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Daily Devotion

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BELIEVING IN GRACE, BEHAVING GRACIOUSLY
November 21, 2021
“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4
Jonathan, you have grace for everyone else in your life. You need to have grace with your family, too.”

I didn’t want to admit it, but my wife spoke the truth. I hadn’t been the most gracious husband or father recently. She wasn’t trying to hurt me, yet what she said was like a precise cut from a surgeon’s scalpel. And although painful to hear, I knew her words could ultimately bring healing.

That is… if I allowed them.

For healing to happen, I’d have to face the fact that there’s often a disconnect between what I believe and how I behave.

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You see, I believe very deeply in the grace of God. Grace, the undeserved favor of God through Jesus Christ, has “made me alive” and fundamentally changed who I am (Ephesians 2:4).

Often referred to as the ‘heart of the gospel,’ Ephesians 2:1-8 beautifully describes the grace that is the foundation of my life. I cherish this passage, and others like it, as precious reminders of the grace-filled air I breathe as a born-again child of God.

So, as someone who believes in grace with every fiber of my being, why do I often struggle to behave graciously?

To ask it another way: as a recipient of such a life-changing grace, shouldn’t I freely give grace to others every chance I get?

Here’s the truth: what I believe should directly impact how I behave. In other words, the ‘dots’ should connect. But obviously, they don’t always…connect.

The doctrine of saving grace is not only meant to be believed but lived out every moment of the day. Grace should influence my every action and attitude, infusing all of life with an “aroma of grace” (2nd Corinthians 2:15-17).

I’m called to embody grace, not in some theoretical world, but in the real world, filled with real-life situations and relationships.

And yes, this includes my family…especially so.

One day, my wife and kids will reflect on my legacy as a husband and father. Do I really want them to think of me as someone who read about grace, wrote about grace, sang about grace, but wasn’t very gracious in everyday life?

Lord Jesus, may it never be!

I’m not sure how this message resonates with you, but I’ll bet you somehow share my struggle to demonstrate grace on a daily basis.

What’s more, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. This annual gathering brings together family and friends with various personalities around a common table. Mix in everyone’s moral, political, and religious views, and you have the recipe for a potentially exciting afternoon!

(Heads up! You might have a chance to display grace to someone this Thanksgiving.)

If the opportunity indeed arises…take a deep breath, remember the grace that has saved you, and allow your belief in grace to influence your behavior at the moment. Ask the Lord for the strength to treat the person with kindness, even when they don’t deserve it.

You’ll be glad you did…and your family will, too.


Written by Jonathan Munson, Executive Director, RFTH
 

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November 25
A Thankful Heart
Bible in a Year:

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Colossians 4:2
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Colossians 4:2–6
Seneca, the great philosopher of ancient Rome (4 bc–ad 65), was once accused by the empress Messalina of adultery. After the Senate sentenced Seneca to death, the emperor Claudius instead exiled him to Corsica, perhaps because he suspected the charge was false. This reprieve may have shaped Seneca’s view of thankfulness when he wrote: “homicides, tyrants, thieves, adulterers, robbers, sacrilegious men, and traitors there always will be, but worse than all these is the crime of ingratitude.”
A contemporary of Seneca’s, the apostle Paul, may have agreed. In Romans 1:21, he wrote that one of the triggers for the downward collapse of humankind was that they refused to give thanks to God. Writing to the church at Colossae, three times Paul challenged his fellow believers in Christ to gratitude. He said we should be “overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7). As we let God’s peace “rule in [our] hearts,” we’re to respond with thankfulness (3:15). In fact, gratitude ought to characterize our prayers (4:2).
God’s great kindnesses to us remind us of one of life’s great realities. He not only deserves our love and worship, He also deserves our thankful hearts. Everything that’s good in life comes from Him (James 1:17).
With all we’ve been given in Christ, gratitude should be as natural as breathing. May we respond to God’s gracious gifts by expressing our gratitude to Him.
By: Bill Crowder
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Reflect & Pray
What are some of the biggest, most enduring blessings you’ve received in life? What everyday blessings have you experienced that are often easy to forget?
Loving Father, forgive me for the times I’ve taken You and Your blessings for granted. Create in me a thankful heart, so I’ll honor and praise You for all You’ve done and are doing.
 

