Dec 13

Evening December 13

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.” –
Isaiah 9:2

Do we live in a land of darkness? We grow so accustomed to the world all around us, do we recognize the darkness in it? The emptiness? The brokenness? The vanity? The shallowness? The cruelty? The dismissiveness? The cynicism? The self-centeredness? The sin? Do we recognize the coldness and hardness that set in when God is not welcome? Do we see such “deep darkness” with spiritual eyes? Or have we grown too accustomed to the world?

If the world is not buried in darkness, then we have no need for a light. If the world and all its greed, pleasure, distraction, and selfish ambition are what we are looking for, we need nothing more than what abundantly surrounds us.

If the world is buried in darkness, however, then how desperate we should be for a light—a great LIGHT—to shine. That light saves us from the corruption of this age. That light teaches us to truly love the Lord God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Not in feigned piety, but sincerely, from a pained and honest heart, struggling in a dark world.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) Praise God that a great light has shined upon us, in our Savior, Jesus Christ. For those who recognize darkness all around them—and even in them—what comforting news to find that a Light has appeared!

The light does not pluck us from the darkness, but rather shines upon
us as we journey and struggle through it. May God be with you, may God shine upon you, in all the darkness that you may face. And may such a Light be salvation and healing for your soul. Amen.

– Tom Harrits

 

Dec 13

Morning December 13

“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her  that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid,  that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” –Isaiah 40:2

Pastor Drew often uses the phrase, “posture of your heart.” The posture of your heart is an intimate relationship with Christ alone. No one of this world can see, literally, the position and posture your heart takes.

But hands…

Hands, you can see and examine now. Our hands can do so much! Comfort, hold, love, embrace, protect, help, hold, grasp, cling, extend, invite… the list could go on. What an awesome God to give us such a powerful and visible tool to aid us in our everyday lives!

Isaiah 40:2 says, “…she [Israel] has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”  God’s hands do all things for good—like delivering Israel from sin, proclaiming her hard work is over. But what do my hands do? What is “the posture of MY hands”? Living in this fallen world, my hands have the power to hide—to hide from others and to hide from God.

Think about a giggling baby playing “peek-a-boo.” Can you imagine that joyful laughter a baby experiences when you lower your hands and reveal yourself!?

I confess—I play this game with God. But, in my game, God is the adult hiding his face and revealing only when He chooses.

But my version is twisted, self-indulgent, and radically wrong. It’s the other way around.

God sits patiently, yearning for me to lower MY hands, to choose and reveal myself to Him. He doesn’t grow weary; rather He is waiting for my reveal with expectant joy!

When shame or disappointments arise, my tendency is to put my hands up, turning towards good works and hard service, and to cover myself from embracing God’s grace. But in God’s goodness, He never shields His face. In the midst of hurt or sin, He never turns away.

Instead, I imagine His gaze and desire even more set on me, eagerly, lovingly, and patiently waiting for me to meet Him face-to-face.

The grown-up version of “peek-a-boo” is surrender.

And the act of surrender is only possible with the posture of open hands.

This Christmas season, may we hear God’s tender whisper to lower our hands and meet with God face-to-face. He’s waiting for you, His Beloved, with expectant joy.

 

– Ali Newell

Dec 12

Evening December 12

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. – Isaiah 40:1

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!

I find great comfort in the fact that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. I know that I can pray for healing for myself and others because Jesus, while on earth, was constantly healing. He is the same, He hasn’t changed a bit.

I can be assured that I should be glad and rejoice in times of trials for Jesus reminded me that I will have trials and tribulation, but that I should rejoice, because He has overcome the world.

Jesus said, “If two of you agree on anything that you ask, it will be done for you by my Father, who is in heaven.” I thank the Lord of heaven that He is the same now as 2,000 years ago and that the power of agreement is same as when Jesus himself lived and breathed in human form.

Jesus sits at the right had of the Father, the maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of the universe. That is so comforting.

The beloved 23rd Psalm is full of comfort: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” And then, our Lord goes on to remind me of my future saying that I can be assured that “… I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.”

Is there anything more comforting than that?

“I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, they are for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This verse in Jeremiah has brought me through many hard and fearful times in my life.

In the middle of the night, when our defenses are lowered, these comforting Scriptures (especially when committed to memory) can help us defeat the evil one’s attacks. Satan may be persistent, but Christians can be more persistent: “I have not been given a spirit of fear, but rather, I have been given [the Holy Spirit] a spirit of power, love and a sound mind.”

Christmas is a special time of year, full of songs about Jesus and how Jesus is God Himself coming into human form to earth. How great it is to think that many of these wonderful songs are even playing in our shopping malls:

“…for Jesus Christ our Savior has come on Christmas day to save us all from Santan’s power when we have gone astray, Oh, tidings of comfort and joy! Comfort and joy!”

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!

Good things to think about and sing along with, while driving in holiday traffic and picking out presents for our loved ones.

 

– Katie Stobie

 

Dec 12

Morning December 12

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. – Isaiah 11:8–9

I wish

To fall down;

As a singular grit of shivery ice,

Born of the cold and the wind and the

Fury of a brutal Nor’easter;

Her thunderous scorn,

Sky-piercing alpine knuckles,

And endless crowds of clouds.

