Christmas 2018 – Day 25

baby-jesus-manger-sceneMerry Christmas! I pray that you reflected on the wonderful incarnation of Jesus and are spending an amazing day with family and friends. Today we’ll keep it short so you can continue enjoying your day. We’ll look at the resounding words of  Luke 2:7:

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

The use of the word “firstborn” here is important. Ever since Genesis and Exodus God instituted a double portion of inheritance and becoming the family patriarch to the firstborn son. In Colossians 1:15 Jesus is named “the first-born of all creation” which speaks of His preexistence and He is also named the “image of the invisible God,” which speaks of His deity. 

In the same way that Jesus was the firstborn of Mary (further evidence that she was a virgin), He was the firstborn of God, not as a created being but as creating beings. Jesus’ double portion and claiming God’s patriarchy is comforting. In Revelation 1:4 it says Jesus is the “firstborn of the dead.” Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was the first to rise from the dead by His own power, so He was the “firstborn of the dead.” This Christmas we remember Jesus had to be the firstborn Son 2,000 years ago so that He could be the firstborn of the dead to redeem us from our sins! Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2018 – Day 24

birth-of-jesus-1150128-900x640As part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 24: It’s Christmas Eve! As we consider what tomorrow brings let’s briefly review some of the highlights we’ve learned these last 23 days. We covered that the Messiah:

  • Would be a male born of a virgin: Day 1
  • Linked to Ruth, Boaz, Obed and David: Day 2
  • Would rule forever: Day 7
  • Persecution at birth: Day 8 & Day 9
  • Would include salvation to the Gentiles: Day 10
  • Would have prophesies written of Him and He would be the Word: Day 12
  • Again, a boy born of a virgin: Day 16
  • -Called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”: Day 17
  • Become a Branch and Rod from a stump: Day 18
  • Heralded by John the Baptist about making paths straight: Day 19
  • Mother, Mary’s biblical knowledge: Day 20
  • Father, Joseph’s trust in the Lord: Day 21
  • Elder, Simeon’s devotion rewarded: Day 22

 

The Lord has given us much to be thankful for. But this holiday season, we should celebrate the knowledge, understanding and wisdom God has given us by saving us from hell. On Day 10 I mentioned Ephesians 3:4-6 where Paul says, “you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.” The focus there was on the Gentiles, but I want to look at the ability for all of us to “understand” “knowledge.” In my book called, Biblical Knowledge, Understanding & Wisdom, I look at chapter 3 of Ephesians. Here is an excerpt from my book:

According to Ephesians 3:8-13, the “wisdom of God” is given to the Church so that we can make it known to the heavenly realm (v. 10). It makes sense that a wisdom only gained spiritually would minister to the spiritual. And that “eternal purpose” was accomplished by Jesus (v. 11) coming to earth, dying on the cross and raising from the dead.

And that “mystery” made known to us through God’s knowledge, understanding and wisdom centers around that coming to earth, or as we often sing this time of year, “night divine when Christ was born.” I encourage you to read from Luke 1-2 with your family tonight as you are reminded of the mystery of Jesus coming from heaven to save us from our sins!

Christmas 2018 – Day 23

Annunciation to the ShepherdsAs part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 23: we’ve covered the prophesies and some main characters in the birth of Jesus but today we’re going to tie those two together by looking at the shepherds and angels. Luke 2 tells the story of the angel speaking to the shepherds out guarding their flocks. In verses 10-12 it says,

Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’”

Obviously, these shepherds knew the Scriptures of prophecy concerning the Messiah. The angel is able to speak to them without explaining thousands of years of history. But I find it fascinating that the angel gives them some prophecy to follow, the “sign” to tell the Messiah would be that he would be (1) a baby (2) wrapped in swaddling clothes and (3) lying in a manger. This is much like the prophecy of Jesus being born of a virgin which people like to mock and say, “virgin” can be translated “young girl” (as we discussed on Day 16). People can mock the sign to the shepherds, but for them these three things had to line up perfectly in order to find baby Jesus.

I find it interesting that they didn’t balk at the fact that He was a baby. And neither did the wise men. And neither did Simeon (Day 22) or Anna. They all agreed that if God wanted to come in the form of a baby – that was good enough for them. God humbled Himself and not only came down to weak humanity but also in the most fragile form: a baby. Consider yourself this Christmas. At parties are you bragging about yourself? At church is your mind wandering to your lists or what presents you’ll be getting? Consider the shepherds humbling and focusing their attention on the only thing that matters: baby Jesus, the Savior of “all people!”

