December 10

Amos 1:1-3:15, Revelation 2:1-17 Psalm 129:1-8, Proverbs 29:19-20

Pray: Ask the Lord to help you control your tongue and typing fingers. If you’re anything like me, this is not the easiest of tasks. I read or hear something and immediately I want to respond. Sometimes I want to affirm or agree, but mostly I want to disagree and make my (correct, of course) opinion known. “There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks [or types] without thinking.” Proverbs warns us. Let’s join together in paying attention to the warning.

Read: It’s possible. It’s not always easy, but it is possible. The Christians in Pergamum did it. “I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me.” Can a person live an authentic Christian life of complete obedience to God today? Yes. Yes. A resounding YES!!! With the help of the Holy Spirit living within you, it is possible!

Edify: “The people of Israel (Hickory, Conover, Newton, Lincolnton, Statesville and anywhere USA) have sinned again and again, and I will not let them go unpunished.” Merry Christmas! That doesn’t seem like much of a Christmas message, does it? In reality, there’s not much that is more Christmasy (is that a real word?) than sin and its consequences. The word Christmas, literally translated means, “Christ’s Mission.” What is His mission? He would say it is to “seek and save those who are lost.” Sin has consequences, eternal ones. Jesus came to earth to one day atone for our sins and He took upon Himself the consequences of our sins. So, Merry Christmas!

Practice: We don’t need more stuff to do. We need to figure out what is of utmost importance and do that, forgetting some of the other busy stuff that occupies so much of our limited time, energy, and resources. This indicted an entire church in Ephesus. “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work…But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” Even with the best of intentions, if we’re not careful, we can neglect that which is most important, loving God and loving others. How would you rate yourself with loving God and loving others?

December 9

Joel 1:1-3:21, Revelation 1:1-20, Psalm 128:1-6, Proverbs 29:18

Pray: “Turn to me now…Give me your hearts.” It’s a call to repentance and reconciliation with God. It follows a litany of destruction and desolation, a result of rebellion against the decrees of the Lord. In short, there are always consequences to our actions. Pause and see what is in your life for which you need to confess and repent. Turn to the Lord. Give Him your heart.

Read: “I have the gift of the Holy Spirit.” I heard someone say this to me once. I assumed they meant they had a spiritual gift. Nope. The intent was to inform me that they (not everyone else) had the gift of the Holy Spirit. Joel would take issue with that, as would I and Scripture as whole. “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people…sons and daughters…old men…young men…servants…men and women alike.” For those who name Jesus as Lord, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon them. 

Edify: One theme throughout Revelation is of God’s timeless nature. “I am the Alpha and the Omega - the beginning and the end…I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come - the Almighty One.” Trends come and trends go. Fads operate much the same way. Remember Pokemon Go? God and His Word will stand forever. Amen and amen!

Practice: We make much of obedience. That’s only because Scripture makes much of obedience. Proverbs tells us today, “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” Guidance is not restrictive, though sometimes people assume it is. We will never find as much joy and freedom as when we are obediently in the center of God’s will. 

December 8

Hosea 10:1-14:9, Jude 1:1-25, Psalm 127:1-5, Proverbs 29:15-17

Pray: Holy Spirit, reveal Your truth to us today.

Read: New Years is approaching. Get your resolutions ready! It’ll be a great two weeks at the gym (pardon the sarcasm). We like making resolutions. I once heard a preacher say, “Christians don’t make resolutions, they make covenants.” I’m not sure that’s completely provable, theologically, but it’s a nice line in a sermon. Either way, we’re pretty quick to go back on our word, whether a resolution or a covenant. Hosea has a word for us on this: “They spout empty words and make covenants they don’t intend to keep.” There are real consequences to empty covenants and resolutions. Be honest with yourself, be realistic with your covenants and resolutions. Be a person of your word.

Edify: God agonizes over Israel in Hosea. He raised them up. He loved them. He cared for them. He helped them. They rebelled against Him, even while calling Him “Most High.” Yet, the Lord says, “I will bring them home again.” If you ever wonder if you’ve fallen too far, strayed too much, you haven’t; just read Hosea. God doesn’t approve of our sin, but He withholds His wrath because of the depth of His love, the same love He has for you.

Practice: Jude could have been written in 2023. If you follow such things you know that there are many people in many churches, clergy and laity alike, espousing that “God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives.” Jude calls them “ungodly people [who] have wormed their way into your churches.” Then and now, the problem was real, and followers of Jesus are called to respond. We are to “defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to His holy people.” I hope you’ll read Jude and join countless followers before you and defend the faith.

December 7

Hosea 6:1-9:17, 3 John 1:1-14, Psalm 126:1-6, Proverbs 29:12-14 

Pray: Healing is something many people need at some point in their lives. We need physical healing, emotional healing, and certainly spiritual healing. What we find, though, is that there IS a hindrance to healing: sin. “I want to heal Israel, but its sins are too great.” James 5:16 tells us the same thing, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” What do you need to confess so that the Lord can bring healing to your life?

Read: Can you sense God’s heart in today’s reading? “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” God desperately wants a relationship with you. Other things are important, but nothing is more important to the Lord than His relationship with you. How well do you know the Lord? Have you fully trusted in Him? Maybe today is the day…

Edify: We tend to find one example that suits us and justifies our actions/thoughts/beliefs. If we can identify and name a person or group that aligns with what we believe, we consider ourselves right. John tells us, “Dear friends, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good.” Though we may find an example to reinforce what we want, that’s really not the litmus test for our thoughts/actions/beliefs. Do you have things in your life that you’ve justified because someone else does it or says it’s okay? Does it align with Scripture?

