If you’ve spent time in church (or with my grandmother) at Christmastime, you’ve heard at least parts of the Christmas story. Most of us own a manger scene, complete with Joseph and Mary, three shepherds, an angel and some cows or sheep, and of course a baby Jesus wrapped in a tiny blanket. We know about the angels appearing to the shepherds and the star that shone bright; the wise men that came bearing gifts, one of which would reappear during the burial process of the same baby boy they were rejoicing over. I want to encourage you to re-read the story, not from a Christmas book, but rather search the scriptures and ask God to show you something new this year as we take a tour together of the manger scene.
Why shepherds? Shepherds were not seen as important people; not politically, not economically. They lived among sheep. They ate with their sheep, slept among their sheep, they taught their sheep to obey commands and they protected their sheep at all costs, even at the risk of their own lives. Just as Jesus came to earth through a very humble birth, the news of His arrival was first presented to a very humble group. God works through humble hearts and simple situations. Christ walked among His people. He ate with them, slept among them, taught them His commands and gave His own life to protect them. He was the ultimate shepherd. What better companions to have displayed in manger scenes for centuries to come than the very men that represent what Christ is for all of humanity?
Study Psalm 23:1-6
Mary . . .
Why Mary? She wasn’t rich. She wasn’t heir to a throne. There wasn’t any part of her that would suggest that she should bring a king into the world. I smile as I think about the people that God has used to do some of the most courageous things that we read about in our Bibles. She was humble, she was willing. Read Luke 2:19. I cannot begin to imagine what she was pondering. She held in her arms the sweetest, most precious gift that the world would ever reject. The journey ahead of her would be one like no other mother in history until then or since has ever had to face. Her son; the little boy that was birthed in a lowly manger, peering up at her with the clearest of eyes, latching hold of her finger as he pierced her heart with his infant perfection; she would one day watch as he was mocked and beaten. She would watch him flinch under the cattails attached to a whip. She would see his body collapse in pain, no longer able to carry the cross he so undeservingly was sentenced to. She would be there as he called out to God for the forgiveness of the very men who were putting Him to death. And she would watch her beloved baby boy draw in His last breath before giving up everything He had on a dark, gloomy hill as He swallowed up man’s sin once and for all. I don’t know that any other woman alive could have endured what she did. In the eyes of her culture she was plain, she was ordinary. But God chose her because she was stunningly extraordinary, just like you. How does God desire to use you? Allow Him to reveal a plan for your life.
You . . .
If you look very closely into any manger scene you can find yourself. You’re in there!! We are all there among the smelly sheep. We are in the heart of baby Jesus. God knew you before you ever were. He knew you would one day walk on Earth as His child and He had a purpose for you. He also knew that your purpose would require the sacrifice of His Son. When was the last time you thanked God for the manger scene and what it means for your life? Spend time in prayer today praising God for the birth of His Son and take time to read about the life and ministry of Jesus in the Gospels.
Prophecy is important. It shows God’s absolute control over all of history in that if God said that it will happen, it is going to happen. We can lean on these prophecies for understanding of God’s word and the perfection of His timing and look to them for hope when faced with our future. The greatest hope that we have is our hope in Jesus Christ, and yes, that was prophesied. We can follow the prophecies in the Bible that foretold the events that would occur in the lifetime of Jesus; prophecies that tell of His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection.
This week, we will spend time looking up the fulfilled prophecies from Jesus’ time here on earth. Match the Old Testament scripture with the prophecy being foretold and the scripture that shows the fulfillment. At the end of each day, take a moment to write down what hope we can draw from these passages and say a prayer of thanksgiving for that hope.
Prophecy: Isaiah 60:3, Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:2, Genesis 12:3
Prophecy: Isaiah 6:9-10, Zechariah 9:9, Isaiah 53:4, Isaiah 11:2
Prophecy: Isaiah 53:12, Exodus 12:46, Psalms 69:21, Zechariah 13:7
Prophecy: Psalm 24:7-10, Psalm 110:1, Psalm 16:10, Psalm 2:8
Monday: Isaiah 9:1-6
In our gloom and despair, we fear that our sorrows and troubles will never end. We can take comfort in this certainty: although the Lord may not always take us around our troubles, if we follow him wholeheartedly, he will lead us safely through them. And our troubles are short-lived. We are given a hope far beyond what we deserve. In a time of great darkness, God promised to send a light who would shine on everyone living in the shadow of death. He is both Counselor and Mighty God. This message of hope was fulfilled in the birth of Christ and the establishment of his eternal kingdom. He came to deliver all people from their slavery to sin.
