Tuesday, December 11, 2018

12 Days of Christmas Devotionals

"Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told from the Lord." Luke 1:45 (NKJV) 

The advent book's question from kids to parents was, "ask your parents which name of Jesus is their favorite." My kids asked the question and started whispering "please say Immanuel, please say Immanuel." I had to think about it for a minute and I told them, "yes, I really like Immanuel." They smiled and moved on to the rest of the reading. 

The Christmas story was filled with assurance of the presence of God with us through Jesus. Today's verse reminds us that God does not fail. If He said something would happen, it does. 

God is responsible for the fulfillment of the promise. It is up to us to believe. Jesus' presence with us is marked with His very name. How lovely!

Jesus said He said He'd never leave or forsake us. I find comfort in knowing that God's presence is a constant in my life. 

This season of advent hasn't been easy. While I enjoy the wonder and the eager expectation through my children's eyes, I also think about the violence and decay of the society in my home country. 

I often wonder what God has to say about what's happening down there. What I know for sure is that Jesus is the only hope for my country and for the world. 

Jesus' birth happened in troubled times. He knows our sorrow, our pain and our cry for justice. I continue to rely on Him to be the hope, the answer for the world. 

I don't believe in sharing the world's burdens with little kids. I do believe in the innocence and freedom of childhood. I am so blessed to see that in my kids' lives right now. 

My hope is that one day, the kingdoms of this world will be the kingdom of our Lord. And He shall reign forever. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 

Let it be Lord. Even so, come Lord Jesus, come. 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Mary and the Angel

 "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 1:35-38 (NKJV)

The kids and I have been immersed in Luke 1 this advent season. We've been reading it slowly. There is so much packed in this first chapter. I noticed that we aren't given a lot of details about Mary. We know she is a virgine who is engaged to Joseph. We know the angel greets her with the adjectives highly favored and blessed. I love her response. She is left wondering, "what kind of greeting is this?"

I'm sure she was used to the usual "hey Mary, what's up?" in a first century, Middle Eastern way that is. The angel tells her not to be afraid and proceeds to tell her she found favor with God. Then he announces the birth of Jesus.

If we compare the previous block of Luke 1, we will see that Zacharias had an interchange of words with the angel. His response to the angel was a bit different than Mary's. He was slow to believe God's word. Mary was quick to believe.

When the angel told her "For no word from God will ever fail (verse 37)" she replied "I am the Lord's servant. May your word to me be fulfilled."

I noticed that every time an angel showed up, they didn't come to give suggestions. They had a clear command from God. As a matter of fact, angels obey the voice of God's word (Psalm 103:20). If an angel is ever presente, they are not hanging out, they are obeying direct orders from God.

I have no Biblical clues as of Mary's faith walk prior to her first mention in Luke 1:26. I do know that she must have been committed to serving God. Only a submitted her can hear a word from God and immediately say, I am your servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.

As we keep reading Luke, we know the process of fulfillment was not easy. Still, Mary and Joseph were focused on obeying God's word.

If you are a long time reader, you know that I believe in angels and in God's supernatural. Chances are, most of us in America are not going to have an interaction with angelic beings. They are present, we just won't see them 24 hours a day. What we do experience instead is the presence of God's word. He has given us promises. No word from God will ever fail. Do we have submission of heart to believe? Can we, like Mary, be quick to submit our lives to God's word and believe that it will be fulfilled?

I pray that this Christmas season will be marked by our complete submission to God's word. I pray that we will be quick to believe his word.

Previously in this Series
Day 1 (Luke 1:1-4)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

12 Days of Christmas devos

"Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed." Luke 1:1-4 (NKJV)

We're well into the season of advent. Advent means the arrival of someone of great importance. We are waiting to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas day. Advent season is funny. We don't sit around and wait. We work, we pray, we play, we sing, we go on as we wait.

As we wait, we seek to know. What else do we need to know? Well, it's more about a "Who" then a what else.

