Advent Day 24: The Glorious City

Advent Day 24: The Glorious City

Key Scripture: Revelation 21:1-5, 9-11

Forty days after Jesus was resurrected, he rose back into heaven. The kingdom of God was not coming in the way his people probably expected. It was coming in stages. Before Jesus ruled as King on Earth, he was going to rule as King in the hearts of those who trusted him for salvation.

Before he left, Jesus gave his disciples (those who followed him) a mission. He commanded them to spread the good news of his saving work to people from every nation on earth, calling others to turn from their sin and trust him alone for forgiveness. Jesus promised to be with his disciples. He was going to send the Holy Spirit to live inside them. And Jesus promised to come back one day to rule on Earth as King forever.

As the disciples obeyed, the gospel began to spread to people from every tribe and nation in the world! Those who have believed the gospel and have trusted Jesus to save them from sin make up the new people of God, known as the Church. The Church is not a building but a group of people where God’s Spirit lives and where Christ rules in hearts as a perfect King. The Church is now God’s chosen nation— the new Israel of God.

Although Christ rules as King in the hearts of those who make up his Church, things are still not as they should be in the world. The snake is still lying and convincing people God’s Word isn’t true. There is still pain, sadness, sickness, and death. People still sin and don’t reflect God’s glory perfectly, even those who are part of the Church. But it won’t be like this forever. King Jesus is coming back to Earth to get rid of the lying snake and sin for good.

As King, Jesus will make everything new and right on Earth. He will establish a new city made up of all the people who have trusted him alone to be their Savior. This city will be perfectly safe, clean, and beautiful because God will live there. There will be no tears, pain, or death in this city. Here, there will be no sun because God’s glory will be the light. There will be no temple because Jesus is the temple who makes it possible for God to dwell with his people. In this city, the children of God will finally have the glory of God. They will radiate it perfectly, that all may see and worship King Jesus forevermore!


Main Point: Jesus Christ is coming back to Earth to rule as King and make all things new and good. He will establish a perfect city where God will live with his people, and they will reflect his glory forever.

Christ Connection: Jesus Christ will establish the new and perfect city of God–the city Abraham and all of God’s people look forward to (Hebrews 11:8-10).

Advent Day 23: Glory Through Death

Advent Day 23: Glory Through Death

Key Scripture: Acts 2:22-32

As he grew up, Jesus was a normal boy in many ways. He learned to walk and talk and read. He slept, ate, laughed, and cried like every other child. He had parents, brothers, and sisters. But Jesus was different from other children in many ways too. From a young age, he understood God’s Word in a way that amazed others. And Jesus never sinned—ever. He obeyed his parents and loved others perfectly. Most of all, he loved God perfectly. His one purpose was to please God by doing his will.

When he grew up, Jesus began to announce the good news that God’s kingdom was coming on Earth. The kingdom God had promised–the one where the Shepherd King and Savior from David’s family would rule forever–was finally coming true. Jesus called people to turn away from their sin and believe the good news that he was the promised one from God who would save them! He healed the sick, made the blind see, made the crippled walk, and forgave sins. Jesus was showing the world that he had the power to heal sinful hearts and everything else sin had broken.

But God’s own people, who knew his promises to them, did not believe Jesus. They did not recognize him as the Messiah sent from God. In fact, the religious leaders were filled with hatred  toward Jesus. They felt threatened by him and decided to have him killed. Although he had done nothing wrong, Jesus was arrested like a criminal. He was whipped and beaten until he bled. He was spit on and mocked by those he had created. Then, he was nailed to a cross where he died between two criminals.

How could Jesus save God’s people and rule forever as Shepherd King if he wasn’t alive? Once again, it looked as if God might not keep his promises to Abraham and David. But God was not surprised by Jesus’s death. It was his perfect plan to use this evil for good. Jesus could have saved himself from death if he’d wanted, but he wanted to glorify God by saving others. So, he offered himself to God as the final Lamb– the perfect human sacrifice for sinners. When Jesus died, he took God’s full punishment for sin on himself, so God’s people could be forgiven and live with him again. But Jesus didn’t stay dead! Three days later, God raised him from death to rule forever! Through Jesus Christ, God has kept every promise he’s ever made.


