Daily Devotional

  • "Christmas Once Again" - An Inspirational Christmas poem for Saturday, December 15th

    Christmas Once Again


    It's Christmas once again,

    Yes, it's that time of year,

    To reflect now and then,

    And wish that you were here.

    To talk about the story,

    About a baby born one night.

    A King without His glory,

    Who left His throne of might.


    The babe grew into a child,

    And the child became a man.

    The King dwelt among His people,

    But they would not understand.

    God left His Heavenly splendour,

    The Son came from above.

    He became a simple servant,

    To show that He was love.


    Then one day He died,

    Crucified upon that tree.

    Even now I wonder why,

    Why did He die for you and me?

    Christmas without Easter

    Is only half the story;

    Jesus, the Son of God,

    Arose again in glory.


    He didn't come that night,

    Just to give us a holiday;

    He came to give us life,

    And showed He was the Way.

    Immanuel, our God is with us,

    As the prophets had foretold.

    He redeemed us with His precious blood,

    Not with silver or with gold.


    The wise men later brought their gifts,

    Knelt and worshipped at His feet.

    Like a wise man, will you give

    Your heart to the Prince of Peace?

    (Poet - Jerry Bouey)

  • The Birth of Christ – God Not With Us and God With Us - Friday, December 14th

    Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Today's highlighted portion is a continuation of words previously spoken by the Lord through the prophet Isaiah centuries before and recorded in Isaiah 7:14. They are recorded in our Matthew passage as well because they are fulfilled by means of the birth of Christ. The words, "God with us" are not just a nice sentiment. The inference is that apart from the birth of Christ, "God is not with us." Yes, Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, and, yes, because he is present on earth as the result of his birth, the words "God with us" have become true. However, there is so much more that is meant by these words than God showing up in a manger. This is because there is so much more involved with "God not being with us" than just his not being here in human form.

    What is the flip side of all this? It is "us not with God" and "us with God." Considering "us not with God" becoming "us with God" helps us understand. "God is not with us" becoming "God with us," is so much more than just his being here in human form. Ephesians 2:13 says it this way, "But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Without Jesus Christ, mankind's state of being is: “separation” from God. Jesus Christ being born into this world makes it possible for him to do what was necessary while he was here to reverse our state of being separated from God. God intervened and initiated a Divine reversal of the separation the exists between him and us and us and him. This intervention of God began with a manger but culminated with a cross. It is on the cross that the provision of being saved from our sins becomes a reality.

    The wonderful Christmas Carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem" says it this way, "O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast our sin, and enter in; be born in us today." Jesus was born into the world so that he could be born into our hearts. It is the provision of the cross and our response to the provision of the cross that brings it about for each of us. When sin is cast out and the Savior enters in, he becomes our "Immanuel." "God with us" becomes so much more than a baby in a manger. "Immanuel" becomes for us the daily experience of living in communion with the living God. Christmas really is huge and when it becomes huge to us, it will become a 365 and 24/7 reality in our lives.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I know that your intervention for mankind on that first Christmas was not just some sidelight on your part. Help it not to be a sidelight for me either. Help the full meaning of Christmas become a reality in my life 365 and 7/24. May "God with us" become my heartbeat and the way I go about living my life all the time. Lord, thank you for being my Savior and my Immanuel. Help me to know your presence this Christmas in the full way you desire for me to experience you. Right now, I come before you believing you are with me and I am with you. I lay back in your arms of love totally secure and blessed. Amen!

  • The Birth of Christ - A Divine Conception and A Divine Savior - Thursday, December 13th

    Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Today we turn our attention to these words from our passage: "the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son." We are told that these words were previously spoken by the Lord through the prophet. The prophet is Isaiah and the words were recorded centuries before in Isaiah 7:14. With the conception and birth of Jesus Christ this prophecy was fulfilled. Many reasons have been put forth for why all this was a necessary part of the birth of Christ. In reality there is only one: without a Divine conception there cannot be a Divine person. A human father and a human mother will always result in a human conception and the birth of a human person.

    To put it another way, the only way God the Son could take on human form was for God the Father to be the actual cause of the conception that came about in Mary's womb. The angel in Luke 1:35 described it in this way to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God." Without a Divine conception and birth we don't have Jesus Christ here on earth in the flesh. If we don't have Jesus Christ here on earth in the flesh, we don't have a Savior to "save His people from their sins." Without our being saved from our sins God cannot reclaim a lost humanity for himself (to live for his glory and his purposes) and everyone perishes in the absence of eternal life.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I bow before you today in worship and adoration. What an amazing event the birth of Christ really is. Help me enter fully into all that Christmas really is. I get it: Christmas gives us the one who sets everything in order and makes everything right. Thank you for the awe inspiring measures that were taken for us to have a Divine Savior who takes care of everything. Amen!

  • The Birth of Christ – Our Dilemma and God’s Dilemma - Wednesday, December 12th

    Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We have been talking about dilemmas, Divine explanations and solutions, and Divine purposes this week in regard to the birth of Christ. We said that Divine conception (we will look at the virgin birth more closely beginning tomorrow) is more about the provision of a Divine Savior than it is about alleviating Joseph's dilemma. In order to understand Divine purposes as fully as possible we are going to consider "dilemmas" more fully today. We have connected the provision of a Divine Savior with Divine purposes but it is at the same time significantly connected with other "dilemmas" that we need to address.

    In reality the lostness of humanity is a huge dilemma for each of us. The provision of a Divine Savior accomplishes Divine purposes and alleviates the dilemma of our being lost. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus came to "seek and to save that which was lost" and that God gave his Son to lost humanity so that we "might not perish but have eternal life." This brings us today's Scripture, "and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Is saving people from their sins really all about alleviating the dilemma of our being ones who are "lost" and are therefore "perishing?" No, it is not! There is one more dilemma we need to look at.

    The birth of Christ gives Jesus to the world and he saves his people from their sins. He does this, however, first and foremost for God's dilemma and not ours. Yes, he does it for our dilemma, but God's dilemma is paramount. Here is God's dilemma: he created mankind to exist for him, bring him glory, and accomplish his purposes. Because we are sinful and lost we exist for ourselves, bring ourselves glory, and accomplish our own purposes. Jesus Christ, our Divine Savior, saves his people from their sins to alleviate God's dilemma of not having humanity available for himself and for whatever he has in mind for them. The giving of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is God's means of reclaiming a lost humanity for himself, his glory, and his purposes.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I see how important my surrender and submission to you really are. I do want to exist for you and I am seeking for this to be true of my life. I realize that it is an ongoing kind of thing and something I need to be renewed in over and over again. So, I take my place before you today, Lord, as one who exists for you, your glory, and your purposes. Thank you for Jesus Christ, my Savior, who has saved me from my sins. Amen!

