Thankful In Advent #18

December 19, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

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Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

 

When the Magi (pagan soothsayers) proclaimed they had come to ‘worship the new born king’ Herod was “TROUBLED”.

Darkness is always shaken and troubled by the worship of Jesus. It is an act of stepping over the line & declaring switched allegiance from a kingdom that has its roots in pride, rebellion and ultimately evil, to a Kingdom that is good, powerful, full of righteousness, peace & JOY… and is WITHOUT END!

Darkness is always troubled by the worship of Jesus (this is why the enemy always does everything possible to distract humans from this pursuit) and should be…because its days are numbered!

Thankful in Advent because Jesus ALWAYS shines and outshines darkness.


Listen

2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #17

December 19, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

Mary

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart

The Advent story is so familiar to us we can miss whats so often is going on… Mary simply models to us the spiritual benefit in slowing down and reflecting in the detail.

The days had been heady and exhausting… angelic visitation, supernatural conception (explain that one to your betrothed…. especially when he’s not the one responsible), a near miss with divorce, hiding with your cousin whilst baby starts to show, a traumatic journey to Bethlehem, baby born in a stinking animal pen and then the arrival of the local traveller community (for that is how shepherds were treated in those days). It would have been so easy to to lose the detail amongst all the activity but we are told ‘…Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart’.

There’s something about Mary and we can be Thankful In Advent because she models for us the power of meditating on the things of God. She took all that had been said and done and held them as treasure… gems to be pondered, and I have no doubt those treasures saw her through the difficult days ahead…


Listen

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #16

December 18, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

Nativity

…because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

As many of us put up the decs and maybe even layout our nativity sets ready for Christmas its easy to to slip into an ordered mindset… the tree goes there… the wreath there… the mistletoe there… the crib and three wise men there… these are the little traditions WE always repeat in this house etc. and so on it goes.

Because of our familiarity with the story its as if all of the real nativity was an ordered set piece! Because of this we’ve woven it into a cute fairy story where everyone knows their parts and lines. But for those living it, it was a bewildering and most certainly ‘left field’ experience.

Advent is not a cutesy fairy story but rather an historical account that deals with ‘real’ life…

A teenage pregnant unmarried mother; oppressive government; homelessness; refugees in a foreign land; murder of the innocent; the working class; those who dabble in the occult…

But most of all, the aching and longing at the heart of mankind for some kind of deliverance from the pain of a world divorced from its Creator!

We can be Thankful In Advent because the Son rise HAS visited us from on high. He HAS given light to those sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death and He HAS guided our feet into the way of peace.


Listen

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #15

December 18, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

shepherds copy

…an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord

At the time of Jesus Bethlehem was the closest to Jerusalem that you could graze animals… because of this local law Bethlehem by default became the breeding ground and key source of the Temple’s sacrificial animals.

The Temple not only had money changers at this time but also the self funding sale of pre-approved unblemished animals (who wants to bring a sacrifice miles to the Temple only to have it turned down by the priests?).

The local shepherds did not just raise the lambs they were also the first line of inspection to make sure they were fit for sale in the Temple complex… they didn’t want returns from the priests and levites!

And so as the angel host announces the birth of the saviour the shepherds were dispatched to visit Him. They were not sent just to visit a ‘New born King’ they were also coming to inspect a ‘sacrificial lamb’!

For unto you is born this day in the City of David A SAVIOUR who is the Anointed King, The Lord.

I think it was Max Lucado who wrote the following…

If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology,
God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money,
God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure,
God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness,
So God sent us a Saviour!

We can be Thankful In Advent because our sacrificial lamb was found to be without spot or blemish… and His sacrifice rendered us un-punishable and grants us freedom from fear, because fear has to do with punishment!


Listen

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #14

December 18, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

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And Mary said… “My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever

Mary sang ‘that HE fills the hungry with good things’. Its the heart of the advent season and it is still true today: ‘Blessed are they that hunger and thirst… for they SHALL be satisfied’

God is predisposed to those who hunger and thirst after him

We can be Thankful In Advent because if that hunger is there in our lives he WILL fill it with good things!


Listen

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #13

December 14, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

glory1 copy

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Living in the Northern Hemisphere affords us a great advent illustration. The nights are long and dark at the moment and it it just so happens at this time of year that we celebrate light.

Whether its the candle in the Christingle service, the lights on our tree or inordinate amounts of Christmas Bling on the outside of our houses light looks so good in the darkness. If you ever buy expensive diamonds the jeweller will always show them off against a black back cloth.

That is the nature of light. It banishes darkness and is set in opposition to it.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says… ‘Do not curse the darkness. Light a candle!’

That is precisely what advent heralds, the dawning of the great light that is Jesus.

We can be Thankful In Advent because Advent prophesies a dawning light for those walking in darkness and living in the land of the shadow of death…, a great light, brighter than all other light, piercing and penetrating, chasing all darkness and shadows until there will be no need for any other light, not even the sun!