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SAYING THANK YOU IS SO IMPORTANT
November 25, 2021
“Was no one found who returned to give glory to God…?” – Luke 17:18
Centuries ago, ten men with the dreaded disease of leprosy saw Jesus. They were a long distance away from Him, because leprosy was the most feared disease of that day. They were outcasts. People didn’t want to touch them, or even get close to them, for fear of getting the disease.

The men cried out to Jesus to have mercy on them.

And He did.

He healed them all.

What a fantastic day that must have been! Those ten guys got so excited that they all began to run and tell everyone what had happened to them.

But one turned around and took time to worship and thank Jesus – only one.

“Weren’t there ten? Where are they?” Jesus asked. Even God desires to be thanked.

Don’t miss this great opportunity to take time to say thank you – to God for His blessings – to friends and loved ones – and to anyone who helped you along the way.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
 

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November 29
Trusting God in Opposition
Bible in a Year:

But even if he does not . . . we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

Daniel 3:18
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Daniel 3:13–18, 25–27
Raised in a tribe in the Philippines opposed to belief in Christ, Esther received salvation through Jesus after an aunt prayed for her during Esther’s battle with a life-threatening illness. Today, Esther leads Bible studies in her local community in spite of threats of violence and even death. She serves joyfully, saying, “I can’t stop telling people about Jesus because I’ve experienced the power, love, goodness, and faithfulness of God in my life.”
Serving God in the face of opposition is a reality for many today just as it was for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three young Israelites living in captivity in Babylon. In the book of Daniel, we learn that they refused to pray to a large golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar even when threatened with death. The men testified that God was capable of protecting them, but they chose to serve Him “even if” He didn’t rescue them (Daniel 3:18). When they were thrown into the fire, God actually joined them in their suffering (v. 25). To everyone’s amazement, they survived without even “a hair of their heads singed” (v. 27).
If we face suffering or persecution for an act of faith, ancient and modern examples remind us that God’s Spirit is present with us to strengthen and sustain us when we choose to obey Him, “even if” things turn out differently than we hope.
By: Lisa M. Samra
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Reflect & Pray
What are some ways you’ve chosen to follow God “even if”? What are ways He’s been with you?
God, thank You for loving me so generously. Help me to follow You with joy even in the face of opposition.
 

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LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR
November 30, 2021
“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” – 1 Corinthians 9: 22b- 23
The call to love our neighbor is universal. It’s the way in which we include others in our lives that varies. It depends on how we’re wired, where we live, and our sphere of influence. There’s no “one size fits all” model when it comes to dealing with people.

However, there are a few key truths to keep in mind as we intentionally work on being better neighbors within our communities.

  1. Be a friend first. This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised how easily good intentions can go unseen when we forget that building bridges starts by first building friendships.
  2. Meet them on their turf. The majority of people who need to experience the grace and love of God aren’t going to just show up at a church — unless someone first meets them on their turf. Don’t expect someone to come to you; go to them.
  3. It’s not just about being right. How different would your relationships be if your primary goal was to be humble instead of to be right? It’s not about going against God’s Word. It’s about refusing to let unnecessary barriers block people from seeing God’s love and grace. This is the heart of Jesus.
  4. Be wise. Just because you are free to do something doesn’t mean it is wise to do it. Freedom is a gift that can easily be abused. If we use our free will to impose ourselves on others rather than pointing to God, then we’ve missed the point. Be wise in how you use your freedom to point others to Christ.
The goal of being a good neighbor is simple: Live for the glory of God so others can see the love you have received! It’s really not as difficult as we’ve made it appear. It starts with simply being a friend and accepting people where they are – differences, flaws, and all.

