ADVENT DEVOTIONAL 2017

The ADVENT DEVOTIONAL, is a daily devotional that begins on the first day of Advent, December 3rd, 2017 and continues until December 31, 2017. Each devotional includes a portion of scripture, a devotion and prayer.

  • Sunday, December 3rd

    The Eternal Word- Jesus Christ

    Steven Brooks

    John 1:1–3

     

    Advent is a season of expectation. A time for us to anticipate the birth of Jesus.


    The prophets long waited in expectation for the coming of Messiah. Theirs was a deep longing as they desperately cried out to God, "How long, Lord?" Messiah had been promised and so they waited...and waited...and waited some more. They waited in the midst of turmoil,   unrest and tragedy.


    As Christians living in the 21st Century, we can understand their longing. We too are waiting. And we also wait in the midst of turmoil (the culture around us is ever changing; doing its best to draw our attention away from God), unrest (Egypt; North Korea; Syria) and tragedy (Texas, Las  Vegas, Florida and Puerto Rico). This time, we wait not for Messiah, for he has already come; instead we wait for Christ the King to return in all his glory to redeem the entire world in a re-creation of a new heaven and a new earth. This has been promised to us by Jesus himself - the first and last, who holds all things together in his hands. He who is the foundation of all we see and that which remains unseen, has come and will come again. Oh what a glorious day that will be!


    And so we wait in expectation and we ask, "How long, Lord?"


    This is what we celebrate during Advent. It is an important season of the church and for our lives. Let's not miss this time of expectation and anticipation. Let's not rush to Christmas, but give ourselves the opportunity to say, "Come Lord Jesus, come; come Thou long expected Jesus."

  • Monday, December 4th


    Jesus and Creation

    Dennis Davies

    Colossians 1:15–17

     

    When Paul wrote to the Colossians, he was countering a clever company of false teachers who sought to replace the Colossians’ enthusiastic devotion to Christ with only a mild approval of him. They didn’t encourage anyone to forget Jesus altogether; they just said he wasn’t the only show in town. According to these false teachers, Jesus got equal billing with a vast number of emanating spirits flowing out of God. They said Jesus could be prominent, but he certainly wasn’t preeminent. In contrast, Paul—along with telling believers the truth about the gospel and pleasing God—tells us the truth about Jesus.

     

    Col 1:15: Jesus is the image of God. The word for image was used in Paul’s time for likenesses placed on coins, portraits, and for statues. It carries the idea of correspondence to the original. It is the nearest    equivalent in ancient Greek to our modern photograph. Jesus is the perfect representation of God. This verse and others (John 1:18; 1 Tim. 1:17) tell us that God is invisible. J. B. Phillips translates verse 15, “Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God.” Hebrews 1:3 tells us that the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.

     

    Not only is Jesus the perfect picture of God, but he also holds the highest rank in the universe. Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. Firstborn is a term of rank more than it is a word of time (see Ps. 89:27). The right of the firstborn was the right of privilege and priority. It was the honored position in the family. In the case of the patriarchs, we know that the honored position didn’t always go to the first son born in time. Jesus is the firstborn—the highest rank—in all of creation.

    Col 1:16: Jesus holds the highest rank in creation because he is the Creator of all things. There is nothing in the created order that Jesus did not create (see also John 1:3). Because he is the Creator, Jesus has absolute supremacy over all creation, including any spirit beings who were being worshiped by the local heretics. Since only God can be the Creator, this means that Jesus, the perfect image of God, is even more than an image. He is divine. He is God.

     

    Col 1:17: Jesus is eternally existent (an attribute that can only be true of God) because he is before all things. Jesus is also the powerful sustainer of the universe. Because of him all things hold together. His power    guarantees that the universe is under control and not chaotic.

     

    Thank you, Father that Jesus is the visible manifestation of You and our eternal Creator and Reconciler, and the one who has supremacy in the universe and in the church.

  • Tuesday, December 5th

    Creation - Very Good

    Dennis Davies

    Genesis 2:4–25

     

    In these opening two chapters God established the point most fundamental to God’s prosecution of human depravity, namely that humanity was meant for something better. Were humanity meant to be depraved, like Satan and the evil angels, there would be no need for redemption—just as there is none for Satan and the evil angels. In response therefore to man’s first potential objection—“Why is  redemption necessary if depraved is what we are?”—God’s answer in these two chapters carries with it the seeds of hope: that people were meant for something better—for complete and unbroken communion with God in the “tabernacle” of an incorruptible and untainted creation.

     

    The two accounts of creation (1:1–2:3 and 2:4–25) are designed respectively to demonstrate the all-wise and all-powerful sovereignty of God (first account) and His special creation of humanity to rule for Him over all other created things (second account). Though the creation stories are fundamentally theological and not scientific, nothing in them is contradicted by modern scientific understanding. Genesis insists that all the forms of life were created “after their kind” (1:11–12, 21, 24–25); that is, they did not evolve across species lines. Most importantly, the man and the woman were created as “the image of God” (1:26). In other words, humanity was created to represent God on the earth and to rule over all things in His name (1:26–28). God’s desire was to bless humanity and to enjoy relationship with them.

     

    God evaluated each element of creation and pronounced it “good.” The recurring creation formula built to a climax on day six, when God created the humans and gave them vegetation to eat. When God saw everything that he had made, he was pleased (“it was very good”). At this juncture in the biblical account, there has been no mention of anything bad, or evil. There existed only the goodness of God and his creation.

     

    As will become clear soon enough, God’s creation was contaminated by the actions of the humans. The rest of the biblical story is one of redemption from sin and brokenness. But through it all, the message of Genesis 1 is the conviction that God’s creation is innately good, and that sin and evil have somehow invaded where they do not belong and are unwelcome guests.

     

    Thank you, Father for your perfect Creation and for your redeeming plan for the salvation of mankind. . . .

  • Wednesday, December 6th

    Believing the Lie

    Dena Jackson

    Genesis 3:1–6

     

    When I think of those present in the garden at that moment I cannot help but ponder the communication styles of three individuals: the serpent, Eve and Adam. The crafty serpent would be considered Passive-Aggressive. First, he addresses Eve like a child, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”, making her feel inferior and himself dominant by lying, deforming the truth by sending mixed messages to keep Eve, his victim, off balance. He is strategic and            deceptive in the information he discloses or withholds, “You will not  surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” While Adam and Eve are Passive - being manipulated, not standing firm in the truth God told them, thus allowing themselves to be taken advantage of. Passiveness can alter one’s thinking, for Eve now saw the tree differently, a temptation. If only Eve had not believed the lie, turning away from the serpent and running to God.

     

    Satan is a smooth talker who whispers in our ear distorting the truth to persuade, control, and ultimately take our focus off our heavenly Father. As he did with Eve, he targets our emotional weaknesses and vulnerability to coerce us. He has one goal and one goal only, to work  diligently at trying to steal us away from the loving arms of the Lord God.

     

    Scripture implores us not to lean on our own understanding or on unwise council, but only on the wisdom and truth of what God tells us in His word. For God is clear in his direction to us, as he was to Adam and Eve, “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will   surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)  God loves us deeply, as he did Adam and Eve, therefore he commands us, in turn we are to obey. His love was freely given to all of mankind in His only son Christ Jesus to pay for our sin.

