Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jesse Tree: December 12

December 12
Hang ornament with Sheaves of Grain
Today we will be hanging an ornament with grain on it.  Can anyone take a guess about what we are going to discuss? 

We will begin our devotion with a reading from the book of Ruth.  I wish we had time to read the entire book, because this is such a wonderful little book in the bible!  

Ruth 1:15-2:3
15 Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
19 So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
22 So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
The story continues... but we will stop there and discuss our way through it.

Ruth saw something different in Naomi.  Something real enough that compelled Ruth to leave her home country and make a pilgrimage to a foreign land.  Remember, Ruth couldn’t go get a job and provide for her mother in law, and she knew that she was not signing up for an easy task.  However, Ruth decided that it was worth it and told Naomi, “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”  

They returned to Bethlehem from the land of Moab, and Ruth would have been known as the foreigner with Naomi.  She had not had any sons before her husband died, and now she needed a kinsman redeemer, someone who would provide for her needs and care for her.  

She went to work in the barley fields gathering grain, and one day she began working in the field of Boaz.  He noticed her and offered her water, protection, and extra grain.  When Ruth questioned his kindness toward her, he replied, 

“All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know.  May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.”  (Ruth 2:12-13, NASB)

When Ruth related the events of the day to Naomi, Naomi told Ruth that Boaz was actually a close relative.  Naomi instructed Ruth on what to do next.  

So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law had commanded her. When Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came secretly, and uncovered his feet and lay down. It happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet. He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.” 10 Then he said, “May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence. 12 Now it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. 13 Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the Lord lives. Lie down until morning.” (Ruth 3:6-13, NASB)

Ruth went to Boaz humbly, not with demands, and he covered her.  The closer relative was not interested in having Ruth for his wife, and so Boaz became Ruth’s kinsman redeemer.  

They were married, and Ruth and Boaz became the parents of a son named Obed.  Obed grew up to be the father of Jesse, and we know that Jesse grew up to be the father of King David!

During this season of Advent, we remember Ruth and Boaz not only for being part of Jesus’ family tree, but also because it is a good time for us to think about our need for a Kinsman Redeemer.  Just like Ruth, we need a Redeemer.   Not to take care of our physical needs, but one who can give us a covering of righteousness and take care of our spiritual needs.  

In the same way Boaz showed compassion to Ruth and covered her, Christ does not turn away those who see their need and come to Him in faith and humility.

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
As we hang the ornament with the grain and think about Ruth and Boaz, let’s rejoice in preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who came to this earth as a man in order to become OUR kinsman redeemer!  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jesse Tree: December 11

December 11
Hang ornament with Scarlet Cord
Joshua 2, Matthew 1:5

Today, as we add the ornament with the scarlet cord, we will talk about God’s faithfulness to a woman named Rahab.  Rahab was not a “good girl.”  In fact, she was a lady living in Jericho who made her living on immorality.  We find her story in Joshua chapter 2, and I am going to read the entire chapter today... it is too exciting to leave anything out!  

Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. It was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. It came about when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof. So the men pursued them on the road to the Jordan to the fords; and as soon as those who were pursuing them had gone out, they shut the gate.
Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12 Now therefore, please swear to me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, 13 and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 14 So the men said to her, “Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the Lord gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”
15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall, so that she was living on the wall. 16 She said to them, “Go to the hill country, so that the pursuers will not happen upon you, and hide yourselves there for three days until the pursuers return. Then afterward you may go on your way.” 17 The men said to her, “We shall be free from this oath to you which you have made us swear, 18 unless, when we come into the land, you tie this cord of scarlet thread in the window through which you let us down, and gather to yourself into the house your father and your mother and your brothers and all your father’s household. 19 It shall come about that anyone who goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be free; but anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. 20 But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be free from the oath which you have made us swear.” 21 She said, “According to your words, so be it.” So she sent them away, and they departed; and she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
22 They departed and came to the hill country, and remained there for three days until the pursuers returned. Now the pursuers had sought them all along the road, but had not found them. 23 Then the two men returned and came down from the hill country and crossed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they related to him all that had happened to them. 24 They said to Joshua, “Surely the Lord has given all the land into our hands; moreover, all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before us.”
The men kept their promise and rescued Rahab and her family.  

Matthew chapter 1 is a long list of the descendants of Jesus.  Listen to Matthew 1:5, “Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.”  

Do you remember who Jesse was?  He was the father of King David!  Not only was Rahab rescued, but one of the spies named Salmon married her, and Rahab became the great-great-grandmother of King David.  God is faithful; He rescued a woman out of sin, made a new life for her, and put her in a royal family.  Not just any royal family, but THE royal family!

God chose to put a woman who was not a Jew by birth and who was known for leading an immoral life in Jesus’ family tree. 

In the same way He saved Rahab, God rescues us through Christ.  Rahab was a citizen of a wicked city and part of an idol-worshipping culture.  She was an immoral woman, but because of her faith and putting her faith into action, (Remember, she had to hang the cord from her window) she was converted, became a citizen of a different kingdom, and made into a beautiful bride.  

