelm you. After all is
said and done, truly your only solace is found in Jesus. Why? He
understands. John 1:10-11 tells us that the world neither received Him, nor
knew Him.
In many respects He lived a life of loneliness. “But I need somebody real.”
Jesus is real. He is closer to you than anyone else can be or ever will be.
What a friend we have in Jesus! We will never be separated from Him!

ACTION POINT:
Are you lonely? Chances are someone you know is, too. Why don’t you give
someone a call right now and invite them to do something.
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Post  Admin on Fri 02 Dec 2016, 4:43 pm

Coming Out of the Darkness of Depression
Mary Southerland

Florida is famous for its sinkholes. I personally find them fascinating
since I grew up in Texas where most holes are made
intentionally. As I studied these overnight wonders, an interesting
explanation emerged. Scientists assert that sinkholes occur when the
underground resources
gradually dry up, causing the surface soil to lose its underlying support.
Everything simply caves in forming an ugly pit.

Depression and sinkholes have a lot in common. Depression seems to overwhelm
with a vicious suddenness when it is actually the result of a malignant and
constant process. Inner resources are slowly depleted until one day there is
nothing left. The world caves in and darkness reigns.

Depression is America's number one health problem. Someone once called it "a
dark tunnel without a ray of light" while cartoonists portray it as "little
black cloud hovering overhead." I have a friend who says, "Some days you're
the bug. Some days you're the windshield." Many believe that depression is
simply a spiritual problem while others insist it is an emotional and
physical disorder. They are all right. Studies indicate that over half of
all women
and one out of three men struggle with depression on a regular basis.
Because no one is immune to the darkness, we must learn to face it honestly,
with
emotional integrity.

That moment came for me in the spring of 1995 when I realized that something
was drastically wrong. I was absolutely empty and completely exhausted. It
seemed as if I had been living in the fast and furious lane forever!
Overwhelmed, I sat down and mentally listed the demands on my life:

• Serving as Pastor's wife in a large and fast-growing church
• Raising two young children
• Maintaining a hectic speaking schedule
• Directing the Women's Ministry of our church
• Teaching a weekly and monthly Bible study
• Counseling women in crisis
• Playing the piano for three worship services
• Teaching twenty piano and voice students

No wonder I was struggling. I was just plain tired. Being a perfectionist,
I had always been very strong, driven to excel with little sympathy for weak
people. Now I, the strong one, couldn't get out of bed. Getting dressed by
the time my children returned from school meant it was a good day. The
simplest
decisions sent me into a panic and the thought of facing crowds was
overwhelming. Many times I walked to the front door of the church but
couldn't go
in. I felt guilty missing services but couldn't handle the sympathetic looks
and questioning stares as I stood, weeping uncontrollably. I was paralyzed,
imprisoned in a bottomless pit where loneliness and despair reigned,
wreaking emotional havoc from their throne of darkness. I had no idea how I
had gotten
there and what was even more frightening was the fact that I had no idea how
to escape! I did the only thing I could do. I cried out to God.

"I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He
lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a
rock
and gave me a firm place to stand." (Psalm 40:1-2 NIV)

With that single heart cry, my journey from darkness into light began. The
first step was to recognize the factors that can trigger depression; a lack
of replenishing relationships, various chemical imbalances, a poor
self-image, just to name a few. One of the most common and deadly factors is
failure
to deal with the past. The "mire" mentioned in Psalm 40:2 means "sediment at
the bottom." When my children were small we frequented the beach. Wading
out into the ocean, they took turns pushing a beach ball under water and
counting to see who could hold the ball under water for the longest time.
Eventually
their arms would tire, or the ball would escape their control, popping to
the surface. The "mire" in our lives is like that beach ball. The "sediment"
or "junk" that we have never dealt with settles at the bottom of our souls,
randomly popping up until we run out of energy to keep it submerged.
Eventually,
this mire works its way to the surface spilling ugliness and darkness into
life.

"Mire" comes in all shapes and sizes - buried pain, unresolved anger, hidden
sin or a great loss. I had never really dealt with my mother's death or
faced
some very painful parts of my past. As I looked back over my life a
startling realization came - I had painted a picture in my heart and mind of
how I

wanted my childhood to be - not how it really
was. I had spent my whole life running from the past by filling the present
with frenzied activity. In the following weeks and months, the Lord and I
sifted through the enormous pile of "mire" that had settled into my spirit
and life. Together we faced experiences that I had carefully locked away
until
they slammed into my heart and mind with breathtaking force and fresh pain;
an alcoholic father, the trusted family doctor who molested me, times of
loneliness
and rejection, haunting failures, unreasonable fears that were never spoken.
It seemed as if
the flood of polluted memories would never end!

But God is good - providing a defense mechanism for those experiences that
are beyond our ability to face. He gently tucks them away until we are
ready.
When we bury pain alive, it keeps popping up at unexpected moments. Pain
must be dealt with and buried...dead!

Freedom from the pit of darkness demands a confrontation of our past,
straining every experience through the truth that "all" things work together
for
our good. The will of God admits no defeat and penalizes no one! We can
allow our past to defeat us or empower us. Harnessing the power of the past
is
a compelling weapon in the war against darkness.
www.marysoutherland.com


The Gift of Gratitude
November 29, 2016

Read: Luke 2:8-20

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had
heard and seen, as it had been told them. (v. 20)

Gratitude is the great attitude equalizer. When I look at each person,
challenge, or development as part of God’s plan, I always find something to
be grateful
for, even if it’s just knowing I am not alone. My eyes are lifted up, away
from myself and a perception of life that is too often tainted by the fall.

The shepherds experienced this gift of gratitude. Although a visit to the
manger changed nothing about their difficult and disdained occupation, their
heads were lifted by a revelation that God was among them, and they returned
to shepherding, singing something akin to “Joy to the World.”

My own head is lifted today with the reminder that a new year on the
Christian calendar began with Advent. With the fragrances of Thanksgiving
still hanging
in the air, I am launched into a new adventure of anticipation, even though
my circumstances haven’t changed. God is with us! I am happy to linger here,
but also to return to my daily life, remembering that God’s plans for the
future are good too.

Celebrating the New Year according to the Christian calendar is delightfully
countercultural. No fireworks at midnight. No post-holiday slump, weary of
shopping or parties or return lines. Just a year that ends in gratitude and
begins with the anticipation of God’s best plan ever, Jesus.

—Amy Clemens

Prayer:
Giver of good gifts, thank you for what you will do at the intersection of
gratitude and Advent.

Nobody Remembered

"There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful
king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siegeworks against it.
Now
there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his
wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man." (Ecclesiastes 9:14-15)

Disaster was averted and lives were spared.
...."But nobody remembered that poor man."

Wise words of counsel were given and heeded and lives were blessed
innumerably.
...."But nobody remembered that poor man."

Could sadder words be spoken? I think not.
...."But nobody remembered that poor man."

This time of year, we naturally think of giving more so than we do in any
other season. But the best thing you can give this season - or any season -
isn't
for sale. It comes freely, but it only comes deliberately - and because you
can't touch it, it can never wear out. It's called "appreciation."

This season, as you give, give your heart. As you share presents of
possessions, also share presents of your heart to encourage the spirit of
others -
tell them of your appreciation for them.

Remember that poor man - and all the people like him. All the people God has
sent your way and steered you away from destruction, time and again, all
your
life. Bless them today by remembering them. Those you know well and those
whose names you know not. Give those you know what they need - your
appreciation.
Give those who have blessed you and you never knew it, what they need - your
kindness, and so, your appreciation.

Your appreciation of the lives of others may very well be the very best gift
you can ever give. So give it often. For it costs you little and those who
receive it will be wealthy indeed.

"How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in
the presence of our God because of you?" (1 Thes. 3:9)

To receive The Daily Encourager FREE each weekday, click on the following
link:
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The Sovereignty behind Suffering
By Skip Heitzig

You know those motivational posters and plaques--the ones that typically
extol the virtues of success or determination or imagination? I have yet to
see
a poster or a plaque extolling suffering. There are no statues erected in
honor of pain, no Pain Day that's part of our calendar. And there's a side
of
God that I don't think a lot of us like to think about: if God has revealed
Himself as all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, then why is His world
so messed up? Why doesn't He stop evil and pain?

Sometimes you can have this packaged, clean theology
about God in your mind, then catastrophe strikes, and what was once clear to
you no longer is. For me, it happened when I was twenty-two years old and
I got a phone call from my father that my brother had been killed in a
motorcycle accident. It took me completely off guard. Another strike hit
sometime
later when my wife miscarried a child and my father died on the same day. It
wasn't that I didn't believe in or trust God after these times, but my view
was different.

So how are we to interpret episodes of pain and suffering and evil in the
world? In
John 9
, we read about Jesus' encounter with a blind man. Before healing the man,
Jesus' disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that
he was born blind?" (v. 2). What they voiced was and is a very common
contention--why was this man suffering? This inevitably leads to a larger
question:
Why is there suffering at all?

There are some pretty typical explanations people give, the first being the
sin explanation, which we see here in verse 2. Now, sin is ultimately the
root
cause of all misfortune in the world, but personal acts of sin are not
always directly the cause. The common view among atheists is simply that
there isn't
a God, because how could a God who's all-powerful and all-loving and
all-knowing allow evil to exist? But the problem of saying there's evil in
the world
is that it presupposes a standard of goodness against which to measure evil,
and if there's no God, then where did we get that standard? Another
explanation
is that God wants to help--He's just not all-powerful.

But look at what Jesus said: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but
that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of
Him
who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As
long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (vv. 3-5).

One thing I really appreciate about Jesus is He didn't give pat,
predictable, packaged little answers to the problem of suffering. What He
did was elevate
it to a higher level--the level of the sovereignty of God: behind suffering,
God is still in control. And there are a couple points that speak to this.
First of all, God did not create evil; He only enabled the possibility of
evil, because He created people with free will. Not only that, but suffering
in the hands of a loving God can produce great good. For instance, God took
what most people would say was the very worst thing that could ever happen
in human history--the cross--and turned it into the very best thing that
could happen in human history.

Here's what I hope you get from Jesus' interaction: this blind beggar was
not an academic case to be discussed in a theology class; he was a person
who
needed compassion and healing. And the time is now that we have the
opportunity to help and bless and fix. We can't just deal with the problem
of pain
theoretically or academically--that's a cop-out. Yes, the biblical God is
all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful, and one day He will judge evil
and
eradicate injustice. But until then, we have a spiritual obligation as the
body of Christ to help alleviate suffering and allow it to work for us.

Wouldn't it be a lot easier to believe Romans 8:28
if it said, "Some things work together for good to those who love God"? But
it says, "All things work together for good to those who love God, to those
who are the called according to His purpose." Remember that the next time a
pebble hits your theological windshield, when you hear the bad news, when
the
doctor calls--
all things work together; God is in control.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Connection Communications. All rights reserved.