     

    May we have Assertive traits in our daily walk of following our Lord’s   loving commands, being firm in the truth, as well as direct, respectful, and honest in our desire to bring others to the Savior. Recognizing God has our best interests in mind….always! That our needs and other’s needs are only ultimately satisfied through the saving grace of God’s son. Let us be confident in who we are in Christ, for there is power in the name of Jesus. Let us not be like a ship tossed in the wind of unwise counsel, rather rest in the wisdom that Jesus is at the helm of our life, knowing we need Him every hour. 

    May we pray the hymn by Annie S. Hawks:

    I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;

    No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

    I need Thee, O, I need Thee; every hour I need Thee!

    O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee!

     

    I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby,

    Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh,…..

     

  • Thursday, December 7th

    Deception & Defilement of Sin

    Jere Vandewalle

    Genesis 3:7–12

     

    The serpent was right about this much: their eyes were opened. Not to some gloriousness of divine power and presence, but to a stark reality of weakness, vulnerability and fear.

     

    The story is all too familiar: SIN resulting in a cycle of shame and blame. I know it well. The pathetic resources of sin leading to the hardness of doubt, anger, selfishness and pride. Pathetic, yes, but also powerful for building up strongholds and every vain thing, until all is fear and strife and brokenness. Our impulse is to run, and seek cover for our shame.  Like Adam and Eve, I would try to manage my sin.  To pretend it is not there. To hide.

     

    Question:  If God is good, why are we, His handiwork, evil?  We say that He gave us the freedom to choose to trust and obey or to reject and rebel. How staggering seems this risk that He took on us when we      consider the wickedness and destruction we have wrought on each other in this world!  Does He really value the freedom to enter into relationship so much as to allow the potential consequence of the corruption of all He called “good” at creation?  Yes, He does!

     

    Next question: if God is loving, why doesn’t He put an end to evil?  He can do that if He chooses and in fact did so once, and the destruction was near total.  Only eight souls entered the ark and survived, having believed God about the flood.  Does He really value me enough to save me through the evil, both that of my own and of other’s making? Yes, He does!

     

    I look at the outward circumstances, and see no hope.  I look at my inward motives, and doubt the efficacy of His redemptive gift. These strongholds are built on the fear and doubt that are my lot as a son of  Adam.  But perfect love casts out all fear!  I run and hide.  He seeks and finds!

     

    Am I willing to trust Him and walk in this glorious reality, to let it wash over me and transport me into a heartfelt peace and rest?  To respond to this love is to walk in it and allow it to overflow to others.  To love like He loves is to take risks on weak people like He did, and to seek out that which is lost with the Gospel of Peace like He does.

     

    Oh Father, Your ways are marvelous in our eyes!  They are higher than our ways and unsearchable.  You have redeemed us and crowned us with Your goodness, that we might carry Your light to the world!  May the   story of the advent of our Savior remind us of Your coming to me personally.  May Your Spirit in me shine bright for Your glory!  Amen.

     

  • FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8TH

    Sure Judgement for Sin & Satan

    Dennis Davies

    Genesis 3:15

     

    Genesis 3:15: This verse is known as the protevangelium, meaning “The First Gospel.” It predicts the perpetual hostility between Satan and the woman (representing all mankind), and between Satan’s seed (his agents) and her Seed (the Messiah).

     

    God passes sentence; and he begins where the sin began, with the        serpent. The devil’s instruments must share in the devil’s punishments. Under the cover of the serpent, the devil is sentenced to be degraded and accursed of God; detested and abhorred of all mankind: also to be         destroyed and ruined at last by the great Redeemer, signified by the breaking of his head. War is proclaimed between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.

     

    It is the fruit of this enmity, that there is a continual warfare between grace and corruption, in the hearts of God’s people. Satan, by their       corruptions, buffets them, sifts them, and seeks to devour them. Heaven and hell can never be reconciled, nor light and darkness; no more can   Satan and a sanctified soul. Also, there is a continual struggle between the wicked and the godly in this world.

     

    A gracious promise is here made of Christ, as the Deliverer of fallen man from the power of Satan. Here was the dawn of the gospel day: no sooner was the wound given, than the remedy was provided and revealed. 

     

    Without a revelation of mercy, giving some hope of forgiveness, the     convinced sinner would sink into despair, and be hardened. By faith in this promise, our first parents, and the patriarchs before the flood, were justified and saved.


    Notice is given concerning Christ

    1. His incarnation, or coming in the flesh speaks great encouragement to sinners, that their Savior is the Seed of the woman, bone of our bone (Heb. 2:11, 14)
    2. His sufferings and death, pointed at in Satan’s bruising his heel, that is his human nature. And Christ’s sufferings are continued in the sufferings of the saints for his name. The devil tempts them, persecutes and slays them; and so, bruises the heel of Christ, who is afflicted in their afflictions. But while the heel is bruised on earth, the Head is in heaven; and
    3. His victory over Satan thereby. Christ baffled Satan’s temptations, rescued souls out of his hands. By his death he gave a fatal blow to the devil’s kingdom, a wound to the head of this serpent that cannot be healed. As the gospel gains ground, Satan falls. 

    Thank you, Father for the promise of your Son so long ago and for His victory over sin, Satan, and death that gives us hope through our faith in His life, death, burial, and resurrection.

  • Saturday, December 9th

    The Light & His Location

    Dennis Davies

    Isaiah 9:3-5 & Matthew 4:13-16

     

    Matt 4:12–13. Galilee was the region of Jesus’ early ministry and the geographical flow of Jesus’ ministry as portrayed in Matthew is very distinctly north-to-south, from Galilee to Jerusalem. Beginning with 4:12, and extending through chapter 18, Jesus’ ministry takes place in the region around the Sea of Galilee, with two late ventures even farther north into the Gentile territory of Tyre and Sidon (15:21–28) and Caesarea Philippi (16:13–20).

     

    In the north, far from the center of religious power (John 4:1), the “little people” would hear and respond more readily to the Messiah. Zebulun and Naphtali were the two tribes whose territory was bordered by the Sea of Galilee—Zebulun to the south (including Nazareth), and Naphtali to the north (including Capernaum). Capernaum was the home of several of Jesus’ disciples.

     

    Matt 4:14–16. This quote is from Isaiah 9:1–2. Jesus’ ministry in the north was anticipated by the prophet Isaiah, whom Matthew quoted here to stifle any criticism that Jesus was an uncivilized Galilean. Isaiah 9 is part of a larger prophetic statement concerning the coming of the Messiah. Matthew has already quoted from this portion. In the latter portion of Isaiah 8, Isaiah emphasized the Lord’s judgment on errant Israel: “Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness” (8:22). Israel was in trouble.

     

    The first word of Isaiah 9 is “nevertheless,” introducing the contrasting light and hope brought to Israel by the Messiah. The portion quoted by Matthew is a carefully selected segment of the larger message of hope for Israel. Any Jew familiar with his Bible would have recognized Matthew’s quote and would have made the connection to the remaining, unquoted portions (Isa. 9:3–7). Among the promises made here are the renewed covenant blessing on Israel; the removal of the oppressor’s yoke; the birth of the promised child, whose name will be called “Wonderful     Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” and his reign on David’s throne in justice and righteousness. There was no doubt who this Jesus is. Matthew clearly identified Jesus’ move to Capernaum as the “official” beginning of his public ministry and as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

     

    “Galilee of the Gentiles” was a common designation for this region. It was Galilee, bordering on the Gentile nations, where the “light” shone. Although it is clear that Jesus’ earthly ministry would be mainly to the Jews, Matthew went to great lengths to show the long-term implications of Jesus’ coming for all nations.

