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EVANGELICAL
DR. STANLEy PORTRAITS
By DAVID SMITh.
f e a t u r e s D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 0
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our prince of peace
b y c h a r l e s f . s t a n l e y
How can we celebrate God’s promise
of peace on earth when there is so much
war and turmoil in the world?

early light
Celebrate the birth of our Savior
with the help of these devotions from
Dr. Stanley’s sermons.
god in a manger
b y d a n s c h a e f f e r
Our Creator surrendered His divine
privileges so that He might come and
live among us.
d e p a r t m e n t s
solving problems
In Search of Shalom
b y c h r i s t i e g r e e n
We may believe in the goodness of God, but
do we believe He is good to us?
family room
Life Beyond the Brady Bunch
b y d e b b i e a l s d o r f
By choosing to show family members
compassion and encouragement, you create
hope for the future of your home.
16
20
by faith
Te Hound of Heaven
b y t o n y a s t o n e m a n
How far would you go to share the love of
Christ with someone?
strong in spirit
Remembering Mary
b y c a m e r o n l a w r e n c e
She had the honor of being the Savior’s earthly
mother and was the first to truly experience
Immanuel—“God with us.”
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order dr. Stanley’s series
In Search of Peace today.
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Father God,
I know I need You but can never get to You on my own. I
surrender my heart to You and receive Jesus as my personal
Savior. I believe He took all my sins onto Himself when He
died on the cross, conquering death for my sake and giving
me access to You. Thank You for forgiving me and for sending
the Holy Spirit to transform my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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Have you chosen to believe in
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Dr. Charles F. Stanley
PRE SI DE NT / PUBL I SHE R
C. Phillip Bowen
CHI E f E xE CUTI vE Of f I CE R
John E. Courtney, Jr.
vI CE PRE SI DE NT
MARKETI NG AND DEvEL OPMENT
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PRODUCTI ON MANAGER

the mission of
in touch ministries
To lead people worldwide
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with Jesus Christ
and to strengthen
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A Publication of

to the Glory of God
m
Most of us have a mental image of Jesus Christ.
Some see Him as a mighty God who has come
to save us from sin and death. Others worship
Him as their Prince of Peace and eternal hope.
Many see Him as their healer—spiritually,
emotionally, and physically. Jesus is each of
these and much more.
However, especially at this season of the year,
our thoughts turn to a tiny baby wrapped in
swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. It is
here that we are reminded of a profound truth:
Jesus Christ is our Immanuel—our Savior and
living lord.
Mere words are not adequate when it comes to expressing the depth of
love that was demonstrated by God on the night of His Son’s birth. Had Jesus
not come to earth, we never would have experienced the eternal gift of God’s
love. But He did come, and with Him came the true joy of Christmas and a
wondrous opportunity to know God in
a personal and intimate way. No matter
who you are or what turns your life has
taken, God is aware of you, and He loves
you with an everlasting love. (Jer. 31:3)
It was love that prompted God to
send His Son as atonement for our sins.
And it is this same love that motivates
Him to draw us closer to Himself each
day. love as true as this reaches out to be shared over and over again.
the apostle John wrote, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He
loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10). His
words remind us that Jesus is the Father’s eternal gift of hope to a lost and
dying world.
this Christmas, as you give gifts to those you love, think of the love that
was given to you that first Christmas. though none of us deserves His love,
God gives it freely and without any regrets. life’s greatest gift is not contained
in a beautifully wrapped package, but in the humble clothes of a baby who
came to earth more than 2,000 years ago.

The Gift of God’s Love
no matter who you
are or what turns your
life has taken, god is
aware of you, and he
loves you with an ever-
lasting love.”
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>> Freely Given to the Undeserving
Experiencing Christ’ s
Calm Stability
in the Midst of a
Troubled World
Each year
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Each year
around
Christmastime, we hear songs and watch pageants
that repeat the angelic proclamation, “Glory to God
in the highest, and on earth peace among men with
whom He is pleased” (luke 2:14). But have you ever
wondered where this blessed peace is? If God promised
it, why do we see so little of it in our world? In fact,
why don’t we see more of it in our families, workplaces,
neighborhoods, and churches? And on an even more
personal note, how much inner tranquility are you
experiencing this Christmas season? either God has let
us down, or we haven’t understood what He meant.
I am here to tell you that God never fails to fulfill
His Word, so the problem is not with Him but with us.
the angels were not proclaiming that world peace
would arrive with the appearance of the Messiah. that
is clear from Matthew 10:34, when Jesus said, “I did not
come to bring peace, but a sword.” In fact, His ministry
would not result in harmony even among family mem-
bers: “For I came to set a man against his father, and a
daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law
against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be
the members of his household” (vv. 35-36).
these hardly sound like appropriate words for the
proclaimed Prince of Peace. If present earthly harmony
was what God had in mind, Jesus’ ministry would never
have ended as it did—in hatred, betrayal, cruelty, and
B y C h A R L E S F . S T A N L E y
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d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 0 I N T O u C H
crucifixion. Although Scripture predicts
the ultimate end of all world conflict and
war, this utopia will not come until Jesus
returns as sovereign King over all the earth.
However, world conquest was not the reason
Christ came the first time as a tiny babe
in a manger. there was a greater issue to
be settled before His physical reign could be
established on earth. the angels’ message
announced the solution to man’s biggest
problem: hostility toward God.
Peace with God
Now, you may be saying, “I’m not hostile
toward God.” But every one of us started
out alienated from the lord simply because
we are all sinners by nature and by choice.
Since God is holy, sin separates us from
Him and makes us His enemies, whether
we feel we are or not (Isa. 59:2). the only
way to solve this problem is through rec-
onciliation.
the Greek word for peace in luke 2:14
is derived from a root word meaning “to
bind together.” Jesus came to bind us back
together with the Father. While we were
still estranged from Him, Christ came to
earth as Deity clothed in human flesh, and
He paid the penalty for our sins by dying
in our place. Now all who receive Him as
Savior can be reconciled to God through
justification, which simply means He
declares them “not guilty!” Since the cause
for our separation from Him is removed,
we’re no longer His enemies but instead
are His beloved sons and daughters.
Peace with Others
Christ not only reconciled us to the Father,
but He also made it possible for us to enjoy
harmonious relationships with others. For
many people, Christmas is an occasion
for happy gatherings of family and friends,
but holidays can also be opportunities
for old grievances to reappear, arguments
to start, and tempers to flare. At times like
this, the peace proclaimed by the angels
can seem far from our reality.
However, when Christ becomes our
Savior, He commits Himself to transform
every area of our lives, including our
relationships. He can heal our emotional
wounds and break down walls of prejudice,
indifference, hurt, and anger, which keep
us from loving each other. relationships
are two-way streets, though, so we may not
be able to reconcile every conflict. And yet
through the power of the Holy Spirit, we
can forgive and even love those who are
antagonistic toward us.
Peace within Ourselves
Christ’s first coming did not change all
the externals of our environment in such a
way that all conflict and stressful situations
are eliminated. the peace that Jesus gives
His followers is an internal calm which
produces confident stability no matter
what is going on around them.
What does it take for you to have
tranquility? If it’s wrapped up in good
relationships, financial security, material
possessions, or fulfilled plans and dreams,
then you have fallen for the world’s
definition of peace, which is based on
external circumstances. If that’s the case,
whenever your situation changes, your
serenity vanishes and is replaced with
anxiety, frustration, or fear.
Experiencing the incomprehensible.
God’s peace is superior to anything the
world can offer, because it is based on a
relationship with Christ and has nothing
to do with circumstances. Unlike our
environment, our position in Christ can-
not be altered. We are eternally secure
and completely covered by His sovereign
hand of protection and guidance. According
to Philippians 4:7, God’s peace surpasses
all human comprehension and guards our
hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
We have all been through tough trials and
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9
valleys of tears while our
dreams were shattered and
everything was falling apart around
us. yet inside our hearts, how many times
did we feel this overwhelming sense of
incomprehensible serenity and trust as
God’s grace overflowed in our time of need?
Apart from the indwelling presence of the
Holy Spirit, this would be impossible.
I will always remember speaking to
a woman whose son was lying at death’s
door after a terrible accident. She told
me that throughout her ordeal, the
peace of God covered her like a holy
cloud. Although the circumstances were
horrendous and stressful, the lord just
surrounded her with His quiet assurance.
I’ve experienced similar significant
times in my life when I had every reason
in the world to be anxious. though
God desires unity among His followers
(eph. 4:1-3), even Christians can yield to
the temptation of taking sides. I still recall
finding myself in a tense situation, where
one faction supported me but the other
was strenuously opposed.
As I wrestled with this before the lord,
He gave me a scripture that stabilized me
throughout the three-day meeting. each
time I walked out of a session, I’d tell Him,
“I feel so calm inside. When am I going to
get scared?” But Christ’s surpassing peace
filled me, and I never became afraid. the
verse God gave me guarded my heart and
mind: “I have put My words in your mouth
and have covered you with the shadow of
My hand” (Isa. 51:16).
My friend, as long as you and I are
covered by God’s omnipotent hand
there is no reason to be afraid, anxious,
or disturbed about anything. that hand
covers each difficult situation we face and
provides for every need we encounter.
Living in turmoil. Knowing that such amaz-
ing peace is available to every believer, why
don’t we experience it more consistently?
One obvious reason is sin—choosing to act
independently of God’s will. every time we
resist His instructions or convictions and
go our own way, we are in conflict with
Him. Believers cannot have tranquility
when walking in opposition to the lord.
the conviction of the Holy Spirit will cause
internal commotion in their hearts.
Another reason for emotional turmoil is
a lack of faith. remember the meaning of the
word peace—“to bind together.” Sometimes
we fail to connect what the lord says is
true of us with what we feel about ourselves.
then, feelings of inadequacy can overrule
the truth of His Word, which says, “Our
adequacy is from God” (2 Cor. 3:4-6).
thoughts of worthlessness outweigh His
promise of value and acceptance (eph. 1:4-5),
and fears overtake His guarantee to provide
for all our needs (Phil. 4:19).
In the same way, when we look at the suf-
fering and difficulty in our lives and perceive
God as uncaring or unable to help, we’re
relying on our own understanding instead of
on the truth of Scripture. Anytime we begin
to distrust and doubt God, our confident
assurance will be shaken.
Making a choice. So, how can we move from
anxiety and distress to a sense of assurance
and stillness in our spirits? there is only one
way. We must choose to receive it—and not
just once, but every day.
Our first decision must be to raise the
white flag of surrender. those who insist on
having their own way will never know seren-
ity. let God win the battle for your will. the
outcome will be surprising. In most wars, the
We must choose to
receive stillness
in our spirit.

