I have enjoyed digging into God’s Word with you during the month of December! My prayer is that you discover Jesus is the reason for this season. Not only today…but every day. He gives us purpose and meaning in life. Because of his birth, we have great joy! And I desire nothing more than for you to experience Him, anew and afresh today.
Despite our circumstances, we can have Love, Joy, Hope, and Peace. Because Jesus is eternal, His nature lasts infinitely. In other words, we can experience love, joy, hope, and peace for eternity. His gifts are different than anything this world has to offer. The gifts that the world gives are temporary and fleeting; whereas God’s gifts will never pass away.
His love gives without expecting anything in return. It is unconditional, selfless, sacrificial, and beneficial. No one can love us perfectly like Jesus can. His love is looking out for our best interest. He loved us first, so that in return, we can love too. His love causes us to give, without limits or demands.
We can rejoice and be glad because of our salvation. It can never be taken from us. In this world, we will have many struggles, but in the midst of them, we can experience true joy. This joy is not from this world. It comes from having a personal, intimate, one-of-a-kind love for Jesus. It is something that only He can give.
Jesus is our hope and He will not disappoint. The promises in the Bible will come true. We have seen many of the promises already fulfilled, and we can be certain that the remainder will come true. This world is fleeting, but God is eternal. He gives us purpose and meaning to life.
With temporal eyes, we look at the things around us to find comfort and find out that the peace of this world does not satisfy. We wind up feeling anxious, afraid, and inwardly longing for more. But with Jesus, we look to things above. He fills our every longing. We can find peace through Jesus in the midst of our struggles. He is here today!
“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
This birth announcement arrives over 700 years in advance, announcing the good news of Jesus Christ. It tells us who He is…
These words describe the character of Jesus. The word “wonderful” means “incomprehensible.” In other words, He will cause us to be “in constant wonder and awe.” We see this throughout His life…born of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:18), supernatural ability to heal, impactful teachings, a sinless life (Rom. 8:3-4), and the power to be raised from the dead (Mark 16). He counseled us to live counter-intuitively to the wisdom of this world…rejoice in suffering and persecution (Rom. 5:3-5), receive a blessing for being poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3), serve rather than be served (Matt. 20:28), and much, much more.
As our counselor, He knows us better than we know ourselves (John 2:25). His ways are always perfect (Ps. 18:30). He attains all knowledge and wisdom, including the nature and character of mankind (Psalm 139:1-2). He understands what we are going through and is available to listen at all times (Psalm 121:2-4). Jesus always has our best interests at heart (Psalm 36:7).
God’s power is unlimited (Job 36:2-4); He can do whatever He wants whenever He wants (Ps. 115:3). He knows no bounds (Job 11:8-18). He is the creator of all things (Neh. 9:6), the King of heaven (Ps. 95:3), the God of all mankind (1 Cor. 11:3). He is the only God (Is. 45:5-12). He is eternal (Gen. 21:33) and everlasting (Hab. 1:12), the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 21:6). He has been and always will be. He is able to do greater things than we can ask or fathom (Eph. 3:20). No one can keep track of all His miracles (Job 9:10). He answers to no one because no one is as Mighty as He (Ps. 50:9-10).
The Messiah is the father of time, and His fatherhood will never end (Rev. 1:8). The baby Jesus would be crowned King, the protector and provider of the children of God. He is not limited by age or death. As a father, his love is unconditional (Eph. 2:4-5). As children of God, our identity is secure in Him (John 10:30,38). Nothing can separate us from His love (Rom. 8:35-39). He is the perfect father.
Jesus is our Peace. We live in a crazy, chaotic, broken world with messy people every day. This is the world we know now. It is our normal until we encounter Jesus. He gives us peace in the midst of the chaos; revealing we are deeply loved (Eph. 1:16-18), redeeming us from sin (Rom. 5:8, 10), and releasing us to live freely in Him (Phil. 4:6-7).
There are many days that I feel extremely ordinary, or better said, unnoticed. I do my best when it comes to keeping my house neat and tidy, folding laundry, and toting my kiddos around. On an average night, my meals consist of mac & cheese, tacos, or spaghetti (which doesn’t measure up to the Magnolia Table or Food & Wine). In my family, I’m renown for my epic Pinterest fails. I live in a quiet neighborhood in an upbeat town. Let’s just say–I’m your every day, next door kinda girl.
For that reason…I absolutely adore that the birth of Jesus was first announced to shepherds. Ya know…the guys who live outside with the smelly, dumb sheep day-in-and-day-out. They weren’t exactly extraordinary. Instead, they were everything “un” in my mind — “uneventful”, “uninfluential”, and “unimpressive”.