Scripture to Comfort
by Meghan Kleppinger, Crosswalk.com Contributor

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Matthew 5:4 , NAS

If you have ever suffered a broken relationship and/or heart, the loss of a
loved one, or any number of other devastations, than you know about "that"
pain.

It's that pain that originates in the bottom of your stomach and initially
feels like a big numb ball. Later it develops into a raw gnawing that can
only
be equated to burning stabs of fire. It makes it way up through the
intestines and finally settles in the throat, choking out all attempted
spoken words
and creating such an excruciating sensation that tears are sure to follow.

Like any other person who has spent more than a few days on this planet, I
know "that" pain well. It comes quickly and when it does, it's difficult to
believe that it will ever go away. It brings about sorrow, grief, and as it
eventually begins to fade away, it brings guilt.

This has been a tough year for my family. We've lost friends and recently,
just a few short weeks ago, my grandfather. I know I'm not an anomaly and
that
people all over the world are suffering a similar pain, so as I began to
pray about what I should write about for this week, I started thinking about
what
has really been helpful for me during these times.

Friends and family have been great, but most of all, scripture has been
comforting me. My hope is that the scripture I share with you will be
beneficial
to you as you grieve or that you can use it to minister to others who are
suffering.

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I
give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."
(John 14:27 )

"And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out
within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
(Romans 5:5 )

"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed n
spirit." (Psalm 34:18)

"The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the
will of God lives forever."
(1 John 2:17 )

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3)

"And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer
be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the
first things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4)

And finally...

"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring
with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by
the
word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the
Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself
will
descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with
the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are
alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet
the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore
comfort
one another with these words."
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 )

Intersecting Faith & Life: Go to the Word of God for comfort. In the words
of Matthew Henry, ""The Word of God gives us great help in attaining the
peace
we need. It is living, very lively and active in seizing the conscience of
the sinner, in cutting him to the heart, and in comforting him and binding
up
the wounds of the soul. It is powerful. It convinces powerfully, converts
powerfully, and comforts powerfully.""

Further Reading

Revelation 21:3-5
Why Does God Comfort Those Who Mourn?
Learning True Comfort

The Will Of God
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BIBLE MEDITATION:
“For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My
sister, and mother.”
Mark 3:35

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Major Ian Thomas, English author and founder of a worldwide missionary
fellowship, once wrote, “Which of these things in the life of Jesus is more
spiritual?
When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount? When He raised Lazarus from the
dead? When He washed His disciples’ feet? Or when He spat on the ground and
made clay to anoint the blind man’s eyes? None was more spiritual than the
other. Jesus did not divide His life up into little segments of
spirituality.
He was simply available to do whatever His Father willed.” The will of God
is not a road map. It is a relationship! You just simply set yourself apart
to do the will of God.

ACTION POINT:
Are you segregating your life into activities that are more spiritual than
others? Surrender all you are to Him and make yourself available for
whatever
He calls you to do today.
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Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You
Divinely Positioned - #7784

Some friends of ours struggled with a wide variety of health issues over
several years. And a while back, a trusted friend told them about a juice
taken
from a rare fruit that seemed to have measurably improved their health, and
the health of several people that they love. Well, our friends invested in
that juice, and they liked the early results. I can just imagine what would
have happened, though, if some telemarketer had called them cold and tried
to sell this product to them. "Hey, I have some juice for you." Click. See,
I know these people. They never would have bought it from some professional
salesman. But, you know, it helped when someone like them, someone they knew
and trusted was the one who told them about it. They wanted what she
believed
in. They wanted what was changing her.

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Divinely
Positioned."

You are divinely positioned. Yeah, because someone will believe you about
Jesus that would never believe anyone else. You know, most of us are like my
friends that I described. We're not going to buy from Mr. Slick Salesman.
We'll buy from someone who's like us. Even when it comes to the most
important
choice we'll ever make in our life - our relationship with the God who made
us; with the God we will stand before when we die.

Many of us have found at the cross of Jesus Christ the greatest love in the
universe. And in His empty grave, we found the greatest power in the
universe
- the power of the only man who ever walked out of His grave under His own
power. But every day we're with folks who've never experienced His love or
His
power and who will never experience His heaven if they don't meet Him for
themselves. But whose responsibility is it to tell them?

Many of us would like to leave it to someone who can do it better - like my
pastor or that evangelist. He's really good. He's better at this; got more
training. The problem is that in our world today, those folks are perceived
as professional God-salesmen, which most lost folks aren't interested in
listening
to. But then, God's strategy never has been to leave spiritual rescuing just
to His professional lifeguards. He works through the everyday believers; His
satisfied customers.

Take our word for today from the Word of God, for example, in John 4:39.
Jesus wants to reach the Samaritans in a nearby village, but He's Jewish and
they
don't like Jews. He doesn't go into that village and have rallies there. He
reaches one Samaritan woman and sends her back to her village to tell about
Him. The Bible says, "Many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the
woman's testimony." They listened to someone like them. So will the people
around you.

Over the past twenty plus summers, I've been eyewitness to a modern miracle.
In 400 years of missionary effort, only about 5% of Native Americans know
Jesus Christ. And yet, I've seen thousands of Native young people give their
lives to Christ, because our On Eagles' Wings teams - they're the ones
telling
about Jesus and their people just like them, young Native Americans who have
lived the drinking, the drugs, the gang life, the violence, the despair and
the suicide. But now they have found hope in the Creator's Son, Jesus
Christ, and they're going to reservation after reservation introducing young
people
just like them to Jesus Christ. Some have said it's the greatest spiritual
harvest in 400 years. Why? Because the messenger is someone like them!
That's
why there's been a breakthrough.

Do you see yourself in this life-saving picture? Who are the people around
you going to listen to about Jesus Christ? Someone from their tribe, their
vocation,
their avocation, their occupation, their location, or their association.
Someone who walks the same trail they do day after day and you're the person
they
know who's walking that trail with the hope of Jesus Christ and showing them
in that world - their world - the Jesus-difference.

You don't have to go to their world. You are in their world! It is you
they'll listen to. It is you God will hold accountable for their soul. Is
there
someone who could say it better? Maybe. Would they listen to that person?
Probably not. They'll listen to you. Jesus is sending you to your people to
tell
them about Him. Humanly speaking, their eternity is in your hands, and you
are their best chance.
Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, Inc. · P.O. Box 400 · Harrison, Arkansas 72602 ·
USA

Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin! Used by permission;
all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).

"A Day of Hope Is Coming!"
November 14, 2016
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant
and all evildoers will be stubble. ... But for you who fear My Name, the sun
of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. ... And you shall
tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet,
on
the day when I act," says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 4:1a, 2a-3
In Jerusalem there is a Holocaust Museum dedicated to the memory of the
millions of Jews who were killed by the Nazis in World War II. It has been
said
that going through that museum is a very depressing experience because you
see these horrible pictures and read the accounts of the ghettos and the
concentration
camps. But in the midst of all the dark tales of suffering, there is one
amazing story of how God can transform horror into hope.

In one of those camps there was a young lady named Rachel. She endured great
hardship from being made to work in the snow with inadequate clothing. She
watched in horror as many of her friends and family members were killed.

Then one day, the guards left unexpectedly. She didn't know the war was
over. Later that day some American soldiers arrived to set the prisoners
free.
One young American soldier spoke gently to her and convinced her that they
indeed had come to rescue her. As she gathered her things, the young soldier
stood by her, then held the door for her and said, "After you, ma'am."

Rachel started to cry. He asked, "What's wrong, ma'am?"

She said, "I can't remember the last time someone held a door open for me.
It's the nicest thing anyone has done for me in a long time." The soldier
stayed
in touch with Rachel after she was relocated, and they became friends. They
later fell in love and were married.

When someone uses all their power not to demean you or to diminish you, but
to set you free --
that's amazing! It can change things in mere moments. It can bring hope
where there is hopelessness and joy right in the middle of sadness.
Unfortunately,
sinful human beings have a way of misusing power for their own ends, often
to put people in their place for their own purposes. Malachi reminds us
today
that only God can ultimately free us from the bondage and the prison of our
sin and guilt. Only God can judge and forgive. And only God can bring a new
heavens and a new earth to a place that is under judgment --
all the way to the root.

So let me get more personal: if you are feeling overwhelmed by this world,
whether it is the evil you see or feel, whether it is the inadequacy you
struggle
with in your life, or whether it's just the grind of this world that never
seems to end, Malachi says that God will act on behalf of this world. God
will
judge the evil and the hopelessness that it engenders and bring a day of
hope that will last, for all who trust in Him! In fact, in Jesus Christ, He
already
has!

I was just thinking about what that young girl felt when that liberating
soldier held the door for her. I've been to Dachau and I've seen those
barracks,
and I can't imagine the feeling of seeing the door opened for certain
escape, for
real rescue. Then I thought about Jesus, who after His death and
resurrection literally opened the door from the hopelessness of this world
into the resurrection
reality of life
in Him forever. That's a day of hope you get to be part of, by faith in Him!
Take His hand today, follow where He leads. You'll be glad you did.

THE PRAYER: Dear Jesus, let my hopefulness always be rooted in the promises
You give because You can fulfill those promises to all who trust in You. And
let that kind of hope be evident in my life for others. Amen!
In Christ,
Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz
Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
Lutheran Hour Ministries
Today's Bible in a Year Readings: Daniel 11-12; 1 Timothy 1

Bridging the Stress Gap
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BIBLE MEDITATION:
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall
mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they
shall
walk, and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:31

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Stress is nothing new. Noah had it when he was building the ark with no rain
in sight. Martha had it when she was preparing a meal for our Lord. Stress
is the gap between the demands placed on us and the strength we have in
meeting those demands. It is not a sin to be stressed, nor a sin to be
weary. It
is a sin, though, not to seek a lessening of that stress which tears down
the temple of the Holy Spirit, your body. Where is your answer? In waiting
upon
the Lord — waiting in the midst of demands. When you learn to wait on Him,
God steps in to bridge the stress gap with His mighty strength.

ACTION POINT:
Ask God to equip you to be a stress-buster today. Perhaps it will be your
boss or your spouse that is “stressed out.” Rejoice in the opportunity you
have
to share God’s love.
Copyright © 2016 Love Worth Finding Ministries, All rights reserved.
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7 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Struggle with Anxiety
Sarah Coleman

Heart racing, room spinning, rapid breathing, sweaty palms, dread, pain,
fear and an overwhelming sensation of the inability to cope.

It's called anxiety.

