Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Certain Day

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God;
Luke 2:25-28

Imagine waiting for a singular event. And knowing that you would not die until that event took place. Now imagine that one day, much like any other day, the Holy Spirit of God tells you to go to the temple. You do as He says and then it happens. The event you've waited for -- maybe waited your whole life for -- arrives. How would you feel? What would you do? When Simeon saw what he had been waiting for -- the Messiah, the consolation of Israel -- he took the child from Mary's arms and held him. And blessed God. Simeon blessed God because he had seen God's salvation: Jesus, His Son. His Son whom God had brought to all people. Not just for the Jews, but for the Gentiles, too. Simeon called Jesus "A Light of Revelation to the Gentiles" and "the glory of God's people Israel." You and I have been born into a world where the Light of Revelation and the glory of God's people has already come. We don't have to wait for salvation. Salvation has already arrived and sin and death have been conquered by the cross of Christ and His resurrection. Today may be much like any other day to you. But if you have not yet received Jesus as your Savior, don't wait any longer. This is your day. Receive the Lord Jesus into your heart and bless God for your salvation. "He again fixes a certain day, 'Today,' saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, 'TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.'” (Hebrews 4:7)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Always Obedient

And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS.”
Luke 2:21-24

Our Lord Jesus was not born into sin. He did not need circumcision nor redemption according to the Law. But in everything Mary and Joseph were obedient; from the naming of Jesus according to the angel's instructions, to the following of the Mosaic Law. Jesus was born into a Law abiding home (Galatians 4:4). He would be brought up to obey God's word, and in all things He would remain blameless. "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Go Tell It on the Mountain

"When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them."
Luke 2:17-19

The shepherds were the first to see the Christ child, the first to believe and the first to tell others about Jesus. All who heard the shepherds testimony "wondered". The text doesn't say the hearers went to worship Jesus, too. It just says "they wondered". It doesn't sound much different than what we find today in sharing the gospel. We discover its truth and come to Christ. Then we share what we have found with others. Some receive it, but many others just wonder about it. And still there are those who reject it altogether. The shepherds didn't seem bothered by how their message was received. They simply told what they knew and continued to glorify and praise God for all they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. This is a good lesson for us. We have something wonderful to share -- the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our task is to share it with others. Some will receive it, some will wonder about it and some will reject it altogether. No worries. We go on glorifying and praising God for all He has done, and leave the results of our testimony to Him.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Shepherds' Reward

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 
Luke 2:15-16

As soon as the heavenly messengers left, the shepherds rushed to Bethlehem and sought the Lord Jesus. Even though the hour was late, they did not delay. They went in faith, believing God's message that they would "see this thing that has happened". Their obedience and faith were rewarded: they were the first visitors of the nativity and the first believers to worship the Lord. Faithful, unhesitating obedience to God brings certain reward. "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Peace on Earth

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” 
Luke 2:13-14

Our world often speaks of peace. The Bible speaks of peace, too:
Peace with God - that's the peace between man and God. "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," (Romans 5:1)
Peace of God - the peace that we can have internally. "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." (John 14:27)
Peace with others - this is peace we can experience when we have the first two: peace with God and the peace of God. "So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another." (Romans 14:19)
Aren't these three forms of peace the kind we really desire? It begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ. When we confess our sins and give ourselves to Him, we are reconciled with God; no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1). He then gives us the Holy Spirit to indwell us and give us the internal peace that we need to face life's trials and disappointments. Finally, He teaches us how to have peace with others -- even when they are anything but peacemakers themselves. There can be peace on earth. Not as the world gives, but as Christ gives.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Good News For All the People

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 
Luke 2:8-12

The good news of Jesus Christ coming to earth is for all the people. It was so the night the angel came to the shepherds in the field. It is still so today. No matter your background or education. Whether you're rich or poor, white or a person of color. City slicker or country folk. Young or old. Jesus came for you. He came for me. He came for the world. We live in times of uncertainty. Some days the news is pretty awful. But no matter how bad it gets, we always have the good news of Jesus Christ. He loves us. We can search our whole lives for the kind of love He offers, but we will never find it outside of His arms. The arms that stretched out for His mother, one day stretched out on a cross. For you, for me, for the world. Jesus came as a baby, but He died as an adult --  fully God, fully man. This is the good news of His sacrifice for our sins. But there's more good news. He rose again and lives today to offer salvation to all the people; all who will come to Him and receive the glorious gift He offers -- Himself.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Savior is Born

