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  #861  
Old 12-25-2010, 02:04 AM
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Default Dec. 25

Amazing!

December 25, 2010

Read: Matthew 1:18-25

Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife. —Matthew 1:24

The Christmas story, recorded in Matthew and Luke, has become so familiar that I wonder if we grasp the reality of what actually happened: An angel told a young virgin that she would conceive a child by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-38). The angel then told her fiancé to marry her and name the baby Jesus, “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Shepherds saw angels in the sky and were told of a Savior’s birth in Bethlehem (Luke 2:11). Wise men traveled hundreds of miles to worship the One who, they said, “has been born King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2). Amazing!

Equally astonishing is that Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men did exactly as they had been told. Mary yielded herself to God; Joseph took her home as his wife; the shepherds went to Bethlehem to find the baby in a manger; and the wise men followed the star. With no idea of the outcome, they all took the next step by faith in the Lord. Amazing!

How is it with us this Christmas? Will we trust God and follow His leading even when we face uncertainty and overwhelming circumstances?

When you and I obey the Lord, the outcome is truly amazing!

To follow the leading of God,
To step out in faith and obey,
Is always the path we should take
Whenever we can’t see the way. —Sper

Faith never knows where it is being led,
but it loves and knows the One who is leading. —Chambers
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  #862  
Old 12-26-2010, 04:26 AM
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Default Dec. 26

He Says, We Say

December 26, 2010

Read: James 1:21-27

Love the Lord your God, . . . obey His voice. —Deuteronomy 30:20

As my wife reviewed her day, she told me about an incident that took place with our granddaughter Eliana, who was visiting. Eliana had been playing with some toys, so when she wanted to go to another part of the house, Grandma told her, “Eliana, you need to put your toys away first.” Without missing a beat, Eliana replied, “I don’t have time.”

She was just 2 years old at the time, so she was definitely not running on a packed schedule!

I wonder sometimes if God might be a bit surprised with us when He hears our responses to His commands.

For instance, when Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden” (Matt. 11:28), and we say, “I can’t go on. I have too many troubles and problems,” I wonder what He thinks. When He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10), and we say, “I can’t fit You into my schedule,” I wonder what He thinks. When He says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16), and we say, “But the world looks like so much fun,” I wonder what He thinks.

God has spoken. Obedience is the best way to honor Him for what He has done for us and to show Him how much we love Him.

Master, speak, and make me ready,
When Thy voice is truly heard,
With obedience glad and steady,
Still to follow every word. —Havergal

Our desire to please God is our highest motive for obeying God.
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  #863  
Old 12-27-2010, 03:24 AM
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Default Dec. 27

The True Owner

December 27, 2010

Read: Psalm 95:1-7

All things were created through Him and for Him. —Colossians 1:16

Did you hear about the church that didn’t have enough room for parking? Fortunately, it was located right next to a store that was closed on Sundays, so a church member asked the store owner if they could overflow into his parking lot. “No problem,” he said. “You can use it 51 weeks out of the year. On the 52nd week, though, it will be chained off.” The man was grateful, but asked curiously, “What happens that week?” The store owner smiled, “Nothing. I just want you to remember that it’s not your parking lot.”

It’s easy to take for granted all the material and spiritual blessings that God has given us. That’s why we need to stop and remember that Scripture says the true owner of all we possess is God: “All that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all” (1 Chron. 29:11). Even our bodies do not belong to us: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit . . . and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

As 1 Timothy 6:17 reminds us: “God . . . gives us richly all things to enjoy.” We are so abundantly blessed with good things! Let’s never take our Father for granted, but use wisely and gratefully all that He has given us.

As we all enjoy God’s blessing,
Oh, may we not forget
Our Lord, from whom all good gifts come—
In Him our needs are met. —Fitzhugh

God gives blessing to us so we can give glory to Him.
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  #864  
Old 12-28-2010, 02:29 AM
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Default Dec. 28

The Year In Review

December 28, 2010

Read: Psalm 77:1-14

I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. —Psalm 77:11

During the last week of December, newscasters often look back at the significant events of the past year—the triumphs and failures of prominent people, natural disasters, economic challenges, and the deaths of celebrities and leaders. The most surprising events usually receive top billing.

If you reviewed the past year of your life, what would appear on the list? Has an unexpected event caused you to question God or to more deeply experience His goodness?

