In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being

Death_to_stock_photography_bonus_floral_1

Jesus Christ—
our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace;
the One through whom and for whom all things were made; and
the One in whom we live and move and have our being—
became flesh and made His dwelling among us.

And nothing—neither death nor life, angels nor demons, the present nor the future, not any powers, height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation—can separate us from the love of our God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Daily December Devotional — Day 4

IMG_1167

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:18-22

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.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

Today’s Questions:

Why did Zechariah respond the way he did to the angel’s news about his coming son?

Has there been a time in my life when God has spoken to me, either through his Word, another person, or an impression in my spirit? How did I respond?

What words come to mind as I think about what it was like for Zechariah to be unable to speak during the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy?

What would it be like for me to be unable to speak to anyone as I awaited the one thing I’d been wanting my whole life?

Today’s Prayer:

God, I am often just like Zechariah, wanting proof and assurance that it is you at work in a particular circumstance in my life. Help me to know your voice and respond without delay or doubt. I know you are capable of accomplishing the impossible, I have seen it with my own eyes. In the rest of my days, Father, I pray that as I await what you have promised, I turn to you first with every thought, every worry, and every word of thanksgiving.

Daily December Devotional — Day 3

IMG_1163

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:11-17

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to [Zechariah], 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.

Today’s Questions:

What would it have been like for Zechariah to walk into the Most Holy Place for the first and only time in his life and be greeted by an angel of the Lord with the news that he would have a son?

If I had the opportunity, like Zechariah, to enter into the Most Holy Place, would I have prayed as I replaced the incense? What would I have prayed for?

Is there any area in my life in which I am responding with fear? Is it possible that God would say to me, as he did to Zechariah, “Do not be afraid”?

According to the angel, what characteristics would make people prepared for the coming of the Lord?

Today’s Prayer

Father, open my ears to hear you when you speak to me. Dispel all fear from my heart. I trust you. I trust you to do what I believe to be impossible. I trust that you hear every prayer I pray and have ever prayed. The desire of my heart is to be prepared for the day Jesus comes again. Remind me of the wisdom of righteousness and give me the strength to walk according to your ways.

Daily December Devotional — Day 2

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:5-10

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Herod the Great ruled over, among other places, Judea and Galilee from 37-4 B.C. Bethlehem and Jerusalem were both in Judea. Priests during this time were required to keep incense burning on the altar in front of the Most Holy Place in the temple in Jerusalem. To be the one to enter the Most Holy Place and supply fresh incense for the morning and evening sacrifices would have been a distinct privilege and a priest could only be chosen once in his lifetime to fulfill this role. As a priest, Zechariah would have been very familiar with Mosaic law and the prophecies about the coming Messiah.

Today’s Questions:

What words come to mind as I think about what Zechariah and Elizabeth must have felt as they reached old age and were unable to have a child?

If I were the one chosen for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter into the Most Holy Place, where God’s presence was palpable, how would I prepare to fulfill my duties?

What could I do to prepare my heart and my mind before I approach God in prayer?

Today’s Prayer:

Lord God, sometimes I feel so disappointed and discouraged when things do not go the way I expect or want. I wonder if you are really present, hearing the deep cries of my soul. Remind me, Lord, of your majesty and greatness as I approach you in prayer. Help me to remember all the ways you have blessed me, from my first breath to the moment I woke up today. I cannot wait to encounter you today, Lord.

December Devotional Day 1

Ironically, Christmas is a season in which you could look around at our culture and ask: “What does Jesus have to do with Christmas?” and conclude that the answer is “nothing.” I am not getting pulled into that trap. So, I’m seeking to bathe myself in the story of Jesus’ birth as told in God’s Word.

For the month of December, I am reading a segment of Scripture each day that relates to the story of Jesus’ birth and the time just before he arrived. The Jews who lived before Jesus came into this world waited in expectation for the Messiah, the one who would save them. I am seeking to enter into this “waiting in expectation” state in which they lived not only to increase my understanding of that time, but also because that is where we find ourselves today – waiting in expectation for the second coming of Christ. I think there is much to be learned and I pray I won’t be the same at the end of this month.

