Friday, December 19, 2014

Carols: Advent Devotional - O Little Town Of Bethlehem

1 Corinthians 1:27-28
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 


O Little Town Of Bethlehem
O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie…
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years, Are met in thee tonight

Bethlehem was a town that was considered tiny and insignificant. Micah 5 describes Bethlehem as being “….small among the clans of Judah.” Yet Micah went on to say “out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.” Sure enough, Jesus was born in Bethlehem some 700 years later.

The significance of insignificant Bethlehem can’t be understated. God loves to work in amazing ways through the unlikely and the overlooked. It’s easy for all of us to feel undervalued and unimportant, but that is exactly the type of person God will use. Think of the endless ways God could use you if you surrender to His will.

Actually Bethlehem did have some significance before Jesus’ birth. Among other things it was also the birthplace of David, Israel’s greatest Old Testament warrior and king. However, this is also another example of God’s amazing sovereignty. David was the youngest son of Jesse, who considered him the unlikeliest of his boys to become king. But God saw through all that and had him anointed the next ruler of Israel. Again, God was working in ways that are outside of man’s conventional wisdom.

We tend to see our life and circumstances through a man-made perspective. Once we realize that the Lord works in mysterious ways that are far above our own, we will be more ready for Him to use us in an exciting way.

Of course nothing has more significance than the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. How unlikely is it that it would begin one quiet, peaceful night in a quiet, peaceful town. The “everlasting Light”, the “hopes and fears of all the years” all started in the “…Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Questions:
How have you seen God use seemingly insignificant people and events in your life or the lives of others?
Have you ever felt overlooked? What effect has that had on you?
What action will you take to allow God to use you in a significant way?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Carols: Advent Devotional - O Holy Night

Luke 2:32
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”


O Holy Night
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!

In the midst of so much imperfection, the night Christ was born can be considered one of the most perfect nights ever in the history of mankind. God used difficult circumstances (travelling on a donkey with a very pregnant wife) and an uncomfortable location (not even a hotel room, but a barn with only a manger to sleep in) to bring His perfect and holy Son into the world. God could have easily made Jesus’ birth triumphant, but He chose not to.

The way God brought His son into the world is much the same way He works within our lives. Oftentimes God takes the imperfections in our lives and uses them to perfect us. God loves to transform physical and emotional scars and use them to grow us into stronger people. He also desires us to take what we learned from our imperfections and help others who may be struggling with the same things.

Jesus was a light to reveal God to all the nations, and we can reflect that same light as well. Don’t let your imperfections hold you back. Instead, allow God to use them to shape you into the person He designed you to be, which is a light in a dark world. Give God your weaknesses so that He can turn them into your greatest strengths.

Questions:
What weaknesses do you need to give God so that He can perfect you?
In what ways do you see yourself as being a light to reveal God’s truth to others?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Carols: Advent Devotional - When A Child Is Born

Isaiah 9:6
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


When A Child Is Born
…new hope, new life. Many things come to pass with the birth of a new child.
For a season, everyone, forgets their own weariness and own problems.
This tiny creature will change people’s lives…forever.

There is nothing like the announcement of a new baby to bring excitement in a family. As the song says, “…new hope, new life. Many things come to pass with the birth of a new child. For a season, everyone forgets their own weariness and problems. This tiny creature will change people’s lives…forever.”

Expectant mothers gain a lot of attention, as friends and family are typically very intent on being involved in the entire process of pregnancy up until the very end. When the moment finally occurs, there is nothing like the sound of a newborn baby’s cry to validate the life that has been growing and developing over the past nine months, and create such overwhelming joy.

The same excitement that comes from physical birth also occurs when we experience spiritual birth in that moment when we ask Christ to become our personal Savior and Lord of our lives. In fact, many people now celebrate both their physical and spiritual birthdays because they understand the day Christ came into their life is just as important as the day they came into being.

Imagine the joy that was evident at Christ’s birth since His physical birth would ultimately change mankind forever. We can have spiritual rebirth because of His physical birth. John 10:10 says, “One…came…that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” We have a new life all because of one child: Jesus. As you reflect on this Christmas season, be thankful for what God did by sending His only Son so that we can have new life. Be thankful for that holy night when a child was born so that we could be born again.

Questions:
What led you to your spiritual birth?
What does new life in Christ mean to you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Carols: Advent Devotional - We Three Kings Of Orient Are

Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.


We Three Kings Of Orient Are
O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

It’s often difficult for people to understand that Jesus was born just like us. He wasn’t born in a luxurious palace or a fancy hospital. He was born outside, in a manger. He came into a world filled with sin, yet he lived an absolutely perfect life. He came to lead us, and guide us into a loving relationship with God.

The three wise men are a great example of what complete submission to God looks like. The moment they saw the star they dropped everything they were doing and embarked on a long journey that was most likely difficult at times. The men had no idea where they were going, but placed their complete trust in a star to lead them. They devoted everything to seeking Him no matter the cost. Just like the three men in this song followed a shining star to see Jesus when he was born, if we submit ourselves to God, He will direct our paths and be a perfect guide for our lives.

Questions:
What are the areas in your life you need to submit to God?
Try to remember a time when you did submit something to God. What was the outcome of that situation?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Carols: Advent Devotional - The Little Drummer Boy

Romans 12:1
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 


The Little Drummer Boy
Come they told me, Pa rum pa pum pum
A newborn King to see, Pa rum pa pum pum

The night was silent, except for the beating of his heart. It seemed so loud to him, he wondered if his traveling companions could hear it too. He was nervous to see a king, but he kept walking, holding tightly to his drum.

His heart was about to beat out of his chest. The others were carrying beautiful boxes filled with precious gifts, gifts worthy of a king. He had nothing but his drum, which suddenly seemed an inappropriate instrument to play for king, not to mention a newborn king. If only he had a more soothing instrument, like the harp the shepherd boys sometimes play.

His heartbeat was deafening as he stood before the King. And then Mary nodded. The King’s mother nodded at him. She actually wanted him to play. He raised his sticks and began to tap the first pattern that came into his head, the rhythm of his beating heart.

And so the Little Drummer Boy gave his heart to God. He played his best. He gave his best.

How often do we feel our gifts are not good enough? We compare ourselves to others, wondering why their gifts seem so much more “useful” for the kingdom. We want to teach like our pastor, or sing like our worship leader. Or maybe we want to share our blessings, but at times, we don’t feel very blessed. We can’t give what we don’t have, but rather than lamenting our lack, we need to look for our “drum,” the one thing that only we can give.

The truth is God already has teaching like the pastor’s. He already has singing like the worship leader’s. And what He wants, what He can really use, is your heart.

Think of how you can bless others this season, and in turn bless God. You don’t have to spend money. You just have to give of yourself, of your heart. Just like the little Drummer Boy. Jesus smiled at him. Think of Jesus smiling at you. Kind of makes your heart race, doesn’t it? Listen.

Questions:
How can you bless God by blessing others this holiday season?
Are you giving your best to God? If not, how could you give your best to him today?