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  #451  
Old 12-01-2009, 03:08 AM
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Default Dec. 1

December 1, 2009

The Best Of Gifts

READ: John 1:10-13

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! —2 Corinthians 9:15

Having trouble selecting that perfect gift for someone? A friend shared with me a few suggestions:

• The gift of listening. No interrupting, no planning your response. Just listening.

• The gift of affection. Being generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, and pats on the back.

• The gift of laughter. Sharing funny stories and jokes. Your gift will say, “I love to laugh with you.”

• The gift of a written note. Expressing in a brief, handwritten note your appreciation or affection.

• The gift of a compliment. Sincerely saying, “You look great today” or “You are special” can bring a smile.

But as we begin this special month of celebration, why not pass on the best gift you’ve ever received? Share the fact that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:23). Or share this verse from John 1:12, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Remind others that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The best gift of all is Jesus Christ. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15). — Cindy Hess Kasper

The greatest Gift that has ever been given
Is Jesus Christ who was sent down from heaven.
This Gift can be yours if you will believe;
Trust Him as Savior, and new life receive. —Hess

The best gift was found in a manger.
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  #452  
Old 12-02-2009, 02:33 AM
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December 2, 2009

He Doesn’t Stand A Chance

READ: Ephesians 6:10-18

He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. —1 John 4:4

In 2004, Josh Hamilton was an outstanding pro baseball prospect, but he was suspended because of drug abuse. Then one night Josh had a life-changing dream. He was fighting the devil. “I had a stick,” he said, “and every time I hit him, he’d fall and get back up. I hit him until I was exhausted, and he was still standing.”

After that nightmare, Hamilton vowed to stay clean. The dream returned, but with an important difference. “I would hit [the devil] and he would bounce back,” said Josh. But this time Josh was not alone. He said, “I turned my head and Jesus was battling alongside me. We kept fighting, and I was filled with strength. The devil didn’t stand a chance.”

The Bible says that the devil doesn’t stand a chance because the Spirit, who is in us, is greater than he is (1 John 4:4). Christ came to destroy the works of the devil through His life, ministry, and sacrifice (3:8). At the cross, He disarmed and triumphed over the devil (Col. 1:13-14; 2:15).

Though defeated by the cross, the devil remains active in this world. But his final defeat is certain (Rev. 20:7-10). Until then, we take up the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18), standing firm against him by Jesus’ blood and His Word. He doesn’t stand a chance. — Marvin Williams

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us. —Luther

The devil is a defeated foe.
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  #453  
Old 12-03-2009, 01:52 AM
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December 3, 2009

Finding Jesus

READ: Romans 8:27-39

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? —Romans 8:32

After someone stole a valuable ceramic figurine of Baby Jesus from a nativity scene in Wellington, Florida, officials took action to keep thieves from succeeding again. An Associated Press report described how they placed a GPS tracking device inside the replacement figurine. When Baby Jesus disappeared again the next Christmas, sheriff’s deputies were led by the signal to the thief’s apartment.

There are times when difficult circumstances or personal loss can cause us to feel that Christ has been stolen from our Christmas. How can we find Jesus when life seems to be working against us?

Like a spiritual GPS, Romans 8 guides us to God’s never-failing love and presence with us. We read that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses and intercedes for us (v.27). We know that God is for us (v.31). And we have this grand assurance: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (v.32). Finally, we are reminded that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus (vv.38-39).

Look for Jesus in the manger, on the cross, risen from the dead, and in our hearts. That’s where we can find Jesus at Christmas. — David C. McCasland

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show,
The love of Jesus, what it is
None but His loved ones know. —Bernard of Clairvaux

If we focus only on Christmas, we might lose sight of Christ.
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  #454  
Old 12-04-2009, 04:19 AM
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December 4, 2009

What You Can Do

READ: Ephesians 3:14-21

[I pray that] He would grant you . . . to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man. —Ephesians 3:16

Are you getting what you want out of life? Or do you feel that the economy, your government, your circumstances, or other outside factors are robbing you of value and joy?

Recently, a polling agency asked 1,000 people what they most desired in their lives. One fascinating result was that 90 percent of Bible-believing Christians said that they wanted these outcomes: a close relationship with God, a clear purpose in life, a high degree of integrity, and a deep commitment to the faith.

