Wednesday, December 31, 2008


December 27-28, 2008

by Charles R. Swindoll

John 1:14

What exactly is grace? And is it limited to Jesus' life and ministry? You may be surprised to know that Jesus never used the word itself. He just taught it and, equally important, He lived it. Furthermore, the Bible never gives us a one-statement definition, though grace appears throughout its pages . . . not only the word itself but numerous demonstrations of it. Understanding what grace means requires our going back to an old Hebrew term that meant "to bend, to stoop." By and by, it came to include the idea of "condescending favor."

If you have traveled to London, you have perhaps seen royalty. If so, you may have noticed sophistication, aloofness, distance. On occasion, royalty in England will make the news because someone in the ranks of nobility will stop, kneel down, and touch or bless a commoner. That is grace. There is nothing in the commoner that deserves being noticed or touched or blessed by the royal family. But because of grace in the heart of the queen, there is the desire at that moment to pause, to stoop, to touch, even to bless.

The late pastor and Bible scholar Donald Barnhouse perhaps said it best: "Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace."

To show grace is to extend favor or kindness to one who doesn't deserve it and can never earn it. Receiving God's acceptance by grace always stands in sharp contrast to earning it on the basis of works. Every time the thought of grace appears, there is the idea of its being undeserved. In no way is the recipient getting what he or she deserves. Favor is being extended simply out of the goodness of the heart of the giver.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Be still

"Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today... The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." "
Exodus 14:13-14

This is Moses speaking to the Israelites just after they've left their home, albeit their home filled with slavery and suffering, in Egypt. They are marching out into the desert, away from their captors, when the Egyptians decide they want them back and begin to chase. The Israelites are panicked. They are men, women and children, babies and grandparents. The Egyptians behind them are warriors. The Israelites are moving, carrying their possessions. The Egyptians are chasing, with nothing to slow them down. The Israelites are wondering if perhaps they should have "behaved" and just stayed in Egypt. They see no way out. Moses had to be panicking a bit too. He know that God was powerful. They all did. But what could even God do here, with the sea on one side of them and the army on the other? But Moses trusted God.


Do I trust like this? Do I grab hold of a promise God's given me and then "be still", knowing that He will keep that promise? Oh, that's hard for me to do!! But think what could happen if I did!

For Moses it involved God parting a sea for the Israelites to walk safely away from the Egyptians. Parting a sea!!! For me I'm guessing He is fully able to see me through the problems of each day....

Be still, hmmm.....

Monday, December 29, 2008

My purpose?

I am plugging along, sporadically, but plugging nonetheless, through the Bible, and this past week was reading in Exodus.

"But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Exodus 9:16

That's God talking to Moses. He has just let him know, basically, that the things He's done in Moses' life were for "this very purpose" - to glorify God. He didn't work out Moses being saved by the princess to give him a happy cushy life, or even to spare his mom the suffering of seeing her son killed. He didn't bring Moses to a place of power because he deserved it, or even because he thought he'd do a good job in it. His purpose for Moses' life was not for Moses to feel fulfilled or happy. His purpose for Moses' life was to glorify Himself.

How self centered I am to think that God's purpose for me, for my life, might be something other than that! How many of my prayers ask God to help me feel better, help me stay comfortable, protect those I care about? How much time to do I spend taking care of the me part of my life? How much time and energy, really, do I spend thinking about how God might be glorified through me?


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Arrival

A good one for Christmas by Max Lucado...

God had entered the world as a baby.

Yet, were someone to chance upon the sheep stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem that morning, what a peculiar scene they would behold.

The stable stinks like all stables do. The stench of urine, dung, and sheep reeks pungently in the air. The ground is hard, the hay scarce. Cobwebs cling to the ceiling and a mouse scurries across the dirt floor.

A more lowly place of birth could not exist.

Off to one side sit a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor; perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him—so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.

Near the young mother sits the weary father. If anyone is dozing, he is. He can’t remember the last time he sat down. And now that the excitement has subsided a bit, now that Mary and the baby are comfortable, he leans against the wall of the stable and feels his eyes grow heavy. He still hasn’t figured it all out. The mystery of the event puzzles him. But he hasn’t the energy to wrestle with the questions. What’s important is that the baby is fine and that Mary is safe. As sleep comes he remembers the name the angel told him to use … Jesus. “We will call him Jesus.”

Wide awake is Mary. My, how young she looks! Her head rests on the soft leather of Joseph’s saddle. The pain has been eclipsed by wonder. She looks into the face of the baby. Her son. Her Lord. His Majesty. At this point in history, the human being who best understands who God is and what he is doing is a teenage girl in a smelly stable. She can’t take her eyes off him. Somehow Mary knows she is holding God. So this is he. She remembers the words of the angel. “His kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:33)

He looks like anything but a king. His face is prunish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And he is absolutely dependent upon Mary for his well-being.

Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.

She touches the face of the infant-God. How long was your journey!

This baby had overlooked the universe. These rags keeping him warm were the robes of eternity. His golden throne room had been abandoned in favor of a dirty sheep pen. And worshiping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered shepherds.

Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he had just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility.

Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren’t looking.

Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?

Cast of CharactersFrom
God Came Near
© (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006) Max Lucado

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fool's Gold

A neat one from Ron Hutchcraft...

