The Plan Unfolds

Bible Coffee

Reading the Word

Luke 2:1–5 (ESV)

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this short passage we see the sovereign plans of God being fulfilled. In the Old Testament book of Micah, in chapter five, we are told that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Jesus’ parents were from Nazareth, so that was not going to happen without some circumstance causing it. So, here we read that Caesar Augustus decreed that a registration had to take place, which made it necessary for Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem. Was this a coincidence? No.

If you read the Gospel accounts, you will quickly notice that they emphasize over and over again that Jesus and the events surrounding his birth fulfilled prophecies concerning the promised Messiah. Go back and read the opening chapters of Matthew. Understanding this truth helps us understand that Jesus was truly the one the world was waiting for, but it also encourages us by reminding us that, even in a world that seems chaotic, God is in control and he is working his plans and purposes in his timing. Let us remember, as we think about the events of Christ’s birth, that the future is secure in the hands of God.

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God Has Visited His People

clouds

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Reading the Word

Luke 1:68–71 (ESV)

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;

Understanding and Applying the Word

When John the Baptist was born, Zechariah praised God. Luke 1:68-71 are the opening words that Zechariah spoke. The focus of his praise was on God keeping his promises and saving his people. The Lord was fulfilling his promise of a Messiah from the line of David to bring salvation.

Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah and Zechariah recognized that the wait was over. Jesus came into the world to redeem all of mankind from sin and death by giving his life as a sacrifice. The Messiah laid down his life for his people so that they could live. We too should pause this Christmas season to remember our Redeemer and offer praise to him.

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He Has Done Great Things for Me

Luke 149 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 1:46–55 (ESV)

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage follows after Mary received word that she would give birth to the Son of God, even though she was a virgin. Mary was also told that her relative, Elizabeth, was pregnant. This was also an amazing development because Elizabeth had been barren. Our passage today is Mary’s response as she considered all that was happening to her.

Mary praised God because he had chosen her to use in such a special way. She was not a person of power or influence. She had no great social standing. Mary was a woman of “humble estate.” Yet, this is the woman God chose to give birth to the most important baby to ever be born, the Savior of the world, the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus. Mary could do nothing other than praise God for his grace and mercy.

We must remember Mary’s words here and think about how God used her in his plan to save the word. He can use us too. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Let us give all glory to God for all he has done and continues to do!

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A People Prepared

Advent Candles

Reading the Word

Luke 1:16–17 (ESV)

16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

It is December and we are quickly approaching the Christmas holiday. We just finished several days focusing on being thankful. Now it is time to focus on the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. With that in mind, my plan over the next few weeks is to follow the readings as laid out in John Piper’s book, Good News of Great Joy. I will be using Piper’s daily readings, but will be offering my own insights. I do recommend Piper’s book for those who may be interested.

John the Baptist came on the scene preaching a message of repentance just as the book of Malachi had said he would (Malachi 4:6). He came as a forerunner to prepare the people for the coming King.

The Christmas season is a time when many are more open to hear the message of Christ. It is a time when believers must tell the world that there is a King who has come into the world and that he has promised to come again. All people must prepare themselves while there is still time through repentance and trusting in the death and resurrection of Christ for salvation. Let us take the message of Christmas to the world!

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With Thanksgiving

Philippians 46 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional with the purpose of encouraging regular reading of the Word of God. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do post a suggested reading from Scripture. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Philippians 4:4–6 (ESV)

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Give Thanks Always and For Everything

thank you heart text

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I will be traveling over the next few days with my family for the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result, I will not be posting extra commentary, but I will continue to post suggested Scripture readings for each day. Regular posts will resume on December 2. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Ephesians 5:15–21 (ESV)

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

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Thanksgivings for All People

1 Timothy 21–2 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I will be traveling over the next few days with my family for the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result, I will not be posting extra commentary, but I will continue to post suggested Scripture readings for each day. Regular posts will resume on December 2. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

1 Timothy 2:1–7 (ESV)

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

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With Thankfulness in Your Hearts

Colossians 316 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I will be traveling over the next few days with my family for the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result, I will not be posting extra commentary, but I will continue to post suggested Scripture readings for each day. Regular posts will resume on December 2. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Colossians 3:15–17 (ESV)

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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I Give Thanks with My Whole Heart

woman sitting while showing heart sign hands

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I will be traveling over the next few days with my family for the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result, I will not be posting extra commentary, but I will continue to post suggested Scripture readings for each day. Regular posts will resume on December 2. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Psalm 138:1–8 (ESV)

1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
3 On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.

4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
for great is the glory of the LORD.
6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Give Thanks to the Lord

Psalm 1361 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 136:1–26 (ESV)

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
13 to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

17 to him who struck down great kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
18 and killed mighty kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
20 and Og, king of Bashan,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
21 and gave their land as a heritage,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
22 a heritage to Israel his servant,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As we have been looking at passages that speak of thanksgiving, we have read several psalms. A recurring theme is that we should give thanks because God’s “steadfast love endures forever.” In Psalm 136, the Lord’s steadfast love is demonstrated in how he rescued the Israelites from their captivity and slavery in Egypt and gave them the Promised Land. So, God’s steadfast love is connected to deliverance of those who are hopeless to deliver themselves. As the psalmist states, “It is he who remembered us in our low estate.”

We too can rejoice and give thanks to God for delivering us. We too were hopelessly lost and in bondage to sin and the condemnation that comes from sin. However, God showed his steadfast love to us by sending his Son to defeat sin and death on our behalf. We too find our deliverance through God’s grace and love and he has promised to deliver us into the true Promised Land of eternity with him. For that, we can always praise God and give him thanks!

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