Saturday, November 24
For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.
Almighty God—Lord of the Armies—Creator of the universe and all living things meets us where we are. Jesus—Savior—Christ—King took on human form, was born in the humblest setting, and walked among His creation as one of us. Why? Because we are utterly helpless without Him. God’s zealous love for us is driving history relentlessly toward the final triumph of His grace when Jesus returns to establish His Messianic kingdom forever.
How is your zealous love for Jesus reflected in your daily life?
Sunday, November 25
I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.
This verse is not only the first prophetic announcement of a Savior who would crush Satan’s power. Amazingly, this verse also emphasizes the astounding accuracy of God’s analogy that Jesus’ blood saves us from sin.
We know if antivenom is administered quickly following a poisonous snakebite, recovery is virtually guaranteed. But, did you know we only figured out how to make antivenom about 100 years ago (1896, to be exact)? It is manufactured by administering small, non-lethal doses of snake venom to an animal (usually a horse). This causes the horse’s immune system to manufacture antibodies which are extracted from its blood and purified to create antivenom. Blood is used to overcome the poison injected by the snake. Jesus’ blood is our antivenom for sin. God knew that long before we understood the analogy.
What sin do you need to lay at Jesus’ feet today?
Monday, November 26
2 Samuel 7:16
Your house and kingdom will endure before me forever, and your throne will be established forever.
In his exhilaration over recovering the Ark of the Covenant, David decided to build a proper house for the Lord. He felt it wasn’t right for him to live in a palace while the Ark of the Lord was housed in a tent. He loved the Lord and wanted to serve and honor Him. David wanted to build an earthly house for the Lord; instead, as God reveals more of His plan of salvation, He builds a royal house for David through the promise of
a royal lineage that will endure forever. God’s gracious love, mercy, and compassion for us are beyond our wildest imaginings.
How have you brought honor to God’s name this week? And, in what ways do you see God’s care for you this week?
Tuesday, November 27
But He was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.
Jesus, our high priest…Jesus, our sacrifice. Jesus was pierced not just for my rebellion and sin; not just for your rebellion and sin…Jesus bore all of the sins of all mankind, for all time. All of it. Every single sin that has ever been, or ever will be committed, was placed on Him. Yet, Jesus’ shed blood is pure enough and lavish enough to cover the entirety of human sin. This is true Hope! This is the Good News. Go! Tell it on the mountain! Shout it, whisper it, proclaim it, email it, text it, tweet it … don’t keep it a secret!
Who have you told about Jesus? Who do you need to tell about Jesus?
Wednesday, November 28
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem. The bow of war will be removed and He will proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion will extend from sea to sea, from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.
In two verses, back-to-back, Zechariah wrote about both the first and second comings of Jesus. His pen easily moved from Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jesus’ triumphal enthronement, not knowing that God would mysteriously insert the entire church age between verses 9 and 10. Unlike Zechariah, we know about Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. We know about His uncommon encounter with Saul on the road to Damascus. We know about the birth and expansion of the church. What a glorious privilege to be part of the story of the ages! And, we know how the story ends. We may not know when, but we do know Jesus is coming, again!
If you knew Jesus was coming tomorrow, what would you do today?
Thursday, November 29
I continued watching in the night visions, and suddenly one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him. He was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.
As we move fully into the Christmas season, we truly have much to celebrate! Standing firmly in the midst of the church age, we can look back to the manger in Bethlehem and the cross in Jerusalem and celebrate Jesus’ radical love for us while we were yet sinners! At the same time, we can look forward to His second coming with eager anticipation of being fully in His presence, and worshipping Him as King. While Daniel’s vision must have been both thrilling and terrifying, it must have also filled him with profound hope.
Reflect on things you are thankful for and hopeful about:
Friday, November 30
But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall. You will trample the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day I am preparing,” says the Lord of Armies.
