Bible Study

Advent Devotion – December 19th

“‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones.’” Zechariah 13:7

This is certainly not a deeply theological or philosophical Messianic prophecy. I chose to use this prophecy not because of its depth but because of its precision. This prophecy was fulfilled in the garden of Gethsemane. It predicted that the Shepherd (Jesus) would be under attack and that His sheep (the disciples) would be scattered. The amazing thing to me is that when we read the four Gospels, that is exactly what we find: the disciples flee the scene while Jesus is arrested by the temple guard.

I find strength and comfort in believing in a God who cares about the details. He cares to make sure that every aspect of His promises and prophecies are fulfilled. There are times when I feel pretty small, times when I feel overwhelmed by the volume of issues and concerns in my life. At those times I am thankful to know that God doesn’t lose me. His attention to the small things keeps Him faithful to me. I guess what I am trying to say is that there are really no small details to God. He sees them — us — as important details. How humbling!

If this devotion finds you a bit overwhelmed by the circumstances of this life, if you feel that you are lost in the volume of “stuff” you are wrestling with, then know that God knows and understands what you are dealing with. He is working to fulfill His promises for your life and will not rest until the smallest of details is worked out.


Pastor Tom

Advent Devotion – December 18th

“And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’ — the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter.” Zechariah 11:13

Every aspect of Jesus’ ministry is beautiful to us because it ended up being for our salvation. Even this prophecy, which predicted the betrayal payment that Judas would get for turning Jesus over to the religious leaders, was one step toward our redemption. But have you ever thought about it from Jesus’ perspective? What pain it must have caused Jesus to have one of His disciples turn on Him and betray Him. I can hear Jesus saying to Himself, “Why, Judas, why? What did I ever do to you to get this in return?”

If you’re older than 20 and are alive and breathing, you can probably relate to Jesus’ betrayal. Human relationships are not easy! It is amazing how deeply sin can wedge its way in and break down the heart of a friendship. I am certain we all have experienced betrayal like this. It is flat-out painful! You are left with more questions than you have answers. You’re left asking how and why did this happen?
As I write this devotion I cannot assume that we have all been on the Jesus side of the betrayals in our lives. The truth is that some of us have been Judas; at times we have been the betrayer. This morning I want to assure you that no matter what side of the betrayal you find yourself, you have a Savior in Jesus. He understands your pain and bore that pain and the sin that caused it on the cross. The Gospel heals and restores broken hearts and broken relationships.

Finally, if you’re at all like me, you have to admit that often times the one you betray is Jesus Himself. Like Judas, we allow our sinful desires to well up in us and we betray the very One we committed our life to. Look up and see Jesus reaching out to you and calling your name. See Him loving, forgiving, and restoring you just as He did Peter after his denials. Jesus loves you! Let go of the guilt and shame and let the Gospel restore your relationship.


Pastor Tom

Advent Devotion – December 17th

“Rejoice O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9

This is obviously the Messianic prophecy fulfilled by Jesus on Palm Sunday. What a remarkable event. He told a couple of His disciples to go into town and bring back a certain man’s donkey and colt. Jesus said to the disciples, “If he asks why you are taking the animals tell him the Lord has need of them and he will let you go.” Once again God’s providence was evident. He touched time and space and willed the fulfillment of this prophecy.

More important, this prophecy reveals the type of king Jesus came to be. He came humbly on a colt of a donkey and not on a great white steed. He came not wanting worldly attention and honor but something much more important. He “comes to you, righteous and having salvation.” Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the same reason He was born in a manger — so that He might die on the cross for our sins and bring salvation to us. Jesus lived on this earth for 33 years and His purpose never changed. Whether he was teaching, healing, admonishing, or dying, He was doing it as our righteous Savior.

Two thousand years later He has the same purpose. It is His extreme desire that you know Him as your righteous Savior. He wants you to intimately know of His love and grace for you. He wants you to rejoice and shout because, knowing who He is and why He came, you can’t help it.


Pastor Tom

Advent Devotion – December 16th

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11

Now this is the Jesus I need today! It is very strengthening to study about God’s divine providence and His ability to control world events for the sake of His kingdom. It is assuring to know that Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. But today, I need a Good Shepherd. I need a savior who remembers that deep down inside I am a lamb. I want to know that Jesus understands that it is so easy for me to be wounded in this life. I need to know that He understands how scary this world can be at times. I want Him to gather me into His arms and hold me close to His heart.

Do you remember when Jesus was blessing the babies and children and the disciples tried to prevent them from coming to Jesus? Even as an adult, I always place myself in the story as wanting to be one of the children. I want to have that closeness with Jesus. I long to sit on the hillside and hear Him teach. I long for His healing touch. I need His gentle voice of forgiveness. I want to be close to Him.

