December 19: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Matthew 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”

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When we think about the Wise Men going to Jesus, we typically picture the final destination (after meeting with King Herod). In this picture, we can see the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It is easy to picture Mary and Joseph’s surprise and amazement at these men and their expensive gifts. What we typically do not focus on is the journey the men took, out of faith, to get to this newborn baby, Savior of the world, Christ the Lord.

These men (unknown number of travelers) went on a journey of faith to follow a “star” in the heavens. We do not know when this heavenly sign appeared for the men, but we do know after they saw the sign, they left on a journey that would take weeks, months to get to their destination. And they probably were not sure exactly what they would find when they arrived. They traveled over mountains, valleys, through deserts. God is giving each one of us a sign to follow.

What sign has God given you? We can easily allow life to get in the way and cloud our vision from seeing all that God is doing and showing us. This is why we pause each year at Advent (4 weeks prior to Christmas) to pause and “reset” our hearts to once again be renewed by the gift of Jesus Christ. This is the gift we seek in our journey, our life. This is the gift that will be revealed to us when we seek. This is the gift that changes us inside and out. The journey we are on is incredible!

The journey we will take, by faith, is a journey that will lead us through the hardships of life, ups and downs, alone and accompanied. How will you take this challenge of God and step into this new year? Let’s take this journey to see where it ends up and we can meet the King of Kings face to face. All we have to offer is ourselves and that’s all he offered when he came to earth as a baby to die on a cross over 30 years later. What a journey, but to see Him face to face…WOW!

Thank you God for walking with us through life’s journey and the challenges we go through. Continue to guide and strengthen us, even when the journey seems too far or too difficult. Thank you for Jesus Christ! Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

December 18: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Luke 2:17-20 When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child.Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

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Yesterday, we talked about how the shepherds went as a group (community) to wear the angels said the baby Jesus would be (God’s calling), and that they moved quickly (our response).

They found the family at the exact place the angels said they would be and saw Jesus. After the shepherds left the manger, they went off telling people about what they had seen. What did they say? They told about how this baby had been born, how they found out and constantly praised God. They kept the message simple and God-focused.

This is how we should tell people about what God has done today: by telling what we heard, what we saw, and then give praise to God. Sometimes people may not understand, nor appreciate, the message at first; but we should still keep the message focused on God. God coming into the world as one of the humans he created. God walking with us. God experiencing life with us.

What a great reason to celebrate and praise God!

I’m sure after the shepherds made their way home, they were different people. How are you different after encountering God?

Gracious God, you have come to us in the form of a human, Jesus the Christ. Change us and allow the time spent in your presence to make us new creations. It’s because of what you have done for us that we are new people and we should allow you to make us whole. Help us remember to praise and glorify you with all of our heart, soul, mind, body, strength. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

December 16: Prepare (Advent Devotional 2014)

Luke 2:11-14 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

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Our journey to the cradle of Christ is not over yet. We still have 9 days until Christmas. How is it with your soul? Do you feel like you are getting your spirit ready for the coming Savior, or is it still focused on getting the material items and gifts ready?

There are some Christmas seasons, I want Jesus to just appear before my eyes and get me into the Christmas spirit. Has this happened to you? I invite you to read again the verses above.

Did you notice that the angels were proclaiming that Jesus was born? He is on the earth when they speak to the shepherds. I find it interesting that the angels did not make Jesus appear right before the shepherds eyes. Instead, they told the shepherds were to go. The shepherds had to take some initiative to go to see and know Jesus!

That is what we are invited to do daily as well. Jesus Christ is here. Jesus Christ is within you and I. We should take the time to see him ourselves and not just wait for him to appear to us.

What steps are you taking / can you take this day to see Jesus personally? I pray we all have open eyes to see Jesus in every person we encounter and do for them as we would do for Jesus, serve and love them.

Almighty God, you sent your angels to proclaim the birth of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Guide us to show us where we can see Jesus and bring others to him as well. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen

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.