Daily Devotional Readings: Year One - December
1st December: John 10:1-42
The Christian life is not easy. The devil 'comes only to steal and kill and destroy' (10). Satan was working through the religious leaders. They were trying 'to stone' Jesus (31). 'Again', they failed (39). They could not take Jesus' life. 'His hour had not yet come' (18; 7:30; 8:20). When Satan attacks us, we must remember this: God is in control. God has given us great promises (28-29). Jesus saves. Jesus keeps. His salvation is eternal: 'He didn't bring us this far to leave us. He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn't build His home in us to move away. He didn't lift us up to let us down'. Satan will cause us plenty of trouble. Be on the alert (1 Peter 5:8). Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Looking to Jesus, we are assured of this: Satan will be defeated (Revelation 12:9).
2nd December: Deuteronomy 19:1-20:9
Justice is concerned with (a) the protection of the innocent - 'innocent blood will not be shed in your land' (10); (b) the punishment of the guilty - 'you must purge the evil from among you' (19). Through justice, God is to be glorified among His people. We are to fight for the Lord without fear, confident of His glorious presence (20:1-4). In the service of the Lord, we must not be 'fearful and fainthearted' (20:8). We are to be 'good soldiers of Jesus Christ' (2 Timothy 2:3). We need to give careful attention to the Word of God: 'When you draw near to the battle, the priest will come forward and speak to the people, and say to them, 'Hear, O Israel...' (20:2-3). God's Word is not concerned only with 'Church work'. It sends us 'back to our house' - 'dedicated' to the Lord (20:5-9).
3rd December: Deuteronomy 20:10-21:23
The offer of 'peace' is made (20:10; Romans 5:1). Some refuse to 'make peace'.They choose to 'make war' (20:12). When the enemies of Christ and the Gospel are raging, we must be resolute in our commitment to living 'as the Lord our God has commanded' (20:16-18). We are to 'do what is right in the sight of the Lord'. This will involve 'going forth to war against our enemies'. It will involve 'purging the evil from our midst' (21:9-10,21; Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Hebrews 12:1-2,11). Our life of holiness is grounded in the death of Christ who, on the Cross, was 'accursed by God' so that we might be saved by God (21:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24). Through faith in Him, we have been declared holy (Romans 5:1,3-5,9-10).
4th December: John 11:1-44
Everything is moving on towards Christ's death and resurrection. On His way to the Cross, Jesus performs a mighty miracle - the raising of Lazarus (43-44) - which points unmistakably to an even greater miracle - His own resurrection (Acts 2:24). Accompanying this miracle - the raising of Lazarus - , we have Jesus' great declaration concerning Himself: 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die' (25). His words are immediately followed by the question: 'Do you believe this?' (26). This question is put to each of us. Jesus waits for the answer of faith: 'Yes, Lord I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God...'(27). This is 'for the glory of God' - receiving new life from 'the Son of God...' (4).
5th December: Deuteronomy 22:1-30
Care for 'your brother' (1-4). Our caring is not to be selective - 'If the brother does not live near you or if you do not know who he is' (2). When Jesus says, 'Love your neighbour as yourself' (Luke 10:27), He means much more than loving the people who live near us, the people that we know. The 'Samaritan' didn't know 'the man who fell into the hands of robbers' (Luke 10:30,33). 'Jews did not associate with Samaritans (John 4:9). Jesus says, 'Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44). Love your enemies with the love of the Lord - 'when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son' (Romans 5:8,10). Don't love the ways of those who 'live as enemies of the Cross of Christ' (Philippians 3:18). 'Purge the evil from the midst of you' (21-22,24).
6th December: Deuteronomy 23:1-25
God sees us as we really are. He 'looks on the heart' as well as 'the outward appearance'. We must live to please Him, praying, 'Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!' (14; 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 139: 23-24). God calls us to be holy: 'you shall keep yourself from every evil thing' (9). This 'holiness' is not to be a proud, arrogant thing. It is to be filled with compassionate caring. Don't write anyone off, saying, 'They're not our kind of people' (7). Don't be all out for all you can get for yourself without any thought of how your actions affect other people (24-25). Let your holiness be real. Don't say one thing and do another. Don't pretend to be more 'holy' than you really are. Choose to be holy - every day (21-23).
7th December: John 11:45-12:36
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (49-53). The voice of 'common sense' is not always the voice of the Lord (4-6). There is a higher wisdom than 'common sense'. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives. Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasising that we must not lose sight of Him. If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (8). The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, 'The world has gone after Him' (19). They are going after Him too - in a different way! The crucifixion draws near. God is to be 'glorified' in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (28,31-32). Jesus had 'come' for this 'hour' (27).
