• B3: Prepare for Worship
    Weekly Devotions
B3: Preparing for Worship

Thursday, February 22, and Sunday, February 25
Service theme: Salvation and Suffering

Worship thought:  Last week we talked about the struggle that we face as we repent of our sins.  This weekend our theme changes slightly as we focus on the connection between suffering and salvation.  As unlikely as it seems, the two go together.  The salvation Jesus won came only after He had suffered and died.  Our salvation as believers happens in the middle of the suffering that God calls us to do.

Genesis 28:10-17
Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

•  Jacob’s suffering was self-inflicted.  His deceit and trickery resulted in his having to leave his father and mother.  And yet God’s salvation and promises were still there for him.  How great is God’s grace that He forgives and rescues us even after we have sinned.

Romans 5:1-11
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
3Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

•  This Scripture reading highlights God’s grace in beautiful ways.  What are your favorite verses?  How could you use these verses in your day to day life?

•  Notice in verse 3 that we rejoice even in our suffering.  God uses suffering to give us quite a few gifts.

Mark 8:31-38
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

•  Peter didn’t agree with the theme of this week’s service, at least as far as Jesus’ suffering was concerned.  When Jesus told the disciples that He was going to suffer, be killed and rise again Peter actually rebuked Him!  Have there been times in your life when you rebuked the Lord for the suffering that He allowed in your life?

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me and everyone in my church family to reflect on Your love this week as we get ready for this weekend’s worship services.  Help us to realize that we can rejoice even in the midst of suffering.  I pray in Jesus’ name; Amen


Thursday, February 15, and Sunday, February 18
Service theme: Our Lenten Struggle

Worship thought:  Lent is a time of struggle.  No, we aren’t requiring that you “give something up” for Lent (although that can be a good idea!).  Lent is a time of struggle because Lent is a time of repentance.  Repenting of our sins means coming face to face with our sinfulness and confessing that to the Lord and to those we have sinned against.  That’s hard work!  But, of course, repentance also means rejoicing in the forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross.  

Genesis 22:1-18
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

•  Abraham kept the first commandment as he was willing to kill his son at God’s command.  Would you be willing to make such a sacrifice?  Are you willing to sacrifice your time in service to the Savior?  Are you willing to part with your hard-earned money to further God’s Kingdom?  As you look carefully at your life what sins against the first commandment do you need to repent of?

Romans 8:31-39
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

•  Nothing can separate us from the love for Christ!  What a tremendous promise for us to keep in mind as we are repenting of our sins.  The devil may say to us, “There’s no way you can be forgiven of THAT!”  O yes, we can!  God’s love is powerful; His forgiveness complete.  Nothing can separate us from that love.

Mark 1:12-15
At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

•  The temptations Jesus faced in the desert were tough, so tough that God sent the angels to attend Him.  God does not leave us alone in our struggles; He comes alongside us with His grace and help.

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, as I prepare for the season of Lent I humbly ask You to make this time of the year spiritually significant and beneficial for me and for everyone in my church family.  I pray in Jesus’ name; Amen


Thursday, February 1, and Sunday, February 4
Service theme: Use God’s treasure faithfully

Worship thought:  A elderly Christian once said, “God owns everything and I’m His money manager.”  That’s a great saying, isn’t it?  A good money manager faithfully invests their client’s wealth so that it grows.  God is letting each of us use His blessings right now.  He wants us to invest those blessings (our time, talents and resources) in His Kingdom, faithfully using them to do His work here in this world.

Exodus 35:20-29
Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence, and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments. All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments. They all presented their gold as a wave offering to the Lord. Everyone who had blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen, or goat hair, ram skins dyed red or the other durable leather brought them. Those presenting an offering of silver or bronze brought it as an offering to the Lord, and everyone who had acacia wood for any part of the work brought it. Every skilled woman spun with her hands and brought what she had spun - blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen. And all the women who were willing and had the skill spun the goat hair. The leaders brought onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. They also brought spices and olive oil for the light and for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense. All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the Lord freewill offerings for all the work the Lord through Moses had commanded them to do.

•  Just a few chapters before our reading the Israelites had used their blessings in a most unfaithful way.  When the Israelites left Egypt, the people of that country gave them gold and silver as they were leaving.  Later when Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments the Israelites made and then worshiped a golden calf.  No doubt some of the wealth of the Egyptians was used to make that idol.  Now in this reading God called on the Israelites to use their blessings to build the tabernacle, a place of worship.  They responded faithfully to the Lord’s direction.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5
This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

•  Paul tells us that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.  When God gives us blessings He is giving us a trust, a responsibility to use those blessings in His service.  We want to be faithful in carrying out that trust.

