Since the time of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, Israel had been told of a Messiah, one who would lead them out of slavery and be a deliverer of Israel (God’s chosen people). But, Isaiah 6:9 is instructive in this misunderstanding, and we have some misunderstandings of Him, our Messiah, as well today.
1. When was the last time you read Isaiah 6:9?
2. Do you think that we misunderstand the whole purpose and meaning of the Messiah, and His coming?
Challenge: Go and read Isaiah 6:9, and see what that Old Testament prophet had to say about misunderstandings, and how we, too, misunderstand our Messiah today. Pray on how to understand Him as He really is and always has been.
I once heard it said that refusing to pray is like owning a field filled with buried treasure but refusing to pick up a shovel and dig. I found that interesting as we struggle through this thing called prayer. Is there something special wording formula for prayer? Do I have to pray at a certain time or in a certain place? This passage exhibits one of Paul’s prayers as he is praying for spiritual strength. And what is God’s response to our petitions? He acts on our behalf, for He longs to hear His people cry out to Him, “I need you!” However, this strength may not be what we would expect. Strength comes from knowing and understanding the love of Christ. Christ passionately desires that we would be filled with the fullness of God. He continues to give us strength daily as we pray for the filling of His Holy Spirit. Now that is something to be excited about.
1. What are the areas of weakness in my life where I need His strength?
2. How will I go about pursuing that strength today?
Challenge: Be encouraged. It is the desire of the Lord to fill ALL of you with ALL of Him. Work to appropriate that strength in humble servanthood to Him.
“Walk in manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (v.1). “Walk” is frequently used in the NT to refer to daily conduct. “Worthy” is the idea of living to match one’s position in Christ. How are we doing in this area? Are we pursuing unity in the body of Christ or are we content in our disjointedness? God calls us to a spirit of humility, gentleness, and patience as we bear with each other in love. We are to pursue unity of the Spirit through one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all. However, each of us as believers has been gifted uniquely in a way God designed. In other words, we all pursue unity through our unique giftedness that God has graciously bestowed upon us. Let us not waste what God has so freely given to us for His glory.
1. In what ways do I see my unique giftedness as a bridge to pursuing unity?
2. How can I use this gift today to encourage someone within the body of Christ?
Challenge: Is there someone you need to pursue unity with today? Take the steps necessary to bring it to pass.
Spiritual gifts are divine enablements for ministry that the Holy Spirit gives in some measure to all believers and that are to be completely under His control for the building up of the Church to Christ’s glory. They are not natural talents, skills, or abilities, such as are possessed by believers and unbelievers alike. These gifts are sovereignly and supernaturally bestowed by the Holy Spirit on all believers enabling us to spiritually edify each other effectively and as such, honor the Lord. Moreover, the Lord gives believers unique ministry areas in which to fulfill our giftedness, and provides ample power by which to energize and accomplish them.
1. How have I used my giftedness from God to edify or encourage those around me?
2. With all this knowledge of spiritual gifts, how will I pursue what God is calling ME to do?
Challenge: Re-read the passage referenced above. In what areas do you see God has gifted you?
Just as some hats have many colors, so it is in the body of Christ. God has sovereignly given the body of Christ a unified diversity. He has given His children gifts of grace which are undeserved and unmerited. These gifts, the specific way in which they are used, and the spiritual results are all sovereignly chosen by the Holy Spirit apart from our personal merit. Thus, He has given a spirit of unity in which all parts of the body can function as a whole. Gifts such as prophecy (proclaiming the Word of God), compliment service, which compliments the gifts of teaching and exhortation. Our God is a not a God of chaos. He is a God of order and execution. This should cause us to seek to use our gifts to further His kingdom and to give Him glory.
1. If I was asked what my spiritual gift was, how would I answer?
2. What is the evidence to which I would point to substantiate my claim?
Challenge: Plan to spend some time discovering your spiritual gift. If you already know, find a way to implement that gift within the local church.
Moses was overwhelmed. He had an amazingly huge responsibility in leading the Israelite people to the God ordained promise of Canaan. However, he had found himself in a day and night cycle of serving the people in practical matters of social justice to refereeing inconsequential squabbles between neighbors. God, being rich in mercy, sends Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law to give him some much needed wise council. As it turns out, Jethro’s practical wisdom of delegation and management organization was of immense benefit to Moses and Israel alike. Woven into Jethro’s advice were statements about God and the virtues of Godly men that should cause us to look at him as an example of faith integrating into thinking and action.
1. Have you ever considered coming alongside someone as a mentor or considered being mentored yourself? Why or why not?
2. How could I put this mentoring plan into action today? Who could I approach for advice?
Challenge: Plan to consider an action plan to put a mentoring relationship together. It may be as simple as going to breakfast or lunch with someone you desire to get to know more.
Our mental picture of Jesus may be one that we’ve seen on a portrait in church or in a children’s Bible. When we see Jesus, he’s not going to fit any of our preconceived images. When we meet Him in Heaven, we will see Him in His glorified form as He was in the beginning. All we will want to do is worship.
1. We tend to think of Jesus first as our savior and a caring friend, and that is accurate. What does it add to your relationship to realize He is also the all-powerful Creator?
2. What songs of worship lead you to imagine Jesus as He will be when we meet Him face to face?
Challenge: I gave my grandmother, the one who led me to Christ, a picture of Jesus in a lit gold frame. That picture was all I knew of how Jesus looked. As an adult, I still see that picture. But, I also see Jesus with a different skin tone, a rough face, scarred for my sins, but still full of light. Close your eyes. Picture Him.
If Jesus had only taken on human form to identify with us, that would have been a tremendous sign of His care and concern. The fact that He went far beyond that to die for our sins and restore our relationship with the Creator shows His extravagant love. This is the ultimate Christmas gift.
1. Those who follow Christ are, in effect, a modern-day Christophany—an appearance of Christ to those around us. What are the implications of that reality for you?
2. If you have accepted the gift of eternal life Jesus purchased for you through His sacrifice, are you giving that gift to others? Who do you know that needs it today?
Challenge: Notice Jesus in someone today and tell them that you did.
Songwriter Joan Osborne asked, “What if God were one of us?” Turns out He was. Hagar called Jesus “the one who sees me.” He not only sees us, but chose to become us, taking on human form and living in our world. He willingly chose to limit His divinity so He could fully experience our humanity. Do we need to better limit our human will so He can more fully do His work in our life?
1. What difference does His humanity make in the way you think about Jesus?
2. What choices do you make that may limit His divine power in your life?
Challenge: How are you limiting Jesus’ presence in your life? We need to recognize how we’re limiting his presence and correct it. Look at your calendar. Are you limiting God there? Is there time for Him? Time to get to know Him? Look at yours and see if you’ve scheduled God into it.
Biblical scholars believe that before He came to earth, Jesus made occasional appearances throughout the Old Testament. One of these “Christophanies” occurred in this passage, when He comforted and encouraged Hagar after she was driven out of Abraham’s household. Throughout history, Jesus has been the one who sees us, knows us and makes his presence known.
1. Can you think of a recent occasion when you felt the presence and concern of Christ?
2. How do you most regularly connect with Jesus and sense His presence? In prayer? Nature? Acts of service?
Challenge: “I know how you feel.” This statement is said to comfort during affliction and trial, to provide solace and care, but, is it true? Next time you start to say it, think about it. Perhaps Jesus is the only one who really knows how someone feels. Maybe say “He knows how you feel” instead.
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