Main Point: Jesus was born to die a terrible death on a cross. He took God’s punishment for sinners on himself, so sinful people could be forgiven and live with God again. After three days, God raised Jesus from the dead to rule forever.    

Christ Connection: Jesus is the “Yes!” answer to all of God’s promises (2 Corinthians 1:20; Hebrews 9:26b-28).

Advent Day 22: Guiding Star

Advent Day 22: Guiding Star

Key Scripture: Matthew 2:1-11

Just as God announced the arrival of Jesus to the shepherds in an amazing way, he announced his arrival to another group of people in a different amazing way. God used a bright star to tell a group of men called Magi about the birth of the long-awaited Savior and King.

The Magi lived in East Asia, far from Bethlehem. They were priests who offered sacrifices to a fake god. The Magi were very important, powerful people in their government in the east. They chose the kings in their land and gave them advice. The Magi were known as wise men. They were experts in mysteries like magic and dream telling, and they studied space and the stars. When Jesus was born, God made a new star appear in the sky. He used this star to make it known to the Magi that the King of his people had come into the world.

The Magi made a long trip to the city of Jerusalem. They asked people where they could find this new King because they wanted to worship him! Now, at the time, a wicked man named Herod was ruling as a king over God’s people. Herod was not from Abraham and David’s big family. He did not know the one, true God. When Herod heard that the Magi were looking for a new king, he became very jealous and afraid. Herod didn’t want this new king to take his throne, so he told the Magi to find the baby and come back to tell him where he was. Herod pretended he wanted to worship the baby king too, but he really wanted to kill him.

God then made the new star move in the sky, filling the Magi with joy as it guided them to the house where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were staying. When the Magi entered the house and saw Jesus, they bowed low to worship him. They gave him very nice presents–presents fit for a king called gold, frankincense, and myrrh. God warned the Magi in a dream not to tell wicked Herod they had found Jesus.

How unexpected and amazing that God led a group of priests from far off—a group of priests who once worshipped a fake god–to bow before the one, true God and King! The promises God had made to Abraham were already starting to come true! God was beginning to make King Jesus known to people from other nations so he could bless them by his grace.


Main Point: The Magi were wise and powerful men from the east who worshiped a fake god. God used a star to guide them to Jesus so they could worship him as the one true King!

Christ connection: The good news of Jesus Christ is not just for the nation of Israel but for people from every tribe and nation on earth–even those who are far away like us (Ephesians 2:12-13, 17-19).

Advent Day 21: Birth Announcement

Advent Day 21: Birth Announcement

Key Scripture: Luke 2:8-18

On the night Mary gave birth to her baby, a group of shepherds were watching over their sheep in a field near Bethlehem. All of a sudden, an angel appeared, and the bright light of God’s glory lit up the dark field! The shepherds were surprised and very scared, but the angel told them not to be afraid because he was bringing good news. This news was going to fill their hearts up with happiness! And this good news wasn’t just for the shepherds. It was for all sinful people in need of a savior.

The angel announced that the long-awaited Savior and King of God’s people had been born in the city of David! The shepherds would recognize him because he was wrapped in swaddling cloths and resting in a manger. Suddenly, an entire army of angels lit up the sky! These angels sang praises to God in heaven, glorifying him for sending the Savior who would restore peace on earth between sinful humans and a holy God.

This was the best and brightest birth announcement you could ever imagine! The angels were announcing the arrival of the one God had promised from the very beginning…the child of Adam and Eve who would bruise the snake’s head…the one from Abraham’s family would bring blessing to all the families of the world… the Shepherd King from David’s family who would become the Lamb and save God’s people! This birth announcement did not come first to the rich, powerful, or really good people. No, shepherds were the ones to first hear about the birth of God’s human Lamb. Lowly, smelly, sinful shepherds were the first to hear the good news of the gospel proclaimed loud and clear!

The shepherds were so excited that they immediately ran to see the baby. They found him lying in the manger, just as the angel had said. After seeing the baby with their own eyes, the shepherds couldn’t keep this good news to themselves. They told everyone, and they praised God for keeping his promises to his people!