  • The Birth of Christ – Divine Interventions and Divine Purposes - Tuesday, December 11th

    Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We continue today with our passage for the week. Yesterday we put our focus on Joseph being afraid to take Mary as his wife and today we focus on the words of the angel that are given to set the record straight. The angel says, "The child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." Now for Joseph these words are initially words that tell him what is not true. In other words, it is not true that Mary has been involved with another man and it is not true that he has to give up on their plans for marriage. Up until now Joseph is simply engaged to a woman who is pregnant and the prospects don't look so good. Conception by the Holy Spirit alleviates his dilemma, but this is so much bigger than Joseph's dilemma.

    This is a vital point for us. What God is doing is always bigger than the dilemmas we face. We are so wrapped up in ourselves, our circumstances, the dilemmas they create, and the solutions we want. We talked yesterday about Divine explanations and Divine solutions. The narrowness of our field of vision has much to do with the narrowness of our being caught up in ourselves. We are often limited to human explanations and human solutions because we only see our human dilemma. Divine conception is more about the provision of a Divine Savior (God's means of reclaiming a lost humanity for himself and his purposes) than it is about alleviating Joseph's dilemma. Divine intervention for us is always more about Divine purposes than it is about alleviating our dilemmas,

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I confess that I am more "me" centered than I should be and less "You" centered than I should be. Please deliver me from my orientation toward "you existing for me" instead of "me existing for you." Forgive me for all the ways I have looked to you as a spiritual Santa Claus. I know you care about me and my dilemmas and that you do help me in wonderful ways. But today, I choose to care about You and your Divine purposes more than I do about me and my dilemmas. I bow before you in total surrender and submission. Amen!

  • The Birth of Christ - Divine Explanations and Divine Solutions - Monday, December 10th

    Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Each of this week's Devotionals will have the passage above but with a different part highlighted. This passage from the Gospel of Matthew sets forth for us some of the detail involved in the Birth of Christ. Joseph is front and center in the account and from today's highlighted portion we see that he is afraid to take Mary as his wife. All that Joseph knows is that the woman he is engaged to is pregnant and he is not the father. What else can he conclude but that Mary has been involved with another man and so it seems quite reasonable for him to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.

    We will go on in our Devotionals this week to explore the virgin birth of Christ. But for now let's join Joseph in the spot he's in for a moment. He is facing a severely difficult situation with only human explanations and human solutions. How often in our lives we face the challenges that come our way with only human explanations and human solutions. The birth of Christ was a supernatural event filled with Divine explanations and Divine solutions. We are way on the other side of the birth of Christ and if there is anything we should know by now as believers in Christ, it is that he came to make a supernatural difference in our lives. Being a believer in Christ is supposed to be all about having lives that are filled with Divine explanations and Divine Solutions. What are you facing this Christmas season that needs Divine intervention? God can make a supernatural difference. He probably won't send an angel to intervene on your behalf, but you already have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you and he is pretty good at providing Divine explanations and Divine solutions.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, forgive me for my tendency to approach life solely on human terms. Teach me all I need to learn from Joseph in the Christmas story of Scripture. I really do believe that I am indwelled by the Holy Spirit and so today I lean hard on you for whatever Divine explanations and Divine solutions you want to bring to my life and circumstances. I trust in you and rest in you. Amen!

  • "My First Christmas In Heaven" - An Inspirational Christmas Story for Sunday, December 9th

    My First Christmas In Heaven

    I see the countless Christmas trees
    around the world below
    With tiny lights, like Heaven's stars,
    reflecting on the snow.

    The sight is so spectacular,
    please wipe away the tear
    For I am spending Christmas with
    Jesus Christ this year.

    I hear the many Christmas songs
    that people hold so dearl
    But the sounds of music can't compare
    with the Christmas choir up here.

    I have no words to tell you,
    the joy their voices bring,
    For it is beyond description,
    to hear the angels sing.

    I know how much you miss me,
    I see the pain inside your heart.
    But I am not so far away,
    We really aren't apart.

    So be happy for me, dear ones,
    You know I hold you dear.
    And be glad I'm spending Christmas
    with Jesus Christ this year.

    I sent you each a special gift,
    from my heavenly home above.
    I sent you each a memory
    of my undying love.

    After all, love is a gift more precious
    than pure gold.
    It was always most important
    in the stories Jesus told.

    Please love and keep each other,
    as my Father said to do.
    For I can't count the blessing or love
    he has for each of you.

    So have a Merry Christmas and
    wipe away that tear.
    Remember, I am spending Christmas with
    Jesus Christ this year.

    This poem was written by a 13 year old boy who died of a brain tumor that he had battled for four years. He died on December 14, 1997. He gave this to his Mom before he died. His name was Ben.

  • "For the Man Who Hated Christmas" - An Inspirational Christmas Story for Saturday, December 8th

    For the Man Who Hated Christmas 
    By Nancy W. Gavin

    It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years.

    It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it – overspending and the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma – the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.

    Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

    Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was on the wrestling team at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

    As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

    Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them." Mike loved kids – all kids. He so enjoyed coaching little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came.

    That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes, and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed a small, white envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done, and that this was his gift from me.

    Mike's smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year. And that same bright smile lit up succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition – one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

    The white envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children – ignoring their new toys – would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the small, white envelope never lost its allure.

    The story doesn't end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree. And the next morning, I found it was magically joined by three more. Unbeknownst to the others, each of our three children had for the first time placed a white envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down that special envelope.

  • God with Us – Reality instead of Theory - Friday, December 7th

    When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. Luke 2:15-20

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The shepherds are a part of an unfolding story. It is the story of God’s “provision” of redemption. The story of the “provision” of redemption was completed on the cross of Calvary. The unfolding of story of the “offering” of redemption has been going on since the moment the “provision” of redemption was completed. Those who step into God’s unfolding story of “offering” redemption to the world, step into their own personal story which they cannot help but share with others. The shepherds had the amazing experience of worshiping God with the angels of Heaven at the announcement of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. After this experience, today's passage tells us that the shepherds went to see Jesus in response to the instructions they had been given by the angel.

