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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Advent Devotion / Jesse Tree Christmas Eve - Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All


While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."  
Luke 2:6-7

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."  Luke 2:10-14



Christmas EveJesus
Bible Reading: Luke 2:1-20
Jesse Tree Symbol: Mary holding Jesus (go to Jesse Tree ornaments 2)

The birth of Jesus...the God of the Universe come down to us, taking off His royalty and putting on human flesh, leaving behind all His glory to be born as the son of poor, humble parents. Heralded by thousands of angels, worshipped by lowly shepherds, lulled to sleep by the sounds of the animals He had so lovingly created.

Can we begin to comprehend what happened that night? The moment that God took His first human breath? The moment that He first saw the world He had created through human eyes. The realization that the capacity to love, which He had placed in each human being, was now being poured out on Him by His earthly mother and father.

What joy God must have felt!

He had felt the sting of rejection and death with that first rebellious bite of fruit in the garden. His heart was heavy when He commanded Adam and Eve to leave the Garden, when He shut up Noah and his family in the ark, when He brought down the fire of judgment on demon-worshipping peoples.

But now, finally, His plan was being set into motion. He was here! Here on earth to show the people He had created, His infinite love. No longer would He rely on prophets to tell them. Instead, He would tell them in person,,,in person. Oh blessed Heavenly Father, what You did for us is too great for words!!!

Yet, You did use words...the words of the angels..thousands and thousands of angels -  "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." 

"They sang of Christ, and the salvation which he came into this world to work out. And what they said of this salvation was this: they said, first, that it gave glory to God; secondly, that it gave peace to man; and, thirdly, that it was a token of God's good will towards the human race.

There had been no peace on earth since Adam fell. But, now, when the newborn King made his appearance, the swaddling band with which he was wrapped up was the white flag of peace. That manger was the place where the treaty was signed, whereby warfare should be stopped between man's conscience and himself, man's conscience and his God...Do you not feel my brethren, that the gospel of God is peace to man? Where else can peace be found, but in the message of Jesus?...And what a peace it is, beloved! It is peace like a river, and righteousness like the waves of the sea. It is the peace of God that passeth all understanding, which keeps our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God has good will toward man for He gave His Son. No greater proof of kindness between the Creator and His subjects can possibly be afforded than when the Creator gives His only begotten and well beloved Son to die." Taken from a sermon delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 20, 1857, by the Reverend Charles H, Spurgeon.

May that be our prayer this Christmas, as we gaze upon the baby in the manger...Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. And may this prayer be not only for our family and friends but for all the world.

Lord Jesus, just as You were born into a manager so long ago, may You be born into the hearts of men, women and children throughout the world today!



The above commentary is part of a 4-week Advent Reflection for the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is similar to an advent calendar. Every day you will read a Bible passage to your child(ren), discuss what it means to them in personal terms and color an ornament to hang on your Jesse Tree. A fuller description of this can be found at The Jesse Tree

When you are finished today, you might want to discuss how Christmas is about giving much more than getting. One way that your family can give is through their daily prayers. This might be a good time to pray for a specific country or for a group of people who do not know about Jesus. Today, over 2 billion people, 1/3 of the earth's population, have never heard the Gospel message. They don't know about a God who loves them, made them unique and celebrates who they are. They need our prayers. 

Two great websites to help you do this are:
Operation World  go to Featured Nation and click on Country Profile

Another way to give is by giving a gift to those, throughout the world, who have very little. It might be a chicken, or sheep or a goat...maybe you can help pay for the digging of a well or provide a sewing machine to a widow so she can provide for her family. There are many ways to help this Christmas. Visit  Gospel for Asia and take a look at their Christmas Catalog. 





Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent Devotion / Jesse Tree Day 23 - Humble and Believing Worship


But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2:10-12


So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them...The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.  
Luke 2:16-19, 20

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.  Matthew 2:11


MondayShepherds and Magi
Bible Reading: Luke 2:8-20; Matt 2:1-12
Jesse Tree Symbol: Star over the manger (go to Jesse Tree ornaments 2)

"The only class of people considered lower than shepherds were thieves. Even Gentiles were afforded more respect...I (the angel Gabriel) found myself baffled by God's logic. Were the plan mine, I would have roused the sleeping world by trumpeting the birth of the Messiah in the Temple and in the royal courts. I would have engaged the important people in welcoming the new King to earth...But not God.

