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THE MASTERS LIST Dean W. Masters - Page 18 Empty Re: THE MASTERS LIST Dean W. Masters

Post  Admin on Mon 18 Jan 2016, 11:45 pm

Three Springs
by Dean W. Masters
Jeremiah 2:13 (NKJV)
“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the tfountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.

God is the fountain or spring of living water. Here in the mountains of 
Northeast Tennessee there are a number of springs. I remember as a little 
boy a relative taking me to one that someone had fixed to make it easier for 
people to collect the water to take home. Someone had run a pipe with a 
cutoff on the end. They had cemented the area below the pipe so the people 
would not have to get in the mud to get their water. It was good, cold, 
clean water. I compare this water to the true Word of god that is taught and 
preached. It will quench your thirst.

There is another spring which my mother’s parents took me to a few years 
later. It was a pipe sticking out of the mountain. It was cold water but it 
was iron water. My father told me that in that area before they had a water 
system put in that was the only water that was available for the people to 
collect to use in their homes. I thought it tasted different but not too 
bad. Those people who had to use it all the time may have gotten used to it. 
I compare this water to the teaching and preaching of some that bring a 
message that sounds good but is a little off. Some people listen to these 
preachers and teachers not knowing they are getting used to the messages and 
not knowing it is not the pure living water.

There is a third spring I remember seeing. It was right off the side of what 
used to be the main highway at the top of the mountain near the North 
Carolina state line. It also was a pipe sticking out of the mountain. The 
only difference with this one is that there was a house just above it. We 
doubted the purity of that water so we never drank it. There are some 
teachers and preachers that you hear that you know are not teaching the pure 
Word. These you stay away from.

None of these springs would give enough water for a household. If someone 
wanted to use the water from a spring that was on their property they would 
probably build a cistern. Webster defines a cistern as:

an artificial reservoir (as an underground tank) for storing liquids and 
especially water (as rainwater)

Jesus said that if you belong to him you will have a spring of living water 
flowing from you. The people Jeremiah was talking to didn’t have the springs 
or fountains of water. They were building cisterns to try to catch the 
living water. There are people that still do that today. They think they can 
work their way into heaven by doing enough good deeds.

Don’t try to build your own cistern. Give your life to Jesus Christ and you 
will have rivers of living water flowing from you. Then be careful what 
spring you drink from. Make sure it contains the pure living water.

by Dean W. Masters

Should Evangelicals Evolve on Homosexuality?
Phillip Holmes / December 17, 2015
Should Evangelicals Evolve on Homosexuality?

It was a beautiful day in Minneapolis. The sky was blanketed with grey 
clouds while weak rays of a sallow sun beamed through its cracks and 
crevices. I
sat at the coffee shop waiting for Rosaria Butterfield. Her schedule was 
packed that day, but once she arrived you would have thought this was her 
first
appointment.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d read with great interest about her life, 
both in articles and
her published work.
She had been a postmodern professor at Syracuse University and a lesbian and 
gay activist. But God saved her, and in recent years she’s become a great
resource for the church as a thinker, speaker, and writer, helping the 
church more effectively engage the LGBT community.

I was a bit intimidated, but soon after she entered the room, I knew I could 
relax. I could tell right away I was in for a treat.

When Rosaria and I sat down to talk about “the new America,” the topic of 
homosexuality was at the forefront of our minds. The LGBT community has 
taken
society by storm. The country’s view of homosexuals is rapidly evolving, and 
many are petitioning the church should follow suit.

Some think the church is iterating as well. At the beginning of this year, 
Time published a piece entitled, “How Evangelicals Are Changing Their Minds
on Gay Marriage.” The article alleges,

In public, so many churches and pastors are afraid to talk about the 
generational and societal shifts happening. But behind the scenes, it’s a 
whole different
game. Support for gay marriage across all age groups of white evangelicals 
has increased by double digits over the past decade, according to the Public
Religion Research Institute, and the fastest change can be found among 
younger evangelicals — their support for gay marriage jumped from 20% in 
2003 to
42% in 2014.

While acceptance of homosexuality may be a growing trend among professing 
evangelicals, still the majority of evangelicals simply aren’t convinced. 
Evangelicals,
for the most part, aren’t buying the arguments the “gay Christian movement” 
is selling.

According to Rosaria, the leading merchant for the gay Christian movement is 
Matthew Vines. He believes it’s possible to practice homosexuality and 
genuinely
profess Christianity. Rosaria describes Vine’s view as claiming, “The Bible 
is simply not referring to committed homosexual relationships.”

She noted another view held by Wesley Hill and others. This group, she says, 
asserts, “Being gay is just a physical reality. [There] are people who are
gay, and there are people who are straight, and that is all there is to it. 
It is a moral-neutral, physical reality as long as you don’t act on it. You
are a gay Christian, but you are called to lifelong celibacy.”

While the latter view is clearly more palatable to evangelicals than the 
former, Rosaria disagrees with both. She points out that Vine’s view leads 
to
not inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). But she happily 
acknowledges, “Where there is life, there is hope. So we are not making a 
condemnation
on [Vine’s] life. But we are making a discerning comment on his state before 
God. And we are doing that not because we are looking into his soul, but 
because
we are looking into the pages of the book he has written and we are 
comparing it to the book of the Bible.”

While the majority of evangelicals see the problems with Vines’s view, Hill’s 
is more appealing to evangelicals in the current cultural climate. Many who
hold or support this middle view may believe that identifying oneself as gay 
“is a morally neutral issue as long as I don’t act on it,” she says. “We 
need
to understand that temptation, although it is not a sin, is not our friend. 
Why are we tempted? We are tempted because Satan hates Christ. Why do we 
pray
‘lead us not into temptation’? Because temptation often leads us away from 
Christ.”

Rosaria warns that it’s foolish to make an identity out of a pattern of 
temptation — and it’s divisive because it unnecessarily confuses many 
Christians.

“Can you be a Christian who struggles with homosexual desire and struggles 
faithfully in the Lord? Absolutely. And if people are being honest, 
everybody
is struggling with something — and if you are not, you are dead.”

Rosaria also raises concerns with another view that has been historically 
popular among evangelicals: reparative therapy. She suggests that the 
negative
view many have toward evangelicals concerning how we engage homosexuality 
has a lot to do with the ex-gay narrative. “It resolves the sin of 
homosexuality
in heterosexuality, and it sees that as a sanctifying move.”

She adds that it’s been hurtful to faithful Christians who struggle with 
homosexual desire because it presents a false gospel. It’s a gospel of 
strength
on your own terms. There is no John 15 abiding in union with Christ. It also 
presents a false gospel that suggests we should be fully sanctified this 
side
of heaven — and perhaps even implies there is no sin in heterosexuality. 
Reparative therapy forgets that “the appetite of sexuality itself fell with 
the
fall.”

This is key for those inside and outside the church. The church should not 
tolerate unrepentant homosexuality anymore than it would tolerate 
unrepentant
sexual sins practiced by heterosexuals. If a church is intolerant of 
unrepentant homosexuality, then that body of believers cannot tolerate 
sexual sin
practiced by those who don’t struggle with homosexual desires. Homosexuality 
in the world today is not the church’s greatest threat, but the sin in our
own pews and hearts.

“Sin is our biggest enemy. Original sin distorts us. Actual sin distracts 
us, and indwelling sin manipulates us. And by us, I mean Christians. I mean 
Bible-believing
Christians. If we look at sin as merely making a mistake, then we just need 
a new iPhone app, and we don’t need a Savior. It completely confuses what 
the
problem is, and if you don’t know what the problem is, you can’t come up 
with a good solution.”

Repentance, she says, is “a threshold to a holy God. Repentance is a gift 
from God. Only believers can repent. And you can’t go to some group therapy 
and
conjure up repentance. You just can’t do it. It is a spiritual gift. It 
comes from a holy and a loving God.” And God’s means of grace — his word, 
prayer,
and the church — “can put you on the path of all kinds of spiritual good 
things, but you can’t make it happen, not for yourself, not for your 
children,
not for your neighbor, not for anybody.”

Homosexuality, she says, “is a sin to be mortified, not modified.” She took 
me to Romans 6:4–5.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just 
as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might
walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like 
his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

“New creatures in Christ have union with him and the power of the Holy 
Spirit to see sin for what it is, and then to do battle with it. You can’t 
defend
something you can’t define. You can’t mortify something you don’t see as a 
problem.”

Rosaria suggests that those who simply want to rearrange their life, and not 
call out sexual temptation for what it really is, are taking imprudent and
reckless risks. Whatever we’re struggling with needs to be confessed to God 
for what it really is. Otherwise, it will kill us in the end.

“One of the things you might be trying to do is look all cleaned up so the 
sins confessed are underground — and that is a dangerous form of hypocrisy.
Or you could be just somebody who is really trying to get at things on your 
own strength, but that is not what the Lord wants either. The Lord is not 
calling
you to be strong on your own terms. The Lord is calling you and me to stand 
in the risen Christ.”


There Is No Shame in Loss
Jasmine Holmes / December 17, 2015

I stink at announcing pregnancies to my husband.

Both times, I have come out of the bathroom, stick in hand, shocked look on 
my face, and burst into tears. The first time, I cried because we’d been 
married
a grand total of five weeks and now we were already parents. The second 
time, it was because, just nine months before, I felt the life I’d been 
carrying
slip away from me before my baby even had a name.

Both times, my husband hugged me, assured he was happy to be a daddy, and 
shepherded me through all of the emotions that come from early motherhood. 
The
second time, though, was littered with the emotional minefields of early 
motherhood after a loss. And one of the biggest questions on my mind in 
these
formative days has been, When should we tell people?

People Pleaser

Now, before the reader decries me as a self-absorbed Millennial whose only 
thought is how I appear on social media, let me explain: With our last 
pregnancy,
we shouted it from the rooftops at a whopping five weeks. Our dating was 
off, and we thought we were seven weeks, but however you spin it, we spat it 
out
earlier than the norm. Our logic was that we wanted to give honor to the 
life growing inside of me as soon as possible. Even though we knew the risk 
of
miscarriage, we wanted to proclaim, through any potential pain, that a 
beautiful work had begun (Psalm 139:1).

We ended up having to put our money where our mouth was two weeks later when 
the ultrasound tech awkwardly fumbled with the wand and muttered towards the
fuzzy screen more than to us: “There should be a heartbeat by now — but I’m 
not getting anything.”

We experienced what so many describe as the nightmare of having to un-tell 
our exciting news.

The Second Time Around

And here we are again. Our baby had a heartbeat, a solid due date, and 
sprouting into a little baby bump this time. And yet, Facebook remained 
radio silent
on this fact.

We told our family, our friends, and — after morning sickness started to be 
written all over my face — my coworkers so they wouldn’t think I was 
subjecting
the middle- and high-school students that I teach to a nefarious flu. And 
yet, Instagram was empty.

My husband took a big step back from social media earlier this summer. He 
took a hiatus from Twitter and made his Facebook account more exclusive, and
has since been wrestling with the line between public proclamations and 
private life. I made no such promise, but my Twitter profile grew quieter, 
too,
and so did my Facebook, with the onset of a challenging school year.

And yet, still, our baby grows.

Parents Again

The decision about when to announce a pregnancy has become more and more 
varied. Where custom used to dictate waiting until well into the second 
trimester,
the awareness of miscarriage and the damage of silence has grown. A mere 
Google search will amass countless articles from mothers who were not 
ashamed
to feel the joy of pregnancy and the grief of miscarriage out loud. And I 
was one of them.

Although some women felt shame over their early announcements after a 
miscarriage, I felt glad that we had shared the news of our first baby while 
it was
still happy. Had we waited the allotted twelve, fourteen, sixteen, or twenty 
weeks that some deem necessary, we would’ve had to make somber tidings, or
I would have been suffering in silence.

My first child made me a mom, and I’m so glad I have happy pictures of me 
holding that very first ultrasound pic with a grin big enough to break my 
face.
But the longer I waited to announce my second pregnancy, the more people 
assumed that I’d learned my lesson from the first one, and would not be 
making
the same early announcement mistake again. “I know it must be so hard to 
tell me,” a dear friend told me when I shared the news.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Who Cares What People Think?

I am the oldest of nine black American homeschoolers. I was not raised to 
care what people think. But I was raised to give honor to life. For me, 
announcing
a pregnancy early is not about the attention or the fanfare or the potential 
heartache. For me, it’s about telling our future daughters, “Pregnancy is
wonderful. If you want to announce it the minute you see a positive sign, 
that’s fine, because there’s a life in there. And there is no shame in 
experiencing
a loss.”

For me, the more I realized that, even to those closest to me, the lack of 
an announcement was reading as, “I jumped the gun too soon last time, 
folks,”
I felt moved to announce, yet again. Because although my Christian walk 
demands that I turn my back on what the world thinks, it also requires that 
I proclaim
the sanctity of a little life growing.

When to Announce

So, when should a pregnancy be announced?

I’ve come up with my own answer to that question, as all mothers do. And I 
don’t feel that that answer applies to every single person. But I want to 
make
it clear that, for me and whatever little lives are growing inside of me, 
whether that announcement is a positive pregnancy test, baby’s first 
ultrasound,
mama’s first bump photo, or baby’s big gender reveal — there is no shame in 
loss. Just as there is no shame in a mother’s love.

I’m pregnant again. We named our first baby Hosea, and we loved that little 
child dearly. The second one, we just call “jellybean” for now. And as I 
clear
the hump of my first trimester, I’m glad to tell you that, whatever happens 
next, I am honored to be mama to them both.
Admin
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THE MASTERS LIST Dean W. Masters - Page 18 Empty Re: THE MASTERS LIST Dean W. Masters

Post  Admin on Sun 17 Jan 2016, 10:28 pm

Overcoming a Sizable Fear
LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

"Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are 
afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully 
experienced
his perfect love."
1 John 4:18
(NLT)

My flight was in the boarding process as I settled into my aisle seat, 7-B, 
and began to pray for whomever might sit in 7-A.

Sadly, I wasn’t praying for that person’s soul — I was praying for his or 
her size. I dearly hoped the stranger would be petite, someone who wouldn’t 
feel
miserable squished next to an abundantly blessed woman on a tiny commuter 
plane.

Please, Lord?

I watched the passengers file past, apprehension mounting. My opening patter 
was well rehearsed: "They keep making these planes smaller, don’t they?" or
"Sure wish my hips could fit in the overhead compartment." Anything to put 
him or her at ease.

Moments later a slender, smiling boy appeared beside me. "I’m 7-A."

I beamed at him. "Wonderful!" He had blond hair, perfectly round glasses and 
the pink cheeks of late childhood. I pegged him at 9 or 10, maybe even a 
mature
age 8.

He climbed into his seat, barely taking up half of it, and announced, "I 
like this plane. It’s my size." He leaned toward me and added in a stage 
whisper,
"It makes me feel bigger."

Bless his heart.

I asked his name, wondering what it must be like to travel alone at such a 
young age, then gently patted his arm. "I’m here if you need anything."

The child talked non-stop for the first 30 minutes before folding over and 
drifting off to sleep. Watching him, I resisted the maternal urge to smooth
back his hair. So young.

When the engines grew louder, signaling our descent, my neighbor woke up 
with a yawn, glanced at his watch and grinned. "Whaddaya know? My birthday 
is
next week."

Picturing a big party in the works, I asked, "Which one will this be?"

"15!"

My smile froze in place. It couldn’t be. Not this small boy, no taller than 
a third-grader.

I could only imagine the snide comments his peers threw at him. Or the many 
clueless strangers like me, who treated him as if he were a half-grown child
instead of a full-fledged teenager.

"Happy birthday," I murmured, my heart breaking for him. What must it be 
like to be smaller than people expect?

It’s like being larger than people expect.

I looked down and fumbled with my seat belt, suddenly feeling exposed. Just 
like this self-conscious teen who kept his defense tactics at the ready — 
"It’s
my size" — I had my verbal arsenal loaded as well, deflecting imagined 
criticism by beating people to the punch — "They keep making these planes 
smaller,
don’t they?"

No, Liz. They don’t.

The time had come to see my self-effacing banter for what it was: fear of 
embarrassment, fear of rejection.

What if you don’t like me? What if you say something unkind?

Today’s key verse,
1 John 4:18,
helped change my thinking. God promises that His "perfect love expels all 
fear." The truth is: People may not love us. But God does. If we embrace His
love, we won’t fear the approval of people and can instead focus on loving 
them.

"If we are afraid,"
1 John 4:18
continues, "it is for fear of punishment." Rude stares, rolled eyes, hurtful 
comments. Such things might come from people, but never from the Lord. As
our verse concludes, such fear "shows that we have not fully experienced his 
perfect love."

I not only want to experience God’s perfect love; I also want to give it 
away. Now whenever I fly alone, I offer a different prayer. To be more 
other-conscious
and less self-conscious. And to seek God’s approval alone.

Heavenly Father, the size of our hearts is infinitely more important to You 
than the size of our bodies. Help us cast aside our fears and replace them
with Your truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Galatians 1:10,
"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I 
trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would 
not
be a servant of Christ." (NIV)

Proverbs 29:25,
"Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is 
kept safe." (NIV)

Running Together
BIBLE MEDITATION:
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the 
prize? So run, that ye may obtain.”
1 Corinthians 9:24

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
I have a race to run. God has given you a race to run as well. Every man 
runs his own race. We’re not racing against each other to win the victor’s 
crown.
We are in a pilgrimage together. I’m not trying to outrun you. And you’re 
not trying to outrun me. That is good news!

God has a plan for your life with particular speed bumps, detours, and 
hurdles to cross. And you are to stay in the race until it is over. But you 
are
not running alone!

ACTION POINT:
Though we are not in the same race, we are in the journey together, so we 
encourage one another to win. And I want you to win the victor’s crown 
today!
Run, my friend, run!
Devotions taken from the messages of Adrian Rogers.
May God continue to strengthen and encourage you by the Love Worth Finding 
devotions.
Copyright © 2015 Love Worth Finding Ministries, All rights reserved.

Experiencing LIFE Today

People should fall in love with their eyes closed. – Andy Warhol

In the modern Western world, you will probably live your whole life and 
never see anything like him: a leper. Peeling skin and past hope. Destitute 
and
dead to society, rejected by the reality of this devastating disease that 
robbed him of his family, his friends, his world.

Leprosy was known as “death by inches.” The nerve endings would numb, ulcers 
open on the extremities causing decay. Imagine it: Rotting fingers that 
would
fall off and blotches of skin all over your discolored, reeking body.

Nobody would have blamed Jesus for walking away from a leper – this 
unsightly mess, this ugly outcast, this unclean oddity. But He didn't.

When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man 
with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, 
you
can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. – 
Matthew 8:1-3

The outcast was loved by the Prince. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so 
you must love one another.” But how has Jesus loved us? What does this 
unique
“Jesus love” look like?

Jesus believes that inside every ugly body, and inside every beautiful body, 
and inside every average body, rests an eternal being. One day we will shed
this shell, and spend eternity in one of two places, either with Him or 
without Him. He looks at every single person and says, “I don't care what 
you look
like. I don't care about your economic status. You are an eternal being that 
needs ministering to.”

That's “Jesus love.” And that is how your love, in Him, should see the 
world – blind to physical, overlooking the outside, because that’s what 
Jesus does
for us every day. That is how He loves you and that is how He can work 
through you to love others.

Loving Savior, thank You for accepting me, just the way I am. Your love is 
blind to all of my faults and ugly spots. I pray that You would work through
me to love others deeply, looking past the surface. Amen.

Listen to Pete, Jill & Stuart Briscoe on the
Telling the Truth broadcast
at OnePlace.com

Experiencing LIFE Today

People should fall in love with their eyes closed. – Andy Warhol

In the modern Western world, you will probably live your whole life and 
never see anything like him: a leper. Peeling skin and past hope. Destitute 
and
dead to society, rejected by the reality of this devastating disease that 
robbed him of his family, his friends, his world.

Leprosy was known as “death by inches.” The nerve endings would numb, ulcers 
open on the extremities causing decay. Imagine it: Rotting fingers that 
would
fall off and blotches of skin all over your discolored, reeking body.

Nobody would have blamed Jesus for walking away from a leper – this 
unsightly mess, this ugly outcast, this unclean oddity. But He didn't.

When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man 
with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, 
you
can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. – 
Matthew 8:1-3

The outcast was loved by the Prince. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so 
you must love one another.” But how has Jesus loved us? What does this 
unique
“Jesus love” look like?

Jesus believes that inside every ugly body, and inside every beautiful body, 
and inside every average body, rests an eternal being. One day we will shed
this shell, and spend eternity in one of two places, either with Him or 
without Him. He looks at every single person and says, “I don't care what 
you look
like. I don't care about your economic status. You are an eternal being that 
needs ministering to.”

That's “Jesus love.” And that is how your love, in Him, should see the 
world – blind to physical, overlooking the outside, because that’s what 
Jesus does
for us every day. That is how He loves you and that is how He can work 
through you to love others.

Loving Savior, thank You for accepting me, just the way I am. Your love is 
blind to all of my faults and ugly spots. I pray that You would work through
me to love others deeply, looking past the surface. Amen.

Listen to Pete, Jill & Stuart Briscoe on the
Telling the Truth broadcast
at OnePlace.com

Bad situations don't have to make us bitter-they can make us better! God can 
use the good, the bad, the happy, the sad to mold us into the people He 
wants
us to be. Our goal should be to focus not on what man does to us but what 
God will do through us. Rest assured, what man may intend for evil, God will
use for good.

Skip Heitzig
Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You
Daily Devotional
Orders Remain Unchanged - #7532

When you visit Washington, D.C., you're bound to see the Lincoln Memorial,
the Washington Monument, and the Capitol Building. But there's this one side
trip to Northern Virginia that's probably the most humbling stop you'll
make. It's Arlington National Cemetery where this endless sea of white
crosses
reminds an American of the high price of freedom. That price is beautifully
dramatized every hour at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier-with the Changing
of the Guard.

Tomb Guard sentinels are from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, traditionally
known as "The Old Guard." These sentinels are considered to be the best of
the elite regiment. In this elaborate but reverent ceremony, the Relief
Commander and the relieving sentinel meet the retiring sentinel guard. The
Relief
Commander orders the relieved sentinel to "Pass on your orders." The
sentinel who is being relieved says, "Post and orders remain as directed."
To which
the newly posted sentinel replies, "Orders acknowledged." In other words,
orders remain unchanged. Since this duty began decades ago, the orders have
not
changed. They have always stayed the same. They always will.

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Orders
Remain Unchanged."

Two thousand years ago, on a hill overlooking Jerusalem, Jesus gave His
final orders to eleven men into whose hands He was entrusting the mission
that
cost Him His life. Our word for today from the Word of God, Mark 16:15, "Go
into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." Now Luke tells us
that the Lord ordered "You shall be My witnesses," from the city where they
were to the ends of the earth.

The orders to Jesus' first soldiers were clear-you are to pour your lives
into getting the Good News about Jesus to as many people as possible. And
the
orders remain unchanged...even if the world we live in is very changed.

Today, those of us who belong to Jesus are surrounded by battles to fight:
Pornography, abortion, family disintegration, immorality in the media,
crises
of character in the lives of our religious leaders, our political leaders,
our culture that has forgotten God. And that's just the beginning of the
list.
Some believers are so self-absorbed they're just sleeping through the whole
thing. Other believers just shake their heads in anger and disgust over the
mess and lament the problems, "It don't make any difference."

But this is a time for action, especially with the world looking more and
more like the world Jesus said He would return to. It feels as if both
armies-the
armies of the light and the armies of darkness-are fully mobilized for what
may be some of the last climactic battles for people's lives. So, which
battles
shall we fight? And what weapons shall we use? Political action? Attacks on
the evils of our culture?

The Master's orders remain unchanged. "Go and preach the Gospel." How did
the first century believers do battle against the evils of their day? Little
baby girls left in jars on street corners to die, people torn apart by
animals for Sunday afternoon entertainment, Christians burned as torches in
Nero's
gardens. You don't find much of a trace of the original Christians mounting
a campaign against the sins of their culture.

What you do find is the original believers presenting Jesus Christ wherever
they can. And city after city is rocked by the impact of believers who knew
their orders and understood that as the Bible says, "the Gospel of Christ is
the power of God for salvation" (Romans 1:16). The cultures are changed when
individuals are changed by Jesus from the inside out!

Now, we need to be salt and light wherever God puts us, and stand against
what breaks His heart. But we must never let our primary resources go to
that
which will, at best, bring about only temporary change-and leave people
living better but still headed for a hopeless, Christless eternity.

Our moral outrage needs to be turned into more outreach! Only new creations
will change a dying culture! So, as the orders have passed from Jesus to His
first eleven soldiers, and now down through the centuries to us, our
Master's orders remain unchanged.

Change the world by getting out the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Fools for Christ
by Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com Entertainment Editor

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose
the weak things of the world to shame the strong. –
1 Corinthians 1:27

I was leaving the grocery store and had just started my car, when I was
approached by a man pushing a stroller. I assumed he was going to ask for
directions,
but it turned out that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

"Hey man, I really need some help. My daughter and I just got evicted from
our apartment." He proceeded to rattle off his story as I listened
uncomfortably.
He had contacted Social Services but they wouldn’t be able to help him until
tomorrow. His wife had left when things got tough. He was afraid of losing
his daughter. He'd found a cheap motel to stay in, but he still needed
seventeen dollars to pay for the room.

Now, several things began to buzz through my head as he talked. The first
was how I didn’t trust a thing he was saying. In Asia, I’d seen female
beggars
use their children to garner sympathy from passing strangers. In South
America, older men would hold Bibles or crosses, not because they were
Christians
but because it encouraged people to give more generously. Everything about
his story felt rehearsed, staged, right down to the toddler in his stroller.

The second thing was that the man had said he needed $17, which was the
exact amount I had in my wallet. I had been hoping to use that money to grab
a
lunch out or maybe see a movie, but could I really justify being so selfish
if this guy really needed it? I considered giving him a few bucks just to
make
him go away, but withholding the rest didn’t seem any better than giving him
nothing. It felt like I was trapped between two choices, would I be stupid
or heartless. Eventually, I considered what Christ would have me do, and
handed over the money along with my best wishes.

I don’t know what became of that man. Maybe he was telling the truth, maybe
he was lying, and to be honest I don’t really care. God has called us to
love,
and you cannot love others if you are afraid of looking foolish. Remember
what the
Bible
says in the book of Matthew,

“’You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I
tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right
cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take
your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one
mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn
away from the one who wants to borrow from you.’” – Matthew 5:38-42

Intersecting
Faith
and Life: Consider this: Love is like dancing, you'll never do it well if
you're afraid of how you look.

Further Reading

1 Corinthians 4

A Hard Lesson I Learned on "Accident"
DANYA M. JORDAN

"Freely you have received; freely give."
Matthew 10:8b
(NIV)

The hot water rinsed the shampoo down my head and neck as my mom tenderly 
washed my blood-soaked hair. I had just returned home from the trauma center
after being involved in a serious six-car accident just hours before — 
grateful to be miraculously alive.

It was difficult to comprehend walking away that evening from the emergency 
room with no broken bones, no visible cuts. MRI and CAT scans showed no 
brain
injury from my scalp gash and being knocked unconscious from the side 
airbag. Eleven staples in the back of my head and body bruises were my only 
(yet
barely visible) battle wounds.

The inner wounds lingered, though, as I processed the lessons God was trying 
to teach me.

Loved ones and friends brought daily meals, sent cards, flowers, texts, 
emails and left sweet phone messages for me. Mom chauffeured me around for a 
week
to doctor’s appointments and errands before I was issued a rental car.