    We are then given these words upon which everything hinges for the shepherds and us: "After seeing him." The worship the shepherds experienced with the angels at the announcement of the birth of Jesus, now becomes the worship they experience in their own personal encounter with Christ. "Seeing him" is all important for us as well. Whether it is our initial encounter with Christ at "conversion" or our ongoing encounter with him in daily "communion," "seeing him" makes all the difference. To "see him" is to "worship him" and to "worship him" is life altering. The impact is so great, that we, like the shepherds, share our story with others.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, help me to see you more clearly and to experience you more fully. May the overflow of my worship wash over the people around me in ways that give me opportunity to share my story and the story of redemption. May the lives of your people everywhere this Christmas season be filled with experiences of "seeing you" in worship and may the world be blessed with what happens "after" all the "seeing you" experiences of your people all around the world. Amen!

  • God with Us – Freedom instead of Slavery - Thursday, December 6th

    This is good (context: praying for a lost world- see 1 Timothy 1:15A & 2:1) and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. 1 Timothy 2:3-6

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We have been looking this week at important things that make up the Christmas event. The shepherds play a prominent role in the story of Christ's birth. Yesterday's devotional centered on the words of the angels who said to the shepherds, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” It was suggested that the angels were telling the shepherds what the birth of Christ would ultimately accomplish: followers whose lives are pleasing to God because they bring glory to God in highest heaven as recipients and agents of peace on earth.

    We want to suggest today that the words of the angels are really a call to people everywhere to be true worshipers of God. Today's verses are a great follow up for helping us with this need. As the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ secured peace between "God and mankind" by letting the judgment of sin fall on himself. This is what the word, "Mediator" is all about. Jesus Christ purchased our freedom from slavery to sin and self. This freedom sets us free to be devoted to the one who gave his life for us. True followers of Christ are devoted to him. The one who is devoted to Christ is a worshiper. True worshipers (his devoted followers) of Jesus Christ live lives that are pleasing to God because they bring glory to God in highest heaven as recipients and agents of peace on earth.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want to be a true worshiper. Thank you for purchasing my freedom from slavery to sin. Show me how to be more devoted to you and to follow you more closely. I trust you for the work you are doing in me this Christmas season. May my life glorify you more than ever before as I continue in my journey of being both a recipient and agent of peace on earth. Amen!

  • God with Us – Peace instead of Guilt - Wednesday, December 5th

    The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:11-14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    An angel of God appearing to announce the birth of Christ and then being joined by a vast host of angels to praise God for bringing this about, is a very big deal. The fact that angels appeared to lowly shepherds does not diminish the significance of the event. Make no mistake, they were lowly shepherds. They were not lowly as people, but lowly in the societal structure of the day. God reveals himself to the receptive. Evidently, God did not go to the mainstream of society because they were not receptive. So, through an angel, God announces the birth of Christ to lowly but receptive shepherds with a vast host of angels praising God for this amazing happening.

    But there is more! The angels say, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” In a very real sense, the angels are telling what the birth of Christ will ultimately accomplish: followers whose lives are pleasing to God because they bring glory to God in highest heaven as recipients and agents of peace on earth. The baby born that day in Bethlehem was proclaimed to be the Savior of the world. Jesus Christ would go on to sacrifice himself on the cross to redeem us from sinful, rebellious, wasted lives and to give us lives that really count because they please God.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I know that my Savior secured peace between "God and mankind" by letting the judgment of sin fall on himself. I am a recipient of both peace with God and the peace of God. Thank you Lord that I am yours guilt free full and clear. I pray that gaining an understanding of Christmas in these terms will happen for countless people who have never had it happen before. Use me this Christmas season in ways that contribute to people coming to the Savior and receiving in full both peace with God and the peace of God. Amen!

  • God with Us – Good News instead of Judgment - Tuesday, December 4th

    For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 2 Timothy 1:9-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Yesterday we talked about "Good News" moving us from a place of fear to a place of joy. Today's verses are a great follow up for helping us with this need. The "Good News" is this: Jesus took the place of fear for us. The place of fear is the place of judgement and the place of judgement is the cross. Jesus took our place on the cross (a place only he could take) and let the judgment of sin fall on himself. Our verses tell us that "He did this, not because we deserved to have him do this, but because it was his plan from before the beginning of time." Additionally, our verses tell us that by doing this "He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality."

    Truly it was God's plan "to show us his grace through Christ Jesus" and truly, "He has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior." The birth of Christ, that first Christmas, was truly "Good News" and it is truly "good news that will bring great joy to all people." For those who embrace the "Good News" of who he is and what he has done, there is no longer a place of judgment for them. This is why, "Good News" moves us from a place of fear of judgment to a place of joy, forever.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I know I have embraced the "Good News" of who you are and what you have done for me. I know I am forgiven and you are my forever Savior. But somehow, it seems that fear has slipped into my life and smothered my joy. Like David, the Psalmist of long ago, I ask you to "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit" (Psalm 51:12). Amen!

  • God with Us – Joy instead of Fear - Monday, December 3rd

    And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. Luke 2:6-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Jesus Christ is the Father's Christmas gift to us. There are important things that make up who Jesus Christ, God's Christmas gift, is to us. At the very center is the fact that Jesus Christ is indeed the Savior of the World. This week we look at important things that make up the Christmas event itself that resulted in the Savior of the World being present ("Immanuel") with us here on earth. As we do this we will understand more and more of the full meaning of Christ's presence with us.

    We live in a broken world that needs to be fixed. Since shortly after the dawn of time this has been true. Our brokenness is why we need a Savior. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, was born in a stable. This original Christmas event was announced by an angel to a lowly group of shepherds. What great words were spoken to the frightened shepherds by the angel, “'Don’t be afraid!' he said. 'I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.'" Just like the shepherds we need "Good News" to move us from fear to joy. The birth of Christ is "Good News" because Jesus Christ came as the "Savior of the World."

    A Savior is one who rescues and redeems. A Savior does not reach down from above with a Heavenly hand and swat this broken, messed up world and send it into oblivion. A Savior comes down from above as God, the Son in human form. He goes from a baby in a manger to the Savior on the cross with human hands stretched wide in the sacrifice of himself for the sins of the world and in welcome to all who will embrace the "Good News" of who he is and what he has done.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, truly the "good news" of Christ's birth has brought great joy to me. I am redeemed from sin and you are fixing my brokenness. Thank you for not swatting this broken world with the hand of judgment. Thank you, Jesus, for being the Savior of the world instead. Thank you for being my Savior. Amen!

  • "Two Babies in a Manger" - An Inspirational Christmas Story for Sunday, December 2nd

    Two Babies in a Manger

     

    In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. They relate the following story in their own words:

    It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.

    Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city.

    Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel (cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia ), were used for the baby's blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States.

    The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6-years-old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy's manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger.

    Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously.

