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AFTER EASTER

I HAVE SEEN THE LORD!
MARY MAGDALENE

Read: John 20:1–18

   They (the angels) asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him."   John 20:13 NIV
* * *
    Mary Magdalene was one of the devout women who supplied the needs of Jesus and His disciples throughout His ministry. She had been delivered from demon possession as were some of the others who followed Him. She was one of those who remained at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus witnessing his horrible crucifixion. 
    Three days later Mary went to the grave to grieve – but instead she had an encounter with angels at the empty tomb. Jesus was still there, so changed that she did not realize that it was He ─ until He spoke her name,"Mary." Then she turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (20:16)
     Mary Magdalene was forgiven much and she loved much. Her life was dedicated to Jesus' ministry and to being a friend to other believers. God chose her to be the first one to see her risen Lord.
* * *
    Thank You Jesus that You came to set people like Mary free from their sin. Thank you for dying for my sin. Help me to show my love for you as Mary did by serving other believers.
* * *
    Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" John 20:18 NIV

FOLLOW THE LEADER

IS CHRIST DIVIDED?

Read 1 Corinthians Chapters 1 – 3

    Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ." Is Christ divided? 1 Corinthians 1:12-13a NKJV
* * *
     The church at Corinth had several gifted teachers, each with his own style of ministry. The new converts were lining up contentiously behind their favorite leaders, causing division in the church. Paul writes,
    “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” (3:5-6) He urges them to come together in unity saying,Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor." (3:8)
     It is human nature to get our eyes on men instead of God. Many a ministry has been hindered because of this wrong focus. Paul reminds them and us,"Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours… And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. "(3:21, 23)
* * *
     Lord, keep us from being critical of leaders who are doing Your work, but not in the way we would choose. Help us to be gracious and thankful that we have so many resources available to us. Above all, help us to build faithfully on the foundation of Your Word.
* * *
     For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 3:11 NKJV

JEREMIAH'S PROPHESY FULFILLED

RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN
   When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under– Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: Matthew 2:16–17 NIV
* * *
   More than 1400 years before Christ was born, the patriarch Jacob buried his beloved wife, Rachel. We read, "So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel's tomb." (Genesis 35:19–20) The prophet Jeremiah predicted a future day when children would be slaughtered near Rachel's grave. (Jeremiah 31:15) This was fulfilled when Herod killed all of the male babies under two, trying to destroy the Jewish Messiah.
* * *
   We live in a day where it could be said "A voice was heard in America of weeping and mourning for children, because they are no more." The travesty of millions of babies aborted over the past thirty plus years must grieve your heart, Lord. Don't let us become apathetic to the cries of unborn babies, or the grief caused to women in our day.
* * *
   "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." Matthew 2:18 NIV

Dec. 23rd, 2014

THE WISE MEN AND HEROD
WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM

 Read
Matthew 2:1–12 & Micah 5:2

    When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the  law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:  Matthew 2:4–5
* * *
      Long before Jesus was born, the prophets had predicted His coming. The priests and rabbis knew that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem because of a prophesy they related to Herod and the Magi. We know that even the common people were taught this prophesy since later–when Jesus started His ministry–the people said, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" (John 7:41b-42)
     The people must not have realized that He was born in Bethlehem at the time of the census. The Jews of Jesus time really had no excuse for not recognizing their Messiah. Had they truly been looking for Him, they would have known who He was–just as the Wise Men and even Herod did.
* * *
     Lord, I praise You for the reliability of Your Word. Help me to be willing to share the message of Your coming with my children, their friends and all who might be seeking for truth. As the Christmas cards say, "Wise men still seek Him."
* * *
     "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." Matthew 2:2 NIV

REVEALER OF HEARTS

SIMEON'S PROPHESY
    Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined… to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." Luke 2:34–35
* * *
    Holding the newborn baby in his arms, Simeon spoke words from God: Mary's life would be filled with both joy and sorrow. Her baby would be at the center of controversy. Her Son would be the revealer of hearts – even her own. She would have to learn to step back, be silent, and continue to ponder things in her heart.
   Shepherds could praise Him, Pharisees would curse Him and children would adore Him – but Mary could only quietly pray for Him. He was her son, but he was also her Savior. God's plan would proceed as she stood by and watched.
* * *
    Lord, I know You have a plan for each of our children. Mary had some very human sons and daughters in addition to her perfect Son, Jesus. Would they ever see Him as their Messiah?
    No doubt, Mary prayed that her other children would accept Him as their personal Savior. It wasn't until after the resurrection that they truly believed – but in God's perfect time – Mary's prayers were answered.
* * *
    And Joseph and His (Jesus) mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Luke 2:33 NKJV

