New Covenant — January 12, 2014 (Sunday)

Today’s Verses:

Luke 22:14-20

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Today’s Questions:

What would it have been like to recline at a table with Jesus and hear him speak the words recorded in this passage?

What would your reaction have been to hear Jesus say his body is “given for you” and that his blood is “poured out for you”?

What do you feel as you read these words today, knowing about Jesus’ death by crucifixion?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, Lord, I read these words and place myself at the table with Jesus and my heart breaks and soars at the same time. Thank you for the reminder in your Word, Lord, that you were here with us, sitting at a table, eating bread, drinking wine. Thank you for the reminder that you gave your body and your blood so that I could come to know you, your love, and your grace. I don’t want to forget or become insensitive to the sacrifice you made and the extent to which you intervened in this world to restore us. I don’t want to forget that you keep your promises. I am relying on them, Lord.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review Hebrews 8:1-10:18 to understand the difference between the “old covenant” and the “new covenant.”

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 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.

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.

There Are Some Things I Don’t…

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(photo source)

I have been writing this series of blog posts responding to fears that a friend of mine raised about becoming a Christian.  I am grouping the next three together because they are related:

  • I don’t know enough.

  • I don’t want to give up stuff I love.

  • I don’t really think I need it.

This is such an interesting group of fears, and maybe “fears” isn’t exactly the right word.  I struggled with each of these as I considered Christianity and so now when I respond to someone who raises them, I try to do it in a way that, looking back, did or would have helped me.

I don’t know enough. The Bible is the key to this one, but it is intimidating if we don’t know where to start.  If you start in Genesis, you’ll lose interest and comprehension quickly.  A suggestion that helped me most was to read the books of Luke and Ephesians first.  Luke gives an understandable and accessible description of Jesus while he was on earth.  Ephesians explains the significance of Jesus and what belief in him means and looks like.   I also found “The Case for Christ,” by Lee Strobel and “The Jesus I Never Knew” and “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” by Philip Yancey helpful.  There are only so many books to read, though.  And we will never know everything or have the answer to every question.  There is a passage in Psalm 34 that says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”  (Psalm 34:8)  At some point, you just have to try it and see.

I don’t want to give up stuff I love.  Somehow following Jesus, or being a Christian, has become associated with rules that impinge on our freedom.  The thought that comes to mind immediately upon hearing the term “Christian” probably starts something like, “If you’re a Christian, you’re not allowed to…”  This is so ironic because when Jesus lived on earth, and during the years of the early church, Jesus was criticized for being a violator of the law, not someone under which the world would be restricted.  The only things I have given up since I’ve become a follower of Christ are those things that hurt me and left me feeling empty and those things I idolized, putting my trust in, all the while knowing they would not last.  I have never felt so whole, at peace, or purpose driven.

I don’t really think I need it.  I used to look at my life, I think mostly subconsciously, compare myself to other people, and conclude: “I’m a good person overall.  I’ve made some missteps here and there, but nothing that bad.”  And so the notion that I needed to be saved seemed a little dramatic and unnecessary.  I could always identify someone who had done far worse things and the idea of them needing help seemed much more plausible.  But then I realized I had been drawing the wrong comparison.  The correct comparison is between me and God, not me and other people.  If I assume that God is holy in every way, not just like the best person I’ve ever known, but far, far better, indeed, perfect, I could see that I was not “pretty good” at all.  Far from it.  (Romans 3:23)  And if the goal was to be perfect and holy, I knew I had blown it very early on.  If the deep longing in me was a longing to be with God, all the evidence suggested to me that I could not bridge the gap my wrongdoing had created between God and me.  When I speak to friends now about this gap, I try to help shift the comparisons they make so they are no longer viewing their life in comparison to another person’s life but instead are comparing their life to the standard of a perfect and holy God.

What do you tell people who feel like they don’t know enough yet about what it means to be a Christian?

What have you given up since becoming a follower of Jesus?  What have you gained?