Category Archives: devotions

Day 18: God with Us

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” —Matthew 1:22-23

Many beloved Christmas carols contain references to Jesus as, “Immanuel” or “Emmanuel.” Hark! The Herald Angels Sing exuberantly says, “Pleased, as man, with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel!” It is even in the title of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. What does this familiar word mean? Is it another name for Jesus? The Gospel writer Matthew explains exactly what it means, as he stated that Jesus’ birth fulfilled yet another ancient prophecy.

Immanuel is a title for Jesus—Emmanuel is the Greek transliteration while Immanuel is the Hebrew transliteration (the spelling and language are the only differences). And Matthew said that the title means, “God with us.” This title expresses the wonder of Christ’s incarnation more than any other title for Jesus. Immanuel means that God has come in the flesh to dwell with man. As John the apostle declared, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

God the Creator took on the form of the created. The infinite God assumed a finite body. The Lord God omnipotent and omnipresent became a man with limitations. He came to be with us so that we could be with Him. Jesus brought God’s presence to man so man could be brought into God’s presence. That is what it means for Jesus to be our Immanuel. And this is eternally better than a once-a-year visit from Santa on Christmas Eve, for Christ came on Christmas day as a man so you could be with God eternally.


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Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 17: If the Fates Allow?

“So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” —Matthew 1:17

One of the most beautiful Christmas songs is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. It reminisces about all the joyful Christmases shared with family and friends and wishes the same to be enjoyed by all who hear it. However, one line in the song reflects a faulty (but common) understanding of the ordering of the universe: “Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow.” Fate is the ordering of events outside of human control, usually by some unknown supernatural power. And in the song, fate is credited as making possible or impossible the togetherness of family and friends. Some have recognized the error of this and rightly modified the lyrics to say, “If the Lord allows.”

Fate has nothing to do with the development or unfolding of anything. Only the Lord is sovereign and in control of all situations and events. If the Lord permits something to occur, it will—if He does not, it cannot occur. And this wonderful and comforting truth of God’s sovereignty pulses in every verse of Matthew’s seemingly unnecessary genealogy. To demonstrate God’s rule in the world and His commitment to fulfill His plan, Matthew traces God’s providential hand through history beginning with Abraham and ending at the birth of Jesus Christ (see vv. 2-17).

Many things occurred in those thousands of years that should have obliterated God’s plan to save sinners through Christ, but the will of God prevailed. During the period of time from Abraham to David, there were wars, famines, debauchery, idolatry, and destruction. Many things happened that even threatened the existence of the Davidic line—the one Jesus had to be born into. But God’s plan revealed to Abraham to bless all families of the earth through his offspring was indestructible, unstoppable, and immutable (Genesis 12:1-3). Despite all of this, God fulfilled His word by bringing forth, “the son of David, the son of Abraham” at the right time (Matthew 1:1b).

God’s plan never fails—it never fails for you, either. It might take some time to see it fulfilled and things may appear to be hindering it, but as Matthew’s genealogy demonstrates—nothing can stop the plan of God. As Job of old proclaimed, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). You need not depend on fate—you need only to trust the Lord.


profile pic5Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 16: When God Intervenes

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, and angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.” —Matthew 1:19-20a

How was Mary pregnant if Joseph had nothing to do with it? This was so perplexing for Joseph that he worried about it until he fell asleep. Apparently, the woman he pledged to marry had committed adultery, so he wanted to end it all. As a righteous man, it was unthinkable to marry one who had sinned this way and betrayed his trust. However, he didn’t want to cause a public ruckus, so he resolved to end the betrothal quietly.

This would have destroyed the Christmas story and ended all hopes of a Messiah. Joseph was crucial for the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the Christ coming forth from David’s royal lineage (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5-6). Why? Because Joseph himself was a descendant of David. Jesus, therefore, would have been his legal son, inheriting all the rights and privileges of being in David’s family. But if Joseph parts ways with Mary, then the plan of God fails and Jesus could not be the true Messiah.

