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  #871  
Old 01-04-2011, 03:02 AM
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Default Jan. 4

A Lover Of God

January 4, 2011

Read: Matthew 22:34-40

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. —Matthew 22:37

In a brief biography of St. Francis of Assisi, G. K. Chesterton begins with a glimpse into the heart of this unique and compassionate man born in the 12th century. Chesterton writes: “As St. Francis did not love humanity but men, so he did not love Christianity but Christ. . . . The reader cannot even begin to see the sense of a story that may well seem to him a very wild one, until he understands that to this great mystic his religion was not a thing like a theory but a thing like a love-affair.”

When Jesus was asked to name the greatest command in the Law, He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38). The questioner wanted to test Jesus, but the Lord answered him with the key element in pleasing God. First and foremost, our relationship with Him is a matter of the heart.

If we see God as a taskmaster and consider obedience to Him as a burden, then we have joined those of whom the Lord said, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4).

The way of joy is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind.

Oh, help me, Lord, to take by grace divine
Yet more and more of that great love of Thine;
That day by day my heart may give to Thee
A deeper love, and grow more constantly. —Mountain

Put Christ first and you’ll find a joy that lasts.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #872  
Old 01-05-2011, 01:38 AM
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Default Jan. 5

Lion Of Judah

January 5, 2011

Read: Isaiah 31:1-5

Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed. —Revelation 5:5

The lounging lions in Kenya’s Masai Mara game reserve looked harmless. They rolled on their backs in low-lying bushes. They rubbed their faces on branches as if trying to comb their magnificent manes. They drank leisurely from a stream. They strode slowly across dry, scrubby terrain as if they had all the time in the world. The only time I saw their teeth was when one of them yawned.

Their serene appearance is deceiving, however. The reason they can be so relaxed is that they have nothing to fear—no shortage of food and no natural predators. The lions look lazy and listless, but they are the strongest and fiercest of all. One roar sends all other animals running for their lives.

Sometimes it seems as if God is lounging. When we don’t see Him at work, we conclude that He’s not doing anything. We hear people mock God and deny His existence, and we anxiously wonder why He doesn’t defend Himself. But God “will not be afraid of their voice nor be disturbed by their noise” (Isa. 31:4). He has nothing to fear. One roar from Him, and His detractors will scatter like rodents.

If you wonder why God isn’t anxious when you are, it’s because He has everything under control. He knows that Jesus, the Lion of Judah, will triumph.

When fear and worry test your faith
And anxious thoughts assail,
Remember God is in control
And He will never fail. —Sper

Because God is in control, we have nothing to fear.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #873  
Old 01-06-2011, 04:24 AM
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Default Jan. 6

Get Involved

January 6, 2011

Read: John 4:7-26

But [Jesus] needed to go through Samaria. —John 4:4

Norena’s South Florida home was severely damaged during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. She received an insurance settlement, and the repair work began. But the contractors left when the money ran out, leaving an unfinished home with no electricity. For 15 years, Norena got by with a tiny refrigerator and a few lamps connected to extension cords. Surprisingly, her neighbors didn’t seem to notice her dilemma. Then, acting on a tip, the mayor got involved and contacted an electrical contractor who restored power to her house within a few hours.

When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), He got involved in her life and talked to her about her need for spiritual power. He established common ground with her (water, v.7) and piqued her spiritual interest and curiosity (vv.9-14). He was gracious and sensitive as He confronted her sin (vv.16-19) and kept the conversation centered on the main issue (vv.21-24). Then He confronted her directly with who He was as Messiah (v.26). As a result, she and many other Samaritans believed in Him (vv.39-42).

Let’s get involved in the lives of others and tell them about Jesus. He is the only source of spiritual power and satisfies our deepest longings.

Help me to see the tragic plight
Of souls far off in sin;
Help me to love, to pray, and go
To bring the wandering in. —Harrison

A faith worth having is a faith worth sharing.
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  #874  
Old 01-07-2011, 02:57 AM
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Default Jan. 7

Truly Amazing

January 7, 2011

Read: Romans 5:6-11

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! —1 John 3:1

I read these words on a young woman’s personal Web site: “I just want to be loved—and he has to be amazing!”

Isn’t that what we all want—to be loved, to feel cared for by someone? And so much the better if he or she is amazing!

