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  #471  
Old 12-21-2009, 03:59 AM
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Default Dec. 21

December 21, 2009

God Alone

READ: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9

We are God’s fellow workers. —1 Corinthians 3:9

On May 29, 1953, New Zealander Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, became the first people to reach the peak of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Since Tenzing did not know how to use the camera, Edmund took a photo of Tenzing as evidence that they did reach the top.

Later, journalists repeatedly asked who had reached the summit first. The expedition leader, John Hunt, replied, “They reached it together, as a team.” They were united by a common goal, and neither was concerned who should get the greater credit.

It is counterproductive to try to determine who deserves the most credit when something is done well. The church at Corinth was split into two factions—those who followed Paul, and those who followed Apollos. The apostle Paul told them, “I planted, Apollos watered . . . . Neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters” (1 Cor. 3:7). He reminded them that they were “God’s fellow workers” (v.9), and it is God who gives the increase in ministry (v.7).

Our concern about who deserves the credit serves only to take away the honor and glory that belong to the Lord Jesus alone. — C. P. Hia

Let others have the honors,
The glory, and the fame;
I seek to follow Jesus
And glory in His name. —Horton

Jesus must increase; I must decrease.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #472  
Old 12-22-2009, 01:18 AM
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Default Dec. 22

December 22, 2009

The Star Shepherd

READ: Isaiah 40:25-27

Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things. —Isaiah 40:26

Some night when you’re away from city lights, “lift up your eyes on high” (Isa. 40:26). There in the heavens you’ll see a luminous band of stars stretching from horizon to horizon—our galaxy.

If you have good eyes, you can see about 5,000 stars, according to astronomer Simon Driver. There are, however, far more that you cannot see with the naked eye. In 1995, the Hubble Deep Field Study space probe concluded that there are billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars. By one estimate, there are more than 10 stars in the universe for every grain of sand on the earth.

Yet each night, without fail, God “brings out their host by number; . . . by the greatness of His might . . . ; not one is missing” (v.26).

Why then do people say, “My way is hidden from the Lord”? (v.27). Yes, billions of individuals inhabit this globe, but no one has been forgotten by God. He knows “those who are His” (2 Tim. 2:19). If He can bring out the incalculable hosts of heaven each night one by one, He can bring you into His light. He does so by “the strength of His power” (v.26)—the power He showed when He raised Jesus from the dead.

Are the stars out tonight? Rejoice! God cares for you. — David H. Roper

The God who made the firmament,
Who made the deepest sea,
The God who put the stars in place
Is the God who cares for me. —Berg

We see the power of God’s creation; we feel the power of His love.
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  #473  
Old 12-23-2009, 12:22 AM
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December 23, 2009

Can You Spare A Dime?

READ: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

He who has mercy on the poor, happy is he. —Proverbs 14:21

In her insightful book The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes provides fascinating stories about what life was like during the Great Depression in the US. At the center of that economic drama was “the forgotten man,” a term used for the countless individuals who were thrown out of work.

A popular Depression-era song poignantly expresses their story:

They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead.

Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.

Once I built a railroad; now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

As the lyrics remind us, an economic downturn changes everything for hard-working people who lose their jobs. When that happens, we as Christians should do what we can for people in need.

In Galatians 2, Paul and Barnabas were reminded to evangelize and to “remember the poor” (v.10). We can see that Paul did just that—preaching the gospel and encouraging financial aid to those in need (Acts 11:29-30; 1 Cor. 16:1-3).

During tough economic times, we too should help people in need—spiritually and physically. A dime doesn’t go far these days, but a generous attitude does. — Dennis Fisher

The poor and needy everywhere
Are objects of God’s love and care,
But they will always know despair
Unless His love with them we share. —D. De Haan

Good exercise for the heart is to bend down and help another person up.
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  #474  
Old 12-24-2009, 03:22 AM
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December 24, 2009

God’s Special Place

READ: Luke 2:1-7

[Mary] brought forth her firstborn Son, . . . and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. —Luke 2:7

As a young girl in the late 1920s, Grace Ditmanson Adams often traveled with her missionary parents through inland China. Later, she wrote about those trips and the crowded places where they stayed overnight—village inns full of people coughing, sneezing, and smoking, while babies cried and children complained. Her family put their bedrolls on board-covered trestles in a large room with everyone else.

