Making All Things New – A New Year’s Day Devotional

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“Behold, I am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5[1]

The start of the New Year is always something to look forward to.  It is a time for us to remember what happened in our past year – both good and bad, make goals, and decide on things we would like to see happen.  It is a time for us to remember what we really want out of life, and to start fresh regardless of what last year might have brought us.  It is a time for us to look ahead instead of looking back.

One section of Scripture that comes to mind when I think of New Year’s is Hebrews 11:13-16 which says,  These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”[2]

The 11th chapter of Hebrews is often favourably called “the Hall of Faith”.  It is the record of numerous men and women in Biblical times who left what they had known and did the work of God despite the trials and temptations they were faced with.  Many were imprisoned, beaten, or even died.   These men and women did not see God the way we see Him today, they were all people who did what they did because they had hope that one day we would be here, listen to their stories, and be able to gain understanding and insight from them.  No doubt, there were times when perseverance seemed tough – times when they just wanted to give up.  They could have turned around, and fell back on what they had known, what was familiar to them, but they kept going because they had hope and faith in Jesus Christ.

When I was in grade 10 I decided on an interesting experiment.  I decided that I would wear a different shirt every day of the school week for the entire school year.  At the very end of the year I had not repeated a shirt and that Christmas almost every gift I received reflected the fact that people have remembered that.

As I reflected back on my 15 year old enthusiasm for such a project, it helped me to see the New Year in a new perspective.  I realized that with my shirts, I was donning on a new character every day.  Some days my shirts reflect a more professional side of me, some days my shirts reflect a more wacky side of me, some days my shirts reflect a vibrant side of me, and as some of my classmates discovered– some days my shirts reflected the Granny side of me.

This is sort of like how our Spiritual walk with Jesus Christ works – some days we get so caught up in being Theological, and in trying to find the right words to express how we feel about our faith, that we pay little or no attention to how our relationship with God is doing.  Sometimes we are so focused on being bright and positive in our daily living, that we forget that there are many others around us who are feeling pain.  We shrug pain off because we have a fear of it, we think that as believers we shouldn’t be feeling that way, and so we do what we can to cover up whatever hurt is plaguing our lives at that moment.  Then there are days when we just kind of slink by – feeling much older, and wiser, than we actually are… and this does us no good.

Another lesson I have learned from my wardrobe is the importance of starting each day fresh.  Donning a new shirt each day is sort of like saying, “Alright God, I’m willing to take a risk today.  I’m willing to try something that I’ve never tried before.  I’m willing to be someone that I haven’t been in a long time.” And when we open our hearts and our minds to God, being totally receptive to Him – that’s when amazing things start to take place in our life.

An old Japanese proverb goes like this, “Strike when the opportunity presents itself.”  How many times has God held blessings, and miracles out to us, and we have just passed them by thinking that we weren’t ready to take initiative, or thinking that we weren’t ready to be on top of commitment.   How many times have we seen accountability as just another one of those things in life, and taking those strong mentors in our lives for granted?

God has so much for us, and is just waiting for us to receive from Him and everything that He has in mind.  If you have never made Jesus your Saviour, what better time than today when the year is still so fresh.  If you have, what better time to reflect on that and to recommit your life to Him again.  No matter what happens this year – we know God is in control, and He’ll lead us into victory, it’s just a matter of us saying, “Yes” to Him.

As you reflect upon this New Year, I encourage you to think about this past year with the encouragement of moving forward in your life. 

Some things to ponder: What blessings has God gifted me with this year?

What blessings do I feel like God has withheld from me this year and why might that be?

What blessings do I want to see God bring into my life this year?

Where is my life headed this year and how can God become more of a part of it?

Is there something life-giving that I can add more of into my life this year? (Conversely: Is there something life-depleting that I can spend less time with or abolish altogether?)

 

New Year’s Resolutions are great, but so often we are gung-ho about them for the first week or two and by week three we have quietly submitted to our failures knowing that we simply don’t want to continue.  It’s too much work.  Too much money.  It’s not worth it. 

There are all sorts of ways that have been suggested for how one can keep those resolutions, but in the end of the day, I think the best advice is to just simplify it.  Spend time reflecting, but don’t berate yourself.  Spend time in prayer asking God what He wants you to do and asking Him for the strength to accomplish it.

