Daily December Devotional — Day 20

IMG_1252

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:76-80

And you, my child, will be called a
prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to
prepare the way for him,

to give his people the knowledge of
salvation
through forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us
from heaven

to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.

And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think it was necessary for John to prepare the way for the Lord by giving people knowledge of salvation through forgiveness of sins?

When did you first hear about salvation through the forgiveness of sins? What was your initial response?

Are there areas in your life in which you have resisted the light that Jesus brings?

Why do you think John lived in the wilderness before appearing to share the message of salvation?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, thank you for saving me, for forgiving me, for shining your light on me! Help me to share the message of your salvation through forgiveness with my family and friends. Help me to reflect your love by infusing me with your tender mercy. In times of sadness or temptation, Lord, I long for your light. I pray that you would invade every area of my heart, every grudge, resentment, and hurt. Shine your light in my darkness and transform my heart so that it reflects your love and peace.

Daily December Devotional — Day 19

IMG_1248

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 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 17

IMG_1233

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 16

IMG_1230

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

IMG_1207

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 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 13

IMG_1196

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 12

IMG_1195

Today’s Verses:

Jeremiah 23:5-6

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.

In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The LORD Our Righteous Savior.”

Today’s Questions:

What must it have been like for Joseph and Mary, who had spent their lives hearing these words of Jeremiah recited over and over from the time they were small children, to learn that they were going to have a son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, who would save his people from their sins?

What do you think the Israelites believed their promised king would save them from?

In a typical day, do you give more thought to your need to be saved from your external circumstances or your need to be saved from the darkness, lust, greed, judgment, or self-centeredness in your own heart?

Today’s Prayer:

Lord God, thank you for your righteousness. Thank you that you came to save me and make me clean. Thank you that you came down low, and were then raised up as King. What amazing love you have for me that you would intervene in this way! Help me to remember that what you seek to transform is my heart. My circumstances will come and go, but the person you are making me through my circumstances will live with you forever. Please don’t stop conforming me into the image of Christ.

Daily December Devotional — Day 11

IMG_1194

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.