An Advent Reading for Saturday, December 16

Traditional carol, O, Holy Night

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. 1 Peter 1:8

   Growing up with parents who loved the Lord, Christmas was filled with many traditions, but the focus was always to worship Jesus in a special way during the season. And yet, almost every year on Christmas Eve we were expected at a large extended family gathering where that was not the focus. Those Christmas Eves would not be described as holy but certainly as loud, crowded, a fair mixture of smiles and strife, and full of glimpses of “the world in sin and error pining.” In the midst of it all, my parents, filled with the Holy Spirit, tried to also be filled with love and peace.
   There is perhaps no traditional Christmas song that is a truer picture of the wonder and worship of Jesus’ arriving than “O, Holy Night.” The song calls for us to fall on our knees and acknowledge the holiness and sacredness of the Christmas event. Christmas is not only about acknowledging Jesus, but about being swept up in the wonder and worship of knowing Him and God’s plan to share Himself with us. Though we have not seen Him and were not there to see Him that first Christmas Eve, we know Him, and knowing Him should absolutely fill us with a joy that cannot be expressed in ordinary words or happenings but only through worship to our Holy God.
   Maybe you find that many of the moments you spend around the holiday are like my extended family experience—lacking in the divine and holy. Remember that you are the holy in the midst of all that ordinary. You are the holy because He lives within you. What greater worship can you give God than to be among others filled with a God-given joy and wonder?

Paige Allen

An Advent Reading for Friday, December 15

Hymn 100, Angels We Have Heard on High

A great company … appeared with the angel … saying “Glory to God.” Luke 2:13-14 NIV

   Angels are known as messengers of God. Hebrews 1:14 (NIV) states; “Are not all angels ministering spirits…?” They are represented in the Bible as spiritual beings between God and man. Psalm 8:4 - 5 (KJV) says, “Thou hast made him [man] a little lower than the angels.” These spiritual beings guide and comfort people.
   After the angel appeared to the shepherds, they saw a host of angels singing and praising God. The third verse of “Angels We Have Heard on High” says, “Come to Bethlehem and see Christ, whose birth the angels sing. Come adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord, the newborn King.”
   Did the lowly shepherds respond to the heavenly host? Yes. They showed great faith and decided to travel to see the baby.
   We know that angels appearing to the lowly shepherds tending their flocks of sheep symbolizes that Christ came to all people. God wanted us to know that His Son came to seek and save all the lost. 
   During our lifetime we may not see angels, but we must remember that they are present in our lives. They love us just as God does. We must accept, in faith, the guidance, comfort, and protection of angels.
   Have you ever started in one direction with an important decision and felt the need to change your thought? Have you felt comfort during a difficult time? Have you been afraid and experienced peace because you knew that God’s angels were protecting you?
   Will we, like the shepherds, trust the angels and follow their lead to bring glory to God?

Margaret Carmichael

An Advent Reading for Thursday, December 14

Hymn 85, The First Noel

“For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

   If you have ever taken a long trip to a destination you have longed for, or if you have ever been set on an experience or a goal to work toward, you know how amazing and wonderful it is when the arrival happens. And so it is in the scriptures.
   In 740 BC, Isaiah (9:6) proclaimed, “for unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” That long-awaited day came! It was announced in Luke 2:11 and, later, musicians honored it in song, “Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel.” The long anticipated and awaited day had arrived and the song, “The First Noel” summarizes and celebrates the series of events and helps Christians today to embrace it all in a melody we have stored in our hearts.
   We are living in a day when there is a movement to reword, rewrite, and reinterpret the scriptures and to set traditions aside. There is a beauty and a reverence that is not always present in the 21st century that has been the foundation of the Christian church and the ties that bind. First Baptist College Station’s pastor emeritus, Malcolm Bane, frequently preached, “Jesus—plus nothing else.” Luke 2:11 and “The First Noel” present this truth so directly, “… a Savior which is Christ the Lord,” and “… born is the King of Israel.” Jesus … plus nothing else!

