Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Day December 25

If this is not the 25th please go over to the right side of this page and click on the appropriate date.

Read:  Luke 2:15-20  Key verse:  "And when they had seen Him, they told others what the angel had said about this child." vs. 17

If you are reading this on Christmas Day you probably have already opened your gifts, been to church, and had a big meal.  It is still Christmas but Christmas is over.  After all the anticipation and excitement of Advent and the arrival of December 24 and 25 it normal to have a let down.  Feelings come and go--our joy is not based on them.  The important thing is that we have experienced the celebration of Christ's birth once more and we have a story to tell.

When the shepherds had heard about the birth of the Savior they said, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem and see this child that the Lord has told us about!"  It is important to not just hear about Christ but to meet Him as well.  After their visit they went and told others about this amazing event.  When you really encounter Christ you cannot hold it in--you want to share the good news that Son of God has come.  "And all who heard wondered about what the shepherds had said."  This end of the Christmas story is really the beginning.  The rest of our life should be spent spreading this good news.   We should feel that we have to do it, not because we are commanded to(although we are commanded to), but because we want to share it.  The gospel is too great for us not to want others to know it!

The real end of the Christmas story is that "the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard."  All that God does for us brings Him great glory.  Our lives should focus on honoring Jesus with our praises in worship and our telling/doing the good news in our service to others.

Of course the Christmas story really has no end.  It is an eternal truth that the eternal One entered history and changed us for Him and forever.  We can have the privilege to bring Christmas to the world every day of the rest of our lives and then in heaven we will glorify and praise Him into all eternity.  Halleluj

Advent Devotion Dec. 24

Read:  John 1:1-14  Key verses: "In Him was life and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overpower it."  John 1:4,5

"And the glory of the Lord shone round about them."  Luke 2:9b

On this Christmas Eve night many people will celebrate Christ's birth by going to a candlelight service.  I love the symbolism of the candlelight service!  The Bible tells us that this little baby that came into the world was (and still is) Life and that this Life was (and still is) the Light in a dark world.  Even the smallest light can light up a large room.  A single candle burning can give light to an entire worship center.  The darkness just disappears in the presence of one small candle just as the baby Jesus dispels the gloom just by His coming.  Where does the darkness go?  It goes nowhere--it simply ceases to exist.  This is a truth that I love to preach!  But I must learn, as we all must, that it is a truth not only for the mind but for the heart.  Can I honestly say that I have allowed the Life--this Light to be in my heart to the extent that I have no gloom?  My desire is to let this night be for me a "silent night, holy night, darkness flies all is light...Son of God, loves pure light."

In the candlelight service we each receive light from each other, but all coming originally from the one  light that represents the true Light.  The room becomes even brighter because we have received the light, shared it with others and they have  received it.    We are meant to share the Light because HE is the Light of the world.   He dispels the darkness, but incredibly , uses us to make it happen!   I like for the congregation to sing "Joy to the World"  at the end of the candlelight service and to raise their candles on the last verse if Jesus is their Lord.  "He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love."

Wherever Christ is believed and proclaimed,  His light--His glory shines!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dec. 23 4th Sunday in Advent

 Read:  Luke 2:1-7   Key verse: "The time came for the baby to be born." (vs. 6b)

"At just the right time God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law." (Galatians 4:4)

You've heard the expression, "timing is everything."   Time is an ever present reality of life.  We are told that in our culture that time is the most valuable commodity.  We wear  watches to tell what time it is.   In most team sports the game is over when time runs out,   But time and timing are too different things.  In time,  one moment is the same as another.  In timing, there are moments that are much more important than others.  The moment of Christ's birth is one of those crucial moments in history.  God's timing is perfect!

"At just the right time God sent His Son." It is said that the time of Jesus' birth was the perfect moment for the gospel to happen and spread.  It was a time of relative peace.   Most of the known world spoke the same language.   Roman roads were excellent for traveling to get the word out about God's love in Christ.   The timing of Caesar's census allowed Jesus to be born where prophecy said it would happen.  The timing of Christmas was no accident.  God was orchestrating the whole process.

That Jesus was born in time is another fact about the incarnation.    Jesus was born "under the law" and "of a woman."  All that seems obvious to us now, but think about it:  His birth from eternity into time, from total freedom into restrictions, and from glory into humanity causes us to again ask, "how can this be?"   We can't fully understand it, but it is truly wonderful to realize its significance.  God became one of us!  He knows what it is like to struggle to be on time.  He can identify with our struggle with the law of sin and death.(and all the laws of physics, nations, nature etc.)  He got hungry, felt cold, knew sickness and when he stubbed his toe it hurt.  He was tempted in every way we are tempted yet was without sin.  Yet, He still knew and now knows what sin feels like because the Bible says He became sin for us.