I wish

To fall down;

Bucked by the blast, charging the enemy,

Thriving within a heart-thumping thrill.

Fleeing death, or chasing it.

Brothers-in-arms in a thrust of

Gust after gust

Of relentless wind shoving us

West and then South.

West and then southwest.

And then South.

’Til I’m calmed down,

Called down,

Set in crystalline perfection,

And gracefully aimed

 

To rest,

a silent, peaceful tickle on the brow of an infant prince.

I love poetry. It strives to go beyond the words and to capture raw emotion with rhythm, pitch and cadence. I know poetry’s not for everyone. If the previous poem didn’t do anything for you, don’t tune out yet. Give me one more second of your time and simply picture the last line in your mind: “a silent, peaceful tickle on the brow of an infant prince.” We are blown about in life, but we are meant for simple, elegant, beautiful purposes.

Isaiah the prophet knew words would fall short as well. How can you possibly capture prophecy with simple words? I think that’s why he sometimes packaged prophecy in poetry, crossing a sinister beast with an innocent one: snakes and babies in the crib together, neither one a single thought of malice toward the other. Perhaps the baby warming the cold-blooded reptile… Perhaps the reptile feeling a sense of duty, ready to defend the child against any threat.

I know! It makes me cringe too! It is not possible! Snakes in the crib? It is an impossible, shocking image. In the same way, the brokenness of the world cannot “lie in the crib” with the wholeness (or holiness) of God. These two concepts war bitterly with each other. And I would bet you, dear reader, are aware of that in some personal, tangible way. I know I am.

But regardless, we swell with hope. The impossible can be—will be—overcome by Christ. This promise is sealed in His birth​​. One day, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD.” On that day, the snake and the baby will share a crib, the war with sin will be over, and the Prince of Peace will have completely fulfilled that title.

 

– Jett Whitworth

 

Dec 11

Evening December 11

“Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” – Isaiah 40:9

Have you ever been so excited about something that you just had to tell someone about it? Perhaps you were bursting at the seams with joy about becoming engaged to be married to the person of your dreams or discovering that you will be welcoming a beautiful child into your family. Perhaps it was the overwhelming sense of relief of great medical results or being offered a wonderful new job. Now just imagine for a moment that you could not share your excitement with anyone. Not a soul. Would you even be able to contain yourself? Or would you eventually “explode” by confiding in someone the great news?

Isaiah captures this incredible feeling of being filled with joyous news. Rather than holding it in and keeping it to himself, the instruction is to go up to the highest mountain and shout without restraint, “Here is your God!” In this context, the Holy One again reveals His redemptive love and compassion by leading His people back to Judah. Praise God!

What is more, Isaiah foretells the greatest news of all: The New Testament revelation that Jesus is the Christ who brings salvation to all who receive Him by faith, that all who believe in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. What incredible Good News that is indeed!

If you happen to find yourself on a high place this Christmas season, go ahead. Remember this verse, and as Isaiah writes, “Lift up your voice with a shout” and “do not be afraid!” Shout it out to the world that, “Here is your God!”

 

– Bryan Hance

 

Dec 11

Morning December 11

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” — Zachariah 8:3

Good Morning! How are you today? How is it with your soul? Take some time to really think about that question. What were your first thoughts upon waking up? Were they peaceful or a laundry list of “to do’s?” You may have been up for hours already or you may be reading this over your first cup of coffee still a bit groggy…in silence, sit with yourself for a minute and just ask, “How am I—REALLY?”

Now, hopefully, you have a stronger sense of how it is with your soul this morning. Take another moment and close your eyes. After a few deep breathes, talk to God about how you are. Fill in the blank…
“God I am ____ this morning…”

Now, let’s shift our focus for a few moments. Mentally set aside all that you may be carrying this day and turn your attention to the passage above. Take the next few minutes to read out loud the Scripture, slowly, 5 times. (If you are reading this with another person, take turns reading it out loud.) Just BE… and allow the Scripture to speak to you.

Five times.

S l o w l y…

What particular word or phrase stood out to you?

Write down what caught your attention. Sit with it for a moment.

What drew you to this word or phrase? What might God be inviting you to think about?

Write down (or discuss) what came up for you.

After practicing Lectio Divina with this passage (an ancient way of praying through Scriptures, which you just experienced) the word dwell stood out to me. To dwell is described as: to remain, to abide, to stay, to inhabit. My hope and prayer for you this advent season is that you will know in your soul that God dwells within you and His love abides within you, regardless of what lay behind you or what lay before you, in every second of every day, God is with you. May you rest in knowing that our Almighty King is as close as your very breathe…

– Rebecca Morgan

 

Dec 10

Evening December 10

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” —Isaiah 7:14

A sign! A sign! Aren’t we always looking for “a sign?” Aren’t we always praying for ”a sign?” At every crossroads in our lives we are desperate for “a sign”. A sign to show us that we are on the right path. A sign to prove to ourselves that we are making the right decision. Whether it’s who to marry? What career to pursue? Should we have another child? Should I go on that mission trip? I have often felt like Gideon in the Book of Judges who lays his fleece out before the Lord and prays for “a sign.”

