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Unspeakable Joy Devotional

December 7th

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You Are Not An Outsider. Christ Brought You In. Isaiah 49:6 “And he said, it is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for alight to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.”

Throughout history of His people, God made it clear He had a plan for all peoples. The Jews may have been the nation hoping for the Messiah, but they would not be the only people saved by Him. Even at His birth, men came from afar to worship Him, and throughout His ministry, He showed mercy to the Gentiles.

So, who were the Gentiles? Very simply put, the Gentiles were not Jews. They did not belong to God’s chosen people. They did not descend from Abraham and were not permitted to enter the inner courts of the temple; they were forced to remain outside, to worship from afar.

The thing is: many of us are Gentiles. We are not Jews and did not descend from Abraham. Had it not been for Christ we would be the ones held at arm’s length from God, watching from the outer courts as others entered in. But God made Christ a light for the Gentiles, extending His salvation even to us.

That’s why Ephesians 2:11-13 says: “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

God came near as a baby in Bethlehem so He could draw us near to Him. If we believe in Him, we are no longer separate; his spirit lives in us.

Unspeakable Joy Devotional

December 6th

 

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Let There Be Light! Isaiah 9: 2, 6-7 “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”

By the time the Messiah came to Israel, there’s no doubt things had gotten pretty dark. The people were oppressed. Many were poor. Their hope had almost faded away. Then, in the middle of a dark night, a new light dawned. In fact, just like the first subtle rays of sunrise steal upon the scene, this light wasn’t obvious to most, and only a few even saw it at all. But that would change.

It first changed with an eruption in the night sky, angels telling the shepherds of His birth. The light broke through as the star led the wise men to the very place Jesus was. It appeared to an old man named Simeon who was waiting for the birth of Christ. When he saw the child, he took Him in his arms and said: “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” Luke 2:30-32

You see, without Christ, we all walk in darkness. With Him, though we face uncertain times, we have a Wonderful Counselor to guide us on our way. When we face struggles that can overpower us, we have Mighty God, who fights for us. When we face death, we have an Everlasting Father who knows no end. And when we face fear, we have a Prince of Peace.

Jesus said, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12

If we know Christ, we have the light of His life within us. He has told us “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.

Is the world around you dark? Let His light shine.

 

 

Unspeakable Joy Devotional

December 5th

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Family Trees and The Father’s Faithfulness. Isaiah 25:1 “O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.”

Take a few moments to read Matthew 1:1-17, the genealogy of Jesus. Don’t worry if your tongue twists as it tries to pronounce names that may be new to you. As you read, try to remember things you have learned in the past about the men and women listed. What do you know of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Do you remember the wonderful works God did among them? Can you recall the promises God made to them? What about the other names on the list? Are there some you’ve never seen before? Others you’re surprised to see?

One might expect the genealogy of Jesus to be filled with only the faithful, but as we look closer at the family tree of Jesus, we are tempted to wonder exactly what the Lord was thinking.

Abraham lied to protect his own life, putting his wife in danger. Twice. Jacob took advantage of his brother and lied to his father. Judah sold his brother into slavery. Rahab was a prostitute. Ruth was a foreigner. David was a murderer. He stole another man’s wife. Solomon allowed his many wives to worship false gods. Manasseh was an evil king whose worship of others gods went so far as the sacrifice of his own son. He even set up an idol in the very temple of the Lord.

We don’t have to go any further to know there were some family stories they probably preferred not to publish. Still, God had chosen Abraham and his descendants and had promised to bless all the people through them. The promise didn’t depend on them. It depended on God. He had a plan, and nobody thwarts His plans.

You see, even the father of the Jewish faith was not perfect, and his descendants were nowhere near perfect either. That’s why they needed a Messiah in the first place, and it’s the same reason we need Christ. They didn’t choose God; God chose them. And He used them, in spite of their faults.

Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” John 15:16 Like Abraham, David and even the carpenter Joseph, God has chosen each of us, and He wants to use us to accomplish His purposes on earth. Do we have to be perfect? No, but like Abraham, who answered God’s call to follow, we have to be willing.

Unspeakable Joy Devotional

December 4th

 

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Christmas Is Not A Myth…It’s A Miracle! Do you ever wonder if the story of Christmas is actually true? Is Christmas a myth? Luke 1:1-4 “Foreasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us. Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou has been instructed.”

In the world where Santa Claus appears in stores before Thanksgiving, it can be difficult to sort through all the customs of our culture and hold on to what Christmas is all about. We can get carried away by the things of the world and forget the things of God. Our children can have trouble distinguishing between fantasy and facts, and even we can be tempted to equate the birth of Christ with other “legends” of the holiday season.

Luke knew people would question the events surrounding the birth of Christ. Who wouldn’t? It all seemed a bit outrageous, but from the beginning, there were witnesses. Luke spoke with them and recorded their words. He investigated the truth of what he had been told. Why? So we would know the certainty of the things we have been taught. So we will know the truth.