When Jesus was baptized by John (another example of God's good timing) he was being baptized for the remission of sin.  He was identifying totally with us in a way that would lead to a painful death on a rugged Roman cross.  He would cry out, as we so often have, "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?"  He knows our life because He has lived it.  Because He has lived it, He can guide us through the rough times.

Let us enjoy this Christmas season and every season by trusting God's perfect timing.  Things may not be going as you want them to, but God is right on top of it.  He will work it out if you trust Him.  He never says, "opps!"  He never has to apologize for being late.   You may be wondering why times are so bad.   We can't understand it all, but we can place our faith in the One who does.  He's got the whole wide world in His hands!  It is time to trust the Savior of the world.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 22

Read Luke 2:8-12  Key verse:  "Unto you is born this day...a Savior who is Christ the Lord." (vs. 11)

How can this be?

Let us not underestimate the importance of the angel's announcement to the shepherds that a Savior was born for them.   He was a personal gift to them just as He is to us.  Let the words ring in your heart, "unto you is born...a Savior."   It can be because God is One who loves to give Himself to people and have a relationship with them.

What is it that you like most about Christmas?  Is it the presents?  Is it the food?  Is it the music?  Most of us would say that the best part of Christmas is being with family and friends.  It is the personal part of the season that makes it so great.  And, just think:  We get it all with Jesus.  We get a personal relationship with Christ, plus great time with others.  And we also get a present--the gift of life.  We get food--the Lord's Supper.  We get music--the song God places in our hearts.  So, a real Christmas with Jesus brings every good part of the season into our lives.

Shepherds were the lowest of the low on the totem pole of society.  You were a shepherd if you could not do anything else.   God Chose to reveal the birth of His Son first to these lowly men, at least in part, to show that He came for every one.  It doesn't matter what your status is or what you think it is.  Whoever you are or whatever you have done, Christ comes to you personally and wants to be a part of your life.  He is a personal Savior who died on a cross f

December 21

Read   II Kings 4:8-37  Focus:  vss. 32-37     Key verse:  "And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth and his eyes on his eyes and his hands on his hands, and stretched himself on him; and the flesh of the child became warm."  (vs. 34)

How can this be?

God becoming human is a miracle but He has always been personal.  He desired to have direct contact with humanity so He came.  "Christ emptied Himself of His privileges as God, taking the form of a servant in the likeness of man, and appeared on earth as a man."(Phil. 2:7,8)  

This coming into direct personal contact with humanity is pictured in an event in the life of the prophet, Elisha.  Elisha had prayed for his friend, the Shunammite woman to have a child and she did.  When the boy was grown, he was working in the fields with his father when the boy collapsed and died.  When Elisha heard about it he sent his servant to run and place his staff on the boy's face.  When Elisha arrived at the house the boy was still dead.  The prophet went into the room where the son's body was laying and stretched himself out on top of him:  eyes on eyes, mouth on mouth hands on hands and the young man came to life!   In a similar way God has come to us.  The life that we need is beyond long distance help.  One of God's servants could not do the job!  So He has come to get right down where we are--to get as close to us as He can.  Laying on top of some one is very personal!   Christmas is that gift of His life to and for us as He comes eye to eye, mouth to mouth, and hands to hands.

This beautiful reality of the Word becoming flesh and living among us changes everything!  For it shows the lengths He will go to warm our lives and be personal with us.  There are many ways we die.  We die a little when some one we love dies, when we get a life-threatening illness, when we lose a friend, spouse, or job.   On and on I could list the ways we go through the valley of the shadow of death.  Christ will come to us.  He longs for us to long for Him.(Isaiah 30:18)  Make room for Him in the inn of your heart.  He will stretch Himself out on you and fill you with life you did not know possible.  He will give you Christmas

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent Dec. 20

Read Joshua 5:13-15   Key verses:  "What message does my Lord have for His servant?"(Josh. 5:14b  "You are standing on holy ground."(Josh. 5:15b)

How can this be?

Mary's question is answered in at least five ways: 1. God's love is the motivation.  2. His power is the agent.  3.  His activity is the reason.  His life is the gift.  4. His person is the result.  

In another pre-incarnational visit by God, Joshua, about to lead an attack on Jericho, encounters a man with a drawn sword blocking his way.  Joshua wants to know if the man is on his side.  The man states that Joshua has asked the wrong question.   He said that He was on neither side, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come."   Then Joshua fell at the man's feet and asked, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?"   He answered, "Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground!"

The LORD had made a personal visit to remind Joshua and us that being on God's side is more important than His being on our side.  Joshua led Israel to a great victory because he was surrendered to the LORD.  We have a personal God who often delivers messages through angels(messengers), prophets, priests, and even donkeys but at times prefers to do it Himself.  It is part of God's character as Person to want to interact with His people on a face to face basis.

