WONDERFUL COUNSELOR

Bible Reading:  Isaiah 9:6; Psalm 32:1-11

Over the next four days we are going to look at the four amazing names given to Jesus by Isaiah in the context of His coming eight hundred years before His birth.

“His name will be called Wonderful Counselor.” There are many people who have gifts in counseling but the greatest counselor of all is Jesus! Secular counselors and therapists, who often charge large fees, may be able to help people on a temporarily but are not able to help people in the area of their spirit or eternal issues. Only Jesus can do that. Psalm 33:10,11 contrasts God’s counsel and the counsel of men. God’s counsel [plans] stands firm forever.

The word “counselor” in Hebrew means to advise, direct, resolve, to plan and to purpose. The New Testament equivalent is the Greek word “parakletos” which derives from another Greek word that means “to come alongside” with the specific purpose of exhorting, admonishing, encouraging, and comforting.

As we surrender our lives totally to Jesus He will lead us, direct us, encourage and comfort us and where necessary admonish us. The word “parakletos” in John 14:16 and 16:7 refers specifically to the Holy Spirit but also to Jesus, and is often translated as “Helper.” Here is an echo of Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble.”

Jesus has now left earth and gone back to heaven but says, I am with you always.” How can this be? Before He returned to heaven Jesus comforted His disciples by saying, “I will send you another Counselor (Helper, Comforter).” He was speaking of the Holy Spirit. The key word is “another.” There are two Greek words that can be translated as “another.” The first is “heteros” which means “another but of a different kind.” The second word is “allos” meaning “another but in every respect exactly the same.” It is this latter word that Jesus uses when He says that He will send another Counselor. The Holy Spirit is exactly same in every way to Jesus. He leads us, guides us and lives right inside the child of God. What a privilege to have this Helper who advises us, guides us, teaches us, strengthens us, helps us in our weakness and comforts us living right inside us.

A Prayer:

Thank you Father for sending Jesus to be my Saviour and Redeemer. Thank you too that He is my Wonderful Counselor. Thank you that You have sent the Holy Spirit to lead me, comfort me, teach me, to strengthen me in my weakness. I invite you to be my Counselor. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

MARY’S SONG

Bible Reading:  Luke 1:46-55

Filled with the Holy Elizabeth spoke prophetically to Mary. The word to Mary was, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her” [Luke 1:45].

Mary’s response to this prophetic word was to burst forth in a song of praise to God. Genuine prophecy given under the anointing of the Holy Spirit will always strengthen, encourage and comfort [1 Corinthians 14:3]. Very often it will be a word confirming what God has already been saying or doing. True prophecy, beginning with God, should always bring a response of praise given back to God.

Mary’s song is very similar to the song of Hannah [1 Samuel 2:10]. Her whole being is full of praise – both her soul and her spirit! As in Hannah’s song, Mary sings of God’s favour in recognizing her own lowly state. Why would God choose her! Like all men she is herself in need of a Saviour [Luke 1:47]. God most often uses people who are not great in the world’s eyes to work His purposes on the earth.

There are two aspects of God’s character that Mary most praises in this song. She praises God’s mercy in exalting the humble but scattering those who are proud or depend upon their own position. Her song also praises God’s justice. He is the champion of the poor, the despised and the oppressed. He cares for the hungry, raises the humble and remembers to keep His promises.

Questions:

If you have received a prophetic word that you knew was authentic what was its impact upon you and how did you respond to it?

God is just and cares for the poor, hungry and oppressed. How should we as God’s children act towards these people practically? What are you doing about this personally?

Do you think that Mary was proud when she said that all generations would call her blessed? If not, then why not?

THE BABY IN THE WOMB

Bible Reading:  Luke 1:39-45

After the angel had spoken to her, Mary went to stay with her relative Elizabeth. The Bible says that she went in haste. Perhaps it was to hide away and be quiet, to keep out of the limelight. That would be quite understandable, and especially as Mary’s reputation would be in shatters in the community in which she lived.

When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s home there was a remarkable manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy. Even before his birth, John the Baptist, in his mother’s womb recognized the Lord in Mary’s womb. A lot of research has proven that the unborn baby in the mother’s womb is actually very sensitive. The baby may not be physically ready to come forth but it has a spirit that is aware of what is going on outside of the womb.

Was there ever a stronger case against abortion, except perhaps in the worst of circumstances where the mother’s life was in serious danger? The Bible clearly shows us that human life begins at conception and that God fashions us while we are in our mother’s womb. The psalmist writes, “For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb” [Psalm 139:13]. God called both the prophet Jeremiah and the apostle Paul before they were born [Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:5]. In our reading today, John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb when the voice of Mary, the mother of the Lord, was heard [see Luke 1:44]. The Holy Spirit was witnessing with the spirit of the baby in the womb. Obviously children in the womb have spiritual identity.

