December 11, 2018 (Advent Week 2)

Today’s Reading: Romans 5:12-20

In the very beginning, God created a perfect world. There was no sin, pain, sickness, death or sadness. God created Adam and Eve to live in His perfect world with joy and peace. But Adam and Eve sinned. They disobeyed God. When they sinned, God’s perfect world broke. There was a punishment for Adam and Eve’s sin. Because God is perfect, He cannot be near sin.

So Adam and Eve were separated from God.

Advent-2.jpgThe punishment for their sin would also be placed on all humans who were born after Adam and Eve. But before Adam and Eve left God’s perfect Garden, God made a promise. God promised to send a Rescuer, someone to save Adam, Eve and mankind from the punishment of sin. He promised to send Jesus!

God did not send Jesus to rescue His people right away. God waited thousands of years to send the Rescuer. During that time, God’s people faced many hard things. While they waited, God gave them hints and clues about how Jesus would come, what He would do and what He would be like. These hints, written in Scriptures by prophets, would help God’s people wait. The verse from Isaiah that we read together after lighting the Advent candle was written while God’s people waited those thousands of years for the Savior.

During that time, God made other promises to His children and kept those promises. Each time God made and kept a promise, it helped His children trust that He would be faithful to His promise to send Jesus to rescue them from their sins.

Some days, God’s children waited patiently for God to keep His promise. Some days, they waited with tears and frustration. Some days, they wondered if God had forgotten His promise. But God continued to whisper it over and over again as His children waited. And one day, when no one was expecting it, Jesus would come.

(Devotional credit: The Village Church – “Advent: He Keeps His Promises” )

December 10, 2018 (Advent Week 2)

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 13:20-21

“Draw Near To The Savior”

One of the things pleasing in God’s sight is that his people keep on drawing near to him forever and ever. And so he is working in us this very thing. Hebrews 13:21 says he is doing this “through Jesus Christ,” which means, at least, that Jesus has purchased this grace for us by his death and that Jesus prays and asks the Father for it on the basis of that death.

Advent-2.jpgIn other words, when the writer of Hebrews tells us that drawing near to God is what qualifies us for the eternal saving work of our High Priest, he doesn’t mean to say that our High Priest leaves us alone in our sinful bent and natural resistance, as if we could draw near to God on our own. Rather, our High Priest intercedes for us and asks the Father to do just what Hebrews 13:21 says he will do—work in us what is pleasing in his sight—“through Jesus Christ.”

Let me illustrate this by the way it looked when our High Priest was on the earth. In Luke 22:31–32 Jesus says to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” So already Jesus was interceding for his own when he was on the earth. And he was praying that Peter’s faith—that his faith—our faith—not fail.

Moreover, he was so confident in his prayer for Peter that he said, “When you have turned again,” not, “If you turn again.”

So even though Peter stumbled in denial, his faith did not fail utterly. That is what the Lord prays for us. This is one more piece of our great security and hope in this great epistle of assurance.

Is it not a wonderful thing this Advent season to know that God bids us come? That this great, holy God of righteousness and wrath says, “Draw near to me through my Son, your High Priest. Draw near to me. Draw near to me”? This is his invitation in these Advent readings: “Draw near to me through your High Priest. Draw near to me in confession and prayer and meditation and trust and praise. Come. I will not cast you out.” For Christ “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

(Devotional credit: The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, John Piper)

December 8, 2018 (Advent Week 1)

Today’s Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10

“Good news,” the police officer said over the phone. “We have found Jesus.”

Advent-2.jpgWhen workers at the community center in Wellington, Florida, heard the report, they weren’t thinking that the officers at the local police department had all simultaneously accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. No, the news meant that police had found their baby Jesus—the small figurine that had been stolen a few days earlier from the Nativity scene set up outside the building.

The missing Jesus at the Wellington com- munity center wasn’t the first such case.

Every year, news reports from around the country tell of a small but unfortu- nate truth about the modern American Christmas: Some people get a kick out of stealing parts of the Nativity displays set up outside of homes and churches. More often than not, baby Jesus is the target—possibly because it’s easier for the average thief to haul off than a shepherd or one of the wise men’s camels. But these thieves probably understand what message they are sending by removing the most important figure from the scene. Sometimes that tone of hostility is clear. In 2008, a church in Pennsylvania noticed that their statue of baby Jesus had been stolen and replaced with a moldy pumpkin.

How did Wellington police find the community center’s baby Jesus? Since this wasn’t the first time the figurine had been stolen, police officers recommended that a global positioning system (GPS) tracker be installed inside the baby Jesus to help track down the statue in the event it went missing. BrickHouse Security, a surveillance company based in New York, has in recent years donated hundreds of these monitoring devices to various churches, retirement homes and other organizations. When unexpected movement of a Nativity piece occurs, BrickHouse’s computer systems send text notifications to alert staff members to the theft. Police can then follow the satellite tracking information through a computer or mobile phone to find the stolen property.

It’s not quite a star in the Eastern sky, but it seems to do the job. BrickHouse claims that 100 percent of stolen Nativity figures using their GPS technology have been recovered. Wellington police tracked the community center’s stolen Jesus to an apartment complex and found the statue in a young woman’s home.

Even with modern technology helping to solve these crimes, it’s a shame that it’s needed at all. Marion Crum, a resident at a retirement home in Indiana that recently had their Jesus figure stolen, gave future would-be Jesus thieves a few words of wisdom. “If you want Jesus in your life, you don’t have to steal Him,” he said.

Indeed. The real gift of Christmas is that Jesus is free.

(Devotional credit: “Have You Found Jesus”, ThrivingFamily.com )

December 7, 2018 (Advent Week 1)

Shadows, Hints and Whispers of His Coming

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Throughout the Old Testament, God spoke to His people about this promise and gave them things to watch for in order to recognize the Savior’s coming. God revealed that the Messiah would be born in the line of David (Isa. 9:6-7), of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10) and in the town of Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2). He would be a Man of Sorrows—crushed, despised and rejected—justifying many through what He suffered (Isa. 53). The promised Rescuer would be a light overcoming darkness (Isa. 9:2), a Preacher of Good News to the poor (Isa. 61) and One walking in the power of the Spirit (Isa. 42:1). There were hints and shadows of Him everywhere.

God also reminded His people not to lose heart as they waited for the Savior to come. It’s important to remember that God did not fulfill His promise right away. His people waited a long time. They spoke of the promised Rescuer from generation to generation, enduring cycles of war, rebellion, captivity and restoration. They watched and waited—anxiously, expectantly—for God’s faithfulness.

We can all identify with feeling hopeless and helpless, especially when it comes to the weight of sin. Heavy and inescapable, we know its effects with every breath—both our own sin and that of others. Our world is full of evidence that something is wrong and needs to be made right. The reason we celebrate Advent is because the story of the Garden doesn’t end with man’s rebellion.

God makes a promise, and, as we’ll see in the weeks to come, He keeps it perfectly.

REFLECTION:

 Consider Israel’s long wait for the Savior to come. How do you think God’s people fought against doubt, discouragement and the temptation to believe God forgot them?

•• Are you good at waiting? Why or why not? What makes some promises easier to wait on than others?

••• God often gives us seasons of waiting to sift and strengthen our faith. If you are in a season of waiting, what might the Lord be teaching you?

•••• How strong is your confidence that God keeps His promises? Then read 2 Corinthians 1:19-20. How does this passage affect your understanding of God’s faithfulness?

(Devotional credit: The Village Church – “Advent: He Keeps His Promises” )