Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking For God In 2013

“You chart the path ahead of me and tell me when to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am.” Psalm 139:3

“The Lord says, “‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.’” Psalm 32:8

“Because of Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for He chose us from the beginning and all things happen just as He decided years ago.” Ephesians 1:11

“The Lord will work out His plans for my life – for Your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for You made me!” Psalm 138:8

“Seek His will in all you do and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:6

Prayer: Grant us wisdom, give us faith, increase our trust and watch over us each day, Father, as we seek Your plan for our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Why Parenting matters

There is limited information in Scripture that describes the home life of Jesus. Every now and then we get a glimpse of something. But there can be little doubt that God and His teachings were at the center.

We read that “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” No doubt His knowledge of and reverence for the Law and Prophets shaped His life and His reverence and relationship with His Heavenly Father and others.

Luke’s Gospel tells us about a family trip to the temple. On the way home, they noticed that He was not with them. When they returned to the temple they found Him listening to and answering questions of the learned teachers. At the tender age of twelve Jesus demonstrated to others the deep understanding of God’s Word that obviously came from His parents.

Mary and Joseph realized that they were obligated to God for the welfare of His only begotten Son. While He was waiting to begin His public ministry He listened to their teachings and followed their examples of Godly living.

Parents can never overlook or underestimate the influence and impact they have on their children.

Prayer: We pray, Father, that parents will realize how important the gift of a child is and the trust You place in them to raise them to know, love, trust and serve You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Why Fathers Matter

We rarely think of Joseph when we speak of Mary and her son, Jesus. But Joseph was a very special individual as well.

In describing him, Matthew says that he was a “just” or “righteous” man. And because of that, he was a “decent,” “fair” and “righteous” man. When he was faced with an incredibly difficult decision - whether or not he should abandon Mary - an angel appeared and advised him to “go ahead with your marriage to Mary.”

Initially, Scripture informs us, “that not wanting to disgrace her, he planned to send her away.” He was well aware of the fact that stoning was the legal prescription for what people would think of Mary’s being pregnant without being married. If he took Mary to be his wife he could be humiliated or ridiculed by those around him. But he chose to obey the command of the angel to marry her. As a “righteous” man he was also a “merciful” man, a man willing to listen to, hear and obey God. Joseph was a man of great character.

But there is more. Not only was he righteous, merciful and obedient to the voice of God, but he was a man who was sensitive and discrete. Joseph was open to the voice of God and responded immediately when God spoke to him and protected the reputation and honor of Mary - thereby revealing he was a man of integrity.

Prayer: Lord, we pray for fathers everywhere who will strive to be like the earthly father of Your Son. We ask that You will raise up men of integrity to honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Matthew 1:18-25 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Why Mothers Matter

One of the most beautiful passages in Scripture is found in Luke’s Gospel. It is called “The Magnificat.” It with Mary proclaiming, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” The word soul is a special word and in Hebrew is used to reveal or describe a person’s entire identity. It is the very essence – or being or character – of a person. In this one word, Mary reveals that all of her is committed to the Lord. The sum and substance of her life was to worship God in all of His Majesty!

If we want to study the smallest particle of God’s creation we put it under a microscope to magnify it. This enlarges, or expands, every detail of the particle so we can discover its intricacies, its subtleties and its structure. Mary was determined to put God under her “microscope” so she could understand Him personally, intimately and completely.

In her “song” she magnified her Lord – not her Son. Often we become overly concerned about the way our children look rather than what they look at. Not so Mary. She recognized her responsibility as a mother and knew that if God were first in her life, He would be first in her child’s life. She had her priorities right.

God entrusted Mary with the Messiah because He was at the center of her life and knew that her Son would be nurtured in what matters most in the life of a child: knowing, understanding and following His will.

Prayer: We ask, Lord, that all mothers everywhere will recognize the importance of being a mother and the trust You place in them to raise children to know You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Luke 1:46-55 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Birth Of Jesus

THE BIRTH OF JESUS And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.

Luke 2:6-16 New Living Translation

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christ's Day

On Mother’s Day we focus all of our attention on our Mothers, recalling and remembering how much they struggled to raise us. Lovingly we shower gifts on them, purchase cards that describe her many sacrifices for us and the unending care she gave to us. She deserves all of the attention and recognition we can give her.

On Father’s Day, we turn our thoughts to him - what he has done for us and expressing our gratitude for the time he spent with us. We recall his efforts to teach us to throw a ball, catch a pass, cast a fishing line or attend a special event. He, too, deserves all the attention and recognition we can give him.

We also give recognition and attention to our Grandparents, to brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and friends and relatives on their special days.

But what will we do that is really special or unique for Christ on His day this year? Will there be an envelope under the tree with a special love-offering that recognizes His importance in our lives? Will it match the amount we gave others?