Christmas 2018 – Day 22

17221f9edb8f1f8954c1cdfe4a25ea0eAs part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 22: We’ve talked about Mary and Joseph the last two days. Now we’re going to talk about Simeon.

Our family was sitting around the table eating breakfast reading Isaiah 9:6 and my daughter started talking about something she learned at Awanas. She was excited to talk about Simeon from Luke 2:25-35. I was surprised that my wife said she wasn’t familiar with the story. But the more I thought about it, I realized he and Anna (Luke 2:36-38) aren’t talked about a whole lot. So today we’re going to talk about Simeon a bit. Simeon “was just and devout,”

And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (v. 26).

And God followed through. As Simeon held Immanuel, “God with us,” he said:

A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel
” (v. 32).

Did you catch the inclusion of the Gentiles?! Prior to this, Israel was looking for their salvation, but now the whole world was included. This is what caused Mary to marvel (v. 33). Also see Acts 22:21-22.

If God set up prophecies of Jesus birth and then set up prophetic words thru Simeon and Anna, it makes me wonder how many other miracles and wonderful works surrounded Jesus’ birth that aren’t recorded in the Scriptures?! We won’t know this side of heaven, but I encourage you to meditate on what God has told us but also be looking at the amazing works pointing towards Jesus in your own life. Be “just and devout.” Are you a Simeon or an Anna? Live a good, godly life and point others towards the Savior!

Christmas 2018 – Day 21

dream-of-st-josephAs part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 21: We’re looking at famous characters from the birth of Christ. Yesterday we looked at Mary and today we’re looking at Joseph. Matthew 1:18-19 tells us what kind of man and predicament he was in:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.”

When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant he assumed what had happened in every case of pregnancy before and after this one case: that she had sex. But only God could work a miracle like this since He was the one that defined procreation. This was also the only way for Jesus to be both fully God and fully Man. So, God sent one of His messengers to explain (the attached picture speaks volumes!). Before he could make a mistake the angels said,

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’” (vv. 20-21)

What an incredible thing for Joseph to hear that Mary had not be unfaithful to him but instead had been divinely gifted with a baby. Take a minute and think about how Joseph felt hearing that news. Now consider how he felt when he found out that he was part of God’s incredible plan to bring the Savior of humanity into the world! He never expected to hear Mary was made pregnant by the Holy Spirit but even more surprising was that the Messiah was finally coming to earth! Thank you, Jesus, for You have “saved Your people from their sins.”!

For more on what the main characters actually said, see this article.

Christmas 2018 – Day 20

52097-Blessed_Virgin_Mary.800w.tnAs part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 20: We’ll be spending the rest of our time in the New Testament. I would like to look at a couple of the famous characters of this story so today we’ll briefly be looking at Mary. Our introduction to Mary is found in Matthew 1:16.

What do we know about Mary? She was Hebrew (not Catholic!), she was a direct descendant of King David (see Luke 1) and solid biblical scholars think she was between 14 – 16 years old. God chose her out of all time to bear His incarnation. She had to: (1) be a virgin (as we saw in Isaiah 7:14), (2) give birth to a boy (Genesis 3:14) and (3) give birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

Tom Simcox, Bible teacher and trainer, wrote an article titled, “The Woman God Chose,” in the November / December 2017 issue of Israel My Glory . In a section of that article called “Her [Mary’s] Knowledge,” Simcox says, “Mary clearly knew the Hebrew Scriptures and believed them.” He then draws our attention to Luke 1:31-33, 35 which says,

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Simcox concludes with, “Her response showed her absolute trust in the God of Israel: “‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word’” (v. 38).[i] I love that the author drew our attention to Mary’s existing Scriptural knowledge. In my book Biblical Knowledge, Understanding & Wisdom (see it here) I talk about our need for biblical knowledge. The only way this can happen is by reading and hearing from the Bible.

I believe one of the reasons Mary was used by God was because she was rooted in the knowledge God gives through the Scriptures. This Christmas season, lets emulate Mary and others who show us the benefits of reading the Word!

[i] Tom Simcox, “The Woman God Chose,” Israel My Glory, November/December 2017, Volume 75, Number 6, 26-27.

Christmas 2018 – Day 19

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As part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 19: Yesterday (12/18) marked exactly one week until Christmas! We’re finishing up our mini-series in Isaiah today by looking at Isaiah 40:3-5. It says,

 

The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken
.’”

For those of us who have read the gospels, we know that this was prophecy fulfilled by John the Baptist (John 1:23) who preached the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. But what does Isaiah mean when he talks about valleys being moved up and mountains made low? What about “crooked places shall be made straight”?