He said, 'I will announce the birth of the Savior only to those who care to know it, only to those looking for a savior. Those who want a king to lead them into battle or a leader to make them rich will not know what to do with My Anointed One. If the rich and the learned and the powerful care to find Him, they will have no trouble. I have made the time and place of His birth known to all mankind for many centuries," taken from A Bethlehem Christmas by Charles R. Swindoll

God is so good and so different from the way we operate. The very first people he told, after the birth of Jesus, were young, poor, looked-down-upon shepherds. Maybe equivalent in our day to telling a bunch of migrant workers or the homeless. "Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these 'nobodies' to expose the hollow pretensions of the 'somebodies,'" 1 Corinthians 1:28 (The Message). But these were people who were searching for Him. People who had much time on their hands to pray, little of earth's worldly possessions to distract them and desire in their hearts to know Him.

For an instant, the veil between Heaven and earth was removed and they got a peek into Heaven to see the glory of the angels as they celebrated the Messiah's birth. What a moment! What a privilege!

"On the eastern side of the Arabian desert...a cloister of Magi preserved the traditions of the Babylonian and Persian astrologers. As they looked into the western sky, high above the horizon, a new light triggered a memory...Daniel's calculations...a king! But not just any king. The King of the Jews. A King who would eventually rule the world...They travelled more than three months to see the new King and when they found Him, they did something extraordinary. They fell down on their faces and worshipped!" taken from A Bethlehem Christmas by Charles R. Swindoll

Foreigners, learned scholars, wise, intelligent men. Eager to find the one, true King. So sure of Daniel's ancient prophecies, confirmed by "a star in the east," that they bow down before a small child and hail Him as the King of Kings. And their gifts...gold to honor a King, frankincense in recognition of Christ's role as our ultimate priest and intercessor before God and myrrh to signify the suffering and death that Christ would undergo for us.

May we, like the shepherds, humble ourselves before God, truly seek Him with ready hearts and may we, like the wise men, believe His Biblical promises and bow down before Him in worship.


What can I give Him,  Poor as I am!
If I were a shepherd I would bring Him a lamb,
If I were a wise man I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him, I'll give Him my heart.
from the song In the Bleak Midwinter



The above commentary on Matthew and Luke is part of a 4-week Advent Reflection for the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is similar to an advent calendar. Every day you will read a Bible passage to your child(ren), discuss what it means to them in personal terms and color an ornament to hang on your Jesse Tree. A fuller description of this can be found at The Jesse Tree

When you are finished today, you might want to discuss how Christmas is about giving much more than getting. One way that your family can give is through their daily prayers. This might be a good time to pray for a specific country or for a group of people who do not know about Jesus. Today, over 2 billion people, 1/3 of the earth's population, have never heard the Gospel message. They don't know about a God who loves them, made them unique and celebrates who they are. They need our prayers. 

Two great websites to help you do this are:
Operation World  go to Featured Nation and click on Country Profile

Another way to give is by giving a gift to those, throughout the world, who have very little. It might be a chicken, or sheep or a goat...maybe you can help pay for the digging of a well or provide a sewing machine to a widow so she can provide for her family. There are many ways to help this Christmas. Visit  Gospel for Asia and take a look at their Christmas Catalog. 







Sunday, December 21, 2014

Advent Devotion / Jesse Tree Day 22 - Waiting With Hope


But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.

He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.

And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Luke 1:13-17

MondayGabriel
Bible Reading: Luke 1:5-25
Jesse Tree Symbol - angel (go to Jesse Tree ornaments)

400 years of silence...that is the length of time between the last words of Malachi and the words of the angel Gabriel to Zechariah. 400 years without any revelation from God. Had discouragement set in? Had hope grown cold? How long, oh Lord, before you come to us as our Messiah, as our rescuer, as our redeemer? The Jewish people still longed for a Messiah but many had lost hope and no longer really looked for Him.

