Thursday, December 29, 2011

+DEV+ The Setting: Bethlehem

Date: December 29, 2011 11:08 PM
Topic: +DEV+ The Setting: Bethlehem

The Setting: Bethlehem

"'But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel...'" (Micah 5:2).
Scripture Focus: Micah 5:1-5

The words of the Christmas carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem" portray a peaceful, still, sleepy town on the night Jesus was born. Yet with all the family reunions going on in Bethlehem, the place must have been quite a spot for celebrating during the day. Indeed, Bethlehem was unlike the larger, more noteworthy cities such as nearby Jerusalem. Still - as the prophet Micah attested - it was a place of which God had taken note since the very beginning of the history of His people. While God came down that first Christmas night, many in Bethlehem caroused; others slept; all cowered under the shadow of an evil government.

And the treasure of heaven was hidden. No one knew what God was doing. Many still do not know. How often our preoccupations, inactivity, or fears prohibit us from focusing our heads and hearts on what the Lord is doing right under our noses!

The name Bethlehem means "House of Bread." The true Bread of Life was brought to us in lowliness so that we might be raised up with Him.

Insight: "O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin and enter in - be born in us today" (Phillips Brooks, 1865).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

+DEV+ Seekers: The Wise Men

Date: December 28, 2011 11:22 PM
Topic: +DEV+ Seekers: The Wise Men

Seekers: The Wise Men

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).
Scripture Focus: Matthew 2:1-10

Speculation and tradition surround the characters of the Magi. We envision three of them; we give them names; we picture them in the stable with shepherds the night Jesus was born. None of those notions is in the Bible. We know that these gentile religious/political advisors came from a distant country laden with gifts, searching diligently until finally reaching Jerusalem and Bethlehem some time after Jesus' birth. They found Mary at her house (Matthew 2:11) with the child (not the "baby"), and they worshiped.

Their journey started with calculations of their own heathen wisdom. But God reached down to them and directed them, causing their faith to grow by way of their longing. Had not God prepared them and awakened faith in them, they never could have persisted and dropped immediately to their knees, knowing the little toddler in a diaper to be The King, God's gift to the entire world.

You may know the Bible stories about Jesus. Go the extra steps of the journey to learn Who He is.

Insight: Let's begin our journey and believe in the Christ Who came without riches so that our lives might be rich in Him

+DEV+ Set Design: Stable, Manger

Date: December 28, 2011 1:03 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Set Design: Stable, Manger

Set Design: Stable, Manger

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 4:14-16

God sent every angel in heaven to announce the birth of Jesus, then made His first home in this world a cowshed with a feeding trough for a cradle. The first throne for the miraculously conceived baby, Christ the Lord, was a manger. It held the King of the entire universe; it was made of wood from a tree He created. If it perplexes you and me, how strange it must have seemed to Mary and Joseph. These lowly circumstances foreshadowed much in Jesus' life that would challenge the assumptions of what a king should have. But despite the pathetic accommodations, God exalted Him to the highest place so that at His name every knee might bow (See Philippians 2:9-10.).

The first knees to bow may have been those of Mary and Joseph. Mary placed him in a manger, Luke tells us (2:7). Why? Wouldn't she and Joseph want to just hold Him? The awe of God's everlasting promise being fulfilled so intimately gave Mary pause...perhaps she stepped back to worship. May we also bend our knees to worship the Christ child.

Insight: In the humiliation of cloths, manger and stable, He was available and close at hand to shepherds, to Mary and Joseph, to us.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

+DEV+ The Townsfolk: Innkeeper

Date: December 27, 2011 12:20 AM
Topic: +DEV+ The Townsfolk: Innkeeper

The Townsfolk: Innkeeper

"In my Father's house are many rooms...I am going there to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). "...there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7b).
Scripture Focus: John 14:1-4

With the Roman Empire inventorying the population, Joseph left Nazareth and returned to Bethlehem, his hometown. Why did he and Mary find no assistance from other family members who might have been there? Perhaps the shame of Mary's pregnancy still burned. Maybe their nighttime arrival in Bethlehem made finding relatives difficult. Or possibly the baby's insistence on coming presented too much urgency. Whatever the case, dear Joseph sought lodgings for Mary. From that course of events, we have conjured "the innkeeper."

