GPS (12.1 - 12.7)
Devotions from NewSpring Church (newspring.cc)
KEY/MEMORY VERSE: Psalm 98:4, 6b
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!”
Sunday, December 1: Read Luke 1
How often have you caught yourself saying (or thinking), "I couldn't possibly" or "God would never ask someone like me to do something like that"?
Awareness of our shortcomings is good when it drives us to Jesus. But too often, we limit our expectations of God based on how we see ourselves. We say Jesus is sufficient to save us from sin, but deep down we still believe we are too broken to be part of God’s plan. This is not the case! God wants to work through us, and He is an expert at using what we see as weakness for His purpose.
In Luke 1, God chooses Mary to be the mother of Jesus. Mary was young and unmarried. She wasn’t from a royal family, and she was not engaged to a powerful man. By human standards, Mary was an unusual choice to be Jesus’ mom. And that is exactly how God wanted it.
God desires our obedience. Sometimes we get it twisted and believe God needs our talents to accomplish His purpose. Other times, we feel like we couldn’t possibly be used because we think we have nothing to give. The truth is although God does not need our help, He allows us to use our abilities because He is gracious. When we are faithful to what God has called us to do, we get to be part of His plan. And like Mary, we get to carry Jesus to the world.
Reflect: What are your weaknesses? How might God be able to use your weakness for His purpose? What about your attitude needs to change so Jesus might be honored through your life?
Monday, December 2: Read Luke 2
Obeying God is easier on some days than others. Maybe you feel like something or someone is disrupting your attempts to follow God, making obedience difficult or uncomfortable. Maybe your plans seem to make more sense than God’s plans. When obedience doesn’t come easy, our greatest temptation is to simply give up and take an easier way.
In Luke 2, Mary and Joseph were summoned to Bethlehem for a census. The timing was not ideal. Mary was nearing the end of her pregnancy. Travel was both inconvenient and uncomfortable, but Mary was faithful. She and Joseph left their home and their support system and walked hundreds of miles to Joseph’s hometown for the census. This journey was not in Joseph and Mary’s plan, but it was part of God’s plan. Through the census, the Old Testament prophecies that Christ would be born in Bethlehem were fulfilled.
God called Joseph and Mary to bring a miraculous child into the world, so they trusted God to provide for them and protect them on the journey. When we’re tempted to grow bitter or discontent with God’s plan, we, too, can trust that God is who He says He is and He wants what is best for us. God’s plan may seem painful at times, but it is always perfect.
Reflect: Have you ever been tempted to give up on something you know God called you to do? What did you learn from that experience? Why do you think obedience is not always easy? How are you being called to uncomfortable obedience today?
Tuesday, December 3: Read Luke 3
A family tree shows family relationships throughout generations. Digging into your family history might reveal that you are related to presidents, kings, or next door neighbors.
The Bible is full of these family histories. Many genealogies tell the story of God's faithfulness from generation to generation. In Luke 3:23, Jesus, the only Son of God, enters into human history and all the recorded genealogies of the Bible abruptly stop.
These records stop because our connection to God is no longer through our human ancestry but through Jesus. When we are in Christ, we are connected to God and become part of His family.
John 1:12-13 says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will but born of God.”
Thank God we've been included in His family through Jesus. We have been born into this spiritual family not based on our parent's faith but based on our believing and receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord. When we read a genealogy in the Bible, our hearts should be encouraged. God has entered our story, and now we get the opportunity to be part of His family and His story.
Reflect: God's love is based on our position, not on our performance. How can you rest in your position as His child today?Is your name written in God's family tree? If not, it can be today! If it is, take some time to thank God for adopting you into His family.
Wednesday, December 4: Read Luke 4
In school, we learn about great orators in history. People like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King Jr. who used words to inspire nations and move people to action. These men are admired and often quoted, yet each was just a man. Eventually, each of them passed away and their words became just another chapter in a textbook.
Unlike the great orators of human history, Jesus was more than just a gifted teacher or speaker. Luke says the crowd was “amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority... All the people were amazed and said to each other, ‘What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!’”
Unlike Lincoln, Churchill, and King, Jesus is not just a man. He came to Earth fully God and fully human, which means His words have authority and power. He speaks and spirits obey. In Luke 4:34, demons cry out in fear at the sound of His voice and ask Jesus if He plans to destroy them.
