Advent Devotional for Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas Character: The Lamb

Suggested reading: John 1:29b

On the night of Jesus’ birth, He was laid in a manger, a feed trough for the animals. As we see pictures of what we think the nativity looked like, we see animals surrounding the holy family—cows, goats, donkeys, and lambs. How fitting that the lambs that were in the stable laid their eyes upon the Lamb of God. I wonder how many of those lambs ended up making the trek from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to serve as sacrifice? I’m not sure, but I know that there was at least one.

Only one? Perhaps. Please understand, though, this was no ordinary lamb. This lamb was perfect in every way. He was without spot or blemish; He fulfilled every requirement of the law and really was the only one who could serve as a perfect sacrifice. His fleece was not white as snow, but He makes your soul that way. The only lamb we know who made the trek from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, who was there in the stable that night, was named Jesus.

When He was grown and about to start His ministry, John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God. This was not just a nickname. It was a name with a purpose. Jesus came to take away the sin of the world; what an amazing gift! By placing your faith in Jesus and committing to follow Him, Jesus makes your soul as white as snow.

As we celebrate this great season, let’s not overlook the Lamb.

Troy Allen, Senior Pastor

Advent Devotional for Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christmas Characters: The Angels

Suggested reading: Luke 2:8-12

Have you ever seen an angel? I don’t mean a child who is a “sweet angel.” I am talking about the messengers from God. If you have, I would love to hear about your experience. I haven’t seen one myself. The shepherds did. One moment they were alone in the darkness and then there was an angel with them. They were terrified. The scriptures tell us the angel appeared and “the glory of the Lord shone around them.” They weren’t expecting this life-changing experience.

The angel addressed their fear and then gave them God’s message. It was a wonderful, glorious, life-changing message. A Savior has been born—to them, to us, to everyone. The long-awaited Messiah has come. A multitude of heavenly host—other angels—joined the first. The angels gave praise to God, the one who sent them to tell the shepherds the wonderful news. Luke doesn’t describe how the angels looked or how they got there. A description is missing. The angels are important to the story because of who sent them and the unique message they delivered.

The message was told to Luke and he recorded it for us “to hear.” He recorded the message of good news that is given to all people. Luke shared the message so that we can focus on it and who sent it. He shared it so that, like the shepherds, we can tell others what the angels said. God says a Savior has been born to you, to everyone you know.

Now it’s your turn to be the messenger. Who are you going to tell?

Roxann Collins

Advent Devotional for Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas Character: The Shepherds

Suggested reading: Luke 2:8-18

Does it seem a little odd to you that the birth of our Savior was first announced to shepherds? Society at that time didn’t rank shepherds very high. In fact, Genesis 46:34 reports that the Egyptians considered them detestable. Later, we read of wise men seeking the child. Perhaps both these groups of seekers are meant to show us that Jesus came for all mankind.

Luke also tells us the shepherds were terrified. I’d guess so. Can you imagine bright lights, heavenly hosts, and angels all around? When order was somehow restored, the shepherds left for Bethlehem to check out the event. There is no record of anyone staying behind to guard the flocks. I think this tells us where our priorities should be. We read in Luke 12:31 to first seek God’s kingdom and other matters will be handled.

Both Advent and the Christmas season are an important reminder of our Savior’s birth and how we are truly blessed. It’s also a time for recalling past Christmas times, opening presents, school events for children, concerts and music programs, and even shopping online or in crowded stores. But, we must remember the shepherds, whose fear turned to joy and who shared the news with others. And the fact that Psalm 23 reminds us that the Lord is truly our shepherd. For that we should thank God during Advent, Christmas, and the whole year.

Jim Bruffett

Advent Devotional for Thursday, December 13, 2018

Christmas Character: The Innkeeper

Suggested reading: Luke 2:4-7

Bethlehem was crazy busy! The census had brought many people to the City of David. Every inn was full of people and animals that had traveled there to register. The innkeeper in Jesus’ birth story is often portrayed as the villain, but I’m not sure that he deserves it.

First Century inns were simple structures. They basically were walled-in areas with a well. Larger inns might have had several small rooms surrounding a courtyard. People and animals stayed together. Inns were nothing like we expect today when we travel!