Main Point: An angel announced the good news of baby Jesus’s birth to a group of shepherds watching over their sheep at night. Many angels lit up the sky, singing praises to God for sending the Savior of his people!

Christ Connection: The gospel of Jesus Christ was announced first to Jewish shepherds who couldn’t keep the good new to themselves. Soon, this good news would be announced to people from all nations on earth (Romans 1:16).

Advent Day 20: Glory Revealed

Advent Day 20: Glory Revealed

Key Scripture: Luke 2:1-7

During the time Mary and Joseph lived, God’s people were under the control of the nation of Rome. The leader of Rome made a law that everyone must travel to his hometown to be counted in order to pay taxes. So, Joseph and Mary made a trip to Bethlehem, the town of Joseph’s ancestors. Bethlehem was known as “the city of David” because that was where King David was born and chosen as king.

After Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have her baby! Unfortunately, the inn where travelers could stay was completely full of other visitors. Mary and Joseph found no place to stay except a stable where the animals were kept. Mary gave birth to her firstborn son–the promised King and Savior from David’s family–among animals. The one that God’s people had been waiting and longing for was finally here! Mary wrapped the baby tightly in strips of cloth to keep him warm and laid him in the manger, the box of hay where the animals ate. Eight days after his birth, the baby was called Jesus, just as the angel had said.

Wouldn’t a palace have been a better place for the Son of God and future King of Israel to be born? How strange for him to enter this world in a stable with animals! Then again, it’s not so strange when you remember that this King was also a lamb–The Lamb who would die for human sinners. This baby’s birth place was no surprise to God. God was showing the world that he was coming down–even to the lowest of places– to rescue his people and live with them again. This time, the Creator of the universe wasn’t going to live among his people in a garden or a temple. He was going to live among them in a human body, a body just like theirs.

Like every other human, this baby would get tired and hungry. He would need to sleep and eat. He would eventually feel everything other human beings feel: pain, sadness, anger, joy, and love. But, even as this baby grew up, he would have no sin. He would reflect God’s image perfectly, showing the world exactly what God is like. This baby was both fully human and fully God. He was going to be a walking picture of God’s glory for everyone to see.


Main Point: Mary gave birth to her baby in a stable in Bethlehem and laid him in a manger. This baby was both fully God and fully human. He was a living picture of God’s glory.

Christ Connection: Jesus Christ reveals the nature and glory of God in a way humans can see (John 1:14,18; Hebrews 1:1-3).

Ten Years

Ten Years

We got married the day after I graduated from college. (Barely) twenty-two and twenty-four, we knew little about marriage or life in the real world, but we were naive enough not to be too nervous. We were jobless and broke but absolutely certain of our commitment to each other and our calling to a life of ministry together. We knew the seriousness of the covenant into which we were entering before God, but we couldn’t possibly have comprehended the full depth and beauty of it. We still don’t. But ten years in, we do see things differently than we did that day at the altar.

I’ve learned a lot of things in this decade of marriage. For instance, it’s really not a big deal if dirty clothes never make it to the hamper. And most fights are easier to resolve after a good night of sleep. Laughing together is sometimes the best medicine for the chaos-induced stress of parenting small children (which, by the way, is much more challenging than marriage in my opinion). And two very different people can have the happiest of unions if they are in sync when it comes to what truly matters.

I’ve learned that it’s not necessary to have a life plan and a savings account before getting married. God is an all-sufficient provider and a faithful guide. He owns “the cattle on a thousand hills,” and He is much more concerned about our faith than our financial situation. We moved to Kentucky for seminary with five-hundred dollars to our name. God provided jobs, and we never missed a meal. In fact, there were multiple times that an unexpected check showed up in the mailbox just when we needed it, reminding us that God is the one who supplies everything we need. 

I’ve learned that marriage is deeply beautiful. It’s beautiful when the feelings are sappy, the sex is good, and you just can’t believe you get to do life with your best friend. But it’s also beautiful when the relationship seems humdrum, conflict is real, and you don’t necessarily feel passionately in love. The beauty of marriage isn’t found in the happiness and (impossible) perfection of husband and wife but, rather, in the day-in-day-out covenant keeping that isn’t dependent on circumstances or feelings. The beauty of marriage is in the staying married. It’s in the repeated extending and receiving of grace by both parties. It’s in the daily choice to demonstrate sacrificial love no matter what.