Our Sovereign Lord is unchanging, and always mindful of His remnant. These words of encouragement and hope were written to the few who had remained faithful and continued to revere the Lord in a time when most of His chosen nation had abandoned Him and His ways. Much the same today, believers continue to live out the example of Christ’s enduring love in the midst of unbelief, criticism, and sometimes threats of violence or even death. Hope fills our hearts, binds our wounds, and refreshes our souls.
What difficult or challenging situation are you facing, and where do you place your hope?
Saturday, December 1
For I know the plans I have for you—this is the Lord’s declaration—plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.
As we enter into this season of hope, it is fitting to remember these words, written for the surviving captives in Babylon. They were in a season of darkness, but the Lord offered them the promise of well-being, a future, and a hope. Many in our midst are also in a season of darkness. If we seek the Lord earnestly, with all our heart, He promises we will find Him. And, having found Him, we can be a comforting light in the darkness, sharing the hope of Jesus!
How do you earnestly seek the Lord?
Sunday, December 2
Yet he himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.
We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished him
for the iniquity of us all.
Finger-pointing is one of our favorite devices for self-justification. When we discover self-excusing evasion in politicians, we demand an honest reckoning. But do we require the same unsparing honesty of ourselves? What lies behind our tendency to shift blame, to insist our problems are always someone else’s fault? Is it because we are deeply ashamed to admit we want to hold everyone else to the letter of the law, but not ourselves?
In a scandalous reversal of fair-play, God resisted pointing the finger at us. Instead, He covered our sins with a lavish outpouring of mercy and grace, laying all of the cost of our sins on His Son, Jesus. And through His wounds we are healed.
How can you show that kind of scandalous love to someone in need this Christmas?
Monday, December 3
I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Yes, my sins have been crucified with Christ, and that old life is dead! But, the story does not end in death … it ends in triumphant life, lived out through faith. Every time we die a little bit more; every time another sin is crucified with Christ, resurrection awaits. As we continuously die to self and material temptations, we live more and more fully in God’s grace and mercy, and we are conformed more and more to the image of Christ.
Are you living in death, or living in life?
Tuesday, December 4
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Revelation demands application. As Christians, we are not only expected to know the truth of what is, God expects us to consciously act on what we know because He uses us to influence our family, friends, communities, societies, and the world. And, since we are utterly undeserving of God’s grace and mercy, we are that much more bound to live for Him.
Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think!
What behavior, habit, custom, or thinking do you need to hand over to Jesus so He can change the way you think about it?
Wednesday, December 5
During his earthly life, he offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was the Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. After he was perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, and he was declared by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
During the most difficult night of Jesus’ life, as He looked forward to imminent crucifixion, He showed us the purpose of prayer. It is not to get God to do what we want. It is to get us in harmony with what He wants. Not my will, but His be done. Just like Jesus, prayer gets us in harmony with the Father. If you resist this truth, prayer will always be a mystery to you, and ultimately, you will likely stop praying. But if we are obedient, just like Jesus, there will be joy on the other side of suffering and despair.
Do you need to develop a more willing, obedient orientation in prayer?
Thursday, December 6
Praise God in his sanctuary.
Praise him in his mighty expanse.
Praise him for his powerful acts;
praise him for his abundant greatness.
Praise him with trumpet blast;
praise him with harp and lyre.
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and flute.
Praise him with resounding cymbals;
praise him with clashing cymbals.
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.
Let’s get loud! Let’s shake the stadium with shouts of praise and joy! Let’s raise the roof with Hallelujahs and Hosannas! A child is born! The Messiah is come! We have been redeemed! Let all that is within us praise His holy name! The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims the work of His hands!
List the things that you praise God for!
Friday, December 7
And they sang a new song:
You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slaughtered,
and you purchased people
for God by your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.
You made them a kingdom
and priests to our God,
and they will reign on the earth.
Jesus is worthy! He loved and loves us as no other has ever done. Just as He is worthy to open the scroll, He is worthy to open each new phase of our lives. Jesus has purchased my freedom; He has redeemed my debt. He has done the same for every people and nation. We need not fear those nail-scarred hands because they reach for us in love. Jesus makes our hearts sing with a new song … and one day, we will join with the heavenly hosts to sing His praises.