    For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately -- until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said:

    "And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don't have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with Him. But I told him I couldn't, because I didn't have a gift to give Him like everybody else did."

    "But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept Him warm, that would be a good gift."

    So I asked Jesus, "If I keep You warm, will that be a good enough gift?"

    And Jesus told me, 'If you keep Me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave Me."

    So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and He told me I could stay with Him -- for always.

    As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him -- for always.

    And the Americans? They had learned the lesson they had come there to teach -- that it is not what you have in your life, but Who you have in your life that really counts.

    We all should give thanks for the people that "keep us"- in life - and for all of God's many blessings to us: freedom from want, life, love, togetherness, and for the enduring love of Jesus Christ, the one person who keeps us warm and safe for always.

  • "A Christmas Reunion" - An Inspirational Christmas Story for Saturday, December 1st

    A Christmas Reunion


    The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in urban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.

    They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc., and on December 18th were ahead of schedule and just about finished. On December 19th a terrible tempest - a driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days.

    On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sunk when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 6 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high. The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity so he stopped in.

    One of the items was a beautiful, hand-made, ivory colored, crocheted table cloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.

    By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc. to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area. Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet.

    "Pastor," she asked, "Where did you get that tablecloth?"

    The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.

    The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten the tablecloth. The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. She was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or her home again.

    The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home, that was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.

    What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return.

    One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn't leaving. The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike?

    He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety, and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a concentration camp. He never saw his wife or his home again for all the 35 years in between.

    The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier. He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.

  • The Way of Grace – No Intolerance in Christ - Friday, November, 30th

    For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Hebrews 4:12-13

    Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

    Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The Hebrews 4 passage reminds us that we are God’s creatures (He made us) and that His word speaks to our true condition, completely penetrating and revealing to us what we are really like. What God’s word reveals as true of all human beings, God sees specifically as He views each one of us personally, directly, and entirely. Here is the take on the purpose of these verses: since what we are really like is known by the One who made us and since our true condition is revealed to us in Scripture, we, who avoid such scrutiny and are not in touch with our true condition, need to let God and His word do their work. When we do we will be set free from our denial of all that remains unexposed and unavailable to the transforming touch of God, who is waiting and ready to bring to us all the help we so desperately need for exchanging the world’s ways for His ways.

    Humility is all about embracing completely the reality that we don’t have what it takes for all this but God does. That’s what the Gospel is about – God coming to dwell in us by His Spirit on the basis of our being cleansed through the blood of Christ so that He does in us and through us that which pleases Him and which we on our own could not otherwise bring about. Is it not high time that we move from the place of denial of our true condition to the place of full acceptance of and participation in God’s complete provision for genuine transformation of life? Humility is all about embracing completely the reality that we don’t have what it takes but that God does. If this is true and it is certainly is, then the key for gaining victory over favoritism/prejudice in all its forms is finding and maintaining such humility before God. When we do this we will view and treat all others properly and equally because we will be experiencing and dispensing the unconditional and unprejudiced love of God. 

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I confess that I tolerate a lot more in my own life than I tolerate in the lives of others. Teach me the kind of humility and dependence that overcomes this. Keep me from slipping back into thinking I have what it takes and can somehow offer you something of value on my own. It really is all about grace and being “in Christ.” Thank you for the blessing of redemption and transformation. I choose the way of grace. Amen!

  • The Way of Grace - No Deception in Christ - Thursday, November 29th

    So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. James 2:12-13

    For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28

    But the Lord abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, and He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity. The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble; and those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. Psalm 9:7-10

    Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar. Two things I asked of You, do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God. Proverbs 30:5-9

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We mentioned earlier that seeing others as “redeemed ones” or “potentially redeemed ones” can keep us out of a lot trouble. It is so easy for us to favor some over others when we move into not viewing and treating everyone as having equal value. We move in this direction regarding our view of others when we allow our view of ourselves to change. Let’s say it this way: we start favoring some people over others when we start favoring ourselves over some others. The need is great for us to see how truly diabolical this is. Perhaps this is why God’s stand against favoritism/prejudice is so severely stated in the Scriptures above. God’s call to us is to stand with those who are poor and downtrodden because often they are the ones who have trouble standing on their own in this abusive world system in which we live. God calls us to make a difference in our world and there is no better way to do that than to be agents of grace and mercy to the poor and downtrodden all around us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, help me to see and value others through the eyes of redemption. I am so prone to seeing and valuing others in ways that suit me and benefit me. Take the blinders off me and remove deception far from me. I know this is serious business and so I choose to live by grace for the benefit of everyone around me. I am yours, Lord. Amen!

  • The Way of Grace – No Inequality in Christ - Wednesday, November 28th

    Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear? Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, ‘You must not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You must not murder.’ So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. James 2:5-11

    And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” Luke 6:20-21

    For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:11-13

    Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever; Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous; the Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked. The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord! Psalm 146:1-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    If we were looking for the existence of some kind of hierarchy in what God is seeking to do with mankind we could build a case for God favoring the poor and downtrodden over the rich and prospering. But this is not really the case even though it seems that way. It is just that the poor and downtrodden who don’t fare to well with the earthly and temporal system of human life down here are often more open to the alternate heavenly and eternal system God is building. The rich and prospering who are caught up in the earthly and temporal system of mere human life with all their achievements and successes are often less open to this alternative way that God makes available to mankind. So, God does not favor the poor and downtrodden over the rich and prospering, but rather He just has more opportunity to be in true relationship with the poor and downtrodden than He does with the rich and prosperous because the rich and prosperous are less responsive to Him. 

    The hallmark of God’s alternate system is the royal law, “love your neighbor as yourself.” Favoring some over others is the hallmark of the world system. James puts “love your neighbor as yourself” in opposition to favoring some people over others, which he flat out calls it sin. As was said earlier we are a part of the community of the redeemed and as such all spiritual brothers and sisters must always view each other as having equal value as those whom God has redeemed in Christ. Similarly, we view those who are not yet members with equal value because they are ones that Christ can redeem. Seeing others as “redeemed ones” or “potentially redeemed ones” is the key to viewing and treating everyone as having equal value.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I am so easily blinded to that which really counts. Forgive me for counting so much on things that are so fleeting. Deliver me from all inequality in my dealings with people. Thank you so very, very much for your wonderful grace. Help me to keep in the forefront of my mind and heart the truth that everything that truly matters is always and forever the product of your grace. Amen!

