Daily Archives: December 23, 2017

December 23 The Revelation of Man’s Destiny

“He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying, ‘What is man, that Thou rememberest him? Or the son of man, that Thou art concerned about him? Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and hast appointed him over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.’ For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him” (Heb. 2:5–8).

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Man’s original intended destiny was to be king of the earth.

When we look at the vast, seemingly endless universe and then think about the little dot we call Earth in the middle of it all, we cannot help but wonder, “What is man? What right do we have to be on God’s mind so much?”

David had an answer: “Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and … appointed him over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet” (Heb. 2:6–8). The writer of Hebrews was quoting one of the Psalms (8:4–6) to show that God made man to be king.

David undoubtedly penned his psalm based on what God said in the beginning: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26). God’s original design for man in his innocence was to be king over an undefiled earth.

When God made Adam, who was pure and innocent, He gave him honor and glory. God crowned man king of the earth: “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet” (Heb. 2:8). One day we again will be given the right to rule the earth, and all God’s creation will be put under our feet.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Read Psalm 8, and offer it as your own praise to God.

For Further Study: Read Daniel 7:18, 27, and note the extent of the saints’ ultimate rule.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 370). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Why Did Jesus Come? The Reason for Christmas

What is Christmas all about? Obviously it has to do with the arrival of Jesus Christ on planet earth. But why did he actually come? Just why was he born? What led him to leave the comforts of heaven to appear in the flesh on this dark and dreary earth?

If you are a church pastor, minister, priest or leader, one of your most important jobs is to teach your flocks about who Jesus is and why he came. So it is especially appropriate at the Christmas season to ask again why it is the Incarnation took place. Why did Jesus visit this planet, and what did he seek to do while here?

We know of course there are plenty of wrong and reckless answers to these questions. Most non-Christians and many liberal believers will offer all sorts of patently false reasons, such as:

-He came to be an example for us
-He came to bring world peace
-He came to be a moral teacher
-He came to show us how to be nice to each other
-He came to spread peace and joy
-He came to tell us how to be good
-He came to promote social justice
-He came so we could all get along
-He came so we could find inner peace and personal fulfilment
-He came so that we might be happy
-He came so that we could get rich

All these answers are certainly NOT what the Bible says concerning the reason for Christ’s coming. Sure, some of these things may be secondary results or fruit of the real reasons he came. But no one reading the New Testament could come away with those rather pathetic reasons.

Why did Jesus come?

Scripture makes it quite clear as to why he came, and the whole of Scripture speaks to this in one way or another. But one way to get a handle on this is to list those passages that tell us exactly why he came. We can just let Jesus and the Bible speak on this.

Here then are some very direct and unequivocal verses on this matter. They are either the very words of Jesus, or the words of others about Jesus.

He came to offer truth and light
John 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 18:37 ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me’.

He came to deal with our sins
Matt 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
1 Tim. 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
1 John 3:5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins.

He came to defeat the devil
1 John 3:8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

He came to preach the good news
Luke 4:43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

This last heading pretty much summarises the other three. The gospel is the good news, and the good news involves all the truth that God has revealed to us, including the unpleasant truth that we must hear the bad news before we can get the good news. And the bad news – as shown in some of the passages above – is that we are all sinners.

We are all alienated from God, under his wrath, and heading to a lost eternity. So the primary reason Jesus came is because we are sinners, and that condition means we are in a very bad place indeed. Indeed, we are fully subject to the devil and his wiles, so that is another part of the coming of Christ – to defeat Satan and his works.

Thus when Jesus speaks about spreading light and truth, it is not some vague, undefined feel-good light and truth, but a very specific variety. The darkness of sin, death and the devil is overcome by the light and truth of Christ and what he did on the cross. And that involves other specifics as well: we must appropriate what Christ has done.

Faith and repentance is the biblical response to the work and message of Christ. It does us no good just to hear about what Christ did for us, but then to think that is all there is. No, we must respond to what Christ said and did. Otherwise it is just a nice story.

I recall one Christmas when we were away from home, so we went to a local church. It was a somewhat liberal and non-evangelical church. The minister actually shared in a half-way decent fashion some of the gospel truths concerning the Christmas message.

But then that was it. Instead of tying it all together and telling the congregation, “OK, in light of all this, how will you respond?,” he just sent everyone on their merry or not so merry way. He seemed to see no connection between the Scriptural points he had just shared, and the need for the people there – including us visiting strangers – to latch on to these truths and make them ours.

As I said above, of all people, Christian leaders must get Christmas right. They must have a clear grasp of just what the Bible has to say about the coming of Christ. If we get this wrong we will get everything else about Christianity wrong as well.

Corrie Ten Boom offers us a brief but powerful summary of what this is all about: “Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”

Merry Christmas.

Source: Why Did Jesus Come? The Reason for Christmas

DECEMBER 23 GOD HIMSELF AWAITS OUR RESPONSE TO HIS PRESENCE

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

MATTHEW 5:8

A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it. God Himself is here waiting for our response to His Presence. This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to reckon upon its reality.

As we begin to focus upon God the things of the spirit will take shape before our inner eyes. Obedience to the word of Christ will bring an inward revelation of the Godhead (John 14:21–23).

