December 16 – Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Previously, we met the angel Gabriel.  We have seen this same angel minister to Mary the mother of Jesus.  He also appears to Joseph and a whole host of angels appear to the shepherds.  I call them Christmas angels with tasks to complete.

“ In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”   The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.”   “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”  Luke 1:26-38

Gabriel first appears to Mary.  The angel appears.  The angel explains.  And then Gabriel gives a tangible proof that Mary can hang onto:  ‘Since this has all happened to Elizabeth just as Gabriel said, so too can I [Mary] trust.’  And even before confirming that what Gabriel has said is truth, Mary responds with, ‘I am the Lord’s servant.  May your word to me be fulfilled.’

A happy occasion indeed.  But also, a lonely one.  Who is really going to believe that this young woman from Nazareth is pregnant by a virgin birth and is going to carry the long-awaited Messiah?  The Jewish people longed for this day and looked forward to it.  But since they doubted Jesus Himself in the flesh, I would guess they doubted Mary’s truth, too.  

But Mary didn’t doubt.  She had the appearance of an angel to announce it to her.

And what about Joseph?  He heard all this and of course was the first to doubt.  He had a plan that he believed was right and in kindness (he could have had her stoned to death) he has in mind to divorce Mary quietly.  So, God sends one of those ministering angels to set him back on the correct path:

“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. 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.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:19-25)

Do not be afraid of the task God requires.  It is ok.  This is what you should do.

The angels appear yet again, and this time as a heavenly host and to bring the good news to a whole group. 

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flock at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, 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 heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’  When the angels had left them and gone into heaven…”  (Luke 2:8-15)

The terrifying appearance.  The reassurance to not be afraid.  The message and communication of a task (where to find the baby).  And then the angels return to heaven to the presence of God, awaiting their next mission.  

We can be confident that if we are walking with God, willing and wholeheartedly wanting to do His will, He has a host of angels at His fingertips.  We won’t miss His way for us.  Their sole purpose is to serve us; to bring His message to us and to minister to us.  (Hebrews 1:14)  And whether we immediately trust as Mary did, doubt and need redirection like Joseph, or simply see the angels as a herald of good news, God will send them if needed.

Angels.  Found not only in the Christmas story!  (Hebrews 1:14; 13:2)  Go ahead.  See what Hebrews 13:2 says!

Our song for today is Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Celtic Women.

December 15 – O Little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel.

By Phillips Brooks  1868

This carol pictures Bethlehem as a sleeping town at night with the stars shining quietly over the village.  Most of the nativity scenes also picture a serene group kneeling around a manger with a few animals in the background.  Sometimes I wonder if that was actually the picture. Jesus was born in a turbulent time.  The whole country was on the move.  Read these verses from the beginning of Luke 2:

“At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”   (Luke 2: 1 – 6   NLT) 

Can you imagine what Canada would look like if everyone had to return to their own ancestral town?  I guess immigrants would return to the place they arrived in Canada, or perhaps the place they first lived.  Often ancestry is traced back from the father’s side, so that would mean I would have to go to either Montreal where my grandfather arrived from Holland or to Hamilton where they lived for the first year before moving to Oshawa, Ontario.  If I followed my mothers’ ancestry, I’d be back in the Huntsville area.  The Muskokas would be nice, but rather expensive to stay in the hotels there.  (Actually … I guess we would likely be able to register online and stay exactly where we were.)

But in Jesus’ day, you had to move and you didn’t have a car, a bus, a train, or a plane.  It was a long trek on foot – or with a donkey or maybe a horse.  If you came from a more eastern Mediterranean country, I guess you could use a camel.  I know there were inns available, but I don’t think there were rows of major motels and hotels like we see along the roads that lead into our cities today.  The verses in Luke tell us there was no lodging available for Mary and Joseph. 

Can you imagine being 9 months pregnant, walking for days, and not having any place to stay.  Then you go into labor, and the only private place available is a stable, with your husband being the only one to help.  Would you survive?  My husband was raised on a farm, and he was quite the practical and stoic person whose career started in medical research – so I think he would have actually been a great help.  But I think about my brother, a wonderful husband and father and successful businessman, who faints at the first sight of blood.  Wouldn’t want to depend on him to help through childbirth.  That whole picture of what was happening to Mary and Joseph blows my mind.  I have a hard time imagining that scene in Bethlehem because I’ve never experienced anything remotely like it.

But that’s the location where God became a baby.  Wow!  God coming to earth?  Can you imagine how that would go down today?  Think of all the rock concerts and national celebrations – the fireworks, the noise, the music, the cameras, the lights, etc.  Yet God came to earth in a little town in the quiet of the night in a stable to a young couple who had nothing.  

Sometimes in my life, I look to God for spectacular things.  I want amazing unexplainable things to happen to reassure me that God is in control.  I think I need to look more at the quiet things, the moments that perhaps only I know about, where I sense God’s presence and encouragement to me.  God’s miracles don’t have to be broadcast worldwide.  They can occur in the most unexpected quiet places.

“Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight” 

Our song for today is O Little Town of Bethlehem by Saran McLaughlan.

December 14 – What Child is This?

What child is this who laid to rest, 

On Mary’s lap is sleeping?

Whom angels greet with anthems sweet 

While shepherds watch are keeping?


This, this is Christ, the King

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing

Haste, haste to bring Him laud, 

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,

Where ox and ass are feeding?

Good Christian fear; for sinners here

The silent Word is pleading.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh;

Come peasant, king to own Him.

The King of Kings salvation brings;

Let loving hearts enthrone Him. 

By William C. Dix  – 1865

This whole idea of God becoming a human continues to amaze me.  I realize there is a Trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – so when Jesus was a defenseless infant, it wasn’t like God was completely incapacitated.  Still, the fact that God decided to come as an infant rather than an important, intelligent leader is hard for me to understand.  And He didn’t come as the child of wealthy, well-known parents so that he would have a head start at making an impact.  He came to a poor young couple who were on the move to their city of ancestry, and who couldn’t find or afford a place to stay.  He came in a stable and was laid in an animal feeding trough. The carol posted today mentions that fact: “Why lies He in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?”

An Old Testament prophecy talks about this incomprehensible fact as well.  

Isaiah 9:6  (NASB)

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”  Those are incredible names to give a child.  I suppose a person reading those verses in the Torah before Jesus was born would think that child was born into royalty.  But we know that child – God Himself – was born in a stable.

Joseph was reminded by an angel that the baby Mary was carrying was the fulfillment of a prophecy.  When you read the verses below, I think you can understand that Joseph was a special person.  I guess it’s not surprising that God chose him as the man who would raise and protect Jesus as Jesus was growing up.  But really, it’s amazing that God chose an ordinary carpenter in a small town to help bring God’s plan to save our world.