God had said a virgin would give birth, and she did. We can believe that because those who witnessed the event recorded it. We do not have to wonder every year if what we believe is true; we know it is because God’s word tells us so. So, this holiday season, don’t treat the virgin birth like you do any other Christmas story. Stop and wonder anew at the amazing miracle God performed and then remember the precious purpose He had: you! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

 

 

Unspeakable Joy Devotional

December 3

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True Worship. Isaiah 58:6-9 “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry and he shall say Here I am, if thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity.”

What is true worship? Is it singing songs and going to church every Sunday, or is there more? Jesus said, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24.

As Christians, we want to be the kind of worshipers the Father seeks, those who worship in spirit and in truth. But how do we do that? We can certainly worship the Lord on Sundays at church, but the God who saved us deserves much more than that! Just like the Israelites, who had special days of worship and fasting set aside each year, we have a special day for worship set aside in our week. We take that time to go to church, study God’s word together and worship Him with His people; but what about the rest of the week? How do we live our lives as soon as we leave church on Sunday?

Knowing that worshiping Christ means loving Him more than anything else, we must ask, “How do we show our love for Him?” 1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” We show our love for Christ by obeying His word. Just as God told the Israelites in Isaiah that He did not desire days of fasting, it is not a weekly day of worship He desires from us so much as our obedience every day. So, what are His commands?

Matthew 22:36-40 tells us that when asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus said, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Jesus taught that we are to love Him and to love others. As we show His love in our daily lives, we are worshipping Him because we are being obedient. Consider how you can show His love today.

Unspeakable Joy Devotional

December 2nd

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Why You Can Have Hope This Holiday Season. In a world filled with hardship, how can we have hope? The answer is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. Psalm 130:5-8 “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

Hope: to desire or anticipate with the expectation of fulfillment, confident expectation.

For centuries, Israel had been hoping for the Messiah, waiting for Him, expecting Him. After all, God had promised, and as Psalm 145:13 reminds us, “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.” Still, the Israelites had been waiting for a very long time. No doubt many of them had ceased to live in expectation.

Perhaps all the religious rituals they observed no longer kept many of them looking for the Messiah so much as doubting He would ever come. Perhaps that’s why the vast majority of them didn’t notice when He came-they weren’t looking for Him. It seems they had forgotten one simple truth: God is always at work.

While they were bustling through Bethlehem, an innkeeper was turning away the very Messiah they were hoping for. As they nestled snug in their beds, the Son of God came very near. They just didn’t know it.

Of course, God is still working, though His people don’t always realize it. He still fulfills His promises. He still comes near and walks among us. The question is: Are we looking for Him?

Do we expect to see Him work among us? Do we watch for Him more than a night watchman waits for morning to come? Do we long to see His face?

As Christmas approaches, we would be wise not to make the same mistake the people of Bethlehem made. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we must focus our minds and hearts on Christ. We must expect to encounter Him each day for He has promised “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13.

Oh, let us seek Him this holiday season! As we search for gifts and shop for presents, we must remember it is God’s gift to us that brings hope. Without Christ, there is no Christmas.

Unspeakable Joy Devotional

December 1st

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O Come Let Us Adore Him. What do we really worship? Today as we being to seek out the missing ingredient of Christmas, we’ll take a look at what exactly “worship” is. There are many definitions for the words that translate to English as “worship,” but as we approach Christmas, the most obvious and relevant one just might be the word “adore.” To worship something is very simply to adore it. To “adore,” according to Webster’s, means “to cherish with unwavering affection.”

We can adore all sorts of things, both good and bad, but our worship is reserved for God alone. Why?

We find the answer in Exodus 20:3-5, in which the Lord says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”

God is jealous. He’s jealous for us. He commanded the Israelites to have no other gods before Him or to create and worship any images of things in the heavens or the earth or the seas. Imagine. The God who created the universe is telling His people not to worship the things He has created. Worship Him. So why did they do it? Why did they look for other gods?

Perhaps it was to have something they could see or touch and feel? Maybe, but remember that these are the people God had led by fire and by cloud. He parted the sea for them and fed them day and night. They have seen His presence and His power. So, why seek other gods? Could it be that as Israel entered Canaan and saw the gods of other nations, they simply desired to be like the people around them? God had set them apart, but very often, they sought to fit in. Are we much different than them?

As we look at our lives, what forms do our idols take? What things do we cherish more than we cherish Christ? Habakkuk 2:18-19 says “What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? Woe unto him that saith to the wood, awake; to the dumb stone, arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.”

God is jealous for us because He created us to worship Him and have fellowship with Him, but our hearts are drawn to worthless things that have no power, to things He created rather than to Him. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, let’s first make room for Him. Let’s begin by searching our hearts for any idols we have set up. Just like cleaning out cluttered closets, let’s let God show us what’s hidden in our hearts and then take out the trash. Remember: our idols may not take a physical form, but we can worship them nonetheless. Commit to worship Christ alone each day. During the season in which we lavish gifts on one another, let’s first lavish Him with unwavering affection.