Ultimately He came as a new-born baby who grew up to be a great man and die on a cross for our sins.  Mary understood the holy significance of this event.   The song that she sang indicates that she had removed her shoes because she was standing on holy ground.(Lk. 1:46-55)  "My soul magnifies the LORD and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior", started the song.  

I love and enjoy all the trappings of Christmas.  I enjoy Santa, Rudolf, Frosty, and the others.  But Christmas is Jesus!   When I think of the great event of the incarnation, I realize that I am standing on holy ground.  Christmas is joyful, but Christmas is serious.  God comes to us, not to take our side but to be by our side.  We become victorious because we have surrendered into a loving relationship with the Person of God who is victorious.  This is the message He has for us during Advent.  We are standing on holy ground.  Do not allow Christmas to become too secular or too casual.  This whole magnificent celebration is joyfully serious.  It is holy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dec. 19 Advent Devotion

Read Genesis 32:22-32  Key verse:  "It is because I saw God face to face and He has spared my life." (vs. 30b)

How can this be?

We have seen the answer to Mary's question in the love of God, the power of God, the activity of God, and the life of God.  Now we find the answer in the person of God.   Even before God came to earth in His Son, He was(and always has been) personal.  A good argument for the existence of a personal God is that we are personal(created in His image).  How could the impersonal create the personal?   Personal ones love relationships with others like themselves.  God has lived in a great three way relationship within the Trinity since all eternity.  In creating us He desired to develop new relationships.  In a relationship one wants to identify with the other.  That is what happened when the Son of God came to earth.   This personal God became human so that he could experience our existence and take our place in death.

God made several pre-incarnational visits to earth before that first Christmas.  One of those trips was to Jacob.  It was not a fun visit for Jacob although it ended up great.  He was afraid for his life as he was about to have an encounter with his twin bother, Esau whom he had cheated years ago.   On the night before the encounter Jacob wrestled with a man all night.  That man turned out to be the LORD.  Jacob was blessed but he also was crippled.  His weakness became the LORD's strength.   When Jacob was willing to stop trying to control things and give them to God, he discovered the liberating blessing of the LORD.   In meeting God face to face, Jacob had found that real life comes from knowing the LORD(Jn. 17:3).  

Mary's surrender to the LORD (Lk. 1:38) led to the ultimate personal visit from God.   "The Word became flesh and pitched His tent with us.  And we have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only...who explained God."(Jn. 1:14,18)   The miracle of Christmas is that the Eternal God became a little baby.  Forget the halo in the paintings, He was human in every way.  Because He experienced humanity (yet without sin) we can have a relationship with Him.  Like Jacob, we can see Him face to face and live.  Sometimes it takes a wrestling match to really see Him, but when we surrender to Him and quit striving, the blessings of a wonderful relationship fall upon us.

Advent Devotional Dec. 18

Read Luke 1:5-25,39-45  Key verse: "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."  (Lk. 1:41)

How can this be?

God is in the life-giving business.  Mary wondered how God could work a miracle in her life even as she prepared to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who herself was blessed with the miracle of a child.   Elizabeth, like Hannah, had been barren but now was pregnant with a baby that would grow up to be John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ.  Even in his the womb John sensed he was in the presence of Divinity when Mary came to visit his mother..  He leaped for joy and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  God can become a man because He is a life-giver.  That's what He does.

When we are carrying the Life of God in us, others can sense it.  They may not be able to put their finger on what they are feeling, but it can cause them to jump for joy.   They will want what we have.  In my late twenties I made some friends that had the joy of the LORD.  I did not understand all the theology or even agree with it, but they had something I wanted.  They had life and I did not.  My encounter with them ultimately caused me to ask for God's life in me through the Holy Spirit.  I still cannot explain how it can be, but I know god has placed his life in my heart.

I have learned over the years that "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all."  John the Apostle wrote this light is the life we all need and are looking for.  Christmas is a time of life.  A new life coming to a feeding trough in Bethlehem.  And He changed the world!  The leap of joy you will feel, will cause you to begin the wonderful experience of being filled with His Spirit.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Advent Daily Devotions Dec. 17

Read I Samuel 1:1-28  Key verse: "I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him.  So now I give him to the LORD" (vss. 27,28)

How can this be?

 Mary gave no thought to having a child.  Why should she?  She was a virgin.  Yet God wanted to implant in her the Light of Life.   God's plan was to give her this Life that the world might have everlasting life.   Hannah wanted nothing more than to have a child but she was barren.   Her earnest prayer for a child was answered and she was so grateful that she pledged that child to the LORD.  The child named Samuel became a great prophet, priest, and the one who anointed Israel's first king.  Mary's child became the great Prophet, Priest, and KingNo wonder Mary asked, 
" How can this be?