The one who fits that description most fully is Jesus Christ. In a display of unprecedented love, He left His Father in heaven and came to earth as the baby we celebrate at Christmas (Luke 2). Then, after living a perfect life, He gave His life as an offering to God on the cross in our behalf (John 19:17-30). He took our place because we needed to be rescued from our sin and its death penalty. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Then 3 days later, the Father raised Jesus to life again (Matt. 28:1-8).

When we repent and receive Jesus’ gift of amazing love, He becomes our Savior (John 1:12; Rom. 5:9), Lord (John 13:14), Teacher (Matt. 23:8), and Friend (John 15:14). “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).

Looking for someone to love you? Jesus loves us so much more than anyone else possibly could. And He is truly amazing!

Amazing thought! that God in flesh
Would take my place and bear my sin;
That I, a guilty, death-doomed soul,
Eternal life might win! —Anon.

The wonder of it all—just to think that Jesus loves me.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #875  
Old 01-07-2011, 11:15 PM
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Default Jan. 8

A Clear Conscience

January 8, 2011

Read: 1 John 1

I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. —Acts 24:16

After Ffyona Campbell became famous as the first woman to walk around the world, her joy was short-lived. Despite the adulation she received, something troubled her. Guilt overtook her and pushed her to the brink of a nervous breakdown.

What was bothering her? “I shouldn’t be remembered as the first woman to walk around the world,” she finally admitted. “I cheated.” During her worldwide trek, she broke the guidelines of the Guinness Book of World Records by riding in a truck part of the way. To clear her conscience, she called her sponsor and confessed her deception.

God has given each of us a conscience that brings guilt when we do wrong. In Romans, Paul describes our conscience as “accusing or else excusing [us]” (2:15). For the obedient follower of Christ, care of the conscience is an important way of maintaining a moral compass despite moral imperfection. Confessing sin, turning from it, and making restitution should be a way of life (1 John 1:9; Lev. 6:2-5).

Paul modeled a well-maintained conscience, saying, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16 NIV). Through confession and repentance, he kept short accounts with God. Is sin bothering you? Follow Paul’s example. Strive for a clear conscience.

There is a treasure you can own
That’s greater than a crown or throne:
This treasure is a conscience clear
That brings the sweetest peace and cheer. —Isenhour

If God’s Word guides your conscience,
let your conscience be your guide.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #876  
Old 01-09-2011, 02:18 AM
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Default Jan. 9

The Eye That Never Sleeps

January 9, 2011

Read: Psalm 121

In my distress I cried to the Lord, and He heard me. —Psalm 120:1

Detective Allan Pinkerton became famous in the mid-1800s by solving a series of train robberies and foiling a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln as he traveled to his first inauguration. As one of the first agencies of its kind in the US, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency gained even more prominence because of its logo of a wide-open eye with the caption, “We Never Sleep.”

There is no better feeling than knowing you are protected and secure. You feel peaceful when the doors are locked and all is quiet as you drift off to sleep at night. You feel safe. But many lie awake in their beds with fearful thoughts of the present or dread of the future. Some are afraid of commotion outside or of a spouse who has been violent. Some cannot rest because of worry over a rebellious child. Others are anxiously listening to make sure a seriously ill child is still breathing.

These are the times when our loving God encourages us to cry out to Him, to the One who will neither “slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:4). Psalm 34:15 reminds us that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.”

Pinkerton may have been the original “private eye,” but the One who really has the eye that never sleeps is listening to the cries of “the righteous” (Ps. 34:17).

Before you sleep, just gently lay
Every troubled thought away;
Drop your burden and your care
In the quiet arms of prayer. —Anon.

We can sleep in peace when we remember that God is awake.
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  #877  
Old 01-10-2011, 02:44 AM
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Default Jan. 10

Called From

January 10, 2011

Read: Genesis 12:1-9

The Lord had said to Abram, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” —Genesis 12:1

One of the smartest people I know is a college friend who became a Christian while studying at a state university. He graduated with honors and went on to study at a respected seminary. He served a small church as pastor for several years and then accepted a call to another small church far from family and friends. After 12 years at that church, he sensed that the congregation needed new leadership, so he stepped down. He hadn’t been offered a job at a bigger church or a teaching position at a college or seminary. In fact, he didn’t even have another job. He just knew that God was leading him in a different direction, so he followed.

When we discussed it, my friend said, “A lot of people talk about being called to something, but I don’t hear much about being called from something.”

