Day 26: Merry Christmas -The Light has been Turned On!

christmas lights 2
Today is Christmas and I am celebrating the birth of the Savior Jesus. This is the last day of Journey to Bethlehem. A free online Advent Bible reading guide provided by Scripture Union USA.

Day 26 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled The Word Became Flesh.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. (John 1:4-9)
This got me thinking about light. The definition of darkness is "the absence of light." You can't really understand darkness without knowing about light. You can't "turn on" darkness it is just there. It is a passive negative. Light is an active positive. Light is a sudden change to darkness. Darkness itself can't change light.

Jesus is the light shining in the dark and Christmas is a celebration of the true Light coming to the world, our world, my world.

Thank you God that the Light has been turned on in this world and in my life and darkness has absolutely no effect on the Light.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 25: Give and Receive Christmas Gifts as A Reminder

Christmas
I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. It is a 26 day journey ending on Christmas Day.

Day 25 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled His Gift to Us.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)
At Christmas it is a custom to give gifts. A custom that has spiraled out of control in some parts of the world, including mine. In may ways the gifts we exchange during this incredible celebration have overshadowed the true gift given by God.

The reality is that our gifts have only overshadowed God's gift in our own myopic up side down world.

The reality is that from the big picture, when you look beyond today and into eternity God's gift is revolutionary and glorious!

The reality is that our gifts are only tokens, only signs, that point to the one true and incredible gift given by God in Jesus--grace.

Thank you God for this life changing gift! Help me today to give and receive gifts only as a reminder of your gift.

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 24: Freedom That Changes Everything

Expression of freedom
I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. It is a 26 day journey ending on Christmas Day.

Day 24 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled His Offering for Sin.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
Christmas is a celebration of a new life in this world. A new life-giving Spirit that brings freedom. A baby who would grow into manhood just like any other man. But this man, Jesus, would show us exactly what true freedom looks like. Freedom that is rooted in truth. Not freedom that says we can do anything we want, anytime, anyway, & anyplace, but a freedom that goes deep into our soul and releases us from the grip of sin, failure, and mistakes. This release has the power to also free us from the feelings of guilt and condemnation. A freedom that changes everything.

Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice and for the true freedom you have brought into my life. A freedom that counts!

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 23: Set Aside Your Status, Like Jesus Did

foot washing
I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. It is a 26 day journey ending on Christmas Day.

Day 23 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled He Humbled Himself.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7)
Probably the biggest challenge for me in God's word is here in this passage. God is reminding me this morning:

Brad, have the same mindset as Jesus. Set aside your status, your accomplishments, your pride, and make yourself nothing, like Christ. Think like Christ and live as a servant.

From his birth in a feeding trough to his death on the cross, Christ lived this mindset out. Help me to live it out. It is not easy. Help me Lord in this today.

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 22: Jesus You are Superior. Period.

superior
I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. It is a 26 day journey ending on Christmas Day.

Day 22 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled His Superiority.
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. (Hebrews 1:1–4)
Jesus is superior to the prophets and angles. As a believer this is not hard for me to understand and believe. Jesus is the Lord. Jesus is God.

But the author of Hebrews is writing this to Jews whose whole understanding of God had come through Moses, the prophets, and angles. This was a huge hurdle for them to get over. For them Jesus was just another great teacher with incredible understanding, perhaps a great priest, maybe a prophet sent by God, or maybe even a ruler, but nothing more. Jesus is a great teacher, prophet, and ruler from God, but much much more.

I am reminded this morning that Jesus is superior. Period. Jesus is superior to all my grand understandings of God. Jesus is superior of everything in my life, everything that exists.

What ideas or things do I have or want that I have raised up too high in my life? Lord help me to let go and lay them at your feet. Jesus you are superior!

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 21: By, Through, and For Jesus

Looking through a lens iii
I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. It is a 26 day journey ending on Christmas Day.

Day 21 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled His Divine Being.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16, ESV)
Absolutely everything, things we can see and those we can't, were created by, through, and for Jesus. BY, THROUGH, and FOR Jesus. Everything! Wow!

Everything started with Jesus and everything happens through Jesus and everything is completed with Jesus.

