Friday, December 9, 2016

The Reason for Everything

By David Feddes

A number of scientists are eagerly looking for a big toe. This toe is the ultimate goal of their research and deep thinking. Why do they want a toe so badly? Well, the big toe they want isn't the kind we have on our feet. They want a really big T.O.E., a Theory of Everything. They want a theory which does more than explain various patterns of biology, chemistry, and physics. They want an overarching Theory of Everything which explains the origin of the universe, the power that keeps it going, and the point of it all.

So far they have no such theory. Science has found some patterns and equations for how certain things work, but it has no explanation for where these patterns come from or why anything exists in the first place. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking asks, "What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?”

Hawking longs for "a complete theory... of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason--for then we would know the mind of God." Hawking is right to want to know why we and the universe exist, and he's right to suggest that it is somehow connected with the mind of God. But he's wrong if he expects to find the answer in a triumph of human reason without divine revelation. The way to know God's mind is not through coming up with our own theories and then claiming to know God's mind, but rather through listening to what God himself has said.

Has God ever stated his reason for creating the universe and for doing things the way he does? Has he identified any one thing as the reason for everything else? Indeed he has. In the Bible God says that the reason for everything is God's own glory. What is the reason for skies and stars? Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1). What is the reason for thunder and rain, donkeys and storks, grass and trees, bread and wine, rivers and mountains, lions and humans? Psalm 104 describes all these things and then says, "May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works" (104:31). What is the reason God overpowered Pharaoh and rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt? God said, "I will gain glory for myself" (Exodus 14:4). On everything God does is stamped this motto: "For my own sake, for my own sake I do this... I will not yield my glory to another" (Isaiah 48:11). At Jesus' birth the angels chanted, "Glory to God in the highest" (Luke 2:14). When Jesus did his first miracle, says the Bible, "He thus revealed his glory" (John 1:11). Shortly before Jesus death and resurrection, he said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him" (John 13:32). God speaks of his children as those "whom I created for my glory" (Isaiah 43:7). He commands his people, "Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). God says that in the new creation, "The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory" (Isaiah 60:19).

It doesn't take a genius to notice a pattern here. In one thing after another, God says that the reason for it is his glory. Indeed, God’s glory is the reason for everything.

Is God Self-Centered?

But isn't there a problem here? If God bases everything on his own glory, if he says, "For my own sake I do this... I will not yield my glory to another," doesn't God sound like a self-centered showoff? Yes, as a matter of fact, God is a self-centered showoff—and it’s a good thing, too! God is absolutely self-centered—and he's perfectly right to be that way. God loves to show off—and it's a good thing he does.

Let me explain. When God centers on himself and values himself above all else, he is simply giving things their proper value. If you have a pet in your home, you may like it and treasure it a great deal, but don’t you consider yourself more valuable than your pet? If you had to say who belongs at the center of your home, would it be you or your pet? Okay, okay, some pets are so demanding and some pet lovers are so fanatical that almost everything revolves around the pets. But let’s face it, any home where the pet and not the person was central would be mixed up. Now, if it's not wrong for you to think you’re worth more than a pet, it is surely not wrong for God to think he's worth more than any of us. It's just reality.

The fact that one thing is worth less than another doesn't mean it's worthless; it just means that things of greater worth should be valued more. The Lord values each sparrow, but he says that one human is worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31). God also says that he himself is worth infinitely more than all humans combined (Isaiah 40:22).

It's wrong for any of us to be self-centered for the simple reason that we're not the center of the universe. But God is the center, and so it's perfectly right for him to be self-centered. It's wrong for us humans to think we're God, but it's not wrong for God to think he's God. That's who he is! God is right to be self-centered because he is the only self worth centering on.

And that brings us to another reason it's good for God to be self-centered: the effect on others. When we're self-centered and make our own desires the reason for everything we do, we damage other people. But when God is self-centered and pursues his desires, he desires others to center on his glory and relish his knowledge, his holiness, his love, his happiness. The self-centeredness of God is good for others, because he is the fountain of everyone else's good.

You and I can be truly and permanently happy only when God is central in our thoughts and supreme in our affections. In making his own glory central, God is doing what's best for us. When we center on God, we can have the same delight in him that he has in himself. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, and we are most satisfied in him when he is most glorified in us. It's an unchangeable fact that when God delights in the delight his people have in him, he is delighting in himself, for he created them with that capacity for delight and he himself is the object of their delight. It's not God's fault that he's the only infinitely glorious being that exists and the only all-satisfying fountain of happiness for others. He is who he is, and he's not going to resign or change.