Matthew 1: 18 – 25   (NASB)

“ Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this [x]took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” (Isaiah 7: 14) 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.”

I wonder what Joseph thought after the angel left him.  Did he really believe what he had been told?   He did what the angel asked, but I wonder how many times he rethought and rethought what that all meant.  Sometimes I think we underrate ourselves as well.  We live ordinary lives, keeping our homes and looking after our little ones.  Would God have anything special for us to do?  I think so.  God is still looking for people to spread the good news about His Son around our world.  He used an ordinary couple to bring Jesus into the world.  He can use you in special ways too.

Our song for today is What Child is This by Casting Crowns

December 13 – How Can I Face an Uncertain Future?

Luke 1: 39 – 56   (NLT)

39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise

46 Mary responded,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47     How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
    and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
    and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
    to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
    He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
    and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
    and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and his children forever.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.

It says that Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea a few days after the angel spoke with her.  We don’t know the details of this situation, but I like to guess based on my own experience with life-changing events.  I can see a couple of possible scenarios.  

One is that Mary decides to visit and help Elizabeth because she sees that as a way to escape her family and town while she grasps the implications of what is happening to her.  She may not have told her parents.  But saying she will help Elizabeth out in the last months of pregnancy would be a kind thing to do for an older woman, and no one would question why Mary moved to that area for a while.  That would give her an opportunity to see if she was really pregnant, or to figure out if the angelic visit had been some kind of weird dream.  I can’t imagine what I would be thinking if something like that happened to me.  I’m sure I’d question if it was real.

Or she may have told her parents, and they sent her away while they mulled the situation over.  Mary is engaged to be married, and how are they going to break this news to Joseph?  Or even more likely, Joseph is the father and they made up this unbelievable story to cover up what they were doing.  Or if Joseph is not the father, then is someone else in the town the father – and if so, what kind of daughter is Mary anyway?  Or if Mary’s story is true, then how do you explain that to a town that will think you have all gone crazy?  In those days, adultery or other sexual sins were punishable by death.  They would definitely have been in a quandary, and sending Mary away would give them time to figure out what to do.  

What I see in this part of the story is God’s plan which does not fit with our human understanding.  Really?  The Messiah that Israel has been waiting for over thousands of years is going to arrive as a baby to a young woman in a small, insignificant town?  This makes no human rational sense at all.  But then, does God’s plan to live as a human and sacrifice Himself on the cross to make sure we have a relationship with Him make sense either from a human point of view?  It is an incredible story with an equally unbelievable beginning!

But wait!  There is another detail that strikes my heart. When Mary heard Elizabeth’s words of welcome, the verses you read today were her response. This is a beautiful song of praise which includes 10 references to Old Testament scripture, especially words from the Psalms.  Notice these words are full of praise to God for who He is and what He has done in the past.  In the middle of this very exciting, yet perhaps confusing time, Mary praises God. She reminds herself of what God has done in the past, and knows she can be confident God will continue to guide and help her.

We’ve been through a crazy couple of years, and now there might be a new variant of the Covid virus that will keep us in pandemic mode. We face an uncertain future, just as Mary did. We can get bogged down in depression or even anger. But, let’s stop for a moment and remind ourselves of who is really in charge. My challenge for you (and myself) today is to sit down with your Bible and write down some of your favourite verses that remind you of God’s love and care for you. Post them on the frig or bathroom mirror. Keep your focus on reality instead of anxiety.

Our song for today is Way Maker by Leeland.

December 10 – Humble Obedience

As we look at the lives of women in the Christmas story, the Gospel of Matthew and Luke tell of the birth of Christ and introduce us to some key players.  Mary, the mother of Jesus is definitely a key player.

According to Jewish law and tradition, girls were usually engaged between 12 and 15, and married thereafter, at around 15 or 16 years old.  Joseph would have been a few years older. 1 When we consider Mary’s spiritual maturity, we see a young teenager whose heart is focused on God and not herself.

We see her heart to follow God as Luke 1:26-38 tells us about the angel appearing to Mary:  

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

We learn from this passage that Mary was a chaste young woman who was betrothed to Joseph.  When the angel Gabriel appeared to her, she was troubled at his words.  She didn’t understand the greeting, ‘you who are highly favored.’  She would have understood that the Lord is with her, but why was she favored?  This tells of her humility.  In fact, this declaration ‘troubled her.’  The angel assures her not to be afraid and explained God’s plan to bring Jesus into the world through her.  Mary doesn’t laugh, or say, ‘No way!  Not in my lifetime!’  Instead, she asks a clarifying question which is fair enough:  How will this be since I am a virgin?  She is thoughtful and reflective on what the angel has said.

After Gabriel’s explanation which was pretty incredible, Mary’s answer is simple.  ‘I am the Lord’s servant.  May your word to me be fulfilled.’  She humbly and immediately submits to the plan of God that the angel outlined.  

If an angel appeared to me and began to greet me, I guess in some ways that would be miracle enough to know that there is more to this declaration than my own vain imaginations.  On the other hand, Mary didn’t really have to do anything.  She just had to wait until her time came to give birth to this baby boy, Jesus.  But she doesn’t doubt and question and banter back and forth.  She submits.  God will do as He wills, and since I am His servant, may it be as you have said.’

I think she had no idea of what lay ahead.  Mary would quickly run to Elizabeth’s house where it was confirmed that the rest of this proclamation was true.  But upon returning home she would face many who did not believe in this ‘miraculous conception.’  She would be surrounded by friends, neighbours and family who I am sure thought ‘Mary?  She’s the chosen one for the Messiah?  But there is nothing noteworthy about her!’  She would experience for a short time the heart ache of a broken engagement between her and Joseph.  (Matthew 1:18-25)  Her pregnancy would progress, and her woodworking husband I am sure lovingly made a hand-crafted cradle.  It would be with love and skill that he cut the wood, joined the pieces together, sanded it, stained the wood to show the grain and perhaps added some ornamental designs.2  And yet even in this she would be denied.  There was no room on the back of a donkey for a handcrafted cradle, no matter how lovingly done.

When God calls us favoured, or blesses us, it isn’t always easy by our definition of favour or blessed.  And yet, knowing the rest of the story, no one would deny that Mary is highly honoured simply because of her role not as a redeemer but as the mother of our Redeemer.  Her role is by no means what some have made it, but she is special.  She is the chosen one of God to carry and birth the Christ child and the angel himself declares her highly honoured.  

She would take time to think deeply on what was happening and kept trusting God. 