One snowy night, they arrived at an inn to find it packed full. The innkeeper expressed his regret, then paused and said, “Follow me.” He led them to a side room used to store straw and farm equipment. There they slept in a quiet place of their own.

After that, whenever Grace read that Mary “brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7), she saw the event differently. While some described the innkeeper as an example of uncaring, sinful mankind who rejected the Savior, Grace said, “I truly believe that Almighty God used the innkeeper as the arranger for a healthier place than the crowded inn—a place of privacy.”

Through eyes of faith, we see God’s provision for Mary. Look for the ways He provides for you. — David C. McCasland

Wait on the Lord from day to day,
Strength He provides in His own way;
There’s no need for worry, no need to fear,
He is our God who is always near. —Fortna

Those who let God provide will be satisfied.
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  #475  
Old 12-25-2009, 03:46 AM
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December 25, 2009

Mary’s Christmas

READ: Luke 1:26-33; 2:4-7

Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. —Luke 2:19

It was anything but an idyllic, silent night on that cool Bethlehem evening when a scared teenager gave birth to the King of kings. Mary endured the pain of her baby’s arrival without the aid of anything more than the carpentry-roughened hands of Joseph, her betrothed. Shepherds may have been serenaded in nearby fields by angels singing praises to the Baby, but all Mary and Joseph heard were the sounds of animals, birth agony, and the first cries of God in baby form. A high-magnitude star shone in the night sky above the outbuilding, but the manger scene was a dreary place for these two out-of-town visitors.

As Joseph laid the infant in Mary’s arms, a combination of wonder, pain, fear, and joy must have coursed through her heart. She knew, because of an angel’s promise, that this tiny bundle was “the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:32). As she peered through the semidarkness into His eyes and then into Joseph’s, she must have wondered how she was going to mother this One whose kingdom would never end.

Mary had much to ponder in her heart on that special night. Now, over 2,000 years later, each of us needs to consider the importance of Jesus’ birth and His subsequent death, resurrection, and promise to return. — Dave Branon

Almighty God became a man
By lowly, humble birth;
And Mary treasured in her heart
This Gift of boundless worth. —Sper

God came to live with us so that we could live with Him.
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  #476  
Old 12-26-2009, 04:10 AM
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December 26, 2009

The Hope That Banishes Hopelessness

READ: Philippians 2:5-11

God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. —Galatians 6:14

When atheistic communism was a world-menacing power, it proclaimed that there is no God and that faith in any future life is a deceptive illusion. Leonid Brezhnev had been the Soviet dictator, the embodiment of Marxist unbelief. But something happened at his funeral that contradicted atheism. George H. W. Bush, then vice president of the US, was the country’s official representative at the solemn, formal ceremony.

He reported that while the casket was still open, Brezhnev’s widow stared motionless at her husband’s body. And just before the soldiers were about to close the lid, she reached inside and made the sign of the cross over his chest. What a desperate and significant gesture! That widow evidently hoped that what her husband had vehemently denied might somehow be true.

Thankfully, we can have hope beyond this earthly life! All we need to do is embrace by faith the saving message of the cross: Jesus died for our sins and rose again so that we might live eternally with Him. Do you believe? Then join with the apostle Paul in affirming that “we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:10). — Vernon C. Grounds

The cross is my hope for eternity—
No merit have I of my own;
The shed blood of Christ my only plea—
My trust is in Jesus alone. —Christiansen

Calvary’s cross is the only bridge to eternal life.
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  #477  
Old 12-27-2009, 04:20 AM
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December 27, 2009

Good Riddance!

READ: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

My grace is sufficient for you. —2 Corinthians 12:9

A shredder ate hundreds of pieces of paper and other items in New York City on December 28 last year. Organizers of the second annual “Good Riddance Day” encouraged people to bring to Times Square their bad memories and suffering of 2008 and feed them into the industrial-strength shredder or toss them into an extra-large dumpster.

Some participants shredded pieces of paper with the words “the stock market” or “cancer.” Others destroyed bank statements, and one person shredded a printed e-mail from a boyfriend who broke up with her.

We long to “shred” memories of bad things that others have done to us or difficult circumstances we’re going through. The apostle Paul wanted relief from his present suffering, an infirmity that made him feel weak (2 Cor. 12:7-10). But God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” God didn’t take away the problem. Instead, He gave Paul the grace to live with it.