Sharon Colson

An Advent Reading for Wednesday, December 13

Hymn 102, The Birthday of a King

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. Jeremiah 23:5 ESV

   On Christmas Eve in 1968, the world sat anxiously awaiting news about three men who had made the voyage from the earth to the moon. When the crew of Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit, they must have wondered if they would ever see “home” again. So they—and we—sat and waited, but no one could imagine what would happen next. 
   In the rush of the world today, it is hard not to be anxious about anything. I can shop online and within hours the order is on my doorstep. I can connect with anyone around the world through video chat, and I can make an instant peanut butter and jelly sandwich from a squeeze bottle. It is truly amazing how quickly the world can move. In all this rush, it is easy for us to forget, as the psalmist tells us, to “be still and know that I am God.”
   As Apollo 8 made its journey around the dark side of the moon, silence must have fallen heavy upon its crew. The silence was quickly interrupted by the first sight they saw—the earth rising above the moon.
   God’s promise in Jeremiah 23:5 was that the days were coming when He would bring Jesus into this world. And on that day, all of creation was awestruck by the sight of God’s promise. My favorite line in this song is attributed to the angels: “Alleluia!” and “the sky was bright with a holy light, ‘twas the birthday of a King.”
   This Christmas, I hope you will take a moment to sit in awe of what God is doing in your life. He is perfect, and His time is perfect, and His love for you is perfect.

Joshua Price
Youth Minister

An Advent Reading for Tuesday, December 12

Hymn 86, O Little Town of Bethlehem

Out of you will come … one who will be the ruler over Israel.  Micah 5:2 NIV

   Where did you grow up? What is it most known for? Growing up in Round Rock, Texas, our little town was most known for doughnuts. Those mysterious orange, butter-filled, sugar-glazed ovals of goodness have made Round Rock famous for decades. Today, Round Rock is home to Dell Computers, a minor-league baseball team, and over 100,000 residents. In 40 years, it has transformed from a small bedroom community to its own self-contained suburban city.
   Bethlehem of Judea was not even known for its doughnuts. In fact, centuries before the birth of Christ, it was not even mentioned in various lists of clans and where they lived (see Joshua 15 or Nehemiah 11). Situated just five miles from the city of Jerusalem it was overlooked. The town was insignificant—until the Messiah was born there.
   When driving through towns today, there are often signs near the city limits welcoming you and pointing out someone famous who is from there. Driving north through Hearne, you will notice that NFL Hall of Famer John Randle grew up there. San Benito, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, boasts country music and Latino legend Freddy Fender as a native son. Wink, Texas, otherwise a small dot on the map in the middle of West Texas, is known as the boyhood home of Roy Orbison. What makes a place known? The people who live there and achieve greatness.
   Chances are, there is no sign outside your hometown letting people know you are a famous son or daughter who once called that place home. Our purpose as Christ’s followers is not to make a place known, but to make Him known by how we live and the words we say. What will YOU do during this season of Advent to point others to Jesus Christ and make His name known?

Dr. Clay Hopkins
Associate Pastor

 

An Advent Reading for Monday, December 11

A preschool song, Mary and Joseph Went to Bethlehem

(Editor’s note: If you’re interested in seeing this song, which generally is performed in preschool Christmas programs, search the title on YouTube at www.youtube.com.)

There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed … And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee … to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child. Luke 2:1-5 KJV

   As the editor of this booklet, I searched high and low for a song about the actual journey to Bethlehem. There aren’t that many. One I found repeatedly was for preschoolers—four verses to the tune of “Ten Little Indians” with the first verse “Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem, riding on a donkey.” Simple enough. In the first verse you move up and down holding pretend reins, like you’re riding a donkey; the next three verses that follow are “All of the inns were filled with travelers … There was no room for Mary (shaking your head “no”),” “Baby Jesus born in a stable … Sent by God at Christmas (rocking Jesus in your arms),” and “Angels all sang Hallelujah … Jesus Christ is born (putting your hands to your mouth like a megaphone).” 
   We use simple concepts to teach small children about Christmas and Jesus’ birth, concepts that really don’t need to be complicated for any of us with weighty theological considerations. During this Advent season, just concentrate on the simple miracle that God’s Son came to live among us at Christmas and eventually to become the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Consider doing one new thing to remember this central fact. If you don’t already, sing Happy Birthday to Jesus sometime this holiday season. I suspect you’ll be glad you did.

