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.

December 11th – 1 Kings 6:1-38

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Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash

The Temple – Part 2

 

BIBLE NERD GIRL ALERT! ❤️

First let me say, the tabernacle and the temple reveal God’s desire for relationship with His people.

Understanding how central these buildings were to Old Testament worship and New Testament symbolism, understanding the roles they played, understanding the way they were made, their function to Old Testament worship, and seeing the differences between them SHEDS light on so much of our Christian faith.

 

We better understand who we are when we understand these structures.

Consider that even before the tabernacle, there was the Garden of Eden, which in itself was a type of temple. God’s presence filled the Garden… He walked there with Adam and Eve.

The function of a sanctuary or temple is God dwelling among His people.

There are incredible differences between the portable tabernacle God initiated with Moses and the building of Solomon’s Temple and later Herod’s Temple.

One startling difference I had not realized until recently was that God was not involved in the temple, per say. He does not initiate the construction of the temple, give any input, or oversee the construction.

Instead of being dominated by God and His verbal directions (as was in the building of the tabernacle with Moses) , the temple construction story is dominated by King Solomon and 2 Canaanites for Tyre.

After completion, we see God still comes to dwell within it, but in a less significant way than in the tabernacle. After a few hundred years, Solomon’s temple is destroyed by Israel’s armies.
Interestingly enough, the second temple, Herod’s Temple is eventually built, and while it becomes one of the wonders of the ancient world, it is never God’s dwelling place in the same way as the first temple and the tabernacle before it.

We see the weight of Scripture shifts in New Testament to Christ as the ultimate fulfillment of the many promises that God will dwell with man … relationship

Today, we as believers, are called God’s temple. Consider the fact that if we are Christians and have accepted Jesus Christ by faith, the same holy, awesome, powerful King of the universe that resided in the Garden of Eden, the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple… NOW resides right inside of us.

This can only happen because Jesus has made us holy… because of what Jesus has done…

A baby in a manger… Emmanuel… God with us…

Jesus,
It is too much for my feeble human brain and heart to understand. Your Word is perfect! Your plan is perfect! You are perfect! You desire relationship with me…
Thank you for being the temple. the place where I can meet with God. I don’t have to travel miles to some specific location where God dwells. By your Holy Spirit, I am connected with God as I am connected with you. Remind me of your presence today. OVERWHELM ME, with your presence…
I adore you.
Amen

December 10th – The Temple, part 1

tabernacle
1 Kings 5:5
 
The Temple – Part 1
 
The temple was more than the temple.
 
But you have probably figured that out by this point in Advent.
 
Each of these Old Testament stories point beyond themselves. They are like little mirrors as they catch the light of Christ’s birth, his life and death, his resurrection, and ascension.
 
Their light give us a glimpse of what’s to come – his second coming – a return to set all things right.
 
Let’s do a little temple history, shall we?
 
The temple served as the meeting place for God and humanity.
 
First – The Tabernacle (the Mishkan)
 
Before Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the meeting place was a portable leather-sided tabernacle. It was basically a tent that could be taken down and put up as the people of Israel moved from place to place.
 
God instructed Moses to tell the Israelites to build a *mikdash* (sanctuary) where God would dwell, specifying exactly how the tabernacle should be designed.
 
As the people wandered through the wilderness, the presence of God was always with them. It was not that God needed a physical sanctuary on earth, but that each one of us is called to build a tabernacle for God in our hearts, preparing ourselves to become a sanctuary for God.
 
The tabernacle’s design physically represented a gradual increase in degrees of holiness, from the outer courtyard (meant to create a barrier from the common and outside world) to the Holy of Holies (only entered once a year on Yom Kippur by the High Priest).
 
The portability of the tabernacle foreshadows the future movements of the Jewish people in exile, where they built synagogues and houses of study wherever they migrated.
 