"While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
Luke 2:6-7

The long-awaited Messiah arrives. Prophesies are fulfilled. The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords comes to earth. But not in the way many people expected. He is born into this world as a humble baby. Local reporters aren't there to take his photo and interview his parents about the shameful conditions of his birth. God's Son born in a dirty stable with smelly animals and only a trough for a bed? Could not the innkeeper have seen that Mary was about to give birth? Could he not have given up his own bed for a woman in labor? Jesus comes in the weakest way possible, for who is weaker than a tiny infant? He comes in the lowliest of circumstances. He comes without fanfare. But He comes in just the way intended. For "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong." (1 Corinthians 1:27) A Savior is born. A Redeemer is given. He will save His people from their sins. And not just the Jewish people. He will also save the Gentiles. Jesus came as a child, and those who want Him as their Savior must come as children, too. "But Jesus said, 'Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'"
(Matthew 19:14)

I want to be like a child before the King today. Wide-eyed and amazed. My heart overflowing with joy and gratitude. We have a Savior. We don't have to wallow in our sin. Hope lives. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you. 

(Thank you to my friend, Sara, for allowing me to use the precious photo of her children in this devotional. "Come as a child".)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

O Little Town on Bethlehem

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”
Micah 5:2

The Messiah must be born in Bethlehem, as prophesied by Micah. If Caesar had not decreed that all citizens must register in their place of birth, Joseph and Mary would not have had a reason to leave Nazareth, and Jesus would not have been born in Bethlehem. In which case, Micah's prophecy would not have been fulfilled. God used the Roman Caesar to orchestrate the birth of His Son Jesus in Bethlehem. From the time of the prophet Micah up through the present time, Bethlehem is credited as the birthplace of only one person widely known throughout the world. And that person is Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Real Event

"Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child."
Luke 2:1-5

In order for Rome to know how much money they could collect through taxation, they needed the people of the empire to register. For Joseph and Mary, it meant traveling over 60 miles to Joseph's hometown.  About a three day trip on foot. It was especially hard on Mary, who was very close to delivering her baby. 

Luke gave Theophilus, the man to whom he is writing this account, more details about the Roman government than he did about Joseph and Mary's trip. Why? Bob Deffinbaugh, Pastor of Community Bible Chapel in Richardson Texas writes,"Who cares which Caesar was responsible for the census, or even that there was one? Who cares about Quirinius? In my opinion, Theophilus, the initial recipient did. The term “most excellent,” which Luke uses in chapter 1 (v. 3), is also used by Luke three times in Acts (23:26; 24:3; 26:25), each time in reference to a political official of high standing. This suggests that Theophilus, too, was a man of high political office. Luke’s information, while of little interest to us, must have been significant to Theophilus. Among other things, Luke was showing the historical roots of the Christian faith. Unlike the appearance of the other “gods” of false religions, whose appearance was couched in 'once upon a time' terms, the coming of the Christ was a real event in real time. The facts Luke has provided were important to a man whose faith was to have historical validity." 

The birth of Jesus Christ is not some nice Christmas fairy tale. It has "historical validity".

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” 
Matthew 1:22-23

The wonder of the incarnation of Jesus Christ: "God with us". God with us to reveal His holiness and our sinfulness. God with us to show His mercy and grace, and not to leave us hopeless in our sinfulness. God with us to save us through His death, burial and resurrection. God with us to cover us with His righteousness when we receive Him as Savior. God with us when we confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness. God with us to change us and make us more like Him. God with us in good times and bad times. God with us in the morning and late at night. God with us, never to leave us. This is Immanuel. This is God with us. This is prophecy fulfilled (Isaiah 7:14). 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The World's Greatest Need

"But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:20-21

Joseph doesn't rush to make a decision about ending his betrothal to Mary. He waits, and ponders what to do. We don't know how much time passes, but one night -- in a dream -- his answer comes. "An angel of the Lord" appears to him and calls him "son of David". This is a confirmation of his lineage; Joseph is a descendant of King David. And then to Joseph the angel reveals a most amazing plan. Joseph is to go through with the marriage. He is to become Mary's husband. She is carrying the Son of God and Joseph is to name him "Jesus", meaning "Jehovah is Salvation". But salvation from what? Salvation from sin. Jesus will save His people from their sins. 