Mary Jo Powell
 

An Advent Reading for Sunday, December 10

Hymn 4, To God be the Glory

To God … be glory forever and ever. Amen. Galatians 1:4-5

   “And give Him the glory, great things He has done.” Wonderful song! That is exactly what we want to do, especially at Christmas when we celebrate the greatest gift He could ever give us. Today let me suggest another way.
   Jeremy Berg, a Christian blogger, writes, “My conviction is that God is most glorified in us when we, God’s image-bearers in the world, are living most in tune with God’s purposes for our lives, utilizing our God-given gifts and passions, flourishing in our God-directed pursuits, and accomplishing great things in the name of God and for the expansion of the Kingdom of God.” 
   We can translate that this way: We don’t glorify God by wallowing in our own helplessness and hopelessness. Yes, God is great enough for all of us, but He is magnified when His creatures are maxing out what He intended for us to be. The computer programmer is most pleased when the program works; the coach is joyful when his team plays well and wins; the teacher is most honored when the students learn; and God is most glorified when His human beings live up to their God-given potential in a proper relationship with Him.
   So, thought for today: If you want to glorify God, then live today for Him. Great lives bring greater joy to God than sub-par or wasted lives. God is still in the business of redeeming, restoring, and empowering His image-bearers so they can more accurately reflect and magnify the greatness of their Creator, “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:35-36 NIV)

Charles Woodward
Retired Pastor

An Advent Reading for Saturday, December 9

Hymn 83, Arise, Your Light is Come

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. Isaiah 60:1

   Throughout the book of John, Jesus refers to Himself as “the Light of the world.” This Light, by miraculous means, entered the world and forever changed it. We are to allow this Light to consume us, renew us, and transform us from the inside out, so that we might lead lives that proclaim the name of Jesus and the glory of God. 
   In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, it is all too easy to lose sight of the people, possessions, or opportunities with which we have been blessed. Regardless of the stress of work or school, financial or familial situations, let us allow ourselves to be poured into by God and His word, as well as our brothers and sisters in Christ, so that we may pour into others, both strangers and friends, as we are filled to the brim with God’s love, peace, hope, and grace in accordance with Romans 15:13, which reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” 
   Even amidst the toughest of times, we have so much to be thankful for. Even the breath in our lungs is enough reason to fall humbly before our God. May we keep our eyes fixed on our Heavenly Father, trusting the Light that defeated darkness. May we be led to love and help the poor, the brokenhearted, and the lost. Let us dwell in the blessings that Christ has provided for us and relish in all that He has done for us and through us. May we keep this passage from Matthew 5:16 fresh on our minds and close to our hearts: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Marie Galvan

An Advent Reading for Friday, December 8

Hymn 81, Tell Out, My Soul, the Greatness
(also known as The Magnificat)

And Mary said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. Luke 1:46-49

   In this hymn, the singer is called to contemplate the greatness of God. I urge you to take a moment to do the same. Praise Him for His unnumbered blessings, the wondrous deeds [he] has done. Meditate on the fact that God has visited you in your humble state to bring mercy, grace, and love.
   As the hymn reminds us, “Firm is the promise and God’s mercy sure.” Not only has God worked in us, through us, and around us, but we can hope with confidence that He will continue to work. The only response to the previous blessings, present help, and future promises is to “Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord.” The only reply to the grace we have been given is to tell of the Giver, to proclaim in word and deed how great a God we serve.
   As we anticipate the anniversary of the glorious day of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, may we also communicate the gloriousness of what this means for a world in desperate need. Mary states her spirit rejoices in God her Savior—a savior whom she had not seen and yet believed. May we do the same. May our spirits rejoice in Christ our Savior, for He has rescued us from death and given life. O, tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord!

Jordan Whittington
College Minister

An Advent Reading for Thursday, December 7

Hymn 80, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

“Be silent before the sovereign Lord, for the day of the Lord is near. He has consecrated those He has invited.” Zephaniah 1:7

   This will not be the song they play on the radio between “Frosty the Snowman” and “Jingle Bells.” You’re not likely to hear it on the radio at all. It is what we used to call “high-church music.” I never cared for the formality of high-church music until the choir learned an arrangement of “Oh Sacred Head Now Wounded.” I expected the language of the hymn to make it less accessible, but instead it elevated the message. This type of music reminds us of the majesty and glory of God. Study these songs as you would study the Psalms—without the organ or orchestra—and you begin to appreciate the powerful message of these ancient hymns.
   The teacher in me must tell you that the text of this hymn is probably the oldest non-scripture text for any hymn in common usage. It is from the Liturgy of Saint James and dates to the 4th century. The result is a hymn-text that is breathtakingly reverent and worshipful.
   This hymn is homage to the incarnation of the Son of God as described in John 1:14. “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” We are admonished to stand in reverent silence as we reflect on the meaning of a Holy God leaving His heavenly throne and coming to us in the form of a helpless baby in order to bring us the salvation that we could not receive any other way.
   The second and third verses continue to reflect the heavenly significance of the holy birth. They speak of the heavenly host singing praises and worshiping Jesus as He descends from heaven to earth, bringing with Him the light that defeats the forces of hell.
   “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5 NIV) 