As grateful as I was, I struggled to accept their help. It has always been 
easier for me to give, to serve, to try to be in control of my situation, my
surroundings. This car accident changed my perspective and humbled my heart.

God wanted me to learn this truth about myself: I’m not good at receiving.

As result of that accident, I learned a hard lesson. I learned to ask for 
help when I need it. And when I did, God taught me the blessing of 
receiving.

God’s Kingdom is built on the principle of giving and receiving … receiving 
and giving. At times we need to do both.

Asking for help is often hard, whatever the reason. At Proverbs 31 
Ministries, we love to give. We love serving you, and offering God’s Word to 
a hungry
world.

And at times, we struggle to ask for help. But we know that would deny 
others the blessing of giving. For some, giving is a spiritual gift, as
Romans 12:8
shows us (see below).

Our key verse in
Matthew 10:8b
teaches us that our hands should be open when it comes to giving and 
receiving help. Jesus was giving specific instructions to His disciples in 
that passage.
The full verse eight says: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who 
have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give."

God wired our hearts to give and receive. He gave the Ultimate Gift. He gave 
sacrificially. He gave from His heart, just as He wants us to give 
sacrificially
and have the grace and humility to receive. How many times have I rejected 
God’s offer of help to me, thinking I could do life on my own? It was pride.

This incident taught me the hard lesson that I needed to learn to ask for 
help. I thank God for my car accident and that He spared my life for His 
purpose.
I pray God continues to show me how to give sacrificially and receive with 
grace and humility.

Lord Jesus, thank You for saving my life. You are my Jehovah Jirah. Forgive 
me for my pride in struggling to receive. Help me to continue to lavishly 
give
to You, serve others and receive Your blessings. I pray for Your continued 
favor on the friend reading this devotional and on Proverbs 31 Ministries. 
Thank
You for providing more than enough, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 12:6
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Love Worth Finding Ministries
Showing Genuine Love for Others

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation: and Thy right hand 
hath holden me up, and Thy gentleness hath made me great.”
Psalm 18:35

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Can a person donate to the poor and not have love? Can a person work in a 
soup kitchen for the homeless and not have love? Yes. You say, “A person 
wouldn’t
do that!” Oh yes, they would…if they had a guilty conscience. Sometimes it 
is neater to write a check or donate some used things than to give of our 
time.

Do you know what the world needs? Not more money, though I’m sure they’d be 
glad to take it. First Corinthians 13:3 says, “And though I bestow all my 
goods
to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not 
charity, it profiteth me nothing.” You can give without loving, but you 
cannot love
without giving of yourself to others.

ACTION POINT:
Ask God to show you the ways you can show His genuine love to others.
© 2014 Love Worth Finding Ministries | PO Box 38300 - Memphis, TN 38183-0300

In the Presence of God

Being Clothed in His Righteousness

The church is our mother, but it is Christ's bride. In this role, we are the 
objects of Christ's affection. We, corporately, are His beloved. Stained and
wrinkled, in ourselves we are anything but holy. When we say that the church 
is holy or refer to her as "holy mother church," we do so with the knowledge
that her holiness is not intrinsic but derived and dependent upon the One 
who sanctifies her and covers her with the cloak of His righteousness.

As the sensitive husband shelters his wife and in a chivalrous manner lends 
her his coat when she is chilled, so we are clad from on high by a husband
who stops at nothing to defend, protect, and care for His betrothed. His is 
the ultimate chivalry, a chivalry that no upheaval of earthly custom can 
eradicate
or make passé. This chivalry is not dead because it cannot die.

The bride of Christ is soiled but will one day be presented spotless to the 
Father by the Son who bought her, who loves her, and who intercedes for her
every day. If we love Christ, we must also love His bride. If we love 
Christ, we must love His church.

Coram Deo: Living in the Presence of God

Ask God to rekindle your love for members of the body of Christ, the true 
church.

For Further Study

Revelation 3:5: "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I 
will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his 
name
before My Father and before His angels."

Psalm 111:3: "His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness 
endures forever."

2 Peter 3:14: "Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be 
diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless."

The mission, passion and purpose of Ligonier Ministries and Dr. R.C. Sproul 
is to help people grow in their knowledge of God and His holiness. For more
information, please visit
www.ligonier.org
or call them at 800-435-4343.
© R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved.

Today's Topical Bible Study

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

By
Joy Mosbarger

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

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

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

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

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

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

LightSource.com Featured Ministry

challies.com - Informing the Reforming
----------------------------------------------------------
10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling

Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling is a phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing 
down. According to publisher Thomas Nelson, it “continues to grow in units 
sold
each year since it was released [and] has surpassed 15 million copies sold.” 
Nelson is involved in an expansive new marketing campaign that involves a
new web site and daily radio devotionals. ECPA
reports
that “Thomas Nelson began its partnership with the Salem Media group to 
provide 60-second daily messages on Eric Metaxas’ show, which is carried on 
more
than 100 stations nationwide and worldwide on SiriusXM Radio. The Jesus 
Calling radio devotional reaches more than 500,000 people each day through 
these
segments.” With 15 million copies sold, it has marched its way into rare 
company.

Yet it is a deeply troubling book. I am going to point out 10 serious 
problems with Jesus Calling in the hope that you will consider and heed 
these warnings.

1. She speaks for God. Far and away the most troubling aspect of the book is 
its very premise—that Sarah Young hears from Jesus and then dutifully brings
his messages to her readers. Jesus Calling makes the boldest, gutsiest, and, 
to my mind, most arrogant claim of any book ever to be considered Christian.
The publisher describes the book in this way: “After many years of writing 
her own words in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to be 
more
attentive to the Savior’s voice and begin listening for what He was saying. 
So with pen in hand, she embarked on a journey that forever changed her—and
many others around the world. In these powerful pages are the words and 
Scriptures Jesus lovingly laid on her heart. Words of reassurance, comfort, 
and
hope. Words that have made her increasingly aware of His presence and 
allowed her to enjoy His peace (italics mine).” There is no way to avoid her 
claim
that she is communicating divine revelation, a claim that raises a host of 
questions and concerns, not the least of which is the doctrine of Scripture
alone which assures us that the Bible and the Bible alone is sufficient to 
guide us in all matters of faith and practice.

2. She proclaims the insufficiency of the Bible. Jesus Calling only exists 
because Sarah Young had a deep desire to hear from God outside of the Bible. 
In
the introduction she describes the book’s genesis: “I began to wonder if I … 
could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been 
writing
in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all 
the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I
yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me 
personally on a given day.” In those few sentences she sets up unnecessary 
competition
between her revelation and what we are told of the Bible in 2 Timothy 
3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, 
for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may 
be complete, equipped for every good work.” Biblically, there is no category
for what she provides as the heart and soul of her book. Biblically, there 
is no need for it and no reason we should expect or heed it.

3. Her deepest experience of God comes through a practice God does not 
endorse. Young does not only endorse her practice of listening, but goes so 
far
as to elevate it as the chief spiritual discipline. “This practice of 
listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other 
spiritual
discipline, so I want to share some of the messages I have received. In many 
parts of the world, Christians seem to be searching for a deeper experience
of Jesus’ Presence and Peace. The messages that follow address that felt 
need.” Notice that her solution to addressing the desire for Jesus’ Presence 
and
Peace is not Scripture or any other means of grace, but the very messages 
she provides in her book.

4. She is inspired by untrustworthy models. In early versions of Jesus 
Calling, Young tells of her discovery of the book God Calling and the way 
she modeled
her practice of listening on it. She describes it as “a devotional book 
written by two anonymous ‘listeners.’ These women practiced waiting quietly 
in
God’s Presence, pencils and paper in hand, recording the messages they 
received from Him. This little paperback became a treasure to me. It 
dove-tailed
remarkably well with my longing to live in Jesus’ Presence.” It is worth 
noting that recent versions of Jesus Calling have been scrubbed of this 
information.
God Calling is an equally troubling book that saw much success beginning in 
the 1930s and has seen a revival of interest in the wake of Jesus Calling.
It is at times subbiblical and at other times patently unbiblical. And yet 
it is a book she regards as a treasure and a model for her own work.

5. She provides lesser revelation. Young admits that her revelation is 
different from the Bible’s (“The Bible is, of course, the only inerrant Word 
of
God; my writings must be consistent with that unchanging standard”), but 
does not explain how her writings are different. Jesse Johnson
says,
“She does grant that the content of Jesus Calling should be measured against 
Scripture—but that is true of Scripture as well. In the end, there is no 
substantial
difference in how Young expects us to view Jesus’ words to her, than how we 
are to view the Bible. I mean, Jesus’ words to Sarah are literally packaged
into a devotional, so that we can do our devotionals from them every day.” 
If her words are actually from Jesus, how can they be any less authoritative
or less binding than any word of Scripture?

6. She mimics occult practices. The way in which Young receives her 
revelation from Jesus smacks of the occult. “I decided to listen to God with 
pen in
hand, writing down whatever I believe He was saying. I felt awkward the 
first time I tried this, but I received a message. It was short, biblical, 
and
appropriate. It addressed topics that were current in my life: trust, fear, 
and closeness to God. I responded by writing in my prayer journal.” This is
not a far cry from a practice known as “automatic writing” which Wikipedia
describes
as “an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words 
without consciously writing. The words are claimed to arise from a 
subconscious,
spiritual or supernatural source.” Her inspiration was God Calling where it 
is even clearer that the authors allowed their minds to go blank at which 
point
they supposedly received messages from God. This practice is very different 
from the giving of biblical revelation where God worked through the 
thoughts,
personalities, and even research of the authors.

7. Her emphasis does not match the Bible’s. Young’s emphasis in Jesus 
Calling is markedly different from the emphases of the Bible. For example, 
she speaks
seldom of sin and repentance and even less of Christ’s work on the cross. 
Michael Horton
says,
“In terms of content, the message is reducible to one point: Trust me more 
in daily dependence and you’ll enjoy my presence.” While this is not 
necessarily
an unbiblical or inappropriate message, it hardly matches the thrust of the 
Bible which always pushes toward or flows from the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Horton adds, “The first mention of Christ even dying for our sins appears on 
February 28 (page 61). The next reference (to wearing Christ’s robe) is 
August
9 (p. 232). Even the December readings focus on a general presence of Jesus 
in our hearts and daily lives, without anchoring it in Jesus’s person and 
work
in history.”

8. Her tone does not match the Bible’s. It can’t be denied: The Jesus of 
Sarah Young sounds suspiciously like a twenty-first century, Western, 
middle-aged
woman. If this is, indeed, Jesus speaking, we need to explain why he sounds 
so markedly different from the Jesus of the gospels or the Jesus of the book
of Revelation. Nowhere in Scripture do we find Jesus (or his Father) 
speaking like this: “When your Joy in Me meets My Joy in you, there are 
fireworks
of heavenly ecstasy.” Or again, “Wear my Love like a cloak of Light, 
covering you from head to toe.” And, “Bring me the sacrifice of your 
precious time.
This creates sacred space around you—space permeated with My Presence and My 
Peace.” Why does Jesus suddenly speak in such different language?

9. She generates confusion. By fabricating the spiritual discipline of 
listening and elevating it to the first place, she generates confusion about 
the
disciplines that God does prescribe for Christians.
Michael Horton
addresses this one well: “According to the Reformation stream of 
evangelicalism, God speaks to us in his Word (the arrow pointing down from 
God to us)
and we speak to him in prayer (the arrow directed up to God). However, Jesus 
Calling confuses the direction of these arrows, blurring the distinction 
between
God’s speech and our response.” What she models and endorses is both 
confusing and unhelpful.

10. Her book has been corrected. Most people don’t know that Jesus Calling 
has undergone revisions, not only in the introduction where she removed 
references
to God Calling, but also in the words she claims to have received from 
Jesus. This, of course, casts even further doubt on the trustworthiness of 
the revelation
she receives. After all, why would words from Jesus need to be revised? Did 
God lie? Did he change? Did she mis-hear him? There is no good option here,
other than to doubt all she has ever claimed to receive. This comparison 
from CARM highlights one significant correction to the text:

Jesus Calling Comparison

The point is clear: Jesus Calling is a book built upon a faulty premise and 
in that way a book that is dangerous and unworthy of our attention or 
affirmation.
The great tragedy is that it is leading people away from God’s means of 
grace that are so sweet and so satisfying, if only we will accept and 
embrace them.

Dean Masters, owner of the Masters List
A Reed and a Wick

Matthew 12:20 (NIV)
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he leads justice to victory.

In the past my mother had some flowers outside that grew tall but could not 
hold themselves up. WE would drive stakes in the ground and run a wire 
between them to hold the flowers up. I remember a few times we had gully 
washer thunderstorms that had blown the few rows of corn we had in our 
garden down to the ground. WE would tromp through the mud, put stakes in the 
ground and run wire to put the corn upright. WE could have cut down the 
flowers since they were lying in the way but they were still producing. WE 
could have let the corn go but we knew that it was a possibility that it 
might produce some corn to eat.

The Sunday evening before Christmas our church has a candlelight service. 
You might get an old candle that has been used before that has a small wick. 
When your neighbor tries to light your candle it might take a while before 
it gives off its own flame. Even then the flame might go out but the wick 
still be glowing. Your neighbor might notice and relight your candle. They 
don’t want to see your light go out.

Both of these are examples of God. You might be like the flowers or the corn 
that are just weak from everyday growth or from a terrible storm. God sees 
what you are going through and knows that there is still life in you. He won’t 
cut you off or leave you to waste away if you belong to him. He will come to 
you and gently prop you up and give you the care needed to be productive. If 
he sees that your light is almost gone but there is a glimmer of hope in you 
he will continually light your flame and not snuff you out. The New Living 
Translation says it this way:

Matthew 12:20 (NLT)
He will not crush those who are weak,
or quench the smallest hope,
until he brings full justice with his final victory.

God loves you. You may be beaten down by life or the different storms that 
come through everyone’s life but God will come to you and take care of you. 
He will not cut you off or snuff your smoldering wick.

If we Christians see a brother or sister who are bent low or just have a 
glimmer of hope, we need to help them. WE are God’s hands and feet.

Galatians 6:2 (NASB95)
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 4:9 (NASB95)
9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write 
to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB95)
11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you 
also are doing.

James 5:16 (NASB95)
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so 
that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can 
accomplish much.

by Dean W. Masters
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Post  Admin on Sat 09 Jan 2016, 11:08 pm

Spill Your Heart Before God
by Max Lucado

As a member of God’s family, come to Him— not as a stranger, but as an heir. 
Earnestly make your requests known to him; not because of what you have 
achieved,
but because of what Christ has done! Jesus spilled his blood for you. You 
can spill your heart before God.

Jesus said if you have faith, you can tell a mountain to go and jump into 
the sea (Mark 11:23). What is your mountain? What is the challenge of your 
life? Call
out to God for help! Will he do what you want? I cannot say, but this I can 
say, “He will do what is best.” That includes any force that is seeking to
drive you out of the Promised Land. “Ask and it will be given to you,” Jesus 
said in Matthew 7:7. It is a battle, but you do not fight in vain. Call on
God for great things!

From
Glory Days
Listen to
UpWords with Max Lucado
at OnePlace.com

He Wants To Prove His Power In Your Life ~The Best Is Yet To Come
by Dean Masters

2 Corinthians 12:9
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made 
perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my 
weaknesses,
so that the power of God may rest upon me.

Have you done all you can, taken all you can and feel as though this morning 
you just can’t do it any more? Are you struggling in relationships or maybe
with an addiction, what is it this morning that is just more than you 
handle?

Stop trying to “handle” it or fix it and let go, give it totally to God. God’s 
grace is sufficient! That means it is sufficient for all you have done right
or all you have done wrong! Stop trying to handle everything on your own and 
allow God’s grace to fill you with His peace, grace and understanding. It
is our areas of greatest weakness that God loves to show His power in our 
lives. If we never needed Him, how would the world see Him work in our 
lives.
If we were just self sufficient instead of “grace sufficient” why would we 
need Him?

God’s grace covers more than just our sins it covers our hurts and our 
abilities to handle horrifying situations that we may face. Have you ever 
watched
as someone else goes through something just awful and you wonder how on 
earth they can get through and yet there seems to be a strength about them 
that
is beyond comprehension “my power is made perfect in weakness”. You don’t 
understand their strength because God hasn’t given you the grace He is 
giving
them for their situation! God’s grace covers us where we are and how we need 
it - it isn’t just a blanket covering that smothers us all whether we need
it or not and we don’t all just get the same dose, based on our weight or 
something. I have watched as friends and loved ones on Facebook have lost 
loved
ones or one couple’s young son was hit by a car and some have had children 
drift from God and some have faced divorce, some have struggled and have 
been
hurting from the rejection of Christian friends or the church because they 
made a sinful choice and through it all I have seen how when each one has 
turned
to God and gave their situation to Him how He has moved in their lives and 
circumstances. Has it made every day great and easy through their situation?
No, but it is more bearable and there is a strength that fills you as you 
give it all to Him that is beyond understanding!

I don’t know what you are facing this morning, I know I have a few Giants of 
my own today, but I do know this: I woke up this morning with God saying 
over
and over, “my Grace is Sufficient Janet”, and I need them to know this 
morning that I am waiting to prove my power in their lives this morning just 
as
I will yours! Give it to Him, don’t spend one more day fretting over it, 
give Him your struggle and allow Him to give you the grace and power you 
need
for it all today! God’s love for you is beyond anything you can comprehend 
and He cares about everything you are faced with, nothing is too big for 
Him!

I am praying we will all find peace and grace as we face today and the days 
to come! Draw from His strength today and take one day at a time as He fills
you with His grace and power!

Quote For The Day:
Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of 
the day , saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You
Daily Devotional

It was always so much fun when we stuffed all five Hutchcrafts into the car 
for a long trip. And, of course, we had turf wars in the back seat. You 
remember
that? Especially as our kids became bigger. We had three kids trying to 
figure out who gets which third or more, of the turf in the back seat. Of 
course
that was only one of our problems.

After we'd been driving for awhile, we'd often hear these unsettling sounds 
emanating from the back seat. Our daughter was prone to needing some air and
space back there, and it happened when she was stuck in the middle. And she 
began to experience discomfort and started letting out soft moans. Her 
brothers
would imitate those noises, of course more loudly and more obnoxious. She 
couldn't help it! She had a touch of claustrophobia. "Come on, guys! She 
needed
some space."

I'm Ron Hutchcraft, and I want to have A Word With You today about "The 
Life-Changing Equation For the People You Love."

Our word for today from the Word of God comes from 2 Timothy 4:2, and Paul 
talks about different ways we might go about trying to get people to change.
Can you think of anybody you want to change? Okay. He says, "Preach the 
Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and 
encourage with
great patience and careful instruction."

Now what he's talking about here is approaching people who need to change. 
You've probably got somebody like that in your life. Like somebody you're 
married
to? One of your children? A friend? Somebody at church? "Oh yeah, I've got 
somebody who needs to change." Well, here's how Paul says to go about it. 
You
give them the truth, you encourage, you exhort, you correct, you rebuke when 
you need to, but then be prepared to wait. He says to do this with patience.
They're not going to change right away.

So, the life-changing equation goes something like this: Truth plus space 
equals a changed life. Now, our daughter, in that back seat, needed some 
space.
That might be what the person in your life who you want to change, might be 
what they need. You've been after them a lot, maybe nagging them. You know
what? They need some space, and that's the hard part. You told them what's 
right. You told them what the Bible says about it, but now you've got to 
give
them some space to choose it.

That person you love, maybe they're suffering from emotional or spiritual 
claustrophobia, because you've chased them too much. See, if they don't 
respond
right away, we're like, "See, they didn't listen!" So we hammer them again 
and again, and what we're probably doing is making the change take even 
longer
and making their resistance even stronger.

Here's another equation: Truth plus pressure equals rebellion. See, we're 
afraid we're losing the person and our fear comes out as nagging and 
pressure,
but here's how the life-changing process works. You give the person the 
truth on that issue, then you allow them the dignity and the space to choose 
it
for themselves. Leave them some room. They're not just going to throw up 
their hands, raise the white flag and say, "I'm wrong. You're right." Back 
off,
and let them decide. See, maybe you've given them the truth, but no space, 
and so you're getting rebellion. Paul's words, "do it with great patience."

Here's an even better equation: Truth plus space plus prayer equals a 
changed life, because while you're giving them space and while you're 
waiting to
see what they do with the truth, (and maybe biting your nails about it) 
you're on your knees talking to God about them, more than you're talking to 
them
about God. Maybe you could just say to the Lord, "Lord I've done my best, 
now please do the rest."

I like what Ruth Graham said about Billy Graham, she said, "You know, it's 
my job to love Billy, it's God's job to change him." Well it's God's job to
change that person. You love them, you tell them the truth, and then leave 
some space for God to do the changing.
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Post  Admin on Fri 08 Jan 2016, 12:36 pm

When You’re Stumbling into the New Year Empty and Drained
ALICIA BRUXVOORT

"Three days later, they all went to celebrate a wedding feast in Cana of 
Galilee … While they were celebrating, the wine ran out … [And Jesus said] 
‘Fill each water pot with water until it’s ready to spill over the top.’"
John 2:1a,)

We were sitting in the dimly lit corner of our favorite Italian bistro when 
my husband asked the question that made my heart lurch: "What are you 
looking
forward to in the new year?"

The last hours of the last day of December stretched before us like a gift 
wrapped in moonbeams and grace, and I was grateful for time to connect as we
bid another year goodbye.

I cast him an appreciative smile, knowing that my quiet guy would have been 
content to merely eat his steak and savor our momentary break from baby 
babble
and toddler tantrums.

Normally, his inquiry would have aroused my love for conversation and 
undaunted dreaming. But as I sliced into my baked potato on that particular 
New Year’s Eve, I realized I was strangely devoid of words.

I felt more hollow than hopeful, more discouraged than dreamy.

I wanted to answer with expectancy and exuberance, to rehearse to my willing 
listener a list of grandiose goals and polished plans. But I was road-weary
from a long and exhausting year. Unexpected disappointments had left me 
discouraged, and I felt depleted by the demands of the daily grind.

My husband buttered his roll and waited in comfortable silence. And I felt a 
cavernous ache rise from the tip of my toes to the corners of my muddled 
mind.
I held his green-eyed gaze and wondered if my heart would split wide open if 
I put words to my unseen struggle.

I willed my tears not to drizzle, and I blinked long and slow in an attempt 
to hide the drops of watery despair.

"Honey, what’s wrong?" my husband asked, reaching across the table to lace 
his fingers through mine.

"I just feel so empty inside …" I cried, as I tipped my water glass to my 
lips and sipped the last drop. "I don’t how God can use me in the new year 
when
I feel so depleted by the old one."

Maybe you’ve been there before — too haggard to hope, too wary to wish, too 
exhausted to anticipate.

Maybe you’re there right now, toes tired from the journey, your heart 
feeling bankrupt by the barrage of life.

But if you’ve limped into the new year with muted hope and a poured-out 
soul, I’ve got good news for you. Our emptiness doesn’t disqualify us from 
Christ’s
extravagance. Our weariness doesn’t exempt us from His wonder.

In fact, today’s key verses suggest that our emptiness might actually give 
us reason for expectancy in the new year.

After all, we have a Savior who delights in filling empty vessels.

If we read the entire account of Christ’s first miracle in
John 2:1-12,
we learn that Christ didn’t view those barren wine jugs as a reason for 
condemnation; He simply viewed them as a wordless invitation. A subtle 
summons
to reveal His glory in a fresh new way.

Think about it, friends: if our lavish Savior can use poured-out pots to 
display His splendor, surely He can use poured-out people to do the same. We 
need
only to admit our void and ask for His help.

A waiter lingered beside our table with a pitcher and reached for the glass 
near my plate.

"An empty one!" the waiter exclaimed as he held the fluted glass up to the 
light. "I can fix that!" he said with a silly smirk. Then he tipped the 
pitcher
with a gallant swoop and filled my glass to the brim.

My husband raised his eyebrows as the young man waltzed away. "Maybe being 
empty isn’t so bad after all …" he said with a wink.

I took a long sip of water and let it wash away the lump of tears that had 
been sitting in my throat.

Then, I cast my husband a grateful grin and let an unexpected giggle spill 
from my lips.

After all, it suddenly seemed like I was in the perfect position to embrace 
a new year brimming with possibility.

Dear Jesus, help me trade my emptiness for expectancy. I invite you to do a 
fresh work in me this new year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 15:13,
"I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace 
while you trust in him. Then your hope will overflow by the power of the 
Holy
Spirit." (NCV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Commit to filling up on God’s Word in the new year. Our free
First 5
app can help you get into God’s Word with the first five minutes of your 
day.

Visit
Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog
for more encouragement and a special give-away today.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Invite God to do a fresh work in your life this year. Read
Isaiah 43:19
and make it your prayer.

This week, prayerfully pour into someone who is poured out.
©️ 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Finding Your Contentment in Jesus
BIBLE MEDITATION:
“…and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, ‘I will 
never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’”
Hebrews 13:5-6.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
As you face the new year, find your contentment in Jesus, your companionship 
in Jesus, and your confidence in Jesus. Then you’ll find your comfort and
your courage in Jesus. When you are contented in Jesus and He is closer to 
you than any one on earth could possibly be; when you are confident in the 
midst
of trials and testing that He will provide…then, and only then, will you 
know the courage that comes from His comforting presence.

ACTION POINT:
Pray, “Lord, with all my heart, with all I am, I want to know you. I want 
our relationship to be close and my faith to grow. Cleanse me and make me 
new
that I may be all that You want me to be this year.”
Discover Jesus
|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.


Today's Daily Encounter

Christianity Vs. Religion

"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the
prophets at many times and in various ways, but in
these last days He has spoken to us by His Son [Jesus],
whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom
He made the universe."1

Karl Barth was lecturing to a group of students at
Princeton. One student asked the renowned German
theologian, "Sir, don't you think that God has revealed
himself in other religions and not only in
Christianity?" Barth's answer stunned the crowd. With a
modest thunder he answered, "No, God has not revealed
himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has
revealed himself in his Son [Jesus]."2

People by nature are religious in that every person is
born with a sense of a divine being, and at some point
each person decides whether to accept that belief,
enquire into it, or reject it. Many choose the belief
(as the saying goes) that "all roads lead to Rome," and
all religions lead to God. Not true.

In one sense religion is man's search for God primarily
through his own efforts, or through a man-made
religion. On the other hand, Jesus (or real
Christianity) is God's search for man. And that makes
all the difference in the world. Because we are all
sinners, it is impossible for us to save ourselves
through our own efforts or any man-made religion. This
is why God, in His eternal love for us, sent His own
Son, Jesus, to die on the cross in our place to pay the
penalty for all our sins. Mankind's salvation is thus
found in Jesus Christ alone. There is no other way.

Narrow? Yes. But had there been any other way, why
would Jesus have come to earth as a man to die an
excruciating death on a Roman cross to pay the penalty
for our sins? As Jesus said, "Small is the gate and
narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find
it."3

So the important question is not, are you religious?
Or, do you belong to a Christian denomination, or are
you a member of a Christian church; rather, it is, have
you accepted Jesus as your Savior? Is your trust in Him
and Him alone for your eternal salvation? As Jesus
said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one
comes to the Father [God] except through me.4

If in doubt, be sure to read the article, "How to Be
Sure You're a Real Christian--without having to be
religious" at: http://tinyurl.com/8glq9.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank You for Your 'so
great salvation' provided through the death of Your
Son, Jesus, on the cross for my sins and to give to me
the gift of eternal life. And Jesus, because You died
for me, help me to live for You always in all ways.
Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer.
Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."