side that surrenders, loses. But when you
submit to the lord, you don’t lose; you win!
Inner turmoil is replaced with quiet trust.
the second decision we must make is to
focus on Christ and His Word, not on the
impossible situation, conflict, or fear. “the
steadfast of mind you will keep in perfect
peace, because he trusts in you” (Isa. 26:3).
Since our emotions follow our thoughts, we
must pay careful attention to what we allow
to dominate our thinking. When our minds
are fixed on God and we trust in His sover-
eignty and love for us, we can face stressful
circumstances with a settled assurance—
despite appearances, we know that He has
our best interests at heart and is working all
things out for our good and for His glory.
One of my most precious memories
involves a time when I was experiencing
great turmoil. Knowing my distress, an
elderly lady in my church showed me
a picture on her wall and asked me to tell
her what I saw. It was a picture of Daniel
in the lions’ den, so I described the hungry
lions with closed mouths and Daniel stand-
ing with his hands behind his back. But
I missed the most important detail. this
perceptive woman put her arm around
me and said, “Son, what I want you to see
is that Daniel doesn’t have his eyes on
the lions, but on God.” that was one of the
greatest sermons I’ve ever heard in my life.
Christians are not victims of their circum-
stances. the lord made it clear that we do
not have to live in anxiety but can choose
a better way. Shortly before His death, Jesus
promised to give the disciples His peace,
and He concluded with these instructions:
“Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let
it be fearful” (John 14:27). We, too, have
been given this promise and have the same
responsibility not to let our hearts become
distressed. this Christmas, choose peace.
Don’t allow the busyness of the season to
shift your focus from Christ. let Him be
your Prince of Peace in every situation.
further study
1. How does Jesus describe His peace in
John 14:27 and 16:33? On what is it
based? What surprising contrast is pre-
sented? According to 2 Thessalonians 3:16,
when and how often can we experience
this peace?
2. Who produces Christ’s peace within us
(Gal. 5:22-23)? What choice do we make
that determines whether or not this fruit
is generated in us (Gal. 5:16-17)? How
important is our mindset in this process
(Rom. 8:5-8)?
3. Philippians 4:4-9 is packed with information
that can help us understand how to experi-
ence an inner sense of calm assurance.
Make a list of all the commands Paul gives
in this passage. What is the promise that is
sandwiched between all these instruc tions
(v. 7)? What condition for its fulfillment
is given in verse 6? How would practicing
all of Paul’s recommendations contribute
to the fulfillment of this promise?
4. When Christ’s peace takes root in our
hearts, it affects us personally, but it also
impacts the way we relate to others.
Read Colossians 3:12-17. In verse 15, what
evidence do you see of personal inner
peace influencing the harmony of an
entire church? What attitudes and prac-
tices in this passage could help you
achieve a spirit of unity with others?
Questions for
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d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 0 I N T O u C H
The Coming of Christ
u
4-CD set | $14 (U.S.)
See order form or visit www.intouch.org.
People, Get Ready
Dr. Stanley explains
how to wait joyfully for
Jesus’ glorious return.

j
Lessons from Jesus’ Parents
>> help for Perplexed and Inadequate
Parents
Just imagine what it must have been like to be Jesus’ parents. they probably felt
totally inadequate for the task, yet God specifically appointed them to raise His
Son. If you’re a parent, the lord has also personally chosen you to care for the
children He’s entrusted to you. No matter how unqualified we may feel for
the role of parenting, God will always equip us for this demanding assignment.
Joseph and Mary were both very young when they were called to the greatest
challenge of their lives. the character qualities and godly practices they displayed
are the same ones all parents still need today.
Character Qualities and Godly Practices:
u
Joseph was righteous, kind, unselfish, and
self-controlled (Matt. 1:18-25).
u
Mary was teachable, submissive, joyful,
and wise (luke 1:26-56).
u
They both believed God and responded with obedience (Matt. 1:24; luke 1:38, 45).
u
Joseph relied on the Lord for guidance and carefully followed His instructions
(Matt. 2:13-15, 19-23).
u
Jesus’ parents faithfully worshipped
the Lord and obeyed His Law
(luke 2:21-24, 39-42).
Parenting Challenges:
u
Mary and Joseph were not perfect
parents. In fact, at one point, they
actually lost Jesus (luke 2:41-45).
u
They experienced times of confu-
sion and misunderstanding
(luke 2:46-50) yet never abdicated
their parental responsibilities or
authority (luke 2:51-52).
u
Mary treasured her mothering
experiences, pondering them in
her heart (luke 2:18-19, 51).
Changing Roles:
u
As Jesus reached adulthood, Mary learned to respect the change in their
relationship (John 2:1-5).
u
She didn’t always understand Him and His ministry (Mark 3:20-21, 31-35).
u
Even when her heart was pierced with pain, Jesus’ mother remained faithful
to Him (John 19:25).
God will always equip
us for this demanding
assignment.”
1
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Questions for Reflection
1. Why are godly character qualities and
practices vitally important for parents?
What happens when they’re missing?
Which ones do you need to let the Lord
develop in you?
2. Throughout every stage of Jesus’ life, His
parents experienced times of perplexity.
What is your biggest struggle in parenting?
In times of confusion, have you ever taken
the time to ponder what the Lord is doing
in your children’s lives? What parenting
experiences do you treasure in your heart?
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L U k E 2 : 3 9 - 5 2
further study
The power of the Messiah’s humility
might be the most surprising thing
about Christmas.
B y D A N S C h A E F F E R
Christmas
The Mystery of the
Incarnation
In his letter to the Christians in Philippi,
the apostle Paul wrote some amazing
Christmas commentary that often flies
under our Advent radar, yet tells us more
about the real meaning of Christmas than
many verses more commonly associated
with the season. Speaking about humility,
he urged the believers to “have this attitude
in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
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 [was]
made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:5-7).
When Paul refers to Christ’s incarnation as
a human being on this earth, he prefaces
the idea with the reminder that He eternally
existed before as God, not man.
the word “incarnation” comes from
the Greek word keno (from which we get the
theological term Kenosis), which refers to
an “emptying.” It describes someone of great
position who is brought low, voluntarily
laying aside his high rank and becoming
as nothing in comparison with his prior
dignity. Compare this to the President of
the United States or another leader of a
wealthy country leaving behind all author-
ity, rank, power, and bodyguards, and
moving to an impoverished third-World
has become such an monumental event
that it’s almost too big to define. But for Christians, it’s still
about remembering the time in history when God entered our little
corner of the universe in an amazing way. In theological terms, we
use the word “incarnation” to describe this event. Or we try to sim-
plify the phenomenon the season commemorates by merely saying,
“this is when God became a man.” then we turn from the manger,
thinking, Ah, now I understand—and go on with our festivities.
But no. We don’t understand.
Not even a little.
It’s actually impossible to understand in our human minds what
happened 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, Palestine—that tiny cor-
ner of rome’s empire. trying to understand the reality of Jesus’
birth by just looking at the nativity scene is a little like trying
to give an insightful synopsis of a football game after missing
the whole first half and then studying the halftime show. Unless
you understand who “little baby Jesus” was and what He was up to
before the day of His birth, you’ll never understand the angels’
glorious celebration of what the average person would have
seen as simply the unimportant (and even depressing) experiences
of a young Jewish family.
Christmas
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country as an unknown homeless vagrant.
In choosing to subsist in near-starvation and
subjecting himself to the perils of roving
bands of thieves and murderers, he would
be “emptying” himself.
that’s an everyday example of self-
emptying transformation—but it wouldn’t
even be close to what Paul is talking about.
When he says that Jesus “existed in the
form of God,” he uses the Greek word
morphe. It means that what you look
like on the outside corresponds perfectly
to what you really are. you are in essence
what you are in appearance. If we see a
zebra at a zoo, we’re looking at the morphe
of the zebra; what it looks like is what it
truly is. Whereas if someone dresses up
in even a very convincing zebra costume,
we are seeing the appearance of a zebra,
not its morphe. Jesus didn’t just look like
God; He was always God. As Paul tells us,
before that amazing day when everything
changed—before becoming a tiny fetus
within a young woman—Jesus was in every
way and eternally God.
the infant Messiah was a Being of another
kind and place who took on a new nature—a
human one—yet without changing who He
was innately and eternally. In a hypostatic
union, the two natures of humanity and
divinity combined to form one. Jesus, God
from all eternity, whom angels worship, who
dwelt in unapproachable light and whom
no human had ever truly seen (1 tim. 6:16),
left behind His infinitely glorious state by
choice and humbled Himself.
And that is what the Christmas fuss is
really all about. What does it mean that
God became a man—that He who created
everything by His power, and in whom
all creation reflects His personal glory,
emptied Himself?