  • The Way of Grace – No Boasting in Christ - Tuesday, November 27th

    For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? James 2:2-4

    Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:5-11

    My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than breath. Do not trust in oppression and do not vainly hope in robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart upon them. Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God; and lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord, for You recompense a man according to his work. Psalm 62:5-12

    For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The Colossian passage above says “there is no distinction” and yet we make distinctions between people. When we do this it is either because when we first came to Christ we did not see as much as we should have the extent of our being lost, sick, and sinful or somewhere along the way since we came to Christ we have forgotten the extent of our need that was revealed to us then. When we gain and maintain a view of ourselves that necessitates absolute surrender and dependence on Christ for living life, our view of others will not come from assigning value to them based on distinctions that don’t matter to God and should not matter to us. Certainly favoring some people over others is incompatible with our Christian faith. This is exactly the kind of thing Jesus came to redeem us from and which runs so rampant in the world in which we live. In the community of the redeemed no hierarchy of any kind should exist. When this is the case (no hierarchies) a waiting and watching world will be touched deeply and mightily drawn toward Christ. 

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I get it! Driven by achievement – caught up in boasting. Caught up in boasting – drawing distinctions between people. Drawing distinctions between people – favoring (valuing) some people over others. I know this is the way of the world and not the way of grace. Have mercy on me and deliver me from its clutches. Fill me will such an awareness of your love and grace that it spills over into the lives of everyone around me. Amen!

  • The Way of Grace – No Favorites in Christ - Monday, November 26th

    My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? James 2:1

    For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The verse above from James includes a reference to our faith in Christ. Reviewing what faith in Christ is all about is a good place to begin. Jesus said that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” Elsewhere He said that “it is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” And He also said, “for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” When we truly put our faith in Christ, we do so as ones who truly are lost, sick, and sinful and we believe that Christ can and will do something about our lost, sick, and sinful condition. So right from the beginning and all along the way our faith in Christ is all about letting Christ make the difference in our lives that He alone can make as ones who on our own are lost, sick, and sinful.

    As Christians we are members of the community of the redeemed. As such we view all other members first and foremost as those who are redeemed and we view those who are not yet members first and foremost as ones that Christ can redeem. Seeing others as “redeemed ones” or “potentially redeemed ones” can keep us out of a lot trouble. It is when we allow ourselves to use other designations for assigning value to ourselves and those around us that we end up in deep trouble. This is what lies behind the problem of favoring some people over others and recognizing this problem and doing something about it is the focus of this week’s Devotionals.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I know how easily I gravitate toward an approach that seeks to measure my acceptance with you by merit and achievement. I also know how readily I gravitate toward an approach that seeks to measure others by what I find acceptable in them. Lord, I know this is not the way of grace. You don’t show favorites and I must not either. Please show me more fully the way of grace for my life. Amen!

  • "Blessed Thanksgiving" - An Inspirational Story - Sunday, November 25th

    Blessed Thanksgiving

    By Cindy Tuttle

    The cold night made her feel even more tired than usual. “Don, I’m going to go to sleep. I need to get up early tomorrow to fix the turkey.”

    “Okay, Honey. I'll finish reading this chapter, then I’ll be right up.” Don read a few more paragraphs, then glanced up when he heard a soft pecking sound. Probably the wind. He’d hardly had time to refocus on the story, when he heard it again, but this time it was louder. Could someone be knocking on the door? At this late hour? A glance at the clock showed 11:06.
    The lights in the house were dim, so he could pretend they were already asleep. No reason to open the door so late. Still, something in him urged him to open the door.
    “Who’s there?” he said without opening the door.
    No one answered

    Don slowly opened the door, surprised to see a little boy with tousled brown hair standing there. He couldn’t be more than five years old, and he looked as though he hadn't had a bath for weeks. He shoved his hands into his dirty jeans and shivered beneath his thin t-shirt. His eyes pleaded for any bit of kindness Don could give.

    Don glanced around, surprised to find that the child came alone. “Where are your parents?” Then Don remembered his manners. “Come. Come inside, child. You’ll catch your death of cold.”
    Fear filled the boy’s eyes. “My parents have no money, and they say they can't take care of me. They told me to come here.” The boy’s voice cracked.

    Don felt his mouth fall open. Could this be true? Had the boy misunderstood his parents? “What is your name?”

    “J-John. I am five years old.” His eyes darted around. “Do you have any food? I am so hungry.” The little boy’s lip quivered, and Don knew the tyke was fighting back sobs.

    “Why would Mommy and Daddy leave me? Am I a bad boy?” He could hold his emotions no longer. He bent forward and sobbed uncontrollably.

    “Oh, no, John. You are a very good boy. I’m sure you are! Why don't you stay here tonight with us? Let me get you a sandwich.”

    The little boy swiped at his eyes and tried to smile. Don quickly made a sandwich for John, and as the boy ate, Don went upstairs to his wife.

    “Sharon, you won't believe this!” Don sat on the edge of the bed and explained the whole situation. “Do you think we should call the police?”

    “Why don't I call them now,” said Sharon, “in case someone is looking for him.”

    “Let me do it,” said Don. “I’ll call from up here. Would you go down and sit with John?”

    “Of course.” Sharon pulled on her robe and raced downstairs.

    Don dialed the police station and asked for his friend, Captain Owen. “Hello, Captain. You won’t believe what just happened here.” John explained the mystery of their young guest. I just opened the door and there was a five year old boy with light brown hair, about four feet tall and says his name is John. He said his parents didn't have money to take care of him and was supposed to come to my house. “What should I do?” he finally asked.

    “I’m glad you called, John. We just picked up a man and woman for grand theft, and they were high on drugs. We knew they had a son, but they couldn’t remember what happened to him. I’m glad he came to you. We’ll send someone to pick him up, but—well, I don’t know where we’ll put him, tonight.”

    “Could he stay with us tonight and for Thanksgiving dinner, tomorrow? He seems like he really needs someone, right now.”

    “Yes, I don't see why not. After all, it is Thanksgiving. We’ll get in touch with you the day after Thanksgiving. In the meantime, call if you need anything.“

    Don felt a thrilling flutter in his stomach as he placed the receiver on the hook. What a great Thanksgiving this would be! He went down stairs and pulled Sharon away from John and explained his conversation with the captain.

    Sharon blinked hard as her eyes filled. “Oh, Don! We’ll make this Thanksgiving extra-special for him.” She kissed Don on the cheek. “Because this little boy has already made it special for us.”

    Twenty-five years later, John shared this story with his own children, as they enjoyed Thanksgiving Dinner at Grandma Sharon and Grandpa Don’s table. All because of one blessed Thanksgiving.

