, ,

Advent 2020: Rejoice!

It’s all about Him.

Today marks the eve of Christmas Eve. The day when we finally resign ourselves to what will get done by Christmas and what will not.

Spend a portion of today reflecting on your expectations and hopes for this holiday season. Celebrate the accomplishments, grieve the disappointments and things lost in the cracks of life.

Then relate your Christmas season expectations to your spiritual journey. Think about where you expected Christ to lead you and the reality of where you are. Embrace both the joys and sorrows.

Now, remember: His mercies are new every day! His steadfast love never fails! And He is currently redeeming, restoring, and renewing ALL things!


Read December 23: God’s Indescribable Gifts

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Reflect.

How did John Piper speak to you on a personal level today?


Exultation without the content of Christ does not honor Christ.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Exult. Rejoice. Celebrate. Christmas is one of the few holidays celebrated internationally, on a global level.

The world finds common ground in Christmas, a time to give, seek peace, and express love to others. But most celebrate the season without the Reason. The birth of Christ, the beginning of God’s promises coming to fruition, is left out.

Celebrating Christmas without the story of Jesus reconciling the world to God because of sin is not a celebration that honors Him. It’s like someone throwing a birthday party for you, but your presence is not welcome.

Consider your Christmas celebrations. Where is Christ in your Christmas? front and center? relegated to the sidelines? a footnote? a fuzzy detail?

Ask God to grab your attention with the Indescribable Gift He has given you, made available to your family, friends, and even those at odds with you. Ask Him to fill your heart with exultation, joy, and excitement over the One who came quietly into a dark world to battle for your life.

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.
Isaiah 49:13 ESV

Photo by Jamie Davies on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

, ,

Advent 2020: Believe

Find Him awesome.

The calendar tells us we have two days until Christmas Eve. With yesterday’s winter solstice, the light of day begins to increase, little by little.

Most often, the light of Jesus in our lives waxes and wanes in the same way — little by little — it doesn’t stay the same. We are either moving toward Him or away from Him on any given day or season of life.

Today consider how Advent as a spiritual journey has affected you. Discern whether your heart is a little nearer to the adoration Jesus deserves or if the light from the manger is dimmer than in seasons past.


Read December 22: That You May Believe

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Reflect.

What was your heart’s response to today’s devotional? How did it make you feel?


Something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God…

John Piper, Joy to the World

John Piper tells us there is no more exciting story, no more thrilling tale, than the one of the Son of God, yet it fails to capture our attention.

What stories are your favorites? action-adventure? mystery? science-fiction? romance?

What is it about your favorite genre that holds your attention? captures your imagination? speaks to your heart?

Consider what you do know about Jesus’s story — the one told from Genesis to Revelation. Are there elements of the stories you love in His story?

Ask God to help you see His story in a fresh light. Ask Him to capture your heart with the truth of all He did, does, and will do. Open your heart for the Holy Spirit to tell you the greatest story ever told.

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” — Jesus
John 16:12-14 NIV

Photo by The Miscellanista on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

, ,

Advent 2020: Incarnation

The King has come.

Three more days to prepare for Christmas. Three days to prepare our hearts to glorify God by celebrating His Son’s birth.

Take time to reconsider our steps in the spiritual journey of Advent.
Meditate. Remember your need for a Savior.
Examine. Be honest about the place Christ has in your life.
Build. Anticipate your eternity.
Be. Carry Scripture with you on a notecard, sticky, or in your memory.

Use these steps as a foundation for your celebration of Jesus. Whether you spend it alone or with family and friends plan a joy-full celebration.

Prepare the way for the Lord.


Read December 21: The Birth of the Ancient of Days

Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

Reflect.

What images came to mind as you read today’s devotional?


His birth was not a coming into being of a new person, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old person.

John Piper, Joy to the World

The Person of Jesus existed before He was born in the flesh and laid in a manger. In a way, this is what we experience in our spiritual birth — the old becoming new (2Corinthians 5:17).

Learning to live a new way of being when you are old can be challenging. Letting go of old habits, thoughts, and feelings, replacing them with new ones.

What do you think it was like for Jesus? the Old becoming New? Spirit becoming flesh?

Can you relate His birth experience to your spiritual journey of being born again?

Does this truth help you relate to Jesus on a personal level?

What does it mean to you for the old to take on something new?

Let this idea stick with you. See what stirs in your heart.

Ask God to solidify this thought in your mind and use it to fill you with adoration of the Ancient of Days.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:3 ESV

Photo by Benjamin Smith on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

, ,

Advent 2020: Light in the Darkness

Stand firm with Jesus.

Four days left in Advent. Five until Christmas. The daylight hours continue to decrease while the hours of darkness increase — until tomorrow. This year December 21st is the first day of winter, the day marked by the fewest hours of light and the longest night of darkness.

Spiritual darkness presses into our lives daily: sin, bad moods, discord in relationships. Today consider Jesus as Savior, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace. Let Him bring light into your darkness.