Matthew 25:14-30
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

•  On Judgment Day, we will stand before our Savior to give an account of what we have done with the resources He gave us during our lifetime.  We want to be faithful in using those resources!

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, I want to be Your faithful servant with all the blessings You have given me.  Fill my heart with a sense of gratitude for Your undeserved love.  As Your love takes root in my heart my faithfulness will increase as well.  I pray in Jesus’ name; Amen


Thursday, January 25, and Sunday, January 28
Service theme: Store up treasure in heaven

Worship thought:  Did you hear the joke about an IRS agent calling a Christian into his office to ask the believer about the treasures they are storing up in heaven?  As we use the resources God has given us to further God’s kingdom we store up treasures in heaven.  On the last day our Lord will call attention to what we have done and will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Come enjoy the inheritance prepared for you.”  The IRS can’t tax that.  Thieves can’t steal it.  Rust and mildew can’t tarnish it.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.

•  What solid, practical advice we find in the book of Proverbs.  Guarding our heart means making sure that only pure, God-pleasing thoughts and attitudes reside there.  Do you want to be more loving to people?  Guard your heart.  Fill your heart with God’s love and pray for a desire to love others.  Do you want to be generous?  Guard your heart.  Count the blessings God has given you and pray for a spirit of generosity.  The list goes on and on.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

•  As we fix our eyes on what is unseen (the promises of God, accomplishing God’s will, etc.) instead of what is seen (buying the latest trinket, etc.) we will be involved in what is eternal, not on what is temporary and fleeting.

Matthew 6:19-21
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

•  Where our treasure is there our heart will be also.  An old pastor once told someone, “Do you want to love mission work more?  Volunteer to walk the neighborhood telling people about Jesus.”  “Do you want to love the work of the church more?  Give the church a big gift.”  His point was that where we put our time, money and talents is often where our heart (our attention and focus) will follow.

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, not only have You promised to take me to heaven one day You even give me to opportunity to build up Your Kingdom while I am here on earth.  What grace on Your part!  I pray in Jesus’ name; Amen


Thursday, January 18, and Sunday, January 21
Service theme: Treasure your Lord!

Worship thought:  Someone once told me about an interesting sermon they had heard.  The theme was: “God does not want to be the number one priority in your life.”  We read that and wonder what’s up!  The point of the sermon was that God doesn’t want to be just part of your life (even if it is the biggest part); He wants to be our whole life. He wants to color and impact all our priorities.  In this week’s gospel lesson Jesus warns us about letting money become an idol in our lives.  Indeed, money is one of the most powerful forces in our world.  We must take great care to worship the Lord, not money or possessions.

1 Kings 21:1-7
Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.”

But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.”

So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.

His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?”

He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”

Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

•  This reading serves as a case study of what happens when something other than God takes the number one spot in our hearts.  Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard.  He even sulked when he couldn’t have it.  The result of his coveting was the death of Naboth and the theft of the vineyard.  As Paul says in our next reading, The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  We want to treasure our Lord more than anything else.

1 Timothy 6:6-10
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

•  Godliness with contentment is great gain.  Paul, of course, is exactly right.  If we fall in love with the things of this world we set ourselves up for a lifetime of never having enough and the pain of discontent that comes along with that.

Matthew 6:22-24
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

•  You cannot serve both God and Money.  It’s interesting that the NIV capitalizes the word “money”.  Jesus is picturing money as a person who orders us around.  How can money do that in our lives?  

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the money and other resources that You have given to me.  They are great blessings.  Use this week’s worship service to make sure that I don’t worship what’s created instead of worshiping the Creator.  I pray in Jesus’ name; Amen.


Thursday, January 11, and Sunday, January 14
Service theme: Rejoice at your treasure!

Worship thought:  You’ve probably seen something like this on TV.  Imagine a person running out of gas in the countryside.  When the person asks a farmer for gas they go to the old barn to get some.  In the corner of the barn the person sees a vintage automobile in pristine condition.  That’s a treasure!  The person will make every effort to purchase the car.  And if they are able to purchase the car imagine the joy they will feel.  God has given us a great treasure in Jesus.  We don’t have to “buy” that treasure but we certainly feel joy in having it!

