Friday, December 19, 2014

Matthew 2:16 (ESV)
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.
At least some people in Bethlehem had to know who those soldiers were looking for. It was that couple from Nazareth. The ones that just disappeared one night and ran away. I’m sure they tried to tell that to the soldiers, but the soldiers had a mission that was not to be questioned. By Herod’s order, a bunch of innocent little boys were sure to die that day, but he didn’t care, as long as he got the one.
I wonder if any of the shepherds’ sons were among those slaughtered by Herod. I wonder if the angels’ song they had heard that one glorious night echoed through their memory now as they laid these tiny bodies into the ground. Peace on earth. Joy.
Well. The birth of that baby they had worshipped had directly caused the death of their own baby boys. The king they had welcomed that night was gone, but the maniac king Herod was still here, still terrifying them. What sort of peace is this?
Mary finds herself in Egypt, once again far from family, once again completely unable to fathom how this will turn out, or what God has planned. Now they are not just running from gossip. Now they are running for their lives. The people back there know it was because of her baby that so many other children were killed. How can they go back?
I don’t know where God may take your story or what He may ask you to do this coming year. I can almost promise you, though, that if you put your faith in Him enough to let Him use you, you will wind up somewhere unexpected, and sometimes it will be difficult and confusing.
For everyone in the nativity story, the little Prince of Peace brings turmoil, but the faithful also experience God in new and real and wonderful ways.
Mary and Joseph found themselves the subject of gossip, then delivering a baby in a stable, and then running away in the night to protect that baby. None of that was how they wanted to start their marriage or their family. Yet during that same time, they had both had encounters with angels, and they had heard amazing promises of God's plans from prophets, and despite being unknown, poor people, they had been given very valuable gifts by distinguished wise men from far away. It had not been what they wanted, yet God continually showed up and provided what they needed.
I don’t know what waits in the new year that you may be eagerly anticipating or dreading. I don’t know where you may find yourself – far from home, or stretched to the breaking point financially, or asked to do something you can’t imagine – but I do know that if you will allow God to use you in whatever lies ahead, it may not be easy, but you will experience Him in new and real and wonderful ways, and in the end, that will be all that matters. It will be those experiences, and that relationship you have with God, that you will treasure up in your heart more than anything else.
Blessings to you for the new year.
-from Scott Franks on 728b Facebook page

Thursday, December 18, 2014

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: In business, operations that are on the calendar year basis will be taking inventory after a year's activities to measure the financial health and well being of the organization. Accounting rules and guidelines will determine whether there was a loss, gain or break even for the year. It would be advantageous to take a spiritual inventory to determine whether we lost, gained or stay the same spiritually throughout the year. The admonition of the Lord is "...grow in the grace, and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18, KJV) It is a very good time to begin thinking of improvements you wish to make in 2015. My hope is that you are spiritually healthy, wealthy and wise.

from Walker Whittle's Facebook page

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Does Jesus Know Us? by Sam Willcut

A preacher, a missionary and an elderly woman arrived at the pearly gates of Heaven. To their surprise, they did not find the apostle Peter there, but another gatekeeper. Though the heavenly being was different, the question was one that they all had anticipated and were eager to answer: “Why should I allow you to enter Heaven?” The preacher replied, “Well, I was in the ministry more than forty years; I planted churches, evangelized and wrote many books and pamphlets.” The heavenly gatekeeper then asked, “Yes, but do you know Jesus?” Somewhat irritated, the minister answered, “Would I have done all these things if I had not known Him?” The gatekeeper then asked the missionary, “Why should I allow you to enter Heaven?” The missionary sighed, “I worked among a Stone Age tribe for years. Through my ministry, the whole tribe was converted. I taught the people to read, did translation work, and treated their sick.” “Yes, but do you know Jesus?” The missionary replied adamantly, “Could anyone have achieved this without knowing Him?” Finally, the gatekeeper posed the same question to the woman: “Why should I allow you to enter Heaven?” Her achievements were not that impressive. She went to church, read her Bible, prayed and helped in her own little way wherever she could. “Do you know Jesus?” the gatekeeper asked at last. Suddenly, a radiant smile flashed across her face: “Yes, of course, Lord! I recognized you right away!”
At the very least, this fictitious story does make us think. While getting lost in doing many good works is entirely possible, they should spring forth from a true and deep knowledge of God. In John 6:44-45, Jesus said,
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall be all taught of God.” Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”
Hosea said that God “…desired…the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (6:6). Jeremiah writes,
“And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (31:34)
Paul apparently thought it was important when he penned, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…” (Phil. 3:8). Jesus rebuked the lawyers when he stated, “Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered” (Luke 11:52). If a knowledge of the truth will set us free (John 8:32), and Jesus is the truth (John 14:6), then a knowledge of Jesus Christ is imperative!
However, there is another aspect. The final question is so important—“Does Jesus know us?” Matthew records His sobering words,
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. “(7:21-23)
To go through life thinking that we are in a right relationship with Jesus Christ, and then to hear the words, “I never knew you” is a frightening thought. The Hebraistic usage of the word “knew” has the sense of approval and of knowledge favorable to the person in question. More important than the question, “Do we know Jesus?” is the question, “Does Jesus know us?”

No Room for Jesus by Robert Notgrass

This time of the year, we will hear the story of the birth of Jesus repeated often. One part of the story that is most often emphasized is the fact that Mary had to give birth to the Christ child in the stables. “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). No doubt, we are all saddened to think there was NO ROOM for Jesus in the Inn. Had the innkeeper known the Savior of the world was about to be born in his city of Bethlehem, he probably would have made room. Yet, out of fairness to the innkeeper, he was overrun with those of the lineage of David who had come to town to pay taxes (Luke 2:1-5). When one really thinks of it, isn't it even sadder that many today have NO ROOM for Jesus?
Many have NO ROOM FOR JESUS in their HEART. Too often, we have allowed our hearts to be filled with so many things that there is no room for the Lord (Matthew 6:19-20). We can change that overcrowded condition by heeding Peter’s charge. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15). Will you be a diligent keeper of your heart and make room for Jesus (Proverbs 4:23)?
Many have NOR ROOM FOR JESUS in their HOME. Too many homes are filled with hate, greed, lust, pride, selfishness and countless other things while having no room for Jesus (Mark 3:25). But a careful reading of Ephesians 5:21-32 reveals the importance of Christ being the key ingredient to happiness between a husband and wife. Chapter 6:1-4 emphasizes that when the Lord is allowed in the home, children will obey parents and parents will bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Will you be a wise keeper of your home and make room for Jesus (Matthew 7:24-25;Hebrews 3:1-6)?
Many have NO ROOM FOR JESUS in their LIFE. Too many have their lives so filled with earthly plans they have no room for Jesus (James 4:13-17). In contrast, Paul declared, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Will you be a responsible keeper of your life and make room for Jesus (Revelation 3:20; Matthew 16:24-27; John 10:10)?
Let each of us determine to make room for Jesus in our hearts, homes and lives.