Monday, November 29, 2010

BETHLEHEM

Read Luke 2:1–7; Micah 5:2

    Joseph also went up… to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.   Luke 2:4–5 NKJV
* * *
    Mary was in the last stages of her pregnancy when something very distressing happened. The ruler of Rome declared that a census be taken, forcing everyone to go to the city of their birth to register. Hardship or not, they had to comply with this order.
    Joseph must have been deeply concerned about his wife during the trip to Bethlehem. He probably did not consider at the time that prophesy was being fulfilled. Over 700 years before, the prophet Micah predicted that the promised Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
* * *
    Life is not always convenient or comfortable - sometimes  circumstances may be overwhelming. Lord, give us peace in those times, knowing that You are a God who cares and watches over us. Help us to remember that all things work together for good to those who love You and are called according to Your purpose. (Romans 8:28)
* * *
    "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting."   Micah 5:2 NKJV

Monday, November 22, 2010

LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES - Corinthians

[13]

THE GREATEST IS LOVE

Read 1 Corinthians 13

     If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.    1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
* * *
     After a discussion in chapter 12 about the various spiritual gifts, and a call for unity in exercising those gifts in the church, Paul says, “…But eagerly desire the greater gifts. (those that edify and build up the body) And now I will show you the most excellent way...” (12:31)
     No matter what the gift or talent God has bestowed upon you, it is worth nothing if not exercised in love ─ and this, writes Paul, is what love looks like: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (13:4-7)
* * *
     Lord, this is a tall order for anyone, but absolutely necessary in our relationships with other believers. Obviously, those early churches had to struggle with their issues just as we do today. Love certainly requires forgiveness and humility. Help me to "keep no record of wrongs."
* * *
     And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.    1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

Monday, November 15, 2010

LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES - Corinthians

[12]
FOLLOW THE LEADER

Read 1 Corinthians Chapters 1 – 3

     Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ." Is Christ divided?   1 Corinthians 1:12-13a NKJV
* * *
     The church at Corinth had several gifted teachers, each with his own style of ministry. The new converts were lining up contentiously behind their favorite leaders, causing division in the church.
     Paul writes, “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” (3:5-6)
     He urges them to come together in unity and benefit from all God has given saying, “Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. (3:8)
     It is human nature to get our eyes on men instead of God. Many a ministry has been hindered because of this wrong focus. Paul reminds them and us, "Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours… And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." (3:21, 23)
* * *
     Lord, keep us from being critical of leaders who are doing Your work, but not in the way we would choose. Help us to be gracious and thankful that we have so many resources available to us. Above all, help us to build faithfully on the foundation of Your Word.
* * *
     For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.   1 Corinthians 3:11 NKJV

Friday, November 12, 2010

A FAITHFUL WIFE AND MOTHER

     I recently read the book “Searching for Mrs. Oswald Chambers” by Martha Christian. I was interested in reading about this faithful woman who drew no attention to herself, but published her husband’s words for all of us to cherish long after they were both in Heaven.

     The author of this biography interviewed Biddy Chamber’s daughter in England for insights into her mother’s life. I was blessed and challenged by a personal poem that Biddy’s daughter wrote about her:

Not merely in the words you say

Not only in the deeds confessed

But in the most unconscious way

It is expressed.

Is it a beautific smile, a holy light upon the brow?

Oh no, I felt His presence while you laughed just now!

For me was not the truth you taught,

For you so clear, to me still dim

But when you came to me you brought

a sense of Him.

And from your eyes He beckoned me and

From your heart His love is shed

‘til I lose sight of you and see

The Christ instead.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

ONE HEART

[11]
A SPIRIT OF UNITY

Read Romans 14–15

     For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
Romans 14:7-8 NIV
* * *
     As a mixed congregation of Jews and Gentiles, with different backgrounds, the Roman believers also had differences of opinion on what was acceptable behavior. Some wanted to celebrate certain holy days and others did not. Some had convictions about buying meat that had been sacrificed to idols, and others did not. Paul says, “… let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. "  (14:13)
     The principle is that we are responsible to edify and encourage our Christian brothers and sisters. Instead of insisting on our own point of view on questionable matters, we should “accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (15:7)
* * *
     Lord, I pray that nothing I do will be a stumbling block to another Christian. I ask for a spirit of love and unity, even when I may have strong opinions about a matter. I pray that what comes out of my mouth will glorify You, and build up the fellowship of believers.
* * *
     " May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. "   Romans 15:5-6 NIV

Monday, November 1, 2010

A LIVING SACRIFICE

DO NOT BE CONCEITED

Read Romans 11–12

     As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved… for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.   Romans 11:28a-29 NIV
* * *
     In this section Paul addresses the believers who were saved as a result of his ministry to Gentiles. Paul’s own people have for the most part, rejected the gospel, but one day there will be an awakening in Israel. He writes,
     “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved…   (11:25-26a NIV)
     Paul reminds the Gentile Christians that God still has plans for the Jews who are now opposing them: He says, “Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you.   (11:30-31 NIV) In view of this great mercy to them and to us, what are we to do?
    "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." Romans 12:1 NKJV
* * *
     I am so thankful that the gospel was presented to me along with your merciful gift of faith to believe it. I am praying for those precious people who seem unable to come to faith and receive your gift of salvation.
     Lord grant me wisdom as I share Your Word in a way they can understand.  Draw them by the influence of Your Holy Spirit to become part of the family of Christ.
* * *
     For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Romans 12:3 NIV