8th December: Deuteronomy 24:1-25:29
Justice for the vulnerable is grounded in God's redemption (24:17-18). This is an important principle for us. God loves us. He has done great things for us. He cares. We are to care. Let His love be the guiding light in every part of your life. Scripture speaks of both salvation and judgment. Israel was given 'the land' as 'an inheritance to possess'. The Amalekites were blotted out (25:19). The Christian life is a spiritual warfare. When we are 'faint and weary', we will be 'attacked on the way'. If we 'lag behind' in our walk with God, those who 'do not fear God' will try to 'cut us off' from the Lord and His people. This is the work of Satan. We must not be 'ignorant of his devices'. God is with us in the battle. He is leading us on to our eternal 'inheritance' (25:17-19; 2 Corinthians 2:11).
9th December: Deuteronomy 26:1-27:10
The people of Israel had a testimony. They had been redeemed by the God of love. Thankful for His love and salvation, they brought their offerings to the Lord (26:5-9). The call to obedience is grounded in the gift of salvation. Redeemed by the Lord, we are called to be 'a people holy to the Lord our God' (26:16-19). There is no privilege without responsibility. Israel was privileged: God was giving them 'a land flowing with milk and honey'. Israel was responsible: God was saying to them, 'Keep all the commandments which I command you this day' (27:1-3). God blesses us. We obey Him. We enjoy more of His blessing. This leads us to obey Him more. Break the 'vicious circle'. Get on to God's 'victorious circle': He shows us His love. We love Him. He shows us more of His love. We love Him more... (John 14:21).
10th December: John 12:37-13:20
The Pharisees continue to exert their evil influence. 'For fear of the Pharisees', many remained silent, 'loving the praise of men more than the praise of God' (42-43). Whatever the opposition, Jesus calls us to believe in Him and confess Him (Romans 10:9). He calls us out of darkness into light (46). If you are a believer, come out into the open. Make it known that you belong to Christ. Do not only read God's Word for yourself. Speak His Word to others (50). he 'hour' of Jesus' suffering draws near. Satan is busy. Jesus is in control (1-3). It is the 'hour' of His love. We are 'washed' in His precious blood (8; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 7:14). What God has done for us comes before what we 'ought to 'do for others. Jesus is our Saviour before He is our 'Example' (14-15). Knowing Him, let us do His will (17).
11th December: Deuteronomy 27:11-28:24
Through His strongly worded warnings, God calls us back from the way of disobedience (27:15-26;28:15-24). Through His promises of blessing, He calls us to the way of obedience, the only way to true happiness (28:1-14). God's blessing cannot be taken for granted. Where there is disobedience, there is no blessing. Our 'enemies' will triumph over us (28:25). We need not be defeated. God has shown us His way of blessing. It is the way of obedience (1-2). We are not blessed because we deserve to be blessed. We can never earn the Lord's blessing. The blessing comes from Him (8). He blesses us because He loves us - not because we are worthy of His blessing. You can be in 'the promised land' without enjoying the promised blessing. Don't 'suffer loss' - 'saved, but only as through fire' (1 Corinthians 3:15).
12th December: Deuteronomy 28:25-68
There is nothing inevitable about the chain of events described in these verses. These are the consequences of disobedience. God is warning His people: 'If you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God...' (28:15). Why does God warn His people of the consequences of disobedience? He wants them to draw back from the way of disobedience and follow the pathway of obedience and blessing. These 'curses' were avoidable. They would only happen if Israel persisted in rebelling against the Lord. We can bring 'curses' upon ourselves. Don't imagine that God doesn't care how you live. He does. That is why He calls us back from the pathway of disobedience. That is why He exhorts us to choose holiness. Read Hebrews 10:26-31; 12:25-29. Pray for God's mercy (Luke 18:13). Ask Him to make you more holy (Hebrews 12:14).
13th December: John 13:21-14:14
Difficult times lay ahead for Jesus. He would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot (21-30). He would be denied by Peter (36-38). For Jesus, there was His departure (31-33). It would be a difficult time for His followers. He tells them to 'love one another': 'By this all men shall know that they are His disciples' (34-35). Jesus points them beyond the difficult times. He speaks of His glorious future. He assures them that the best is yet to be. He is preparing a place in His 'Father's House' for us. He will come again to take us to Himself (1-3). He is the Way to this place, the true and living way (6). Now, He reveals the Father to us (9). Now, He is working in and through us (12-14). He is preparing us for His place: 'Lord Jesus...fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there' (Church Hymnary, 195).