For me the only way Scripture makes sense is with this view. The only way I have been able to understand the Christmas story, God's history laid out in the Bible, His actions in the Old Testament, His challenging words, His rejection of sin, His loving mercy, His undeserved grace, is to look at it all through the lens of the Son of God.

Everything is by, through, and for Jesus! Everything!

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 20: Faith is Not Academic

135.365 Academics
I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. It is a 26 day journey ending on Christmas Day.

Day 20 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled The Father’s House.
"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them. (Luke 2:49-50)
Come on, why didn't Jesus' parents understand? They had been raising him for 12 years now, they had received the news about who he was from angles of the Lord, then the shepherds, and the Magi.

As I think about what they did and didn't know at this point I am reminded of the impact the cross, death, and resurrection has on my understanding. None of which they knew about at this point.

Seeing the lack of understanding by Joseph and Mary in this account helps me to realize that understanding rarely comes all at once. I have a tendency to look at faith too much like an academic exercise where I sit down, study the Bible during a certain period of time, and then take a test, earn some kind of religions certification, and then I am done.

The more I read about Jesus' life the less academic I find faith and the more challenged I feel. The more I see an intangible interconnection between the words of God, a personal relationship, and living life. Understanding builds as all three intersect over and over again.

Thank you Jesus for the understanding you bring to my life day by day, step by step.

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 19: The Pieces Are Falling Into Place

piece by piece
I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. It is a 26 day journey ending on Christmas Day.

Day 19 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled The Return to Nazareth.
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:19-23)
The pieces of the prophecy puzzle are falling in place. Centuries of bits of information about the Messiah were being played out and Matthew points this out in his account of Jesus.

Micah tells us the shepherd ruler of Israel will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2.) Hosea gives us the news that this ruler will be the Son of God and come "out of Egypt" (Hosea 11:1.) Isaiah uses the word "branch" to describe this ruler which sounds like Nazarene in Hebrew and is perhaps what Matthew is referring to in verse 23 (Isaiah 11:1.)

I am amazed how we as individuals plug into the master plan of God. Here God gives Joseph very clear directions through an angel just as he had before, but some details are left unclear, even though they were part of God's plan. Joseph and Mary selected Nazareth in Galilee to raise Jesus. Apparently without specific instructions from God. And Matthew tells us that Jesus being called a Nazarene would fulfill a prophecy and God's master plan.

Your will is mysterious to me in many ways but thank you God for including us, our decisions, our circumstances, our lives, by your Grace, in your will.

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 18: You, God, are Beyond Time

Sunset/Sunrise Timeline
I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. It is a 26 day journey ending on Christmas Day.

Day 18 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled The Flight to Egypt.
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." (Matthew 2:13-15)
The prophet Hosea quoting God said: "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son" (Hosea 11:1)

I love the eternal nature of God's words. We see this over and over again in the Scriptures. God is speaking words through Hosea that apply to more than one time period and ultimately to His eternal will of grace, mercy, and salvation for anyone who accepts it.

In Hosea 11:1 God is reminding his people Israel that He loved them and rescued them out of slavery in Eqypt. A specific event during a specific time period is referenced here, but God is also pointing forward in time to the coming Messiah who would be his Son, who He would love, and who would come out of Egypt. Jesus would come to lead all people out of slavery to sin and death into the loving family of God.

Thank you Lord that you are beyond any one time period, you are not restrained by linear time like we are, your words are eternal, you are eternal. Thank you!

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 17: Worship in the Presence of Jesus

Praise God
I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. It is a 26 day journey ending on Christmas Day.

Day 17 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled The Magi’s Worship.
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
Much of my worship of Jesus comes from my knowledge of his life here on earth. Much of it comes from what I know Jesus did. How He acted. What He said. His love. His sacrifice at the cross to take away my sin. His resurrection from the dead. This knowledge brings me to worship. My worship comes out of what He has done.

In this account we see worship that comes out of simply the presence of Jesus. The Magi, knowing little if anything about what Jesus would do, fell down and worshiped Him.

Lord, I desire to offer more of this kind of worship.

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 16: Disturbed at the News of the Birth of Jesus

Mark Your Calendars
I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. It is a 26 day journey ending on Christmas Day.

Day 16 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled The Magi’s Search.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.(Matthew 2:1-3)
I see easily why Herod was disturbed and troubled at the news of the birth of a new King. I could see how a king who brutally ruled over the Jews would feel threatened by a new King. But it also says that everyone in Jerusalem was disturbed and troubled too. What?