And it's affecting first world populations at increasing rates.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting
40 million adults age 18 and older, or 18 percent of the population.
(National
Institute of Mental Health)

We live in a world where stress is normal. Workplace demands and family
pressure make it hard to totally switch off.

The Bible encourages: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by
prayer
and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”
( Philippians 4:6 ).

God wants you and I to live mentally healthy and whole. Anxiety is not His
idea. It is a strategy of the devil to deviate you and I from our destiny in
Him.

The following are questions to ask if you find yourself feeling anxious. It
is not medical advice. However, answering these questions honestly might
mean
taking steps toward recovery.

Are you sleeping?

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Torture. It turns the strong and
powerful into weak and vulnerable.

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me
safe”
( Psalm 4:8 ).

Healthy sleep patterns are essential for well being. The better the sleep,
the more able you are to cope. It's time to prioritize sleep.

Are you over-committed?

Life needs space. Space is not laziness or selfish. It is Sabbath rest.

We budget our finances but we also need to budget time. Some items need to
be weeded out in order to balance the budget. Likewise, certain tasks need
to
be removed from our routine for life to stay balanced.

What is draining your energy? What are you doing that someone else can do
for you? It might be humbling, but it's better than burnout.

Are you attending church?

Church is a place of life, encouragement, and strength. Church is a refuge
of restoration and healing. Corporate praise and worship will positively
impact
your health.

When things aren't okay, we have a tendency to hide. Don't hide from church.

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but
encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing
near”

( Hebrews 10:25 ).

Are you praying?

Are you taking worries to the Lord and most importantly are you listening to
His response? Is your heart open to hear His words to you? His words of
peace.
His words of hope. His words of life. Prayer will increase your peace and
stamina.

“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can
understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ
Jesus”
( Philippians 4:7 ).

Are you meditating on the right things?

Constant meditation on negative and fearful outcomes will induce worry. What
if you thought differently?

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on
what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.
Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise”
( Philippians 4:8 ).

Fix your thoughts, not on fear and negativity, but on the lovely and true.

It will take strategy. It might mean placing Scripture all over the house or
forgoing certain movies and programs on Netflix because they feed fear and
harmful thinking. It may mean proactively confessing Scripture each morning
about who you are in Christ.

Are you exercising?

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in
body as you are strong in spirit”
( 3 John 1:2 ).

If you want a strong spirit you need a healthy body. >1 Timothy 4:8
recognizes physical training as valuable. Studies show mental benefits and
increased coping ability through physical exertion. Perhaps it's time to
breathe
fresh air and pound the pavement.

Are you getting help?

You are not a basket case. You are not crazy. Anxiety does not define your
life. Everyone needs help. You are not an island.

Pick up the phone and make an appointment to see your doctor. Be honest. Be
open. Healing will come. Strength will return.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love,
and self-discipline”
( 2 Timothy 1:7 ).
sarahcoleman.com.au .
Publication date: October 31, 2016

Anne Graham Lotz - The Still, Small Voice
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The Still, Small Voice
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalm 23:1, NKJV

Do you sometimes cry out, as I have, “God, don’t You see my tears? Don’t You
see my broken heart? God, never mind me, but how can You bear to see the
agony
of my loved one? God, I know that You care. I just don’t understand why You
don’t intervene in this situation right now. Why don’t You do something?
And,
God, why did you do
that?!”

Then, to my heart, I seem to hear His still, small voice whispering, “Anne,
trust Me. I know what’s best.” And I’m left to wonder why I think I know
better
than God what’s best for me or my loved one.

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


Today's Turning Point with David Jeremiah
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Today's

Turning Point
Monday, November 14

“We Made a Decision”

So I said, “What shall I do, Lord?” And the Lord said to me, “Arise and
go….”
Acts 22:10

Recommended Reading
Acts 22:6-16
In his autobiography, Our Incredible Journey, Word of Life co-founder Harry
Bollback and his wife, Millie, wrote about their years of missionary service
in Brazil, where they lived in very primitive circumstances. “Living under
these conditions was truly difficult,” Harry wrote. “But neither of us
thought
of it as being hard at the time. We had made a decision to serve the Lord,
and we were just doing what we thought the Lord would have us do. We were
enjoying
the good hand of God’s blessings.”

Listen to Today's Radio Broadcast
In Acts 22, the apostle Paul recounted his conversion for the Jewish Ruling
Counsel. He told them of the light that blinded him on the Damascus Road,
and
he recounted the two questions he asked God: “Who are You, Lord?” (verse 8)
and “What shall I do, Lord?” (verse 10)

When we come to Christ for salvation, we then ask, “What do You want me to
do?” We just need to have a submissive spirit to His guidance, and He’ll use
us in ways beyond our expectation.

I’m convinced that when you are serving the Lord, there is never a question
of sacrifice. It’s just doing what we are supposed to be doing for His
glory.
You don’t think of the sacrifice—you think of your mission.
Harry Bollback

Read-Thru-the-Bible
Acts 8 – 9
David Jeremiah's
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A New Thing – Zechariah

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 1:57-66 (NIV)
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.
58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great
mercy, and they shared her joy. 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise
the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60
but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61 They
said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62
Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name
the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment
he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his
tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 The neighbors
were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people
were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered
about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand
was with him.

Elizabeth and Zechariah were righteous people who were aged. They had no
children because Elizabeth was barren. By lot Zechariah was chosen to serve
in the temple one day. While he was serving, an angel appeared and told him
that Elizabeth was going to have a child who was to be named John. The angel
said that God was doing a new thing and their son John was going to usher in
the Messiah. Zechariah didn’t believe what the angel said so the Lord made
it so Zechariah could not speak.

When the baby was born, another new thing happened. The baby was not named
after a relative which was the custom of that day. Instead the baby was to
be named John as the angel had told them.

Zechariah could count on one hand the number of times God opened barren
wombs in the Scripture. They had not had a baby in all those years and it
was impossible for Elizabeth to have one now. This was not a new thing that
God did with Elizabeth but Zechariah still looked at the past and didn’t see
any way their future would be any different.

Today we may look back to something great that we read of as the miracles in
the Bible or even miracles we have heard from in history. WE then may think
that those things don’t happen today. Miracles were for those times but don’t
happen now. God used great men like Abraham, Joshua, Moses, etc. But he can’t
use me. Sometimes we may look at our past and see all our failures and think
that God will not perform any miracles in our lives because of these. WE may
think we have lived such a bad life that God cannot use us. WE hear of
people today who are healed or become great people of God who do many things
like preach to large crowds or become missionaries. WE may think that
because of our past that none of that can happen to us.

AS the verses from Isaiah above say, we have to stop looking at the past.
God is doing a new thing. He can do a new thing in our lives. He still
performs miracles. He calls people to lead from small backgrounds. WE need
to make ourselves available to Him to do what He wants to do with and
through us.

Don’t be like Zechariah. Trust the Lord completely and look for the new
thing He has for your life.

by Dean W. Masters

"The Perfect Christmas" #84-13

Sermon Text for November 27, 2016
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on November 27, 2016
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
(4th of July)
Copyright 2016 Lutheran Hour Ministries

Listen to The Lutheran Hour podcast online
Text: Galatians 4:4-5

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Dear Lord, at Your time, according to
Your will, You sent Your Son into this world to change things, to make
things
better, to give us a taste of Your perfection. Send Your Holy Spirit upon us
that, with faith in the Christ, we may be given a perfect Christmas founded
on a perfect Savior. God grant this to us all. Amen.

The shopping day known as Black Friday is over. You are already aware the
Christmas season has begun. The next four weeks ahead of us will be filled
with
activities unending, obligations unrelenting, and duties overwhelming. All
of these things we will endure in order to find the perfect Christmas.
Today,
as the Christian church begins a new year and marks the season which
encourages believers to remember the Savior's first coming and look forward
to His
second arrival on earth, I thought it would be right, as sort of a public
service message, for me to help you find the perfect Christmas.

Now I know you could go to the internet and find some help there. I scanned
what was available and found numerous articles on how to achieve the perfect
Christmas. There I read you could do this by picking the perfect Christmas
tree, either real or artificial. There was advice on how to make a perfect
Christmas
by picking the perfect present for those whose names appear on your list.
There were features on how to achieve the perfect Christmas by cooking the
perfect
Christmas feast and how to create the perfect Christmas by properly
decorating your house with the hanging of a few hundred-thousand LED lights.
Of course,
that is just scratching the surface. There were other articles: articles on
how to put together the perfect Christmas music playlist; how to take the
perfect
Christmas vacation; how to throw the perfect Christmas party, and how to be
the perfect Christmas guest or host. Now I am sure all of those articles are
both informative and enlightening, but I would still like to add my two
cents on how to have the perfect Christmas.

I do so without shame or hesitation since I am a bit of an expert on the
super-holiday. Not only is Klaus my last name, I also have a gray beard and
a
belly which shakes like a bowl full of jelly. But more than that, I am
married to one of the nation's foremost Christmasaholics. When we get up to
the
quaint town of Frankenmuth, Michigan, we have to set aside an entire day to
shop at Bronner's Christmas Store. Come to our house in July, and as likely
as not, you will hear Christmas music being played. Our nativity set is
never taken down and around the house, in various places of honor, are
placed some
of her ever-growing number of Santa Claus dolls.

So, yes, I am an expert who wishes to help you seekers possess the perfect
Christmas. To do that, I think it is only right and proper for us to go back
two thousand years and observe how the principal players in the Savior's
birth achieved their perfect Christmas. After all, if anyone should know how
to
achieve perfection, it ought to be them.

The first people we encounter are the priest Zacharias and his wife,
Elizabeth. When we meet them, they are old and they are childless. Their
lives had
not been ideal. They had lived in a day and age which was much different
than our own. Today we are concerned about how to help people limit the size
of
their families, but in those days, children were considered to be blessings
from the Lord. Conversely, being without children was a sign of the
Divinity's
displeasure. 'Certainly,' the reasoning went, 'this couple must have done
something, at some time, which had caused the Lord to punish them in such a
way.'
It was to this couple which had endured society's smirks and sneers that the
Lord sent His angelic messenger. The angel, Gabriel by name, came privately
to Zacharias in the temple and told him 1. He would have a son; 2. that son
would be the forerunner of the Messiah; and 3. his boy would be named 'John.

That news should have been the perfect Christmas present. It should have
been, but it wasn't. Having heard the angel, Zacharias did what most people
would
do. He doubted. Possibly, all those unsuccessful years of trying to have a
child had left a mental and spiritual scar. Possibly the priest felt the
angel
was a delusion, a bit of his imagination gone wild. Zacharias doubted and,
as both reminder and punishment, was struck dumb until his son was born;
which
left Elizabeth all alone in explaining her unexpected pregnancy. It left her
to tell the story to the cynics, the skeptics, the gossips, and the curious.
It left her to deal with the entire family who, after the boy was born,
wanted to call him
Zacharias Junior and not John as God had instructed. What I'm trying to say
is, for this aged couple, the time immediately before Christmas was anything
but perfect.

