Week of January 13 - Day 5

Day 5 Read: Genesis 1:26-28

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Reflect: What details are expressed in the creation of humanity? What was God’s purpose?

Consider: In our image, after our likeness—This was a peculiar distinction, the value attached to which appears in the words being twice mentioned. And in what did this image of God consist? Not in the erect form or features of man, not in his intellect, for the devil and his angels are, in this respect, far superior; not in his immortality, for he has not, like God, a past as well as a future eternity of being; but in the moral dispositions of his soul, commonly called original righteousness (Ec 7:29). As the new creation is only a restoration of this image, the history of the one throws light on the other; and we are informed that it is renewed after the image of God in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness (Col 3:10; Eph 4:24).5

Respond: Why do people matter to God? This past Sunday, you were reminded that you cannot pursue a relationship with Jesus that does not include pursuing people along the way. The first cannot be removed from the second. In what ways do you need to pursue people?


5 Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 18.

 

Week of January 13 - Day 4

Day 4 Read: John 6:1-14

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

Reflect: What new details are picked up in John’s rendition of the feeding?

Consider: Jesus departed from the side of the sea on which he was, and as we may judge (ver. 24) from Capernaum, now known to be his chief resting-place, most probably the home of his mother, brothers, and nearest friends, to the other side of the sea of Galilee, of Tiberias. Tiberias was the showy city built by Herod Antipas on the western shore of the lake. Herod called the place after the name of Tiberius Cæsar, and conferred upon it many Gentile characteristics. From the time of Antipas to that of Agrippa it was the chief town of the tetrarchy.4

Respond: With all you have learned this week about the setting of this miracle, why here? Why this place? What can you draw from that about your own faith in Christ and the amount of faith you place in worldly institutions?


4 H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., St. John, vol. 1, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 247.

Week of January 13 - Day 3

Day 3 Read: Luke 9:10-17

On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. 12 Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 And they did so, and had them all sit down. 16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

Reflect: Are there any new pieces of information found in Luke’s account of the feeding that Matthew and Mark did not mention?

Consider: The disciples’ bewilderment is easily understood. Feeding five thousand people—or even more if only men are literally intended here—represented a tremendous undertaking. The disciples having failed, Jesus took over. First, he acted as an administrator by organizing the throng into manageable groups of fifty. Then he had them sit down, ready to eat and out of one another’s way.3

Respond: What is the significance of having the crowds sit in specified groups? What do you learn about Jesus in that simple request? How does that encourage you in the daily battles you face?


3 Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 144.

Week of January 13 - Day 2

Day 2 Read: Matthew 14:13-21

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Reflect: What differences can you find in Matthew’s account of this miracle? What were Jesus’ intentions? What did He end up doing?

Consider: The “remote place” in v. 15 translates erēmos, the same word as the “solitary place” in v. 13. The disciples are understandably concerned about the crowd’s need to eat. We are not told how far from the villages everyone is, but they could easily be several miles away. Jesus replies as if the disciples have a large store of food available (v. 16). “You” is emphatic (as is the “we” of 15:33; see comments on both pronouns there). The disciples describe the only provisions of which they know (v. 17). The standard Jewish loaf of bread provided a meal for three. Jesus requests the food, and the disciples bring it (v. 18).2

Respond: When has God dropped a task in your lap you were not expecting? How has He interrupted your “me time” for something He wants to do in you and through you?


2  Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 232.

 

Week of January 13 - Day 1

Scripture to Memorize: Matthew 2:11

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 

Day 1 Read: Mark 6:30-44

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Reflect: What was the situation? What time of day was it? Where did this take place? What was the need? Why was this need so great?

Consider: The apostles (apostoloi, “delegates, messengers”) returned to Jesus, probably at Capernaum by prearrangement, and reported to Him all they had done (they mentioned their “works” first) and taught (“words”) in fulfilling their commission. The designation “apostles” for the Twelve occurs only twice in Mark (3:14). It is used in a nontechnical sense to describe their function as “missionaries” (6:7–9; Acts 14:14) rather than to denote an official title (Eph. 2:19–20).1

Respond: Why do you think Jesus responded in verse 37 with, “you give them something to eat”? What was he hoping to accomplish by putting this back on the disciples?