     

    Thank you, Father that you have shone a light to those of us who have dwelt in darkness and the region and shadow of death. . . .

  • Sunday, December 10th

    End of Pain and War

    Mike Haugland

    Revelation 21:4-5 and Isaiah 9:3-5

     

    A day is coming when we will experience no more pain, sorrow or death. This passage comes as a breath of fresh air amongst the polluted, pain infested world we live in today. In our day to day life we experience   physical pain too often and emotional pain just as frequent. Sin is at the root of all that causes us pain; we see it daily whether in our choices or the choices of others. We experience loss and brokenness when a loved one dies. It hurts to live in a fallen world. But this is a temporary problem. Jesus, the Conqueror has declared the time will come when we, His called and much beloved followers will experience a new resurrected body. Can you imagine it? Never being broken hearted again? Can you imagine it? Never feeling physical pain again? Drink deep into the Words of Christ as He declares in Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  That is the epitome of being set free in Christ! Free to experience and worship Christ without the distractions brought on by our own sinfulness. Can you imagine that?

     

    Isaiah 9 addresses a future for us that has no wars, no battles…no enemy.  God’s Word gives us hope; hope that a day is coming when we will no longer flinch at the morning headlines that declare war and violence. A day is coming when we will celebrate our returning King who has conquered and vanquished our enemy. As we read these two passages we should be encouraged because today there are still wars and violence erupts on a daily basis and is broadcasted on social media 24/7. For now… it’s inescapable. But in a little while we will see Him. And all the violence and wickedness we experience daily will be swept away, never to be experienced again. Never to be seen again. Come quickly Lord Jesus, Come quickly!

  • Monday, December 11th

    Who Am I

    Ruth Okey

    Luke 1:26-38

     

    Behold, I AM choosing you, Mary and Joseph, to be My parents.  I AM coming to earth to live and breathe and be a human person.  I AM cares so much for her reputation and life, that He chose to tell her ahead of time what His plans are. Never before has Mary ever had an experience like this happen to her.  Her life has dramatically, forever, involuntarily changed.  I AM cares so much for all people, that He has planned for   eternity to become a human child exactly at this time, with these people, in this place.  He has chosen a couple who appears to be very ordinary.  I AM however, knows that they are extraordinary. 

     

    Mary’s day starts like other days, and ends like none has ever before.  She is a good listener, and thinks before she speaks.  Extraordinary.  She asks a pertinent, thoughtful question.  Extraordinary, considering she has    presence of mind to reply intelligently to an angel.  She believes the    messenger that I AM sends to her.  Extraordinary.  She knows I AM and trusts and loves Him in her obedience.  Extraordinary.  Mary controls her fear, emotions and thoughts in this unusual, unprecedented situation.  Extraordinary.  Mary receives the news and says, “Behold, I am the     servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38   Extraordinary. 

     

    Mary did not just suddenly become the person we see in Luke 1.  She was already practicing the character and good works we see evidence of here.  Mary has an attitude of true humility.  I AM knows her heart and mind, and that she will be His humble servant in bearing and parenting Jesus.  So, we can ask the question two ways.  God is saying to Mary, “Who AM I to you?”  And Mary is saying to God, “Who am I that you would choose me?” 

    This Advent season is a good time to remind ourselves to ask these very important questions.  Please do not stop there, though.  As we ask       ourselves these questions, a response is required.  In the light of I AM and His all-sufficiency, we are to be His humble servants.  He loves to be with us.  He deliberately, pointedly, caringly planned to be born to Mary.  He wants a close, beautiful relationship with you.  If you trust and believe that Jesus is the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, lived a perfect sinless life, was crucified and punished for all our sins, was buried and rose again on the third day, you must act on that faith.  Try to follow Mary’s extraordinary example and be obedient to God’s words we have in the Bible.

     

    Prayer:  Dear I AM, thank you for Your perfect, beautiful plan to live among us.  Give us faith and courage to be extraordinary by humbly and boldly sharing with all people what we believe about You.  Amen

  • Tuesday, December 12th

    Described by Names

    Robin LaLonde

    Isaiah 9:6–7

     

    In the Bible, people were given names that described their character and their heritage. We see this to be true as the prophet Isaiah predicts the coming of the King of kings, which was fulfilled with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem 700 hundred years later.

     

    WONDERFUL Counselor

    We typically use the word wonderful to describe something good or delightful. The word used here by Isaiah means more than good or delightful.  The word is the same word used in Psalm 78:12…” He performed wonders before their fathers in the land of Egypt..”  The meaning is He is a God of miracles, marvelous works that are beyond human ability and understanding.  Jesus fulfills this prophecy in the way He performed His Wonderful teaching, His Wonderful miracles, His Wonderful mercy, His Wonderful grace, His Wonderful forgiveness….and especially in His Wonderful  sacrifice on the cross!

     

    Wonderful COUNSELOR

    A role of a counselor is to impart wisdom & experience that guides people from confusion to order, from lies to truth, and from dark to light. Jesus wants to hear our requests & petitions always and especially during times like above. We can be assured Jesus understands our tears, our deepest needs, our doubts, and our confusion. He faithfully has provided the scriptures & the Holy Spirit to guide us through.

     

    MIGHTY GOD

    John 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

    We are reminded that Jesus was involved in the creation of the universe. Yes! We as believers have access to the Mighty God, creator and sustainer of the universe.

    EVERLASTING FATHER

    “the government will rest on His shoulders..” A king with rule & authority like never seen before…In the time of Isaiah, most kings were evil and known as oppressors of people. But not this KING. His rule frees us from all things that burden and oppress us! His rule will be as a father to protect & bless His people!

     

    PRINCE OF PEACE

    What a fabulous combination of words! The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. Shalom carries a meaning more than just peace, it means completeness, wholeness, harmony, fully satisfied. Remember this, peace isn’t the absence of trouble in our lives, but the assurance that no matter what we face in life Jesus promises to be with us, and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

     

    This message of hope came at a time when people were in great distress. But it is also a message of hope and a reason to rejoice for those who believe in the Savior. If you find yourself anxious during this Christmas Season, take a deep breath & recall all that is in His Name.

     

    Excepts taken from “Faith in the Real World” 2010

     

    PRAYER

    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,  we wait for you, we prepare our hearts for you & you alone! During this season would you cause us to pause & reflect on your character that is reflected in your Names? We rejoice that we can know the King of kings personally, as our Lord and Savior.

    AMEN

  • Wednesday, December 13th

    He is the Wonderful Counselor

    Sharon Dymmel

    Isaiah 40:12–14

     

    It is a very easy thing for us to forget just how insignificant we are in this world. And yet, because we experience the world through our own corporal bodies we are, in effect, at the center of our own little universe. We see the world, all lit up at this time of year, through our own eyes. We taste and smell wonderful things like candy canes, hot chocolate, and warm ginger bread (and pray we make it to January with less than 5 extra pounds packed on). We run our fingers through our children’s curly hair and think how blessed we are to have these little people in our lives. And we hear the stirring sounds of a Christmas choir singing, “Gloria, in excelsis deo” and wonder what it might have been like to be there on the first Christmas night so long ago. God gifted us with the ability to experience his creation through our senses. But we cannot be all places at once. We cannot know what he knows or see what he sees.

