Category Archives: Uncategorized

December 18th – Micah 5:1-5

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Our Source of Peace

The book of Micah was probably written around 703 B.C. which was just before the Assyrian invasion of Judah. The reigning leader was King Zedekiah who was the last of the kings in David’s line to sit on the throne in Jerusalem.
In this passage, Micah tells the people that the next Davidic king would be the Messiah who would establish a kingdom that would never end.
Sadly, Jerusalem’s wealth and power-obsessed rulers could not believe that their mighty city and their way of life would be destroyed by an enemy nation. Neither their king, nor their military could save them.

 

But Bethlehem…

This tiny town, which is about 5 miles south of Jerusalem, would be the birthplace of the only ruler who could truly save the people. Their deliverer, the Messiah, would be born there and eventually reign as the eternal King.

 

Chapter 5 provides one of the clearest Old Testament prophecies of Jesus Christ’s coming. Micah 5:5 describes Him as our ” source of peace.” Because of His first coming, we have the opportunity to experience peace with God with no more fear of judgement and no more conflict or guilt.
Christ’s peace gives us assurance even though wars will continue. His reign of peace is not just for His future kingdom, it is peace for the here-and-now in the lives of those who follow Him.
Before He was arrested and crucified, in His last teaching moments with the disciples, Jesus promised them peace, not as the world offers it, but as only He can give.
Their spirits could rest and enjoy sweet fellowship with God, which would then create ripple effects in their relationships with the world around them (John 14:27).
We live in the present reality of the Kingdom of God pushing back the kingdom of darkness. The peace of Jesus acts in direct opposition to the anxiety and worry of this world. As believers, we can rest in the knowledge that Jesus, our Prince of Peace, is making all things right.
We can participate with Him in bringing peace to a broken and sin-sick world as we anticipate a future kingdom of peace.

Lord Jesus,

One day… one day

Your reign will restore peace to our broken world. But in my “here and now,” I need you to fill me with Your peace, and help me to bring peace in my daily walk among my circle of influence.

Where there is worry, bring reassurance of Your provision.

Where there is strife, bring to my mind Your precious humility.

Where there is bickering, bring to my heart Your love.

Be my peace…

Amen

December 17th – Daniel 6

 

 

lion-of-judah

Prayer in the Face of Lions

Daniel 6 is not a soft and fuzzy children’s bedtime story. It truly is the gruesome stuff of nightmares. In this chapter we have an evil plot to trap Daniel, who is singularly devoted to God, and throw him into a pit full of hungry lions. Daniel’s enemies want him dead. BUT… in the end we see a dramatic plot twist because Daniel’s enemies, their wives, and children are thrown into the pit and mauled by the lions.

 

Yikes! The story reminds us of the risks of obedience to God in a world with an alternate agenda.

This is a story of jealousy. Daniel had found favor with the King and had been given authority over many others. This Hebrew man and His God were a thorn to local leaders and other high officials. They tried to find ways to dishonor him but they could find no fault in his character. Daniel’s faith was strong and reflected the character of his God. The men believed this would be Daniel’s downfall, and they set a trap knowing Daniel would remain faithful to his God.

 

Sometimes our faithfulness brings us promotion in the world, just as Daniel found favor with the King.

 

At other times, our faithfulness makes us public enemy number one.

“EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO LIVE A GODLY LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS WILL BE PERSECUTED. ” 1 TIMOTHY 3:12

 

God does not abandon us in our battles. He invites us into prayer. Prayer pierces our humanity with His holiness. Just think about that…

 

Prayer is where we ask courageously, wait patiently, and surrender faithfully to God’s goodness and wisdom.

And that’s just what Daniel did. He prayed.

He prayed knowing who his God was…

He prayed even as the King signed the ordinance forbidding prayer to any other “god” but himself for 30 days.

 

Daniel did not change his habit of prayer… for anyone…for anything.

I am convicted by this. How faithful am I in my daily devotion to God?

Not Daniel-faithful apparently…

But for Daniel, it was business as usual. He turned his face toward home, Jerusalem, got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God. He did break his habit, reasoning that God would understand.

We do this, don’t we? When the circumstance is uncomfortable and “our” best interests are at heart? Surely God wouldn’t want me to be inconvenienced?

 

So Daniel was put in the pit…

BUT Daniel’s God deliverer delivered His faithful servant and He made his glory known to an unbelieving King and nation.

God’s power prevailed and He shut the mouths of the lions and the enemy.

 

The God who rescued Daniel is the same God who rescued us. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the Lion of Judah who becomes the Lamb of God. (Revelation 5:5-6)

Jesus took our pain and our suffering upon Himself.

He was pierced for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:4-5)

AND THEN HE ROSE FROM THE PIT VICTORIOUS!

When we suffer in the name of Jesus, we do not suffer alone!