1 John D. Grassmick, “Mark,” 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), 129–130.

Week of January 6 - Day 5

Day 5 Read: Matthew 2:19-23

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.  

Reflect: How did Joseph end up taking his family to Nazareth?

Consider: After the death of Herod, an angelic announcement allows the holy family to return to Israel, to Nazareth, where Jesus will grow up. Matthew tells us that this fulfilled the prophecy that he would be a Nazarene, although there is no verse which corresponds exactly to this. There could be a reference here to the Hebrew word nezer (meaning ‘a branch’) which is used of the Messiah in Isaiah 11:1; there could also be a reference to the Nazirite vow under which Samson the judge of Israel was placed (Judg. 13:7) since, like Samson, Jesus was consecrated to God as the deliverer of his people.4

Respond: Looking back on the entire week, for the wise men, God used a star to point them to the Messiah. What kinds of events does God use to point others to His Son today? Jesus’ birth shattered religious and cultural barriers. How does He still do this today?


4 Iain D. Campbell, Opening up Matthew, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2008), 28.

 

Week of January 6 - Day 4

Day 4 Read: Matthew 2:13-18

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
 

Reflect: What was Herod’s plan B after the wise men had betrayed him? What evidence is in the text that this was no surprise to God?

Consider: The quote in 2:18 is from Jeremiah 31:15. Jeremiah prophesied during the decades leading up to and immediately following Judah’s fall to Babylon in 586 B.C. His ministry was one of proclaiming doom and judgment. However, he, like most Old Testament prophets, included a message of hope of forgiveness and restoration. Jeremiah 30–31 gives us a lengthy oracle focused on the future restoration of Judah. Even in this oracle of hope, Jeremiah occasionally mentions the sorrow and devastation of Judah, by way of contrast with the joy that would follow. Jeremiah’s specific prophecy relates to the captivity in Babylon and the killing of children during Babylon’s conquest of Judea. Its parallel here is striking.[1]

Respond: How does this passage comfort you in the face of evil we see in our world today? In what area of your life do you need to shift from living in fear to living confidently in Him?

[1] Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, vol. 1, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 22.

Week of January 6 Day 3

Day 3 Read: Matthew 2:9-12

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.  

Reflect: How did the wise men respond to seeing the Christ child? How did they alter their original plans they had made with Herod?

Consider: The Magi do not recognize Herod’s purposes at first but are later warned in a dream just as Joseph had been (1:20–21). Like Joseph they obey God’s words (v. 12). Meanwhile, the star guides them to Bethlehem.29 This is the first time the star is actually said to move. The text leaves open the question of whether or not it had so moved previously. If it had not, this could explain why the Magi had managed to get only as far as Jerusalem. They may have seen the star above Israel and assumed that its ruler would be born in the capital. But regardless of how much the star had traveled, its motion here seems to require a supernatural event. Various attempts to link the star with different astronomical phenomena, especially for purposes of dating (e.g., a comet or a conjunction of planets), prove interesting but are probably irrelevant.[1]

Respond: Both Herod and the wise men had essentially the same facts about the star and the Messiah. Why is intellectual information not enough to cause us to embrace Christ? What else is needed?


[1] Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 65.

Week of January 6 - Day 2

Day 2 Read: Matthew 2:3-8

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”

Reflect: Who did Herod turn to for insight and strategy on how to deal with the birth of Christ?

Consider: Herod was not the rightful king from the line of David. In fact, he was not even a descendant of Jacob, but was descended from Esau and thus was an Edomite. (He reigned over Palestine from 37 b.c. to 4 b.c.) This fact caused most of the Jews to hate him and never truly to accept him as king, even though he did much for the country. If someone had been rightfully born king, then Herod’s job was in jeopardy.[1]

Respond: Why did Herod run to the chief priests and scribes for answers? When you face challenging situations, do you seek counsel from people who will speak truth or people who will confirm what you want to hear? The more we love controlling our own lives, the harder it is when we lose control. What is a natural first reaction when your personal “empire” feels threatened?


[1] Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., “Matthew,” 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), 21–22.

