Monthly Archives: September 2013

September 30

Matthew 2:1-23, 3:1-12; Luke 2:41-52, 3:1-20; Mark 1:1-8; John 1:1-28

There are so many precious truths recorded in the verses we read today, and hundreds of sermon topics. The Magi’s search for Jesus. John’s baptism. John’s testimony and imprisonment. God becoming human. Fulfilled prophesy.

These verses are packed with one blessed word after another. Can you feel the excitement and anticipation for the coming of Jesus’ ministry? This is it! This is what we’ve been reading about for the nine months we spent in the Old Testament. This is what all the prophesies foretold. This is what Abraham, David, Elijah and others looked forward to.

How blessed are we to live this side of the cross. How amazing is it to open the pages of the Bible and have the opportunity to know God’s heart. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He made all things, he was the light of the world, he revealed himself to the world but we just didn’t get it. Then in John 1:14 it says:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

We can see the God of creation in the face of Jesus! As we continue to read about his life on earth in human form, let’s get to know him better. Let’s catch the excitement the people in the first century felt as they realized their world was going to change.  And let him change us, too!

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September 29

Matthew 1:1-25; Luke 2:1-40, 3:23-38

I can never read Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth without hearing the voices of little children. When my nieces and nephews were first graders they took part in their school’s Christmas tradition. The teacher helped the students memorize Luke 2:1-20 every year and the first graders would recite it together at the Christmas concert. Dressed in their white robes and big red bows, their little voices would rise and fall, pause and crescendo at just the right time. Twenty years later they could still recite these precious verses. And I can say with thankfulness my nieces and nephews grew up to love the One who was born in that manger.

Jesus was God at conception. We saw how Elizabeth’s baby reacted to being in his presence before he was born. Today we see where Simeon and Anna recognized this baby would change the world.

What about us? When we read about this baby do we step back and say, “Ah, isn’t he adorable?” like we do when we’re standing in the checkout line behind a stranger’s newborn in a stroller? Or do we gaze into his face, study the shape of his head and the color of his eyes like we do when we look at our own newborn or a grandchild? Do we try to see ourselves in the shape of his nose or chin? How personal is the baby Jesus to you?

This baby does what no other baby can do. He loves you totally. This baby in the manger will grow up to suffer and to die a horrible death because of that love. This baby was born so that you can live. You.

I’m not sure we can grasp the extent of the true meaning behind the birth we read about today. Our holy God who demands holiness of us became a human being so that he could fulfill all of his own demands. He loves us that much. And all he asks of us is that we love him, too. Accept his grace. And live eternally with him with in glory.

I want to see myself in this baby’s face. But not because he looks like me. I want to look like him! 

Dear God, as we consider your Son as an infant today, I pray that we would have a personal connection, understanding that Jesus was born that day because of love for each of us. For me. Thank you for this baby, God with us. It’s an amazing truth I pray we will each hold on to as we recognize how intimate our relationship with you can be. You came to change the world, it’s true. But my prayer is that you will change me. May I look like Jesus, walk like him, talk like him, so others will know him, too.

September 28

Luke 1

Our journey into the New Testament begins today with Dr. Luke’s account of what happened during the life of Jesus here on earth. Luke wasn’t one of the twelve disciples. But he researched the facts and put to paper what he found to be true, concerned that there were some stories going around that weren’t accurate. As a physician he was used to sifting through evidence. And the result is as close to an accurate account as he could make it.

I’m glad he included the events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist and Gabriel’s visit to Mary when she was told God had chosen her to give birth to his son. It spoke to me when Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice and the baby she was carrying “leaped for joy”.

It dawned on me that Jesus lives in me as real as he was as a baby in Mary’s womb. And it made me wonder how that fact effects my friends and family when they hear my voice. Does Jesus in me cause others to rejoice in my presence? It should.

Is Jesus as visible in my life as a protruding belly on a pregnant woman? He should be that recognizable.

