Read John 1:9 – 14
Presents… For many children these are what Christmas is all about. Now that I am a parent, I get to re-live the excitement of Christmas morning vicariously through them. I do remind my children that Christmas is all about the Presence. I do not mean the 6 billion presents that people give and receive from loved ones, but the true presence of God in our lives.
I want you all to know the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus (the Word) came into this world in the form of a baby and dwelt among us. This is God’s gift to all of humanity. The Bible says that those who put their faith and trust in Jesus have received the greatest gift of all. The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 3:11-12 that through Jesus Christ, we may now stand in the presence of God with confidence and assurance knowing that we are His children and He has given us the gift of eternal life.
We can and should have confidence that we will receive the gift of eternal life. The gift of God (The Word/Jesus) has been given to humanity because of His great love for us. The present of God’s presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit is the greatest gift we could ever receive. Receiving the gift of eternal life through Jesus gives us the ability and right to stand in the presence of God with confidence. This confidence is not based upon what you’ve done, but what He has done for you. You can now stand in the presence of God, guiltless and without sin because of what Jesus Christ has done for you. This, my friends, is the greatest gift of all.
God is Love
Read I John 4:7 -21
Love comes from God. We have the ability to love because God loves us. When we display love to one another, we know that we are born of God. Being born of God means that we are, in fact, His sons and daughters through our faith in Jesus Christ.
In this passage, John reiterates that if one chooses not to love as Christ commanded, then this person does not know God. He tells us that not only does love come from God, but God is love. According to author Gary Burge in his commentary of the Gospel of John, “It is important to note what John is not saying. He is not saying that ‘God is loving’ (though this is true). Nor is he saying that one of God’s activities is ‘to love us’ (though this is true as well). John is saying that God is love, that all his ‘activity is loving.’ Love is the essence of his being. But the reverse is not the case. We cannot say, in other words, that ‘love is God’ as if any displayed affection suddenly qualifies as divine.”
I believe this happens to be one of the most misrepresented verses in the Bible because people confuse the word love with words like tolerance, forgiveness, or behavior modification. The truth is God is tolerant and forgiving with us; however, He will not excuse or justify sin in our lives. This does not mean that since God loves us we can do whatever we please.
We learn this with our own children. We discipline, guide, correct and withhold things from them as acts of love; because we know that not everything is beneficial to our children. The truth is we need to say, “No” at times to things that are harmful.
We need to understand that since God is love, this does not mean God will let you get away with anything you want. By saying “God is love” John is not referring to an emotional feeling God has towards us; instead, He is showing that His love is shown to us through His son Jesus Christ.
Got the Time?
Read Ephesians 5: 15 – 16
I am busy. You are busy. We are all busy. Busyness has become the norm in life. Author Stephen Covey writes, “People expect us to be busy, overworked. It’s become a status symbol in our society – if we’re busy, we’re important; if we are not busy, we’re almost embarrassed to admit it. Busyness is where we get out security. It’s validating, popular and pleasing. It’s also a good excuse for not dealing with the first things in our lives.” Time is a precious commodity and we throw it away thoughtlessly.
Every minute God has given to us is a gift from Him. Today’s passage reminds us not to live unwise or as “fools.” We cannot live foolishly in this life; we need to take advantage of every opportunity that God has placed before us.
I am reminded in the Gospel of Luke of the story of Mary and Martha. They were sisters and they invited Jesus over to their house. When Jesus came, Mary went in at sat at his feet, listened, and worshiped. She was literally drinking in the words of God Himself and basking in His presence. Her sister Martha was running around the house making sure the house was clean, cooking the meal, and setting the table. But Martha had had enough and she goes to Jesus and says, “Jesus, can’t you see I am killing myself trying to get things ready, and my sister, the bum, is just sitting at your feet doing nothing. Could you please tell her to come help me?” She thought that maybe Jesus could convince her sister to help around the house a bit. Do you know what Jesus’ response was? I can assure you it wasn’t what Martha wanted to hear…
He tells her, “You are wasting your time Martha, doing all these menial things and your sister has chosen what is important, spending time with me is, and I will not take that away from her.” Essentially He was saying that life is too short to be concerned with the little things of this world. Spend your time on things that really matter.
