THE GROWING YEARS

Bible Reading: Luke 2:51-52

What must it have been like for Mary and Joseph to have Jesus, the sinless Son of God, growing up in their home? Was He ever naughty? Was He fun to be around? Was He a very seriously minded child?

There is so little written about Jesus from the story of His birth to the time of His baptism at the age of thirty. Did He work as a carpenter in Nazareth? We cannot be sure, although it was asked, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” It is almost as though the growing up years were deliberately hidden from us, except for the two verses of our reading. He was submissive to His parents and He grew, both physically in stature and in wisdom. He also grew in favour with men and God. The word “favour” here is the word that is often translated as “grace.”

If Jesus had to grow in wisdom how much more do we, His children, need to grow also. In fact this word grow crops up thirty-one times in the New Testament.

In his second letter Peter speaks about growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [2 Peter 3:18]. At the beginning of the same letter Peter makes it clear that God will give us more and more grace and peace as we grow in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord [1:2]. We are to get to know God better!

Paul exhorts us to grow our roots deep into Christ and as we do so, we will also grow in faith [Colossians 2:17]. He tells us that we are to grow more and more like Christ [Ephesians 4:16]. Paul uses the words ‘to grow’ in the sense of becoming mature [2 Corinthians 13:11]. The writer to the Hebrews encourages us to move on from “baby” milk to the strong meat of God’s Word [Hebrews 5:12-14]. We are to grow up spiritually in Christ.

Billy Graham once said that during his growing years his mother would read a chapter from Proverbs each day. He attributed his spiritual growth and foundation to that daily reading from Proverbs. In the next thirty-one days we will consider a truth from each of the thirty-one chapters of Proverbs.

Like Jesus may we grow in wisdom and in favour with God and men.

A Question:

In what way has God blessed you as you have read these daily devotionals from God’s Word through this Christmas month? I would love to hear from you and can be contacted at: michaelrosswatson@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

DON’T LOSE JESUS IN THE CROWD

Bible Reading: Luke 2:41-52

Mary and Joseph were faithful and sought to honour God by going to the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem every year. At the age of twelve a Jewish boy became a “son of the Law” and began to observe the requirements of the Law. Thus at twelve years of age Jesus went to Jerusalem with His parents. The Passover was the opening day of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread [Leviticus 23:5-6].

Villagers who made this pilgrimage to Jerusalem usually travelled in caravans, with the women and children in the front. Each parent would have thought that Jesus was with the other parent or with friends and neighbours. They had travelled a day’s journey or about twenty miles before they realized that Jesus was missing!

Returning to Jerusalem, it took them three days to find Jesus. He was in the temple listening to and asking the teachers questions. His understanding astonished everyone, and when his parents rebuked Him the response of Jesus was amazing. “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Even at the age of twelve years Jesus was already showing signs of remarkable spiritual understanding.

The real issue today is losing Jesus in the crowd. It is so easy to crowd Jesus out of our lives and to lose touch with Him. We might even think that we are walking with Him but somehow other things have occupied the place that only He should have in our lives. In the words of Amy Carmichael, of Dohnavur:

 

“From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified),
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.”

Questions:

Jesus has promised never to leave us but sometimes we lose intimate sense of His presence. What are the things that cause us to lose that intimacy with Him?

Why do you thing that David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, o God…. Do not cast me away from Your presence…. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,” in Psalm 51:10-12. Do you need to pray this same prayer?

What do you think is the meaning of the words, “easy choices, weakenings” in the verse of the poem by Amy Carmichael?

PATIENTLY WAITING AND WATCHING

Bible Reading:  Luke 2:25-38

The Bible records the names of two people who were patiently waiting for the coming of the promised Saviour. Their names were Simeon and Anna. Both of them immediately recognized who Jesus was and were filled with praise and thanksgiving.

Simeon was very much in touch with the Holy Spirit and was able to hear what He was saying. The Holy Spirit was upon him [verse 25], and had shown him that he would not die before he had seen the Lord [verse 26]. Even going into the temple court that day was at the leading of the Holy Spirit [verse 27] and then by the Spirit he prophesied over Jesus and spoke God’s word to Mary.

Mary and Joseph were amazed at the word spoken over Jesus because it confirmed what had already been said, although Simeon would not have known that. In Simeon’s words was the intimation of the suffering that would come and for Mary it would be like a sword piercing her heart.

With Jesus there would be no neutral ground – people would either joyfully accept Him or totally reject Him. Jim Elliott, missionary martyr to Ecuador, wrote in his journal, “Let me be a signpost at the crossroad of people’s lives, so that when they see me they will have to make a choice.” People would either be for Jesus or against Him, but there could be no neutral ground!