If you’re struggling with loving your neighbor, ask yourself this question: Where were you when you first met Jesus? Look around – there might just be someone stuck in that same place where your life first met freedom. Don’t miss the opportunity to point them to Jesus.

Adapted from a sermon by George Wright
Senior Pastor Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL
 

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IMAGINE AN ANGEL SHOWS UP…
December 05, 2021
“…the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people…’” Luke 2:10
Have you ever been visited by an angel? Some people are positive they have been; others aren’t so sure. Still, others argue the very idea of being visited by an angel is just plain crazy.

Back in the mid 1990s, there was a popular TV series called “Touched by an Angel.” The show’s premise followed three angels as they quietly showed up in those big, crossroads moments of people’s lives. Only, it wasn’t until the end of each episode that the angels revealed their true nature. It was a powerful show that lasted nine seasons. There was just something about feeling that you weren’t alone in those dark, trying times that kept viewers glued to their TVs.

Take a moment to imagine that you’re a security guard on a late night shift patrolling the grounds of a business complex. Suddenly, an angel appears before you, hovering in the sky. You recognize immediately that it’s an angel, and are so scared you can’t move. You can’t call for help or grab your gun—you’re too frozen in fear. Then, the angel speaks: “Don’t be afraid…I’ve got good news to share! A Savior has been born and God wants you to be the first to know!”

It’s a pretty wild scenario, right? And it would be hard to grasp.

But this actually happened one night over 2,000 years ago to a group of shepherds who were just minding their own business and watching their flock of sheep in the hills of Bethlehem – an angel appeared to them in the sky! Can you imagine? What I find fascinating is they believed the angel and went (the Bible says they went “with haste”) to find the Christ child. Those shepherds got to worship Jesus on that very first Christmas!

I love that out of everyone God could have chosen to announce this world changing event, He chose a group of shepherds. It’s a reminder that there’s no hierarchy in God’s kingdom. God sent His Son, Jesus to save the world – this means everyone from lowly shepherd to powerful world leader, and everyone in between.

Just like the shepherds immediately went to see for themselves what the angels announced, you too can know and worship Jesus! All you have to do is seek the Jesus found in Scripture, and believe.

Christmas will never be the same, once you worship the King!
 

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December 7
The Perfect Name
Bible in a Year:

The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Isaiah 7:10–17
On a hot and humid day one August, my wife gave birth to our second son. But he remained nameless as we struggled to settle on a given name. After spending many hours in ice cream shops and taking long car rides, we still couldn’t decide. He was simply “Baby Williams” for three days before finally being named Micah.
Choosing the right name can be a little frustrating. Well, unless you’re God, who came up with the perfect name for the One who would change things forever. Through the prophet Isaiah, God directed King Ahaz to ask Him “for a sign” to strengthen his faith (Isaiah 7:10–11). Though the king refused to ask for a sign, God gave him one anyway: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (v. 14). God named the child, and He would be a sign of hope to people going through despair. The name stuck and Matthew breathed new meaning into it when he wrote the narrative of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1:23). Jesus would be “Immanuel.” He wouldn’t just be a representative of God, but He would be God in the flesh, coming to rescue His people from the despair of sin.
God gave us a sign. The sign is a Son. The Son’s name is Immanuel—God with us. It’s a name that reflects His presence and love. Today, He invites us to embrace Immanuel and know that He’s with us.
By: Marvin Williams
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Reflect & Pray
What keeps you from believing that God can breathe new life into your dark times and desperate circumstances? How will you embrace Jesus as Immanuel this week?
Heavenly Father, thank You for Immanuel—Jesus, Your Son. May I rejoice in His presence and love today.
 