Tuesday: Ephesians 5:8-14
As children of light, our actions should reflect our faith. We should live above reproach morally so that we will reflect God's goodness to others. Jesus stresses this truth in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5. Take time to read it today.
While it is important to avoid the unfruitful works of darkness, we must go even further. Paul instructs us to expose these works, because our silence may be interpreted as approval. God needs people who will take a stand for what is right. Christians must lovingly speak out for what is true and right.
Wednesday: John 1:4, 5
"The darkness did not comprehend it" means that the darkness of evil never has and never will overcome or extinguish God's light. Jesus Christ is the Creator of life and His life brings light to mankind. In his light, we see ourselves as we really are; sinners in need of a Savior. When we follow Jesus, the true Light, we can avoid walking blindly and falling into sin. He lights the path ahead of us so we can know how to live. He removes the darkness of sin from our lives. Have you allowed the light of Christ to shine into your life? Let Christ guide your life, and you'll never need to stumble in darkness. Pray and ask God to show you areas of your life that need to be exposed. Ask Him to forgive you for sins hidden in the darkness.
Thursday: John 3:19-21
Many people don't want their lives exposed to God's light because they are afraid of what will be revealed. They don't want to be changed. Don't be surprised when these same people are threatened by your desire to obey God and do what is right, because they are afraid that the light in you may expose some of the darkness in their lives. Rather than giving into discouragement, keep praying that they will come to see how much better it is to live in light than in darkness.
Friday: John 12:35, 36
Jesus said he would be with them in person for only a short time, and they should take advantage of His presence while they had it. Like a light shining in a dark place, He would point out the way they should walk. If they walked in His light, they would become sons of light, revealing the truth and pointing people to God. As Christians, we are to be Christ's light bearers, letting His light shine through us. How brightly is your light shining? Can others see Christ in your actions?
Look at your own life. Is your light off or on? Stowed away in storage, occasionally used, or often available for others? What are some practical ways you can share the light of Jesus more often as you go through your daily life?
Stewardship: The Purpose of Prosperity; God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.
Monday: 2 Corinthians 8:7, 8
The Corinthian believers were great at many things….they were great in their faith, their speech was excellent, they were knowledgeable and displayed great diligence. Paul wanted them to be great givers too. Giving is a response to love and here he is speaking, not through authority, but as an encourager. He is testing their sincerity. Would you pass the test?
Tuesday: Greedy Troubles
A couple weeks ago, we learned that the antidote for materialism is giving. If we aren’t giving as we are commanded to do, there is more room for our hearts to grow cold about the subject.
Proverbs 28:25 says “A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.”
Greed is overwhelming and causes trouble. Look up the following verses about relationships destroyed by greed.
Wednesday: The Reason for Wealth
Why would God ever make anyone wealthy? The more you have, the more you want, right? Generosity is a hard pill to swallow but not as much for the poor as the wealthy. Oftentimes it is through our most blessed times that it is hardest for us to give. But God blesses us with the intention that we in turn, bless others.
Thursday: Blessing Others
Regardless of your financial situation, God desires for us to actively seek ways to bless others. This can include our tithes, our extra giving, time, talents, and belongings.
Look up the following verses to learn about people in the Bible who were generous with their money, their belongings, and even their own tomb!
Friday: Test the Tithes
Last week we were issued a challenge to test God’s faithfulness in our lives by participating in Test the Tithes.
Each family is challenged to begin tithing or continue tithing in the month of December. The purpose is to show faithfulness to giving according to scripture and to combat the materialism of this season. This is not an authoritarian mandate for money, but rather an encouragement to test God and experience the blessings He has promised to those who will give according to His word.
December is here and now is the time to place your faith and trust in God’s hands. He cares about the sparrow, how much more must He care about you?
Monday: Testing God
In Malachi 3:10, God says “Test Me in this.” In Deuteronomy 6:16 we are told “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Are these scriptures contradicting?
The answer is no. These are two very different situations with two very different attitudes behind each. In the later, God is warning the Israelites about their doubt. Their doubt and lack of faith resulted in them demanding that God prove Himself to them. In Malachi, we see where God is inviting the challenge. The Hebrew word for test in this text is “bachan” which means to examine, scrutinize, or prove. God wanted the Israelites to give and watch Him increase their blessings. Just as gold is tested with fire, God was asking Israel to test Him with their offerings and their tithes and see that He proves His faithfulness in response. He is giving us the same challenge. Take time today to pray about ‘Test The Tithe’ and how God would have your respond.