The Jews expected a Messiah to save them politically, but their greatest need was not salvation from the Romans. It was salvation from their sins. It is still the greatest need of all th world today. And its fulfillment is met in Jesus. He "brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." (Romans 1:16 NIV)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Joseph's Dilemma

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly." 
Matthew 1:18-19

Joseph and Mary's betrothal was a binding agreement for marriage. Although the betrothed couple did not yet live together as husband and wife, the arrangement required a divorce to break it.  As Mary and Joseph awaited their coming marriage, Mary became pregnant. Upon learning of her condition, Joseph planned to break the engagement  -- to divorce Mary. According to Jewish law, Joseph could have taken Mary to court to divorce her for adultery, which could have resulted in Mary being taken outside the city gates and stoned to death. At the very least, the public divorce would have ruined her reputation. But Joseph reacted honorably. He did not respond to his perceived betrayal with thoughts of revenge. he thought to divorce her quietly.

"The shock to Joseph of the sudden discovery, crashing in on him after he was bound to Mary, and in what would else have been the sweet interval of love and longing ‘before they came together,’ is delicately and unconsciously brought out in verse 18. ‘She was found’—how the remembrance of the sudden disclosure, blinding and startling as a lightning flash, lives in that word! And how the agony of perplexity as to the right thing to do in such a cruel dilemma is hinted at in the two clauses that pull in opposite directions! As a ‘just man’ and ‘her husband,’ Joseph owed it to righteousness and to himself not to ignore his betrothed’s condition; but as her lover and her husband, how could he put her, who was still so dear to him, to public shame, some of which would cloud his own name? To ‘put her away’ was the only course possible, though it racked his soul, and to do it ‘privily’ was the last gift that his wounded love could give her." -- Alexander McLaren

Monday, December 19, 2011

Alone with God

"And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel."
Luke 1:80

John "lived in the deserts" until the time of his public ministry. Away from people, alone with God. Does this sound familiar? Moses lived in the wilderness, where God grew and groomed him until the time of Moses' public ministry. Before Jesus began His public ministry, He was "led by the Spirit" to the wilderness, where He victoriously overcame the temptations of Satan. Sometimes we have wilderness and desert experiences in our own lives. Times when we have no one but God to rely upon; to teach us, grow us and groom us for what lies ahead. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Heart Thermometer

"And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
'Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, 
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us 
In the house of David His servant— 
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—'"
Luke 1:68-70

The Holy Spirit will never direct our praise toward man, for only God is worthy of such devotion. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Zacharias' prophecy does not focus on John his son, but rather the unborn Savior. "Zacharias doesn't even know Jesus yet, but he praises Him, he loves Him, and he is passionate about Jesus. We know so much more about Jesus than Zacharias does, so what can excuse the coldness of our hearts?" -- David Guzik. If we don't feel moved to worship Jesus Christ -- if we have no passion for Him -- then it's time we check the temperature of our hearts.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Zacharias' Lesson

"And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, 'His name is John.' And they were all astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God."
Luke 1:62-63

Zacharias had failed to believe God when He promised him a son, and God chastised Zacharias for his unbelief by making him mute for nine months. Then God gave Zacharias a second chance and this time Zacharias responded in faith. We can learn some things from Zacharias' experience. First, God wants us to believe Him. If we don't, out of His Fatherly love He may discipline us. Second, we serve a God of grace. He gives us second chances. Third, Zacharias did not become embittered by God's chastisement, but learned from it and broke into praise of the Lord when it ended. "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." (Hebrews 12:11)

Friday, December 16, 2011

No Indeed

"And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answered and said, 'No indeed; but he shall be called John.' And they said to her, 'There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.'” 
Luke 1:59-61

In the Israelite culture, the name of a child was quite significant. The naming of a son after his father implied that the child would follow in the steps of his father, that he would carry on the father’s name and also his work. If John had been named Zacharias, he would have been expected to grow up as a priest, just like his father. But this was not to be John's future. He would not follow in his father's footsteps. He would prepare the way for the Messiah. Those attending the circumcision made assumptions about the proper name for the baby. But Elizabeth -- obedient to the Lord --  stood up to them and made a declaration. "He shall be called John." Sometimes other people try to give us advice. If it's contrary to God's will, we should say, "No indeed," and obey the Lord.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Glorify the Giver

"Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her."
Luke 1:57-58

Elizabeth gave birth to the son God had promised. When Elizabeth's neighbors and relatives heard what God had done, they rejoiced with her. God always keeps His promises. It's to His own glory to do so.  "[God's] glory lies in His goodness, His moral character, His justice, benevolence, holiness, mercy." -- Charles G. Finney. When we rejoice with other Christians over what God has given them, we have a chance to do more than celebrate the blessing they have received. We can bring glory to God, the Giver of the blessing. We do this by giving Him honor, by praising and worshiping Him. God’s glory is the essence of His nature, and we give glory to Him by recognizing that essence. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mary's Return Home

"Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months. Then she returned home."
Luke 1:56

Dr. Luke doesn't tell us if Mary was pregnant when she left Elizabeth, but it's likely she was. I wonder if Mary took the long way home. Was she anxious to see her parents again? Or was she filled with dread at the prospect of telling them she was expecting? Perhaps she rehearsed in her mind what she would say to Joseph, her betrothed. "Now Joseph, I have something to tell you. You're not going to believe this, but an amazing miracle has happened. I'm expecting the Messiah, but I'm still a virgin." Mary might have comforted herself with Elizabeth's words, "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord." Or maybe she repeated The Magnificat, continuing her praise of the Almighty. Then again, she may have clung to the words of Gabriel, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus." She may have reasoned that God would fulfill His promise, in the very way His messenger had said He would. And that she, indeed, had nothing to fear. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Great Things

“For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.
And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him."
Luke 1:49-50

Mary begins The Magnificat -- her worship of God -- by exalting the Mighty One for the grace He has extended. First to herself, and then to all generations.  For 400 years God has been silent, having spoken His last words through the prophet Malachi. Now God has broken His silence, and has spoken through Gabriel that Malachi's prophecy is about to be fulfilled. The fullness of time has arrived. God is sending a Savior to redeem His people. Mary -- a devout Jew -- understands this. She knows that God's mercy extends from generation to generation -- to all those who reverence Him, who place their trust in Him. She knows that God keeps His promises, and that He will, indeed, send the Messiah. As a child of Israel, this was her hope. Mary testifies to the greatness and faithfulness of God, and to His mercy upon all generations. Her spirit overflows in worship. Mary's Messiah is our Messiah. Her Savior is our Savior. God has done great things. Should not our spirits overflow in worship, too?

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Theme of Ceaseless Hallelujahs

"When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."
Luke 1:41

Gabriel told Zacharias that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth (Luke 1:15), and here we see the fulfillment of that prophesy. Elizabeth said, "As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy." (Luke 1:44) This leaping is not the common movement of babies in the womb. It is the same word that is used in Genesis 25:22 for the struggling of Jacob and Esau in Rebecca's womb, and the mountains skipping in Psalms 114:4. Elizabeth and her babe were filled with the Holy Spirit at the greeting of the Messiah's mother.  P.C. Headley writes about  Zacharias and Elizabeth, from Gabriel's proclamation to this time : 

"But the scenes of that home are unrecorded, excepting a visit from her cousin Mary, the mother of Christ; an interview inexpressibly solemn and touching. The Holy Ghost was the companion of Elizabeth, and Mary carried a treasure which was the theme of ceaseless halleluiahs in Heaven. There was no jealousy, no glorying but in the Lord." 

Let's glory only in the Lord Jesus in this Advent season. May His birth be the theme of ceaseless hallelujahs in our hearts.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

'Tis the Season to Encourage

"And the angel departed from her. Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth."
Luke 1:38-40

After Gabriel left, Mary went to see Elizabeth, her relative. And why not? Elizabeth -- who had conceived in her old age through an act of God -- would certainly believe and understand Mary's story. The older woman would be a great encouragement to the younger. God wants us to encourage others. "Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing." (1 Thessalonians 5:11). The Christmas season can be a difficult time for people. Many are struggling physically, financially, or facing their first Christmas without a loved one. Consider how you can encourage someone else this Christmas. Encouragement is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Proper Response

