Posts

, ,

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: 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: 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: Supernatural Wonder

His star rose.

Yesterday we considered building excitement and anticipation for God’s presence in our lives and Jesus’s return in the future. A synonym for build is forge.

Forge can mean “to move forward slowly and steadily” or “to move with a sudden increase of speed and power” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

In our spiritual journeys we generally move slowly and steadily. Regular times of worship and a daily rhythm in our walk with God through prayer, study, and obedience, lay the foundation. But there are seasons in our spiritual lives when we forge ahead with extra intensity. Advent can be one of those times.

Be on the lookout for inspiration in building anticipation for celebrating Christmas in your home and for Christ’s ultimate return as you read the devotionals in Joy to the World.


Read December 8: Bethlehem’s Supernatural Star

Photo by Andy He on Unsplash

Reflect.

What, in today’s devotional, fueled your anticipation of celebrating Jesus?


What is plain concerning this matter of the star is that it is doing something that it cannot do on its own: it is guiding magi to the Son of God to worship him.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Do you accept your limitations when it comes to understanding the supernatural ways of God? Or do you spend time and energy trying to figure it out for yourself?

Embrace the unknowns. Just admit: I don’t know.

Trusting God’s hand is in and behind all the events of the world is an act of faith. Believing we can figure out how He does it belittles God’s greatness.

Ask God to bless you with the faith and humility to embrace the unknowns and wonder at His unimaginable unfathomable greatness.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Romans 11:33 NIV

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

, ,

Advent 2020: No Detour

It all leads to the cross.

Remember our roadmap for approaching Advent as a spiritual discipline.
Meditate. Examine. Build. Be.

We focused a bit on what it means to meditate. Now let’s consider examine.

Examine. Inspect. Test. Inquire. Interrogate.

John Piper asks us to venture into self-examination. Look closely at our own hearts: our mind, will, and emotions. Begin today by examining your heart’s response to what you read in Joy to the World.


Read December 5: No Detour from Calvary

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Reflect.

What did you hear in Joy to the World today?


The “No Vacancy” signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake. “For your sake he became poor.”

John Piper, Joy to the World

What does it mean to you that Jesus stooped so low? gave up so much? for you?

How does your heart respond to the truth He chose to live “without” so you can live with Him in eternal glory?

Ask Him to fill you with adoration for giving up so much for you. Ask Him to bless you with the faith to do the same for Him.

“… For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”
Mark 8:35-36 ESV

Photo by Greg Weaver on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

, ,

Advent 2020: Ordinary People

And all went to be counted.

As you go about your ordinary days this Advent season, meditate on your need for a Savior.

Look for places at work, home, among family, friends, and neighbors, where you may be in need of deliverance from a situation, an attitude, or a relationship.


Read December 4: For God’s Ordinary People

Photo by Daniil Silantev on Unsplash

Reflect.

What surprised you in today’s reading? Anything?


Do not think, because you experience adversity, that the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity but our holiness that he seeks with all his heart.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Meditate on God’s sovereign power and purpose today. Think about the fact He uses all His power for His glory and the good of His people.

How does it make you feel? Do you believe or doubt His abilities?

Ask God to open your eyes and heart to His unlimited power and goodness.

Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.
Jeremiah 32:17 ESV

Photo by Yannis Cotsonis on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

, ,

Advent 2020: A Long Wait

Blessed be the Lord!

Meditate. Examine. Build. Be. Our roadmap for approaching Advent as a spiritual discipline.

Meditate. Ponder. Reflect. Contemplate.
Intentionally considering, thinking about, our need for a Savior is the first step on our way to adoring Jesus.


Read December 3: The Long-Awaited Visitation

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Reflect.

What attitude does John Piper suggest we should have when it comes to waiting on God?


These were days of great expectation. Now the long-awaited visitation of God was about to come in a way no one expected.

John Piper, Joy to the World

What are you waiting for? Are you growing weary in the waiting? Or are you filled with excitement and anticipation?

What does your attitude in the waiting reveal about your trust in the One you are waiting for?

Take your “waiting” attitude — whatever it is — to God in prayer. Ask Him to encourage your heart in what you are waiting for.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 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.
2Peter 3:8-9 NIV

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

, ,

Advent 2020: Our Magnificent God

Rejoice in God your Savior.

Yesterday we were given a roadmap, a guide, for our spiritual journey through Advent: Meditate. Examine. Build. Be.

As we continue reading through Joy to the World each day, incorporate the roadmap into your devotional time. Meditate on your need for a Savior, examine your current life in Christ, build anticipation for His return, and be in the Word.


Read December 2: Mary’s Magnificent God

Photo by Leon Oblak on Unsplash

Reflect.

What does Mary understand about God? Why does her soul magnify Him?


The only people whose souls can truly magnify the Lord are people like Elizabeth and Mary — people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Are you overwhelmed and humbled because God stooped low to restore relationship with you? Why or why not?

What sparks your wonder of God coming in the flesh? What dampens it?

Ask God to fill you with a renewed wonder of His Magnificence.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Psalm 8:3-4 ESV

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]