Tuesday: The Cheerful Giver
Read and study the following ideas presented in the Word and consider what God wants you to give in obedient response.
Wednesday: Giving is a Privilege - 2 Corinthians 8:2-4
During his third missionary journey, Paul had collected money for the impoverished believers in Jerusalem. The churches in Macedonia - Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea - had given money even though they were poor, and had given more than Paul expected. This was the sacrificial giving they were poor themselves, but they wanted to help. God desires for us to give with the same attitude as these churches. They gave because of their dedication to God and their desire to be obedient. How well does your giving measure up to the standard set by the Macedonian churches?
Thursday: Why Tithe?
Look throughout the Old Testament and find examples of tithing.
Abraham tithed unto Melchizedek, Isaac tithed, His son Jacob and many others also even before the law was given. Many Christians do not tithe because they have been taught that they are not under the law, but under grace. While this is a true statement, God did not institute the tithe to bring us under the law, but to get blessings to His children. Abraham tithed before the law, and God blessed him supernaturally. We’re under grace that we might establish the law; not turn from it. Jesus said that He didn’t come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it. Because He fulfilled it, we are to establish it. His Words are forever settled in heaven, therefore we establish His Words upon the earth.
Friday: Taking The First Step
To a ‘non-tither,’ ten-percent of your income can be a bit overwhelming. And to those who are obedient to God’s call to give, giving above that amount can seem scary or undoable. God never promises that stepping out in faith will be painless. He only asks that we do it and have faith that He will be with us for every step. There are many instances in the Bible that we can refer to for the promise that God gives to take care of us. See if you can find several of them and write in your scripture journal how each pertains to your giving.
A good place to start is Psalm 9:10. God will never forsake those who seek Him. Actively seek God through ‘Test The Tithe’ by worshipping Him with your giving. Give Him the opportunity to carry you through what may seem impossible.
Monday: Lessons from 1st Timothy
The books of 1st and 2nd Timothy, as well as Titus, are referred to as Pastoral Letters. This is because they are full of advice on how to pastor a church. Today, we look into 1st Timothy, written by Paul, just prior to his final Roman imprisonment. The letter holds many lessons that are just as much relevant for us today as they were then to the Ephesian Church.
There is warning about false teachers (1:3-11)(4:1-16), teaching about the importance of prayer (2:1-7), pastoral care to the young, old, widow, elders, and servants (5:1- 6:2)….and much more! As you read through 1st Timothy, take note of what we can learn from this letter. Also, give special attention to Paul’s words of instruction to the wealthy people of Ephesus in chapter 6. Meditate on 6:17-19.
Tuesday: What is wealth?
On the mission to determine wealth, I discovered that there are many facets of wealth. Webster defines wealth as a large amount of something. It could be money or possessions, information, resources, etc.
Let’s compare two ‘wealthy’ characters of the Bible.
In Genesis (13:2, 24:35) we learn that Abraham was wealthy. He was very blessed by earthly possessions, even to the point of being overwhelmed by them. However, we learn in Isaiah (51:2) that Abraham was blessed above and beyond the blessing brought by any material possession. If we stand before Abraham today and ask what his most precious wealth was, I doubt there would even be the slightest mention of livestock or silver or gold. Abraham’s priorities were in line and he knew the richest blessings given by God were not ones that would pass away.
The infamous king of Babylon. It is hard to consider wealth and material possession without this man popping into your mind. He reigned for 43 years over Babylon, erecting a palace that is often considered the most magnificent build that ever existed. 14 square miles, surrounded by a brick wall 300 feet tall, 250 towers, the Hanging Gardens, a golden image of Baal and the Golden Table (both weighing over 50,000 lbs of solid gold)…it is hard to image the splendor. However, Nebuchadnezzer was far from the happiest man alive. All throughout the book of Daniel, we can read about the troubles of Babylon’s wealthy king. The problem? Earthly wealth does not contain happiness!
Wednesday: God-Given Wealth
Read Ecclesiastes chapter 5. We will focus on 5:19, 20. Solomon authored Ecclesiastes later in his life. Much of the book is a reflection of his life, much of which was lived without God. In these two verses, Solomon sums up God-given wealth. Someone who is wealthy is not automatically guilty of chasing earthly wealth. God blesses his people in different ways. Solomon reminds us that it is all about perspective. How do you view the things that God has blessed you with? Possessions should never be a source of joy but rather a reason for rejoicing. We can be content with what we have w hen we realize that God has given us exactly what He wants us to have and with Him, we have all we will ever need.