I saw a member of our church congregation with his head on his wife’s stomach. His wife was pregnant, and her husband was quietly singing. I later asked him why he did this and he told me that he was singing a song of love and acceptance to his baby. He said, “I wanted my baby to know total and unconditional acceptance even before birth.”

Questions:

Read and meditate on Psalm 139:1-18. What does the psalmist tell us about God, His knowledge of us, and of our importance to Him, even before we are born? How does this impact you?

What should be the Christian’s attitude to abortion?

In Luke 1:38 Mary had surrendered to the Lord and accepted His will for her life. Why do think that the words of Elizabeth in Luke 1:42-45 would be important to her?

THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS

Bible Reading:  Isaiah 9:1-7

The prophecies about the coming of Jesus are remarkable, not just because they were given hundreds of years before Jesus came, but also because of their accuracy. Our reading today is one of the most remarkable of those prophecies. Jesus came as the light and shines into the darkness. Never was the value of light more clear to me than in a miracle I experienced when we lived on a fanatically Muslim island in Indonesia,

I was riding home late at night on my motorbike. Suddenly, the headlight on the bike failed as I reached the town of Galis. This town has a bad reputation for violence! One day we passed through Galis and saw a bus, almost at right angles to the ground and resting on a tree trunk. It seems that the driver had fallen asleep. When the police arrived the people of Galis had got there first. Each passenger was dead and stripped naked. There were no survivors! All suitcases and goods carried on the bus had been taken. That is what Galis is like and there I was without a headlamp on a dark night with no electricity on the edge of the town and still seventy kilometers from home!

I tried to ride with my foot on the brake using the rear brake light to give me at least some light but it was useless. I almost went off the road twice and nearly hit a tree. You cannot look behind you and steer a motorbike straight and I certainly could not have made it through the darkened streets of the town!

I heard the sound of rustling leaves and was scared. In desperation I laid my hands on the headlamp of my motorbike and in Jesus name commanded the light to shine. As I put the bike into first gear the light came on. I journeyed the remaining sixty-eight kilometers without incident until I reached the safety of home! The next morning I checked the headlamp of my motorbike to discover that the thin metal filament of the lamp was broken. It was a miracle! I had ridden seventy kilometers with a broken headlamp shining brightly. I was so thankful for light that night.

Jesus came to give us light in the darkness. We are safe when we walk in His light and we will make it to our heavenly home.

Questions:

What do you think it means to walk in the light? In answering this consider especially 1 John 1:5-9; Ephesians 4:8-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:5

What do you is the darkness into which Jesus gives us light?

CHRISTMAS WAS NOT LIKE BLACK FRIDAY

Bible Reading:  Luke 10:25-37

A few days ago I watched the most grotesque Christmas event I have ever seen. Hundreds of people were pouring into a departmental store’s pre- Christmas sale in order to grab whatever luxury goods they could get their hands on. Most obvious were the large flat screen televisions! It is known as Black Friday. People were fighting, pushing, shoving and punching others to get what they wanted! Security guards were struggling to maintain some semblance of order. Some people were hurt and arrests had to be made, and it was all this was in the name of Christmas!

It seems that the truth has been twisted until the real meaning of Christmas is lost in the world of “grab all you can.” In fact the very heart of Christmas is the very opposite of grabbing – it is giving not getting. Today’s Bible reading may not be a traditional Christmas reading, but it is the heart of Christmas. Christmas is about giving and love! Christmas is summed up by one of the best known verses in the Bible – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life” [John 3:16]. Jesus came, not to condemn the world but to save it.

Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35]. Have you discovered that? These words of Jesus repeated by Paul were in the context of working hard to help the weak. There is so much pleasure in giving to someone else and then to see their joy as they open their gift. The more we become like Jesus, the more it will be seen in our giving rather than getting. Giving is the heart of love! The evidence that God loved us is that He gave.

Questions:

Read in Mark 12:41-44 the story of the woman who put two mites into the treasury. What does this story teach you about giving?

In what way can you be counter-culture to that of the world and glorify God this Christmas time?

A Prayer:

Lord, thank you that you have blessed me in so many ways. Help me to see the needs of others, to feel Your heart and to make life easier for those who are hurting, struggling and broken. In Jesus Name. Amen.