God could have come first to the religious leaders. The Pharisees and the Sadducees. They were well known for their rule-keeping and impeccable lifestyles. Legalists. Goody-two-shoes. Nearly perfect. Oh, and of course, socialites. But they didn’t fit the description for the kind of person God was wanting to tell.
Of course, the royalty could have been at the top of the list. The leadership of the day. The kings and the queens and the royal guard. But nope, God had a different way.
Read Luke 2:1-21. I love that God chose the shepherds first! He chose the lowly and humble, overlooking power and pride. He knew the shepherds would stand in utter awe and amazement, and be fully cognizant of the honor bestowed on them.
In our day, it would be like receiving a personal invitation to meet Queen Elizabeth. However, this illustration falls dreadfully short. Jesus is the greatest person that ever lived on this earth–the King of Kings of all mankind. Diety who became man.
But God knew the shepherds would be overcome with excitement and go and tell what they saw. They didn’t waste any time.
Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. Luke 2:16-17
They made His name known. Their enthusiasm could not be contained…for they had a personal encounter with God in the flesh. Imagine it! And that’s why they went forth proclaiming the Good News. Great Joy. A Savior…who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).
As the day is drawing to an end, my littlest guy (who is six) sits eyeing a Christmas card made by his reading buddy. It perfectly depicts the nativity scene with Jesus lying in a manger. This scene is to draw our hearts to worship, but unfortunately, my son started comparing this beautiful piece of artwork to his own. “I can’t draw like that. My drawings are not very good.” When we take our eyes off of Jesus and start focusing on ourselves, we see our imperfections.
Read Matthew 2:1-12. It is easy to get caught up in the trap of comparison. When we do, we never measure up. Our flaws. Our weaknesses. They look like they are being held under a spotlight. However, when we keep our gaze fixated on Jesus, we stand in awe of HIm and suddenly, we pale in comparison.
When they saw the star, the magi (wise men or magicians or astrologers) from the East look for the meaning of it. They are Gentiles, not from Israel. At the very onset of Jesus’ arrival, we see that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. He came for people of every tongue, tribe, and nation. And the star was used to lead the wise men to worship Jesus.
And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:3
Interestingly, God uses a star to guide the wise men to Bethlehem. What a great reminder to “look up” to find our path. Not to Oprah or Dr. Phil. Not to horoscopes or the nightly news. Not the crashing stock market or President Trump. We are to look up, to Jesus, as our guiding light.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5.
When we live this way, we believe what Jesus says about us and who He says we are. We don’t listen to the voice inside our head that feeds us with lies. Nor do we heed the chatterbox who beats us down. Instead, we live as a child of God, a King’s kid, a masterpiece. We believe. And we live that way.
The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me. In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity. —Lauren Daigle
God’s design was to draw the magi to worship Jesus. This is His design for us as well (Isaiah 43:21). We are created to worship Jesus. We were made to worship. “God created the universe so that it would display the worth of his glory. And he created us so that we would see this glory and reflect it by knowing and loving it — with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (John Piper).”
Look for Jesus today. Rise above your circumstances. Look for the good happening around you.
Christmas day is quickly approaching, and I can feel the anticipation mounting. There is nervous energy everywhere you go. Parties galore and Hallmark movies, coupled with fudge and hot cocoa. The hype is building as we wait for the best day of the year!
Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew this feeling well. The tingling, excited, barely-can-wait-till-the-day kinda feeling. Read Luke 1:46-55.
“My soul magnifies the Lord” – I am overwhelmed by my wondrous Savior. He amplifies my soul and gives meaning to my life. Everything within me praises His name.
“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” – Because of my right standing before God, I have great joy! Regardless of the chaos in my world, my spirit rejoices in my salvation which cannot be taken from me.
“He who is mighty has done great things for me” – May I recount all the marvelous things God has done for me. May my heart be filled with gratitude. He is mighty and He does great things.
“He is holy” – God is without sin…perfect and blameless. He is greater than me and my struggles. His ways are higher than my ways, and His thoughts higher than my thoughts. He is perfect in every way. He astounds the wise and the haughty by exalting the humble and the poor.
“His mercy is for those who fear Him” – God has showered us with mercy, the forgiveness of sins when we deserved to die. He generously pours out His mercy to those who revere His name. God is not partial to the rich and famous, who seek worldly treasure as a substitute to God. He throws the world’s economy upside down: loves the least of these, bestows mercy on the lowly, and grants grace to those who seek Him with all their heart.
This prayer is often referred to as “The Magnificent” because we see Mary pouring out lavish praise to God, her Lord and Savior. Her heart overflows with praise. And I want to live that way too…my cup pouring over lavishly, splashing on everyone around me.