     

    Isaiah 40:12 asks, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?” God in all his glorious splendor has. He sees it all and knows it all.

     

    As for me, it’s easy to forget that all I see, hear, taste, smell and touch represent only my little corner of the world…my little slice of existence. It is all too easy to take every event and interpret it based on how it affects me, again, forgetting just how insignificant I truly am in the grand scheme of things.

     

    And yet God loves me, loves my neighbor, and loved all of humanity—so much so he gave us the greatest gift of all, Jesus. How reassuring to grasp this truth--I don’t have to understand everything that happens in this world or worry about what trouble may come my way tomorrow. God knows. God understands. He is the wonderful counselor and he has a plan.


    In Romans 11:33–36 the Apostle Paul exclaims, “Oh, the depth of the   riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his   judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his Counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things.”

     

    Nothing I’ve done or ever could do can repay him for all he has done for me, nor could it come close to the glorious riches he has in store for all who believe.

     

    My prayer…Lord, thank you for your many gifts to me. Help me to           appreciate all that you have done. In the midst of this busy season, help me to slow down, breathe deeply, and quietly contemplate and thank you for the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge to be found in you. To you be the glory forever and ever. Amen

  • Thursday, December 14th

    He is the Mighty God

    Mike Haugland

    Isaiah 40:25–31

     

    To whom then will you compare me that I should be like him? says the Holy One.  Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

     

    Have you ever made that commitment to exercise? Perhaps it was your New Year’s resolution. You finally woke up early and began what you had committed to only to find out… you are really, really out of shape. I began this process a few years ago and within 5 minutes of a 1 hour class I was toast; laying on the floor gasping for air. My strength was gone and I was humiliated.

     

    Jesus is described to us as the One who does faint or grow weary. His strength is an everlasting strength. And for us to begin to grasp this we need to see our weaknesses. Our world tells us to run til you drop. We are told in this passage to “wait for the Lord”. But many times the Lord allows us to run ahead until we are thoroughly exhausted. Can you think of a time when you had exhausted all energy, might and strength? It’s humbling; because at this moment we see our limitations. But when we turn to the Word we see the One who has no limitations and no end to His strength. And in this state if we will receive He will give.

     

    Paul explains this beautifully in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” Are you in that place where you boast in your weakness so that the power of Christ may dwell in you? Are waiting on the Lord as the Mighty God who gives strength to the weak?

     

    In Christ alone we find all that we will ever need. But sadly too often we short change ourselves by only receiving some of what Christ has given to us through faith. Today’s passage reminds us where our strength comes from. Let me encourage you today to lean on the “Mighty God” and let Him give you all you need for today and every day.

  • Friday, December 15th

    He is the Everlasting Father

    Sharon Dymmel

     John 10:30, 38

     

    At Christmas, perhaps more than any other time of the year, I find it   difficult to understand how so many people in this world can see the beauty of God’s creation and experience his blessings without accepting the undeniable truth that it all comes from Christ. Aren’t they seeing what I’m seeing? There’s a manger scene on our neighbor’s front lawn and a 5-foot-tall illuminated “star of Bethlehem” hanging from a palm tree in another yard at the end of the street. Secular radio stations play Christmas music of all kinds, including songs that beckon us to worship with strains of, “O come, let us adore him!” And the evening news shines a spotlight on the political status of Bethlehem in a nod to the enduring importance of the town where Christ was born. The signs are everywhere and yet so many people miss them entirely!

     

    Jesus made it plain to the Jews of his day when they asked him if he was the Christ, to which he replied, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) That made his audience so angry they were ready to stone him! With the explosion of social media and 24 hour news, I hear stories almost daily of people who are taking a stand against some socially acceptable sin of the present day. When they point to their sincere faith in Christ as a reason for their stance, the powers of this world seek to destroy them—either by calling them names, ruining their businesses, or shaming them in the public arena. In spite of all this, they count the cost and stand with Christ.

     

    Do you know who Christ is? Are you willing to stand with him? Or are you missing all the signs?

     

    In John 14, Christ gives the disciples some wonderful news. “In my      Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you…I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

     

    Somehow, Jesus’ disciple, Philip, is confused by all this. Where exactly is Jesus going? How can I know this is all true? “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us,” he requests. 

     

    How Jesus’ heart must have sank. “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” The signs were everywhere. The truth was clear. And yet, Philip still wasn’t sure.

     

    Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t give up on Philip? He continued to love him and teach him until Philip finally understood. How wonderful it is to read in Acts Chapter 8 of Philip preaching the gospel to the Ethiopian Eunuch and unlocking for him the truth found in the scriptures. Jesus didn’t give up on Philip. So let us never give up on our unsaved relatives and friends.

     

    My prayer: Heavenly Father, as I prepare to celebrate your son’s birth, I pray for many opportunities to reach out to those around me with the good news of the salvation you brought to the whole world through Christ. Let their eyes be open to your glorious light.  Amen.

     

    Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born! 

  • Saturday, December 16th

    He is the Prince of Peace

    Isaiah 9:7

    Judy Eastman

     

    You were the Word in the beginning One with God the Lord Most High.

    Your hidden glory in creation now revealed in You our Christ.

    From ‘What a Beautiful Name it is” 2016 Hillsong

     

    As the Prince of Peace, Jesus brought the Lord’s peace to earth.  His is an other worldly peace, not understandable to the temporal mind. Without the Lord’s wisdom peace is seen as the absence of conflict. You have all seen the bumper sticker that advocates Peace not War. Yet, God’s peace is present in every situation, it is not affected by external circumstances. It is found in the jail cell, on the battle field, and in the martyr’s heart.

     

    Even Jesus’ apostles did not understand the comprehensive nature of the peace He advocated. Through out Hebrew history war had been the mode of life. Actually through out all human history war has been the way of the world. The ‘government’ Jesus advocated did not include violence. It required the strength of turning the other cheek and the commitment to meekness. Jesus taught that weakness in Him was desired and humility was honored. He contradicted the expected path of life, turning acceptable goals on their ears.

     

    Jesus’ life changed everything. His teaching so differed from traditional Jewish thought that the Jews killed Him. At the cross all time stood still. In Christ’s death Satan believed he had won. Not seeing the future, he believed Jesus was dead and His life lived in vain. Then came Easter morning, the stone was rolled away, and Jesus rose from the dead! Spiritual death was conquered! The price had been paid for sin once and for all.

     

    The victory of Jesus’s life began with a young girl, His mother Mary, and a willing heart. The Prince of Peace came as a small baby, helpless and humble. He lived the life he was sent to complete. He brought peace to a world in turmoil. Jesus truly is the Prince of Eternal Peace.

     

    Prayer: Precious Lord, You came to our world to free us from sin and You did that and so much more. Thank You for being our Prince of Peace. Thank You for Your example of humility and love. Thank You for providing a way of escape and eternal life! Alleluia!

  • Sunday, December 17th

    The Place, Timing, and Reason for His Birth

    Bethany Armendariz

    Micah 5:2–5

     

    The fullness of time. A plan of redemption set in motion that fateful day in Eden, portions revealed in the choosing of Abraham and the making of the nation of Israel. Hinted at in Job 39:9 as God reveals His character and might, asking if  oxen worshiped at Job's birth. Prophesied centuries before to Micah as the Shepherd of the Lord, the Ruler born of a woman. Orchestrated by the One who numbers the stars, who set in motion so many years ago that star in the east, guiding wise men from far-off lands to worship and bear gifts.