  • "Overflowing with Thankfulness" - An Inspirational Story for Saturday, November 24th

    Overflowing with Thankfulness

    by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

    I hate organ recitals. Not pipe organs, especially, but this kind:

    "How are you today, Gladys?"

    "Terrible, just terrible? Did I tell you about my gall bladder acting up?"

    "Yes, Gladys."

    She doesn't seem to acknowledge my, "Yes," but launches into a full-scale report on gall bladders around the world, and hers in particular. When she sees my eyes beginning to glaze over, Gladys falters for a moment. She knows she has to switch gears quickly to keep me from nodding off.

    "And I have this terrible skin rash that drives me so crazy that I can't sleep at night."

    I am trying hard to be polite. "Oh, I'm sorry."

    I attempt to stop myself, but it is too late. The ill-fated word has crossed my lips — "sorry" — and now I have fed Gladys her first morsel of real food for the day. She seems to take new energy, and as she describes her itching, I begin to sense little crawling things in my scalp. I unconsciously reach up to scratch my head, but nothing gets by Gladys. Oh, that's the first sign." she begins.

    You've met Gladys, haven't you? It might be a different name. Gladys goes under a number of aliases and dons many disguises. But it's the same complaining, self-centered woman.

    Too often, however, I meet Gladys in me. I want people to sympathize with me, so when something is going wrong, — and when doesn't it? — I begin to complain. The 49ers are having a bad season. The morals of our nation are terrible. The election was depressing. My spouse is in a bad mood. It doesn't have to dwell on the interior plumbing of a sick Gladys. Normal complaining comes all too easily to my lips.

    So when I read Colossians 2:6-7 it hits home. The phrase, "overflowing with thankfulness," begins to repeat itself over and over in my mind.

    "Overflowing" — "abounding," some translations say — brings the mental picture of the Thanksgiving cornucopia spilling out an abundant harvest blessing. Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." What is in my heart? Complaining? Selfishness? Pride? — or Thanksgiving?

    Thanksgiving is the mark of a Christian, because thanksgiving points out and up while my complaining points only back to me and feeds my pride and dissatisfaction. Thanksgiving towards God and man fits the Great Commandment like a glove, to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. What better vehicle than thankfulness to express love?

    The Pillsbury Doughboy® has that endearing quality that when you poke him he doesn't flare up but automatically responds with a friendly, perky, "Oh!" I want to be like him. Not so plump, mind you, but that full of friendliness. When someone pokes me I want my first instinct to be thankfulness rather than anger. I want people to find thankfulness oozing out of me. I want thanksgiving to mark my conversation and manner. I want to abound with it, be full of it. I want to overflow with thankfulness.

    How about you?

    Colossians 2:6-7 reads: "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness" (NIV)

  • God’s Marching Orders – Partner with Missions - Friday, November 23rd

    Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Being on mission with God to bless the world is a pretty awesome thing. Seeing people come to faith in Christ and their need met for eternal salvation is a beautiful thing. Seeing the pain and suffering of people alleviated in helpful ways is wonderfully fulfilling. The participation of God’s people in “mission” endeavors that seek to bless the world is his only game plan. We can do “missions” in our own relationships with people and we can join others in cooperative efforts the do “missions” anywhere in the world.

    Doing “mission” has a very practical side called “money.” We have been talking about the proper administration of the material wealth God supplies. The use of our “money” to do mission is very much a part of that. So, our focus today is on “giving” and that is what today’s passage is all about. We are going to narrow our focus to a “chicken or the egg” type question regarding giving.

    What comes first, God’s supply or giving? In other words, is it a matter of gaining an abundant supply from God and then giving or is it giving and then gaining an abundant supply from God as a result. Our passage very clearly talks about both of these things. Read over the passage again and you will see that both of them are talked about, but you will see just as clearly that giving (regardless of your supply) comes first. This leads to God’s abundant supply which allows us to do more giving which to leads to more abundant supply from God.

    So, there is a very important question that comes next. Have you become established in this cycle of giving? It all begins with giving regardless of our supply. God really is counting on us to be willing to give as we do “missions” in our own relationships with people and as we join others in cooperative efforts to do “missions.” The difference between us and fulltime “missionaries” is not the fullness of participation, but the kind of participation. Missionaries are engaged in taking the Gospel to the world, while we do so in the “world” in which we live our lives.

    What does all this mean for us? It means that our responsibility for missions is not fulfilled just by throwing a little money toward cooperative “Mission” endeavors, saying a few prayers for “Missions,” and inviting our friends to church. We must be very careful that we have more than a “token” involvement. With a full investment of ourselves and our money, we need to let God help us do “missions” all the time in our own relationships with people. With a similar investment of ourselves and our money, we must follow God’s leading for partnering with cooperative efforts in “missions” around the world and here at home.

    To the marching orders of “reach the lost,” “disciple the saved,” “plant churches,” and “provide ways to serve,” we add “partner with Missions.” Being on mission with God to bless the world is a pretty awesome thing. Oh, that our church would become one that is filled with followers of Christ who have made God's mission for the world their central purpose in life. Whether, it’s the full investment of ourselves and our money to do “missions” all the time in our own relationships with people or the investment of ourselves and our money to partner with missionary organizations around the world and here at home, the decision to participate is ours to make now. After you make your own prayer response to God regarding your participation in missions, please use the component “partner with missions” as a prayer request and pray, specifically and expectantly, that commitments to “partner with Missions” will flourish in our church.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I get it! I choose to be a giver of myself and my money. I ask you to show me one specific act of giving and doing missions I can do now in my own life. Also, I choose to give substantially to our mission partners in the coming year. I look forward to how you will expand this act of obedience into a cycle of giving and doing missions that wonderfully transforms my life into a life lived for the purpose of your mission of compassion to the world. Amen!

  • God’s Marching Orders – Provide Ways to Serve - Thursday, November 22nd

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the "harvest" of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in "thanksgiving" to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of "thanks" to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. "Thanks" be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:10-15

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The Divine expectation for us as followers of Christ is for us to have God's mission for the world as our central purpose in life. Fulfilling this expectation necessitates our overcoming self-absorption and developing an outward orientation to the world around us and the people in it. The chief factor in all this is having the proper relationship with the material wealth with which God supplies us. Our passage for today has a "Thanksgiving" thread running through it. Could it be that the core issue in all of this, is whether or not we have a "grateful" heart? Grateful people know that material wealth is ultimately a matter of God supplying it. Grateful people know that material wealth does not really belong to them. Grateful people know that they are blessed by the material wealth that God supplies so that can be used by God to bless others with their material wealth.

