Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Joy of God’s Presence, December 31

December 31, Thursday: Great Truths

Scripture Reading—Revelation 22:6-21

There are no sweeter words in all of the Bible, really. There may be some that are as sweet, but none more so. “The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (v. 17). God invites us. It’s not just an oh-by-the-way kind of invitation, either. He’s prepared and sacrificed and labored patiently and long to make it available, at great cost to Himself. To be able to invite us is what He’s been up to all along. And if that weren’t enough, it’s an invitation to participate in and enjoy what we need most–desperately so. What is more, no one is excluded from this opportunity. And even more remarkable is that He offers it without cost.  Talk about your strong finish! The Bible ends on the highest possible note. Praise God!

Questions to Ponder:

  • What blessing is pronounced in v. 7?
  • How did the angel respond to John’s effort to worship him? (vv. 8-9)
  • What is the significance of John being told to not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book? (v. 10)
  • What warning is given in vv. 18-19?

The Joy of God’s Presence, December 30

December 30, Wednesday: Discipleship

Scripture Reading—Revelation 3

There’s a familiar adage that encourages “Go with what you’ve got.” John Wooden, famous basketball and, as it turns out, life coach said it this way, “Don’t let what you don’t have keep you from using what you do have” (or something like that). Jesus told the church at Sardis to “strengthen what remains” (v. 2). They were a church in trouble, no doubt. What they needed to do was to focus on their assets (spiritually speaking) and build from there. It would require their waking up–that is, to recognize their peril and identify from where they could begin. The consequence of failure would be death (spiritual). Excellent instruction for any Christian and any church.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What did the church of Sardis have? (v. 1)
  • What is absent from the letter to the church at Philadelphia? (vv. 7-13)
  • What was Laodicea’s problem? (vv. 15-16)
  • What is the significance of the promises being made to “the one who conquers”? (vv. 5, 12, 21)

The Joy of God’s Presence, December 29

December 29, Tuesday: Bible Story (1)

Scripture Reading—Acts 27:1-28:31

The trip was harrowing. We’re not talking about a back seat full of impatient, rowdy kids on a road trip harrowing. This is life-threatening storms, shipwreck, and fighting for survival harrowing. Through it all, God was present. He delivered a reassuring message through an angel. It wasn’t a message of absolute safety, freedom from anxiety, or smooth sailing. Paul was even informed the ship would be lost, though no one would die. It’s a very important lesson we have to work to remember. God’s promise isn’t to keep us from the storms, but to bring us through them. That doesn’t mean there won’t troubling times. I can’t imagine going down in a shipwreck or being bitten by a venomous snake. Yet those happened under God’s care. We covet God’s protection. Let’s just not expect more from it than He’s promised.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What significance is there that “even ‘the Fast’ was already over”? (27:9)
  • What did Paul warn? (27:10)
  • What plot did Paul uncover? (27:30-32)
  • How many people were on this ship? (27:37)

The Joy of God’s Presence, December 28

December 28, Monday: Jesus

Scripture Reading—Acts 1:1-11

Leaving is hard. Being left is hard. But, under given circumstances, such separation is unavoidable. Steps can be taken to help mitigate the anxiety. Jesus certainly did that for His apostles. He had reassured and encouraged them (John 14:1-2). He had informed them that another would come and in important ways fill the void He was leaving (John 14:16). He had tasked them with important work to accomplish in His absence (Matt. 28:19). He assured them that though He would no longer continue with them in physical presence, He would always be with them (Matt. 19:20). Perhaps most importantly, though, was the promise that He was coming back (John 14:3). Here, on Mt. Olivet overlooking beloved Jerusalem, that promise is repeated at the very moment Jesus departs. It no doubt encouraged, motivated, and reassured the apostles. It should do no less for us.

Questions to Ponder:

  • For how long had Jesus appeared “after his suffering”? (v. 3)
  • What did Jesus discuss most during the time prior to His ascension? (v. 3)
  • What question did the apostles have for Jesus? (v. 6)
  • What was the source of the power the apostles would receive? (v. 8)

The Joy of God’s Presence, December 27

December 27, Sunday: God

Scripture Reading—Psalm 136

It’s a literary device to be sure. The repetition of the same statement in the second line of twenty-six consecutive 2-line stanzas is obvious. The primary point is driven home repeatedly. It’s also a profound theological statement; “The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.” Profound does not have to mean complicated. God’s love for His people is unchanging. It’s not based on any merit on their part at all. His love for them is not because of how desirable and impressive they are. His love is based on His own character. He loves beyond measure. This is a primary contributing factor to His place as God of gods and Lord of lords. It is the reason for his goodness and why thanks is due to Him (vv. 1,2,26). When we think of God we cannot do so appropriately apart from His steadfast love.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What event is under consideration in vv. 4-9?
  • What event is under consideration in vv. 10-16?
  • What event is under consideration in vv. 17-22?
  • What is the demonstration of His steadfast love in v. 25?

