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  #841  
Old 12-05-2010, 02:37 AM
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Default Dec. 5

Preparation And Expectation

December 5, 2010

Read: Luke 2:8-12; 21:25-28

An angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. —Luke 2:9

When our children were young, we observed Advent (the time beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas through Christmas Eve) by making a wreath and lighting candles each night after supper. We sang a carol and read a short Bible passage about the birth of Christ. This was a special time of preparing our hearts to celebrate Christmas.

But Advent is more than that. When Christians first started practicing it in the fourth century, they viewed it not only as preparation for celebrating Jesus’ birth but also as a time of looking forward to His second coming. They found hope and cheer in the sure promise of His return.

The gospel of Luke describes “the glory of the Lord” that shone around the shepherds when the angel announced the Savior’s birth (2:9). Luke also records Jesus’ promise that He will return “with power and great glory” (21:27). These two events frame the purpose for which the Son of God came into the world.

In Latin advent means “a coming.” The weeks before Christmas can be a wonderful season of repentance and expectation as we celebrate our Lord’s first advent in Bethlehem and anticipate His second advent when He returns in glory. Christ has come! Christ is coming again!

The first time Jesus came to earth,
Humble was His story;
But He has promised to return
With power and great glory. —Sper

Christ has come! Christ is coming again!
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #842  
Old 12-06-2010, 01:43 AM
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Default Dec. 6

Change Of Direction

December 6, 2010

Read: 1 Thessalonians 1

They themselves declare . . . how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. —1 Thessalonians 1:9

The United States Secret Service was founded in 1865. Their mission? To deal with counterfeiters in an attempt to protect the dollar and, as a result, America’s national economy. This targeted group of law enforcement officers, however, experienced a change of direction in 1902. They became best known for protecting the President of the United States, although their charge still embodies a variety of tasks.

That change of direction in the Secret Service duties is nothing compared to the completely altered lives of the believers at Thessalonica. They had a spiritual transformation that turned their lives around, which was noticed by people far and wide. Paul wrote, “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). And “you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. . . . Your faith toward God has gone out” (vv.7-8). The change of direction they displayed was dramatic, to say the least— abandoning the worship of idols to embrace relationship with the true and living God. And people noticed the difference in their lives.

I wonder—do people recognize such a profound change in our hearts and lives?

If you are going in the wrong direction,
Or if you have no goal in view,
Let Christ transform you, have control,
Then honor Him in all you do. —Hess

Coming to Christ is not merely informational; it’s transformational.
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  #843  
Old 12-07-2010, 04:17 AM
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Default Dec. 7

Little Things

December 7, 2010

Read: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

The Father of mercies and God of all comfort . . . comforts us in all our tribulation. —2 Corinthians 1:3-4

A medical school program in New York gives students who are training for geriatric medicine a unique opportunity. They experience life as nursing home residents for 10 days. They learn some of the struggles of maneuvering a wheelchair and being raised out of bed with a lift, as well as reaching the shower bar from a seated position. One student learned how little things counted for a lot—like lowering nameplates on doors so that patients can find their rooms more easily, or putting the TV remote in a reachable location.

Although the students still can’t fully relate, they will be better able to serve the elderly in their future work.

Sometimes God gives us the opportunity to use the lessons we’ve learned and the comfort He’s given us during difficult times to help others in special ways. Paul indicated this when he wrote: “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 tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

Are you using the lessons you’ve learned in your trials to touch the lives of others? Remember—even little things can mean a lot.

The comfort God has given us
He wants us now to share
With others who are suffering
So they will sense His care. —Sper

God doesn’t comfort us to make us comfortable;
He comforts us to make us comforters.
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  #844  
Old 12-08-2010, 03:55 AM
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Default Dec. 8

Living Low

December 8, 2010

Read: 2 Chronicles 26:3-19

When he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction. —2 Chronicles 26:16

Dwight L. Moody said, “When a man thinks he has got a good deal of strength, and is self-confident, you may look for his downfall. It may be years before it comes to light, but it is already commenced.” This was true of King Uzziah.

Everything seemed to be going so well in his life. He was obedient, submitted to spiritual mentorship, and sought God’s guidance during most of his reign. As long as he asked God for help, God gave him great success—evidenced by his many accomplishments (2 Chron. 26:3-15).