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MARY’S AMAZING RESPONSE
December 06, 2021
“And Mary said, ‘Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.’” – Luke 1:38
Picture the scene: An angel had just informed Mary that she, a teenager and a virgin, was now pregnant and, as a matter of fact, was carrying the Son of God. Not the sort of news a young girl hears everyday and certainly not the kind of news in first century Israel, she would welcome. In her culture, she would soon face the wrath and scorn of her friends, family and society in general – not to mention that she would probably lose Joseph, her fiancé.

Facing such serious backlash at the news, think of all the paths Mary could have taken.

  1. She could have run away.
  2. She could have had an abortion.
  3. Like many unmarried, pregnant women in those days, Mary could have taken her own life.
How did Mary respond?

If ever you want to see a clear profession of faith, look at the next words from Mary’s mouth: “I am willing to be a voluntary slave of the Lord. I am willing to be a servant of God. May what the word of God has said, may it come true!” What an incredible woman of God! When facing tremendous pressure to save face and take another path, Mary responded with incredible faith and trust.

Mary is truly the greatest woman who ever lived, for nothing any woman has ever done or will do is more important than what she did.

As you think about the significance of the Child to which Mary gave birth and what He came to do – do you believe it? Will you choose to follow the example of Mary and believe what God’s Word says about her Son? Let me assure you, you will never truly experience Christmas until you do.
 

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December 10
Rescued from Powerful Enemies
Bible in a Year:

[God] rescued me from my powerful enemy.

2 Samuel 22:18
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
2 Samuel 22:17–20
In 2010, at the age of ninety-four, George Vujnovich was awarded the bronze star for organizing what the New York Times called “one of the greatest rescue efforts of World War II.” Vujnovich, son of Serbian immigrants to the US, had joined the US Army. When word arrived that downed American airmen were being protected by rebels in Yugoslavia, Vujnovich returned to his family’s homeland, parachuting into the forest to locate the pilots. Dividing the soldiers into small groups, he taught them how to blend in with the Serbs (wearing Serbian clothes and eating Serbian food). Then, over months, he walked each small group out one at a time to C-47 transport planes waiting at a landing strip they’d cut out of the woods. Vujnovich rescued 512 elated, joyful men.
David described the elation of being rescued by God from enemies who’d hemmed him in with no escape. God “reached down from on high and took hold of me,” David said, “he drew me out of deep waters” (2 Samuel 22:17). King Saul, enraged with jealousy, hounded David, ruthlessly seeking blood. But God had other plans. “He rescued me from my powerful enemy,” David recounted, “from my foes, who were too strong for me” (v. 18).
God rescued David from Saul. He rescued Israel from Egypt. And in Jesus, God came to rescue all of us. Jesus rescues us from sin, evil, and death. He’s greater than every powerful enemy.
By: Winn Collier
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Reflect & Pray
Where do you feel hemmed in, with no escape from lies you believe or sin that binds you? How do you see Jesus coming to rescue you?
All-powerful God, I need to be rescued. If You don’t help me, I’m finished. I have no escape. So I’m turning to You. Please help me.
 

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O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM
December 09, 2021
“As for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, seemingly insignificant among the clans of Judah—from you a king will emerge who will rule over Israel on my behalf, one whose origins are in the distant past.” Micah 5:2
As the story goes, Phillips Brooks, a rising young preacher and staunch abolitionist, was asked to give the funeral address for President Abraham Lincoln, You can imagine that he was sure that his eloquent eulogy would be the most famous lines he would ever pen.

He was wrong.

Shortly afterward, exhausted from years of war and hoping to find some peace, he took a sabbatical from preaching to visit the Holy Land.

While he was in the still insignificant Bethlehem, and while looking out at the landscape at night, that the lines for a poem jumped to his mind:

O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, a silent star goes by.

It wasn’t until several years later that he came back to the poem and completed it. His organist, Lewis Redner, added the beautilful music and a song was born for the ages.

“O Little Town of Bethlehem” was first performed by the children’s choir in his church and went on to be included in hymnals as a seasonal favorite.