Notice that these heartfelt desires are all things we as individuals can do something about without outside human help. No government program will assist here, and tough economic times cannot steal these ideals. These life goals are achieved as we allow God’s Word to rule in our hearts and as we receive the Spirit’s strength to build up “the inner man” (Eph. 3:16), resulting in true joy.

In our complicated world, it’s tempting to put our quest for what we desire into the hands of others—to expect an outside entity to fulfill our desires. While we sometimes need help, and we cannot live in isolation, it’s not outside sources that provide true happiness. That comes from within—from letting Christ be at home in our hearts (v.17). — Dave Branon

Holy Spirit, all divine,
Dwell within this heart of mine;
Cast down every idol throne,
Reign supreme and reign alone. —Reed

If a troubled world gets you down, look up to Jesus.
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  #455  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:51 AM
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Default Dec. 5

December 5, 2009

Presents Or Presence?

READ: 1 John 2:24-29

In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. —Psalm 16:11

Oswald Chambers once wrote: “It is not God’s promises we need, it is [God] Himself.”

At Christmastime we often say, “God’s presence is more important than presents.” But the amount of time and effort we spend on shopping for gifts may indicate otherwise.

In certain parts of the world, people give gifts on December 6. By doing so, they have the rest of the month to focus on Jesus and the wonder of His birth, God’s perfect gift to us.

When we say we want God’s presence more than presents from others, perhaps we’re being truthful. But how many of us can honestly say that we want God’s presence more than His presents?

Often we want gifts from God more than we want God Himself. We want health, wealth, knowledge, a better job, a better place to live. God may indeed want to give us these things, but we can’t have them apart from Him. As David said, “In Your presence is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). Presents may make us happy for a time; earthly gifts from God may make us happy temporarily, but fullness of joy comes only when we remain in a right relationship with God.

So, what would Christmas be like if we truly celebrated God’s presence? — Julie Ackerman Link

Lord, we want to remember You and Your coming in special ways this Christmas. Give us creativity and thoughtfulness in our planning. Help us to focus on Your presence and not on what we hope to give or receive.

God’s presence with us is one of His greatest presents to us.
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  #456  
Old 12-06-2009, 03:42 AM
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December 6, 2009

Advent Adventure

READ: Matthew 12:11-21

In His name Gentiles will trust. —Matthew 12:21

During the season of Advent on the church calendar, Christians around the world light candles. The first candle symbolizes hope. The prophet Isaiah said that all nations will place their hope or trust in Christ, God’s Chosen One (Isa. 42:1-4; Matt. 12:21).

We think of Advent from the perspective of earthbound creatures who know nothing but this life. We rejoice that Jesus came to visit us on this beautiful planet that He made especially for us. But it’s important to remember that Jesus came from a better place. He is first and foremost from heaven, a place more beautiful than we can imagine.

Whenever I think about Jesus coming to earth, I also consider that He had to leave heaven to get here. For Him, earth was hostile territory. Coming here was a dangerous venture (Matt. 12:14). Yet He came. Our just and compassionate God made Himself vulnerable to human injustice. The Creator of the universe put on the garment of flesh and came to experience firsthand what life here is really like.

Jesus tasted death for everyone (Heb. 2:9) so that we can taste His goodness (1 Peter 2:3). He left the splendor of heaven to bring us to glory (Heb. 2:10). He gave His own life to give us hope for eternal life. — Julie Ackerman Link

The hope of Christmas is the song
Of angels in the sky,
And Christ within a manger laid
To bring salvation nigh. —Campbell

God broke into human history to offer us the gift of eternal life.
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  #457  
Old 12-07-2009, 02:51 AM
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Default Dec. 7

December 7, 2009

War . . . Then Peace

READ: Luke 23:32-43

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:7

On December 7, 1941, a Japanese war plane piloted by Mitsuo ***hida took off from the aircraft carrier Akagi. ***hida led the surprise attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Through the war years to follow, ***hida continued to fly—often narrowly escaping death. At war’s end, he was disillusioned and bitter.

A few years later, he heard a story that piqued his spiritual curiosity: A Christian young woman whose parents had been killed by the Japanese during the war decided to minister to Japanese prisoners. Impressed, ***hida began reading the Bible.

As he read Jesus’ words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34), he understood how that woman could show kindness to her enemies. That day ***hida gave his heart to Christ.