14th December: Deuteronomy 29:1-29
God has done great things for His people - 'in the land of Egypt...in the wilderness' (2,5). Acknowledging Him to be the Lord their God, they were to live in obedience to Him (6,9). The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Moses warns the people that they must not depart from the way of blessing. Moses warns the people that they must not depart from the way of obedience (16-28). Turning away from the Lord leads to judgment - 'anger and fury and great wrath' (24-28). There are 'secret things'. There are 'things that are revealed'. Some 'things' we will never understand. These 'things belong to the Lord our God'. There are many 'things' we have learned and have firmly believed. 'The things that are revealed' are found in 'the Holy Scriptures'. Through God's written Word, we are brought to 'salvation' and we are 'thoroughly equipped' for Christian living (29; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).
15th December: Deuteronomy 30:1-31;13
For Israel, a real turning to the Lord with 'all the heart and soul' involved obedience to 'His commandments...written in this book of the law' (30:10). We are not left wondering what God wants us to do - '...the Word is very near you...'(11-14). Through His Word, God 'sets before' us a choice. He calls us to 'choose life' (15-20). Joshua was to succeed Moses (31:1-2,7-8). Conflict lay ahead. God's people needed His Word of encouragement: 'Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them'. Beyond the conflict, there would be triumph. God gave His Word of promise: 'It is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you' (31:6). Turning from the people to Joshua, Moses spoke the same words (31:7-8). Hear; Learn to fear the Lord; Be careful to obey His Word (31:12-13).
16th December: John 14:15-15:17
Those who love the Lord are called to a life of obedience - keeping His 'commandments', keeping His 'Word' (21,23). We cannot live this life in our own strength. Christ must make His home in us (23). Once He has come to live in us, we are to abide in Him (4). Jesus says to us, 'Apart from me you can do nothing' (5). You cannot live the Christian life until Christ comes to live in you. 'The Holy Spirit teaches us all things' (26). Christ's 'words' abide in us (7). We are called to a life of fruitfulness (15:5,15) - 'the fruit of the Spirit': 'love, joy, peace...' (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus loves us (21). He gives us His peace (27). He gives us His joy (11). Love, Joy, Peace: Let this 'fruit' be seen in us. Let it be shared with others. 'Love one another...Go and bear fruit...love one another' (15:12,16-17).
17th December: Proverbs 6:16-35
God's Word is our 'lamp' and 'light' (23; Psalm 119:105). It leads us in the way we are to go (22). It exposes the darkness of the ways we are to avoid. It shows us the 'things that the Lord hates', the things which are 'an abomination to Him' (16). Why does God list the 'things' which are not pleasing to Him? He wants us to watch how we live. He wants us to keep on choosing His way. We must not allow things to drift. Keep God's Word in 'your heart always' (21). Let 'the reproofs of discipline' keep you from straying (23). The world tells us, 'Anything goes. Do what you like. It doesn't matter how you live'. God's Word speaks about sin: There is 'no sense' in it. It is the way of self destruction. It will not 'go unpunished' (32,29). Be careful to obey God in everything.
18th December: John 15:18-16:33
Jesus was 'persecuted'. We will be 'persecuted' - 'all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted' (15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). We have no guarantee that life will be easy. In all our difficulties, 'the Spirit of truth' directs our attention to Jesus our Saviour (15:26; 16:13-15). Whatever our problems, we draw encouragement from Jesus' words: 'In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world' (16:33). Here, we have realism and faith. The world is trying to squeeze us into its own mould (Romans 12:2). Sometimes, we feel like faith is slipping away. Sometimes, we feel like giving up. What are we to say to all this? 'Who is it that overcomes the world buy he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?' - This is our faith' (1 John 5:4-5).
19th December: John 17:1-26
Jesus prays for you. Jesus prays for me. We have come to faith in Him through the written Word of His apostles (20). The story of the Cross (1-5), the story of the first disciples (6-19) is an ongoing story. It continues in us. The saving effects of Christ's death are still being felt today. The written Word of His apostles is still exerting its powerful influence on today's world. Jesus is still praying for us (Hebrews 7:25). He prayed for His first disciples - 'that they may be one' (11). He prays the same prayer for us (20-23). Among His first disciples, there was Judas Iscariot, 'the one who chose to be lost' (12). If we are to 'maintain the unity of the Spirit', we must take account of 'the Judas factor' - 'take notice of those who create dissensions...avoid them' (Ephesians 4:3; Jude 4; 1 John 2:18-19; Romans 16:17-18).