     

    And yet, His birth was not the final culmination. The plan was set in motion but not complete. Redemption was clothed in flesh and yet, the sword must pierce. Still, our sin must be borne. The law must be fulfilled. He is the Son who came to walk with mankind, sent by a God of love, purposed for our salvation. He is the Ruler who makes us dwell secure. The One who chose and loved us before the foundations of the earth. The Prince of Peace.

  • Monday, December 18th

    Gabriel’s Private Birth Announcement

    Sharon Dymmnel

     Luke 1:26–38

     

    I have an awful lot to do every day. Make breakfast, get the kids ready for school, take them to school, prepare worship songs for the various ministries I’m involved in, try to get some writing down (my career), go grocery shopping, prepare dinner, pick up my kids from school, guide them through homework, clean the house, smile big, give kisses and hugs, pray a lot, and fall into bed at 11:30 pm. I wonder sometimes what Mary’s day was like before she received an unexpected visit from the   angel Gabriel. I hope, at the very least, she had time to do some cleaning before the angel of God showed up unannounced in her home! But I doubt she had the slightest thought for her surroundings once the room was filled with the angelic being’s presence. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…” we read in Luke Chapter 1. 

     

    Gabriel announced to her some pretty spectacular news! She would bear a child and he would be called the Son of the Most High. How must her heart have felt upon hearing this news? Did her mind race through all the implications of what the angel had said? We don’t know exactly but we do know she accepted the news with humility saying, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

     

    In the months that lay ahead, Mary undoubtedly faced much criticism and endured the judgmental stares of people who didn’t believe her story of an angelic visit and a holy child. But she knew the one who had promised was faithful and I’m certain she went back to the words of Gabriel many times. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…”

     

    Mary was chosen for a special task. Christ was born through a virgin and the world would never be the same. At this time of year, let us remember that God has a special task for each of us. Let us be his light to a world living in darkness. And let us trust God to bring people into our path with whom we can share the news that he is coming again.

     

  • Tuesday, December 19th

    Quickening our Hearts

    Robyn Vandewalle

    Luke 1:39–45

     

    Hundreds of years earlier, prophets described His names and His mission. Now, an angel of the Lord has visited a young woman to announce what seems impossible: the birth of the Son of God who will fulfill the promises of long ago. Mary next visits her cousin, only to learn of another surprise…in her older years, Elizabeth is pregnant with a son. As a grown man, he will help to make ready the hearts of the people for God’s work of redemption for all.

     

    We read in Luke 1:41 that as Mary arrived, the baby growing within       Elizabeth wriggled and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. One of the first to respond to the incarnation and receive the Holy Spirit was an    aging woman bearing her own miracle. Elizabeth cries out that Mary has been blessed to be chosen as the mother of her Lord and further          proclaims that Mary is blessed for believing what was spoken to her. Both Mary and Elizabeth seem fairly ordinary, yet their roles in God’s work are anything but ordinary.  God chose them, through the humble condition of pregnancy, to bear witness of Him and the fulfillment of His promises. They had only to believe and the Holy Spirit filled in the gaps.

    In a season that seems to demand our attention and pulls us in all sorts of directions, we need to press the pause button and let Elizabeth’s story sink in and capture us. How will you respond to the real event of the one, true God coming to this earth as a baby, as part of an orchestrated plan to bring us into relationship with Him? Do you believe His promises are true? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to fill in the gaps in your life?

     

    Lord God, thank you for sending your Holy Spirit into our lives when we trust in who You are and when we believe that You alone have paid the price for our sins. We pray for opportunities this Christmas to bring the truth to others. We ask that You make ready the hearts of those around us who don’t know You, and we ask for courage and grace for sharing your message. Thank you, Lord for always hearing us, and for always loving us. Amen.

  • Wednesday, December 20th

    Mary’s Magnificent God

    Robin LaLonde

    Luke 1:46–55

     

    Mary was divinely, handpicked by God to be the mother of Jesus. She had a humble, gentle and quiet spirit, and she accepted in humbleness the will of God for her life. She didn’t regard herself or the difficulties and hardships she would have to endure by carrying the Messiah. She

    rejoiced! She felt honored by God for Him to choose her, “a lowly maid servant”.  She exalted the Lord and praised His name.

     

    How was this young woman able to “wrap her head” around this incredible task given to her? Perhaps due to her daily walk of obedience to God already established. This is truly a believer’s love language to God.

     

    In her song, she speaks of God’s holiness and mercy - of God bringing down the proud and exalting the humble - filling the hungry and sending the rich away empty handed. Mary’s description here is of a just and caring God whom she loved and worshiped.

     

    How would Mary have been so confident in God’s character? Perhaps she spent much time sitting under teaching that spoke how the “Mighty One” had rescued and provided for generations before her. It reminds me of the saying “there are only 24 hours in a day”. Sounds pretty grim in that tone. What if we changed the saying to “ I have a complete 24 hours today!” Somewhere in those 24 hours we should fulfill a priority to read and study Scripture, pray for the lost, disciple or be discipled, fill our heads with music that honors our Savior, read or write in a journal how the Lord has ministered and provided for you or a friend…

     

    We can almost imagine how excited she must have been as she waited to go into labor and meet this baby that would be the Savior of the World! As the months went by and with each baby “hiccup” the anticipation must have been increased.

     

    Do we share Mary’s excitement and expectation of having people meet

    this  same Jesus? In a time such as these, where our culture is asking us to replace “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays” and declaring that    nativity scenes are offensive… stand firm! Reflect on how Mary stood firm in her obedience and confidence that her god would fulfill all that He promised in due time.

     

    This Christmas season, as we reflect on Jesus and His birth, let us also take the opportunity to introduce Him to those who have not yet met Him.

     

    Advent Prayer;

    Lord, may we always remember with humble hearts we too have been “handpicked” by you. To be a child of yours is truly and honor.

    You are always full of holiness and mercy towards us and we can trust you alone to be the same yesterday and tomorrow.

    Help each of us to organize our lives to spend time with you, read your Word and look for ways to apply daily what we have learned.

    We pray this Christmas season, we will be so “full of You” it will ooze out of us as we sing, “My soul magnifies the Lord!”

    Amen

  • Thursday, December 21st

    Zechariah’s Song

    Steven Brooks

    Luke 1:67–79

     

    Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth have struggled to have a child; and then in their old age, an angel of the Lord visits Zechariah and tells him they will indeed have a son. Because Zechariah questions this declaration from the Lord, the angel tells Zechariah that he will not be able to speak for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (it seems as though Elizabeth receives a double blessing here - a child and a husband that can’t speak). When the time comes for Elizabeth to give birth to their son, Zechariah’s voice returns and the first thing he utters is a song of blessing to God.

     

    In this song, known as the Benedictus (“blessed be the Lord God of Israel”), Zechariah praises God and declares that he is powerful and faithful in fulfilling his promises. Through the lens of God’s faithfulness, Zechariah contemplates the events that are transpiring concerning the birth of his son, John, and the anticipated birth of John’s cousin, Jesus. The births of these two babies are part of the grand story of a God who keeps promises and acts on behalf of his people.

     

    This first part of the song is thanksgiving for the realization that Jesus, the Messiah, is coming. The long awaited Messiah, hoped for by generations upon generations, was finally coming. This not only brought hope to the people of Israel, but a renewed strength to carry on. When Zechariah mentions the horn of salvation (verse 69), the people of Israel would have thought of the mighty power of deliverance which would now be at hand.

     

    This deliverance was pointed to by Zechariah as the fulfillment of God's oath to Abraham; not for personal gain of things on this earth, but that (74b-75) "we may serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness all our days.”


    But what is the goal of this deliverance/salvation? Here is perhaps the most insightful part of the song. Zechariah is not retreating from life or looking only to a future reward in heaven. His heart's desire is to serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all of our days. The meaning of life comes in faithful service to a holy God. By  saying “our days”, Zechariah represents many who strive to serve God wholeheartedly.

     

    The second part of Zechariah’s song is addressed to his own precious son. John was to participate in such an important part in the redemption of God’s people. He would be a prophet, preparing people, and preaching the forgiveness of sins brought to fruition by the coming of the Messiah.

     

    Jesus, the light of the world has come to dispel the darkness (verse 79). God has visited us in the form of man. And it is he whom we must be dependent upon for our salvation. Even the righteous Zechariah recognized the need to be totally dependent on the one God will send. This Advent and Christmas season, let us renew our commitment to “serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness all our days.”

  • Friday, December 22nd

    Joseph’s Courageous Trust

    Robin LaLonde

    Matthew 1:18–25

     

    In the book of Luke, we read of how Mary was approached by the angel and offered her a message from the Lord. Over the next few days she was encouraged and able to process what was happening in and through her. The Messiah would be brought into this world through her womb. 

     

    Here in the Book of Matthew we read how Joseph is encouraged by an angel of Lord also.  In verse 19...we are given hint into the character and faith of Joseph.

    We are told "being a righteous man...” Joseph was a devout man who obeyed the Law of Moses.  As he is processing what the next step should be he is approached by the messenger and given instruction that would take a great amount of faith! We are told, Joseph arose from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife.

     

    This level of faith and trust that Joseph had did not develop overnight! This is a faith and trust that was cultivated day in and day out over time. Can you imagine if Joseph had not already been in a place spiritually to take on this task? What if he had never practiced the Law of Moses, or gone to temple, or sat with wiser men and discussed the promises and ways of his God?

     

    One of the lessons here, I believe, is there may be a challenge or circumstance or even special calling on our lives at any moment. Prepare now by reading and studying the Word of God. More than likely you have several bibles on a shelf at home right now. More than likely your phone already has a bible app...Don’t waste any of these resources.  Memorization of the promises of God couldn't be any easier with all the technology available to us.  Now is the time to seek out someone to disciple you in application of these scriptures.

     

    Yes, Joseph's head was no doubt spinning with so many questions but we learn from the scriptures one question was answered even before the visit by the angel. His God was truly trust worthy and always faithful in every circumstance.

    Lord, we are forever grateful for the way you chose to come into our World. May we be striving towards a spiritual maturity that is preparing us to serve You when whenever You call.  Amen

  • Saturday, December 23rd

    God’s Providential Direction

    Dennis Davies

    Luke 2:1–5

     

    Joseph, barely introduced in 1:27, enters center stage. Taxation followed his lineage, so he obediently traveled the ninety miles to Bethlehem, David’s home, where the Scriptures said Messiah would be born (Mic. 5:2). Mary, still only engaged, not married but pregnant, joined him. Luke surprises us with his next statement, just as the event must have surprised Mary and Joseph. Jesus’ appearance time had come. Simply, Luke reports, she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.

     

    Following the practice of her day, Mary wrapped the baby in strips of cloth to keep his arms and legs straight. Jesus’ first crib had usually served as a dining table for animals. Where they had eaten, he now slept. Why? Because all normal lodging places were full. Or perhaps because Joseph found a small one-room house with just enough room for him and his wife. The only available space for the child was in the animal trough attached to the wall that their room shared with the animals’ quarters. The promised king came to his people but did not have enough power to secure a resting place for his birth. The descendants of David descended to a stable to find a place to lay the head of the King of kings. This is how God used earth’s lowest to bring salvation from heaven’s highest.

     

    So, Who’s in charge? The Romans ruled the civilized world at this time. By contrast, Joseph controlled very little. Against his better judgment and political convictions, he complied with the Roman order and traveled with Mary to Bethlehem. 

     

    The twist in the story is, of course, that it is the very pagan authorities who are responsible for bringing Jesus to Bethlehem. Caesar, like Cyrus before him, unknowingly becomes the servant of God’s purpose. The promise is fulfilled through the actions of the unlikeliest of people. For God is Lord of all the earth and there is no power not under his authority, no poverty to which he turns a blind eye of indifference.  

     

    The Romans were in control insofar as human authority can get its way by exerting human power. But the Romans did not recognize their limitations. In reality, God controls the world. In all times and places, he works his will. God did not write Roman law, but judged it. God did not soften Joseph’s bumpy road, but strengthened him. God is in charge of your life too. He will guide you and provide all you need. Like Joseph, live each day by faith, trusting that God is in charge.

     

    Thank you Father that you work through history-making governments and anonymous people like shepherds to accomplish Your saving purposes. . . .

  • Sunday, December 24th

    The Angel’s Public Birth Announcement

    Dena Jackson

    Luke 2:8–14

     

    As a young child, I can remember setting up the manger at the base of the Christmas tree, then promptly lying on my stomach in front of it carefully pulling down a portion of a string of lights from the lowest branches in order to gently place a light just right upon the manger as to set aglow the inside where baby Jesus lay, just as the heavenly star shone brightly in the night sky on the evening of Christ’s birth 2000 years ago. A few years later, again setting up the manger going through my usual ritual, upon lying there a bit longer this time gazing at the lighted manger I mused over the angels appearing to the shepherds in the field. Butterflies fluttered inside me imaging the excitement those shepherds must have experienced as an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them.  Fear mixed with unspeakable awe, reverence and joy! I wished I had been there to see it, I thought. So I wrote  upon a piece of paper, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth,” cut around it in a scroll pattern and fashioned it as a banner on the ridge rafter of the manger. As the snow fell outside, my heart was filled with child-like joy as I lay lost in my thoughts which I just know were from God.

     

    Wow, to have witnessed the angelic public birth announcement of the goods news that would be for all. Not only did the angel announce the Savior's birth, but he gave the shepherds directions to the manger and what they would find there. As an encore, the angel was accompanied by a multitude of heavenly host praising God and declaring, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” I don’t know about you, but my phone GPS doesn’t announce directions to me in this manner, nor does it blast an awarding winning grand finale  performance when I arrive at my destination. That’s because there is no other destination deserving of such a broadcast.

     

     

    What are the directions to the destination our hearts should be during this glorious Christmas season? Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:3-4, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never  enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”’ Therefore, just as the Savior of the world came to earth as a child, so to are we to humble ourselves and come to him. Take time this Christmas Eve to lie like a child in front of the manger letting your imagination take your heart to the destination where a multitude of heavenly host are praising God announcing the greatest gift and peace to all mankind. Your heart GPS will say you have arrived! 

     

    O Lord, direct our hearts that we may break from our busy lives this Christmas season to come to you with child-like faith so our hearts will strike up angelic music and burst with unspeakable joy. May our joy not be harnessed, but overflowing for others to see, announcing, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

  • Monday, December 25th

    He is Born!