Week of January 6 - Day 1

Scripture to Memorize: Matthew 2:11

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Day 1 Read: Matthew 2:1-2

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Reflect: What do you think motivated the wise men to journey so far from home to investigate another religion’s Messiah?

Consider: The phrase “wise men” in this passage comes from the Greek word magos. That is why some English translations refer to the wise men as magi. It’s the same word used in the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, in Daniel 2:2, when the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar gathered men skilled in religious and magical arts to interpret his strange dreams. Although we know little about the wise men in Matthew 2, we can assume based on their profession that they weren’t Jews. But because of their knowledge of the Old Testament prophecies and their interest in the star, they sought out the newborn Messiah.

Respond: How are the wise men another example of God revealing His truth to unlikely people? In drawing the wise men to Christ, what did God reveal about His plan for the Gentiles?

Merry Christmas!

Suggested reading: Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’.”

Advent Devotional for Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Character: Anna

Suggested reading: Luke 2:36-38

While Jesus is being presented in the temple, we meet Anna—a woman who has been a widow for roughly 60 years. In a male dominated and male dependent society, Anna has survived alone. Rather than pursuing hope and stability in marriage, she has trusted in her God. Anna could rightfully blame God for her circumstances and misfortune, but instead chooses to worship. Worship defines Anna. As verse 37 notes, “She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day.”

Then Anna meets her God. On an ordinary day, in her long life of obedience and worship, Anna is blessed with a glimpse of the fullness of God dwelling in man—the baby Jesus. Anna’s faith is fueled by this encounter. Her brief experience seeing the word made flesh cannot be held in and contained. Anna’s time with Jesus compels her to tell others.

Anna’s life can be summed up as stated above: “The one she rightfully could blame she chooses to worship.” In this Christmas season, we are confronted with the missing faces and harsh circumstances of our broken world. We miss our loved ones as their chair sits empty at the table. We may wonder why we have been forced to endure certain circumstances. I believe Anna provides us a way to respond—worship. Our God is sovereign and good. At times those seem to be in competition but that is only due to our finite understanding. With Anna, we must proudly worship the one we could blame.

Jordan Whittington, College Minister

Advent Devotional for Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas Character: George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life

Suggested viewing: The 1946 Frank Capra film, It’s A Wonderful Life

A few years ago, my family began a new Christmas tradition. Every few years we go to Tennessee and spend Christmas in the Smokey Mountains. For me, one of the best parts of the trip is the view from the cabin porch. If you have spent any time in the Smokey Mountains, then you know the views do not disappoint. My favorite morning routine is to grab a cup of coffee and sit on the porch looking out at the snow-covered pine trees. Typically, we spend the day either walking around town or we spend time together talking, laughing, and playing games. It is one of my favorite traditions. No matter where we are for Christmas, though, there is one tradition we always do—watch all the Christmas classics.

I’ve always enjoyed the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. There is something about George Bailey that I admire. Throughout the movie we see a common characteristic in George that I think is a perfect example of living a Christ-centered life. Early in the movie, we get a glimpse of this characteristic. While sledding on a frozen river, George’s brother Harry falls through some broken ice. Without hesitation, George jumps in after his brother, pulling him to safety. As a result, George develops an infection from the cold water and loses his hearing in one ear. As George grows older we continue to see this Christ-like characteristic. It is the same characteristic we see in the widowed woman in Luke 21:1-4. “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small cooper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)

George Bailey, like the widow, lived a sacrificial life. He had a true servant’s heart. As we near Christmas this year I want to encourage you to continue serving the needs of the community around us. Maybe it’s baking cookies for your neighbor or taking an extra minute to really ask someone, “How are you?” This Christmas, will you take some time to care for those around you?

Joshua Price, Youth Minister

Advent Devotional for Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas Character: Buddy the Elf from the movie Elf

Suggested viewing: The 2003 movie Elf, starring Will Farrell

It’s not Christmas at our house until we watch the 2003 movie Elf, starring Will Farrell as Buddy. Buddy is not like the other elves. In fact, he’s not an elf at all, but a human who was raised by the elves at the North Pole. Here’s what I love about Buddy the Elf: he’s filled with joy!