God stepped in and intervened by sending an angel to Joseph in his sleep. The angel explains this confounding situation to him, that the child conceived in her is “from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20b). Joseph’s confusion and resolution did not worry the sovereign Lord of the universe. The all-knowing Lord knew Joseph was confused and He knew about this decision that would have ruined everything. And to bring about the fulfillment of His plan and the promise of the Messiah, God supernaturally intervened.

The Lord God still does this today. When God wants to get you back on track, He may not send an angel to you, but He will interrupt your life and intervene in unexpected (and perhaps unwanted) ways to accomplish His perfect will. Who can fathom the many times God has already done this for you? Further, He may never explain what He is doing as He did for Joseph. Have faith and trust that the good and sovereign Lord knows what He is doing. It has nothing to do with fate and everything to do with a God who does what He pleases (Psalm 115:3) and works out His plan perfectly for His people (Roman 8:28).


profile pic5Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 15: O, Christmas Tree

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” —John 3:16 (KJV)

No holiday is as decorative and festive as Christmas. Wreaths are hung on the door. Candles are placed on the window sill. The stair rail is adorned with garland. White lights glimmer outside around the edge of the roof. But most popular and more time-consuming than all other decorations is the Christmas tree. It is the centerpiece of decorating the home for Christmas. Many families even erect their Christmas tree immediately after Thanksgiving, before decorating with anything else.

The beautiful and lively Christmas tree in your living room has a rich history and is also a suitable symbol of a great theological truth. Thousands of years ago, evergreens like Christmas trees were placed everywhere during the winter to remind people of all the greenery that would grow again during the spring and summer. Pagans believed their sun god was ill and weak during the cold winter, but that he would recover in the warmer seasons. Evergreen trees, boughs, and wreaths gave them hope that their god would bless them again. The ancient Egyptians followed this custom as did the Romans and even the Vikings.

Around the 16th century, Christians began bringing decorated evergreens into their homes, probably to symbolize the gift of everlasting life that Christ gave by coming to the earth. Evergreens, as you are probably aware, have leaves which remain green and vibrant in all seasons of the year—hence the name, evergreen. The gift of life Jesus brought by His life, death, and resurrection is everlasting, meaning that it lasts forever. He did not come to make your life better—He came to give you life eternal by providing the atonement necessary for the forgiveness of your sins. The lovely Christmas tree is a wonderful symbol of the everlasting life Christ will give to you when you believe in Him. Interestingly, if you have everlasting life, you will one day be ushered into a place wherein the tree of life is in eternal bloom (Revelation 22:2).


profile pic5Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 14: Light of the World

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” —John 1:8

Candles are a pleasant and beautiful Christmas symbol, and they have been for centuries. Today, the long red tapers protrude from table arrangements of evergreen and holly. In the old days, candles were used as ornaments for Christmas trees (hopefully unlit!). In fact, if you look closely at most Christmas lights, they resemble the shape of a candle or flame.

But as prevalent as candles are this time of year, no one really knows why candles became associated with Christmas. Pagans in ancient days would light them during the winter as a symbol of anticipation for spring. It’s highly likely that Christians of old modified the meaning—lighting candles during Christmas to represent the coming of Jesus, who is the true light.

Candles are lit to provide light in the darkness—so also, Jesus came to bring light to those in the darkness of sin. Every human being lives in the domain of darkness with a darkened heart and is in desperate need of deliverance into the light (Romans 1:21; Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9).

The good news is, Jesus is the light which gives light to everyone, as John said above. Even the Lord Himself said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Like a brilliantly burning candle in a grim and dark room, Jesus shines brightly in this dark world to give you hope.

Day 13: Filled with Wonder

“And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” —Luke 2:17-18

After being told of the advent of Christ and witnessing the heavenly chorus, the shepherds decide to look for Jesus (Luke 2:15). They quickly went to Bethlehem and found Mary, Joseph, and the Christ-child in no time (v. 16). With excitement, they reported and testified to what they beheld—the announcement of the angel and the celebration of heaven (vv. 10-14). And the audience who heard these things were in wonder: “all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” At this point, more people were near the manger scene besides just Mary and Joseph, but it is not certain who they were. What is certain is that the news of Jesus’ birth produced wonder in the hearts of all who heard it.