The problem lies in the fact that we can’t do this. We are not naturally covenant keepers or grace givers. Fallen human nature is fickle, feelings-driven, and bent toward unfaithfulness. This is why God so often refers to his children as spiritual adulterers throughout His Word. We are prone to wander from the God who made us to live in relationship with Him, clinging to our particular “flavor of the month” instead. The natural result of unfaithfulness in our vertical relationship with God is unfaithfulness in our horizontal relationships, namely in marriage.  

In the past ten years, marriage has painfully exposed more selfishness and idolatry in my own heart than I would care to see or admit. By God’s grace, Adam and I have kept our vows to one another, but only because One greater than us has kept (and will forever keep) His. God is the ultimate covenant keeper through His Son Jesus, the ultimate Bridegroom. This Bridegroom loves His bride so much that He died to redeem her from enslavement to lesser lovers.

I have learned experientially that both the joys and imperfections of human marriage are intended to draw our eyes and hearts away from this temporal reality and cause us to look forward with expectation and longing to the final and eternal marriage between Christ and His bride. Marriage, sex, family and other good gifts of this life on earth are not ultimate, but they serve as signposts for that which is

The joy and intimacy we experience in marriage now are just hints of what is to come—a joy and intimacy beyond what we can imagine with the Savior. The sins and struggles we experience in our relationship now validate the truth that this is not all there is. This marriage is imperfect and temporary, and human spouses are never able to fulfill each other completely. But as we faithfully and joyfully keep covenant with one another day after day and year after year, our lives paint a small picture of the perfect and eternal union that will satisfy our souls forever.

One of the first things that drew me to my (then future) husband was his level of commitment to me even before I was committed to him. We were just teenagers when we met, but he chose me and pursued me. He didn’t give up on that pursuit even when it took me some time to come around. Many of his interests and hobbies have waxed and waned through the years, but his love for and commitment to me have never wavered. Adam is fully committed to me (and I to him) because of Christ–the one who pursues his wayward bride, transforms her, and never leaves her. The steadfast love of our faithful Bridegroom is the reason we can say with assurance in our earthly marriage: I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. . . and there will be no other for as long as we both shall live.

Advent Day 20: Father by Faith

Advent Day 20: Father by Faith

Key Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25

Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph when the angel Gabriel told her she would have a baby. The Bible says Joseph was a righteous man. This means he worshipped the one, true God and did his very best to faithfully keep God’s law. Like Mary, Joseph believed God would keep the promises he had made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. Joseph was from King David’s big family, and he knew the promised Messiah would come from his line. Could he have expected, or dared to hope, that the Messiah would be his own son?

When Joseph found out Mary was going to have a baby, he must have been surprised and sad. Joseph knew this baby had not come from him. He naturally assumed Mary had been unfaithful to him, and the baby had come from another man. Joseph decided he would not take Mary as his wife after all. He planned to end their relationship quietly because he loved Mary. Joseph did not want her to experience the shame and punishment that would come from breaking God’s law with unfaithfulness.

But one night as Joseph slept, an angel from God appeared to him in a dream. The angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because the baby inside her was not from another man. Mary’s baby was from the Holy Spirit of God! The angel told Joseph the baby’s name would be Jesus (which means “God saves”) because he would save God’s people from their sins. This baby was the one they had been waiting for–the promised Shepherd King who would become the Lamb and suffer to rescue God’s people.

Joseph believed the word of God through the angel, and he obeyed. He took Mary as his wife, and after Jesus was born, Joseph legally adopted him as his own son. It could not have been easy for Joseph. Many people probably did not believe the truth that this baby had come from the Holy Spirit. But Joseph cared more about obeying God than what other people thought about him. He believed God’s word to him through the angel even when he couldn’t see what the future would hold. Through Joseph’s faith and obedience to God’s Word, Jesus the Messiah was born into the family of David as a forever son.


Main Point: An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because the baby inside her was from the Holy Spirit. Joseph believed God’s Word to him and obeyed. He became Jesus’s earthly father.

Christ Connection: Jesus Christ is a son of David through His earthly father Joseph (Matthew 1:15-17).