Archive for December, 2010

Unto us a child is born: Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Merry Christmas! If you haven’t done so already, take time today to reflect on the birth of our Savior as recounted in Luke 2:1-20 (CEB), via BibleGateway.com:


In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you–wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

Common English Bible now available at BibleGateway.com

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Our friends at BibleGateway.com have just added a new Bible translation to their library of online Bibles: the Common English Bible (New Testament)!

The Common English Bible isn’t simply a revision or update of an existing translation. It’s an ambitious new translation designed to read smoothly and naturally without compromising the accuracy of the Bible text. As the CEB translators did their work, a team of reading specialists from more than a dozen Christian denominations reviewed the text to ensure that the CEB is accessible to all English readers, including children, Bible students, and people encountering the Bible for the first time. The CEB represents the work of a diverse team with broad scholarship, drawing from over 100 scholars—men and women from twenty-two faith traditions in American, African, Asian, European and Latino communities.

The result is a strong, readable translation that will be a welcome addition to your Bible study. It’s available now in the Bible version drop-down menu at BibleGateway.com. You can read more about the CEB, or start reading!

Today’s Devotional: Intercessory Prayer

Monday, December 13th, 2010

An intercessory prayer is a prayer prayed on behalf of someone else. Our devotional today from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for his Highest, gives us a stern warning that we should not idly take on the responsibility of interceding on someone else’s behalf. When we pray an intercessory prayer we need to be careful. We are putting ourselves not in their place, but in God’s place:

You cannot truly intercede through prayer if you do not believe in the reality of redemption. Instead, you will simply be turning intercession into useless sympathy for others, which will serve only to increase the contentment they have for remaining out of touch with God. True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. Intercession means to “fill up . . . [with] what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24), and this is precisely why there are so few intercessors. People describe intercession by saying, “It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.” That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.

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What we must avoid in intercession is praying for someone to be simply “patched up.” We must pray that person completely through into contact with the very life of God. Think of the number of people God has brought across our path, only to see us drop them! When we pray on the basis of redemption, God creates something He can create in no other way than through intercessory prayer.

Read the rest of the devotional at utmost.org.

Have you ever prayed an intercessory prayer?

Today’s Devotional: The Source of Our Success

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Humility is almost easy to practice when life is difficult. Our circumstances remind us of our need to rely on God. However, when life is going well we have a tendency to pridefully take credit for our success.

Our Daily Bread this morning relates the story of King Uzziah’s downfall. Uzziah allowed his pride to consume him and he ignored God’s role in his success. As a consequence he was struck with leprosy:

Dwight L. Moody said, “When a man thinks he has got a good deal of strength, and is self-confident, you may look for his downfall. It may be years before it comes to light, but it is already commenced.” This was true of King Uzziah.

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Uzziah’s life was one of great power and human success until he became blinded by it. His pride was evidenced in several ways: he challenged God’s holiness by trespassing the temple and presuming upon a position he would never be able to have (v.16); he viewed God’s power as good but not absolutely necessary for his leadership (vv.5,16); he refused godly correction and counsel (vv.18-19); he bypassed his opportunity to repent; and he ignored, instead of feared, the consequences of his sin (vv.18-19).

Read the rest of the devotional at odb.org.

Are there any areas of success in your life that you haven’t given credit to God for?

Today’s Devotional: A Prophet in His Hometown

Monday, December 6th, 2010

The Today devotional reflects this morning on the tension that Jesus experienced because he was both human and divine. In Luke 4:28-30, Jesus returns to Nazareth where he grew up only to find outright hatred rather than acceptance:

Imagine what you would think if someone you had grown up with came to your town and claimed he was there to fulfill an ancient prophecy. Of course you would dismiss him; the notion is outrageous. But that’s what happened in Nazareth. Jesus, the son of a local carpenter, came and announced one Sabbath day that he was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 61.

He claimed to be the Messiah when he said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” It seemed outrageous—even blasphemous, because he claimed to be God (which was true). No ordinary human being had the right to make that kind of claim. No wonder the elders of his town were so upset that they were ready to put him to death! (See Luke 4:28-30.)

As we spend time this Advent thinking about what Jesus’ birth, it’s important to remember that even before his last days on earth He wasn’t universally loved during His time on this earth. It’s a sobering fact that the savior of Humanity was almost stoned by the people he grew up with.

Does the fact that Jesus experienced heartache and hatred change your perception of Him? How does hearing the story of Jesus’ nearly being stoned make you feel?

Today’s devotional: Want to change the world? Live like Christ

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

God’s law, revealed in the Ten Commandments and throughout the Bible, is often caricatured as a giant list of “thou shalt not’s”. Unfortunately, throughout church history, Christians have often contributed to this impression by focusing their energies too much what believers aren’t supposed to be doing.

But as this devotional by Chuck Swindoll points out, one amazing thing about God’s law as summarized by Jesus is how active and positive it is:

“Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:2). That single sentence is perhaps the most famous statement Jesus ever made. It is the “Everest of Ethics,” as one man put it. In some ways it is the cornerstone of true Christianity, certainly the capstone of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

I appreciate the positive emphasis. Instead of saying, “Don’t do this,” He says, “Do this.”

You want to impact your family, your church, your community, your place of employment? You want to make a difference in the life of your mate, a family member, a friend (Christian or not), some person in the workplace? Demonstrate the characteristics of Christ.

There are certainly activities God doesn’t want His children to participate in. But a truly Christlike life isn’t obsessed with “thou shalt not’s”—it’s obsessed with actively living out Christian values in our life and relationships.

How does AIDS affect your church?

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Today is World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of AIDS and HIV.

Events like this are a little tricky to discuss in the evangelical Christian world. While I can’t imagine that anyone would object to being made more aware of the extent of the AIDS pandemic, many Christians struggle to separate the general subject of AIDS from the social and moral issues that live in its shadow.

I’m curious: how does AIDS affect—or not affect—your church community?

Does your church talk about AIDS? If so, does it focus its discussion on the pandemic itself, or on the sexual behaviors associated with it? Does anyone in your church have HIV/AIDS, and if so, how has that affected your church’s approach to the issue?

Today’s devotional: serving others… while respecting yourself

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Do you volunteer (or work) at your church? If you’re involved in any aspect of ministry, you’ve probably learned firsthand that there are far more ministry needs out there than a typical church or ministry has the time or capacity to address.

Faced with this reality, how do you respond? For many church workers and volunteers, the answer is to stretch themselves ever more thin to try and help as many people as possible. Blaine Smith of Nehemiah Ministries encourages us to respect our own limits while helping others:

At a staff meeting one Sunday afternoon a member complained to the youth pastor that many of us were feeling considerably overtaxed. He responded that we must learn to place some limits on ourselves. “But,” she replied, “Jesus never turned his back on any person’s need.”

As quickly as the words left her lips he shot back, “But you’re not Jesus Christ!”

It was at that moment as though giant chains dropped from my body. As a young Christian I simply assumed I was to imitate Jesus in every way possible. This meant striving to live at his energy level, and following his pattern of continually responding to an overwhelming variety of needs.

For the first time it dawned on me that there was a difference between how Jesus ministered to people and how I was expected to do so. God had put me within a certain physical shell, and I was to operate within its limitations. Not only was it okay to pace myself–I was required to do so. What a glorious insight!

However laudable the motives, trying to respond to every need or problem is a sure road to exhaustion and burnout. And this isn’t just a problem for church workers and volunteers–it’s easy to be overwhelmed by needs in our families and friendships.

What do you think of Smith’s advice? How do you draw reasonable limits in responding to needs?