Want to spend more time with Christ this New Year?  Bible Gateway has some cool material to check out: http://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2013/12/devotions-for-the-new-year-are-here/

Want to read through the entire Bible this year or maybe just the New Testament?  Check out: http://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/

Get these materials delivered right into your email inbox.  This way when you’re procrastinating from work, school, or whatever, you can read it right there!  There will be no excuses :). 

I wish you a very Happy New Year filled with many blessings and pleasant surprises.  May Christ’s love exude through you this year so that you can reach out and disciple many others as you seek to walk in His footsteps. 

What Now? (Boxing Day Devotional)

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It’s the day after Christmas.  All of the suspense, all of the waiting, all of the wishing is finished.  Long hours of practicing for Christmas cantatas are over.  Christmas cards, the Christmas tree, and Christmas lights are all put into boxes for the following year.  We resume our lives as if a miracle has not just occurred. 

Let’s flash back to that second day after Jesus’s birth.  It is our Christian historical understanding that all of the excitement did not just end with one day.  Many scholars believe that the wise men arrived around the time Jesus was about 2 years old.  By that time He would have been a toddler, getting into everything, having a few more teeth and imaginably a nice crop of hair.  He would likely already have been walking.  Perhaps playing with a few of his favourite wooden toys handcrafted by His adoptive father while His parents visited with the wise men over a cup of tea.  We also know that the first few years of Jesus’s life were quite tumultuous.  His young parents, still newly married and with a young child had to flee because of the ruling Monarch, Herod, who became jealous of the new king and wanted to kill all of the baby boys under two years of age.

But yet, let’s put away what we know of the next two years of Jesus’s life for a minute and let’s look at the Christmas story as if it is our first time hearing about it.  How do you think Mary and Joseph would have felt on the second day of Jesus’s birth?  Were they relieved that their guests were gone and they could have some quiet time as a family to adjust to their new demands as parents?  Did they wish the shepherds and angels would have stayed?  Were they fearful – not sure of what raising this God Man would be like? 

We’ve put away our Christmas cards and opened all of our gifts, but this is not the end of the story.  We are only just beginning to journey with Jesus through His short life on this earth.  We are only just beginning to see the glory unravelled before our eyes.  Just a few days from now when Jesus is 8 years old He will be dedicated to God at the Temple just like all of the other little boys of His time.  He will be given to God and His service.  Anna and Simeon, two elderly people who have spent their lifetime waiting for Him will rejoice and declare that they are now able to die in peace because they have seen the greatest gift of this world.

Christ came as a baby so that we can find our fullest potential in God.  Now as He grows, let’s also grow.  Let’s grow in love, in faith, and in patience.  Let’s not stop with His birth, but let’s live it out every day in our hearts and in our lives.

Today is also a special day in the church.  It is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  Stephen was a man who did not stop at the birth of Christ, no, that was not enough for him.  He lived it out constantly, even when it cost him his own life.  Many years later, Wenceslas also followed in Christ’s footsteps – not stopping with the birth, but living out the passion daily.  Although the facts and legends about Wenceslas are often blurred, he was a real man and like Stephen, he was a martyr. 

This Christmas season I have been researching the historiography of many old-fashion Christmas songs.  One of the ones I was most struck by was Good King Wenceslas which tells the story of a Monarch who left his high and lofty position in order to help a peasant.  That’s exactly what Christ did!  He left His throne of glory and descended to this earth.  A God among the mortals – who has ever heard of such a thing?  It’s pure nonsense.  He did it for us.  He did it because of His magnificent love.

There is one line in the song that I always love to repeat, “Therefore every man be sure wealth or rank possessing, ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.”  What a great way to keep living out the Christmas season in our hearts regardless of the time of year.  As the season is wrapping up, let’s remember to bless the poor, to come down from our high and lofty positions and spend time with the less fortunate and those whom society deems as useless.  Only then do we keep Christ in our hearts.  Only then does the fire of the Christmas bush always keep burning.

Never heard the song before?  Check out this rendition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKVU8BoKLMQ

Jesus as Relentless Pursuer and Gentle Romancer (Christmas Day Devotional)

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“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.” (John 1:14)

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%201&version=ESVUK

Christmas Day has finally arrived.  All of the suspense, all of the waiting, all of the wishing is over.  The Messiah has come to rule this world.  Joy to the World!

Think about what that very first Christmas Day in Bethlehem must have been like.  Yes, I know that from a church history point of view we know that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but let’s just suspend those notions for a minute.  Think about the young Mary and her new husband, Joseph.  Barely married they are straddled with an incredible amount of responsibility.