When the shepherds appeared to worship the Christ child, Mary treasured and pondered these things in her heart.  Luke 2:19

When Jesus was 12 and stayed behind at the temple in Jerusalem, she pondered and treasured His answer in her heart.  Luke 2:51

At the wedding feast she had unswerving confidence in her son’s ability to do a miracle. (John 2:1-5)

When she stood at the foot of the cross, she was reminded of Jesus being fully human. (John 19:25-27)

And when she prayed with the disciples after His resurrection, she was reminded that He is also fully God.  (Acts 1:14 ff)

Mary.  A woman who desired to do whatever God had for her.  A woman who would take time to think deeply at the different stages of Jesus’ life, reflecting on them and treasuring them in her heart.

There will never be another Mary in her unique role.  But we can be a Mary in our obedience to whatever blessings God chooses to bestow on us.  Sometimes it won’t be easy; raising a special needs child, going across the globe to take the Gospel, being shunned because we choose to live differently than the standards of the world, missing out on some things to keep our minds and hearts and bodies pure and our lives a living sacrifice for God. 

I am thankful to God for Mary.  For her unquestioning obedience despite her questions.  And I pray that we can trust our Father when we don’t understand what He asks us to do, but when He still calls us in that uncertainty to trust Him and obey.

Our song for today is Mary, Did You Know by Carrie Underwood.

  1. Fredriksen
  2. Visitors to towns like Nazareth or Tiberias have found these workmen to be quite primitive…There would be a great demand for yokes and ploughs…The carpenter’s most ornamental work would include paneling of the rood, latticework for windows, and decorative art on house doors.

December 9 – Trust in God

We are first introduced to Elizabeth, an aunt to Mary and great aunt to Jesus in the first chapter of the book of Luke.  “In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.  Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.”  This couple pleased God and seemed to live according to His guidelines.  But there was a great sadness in Elizabeth’s life.  “But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.” (Luke 1:7)  

God tells Zechariah that they are going to have a son who, of course, turns out to be John the Baptist.  Elizabeth is 6 months pregnant when the angel Gabriel appears to Mary.  “Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion…In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph.”   Elizabeth gives birth to a baby boy and calls him John in accordance with what the angel had told her.  Six months later, Mary gives birth to her baby boy and calls him Jesus.

Elizabeth is not mentioned outside of this passage in the New Testament.  We know she has a vital role, for she has been chosen by God to be the mother of John the Baptist, who ‘in the spirit and power of Elijah will 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 1:17)   If she is alive when John is beheaded, we know her heart will be broken.  At the death of Christ, she will grieve.  But all of that is conjecture.  We do not know how many years she lived alongside her son, or at what age she died.  What we do know is that when Mary came to visit sometime in the first trimester of her pregnancy, the child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt, and filled with the Holy Spirit, she prophesized.  “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear!  But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!’

God blesses Elizabeth.  “‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.’” (Luke 1:25)  “When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.  Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.” (Luke 1:57)  This baby was clearly a blessing from the Lord.  The angel had appeared first to Zechariah and told him so.  There was no doubt. 

Elizabeth blesses Mary.  “Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.”  During the hardest role of her life, Mary had the auntie affection and miraculous affirmation that what was being played out was of the Lord.  She would return to a village that would try to shame her condition.  How do you even begin to explain the virgin birth to your family and neighbours, despite their hopeful looking for the coming Messiah?  These three months with Elizabeth must have done much to strengthen Mary for the months and gossip ahead.  

Elizabeth ends her story as we know it with the words, “No!  His name will be John!”  The community suggested she call her baby boy Zechariah after his father.  After all, he has waited many years for a son.  But Elizabeth and Zechariah both correct them, choosing the name John in obedience of the angel’s decree.

Elizabeth entered the Christmas story first as one encouraged, and then as an encourager.  The older mother who proudly displayed her son.  The distant aunt who needed no explanation from an unmarried mother-to-be.  

Our  lesson from her life is to trust in God, and to simply walk the path He ordains.  Elizabeth did not know during all those years of barrenness what God held in store.  She did not know until Mary entered the house that the Messiah was coming.  For many years there was happiness and little feet running around.  And yet she did not know one day the two cousins would both die tragic deaths.  She did not yet know the price needing to be paid for eternal life.  

His grand plan is so much bigger than you and me, and we too, do not know.  But we do know this.  We all have a role to play in the plan of God, and it is always for our good and His glory.  And that is enough for us to obey and be found ‘upright in the sight of God.’  

Our song for today is In God We Trust by Hillsong.

December 8 – God’s Plans and Our Weakness

We’ve been looking at the prophecies of Jesus’ birth over the past week. For the next weeks preceding Christmas, we’ll look at various aspects of the Christmas story. We live in a crazy pandemic time, a time much longer than we ever thought when it started in early 2020. But, Jesus was also born in a crazy time, a time when everyone was uprooted and had to return to their birth place. Can you imagine what that would be like? Yet in crazy times, we can know that God is still in control. Amen!

Luke 1: 1 – 4   (NLT)

“Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.”

These 4 verses start the Christmas story told by Luke.  I think it’s interesting that the story begins with a declaration that you can count on its authenticity.  Luke states he got his information from eyewitnesses who were there right from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  He also states that he did a careful investigation to make sure he was getting the truth.  We don’t know who Theophilus is, but since he is called “honorable Theophilus”, it might appear he was someone of higher position perhaps in government or in education.  We don’t know.  But Luke does want to make sure that Theophilus knows he can trust Luke’s account. We know that Luke was a medical person who travelled with Paul, and as a ‘science guy’ he was likely devoted to facts. God wants us to be confident that our faith is real. He gives us prophecies, and he makes sure the gospel writers are accurate people. (Incidentally, Luke was the only Gentile whose writings are included in Scripture.)

Luke 1: 5 – 23   (NLT)

When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.

One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.

11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”

19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.

23 When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home.

This event is actually the very beginning of the Christmas story.  Often we start the story with the angel’s visit to Mary, but another amazing birth came first – the birth of John, who later became known as John, the Baptist.  The Christmas story is full of incredible things.  Talk about “wonder”.  Rarely did anything occur that wouldn’t make any person stop and wonder, “How in the world could that happen?”

 “Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.” (verse 6) Both of them came from a priestly heritage. So, if anyone would know about the Old Testament prophecies, I would think Zechariah and Elizabeth would.  Even so, I understand that an angel standing in front of him might make him “shaken and overwhelmed with fear”.  I’m sure Zechariah had read and heard the many stories from the Old Testament about angelic visits to various people such as Abraham and Jacob.  And I’m sure he believed those stories were true. But when it happened to him, he was stunned.

Then he heard an amazing message.  He and his wife were to have a son whose mission was to prepare Israel for the coming of the Messiah.  This son of theirs was to make a huge impact on his nation.  “And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God.  He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly”.  

One would think that Zechariah would be so excited and full of wonder.  Like most Jewish people, he had been waiting for the Messiah and the rescue of the nation of Israel, and now he was told he would have a big part in this.  He was well versed in the scriptures; in fact, it would have been part of his vocation as a priest. Wouldn’t you think he would be filled with excitement and wonder?