    If the fulfillment of the Divine expectation we have been talking about is something that eludes us, it is because we have a gratitude problem. God's Word tells us that we should give thanks in everything. On this “Thanksgiving” day, think through the ingredients of your life (good and not so good), and come before God with expressions of thanks for each of them. Coming before God in this way with complete openness and honesty could very well become the moment that secures for you a life that is truly lived for the purpose of God's mission for the world.

    What we are really talking about is being a servant and invariably the grateful person is a serving person. This is what happens as we grow in Christ in the context of a group of Christians who in response to God’s marching orders are truly becoming the “church” of Jesus Christ. To the marching orders of “reach the lost,” “disciple the saved,” and “plant churches,” we add “provide ways to serve.” What a beautiful thing it is to touch our world by serving people in the practical and helpful ways God is using our church while at the same time partnering with missionary organizations around the world and here at home who are seeking to do the same thing. Please use the component “provide ways to serve” as a prayer request. After you make your own prayer response to God, please pray, specifically and expectantly, that the work to “provide ways to serve” by the missionary organizations we partner with would flourish.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    This would be an appropriate day to write your own prayer response to God.

  • God’s Marching Orders – Plant Churches - Wednesday, November 21st

    Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. 1 Timothy 6:17-18 (NASB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We are talking about the necessity of God's mission for the world becoming our central purpose in life. Overcoming self-absorption and developing an outward orientation to the world around us and the people in it is the key to this coming about. However, there is a component of self-absorption that must be addressed if we are going to experience the kind of turn around we are talking about. The component of self-absorption we must deal with is our obsession with material wealth. What a great statement comes to us from the Apostle Paul in today's passage regarding material wealth. The issue isn't "possession" of wealth, but rather "obsession" with wealth. The person who "fixes their hope on the uncertainty of riches" is obsessed with wealth. In contrast, we are to fix our hope on God, who "richly supplies us with all things to enjoy" and expects us "to be generous and ready to share." The "supply" of wealth that is in our possession is ours both to "enjoy" and "share." This passage gives such a balanced understanding about material wealth. Consider for a moment what it means to be one who fixes their hope on God?

    The person who fixes their hope on God is one who trusts God fully and yields themselves to him for a life of doing good and being rich in good works. Making God's mission for the world our central mission gives us the context in which we seek to do good and to be rich in good works. Being generous and ready to share with others out of the supply of material wealth God entrusts to us is essential. Opportunities for being a source of financial blessing come to us by being aware of and sensitive to the needs of people we rub shoulders with on a daily basis, by being aware of and sensitive to the needs of our church, and by being aware of and sensitive to the needs of missionary efforts around the world and here at home. At the beginning of the week we said this week’s Missions emphasis would focus on the response we will make as followers of Jesus Christ for participating more fully and completely in the opportunities we have for partnering with others in God's mission of reaching the world. Partnering with others in Missions has much to do with our being a financial blessing and now is the time to go for it more than ever before.

    Let's remember that the first component of God’s marching orders is “reach the lost” and that the second component of God’s marching orders is “disciple the saved.” There is a third component of God’s marching orders which is “plant churches.” It is not enough to just “reach” and “disciple.” Those who are reached and discipled must be mobilized to function as the body of Christ and truly become the “church.” When a group of believers truly becomes the church, they become a support center of “faith” for each other and a launching pad for touching their world as they in turn seek to carry out God’s marching orders. Planting churches that in turn plant churches is what Missions is all about.

    Many missionary organizations carry out God’s marching order to “plant churches.” Each and every one of us at Cape Cod Church has the opportunity to participate as partners with missionary organizations who “plant churches” around the world and here at home where God’s marching orders are taken seriously. What an exciting thing to be partners with those who truly “plant churches” by being a financial blessing like we have never been before. We have two additional components of our marching orders to consider on Thursday and Friday. But for today, please use the component “plant churches” as a prayer request. After you have allowed today’s prayer response to help you make your own prayerful response to God, please pray, specifically and expectantly, that the work to “plant churches” by the missionary organizations we partner with would flourish.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I confess that I have struggled with trusting in material wealth. Deliver me from "obsession" and help me with the proper use of the material wealth that is in my "possession." Thank you for your faithful supply. I ask you to continue your work of making me into a person who participates fully and completely in your mission of compassion to the world. Amen!

  • God’s Marching Orders – Disciple the Saved - Tuesday, November 20th

    Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:3-5 (NASB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We continue to explore today what it means for us to "become" ones who have a full and complete participation in God's mission. Today's focus is simple and today's passage addresses it head on. We have a central problem that stands in the way of the expectation God has for us to become ones whose main purpose in life is the mission of compassion he has for the world. The central problem we have is: "self-absorption." Read the passage again keeping in mind that the problem of self-absorption addressed here is directly connected to missions.

    This connection is substantiated in two ways: first, today's passage comes on the heels of yesterday's passage. Yesterday's passage dealt with the good work of God within each of us to help us become full participants in his mission to the world. Self-absorption keeps us from the kind of outward orientation to the world around us and the people in it that is so much a part of full and complete participation in God's mission to the world. Second, today's passage says that our self-absorption must be replaced with the same kind of outward orientation to others that Christ modeled for us. How he modeled this for us is seen in verses 6-11 that immediately follow today's passage.

    These verses record for us the greatest example of "missions" the world has ever known - Jesus Christ: “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

    Once again, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” This is what following Christ is all about. This is what being a true disciple of Jesus Christ entails. This is what will lead to each of us becoming full participants in God’s mission to the world. Yesterday, we looked at the first component of the marching orders of Jesus Christ: “reaching the lost.” The second component is “disciple the saved” by teaching those who have been reached how to follow Jesus. Our need to be made into true disciples of Jesus Christ is the same need of those who are being reached by the missionary organizations we partner with.

    Each and every one of us at Cape Cod Church has the opportunity to participate as partners with those missionary organizations who “disciple the saved” around the world and here at home where God’s marching orders are taken seriously. What an exciting thing to be partners with those who truly “disciple the saved.” As we go forward in our week, we will focus on the additional components of our marching orders. But for today, please use the component “disciple the saved” as a prayer request. After you have allowed today’s prayer response to help you make your own prayerful response to God, please pray, specifically and expectantly, that the work to “disciple the saved” by the missionary organizations we partner with would flourish.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I am beginning to get the bigger perspective I need that lifts me above self-absorption and helps me see the big picture of what you are seeking to do in this world. I ask you to help me see more clearly the patterns and habits in my life that are all about me and actually keep me from becoming the "missions" person you want me to be and from engaging in the kinds of things you want me to do. Amen!

  • God’s Marching Orders – Reach the Lost - Monday, November 19th

    Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:3-6

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We have been talking about Missions this month in order to raise our level of awareness, understanding, and participation. This week we continue our Missions emphasis by focusing on the response we will make as followers of Jesus Christ to participate more fully and completely in the opportunities we have for partnering with others in God's mission of reaching the world.

    Shortly before Jesus’ final entrance into Jerusalem where he would be crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, he said to his disciples, “I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it (Matthew 16:18B). After his resurrection, but before Pentecost and his ascension, Jesus gave his disciples marching orders for how he would build his church in two simple and clear statements.

    The first statement said this: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20), and the second statement said this: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

    The first component of the marching orders of Jesus Christ is “reach the lost.” Each and every one of us at Cape Cod Church has the opportunity to participate as partners with missionary organizations around the world and here at home where God’s marching orders are taken seriously.

    Our passage for today helps us to take these marching orders seriously by showing us that a full and complete participation in God's mission is the expectation for everyone who is a beneficiary of that mission. Paul is speaking to followers of Christ in the city of Philippi. He says of them: "You have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ." Their full and complete participation in missions is a significant thread the runs through the entire epistle of Paul to the Philippians. Paul describes their participation in missions as a good work of God within each of them individually.

    Notice that Paul gives a time frame of this work of God in the lives of these followers of Christ. This time frame has three parts: 1 - "from the time you first heard it," 2 - "until now," and 3 - "until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." This establishes that full and complete participation in God's mission is absolutely his expectation for us. It is not just simply a matter that the Philippian believers happen to be participating " in spreading the Good News about Christ." No, it is work God expects to do in the lives of his people from start to finish in their Christian experience.

    What an exciting thing to partner with others who truly are seeking to “reach the lost.” Throughout the week, we will focus on the additional components of our marching orders. But for today, please use the component of “reaching the lost” as a prayer request. After you have allowed today’s prayer response to help you make your own prayerful response to God, please pray, specifically and expectantly, for the work of “reaching the lost” that the missionary organizations we partner with are faithfully pursuing.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want to be a "mission" oriented Christian. Show me more of what this means and deliver me from being a "me" oriented Christian (oxymoron). Thank you for all the opportunities you give me to serve you. Help me grow in my understanding of how all of this is a good work you are doing in me. Lord, I love you and worship you. Amen!

  • "Let Us Give Thanks" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, November 18th

    Let Us Give Thanks

    By A.B.Simpson

    Once again our glad thankgivings
    Rise before our Fathers's throne,
    As we try to count the blessings
    Of the year so swifty flown

    As we trace the wondrous workings of
    His wisdom, power, and love,
    And unite our "Holy, Holy!"
    With the seraphim above.

    He has blessed our favored country
    With a free and bounteous hand;
    Peace and plenty in our borders,
    Liberty through all our land.

    And although our sins and follies,
    Oft provoked Him to His face,
    Mercy still restrains His judgements,
    And prolongs our day of grace.

    As we gather round our firesides
    On this new Thanksiving Day,
    Time would fail to count the blessings,
    They have followed all our way.

    Grace sufficient, help and healing,
    Prayer oft answered at our call;
    and the best of all our blessings,
    Christ Himself, our all in all.

    While we love to "count the blessings,"
    Grateful for the year that's gone,
    Faith would sweep a wider vision,
    Hope would gaze yet further on.

    For the signals all around us
    Seem with one accord to say,
    "Christ is coming soon to bring us
    Earth's last, best Thanksgiving Day!"




  • "Have a Happy Thanksgiving!" - An Inspirational Poem for Saturday, November 17th

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

    By Rita

    As you join with your family and friends on this day,
    Please include the less fortunate in your thoughts as you pray!


    There are many among us who have no holiday fare,
    In every corner of the world, there are homeless out there!


    Perhaps, due to circumstances and through no fault of their own,
    They now find themselves hungry, destitute and oh so alone!

    In whatever prayer of thanks you offer; no matter what words you say,
    Please add this simple verse - help someone else find their way!

    "Lord, help me to help those who have nothing to celebrate today;
    To make their lives better, please show me the way!"

    If you put "self" aside each day for a moment or two,
    Show compassion for others, you'll be amazed at the good you can do!

    And, next year when you gather to give thanks once again,
    You can say...

    "Thanks for helping me make a difference Lord......
    thank you. Amen!"


  • Redemption & Relief – Everyone’s Triumph - Friday, November 16th

    All praise to God, the Father of  Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

    But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Notice the cycle in today's first passage: God is the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles. This makes it possible for us to comfort others. When others are troubled we comfort them with the same comfort God has given us. Being squarely in the flow of this cycle of comfort is essential for all who desire to have God's mission for this world be their true purpose in life. Being a recipient and agent of comfort becomes the heartbeat for bringing the Gospel message of redemption to the world and caring deeply about the significant pain and suffering that exists in our world and taking helpful steps toward alleviating it.

    We need to look closely at ourselves for how we are doing with this cycle. Where does our comfort come from? Our comfort should come from God as he ministers to us through his Spirit and through others who pass along to us the comfort with which God has comforted them. Substitute sources of comfort easily derail us from participating properly in God's two-fold mission of love and compassion for the world. Earlier in the week we talked about the powerful influence of self-interest, self-preservation, and self-exaltation and our need to be liberated from them. These powerful influences are the driving force in our turning to substitute sources of comfort. All of this raises havoc with our Christian walk and our ability to live truly for the purpose of God's mission for the world. We need to flee these things like refugees flee their oppressors.

    The world we know is overflowing with opportunity for material and spiritual prosperity. We need to be delivered from having such a desire to preserve our prosperity and comfort that it keeps us from sharing it. May we be "Opened" to the plight of the suffering and downtrodden like never before and may we be willing to do whatever God wants us to do that is in our power to do on their behalf.

    Today's second passage encourages us in our quest for living for the sake of God's mission for the world. The image of being "captives of God" is the first of a powerful set of images. It is only as captives of God that we are free to live for his purposes. God leads us along and wonderfully uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere. When this happens we are like a "sweet perfume" to the world and our lives are a "Christ-like fragrance" rising up to God.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I embrace the victorious life to which you have called me and I trust you to help me go forward in the triumph of Christ. I look forward to the opportunities that will be mine for extending comforting, loving, and compassionate help to those who are experiencing pain and suffering. Make me a "sweet perfume" that awakens in hurting people a sense of need for the message of the Gospel and leads to my sharing it with them. Amen!

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