Thursday: Giving Beyond Our 10%
Giving to God should be proportional and doesn’t always include monetary giving.
1. Proportional giving: Read the following verses giving attention to what they say about the amount we should be giving. (remember that these verses speak of giving, not tithing….giving is anything given beyond tithing)
God’s word will never instruct you to go into debt while giving. He asks that we give according to what we have.
2. Giving without money: We are required to serve others. We should seek out the gifts that God has given us and search to know how God desires us to use them to serve. God will give us what we need to carry out the responsibility He has for us, according to His will, not ours.
Friday: Instructions for Giving
Look up the following verses. Consider what each verse is saying to you. Record in a scripture journal so that you can pray over each instruction and refer back later to remind you to keep a giving heart.
Monday: The first principle of stewardship is: God owns everything.
Webster says that "Stewardship is the responsibility of managing someone else’s assets, affairs, or property.” And Genesis 1:1 says that “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.” He owns… everything.
Psalm 24.1 says, The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it.
Tuesday: The second principle of stewardship: Getting rid of the “me”-mentality.
We don’t own anything… it is all God’s. Oftentimes, we try to trade places with God. We start acting like the owners, as if we created the world. We start using words like me , I ,mine, my life , my plans , my possessions , my time. Who gave all that to us? The ultimate control in any business always resides in the owner, not the manager. We get to use it, we get to manage it, we get to enjoy some of life's resources... but God owns it. That's stewardship. Look at Genesis 1, verse 28 where God said, "I want you to rule over everything." In the King James it says, "I want you to have dominion over the fish… God’s intention was for humans to rule over things. But what happened? We got it all mixed up. Now things rule over us. We're possessed by possessions... by the very things we were asked to manage. We love to think about all the things we own... but the truth is that we really don't own anything. At best, what we have is on loan from God.... and after we die, they are passed on to somebody else.
Wednesday:The third principle of stewardship: It’s not just about money.
When we hear stewardship…we think, “give to the church”. It’s probably one of the most misunderstood words in the church today. We immediately think of money. But stewardship is so much more than that. We are to be a steward of absolutely everything God has entrusted to us. Everything!
Thursday: The fourth principle of stewardship: It’s all about the first-fruits
I heard a story one time about a lady who called a popular turkey manufacturer wanting to know how long a frozen turkey would last. After discovering that the turkey had spent the last 22 years in the back of her freezer, the company recommended that she not eat the turkey. “Well, that’s okay,” said the woman. “I can just give it to the church.”
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were commanded to make an offering of their first fruits. They would choose not only the first, but the best of the first. They would then offer this to God as a sacrifice. A first fruit was anything that was produced for the purpose of living. It was crops or livestock, or fruit that was used for food. It was the thing that they lived on and made a name by. God wanted their first priority. He not only wanted their first but the best of the first. He has presented us as His best and He wants us to present Him our best. We have been presented to the world as God’s best. Fruit makes fruit. To grow the best trees you must use the best seed.
Friday: Make a list of everything you have learned over the past weeks about stewardship. Write down changes that you will implement in order to be in God’s will on the matter. Pray, committing your changes to God.
Monday: Seeking Fulfillment of God’s Purposes
Laying up treasures in Heaven is not limited to tithing but is accomplished by all acts of obedience to God. There is a sense in which giving our money to God’s work is like investing in Heaven. But our intention should be to seek the fulfillment of God’s purposes in all we do, not merely what we do with our money. How are we working now to further the kingdom? Pray for God to show you specific ways that He would have you accomplish this.
Tuesday: Where’s Your Heart?
What do you value? An easy way to discover what you value is to look at where you place your resources. What do you spend your time doing?
What do you spend your money on?
What is precious to you?
Read Proverbs 3:9,10
The ‘firstfruits’ refers to the practice of giving the first and best portion of harvest for God’s use. Consider what you value. Are you giving God your firstfruits or your leftovers?
Wednesday: Word Study- Firstfruits
Definition: the earliest gathered fruits offered to God in acknowledgment of the gift of fruitfulness
Giving our first fruits is a way to acknowledge what God has given to us.
Read Deuteronomy 26:9-11
Notice that The offerer is here appointed, when he has finished the service, to give glory to God: Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God. His first-fruits were not accepted without further acts of adoration. A humble, reverent, thankful heart is that which God looks at and requires, and, without this, all we can put in a basket will not avail.
Thursday: Firstfruits or Leftovers?
What is the first thing you do with what God has given you?
