Day One: Plan A…

Psalm 96:1-4a (NIV)

Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise.

In William Shakespeare’s play, “As You Like It”, the melancholy and often critical Jacques begins his well-known monologue like this:

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts…”

Take a long broad look at Exodus and we can see that world has become the stage, but its focus is not the mere players, famous as they may be – Moses, Pharaoh, Aaron, Miriam, etc. In Exodus the stage is set for the main player, the Lord Himself! He doesn’t just merely play His part, exiting and entering on a whim; no, He takes center stage to reveal Himself in all His glory. It is by Him that the rest of the world will now find their parts and their role. He is center stage – not Moses, not Pharaoh, not the Israelites…not even us.

The God of “center stage” has come to save His people, and that was Plan A! The good news is that there is no plan B. Therefore, He continues to save! This is the God of Moses, and this is our God too whom we know through Jesus Christ. Therefore, sing a new song…really sing! Sing to the Lord and praise His name. Proclaim His salvation! Yes, the salvation that has rescued you and brought you into the wonder and blessing of God’s great love. Proclaim that today in your homes, in your workplaces, with your friends, with your families, and in your communities. Sing it, shout it, talk about it, demonstrate it in love. Let His glory fill your life today. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise.

Spend time in prayer and singing to your favorite worship song, remembering the great things that God has done in and through your life – thanking Him and rejoicing in Him. Let God and His greatness be center stage in your life today. “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise!”

– TR

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Day Five: Simeon

Luke 2:25-32 – Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

“Simeon also exemplifies how one can define life in terms of faithfully following God and serving him with joy and surrender. When his duty is done, he is ready to be with the Lord…Simeon’s sense of identification with doing God’s will and then surrendering to the timing of his own death shows just how committed he is to God’s timing. His attitude is paralleled by Paul in Philippians 1:21–26. Here is a servant who seeks only to do what God has called him to do. The timing of his life and death are in God’s hands.

“Furthermore, having seen Jesus and knowing him, Simeon is at peace. Everything else in his life pales in comparison. He has met Jesus, and the details of the rest of his life’s résumé are irrelevant. One’s walk with God and faithful service to him are what define everything else about life.” [Bock, Darrell L.. Luke (The NIV Application Commentary) (pp. 95-97). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.]

Spirit-filled expectations will put our whole life on the line for Jesus being revealed. Nothing else will matter, life is simply life for Jesus and His revealing God’s love to the world. He is better than life itself.

Worship: “He Shall Reign Forevermore” by Chris Tomlin – Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5UXgs6nvGM

Prayer: Father, teach me the way of faithful obedience and how to rely more and more on the Spirit’s leading in my life. Today, may I experience the Spirit-filled expectations that put everything on the line for Jesus. May nothing else be more important than Jesus and Him being known through my life. For He is truly better than life! I pray for my friends and family, my co-workers and neighbors, that they will come to know You and experience the fullness of your salvation in their lives. Please rescue them Lord, rescue them with your love and power. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

– TR

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Day Four: Zechariah

Luke 1:11-20 (NIV) – Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 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. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord…he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord…to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

“Zechariah teaches us that God occasionally instructs saints through difficult times. Sometimes underestimating God is as dangerous as rebelling against him. Our sin may not be a matter of doing overt wrong but of being hesitant to pursue righteousness and to trust fully in the Lord. Once God speaks, we should respond.

“People often pursue relationships or actions they know are wrong, often with a sense of having been a victim, as if that justifies their turning away from God. But we can also do the same thing using more subtlety, with a type of lukewarmness that says, “I am happy with where I am spiritually, so I will not pursue God as in former days.” Such a “cruise control” approach risks a slow spiritual decline. One senses that Zechariah needed a fresh lesson of faith to avoid such a slow motion spiritual fall.

“The fact that Zechariah doubted the angel’s word meant he was already at risk. What God promises, he will perform—only he will do it in his time and sometimes in surprising ways. When the time of fulfillment comes, we realize that his timing was better than ours. Perhaps we sometimes wish we could be in the boardroom of heaven, telling God how to make his plans. This passage calls us to see that his plan has its own design and timing. The Creator of the universe knows what he is doing.” [Bock, Darrell L.. Luke (The NIV Application Commentary) (p. 55). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.]

Spirit-filled expectation recognizes that God is at work in our lives, and that He will work in everything, especially the things that are seemingly most precious in our lives.