Spending time with God is worth our time. Many days are full of hustle and bustle…and I want you to know that is okay. God knows your heart and your desire to be close to Him. And on those days you are struggling to be near to Him, remind yourself that you are already approved by Him. There is nothing you have to do to receive His blessing because Jesus secured your salvation on the cross. You can rest in His finished work.
He knows your every thought.
He sees your every struggle.
He captures your every failure.
And then He says, “You’re enough.”
Read 1 Kings 17:8-16. A widow lived with her son and was struggling to make ends meet. Things were dire, as the famine made food scarce. When she was ready to give up and throw in the towel, Elijah said to her, “Do not fear” (v. 13). Such a great reminder for us when our lives start to spiral out of control. Above all, Elijah pointed her back to truth.
We can stand firm on the Word of God. When God ordains the end, He will provide the means to get there. Because God loves drama, He is inviting us to sit down and enjoy the show. Every time there is a disadvantage, God shows up to win. Therefore, remind yourself of the stories of old like the Israelites held captive by the Pharoah. Esther’s people about to die. Daniel in the lion’s den. King David on the run for his life. Why even the precious baby Jesus was sent here for the cross.
But the stories don’t stop there. We turn the page. We keep reading. The victory has been won! This is why Elijah confidently proclaimed, “Do not fear.” Not at this moment…or the days to come.
It’s not about what we do, or how many friends we have, or where we live, or the color of our skin. Nor is it about our marital status, or age, or our bank account balance. Keeping up with the neighbors or finding the perfect gifts for Christmas does not dictate your worth. Because it is not about us, we can stop the striving. It is all about Jesus and what He did.
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Rom. 14:17
David. A shepherd boy. A seemingly unexpected candidate. However, the Israelite war was taking it’s toll, as no one was willing to face the giant. The enemy army of the Philistines taunted day in and out, thinking they had the battle won. With a giant named Goliath on their side, they thought they were unconquerable. Read 1 Samuel 17.
David shows up on the scene to bring food to his older brothers. Shocked to discover their fear and dread. The giant in their life was all they could see. Like us, they looked at the tangible.
God uses giants to refocus our eyesight. To cause us to reorient our position. Today, I ask you…is God enough for your current dilemma? Or is the giant in your life seen indestructible?
Giants come in all shapes and sizes. A task at work. A financial burden. Maybe for you, it is a health problem, or a wandering loved one. A feeling of not measuring up…or being good enough. Oh, the giants we face…each and every one of us. Read Ephesians 6:10-16.
The strength that David found was not from himself…it was a courage that was planted by God. He picked up some stones from the riverbed and gave one a mighty whirl. It landed smack dab on Goliath’s forehead, killing him immediately upon impact. David claimed the victory that day, but don’t lose sight of the hero of the story. It was God Himself who empowered David.
Notice, David wasn’t confident in himself. Instead, he expressed his confidence in someone greater. He read the Word of God. Stood firm on its promises. And put his faith into action.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.Romans 10:17
We build our faith by spending time in the Word of God and allowing our souls to be saturated. Remember, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Let Him walk before you.
What current obstacle are you facing? Are you trying to battle it on your own, or will you face your giant armed with God’s armor? What does that look like?
I’ve been talking to you. I hear you. I hear your struggle to believe. You doubt there is a God. How could He possibly be real?
The divorce. The death. The abuse. The struggle. It is real. It feels. It breathes. Not a day goes by without the constant reminder of your pain. And so you sit…stuck. “If God is real, why would He?”
And your bitterness grows.
But I ask you...Have you made God too small? Have you made Him pint-size compared to your hurt and pain, rather than allowing Him to conquer your deepest anguish?
You wrestle with wanting a god that you can control. A god who will do things your way. A “yes-god” who fits in the palm of your hand.
Nevertheless, pain is a part of the mystery of God. The reasons for pain belong to God. “The LORD our God has secrets known to no one…” (Deut. 29:29).
We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Fortunately, God does not allow us to suffer alone. Rather, He comes to meet us where we are (2 Cor. 1:3-4). There is nothing we face in this world that He himself has not experienced (see Isaiah 53:3-4). Even in the pain, God has a greater purpose.
Read the story of Ruth today, which reveals that God is at work in the worst of times. It’s a story about a foreign girl from the land of Moab who faithfully follows her widowed mother-in-law Naomi after tragically losing her own husband. Ruth commits that “Your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16) and is willing to risk the possibility of staying widowed and childless for a lifetime. She trusts and hopes in the sovereign goodness of God despite the dim outlook of her circumstances.
All to show us that our stories connect us to someone far greater than ourselves. As a believer, your story is weaved into the story of God. Your ordinary may seem meaningless today, but in tomorrow’s light, it will be meaningful for all eternity.
What do you worry about most? What keeps you up at night? What needs to change to turn your worry into trust?