How is your heart during this Christmas season? Does it need a new song? Ask Jesus to refresh your spirit and fill your heart with hope.
Saturday, December 8
We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
What a joyous season of anticipation we live in…not just because it’s Christmas…but every single day during this season of our lives. Through Jesus’ radically obedient love, and the Father’s resolute plan, we have been made right with God! It takes your breath away when you really think about it, doesn’t it? And, the hope that fills our hearts is a living hope that has chased away condemnation and replaced it with joyous thankfulness. We know our hope is real, trustworthy, and true, because He has already walked this earth and lived among us once. So, we can believe Him when He says He’s coming back. Christmas is God’s way of reminding us we are not alone, we are not forgotten, we are not lost. No. We may not be able to see them now, but we live in the company of heavenly hosts. Almighty God, who calls the stars out by name knows my name, too. And, we are secure in the powerful, nail-scarred hands of Jesus.
Let’s be resolute in our hope, as God was resolute in His plan of redemption, and Christ was resolute in His obedience.
Sunday, December 9
Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
What is this place of underserved privilege in which we confidently stand? It is the favored status of having unfettered, direct, open-throttled access to God (no broadband Internet service provider needed.) It is the state of justification, or grace that is bestowed willingly and lovingly when we acknowledge our sinful state, ask for forgiveness, and accept Jesus’ gift of salvation, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And, because our relationship to God has changed, our perspective on everything has changed…even our perspective on suffering. In the security of Jesus, we are free to let the Holy Spirit conform us to become more and more like Jesus, even through trials and difficult times in our lives. In this season of gift-giving, will you share your confident hope with someone who desperately needs it?
Monday, December 10
Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
Rejoicing in hope…we can all do that, right? And, much of the time, we can be patient even when we feel beset by all sorts of troubles and difficulties. But what about keep on praying? Do we pray enough? The Pew Research Center (2014) says 56% of Americans pray every day. Even 20% of Americans who have no religious affiliation pray daily. So, if I pray every day…is that what Paul meant when he told us to keep on praying? Other translations say persist in prayer. Why does God want us to persist, to persevere in prayer? Certainly, He is not encouraging us to plague Him with an unending list of things we want. I think He wants us to persist for an entirely different reason. Did you know scientists have observed chemical changes in our brains during prayer? Areas in our brains associated with compassion, sensitivity to others, and intentionality all become more active when we pray. Maybe God wants us to keep on praying not to get what we want, but because it helps us become more conformed to and aligned with Him.
Tuesday, December 11
Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
God knew long ago, exactly what living in the 21st century would be like. He knew how pervasive evil would be by now. He knew about the devastation drugs would cause. He knew how human trafficking and enslavement would be practiced blatantly even in free democracies. He knew each of our errant children by name. He knew it all. And, He knew we would be utterly lost without a guidebook to teach us. Christianity is a teaching religion, and our textbook is the Bible. Wherever the Gospel has gone in the world, schools, colleges, and universities have followed, and the value of humans has increased. Everything that happened and has been written down in the Bible is to teach us. This God-breathed book of Scripture is a treasure beyond compare. It is like no other book, because these words are God’s words…His words of instruction, correction, and training in righteousness. His words give us hope and a future. Will you speak God’s words of love to someone during this season of love and hope?
Wednesday, December 12
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
God changes everything. In the world, without God, we are utterly hopeless. But, when you allow God into your life, the situation is reversed. Even though we are still in the world, with God we have hope. God is the source of our hope, the object of our hope, and the confidence of our hope. In this passage, Paul echoes Jesus’ own words to His disciples I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11). Again, in John 16:22 Jesus said, you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. Our joy is not a matter of nice circumstances, or momentary happiness when things are going our way. Our hope, joy, and peace are supernatural in their origin, and they will not be tamed nor restrained by mere human influences or worldly dynamics. The Hope of Christ is profound.
