Home for Christmas

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. Genesis 28:15

One year Christmas found me on assignment in a place many of my friends couldn’t locate on a map. Trudging from my worksite back to my room, I braced against the chill wind blowing off the bleak Black Sea. I missed home.

When I arrived at my room, I opened the door to a magical moment. My artistic roommate had completed his latest project—a nineteen-inch ceramic Christmas tree that now illuminated our darkened room with sparkling dots of color. If only for a moment, I was home again!

A Light has entered the world to show us the way home.

As Jacob fled from his brother Esau, he found himself in a strange and lonely place too. Asleep on the hard ground, he met God in a dream. And God promised Jacob a home. “I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying,” He told him. “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Gen. 28:13–14).

From Jacob, of course, would come the promised Messiah, the One who left His home to draw us to Himself. “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am,” Jesus told His disciples (John 14:3).

That December night I sat in the darkness of my room and gazed at that Christmas tree. Perhaps inevitably I thought of the Light that entered the world to show us the way home.

Lord, no matter where we are today, we can thank You for preparing a place for us to be with You. And we have the presence of Your Spirit today!

Home is not so much a place on a map, as it is a place to belong. God gives us that place.

By Tim Gustafson 


Sometimes our perceptions of God get a startling adjustment. That was the case for Jacob in today’s passage. From our perspective we know through the Old and New Testament Scriptures that God is everywhere and is always with us. But Jacob’s knowledge was limited. His statement in Genesis 28:16 hints that he thought he was out of “God’s area.” How comforting it must have been to Jacob to realize that though he had left his family and his home, he was still in the presence of God.

How does knowing that God is always present comfort you?

J.R. Hudberg

The Gift of Teaching

Romans 12:6-8

God has given each believer at least one spiritual gift to build up the body of Christ and to minister in this hurting world. If our gift is prophecy, we’ll proclaim God’s view of right and wrong. If it is service, we will desire to meet others’ needs. The gift of teaching has these characteristics:

Organized. Whether in conversation or in a more formal setting, we will seek to communicate information clearly so the listener can follow. God has wired us to analyze material and present it logically.

Thorough. We want others to understand not simply the conclusion but the steps leading up to it. We also desire to help them think matters through.

Accurate. Our priority is to know the truth, so we ask questions in an attempt to validate the accuracy of what we learn. We will also inquire about the trustworthiness of our source of information.

Studious. We derive great delight from studying and researching and are strongly motivated to share what we learn. Truth is presented not simply to share knowledge but with the goal that God will transform the hearer’s life.

Bible-oriented. With this gift comes a strong desire to know what the Lord has to say. While we may recognize the value of others’ experiences, we are less motivated by personal illustrations than by the actual words of Scripture.

All of the spiritual gifts can be used in the workplace, in our communities, and in our homes. If your gift is teaching, allow the Spirit to direct your ability for God’s glory and others’ gain.

A Spring of Water

“Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14)

Water is necessary for life, and no one can live for long without it. Jesus, when talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, used this simple and well-known fact to teach timeless truth, both to her and to us.

The two occurrences of the word “drinketh” in today’s verse are actually in two different forms. The construction used in Greek implies a continual, habitual drinking in the first case but a one-time action in the second.

Likewise, while the woman referred to a “well” (v. 12) (literally “a hole in the ground”), Christ referred to a “flowing well,” or “spring,” using a different word.

Furthermore, when He said one who drinks from His spring shall “never thirst,” He said so in a very emphatic way. Not only is “thirst” emphasized by the sentence structure, but it is compiled of two negatives preceding the verb “thirst,” which is further strengthened by the word “forever,” i.e., “shall not, shall not thirst, forever.”

One who drinks from the wells of the world will thirst again, for sinful pleasures never satisfy. But just a single drink from the springs of “living water” (4:10; 7:38) of which Christ spoke eliminates spiritual thirst forever.

That one drink is a drink of eternal life, and it becomes in the believer a veritable spring, inexhaustible in its quantity and unsurpassed in its quality. The water is a reference to the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus to minister to His followers in His absence. One day we’ll be with Him, and then, as well as now, He completely satisfies. JDM

Hate evil

Amos 5:14-27

Our present lesson consists of another portion of the prophecies of Amos.