Fred Maddox

An Advent Reading for Wednesday, December 6

Hymn 78, Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse. Isaiah 11:1 KJV

   By my front door, I have a rose bush brought from my previous home in Canton, Texas. The rose, called Belinda’s Dream, was cultivated by a TAMU professor who achieved a beautiful, fragrant, pink rose that is disease resistant, soil and heat tolerant, and roots readily.  During my 15 years here, I have rooted dozens of cuttings that have been the start of many rose bushes in various locations. However, it can all be traced back to the original bushes first marketed in 1992.
   Lineage was important to the Hebrews. God’s chosen family is traced from Abraham’s home in Ur to the promised land in Canaan where grandson Jacob’s twelve sons grew and multiplied. They then immigrated to Egypt under Joseph’s protection and later successfully made an exodus under Moses’ leadership. After conquering Canaan, Israel was established and reached its power under Jesse’s youngest son David, who was King. Isaiah, who lived after the kingdom was divided, prophesied that a descendant of Jesse would come forth as a suffering servant and a sovereign Lord.
   Matthew and Luke trace Jesus’ lineage back to David. Paul and other apostles often quoted written prophesies to show that Jesus lived, was crucified, died, and rose again, in fulfillment of those predictions. We are fortunate indeed to have the Bible with prophesies of the Old Testament, their fulfillment in the gospels, Jesus’ teachings to His disciples, the spread of God’s plan for salvation, and an untold number of commentaries available to us, plus the freedom to worship when and where we choose.
   This 16th century German song refers to Jesus as a rose and its many verses (only four are in the hymn book and only three included in the version mentioned above) tell of events listed in the gospels. This song condenses the Bible to the fact that Jesus was a “true man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us, and lightens every load.”

Peggy Mobley

An Advent Reading for Tuesday, December 5

Hymn 77, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

The promise which was made … God hath fulfilled. Acts 13:32-33 KJV

   A person who says that there are no absolutes is making an absolute statement and thus explodes that assertion. Does a triangle have three sides? Absolutely! It always has and always will whether or not a person believes or even knows this. In much the same way, the promises of God are absolute and will be fulfilled whether or not a person believes or even knows this.
   For hundreds of years people had been waiting for God to fulfill His promise that Jesus would be born and give His life as payment for our sins and then be raised from the dead. The song, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” articulates the hope and desire of God’s people for centuries. The Apostle Paul reminded the people of God that God had kept His promise and Jesus had come, died, and was resurrected.
   Today Christians sing “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” in anticipation of His second coming. This event will be just as real as His first coming. As we celebrate Christmas, let’s not allow the flashing lights, decorated trees, and Santa Claus to rob us of its meaning: God fulfilled His promise and Jesus came. His first coming is history. Prophecy is “pre-written history” by God and He says that Jesus is coming again. Is this true? Absolutely. Knowing this, Christmas 2017 can be one of the most joyous and merry ever!

Dr. Mike Harmon
Retired pastor and evangelist

An Advent Reading for Monday, December 4

Hymn 76, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

“They will call him Emmanuel. (which means, “God with us”).  Matthew 1:23 NIV

   I love the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” It speaks of the good news proclaimed at Christmas: Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus came. He is one with the Father. The Father and the Son were with us, as a baby, as a boy, as a man. God came to earth. He came to dwell among us, to “pitch His tent” with us. We rejoice at the wonder of what the one true God can do. God chose to dwell among us.
   It speaks of the power over the grave at Easter. “O come, thou rod of Jesse, free thy own from Satan’s tyranny. From depths of hell thy people save, and give them victory o’er the grave.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 says, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We celebrate the victory and the power of the resurrection.
   It speaks of God coming to His chosen people with the words, “ransom captive Israel.” Most people in Israel rejected Jesus as Savior. Jewish people are still rejecting Him today. Let this song remind us to pray that the people of the Torah will see that Messiah has come and that He wants to save them from their sin just as He saves us.
   It speaks of our future homecoming. “O come, thou key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home.” Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for us and will come again to take us there. We sing in celebration of that!
   It speaks of peace. “O come, desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind. Bid thou our sad divisions cease and be Thyself our King of peace.”
   Amen. Let it be so.