But Zechariah questioned the angel’s message.  He wanted to know how that could happen since his wife was “well along in years”.  The angel tells him that as a result of his unbelief that he will not be able to talk until his son is born.  It didn’t stop God’s plan, but it created an inconvenience for Zechariah that would affect his duties as a priest for the next few months. 

Personally, I can’t point a finger of judgement at Zechariah because his response is similar to mine sometimes when I look at my faith.  I have been a Christ follower for many years, and I have read verses like “Nothing is impossible with God” and I say that they are true.  But when things happen in life, I question whether God is really there and whether He really has a plan since I don’t see how this ‘whatever’ could work out for good.  Like Zechariah, I have my own rationalizations and questions about what God is, or is not, doing.

Yet I also take comfort in knowing that God does not punish Zechariah in some horrible way.  There was a consequence that made things difficult for a while, but life did go on. I am so thankful for the kindness of God and that He understands our human weakness. When He is about to do something wonderful, He accomplishes His plan.  I’m sure that Zechariah wished he hadn’t questioned God, and the months of his inability to speak would have really impressed that on his heart and mind.  But he still got to enjoy this special son and see this amazing little boy who was filled with the Holy Spirit right from birth.  And I take comfort in that as well.  I know that God forgives, and He includes me in His plans to show His love to the people I have been placed next to. So, I do regret the times I’ve doubted Him, but I also am filled with wonder that He still uses me in so many little ways.  Isn’t that what you’ve experienced too?

Our song for today is Miracle of Love by Chris Tomlin.

December 7 – Angels

While we read through the Christmas story, we will look at times the angels appeared.  We see them appear 3 different times, but the first time is to announce to Zechariah the birth of John the Baptist. 

 “ Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 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 call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 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 before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”  (Luke 1:11-20)

This is the angel Gabriel, who stands in the very presence of God.  Gabriel’s appearance must have been quite something because the angel’s first words are ‘Do not be afraid.’  We learn here that angels are beings able to move between heaven and the presence of God, to earth and the presence of man.  One of their jobs is to communicate a part of God’s plan to a specific individual and are sent from God for this very purpose.  ‘I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.’  They can be forbearing in sight, and although full of reassurance, are meant to be taken seriously.  Zechariah is immediately punished for not doing so:  ‘And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you do not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.’

Angels are heralds of good news.  They are sent by God to communicate a message.  They have been in the presence of God and bring authority with them on their mission.  They have some authority of their own as we see with Gabriel.  This angel has a name and a specific mission to the family of John the Baptist.

Zechariah got to see an angel, but what about us?  Isn’t this a one time, unique happening in the Bible?  Hebrews 1:14 says this:  Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?  Did you get that?  Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?  

Our encouragement for today is that God has a whole host of angels who stand in his very presence.  And what is their purpose?  They are sent out, from the presence of God, to the Earth, and they do so to serve you and me!  They are sent out to serve those who will inherit salvation, or in other words, those who are/will become Christians—believers in Jesus Christ.

We are not alone.  We have the love of the Father.  We have the sacrificial actions of the Son resulting in the forgiveness of sins.  We have the Holy Spirit living within us when we put our faith in Christ, sealing us for the day of redemption and helping us to live the Christian life.  And we have the host of angels in heaven whose job description has the names of those who will inherit salvation on it!

Do not be afraid.  Those words followed by the specific plan of God for Zechariah, Elizabeth and John’s life.   

Angels.  2/3 of all the angelic beings are on HIS side, sent out by Him, sent to minister to us if necessary.  We are truly not alone.

Our song for today is Angels We Have Heard on High sung by Josh Groban.

December 6 – Away in a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus! look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with thee there.

For today’s devotions I want to talk about sharing the Christmas story with your children.  It’s still early in December so this should give you some time to get organized. 

I think books are an amazing way to share stories.  There are some good ones out there, and they are not necessarily sold in Christian bookstores.  One thing about Christmas is that the secular world includes the Biblical story in its promotion of the season. is a good source of material, and it does have a Canadian office. Here’s where you can help.  If you have a book that you think is really good, post the name of the book today.  It might also help if you posted the child’s age that book would appeal to the most.

Use your access to RightNow Media, a Christian media source at LSA.  They have a huge children’s section, and there are several Christmas films. If you haven’t connected with RightNow Media, go to the church website ( Look under the heading – Resources. You will find RightNow Media and will be able to sign in. 

I also think having a nativity set in your home is a good idea.  I have one that is made of very durable material so our children and grandchildren could play with it without me being worried at all.  There are several websites you can order them from. You want something that your children can touch and play with. My girls liked to carry baby Jesus and the angel all around the house.  Sometimes we played hide and seek games with the pieces.  

Susan Smith, our Kids’ Cove coordinator, said she wraps the various nativity scene characters in paper and puts them in an advent calendar that has pockets for various treats.  When a child unwraps the figure, they talk about its role in the Christmas story.  Susan recommends the following website for an Advent calendar that includes verses with various aspects of the Christmas story.

When your children get a little older (Kindergarten and up), have them act out the Christmas story.  Our extended family gets together at some point every Christmas, and we used to send the kids downstairs to practice a play about Jesus’ birth.  Our oldest daughter, Andrea, loved to ‘direct’ the play when she was about 9 or 10.  She would boss her younger sister and cousins around and get the play going.  She often told the story while the younger ones just did what she told them to do.  It was interesting to hear her version of the story, and it was hilarious watching the young ones trying to be Mary or Joseph or shepherds, etc.

When my youngest granddaughter was 9 years old, I purchased a foam 3D nativity craft set at Michael’s.  We sat and put it together one Saturday afternoon and talked about the story as we put the pieces together.  It was interesting to hear how much she knew and some of the details that she didn’t know.  She’s a smart little girl, and she had lots of questions and comments, and I have a feeling she added to her knowledge of Christmas that afternoon.  If you have older children, perhaps you could do a craft like that or even colour with them.  Again, there are Biblical Christmas colouring books and puzzles out there if you look.

If you have found things that have helped your children learn the Christmas story, please share them with us.  We all want to do our best as parents and grandparents to share our faith with our younger generation.

Our song for today is Away in a Manger by Pentatonix.

December 3 – Jesus Has Come!

Isaiah 9: 6 – 7  NLT

For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
    will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
    for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
    will make this happen!

In this pandemic time, we need to hear this. “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.”  You may be listening to the news about how flights from South Africa are being cancelled because a new, and more potent variation of Covid has shown up. The UK has already discovered 2 cases of this new variant. I suspect there are many more around the word as scientists scramble to figure this one out. 

But, Jesus has come! 

He is a Wonderful Counselor. We sure need him right now. We need his counsel and the assurance that he is with us right now. 