Jesus’ words are more than an inspiring message. An encounter with Him changes lives. Through the Bible, Jesus wants to continue to speak to us. Because unlike Lincoln,
Churchill, and King, Jesus overcame death and longs for a relationship with each one of us.
Reflect: What are the most powerful words you know?Do you have a favorite Bible verse?How has that verse or reading the Bible, in general, changed you?Have you had a personal encounter with Jesus?Have you accepted Him as your savior?
Thursday, December 5: Read Luke 5
New. This word sells everything from dish soap to identity. No wonder we miss the magnitude of its meaning. New isn't old plus something. "New" is not just “improved," "bigger," or "better." It is something we don't even have a grid for. It is unique — without comparison.
In Luke 5, Jesus wants us to understand the life He brings confounds all our expectations. Jesus shows Simon Peter, James, and John that success as fishermen wasn't about hard work or experience but was found in obeying His word to "let down the nets" (Luke 5:4). Even their idea of success itself is transformed, as the three bring in a catch so large it threatens to sink their boats!
That's why they, and we, must follow Jesus once we've encountered Him. Without Jesus, we don't know what it even means to live in Him and for Him. The first disciples are told they will now learn to fish for men? Everything is new. Jesus warns that many will try to put this "new life" in old containers of thinking and understanding and expectation, but as God's one and only son, He will break out of them all.
In what part of your life are you failing to give up your own understanding and trust Jesus to teach you something completely new? If you don't, Jesus warns that you'll waste your "new life," and the old one won't hold up either.
Reflect: What is one old way of life Jesus is trying to break in you? What is one new thing Jesus is teaching you? Do you have someone in your life to hold you accountable for growing in your relationship with Jesus?
Friday, December 6: Read Luke 6
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets" (Luke 6:22-23).
Jesus doesn’t just speak these words from Luke 6, He lives them out. He is consistently ridiculed for doing the work of the Father. When we are hated and reviled for loving Jesus, we can look to Christ as our example of how to be ambassadors of truth.
Jesus assures us that the worst the world can throw at us cannot compare to the joy of a relationship with the Lord of all. We have Christ now and for all eternity! From everlasting to everlasting we will know the sweetness of God. He is more beautiful than the sun, moon and stars. Our reward in heaven is the enjoyment of God's glory forever.
Paul writes, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35, Romans 8:37-39).”
God's love given through Christ should lead us to a joy in all situations and the hope of an eternity to come. Rejoice that God gives Himself as our reward. May we find strength to endure in Jesus' name and continue to treasure the Lord above all things.
Reflect: How do you respond when people do not agree with your faith in Jesus?What is one way you can find strength in Jesus during tough situations?What is one way you can you fix your eyes on Jesus rather than messy circumstances around you?
Saturday, December 7: Read Luke 7
If you feel entitled, you believe that your possession of one thing gives you the right or privilege to something else. For instance, “This coupon entitles the bearer to a free ice cream,” or “Every citizen is entitled to equal protection under the law.” In each case, the person has something (a coupon or citizenship) and expects to get something in return.
In Luke 7 we see a story about entitlement. A centurion's servant was sick and about to die. The local elders pleaded with Jesus, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue” (Luke 7:4-5). Based on the centurion's patriotism and construction efforts they felt he deserved special recognition. They said this because they felt entitled to special treatment because of their status in the community. They thought their influence would leverage Jesus to act on their behalf.
The centurion, on the other hand, didn't feel that he was entitled to receive any special treatment based on his position or experience. The centurion said “...I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Luke 7:6-7).
The elders of the town were Jewish by birth, dressed in traditional clothing, were well-educated, attended synagogue, sacrificed at Temple, and followed all the rules. The centurion didn't look, sound, or act anything like a religious person. All he knew was that he didn't deserve Jesus. Much like the tax collector in Luke 18:13 who “...would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner,'” the centurion knew nothing but desperation.
Could it be that we make our requests to God based on entitlement instead of desperation for Jesus? When we bring our resumes or pedigrees or possessions to God, He is not impressed. What God wants is a broken and contrite heart —a people who understand that death is what we deserve and anything good we have is the result of Jesus' mercy and grace.
Reflect: Where in your life has entitlement crept in?What is one way you can take up a posture of humility before God?What are some ways God has already blessed you beyond what you deserve?