You mean everyone living in Jerusalem, even those who had been unfairly brutalized by Herod the King were disturbed by the possibility of a new king? The Bible doesn't say, but the more I think about it, the more I can understand from several different angles. Fear of the unknown. Fear of Kings. Fear of the gentile strangers bringing the news. Fear of God. Fear of the ultimate judgment.

Without knowing Christ, and thus really knowing the one true God. Knowing his sacrifice, his love for us, for me, I would be disturbed with the idea that God was coming today to this earth as an earthly ruler.

Lord, thank you for coming and showing me your ultimate love, grace, and mercy in Christ that washes away my sin and fear so I can be in your presence.

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 15: Jesus Makes You Think

D
I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. This is day 15 of the 26 day journey.

Day 15 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled The Child’s Future.
The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Luke 2:33-35)
As Simeon held the child Jesus and spoke to his parents he predicts both the turmoil and joy Jesus will bring to Israel. I suspect He thought he was speaking only of his immediate time but as we now know from the rest of the Bible and world history this prediction went well beyond his time, and right into ours.

Simeon saw that this child would shake up his world and peoples lives. In predicting this Simeon said "that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed."

Whether in his time or our time Jesus makes you think. His birth, His life, His actions, His words, His death, His resurrection. He stirs up your thoughts about your own life and existence. He makes you think, think deep. Jesus reveals your inner thoughts. Jesus helps you see yourself and the world as it really is -broken and messed up.

The beautiful thing that we learn from the rest of the story is Jesus is not only the reveal-er but also the remedy. Jesus fixes our messed up thoughts, lives, and world.

Thank you Jesus for revealing the thoughts of my heart so that I understand my need for a remedy, THE REMEDY.

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 14: Blessed in Absorbing and Processing the Truth

truth
I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. This is day 14 of the 26 day journey.

Day 14 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled The Child in the Temple.
Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." (Luke 2:27-32)
How incredible, exciting, and reaffirming this time at the Temple in Jerusalem must of been for Joesph and Mary. They watched as Simeon holds their first born son and praises God reaffirming what they had already heard on at least 2 other occasions.

They heard it first from angels of the Lord before Jesus was born and then the visiting shepherds repeated it to them while Jesus laid in the manger.

Jesus is the Messiah for Israel and the Savior for all -everyone, all nations, all people!

They have now heard the Good News about their son from 3 separate and independent sources. How incredible, how awesome this must of been for them. What was going through their minds? As we see in verse 33 they are marveling at this news ...it was sinking in deep.

I am blessed today as I read about this young couple as they absorb and process the truth about their son. Thank you Lord for helping me absorb and process this truth about the man Jesus.

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 13: Wonderment to Belief to Salvation

L'Émerveillement...
I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. This is day 13 of the 26 day journey.

Day 13 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled The Shepherds Find Him.
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:15-20)
I am caught this morning in the wonderment and awe of the news of the Birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the very Son of God.

The start of the spreading of the Good News is recorded in this account. From the angels to the shepherds to the town of Bethlehem the news was getting out.

The message had gone public and as we read in verse 18 all who heard it were brought to wonderment. The Good News brings a flood of astonishment, admiration, and awe that marvelously leads to an intense process of thought. Thoughts about how and why. Thoughts of amazement that lead to understanding, belief, and life changing salvation.

Thank you lord for the wonderment of the Good News!

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 12: Awesome and Very Personal Announcement

Shepherd's Field
Preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. This is day 12 of the 26 day journey. Join me.

Day 12 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled The Angel’s Good News.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:8-14)
From the angel's announcement to the shepherds in a field and to those in the town of Bethlehem (as we will see in the next passage) the Good News would spread. This is the very beginning point of the sharing and spreading of the Good News. This is where it all started.

The official announcement from God through angels to the shepherds came in the most awesome and incredible way. The news came surrounded by the brightness of the Glory of the Lord and all of heavens praising God. But it also came in a very personal way. The message was not announced to the whole town or whole world all at once as surely God could have done, but instead to just some shepherds out in a field.

I am so very thankful to God that the Good News has spread like wildfire right into to my life, changing everything, in a very personal way.