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:38

The word "bondslave" that Mary uses is translated "one who worships God and submits to Him." Surely this describes Mary. Here she is, a nice young Jewish girl with her whole life ahead of her. A devoted follower of Jehovah, she's kept her sexual and spiritual purity. Like most young ladies, she's probably dreamed of romance, marriage and a family. Now she's betrothed to a good man with a respectable carpentry trade. Suddenly, a startling being appears and turns her world upside down. He announces she's to give birth to the Son of God. A stupendous honor, to be sure -- but one that could cost her dearly. Mary knew the Law. She knew the penalty for adultery was death by stoning. She knew the probability that this would be her fate when the Nazareth community discovered she was pregnant. Pregnant by someone other than Joseph her betrothed. Who could blame Mary if she had said, "no thanks" to Gabriel. Yet, amazingly, she puts all her hope and trust in God and submits her life to Him. A proper response for all believers.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nothing is Impossible with God

"And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Luke 1:36-37

Mary doesn't doubt God, but He graciously gives her a sign of His miraculous abilities. Her relatives Elizabeth and Zacharias, two old people beyond child-bearing years, are expecting a son. God has opened Elizabeth's womb, but He will do an even greater miracle in Mary. Gabriel said, "For nothing will be impossible with God." Thirty-three years after Gabriel speaks these words to Mary, the immaculately conceived Savior will say to His disciples, "with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26). Hundreds of years earlier, God said to Abraham, "Is anything too difficult for the LORD?" (Genesis 18:14). Through the ages God has said He can do the impossible. And He has. If we fail to believe nothing is impossible with God, it is our faith that has failed us. Not God.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mary's Question

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
Luke 1:34-35

When Gabriel told Zacharias that he and Elizabeth would become parents in their old age, Zacharias questioned the angel out of doubt. Mary's question to Gabriel was not prompted by doubt, but rather by her innocence. She was a young girl, a virgin and a devout follower of God. She had saved herself for her future husband. How then could she become pregnant and bear a child? Gabriel explained how she would conceive and why the immaculate conception was critical.The Savior must be born of a woman, so that He would be of the same nature as those whom He came to save. "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:4-5). And the Savior must be holy and without sin. "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15). Both of these requirements were met in Jesus -- fully man and yet fully God. “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” -- C.S. Lewis.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gabriel's Words

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
Luke 1:30-33

In these few sentences, the angel Gabriel revealed awesome things to Mary:

She, a virgin, would conceive and give birth to a son (no ultrasounds required for this revelation). A fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 7:14): "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (God is with us -- a title).

The boy is to be named Jesus – which means Jehovah-Salvation. Matthew explains why this name is important: “for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

He will be great. A fulfillment of Isaiah 9:6 – "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."

He will be called the Son of the Most High - Jesus is God. He is deity. Matthew 3:17 "and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

He will be given the throne of his father David – fulfillment of prophecy 2 Samuel 7:16: "Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” Jesus' humanity descended from the line of King David.

He will reign over the house of Jacob forever – He will redeem all who receive Him as Lord and Savior, and He will keep His covenant with His people Israel. Christ reigns in heaven now, and He will reign in heaven and earth  forever and ever. "Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.'” (Revelation 11:15)

Gabriel spoke only a few words, but the truth behind them have had and will have a profound impact on our world.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Humbly Perplexed

"And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.
Luke 1:26-29

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth with an important message for Mary, the young virgin betrothed to Joseph. Gabriel called Mary "favored one." Favored one in the original Greek means to honor with blessings. And Mary was perplexed at hearing that. She didn't see why she should receive God's favor. She didn't see herself as one to be honored by God. She was humble. God honored Mary out of His grace, and He was with her, as He is with all who trust in Him. When God bestows a blessing upon us, the proper response is to be grateful. To realize in humility that His favor is undeserved. And to ponder this amazing grace that He bestows. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Lord our Righteousness

Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, 
“When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.’"-- Jeremiah 23:5-6

God promised He would raise up a "Righteous Branch," and He kept His promise when He sent Jesus. The Father knew our greatest need is a Savior. Without Him we would perish in our sin. We have in ourselves no righteousness. Nothing to recommend us to God and Heaven. It is only through Christ's righteousness that we are saved. "You will not find on this side heaven a holier people than those who receive into their hearts the doctrine of Christ's righteousness. When the believer says, 'I live on Christ alone; I rest on him solely for salvation; and I believe that, however unworthy, I am still saved in Jesus;' then there rises up as a motive of gratitude this thought - 'Shall I not live to Christ? Shall I not love him and serve him, seeing that I am saved by his merits?'" -- Charles Spurgeon. Rejoice in gratitude! The LORD is our righteousness!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The First Promise