Imagine Mary – a first time mother and to the Son of God no less.  She now has the responsibility of raising this God Man.  She will see God incarnate crawl and then take His first stumbling steps.  She will see God cry in the middle of the night and have to comfort Him.  Every night she will tuck God into bed.

It’s incredible when we think about the fact that God – the Almighty and strongest being who existed chose to humble Himself by becoming fully human.  He chose to become nothing for us!  If Jesus lived in our society today He would be just like any other kid that we know.  He would  likely have gone to a public elementary school, maybe would have taken piano lessons, maybe would have learned to skate and play hockey.  He would probably have friends and go to their birthday parties.  Perhaps there would also be a few bullies who He would come into contact with.

Last night, I was at my church’s Christmas Eve service.  Our associate pastor’s daughter, only about 7 years old, played the hymn “Away in a Manger” beautifully on the piano.  How fitting, I thought.  We are allowing a child to lead us into worshiping the Christ child.  If Christ lived in our culture today, perhaps He would be in that same position.  Perhaps we would see His tiny fingers tickling the ivories.

I’m in awe of the fact that Christ took on our flesh, our pain, and our problems in order to save us from ourselves and offer us a future filled with hope and peace.  That is incredible news, but it doesn’t stop there!  Not by a long shot.  No, the Son of God grew up and He taught, He healed, and He forgave those whom society thought to be unforgiveable.  Without the birth of Christ we would not have had His passion.  Even after His death and resurrection He didn’t stop giving.  He is the gift that keeps on giving.  Of Himself and of His Father.

Jesus is both the Gentle Romancer and the Relentless Pursuer.  These are two images of the Christ that I have been exploring in my own life over the past several months.  He is the Relentless Pursuer.  He does not give up on us – no matter what.  When we stray far away from Him, He keeps knocking on the door of our hearts.  Even if we turn our back completely to Him and say that we don’t believe in Him, He is still our Father.  He is always waiting for us to come back – He keeps His arms outstretched.  He woos us back.  He keeps calling out to us.  He never leaves us alone.  He never abandons us.

He is also the Gentle Romancer.  He does not force His love upon us.  He is not rough in His embraces.  But rather, like the enchanted Lover, He is persistent.  He continues to love us even when we do not reciprocate that love.  When a man and woman are truly in love it is a beautiful sight.  We all marvel at the love a couple has when together they share their vows before God to remain faithful to each other for life.  We see the glint in their eyes and the expectations in their voices as they plan their future together.  That’s just a glimpse of Christ’s love for us.  He promises Himself over and over to us again.  Even when we are unfaithful to Him, He is quick to forgive.  He is quick to welcome us back.  He never gets tired of pursuing us.  He never gets tired of romancing us.

This Christmas, Christ wants to give you the greatest gift of all.

He does not wish you an easy life with no loss.  For Christ knows that until His second coming, sorrow will not be abolished.  But He offers us JOY.  Joy everlasting.  A joy too deep for words.  A joy which fills us with mystery and awe. 

He does not wish you a life free of conflict.  For Christ knows that until His second coming wars will continue to ravish our earth.  It deeply pains Him to see His creation being destroyed in this way, but He knows it is a result of sin.  Instead He offers us PEACE.  Eternal peace which sustains us even when there is pain and grief.  Peace which brings Heavenly comfort.  Peace which believes that one day we will see an end to all warfare and which works to make this peace happen on our earth.

He does not wish for you to never experience hardships.  For Christ knows that life is difficult.  He went through everything that we experience and so much more during His 33 years of life on this earth.  Instead, He offers us HOPE.  Hope to believe in the unbelievable.  Hope that continues to trust even when all others believe that trust to be broken. 

He does not wish you a life devoid of questions or confusions.  For Christ can often be found in the rumblings and musings of the heart.  Instead, He offers us belief and trust even when there is doubt and despair.  He offers us FAITH.  As Brennan Manning wrote in the Ragamuffin Gospel, “If a random sampling of one thousand American Christians were taken today, the majority would define faith as belief in the existence of God.  In earlier times it did not take faith to believe that God existed – almost everybody took that for granted.  Rather faith had to do with one’s relationship to God – whether one trusted in God.  The difference between faith as ‘Belief in something that may or may not exist’ and faith as ‘trusting in God’ is enormous.  The first is a matter of the head, the second a matter of the heart.  The first can leave us unchanged.  The second intrinsically brings change.”