The Joy of God’s Presence, December 26

December 26, Saturday: Inspiration, Motivation, Encouragement

Scripture Reading—Psalm 150

What do you say when it’s all been said? What do you say after every line of thought has been pursued? What do you say when every vantage point has been considered? What do you say when you have reached the end? The conclusion of the book of Psalms is not without significance. No other chapter in the Bible has had so much to come before it, so much leading up to it, and so much on which to draw. It’s not that there is nothing left to be said. the end of Psalms actually says it all. “Praise the Lord…praise him according to his excellent greatness…Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (vv. 1, 2, 6).

Questions to Ponder:

  • Where is God to be praised? (v. 1)
  • For what is God to be praised? (v. 2)
  • With what is God to be praised? (vv. 3-5)
  • Who/what is to praise God? (v. 6)

The Joy of God’s Presence, December 25

December 25, Friday: Bible Story (2)

Scripture Reading—Acts 25:13-26:32

It is of no small significance what Paul made of his Damascus road experience.  What did he consider to be the appropriate response? “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (v. 19). Obedience? I know that doesn’t set well with many believers. To many it smacks of legalism and everyone knows a legalistic approach to faith is not appropriate. Was Paul being legalistic? Hardly. And no more than Jesus. Remember, He was obedient. “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9). Apparently obedience does not equate to legalism, just ask Paul, or Jesus.

Questions to Ponder:

  • How did Festus characterize Paul’s case? (25:19)
  • To what sect of the Jews did Paul belong? (26:5)
  • Because of what was Paul on trial? (26:6-8)
  • What did Paul claim to have “to this day”? (26:22)

The Joy of God’s Presence, December 24

December 24, Thursday: Great Truths

Scripture Reading—2 Timothy 3:10-17

It’s a very simple principle: you hit what you aim at. I know, I know, me too; I’ve not hit everything I’ve aimed at. But I’ve never hit what I haven’t aimed at either. If you really want to “hit” something, you better be taking aim. Right? Paul talks about “my aim in life” (v. 10). He was taking deliberate measures to point his life toward a specific outcome. It wasn’t wishful thinking or hoping for dumb luck. It was also tied to “my teaching, my conduct,…my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings” (vv. 10-11). There’s little question about where Paul was headed–it was where he was aiming.

Questions to Ponder:

  • When was Paul at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra? (v. 11)
  • What will happen to all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus? (v. 12)
  • What is Scripture able to accomplish? (v. 15)
  • For what is Scripture profitable? (vv. 16-17)

The Joy of God’s Presence, December 23

December 23, Wednesday: Discipleship

Scripture Reading—Revelation 2

It really is a wondrous thing that we have these letters sent by Jesus, through John, to seven churches (Rev. 2-3). Think about it! Incredible access to first hand communication from Jesus to His churches. How insightful, how encouraging, how instructive!  The shortest of these letters we might think should have been the longest. The church at Smyrna is informed that not only is the Lord aware of the persecution, poverty, and slander they’re suffering, but there is more to come. Greater tribulation is on it’s way, even with the threat of death. So, what does Jesus tell them to do? Probably not what we would do. He simply told them to be faithful; even to the point of dying for the faith. The reward, the crown of life, awaits the faithful. The Lord’s greatest concern for us in our trials and troubles isn’t our relief, avoidance, or protection; it is our faithfulness. Does our greatest concern match the Lord’s?

Questions to Ponder:

  • What kind of church was Ephesus? (vv. 2-3)
  • What does it mean that Jesus would “remove your lampstand from its place”? (v. 5)
  • What does it mean to be “faithful unto death”? (v. 10)
  • To whom are the promises of the letters addressed? (vv. 7, 11, 17, 26)

The Joy of God’s Presence, December 22

December 22, Tuesday: Bible Story (1)

Scripture Reading—Acts 24:1-25:12

Injustice infuriates us. Well, at least when we’re the ones suffering it. Injustice towards others takes a while longer to garner our concern. Paul’s imprisonment and series of trials in Jerusalem and Caesarea were a string of injustices. No guilt was ever found in him. Still, he remained wrongfully imprisoned. This is Paul–God’s chosen missionary–unable to travel and evangelize because of men’s petty pride and greed. Why didn’t God fix this? Noticeably absent is Paul’s protest. He knew the Lord’s instruction when it came to suffering injustice; it’s not to cry out, it’s not to demand our rights, it’s not to protest, march, and strike. We are to endure it patiently (Matt. 5:11; 2 Tim. 2:24). That’s not what we want to hear, but it is what the Lord says.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What accusations were made against Paul? (24:5-6)
  • For what did Paul say he was really on trial? (24:21)
  • About what did Paul preach to Felix? (24:24-25)
  • Why did Felix leave Paul imprisoned? (24:27)