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Friday, December 15, 2017

More Than a Hero

YES! It's the end of the week we have made it to FRIDAY! So has we close out this second week of December let's take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom. Read: John 1:1–5, 9–14 Bible in a Year: Amos 1–3; Revelation 6 We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.—John 1:14 As Star Wars fans around the world eagerly await the release of Episode 8, “The Last Jedi,” people continue to analyze the remarkable success of these films dating back to 1977. Frank Pallotta, media reporter for CNNMoney, said that Star Wars connects with many who long for “a new hope and a force of good at a time when the world needs heroes.” At the time of Jesus’s birth, the people of Israel were oppressed and longing for their long-promised Messiah. Many anticipated a hero to deliver them from Roman tyranny, but Jesus did not come as a political or military hero. Instead, He came as a baby to the town of Bethlehem. As a result, many missed who He was. The apostle John wrote, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). More than a hero, Jesus came as our Savior. He was born to bring God’s light into the darkness and to give His life so that everyone who receives Him could be forgiven and freed from the power of sin. John called Him “the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14). “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (v. 12). Indeed, Jesus is the one true hope the world needs. —David C. McCasland Lord Jesus, You are our Savior, and we praise You for coming to die that we might live. At Bethlehem, God demonstrated that to love is to give. INSIGHT: Many times when we think of heroes we think of someone who “rescues.” This is especially true of Jesus, who is the greatest hero of all time. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:4 that Jesus is the One “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” Second Timothy 4:18 declares, “The Lord will rescue [us] from every evil attack, and will bring [us] safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” The greatest hero of all provides the greatest rescue of all—eternal life. Who might you want to tell about your story of Jesus’s rescue? Bill Crowder

Monday, December 11, 2017

It’s All a Gift!

The weekend has come to an end as we start this 2nd week of the month of December MAN! Christmas is fast approaching but lets NOT get ahead of ourselves let take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom. Read: Ephesians 2:1–9 Bible in a Year: Hosea 5–8; Revelation 2 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.—Ephesians 2:8 London’s Café Rendezvous has nice lighting, comfortable couches, and the smell of coffee in the air. What it doesn’t have are prices. Originally started as a business by a local church, the café was transformed a year after it started. The managers felt that God was calling them to do something radical—make everything on the menu free. Today you can order a coffee, cake, or sandwich without cost. There isn’t even a donation jar. It’s all a gift. I asked the manager why they were so generous. “We’re just trying to treat people the way God treats us,” he said. “God gives to us whether we thank him or not. He’s generous to us beyond our imaginations.” Jesus died to rescue us from our sins and reconcile us with God. He rose from the grave and is alive now. Because of this, every wrong thing we’ve done can be forgiven, and we can have new life today (Eph. 2:1-5). And one of the most amazing things about this is that it is all free. We can’t buy the new life Jesus offers. We can’t even donate toward the cost (vv. 8-9). It’s all a gift. As the folks at Café Rendezvous serve their cakes and coffees, they give people a glimpse of God’s generosity. You and I are offered eternal life for free because Jesus has paid the bill. —Sheridan Voysey Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17 Eternal life is a free gift ready to be received. INSIGHT: What does the phrase “dead in your sins” mean? (Eph. 2:1). Dead means lifeless, powerless, inanimate. It means we were incapable of doing anything to change our situation. Sin refers to our rebellion against God. Humanity instinctively rejects God, and this rebellion is expressed through words, deeds, and attitudes. The spiritually dead have no relationship with God. To be spiritually dead means we are completely cut off from Him and unable to reach out to Him. We cannot fix the things we’ve done that offended Him. We can’t apologize to God for rebelling against Him, for pretending He doesn’t exist, and for living as though we are God. Any solution to our deadness must come from somewhere other than us. Through Jesus God took action to bring our spiritually dead hearts to life and restore us to a right relationship with Him. What amazing grace! Adapted from Grace: Accepting God’s Gift to You by Constantine Campbell. Read more at discoveryseries.org/q0613.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Unexpected Grace

The week has come to an end YES! It's FRIDAY! Now lets take a moment to reflect on this past week as we take a look at these words of wisdom Read: Acts 9:1–19 Bible in a Year: Daniel 8–10; 3 John In a vision, he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.—Acts 9:12 It was an early Saturday morning in my sophomore year of high school, and I was eager to get to my job at the local bowling lanes. The evening before, I had stayed late to mop the muddy tile floors because the janitor called in sick. I hadn’t bothered to tell the boss about the janitor so I could surprise him. After all, What could go wrong? I thought. Plenty, as it turns out. Stepping in the door, I saw inches of standing water, with bowling pins, rolls of toilet paper, and boxes of paper scoresheets bobbing on top. Then I realized what I had done: While doing the floors, I had left a large faucet running overnight! Incredibly, my boss greeted me with a huge hug and a big smile—“for trying,” he said. Saul was actively punishing and harassing Christians (Acts 9:1–2) when he came face to face with Jesus on the road to Damascus (vv. 3–4). Jesus confronted the soon-to-be-called apostle Paul with his sinful actions. Blinded by the experience, Saul/Paul would need a Christian—Ananias—to restore his sight to him in an act of courage and grace (v. 17). Both Saul and I received unexpected grace. Most people know they’re messed up. Instead of lectures, they need a hope for redemption. Stern faces or sharp words can block their view of that hope. Like Ananias, or even my boss, followers of Jesus must become the face of grace in these life-changing encounters with others. —Randy Kilgore A Christian’s grace-filled actions can smooth someone’s path to the Savior’s presence.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Christmas at MacPherson

