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Showing posts from December, 2021

Verse

 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elder

WONDER (Day 4)

  OBESIANCE   John, Jesus’s cousin, now over eighty years old, wrote in the parchment what he saw in his vision.  “I saw twenty-four earth leaders get off their thrones and bow their heads to the ground before the One on the great white cathedra. Suddenly, they took their crowns off and threw them violently before the throne, erupting in song, singing, ‘You are worthy, O God to receive all glory, honor and power.’ Again, I was overwhelmed,” John wrote. “My body grew limp, and I sobbed at the weight and wonder of what I had witnessed.” The expressions of the worshippers in heaven are extreme. There is constant action of obeisance, or deep respect, to the One who sits on the throne. Not only do the twenty-four elders fall upon the ground in humble reverence, but also, they hurl their crowns at the foot of the throne.  When you come to worship, you lay all your trophies, accomplishments, victories, and success at the feet of Jesus. You come by no merit of your own. You come acknowledging

Verse 2

 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, Revelation 7:9‭-‬11 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/rev.7.9-11.NIV

Verse 1

 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was

WONDER (Day 3)

  CATHEDRA   John laid on the bed of his prison cell. His thoughts went back to what he had experienced that night. He replayed the vision in which he had seen and heard something most unusual—the wonder of the celestial world. John recalled a white throne and One in regal majesty seated on it. There were hues of amber and emerald around the royal chair. In front were twenty-four thrones with twenty-four earthly leaders crowned with gold and dressed in brilliant white. They sang, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” John was overcome with the intense power of their song and fainted, slumping to the ground. In heaven, worship and wonder occurs continually and in absolute perfection. Worship before God’s throne is just like He wants it to be, not affected by the passions and preferences of earthlings or the evil one. Worship rises genuine and pure from the affectionate hearts of saints and seraphs. This adoration flows from these celestial bodies in

Verse 3

 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17 NIV https://colossians.bible/colossians-1-17

Verse 2

 Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? Exodus 15:11 NIV https://exodus.bible/exodus-15-11

Verse 1

 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. Psalms 96:9 NIV https://psalm.bible/psalm-96-9

WONDER (Day 2)

  OVERWHELMED   I stepped up to the podium at Allen AME church in New York City. The musicians had finished singing and playing, yet there remained a lingering sense of God’s weighty presence. God had given me a message on worship in the beauty of holiness, and the moment for it was perfect. I motioned to the keyboardist to keep playing. The room was electric with the sense that something unusual was about to happen. I opened my Bible and read this song: O, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; Tremble before  and  reverently fear Him, all the earth. Suddenly, from the back of the church, a woman screamed. On the opposite side, someone started to sob. Worshippers were standing at the back with hands raised, even though I had begun to preach.  We were getting glimpses of the greatness and the glory of God. At times I had to stop speaking because I was overwhelmed. Other times I sang parts of the message. I fought back the tears. The weight of God’s manifest presence was so heavy o

Verse 3

 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Romans 11:33 NIV https://romans.bible/romans-11-33

Verse 2

 The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. Psalms 135:6 NIV https://psalm.bible/psalm-135-6

Verse 1

The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? Psalms 113:4‭-‬6 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.113.4-6.NIV 

New Plan: WONDER (Day 1)

  TRANSCENDENCE   Prolific author and church statesman Jack Hayford once said, “The real world is not only made by God but it testifies of Him. We are never so much in the ‘real world’ as when ascribing to God the glory or ‘weight of substantial worthiness’ due Him.”  God reveals aspects of His worthiness in creation around us. When you study His character, you see what He is like, which invokes worship. When you realize His unique and perfect attributes, you are inspired to worship at a higher level. In those moments you transcend the mundane and familiar. True worship always flows out of a revelation of God’s perfect character. Although to fully understand God is far beyond human comprehension, the Bible does offer several revealing glimpses into His multifaceted nature.  God is eternal. From vanishing point to vanishing point, Yahweh is God. God lives in the everlasting now. He has no past and no future. God dwells in eternity and appears at the beginning and end simultaneously—time

Verse 3

 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 NIV https://hebrews.bible/hebrews-12-2