1. Hebrews 1:1-2 (NIV).
2. Rev. John H. Pavelko, "Avoiding a Troubled Heart."
3. Matthew 7:14 (NIV).
4. John 14:6 (NIV).

<Smile)))><

NOTE: If you would like to accept God's forgiveness
for all your sins and His invitation for a full pardon
Click on:
http://www.actsweb.org/invitation.php.
Or
if you would like to re-commit your life to Jesus Christ,
please click on
http://www.actsweb.org/decision.php
to note this.

* * * * * * 
Daily Encounter is published at no charge by
ACTS International, a non-profit organization,
and made possible through the donations of
interested friends. Donations can be sent at:

Copyright (c) 2015 by ACTS International
When copying or forwarding include the following:
"Daily Encounter by Richard (Dick) Innes (c) 2015
ACTS International.
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Post  Admin on Thu 07 Jan 2016, 4:22 pm

Welcome to the Nugget
November 5, 2015

Tears and Laughter
By Answers2Prayer

"Then our mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing. Then 
they said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them.'" 
(Ps.
126:2 NKJV)

I am finding that my eyes are a little more moist these days. I seem to be 
tearing up from time to time. Now it isn't because I am sad. I am neither 
depressed
nor stressed. Nothing bad has happened to me either. In fact, I find myself 
smiling and laughing more often too. The simple truth is that while my love
and joy have grown over the years, my empathy has grown along with them. 
When I see an act of love, kindness, and goodness towards another then, my 
eyes
moisten.

When I see another soul hurting they grow damp as well. I don't mind the 
tears, though. They mean that my heart is open and loving as it was meant to 
be.

It took me many years to tear down the walls around my heart and I am still 
not done yet. With God's love and support, however, I am taking them down 
one
brick at a time. Yes, this leaves me more open to pain, but it leaves me 
more open to love as well. And love always heals pain. I find that God is 
not
only helping me to remove the walls around my heart but is also putting that 
heart to work. I find that heart moved to give, to help others, to share 
love,
to spread joy, to uplift and encourage everyone I can. I find it full of 
empathy, kindness, caring, compassion, and ever increasing love. If a few 
more
tears come along with it as too then that is a price I am happy to pay.

Don't feel afraid then if you feel your own tears increasing along with your 
love. God is just bringing you closer to others and to Himself. The author
Leo Buscaglia said, "Tears are good for you. They clean out your eyeballs." 
They also strengthen your soul and heal your heart.

Embrace your tears along with your laughter then. Embrace your empathy along 
with your love. Embrace your compassion along with your joy. God loves us
all and God wants us to love each other as well. May you always do so with 
both laughter and tears.

Joseph J. Mazzella

Announcement:

If you enjoy The Nugget, encourage someone to subscribe. We also encourage 
you to share The Nuggets with others as well, as long as you do so without 
charging,
and as long as you credit
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as your source.

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


Just For A Season….
by Dean Masters

Ecclesiastes 3:1
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

In some states it is vey easy to discern the seasons. Growing up in Northern 
Michigan, there was no mistaking when the seasons changed; Fall was 
beautiful
with the vibrant colors of the leaves and the cool, crisp air, a great time 
for apple cider and donuts and before you knew it Winter would blow in with
snow! Often there was enough snow to last from December to the end of March, 
hopefully not April! Then came Spring which at first was a bit wet and cool
but it brought such excitement for the Summer that you knew was just around 
the corner, but the thing I loved most was that everything was new, it was
always like a fresh start, a new beginning! Summer always seemed too short, 
but in all reality it lasted a good 3 months and the weather was warm, not
too humid and a great time to enjoy the amazing Lakes!

Life has it seasons too! There are seasons that are happy, seasons of loss, 
seasons where everything seems to be a struggle, seasons of new beginnings,
seasons that bring an end to something we have held on to for too long, 
seasons are always changing! We all love the seasons that bring joy to our 
lives
and we could just live there forever if given the choice, but unfortunately 
we don’t have that option here on earth. Just like the seasons, Spring, 
Summer,
Autumn and Winter, God has a purpose for the seasons we face in life as 
well. If we allow God to teach us through all of the ups and downs of life 
we are
more capable of being used by Him!

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 it says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord 
Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us
in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in 
any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by 
God.”
Some of the seasons we go through are meant for us to learn how to comfort 
others when they are going through the same things. God will strengthen and
grow you if you allow Him to when you go through seasons that seem to be 
more than you can bare. God wants to show you His goodness even in the 
struggles
of life, don’t miss out because all you see is the struggle. Allow Him to 
carry you through and to use this situation to better equip you to be used 
by
Him!

One of the most important things to hang on to when you are going through 
various seasons of life is the fact that it is just a season! It came to 
pass
so are you allowing it to help you become all you can be for Him? If it is a 
tough season; maybe you feel as though what you are going through is never
going to end, you will never see the light at the end of the tunnel, you 
must hold on to the hope that God isn’t finished with you yet and the best 
is
yet to come if you will just hold on and persevere!

Quote:
“Life begins when you do” Hugh Downs

The Gift Found in Disappointment
LYSA TERKEURST

"Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and 
not for men."
Colossians 3:23
(HCSB)

Several years ago, my middle daughter Ashley was flitting around the house 
singing everything "Annie." Our home was filled with songs, dances, scripts
and the proud announcement she was trying out for her middle school’s 
musical.

The day the cast list was posted the singing and dancing and rehearsing of 
the lines stopped.

She hadn’t gotten a part in the play.

There was a smile and a quick, "Who cares," that hid a thousand tears daring 
to come if she said much more.

But a few days later, the director requested that Ashley and one of her 
parents attend the all-cast meeting where Ashley was told she’d been given 
the
job of student director. That sounded exciting until the director explained 
that job basically meant Ashley would be a behind-the-scenes errand runner
for her and the cast.

There would be no shining moment.

There would be no spotlight.

There would be no audience applause for her performance.

Just hours and hours of behind-the-scenes work.

As a parent, I could see the character building potential. I have done my 
fair share of behind-the-scenes stuff in life and it helped shape me for the
better. But to a middle schooler’s heart who loved to sing and dance, it was 
hard.

We went home that night and Ashley struggled with wanting to drop out. But 
the next morning, Ashley surprised me by deciding she would embrace this 
role
of serving.

And embrace it she did! My mama heart soared as Ashley chose to live out the 
wisdom of
Colossians 3:23,
"Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and 
not for men."

And in doing so, she discovered she had quite the knack for choreography, 
set design and a keen sense of how to make scenes flow more smoothly. The 
director
quickly found Ashley to be quite capable and turned over many 
responsibilities to my girl.

What once seemed like a huge disappointment became a divine appointment 
instead.

Ashley was born to be a leader. Put her in the right environment to lead, 
and she’ll thrive.

I asked Ashley in the midst of rehearsals what she thought of the whole 
experience. She beamed and said, "I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else 
than
the role I’ve been given, Mom. I love being the student director. I love it 
so much."

When the curtain fell to the thunderous applause of proud parents cheering 
for their child’s performance, I couldn’t see my little brown-eyed beauty. 
But
I knew she was probably bossing somebody backstage, and I was clapping like 
crazy for her out front.

I even had a reply ready, just in case the mama sitting next to me leaned 
over and asked which one was mine.

"The one who is right where she should be."

Father God, thank You for using all things for my good, even disappointment. 
Help me to look at my disappointments with fresh eyes today, discovering 
gifts
where I am tempted to only see heartache. And show me how I can love and 
serve others with passion and purpose — right where I am. In Jesus’ Name, 
Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Isaiah 55:8-9:
"‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ 
declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways 
higher
than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’" (NIV)

Romans 8:28:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love 
him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)
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Post  Admin on Wed 06 Jan 2016, 11:06 pm

Philippians 3: The Best New Year's Resolution
by Randy Alcorn

There isn’t a better New Year’s resolution than what starts in the words of 
the Apostle Paul in
Philippians 3:7-8.

He writes, “But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake 
of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the 
surpassing
greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all 
things.”

He goes on to say in
Philippians 3:8-9,
“I consider them rubbish [the word he uses literally means manure] that I 
may gain Christ and be found in him not having a righteousness of my own, 
that
comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the 
righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

Paul is not talking about any virtue found in himself—he is actually setting 
aside all of his credentials and saying they are worth nothing. They are 
worthless.
But his resolution is, “I want to know Christ more and better.” What is 
remarkable is that he has known Christ for thirty years, yet he is resolved 
to
know Him better. Now comes his determined resolution in light of all this: 
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship
of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, to 
attain to the resurrection from the dead” (
Philippians 3:10-11).
By faith he is in essence saying, “I want to know Christ and live my life by 
faith in His finished work.”

That is my New Year’s resolution this year. I’ve known Christ for about 
forty years now, but my desire is to get to know Him better. I’ve known my 
wife
Nanci for many years (I actually met her a year before I came to faith in 
Christ), yet I’m still getting to know her better every day. How do I do 
that?
By spending time with her, talking with her, listening to her, and asking 
her questions.

Likewise, we can get to know Christ by spending time in His Word, going to 
Him in prayer, meditating upon Him, and asking Him for help. I resolve that
I want to know the Lord by being in His Word every day—not just reading the 
words of
Scripture,
but meditating upon them, personalizing them, and making them part of my 
life. And I want to link arms with those who are part of the body of Christ, 
who
will challenge me to know Christ better, while hopefully I do the same to 
them.

This resolution is something that shouldn’t just last for the months of 
January and February, or maybe into the spring before we give up. This is 
something
that should last the whole year round, until the day that God takes us from 
this world. On that day, our desire to know Christ will be ultimately 
fulfilled
because we will see Him face to face and will be with Him forever. This is 
not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy
and the virtue of Jesus Christ and what He’s done on our behalf. It’s one 
hundred percent Him, zero percent us, and all to His glory.

Used by permission of Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries, 39085 
Pioneer Blvd., Suite 206, Sandy, OR 97055, 503-668-5200,
www.epm.org


When Opportunity Knocks
View this email in your browser
BIBLE MEDITATION:
“I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.”
John 10:9.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
We need to practice the presence of the Lord this coming year. You’re going 
to be tempted to rush into life because of the fast pace to which society is
stepping. Many doors will open for you. Many doors will close. What will you 
do?

Remember that through it all, Jesus Christ will be behind each and every 
door as you seek Him with all your heart. He has promised never to leave 
you,
nor forsake you. When the devil comes and knocks at your heart’s door this 
next year, simply say, “Jesus, please go answer the door.” The Lord is there
with us to take care of us.

ACTION POINT:
When the door of opportunity knocks for you today, reflect on His goodness, 
His mercy, and His faithfulness. Trust in Him to give you what you need.
Discover Jesus
Devotions taken from the messages of Adrian Rogers.
Copyright © 2016 Love Worth Finding Ministries, All rights reserved.

Flying Lessons
by Meghan Kleppinger

"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for 
welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11,
NAS

While traveling to Chattanooga, TN a few years ago, I read the 
autobiography,
Dorie: The Girl Nobody Loved,
by Dorie Van Stone. The book retraces the past of a deeply wounded child 
transformed into a woman with heart on fire for the God who loves her.

As a child, Dorie was rejected and abandoned by her mother, and abused by 
orphanage workers, foster parents, and relatives. In the midst of a 
horrendous
childhood filled with daily mistreatment, Dorie was introduced to the One 
who did love her and would never abandon her. Her life is now one that 
reflects
not her past, but her Savior.

As I finished reading the final chapter on the plane, I shared with the Lord 
that I wanted to meet Dorie, give her a huge hug, and thank her for writing
the book.

During my layover in Atlanta, I saw a woman resembling Dorie in one of the 
airport stores. I pulled the book out of my bag to compare the woman in the
store with the photo on the back cover. I shook off the possibility and 
thought the same thing you are thinking now, “There is no way!” I proceeded 
to
my gate promising myself if I saw her again I would I ask if she was, in 
fact, “Dorie.”

I’m not proud to admit that when she appeared at my departure gate, I was a 
complete wimp and did not approach her. She sat two seats behind me on the
plane, and still I said nothing. In Chattanooga’s airport she kept popping 
up, but I continued to come up with excuses for not asking a simple 
question.
Finally, while waiting for my baggage, I heard someone say, "Mrs. Van 
Stone."

I turned to her and finally asked, "Are you Dorie Van Stone?" She answered 
“yes” (of course). "Oh my!" was my intelligent response. I continued with, 
"I
just finished your book on the plane."

"What did you think?" She asked, smiling.

“It was wonderful!” I managed to gurgle out. “I promised myself that if I 
ever met you I would give you a big hug!”

Without hesitation, she dropped her bags and gave me the biggest bear hug 
imaginable. I thanked her for writing the book and we quickly embraced again
before going our separate ways.

I was amazed by the marvelous gift God gave me in meeting Dorie Van Stone. 
My adrenaline high was cut short with the reality that I could have spent a
lot more time talking with her, but was too afraid. God was prompting me, 
but I ignored Him. Instead of listening, I waited until it was safe to ask. 
To
this day, I regret the lost time I could have spent with Dorie.

I committed to never again allow fear to guide my decisions.

Every day, in little ways, God asks us to step out and trust Him. Sometimes 
He is asking us to share the gospel or help someone in need … and sometimes
He is answering a
prayer
or simply asking us to receive a gift. Isn’t it easy to make excuses or 
justify saying “no?” We cheat ourselves when we respond this way. He offers 
us
His goodness, shows us His glory, invites to be part of His work, and all we 
have to do is sensitive to His prompting and say “yes.”

Intersecting
Faith
& Life: Remember what I learned that day: when God asks you to do something 
that is a little challenging or out of your comfort zone, He’s not asking
you to blindly jump off a bridge to your death, He’s offering you a chance 
to fly! So, prepare for flight, find comfort in the shadow of His wings 
(Psalms
36:7), and experience His goodness and love.

Further Reading

2 Timothy: 1:7
Your Ordinary Life Can be Extraordinary
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1 Truth to Remember When Christmas is Over
Debbie McDaniel

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

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

Deep breath.

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

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

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

For He is with us.

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

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

Dear God,

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

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

9 Verses to Remind Us He Is with Us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Debbie McDaniel is a writer, pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids (and a 
lot of pets). Join her each morning on Fresh Day Ahead's facebook page,
https://www.facebook.com/DebbieWebbMcDaniel,
for daily encouragement in living strong, free, hope-filled lives. Find her 
also at
http://twitter.com/debbmcdaniel.

God and Treadmills
by Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com Culture Editor

May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.
2 Thessalonians 3:5

Ever since I moved to Richmond I’ve acquired a taste for working out. There’s 
just something addicting about going to the gym after a long day at the 
office
and pounding a treadmill until you feel the moisture on your forehead. If I 
don’t get my usual workouts, I tend to go stir crazy. That’s why I can’t 
stand
January. After every New Year’s celebration, like clockwork, the gyms become 
crowded with people who have resolved to become healthier.

Because of the crowds, it becomes harder to get equipment, find parking 
spaces, or do any of my usual exercises. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m glad 
people
are trying to get healthier and I encourage anyone who wants to start 
working out to give it a try, but I still get frustrated because I know that 
within
a month most of these people will be gone. Exercise requires a lot of 
commitment and perseverance, and while a lot of people have resolved to live 
better,
when the hard part comes they give up. You could say the same thing applies 
to
faith.
I cannot tell you how many times God has revealed himself in my life through 
his grace, his power, or even his sense of humor. But despite all these 
moments,
it’s still so easy for me to doubt, to get angry with God and wonder if he 
has a plan, or if he’s even there at all.

The book of James is useful in moments like this, and even offers some 
encouragement for when we’re tempted to doubt.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many 
kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 
Perseverance
must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking 
anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives 
generously
to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, 
he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the
sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive 
anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
– James 1:2-8

Spiritual workouts are no different from our physical ones. If you want to 
run a marathon, you first have to run a mile, and if you want to become a 
tool
for Christ, you have to trust him first. So don’t be afraid of trials and 
challenges, but instead embrace them as opportunities to mature in your 
faith.
It won’t be easy, and odds are you’ll probably have to endure some difficult 
and painful experiences, but in the end you’ll look back and know you’re 
stronger
because of it.

Intersecting Faith and Life: Apply God to your daily life through the 
excercise of prayer and service.

Further Reading

Hebrews 12:1

A New Day…………
by Dean Masters

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have 
passed away ; behold, all things have become new.

I am not sure why we find it so much easier to make the 1st of the year a 
new beginning every year and we find it so hard to make every morning of God’s
grace that has been poured out on us a new beginning. God’s mercies are new 
every day and His grace is sufficient and yet so often we cling to the past
allowing it to hold us back, defeating us and ruining the “new beginning” 
God is trying to give us.

We all need to have those “fresh starts” in life and the New Year is a good 
place to start but I would encourage you to not wait again. Begin every day
with a clean heart this year, choose to forgive others and not carry the 
burden of grudges and unforgiveness, take each day one day at a time and 
give
your attitudes, decisions and problems to God first thing in the morning. 
Choose to spend time with Him each day and allow Him to guide and direct you
in every area of your life including letting go of the past. Life can be 
tough enough without carrying the burden of the past or the overwhelming 
load
that unforgiveness can bring. I am not just talking about forgiving others 
here sometimes the biggest burden we carry is not forgiving ourselves and 
allowing
Satan to defeat us in our daily walk by beating ourselves up every day for 
past sins and mistakes. God’s will for our lives is for us to walk with Him
in a way that will draw others to Him, if you are walking around defeated, 
grumpy and or frustrated with life all the time,who will ever want what you
have? God wants you to walk in victory ~ His victory!

Maybe you need to take this opportunity to give someone else you know the 
chance to have a fresh start and stop holding their mistakes over their 
head.
Today is a new day, fresh, with no mistakes in it! It may be time to begin 
again!

Take today and start fresh, ask God to show you anything that you are 
allowing in your life to hold you back or weigh you down. Let it go and live 
in the
light of His grace with all the fullness of Jesus shining out through you.

Quote:
“It’s not what happens to me, it’s what happens in me. It’s not the size of 
the problem, but how I handle the problem when I fall.”
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Thorn In The Flesh

" Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, 
to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a 
messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning 
this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said 
to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the 
power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with 
weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with 
difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 
Corinthians 12:7-10, NASB95)

Through the years people have tried to figure out what Paul’s thorn in the 
flesh was. Some have guessed epilepsy, malaria or eye trouble. I am glad we 
don’t know what his thorn was. If we knew then we would think it was just 
one thing. Everyone at some time will have a “thorn in the flesh”. If you 
don’t have one right now, you will have one in the future. It will be 
different for each person. Everyone will have some kind of trouble in their 
life, even those people who look like they have it made.

Paul received his thorn so he would not be filled with pride. It is so human 
to want to be filled with pride. It seems no matter what your condition you 
can always find someone worse off than you. If you look for someone or 
happen to notice them then pride is coming into your life. Be careful and 
don’t let it sneak in.

When people receive their “thorn in the flesh” how do they react? Some may 
get mad at God, some may believe it was their fault so try to grit their 
teeth and get through it. How should we react when we are going through 
tough times? I like what The Message says:

"Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a 
big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch 
with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in 
fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and 
mighty!" (2 Corinthians 12:7, The Message)

Our thorns should drive us to our knees where we can receive God’s abundant 
grace which is sufficient for all our needs. So many will not accept that 
grace. Some think they deserve what they are getting and do not deserve the 
gift while others never receive a gift without wanting to do something in 
return to pay for the gift. God’s grace is free and all we can do is receive 
it. Paul wrote earlier in this same epistle that it is more blessed to give 
than to receive. He did not say it was wrong to receive.

If you are going through hard times or the next time you do, go to your 
knees and accept the amazing, abundant grace of God which is sufficient to 
give you His strength in your weakness. Then you can boast in your weakness 
for then through Christ you are strong.

by Dean W. Masters

Advice for Another Year of Bible Reading
Bruce Ware / December 31, 2015
Advice for Another Year of Bible Reading

Most Christians are aware of the importance of personal reading of God’s 
word. After all, the Bible is the only final and absolute authority for our 
faith
and practice, since it is the very revelation of God himself. Here is where 
we go to truly know who God is and how life is to be lived. How wise is the
person who is committed to a diligent input of Scripture, and how great are 
the derived benefits.

But just how should our daily Bible reading be done? Are there any 
guidelines for making the best used of our time and gaining the most from 
our reading
of God’s word? Here, then, are five guidelines that have helped me much over 
many years of reading Scripture. May God grant you wisdom as you approach
a new year, and may your time in God’s word bear much fruit.

1. Commit yourself to consistent Bible reading.

Since the word of God written (Scripture) is the main instrument God has 
provided his people to know his character, to know his plans and purposes, 
to
know his work in creation and redemption, to know ourselves, and to know how 
we are to live before him and others, it only stands to reason that we need
regular time in God’s word for that word to impact our lives.

Consistency, rather than haphazardness, should mark our reading of God’s 
work. Of course, we all know that emergencies arise and life’s messes 
interrupt.
But it is one thing to have a few pauses in an otherwise consistent Bible 
reading plan, and another simply to read only when it is convenient to do 
so.
Because it is hard to exaggerate the importance of God’s word to the 
formation of our minds, hearts, and lives (2 Timothy 3:16–17), and because 
that word
will only have its greatest potential impact as we read it regularly, please 
consider making consistency a mark of your Bible reading this year.

2. Engage in both fast-paced and slow-paced reading.

I’m convinced that every Christian would benefit much more from their 
reading of God’s word if they would train themselves in two different forms 
of reading
the Bible. Fast-paced reading is necessary if we are to cover the whole of 
the Scriptures at some kind of regular interval. It doesn’t have to be a 
“read
the Bible in a year” program, necessarily, but I would hope each of us would 
commit to reading every single book and chapter of the Bible at least every
two or three years. Even at that pace, it requires that we keep moving and 
not get too bogged down. You might consider listening to
the Bible read to you.

Slow-paced reading, on the other hand, is necessary if we are to soak in and 
glory in the beauty and texture of so many passages of Scripture. If you 
only
read, say, the book of Isaiah in a fast-paced manner, how much time will you 
devote to thinking about the substance of Isaiah 40, for example? About 
three
minutes total, maybe in a year, or two, or three. But Isaiah 40 is rich with 
glorious teaching about God — about his work in creation and providence and
redemption — and rich with implications for the ways we should live our 
lives.

These riches can only be seen and felt and marveled at when we read it 
slowly, prayerfully, meditatively, over and over and over. So, in addition 
to fast-paced
Bible reading, I would recommend that you consider taking some key portions 
of Scripture to meditate upon over and over for a period of weeks, until you
are confident you have seen more of the intricacies and beauty and wonder of 
those passages.

Often, the most life-transforming aspects of the truth of God’s word comes 
in details that will only be seen as we stop long enough to find them for 
ourselves.
Perhaps you could plan to read your fast readings four days each week, and 
then meditate over small units of Scripture the other two or three days. 
Both
types of reading are important, and each yields a different kind of fruit 
for the Christian’s life and heart.

3. Notice the who as much, or more than, the what as you read.

Never forget that there is one Author of Scripture who stands over and above 
all of the human authors of all of the various books. Paul says, “All 
Scripture
is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). And Peter says, “Men spoke from 
God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Since the
Scriptures are the self-revelation of God himself, our main focus when 
reading them should be to encounter the Author laboring to express something 
of
his character and work through every page.

Since the God of Scripture is none other than the Triune God of the 
Christian faith, pay special attention to what is revealed about the Father, 
and the
Son, and the Holy Spirit as you read. While it is important to learn what 
the Bible teaches each step along the way, even more important is coming to 
a
clearer and brighter and richer and deeper understanding of who the true and 
living God is who stands behind and in all of Scripture.

Grow in knowing not just more about God, but grow in knowing God himself as 
you read your Bibles. Focus on his attributes, his actions, his stated plans
and purposes, his commandments and warnings, his promises and his 
assurances. Knowing God is the great good for which we are created (Jeremiah 
9:23–24;
John 17:3), and so intend every day, as you read your Bibles, to know God 
better in every passage you read.

4. Seek informed minds and stirred affections.

God intends the truth of his word to travel first into our minds, but then 
from our minds to our hearts. God intends for us to know the truth of his 
word.
But he also wants us to see its beauty, and marvel at the richness of the 
word. In short, we must grow, through our reading of Scripture, in knowing 
(mind)
and loving (heart) the glorious truths we encounter along the way.

Consider pledging yourself to praying each time before your read your Bible, 
“Lord, in your mercy and kindness, open your word to me, and open me to your
word.” The first request has mostly to do with our minds, as we ask for 
Spirit-given illumination to know accurately what God’s word teaches. The 
second
part of this simple prayer aims at our hearts, as we seek that same Spirit 
to awaken within us an appropriate, affective response to his word, where we
feel the challenge, and see the wonder, and respond to the glory of the 
truth we’ve seen.

It’s a dangerous pattern for a Christians to read God’s word consistently 
without having their hearts stirred by what they have read. As much as it is
in your power, strive not to walk away from God’s word without having at 
least one truth move your affections. If you finish your reading for the 
day,
and nothing has moved you, pray and ask God to show you one little thing 
from what you’ve read that might have an impact on your affections. Stop and 
pray
over that truth or reality. Slow down enough for it to convict, or 
encourage, or correct, or strengthen hope, or embolden action. Seek, with 
the Lord’s
help, at least one truth that will engage your affections. Since changed 
hearts are the key to changed lives, may we prayerfully seek not only 
knowledge
of God’s word, but also love for the beauty, wonder, and glory of that word.

5. Commit yourself to hear and heed, understand and obey, what you encounter 
in the Bible.

James’s powerful reminder that we are to be doers, and not merely hearers, 
of God’s word (James 1:22) must be central in our thinking every day as we 
read
the Scriptures. Since we are not our own, since we’ve been bought with a 
price (1 Corinthians 6:19–20), we must acknowledge we are under the lordship 
of
our Savior Jesus every day, in every way possible.

Therefore, to read the word of God is to submit ourselves to that which 
declares how we are to live day by day. Let’s resist the temptation to have 
minds
growing in the knowledge of God’s word that nonetheless fail to live out the 
truth of what we have come to know. Again, we are changed in our behavior
not merely in what we know, but in what we love and hate, in what we cherish 
or despise. God intends his truth to travel first into our heads, then to
our hearts, and then, from our hearts through our hands. We are called by 
God to hear and heed, to understand and then to obey, the glorious 
life-giving
word he’s given to us.
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PresbyCan Daily Devotional

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Today's Devotional

Laugh Often

Ecclesiastes 2:2  "Laughter," I said, "is foolish. And what does pleasure 
accomplish?" (NIV)

I like to laugh. A funny joke, an amusing story, or some old-fashioned, 
silent, slapstick movie usually has me creasing with laughter. I also love 
being
in the company of family and friends, when we share funny stories, do daft 
things, and tell corny jokes. Even during some intense and awful moments in
my life, laughter helped to heal my pain. The Bible tells us, "A cheerful 
heart is good medicine" (Proverbs 17:22a NIV). I can think of no better way 
to
create a cheerful heart than what is produced by laughing.

Sometimes, when I read the Book of Ecclesiastes, I get the feeling that the 
writer missed out on life by not being able to loosen up, lighten his 
spirit,
and laugh at himself. He seems to be as serious and as sombre as Hamlet or 
Macbeth in a Shakespearean play. I wish that he had learned the secret of 
happiness:
to be content with what he had and to enjoy the life that God had given him. 
Perhaps if he had, Ecclesiastes might have been a brighter book instead of
appearing as a torturous tome at times.