This is not by any trick of the imagination. May we not safely conclude that, as the realities of Mount Sinai were apprehended by the senses, so the realities of Mount Zion are to be grasped by the soul? The soul has eyes with which to see and ears with which to hear!

Such an inward revelation of the Godhead will give acute perception enabling us to see God even as is promised to the pure in heart. A new God-consciousness will seize upon us and we shall begin to taste and hear and inwardly feel the God who is our life and our all.

There will be seen the constant shining of the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. More and more, as our faculties grow sharper and more sure, God will become to us the great All, and His Presence the glory and wonder of our lives! This is what will make heaven more real to us than any earthly thing has ever been.[1]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

The Lessons of Christmas: Incarnation, Not Enlightenment

Waiting. I have vivid childhood memories of Christmas Eves spent looking under the Christmas tree, curiously trying to figure out what was inside the carefully wrapped boxes. Was it the toy truck I couldn’t stop talking about? Was it the action figure I spotted at the department store that I just knew I “had” to have? Were my parents really listening to me when I passionately expressed my longings?

God’s Old Covenant people eagerly waited for a promised gift. Was God really listening to his people when they passionately expressed their longing for deliverance and redemption? During Christmas we celebrate the end of Israel’s waiting, and the arrival of Jesus Christ, the One whose appearing was so monumental that Western civilization has literally split its division of history around the perceived date of his birth.

Unfortunately, our commercializing culture has obscured the truest meaning of this holiday. Even Christians can be affected. Christmas is a season with deep theological implications. Beyond the joy of celebrating mere family get-togethers, the customary exchange of gifts, the delicious food, or even the vague sense of universal peace with all people based on little more than our common humanity–Christmas pushes further.

Christmas is radical. Christmas reminds us that our God gets his hands dirty. The infinite,personal God of the Bible isn’t a force. He punishes the wicked, but he also reconciles the lost. The invisible, immortal, intangible Word of God took on human flesh. By this in-fleshing, this incarnation, God the Son took on a new mode of existence marked by weakness, vulnerability, and mortality.”[1] Jesus did this, in the words of the Nicene Creed (325 AD), “For us and for our salvation.” The birth of Jesus is by far the greatest announcement humanity has ever received.

What Christmas Teaches us about Reality

Oneism, with its denial of the Creator-creature distinction, cannot be squared with the truth of Christmas. It leaves us forever waiting for a redemption that never finally arrives. Behind the holiday spectacles lie powerful Twoist truths. Embracing these truths moves us away from the cosmic confusion of Oneism, and plants us firmly on the unshakable ground of gospel truth. This is because the drama of Christmas addresses the root of our greatest problem, answers our greatest need, and presents the greatest news imaginable.

Lesson 1: Our Problem is Our Love of Sinful Affections, Not a Lack of Self-Awareness

Oneism appears in many forms, but they all insist that there is no true distinction between Creator and creature. Enlightenment is not given to us as a gift by from someone or something outside of ourselves. It comes from an awakening to our truest self, an awareness of the inner spark of the divine that runs through all people. Ignorance of self, not estrangement from God, is the great problem to be overcome, according to Oneism.

In sharp contrast, Twoism teaches us that our problem–the problem for which it was necessary for God himself to get involved–is our estrangement from the Creator due to our sin. The very essence of sin reveals the nature of reality. Theologian Millard J. Erickson summarizes biblical imagery for sin as including “missing the mark, irreligion, transgression, iniquity or lack of integrity, rebellion, treachery, perversion, and abomination.”[2] He likewise defines the essence of sin in terms of sensuality, selfishness, and the displacement of God.[3]

The root of human suffering is not ignorance of our inner divinity. When humanity embraced autonomy, the human and divine relationship was broken. War, injustice, racism, sexism, slavery, manipulation, theft, and sex trafficking are all expressions of the sinful, anti-God impulse. Having turned against our Creator, and therefore against one other–those made in the image of the Creator.  We are indeed estranged from ourselves, but not because we just haven’t realized that we are divine. We are estranged because we refuse to acknowledge our creaturehood (Rom. 1:21).

We cannot be our own Christmas heroes. The woes of the world are our own doing. The solution must come from somewhere else. and this brings us to our second Christmas lesson.

Lesson 2: Don’t Look Within, Look to Him

Christmas reveals our greatest need. As D. A. Carson said, if we had needed an economist, entertainer, politician, or doctor, God would have sent one of those to deliver us. Instead, God “perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior.”[4]
We don’t need a shaman, a guru, or a yogi. We only do ourselves harm when we seek solutions to the world’s problem from the well of our own resources. We need a prophet to speak truth, a priest to take up our cause with God, and a king to defeat our enemies.

During Christmas we do not lift our gaze to the pinnacle of human spirituality with the hope of finally reaching enlightenment. Christmas is not about good advice. It is good news.

Christmas marks the launching of God’s kingdom and of God’s redemptive deathblow against the powers of sin, sickness, suffering, and Satan. During this time of year, we–like the shepherds of Luke’s Gospel–reflect on the glorious announcement of the arrival of Jesus Christ as king and redeemer. God has come in person. This gospel was the hope of God’s people surrounded by pagan Rome two thousand years ago, and remains the only hope of his people in the re-paganized west today.