We are going to spend the next three months reading about Jesus. My prayer is that as we do, we will love him more, serve him better out of grateful hearts, rejoice in his goodness, and allow him to be more visible in our lives. 

Jesus changed the world. Let him change you.

Gracious God, thank you so much for coming to earth as a baby, living among us and demonstrating your love for us. I pray that as we read the New Testament you will change each of us, regardless of how long we have walked with you. Teach us more about you. Reveal yourself more intimately with each of us. And may spending time in your Word and thinking about your life strengthen us to be the people you would have us be. What a privilege we have of knowing the God of the Universe so personally!

 

September 27

Joel 3; Malachi 1-4

We come to the end of the Old Testament today. And Malachi is setting the stage for Jesus’ ministry. He has a lot to say about that but I want to share something from just 3:10.

When my parents were raising five daughters in the 50’s times here tough. My dad was a hard worker but he was not a good businessman. He and mom spent nearly everything they had to buy a bulldozer, backhoe, dump truck and flat bed trailer so Dad could start his own excavating business. He was a ditch digger! He dug footers and basements and leveled land for building sites. He was good at it and he loved the work.

He was not good, however, at pressing people for payments when the money due him didn’t come. 

We girls knew there wasn’t a lot of money but we were protected from the extent of it. We didn’t see Mom’s tears as she served the fourth Campbell Soup dinner of the week. We didn’t notice when Mom and Dad skipped a meal. And we never saw the pile of bills that wasn’t getting paid.

Somewhere during that difficult time Mom was convicted about tithing. She argued with God for a while saying, how could she drop a tenth of almost nothing into the plate when her girls didn’t have enough to eat. But God continued to impress on her to be faithful with what she had and, because she was the keeper of the money and the writer of checks in our family, she quietly began to tithe.

Now I know some of you may want to hear about an anonymous check that came in the mail or a rich relative’s fortune being left to us in a will. That didn’t happen but I will tell you what did.

Dad lost his business.

That’s right. Dad had to sell his equipment. But because he had shown himself to be a good worker in the building trades, a man who owned a plumbing company and had an opening at that very moment, offered Dad the chance to work with him and learn the plumbing trade. Dad studied plumbing and found, not only was he good at it – he liked the work, too! And… he didn’t have the pressures that come with being the company owner. And… he got paid every week.. And… he had regular work hours and was able to be at home with us evenings. And… he didn’t work on the weekends.

And… the bills started to get paid. Slowly, Mom was able to write the checks that needed to be written every month. It didn’t happen over night. But it happened to the point that eventually she even opened a savings account! 

It wasn’t a dramatic answer to prayer and it didn’t happen like Mom and Dad might have planned. But what did happen was better for Dad and our family. God asked Mom to be faithful with what she had. And God proved he meant what he said when he said:

see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

We were never rich according to the world’s standards . But we were and are a family rich in blessings from God who is true to his Word. Be faithful with a little and God will be faithful with what he has!

Do you tithe? You need to. And not because you want God to pour out a financial windfall on you. You need to because it demonstrates to you and to God your commitment to him and your trust in him. Do you take God at his Word? Prove it.

 

September 26

Nehemiah 13; Joel 1&2

No matter how many times his people go astray, God still pleads with them to return to him. Making wine on the Sabbath, doing their shopping on that holy day, marrying foreign wives were some of the blatant sins Israel was once again committing so soon after Jerusalem was restored.

But it wasn’t just about those things that God was saddened by. His heart broke because of their hearts’ condition.

Joel 2:12-14 spoke to me today. God calls us to return to him with all our hearts. Don’t just go through the motions by tearing your clothes. Rend your hearts, he says.

The sins Israel committed came from unrepentant hearts. God is asking me today about my own heart’s condition. What part does he play in my innermost being? He wants it all. And if I truly have given him all of me, my life would reflect that in my speech, in my actions, in my business dealings, in my home.