There is so much to consider in the lives of Simeon and Anna that should challenge us. They lived devout and godly lives and were in tune with the Holy Spirit. They were watching and waiting for the Lord to come. Age had not dimmed their vision or desire. What an example for us to equally follow the Lord with all our heart, be in tune with the Holy Spirit and watch for His second coming.

Questions:

God wants us to walk in the Spirit. How were Simeon and Anna able to be so in tune with the Holy Spirit and what can we learn from them?

Jesus will come back to earth for a second time [see Acts 1:11]. Jesus told us not to be deceived [Matthew 24:4]; not to give up [Matthew 24:13] and not to be surprised [Matthew 24:44]. What can we learn from the example of Simeon and Anna that will help us to watch for the return of Jesus?

KILL THAT CHILD

Bible Reading:  Matthew 2:13-18

Recently we heard of a terrible attack at a school where over one hundred and thirty pupils and their teachers died. There are also reports of thousands of children who have been abused, many of them permanently damaged, and particularly by pedophiles. It is so necessary and yet so sad that anyone coming in contact with children today has to go through important safety checks in order to protect the children.

When Jesus was born there was a jealous king who decided to kill children who might be a threat to his position. King Herod was a ruthless man who murdered his own wife, as well as several sons and other relatives. He planned what is now known as the “Massacre of the Innocents,” when all male children, from the district of Bethlehem and under two years of age were killed. Amazing that children were killed in an attempt to destroy Jesus, the one who came to set His people free.

Another king, motivated by fear, wanted to destroy all the male children in his land. The Israelites were multiplying in Egypt and Pharaoh feared that they were becoming too strong. He commanded the midwives to kill all male children at birth, but because they refused to do so he had all those boys drowned in the River Nile. Pharaoh may not have realized that what he was doing was spiritually significant, because God was raising up a man whom He would use to set His people free. As with Jesus, the life of Moses was supernaturally preserved.

Is there a pattern here? Before Moses, who God would use to deliver His people, there would be an attack on the children. Before Jesus, who God would use to bring salvation and freedom, there would be an attack on the children. Are we now seeing an attack on children, yet again, before a major event in world history – the second coming of Jesus?

Some of the strongest words that Jesus ever spoke were in the context of the children. When the children were brought to Him Jesus blessed them and said that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these, but a terrible punishment would be handed out to those people who hurt children [Matthew 18:1-9]

A Question or two:

Sometimes people blame God for bad things that happen. Was God to be blamed for what happened to the Jewish children in Egypt or the innocent children of Bethlehem? Whose fault was it and what was the reason for what they did? How should this be a warning to us?

THREE BEAUTIFUL GIFTS

Bible Reading:  Matthew 2:1-12

After His birth Jesus when He was eight days old was circumcised, and at that time was given the name JESUS. Thirty-three days later, according the law in Leviticus 12:3-4 Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord [Luke 2:21-24]. Mary, Joseph and Jesus then returned to Bethlehem, living in a house, and remained there for some time, perhaps up to two years. When the Magi came to worship Jesus He was now no longer a baby and the Bible now refers to Him as a “young child.” It is often considered that Jesus may have been approaching two years of age. Perhaps this was the reason that Herod wanted to kill all the male children under two years of age.

When these three men saw the young child they fell down and worshipped Him. Perhaps these were the first gentiles to worship Jesus. Worship is always in the Bible in the context of sacrifice and of giving something of value. King David, centuries before had said, “I will not give to the Lord that which has cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:24]. The Magi brought gifts that were of considerable value and had a prophetic meaning.

First there was gold. Gold was always a symbol of deity, and as they offered that gift they were not just saying that He was the King of the Jews, but they were declaring that He was God.

Secondly, there was frankincense. This was highly fragrant and used in worship in presenting an offering to God [Exodus 30:34]. It is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. Jesus was the Righteous and Holy One who was willing to become a sacrifice and offer Himself fully to do the Father’s will.

Thirdly, there was myrrh. This was a spice used in embalming, and it symbolizes bitterness, suffering and affliction. Jesus would grow up to suffer greatly and to give His life upon the cross for us.

What an offering of prophetic significance declaring that Jesus is God, speaking of His offering of Himself and of His death upon the cross.

At Christmas we sometimes sing these words:

“What can I give him, poor as I am?                              

      If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;                                                

    If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;                                     

Yet what I can I give him:  give my heart.”

FOLLOW THAT STAR

Bible Reading:  Matthew 2:1-12

One of the most fascinating stories connected with the Christmas story is the star that led the Magi to the infant Jesus.