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 11: Boldness from Trusting

Trust
Preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. This is day 11 of the 26 day journey. Join me.

Day 11 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled The Birth of Jesus.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.(Luke 2:1-7)
They are engaged to be married. She is pregnant, and as the NLT puts it "obviously pregnant." They are traveling to Joseph's hometown to follow the law and register for the census.

I continue to marvel at their boldness and trust in God and his GOOD NEWS that only they really knew at this point. The world looks at them as just an unmarried pregnant traveling couple. I can only imagine the looks they got as they met people along the way. Yet they didn't hide, they didn't shrink back even in the face of rejection by others. They knew this was the will of God. They may have understood that the world was about to change and change big time.

This is an example for me. This is a lesson for me today. I want this kind of boldness coming out of trust in God's will. I want that in my life. Thank you Lord for teaching me in your Word.

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 10: The Holy Spirit, Unspeakable Joy, and Worship

end of blues
Preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. Come join me on this Journey, it is not to late to start.

Day 10 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled With Great Rejoicing!.
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 what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (Luke 1:39-45)
There was a new life growing in the womb of Elizabeth. And there was a new life growing in the womb of Mary. A new life that would bring "new life" to the world through salvation. The anticipation was palpable in this account of Mary's visit with Elizabeth. Two women who were experiencing miracles from God experienced the Holy Spirit and unspeakable joy through the new life entering the world. The simple presence of Jesus in the womb brought the Holy Spirit, joy, and worship as we see in Mary's reaction in the verses that follow this passage (Luke 1:46-55).

The presence of Jesus has brought the Holy Spirit, unspeakable joy, and worship into my life and I feel blessed beyond measure. Thank you Jesus! Thank you.

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 9: Accepted & Approved By God

/approve
Preparing for the celebration of Christmas this Advent through the Journey to Bethlehem, a free online Advent guide from Scripture Union USA. Come join me on this Journey, it is not to late to start.

Day 9 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled Announced by the Angel.
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. (Luke 1:29-31)
...
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38)
This announcement made to Mary was the beginning of a new era. The era of FAVOR. A time period marked by the mercy and grace of God. This new era would begin with a pregnant unwed teenager in Galilee. Just as God found favor with Mary (v. 30), God find's favor with us through the baby Mary would give birth to in Bethlehem: Jesus. Because of Jesus God finds favor with us, with me. I have the approval of my Creator, in Christ. That should change everything. That approval pushes back my fears. It gives me freedom and strength to be wide open and willing to to do anything for God.

I pray that I will live today, moment by moment, as an approved, accepted, and unafraid child of God. "For nothing is impossible with God."

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 8: Fathers, Turn Your Hearts to Your Children

Father with his child
Scripture Union USA is providing a free online Bible reading guide for Advent called Journey to Bethlehem. Come join me on this Journey and let us prepare for the celebration of Christmas together.

Day 8 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled Preceded by John.
And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."(Luke 1:17)
"Turn the hearts of the fathers to the children". These words are resonating with my soul this morning. It does NOT say "turn the hearts of the children to their fathers."

Wow! This got me thinking.

This suggests to me this morning a certain kind of sensitivity and gentleness to our children as we point to Christ as the Savior. As a man, as a father, my natural reaction is to persuade, or even force, my kids into a relationship with Jesus. But I need to turn my heart to my children so they will turn their hearts to the one true and loving Father.

As a father my prayer is that I would turn my heart to the children in my life, my kids, and others around me, and lead them through my words and my actions, to a place where they can humbly stand before their Creator ready and willing to begin a personal relationship with Jesus.

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 7: YES! YES GOD! YES!

Will says yes.
Scripture Union USA is providing a free online Bible reading guide for Advent called Journey to Bethlehem. Come join me on this Journey and let us prepare for the celebration of Christmas together.

Day 7 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled By the Holy Spirit.
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and 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."

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.(Matthew 1:18–24)
I would love to honestly say I would react to this situation with excited joy and a big loud YES! YES GOD! Even better, I would love to react simply as Joseph did with obedience in action.

But I am not sure I am there yet. Maybe it is a lack of faith or maybe I am not understanding where I am at in life, but there have been times when even the simple much smaller things come into my life from God and I have shrunk back. I know I have an aversion to risk.