Uzziah’s life was one of great power and human success until he became blinded by it. His pride was evidenced in several ways: he challenged God’s holiness by trespassing the temple and presuming upon a position he would never be able to have (v.16); he viewed God’s power as good but not absolutely necessary for his leadership (vv.5,16); he refused godly correction and counsel (vv.18-19); he bypassed his opportunity to repent; and he ignored, instead of feared, the consequences of his sin (vv.18-19).

When God gives us success in any area of our lives, let’s not forget the Source of our success. May we choose humility, for God gives grace to the humble.

Is thy heart right with God,
Washed in the crimson flood,
Cleansed and made holy, humble and lowly,
Right in the sight of God? —Hoffman

God lifts us high when we choose to live low.
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  #845  
Old 12-09-2010, 04:33 AM
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Default Dec. 9

Recipe For Success

December 9, 2010

Read: Joshua 1:1-9

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night . . . . Then you will have good success. —Joshua 1:8

Wrinkled noses and puckered lips—sometimes this is my family’s reaction to my cooking, especially when I’m trying something new in the kitchen. Recently, I had a breakthrough with a unique version of macaroni and cheese. I jotted down the ingredients and tucked the recipe away for future reference. Without that set of instructions, I knew the next batch would be a flop.

Without God’s instructions, Joshua would have failed at leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. The first step was to “be strong and of good courage” (Josh. 1:6). Next, he was to continually meditate on the Book of the Law, and finally, he was to do everything it said. As long as Joshua followed the directions, God promised him “good success” (v.8).

God’s “recipe for success” can work for us too, but His idea of success has little to do with money, popularity, or even good health. In the original Hebrew, “then you will have good success” means “then you will act wisely.” Just as God called Joshua to walk in wisdom, He wants us to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (Eph. 5:15).

As we take courage in the Lord, feast on His Word, and obey Him, we have a recipe for godly success that’s better than anything we could cook up on our own.

You will surely find at the journey’s end,
Whatever the world may afford,
That things fade away, and success is seen
In the life that has served the Lord. —Anon.

Obedience to God’s Word is the recipe for spiritual success.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #846  
Old 12-10-2010, 03:17 AM
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Default Dec. 10

Tough And Tender

December 10, 2010

Read: Psalm 37:30-40

Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; for the future of that man is peace. But the transgressors shall be destroyed. —Psalm 37:37-38

“Any fool can start a quarrel” (Prov. 20:3). “The name of the wicked will rot” (10:7). “He who hates correction is stupid” (12:1).

Is it right for God’s Word to call people fools, wicked, and stupid? Isn’t God all about love and kindness?

Indeed, God is love. God is kindness. He created a world with great possibilities for joy and contentment.

Yet God reminds us that in His love He does not overlook the foolishness of our hearts and actions. Those verses from Proverbs can remind us that while God is love, He has great expectations for us. Life is tougher than it needs to be for those who bring self-imposed trouble upon themselves.

Each negative word in those proverbs has a counterpart—an alternative that gives God’s preferred way to live. A fool quarrels, but the honorable man avoids strife (20:3). The name of the wicked rots, but the memory of the righteous is blessed (10:7). The stupid reject correction, but those who love instruction also love knowledge (12:1).

There’s always a choice in this life. Live God’s way and enjoy His smile of approval—or live as a fool and find destruction. That’s the tough and tender truth about living in God’s world. Which do you choose?

Deceptions, twists, and outright lies
Define the words of fools;
But those who follow God’s Word show
A life where wisdom rules. —Sper

Only a fool fools with sin.
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  #847  
Old 12-11-2010, 03:15 AM
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Default Dec. 11

Praying For The Opposition

December 11, 2010

Read: John 19:1-5

Love your enemies . . . and pray for those who . . . persecute you. —Matthew 5:44

When I was a freshman in Bible college, I began to be bolder about speaking up for the Lord. Not surprisingly, my new habit created friction with some. Attending a social event with my former high school friends bore this out. One young woman to whom I had witnessed earlier laughed at my concern about where she would spend eternity. Ed, a friend who knew of my faith, said jokingly, “Three cheers for the old rugged cross!” I felt put down and rejected.

But later that evening I was filled with an unexplainable love. Recalling our Lord’s command to “Love your enemies . . . and pray for those who . . . persecute you” (Matt. 5:44), I prayed for Ed who had mocked the cross of Christ. With my eyes filled with tears, I asked the Lord to save him.