Joseph was worried. He and Mary had traveled for many miles and they knew the baby was coming at any time. They probably had knocked on the doors of several inns searching for a room. This innkeeper showed compassion for the young couple and offered all he had—a warm place in his stable. He made room. I feel sure that Mary and Joseph were relieved to be offered a place to rest.

It would be much easier to think of Jesus, our King, being born in a beautiful room in an inn, with clean linens, soft towels, and room service. Thinking of His young mother laboring on a comfy bed with fluffy pillows would make us feel so much better. But I think Jesus’ birth happened exactly the way it was supposed to happen.

Jesus came into this world just like so many others had before Him. The angels didn’t approach royalty to announce His birth. They appeared to common men out doing their jobs in a field. This amazing Gift of Grace and Love was born for all, no matter how rich or poor. He can surely relate to all of us.

This Christmas season make room in your life for Jesus.

Bronwyn Stanley, Children’s Minister

Advent Devotional for Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Christmas Character: Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch from How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Suggested reading: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, either the book or miscellaneous cartoon or live-action films

Signs of Christmas abound all around us in the many secular and Christian symbols we see almost everywhere we look. Fir trees, wreaths, colored lights, fireworks, etc., are secular ones and create a sense of Christmas. Crosses, stars, manger scenes, the Wise Men, etc., are Christian ones and should remind us that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.”

When I think of secular symbols, the Grinch has assumed an important role. This is because the Grinch can be both a secular and a religious symbol. How can that be? The Grinch, by his actions, displays the love that should overflow in each of us at Christmas. The story shows how a shallow and self-centered creature, one whose heart is “two sizes too small,” can become caring and giving through the power of Christmas. Indeed, we learn that his heart “grew three sizes that day” when he realized that Christmas comes even in the absence of all symbols, both secular and Christian.

Our giving of gifts to each other is an all-too-small and insignificant way to remind us of the “unspeakable gift” of our Lord. It should remind each of us of a life-changing prayer from the Bible: “Create in me a new heart, oh Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

Elvin Smith

Advent Devotional for Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Christmas Character: Elizabeth

Suggested reading: Luke 1

Can you imagine the challenges Mary’s cousin Elizabeth must have faced during her own pregnancy? Sometimes we forget that there was another significant birth that occurred before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Mary was told by the angel who first visited her with news of Jesus’ impending birth, that her relative Elizabeth “in her old age has conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:36-37).” Mary promptly went to visit her cousin, and the same chapter of Luke tells us, “When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!’”

Elizabeth must have been amazed throughout her pregnancy. She and Zechariah had lived a holy life and long hoped for children, but it appeared that was not to be. Both were advanced in years, but to her utter disbelief she found she was with child. One suspects she rushed to tell her husband to share her news. Imagine her surprise to learn that her husband could no longer speak! John’s gospel tells us that story, as does David Strawn’s devotional on the previous page.

Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son grew up to be John the Baptist—another key character in Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist was a prophet, and clearly paved the way for the path that Jesus was to follow, early identifying him and baptizing him at the start of His ministry. He would die a martyr at the hand of Herod Antipas (see the devotional for Thursday, December 19, 2018).

The Advent lesson here is to be aware that God never gives you a challenge that you—and He—can’t handle together. Have faith, even when you can’t determine the eventual direction and resolution of the challenges in your life. God knows, and cares, as we are told in Jeremiah 29:11— “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.”

Mary Jo Powell

Advent Devotional for Monday, December 10, 2018

Christmas Character: Zechariah

Suggested reading: John 1:5-25, 57-79

Have you ever earnestly prayed for a special blessing from God that never came? Maybe you asked for a special opportunity for service, or for someone to come alongside you during troubling times. Certainly most adults today would consider children to be a special blessing from God. In Bible times, children were certainly viewed by God’s people as an expression of God’s blessing. It should not surprise us then when we read in John’s Gospel about a childless older couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, lamenting the fact they had no children.

