What God is Saying:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

Friday, December 2, 2016

Christmas Devotion (Day 5) - Sin and Curse

Read Jeremiah 22:18-30

Jeremiah 22:30 - Thus says the LORD: Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days, for none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah.
No matter what we do, or how we fail God, His plan will never fail. Satan had, time after time, tried to stop God’s promises from being fulfilled concerning the coming Messiah. All the evil people in Noah’s time could not defeat God’s plan. Now, the terrible, willful sin of one man could not stop it either. But neither could God overlook the sin of this man just to make His promise come true. Jeconiah’s punishment had to stand, and God sealed it as a curse on his father, Jehoiakim: he should be called childless. This means God would not count Jeconiah as being a valid king of the Jews.

Yet, in Matthew 1:11-12, Jeconiah is named in the lineage of Jesus. Did God break His word? Was Jesus’ kingly line more important than cursing this man’s sin? The answer to both questions is no. God always keeps His promises, and sin is always punished – either through Jesus’ death on the cross, or by God’s discipline in our lives. There would always be consequences to Jeconiah’s sin – his blood would not be part of the heritage of the Messiah, but repentance placed him in Joseph’s bloodline. Through Joseph, Jeconiah could be the adoptive ancestor of Jesus.

*What sin that you have committed do you wonder if God could ever forgive?

Advent Devotion (Day 6) - The Ultimate Rescue Mission

When God created this world, created us, everything was good. Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with God. The Bible tells us that God actually met them and communicated with them each and every day in the Garden of Eden. There was no separation, no guilt, no shame. But then...they wanted more. They wanted to be like God. They wanted the one thing God said they could not have. And they sinned and thus ended that perfect relationship.

But what was the first thing God did after that sin? As Adam and Eve were hiding from God, fully aware of their sinfulness, ashamed of their nakedness...God called out to them. He didn't turn His back on them...give them the silent treatment. Instead He went looking for them, seeking after them...because He still loved them.

And for the next few thousand years God continued to seek after them through the prophets, through miracles like the Exodus from Egypt, through judgments and restorations. Yet, that wasn't enough. From the very beginning God knew that He would have to go on a personal rescue mission to save the people He created, the people He loved. To save them from their sins and the rightful judgment that those sins deserved...eternal separation from Him in Hell.

That rescue mission started with a baby in a manger. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21

You see, man has tried time and time again, through every other religion in the world, to save himself. Enough good deeds, enough sacrifices, enough acts in the name of God. But nothing, nothing that man does can buy salvation for him. Why?  Because all of our good deeds can never outweigh the sin nature that we are born with.

Only One who knew no sin, who was perfect in every way, could step in for us. Jesus actually became sin on that cross. He took on all the punishment that the Lord could give for every one one of our sins. And He did it willingly. He did it in love. And He did it for all time. Jesus is our rescuer!

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas Devotion (Day 4) - God Chooses a Family

Read 2 Samuel 7

2 Samuel 7:16 - And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.

Even though David was far from being a perfect man, God called him a “man after My own heart” – because David always returned to God for forgiveness with a heart determined to follow God. David wanted very much to be a Godly king to his people. He wanted to lead the people back into true worship of God, something they had left many times over the years.

One of David’s plans was to build a permanent temple in place of the Tabernacle tent God had designed for the nation while they were in the wilderness. David asked permission from God to build this temple. How many of us would simply have gone ahead and built it, rather than asking God for permission? God told him no, he could not build it because he was a warrior-king and had killed a lot of people. 

Then God encouraged David, promising David He would build an eternal “house” for him; David’s family would never lack a man to sit on the throne. David understood what this promise meant, because no human family could ever guarantee a son would always be there. David knew this promise meant the Messiah would be born of his family.

*What kind of blessing have you missed because you ran ahead of God?

Advent Devotion (Day 5) - When Reputation Dies

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this: an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” ...When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.   Matthew 1:18-20, 24

Joseph had a decision to make. Would he believe the angel, obey God and destroy his reputation or would he take the easier road...divorce Mary quietly, give in to his human nature and put the problem behind him? The angel tells him not to be afraid but he is! He knows that few if any of his friends will believe this story. Would Mary's own family even believe her? 

