Month: December 2017

December 29, 2017

Christmas 2017-12-29

  • Journal
  • Read & Reflect

    John 20:19-23 (ESV) 

    19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

    Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) 

    18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

    Acts 1:8 (ESV) 

    8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

    • Reflect on these last words of Jesus.
    • In each of these three passages, there is a mission and a provision.  What are they?
    • As a follower of Jesus, what has been my response to these final words of Jesus?
    • What final vision of the future does Jesus look forward to as he sends us out (Revelation 7:9-10)?

    Revelation 7:9–10 (ESV) 

    9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

    • To what extent is this my own personal vision?


  • Gratitude Journal & Prayer of Thanksgiving
  • Write down three things that you are thankful for.
December 28, 2017

Christmas 2017-12-28

  • Journal
  • Read & Reflect

    John 12:20–33 (ESV) 

    20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

    27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

    John 12:20-26

    • Reflect on the link between glory and becoming “a grain of wheat [that] falls into the earth and dies” as it applies to Jesus’ life.  How does the Christian understanding of glory differ from the world’s definition?   In what ways has Jesus been actually glorified, not only through his resurrection but also in history?
    • In what way would it be foolish for grain to refuse to fall to the ground, and how does this parallel the folly of those who “lose” their life because they “love” it too much?
    • What does it mean in my context to follow Jesus in becoming the grain that falls and dies?

    John 12:31-32

    • Reflect on Jesus’ triumphant statement in this verse.  How has the triumph of the cross of Jesus driven out the prince of this world?


  • Gratitude Journal & Prayer of Thanksgiving
  • Write down three things that you are thankful for.

[1] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 86.

December 27, 2017

Christmas 2017-12-27

  • Journal
  • Read & Reflect

    John 10:1–18 (ESV) 

    1  “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

    7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

    John 10:11, 14-15

    • What uniquely qualifies Jesus as the good shepherd?  Reflect on the fact that Jesus, as my good shepherd, laid down his life for me.

    John 10:3, 16

    • The sheep listen to the voice of the shepherd by responding to his words.  What has been my responsiveness to my shepherd’s voice as it comes to me through the words of the Bible?
    • What does v.16 show about the basis of unity among the sheep in Christ’s flock? To what extent have I experienced close fellowship and oneness with others based on our mutual commitment to Jesus’ words?


  • Gratitude Journal & Prayer of Thanksgiving
  • Write down three things that you are thankful for.

[1] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 86.

December 26, 2017

Christmas 2017-12-26

  • Journal
  • Read & Reflect

    Philippians 2:1–11 (ESV) 

    1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    Philippians 2:1-11

    • Reflect on the attitude of Christ Jesus in descending.  In what ways do I grasp for power and status?  In what ways have I imitated Jesus in his humility, love, and sacrifice?

    Philippians 2:8-11

    • Is there anything in heaven and on earth that is worthy of my worship, other than Jesus Christ?
    • Take some time to offer worship and acknowledgement to Jesus for his humility and love in coming to die for my sins.


  • Gratitude Journal & Prayer of Thanksgiving
  • Write down three things that you are thankful for.

[1] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 86.

December 25, 2017

Christmas 2017-12-25

  • Journal
  • Read & Reflect

    Luke 2:1-20

    1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

    8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

    14   “Glory to God in the highest,

    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

    15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

    Luke 2:1-7

    One commentator writes: “In Luke 1, the angel announced that Mary’s child would be a king of an everlasting kingdom. […] Yet the birth of the Christ child is so simple and is located in as average a village as one can have.” [1] 

    • Consider the contrast between the power wielded by Caesar Augustus and the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. What message about true power and about the heart of God does this convey?  What do I aspire to?

    Luke 2:8-10

    • To whom did God announce the birth of Jesus?  Given what the angels announced as the sign identifying Jesus, why does it make sense that this news would be delivered to lowly shepherds? What does this say about those who are most likely to be receptive to the good news of the gospel?
    • Reflect on the fact that shepherds (considered lowly and unclean) would not have been allowed to pay homage even to an ordinary birth, let alone a king’s. What does the accessibility of baby Jesus to even the lowliest people tell us about the nature of the gospel? 

    Luke 2:10-12

    • Reflect on the words in the angel’s annunciation describing Jesus.
    • Write down all the ways in which the coming of Jesus is good news of great joy for all the people, and for me in particular.


  • Gratitude Journal & Prayer of Thanksgiving
  • Write down three things that you are thankful for.

[1] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 86.

December 22, 2017

Christmas 2017-12-22

  • Journal
  • Read & Reflect

    Luke 1:57–80 (ESV) 

    57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.”

    61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered.

    64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

    67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

    68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

      for he has visited and redeemed his people

    69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us

      in the house of his servant David,

    70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,

    71 that we should be saved from our enemies

      and from the hand of all who hate us;

    72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers

      and to remember his holy covenant,

    73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us

    74    that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,

    might serve him without fear,

    75    in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

    76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;

      for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

    77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people

      in the forgiveness of their sins,

    78 because of the tender mercy of our God,

      whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high

    79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

      to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

    80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

    Luke 1:58-59

    • Why did the neighbors and relatives want to name the infant Zechariah? What does this express about the extent of their vision for what the baby would one day become? Are there ways in which I allow my background or others’ limited expectations to define the boundaries of what God wants to do in and through my life?

    The Life Application Study Bible notes that, “Zechariah had just recalled hundreds of years of God’s sovereign work in history, beginning with Abraham and going on into eternity.  Then, in tender contrast, he personalized the story.  His son had been chosen for a key role in the drama of the ages.” [1]

    Luke 1:76-79

    • Reflect on the redemptive historical themes in Zechariah’s song, especially regarding the character of God.  Thank God for his faithfulness.
    • Reflect on vv. 76-79.  In what ways does this passage touch my life — past, present and future?