There are multiple levels to this: physical and spiritual representations. The physical one was that Rome had made roads that were flat and wide and good for traveling. This was the first time in history that interconnected highways had existed and Jesus was born into that time.

The spiritual side was that Jesus was the consistent and good road to heaven. He had broken down the barriers and revealed the “glory of the Lord.” When we consider that the people of Isaiah’s time would never have been able to imagine Roman roads or how exactly the Messiah could come and fulfill all these prophesies we must be humble enough to recognize that there are things that we can’t fully understand in God’s future timeline. And yet, God has given us knowledge and wisdom. I just self-published a book titled Biblical Knowledge, Understanding & Wisdom which talks about how much God wants to help us understand the Bible and help others understand it also. We must have faith in Jesus, the Lord of Christmas, that He will reveal to us what we should know, since He has made a perfect road to heaven!

Christmas 2018 – Day 18

Is 11:1

 

As part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 18: as part of our mini-Isaiah portion, we’re looking at Isaiah 11:1 today. It says,

 

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”

Here, Isaiah slips over the Messiah’s lineage being from King David and goes to his father, Jesse. Why? Well, Isaiah couldn’t have known but by the time Jesus came to earth as the Messiah the line of David had ceased being kings and they were just peasants. But God knew. So the royal line started with Jesse who was a farmer and shepherd from Bethlehem and culminated back in Bethlehem with a peasant kid who was raised in a carpenter shop. Contrasts.

But what are the significances of using “Rod” and “Branch”? God implies the lineage of Jesse and David as a “tree” and by the time Jesus was born the lineage looked to be lost. But this is Israel – God’s chosen People. He keeps the right things intact. So there was still a “stump” and “roots” for Jesus to come from. And Jesus wouldn’t be another “root” or small “shoot” instead He would be the strongest “Branch.” We see God’s common contrast of royalty and poverty. Of worthy and unworthy. Of fully God and fully Man.

Next, in verses 3-5, it talks about the Messiah won’t judge by physical sight or hearing. But that’s all we know, so how will He judge? He will judge in spiritual “righteousness” as only He can. I love how the name Immanuel and Christmastime in general celebrate God coming down and being a human. And yet, Jesus is fully God and able to do everything we can’t do for ourselves!

Christmas 2018 – Day 17

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As part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 17: as part of our mini-Isaiah portion, we’re looking at Isaiah 9:6 today. But…

Yesterday in Isaiah 7:14 we talked about the use of the word “virgin” and the name “Immanuel.” As I mentioned on Day 14 (as “Emmanuel”) and yesterday I want to briefly talk about the name. Immanuel means “God with us” as Matthew 1:23 explains. But why wasn’t Jesus directly called Immanuel? In this article, “GotQuestions?” explains that it was more about the meaning of the name than actually having people call the Messiah by that name. This article also mentions Isaiah 9:6 which says,

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
.”

In years past (Devotional 74) I’ve explained the meaning of each word but I would like to focus on the use of “Counselor” here. “Counselor” is ya’ats in Hebrew and means, “to advise, consult, purpose, plan.” I’ve just published a book titled Biblical Knowledge, Understanding & Wisdom (get it here) so godly wisdom is on the forefront of my mind. Can you imagine a person who can “advise” and judge righteously? Someone who properly has the government on their shoulder. Tomorrow’s Devotional will explain exactly that!! Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2018 – Day 16

6c71ae8a2e28de60d9b754ddbfb08722--isaiah--isaiah-bibleAs part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 16: We just finished up our week on Psalms. Today we’ll start in on a mini-series on Isaiah by looking at Isaiah 7:14.

In Isaiah chapter 7 the prophet Isaiah predicts the Messiah. For context, God is trying to encourage Ahaz and asks Ahaz to request a sign. But instead of obeying God and allowing himself to be cheered up, Ahaz is arrogant enough to quote Deuteronomy 6:16 back to God! But God is not flustered, He proceeds and gives this prophesy:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

What an incredible verse! And yet for years there has been debate around the word “virgin.” Even this week I saw a tweet mocking the use of the word “virgin” when the word can also be rendered “young lady.” But my question is simple: What kind of a sign is it for a young lady to have a baby? You can mock the Bible and you can mock the spiritualnatural but at least use common sense if you’re dealing with a prophecy! The miracle must be a virgin giving birth or there is nothing special. (And we’ll talk more about the importance of the name “Immanuel” tomorrow.)

The fulfillment of this prophecy was not going to happen in Ahaz’s day, but it would happen in God’s perfect timing. As we look back we find ourselves encouraged and cheered up at the words God has given. May we find hope in knowing that we serve the one true God who is able to prophesy and fulfill His amazing love and salvation through the story of Christmas!