Zechariah was a priest who had chosen to offer incense in the Temple. As he was in the Temple offering his incense and praying, a special messenger from God appeared to him and assured him that God had been hearing their prayers for a child. In fact, the child would have a special role to play in God’s kingdom. The messenger affirmed that God himself had declared that they would now have the child for whom they had prayed so long.

Because Zechariah doubted the messenger, he was kept from speaking until the child was born. When the baby finally came, Zechariah named the child John as he had been instructed by the messenger. At that point his speech returned, and he began praising God.

As we look toward Christmas, we need to learn from Zechariah that God does send His blessings on His people, in His own good timing, not just to suit our whims. We also need to recognize that God has a place for us in His kingdom to help share the good news about the Savior, even as He had for Zechariah so many years ago.

David Strawn, retired FBC Minister of Education

Advent Devotional for Sunday, December 9, 2018

Christmas Character: The Reverend Johann Hinrich Wichern

Suggested reading: Wikipedia

“The Advent wreath … is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western church,” Wikipedia tell us. Although it began in the German Lutheran Church, its use has now spread to many other Christian denominations, including Southern Baptists like those of us at this church. The wreath is usually a horizontal evergreen wreath that features four candles, one for each week in Advent, as well as a fifth center candle, which is called the Christ candle, and is lit only on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Although the first Advent wreaths date back to German Lutherans in the 16th century, “Research by Professor Haemig of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, points to Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808-1881), a Protestant pastor in Germany and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor as the inventor of the modern Advent wreath in the 19th century. During Advent, children at the mission school Rauhes Haus, founded by Wichern in Hamburg, would ask daily if Christmas had arrived. In 1839, he built a large wooden ring (made out of an old cart wheel) with 20 small red and four large white candles. A small candle was lit successively every weekday and Saturday during Advent, and on Sunday the large white candle was lit.” The tradition spread throughout Germany, with many churches eventually using four or five candles and assigning some significance to each of the four candles. It wasn’t until around the 1930s that the custom came to North America. Today, individual denominations—and indeed individual churches—adapt the tradition as each sees fit.

This year, the four candles on the Advent wreath at First Baptist College Station will be assigned to represent some “characters of Christmas”—specifically the prophets, the shepherds, the angels, and Bethlehem. As we light the Advent candles, let us remember that we are a part of a worldwide group of a community of believers. Let us thank God for the fact that we are free to mark the Lord’s birth as we choose, using traditions borrowed from other believers. And let us pray fervently for all those around the world who face persecution because of their faith in the baby whose birth we will celebrate at the end of this time of preparation.

Anonymous

Advent Devotional for Saturday, December 8, 2018

Christmas Character: Ebenezer Scrooge

Suggested reading or viewing: Any of the many versions of the classic Charles Dickens tale, A Christmas Carol

Most of us are familiar with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and even those of us who never read the book or have never seen a dramatization of it, know the name Ebenezer Scrooge is synonymous with greed and selfishness. Scrooge’s summary of Christmas was that it was “a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” Dickens spins a tale in which Scrooge is visited by three ghosts—the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. All of the things he is shown open his eyes and heart to the truth about himself and he is radically changed. As a changed man, he claims, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future…I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

A Christmas Carol gives a valuable lesson and hints at a Christmas with Christian values at the heart. But, the truth is, we know the only one who can bring us to rebirth and open our eyes to see things truly is Jesus Christ himself. When He visits us, He has a way of opening the eyes of our heart so that things that once blinded us fade away and His truth and glorious presence comes into focus. Spend time with Him today—ask Him to open your eyes and enlarge your heart. C.S. Lewis once said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” All of us have some area of our heart in need of Christ’s changing touch today and all of eternity will feel the impact.