Advent is a good time to remember that we need to spend time on what really matters. We all have the same 24 hours in a day and some have more “free” time than others. But no matter your age, we need to know that life is short. We are only a breath away from death. Since God has given us this precious gift of time, don’t waste it. Invest in worshiping Him. This is the way of wisdom.
Sing to the King
Read Psalm 98: 7 - 9
We are called to sing unto the Lord in praise and adoration of the marvelous and divine works He has done. We are invited to join with all of creation in singing about the greatness of our God and the salvation He has given to us.
If we would step back for a moment and look at how Psalm 98 can apply to us today we can ask and answer three questions.
My prayer today is that we can see the value in worshiping God through song. Singing is not the only way to worship; we can worship God in all sorts of ways. It is, however, important to know that worship through music is valid. It is important and it has been used throughout the centuries. God deserves our praise and worship; so, open your heart to the joy of celebrating the salvation He has made available to all of us.
Makes Me Wanna Sing
Read Psalm 98: 1 - 6
Today’s passage is a Psalm of celebration for the Kingship of God through music. This particular Psalm was the inspiration behind Sir Isaac Watts hymn “Joy to the World.”
The Psalmist invites the people of God to sing. He did not call His people to sing any old song, but he called the people to sing a new song. This new song should be sung because God has done marvelous things. God always does marvelous things and He deserves to be continually praised for them. God is to be praised for his right hand and holy arm. This is symbolic for God’s salvation. The right arm represents God’s strength and power and his holy arm represents His intervention. Through God’s almighty power and intervention salvation is attained.
The Psalm continues to sing about how God has revealed or uncovered his salvation for all to experience. He has done this for his righteous name sake. He showed his power in salvation to the Israelites and then He made his divine power of salvation known to the Gentiles. In God’s mercy, He brought salvation to Israel. He made a promise to the nation that He would be their God and they would be His people; and God remembers that promise. As a result of God’s faithfulness, the nations have seen this marvelous work of salvation.
The response is an invitation for all of humanity to join in singing this song of celebration. However, they are not called to praise only with their mouths but are called to joyfully make a noise to the Lord. “Joyful noise” – shout, war cry, a shout of triumph, to shout in applause - to the Lord.
The Psalmist encourages the use of instruments to praise God. Play your instruments with heartfelt joy and complete praise to God. The use of instruments in music is not intended to be a time for the musician to show off his talents, but is genuinely to play with all he has to the Lord with joy. Perform for an audience of ONE.
It’s More Than A Song
Read Deut. 6:13 & Hebrews 10:22
The Hebrew word for worship is Shaw Kaw, which means to bow down, to prostrate oneself, to honor, reverence as divine or Supreme Being. The Greek word is Pros-Koo-Neh-O and paints a more vivid picture, it means to kiss the hand towards in token of reverence or kissing like a dog affectionately licks his master’s hand.
We talk often about worship, but do we really know what it is? In the passages for today we see two truths about worship. First, worship is reserved for God alone. Secondly, our worship must be sincere and from the heart.
King David said that if he could make one request, he would ask to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. That sentiment comes from a proper understanding and real experience of worship. There’s nothing better or more fulfilling than worshiping God once we learn how to do it. Here are a few suggestions as to how we can enter worship with God.
Week 3 - Joy
Read Luke 1:46 - 56
The Nativity begins and ends with worship. From the moment Mary received news from the Angel Gabriel to the moment the Magi came to visit the child king, the birth of Jesus is bathed in worship. In today’s passage, we read of Mary’s response to the news that she was the chosen one who would give birth to the long anticipated Savior of the world. When she heard the news, her first response was worship and praise. She praises God for choosing her as the one who would bring the Messiah into the world. She praises Him because He is mighty, Holy, merciful, powerful, and a God who keeps his promises.
The response of the shepherds, the angels, and the Magi was the same as they each met their new born King. The Angels proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest.” The shepherds went to see the baby and when they returned to the fields, they praised God for all they had seen and heard. The Magi, or the Wise Men, came and worshiped. When they saw the child, they fell down and worshiped him. Their act of worship was in giving Jesus gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.
Our hearts are formed by what we worship. It has been said often that whatever we spend our time, money, and energy on are most likely the things we worship. What is it that you worship? When you truly get to the heart of the matter and you are truthful with yourself, you need to ask: is it Jesus?
It may seem easy to say, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but it is just as easy to get pulled into the vacuum of consumerism where we quickly put Jesus on the back burner.