Roxann Collins

An Advent Reading for Sunday, December 3

Hymn 3, Worthy of Worship

You are worthy … to receive glory, honor and power. Revelation 4:11 NIV

   A related verse, Psalm 95:6 says, “Oh come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” ESV
   The song “Worthy of Worship” shares the attributes of our God, and makes known to us the splendor of who He is. For He is God and there is no other. He is our Father, Creator, Savior, Sustainer, the Master and Lord of our lives, King of kings, our Redeemer, Counselor, Comforter Friend, our Savior and Source of our life without end. Is He not worthy of our praises?
   John tells us in the book of John, chapter 4, that we are to praise Him in spirit and in truth. The truth is the Word of God; the spirit comes when the Holy Spirit dwells within you and you are God’s witness. As we abide in Him, He is in us, filling us with His presence. We cannot be silent for the river of life flows from the hearts of all who believe in Him.
   In Revelation 4 we find ourselves standing in the presence of God. As we look on in amazement, we see how natural it is to worship God. John hears a voice like a trumpet, telling him that God is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. Then a door opens and John hears a voice telling him to enter. As he does so he sees 24 thrones occupied by 24 elders clothed in white robes, each wearing a golden crown. Then he sees four living creatures around the throne. We are told that they do not rest. Day after day, night after night, 24-7, they are constantly proclaiming the greatness of our God. As the story unfolds, we find ourselves before the One who hung on the cross, died and was buried, was raised from the grave, and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father.
   So what will we be doing when we finally face our God and His Son? As we come to another year of celebrating Jesus’ birthday, let us not forget that the Baby Jesus became a man and made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might have newness of life in Him. Let’s not wait until we get to heaven to give God all our praise. For He is indeed worthy of worship.

Sandy Barwick

Week of November 26 - Day 5

Day 5   Read: Psalm 104:31-35

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
    may the Lord rejoice in his works,
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,
    who touches the mountains and they smoke!
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
    for I rejoice in the Lord.
35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
    and let the wicked be no more!
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Praise the Lord!

Reflect: To what extent does the psalmist worship God?

Consider: After reciting some of the reasons to praise God, the psalmist determines that he will give God the praise he so richly deserves. Three times in these verses he says, ‘I will.’

We find in these verses certain truths we may refer to as dimensions of praise. Firstly, it is to be inwardly felt (‘glad in the Lord’) and openly expressed (‘I will sing’).

Secondly, it is to be offered continually (‘while I have my being’). We are not just to praise God when we feel like it or when our circumstances are just right. Here is the touchstone—as long as we have breath we are to praise him. (It also seems that the psalmist was aware of the shortness of this life and didn’t want to let slip so much as one opportunity to praise God.)

Thirdly, it is to be offered with the keen desire to please God. So much of what we call ‘worship’ is designed to please us rather than it is to please God. How do we know what kind of worship pleases God? He has given us the answer in his Word.5

Respond: What practical steps can you take to improve your praise to God? How does the truth of God’s unchanging nature help you?

 

 

5 Ibid, 139-140.

 

Week of November 26 - Day 4

Day 4   Read: Psalm 104:27-30

27 These all look to you,
    to give them their food in due season.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
    when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
    when you take away their breath, they die
    and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.

Reflect: What do we know about the relationship between the creation and the Creator? How does the creation act and respond to the Creator?

Consider: The key words here are ‘give’ (vv. 27–28), ‘open’ (v. 28), ‘hide’ (v. 29), ‘take’ (v. 29), ‘send’ (v. 30) and renew’ (v. 30). These verbs are in the present tense. God’s creative work is over, but his sustaining work goes on. He supplies the creatures with what they need by simply opening his hand. When it is time for them to die, he simply takes their breath away.[1]

Respond: How do you respond to the Creator for what He has given you? In what areas of your life do you withhold praise? Yield these to Him and worship Him for the fullness of his creation and provision.

 

[1] Roger Ellsworth, Opening up Psalms, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), 138.