Read Proverbs 3:9,10
Many people give God their leftovers. At the end of the week, if they can afford to donate anything, they do so. These people may be sincere and may also contribute willingly. Their attitude is simply backward. We should give God the first portion of all that we have to offer. First, this shows that we have faith that God will provide for all of our needs. Second, this demonstrates that above our possessions, we value putting God first in our lives and that we comprehend that all of our possessions belong to Him. We are simply managers of His resources. Third, giving helps us conquer greed and gives the opportunity for God to bless us.
Friday: Firstfruits Multiplied
Read: Mark 10:29,30
Jesus assured the disciples that anyone who gives up something valuable for His sake will be repaid a hundred times over in this life, although not necessarily in the same form. For example, someone may be rejected by their family for accepting Christ, but he or she will gain a larger family of believers.
Now read verse 31: Firstfruits- Giving Through Service
Jesus explained that in the world to come, the values of this world will be reversed. Those who are humble here will be great in Heaven. The corrupt conditions of our society encourage confusion in values. We are bombarded by messages that tell us how to be important and how to feel good, and Jesus’ teaching about service to others seems alien. But those who have humbly served others are most qualified to be great in Heaven.
Memory Verse: No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24
Monday: Understanding Our Nature
Leave something shiny lying around with a child in the room; it’s sure to disappear fast! And how often do we hear of a little one pocketing a piece of bubblegum only to have the loot discovered by mom on laundry day? We don’t teach our children to take things that aren’t theirs; that comes as a result of our fallen nature. The fall of man came from this very same concept. Misplaced ownership. Adam and Eve were given instruction to not take the forbidden fruit. They did so anyway in an attempt to gain something that was not theirs. This has resulted in severe consequences for every generation to come thereafter. Ask God this week to show you where you fall short of his blessings because of the desire to please a sinful nature.
Tuesday: Acknowledging God’s Ownership
Oftentimes we feel entitled to what we have, especially if we work hard to get it! God’s ownership of everything that there is can be a foreign concept. The Bible makes it very clear to us that everything belongs to Him. What can we learn from the following scriptures?
Wednesday: A Lesson From Good Ole Nezzar!
A lot can be learned from studying about the life of King Nebuchadnezzar. One of history’s most powerful kings learned a tough lesson about God’s ownership. Read through Daniel chapter 4. King Nebuchadnezzar was enjoying a stroll through his kingdom and boasted “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” God responded in a way that would make His point very clear. The king lost his sanity and spent seven years living outside; eating grass like a cow. What are some consequences that you are dealing with right now because of the lack of understanding of what actually belongs to you?
Thursday: The Illusion Of Self-Sufficiency
Nebuchadnezzar was proud of what he had done on his own. His was proud of all he had accomplished. He felt that his hard work had earned him that pride. What have you worked hard for? What have you earned? Read Deuteronomy 8:17-18. God has given us our gifts and abilities. It is God who provides what we need to attain what we have. God has given us all that we have and, as we can learn through Nebuchadnezzar, God can take away what He sees necessary to make His point clear.
Replace pride with gratitude. It is okay to take satisfaction in your work. (Ecclesiastes 2:24) However, we must remember that the skills and strengths that allow you to succeed were given to you by God. Thank God for creating you and giving you those gifts.
Friday: All Belongs To God, Including Us!!
I Cor. 3:23 - “And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s”
We don’t need to worry about our possessions and taking pride in those things that we own. Read James 4:14 and 2 Peter 3:8. This life is a vapor. What will matter in the end is not what we own but who we belong to.
Read 1 Chronicles 29:11-16.
What do these verses say to you?
How will you look at “your” possessions?
How can we remember to be thankful and not prideful?
Memory Verse: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
Monday: Matthew 6:24
Jesus says we can have only one master. We live in a materialistic society where people serve money. They spend all of their lives collecting and storing it, only to die and leave it behind. Their desire for money and what it can buy far outweighs their commitment to God and spiritual matters. Whatever you store up, you will spend much of your time and energy thinking about. Don't fall into the materialistic trap, because "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1Timothy 6:10) Can you honestly say that God and not money is your master? One test is to ask which one occupies more of your thoughts, time, and efforts.
Tuesday: Matthew 6:24
Jesus contrasted heavenly values with earthly values when he explained that our first loyalty should be to those things that do not fade, can not to be stolen or used up, and never wear out. We should not be fascinated with our possessions, lest they possess us. This means we may have to do some cutting back if our possessions are becoming too important to us. Jesus is calling for a decision that allows us to live contentedly with whatever we have because we have chosen what is eternal and lasting.