Paige Allen

Advent Devotional for Friday, December 7

Christmas Characters: Families

Suggested reading: References included in text

When you think of Christmas, family is probably one of the first things that comes to mind. Whether you love them or not, God has given you a family. Families are a gift from God. Some of us were born into families. Others of us were adopted into families. Every family is different and every family is unique. Have you ever thought about this, though? God made you for family. When you read through the Bible, the family is a central cog in the story. In the Old Testament especially, the centrality of the family is clearly seen. Deuteronomy 6:7 helps us to see that the home is the main place for teaching the truths of Scripture. As we are made for relationship with God, we are also made to be in relationship with a family. Families come in all shapes and sizes. Today, we have come to define family in ways that defy tradition. The people that you identify as your family may not be the family that you were born into. I have a friend who says that her church family is her family. As believers, we are part of the ‘family of God.’ Family consists of those who are familiar. Take some time to reflect upon your family. Give thanks to the Lord for your family. Model what faith in Jesus Christ really is for your family. Be generous to your family in grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24). In all of the things that God has been unto you, He gives you the opportunity to be unto your family. Keep in mind, one of the greatest gifts you can give to your family this Christmas season is yourself.

Anonymous

Advent Devotional for Thursday, December 6

Christmas Character: Saint Nicholas of Myra

Suggested readings: Wikipedia and

The Autobiography of Santa Claus as told to Jeff Guinn

According to Wikipedia (perhaps the best-known online encyclopedia, for those who don’t internet), Saint Nicholas of Myra was a fourth century Christian bishop who is often credited with being the original Santa Claus. He was an early Christian bishop in the ancient Greek city of Myra (modern-day Demre, Turkey) during the time of the Roman Empire. This day—December 6—is considered his “Saint Day” in many Eastern Christian churches as well as Western denominations that choose to celebrate Saints Days. He is best-known for both his miracles and his history of gift-giving.

“In one of the earlier attested and most famous incidents from his life,” Wikipedia says, “he (Nicholas of Myra) is said to have rescued three girls from being forced into prostitution by dropping a sack of gold coins through the window of their house each night for three nights so that their father could pay a dowry for each of them.” Hence, the origin of Santa Claus as the unknown helper of others.

Other stories about Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus can be a found in a fascinating series of books by Texas journalist and author Jeff Guinn. He is the author of a series of three books called The Christmas Chronicles. The series includes The Autobiography of Santa Claus (1998), How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas (2006), and The Great Santa Search (2007). These books are classified as works of “historical fiction”—or “fact-based fantasy.” They are lengthy reads but would be a perfect read-aloud story for families with older children or multigenerational groups.

Both Saint Nicholas of Myra and Santa Claus offer examples of the power of showing kindness to those around you without credit or recompense. This Advent, pray that each of us will show the same spirit of giving.

Mary Jo Powell

Advent Devotional for Wednesday, December 5

Christmas Character: Joseph

Suggested reading: Matthew 1:18-21, Luke 2:5-6

We really don’t hear a whole lot about Joseph, Mary’s husband. We know he was a carpenter, betrothed to Mary, and that he considered “putting her aside quietly” when he learned she was pregnant. He saw an angel in a dream who urged him to take Mary as his wife. We know he was of the “house and lineage of David;” which is why he and Mary ended up in Bethlehem in the first place, thus fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy.

We also know little about Jesus until He begins His public ministry. We know He stayed behind at the temple to be about His Father’s business, and that Mary and Joseph had to return there looking for their son.

We know still less about the family life in the home of Mary and Joseph. We are told there were other children born after Jesus, but we have little more than names (and in the case of his brother James, a relatively short book in the New Testament offering practical advice on how to live as a Christian). What were the family dynamics in this particular household? Was “Wait ‘til your father gets home” a threat that Mary occasionally used with her other children? Were there chores assigned to the kids? We’re told that Jesus led a sinless life, but I wonder if He ever uttered the words “But Mom, James started it!” Did the other children actively dislike their older brother, who never seemed to do anything wrong? Did He learn the carpenter’s trade from His earthy father? Did Jesus work in what seemed to His neighbors to be “the family business?”

Perhaps the most important lesson in considering those sorts of questions is realizing that we each have roles to play and that it is God who assigns those roles. We must remember to seek His guidance in helping us to determine what we are destined to do each and every day, and to ask Him to bless us as we play those roles.

Anonymous

Advent Devotional for Tuesday, December 4

Christmas Character: Mary

Suggested reading: Luke 1:26-38

The whole family is coming to your house this year! How will it get done? Why me?