God is the great life-giver.  You may have a major disappointment in your life that no amount of prayer seems to help.  Hannah wanted a child more than anything else on earth.  She would go to Shiloh every year to worship the LORD and beg Him for a child.  She never gave up!  Finally she conceived and had a child.  Yuo can be sure that God's plan for you includes life.  He wants to energize you with His life, power and love.  It may not come in the exact form you would like but it will come.  

I was in a group that is studying the prayer of Jabez(I Chron. 4:9,10).  He prayed, "Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory and that Your hand would be with me."  Sometimes we do not know exactly what blessings God has for us but He does have them for us.   He wants to expand our territory by using us to bring His life into dead and barren places.   If we truly want His hand to be with us and we ask for it, we will have it.  The asking is important.   Prayer can really change things.  The LORD is continually placing opportunities in our lives to bring life to others.  Christmas is a great time to live out and speak out the truth of God's love in Christ. 

When Hannah's prayer was answered she remembered her promise and gave Samuel back to the LORD.   All our blessings are from Him and should be dedicated to Him.  It is in giving back to God what He has given us that life comes forth to make a difference in the world.  

A good way to live is to ask God and then to give to God.    It is just one of the great and amazing ways God works

Advent Dec. 16

Read Genesis 18:1-15  Key verse: "...your wife Sarah will have a son," (Gen. 18:10b)

"How can this be?"

Christmas can come because of God's love, power, activity and also His Life.  He is the great life-giver.  Although Mary's pregnancy was the most unusual, spectacular, and important in the history of the world, there were other times when God intervened to bring life into a woman supernaturally.
We could talk about Rebekah(Gen. 25:21), Rachel(Gen.30:22,23), Hannah(I Sam. 1:19,20), and Elizabeth(Lk. 1:13).  But today let us think about Sarah.  She was about ninety years of age and had never had a child.  Abraham was about one hundred years of age.  The LORD made one of His pre-incarnational visits to Abraham and Sarah.(remember that God is active in His world and gets involved).    He told them that they were to have a child who would carry on the promise which would eventually lead to the coming of Christ.(Gen. 17:19)  Sarah actually laughed at this idea saying, "How could an old and barren woman like me have such pleasure, especially when my husband is even older?" and "Can an old woman like me have a baby?"   Sounds a little like Mary's "How can this be?"  God's answered clearly and emphatically,  "Is anything too difficult for the LORD!   

God's own name means eternal life(I AM Who I AM).  The LORD not only is life, He gives life.  He will come into the barrenness of your existence and produce life!  Past failures and even successes mean nothing for you right now.   We all need to know that we can have productive lives at any age.  Your track record doesn't matter.  "Nothing is impossible with God!"(Luke 1:37)  His supernatural life can infuse you with purpose, peace, and emotional prosperity.

God told Abraham and Sarah to name their son Isaac which means "laughter".   Humanly speaking it is a laugh that we might have effective and meaningful lives.  Christmas is a reminder that God can and God will make a difference.  The laughter that He brings into our lives is the sound of music in our hearts as we celebrate His coming into our hearts.
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Advent Dec. 15

Read Matthew 1:18-25  Key Verse: "Behold, a virgin will conceive a child.  She will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel, which 'God with us.'" (Matt. 1:23)

"How can this be?"

I think it was Billy Graham who said that he was in India watching some road construction.  He noticed an ant hill that was about to be destroyed by the bulldozer.  He thought about the imminent doom of those ants and said to himself, "if I could just become an ant I could warn them and help them."  Like those ants, we are a people facing destruction.   Because of our rebellion, we are doomed to an eternal hell.  God knows our fate and wants us to enjoy eternal life with Him, so He sent His Son to "seek and to save those who are lost."   He came to be with us and save us.

Mary wondered how it could happen.   Joseph, no doubt, felt the same.   The angel spoke to him in a dream and said, in effect, that it was possible because of God's activity.  This child would be called Immanuel which means "God with us."   The LORD has always been involved in His creation.  The writer to the Hebrews says that Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways through the prophets, but now He has spoken to us through His Son who is an exact duplicate of God.(Heb. 1:1-3)  The LORD has always been involved, but His most decisive move was when He came in Jesus Christ.   The angel told Joseph that Mary's pregnancy was of the Holy Spirit.  It was a God-thing.
Today God is with us through that same Holy Spirit, who is Himself God.   I hope you have settled things with God and have a personal and eternal relationship with Him.   You may have the sweet by and by settled, but what about the nasty now and now!   Everything may be going OK now, but what lies around the corner.?  Is there a bulldozer headed your way that maybe you don't see?   Trust God's activity in your life through His Holy Spirit.  He is the same God that spoke to Mary and Joseph.  He is the same God who spoke to a lost world in His Son, Jesus.  He is the same God who will come to you in your time of need.

"We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell;  O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel."