Becoming a lay preacher and evangelist to his fellow citizens, this former warrior demonstrated “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7)—a peace enjoyed by those who have trusted Christ and who “let [their] requests be made known to God” (v.6).

Have you found this peace? No matter what you have gone through, God makes it available to you. — Dennis Fisher

There is peace in midst of turmoil,
There is joy when eyes are dim,
There is perfect understanding
When we leave it all to Him. —Brown

True peace is not the absence of war; it is the presence of God. —Loveless
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  #458  
Old 12-08-2009, 12:17 AM
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Default Dec. 8

December 8, 2009

A Legacy Of Repentance

READ: Psalm 51

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart. —Psalm 51:17

All nations have heroes, but Israel may be alone in making epic literature about its greatest hero’s failings (Ps. 51). This eloquent psalm shows that Israel ultimately remembered David more for his devotion to God than for his political achievements.

Step-by-step, the psalm takes the reader through the stages of repentance. It describes the constant mental replays, the gnawing guilt, the shame, and finally the hope of a new beginning that springs from true repentance.

In a remarkable way, Psalm 51 reveals the true nature of sin as a broken relationship with God. David cries out, “Against You, You only, have I sinned” (v.4). He sees that the sacrifices God wants are “a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” (v.17). Those, David has.

In his prayer, David looks for possible good that might come out of his tragedy and sees a glimmer of light. Perhaps by reading this story of sin others might avoid the same pitfalls, or by reading his confession they might gain hope in forgiveness. David’s prayer is answered and becomes his greatest legacy as king. The best king of Israel has fallen the farthest. But neither he, nor anyone, can fall beyond the reach of God’s love and forgiveness. — Philip Yancey

How blest is he whose trespass
Has freely been forgiven,
Whose sin is wholly covered
Before the sight of heaven. —Psalter

Repentance is the soil in which forgiveness flourishes.
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  #459  
Old 12-09-2009, 01:09 AM
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Default Dec. 9

December 9, 2009

When Life Is Too Big

READ: 1 Kings 3:4-14

O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. —1 Kings 3:7

As a young man, Jimmy Carter was a junior officer in the US Navy. He was deeply impacted by Admiral Hyman Rickover, the mastermind of the US nuclear submarine fleet.

Shortly after Carter’s inauguration as President, he invited Rickover to the White House for lunch, where the admiral presented Carter with a plaque that read, “O, God, Thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small.” That prayer is a useful perspective on the size and complexity of life and our inability to manage it on our own.

Solomon too knew that life could be overwhelming. When he succeeded his father, David, as king of Israel, he confessed his weakness to God, saying, “O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in” (1 Kings 3:7). As a result, he asked for the wisdom to lead in a way that would please God and help others (v.9).

Is life feeling too big for you? There may not be easy answers to the challenges you are facing, but God promises that, if you ask for wisdom, He will grant it (James 1:5). You don’t have to face the overwhelming challenges of life alone. — Bill Crowder

Each day we learn from yesterday
Of God’s great love and care;
And every burden we must face
He’ll surely help us bear. —D. De Haan

Recognizing our own smallness can cause us to embrace God’s greatness.
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  #460  
Old 12-10-2009, 03:51 AM
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Default Dec. 10

December 10, 2009

A Mere Happening?

READ: Ruth 2:1-12

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. —Proverbs 3:6

Huang, a nonbeliever, was a visiting scientist at the University of Minnesota in 1994. While there, he met some Christians and enjoyed their fellowship. So when they learned he would be returning to Beijing, they gave him the name of a Christian to contact who was also moving there.

On the flight back to Beijing, the plane encountered engine trouble and stopped in Seattle overnight. The airline placed Huang in the same room with the very person he was to contact! Once they arrived in Beijing, the two began meeting weekly for a Bible study, and a year later Huang gave his life to Christ. This was not just a mere happening; it was by God’s arrangement.

In Ruth 2, we read that Ruth came “to the part of the field belonging to Boaz” (v.3). Boaz asked his servants who she was (v.5), which prompted his special consideration toward her. When Ruth asked him the reason for such kindness, Boaz replied, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law . . . . The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you” (vv.11-12).

Did the events in the lives of Ruth and Huang just happen? No, for none of God’s people can escape God’s plans to guide and to provide. — Albert Lee

I know who holds the future,
And I know who holds my hand;
With God things don’t just happen—
Everything by Him is planned. —Smith

A “mere happening” may be God’s design.
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