Verse 2

 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob. Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty— he is the King of glory. Psalms 24:1‭-‬10 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.24.1-10.NIV

Verse 1

 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 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 may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:25‭-‬32 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.2.25-32.NIV

Journey to Christmas (Day 14) Last Day

  Moved by the Spirit It’s our last day reflecting on the Christmas story from Luke’s Gospel, and today we meet Simeon, a man who had been waiting patiently for God to fulfil a promise. Waiting for something that we want is never easy. In his letter to the church in Galatia, the apostle Paul describes patience as a fruit of the Spirit. Like a fruit, patience grows over time, in season and out of season. Although every painting of this passage depicts Simeon as an older man, Luke doesn’t tell us whether he was old or not. Simeon may have been waiting for a short time or many years. All we know is that he was full of the Holy Spirit and that he was prepared to wait. I ask myself, what am I waiting for at the moment? What am I hoping for and dreaming about? Help me, God, to become more patient, to trust that You are with me – in season and out of season. Pause and pray I bring to mind those I know whose dreams have not come to pass; those who find it difficult to hope; those who need cons

Verse 3

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV https://john.bible/john-3-16

Verse 2

 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Psalms 23:1‭-‬3 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.23.1-3.NIV

Verse 1

 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, 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 heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 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.” Luke 2:11‭-‬15 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.2.11-15.NIV

Journey to Christmas (Day 13)

  Peace on Earth Today we’re reflecting on the angel of the Lord appearing to the shepherds and announcing the birth of Jesus. The last books of the Old Testament were written around 400 years before the first books of the New Testament. The silence of those 400 years comes to an end in a spectacular way – with a baby born to a teenage mother, surrounded by hosts of angels all singing, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to everyone!’ Those angels got the party started! As I pause for a few moments, I ask myself, in what ways have I experienced the peace and presence of God this year? I give glory to God for those moments. Pause and pray Who do I know that needs to experience the peace and presence of God today?  As I think of people I know who are suffering; those who are struggling with illness; those who are finding life difficult for whatever reason; I ask You, God, to bring peace to them. Pause and pray It’s easy to forget that the events surrounding Jesus’ birth were

Verse 2

 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. Psalms 19:7‭-‬8 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.19.7-8.NIV

Verse 1

 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 that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:8‭-‬10 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.2.8-10.NIV

Journey to Christmas ( Day 12)

  Glorious interruption Today we’re reflecting on the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel, where we meet a group of shepherds, the first people to participate in the drama of Jesus’ birth. Imagine the scene. The shepherds were doing what shepherds do – watching their sheep – when the angels appeared. An ordinary day suddenly became extraordinary... not to mention terrifying! We see this pattern throughout the Bible. God interrupts people while they are going about ordinary tasks. Matthew was in his tax-collecting booth when Jesus passed by and told him to leave everything behind and follow Him. The boy Samuel was asleep when God spoke, audibly, in his room. And Moses was also watching his sheep when a strange burning bush caught his attention. As I think about how the shepherds responded to the angel’s announcement, I ask myself, how interruptible am I? Amidst the busyness of Christmas, how can I be more open to the unexpected?  God, I ask You to speak to me when and where I least expect i

Verse 3

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV https://romans.bible/romans-8-28

Verse 2

 As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? Psalms 18:30‭-‬31 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.18.30-31.NIV

Verse 1

 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 guest room available for them. Luke 2:4‭-‬7 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.2.4-7.NIV

Journey to Christmas (Day 11)

  Missing the big one Today, we continue exploring Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph couldn’t find lodgings, so Jesus was born in a place where animals were kept. The people who could have taken this couple into their homes missed the biggest opportunity of their lives.  Couldn’t someone less deserving have given up their bedroom for Mary and Joseph for a night? In later years, when Jesus’ fame began to spread, did anyone in Bethlehem regret their decision? They could so easily have been a hero in this story, but because of the census and maybe because they felt stressed or busy, they missed out. I ask You, Lord, to help me to be sacrificially and imaginatively hospitable this Christmas, not just in my home but in my heart and my busy schedule. As I think now about the people I’ll be spending Christmas with, help me to receive unexpected pressures as opportunities to host You, to go the extra mile, to be kind. Pause and pray I ask You, Father, to bless those who feel unwel