Practice: How we treat the poor and those less fortunate than us (both in this country and around creation), has eternal significance. You cannot read Scripture and ignore the reality that God has a heart for the poor and God’s people are to care for the poor. There’s much debate on how one does that, regardless, it’s a mandate from the Lord. Proverbs 29:14 tells us “If a king judges the poor fairly, his throne will last forever.” God rewards those who have the ability to help the poor and treat them fairly. 

December 6

Hosea 4:1-5:15, 2 John 1:1-13, Psalm 125:1-5, Proverbs 29:9-11

Pray: I’m guilty. Many of you are guilty. We get upset and say something without thinking it through. Our words hurt, mostly those we care about deeply. If you resonate with what I’m saying, Proverbs 29 is tough to read: “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” Lord, hear our prayers as we seek to move from foolish venting to wise men and women.

Read: Most people want to feel secure in life. We want security in our relationships, our jobs, retirement, etc. The Psalmist tells us “Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.” What’s the secret to security? Trust in God.

Edify: Love is so much more than a feeling. Feelings go up and down. Feelings are fickle. My feelings change when I’m tired or hungry. Love is not a feeling, though most times a feeling does accompany love. “Love means doing what God has commanded us, and He has commanded us to love one another…” Love is action. It’s doing something for someone even when you don’t feel like it, especially when you don’t feel like it.

Practice: I don’t like to admit when I’m wrong. Sometimes it's when I’ve been defeated by a machine and my computer gets the best of me. Other times, it’s a more serious matter and I’ve said/done something which I regret and must apologize and repent. It’s easier then, to just simply blame someone else…a spouse, disobedient children, the boss, society, etc. Yet, I know that easy is not the same as right. “Don’t point your finger at someone else and try to pass the blame! My complaint…is with you” Hosea says, on behalf of God. For what do you need to repent? To whom do you need to apologize? 

December 5

Hosea 1:1-3:5, 1 John 5:1-21, Psalm 124:1-8, Proverbs 29:5-8

Pray: Ever feel overwhelmed? Ever say, “It’s just too much?” There’s much to be concerned about in our world today. Truthfully, there always has been much to be concerned about. Evil is not new. Take heart, though. “Who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” Through faith in Christ, God’s people are victorious…no matter the circumstances. When you pray today, give thanks for the victory!

Read: God’s love is relentless. It’s not dependent upon boxes checked or how close we come to perfection (though we are expected to give an account for our actions). Hosea is a perfect picture of God’s love and redemptive work. “Go and love…even though she commits adultery…this will illustrate that the Lord still loves, even though people have turned…” What an amazing picture of God’s love! 

Edify: Spoiler Alert!!! I was listening to Christmas music a few days ago when I heard an old song that I used to sing as a child. The words threw me, honestly. “Santa Claus knows we’re all God’s children, that makes everything bright…” Two lies in one sentence: Santa Claus and everyone is a child of God (let the hate mail ensue!). 1 John 5:1 says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God.” We also read that it is the Holy Spirit that gives us the ability to even name Jesus as Lord and become a child of God. It’s not automatic. The gift of salvation has already been purchased (unlike many of your Christmas presents). You just have to say yes.

Practice: God’s love is incredible (read above). When we experience His love and grace, we are expected to live differently. Just as Hosea said to Gomer, “You must live in my house for many days and stop your prostitution,” God gives us guidelines and guardrails designed for our benefit and the benefit of those around us. Encounter His love and live like you’ve encountered His love.

December 4

Daniel 11:36-12:13, 1 John 4:1-21, Psalm 123:1-4, Proverbs 29:2-4 

Pray: How can you love others? What about those who don’t really deserve it? John tells us that once we experience the love of God in our own lives, it ought to drive us and enable us to love each other. I once heard of a missionary who was struggling to authentically love the villagers she was trying to reach. One night she prayed and the Holy Spirit revealed to her that her prayers were pointed in the wrong direction. She began praying, “Lord, give me your heart for me.” With a different prayer, she was given a different heart. With a different heart, she had a different love for people. Do you know just how much your Heavenly Father loves you? Ask Him to reveal it to you so you might love others in the same way.

Read: I had a colleague once who didn’t like it when I referenced John saying “You belong to God.” He said it made him feel controlled and restricted. I, on the other hand, feel a sense of security and trust knowing that I am God’s. When something/someone is in my possession, I am responsible for it/them. I’ll show care and concern. I’ll protect whatever is in my possession. If I belong to God, I believe His level of care, concern, protection, and responsibility over me far surpasses anything I am capable of. In that truth, I find great comfort and trust. You?

Edify: “The king will do as he pleases…and no one will help him.” It’s not coincidental that these two phrases bookend our opening passage of Scripture today. When we live for ourselves, we can’t expect others to help further our selfish ways. The king mentioned here meets his demise because of his self-centered and independent ways. In what ways can you rewrite your life’s script? In what ways can you stop doing only what pleases you and add value to someone else, investing in them? The king didn’t fair too well, even though he was a king! Selfishness will get you more of what you want…if what you want is more of you.

Practice: “I have a word.” Honestly, I cringe when someone says that to me. It’s not because I believe God cannot use someone to speak to me. He can, and does. It’s because usually this person with “a word” wants to give me their opinion…their biased, unbiblical, mostly uneducated opinion, typically rooted in rumors, feelings, and occasionally experiences. It’s why John tells us “Do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit” and it’s why we often say, “Be careful who you allow to speak into your life.” I gave great parenting advice before I had children. Broke people know exactly how you should manage your money. Who is speaking into your life? Who has your ear?