Let us be reminded that we have the opportunity to put aside the frenzy of buying and shopping ‘til you drop, and we can instead truly focus on what God has given to humanity in Jesus Christ this Advent season.
Let us continue this season with thankfulness, praise, and worship of our King Jesus. Let us hold onto the promises He made that “whoever believes in me shall not perish but have everlasting life,” and his imminent return is at hand.
The Simple Command
Read I John 4:7 -21
One simple command Jesus gives to his followers is the “new command.” This command is not just for the twelve disciples, but it carries over to us today.
In the 15 verses you read today, John tells his readers to love one another three times. Do you think he is trying to say something important? Do you think maybe, just maybe, he is trying to stress the importance of believers loving one another? The answer is yes!
Christians are commanded to love one another and we are only able to love one another because of God’s Spirit in us. We are able to love because God displayed His love to us by sending Jesus Christ to be our redeemer. We are able to love fearlessly because God’s perfect love removes all fear and doubt and gives us joy and confidence. Our ability to truly love cannot exist outside of God. Any love apart from God is a false love.
Jesus spoke of loving one another as one of the two great commandments for all believers to keep. The word for love in the Greek is “agapeo,” which means to love dearly, to be fond of, to be well pleased, and be contented at or with a thing. This love does not refer to the emotional feeling one gets when he is around someone he is attracted to, it is much deeper.
Believers are called to be fond of one another. We are to have great pleasure and satisfaction in being with those we consider our spiritual family. I have heard people say, “I know Jesus said I have to love fellow believers, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them.” I believe the translation of this word agapeo does in fact does mean that we not only love one another, but we must like one another as well.
Since the fourth Sunday of Advent is actually Christmas Eve I have some "extra" devotionals for Advent. So, I am going to post some of my "Love" devotionals this weekend and next. I hope you enjoy...
The New Command
Read John 13:31 - 35
As Jesus was preparing to go to the cross of Calvary he gave his disciples one last command, and it was a command He not only taught, but He also practiced. He calls the disciples “My little children.” This is a term of endearment and affection. Jesus lovingly, begins the task of preparing his disciples for his departure from this world. Soon, He will be handed over to the authorities to be tortured and crucified. Through His death Jesus will be returning to the Father in Heaven. He is returning to the place where he rules and reigns supremely. The disciples could not go with him; this is a trip and destination that can only be reached by the road paved with torture, pain, and sacrifice.
Before all of this He gives a “new commandment…” Jesus lays out what he expects his followers to do in his absence. In his commentary on John, theologian D.A. Carson writes, “The new command is simple enough for a toddler to memorize and appreciate, and profound enough that the most mature believers are repeatedly embarrassed at how poorly they comprehend it and put it into practice.” Sadly Carson is right.
Jesus’ command is for the disciples to love one another in the same way He loved them. With Jesus’ impending death, the disciples would soon see the importance of loving each other in the manner that Jesus truly loved them.
Jesus is giving them a life command and not one that they are to keep once and then move on. Love must be displayed continually so people will see they belong to Jesus. According to first century Christian Tertullian the Pagans marveled at the love of the Christian fellowship of believers, especially as they faced some intense persecution. First century author Tertullian wrote, “See how they love one another! ... How they are ready even to die for one another?” May we display this love to one another as well?
From Suffering to Hope
Read Romans 5: 2 - 5
“More than that (obtaining access to God) we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” The Apostle Paul is saying that since we are at peace with God, then we have access into his grace, and the end result is hope.
Have you ever wondered why you experience struggles, trials, and suffering in your life? Have you ever asked God, “Why is this happening to me? I don’t deserve this?”
There was a time in my ministry when I asked this question regularly. During this trial my family and I were devastated by the actions of a few people who said and did some very hurtful things to us. We are still reeling from the effects of this difficult time. During this trial I was continually brought back to Romans 5:2- 5, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Thankfully I was able to find peace and joy during this time. How? Through the power of God’s love and Holy Spirit. Even during the difficulties God was at work in my life and in my heart, and this brought hope. I will admit it was much easier to have hope than it was to rejoice in despair, but now I see what the Apostle Paul was trying to say. Going through pain, suffering and difficult situations is never fun, but if we are able to view our present situation through the eyes of faith ultimately we will be strengthened in patience, character and hope.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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