As we embrace a new year, perhaps we should seek to follow a new mantra:

Live well, love truly, and laugh often.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to laugh at ourselves frequently, so that we can 
truly learn to love life. Allow us to enjoy the company of others — our 
families,
our friends, and our church folks. May we show our faith in You by sharing 
joy and laughter each day. In Your holy name, we laugh and pray. Amen.

John Stuart 
You Are Not Alone!
by Dean Masters

Acts 17:27-28
that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find 
him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “In him we live and
move and have our being;†as even some of your own poets have said, “For we 
are indeed his offspring.â€

Are you feeling all alone in your situation today? Maybe you are waiting and 
youve reached a point where you feel as though you are waiting alone for
your prayers to be answered. Maybe you have been called to do something 
different or new and you feel as though God has thrown you out into the 
wilderness
and you are all alone in your situation even though you know you are in His 
will.

Whatever the case may be today, no matter what you may be feeling you need 
to know that God is not far from you - it is in Him that you live and move
and have your being!He loves you and He didnt put you here to face this 
alone! He is right by your side, it is your choice to lock your arm in His 
or
not. Do you really think He would leave you out here alone? You are His 
child and He loves you and He has a plan for all that you face today. A plan 
to
make you stronger, a plan to give you hope, a plan to make your future 
something you cannot even possibly imagine today, a plan that will help draw 
others
to Him!

Maybe the issue this morning is that your focus is on what you are facing. 
Are you so focused on you today and what you are waiting on or struggling 
with
that you have lost your God focus? Ouch! I cant even say how many times I 
have done that and there I sit, wallowing in my own self pity as God 
patiently
stands there waiting beside me saying, seriously, lets get moving so you 
can get past this because I have a better plan for you than your own self 
pity!
Pull yourself together today and ask God to fill you with His comfort, 
strength and encouragement! Ask Him to help you to know inside your heart 
that this
is only for a season and truly His best for your life is yet to come, you 
just need to trust Him!

God loves you and wants His best for you, so hold onto these verses knowing 
that God is not far from you, He loves you and is working out His plan, it
may hurt right now, maybe you need to take the time and sit down for 10 min 
and just have a good cry - there’s nothing wrong with that and ask God to 
fill
you with His peace, His love and His motivation to get this done so you can 
move forward. Maybe you just need to turn on some praise music while you do
what He has asked you to do today. He wants to reassure you and give you 
peace. He wants to show Himself mighty and loving in your situation so 
others
will see Him and be drawn to Him.

Let me encourage you today to open your heart up to all that He has in store 
for you! Today is just one more day on the path to all He has in store for
you! Trust Him! He knows what is best, allow Him to heal your heart and 
guide you. He is closer to you than your feelings are telling you He is - 
dont
trust your feelings, trust God!

Quote:
Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of 
the day, saying, I will try again tomorrow.

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You
Daily Devotional
The Story You Must Tell - #7521

It was shocking and it came on the day my Dad went to heaven. I flew in; I 
couldn't make it back in time before he took his last breath. But we'd had 
some
great conversations before he died. And that was the day that my Mother made 
an announcement. She said, "You have a brother." What? Yeah, here I'm a 
grown
man with children of my own. Now, I knew I'd had a baby brother who died 
when he was six months old, and that's how all of us came to know Jesus as a 
result
of the tragedy that went into our family through that. But that was the day 
I learned about a brother I never knew about for all those years. Now, 
there's
some complicated circumstances that would explain why I didn't know. But the 
fact is, my Dad and my Mom had never told me about this brother by another
mother. Since then I've had a chance to meet the brother I never knew about, 
and wow, what a blessing and it's so enriched both of our lives, along with
our wives as well. But it was a story I'd never heard. It was a story I wish 
I'd heard. It was a story that changed my life. But it was a story that I
almost never heard.

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Story 
You Must Tell."

You have a story! You have a story to tell that literally lives depend on; 
that can change lives forever. But you can't sit on it! Our word for today 
from
the Word of God comes from Matthew 28. What an exciting chapter! This is the 
resurrection of Jesus Christ. The angel has just appeared to these 
crest-fallen
women who think the body of their Savior was stolen. He said, "He is not 
here; he has risen!" Now listen to these words, "Then go quickly and tell 
his
disciples, 'He has risen from the dead...' So, the women hurried away from 
the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples."

Now, what good is a story, especially if it's good news and you don't tell 
it? Well, this is the good news about a death-conquering, life-changing 
Savior
who crushed death that morning. The greatest fear we all have. The story 
you've got to tell is the story you probably know so well if you've been 
around
Christian things very long.

You know about Jesus dying on the cross to carry the wrath of God upon Him 
for all of our sin, to set us free, to make it possible for us to be free 
and
clean and forgiven and heaven-bound. And He's powerful enough to walk out of 
His grave under His own power. Here's the greatest love a person can 
experience;
a love that would die for you. The greatest power a person can experience; a 
power that can conquer death. Wow! Don't you want to tell that story to 
someone?
You know it; they don't.

We're living in a post Christian world; people around us probably aren't 
going to go to a religious meeting to hear a religious speaker talk on a 
religious
subject in a religious place. They may be surrounded by Christian resources, 
and TV and radio, etc. But they don't know about all that. They have yet to
find out that what Jesus did on the cross was for them. The only way they're 
going to know that is if you tell them the story you know so well.

They desperately need to hear about that. They desperately need to hear 
about a Jesus who is alive, who changes people, who does things that no one 
else
can do and saves lives. It may be old hat to you about the sin and Christ 
dying for sin. But it's life-saving news for somebody that you know. The 
words
of the angel on that resurrection morning were, "You've come and seen. Now, 
go and tell." That's Jesus' command to you. You must go and tell.

And you have a Hope Story. You are living proof that Jesus is alive, because 
He has done things in your life that no one else could have done. He has 
fixed
what no one else could fix. He is changing what no one else could change. He 
is providing hope where nothing else could. You have a Hope Story, and that
story of what Jesus did on the cross and how Jesus has changed you may be 
the difference between life and death and heaven and hell for somebody in 
your
world.

Would you tell them the story you know? Give them the good news! You have a 
life-changing story to tell. But what good is a story if you don't tell it?
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Hope For The Approaching Year
BIBLE MEDITATION:
"For thou hast delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet 
from falling."
Psalm 116:8.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Yes, believers can experience loneliness. I believe the Holidays are the 
loneliest time of the year. People are told everywhere they're supposed to 
be
happy and they realize they're not. They see everybody else acting happy, 
and they feel so lonely.

Death, divorce, desertion—even travel can make you lonely. Success can make 
you lonely. You often hear “it's lonely at the top.” You can be lonely in a
big crowd. You can be lonely in a mall. Old age makes you lonely. Loneliness 
is one of the chief maladies of our age, but Jesus promised, "I will never
leave thee nor forsake thee."

What I am saying, my dear friend, is that when I am discouraged, His 
presence sees me through. When I am lonely, His presence cheers me up. And 
when I
am worried, His presence calms me down.

ACTION POINT:
When you are tempted—and oh, you will be tempted this coming year—His 
presence will help you out. Begin now to practice the presence of the Lord 
as you
enter this new year.
Discover Jesus

Devotions taken from the messages of Adrian Rogers.
Copyright © 2015 Love Worth Finding Ministries, All rights reserved.

 Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? " Romans 8:35

By Answers2Prayer
Emerging Victorious

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or 
distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As 
it is
written, "For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are 
regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more 
than conquerors
through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor 
angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor 
height
nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us 
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:35-39

This New Year may well find you facing fears that are left over from last 
year or which seem to loom in the unknown future of your tomorrows.

During World War II, a military governor met with General George Patton in 
Sicily.

When he praised Patton highly for his courage and bravery, the general 
replied, "Sir, I am not a brave man. The truth is I am an utter craven 
coward. I
have never been within the sound of gunshot or in sight of battle in my 
whole life when I wasn't so scared that I had sweat in the palms of my 
hands."
Years later, in his autobiography, the general said, "I learned very early 
in my life never to take counsel of my fears."

Now it occurs to me, if General Patton can admit he had his fears, most 
certainly we must confess we also have a certain lack of courage when we are 
confronted
by fearful situations.

Such is our sinful human condition.

It is a condition only Jesus can successfully confront on our behalf. After 
all, only Jesus has shown He has the ability to defeat the devil. Only He 
can
stop Satan and his sly suggestions, which lead us into sin.

Scripture tells us that of all the billions of people born into this world, 
only Jesus had the ability to say, "No!" To temptations, and only He has 
been
able to conquer death. With those credentials, we must admit that only Jesus 
will be able to help us with our fears. This is precisely the point St. Paul
was making in Romans when he said, when it comes to "tribulation, distress, 
persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword," Jesus is our divinely 
given Helper.

But Paul's list wasn't complete. He listed other fearful things. Paul said 
there is fear that comes when death approaches and the fear daily life will
bring. There are the fears which are brought about by unseen principalities 
and powers. There are fears which come to us in the present and those which
will arrive in the future.

Human fears are numerous, and the situations that bring those fears are not 
totally avoidable.

But thankfully, by God's grace, there is also hope. Even as St. Paul was 
sure that fearful times would come, he was equally sure that nothing can 
separate
us from the love of God, which is ours in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Indeed, looking to the Bethlehem manger, the Jerusalem cross, and the 
borrowed and empty tomb, the apostle assures us, against all these fears we 
will
emerge victorious because in Christ, "we are more than conquerors through 
Him that loved us."

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, in this coming New Year there will be many good times 
and bad times, happy times and sad. There will also be fearful times. Grant
that Jesus may be by my side during all those times. In His Name I ask it. 
Amen.

Pastor Ken Klaus
Lutheran Hour Ministries
All rights reserved; not to be duplicated without permission.

Announcement:

Have a Happy New Year with a focus on the One who gives you inner peace.

©Copyright 2011 Answers2Prayer | Matt 10:8 "Freely you have received, freely 
give."
15 Ways to Feast upon the Word in the New Year
Brian Hedges

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes 
from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4),
and the prophet Jeremiah wrote,

"Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
O LORD, God of hosts." (
Jer. 15:16)

And yet, believers often struggle to regularly and intentionally read and 
study the Bible.
Sometimes it helps to get fresh ideas for feeding on the Scriptures. Here 
are 15 ways to feed on the word in 2016.

1. Read through the Bible in a year.

Don’t write this off as overly difficult or too time-consuming! The Bible 
contains about 800,000 words, which the average person can read in just 54 
hours
– or about 8-10 minutes every day of the year. In contrast, some surveys 
indicate that the average person spends 5 hours every day watching TV, plus 
another
1-2 hours on social media. You have time. You just need
a plan.

Check out this website
to test your reading speed and get a customized Bible reading plan for 2016.

2. Journal through a book of the Bible.

I first learned this from Jim Elliot, the famous 20th-century missionary and 
martyr. When I was a teenager, someone loaned me
Elliot's journals.
Most of his entries were short meditations on a chapter from the Bible, 
interspersed with the personal details of his life. I started following his 
example
and filled more than a dozen journals over the next decade.

The method is simple: pick a book of the Bible and read a passage each day, 
whether a single verse, or one or more chapters. Then write your 
observations
about the passage. It doesn’t have to been eloquent or scholarly or 
profound. It just needs to be something based on the text. Then, write out a 
brief

prayer.
You may be surprised at how much you grow.

3. Read through a book of the Bible with the help of a study bible or 
commentary.

Sometimes the Bible can be a difficult book. It is filled with unfamiliar 
names and places and often uses theological terms we don’t understand. This 
is
where a good study bible or commentary can be helpful. The 
eighteenth-century evangelist George Whitefield reportedly read through the 
entire Bible four
times with the help of Matthew Henry’s commentary, the last time on his 
knees. “I began to read the Holy Scriptures upon my knees,” he wrote, “This 
proved
meat indeed and drink indeed to my soul. I daily received fresh light and 
power from above.”

Using a commentary has helped me, especially when reading difficult books in 
the Old Testament, like Leviticus. The new
NIV Zondervan Study Bible
is perhaps the best study bible on the market today, full of detailed notes, 
full-color photographs, and maps, and insightful essays and articles. Or,
for an excellent one-volume commentary on the whole Bible, produced by a 
team of top-notch evangelical scholars, check out the
New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition,
published by IVP.

4. Read through one book of the Bible every day for a month.

I learned this method from
John MacArthur.
The idea is to take one book of the Bible, such as Ephesians or 1 John, and 
read it every single day for a month. When taking a longer book, such as the
Gospel of John, MacArthur recommends breaking it down into smaller sections 
(e.g. John 1-7 every day for the first month, then John 8-14 the next month,
and so on). By the end of the month you’ll have read the book thirty times 
and be more familiar with the themes of that particular book than you ever 
were
before.

5. Read through a genre of Scripture in search of a particular theme.

With this method, you take one genre of Scripture (e.g., the Gospels, or the 
Minor Prophets, or the Letters of Paul) and read through in search of a 
particular
theme. For example, I’ve read through all the New Testament letters to hunt 
down every reference to prayer. You could even take a couple of themes, such
as the characteristics of God and the varied expressions of human emotion in 
the Psalms; the themes of kingdom and discipleship in the Gospels; the 
themes
of wisdom and folly in Proverbs, or the themes of justice and mercy in the 
prophets.

6. Read the Bible before meals.

Many Christians pray before every meal. Have you ever thought about reading 
the Bible before (or after) each meal? This is a practice I observed at a 
Bible
college I visited in Africa. At every single meal, three times a day, the 
faculty, staff, and visiting missionaries pause to read Scripture aloud at 
the
table. My friend, Carrie Ward, learned to do this with her children, and 
read through the entire Bible aloud, by simply reading a chapter a day at 
the
breakfast table. She chronicled her experience in a wonderful little book 
called
Together: Growing Appetites for God.

7. Mark up your Bible!

Studies show that writing uses a different part of the brain than reading. 
One of the best ways to push Scripture deeper into your memory and heart is
to mark up your Bible. Buy some colored pencils or highlighters and start 
circling, starring, bracketing, and drawing lines. By paying attention to 
repeated
words, the literary structure of the narratives, and the logical flow of 
sermons and letters, you will see things you’ve never seen before. For 
pointers
on how to do this, check out Jim Hamilton’s article,
How I Mark My Bible.

8. Use a journaling Bible.

The eighteenth theologian Jonathan Edwards actually took a Bible apart and 
inserted blank pages between the pages of Scripture, and then sowed it back
together again in order to give himself a place to record his notes.

We don’t have to go to such trouble ourselves: we can just purchase a 
journaling Bible that includes wide margins designated for the purpose of 
writing
down your notes. Here are links for journaling Bibles in the
NIV,
ESV,
and
NASB.

9. Write out a full book of the Bible in a journal.

Instead of simply writing your thoughts about the Bible down in a journal, 
consider writing out the actual words of Scripture. The kings of Israel were
required to write a full copy of the law in their own hand (
Deut. 17:18).
I have a friend who found this practice especially helpful to his spiritual 
life. You can even purchase
journals that are designed for this specific purpose.

10. Memorize Scripture.

The psalmist said, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not 
sin against you” (Psa. 119:11).
There are two ways to store up the word in your heart. You can either absorb 
Scripture through hours, days, and years of long familiarity through reading
and re-reading, or you can memorize through intentional and focused effort. 
Both approaches are valid.

Committing entire books to memory has enriched many believers. I have one 
friend who has memorized all of Proverbs and Romans, and another who 
regularly
works on Scripture memory while running on the treadmill. If you don’t know 
where to start, check out
An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture
by pastor and author Andy Davis.

11. Read a daily devotional.

My favorite is D. A. Carson’s
For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's 
Word.
You can also read these daily readings in the format of a
blog
or
subscribe
to have them emailed straight to your inbox each morning.

12. Read a children’s Bible Storybook.

Yes, even if you are an adult! Here are three to choose from; each one is 
well-written, with beautiful illustrations.

The Jesus Storybook Bible
by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jago

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden
by Kevin DeYoung, illustrated by Don Clark

The Big Picture Story Bible
by David Helm, illustrated by Gail Schoonmaker

13. Watch the Bible

For people who are more accustomed to image than text, watching the Bible 
may be a good entry point into feeding on the word. While this shouldn’t 
generally
replace actual reading the Scriptures themselves, high quality video 
productions of Scripture can be a helpful supplement. For example, check out
The Visual Bible - The Gospel of Matthew,
which uses the text of the NIV.

I’m also quite impressed with
The Bible Project,
which is in process of producing animated videos introducing and explaining 
each book of the Bible, along with many biblical themes.
Here,
for example, is their video for
Hebrews.

14. Listen to the Bible on your smartphone.

I still remember when you had to pay a lot of money to get recordings of the 
Bible on cassette tape or CD. Now you can just download the
YouVersion App
and listen to the Bible at the press of a button. Consider listening to the 
Bible on your daily commute or during your morning run. It still counts!

15. Listen to expositional preaching on the Bible.

Finally, we all need not only the individual disciplines of reading and 
studying Scripture, but also the corporate practice of hearing the preached 
word.
The Internet gives us access to some of the best preaching in the world, 
with sermons of pulpit stalwarts like John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones 
available
for free. But there is no substitute for gathering with other believers in 
the local church to feed on the word in the context of gathered worship.

Brian G. Hedges is the lead pastor for
Fulkerson Park Baptist Church
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Anne Graham Lotz - A Divine Appointment
A Divine Appointment
Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation.

Psalm 62:1, NKJV

Have you ever considered that you have a divine appointment when you get up 
early for your quiet time of prayer and meditation on His Word? . . . That
Jesus is patiently, personally waiting to meet with you there?

Have you ever thought of going to church as a divine appointment? . . . That 
Jesus is patiently, personally waiting to meet with you there?

Have you ever thought of the Bible study you belong to as a divine 
appointment? . . . That Jesus is patiently, personally waiting to meet with 
you there?

What a difference it would make in our attitude of expectancy and our habit 
of consistency if we truly wrapped our hearts around the knowledge that each
is a divine appointment, that Jesus Himself is waiting to meet with us.
Blessings,
Copyright © 2015 AnGeL Ministries, All rights reserved.

The Top of the Waterfall
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com Contributor

"My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for 
you."
– Isaiah 26:9

As I looked up the path – and up, and up – I couldn’t even see the head of 
the waterfall. The last cataract foamed in front of me, but the first was 
far
up on mountain, where the sunlight hit the summit. I wanted to see more.

The trail was relatively easy, but I was huffing and puffing before long 
thanks to the incline. The trail snaked back and forth across the mountain, 
taking
us up a fifty feet with each turn. The second, third, and fourth cataracts 
appeared, and we clambered onward after each one, still intent on seeing 
that
first drop. In the words of C. S. Lewis, the lure of “further in and further 
up†kept us going, as beauty upon beauty made us eager to see even more.

The view didnt disappoint us. The autumn panorama spread over the 
surrounding hills, contrasted in highlight and shadows from the afternoon 
sun. Everyone
at the summit was smiling and taking pictures. Nobody sat with their back 
against the view. To our right, the head of the waterfall rushed on, flowing
over the first drop. Nothing in the suburbs compares with what we saw.

What is it about a waterfall  or anything natural wonder that makes us 
stop and stare? What is it about a rainbow that keeps us looking for the 
next
one? Why is Niagara Falls so famous? Why does the human soul dream of places 
so far from what we normally experience? Why do we keep following the path
until we see the greatest beauty of all?

I think such scenes are part of God's mercy to the whole world, because they 
teach us what it means to hunger for more. They give us a glimpse of the 
time
when we can drink so deeply that our thirst will be quenched. Like in the 
Narnia books, they shadow the real thing, when we will be in God's eternal 
presence.
Do we hunger for that?

Scripture is full of references to this kind of longing. In 1 Corinthians 
13:12, Paul writes of seeing dimly, as in a mirror, as he waits to see the
true nature of love revealed. Roman 8:18-27 empathizes with all of creations 
groaning as it waits to see the full glory of God revealed. After all,
who hopes for what he already has?

As I remember that panorama  and how I want to go back  I consider those 
verses of longing after God. The more I know and see of Gods character, the
more I should be amazed and want to see even more. Someday, every Christian 
will experience the joy of seeing the fullness of the Lord displayed, but 
until
then, we see one beauty at a time as we keep going. Are you satisfied with 
the small glimpses, or does the summit beckon you?

Intersecting
Faith
& Life: While each cataract on the way up the falls had a beauty all its 
own, I didnt want to stop until I had seen it all. This week, I want to ask
myself daily: am I content with my faith journey, stopping before I should? 
Or does each new sight give me a thrill that spurs me on to see even greater
heights? Lets encourage each other to keep going, and to seek to know our 
God more each day.

A Prayer of Brokenness

Have you ever been broken before the Lord? Have you come to the end of 
yourself, realizing that your efforts had failed and your only hope remains 
in God?
Brokenness is never easy to experience, but God can bring great blessings 
through your trials.

1 Samuel 1.
Hannah was a selfless, gracious woman trapped in a miserable situation. She 
was unable to bear a child for her husband Elkanah. His other wife, 
Peninnah,
not only had provided him children, but she constantly antagonized and 
mocked Hannah. "And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept 
provoking
her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah 
went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and
would not eat" (
1 Samuel 1:6, 7).

After years of longing for children and enduring the constant humiliation 
from Peninnah, Hannah was broken. In her desperation and anguish, she turned
to God in prayer. She turned her den of misery into a chamber of prayer. She 
had been emotionally weakened, but she was spiritually strong in the Lord.

Through her tears, she vowed to God, "O Lord Almighty, if you will only look 
upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but
give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his 
life, and no razor will ever be used on his head" (
1 Samuel 1:11).

Hannah knew God was the only One who could answer her cry for a son. She 
knew God was the only One who could sense the agony of her spirit. He is the 
same
God today who knows the depth of our despair. He knows our deepest desires 
and greatest longings. He wants us to cry out to Him in our brokenness. "In
my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his 
temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears" (Psalm 18:6).

God responded to Hannah's cry, and she gave birth to Samuel. In keeping with 
the vow she made to God, she gave Him her only child. Although Samuel grew
up serving God at the temple, Hannah was not bitter over releasing her son 
to God. Instead, she gave a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving: "There is no 
one
holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our 
God" (1 Samuel 2:2).

God continued to bless Hannah with children. After years of what looked like 
a hopeless situation, she received her prayer request not just once but 
several
times. "Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, May the Lord give you 
children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave
to the Lord.' Then they would go home. And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; 
she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the
boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord" (1 Samuel 2:20,21).

God wants to bring blessings out of our brokenness. He is a loving provider 
whose power is limitless. People and things will fail us, but God's security
and strength abide forever. His compassion is inexhaustible. His peace is 
unexplainable.

In your hour of desperation, where do you turn? Do you tell your troubles to 
anyone who will listen, or do you seek the throne of grace?

"The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer."
Psalm 6:9

****

Jesus, Jihad and Peace

What does the threat of Islamic extremism mean in terms of
Bible
prophecy? In a world that cries out for peace, which will prevail—Jesus or 
jihad? In
Jesus, Jihad and Peace,
Dr. Michael Youssef provides answers that are concise, Biblically accurate, 
and targeted on the challenges that confront us in a world that is 
increasingly
fraught with peril. Order your copy today through Leading The Way!

We are Leading The Way for people living in spiritual darkness, at home and 
around the world, to discover the light of Christ as we passionately 
proclaim
uncompromising Truth. Visit us today at
http://www.ltw.org/

Christmas Cards that Keep on Giving
LEAH DIPASCAL

"So I never stop being grateful for you, as I mention you in my prayers."
Ephesians 1:16
(CEV)

One of the things I love most about the holiday season is sending and 
receiving Christmas cards.

Since our family lives far from relatives, there have been many years when 
we were unable to travel "home" to be with our extended family at 
Christmastime.

But ¦ each year I can count on my Aunt Elsie to send the first Christmas 
card of the season, which always arrives in my mailbox the week after 
Thanksgiving.

As days pass, I find myself waiting with great anticipation for the mailman 
to slide a new batch of red and green envelopes into my holly-and-bow draped
mailbox.

My routine is always the same: I open each card, read the message inside, 
gaze and smile at the enclosed family photo, then proudly tape it to my 
kitchen
pantry door.

As the countdown to Christmas continues, every white space on that door 
disappears as I tape a steady stream of cards and pictures over every inch, 
including
the doorframe.

Smiling faces and seasonal attire are on display as I hang each card with 
loving care. Neighbors, friends, relatives, classmates, co-workers € ¢â’ ¦ even 
our
mailman and dentist¹s cards are included.

I used to bundle all those cards and tuck them away in a keepsake box once 
January rolled around. But the last several years, I’¹ve decided to make some
changes to my Christmas card tradition.

Instead of tucking away those beautiful smiling faces (into a box I probably 
won ’¹t open until the following December), I transfer them onto a decorative
framed corkboard, which hangs in my laundry room.

You’¹re probably wondering, the laundry room? Yes, the laundry room, because 
for me it ’¹s a central place where I’¹m guaranteed to be several times a day.

I made a decision to display the cards there, so every time I went in and 
out of the laundry room, I was reminded to pray for each person represented.

Even after the Christmas decorations are packed and put away, the cards 
remain and I am committed to pray for each family. Not just for one month or 
two,but all year long.

I pray for stronger marriages and godly children.

For daily provision and unexpected blessings.

For loving conversations and renewed appreciation.

For restored health and increased faith.

Every time I whisper a prayer, I ’¹m reminded of how blessed I am and grateful 
to God for placing these special people in my life.

Though many miles may separate us, prayer instantly brings us invisibly 
together´ right in the midst of some flowery-scented laundry detergent and 
spray starch.

Just like today¹s key verse (Ephesians 1:16)
says, "I never stop being grateful for you, as I mention you in my prayers."

Ever consider changing your Christmas card tradition? Before you discard or 
put away those seasonal cards, why not embrace the idea of turning them into
an annual prayer collection? What a great opportunity to speak prayers of 
blessings into someone else’¹s life and experience a greater sense of 
gratitude in your own.

Let¹s remember that God has placed specific people in our lives for 
important reasons. Not only do they need our prayers during Christmastime, 
but all
year ’¹round.

Father, help me not just to look for blessings during the Christmas season, 
but to go out of my way to bless others. Remind me to pray for friends and
loved ones every time I pray for myself. Teach me to invest in my 
relationships by sharing Your love and grace with others. In Jesus€ ¢â’ ’¹ Name, 
Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Thessalonians 1:2,
"We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in 
our prayers." (ESV)

Proverbs 17:17a,
"A friend loves at all times." (ESV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Help us continue to reach women and families all over the world with God€ ¢â’ ’¹s 
Word by partnering with us through prayer or a monetary gift.
Click here to give now.

For those who€ ¢â’ ’¹ve already supported this ministry with your prayers, one-time 
gifts or as monthly partners, we thank God for you! We pray you are blessed
as a result of your generosity!

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What other ways can you create a visual reminder to pray for family, friends 
and those in need of prayer?

What other ways can you be a blessing to friends and family as you partner 
with God to make an eternal difference in their lives?

© 2015 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

Resolutions and Redemption
by Anna Kuta, Crosswalk.com Contributor

For by grace are you saved through
faith,
and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any 
man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It’¹s that time of year again! I’¹m talking about New Year ’¹s resolutions, of 
course. It’¹s still December as I ’¹m writing, but I guarantee that by the time
you read this, I ’¹ll already be asking myself what possessed me to come up 
with such grand, unattainable plans for 2016. (It seemed like a good idea at
the time). Every year I tell myself it’¹ll finally be the year I keep all my 
resolutions. I mean, come on how hard can it possibly be to finally set 
aside
an hour for exercise each day, to stop consuming so much chocolate and 
coffee, and to never sleep for less than eight hours again?