The next person we meet in the search for the perfect Christmas is an
extraordinary young girl by the name of
Mary. I say she was young, but the Bible really doesn't say. On the other
hand, if she were like other Jewish girls of that time, her family would
have
set up her engagement shortly after puberty. The same angel who had appeared
to Zacharias also stepped in on Mary. She was shocked, surprised, and
confused.
Who could blame her? In short order she was informed she would become
pregnant and her child would be the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
Mary asked
a question or two for clarification and then the angel left her alone with
an incredible bit of good news.

Or was it? Was the news good? Today, from our perspective in history, we
would say, "Absolutely, the world received a Savior through this woman." But
that
is hardly seeing things from Mary's perspective. Mary was engaged. In a few
months, even with loose clothing, her condition was going to become
noticeable.
The tongues of the gossips in Nazareth would begin to wag. Joseph would know
and he would also know that the Child Mary was carrying wasn't his. She
would
have to explain her pregnancy to her father who would assume she had brought
disgrace upon the family's good name. Ladies, let me ask you, what would
your
betrothed or your father say if you went and said, "I'm pregnant by the
power of the Holy Spirit and my Son is going to be perfect?" No man would
ever
believe such a thing, and in those days, such an infidelity could end up
with Mary being stoned. It would take a considerable stretch of the truth
for
anyone to say, for Mary, those months before Christmas were perfect.

Should I continue? I just mentioned Joseph. He had entered into the
engagement process in good faith. The agreement would have been made between
the families
and he would have been proud to see the wedding preparations proceeding
smoothly. He would have looked forward to the day when he could bring his
new bride
into his home. But then Mary became great with Child. Some observers would
have assumed the Child was his and others would have spent a great deal of
time
trying to guess the name of Mary's secret lover. But Joseph knew. He knew
the Child wasn't his. Disappointed, Joseph decided although he wasn't going
to
accuse Mary of infidelity, he wasn't going to marry her either. That's the
way it was for the man until the Lord revealed the truth to him in a dream.
Still, you can understand why those days before the first Christmas were not
perfect for Jesus' foster father.

An escape from the rumors and scandals swirling all around them was provided
for the couple when they heard Caesar Augustus in Rome had ordered a census
be taken of the empire. The imperial command called for the pair to journey
to Bethlehem, a small town about 70 miles away. Of course, that distance is
as the crow flies. In practical terms, Joseph, with a very pregnant Mary,
had to journey about 90 miles to take part in Caesar's census. Did they walk
those dusty miles? Did she ride a donkey? It doesn't make much difference,
does it? Either way the trip was uncomfortable and filled with danger to
both
mother and unborn Child. It would be surprising if either Mary or Joseph had
said, "This is going to be the perfect Christmas."

They eventually arrived in Bethlehem and two things became quickly evident:
first, Mary was going to have her baby very soon, and second, there was no
place she could go for a reasonably safe delivery. Tradition says that with
no room in the local inn, the Christ-Child was born in a stable. If so, it
was not the antiseptic stable that appears on my wife's Christmas card. It
would have been a stable filled with all the germs, sights, sounds, and
smells
of a barn. Any curious onlooker would quickly conclude that the first
Christmas was hardly perfect. True, the appearance of the shepherds, the
first to
receive the good news of the Messiah's birth, had to provide some comfort
and reassurance to Mary and Joseph. But we need to remember those shepherds
risked
a lot to go and see this thing about which the Lord had told them.

You see, in appearing at the Savior's manger, those shepherds had to leave
their flocks behind. Their sheep could have been stolen; they could have
been
attacked by wild animals; they could have been scared by a noise and
scattered across the hillside. This was their livelihood and they left that
livelihood
behind so they could worship the Baby Jesus and that night became the first
to tell the world about what the Lord was doing.

My friends, if you remember, we started out a few minutes ago trying to find
the perfect Christmas. By any human criterion, the first Christmas was
anything
but perfect. There were no lights, there was no music, there was no
feasting, no drinking, no family reunions, no cards, no caroling, no
tinseled trees,
no parties, and no expensive, brightly wrapped presents. Looking into the
future a bit, the visit of the Wise Men, who brought gifts of gold,
frankincense,
and myrrh, would also bring the soldiers of mad King Herod who would kill
the infant children of Bethlehem. A perfect Christmas? Not hardly.

That, my friends, is Scripture's picture of the first Christmas. There are
problems and troubles in great abundance. Indeed, there are few troubles
that
we have today which the first Christmas cannot match or beat. And that is
the point of today's message. The first Christmas was, from a human
point-of-view,
not a perfect one. If the world had been perfect; if everything had been in
its correct place; if everything had been proper and pristine, there would
have been no need or purpose for the Savior to come.

But Jesus did come. He came to an imperfect world filled with imperfect
people who thought imperfect thoughts and said imperfect things and did
imperfect
deeds. Jesus came. According to God's plan and promise, "When the fullness
of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the
law,
to redeem those who were under the law." In short, God's perfect
all-powerful Son came and, born of human Mary; became One of us. True God so
He might
fulfill the law and lead a perfect life; true Man so He might live and die
as One of us, Jesus' entire life was dedicated to doing all that was
necessary
to forgive our sins, save our souls, and touch us in our troubles.

Jesus came, and, more than 30 years later, was able to say to His disciples
as well as to us, "Let not your hearts be troubled." At the beginning of
this
Christmas season, you need to hear those words. I am convinced there is not
a single person listening to my voice today who is not troubled. There are
the normal troubles... what will the government do; what is the status of my
health; what is the future of my job; the kids, the parents, the church, the
family, the economy, the school, and the entire expanse of the unknown
future. To these general worries are added your specialized troubles. From
here
I am not able to say what those weights might be. But just for a second, I
want you to stop and think; stop and remember.

What is it which nags at your heart, twists your stomach, raises your blood
pressure, and robs you of sleep? You know it, don't you? You can see it. It
has a face. Try to forget it; it is always there as your constant companion.
It refuses resolution and will not be ignored. When you go to bed, it is
there
and when you rise up, it has already put on the coffee. And during this
holiday time, as everyone searches for the perfect Christmas, it seems to
grow
stronger and more cruel. No, I don't know what it is. You can fill in the
blank. Then, having done so, hear the Lord say, "Do not let your hearts be
troubled."

Understand, Jesus is not saying, 'You don't have troubles.' He was a Man
afflicted, beaten, misunderstood, denied, deserted, betrayed, and crucified.
He
was tempted in more ways than we can understand. No, Jesus would never say
you have no troubles. Nor does Jesus say, "Do not think about your
troubles."
Even Jesus wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane with the sins of the world
and the upcoming day's events. No, Jesus would never say, "Don't think about
your troubles." What He does say is, "Don't let your hearts be troubled."

That's not the same as pretending that your troubles will disappear. That's
not the same as not thinking about your problems. What Jesus is saying is
that
when troubles come, as they did for every person in the Christmas Gospel,
don't let them run your life, don't let them dominate you. Don't let those
troubles
squeeze and push the Savior out of your heart. If Jesus continues to live
there, within you, then there is no difficulty; then there is nothing He
cannot
handle.

Of course, all of us would like to know what the secret is to stop our
troubles from ruining us and bringing us to the cliff of collapse. To those
questioners,
Jesus supplies the answer when He says: "You believe in God, you believe in
Me." It's as simple as that. The Lord Jesus Christ, Who conquered Satan, Who
defeated the grave, can, if we allow Him, also thrash our troubles. He Who
conquered the major difficulties of this world, can defeat our difficulties
as well.

The perfect Christmas. That's what we started out looking for. Did you find
it? No? I'm not surprised. You never will. Imperfect people in an imperfect
world cannot produce perfection. Only God can and He does. In the stable, on
the cross, at the open tomb, Jesus gave to all who believe the opportunity
to escape the troubles of this world and be given a peace and perfection the
world cannot offer. This Christmas it is there.

And, my friends, if you need help in receiving this great gift, we are ready
to help. Please, call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.

Print this Sermon
Action in Ministry for November 27, 2016
Guest: Lori Parker

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and this is Action In
Ministry. The calendar is drawing to a close and today we begin a new church
year
with the season of Advent.

SELTZ: Right, Mark. Here at Lutheran Hour Ministries, we know we can get
caught up in the hype of Christmas, at least from the world's point of view,
and
how easy it is to lose sight of Jesus in the midst of all those other
preparations.

ANNOUNCER: We have a special resource we'd like to share with you that can
help you keep Christ at the heart of Christmas for you and your family. Here
to tell us a little bit about that, about our Advent devotions is Lori
Parker, our colleague, who's been here at Lutheran Hour Ministries since
1977. She
manages our TeleCare Department and her staff has the privilege of speaking
with many of you.

SELTZ: Lori, thanks so much for being here with us today.

PARKER: I'm glad to be here.

SELTZ: It's our pleasure. All right. Lori, each year we offer the short,
daily devotions for the Advent season. What do you and your staff hear about
from
those who are actually using these devotions?

PARKER: Many of the comments that we hear are just how meaningful these
devotions are, on a daily basis. It's a great time. They gather their family
together.
They do the devotions together. It helps them to keep their focus on Christ.

ANNOUNCER: What are some of the creative ways that people are using these
devotions?

PARKER: One church wrote stating that they are going to print over 6,000
copies of this devotion this year. This is their 9th year doing it. They
call
it the Advent Devotion Project and they call themselves God's Outreach
Squad. They hand-deliver these copies to area churches. They mail them out
and they
also mail them to others around the world. There are many ways you can share
these devotions. You can hand them out to individuals you encounter in your
everyday life. When you go to a restaurant and leave a tip, you can leave a
devotion.

SELTZ: But you better leave a good tip with that devotion.

PARKER: That's right. You can take them to the bank, give them to your bank
teller, and you can leave them in waiting rooms at the doctor's office, at
hospitals, in a funeral home, anywhere that you would want to leave them.

SELTZ: These really are wonderful resources. I know because I get a chance
to read them. I'm the voice that you will hear if you're actually listening
to them. They are so powerful and so meaningful, and so why not just leave
them someplace so someone else might be blessed if they just picked them up.
I was just thinking about this. Advent and adventure...those folks that are
doing it by being God's Squad, that's an adventure and that's really what
Advent
is about; that's what these resources are about too. Lori, each year our
Advent devotions, though, they follow a theme of sorts. Tell us a little bit
more
about this year's focus.

