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Love God! Enjoy Life!

The Christian life is meant to be a joyful, soul-satisfying experience.


Theme of the week: Love God! Enjoy Life!
Sunday, January 2, 2011

Let us Play!

Who Said It Gary Thomas Gary Thomas is a bestselling author and international speaker. His books include Devotions for a Sacred Marriage, Devotions for Sacred Parenting, Sacred Influence, and Pure Pleasurethe book from which this week's readings are adapted. Gary is an avid runner who has completed eight marathons. He is married, has three children, and lives in Washington. What He Said Let's Play! Once, while walking through a McDonald's restaurant, I saw eight ten-year-old girls celebrating a birthday. The warmth of sheer, unadulterated happiness permeated the gathering. It was as if a light had been turned on and I could see God's delight. God felt happy that these girls were happy. Their delight, their joy, even their giddiness, gave God great pleasure. Have you ever thought about thatthat you can give God great pleasure by enjoying yourself? If you are a parent, imagine Christmas morning as the young kids tear into the presents. Does anything make you happier? Do not moments like these break into the dull routines of life and give us a glimpse of heaven? The fact that we are children of Godand that Jesus urges us to become like childrenspeaks of a certain demeanour, a certain delight, a certain trust in God's goodness and favour toward us. While God's servants are not merely his children (he also calls us to sacrificial and mature service), we never become less than his children. And healthy children often engage in play. This Week's Key Study Passage: Psalm 148-149:5
Adapted from Pure Pleasure (Zondervan, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced. Copyright 2011 by the author or Christianity Today International/Men of Integrity magazine.

Don't Do That!?!
Theme of the week: Love God! Enjoy Life!
Monday, January 3, 2011

Key Bible Verse: "He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me." (2 Samuel 22:20), NIV Dig Deeper: 2 Samuel 22:1-22
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David sang this song to the LORD on the day the LORD rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. 2 He sang:

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The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my saviour; 3 my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my saviour, the one who saves me from violence. 4 I called on the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. 5 The waves of death overwhelmed me; floods of destruction swept over me. 6 The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. 7 But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I cried to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears. 8 Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the heavens shook; they quaked because of his anger. 9 Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him. 10 He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath his feet. 11 Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind. 12 He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dense rain clouds. 13 A great brightness shone around him, and burning coals blazed forth. 14 The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. 15 He shot arrows and scattered his enemies; his lightning flashed, and they were confused. 16 Then at the command of the LORD, at the blast of his breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare. 17 He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. 18 He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. 19 They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the LORD supported me. 20 He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. 21 The LORD rewarded me for doing right; he restored me because of my innocence. 22 For I have kept the ways of the LORD; I have not turned from my God to follow evil. When the church teaches a glum faith of responsibility, when people of faith speak as though they are anti-sex, anti-humour, anti-fun, anti anything that brings pleasure, we risk fostering the kind of devotion the Bible rejects. I want to enjoy intimacy with my wife, because when we treasure each other's bodiesbodies that God created and designedwe put a smile on God's face. I want to stop and enjoy a sunset and let it expand my soul, because in doing so I am celebrating God's handiwork. I want to revel in a wellwritten novel, because devouring a work of excellence is to acknowledge God's inspiration and giftgiving wisdom. I want to thank God for a good meal instead of seeing it as a temptation, because I'd hate itabsolutely despise it if I gave an expensive gift to my child and she immediately asked, "Are you sure you can afford this?" or "I'm not worthy to receive it; take it back." Do you see how living only out of duty robs our heavenly Father of great pleasure? Connecting our pleasure with Godeven seeing pleasure as a legitimate and blessed pathway to worshipbuilds our souls and strengthens our devotion.
Gary Thomas in Pure Pleasure

My Response: What does a faith based on duty look like? What does a faith filled with joy look like? What kind of faith am I living?
Adapted from Pure Pleasure (Zondervan, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced.

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Copyright 2011 by the author or Christianity Today International/Men of Integrity magazine.

What Do My Kids See?


Theme of the week: Love God! Enjoy Life!
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Key Bible Verse: The aspirations of good people end in celebration; the ambitions of bad people crash. (Proverbs 10:28), The message Dig Deeper: Nehemiah 8:9-12 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, Dont mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God. For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10 And Nehemiah continued, Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Dont be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength! 11 And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, Hush! Do not weep! For this is a sacred day. 12 So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard Gods words and understood them. As a parent and as a Christian, I believe God calls me to live a life of satisfaction in him so that my kids see how grateful I am, how pleased I am, how satisfied I am, in Christ. I walk with God because he is the true Creator and rightful Lord. But I also walk with Christ because a life with Christ is the most incredible journey I can imagine. My kids know of the money we give to God's work. They notice the sacrifices of serving Christ. But more than thatabove all thatthey see the hearts of their mom and dad filled with joy because we can imagine no better life than the one lived in fellowship with God. Because some "headliner" Christians allow themselves to get wooed away from true pleasure and so get caught by corrupted passions, the world tends to think of Christians as pathetic creatures who deny their true desires, live hypocritical lives, and indulge in secret what they denounce in public. Undercutting the importance of pure and holy pleasure hinders our witness. We try to invite people into the faith with our words; let us also begin inviting them into the faith with our lives and with our sincerely satisfied souls.
Gary Thomas in Pure Pleasure
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My Response: What are the characteristics of someone who has a "sincerely satisfied soul"? Someone I know who, in spite of his or her flaws, displays these characteristics is Thought to Apply: The way to be truly happy is to be truly human, and the way to be truly human is to be truly godly.J. I. Packer (theologian, writer)
Adapted from Pure Pleasure (Zondervan, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced. Copyright 2011 by the author or Christianity Today International/Men of Integrity magazine.