He does not wish you a life without difficulty and burdens.  For He knows that as long as you live in this world, there will be some people you don’t get along with.  Jesus says, “Just remember – if they don’t like you, you’re doing something right.  They didn’t like me either!”[1]  Instead, He offers us LOVE.  Love for the unloveable.  Love for our enemies.  Love for those who hate and persecute us.

As Brennan Manning writes in the Regamuffin Gospel, “How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the anti-abortion stick on the bumper of my car. 

We are not pro-life simply because we are warding off death.  We are pro-life to the extent that we are men and women for others, all others, to the extent that no human flesh is a stranger to us; to the extent that we can touch the hand of another in love; to the extent that for us there are no ‘others’.”

Thanks be to God this Christmas season. Let’s welcome Christ into this world today in the same way that He continually welcomes each one of us into His Heavenly Kingdom. 

Responsive Reading for Christmas Day

Image Loosely based off of Matthew 1:18-25; Revelation 21:6

ONE: Eternal One, in the midst of all the holiday busyness – the giving and receiving of gifts, we take time to marvel at the purest and most precious gift that you have given to us.   The gift of your Son.

ALL: We also take time to remember the smaller, but still important gifts leading up to this ultimate gift

ONE: The strength that you gave to a young and scared teenaged girl to do the right thing even when it was hard.  The wisdom that you gave to Joseph and the strength that you gave to him to take Mary as his wife even when he knew others would talk.  The change of heart that you gave to the inn-keeper in offering the young couple a place to stay even when all of the luxurious rooms were taken up.

ALL: We are reminded that as great as this gift has been, there is an even greater gift coming

A gift that will be so far reaching that our minds are not able to comprehend it

We thank you for the gift that you have promised to us in the future – a new heaven and a new earth. 

The gift of no longer having to face hardship or pain, sorrow or death, crying or anger. 

ONE: The promise that there will be Shalom even though all we see now is violence, oppression, and disaster.

ALL: We commit ourselves to receiving this gift beforehand and acting as if this gift were already in our midst.

ONE: For in you – the Alpha and Omega we know that we have already received this new heaven and new earth in our hearts. 

ALL: Thanks be to God.

To Read the Matthew passage: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%201:18-25&version=ESVUK

To Read the Revelation passage: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation%2021:6&version=ESVUK

Christ Gives The Gift of Joy This Christmas – Christmas Eve Devotional

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)

It’s Christmas Eve.  Time to do your last minute preparations, time to cherish family and friends, and also time to reflect on the coming birth of the Son of God – the Saviour of the world.  Christmas is indeed a time of deep joy and gratitude, however, for many people it can also be a time of great sadness and loss.

For the family who has recently lost a love one, I send my condolences.  To the individual who has just lost their job, I send my sincerest regrets.  To the person who will be gathering with their family this Christmas knowing that they await conflicts which lie just below the surface, you are not alone.

There is this unfortunate reality among Christians that we always need to be happy and we always need to have a smile on our face, however, this is simply not the case!  This Christmas people will be struggling with a variety of things as they enter the church for the service this evening.  Some of them will be wondering how they will be able to put food on the table tomorrow.  Some of my brothers and sisters from other countries will be wondering where the Prince of Peace is in the midst of war and violence.  Some of my brothers and sisters have recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness or suffered a stroke and wonder how Christmas will be the same when their loved one is in the hospital not to mention the medical bills are piling high.

I’m not saying all of this to be a downer.  Not at all.  I am fortunate that today I am with my family, I have survived a massive Canadian ice storm, and tomorrow there will be a lovely spread of turkey on the table.  I’m thankful that I will go to church tonight and that I live in a country where I don’t need to fear persecution for that.  At the same time, I am deeply aware that this is not the reality for all Canadians or all Christians on this sacred and holy day.

Yet that doesn’t make it any less sacred and holy.  The Son of God came so that we might have life and have it abundantly![1]  He came not to judge, but to save us![2]  This Christmas, whatever you are going through, know that Jesus cares and that on Him you can place all your burdens![3]  Come to Him.  He understands.  Christ went through a lot.  He suffered.  There is no temptation which we go through which He also didn’t experience.[4]  Know that this Christmas if you are struggling with alcoholism, depression, anxiety, or anything else that Christ walks with you.  He does not judge.  He is your loving Heavenly Parent who wants to give you the greatest gift of all – peace and joy. 