Still another reason it's right for God to be self-centered is the fact that God is a Holy Trinity of three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, joined in perfect love and united as one being. When God makes God's own glory the reason for everything, it's not just as a single, solitary individual looking out for himself but as a union of three supremely perfect Persons mutually loving and enjoying and celebrating one another. The Son glorifies the Father, the Father glorifies the Son, and the Spirit glorifies both and is glorified in both. If any Person in the Holy Trinity did not prize God's glory above all things, it would be a failure to value and love the supreme perfection of the other Persons in this perfect union. The Father and the Son could never betray each other in that way, nor could the Spirit.

In short, God the Holy Trinity is right to be self-centered because God is the center, because God is the fountain of good for everything else, and because the Persons of the Trinity are faithful to one another in a bond of mutual love and happiness in one another which cannot be betrayed or broken.

A Delightful Showoff

It's right that God is self-centered, and it's good that God loves to show off. God loves to show forth his glory, not because he's vain, but because he considers it a splendid thing for other beings to enjoy him as he enjoys himself. Unlike sinful humans, God is light, and God is love. When God "shows off," he displays his light and love for others to enjoy and adore. The most loving thing God can do for anyone is to make himself their object of adoration, worship, and delight. God loves to be known and admired and enjoyed, not because he needs our worship in order to be happy but because we need to worship him in order to be happy.

Nothing God does—and certainly nothing we do—can increase or decrease the glory and happiness that God has in himself. "God is infinitely, eternally, unchangeably, and independently glorious and happy" (Jonathan Edwards).

Why did God create the world? Not out of a shortage of glory or happiness but out of a surplus. God wasn't lonely before he had people to relate to, and he wasn't bored before he had a world to deal with. How could Father, Son, and Spirit be lonely in the perfect love and understanding of the Trinity? How could boundless beauty, genius, and enjoyment ever be boring? Each Person in the Trinity is more loving and fascinating than all creation combined. Anything in creation that's loving or interesting is just a droplet from the God the Fountain, a ray from God the Sun. God created the world not because he was overcome with drudgery but because he overflowed with delight.

When God makes his glory the reason for everything, he's not trying to increase the glory that he has in himself or add to his worth. Rather, he is showing and sharing with others the glory he already has and magnifying his worth in their eyes. In a sense the Trinity is like an enormously rich, loving, perfectly happy family in which the fellowship is so fascinating and fun, and the wealth so boundless, that the members want others in the home to share that happiness.

Some things, it seems, God created simply for himself to enjoy, regardless of whether anyone else ever enjoys them. He has galaxies and quasars that even our best telescopes can't detect. He has splendid flowers flourishing in mountain meadows that no human sees. He has exotic ocean creatures darting in depths that no human will ever observe. He has birds twittering sweet songs out of range of any human ear. He has billions of fingerprints and trillions of snowflakes, all different, and he enjoys each unique pattern, though few of those patterns are seen or studied by human eyes. He has rubies and emeralds buried in places where no one but he will ever see them. God takes delight in all his works, including many that aren't perceived by humans.

God delights in many things apart from us, but he had a special delight in mind when he made humanity. He created us not only that he might enjoy us the way he enjoys the stars and flowers, fish and animals, rocks and trees which display his glory unconsciously, but that he might enjoy the worship of thinking, feeling creatures who consciously recognize, enjoy, and adore the glory, goodness, love, and happiness of the Trinity. That's why people are the crown of his creation.

That's also why, with the fall of humanity into sin, the Lord has taken astonishing measures to save many. It wasn't because any of us were worth so much in and of ourselves that Jesus died for sinners, but because God would be glorified in saving people from utter nothingness and in having a society of eternal beings to forever enjoy and exalt the glory of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The emptier we are without him, and the more delighted we are with him, the more God is glorified as the almighty, all-sufficient, all-satisfying Lord.

God Speaking to God

God's glory is his greatest passion. That's clear when we open the Bible and hear God speaking to us, and it's even clearer when we hear God speaking to God! In John 17 we overhear God the Son, Jesus Christ, speaking to God the Father, shortly before the Son’s death and resurrection that will bring eternal life to those God has chosen. Jesus says,

"Father, the time has come. Glorify your son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began... All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them...

I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them...

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me... I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

When we overhear Jesus speaking to his Father, it's clear that God's passion for his glory is the reason not only for creation but also for salvation. Jesus went to the cross so that he and his Father might glorify one another. This glory would come by canceling the sins of his chosen ones through his death and giving them eternal life through his resurrection.

And what is eternal life? Knowing God in Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart. The Spirit, says Jesus, "will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine" (John 16:14-15). Jesus leaves no doubt that his purpose is to give his people the full measure of his own divine joy, to share with them the very glory the Father has given him, and to insure that God's love will be in them and that Christ himself will be in them, as the Holy Spirit satisfies their deepest thirst, the thirst for eternal life.

