Daily December Devotional — Day 18

IMG_1245

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:59-66

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

Then they made signs to his father to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

The name “John” means “The Lord is gracious” or “The Lord shows grace.”

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think it was important that Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son be named John?

In Luke 1:17 Zechariah was told that John would “bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God” and “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” How might understanding or seeing God’s grace make us ready to turn our hearts toward him?

Can you identify the last time you were astonished or awed by an expression of God’s grace in your life? What was your response?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, let me see your grace. Keep my heart ready and free my tongue to praise you. If you need to shut my mouth and make me silent, do it. If you need to bring me low or break my heart, do it, Lord. Do whatever it takes if I turn away from you. Prepare the way by your grace for my return.

Daily December Devotional — Day 14

IMG_1206

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:46-49

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me
blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
holy is his name.”

This section of Scripture (along with six more verses) is a hymn referred to as the Magnificat, which means “glorifies” in Latin Vulgate.

Today’s Questions:

How do you imagine Mary’s posture as she says these words? In what position are her arms? Her hands? The rest of her body?

When did you last feel your soul glorify, or worship, the Lord? What did it feel like?

What does it mean to you to be humble in the sight of God?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, I lift my hands and fix my eyes on you. I am here on this earth, praying that your will would be done in my life, in my family, this day. I want nothing but for my soul to glorify you and my spirit to rejoice in knowing you. Lord, when I seek my own glory, remind me gently that you made me, that you are the creator, that you are God. Be gracious to me, Father, grant me mercy as you transform me and I learn how to walk in humility and gratitude. You have done great things for me, your name is above all names.

Daily December Devotional — Day 8

IMG_1180

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:34-38

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Today’s Questions:

Compare Gabriel’s response to Mary’s question and his response to Zechariah’s question in Luke 1:18-20. Why and how do you think Gabriel concluded from Zechariah’s question that Zechariah did not believe Gabriel’s words, but Mary did believe Gabriel’s words to her?

Why do you think Gabriel told Mary about Elizabeth’s pregnancy?

Can you identify any words in Scripture that you need to write down or memorize so that you remember “no word from God will ever fail”? What words?

How do you think you would have responded if you were Mary to Gabriel’s description of what was going to happen to her? What does her response reveal about her?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, help me to believe your words, those you speak in Scripture and those you whisper into my heart. When I doubt you, your goodness, your love, your presence, remind me of the ways you have blessed me, loved me, and revealed yourself to me in the past. Help me to respond to you the way Mary did. After all, I too am your servant, and I pray that the words you speak to me are fulfilled, whether they seem impossible, difficult to believe, or contrary to my desires.

Daily December Devotional — Day 7

IMG_1177

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:29-33

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think Mary was “greatly troubled” by the angel’s words: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you”?

Have you ever been fearful about hearing the Lord’s voice or receiving a calling from him? What do you think caused that fear?

What emotion is stirred when you read the words: “he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end”? If it doesn’t stir any emotion, why do you think that is?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, thank you for Jesus, the king whose reign will never end. Thank you that I can place my hope in you and that although everything around me changes, shifts, and fades, you stay the same and your kingdom will never end. Give me courage, Father, when you call me to action. I want to be a person who says yes to you without delay, without hesitation, and without fear.

Daily December Devotional — Day 5

IMG_1165

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:23-25

When [Zechariah’s] time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown me his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

During this time, priests were required to serve for one week at the temple every six months.

Today’s Questions:

What must it have felt like for Zechariah to receive the news that he and his wife would have a son, but then finish out his service time at the temple instead of being able to go home immediately?

How must Zechariah and Elizabeth have responded when they learned that she was pregnant?

How quick am I to attribute good things that happen to me to the Lord’s favor upon me as opposed to my own effort, “good luck,” or coincidence? Does it matter?

As I look back over my life, are there any “disgraces” that I can see God has taken away or from which he has saved me?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, God, I want to be a person who recognizes your favor upon me. I could identify a hundred times you have poured out your favor. There are the unexpected little things you have blessed me with that I can’t imagine you would spend your time on, but you did. There are the impossible things that you accomplished that just make me shake my head and fall to my knees in awe and humility. Oh, and the things you have saved me from, Lord! Some I know, some I’ll never know. Thank you, you have done these things for me. Thank you.

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.

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.