So, though we continue to wait, we now wait in hope for the glorious return of the king.

[1] J. van Genderen and W. H. Velema,
Concise Reformed Dogmatics (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), 474.
[2] Millard J. Erickson,
Christian Theology, Third Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 423.
[3] Erickson,
Christian Theology, 423.
[4] D.A. Carson,
A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1992), 109.

The post The Lessons of Christmas: Incarnation, Not Enlightenment appeared first on TruthXchange.

9 Things You Should Know About Christmas Traditions

Christmas is the most widely observed cultural holiday in the world and one with a variety of long-practiced customs. Here are nine things you should know about Christmas traditions.

1. Christmas trees – The tradition of bringing an evergreen tree into the house to be decorated is traced to Germany in the 1500s. The earliest Christmas trees were referred to as “paradises,” after the “paradise trees” used as part of plays held on the feast of Adam and Eve. As Edwin and Jennifer Woodruff Tait explain, these trees were often hung with round pastry wafers symbolizing the Eucharist, which developed into the cookie ornaments decorating German Christmas trees today.

2. Christmas lights — Legend has it that the German Reformer Martin Luther was not only the first person to bring a Christmas tree into the house (not true), he was also the first to decorate it with lights (also probably not true). The story is that when Luther was walking home on a winter night he was overcome by the beauty of a fir tree and the stars shining around it. Unable to communicate the majestic scene to his family, he is said to have brought a tree into his home and decorated it with candle tapers to mimic the stars. This is claimed to be the basis for adding lights to modern Christmas trees. (While it’s an intriguing tale, there is no historical evidence it actually happened.)

3. Candy canes — Folklore says that candy canes for Christmas originated in Germany in 1670. A choirmaster of a cathedral in Cologne gave out candy during worship service to keep the kids quiet. He is said to have asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick to represent the shepherds who visited baby Jesus. The oft-told story that a Christian candymaker in Indiana made the candy cane to incorporate several symbols from the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ is an urban legend.

4. Christmas cards — The commercial Christmas card originated in London in 1843 when Sir Henry Cole, too busy to write letters, asked an artist friend to design a card with an image and brief greeting that he could mail instead. The artist, John Callcott Horsley, printed 1,000 cards and sold them at Felix Summerly’s Treasure House in London for a shilling each. Americans imported Christmas cards from England until 1875, when a German immigrant named Louis Prang, “the father of the American Christmas card,” created the first line of commercial Christmas cards in the States.

5. Christmas stockings — In the famous poem A Visit from St. Nicholas (1823)—the one that begins “Twas the night before Christmas”—stockings are mentioned while a Christmas tree is not. This is fitting since, throughout the 1800s, stockings were often more symbolic of the holiday than were Christmas trees. An article in The New York Times in December 1883 noted, “The stocking was for so many years so closely associated with Christmas that Christmas without stockings seemed inappropriately and insufficiently celebrated.” In contrast, the article says, “The German Christmas tree—a rootless and lifeless corpse—was never worthy of the day.” While no one knows how the tradition of hanging stockings truly arose, a popular legend is that Santa Claus heard about an impoverished family too proud to take charity. The father, recently widowed, was unable to provide a dowry for his three daughters, so Santa tossed three gold coins down the chimney that landed in the girls’ stockings hanging on the fireplace to dry. (Another version of the story says Santa gave three gold balls, which is where adding oranges or tangerines supposedly comes from.)

6. Eggnog — Eggnog is a drink that contains milk, cream, sugar, whipped eggs, some sort of an alcohol (brandy, cognac, rum, sherry, whiskey), and sometimes spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. Historians of food believe that it originated from the early medieval Britain “posset,” a hot, milky, ale-like drink. Because of the readily available supply of milk and eggs in American colonies, eggnog became a popular holiday drink.

7. Christmas carols — Since the 14th century, carols have been considered a form of popular religious song. While Christmas carols had begun to become popular after the Reformation, they became a particularly common genre in the 19th century with the publication of music books dedicated to Christmas songs. For example, in 1833 an English lawyer named William Sandys published Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, which contained the first appearance in print of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” “The First Noel,” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Also during the Victorian era in England, the tradition of visiting people’s houses and singing—a process known as wassailing—was adopted for Christmas and became synonymous with “caroling.”

8. Advent calendars — In Middle Ages the Advent season became directly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas. Today, Advent lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas, though most Advent calendars start on December 1 and mark the 24 days before Christmas. The tradition of Advent calendars is believed to have started in the mid-19th century, when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas. The first printed Advent calendar was produced in the early 1900s by a German named Gerald Lang. When Lang was a child his mother sewed 24 cookies onto the lid of a box and allowed him to eat one of them every day during the Advent period. Lang used this as the model for his own Advent calendar in 1908.

9. Christmas presents – In this short video, Ryan Reeves explains the history of gift-giving on Christmas.

Source: 9 Things You Should Know About Christmas Traditions

5 Popular Misconceptions About the Christmas Story

“Another staple of modern nativity plays is the scene at the inn. Joseph and his wife, Mary—who is on the verge of giving birth—are cruelly turned away by the innkeeper who shows them no compassion. Here is another popular misconception. The Bible never mentions an innkeeper. In fact, it’s possible there was never even an inn at all.”