Advent December 14

                                                                                                                                                              Read or remember the book of Esther  Key verse: 9:30  "Letters wishing peace and security were sent to the Jews"

"How can this be?"

When the first Christmas happened most of the world was unaware of it.  There were many signs of God's activity but they could have been dismissed as coincidence, exaggeration or rumor.  The book of Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not mention God.  Yet God is obviously active in it all.  Nine times we are told that King Xerxes sent out a decree(2:8,3:15, 4:3,8, 8:14,17, 9:1,13,14).  Each time the king thought he was in control, but the LORD was working out His plan in it all.   Some of the King's decrees were motivated by evil and some by good, but the LORD was working out His plan.   Ultimately, God's plan for us is peace and security.   Years later another decree went out from another King who thought he was in charge.  Caesar's decree to tax the world led to a birth and an announcement of peace on earth.

Even when we cannot see Him and sometimes when we don't even care, God is at work.  He wants us to have peace and security.  The Devil will try to cause events that damage and detour our lives, but the Lord God Almighty is on our side.  Christmas reminds us that God is at work in His world.  A virgin becoming pregnant is an amazing thing!  It was no exaggeration or rumorIt was God at work--because that is what God does.   How can this be?  He is. And He is God!

"Then  let us all with one accord sing praises to our heavenly Lord.  Who hath made heav'n and earth of naught, and with His blood mankind hath boug

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advent Devotion Dec. 13

Read I Samuel 17:32-51    Key verse: vs. 37  "The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!"

"How can this be?"

One way the question can be answered is in the activity of God.  He is involved in His creation.  Many of the forefathers of the USA were Deists.  They believed that God was like a watchmaker who, having made the watch, winds it up and lets it work on its own.  They felt that God watched from a distance as His creation worked on its own.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  God made the watch, keeps it ticking, and fixes it when it breaks.

David knew about the activity of God.  God had helped him many times.  Now, as recorded in our scripture reading, David faced the fight of his life.  The whole nation of Israel depended on the defeat of Goliath.   David made it clear that the LORD would give him victory.   He got into the battle by convincing King Saul that "The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine.   He said to Goliath, "You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven's Armies...Today the LORD will conquer you.  And He did!

We face many giants in our lives.  There are dangers, difficulties and doubts.  But the same God who delivered David and rescued the whole world through Christ will give us the victory.   This is a call for faith.  We should take God at His word by taking His Word into our lives.  And then, with the promise of God's activity in our lives go out and slay our giants(even dwarfs that seem to us like giants!).  We know He will do it because He did it that first Christmas.   Jesus means "Savior".   And Savior means "Deliverer".  That's what He came to do.  And He will!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent 12

Dec. 12

Read: Genesis 11:1-9 Key Verse: "And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built."(Gen. 11:5)

"How can this be?"

The love of God is the motivation for Him to come to earth. The power of God is how He did it. The activity of God is the way He came--He came because of His love, power, and activity--He can do it!

Early on in the history of humanity, they did what humans are want to do: Try something great apart from God. They wanted to make a name for themselves by building a city and a tower reaching to heaven. God came down to get involved. He had a better plan. He planned on our ending up in a city and actually in heaven. It would take a long time, but it would bring Him great glory all along the way.

God is involved in our world. He came down primarily in His Son at the first Christmas. "How can this be?" It can happen because God is active in His creation. We often think of the incarnation as a warm and fuzzy event--and indeed it is. But it is also a time of judgement. John the Baptist, preparing the way for Jesus said, "the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."(Luke 3:9) John called for repentance saying that God is able to make spiritual children. Christmas is a call for faith in the One who loves us and gave Himself for us. God's judgement is designed to make us want heaven on His terms. When we say yes to Him, and allow Him to be active in our lives, we begin to discover His purpose for our lives.
ps   Do you know the significance of this date today?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dec. 10,11 Advent

Read:  Luke 4:1-19  Key Verse:  "The Spirit of the LORD is upon me"  (Lk. 4:18)

"How can this be?"

When Mary asked that question the angel said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you."(Lk. 1:35)  The Holy Spirit is the third person of the triune Godhead.   He is the power and the activity of God.  Christmas can happen because the Holy Spirit will bring it about.  He did it for Mary and He can do it for you.

When Jesus grew up and began His ministry the Holy Spirit gave Him strength and worked through Him.  When he was baptized the Holy Spirit came upon Him(Lk. 3:22).  Then Luke four says, "And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness." (vs. 1)   "And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit." (vs. 14)   In the synagogue He took the scriptures and read from Isaiah, "The Spirit of the LORD is upon me."(vs.18)  Though, as Son of God, He could have acted on His own, He clearly acted only by the direction of and in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God is how Christmas happens.