Not only does he (she?) have no lines recorded in Scripture, he is not even in Scripture! The one word we have dared assign this character is "No." Joseph may have wondered, "Would he knowingly turn away the Messiah?" Though the expectant parents did not understand the governing grace of God's plan that night, we can assume that somehow a person at the inn denied their request for a room.

"No room." Those words ring an eerie echo in our ears. Is there room in our hearts for the Savior?

Insight: "O, come to my heart, Lord Jesus! There is room in my heart for Thee" (Emily E. Elliot, 1864).

Sunday, December 25, 2011

+DEV+ The Heavenly Host: Army

Date: December 25, 2011 11:21 PM
Topic: +DEV+ The Heavenly Host: Army

The Heavenly Host: Army

"Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests'" (Luke 2:13-14).
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 1:4-9

God sent out the entire angelic army of heaven - not one left behind - for the most gladsome event ever: the birth of the Savior! How many shepherds were there? I suppose it could have been as few as two. Surely, they were outnumbered. Sheer terror seized them. Every angelic visitation in the Bible struck fear in the heart of the visited. How much more so would thousands upon thousands of celestial beings who came calling in the dead of night?

Artists depicting angels have fixed our minds on soft, serene individuals, baby-like or girlish, the likes of which you may find on Christmas cards or atop a Christmas tree. These representations wilt compared to the dazzling multitude of heavenly soldiers indicated by the Greek translation of "heavenly host." Reducing God's messengers to sweet, winged creatures also reduces the impact of this world-changing point of time. We do not want to lessen the defining moment of all history...the moment that identifies us as worshippers of the Christ, proclaiming "Glory to God in the highest!"

Insight: "Let all God's angels worship him," we read in Hebrews 1:6. Let us, too, worship with elation and not miss the true celebration!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

+DEV+ The Baby: Jesus Christ

Date: December 22, 2011 10:26 PM
Topic: +DEV+ The Baby: Jesus Christ

The Baby: Jesus Christ

"A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world" (John 16:21).
Scripture Focus: John 16:17-14

Is there anything sweeter or more captivating than a newborn? This is how our Lord began . . . exactly as we did, save for sin. He had our same soft baby skin, silky hair, cries of hunger, soiled diapers. But He was Immanuel, God with us. His parents must have been won over by His infant charms while marveling at His arrival.

God could have come to earth as an angel. But that would have been too frightening. No one would have felt they could touch Him. Why didn't He come as a fabulously rich King in the splendor that was due? We would have felt too poor, worthless, and distant. He chose to break into our world as a newborn because in His many ways of inviting us to know Him, He invites us through something to which we're all attracted: a baby.

The disgrace of Mary's circumstances, the hardships that followed, the lonely delivery out in a cowshed...all of these agonies would dissipate as the spotlight now illuminated the human, yet otherworldly face of the Baby King.

Insight: "The Lord has done great things for us...Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy" (Psalm 126:3, 5).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

+DEV+ The Animals: Sheep

Date: December 21, 2011 9:19 PM
Topic: +DEV+ The Animals: Sheep

The Animals: Sheep

" was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed...but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 1:4-9

We have no reason to believe that the sheep from the fields accompanied the shepherds into Bethlehem to find the Messiah in a manger. More likely, the unreasoning animals stayed put until the shepherds returned to them. Being pastured just outside of Bethlehem, they were no doubt designated for sacrifice during the Passover celebration which was close at hand.

Old Testament law prescribed with detail how the Israelites were to sacrifice spotless lambs in atonement for sins. For generations that practice would be a graphic picture of the need for the blood of One who was perfect to cover over the sins of the imperfect. Many sheep would die at the altar, stirring up in the hearts of God's people a yearning for a better way. When God sent Jesus to earth, the better way - the last and final spotless Lamb - had arrived. The shepherd's flock had a role in this act of the drama, too. They remind us that the real Lamb who took away the sin of the world was just beyond the field in a lowly cattle stall.

Insight: God's promises have stood from days of old. Abraham assured young Isaac that God Himself would provide the lamb (Genesis 22:8). He did, indeed!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

+DEV+ The Return: Glorifying

Date: December 20, 2011 9:58 PM
Topic: +DEV+ The Return: Glorifying

The Return: Glorifying

"The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told" (Luke 2:20).
Scripture Focus: Luke 2:17-20

Lights! News! Action! That was how the most memorable of all nights went for the shepherds. After searching Bethlehem, they found Mary, Joseph and the baby exactly as the angel said. They approached the little family in the sparse stable, feeling quite at home . . . their own filth and odor would not have mattered there. God had designed a birthplace that wouldn't shun these inglorious visitors. He still bids us approach Him today!

