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  #891  
Old 01-22-2011, 01:43 AM
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Default Jan. 22

The Outcast

January 22, 2011

Read: James 2:1-9

If you show partiality, you commit sin. —James 2:9

His face was grimy, his hair long and dirty. Beer stained his clothing and perfumed the air around him. When he stepped into the church building, the Sunday worshipers ignored him. They were stunned when the man approached the pulpit, took off his wig, and began preaching. That’s when they realized he was their pastor.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to be friendly and shake hands with the people I know and those who pre-sent themselves well.

James issued a serious warning for people like me. He said, “If you show partiality, you commit sin” (2:9). Favoritism based on appearance or economic status has no place in God’s family. In fact, it means we have “become judges with evil thoughts” (v.4).

Fortunately, we can guard against preferential treatment by loving our neighbor as ourselves—no matter who our neighbor may be. Reaching out to the homeless man, the hungry woman, or the heartbroken teen means we “fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture” (v.8).

In a world that keeps the outcast at arm’s length, let’s show the love of Christ and embrace the one who needs our care the most.

Forgive me, Lord, for prejudice—
Remove its subtle lie;
Oh, fill my heart with Your great love
That sent Your Son to die. —D. De Haan

True Christian love helps those who can’t return the favor.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #892  
Old 01-23-2011, 02:33 AM
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Default Jan. 23

God Is At Work

January 23, 2011

Read: Exodus 14:26–15:2

He is my God, and I will praise Him. —Exodus 15:2

Jack and Trisha were driving to the hospital late one night for the birth of their second child when the unexpected happened. Trisha began to deliver the baby! Jack called 911 and Cherie White, an emergency dispatcher, was able to talk Jack through the delivery. But the baby wouldn’t breathe. So Cherie then instructed Jack how to give emergency breathing, which he had to do for 6 anxious minutes. Finally the newborn took a breath and cried. When asked later how they all got through the ordeal and remained calm, Cherie responded, “I’m glad God works midnights!”

I love to hear media reports in which God gets the glory He deserves for something good that has happened. In the Bible reading for today, it’s obvious that God should get the credit for parting the Red Sea to help His people escape from Pharaoh, even though Moses was the one who raised his rod (Ex. 14:26-27). All the Israelites and Moses gathered together and sang the Lord’s praises: “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (15:11).

When something good happens, the Lord deserves the credit, for He is the source of all that is good. Give Him the glory. Aren’t you glad He works midnights?

What may seem like coincidence
As we live out our story
Is God at work behind the scenes—
So give Him all the glory. —Sper

Seeing God at work puts a song in our heart.
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  #893  
Old 01-24-2011, 02:32 AM
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Default Jan. 24

Still True Today

January 24, 2011

Read: Acts 17:16-31

While Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. —Acts 17:16

The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland, has an extensive collection of ancient Bible fragments dating back to the second century AD. One fragment on display is a piece of Acts 17:16.

The message that ancient fragment displays, however, is as contemporary as today’s newspaper. It reads, “While Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.” Paul was angered by the proliferation of idols in ancient Athens, and I am convinced he would be upset with us today.

Some idols that we see in today’s world are different than the ones in Paul’s day. Whether it’s wealth, fame, power, athletes, entertainers, or politicians, contemporary idols abound. As always, our spiritual enemy, Satan, seeks to lure us away from the Savior to the false worship of idols. Christians are not immune, and thus we must guard our hearts against self-righteous anger toward unbelievers who seem to worship everything but God.

We must also be drawn by Christ’s love to reach out to those who don’t know Him. Then, like the believers at Thessalonica, they may turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9).

The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne
And worship only Thee. —Cowper

An idol is anything that takes God’s rightful place.
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  #894  
Old 01-25-2011, 03:58 AM
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Default Jan. 25

No More Struggles

January 25, 2011 — by Marvin Williams

Read: Revelation 21:1-4

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. —Revelation 21:4

Fay Weldon went through what she thought was a near-death experience in 2006 when an allergic reaction stopped her heart. She retold her experience to Elizabeth Grice of the London Daily Telegraph. She said that a “terrible creature” tried to pull her through pearly gates, while doctors tried to pull her back. Later, she said, “If that was dying, I don’t want to do it again.” It’s “just more of the same. More struggle.”