Find a passage in the Bible to speak to your current battle with darkness. Memorize the Word God gives you. Let Him shine the light of truth to dissipate the dark.

Stand firm against the forces attempting to extinguish the light in your life.


Read December 20: Christmas Solidarity

Photo by Cris DiNoto on Unsplash

What captured your imagination in today’s devotional?


Christmas is a call to go on strike at the assembly plant of sin.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Sin is the work of Satan. Its sole purpose is to bring spiritual darkness into the world and break our relationship with God.

Where are you standing in relation to what John Piper calls: Satan’s business?

Are you an active contributor to the sins coming off the enemy’s assembly line? a part-time employee? or a protestor picketing at the gates?

We all sin, yet Satan is a devious business manager. The lies he weaves into the world make us think we are doing good, or at least what is tolerable, as we blindly contribute to the darkness.

Today, consider whether your thoughts, words, and deeds contribute to the darkness in the world or bring light.

You’ll need God’s help. Ask Him to bless you with discernment and eyes to see things accurately. Ask Him to reveal the lies you’ve been believing and replace them with the light of truth.

“Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!”
Matthew 6:22-23 NLT

Photo by Sebastian on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

, ,

Advent 2020: Freedom

The destruction of sin and death.

So far this Advent season, we’ve gone deep into the heart of Christmas, perhaps seeing things previously unseen.

Today, as you go about your day, think about what you’ve learned. Look for signs of the deeper meaning of Christmas in the world around you. See past the temporary and into the eternal.


Read December 19: Christmas is for Freedom

Photo by Paul Green on Unsplash

Did today’s reading give you a different perspective on Christmas? How?


Christmas is for freedom — freedom from the fear of death.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Christmas frees us from fear. A good thing to remember when fear of death is rampant in a world gone viral with a pandemic.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being high), what is your current level of fear? anxiety?

What does your fear-rating tell you about your faith?

Take time today to consider: Christmas ushers in freedom from the fear of death. Does this concept ring true in your heart? or is there resistance? Do you hear a “Yeah, but…” in your spirit?

After considering your heart’s response to this good news, ask God to reveal the sin keeping you bound to fear of death. Ask Him to speak the truth of the power of His love and grace into your life.

Ask Him to set you free!

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1John 4:18 ESV

Store window decal: Joy, Peace, Love ornament. Merry Christmas.
Photo by Frédéric Dupont on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

, ,

Advent 2020: On Mission

You are sent.

Only six days remain in Advent. The last week before Christmas gets more frantic for some. Others seem to have it all done with time to spare. And some have no one and nothing for the holidays.

Let the final days of Advent be a time to slow down. Think about the heart of the season and be like Jesus. See the needy. Lay down your plans to help someone else. Find joy and peace in giving and forgiving.


Read December 18: The Christmas Model for Missions

Photo by Ira Ostafiichuk on Unsplash

Reflect.

Did you read something unexpected in today’s devotional? What?


Christ came to his own, and his own received him not. So you.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Too often we come to Christmas and never look past the manger. We fail to consider why Jesus came. All we want to do is rest in the peace of the silent night.

But this moment in history marked the climax of a war that originated in the garden of Eden. Jesus came as the offspring of Eve to crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3:14-15).

The Babe in the manger came on a mission: To give His life to rescue many (Mark 10:45).

The same can be true of our journeys as Christians. We fail to look past the joy and peace of baptism — the descent of the Spirit — and forget we’re engaging in war. We find ourselves blindsided by the battle. Confusion sets in if we don’t understand the story we’re entering.

Surprise attacks can put us at risk of distrusting God and stir up unbelief.

Have you ever considered Christ came to win a war?

What about following Him into battle? Is this a part of your understanding of being a Christian?

Today, ask God to open your eyes to the spiritual battle you’ve entered. Then remember Jesus already won the war!

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.
1John 5:4 ESV

Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

, ,

Advent 2020: Behold

The greatest salvation.

The spiritual discipline of Advent provides a means to increase our adoration and enjoyment in Jesus. Within it is the potential to open our hearts to a greater understanding of all He did, does, and will do.

Christmas Eve is one week away. Today, test your heart and spirit. Rate your adoration and joy of Jesus on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the high mark). No matter where you find yourself, take steps of faith to increase your capacity for joyful adoration.

Remember the steps on this spiritual journey:
Meditate on your need for Jesus.
Examine your heart and life in Christ.
Build anticipation for His return.
Be in His Word.

Exercise your faith.


Read December 17: The Greatest Salvation Imaginable

Photo by Ira Ostafiichuk on Unsplash

Reflect.

What did you read in today’s devotional to use as fuel for finding joy in Jesus?


Christ bore our sins in his own body when he died. He took our judgment. He canceled our guilt. And that means our sins are gone.

John Piper, Joy to the World

God took on flesh so He could take on our sins and then… forget about them. For those who believe, this is the gift of Christmas: The Greatest Salvation!