Amos 5:14

You boast of his being with you, but if you wish him to be really so, you must seek him and follow his ways. To boast of our religious privileges, as though God was certainly with us because we go to a place of worship is mere vain glory; God dwells only with the contrite in heart.

Amos 5:15

Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate where courts of justice were held

Amos 5:15

If men have only a may be, they ought to be earnest in seeking salvation; how much more should we be eager for eternal life when we have sure promises and divine shalls and wills.

Amos 5:16

The husbandman shall be so disappointed in his harvest that he shall lament as those do who bury the dead. Harvest home shall be mournful as a funeral.

Amos 5:17

In the place where joy was most manifest shall be most sorrow.

Amos 5:18

Bitterly will they lament that they said, “Where is the promise of his coming?” They will find the day of which they spoke so jestingly to be overwhelmingly terrible to them.

Amos 5:19

It shall be to the wicked a going from bad to worse, from danger to destruction.

Amos 5:20

No gleams of mercy shall light up the day of visitation; justice shall reign alone, and spread unmingled terror through the ranks of the rebellious.

Amos 5:21

Formal worship where sin is loved is detestable to God; he is insulted by the outward homage of those who love the wages of iniquity.

Amos 5:23

Costly offerings and the charms of melody are not the things which God desires: holiness is his music, and a broken heart his chosen sacrifice.

Amos 5:24

This he demands, and this he will have; and all short of this is a mockery of him.

Amos 5:25

Even at the first they were idolaters: at the outset they could not hold on in the right way for a single generation: idolatry was rooted in them, nothing could wean them from it.

Amos 5:26

Even Moloch, the most bloody of the idols, they adored; no worship was too vile for them.

Amos 5:27

Idolatry, injustice, and uncleanness provoke the Lord, and he will not suffer such evils to go unpunished. O Lord God of hosts, wash us in the blood of Jesus; renew us by thy Spirit, and keep us true to thee all our days.


Alone upon the means of grace

Our souls must not depend;

Theirs simply is the handmaid’s place

Of means unto an end.


Nor must we only for a while

Put off the sins we mourn,

To flatter conscience, and beguile

The hours till they return;


But low in penitence must lie,

In deed as well as word;

And then must turn to Calvary,

And trust our bleeding Lord.


Don’t Pay Evil Back for Evil!

Romans 12:17

Today’s Sparkling Gem will be short, but pay close attention, because it’s a very important one!

Most all of us have thought at one time or another, Oh, how I want to get back at that person for what he did to me! If you have had that thought in the past, or if you’ve been thinking such thoughts recently, then what we’re going to talk about today should be very helpful to you!

In Romans 12:17, the apostle Paul told us, “Recompense to no man evil for evil….” The word “recompense” in this verse is the Greek word apodidomi, and it literally means to give back or to pay back. It carries the idea of returning something to someone. It is a compound of the words apo, which means back, as to return back, and the word didomi, which means to give. When compounded together, the new word gives the impression of someone who wishes to retaliate, to get even, or to take revenge. This person wants to pay someone back for what the other person did by doing the same thing to him; in other words, he wants to get even with the one who wronged him. In the Greek text, there is a negative in the verse, which means this action is strongly prohibited. Paul is ordering us not to do this!

Romans 12:17 goes on to say, “Recompense to no man evil for evil….” The word “evil” is the Greek word kakos. It describes an action that is harmful, hurtful, or injurious or something done with an evil intent. These are the actions of a person who intentionally acts to cause some kind of damage or ruin in someone else’s life. But the Greek literally says kakon anti kakou, which means evil for evil. It is the idea of a person who thinks, You did wrong to me, so now I’m going to do wrong to you. I’m going to do to you exactly what you did to me. This is what the phrase “evil for evil” means in this verse.


A fuller interpretation of Romans 12:17 could read:

“Don’t get even with people by retaliating and taking revenge. You should never get into the business of intentionally trying to hurt someone just because they hurt you.”