Week of November 26 - Day 3

Day 3   Read: Psalm 104:16-26

16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
    the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 In them the birds build their nests;
    the stork has her home in the fir trees.
18 The high mountains are for the wild goats;
    the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers.

19 He made the moon to mark the seasons;
    the sun knows its time for setting.
20 You make darkness, and it is night,
    when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
21 The young lions roar for their prey,
    seeking their food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they steal away
    and lie down in their dens.
23 Man goes out to his work
    and to his labor until the evening.

24 O Lord, how manifold are your works!
    In wisdom have you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Here is the sea, great and wide,
    which teems with creatures innumerable,
    living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.

Reflect: What do you learn about the creativity of God in his creation from these verses?

Consider: In verse 25 the sea, great and wide, is singled out, emphasizing the fact that, like the moon and the sun in verse 19, it too is a part of God’s creation and is entirely subordinate to him. Likewise, all living beings in the seas are God’s creation. The mention of ships in verse 26a is rather strange, since they can hardly be counted as Yahweh’s creation; some have proposed to change to a word meaning “monsters,” but this has not been widely accepted. Briggs attributes the line to a later unimaginative editor. These are, of course, sailing ships. For Leviathan see 74:14; this huge sea monster is also God’s creation. The Hebrew text may mean either (1) “Leviathan, that one you made to play in it [that is, in the ocean]”; or (2) “Leviathan, that one you made to play with”. The majority favor (2), and the translator may prefer it.[1]

Respond: How has your appreciation for God’s creation grown over the last three days? What will your response to Him be?

 

[1] Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1991), 886.

Week of November 26 - Day 2

Day 2   Read: Psalm 104:5-15

5 He set the earth on its foundations,
    so that it should never be moved.
6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
    the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At your rebuke they fled;
    at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.
8 The mountains rose, the valleys sank down
    to the place that you appointed for them.
9 You set a boundary that they may not pass,
    so that they might not again cover the earth.

10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
    they flow between the hills;
11 they give drink to every beast of the field;
    the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
    they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
    the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.

14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
    and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
15     and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
    and bread to strengthen man's heart.

Reflect:  How does the psalmist describe the process of creation in these verses? What examples are present which show God not only created the earth, but took care to place within creation things necessary to sustain creation?

Consider: In adorning the earth as a place for living, God placed springs in the valleys to give water for animals (vv. 10–12), and He makes things grow that give food for animals and man, and oil (from olive trees) to smooth man’s face (vv. 13–15).[1]

Respond: How does the knowledge that God took care of the details for sustained life for his creation impact how you respond to Him? How can that impact your approach to living? To how you view possessions? To how you give?

 

[1] Allen P. Ross, “Psalms,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 869.

Week of November 26 - Day 1

Scripture to Memorize: Psalm 104:33-34

33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
    for I rejoice in the Lord.

Day 1   Read: Psalm 104:1-4

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
    O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
2     covering yourself with light as with a garment,
    stretching out the heavens like a tent.
3 He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
    he rides on the wings of the wind;
4 he makes his messengers winds,
    his ministers a flaming fire.

Reflect: How many different ways does the psalmist praise the splendor of God? What specific examples are noted?

Consider: light—is a figurative representation of the glory of the invisible God (Matthew 17:2; 1 Timothy 6:16). Its use in this connection may refer to the first work of creation (Genesis 1:3).[1]

Respond: How do you describe God? Make an effort today to take note of the splendor of God all around you. Consider how you can use these thoughts to initiate conversations with others about who God is.

 

[1]  Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 376.

Week of November 19 - Day 5

Day 5   Read: John 15:1-17

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Reflect: What is Jesus calling/commanding his followers to do?

Consider: Bear much fruit is literally “bear fruit.” As in similar contexts, bear much fruit must be rendered “accomplish much,” since the figurative meaning of fruit, as related to accomplishment of a task or producing results, is impossible in some languages.

The kind of fruit that endures is literally “and (that) your fruit may remain,” or “fruit that lasts,” or “fruit that shall last,” or “fruit that shall be lasting.” This reference to bearing fruit looks back to the metaphor of the vine with which the chapter began.5

Respond: What are you producing for the kingdom? What fruit gives evidence of your connection to Christ and your obedience to Him?

 

 

5 Barclay Moon Newman and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Gospel of John, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993), 488–489.