In the Beginning
the first words of John’s gospel tell us that
Jesus, the Word of God, was one with the
Father in the beginning of time; that “all
things came into being through Him, and
apart from Him nothing came into being
that has come into being” (1:1-2). All that
we see with our eyes, our microscopes,
our telescopes, and far beyond was spoken
into existence through His omnipotence.
We know through current scientific
data that the visible universe contains an
estimated 100 billion galaxies, each with a
diameter millions of trillions of miles wide,
and each galaxy contains hundreds
of billions of stars.
that means the
universe is
home
to more
than a
billion
trillion
stars.
to
put
those
astro-
nomical
numbers in
perspective,
circling the
earth seven times
in one second would require
traveling at the speed of light (186,000
miles/second)—but even at that speed,
crossing the known universe would take
at least 28 billion years! even more mind-
boggling is that most scientists agree the
universe is expanding.
the energy and power in those trillions
of stars is unfathomable. Our own solar
system’s rather modest star, the sun,
heats the earth and creates all the energy
that drives our weather systems—with
only one-billionth of its energy. Over
one million earths would fit inside it, yet
it’s only average in size; the largest known
star, Vy Canis Majoris, is about 2,100
Jesus left
behind His
infinitely
glorious state
by choice and
humbled
Himself.
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times larger. that means 9,200,000,000
of our suns would fit inside it.
the Son of God made these; He gave
them their power! And we’re looking only
at creative power—just a tiny fraction of
all the power belonging to the Creator,
who is infinitely greater and more glorious
than the wonderful things He made.
It was this Creator who emptied Himself
of all that glory and power so that He might
enter a tiny planet in the Milky Way, in an
insignificant backwater part of the Middle
east—coming into the world just like us:
as a vulnerable baby.
that tiny infant, struggling out of His
mother and sleeping His first night in a
feed trough, was still truly and completely
God—having set aside His glory, but not
His essence. He who was “the image of the
invisible God” also became “the firstborn
of all creation” (Col. 1:15-17). He who
holds all things together by His power
allowed Himself to be so helpless that His
very existence depended upon a humble
human being.
It may not be hard for some to believe
that our Creator loved us and wanted us
closer to Him, even while our sin had
created a deep rift between us. But what
should be an absolute wonder to us all is the
lengths to which He was willing to go to
bridge that chasm so He could be with us.
the manger scene is a shocking monument
to the love of our God and His commit-
ment to bringing His creation back to Him.
Another Kind of Power
though Jesus came to us in the mantle of
weakness, there was no weakness in the
way He came to us. Only infinite power
could work this miracle. Our human bodies
contain an estimated 100 trillion complex
cells. We are marvels of the most complex
kind of engineering. Just imagine trying to
humble yourself into becoming the single
microscopic cell you began life as.
What kind of knowledge, creativity, and
power did it take for the eternal Creator
to become an infant, without becoming
one less bit God than He was before? How
would you fit all the massive oceans of the
world into a miniature thimble? How would
you fit all the power of the universe into a
strand of DNA? How could He “who fills
all in all” (eph. 1:23) confine Himself to a
human womb and yet still be able to fill
everything? there is power in His humility.
Was this act any less of a miracle than when
He made everything out of nothing?
In Jesus, humility and weakness aren’t
the same thing. In us they often are; we
must be humble enough to acknowledge
our weakness so that God’s power can
be made complete in us. yet from the
beginning, Christ’s human frailty was born
of His great strength. He who is immeasur-
able in His greatness was willing to be
contained in a bundle so light you could
have lifted Him with one hand. He who
knows all things and sees every activity in
galaxies invisible to us, allowed His mind
to be limited to an infant’s. He whose very
spoken word caused the universe to come
into existence allowed Himself to cry
out in unintelligible phrases, unable to
communicate even His most basic needs.
He who has legions of mighty angels under
His control entrusted His well-being to
a poor carpenter and his teenaged wife.
this is your Creator!
So on Christmas, as you contemplate the
tiny baby in the center of the Nativity scene,
consider the heights from which He came
and the breadth of the power He wielded
from before all time. Consider that no
one in all of history has ever given up more
or gone to such lengths for the sake of love.
even before He lived His life beside us—
and then sacrificed it for us in yet another
miraculous act of grace—He showed us the
mystery of His matchless love, even as a
crying newborn lying in a manger.
shalom
of
in
sear ch
p
solvingproblems
shalom
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eter slept. that in itself
wasn’t especially unusual,
but on this particular night
it was. He was heavily
guarded in an uncomfort-
able prison and would stand
trial the next day—which everyone knew
would just be for show. King Herod’s
popularity had soared when he began
cracking down on followers of Jesus and
executed one of their other leaders, James.
Peter’s arrest was clearly a political strategy
that would end the same way, so the young
Jerusalem church prayed desperately.
the situation didn’t look good at all. Still,
somehow Peter was able to rest.
I don’t know many people who would
sleep the night before their trial and almost
certain execution. My mind would be
filled with concerns about what to say in
my defense, what it feels like when you
die, how my loved ones would get along
without me, and endless questions about
what might happen. I often can’t sleep even
when I’m dealing with more minor issues,
like a heavy workload, financial stress,
or maybe the dysfunctional behavior of
a certain friend or family member. As for
lying on a stone floor in chains the night
before my impending public execution? I’m
pretty sure I’d be wide awake. But Peter,
chained to his prison guards (to make sure
he couldn’t escape), had to be awakened
by the angel who appeared in his cell to
dramatically rescue him. even the bright
light that filled the cell wasn’t enough to
disrupt his sleep—the angel actually struck
.., , , ..,
. ., . .
B y C h R I S T I E G R E E N
sear ch
him on his side. On the night before his
probable death, Peter was completely
at peace.
the anxi ety probl em
Most of us crave that kind of peace, but
few of us live in it consistently—and many
of us have some pretty valid reasons for
that. At this moment, I have a friend who’s
been unemployed for well over a year,
another has been caring for his now-dying
mother for the last 15 years; several friends
have lived on the verge of foreclosure for
months, and some deal with children in
crises ranging from unplanned pregnancy
to criminal charges to leukemia.
I myself am a guy with a brain-injured
son, a long family history of depression,
off-and-on financial pressures, and the
list goes on. like many, I’ve been through
job loss, broken relationships, and long
hours in hospital waiting rooms. So
I well know that all of these are serious
issues. But I have to face the fact that
“serious issues” and “valid reasons” just
do not trump God’s intentions for us. In
the midst of life’s difficulties, He promises
peace. He says He wants us to be free
from the weight of our burdens. We have
to ask ourselves whether or not we really
believe what He says.
Jesus wasn’t speaking figuratively when
He said not to worry about our lives
(Matt. 6:25), and His words are echoed
time and again (i.e., Phil. 4:6). In fact, the
most frequently repeated command in
Scripture is “fear not.” But it’s also one of
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d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 0 I N T O u C H
the most often disobeyed. Anxious
thoughts easily creep into our
minds and dominate our attention.
We lie awake, stressing and
obsessing over concerns far less
earth-shattering than the situation
Peter faced in prison that night.
And before we object that Peter
was a super-Christian, let’s con-
sider his track record as a disciple.
He was a man just like us, who
struggled but ultimately learned
to fully receive the Holy Spirit’s
peace that Jesus promised to give
His followers (John 14:27; 16:33).
the same kind of all-transcending
rest Peter experienced that night
in jail is available to us.
why do we worry?
God designed us for peace. the Hebrew
for “peace” is shalom (the same word
used for “hello” and “goodbye”), but
it means so much more than the english
translation we often read throughout
Scripture. Shalom is fullness, wholeness,
completeness, abundance, safety—
basically, life as God intended before the
fall: a garden-of-eden sense of well-being.
And this isn’t just some faraway notion.
When the Bible calls Jesus our Prince
of Peace, it’s referring to our shalom, the
One who fulfills us and offers us wholeness
in every area of life. And part of our life
of peace in Him is freedom from worry.
Within shalom, there is no anxiety, no
discontent or emptiness, no endless loops
of “what ifs” robbing us of sleep. We can
rest in who God says He is, the breadth
of what He’s done for us, and what He’s
promised—even when we’re dealing with
stressful, serious issues.
But ever since the fall, we’ve lived in a
broken reality. In eden, our first parents
had all the provision, approval, and secu-
rity they needed. they didn’t wonder if
they were loved, try to impress God or
each other, stockpile wealth in attempts
to ensure they’d never be lacking, or think
constantly about all the things that might
go wrong. But when perfect communion
with the Creator was severed, we lost sight
of the innate assurances with which He
created us. We began striving. ever since,
we’ve taken the enormous burdens of
a secure life upon ourselves, all the while
desperately seeking shalom.
People have long sought that place of rest
with counterfeits and shoddy substitutes,
whether substances or habits that saddle
us with the crushing weight of addiction.
We’ve tried to buy our way to comfort
and ended up with heavy debts. We’ve
manipulated our way into desired relation-
ships that have resulted in life-sapping
dysfunction. We’ve tried to impress our
way into positions that, instead of giving us
security, impose grinding responsibilities
we can barely keep up with. And the list
goes on. there’s no end to the ways we
complicate our lives by trying to uncompli-
cate them. Our best efforts weigh us down.
All of this maneuvering becomes an
Wi t hi n s hal om, t her e i s
no anxi et y, no di s cont ent
or empt i nes s , no endl es s
l oops of “what i f s ”

..,
. ,
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endless source of stress. It’s hard to main-
tain enough material security to never
fear lack, enough status to constantly feel
approved of, or enough relationships to
feel genuinely loved. And whatever we gain
in these areas is always subject to loss—a
prospect that keeps us preoccupied with
all kinds of anxieties.
So when Jesus tells us, “Do not be wor-
ried about your life” or Paul tells us to
“be anxious for nothing,” we nod our heads
at this wonderful advice and deep down
wonder if it’s even possible. I, for one, have
no trouble trusting the lord in theory, but
there are times when I struggle to trust
Him in practice. I’ve read the Bible closely
enough to know that He often lets godly
people go through difficulties. So it’s easy
for me to worry that He might allow such
a thing in my case—and to forget that He
promises to be with me even in those trials
and work them together for good. I take
great comfort in the fact that Jesus told His
disciples that “not a hair of your head will
perish” (luke 21:18). But two verses earlier,
He warned that some of them would be put
to death. Obviously, He defines “protection”
differently than we do.
yet it’s clear that He wants us to live
in freedom from the oppressive weight
of worry and stress. He urges us to trust
Him in every circumstance, and He doesn’t
do so with empty words. there’s a reason
we can depend on Him with our lives: He
is trustworthy.
the battle for our trust
Still, this truth doesn’t easily make the
journey from our heads to our hearts,
so we live as striving subjects of a King
who’s already promised to give us all
things generously. And something’s very
wrong with that picture.
I think one of the biggest challenges
we face in life is the struggle to genuinely
believe in God’s goodness. It’s not that
we have trouble believing in this at an
intellectual level; every Christian would
agree that God is good. But deep within—
particularly when we’re going through
a crisis—we struggle to believe He is good
to us. Is this God truly worthy of our trust?
this is actually the question the serpent
posed in the garden to the first couple.
“Maybe God is holding out on you,”
he suggested, and eve wondered if he
was right. In one way or another, we all
go through seasons of wrestling with
this same question. It may be the key
battle of our spiritual life. And until we’ve
settled it, shalom remains elusive and our
burdens weigh us down. When we resolve
that internal battle of whether we can
trust Him, we can stop striving.
the lord’s admonition to cease from
worry isn’t just a placating pat on the
back; He says this because we have sound,
authentic reasons to place our confidence
in Him. He really is watching out for us. He
is a very present help in trouble, even when
He doesn’t spare us from all tribulation. He
really does offer shalom to those who
choose to rest in Him.
And that’s why it is possible to live an
unburdened life—to take respite in the
goodness of God, no matter what circum-
stances look like or how our security and
plans feel threatened. We can give up our
faulty efforts to find wholeness on our own
and instead choose to believe that He is all
we need. When situations provoke us to
worry, we can take Him at His word. then,
even in the worst of trials, we can lie down
and sleep in peace.
God promises us freedom
from worry. What would hap-
pen if we really believed him?
Unburdened
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cultivating hope in your blended family
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was a regular weekday morn-
ing. I’d just finished running
the carpool and was mentally
going over my holiday to-do list. Suddenly,
my thoughts became negative. We aren’t
all going to be together for the holidays—
what kind of family is that? Who are we,
anyway? In a newly blended family, even
something as simple as sending Christmas
cards can become a complicated issue.
How should we print our names on the
card? We aren’t just “The Alsdorf Family,”
because my sons have different last names.
And if we all have different last names,
doesn’t that prove we aren’t a real family?
the truth was, we didn’t feel like a “real”
family yet—not in name, not in tradition,
and not even in photographs. What were we
thinking, trying to cram a picture-perfect
life into a broken frame?
Maybe you can relate. What once started
out with fresh hope and eager promises can
quickly spiral into the exhausting complexi-
ties of hurt feelings, custody battles, and
children who don’t know which parent
to be loyal to. While adults are trying to
“begin again,” children are suffering from
hurts so deep they can’t even articulate
them. And that’s a very common reality
none of us ever saw on The Brady Bunch!
the ideals I grew up with did not prepare
me for living in a blended family, where
differences are magnified, hurts are
multiplied, and the idea of what’s fair or
“normal” more often than not gets thrown
out the window! In real life, there’s no
tV producer to make sure every conflict is
neatly resolved, and there are no rehearsals
or retakes.
Before becoming a modern-day Brady
Bunch, we all had high hopes. But the
reality was that we brought to the family
varying backgrounds and traditions. We
had different rules, different habits—even
different dinner menus! And the holidays
brought us face-to-face with another com-
mon reality: we felt like foreigners who
had been transported to an alien country,
whose hearts yearned to go back to our
homeland and the familiarity of our own
“culture” and traditions. But we had made
a commitment to this new life, and since
there was no going back, we had to learn
to thrive in our “new normal.”
high hopes meet real life
Being a Christian in a blended family
doesn’t protect you from the difficulty
of adjustment or the pain that can come
with it. What once feels like a gift of hope
often gets clouded by the challenging
details of a new family dynamic. But being
a Christ-follower makes all the difference,
because you don’t have to figure everything
out on your own. In a blended family, love
must be learned, and the Holy Spirit can
be your teacher. When you choose, day by
day, to offer each member of your family
His compassion and encouragement—even
if certain relationships are harder than
others—you choose to cultivate new hope
in your home.
But that requires a choice on our part.
though the lord offers hope freely, we
must choose to receive it, live in it, breathe
in its fragrance, and walk in its grace.
God gives us second, third, and forth
chances. His mercies are new every morn-
ing (lam. 3:23). He never changes; we are
the ones who must adjust, as He’s called
us to a life of holiness. For me, the more
difficult aspects of our blended family
have been a crucible of personal change.
Any situation that forces us to look at
our selfishness and confront our attitudes
and expectations is one that has enor-
mous spiritual value attached to it. And
I’ve found my hope sustained as I take
encouragement with each opportunity to
confront my self-life through more painful
seasons—isn’t it in these times that God
becomes more real to us?
it
a new heart
Jesus came for broken people like us—those
who are tired and desperately need rest,
whose lives are messy and fragmented,
and whose hearts need healing. He came
to bring restoration to our hurts with a love
that’s bigger than any of our struggles. He
came to make a real difference in our lives,
even in the nitty-gritty details of each day.
But for many of us, when the lord asks
us to follow Him into uncharted territory,
fear takes hold. Vulnerability is hard when
we’ve been hurt before, and it’s easier to
close ourselves off when things get tough.
But this can eventually leave us with hard
hearts—and empty lives.
It’s easy to completely overlook the state
of your heart in all the busyness, stress,
and desire to meet your family’s many
needs. So take a moment to look deep
within. Are you hurting? Frustrated with
trying so hard to blend yet meeting with
obstacle after obstacle? Do you sometimes
feel like an outsider in your own home, a
stranger in your own life? Are you stressed
out by the financial obligations and custody
arrangements, still bitter toward your for-
mer spouse, or holding on to past hurts
the lord desires to heal? God’s plan from the
beginning was to give us new hearts—ones
that are alive, whole, and beating in rhythm
with His, so that we can love with His love
(ezek. 36:26-27). It’s His Spirit that enables
us to go beyond ourselves each day; to
forgive, extend grace, trust again, and never
lose hope in His bigger picture.
even if your family’s situation seems out
of control right now, remember that nothing
is too hard for God. And this Christmas is
an appropriate time to consider the precious
gift that is available to each one of us—Christ
Himself. He holds out to us the promise of
communion, healing, and restoration. More
than anything else, it’s this gift of love that
we all need. Prepare room for Jesus in your
home, and welcome Him to stay.