As I read the text above I am comforted that the Messiah (Jesus) did indeed come as a Good Shepherd — a Shepherd who understands the needs of His lambs and sheep, a Shepherd who is already reaching down to pick us up when we need it most. This morning, give yourself permission to be a lamb. Let Jesus pick you up and hold you close to His heart.


Pastor Tom

Advent Devotion – December 15th

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” Isaiah 35:5-6

Here is one of those Messianic prophecies that takes us beyond descriptions of where, how, and when He would be born. This one’s about His ministry itself. People might have wondered about, once the Messiah came, what His ministry or reign would be about. How could His work be described or summarized? How about this: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised.

The Messiah was never meant to be an earthly king who would exert power over the subjects of His kingdom or the other kingdoms of the world. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. What we see in Jesus’ ministry is the Creator putting His creation back together. Sin did a number on God’s creation. Throughout His ministry, Jesus revealed to us through what He did that His purpose was to restore His creation. The sick and the broken came to him for healing and repair. The same is true for us today. It is not Jesus’ desire that we wallow in the despair of our brokenness. He isn’t looking for a way to drive us deeper into guilt and shame. It is His desire to permanently lift us up from the mire and through His grace and forgiveness set us free from what ails us.

This is not only what Jesus’ ministry is about. This is what the Cross is about. Jesus bore our sin, shame, and brokenness on the cross. He removed it from us and took it upon Himself. When He said, “It is finished!” we were healed. Today, may we ponder and meditate on the compassionate ministry of Jesus. May we see this work not only for others, but for ourselves. He came to heal you and to set you free.


Pastor Tom

Advent Devotion – December 14th

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Hosea 11:1

Most Biblical scholars see this Messianic prophecy as being fulfilled by Joseph and Mary as they heeded the warning of the Lord and fled Herod’s wrath by going to Egypt. It is pretty amazing to think that our Savior spent time in a foreign country before His ministry in Israel began. It is also quite remarkable that, in a way, He re-lived Israel’s history. The first nation of Israel (Abraham’s offspring) was called out of Egypt into the Promised Land. The final nation of Israel (those of us with the faith of Abraham) also has its beginnings in Egypt. God always finds his children (like the Prodigal Son) in a foreign land needing redemption and hope. So, it is out of the nation of Egypt that God called His Son.

The first Israel was called out of the bondage of slavery into a land flowing with milk and honey. The New Israel is called out of the bondage of sin into the glories of a Spirit-led life and the assurance of an eternal home in paradise. The layers of meaning in the text go way beyond the physical protection of Jesus as a young boy. God is fulfilling His prophecies and His promises. Jesus said that true sons of Abraham are not those who have the bloodline of Abraham but those who have the faith of Abraham.

As the children of Israel faithfully followed Moses as he led them out of Egypt to the Promised Land, may we in the same way follow Jesus into our new life and ultimately into Heaven itself.


Pastor Tom

Advent Devotion – December 13th

“This is what the LORD says: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.’” Jeremiah 31:15

This is the most heart-breaking Messianic prophecy in all of Scripture. This verse is proof positive of Satan’s desire to “kill, steal and destroy.” What is the background of the verse? Remember that the Wise Men went to Jerusalem (assuming that the young child would be in the capital city) and when they arrived they could no longer see the star. I believe this was a result of the spiritual darkness of Jerusalem. They went to the palace and talked to Herod about the child and the star. Herod was taken by surprise. He hadn’t heard about this from anyone in Jerusalem, and he would know because he was the king of the region.

Herod called the religious leaders in and asked them where the prophecies said the Messiah was to be born. They told Herod that He was to be born in Bethlehem of Judah . Herod directed the Wise Men to go to Bethlehem and to report back to him after they found the Christ child. The Wise Men left Jerusalem and on their way to Bethlehem the star reappeared and they followed it all the way to the town. After they honored and worshiped the Christ child, the Lord warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod because he meant to harm the child. The Lord also warned Joseph and Mary to leave the town and to go to Egypt for safety.

When Herod realized that the Wise Men had left Bethlehem and did not come back to report what they found about the prophetic King, he ordered that all the boys in Bethlehem age 2 years and younger be slain. I believe that at this moment he was being manipulated by Satan himself. What a terrible event, soldiers heading into the peaceful town and killing all those children! Herod’s motive might have been to wipe out his competition, but Satan’s motive was to attempt to prevent the act of salvation that would “crush his head.”