And what did the shepherds do after seeing the Savior? They told everyone! People were amazed at their story. Some believed them; many did not. After all, why would a shepherd be deemed credible, and why would something this magnificent be revealed to ones as ordinary as they? In the ordinariness of my life and yours centuries later, aren't you glad He worked in this way?

The shepherds returned to the fields, their work now sanctified, now a very part of their worship. They returned glorifying and praising. May our post-holiday life overflow with the same.

Insight: Like the shepherds who heard and heeded, witnessed and worshipped, so must we!

Monday, December 19, 2011

+DEV+ The Nighttime Intrusion

Date: December 19, 2011 9:52 PM
Topic: +DEV+ The Nighttime Intrusion

The Nighttime Intrusion

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you...'" (Luke 2:10-11).
Scripture Focus: Luke 2:8-16

King David temporarily improved the shepherd image a thousand years earlier. So when the angel's voice directed our shepherds to the town of David, they listened. In fact, everything about the angel's words gripped them. "Do not be afraid," he told the normally brave ones who could fight off wolves handily. "I bring you good news of great joy;" how welcomed that would be for ones used to hardship. "Today a Savior has been born to you." Today? Now? After generations of waiting? Would their mundane lives of sheep tending now be punctuated by the event foretold to them for centuries? Amazing! The angel declared that the Savior was born "to you." Nothing in society was ever for them...unless it was blame for thievery or disgust for their filth. Yet he said the Savior was for them.

In other translations of the Bible "Behold!" is found in the angel's greeting. I tell my children it means "Wow! Look!" That is exactly what God would have us do: be awed at His miraculous plan, and draw near to see how it is for you and me.

Insight: "The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me" (Psalm 116:6).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

+DEV+ The Lowest: Shepherds

Date: December 18, 2011 10:34 PM
Topic: +DEV+ The Lowest: Shepherds

The Lowest: Shepherds

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them..." (Luke 2:8-9a).
Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 1:27-31

Remember church Christmas pageant shepherds? All the spare kids wore dads' bathrobes and towels fastened on their heads. Only one fellow had to worry about memorizing a line. The shepherd role provided parts for leftover youngsters. I wonder if the actual shepherds of ancient times felt "leftover" themselves.

They were the lowest in society, rivaled only by tax collectors. The nature of shepherding meant these men and young boys were illiterate and often dirty and smelly. Accustomed to outdoor living and sleeping, they were rough around the edges. They were deemed unclean, incompetent, lazy and untrustworthy. Some actually earned their poor reputations; others were maligned unfairly. To these inarticulate, ragged fellows came the first announcement of "It's a boy! And He is Messiah!" To these outcasts of society came the only personal invitation to see the newborn baby, King of the Universe.

Even from birth, Christ came to lowly, sinful people like shepherds and like you and me.

Insight: He was the Good Shepherd as well as the Lamb, and we the humble recipients of His divine invitation to come and see.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

+DEV+ The Angel: Gabriel

Date: December 15, 2011 7:13 PM
Topic: +DEV+ The Angel: Gabriel

The Angel: Gabriel

"Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you..." (Daniel 9:22-23).
Scripture Focus: Daniel 9:21-27

The Christmas plays performed by youngsters I know depict Gabriel in a flowing white gown and sparkly halo. When my friends little niece donned the costume one year, she was adorable. But the Bible tells us that God's heavenly messenger struck fear in the people to whom he appeared. Daniel, Zechariah, and Mary all trembled at his arrival. His name means power, and evidently his majestic, dazzling visage projected just that. Gabriel was commander in chief of the heavenly inaccurate our softened ideas of him must be! Scripture records that it was Gabriel who spoke to Daniel (8:16, 9:21); we do not read of him again until some 600 years later when he was commissioned by God to deliver urgent messages to Zechariah and Mary. God used him at momentous times.

Though we hardly know Gabriel, of this we are sure: God sent His mighty angel to common people to announce the coming of His Son whose power and majesty would know no end. May the joy of the angel's news thrill you!