Holidays can overwhelm us with expecta-
tions, and as adults, we may have to lay
our personal expectations down at the
altar, putting the needs of others before
our own. But you can still make the very
best of the season and enjoy creating a
“new normal.”
WORK on merging family traditions by
keeping some special things from each,
while deliberately building new ones
together.
LEARN to compromise. recognize what
matters and what really doesn’t, and be
willing to let the little things go.
BE FAIR and reasonable with gifts—do
all you can to avoid competition.
CHECK your emotions frequently so your
kids won’t be torn between appeasing you
and their other parent.
TAKE your children shopping to pick out
a gift for their other parent. this helps
them feel you support their relationship
with their mom or dad and goes a long
way in helping them heal.
STAY connected with God. You might
feel you don’t have time for prayer and
Bible reading, but you can’t afford not to
be nourished and empowered by Him.
When you’re spiritually dry, it’s hard not
to operate in “the flesh.”
KEEP SIGHT of why you are celebrat-
ing Christmas, and draw strength from
this hope!


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d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 0 I N T O u C H
Blending a family isn’t easy.
Debbie and Ray Alsdorf share
how God can bring together
broken pieces and make
a whole.
Beyond the Brady Bunch
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a new
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A poem by Luci Shaw
This time each year, it’s the same wonderful story we retell: In His infinite love, the Creator
of the Universe condescended to take on human flesh—to become what we are so that we
might share in His life and be saved. Luci Shaw’s poem “Simeon” draws us into deeper
consideration of an often-overlooked aspect of this story—the presentation of Christ in the
Temple and Simeon, the servant of God who received Him there. As we reflect upon Simeon’s
fervent longing to see the Lord, may we be reminded of our own. —CL
Simeon
“You are to give to the Lord the firstborn of every womb”
E xodus 1 3 : 2 , 1 2
“The Lord makes his life an offering for sin . . .”
I s aI ah 5 3 : 1 0
Expectant, though never knowing quite
what he was watching for, the old man
had waited out the years of a long life
to be in the right place,
at the right time.

how many generations of crying babies
brought by new parents into the holy precincts
for dedication? how many innocent doves
wrung by the neck for their blood,
and burned on the altar? Yet, when they
came with their child and their pigeons,
and when the man simeon, seized by spirit,
took the infant in his arms, his eyes
looked into the eyes of God; there was
that flash of absolute knowing.
 
luci Shaw is Writer in residence at regent College, Vancouver,
British Columbia. She is the author of Accompanied by Angels
(eerdmans, 2006), in which “Simeon” appears. Poem reprinted
by permission. All rights reserved.
modernpsalms
reading tip If it’s been a
while since you’ve read the
story of Jesus’ presentation
in the Temple, reacquaint
yourself with the details in
chapter 2 of Luke.
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Life Principles
Coloring Books
Packed with word puzzles, activities, and
delightful illustrations, this 56-page coloring
book teaching kids biblical wisdom in a way
they can understand.
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Christmas with
Dr. Stanley
In this unique four-CD series, Dr. Stanley
gives you the big picture of Christmas—
starting in Genesis!
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Tracking Your
Spiritual Growth
Sermons aren’t just for Sundays. Jotting message high-
lights and insights from Scripture reading will help you
apply God’s principles all week. With space for notes,
a Bible reading plan, prayer lists, and more, this jour-
nal is a valuable tool for growing in Christ.
In Touch Notetaker’s Journal
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2011 Calendars
If a picture is worth a thousand words,
Dr. Stanley’s photographs say a lot about
God’s power and serene
majesty. Taken in Hawaii,
each image features a corre-
sponding scripture on peace.
*While supplies last.
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2010 Christmas
Ornament
Baldwin Brass (designer of the acclaimed
White House ornaments) created this
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displays Life Principle #11: “God assumes
full responsibility for our needs when
we obey Him.”
*While supplies last.
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Daily Devotional by
Dr. Stanley
The most important thing you can do is to
spend time with Christ. This devotional offers
365 daily readings to take you into the Word—
and presence—of God.