Wednesday: Matthew 6:25
Because of the ill effects of worry, Jesus tells us not to worry about those needs that God promises to supply. Worry may (1) damage your health, (2) cause the object of your worry to consume your thoughts, (3) disrupt your productivity, (4) negatively affect the way you treat others, and (5) reduce your ability to trust in God. How many ill effects of worry are you experiencing? Here is the difference between worry and genuine concern- worry immobilizes, but concern moves you to action.
Thursday: Matthew 6:33
To "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" means to turn first to God for help, to fill your thoughts with His desires, to take His character for your pattern and to serve and obey Him in everything. What is really important to you? People, objects, goals, and other desires all compete for priority. Any of these can quickly bump God out of first place if you don't actively choose to give Him first place in every area of your life.
Friday: Matthew 6:34
Planning for tomorrow is time well spent; worrying about tomorrow is time wasted. Sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference. Careful planning is thinking ahead about goals, steps, and schedules, and trusting in God's guidance. When done well, planning can help alleviate worry. Worriers, by contrast, are consumed by fear and will find it difficult to trust God. They let their plans interfere with their relationship with God. Don't let worries about tomorrow affect your relationship with God today.
Memory Verse: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy,and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
All treasures are to be held in subjection to God and used as He directs. He who is in touch with eternal realities can well afford to hold earthly possessions with a loose hand. Worldly wealth soon passes away and leaves him who has nothing else poor indeed. But those who lay up heavenly treasure by spending and being spent for God, while numbered perchance among the poor of this world, will be rich in faith. When life is ended here they will find endless treasure held in reserve above. The more we distribute for the blessing of others as guided by the Lord, the more wealth we lay up in Heaven.
Discuss key differences in earthly treasure and Heavenly treasures. Consider earthly and eternal consequences of each.
Tuesday: Spiritual Transformation: From Self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness
John is calling for repentance of those who have come into the wilderness to see him. John was not trying to explain to the people ways to get into Heaven, but was rather showing others how to make the necessary changes in their lives which would prepare them, and ultimately others, for the coming of Christ.
If the necessary preparations were not made, the people could expect only discipline and judgment from the Messiah when He arrived. The Messiah’s message would build upon and exceed the message of John. This message of John is in fulfillment of the words of the angel to John’s father, Zacharias (1:14-17) and the prophecy from Isaiah 40:3-5. When we repent and live for Christ’s coming, our lives will produce fruits of Christ-centeredness. How are you working to transform your life?
Wednesday: Spiritual Transformation: To The Crowd
John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
Consider I John 3:17-18 - If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
These verses give an example of how to lay down our lives for others to help those in need. This is strikingly similar to James' teaching in James 2:14-17. How clearly do you really love others? Are you as generous as you should be with your money possessions and time?
Thursday: Spiritual Transformation: To The Tax Collectors
“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
Consider Proverbs 20:23 - Diverse weights are an abomination to the Lord and dishonest scales are not good.
"Diverse weights" refers to the loaded scales a merchant might use in order to cheat his customers. Dishonesty is a difficult sin to avoid. It is easy to cheat if we think no one else is looking. But dishonesty affects the very core of a person. It makes him untrustworthy and untrusting. It eventually makes him unable to know or relate to others. Don't take dishonesty lightly. Even the smallest portion of dishonesty contains enough of the poison of deceit to kill your spiritual life. If there is any in your life, tell God about it now.
Friday: Spiritual Transformation: To The Soldiers
“Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
Consider Hebrews 13:5 - Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
We must learn to be content by striving to live with less rather than desiring more. Give away out of your abundance rather than accumulating more and relish what you have rather than resenting what you're missing. We can see God's love expressed in what he has provided and continually remember that money and possessions will all pass away.
Memory verse: “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10, NIV
Monday: Function #1 Discipleship
By definition, a disciple is a follower, one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another. A Christian disciple is a person who accepts and assists in the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ. Discipleship is working as a disciple.
Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
So how can we apply this to Sunday school?
Tuesday: Function #2 Evangelism
The spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness. The goal of evangelism is to win souls for Christ, ultimately fulfilling our calling as laid out by the Great Commission.
Romans 10:14-15 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
So how can we apply this to Sunday school?
Wednesday: Function #3 Fellowship
Friendly association, especially with people who share one's interests. Often times we think of fellowship as gathering over coffee and donuts before worship service. Biblical evangelism goes much deeper. As we are taught by the beginning church in the book of Acts, believers had to be close due to their uniqueness as believers in Christ. They continue together in one accord, they exhorted others to believe; they practiced ordinances; such as baptism and the Lord's Supper and they prayed together.