Sin is an outward expression of the heart. That’s why we are told to guard our hearts. That’s why Jesus wants to dwell there so that we would have victory over sin. He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. He wants to bless us but he cannot bless sin. 

Dear Father in heaven, thank you for your grace and compassion. Thank you for your great love. Thank you for second and third and fourth chances. God, may we rend our hearts, allow you to take up residence in our innermost beings. And may the things we do and say today reflect your Presence in our lives. Give us victory over temptation and sin as we give you our hearts.

September 25

I Chronicles 9:1-34; Nehemiah 12:1-47

Jerusalem was rebuilt and the repair of the wall completed. The priests were ready to begin ministering and the gatekeepers were assigned their responsibilities. But first the people wanted to praise God.

I have a degree in music education. The beginning of my teaching career found me teaching children how to play musical instruments and later, how to use their voices to make music. I have such good memories of elementary bands and middle school choirs.

So when I read about the two choirs that had a part in the celebration recorded in Nehemiah, it got my attention. I certainly would have been a part of that had I been there! I find it a great joy to be a part of a group of people who work together to turn notes on a page into harmonies and beautiful music.

While practicing my clarinet or singing an alto part I hear only that particular progression of notes. Sometimes it’s boring and repetitive and I can’t make out the melody. Sometimes getting the rhythm correct or the fingerings running smoothly is tedious.

But when I sit among other individuals who have also spent time on their individual parts, together the result is beautiful. It all makes sense when everyone is playing or singing their part.

Another look at the Church? I think so. I am wondering how beautiful the music of your local fellowship sounds? Are you a group of people who individually spend time in God’s Word, who know and use their spiritual gifts in the fellowship and in the community? Are there those who prepare lessons from the Bible, who change diapers in the nursery, who sing in the choir and who plow snow in the winter? Are there prayer warriors and sacrificial financial supporters, encouragers and counselors? 

One person can’t do it all. But working together produces something beautiful, music to our Lord’s ears. What part do you play? Are you practicing to perfect that piece of music set before you? Your part might not seem all that important to you. A third clarinet player or a percussionist playing a triangle might not think they have an exciting or important position in the band. But take away that part and the whole piece is effected. Something is missing. The music just doesn’t sound like it should. If everyone only played the melody all the time the music would be hollow. It’s the harmonies that make the music work!

My prayer is that you will take hold of whatever part of your local church you are able. And that you will perfect that part of the ministry. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your part isn’t important or necessary. You are part of a great work. May the result produce music that pleases our Lord.

September 24

Nehemiah 9:38-11:36

84 men signed a detailed pledge, promising they and the rest of the people would live by the law of Moses. They bound themselves with a curse and an oath and boldly stated, “We will not neglect the house of our God.” 

Was it like that when you came to know the Lord? Were you determined to change your ways, be faithful in your service, to love God and obey him for the rest of your life? How long were you able to hold up your end of the bargain?

The Jewish men we read about today were no doubt convinced that they and their families would be able to do everything in the pledge they signed. But history tells us eventually the promises were forgotten.

One thing I’ve learned is that I can’t make a promise to obey God for anyone but myself. These Jewish leaders spoke for the nation of Israel. It was doomed from the beginning. I can’t promise God my sisters and their families will love and obey him. Each of those dear people have to do that individually. 

I can’t even promise I’ll be faithful every day until I die. I can give God today, though because that’s all I have. I know me. And so does Satan. I have struggles and temptations and I am human. I will fail. 

But I can go to my Heavenly Father and confess my sins and know he is faithful to forgive. I can determine to cling to Jesus for strength and the ability to obey him. And he will answer my prayers. 

As I go into my day today I pray that there will be victories over temptation. I pray that God will make himself known to me and I will obey. I pray that I will have the courage to make choices that allow me to be the woman God intends for me to be today.

I can pray the same for you. But it’s up to you to make it happen.

Let’s choose Jesus today. I’m going to.