I will post the Scripture I’m reading each day as well as some questions I am considering and meditating on in connection with my reading.

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:1-4

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

This is the first paragraph of the gospel of Luke, who was a doctor and a traveling companion of the apostle Paul. Luke wrote his gospel, scholars believe, sometime between 60 and 80 A.D., about 30-50 years after Jesus died. It is not definitively known who Theophilus was, but scholars believe he may have been Luke’s patron, the person responsible for ensuring that Luke’s writings were copied and distributed. What follows immediately after this first paragraph is an account of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus and then, of course, an account of the life, ministry, and death of Jesus.

Today’s Questions:

How does the fact that Luke says he “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” impact my view and understanding of the rest of what he says?

What did Luke mean by “the things that have been fulfilled among us?”

Who would I have talked to or interviewed to be sure I could write an orderly account of what had happened? What types of questions would I have asked?

What was Luke’s purpose according to this introduction in writing his account?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, help me to enter into this season with my eyes focused on your Son, Jesus. Keep me from the temptation to forget you, put myself at the center, and get caught in the trap of consumerism. Help me to see, hear, and feel what it must have been like for those I read about in your Word just before the birth of Jesus. Help me, Lord, to wait in expectation for the second coming of Christ.

What Does It Mean to “Become a Christian?”

DSC01045

Not long after I committed my life to Christ in 2008, I had lunch with a friend I had known for several years.  When he asked me what was new and I told him I had become a Christian, he asked three questions:

  • What does it mean to “become a Christian?”

  • So, how are you different?

  • Can you still play golf and drink scotch?

Each one of these questions was so interesting and, frankly, stumped me a little bit both because of what they meant about my friend’s understanding of Christianity and about what I was really committing to by calling myself a Christian.  So, for the next few weeks, I’m exploring both sides of each of these questions.  This week, I’m focusing on “What does it mean to ‘become a Christian?’”

Before 2008, if you’d asked me what religion I was, I would have said Christian.  And basically I meant four things by “Christian”: I had a Christmas tree in my living room in mid-December; I went to brunch on Easter Sunday; I tried to be a good person; and I generally believed there was a divine, disinterested ruler of some kind somewhere far away.  In other words, my “Christianity” did not have anything to do with Jesus Christ.

Many of us are Christians is this sense.  We are born into a family that calls themselves Christian because they attend church on Sundays, get together at long dinner tables for Christmas and Easter, try to avoid the “big sins,” and baptize babies with crossed fingers that this works to seal an eternal existence.  Overall, though, there is no difference in the way we act, serve, or feel as compared to non-Christians.

So, to me, to “become a Christian” means several things.

It means I believe

  • the longing I felt deep in my soul was a longing to be united with my creator.  It was not a longing for food or success or sex or money or children;

  • Jesus, God himself in human form, came to earth to do this uniting (John 1);

  • by dying on the cross, Jesus and I exchanged something – he took my robe of sin (and this was a big and heavy robe) in exchange for his robe of righteousness, making me blameless in God’s eyes.  (Eph 1:3-14)  In other words, my sins, which could wake me up in the middle of the night sometimes, were buried forever and not being tallied on a huge heavenly whiteboard (Micah 7:19);

  • I am a loved daughter of the maker of the Milky Way galaxy and the ant and will spend eternity with God.  (Rom 8)

It means I can stop striving to earn my way to God through my goodness, which was never that good.  (Eph 2:8-9)

It means I am freed from fear.  What could I be afraid of as the child of the one who made everything?  (Rom 8:31-39)

It means that God will transform me over the course of my life into the image of Jesus, who lived a flawless life.  (2 Corin 3:18)

It means I have a purpose: to follow Jesus’ example and love anyone and everyone who crossed my path with a supernatural, non-judgmental, ever-forgiving, servant love that would make the recipient want to know more about where that love could possibly have come from.  (John 13:34)

It means I cannot be silent about how I have been rescued and how the gifts of forgiveness, grace, child-ship, freedom, transformation, and purpose are instantly and constantly available to every single person on the planet.  (Matt 28:19)

Have you become a Christian?