“But God is my helper. The Lord keeps me alive!”  (Psalm 54: 4)

Jesus is Mighty God; he is part of the Trinity. He has power and he controls what is happening in this world. 

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”   (Ephesians 3: 20)

Jesus is Everlasting Father. He cares for you deeply like a father loves his child. 

“ So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8: 15)  

(“Abba” in the Aramaic language means father in a very personal close relationship)

Jesus is Prince of Peace. He brings peace to each one of us in difficult times.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the holy Spirit. … And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen”.

Romans 15: 13 and 33)

Our song for today is He Shall Reign Forevermore by Chris Tomlin

December 2 – How Did Jesus Get to Bethlehem?

Today is the last day we will be looking at prophecies. I know these past four days have been more fact oriented, but sometimes I think that the historical facts are what we need to be reminded about, so we don’t get caught up in feelings and the glitz of the Christmas season.  Our faith is based on reality, not on lovely stories – although the Christmas story is definitely wonderful.  Who would ever have thought that God planned to come to earth right from the creation story to save the people He created  – and then watched as they messed it all up as he knew they would?

The place where Jesus was to be born was prophesied as well.  Micah 5:2-3   “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. Therefore, He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child.”

 It’s interesting that the Roman Empire was thrown into an uproar at the time of Jesus’ birth to make sure Mary was in Bethlehem.  Luke 2: 1 – 7 says, “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.  This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.  Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.  While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.”  When I read these prophecies, and also read the historical events that made them happen, I’m definitely convinced that the Bible is true.  There is no way these events could be manipulated to happen this way.

The star that attracted the wisemen was prophesied as well. Numbers 24: 17 says, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel, and shall crush through the forehead of Moab, and tear down all the sons of Sheth.”  When the wisemen saw the star on the night Jesus was born, they planned their trip and headed out to Israel.  Being the diplomats they were, they headed to the ruling king of the area, King Herod to ask him what he knew about this new king.  Perhaps they thought the new king was Herod’s son.  Herod’s Jewish leaders did the research and told them the new king was supposed to be in Bethlehem.  Herod sent them on their way to find the baby.  All this travelling and the political meetings likely took at least a year, so the wisemen did not arrive at the manger on the night of Jesus’ birth as many nativity scenes show today.  The star reappeared as they left Jerusalem in search of the new king, and led them exactly to the house where Mary and Joseph were living (Matthew 2: 9 – 11).  

Tomorrow we will look at how a prophecy can keep us calm during this pandemic with a new variant showing up on the world scene.

Our song for today is Somewhere in Your Silent Night by Casting Crowns. It tells us that  Jesus’ coming helps us in troubled times.

December 1 – When Was the Date of Jesus’ Birth?

Yesterday, I mentioned that today’s prophecy would be rather complicated, but I’ll try to make it as simple as possible.  I do think it’s important for us to ‘roll up our sleeves” and make an effort to understand Scripture. It reinforces our faith knowing that the Bible is truth, is reality.

Whenever people start talking numbers, my brain goes into a holding pattern.  Words I can handle; numbers not so much. In order to understand what you are about to read, I’ll start with my simple explanation of numbers and a general outline of what is in the verses. Then you can read the scripture passage, and finally Dr. Wallace (Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary) will explain what it all means.  

This prophecy in the Book of Daniel indicates when Jesus would be born, and Bible scholars agree that this prophecy would have been an accurate prediction of the actual time.  The first thing I want to mention is what all the references to the number seven are about.  When God first gave the rules for Israel in the first five books of the Bible, timing was based on a week. God uses the week even in the creation story.  God created the universe in 6 days and rested on the 7th day.  Later on, God asks His people to keep that pattern in their lives.  They work for 6 days and rest on the 7th.  They were also asked to grow their crops for 6 years and then let the field lie undisturbed for the 7th year. Then a special year was designated as the Year of Jubilee.  That year occurred on year 50:  the previous 49 years (7 X 7 = 49) were ordinary years of business, but on the 50th year, lands that had been taken away from families were returned, and people who were serving as slaves were set free.  So that pattern of seven was important to the nation of Israel. So when the book of Daniel mentions weeks of years, it means multiply the number of weeks by 7 and you will have the total number of years. 

The first verses set out the time period from Daniel to when the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem.  Then the time period from then until the Messiah comes is given, as well as a prophecy of His death.  Then it says the temple will be destroyed again (and yes, the temple has been destroyed and rebuilt many times) and wars will continue for all time until the last days just before Jesus comes again.  Those times are described in the Book of Revelation.  

The Prophecy: Daniel 9:24-27

“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” 

Dr. Wallace says that this passage in Daniel “adds several more important facts about the Messiah: (1) This passage tells us when Messiah will appear on the scene. It obviously anticipates His birth. (2) It tells us that after His appearance, Messiah will be rejected by His people, and (3) that Messiah will be cut off temporarily, an obvious reference to the cross.

Verse 25 refers to a specific time for the coming of Messiah. The seven weeks with the sixty-two weeks combine to make 69 weeks of years (483 years) until the coming of Messiah. The starting point for the 483 years was the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. This is a reference to the decree given in the time of Nehemiah in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes in 445 B.C. (Neh. 2:1-8). After this, Messiah would appear on the scene. 

The words “until Messiah the Prince” refer to a time when Messiah would be manifested as the prince of Israel. The point of manifestation is debated, but it most likely refers to the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday when He presented Himself and was recognized by the people as Messiah prince. This would be around A.D. 30-33, so the time of His birth as the Immanuel of God would have to be around A.D. 0-4.

By the way, though somewhat debated, it is believed that at the time of Christ’s birth there was an air of expectancy among godly Jews who still had the hope of Messiah.” One of the Scripture passages that ties into that thought for me is from Luke 2. It is the story of Simeon, man who was waiting in the Temple for the Messiah. Simeon was guided by the Holy Spirit, but he also likely knew the Old Testament prophecies. Here is that story from Luke 2.

25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

As I said before, I’m no expert on these complicated timing prophecies.  But I do find it interesting that those prophecies were accurate, and that confirms my trust that the Bible is true.  Tomorrow will be nowhere near as complicated as today.

Our song for today is Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Laura Story

November 30 – A Messiah Will Come

These next two prophecies nail down the lineage of Christ even more since Jesse had several sons.  The first verse quoted is about David being chosen by Samuel to be the next king of Israel. The second verse is a reassurance to David that on his death, the throne of Israel will belong to his descendants forever.  We realize that these verses have a meaning beyond the current situation because of the language and the reality of history. David is anointed king with a mighty blessing from the Holy Spirit – something special beyond expectations.  

1 Samuel 16:12-13  “So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.”

Then comes the prophecy that David’s kingdom will last forever.