In many ways, my friend’s obedience was like that of Israel’s patriarch Abraham, who went out, not knowing where God was leading (Heb. 11:8-10). Difficulties like famine (Gen. 12:10), fear (vv.11-20), and family disputes (13:8) gave reason for doubt, but Abraham persevered and because of his faith God counted him as righteous (Gal. 3:6).

A life of obedience may not be easy, but it will be blessed (Luke 11:28).

As Abraham went out,
Not knowing where he was going;
Now, Lord, keep me from doubt,
To go the way You are showing. —Hess

You don’t need to know where you’re going
if you know God is leading.
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  #878  
Old 01-11-2011, 02:58 AM
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Default Jan. 11

Why Not Now?

January 11, 2011

Read: John 13:33-38

David, after he had served his own generation . . . fell asleep. —Acts 13:36

I have a dear friend who served as a missionary in Suriname for many years, but in his final years he was stricken with an illness that paralyzed him. At times he wondered why God allowed him to linger. He longed to depart and to be with his Lord.

Perhaps life is very hard for you or a loved one, and you are wondering why God has allowed you or your loved one to linger. When Jesus said He was going to heaven, Peter asked, “Lord, why can I not follow You now?” (John 13:37). You, like Peter, may wonder why entry into heaven has been postponed: “Why not now?”

God has a wise and loving purpose in leaving us behind. There is work to be done in us that can only be accomplished here on earth. Our afflictions, which are for the moment, are working for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). And there is work to be done for others—if only to love and to pray. Our presence may also be for the purpose of giving others an opportunity to learn love and compassion.

So, though you may desire release for yourself or a loved one, to live on in the flesh can mean fruitfulness (Phil. 1:21). And there is comfort in waiting: Though heaven may be delayed, God has His reasons. No doubt about it!

Not so in haste, my heart!
Have faith in God, and wait;
Although He seems to linger long
He never comes too late. —Torrey

Our greatest comfort is to know that God is in control.
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  #879  
Old 01-12-2011, 03:46 AM
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Default Jan. 12

Behind The Scenes

January 12, 2011

Read: Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. —Matthew 6:6

Recently I attended a memorial service for a gifted musician whose life had touched many people. The tribute to this Christian woman included video and audio clips, photos, instrumentalists, and speakers. After everyone had left the church, I stopped to thank the technicians whose flawless work at the control board had contributed so much to this moving tribute. “No one noticed what you did,” I told them. “That’s the way we like it,” they replied.

In Matthew 6, Jesus told His disciples to give (vv.1-4), pray (vv.5-6), and fast (vv.16-18) in order to please God, not to gain praise from people. “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place” (v.6). Whether giving, praying, or fasting, Jesus said, “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (vv.4,6,18).

Something within us makes us want to be seen and recognized for our good deeds. While there’s nothing wrong with encouragement and appreciation, a desire for praise can undermine our service because it shifts the focus from others to ourselves. When there is no public “thank you,” we may feel slighted. But even when we serve God in secret, He sees it all.

The service that we do for God
May go unpraised by men;
But when we stand before the Lord,
He will reward us then. —Sper

It is better to earn recognition without getting it than to get recognition without earning it.
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  #880  
Old 01-13-2011, 03:20 AM
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Default Jan. 13

Contract Faith

January 13, 2011

Read: Romans 8:28-39

All things work together for good to those who love God. —Romans 8:28

Sometimes people who serve God live with an unstated “contract faith.” Because they give time and energy to work for God, they think they deserve special treatment in return.

But not my friend Douglas. He has lived a Job-like existence in many ways, experiencing the failure of a ministry, his wife’s death from cancer, and injuries from a drunk driver to himself and a child. Yet Douglas advises, “Don’t confuse God with life.”

When troubles come and doubts arise, I often turn to Romans 8. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” asked Paul. “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (v.35). In that one sentence, Paul summarized his ministry autobiography. He endured trials for the sake of the gospel; yet somehow he had the faith to believe that these “things”—surely not good in themselves—could be used by God to accomplish good. He had learned to see past the hardships to a loving God who will one day prevail. He wrote, “I am persuaded that [nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ” (vv.38-39).

Confidence like that can go a long way in helping overcome discouragement about how life hasn’t worked out the way we thought it would.

For Further Study
Wondering about the reasons for your trials?
Read the online booklet Why Would A Good God
Allow Suffering? at www.discoveryseries.org/q0106

He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. —Philippians 1:6
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