I Lift Up My Soul
u
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or as long as James can remember, his
sole purpose in life was to stay alive
any way he could—to say what he had to
say and do what he had to do to get what
he needed to get. At the age of nine, he lost
his father to double pneumonia and began
a descent into drugs, homosexuality, and
homelessness. James is 45 years old now,
and he hasn’t had a consistent roof over his
head for more than two years running.
Five years ago, he walked into a church
in Austin, texas, and bumped into Chris
Plekenpol. Chris had given his heart to
Jesus when he was six years old, although
his parents were not churchgoers. later,
he attended West Point and commanded
troops in Iraq at the height of the war.
When he finished his obligation to the
Army, Chris enrolled in Dallas theological
Seminary to pursue his life’s passion: serv-
ing others. that’s when he met James.
“I saw a homeless man walking away from
our church alone,” Chris recalls. “When I
see people in need, I don’t know, something
inside me just weeps. I don’t even know how
to describe that. We look at these people
but don’t do anything.” Chris says things got
interesting when James began attending the
men’s weekly Bible study. He was homeless,
drug addicted, and HIV positive.
At first, the group reached out to James
by listening intently to his woes of life on
Two STrangerS BroughT TogeTher By god’S relenT leSS PurSuiT of hiS Children B y T O N y A S T O N E M A N
F
Chr i s Pl ekenpol
byfaith
the streets and committing to pray for
him. But each evening after the study
concluded, someone drove James to the
sidewalk corner where he slept and left
him there.
A restlessness built within Chris’s heart.
Knowing James was no longer convenient.
“God allows us to experience things because
He wants to show us how to live out His
Word, as opposed to just talking about it,”
Chris says. “Here’s a person in need and
he’s not going away. What are you going
to do about that?”
eventually, Chris stepped out on a
limb and invited James to live with him.
the adjustment was awkward, stressful, and
even expensive, but Chris wanted more than
anything else to identify with the life of
Jesus and, to him, this was a way to do that.
He looked after James, drove him where
he needed to go, worked to get him a
valid ID card, and saw to it that he was in
Bible study every week. each morning he
handed his new housemate ten dollars.
At first, he resented the practice, but later
he took joy in it. And so did others. As he
blogged about his new experience, friends
and strangers alike gave money to the
homeless man they’d never met. People
rallied around James to support him
and help him overcome obstacles in his
life. eventually, someone even gave him
Two STrangerS BroughT TogeTher By god’S relenT leSS PurSuiT of hiS Children B y T O N y A S T O N E M A N
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J a me s ru d o l p h
a good job. All of this increased Chris’s
faith and made him expect great things.
But two days after starting his new job,
James didn’t show up for work. A probe
into his daily activities revealed that he had
been doing drugs the entire time he’d been
living with Chris. He deceived the people
who cared for him most. He lied to them
and took advantage of their generosity.
As James tells it, he saw his first
encounter with Chris as “a pity lunch
for a homeless man—a free meal.” He’d
been displaced by Hurricane Katrina, lived
in the Superdome, and witnessed things
worse than death. He arrived in Dallas on
a bus full of refugees. He’d been homeless,
off and on, for most of his life and knew a
cash cow when he found one. “I saw Chris
as a guy with stuff,” James says. “My main
thing was to manipulate him as much as
possible to feed my addiction. But I spiraled
down to a point where I got caught.”
When the truth came to light, Chris told
his new friend to move out. the entire
experience left Chris feeling deflated, con-
fused, and beaten down. It took him a long
time to work through these feelings.
Asked if he felt used when he discovered
James’ true intentions, he answers, “Of
course. But whatever happens, I’m going
to serve the lord 100 percent—whatever
that looks like. If I rely on Him, He won’t
let me be made a fool. Faith doesn’t make
sense. It’s like smelling a color. you just
know it when you see it. you can catch
a glimpse of God when you lose yourself
to being used. I was exhausted from
serving James. It’s not easy and it’s not
always fun, but it’s worth it. you’ve gotta
have spiritual eyes to see stuff. you see
lost people as those who Jesus died for,
as opposed to scenery.”
After the confrontation, James disap-
peared completely. two years passed.
Chris sent e-mails regularly and tried to
track him down just to know if he was
still alive. then, on a day like any other,
Chris received the following e-mail: “Well,
I’m checking my e-mail and who do I come
across but you!!! I’ve been out of the loop
because I’m in a discipleship program called
Denton Freedom House!!!!! This place is
awesome!!!!! I really would like to touch base
with you. There is some stuff that I need to
tell you that needs to be said face to face!!!!
My graduation ceremony is Saturday and
I would like for you to be here!!!!”
Chris nearly dropped his laptop. He
called James right away. When they were
reunited, James apologized to him and
thanked him for everything he’d done.
“When I lived with Chris, deep down in
my heart there was a motive,” he recalls.
“I used the situation to my advantage. But
when I got to Freedom House and God told
me how to treat others, I was genuinely
sorry.” Although Chris still wonders if he
did enough to help his friend, James sees it
differently. “the Bible study stuff stuck with
me,” he says. “It’s like God says something,
and then I say ‘Objection. Strike the com-
ment.’ But really I’ll always remember what
was said. I heard it. I overruled Chris, but
I still heard what he said.”
It’s been four years since the worlds of
these two perfect strangers collided, and
James has been sober for three months. But
he’s stayed sober longer, at times. Chris has
decided he will never let go of his friend. He
takes inspiration from the book of Hosea,
who always remained faithful to his wife
Gomer. “I have to continue to search James
out,” he says. “Sin takes you back to the
very thing that entices you. It’s a continuing
saga. But the neat thing is, I get to be the
constant because I’m never going to give up
on him. He uses and abuses people. But I’m
not going to give up.”
Asked what James has taught him
through all of this time, Chris says, “I know
what it feels like to love somebody and
have him not love you back. I want to know
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Christ through the power of His suffer-
ings. I’ve never been tortured, but I’ve been
betrayed. that’s where we grow and get to
know who God is and share the suffering
in a small microcosm.” If he can point to
one thing that’s different in his life today
because of his relationship with James, it
is a resolute decision to stop living cultural
Christianity. “Christ died for people who
mistreated Him and didn’t love Him,” he
says. “I don’t want to live like I’m gonna
leave a good legacy; I want to live like I’m
gonna see Jesus.”
James is working every day to stay sober
and walk with God. He hopes to work in
ministry some day. He says that because of
what he’s come out of, he knows how guys
who are addicted live. And he has a heart
to help them. “I want them to know that
there really is freedom. there really is. It’s
not just freedom from what you’re not
supposed to do. there’s a freedom to do
what you’re supposed to do. If you accept
that, then you won’t do what you’re not
supposed to. God will show you how.”
Although James is not a poster boy
for the redeemed Christian and he didn’t
respond to the gospel in the way Chris
had hoped he would, Chris still believes
earnestly in spiritual transformation.
“I have been transformed,” he says. “there
are dark parts of me that God is still working
on. I have pride. I’m still in the process of
growing closer to God. And the closer
I get, the more I realize how far away I
am. I see James make small steps forward
and get yanked back, but there’s a continual
pushing forward. I don’t know how sanc-
tification works. I know there’s a point
where the Holy Spirit begins to control
you, but that takes an incredible amount of
faith. What I’ve seen in us is that we trust
in God and move closer to him.”
For now, Chris is resting on Jesus’ words
from Matthew 25:40: “Whatever you did
for one of the least of these brothers of
mine, you did for me” (niv). And James
is enjoying true freedom. “It feels like my
head is over water,” he says. “I’m not trying
to make it. It’s already made. I don’t have
anxiety. It’s liberating. I don’t have to work
as hard at this. I just walk in what God has
already done.”
I want them to know that there really is freedom.
There really is.
A former Army Captain invites a
homeless man to live with him.
They are both transformed by
grace they never imagined.
Stumbling Souls
u
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stronginspirit
a
As trees shed the last of their leaves and
the thermostat dips, my wife and I are in
preparation mode. Amid the usual changes
of the season, we’re expecting our first
child—a Christmas baby. My wife’s belly
has grown beyond recognition. I’ve felt the
baby’s kick against my palm, only a thin veil
of flesh between us. One day soon, we’ll
see each other face to face.
Having a child at Christmas brings home
the reality of the nativity. God became
human in the form of a child, born to a
virgin. And this happened for the salvation
of humankind and the redemption of all
creation. It’s the same story we remember
every year. But as I watch my wife around
the house—unable to easily bend down or
rise from a chair—I’m moved to consider an
aspect of the incarnation I tend to neglect:
Christ has a mother.
It’s not that I ever fully overlooked Mary
in the past, but rather had a tendency to
downplay her importance in the story
of salvation. Maybe you can relate. Not
wanting to take any glory away from the
lord, I swung so far the other way that
I ignored the plain teaching of Scripture:
Mary was honored by God Himself.
the Bible’s portrayal of the young
Mary, barely a woman by the standards
of her day, is one of humility and obe-
dience. Consider the annunciation of
Christ’s birth. Scripture tells us that the
angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, saying,
“Greetings, favored one! the lord is with
you . . . Do not be afraid, Mary; for you
have found favor with God” (luke 1:28-30).
the Scriptures also show that the people
closest to her had little trouble identifying
Mary’s special role. Just look at her visit to
elizabeth—the soon-to-be mother of John
the Baptist: “When elizabeth heard Mary’s
greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and
elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
She cried out with a loud voice and said,
‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed
is the fruit of your womb! And how has it
happened to me, that the mother of my
lord would come to me?’ (luke 1:41-43).
luke tells us that, inspired by the Holy Spirit,
elizabeth was moved to proclaim the spe-
cial honor and blessing bestowed upon
Mary by God.
Far from seeing Mary as a passive recep-
tacle or utilitarian vessel, the early pastors
and theologians of the church accorded
her fuller importance. they noted salient
parallels between her life and many Old
testament persons and wonders. For
example, like the bush Moses saw burning
in the desert, so did Mary bear the all-holy
lord within her womb without being con-
sumed. She could be likened to a basket of
manna, for she carried the Bread of life.
Or just as the Ark of the Covenant was the
seat of God’s presence in ancient Israel,
so they saw in Mary the “Ark of the New
Covenant.” She carried the presence of
the uncontainable God within her. those
whom she visited were blessed, just like the
house of Obed-edom when David brought
the original ark to his home (2 Sam. 6:1-11).
remembering
c el ebr at i ng t he mot her of Chr i s t
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Parallels abound. But perhaps the most
striking correlation of all is one between
Mary—known by the early Christians as
Theotokos (Greek for “Mother of God”)—
and eve, the mother of humankind.
Ireneaus of lyons, writing in the second
century, explains the connection: “. . . the
knot of eve’s disobedience was loosed
by the obedience of Mary. For what the
virgin eve had bound fast through unbelief,
this did the virgin Mary set free through
faith” (Against Heresies, Book III, 22.4).
If the apostle Paul thought of Christ
as the second Adam, Ireneaus thought
of Mary as the second eve. Where eve
through childbirth passed on a fallen
nature to humanity, Mary gave birth to
its redemption—the promised Messiah.
In a way, this implies a role of spiritual
motherhood for Mary, akin to the sort
of motherhood we attribute to eve as our
oldest ancestor. Just as women give life to
their children, and by extension to genera-
tions of grandchildren that follow, so we
inherit the benefits of Mary’s faithfulness—
life in Christ and eternal rest with Him.
through her faithful cooperation with
God, the church was made possible, which
is the body of Christ. As Augustine put it
in the fourth century, “Plainly (Mary) is, in
spirit, Mother of us who are His members,
because by love she has cooperated so
that the faithful, who are the members of
that Head might be born in the Church.
In body, indeed, she is mother of that very
Head” (On Holy Virginity, 6.6). With that
in mind, we have a lot to be thankful for.
We all can be grateful for the people
in our lives: parents, friends, pastors,
coaches, and even strangers. Others play
an undeniable role in our salvation. We
could say that through them, by God’s
grace, we have found life in Him. And how
much more is it true of the woman from
whom God took the flesh that would be
crucified, laid in a tomb, and resurrected?
there are many lessons we can learn
from Mary. For instance, we can learn to
respond in faith and obedience when God
brings something unexpected into our lives.
We can also learn to remain humble, letting
the lord honor us as He chooses, rather
than make it a pursuit of our will. Mary was
an example of being teachable. Although
she was Christ’s mother and an authority
figure in His life, she learned from her Son
and pondered those lessons in her heart.
And as we see at the wedding in Cana, she
had unflinching faith in Jesus to provide
and work miracles.
Perhaps Mary’s most important example
to us is her willingness to become the
first Christian. In faith and humility, she
received the lord into her life—her very
body. While pregnant, she nurtured the
lord within her, and through her, the truth
was made incarnate in the world. And so it
is with you and me. By coming to faith in
Jesus, we receive His presence through the
Holy Spirit. He makes our hearts His dwell-
ing place, and through us makes Himself
known. We are temples of the Holy Spirit
(1 Cor. 6:19), and it’s our job to nurture
His presence through right living, prayer,
service, and worship. Just like Mary, we are
called to make the truth incarnate in the
world through our entire beings.
Beyond learning from Mary, remember-
ing and celebrating her life as the mother
of Jesus is a means of protection against
heresies that would deny Christ’s humanity.
In her remembrance, we find a way to put
the incarnation of Jesus on center stage
with the crucifixion and resurrection, where
it rightly belongs. Acknowledging the full
importance of Mary’s unique role in the
story of redemption doesn’t take anything
away from the lord. It only further under-
scores the truth of who He is, what He’s
done and will do. And just as I’ll meet my
baby, one day soon we’ll see Him face to
face—the flesh, the scars, the glory.
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Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the lord from your wealth and from the first
of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will
overflow with new wine.” that is, when we give to the lord’s work, He blesses
us. remember, not only can God maximize what we give; He can also stretch
our remaining money better than we can. With that in mind, let’s review some
information that may be helpful in year-end charitable gift planning.
Gifts by Check. Gifts made by check must be postmarked by December 31st
to be credited for this year. It’s worth noting that some corporations will
match their employees’ charitable gifts,
up to a specific amount. Contact your
employer’s human resources or payroll
department to find out if the company will
match your contributions to In touch.
this can be a great way to multiply the
impact of your gift.
Gifts of Stock. A charitable gift of appreciated stock can benefit you more than
a gift of cash, because you avoid capital gains tax on the stock. you also receive a
deduction for the full market value of the security if you held it longer than one
year. the deduction is limited to 30 percent of your
adjusted gross income, but you can carry forward any
unused portion of the deduction for five subsequent
years. Normally, it’s easy to transfer stock to charity.
IRA Charitable Rollover. If IrA charitable rollovers
are permitted this year, those aged 70½ and older can
make a direct transfer, up to $100,000, from their IrA
to qualified public charities such as In touch Ministries.
this qualified charitable distribution is not included
in taxable income and counts toward an IrA owner’s
mandatory withdrawal amount. Individuals who take
the standard deduction on their tax return benefit as
well. Contact your financial or tax advisor for further details.
We hope this information helps you in your efforts to support the lord’s
work. Please contact us if we may assist you.

This article is not intended to provide specific legal, tax, or accounting advice. You should
consult with qualified professional advisors regarding your individual situation.

Opportunities to
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B y W A y N E J O N E S , C F P ®