He knows that if he follows through, most everyone will believe that his wife was unfaithful and that this baby was not really his son. Does he want to deal with this sort of shame, this sort of reputation, probably for the rest of his life? 

"Sometimes the implication of listening to the voice of God is that we ruin our reputation in the public square. Loving God involves surrendering ourselves to God in heart, soul, mind, strength - and reputation. The minute we turn exclusively to the Lord to find our true identity is the day reputation dies.

Joseph turns to God. Joseph learns that who he is before God (his identity) is more important that who he is in the circle of his pious friends (his reputation)." Scot McKnight

Most of us, as we follow Jesus, will come to this crossroads at least once in our life. Do we obey God even though the road ahead is uncertain, our reputation is on the line and people may not understand us or think poorly of us, or do we play it safe, go along with the crowd, ignore the voice of God in our heart? 

We most likely will not be visited by an angel, as Joseph was, to encourage our obedience. But...we do have something he didn't have. We have the Holy Spirit living in our heart. He will strengthen us to choose obedience if we will ask. And when all is said and done, isn't God's opinion of us more important than man's?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Christmas Devotion (Day 3) - God Chooses A Tribe

Read Genesis 49

Genesis 49:9-10 - Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. 

Jacob had twelve sons, and God moved them to Egypt for a while so they would become a unique nation, separated from the other people with whom they shared a language. God wanted them to be His people, not because of who they were, but simply because He had chosen them to be the nation from which the Messiah would be born. Of the twelve sons, Judah was selected by God to begin the tribe which would become the kingly tribe. God’s promise in our verse today was unequalled in history – never before, and to only one man since, was the promise made: a king of this tribe would always carry the title of ruler. Even though Israel had no physical king after their slavery in Babylon, the royal lineage was kept in the records to know exactly who would be the next in line.

However, it would be about 400 years before the first king from the Tribe of Judah would be crowned – David.

*How often are you impatient for God to keep His promises to you?

Advent Devotion (Day 4) - A Difficult Miracle

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. – Matthew 1:18 

Newly engaged to be married. A young woman, most likely 13 or 14, and a young man. Promises of a good life together, children, memories shared, vows made. They were just starting out with all the hopes and dreams of any young couple. 

But then..."before they came together (before they were officially married), she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit." Wow! What an incredible miracle! God had promised, through the prophets, for hundreds of years, that there would be a Messiah. A baby born, fully God and fully man. And now here, with this young girl, was the answer to that prophecy. There had never been nor would there ever be a more miraculous birth! Somehow, God took on human flesh. 

Can any human being truly understand how this happened? I don't think so. But Matthew is clear that it is exactly what did happen. This is where faith is so necessary. Even though we can't understand how it happened...we can understand why it happened. It happened because God said it would happen. It happened because God desired to be fully human yet would continue to be fully God. Jesus wanted to become one of us so that He could fully understand us. 

But it was also a difficult miracle...difficult for Mary and her promised husband. “Her situation was the most distressing and humiliating that can be conceived. Nothing but the fullest consciousness of her own integrity, and the strongest confidence in God, could have supported her in such trying circumstances, where her reputation, her honor, and her life were at stake.” (Clarke)

It would take absolute faith and trust in God on the part of Mary and Joseph as they walked this road together. There would be joy and pain and uncertainty. But God would be with them each step of the way, as He is with us when the journey seems uncertain. When there is joy and pain in what we experience, there is always God with us! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Christmas Devotion (Day 2) - God Chooses a Man to Begin a Nation

Read Genesis 12 and 15

Genesis 22:17-18 - I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.

Mankind continued in their sin until God destroyed everyone except for Noah and his family – eight people. Then the day came that God chose one man to make a nation from whom this “seed of the woman” – the Messiah – would be born. This man was Abraham.

God could simply have given Abraham many children and said the Messiah would come through one of these many children, but instead God gave Abraham a very specific promise. Even though Abraham had several children after he was an old man, God gave him one special son, miraculously born of his wife who was also too old to have children, and promised the Messiah would come from this man – Abraham’s son, Isaac.

Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob, and God again promised the nation and the Messiah would come from just one of them - Jacob.

*What promises of God do you have trouble believing will be fulfilled completely?