Psalm 77 chronicles the lament of a person in distress who felt as if God no longer cared (vv.7-9). “Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore?” (v.8). Yet, even in anguish, the psalmist said, “I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old” (v.11). The result was a renewal of trust and hope: “You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples” (v.14).

As you think back over this past year, why not write down the significant events in your life. Don’t be afraid to include your difficulties and disappointments, but remember to consider all the ways God has been with you.

During every difficulty, we can always find the faithfulness of God.

When we look back and contemplate
What we’ve been through this year,
We’ll praise You, Lord, for all You’ve done—
Your faithfulness is clear. —Sper

Difficulties in our lives give us the opportunity
to experience the faithfulness of God.
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  #865  
Old 12-29-2010, 02:17 AM
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Default Dec. 29

Common Standards

December 29, 2010

Read: Deuteronomy 4:1-10

What great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments? —Deuteronomy 4:8

In the frenzied early days of the Internet, Web developers were making up their own rules. The result was confusion. Among the problems was that what looked good on one computer was unreadable on another. This caused developers to refer to the Internet as the wild, wild Web, an allusion to the days of the wild, wild West in the US when law and order were pretty much nonexistent. To bring order out of chaos, Web developers started calling for others to agree on common standards.

Their plea reminds us of why it was important for the Israelites to have laws to live by when they left Egypt (Deut. 4:1). Without them, there would be anarchy. With them, however, they would have a system that was so superior that it would demonstrate to other nations the greatness of their God (v.8).

Today, to bring order out of the chaos of our sinful, selfish world, believers submit to the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), who Himself is the fulfillment of the law (Matt. 5:17). When we submit to the standard established by Christ and love others as God loves us, we will live in peace with one another and thus provide a witness to the world of how great God is.

Let us go forth, as called of God,
Redeemed by Jesus’ precious blood;
His love to show, His life to live,
His message speak, His mercy give. —Whittle

The world will know by our love for God and others
that He is great.
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  #866  
Old 12-30-2010, 02:28 AM
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Default Dec. 30

Life Is Like Riding A Bicycle

December 30, 2010

Read: Hebrews 11:32-40

All these . . . obtained a good testimony through faith. —Hebrews 11:39

In a letter to his son Eduard, Albert Einstein gave this advice: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” The great physicist’s advice is wise and practical.

This wise counsel can apply to the Christian life. Many believers by faith keep moving ahead through painful and trying circumstances. But when they experience a personal moral failure, they lose their balance and fall. Their regret and feeling of unworthiness of God’s forgiveness may then keep them down and they no longer move ahead in their spiritual life.

The Bible gives us many examples of those who have experienced serious personal failure. Abraham lied to Pharaoh about his wife, Sarah (Gen. 12:11-17). Jacob deceived his father to acquire Esau’s blessing (Gen. 27:18-29). Moses disobeyed God by striking the rock instead of speaking to it (Num. 20:7-12). Despite their failures, we are told: “all these . . . obtained a good testimony through faith” (Heb. 11:39).

These biblical characters are lifted up as examples because after they fell, they turned back to God and began to follow Him again. Have you lost your spiritual balance through a sinful choice, which is keeping you down? Repent and follow the God of second chances once again.

I’ve strayed, O Lord, and turned aside,
I’ve disobeyed Your voice;
But now contrite of heart I turn
And make Your will my choice. —D. De Haan

Our God is a God of second chances.
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  #867  
Old 12-31-2010, 02:32 AM
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Default Dec. 31

Rearview Mirror Reflections

December 31, 2010

Read: Psalm 111

For You, Lord, have made me glad . . . ; I will triumph in the works of Your hands. —Psalm 92:4

I’ve always thought that you can see the hand of God best in the rearview mirror. Looking back, it’s easier to understand why He placed us in the home that He did; why He brought certain people and circumstances into and out of our lives; why He permitted difficulties and pain; why He took us to different places and put us in various jobs and careers.

In my own life, I get a lot of clarity (though not perfect clarity—that’s heaven’s joy!) about the wise and loving ways of God as I reflect on the ways He has managed my journey by “the works of [His] hands” (Ps. 92:4). With the psalmist, it makes me glad and strikes a note of joy in my heart to see how often God has assisted, directed, and managed the outcomes so faithfully (Ps. 111).

Looking ahead, though, is not always so clear. Have you ever had that lost feeling when the road ahead seems twisted, foggy, and scary? Before you move into next year, stop and look in the rearview mirror of the year gone by, and joyfully realize that God meant it when He said, “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear’ ” (Heb. 13:5-6).