Come and Drink

Now that we've heard these towering truths from God's Word, let's hear them in another form—from a children's book, The Silver Chair, one of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. A girl named Jill was getting very thirsty when she came upon a stream.

But although the sight of the water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn't rush forward and drink. She stood as still as if she had been turned into stone, with her mouth wide open. And she had a very good reason; just on this side of the stream lay the lion...

She couldn't have moved if she had tried, and she couldn't take her eyes off it. How long this lasted, she couldn't be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first.

"If you're thirsty, you may drink."

For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, "If you are thirsty, come and drink." was the lion speaking... the voice was not like a man's. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.

"Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion.

"I'm dying of thirst," said Jill.

"Then drink," said the Lion.

"May I--could I--would you mind going away while I do?" said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling of the stream was driving her near frantic.

"Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?" said Jill.

"I make no promise," said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

"Do you eat girls?" she said.

"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.

"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.

"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."

"There is no other stream," said the Lion.

It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion—no one who had seen his stern face could do that—and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn't need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.

When C.S. Lewis wrote that, he wasn’t just telling a fun story for kids. He was giving an allegory, a deeper lesson in story form. In the Bible, Jesus is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the Holy Spirit is described as living water. There is no water of life except God’s Spirit, and there is no way to drink of the Spirit outside the presence of Christ the Lion.

Are you like Jill? Is your soul thirsty? Don't think you can satisfy your soul at some other stream than the living water of God's Holy Spirit. "There is no other stream.” And if you wish to drink of that stream, you can't avoid Jesus the Lion. You can't ask him to move for your convenience so you can quench your thirst without having him around. It's easier to move a mountain than to move the divine weight of glory that is the center of gravity for the whole universe. You can't try to bargain with Jesus on your own terms. You must simply throw yourself on his mercy, to do with you as he pleases.

Whatever your misgivings, Jesus still invites you. Jesus says in Scripture, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink" (John 7:37). "Whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" (Revelation 22:17). So drink in God's goodness by faith. Your inner thirst will be quenched, and God will be glorified in you as you are satisfied in him.

This is what the Bible calls "the good news of the glory of the happy God" (1 Timothy 1:11, literal translation), and it is the greatest news imaginable. God's aim in dealing with his people in Christ is not only to solve some problems for us but to show forth the riches of his glory. God starts this already now; he will do it more fully when we enter heaven; and he will keep increasing the flow for all eternity.

No moment will ever arrive when God says, "That's enough. These people have had enough gladness to know my full glory. I've glorified myself enough. Time to quit." No, God's infinite passion for his glory means that no outpouring, no matter how great, will ever be enough. He will keep lavishing on us more and more of his wisdom, holiness, goodness, and love, without limit. Our gladness in his glory, and his glory in our gladness, will forever keep growing and overflowing. In that flood of glory, we will know firsthand the reason for everything.

Standing Strong Through the Storm - GOD’S WORK IN CHANGING LIVES

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

The more you travel, the more you realize that God is at work changing lives all over the globe. Whether people have committed crimes against God (rebellion, blasphemy, hatred etc.) or crimes against society (murder, violence, theft etc.) or crimes against themselves (shame, guilt, despair etc.), He is able to bring about a complete transformation of their lives and fill them with His Holy Spirit.

Standing Strong Through the Storm (SSTS) teaching partner, Jim Cunningham, was sharing in a SSTS seminar with rural pastors in Colombia, South America. After the final session, Rauel (not his real name) approached Jim, almost shyly. With a warm smile and moist eyes, he extended his hand for what Jim thought was a handshake, but instead he gently offered a small piece of paper with some writing.

“For you, Santiago.”

They hugged each other. Between Rauel’s “No English” and Jim’s “No Spanish” there was an unspoken bond of Christian love. They said their “good-byes” pointing heavenward as if to say, “See you again my brother!”

Jim’s interpreter later translated the note. It read:

May the Lord bless your life and enrich your ministry. And may the angel of the Lord always encamp around you and all your family and nation. Take with you my remembrances and those of Colombia to the people of Canada.

“Do you know who Brother Rauel is?” the interpreter asked. Jim shook his head “No.” “He used to be a guerrilla leader against the government forces,” said his interpreter. “He came to faith as a follower of Jesus Christ a while back and this is his first time gathering with our pastors and leadership team. We earnestly prayed and had to have God’s peace before inviting him here.”

Jim concluded, “What an amazing story of God’s grace. God is changing hearts—one at a time. Keep praying for peace in Colombia!”

RESPONSE: Today I will praise God for His ministry in my life—and others—making changes and renewing my heart.