Is this why Zechariah did not believe the angel Gabriel when he was told? Had he lost hope and was just going through the motions? Or, had the bitterness and sadness from years of hoping and praying for a child, with no answer, left him unwilling to believe that now, in his old age, God would finally grant him a son?

His unbelief is reminiscent of Sarah when she was told that she would become pregnant in her old age and have a son. Yet God's answer is the same: "Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."  Genesis 18:14

400 years of silence...yet, what were the last words of Malachi before this blanket of silence fell upon Israel? "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.
He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." Malachi 4:5-6

And now what were the exact words of the angel Gabriel concerning this miracle baby? And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 
Luke 1:15-17

The time of waiting was finally over! The stage was being set for the arrival of the King of Kings! And His arrival would be heralded by His cousin...a miracle baby...a baby who would be filled with the Holy Spirit and would be reminiscent of the great prophet Elijah.

400 years of waiting...actually, for us, it is over 1,900 years of waiting...waiting for His return, waiting for the completion of all that Jesus has promised us. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23

May we wait with hope, pray with hope, long for Jesus with hope. "For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay." Hebrews 10:37



The above commentary on Luke is part of a 4-week Advent Reflection for the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is similar to an advent calendar. Every day you will read a Bible passage to your child(ren), discuss what it means to them in personal terms and color an ornament to hang on your Jesse Tree. A fuller description of this can be found at The Jesse Tree

When you are finished today, you might want to discuss how Christmas is about giving much more than getting. One way that your family can give is through their daily prayers. This might be a good time to pray for a specific country or for a group of people who do not know about Jesus. Today, over 2 billion people, 1/3 of the earth's population, have never heard the Gospel message. They don't know about a God who loves them, made them unique and celebrates who they are. They need our prayers. 

Two great websites to help you do this are:
Operation World  go to Featured Nation and click on Country Profile

Another way to give is by giving a gift to those, throughout the world, who have very little. It might be a chicken, or sheep or a goat...maybe you can help pay for the digging of a well or provide a sewing machine to a widow so she can provide for her family. There are many ways to help this Christmas. Visit  Gospel for Asia and take a look at their Christmas Catalog. 




Saturday, December 20, 2014

Advent Devotion / Jesse Tree Day 21 - No More Accusations




Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, "All the king's officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. 
The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king."
When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: 
"Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. 
And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." 
So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther's instructions.  Esther 4:10-17

SaturdayEsther
Bible Reading: Esther 4:10-17
Jesse Tree Symbol: golden scepter (have your children draw a scepter on a circular piece of paper)

Esther, beautiful Jewish queen of King Xerxes...a man who had the ultimate power of life or death over everyone. Mordecai, uncle to Esther, devout Jew who will not back down to anyone. Haman, descendent of Agag and sworn enemy of the Jews.

Haman goes before King Xerxes and accuses the Jews: "There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king's laws; it is not in the king's best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them," Esther 3:8-9. King Xerxes agrees to this mass slaughter which, unknowingly, will include his own wife Queen Esther.

Mordecai finds out and begs Queen Esther to go before the king and ask for mercy and a stop to the killing. The fate of the entire Jewish population in this kingdom rests on Esther.

There is an accuser today as well...but he doesn't just accuse the Jewish people like Haman did...he accuses the entire human race. His name is Satan and he wants nothing better than to destroy all the human beings who are so precious and dear to the Lord God.

But in the fullness of time, our King of Kings comes to Bethlehem and makes the whole universe his court. He hears the words of the accuser, but unlike King Xerxes, our King does not agree with the accuser. For the accuser's words hold no power anymore. They were broken at Calvary. They were silenced by the absolute sacrifice of the King Himself. "Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: 'Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.'"  Revelation 12:10

So, we do not have to cower on our knees before the King of Kings, wondering if He will reach out His golden scepter of mercy and spare our lives. Instead, we can "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16
For it is not a golden scepter that is held out to us in the throne room of the universe, but the hands of Jesus Christ which took the iron nails to save us.