We experience the story of Jesus’s birth in a variety of ways throughout the Christmas season. The story is presented through nativity scenes, TV shows, story books, paintings, and Christmas pageants.

In fact, we encounter the Christmas story so often we’re convinced we know all the details of what happened that night. But many of the things we think we “know” about the Christmas story turn out to be incorrect.

Here are five common misconceptions.

1. There Was a Star the Night Jesus Was Born

It’s difficult to find a nativity scene (or Christmas play) without a star over the manger. Indeed, this might be the quintessential symbol of the birth of Jesus.

The problem is there’s no indication the star hovered over the manger on the night Jesus was born. On the contrary, when the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds watching their flocks by night (Luke 2:8–11), they weren’t told to look for a star. They were told to look for something else: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).

The star was given not to the shepherds but to the Magi (Matt. 2:2), who appear to be visiting Jesus at a later time period. How much later is unclear, but the fact that Herod commands all the babies in the region younger than 2 years old to be killed suggests Jesus may have been in Bethlehem for some time.

2. There Were Three Wise Men

Speaking of the wise men, in both art and in song (“We Three Kings”) we get the undeniable impression there were three of them (also called “Magi”). The problem, however, is that this number is found nowhere in the biblical accounts.

Matthew simply tells us, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem” (Matt. 2:1).

The idea of three wise men likely came from the fact that Matthew mentions three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2:11).

3. There Was No Room for Them in the Inn

Another staple of modern nativity plays is the scene at the inn. Joseph and his wife, Mary—who is on the verge of giving birth—are cruelly turned away by the innkeeper who shows them no compassion.

Here is another popular misconception. The Bible never mentions an innkeeper. In fact, it’s possible there was never even an “inn” at all.

Read More

The post 5 Popular Misconceptions About the Christmas Story appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Questions and Answers about Christmas

GotQuestions.org

Should Christians celebrate Christmas?

What is the true meaning of Christmas?

How should Christians respond to the War on Christmas?

Do some Christmas traditions have pagan origins?

Should we have a Christmas tree?

Does giving gifts take away from the true meaning of Christmas?

Why is the virgin birth so important?

Was Jesus born on December 25th?

Is Christmas related to Saturnalia?

Was Jesus actually born in September?

What does the Bible say about the three wise men?

What should parents tell their children about Santa Claus?

What is an advent calendar? How does an advent calendar relate to Christmas?

Should a Christian celebrate Hanukkah (Christmaskah)?

What is Epiphany / Three Kings’s Day and should Christians celebrate it?

What is Christmastide?

What was the star of Bethlehem?

Does Luke’s claim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem at the time of Quirinius’ census match the historical record?

Why did the Magi bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus?

Is it wrong to say “Xmas” instead of “Christmas”?

What year was Jesus Christ born? When was Jesus born?

What is the origin of Christmas?

What is Kwanzaa? Should a Christian celebrate Kwanzaa?

What is a Christmas nativity?

Why was Jesus born in a manger?

What does it mean that baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes?

What is the meaning of Noel?

Where was Jesus born?

What is Advent?

What is the Annunciation?

What are holy days?

What are Chreasters?

Why do we celebrate Christmas?

Do the narratives of Jesus’ birth contradict each other?

Who/what is Krampus and what does it have to do with Christmas?

What is Yule, and what does it have to do with Christmas?

Top Weekly Stories from ChristianNews.net for 12/23/2017

‘God’s Word Is True’: Geologist Says Unusual Discovery in Antarctica Confirms Biblical Flood Account   Dec 18, 2017 10:40 am

Photo Credit: Twitter A Christian geologist with a leading creation science organization says the recent discovery of fossilized tree stumps in Antarctica confirms the Bible’s account of the Great Flood in Genesis. Writing on the Institute for Creation Research’s (ICR) website, Dr. Tim Clarey describes the recent discovery of of the well-preserved…

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Roman Catholic Priest Receives Standing Ovation After Announcing His Identification as Homosexual   Dec 22, 2017 03:22 pm

Photo Credit: St. Bernadette Parish MILWAUKEE, Wisc. — A Roman Catholic priest in Wisconsin received a standing ovation this past Sunday after announcing during the service that he identifies as a homosexual. “I am Greg. I am a Roman Catholic priest. And, yes, I am gay!” declared Gregory Greiten of St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Milwaukee, causing those…

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Evangelist Arrested, Jailed While Preaching Christ Outside ‘A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour’ in Texas   Dec 21, 2017 02:58 pm

EL PASO, Texas — An evangelist was arrested and jailed on Wednesday after those unhappy with his message called the police as he was preaching outside of a “holiday” event in Texas called “A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour.” Those watching his preaching being shut down broke out into cheers. “A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour is a must-see holiday…

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Professing Christian Mother Sues Over ‘Religious Indoctrination’ in Louisiana Public School District   Dec 20, 2017 11:58 am

WEBSTER PARISH, La. — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit against a school district in Louisiana on behalf of a professing Christian mother who is unhappy that teachers, principals and others in the district have promoted Christianity during school hours and at school events. “Since enrolling two of her daughters in the Webster Parish School…