The flesh loves to retaliate against those who have wronged us, but this is not the way Jesus teaches us to behave. Instead of retaliating, we must seek to walk in peace and to have pure hearts before God. It is impossible for us to be pure before God while we are at the same time devising mischief for those who have wronged us. We have to stay out of the mischief business and leave our offenders in the hands of God.

During the holiday season, people frequently get their feelings hurt, misunderstand each other, or simply get their wires crossed because there are so many people to deal with and so much to do. Stress is definitely a factor during this season, often adversely affecting relationships and changing the way people perceive situations.

So if you get upset about something that happens, don’t give in to your emotions and end up in a fight. Rather than letting yourself get all stirred up or allowing yourself to imagine how you can get even with the person who has wronged you, get alone with the Lord and let Him fill your heart with peace. Once His peace is ruling in your heart, you’ll see the situation from an entirely different perspective. Even if someone really did wrong you, God’s peace will enable you to have a positive attitude toward that person. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to walk on in peace with a pure heart before God, free from all bitterness, anger, and strife!


Lord, I thank You for encouraging me to keep my heart free of strife during this extremely busy time of the year. There is so much to do, so many places I have to be, and so many people I need to see. I admit that the demands of this time of year put a lot of stress and strain on me. In the middle of all these activities, I don’t want the devil to get the best of me, so I am asking You to fill me with Your peace. Let that divine peace rule me and my emotions so I don’t let Satan get the upper hand in any of my relationships during this special time of year.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!


I confess that I am free of strain and stress. My heart is filled with the peace of God, and that wonderful peace is ruling my heart, my mind, and my emotions. I am not quickly angered or offended. I walk in patience and kindness, and I am quick to forgive and to overlook the inappropriate actions of other people. Because God’s peace is ruling in my heart, I will remain calm, peaceful, and undisturbed by anything that happens around me during this very busy holiday season.

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!


  1. By knowing what has happened in the past, are you now able to recognize the people or the circumstances that the devil uses to trigger your emotions and get you upset?
  2. If your answer is yes, has the Holy Spirit shown you how to circumvent those moments so the devil can no longer ruffle your feathers and cause you to lose your peace? If your answer is no, have you asked the Holy Spirit to teach you to recognize those moments so they won’t be repeated in your life?
  3. When you are tempted to be upset, what helps you the most to be filled with the peace of God? Is it reading the Word for a few minutes, praying, or listening to praise and worship music?

If you get upset about something that happens, don’t give in to your emotions and end up in a fight. Rather than letting yourself get all stirred up or allowing yourself to imagine how you can get even with the person who has wronged you, get alone with the Lord and let Him fill your heart with peace.


Rationalizations We Often Make When Compromising Our Ethics

  • We persuade ourselves that others are doing it.

That may be true, but we will still give an account to God: “Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgmentFor God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 11:9; 12:14; 2 Corinthians 5:9, 10) (See Psalm 50:4; Romans 2:5-11; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Revelation 20:12-15)

  • We tell ourselves that no one will know.

Really? For a mans ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his pathsThe eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the goodMy eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?Do not I fill heaven and earth?Nothing in all creation is hidden from Gods sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Proverbs 5:21; 15:3; Jeremiah 16:17; 23:24; Hebrews 4:13) (See Job 31:3; Psalm 11:4; Jeremiah 17:10)

  • We convince ourselves that no one cares.

God does: “The Lord saw how great mans wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the timeThe Lord was grieved… ” (Genesis 6:5, 6a) (See Ephesians 4:30)

  • We rationalize our compromise, treating it as a lesser offense than it really is: “Hey, cutting a few corners here and there is not that serious.

Guess again: “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will not go free No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.” (Proverbs. 19:5; Psalm 101:7) (See Psalm 52:3; 101:7; Proverbs 19:5; Revelation 21:8, 27; 22:15)

  • We talk ourselves into believing we deserve favored treatment that allows us to bend the rules:

Hey, I was shafted…” “They didnt uphold their end of the bargain.” “Because I did all the work on the project, I am the one who should get compensated – not them!

Jesus sees it differently: “Dont hit back at all. If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously… ” (Matthew 5:39b-42 – Message) (See Luke 6:27-36; 9:23, 24)


QUESTION: Are you committed to uncompromising Biblically-based ethics, whatever the cost?



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