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  #821  
Old 11-15-2010, 01:49 AM
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Default Nov. 15

Cross The Divide

November 15, 2010

Read: Mark 2:13-17

As [Jesus] was dining in Levi’s house, . . . many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus. —Mark 2:15

Two young men with mischief on their minds approached a missionary’s outreach bus parked in a downtown area of a German city.

The missionaries were there to offer refreshments as a way to open up conversations about Christ. The two visitors, wearing skull-and-crossbones bandannas, were there to offer trouble.

But the missionaries didn’t respond to the ruffians as they expected. The Christians welcomed them warmly and engaged them in discussion. Surprised, the guys hung around long enough to hear the gospel. One trusted Jesus that day. The other, the next day.

Those two young men and the missionaries who reached them were light-years apart culturally. The guys were German; the missionaries, American. The guys were involved in a culture of darkness and death; the missionaries were shining the light. The cultural divide was crossed with cookies and nonjudgmental love.

Look at the people around you. How can you show those on the other side of the cultural fence unconditional, unquestioning love? How can you cross the divide and help them see that Jesus’ love knows no boundaries?

Cross the divide. Take Christ to the culture—even if it doesn’t look anything like yours.

To cross a cultural divide
Takes love that shows we really care;
And once the door is open wide,
Christ’s saving gospel we can share. —Sper

Our witness for Christ is a light for a world in darkness.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #822  
Old 11-15-2010, 11:05 PM
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Default Nov. 16

Daily Diligence

November 16, 2010

Read: 2 Timothy 2:3-16

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth. —2 Timothy 2:15

Internationally acclaimed violinist Midori believes that focused, diligent practice is the key to performance. While playing a rigorous schedule of 90 concerts a year, she still practices an average of 5 or 6 hours a day. Jane Ammeson, in NWA WorldTraveler magazine, quoted Midori as saying: “I have to practice for my job and I practice every day. . . . It’s not really the hours, but the quality of the work that needs to be done. I see with students, that they play and they call it practice, but they are not listening and not watching. If you have your textbook open, it doesn’t mean that you are studying.”

That same principle applies to our walk of faith. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Diligence implies constant, earnest effort, and is the opposite of a careless, inattentive approach. It embraces every aspect of our relationship with God.

Just as a musician strives for excellence, we should want to serve God with confidence, seek His approval, and skillfully share His Word with others.

Am I diligently studying, praying, and listening to the Lord today?

When we live with expectancy,
Awaiting Christ’s return,
Our diligent obedience
Becomes our main concern. —Sper

God speaks to those who take time to listen, and He listens to those who take time to pray.
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  #823  
Old 11-17-2010, 02:30 AM
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Default Nov. 17

Say No And Yes

November 17, 2010

Read: 2 Timothy 2:20-22

Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. —1 John 3:10

When we wash our hands to clean off the grime and germs, do we actually clean them ourselves? No and yes. To be precise, the soap and water does the job—not us. But we make the choice to use the soap and water to clean our hands.

In 2 Timothy 2, the apostle Paul tells us, “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself . . . he will be a vessel for honor” (v.21). This does not mean that we on our own have the power to cleanse ourselves from sin. Rather, we use the cleansing provided by Jesus Christ, who died for us on the cross.

Philippians 3:9 tells us that we are “found in Him, not having [our] own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”

When we receive Christ, His death and resurrection sets us free from the penalty and the power of sin, thus enabling us to say no and yes in everyday life. We can say no to the desires of the flesh, or “youthful lusts” that Paul mentioned (2 Tim. 2:22). And we can say yes to “righteousness” (right behavior), “faith” (right belief), “love” (right response), and “peace” (right focus).

As we’re cleansed daily, we’ll be “useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (v.21).

Lord, help us to think of the right and the true,
The pure and the noble—it all points to You;
For if we consider what’s worthy of praise,
We’ll then want to live for You all of our days. —Fitzhugh

Right thinking leads to right living.
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  #824  
Old 11-17-2010, 11:00 PM
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Default Nov. 18

Spiritual Junk Food

November 18, 2010

Read: Hebrews 13:1-9

Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. —Hebrews 13:9

In many countries, childhood obesity is at an all-time high. A major culprit in such unhealthy weight gain is poor eating habits and junk food.