Isaiah 35:1-10
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
    it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
    the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
    the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
    the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
    grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

And a highway will be there;
    it will be called the Way of Holiness;
    it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
    wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
    nor any ravenous beast;
    they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
    and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

•  Isaiah was preaching to people who would soon lose everything: their land, their temple, and their homes.  God instructed Isaiah to point His people to a time of great joy, a time when He would give them so much more than they had lost.  The Messiah would come to perfectly fulfill the words of Isaiah as He would give them forgiveness, joy and everlasting life.

Philippians 3:7-11
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ - yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

•  Paul’s words certainly resonate in a world where people have too much stuff.  Paul considered everything he had accomplished and everything he had to be a loss compared to the greatness of knowing Christ as His Lord and Savior.  What a much needed warning not to treasure anything more than Jesus.

Matthew 13:44
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

•  The man in the parable found great joy in purchasing and then owning the great treasure he found.  What gives you great joy today?  

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, fill my heart with anticipation as I get ready for this week’s worship service.  It’s a privilege to come to worship You.  It’s an even bigger privilege and joy to know Jesus as my Savior. In His name I pray; Amen


Thursday, December 28, and Sunday, December 31
Service theme: The Second Christmas Miracle

Worship thought
There are two great miracles surrounding Christmas.  The first is that the Son of God became a human being for us.  The Babe of Bethlehem is a miracle in and of Himself!  And the second miracle?   In God’s love He made Jesus known to us!  We see an early stage of that miracle as God made His Son known to Anna and Simeon in the temple.

Isaiah 45:20-25
“Gather together and come;
    assemble, you fugitives from the nations.
Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood,
    who pray to gods that cannot save.
Declare what is to be, present it -
    let them take counsel together.
Who foretold this long ago,
    who declared it from the distant past?
Was it not I, the Lord?
    And there is no God apart from me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
    there is none but me.

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all you ends of the earth;
    for I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn,
    my mouth has uttered in all integrity
    a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
    by me every tongue will swear.
They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone
    are deliverance and strength.’”
All who have raged against him
    will come to him and be put to shame.
But all the descendants of Israel
    will find deliverance in the Lord
    and will make their boast in him.

•  In this reading God calls people together to learn about the one true God.  He even says, “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth.”  We are included in that grand invitation!  The Savior came for all people.  The Holy Spirit has made Him known to us.  God continues by saying that those who worship idols are ignorant.

Colossians 3:12-17
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

•  We are to do all things in the name of Lord Jesus (v 17).  One way that God makes Jesus known to others today is through our lives; as we serve Jesus we bring glory to God.  Verse 16 admonishes to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly.  That’s another way that God makes Jesus known: through His Word.

•  How does the peace of God rule in someone’s heart?

Luke 2:25-40
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.”

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.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

•  As we read these verses we get the idea that Anna and Simeon would say that this was one of the greatest days of their lives.  The Holy Spirit made known to them the long-promised Messiah.  Don’t ever take for granted the great honor God has given us in His Word.  We can study the details of the plan of salvation as we get to know His Son better.

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, I praise You for bringing me to faith in Jesus.  What a tremendous miracle it is that I know my Savior.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


Thursday, December 21, and Sunday, December 24
Service theme: Get ready to open your present!  (Prepare for His Coming)

Worship thought
What’s the best way to get ready to celebrate Christmas?  It’s not with frantic doing. It’s not with a focus on what we have done or promise to do. It’s not with how we will pay back what Jesus comes to bring. The best preparation for Christmas is a readiness to receive.

2 Samuel 7:8-16
“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”

•  King David knew what it was to be a receiver.  God took him from the pastures to the palace!  Perhaps that was part of David’s greatness; He knew what great things God has done for him.

Romans 16:25-27
Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith - to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

•  Paul ended the book of Romans with a hymn of praise to the One who had brought all the Old Testament prophecies to fulfillment and, in the process, had brought him to faith.  We, like Paul, are receivers of God’s great blessings.

Luke 1:26-38
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. 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.”

“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.

•  Mary’s words to Gabriel (“May it be to me as you have said.”) show us that she had the heart of someone ready to receive God’s blessing.  She was truly ready for the first Christmas!  Getting ready for Christmas begins with our confession that we need God’s grace.  It ends with our rejoicing at the amazing Gift that He gave us that first Christmas.

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, Christmas is just days away.  Work in my heart a willingness to receive Your blessings with joy and gratitude.  This Christmas season I will give many gifts; let my Christmas joy come from the Gift that You have given to me.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.