20th December: Deuteronomy 31:14-32:18
'Write this song, and teach it to the people of Israel' (19,22). Moses did not delay his obedience to God. 'Write...Teach...': God is speaking to us about the renewal of our worship. Don't say, 'It's never been done that way before' - 'the seven last words of the church'! Moses' song was 'a witness for God against the people of Israel' (19). It can still help us, in this generation, to confess our sin - We 'have dealt corruptly with Him' (5) - and glorify our God - 'I will proclaim the Name of the Lord' (3). Modern music can help us to hear afresh the ancient message: 'Ascribe greatness to our God...' (3-4; Mission Praise, 40). Let us praise God 'in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs' (Ephesians 5:18-20).
21st December: Deuteronomy 32:19-33:17
Here, we have both the warning of judgment and the promise of salvation. Rebuking 'a perverse generation' - 'They are devious people, children who can't be trusted' - God says, 'I will hide My face from them' (20). When, in our need, we look to Him for mercy, we have His promise: 'The Lord will...have compassion on His servants, when He sees their power is gone' (36). 'This is the blessing...'(1). For each tribe - Reuben (6), Judah (7), Levi (8-11), Benjamin (12), Joseph (13-17) - , there is a different Word from the Lord. Each of us is different. Our circumstances are different. God knows what we need to hear. He speaks the Word which is just right for each one. He 'loves' every one of us. We are 'in His hands'. Let us 'follow in His steps, receiving direction from Him' (3).
22nd December: John 18:1-27
The story continues. Jesus is betrayed. Jesus is arrested (1-11). He stands before the Jewish authorities (12-14,19-24). Jesus is 'drinking from the cup which the Father has given Him' - He drinks from the cup of our condemnation that we might drink from the cup of His salvation (11; Matthew 26:38-39; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Jesus' death was not only 'expedient'. It was 'necessary' - for our salvation (14; Luke 24:26). Alongside the story of Jesus was the story of Peter (15-18,25-27). Jesus' death was not the end of His story - He rose from the dead (Luke 24:5-6; Acts 2:23-24). Peter denied the Lord three times. This was not the end of his story. For each denial, there was a new commitment (21:15-17). For each denial, there were, on the Day of Pentecost, 1,000 people brought to Christ (Acts 2:38,41).
23rd December: John 18:28-19:16
'Barabbas was a robber'. He was released (39-40). There was 'no crime' in Jesus. He was 'crucified' (38,4,6,16). Was Jesus not more than the innocent victim of a shameful and tragic miscarriage of justice? No! Jesus, the King of kings, chose to die. Looking ahead to the Cross, He said, 'For this I was born...' (36-37). In love, He chose death on the Cross. As truly as Barabbas, each of us can say, 'He took my place and died for me'. In His death, Jesus did not only take the place of one sinner, Barabbas - 'He took the place of many sinners'. He did not simply bear the punishment deserved by one sinner, Barabbas - 'The Lord made the punishment fall on Him, the punishment all of us deserved' (Isaiah 53:12,6).
24th December: Matthew 1:18-25
'Immanuel...God with us' (23). Think of what this means! Here are some words to help you. 'He walked where I walked, He stood where I stand, He felt what I feel, He understands. He know my frailty, shared my humanity, tempted in every way, yet without sin. God with us, so close to us. God with us, 'Immanuel!'. Let your thoughts move on to the Cross - 'He died in my place that I might live'. Let your heart be filled with worship: 'Immanuel, O Immanuel, Bowed in awe I worship at your feet, and sing Immanuel, God is with us; Sharing my humanness, my shame, feeling my weakness, my pain, taking my punishment, my blame, Immanuel. And now my words cannot explain, all that my heart cannot contain, how great are the glories of Your Name, Immanuel' (Mission Praise, 221,326).
25th December: Luke 2:1-20
'A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord' (11). The Name, 'Jesus', means 'Saviour' (Matthew 1:21). Focus your thoughts on Him: The Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a prayer to help you make your response to Him: 'Lord Jesus Christ, You have come to us, You are one with us, Mary's Son. Cleansing our souls from all their sin, pouring your love and goodness in; Jesus, our love for You we sing, Living Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, You have come to us, born as one of us, Mary's Son. Led out to die on Calvary, risen from death to set us free, Living Lord Jesus, help us see You are Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, we would come to You, live our lives for You, Son of God. All Your commands we know are true, Your many gifts will make us new, into our lives Your power breaks through, Living Lord' (Mission Praise, 435).
26th December: Matthew 2:1-12
'King of the Jews' (2). Jesus came from the Jews. He came for 'all nations' (28:19). He is the 'King of kings' (Revelation 17:14; 19:16). Here on earth, we are learning 'to worship Him' (2). We are being prepared for heavenly worship (Revelation 7:9-12): 'Kings and queens and beggarmen, presidents and servants, the people of all nations, will gather on that day. We will kneel before the King. None will be observers. We will lift our voices. Together, we will say, "He is the King and He will reign forever. He is the King and we will sing His praise. The King of kings and Lord of lords forever, Jesus, He is the King. Hallelujah to the King, He is our salvation. Master of the universe, King of all creation"!' Let 'Jesus...take the highest honour'. Let us 'glorify the King of kings' (Songs of Fellowship, 302, 590).
27th December: John 19:17-20:10
'It is finished' (30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph. At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work' (4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption. In one sense, 'it is finished' - on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done - by the Father. The Cross is followed by the resurrection - 'God raised Him from the dead' (Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9). To come to the words, 'It is finished' is not to reach the end of the story. Jesus was laid in the tomb (42). Still, this was not the end of the story. Something else had to happen - 'Jesus had to rise from the dead' (11). For our salvation, Jesus died 'and was raised to life' (Romans 4:25).
28th December: John 20:11-31
Christ is 'the Lord' (2,18,20,25). Christ is 'my Lord' (13,28). Faith becomes real when Jesus comes to us. Here, we see Jesus coming to Mary, the disciples and Thomas. Here, we see Mary, the disciples and Thomas - changed by the power of the risen Christ. In love, He comes to them, and they are changed. (a) Mary was 'weeping' (13,15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer - 'I have seen the Lord!' (18). (b) The disciples were filled with 'fear'. Jesus came to them. He gave them His 'peace' and 'joy' (19-20). (c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (25). Jesus came to him, and he believed - 'My Lord and my God!' (28). Through the Gospel, we find faith: 'These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name' (31).
29th December: Deuteronomy 33:18-34:12
'The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms' (27): This is no guarantee of peaceful tranquillity. For Israel, there was conflict. 'Saved by the Lord', Israel had found true happiness. Still, there were 'enemies' to be 'thrust out' and 'trampled down' (27,29). Knowing the blessing of God's salvation is no guarantee that life will be easy. When the enemies of the Gospel see a believer intent on glorifying the Lord, they do all they can to create problems. We have 'enemies' in 'high places' (29; Ephesians 6:12). Their argument is not with us. It is with God. If God's work is to do well, there needs to be spiritual leadership. Moses had led God's people in his day. Joshua was to take his place (9). Moses was important. Joshua was important. The Lord is more important - 'If God is for us, who can be against us?' (Romans 8:31).
30th December: John 21:1-25
'Fishers of men' (Matthew 4:19) - Set your goals lower than this, and you will take others with you. Together, you will discover the emptiness of life without Christ at its centre - 'they caught nothing' (3). Note the contrast between the self-centered life (5) and the Christ centered life (6,8,11). Loving, serving and following Jesus - These are the most important things in life (15-17,22). Don't look over your shoulder at someone else - 'Lord, what about this man?' (21). Let it be personal - Jesus says, 'Do you love Me?' (15-17). He asked Peter, 'Do you love me more than these?' (15) - more than you love these other disciples, more than these other disciples love Me, more than your boats, nets and fishes? Look back and ask yourself, 'Do I love Jesus more than I did a year ago?'.
31st December: Psalm 18:1-24
The first three verses set the tone: Worship. What a great start to this Psalm. Our attention is directed away from ourselves to the Lord: 'my strength...my rock, my fortress and my deliverer...my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold' (1-2). The great testimony of verse 3 - 'I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies' - did not come easily (4-5). The enemies of the Lord will be brought to judgment (13-14). 'The cord of death encompassed me...He delivered me from my strong enemy...' (4-5,17-19) - Rejoice in the risen Christ through whom we have the 'victory' over 'the last enemy...death' (1 Corinthians 15:20,26,54). God is leading us into 'a broad place' (19). Step into the future with Him. Don't hold back! 'Let go and let God have His wonderful way'.