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Theme of the week: Love God! Enjoy Life!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Holy Pleasure!

Key Bible Verse: This festival will be a happy time of celebrating with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows from your towns. (Deuteronomy 16:14) Dig Deeper: Deuteronomy 16:9-15
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Count off seven weeks from when you first begin to cut the grain at the time of harvest. 10 Then celebrate the Festival of Harvest to honour the LORD your God. Bring him a voluntary offering in proportion to the blessings you have received from him. 11 This is a time to celebrate before the LORD your God at the designated place of worship he will choose for his name to be honoured. Celebrate with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites from your towns, and the foreigners, orphans, and widows who live among you. 12 Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, so be careful to obey all these decrees. 13 You must observe the Festival of Shelters for seven days at the end of the harvest season, after the grain has been threshed and the grapes have been pressed. 14 This festival will be a happy time of celebrating with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows from your towns. 15 For seven days you must celebrate this festival to honour the LORD your God at the place he chooses, for it is he who blesses you with bountiful harvests and gives you success in all your work. This festival will be a time of great joy for all. "They celebrated it [the Feast of Tabernacles] before the LORD our God for seven days and seven days more, fourteen days in all. They blessed the king and then went home, joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the LORD had done " (1 Kings 8:65-66, NIV). Did you catch that? They feasted, celebrated, and rejoiced for fourteen days. When they finally went home, they had joyful and glad hearts. Fourteen days of celebration! In many Christian churches, people feel guilty for celebrating for fourteen minutes. If a church decides to spend a little money to do a fun activity, someone will piously confront the pastor, inquiring, "Wouldn't it be better to stay home and pray for our missionaries and send that money to them?" We have largely lost the concept of creating inviting communities in which people get built up with joy, strengthened in celebration, and nurtured in holy pleasure. We must not, we cannot, neglect the poor or lose our zeal for mission outreach. But in the same way, for the sake of honouring God, securing our children's faith, and supporting our own witness, we must not, and cannot, neglect celebrating God's goodness and faithfulness.
Gary Thomas in Pure Pleasure

My Response: Today I will celebrate God's goodness and faithfulness by Thought to Apply: Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.Michael Jordan (pro basketball player)
Adapted from Pure Pleasure (Zondervan, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced. Copyright 2011 by the author or Christianity Today International/Men of Integrity magazine. Love God! Enjoy Life! The Christian life is meant to be a joyful, soul-satisfying experience. Page 4 of 8

The Devil's a Killjoy


Theme of the week: Love God! Enjoy Life!
Thursday, January 6, 2011

Key Bible Verse: "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest." (Matthew 11:28), The message Dig Deeper: Matthew 11:28-30; John 10:10
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Then Jesus said, Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.
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The thiefs purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. Most people think of Satan as tempting us with pleasure. He certainly does that, but many times, particularly with certain earnest Christians, he more actively tries to keep us from the true pleasures God has planned for us. Without pleasure, some of us become angry and tired, feel unappreciated, and then begin to resent others instead of love them. Others of us become judgmental, pointing out the sinful ways of everyone around us (while, perhaps, secretly wishing we could do the same things). Pleasure can be a powerful antidote for these spiritual illsit can renew and refresh us so that we become more patient, more energized, and more generous with our time and affection. Therefore, Satan understandably wants to keep us from true pleasure because he hates its positive effects. The religious trap that so many earnest believers fall into, however, is that when we get stuck in a sin or temptation, we try to find the religious way out. We think we just need to be more disciplined, more faithful in our devotions, more active in our ministry. There may be an element of truth in this, but if your soul needs true pleasure and Sabbath-style refreshment, and you conclude you need more work, then you're setting yourself up for a train wreck.
Gary Thomas in Pure Pleasure

My Response: A day of "true pleasure and Sabbath-style refreshment" would look like Thought to Apply: Our Creator would never have made such lovely days, and have given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal. Nathaniel Hawthorne (writer)
Adapted from Pure Pleasure (Zondervan, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced. Copyright 2011 by the author or Christianity Today International/Men of Integrity magazine.