We will never face a lion’s den without the Lion of Judah by our side.

 

Mighty God,

Your kingdom is not like the kingdoms of the world. You flip the usual power systems upside down because you change the parameters. Living in your kingdom puts me at odds with the world, but even when I feel under attack, YOU are with me. You never abandon me. Thank you!

Amen

December 16th – Isaiah 11:6-9

 

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This devotion today  is Grace Claus. 

What a scene! Wolves wander alongside lambs. Leopards nap next to baby goats. A parade of calves and bears is led by a bright-eyed toddler, who stops to invite a snake to join the fun.

The scene has a fantastical, circus-like quality to it, so playful as to be silly. You can practically hear the honky-tonk in the background. Is it a joke? It’s so farfetched that it might as well be.

When in this dog-eat-dog world would a wolf ever restrain itself enough not to tear into a plump young lamb? When would a mother dare to let her child wrestle with a bear cub? When would a venomous snake lick a baby’s hand the way a puppy might?

In this world, probably never. Even the most optimistic among us wouldn’t expect a lamb to survive in a pasture with a wolf. But in the world to come, the world that’s just over the edge of the horizon, this improbable parade will be the way of things. In the world where the Lord reigns, all of this improbability becomes not just probable but actual. Isaiah’s scene is no fable. This is what we have to look forward to!

Father,

How eager I am for a world in which predator and prey play together. May your kingdom come, filling the earth with the knowledge of you. Amen.

 

December 15th – Jonah 3:1-5

 

Mercy Concept Watercolor Word Art

The Sign of Jonah

(Go ahead and read the whole book today. It’s short, and it’s SO GOOD!)

Holy moly! This one has broken my heart…This one is personal.

Jonah? What in the world does the story of Jonah have to do with Advent?

Well, that was my exact question several weeks ago when I began preparing for this study.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we read about an encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees who were looking for a miraculous sign Him as proof of His deity. But Jesus responded, “ A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Matthew 12:39

The sign of the prophet Jonah is a sign of judgment for a “wicked and adulterous generation.” Jesus was condemning the Pharisees, like Jonah complained of the Ninevites, as “those who cling to worthless idols” and “forsake faithful love.” Jonah 2:8

Let’s be honest… we are still a wicked and adulterous generation. I can’t point my finger to my neighbor because my heart is prone to wickedness and wandering as well.

I have the heart of Jonah and the Pharisees.
I am disobedient and judgmental.
I cling to worthless idols…
I put my trust in earthly things… chocolate, books, Hallmark movies… Need I go on.

My idols seem to crop up everywhere.

Do you find you are inclined to run to your comforts instead of running to Christ? What are the comforts you run to when you are stressed or weary?

Jonah was a runner too… hiding from the scary Ninevites…

AND they WERE a SCARY people! They used to cut off thumbs and gouge out eyes of their enemy. They were brutal and hardly seemed deserving of God’s grace, mercy, and salvation.

BUT God called Jonah to “GO!” To run toward possible death or mutilation. Toward those who did not deserve God’s love, His mercy, or His grace…

I NEED MERCY.

We need that same mercy God extended toward Jonah, the Ninevites, and the Pharisees.

We needed someone to run in into the storm for us.

We needed someone who would run toward to death.

Even though we did not deserve His love, Christ was the true and better Jonah because He ran into the heart of darkness so we, a wicked and an adulterous people, would not have to.
We are so quick to forget the mercy we have been shown, and we are quick to take for granted the grace that kept us from drowning.
The sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:39) points us toward Advent and Christ. YES!
Another Jonah has come, and He took on death willingly. He put Himself in our place, bearing our curse. Unlike Jonah, he was slow to anger, overwhelmingly compassionate, and completely obedient.
His sacrifice calmed the storm of God’s judgment. He has raised us up from the pit of death and hell.

Even in our unfaithfulness, He offers His faithful love.

Advent…

Oh God…

Forgive me.

I run to the wrong things…idols… for comfort when you are my comfort and my shield. My heart is often hard toward others I deem unworthy of your love, your mercy, your grace, and your salvation.

Forgive me.

Break my heart and tender it toward those who need salvation. May I be merciful and show others the unfailing love you have shown me.

Help me to be obedient to your call.

To where or what are you calling me?

Send me… I want to follow.

Amen.

December 14th – Isaiah 9:2-7

 

zae-zhu-wYckK8YvwSM-unsplashPhoto by zae zhu

Darkness to Light

As a child, I was terrified of the dark. Even as an adult, complete darkness makes me feel vulnerable and afraid.

The unknown of what may be lurking around me is unsettling. I lose my bearings and panic strangles my heart and my mind.
In the book of Isaiah, this is the type of darkness the children of Israel walked in. They lost their bearings, they were oppressed by the political system and other armies. Hope was lost. Their identity was murky at best.