Insight: "Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o'er all the earth; ye who sang creation's story, now proclaim Messiah's birth" (James Montgomery).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

+DEV+ The Dilemma

Date: December 14, 2011 9:34 PM
Topic: +DEV+ The Dilemma

The Dilemma

"Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly" (Matthew 1:19).
Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 2:24-25

Joseph's intention to leave Mary was understandable. The two were pledged to be married, a notion similar to engagement only more serious. Betrothal had all the responsibilities of marriage, minus consummation. So when his beloved left for three months (to visit Elizabeth) and returned pregnant, what was he to think? Disappointment thrust him into logical solutions: he would not expose her, but he must divorce her. He would do so quietly to protect her from shame and ñ worse - from the stoning the law required if she alone were guilty. But God intervened by dispatching His messenger again, this time to redirect Joseph's sensible plans onto God's sovereign plans. Had Joseph been a godless fellow, he would have dismissed that dream as a delusion. But honorable Joseph knew it to be the dependable Word of God.

By taking Mary for his wife, he was taking on her shame and guilt. Do you see the foreshadowing of how Jesus would bear the shame and guilt not only of His parents, but of the entire world? He came for us!

Insight: Joy to the World! The Lord is come! The coming emerges from tears and hardship in order to fill our hearts with gladness.

+DEV+ The Adoptive Father: Joseph

Date: December 14, 2011 12:04 AM
Topic: +DEV+ The Adoptive Father: Joseph

The Adoptive Father: Joseph

"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife" (Matthew 1:24).
Scripture Focus: Matthew 1:18-25

A main character in the Christmas drama, Joseph is the only one with no lines. Christian singer/songwriter Michael Card imagined poignant words for him in "Joseph's Song," saying, "How can a man be father to the Son of God?" That had to be a question dear Joseph pondered. All his life he'd been a simple carpenter...valued in society, but not elevated. And now he would be intimately woven into God's redemption plan. Joseph would gain no power, wealth or applause for his involvement; rather fear, uncertainty, and embarrassment awaited him. Yet he rose from his sleep and did exactly as he'd been told.

Joseph was of David's line. The angel noted that significance by addressing him as "Joseph, son of David" (vs.20). He would be the adoptive father of the Savior so that through the Savior he might in turn be adopted by Him! "In love [Christ] predestined us to be adopted as his sons" (Ephesians 1:5). If we belong to Christ, we are of David's line, too...children of promise (Galatians 3:29, 4:28).

Insight: Joseph believed God's word; it was all he had to go by. Thousands of years after it’s writing, the Bible still tells all we need!

Monday, December 12, 2011

+DEV+ Magnify Him!

Date: December 12, 2011 10:19 PM
Topic: +DEV+ Magnify Him!

Magnify Him!

"For the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation" (Luke 1:49-50).
Scripture Focus: Luke 1: 46-55

Unmarried and pregnant, Mary would be scorned by many a townsperson skeptical of her story. Extreme consequences were due, according to Jewish law. But her hymn, the Magnificat, sings joy and confidence in God. Nearly every line comes from the ancient Scriptures. While magnifying her Lord from the very depths of her soul, she drew the glory away from herself and onto the God of her fathers who was setting in motion His promised redemption plan. Mary's words began in present tense, but moved to past tense as she spoke of how God already had lifted the lowly and turned sorrow to joy. Why would she proclaim this while cruel Herod still terrorized God's people?

Mary knew God would see His plan to the end. She spoke with such certainty that it was as if it were already so. Anchored in His constancy, she knew the God Whose words came for centuries through the prophets, but Whose Word now was His Son, and - wonder of wonders! - her Son. Jesus is God's last and best Word. Know Him; magnify Him.

Insight: Anchor yourself in the unchanging God whose great "Christmas gift" - salvation through Jesus - will change your heart more and more each day.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

+DEV+ Do Not Be Afraid

Date: December 11, 2011 9:31 PM
Topic: +DEV+ Do Not Be Afraid

Do Not Be Afraid

"Mary was greatly troubled at [the angel's] words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary...'" (Luke 1:29-30).
Scripture Focus: Luke 1:26-33

The angel's greeting had Mary bewildered. Why would he come to her or to anyone in small-town Nazareth? With Herod tyrannizing the Jews, kingdom hopes seemed completely out of reach. Mary had been born into and raised during a time of bitterness for God's people, circumstances that perhaps moved her parents to give her the name that means "sea of bitterness." In this unlikely place with a girl from a lowly family during a time of despair, God came near...and the script begins to take surprising turns.