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26-Year-Old Tennessee Woman Gives Birth to Baby Frozen as IVF Embryo for 24 Years   Dec 22, 2017 12:47 pm

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A 26-year-old Tennessee woman has given birth to a baby that had been frozen as an IVF embryo for 24 years. Tina Gibson and her husband Benjamin wanted to have children, but as Benjamin has cystic fibrosis, they knew the chances of conceiving on their own were low. Therefore, they assumed that one day they would adopt. The Gibsons began…

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Pennsylvania ‘Pro-Life’ Bill Would Have Allowed Dismemberment of Unborn if Baby Killed First   Dec 18, 2017 07:28 pm

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed on Monday a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks, but also would have allowed dismemberment of the unborn up to that point as long as the baby was first killed by another method, such as being “injected by saline to cause its death before its arms and legs are ripped off.” Wolf…

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Federal Judge Grants Injunction Against Trump Admin’s Expansion of Religious Exemption to Obamacare   Dec 19, 2017 12:42 pm

Photo Credit: Bryan Calabro PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — A federal judge has granted an injunction against the Trump administration’s recent expansion of the religious exemption to the Obamacare contraceptive mandate, also known as the “abortion pill mandate,” opining that it could increase state spending for contraceptive programs. “he court finds that it is likely…

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Judge Orders Trump Admin to Allow Two More Illegal Immigrant Teens to Obtain an Abortion   Dec 19, 2017 07:29 pm

Photo Credit: Markus Knigge WASHINGTON — A federal judge in the nation’s capital has ordered the Trump administration to allow two more illegal immigrant teenagers to obtain an abortion, but has briefly stayed her ruling to allow the government a day to appeal. ” required to transport J.R. and J.P.—or allow J.R. and J.P. to be transported—promptly and…

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Judge Rules Partly in Favor, Partly Against Chief Fired Over Book Calling Homosexuality ‘Perversion’   Dec 21, 2017 08:00 pm

ATLANTA — A federal judge has ruled that the policies that led to a Georgia fire chief’s firing are unconstitutional, but also found that the City of Atlanta was justified in regard to its decision to terminate his employment because of the public controversy his initial suspension caused. Judge Leigh Martin May, appointed to the bench by then-President Barack…

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Commissioners Vote to Appeal Ruling Blocking Requirement of ‘Theistic Content’ for Invocations   Dec 16, 2017 03:48 pm

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — The Brevard County Board of Commissioners has unanimously voted to appeal a ruling by a federal judge that blocks commissioners from requiring that the prayers presented at the beginning of public board meetings contain “theistic content.” According to Florida Today, Commission Chair Rita Pritchett remarked that the ruling “takes away the…

DECEMBER 23 CHRISTMAS IS REAL

Great is the mystery…God was manifest in the flesh.

1 Timothy 3:16

The birth of Christ was a divine declaration, an eternal statement to a race of fallen men and women.

The advent of Christ clearly established:

First, that God is real. The heavens were opened, and another world than this came into view.

Second, that human life is essentially spiritual. With the emergence into human flesh of the Eternal Word of the Father, the fact of man’s divine origin is confirmed.

Third, that God indeed had spoken by the prophets. The coming of the Messiah Savior into the world confirmed the veracity of the Old Testament Scripture.

Fourth, that man is lost but not abandoned. Had men not been lost, no Savior would have been required. Had they been abandoned, no Savior would have come.

Finally, that this world is not the end. We are made for two worlds and as surely as we now inhabit the one, we shall also inhabit the other!

Heavenly Father, the historical fact of Your divine visitation gives the world reason for hope and joy. I pray that the significance of Your birth will impact the lives of many people who are searching for the meaning of life.[1]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

December 23 God’s Kingdom Is Not Superficially Visible

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field.—Matt. 13:44a

The treasure of salvation is not evident to unregenerate people, which is why they don’t naturally seek it. They don’t understand why believers prize God’s saving kingdom so much and why they willingly give up so much—their self-sufficiency, sinful pleasures, and expensive worldly goods and social status—to gain what appears to be so insignificant and barely visible. Kingdom living is too narrow and unattractive to the unsaved, and that’s why so few find this life or desire to walk it (Matt. 7:14)—in reality, most of the lost cannot even see God’s truth and spiritual riches (1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4).

When Christ answered the Pharisees’ question about the kingdom, He said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ ” (Luke 17:20–21). The kingdom of God will not be fully seen until our Lord returns and establishes His millennial rule over the world. At that time He “is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels,” and people will “see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:27, 28b). However, right now that kingdom “is not of this realm” (John 18:36).

People can have passing respect for Christ and the gospel but can be completely oblivious to the invaluable blessing that could be theirs by belonging to His kingdom (cf. John 1:9–11). The pearl or treasure may be in sight, but worldly eyes will not see its worth.