People may get tired of listening to the same gospel stories over and over. The reality is that the word of God has the power to come alive, anew each advent season. The fact is that God will not make me read the Bible. I make that choice by myself. I am convinced that reading the Bible as a habit is my way of giving of myself to God.

In today's scripture, I noticed that Luke told Theophilus (lets call him "T" for short) that he was writing his account of the life of Jesus "that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed."

Luke basically told T that T was no expert. There is a grace in remembering those stories so that we may know the certainty of those things T learned.

We need that same knowledge. There is an entire system around us, built to make us doubt the faith we believe. They want us to belive that Jesus' birth, life and resussrection are not relevant today. They want us to neglect our faith, except for that church visit on Christmas, Easter and Mother's Day.

We can't get lazy in our pursuit of God. We must seek to know Him. We need to know the certainty of our faith. This knowledge doesn't make us experts or super spiritual. It does make us unmoveable in our faith in God.

My encouragement for you and I is to know God for ourselves. Enough of consuming things about God, let us pursue Him this Christmas season.

More on this series:
Day 2 Mary and the angel (Luke 1:35-38)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

What I learned this Fall

Dare greatly - I ran into this quote recently and I really enjoyed it.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” - Theodore Roosevelt

Cranky pants - I was pretty cranky on Thanksgiving but I learned "you can't be thankful and cranky at the same time." I quickly got a thankful attitude back by submitting myself to God and His word. That pretty much saved the holiday.

Determined - "My disposition, not my circumstances determine my joy or misery." I had many moments of frustration this Fall. Somehow, I ran into this quote and it reminded me that my disposition needed to be pristine.

I also learned, all over again, that God loves me and He is for me.

More in this series:
What I learned this Summer
What I learned this Spring

Monday, December 3, 2018

Focused Action 2019

I really enjoy reviewing my year through the focused action questions. This is the sixth time I do this and I love it! I hope you enjoy it too. The only way to improve is to focus on your next action. 

What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?  
Mindless screen time is the biggest time-waster closely followed by regret. I have decreased my screen time and I have a concrete plan to make sure my time online is very productive. As far as regrets, I plan on following my faith goals which addresses what I plan to do with regrets. Basically, I'm going to abandon that practice.

For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year? 
The same people from last year plus a few. I'm going to have an actual list. It's more for my sake than God's of course.

What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
Pray more often by scheduling daily time to do it. I thought about starting a prayer group but I know they are highly unpopular. Instead, I'll focus on praying with my family.

What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity? 
Investing in my marriage and in my kids. I'm passionate about making an eternal difference in their lives for the Lord Jesus.

What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what's one way you could simplify in that area?
A few of my chores. I've made progress in 2018 but I'm determined to simplify my process for effectiveness' sake in 2019. One way I could simplify decluttering is keeping it as a regular activity instead of emergency a few times a year.

What habit would you most like to establish this year? 
Reading. I read everyday but I want to replace mindless browsing with reading.

Who do you most want to encourage this year? 
My immediate family.

What's one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or to another who ministers to you) this year?
I can find creative ways to encourage my husband Zeke in his ministry.

What's one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren? 
I can teach the Bible and other spiritual discipline such as prayer to my children.

• What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year? 
I made a list of 25 books I want to read. I'm starting soon and I can't wait!

What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year? 
I thought different people were "for me," in season and out of season. I learned that I still had a lot of convenience friendships. If it's not convenient for the other person (or if they don't need something I can do for them) I'm out of their life. Next year I plan on remembering this lesson by cherishing the friends who choose to be there for me for a lifetime.

• What's the most important trip you want to take this year? 
Only God knows.

What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year? 
I want to be a better writer.

What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it? 
This is not a doctrine but I've been curious about what God thinks about the role of women in ministry. I've had 7 years of questions and I just need to study.

• If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say? Would they be right? What will you do about it? 
I think they would say, God is reliable so keep believing Him. I know they would be right. I will keep believing God.

What's the most important new item you want to buy this year? 
Freedom from financial debt.

In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?
I started my health overhaul last year and this year, I will finish it. I will focus on nutrition until I arrive at my normal BMI.

Previously in this Series: