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Day 7: A Christmas Miracle

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” —Isaiah 11:1

“It’s a Christmas miracle!” This is exclaimed in nearly every Christmas movie when the unexpected happens in circumstances that appeared hopeless. Perhaps the common usage of this exclamation demonstrates that most people believe this is a miraculous time of year. To be sure, Christmas is inherently miraculous—what could be more miraculous than God taking on flesh, being born as a man to a virgin?

Many years before Christ came to earth, God promised that His arrival would be miraculous. Through the prophet Isaiah, God told the Jews that a shoot was coming from Jesse’s stump. Mentioning Jesse is another way of referring to David’s royal lineage, since Jesse was his father. But at this point, David’s royal lineage looked like a stump—the tree of his family line had been cut down to a stump, only to rot away. What’s worse, with the wasting away of David’s family, there appeared no hope of a Messiah coming to bring salvation, since the Messiah was prophesied elsewhere to be David’s son.

But a miracle was coming—a shoot, a twig, would grow out of this stump. This royal lineage would bear fruit again with the coming of a king greater than David. Many years later, “Jesus Christ, the son of David” (Matthew 1:1) was born—and His birth happened miraculously. God is good at causing the unexpected to happen in situations that seem bleak or hopeless. Though life may appear to be a stump, God still works miracles. And the coming of Christ at Christmas was truly a Christmas miracle and He is worthy of praise for it.


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 6: A Greater Price for a Greater Gift

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31).

Christmas gifts seem to get more expensive every year. In fact, it’s estimated that the average American will spend $920 per person on presents this year.[1] But no matter how much you shell out buying gifts for your loved ones this year, it’s likely that you are a receiver of gifts just as much as a giver of them. That’s the great thing about Christmas—we all get something new. And that’s good, because we all like new things—we like to give and receive new things. The glee and bliss felt by a child when getting a toy truck or Barbie resonates through adulthood.

Such glee was surely felt by the Israelites when God promised them a gift was coming that was new, free, and exceedingly greater than anything physical or even earthly: the salvation of the new covenant which Jesus would bring by His advent. Long ago in Jeremiah 31, the Lord God promised that a new covenant was coming—a new way of experiencing Him, a new way of doing things. This new covenant would include a personal relationship with Him, the total forgiveness of sins, and the ability to obey God from the heart (vv. 33-34). And while this new covenant was free to them and is free to you, it was very expensive to God because He paid for it with the blood of His Son, Jesus. As Christ Himself said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20).

When Jesus was born Christmas Day, He was already on His way to purchase this great gift of new covenant salvation for you. And remember, when Christmas presents start to get expensive, God paid a greater price for a greater gift—the gracious gift of salvation in the new covenant. No gift you give or receive could compare with the immeasurable gift of salvation that God gave through Christ. “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” (2 Cor. 9:15, NLT).


[1] https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1112/average-cost-of-an-american-christmas.aspx


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 5: Let It Snow!

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” —Isaiah 1:18

Nothing is more enchanting and pleasant than waking up on Christmas morning to a blanket of snow covering the neighborhood. Nearly everyone dreams of a white Christmas because it just feels like Christmas when there is snow on the ground. Without snow, there are no snowmen, snowball fights, or dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh. Snow and Christmas pair together like hot cocoa and marshmallows.

Snow is also a biblical symbol for purity and righteousness. To the Jews, snow was the purest form of white. It appears pure, clean, and perfect when it falls from the sky. It even covers the filth and dirt of the earth. It is no wonder that people in the Bible desired to be as pure as snow, like David who prayed: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7). The prophet Daniel also used this imagery in describing his vision of God on His throne, as One who is uncompromisingly pure and righteous: “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow” (Daniel 7:9a).

In Isaiah 1:18, the Lord told His people that their sins were undeniably noticeable—as red as red can be—like scarlet. Their lives were stained, filthy, and impure. They needed to be cleansed and scrubbed of the sin that colored their lives. God assured them that they could be made white like snow if they turned to Him (vv. 19-20). Though they were covered in filth, they could be snow-white through the Lord’s thorough washing.

You are also in need of such cleansing from the Lord. Ironically, the only way to receive cleansing from the red stain of your sins is through the blood of Jesus. As John the apostle said, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7b). His death makes you whiter than snow in the sight of God because He clothed Himself in the filthy rags of your sin and in exchange gives you the white robes of His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). You receive this cleansing when you turn away from your sins and express faith in Christ alone (Acts 17:30; Ephesians 2:8-9).