ASK YOURSELF

Be in specific prayer today for that number of unbelievers who populate your extended family, your work environment, or your usual circle of contact. Will you recommit to remaining sensitive to opportunities in which God can use you to represent His treasure?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 366). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

December 23 No Room for Jesus

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:7

I’m convinced that most people miss Christmas. They observe the season because culture says it’s the thing to do, but the masses are utterly oblivious to the reality of what they are celebrating. So much fantasy and myth have been imposed on the holiday that people are numb to the real miracle of Christ’s birth. The legitimate emotion of the holiday has given way to a maudlin and insincere self–indulgence. A newspaper I saw recently had a two-page spread featuring some man-on-the–street interviews where people offered their opinions of the real meaning of Christmas…. Some were sentimental, saying Christmas is a family time, a time for children, and so on. Others were humanistic, seeing Christmas as a time to celebrate love for one’s fellow man, the spirit of giving, and that sort of thing. Others were crassly hedonistic, viewing Christmas as just another excuse to party. Not one person made mention of the incomprehensible miracle of God’s birth as a human baby.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 384). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

December 23, 2017: Morning Verse Of The Day

5  The mountains quake before him;
the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
the world and all who dwell in it.

6  Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Na 1:5–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.


5 An earthquake forms a third, and common, biblical manifestation of the Lord’s power, causing the hills to “melt away” (mûg). Such melting may be brought on by intense heat (cf. Ps 97:3–5; Mic 1:3–4), a phenomenon associated with the earthquake at Sinai to which vv. 2–3 allude. However, the verb “melt away” may also be applied to the effect of flooding (cf. comment on 2:6).[1]


The earth moved for them (vv. 5–6)

Genesis 13 describes the area around the Dead Sea as being very beautiful and fruitful, so much so that when Abraham and Lot came to separate, ‘Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, towards Zoar’ (Gen. 13:10). But the outward beauty could not mask the inward corruption and decadence of the inhabitants of that region and the anger of God was going to be unleashed against them. Abraham did all he could to act as mediator for them, pleading with God for mercy, as recorded in Genesis 18:16–33.

Yet ten people could not be found who loved or followed the Lord. Lot, however, was given the chance to escape with his family before judgement fell. He hesitated and had to be pulled by the angels sent to rescue him and after staggering into a place of refuge, the town of Zoar, God acted in judgement. The heavens rained down sulphur. So complete was the devastation that the cities of the plain just disappeared from history. They have been considered by many to be just another ancient myth, rather like Nineveh before its rediscovery.

Is history dry as dust?

These historical references should not lull anyone into a false sense of security, for the Bible is always forward looking. Therefore, do not become complacent. Whatever has happened in the past will pale into insignificance when Jesus comes again.

History records God’s dealings in the past and the Bible points to God’s dealings in the future.

Nineveh did not believe God and his word. Are we in danger of making the same mistake?[2]


1:5 The violent shaking of the earth provides another evidence of the Lord’s awesome power, as even that which seems to be most stable trembles.

1:6 This series of rhetorical questions summarizes vv. 2–5; His power and resolve to spew His wrath on Nineveh is irresistible, melting all opposition before it.[3]


1:5 Mountains quake before him A common poetic motif in the ot (compare Judg 5:4–5; Psa 114:4–7; Jer 4:24; Hab 3:10). The language of the mountains quaking is often associated with theophany. Yahweh’s arrival on earth is characterized by storm, fire, and earthquakes.[4]


1:5 The displeasure of the approaching Lord fills the earth and its creatures with terror. All creation seems threatened by chaos when even the seemingly permanent things (“the mountains … the earth”) tremble and disappear.

1:6 The rhetorical questions emphasize the irresistibility of God’s anger. Divine wrath is compared to fire (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29).[5]


1:5, 6 quake … melt … heaves: The people of God had experienced such demonstrations of God’s presence at the foot of Mount Sinai when the Lord descended with His Law (Ex. 19). indignation … anger … fury: Grouping these three terms causes the force of the words to be felt more deeply. In other words, God’s anger burned intensely against the sinful people of Nineveh.[6]


[1] Armerding, C. E. (2008). Nahum. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, p. 571). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Anderson, C. (2005). Opening up Nahum (pp. 33–34). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Na 1:5–6). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Na 1:5). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1303). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[6] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1083). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

DECEMBER 23 LEVITY IN ADDRESSING GOD

Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

—2 Samuel 7:22

Those who heard Luther’s prayers have told us of the tremendous effect they often had upon the listeners. He would begin in moving humility, his spirit facedown in utter self-abnegation, and sometimes rise to a boldness of petition that would startle the hearers.

There is among us today a pseudo-mysticism which affects a tender intimacy with God but lacks that breathless awe which the true worshiper must always feel in the presence of the Holy God. This simpering spirit sometimes expresses itself in religious baby talk wholly unworthy of those who are addressing the Most High.

To hear a so-called Christian … addressing words of saccharine sweetness to one whom he or she calls “Jesus dear,” is a shocking experience for anyone who has once seen heaven opened and stood speechless before the Holy Presence. No one who has ever bowed before the Burning Bush can thereafter speak lightly of God, much less be guilty of levity in addressing Him.

When Horace Bushnell prayed in the field under the night sky, his friend who knelt by his side drew in his arms close to his body. “I was afraid to stretch out my hands,” he said, “lest I touch God.” TET069-070

God, I come to You in intimacy, but also with the awe and reverence of a subject before a majestic King. Amen.[1]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

December 23 Responding to Christ’s Exaltation

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Philippians 2:10–11

✧✧✧

The proper response to Christ’s exaltation is to worship Him.