I Thessalonians 5:9-11 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
So how can we apply this to Sunday school?
Thursday: Function #4 Service
The action of helping or doing work for someone. Why is service so central to Christian belief? Because we follow a God who serves. Because we follow a Christ who loves others. And because we have a nice day Holy Spirit who gives us gifts expressly for the purpose of building up other people.
I Peter 4:10-11 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
So how can we apply this to Sunday school?
Friday: Function #5 Worship
The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. It is evident from a study of the scriptures that the early Christians participated in public worship. Public worship on the Lord's Day was very important to the early Christians and was presented as a requisite in Hebrews chapter 10. They came together to celebrate the Lord's Supper, to pray, sing praise to God, give of their means, and to hear the word proclaimed. Worship looks different to different people. Some prefer praise and thanksgiving others prefer joyful songs and dancing. Some may worship by giving cheerfully to help others and using their spiritual gifts. In John, chapter 4, Jesus told the woman at the well something profound about worship. He stated that those who wish to worship God must do so in spirit and in truth. God desires that our worship come from a pure heart.
Colossians 3:14-17 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
So how can we apply this to Sunday school?
Memory Verse: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16
Monday: Understanding Our Memory Verse
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”
The Bible is not a collection of stories, fables, myths, or merely human ideas about God. It is not a human book. Through the Holy Spirit, God revealed His person and plan to certain believers, who wrote down His message for His people. This process is known as inspiration. The writers wrote from their own personal, historical, and cultural contexts. Although they used their own minds, talents, language, and style, they wrote what God wanted them was in control to write. Scripture is completely trustworthy because God was in control of its writing. Its words are entirely authoritative for our faith and lives. The Bible is “God-breathed.” Read it, and use its teachings to guide your conduct. Make an effort to memorize this verse this week.
Tuesday: Using the Bible for Correction
What is your definition of success? Does it line up with what we are taught in God’s Word? How strange to equate success with obedience! For many, success is controlling others; for Joshua, it meant being controlled by God. God told Joshua that to succeed he must obey the rules for living found in God's law. Often we can't see what the results or future benefits of following God will be. When we are not certain what to do, obedience to what God has revealed in the Scriptures is the only sure step we can take. Resolve to set aside time each day to read and think about God's Word. Remind yourself of God's words day and night. Act today on what you know God has said and God will assure your success in carrying out His purposes.
Wednesday: Spiritual Fruitfulness Through Our Study of the Bible
It is important to listen to what God's Word says, but it is much more important to obey it, to do what it says. We can measure the effectiveness of our Bible study time by the effect it has on our behavior and attitude. Do you put into action what you have studied? Pray and ask God for guidance in applying His teaching to your life. Rely on God to help you apply your knowledge to specific situations. Hide His words in your heart so that when you are faced with tough situations, you can recall the Biblical truths needed to help you respond with a Christ-like heart.
Thursday: The Bible; Full of Fulfilled Prophecy Always Points To Our Savior
The Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms is a way to describe the entire Old Testament. In other words, the entire Old Testament points to the Messiah. For example, His role as prophet was foretold in Deuteronomy 18:15-20; his sufferings were prophesied in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53; His resurrection was predicted in Psalm 16:9-11 and Isaiah 53:10,11.
Read each prophecy listed above and find areas in the New Testament where those prophecies are fulfilled. Can you find other prophecies in the Bible and the location of their fulfillment?
Friday: Applying the Bible in Our Daily Lives
2 Timothy 3:16-17
The whole Bible is God’s inspired Word. Because it is inspired and trustworthy, we should read it and apply it to our lives. The Bible is our standard for testing everything else that claims to be true. It is our safeguard against false teaching and our source of knowledge about how we can be saved. God wants to show you what is true and equip you to live for Him. How much time do you spend in God’s Word? Read it regularly to discover God’s truth and become confident in your faith. Develop a plan for reading the entire Bible, not just familiar scriptures.
There are many different plans for reading through the Bible in one year. Here are a few ideas…
Beginning to End: Read the Bible from start to finish, from Genesis to Revelation. Bible Gateway From Beginning Plan
Chronological: Read the Bible as its events occurred in real time. For example, Job lived sometime after the beginning of creation (Genesis 1) but before Abraham was born (Genesis 12). As a result, the Book of Job is integrated into the Book of Genesis. Bible Gateway Chronological Reading Plan
Historical: Read the books of the Bible as they were written historically, according to the estimated date of their writing. Bible Gateway Historical Reading Plan
New then Old: Read through the New Testament first, then read through the Old Testament.