IMMANUEL

GOD WITH US
IMMANUEL

Read
Isaiah 7:10-14, 9:1-7; Matthew 1:18-2:6

    All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"-which means, "God with us." Matthew 1:22–23 NIV
* * *
    The book of Isaiah was written about 700 years before Christ was born and is filled with prophesies about the coming Messiah. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Joseph, he quoted Isaiah 7:14:
     “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Jesus would be called, "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (
Isaiah 9:6b)
* * *
    Isaiah prophesied that this Holy Child would live "In Galilee of the Gentiles.” saying, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined." (Isaiah 9:1b-2 NKJV)
* * *
    Dear Lord, You truly are my Wonderful Counselor and I am so thankful that the light of the gospel shined on me. Just as Isaiah foretold the coming of Jesus, help me to tell the good news wherever I go, especially to members of my family. Keep me faithful in reading Your Word so that I will have something fresh to share with my family and friends.
* * *
    "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6 NIV

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THE CHRISTMAS STORY

BETHLEHEM
JOSEPH AND MARY

Read Luke 2:1–7; Micah 5:2   
Joseph also went up… to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.   Luke 2:4–5 NKJV
* * *
    Mary was in the last stages of her pregnancy when something very distressing happened. The Caesar of Rome declared that a census be taken, forcing the people to go to the city of their birth to register. Hardship or not, they had to comply with this order.
  Joseph must have been deeply concerned about his wife during the trip to Bethlehem. He probably did not consider at the time that prophesy was being fulfilled. Over 700 years before, the prophet Micah predicted that the promised Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
* * *
    Sometimes life is not convenient or comfortable; sometimes circumstances are overwhelming. Lord, give us peace in those times, knowing that You are a God who cares and watches over us. Help us to remember that all things work together for good to those who love You and are called according to Your purpose.
* * *
    "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting."  Micah 5:2 NKJV

WHO CAN BE AGAINST US?

GOD IS FOR US

Read Romans 8:28–39

   And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.   Romans 8:28 NKJV

* * *
   In the early days of the church, believers faced opposition among their own people, sometimes in their own families. Rome certainly had no great love for the Truth and the Jews saw it as a threat to their long established traditions. Paul is writing from afar, teaching by the written word, giving encouragement that was sorely needed in the lives of these new believers.
   He first reassures them that God knows and sees everything they are going through. Not only that, He has a plan which was in effect even before they were born. He says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”(8:29)
   He tells them that just as they are now justified, they will one day be glorified in His presence. “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (8:31-32)
* * *
   Lord, never let me take for granted that You have a plan for my life, You knew me before I was born and All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalms 139:16 NIV) Nothing can separate me from Your love.
* * *
   For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 8:38-39 NIV

THE SPIRIT WITHIN

OUR ULTIMATE HOPE

Read Romans 8:1-27

     You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. Romans 8:9 NIV
* * *
     Paul has presented the dilemma of our struggle with sin and its solution through the sacrifice of Jesus. We still, however, must live with the presence of sin and in a physical sense we will one day face death, unless Jesus returns in our lifetime.
    So Paul goes on to say, “...if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (8:10) –so what is our ultimate hope?
“...And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (8:11)
    We not only stand as righteous before God because of the death of Jesus, we also have the hope of eternal life because of His resurrection. This life begins today with the Spirit who dwells within us.
    “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children ." (8:15–16)
* * *
     Thank you, Father that I am your child and I do not need to fear death. I thank you also for the abundant life you have promised us through your indwelling Holy Spirit and that no matter what my circumstances are from day to day, I can be secure in your love for me.
* * *
     And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.   Romans 8:27 NIV

THE INWARD STRUGGLE

WHO WILL RESCUE ME?

Read Romans 7:1–8:2

    I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature, for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.   Romans 7:18 NIV
* * *
    All of their lives the Jewish believers had been taught the laws given by God to Moses. Did this new teaching mean that Moses was wrong? “What shall we say, then? Paul exclaims, Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’” (7:7)

    The problem, he explains, is not with the law; the problem is with us ─“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.” (7:14-16)
    The righteousness we could not attain because of our constant struggle with sin – God purchased for us through His Son. “…Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord…!” (7:24-25)
* * *
    Lord, I see myself in this passage, striving to have the perfect attitude and to do the right thing, but so often getting off the path into self pity, resentment and just plain carnal thinking. How thankful I am that You are the perfect one and Your Spirit dwells in me, enabling me to be forgiven and start anew whenever I fall short of Your Word.
* * *
    Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.   Romans 8:1-2 NIV

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