The weekend has come to an end and we are jump starting the New week in the 12th month of the New Year Welcome to December lets take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom to help get through this week with Read: Luke 1:68–75 Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 47–48; 1 John 3 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.—Luke 1:68 About 230 families and individuals live at MacPherson Gardens, Block 72 in my neighborhood. Each person has his or her own life story. On the tenth floor resides an elderly woman whose children have grown up, gotten married, and moved out. She lives by herself now. Just a few doors away from her is a young couple with two kids—a boy and a girl. And a few floors below lives a young man serving in the army. He has been to church before; maybe he will visit again on Christmas Day. I met these people last Christmas when our church went caroling in the neighborhood to spread Christmas cheer. Every Christmas—as on the first Christmas—there are many people who do not know that God has entered into our world as a baby whose name is Jesus (Luke 1:68; 2:21). Or they do not know the significance of that event—it is “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (2:10). Yes, all people! Regardless of our nationality, culture, gender, or financial status, Jesus came to die for us and offer us complete forgiveness so that we can be reconciled with Him and enjoy His love, joy, peace, and hope. All people, from the woman next door to the colleagues we have lunch with, need to hear this wonderful news! On the first Christmas, the angels were the bearers of this joyous news. Today, God desires to work through us to take the story to others. —Poh Fang Chia Lord, use me to touch the lives of others with the news of Your coming. The good news of Jesus’s birth is a source of joy for all people. INSIGHT: One of the great themes of Luke’s gospel record is that it continually affirms that the message of Jesus’s death and resurrection is for everyone—not just for Israel. Today’s devotional declares that Christ’s coming would “cause great joy for all the people” (2:10). This important message continues later in this chapter when Simeon says that salvation is prepared in the “sight of all nations” and that Israel’s Messiah is both “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (vv. 30-32). At the conclusion of Luke’s account, the risen Christ tells the two disciples on the Emmaus road that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (24:47). This message was not intended for Israel alone, nor are we to keep it to ourselves. The entire world is the object of God’s love. For more on sharing your faith, see the Discovery Series booklet Truth with Love: Sharing the Story of Jesus at discoveryseries.org/hp141. Bill Crowder

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Last Will Be First

We have made it to the end of the week and have entered into the 12th month of the New Year YES! It's FRIDAY! now lets take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom Read: Mark 9:33–37 Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 40–41; 2 Peter 3 Those who humble themselves will be exalted.—Matthew 23:12 Recently I was among the last in line to board a large passenger jet with unassigned seating. I located a middle seat beside the wing, but the only spot for my bag was the overhead compartment by the very last row. This meant I had to wait for everyone to leave before I could go back and retrieve it. I laughed as I settled into my seat and a thought occurred to me that seemed to be from the Lord: “It really won’t hurt you to wait. It will actually do you good.” So I resolved to enjoy the extra time, helping other passengers lower their luggage after we landed and assisting a flight attendant with cleaning. By the time I was able to retrieve my bag, I laughed again when someone thought I worked for the airline. That day’s experience made me ponder Jesus’s words to His disciples: “Anyone who wants to be first, must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). I waited because I had to, but in Jesus’s “upside down” kingdom, there’s a place of honor for those who voluntarily set themselves aside to attend to others’ needs. Jesus came into our hurried, me-first world not “to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). We serve Him best by serving others. The lower we bend, the closer we are to Him. —James Banks Loving Lord, help me to follow You into the needs of others and serve You there. Jesus’s kingdom is upside-down. INSIGHT: Mark 9 is an action-packed chapter in our second gospel account. The chapter opens with the transfiguration of Jesus (vv. 1-13), where Peter, James, and John witness the glory of Christ and the voice of the Father while seeing Moses and Elijah join Jesus on the mountain to discuss His coming death and resurrection. Then, after descending the mountain and entering the valley below, the Lord of light is confronted by the power of darkness—from which He rescues a demon-possessed boy (vv. 14-29). After Jesus reminds the disciples of His coming death and resurrection (vv. 3-32), the disciples argue about which of them will have the highest place in the kingdom. This discussion of greatness initiates Jesus’s call to servanthood. After hearing how their Master would sacrifice Himself for them, they must be reminded that they too were called to lay themselves down for the benefit of others. Our natural inclination is to put self first. How might you intentionally look to serve someone today? Bill Crowder