Philippians 2:10–11 gives the only proper response to Christ’s exaltation: everyone is to bow before Him and acknowledge Him as Lord. Verse 10 begins with the Greek word hina (“that”), which indicates purpose or result. God’s express purpose is that Christ’s exaltation will result in our worshiping Him. We might translate the sentence, “He was given the name that is above every name in order that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” The reason Christ was given the name Lord was to put Him in authority and cause everyone to bow to Him. The subjunctive mood (“every knee should bow”) implies that every knee will bow.

Christ is to be acknowledged as Lord because He is God. By God’s grace some are enabled to acknowledge Christ’s lordship by choice. Others will bow to Him because they are forced to do so. The phrases “every knee should bow” (v. 10) and “every tongue should confess” (v. 11) are taken from Isaiah 45:23. Isaiah 45–46 clearly establishes that God is Lord and sovereign. He is in charge. In Philippians, Paul affirms the same truth about Jesus Christ—every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord of all.

We know Christ as the Lord, and we know Him as Jesus—the names of His exaltation and humiliation. But He must be known as both in order to be known at all. One receives the gift of salvation by receiving both the humiliated Savior and by bowing the knee to a majestic, sovereign God.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Psalm 89 focuses on the rule and reign of Christ. Bow before Him as the exalted King by using verses 8–18 as the basis of your own prayer of worship.

For Further Study: Read Revelation 5:11–14. What is Christ worthy to receive? ✧ In verse 13 who is speaking? ✧ What was the response of the four living creatures and elders (v. 14)?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

December 22 Daily Help

IT is our wisdom, as well as our necessity, to beseech God continually to strengthen that which he has wrought in us. We often forget that the Author of our faith must be the Preserver of it also. The lamp which was burning in the temple was never allowed to go out, but it had to be daily replenished with fresh oil; in like manner, our faith can only live by being sustained with the oil of grace, and we can only obtain this from God himself.

Let us, then, day by day, go to our Lord for the grace and strength we need. We have a strong argument to plead, for it is his own work of grace which we ask him to strengthen. Only let your faith take hold of his strength.[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 360). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

December 22, 2017: Evening Verse Of The Day

be desirous of greater boldness

“And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence, while Thou dost extend Thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Thy holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness. (4:29–31)

How far those gathered together were from being intimidated by the Sanhedrin’s threats is seen in the conclusion of their prayer. After asking the Lord to take note of those threats to register their guilt and to protect the threatened preachers, their praise turns to petition as they request that God enable His bond-servants to speak His word with all confidence. Their description of themselves as bond-servants refers back to the use of despotēs in verse 24 to describe God. They asked not for protection or a place to hide but for even more courage to boldly proclaim God’s truth—the very thing they had been ordered not to do. They also requested that God would continue to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of His holy servant Jesus to confirm His gospel.

God’s answer was not long in coming. When they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together (perhaps the upper room, Acts 1:13) was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (for the third time), and began to speak the word of God with boldness. As on the Day of Pentecost, there was a physical manifestation of the Spirit’s presence, a shaking. God granted them the fullness of the Spirit for the boldness they desired. As in Acts 4:8, the filling of the Spirit does not involve speaking in foreign languages but speaking in their own language the gospel with power. After the first coming of the Spirit at Pentecost when the rest of the believers were also filled, the miracle of languages disappeared and the filling is for power in speaking the truth from God. So it is in Acts 13:9 with Paul. It should be noted that the miracle of languages will appear again in the case of the entrance into the church of the Samaritans (Acts 8:17–18), Gentiles (Acts 10:44–46), and the disciples of John the Baptist (Acts 19:6).

The church had successfully faced its initial trial of opposition. Instead of succumbing to the temptation to compromise the gospel, it became even bolder. The persecution also served to draw the congregation closer together and to their Lord. In what was to become a recurring theme in church history, opposition only made the church grow stronger. As He had with Joseph (Gen. 50:20), God took the evil intentions of men and used them for His own purposes.[1]


31 As a sign of God’s approval, “the place where they were meeting was shaken” (cf. Ex 19:18; Isa 6:4) and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (see comments at v. 8). With such motivation and divine enablement, their prayer was answered. And they “spoke the word of God boldly” (meta parrēsias [GK 4244], “with boldness,” “confidently,” “forthrightly”; cf. meta pasēs parrēsias, “with all boldness,” at the close of Acts in 28:31).[2]


4:31 / They had prayed for power, and with power they were answered, in both the short term and the long (though, of course, they must often have prayed along these lines). Immediately the place where they were meeting was shaken, as though by an earthquake—a not uncommon sign of God’s presence (cf. 16:26; Exod. 19:18; Ps. 114:7; Isa. 6:4; Ezek. 38:19; Joel 3:16; Amos 9:5; Hag. 2:6)—and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. In that power they spoke the word of God boldly. We need not suppose that the preaching took place there and then. The force of the Greek is that they made it their practice to preach (in this, in part, lay the long-term answer to their prayer). The view that this is a variant account of the Pentecost narrative and that they were speaking in tongues has no warrant at all. On the momentary experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit, see notes on 2:4 and the discussion on 4:8.[3]


4:29–31. At this point the prayer turned to the practical outworking of their dilemma. Creation, revelation, and incarnation are doctrines and important ones. Life and its daily problems are also important to you and to God, so now the prayer turns to motivation. “Sovereign Lord: you made everything; you spoke through David; you anointed Jesus; and now you enable your servants.” They reached out for even more courage, even greater boldness. They continued their witness as God confirmed it through miraculous signs in the name of Jesus.