The angel of the Lord said to Mary, “Greetings. You are highly favored. The Lord is with you. You will be with child and give birth to a son and his name will be Jesus.” Mary was greatly troubled and surely asked, “Why me? How will it get done?”

We are asked at times to shoulder responsibilities greater than we want to ever imagine receiving. After the inevitable “Why me?” we must be like Mary. Her mission was a blessing to the whole world. She accepted the challenge knowing the Lord was with her.

Our mission is to be a blessing to our whole world, the immediate area where we reside. As we prayerfully accept our challenges we must, like Mary, know the Lord is with us and then go out and create experiences that will last a lifetime for those we touch.

Mary’s task was certainly not easy in any way at all, but its benefit to us is never ending. Our tasks, many times, are not easy at all, but with the Lord walking beside us are also of eternal consequence.

The Lord be with you. Be like Mary.

Paula Biondi

Advent Devotional for Monday, December 3

Christmas Character: Caesar Augustus

Suggested reading: Luke 2:1

When I drew the name of Caesar Augustus, I only remembered that he was mentioned in the Bible; he named a month after himself (it was formerly Sextilis); and he succeeded Julius Caesar. Searches revealed that Augustus was a great nephew later adopted by Julius Caesar who inherited power at the age of 18 when Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Augustus ruled for more than 40 years and died at the age of 75 in 14 AD. He shrewdly and cruelly combined military might, institution building and lawmaking to become Rome’s sole ruler. Under the leadership of Augustus and his successors, Latin became the common language, Rome’s prosperity and efficient transportation grew, financial advancements (minting coins) were made, marriage laws were reformed, and the foundation was laid of the 200-year period known as Pax Romana (Roman peace). During Augustus’ reign, the Roman province of Judea was created, and he appointed Herod as governor.

This brings us to why Caesar Augustus is a character of Christmas. God controls all history. By the decree of Augustus, Jesus was born in the very town prophesied for His birth (Micah 5:2) even though His parents didn’t live there. Although Roman records mention tax censuses, this one is not documented other than by Luke. Both Joseph and Mary were descendants of David and numerous prophesies in the Old Testament predict that Jesus would be born in David’s line (Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 33:15, Ezekiel 37:24, Hosea 3:5). Joseph and Mary, his espoused wife, left Galilee to travel 70 miles (about a three-day trip) to Bethlehem to pay the required taxes. Soon after their arrival, Jesus was born.

The Savior of the world was born during a period of extreme political turmoil. Jerusalem was a hotbed of political strife. Augustus was an oppressive occupier of Jewish lands who, assisted by the local governor (Herod), ruled from afar with a merciless hand. God sent His Son to come at this exact moment—planned since the beginning of time—to deliver His message of peace and love. Jesus’ words of peace, not strife (Philemon 4:6-7) and love, not hate (1 Peter 3:8-9), still prevail. Caesar Augustus was an important figure in world history and was declared a God by the Roman Senate. Jesus Christ, the son of God, far exceeds his stature, however, by providing everlasting life (John 3:16) to those who believe in Him.

Peggy Mobley

Advent Devotional for Sunday, December 2

Christmas Character: God

Suggested reading: Genesis 1:1

God is sometimes a forgotten character in the Christmas story, but He actually set the stage for everything that happened in Bethlehem when He created the heavens and the earth. God always had a plan. God separated the dark and the light, created the sky, and the oceans and the land. Then God filled what He had created. He made the sun, the moon, and the stars. He created birds and all kinds of animals. God made His creation ready for the next part of the plan. God created mankind in His image.

But the plan was not yet complete. God knew that people would sin, and they did. God was not surprised at their sin. His plan provided a way for people to come with Him and live with Him forever.

When the time was right, God worked His plan. A young woman and a young man made their way to Bethlehem across the earth God had made. They took refuge in a stable, the home of the animals God had created. Their new baby was placed in a manger filled with hay that God had provided.

Not far away, shepherds watched their flocks under the night sky God had made. Suddenly that sky was the background for angels announcing the birth and culmination of God’s plan. Later, wise men on camels traveled the desert God had made. A star, created by God, led them to the very house where Jesus was. God’s design for Jesus to come as the Savior of the world was proceeding according to plan.