Verse 2

 You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. Psalms 18:28‭-‬29 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.18.28-29.NIV

Verse 1

 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 their 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. Luke 2:1‭-‬5 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.2.1-5.NIV

Journey to Christmas (Day 10)

  Climbing the family tree Today, we skip ahead in Luke’s Gospel to a particular moment in the story of Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph. In this passage, we glimpse the wider political and national landscape of the time. Jesus was born in the royal city of Bethlehem because Joseph belongs to the House of David. Luke’s Gospel traces Joseph’s genealogy right back to Bathsheba, with whom King David had an adulterous and murderous affair!  Isn’t it interesting how God works through family trees? At Christmas, we may enjoy the blessing and endure the brokenness of families. How am I feeling about the people I’ll be seeing this Christmas? Lord Jesus, thank You for the blessing of those in my family who have loved me most. Thank You that You can also bring blessing through the broken parts of my family history. I ask You to give me an extra helping of patience this Christmas to be kind to difficult relatives. I take time now to name those for whom I’m especially grateful or especially concerned

Verse 2

 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalms 16:5‭-‬6 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.16.5-6.NIV

Verse 1

 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” Luke 1:50‭-‬55 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.1.50-55.NIV

Journey to Christmas (Day 9)

  Worship in the waiting Today we reflect on the second half of Mary’s song of praise, often called the Magnificat. Her moving description of God has been read, meditated on, prayed, and sung for centuries since.  Mary sings her song as a young, unmarried, pregnant woman from an oppressed nation. The themes she touches on – mercy, humility, satisfying the hungry – are like a foretaste of her Son’s ministry. Wow – these are potent words describing an active and powerful God who spans generations, favours the vulnerable, and keeps His promises! Mary’s song describes the tenderness of God towards the vulnerable. Where do I feel vulnerable? I invite God into those parts of my life. Pause and pray Who needs the tenderness and protection of God right now? My elderly neighbour? The men and women who sleep rough on the streets of my city? The families quietly struggling with the financial burden of Christmas?  I ask You, God, for Your loving presence and intervention in their lives.   Pause an

Verse 2

 Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” Psalms 16:1‭-‬3 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.16.1-3.NIV

Verse 1

 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. Luke 1:44‭-‬49 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.1.44-49.NIV

Journey to Christmas (Day 8)

  Choosing gratitude Today we reflect on the first half of one of the most famous exclamations of praise in the Bible. Mary, who’s now scandalously pregnant with the Son of God, is visiting her cousin Elizabeth. When Elizabeth (and the baby in her womb) realises the significance of Mary’s pregnancy, praise flows from both cousins. This must have been a time of great uncertainty for Mary as a young, unmarried mum-to-be. In her place, I’d be worried about my family’s reaction to the news, nervous about each first encounter with relatives.  Elizabeth welcomed Mary not with judgment or sorrow but with joy for what God was up to. Imagine how Mary might have felt at that moment. Mary’s praise bubbles up from deep within her – her soul and spirit. What’s within my soul and spirit today? Pause and pray Mary overflows with gratitude and praise.  Lord, would You stir the same grateful, worshipping spirit in my church. Make us a community full of your Holy Spirit, quick to praise You in all circu

Verse 2

 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalms 8:3‭-‬9 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.8.3-9.NIV

Verse 1

 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:39‭-‬45 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.1.39-45.NIV

Journey to Christmas (Day 7)

  Seen, named, affirmed Today Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah, re-enters the Christmas story. She’s pregnant with the son God promised her, and now her cousin Mary, who is also newly pregnant, has come to visit. When Mary visits Elizabeth, something unusual happens. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, and her baby leaps within her womb. Deep inside, Elizabeth knows that God has done something special. Full of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth recognises the dream of God planted deep inside Mary. She recognises what God has done – she sees it and names it. Have I ever experienced a gut response to the presence or activity of the Holy Spirit? When has my heart, soul, and body known something before my mind has caught up?  God, help me be sensitive to Your movements within me. Pause and pray God, I pray for my church that we would be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we could recognise and celebrate what You are doing in others. Pause and pray A beautiful part of this story is that after Ma