This was not a prayer for relief, but a prayer for courage, an excellent pattern for the modern church. The prayer assumes dependence and faith. These believers expected to do nothing by themselves; everything rested in the sovereign power of God and the name of Jesus.

How did God respond? The room shook, and he filled them anew with the Holy Spirit and sent them out to speak the word of God boldly. Here they received no baptism, nor did they speak in foreign languages (see chap. 2); it was not necessary. These born-again, functioning believers only needed a fresh filling to continue their effective service.

The model of this prayer is still very applicable for us today. Like these early believers, we need to understand that the self-revealed Creator who sent his Son to earth to die and rise again for our salvation will give us the courage we need to carry out whatever ministry he places before us.[4]


31. After they had prayed, the place where they had gathered shook.And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

Not every prayer receives an immediate answer, but in this case God strengthens the faith of the believers by indicating that he has heard their petition. We are reminded of the experience Paul and Silas had in the Philippian jail. While they were praying and singing hymns to God in the middle of the night, suddenly a violent earthquake shook the foundation of the prison (16:26). In like fashion, God showed his divine approval to the apostles by shaking the house where they were staying, and he apparently used an earthquake to accomplish this effect. God gave the apostles a sign that as he shook the house with a quake so he would shake the world with Christ’s gospel.

Look at the parallel between Pentecost and this event. On the day of Pentecost, a violent wind blew and filled the house where the believers were sitting (2:2). Then they saw tongues of fire resting on each of them; “they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them ability” (2:4). After the release of Peter and John, the Christians prayed. Then the place where the believers were meeting shook; “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”

The differences between these two events are the blowing of the wind versus the shaking of the meeting place; the external evidence of tongues of fire in the one instance and the internal manifestation of courage in the other; and last, an ability to speak in other tongues at Pentecost over against a boldness to speak the word of God now.

The similarities are striking: the Holy Spirit comes as an answer to prayer (1:14; 4:24–30); the Spirit fills all who are present (2:4; 4:31); and they all proclaim the wonders and the word of God (2:11; 4:31). The believers receive a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who fills them with courage so that they proclaim the Good News. Luke fails to describe to whom the believers courageously speak God’s word; perhaps first in their own circle and then, in direct opposition to the threats of the Sanhedrin, to outsiders.

Thus, the term boldly becomes meaningful and fittingly describes the speaking of the apostles and their helpers. They are the proclaimers of “the word of God,” which in the context of Acts is a synonym for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Luke provides a glimpse of their boldness when he writes in a subsequent passage, “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and preaching the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (5:42).[5]


4:31When they had prayed, the place … was shaken—a physical expression of the spiritual power that was present. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, indicating their obedience to the Lord, their walking in the light, their yieldedness to Him. They continued to speak the word of God with boldness, a clear answer to their prayer in verse 29.

There are seven times in the Book of Acts when men are said to be filled with or full of the Holy Spirit. Notice the purposes or the results:

  1. For speaking (2:4; 4:8; and here).
  2. For serving (6:3).
  3. For shepherding (11:24).
  4. For rebuking (13:9).
  5. For dying (7:55).[6]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (Vol. 1, pp. 141–142). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Longenecker, R. N. (2007). Acts. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 780). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Williams, D. J. (2011). Acts (p. 90). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Gangel, K. O. (1998). Acts (Vol. 5, p. 63). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 17, pp. 170–171). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1597). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

December 22: A False Form of Righteousness

Jeremiah 42:1–43:13; Romans 9:30–10:21; Proverbs 24:23–34

Zeal can be treacherous if it’s misplaced. It may lead us to set and strictly follow standards that have nothing to do with God’s work—standards that make us feel like good people but that can devastate our lives and the lives of others.

Paul addresses the misplaced zeal of many Jewish people in his letter to the Roman church: “Brothers, the desire of my heart and my prayer to God on behalf of them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For ignoring the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom 10:1–4).

Many Jewish people who had rejected the Messiah were attempting to make themselves right with God by keeping the ot law. In doing so, they missed God by seeking their own righteousness. Paul tells the Romans that these Jewish people ignored the “righteousness of God”—God’s work of salvation in Jesus Christ. It’s only by submitting to God that they could be “right with God” through Jesus Christ.

This lesson isn’t applicable only to the Jewish people and their relationship to the law. Jesus restored relationship with God when we couldn’t. We only have to believe in Him. Yet a dangerous zeal can still trip us up. If we rest in anything except Christ’s work and try to reach God by being good people, we are sure to miss Him. And in the process, we can become stumbling blocks in the lives of others.

Are you trying to attain righteousness through your own effort? How does your life reflect humility because of Christ’s work in you? How can you lovingly point others toward the righteousness of God, found only through His son, Jesus Christ?

What are you trying to attain? How can you focus your hope and the hope of others on Christ and the righteousness He has attained for you?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.