Friday, December 14, 2018

12 Days of Christmas Devos: Generations

"Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah." Matthew 1:17 (NIV)

I remember seeing my mother read her Bible in a year as I was growing up in Brasil. I remember the times she would tell us about reading the different genealogy spots. She would always laugh at the continuing list of names we could hardly pronounce. Still, she pressed on and read them all. 

Matthew chapter 1 lists the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew writes about Jesus' family tree, which included men and women. I have learned that God doesn't do anything without a purpose. All of those names have a story, significance and purpose. 

I've been enjoying reading more about the women who were included in the book of Matthew. This year, I've been praying and seeking to find out God's view on the role of women in the church. I won't bore you with my observations right now. What no one can deny is the inclusion of women in this passage as well as throughout the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Back to the genealogy. There were quite a few generations between Abraham and Jesus. I'm sure that somehow, from generation to generation, the Israelites decided to declare that God's throne, dominion and kingdom would endure. 

In Lamentations (5:19), we learn that God's throne endures from generation to generation.  
In Daniel (4:3), we learn that God's dominion endures from generation to generation. In Daniel (4:34) we also learn God's kingdom endures from generation to generation.

Even as I think about all the generations between Abraham and Jesus, I can see God's power, dominion and kingdom agenda. 

Christmas is often not the time to "get real." Most people are just so happy and expectant of the earthly things we do to celebrate the season. 

I have reached a time in my life where I can't help but "keep it real" yet, look to God to give me guidance of thought and conduct. Life isn't easy and the burdens we carry, heavy. Yet, God's love endures and so does His dominion. 

Today's Bible verse reminds me that God's word and power are unfailing, from generation to generation, He is faithful. I can't trace all my generations back to Africa (thanks slavery!) but as far as I can tell, the moment my grandparents decided to give their lives to the Lord Jesus, everything changed. My generation has benefited from knowing Jesus and so have my children's generation. 

Some of us, unlike the family of Jesus, might never be able to trace our families way back to the beginning. What we can do is to decide that from our generation on, we will serve the Lord. My generation will rely on God and we will serve Him with gladness. 

God is faithful from generation to generation. Even when I can't trace it, I can see that it worked for Jesus. If it worked for Him, I know it will work for me. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

12 Days of Christmas Devos: the Name

23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and [i]did not know her till she had brought forth her[j] firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus. Matthew 1:23-25 (NKJV)

Names were important in Bible times and they are important in our times. Finding the perfect name for our children was the most challenging part of being pregnant. I think it took me 9 months every time. The funny thing is that in the beginning of our marriage, we would have kid names brainstorming sessions. We now laugh at the names that came out of those sessions. The names we chose for our children turned out to be perfect for them. We also made sure that searched for the meaning of their names. Well, except for one kid. When we did find out what her name meant, we were relieved! It really was perfect for her. 

Every time I call my children by name, I am pronouncing the meaning of their name, over and over. I believe that the same thing happened to Jesus. 
The prophet Isaiah (7:14) said long ago that the virgin would conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Immanuel means God with us. 
I can only imagine how many times Jesus heard his name come out of his parents, siblings and other relatives mouths. They were also saying "God with us, how are you doing today?" And sentences similar to this. 
His name proclaimed His mission, His destiny. 
Joseph received this command in a dream. He was ultimately responsible for naming Mary's baby. The Bible says that he woke up and was obedient to God's command. 
I'm not sure what your parents named you or what people are calling you. God calls you his own. He calls you His beloved, more than a conqueror and forgiven. I hope that you grab a hold of the things God calls you. They're all good and they determine your mission and your destiny. 
I'm not sure if like Joseph, God has given you a command. Will you have the courage to obey God? His commands and directions are all found in the Bible. That's where you and I can hear His voice. Let's hear and let's obey.

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