December 13: Prepare (Advent Devotional 2014)

Matthew 1:20-25 As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled: Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, And they will call him, Emmanuel. (Emmanuel means “God with us.”) When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he didn’t have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. Joseph called him Jesus.

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How do you make decisions? Do you only look at the facts, or so you allow God the opportunity to speak to you? I tend to have quick reactions, but then I try to take time to think about and assess the situation from different angels.

Joseph was about to dismiss Mary from the marriage contract, but I imagine there was still something in his heart that was questioning the decision. This is where God had an opening to prepare Joseph for what was about to happen in the birth of Jesus. After he heard from God, he obeyed and was confident he had an encounter with an angel of God.

I hope we all take time to think and pray about our decisions. God is preparing each one of us for something bigger than ourselves and we should allow him the opportunity to speak, and then obey.

Joseph knew the community would probably not understand his decision or even stand behind him to give him support. But he knew God was there and in that event. May we know, believe and live like this too!

Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

December 12: Prepare (Advent Devotional 2014)

Matthew 1:18-19 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly.

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Even though we are still over a week until Christmas and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, we have come to the part in the Christmas story that causes us to think about societal views and how we treat people. We are called to be people who show love to everyone, even when it is difficult.

Joseph had every reason to call off his engagement to Mary since she was pregnant with a child who wasn’t his. He even had every right to have her stoned to death or have her go through life as a disgrace as a symbolic “scarlet letter.” He did none of that. The text says, “Joseph…was a righteous man.”

Would this be the same description of you and I? I do not always do what I know needs to be done; and if you’re honest, neither do you. But we have this example of Joseph. Even though he thought about calling off the marriage quietly, he still saved her life.

How can you show love to those you do not enjoy, or those who have caused you embarrassment? This is where we can continue to prepare and consecrate our hearts for the coming Messiah. God is using you, as he used Joseph, a couple thousand years ago, to be an example to the world of the better path we should take when we interact with people, even those who did us wrong.

God, thank you for the opportunities to practice humility and to show love to those who embarrass us or wrong us. Guide us this day. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

December 11: Prepare (Advent Devotional 2014)

Luke 1:67-80 John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, “Bless the Lord God of Israel because he has come to help and has delivered his people. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in his servant David’s house, just as he said through the mouths of his holy prophets long ago. He has brought salvation from our enemies and from the power of all those who hate us. He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and remembered his holy covenant, the solemn pledge he made to our ancestor Abraham. He has granted that we would be rescued from the power of our enemies so that we could serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness in God’s eyes, for as long as we live. You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way. You will tell his people how to be saved through the forgiveness of their sins. Because of our God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace.” The child grew up, becoming strong in character. He was in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.

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How do you view your life? Do you like to be the one getting recognized, or are you comfortable being the one behind the scenes for another person? It is important to know roles we play in our lives.

Here, we find Zechariah giving a prophecy about his son. No doubt he is extremely proud of being a father and excited to watch his son grow up. But if we read this prophecy carefully, it is really about the Messiah to come (Jesus Christ) and the role of John to play in the people recognizing and following Christ. So in reality, this prophecy is saying that John is actually going to play a part behind the scenes for the fulfillment of God’s plan with Jesus.

No doubt, this shaped his upbringing and how he was treated. John became the “pointer” to Christ. This is how our lives should be. Everything John did in his ministry, while alive, pointed people to the Messiah. Even to the point of bowing out when it was his time saying, “He must increase and I must decrease.”

Our challenge today is to see is we are the ones trying to be out front, or if we are doing everything we can behind the scenes to let Christ be known.

Thank you God for the opportunity to be lights in this world so people can see you through us. Help us be the brightest lights we can be and remember this season is about Jesus and not gaining material goods. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen

Advent Devotional 2014: Prepare (December 10)

Luke 1:57-66 When the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a boy. Her neighbors and relatives celebrated with her because they had heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy.  On the eighth day, it came time to circumcise the child. They wanted to name him Zechariah because that was his father’s name. But his mother replied, “No, his name will be John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives have that name.” Then they began gesturing to his father to see what he wanted to call him. After asking for a tablet, he surprised everyone by writing, “His name is John.” At that moment, Zechariah was able to speak again, and he began praising God. All their neighbors were filled with awe, and everyone throughout the Judean highlands talked about what had happened. All who heard about this considered it carefully. They said, “What then will this child be?” Indeed, the Lord’s power was with him.

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What stands out to you when you read these verses? If we remember what has happened before this time, Zechariah and Elizabeth have been prepared for this day their son would be born, They were given a glimpse of how the child’s life would be and what he would stand for. They trusted the Lord to provide in their circumstance and that his word would come true. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s heart was prepared and ready for this day.

This is part of the journey we are in this Advent (season of preparation and expectation) as we examine our hearts to see how the story of Jesus’ birth will continue to shape and transform us. Zechariah and Elizabeth were different after the meeting with the angel, and we should be different (being able to stand out from the crowd) after any meeting we have with God.

They were able to confidently tell the people around what their child’s name would be even though it did not make sense to the rest of the crowd. What is God asking you to do that seems other people don’t understand? Will you be bold and confident in your faith and the calling God has placed on your life?

Dear God, You have guided us to this place and this time. Help us in any unbelief we might have so we can celebrate this season of Christmas with boldness and confidence of your presence and your calling in our lives. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

December 9: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Luke 1:46-56 Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored because the mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is his name. He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God. He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed. He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, just as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned to her home.

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How do you think you would respond if you were in the situation Mary was in? Remember she faced stoning, ridicule, being thrown out of the family, anything like that. But she still found it in her to praise the Lord even in the midst of knowing what could happen to her.

Whatever it is you face today, it may look grim and you don’t know how it will turn out; but God can still be praised! Here’s why:

  • God has never left you.
  • You are held tight in the grip of God.
  • You have the power of the Holy Spirit within you.
  • You have not lost your salvation.

I hope you can remember that this day and give praise and thanks to God in any situation you’re in.

Lord, Thank you for this time. Thank you for your presence. Thank you for giving way more than we deserve or realize we have. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Prepare (Advent Devotional December 1)

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Yesterday we began this journey. This journey will hopefully allow us the time to prepare our hearts for the coming Messiah. Here’s a great truth: Jesus Christ has come and will come again! Just as we prepare to celebrate his birth, and not just go through the motions, we should also make preparations for when he comes again.

Today, we’ll begin Luke chapter 1.

Luke 1:1-4 Many people have already applied themselves to the task of compiling an account of the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used what the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed down to us. Now, after having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, I have also decided to write a carefully ordered account for you, most honorable Theophilus. I want you to have confidence in the soundness of the instruction you have received.

We begin with this as a reminder the story and life of Jesus Christ has been carefully investigated. The purpose of these devotionals for the next 23 days is to help us carefully examine the account and preparations for the birth of Jesus Christ. How well we know they story affects how it will touch our hearts. We should be careful not to gloss over this event simply because we think we know what will happen. Each time we hear the Christmas story, our story is in there too.

I invite you to carefully, thoughtfully and prayerfully examine each part of the story of Jesus’ birth this Advent season. Just as Luke took the careful preparations to tell the story as accurately as possible, so should we prepare our hearts and minds to make this story fresh and more real for us each year.

What will you do to make preparations for the coming Christ?

Lord, we all to often skim over your story when we read the Bible. May we allow your Word to touch each heart and make the story of Jesus Christ’s birth become more real to us, intellectually and spiritually so our lives can and will be transformed with Your presence and Your power. Amen.