    Dennis Davies

    Luke 2:6–7

     

    The fullness of time was now come, when God would send forth his Son, made of a woman, and made under the law; and it was foretold that he should be born at Bethlehem. 

     

    Consider that:

     

    1) Jesus was born in the days of Augustus Caesar, when the Roman empire extended itself further than ever before or since; so that it was then called Terraram orbis imperium—The empire of the whole earth, for there was scarcely any part of the civilized world, that was not dependent on it.


    2) He was born when Judea had become a province of the empire so that when all the Roman empire was taxed, the Jews were taxed among the rest. It was just at this juncture, that the Messiah was to be born as foretold by Jacob’s dying prophecy in Genesis 49:10, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes. . . ." (Gen 49:10) 


    3) There was also universal peace in throughout the Roman empire. So that it was now fit for the Prince of peace to be born. The name of the birth place of Jesus was significant. Bethlehem signifies the house of bread; a proper place for the Messiah to be born who is the Bread of life (Jn 6:35,48), the Bread that came down from heaven (Jn 6:41).


    4) His birth affected Caesar’s politics (vv. 1–3), the ministry of the angels (vv. 8–15), and the activities of common men (vv. 15–20). In that day, shepherds were looked upon with disdain; but God singled them out to be the first human messengers of Messiah’s birth. His coming touched worshipers (vv. 21–38) and even scholars (vv. 39–52).


    5) The angels sang about Him, and He is still the theme of the greatest music. Luke wrote about Him, and He is still the subject of the greatest literature. The shepherds hastened to behold Him, and He is still at the center of the greatest art. Teachers listened to Him and marveled, and He is still the focal point for all truth and wisdom.


    6) In His development, Jesus was perfectly balanced: intellectually (wisdom), physically (stature), spiritually (in favor with God), and    socially (in favor with man); and He is still the greatest example for childhood and youth.

     

    Thank you Father that Jesus alone is worthy of our worship and our praise, and He alone is why we sing out with all our hearts, “Oh, come! Let us adore Him!

  • Tuesday, December 26th

    Simeon’s Song

    Robin LaLonde

    Luke 2:25–32

     

    Simeon was a good man who tried hard to follow God’s law. He can teach us a few things about waiting, as he had been waiting for something important for a long, long, time. Although he was very old, he remained full of life for one reason; he believed that God had told him he would not die before he had seen the Savior—the Messiah of Israel!

     

    It was a dark time in Israel. There had been no new revelation from God through his prophets for over 400 years. Not exactly the basis for optimism. But although Simeon’s body was aging, his hope grew stronger, because the hope that was in him was greater than the hopelessness around him.

     

    Day after day, year after year, Simeon watched and waited. He would probably go to temple whenever couples brought their baby sons to be dedicated, watch and pray: “Is it this one Lord? Is it that one Lord?” He waited for Christmas every day, for many years.

     

    Here comes Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to participate in a purification rite that all Jewish women went through after childbirth, and the child would  be consecrated to God, as were all firstborn Jewish sons. Imagine, as they entered the temple a stranger   approaches them, old man Simeon. He reached out his arms for the baby. Mary & Joseph may have wondered whether or not to hand over this  precious baby to an old man they had never seen before. Obviously, something eased their minds because they handed over baby Jesus to Simeon.

     

    Simeon held him and thanked God for allowing him to see the child that would save the world. Simeon’s attitude was, “I am ready to die. You can take me home now. It has been worth the wait.”

     

    We all have things we want so badly we can hardly stand it—healthy relationships, the end of pain and suffering, a restoration of normal, whatever normal is for you. The waiting seems like torture. And the   question we all ask is , “Will it be  worth the wait?”

     

    In 1995, Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman was stepping out on stage to perform. Which in itself is quite a task considering he was stricken with Polio as a  child and walked with braces and crutches. He painfully moves slowly but with dignity and gets to his chair. The audience patiently waits for him.  Reaches for his violin and begins to play. Just as he finished the first stanza, a string on the violin breaks.   He  paused for a moment, closed his eyes and signaled for the orchestra to begin again.

     

    We are told he played with a passion, power and purity like the audience had never heard before. Of course, everyone knew it was impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. But that night, this violinist refused to believe it. One audience member said, “At one point, it    sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from the strings they had never made before.”  When interviewed, Perlman replied, “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

     

    While you are waiting for whatever it is your heart longs for, what kind of music will your life make with what you have left? Will you find ways to encourage others who are also waiting? Will you continue to watch and wait knowing that for the follower of Christ, Christmas comes every day? Take time to think about this  as you wait on the Lord.

    Based on: Sermon Series by Ed Rowell, Preaching today.com

     

    PRAYER

    Lord, you are always faithful to fulfill your promises. Help me to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer as I wait upon you and your perfect timing.  Amen

  • Wednesday, December 27th

    About His Father’s Business

    Mike Haugland

    Luke 2:41–52

     

    In our passage today Jesus is right where He is supposed to be; in His   Father’s house. I see two amazing things here, number one, Mary and Joseph had Jesus in their presence daily and thought he was with another part of the caravan. It took them a day to be aware that Jesus was not with them. I wonder… how often do we forget Jesus? Not in a literal, physical since or even thinking we could leave Jesus at home while we went to work, but in a spiritual since. So busy in life that we forget the person our life is all about; so busy and distracted that we forget the One who called us in the first place. May we take this passage to heart and be reminded of the daily need of Jesus in our life. The great news is that we don’t need to travel to a location or temple to find Jesus or in our case remember Jesus. We just need to simply stop… and pray. Sounds so simple doesn’t it? But praying is usually the first thing that goes when we get too busy. In the story of Mary & Martha in Luke 10:38-42, Martha is too busy and missing who is right in front of her, Jesus the Messiah. She even asks Jesus to have Mary help her with all her work, but Jesus gently reminds her that HE is worth stopping for and that Mary hasn’t forgotten all that needs to be done, she just simply put Jesus first.  Perhaps you too feel overwhelmed or anxious. May I suggest that you stop and remember whose you are? Remember the One who came after you and called you by name. Your identity is in Christ and not in what you do.

    The second thing I found fascinating in this passage is how Mary & Joseph are upset. Similar to Martha, they had plans and expectations and were explaining all the stress they were under  trying to find Jesus when Jesus responds, “
    “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”. Jesus reminds them of the bigger picture here, the Father and His house. Have you ever been reminded by a child or someone younger that you need to pray? Perhaps you dug into a meal and a little one has said, “Don’t you want to pray?”, Immediately you feel slightly embarrassed that a child reminded you of the Father and a   thankful heart. In this passage I think Jesus was reminding Joseph & Mary that even though they had plans, He (Jesus) would yield to His Father’s plan over theirs. This is a great reminder to the bigger picture of life. We too need to yield our plans to the Father. As it was once said, “may our will be swallowed up by God’s will”.

  • Thursday, December 28th

    Anointed to Preach the Gospel

    Eric Eismann

    Luke 4:14–21

     

    Close your eyes for a moment.  Imagine yourself living in Nazareth at that time.  Imagine you are walking toward the synagogue.  Perhaps along the way, your family is rehashing the week, laughing and jostling with each; or perhaps you are worrying about an illness that you or a loved one is experiencing; perhaps you are distracted, because the morning hasn’t gone the way you planned; or you are thinking past the synagogue to the family gathering that you are hosting afterwards. Perhaps you are thinking through the study you will lead; or looking  forward to the study in which you will participate.