Difficulties burden us as we mull them over in our minds, affecting our relationships and our outlook on life. We as believers in Christ have a place to take these burdens. First Peter 5:7 tells us, “[Cast] all your care upon [the Lord], for He cares for you.” — Anne Cetas

Whenever life’s burdens oppress you
And trials seem too much to face,
Remember God’s strength in your weakness;
He’ll give you His power and grace. —Sper

God gives enough grace for whatever we face.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #478  
Old 12-28-2009, 12:26 AM
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December 28, 2009

Power To Persevere

READ: James 5:1-11

You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. —James 5:11

Professional golfer Paula Creamer had worked all year long to earn a berth in the 2008 ADT Championship, the year’s final tournament on the LPGA tour. When the event began, however, Creamer was suffering from peritonitis, a painful inflammation of the abdominal wall. Throughout the four days of the tournament, she was in constant pain and unable to eat. She even spent a night in the hospital because of the condition. Still, she persevered to the end and, amazingly, she finished third. Her determination earned her many new fans.

The challenges and crises of life can tax us to the very end of our strength, and in such times it is easy to want to give up. But James offers followers of Christ another perspective. He says that while life is a battle, it is also a blessing: “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11).

In Job’s example, we find encouragement and the power to persevere in life’s darkest hours—power rooted in God, who is compassionate and merciful. Even when life is painful and hard, we can persevere because God is there. His mercy endures forever (Ps. 136). — Bill Crowder

I searched with all my heart to know
If God was really there;
He graciously revealed Himself,
His mercy, love, and care. —Cetas

God provides the power we need to persevere.
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  #479  
Old 12-29-2009, 12:14 AM
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December 29, 2009

In Which Realm Do You Live?

READ: Romans 8:1-10

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. —Romans 8:2

I was working with a petroleum company in Singapore when an inspector from another country visited. He came to check on a cargo of oil destined for his country, which was at war. When he heard the shriek of fighter planes overhead, he instinctively ran for cover. Embarrassed, he explained, “Sorry, I thought I was back home.” He did what he would have done had he been in his war-torn country.

For the Christian, it’s easy to dive back into old ways of sin out of sheer habit because of the many temptations in this world. Even though we are “in Christ Jesus” as Romans 8:1 says, we sometimes live as if we are “in sin.”

God paid a very heavy price to take us out of the realm of sin. He did so by “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering” (v.3 niv). We are now to be governed by “the law of the Spirit of life,” not by “the law of sin and death” (v.2). The apostle Paul urges us to “set” our mind according to “the things of the Spirit” (v.5). This means that we take our direction from God’s Word as guided by His Spirit.

When you’re tempted to dive back into old sinful ways, will you instead allow the Holy Spirit who resides in you to help you live more consistently with your standing “in Christ”? — C. P. Hia

Born of the flesh, conceived in sin,
Then born of the Spirit, new life to begin;
I’ve been washed in Christ’s blood and this will suffice,
Praise God I’m His child, I’ve been born twice! —Brandt

When you are born again, you become a citizen of heaven.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #480  
Old 12-30-2009, 02:29 AM
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December 30, 2009

Bad Idea?

READ: Hebrews 10:22-39

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. —Hebrews 10:22

The former athlete had neglected his body for too long, so he began an exercise routine. The first day, he did several push-ups and went for a light jog. The next day, more push-ups, a few sit-ups, and a longer run. Day 3: exercises and a mile-and-a-half run. On Day 4, our ex-athlete in re-training woke up with a sore throat.

Then he did one more exercise: He jumped to the conclusion that exercising was a bad idea. If all he got out of his huffing and puffing was sickness, it wasn’t for him.

Let’s examine another scenario. A Christian, realizing he has neglected his relationship with God, begins a new spiritual routine of Bible-reading and prayer. But after just a few days, some problems arise in his life. What does he conclude? Like the ex-athlete, should he decide that his spiritual quest was a bad idea and that it didn’t do any good? Certainly not.

We don’t pray and read the Bible to get a perfect, trouble-free life. Pursuing God is not cause and effect. We do it because it draws us closer in our relationship with the One who is perfect. The pursuit of godliness will not exempt us from trouble (2 Tim. 3:12). But a life dedicated to loving and pursuing God (Heb. 10:22) is always a good idea—no matter what happens. — Dave Branon

The time we spend with God each day
Through prayer and reading of His Word
Will help us face what comes our way
And draw us closer to the Lord. —Sper

The roots of stability come from being grounded in God’s Word and prayer.
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-Colossians 3:23

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