As I look back, though I do see a progression to taking bigger and bigger God initiated risks and I am so thankful for the Grace God gives.

My prayer for today is to respond when the Holy Spirit leads. Big God initiated risks or little ones I pray LORD that my immediate response is YES! YES God!

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 6: Am I Really Living as a Free Man?

Passe-Muraille
Scripture Union USA is providing a free online Bible reading guide for Advent called Journey to Bethlehem. Come join me on this Journey and let us prepare for the celebration of Christmas together. I desire to celebrate it this year as a public proclamation of Freedom. True freedom born into this world at just the right time.

Day 6 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled At The Right Time.
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)
As I am preparing for the celebration of Christmas and thinking about this passage in Galatians I am reminded of the true freedom I have as a follower of Christ. Freedom in Christ. Freedom paid by Christ. Freedom with full rights as a child of God.

As these words from God in His Word flow through my thoughts this morning one question comes to my mind. Am I living, I mean really living, as a free man? Free in Christ?

That is my prayer for today. Lord help me to live every moment, as a redeemed and free child of God. Praise the name of our Savior! Jesus!

P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 5: How to Make an Impression

jose
Scripture Union USA is providing a free online Bible reading guide for Advent called Journey to Bethlehem. Come join me on this Journey.

Day 5 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled His Kingship Foretold.

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
I so often rely on formalities and external 'things' to give myself beauty, stature, importance, and power before others -to make an impression. I desire to put this behind me.

The King of Kings entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey instead of a white horse as any earthly king would have chosen at this point in history. Jesus was not focused on MAKING AN IMPRESSION on people to bring importance to himself the way the world seeks, but He was focused on bringing glory and honor to God the Father. Praise the name of the Lord!


P.S. Here is a link to the previous days of my Journey to Bethlehem.

Day 4: Not Too Little for God

Life
Scripture Union USA is providing a free online Bible reading guide for Advent called Journey to Bethlehem. Come join me on this Journey.

Day 4 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled His Birthplace Foretold.

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)
I am continually encouraged by God's willingness and desire to select the weak, small, and insignificant places and people to bring about His incredible world changing, life changing, plan.

The very Son of God was born to a young couple with little resources in an animal feeding trough located in a domestic stable in a small village, the smallest clan of Judah or as the ESV translation describes Bethlehem Ephrathah "who are too little to be among the clans of Judah."

Worldly power, prestige, and strength are not the prerequisites for being used by God. That is encouraging to me this morning. Thank you Jesus!

Day 3: Yet We Considered Him Stricken by God

Isaiah 53:5

Scripture Union USA is providing a free online Bible reading guide for Advent called Journey to Bethlehem. I am still a day behind but I plan to catch up. Come join me on this Journey. It is a great way to help push back against an over commercialized holiday where consumption seems to rule over compassion, grace, and peace.

Day 3 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled His Suffering Foretold.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
I have always been caught by these words in verse 4 "yet we considered him stricken by God." I think Isaiah is giving us a preview of what people will think about the Messiah while he lived on this earth.

As they watch him suffer they will see it as a punishment from God. It was not an uncommon view of Jesus' day. Most people viewed diseases and tragedies as punishment for a person or their parents' sin.

I find it rather amazing that God gives Isaiah and his people a preview of how they will view the Messiah's suffering and before any of it would even happen God also corrects this mistaken view in the surrounding words. "But he was pierced for OUR transgressions" (v. 5). Not his. This is the grace and mercy of God!

Day 2: Justice and Peace as a Lifestyle

I Wish You Peace

Scripture Union USA is providing a free online Bible reading guide for Advent called Journey to Bethlehem. I am a day behind but I will catch up. Come join me on this Journey.

Day 2 of the Journey to Bethlehem is titled His Peace Foretold.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. (Isaiah 11:3b-4)

Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Isaiah 11:5)

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. (Isaiah 11:10)
It is so easy for me to think of justice and peace as way beyond me, beyond my life. To think of them only in the context of government and large powers. But as a follower of Jesus, Justice and Peace should be my lifestyle. They should characterize my words, actions, and priorities. Christ has shown us what Justice and Peace looks like in a man and I long to be like him in the everyday moments of life.

Praise the name of Jesus the "root of Jesse"!

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