 

NO ROOM IN THE INN

Bible Reading:  Luke 2:1-7

It is surprising how little the Bible tells us about the birth of Jesus. Only Matthew and Luke give us the nativity story. Luke gives the approximate timing of Jesus’ birth [see Luke 2:1,2], but the only clear information that we have is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem [Luke 2:4], was wrapped in swaddling clothes [Luke 2:7], and was laid in a manger [Luke 2:7,16]. All that Matthew says is, “Joseph did not know Mary till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS” [Matthew 1:25]

Mary and Joseph are often portrayed as travelling on a donkey and on their arrival in Bethlehem were turned away by an innkeeper because there was no room in the inn. There is no mention in the Bible of a donkey or an innkeeper.

It is commonly believed that Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem and urgently needed accommodation because Mary was ready to give birth. It would appear from the Biblical text that Mary and Joseph had already been in Bethlehem for sometime before the birth of Jesus [see Luke 2:6]. It is doubtful that Mary and Joseph would set out on the arduous, seventy-mile journey from Nazareth in Galilee when she was so close to giving birth!

The use of the word “inn” [Luke 2:7] is questionable. In Greek the word is “kataluma” which is correctly translated as guest room. The same word is translated as guest room in Luke 22:11 for the upper room where the Last Supper was held. Luke actually used a totally different Greek word in describing the inn in the story of Good Samaritan [Luke 10:35].

So what really happened? Although we are not told clearly in the Biblical text, let’s consider another possibility. Mary and Joseph had returned to Joseph’s ancestral home in Bethlehem. All of Mary and Joseph’s family would need to be in Bethlehem for the census, and because of the large influx of family members, the house was crowded and the guest room was full. Mary and Joseph would sleep therefore where the animals were brought into the house at night, and hence the manger. It was normal for a Jewish family when the house was full for some people to sleep at the lower story where the animals were kept.

We can see how easily a false picture of events can be created, but nothing can detract from the most important truth, that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was born that we might be saved from our sins.

Questions:

What is the most important aspect of the whole Christmas story? Why do you think that so much myth has built up around it?

Would you strip away from the birth of Jesus all that would distract and totally focus on this Christmas? Allow Him, to be the centre of all your Christmas celebrations.

GOD’S FAVOUR

Bible Reading:  Luke 1:46-55

“Then the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary,

for you have found favour with God” [Luke 1:30]

Mary probably lived life as simple peasant girl. She lived in Nazareth, an obscure town in Galilee. It was not expected that anything good could come out of Nazareth! Nathaniel was surprised that the Messiah would come from Nazareth [see John 1:46], and the Pharisees rejected Jesus saying, “…no prophet has ever come out of Galilee” [John 7:52].

Although she came from an obscure peasant background, Mary found favour with God. We know that Mary did have an intimate knowledge of God’s word from her amazing song of praise, known as the Magnificat [Luke 1:46-55]. We can see from her song her deep and abiding trust in God, as well as her virtue and integrity.

The English word translated as favour is the Greek word “charis”. This word is normally translated as grace, although in one verse of the New Testament it is translated as acceptable or approved. It can also have the meaning of being endued with special honour. For Mary to have found favour with God meant that she received grace from, was approved by Him and given special honour. Grace is God’s unmerited and undeserved favour.

Luke uses a similar expression reporting the words of Stephen; “David found favour in God’s sight” [Acts 7:46]. The very same thing can be said of anyone who has been saved by the grace of God and who has trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation. In this respect we are no different to Mary or David. Like them we can do nothing to earn God’s favour. If you are in Christ today you have God’s favour and are acceptable to Him.

Questions:

Read Proverbs 8:35. What is the link between this verse and Mary and how does this apply to you

What does it mean that God shows us favour, and how should this change our attitude to everyday life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOD SPEAKS THROUGH DREAMS

Bible Reading: Matthew 1:20-25

There is something very special about Joseph! So much emphasis is put on Mary that I sometimes feel that Joseph is neglected.

How would Joseph have felt when he discovered that his future wife was pregnant, but that he himself had not yet had a physical relationship with her? What did Joseph do? The Bible says that he was a just man and would not make a public example of Mary. Joseph intended to break their engagement quietly. That is, until God spoke to him in a dream [Matthew 1:20-25].

We read that God spoke to Joseph four times in dreams. The first dream assured him that Mary had not been unfaithful and that the Child she was carrying was God’s Son placed within her womb supernaturally. In the second dream the Lord told Joseph to take the child Jesus to Egypt for His protection [Matthew 2:13-15]. Whilst in Egypt Joseph had a third dream in which the Lord told him to return to the land of Israel [Matthew 2:19-21]. God spoke to Joseph in another dream after he had returned to Israel. In this fourth dream the Lord warned him to move from Judea and go to the safer region of Galilee. This is a God who speaks in dreams. Preaching at Pentecost Peter said, “Your old men shall dream dreams” [Acts 2:17].