PRAYER: Lord, we continue to pray for peace in countries like Colombia and in the hearts of those who struggle with injustice and inequality. And make me a totally new creation, I pray.

Girlfriends in God - Speak Lord, I’m Listening

Today’s Truth

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10, NIV).

Friend to Friend

“I can’t hear you!” I yelled downstairs to my daughter who was apparently trying to tell me something.

No matter how trivial or how urgent her message was, I could not receive it because I was in the bathroom! In order to hear my daughter’s words, either she had to move towards me or I had to move towards her.

I can’t help but think of how many times in the day God may want to speak to me, but I am just not in the right place to hear. Maybe my heart is filled with worry. Maybe I’m running from one activity to the next, filling my spare moments with texts and emails.

Maybe my posture, my heart attitude, needs to change so I can hear His voice more clearly.

Remember the story of Samuel in the Old Testament? He’s a young boy growing up in the temple under Eli’s priestly leadership. He’s in the right place to hear God’s voice (he was laying down where the ark of God was) but in 1 Samuel 3, we read he lacks experience in hearing God’s voice.

The Lord calls out to young Samuel twice but Samuel doesn’t recognize His voice. He thinks it’s Eli calling. The third time this happens, Eli realizes it’s the Lord and he instructs Samuel to enter into conversation with this voice next time.

Notice that even the elderly priest Eli was a little out of practice in recognizing the voice of God! But God didn’t give up on the conversation after the first failed attempt. He kept calling out. Samuel didn’t automatically know how to talk with God. He had to learn.

The first word the Lord says to Samuel is “See” in verse 11. Isn’t that beautiful? As we learn to hear the voice of God, we see more clearly. We see His priorities. We see His hand moving in our lives. We see His way out of difficult situations.

But what if you’re not a young boy like Samuel living in the temple? Does God still speak to us, ordinary women living in today’s world?

Yes, without a doubt, God speaks through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), through creation (Psalm 65:8), through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), through spiritual leaders and teachers (1 Thessalonians 2:13), through godly counsel (Psalm 37:30-31) and more.

In the same way I needed to move closer to my daughter Noelle to hear her voice, we can move closer to God by reading His Word or seeking godly counsel.

I’m learning to say in my heart throughout the day, “Speak Lord, I’m listening.” It helps to remind me that conversation with God is a two-way street. Prayer is not just a rehearsing of my needs or even my praises, but it’s also a time of listening. May our hearts be ready - and expectant - to hear from God today.

Let’s Pray 

Dear Lord, speak to me today. I am Your servant and I am listening. I want to search for You with all my heart. I ask You to guide me with Your voice. May I have ears to hear and a heart to understand Your Word.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn

What are ways God has spoken to you in the past? Take a few moments to be silent, asking the Lord to speak to you again today.

More from the Girlfriends

Sometimes our screens are so loud and constant, drowning out the voice of God in our lives. Learn more about how screen time is impacting your family in Arlene’s book co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman, Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World. 

Men of the Bible - Pontius Pilate

His name means: "One Armed with a Javelin"

His work: He was the Roman governor over the region of Judea.
His character: Pilate had all the trappings of power and leadership but was unwilling to exercise that influence for good.
His sorrow: He failed to stand for what was right and allowed an innocent man to go to his death.
His triumph: When Tiberius Caesar appointed Pilate governor of Judea, Pilate must have been delighted. Perhaps he thought that this was a step toward even greater authority. But his inability to lead denied him that future.
Key Scriptures: John 18

A Look at the Man

It was the ultimate paradox. Pilate was faced with two sobering options—neither would lead to a happy ending.

If he would listen to his conscience—and his wife's warning—and free Jesus, he would lose support among the religious elite. And releasing Jesus could have changed these men's verbal outcries into a physical revolt. Such an uprising would reflect poorly on his leadership. Tiberius Caesar might replace him because of such insurrection among his subjects.

But giving in to the people's demands meant that Pilate would be forced to deny his own heart. He knew Jesus was innocent. He knew that these men had arrested Jesus because of their seething jealousy over his popularity among the people. And he didn't need his wife to have a bad dream to confirm his apprehensions, but it did make things worse; now he would have to contend with her. This was Pilate's plight, but these are the predicaments of every leader—popularity or integrity, compromise or character.

As the governor of the land, Pilate certainly knew about Jesus' ministry. He may have received warnings from his own associates that Jesus was extremely popular among the people. He suspected that Jesus' message could be threatening to his regime, but he knew that Jesus' words and work were foreboding to the religious establishment. The priests and Pharisees were just jealous. They hated Jesus. But was he dangerous—worthy of capital punishment? Should Pilate sanction his execution just to appease these proud men?