God's goal in your life is to form Christ in you so that others can see Him.  This is a process that begins when you receive Christ as Savior and continues as you follow Him.   It is a miracle that only God can do.  It is easy to ask, "how can I be Christ-like?"  The question is similar to Mary's "How can this be?"  The answer is that it can happen only as the Spirit comes upon you,    Mary could not have produced any baby, let alone the Son of God, by herself.  Jesus tells us that by ourselves we can do nothing,  Yet, when filled with the Holy Spirit, we can do amazing things as He works through us.  

Let our Christmas prayer be,  "Father, I surrender to Jesus Christ as LORD and ask your Spirit come upon me and take control of my life."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dec. 9, Advent Devotion

Read Matthew 2:1-12   Key verse:  "Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."  (vs. 11b)

"How can this be?)

If any humans knew the answer to Mary's question it was the wise men.  These were learned men who studied the heavens and looked for signs.  They were not really astrologers as we think of the term.  They were more like scientists and philosophers.  Being very wise men, they knew that the mighty universe had to have a Prime Mover.  They also must have known that this God was personal and that it was not out of the question that He would want to pay a visit to the people of His creation.  They knew that there were laws governing all things but that the Great Law Giver could use them to accomplish His purpose.

These men were willing to travel a very long distance to worship the Great God who was being born as a baby.  They recognized the Lord's visitation and presented Him with gifts of great value.  

Wise men and women still understand that God has the power to bring off Christmas.  They also are willing to go the extra mile to come and worship the Christ.  Wise people see the value of giving the best that they have to the One who made the heavens and the earth.  This Christmas season, take time to worship and give to the mighty God who became a little baby that ultimately we might enjoy the riches of eternal and abundant life.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dec. 8 Advent Devotion

Read Isaiah 9:2-9  Key verse: vs. 6 "He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

"How can this be?"

Mary's question was answered seven hundred years before Jesus' birth by the prophet Isaiah who said, "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.  For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine...For a child is born to us, a son is given to us."  This prophecy tells of the child to be born who would have the power of God with the government of the universe on his shoulders. The gift of Christmas is the gift of God's son--a light coming into a dark world.  God has the power to bring this off and He has the love to give Him to us.

Do you have a sense of no power in your life?  A child is born to you.  Do you feel that you have no direction in your life?  A son is given to you.  You may wonder with Mary how it can happen, but, if like Mary, you will simply believe and say, "be it done unto me your servant" you will experience great wonder.  Waiting is usually involved.   Israel had to wait 700 years.  Mary had to wait 9 months.  But the life and power of God did come.  And on his shoulders rested and still rests the government of the cosmos.  We call Him, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  His rule will never end--in fact it has always been!  God can do it because He has always ruled as his creation needed.  
Because He loves you so much, He will not force Himself into your life.  But if you let Him, He will come in power and be to you  a great friend-advisor,  a strength, eternal life, and your peace.   What a Christmas present!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent Devotional, Dec. 7

"How can this be?"

Mary's question is our question.  The story of Christmas is nice and sweet, but could it really have happened?  The angel answered Mary by saying that the power of the most high would overshadow her.  The Bible is filled with wonderful examples of the power of God.  In one great example the prophet Elijah is doing battle with the false god of Baal.  Wood was placed on an altar on Mt. Carmel and a contest was held to see which God could send down fire to burn the sacrifice.  The prophets of Baal called on their god most of the day with no success.  Elijah then had water poured on the wood again and again until it was completely soaked then called on God, "O LORD, answer me!  Answer me so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself."  God heard Elijah"s prayer and "immediately the fire of the LORD flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood,, the stones, and the dust.  It even licked up all the water in the trench!  And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, 'the LORD--he is God!  Yes, the LORD is God!"(I Kings 18:37-39)

We all have a tendency to want to chase after false gods such as possessions, power, popularity, and pleasure , but they never satisfy.  Christmas reminds us that God loves us enough and is powerful enough to meet our deepest needs.  When we trust Him, He will overshadow us and demonstrate that He alone is God.  And out of His working in our lives, a Life will grow in us that causes us to be more like Jesus and fills our hearts with love peace and joy.  Christ wants to demonstrate his power in your life to let you know that he is bringing you back to Himself.  The incarnation is God's power at work to bring a lost world back to Himself.  Trusting Him places us into that process.

How can this be?  The God of Elijah is our God as well.  Elijah was a man with a nature just like ours (James 5:17) and his faith produced amazing results.  Mary was a woman with a nature just like ours and her faith led to the coming of the Son of God into our world.  The LORD, he is God!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent Dec. 6

ADVENT: Dec. 6

Read Genesis 1:1-3,  John 1:1-5   Key verse:  Gen. 1:1  "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

"How can this be?"

