All Things New – January 8, 2014 (Wednesday)

Today’s Verses:

Revelation 21:4

“‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Today’s Questions:

What does it mean to you that Scripture says God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes” as opposed to just saying there will be nothing left that would cause us to cry?

Can you identify a pain or kind of suffering that you have experienced that you have prayed that your children or family or friends would never have to experience?

Describe in a sentence “the old order of things” that John describes will pass away.

Today’s Prayer:

Father, I can hardly stand the intimacy that your hand would wipe away tears falling down my face! What must this feel like? I pray, Father, that you would bring this comfort to me and those I know who are suffering now and whose tears are fast and constant. Father, there are so many tears and there is so much sadness. I pray, Lord, that you would reveal yourself to the people I know who are suffering. And until the day you wipe their tears, Father, strengthen me and give me the courage to act on your behalf, sitting with them, being present physically for them, and offering comfort in the midst of pain. Thank you for your promise that this old order of suffering, sin and death will pass away forever.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 for the Apostle Paul’s encouragement on living in the midst of a dying, suffering world.

Daily December Devotional — Day 30

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:36-40

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Today’s Questions:

What is the significance of Anna’s age as you read this passage?

What do you make of the fact that the person who spoke about Jesus “to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” was a woman?

What do you think it means that the grace of God was on Jesus? How do you picture that manifesting itself?

Can you identify all the people or groups that we have come into contact with over this month of study who were waiting in expectation for the arrival of the Messiah? How might you refer to their example as you wait for the second coming of Christ?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for the example of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, the wise men, the shepherds, Simeon, and Anna. Their sacrifice, devotion, and faithful obedience and waiting amaze me as I have come to learn more about their lives and context. Thank you for your servant, Luke, for writing his account with a commitment to investigating what happened so that we may be certain of what we have been taught. Never let me forget, Lord, that these were real people who lived on this earth and struggled with the same kinds of doubts and fears and longings that I struggle with today. Thank you, Lord for the sacrifice that Jesus made on my behalf, for the robe of righteousness I now live within as a result, and for the knowledge that Jesus will come again and make all things new.

Daily December Devotional — Day 29

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:25-35

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Today’s Questions:

What is the importance of the Holy Spirit being on Simeon as he speaks?

What words does Simeon use to describe Jesus?

What does Simeon say Jesus will cause? And why?

How do you think Mary felt when Simeon said, “a sword will pierce your own soul too”?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, where would I be without your salvation? Thank you that you keep your promises! Thank you, Lord, for extending your saving grace to all the nations, to me. Thank you for the moment I realized your light was for me, would overcome the darkness, and would satisfy the deep longing of my soul. I pray, Father, that the thoughts of my heart would be of you and that they reveal my faith in and devotion to you. Where my thoughts wander, God, I pray that you would forgive me quickly and redirect them so that my eyes and heart are fixed on you and my words and actions reflect your love and grace.

Daily December Devotional — Day 27

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Today’s Verses:

Matthew 2:7-12

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Today’s Questions:

What was Herod afraid of with the appearance of this new king of the Jews?

What do you think it would have been like for Mary and Joseph for these men to have come, bow down, and worship their new son?

Have you ever been afraid of what God might ask you to do if you listened carefully? Why? What are you afraid of?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, how is it that I forget that I am the created and you are the Creator? How is it that I constantly seek to wrest control away from you, turn my way, ignore you, ask you to wait outside, deny you? Am I no better than King Herod? You see the broken places in me, Lord. Hold me fast, lock your hand on mine. I am apt, over and over, to let go. I have not always given you my best gifts, but offered instead the leftovers. Help me to be what you made me to be, to follow you fearlessly. Help me to worship you in each moment of my life and use my remaining breath to make you known, glorify you, and forward your purposes.

Daily December Devotional — Day 25

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:16-20

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Today’s Questions:

How do you think the shepherds explained what they had been told about the newborn child?

Have you ever overheard people saying good things about your parent, or child, or spouse, or friend? How did it make you feel?