Old and New: Each day, include a passage from both the Old Testament and New Testament. Bible Gateway Old/New Reading Plan
Links to other Reading Plans:
52 Week Reading Plan
Blue Letter Bible Blended Reading Plan
American Bible Society Reading Plan
Monday: What is the Bible?
One unified book, 66 literary works separated into 2 covenants, with the sole purpose of making man wise for salvation. (2 Tim. 3:15)
So what are the functions of the Bible?
Tuesday: Who wrote the Bible?
The Bible was written as a dual authorship meaning that both God and man were writing. Need proof?
T.C. Hammond compares inspiration and incarnation beautifully in the book In Understanding Be Men: An Introductory Handbook of Christian Doctrine.
He speaks about the virgin birth stating that Mary remained a human mother and would have appeared to others to be an ordinary human mother but was carrying the long-expected Redeemer of Israel. In the same manor, the writers of the biblical books remained human authors but had a message that was absolutely God breathed.
Wednesday: Look up the following verses - Matthew 1:22, Matthew 2:15
Thursday: What the truth (and inerrancy) of the Bible means for us
Friday: Family fun with Bible facts!
Monday: What is the difference between submersion and sprinkling?
The word baptize is a transliteration of the original Greek word baptizo. In turn, baptizo comes from the root word bapto, a term used in the first century for immersing a garment first into bleach and then into dye; both cleansing and changing the color of the cloth. (note its similarity to baptisms cleansing of sin and becoming a new person through Christ.) Stated another way when you process cloth to change its color you are said to baptize it. If sprinkling of any kind was to be practiced a different Greek word would have been used.
Tuesday: Why are some people baptized (or sprinkled) as infants?
You may ask whether infants or young children should be baptized. It may help if you understand where the idea and practice of baptizing infants came from. Around 400 AD, a man named Augustine taught that all of man was damned from birth because of Adam’s sin and would spend eternity in Hell because of it until they were made right with God, including children. This was disturbing to parents who were concerned for their children’s spiritual state. Of the steps that were required to be right with God, it was decided that the only one an infant could take part in was baptism. Since it is risky to immerse an infant, these people decided to sprinkle them with water instead in an effort to remove the original sin of Adam. Thus, both baptizing infants and baptizing by sprinkling came from human ideas, not from the Bible.
Wednesday: Why is it important that baptism come after salvation?
The clear teaching of Scripture is that all who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord should be baptized in obedience to Him. The New Testament order is always: The preaching of the gospel; faith in the gospel; then, baptism. Never once is there an example of baptism preceding faith as the norm to be followed. And there are no examples or commands concerning the baptism of the infants or yet unbelieving children of believing parents. Consider the following verses from Acts, noting the order of belief first, then baptism:
2:41: ... those who had received his word were baptized; ...
8:12: But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.
8:36-38: And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him.
Thursday: Should baptism be an immediate response after accepting Christ or is it better to wait and mature spiritually to fully understand the truth of what is taking place?
The Bible always placed believing in Christ for salvation and baptism together. Acts 2:41: 3000 people were baptized after believing. vs. 38 and 39 make it clear that this is the way it will always be done; that is all people who accept Christ as their Savior will come to him in this way.
Also in Acts 8:26-39 we follow the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Vs. 26 terms it as desert and the only source of water there was an oasis. This means that the eunuch and Phillip climbed down into the people’s drinking water to baptize. Apparently, Philip and the eunuch did not think it could wait until later. You will also notice that they did not take a handful of water and sprinkle the eunuch. The Bible states that all Philip did was preach Jesus to him and then the eunuch said that he wanted to be baptized. This means that the preaching of Jesus includes preaching the need to be baptized.
Friday: Why be baptized?
Acts 2:38 Ties repentance and baptism together.
Also Romans 6:1-7: This shows us that the mode of baptism, which is immersion, pictures the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. In the same way that he went through these things, we are to die to our old sinful nature and we are to be buried with him through baptism into death and raised to walk in newness of life or live like Jesus. We do not just try to be a better person; we bury the old person in the water and become a new person through our acceptance of Christ. It's just like a new birth and a new beginning for us.
Riverview Family Devotion Guides
Family devotion guides are provided to help reinforce the "Big Idea" that is studied in Sunday School and presented in the Pastor's message each week.