Will we sacrifice some of our time to show God’s love by being with those who would otherwise be alone and lonely on His day? Will we share a meal with someone who is hungry? Give some clothes to those who are cold and have little? Spend time reading His story to children?

“In as much as you have done it to the least...”

Prayer: Take Your peace from us Father, until and unless we show others Your love on Your day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Matthew 25:40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Joy That Comes From Christmas

A young run-away girl collapsed on the streets of a large city at the beginning of the Christmas season. She was rushed to a hospital, placed in intensive care and finally made it to a room where she made slow progress in regaining her health.

One evening a group of carolers stopped by her room and sang the beautiful songs that describe the birth of Jesus. After they sang, a young lady approached her bed and asked if she knew the Baby that they sang about.

Quietly, barely above a whisper she said, “I heard about Him when I went to Sunday school. But don’t remember too much about Him.”

The young lady reminded her of the story and meaning of the birth of Jesus and the plan of salvation. She accepted the Lord as her Savior. Finally, it was time for her to leave and a nurse said, “Well, now that you’re better, it’s time for you to leave.”

Happily she said, “Yes, but I’m not leaving alone. I’m taking Jesus with me. Do you know Jesus?”

“Oh, yes,” replied the nurse, in a grumpy voice.

“Well, then,” she asked, “why aren’t you filled with joy like I am now? If you truly know Jesus, you’ll be happy all the time.”

David said, “Restore the joy of my salvation!”

Prayer: Lord, sometimes we surrender our joy to the stress and strains of life. Come now and return the joy we once had when we accepted Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 51:12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

No Mistake

Walter came home from Sunday school with a question all over his face. “Mom,” he asked, “did the shepherds have washing machines where they kept their sheep?”

“Shepherds? Washers?” After a moment she said, “No, darling, they did not have washing machines. Why do you ask?”

“Well, Mrs. Mathis was reading the story of the birth of Jesus and she said, ‘While shepherds washed their socks that night...’ and I didn’t understand what was going on.”

While we often think of the shepherds in the field that night, the glory that appeared with the angel and the fear that gripped them, we seldom connect the shepherds in that field with the Good Shepherd.

Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd” twice in John’s Gospel. In those statements he summarizes all of the prophetic images of His role as prophesier in the Old Testament. This declaration is a claim to His divinity as revealed in the Old Testament and focuses on His love, protection and guidance of us - His lambs.

But there is more. Not only is He our Shepherd but He chose to identify Himself as the good shepherd - and good is a term that carries with it nobility. It stands in sharp contrast to shepherds who were hired hands who worked and cared only for their own self-interests.

Prayer: We thank You, Lord, for loving us, for being our Good Shepherd and for laying down Your life for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Luke 2:8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

No Room, But...

The annual church Christmas play was rapidly approaching and Mrs. Adams was assigning roles to the children in her Sunday school class. “Albert,” she said, “I’d like you to be the inn keeper this year.”

“No way, not me, absolutely not!” said Albert. “I’m not going to be the one who turned Mary and Joseph away from a good nights rest.”

“Oh, please,” she begged. “I really need you to do this. We won’t be able to have the play without you,” she pleaded. Finally he agreed.

On the night of the performance, Joseph went to the door and knocked. “Who’s there?” he asked.

“My name’s Joseph and Mary and I need a place to sleep,” was the reply.

“I’m sorry,” he said politely. “We have no rooms available.” And then added kindly, “But if you’d like you can rest awhile and I’ll get you some cookies and milk.”

There are many, like Albert, who would gladly give our Lord some “cookies and milk” but would never allow Him to come into their hearts and change their lives. It’s enjoyable to visit the manger, sing a few carols, read the story of His birth and then exchange gifts. But to make Him a permanent resident?

See Him now: Patiently standing. Gently knocking. Carefully listening. Waiting hopefully. Wanting desperately to save us and give us eternal life.

Prayer: We thank You, Father, for wanting to be our Savior and to fellowship with us. Come, dwell within us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Never Quit!

“Don’t let this be you!” said a coach to his football team after a difficult loss. He was pointing to a picture of a player sitting in front of his locker. His helmet was between his feet. His elbows were on his knees and his head was between his hands with a look of sadness in his eyes. Under his helmet were the words, “I quit!”

As we look into the manger this Christmas we can rejoice together and say, “Thank You, God, that You never quit!”

Whenever we think of the eternal love that God has for us we often forget about the disappointments He must have endured. Imagine, if you can, what must have entered into His mind and heart when Adam and Eve rejected His path. Consider, if you will, the many agreements He made with people who promised to obey Him and then abandoned their word when they thought He was out of sight. We will never know the grief He suffered because of the hope He had that people would love Him and be obedient to Him.

But, He never gave up. He never quit. Finally, John wrote, “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world!”

All of us have suffered many losses in life. None, however, can ever be compared to God’s losses. But He refused to give up even though it cost the life of His Son.