But one child would find special meaning in Brooks’ song:

Helen Keller, the famous educator, who was born deaf and blind, met Brooks years later.

In fact, he was the one who explained the gospel to her for the first time.Through her teacher and translator, Anne Sullivan, Helen told him, “I’ve always known there was a God, but until now I’ve never known His name.”

The carol’s third verse, though written years before Brooks met Keller, perfectly captures the joy of salvation that arrived to a deaf and blind child. Her ears could not hear His coming, but her heart had long recognized His presence:

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!

So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.

No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.


Can your heart recognize His presence?

When you understand the significance of the birth of Jesus in that little town of Bethlehem, you are on your way to a deeper, more fulfilling Christmas than you’ve ever known.
 

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A NEW CHRISTMAS PERSPECTIVE PART THREE
December 12, 2021
“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” – Galatians 4:4
There’s just something about heroes that appeals to all of us.

Maybe it’s seeing good triumph over evil, especially in a day and age when evil seems to be winning over and over again.

Superheroes have been part of American culture for a long time: think Batman, Spiderman, Ironman, Incredible Hulk, Superman, etc. No matter how bad things appear, these heroes always seem to show up just in the nick of time.

However, the sad reality is that real superheroes don’t exist. They’re made up; they’re fiction.

Well, except for one – because there is a real Super Hero that showed up at the perfect time in history to engage in a life or death battle against the evil that continues to wreak havoc on mankind.

This hero came to literally save the day in a way that saves each of our lives – if we let Him.

This hero is Jesus.

A little over 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. Rome was in charge, ruled by a man named Caesar Augustus. In an act of incredible greed, he called for a census to register each individual in his hometown. For Joseph, who was of the house of David, he had to return to Bethlehem.

And so Joseph left, bringing with him a very pregnant Mary, to make the 70-mile journey.

When they arrived, the only rest they found was in a barn, surrounded by animals. There, Mary gave birth, under the law, to her firstborn Son whose name was Jesus.

Supernaturally conceived, but born of a woman, Jesus is both God and man. And He made it possible for us to become adopted children of God.

Jesus is the only REAL Super Hero.

And this is what Christmas is all about.
 

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December 14
What Should I Say?
Bible in a Year:

I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king.

Nehemiah 2:4–5
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Nehemiah 2:1–6
When I stopped to browse through a box of books marked “C. S. Lewis” at a used bookshop, the store owner appeared. As we chatted about the available titles, I wondered if he might be interested in the faith that inspired much of Lewis’ writing. I prayed silently for guidance. Information from a biography came to mind, and we began to discuss how C. S. Lewis’ character pointed to God. In the end, I was thankful that a quick prayer had reoriented our conversation to spiritual matters.
Nehemiah paused to pray before a pivotal moment in a conversation with King Artaxerxes in Persia. The king had asked how he could help Nehemiah, who was distraught over Jerusalem’s destruction. Nehemiah was the king’s servant and therefore in no position to ask for favors, but he needed one—a big one. He wanted to restore Jerusalem. So, he “prayed to the God of heaven” before asking to leave his job so he could reestablish the city (Nehemiah 2:4–5). The king consented and even agreed to help Nehemiah make travel arrangements and procure timber for the project.
The Bible encourages us to pray “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). This includes moments when we need courage, self-control, or sensitivity. Praying before we speak helps us give God control of our attitude and our words.
How might He want to direct your words today? Ask Him and find out!
By: Jennifer Benson Schuldt
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What patterns of speech do you need God’s help to change? What types of situations in your life could benefit most from prayer?
Dear God, I surrender my words to You. Use them for Your glory. Help them to inspire and encourage others.
To learn more about the act of prayer.
 

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RING THOSE CHRISTMAS BELLS!
December 14, 2021
And I will make enemies of you and the woman, And of your offspring and her Descendent; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.’” Genesis 3:15 (NASB)
Why was the coming of Christ so momentous?

