His Name Shall Be: An Advent Devotional – Day Fourteen

Nevertheless, this time of darkness and despair will not go on forever . . 

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine . . .

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.
The government will rest on His shoulders.
And He will be called:
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David
For all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
Will make this happen!
— Isaiah 9:1,6-7, NLT

At just the right time, God promises the hope of the Messiah to come. In a time of great darkness, God speaks and brings the provision of comfort for those who wrestle with despair.

With a grand gesture of His passionate love and enduring faithfulness, He makes the proclamation of a Savior who will come with redemption in His hand for all mankind. Upon the shoulders of this Messiah, all the kingdoms of the world will rest. Before the majesty of this mighty Prince, all kings and peoples will bow in humble worship.

This is the wonder we celebrate at Christmas. This incredible gift of Light come to extinguish deep darkness and to overthrow every trace of the shadow of death. For good.

Jesus comes with the promise and the power to be Who He is — in every life who will receive Him.

He is a Wonderful Counselor, bringing wisdom to those who live in confusion and bewilderment.

He is a Mighty God who will fight on behalf of those who feel powerless and defeated.

He is an Everlasting Father to the orphan, to the abused and abandoned.

He is a Prince of Peace bringing the comfort of His presence to those who live in turmoil and fear.

He is a Ruler who reigns with fairness and justice for all.

He is Jesus.

Immanuel.

God with us.

For all eternity.

FOR REFLECTION
Take a few moments to listen to this song His Name Shall Be by Matt Redman and thank Jesus for coming to fulfill the meanings of these titles for you. If there are specific things you want Him to change in your life, humbly ask Him to come to you in those areas and do a mighty work of power. The Lord our God is passionately committed to you. He is for you, beloved. May your heart prepare Him room today.

 

 

 

 

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An Invitation to Advent: Day One

What you and I need is usually not a brand-new teaching. Brand-new truths are probably not truths. What we need are reminders about the greatness of the old truths. We need someone to say an old truth in a fresh way. Or sometimes, just to say it.

This excerpt from the preface of John Piper’s book The Dawning of Indestructible Joy caught my attention. For unknown reasons, my heart has been gently stirred toward sharing devotional thoughts throughout this Advent season. Not that I have anything new to say on the subject of remembering and anticipating the arrival of the Christ child already come, but sometimes we need to rehear truth.

We need someone to say an old truth in a fresh way. Or sometimes, just to say it.

My words shared here will most likely fall under the description of the latter. I may not cause one to wonder at the eloquence of my syntax, but I pray you will be captured again by the wonder of truth retold. For while the realities of joy and peace and hope cannot be taken away from those who are in Christ, I daresay our awareness of and response to them can be lulled to sleep. If you’re anything like me, you may need to be reawakened to wonder — to have your soul stirred to the miraculous glad tidings of great joy — the presence of Immanuel come. To stay.

I invite you to join me on this journey through the month of December as we open hearts wide to receive anew this great joy that is for all people. How sad if we stand before the miracle of Christmas and feel nothing but the hustle and bustle the world throws our way. How awful if, in our busy holiday schedule, we overlook the very One whose life we profess to celebrate.

So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son… From His abundance we all have received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the one and only Son is Himself God and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.  — John 1:14,16-18, NLT

What an incredible wonder – God come to us to reveal Himself through the person of Jesus Christ. But not just for a mere thirty-three years’ life span. When Immanuel was birthed into His earthly role, He came with eternal goals in mind. He came to bring good news of great joy for all people and to break the chains of death which had hovered over creation since the fall of Adam and Eve. When Jesus descended to earth, it was to save mankind for keeps.

The Savior came to claim us with His presence and to transform us daily and forever by the power of His Holy Spirit within us. Did you get that? He didn’t just come near us; He came to live in us, setting up shop to change us from the inside out so that we could not only see His glory, but so we would reveal it to others by living a new life in Christ. Never more to live without hope. No longer struggling through life without peace. But chosen and called to declare His praises with every breath breathed on this side of eternity . . . and beyond.

This Advent, I invite you to join me in a holy soaking. I pray we fall so deeply into the wonder of this Good News that we are overcome by the great joy He has promised. I hope you personalize this gift, realizing in deeper measure than ever before that this joy is for you. Whether your holiday preparations find you breathlessly scrambling to prepare for a celebration with a multitude of folks or if it is yet another heavy and grievous reminder of your loneliness, I pray you see Jesus above it all. I pray you turn your heart heavenward. May you take a deep breath and quiet yourself to wait in restful anticipation of His coming even as you invite His holy presence to be present with you in every moment of this Christmas season.

Lift up your head, dear one, and look. I mean, really look for Jesus in these moments that surround you, wherever you may find yourself (especially if where you are is not exactly where you wish to be). He is here. He is with you. And He is inviting you to invite Him to come and stay for awhile. To linger long and to fill you in on His best kept secret.

And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you the assurance of sharing His glory.
– Colossians 1:27b

What we need are reminders about the greatness of the old truths. We need someone to say an old truth in a fresh way. Or sometimes, just to say it.

Let this be your reminder.

May the wonder of Advent be birthed in your heart beginning today.