The term junk food refers to items that taste good but lack nutritional value and are often very high in calories and fat. Chips, soft drinks, candy bars, cookies, and many meals purchased at fast-food restaurants fit these criteria.

To be spiritually healthy, we have to avoid “spiritual junk food” as well. Some religious teachers proclaim “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6), ranging from health-and-wealth to a counterfeit spirituality. And some Christian music and books also contain false teaching. Taking in this kind of “food” may seem to satisfy spiritual hunger, but it will not lead to spiritual health.

Hebrews warns us: “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace” (Heb. 13:9). False teaching is detrimental to our health and is not profitable, because it cannot cleanse from sin nor give power for spiritual growth. But biblical content that is based upon grace and truth does both.

Avoid “spiritual junk food” and instead feast on God’s Word to promote your spiritual health.

To walk close by Your side, my dear Savior,
To be led by You, doing each task,
To feast richly on grace at Your table,
And to know You is all that I ask. —Somerville

Feeding on God’s truth will help us avoid swallowing lies.
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  #825  
Old 11-18-2010, 11:05 PM
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Default Nov. 19

National Pride

November 19, 2010

Read: 1 Peter 2:9-17

You are a chosen generation, . . . a holy nation . . . that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness. —1 Peter 2:9

My wife, Martie, and I have grown to love England—its history, culture, and people. One of our favorite activities when we visit is going to outdoor concerts (also known as proms) on the sloping lawns of ancient estates. “The Last Night of the Proms” event is the best, with fireworks and hundreds of nationals waving little British flags to rousing patriotic tunes.

We loved joining the celebration—until the summer our children came with us. When we started waving our flags with all the enthusiastic Brits, our kids were aghast. I can still hear them shouting over the music, “What are you doing?! You’re Americans!”

God must often feel like that when we blend in and live like the “locals” around us. I can almost hear Him saying, “What are you doing living like that?! You belong to My nation!”

Peter reminds us that we are different from the locals—we are a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). Being holy means that we are unique, set apart for Jesus, becoming like Him, and reflecting His countercultural ways of living. It means that we are forgiving in the face of cruel offenses; and merciful, gracious, truthful, and loyal to our promises. It means being just like Him.

So let’s start waving the flag of holiness as members of the “Jesus nation”!

O child of God, guard well your life
From anything that stains the heart;
Forsake those things that soil the mind—
Your Father wants you set apart. —Fasick

Our loyalty to Jesus should be seen and heard in our lives.
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  #826  
Old 11-20-2010, 02:43 AM
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Default Nov. 20

Misapplied Learning

November 20, 2010

Read: Romans 6:1-14

Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 6:11

After a 4-year-old got into trouble at preschool, his mom asked him what he had done wrong. He explained, “I was angry with a playmate. But you told me that I should not hit anyone, so I asked my friend to do it for me!”

Where does someone so young learn that? The Bible tells us he did not have to be taught—he was born with it! It is part of the fallen nature that all of us have at birth.

But the Christian does not have to respond according to his fallen nature. Paul reminds us that “our old man was crucified with [Christ], . . . that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6). We are “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17) and have been set free and have become “slaves of God” (Rom. 6:22).

Yet, as Christians we do still struggle with our flesh and its sinful desires (Rom. 7:18-19). But now that “we are alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” we can respond in a God-honoring way (Rom. 6:11).

Instead of being like the young boy who tried to get revenge, we can obey the instructions of Romans 6:13, “Do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God . . . as instruments of righteousness.”

O help us, Lord, to heed Your Word,
Its precepts to obey;
And give us strength to quench the urge
To do things our own way. —Sper

We gain the victory when we give up sin’s pleasure in exchange for Christ’s power.
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  #827  
Old 11-21-2010, 02:08 AM
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Default Nov. 21

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

November 21, 2010

Read: Psalm 8:1-2

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength. —Psalm 8:2

Psalm 8 begins with a startling contrast. David seems to suggest that while God has revealed His glory in the skies, another persuasive answer to His critics comes in the utterances of a child: “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger” (v.2).

Why is a child’s praise so persuasive? For one thing, it’s because, unlike the impersonal universe, a child can know and love God.

Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2 when religious leaders were scandalized that children were running around in the temple shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matt. 21:15-16). These little ones knew—as those leaders did not know—that Jesus was the long-awaited Son of God.