Why was it met with a host of angels rejoicing from earthly and heavenly hosts alike?

Well, let’s start in the Old Testament.

The story of the people of God would be best described as a slow descent from glory to groaning. Created to be in perfect communion with God, it quickly spiraled down into rebellion against Him. Sin, wickedness and death replaced obedience, fellowship and life. Murder, deceit, drunkenness and pride permeated the landscape of humanity.

But from the very beginning, there had always been a faint glimmer of hope. In Genesis 3:15, in the middle of the darkest chapter in the Bible (sometimes called the “first gospel”) we find God’s promise that One will come from Eve’s lineage who will crush the head of the enemy and make things right again.

Time goes on and God calls a man named Abraham away from his land to be the father of God’s people and God promised great things. But two hundred years later, his people are imprisoned in a foreign land, Egypt, where they remain captive for four hundred years.

Still, even in slavery, there is that faint glimmer of hope.

God raises up Moses to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt, and through him, God miraculously rescues his people. But Israel rebels again. Instead of a land, they get wilderness for another 40 years. The older generation dies, Moses dies, and the people are again on the verge of despair.

But in the middle of a wilderness, they find another faint glimmer of hope.

Joshua leads the people into the promised land, a king is crowned, and the nation is established. A king named David rises to power and the kingdom is at an all-time high. They are following the Lord, worshipping him in Jerusalem. But even the king rebels against God and the kings after him follow suit. The people are sent into exile.

Yet God continues to give His people hope through the prophets: a reminder of the promised one who will come and make things right. The prophets made clear that one was coming to redeem Israel from exile and they would not be forgotten but restored.

So they waited…and waited…and waited.

But their waiting was not in vain.

Because God redeemed His people when His only Son took his first breath as a baby.

Their hope was fulfilled as the Promised One, Jesus Christ, entered the world!

Wherever you find yourself this Christmas season – in the midst of joy or in the midst of pain – know this: God always remembers His people. Even through great darkness, God demonstrates His love over and over again.

RING THOSE CHRISTMAS BELLS AND LET THE HEAVENS REJOICE!

Christ has come! And He is coming again!


Written by Austin Baker, Teaching Pastor, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church

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December 15
I Am His Hands
Bible in a Year:

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!”

1 Corinthians 12:21
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
1 Corinthians 12:12–21
Jia Haixia lost his sight in the year 2000. His friend Jia Wenqi lost his arms as a child. But they’ve found a way around their disabilities. “I am his hands and he is my eyes,” Haixia says. Together, they’re transforming their village in China.
Since 2002 the friends have been on a mission to regenerate a wasteland near their home. Each day Haixia climbs on Wenqi’s back to cross a river to the site. Wenqi then “hands” Haixia a shovel with his foot, before Haixia places a pail on a pole between Wenqi’s cheek and shoulder. And as one digs and the other waters, the two plant trees—more than 10,000 so far. “Working together, we don’t feel disabled at all,” Haixia says. “We’re a team.”
The apostle Paul likens the church to a body, each part needing the other to function. If the church were all eyes, there’d be no hearing; if all ears, there’d be no sense of smell (1 Corinthians 12:14–17). “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ ” Paul says (v. 21). Each of us plays a role in the church based on our spiritual gifts (vv. 7–11, 18). Like Jia Haixia and Jia Wenqi, when we combine our strengths, we can bring change to the world.
Two men combining their abilities to regenerate a wasteland. What a picture of the church in action!
By: Sheridan Voysey
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Reflect & Pray
Based on your spiritual gifts, what part do you play in the body of Christ? How are you joining with others to fulfill His mission?
Holy Spirit, thank You for giving me spiritual gifts and arranging me in a body where I’m needed.


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December 20
Fear Not
Bible in a Year:

Do not be afraid . . . a Savior has been born to you.