2 Samuel 7:12-16  “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 “And your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’”

The promise of a throne “established forever” is something history says never happened unless we look at the more prophetic meaning.  We know the nation of Israel divided in two (Israel and Judah) after Solomon’s death (David’s son), and then it was conquered and ruled by foreign empires/nations for over two thousand years until it became an independent nation again in 1948 following WWII.  

The next verse makes the link to King David much clearer. It is one of my favourites in the prophecy group because it describes the character of the coming Messiah as well as the fact that the Messiah comes from the line of David.

Isaiah 9:6-7  For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”

Now we will look at some very specific prophecies about the time of Jesus’ birth. Again, remember these words were penned hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth.  As you all are very aware, you really can’t predict where and when, or any other details, about the children you may have, even a year ahead.  So, there’s no chance someone in Jesus’ time could have looked at those prophecies and decided to stage a fulfillment of them in some way.  This isn’t some orchestrated event brought on by folks looking for attention. 

This prophecy is about someone who will come just before Jesus and proclaim the imminent arrival of the Messiah.  We know that was John the Baptist, who had his own amazing birth story told in Luke 1 – all as part of the Christmas story.  When Mary found out she was pregnant, she went to stay with Elizabeth for awhile.  Elizabeth was already pregnant with John, so we know John was a few months (possibly 6 months) older than Jesus.  So here are some prophecies about John:

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

Malachi 3:1  “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts.”

When we look at John 1, we see these prophecies actually fulfilled as the story of John’s ministry is described.  John was located in a desert area outside of Jerusalem, and many people flocked to hear him.  John quotes the Isaiah verse as he talks in John 1:23: “John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!”

The virgin birth is foretold in this next prophecy.   Isaiah 7:13-14  “Then he said, “Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” 

I wonder if Mary found this verse after her encounter with the angel who told her of her coming pregnancy.  I can’t even imagine what Mary’s experience would have been like – to be woken by an angel and told she was going to become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah?  Luke 2: 19 says, “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart”.  That verse came after the shepherds arrived at the animal shelter of the inn, but I’m sure Mary had a ton of things to ponder in her first years as a new mom. 

Tomorrow we will look at a really complicated prophecy that told when the Messiah would come.  I’m going to use some direct quotes from Daniel B. Wallace PhD, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, to explain the timing since I’m no expert at that kind of thing. I’m hoping you are enjoying this look at the Old Testament prophecies.  I’m hoping it reinforces your belief that the Bible is true, and Jesus is really the Son of God, the Saviour of the world and personally your Saviour. He has this pandemic under his control.

Our song for today is Light of the World by Lauren Daigle

November 29 – Christmas is Coming

Advent season is here. Christmas is coming! This year I’m praying and hoping my daughter, who is a teacher in England, will actually be here with us. The plane ticket is bought, and we pray the surges in Covid and the new variant don’t prohibit us from being together again after 2 years of separation. 

When I compare my hopes and dreams of seeing Jessica again to the hopes and dreams of the nation of Israel, praying for the Messiah to come and rescue them – there is no comparison. Can you imagine hoping for something for thousands of years?

This week we’re going to look at Old Testament prophecies about Jesus’ birth. Realizing that God knows what is happening in this world is something we need to focus on. God has a plan for this world and for me – and for you! He loved us as he created us, knowing that we would stray from him. He had a plan ready right from the start to bring us back to him. Knowing this is comforting to us. We are not floundering in a pandemic; God knows his plans for this time in history. He has always known, and as we read these prophesies, it helps reassure us that God is in control. 

The prophecies of a coming Messiah begin right at the beginning of Genesis, and continue through the Old Testament. There are many prophecies about His life and death, but we will concentrate on the ones about His birth.  These prophecies are thousands of years old. Scholars place Abraham’s call to leave Ur of the Chaldees, to found a nation in a new area that God would show him, around 2000 years before Christ’s birth.  Prior to Abraham, there were an unknown number of years from creation, the flood, and the establishment of several nations. 

When we read the Christmas story accounts in the two gospels (Matthew and Luke), one of the details that has fascinated me is the story of the wisemen coming from an Eastern country. They likely came from Persia, known today as Iran.  They were looking for a powerful king of the Jews.  Where did they get that idea? The Jewish nation had been conquered by the Babylonian Empire and many of them were taken captive back to Persia. Daniel was one of the Jewish captives who became a famous leader in Persia. You may remember the story of Daniel in the lions’ den.  Many Jewish people stayed in Persia after the captivity was over, and so it was likely the wisemen had access to the Old Testament documents. When they showed up at Herod’s palace with their questions, Herod decided he’d better do something about this threat so he sent the Jewish synagogue leaders on a research mission, and they came back with information about where to look for this new king. So, we’re going to take a look at what those researchers found. 

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

This is the first prophecy made in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned.  A perfect world had just come crashing down, as Adam and Eve had to admit to God that they had disobeyed God’s instructions about not eating the fruit from a particular tree. They had listened to Satan’s whispered enticement about how that fruit would make them wise – just like God.  That’s the temptation we all face – everyone of us – that we can be in control, that we know better than God what’s good for us. God is talking to Satan in this verse from Genesis as He tells Satan that someone in the future will come and deal a lethal blow to Satan.  That someone will suffer, but it will not be the end of him; the injury will be like a bruise on the heel.  Not a permanent life end.  It’s interesting that the reference to the coming someone is said to be from Eve. Adam is not mentioned and these documents were written in a time when men were the dominant sex; women were their servants. I think this was an indication that the Messiah’s mother would be a virgin. 

Genesis 12:1-3  Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 

These verses are the beginning of the nation of Israel, the nation the Messiah will come from.  Notice the last phrase of this promise from God.  It will not only be the nation of Israel that will be blessed, but “all the families of the earth”.  Jesus will not only come for one group of people, but for everyone.  John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son”. That was the plan right from the beginning. 

The next verses narrow the field from the nation of Israel to the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve tribes of the nation.  (Those twelve tribes came from the twelve sons of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson.)  The next verses narrow it down even more – the Messiah will come from the family of Jesse.   

Genesis 49:10   “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Shiloh is another name for the Messiah)

1 Samuel 16:1  Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.”

Isaiah 11:1, 10  “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. … Then it will come about in that day that the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious.” 

Jesus’ coming was spoken at the beginning of time.  Christmas is not just a 20th Century festivity. God planned it thousands of years ago.

Our song for today is O Come O Come Emmanuel by for King and Country

November 26 – Find New Strength

These are frustrating times with the fourth wave of the coronavirus, especially as we see Christmas approaching, and many of us are hoping we will get together with family this year for sure. I know I’m praying that my daughter who teaches in England will be coming home – even though the case numbers are rising there. She has her plane ticket, but …  It may be hard to do, but as Christ followers we need to take a step back and take a deep breath. 