The good news of Christ’s coming should produce wonder in your heart, too. Wonder is that wow-feeling of admiration, astonishment, and amazement that spawns in your heart when you hear or see something spectacular. It is what you feel when looking at vast mountain peaks. It is what you feel when considering the human body—how it is complex and wonderfully made. It is what you feel when pondering the grandeur of the stars, planets, and galaxies.

And it is what you ought to feel when considering the remarkable event of Christ’s birth and its inexhaustible significance. The point of such wonder is worship. Wonder is meant to make you look beyond yourself and this world to the greatness of God. Sadly, not all who wonder will worship—those who do not know God still marvel and the intricacy and order of the universe, but they do not give thanks the God who created it (Romans 1:21). So, don’t let the busyness (or loneliness) of the holiday season slow you from being in awe and wonder at the marvelous nature of the Savior’s birth.

As John Jacob Phillips (1892-1980) wrote many years ago:

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,

How Jesus the Savior did come for to die,

For poor ornery people like you and like I;

I wonder as I wander out under the sky.


profile pic5Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 12: The Gift of Life

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” —John 10:10b

Christmastime in eastern Czechoslovakia was bitter and cold in 1910. A terrible plaque of diphtheria had swept through and devastated many lives in the little village of Velky Slavhov. Half of the village contracted the disease and many of the victims were just children—less than ten years of age. When anyone in the family would start to show symptoms, they’d put a large black “X” on their doorpost to warn others that it had been quarantined.

There was an “X” painted on the doorpost of the home of Jano and Suzanna Barotkova. In less than a week, this couple found themselves childless. Their oldest child, only five, was the first to pass because of the disease. And even as Jano was working in the woodshed building her coffin, his other two sons were dying.

The two young boys eventually breathed their last and Suzanna finally broke out in agonizing sobs. The couple carefully laid their children, one by one, into handmade pine caskets and lifted them onto a wagon and started towards the graveyard. They passed house after house marked with a black X, but they were too weak and too depressed to offer any sympathy or encouragement to the others.

They buried their children, struggled through the Lord’s prayer and headed back home. Jano himself was sick now. He said, “I won’t see another Christmas. I don’t think I’ll see the New Year in, either.” He pushed away his soup and bread because it was too hard for him to swallow. The diphtheria had begun to constrict his throat. Suzanna gathered some kindling and lit a fire for the night, sure that her husband would be dead by morning.

Suddenly she saw someone approaching—a peasant woman tramping through the snow wearing a red and purple shawl. She had a jar of clear liquid in her hand, and she approached the couple’s home and knocked on the door. Suzanna cautiously opened the door and said, “We have the plague in our home, and my husband is in a fever right now.” The old woman nodded and asked if she could step inside, and she held out her little jar. She said, “Take a clean, white linen and wrap it around your finger. Then dip your finger into this pure kerosene oil and swab out your husband’s throat—then have him swallow a tablespoon of the oil. This should cause him to vomit the deadly mucous. Otherwise he will suffocate. I will pray for you and your family.”

Then, the woman left behind her remedy and left the home. Suzanna followed the woman’s instructions and early Christmas morning, Jano retched up the deadly mucous. His fever broke and Suzanna had a flicker of hope. There were no presents or children that year, but an old woman with her jar of oil was a gift of life to that couple. Jano recovered and eventually, he and Suzanna emigrated to America and had many children.

That story has been handed down through the generations of that family—how a little peasant woman came on Christmas Eve bearing the gift of life for those who were dying. And this is exactly what Jesus has done! He came on Christmas day bearing the gift of life for those sick, dying, and hopeless. The deadly plague of sin has affected all of mankind and we cannot cure ourselves. The good news is, Jesus came to give life—eternal and abundant life. There is hope if you have the gift of life that Jesus came to bring on Christmas day.


profile pic5Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 11: The Sweet Symbol of the Savior

“Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” —1 Peter 1:18-19

About 350 years ago, a sweet treat was created that would become a memorable Christmas symbol: the candy cane. Legend has it that a German choirmaster dispensed the sugary sticks to children during church services to help them sit quietly. Some thought the sweets were not appropriate for the sanctuary, so the man bent the candies into canes to appear as a shepherd’s staff so they would have a religious connotation. Many years later, the alternating red stripes were added which, it is believed, also have religious meaning. Supposedly, the bold red stripe represents the blood of Christ, the white stripes represent Christ’s purity, and the three fine stripes represent the Trinity.