Joy is a state of being in heartfelt excitement. No matter the circumstances, those who are filled with joy are joyous. When the Wise Men were traveling to see the newborn Jesus, they too were filled with joy. After being dismissed from Herod, and as they began their final journey to Bethlehem, Matthew records this: “When they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10). They were filled with such excitement at the response of seeing the King of the Jews. As followers of Jesus in this season that celebrates His birth, let us too be filled with joy. May we be filled with a heartfelt excitement for King Jesus and all that He has done for us. As we are filled with joy, it leads us to praise our Savior.

The Wise Men, upon arriving at the home where Jesus was staying, worshipped Him and brought Him gifts. In this season of Advent, like the Wise Men, be filled with joy at the thought of being with Jesus. Enter into His presence, worship Him, praise His great name, bring Him gifts and offerings, give Him glory. Rejoice in the Lord in all ways. Be filled with the joy of His goodness and grace.

An Anonymous FBC youth

Advent Devotional for Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas Characters: Holiday Travelers

Suggested inspiration: Personal experiences

There is absolutely no way to avoid it. It’s been a part of Christmas tradition since the very first Christmas, and this is probably the busiest day of the year to engage in it. Everyone has had to do it at one time or another. What’s the tradition? Traveling before the holidays.

Since that first trip to Bethlehem all those years ago, people have traveled to be with their loved ones on Christmas. The decision on where to spend Christmas is often the first major bone of contention for newly married couples. Do we head for your parents’ house or mine? Could we just stay here and make our own Christmas? Will we drive or fly? Can we afford to purchase gifts for everyone in your family?

When traveling for Christmas, one inevitably encounters other Christmas travelers. Almost everyone is in a hurry and many wear facial expressions that make bystanders wonder if they are related to either Scrooge or the Grinch. Like Mary and Joseph so long ago, there are always unexpected surprises.

If you are traveling this holiday season, pray for patience, endurance, and a safe arrival at your destination. To quote a hymn title, “Take the Name of Jesus with You” and let that name bring you the promised “joy and comfort.” On this day especially, love your (traveling) neighbors and give them a smile as you pass. It might just make their day.

Mary Jo Powell

Advent Devotional for Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas Character: Herod Antipas

Suggested readings: References included in text

The Herod of Jesus’s public ministry was Herod Antipas, one of Herod the Great’s three sons. He ruled from 4 BC to 39 AD over the Jewish provinces of Galilee and Parea. His official title was “tetrarch” (meaning “ruler of a fourth”) of his father’s kingdom. By most standards, he was just an ordinary, local, Jewish ruler, but two incidents during his reign secured him a high place in the history books. First, he killed John the Baptist. This incident is recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus, as well as by the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Second, he met with Jesus, who Pilate sent to him. This encounter is recorded only by the Gospel of Luke.

According to the Synoptic Gospels, Herod Antipas was a “shadow of death” over Jesus. In these accounts, Antipas and the “Herodians” (possibly Herodian officials or adherents) saw Jesus as a threat to be eliminated (see Mark 3:6, Luke 13:31, Matthew 14:2). However, it is not stated exactly why Jesus was a threat. As a matter of fact, the Gospel of Luke builds up tension between Antipas and Jesus marked by equal fascination and rejection (see Luke 9:9 vs. Luke 13:31-32). When they meet in Jerusalem during the trial of Jesus, an almost absurd scene evolves. First Antipas is said to be “exceedingly glad” to see Jesus, since for a long time he had hoped to see him perform a miracle. But, when Jesus remains silent, the excitement turns to contempt and mockery. Antipas finally dresses him in a bright, shining robe and sends him back to Pilate, the Roman governor, who sent Jesus to Antipas in the first place when Pilate learned that Jesus was from Galilee. Perhaps not surprisingly, scholars disagree on how to interpret Luke’s view of Antipas’s role in the execution of Jesus. Was his mockery and dressing of Jesus a sign of condemnation or acquittal? While Luke himself states the later (see Luke 23:14-15). Antipas nonetheless played a part and is thereby one of the characters of Christmas.