FOR REFLECTION
Colossians 1:26-27 shares the message that had been hidden for centuries but was now revealed to God’s people so they would know that the riches and glory of Christ are meant for everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you the assurance of sharing His glory. Think on that and personalize it for yourself: Christ in me. The Hope of the Ages; The Light of the world; Savior and Redeemer . . .  in me. What is your response to realizing the secret of Jesus in you? How will believing this truth affect the way you live today?

img_5899NOTE: This exploration of Scripture is happening on a daily basis in my life. It has not been thought out ahead of time nor will it follow the traditional readings you would likely find in writings on the subject of Advent. I tend to “bunny trail” in my study time, so who knows where the Lord will take us. I’ll do my best to post daily up until Christmas, but if I miss a day or two, please bear with me. I hope you enjoy and are encouraged by this journey, but more importantly, I hope you rediscover the wonder of Christmas’s King. Immanuel has come, my friend. He is here, and He is coming again. That’s a timeless truth worth retelling.

 

The Paradox of Advent

There is a place where the nonsensical becomes the most rational. Where the extraordinary becomes the obvious and expected. Where the simplest of ways births the most extravagant of wonders.

As baffling as it may appear, sometimes the incorrect is just plain right. Even when it all seems so very wrong.

Thus is the Advent season… this paradox of both arrival and completion. The conception of a Savior bent on rescuing a world at odds with its Creator. Announcing His arrival with the words “It is finished” already formed on infant lips.

From the stable, to the cross, to the empty grave…

Each step purposeful, blazing pathways of redemption through souls.

Each touch heavy with the weight of holy and free.

Each breath, from first newborn cry to last earthly gasp, declaring love unconditional for the enemies of the Divine.

Every word spoken with intention.

Every action proclaiming an undying devotion.

Every moment a continual reminder of Immanuel.

God with us. Embracing the world with infinite love through puzzling means…

An unwed teenager chosen as the perfect earthly mother for an otherworldly Lord.

A lowly stable providing shelter for the King of kings.

A Nazarene carpenter transforming the lives of lepers and blind beggars and common laborers and hated tax collectors and prostitutes.

A Messiah come with light and love to a world set on resisting the very One it has longed to welcome.

A Friend of sinners betrayed by a comrade in order to fulfill the most holy of Covenants.

Oh, the wonder of such paradoxical designs as Calvary’s cross screams the Savior’s presence in the most absurd of ways. Sin drained from mankind by its absorption through innocent veins. Redemption completed by the death grip of iron in nail-pierced hands. Restoration intact through the ripping of temple veil, granting entrance for one and all.

The unworthy deemed valuable, summoned to partake in all that is sacred and hallowed.

The harlot made pure.

The shattered and broken raised with honor through the working of Calvary’s reparations.

This paradox of love remains as steady as ocean tide, beckoning me to come wade knee-deep in Advent’s waves.

Looking.

Hoping.

Anticipating.

Waiting with open hands and willing heart to receive the unexpected in divinely appointed ways.

So be still, anxious heart.

Hush the worry.

Quiet the weary of too much and too fast.

Slow down to ponder the wonder of sacred arrival.

For He has come and will continue to come to this wayward world.

Here in the mangers of human hearts, may He find a welcome resting place.

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Returning the Gift

Within the last 24 hours, I have read the same Scripture reference twice (one penned in a book, the other posted on a facebook status). Interestingly enough, in both accounts, the selected verses neglected to include the final three words of the complete sentence as quoted in the Bible. Perhaps you are familiar with the reference to which I am referring, as taken from the book of Micah: Act justly; love mercy; walk humbly.

While this thought implies a good directive, without the final three words, I can’t help but think that we are missing the fullness of its true exhortation. And perhaps, along with the missing words, we are missing out on the only way to fully live the suggested actions. The remainder of verse 6:8 reads: with your God. And I find it’s those last three words that “pack the punch.”

With your God.

It’s presence that makes a relationship.

God seems to get that. In fact, it’s the very reason that Jesus was sent to earth. Born of an unwed, virgin teenager, He came to the lowliest of men so that every person, from every station in life, would have opportunity to have a relationship with Him.

In Matthew 1:23, Jesus was fittingly christened Immanuel – which means, God with us. Divine nature uniting with human nature. Salvation come to earth at the mere mercy of God alone through the precious gift of His Son. Redemption found through the blood of a cross. Intimate relationship offered through the rending of the temple’s veil at the fingertips of the Almighty.

No wonder God longs for us to walk with Him in justice, mercy, and humility. His love poured out on Calvary’s hill to fulfill the law and deliver us from slavery, once and for all. No more need for sacrificial offerings of the blood of rams and bulls. It’s the offering of our hearts that He desires most.

The gift of our presence offered back to the Giver of Life.

Contrary to what some of us live as if we believe, the action God requires of us is not the paying a price for the pardon of sin, but the gift of love itself. And this gift is not even something we are asked to give of our own power and might, but a gift that naturally emits from having a relationship with our Savior. It is a love that is produced as we walk with God. We can only live lives filled with justice, mercy, and humble thanksgiving when we have fully acknowledged the redemption extended to us – by choosing to take God at His word and by inviting Him to become our God.

John 1:14 tells us that the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Jesus the Christ  – Immanuel – God with man – God in man – united with us by the power of His Holy Spirit – in the preaching of His Word – through the healing of His hands – by the promised and living Savior in our midst. Immanuel – the most holy and intimate fellowship between God and man imaginable.

As we walk the course of our lives, let’s not forget to include those final three words of Micah 6:8. Act justly… with your God. Love mercy… with your God. And walk humbly… with your God.

This Christmas, may we wrap our hearts around the truth of Immanuel and offer back the gift of our presence in return. This year, let’s not only celebrate the gift of God with us but invite Him to celebrate the gift of us with God.

May your hearts be overwhelmed by the gift of our Savior’s love.
Merry Christmas!

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