Thank you, God, for being the powerful creator and for having the plan to save Your children.

Kathy Strawn

Week of November 25 - Day 5

Day 5 Read: Romans 8

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Reflect: What portion of this great chapter or Romans speaks out to you the most and why?

Consider: On January 6, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed Congress on the state of the war in Europe. Much of what he said that day has been forgotten. But at the close of his address, he said that he looked forward “to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.” He named them: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These words are still remembered, even though their ideals have not yet been realized everywhere in the world. Romans 8 is the Christian’s “Declaration of Freedom,” for in it Paul declares the four spiritual freedoms we enjoy because of our union with Jesus Christ. A study of this chapter shows the emphasis on the Holy Spirit, who is mentioned nineteen times. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).5

Respond: Who do you know who needs to experience the hope of glory Paul describes? What can you do to make this hope known to them? What difference does trusting in God’s love for you make as you try to persevere through difficult times?


5 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 538.

 

Week of November 25 - Day 4

Day 4 Read: Romans 8:33-39

Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Reflect: What evidence is given here for God’s unwavering love for you?

Consider: In all these adversities (cf. “all things” in Rom. 8:28 and “all things” in v. 32 with all these things in v. 37), rather than being separated from Christ’s love, believers are more than conquerors (pres. tense, hypernikōmen, “keep on being conquerors to a greater degree” or “keep on winning a glorious victory”) through Him who loved us. Jesus Christ and His love for believers enable them to triumph (2 Cor. 2:14).[1]

Respond: Of the things listed in these verses that cannot separate believers from the love of Christ, which stands out to you the most? Why can these things not separate believers from the love of Christ?

 


[1] John A. Witmer, “Romans,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 475.

Week of November 25 - Day 3

Day 3 Read: Romans 8:28-32

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 

Reflect: What example does Paul give as the reason we can have confidence that God is a God of ultimate power and unlimited supply? Why is this significant?

Consider: God directs the affairs of life in such a way that, for those who love him, the outcome is always beneficial. The “good” of which Paul spoke is not necessarily what we think is best,191 but as the following verse implies, the good is conformity to the likeness of Christ. With this in mind it is easier to see how our difficulties are part of God’s total plan for changing us from what we are by nature to what he intends us to be. Moral advance utilizes hardship more often than not. The verb (“works”) and the participial phrase (“those who love him”) are in the present tense. Not only is God continually at work, but those for whom he works are steadfast in their love for him.[1]

Respond: What does it mean to you to read that God is for you? If you are “for” someone or something, what does that entail?


[1] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 187–188.

Week of November 25 - Day 2

Day 2 Read: Romans 8:23-27

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

Reflect: What reasons for hope do you find in this passage? How is the hope we have in Christ different from other kinds of hope?

Consider: The firstfruits of the Spirit makes it possible for us to be “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8–9). “We do not lose heart … for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:16–17). “We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:14)—coheirs receive the same resurrection as the heir—the redemption of our bodies.[1]

Respond: How does knowing you are adopted by God change your view of yourself and of God? How can knowing your hope in Christ is certain (v. 23-24) help you endure patiently through a current situation you are facing.


[1] Kenneth Boa and William Kruidenier, Romans, vol. 6, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 258.

 

Week of November 25 - Day 1

Scripture to Memorize: Romans 8:38-39

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

Day 1 Read: Romans 8:18-22

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 

Reflect: How did Paul keep the sufferings of this present time in perspective? What is the good news for us in these verses?

Consider: Paul reminds the Roman Christians that, though suffering is a sign of authentic Christian experience, it is only a transition to the assured glory that awaits them in the eschaton. Although Christians have been freed from the baleful influence of sin and death, in being received into the new life of the risen Christ through his Spirit, mortality is still part of the human lot, and it often brings suffering, as it did in the case of Christ Jesus himself. [1]

Respond: How does the promise of future glory help you endure the pain of waiting for Jesus’ return?


[1] Joseph A. Fitzmyer S.J., Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, vol. 33, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 506.