They were led to Bethlehem by a special star. Most commentators say that it was not a natural phenomenon such as comet or a supernova but rather a supernatural sign in the sky. Way back in Genesis we read that God placed lights in the heavens not just to control the seasons but also as signs [Genesis 1:14]. The star that led the Magi to Jesus is specifically called “His star” [Matthew 2:2]. The coming of Jesus was a supernatural event, so why should supernatural signs not also accompany it. Peter, quoting from the prophet Joel, on the Day of Pentecost spoke of signs in the heavens before the second coming of Jesus [Acts 2:19-20]. One of the signs in the heavens in the last days will be the moon turning to blood. Remarkably, before every major spiritual event the moon has turned red, and in 2014 it happened four times. This has been thoroughly researched by Derek Walker in his book, “Signs in the Heavens.”

The star that the Magi followed was actually prophesied in the Old Testament and the Magi, who were probably astrologers from Babylon would have had knowledge of that through the Jews who remained in Babylon after the captivity of the Jews in 586 BC. “A Star shall come out of Jacob and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel” in Numbers 24:17 is believed by some to be a prophecy about Jesus. The star and scepter are symbols of kingship. The Hebrew word star in Numbers 24:17 is ‘kōkāb’ which is sometimes translated as ‘Messiah.’ The Jews were constantly watching for their Messiah, the One who would be called the King of the Jews, and the Magi would almost certainly have known this fact. When they saw that star they knew that something very special was happening and they came to Bethlehem to find the King!

God may not lead us by a star but he equally gives us signs, words and people who point us to this same King, and He promises that those who seek Him will find Him. Those who seek Him will not be turned away.

Questions:

God led the Magi to Jesus by a star, but how does He bring people to Jesus today? If you have had a personal encounter with Jesus what was it that God used to bring you to Him?

The Magi were alert to the sign God gave in the heavens. What are the signs that Jesus is coming a second time? [see Matthew 24:1-28; Acts 2:19-20; 2 Timothy 3:1-9] and what should our response be?

THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

Bible Reading:  Luke 2:1-20

On the very day that Jesus was born there was a remarkable proclamation of the Christmas message, not in a beautiful cathedral or lovely auditorium, but to simple shepherds, in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night. Perhaps this was the very first proclamation of the gospel message.

The message that night was so clear. The preacher was an angel who brought “good news” [Luke 2:10]. The phrase, “I bring you good news” is a Greek word ‘evangelizo’ that means “I evangelize.” That is what the angel was doing! From the same Greek root word we have the word sometimes translated as “gospel.” It is the message of a Saviour, Christ, the anointed One and long awaited Messiah. This was the first evangelistic meeting on the very day that Jesus was born.

How wonderful that in the first ever Christmas service the news of the greatest event in history came not to men of extraordinary qualifications but to a congregation of simple shepherds. This message is for all men

That first evangelistic service would not be complete without a choir, and this choir had come especially from heaven! What is a choir without an anthem? Their song brought glory to God and spoke of peace to men on whom God’s favour rests. It must have been an amazing experience sitting in a field and hearing a heavenly choir singing a song from heaven itself.

The gospel message requires a response and the shepherds made a decision to go to Bethlehem and see the Saviour that the angel had declared to them. Their lives would never be the same again. Their response was to spread the message everywhere, and they returned to their sheep glorifying and praising God!

What a first evangelistic service on the day of Christ’s birth. There was:

a venue – the fields;

a preacher – the angel;

a congregation – shepherds;

a message – a Saviour, Christ the Lord;

a choir – a heavenly host;

an anthem – Gloria in Excelsis Deo;

a response – let us go and see the Christ;

There is only one question on this very special day as we celebrate Christ’s birth.  What will your response to the gospel be? He is no longer the Babe of Bethlehem but the triumphant King of kings and Lord of lords who has defeated sin and death!

“Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord”

THE PRINCE OF PEACE

Bible Reading:  Isaiah 9:6; Luke 2:8-19;

Jesus is the Prince of Peace and His government is one of justice and peace.

When the angelic choir sang in the fields near Bethlehem, on the day that Jesus was born their message was one of peace. They were saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests” [Luke 2:14].

The Hebrew word for peace in Isaiah 9:6 is the word “shalom.” It means far more than the absence of aggression. It has the sense, not just of peace, but also of completeness, wholeness, health, tranquility, prosperity, rest and harmony. In fact everything that is good!

