Daily Bible Readings:
Monday, January 3. Read Hebrews 1:1-4. 1) How has God communicated with us? 2) What place does the Son occupy now? 3) What authority and character does he have?
Tuesday, January 4. Read Luke 24:25-27. 1) Why did Jesus call his listeners “foolish”? 2) Where did Jesus turn to give them background about who he was?
Wednesday, January 5. Read Ephesians 6:10-12. 1) One of the benefits of following Christ is the spiritual armor that he gives us. What is in that armor? 2) What protections does it give?
Thursday, January 6. Read Malachi 4:1-2. 1) Describe the “day of the Lord.” 2) What will happen when the Sun of Righteousness arises? 3) How does knowing that affect you?
Friday, January 7. Read John 8:12-13. 1) What claim did Jesus make about himself? 2) What do you think it was about Jesus that distinguished him from all the other people who claimed some sort of power? 3) How has your life changed by following Jesus?
Saturday, January 8. Read Luke 1:68-79. This is Sunday’s sermon text.
Prayer for the Week:
God, my Father.
I abandon myself into Your hands.
Do with me whatever You will, and I will give thanks.
Make me ready for whatever comes to my life.
I pray that you will give me the strength to obey your will, whatever it may be. Help me to not shrink from life’s challenges.
Into Your hands I commend my spirit; I
without reserve and with boundless confidence,
for You are my Father.
Hymn of the Week:
O for a faith that will not shrink
by William Bathurst, 1831
O for a faith that will not shrink,
Though pressed by many a foe,
That will not tremble on the brink
Of any earthly woe,
That will not murmur nor complain
Beneath the chast’ning rod,
But in the hour of grief or pain
Will lean upon its God.
A faith that shines more bright and clear
When tempests rage without,
That, when in danger, knows no fear,
In darkness feels no doubt,
That bears unmoved the world’s dread frown,
Nor heeds its scornful smile,
That seas of trouble cannot drown,
Nor Satan’s arts beguile,
A faith that keeps the narrow way
Till life’s last hour is fled
And with a pure and heav’nly ray
Lights up a dying bed.
Lord, give us such a faith as this,
And then, whate’er may come,
We’ll taste e’en here the hallowed bliss
Of an eternal home.
Devotional Article of the Week:
Can anything good come out of pain, stress, and hurt?
by Rubel Shelly
Chances are good that you know the term “post-traumatic stress disorder” or simply “PTSD.” It refers to the psychological, social, and biological distress that can debilitate people who have experienced life-threatening events.
Not only military combat but also natural disasters, terrorist incidents, or violent personal assaults such as being shot or raped can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder. There may be flashbacks and nightmares. Some have difficulty sleeping. Others are unable to function in social or family life. PTSD is real.
Contrary to popular opinion, though, most people who survive trauma do not develop chronic mental health problems, lose the ability to function, or find it impossible to negotiate family life. Research is finally being done into the two-thirds to three-fourths of people who don’t develop PTSD from their suffering.
According to a recent story in the Washington Post, mental health experts are becoming increasingly interested in “post-traumatic growth.” Some people emerge from severe life crises feeling enhanced rather than diminished. They speak of spiritual development, stronger personal relationships, greater personal strength, deeper appreciation of life, and clarity about priorities.
“We’re talking about a positive change that comes about as a result of the struggle with something very difficult,” Dr. Lawrence Calhoun of the University of North Carolina said. “It’s not just some automatic outcome of a bad thing.” To be sure, some people bring a fuller sense of security in life to a trauma. They have a better support system. They had already learned to rely more on God than self.
For two years now, I have watched Capt. John Paul Norman make his way back from a Cobra helicopter crash. Trapped in its flaming wreckage, he incurred third-degree burns over 35% of his body. Told he would never run again, he competed in five triathlons last summer. With two fingers amputated from his left hand, he is back in uniform now and serving his country. While he neither asked for his pain nor would he wish anything comparable on anyone else, it has taught him the meaning of life — and made him an inspiration to all of us who know him.
God created body, mind, and spirit to be marvelously resilient. Combat or crash, divorce or bankruptcy, cancer or loved one’s death — each has the capacity to crush or dignify, disorient forever or reorient to the people and things that matter most. Since God gave us the capacity to overcome, I believe we are more likely to do so by consciously seeking him than by fleeing him in our confusion.
Tragedy gives no quarter. God’s grace withholds nothing a sufferer needs.
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. (Hebrews 4:15 RSV).