The note on [Exodus 25:1-31:17] in the [*ESV Study Bible*]
  • First, the tabernacle is seen as **a tented palace for Israel’s divine king**. He is enthroned on the ark of the covenant in the innermost Holy of Holies (the Most Holy Place). His royalty is symbolized by the purple of the curtains and his divinity by the blue. The closer items are to the Holy of Holies, the more valuable are the metals (bronze→silver→gold) of which they are made.
  • The other symbolic dimension is Eden. The tabernacle, like the garden of Eden, is where God dwells, and various details of the tabernacle suggest it is **a mini-Eden**. These parallels include the east-facing entrance guarded by cherubim, the gold, the tree of life (lampstand), and the tree of knowledge (the law). Thus God’s dwelling in the tabernacle was a step toward the restoration of paradise, which is to be completed in the new heaven and earth ([Revelation 21-22) us.
 
John 1:14 tells us that “the Word became flesh and *dwelt* among us.” In other words, when Jesus came as Emanuel, he “tabernacled” among us.
 
Jesus,
 
No words could ever express the gift of your presence in our lives, in our hearts. Learning about you through Scripture is one of the greatest joys of my life because the more I learn about you, the greater my love for you. Give me boldness to share you with others daily… Your story, our story, is just to rich not to share.
 
It is the greatest story of all!
 
Amen

 

December 9th – 2 Samuel 5:1-5

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Shepherd – King

I know I live in unicorn land with cotton candy clouds and dreams of a perfect world. My idea of the perfect politicians and leaders are those marvelously servant minded, honest, humble Jimmy Stewart characters I have loved in the old Hollywood movies…
I want a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” kind of politician and leader to serve and guide the people.

So when I look at this passage of Scripture in 2 Samuel in light of our recent 1 & 2 Samuel study, I know David…

I know his humanly imperfect heart, and I know His God.

King and shepherd seem to be polar opposites, don’t they?

Kings are regal, sit on thrones, live in wealth, and rule people with calculated agendas. They hobnob with important people.
Shepherds are humble. They are often dirty. They spend their day caring for their flock outside in the elements. They are cautious and patient people who have very small circles of influence.
 
When we look at the person of David, we see aspects of both shepherd and king. God chose him to shepherd His people. Honestly maybe shepherds would make better kings.

Maybe we need someone who cares more about his people, his flock, than wealth and power.

 
David carried his shepherding spirit into his role as king.

Was he perfect? Heavens no…

BUT One would come who would be the perfect Shepherd and King. In John 10, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, the one who knows his sheep and lays down his life for them. He is also king, the one who victoriously defeats the powers of sin, death, and evil.
Crown of thorns, robed in majesty…

King Jesus,

I praise you for you are both mighty and meek, self-sacrificing and victorious, and You rule over all! I praise your shepherd’s heart. Please bring a spirit of gentleness and self-sacrifice to the hearts of our political leaders in our country.

Amen.

December 8th – 1 Samuel 16:1-15

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Photo by Pro Church Media.

The Unlikely King

Let’s be honest. We all love a great “underdog” story.

The beautiful thing about the family line of Jesus is it’s filled with underdogs, unlikely heroes, a sprinkling obedient humble people, a handful of rebels, and a few reprobates…

David was an unlikely pick as Israel’s king. Baby of the family and shepherd boy…
AND yet… God shattered the expectations of whiny Israel and chose this keeper of sheep and farm boy to lead His wayward, fickle people.
Have you noticed that God has a habit of subverting the world’s expectations?
Not only did He choose an unlikely boy as king, He chose to bless the world through a
tiny group of people who were often bullied by other nations.
And when it came to saving His people and expressing His love for the entire world, He would come in human flesh as a member of that underdog nation.
 
What in the world!? Right?
It even sounds incredible as I type this. I am daily reminded He works in ways that are so
outside the norm…

BUT I LOVE THAT ABOUT MY GOD!

The knowledge that God would be born as a baby, vulnerable and unknown in humble surroundings…
  • That He would do the physical labor of a tradesman… not an aspiring political leader…
  • That He would submit himself to the humiliation and physical agony of death on a cross at the hands of a corrupt and powerful empire…
It’s simply unbelievable… according to the world’s standard that is.
BUT we serve a God who is outside the box… who is a pursuer of the underdog, lover of the lowly, rescuer of the weak and broken…

He is a redeemer…

God has shown His love for the whole world in Jesus, descendent of David, Jesse, Obed, and our unlike hero Boaz who was the redeemer of Ruth.

Jesus is the One True King of all people.