 


Listen

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined. (ESV)


Listen

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #12

December 13, 2014 | Posted in Devotional, Uncategorized | By

GodWithUs01

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel

At the heart of advent is one strikingly awesome fact… we do not have a God who says ascend to my heights and then you will be acceptable.

No!

He says I will descend and become one of them.

The name Isaiah prophesied for the saviour says it all. Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’. That is the heartbeat at the centre of the advent season. God with skin on moves into our neighbourhood. Jesus is literally God… live in concert!

We can be thankful for three reasons…

1. He is GOD with us!

He did not send and emissary or ambassador on His behalf. He Himself came to this fractured and desolately fallen planet to bring restoration. The first ever Christmas gift was that God came in person and gave himself!

2. He is God WITH us!

Contrary to popular belief God does not have an axe to grind against humanity. He created us, He loves us, likes us and He came in flesh because He is FOR us.

3. He is God with US!

He did not come for someone else… He came for you and I and He came on our terms. Intensely personal and familiar. Born to an unmarried teenage mum. Born into homelessness. A refugee from the word go. A man of sorrows familiar with suffering. Despised, hated, rejected. He suffered 3 unjust trials. Was murdered. Exposed naked on a cross and buried in another mans grave. He more than knows what each moment of pain you experience is like because in so many ways He was just like us and is with US!

We can be Thankful In Advent because any way you slice it… He is God with us and good news of great JOY for all the people!


Listen

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #11

December 11, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

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Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him…

We so often sing about three wise men at this time of year but this totally misrepresents this part of the advent story!

Nowhere are kings (apart from Jesus and Herod) mentioned. And certainly there is no mention of a number… that is derived from their gifts alone. and they probably weren’t at Jesus’ birth either (the greek word used to describe Jesus means toddler not new born)

And this is this problem with advent…

So many assume they know the story so well when in fact they know the folklore.

The magi were soothsayers, astrologers and magicians (its where we get our word magi from). They were the kingmakers those who would ‘predict’ who a king should announce as their heir. after the king they would have been the next most powerful men in the kingdom… they would have travelled with a huge regiment of cavalry… and this is why Herod and ALL Jerusalem was so troubled at their appearance.

When magi came to worship Jesus, the most revered and powerful pagan priests, the King makers recognised their Creator and Lord and conceded Jesus is ‘numero uno’.

 

We can be Thankful In Advent because the story re-enforces the simple truth…. despite all the claims of other Gods and men, Jesus is King and that is that!


Listen

2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #10

December 11, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

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In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin…

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”

Favour is such a welcome word. In our imaginations it conjures up all kinds of blessing Fed Ex’d by the Father directly to us. An international travelling ministry, prosperity, universal popularity?

Mary was strangely intuitive when she was troubled by Gabriel’s words. Yes the family would have international travel to Egypt, as refugees from a violent and jealous puppet king. Yes the family had gold… they were going to need it to survive in a foreign land. No they were not popular… to the point that a death warrant was issued on her precious baby.

Somehow Mary knew this favour from God also spelled TROUBLE!

Advent is the story of what Happens when God’s favour is bestowed upon you.

You get to partner in birthing world transforming initiatives…

And sometimes you get into a LOT of trouble…

We can be Thankful in Advent because the advent story shows us that one is worth the cost of the other.


Listen

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (ESV)


Listen

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #9

December 9, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

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When Jesus’ mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly…

At the time of Jesus a betrothal was almost as binding as marriage itself. To break a betrothal in effect required a divorce.

So the engaged couple (but as good as married) find themselves pregnant. The problem with being pregnant and especially in a small rural village, is that eventually EVERYBODY knows about it. And then the finger pointing begins.

In our world now this kind of news only makes ripples, but at the time of the New Testament a pregnancy out of wedlock would have been cataclysmic. The finger would have been pointed… Joseph can legitimately throw his hands up and say… ‘Er not me guv!’ For Mary, the outcome could have been terminal. The law stipulated she should be put to death by stoning ().

And yet in the middle of this discovery of Mary’s news, we read that Joseph was ‘unwilling to put her to shame’.

And so as the Saviour and mediator of the Grace Covenant grows in her womb… His divine grace already starts flowing into the lives of those he will one day die for. Even before Joseph is re-assured by an angelic visitation, a revelation of grace seeps into the situation… the act of exposing sin and projecting shame has no place in the life of a ‘just’ man of God.

NO ROOM for shame!

That is one of the great forgotten truths of the advent story…

The apostle John tells us that…

...the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ ().

We can be Thankful In Advent because when Jesus was revealed FULL of Grace and Truth, He so filled the life of faith He left no place for shame to dwell… and that includes your and my very worst days!

There is now no room for shame. Let it be so!

 


Listen

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (ESV)


Listen

20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. (ESV)


Listen

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (ESV)

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