Pilate's approach to this terrible dilemma was something we can understand. Once he had listened to the facts, his response was direct: "Jesus is innocent." Oh, how he hoped that approach would work and the religious leaders would shuffle out of his chambers in resignation.

When that didn't work, Pilate got philosophical. "What is truth?" he pondered aloud. Doesn't truth depend on the situation? Isn't truth sometimes true and sometimes not? Shouldn't group pressure or expediency or convenience have an effect on truth?

When Pilate saw that plain speaking and philosophy were not going to satisfy the people, he tried to dismiss himself from the responsibility of his decision by washing his hands. Then, in his final feeble attempt to assuage his guilt, he placed the blame on others. "This is your fault," he told the priests and Pharisees.

Pontius Pilate had a historic opportunity to do the right thing, but he buckled under the pressure. The heaviness of the situation forced him to acquiesce. As a result, he will forever be remembered as a defective leader, a man with no courage.

Someday Pilate would be replaced as the Roman governor of Judea. No longer would he have to deal with these tricky situations. No longer would he have to make the difficult decisions. And Pilate could continue to ignore his wife. He could even leave her and no longer deal with her opinions. But Pilate would never be able to quiet his conscience. He would never be able to escape the blood of an innocent man and the power of his own conflicted soul. A troubled heart and sleepless nights would be his lifelong companions.

Reflect On: Psalm 25
Praise God: For his mercy.
Offer Thanks: For the blood of Jesus Christ and his offer of pardon in spite of our sin and willful disobedience.
Confess: Any willingness to be swayed by the crowd to do—or think—the wrong thing, instead of doing what is right.
Ask God: To give you the courage to be faithful, to fill you with integrity and character that would be pleasing to him. Ask him to make you a worthy ambassador of his truth and his grace.

Un Dia a la Vez - Cambios repentinos

El Señor dice: «Yo te instruiré, yo te mostraré el camino que debes seguir; yo te daré consejos y velaré por ti. Salmo 32:8

Nadie en este mundo puede estar preparado para un cambio. Por lo general, las pruebas nos sorprenden y nos estremecen.

Sé que algunos atraviesan cambios que nunca esperaron, y en vez de acordarse de Dios y saber que Él tiene el control, maldicen su propia vida y ponen a Dios como el malo.

Quiero que sepas que no todos los cambios vienen de Dios, ni del enemigo, aunque hay quienes piensan que es por mala suerte.

Muchas veces somos nosotros mismos lo que propiciamos esos cambios. Si se trata del trabajo, quizá se debiera a que no hacíamos al cien por cien lo que se nos mandaba. En ocasiones, tenemos actitudes que perjudican nuestra situación laboral, así que caemos en chismes, malas reacciones, incumplimiento y todo eso afecta.

Al nivel de la iglesia, se reflejan esas mismas actitudes. No hay sencillez, sino rebeldía de querer hacer lo que se nos da la gana. Olvidamos que si estamos en un ministerio, nos debemos a ellos en honrar, sujetarnos y simplemente servir.

Reflexionemos, pues, y hagamos una evaluación de cómo somos y en qué esferas necesitamos cambiar.

Verse of the Day - December 09, 2016

John 15:5,8 (NIV) “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Read all of John 15

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The Daily Readings for FRIDAY, December 9, 2016

First Reading:
From the Old Testament

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on your ancestral house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah-- the king of Assyria." On that day the LORD will whistle for the fly that is at the sources of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. And they will all come and settle in the steep ravines, and in the clefts of the rocks, and on all the thornbushes, and on all the pastures. On that day the Lord will shave with a razor hired beyond the River-- with the king of Assyria-- the head and the hair of the feet, and it will take off the beard as well. On that day one will keep alive a young cow and two sheep, and will eat curds because of the abundance of milk that they give; for everyone that is left in the land shall eat curds and honey. On that day every place where there used to be a thousand vines, worth a thousand shekels of silver, will become briers and thorns. With bow and arrows one will go there, for all the land will be briers and thorns; and as for all the hills that used to be hoed with a hoe, you will not go there for fear of briers and thorns; but they will become a place where cattle are let loose and where sheep tread. (Isaiah 7:10-25, NRSV)

Second Reading:
From the Epistles

But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word. Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you, and that we may be rescued from wicked and evil people; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5, NRSV)

The Holy Gospel:
According to St Luke, the 22nd Chapter

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!" Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this. A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. "You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:14-30, NRSV)