PARKER: This year's Advent devotion theme is Christmas Memories. While most
of us have fond memories of decorations, colorful decorations, presents,
baking
cookies, spending time getting together with families; this devotion helps
us to focus on the reason for the season; which is to celebrate our greatest
Gift, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

ANNOUNCER: Specifically, how does this devotion series bring that focus to
light?

PARKER: The devotions weave together personal family memories of Christmas
with the actual Christmas Story.

ANNOUNCER: It switches between now and then; back and forth.

SELTZ: Now and then, back and forth. It's so wonderful to see that the
message of Christ actually fits into the daily parts of our life just like
it did
back then. That's so great. So how can someone get a hold of these resources
and begin to put them to use in their life?

PARKER: These devotions are downloadable online and customizable so that you
can customize them with your church's name on them. You can print as many
copies as you want for free; and they're in large print, regular print, and
you can print them in color or black-and-white. You can listen to them
online.
You can subscribe by email and you can listen through the podcast.

SELTZ: There are so many ways you can put this to use in your life, right?
I'm really starting to appreciate the large print edition, so thank you so
much
for that. Like I said, I get a chance to voice these wonderful resources, so
I'll look forward to being with you guys each and every day through the
Advent
season. There's so many ways to use these devotions to get ready. We can put
them to use for ourselves and for others. Lori, thanks for being here today
to talk to us about this great resource that can actually enrich our
Christmas season.

PARKER: Well, thank you for having me.

SELTZ: It's our pleasure and that is our Action In Ministry segment today;
to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.

ANNOUNCER: And for more information on the Advent devotions, go to
lutheranhour.org and click on Action In Ministry. Or call 1-855-john316.
That's 1-855-564-6316.
Our email address is info@lhm.org.

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for November 27, 2016
Topic: 4th of July

ANNOUNCER: It's the first Sunday in Advent; the first Sunday of a new church
year and we are here once again with our Speaker Emeritus, Pastor Ken Klaus.
I'm Mark Eischer.

KLAUS: Hello, Mark. You are absolutely right; this is the beginning of a new
church year. I was so busy with my holiday planning, I had almost forgotten.

ANNOUNCER: How is that possible? Advent is the time when Christians prepare
for the coming of the world's Savior.

Klaus: Yes, that's what the word Advent means: coming. Advent is a time of
repentance for our sins which brought Jesus, God's Son, into this world. So,
on the one hand, Advent is a time of sorrow.

ANNOUNCER: But it's also a time of joy. Jesus began His mission with His
birth in Bethlehem and He successfully completed it with His death and
resurrection.
Because of what He did, all who believe in Him as Savior are rescued from
hell and damnation.

Klaus: Yup, no doubt about it, Advent is a special time. But that, my
friend, is not the holiday occupying my attention right now.

ANNOUNCER: Really? What holiday are you preparing for?

KLAUS: The Fourth of July.

ANNOUNCER: The Fourth of July?

KLAUS: Absolutely, the Fourth of July. You see, I've been out of touch.
Every year, the malls and superstores start getting their Christmas stuff
out in
July. That's about the time I start getting catalogues advertising Christmas
presents. The TV shopping networks run Christmas bargains all year long. So,
I figured....

ANNOUNCER: ... if they can start celebrating Christmas six months early...

KLAUS: ...then I can start celebrating the true meaning of the Fourth of
July in December.

ANNOUNCER: Okay. How does one capture the true meaning of the 4th of July?

KLAUS: By celebrating it the way it was meant to be celebrated. The true
meaning of the 4th of July is fireworks. I'm going to get lots of fireworks.
And
bunting. Can't forget the bunting. Then I'm going to barbecue. Everybody
knows the true meaning of the 4th involves a brisket or pork shoulder
slow-smoked
for hours! Thankfully, I'm in Texas now and not Minnesota, where 4th of July
barbecuing could get to be a problem in December.

ANNOUNCER: So you think the true meaning of the 4th of July is fireworks,
barbecue, and...

KLAUS: Bunting. Red, white, and blue bunting. That's what you need to
remember the 4th properly. What do you think?

ANNOUNCER: I think if the founding fathers heard you say that, they'd want
to clobber you with the Liberty Bell. The 4th of July is all about
celebrating
political freedom that was won and is maintained at great cost. Those other
things are nice, but they're really superficial compared to the true meaning
of the 4th of July.

KLAUS: You know, Mark, you may be right.

ANNOUNCER: About the 4th of July?

KLAUS: No, about Advent and Christmas.

ANNOUNCER: I'm glad we got back to Advent and Christmas, but I'm not quite
sure how we got there.

KLAUS: Easy. I will concede I may have messed up a bit on my "true meaning
of the 4th of July" preparations. But I am also going to say most people do
the same with regard to their Christmas plans. Tell me, Mark, between now,
the beginning of Advent, and December 25th, how are people going to be
celebrating?

ANNOUNCER: There's going to be parties, and Christmas cards, and shopping...
lots of shopping. There will also be family gatherings, reunions, lots of
eating and drinking.

KLAUS: And do all of those ways of celebrating really get at the heart of
Christmas?

ANNOUNCER: No more than a barbecue gets at the true meaning of the 4th of
July. It's nice, but it misses the point.

KLAUS: That's what I think, too. You know, Mark, I've watched the TV
Christmas specials. They tell me that
family is the true meaning of Christmas, or that being accepting of other
people's differences is the true meaning of Charismas, or that a chubby
little
fellow in a sleigh is the true meaning of Christmas. And as nice as those
things are...

ANNOUNCER: ...they aren't Christmas. They miss the heart of the thing. Just
like the 4th of July ought to give thanks for freedom won at great cost.

KLAUS: Christmas ought to give thanks for salvation won at great cost... and
it begins in Bethlehem with a little Child, God's Son, Who gave His life so
we might be saved.

ANNOUNCER: So, what are you going to celebrate on December 25th?

KLAUS: The same thing I will celebrate on the 4th of July. Freedom. December
25th is spiritual freedom from sin, death, and devil won for me by God's Son
and July 4th will be freedom won for me by America's heroes.

ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. This has been a presentation of Lutheran
Hour Ministries.
Visit lutheranhour.org
Read Today's Devotion
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Savior of the Nations, Come" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia
Publishing House)
"Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009
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Post  Admin on Sun 27 Nov 2016, 5:18 pm

A Countercultural Christmas
by Sarah Phillips, Crosswalk.com Contributor

"Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to
awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first
believed;
the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works
of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly
as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust,
not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no
provision
for the desires of the flesh." -
Romans 13:11-14

The first purple Advent candle is about to be lit. The once dark wreath will
shine unevenly with one solitary light.

Advent is one of my favorite seasons in the Christian year. It's a special
time where we reflect on the darkness and trials of this world in the light
of our hope in Christ. We remember how, after centuries of waiting on the
part of the faithful, God bridged the chasm between humanity and divinity
through
the humble
birth of Jesus .

I've always loved Advent for its joyful anticipation of the Christ-child,
but I also love it because it's a bit countercultural. Its sparse purple and
pink decorations stand in stark contrast to the glitz the rest of our
culture displays often weeks before Thanksgiving arrives. You see, Advent
was not
designed as a simple memorial of a past event, to bring us up to Christmas
day and leave us there. Its purpose is to point the faithful towards a
future
event - Christ's second, glorious coming. This is why churches that
celebrate this liturgical season read about the Lord's coming in both the
Old and New
Testament throughout the month of December.

The dramatic imagery found in these readings is far removed from the quaint
Christmas decorations that currently surround us. They have a jolting effect
as they remind us that our lives now should be lived in light of eternity,
not in keeping with the current standards.

In this first Advent reading, Paul's words to the faithful carry a tone of
urgency. He uses the image of awakening from a deep sleep. But notice he is
not shaking his brothers and sisters out of their sleep at sunrise, but
while "the night is advanced." In other words, it's not enough to simply
wait for
Christ to show up, but we must prepare beforehand. We need to seek God's
grace now to help us eliminate sin from our lives

This is where the hard work of Advent comes in. This joyful season requires
an examination of conscience. It's a time to reflect on the areas where we
lack or on the recurrent sins in our lives, and to seek God's grace to help
us to change.

Perhaps this seems like a real downer of an activity during the most
wonderful time of the year. But let me share with you why, for me, it's
never really
been a downer. Have you ever failed to prepare for a big event (or had
nightmares that you did?). Have you ever found yourself awake at night,
panicking
because you're envisioning yourself without a dress on your wedding day or
lacking your PowerPoint slides for an important presentation? Needless to
say,
the joy and success of these events would seriously be compromised should
these nightmares come true.

Surely, all good things in life require preparation. And God, in His mercy,
has given us the gift of time to prepare for His arrival, which no doubt,
will
be the most important event we ever experience.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Take time this week to reflect on the joy of
Jesus' first arrival and then, confident in His love for you, ask God to
reveal
to you the ways in which you need to prepare your heart to meet Him on
Christmas Day.

Further Reading
Matthew 3:1-2
Psalm 139:23-24

Remember the Best and Forget the Rest
By Rick Warren

“I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3 NIV).

What do you remember about people -- the good experiences or the bad
experiences? The apostle Paul said, “I like to remember the good things
about people,
focus on the good times we’ve had, and remember the positive experiences.”

When Paul said this, he had not had an easy time in Philippi. Acts 16
tells us that when he went to Philippi he was illegally arrested, whipped,
humiliated, and thrown into prison before finally being asked to leave town.
Yet he says, “I thank my God every time I remember you”
(Philippians 1:3 NIV).

Paul could have dwelt on the negative. He could have remembered the painful
memories. He chose not to remember the painful things; instead, he focused
on the things he could be grateful for.

Maybe you have been hurt in the past by a parent or a partner, and you’re
still holding on to that hurt. As a result, you can’t enjoy being around
that
person today. You’re still focusing on the negative.

Be grateful for the good in people. Pleasant memories are a choice. You can
choose what you’re going to remember about the past.

I’m not saying that you should deny the hurts you’ve had or excuse the
weaknesses in other people. That is psychologically unhealthy. But focus on
the
good, and choose to emphasize the strengths.

I hear wives say, “He’s a good man, but ...” Anytime you hear “but,” it
means the emphasis is on the negative and not the positive. Be grateful for
what
you’ve got! Mr. Perfect does not exist! I’ve heard the same thing from
husbands, but Mrs. Perfect does not exist either!

If you want to enjoy others, you’ve got to focus on their strengths and not
their weaknesses. With some people, it takes a lot of creativity. But you
can
find something good in everybody.

Playtoday’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>

Talk It Over

• What are the painful memories that have kept you from fully showing love
to someone?
• What will you pray today so that you can let go of those memories and move
on with your life?
• What about that person can you be grateful for?

For more Daily Hope with Rick Warren, please visit pastorrick.com !

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

Escape the “crazy”!

Many of the people in your life can make you crazy!

