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Showing posts from December, 2018

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Remembering
Psalms 103:1-5 
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. (Psalms 103:2)
Some days we awaken with aching joints and dull spirits and wonder how we can shake off our lethargy and make it through the day. Here’s an idea: Like David, try lifting up your thanks to God. Use mind and memory to rekindle thankfulness for all God’s “benefits” (Ps. 103:2). Gratefulness will lead to joy. Thank God for His forgiveness. He “forgives all your iniquities” (v.3), and “has cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19). Thank Him for healing your diseases (v.3). God uses infirmity and disorders to draw you more deeply into His love and care. And, one day when your Lord comes for you, He will heal all of your diseases. Thank Him for redeeming your life from destruction (v.4). This is more than rescue from a premature death. It is redemption from death itself. Thank Him for crowning your life “with loving kindness and tender mercies” (v.4). Thank the One who satisfies you…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Fear Escape
Proverbs 1:1-7
You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield. (Psalms 115:11) In our increasingly dangerous world, think of what we have to fear: Ominous terrorist threats, frightening crime rates, increasing natural disasters, sobering energy crisis, . . . God. Yes, God. Ironic, isn’t it, that in a world full of fearful things, the single source of our refuge and safety is also the One we are instructed to fear? Consider Solomon’s words: “In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge” (Prov. 14:26). Then look at the next verse: “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life.” We try to avoid life’s fearful things because they interrupt our peace. Yet we are told to move toward fear—the fear of God. For those who “fear the Lord, . . . He is their help and their shield” (Ps. 115:11). Our faith in God can deliver us from t…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

The Maker Of Mountains
Psalms 102:3-12
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people. (Psalms 125:2) The Bible uses vivid imagery to express the brevity of our life on earth. Job said that his days were “swifter than a runner” and “they pass by like swift ships” (Job 9:25-26). I recall preaching at the funeral service of a young mother. From where I stood I could see the Rocky Mountains towering over the western horizon. The scene prompted me to consider how I will one day follow that friend through the valley of the shadow of death, and yet those peaks will still be thrusting themselves skyward. Eventually they will crumble into dust, but the God who made them will exist forever in undiminished glory. I also remember thinking that my deceased friend and I will, by God’s grace, live with Him forever and ever. Whenever we are troubled by the shortness of life and the impermanence of everything in this world, let’s remember the Maker of the mountains. He has always be…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

The Last Sins To Go
1 Chronicles 21:1-13
David said to God, “I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing.” (1 Chronicles 21:8) The apostle Paul said that we are to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” (2 Cor. 7:1). Even though it may seem to people around us that we are living a clean, moral life, in our spirit we may be harboring an attitude that displeases the Lord. Because sins of the spirit are unseen, hidden in the heart, we tend to ignore them until they lead to some outward behavior that reveals their presence. King David’s life illustrates these two aspects of sin. His lust for Bathsheba led to adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11–12; Ps. 32:5), and brought great pain to his own life and reproach to the nation of Israel. Then, late in his life, he succumbed to Satan’s prompting to take a census (1 Chron. 21:1-6). This seemingly innocent act displeased God (vv.7-8) because David was taking pride in his military might. He apparently made a subtle shift…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

A Christmas Rose
Matthew 1:18-25
The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14) In contrast to many of the resounding carols proclaiming the Savior’s birth, “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” is a gentle song. Its words and music capture the hushed, almost preposterous assertion that a rose of hope has bloomed in the world’s winter of despair. Written in the 15th century by an unknown German poet, it stands quietly in the midst of our modern Christmas rush, bearing a message of joy for all who will pause to listen. Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.
The song speaks of a season when roses don’t bloom and of a night half gone, a time when people often give in to despair. Christmas can be an emotional winter, a dark night when the holiday lights are dimmed a…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

God’s Surprising Answer
Isaiah 42:1-9
Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! (Isaiah 64:1) Rend the heavens!” and “come down!” pleaded the prophet Isaiah. Make Your name known by making the mountains shake and the nations tremble, he advised the Lord (Isa. 64:1-3). Isaiah wanted God to behave as He had in the past. Recalling the Scripture about God’s visit with Moses on Mt. Sinai, Isaiah longed for a repeat performance. But God had already told Isaiah that He would be doing something new. “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them” (42:9). The “something new” was Jesus! God did indeed come down. But not in Isaiah’s lifetime. And not in the dramatic fashion he longed for. “He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street” (42:2). He came in the unassuming form of an infant. Many of us can remember a situation when God was amazingly timely in His response to o…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