Mary's fears were eased by Gabriel's assurance that she had found grace with God. Favor can be earned, but grace is freely given. Mary found God's grace while she wasn't even looking! God approached her with freely-given, unearned grace.

And this is exactly how He approaches us today. In the messiness of our lives, while we're lost in our sorrows, God reaches out to us with a free gift beyond compare: new life in Jesus Christ and salvation in His name. Do not be afraid to accept it.

Insight: "...weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5b). Your "morning" is now. Christ-mas morning will hold more joy than ever!

Friday, December 9, 2011

+DEV+ The Young Girl: Mary

Date: December 9, 2011 3:58 AM
Topic: +DEV+ The Young Girl: Mary

The Young Girl: Mary

"And Mary said, 'My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...From now on all generations will call me blessed'" (Luke 1:46-48).
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 7:10-14

With the stage set, enter the character who has stolen hearts for centuries: Mary. She was a real person in an actual historic time and place...the one whom every generation - including ours - would call "blessed" (vs. 48). But with the tendency of sincere believers to either exalt her and see her as sinless, or to ignore her completely, we have mostly allowed ourselves only a sentimental view of Mary, diminishing the world-shattering impact of the incarnation.

Mary did not praise herself. Rather she magnified and rejoiced in God. She pointed to Him. Though she's a main character in this great drama, it is actually God we learn more of through her.

As we dwell on Mary and her part in the Christmas story, we'll see that she was an instrument of God's providence, one through whom He would carry out His redemption plan. A theme arises that has been woven through Scripture since Genesis: in the most unlikely of places, hope often comes. May hope rise for you this Christmas season!

Insight: Resisting the tendency to glory in the glitter of Christmastime, let's sing instead with Mary, praising God for what He has done.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

+DEV+ The First Baby: John

Date: December 8, 2011 12:37 AM
Topic: +DEV+ The First Baby: John

The First Baby: John

"And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation..." (Luke 1:76-77a).
Scripture Focus: Luke 1: 57-80

How long would Zechariah be unable to speak? After hundreds of years of silence from God to His people, now the priest himself had been silenced! When his speech was restored, praise flowed like a river for the covenant-keeping God. No trace of doubt remained. Confident in the Lord and upright, he raised John to be strong in spirit (vs. 80) and groomed for his task: preparing the people for Jesus.

Elizabeth understood the supporting role - not the starring role - her baby would play. She happily submitted to that, acknowledging the honor Mary had been given. The strength and humility fostered in John through his parents shaped him into the adult who would stand up to the sway of popularity and declare, "I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him...[The] joy is mine...he must become greater; I must become less" (John 3:28-30).

Let your heart be prepared for the Christ-child who entered our sorrowing world for the joy set before Him: you and me!

Insight: As thoughts of Christmas preparations come, joyfully prepare to extol the covenant-keeping God who has not forgotten a single one of us.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

+DEV+ The Priest's Wife: Elizabeth

Date: December 7, 2011 3:02 AM
Topic: +DEV+ The Priest's Wife: Elizabeth

The Priest's Wife: Elizabeth

"'But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy'" (Luke 1:43-44).
Scripture Focus: Luke 1: 36-45

It was Elizabeth's disgrace to be barren. Generations of her family history repeated the story. But God always worked through that disgrace, granting the seed which carried out His covenant promise. His promise to Zechariah would be fulfilled, too. Elizabeth - now six months pregnant - was elated. How immense her joy over what the Lord had done for her!

Yet she knew the child to be born was the forerunner for One even greater. The baby's ecstatic leap inside her womb confirmed the remarkable truth: long-expected Messiah was coming! Elizabeth and her beloved relative, Mary - one old, one young - stood in awe while God made the impossible possible in their lives. Elizabeth rejoiced in Mary's belief that what the Lord had said to her would be accomplished (vs. 45). Quite the opposite of her husband's first response to the angel's message!

With the stage set, the action would now move forward. Marvelously, it continues to move forward so that the birth of the Savior touches us still.