You don’t have to let the crazy makers keep you from the life God wants for
you. And you don’t have to shut them out either! Reclaim your peace, and
learn
to build healthy relationships today.

The Crazy Makers Study Kit (6 session DVD and workbook) is our gift to
thank you for your online donation below to help support the Daily Hope
broadcast.

Get yours now; we appreciate your prayers and support.

This devotional (c) 2016 by Rick Warren
. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Faithful to the Fellowship
View this email in your browser

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some
is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day
approaching.”

Hebrews 10:25

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Do you know what is happening in America today? People who claim to be
Christians are not getting involved and becoming faithful to a church — the
local
fellowship of believers. Such a thing was unheard of in the Bible. If you
were a Christian, you were faithful to the fellowship. You attended when
everyone
gathered together. If you stopped attending, they assumed that you were an
apostate. What is more important than the local visible expression of the
body
of Christ? It is the way we stay “plugged in” to the needs of the body of
Christ. It is the way we show honor to Him in worship. It is simply the way.

ACTION POINT:
What do you have on your schedule this week that is more important than
being a part of the blood-bought body of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Devotions taken from the messages of Adrian Rogers.

The email address this message was sent from does not accept replies. If
you would like to send a comment, prayer or praise, please visit us
here
. May God continue to strengthen and encourage you by the Love Worth
Finding devotions.
Copyright © 2016 Love Worth Finding Ministries, All rights reserved.
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Post  Admin on Sat 26 Nov 2016, 10:10 am

Why Christians Can Be Both Humble and Certain
by Michael J. Kruger

One of the most common objections made to the absolute claims of
Christianity is that Christians are arrogant. Christians are arrogant to
claim that they
are right; arrogant to claim others are wrong; arrogant to claim that truth
can be known. Unfortunately, in the midst of such accusations, no one
bothers
to ask which definition of
humility is being used. Over the years, the definition of humility has
undergone a gradual but nonetheless profound change. Especially in the
intellectual
community. In the modern day, humility has basically become synonymous with
another word:
uncertainty. To be uncertain is to be humble. To be certain is to be
arrogant. Thus, the cardinal sin in the intellectual world is to claim to
know anything
for sure.

Of course, this shift presents a real problem for Christianity. Christians
believe that God has revealed himself clearly in his Word. Thus, when it
comes
to key historical questions (Who was Jesus? What did he say? What did he
do?) or key theological questions (Who is God? What is Heaven? How does one
get
there?), Christians believe they have a basis on which they can claim
certainty: God’s revelation. Indeed, to claim we
don’t know the truth about such matters would be to deny God, and to deny
his Word. (This doesn’t mean, of course, that Christians are certain about
everything; but there can be certainty about these basic Christian truths).

Thus, for Christians, humility and uncertainty are not synonymous. One can
be certain and humble at the same time. How? For this simple reason:
Christians
believe that they understand truth only because God has revealed it to them
(
1 Corinthians 1:26-30
). In other words, Christians are humble because their understanding of
truth is not based on their own intelligence, their own research, their own
acumen.
Rather, it is 100% dependent on the grace of God. Christian knowledge is a
dependent knowledge. And that leads to humility ( 1 Corinthians 1:31
). This obviously doesn’t mean all Christians are personally humble. But, it
does mean they should be, and have adequate grounds to be.

Although Christians have a basis on which they can be humble and certain at
the same time, that is not necessarily the case with other worldviews. Take
the atheist for instance. He is quite certain of a great many things
(contrary to his claim that one cannot be certain of anything). He is
certain either
that God does not exist (hard atheism), or certain that one cannot know
whether God exists (soft atheism). And, in his critique of Christianity, he
is
quite certain that Christians are mistaken in their claims to be certain. In
essence, the atheist is claiming, “I know enough about the world to know
that
a person cannot possibly have a basis for certainty.” That in itself is a
pretty dogmatic claim.

But, on what is the atheist basing these far reaching claims about the
universe? His own finite, fallen, human mind. He has access only to his own
limited,
knowledge. So, now we should ask the question again: Who is being arrogant?
The Christian or the atheist? Both claim certainty on a great many
transcendental
issues. But one does so while claiming to be dependent on the one who would
know such things (God), and the other does so dependent on only themselves.
If either position is a posture of arrogance, it would not be the Christian
one.

No doubt, the atheist would object to this line of reasoning on the grounds
that he rejects the Bible as divine revelation. But, this misses the point
entirely. The issue is not whether he is convinced of the Bible’s truth, but
rather the question is which worldview, the Christian’s or the atheist’s,
has a rational basis for claiming certainty about transcendental matters.
Only the Christian has such a basis. And since his knowledge of such things
is
dependent on divine grace, he can be
humble and certain at the same time.

For more on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
and the issue of Christian knowledge, see my recent
sermon .

For more, visit Dr. Kruger's website: Canon Fodder .

The Lords Supper
KenBible.com

New Post on KenBible.com - How Do We Keep the Lord’s Supper Meaningful?

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

How Do We Keep the Lord’s Supper Meaningful?

Posted: 10 Nov 2016 09:55 PM PST

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

There is nothing magic about the Lord’s Supper. The eating and drinking in
themselves won’t save us. They won’t draw us closer to God. They can become
dry routine like anything else. How can we keep them meaningful?

• The Lord’s Supper is a remembrance. Remember. Remember what He did, and
remember He did it for you. Remember how dear was the price.
• The Lord’s Supper is a celebration. Come joyfully! Rejoice in what He has
done!
• The Lord’s Supper is a feast. Your Banquet Host has spread a rich table of
life and love for His people. Come and partake!
• The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace. Realize how unworthy you are. Come
humbly. Come seeking. Come with thanksgiving.
• The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste, an anticipation. Look ahead to what it
will be to sit down with Christ and all His people at the marriage supper of
the Lamb.

• The Lord’s Supper is for all God’s people. Come with them, as a member of
His beloved family. Be conscious of the togetherness. Enjoy His grace with
His other children.

Staying Young
by Chuck Swindoll

Job 42:10-17

I'd like to offer several tips on how to stay young.

Number one: Your mind isn't old, keep developing it. Watch less television
and read more. Spend time with people who talk about events and ideas rather
than sitting around a shop talking about people and how sorry this young
generation has become. Nobody wants to be around a crotchety old person who
sees
only the clouds and talks only about bad weather.

Number two: Your humor isn't over, keep enjoying it. I love being around
older people who still see the sunny side of life. They see funny things
happening.
They can tell a great story. They enjoy a loud belly laugh. You look
fabulous
when you laugh. And it takes years off your face.

Number three: Your strength isn't gone, keep using it. Don't let yourself
get out of shape. Stay active. Eat right. Watch your weight. Guard against
becoming
isolated and immobile. And while I'm at it, quit addressing every ache and
pain. Quit talking about how weak you're getting and how others will have to
do this or that for you. Jump in there.
You keep doing it.

Here's a fourth: Your opportunities haven't vanished, keep pursuing them.
There are people all around you who could use an encouraging word, an
affirming
note, a phone call that says, "I love you and believe in you, and I'm
praying for you." So go there. Opportunities to help others have not
vanished.

The fifth is obvious: Your God is not dead, keep serving and seeking Him.
The living God is ageless. The Lord Jesus Christ is timeless and ever
relevant.
Continue to enjoy some time alone with your Lord. It's so important!

You have lived long enough to know that there is no one more trustworthy
than the Lord Himself. Continue cultivating a meaningful relationship with
Him.
Seek Him diligently and often.

I wish for you a full life, like Job's, marked not by living happily ever
after (an impossibility), but by being truly satisfied, fulfilled,
challenged,
useful, godly, balanced, and
joyful.

Yes, for sure, joyful! And don't forget—reasonably sweet.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives
(Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R.
Swindoll, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Perfect Trust
God's Family
Visit insight.org

Copyright © 2016 Insight for Living Ministries. All rights reserved
worldwide.
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Post  Admin on Fri 25 Nov 2016, 7:52 pm

What I Learned from Keeping a Gratitude Journal
by Rachel Dawson, editor of BibleStudyTools.com

...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in
Christ Jesus
. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Several years ago, I read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp and it has had
a lasting impact on my life. It was wildly popular and became a New York
Times
Bestseller, which didn’t surprise me one bit. It’s a “dare to live fully
right where you are” and, in our fast-paced society, a pretty
counter-cultural
idea.

Throughout the book, Voskamp beautifully describes how she learned to notice
and appreciate the many little gifts and blessings in her life and then
record
one thousand of them in her journal.

As I read through this book, I started a gratitude journal of my own. I’ve
always been a journaler, so it wasn’t an entirely new concept to me, but
this
new focus has been life-changing.

There are many things that are commonly listed when we talk about what we
are thankful for-- family, friends, church or community, a roof over our
heads,
food on the table, etc. Those are wonderful things that of course we should
be thankful for. Voskamp’s goal of writing 1,000 gifts down challenged me to
go deeper, though. My journal started with big things like family and
friends, but as I kept going over time, I found that I started noticing more
and
more blessings (both big and small) in my life.

Knowing that I had a whole journal to fill helped me to see the little gifts
all around me. It gave me a fresh lens to see my world through, and I found
that my whole attitude shifted. Instead of stress or worry or anxiety
driving my days, my focus was on gratitude and appreciation. I started to
slow down
more instead of always rushing so much, and in doing so, found so much more
to be thankful for than ever before.

I noticed things like the pattern of the clouds in the sky, the way the
steam from my morning mug of coffee seemed to dance in the air, the sweet
elderly
couple holding hands across the table at a restaurant, the joy in a wobbly
toddler’s eyes when a dog walked by. I paid attention to the people around
me
better and found that I was more present and engaged when I spent time with
them. I started keeping my eyes open more (literally and figuratively) and
making mental notes of all the beauty I was seeing. I started giving myself
more grace and loving myself better, because I was paying attention to what
my heart and soul needed, too.

1,000 things seemed daunting at first. I didn’t think I could name that many
things without them becoming redundant or ridiculous. What I found, though,
was that my list went well past 1,000 things. Usually, once I started
writing one thing down, I would think of another and another and another.
Some days,
it seemed like it would be nearly impossible to think of a single thing to
be thankful for, but those were always the days I needed to open my journal
the most. Sometimes, just reading over past things I had written was just
the prompting I needed to write down new things.

Not everything I listed was profound or poetic-- some were as simple as
being grateful for another day, or for a text from a friend that came at a
moment
when I felt particularly stressed, or for my favorite song coming on the
radio during my commute. Some days, I wrote twenty things down, and some
days,
just one or two.

I’ve learned a lot about gratitude from keeping this little journal, and it
has impacted my life in more ways than I ever expected a journal could. I
encourage
you to try it for yourself, even if just for this month as we approach
Thanksgiving. Many people even post one thing they’re grateful for every day
on
Facebook, so that’s an easy way to start.

Just try to slow down a little today. Keep your eyes open. Look around you,
look up, look into the eyes of the people you pass, look at the grass
growing
or the flowers blooming or the autumn leaves falling. Take time to notice
and appreciate the beauty of the world around you, and take a few extra
minutes
to write it all down. You’ll be surprised how gratitude can change your
whole perspective on life and give you reason upon reason to praise the
Creator
of it all.

Intersecting Faith and Life
Even if you're not a journaler, try this exercise of writing down your
gratitudes each day for 30 days. Then see if you can keep it up!

Further Reading
Gratitude Prompts a Change in Perspective
Colossians 4:2
Colossians 3:15
Hebrews 12:28

Check out fantastic resources on Faith , Family , and Fun at
Crosswalk.com !

A THANKSGIVING STORY

It was the day before Thanksgiving - the first one my three children and I
would be spending without their father, who had left several months before.
Now the two older children were very sick with the flu, and the eldest had
just been prescribed bed rest for a week.

It was a cool, gray day outside, and a light rain was falling. I grew
wearier as I scurried around, trying to care for each child: thermometers,
juice,
diapers. And I was fast running out of liquids for the children. But when I
checked my purse, all I found was about $2.50 - and this was supposed to
last
me until the end of the month. That's when I heard the phone ring.

It was the secretary from our former church, and she told me that they had
been thinking about us and had something to give us from the congregation. I
told her that I was going out to pick up some more juice and soup for the
children, and I would drop by the church on my way to the market.

I arrived at the church just before lunch. The church secretary met me at
the door and handed me a special gift envelope. "We think of you and the
kids
often," she said, "and you are in our hearts and prayers. We love you." When
I opened the envelope, I found two grocery certificates inside. Each was
worth
$25. I was so touched and moved, I broke down and cried.

"Thank you very much," I said, as we hugged each other. "Please give our
love and thanks to the church." Then I drove to a store near our home and
purchased
some much-needed items for the children.

At the check-out counter I had a little over $14.00 worth of groceries, and
I handed the cashier one of the gift certificates. She took it, then turned
her back for what seemed like a very long time. I thought something might be
wrong.

Finally I said, "This gift certificate is a real blessing. Our former church
gave it to our family, knowing I'm a single patent trying to make ends
meet."

The cashier then turned around, with tears in her loving eyes, and replied,
"Honey, that's wonderful! Do you have a turkey?"

"No. It's okay because my children are sick anyway."

She then asked, "Do you have anything else for Thanksgiving dinner?"

Again I replied, "No."

After handing me the change from the certificate, she looked at my face and
said, "Honey, I can't tell you exactly why right now, but I want you to go
back into the store and buy a turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie or
anything else you need for a Thanksgiving dinner."

I was shocked, and humbled to tears. "Are you sure?" I asked.

"Yes! Get whatever you want. And get some Gatorade for the kids."

I felt awkward as I went back to do more shopping, but I selected a fresh
turkey, a few yams and potatoes, and some juices for the children. Then I
wheeled
the shopping cart up to the same cashier as before. As I placed my groceries
on the counter, she looked at me once more with giant tears in her kind eyes
and began to speak.

"Now I can tell you. This morning I prayed that I could help someone today,
and you walked through my line." She reached under the counter for her purse
and took out a $50 bill. She paid for my groceries and then handed me the
change. Once more I was moved to tears.

The sweet cashier then said, "I am a Christian. Here is my phone number if
you ever need anything." She then took my head in her hands, kissed my cheek
and said, "God bless you, honey."

As I walked to my car, I was overwhelmed by this stranger's love and by the
realization that God loves my family too, and shows us his love through this
stranger's and my church's kind deeds.

The children were supposed to have spent Thanksgiving with their father that
year, but because of the flu they were home with me, for a very special
Thanksgiving
Day.

They were feeling better, and we all ate the goodness of the Lord's bounty -
and our community's love. Our hearts were truly filled with thanks.

"Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the father in the name of
our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20]

Are You Listening?
by Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com Editor

The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. –
Proverbs 12:15

It’s common to hear Christians say, "Speak the truth with love," but what
about listening? I once read the story of a young man who was struggling
with
a number of problems. He was depressed, his
faith
was waning, and his parents eventually convinced him to sit down with their
Church's pastor. The day of the appointment, the pastor walked in and,
before
the young man could even open his mouth, began to speak about "How the grace
of God was sufficient for all things."

"By the end of the meeting I knew a lot about him and what he believed, but
he knew absolutely nothing about me," the young man would later recall.
Sadly,
one of the most overlooked commands in the
Bible
is that we are to
listen to others. Too often, in our zeal to share the word of Christ with
others, we end up trampling them in platitudes and redundant scriptures. But
listening can be a powerful tool. Listening builds understanding, diminishes
fear, and can be comforting in a time of sorrow.

Look at this passage from the book of James,

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen,
slow to speak
and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous
life that God desires.
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and
humbly accept the word planted in you,
which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive
yourselves. Do what it says.
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man
who looks at his face in a mirror
and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he
looks like.
But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom,
and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he
will be blessed in what he does. –
James 1:19-25

Listening is the first step in acting out the scriptures, not speaking. The
Church has the potential to do so much good in the world, to share the love
of Christ with so many people. However, in order to do this we must first
stop talking, sit quietly, and get to know them. We need to hear their
stories,
understand their hurts, empathize with their anger, and then, when they have
nothing else to say, that is when we speak our truth. It's time to start
using
our ears before we use our words.

Intersecting Faith and Life: Have you been listening to others? Take a
moment and consider how you are reflecting Christ.

Further Reading

Proverbs 17:28
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Post  Admin on Fri 25 Nov 2016, 12:02 am

Thank You!

Dear God:

I want to thank you for what you have already done.

I am not going to wait until I see results or receive rewards.
I am thanking you right now.

I am not going to wait until I feel better or things look better.
I am thanking you right now.

I am not going to wait until people say they are sorry or until they stop
talking about me,
I am thanking you right now.

I am not going to wait until the pain in my body disappears.
I am thanking you right now.

I am not going to wait until my financial situation improves.
I am going to thank you right now.

I am not going to wait until the children are asleep and the house is quiet,
I am going to thank you right now.

I am not going to wait until I get promoted at work or until I get the job,
I am going to thank you right now.

I am not going to wait until I understand every experience in my life that
has caused me pain or grief.
I am going to thank you right now.

I am not going to wait until the journey gets easier or the challenges are
removed,
I am thanking you right now.

I am thanking you because I am alive.
I am thanking you because I made it through the day's difficulties.
I am thanking you because I have walked around the obstacles.
I am thanking you because I have the ability and the opportunity to do more
and do better.
I am thanking you because, Father, you have not given up on me.

God is good, all the time; and all the time, God is Good!

THANK HIM!!!

Based on an article/sermon by T.D. Jakes

What Are You Thankful For?
by Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com Editor

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with
thanksgiving.” –
Psalms 69:30

A while back, there was an episode of The Simpsons in which the family is
celebrating Thanksgiving. When the time came to say grace, Bart Simpson
bowed
his head and said,

“Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.”

The first time I saw this clip on TV I remember feeling a mix of emotions.
On one hand, I was angry that such cynicism was being shown toward God and a
day celebrating thankfulness. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but relate
to Bart a little. I was at a time in my life when everything seemed out of
control. I had no money, my life felt like it was stuck in neutral, and my
future was looking pretty bleak. Why should I be thanking God for anything?

If you’ve ever been in my situation, I want to point you toward a passage of
scripture that helped me put things in perspective,

“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.
And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a
distance
and lifted up their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us."
When he saw them he said to them,
"Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were
cleansed.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back,
praising God with a loud voice;
and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was
a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the
nine?
Was no one found to return and
give praise to God except this foreigner?" And he said to him,
"Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’” –
Luke 17:11-19

It’s easy to spend our lives worrying and obsessing over the problems of
life. It’s also easy to overlook a blessing in times of need, or forget to
be
thankful when troubled times have been put to rest. Be sure you don’t become
one of the nine lepers, who were so happy to be cured that they forgot who
cured them. This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to spend time remembering
what God has done in your life.

Intersecting Faith and Life: Whatever your situation may be, count your
blessings and take a moment to thank God for them.

Further Reading
>Psalms 95:1-6

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You
Recycling the Garbage of Your Life - #7782

Florida has many beautiful things about it - great beaches, great theme
parks, and great weather. But to be perfectly honest, it's not one of the
most
exciting states just to drive across. I mean, it's like terminal flatness
sort of. You know, like Illinois where I grew up. There's nothing wrong with
the South Florida landscape that a nice mountain or a hill wouldn't help.
Well, in West Palm Beach there is one. A hill, that is. It actually rises to
the breathtaking height of 55' above sea level.

My assistant at the time had a sister in that area who loved to go hiking on
and around that beautiful hill. It's wonderfully landscaped. There's some
water there, some biking, hiking, jogging trails, and recreational areas.
Now anyone who knows the topography of South Florida would wisely ask,
"Where
did this hill come from?" Garbage. Yep. This lovely spot used to be an ugly,
old landfill. But someone had the brilliant idea of making something useful,
something even beautiful out of what had just been a lot of garbage.

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Recycling
the Garbage of Your Life."

It's amazing how they, out of garbage, made something they could never have
had otherwise. Actually, that's the kind of miracle God loves to do with
some
of the foulest experiences of our lives.

In our word for today from the Word of God beginning in Isaiah 61:1, we read
this description of Jesus. "The Lord has sent me to bind up the
brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the
prisoners, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in
Zion."
Now, Jesus comes to do something with the things in our life that, well, we
would see only as trash - a broken heart, a physical or emotional prison, a
season of darkness, things that make us mourn and grieve. But listen to the
amazing beauty He can create from this ugly garbage.

He says He will "bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil
of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit
of despair. They will be (now, remember, the "they" here is broken, damaged,
hurting people)...they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of
the Lord, for the display of His splendor." Out of the garbage, something
glorious!

Now you may be looking at your pain and all you can see is a mountain of
stinking, useless trash. But Jesus is looking at it like some engineers and
landscapers
must have looked at that landfill in Florida, seeing some beautiful things
that He can make from it, things you could never have on the landscape of
your
life if it weren't for the garbage.

Your Savior wants to take the pain that could make you a bitter person and
use it to make you a compassionate person. Because you know what hurt or
slavery
is like, you know how it feels and you have the credentials and you have the
sensitivity to be one of God's wounded healers. Jesus wants to use these
hard
things that could make you move farther from Him to drive you deeper into
His love and His power than you ever thought possible.