Luke 2:10–11
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Luke 2:8–14
Linus, in the Peanuts comic strip, is best known for his blue security blanket. He carries it everywhere and isn’t embarrassed at needing it for comfort. His sister Lucy especially dislikes the blanket and often tries to get rid of it. She buries it, makes it into a kite, and uses it for a science fair project. Linus too knows he should be less dependent on his blanket and lets it go from time to time, always to take it back.
In the movie A Charlie Brown Christmas, when a frustrated Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus, with his security blanket in hand, steps center stage and quotes Luke 2:8–14. In the middle of his recitation, as he says, “Fear not,” he drops his blanket—the thing he clung to when afraid.
What is it about Christmas that reminds us we don’t need to fear? The angels that appeared to the shepherds said, “Do not be afraid . . . a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:10–11).
Jesus is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). We have His very presence through His Holy Spirit, the true Comforter (John 14:16), so we don’t need to fear. We can let go of our “security blankets” and trust in Him.
By: Anne Cetas
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Reflect & Pray
What are you afraid of? How can the Holy Spirit’s presence help you with what troubles you?
I’m still learning, God, that You’re the greatest Comforter. Help me to let go of the things that give me false security, and please guide me to cling to You.


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REMEMBER WHY JESUS WAS BORN
December 19, 2021
“…you shall call his name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21
Birth announcements are a wonderful way to celebrate the excitement of a brand new life.

But did you know that when Jesus Christ was born, God sent the ultimate birth announcement—straight from heaven—to announce the birth of His Son Jesus?

What did this heavenly birth announcement look like? It was a host of angels filling the sky as they proclaimed,

“Today in the city of David has been born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

“But why do we need a Savior?” you might ask.

God’s Word spells it out. We desperately need a Savior because all of us have sinned. Big, small, it doesn’t matter. Our sin has separated us from God. If we die separated from Him, that means eternal separation from Him in hell – and that’s bad news.

That’s where Christmas comes in. Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus Christ who came to pay the penalty for our sins, to offer us complete forgiveness, and restore that right relationship with our Heavenly Father, God.

For those who believe and put their trust in Him, Jesus saves us from our sin and ultimately, hell — and that’s pretty important.

So as you rush around wrapping gifts or planning your annual Christmas party, remember why Jesus was born. Remember the heavenly birth announcement that let the world know the significance of that baby born in Bethlehem, who would grow up to become a Savior for you and me.

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January 3
When Love Never Ends
Bible in a Year:

The Lord watches over all who love him.

Psalm 145:20
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Psalm 145:8–20
“Whenever my grandfather took me to the beach,” Sandra reminisced, “he always took off his watch and put it away. One day I asked him why.”
“He smiled and replied, ‘Because I want you to know how important my moments with you are to me. I just want to be with you and let time go by.’ ”
I heard Sandra share that recollection at her grandfather’s funeral. It was one of her favorite memories of their life together. As I reflected on how valued it makes us feel when others take time for us, it brought to mind Scripture’s words on God’s loving care.
God always makes time for us. David prayed in Psalm 145, “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The Lord is near” (vv. 16–18).
God’s goodness and thoughtful attention sustain our lives each moment, providing us with air to breathe and food to eat. Because He is rich in love, the Creator of all things mercifully crafts even the most intricate details of our existence.
God’s love is so deep and unending that in His kindness and mercy He’s even opened the way to eternal life and joy in His presence, as if to say, “I love you so much, I just want to be with you forever, and let time go by.”
By: James Banks
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Reflect & Pray
How does your availability to others reflect God’s faithful love for them? In what ways can you follow His example by making time for others today?
Father, thank You for Your perfect love. Please help me to praise You for it and to share it with others today.
Read God Is Love.
 