About a year later, I got a letter from Ed saying he wanted to get together. When we finally met, he shared how he had wept over his own sinfulness and had invited Jesus Christ to be his Savior and Lord. Later, to my surprise I heard that Ed had become a missionary to Brazil. The lesson I learned from that experience is that prayer is the best response to spiritual opposition. What critic of your faith might need your prayers today?

Lord, help us not respond in kind
To those who hate and turn from You;
Instead, help us to love and pray
That someday they’ll accept what’s true. —Sper

People may mock our message
but they are helpless against our prayers.
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  #848  
Old 12-12-2010, 05:08 AM
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Default Dec. 12

Zebras and Wildebeests

December 12, 2010

Read: 1 Corinthians 12:14-26

There should be no schism in the body, but . . . the members should have the same care for one another. —1 Corinthians 12:25

After our plane landed on the gravel airstrip, Jay and I climbed out and entered the world of Masai Mara in Kenya. A Masai tribesman named Sammy met us and loaded our baggage into a Land Rover. Then we headed toward the camp where we would spend the next 2 days.

Stopping so we could watch the zebras and wildebeests migrating from Masai Mara to Serengeti, Sammy explained that the two massive herds travel together because the zebras have good eyesight but a poor sense of smell, and the wildebeests have bad eyesight but a good sense of smell. By traveling together, both are less vulnerable to predators. This was our first lesson from God’s revelation in creation, which Kenya has in abundance.

Just as God makes animals with different strengths and weaknesses, He makes people the same way. God made us to be dependent not only on Him but also on one another. The apostle Paul elaborated on this idea in his letter to the church in Corinth. As members of the body of Christ, we all have different gifts and abilities (1 Cor. 12:12-31).

The church is healthy only when we work together, look out for each other, and use our strengths to benefit one another.

Help us, Lord, to work together
With the gifts that You bestow;
Give us unity of purpose
As we serve You here below. —Sper

We can go a lot further together than we can alone.
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  #849  
Old 12-13-2010, 03:17 AM
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Default Dec. 13

The Source Of Impact

December 13, 2010

Read: Acts 4:1-13

When they saw the boldness of Peter and John . . . they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. —Acts 4:13

The Nobel Prize is awarded annually to people in a variety of fields who have made an extraordinary impact. Leaders in economics, physics, literature, medicine, and peace are recognized for their contributions. When a person is acknowledged with a Nobel Prize, it is the ultimate affirmation of years of training, effort, education, and sacrifice in pursuit of excellence—investments that are the source of their impact.

We might wish to make a significant impact spiritually in our world, but we wonder, What is the source of spiritual and ministry influence? If we want to make an extraordinary impact for Jesus Christ, what must we invest in?

Christ’s first followers were impacted from spending time with Jesus. Israel’s religious leaders recognized this. Acts 4:13 tells us, “When [the leaders] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”

Training and education are valuable in the service of the Savior, but nothing can replace time spent in His presence. He is the source of whatever spiritual impact we might have on our world. How much time have you been spending with Jesus—your source of impact?

In the secret of His presence
How my soul delights to hide!
Oh, how precious are the lessons
Which I learn at Jesus’ side! —Goreh

To master this life, spend time with the Master.
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  #850  
Old 12-14-2010, 03:12 AM
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Default Dec. 14

Where’s Johnny’s Cap?

December 14, 2010

Read: Psalm 42

I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. —Psalm 71:14

A story is told about a family that went on a picnic by a lake. At one point, their 5-year-old son waded into the lake, stepped into deep water, and sank out of sight. None of the adults in the family knew how to swim, so they ran up and down the shore in panic while the child bobbed up and down and screamed for help. Just then, a man happened by who sized up the situation, leaped into the lake, and rescued the boy. He climbed out on the bank with the child, who was frightened but unharmed, only to hear the mother ask with irritation, “Where’s Johnny’s cap?”

So often we focus on small disappointments that cause us to grumble and complain rather than focusing on the wonderful things God has brought into our lives, not the least of which is His everlasting love and eternal salvation. When we complain about the small dissatisfactions of life, we’re asking, in effect, “Where’s Johnny’s cap?”

Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18). We may not be thankful for everything that comes our way, but we can give thanks in everything. It may be difficult to be grateful when we lose our job or our health fails, but we can be thankful for the good that God has brought to us in this life and grateful for the life to come.

As endless as God’s blessings are,
So should my praises be
For all His daily goodnesses
That flow unceasingly! —Adams

Instead of being preoccupied with our problems,
let’s praise the Lord for His blessings.
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