What’s more ironic is that it snows during the Christmas season—the time when you remember and celebrate Christ’s coming into the world to save you from your sin. Is it possible that it snows this time of year as a sign from God that Christ came on Christmas day to make you whiter than snow?


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 4: Go, Tell It on the Mountain

“And when they [the shepherds] saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.” —Luke 2:17

Shepherds were the first Christian preachers in history. Before the message of salvation in Christ was announced by John the Baptist and the apostles (John 1:29-34; Acts 2:22-36; 4:12), lowly shepherds declared the good news of the coming of Christ. The shepherds told others of His arrival even before Jesus did (Mark 1:14-15). Luke explains that they reported to everyone what they had experienced. They made known to others what the Lord had made known to them (Luke 2:15), namely, that a Savior had been born in the city of David (v. 10).

Notice what they didn’t do. They didn’t keep the good news to themselves. They didn’t stay quiet for fear that no one would believe them. They didn’t wait until the right time to share the message—they went with haste to proclaim it (v. 16). In one night, they went from being recipients to deliverers of the good news of Christ’s coming.

Their preaching of the gospel of Christ is worthy of imitation. This is an excellent example for you to follow as one who has also received the good news of Jesus. What they did with the gospel is what you are to do with it: proclaim it to everyone. This is the point of the Christmas classic, Go, Tell It on the Mountain:

“Go, tell it on the mountain,

Over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain,

That Jesus Christ is born.”

Do not keep the gospel to yourself or fear others won’t believe you. Do not wait until the time and conditions are right. Go with haste and publish the greatest news in the world to your family, friends, and neighbors. And do not think you are unqualified to share the good news of the gospel—poor, uneducated, and lowly shepherds were the first evangelists. The power is in the message, not the messenger. Therefore, unashamedly tell the world that the gospel is, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).


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 3: A Savior Better Than Santa

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them.” —Luke 2:8-9a

Santa is not very inclusive—he only brings gifts for good boys and girls. He even puts you on the naughty list if you’ve been behaving badly. Those who receive presents from Santa are children most qualified to receive them. The Lord Jesus, by contrast, gives the greatest gift to those who are the least qualified to receive it. He came to earth to grant eternal life to undeserving sinners.

The mission of Christ to save the least likely people is seen in the fact that shepherds were the first to hear the good news of His coming. The advent of Jesus was not announced to kings or emperors, but to some of the most insignificant persons in Judean society. Although shepherds were important, the culture viewed them as minuscule. In fact, they couldn’t even testify in court. Yet, an angel of the Lord appeared to them and they became the first recipients of the news that the Savior had been born.

The Gospels reinforce the idea that He cares for the low-ranking people of the world. The first disciples were fishermen. The kind of people He healed were lepers, paralytics, and those possessed by demons. He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He cared for widows and the sexually immoral. Jesus came for the least qualified—as He Himself said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).

The good news of Jesus is for you, too. You don’t have to be outstandingly qualified to receive His gift of eternal life. The Lord Jesus will grant salvation to you, no matter who you are or what you have done. By repentance and faith (Acts 17:30; Eph. 2:8-9), eternal life can be yours even if you are sexually immoral, idolatrous, adulterous, greedy, or addicted (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Jesus is a significant Savior who came for insignificant people—that’s another reason why Jesus is better than Santa.


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 2: Extraordinary in the Ordinary

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered . . . And all went to be registered, each to his own town.” —Luke 2:1, 3

There is nothing unusual about filing and paying taxes, except when you receive a generous refund. Likewise, paying taxes in New Testament times was completely normal. Luke explains that it was tax time for the Jews as Caesar issued a decree for the purpose of assessing taxes. This was business as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary was occurring—or so it seemed.

Amazingly, this decree is what God used to bring Joseph and Mary to the prophesied birthplace of the Messiah. The prophet Micah foretold that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem:

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Micah 5:2).

There’s just one problem—Mary was not in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4). Thankfully, this taxation would take them there because, in order to comply, every Jew had to travel back to their hometown. For Joseph, this was Bethlehem, the city of David. Luke says that Mary and Joseph proceeded to Bethlehem (v. 4) and it is there that Mary, “gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths” (v. 7).

God sovereignly moved in the heart of Caesar (Prov. 21:1) to fulfill His word concerning Jesus. The Sovereign Lord of the universe used an ordinary taxation for an extraordinary purpose. Even today, God uses ordinary people and events for extraordinary purposes. God didn’t create the world and then abandon it—He is actively involved in the creation at each moment to accomplish His sovereign will. He will use whatever it takes to fulfill His perfect plan—even things that are completely normal.