I really wanted to know and experience for myself whether God still speaks in dreams. I decided to ask God to speak to me in a dream. That night I had a dream, and saw a young boy, who I recognized, being badly verbally abused by a schoolteacher. I felt it right to speak to the boy, now an adult, about my dream. As I described the teacher to him and the abuse, which I had seen, he began to cry. He shared with me how terrible that time had been and how he had never fully recovered from the verbal abuse that he had received. It opened the door for me to pray for him and to see him set free from spiritual and emotional effects of that time when he was a schoolboy.

Questions:

Has God ever clearly spoken to you in a dream? If so, what affect did it have on your life and walk with God?

Can you think of other people in the Bible who heard God speak through dreams or who interpreted dreams? Can you remember another important dream from the Christmas story in the Bible?

Why not ask God to speak to you in a dream, especially as it was one of the clear ways that God spoke to people in the Bible?

 

 

WHY JESUS CAME

Bible Reading:  Luke 19:1-10; John 10:10; 1 John 3:8

We learned yesterday that Jesus is our Saviour and I want to explore this a little more thoroughly today. The Bible is very clear about why Jesus came.

Firstly, Jesus came to seek and save the lost [Luke 19:10]. When Jesus came to Jericho He met one of the most hated people of that time, a tax collector, whose name was Zacchaeus. When Jesus went to his home the people complained that He was a guest in the house of sinner. That meeting with Jesus totally changed Zacchaeus’ life. He confessed his sin, his deception, false accusations and cheating people. He even gave back to the people he had cheated four times more than he took! Following this amazing change in Zacchaeus Jesus said, “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Without God we are lost sinners but Jesus came to save us and to restore our relationship with God.

Secondly, Jesus came to give us life [see John 10:10]. The Message Bible puts it very clearly: “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” This is a life that is rich and satisfying and Jesus said that He is the One who gives this life. It is a life of fellowship with God that will go beyond the grave and never end. Happiness is to know Jesus and live in the way that pleases Him. In his letter, John puts it like this: “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life” [1 John 5:12]

Thirdly, Jesus came to set us free. He destroyed the works of the devil

[1 John 3:8]. The devil has sought to rule the world and its people. He works through fear, control and intimidation. There is no love in Satan’s kingdom. He robs, destroys and kills. When Jesus died on the cross he destroyed the work and power of the devil and his demons. The power of fear, intimidation and control were defeated at the cross. We never again need to be in bondage to sin because Jesus came to set us free!

Questions:

What is the evidence that a lost person has been saved?

What does the phrase “life in all its fullness” mean to you?

In what ways does the devil try to control people? What are some of the tools that he uses? Do you, as a child of God, enjoy the freedom the Christ bought for you on the cross?

GOD ALWAYS KEEPS HIS PROMISES

Bible Reading:  Luke 1:39-44; 1:57-58

The angel of the Lord had declared that Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth would have a child, even though she was barren. God had made a promise and God always keeps His promises.

Many years ago I was speaking at a meeting and someone asked me what car I was driving. I told him that I didn’t need a car because people would meet me and drive me to my appointments. The man insisted that I needed to have a car and that he would deliver one that evening to the hotel where I was staying. I remember that it was a Sunday evening but that evening no car was delivered. The same on Monday and Tuesday, and on Tuesday night as I lay in bed I felt really disappointed and wrote in my journal. This is what I wrote: “When God promises something it will happen, but if a man promises something, then wait and see.” Men may disappoint us but God will never fail to keep His promises.

God spoke His promise of a son to Zacharias and Elizabeth and told them that this son would prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. The babe in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy when Mary, pregnant with God’s Son, visited her. Although Zacharias had struggled with unbelief we see now the faith of Elizabeth. She recognized what God was doing and that Mary was carrying the Christ baby in her womb.

Elizabeth speaks out this wonderful statement of faith, “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfilment of those things which were told her from the Lord” [verse 45]. God gives His promise. When we hold on to that promise in faith we will see what He has promised come to pass, even though we may have to wait a while.

Questions:

Why do you think that Zacharias struggled with unbelief but Elizabeth had such faith?

Has God given you a promise but you have struggled to believe it? What is it that causes you to struggle?

What do you especially learn from the remarkable meeting of Mary with her cousin Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-45?

What do we read about God’s promises in 2 Peter 1:4 that specifically applies to us?