Morning Psalms

Psalm 31 In te, Domine, speravi
1   In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.
2   Incline your ear to me; make haste to deliver me.
3   Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold; for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.
4   Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me, for you are my tower of strength.
5   Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O LORD, O God of truth.
6   I hate those who cling to worthless idols, and I put my trust in the LORD.
7   I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy; for you have seen my affliction; you know my distress.
8   You have not shut me up in the power of the enemy; you have set my feet in an open place.
9   Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly.
10   For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed.
11   I have become a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbors, a dismay to those of my acquaintance; when they see me in the street they avoid me.
12   I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am as useless as a broken pot.
13   For I have heard the whispering of the crowd; fear is all around; they put their heads together against me; they plot to take my life.
14   But as for me, I have trusted in you, O LORD. I have said, "You are my God.
15   My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.
16   Make your face to shine upon your servant, and in your loving-kindness save me."
17   LORD, let me not be ashamed for having called upon you; rather, let the wicked be put to shame; let them be silent in the grave.
18   Let the lying lips be silenced which speak against the righteous, haughtily, disdainfully, and with contempt.
19   How great is your goodness, O LORD! which you have laid up for those who fear you; which you have done in the sight of all for those who put their trust in you.
20   You hide them in the covert of your presence from those who slander them; you keep them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.
21   Blessed be the LORD! for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.
22   Yet I said in my alarm, "I have been cut off from the sight of your eyes." Nevertheless, you heard the sound of my entreaty when I cried out to you.
23   Love the LORD, all you who worship him; the LORD protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily.
24   Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD.

Evening Psalms

Psalm 35 Judica, Domine
1   Fight those who fight me, O LORD; attack those who are attacking me.
2   Take up shield and armor and rise up to help me.
3   Draw the sword and bar the way against those who pursue me; say to my soul, "I am your salvation."
4   Let those who seek after my life be shamed and humbled; let those who plot my ruin fall back and be dismayed.
5   Let them be like chaff before the wind, and let the angel of the LORD drive them away.
6   Let their way be dark and slippery, and let the angel of the LORD pursue them.
7   For they have secretly spread a net for me without a cause; without a cause they have dug a pit to take me alive.
8   Let ruin come upon them unawares; let them be caught in the net they hid; let them fall into the pit they dug.
9   Then I will be joyful in the LORD; I will glory in his victory.
10   My very bones will say, "LORD, who is like you? You deliver the poor from those who are too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them."
11   Malicious witnesses rise up against me; they charge me with matters I know nothing about.
12   They pay me evil in exchange for good; my soul is full of despair.
13   But when they were sick I dressed in sack-cloth and humbled myself by fasting.
14   I prayed with my whole heart, as one would for a friend or a brother; I behaved like one who mourns for his mother, bowed down and grieving.
15   But when I stumbled, they were glad and gathered together; they gathered against me; strangers whom I did not know tore me to pieces and would not stop.
16   They put me to the test and mocked me; they gnashed at me with their teeth.
17   O Lord, how long will you look on? rescue me from the roaring beasts, and my life from the young lions.
18   I will give you thanks in the great congregation; I will praise you in the mighty throng.
19   Do not let my treacherous foes rejoice over me, nor let those who hate me without a cause wink at each other.
20   For they do not plan for peace, but invent deceitful schemes against the quiet in the land.
21   They opened their mouths at me and said, "Aha! we saw it with our own eyes."
22   You saw it, O LORD; do not be silent; O Lord, be not far from me.
23   Awake, arise, to my cause! to my defense, my God and my Lord!
24   Give me justice, O LORD my God, according to your righteousness; do not let them triumph over me.
25   Do not let them say in their hearts, "Aha! just what we want!" Do not let them say, "We have swallowed him up."
26   Let all who rejoice at my ruin be ashamed and disgraced; let those who boast against me be clothed with dismay and shame.
27   Let those who favor my cause sing out with joy and be glad; let them say always, "Great is the LORD, who desires the prosperity of his servant."
28   And my tongue shall be talking of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.

The Daily Meditation for FRIDAY, December 9, 2016

From Forward Day By Day
Written by Hugo Olaiz

Luke 22:19 (NRSV) Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

On Sundays, the priest invites the congregation to join her around the altar, and I rush to the back of the chapel to repeat the invitation aloud, in English and Spanish, “Everyone is invited to the table. Everyone!” We are all welcome—the homeless man sitting in the back row, those with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, the shy Latino unmarried couple who came with a four-week-old baby in their arms. When we say everyone, we really mean it.

We join the prayers of the sick and the lonely, and the circle expands. We join the prayers of refugees desperately trying to reach Athens, Sweden, or Toronto, and the circle expands. We join your prayers as well. In fact we join the prayers of every person who prays.

We hold hands, say the Lord’s Prayer, and share the bread and the wine. We are not just taking in the body of Christ—we are becoming the Body of Christ.

Join more than a half million readers worldwide who use Forward Day by Day as a resource for daily prayer and Bible study.