BUT Jesus! The Light of the World…

“For unto us a child is born,
unto to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…” Isaiah 9:6-7

Light amidst the darkness… Hope is here.

Jesus is the hope of this dark world. The Advent Hope.
There is always morning… God promises it. Whatever our dark circumstances may be, The Light of the World, our Prince of Peace…
He is on His way… He promised to return.

He will.

God of Light, you will return. You promised. Shine your light into the darkest parts of our world, of my life, and into the hardest hearts. Bring hope to the hopeless and set things right.

Amen

December 13th – Esther 4

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I love to see strong women in stories. I want my students to know about marvelously courageous and yet tender heroines, and Queen Esther is definitely one.
We also see that Esther’s obedience is a picture of what Jesus would be and do; however, He would accomplish something much greater.
Esther was showing us, long before the Gospels were written, that one person’s sacrifice and courage could save millions.
She gave up her life for a place, a palace, that was not her home.
Jesus gave up heaven for a broken place full of broken people who needed Him.
Esther risked her life to save the people of Israel from physical death.
Jesus gave His life to save us all from eternal death.
Jesus accomplished the true and eternal rescue…❤️❤️❤️
*****

“You can hear the resolve in Esther’s voice: “If I die, I die.” She’s not resigning herself to her fate; she’s facing it head on.

She has just learned from her cousin Mordecai that Haman is more than scheming to kill the Jewish people. Haman has convinced the king to issue a decree that authorizes the governors to kill all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day.

When Esther hears of the decree, she evaluates the situation. She remembers the fate of Vashti, another headstrong queen. Is it worth it to visit the king, uninvited, to see if she can do something about the decree?

Esther would be risking her life to appear before King Ahasuerus. The rule is that if anyone enters the king’s inner court without being called, that person will be put to death. And Esther knows it. Since entering the king’s harem, she has lost virtually all of her agency. Her life is not in her hands.

And maybe that’s the whole point: her life belongs to the Lord. Maybe that’s what finally persuades her to risk death and go before the king.

Esther’s life belongs to one who likewise gave himself up to save his people. Jesus did more than risk death. He actually died. By virtue of our baptisms, we have, too, which frees us to take risks the way Esther did. We can look past our own security and make sacrifices for others. The risks we take may very well bring life for other people.”

PRAYER

Jesus Christ, you willingly went to the cross so that I could live. In baptism, I have died, too, so I no longer have to fear death. Help me take risks, whether big or small, for the sake of other people. Amen.”
Today’s devotion by Grace Claus

December 12th – 1 Kings 18:17-24, 36-39

 

benjamin-voros-phIFdC6lA4E-unsplashPhoto by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

If I were you, I would read the whole 18th chapter. It’s too good to miss a single word.
This is one of my favorite Bible stories. In this chapter, we see a showdown of cataclysmic proportions between Elijah’s God and the prophets of Baal, the prophets of Asherah, and Baal.

CAN YOU IMAGINE?

God showed Himself as mighty, faithful, and holy in a dramatic scene as “the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in trenches.” 1 Kings 18:38

AGAIN… CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE?

God revealed Himself as superior over Baal in a move that left no doubts.
I want everyone to see God in this way. I want others to see Him as mighty and sovereign – powerful – in a world that distorts and blatantly mocks Him.
There have been so many times in Scripture we have seen God reveal Himself to His people and this hopelessly lost world in grand ways… dramatic… and commanding.
But the MOST amazing demonstration of His power, His might, and His love was the gift of Himself through Jesus.
We don’t think of the Christmas story as a showdown. It doesn’t feel dramatic or powerful to most people. Most think the Christmas story feels sweet and soft and safe…
We aren’t necessarily overwhelmed by God’s might or power in the birth of a baby in a manger, an angel messenger sharing the news with lowly shepherds and the praises of a great company of heavenly hosts over a hillside.

BUT WE SHOULD BE.

Advent should be a time where we almost hold our collective breath in anticipation of the grand demonstration of God’s power and love.
It was a showdown. The God of heaven came down to us in the form of a fragile human child. He challenged everything that had to do with the world order and its sinful people.
Let the story… the knowledge… that the God of heaven in a magnificent display of his might … revealed himself to his people as only He could do.

LET THAT CATCH YOUR BREATH AND OVERWHELM YOU IN THESE DAYS OF ADVENT.

Almighty God,
I know in my head that you alone are God, but I don’t always believe it in my heart. If I did, I would handle so many situations differently. We live in a world that has so many little gods, and I know that my attention and affection often wanders from you. Forgive me for watering down the magnitude of who you are. Forgive me for not making more of you. I truly don’t want to miss the glory of you. I want you to overwhelm me in the details. Open my eyes to the small things where you show yourself as mighty. Train my eyes to see you in my moments…
Help me be faithful in my moments…
Amen.
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