Why are New Year’¹s resolutions so hard to keep? I don’¹t know, but it ’¹s a lot 
like another area of life. Let me explain.

Before I became a Christian at the age of 17, I approached my life the same 
way I often approach New Year¹s resolutions. I would try so hard to do the
right things but I always ended up falling flat. I convinced myself that as 
long as I was the good girl, ’¹d be fine, so I tried really hard to live
up to certain standards to please everyone, and hopefully God too. The 
problem, though, is that there ’¹s nothing anyone can do in his or her own 
power to Gods favor.

As Ephesians 2:8 says, it¹s by God’¹s grace that we are saved, not because of 
anything we could ever hope to attain or accomplish. God ’¹s gift of His son
Jesus Christ to save us from our sins through His death and resurrection is 
just that a gift. Doing all the good, noble things in the world will never
earn salvation, and like verse 9 says, nobody could ever think of boasting 
about such an undeserved gift.

Of course, the desire to do the right things is one result of making Jesus 
the Lord of your life, but we all continue to mess up because, after all, we
are just sinners saved by grace. I still lose sight of it all sometimes and 
get caught up in the cycle of trying to myself and others. This
new year, however, in light of any New Year’¹s resolutions you may have made 
(or already broken), join me in remembering the assurance of one thing we 
never
have to work to attain: God¹s grace.

Intersecting Faith & Life: It’¹s hard to live up to New Year ’¹s resolutions, 
but it¹s impossible to earn God ’¹s favor through good works or noble 
aspirations.
This year, realize and thank God anew for the gift of His grace and 
salvation through Jesus.

Further Reading

Titus 3:4-7
2 Timothy 1:8-10

Today's Turning Point with David Jeremiah
Today'sTurning Point
Thursday, December 31
Spinach Problems

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with 
a span and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the 
mountains
in scales and the hills in a balance?
Isaiah 40:12

Recommended Reading
Psalm 32:8-11
There is a piece of spinach stuck in your teeth from lunch that no one tells 
you about, and when you see it in the mirror three hours later, you wonder
why no one bothered to tell you. It€ ¢â’ ’¹s too prominent to have been missed. If 
only this were only true of spinach. Constructive feedback is hard to come
by.

Listen to Today's Radio Broadcast
As we stand on the cusp of a new year, we have the opportunity to pause and 
reflect on the past year. Although loved ones sometimes sugarcoat their 
feedback,
we can find clarity in seeking God ’¹s perspective. He measures the waters of 
the earth and knows every crevice of your soul. He sees and speaks truth.

If we don ’¹t take time to do this, our years blur together and we miss the 
story God is weaving with our lives. As we review our year, seeking His 
clarity,
we find growth to celebrate and missed opportunities to mourn. Reflecting on 
the past can strengthen us for the future as we seek God ’¹s vision and 
direction
for the upcoming year. Allow Him to lovingly lead you forward.

All day long have I toiled and striven; but now in the stillness of heart 
and in the clear light of Thine eternity, I would ponder the pattern my life
has been weaving.
John Baillie

Read-Thru-the-Bible Revelation 20 
David Jeremiah's
TURNING POINT WITH DR. DAVID JEREMIAH
David Jeremiah's Website
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Post  Admin on Wed 30 Dec 2015, 11:56 pm

Is There Someone You Know That Needs To Change
by Dean Masters

Isaiah 64:8
Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are 
all the work of your hand.

It’s time to let your relatives off the potter’s wheel because you are not 
the potter! The only person you can truly change is yourself. All the fit 
throwing
and begging, pleading and demanding will not change anyone. It is time we 
focused on ourselves and what we need to change, not what others need to 
change.

Do you ever sit in church and pick out every little thing the preacher says 
that would be good for someone else in your life? Have you ever found that
by the time the service was over you had a tidbit for everyone in your life 
except for yourself? It is time for each of us to be sure that we are asking
God in every situation to show us how we can grow or what He may have for us 
in the message. Allow God to work in others by getting out of His way! 
Sometimes
we are so busy trying to fix everyone around us that they can’t see what God 
is trying to do in their lives.

God is the potter and He knows what it will take to change any of us. The 
best prayer we can pray on a daily basis is, “Lord change me!” If we allow 
God
to work in our own life and allow Him to work on others without our help, He 
can accomplish a lot more, a lot faster than He can if we have our hands in
it! I have a couple rooms that need to be painted and as much as I would 
love for my grandchildren to enjoy helping on this project I know that not 
only
will it be done faster to have an adult do it, it will also be less messy! 
That is how God looks at working on others lives; He would love for you to 
be
able to enjoy doing it but He knows it will be a lot less messy if He does. 
The best help you can give others in your life is for you to become all you
can be and back off in their lives by allowing God to work on them Himself.

Quote:
“We can’t choose our relatives, but we can choose our thoughts ~ which 
influence us much more.”

A Fire for Cold Hearts
by Chuck Swindoll

Deuteronomy 8:11-14; Matthew 24:12; Revelation 2:4-5

It happened in a large, seventy-five-year-old stone house on the west side 
of Houston. A massive stairway led up to several bedrooms. The den down 
below
was done in rough-hewn boards with soft leather chairs and a couple of 
matching sofas. The wet bar had been converted into a small library, 
including a
shelf of tape recordings and a multiple-speaker sound system. The ideal 
place to spend a weekend . . . unfortunately, my wife and I were there just 
for
the evening.

The smell of char-broiled T-bones drifted through the rooms. The ladies 
laughed in the kitchen as they fussed around with ranch-style baked beans, a 
variety
of salads, and homemade pies. Everybody knew everybody. An easy, relaxing 
atmosphere made you want to kick off your shoes and run your fingers over 
the
thick, black hair of the sleeping Labrador retriever sprawled across the 
hearth of a crackling fireplace.

The host, a lifelong Christian friend, leaned his broad shoulders against 
the mantle as he told of the bass that got away last week. While the guys 
chided
him loudly for exaggerating ("it had to weigh ten to twelve pounds!"), my 
eyes ran a horizontal path across the carved message on the mantle. The room
was too dark to read what it said from where I sat. I was intrigued and 
strangely drawn from my overstuffed chair to get a closer look.

I ran my fingers along the outline of each letter as my lips silently formed 
the words:

IF YOUR HEART IS COLD
MY FIRE CANNOT WARM IT.

"Hmmmm," I thought, "how true."

Fireplaces don't warm hearts. Neither does fine furniture nor a four-car 
garage nor a full stomach nor a job with a six-figure salary. No, a cold 
heart
can be warmed only by the fire of the living God.

I settled back down, stayed quiet, and mused over those thoughts. I even 
prayed as I stared into the fire:

"Lord, keep my heart warm. Stop me when I rev my motor and get to moving too 
fast toward stuff I think will make me happy. Guard me from this stupid 
tendency
to substitute things for You."

The dinner bell broke the spell. I stood up with all the men and we strolled 
toward the patio. I took a quick glance to remind myself of the words on the
mantle one more time. The logs were now burned down to embers, and in the 
glow I remembered:

IF YOUR HEART IS COLD
MY FIRE CANNOT WARM IT.

I thanked God for His fire that has never burned down.

That memorable scenario happened over twenty years ago. My heart has, since 
then, occasionally cooled off. Today, however, it is warm because He never
left me when I was cold.

Excerpt taken from
Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life,
Copyright © 1983, 1994, 2007 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights 
reserved worldwide. Used by arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House.

What's in a Name?

Shakespeare’s Juliet asks, “What is in a name?” She loved Romeo, regardless 
of his surname. Despite her wishes to the contrary or her desire to minimize
the significance, Romeo was always going to be a Montague. In Scripture, 
names mean something. They matter. The names, or titles, God used to reveal 
himself
communicated particular truths to his people. This is acutely evident in the 
Old Testament, but also present in the New. Joseph received specific 
instructions
from the angel of the Lord to name the child born of the virgin, Jesus, for 
he shall save his people from there sins (Matthew 1:21). This announcement
was made in order that it might be fulfilled what was previously prophesied 
by Isaiah, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call
his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Name Him Jesus because he 
will save his people from their sins. Call him Emmanuel because he is God 
with
us.

As we have been celebrating advent, I have been meditating on the names used 
to describe the Person and Word of the Messiah. It is surprising how many
different titles are used in the Old Testament to draw our attention to a 
particular function of the redeeming work of Jesus, the Son of God and Son 
of
Man. Over the past few weeks in our worship services I have sought to offer 
a few brief reflections on the titles of Jesus, the Messiah. There are those
titles given to the Savior that are familiar to all; then, there are those 
titles with which we are not as familiar.

One such title is found in Zechariah 10:4, where we read, “From him shall 
come the cornerstone, from him the tent-peg, from him the battle bow, from 
him
every ruler – all of them together.” This particular prophecy includes 
several titles about the saving work of Jesus, but the designation 
"tent-peg" presents
one of the less popular titles of the coming Messiah, but an altogether 
encouraging one. Zechariah’s ministry was to encourage and exhort the people 
of
God to rebuild the temple and focus on the redemptive plan of God that would 
culminate in the coming Messiah.

Unfortunately, God’s people were being tempted to follow bad leaders 
(Zechariah 10:2, shepherds and goats) and the false religion of idols. Bad 
leaders
are destructive, and idolatry is empty and always leaves the idolater 
disappointed. Neither false shepherds nor idols are able to withstand the 
trust that
is placed upon them. They fail. They always disappoint. Zechariah, however, 
announces that the LORD of hosts will visit his flock and from him would 
come
hope (10:3). From the LORD of hosts will come the tent-peg, or nail. Isaiah 
uses this same word to describe the object on which something great, such as
the honor of David’s house, would hang. Many set their hopes on idols, but 
the idols always disappointed. God would send One upon whom His people could
hang all their hopes. The Messiah would be able and is able to withstand all 
that is placed upon him.

Consider what has been placed upon Jesus. He has taken your guilt, sin, and 
sorrows upon himself. It was necessary that he be man in order to suffer and
make intercession for you. And it was necessary that he be God in order he 
might not sink under the infinite wrath of God for you (see Westminster 
Larger
Catechism, Questions 38 and 39). As the Nail, he did not buckle under the 
weight of your sin. He fully bore the punishment for you and fully satisfied
God’s wrath on your behalf. Not only is Jesus able to take your guilt and 
sin, he is also able to bear the weight of your burdens and cares as your 
Great
High Priest. Be quick this Advent to remember that Jesus Christ is the Nail 
upon which you can place your trust. And you will never be disappointed.
Charles M. Barrett is Assistant Minister at Wayside Presbyterian Church 
(PCA) in Signal Mountain, Tennessee.
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Who Would Have Dreamed?
Jon Bloom / December 24, 2015
Who Would Have Dreamed?

Christmas is a feast of song, a celebration known even more for its singing 
than its speaking. Christians cannot merely say the story; we are compelled
to sing it — not only with beloved old songs, but with a steady stream of 
new songs. Why? Because some truths are simply too wild for the heart to 
ride
with prose, they require the harness of verse.

On a starlit hillside, shepherds watched their sheep.
Slowly, David’s city drifted off to sleep.
But to this little town of no great renown
The Lord had a promise to keep.

And what a promise it was:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of 
Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, 
whose
coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2)

This promise, combined with others, foretells an event so awe-full, so 
wildly incredible, that the Spirit must help our feeble minds conceive it. 
YHWH
will become flesh (John 1:14, John 8:58–59, Philippians 2:11); Creator will 
become creation. A woman shall give birth to a child so holy that all the 
fallen,
futile world is a filthy stable in comparison. It is so scandalous that no 
first-century Jew would have dreamed it. It is so wonderful that no human 
would
have composed it.

And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen
That we could hold God in our hands?
The Giver of Life is born in the night
Revealing God’s glorious plan
To save the world.

Who would have dreamed that Immanuel would so literally mean God with us 
(Isaiah 7:14) — that some would hear him with their ears, see him with their 
eyes,
and touch him with their hands (1 John 1:1)?

Prophets had foretold it, a mighty King would come
Long awaited Ruler, God’s Anointed One
But the Sovereign of all looked helpless and small
As God gave the world His own Son

And what a prophecy it was:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be 
upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty
God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government 
and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his 
kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from 
this time forth and forevermore. (Isaiah 9:6–7)

Who would have dreamed that when the prophet said, “the virgin shall 
conceive and bear a son” (Isaiah 7:14), God meant an unwed pregnancy? Who 
would have
dreamed that the “Everlasting Father” would become a nursing infant, soil 
his swaddling cloths, and lie in a feeding trough? Who would have dreamed 
that
the Messiah of Bethlehem would grow into an uneducated peasant tradesman 
from Galilee (John 7:15, 52)? Who would have dreamed that he would choose 
fishermen,
tax collectors, and prostitutes as disciples over scribes and Pharisees?

Wondrous gift of heaven: the Father sends the Son
Planned from time eternal, moved by holy love
He will carry our curse and death He’ll reverse
So we can be daughters and sons

Who would have dreamed that when this long-expected Savior, God the Son, 
arrived he would be rejected by Jew and Gentile and crucified by them both? 
And
who would have dreamed that this was God’s plan all along (Acts 4:28), that 
he had always intended to become himself the Passover Lamb who, in this 
single
act of supreme love, would bear away the sins of all his people throughout 
all the world for all time (John 1:29; Hebrews 9:26)? And who would have 
dreamed
that after his brutal slaughter, he would rise again from the dead so that 
all who would believe in him would have eternal life (John 3:16)?

This story is not of merely human origin. There is nothing like it in any 
other human religion or mythology: the Incarnation for the sake of atoning 
substitution
for the sake of our redemption. This stands alone in all of history, 
measurelessly glorious and fathomlessly mysterious. It makes us sing!

And the singing never stops. This modern Christmas hymn,
Who Would Have Dreamed?,
reminds us that not all the great Christmas verse was penned in centuries 
past. With theological richness, beautifully simple poetry, and skillful 
musical
prosody it gives new voice to the timeless Story of all stories.

Each succeeding generation of the church is called to “repeat the sounding 
joy.” So, songwriters, help us sing the joy of Christmas! Like this hymn, 
give
us new voice in profoundly fresh, skillful verse to harness the wild wonder 
of the arrival of the omnipotent Infant whose coming brought the advent of
our eternal emancipation.

Who Would Have Dreamed?
” Words and music by Bob Kauflin and Jason Hansen. © 2014 Sovereign Grace 
Praise (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (IMI). Used by permission.
Copyright © 2015 Desiring God, all rights reserved
PresbyCan Daily Devotional

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Today's Devotional

Test Of Faith

John 14:1 – [Jesus said,] "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in 
God, believe also in Me." (NKJV)

Does God test us? You bet He does!

How many times have you thought or heard something that seems like it is a 
nudge from God, and have chosen to let it go until later? Maybe you 
questioned
whether it might have been just a thought contrived by your own wishes.

Although God has given us the gift of free choice, as we move along our path 
to increasing sanctification, we need to learn how to truly trust our Lord
for guidance.

In my case, there have been many occasions when I have slept comfortably 
after leaving a particular problem with God in my end-of-day prayers, only 
to
awaken in the morning and start to make my own plans to solve that problem. 
But that's how God tests our faith.

God knows us well: He knows how we think, and He knows that the path of 
faith is difficult to follow and to avoid straying from.

So, He sends His nudges often, knowing that we just might not recognize 
them, but will perhaps see them for what they were, after the fact.

He connects with us on our own level. He can use phone calls, emails, text 
messages, conversations with friends, television shows, or even news reports
to nudge us into His will.

In my case, God has communicated with me through music, usually first thing 
in the morning as I awaken. I believe that I recently experienced a 
faith-testing
message from God.

I had some trepidation regarding the timing of the pickup of some furniture 
that I had donated, and as it was scheduled for a Sunday, I asked for a 
pickup
time window. Unfortunately, they could not give me even an estimate.

As a result, I felt that I would not be able to attend my church service 
that day, and I asked for God's understanding, the previous night, in 
prayer.

On Sunday morning, I awakened to the strains of the song, Come to the church 
in the wildwood, which was unmistakably a message that I was not only to go
to church that day, but also to believe that God had it all in hand — a 
faith test, without question.

But then, the usual "what ifs" kicked in as I prepared for church, but the 
memorable "Believe in Me" was uppermost, and I felt that I must accept His 
challenge,
and challenge it was.

I went to the church service, heard and enjoyed the message, which, of 
course, was focused on faith — oh yes! — and was back home to welcome the 
pickup
people just as they had arrived.

"Believe in Me," says the Lord.

I do think that this was another test of my faith in God. His message was 
unmistakable, even though it raised tough, "what if" questions.

I learned that we have to drop the "what if" factor.

Luke 7:50 – Then [Jesus] said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in 
peace." (NKJV)

As we travel along the daily path towards being true followers, we will find 
that God, through the Holy Spirit, will use times, places, and specific 
methods
to connect with us, all of which are familiar to us, personally.

Like personalized email or a letter in our mailbox, He knows what we pay 
attention to. An important lesson that I learned many years ago is that 
there
are no coincidences.

Be attentive, be still, and wait for Him. He is waiting for us to hear.

Prayer: Dear Father Lord, thank You for the messages that You send as 
guidance throughout our journey towards Your heavenly home. Help us to 
recognize
the signposts and to follow their directions. We see the importance of being 
tested along this path of learning, so that we might graduate to another 
level,
one that is closer to You. Amen.

Deana Weyman <
deana@sympatico.ca>
King City, Ontario, Canada


Anne Graham Lotz - Dying to Self
View this email in your browser

Dying to Self
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross 
and follow me."

Matthew 16:24, NIV

The power in your life and mine that results in blessing is in direct 
proportion to the extent that you are willing to die to . . .

your own will,

your own goals,

your own dreams,

your own rights.

It’s what Jesus meant when He challenged His disciples, “If anyone would 
come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” 
However,
before you get too hung up on the cross, don’t forget — after the cross 
comes the resurrection and the power and the glory and the crown! Jesus kept 
His
focus on the joy of abundant blessing as He “endured the cross, scorning its 
shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2, 
NIV).
Because Jesus was willing to die, He was blessed by God with a position of 
power and authority at His right hand.

If blessing is in direct proportion to a willingness to die to self, how 
blessed are you?
Blessings,
Copyright © 2015 AnGeL Ministries, All rights reserved.
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Post  Admin on Mon 28 Dec 2015, 11:34 am

SEEKING LIGHT

Matthew 2:1-2 Darby
1 Now Jesus having been born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Herod 
the king, behold magi from the east arrived at Jerusalem, saying, 2 Where is 
the king of the Jews that has been born? for we have seen his star in the 
east, and have come to do him homage.

the magi were seeking the light of the star which would lead them to the 
King of the Jews. What they were really seeking was the Light of the world. 
That is who they were seeking and they finally found Him.

John 8:12 Darby
12 Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world; 
he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of 
life.

There are a lot of people in this world who are seeking light or seeking God 
through
different religions or groups. The light cannot be found in any of these 
things. The Light is only found when a person finds Jesus Christ.

A few days after the death of the former Beatle George Harrison, I heard 
someone say that they thought that George Harrison was in heaven. They said 
George was seeking God but he was doing this through worshipping Buddha. 
Buddhism does not teach that Jesus is the Christ, the messiah. What did 
Jesus say about people seeking light, God or heaven?

Luke 13:23-28 Darby
23 And one said to him, Sir, are such as are to be saved few in number? But 
he said unto them, 24 Strive with earnestness to enter in through the narrow 
door, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter in and will not be able. 25 
From the time that the master of the house shall have risen up and shall 
have shut the door, and ye shall begin to stand without and to knock at the 
door, saying, Lord, open to us; and he answering shall say to you, I know 
you not whence ye are: 26 then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten in thy 
presence and drunk, and thou hast taught in our streets; 27 and he shall 
say, I tell you, I do not know you whence ye are; depart from me, all ye 
workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be the weeping and the gnashing of 
teeth, when ye shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in 
the kingdom of God, but yourselves cast out.

A lot of people are involved in seeking light, God or heaven but they don’t 
know Jesus Christ. They don’t have a personal, intimate relationship with 
Him. That is what it means to know Him and for him to know you. If you have 
not surrendered your life to Jesus Christ and have a relationship with Him, 
do it now!

If you know the light you don’t have to seek any more. If you do know the 
Light and say that you are seeking light you are saying that Jesus Christ is 
not the light! this is blasphemy! If you are truly seeking light, God or 
heaven, look to Jesus Christ and Him alone. Get to know him personally and 
intimately. Start by asking Him into your heart and continue in a 
relationship with Him. Then you can stop your search.

by Dean W. Masters

Urgency, the Manger, and the Inn
David A. Croteau

Urgency, the Manger, and the Inn

Was there an urgency upon approaching or entering Bethlehem?
Luke 2:6
says, “While they were there, the time came for her to give birth” (emphasis 
added), not “as they were approaching.” He doesn’t mention whether they were
there for five minutes or five weeks, but it could allow for both. Luke does 
not portray that her time for giving birth came as she was approaching the
city, so there was no reason for panic or urgency. There is no evidence that 
the baby was pressing as they arrived. But if they got to Bethlehem and Mary
was fine, why couldn’t Joseph find adequate housing? Zechariah and Elizabeth 
were nearby, they were in a hospitable culture, and he was from the line of
David. Why did he put his pregnant wife into a stable filled with animals?

The HCSB says they “laid Him in a feeding trough” (
Luke 2:7).
When you read “feeding trough,” images of a stable probably come to mind. 
However, there are three options for the location of the feeding trough. 
First,
feeding troughs were placed outside homes in a stable. This is the 
traditional understanding: wealthy homes in first-century Israel would have 
a stable.
Countering the traditional view are two other options. Understanding how 
houses were typically constructed will help comprehend the other options.

A first-century house in Israel would have a large family room where the 
family would eat, cook, sleep, and do general living. At the end of the room 
there
would be some steps down to a lower level, going down only a couple of feet. 
That lower level would be the “animal room” of the house. There was no wall
separating the rooms, just one room with two parts: the family room and the 
animal room. They would construct it so it slanted slightly toward the 
animal
area for easy cleaning because the exterior door would be in the animal 
area. On the raised surface in the family room would be a feeding trough for 
the
larger animals carved out of the floor. The larger animals in the animal 
area, like a cow or a donkey, could walk over and eat out of this trough. 
The
smaller animals, like sheep, would have a smaller manger that would be 
carved out of the floor in the animal room, or the family might have a 
wooden trough
that could be brought inside.

Scripture offers no explicit description of this design, but archeological 
evidence and implicit evidence from Scripture suggest that this was the 
general
design of houses. Animals are mentioned being inside houses in a few 
biblical stories.
First Samuel 28:24
describes Saul going to the witch of Endor. As they were talking, she 
decided to slaughter the “fattened calf in the house” (ESV, emphasis added).
Judges 11
tells the story of Jephthah making a vow. He asked the Lord to help him win 
the battle. Then, if the Lord helped him, he promised to sacrifice the first
thing that came out of his house (
Judges 11:31).
When he arrived home, the first thing out of his house was his daughter. 
Since animals were kept in the house, he probably expected a calf or sheep 
to
come out.

The design of one-room houses can be seen in verses like
Matthew 5:15,
where Jesus mentions a light on a lampstand giving light to all who are in 
the house. If there were multiple stories, multiple rooms, hallways, and 
bathrooms,
that would be impossible. But when the house has one big room with one 
section being a little lower for the entrance and animals, it becomes clear 
how
a light on a lampstand would give light to the whole house.

The larger manger is in the family room, and the smaller manger is in the 
animal room. These are the other two options for its location. The most 
likely
location for Jesus’ manger is the one in the family room. But the 
traditional understanding of the story doesn’t say Jesus was born in a 
house. It says
the family was turned away from the inn so they went to a stable. Why am I 
describing a house?

Notice how the HCSB translates
Luke 2:7:
“And laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the 
lodging place.” Most translations use the word “inn” rather than “lodging
place.” The word “inn” or the phrase “lodging place” bring to mind the idea 
of a hotel, which did exist in first-century Israel. I don’t know if one 
existed
in first-century Bethlehem (though that seems unlikely since it was a small 
town), but the parable of the good Samaritan in
Luke 10:34
says, “Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took 
care of him.” The following verse even references an innkeeper. This is a 
reference
to public lodging, like a hotel. So there were inns in first-century Israel.

But the Greek word used in
Luke 2:7
(kataluma) is different from the Greek word used in
Luke 10:34
(pandocheion). The word pandocheion occurs only here in the New Testament. 
The word kataluma occurs two other times, once in Mark and once in Luke 
(which
are parallel verses).
Luke 22:11
says, “Tell the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks you, “Where is the 
guest room where I can eat the Passover with My disciples?”’” (emphasis 
added).
The Greek word kataluma is translated in
Mark 14:14
and
Luke 22:11
as “guest room” in most translations. However, most translations have “inn” 
in
Luke 2:7.

A Closer Look at
Luke 2:7

The NIV says, “Because there was no guest room available for them” (
Luke 2:7,
emphasis added). This is probably the most accurate translation of
Luke 2:7.
It was the only translation I examined that had kataluma translated the same 
way in all three places. The guest room in
Luke 2:7
most likely referred to a room added on to a single-story house. The guest 
room (kataluma) would have its own exterior entrance.

Another piece of evidence implies that Joseph and Mary had attained adequate 
accommodations when they got to Bethlehem and were not in a stable. The 
shepherds
were told by an angel that they would see a baby lying in a feeding trough (
Luke 2:12).
After the shepherds saw this, Luke says, “The shepherds returned, glorifying 
and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been 
told”
(
Luke 2:20).
In a culture that prized hospitality so highly, it would have been 
unimaginable that the shepherds would have walked away and left the family 
with a newborn
baby in a stable. The more you understand Middle Eastern hospitality, the 
more powerful that verse becomes.

[Editor’s Note: This excerpt is taken from
Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions
by David A. Croteau, Copyright © 2015 by David A. Croteau. Used by 
permission of B&H Publishing Group.
www.bhpublishinggroup.com.]

David A. Croteau is professor of New Testament and Greek in the Seminary and 
School of Ministry at Columbia International Universtiy.

Publication date: December 7, 2015
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Post  Admin on Sun 27 Dec 2015, 4:32 pm

Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, 
Magi from the east came to Jerusalem" (Matt 2:1)
By Answers2Prayer
Lost on my Way to the Manger

I was never good at directions.

I'm not a typical man, I actually stop and ask for directions when I'm lost. 
The problem is I never remember what I'm told.

Mostly it's because I only listen the first time.

Did you ever notice that when you ask someone for directions they tell you 
in detail and as you turn to walk away, they repeat everything they just 
said
again. Like they are repeating it for their own sake.

That's where they lose me. I need to be told once and while it's fresh in my 
mind I need to run back to the car and take off.

The second time they tell me, I try to tune out what they are saying and my 
theory is it's like erasing a tape on playback.

I think that's what happened to me with Christmas.

I'm lost this year. I thought I knew the way, but it turns out all the 
familiar landmarks are missing.

Most of them are still in the attic. Some are gone for good.

Lights, garland, the big Christmas tree, the clipboard with all of the 
mailing addresses for Christmas cards, among other things, still remain 
tucked away
in boxes.

That's why I got lost.

I stopped and asked for directions from a few friends. They knew exactly how 
to get there. Or at least how to find their Christmas.