Thursday, December 13
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Thankfully, it is unlikely that many of us have run afoul of the law to the extent that we faced a ruinous penalty, lengthy prison sentence, or even death. Sure, we may have watched the trials and tribulations of others…O. J. Simpson, Jim Bakker, Ivan Boesky come to mind…but watching someone else’s trial cannot possibly compare to living through your own. Either you know you are guilty, but you hope the jury finds reasonable doubt; or, the evidence is stacked against you, and even though you’re innocent in all likelihood you’re going to jail! Yet, in some respects, that lack of first-hand experience makes it difficult sometimes for us to fully appreciate the gift of no condemnation for those who belong to Christ. So, let’s pause during this season of hope to ponder the wonder of love that drove the Father and the Son to such extreme measures to pay the ransom for my soul, for your soul. That is a story worth telling in gatherings of friends and family.
Friday, December 14
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?
Who can be against us? Why, lot’s of things, you might say. In fact, the world is against us simply because we belong to God. Evil is dead-set against us. Family members, work colleagues, broken relationships, broken things, the list goes on and on and on. But Paul’s challenging words bring up an interesting image in my mind, of an old-fashioned apothecary scale. Paul is saying, OK, let’s think of all the bad things in your life right now. And, for every bad thing, you get to put a marble on the bad side of the scale. Got them all there? It’s OK, you can use the big shooters if you want to. Ready? Now, Paul drops a granite slab on the good side of the scale. Boom! Hmmm…Next, if God was not willing to withhold His only begotten Son, why would we think He would withhold joy, or hope, or peace, or love from us? We just feel sorry for ourselves sometimes. But, Jesus has us safe and secure in His hands, and the Father’s hands are wrapped around His. What shall we say about these wonderful things?
Saturday, December 15
All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).
God with us! Christianity is the only religion whose Creator deigned to take on human form and live among those He created. Why? Because God loved us that much. Because only He could do it. Because He wanted to. Because only He had the power and authority to do so. God is with us through all of the covenants and prophecies; He is with us in the desert of our lives; He is with us through the incarnation of Jesus; He is with us through the influence of His Holy Spirit; He is with us in private prayer; He is with us through every day, o’er all the way; He is with us to comfort us, enlighten us, protect us, and defend us. He is with us in times of temptation and trial, He is with us in our victories, He is with us in death. God is always with us. Are we with Him?
Sunday, December 16
When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!
If we’re honest, most of us don’t wait well…usually because we live such hurried, activity-packed lives. And, if we’re brutally honest, this hurried mindset carries over into our spiritual lives, moving us from compressed God time, to pressured prepping for Group time, to rushing to Sunday morning Gathering time. But, while must of us hurry through our days, God is usually not in a hurry. A star rising from Jacobwas first foretold in Numbers 24. Then, roughly 550-600 years passed between Daniel’s time and the wise menwho traveled hundreds of miles to worship the newborn Messiah. Generations of patient, watchful wait-ershad looked for the sign. So, finally, whenthey saw the star they were overcome with joy. Those who had patiently watched and waited were filled, and their response was to worship.
In this season of hope, let’s reexamine our priorities. If we’re not focused on Jesus, we may miss the bright star in the sky. What are the top 3 priorities on your list of things to do this week? Are they the same things Jesus would put first on your list?
Monday, December 17
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
So…because we are utterly incapable of saving ourselves…because we are completely hopeless without God…because we cannot pay the ransom price for our own souls…so…Jesus meets us where we are. Redemption is completely God. Redemption is God at work in the world. Redemption is Jesus dining with sinners, making mud to heal a blind man, working through a long night healing the sick, foregoing sleep many other nights to pray for us. Redemption is Jesus bleeding from being lashed and dying for me…for you. Redemption is Jesus resurrected! Redemption is God repairing the consequences of sin and making a way for humanity to be in a right relationship with Him, once again. Redemption is the Son of God being born as a tiny babe in Bethlehem. Redemption is unfailing love and faithfulness, and it is glorious!