Verse 2

 Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. Psalms 13:3‭-‬6 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.13.3-6.NIV

Verse 1

 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:34‭-‬38 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.1.34-38.NIV

Journey to Christmas (Day 6)

  God’s presence Today we’re reflecting on the final part of Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel. A conversation that will alter the course of her life forever.  Mary has just heard that she will give birth to the Messiah, the Saviour Israel has been waiting for, and she responds with a question. It’s not, ‘How is my kid going to become King?’ It’s not, ‘How can someone rule forever?’ Her question is something biological and logical. ‘How can this happen? I’m a virgin!’ Gabriel’s response? It’s God’s presence that will make God’s plan a reality. If it’s God’s presence in my life that makes His plans a reality, are there any areas in which God feels absent or distant right now?  Lord, help me know Your presence in the parts of my life that seem confusing, painful, or even scary. Pause and pray It’s like Mary is standing on an impossibly high diving board, and God is asking her to jump. Responding to God’s invitation means risking rejection from her fiancĂ© Joseph and all the challeng

Verse 2

 The Lord is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror. Psalms 10:16‭-‬18 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.10.16-18.NIV

Verse 1

 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30‭-‬33 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.1.30-33.NIV

Journey to Christmas (Day 5)

  God’s plan Today we reflect on young Mary, the soon-to-be mother of Jesus, meeting the angel Gabriel and hearing a message from God, just for her. In this situation, face-to-face with a messenger from God, abject fear seems like a totally understandable reaction. If I were Mary, I would be freaking out that... a) I’m standing in front of a real-life angel; b) I’ve somehow caught the attention of the Almighty; c) Impossible things are about to happen, and I’ll be at the centre of them! Gabriel quickly reassures her: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.’ Fear can feel all-consuming. Maybe that’s why ‘Do not be afraid’ is the most repeated command in Scripture. God’s favour and love displace fear.  What frightens me at the moment? I ask God to put my fears into perspective, and I welcome His love. Pause and pray Gabriel tells Mary God’s purpose for her life. Who do I know who is feeling lost or looking for purpose? I pray for them now:  Lord, guide them towards Your

Verse 2

 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalms 9:9‭-‬10 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.9.9-10.NIV

Verse 1

 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. Luke 1:26‭-‬29 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.1.26-29.NIV

Journey to Christmas (Day 4)

  Who am I? Today I pause the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah and focus on one of the heroes of the Christmas story: Mary, the soon-to-be mother of Jesus. Luke introduces Mary as her life is about to be (willingly!) hijacked by God so that she can play a pivotal role in His redemption plan. I introduce myself differently depending on who I’m speaking to. Sometimes I start talking about my family. Other times I talk about my work, my interests, or where I’m from. I choose the approach that forms the quickest bond.  Luke introduces Mary with where she lives, indicating her age, her relationship status, and name. But when the angel Gabriel greets her, he describes her very differently: ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured!’  For Gabriel, Mary’s identity is rooted in what God thinks of her.  What do I believe God thinks of me? I invite Him to tell me now... Pause and pray Who will I meet today? What do I believe God thinks of them? I pray for each person now and listen for what God say

Verse 2

 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. Psalms 8:1‭-‬2 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.8.1-2.NIV

Verse 1

 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:12‭-‬17 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.1.12-17.NIV

Journey to Christmas (Day 3)

  Joy and delight Today we continue our journey towards Christmas with Elizabeth and Zechariah. Zechariah is in the temple, offering prayers to God, and has a surprise encounter with an angel. Finally, Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayer is being answered – and with it comes the promise of joy and delight. They will have a son who will play a part in God’s mission.  If I’m honest, my attitude towards answered prayer can sometimes be indifference, ingratitude, or entitlement: ‘Well, God, it took You long enough!’ In those times, am I missing out on the joy and delight that is available to me? What was the last prayer God answered for me? How did my heart respond?  Lord, I ask Your forgiveness for the times when I haven’t fully appreciated Your kindness to me.   Pause and pray God, would You dismantle the culture of entitlement and ingratitude, especially as it can be heightened at Christmas time. Lord, I pray for my church. Help us to resist this culture and act in the opposite spirit. May