I listened and then when I got home I forgot everything they told me.

What they described couldn't be found in my house.

I sat in my living room. Through the doorway I could see my tiny tree.

Still, I felt little of what I was looking for. I gazed around the room and 
it was ordinary. No twinkle, no glitter, no greens or stockings hung along
the stairs.

I had no idea where I was. "This is Christmas?" I asked.

So, I called for directions.

"Dear God,

This is Bob. I'm sorry to bother you. I know this is a busy time for you as 
the world is getting ready to celebrate Your Son's birthday.

But I'm lost.

Yes, again.

I'm on my way to Christmas and I can't find it. All the signs are missing. I 
get the feeling I'm closing in on it and then...then the feeling is gone.

What God? I'm looking at the wrong signs?

But it's all I ever looked for in Christmas. You know, the lights the 
decorations, and presents. I've had to stop buying presents this year. So, 
that has
me really lost. I mean there's no wrapping to be done.

There's no placing them under the tree. No real joy in seeing everyone 
opening them on Christmas day.

I've been looking in the wrong places you say?

But Christmas is all that and more, right God? It's memories of the past. 
Pictures of family gathered around the tree. Candles glowing in the night.

Parties and big dinners, laughter and carols sung by choirs at church. Music 
on the radio that brings warm feelings of joy to my heart.

I can't find it. Others have. I see it in their eyes.

You're right. Maybe I have been looking at it all wrong. You didn't move it? 
I mean, you didn't change it in any way, did you God?

It's always been the same, you say, but we've changed it. I understand, I 
think.

So, in a sense my Christmas this year, being alone, may very well help me to 
find Christmas again?

I thought Christmas was all about family.

It is, you say. It's about the Holy Family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

The only Christmas lights were the stars. The only directions to it were by 
following the brightest star.

The only decoration was hay and only three gifts were given.

I remember now.

Forgive me God, but where do I find it, how do I find it on my own?

And God said to me, "And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby 
wrapped in cloth, and lying in a manger."

I sat quietly. There was no reason for those directions to be repeated to 
me.

I knew them by heart. Somehow though, I had gotten lost along the way.

It just so happens that my all time favorite carol is "Silent Night." It is, 
in fact, how I will be spending Christmas this year. Quietly. 
Peacefully...Silently.

Don't feel sorry for me. Don't pity me. This year I may not have the 
Christmas I always remembered, but I will have the Christmas I should have 
been looking
for...I was just... "Lost on my way to the manger."

Come with me. Even in the hustle of your busy Christmas celebration. Find 
the Silent Night and look for the manger. There you will find all you've 
ever
needed.
I hope to see you there.

Merry Christmas!
Bob Perks
Announcement:

Enjoy standing in th presence of Jesus. He is the One that will make your 
Christmas special.

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

He came with no agenda beyond love. As we celebrate His birth, may we 
demonstrate that same love - with no agenda.
Katherine Walden

PresbyCan Daily Devotional

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Today's Devotional

A Humble Start

2 Corinthians 8:9 – For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that 
though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by His poverty
you might become rich. (RSV)

Everything God does on earth has a purpose for humanity, so I have been 
intrigued by His purpose behind the manger scene and the obvious poverty of 
the
animal stalls and the manger bed. We are so used to the nativity scene with 
the manger that we rarely think about it now. We take the manger for granted
and think that it is really cute. But why did God allow the birth of the 
baby Jesus in an animal's feed trough? With God as His father, a very rich 
scene
was possible, like a large, well-equipped house or even a palace. 
Undoubtedly, God come to earth like this so that "all poor men and humble" 
would be able
to identify with Him, as Katharine Emily Roberts wrote in her hymn:

All poor men and humble,
All lame men who stumble,
Come haste ye nor feel ye afraid;
For Jesus, our treasure,
With love past all measure,
In lowly poor manger was laid.

What a beginning! What was God's purpose in sending His Son in the form of a 
human baby? There is something special about being in need of the help of
another caring person in a difficult situation. Perhaps, this is what the 
Lord intends us to learn through that humble birth. He certainly wants us to
be mindful of each other's needs.

Surely, when God gave His Son this kind of beginning, it was descriptive of 
what He would like to see in all of us: a humble beginning where love for 
one
another is most prevalent. The most promising truth taught by Scripture 
about God is His love for us. He sent His Son as a baby in a lowly animal 
shelter
to depict our need for love, especially His love, as we reach out and care 
for one another in difficult situations. Jesus told us, "You shall love the
Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your 
strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 
10:27
RSV)

When the love of God controls our thoughts and actions, we grow in His 
grace. Yes, from a humble start, through loving God and one another, we grow 
into
eternity. On the road ahead in life, we share the love and protection of God 
as we travel through the years "with love past all measure."

Prayer: Lord, enable us to love You faithfully and to follow You 
continuously, as we grow from a birth that speaks of a humble beginning to a 
life that
speaks of Your glory. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

The Unfinished Story of Christmas
View this email in your browser
BIBLE MEDITATION:
¦when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 
When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all
them that believe
2 Thessalonians 1:7,10.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
The Jesus who came the first time is coming again, and Christmas is not 
complete without the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The incarnation without 
the
coronation would be like east without west. It would be like an engagement 
without a marriage. The story is not complete until Jesus comes again.

You may have thought that this was a good Christmas for you”but, friend, I 
want to tell you the best is yet to come! The Heavenly Father has so much 
more
in store for us when Jesus comes again.

You see, we get all wrapped up in the little baby, the baby that was born, 
and we then go beyond the birth of the baby, saying, Yes, He came to die 
for
our sins (thank God He did that), but I want to remind you that the First 
Coming of Jesus and the Second Coming are linked together.

The Christmas Story in Luke 1 and 2 speaks not only of the Jesus who 
redeemed, but the Jesus who reigned. Not only Jesus who came the first time, 
but Jesus
who is coming the second time to sit upon the throne of His father David, to 
rule over the house of Jacob forever and ever.

ACTION POINT:
Imagine for a moment what your life would be like without the Resurrection, 
the Rapture, and the Second Coming of Jesus. The most glorious fact of the
past is that Jesus came the first time. The most glorious fact of the future 
is that this Jesus is coming again. The one sure hope of this jittery old
world is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
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Post  Admin on Sat 26 Dec 2015, 9:36 pm

Merry Christmas!
Fri Dec 25, 2015 6:30 am (PST) . Posted by: "Dean Masters"
Hey, it's Christmas. What are you doing checking your emails anyway?!

Why don't you click out right now and go hang out with family and friends or 
go call a long-lost comrade who could use a word of encouragement today? Or
best yet, take a lesson from two sisters, Mary and Martha:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a 
woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who
sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted 
by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 
"Lord,
don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her 
to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset
about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is 
better, and it will not be taken away from her." – Luke 10:38-42

This crazy holiday can take a lot out of you, and the preparations can be 
major distractions from the "only one thing" you need. What if you took a 
breather
and "sat at the Lord's feet" today, "listening to what he said" for a while?

Jesus, my Lord and my Friend, thank You for being a place for me to rest in 
the middle of the chaos. In my heart, I envision myself sitting at Your feet
now, resting in who You are and who I am in You. Thank You for coming into 
this world. Thanks for coming into my life. Speak truth to me, Jesus. I'm 
listening.
Amen.

Listen to Pete, Jill & Stuart Briscoe on the
Telling the Truth broadcast
at OnePlace.com

If Only We Knew
LYSA TERKEURST

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our 
weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we 
are — yet
he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, 
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Hebrews 4:15-16
(NIV)

Here is my prayer for you this Christmas week: May you catch even the 
slightest glimpse of the tender mercy of our Lord Jesus. For one drop of the 
Lord’s
mercy is better than an ocean of the world’s comfort.

The marriage situation that seems impossible.

The finances that never balance.

The hope so deferred it makes your heart sick.

The anxiety over a child bent on a wayward path.

The diet you are sick of.

The broken promises of a friend.

The lack of true friends.

The constant messiness always distracting the peace you want in your home.

The impatience and frustration, anger and disappointment of losing it — 
again.

If only we knew how deeply Jesus understands and cares for us. If only we 
could see the wonder of His love. The skies He paints, the flowers He 
blooms,
the world He arranges just for us. The love letters He’s written to us 
throughout the Bible.

These are all mercies from Him.

The world will offer us comfort in the form of escapes. We escape to romance 
novels, movies, magazines, malls, chocolate, vacations, affirmations from
friends. Not that any of these things are bad. They aren’t. But they are 
very temporary. They make us feel good in the moment, but that good never 
stays.
We need more and more. Trying to fill our aching hearts with these things is 
like trying to fill an ocean with a tablespoon. It’s never enough. So we 
clench
our fists and keep trying to find something to comfort us.

If only we knew how to stop clenching our fists so that we could open our 
hands and catch the drops of His tender mercy. If only we knew how to 
release
the weight of trying to fix it all ourselves. If only we knew to stop in the 
midst of it all and whisper, "Jesus … help me." Just a whispered breath 
formed
in the wholeness of His Name carries all the power and mercy and wisdom and 
grace we need to handle what we face.

If only we knew.

If you find yourself wanting to escape today into one of the world’s 
comforts, first invest some time in asking Jesus to help you, show you and 
direct
you.
Hebrews 4:15-16
reminds us of how approachable He is, how He understands our struggles and 
graciously offers us help and hope: "For we do not have a high priest who is
unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been 
tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then 
approach God’s
throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace 
to help us in our time of need."

Specifically, ask Him to help you see and notice His tender mercies. Then 
you will see that, indeed, one drop of the Lord’s mercy is better than an 
ocean
of the world’s temporary comforts.

Jesus, I don’t want to spend another day chasing after things that will 
never satisfy. Instead, I pray that I would begin to truly see how high and 
how
deep is the love You have for me. Help me to catch the tender drops of Your 
mercy, and teach me how to fully embrace Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 100:5,
"For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness 
continues through all generations." (NIV)

Ephesians 3:17b-
19,
"… And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have 
power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long 
and
high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses 
knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of 
God."
(NIV)




Lord, I Want to Be Like This Woman
LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

"She … worshiped night and day, fasting and praying."
Luke 2:37b
(NIV)

Tucked within the gentle folds of the Christmas story is a woman whose life 
was a living testimony to faithfulness. We read about her in just three 
short
verses found in
Luke 2:36-38.

Her name, Anna, means "grace," her family name means "face of God," and her 
devotion to Him ran deep and wide.

Anna was married in her youth and then widowed after just seven years. Can 
you imagine her heartache in that time and place where motherhood was the 
end-all, be-all?

Even so, we have no record of Anna weeping. Only worshiping the Lord. Night 
and day. Year after year.

Who does this? Seriously, it’s a level of commitment most of us can’t get 
our heads around, especially during the holidays when we’re dashing through 
the
snow to pageants, concerts, banquets, something.

Our wise sister Anna realized being in the Lord’s presence was celebration 
enough.

And while in His presence, she fasted. Not to lose weight or cleanse her 
body from toxins or to impress others with her piety, but to honor God. 
"When
you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be 
obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is 
unseen"
(Matthew 6:17-18,
NIV).

He surely saw Anna that day in the temple. She was 84 years old, but you’d 
never know it to watch her in action. When Mary and Joseph brought the 
infant
Jesus to the temple for Mary’s ritual cleansing and the presentation of 
their firstborn son to the Lord, Anna didn’t miss a beat.

At the Holy Spirit’s prompting, she made a beeline for the Christ child, 
"coming up to them at that very moment"
(Luke 2:38a,
NIV). We sense her urgency, her excitement, her conviction.

After decades of worshiping and fasting and praying, Anna was prepared when 
she encountered the Savior. She was filled up, ready to spill out, and so 
"she
gave thanks to God"
(Luke 2:38b,
NIV).

Amazing. Anna didn’t complain about the long wait, the lonely years, the 
emptiness of her stomach, the stiffness in her knees, the hardness of the 
temple
floor. She simply gave thanks.

We’re listening, Lord. And watching. And learning.

Instead of remaining with Mary and Joseph, making idle chitchat, Anna then 
turned to everyone else in the temple courts that day, and "spoke about the
child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem"
(Luke 2:38c,
NIV).

Anna gazed beyond His birth, beyond His life, beyond His death and straight 
through to His resurrection. The people of God longed to be redeemed, but 
that
was only possible through sacrifice. The stark reminder of that truth hung 
in the temple air — the spilling of blood, the bleating of lambs, the 
burning
of flesh on the altar.

Did Anna know this innocent child would one day suffer to set his people 
free? You can be sure of it. Scripture tells us she was a prophetess, which 
meant
she not only heard from the Lord, she also knew what the ancient prophets 
foretold.

Anna was prepared and so prepared the way. Now it falls to us, 2,000 years 
later, to follow in her footsteps. To tell everyone we know, everything we 
know
about Jesus.

When we ease our breathless pace, when we stop, look and listen, we can 
sense the gentle weight of His touch and take comfort in the warmth of His 
presence.

In this season, in every season, let’s pause and remember Immanuel: God with 
us.

Heavenly Father, each aspect of Anna’s worship convicts me, in particular 
her sacrifice of physical comfort for spiritual intimacy. You deserve more 
than
the few crumbs that fall from my too-full calendar. You deserve my best. A 
heart of worship, night and day. A willingness to add fasting and more 
prayer
time to my life. Please teach me to be still, to wait, to listen and always 
to give thanks. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Ezra 8:23,
"So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our 
prayer." (NIV)

Psalm 100:4,
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks 
to him and praise his name." (NIV)

The hardship that often comes with following Christ

December 22, 2015

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is 
appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is
opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that 
thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:34-35

Mary had a hard life. She became pregnant out of wedlock, which would’ve 
brought shame to her and her family. She raised young Jesus, and had other 
children
along the way. At some point, she probably lost her husband to death. And 
then, she followed her oldest son to the cross, where he was crucified as a 
criminal
though He was innocent.

The same little mouth that cried out on Christmas morning is the one that 
cried in pain on the cross. And the same tiny hands and feet on that little 
baby
would have nails driven through them 33 years later. Yes, Mary’s soul was 
most definitely pierced with sadness.

The message of Christmas is the message of the cradle, the cross, and the 
crown. The cradle because God became a man in Christ. But the wood of the 
cradle
touches the wood of the cross, where that man died for the forgiveness of 
our sins. And He rose again and ascended on high where He received His crown
and assumed His rightful place in heaven.

The story of Christmas isn’t just about a baby in Bethlehem. It’s the 
foundation for a major shift in human history… and Mary was there the entire 
way.
Life isn’t always easy, and it wasn’t for Mary. But God has a plan and will 
work all things for good. Mary trusted Him. You can too.

THE STORY OF CHRISTMAS INVOLVED SUFFERING FOR MANY. LOOK TO THEM AS EXAMPLES 
AS YOU PERSEVERE THROUGH HARD TIMES.

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

The Birth of the Ancient of Days

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that 
I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come 
into
the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth 
listens to my voice.”
(John 18:37)

This is a great Christmas text even though it comes from the end of Jesus’s 
life on earth, not the beginning.

The uniqueness of his birth is that he did not originate at his birth. He 
existed before he was born in a manger. The personhood, the character, the 
personality
of Jesus of Nazareth existed before the man Jesus of Nazareth was born.

The theological word to describe this mystery is not creation, but 
incarnation. The person, not the body, but the essential personhood of Jesus 
existed
before he was born as man. His birth was not a coming into being of a new 
person, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old person.

Micah 5:2
puts it like this, 700 years before Jesus was born:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of 
Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, 
whose
coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

The mystery of the birth of Jesus is not merely that he was born of a 
virgin. That miracle was intended by God to witness to an even greater one — 
namely,
that the child born at Christmas was a person who existed “from of old, from 
ancient days 
Copyright Information

This devotional is written by John Piper. For more information about Piper's 
ministry, writing, and books, visit DesiringGod.org..”

Coming In from the Cold
by Chuck Swindoll

Luke 2:10-11

Christmas comes each year to draw people in from the cold.

Like tiny frightened sparrows, shivering in the winter cold, many live their 
lives on the barren branches of heartbreak, disappointment, and loneliness,
lost in thoughts of shame, self-pity, guilt, or failure. One blustery day 
follows another, and the only company they keep is the fellow-strugglers who
land on the same branches, confused and unprotected.

We try so hard to attract them into the warmth. Week after week church bells 
ring. Choirs sing. Preachers preach. Lighted churches send out their beacon.
But nothing seems to bring in those who need warmth the most.

Then, as the year draws to a close, Christmas offers its wonderful message. 
Immanuel. God with us. He who resided in Heaven, co-equal and co-eternal 
with
the Father and the Spirit, willingly descended into our world. He breathed 
our air, felt our pain, knew our sorrows, and died for our sins. He didn't 
come
to frighten us, but to show us the way to warmth and safety . . . .

So, this Christmas season I pray that the warmth of the Savior's love will 
spread itself over you as never before. And that whenever and however 
possible,
you will keep reminding yourself that there are still tiny, shivering 
sparrows who are too terrified to come in from the cold. Maybe, just maybe, 
this
Christmas, because of something you do or say . . . they will.

Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch: Becoming God's 
Masterpiece (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994). Copyright © 1994 by Charles R. 
Swindoll,
Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

LEARN MORE: What If God Chooses You to Do Something Great?
Daring to Dream
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Priceless Gift Giving
Tuesday December 22, 2015
Volume 16 Number 254

Today's Author: Pastor Bill

Christian Cyber Ministries participant T. F. from Walthill, Nebraska 
contributed financially in support of today's cdd. Thank you - PTL! pb

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:4
"We have a priceless inheritance-an inheritance that is kept in heaven for 
you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay" NLT (Bible 
Paraphrase)

What could anyone possibly give that has eternal ramifications, costs 
nothing and yet when given is priceless?

Following are Ten suggestions for a Priceless Gift Giving Christmas.

To an opponent give Christ like tolerance

To a customer give humble caring service

To Jesus give devotion, praise and worship

To the down and out give Jesus style charity

To every child give a strong Christian example

To your enemy give forgiveness and restoration

To yourself give respect, forgiveness and approval

To a friend give your ear, compassion and concern

To your spouse give time and love beyond description

To co-workers give acceptance, forbearance and patience

To your children give faith, attention, respect and instruction

Have a Blessed Christmas and may your gift giving be priceless this year.

Prayer: Father thank you for the life of Jesus as our example for a 
Priceless Gift Giving Christmas. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!

Philippine Cross Update: $7,754.00 remaining balance. Cross Giving
Click Here
Copyright (c) 2015
Pastor Bill Christian Cyber Ministries
All Rights Reserved

Experiencing LIFE Today

ISN'T THERE ANYONE WHO KNOWS WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT?!!! – Charlie Brown

"Aren't we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know... the birth 
of Santa!" – Bart Simpson

I had a young lady in my office recently. In the course of our conversation, 
I came to the conclusion that she hadn't come to grips with God's love for
her. So I looked her in the eyes as I thought of one of the foundational 
verses in the
Bible:

"For
God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not 
perish but have eternal life." – John 3:16

"Let me tell you something, are you aware of this simple fact, that God 
couldn't possibly love you more than He does right now?" I asked. "That He 
loves
you as much as a perfect God can? That He loves you perfectly, and there's 
nothing you can do to make Him love you more? There's nothing you can do to
earn His approval; you have it. Are you aware of that? Do you realize how 
deeply God loves you?"

Her eyes filled with tears, and she bowed her head and started to weep. She 
didn't stop. She just kept crying. Our conversation ended with her thanking
me and walking out, still crying. I called a few days later, just to follow 
up, to make sure she was okay. She said, "Pete, I cried for three days! It
just finally hit me that God loves me! I finally got it! All these years, 
I've been sitting in church and never allowed myself to realize how deeply 
and
passionately He loves me!"

Why Christmas? Because God loves you so much that He gave His one and only 
Son, sending Him into the world as a poor baby so that He could show you how
to live – no, more than that – that He might be your life. He lived 
perfectly, died a grizzly death, shed His blood so that your sins might be 
removed,
so that you will not perish, but spend forever with Him.

Do you get it? Have you received this gift?

Holy Spirit, today and through this season, give me the ability and the 
willingness to realize how deeply and passionately You love me. Amen.

Listen to Pete, Jill & Stuart Briscoe on the
Telling the Truth broadcast
at OnePlace.com

Kindness is Not Enough
End Times - A message from Dan McNerney. To view as a web page, go
here.
For best viewing of future emails, please add
danm@pff.net
to your Safe Senders List or Address Book.

End Times

This year's Advent dinner at our church with our Muslim friends was 
especially poignant. Right now, the air is so thick in our country you can 
cut it with
a knife; not knowing exactly where our enemy lurks is inviting both fear and 
confusion. This year's dinner was the largest ever - 35 Muslims and 35 
Christians
joyfully huddled in the Fireside Room of our church. We told them we love 
them, and they said the same to us. We are both realizing that it has never 
been
more important for Christians and Muslims to be friends. Having a Muslim 
friend is a game changer, especially now for the future of our country and 
world.
At the end of our dinner, as we do every year, we sang Christmas carols 
together. This year, I looked around the room and saw what seemed like a 
multitude
of Muslims singing loudly and boldly, "Joy to the world, the Lord is come, 
let earth receive her King..."

This past year with our Muslim friends has been incredible. We now not only 
serve food together regularly at inner-city soup kitchens; but on certain 
nights
of the year, our Muslim friends come to our church to help us give a home to 
the homeless for an evening. Twice a month, we gather to study our Holy 
Books
together. We are fascinated with what each tradition says about such common 
figures as Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. Every time we are with our Muslim
friends, God shows up and surprises us with new insights and wisdom. We 
sense the Lord's encouragement all the time. We have come to understand that 
when
Muslims and Christians avoid each other and don't pursue friendship, the 
devil has a field day. In this kind of environment, Christians and Muslims 
can
easily demonize each other, and dangerously guess falsely what the other 
believes.

During one of our Holy Book discussion sessions this fall, a most 
interesting interchange took place among the members. For the past eight 
years, all of
our meetings have been co-ed. Yet, occasionally the Christian and Muslim 
women in our group have gotten together to meet in each others' homes, cook 
meals,
and socialize in most wonderful ways. At this particular study session, 
however, one of the Christian women spoke up and asked me and the Imam if it 
would
be okay for the Christian and Muslim women to form their own group and meet 
periodically to talk about matters particular to women. It was certainly 
fine
with me, but I could sense that the Imam was hesitant about saying yes to 
this specific request. So, I asked if he had a concern with the women 
meeting
periodically on their own in addition to meeting in our co-ed group.

Imam Senad cleared his throat and said, "No, not really, but I must say that 
the request does give me pause because the Quran mentions that one of the
signs of the end times is women assuming more leadership positions." Well, 
you could hear a pin drop in the room at this point. We all waited for what
Imam Senad would say next. Eventually, he smiled, and said, "Whether we are 
beginning to experience the end times or not, I give these women my 
approval.
They have such joy together; I would never want to get in their way." It was 
another leap forward in our miraculous friendship.

That was the first time I had heard my Muslim friends talk about the end 
times. But, the subject came up again during our Advent dinner. Our Muslim 
friends
are largely of Bosnian and of Sufi orientation. They are sympathetic to the 
Turkish and Ottoman persuasion of Islam. They are generally very critical of
fundamentalist Arab Sunni Islam, especially as expressed by the Wahhabists 
in Saudi Arabia. I love these Advent dinners because everyone is generally 
looser,
loving, and more vocal about their opinions. Towards the end of the evening, 
I found myself in conversation with my friends Ennis and Mersad. I was 
telling
them about my recent trip to the United Arab Emirates, how my group and I 
had ascended the tallest building in the world, the 2,717 feet tall Burj 
Khalifa.
I asked if they had heard that Saudi Arabia just announced plans to build an 
even taller building?

Ennis and Mersad hung their heads low, shaking them in disgust. They asked 
me if I knew what the Hadith, the companion to the Quran, says about tall 
buildings
on the Arabian Peninsula. I said, "No I don't." They then told me the Hadith 
specifically warns Muslims not to build structures which have more than two
floors. Muhammad taught that tall buildings run the risk of making people 
too enthralled with themselves and their capabilities. Ennis said there were
no buildings over two stories built on the Arabian Peninsula from the 7th 
Century until the middle of the 20th Century. However, now things were 
flying
out of control. According to my Muslim friends, the oil wealth was making 
people crazy on the Arabian Peninsula, causing many to turn away from Allah,
becoming slaves to money, and tempted by hardened, militant fundamentalism - 
all at the same time.

I told them that in our Bible we have the same kind of story called the 
Tower of Babel. God eventually thwarted the plans of those building the 
Tower of
Babel once it became evident why the people were constructing it. Listen to 
the story: "Then the people said, 'Come, let's build a great city for 
ourselves
with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous'"(Genesis 
11:4a). At that point, God could see how intoxicated people had become with
their own prowess. Therefore, he scattered the people throughout the earth, 
causing them to speak different languages, in order for them not to unite 
and
become too powerful for their own good. Ennis and Mersad loved the story.

We followers of Jesus are told in our Bible not to try and predict the end 
times when Jesus will return to rule over a new heaven and new earth. We are
told simply to be ready, not to predict. However, many Biblical scholars 
believe that one of the biggest clues we might have from Scripture 
concerning
when Jesus will return can be found in Matthew, chapter 24, verse 14. In 
this setting towards the end of Jesus' earthly ministry, when his disciples 
pressed
Jesus to tell them when the end of time would come, he said, "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." For this reason, 
Christians have been highly motivated for the past 2000 years to spread the
Good News to the ends of the earth. It certainly explains why I do what I do 
with my frontier mission work.

Christmas is all about celebrating Jesus' first coming. It is the biggest, 
most important miracle of all. Yes, most of us wrestle with it. Did God 
really
become incarnate in order to live among us, get as close as possible to us - 
to give us comfort, counsel and love? Could it really be true - God is with
us now in our hearts, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Immanuel? What Towers of 
Babel are being built in the world today, and how might they be causing 
pride,
hatred, and division amongst us? The call of Christmas is a call to 
humility. Jesus was not born in a fancy downtown building; he was born in a 
lowly manager,
close to the earth. He is calling all of us to be humble in spirit, generous 
with our possessions, and helpful to our neighbors. Let us all join in the
final verse of the song we sang with our Muslim friends that night; "He 
rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove. The 
glories
of his righteousness, and wonders of his love, and wonders of his love, and 
wonders, wonders of his love."

From our family to yours, a blessed Merry Christmas.
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Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:

"The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world." 
(John 1:9)
By Answers2Prayer
My Husband's Christmas Tree

"Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty 
heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing 
greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and 
lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and 
pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. 
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord." (Psalm 150
NIV)

Ernie, my husband of 37 years, died on October 10th. As we gathered in the 
sanctuary of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on
October 19th to celebrate Ernie's life with a memorial service, there was a 
small Christmas tree sitting on a short table on the platform. Many wondered
why it was there until I got up during the service to share some of Ernie's 
life, which included the story of our Christmas tree.

For years, each Christmas, we have put a small Christmas tree on top of the 
armoire in our bedroom. Ernie, who had been given two months to live in 
January
of 2011, now spent most of his time in our bedroom. After Christmas last 
year, I suggested to Ernie that he might like to keep it there all the time, 
as
he often slept with the tree lights on all night. This little 16-inch tree, 
with its small stuffed birds and other miniature decorations, has two 
strings
of the old kind of miniature lights, all of which go out if one bulb burns 
out. With God's grace, the top string has never burnt out, but over the 
year,
one by one, bulbs on the bottom string of the tree lights burned out and had 
to be replaced, until by summer, there were no spares left. I thought of 
putting
a notice downstairs in our apartment building, but, sadly, I did not think 
to ask God to send me some--but God is good.