Often the process of dying is a struggle. But death itself need not be feared by the believer in Christ—for it will bring us to heaven. In Revelation, John gives a wonderful description of what eternity with God will be like (21:1-4). He sees the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. The city of Jerusalem was a physical sign of the people of God and was described as the place where God dwells (Ps. 76:2). The New Jerusalem, on the other hand, will not be made by human hands. It will be a place where God lives with His people eternally, and it will be a place of “no more”—no more pain, sorrow, and sickness.

We don’t know very much about eternity, but we do know that for the Christian, whatever our emotional and physical struggles are now, they will cease then. Life with God will be better by far.

Think of a land of no sorrow,
Think of a land of no fears,
Think of no death and no sickness,
Think of a land of no tears. —Anon.

Heaven’s delights will far outweigh earth’s difficulties.
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  #895  
Old 01-26-2011, 02:45 AM
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Default Jan. 26

Like A Hypocrite

January 26, 2011

Read: Ephesians 2:1-10

God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love . . . made us alive together with Christ. —Ephesians 2:4-5

Ray Stedman told about a young man who had stopped attending the church Ray was pastoring. The young man said that when he was at work he would sometimes lose his temper and treat co-workers poorly. Then, when Sunday rolled around, he didn’t want to go to church because he felt like a hypocrite.

Stedman told his young friend, “A hypocrite is someone who acts like something he isn’t. When you come to church, you are acting like a Christian. You are not a hypocrite at church.” Suddenly, the young man realized where he was being a hypocrite. He recognized that the answer was not in avoiding church but in changing the way he was at work.

The term hypocrite is from a Greek word that means “play-actor.” It means we pretend to be something we aren’t. Sometimes we forget our true identity as believers in Jesus. We forget that we are accountable to God. When we do that, we live the way we “once walked” (Eph. 2:2) and thus are hypocrites.

Let’s not let our old ways make us act like someone we’re not. Instead, through God’s grace, let’s live in a way that shows we are “alive together with Christ” (v.5). That’s a sure cure for hypocrisy.

Consistency! How much we need
To walk a measured pace,
To live the life of which we speak,
Until we see Christ’s face. —Anon.

It is the inconsistent Christian who helps the devil the most.
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  #896  
Old 01-27-2011, 03:13 AM
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Default Jan. 27

Upside Down

January 27, 2011

Read: Matthew 5:38-48

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies. —Matthew 5:43-44

If you were to ask me who I am, I’d tell you that I’m a follower of Jesus. But I have to admit, at times following Him is a real challenge. He tells me to do things like rejoice when I’m persecuted (Matt. 5:11-12); to turn the other cheek (vv.38-39); to give to someone who wants to take from me (vv.40-42); to love my enemies, bless those who curse me, and do good to those who hate me (vv.43-44). This kind of lifestyle seems very upside down to me.

But I’ve come to realize that He’s not upside down—I am. We have all been born fallen and broken. Being twisted by sin, our first instincts are often wrong, which inevitably leaves a big mess.

We’re like toast slathered with jelly that has fallen upside down on the kitchen floor. Left to ourselves, we can make a pretty big mess of things. Then Jesus comes along, like a divine spatula, scrapes us off the floor of our sinful ways, and turns us right side up. And as we follow His right-side-up ways, we discover that turning the other cheek keeps us from getting caught in a brawl, that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and that dying to self is life at its best.

After all, His ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8), and I’ve come to realize that His ways are always best!

When we’re transformed and made brand-new
We see things differently;
What once seemed right we now abhor,
And wrong we clearly see. —Sper

What may seem upside down to us is right side up to God.
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  #897  
Old 01-28-2011, 04:02 AM
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Default Jan. 28

Earthquake City

January 28, 2011

Read: Acts 16:23-34

Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. —Acts 16:26

In his book A Crack in the Edge of the World, Simon Winchester writes of the small earthquake-prone town of Parkfield, California. Seeking to attract tourists, a hotel sign reads: “Sleep Here When It Happens.” A local restaurant menu features a large steak called “The Big One,” and desserts are called “Aftershocks.” But all humor aside, a real earthquake can be a terrifying experience. I know. I’ve lived through California earthquakes.