God wants us to know that we can trust Him.  The verses today speak of God’s incredible power and ability to do things.  When we get caught up with our worries and nervousness about what lies ahead for us, these words from God’s Word are so reassuring. We can stop trying to control everything and turn to a God who can do something and cares for us.  So read these verses slowly, and even read them out loud, to impress on your mind and soul just who God is.

Isaiah 40: 12 – 31  (NLT)

“Who else has held the oceans in his hand?
    Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?
Who else knows the weight of the earth
    or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?
13 Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord?
    Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?
14 Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice?
    Does he need instruction about what is good?
Did someone teach him what is right
    or show him the path of justice?

15 No, for all the nations of the world
    are but a drop in the bucket.
They are nothing more
    than dust on the scales.
He picks up the whole earth
    as though it were a grain of sand.
16 All the wood in Lebanon’s forests
    and all Lebanon’s animals would not be enough
    to make a burnt offering worthy of our God.
17 The nations of the world are worth nothing to him.
    In his eyes they count for less than nothing—
    mere emptiness and froth.

18 To whom can you compare God?
    What image can you find to resemble him?
19 Can he be compared to an idol formed in a mold,
    overlaid with gold, and decorated with silver chains?
20 Or if people are too poor for that,
    they might at least choose wood that won’t decay
and a skilled craftsman
    to carve an image that won’t fall down!

21 Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand?
    Are you deaf to the words of God—
the words he gave before the world began?
    Are you so ignorant?
22 God sits above the circle of the earth.
    The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!
He spreads out the heavens like a curtain
    and makes his tent from them.
23 He judges the great people of the world
    and brings them all to nothing.
24 They hardly get started, barely taking root,
    when he blows on them and they wither.
    The wind carries them off like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?
    Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.

26 Look up into the heavens.
    Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
    calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
    not a single one is missing.”

I’m stopping you right here so you can take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Is God able to deal with my problems?”   But then, you might say to yourself, “But does He care enough to help me out?”  Well, let’s keep going with verses 27 – 31.

27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.”

Isn’t that amazing?  Isn’t that enough?  If you are in a place right now where you find your mind returning to the same problem, turning it over and over, trying to understand what you should do, how you should react, worrying about Christmas – read those verses over again.  Soak them in.  We are human; we are not God.  It’s not a surprise that we worry about things over and over again.  But God understands that – “No one can measure the depths of his understanding” (v. 28)   So if you have to stop many times a day to remind yourself that God cares and can give you the strength to deal with whatever is bothering you, God understands.  It doesn’t mean you are pathetically weak and beyond God’s compassion.  He cares and He will give you strength. 

Our song for today is Trust in You by Lauren Daigle.

November 25 – Who are the Significant People in Your Life?

Colossians 4: 7 – 18  (NLT)

“Tychicus will give you a full report about how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper who serves with me in the Lord’s work. I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you. I am also sending Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, one of your own people. He and Tychicus will tell you everything that’s happening here.

10 Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin. As you were instructed before, make Mark welcome if he comes your way. 11 Jesus (the one we call Justus) also sends his greetings. These are the only Jewish believers among my co-workers; they are working with me here for the Kingdom of God. And what a comfort they have been!

12 Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God. 13 I can assure you that he prays hard for you and also for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis.

14 Luke, the beloved doctor, sends his greetings, and so does Demas. 15 Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.

16 After you have read this letter, pass it on to the church at Laodicea so they can read it, too. And you should read the letter I wrote to them.

17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.”

18 Here is my greeting in my own handwriting – Paul

Remember my chains.

May God’s grace be with you.”

Who are the people who have made a big contribution to your life?  Many of you would likely start with your family members, and certainly those people have made a huge impact on you. But today, I want you to start thinking about people and friends outside your family who have really helped you in some way. 

Paul mentions some interesting people who he values. Onesimus was a slave who ran away and ended up in Rome where he met Paul. After becoming a believer, Onesimus wanted to make things right with his master, and that was why Paul wrote Philemon. 

“I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. 11 Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. 12 I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.

13 I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. 14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. 15 It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever. 16 He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me.”  (Philemon 1: 10 – 18  NLT)

He also mentions Mark. John Mark had accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey but left half way through. That eventually caused a split between Barnabas and Paul when Barnabas wanted to give Mark another chance. 

“Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. 39 Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. 40 Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care.”  (Acts 15: 37 – 40  NLT)

It looks like Mark has matured over the years and Paul has become more forgiving and patient. That relationship between Paul and Mark with a rocky start ended up helping both of them.

Luke was definitely someone who impacted Paul greatly.  He was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. He travelled with Paul and witnessed first-hand the beginning of the new church. He also likely helped Paul live with the medical condition that Paul referred to as a “thorn in the flesh”.  (2 Corinthians 12: 7)

When I look back over my life, I remember my Sunday School teacher when I was a young teenager – Mrs.  Grant. She was a quiet woman and a business woman who owned a jewelry store. We admired her so much because she dressed well and always looked good. But more importantly, she explained scripture to us in such an understandable way. Her interest in each of us in our class made us take our faith seriously. The next teacher when in my older teens was Art Stephenson, a chemical engineer with Dow Chemical.  He was so good at answering all our questions about Christianity. We were at that stage where we wondered if we had just been brought up with church stuff, and maybe it wasn’t that realistic. His calm and intelligent approach made it easy for us to say what we really thought and know he wouldn’t tell our parents, nor would he think any the less of us.

At university, Pastor Bill Steeper at Adelaide Baptist Church in London had been a full-time staff member with Intervarsity Press before he settled down as a lead pastor at the church.  So many university students went to his church, and he took a personal interest in each one of us. Again, it was a time of life when I questioned my faith, and having this pastor who found time to talk with me on various occasions made me think.

There are many more I could talk about, but now I want you to think about your life.  Make a list of the people who have really helped you in some way.  Thank God for the influence they brought in your life and pray for them. Maybe even write them a note and thank them. That could make their day.

Our song for today is More Than You’ll Ever Know by Watermark.

November 24 – Sharing Our Faith

Colossians 4: 3 – 6  NLT

Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive (Greek – seasoned with salt) so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Then Paul tells us to “live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive (Greek – seasoned with salt) so that you will have the right response for everyone.”  Do non-Christians find us fun to talk with? Do they enjoy being with us? Do they find us to be kind, humble, gentle, patient, understanding and forgiving, loving and peaceful people? (Remember Colossians 3?)  How can we share our faith with non-Christians if they see judgmental and isolated neighbours or co-workers? People who are just too religious?

One thing I do love about the Bible – and also dislike – is its honesty and the challenge it brings to my life. I am so thankful when I read about how much God loves me. And I’m so thankful when I read about what God wants from me; at least I have great advice on how to live well. I’m not always thankful when the Holy Spirit takes those words and challenges me ‘to smarten up’. But as I read verses like the ones we read today I am thankful that God does challenge me in his loving way.  His Holy Spirit helps me as I struggle to pray and live well.