One Monday morning last June, I was taking some old clothes to a local 
Bibles For Missions thrift store. As I went to the back door, I glanced at 
the stuff
that had been left over the weekend and noticed a grocery bag containing 
Christmas tree lights! There I was, dancing around the parking lot, hands in 
the
air, praising God for His awesome gift! Over the summer, the bottom string 
burnt out repeatedly and was replaced four or five times, until there was 
only
one string left, which was in an unopened box. That last string continued to 
burn brightly through Ernie's last days. The little tree went with him for
the last four days of his life in the Embassy West Hospice and shone 
brightly as Ernie, after nearly three years with pulmonary fibrosis and 
three heart
attacks, ascended into heaven to meet his Lord and Saviour, Jesus, in the 
late afternoon of October 10th. That little tree, lit with its bright 
lights,
stood on the platform of the sanctuary as we gathered on October 19th to 
celebrate Ernie's life.

Strangely, last weekend, I put up Ernie's tree in my bedroom and plugged it 
in--nothing. Both of the strings of lights on the tree were burned out!

I've felt nudged lately by the Holy Spirit to share this Christmas tree 
story about the goodness of God, His faithfulness, and how He gives us gifts 
without
our even praying for them. Even in the poignancy of death, God grants us 
little touches of His love to soften the blow and let us know that He cares. 
"Precious
in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants." (Psalm 
116:15 NIV)

Prayer: Father, in the name of Your Son, Jesus, we praise and thank You for 
the life of Your faithful servants who have passed to their reward, and for
Your promise to us who believe, that we will spend eternity with You. Help 
us to live each day as if it were our last. As we enter the season of 
Advent,
guide us in our preparations to celebrate the birth of Your Son, Jesus, who 
died that we may have eternal life. Help us each to remember that Jesus is
the reason for the season. Amen.

Evonne Isaak

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Announcement:

Jesus is our light and He shines not only in December, but all year long!

€ ¦©Copyright 2011 Answers2Prayer | Matt 10:8 "Freely you have received, freely 
give."
 
 
 The Strand I Couldn't Fix...by Janet Perez Eckles

Like fog in the morning, the spirit of Christmas had faded that year. I 
shuffled in the garage and, one by one, pulled off the shelves the bins I'd 
stored
the previous Christmas. As the aroma of sugar cookies wafted through the air 
and Silent Night played in the background, I began the decorating.

The task was challenging. All I had left of my eyesight was the ability to 
see lights. But I set out the items as I had memorized them through the 
years-red
and green candles, musical boxes with winter scenes, bright red poinsettias 
with green garland, and the Nativity scene at the center.

Next, I lifted from a box three stockings, each embroidered with a son's 
name. I ran my fingers over the letters. One read Jason; another, Jeff; and 
the
least number of letters spelled Joe. The first two I hung on marked places 
above the fireplace. But Joe's I clutched against my chest.

Stockings hung with one separated from the other two
Tears burned my eyes as the empty stocking seared my heart. It had been five 
years since the Lord called Joe home. Five years that his absence had left
an emptiness we could almost touch. Five years that God's grace had wiped 
away portions of the grief that still ached in our broken hearts.

Yet on this day-like warm steam from mint tea...soft and sweet-healing came 
in a memory.

Years ago, when our three sons were still young, I rushed around and worked 
hard trying to make everything just so. As a result, little things tended to
make me crazy.

One night, while everyone was in bed, I stayed up with something 
important-trying to fix a light strand that refused to shine. One burned-out 
bulb was
the culprit. Annoyed at the glitch, I rearranged, plugged, and unplugged, 
but could not fix the strand. Frustrated, I plopped on the couch.

Then I glanced at the top of our Christmas tree. There was the 
star...shining, glowing, lighting the room. I sighed, a little ashamed. I 
thought of all
the light bulbs that had burned out in my life-broken relationships, 
disappointments, setbacks, failed plans, and even deep heartache.

Each time I tried to fix the strands myself. But in all the mess, I missed 
the One who lights the way through the darkest moments. Trying to fix the 
strands
of my life's issues, I had missed The Star-Christ the Lord-who gives 
significance to my life and joy for my days.

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I 
am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. 
Revelation
22:16

One bright star in a dark sky
When the void in our heart aches to be filled, it's The Star of comfort who 
makes it whole. When bitter sorrow robs the spirit of Christmas, it's The 
Star
of love who whispers joy. When a diagnosis shakes our world, it's The Star 
of reassurance who shines the certainty of new tomorrows.
The Star never loses the brilliance of hope, but we embrace Him fully only 
when the strands of life burn out.

I embraced Him that day as I, with eyes focused on The Star, hung Joe's 
stocking along with his brothers'. It's not empty anymore-but filled with 
sweet
memories-his wit and laughter, his hugs and kisses. The Star changed all 
that.

Jesus is our bright Morning Star. This Christmas and all the days to come, 
may He dispel your darkness, dry your tears, and repair the strands you 
cannot
fix.
Seeing the best in life,
Janet
Janet Perez Eckles...2015 Don Quijote Award for Excellence Finalist...has 
dedicated her life to reaching people around the world with the Gospel. 
Through
her physical blindness, she helps them see the best of life with Christ's 
eyes. Discover her ministry at
www.janetperezeckles.com.
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Tell Everybody!
by Anna Kuta, Crosswalk.com Contributor

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the 
shepherds said to one another, Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this 
thing
that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.And they came 
with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now 
when
they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them 
concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things 
which
were told them by the shepherds (Luke 2:15-18).

Every December my church puts on an event called Bethlehem Walk, an 
interactive living nativity of sorts that takes people through a recreation 
of first-century
Bethlehem and then through scenes of the birth, life, death and resurrection 
of Jesus. Thousands of people from the community and even all over the state
come each year to hear about the real meaning of Christmas. I've been a cast 
member almost every year, but this year for the first time I played the part
of a guide, who leads groups of people through the city and from one drama 
scene to the next.

If I thought it would get monotonous saying the same lines, hearing the same 
story and seeing the same things acted out on repeat for 20 hours in one 
weekend,
I could not have been further from the truth. One of my favorite parts was 
seeing the reactions of people in my groups to each of the scenes, 
especially the kids.

After the group watches the angels appear to the shepherds in the field and 
tell them of Jesus' birth, we hurry with the shepherds to the stable to see
it for ourselves. After we learn that this baby really is the Messiah, the 
guide is supposed to tell the group, Come, let us go tell others what we 
have
seen! (From there, the group stumbles upon the three kings and points the 
way to them.) One night, however, I had a group of kids who were as 
enthralled
with the whole story as anyone I'd ever seen. When we got to the manger, 
they crowded in close, eyes wide, like they'd never seen anything like it. 
They
watched with awe as Mary sang Silent Night and rocked the baby Jesus in 
her arms. And just when she finished and I opened my mouth to speak my 
lines,
I was upstaged one little boy in the front jumped up and shouted, It's 
Jesus! We gotta tell everybody!

Sure, we all crack a smile, but the little boy had it absolutely right. Tell 
everybody! The shepherds did just that after the angels pointed them to baby
Jesus “ they made it widely known, according to Luke 2:17. How could they 
keep quiet, having seen what they had seen? How can I keep quiet, having 
been redeemed by Christ?

If you, like me, ever feel unqualified or unworthy to share the Gospel, 
remember the shepherds. They were the most unlikely messengers of the 
Messiah's
birth rough, poor, dirty; outcasts of society. God could have sent the 
angels to proclaim the news to anyone, but he chose the shepherds. He used 
them
as the first-ever preachers of the Gospel.

Just as the shepherds could not keep quiet about what they saw when they 
found Jesus, so it should be for us. This Christmas season, share the good 
news not just of Jesus as the baby in the manger, but of Jesus who came to save 
us from our sin.

Intersecting Faith & Life: With whom can you share the good news of Jesus?

Further Reading

Luke 2

Mark 16:15

Ephesians 6:19-20


Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:

"It's criminal to ignore a neighbor in need, but compassion for the 
poor--what a blessing!" Proverbs 14:21 (MSG)
By Answers2Prayer
Christmas Through the Eyes of Your Heart

It's Christmastime again in the Downriver and money is tight. As wonderful 
as the season is, you can sometimes feel the financial and emotional 
pressure
in the air. If your heart has eyes for it you can see it.

Jim is one of our deacons. Jim and Bea needed gas one day last week. They 
were shopping gas prices, trying to save a few cents a gallon, when they saw
a sad sight with the eyes of their hearts.

A young man was out in the cold on a bike. He had laid his bike down and he 
was digging though a trash can. At first they thought he was looking for 
cans
but he must have been hungry. As they watched from the warmth of their car 
they saw him pick up a couple half-eaten sandwiches and unwrap them to see 
if
they were edible.

Jim got out his wallet and Bea reached for her purse. Between them they came 
up with fourteen dollars cash. Jim took the money, got out of the car and
walked over to the man on the bike. He said; "I'd like to buy those 
sandwiches from you. I'll give you fourteen dollars for both of them."

The man was grateful for the gift. Jim took a minute to talk with him, 
listen to his story, and give him the money and a little booklet explaining 
the
gospel.

Like everyone else you know rich or poor, what the young man on the bike 
needed more than anything was the message in the little book, but it's 
easier
to hear the gospel when you don't have to listen over the noise of an empty 
stomach.

Jim and Bea gave away more than they saved on their discount gas, but that 
winter evening they made an investment that will pay off in eternity.

It's Christmastime again. See the world though the eyes of your heart.

Ken Pierpont, Riverview, Michigan

Announcement:

Are you frustrated with an ineffective prayer life? God does answer prayers, 
my friend. Why don't you come to
Answers2Prayer
and discover the power of prayer for yourself?

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

Eight Tiny Reindeer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Dean W. Masters
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Sometimes It Takes Two Christmas Trees
by Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com Contributor

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day 
of Christ Jesus.
Phil. 1:6, NIV

If you want to put up your Christmas tree one more time again this year, 
raise your hand.

I didn't think so. And I didn't want to put up my trusty, artificial 
Christmas tree again this year either, but I had to. You see, when I put up 
my first
tree right after Thanksgiving, I knew that the rigging I had done to make 
sure the top half of the tree stayed in place was on its last leg and that I
would need to break down and purchase a new tree next year.

But then something funny happened on the way to December 25. A couple of 
days later, the top half just fell off. As in, completely toppled over and 
onto
my living room floor. For a second, I thought about just abandoning having a 
Christmas tree at all this year. I was frustrated and had already put in so
much effort. Why go through this whole rigmarole again in the very same 
week?

But something in me wouldn't give up. I WILL have a Christmas tree, I 
thought. And I'll find a way and the time to get a replacement tree bought 
and decorated
this week!

So I regrouped, purchased another tree and started all over again. Now, what 
I don't enjoy about putting up my tree is the unfurling of all of the 
branches
that have been smashed up in the tree's box. And then even more unenjoyable 
than that is when I have to wrap the lights around the tree. The fake 
needles
and branches scratch up my hands as I'm pushing lights into all of the nooks 
and crannies. It stings my skin, but I do it so that there's a beautiful 
glowy
backdrop for all of my ornaments.

Once I get past all of that, then I actually do enjoy putting up my 
Christmas tree. First, I put the tree skirt in its place. Next, I lace 
around the sparkly
garland. And then, since I have multiples of many ornaments (glass icicles, 
dangling bells, painted balls, etc.), I strategically place them first so 
that
not all of one type of ornament is having its own holiday gathering on one 
branch of the tree. After I've done all of that, then I can place the 
one-of-a-kind
ornaments here and there, pop the tree topper on the tree top and Christmas 
is good to go.

So then, there was great rejoicing when the Christmas tree was completed 
(and no, that's not a
Bible
verse). I just love looking at this beautiful creation. And to see it 
sparkle and glow... well, it makes for something glorious in my home.

Perhaps that's how the Father feels when he looks at us, his divine 
creations. How many times has he had to pick us back up when we've toppled 
over our
lives? Or unwind the tangled mess we've made because of our disobedience to 
him? Somehow, in his great love, he never gives up on us. Because Jesus made
a way for us to come to the Father, God is faithful and continually works to 
make us radiant and pleasing to him.

I'm thankful God doesn't tire of putting me back together each and every day 
of the year. In fact, if I know him, and I do, I think even if it took 
putting
up a gazillion Christmas trees that he will never tire of working in our 
lives so that we might glorify him.

Intersecting
Faith
& Life: How has the Father shown you his kindness, his patience and the ways 
that he is long-suffering toward you this year? Thank him for the gift of
his Son this Christmas and that because of the LORD's great love we are not 
consumed (Lam. 3:22).

Further Reading:

John 1:3-4, NIV

Where is Your Joy?
by Debbie Holloway, Crosswalk.com Contributor

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. Today in the town of David a 
Savior has
been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.†–
Luke 2:10-11

The winter season can be bleak for many. Students are preoccupied with their 
work. Others become easily stressed with the pressure to plan (and cook for)
family gatherings associated with the various winter holidays. Some of us 
even struggle with S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder), a medical condition 
where
melancholy and sorrow creep up, due in part to the lack of sunshine.

There is something special, then, about the coming of spring. About seeing 
daffodils peek their yellow heads above the ground for the first time.

I imagine the Jews of Jesus’ day longed for the spring of the Lord’s favor. 
No word from the Lord had come for a long time. Jews were living under a 
powerful,
pagan Roman government. While the people were not necessarily miserable or 
oppressed, their joy perhaps had worn a little thin. They no doubt pined for
something better.

Imagine, next, the Shepherds who were visited by Angels on the night of 
Christ’s birth. The hum-drum of their evening duties, perhaps even their 
sleep,
was interrupted in a big way.

And the glory of the Lord shone around them.

And they were terrified.

But the terror was short lived, of course. What terror can stand against 
such amazing, incredible, joy?

A savior has been born to you.

"Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord 
has told us about" they exclaimed (Luke 2:15).

Is it any wonder that the third candle of Advent, the Joy candle, is called 
The Shepherd’s Candle? Perhaps no other figure in the nativity story was 
blessed
to receive such unblemished, unmitigated joy as the shepherds were. There 
they were, pegging away like every other day, when – for no reason other 
than
God’s favor – they were given the gift of joy. They were shown the Messiah, 
their looked-for Messiah, and had glimpsed into that eagerly-awaited spring
of the Lord’s favor.

This season, as Christmas edges ever closer, let us remember this joy. We 
too await another awakening: the Lord’s second coming. We continue to fight 
through
the pangs and groaning of a world which continually gives birth to sin. But, 
in this season, let us remember the Incarnation with as much joy as did 
those
first witnesses.
A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but 
when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a 
child
is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will 
see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your 
joy John 16:21-22

Intersecting
Faith
and Life: Is your joy in Christ such that no one can take it away? If not, 
take some time to meditate on God’s gift of an incarnated Christ to the 
world.

Further Reading:

Luke 2
Psalms 16
1 Peter 4:13

Anne Graham Lotz - Faith in the God of Creation!
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Faith in the God of Creation!
Sing praises on the harp to our God, who covers the heavens with clouds, who 
prepares rain for the earth.

Psalm 147:7-8, NKJV

Although God was actively involved throughout the Creation process, in the 
beginning the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface 
of
the deep (Gen. 1:2,NIV). If you and I had been present at that time to view 
the earth, we might have had the impression that because we could not see
any evidence of God's activity, He was not doing anything. Yet at that very 
time, the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Gen. 1:2, NIV). He
was actively preparing Planet Earth to receive His Word and be transformed 
into a place of beauty and purpose.

Are you concerned for a friend whose life is like the surface of the deep
undulating, unstable, always changing, and moody? Even though you have 
prayed
without ceasing, have you seen no evidence of God's activity in that person's 
life? Have you therefore concluded that God is not active? Place your faith
in the God of Creation and be encouraged! He is active whether or not you 
and I can see evidence of His activity.
Blessings,

Copyright © 2015 AnGeL Ministries, All rights reserved.

Love Worth Finding Ministries

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Would You Turn Down a Pardon?

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“For this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the 
remission of sins.”
Matthew 26:28

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
In 1829 George Wilson was adjudicated guilty and given the death sentence 
for murder. But Wilson had some friends who petitioned President Andrew
Jackson for a pardon.

Jackson granted the pardon, and it was brought to prison and given to 
Wilson. To everyone’s surprise, Wilson said, “I am going to hang.”

There had never been a refusal to a pardon, so the courts didn’t know what 
to do. Discussion went all the way to the Supreme Court, and Justice John
Marshall gave this ruling: “A pardon is a piece of paper, the value of which 
depends upon the acceptance by the person implicated. If he does not accept
the
pardon, then he must be executed.”

God loves you and wants to pardon you, but if you refuse Him, you will die 
and go to hell. Cast yourself upon Him completely, and receive the free gift
of His
forgiveness today.

ACTION POINT:
Have you repented of your sin and believed upon the atoning work of Christ’s 
blood on the cross? Being good doesn’t get you to heaven. It is only Jesus.
|
Today's Message

Devotions taken from the messages of Adrian Rogers.

© 2014 Love Worth Finding Ministries | PO Box 38300 - Memphis, TN 38183-0300

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.

Life and Death at Christmas

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may 
have life and have it abundantly.”
(John 10:10)

As I was about to begin this devotional, I received word that Marion 
Newstrum had just died. Marion and her husband Elmer have been part of 
Bethlehem longer
than most of our members have been alive. She was 87. They had been married 
64 years.

When I spoke to Elmer and told him I wanted him to be strong in the Lord and 
not give up on life, he said, “He has been a true friend.” I pray that all
Christians will be able to say at the end of life, “Christ has been a true 
friend.”

Each Advent I mark the anniversary of my mother’s death. She was cut off in 
her 56th year in a bus accident in Israel. It was December 16, 1974. Those
events are incredibly real to me even today. If I allow myself, I can easily 
come to tears — for example, thinking that my sons never knew her. We buried
her the day after Christmas. What a precious Christmas it was!

Many of you will feel your loss this Christmas more pointedly than before. 
Don’t block it out. Let it come. Feel it. What is love for, if not to 
intensify
our affections — both in life and death? But, O, do not be bitter. It is 
tragically self-destructive to be bitter.

Jesus came at Christmas that we might have eternal life. “I came that they 
might have life, and have it abundantly” (
John 10:10).
Elmer and Marion had discussed where they would spend their final years. 
Elmer said, “Marion and I agreed that our final home would be with the 
Lord.”

Do you feel restless for home? I have family coming home for the holidays. 
It feels good. I think the bottom line reason for why it feels good is that
they and I are destined in the depths of our being for an ultimate 
Homecoming. All other homecomings are foretastes. And foretastes are good.

Unless they become substitutes. O, don’t let all the sweet things of this 
season become substitutes of the final great, all-satisfying Sweetness. Let 
every
loss and every delight send your hearts a-homing after heaven.

Christmas. What is it but this: I came that they might have life? Marion 
Newstrum, Ruth Piper, and you and I — that we might have Life, now and 
forever.

Make your Now the richer and deeper this Christmas by drinking at the 
fountain of Forever. It is so near.
Copyright Information

This devotional is written by John Piper. For more information about Piper's 
ministry, writing, and books, visit DesiringGod.org.


Turning Christmas Chaos Into Christmas Joy
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying 
in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what
had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at 
what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and 
pondered
them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for 
all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told
(
Luke 2:16-20,
NIV).

Friend to Friend
According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 110 million 
Americans take medication for stress-related causes each week. During the 
holiday
season, another one million people battle what experts refer to as the 
holiday blues.

I am very familiar with depression and the pain it holds and must constantly 
battle to stay out of that pit.

To deal with depression, we must first come to a place of total surrender to 
God and His plan of healing, even if we cannot see or understand that plan.
The bottom line of God’s heart toward His children is always restoration and 
healing.

While I am not a big fan of television, I do enjoy watching home improvement 
shows. On a recent program, an interior decorator and homeowner were 
discussing
a list of changes that needed to be made in order to update the home.

“First, we have to do something about those windows,” the decorator 
announced. I was surprised that she listed this task first – until I saw the 
house.

The existing glass was not only an ugly shade of gold, but it was thick and 
chunky as well. The windows let in no light and made it virtually impossible
to see in or out. The result was a dark isolated home. The distressed 
homeowner protested, “But I like my privacy. And if I thought anyone could 
see in,
I would feel totally exposed.” When it comes to dealing with depression, 
many people feel the same way.

We construct walls over which no one can climb because the cost of 
friendship is too high. We fill the windows of our soul with emotional 
excuses in order
to avoid dealing with pain. The result is darkness, loneliness, and missed 
opportunities for restoration. We don’t want to understand depression or 
find
the treasures of that darkness; we simply want to be rid of it.

Many people try to understand and deal with depression on a surface level – 
refusing to face painful experiences, difficult relationships, and the 
broken
places where darkness lives. We look for the nearest exit, hoping to bypass 
transparency because the price is just too high to pay.

Emotional integrity is an essential step to dealing with depression. We must 
be real before we can be right. Until we are willing to risk being 
transparent,
we can neither understand nor effectively deal with depression during the 
holidays or any other time of the year.

The holidays seem to tug at the masks we carefully hold in place and push 
the emotional buttons we desperately try to hide. The arrival of certain 
family
members can resurrect painful issues that have never really been resolved. 
Financial pressure opens up like a sinkhole, waiting to steal our joy and 
destroy
our peace. Schedules demand every ounce of energy, and false expectations 
leave us empty and hollow. The dark slimy pit waits for us to fall in.

We can choose to make this Christmas different. Choose to give God praise. 
Choose to focus on the victories and joys you have experienced during the 
year,
and then find ways to share that victory and joy with others.

Christmas can be a true celebration of fresh starts and new beginnings if we 
choose to focus on a tiny baby born in a manger, come to save us and give
us true life. The darkness can be destroyed if we choose to face and deal 
with whatever it holds.

Right now, choose an attitude of joy by focusing your mind on the things of 
heaven – not earth, and by fixing your heart on Jesus Christ. Your Christmas
chaos will turn into Christmas joy!

Let’s Pray
Father, I want this holiday season to be filled with light instead of 
darkness. Please help me discard my emotional masks and be real before You 
as well
as my family and friends. Father, help me make this holiday season an 
offering of praise to You.

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.
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Post  Admin on Thu 17 Dec 2015, 7:20 pm

New post on Chocolate & God

Share This Wonderful Time Of The Year With Someone
by  Dean Masters

Luke 6:38
Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken 
together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the 
measure you
use, it will be measured to you.

I absolutely love this time of year! The Christmas story just blesses my 
heart as much now as it did when I was little! There is just something so 
warm
and inviting about the story of Jesus birth that makes me feel like I do on 
a cold day sitting at home snuggled up on the couch with a fire in the 
fireplace!

One of the things I enjoy the most at Christmas time is taking the time to 
do something for someone else. There are so many ways to show God’s love 
this
time of year, even if it is as simple as buying someone’s gas at the pump or 
maybe seeing a single mom in the grocery store and asking a clerk that you
are comfortable with to give her an anonymous gift card to bless her, there’s 
the shoebox gifts that many churches get involved with, plus many more I
am sure in your area. When you are at the drive thru, consider paying for 
the car behind you. Maybe you could take some Christmas cookies to a lonely 
elderly person.

Maybe you are the one in need, please don’t allow pride or anything else to 
get in the way of someone having the opportunity to bless you. God promises
to take care of the widows and the Fatherless but He uses people to do that 
most of the time when it comes to earthly types of blessings so don’t shut
the door on Him this Christmas season.

Today I would challenge you to find a way to bless someone for Christmas. It 
doesn’t have to be something grandiose, do what you can. Pray about it and
ask God what He would have you do. Then, I would like to encourage you to 
show God's love all year round by doing your random acts of kindness!

Quote:
Do what you can with what you have, where you are.†Theodore Roosevelt
admin

Jesus is for People who Hate Christmas
by Stephen Altrogge

Don't get me wrong, I really do like Christmas. I like getting together with 
my family to open presents and sit around the tree and watch reruns of 
Seinfeld
and The Andy Griffith Show. I'm happy when it snows on Christmas. I like 
seeing tastefully decorated houses. Heck, I even like some Christmas music 
(don't
get me started on “Mary Did You Know?).

But Christmas often brings out the gloomy side of me as well. Im reminded 
of one of my favorite families who, because of cancer, no longer has a dad 
around
the house. I'm reminded of some of my favorite people who, after many years 
of patiently waiting, are still single. Im reminded of my sister, who has
been dealing with migraine headaches for years without much relief. Im 
reminded of my own ongoing battles with intense physical anxiety.

After the tree is down and the wrapping paper put away and the music 
silenced and the egg nog polished off, all the problems still remain. I 
think one
of the reasons we cling so tightly to Christmas is that it helps us forget 
about our problems for awhile. For a few, brief days, everything seems as it
should be. We long for a white Christmas because the snow covers up all the 
mud and muck.

My propensity toward Christmas gloom is one of the reasons I am so grateful 
for Jesus. Not in a “Jesus is the reason for the season, kind of way, but
in a, Jesus is a holy warrior kind of way.

This morning I was reading in
Matthew 8-9.
In these chapters Jesus cleanses a leper, heals a centurion's servant, heals 
Peter's mother-in-law, calms a storm, drives demons out of two raving 
madmen,
heals a paralytic, raises a girl from the dead, heals two blind men, and 
heals a man who is unable to speak. In the comments section of The Gospel 
Transformation
Bible it says:

Wherever Jesus goes he brings the reign of God, and where God reigns, the 
invisible powers of the universe in rebellion against him are banished and 
left
powerless to do anyone ultimate harm. Since believers are united with 
Christ, they share Christs victory over evil.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the true meaning of Christmas. Wherever Jesus 
goes he brings the reign of God! Christmas is ultimately about the kingdom
of God coming to this sad, broken, sin-marred world. Christmas is ultimately 
about a baby who would grow into a mighty warrior a warrior who would crush
Satan, undo sadness, defeat death, and ensure that it would be always 
Christmas and never winter.

Listen closely. For just a moment, tune out the Christmas music and 
television commercials. Do you hear that slow creaking and cracking noise? 
It's the
sound of Satan's skull being slowly crushed underneath the foot of our 
conquering Savior. Now we suffer. Now we experience cancer and migraines and 
anxiety
and singleness and sadness and loneliness and poverty. Now we are afflicted 
by sin and Satan and our flesh. But not always.

Ultimately, Christmas should give the most hope to those who hate Christmas. 
Things won't always be this way. As it says in
1 John 3:8,
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
Those are such sweet words. Christmas is a celebration of war! Jesus himself
has declared open season on Satan. He came to destroy all the works of the 
evil one. He came to wipe away tears and heal broken bodies and lift up 
despondent
hearts and drive out fear and destroy loneliness.

If you're feeling gloomy, take heart. Jesus is for those who hate Christmas.

Stephen Altrogge serves as a pastor at
Sovereign Grace Church.
Find out more at The Blazing Center.

He Loves to Hear

Acts 9:11

Prayers are instantly noticed in heaven. The moment Saul began to pray, the 
Lord heard him. Here is comfort for the distressed but praying soul. When 
our
hearts are broken and we bow in prayer, we are often only able to employ the 
language of sighs and tears; still our groaning has made all the harps of
heaven thrill with music.

That tear has been caught by God and treasured in the receptacle of heaven. 
"Put my tears in your bottle"1 implies that they are caught as they flow. 
The
petitioner, whose fears prevent his words, will be well understood by the 
Most High. He may only look up with misty eye; but "prayer is the falling of
a tear."