Embrace Pleasure
Theme of the week: Love God! Enjoy Life!
Friday, January 7, 2011

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Key Bible Verses: "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is proved right by all her children." (Luke 7:34-35), NIV Dig Deeper: Psalm 148-149:5 1 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens! Praise him from the skies! 2 Praise him, all his angels! Praise him, all the armies of heaven! 3 Praise him, sun and moon! Praise him, all you twinkling stars! 4 Praise him, skies above! Praise him, vapours high above the clouds! 5 Let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for he issued his command, and they came into being. 6 He set them in place forever and ever. His decree will never be revoked. 7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths, 8 fire and hail, snow and clouds, wind and weather that obey him, 9 mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, 10 wild animals and all livestock, small scurrying animals and birds, 11 kings of the earth and all people, rulers and judges of the earth, 12 young men and young women, old men and children. 13 Let them all praise the name of the Lord. For his name is very great; his glory towers over the earth and heavenly 14 He has made his people strong, honouring his faithful onesthe people of Israel who are close to him. Psalm 149 1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song. Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful. 2 O Israel, rejoice in your Maker. O people of Jerusalem, exult in your King. 3 Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by tambourine and harp. 4 For the Lord delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. 5 Let the faithful rejoice that he honours them. Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds. We must come to grips with a Jesus who was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton. [See today's Key Bible Verse.] In one sense, this characterization badly misses the mark. Remember, Jesus survived a 40-day fast. In another sense, however, it provides a window into the balance of Jesus' life. Why would anyone level such a criticism unless Jesus did seem to enjoy his meals and a glass of good wine? Perhaps they misdiagnosed his laughter as intoxication. The one who walked on water certainly never stumbled out of a house. No doubt, the Pharisees witnessed Jesus' laughter, and this levity led to scurrilous accusations about drunkenness.

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When we embrace pleasure, we stand on God's ground. He uses pleasure to motivate us and to bless us. Those who deny the proper place for pleasure also, perhaps unwittingly, deny the proper place for God. God created this world with some delectable delights. When we open wide our hearts to these delicacies, we open wide our hearts to God. What I am about to say may seem revolutionary to some and even heretical to others, but here it is: As Christians, it is our invitation as well as our obligation to cultivate and live lives of true pleasure as a pathway to obedience and even worship.
Gary Thomas in Pure Pleasure

My Response: How can I practically live out the last sentence in today's reading? Thought to Apply: The world is alive, blinking and clicking, winking at us slyly, inviting us to get up and dance to the music that has been playing since the beginning of time. Shauna Niequist (Christian writer)
Adapted from Pure Pleasure (Zondervan, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced. Copyright 2011 by the author or Christianity Today International/Men of Integrity magazine.

Weekend Bible Study


Theme of the week: Love God! Enjoy Life!
Saturday, January 8, 2011

Today's Key Study Passage contains two verses that echo this week's topic: "Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by tambourine and harp. For the LORD delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory." Think of that: The LORD delights in you! That, in and of itself, is a very good reason to celebrate. Add to that the joy of your salvation, the beautiful gift of creation, and all of life's daily blessingsand you have many good reasons to praise your Maker. Key Study Passage: Psalm 148-149:5 1. Write down four or five adjectives that describe the mood of today's study passage. How close do these words match your attitude about life? About God? About worship?

2.
3. 4. 5. 6.

In Psalm 148, why does the psalmist call for creation to praise God? (See vv. 6-7, 13-14.) Why are these good reasons to celebrate your Creator? According to 149:1-3, what do you think Israel's celebration looked like? Why was this anything but a sombre worship service? According to 149:4, why were they celebrating? According to 149:5, why should the faithful rejoice? In spite of problems you might be experiencing, what reasons do you have to celebrate?

Spend Time in Prayer: Write down five simple pleasures for which you are grateful; express your appreciation for each one; then ask God to help you become more aware of each small blessing he brings your way. Psalm 148-149:5 1 Praise the Lord!

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Praise the Lord from the heavens! Praise him from the skies! 2 Praise him, all his angels! Praise him, all the armies of heaven! 3 Praise him, sun and moon! Praise him, all you twinkling stars! 4 Praise him, skies above! Praise him, vapours high above the clouds! 5 Let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for he issued his command, and they came into being. 6 He set them in place forever and ever. His decree will never be revoked. 7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths, 8 fire and hail, snow and clouds, wind and weather that obey him, 9 mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, 10 wild animals and all livestock, small scurrying animals and birds, 11 kings of the earth and all people, rulers and judges of the earth, 12 young men and young women, old men and children. 13 Let them all praise the name of the Lord. For his name is very great; his glory towers over the earth and heavenly 14 He has made his people strong, honouring his faithful onesthe people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord! Psalm 149 1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song. Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful. 2 O Israel, rejoice in your Maker. O people of Jerusalem, exult in your King. 3 Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by tambourine and harp. 4 For the Lord delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. 5 Let the faithful rejoice that he honours them. Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds.
Copyright 2011 by the author or Christianity Today International/Men of Integrity magazine.

Prayer for the Week Thank you, heavenly Father, for the joy of my salvation; I praise you for all your pleasurable gifts; fill my heart with your gladness; remind me daily of all the great things you've done for me.

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