Here’s another thing: joy and happiness although there may be some similarities are not the same thing!  I was thinking about this last Sunday when I was at church and we sang the famous and familiar Christmas song “How Great Our Joy”.  Many of us know that the chorus goes “How great my joy (loudly), great my joy (in hushed anticipation).  Jesus is born in Heaven on high (loudly), Jesus is born in Heaven on high (in hushed anticipation).”

I had never thought about the musical dynamics before until that day.  Joy can sometimes be proclaimed loudly as if we are on the mountaintop.  Joy can also be said in hushed anticipation, even when we are in the valley.  There was a lot of anticipation that day, and there is a lot of anticipation today.  Perhaps Christ wants to bring you a special gift this Christmas – healing, a compassionate friend, someone who can lend a listening ear, or comfort.  Joy CAN permeate through us even in the darkest seasons of our lives.  Joy is not a feeling.  Happiness is a feeling and feelings are fleeting.  One minute we are happy, the next we are not.  But joy is so deeply rooted in us that it wells up even amidst grief, pain, and loss.

This Christmas let’s be thankful for the greatest gift of joy that came to us on this earth.  Let’s join the Heavenly hosts of angels and shepherds and sing with them: “How great is my joy (loudly), great is my joy (in hushed anticipation).  Joy, joy, joy (loudly).  Joy, joy, joy (in hushed anticipation).  Jesus is born in Heaven on High (loudly).  Jesus is born in Heaven on High! (in hushed anticipation)”

Never heard the song How Great Our Joy before?  Check out this YouTube rendition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbY6yb-UaNc

Responsive Reading for the 4th Week of Advent

This Advent reflection is loosely based off of John 4:5-15, 39-42

To read the passage click here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%204&version=ESVUK

ONE: Sustaining God, we are on a journey. We are tried, and we have stopped at a well to drink

ALL: Yet the well is deep – we have nothing to draw with, we are tired and do not have the strength. 

Thank You that even when we do not have the strength, you provide for us

ONE: Through the friend who we can always depend on, through the parent who we know we can trust, through the mentor who we know we can rely on, through the fellow church goer who we know is praying for us even when we have not been in contact for a week

ALL: There are times in our lives when we are tempted to think that our work is in vain

ONE: Yet we come back to this well to be restored, rejuvenated, and made whole

ALL: This well sustains us.  This well provides for us.  This well is life giving.

ONE: This well is also abundant – with plenty to give.  There is no reason to horde it all for ourselves

ALL: And so we ask that you would teach us how to share this life giving water with others

ONE: Through being patient with the disabled person who has a hard time articulating their thoughts, needs, and feelings.  Through being emotionally available to the new refugees who have just left their home and face feelings of isolation and uncertainty.  Through being sensitive to those who have been displaced because of war and violence, and those who are denied their rights because they happen to be of a different ethnic make-up.

 And through being ready to forgive those who have hurt us in ways which have been intentional or unintentional – remembering that they too carry a burden with them and might not know what they are doing. 

ALL: We ask that during this Christmas season we would reach out and extend our hands to those who need you most at this time.

ONE: The family who is experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one, the family who has nowhere to go because they are from a different country, the family that does not have the resources to buy a turkey. 

ALL: We ask that you would give us a way to give the life giving water that we have to those who are near to us and to the strangers close at hand.

Amen.Image

7 Readings for the 7 Days Leading Up to Christmas

Sorry for the late post.  I was actually in the middle of writing this when our internet at the house went off again… now I’m done my shift so I’m typing this up at a coffee shop.

In the busyness of the Christmas season it’s easy to get caught up in gift giving, long shopping lines at the mall, and decorating.  Let’s take a few minutes every day to respond to the real gift of love that was given at Christmas.  Rather than just reading the Gospel accounts, though (which are important and which we should also read), I’d love for you to journey with me through the book of Isaiah.  A book that I have found to have much significance especially at this time of the year.