"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise Him on the heel."
Genesis 3:15

The first promise of the Messiah is found in these words of God to Satan in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had succumbed to the enemy's temptation and sin had entered the world, but a day would come when a descendant of Eve's would defeat the enemy. This descendent is Jesus. "It is a remarkable verse in that it refers to the seed of the woman, not the man. Elsewhere in the Bible descent is determined through the male. But here it is the seed of the woman, not the man, who will bruise Satan’s head. It is a prophecy, veiled at the time, but evident now, of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ." -- Pastor Steven J. Cole

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Certain Faith

"Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.”
Luke 1:18

The angel Gabriel, bearing good news, showed up at the altar while Zacharias performed his priestly duties. I'm guessing that Zacharias knew that God had opened Sara's womb to conceive Isaac in her old age. So isn't it interesting that Zacharias would doubt Gabriel's pronouncement that Elizabeth in her advanced years would conceive John? Zacharias wanted to know how he could be certain this wonderful thing would happen, and Gabriel responded by telling him that because he doubted Zacharias would be mute until John's birth. And so he was. It's easy to judge Zacharias for his unbelief, but don't we often do the same thing when we doubt God's promises? We know how faithful He has been in the past, yet our circumstances seem so impossible that we can't bring ourselves to trust Him to do what He says He will do. At such times we need to spend time recounting God's past faithfulness, then ask Him to give us certain faith as we wait on Him.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Reflection

A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God." 
Isaiah 40:3

Seven centuries before John the Baptist's (baptist meaning "an immerser") birth, Isaiah prophesied that John would come to prepare the people to receive Jesus Christ the Messiah. John preached a message of repentance, of turning away from sin and turning to God. As we enter this Advent season, we have a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the condition of our  hearts and repent of anything that stands between us and the Lord. "Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart." (Psalm 26:2) Let's clear the way for the Lord to do a great work in us this Christmas.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Deity of Christ

"For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,"
Colossians 2:9

The meaning of this verse is so clear. Jesus Christ is God incarnate. If we don't believe this, then we have rejected Christ as Savior. "The doctrine of the nature of Christ has been widely debated throughout the course of Christian history. Some deny the deity (or God nature) of Christ. They teach that He was ONLY a man. They feel that to assert that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God is to claim that there are three Gods, not one. The Bible doesn't seek to explain this mind-boggling concept of the Trinity (that three persons are one in essence). It asserts that "the Lord our God, the Lord is one." And it tells us that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." (Jn. 20:31). Jesus Himself told us, "I and the Father are one." -- Rev. Bruce Goettsche. God demanded a perfect sacrifice for sin and only the second person of the Trinity Jesus Christ could fulfill that requirement. If we deny Christ, thinking we can reach God by being a good person, a moral person, then we have made a grave mistake. For God has said that there is no one who is righteous and all that we think of as righteousness is filthy rags to Him (Isaiah 64:6).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

God's Indescribable Gift

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"
2 Corinthians 9:15

Most theologians agree that the "indescribable gift" Paul speaks of in this verse is Christ Jesus. Whatever gift God might give, surely there is none that can compare to the gift of His Son for our redemption. How can words describe such generosity from our God? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) This is what separates Christianity from every other major belief system. It is not what we must do to reach God, it is what He has already done to reach us. It is finished. Christ paid the price. He is risen. Our salvation rests in Him. "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Our Magnificent God

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow" Job 38:22

I believe our God has the heart of a poet. The Lord's words to Job regarding His power are filled with wonderful descriptions. 
“Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew? 
From whose womb has come the ice? And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth? 
Water becomes hard like stone, And the surface of the deep is imprisoned."
There is so much to learn about our Father. So much we can know and appreciate. Why do we settle for a measly surface knowledge of such a magnificent God, when we can have the thrill of experiencing so much more of Him? 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Brighter and Brighter

"But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day."
Proverbs 4:18

When God's light shines into our lives, a great transformation begins. The brightness of His truth diispels the darkness of sin in our hearts and we become more and more like Him. This is an ongoing work that will not be completed until we are finally with Him. "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Be an Example