Sometimes “the sign” comes, and I move forward with the decision, only to regret it later. Then I’m left puzzled, wondering if it really was “a sign” from God. Or sometimes I don’t feel confident that God has given me a clear “sign” at all, yet a decision must be made. So I move forward into what seems right and I find an incredible blessing on the other side. My obsession with, and desperation for, “a sign” has left me all too often empty-handed and confused.

That’s why I LOVE this passage in Isaiah. “The Lord Himself will give you a sign” and that sign is (drum roll please…) IMMANUEL. The sign to end all signs… IMMANUEL. The only sign we will ever need… Immanuel. God is with us!

So let us no longer look for “signs” in our lives to tell us what to do. Because “The Sign” is now with us. Immanuel is guiding us. Immanuel is leading us. Immanuel is here, among us.

– Kendall Payne

 

Dec 10

Morning December 10

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as He was coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on Him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” —Mark 1:9–11

There are so many places in Scripture where the Son is revealed. As a matter of fact, all Scripture points to Jesus, our Savior, our salvation. In this passage, God the Father Himself opens up the heavens and reveals to us the Son and the Father’s love upon Him. There is great hope in revelation; revelation is a blessing which removes the scales from our eyes, scales that prevent us from falling on our knees and shouting in glory to God.

Scientists for so long have rejected God, yet are astounded to discover that more happened in the first moment of creation than has happened in some 13 billion years since that time. Now scientists break down that first moment into what they call plank time, which is an increment of one billion billion billion billion billionth of a second. No, that wasn’t a misprint, that is an incredibly small amount of time, a period in which everything we know exists in the universe today: matter, space, and time (100 billion galaxies with 100 million stars in each) was created. Words like awesome, amazing, and incredible don’t even begin to describe our God; and still He cares about us, each and every single one of us.

As God reveals Himself more and more to us each day in Scripture, in nature, in the next breath we take, my prayer is that He would open our eyes and our hearts that as a church, as a nation, as a world, we would recognize His one and only begotten Son Jesus and bend the knee as we shout: “Lord, thank you; thank you for coming to earth for us.” May God bless you and yours as we celebrate the season of His birth.

– Frank Couce

 

Dec 09

Evening December 9

“I baptize you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” —Mark 1:8

 

There was a sincere man seeking God.

The man whispered, “God, speak to me,” and a meadowlark sang. But the man did not hear.

So the man yelled, “God, speak to me!” and thunder rolled across the sky. But the man did not listen.

The man looked around and said, “God let me see You,” and a star shined brightly. But the man did not see.

The man shouted, “God show me a miracle.” And a life was born. But the man did not notice.

So, the man cried out in despair, “Touch me God, and let me know You are here.” Whereupon, God reached down and touched the man. But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.

* * *

Jesus, the Savior, comes to us today. He is there to wake us up in the morning. He is there to tuck us in at night. He is there beside you right now. And He brings us the Holy Spirit, to teach us and to guide us in our Savior’s footsteps.

But we are so rushed we cannot see or hear any of it.

Sometimes God speaks in a whisper. Thousands of years ago, Elijah stood on the mountain and waited for the Presence of God to pass by. First, a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face because he recognized the presence of God (1 Kings 19:11–13).

You see, God wasn’t in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. No. The Lord came as a gentle whisper. Like a newborn baby, asleep in a manger on a very silent night.

Can you hear God gently whisper to you?

Shhhh. Quiet now. And listen.

 

– John Fogarty

 

Dec 09

Morning December 9

“John wore clothes made from camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. 7 This is what John told the people: “There is someone coming later who is able to do more than I can. I am not good enough to be the slave who stoops down to untie his sandals.” —Mark 1:6–7 (ERV)

 

John was an extreme and devout man who possessed only meager, bare necessities. He did not fuss with earthly things, as he dressed himself in coarse material, like the prophets in Zechariah did, and survived on foods from the wilderness. He was mission-driven, passionate to his core and aware of Jesus’ omnipotence.

John embodies the characteristics of a penitent heart, spiritual humility and zeal. He lived and gave his life for the work of the Kingdom of God. He was an essential component in the ministry of Jesus, baptizing Him, which pleased the Father and showed future Jesus-followers to do the same.

John was lowly in physical matters but rich in the Spirit. When we humble ourselves, Jesus can use us to manifest the unfolding of His perfect plan and purpose. We must be like a gate or door, unlocked (surrendered) and usable (active) for God to open and close at His discretion; aware that He is always at work and that we are either a locked dead-end door or an entrance to His magnificent power.

(verse 7) “There is someone coming later who is able to do more than I can. I am not good enough…” Let’s claim “there is Someone here and His name is Jesus Christ who is able to do more than I can, I am not good enough but He is eternally perfect! And by His redeeming blood that has washed me,
I am now acceptable to God and a usable gateway for His power!”

– Daniella Romero

 

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