Right now, God is active in the ordinary things of your life—the day-to-day happenings that appear humdrum. As John Piper has said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”[1] So, take heart if you have an ordinary life because God used a standard taxation to bring Jesus Christ into the world. Who knows what He will do through the ordinary things in your life? To be sure, whatever He does is always for your good and His glory (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28; 11:36).


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.


[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-is-always-doing-10000-things-in-your-life

Day 1: When Heaven Had Christmas

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.” —Luke 2:13a

Christmas is the biggest celebration of the year with its own decorations, symbols, music, traditions, foods, and even colors. However, because some elements of this season have their roots in ancient pagan festivals, many do not celebrate Christmas. And while it is true that many Christmas practices began in paganism, the pagan meanings were lost long ago. Besides, Christians through the centuries have celebrated Christmas and we have consistently out-celebrated the pagans. This is because the birth of Christ is worth celebrating.

In fact, heaven itself celebrated Christmas—heaven erupted in acclamation and praise when Jesus was born. One angel made the announcement that Christ had come (Luke 2:9-12), but he was immediately joined by thousands of others. As Luke says, a multitude of the heavenly host suddenly appeared and accompanied the angel with exuberant praise to God. The angels in heaven were so thrilled at the arrival of the Messiah that they came alongside the one angel in glorifying God for the good news. Someone once said, “Heaven’s choir came down to sing when heaven’s King came down to save.”

The angels in heaven saw the first advent of Jesus as reason for rejoicing, gladness, and cheer. Do you see it that way? If Christ’s coming was celebrated in heaven, why wouldn’t you celebrate it on earth? Christmas is worth celebrating because Jesus is worth celebrating. John Wesley’s hymn, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing invites you to joyfully celebrate with the heavenly host:

“Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King!”


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.

When God Prayed: Jesus’ Devotion to Prayer (Luke 5:16)

That annoying alarm wakes us up. We grab a shower and a cup of coffee, then we’re out the door on our way to work. We might listen to a sermon on the radio during our morning commute, or we might read the Bible at lunch time. And soon enough, it will be time to go home. We go home, do a few things around the house, cook supper, pay bills, and then we’re off to bed to restart the process. But here’s a pressing question: when did we stop and talk to God, and really spend some time praying to Him? If you’re answer is anything like mine, you might feel a bit of shame. Most of us would likely admit that we haven’t been praying as much as we should be. For me, reading the Bible isn’t a problem. I’ve got a Bible reading plan that keeps me in line. But prayer . . . that’s another story. It is difficult for me to find time in my busy day to really spend time with God. That’s an honest confession.

I read something in the Scripture today that drove me to prayer this morning. It’s something I’ve read dozens, probably hundreds of times before. But a few details helped my understanding and application of it. What I read today was Luke 5, the verse that convicted me to prayer was v. 16 where Luke notes that Jesus prayed at His busiest moment at the beginning of His ministry. It reads in this way:

“But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16).

In this passage, Luke records Jesus cleansing a leper saying that once He healed this leper, “even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities” (v. 15). Jesus cleansed this leper, and word got out about His healing power. Because of this, crowds came to hear Him preach and teach, and they came to be healed of their many diseases and infirmities. Jesus was getting popular at this point. More and more people began to know about Him as time went on. And Luke says that there was one thing He would always do, even when He was busy with His teaching and healing ministry: He would withdraw Himself from the crowds, to places where He could be alone, and He would pray. There are several passages of Scripture in the gospels that tell us that Jesus prayed alone, prayed for others, and prayed long prayers (Matt. 11:25-26; Matt. 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; 22:41-44; 23:24; John 17:1-26). The fact that Jesus prayed is astounding for two main reasons. First of all, because He was God in the flesh, and still prayed. Because He was God, it would make you think that Jesus would not need to pray, but it is very apparent from the gospels that prayer is something that He needed and something that He did. Though Jesus was God, He prayed to His Father and He made use of prayer.

Second, it is astounding that Jesus prayed because He was occupied with more tasks than any of us ever will be, and He still found time to pray. We might say, “But Jesus didn’t have a full time job like I do. Jesus’ didn’t cook supper for children, or pick them up from school everyday like me. Jesus didn’t have emails to send and receive.” Historically, that’s absolutely true. Jesus wasn’t a factory worker, working from nine to five. Jesus didn’t go to see His children play football at the high school. Jesus didn’t have an iPhone and wasn’t able to Tweet or check emails. But let me tell you what Jesus was involved in doing: Jesus was teaching crowds of hundreds of people everyday, and they were increasing as He became more popular. When is the last time you taught growing crowds of people multiple times a week? He was healing all kinds of diseases, people were coming to Him to be healed of all their infirmities and sicknesses. When is the last time you cleansed a leper? He was calling and teaching His disciples. He was dealing with the persecution of the religious rulers. Everywhere He went, He had to walk. When is the last time we did any of those things? And here’s the biggie: no one else could duplicate Jesus’ ministry. No one else could do what He was doing. It would be different if Simon Peter could heal the same way Jesus was, and teach the same way He was. But there was only one Son of God, and there was only one ministry that could do all this: Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was one busy man.