They faced a wall. An insurmountable, unconceivable, invincible wall. In their eyes, it was unconquerable. But in God’s eyes, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).
Are you facing a wall today? A wall of discouragement, disappointment, or doubt? A hopeless situation where you cannot see you’re way out?
After wandering for 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites were ready to enter the promised land, the land of Canaan. This land flowed with milk and honey and was promised to Abraham over 500 years earlier (Deuteronomy 6:3). Pause for a second…do you see how cool this is? Is anyone else in utter awe? The promises of God are coming to fruition right here as we turn the pages of Scripture. We can stand assured that the promises of God will come true! Mic drop.
However, as the Israelites faced the promised land there was one very large obstacle in their way. A wall. Read Joshua 6:1-27. They could not see a solution to their current dilemma. From their vantage point, there was no hope. Might as well wallow in self-pity…or about face and wander in the wilderness for another 40 years. In the eyes of man, this situation was completely impossible.
And once again, God says “Nope. I got it! What you see as an impossibility is a possibility with God.” (I think someone needs to hear that right now. Go ahead and repeat it and speak it into your life).
God lays out a war strategy that seems ridiculously simple: Quietly march around the city for six days, and on the seventh day, make seven circuits around and then give a victory shout. There is a lesson for us here….our battles belong to the Lord (Isaiah 55:8-9, Exodus 14:14).
When we face an insurmountable situation, it is our faithful obedience to God that yields a Jericho victory in our lives. The walls in our lives produce sanctification, a transformative process to mold us into the image of Christ (read Romans 8:29). In our desperation, we are forced to look to God as our refuge and strength. It is during such times God is working in us to perfect our faith (Hebrews 10:23, 11:1).
God uses such moments in our lives to point our direction upward to Him. He reminds us that He is powerful to conquer our battles (Psalm 18:13-15). He uses the walls in our lives to reorient our focus…because He knows otherwise, we get consumed with earthly things. There is nothing comparable to the power of God. What God says comes to pass. When God speaks, walls crumble (Hebrews 11:30).
The Israelites wandering faith was transformed into saving faith. When God spoke, they listened and obeyed. It is saving faith that propels us to obedience. Because of the grace of God and His abounding mercy, we desire to do what He says (1 Jn 2:3-5). Our faith without obedience is dead faith (James 2:26).
It is our obedience to God that reflects our salvation to the world. It is not enough to say “I believe in God” and then live however we please. True salvation is reflected in how we live. Obedient. Submissive. Humble lives.
Is your life reflecting JESUS this Christmas season? Do others see your “Saving Faith”?
Christmas is a great time of reflecting. Looking back…but also looking ahead. I love the season’s tug to continue to move forward and grow. Here’s a prayer of reflection.
May I never grow weary of doing good…or think I’m good enough to quit trying.
You are good and do good…Ps. 119:68
Whether the task ahead is big or small…may I recount my blessing to play a part in your plan.
Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand,Jeremiah 18:6
In the difficult circumstance, may I keep my eyes fixed on you. And when times are easy, may I recount how you helped me climb the mountain.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.Habakkuk 3:17-19
May I remember all of your wondrous deeds…and remind myself that you are praiseworthy.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!Luke 2:14
My identity is secure in you. I have been chosen. Set apart. Adopted. And redeemed. I am enough because you say I am enough. Help me believe it and live this way!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.Ephesians 1:3-10
There is a common misconception among mankind. “I’m good. I’m not that bad. I’m good enough to get into heaven. The big man upstairs will let me in.”
But that’s not what the Bible says.
It says that there is no good in us apart from God (Rom. 3:10). The fool says there is no God (Ps. 14:1-3). We all are born sinners, fallen and corrupt (Ps. 53:1-3). And it is our sin that separates us from God (Is. 59:2). We are spiritually dead no matter how good we look on the outside. This is why we need a Savior (Rom. 5:12). This is why it was necessary for Jesus to come.
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”Matthew 1:21
I think it is necessary to remind us of this Gospel truth every day…because otherwise we think too highly of ourselves than we ought. And when we think too highly of ourselves…we no longer stand in awe and wonder of our amazing Savior.
This is what happened to the Israelites beginning in Exodus 16. The people forgot about the great wonder of the parting of the Red Sea. The looked at their circumstances, rather than keeping their eyes focused on God. They complained about their daily bread (Exodus 18), rather than worshiping and praising God for what they had. They built idols of earthly, temporary, shiny stuff (Exodus 32), rather than fixating their thoughts and eyes on heaven above.
Oh, like the Israelites, we are prone to wander.
Reorient your focus this Christmas season to keep your eyes above the fray. Only Jesus is worthy of our praise and adoration!
How is God making Himself manifest in my life right now? Will I respond with adoration and praise?