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January 4
Resilient Faith
Bible in a Year:

Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

Matthew 7:26
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Matthew 7:24–27
Towering dunes along the north shore of Silver Lake put nearby homes at risk of sinking into shifting sands. Though residents tried moving mounds of sand in efforts to protect their homes, they watched helplessly as well-built houses were buried right before their eyes. As a local sheriff oversaw the cleanup of a recently destroyed cottage, he affirmed the process couldn’t be prevented. No matter how hard homeowners tried to avoid the dangers of these unsteady embankments, the dunes simply couldn’t provide a strong foundational support.
Jesus knew the futility of building a house on sand. After warning the disciples to be wary of false prophets, He assured them that loving obedience demonstrates wisdom (Matthew 7:15–23). He said that everyone who hears His words and “puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (v. 24). The one who hears God’s words and chooses not to put them into practice, however, is “like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (v. 26).
When circumstances feel like shifting sands burying us under the weight of affliction or worries, we can place our hope in Christ, our Rock. He will help us develop resilient faith built on the unshakable foundation of His unchanging character.
By: Xochitl Dixon
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Reflect & Pray
How does obedience demonstrate your trust in God? In what areas of your life are you standing on the shifting sands of disobedience to Him?
Jesus, please help me develop resilient faith. Empower me to demonstrate my trust through loving obedience to You.
 

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January 5
Back to the Basics
Bible in a Year:

Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right.

Ezekiel 45:9
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Ezekiel 45:9–10, 17–20
Resolutions, it seems, are made to be broken. Some folks poke fun at this reality by proposing New Year’s vows that are—shall we say—attainable. Here are a few from social media:
Wave to fellow motorists at stoplights.
Sign up for a marathon. Don’t run it.
Stop procrastinating—tomorrow.
Get lost without any help from Siri.
Unfriend everyone who posts their workout regimen.
The concept of a fresh start can be serious business, however. The exiled people of Judah desperately needed one. Just over two decades into their seventy-year captivity, God brought encouragement to them through the prophet Ezekiel, promising, “I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob” (Ezekiel 39:25).
But the nation first needed to return to the basics—the instructions God had given to Moses eight hundred years earlier. This included observing a feast at the new year. For the ancient Jewish people, that began in early spring (45:18). A major purpose of their festivals was to remind them of God’s character and His expectations. He told their leaders, “Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right” (v. 9), and he insisted on honesty (v. 10).
The lesson applies to us too. Our faith must be put into practice or it’s worthless (James 2:17). In this new year, as God provides what we need, may we live out our faith by returning to the basics: “Love the Lord your God,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39).
By: Tim Gustafson
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Reflect & Pray
In what ways do you sense you need to get back to the basics? How will you put this into practice in the new year?
Father, may Your Spirit show me the places where I need to put others before myself. Help me love You with all my heart.
 

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January 7
Genuine Hope
Bible in a Year:

He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

1 Peter 1:3
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
1 Peter 1:3–9
In the early 1960s, the US was filled with anticipation of a bright future. Youthful President John F. Kennedy had introduced the New Frontier, the Peace Corps, and the task of reaching the moon. A thriving economy caused many people to expect the future to simply “let the good times roll.” Then the war in Vietnam escalated, national unrest unfolded, Kennedy was assassinated, and the accepted norms of that previously optimistic society were dismantled. Optimism simply wasn’t enough, and in its wake, disillusionment prevailed.
Then, in 1967, theologian Jürgen Moltmann’s A Theology of Hope pointed to a clearer vision. This path wasn’t the way of optimism but the way of hope. The two aren’t the same thing. Moltmann affirmed that optimism is based on the circumstances of the moment, but hope is rooted in God’s faithfulness—regardless of our situation.
What’s the source of this hope? Peter wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Our faithful God has conquered death through His Son, Jesus! The reality of this greatest of all victories lifts us beyond mere optimism to a strong, robust hope—every day and in every circumstance.
By: Bill Crowder
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Reflect & Pray
Whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist, what situations cause concern in you? Why is hope better than either optimism or pessimism?
God, this world is distressing and confusing, and many voices want to drive me to a perspective that feels void of hope. Help me to root my heart in the promise and power of the resurrection of Jesus, who holds the future.
 
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