The above commentary on Esther is part of a 4-week Advent Reflection for the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is similar to an advent calendar. Every day you will read a Bible passage to your child(ren), discuss what it means to them in personal terms and color an ornament to hang on your Jesse Tree. A fuller description of this can be found at The Jesse Tree

When you are finished today, you might want to discuss how Christmas is about giving much more than getting. One way that your family can give is through their daily prayers. This might be a good time to pray for a specific country or for a group of people who do not know about Jesus. Today, over 2 billion people, 1/3 of the earth's population, have never heard the Gospel message. We need to step out in obedience and pray for them as God asks us to. 

Two great websites to help you do this are:
Operation World  go to Featured Nation and click on Country Profile

Another way to give is by giving a gift to those, throughout the world, who have very little. It might be a chicken, or sheep or a goat...maybe you can help pay for the digging of a well or provide a sewing machine to a widow so she can provide for her family. There are many ways to help this Christmas. Visit  Gospel for Asia and take a look at their Christmas Catalog. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Advent Devotion / Jesse Tree Day 20 - Look, Watch, Wait and Stand in Awe


"Look at the nations and watch-- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told." Habakkuk 1:5

"I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint."  Habakkuk 2:1

"For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay."  Habakkuk 2:3

"Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy."  Habakkuk 3:2

FridayLook, Watch, Wait, Stand in Awe
Bible Reading:  Hab. 1:1-5, 12-13, 2:1-3, 14, 3:1-2, 19
Jesse Tree Symbol: stone watchtower Jesse Tree ornaments (use ornament for Friday but cut off the scripture reference since they are different) 

Look...watch...wait...stand in awe

We are to look for the Lord, watch for Him and what He does, wait for His actions and timing and then stand in awe of what He does. Enjoy the following verses which illustrate this:

Look - "He took him outside and said, 'Look up at the heavens and count the stars--if indeed you can count them.' Then he said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.'" Genesis 15:5

"But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul."  Deuteronomy 4:29

"Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."  Isaiah 40:26

"This is what the Lord says: 'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.'"  Jeremiah 6:16

"Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace!"
Nahum 1:15

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'"  John 1:29

"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb."  Matthew 28:1

"Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest."  John 4:35

"Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him,"  Revelation 1:7


Watch - "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." Deuteronomy 4:9

"O my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress," Psalm 59:9

"But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me."
Micah 7:7

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."  Matthew 7:15

"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."  Matthew 26:41

"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come."  Matthew 24:42


Wait - "In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation."  Psalm 5:3

"We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield."  Psalm 33:20

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes."  Psalm 37:7

"Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts."  Isaiah 26:8

"Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him."  Isaiah 64:4

"On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift (the Holy Spirit) my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about." Acts 1:4

"while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ," Titus 2:13


stand in awe - "My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws." Psalms 119:120

"Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven." Job 25:2

"Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God." Ecclesiastes 5:7

"When they see among them their children, the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel." Isaiah 29:23

"When the crowd saw this (Jesus' teaching and miracles), they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men."  Matthew 9:8


They were all filled with awe and praised God. 'A great prophet has appeared among us,' they said. 'God has come to help his people.'" Luke 7:16

"Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles." Acts 2:43

"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe," Hebrews 12:28



The above commentary on Habakkuk is part of a 4-week Advent Reflection for the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is similar to an advent calendar. Every day you will read a Bible passage to your child(ren), discuss what it means to them in personal terms and color an ornament to hang on your Jesse Tree. A fuller description of this can be found at The Jesse Tree

When you are finished today, you might want to discuss how Christmas is about giving much more than getting. One way that your family can give is through their daily prayers. This might be a good time to pray for a specific country or for a group of people who do not know about Jesus. Today, over 2 billion people, 1/3 of the earth's population, have never heard the Gospel message. We need to step out in obedience and pray for them as God asks us to. 