Worship: “Glory Hallelujah” by Matt Redman – Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=om9ZtohxZV4

Prayer: Lord, forgive me for my doubts and ‘cruise-control’ living. Turn my heart toward your Word and purposes. I humbly ask that you fill me with the Spirit-filled expectations that recognize who You are and that seek to obey your Word and plans in my life and for Your glory in our church. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

– TR

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Day Three: Mary & Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-45 (NIV) – At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 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. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

“The remark about the Spirit’s filling Elizabeth is crucial, for it indicates that her remarks and emotions are directed by God. In an enticing omission, the text never tells us how Elizabeth knew Mary was expecting this child. This adds to the mystery of the event. The humility reflected here by John’s mother in feeling honored just to be in the presence of the child is expressed more fully by her son in John 3:30: ‘He must become greater; I must become less.’…Peace reigns among those who serve God as each understands his or her place in God’s plan.

“The note of joy in the passage echoes a theme already sounded by the previous events. The sense of privilege and favor at being used by God finds fresh expression here. Elizabeth knows God does not owe her such a central role, yet she is amazed at God’s involvement with her. In asking ‘Why am I so favored?’ (v. 43), she understands that she is but a humble beneficiary of God’s grace.

“We should not miss the significance of the testimony about these children that comes through this grateful mother-to-be. Three points are central: (1) Mary’s child is especially blessed, being at the center of God’s fresh activity; (2) there is amazement in being any part of these astounding events; and (3) joy and blessing come to those who believe that God does what he says.” [Bock, Darrell L.. Luke (The NIV Application Commentary) (p. 64-65). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.]

Spirit-filled expectations are magnified when we seek to be together for God’s glory and plans. When Christ is central we can expect Him to do mighty things.

Worship: “My Soul Magnifies the Lord” by Chris Tomlin – Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAQLR3RlDpk

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, help us to honor Your name, magnify Jesus in our lives, and keep in step with Holy Spirit as you lead us into your plans and purposes. May Christ be at the center of all I say and do, and may He be exalted in the interactions I have with Your people. May we spur one another on to greater worship and love as we experience the grace and hope we have in You. Jesus, be glorified in our churches, in our missional groups, and in our campus ministries. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

– TR

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Day Two: John the Baptist

Luke 1:11-17 – Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 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. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 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. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 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.

“Are we prepared for God and do we respond to his work through the One he sent to lead us to him? John will point the way. Do we take the path of sensing our need for God and of responding to the One who offers forgiveness to us? Are we humble before God, taking the path he calls us to, or do we opt to go our own way?

“John is someone whose dedication to God is expressed even in his lifestyle. That lifestyle, as reported to Zechariah, shows how totally focused John must be as he represents God. Filled with the Spirit from birth, he will testify to Jesus even by kicking in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:44). The presence of the Spirit in Luke is often accompanied by a powerful testimony. Those who are directed by God in the Spirit do not render testimony to God in the privacy of their own home, as the many Spirit-filled characters in the book of Acts will also show. If we have the Spirit, God will be manifest in both our words and deeds.” [Bock, Darrell L.. Luke (The NIV Application Commentary) (p. 53). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.]

Spirit-filled expectations are rooted in hearts prepared for God’s salvation, prepared to receive Him as He is – in His power, love, and holiness.

Worship: “Hearts Waiting” by Matt Redman – Link: https://youtu.be/AFCRxv2e8aA

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for making a way for my salvation through Jesus, and for raising up the many lives who loved me and helped prepare the way for me to know Your love. May I thrive on Spirit-filled expectations today, seeking to live in such a Christ-magnifying way that my love and attitude prepare ways for those in my life to know You and receive Your love. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

– TR

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Day One: The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us…

John 1:1-5,14 (NIV) – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV) – Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

“The prologue to John [John 1:1-14] is not about a message that offers hope, but about The Message that is the only hope. It is not about an idea, but a person. The Word became flesh tells us that God is intent on communicating with us not about mere concepts; he is intent on communicating about himself.

“There is only one hope, and it is God in Christ. In this incarnation God has exhibited the glory and grace that is native to his selfhood; and through this incarnation, humankind can regain the glory and grace it once had when it was created. The natural eye cannot see the glory of God since it is dimmed by sin. Instead, it is necessary for God to work, to self-disclose, to send his Son, who alone has exposed God’s heart (1:18).

“When God takes this initiative, new possibilities are born. Divine power is released into the broken world and its broken lives so that new life is possible. The theological key that the world finds so foreign lies here: Transformation and hope cannot be the fruit of some human endeavor. Only God can take the initiative, and men and women must see, receive, and believe the work he desires to do. And when they do, they are reborn to become God’s children.” [Burge, Gary M.. John (The NIV Application Commentary) (p. 14, 17). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.]

Worship: A Christmas Alleluia” by Christ Tomlin – Link: “A Christmas Alleluia”

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, help us to honor Your name. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Reveal to me afresh your Son who came to save sinners like me. Renew in my heart the only hope for my life and may I express it fully today by magnifying Jesus in all that I say and do. Be glorified in my life. In Jesus name, Amen.

– TR

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Day Five: “As I have loved you…”

John 15:12-13,16-17 – “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.17 This is my command: Love each other.”