Verse 2

 Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll— are they not in your record? Psalms 56:8 NIV https://psalm.bible/psalm-56-8

Verse 1

 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. Luke 1:11‭-‬13 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.1.11-13.NIV

Journey to Christmas (Day 2)

  Your prayer has been heard Today we continue exploring the story of Jesus’ relatives: Elizabeth and Zechariah. Yesterday we joined them in their disappointment and yearning. Today we meet Zechariah in the temple. It’s business as usual: he is attending to his regular religious routine, when all of a sudden, the unexpected happens.  ‘Your prayer has been heard,’ an angel says to Zechariah.  Our prayers have been heard. They never disappear. God collects every single one of them.  Psalm 56 says: ‘You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.’ (Psalm 56:8 NLT) ‘Your prayer has been heard.’ How do I feel when I hear that sentence? What have I been believing for, bringing to God, and waiting for a long time? I name them in quiet before Him now. And after each one, I say to myself, ‘My prayer has been heard.’ Pause and pray God, bring encouragement to all those I know who have been praying, believing, and waiting

Verse 3

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV https://romans.bible/romans-15-13

Verse 2

 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psalms 5:11‭-‬12 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.5.11-12.NIV

Verse 1

 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Luke 1:5‭-‬7 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.1.5-7.NIV

New Plan: Journey to Christmas (Day 1)

  Hope in the waiting Today we start our journey through the story of Jesus’ birth. Together we will fix our eyes on Jesus during this busy holiday season, read about the experiences of the people caught up in the first Christmas, ask questions about our own life and faith, and make time to pray for ourselves and others.  The Christmas story, as told in Luke’s Gospel, culminates in the birth of Jesus but begins with the story of Mary’s cousins, Elizabeth and Zechariah. They come from a good family. They have a good reputation. They have obeyed and served faithfully for a long time. And yet, there is a hole in the middle of their lives.   We enter into Elizabeth’s and Zechariah’s story at the low place of infertility. The obstacle of advanced age. The experience of disappointment and hope deferred.  There are parts of our lives that we allow the world to see, often the most presentable parts. But on the inside, each of us carries disappointment or regret. I ask myself, are there places

Verse

 Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. Psalms 32:1‭-‬2 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.32.1-2.NIV

A Faith that works when life doesn't Part 5 (Day 18)

 Last Day  How Do You Keep a Clear Conscience? Feeling guilty or ashamed can cause us to lose our happiness. And since you can’t feel guilty and be happy at the same time, you need to get rid of guilt and maintain a clear conscience to be happy. Philippians 2:15 says,  “Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people”  (NLT). You might say, “I’d like to be happy, but how do I keep my conscience clear when it’s not clear right now?” Do what Psalm 32:1-2 says:  “What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record”  (TLB). Happiness, joy, and relief are three things everybody is looking for. We all want to be happy. We all want to enjoy life. We all want relief from our pain. The Bible says it all comes from purity, and purity comes from forgiveness through God’s grace. So how do you keep a c

Verse

 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:13 NIV https://philippians.bible/philippians-2-13

A Faith that works when life doesn't Part 5 (Day 17)

  Understand That God Is on Your Side No matter what you face this week, you won’t face it alone. God is with you, he is in you, and he is for you. Philippians 2:13 says,  “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him”  (NLT). “God is working in you.”  The word “working” in Greek is the word  energos , from which we get our word “energy.” God is the energy driver in your life. You’re not just going on willpower. You’re not just going in your own power. God says he will give you the power you need, no matter what you’re facing. Not only is he in you, but he also is  with  you. The Bible says,  “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you . . . On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you”  (John 14:18, 20 NIV). That’s quite a promise! The Bible says Christ is in you, you’re sheltered with Christ, and you’re sealed with the Holy Spirit. That means for the Devil to get to you, he’s got to get through t

Verse

 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9‭-‬11 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/php.1.9-11.NIV

A Faith that works when life doesn't Part 5 (Day 16)

