Daily December Devotional — Day 11

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Today’s Verses:

Isaiah 9:1-7

In the past [the LORD] humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan –

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.

Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

In Matthew 4:13-16, Matthew references the second verse of this passage in Isaiah. Matthew describes that after hearing that John the Baptist, his cousin, was put into prison, Jesus went to Capernaum, which was “by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah…” Matthew goes on to quote Isaiah 9:2 with minor variations, demonstrating that Jesus was the one to whom Isaiah 9:1-7 was referring. Joseph and Mary, faithful adherents to the law, would have known these verses in Isaiah well.

Today’s Questions:

What is the impact on the people when the light dawns according to verses 3-4?

Their nation is ______________________.

Their joy is __________________________.

Their yoke that burdened them is ________________________.

The warrior’s equipment is destined for _____________________.

What words come to mind as you read the names by which Jesus will be called?

  • Wonderful Counselor
  • Mighty God
  • Everlasting Father
  • Prince of Peace

How might referring to Jesus by these names as you pray this week impact your relationship with him and your ability to endure the circumstances in which you find yourself?

Today’s Prayer:

Everlasting Father, thank you that the promise spoken by Isaiah was true. Thank you that you invited all the nations into relationship with you, through Jesus. Thank you for joy and for shattering our slavery to sin. Thank you for the peace that you bring and will bring. Father, I am holding onto other promises you have made in your Word — that Jesus will come again and will wipe every tear and eradicate all mourning and death. Remind me of these things, Father. Help me keep my eyes fixed on what you have promised.

Daily December Devotional — Day 9

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Today’s Verses:

Matthew 1:18-21

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew’s gospel was written by Matthew, the tax collector-turned-follower of Jesus, and one of the 12 apostles. Most scholars believe that Matthew wrote his gospel in the late 50s or 60s to Jews and Jews who had become Christians.

Under Jewish law, sexual relations were not permitted during a couple’s engagement, which was much more binding than engagements today. Engagements then could only be broken by divorce, which is likely why Mary and Joseph are called wife and husband even though when Mary learned she was pregnant, they had not yet been married. If Joseph had followed the law and divorced Mary publicly, she would have been stoned to death. “Jesus” is Greek for “Joshua,” which means “the Lord saves.”

Today’s Questions:

What emotions do you think arose in Joseph when he learned that his fiancée was pregnant?

Why do you think the angel who appeared to Joseph refers to him as the “son of David”?

Can you think of a time you decided not to do something, even though you knew it was the right thing, for fear of what other people might whisper about you behind your back?

What does it mean to you to be saved from your sins?

Today’s Prayer:

Thank you for Joseph and the courageous and faithful servant he was. I pray that I can display such courage to do the right thing even when others will talk about me and gossip behind my back. Help me overcome fear in taking actions I know to be right. I am bended low in gratitude and humility that you sent your son to save me from the captivity of sin and the separation it caused between us. I am overjoyed that now I have the ability to approach you through the one who saves.

How to Find Rest

IMG_0180“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Jesus’ words, Matthew 11:27-30)

When I read this, everything in me cries: “Yes!  I want that! But how do I do it?”  Resting is not easy for me.  I have lived most of my life believing one of the greatest fallacies ever conceived – that action and movement are superior to rest.  Rest is built into the way we and everything else was created.  Sleep.  Night.  Fallow fields.  Winter.  To ignore rest is to live in constant battle with the way we were made, like walking uphill, against the wind.  How to rest in our world is tricky.  And somehow, the harder I try, the more difficult it is.  For me, rest comes only when I create an environment that enables rest.

So, here are some things I do to find rest:

Remind myself who I am, a created child of the living God, and who God is, the creator.  Otherwise, I am compelled to think I  hold the world together and without me, things would fall apart.

Recognize that I have limits and that rest is good.  Otherwise, I ignore the need for rest or reject it as a weakness.

Stop doing things that feel like work or make me anxious.  Otherwise, deep breaths don’t come and my mind continues to run.

Do only do those things that give me life.  Otherwise, I will not be filled and restored.

Release my to-do’s and anxious thoughts by briefly writing them down as they come to mind.  Otherwise, these will flood my brain and all hope for rest is lost.

Eat regular meals and favorite foods.  Otherwise, I am distracted by my hunger and my body is uncomfortable.

Surround myself with scents that I only use during times I rest or before I go to bed (black cherry, vanilla, or sun and sand candles; lavender and chamomile lotion).  Otherwise, my body thinks it is time to move, to go, to act.

Wear comfortable clothes.  Otherwise, I am distracted by discomfort.

Exercise.  Otherwise, my body does not know what to do with the energy it produces.

Listen to sounds or music I associate with rest.  Otherwise, noise can clutter my mind and make frantic my thoughts.

Be with people with whom I can be fully authentic and comfortable.  Otherwise, I will be concerned about saying or doing the right thing at the right time.

How do you find rest?