Whether or not the candy cane was meant to be a treat with spiritual significance, it can nonetheless remind us of the Savior who came to earth at Christmas. The pure white color can remind us of the sinlessness of Jesus. Because He was conceived of a virgin, He was completely free of the guilt of sin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:34; John 1:14). He was the pure Lamb of God without blemish or spot, as Peter declared. Although He was one-hundred percent man, just like you, He was “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And since He was not tainted or corrupted by sin, He was the perfect sacrifice to completely satisfy God’s justice and wrath.

The bold red stripe can remind us of why He came in the first place. Jesus did not come to earth to be an example—He came to earth to be a substitute. He was born on Christmas day so He could live a righteous life in your place and die a sinner’s death in your place. The precious baby laid in a manger would one day shed His precious blood to ransom you from the futility of sin (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Further, He was the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity as the three red stripes remind us. He was not just a man; He was the God-man—the One who was both God and man. God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Jesus is Immanuel, the incarnate deity. How astonishing that God came down to man as a man to save man from sin! Candy canes are a sweet symbol of the Savior—remember that the next time you see one.


profile pic5Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 10: Away in a Manger

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” —Luke 2:7

In a little town called Bethlehem, the cries of a newborn were heard from an animal feeding trough. The second Person of the Trinity, with unlimited sovereignty and power, had come to the earth as a baby—dependent on the care of Mary and Joseph. As marvelous as this is, in many ways His birth was completely normal. He was wrapped in swaddling cloths, as all infants were—to provide warmth and security. However, what was not normal was the fact that He was laid in a dirty and unsanitary manger.

Infants should be born in a place comfortable and clean, but the only place for the Son of the Most High was a manger—nothing could be lower. There were no doctors or nurses—no high-quality medical care was available to Him. There was no aroma of gingerbread and apple cider in the air—only the stench of manure and the smell of birth. This was not a bright and beautiful night as depicted by many Christmas cards and carols. The Lord Jesus was born in circumstances which were humiliating and humble.

Considering that Jesus is the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, [and] Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7), you expect an entrance into the world that is glorious and unforgettable! But His unexpected entrance into the world demonstrates His humility and humanity. Instead of an awe-inspiring and royal arrival observed by the whole world, the only people to welcome Jesus into the world were His earthly parents (and later, some lowly shepherds). No red carpet or triumphal band accompanied the arrival of the King of Kings, but this is the way God ordained it.

Even in His birth, Jesus was demonstrating what kind of Savior He was. He would not rise to power by conquering nations—He would not dominate His enemies and opponents by consuming them with power from on high. He would temporarily empty Himself of divine glory by becoming a man and being born in the lowliest of all places. And He would demonstrate such humility as He carried the cross to Golgotha. The apostle Paul summed it up perfectly when he said:

“Though he [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).


 

profile pic5Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 9: The Gift of God

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” —Romans 6:23

Where did the Christmas custom of giving and receiving gifts come from? Many speculate that it is an imitation of the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the wise men gave to Jesus (Matthew 2:11). It is also possible that the giving of gifts models the historical Saint Nicholas who gave gifts to poor children. Whatever the historical roots of tearing open presents on Christmas day, it serves as a fitting reminder of God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus. It is not a mistake that the word of God calls this a gift.

Eternal life is a gift, as Paul says in Romans 6:23. This conveys several things. First, it is given to you and is supposed to be accepted. God extends eternal life to you and you are supposed to receive it. Second, it cannot be earned—that’s why it’s a gift. You can’t work for or earn it. Third, as all gifts are an expression of life, so it is with God’s gift of eternal life—He gives it because He loves you.

All gifts have a cost and so does this one, except the cost is not paid by you—the cost was paid by God when He sent His Son to purchase eternal life. Eternal life comes freely to you because it was paid for by the death of Christ. Have you received this gift of eternal life by trusting in Jesus as your Savior? Nothing would be more of a gift to God than that you receive the gift of eternal life that He is offering to you.


profile pic5Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.