  Positive Prayer Produces Strong Relationships Paul didn’t just pray for people in his life; he prayed for them with  joy ! There are probably things you’d like to change about other people. Instead of changing yourself, you want  them  to change. But you can’t change them! You can, however, pray and let God do his work in others. Positive praying is more effective than positive thinking. All the positive thinking in the world isn’t going to change your spouse, child, friend, or situation. Positive thinking can change you, but it won’t change somebody else. But positive prayer can make a difference in someone else. What’s the quickest way to change a bad relationship to a good one? Start praying for the other person! It will change you, and it can change the other person, too. Paul even told us how to pray for others:  “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and b

Verse

 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, Philippians 1:5 NIV https://philippians.bible/philippians-1-5

A Faith that works when life doesn't Part 5 (Day 15)

  Focus on the Good Times Paul wrote the book of Philippians to the church he started in Philippi, where a woman named Lydia opened her home and, along with others, welcomed Paul to the city. The Philippian church even helped fund Paul’s missionary journeys. In Philippians 1:5, Paul says,  “I thank God for the help you gave me”  (NCV). The thing is, Paul didn’t have a good time in Philippi. In fact, it was one of his roughest churches to get started. He was beaten, whipped, humiliated, falsely arrested, and thrown into prison there. He even survived a major earthquake! Then he was politely asked by the city leaders to leave town. Yet Paul told the believers,  “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God”  (Philippians 1:3 NLT). What is Paul doing there? He is choosing selective memory. Philippi wasn’t a happy place for Paul, but he chose to not dwell on painful memories. Instead, he expressed his gratitude for the good things that God had done for him and through him. The longer

Verse

 I thank my God every time I remember you. Philippians 1:3 NIV https://philippians.bible/philippians-1-3

A Faith that works when life doesn't Part 5 (Day 14)

  The More Grateful You Are, the Happier You’ll Be If you want to have healthy relationships, start with an attitude of gratitude. You will be far happier and enjoy your relationships more if you develop the habit of being grateful for the people in your life. Philippians 1:3 says,  “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God”  (NLT). This simple truth is the foundation of good relationships. When you think about the people in your life, is your first feeling of  gratitude ? Or are you more likely to think, “What do they need to do for me? What are their problems?” Your first thought may not be gratitude. But Paul’s first thought for his friends was one of gratitude, and it is the model we should follow if we want our relationships to last. Here’s the problem: The longer we know someone, the more likely we take that person for granted. And as time passes, it becomes easier to focus on their faults instead of their strengths, on the bad times instead of the happy times. That’s w

Verse

 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17 NIV https://1peter.bible/1-peter-2-17

A Faith that works when life doesn't Part 5 (Day 13)

  How to Be Merciful to Everyone The Bible says God expects you to show mercy to everybody. How are you supposed to do that? Here are three simple, practical ways to be God's agent of mercy in the world. Forgive people when they mess up.  “ When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won't give up in despair”  (2 Corinthians 2:7 CEV). The typical reaction when somebody hurts you is to either get even or write them off. But a merciful person forgives the fallen. Part of the Lord's Prayer says,  “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”  (Luke 11:4 NLT). When you pray this, you're saying, “God, I want you to forgive me as much as I forgive everybody who's hurt me.” Are you ready to pray that prayer? Be patient with people's quirks.  We all have our idiosyncrasies and irritating habits. When you refuse to get upset over other people’s habits, you are showing mercy. During the pandemic, when so many people were stuck at home, th

Verse

 Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves. Proverbs 11:17 NIV https://proverbs.bible/proverbs-11-17

A Faith that works when life doesn't Part 5 (Day 12)

  Do You Want to Be Happy? Choose Mercy God set up the world with universal principles. One of those principles is that the more you help other people, the more you will succeed and the happier you will be. Happiness doesn't come from living for yourself. Happiness comes from giving your life away and being merciful. Proverbs 11:17 says,  “A merciful person helps himself, but a cruel person hurts himself”  (GW). That's another one of those universal principles: You get what you sow in life. A great example of this in the Bible is the story of Job, who lost literally everything—his health, family, job, and wealth. His friends came to him in his greatest hour of need. But did they show him mercy? No! They judged, criticized, and second-guessed him. They kept telling him what he'd done wrong. “It's your own fault,” they said. The great turnaround in Job's life didn’t occur when he thought about himself but when he mercifully prayed for the people who criticized him:  “