In the book of Acts, we read how God used an earthquake to open someone’s heart to the gospel. Having been falsely accused, Paul and Silas found themselves in jail at Philippi. Around midnight, an earthquake rumbled through the prison, opening the doors and loosing the prisoners’ chains. When the jailer learned that Paul and Silas had not tried to escape, he asked, “What must I do to be saved?” (16:30). Paul responded, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (v.31). That night the jailer and his family believed and were baptized. And it all started with an earthquake.

Sometimes life’s upsets can make people more open to the gospel. Do you know anyone who is going through a crisis? Prayerfully stay in contact with them, and be ready to share a sensitive word of witness.

Lord, use us as Your instruments
Of truth and love and care,
And may we bring encouragement
As Your good news we share. —Sper

Many are brought to faith by trouble.
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  #898  
Old 01-29-2011, 03:52 AM
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Default Jan. 29

Six Words From Solomon

January 29, 2011

Read: 1 Kings 10:23; 11:1-10

Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. —Ecclesiastes 12:13

SMITH magazine, an online community that “celebrates the joy of storytelling,” invited readers to submit six-word memoirs that describe their lives. Thousands responded with brief biographies ranging from the light-hearted “Sweet wife, good sons—I’m rich” to the painful “Sixty. Still haven’t forgiven my parents.”

Based on Scripture, I tried to imagine how King Solomon might have summed up his life in six words. As a young man, he could have written: God has given me great wisdom. But in his later years, he might have said: Should have practiced what I preached.

During a reign distinguished by peace and prosperity, Solomon developed spiritual heart problems. When he was old, “his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David” (1 Kings 11:4). The result was God’s displeasure and a sad end to a previously exemplary life (v.9).

The multiple times Solomon used the word vanity (or meaningless) in Ecclesiastes may indicate his disillusionment about life. This once-wise king who had it all, lost it all, and pondered it all, ended the book with this final conclusion: “Fear God and keep His commandments” (12:13).

Those are six words worth heeding.

The pleasures of this sinful world
Are meaningless and vain;
But if we love and follow God
True purpose we will gain. —Sper

Obedience to God is the key to a life of blessing.
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  #899  
Old 01-30-2011, 03:19 AM
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Default Jan. 30

Looking And Learning

January 30, 2011

Read: Deut. 11:18-21

Train up a child in the way he should go. —Proverbs 22:6

As an umpire stood behind the plate at a girls’ softball game, he heard a player’s mother start chanting: “We want a new ump! We want a new ump!” Soon, other parents took up the chant. The ump smiled, then turned toward the crowd and yelled, “I want new parents! I want new parents!” The heckling died away.

It’s important for parents to set a good example, because their children are watching them. Christian parents can encourage good habits and behavior by doing things like:

• Praying for and with them—so they learn how to talk with God. “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it” (Col. 4:2).

• Reading and teaching them the Bible—so they learn God’s truth. “Teach [God’s commands] diligently to your children, . . . talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:7).

• Telling them about Jesus—and leading them to faith in Him. “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

The best way to set a good example for our children is to live out our faith in front of them. While they’re looking—they’re learning about what matters most.

Take stock of yourself and consider your child—
Your time and your thoughts are his due;
How would you reply to the Lord should He ask,
“What kind of parent are you?” —Anon.

Children may not inherit their parents’ talent,
but they will absorb their values.
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  #900  
Old 01-31-2011, 02:20 AM
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Default Jan. 31

Ignoring Grace

January 31, 2011

Read: Matthew 7:13-23

Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. —Matthew 7:14

In the hectic downtown of one of Asia’s great cities, I marveled at the busy sidewalks filled with people. There seemed to be no room to move in the crush of humanity, yet it also seemed that everyone was moving at top speed.

My attention was drawn to the soft, almost mournful sound of a single trumpeter playing “Amazing Grace.” The crowds appeared oblivious to both the musician and the music. Still, he played—sending a musical message of the love of God out to whoever knew the song and would think about the words as he played.

I thought of this experience as a parable. The music seemed to be an invitation to the masses to follow Christ. As with the gospel message, some believe in God’s amazing grace and choose the narrow way. Others ignore His grace, which is the broad way that leads to everlasting destruction. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).

Jesus died so that “whoever calls” on His name (Rom. 10:13) can find forgiveness in His grace.

Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see. —Newton

Christ believed is salvation received.
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