Tuesday, December 18
“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
Soon after Jesus was 40-days old, Mary and Joseph brought Him to the temple in Jerusalem to offer appropriate sacrifices for Him as their firstborn son. Most of the people in the temple that day would have ignored this poor, unremarkable couple and their baby. But Simeon was waiting for the Messiah. Here is another wait-ertrusting God’s word that he would see the promised Messiah before he died. The Spirit led Simeon to the temple that day at the precise time Mary and Joseph walked in with baby Jesus, and the Spirit whispered to Simeon, there He is! That little baby is the One!Simeon listened with spiritual ears. He held his Messiah in his arms and proclaimed the words above. With eyes of faith Simeon saw the Light of the world. Still today, we must look with eyes of faith that have been opened by God’s Spirit. Pray that God enables you to see what many others miss.
Wednesday, December 19
Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eight-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.
While Simeon is still talking with Mary and Joseph, holding Jesus tightly in his arms, one more wait-erarrives. Together, Anna and Simeon celebrated the birth of God’s long-promised Messiah. They persisted in believing God’s promise while most paid no attention to old words written in ancient texts. Simeon and Anna never gave up…they kept trusting and looking. They fully expected God to be faithful and true. Simeon and Anna are models of trusting in God as the sole source of hope, mercy, and grace. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled(Matthew 5:6). This kind of longing, this kind of complete reliance on God is out of sync with our self-sufficient culture. How many of us truly hunger and thirst for God today? I pray that God will reveal my own insufficiency. What grace do you imagine will come to us if we dare pray for a greater sense of our spiritual need?
Thursday, December 20
Seek the Lord while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near.
If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.
What are you seeking? Where do you look for happiness? Do you look for fulfillment in your career, financial security, marriage and family? David wrote In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever(Psalm 16:11). And, Jesus told His disciples These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11). Solomon makes it clear in Ecclesiastes that trying to fill that inner void with earthly things is like chasing soap bubbles…as soon as you catch one it bursts in your hand. Jobs can be lost, economic forces beyond your control can wipe out a lifetime of savings, and families often bring more pain than joy. The only true source of happiness, fulfillment, and hope is Jesus. So, what do you look for with your whole heart? Are you a seeker and a wait-erlike the wise men or Simeon or Anna?
Friday, December 21
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.”
If we conducted an opinion poll today, asking the same question Jesus asked, Who do people say Jesus is do you think the answers would be very different? Instead of John the Baptist or Elijah, we might hear people say, a prophet, yes…God, no!Or, teacher, yes…Messiah, no!Or, great role model, yes…Divine Son of God? Savior from sin? No way!!Most of the people of Jesus’ time missed the mark, just like many people today. But Peter got it right! Impetuous, spontaneous Peter—Peter, who often only opened his mouth to change feet—nailed it. Peter’s rock solid faith was a gift. In this season of gift-giving, let’s pause to thank God for His gift of faith and salvation, against which not even the gates of hell will prevail! What a gift! What a promise! What a hope! Who do you say Jesus is?
Saturday, December 22
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
Christmas lights are just magical. They come in pretty colors or bright white. Some change colors, they twinkle and blink, light up dark areas, and just make us happy! They are a Christmas tradition, and they remind us of the Light that entered a dark world on a cold night in tiny Bethlehem. For generations before Christ’s birth, God taught us to associate light with Him. Moses encountered God in a burning bush. During the exodus the Israelites were led by a pillar of fire. Psalm 27:1 proclaims The Lord is my light…and Isaiah wrote Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you(Isaiah 60:1). Light is beautiful and mysterious, just like God. It promotes growth, brings comfort, and calms us. The Light of Jesus pierces the darkness of sin and death, conquering them. All the darkness in the world cannot put out one little candle flame. So, enjoy the Christmas lights. Think of Jesus every time you gaze upon them.