Thursday, December 19th

The Sign of Immanuel – Isaiah 7:10-16

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your[a] God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he[b] said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 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.[c] 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%207:10-16&version=ESVUK

Friday, December 20th

For to Us a Child Is Born – Isaiah 9:1-7

[a] But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.[b]

[c] 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.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[e]
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%209:1-7&version=ESVUK

Saturday, December 21st

The Righteous Reign of the Branch – Isaiah 11:1-10

11 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting-place shall be glorious.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%2011:1-10&version=ESVUK

Sunday, December 22nd

A King Will Reign in Righteousness – Isaiah 32:1-20

32 Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
and princes will rule in justice.
Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
a shelter from the storm,
like streams of water in a dry place,
like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.
Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will give attention.
The heart of the hasty will understand and know,
and the tongue of the stammerers will hasten to speak distinctly.
The fool will no more be called noble,
nor the scoundrel said to be honourable.
For the fool speaks folly,
and his heart is busy with iniquity,
to practice ungodliness,
to utter error concerning the Lord,
to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied,
and to deprive the thirsty of drink.
As for the scoundrel—his devices are evil;
he plans wicked schemes
to ruin the poor with lying words,
even when the plea of the needy is right.
But he who is noble plans noble things,
and on noble things he stands.

Complacent Women Warned of Disaster

Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice;
you complacent daughters, give ear to my speech.
10 In little more than a year
you will shudder, you complacent women;
for the grape harvest fails,
the fruit harvest will not come.
11 Tremble, you women who are at ease,
shudder, you complacent ones;
strip, and make yourselves bare,
and tie sackcloth round your waist.
12 Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields,
for the fruitful vine,
13 for the soil of my people
growing up in thorns and briers,
yes, for all the joyous houses
in the exultant city.
14 For the palace is forsaken,
the populous city deserted;
the hill and the watchtower
will become dens for ever,
a joy of wild donkeys,
a pasture of flocks;
15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
17 And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust[a] for ever.
18 My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places.
19 And it will hail when the forest falls down,
and the city will be utterly laid low.
20 Happy are you who sow beside all waters,
who let the feet of the ox and the donkey range free.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%2032:1-20&version=ESVUK

Monday, December 23rd 

The Ransomed Shall Return – Isaiah 35:1-10

35 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.[a]
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%2035:1-10&version=ESVUK

Tuesday, December 24th

Comfort for God’s People – Isaiah 40:1-31

40 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare[a] is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice cries:[b]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

The Word of God Stands For Ever

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said,[c] “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty[d] is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand for ever.

The Greatness of God

Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;[e]
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;[f]
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
13 Who has measured[g] the Spirit of the Lord,
or what man shows him his counsel?
14 Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.
18 To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?
19 An idol! A craftsman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and casts for it silver chains.
20 He who is too impoverished for an offering
chooses wood[h] that will not rot;
he seeks out a skilful craftsman
to set up an idol that will not move.
21 Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
25 To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%2040:1-31&version=ESVUK

 

Wednesday, December 25th

The Lord’s Chosen Servant – Isaiah 42

42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged[a]
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
    to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”

Sing to the Lord a New Song

10 Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise from the end of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it,
the coastlands and their inhabitants.
11 Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice,
the villages that Kedar inhabits;
let the habitants of Sela sing for joy,
let them shout from the top of the mountains.
12 Let them give glory to the Lord,
and declare his praise in the coastlands.
13 The Lord goes out like a mighty man,
like a man of war he stirs up his zeal;
he cries out, he shouts aloud,
he shows himself mighty against his foes.
14 For a long time I have held my peace;
I have kept still and restrained myself;
now I will cry out like a woman in labour;
I will gasp and pant.
15 I will lay waste mountains and hills,
and dry up all their vegetation;
I will turn the rivers into islands,[b]
and dry up the pools.
16 And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them.
17 They are turned back and utterly put to shame,
who trust in carved idols,
who say to metal images,
“You are our gods.”

Israel’s Failure to Hear and See

18 Hear, you deaf,
and look, you blind, that you may see!
19 Who is blind but my servant,
or deaf as my messenger whom I send?
Who is blind as my dedicated one,[c]
or blind as the servant of the Lord?
20 He sees many things, but does not observe them;
his ears are open, but he does not hear.
21 The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake,
to magnify his law and make it glorious.
22 But this is a people plundered and looted;
they are all of them trapped in holes
and hidden in prisons;
they have become plunder with none to rescue,
spoil with none to say, “Restore!”
23 Who among you will give ear to this,
will attend and listen for the time to come?
24 Who gave up Jacob to the looter,
and Israel to the plunderers?
Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned,
in whose ways they would not walk,
and whose law they would not obey?
25 So he poured on him the heat of his anger
and the might of battle;
it set him on fire all round, but he did not understand;
it burned him up, but he did not take it to heart.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%2042&version=ESVUK