  • Gratitude Journal & Prayer of Thanksgiving
  • Write down three things that you are thankful for.

[1] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (co-published by Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991), 1790.

December 21, 2017

Christmas 2017-12-21

  • Journal
  • Read & Reflect

    Luke 1:46–56 (ESV) 

    46 And Mary said,

    “My soul magnifies the Lord,

    47    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

    48 for he has looked on

       the humble estate of his servant.

      For behold, from now on

       all generations will call me blessed;

    49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,

      and holy is his name.

    50 And his mercy is for those who fear him

      from generation to generation.

    51 He has shown strength with his arm;

      he has scattered the proud

       in the thoughts of their hearts;

    52 he has brought down

      the mighty from their thrones

      and exalted those of humble estate;

    53 he has filled the hungry with good things,

      and the rich he has sent away empty.

    54 He has helped his servant Israel,

      in remembrance of his mercy,

    55 as he spoke to our fathers,

      to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

    56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

    Luke 1:46-49

    • Given the practical implications of Mary bearing a child out of wedlock, it’s surprising that she rejoices in praise.  What does this show about what Mary regarded as the greatest privilege?  What do I most aspire to?

    “Scholars have observed that Mary’s praise song ‘echoes language from the Old Testament’” (for examples see Ps. 138:6; Ps. 71:19; Ps. 111:9; Ex. 20:6; Jer. 13:9; Ps. 107:9; 1 Sam. 2:1-10). [1]  

    Luke 1:46-55

    • What impact might Mary’s thorough familiarity with Scripture have had in shaping her character? How can I apply this to my life?
    • Consider the parallel between Mary, whom God used to bring Jesus into the world, and the mission of every Christian.  Do I share in Mary’s sense of joy over the privilege of bringing Jesus into people’s lives?



  • Gratitude Journal & Prayer of Thanksgiving
  • Write down three things that you are thankful for.

[1] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 65.

December 20, 2017

Christmas 2017-12-20

  • Journal
  • Read & Reflect

    Luke 1:26–38 (ESV) 

    26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

    34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

    35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

    “Scholars tell us that Nazareth was a small humble agrarian town. And the region of Galilee was not a respected region.  At the time of Gabriel’s appearance, Mary was most likely to be a young teenager.” [1]

    Luke 1:26-37

    • What worldly values are overthrown by God’s choice to send Jesus through Mary?
    • Does the manner of Jesus’ coming challenge certain values I hold regarding people, status, wealth and power?

    Luke 1:38

    • What implications did Gabriel’s message have on Mary’s life?
    • Ultimately, what was her response to God?
    • What is my level of willingness to do whatever God may ask of me?


  • Gratitude Journal & Prayer of Thanksgiving
  • Write down three things that you are thankful for.

[1] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 57. 

December 19, 2017

Christmas 2017-12-19

  • Journal
  • Read & Reflect

    We now come to the New Testament account of Jesus. As you reflect over these passages, consider that the coming of Jesus is a part of God’s larger story of redemption—its central, and most startling, chapter.  The manner of his birth and the purpose of his coming have revolutionary implications for our understanding of who God is and for why the gospel is such good news for sinful man.

    Luke 1:1–18 (ESV) 

    1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

    5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

    8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

    18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

    Luke 1:11-17

    • Four hundred years after the prophecy in Malachi, God finally acts by sending John, the promised messenger who will be a forerunner to prepare people for the coming of Jesus. Reflect on what this reveals about God and how he works.
    • Reflect on the description of John’s life.  What aspects of John’s mission are mine?
    • What are some steps I can take to more faithfully carry out this mission in my life?

    Notice the irony of Zechariah’s reaction to Gabriel’s words. As one commentator writes: “Here is a story of a priest who was praying fervently but who was not prepared for his prayers to be answered. He was officiating in the sanctuary itself, but he did not really expect to experience God’s presence. […]  We go through the motions of prayer and worship, but we hardly expect to meet God in the midst of our daily activities – not even in the holy moments of worship.” [1]

    Luke 1:18

    • What can I do to guard against simply going through the “motions of prayer and worship”?


  • Gratitude Journal & Prayer of Thanksgiving
  • Write down three things that you are thankful for.
  • [1] R. Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke,” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), 49.
December 18, 2017

Christmas 2017-12-18

  • Journal
  • Read & Reflect

    Micah 5:1–5a (ESV) 

    1  Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops;

      siege is laid against us;

    with a rod they strike the judge of Israel

      on the cheek.

    2  But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,

      who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,

    from you shall come forth for me

      one who is to be ruler in Israel,

    whose coming forth is from of old,

      from ancient days.

    3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time

      when she who is in labor has given birth;

    then the rest of his brothers shall return

      to the people of Israel.

    4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,

      in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

    And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great

      to the ends of the earth.

    5 And he shall be their peace.

    Malachi 3:1–4 (ESV) 

    1 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

    Malachi 4:5–6 (ESV) 

    5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

    Micah 5:1-5

    • Consider the prophecy about Jesus in this passage. Is there any other “ruler” who is worthy of such a description?
    • Reflect on the description of Jesus’ ministry in v. 4.  In what ways have these words come true in my life?

    Malachi 3:1 & 4:5-6

    • Note how Malachi’s prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist.

    Matthew 11:7–15 (ESV) 

    7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,

    “ ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,

    who will prepare your way before you.’

    11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”


  • Gratitude Journal & Prayer of Thanksgiving
  • Write down three things that you are thankful for.
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