Sometimes, God also puts a moment in our lives that challenges us to share our faith. A friend and I have a weekly date for breakfast at a local restaurant. One of us usually prays quietly after our meal is put on the table – and then we go on to talk and laugh and enjoy our time together. One day recently, the waitress came to our table as we were eating and said she noticed we prayed. She had some hard times in her life and wanted to know it we’d pray for her. We were stunned, and definitely said we’d pray for her. And she’s been in my prayers ever since. This week, she ran outside after us as we were leaving to tell us that her problems seemed to be easing up, and thanked us for praying for her. I sense God working in her life, and we will continue to pray for her and look for opportunities to share our faith with her. That situation really struck me deeply as I tend to stay quiet about my faith. I don’t want to upset people, or have them think I’m crazy. I’m thankful that God gives us those moments to shake us up a bit, and become willing to share our faith in him. 

Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive (Greek – seasoned with salt) so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Our song for today is What We’re Here For by The Afters.

November 23 – God Prays for You

Yesterday, we talked about praying with an alert mind and a thankful heart. But, did you know that God also prays for you? Really? Prayer is actually communication between God and you. Communication is a two-way street. The messages go both ways. Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about God taking care of us.

“In John 17, Jesus prays for His followers, and from that prayer we can learn the kinds of things Jesus might be praying for us now. Here is a list of what Jesus prayed for his disciples:
• Know God and His Son, Jesus Christ (verse 3)
• Be protected from apostasy (verse 11)
• Be one in spirit as the Father and Son are one (verse 11)
• Be filled with His joy (verse 13)
• Be kept from the evil one (verse 15)
• Be sanctified through God’s Word (verse 17)
• Remain unified in Christ throughout the generations (verses 20–21)
• Let our love convey Christ’s message to the world (verse 23)
• Join Him in heaven for all eternity (verse 24)
• Experience the same kind of love for each other that the Father and Son share (verse 26)

Here are some more verses that come to mind when I think about the Holy Spirit praying for us.

Romans 8: 26 – 28   (NLT)

“26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t know what to pray for?  You were just so overwhelmed and anxious you couldn’t see a solution or steps to take?  Did you know that when you feel like this, and just admit to God that you are at the end of your rope, that God prays for you?

Look at this again – “the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words”.  (Romans 8: 26) The Bible tells us that God knows we are weak, and He knows the broken world we live in – and He reaches out to us, He “knows all hearts”.

What is even more exciting is that the Holy Spirit’s prayers are “in harmony with God’s own will”.  That means I’m praying for the right thing.  I might be confused, but the Holy Spirit isn’t.  That is such a comfort to me.  On those days when I’m scared and curled up on my bed worried about something – and I’ve had lots of days like that over my life – I can just admit to my Heavenly Father that I don’t know what to say or do, and leave it with Him. 

I think it’s also important to zero in on another idea in these verses.  God has a plan for me.  Look at verse 28 – “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  There is a purpose for my life.  Look at the Jeremiah verse – “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” 

So, when I bump into the broken events of this world, I can know that God will bring something good out of the mess.  It doesn’t mean that everything works out just beautifully – no stress, no pain, no difficulty, no loss.  It means that those broken, frightening events are not useless; something good will come from them.  Here is where I have an advantage being 74 years old – I have seen good come from very difficult things. In fact, sometimes the good that comes from a hard situation is amazing because those who witness it realize that something (someone) has to be behind it all – a realization that there is a God at work. 

So … pray with a thankful heart. God cares deeply for you.

Our song for today is Goodness of God by Bethel Music and Jen Johnson

November 22 – Prayer

Colossians 4: 2  (NLT)

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”

That verse smacks me ‘upside the head’ – “pray with an alert mind”.  I don’t know about you, but I find prayer difficult. I will begin to pray and then dozens of thoughts about my day (what to make for supper, appointments that week, thinking about my family, need to call someone, do I need to buy new pillows for my couch – all scattered irrelevant thoughts) flood my mind. I can pray about things during my day as they come to mind, and that is fine. To be conscious of God’s presence throughout our day is good. But I struggle to find time to pray in a serious thoughtful way. Paul tells us to pray “with an alert mind and a thankful heart”.  

When do I have an alert mind?  If we stopped and thought about it, we could probably find a time of day when we know we are wide awake. Some of us are morning persons and some are night hawks. We need to be aware of when we are alert and figure out a time for prayer. Paul also encourages us to pray with a thankful heart. Start prayer by thanking God for any small thing (or big thing) that has happened in the past couple of days. I really think praise helps our minds to focus. 

Charles Swindoll writes about these verses and says that we should determine to improve our prayer life but not get too strict with our expectations. Instead, determine to pray more this week. Next week, ask ourselves if we met that expectation, and if not, determine to make it better. If we improve a little over a month, that is good. He feels people sometimes set their expectations too high and then quit because they fail. Look instead for a gradual improvement. That sounds like good advice to me, and if you struggle with prayer, try that approach.

God is so good to us and so patient. He even taught us how to pray.

Matthew 6: 9 – 13 NLT

Pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
    may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
    as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,
12 and forgive us our sins,
    as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,
    but rescue us from the evil one. 

As we pray for all the situations we bump into over our lives, know that we ask for God’s will, not ours. We can pray for the things we need, and forgiveness for all the ways we’ve messed up. We can pray for protection.  God is interested in all the areas of our lives, and he also wants us to know that he is almighty God, able to answer those prayers.

As Christmas time and all its busyness consumes our lives, let’s also find that time to pray – with an alert mind and with a thankful heat. 

Our song for today is Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher.

November 19 – What’s It Like at Work?

Colossians 3: 22 – 4: 1  NLT

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. 25For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.”

 4: 1
Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master – in heaven.”

Our culture doesn’t have the slave and master situation, but Paul’s advice could apply to our work situations. Employees who are Christ followers should “try to please them (their bosses) all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (v. 22 – 23)  Is that your attitude toward your job, toward the person you work for?

So often, employees and employers are in a conflict mode – arguments about pay raises, working conditions, etc. Strikes. We’ll talk at work about how much we dislike our boss, how incompetent we think he/she is. Reading these verses today is a real wake-up call. Do I go to work with a conscious decision to work for God?

If you are “the boss”, someone who is over other employees, you have a responsibility too. You are to be fair in the way you treat those under you. In fact, God is the example you need to follow.  Oh … that means as a boss I need to be tender-hearted, merciful, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, loving, peaceful, and thankful. Now that brings the level of being the boss to a whole new level. 

Paul tells us in these verses what we are to hope and strive for. “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (3: 16 – 17)

Our song for today is Strong Enough by Matthew West.