Luke 1:14-17 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
In this season of advent, we wait and prepare for the Lord’s coming by daily being set apart for the Lord. The language of joy, delight, and rejoicing is associated with God’s salvation, and that is what occurs when we live for the gospel. Therefore, as John exemplified, may our lives also speak and welcome God’s salvation wherever we go. May there be an increase of joy, delight, and rejoicing as we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord.
Lord Jesus we thank you that all your promises are yes and amen. We pray for a greater experience of joy and delight in our hearts as we live set apart for the gospel. We pray for a revival in our personal times, in our corporate experience, and in the ministries we are engaged in. Amen.
Luke 1:11-13 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John
In the above passages, we are shown how Zechariah waited and prepared for the Lord’s coming—and that was in prayer! What have you been praying for recently that resonates with the very heart of God?
We are not sure what Zechariah was praying for—but he was praying such prayers that all of heaven heard. Perhaps he was praying for a child at his old age, or he was praying for the promise of the Savior to come. One thing we can infer from the passage is that Elizabeth’s barrenness wasn’t just about this couple’s personal issues, rather it speaks of the very barrenness that was going on not only in their lives, but also in whole world—the spiritual barrenness.
Today, let’s pray together for God’s salvation and rescue to come to our generation. Let’s pray that our spiritual barrenness will be turned into an outpouring of His presence. Pray for a revival in your personal devotional lives.
Luke 1:5-7 5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Do you hear the echo of the OT in the passages above?
The reference to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s old age and their barrenness echoes the very experience of Abraham and Sarah. By this reference, we are taken to the very heart of God’s promise of salvation and covenant, which began with Abraham and Sarah. This shows how the promise of God’s blessing and salvation is now going to be fulfilled with the coming of Christ.
We wait and prepare for the Lord’s coming in this way, by being assured that God’s promises are never thwarted, prevented, frustrated, or delayed. As it says in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Today spend time in prayer, recounting the Lord’s promises, and being assured that the Lord is not slow in keeping them. Worship with the song (click here) Yes and Amen by Matt Redman.
Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
“I often eagerly anticipate birthdays, special outings, and holidays. The excitement grows, and then the day arrives. Sometimes I enjoy the event as fully as I expected to, but sometimes the event falls short. Either way, the special occasion passes by; and we’re left with memories — and maybe some photos. The day cannot be relived. How different is the expectation of the coming of Christ! Through many generations his birth was foretold by prophets, and yet when Jesus was born there were no widespread celebrations. In fact, the inn had no room for him. But some shepherds and wise men, Simeon and the prophet Anna (Luke 2:25-38) quietly celebrated him from the first. Later, others recognized Jesus Christ as the long-expected Messiah and went out to preach the good news.
Today we also look forward to Christmas as we celebrate Jesus’ birth. But when Christmas Day is over, the reality of the Incarnation and the promise of eternal life continue. Each year the Christmas season comes and goes, but what we are really celebrating endures for all eternity! (Upper Room Devotionals: 12/11/16)
Today may we worship in thanksgiving knowing that the source of great joy for all the people has come—Jesus the Messiah.
Lord we thank you that our celebration of your coming is not confined a yearly reminder, but a daily reality that we live in. You came, you died and rose again! Today we rejoice with greater joy, for you have brought us salvation and blessing. Amen.
Let’s worship to the song Joy To The World (click here) by Chris Tomlin
Luke 1:29-30 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.
“Every Advent season I pray to know the Lord more deeply as I read the Christmas story. This year I was struck by the variety of emotions surrounding that first Christmas. Surprise: Mary asked the angel, “How will this be?” (Luke 1:34) when she was told she would be pregnant as a virgin. Rejection: The inn held no room for the soon-to-be savior (Luke 2:7). Fear: The angels often began their message, “Do not be afraid” (Luke 2:10). Joy: Angels told the shepherds to expect great joy (Luke 2:10). Uncertainty: “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19) because she did not know their full implications.
And all of these emotions are summed up in Jesus, Immanuel, “God with us.” Because Jesus Christ took on human form, he experienced every thought and feeling we have. And then he covered each with his love — offering forgiveness and salvation. Christ became fully human and experienced every emotion so that we could come to truly know God’s love. (Upper Room Devotionals: 12/16/17)
What was the angel’s response to Mary when she was greatly troubled? How does this bring joy and comfort?
Lord Jesus, you are Immanuel, God with us! We thank you for being with us through life’s issues, and that you invite us to walk and participate in your work. During this season of Advent, we thank you that it is your constant and consistent love that bring us hope and joy. Amen.
Let’s worship to the song Hearts Waiting (click here) by Matt Redman.
Matthew 10:28 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
“At a time when none of the Christian families in our area owned a Bible, my dad purchased a Bible for me before I was born. One day when I was eleven, my dad told me about the Bible and shared… “‘Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it’” (Mal. 3:10).