This prophecy and its historic fulfillment remind us once again how deadly sin is and why we need a Savior. It also reminds us that we have an enemy who seeks to destroy us. Last, it reminds us that “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.” Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah and He did crush Satan’s head.


Pastor Tom

Advent Devotion – December 12th

“The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts. All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him.” Psalm 72:10-11

One of my favorite events in the Bible is how the wise men traveled for miles to visit the newly born King of the Jews. If they saw the divinely placed star on the day Jesus was born, it took them 2 years to travel to Jerusalem. We know that, because they didn’t visit Jesus at the manger but at a house. I am amazed that they traveled so long to pay homage to a King that no one in Israel even knew was born. I wonder whether their pursuit was purely because of the astrological event or maybe because remnants of a Messianic prophecy made its way all the way to the Far East where they lived. Regardless, they came.

Step back for a moment and look at all this event tells us about God’s providence. God, once again, worked in time and space to bring wise men from the Far East to honor and worship Jesus. He did so to fulfill a Messianic prophecy that He caused the Psalmist to write more than a thousand years earlier. Do we have an amazing God or what?

This prophecy also tells us that Jesus would be no ordinary king. It tells us that all the kings of the Earth would honor and serve Him. Paul says in Philippians 2:10 that “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth.” In Revelation He is called the “King of kings and the Lord of lords.”

Finally, and more practically, my question for myself and you today is, are we willing to travel the distance to see all that Jesus came to fulfill? It was worth it for the wise men, and I pray that it is for us, as well.


Pastor Tom

Advent Devotion – December 11th

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” Isaiah 61:1

I love this prophecy! This is the Messianic prophecy that Jesus read in the synagogue at the beginning of His ministry. After reading this prophecy, He said, “And this is now fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus Himself claimed that this prophecy was about Him and that it was fulfilled upon being read that day in the synagogue. Does it get any clearer than this? Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. He not only claimed to be the Messiah, He went on from there to fulfill the rest of this prophecy during His 3-year ministry on this earth.

What did that 3-year ministry consist of? It consisted of Spirit-filled preaching and teaching the masses about the Kingdom of God. While He did so He healed broken hearts and set the spiritually captive free. Throughout His ministry He touched many who were in need. Just read any of the Gospels to be reminded of the countless beggars, blind men and lepers, and the lame, deaf, dead, demon-possessed and crippled people who were set free by the healing touch of Jesus.

And you are quietly asking in the back of your mind whether Jesus somehow still does these things today? And I say, yes! He did not just do these marvelous acts during the 3 years of His ministry. He continues to fulfill His priestly office as He does these same freeing works through, and to, us today. Do you have a spiritual or physical need? Reach out to Jesus. He can and will meet your need. How? He will most likely do it through a fellow Christian He has placed in your life. He performs miracles every day through believers who are willing to be His instruments. Trust me when I say that every aspect of this prophecy is still occurring today.

This morning I want nothing more than for you to close your eyes and picture Jesus reading this text, and then looking straight into your eyes and saying that today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. See Him close the scroll and then reach out to touch you so that He might set the captive free.


Pastor Tom

Advent Devotion – December 10th

“Marshal your troops, O city of troops, for a siege is laid against us. They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod. But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:1-2

Up to this point our study of the Messianic prophecies has revealed that the Messiah would be the answer to Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden. We have seen Him promised to and through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We have seen that He would come specifically from the tribe of Jacob and through the family line of King David. We have learned that He would come as a son to a virgin woman and would be no ordinary man. He would be Immanuel (God with us).

Today’s scripture gets very specific. It tells us that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. The marvel in the prophecy is found in God’s providence. You see, Joseph and Mary did not live in Bethlehem. There would be no reason for Joseph to travel with his 9-months-pregnant wife. God stepped into time and space and caused history to move according to His will. He moved Caesar Augustus to request a census of His kingdom at just the right time. Caesar stipulated that the only way the census could be taken properly was to have everyone go back to their town of heritage and be counted. God used the most powerful earthly kingdom of the day to act according to His will.

Do you and I understand that God continues to work in our world in the same way? His providence doesn’t turn on and off. It is always on. He is moving in and among the current kingdoms and governments in our world today to act according to His will. Once we step back for a moment and marvel at what God does to get His will done in a harsh and sinful world, can we take the next step and believe that He can do the same in our daily lives? Do you believe that God has a plan for your life and is working it out as you read this devotion? Do you believe that He can even work through your sinful acts and bad decisions and make good come from them?

This morning I pray that the Lord opens wide our eyes of faith and we find ourselves in awe of His powerful providence over ALL things.


Pastor Tom