Tears are the diamonds of heaven; sighs are a part of the music of Jehovah's 
court and are numbered with "the sublimest strains that reach the majesty
on high." Do not think that your prayer, however weak or trembling, will be 
unregarded.

Jacob's ladder is lofty, but our prayers shall lean upon the Angel of the 
covenant and so climb its starry rounds.

Our God not only hears prayer but also loves to hear it.

He does not forget the cry of the humble. True, He does not regard high 
looks and lofty words; He does not care for the pomp and pageantry of kings; 
He
does not listen to the drums of war; He does not regard the triumph and 
pride of man.

But wherever there is a heart enlarged with sorrow or a lip quivering with 
agony or a deep groan or a penitential sigh, the heart of Jehovah is open.

He marks it down in the registry of His memory; He puts our prayers, like 
rose leaves, between the pages of His book of remembrance, and when at last 
the
volume is opened, there will be a precious fragrance springing from it.

Faith asks no signal from the skies,
To show that prayers accepted rise.
Our Priest is in His holy place,
And answers from the throne of grace.

1 Psalm 56:8

Family
Bible
reading plan

verse 1 2 Kings 16

verse 2 Titus 2

Honest Evangelism: How to Talk About Jesus Even When It’s Tough

The changes taking place in Western cultures are both discouraging to
Christians
and, ironically, encouraging. More precisely, most of the changes themselves 
are discouraging, but they are calling forth a different set of changes that
are encouraging. The discouraging changes are easy to list. Rising biblical 
illiteracy means that there is less and less cultural consensus around 
things
like the Ten Commandments. Honor is an old-fashioned word, easily mocked; 
truth is increasingly flexible; the lust for power, success, and money has 
become
more and more transparent and unchecked; dignity is old-fashioned; cruelty 
and vengeance are sometimes depicted as virtues.

Short, clear, realistic and humorous, this book will challenge you to be 
honest in your conversations about Jesus, help you to know how to talk about 
him,
and thrill you that God can and will use ordinary people to change eternal 
destinies.

LightSource.com Featured Ministry
Kay Arthur Precepts for Life
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Post  Admin on Wed 16 Dec 2015, 7:49 pm

UpWords from Max Lucado

God Uses Failures by Max Lucado

What was I thinking taking this job? I should have done better. It’s all my 
fault. The voices—you’ve heard them all. When you lost your job, flunked the
exam, or when your marriage went south…when you failed. The voices began to 
howl, laughing at you. You heard them and you joined them. You disqualified
yourself and berated yourself. You sentenced yourself to hard labor in the 
Leavenworth of poor self-worth. Oh, the voices of failure. Failure finds us
all.

But God’s Word is written for failures. It’s full of folks who were 
foul-ups. David was a failure, yet God used him. Jonah was in the belly of a 
fish and
God heard his prayer. Perfect people? No. Perfect messes? You bet! A 
surprising and welcome discovery of the
Bible
is this: God uses failures! Miss this truth and you miss your Glory Days. 
God’s grace is greater than your failures.

From
Glory Days

The Help of God in Every Step
Donald Macleod / November 7, 2015
The Help of God in Every Step

Dark shadows fall over the closing pages of John’s Gospel. For our Lord 
himself, there is the shadow of the cross; for the disciples, the shadow of 
his
imminent departure.

He is leaving them to return to the Father, and they are utterly distraught. 
It is to this distress that Jesus addresses the words of John 16:7: “It is
to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will 
not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

The words make two remarkable points. First, unless he goes away “the 
Helper” will not come. There is a divine order in the work of redemption, 
and in
terms of that order there can be no Pentecost before Calvary. It is not 
simply that without the cross neither the disciples nor the Helper would 
have any
witness to bear. There is a deeper reason: Only when Christ has redeemed us 
from the curse of the law can we receive the promised Spirit (Galatians 
3:14).

Before there can be communion, there must be reconciliation. But the 
converse is also true. Wherever Christ redeems, the Spirit ministers. This 
is why
salvation can never be merely an external imputation of Christ’s 
righteousness. It is also profoundly inward. Wherever the blood is 
sprinkled, the Spirit
transforms.

To Your Advantage

But then Jesus adds a second remarkable word: “It is to your advantage that 
I go away.” This was the last thing the disciples wanted to hear. What could
he mean?

We all know the sentiment, “If only we could have been with him when he 
walked the hills of Galilee and strode the streets of Jerusalem!” But what 
if,
when he walked those hills, we happened to be in Jericho, or Brazil? The 
incarnate Lord could not be in two places at once. But this is exactly what 
the
coming of the Helper makes possible. Wherever we are, he is with us.

The word “Helper” (Greek parakletos) means, literally, one called to be 
beside us, but Jesus also spoke of him as being with us and even of his 
being in
us. These words bespeak a remarkable intimacy between believers and the Holy 
Spirit. True, we see Jesus no more. But in place of that external presence,
we now have an inner presence. We never walk alone. Whether on great 
missionary journeys, or languishing in prison cells, or fighting our own 
personal
battles, the Helper is always beside us, always with us, and always in us.

But not as a replacement for Christ, as if he went away when the Spirit 
comes. Remember the words of John 14:18: “I will not leave you as orphans; I 
will
come to you.” This cannot mean only that the disciples would see him again 
in his resurrection appearances. If that were all, then Christians would 
indeed
be “orphans” for the whole period between Jesus’s ascension and his return. 
The truth, surely, is that in the Helper, Jesus himself comes.

He Is with You Always

This is what the church later expressed in the doctrine called perichōrēsis: 
The three persons of the Trinity indwell and embrace each other so closely
that where One is, the Three are (a doctrine based on Jesus’s own words in 
John 14:10, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”). The Spirit is the
Spirit of his Son; where his Spirit is, he is; and it is thus that Jesus 
fulfills his promise to be present with his church every day to the end of 
the
age (Matthew 28:20).

Nor is this all. The Father, too, is with us. Here again the intimacy is 
remarkable: “If anyone loves me,” declared Jesus, “my Father will love him, 
and
we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). The we is 
breath-taking. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit now live in the heart of 
every
believer. Christ is no longer visibly present to us, but through the 
indwelling Spirit the triune God is with us every step of the way.

He Is a Person

What of the Helper himself? He is clearly distinct from Jesus, yet his work 
is a continuation of Jesus’s work. This is why the Lord calls him “another
Helper,” and why John can later call Jesus himself a Helper (1 John 2:1). 
This underlines the fact that the Spirit, no less than Jesus, is a person, 
not
some abstract force or mere spiritual fuel; and because he is a person, our 
relationship with him must also be personal.

He does not possess us, as demons possessed demoniacs, or overwhelm us, 
depriving us of the use of our own minds and wills. Nor are we absorbed into 
him,
as in some great mystical ocean. Nor is he an intoxicant (Ephesians 5:18), 
destroying our self-control and giving us drug-like highs. He guides, 
teaches,
witnesses, advocates, helps, encourages, strengthens, intercedes, and 
assures. And he expects us to listen, obey, follow and, above all, to keep 
in step
(Galatians 5:25).

He Is Your Advocate

The word parakletos usually meant an advocate, and this applies to the Holy 
Spirit in two distinct ways.

First, he is Christ’s advocate in the world (John 16:8–11). The disciples 
(and the church) were given a daunting commission: the evangelization of the
world. But how can we convince the world of its need of salvation? How can 
we convince it that one who died an ignominious death is its appointed 
Savior?
And how can we convince it that every man will one day stand before his 
judgement seat?

The short answer is that we cannot. The relief is that the Holy Spirit can. 
He can convict the world. He can stand up for Christ and his witnesses, and
then our poor, lisping, stammering tongues become words of life and power.

Secondly, he is Christ’s advocate in our hearts. He shall glorify me, says 
Jesus (John 16:14), by sharing with us his own vision of the beauty of the 
Savior.
The Spirit sees Christ through the Father’s eyes (John 16:13). A believer 
sees him through the Spirit’s eyes.

He Is Your Helper

Still, there is a warmth in Jesus’s promise which the word “advocate” cannot 
convey. Remember that his words were addressed to the disciples’ fear of 
being
left friendless and helpless. The comfort is that when he goes, he will send 
another who will stand by them and stand up for them, just as he has done.
Far from being orphans, they have a Father in heaven, and through his Spirit 
he will provide for them as only a heavenly Father can.

Yet the mission of the Helper does not mean that there is no further place 
for hope, as if we already enjoyed all that God intends for his children. We
still long to see him (1 John 3:2). And completeness comes not with 
Pentecost, or with Spirit-baptism, but only in the glory of the 
resurrection.
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O Come, O Come Emmanuel
John Piper / December 12, 2015
O Come, O Come Emmanuel

This translation of an anonymous Latin hymn doubles as a prayer for the 
first and second coming of Christ. It takes us into the mind of old Israel, 
longing
for the first coming of the Messiah. And it goes beyond that longing by 
voicing the yearning of the church of Christ for the Messiah, Jesus Christ, 
to
consummate the history of redemption.

This makes the carol especially apt for advent. In the weeks leading up to 
Christmas we put ourselves in the shoes of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and
all the pre-Christian saints. We ponder the promises. We strain to see the 
dawn of salvation. But we know that when it comes, the waiting will not be 
over.

When Emmanuel arrives — when the Day-spring rises — we learn that redemption 
has only begun. To be sure, it is a magnificent only. The final blood is 
shed.
The debt is paid. Forgiveness is purchased. God’s wrath is removed. Adoption 
is secured. The down-payment is in the bank. The first-fruits of harvest are
in the barn. The future is sure. The joy is great. But the end is not yet.

Death still snatches away. Disease still makes us miserable. Calamity still 
strikes. Satan still prowls. Flesh still wars against the Spirit. Sin still
indwells. And we still “groan, awaiting our adoption, the redemption of our 
bodies” (Romans 8:23). We still “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus 
Christ”
(1 Corinthians 1:7). We still wait for final “deliverance from the wrath to 
come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). We still “wait for the hope of righteousness”
(Galatians 5:5). The longing continues.

Still Longing at Christmas

The common tune by Thomas Helmore (1854) captures the plaintive mood of 
longing. It is not the same as the exuberant, “Joy to the world, the Lord 
has come,”
or the vigorous and bounding, “Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the 
newborn King.” It is an excellent musical match to the mood of the song. 
Longing.
Aching. Yearning. Hoping.

The Christian life oscillates between these two poles — the overflowing joy 
of the “already” redeemed (Ephesians 1:7), and the tearful yearning of the
not-yet redeemed (Ephesians 4:30). Not that we ever leave the one or the 
other in this life. We are always “sorrowful yet rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 
6:10).

It is good to have Christmas Carols that capture both dimensions of life.

My guess is that, as we move toward Christmas, most Christians experience 
sadness and excitement. We must never let the sadness ruin the simple joy of
the children. Most of them have not lived long enough to suffer. Let them 
see as much brightness as they can in Jesus. But, on the other hand, let’s 
not
think that advent must be all jolly and jingle bells.

The Serious Sorrow in Our Joy

About 3.7 million people will die during advent worldwide, half a million of 
them children. About 105 persons every minute. Most of them without hope.
A tiny fraction of these make the news — like a some victims of terrorism. 
The vast majority groan and die unknown except to a few close at hand. Such
sorrows touch every Christian. We know someone who is dying, not to mention 
the hundred miseries that make living hard.

It is a wonderful thing that there are Christmas carols that are written for 
the real world of sorrowful joy, as well as the real world of exuberant joy.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel is one of them. You can hear it in the “O” that 
begins ever verse: “O come, Emmanuel,” “O come, Rod of Jesse.” “O come, 
Day-spring.”
“O come, Key of David.” “O come, Desire of nations.” This is the “O” of 
longing.

Emmanuel’s Names

And every name for Jesus is full of hope.

• As Emmanuel (Isaiah 8:8) — “God with us” — he will pay the ransom that 
only a God-man can pay.
• As Rod of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), springing from a dead stump, he will free 
his people, by death and resurrection, from Satan’s tyranny, and make them 
free
forever.
• As the Day-spring (Luke 1:78) — the dawn of God’s Kingdom — he will be the 
light of the world, and banish the hopelessness of darkness.
• As the Key of David (Isaiah 22:2), he rescues us of hell, locks the door 
behind us, unlocks the door of heaven, and brings us home.
• And as the Desire of nations (Haggai 2:7), he will draw the ransomed from 
every people and make them a kingdom of peace.

This is who Jesus is. This is what he already achieved and will complete. 
And so with every verse, the refrain reaches down musically into our weak 
hearts
and pull us up, in faith, to see the certainty of the end.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Artistically, the rhythm of plaintive longing in the verses, punctuated with 
powerful bursts of joy in the refrain, are, to my mind, just about perfect.
The mystery and the wonder of Christian living are captured. Sorrowful, yet 
always rejoicing. Already. But not yet. Fulfillment of glorious promises —
yes! But consummation in the new earth with new bodies and no sin — not yet. 
We are left confident, but still crying out: “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”
Copyright © 2015 Desiring God, all rights reserved

Anne Graham Lotz - A Sacrificial Sacrifice
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A Sacrificial Sacrifice
Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well 
pleased.

Hebrews 13:16, NKJV

Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus was the honored guest at a feast held 
in one of His favorite homes, presumably to celebrate the new life of His 
friend
Lazarus. While Jesus, along with Lazarus and other guests, was reclining at 
the dinner table, Lazarus’s sister, Mary, entered the room with an alabaster
box. The box contained very expensive perfume – equal to a year’s wages – 
that would have been her dowry. Mary took the box of perfume that 
represented
her future hopes and dreams, broke it, and poured it on the head of Jesus. 
When she was criticized by those in the room as being exceedingly wasteful,
Jesus sharply rebuked them while gently praising her for a beautiful act of 
sacrificial worship.

How extravagant is your sacrifice to God? Do you give God as little as you 
think you can get by with? A little bit of energy and effort when you’re not
too tired? A little bit of time you have no use for? A little bit of money 
you don’t really need yourself? A sacrifice is not a sacrifice until it’s a
sacrifice!

Blessings,
Copyright © 2015 AnGeL Ministries, All rights reserved.

Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:

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

By Answers2Prayer
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The Most Exciting Adventure of All

One year when I was in college my friend and I decided to skip the crowds 
going to the beaches for Spring break and instead go skiing at a local 
resort.
It sounded like an exciting adventure to both of us. There was only one flaw 
in our plan, however. Neither one of us knew how to ski. We spent the first
day there then falling over and over, trying to gain our balance and learn 
how to ski on the children's slopes. Finally, by the end of the day we 
started
to get the hang of it and began to head down the snow covered hills a little 
better.

Just as I was beginning to enjoy the feeling of zooming down the icy 
hillsides another skier accidentally cut in front of me. Instinctively, I 
turned to
the left and found myself headed straight for a tree. They say your life 
flashes before your eyes in times like these and mine certainly did.

One thing I realized too was that I didn't want it to end so soon. With no 
other choice I fell hard and rolled in the snow with my skis in the air.

Laying there bruised and covered in snow I realized that skiing down 
mountains, sky diving, base jumping, and driving race cars weren't my type 
of adventures.
I preferred sipping hot chocolate by a fireplace, walking in the woods, 
reading a good book, and talking with a friend. It was good thing to know 
and I
was happy I didn't have to break a leg to learn it.

Over the years too I found that the most exciting adventure of all in this 
life is simply loving each other. No other adventure brings you as much joy.
No other adventure brings you as much peace. No other adventure brings you 
closer to God. Don't be afraid then to participate in this exciting 
adventure
of love. Ski the course. Throw open your heart. Share your smiles, your 
talents, and your kindness. Build others up instead of bringing them down. 
Live
your life with so much love and light that God smiles and the angels sing.

Joseph J. Mazzella

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No Detour from Calvary

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave 
birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him
in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
(Luke 2:6–7)

Now you would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide 
census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, he surely could have seen to
it that a room was available in the inn.

Yes, he could have. And Jesus could have been born into a wealthy family. He 
could have turned stone into bread in the wilderness. He could have called
10,000 angels to his aid in Gethsemane. He could have come down from the 
cross and saved himself. The question is not what God could do, but what he 
willed
to do.

God’s will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake he became 
poor. The “No Vacancy” signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your 
sake.
“For your sake he became poor” (
2 Corinthians 8:9).

God rules all things — even motel capacities — for the sake of his children. 
The Calvary road begins with a “No Vacancy” sign in Bethlehem and ends with
the spitting and scoffing of the cross in Jerusalem.

And we must not forget that he said, “He who would come after me must deny 
himself and take up his cross.”

We join him on the Calvary road and hear him say, “Remember the word that I 
said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted
me, they will persecute you” (
John 15:20).

To the one who calls out enthusiastically, “I will follow you wherever you 
go!” Jesus responds, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but
the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Yes, God could have seen to it that Jesus have a room at his birth. But that 
would have been a detour off the Calvary road.
Copyright Information

This devotional is written by John Piper. For more information about Piper's 
ministry, writing, and books, visit DesiringGod.org.

Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:

"I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should 
not abide in darkness." (John 12:46)

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Birthday Candles

Throughout my ministry, Christmas Eve was always a high point of the year, 
and some years, I put a lot of effort into developing a themed script, 
illustrated
with projected slides. After the children portrayed the nativity story, we 
would light candles symbolizing Jesus as the light of the world and our task
to represent Him as lights in the world. Then we would sing "Silent Night".

So, early in December, one of my jobs was to buy enough candles for the 
120 - 140 people in attendance. So there I was, one year, checking out at 
the grocery
store with a full display box containing a dozen boxes of birthday candles.

"You want all these?" The clerk asked.

"Yes, they're for a Christmas Eve Service," I said.

"Oh," she replied, "it isn't for someone's birthday."

"Yes, it is," I said. "It's Christ's birthday!"

Then a fellow behind me in the line said, "Well, you haven't got enough!"

Imagine a birthday cake with more than 2000 candles!

How amazing it is that after 2000 years, we still celebrate Jesus' birthday. 
But how easy it is to get so caught up in our Christmas traditions and 
busyness
that we forget the fact that Christmas is Jesus' birthday. Imagine holding a 
big birthday party and not remembering to invite the birthday person! To 
consciously
include Christ, what gift will we give Him? Will it be to forgive someone 
that we've held a grudge against? Or maybe to extend unconditional love 
towards
someone whom we find it hard to love? Or perhaps we might even pledge 
obedience to Jesus, who lived and died to pay the penalty for our sins, and 
rose
again to give us eternal life, a relationship with God that will go on 
forever. Let's make this a special Christmas and truly celebrate Jesus' 
birthday.
It could even include a cake with a white candle and singing "Happy 
birthday, dear Jesus!"

Prayer: Our birthdays are always special times of celebration, Lord, and 
Your birthday is an extra-special one. May we accord to You all the honour 
due
unto Your holy name! Amen.

Robin Ross
Mission, British Columbia, Canada

World Challenge Pulpit Series
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Blade of Christ

by Gary Wilkerson | October 12, 2015

It was Jesus' final night with the disciples and he knew his
time was short. They had just finished supper and Christ
wanted to impart to his friends one last teaching while on
earth. He summoned them, "Rise, let us go from here" (John
14:31, ESV) and led them on a walk. Along the way he gave
them this analogy:

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every
branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and
every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may
bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word
that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the
branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the
vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the
vine; you are the branches" (15:1-5).

What a lovely image summing up our relationship to the Son
and the Father. Jesus is the vine and we are branches
extending from him; he is the source of all life flowing
into us. Overseeing all of this life-flow is our heavenly
Father, the gardener who tends to our growth. Could there be
any more serene an image of our life in Christ?

Yet also embedded in this analogy is a different kind of
image: "Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes
away" (15:2). Many Christians flinch as they read this
verse. Nobody likes the thought of being "taken away" by God
if their life doesn't bear saintly fruit. To them, this
verse is reason enough to cling to performance-driven
religion, a system by which they can measure whether they're
bearing fruit. Yet is that really what Jesus is after here?

There is a lot to unpack in this one passage - and I can
assure you, all of it is good. The image I chose for the
title of this message - a blade - may seem on the surface to
be harsh or severe. But the blade I refer to is the
instrument of an expert gardener - our merciful,
compassionate, loving Lord. I want to explore the deep
beauty contained in this parting message he gave to his
church.

The first key to understanding this passage is Jesus' phrase
"true vine."

Christ is telling us he is more than a life source to us -
he's THE life source. Other "vines" may appear to promise
life but none contain true life as he does. Some Christians
seek life from other vines, sources that aren't legitimate
for any Christian and that destroy life. Others seek life
from sources that seem good and legitimate — ambition and
drive, success and comfort - but these vines in themselves
are lifeless. They can't produce true life. Jesus wants us
grafted firmly into him so that we may drink deeply of his
abundant life every day.

Moreover, when Jesus refers to himself as the "true" vine,
he's talking about more than accurate information. "True"
here carries the same sense as the phrase "true friend" -
meaning real, genuine, authentic, on hand to support you
with substance.

So what about the vinedresser, our heavenly Father? He tends
his garden lovingly and perfectly. It's his job to keep life
flowing through us, and he can be trusted to put the right
things into place to make them grow. Therefore, as we abide
in Christ, attached to the vine, we don't have to stress or
worry about our lives. We are given true life-flow from
Jesus and are caringly tended by our Father.

With this perfect vine system in place, how is it possible
for us not to bear fruit?

Jesus makes clear, "Every branch in me that does not bear
fruit he takes away" (John 15:2). How strange: If we're
grafted into the vine, shouldn't we bear fruit naturally? We
know we are saved and secure in Christ and graced by the
Father's love. How could fruit not come from this?

Again Jesus supplies the key word: "Abide in me, and I in
you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it
abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me"
(John 15:3- 4). Here is another phrase that sets off alarms
in a lot of Christians: "unless you abide in me." Some
followers grow fearful when they read this. They become
hyper-vigilant about how they "abide" in Jesus, creating
do's and don'ts that actually cut them off from true life.

It's true that Jesus' statement here is conditional, meaning
we have a part to play. But that's only half of his
statement. He completes it by saying, "Abide in me, and I in
you." The other part of the equation is this: Jesus abides
in us - and his presence in us is steadfast, stalwart,
immovable: "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews
13:5). When Christ says "unless you abide in me," he isn't
referring to our salvation. He's not saying we're saved one
day and lost the next based on how well we abide in him. Our
salvation was secured by him on the cross.

No, when Jesus says we are to abide in him, he's speaking of
the fruit of the Spirit in our lives - our witness, our
righteous walk, our joy and peace. "As the branch cannot
bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither
can you, unless you abide in me" (John 15:4).

As you read this, you may still object, "But Jesus says the
Father ‘takes away' those branches that don't bear fruit."
Yes, he does say those exact words in verse 2. Yet what did
Jesus mean by this statement? The word he uses for "takes
away" here is airo - meaning to lift up or elevate. This
tells us everything we need to know about branches that
don't bear fruit.

If you visit a vineyard, you'll notice vines wrapped around
wooden stakes. At the bottom of each stake, near the ground,
the vine is thick and strong. But as its branches grow
upward they're thin and tender. It's vital for those
branches to be kept off the soil, which is acidic and
contains bugs and debris that could damage or kill them.

Our heavenly Father is all about lifting up weak, drooping
branches that don't bear fruit. I'm talking about
compromised Christians who by weakness or willfulness have
fallen to the ground in sin. When the vinedresser sees these
branches, he kneels down, picks them up and restores them to
a higher place where they're safe and able to grow again.

Let me be absolutely clear: God is for you, not against you.
He wants you to be free from the things of this earth that
drag you down toward death. And he is ready at all times to
lift you from any mire of compromise or doublemindedness. He
wants to elevate you again to the high calling Christ has
prepared for you. That's the loving work of the vinedresser.

What happens to branches that do bear godly fruit?

So you've been lifted up by God, who has begun a new work in
you. You're a faithful follower who's happy in your walk
with Jesus. Your life has born the fruit of the Spirit,
which is clear to all who know you. What does Jesus say
about you in this analogy of the vine? Does God reward you
for bearing fruit? Does he throw a party for you? No, Jesus
says: "Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it
may bear more fruit" (John 15:2).

Christians who bear fruit get pruned. What? That's not what
most of us expect from a life of service to God. Deep down
most of us expect a reward. Isn't that fair after all?

What Jesus says here is counterintuitive and
countercultural. When I grew up, it was tough to get a
compliment for any achievement. Today, if a child merely
participates in a team sport, he or she is awarded a trophy.
Don't think I'm some bitter old guy who thinks he never got
his due; I'm all for the amazing support many parents give
their children today. But our society is starting to
discover a negative effect of coddling our children:

It teaches them to hate being corrected. When they're
celebrated for everything they do, they believe everything
they do is right.

This describes much of the church today. As Christians we
enjoy unconditional love but hate being corrected. In his
analogy of the vine, Jesus says our Father wants us to know
a deeper love than that of a coddling parent. Our loving God
says, in effect, "Yes, you're bearing good fruit, and that
pleases me. But I want to increase your joy of abundant
life. And I accomplish that by pruning you further."

"He prunes, that it may bear more fruit" (John 15:2). Most
of us do not get this concept. Kelly and I learned it the
hard way last year, when a gardener took a pruning blade to
our plants. We returned from a trip to find every green
thing in our yard reduced to nubs. Our beautiful garden
looked like the barren landscape of a lonely planet. We were
ready to fire the guy!

But when spring came this year, every plant had doubled its
blossoms. Each one had shot up faster and fuller, and what
was once clutter was now clean and beautiful with flowering
fruit. God's pruning work in our lives is like that. It
isn't easy on us - it's painful. And it isn't pretty - but
it yields glorious fruit that could not have come in any
other way.

God's grace not only saves us but also trains us.

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for
all people" (Titus 2:11). What great news: Paul extols God's
glorious grace which saves us - end of story! No, that's
hardly the end of the story. Paul quickly adds that this
same grace "train(s) us to renounce ungodliness" (2:12).

Paul is describing here what it means to abide in Christ. It
involves "renounc(ing) ungodliness and worldly passions, and
to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the
present age" (2:12). In other words, God's grace provides
not only eternal life but abundant life now, today. The part
we play by abiding in Christ leads to a blessed, godly,
peaceful life.

But Paul doesn't stop there. He instructs Titus boldly,
"Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority"
(2:15). Remember, Paul's subject in this passage is grace.
He's stating, in essence, "When grace is preached but it
doesn't train you to deny ungodliness, something is
missing." If we want to serve Jesus, we can't avoid
correction, whether it comes from God's Word or from our
respected friends. Yet we are also promised this about God's
corrective pruning: "Later it yields the peaceful fruit of
righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews
12:11).

His pruning is powerful - both in its pain and in its
glorious fruit. Do you lack peace? Have you drifted from the
vine, your source of life, to draw from other sources? Ask
God to take his pruning blade to your heart. He may cut,
clear and take away things that don't belong. And when he's
finished, the glorious tree in your yard may appear to be no
more than a stump. But what grows from that stump is fruit
you never could have imagined - and something you couldn't
have produced on your own.

Why a blade in this parting teaching from Jesus? He
explains, "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy
may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15:11).
"Full" indicates thorough, complete, powerful. What good,
true, beautiful parting words he gave to his disciples - and
they are manna for us today. God's cutting and pruning ends
up producing joy - all from the hand of the expert gardener
who loves us. Amen!

_______________________________________________
Copyright (c) 2015 - World Challenge, Inc.
P.O. Box 260, Lindale, Texas 75771, USA

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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