Two great websites to help you do this are:
Operation World  go to Featured Nation and click on Country Profile

Another way to give is by giving a gift to those, throughout the world, who have very little. It might be a chicken, or sheep or a goat...maybe you can help pay for the digging of a well or provide a sewing machine to a widow so she can provide for her family. There are many ways to help this Christmas. Visit  Gospel for Asia and take a look at their Christmas Catalog. 







Advent Devotion / Jesse Tree Day 19 - Love Your Enemies


"When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened," Jonah 3:10

ThursdayJonah
Bible Reading: Jonah 3-4 
Jesse Tree Symbol: whale (have your child draw a whale on a circle of paper for today's ornament)

The story of Jonah and the whale is a story that many children know. The focus tends to be on the wonder of a fish swallowing a man and then spitting him out alive after three days. But is there more to this story? What lessons can we all learn from Jonah?

Our story begins with Jonah refusing to go to the city of Nineveh and tell them about God's love. But why? 

Nineveh "was an ancient city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in ancient Assyria. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, Iraq. Nineveh was an important junction for commercial routes crossing the Tigris. Occupying a central position on the great highway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, thus uniting the East and the West, wealth flowed into it from many sources, so that it became one of the greatest of all the region's ancient cities.

The stone carvings in the walls include many battle scenes, impalings and scenes showing Sennacherib's men parading the spoils of war before him. He also bragged about his conquests: he wrote of Babylon "Its inhabitants, young and old, I did not spare, and with their corpses I filled the streets of the city." He later wrote about a battle in Lachish 'And Hezekiah of Judah who had not submitted to my yoke...him I shut up in Jeruselum his royal city like a caged bird. Earthworks I threw up against him, and anyone coming out of his city gate I made pay for his crime. His cities which I had plundered I had cut off from his land.'  (Wikipedia)

Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire, the empire that had taken the nation of Israel into captivity and was threatening the very existence of Judah under Hezekiah's reign...see the recent Jesse Tree devotional Empty Threats and Empty Tents for more on this. Jonah hated them. He thought they deserved God's wrath and destruction. He had no compassion or forgiveness in his heart towards them.

"Perhaps Jonah had actually seen these cruel, ruthless, bloody Ninevites periodically coming down into his land and raiding his people. Perhaps he had even suffered the loss of loved ones at the hands of these merciless people. In the ancient world, the record for the bloodiest and most vicious kinds of cruelty belongs, perhaps, to the Ninevites. They found more incredibly ingenious ways to be cruel than any other nation that has ever lived. They were brutal and godless and sinful -- and Jonah hated them. The one thing that he wanted more than anything else was to see Nineveh destroyed. Yet when God told him to go announce to Ninevah its destruction, he said, 'I know you too well, O God. If anybody, by repenting, gives you half a chance to be merciful, you'll change your mind and won't carry out your sentence upon them,' (Jonah 4:2).  So he fled to Tarshish.

That's amazing, isn't it? What a revelation of the knowledge of God and of the character of the God of the Old Testament! From time to time, those who do not believe the Bible...say that the God of the Old Testament was a vengeful, wrathful God, a God of black thunderclouds and bolts of lightning, and that he was always killing people off. Well, do you find that here? That is not the kind of God that Jonah knew...God loved these Ninevites, even though Jonah hated them.  Jonah: The Reluctant Ambassador

Jesus taught the same lesson of compassion for enemies, both in word and deed. "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you," Luke 6:27-31

We, as adults and children, have much to learn from Jonah.  We must never forget that we are not in a war with people, we are in a war with Satan. The people that we consider enemies are just prisoners of war taken captive by Satan. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The power of God, which is the power of love, can turn an enemy into a best friend. Showing love to an enemy pleases God and proves that we have great spiritual maturity," Ephesians 6:12.

Who we perceive as enemies will vary...school bullies, the popular crowd, ex-spouses, business associates, terrorists, "axis of evil" empires...the list goes on. But "we must always remember that as citizens of heaven we are ambassadors sent to represent the kingdom, and our King, Jesus Christ. Only by compassion and love can we represent the God of love, the God of compassion. We show love even to our enemies by doing good to them. 

