Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 200-207 or John 1 Think: Merry Christmas! Christ our Savior is born! He has come to set the captive free and to make all things new! Today, is our last day of the Advent devotional (technically advent ended last night and we are now in the two weeks of Christmas). As you gather with friends and family and later this afternoon for worship, remember that the arrival of Jesus meant that God was breaking into this world to carry out his rescue of his people. About thirty years after Jesus was born he would begin his public ministry and go about preaching that the kingdom of heaven had begun in his coming! Let us celebrate Christ’s coming, not just today, but everyday. Pray: For a joyful and thankful heart that Christ our Savior is born!
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 192-199 or Matthew 2 Think: The arrival for Jesus is good news not only for God’s people, Israel, but for all the nations! We see foreign wise men coming and bowing down to King Jesus, recognizing his lordship over all. May we never think that Jesus’ coming is only for our benefit, but for all people! Pray: That we would share our faith with those around us and that the good news of the gospel would continue to spread throughout the world.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 184-191 or Luke 2 Think: God lit up the sky and announced his Son’s arrival to shepherds, members of a profession who were looked down upon and seen as less than. Jesus, the Light of the World, came to chase away the darkness of this world and overcame the darkness of sin and death by being enveloped in darkness himself on the cross. Pray: That we would look to Jesus as the Light in this dark world. That we would be thankful for his coming to save the lost and looked down upon (namely, you and me!).
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 176-183 or Luke 1-2 Think: Though we are a few days before Christmas, we now turn to reflect on Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and Jesus’ birth. What do you think Mary was thinking as she heard the news of her miraculous pregnancy? What does it say about God caring for the poor and outcast that he would send his Son to be born to ordinary people in a stable? Pray: That we would trust God in the midst of confusing or bewildering times. That we would be thankful that Jesus came not as the earthly son of some earthly king and queen, but as a lowly servant who could then experience the everyday life of the people of the land.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 170-175 or Malachi 1, 3, and 4 Think: “Get Ready!” is the slogan of Advent. It is a time of preparation, or reflection, of longing for Christ to come. We look back to his birth and forward to his second coming. God’s people waited a long time for the Messiah to appear on the scene. After Malachi prophesied, there wasn’t a single word from God until Jesus showed up...400 years later. Take some time and reflect on your need for Jesus today. How is he showing up in your life? How has his love for you shaped the way you live? Pray: For a daily dependence upon God and his grace and love found in Jesus.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 160-169 or Jonah 1-4 Think: God’s mercy and forgiveness is so radical, it even extends to the enemies of his people. Jonah reluctantly preached repentance in Nineveh. The Son of God joyfully came to earth as man to preach the good news of God and to rescue the enemies of God. Let us not forget that we too were once enemies, but are not reconciled to God through Jesus. Pray: That we would have eyes to see the beauty of God’s grace and that we would always feel our need of the gospel of Jesus as Christians are just as needy of God’s mercy through Jesus as non-Christians.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 152-159 or Daniel 6 Think: The Bible tells us that God’s people, Israel, sought after other gods and disobeyed God’s commands. Because of this, they became slaves in the foreign land of Babylon for a time. God’s people were to seek the welfare of their captors as well as be faithful to God in the midst of their exile. Daniel was one such slave who was faithful to God and was thrown into a lion’s den for it. By God’s grace, Daniel was spared and God was given glory. Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, through his incarnation walked this earth is a kind of exile, seeking the welfare of God’s people, and ultimately was not spared but crushed for our iniquities so that we would be spared. Pray: For a thankful heart amidst the heartache of waiting in response to Jesus taking on flesh, walking among us, and laying down his life in order to rescue us.
Read: Micah 6:1-8 Think: How do we wrongly approach God? How are we to rightly approach him? Both seem to involve actions...so how is the latter in verse 8 different? Begin to think about these things as you prepare your heart for worship this afternoon. And remember! We are at Beth Ahabah today! Pray: That the Holy Spirit would be at work as we gather together for corporate worship and that we would approach God out of a response of what he has done for us, and not in a manner of trying to earn our salvation through our own works.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 144-151 or Isaiah 9:1-7 and Isaiah 55 Think: The world is broken and marred by sin, none of us need convincing of this horrible truth. But what we daily need reminding of is that God has promised to undo all of our hurts, pains, and sorrows. Until that time, when Jesus himself will wipe away all of our tears, we are called to wait. Waiting is hard, but God is good, and he is with us. We are forever changed because of Jesus’ first coming. At Jesus’ second coming, all will be changed forever. Until then, may our hope grow as it is watered by our tears in the midst of waiting. Pray: That we would be a people who feel both sorrow and joy deeply in the context of celebrating what is “already” in Jesus and longing for restoration as we wait in the “not yet” of our lives.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 136-143 or 2 Kings 5:1-14 Think: It can be easy to overlook the little girl in this story...patiently waiting on God as she lives as a slave in the house of her enemy. Tim Keller has this to say: “This unsung heroine of the Bible refused to relieve her own suffering by making Namaan pay. She did what the entire Bible tells us to do. She did not seek revenge, she trusted God to be the judge of all. She forgave him and became the vehicle for his healing and salvation. She trusted God and bore her suffering with patience. She paid the price of usefulness. She suffered and forgave not knowing how much God would use her sacrifice.” This little girl as a suffering servant points us to The Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ. Pray: For hearts that would respond to God’s goodness and grace in the midst of awful circumstances. For lives that reflect a deep trust in God to be the final judge. For a willingness to pay the price of usefulness.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 130-135 or Psalm 23 Think: David was far from perfect (among other things he committed adultery and plotted murder) but he is described as the ideal Israelite king and he wrote some beautiful poetry. Psalm 23 is well-known for good reason. Reading or singing this builds confidence in the believer that God is with them and will protect them. Not only does he lead and guide us, but his goodness and mercy literally pursue us all of our days. We cannot escape his powerful preserving—even in the bleakest of winters in life he promises to stay by us and he will lead us back to greener pastures Pray: Take some time to pray through this psalm slowly, talking to God whatever comes into mind after each petition. Perhaps listen to this song based off the psalm: https://goo.gl/qFdYjz. Thank God for his goodness and preserving power over the flock.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 122-129 or 1 Samuel 17 Think: The story of David and Goliath isn’t about our facing our own giants, but rather about a God who fights for his people to save them. Rather than identifying with David when we read this, we should identify with the fearful crowd unable to conquer Goliath. Just as David rose up to save his people, so Jesus has saved us from an even greater enemy. We are benefactors of God’s saving and conquering action. Pray: For hope in Christ when we perceive the enemies of God to be winning on a daily basis in our own experience. That we would turn to Jesus and rely upon the Holy Spirit’s strength to help us wait.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 116-121 or 1 Samuel 16 Think: God knows our hearts. He can see who we really, truly are. This is both terrifying and comforting. Terrifying because there is no pretending with God, he knows our true selves. Comforting because he absolutely delights in us even though we are far from perfect. God saw the imperfect heart of David and said, “That’s the king for my people!” Now, in Jesus, we have a perfect king who leads us. Jesus had nothing going for him outwardly (see Isaiah 53:2) but lived the perfect life, died the death we deserved, rose again from the dead and now lives and reigns as our King forever.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 108-115 or Joshua 3 and 6. Think: Jesus’ name in Hebrew is translated as “Joshua” meaning “Yahweh saves.” In our story today, we see how God raised up Joshua to lead his people and bring them into the land promised to them. He was a warrior leader. Jesus is the greater warrior leader who conquers sin and death. But rather than crushing his opposition, he himself was crushed for our sin on the cross. We await a day when Jesus will come in power and glory to conquer his enemies and usher us into the new heavens and earth. Pray: That we would follow in the paradoxical path of the cross of Jesus. That to truly live, we must die. That we would remember that God has yet to bring us into the full rest he has promised us in Jesus, may we wait with hope for that day.
Read: Micah 4:1-8 Think: Where do you long for peace in your life? In our world? Rereade verses 6 and 7 and think about how we are included in the number of the lame and the afflicted who are gathered up by the God of the universe. God loves you and he has rescued you. Pray: That you would be ready to gather with God’s people in singing, prayer, and in hearing from God’s Word this afternoon in corporate worship.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 100-107 or Exodus 20:1-21 Think: The graciousness of God and his rescuing Israel from slavery preceded the giving of the Law. God’s rescue, both in Exodus and now in Christ calls us to transformed lives in response to our redemption. Only Jesus lived a perfect life, but he is calling us to live holy lives...not to earn salvation, but because we are already saved. God is gracious and loving when we fail to live up to his standards. Through our failures, our need of Jesus is magnified. Pray: That we would delight in the Law of God and live holy lives, giving thanks for Jesus, the only one who has perfectly kept the Law of God. Ask God for a larger love for Jesus in our hearts, a love that would crowd out our love for lesser things contrary to God’s Word.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 92-99 or Exodus 14-15 Think: Where there is no way, God makes a way. Jesus told his disciples that he is the way, the truth, and the life. What alternate ways have you been trying to rescue yourself or solve the problem of waiting for wholeness apart from Jesus? Pray: Confess the ways you attempt to rescue yourself outside of the gospel to God. Thank him that he has made a way in Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in the gospel way.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 84-91 or Acts 7:17-36 Think: One of the temptations we can fall into is believing that God is far away and that he neither hears our prayers or cares enough to do anything about it. Our story today directly refutes that temptation. God is near to us, he cares for us, and has rescued us. God not only hears our prayers, but Jesus is also making constant intercession for us to the Father on our behalf! Pray: What is going on in your life right now? Talk to God about it, knowing he hears you and knows you better than you know yourself. Thank him for being a God who is both tender and powerful.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 76-83 or Genesis 50:15-21 Think: During this season of Advent, we are acutely aware that all is not right in the world and that there are injustices all around us and in our own lives as well. God used the injustices in Joseph’s life—one marked by patient waiting—to rescue his own people from famine. God used the greatest injustice in history, Jesus’ execution on the cross, to save his people from their sins. Romans 8:28 tells us that “for those who love God all things work together for good…” Pray: For eyes to see God at work in the midst of this broken world. For confidence that all will be made right in the second coming of Jesus we eagerly await. And for trust in God that he is good, even when it is hard to believe.
Read: Jesus Storybook Bible 70-75 or Genesis 29 and 30 Think: God says to us in Jeremiah 31 that he has loved his people with an everlasting love, In Romans 8 we are reminded that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love in Jesus. This is good news for the brokenhearted, the beaten down, and the forgotten. It is not because of our beauty that God has loved us, but through his love we are beautiful in his sight. We are desired, we are delighted in, we are safe and secure even in the midst of hardships. Pray: For a thankful heart today as we remember that the God of the universe lavishes his love on us through.