Some of my most memorable moments as a parent came when I knelt beside our children’s beds at night, and they opened their hearts to God. The simplicity of their love and trust as they prayed touched me deeply, dispelled my doubts and fears, and drew me to faith.

We must never take lightly little ones who believe in Christ (Matt. 18:6,10). Their witness is great, as is the witness in the skies.

Could it be that the trusting child—
Who with childlike faith stands strong—
Can teach us more than sun and stars
About to whom our hearts belong? —Branon

Children are God’s precious jewels— help them shine for Christ.
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  #828  
Old 11-22-2010, 01:40 AM
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Default Nov. 22

Storm Clouds And Blue Sky

November 22, 2010

Read: Romans 8:18-30

Our light affliction . . . is but for a moment. —2 Corinthians 4:17

I was feeling down about some circumstances the other day and wondering how I might lift my spirits. I pulled from my shelf the book Life Is Like Licking Honey Off a Thorn by Susan Lenzkes, and I read this: “We take the laughter and the tears however they come, and let our God of reality make sense of it all.”

Lenzkes says some people are optimists who “camp in pleasures and good memories,” denying the brokenness. Others are pessimists who “focus on life’s losses, losing joy and victory in the process.” But people of faith are realists who “receive it all—all the good and bad of life—and repeatedly choose to know that God really loves us and is constantly at work for our good and His glory.”

As I read, I looked outside and noticed dark clouds and a steady rain. A little later, a friendly wind came up and blew the clouds away. Suddenly the skies were bright blue. The storms of life blow in and out like that.

By faith we cling to God’s promise of Romans 8:28. And we recall that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). God loves us, and He’s getting us ready for the day when skies will be forever blue.

The purposes of God are right,
Although we may not see
Just how He works all things for good
And transforms tragedy. —Sper

God promises a safe landing— but not necessarily a calm passage.
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  #829  
Old 11-23-2010, 02:17 AM
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Default Nov. 23

Unlimited Access

November 23, 2010

Read: Ephesians 2:11-22

Through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. —Ephesians 2:18

Last November, news sources said that a shocking breach of security occurred when a couple brazenly walked into a White House state dinner—even getting close enough to have their picture taken with the President of the United States. Usually, extensive background checks and careful scrutiny of the guest list screens out the uninvited.

It’s a rare day for any of us that our access is not restricted in some way. Signs warn us: Employees Only, Do Not Enter, Authorized Vehicles Only, No Trespassing. None of us want to be told that we are not welcome. But the fact is that there will always be some places from which we will be barred. It makes me grateful that God sets no restriction on who may come to Him.

Those who come to God encounter no “Keep Out” signs. Through prayer, God the Father allows us immediate and unlimited access to Him because His Son Jesus Christ has opened the way to all who receive Him (Eph. 2:18). “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden” (Matt. 11:28). “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (7:37).

Once you come to Christ for salvation, you can enjoy unrestricted fellowship. The door is always open.

Our prayers ascend to heaven’s throne
Regardless of the form we use;
Our Father always hears His own
Regardless of the words we choose. —D. De Haan

God’s throne is always accessible to His children.
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  #830  
Old 11-24-2010, 02:39 AM
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Default Nov. 24

Restoring Order

November 24, 2010

Read: Luke 7:11-23

The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. —Malachi 4:2

As I looked at family members gathered around the Thanksgiving table, I smiled at the range of talents represented. At one end were doctors; at the other end were musicians. Thanks to doctors, human bodies operate more efficiently. Thanks to musicians, beautiful sounds uplift our spirits and soothe troubled minds.

Although their abilities are very different, doctors and musicians rely on the same thing: an orderly universe. Without order, there would be no predictability; without predictability, there would be no music or medicine.

Within our orderly world, disease is a sign that something is “out of order.” Healing is a sign that God will some day restore all things to their original condition (Acts 3:21). When John the Baptist wanted to know whether Jesus was the “Coming One,” Jesus said, “Go and tell John . . . the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:20-22). Healing was evidence that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah (Mal. 4:2).

I am thankful for music that soothes my troubled mind and soul, and for medicine that heals my body, because they remind me of the ultimate healing and restoration that Christ is accomplishing.

What are the prospects for this earth?
What hope is there for man?
A world restored through Jesus Christ
In whom we see God’s plan. —D. De Haan

Jesus specializes in restoration.
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