The most important way we show love is through prayer, this is where spiritual battles are fought and won. (Praying for our enemies) will cause the compassion of God to flow through our hearts as a river of life. It will change our enemies' life and even if they are not affected it will definitely change our life, which is God's plan anyway,"  How to Love Even Your Enemies

"Now, I am not sitting in judgment on you. I stand with you in the dock concerning this. I am asking your heart, as I ask mine, "Isn't there an awful tendency among us to be like Jonah?" Do we really demonstrate to others the heart of the God who loves a world that is staggering on in blind, willful ignorance and that does not know where it is going?

He has sent us men and women to be a sign to this generation. And what is that sign? It is the sign of Jonah, the sign of resurrection, the sign of people who once were dead who have been made alive in Jesus Christ. Isn't that why the Lord said, "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth," Matthew 12:40. 

Isn't that the heart of our proclamation, that here is a God who can bring life from death, who can resurrect those who are swallowed up in the belly of a whale or fish -- lost, hopeless -- but redeemed? And the witnesses to this proclamation are the resurrected lives of those of us who, like Jonah, declare this message in our day."  Jonah: The Reluctant Ambassador



The above commentary on Jonah is part of a 4-week Advent Reflection for the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is similar to an advent calendar. Every day you will read a Bible passage to your child(ren), discuss what it means to them in personal terms and color an ornament to hang on your Jesse Tree. A fuller description of this can be found at The Jesse Tree

When you are finished today, you might want to discuss how Christmas is about giving much more than getting. One way that your family can give is through their daily prayers. This might be a good time to pray for a specific country or for a group of people who do not know about Jesus. Today, over 2 billion people, 1/3 of the earth's population, have never heard the Gospel message. We need to step out in obedience and pray for them as God asks us to. 

Two great websites to help you do this are:
Operation World  go to Featured Nation and click on Country Profile

Another way to give is by giving a gift to those, throughout the world, who have very little. It might be a chicken, or sheep or a goat...maybe you can help pay for the digging of a well or provide a sewing machine to a widow so she can provide for her family. There are many ways to help this Christmas. Visit  Gospel for Asia and take a look at their Christmas Catalog.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent Devotion / Jesse Tree Day 18 - What Will Heaven be Like?

The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks



"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord--
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. Isaiah 11:1-10

WednesdayKingdom of Peace
Bible Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10
Jesse Tree Symbol: Crown (Jesse Tree Ornaments 2)

Today's devotion is a time to reflect on the words of Isaiah. How often do you think about the kingdom that is to come? What about your children?

Today, after reading Isaiah, you may want to spend time just imagining what Heaven will be like, based on Isaiah's words. What will it be like to meet Jesus? Who else do they look forward to seeing? What animals do they want to pet and hug...I know this is one thing my children love to talk about.

A world at peace...we can place our hope and trust in this reality. Oh blessed day when Christ returns!

Joy to the world, the Lord has come
Let earth receive her king
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing


The above commentary on Isaiah is part of a 4-week Advent Reflection for the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is similar to an advent calendar. Every day you will read a Bible passage to your child(ren), discuss what it means to them in personal terms and color an ornament to hang on your Jesse Tree. A fuller description of this can be found at The Jesse Tree

When you are finished today, you might want to discuss how Christmas is about giving much more than getting. One way that your family can give is through their daily prayers. This might be a good time to pray for a specific country or for a group of people who do not know about Jesus. Today, over 2 billion people, 1/3 of the earth's population, have never heard the Gospel message. We need to step out in obedience and pray for them as God asks us to. 

Two great websites to help you do this are:
Operation World  go to Featured Nation and click on Country Profile

Another way to give is by giving a gift to those, throughout the world, who have very little. It might be a chicken, or sheep or a goat...maybe you can help pay for the digging of a well or provide a sewing machine to a widow so she can provide for her family. There are many ways to help this Christmas. Visit  Gospel for Asia and take a look at their Christmas Catalog.