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e a r l y l i g h t
H
ave you ever felt as if your Christian life
swings back and forth like a pendulum
between faith and doubt? This is a fairly
common problem, especially when trying
situations come our way. Although we
know what God’s Word says, our feelings
tell us something totally different.
The question is not if we will experience
this, but rather, how long we will remain
on one side or the other. Three factors
determine whether we lean toward faith
or doubt: the strength of our faith at the
time of the trial; our knowledge and under-
standing of God; and our experience with
failure or success in past trials, especially
those of the same nature.
To help you grow in faith, it’s important
to change not only your focus but also
your thinking and listening practices.
• Set your mind on God’s promises, not
on the impossibility of your situation.
• Trust in His divine nature instead
of your feelings about the circumstances.
• Seek to view the difficulty from His
perspective instead of giving it your own
limited interpretation.
• Listen to the Holy Spirit—not Satan’s
whispered lies, which stir up uncertainties.
• Rehearse the Lord’s past faithfulness
to you instead of dwelling on your previ-
ous failures.
Te key to stabilizing faith lies in choosing
to believe God, regardless of the situation.
Only then will it be possible to bring natural
feelings of doubt, anxiety, fear, anger, or
confusion into submission to what we know
to be true—that the Lord is faithful and will
see us through every situation.
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James 1: 2- 8
1 Cori nthi ans 9-12
The Vacillating
Battle of Faith
One Year
t h e b i b l e i n
Tough the
incarnation is
celebrated during
the month of
December, believers
should be mindful
of this amazing gift
all year long.
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S
atan looks for weak spots in a believer’s
life where he can set up a stronghold.
Once his fortress is established, he knows
that the person will justify it, defend it,
and keep adding bricks to it, one sin at
a time. The appeal can be so strong that
we return to a habitual sin even after
confessing before God. Satan whispers,
“One more time won’t hurt,” and we fall
to temptation again.
Just as in medieval times when armies
warred over high rock fortresses, a sin
stronghold is usually the ground for a
skirmish. We might expect the fight to
be primarily between God and Satan, but
that’s not the case—the Lord can knock
down the Devil’s walls instantly. Instead,
the struggle goes on within our spirit: Do
we want God to break our habit or not?
Giving up habitual sin is hard. The sinner
finds comfort, pleasure, and/or satisfaction
in the practice. Hot on the heels of those
emotions, however, are guilt, shame, and
despair, which drive a person to plead for
help. But holy God cannot cleanse unrigh-
teousness until people genuinely repent.
True repentance means that a believer sees
a sin for the wickedness that it is and turns
his back on it. And we turn away as often
as it takes—one time, a hundred times, or
every single day for the rest of our lives.
Just thinking about giving up a sinful habit
brings some people to the brink of despair.
Tey want to be free of a stronghold, but
the thought of resisting temptation makes
them feel weak. Here is good news: the
Holy Spirit’s power is enough to enable any
believer to walk away. Tat includes you.
An End to
Habitual Sin
1 Cori nthi ans 13-16
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ephesi ans 6: 10- 11
t h u r s d a y
G
od’s Spirit works in every believer. He
does not limit Himself to pastors and
missionaries. If you’ve received Jesus Christ
as your personal Savior, then residing
within you is the same great power that
raised Christ from the dead (Rom 8:11) The
Holy Spirit pours His energy into creating
godly character in all who follow the Lord.
The fruit of the Spirit is so named
because it is the character and conduct
that the Holy Spirit produces in believers.
These are qualities that we can’t generate
consistently on our own. The most powerful
message we can give isn’t a testimony or
sermon; it is the life we live when the pres-
sure is on, temptation is tremendous, or we
are buried under an avalanche of problems.
What the world most needs to see in
this modern culture is godly families loving
one another, business people working with
integrity and frugality, and young men and
women who choose moral purity. In a word,
the world needs to be exposed to believers
who are obedient.
By showing peace instead of anxiety or
practicing patience rather than speaking a
sharp word, a Christian bears witness to the
beauty of the gospel. We attract unbeliev-
ers to Christ through our words and deeds.
They may turn down a doctrine, but they
cannot ignore a righteous life.
Te strongest gospel message does not
come from a pulpit. Te most powerful
witness for Jesus Christ where you work,
where you live, and where you relax is
you. Submit to the Holy Spirit’s work, and
He will produce a great harvest of spiritual
fruit in your life.
3
The Power Within
2 Cori nthi ans 1-4
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aCts 1: 8
f r i d a y
One Year
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One Year
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I
don’t know how some in today’s church
got the false idea that the preacher is
a servant and the folks in the pews are just
members. No one is a bystander in God’s
kingdom! All believers are in partnership
with the Lord (2 Cor. 6:1). He chose to work
through mankind to accomplish the gospel
mission on earth. To borrow a biblical
metaphor, we are the workers cultivating
and harvesting His fields (Matt. 9:37-38).
God gave one or more spiritual gifts to
every single believer to aid in the work for
His kingdom. We each need this special
“wiring” to carry out our unique role in
His plan. He knits that spiritual gift into
our personality and inborn talents to
create a useful and effective servant. And
just to be clear, there is no such thing as
a non-gifted believer.
Believers are the Lord’s workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for the purpose
of good works (Eph. 2:10). Spiritual gifts
are not our own abilities. The Holy Spirit
manifests them through us. Remember, it
is the sap running from the vine into the
branches that produces fruit (John 15:5).
In the same way, the Spirit lives and works
through God’s followers to bring forth acts
of service. The Lord’s power is behind it
all. Think of that when you are tempted to
shy away from God-given opportunities.
God’s awesome power is present in and
available to every believer. Te Holy Spirit
equips us to obey the Lord in whatever He
calls us to do. Don’t waste your life sitting
in a pew! Get busy using that spiritual gift.
Te felds of this world are ripe for harvest
(John 4:35).
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1 Cori nthi ans 12: 4- 11
t h e w e e k e n d
2 Cori nthi ans 5-8
Our Partnership
with God
One Year
t h e b i b l e i n
e a r l y l i g h t
O
ftentimes, we use the word “stress”
to describe the pressure we are feeling.
It can come from something as simple
as traffic or from more complex situations
or underlying issues, such as insecurity.
Stress becomes distress when it creates
deep emotional and mental anxiety.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, living
with a fairly constant level of such tension
is not unusual.
I remember 1944 being a year of tremen-
dous turmoil in our country because of
World War II. Many people would watch
the evening news and hear reports of
bloodshed in various locations. Those with
loved ones overseas listened anxiously.
I can’t recall the name of my social
studies teacher that year, but I have never
forgotten something she said. One day,
after tearfully announcing that we would
take a break from the normal routine,
she pulled out a Bible and read Psalm 46.
The woman explained that her husband’s
division had been mentioned on the news
the previous night. Though fearful, she
found comfort in the Scriptures.
Since then, I turn to that Psalm when
I am troubled or afraid. We all face uncer-
tain times when, in our humanness, we feel
alone and scared. Yet there is confidence
to gain in Jesus.
Today’s verse holds the key to releasing
stress and fnding peace. What is causing
you mental anguish? Stop striving, and
rest in our loving, almighty God. He wants
you to trust Him, lean on Him, and allow
Him to carry the burden for you. His desire
is for His children to be relieved of worry.
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psalm 46: 1- 11
m o n d a y
2 Cori nthi ans 9-13
Confidence in the
Midst of Distress
One Year
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W
ars, economic crisis, and daily
responsibilities are just a few com-
mon sources of stress that we encounter.
Allowing ourselves to dwell on such things
would invite anxiety to overwhelm us.
The Lord has a better way. Jesus assured
us that, though we would face difficulty,
we could rest in Him (John 16:33). But we
cannot trust someone we don’t know. For
this reason, we should first seek to find
out who He is.
Truths from Scripture are a good place
to start. For example, our God is Lord and
Master. He is omnipresent, omniscient,
faithful, and powerful. He loves uncondi-
tionally and offers forgiveness to all who
trust His Son as Savior. He adopts believers
as His own children and wants the best
for every Christian’s life—so much so that
He chastises us when we disobey. And He
desires that we love Him above everyone
and everything else.
Knowing these facts is only the begin-
ning. As in any relationship, time together
fosters closeness. We can read the Bible,
pray, meditate on God’s Word and listen
quietly for His Spirit to speak to our
hearts. This helps us to understand how
He thinks. What’s more, watching the way
God works in other people’s lives helps us
to know His ways.
Jesus is trustworthy, and He ofers rest in
the midst of a troubled world. He wants
you to lay your burdens upon Him and
experience His peace. Do you know this
amazing God? Carve out time in your
schedule to be in His presence every day
so you can know Him better and better.
Resting in Jesus
galati ans 1-3
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i sai ah 26: 2- 4
t u e s d a y
W
hile many Christians know they
are saved, they wonder about their
eternal security. Does our behavior play a
role in keeping our salvation? Examining
what happened when we received Jesus as
our Savior will bring us reassurance of our
security in Him.
Prior to salvation, we had a spiritual
problem. We were born with a nature
inclined to rebel against God. Our inner
self consistently rejected His rule and took
charge. Because of our sinful state, we were
spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), under God’s
judgment, and destined for eternal separa-
tion from Him. No amount of good works,
repentance, or improved behavior could
have changed our sinful condition. We
required a divine solution. Knowing this,
our heavenly Father provided what we
needed through His Son Jesus (John 3:16).
On the day we trusted in Christ, our con-
dition was changed from condemnation and
death to forgiveness and life (John 5:24). We
were given a new nature—one that wanted
to please God—and adopted into His
family (2 Cor. 5:17). God’s gift of salvation
delivered us from eternal death, made us
spiritually alive, and gave us eternal life. We
cannot return to our dead, unforgiven state.
Our new status as His children is permanent
because it is based on what Jesus has done.
While our behavior may not always refect
our new nature, any mistakes we make do
not jeopardize our salvation. Remember,
it’s not our actions but Christ’s work on
the cross that changed our condition. And
nothing can undo a spiritual rebirth that
came about through faith in Jesus (John 3:3).
8
Eternally Secure
in Christ
gal. 4-6; eph. 1
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Colossi ans 2: 13- 14
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O
ur loving heavenly Father wants us
to know with certainty that we have
eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ.
What assurances do we have that we are
permanently secure?
God’s love. One reason that we can be
sure of unending salvation is our heavenly
Father’s unconditional love. At the cross,
He demonstrated just how much we mean
to Him: He sent His Son to die so that we
might have eternal life. (1 John 4:9-10).
christ’s life and death. Because Jesus
was without sin, He qualified to serve as
our substitute and take our place on the
cross. By dying for us, He paid for all our
sins and finished the work necessary to
secure our salvation (John 19:30).
Jesus’ promise. We have our Lord’s
assurance that we will spend eternity with
Him. He promised that we can never be
separated from Him and that no one can
snatch us from His hand (John 10:28). He
has gone ahead to prepare a place for us and
will return to bring us there (John 14:2-3).
The Indwelling holy Spirit. Another
assurance of eternal security is the presence
of God’s Spirit within each believer. The
Holy Spirit acts as a seal, guaranteeing that
we belong to the Lord and serving as a
pledge of our future in heaven with Him
(2 Cor. 1:21-22).
Te Bible is flled with God’s promises
that those who have received Jesus Christ
as Savior will spend eternity with Him.
If you struggle with doubt, meditate on
the Scriptures, and ask the Holy Spirit to
guide you into scriptural understanding
about your salvation.
9
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1 John 5: 1- 13
t h u r s d a y
ephesi ans 2-6
Eternal Security:
Can We Be Sure?
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T
he first battle between faith and human
reason took place in the garden of
Eden. Spurred on by the lies of the serpent,
Eve began to look at her situation from a
purely logical perspective and decided she
was being cheated by God out of something
good. Her faith faltered as “reasonable”
thoughts of self-interest filled her mind.
I am not saying that the way of faith is
never logical, but by operating only on the
basis of reason, a conflict with the Lord is
inevitable. The reason is that His instruc-
tions and actions don’t always appear
reasonable from a human perspective.
Although Isaiah 55:8-9 describes God’s
thoughts and ways as higher than man’s,
many people judge divine ideas to be lower
than human intelligence.
Paul emphasizes this when he points
out that God’s choices are illogical by the
world’s standards. His message of salvation
seems foolish, and His messengers appear
weak and unimpressive. In an age that
thrives on recognition, admiration, and
importance, a person who believes the
Bible is considered a weakling in need of a
religious crutch to cope with life. While this
description is given in derision, it’s actually
quite accurate. Recognizing their helpless-
ness, believers lean on Christ so He can raise
them to stand with Him in righteousness.
Tat day in Eden, sin and self-importance
entered the human heart. But all the worldly
wisdom that fuels our pride is nullifed
by God. He is looking not for great and
impressive people but for weak, humble
servants who can boast only in Christ. Te
Savior alone is their strength and wisdom.
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1 Cori nthi ans 1: 18- 31
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phi li ppi ans 1-4
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A
fter exposing the futility of worldly
thinking in 1 Corinthians 1, Paul
introduces Christians to the higher realm
of godly wisdom. This kind of knowledge
and understanding isn’t available through
human intelligence and reasoning; it comes
strictly through divine revelation. Only
those indwelt by God’s Spirit have “the mind
of Christ” (v. 16) and access to “the things
freely given” to them by God (v. 12).
Without this supernatural insight, no one
can accurately know the Lord or His ways.
Many people say they believe in God yet
may not have a correct understanding of
Him because their perceptions are based on
their own thoughts and ideas. It’s easier to
custom-design a god to fit our preferences
than to make the required adjustments
that worship of the one true God demands.
Even believers need to guard against
trying to fit God into their preconceived
image of Him. The Bible is the only reliable
source of divine revelation, but we must
be careful to consider the Scriptures as
a whole—it’s critical that we don’t just pick
and choose the verses we want to believe.
For example, by focusing only on passages
that emphasize the Lord’s lovingkindness
while excluding those that speak of His
holiness and justice, we misunderstand
His true nature.
Let’s seek to know the Lord in truth by
considering the entire counsel of Scripture.
Divine wisdom is available to every believer
through the Holy Spirit, who searches the
depths of God. May we never try to limit
Him to ft our preferences. Instead, may He
enlarge our minds to embrace His thoughts.
God’s Wisdom
Revealed
Colossi ans 1-4
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1 Cori nthi ans 2: 6- 16
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W
hat has a grip on your heart? Think
about the things that trouble you.
Perhaps you’re dealing with financial need,
relational stress, difficult circumstances,
or lingering illness. What are we supposed
to do with all the challenging situations
we face? Jesus’ words can seem like a pat
answer to our very real dilemma because
saying, “Do not let your heart be troubled”
doesn’t change our feelings.
However, a more accurate interpretation
is, “Be troubled no longer.” Jesus isn’t saying
that we are to deny our feelings and put
on a happy face, but rather that we’re not
to let anxiety conquer us. Yes, we will
experience trials, but through the power
of the Holy Spirit, we can endure struggles
with the peace of Christ.
But how do we move from overwhelming
distress to undisturbed tranquility? Begin
by focusing immediately on the Lord, not on
the circumstance, trusting Him to help you
through it. Read the Scriptures so you can
understand His perspective on the problem
and search out His promises. Then believe
God and do whatever He says, because
you can never have His peace without
obedience. And lastly, present your troubles
to the Lord in prayer, not just with requests
for their removal, but with thanks for His
strength to endure them.
Te next time you feel a rush of fear or anxi-
ety, remember Jesus’ remedy: “Believe Me!”
(vv. 1, 11). If you trust that He loves you
and has a good purpose for allowing that
difculty in your life, you can thank Him no
matter what you feel or what the outcome
may be. Faith always ushers in His peace.
13
Letting Go of a
Troubled Heart
1 thessaloni ans 1-5
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John 14: 1, 27
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H
ave you ever had a negative experi-
ence when trying to share the good
news of Christ? Some people just don’t
want to hear about Jesus. Although your
concern is for their eternal life, they may
think you are trying to shove your religion
down their throats.
To help us understand why some people
will have such a negative reaction to our
faith, the apostle Paul used the analogy
of a Roman celebration of victory. In his
day, when a general returned to Rome
after conquering the enemy, he made a
triumphal entry and led a parade through
town. He rode in a golden chariot sur-
rounded by his officers and followed by
his troops. At the end of the procession
were the chained captives.
During this pageantry, clouds of incense
floated among the participants and the
assembled onlookers as pagan priests
carried their censors. To the conquerors,
this was the sweet aroma of victory. But
to the captives, it was the smell of death,
because they would soon be killed by wild
animals in the arena. In the same way,
believers are a sweet fragrance of Christ
to one another as we follow in His victory
over sin and death. However, to those who
don’t know Him as Savior, we are a reminder
of the judgment they dread.
Although some people will be repulsed by
us and our message, we must continue to
share our hope with gentleness and grace
(1 Pet. 3:15-16). At one time Paul hated
Christians, yet he would be the frst to
afrm that the Lord can reach a hardened
heart and change a captive into a victor.
14
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2 Cori nthi ans 2: 14- 16
t u e s d a y
2 thessaloni ans 1-3
The Fragrance
of Christ
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W
e perceive our world through sight,
hearing, smell, taste, and touch—
and respond according to the information
gained by these five senses. Yet God tells
us that there is a higher reality, even
though our perceptions appear as truth.
And our Father commands us to walk by
faith, not according to what we see.
So, what is this Christian faith? It is the
confident conviction that God is all He
claims to be in His Word. The truth of who
He is depends only on the Almighty—it is
not based on our opinions, circumstances,
or feelings. Nor is it something we can