There's an intimacy and there's a power with God experienced by the hurting
people that the whole people will never touch. Through his almost unbearable
suffering, Job said this to God, "My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes
have seen You" (Job 42:5). Jesus can use the pain to deeply bond you, not
only
to Him, but to other people if you'll reach out instead of going in. Some of
life's closest relationships are forged in the furnace of suffering. And
your
Lord can use the things you have hated in your life to get people to listen
to you. They'll consider your Savior because they heard about Him from
someone
who knows what it means to really, really need one.

Beauty from ashes, praise from despair, something very special from
something very ugly. If you will let Jesus Christ be the Lord of your life's
pile of
garbage, He can make of it a mountain from which many will be able to see
Him.

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, Inc. · P.O. Box 400 · Harrison, Arkansas 72602 ·
USA
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Post  Admin on Wed 23 Nov 2016, 8:44 pm

Rotten Fruit
by Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com Editor

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge
others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be
measured to
you. –
Matthew 7:1-2

During my time in college, I met another student who considered himself a
very devout Christian. In terms of practice, this student couldn’t be
criticized
for his dedication. He read the
Bible
each morning, attended chapel like clockwork, and never broke a rule during
his time at the university. In terms of spirit though, he represented the
worst Christianity had to offer. He was proud and judgmental, always calling
out others on what he considered to be “sins”.

When guys got together to play a game of Halo, he accused them of putting
videogames before God. Once, when a guy kissed his girlfriend goodbye on the
cheek, he railed for an hour about sexual immorality. When one girl stood up
to him and told him to mind his own business, he called her “deaf to the
Holy
Spirit.” Things finally hit a major low one night at a Bible Study where,
after being ignored by some of the other members, he declared that a prophet
like himself was wasting his time with these reprobates. He left the
university shortly after, and no one was sad to see him go.

Now, the reason I’m writing this isn’t to shame him, God knows I’ve done
plenty of stupid things in my time too. What bothered me though was the fact
that,
despite much evidence to the contrary, this student was certain he was doing
the right thing. In fact, there are many so-called Christians who do and say
terrible things, all in the name of God. In cases like these, it’s vital to
remember what Matthew wrote about bearing fruit.

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn
bushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the
fire.
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of
heaven,
but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your
name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'
Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you
evildoers!
'” – Matthew 7:15-23

At some point, every Christian needs to look at their life and examine the
fruit they’ve been harvesting. Are there bushels full of harsh words, proud
actions, and vindictive thoughts, or does their bounty include selfless
gestures and a gracious heart? Remember, God will judge us by what we sow in
the
hearts of others, be careful you’re fruit isn’t rotten.

Intersecting Faith and Life: Take a moment to examine how you have been
treating others. Are you truly approaching them as Christ would?

Further Reading
>Luke 6:31


The Best for You

He chose our heritage for us. - Psalms 47:4

Believer, if your inheritance is meager, you should be satisfied with your
earthly portion; for you may rest assured that it is best for you. Unerring
wisdom ordained your lot and selected for you the safest and best condition.
When a ship of large tonnage is to be brought up a river that has a large
sandbank, if someone should ask, "Why does the captain steer through the
deep part of the channel and deviate so much from a straight line?" his
answer
would be, "Because I could not get my ship into harbor at all if I did not
keep to the deep channel."

In the same way you would run aground and suffer shipwreck if your divine
Captain did not steer you into the depths of affliction where waves of
trouble
follow each other in quick succession. Some plants die if they have too much
sunshine. It may be that you are planted where you get only a little, but
you are put there by the loving Farmer because only in that situation will
you produce fruit unto perfection.

Remember this: If any other condition had been better for you than the one
in which you are, divine love would have put you there. You are placed by
God
in the most suitable circumstances, and if you could choose your lot, you
would soon cry, "Lord, choose my heritage for me, for by my self-will I am
pierced
through with many sorrows." Be content with the things you have, since the
Lord has ordered all things for your good. Take up your own daily cross; it
is the burden best suited for your shoulder and will prove most effective to
make you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God. Busy self
and proud impatience must be put down; it is not for them to choose, but for
the Lord of Love!

Trials must and will befall--
But with humble faith to see
Love inscribed upon them all,
This is happiness to me.

Family Bible reading plan

verse 1 Joel 3

verse 2 Psalms 143

A Christian's Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament: One Book, One God,
One Story

Many of us know and love the stories and characters of the Old Testament
such as Joseph, Moses and
Jonah
. But how do we view its importance in relation to New Testament teaching
and our 21st century experiences? This accessible yet powerful addition to
the

Pocket Guide Series draw together the threads of Scripture to help us
understand the power of Gods Word when viewed in its completeness.


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 .
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Post  Admin on Tue 22 Nov 2016, 10:30 pm

Abounding in Thanksgiving in a World of Grumbling
by Mike Pohlman, Crosswalk.com Contributor

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and
built up in him and established in the
faith
, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Colossians 2:6-7

My family and I just completed our first full week in our new home in
Richmond, Virginia after leaving Los Angeles to begin my new job. And if I’m
honest
I cannot say I’ve been “abounding in thanksgiving” over the last several
days. No. In fact, “abounding in grumbling” may be the more accurate phrase
to
describe my disposition of late. I’ve grumbled about the weather, traffic,
leaves, the movers and a myriad of other things petty and not-so-petty. None
of this grumbling, however, has been constructive or justified. And, most
importantly, it’s been sinful.

To help combat this steady bombardment of grumbling I corralled our children
the other night for a family time of thanksgiving. You’ve probably practiced
this exercise many times as well: go from person-to-person and highlight
things you’re thankful for (it’s tough to grumble when you pause to consider
the
many blessings in your life).

It took my nine-year-old Samuel some time to get warmed up, but eventually
he offered a short list of things he’s thankful for, including our new
church.
Anna was next. What would our seven-year-old daughter express gratitude for?
Her new neighbor friends across the street and the
Bible
. Good stuff. Finally it was John’s turn. He echoed his big brother on some
things and agreed with Anna that the neighbors are great, and then with the
zeal of most six-year-old boys who love sports, Johnny thanked God for his
new basketball hoop out front (and proceeded to remind me of how he beat me
in “21” over the weekend, 21 to 17). As Julia left to put our newborn down
for the night, I shared with the kids several things I was thankful for. But
it wasn't until the next day that I realized the inadequacy of my list.

While I voiced gratitude for God generally, I failed to highlight specific
attributes of God that, when I consider them, cause me to “abound in
thanksgiving.”
Driving to work the next morning I found myself asking, “What is it about
God that I am most grateful for?”

The one attribute of God that flooded my heart and mind was His
providence--the fact that He orchestrates everything in my life for His
glory and my good.
It’s the promise of
Romans 8:28
: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for
good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he
foreknew
he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that
he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

In his helpful book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate
, Jerry Bridges applies Romans 8:28
to the sin of ingratitude. He counsels: “The meaning is that
God causes all things to work together for good; for ‘things’--that is,
circumstances--do not work together for good themselves. Rather, God directs
the
outcome of those circumstances for our good.” And what is the “good” God is
working? Christlikeness. Indeed, all of our circumstances God uses as a
means
of our sanctification. I began to abound in thanksgiving as I visualized God
as the great conductor over my circumstances, using them as an instrument
for my growth in grace.

This Thanksgiving holiday I want me and my family to be “abounding in
thanksgiving.” And for this to happen I know being thankful for God in a
merely general
sense will not suffice. We need to meditate on some
particular glories of our great God--not least of which is His sweet
providence over our lives. For this I am most grateful.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Take a moment this Thanksgiving and ask yourself,
“What specific attribute of God am I grateful for?” Perhaps you’ll recall
His love or mercy or grace or forgiveness or patience or wrath or
providence. Challenge your mind to meditate on, and prayerfully consider,
some particular
glory of God as a means of abounding in thanksgiving

Further Reading

Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate , Jerry Bridges
Knowing God , J.I. Packer
“But God,” Katherine Britton
Psalm 63:3
Lamentations 3:22
Colossians 2:13-15
Ephesians 5:20
1 Thessalonians 5:18

A Profound Plan
by Chuck Swindoll

Job 42:1-6

That's what makes the climax of Job's life so satisfying. This dear man, who
never deserved the suffering he endured, is dealt with justly. And those who
made his life so miserable weren't overlooked either. The God of justice
finally steps up, bringing great rewards and restoration to the righteous,
and
strong discipline on the unrighteous.

Job finally realized that God's plan is profound, that His reasoning is
right, and that His ways are higher than he could ever understand. With
that, Job
waves the white flag of surrender and says in complete sincerity, "I retract
and I repent. I've said things I shouldn't have been saying, I talked about
things I knew nothing about, I became self-righteous in my own defense.
Lord, please know that my heart is Yours. I humble myself before You. I
place myself
at Your disposal. Your purpose is right; Your plan is incredible; Your
reproofs are reliable; Your way is best."

That did it. When the Lord heard the deepest feelings of Job's contrite
heart, when the Lord witnessed the humility of his broken spirit and the
openness
and teachability of Job's soul, mercy kicked in, and justice rolled down.
There is even poetic justice as the Lord decides to use Job in the process
of
bringing the other men to justice. This is a good place to insert an insight
worth remembering.

You will be amazed at how the Lord will use you in others' lives once you
adjust your life to His ways. You will be many things for them: a reproof, a
refuge, a point of hope, a reason to go on, a source of strength, a calming
influence, and so much more. It's wonderful to realize (to your surprise)
how
He chooses to use you as a vehicle to help restore those who've strayed so
far. This often includes those who hurt you in their straying.

I'm reminded of the distraught father in Les Misérables whose only plea
comes in a powerful song about his son as he cries, "Bring him home!" Our
Father,
too, pleads with us to help guide His straying children back home to Him:
"Bring them home!"

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives
(Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R.
Swindoll, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Perfect Trust
God's Family
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New Post on KenBible.com - Consider This Gift
----------------------------------------------------------

Consider This Gift

Posted: 06 Nov 2016 09:55 PM PST

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15, NIV)

This Gift is a treasure,
but more than a treasure.
This Gift is a man,
but more than a man.
He is a shepherd,
but more than a shepherd.
He is a mighty warrior come to deliver His people,
a healer come to take away all our diseases,
a priest come to bring His people to God.
But He is infinitely more than
any and all of these.

He is the heir of all worlds,
the Lord of all Lords.
He is the Second Adam,
the first of an entirely new human race.
He is the God-Man,
uniting earth and heaven.
He is the perfect sacrifice,
purchasing eternal life for all who trust Him.
He is the fullness of God, and
God’s fullness in us.
He is God’s own Son,
come from God’s own heart.
He is the love of God,
lavishly,
freely,
tenderly given
to each and every one of us.
He is Jesus Christ.
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