Think of a time you experienced something – a beautiful sunset, a feeling, words from someone else, an unexplained mercy – that you could not quite put into words for another person. Have you been able to treasure and ponder that experience? How?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, when I read what happened, and imagine the way the shepherds must have explained to their friends, their family, and even strangers, about the arrival of the Savior, I am amazed! When I think of what Mary must have felt as she heard people describing what her son was, what he would be, and all he would do! How is it that I could ever come to see this event as run-of-the-mill, boring, or just another story? Help it sink in, Lord! Block out all the other noise and distractions that pull at me. Thank you for the blessings and mercies you have given to my heart alone. When you bless me this way, Lord, I pray that I will treasure it deeply.

Daily December Devotional — Day 24

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:13-15

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom
his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

In Latin Vulgate, “Glory to God in the highest” is translated “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think the company of heavenly host appeared to praise God before the shepherds?

How do you picture the shepherds as the angels descended and began singing? What did they do? How did they feel?

Can you think of a time when you said, “I can’t believe that happened!”? What were you referring to? Was it something you could see or touch or hear?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh Father, thank you that Jesus happened. Here. On earth! Thank you that you came to be with us, Immanuel. Thank you for yet another reminder that Jesus isn’t a concept, but someone who happened, someone who occurred and came to pass. Lord, I want to be a person who sings, “Glory to God in the highest!” Glory to you, Lord, not to me. When your glory is revealed, let me be the first to sing your praise, to go and see, to stand in awe. Let this not just be a refrain I sing, but a life I live.

Daily December Devotional — Day 23

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:8-12

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think God chose to have his angel declare the good news of the arrival of the Savior to shepherds living in the fields (as opposed to people in town; a family in a home; or the Jews at the temple)?

Why do you think the initial reaction to the Lord’s angels, by Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds, was fear?

When and how did you first come to realize your need to be saved? How did you feel when you came to the realization?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, thank you for the day you revealed to me not only my need for a savior, but also the availability of the Savior. Thank you, Lord, that you met my need with your grace; my sin with your forgiveness; my darkness with your light. There are days I forget the good news: you have saved me. Minor irritants, insignificant hurts, small resentments, and paralyzing fears pull me off course. How can I forget that you’ve set me free and called me higher? Help me to remember, Father. Help me to lay down my pride and fear. Help me to be patient, bring my hurt to your healing hand, and manifest your grace and love.

Daily December Devotional — Day 22

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:6-7

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Today’s Questions:

How do you picture Mary’s reaction when she first held Jesus?

What words come to mind when you think of a newborn baby?

Why do you think God chose to come into the world by being born as a baby? Why not just appear as an adult?

Today’s Prayer:

Most High God, how could you have subjected yourself to the weakness and vulnerability it is to be a human baby? I have dreamed of being greater, stronger, immortal. I have never sought to become weak, vulnerable, or subject to death. How could you have left all the riches of heaven for the suffering that awaited you here on earth? I don’t understand your love, Father. Help me to just receive it. Thank you, Lord, for the way you came, the way you know, the way you save.

Daily December Devotional — Day 16

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:53-55

He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.

Today’s Questions:

Can you call to mind the last time you felt physically hungry? What kind of symptoms did you have that made you know you were hungry?

Have you ever felt a similar kind of hunger for God, a kind of restlessness or desire in your soul? How was that hunger satisfied?

What things, attitudes, or people pull you away from God?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, Father, I long for you. Though success, affirmation, and adoration lure me away, and though fear, failure, and disappointment threaten to overwhelm me, my soul searches for you alone. My spirit reaches out, longing for your peace, joy, and life. Fill the ache in me with your presence today. Pour your love into my hungry heart. Remind me of your promises and your mercy. I am yours.

Daily December Devotional — Day 15

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:50-52

His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud
in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think Mary praises God in her psalm for lifting up the humble and scattering the proud?

Are there areas in your life where you are prideful in your inmost thoughts – your motivations, your thoughts of yourself, your thoughts of others in relation to yourself?

Can you identify any mighty deeds that God has performed in your life?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, extend your mercy to me. I am desperate for it. I have had self-aggrandizing motivations just this week. I have tried to wrest control away from you, I have sought my own glory over yours, I have sought my own comfort over love for someone else. Father, without you, I can do nothing. Pour your grace over me once again. Purify my inmost thoughts and bring me low if it means you will be lifted high.