Jesus’ central purpose and desire was to do the will of the Father, which was and still is to love us, this world, and bring everyone into his salvation.  Love is central to the will of God. Love, love one another, lay your life down for them…this is the will that Jesus chose us to experience and live out.

Love changed us and gave us life, and this is the love that will continually change us and draw us deeper into the will of God, our loving Father. When we are loving God (and this is the ultimate outcome of our worship), and when we are loving those around us, we will find that we are much more in the will of God, we are walking deep in the adventure, learning the wonder, and the power, and the beauty of living God’s will for our lives.

Love and loving is central to the will of God. Loving is clearest way of knowing that you are in God’s will. Worship and love. These bring us into the adventure of the Spirit-filled life, walking with the Spirit into the will of God. These are some of the primary means through which we can walk, live, and experience God’s will today. And as we press on to the things that lay before us, the things to come, the future direction that God has planned for us. His will unfolds right in the midst of these decisions and moments to worship and love.

Today, let’s simply pray through each of the passages from the last five days: Jeremiah 29:11-13 ; Galatians 5:16, 25; Romans 8:26-29a ; Romans 12:1-2; and John 15:12-13,16-17. And let’s ask the Spirit to fill our lives with worship and love.

– TR

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Day Four: “…His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

As we offer our lives to the Lord in worship, as we center our lives on knowing God’s heart and His ways we, “will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2). The Holy Spirit is at work in us making this our reality!

In and through a life of worship we are transformed. When we begin to live out each day as worship to the Lord – our work is worship, our classed are worship, our raising of kids is worship-filled, etc. Being in God’s presence, living in worship will change us. That is how wonderful and powerful God’s Presence is. And it is in His presence that we know His will more clearly and more deeply.

Let’s that the Lord for His mercies in our lives and the many ways He has rescued us, forgiven us, and changed us. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to increase His activity in the area of worship in our lives, reminding us to live worshipful in all that we do. Let’s scan our days and tasks today and decide to make them all worship unto the Lord.

– TR

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Day Three: “The Spirit himself intercedes…”

Romans 8:26-29a (NIV) – “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…

As Christians who are filled with the Spirit, it is the Spirit that is fully engaged and working in us to live out God’s will for our lives today, now, in this time and task for our lives. He is the one leading into the adventure of the Christian life. The decisions we make today to walk in the Spirit, to submit to His leading will profoundly affect our next year, our next steps in life, and the future to come. These affects will have Divine impact on our tomorrows, and that is the only true impact that will give us life – life to the full.

Romans 8:27 says that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in ‘accordance’ with the will of God. Another way to see this is that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us to come into the will of the God. That not only is there agreement with God’s will, but that we are living and being conformed to the image the One – Jesus Christ – who perfectly lived out God’s will. As the Spirit cries out, our heart and lives are brought into that reality. In some sense because of the Spirit’s cries and passion for us, we find our hearts agreeing and walking in step with this cry and passion.

As we learn to discern the Spirit’s voice, His desires, and His ways in our lives, we will be more and more able to follow Him into the right/best way, at the right time, for the right reason that will most glorify God, to enjoy Him, and enjoy his ways for our lives.

Let’s us spend time in prayer asking the Lord to teach us to listen to Spirit’s cries, promptings and ways in our lives. Let’s ask that we become all that the Spirit intercedes on our behalf.

– TR

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Day Two: “So I say, walk by the Spirit…”

Galatians 5:16, 25 (NIV) – “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh…Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

As Christians, our understanding of God’s will is much more ‘dynamic’ than ‘static.’ Static means just pursuing an outcome or desire we believe we are to have or be or do or accomplish. Whereas dynamic implies that our lives are moving with the Spirit and the immediate plans of God in our present circumstances. In this dynamic understanding of God’s will for our lives we “seek to always being open to what God is doing…now.”

The Christian reality, this Spirit-filled life of love, is not necessarily set on a destination, it is lived out in an hour by hour relationship with the Lord and His people. It is dynamic by nature because the will of God is relational at the core. Seeking the will of God is first and foremost realized in walking, living, and keeping in step with the Spirit.

Understanding God’s will for our lives in the framework of His direction doesn’t imply that we don’t seek destination or a particular outcome. We should pray and wrestle with the future plans or decisions (or outcomes) until we find the deep Spirit-led resolution in our hearts. For in those honest and vulnerable moments before the Lord, perhaps with the encouragement and care of His people, we will be more clear and able to live fully today, making the most of every opportunity that Lord has planned for us now. May we never sacrifice the precious experiences and steps of the Spirit today for the sake of our unresolved worries and dreams of tomorrow.

Today, let’s do spend time in prayer for the decisions/outcomes we need or desire to have God’s resolution in. Seek the Lord, pray continually and be open to His answers, changes in us, and desires.

– TR

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