“Hearing my dad read this scripture moved me deeply, and I committed myself to the Lord. I did not inherit gold or silver from my parents, but they gave me a great love for God and for scripture. The blessings I have enjoyed throughout my life are the result of this spiritual inheritance. Now, as a father and grandfather, the goal of my life is to do the same for my children and grandchildren. I teach them that if we have the whole world at our disposal but do not have the Lord, we have nothing. On the other hand if we have nothing but the Lord, we are richer than we would be if we had the whole world.” [Ishwarbhai Dabhi (Gujarat, India), The Upper Room, 7.17.18]
1. As biological/spiritual parents, what should we desire to pass on to our children?
2. How do we teach and model having the correct fears, the correct pursuits?
Father, may we burn for you so that fire will pass on to our children.
Let’s worship with Obsession (click here) by Hillsong.
Galatians 6:9 (NIV) Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
“Hi. It’s Bonnie,” said the voice on the phone. “I just wanted you to know that I’ve come back to the Lord.” The ring of excitement in her voice when she said these words identified her as the Bonnie who once attended a Bible study I’d taught… “And you won’t believe this, but I’m helping with a ladies’ Bible study.”
“Bonnie’s story warmed my heart and reminded me that the time and energy I had spent in our Bible study mattered. When things or people don’t turn out as we’d hoped, we may feel as if our work has been in vain. We may even become discouraged and give up. But that day, I learned that nothing we do in the name of Jesus is meaningless. If we do not lose heart and give up, then someday when we’ve forgotten our efforts or written them off as a loss, our “reward” may just ring the doorbell and tell us stories of grace that will fill our hearts with praise.” [Rose Brandon (Ontario, Canada), The Upper Room Daily Devotional, 6.10.19]
1. What is our place in influencing the decisions people are making that count for eternity?
2. How can we live with greater intent to make disciples of all peoples?
Father, empower us and send us to affect lives for eternity.
Let’s worship with Build My Life (click here) by Passion.
1 Timothy 2:4-5 (MSG) He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free.
“After examining my eye, the doctor diagnosed me with a floater… She instructed me not to focus my gaze on the floater but to look beyond the shadow. If I were to focus on the floater, the nerve impulses would be directed toward it — further distorting my vision. The brain is wired to strengthen what we focus on. As I pondered this, I discovered a spiritual truth. If I focus my thoughts on murmuring and complaining about the negative things in my life, I will see only the negative. But if I choose to turn my gaze and focus on Jesus through prayer, praise, and scripture, my vision will clear. I will be able to see beyond my circumstances to God’s greatness and goodness.” [Joanie Shawhan (Wisconsin), The Upper Room Daily Devotional, 8.23.18]
1. What do we tend to focus on when we consider the doctrine of hell? To whom does Scripture point us to?
2. What does 1 Timothy say about God’s desire for all people? How can we make this our focus?
Father, change our focus from “what and where” to “who and how.” May we gaze upon you, lovingly, adoringly, that our hearts would be filled with overflowing praise.
Let’s worship with Lion and the Lamb (click here) by Leeland.
Isaiah 55:9 (NIV) 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“I was with my son his entire life. Two minutes. He entered the world of light and air at 8:20 p.m. on November 22, 1991. And he departed, the doctor said, at 8:22.
“Do you have a name for the baby?” asked one of the nurses.
“Toby,” Susan said. “It’s short for a biblical name, Tobiah, which means ‘God is good.'” We had long thought about the name for this child. We didn’t particularly feel God’s goodness at that moment. The name was what we believed, not what we felt. It was what we wanted to feel again someday.
The words of C.S. Lewis, describing the lion Aslan, kept coming to mind: “He’s not a tame lion. But he’s good.” We clung to that image of untamed and fearsome goodness, even as we continued to struggle with the question: Why would God create a child to live two minutes?
He didn’t. He didn’t create Toby to live two minutes … God created Toby for eternity. He created each of us for eternity…” [Marshall Shelley, “Two Minutes to Eternity,” Christianity Today, July 2011]
1. How does Isaiah 55 speak to our seeming need to ‘understand’ God, especially in relation to the doctrine of hell?
2. When was a time you were challenged to believe God is good and what has been the fruit of that?
3. “God created each of us for eternity.” – What do you think about that?
God, our lives testify that you are good and we humbly declare your ways and your thoughts are higher.
Let’s sing to the Lord, proclaiming He is the Good Good Father (click here) by Chris Tomlin.
Psalm 96:13 (NIV) 13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.
“The picture of Jesus as the coming judge is the central feature of another absolutely vital and nonnegotiable Christian belief: that there will be a judgment in which the creator God will set the world right once and for all. The word judgment carries negative overtones for a good many people in our liberal and postliberal world. We need to remind ourselves that throughout the Bible, not least in the Psalms, God’s coming judgment is a good thing, something to be celebrated, longed for, yearned over…
In a world of systematic injustice, bullying, violence, arrogance, and oppression, the thought that there might come a day when the wicked are firmly put in their place and the poor and weak are given their due is the best news there can be. Faced with a world in rebellion, a world full of exploitation and wickedness, a good God must be a God of judgment.” [N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, Kindle 2179-2203]
1. In the psalm, creation is pictured as eagerly awaiting the Lord’s coming judgment. What is our reaction to the truth that Jesus will come to judge?
2. How should the promise of the Lord’s coming to judge affect our lives today?
3. How are we to understand justice in this world in light of God’s coming judgment?
Father, may we join with all of creation in the longing for your coming.
Let’s worship with Raise a Hallelujah (click here) by UPPERROOM.