The Blessing Tree
Luke 1:46-55
He who is mighty has done great things for me. (Luke 1:49) I read about a young couple whose business had failed, and they had little money to spend at Christmas. They were going to have to move out of their house after the new year. But they didn’t want their holiday season to be spoiled because of it. So they decided to throw a party. When the guests arrived, they saw a cedar tree decorated with one string of lights and small rolled-up pieces of paper tied to the limbs with ribbon. “Welcome to our ‘blessing tree’!” they said, beaming. “In spite of hard times, God has blessed us in so many ways that we decided to dedicate our tree to Him. Each piece of paper describes a blessing He has given us this year.” This couple has faced more trials since then, but they have chosen to stay focused on the Lord. They often remark that the Christmas with the “blessing tree” was one of their most beautiful, because they could testify as Mary did: “My spirit has rejoiced i…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

The Facts Of Life
Luke 1:24-38 

Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) It seems that most of our struggles revolve around wanting something we don’t have or having something we don’t want. Our deepest longings and our greatest challenges are deeply rooted in trying to see the hand of God in these two facts of life. This is where Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus begins. The aging Elizabeth longed for a baby. For the young and engaged Mary, however, pregnancy should have been a disgrace. But when both learned they would have a child, they accepted the news with faith in the God whose timing is perfect and for whom nothing is impossible (Luke 1:24-25,37-38). As we read the Christmas story, we may be struck by the real-life context of the people whose names have become so familiar. Even while Zechariah and Elizabeth suffered their culture’s stigma of childlessness, they were described as “righteous before God, walking in all the…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Be A Star
Matthew 2:1-12
Those who turn many to righteousness [shall shine] like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3) Many today seek stardom by trying to get into the media spotlight. But a young Jewish captive achieved “stardom” in a better way. When Daniel and his friends were taken captive by a ruthless invading nation, it was unlikely that they would be heard from again. But the godly young men soon distinguished themselves as intelligent and trustworthy. When the king had a dream that his wise men could not repeat nor interpret, he condemned them to death. After a night of prayer with his friends, Daniel received from God the content of the dream and its interpretation. As a result, the king promoted Daniel to be his chief advisor (see Dan. 2). If the story ended there, it would be remarkable enough. But some scholars believe that Daniel’s influence in Babylon made people aware of messianic prophecies about a Savior who would be born in Bethlehem. Daniel’s teaching may have been …

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Are We Selling Out?Hebrews 12:12-17
Looking carefully . . . lest there be any . . . profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. (Hebrews 12:15-16) Have we “sold out” the way Esau did? (Heb. 12:16). Has the lure of wealth, power, prestige, position, security, style, or the approval and praise of others led us to barter away God’s riches for a single meal? Esau sought to change his father’s mind and gain the inheritance he had forfeited by his duplicity, but he could not set right the damage he had done. He had to live with his decision. Neither can we turn back the clock and undo the wrong we have done to ourselves and to others. Although the past is irrevocable, there can be a new day before us, filled with new chances, new opportunities, and new expectations. God will not redo the past, but when we repent He can and will forgive us and set us on a new path. The Lord can give us opportunities to show how we have truly repented of the decisions of the past and …

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

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Change Your Name
Acts 3:1-16

Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.(Romans 10:13) Names are important. Parents may spend months researching and deciding on the perfect name for their baby. Often their final decision is based on its sound, uniqueness, or meaning. One woman took on a new name because she disliked her original name. She mistakenly believed that changing it could alter her destiny. That’s not likely, but for those who trust in Jesus as their Savior and are identified by His name from that time on, a radical transformation does take place. There is a powerful significance attached to the name of Jesus. The apostles performed miracles (Acts 3:6-7,16; 4:10) and cast out demons in His name (Luke 10:17). They spoke and taught in the name of Jesus. They baptized believers in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38). And it is only through the name of Jesus that we gain access to the Father (Acts 4:12). When we become Christians, we share in that worthy name. And as we follow Chri…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Instincts
Psalms 32 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. (Psalm 32:8) Flying into a storm is a dangerous experience. The temptation is to fly by your instincts, or, as aviators say, “by the seat of your pants.” But as any pilot will tell you, that’s a prescription for disaster. If you rely on your feelings and instincts, you become disoriented, thinking the plane is going up when it’s actually going down. Thankfully, the instrument panel is set to magnetic north and can be trusted every time. Letting your instruments guide you, even when it feels like they’re wrong, helps ensure safety in the storm. We all face storms that threaten to confuse and disorient us. It may be a call from the doctor’s office, a friend who has betrayed you, or a shattered dream. Those are the times to be especially careful. When you are blinded by life’s disappointments, don’t trust your instincts. Flying by the seat of your pants in the storms of life can lead…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Pressing On Psalms 73:25-28
It is good for me to draw near to God.(Psalms 73:28) The psalmist kept things simple:  “There is none upon earth that I desire besides You” (Psalm 73:25). All progress in the spiritual life is marked by our movement toward that conclusion, the conviction that only one thing is necessary: God Himself. All progress in the spiritual life is progress toward knowing God and loving Him—moving toward the point at which we say with Israel’s poet: “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (v.26). That perspective changes the way we look at everything. Suffering and adversity become the means by which we’re made hungry and thirsty for God. Disappointments become the tools that wean us away from earthly occupations and move us toward a preoccupation with God alone. Even sin, when repented of, becomes a mechanism to push us closer to Him so that we can experience His love and forgiveness. All things become useful when viewed as the means to the highest good—d…

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All The Facts
Jeremiah 32:6-15

Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?(Jeremiah 32:27)The Babylonian armies had Jerusalem surrounded. Resistance was futile. Jeremiah the prophet had already warned the leaders that the city would fall. Now he languished in prison for prophesying the truth. Just as invasion was imminent, the Lord informed Jeremiah that one of his cousins was on the way to ask him to buy a piece of family property. God commanded Jeremiah to fulfill his cousin’s request (Jeremiah 32:7-8). What a time to pay good silver for land that would soon be in the hands of the enemy! All the known facts argued against this purchase. But as Os Guinness reminds us: “All the known facts are not all the facts.” Although puzzled (v.25), Jeremiah trusted God and bought the property (v.9). The Lord assured him that despite the bleak outlook, the people would again own “houses and fields and vineyards” in the land (v.15). We often go through trying times. S…

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Run With Horses
Jeremiah 12
If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?(Jeremiah 12:5) In the Olympic Games, the greatest runners of the world compete for gold medals and laurel wreaths. Long before the final race, competitions are held in countries throughout the world to weed out those who are not fast enough to compete. At the Games, the fastest of the fast qualify for the final competition. The prophet Jeremiah was also involved in a fierce competition—but it was with idolaters and wicked priests. He was responding to the Lord’s call to condemn Judah and to predict her downfall. He became so discouraged that he asked the Lord, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are they happy?” (12:1). That’s when God said to Jeremiah, in essence, “The competition has just begun. So far you’ve been dealing with minor issues (running with footmen). How will you handle it when the really tough stuff comes (contending with horses)?” Perhaps y…

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Three Friends
Daniel 1:11-21
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.(Proverbs 17:17)
The Old Testament characters Job and Daniel had much in common. Both went through serious trials and challenges. Both had great success because of the blessing of God’s presence in their lives. Both are viewed as giants of the faith, one for his patience in suffering and the other for his purity in an impure culture. Job and Daniel had something else in common—each had three significant friends. Here, however, the similarities end. Job’s friends became a thorn in his flesh, offering him condemnation when he needed compassion and companionship. As Job struggled with loss and grief, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar seemed bent on intensifying his pain rather than helping him in his adversity. Daniel’s three friends were very different. Taken captive together, Daniel and his companions, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, supported and strengthened one another in difficult times. They stood…

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Prosperity And Adversity
Proverbs 30:1-9 
Give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me.(Proverbs 30:8) Prosperity and adversity are equal-opportunity destroyers. The extremes of life can be hazardous because a person with too much may encounter as much difficulty as one with too little. Agur, the writer of Proverbs 30, must have sensed this danger when he prayed: “Remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9). A similar request occurs in a beautiful choral anthem composed by Benjamin Harlan: Write Your blessed name,
O Lord, upon my heart,
There to remain so indelibly engraved
That no prosperity, nor adversity
Shall remove me from Your love.
In Proverbs 30 the focus is on circumstances, while the song centers on the state of our heart. Perhaps we should pray that God woul…