Mary's question about Christmas can be answered by God's love.  It can also be answered by God's power.  If God made whole universe then He is obviously is very powerful.  If He made the cosmos, He also made all the laws of physics, biology, etc.  So He knows how to use those laws and even bypass them to accomplish His purpose.  The angel Gabriel, when asked by Mary how she could become pregnant since she was a virgin, answered that "the Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you."(Lk. 1:35)  God's motive for the incarnation was love and His agent for it was His power.

It is hard for us to conceive of a time when there was nothing(not even time)--except God Himself.  Out of this emptiness the Spirit of God was moving and the Father was speaking the the world into existence through His Son.  Where there was darkness, there now was light--simply  done by the Word of God.   Think of the vastness of the universe--the unimaginable distances to other stars and galaxies--and the micro distances as we study particles so small that no telescope can detect them--physicists only assume that they must exist.   God is bigger than all of that! 

Our God is a god of the supernatural--a God of miracles.  Three great miracles mark history.   These great supernatural acts of God are the creation, the incarnation, and the resurrection.
If God can do all that, He can do a miracle in your life.   Your life may be empty--let the Spirit of God hover over you and come upon you.  Your life may be dark and you can't find your way or you need guidance--let God speak light into your life through His Son who is the Light of the world.

When I say, "let God", I mean trust Him to do what He promises He will do.   Gabriel told Mary, "nothing is impossible with God." (Lk. 1:37)  Literally that means, no word from God is without power.  Just as Mary believed the word of God and surrendered to it, so we can believe His promise (His Word who is the Word) and in surrendering to Him have a supernatural Christma

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent December 5

Read John 3:16,17   "For God so loved the world that He have is only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him has eternal life.  For God did not sent His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world should be saved through Him."

How can this be?

A man deemed to be insane penned these words on the wall of his prison cell:  "Could we with ink the ocean fill;  were the whole sky of parchment made. Were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade. To write love of God above would drain the ocean dry.; Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky."

Wonderful words!  But the best description of God's love is found in  the message of Christmas and Easter.  God sent His Son.  The Son, Jesus, died for us and rose again.  All who trust in Him have eternal and abundant life now.  That message of love will see us through many things.

Oh that we would be demented enough to grasp the greatness of such love.  Such faith would see us through many a prison of doubt, worry, fear, discouragement, and resentment.  How can God come into our lives and make His home with us?  Because of His love.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent Dec. 4

Exodus 3:1-14, 33:18-23, 34:4-7     Key Verse: Ex. 34:6  "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness."

"How can this be?"

Christmas can best be explained by the love of God.  When Moses wanted to see the glory of God, the LORD passed by and showed Moses as much as he could stand.  The words mercy, compassion, love and faithfulness jump out at me as I look at this encounter in Ex. 33 and 34.  God is describing His basic essence to Moses as that of a loving and faithful God who is willing to come to earth and reveal Himself to the human race.

I am sure that Moses' mind went back to his first wilderness encounter with God which we read about in Exodus 3.  There, God revealed Himself to Moses for the first time in the form of a burning bush.   God told Moses that He had heard the cries of His people and He had come down to rescue them.(vss. 7 & 8).  Later in the conversation, Moses asked God to give him His name.  God said " I AM WHO I AM".  It is a name that means He is the self existent One.  We pronounce it as YaHWeH and it usually appears in English Bibles as LORD(upper case letters).   To tell someone your name is to get personal with him or her.  God wants to have a personal relationship with us.  When Jesus came He said, "before Abraham was, I AM"(John 8:58), using the same wording that God had used with Moses.  Christ's meaning is obvious.  He is the same God who always is, who came down to earth and entered time to rescue His people through Moses.

Advent is a time of hope--of expectation.  Whatever you are going through, the LORD hears your cries and comes to help.    He is the One who has always been, and is able to deliver you.  He has shown that His nature is that of love, mercy, compassion, and faithfulness, so He is also able to deliver you.  Just as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, so He will incarnate Himself into our lives if we allow Him.  You may be very low, but not too low for the LORD to come down and rescue you.  You may feel that you are on top of the world right now, but the LORD still loves you and wants to be with you to express His love to you and then on to others.  He wants to get personal with us.  He wants to show us as much about Himself as we can stand.  Let us be overwhelmed by the love of God as Moses surely was.

As Moses came down from the mountain, he had a glow that reflected the glory of the LORD.   As we learn more about God and experience Him, we are changed.  Even if we are on the mountain top and must come back down to the real world we can bring His presence with us.  In every situation the LORD loves us and will be with us.  This is the message of Christmas.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent Dec. 3

Read Genesis 12:1-3, 15:1-7      Key verse Gen. 1:3b   "All the families of the earth will be blessed through you."

"How can this be?"