The Greek word for peace used in Luke 2:14 is the ‘eirene’ and in this passage it is used of the calmness a nation enjoys when it has a caring, competent and secure leader. The Kingdom of God that Jesus rules over is a kingdom of righteousness, joy and peace [Romans 14:17]. This peace is a sense of tranquility, knowing that your life is truly in the hands of a loving God, and thus experiencing quiet in your inner self. It does not naturally make sense because it is supernatural! It surpasses all human understanding [Philippians 4:7]. It is not dependent upon circumstances but upon abiding in and trusting Jesus. The hymn writer summed it up in the following verse:

Simply trusting every day,

                                     Trusting through a stormy way,

 Even when my faith is small,

                                     Trusting Jesus that is all”

Only Jesus, the Prince of Peace can give you this peace. The world cannot give it to you. Before He went to the cross Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you; not as the world gives do I give you” [John 14:27]. Education, family, wealth, employment are good, but they are not the source of this peace that Jesus gives. Jesus bought this peace for us when He died on the cross [Isaiah 53:5].

Questions:

What are the things that most stop us enjoying the peace that Jesus offers?  [See Isaiah 26:3; James 4:1-3; Philippians 4:6; Mark 4:35-41]

Why do you think that Jesus said, “Peace be to you” twice when He visited the disciples in the upper room [see John 20:19-23]?

In Philippians 4:7 Paul says that the peace of God guards our hearts and minds. What do you think this means?

THE EVERLASTING FATHER

Bible Reading:  Isaiah 9:6; John 14:1-11; Hebrews 12:7-11

“He is the Everlasting Father.” Literally He is timeless and He is God our Father. We are in a realm here where it is so difficult for our human mind to comprehend. Jesus Himself said, “I and the Father are one” [John 10:30]. He emphasized this again just before His death when He said that He was in His Father and His Father in Him [John 17:21]. When Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father, Jesus replied by saying, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” [John 14:9].

Does that mean that the trinity consisting of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is incorrect? No, Jesus and His Father are not the same person, but they are one in essence and in nature. We do not serve three Gods, as suggested by some religions, but one God. Our God is one.

Jesus is one in essence and nature with the Father means that He has the same heart as the Father. What is the Father-heart of God like? Many people have a warped and damaged understanding of father because their human father was not a good experience for them. God, the Father is gentle, releasing, firm, forgiving, and desires to be intimately involved with His children. Here are some of the words that speak of the kind of Father that God is – faithful, generous, affectionate, caring, accepting and communicative. When you look at Jesus you see the heart of the Father.

Perhaps one of the loveliest pictures of the father heart of God is the father in the parable of the lost son. He releases his son, even though it hurts him to see him go the way that he chooses to go. He is constantly watching for him to return. He does not condemn him for the mistakes he made. He gives him a beautiful robe to cover the marks of his sin. The father puts a ring on his son’s finger that says you belong to me, and because it is a signet ring there is authority attached to it. Then he puts shoes on his feet – sons, not servants, wore shoes. The father is saying, “You are my son!” Then he throws a party and even tries to bring the jealous elder brother to the celebration. That is what God the Father is like.

Questions:

Have you had a bad experience of an earthly father that has damaged your understanding of God as Father? Why not come in simplicity to Him and ask Him to reveal Himself to you as Father! That revelation might totally change your relationship to Him.

What does Hebrews 12:7-11 tell you about God as Father and how He disciplines us for our good?

THE MIGHTY GOD

Bible Reading:  Isaiah 9:6; Philippians 2:5-11

“He is the Mighty God.” This tells exactly who Jesus is – He is God incarnate, the omnipotent One. Isaiah is affirming the Messiah’s divine nature! He is God Himself.

How incredible is this, that the mighty God humbled Himself and became a man. He left the glory of His home in heaven and became man, living in a broken, sinful and rebellious world. Charles Wesley put it like this in one of his hymns, “Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man!” Many years ago one of our friends went to work among the poor, and homeless in the slums of Calcutta in India. She had come from a lovely, comfortable, middle-class English home, and wrote us a letter telling us that she had begun to realize just a little more of what it had meant for Jesus to come from glory and wonder of heaven and live on earth.

Paul quoted in Philippians 2:6-11 what was probably a hymn of the early church. The Life Application Study Bible admirably sums up Christ becoming a man.

“The incarnation was an act of the pre-existent Son of God voluntarily assuming    a human body and human nature. Without ceasing to be God, he became a human being, the man called Jesus. He did not give up His deity to become human, but He set aside the right to His glory and power. In submission to the Father’s will, Christ limited his power and knowledge. Jesus of Nazareth was subject to time, place and many other human limitations. What made His humanity unique was His freedom from sin. In His full humanity, Jesus showed us everything about God’s character that can be conveyed in human terms.”

As a songwriter wrote, “This is our God, the Servant King.”  

Questions:

Paul prefaces this hymn of the early church with the statement, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ” [Philippians 2:5]. What do you learn about this attitude from this hymn from which Paul quotes?

How can we practically have this attitude in our daily Christian living?

Jesus voluntarily limited His power and knowledge when He became a man. How then did He minister in the way that He did [see Acts 10:38]? What does that mean for us?