My outreach trips to South Africa have been with some wonderful ministry experiences. We saw African young people coming to Christ. We had the privilege of training South African youth workers to reach lost young people. And we're even training people to reach the lost and the young through radio. One afternoon we were able to sneak away long enough to visit one of the gold mines that helped make South Africa the richest country on that continent. Years ago this was the largest and richest gold mine in the world. Today, an old miner take guys like me, puts a helmet on them, gives them a light, and takes them on tours. It was fascinating to hear him describe how gold was uncovered and then extracted from deep inside the earth. At one point, he asked us to shine our light on one wall of the mine, and it sparkled with this bright, yellow gold! It was amazing - beautiful! The old miner told us, "Don't get too excited." He said, "Real gold is black. It doesn't even look like gold. That stuff that glitters, well, that's just fool's gold.

It's "values clarification time," with the help of our word for today from the Word of God. 1 Timothy 6:8, "If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich (that's the people who go after the stuff that glitters) fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

It's so easy to buy the values of a world that measures worth by success, by how much of the glittery stuff you have - to spend major life-energy going after more house, more car, more wardrobe, more position, more prestige. It's gold - but it's fool's gold. Notice the words God uses to describe the pursuit of more: a trap, foolish desires, harmful desires, ruin and destruction, wandering from the faith, grief. The foolishness of all this is summed up in two words God uses to describe security that is based on earth-stuff "so uncertain." That's what He calls it in 1 Timothy 6:17.

So God reveals the scam - what looks so valuable is so worthless, and the spiritual riches that may look so worthless are so valuable. Like fool's gold and real gold. The chapter goes on to describe the real gold. "But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." Don't look for those on the Dow-Jones, but they are so much more precious than anything you'll find there and certainly a lot more lasting.

God says when you live your life to give instead of get, you will be one of those who "lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life" (1 Timothy 6:19) or the gold that is really gold.

Take a moment for a priority check - not about what you believe, but about how you're spending your life. Honestly now, is most of the best of your life tied up in going after fool's gold? Do you even have much energy, much time, much resource left to pursue the gold of what will last for eternity like getting to know Jesus better, getting people to heaven with you, showing Jesus' love to people who really need it, absorbing God's Word? It's time to live for what will last.

With whatever years you have left, go where the real gold is. The stuff that glitters is what most of the people around you are going for. But remember, it's just fool's gold.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Joy to the World

Here's a good one from Katherine R. Cottle...

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 (NIV)


Uh-oh, my son had begun the dreaded potty dance. He had gotten so engrossed in the beautiful, giant, Christmas ornaments suspended from the shopping mall ceiling that he totally ignored his almost 4 year-old bladder. It was warning him to get to the potty. We were only seconds away from an accident, without a change of clothes.

Doctors had recently given my little son a great big label: Pervasive Developmentally Delayed. Simple translation: he learns differently than most and things that "typically developing" children are able to do easily, he finds challenging. For example, being able to recognize that his body needs to go to the potty and communicating his need to me. I had 20 other things to accomplish in the mall and I was not prepared for this.

Thanks to a mother's ability to quickly maneuver through crowds and leap tall mounds of Christmas presents in a single bound, we made it to the restroom just in time.

Frustration began to overwhelm my heart. I wasn't just overwhelmed by the pressure of the things I had on my to-do list, but also by my son's struggle with being able to recognize and verbally acknowledge his needs. Lord, will he ever be able to tell me what is going on in his head? How are we going to reach him?

As we were washing our hands, he suddenly began to sing with all his heart, "Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her King." Where was this coming from? I wondered. Quieting my frustrated mind, I slowed down to listen. The song was playing over the intercom. I had totally tuned it out.

My beautiful little boy with his great big label had heard what I had not. Women coming out of their stalls smiled and sang with him. I think the angels would have included us in their choir that day.

In that moment I felt the Lord assure me that He had created my son and knew his needs and exactly how to reach him. After all, this is what Christmas is all about. Our loving Father, knowing our need of the gift of salvation, reached the world through Jesus Christ. Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let us receive our King!

Dear Lord, Thank you for knowing my needs, sending Your Son and creating a way to reach me. This Christmas, please help me quiet my frustrations and busy to-do list and listen to Your song. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Being Part of God's Plan

This devotional was written by Jim Liebelt .

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:35-38

Mary has an honored place as being the mother of Jesus. In our Christian circles, we celebrate Mary as a virtuous young woman willfully taking on the responsibility of becoming mother of the Son of God. Still, it's easy to overlook the difficulties Mary faced in accepting this role. She was likely in her mid-teens at the time of the angel's announcement. An unmarried teen pregnancy in Jewish culture at the time would have been quite scandalous. She faced the prospect of being an outcast in her hometown. Further, imagine Mary attempting to explain the circumstances of her pregnancy to her parents and to Joseph, her fiancé. Being part of God's plan was no doubt very difficult for Mary.

One of the characteristics that set Mary apart for her role was her willing obedience. "May it be to me as you have said," was Mary's reply to the angel. This is simply amazing.

We, just like Mary, are part of God's plan to carry His light and love to a needy world. Each of us have been given different roles in His plan, but none are unimportant. It might be difficult to see ourselves as being active participants in what God is doing in the world. It's not always easy to say yes to God. Saying yes can mean facing difficulties and persecution. But, God always provides the means of sustaining us when we choose obedience to His desires for our lives.

As we celebrate Christmas this year, remember Mary as an example of the obedience God desires of us.

Going Deeper:
Put yourself in Mary's position. How do you think you would have responded to the angel's message?
What makes it hard to believe that you are part of God's plan for the world?
What can you do to become more obedient to God?

Family Time: Watch the movie, The Nativity Story with your family. Afterward, use the content above to debrief, noting Mary's obedience and bringing home the concept that God calls us to similar obedience as well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Instead of complaining that the rosebush is full of thorns, be happy that the thornbush has roses."

-German proverb