scientifically measure. And remember,
belief is a gift from the Lord, not something
we create (Eph. 2:8). Therefore, we can ask
Him to help us if we find our faith faltering.
The way we walk by faith is through
our conduct, lifestyle, and choices. The
Holy Spirit guides our steps, and we pur-
posefully follow. It is important that we ask
for direction and wisdom, expect that He
will answer and meet our needs, and trust
that He knows what is best.
At times, of course, we’ll make mistakes.
But God is always there to forgive our
repentant hearts and help us back on track.
As we grow into a deeper relationship with
Christ, we become more focused on Him,
and our trust increases.
When we try to handle life on our own,
the stress can be overwhelming. How
wonderful that our Creator ofers us rest
and peace as we trust Him to lead in
all we do. Our infnitely wise, perfectly
loving, and completely sovereign Father is
supremely capable to care for His children.
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2 Cori nthi ans 5: 6- 8
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1 ti mothy 1-6
Walking by Faith
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Y
esterday, we learned about the Lord’s
desire that we walk by faith. Yet if we
consider our lives honestly, most of us will
find a number of areas where we struggle
to trust. Some days it is easier to relinquish
control, while at other times we quickly
take matters into our own hands.
Thankfully, our heavenly Father is patient
and loving. His Word clearly teaches that
sanctification is the process of making us
holy, and not just the end result. Children
are a great illustration of how this works.
When toddlers learn to walk, they start by
pulling up on something, standing, and then
taking a step. Inevitably, they will fall, at
which point we help them back up so that
they can keep progressing. In the same way,
God shows us how to live according to our
faith in Him, but we will make mistakes.
Falling and getting up again are part of the
learning process.
The Lord teaches us, but we also have
a role in learning. Our responsibility is
to study Scripture, to get to know God’s
nature, and to learn His promises. As we
do these things, our confidence in God
grows, enabling us to make choices that
require us to believe in and lean on Him.
When we step out in faith and experience
Christ’s provision and dependability, our
trust grows.
Consider the responses, actions, and deci-
sions you’ve made this week. How many
of those were led by the Spirit? And how
many were human reactions done out
of self-reliance? Living on the basis of trust
in Christ requires belief and action. As you
allow Him to lead, faith will grow.
Walking with
Greater Confidence
2 ti m. 1-4; ti tus 1-3
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hebrews 11: 1- 31
t h u r s d a y
A
ccording to John 14:21, we express love
for Jesus by obeying His commands.
To love Him wholeheartedly, we must
develop a lifestyle of obedience. Let’s look
at four aspects of such a lifestyle.
1. our trust in the Father grows. This
confidence comes from believing that the
Lord is who Scripture says He is. And God’s
Word tells us that He is good—as well as
faithful to keep His promises (2 Cor. 1:20).
Psalm 86:15 calls Him merciful, gracious,
loving, and slow to anger. His character
remains unchanged by difficult or hard-
to-understand circumstances (Heb. 13:8).
2. We develop a deepening ability
to wait on the Lord. Delays can be hard
in our I-want-it-now culture. But we must
resist temptation and wait on Him instead
of running ahead.
3. We commit to obey God. Without
such a resolve, we’ll vacillate at decision time
or allow fear to prevent us from choosing
His way.
4. our study of Scripture becomes
consistent. The Bible reveals God’s priori-
ties, commands, and warnings. It acts as a
light, illuminating His chosen path for us
while revealing obstacles and dangers along
the way (Ps. 119:105). Without it, we are like
a person who walks in the woods at night
without a flashlight.
Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that
obedience to the Lord is automatic. It’s a
lifelong process of growing in our trust
and patiently waiting on Him before we
act. Tis requires a steadfast commitment
to obey so that we can say no to ungodly
choices and yes to God.
17
A Lifestyle
of Obedience
phi lem. ; heb. 1-4
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John 14: 15- 21
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S
tarting at age five, our children are
enrolled in school and given lessons
to learn each year. We are students too.
At salvation, we became participants in the
Lord’s school of obedience. There, we are
discovering the necessity of trusting Him
and waiting for His direction. We are taught
the importance of commitment and learn
to search His Word for guidance. God also
wants us to learn these lessons:
• Listen attentively to the Spirit’s
promptings. Our God does not speak in an
audible voice, but He makes Himself heard
quite clearly through the Holy Spirit. Jesus
said the Spirit is our Helper who will bring
to mind Scripture passages we have studied
(John 14:26) and show us how they apply.
• obey the next step. Abraham was
called to leave his home and journey to
an unknown destination (Gen. 12:1). He
obeyed even though the way was unclear
to his human mind. We, too, must step out
in faith even when we do not know all the
details of the itinerary.
• Expect conflict. We can’t live obedient
lives without having trouble with the world
(John 16:33). Our friends or family may
drift away when they realize certain inter-
ests of ours have changed. Some may hurl
criticism our way or call us unkind names,
while others may reject us completely.
Practicing a lifestyle of obedience doesn’t
mean we’ll never make mistakes. But it
does require diligence if we are to succeed.
Obeying the Father was Jesus’ priority and
purpose in life, and we should make it ours
as well. Which of these lessons do you
want to tackle frst?
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1 John 1: 3- 6
t h e w e e k e n d
hebrews 5-9
God’s School
of Obedience
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A
s a newly saved boy of 12, I didn’t
automatically know how to trust and
follow God. For more than 60 years, the
Lord has been training me in His “School
of Obedience.” The most basic principle I
learned there is also an essential key to spiri-
tual maturity: Believers must trust God.
People do not obey a God whom they
do not trust. In fact, I would say that most
rebellion happens when a believer says, “I
know what the Lord says, but . . . ” When we
hang a “but” at the end of a biblical promise,
we’re about to make an excuse to disobey.
The key lesson for trusting the Lord is
recognizing His identity. God is the loving
Creator and sovereign Ruler of the universe
(Ps. 33; Ps. 103:19). His nature prevents
Him from making promises that He will
not fulfill (Ps. 89:34). And His ancient
scriptural statutes apply to modern lives
because He is the same yesterday, today,
and forever (Heb. 13:8).
Men and women who believe that the
Lord is who He claims to be are willing
to surrender to Him. They’ll commit to
obey Him in all things and then observe
the results. (Hint: obedience = Blessing,
whereas Rebellion = Sorrow.) If you need
assurance that the trust principle works,
take a look at the lives of other believers,
including biblical saints like David and Paul.
We cannot follow God on a case-by-case
basis. Either we trust and obey or we don’t.
Te Sovereign of the universe invites us to
depend upon Him to direct our path. Since
He is in charge anyway, isn’t it better to
walk beside Him than to resist His eforts
to steer us right?
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proverbs 3: 5- 6
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hebrews 10-13
Learning to
Trust and Obey
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T
here are many lessons for us to learn
in God’s School of Obedience. With
space for just two, I have chosen principles
that aren’t easy. Yesterday, we learned that
Christians must trust the Lord. Today, let’s
tackle patience: Believers must learn to
wait upon him.
Have you ever wondered why the psalm-
ist coupled the admonition to wait upon
God with encouragement to be strong and
courageous? The reason is that sometimes
delaying is the hardest thing to do.
Modern culture is in such a hurry. Gotta
have it now! Gotta do it now! Can’t wait!
We’ve been primed to stay in a permanent
state of readiness. It takes courage to be still
when the world is rushing past. Everything
in us hollers, “Go!” while God whispers,
“Wait.” But people are quick to act, because
they are afraid of missing out on something.
Believers who buy into that attitude make
a move and then hope God will bless them.
God leaves nothing to chance. He does
not place a decision before us with the hope
that we’ll make the right choice. That would
be irresponsible and out of character. The
Father is more than willing to show His
children what to do, because He is person-
ally interested in their welfare. But until the
Lord makes clear what is the way forward,
we’ve got to pause and wait.
Waiting upon God is not passive. It is
not lazy. It is not an excuse to be careless.
In fact, the opposite is true. Tose who
pause are seeking His will—which means
that they are praying, searching Scripture,
perhaps even fasting. And they are still
serving the Lord wherever they can.
A Necessary but
Challenging Lesson
James 1-5
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psalm 27: 14
t u e s d a y
W
e do not have a Savior who’s isolated
in heaven with no idea what it feels
like to have human struggles. No, our Lord
left the glories of heaven behind and added
humanity to His deity. He temporarily gave
up the use of some of His attributes, apply-
ing them only as the Father directed Him.
Jesus understands precisely how we feel
because He went through the same types
of situations we do. Though details of our
lives may not match His, the experiences
and feelings are alike. Let’s look at several
examples of how He identifies with us:
• Misunderstanding: People constantly mis-
understood His claims to be the Son of God.
• Rejection: He was unappreciated by the
ones He came to love and die for.
• Pressure: Crowds surrounded Him, beg-
ging for help and demanding His attention.
• Exhaustion: He experienced all the
weakness of humanity.
• Loneliness: At Gethsemane, when He
needed human companionship the most,
His closest friends fell asleep.
• Temptation: Satan hit Him with every
imaginable type of attack and temptation.
• Hatred: Religious leaders despised Him.
• Injustice: Though Jesus lived a sinless life,
He died a criminal’s death.
• Pain: He suffered the excruciating pain
of scourging and crucifixion.
Whatever you’re going through right now,
remember that Jesus knows how you feel
and sympathizes with your pain and weak-
ness. He may not remove the anguish or
change your situation, but He’ll always give
you the grace to resist temptation, endure
sufering, and grow in spiritual maturity.
22
Our Savior
Understands
1 peter 1-5
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hebrews 4: 14- 16
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H
ave you ever wondered why Jesus
had to suffer so much when He came
to earth as a man? One might expect that
the Son of the living God would live a
comfortable life and die a peaceful death.
After all, wouldn’t His blood have paid
for our sins whether it was shed painlessly
or torturously?
But Jesus took on human flesh and came
to earth not just to die for our transgressions
but also—with the exception of sin—to
identify with us in every area of our lives.
And that includes suffering (Heb. 2:17-18).
How would a Savior who had no experience
with pain help us when we hurt? Also, when
it’s difficult for us to obey the Lord, we need
the help of One who learned obedience
from the things He suffered.
Unlike us, Jesus didn’t move from being
rebellious to becoming obedient. Rather,
He learned by personal experience the
pathway we have to walk when God calls
us to do something difficult or painful.
In His humanity, Christ struggled with
the assignment that lay before Him: death
on the cross. Even though the Father heard
His cries, the plan was not changed, and
Jesus walked through all of it in complete
submission, just as He had done with
every divine “assignment” throughout His
earthly life.
Te only reason you and I have salvation is
because Jesus always did what pleased His
Father—had He rebelled in that one area, all
hope for lost humanity would be cancelled.
If His obedience in sufering resulted in
such a great beneft, just imagine what is
in store for us when we do what God wants.
23
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hebrews 5: 7- 8
t h u r s d a y
2 peter 1-3
Learning Obedience
through Suffering
One Year
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C
hristmas is one of the happiest holidays
because during this season, people
are more generous than at any other time
of the year. The practice of giving is not
a recent innovation—it began on the first
Christmas when Jesus was born. Everyone
in the story had something to give.
• When Mary submitted to God’s plan,
she gave her body to be the first home of
the incarnated Savior (Luke 1:30-38).
• She also surrendered her good reputa-
tion in order to fulfill the Lord’s calling for
her life.
• Joseph offered his love and protection
to Mary and the child who was not his own
(Matt. 1:18-25).
• An angel gave an announcement of the
Messiah’s birth to some lowly shepherds
who were watching their flocks at night.
• A heavenly host of angels offered praise
and glory to God.
• The shepherds shared the first personal
testimony about the Messiah.
• The wise men relinquished the comfort
of home to seek the newborn King and give
Him gifts worthy of royalty (Matt. 2:1-11).
At first glance, these gifts may seem to
pertain only to the first Christmas, but they
each have application for us today. Believers
are called to give of themselves to the Lord
and to one another in similar ways.
Look at this list again. What gifts could
you give to Christ today? Maybe you need
to submit to His will in a difcult area or
endure misunderstanding in order to obey
Him. And how about others? Who needs
your protection, love, or perhaps the good
news of salvation in Christ?
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luke 2: 1- 20
f r i d a y
1 John 1-5
Christmas: A Time
for Giving
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A
mid all the preparations, decorations,
and celebrations of the Christmas
season, we need to set aside some quiet
time to reflect upon the divine gifts that
forever changed the course of human
destiny. When that tiny baby entered our
world in Bethlehem, the first of a never-
ending stream of blessings was unleashed
from heaven.
We generally focus on the Father’s gift:
He gave His Son to be the Savior of the
world (1 John 4:14). But all three members
of the Trinity have a part in this divine
display of generosity, which continues into
eternity. Jesus came to offer His life as a
ransom for many, and after His death and
resurrection, He and the Father sent the
Holy Spirit to live inside believers forever
(Mark 10:45; John 14:16; 16:7) . The Spirit
in turn gives spiritual gifts to all believers
and produces His marvelous fruit in their
lives (1 Cor. 12:7-11; Gal. 5:22-23).
The divine presents don’t end on earth.
They continue in heaven when the Lord
judges Christians and grants them rewards
for good works that they could never have
accomplished apart from His strength
(1 Cor. 3:13-14; John 15:5). All the credit
and glory belong to Him, and yet He gra-
ciously showers praise on His followers
(1 Cor. 4:5).
We serve a caring, generous God. Tink
about the nonstop outpouring of blessings
from His throne, and ask, How will I respond
today? He needs nothing from you, but He
wants every part of you—not to ruthlessly
control but to show you the “surpassing
riches of His grace in kindness” (Eph. 2:4-7).
The Ultimate Giver
2 John; 3 John; Jude
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romans 11: 33- 36
t h e w e e k e n d
I
n the world’s thinking, great men are the
ones with authority, prominence, and
power. Though Jesus Christ had all that, He
gave it up to become a servant (Isa. 42:1).
Jesus gave Himself completely to fulfill
the Father’s plan of redemption, even
though the beneficiaries—namely, each
of us—were undeserving. God is holy and
righteous, and He cannot be in the presence
of sin. Therefore, He must separate Himself
from those who are stained by wrongdoing.
That includes all of humanity (Rom. 3:23).
Everybody is born captive to the desires
of the flesh (Rom. 6:16-18). When someone
claims to be living on his “own terms,” he is
actually serving whatever his human nature
craves. The penalty for that false sense of
liberty is death (Rom. 6:23).
Jesus’ ultimate act of service was to give
His life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28).
The word describes the price paid to set
a slave free—Christ voluntarily purchased
our liberation. There was only one way our
holy God could remove our guilt yet remain
true to His own law: Someone sinless had
to pay our sin debt for us.
Jesus’ sacrifice spared us the penalty we
deserve. Instead, we receive the gift of grace
and have been declared no longer guilty.
Moreover, we are elevated from slaves to
sons and daughters of the Almighty!
Jesus served the Father’s purpose faithfully.
He gave up His righteousness to carry the
weight of all our wickedness—and endured
a crushing separation from His Father. To
meet our needs, the Savior held nothing
of Himself back, and thereby set a powerful
example of servanthood for us to follow.
27
The Pattern for
Servanthood
revelati on 1-4
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matthew 20: 25- 28
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e a r l y l i g h t
I
srael can be a dusty place, and sandaled
feet get filthy walking to and fro. In
ancient times, a person entering a home
removed his sandals and cleaned his feet.
Or if the homeowners were wealthy,
servants would do the washing. This
distasteful but necessary task fell to the
worker of lowest position in the household.
Imagine the disciples’ surprise when
the Son of God put Himself in the role of
a lowly servant and knelt to wash their
feet. The need for such a service was great,
as they had been traveling for some time.
But not one of them offered to do it.
Jesus did more than fill a need; He offered
an object lesson. As He explained, “I have
given you an example to follow. Do as I
have done to you” (John 13:15 nlt). Some
churches have incorrectly interpreted this
as a command to make foot washing an
ordinance. But it’s possible to clean some-
one else’s skin without contemplating the
significance of Christ’s actions.
In fact, the act itself is not the main
point; attitude is what counts. Jesus desires
that we be willing to humble ourselves to
serve others. He is looking for men and
women who will ignore pride, position,
and power in order to do whatever must
be done, wherever it needs doing, and for
whoever requires assistance.
Jesus performed His greatest and most
humble acts of service within 24 hours
of each other. He washed dirty feet using
two hands that would be pierced by nails
in less than a day. Te message here is that
every task God gives us is important to
His kingdom.
28
read
|
John 13: 3- 15
t u e s d a y
revelati on 5-8
Clean Feet,
Clean Heart
One Year
t h e b i b l e i n
e a r l y l i g h t
T
hroughout human history, God has
been speaking to mankind in various
ways. His prophets were moved by the
Spirit to proclaim and write His words,
but His ultimate expression came through
His Son. Today most believers acknowledge
that God speaks primarily through His
written Word, yet the voice that dictated
the Bible has not ceased. Through His
Holy Spirit, the Lord still communicates
to every Christian who takes the time to
listen with an open and receptive heart.
Stop to consider the wonder of having
a God who speaks—not just a distant deity
who thunders orders and admonishments
from heaven, but one who actually wants to
have a conversation with you! Why would
the Lord of all creation go to such lengths
to communicate personally with each of us?
Consider the following reasons:
• God loves you and desires a relationship
with you.
• He wants you to know Him personally
through intimate communication.
• He longs to encourage you to trust Him.
As you experience the fulfillment of His
words, your faith grows strong.
• He wants to guide you. The Lord has
a good purpose for your life and is willing to
direct your decisions and ways so you can
experience all that He has planned.
In our busy world, it’s easy to take for
granted this invaluable privilege of com-
munication with God. If we are too busy
or distracted to hear, His voice will not
stop—but we’ll miss out on the riches
of an intimate relationship available only
to those with receptive hearts and ears.
read
|
hebrews 1: 1- 2
w e d n e s d a y
revelati on 9-12
The God Who Speaks
One Year
t h e b i b l e i n
46
|

