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 19

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:67-75

His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and
redeemed them.

He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David

(as he said through his holy prophets of
long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us –

to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father
Abraham:

to rescue us from the hand of our
enemies
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before
him all our days.”

Today’s Questions:

What does “redeem” mean?

Why did God come to redeem us?

To __________ mercy to our ancestors;

To _______________ his holy covenant;

To _______________ us from the hand of our enemies; and

To _______________ us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness.

Do you live like you have been redeemed – like you have been rescued and like you have been enabled to serve God without fear? Or, do you live like you are still waiting to be rescued and enabled?

Today’s Prayer:

Thank you, Lord God, for coming to redeem us! Thank you that you have redeemed me – that I am now in your hands, bought back, rescued, freed, and able to serve you without fear. Forgive me when I forget and live as if you never came, as if you never purchased me with the blood of Jesus. Forgive me when I act out of fear or wear my old rags instead of the righteousness of Christ. Help me get back on track when I get fuzzy on the mission – to serve you. You redeemed me so that I am able to serve you. I live to serve you, Lord. Use me. Empower me.

Daily December Devotional — Day 17

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:56-60

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

Today’s Questions:

What do you think it must have been like for Mary and Elizabeth to wait month after month for their babies to come given the circumstances of their pregnancies?

Can you think of a time that you had to wait for something that seemed like it would never happen? Describe it and the emotions attached.

Describe a time that you truly shared in someone else’s joy. What about a time you felt more envy than joy when someone else experienced a great mercy or blessing?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, please forgive me. I am impatient. I doubt you. I think you’ve forgotten me. I forget your blessings. I pray, Lord, that you would increase my patience and help me to see you in the midst of this season. I don’t want to miss you here, now. Help me to rejoice with others as you bless them or extend them mercy. So often, I feel envy instead of sharing in their joy. I know you are endlessly good. Remind me, Father, that you do not and will not run out of goodness.

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.

Daily December Devotional — Day 13

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:39-45

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Today’s Questions:

What do you make of the fact that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit just after she heard Mary’s greeting and her baby leaped in her womb?

What particular promises during this season of your life do you need to remind yourself to believe the Lord will fulfill?

Is there someone in your life you could encourage because they took a step of faith, believing God for their future, their healing, their material needs, or something else?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, my heart soars as I read the story of Mary and Elizabeth. How blessed they must have felt as you filled them with the Holy Spirit and fulfilled in them so many prophecies spoken hundreds of years before. Thank you that your promises are true. I pray, Father, that you would give me eyes to see the ways you have blessed me and those around me. Help me remember your promises and believe them. How often I forget, or get distracted! Give me words to encourage the people I know who have exercised courage and taken steps of faith in their lives. Please bless their faithfulness.

Daily December Devotional — Day 8

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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 3

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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.

Life This Week

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My friends Lawrence and Martha Temfwe, who live in Ndola, Zambia, strengthen my faith and encourage me to continue to grow and surrender my life to God. They don’t do it through words, but through their lives, their example. I don’t mean their courageous acts (visiting people suffering with HIV/AIDS, carrying for orphans, building the local church), although those are important too. I am encouraged most by their faith in the small moments – when they pray together in the car before going anywhere, their devotional time at breakfast, the conversation with their boys at dinner, and their deep care about my relationship with and growth in Christ. Any time I falter, I can think of them and get back on track. What a gift it is to look around and find someone who is standing firm in faith, growing in their relationship with God, and filled with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Even Paul said to a church in Thessalonica, “[k]nowing that your faith is alive keeps us alive.” (1 Thess 3:8) This week,

I’m thanking God for Lawrence and Martha Temfwe. They have been such a gift to me and they model faith, courage, and love. Their faith is so alive that they keep me more alive.

I’m praying for those who are faltering. I know that there are those around me whose faith is faltering today. I’m praying that God will open my eyes to those people and that I could be their Lawrence and Martha – that I could encourage them and strengthen them through my faith.

Who encourages you in your faith?

Who can you encourage today?

Life This Week

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My trip to South Africa and Zambia is upon me now. This is my third trip to Africa, yet in some ways it feels like the first. I know more what to expect, but the fears, anxieties, and uncertainties about the travel are no different. The trip is no less significant in its impact on me than it was the first time. God is faithful to grow me on this trip, when I am out of my comfort zone, totally reliant on him and those he places on my path. In quiet moments, my stomach tightens at the thought of relying totally on God. I wish it came more easily, but it is always a struggle. There is only so much letting go I can do in the routine of my life because I know how to manage things. I operate much of the time (knowingly or not) under the illusion that I control my circumstances. On a trip across the world, there is no such illusion, all control, imagined or otherwise, is stripped away. This week, I am in prayer and surrender:

I’m praying. Father, keep me safe. Keep my sweet girl safe and feeling loved while I am gone. Make the skies smooth. Defend my body against sickness and ailments. Guard my heart against fear and anxiety. Show me beautiful things, new things about who you are. Make my time fully glorifying to you. Bring me home safe, filled with your love, aware of your character, and quick to give you thanks and praise.

I’m asking for prayer. Please pray for me, especially in the moments the Holy Spirit brings me to mind. You won’t know why, but I will need you to carry me into God’s presence in that very moment.

I’m relying on God’s promises. In particular, I’m holding onto this one: “Do not be anxious, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.

I will be writing as much as I can when I am gone because I know I won’t be able to help it, God will show me amazing moments, introduce me to beautiful faces, and place in me a deeper understanding of his love and provision.

What does your week look like?