Joe Robinson

Advent Devotional for Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christmas Characters: The Wise Men

Suggested reading: Matthew 2:1-12

In this scripture, the Wise Men, guided by a star, find Jesus, and “when they saw the child… they bowed down and worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts.”

We, too, have been guided to Jesus, not by star but by the light of His presence in our hearts and lives. So, as we enter this Christmas season, as we worship Him, shouldn’t we, too, “Open our treasures and present Him with gifts?” But what gift does one give to the King of Kings or, in today’s vernacular, “the man who has everything?” Obviously, Jesus has no need of tangible objects. So let’s ask Him what He wants.

“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

“Which is the greatest commandment? To love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind … and to love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

“… I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit…. Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for ME [emphasis added].” (Matthew 25:35-45)

These passages help us to learn that the gift Jesus wants most is our love and devotion to God. And very closely related is the gift we give Him in our love for our neighbor. God gave us the gift of eternal life through His grace and salvation through Jesus Christ—a gift of love. His desire for our gift to Him is our dedication to demonstrate that gift of love every day, not only to Him, but to those around us.

Jim Harrison

Advent Devotional for Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Christmas Character: Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas or the Peanuts comic strip

Suggested reading or viewing: The classic cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas or Luke 2:11-14

Around Christmas time, we tend to get wrapped up in the holiday itself rather than the true meaning behind it. In the cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown gets so caught up in everything that is going wrong around him that he forgets what the true meaning of Christmas is. It is at that moment that his best friend Linus quotes from the book of Luke in the Bible. He doesn’t read from the Bible, he quotes it because the words are on his heart. “For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased’!” (Luke 2:11-14)

Linus is a great example of the type of Christian we should be—a reminder to others of why we truly celebrate Christmas. We should be willing to be like Linus, spreading joy and the Christmas story to those around us who are lost in the earthly holiday. While we need to strive to be a reminder for others, we also need to surround ourselves with people like Linus, so that if we have a moment like Charlie Brown, we will have someone there to evoke for us the real meaning of Christmas.

Jenna Scamardo, FBC Youth

Advent Devotional for Monday, December 17, 2018

Christmas Character: The Star

Suggested reading: Matthew 1-12; Matthew 2:1-2 (KJV)

“Everything Old is New Again!”

Is the “star” a character of Christmas? Today, few Christmas trees are complete without a star at the top or elsewhere in its branches. No nativity scene is complete without a star hanging over it. We know the “Star of the East” had the ability (power?) to attract, lead, and guide. That suggests that it may be a type of character. That may not be as unusual as it seems on the surface.

Think about the “star” in the context of the Magi. These were wise men (or seers) from a Median tribe in Persia who interpreted dreams and acted as priests. After an unsuccessful rebellion against the Persians, the Magi became a priestly tribe much like the Levites of Israel.

They undoubtedly became familiar with the Jewish hope of a Messiah while Israel was under Persian rule (539-332 BC). Matthew shows that Jesus fulfilled messianic expectations concerning both the place of his birth, Bethlehem, and the bearing of gifts. The Magi discovered by faith that which was missed by Herod and the religious leaders of Judaism, who possessed the scriptures.

But is the “star” being missed today in a very similar way? Scholars and scientists have all manner of knowledge…. but, taking it to its logical extreme….they are not seeing that “everything old is new again.” What is unusual about being guided by “a star” when GPS devices dominate present day drivers? An individual can speak a question to his phone and out of nowhere comes an answer. And how about self-driving automobiles? “Star” driven devices are everywhere! But no one seems to make the connection.

Think of the “star” in light of our computer world. We are told to “pray in Jesus’s name.” That’s the send button. We wonder about “storing up treasures in heaven,” but think nothing unusual about storing all manner of things in the Cloud. Computers can teach us a lot about the “star” and the message.

It’s been a long time since “The Star of the East,” but we are still drawn to the “stars.” “Twinkle, twinkle, little star,” our children learn early. We sing in church about the “Star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright.” And we ever boast that the “stars at night are big and bright” here in Texas.

Will you ever think of the star in the same way again? “Everything old is new again.”

Is the star a character of Christmas? The decision is yours.

Sharon Colson

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