So even though Jesus was God, and even though He was unbelievably busy, nothing seemed to deter Jesus from spending extensive time in prayer. So we need to reflect now on our own prayer life. In light of this passage of Scripture, what is keep us from spending time in prayer? Whatever it might be, we need to get it out of the way and spend time alone with God, taking our requests to Him, praising Him for His blessings upon us, and praying for His grace and enabling to be obedient. I’ve said it before, and it’s something I have to constantly remind myself of: if you are too busy to pray, you are too busy. Let us pray, and let us devote time to prayer. Jesus did, so should we.

Spurgeon on Confidence in God

Once again, as I was reading Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional, Morning and Evening, I stumbled upon a theological gold mine that I’d like to share with you:

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.”  (Psalm 138:8)

“Most manifestly the confidence which the Psalmist here expressed was a divine confidence. He did not say, “I have grace enough to perfect that which concerneth me—my faith is so steady that it will not stagger—my love is so warm that it will never grow cold—my resolution is so firm that nothing can move it; no, his dependence was on the Lord alone. If we indulge in any confidence which is not grounded on the Rock of ages, our confidence is worse than a dream, it will fall upon us, and cover us with its ruins, to our sorrow and confusion. All that Nature spins time will unravel, to the eternal confusion of all who are clothed therein. The Psalmist was wise, he rested upon nothing short of the Lord’s work. It is the Lord who has begun the good work within us; it is He who has carried it on; and if he does not finish it, it never will be complete. If there be one stitch in the celestial garment of our righteousness which we are to insert ourselves, then we are lost; but this is our confidence, the Lord who began will perfect. He has done it all, must do it all, and will do it all. Our confidence must not be in what we have done, nor in what we have resolved to do, but entirely in what the Lord will do. Unbelief insinuates—”You will never be able to stand. Look at the evil of your heart, you can never conquer sin; remember the sinful pleasures and temptations of the world that beset you, you will be certainly allured by them and led astray.” Ah! yes, we should indeed perish if left to our own strength. If we had alone to navigate our frail vessels over so rough a sea, we might well give up the voyage in despair; but, thanks be to God, He will perfect that which concerneth us, and bring us to the desired haven. We can never be too confident when we confide in Him alone, and never too much concerned to have such a trust.” ¹

I’ve really struggled with giving God my best in my personal life and ministry here lately. I’ve prayed, “Lord, today I’m going to get back with the program,” or “God, I just need to get back to the way things used to be.” Now while I may have good intentions, I was missing the main point the whole time. I am weak, and I always will be. God is strong and He always will be. He just calls me to be confident in Him that He will work through me and give me the strength I need to be fully obedient to Him. God will “perfect that which concerneth me.”


1. Spurgeon, Charles H. Morning and Evening (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 304.

 

Charles Spurgeon on the Winter Season

I’m not a big fan of winter. I really enjoy the Christmas season, but I could do without the frosty weather. The snow for example, it’s beautiful and breathtaking, but I’d rather have fall, spring, or summer over winter any day. I know I’m not alone in that conviction. It’s probably safe to say that the majority of people easily prefer other seasons to winter. With that being said, I read an interesting perspective on winter from Charles H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening today as winter is beginning to usher in with its sharp winds, frost, freezing rain, and snow. I would like to share with you some of Spurgeon’s thoughts on the winter season:

Scripture: “Thou hast made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:17)

Spurgeon: “My soul begins this wintry month with thy God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind thee that He keeps His covenant with day and night, and tend to assure thee that He will also keep that glorious covenant which He has made with thee in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to His Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor sin-polluted world, will not prove unfaithful in His dealings with His own well-beloved Son.

Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: He casteth forth his ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, He is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design. Frost kills noxious insects, and put a bound to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soil. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!

How we prize the fire just now! How pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw night to Him, and in Him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of His promises, and go forth to labours which befit the season, for it were ill to be as the sluggard who will not plough by reason of the cold; for he shall beg in summer and have nothing.” ¹


1. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening(Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 702.