The question of Christmas is answered first of all by the fact that God cares about us.  In the first pages of the Bible we see how the human race messed up, big time.  The first humans disobeyed the only rule God gave them.  Their first child killed his younger brother.   Violence filled the earth.  God saved the only people worth salvaging from a great flood.  Their descendents tried to be their own gods(Gen. 11).  The world was in a mess.  But God started a long process to bring the human race back to Himself.

This reclamation project started with a man named Abram who would become Abraham.  In spite of the human condition the Lord was going to use a man.  It would be God who saved us, but He would use humans in a long process that would lead to the Lord Himself becoming a man.   Why God chose Abram and ultimately  his descendents to be line for the Christmas event is a question which only  the Lord Himself knows the answer.  But we can certainly surmise that it was out of His own goodness and greatness that the Lord chose Abram and chooses us.

There is a Dennis the Menace cartoon in which Dennis and a friend are eating cookies baked by Mrs. Wilson.   The friend comments to Dennis that he must be awfully good for Mrs. Wilson to bake him such good goodies.  Dennis astutely remarks that Mrs. Wilson made him the cookies, not because he is so good, but because Mrs. Wilson is so good.  God loves us and saves us, not based on our goodness but His. 

Your world may be a mess.  But Christ came into our world to fix it and to fix us.  He will come to everyone who will receive Him and be a blessing.  Dennis had to eat the cookies to enjoy it and we must have faith in Christ to enjoy His salvation.   You may be a saved person in a terrible mess.  You can never be so far away from God that He can't help you.  No problem is too big for Him.  He said to Mary, "Nothing is impossible with God"  This Advent season gives us hope because we know that God cares.  He proved it beginning with Adam, Eve, Abraham and many others, completing it in Christ.  He will come into every heart that opens up to Him and lets Him in (Rev. 3:20).   A good Christmas prayer is, "O holy child of Bethlehem!  Descend to us, we pray;  Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent Dec. 2

Read Genesis 3:1-9 Key verse: Gen. 3:9 "Where are you?"

"How can this be?"

Mary's question has many implications for us. When pondering Christmas we might ask, "How can God even care about us?"
The first man and woman had it great in the garden of Eden. They were in charge of looking after the creation. They lived in a beautiful place and they only had one rule. They were told that if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would die.

Can you imagine only one rule? When you were a teenager, how would you have loved it if your parents had said the only rule is do not stay out at night past 3am? Don't you think you could have lived with that and been able to obey? Adam and Eve had it made! One rule--and a very easy one to obey. And not only that--they had a perfect relationship with God. They were His very image. And they gave it all up by listening to the serpent's lie.

The devil convinced them that God did not have their best interests at heart, that He was holding out on them. So they ate the fruit and immediately were ashamed, hiding from God. But God came looking for them, calling out, "Where are you?" God then took the life of an innocent animal and covered their nakedness and shame.

Our sins have caused us great harm and shame. But God is a god of love. He has come looking for us even as we have tried to hide from Him. He calls out to us, "Where are you?", not because He doesn't know where we are, but because He wants us to know that He cares. How could God care for us? Because He is God and He is love. He even became the innocent Lamb of God, shedding His blood to cover our shame.

The first prophecy of the advent of Christ is given by God as He prepares to redeem a now-fallen world, saying that the seed of the woman would one day crush the head of the serpent(Gen. 3:15). Prepare for Christ by understanding that God is a great and loving God who cared enough to send His very best.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


December 1
Read Luke 1:26-38
Luke 1:34    "How can this be?"
Maybe like me you are in awe over the whole concept of God becoming a man.  The angel Gabriel paid a visit to a virgin teenage woman named Mary to tell her, "You will conceive and give birth to a son...The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and He will reign over  Israel forever; his kingdom will have no end."(Luke 1:31-33)  Mary was naturally confused so she asked, "How can this be?"

This question is likely the one we all ask at one time or another.  There are times in our lives when we are unproductive, discouraged, alone, afraid, guilty, unloved, confused,  helpless or resentful.  We wonder if God cares, if He wants to do something about it, if He can do something, how He might do it,  what role we are expected to play, why we might deserve it, and/or what will others think.

Christmas is a great mystery.  The incarnation is a supernatural act of God that boggles the mind.  Advent is a good time to ponder the coming of Christ and to plan how we should receive Him.  Let's just remember that God is God.  He can do anything He wants to do and He loves us.  You may be in a tight situation and see no way out.  Just remember that just as the Son of God became a man to save a lost world, He can come into your world to deliver you from your affliction.  How He will do so is His decision and is done in His way.  All he asks is that we ask and that we invite Him into our lives.  "I am the Lord's servant" was Mary's response and it is a good one for us as well.  Total surrender to Him opens the door for God's activity in our lives.   
The devotional thoughts of this Advent season will follow this theme over the next 24 days.  "How can this be?"  A good question which I will attempt to answer through the Word of God.