If there was ever a reason to anticipate the celebration of Jesus with great joy, this is it.

What does this truth stir in your heart?

Do you have sins (past or present or both) you would love to be gone?

What does your heart’s response reveal about your understanding of who you are? who God is? the great gift He offers?

Ask God to prepare your heart to receive the greatest gift He has to give.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Romans 3:1-2 ESV

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

, ,

Advent 2020: Things Are Not as They Seem

To the glory of God.

Faith puts trust in what we hope for as evidence of what is still unseen (Hebrews 11:1). It feels slippery sometimes and requires spiritual work to keep it intact.

The basis of our life in Christ is faith. Self-examination of feelings and actions reveal what we believe, especially as we approach the celebration of Jesus’s birth.

Consider your life in Christ today. Look for places where you need to build anticipation for Christmas and Jesus’s return. Seek words of faith from Scripture to memorize and set in your heart.

We all need Jesus.


Read December 16: God’s Most Successful Setback

Two white pillar candles wrapped with purple ribbon tagged Hope.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Reflect.

Was your faith challenged by today’s reading? How?


The way up is down. The way forward is backward.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Things are not always as they seem. Sometimes a feed trough is a crib for a King. A Babe born in a barn the Savior of the world. Sometimes God allows things we don’t understand and make no sense to us. These are the times that challenge our faith. They call us to trust the unseen.

What seems like a setback in your life rather than a step toward success?

How do you handle setbacks? Consider if your response to disappointment is an act of faith or evidence of unbelief.

Ask God to bless you with the faith to trust His promises and hope in what is still unseen.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV

Christmas tree ornament hanging with a red ribbon inscribed: Faith.
Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

, ,

Advent 2020: Life and Death

The way of abundant life.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, written in the mid-1600s, provides introductory teaching for new Believers to the Christian faith. Its first lesson tells us the ultimate purpose of every individual born into this world is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Finding joy in this life and the life to come is founded on our relationship with God. Jesus did all the work to make it possible for us to fulfill our purpose.

An abundant life of joy starts with glorifying God.


Read December 15: Life and Death at Christmas

Photo by Lionello DelPiccolo on Unsplash

Reflect.

How did John Piper speak to you today?


Many of you will feel your loss this Christmas more pointedly than before. Don’t block it out. Let it come. Feel it.

John Piper, Joy to the World

What loss are you facing this Christmas season?

Death. Sin. Loss. Repentance. These are not the usual themes we entertain at Christmas. Yet, John Piper tells us we discover the path to adoring Jesus and joy in this world when we embrace the truth of our life apart from God.

The fact is many are hurting this holiday season. Not just because of the physical loss of death. Disturbance of emotions and spirits occur with financial losses and broken relationships, the dismantling of hopes, dreams, and expectations. All caused by the introduction of sin into our world.

When we allow ourselves to face death and loss head-on — wrap our minds around the truth of its source — the lies of Satan. We can come right alongside the manger and see the hope of life, peace, and joy shining through the swaddling cloths of Baby Jesus.

Let grief magnify your adoration of Jesus.

Have you ever considered what Jesus left behind in heaven by becoming a man, the losses He endured? Name a few.

How does contemplating His loss for your sake speak to your heart?

Today, embrace your loss, your grief, your pain. Attribute it to the right culprit — the ones who believe the lies of the enemy — us. you. me. Then consider what God reveals about His heart by coming down from heaven to enter a womb and live the life of a human being from birth to death.

Ask God to open wide your heart and mind to the spirit of revelation to receive the truth of Christmas. Ask Him to set your sights on adoring Jesus.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
Psalm 36:7-9 NIV

Photo by Jarrett Mills on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

, ,

Advent 2020: A New Covenant

Better promises.

A big part of trusting God is believing what He says in His Word. Understanding we need a Savior just because He says so.

Today, by faith, consider your need for salvation — from yourself and others, from situations and circumstances — listen to your heart’s response. Write down your needs, then go to God’s Word and find His promises that speak to your needs.

Do it all in the name of increasing your capacity to adore Jesus.


Read December 14: Making it Real for His People

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Reflect.

How did today’s devotional speak to your faith?


God brings about our inner transformation by the Spirit of Christ.

John Piper, Joy to the World

We enter into the New Covenant by faith. Putting our trust in Jesus — His life, death, resurrection, and return — makes us recipients of His better promises.

His blood makes way for us to be transformed by God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Believing in Jesus starts the process.

Have you experienced God’s transforming power in your life? How?

Which of His promises are you most looking forward to being fulfilled? Why?

How does your heart respond to the truth that God alone brings about transformation in your life by faith in Christ’s sacrifice and the power of the Spirit?

What does your emotional response to this truth say about you? your relationship with God? with others?

Ask God to prepare your heart and spirit to receive the changes He wants to bring about in your life. Ask for the faith to trust His guidance and a willingness to obey.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Psalm 51:12 NIV

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]