D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 0 I n T o u c h
29
e a r l y l i g h t e a r l y l i g h t
w w w . i n t o u c h . o r g

|
47
G
od clearly calls us to listen to Him,
but like the nation of Israel, we
sometimes ignore His voice and miss His
blessings. Learning to listen to the Lord
is far more important than learning to talk
to Him. Generally, we find it much easier to
rattle off a prayer than to sit quietly with
our Bibles open in our laps, waiting to hear
what He has to say.
Since two-way conversation is essential
in developing a relationship, being able
to hear the Lord’s voice is a vital part
of the Christian life. Sometimes we have
the notion that after being saved, we just
automatically know Him. But that is not
true in any kind of relationship. Just as we
grow to know another person through
communication, so we become more inti-
mately acquainted with the Lord through
listening and talking to Him.
Not only do we need ears to hear His
voice; we also must have discernment to
accurately understand what He is saying.
He’s not the only one who wants our
attention. People around us readily offer
us advice, Satan whispers his lies in our
minds, and the world shouts loudly from
almost every electronic device and form
of media. Grounding in the Scriptures
sharpens our discernment and protects
us from deception.
Have you ever considered that neglect of
God’s Word is a rejection of Him? He con-
tinually calls out, “Oh that My people would
listen to Me” (Ps. 81:13). He is ready and
willing to speak to those who will humble
themselves, take the time to listen, and
respond obediently to whatever He says.
Learning to Listen
to God
revelati on 13-17
read
|
psalm 81: 8- 16
t h u r s d a y
T
hroughout life, there will be times
when our sins and failures lead us to
conclude that God is disappointed or angry
with us. How can He still love me after what
I’ve done? If I’m really forgiven, why do I still
feel so guilty? At such tiimes, we need to
fix our eyes on the truth of Scripture and
ask the questions Paul posed in Romans 8.
If God is for us, who is against us
(v. 31)? Our heavenly Father proved His
loyalty to us when He delivered His own
Son over to death in order to save us.
Without Christ’s atoning death on our
behalf, we would face eternal separation
from God.
Who will bring a charge against God’s
elect (v. 33)? No accusation against us can
stand, since at the moment of salvation, the
Lord justified us. This means we were legally
declared righteous, while still in our sinning
condition. No one can reverse this transac-
tion and make us guilty again. To doubt our
blameless standing in Christ is to declare
His atonement insufficient to cover our sin.
Who is the one who condemns (v. 34)?
Although Satan rails against us, Jesus’ death
and resurrection are proof that we are right
with God. Christ took our condemnation
and gave us His righteousness in return.
Now He sits at the Father’s right hand,
interceding for us.
When doubts about the Lord’s love and
faithfulness arise, focus on truth. If we judge
His loyalty to us by our circumstances or
feelings, we will never get an accurate view
of God. True security lies not in our good
performance, but in our relationship with
Christ, and no one can take that from us.
31
God Is for Us
revelati on 18-22
read
|
romans 8: 31- 34
f r i d a y
One Year
t h e b i b l e i n
One Year
t h e b i b l e i n
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