The greatest shattering of expectations is that God makes himself the underdog and conquers sin and death.
 

LORD,

You constantly amaze me, and you exquisitely shatter my expectations. Your birth, life and death teach me humility and self-sacrifice. Thank you… Amen.

December 7th – Ruth 1:15-4:12

T he Kinsman Redeemer

The Kinsman Redeemer

 
Yes… I know. This is a long passage today, but it is incredibly rich. The book of Ruth is short, but its narrative. You can read it in one sitting and have no difficulty in understanding its text.
 
It’s a love story… and it’s a part of God’s love story to us.
Today as you read, take notice of several things.
  • The story takes place in Bethlehem. Interesting, yes?
  • Ruth was a widow.
  • Ruth was a Moabite… an outsider to the Jewish people.
  • Ruth was obedient to her mother-in-law, Naomi. She trusted her and was bold enough to follow through in her pursuit of Boaz.
  • Boaz was of the tribe of Judah. He was the great grandfather of King David and of the lineage of Jesus. He was a wealthy farmer.
 
Most of the time, the focus of the book Ruth seems to sit with Ruth and her uncommon devotion to Naomi, but today we are going to shift our focus to Boaz.
Boaz is known as the kinsman redeemer. Under Israelite law, there was a special provision for widows with no sons. The brother or the next closest male family member could take the widow as his wife, redeem  her late husband’s land, and  provide her with a son to carry on the family name. Without a kinsman redeemer, the widow would be left with nothing and the family would cease to exist.
 
Boaz was a relative of Naomi’s husband, and he had the power to redeem Ruth, the land, and father a child to carry on the family name.
 
Boaz was the proverbial knight on the white horse who rushes in to save the day. Unlikely hero, we see through the book of Ruth, his intimate care, his faithfulness, his compassion. Boaz not only did what was right, but he did it right away.
 
Boaz was a christ-type. Notice the little “c.”
He was a picture of Jesus, but Jesus would be better. Jesus would be the true Kinsman Redeemer. By virtue of his humanity, He is our brother, our kinsman, and He is willing to be our bridegroom in order to redeem us.
Jesus faithfully stepped up to save us, to join Himself to us even though we have nothing to offer him. We are a broken, poor, and sinful people, and yet, He made us His own.
Hallelujah!!!
Girls, that is seriously the BEST news you will EVER hear!

Jesus,

How precious are you! How amazing that you would join yourself to me, consider me your kinsman and family member. You so graciously paid the price with your own life to redeem me when I had nothing to offer in return other than my fickle heart and my broken promises. I give you my life…

Amen.

December 6th: Joshua 2:1-21

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Illustration by Elaine Davis

My dearest Rahab,

You are my unlikely hero…
Your faithfulness and your willingness to walk an unknown path humbles me.
I know you primarily by your sin… but you met the one true God during a tender time in history. You had heard the stories of the Hebrew God and His mighty deeds on behalf of His people.
These Yahweh people were coming with their God to take control of your people and land. You heard their fearful words as they were whispered in the streets. Panic was growing…
But a different kind of fear was taking root in your heart. You wanted to know this God who fought His people’s battles, who parted seas, who defeated alien armies. This God was different.
You risked everything to hide the Hebrew spies. In a culture of faithlessness, you dared to meet their faithful, holy God head-on and follow Him.
What a bold act!
You stepped out alone and followed on nothing but faith.
You found a place in a family line that leads to my Jesus.
You were just one of five women named in a male-dominated lineage.

YOU MADE THE CUT, GIRL!

Just as shocking, you were named in spite of the fact that you were a gentile and definitely outside the family tree.
AND … and … you were a prostitute…
A beautifully broken rebellious line of humanity leading to a beautifully perfect Savior…
Our God is SO GOOD!
Sometimes, like Rahab, we must walk the road alone, stepping out on nothing but faith and a holy fear of the God who rescues His people.

Hey Sisters!!! Be bold. Follow hard.

Father,
Your grace overwhelms me. You could care less about my pedigree. You are willing to overlook my sin as you graft me into your family and your story. Help me be faithful like Rahab in my generation. Empower me to do the work you have called me to do among my people.
Amen.

 

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