Insight: "Come, thou long-expected Jesus...hope of all the earth thou art; dear Desire of ev'ry nation, joy of ev'ry longing heart" (Charles Wesley).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

+DEV+ The Prophet: Isaiah

Date: December 6, 2011 1:54 AM
Topic: +DEV+ The Prophet: Isaiah

The Prophet: Isaiah

"For to us a child is born...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).
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 9:1-7

The opening act of the Christmas drama began in the Old Testament. For centuries God had been laying the groundwork for this moment when the promises He'd made - promises that began as soon as man chose sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) - would be fulfilled. Hundreds of years before Jesus was even born, Isaiah wrote precise details about the Savior who would come from David's line to redeem His people. He told of a virgin who would conceive and give birth to a son. Isaiah wrote that He would be called Immanuel, God with us. God in human form would be given to us and would be with us. Amazing!

After centuries of waiting, God's people must have been thrilled to hear the words of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Malachi, and others. Through years of silence, of exile and captivity, they would long for a word that would renew their hope and expectations. We, too, renew our hope during this Advent season, our hope in the second coming of Christ when He will return and make all things new.

Insight: Let's wait with joyful expectation and hope for the return of our King, remembering that every promise ever uttered by the Father has been kept.

Monday, December 5, 2011

+DEV+ God’s Favor

Date: December 5, 2011 1:05 AM
Topic: +DEV+ God’s Favor

God’s Favor

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31).
Scripture Focus: Luke 1:26-37

Every married Jewish woman coveted the promised role of mother to the Messiah, but for a young teenager named Mary, it was probably the furthest thing from her mind. Betrothed to Joseph, her actual marriage had yet to take place. Imagine her surprise when the angel appeared proclaiming his amazing news. What had she done to find favor with God? Why had He chosen her? Could this be a mistake?

It is revealed in her story that even when she realized what the consequences could be—rejection, possibly even death—she humbled herself to God’s will. The angel proclaimed, “Do not be afraid,” and she believed him at this word. Mary found favor with God because her heart was open to His leading, not because of anything she did, but because of her willingness to humble herself before Him, no matter the cost. Imagine what she would have missed out on had she turned her back on the calling. Imagine what we miss out on every day because we are afraid to step out and say yes to God.

Insight: Imagine what God can do with you, if you too humble yourself before Him. Say yes to His calling and let the adventure begin.

Friday, December 2, 2011

+DEV+ Mary’s Song

Date: December 2, 2011 12:08 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Mary’s Song

Mary’s Song

“Mary said, ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.’” (Luke 1:46-48)
Scripture Focus: Luke 1:46-55

Mary, a young Jewish virgin from Nazareth, was chosen by God to be the mother of His only Son. When an angel suddenly appeared to her and told her the surprising news, Mary’s humble response was simply to say, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (vs.38)

Shortly after that amazing experience Mary went to visit Elizabeth, an older relative who was also pregnant. Mary may have been somewhat in a state of shock after her visit with an angel, but talking with Elizabeth helped clear her head. She began thinking about what a great gift God was giving her, and she praised Him from her heart

Though the Bible says she “said” the words rather than singing them, her words are commonly referred to as a hymn (vs. 46-55). It was probably sung by Christians through the centuries for worship. With great humility she praised God for His goodness to her and His chosen people, for His faithfulness and power, and for His holiness and mercy.

Like Mary, we can praise God from a full heart.

Insight: Mary’s hymn was personal: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” That song, coming from a personal relationship with Him, is what God longs to hear.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

+DEV+ A Birthday Song

Date: December 1, 2011 12:08 AM
Topic: +DEV+ A Birthday Song

A Birthday Song

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” (Luke 2:13-14)
Scripture Focus: Luke 2:1-12

Every Christmas my friend’s family gets together and acts out the story of Jesus’ birth. Then they sing happy birthday to Jesus. The grandchildren love it!

Jesus’ first birthday song was sung by a heavenly choir to shepherds watching their sheep. Throughout the ages since then, musicians have written and performed many variations of that simple praise song. Beautiful as many of them are, I’m sure none measures up to the original.

Jesus’ birthday song doesn’t, at first glance, even seem to be about Him, but more about God the Father (“Glory to God in the highest”) and humankind (“men on whom his favor rests”). But Jesus is referred to in the song—“peace.” He came to bring peace to those who would trust in Him. He is called The Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6.

Humans can sing His praises better than the angels because Jesus came to die for our sin, to give us “peace that transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Insight: Jesus came to fill our hearts with His peace. Do you sometimes take that for granted? We should praise Him for it every day.