Prayer: We thank You, Father, for Your unfailing love and determination to rescue us. We are overwhelmed when we think that You would sacrifice Your Son for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: 1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Where's Jesus' Present?

It was Christmas Eve. The tree was brightly decorated, the presents were wrapped with beautiful paper and bows, the meal was over and the family gathered together to read the Story of the Birth of Jesus.

“Now,” said Dad, “let each one of us say a prayer and I will end our prayer time before we go to bed.”

After praying, Susie went to the tree and began to look at each present. She looked at the name on each of them very carefully. The family was curious but quiet.

Finally, Susie, looked at each member of the family and asked, “Where’s the present for Jesus? What are we giving Him this year?”

Stunned, the family sat in silence. No one had thought about a gift for Him.

Paul has a suggestion for the best gift we could give Christ this Christmas. Writing to the Romans he said, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies – your entire self – to God…be a living and holy sacrifice to Him – the kind He will accept.”

When we think of giving gifts this Christmas each of us would do well to think first of the gift we will give God. We need to take Paul’s words seriously, and give the most valuable gift – the gift of ourselves – to God!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, trouble our hearts with the words of Paul this season, and carefully and prayerfully consider, first and foremost, the gift we will give You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Whose Party?

Competent! Outstanding! Careful! Friendly! Supportive! Bright! Cheerful! Caring! Gracious! And the list of words to describe Beth, the secretary to the president of the company, could go on and on. She was loved by everyone in the company.

When it came time for her birthday one year, her co-workers decided to honor her with a lavish party. They rented a beautiful ballroom, hired the best caterer, designed a special cake, had special napkins with her name on them and collected money to buy a gift.

All went well. The tables were beautifully set, the caterer was on time, the guests arrived and there was excitement in the room. Everyone kept looking at the entrance awaiting the arrival of Beth. After waiting for fifteen minutes the co-worker who organized the event said to Beth’s best friend, “Where is she?”

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “I’ll phone her.”

She did - and discovered that she was at her favorite sandwich shop enjoying her lunch alone. No one thought to invited Beth to her celebration!

There will be many parties this Christmas. And as usual, the Guest will not be invited. Tables will be set, lights will blink, guests will arrive, laughter will ring out, gifts will be exchanged, everyone will have fun - but Jesus will not be present. No one will think to invite Him - the One who should be the main attraction.

Prayer: Lord of the season, may we place Your Son, our Savior, at the center of everything we do this Christmas. May we never forget, “It’s all about Him.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Matthew 2:11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Gift For Eternity

Timothy had done very well in his first semester at college. Excitement was building in the family as the day approached when he would be home for Christmas. His mother wanted to make it a special event, one he would remember for years to come.

“Let’s give Timothy a wristwatch for Christmas,” she said. “He’s done so well and I want him to know how much we appreciate all of his hard work.”

“But,” protested his father, “what happened to that crush proof, waterproof, shock proof, scratch proof watch we gave him when he left for college?”

“He can’t find it,” said his mother.

In giving us the gift of His Son, God gave us Someone Who will be with us forever. A Gift that will be with us until the end of our lives and throughout eternity. An indestructible, ever-present Presence.

Jesus promised us to “be sure of this – I am with you always and everywhere, even to the end of the age.”

Some would ask, “What does it mean that He will be with us? Did he not leave His disciples when He ascended into heaven?” No, He didn’t.

When He left them physically He sent the Holy Spirit to be Jesus’ presence with them personally. We know He was called “Immanuel – God with us” when He was born. We know He is with us now through the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: It’s easy, Father, for us to lose sight of You and Your messages at this time of the year. But help us to pause, pray frequently and sense Your presence within us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Matthew 28:20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Monday, December 3, 2012

What Gift?

Joyce fell behind in her Christmas shopping and suddenly realized that she had neglected to purchase cards for her friends. Hurriedly, she ran to the card section of a large greeting card store and purchased 100 cards with a beautiful scene of a family gathered in front of a glowing fireplace enjoying its warmth.

Returning home she hastily signed each of the cards without reading the message. Several days later she was sitting with her husband reviewing the guest list for a family dinner. She decided to show him the card she had sent to their friends.

After looking at the picture, she opened the card and read the verse to Jason, her husband:

“This card is sent to you to say,
A lovely gift is on the way!”

God sent us a “card” to inform us that He would and did send us a “lovely gift” - His son. All of the books of the Bible tell us of the Gift that He was going to send, tell us the reason He sent us this gift and what we can enjoy now and in the life to come because of this gift.

But as with every gift, there are two parts: one is giving and the other is receiving. An angel rejoiced and proclaimed: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.” That is God giving. And John said, “As many as received Him...to them He gave life.” But the choice to receive is ours.

Prayer: We thank You, Father, for the Gift of life You provided for each of us. May we accept Your Gift in faith believing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: