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“LOVE WITH SKIN ON IT”
A young man, who grew up in a housing project, having little hope and few goods, heard an evangelist preaching “love” on a street corner. After listening for a few moments he shouted to the preacher, “I’m sick and tired of you people talking about love. I want to see love. I want to feel love. I want to see love with some skin on it!”
That’s Christmas: “God’s love with skin on it.”
Paul wrote, “For in Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body!”
In Jesus, we see Someone bringing love to life – but a very special type of love. It is God’s love. We see this love coming to life when Jesus fed the hungry, gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, healed the sick, offering water to a thirsty soul, calming the waves to relieve the fears of experienced fishermen, washing dirty feet, spending time with little children, teaching people the truth that brought meaning and purpose to their lives and finally hanging lifeless from a cross – abandoned and alone.
Jesus is God loving through a human heart, healing with a human hand, walking on errands of mercy with human feet, showing love, grace and mercy to those who would do Him harm.
Jesus is God loving the least, the last and the lost. In Jesus, God showed His love with “skin on it.”
Prayer: Help us, Father, to put Your “love in our skin” and take Your love to those in need. May we be as faithful in caring for others as You are in caring for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Colossians 2:9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;
Joyce fell behind in her Christmas shopping and suddenly realized that she had neglected to purchase cards for her friends. Hurriedly, she ran to the card section of a large greeting card store and purchased 100 cards with a beautiful scene of a family gathered in front of a glowing fireplace enjoying its warmth.
Returning home she hastily signed each of the cards without reading the message. Several days later she was sitting with her husband reviewing the guest list for a family dinner. She decided to show him the card she had sent to their friends.
After looking at the picture, she opened the card and read the verse to Jason, her husband:
“This card is sent to you to say,
A lovely gift is on the way!”
Quite a surprise!
God sent us a “card” to inform us that He would and did send us a “lovely gift” – His son. All of the books of the Bible tell us of the Gift that He was going to send, tell us the reason He sent us this gift and what we can enjoy now and in the life to come because of this gift.
But as with every gift, there are two parts: one is giving and the other is receiving. An angel rejoiced and proclaimed: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.” That is God giving. And John said, “As many as received Him…to them He gave life.” But the choice to receive God’s gift is ours.
Prayer: We thank You, Father, for the Gift of life You provided for each of us. May we accept Your Gift in faith believing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Luke 1:11 & John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Initially He was named Jesus. Now we also call Him Christ.
Jesus was the name given to Him when He was born. It means the same as the Jewish name, Joshua, which literally means God is salvation! So, the message that God sent to Joseph through His angels was, “You shall call Him ‘God is salvation’ for He shall save His people from their sins.” That name, Jesus, tells us all that we need to know because it reveals God’s plan and purpose: God will save humanity through His only begotten Son.
Christ is more than a name. It is a title. It comes from the Greek word Christos, meaning “anointed” or “anointed one.” Its meaning is the same as the Hebrew word Messiah. John quoted Andrew in a conversation that he had with his brother Peter. Said Andrew, “We have found the Messiah (which translated means Christ).” So the terms Messiah and Christ are titles given to Jesus that assure us that He is the anointed one. Jesus is the One whom God anointed to fulfill the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament.
The name Jesus proves that He was human, lived life on our level and faced the same issues and problems that we face. But the title Christ assures us that this One, once called Jesus, can lift us up to God’s level because He is the One whom God anointed to be our Savior.
Prayer: We thank You, Lord, for what You did for us through Your Son, our Savior. We rejoice in Your love, mercy and grace that brought our salvation thru Him. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: John 1:41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).
ARE YOU READY FOR CHRISTMAS?
Hal and Matt, two longtime friends, accidentally met in a department store a few weeks before Christmas. They gave each other a forced smile – as if they were happy to see each other – but wished their meeting was under different circumstances.
“You know,” said Hal, “I’ve come to the conclusion that Christmas has become a wrap race.”
“I agree,” replied Matt. “And I’ll tell you something else. I’ve finally discovered the real meaning of the word Yule.”
“Oh,” responded Hal. “What is it? I’d like to know myself.”
“It’s my wife saying in a very convincing voice, ‘You’ll buy me this and then you’ll buy me that!’ I feel like I have no choice but to buy her whatever she asks for,” replied Matt. “Every thing seems to be about things.”
It would be a wise investment of our time this Christmas to try to imagine what God might have seen when He looked into the manger. Certainly it was more, much more, than a Baby. Did He see the crowds ridiculing and mocking His Son? Did He turn His head when He saw the “kiss of betrayal” from Judas? Was His mind troubled by the trial that unjustly condemned His Son? Did He weep when He saw Jesus hanging from the cross? Certainly. But let’s not forget to see the smile that was on His face and the peace that flooded into His heart when He saw the empty tomb.
Prayer: Help us, Heavenly Father, to get ready for Christmas by seeing its sights and sounds thru Your eyes. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
A REASON TO BE GLAD
The word glad in Scripture carries with it the idea of happiness and joyfulness, pleasure and freedom. In God’s Word, however, there is a source for gladness: the Lord. The Psalmist writes, “For You make me glad by Your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”
This source for our gladness does not come from anything we have done or accomplished or any ladder of success that we might have climbed. It does not come from wealth that we may have accumulated or records we have set. It does not come from any amount of power we have because of our position. The gladness that the Psalmist writes about comes from what God has done for us.
Another Psalmist wrote, “But may all who search for You be filled with joy and gladness. May those who love Your salvation repeatedly shout, ‘The Lord is great.’” And another Psalmist said, “Let the godly rejoice. Let them be glad in God’s presence.”
We often set “goals” for ourselves that we think will bring a sense of well-being and fulfillment to us – the “if only” statements we make: “If only I can get a promotion I will be satisfied,” or “If only we had a larger home our family would be happy,” or “If only…If only…” and the list goes on.
But the “glad” that comes from God that can fill our hearts and lives comes as a result of what He has done for us: He made possible our salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son, and our Savior. Because of Him we can be glad and sing for joy, we can know that “all things are working together” for our good and His glory.
Prayer: How thankful we are, Lord, that we can have hearts filled with gladness because of Your love and grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 92:4 For You make me glad by Your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.
“DAILY PLANNING GUIDE”
Nearly all of us have some method for planning our daily activities. With no plan to follow, our time will likely be wasted and our days meaningless. Often our carefully detailed plans can be completely disrupted by an emergency or unexpected demand. In Psalm 92, however, we find a simple way to open and close each day and bring God’s presence into our lives.
The Psalmist suggests that we begin the day with a “proclamation” – we are to “proclaim the love of God.” If we begin each day by proclaiming the love that God has for us, it will remind us that we are safe and secure in His love and that nothing or no one can destroy us. Then, as the day unfolds and when the unexpected occurs, and things seem upside down, we know that He is holding us close to Himself and that He will protect us from that which might harm us. It is in His love that we are safe and secure. As Paul wrote, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It is His love that keeps us close to Him, and no one or nothing can break this bond that comes from Him.
As we end each day, we are advised to praise God for His faithfulness. Indeed, by His grace, He has brought us through another day, and He has proven Himself to be trustworthy. Even when tragedy strikes or the light of His presence is dim, we have the assurance that He is with us.
If “things” look bad today, we can always look back at our “yesterdays” and see God at work in our lives and praise Him for His trustworthiness and faithfulness.
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for all You have done for us. May we always be aware of Your love and faithfulness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 92:2 It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.
WAITING FOR WISDOM
“You know,” he said stroking his beard, “I have a problem learning from my past sins.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Most people say they learn from previous experiences – including sins.”
“Well,” he said with confidence, “I can prove them all wrong.”
“How can you do that?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, stroking his beard once again. “It’s easy. Have you ever committed the same sin twice?”
“Unfortunately, I have,” I replied.
And before I could explain what I was talking about, he said with great confidence, “I rest my case.”
Repeating the same sin more than once is common in the lives of many Christians. Others often lose sight of what living the Christian life is all about and are not even aware of sinning. Some become careless about their responsibility to live in obedience to God’s laws and are unconcerned about their lifestyle. We forget that we are accountable to God for everything we have and do. Perhaps it would be helpful if we took some time to do an inventory of the sins we know we frequently commit. To reflect on our past and its problems may keep us close to God and avoid repeating our sins!
The children of Israel had this problem. Listen to the Psalmist: “But they soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His counsel.” If we focus on the great things God has done for us, and if we seek His counsel and wait for His guidance, we can avoid repeating our sins.
Prayer: Lord, we want to live a life that honors You and is free from sin. May we look to You for Your guidance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 106:13 But they soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His counsel.
Now and then it is good to take a “morning inventory” and reflect on the grace of God.
This morning when I opened my eyes, I thanked God for protecting me while I slept. As I turned off the alarm clock, I thanked Him for sounds and my hearing. As I rested for a moment before I got out of bed, I could feel my beating heart which He kept alive while I slept. As I stood up, I thanked Him for my balance, healthy legs and my slippers. As I took a shower, I thanked Him for the warm water, shampoo, soap, a towel and a mat on the floor to keep me from slipping. Then I continued by thanking Him for a mirror, razor, deodorant and on and on until I thanked Him for all of the articles of clothing He provided for me to wear.
And, then I thanked Him for the words of the Psalmist that reminded me of His promise: “no good thing will He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”
It was then that I had to pause in deep humility and gratefully thank Him for His love and grace that I do not deserve. It is so easy for me to accept the gifts of God – including my salvation – without realizing that everything I have, or ever had or will have, are gifts from God.
And, as I reflected on that verse the word blameless kept ringing in my ears as though it was my friendly alarm clock. I, of all people, am certainly not blameless. As I meditated on the word blameless for a few minutes and thought about everything I am or have, it’s not because I am blameless. It’s because His life was blameless, and of His unending love, grace, and forgiveness!
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for loving us, saving us and giving us everything we have. May we be ever grateful! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:11c No good thing will He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
WHY WORSHIP AND SING PRAISES?
Each church has its own “temperament.” There are churches where you find happiness and hope, a warm fellowship and a welcoming spirit. Others are cold and closed, old and tired. In between are some that are looking for an identity, trying one thing and then another.
Psalm 33 is filled with enthusiasm for God. And, it has some great advice on how to worship God. “Sing joyfully,” said the Psalmist. “Praise the Lord with the harp and the ten-stringed lyre,” he continues. But why?
One reason is that “The Word of the Lord is right and true.” No one has ever rejected the Bible because it contradicts itself but because it contradicts the reader. “The only objection against the Bible,” said Wilmot the infidel when he was dying, “is a bad life.”
“The plans of the Lord stand true,” is another reason to sing. A father said to his son, “Go to the third step and jump. I’ll catch you!” But he didn’t, and his son fell to the floor. “Now get up and remember,” he said, “not to trust anyone – not even your father.” Our Heavenly Father never tricks us nor tempts us. He is faithful in all things and at all times.
Finally, “The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him. No army has ever saved a king,” said David. Warriors work together and combine their strength but are often defeated. But “God delivers His own from death and keeps them alive in famine.”
Humanists depend on human beings. But Christians depend on Jesus Christ to “deliver” and “nourish” them.
Prayer: Father, may our hearts and lives be centered on worshiping You in songs of joy and shouts of praise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 33:1 Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord; it is fitting for the pure to praise him.
RIGHT WAY – WRONG WAY
God created us to follow Him – not to forsake Him. He chooses for us triumph over temptation – not struggle with guilt for surrendering to sin. He wants us to walk with Him and not stray from Him because of our self-centeredness. He waits to help us achieve the potential He has given us and not be satisfied with less than what is possible. He is willing and able to share His wisdom and give His insights whenever we need to make any decision- if only we ask Him.
There are many wrong ways but only one “best” way – His way. And no one but God can reveal that way, His way, to us. We may search one way and then another, try this route, or another until it comes to a dead end. However, only when we allow God to lead us will we be in the center of His will.
Israel’s experience during the Exodus gives us a great example of God’s guidance and guardianship.
The Psalmist gives us a vivid picture of what can happen when people “try to make it on their own” and do not follow God: “Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. Some were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away.” How sad. How true. Without God’s guidance, we are all wanderers!
“Then they cried out to the Lord!” And listen to what happened. “He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.”
No one will ever find a “straight way” to a “safe place” in life unless they surrender their life to God and follow Him. Life without God is a “wasteland,” and unless we accept His salvation, our lives will “ebb away.”
Prayer: Lord, we come to You and ask You to save us from our sins and then lead us safely into Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 107:7 He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.