Devotional

What the Heart Holds

What the Heart Holds

Tuesday Dec. 17  Scripture: Luke 2:19 All parents cherish certain moments in the life of their children. The cute way their toddler mispronounces a word or phrase. The compliment a teacher, coach, or Sunday School teacher gives their child which helps the parent see potential they didn’t even realize was there. What the parent chooses to cherish and store in their heart may tell us as much about the parent as the child. We learn a lot about Mary from how she responds when the shepherds arrive at the manger. They tell her of angel choirs proclaiming her child the Lord and Savior who will bring the earth peace. Till this moment, Mary and Joseph (and perhaps also Elizabeth) were…
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By His Bruises We Are Healed

By His Bruises We Are Healed

Monday Dec. 16 Scripture: Isaiah 53:3-5 The miracle of childbirth occurs through the agony of labor. The miracle of spiritual rebirth occurs through the agony of God becoming human, experiencing every pain and stress of human life, dying upon a cross and rising again. The birth of Christ as Christmas is given to us so we might know the second birth offered by Christ upon the cross. Just as Isaiah predicted that the virgin would conceive and bear a son who will be God with us (Isaiah 7:14), Isaiah 53 tells us how we will be redeemed by God with us suffering for us to redeem and forgive us. So long as we look for our salvation in our accomplishments,…
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God Is With Us, Literally

God Is With Us, Literally

Sunday Dec. 15  Scripture: Matthew 1:22-23  It’s not uncommon for me (Wil) to have a conversation that goes something like this: “Pastor, do you take the Bible literally?” “I take the literal parts of the Bible literally and the figurative parts of the Bible figuratively.” “But how can you know which parts are literal and which parts are figurative?” “I don’t know for sure. But as a Christian, I’ve committed my entire life to trying to figure it out.” (For what it’s worth, I know a lot of people who claim to be Biblical literalists in every instance until you ask them what they think about Jesus’ command to sell all their possessions and give them to the poor –…
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John the Baptist

John the Baptist

Saturday Dec. 14 Scripture: Luke 3:7-9, 23 John the Baptist doesn’t have what we might call pastoral sensitivity. Most pastors are thrilled to see crowds. And most of us are nice to a fault. Can you imagine a pastor addressing the Christmas crowd, larger than usual, with “You bunch of sinful snakes! Where have you been all year long? Why start coming to church now?” Any modern pastor who does that had better already have his or her office cleared out. John the Baptist is especially critical of the religious people who come out to see him. He says, “Do not presume to say, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor.’ For God is able to raise up from these stones children…
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The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit

Friday Dec. 13 Scripture: Luke 1:13-17, 26-27, & 35-37 The angel Gabriel tells Zechariah that his son, John, whom we know as “the baptist,” will be filled with the Holy Spirit. Later, when Mary asks Gabriel how it is possible that she could have a son while still a virgin, Gabriel speaks once again of the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Luke 1:35) Read closely and you’ll notice that the Holy Spirit is active throughout the first two chapters of Luke - Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit when Mary visits her (1:41); Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit after John’s birth (1:67); Simeon received…
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The wife of Uriah (Bathsheba)

The wife of Uriah (Bathsheba)

Thursday Dec. 12 Scripture: 2 Samuel 11-12 We return to a question that we asked a few days ago when we read about Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38): Why is there no moral dilemma for David? It doesn’t appear that he gives in to temptation, because in order to be tempted he would need a sense of right and wrong. David doesn’t exhibit that at all. He sees Bathsheba. He wants Bathsheba. He sends his men to bring Bathsheba to him. David isn’t tempted; he’s entitled (so he thinks). Why does it all have to go so horribly wrong before David, with help from the prophet Nathan, shows any recognition of sin? There may be many answers but surely one…
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Ruth

Ruth

Wednesday Dec. 11 Scripture: Ruth 1 Ruth is the third woman mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy (Matthew 1:1-17). She is a gentile (a Moabite), and the Biblical book that bears her name tells the story of how she, an outsider, become a part of God’s people. The book of Ruth begins with the death of all three of the would-be male leading characters. Naomi’s husband and sons are gone in the first five verses. And Naomi is left with only her daughters in-law, Orpah and Ruth, both of whom are Moabites. Because there is no longer any reason for Naomi to stay in Moab, she sets out to return home to the land of  Judah and reestablish life among God’s people.…
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Rahab

Rahab

Tuesday Dec. 10 Scripture: Joshua 2 Rahab is the second of the five women whom Matthew includes in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5). This is the only place in the Bible where Rahab is named as the mother of Boaz, a key character in the story of Ruth. The Old Testament never connects Rahab to Boaz, and the books in which they appear are separated by several generations. Nevertheless, Matthew is surely talking about the woman named Rahab who provided shelter for the Hebrew spies in Joshua 2. Rahab, Joshua says, was a prostitute in the land of Jericho. In exchange for her hiding of the spies from the King of Jericho and his soldiers, the spies agree to…
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The Unexamined Corners of Our Lives

The Unexamined Corners of Our Lives

Monday Dec. 9 Scripture: Genesis 38 Tamar is the first of five women mentioned by Matthew in the genealogy of Jesus. Her name is one of the first to appear in the New Testament. Just as the genealogy of Matthew’s Gospel is often skipped over in favor of the Christmas story that follows (1:18-25), the story of Tamar is usually bypassed by modern readers of Genesis. Why? For one thing it interrupts the story of Joseph, a multi-chapter story that we frequently tell to children. Cover the children’s eyes and ears, though, when you get to Genesis 38! As we say in the third chapter of From Heaven to Earth, this story (understandably) makes us uncomfortable. And while we might…
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Faith in the God who upends our lives

Faith in the God who upends our lives

Sunday Dec. 8 Scripture: Genesis 12:1-3 When you turn in your Bible from Malachi 4:6, which ends the Old Testament, to Matthew 1:1, which begins the New Testament, you immediately encounter three names, two old and one new. The new name, of course, is Jesus the Messiah, the central figure in the pages that follow (and in all of history). The old names are David and Abraham. Among other things this opening verse places Jesus squarely in the ongoing story of God’s people. That story, for Matthew, begins with Abraham. When we meet him in Genesis 12, his name is Abram. It will later be changed to Abraham. God calls Abram to leave everything behind and go “to the land…
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