With the promise of God’s presence and help in mind, you can move ahead into 2011 with utmost confidence.

Shall not He who led me safely
Through the footsteps of this day
Lead with equal understanding
All along my future way? —Adams

God’s guidance in the past gives courage for the future.
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  #868  
Old 01-01-2011, 07:00 AM
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Default Jan. 1

Eat Fast, Pay Less

January 1, 2011

Read: Psalm 63:1-8

My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You. —Psalm 63:1

A hotel in Singapore introduced an express buffet—eat all you can in 30 minutes and pay just half the price! After that experience, one diner reported: “I lost my decorum, stuffing my mouth with yet more food. I lost my civility, . . . and I lost my appetite for the rest of the day, so severe was my heartburn.”

Sometimes I think in our devotional reading we treat God’s Word like an express buffet. We wolf it down as fast as we can and wonder why we haven’t learned very much. Like physical food, spiritual food needs chewing! For those of us who have been Christians for a long time, we may have a tendency to speed-read through the passages we’ve read many times before. But in doing so, we miss what God is meaning to show us. One sure sign of this is when we learn nothing new from that passage.

David’s desire was right when he wrote in Psalm 119:15, “I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.” That’s the way to treat God’s Word—to take time to mull it over.

Let’s not come to the Bible as if we were going to an express buffet. Only by meditating on God’s Word will we get the most value for our spiritual well-being.

Spending time in meditation,
Hiding Scripture in our heart,
Works in us a transformation
So from sin we can depart. —Sper

Reading the Bible without reflecting
is like eating without chewing.
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  #869  
Old 01-02-2011, 04:29 AM
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Default Jan. 2

Trouble

January 2, 2011

Read: 1 Peter 4:12-19

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you. —1 Peter 4:12

Does it surprise you that trouble is a part of life? Probably not. We all know trouble close-up and personal—bad health, empty bank account, blighted love, grief, loss of job, and the list goes on.

It shouldn’t surprise us, therefore, that God permits the added trials of being ridiculed and hated because we follow Christ (1 Peter 4:12). But trouble, whether it is common to man or unique to Christians, can reveal to us the moral fiber of our soul.

I have never seen a golf course without hazards. They are part of the game. Golfers speak of the courses with the most hazards as the most challenging, and they will travel a long way to test their skill against the most demanding 18 holes.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “If I had a formula for bypassing trouble, I wouldn’t pass it around. I wouldn’t be doing anyone a favor. Trouble creates a capacity to handle it . . . . Meet it as a friend, for you’ll see a lot of it and you had better be on speaking terms with it.”

Let’s not think it strange when trouble comes, for God is using it to test the stamina of our souls. The best way to handle trouble is to commit our “souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (v.19).

The troubles that we face each day
Reveal how much we need the Lord;
They test our faith and strength of will
And help us then to trust God’s Word. —D. De Haan

Great triumphs are born out of great troubles.
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  #870  
Old 01-03-2011, 02:13 AM
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Default Jan. 3

An Overcoming Faith

January 3, 2011

Read: 1 Samuel 1:1-18

I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill. —Psalm 3:4

Few things disable new workers on a job like criticism from veterans. Good hiring managers know to protect new employees by surrounding them with mentors willing to shield them from unnecessary barbs.

Hannah is a mentor to us in dealing with criticism and deep desires of the heart (1 Sam. 1:1-18). Surrounded by a husband who didn’t understand, a taunting peer, and an overly judgmental clergyman, Hannah found a way through the fog by confiding in God (v.10). While we now know God answered the prayer of Hannah’s heart by giving her a child, we don’t know for sure if Eli’s blessing was a wish or a promise from God (v.17). I think her no-longer-sad face came most of all because she gained peace from confiding in Him.

We were created to be in relationship with God; and when we take that relationship to an intimate level, it bonds us not only to His presence but also to His strength. Prayers that express our hurts and emotions are most assuredly welcomed by God because they demonstrate our trust in Him. We will often find perspective, and nearly always come away comforted, knowing we’ve entrusted the things that are troubling us—whether criticism or deep desires—to the One who is best able to sort through them.

The kindest Friend I’ve ever had
Is One I cannot see,
Yet One in whom I can confide,
Who loves and blesses me. —Shuler

In prayer, it’s better to have a heart without words
than words without heart.
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