"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."
Romans 12:18

God's children are to set the example for living peacefully with their neighbors. Unbelievers often judge Christ's gospel by how His followers treat others. When we extend kindness and respect to them, even when they don't return the favor, we show that we are followers of Christ and God is glorified. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Joyful Discipline

"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."
Hebrews 12:11

Affliction comes in many forms and for many reasons. Poor health may result from poor choices we have made in regard to caring for our bodies. On the other hand, an illness may come through no fault of our own -- from genetics, virus or other mysterious reason. As much as we don't like to admit it, sometimes God allows an ailment to bring us to a point of complete dependence upon Him. When we have nothing else to lean on, we learn how important our relationship with Him is to our well being. There is no one who can minister to us as God can. When we are suffering, it is not a joyful time. We only want the pain to be over. And who can blame us for not enjoying pain? However, when we submit to the Lord, we gain something that the unbelieving world can never understand. We share in Christ's suffering, becoming more like Him. (Philippians 3:10)

Friday, November 25, 2011


"but they first gave themselves to the Lord"
2 Corinthians 8:5

Every Christians can point to a time in their life when the truth of Christ penetrated their hearts and lives. At that moment, they "gave themselves to the Lord". They consecrated their lives to Him. For Abraham Lincoln, it happened when he walked among the thousands of graves at Gettysburg in July 1863. As he explained to a friend:

"When I left Springfield [to assume the Presidency], I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ." 
The Holy Spirit works individually in the life of each man and woman to bring them to Himself. Like Lincoln, it is up to each of us to respond to His call.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Make Every Day Thanksgiving Day

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving 
And His courts with praise. 
Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; 
His lovingkindness is everlasting 
And His faithfulness to all generations.”
Psalm 100:4-5

For the Christian, every day should be Thanksgiving Day. God's goodness and lovingkindness never end. His faithfulness endures from generation to generation. Therefore, our thanks to Him should never end. His praise should always be on our lips. Perhaps this Thanksgiving Day is a time to ask ourselves if we are truly thankful people. Do we thank God openly for our blessings, mentioning His name to others, whether they believe or not? God deserves our unabashed thanks and praise. Let's purpose right now to make every day Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bright Future

"joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light."
Colossians 1:11-12

Through Christ, we are qualified to share in eternal life -- "the inheritance of the saints in Light." We are no longer under condemnation. We have no reason to fear the afterlife. This knowledge should fill the Christian with inexpressible joy, overflowing into grateful thanks to God the Father. Even in the hardships of life, we can give thanks. For we know there is something better to come. Our future looks bright. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One Voice

"Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Romans 15:5-6

Like-mindedness among Christians is a gift from God. We need His Spirit to unify us. The Lord Jesus prayed that believers would all be one, so that the world would believe that the Father had sent the Son. "Picture an orchestra warming up before a concert. The violins play one thing, the trumpets work on their scales, the trombones practice something else, the clarinets are doing their own thing, and the flutes, well, the flutes are in their own little world. That’s the way it is when you warm up. There is no melody, just a cacophony of unrelated sounds. But everything changes when the conductor lifts his baton. Suddenly the noise stops. Every eye is on him. When he brings the baton down, the music starts, and what had been unconnected noise now becomes beautiful music. If each person played whatever he wanted, the result would be chaos. But when those very different instruments blend together on the same song following the same conductor, the result is wonderful.  In the church we are called to blend our hearts and our voices to the purpose of our conductor, the Lord Jesus Christ. When we follow His lead, the church produces a symphony of praise that the world cannot ignore." -- Ray Pritchard

Monday, November 21, 2011

Another Life

"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"
Matthew 16:26

Jesus taught that there is a cost to discipleship.  “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25) These are hard statements for some people to accept. They want an easy believism that demands nothing of them. Jesus made it clear to His disciples that their lives would not be easy, but that He would never abandon them. They would walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but He would walk every step with them. The Lord said there is another life beyond this one. And all who receive Him in this life will be received by Him in the next. For the one who rejects Christ in this life, there is no hope. That person has exchanged something of temporary value for the gift of eternal life. But until he breathes his final breath, he still has an opportunity to come to Christ. "For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life." John 3:16 Amplified Bible

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