    And on this day, which was much like any other, and in this synagogue, Jesus shows up.  He announces that He is the fulfillment of God’s plan.  He is the Messiah. He is the Chosen One of God.  God intersected each of those lives on that day.  They heard a clear gospel message proclaiming that Jesus is the Messiah.  And they heard it from Jesus Himself.  Wow.


    The people who heard that proclamation then had a follow-on question to answer: “Who do I believe Jesus is?”


    On this day, Jesus began His public ministry.  Showing up and proclaiming the good news that the Kingdom of God is at hand through repentance of sin and belief in Him.  For the next three years, Jesus showed up in people’s lives proclaiming that good news.  He approached a tax collector named Levi and said, “Follow me.”  He sailed across the sea to approach a demon possessed man living among the tombs.  He walked into a town to approach a woman at a well.  He traveled to comfort Mary and her sister Martha in a time of grief.  Jesus addressed crowds, such as when he fed the 5,000 or he fed the 4,000; and he addressed individuals such as the rich young ruler or the Roman soldier.  And each of them answered the question: “Who do I believe Jesus is?”


    God has not finished intersecting lives, the Holy Spirit continues revealing the majesty of Jesus Christ and Jesus is alive today - right here, right now - ready to forgive sins and transform lives. The central question one must answer: “Who do I believe Jesus is?”


    Close your eyes again and remember the day that God intersected your life, the day the Holy Spirit opened your spiritual eyes to the see the Truth about Jesus, unplugged your spiritual ears to hear that Truth, and gave you the faith to believe that Truth.  Remember the day that Jesus stood before you and wrapped you in His arms, forgave your sins and welcomed you into His family.


    On that day, you were blessed with the most wonderful present ever given: The saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  And this is the most wonderful present that you can give: Sharing the hope you have found in  Jesus Christ.


    Please pray.  Father God, thank you for loving me and for sending your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you Holy Spirit for revealing the truth of Jesus’ redemptive work and softening my heart to accept Him as my Savior. And thank you Jesus for living a perfect life, taking my sin upon the cross and bearing the punishment I deserve.  Thank you Lord for your amazing plan to save me; and for your glorious plan for my life.  Let me live today in the fullness of that blessing; and encourage and embolden me to share it with my neighbors, friends, classmates, work colleagues and anybody else who desperately needs to hear it.  Lead me to become the spiritual leader you have called me to become.  Amen

  • Friday, December 29th

    Redemption Communicated in a Supper

    Dennis Davies

    Mark 14:22–28

     

    The Cup: Jesus expanded on the meaning of “the cup” by saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”

     

    On the cross, Jesus would fulfill the old covenant and establish a new  covenant. The animal sacrifices of the old covenant were carried out    repeatedly. The new covenant was accomplished, once and for all, by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross (Heb. 9–10). The new covenant would take away sin and cleanse the heart and conscience of the believer. Salvation no longer would come by Old Testament avenues but by faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied of such a day (Jer. 31:31–34). This day was about to happen.

     

    From verses 25-26 we get the phrase “Last SupperorLord’s Supper.” This was Jesus’ last supper or feast of celebration until “that day when I drink it [the wine] anew in the kingdom of God.”

     

    Jesus pointed out to his disciples that there was a future and a hope. He was facing incredible suffering, persecution, and rejection, but he would be victorious when he rose from the grave. This victory would be        complete when he celebrated with a new redeemed community in the kingdom of God (Rev. 3:20–21; 19:6–9). They ended the meal, as was   customary, by singing Psalms 115–118, the traditional Passover hymn.


    After the “Last Supper,” Jesus and his disciples headed toward the Mount of Olives. Their hearts were heavy. Not only were the disciples about to lose their Lord, but one of them would betray him into the hands of his enemies. Jesus predicted that all of the disciples would forsake him when it came to crunch time. 


    The phrase, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, is a quote from Zechariah 13:7. When the Shepherd—Jesus—was struck down by God on the cross, the sheep—the disciples—would forsake him physically and emotionally. They would refuse to identify with him     because of their fear of reprisal by the Jewish religious leaders. 

     

    However, Jesus wanted to make sure the disciples heard the rest of the story, “after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Jesus was saying that death might be real but it was not final. He will be “raised!”

     

    Thank you, Father that there is hope. The resurrection is a certainty and until you return we will be Your disciples and Your work will go on. . . .

  • Saturday, December 30th

    Sin, Satan & Death Swallowed up in Victory

    Dennis Davies

    1 Corinthians 15:3–4, 50-58

     

    “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures," (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

     

    That is the hope of the Christian and the message of 1 Corinthians 15. To the skeptics of every age, as to the skeptics in Corinth, the Holy Spirit through Paul gives a rebuke for denying the resurrection of the body (15:12, 35) and proclaims, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (vv. 20–22).

     

    In this longest chapter of the letter, the apostle has given the evidence for Christ’s resurrection (vv. 1–11), the implications of denying bodily          resurrection (vv. 12–19), the plan (vv. 20–28) and incentives (vv. 29–34) of resurrection, and a description and explanation of our resurrection bodies (vv. 35–49). In concluding this passage, he proclaims the marvelous victory that resurrection will bring for those who are Christ’s.

     

    Paul’s concluding “victory song” has been put to music in such masterpieces as Handel’s Messiah and Brahms’s Requiem, and in many ways, it is more appropriate to be sung than preached. Praising God in anticipation of resurrection, the apostle proclaims the great transformation, the great triumph, and the great thanksgiving that the raising of God’s saints will bring, and then gives a great exhortation for holy living until that day comes.


    Satan seemed to be victorious in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) and at the cross of Jesus. The trophy was death. But God turned Satan’s apparent victory into defeat when Jesus Christ rose from the dead (Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14–15). Thus death is no longer a source of dread or fear. It has ceased to be the proof of Satan’s power. Christ overcame it, and one day we will also. The law will no longer make sinners out of us who cannot keep it. Death has been defeated, and we have hope beyond the grave. Because of the resurrection, nothing believers do for the Lord is in vain. 

     

    Thank you, Father that regardless of our limitations here on earth, all of us who have placed our faith in Jesus will be given new bodies when Christ returns. And these bodies will be without disabilities, never to die or become sick. May this truth give us hope in our times of suffering. . . .

  • Sunday, December 31st

    All Is Well!

    Mary Mello

    Revelation 21:1–3

     

    Have you ever been to a movie where it begins with the end? I feel like this passage which comes towards the end of the Bible is just the beginning – the beginning of eternity. Once we accept Jesus Christ as our LORD and Savior, we begin the journey of our lives - we study – we trust – we believe – we obey, with the promise that we will be living with Jesus and the rest of the saints that have preceded us.

     

    As I read that the first earth has passed away what comes to mind is that all the pain and suffering have passed away – no more cancer, violence, homelessness, etc.…

     

    I can’t begin to imagine what the new heaven and new earth that God has been preparing for us will look like – given that this earth that we live on is amazing with all of the magnificent sunrises and sunset - rainbows after the rain – the things that only God could create and that science could never figure out. I so appreciated the end of verse 2 “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (NASB) or “a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (NIV), knowing how much thought, time and effort a bride puts into preparing for her wedding,  because I’m sure it only pales in comparison to what God will be doing for us.

     

    God has been preparing this magnificent place for us, but who are we to deserve a place like this? I am honored and humbled that God has chosen me - God is my God and my future lies with him.