Our Daily Bread - The Gift of Encouragement

Read: Acts 4:32–37; 9:26–27 | Bible in a Year: Daniel 11–12; Jude

Joseph . . . whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:36–37

An old Merle Haggard song, “If We Make It Through December,” tells the story of a man laid off from his factory job with no money to buy Christmas gifts for his little girl. Although December is supposed to be a happy time of year, his life seems dark and cold.

Discouragement is not unique to December, but it can be amplified then. Our expectations may be higher, our sadness deeper. A little encouragement can go a long way.

Joseph, a man from Cyprus, was among the early followers of Jesus. The apostles called him Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” We meet him in Acts 4:36–37 when he sold a piece of property and donated the money to help other believers in need.

Later, we read that the disciples were afraid of Saul (Acts 9:26). “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (v. 27). Saul, later called Paul, had formerly been trying to kill the believers, but Barnabas defended him as a man transformed by Christ.

All around us are people longing to be encouraged. A timely word, a phone call, or a prayer can bolster their faith in Jesus.

The generosity and support of Barnabas demonstrate what it means to be a son or daughter of encouragement. That may be the greatest gift we can give to others this Christmas.

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of encouragement. May we encourage others as they have encouraged us.

Encouragement may be the greatest gift we give this Christmas.

© 2016 Our Daily Bread Ministries

Nuestro Pan Diario - Regalar ánimo

Leer: Hch. 4:32-37; 9:26-27 | La Biblia en un año: Judas

… Bernabé (que traducido es, Hijo de consolación), […] tenía una heredad, la vendió y trajo el precio […] a los pies de los apóstoles (Hechos 4:36-37).

Hay una antigua canción que relata la historia de un hombre que fue despedido de su trabajo y no tenía dinero para comprar un regalo de Navidad para su hijita. Aunque se supone que diciembre es una época feliz del año, su vida parecía oscura y fría.

El desánimo no es algo exclusivo de diciembre, pero puede aumentar en esta época. Las expectativas podrían incrementarse y la tristeza hacerse más profunda. Un poco de ánimo puede ayudar mucho.

José, oriundo de Chipre, fue uno de los primeros seguidores de Jesús. Los apóstoles lo llamaron Bernabé, que significa «hijo de consolación». También lo vemos en Hechos 4:36-37, cuando vendió una propiedad y donó el dinero para ayudar a otros creyentes necesitados. También en 9:26, cuando llevó a Saulo —conocido después como Pablo— ante los apóstoles, quienes le tenían miedo, y lo defendió por ser un hombre al que Cristo había transformado.

Estamos rodeados de personas que necesitan recibir ánimo. Una palabra oportuna, una llamada telefónica o una oración con ellas pueden fortalecer su fe en Jesús.

La generosidad y el apoyo de Bernabé demuestran qué significa ser un hijo de consolación. Tal vez sea el mejor regalo que puedas darle a alguien esta Navidad.

Señor, gracias por el regalo del ánimo y la consolación. Que nos alentemos unos a otros hoy.

El consuelo puede ser el mejor regalo que demos en esta Navidad.

© 2016 Ministerios Nuestro Pan Diario

Unser Täglich Brot - Mutmacher

Lesen: Apostelgeschichte 4,32-37; 9,26-27 | Die Bibel In Einem Jahr: Daniel 11–12; Judas

Josef aber, der von den Aposteln Barnabas genannt wurde—das heißt übersetzt: Sohn des Trostes—der hatte einen Acker und verkaufte ihn und brachte das Geld und legte es den Aposteln zu Füßen. (Apostelgeschichte 4,36-37)

In seinem Song „If We Make It Through December“ erzählt Countrysänger Merle Haggard die Geschichte von einem Mann, der seinen Job verlor und kein Geld hat, um seiner kleinen Tochter ein Weihnachtsgeschenk zu kaufen. Obwohl der Dezember eine glückliche Zeit sein soll, ist sein Leben kalt und finster.

Enttäuschungen gibt es nicht nur im Dezember, aber dann empfindet man sie stärker. Unsere Erwartung ist höher, unsere Trauer tiefer. Da kann eine kleine Ermutigung viel ausmachen.

Josef aus Zypern gehörte zu den frühen Nachfolgern Jesu. Die Apostel nannten ihn Barnabas, was übersetzt „Sohn des Trostes“ heißt. Wir begegnen ihm in Apostelgeschichte 4,36-37, wo er einen Acker verkauft und das Geld für Gläubige spendet, die Not leiden.

Später lesen wir, dass die Apostel sich vor Saulus fürchteten (Apg. 9,26). „Barnabas aber nahm ihn zu sich und führte ihn zu den Aposteln“ (V.27). Saulus, der später Paulus hieß, hatte in der Vergangenheit versucht, die Gläubigen umzubringen, aber Barnabas verteidigte ihn, weil er von Christus verändert worden war.

Überall sehnen sich Menschen nach Ermutigung. Ein Wort zur rechten Zeit, ein Anruf oder ein Gebet kann ihren Glauben an Jesus stärken.

Das Verhalten von Barnabas zeigt, was es heißt, ein Sohn, eine Tochter des Trostes zu sein. Das ist vielleicht das größte Geschenk, das wir anderen zu Weihnachten machen können.

Danke, Herr, für die Gabe der Ermutigung. Lass uns anderen Mut machen, so wie sie uns ermutigen.

Einem anderen Mut machen ist vielleicht das größte Weihnachtsgeschenk, das wir machen können.

© 2016 Unser Täglich Brot

Хлеб наш насущный - Утешение в подарок

 Читать сейчас: Деяния 4:32-37; 9:26-27 | Библия за год: Даниил 11-12; Евреям 13

Иосия, прозванный апостолами Варнавой, что значит «сын утешения»... у которого была своя земля, продал ее, принес деньги и положил к ногам апостолов. — Деяния 4:36-37

Старая песня под названием «Если справимся с декабрем» рассказывает о человеке, которого уволили с работы. У него не было денег, чтобы купить подарок своей маленькой дочери. Хотя декабрь должен был быть самым веселым временем в году, жизнь казалась ему мрачной и холодной.

Разочарование может прийти в любом месяце, но декабрь способен его усилить. Из-за завышенных ожиданий уныние может стать тяжелее обычного.

Иосия одним из первых уверовал в Иисуса Христа. Апостолы назвали его Варнавой, что значит «сын утешения». Мы встречаем его в книге Деяний (Деян. 4:36-37): он продает землю и жертвует деньги на помощь нуждающимся.

Позже мы читаем, как ученики боялись Савла, не веря в его обращение (Деян. 9:26). «Варнава же, взяв его, пришел к апостолам и рассказал им, как на пути он видел Господа» (Деян. 9:27). Савл был известен как гонитель христиан, но Варнава поверил ему и встал на его защиту.

Вокруг нас много людей, нуждающихся в утешении. Вовремя сказанное слово, телефонный звонок, совместная молитва – все это может укрепить их веру в Спасителя. Щедрость и жертвенность Варнавы показывают, что значит быть сыном или дочерью утешения. Возможно, это лучший подарок, который вы можете подарить кому-то на Рождество.

Благодарим Тебя, Господь, за дар утешения. Помоги нам ободрять других и даруй самим получать утешение вовремя.

Утешение может стать нашим лучшим подарком на Рождество.

© 2016 Хлеб Наш Насущный

Notre Pain Quotidien - Le don d’encourager

Lisez : Actes 4.32‑37 ; 9.26,27 | La Bible en un an : Daniel 11 – 12 et Jude

Joseph, surnommé par les apôtres Barnabas, ce qui signifie fils d’exhortation […] vendit un champ qu’il possédait, apporta l’argent, et le déposa aux pieds des apôtres. (Actes 4.36,37)

Une vieille chanson de Merle Haggard, « If We Make It Through December » (Si nous survivons au mois de décembre), raconte l’histoire d’un ouvrier d’usine qui, ayant été mis à pied, n’a pas de quoi acheter de cadeau de Noël à sa fillette. Bien que le mois de décembre soit censé être une période joyeuse de l’année, sa vie semble être sombre et froide.

Bien qu’il ne soit pas unique au mois de décembre, le découragement est susceptible de s’aggraver en cette période. Or, un petit encouragement peut être d’une grande aide.

Joseph comptait parmi les premiers disciples de Jésus. Les apôtres l’appelaient Barnabas, qui signifie « fils d’exhortation ». Nous faisons sa connaissance dans Actes 4.36,37, où il vend un terrain et en donne l’argent afin qu’il serve au soutien financier de croyants démunis.

Plus tard, nous lisons que les disciples redoutaient Saul (AC 9.26), mais que « Barnabas, l’ayant pris avec lui, le conduisit vers les apôtres » (V. 27). Saul, ultérieurement appelé Paul, avait auparavant cherché à tuer les croyants, mais Barnabas a pris sa défense, car Christ l’avait transformé.

Partout, des gens ont soif d’encouragement. Une parole, un appel téléphonique ou une prière à propos peut augmenter leur foi en Jésus.

Il se pourrait que la générosité et le soutien que Barnabas a manifestés soient le plus beau cadeau à offrir ce Noël.

Un encouragement pourrait être le meilleur cadeau à offrir ce Noël.

© 2016 Ministères NPQ