In this same way, Jesus gives us new hearts, new desires, new life, and a new family.  When we repent and place our faith in Christ, we become the bride of Christ and part of God’s royal family, with a good and perfect King ruling over us.  As we hang the scarlet cord ornament, let us remember that God sent His son to this earth to rescue sinners like Rahab and all of us, and no matter how bad or “good” we think we are, Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jesse Tree: December 10

December 10
Hang ornament with Tablets

Today we will be hanging the ornament with the tablets.  I bet you all can guess the topic for today’s devotion!  The Ten Commandments!
In the third month after the amazing flight to Egypt, the Israelites came into the wilderness of a place called Sinai, and they set up camp in front of Mt. Sinai.  In Exodus chapter 20, verses 1-17, we read what God spoke to Moses:  
20 Then God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
During several devotions we have gone over our questions and answers, which we call “catechism.”  At one time we had memorized all of the 10 commandments and several other questions and answers about the 10 commandments.  I think it will be helpful to use those catechism questions to help us with today’s devotion.   (*If your family is not familiar with the Catechism for Boys and Girls, you can just turn the questions and answers into sentences.)
Q: How many commandments did God give Moses on Mt. Sinai?                                                 A: 10 Commandments
Q: What are the ten commandments sometimes called?                                                    A: God’s moral law
Q:  What do the first four commandments teach?                                                     A:  Our duty to God
Q:  What do the last six commandments teach?                                                     A:  Our duty to our fellow man
Q:  What is the sum of the ten commandments?                                                       A:  To love God with all my heart and to love my neighbor as myself
Q: Who is your neighbor?                                                                A:  All my fellow man is my neighbor
Next, the catechism goes on to quiz about each of the commandments.  I am just going to read through the summaries of each of the commandments. 
  • The first commandment teaches us to worship God only.  
  • The second commandment teaches us to worship God in the right way and to avoid idolatry.
  • The third commandment teaches us to reverence God’s name, word, and works.
  • The fourth commandment teaches us to keep the Sabbath holy.  
  • The fifth commandment teaches us to love and obey our parents.
  • The sixth commandment teaches us to avoid hatred.
  • The seventh commandment teaches us to be pure in heart, language, and conduct.
  • The eight commandment teaches us to be honest and not to take the things of others.
  • The ninth commandment teaches us to tell the truth and not speak evil of others.
  • The tenth commandment teaches us to be content with what we have.  
Those summaries can help us to better understand just what God’s expectations are.  Here are the last two questions about the ten commandments, and we will wrap this up:
Q: Can any man keep these ten commandments perfectly?                                                        A:  No mere man, since the fall of Adam, ever did or can keep the ten commandments perfectly.
Q: Of what use are the ten commandments to us?                                                     A:  They teach us our duty and show us our need of a Savior.
That last line is the key to understanding why we would hang an ornament with the ten commandments.  We can never perfectly keep the law of God, and yet we are held accountable to the law of God.  God’s law, which is both in our hearts and in writing, points us to our need for Christ.  
As we see that we can NEVER measure up to God’s standards, we must not become more determined to try harder... NO!  We must see that Christ is the only One who has kept the law, and that we must be found in Christ and covered with His righteousness to be right with God.  
After we become Christians, do you think we can just live any way we want, since we can’t keep the law perfectly?  NO!  God’s moral law used to be a burden on our back, but now it is a guide in our hand, pointing us to our continual need for Christ and helping us know how to best honor him with our lives. 
As we think about the ten commandments, let us remember just how much we need the Savior for whom we are waiting!   

Jesse Tree: December 9

December 9
Hang ornament with Door Frame (Passover)

To set the scene for today’s devotion, we are going to speed through a large section of history.  God used Joseph to preserve the nation of Israel during time of famine.  The Israelites moved to Egypt to be with Joseph and received a welcome from Pharoh.  Years and years passed.  

What Joseph had done for Egypt was long forgotten, and now all that could be seen was a group of people  who posed a threat to the Egyptians, for they were many in number.  This group of people, the Israelites, was enslaved, and now it seemed that they would never inhabit the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The fate of the Israelites seemed to be sealed when Pharoh had all of the  male infants thrown into the Nile river!

God always keeps His promises, and He protected a certain Hebrew baby from this cruel fate.  It was Moses!  God chose Moses to deliver His people from Egypt.  

Moses and Aaron had gone to Pharoh several times begging him to “Let my people go!”  Several times Pharoh had refused (or agreed and then changed his mind), and God had sent various plagues to the Egyptians.  

Finally, God was ready to deliver his people from Pharoh.  We read about it in Exodus 12:21-36:  

21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. 22 You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.
23 For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. 24 And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. 25 When you enter the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’” And the people bowed low and worshiped.
28 Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.
29 Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle. 30 Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead. 31 Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said. 32 Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.”
33 The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, “We will all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders.
35 Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; 36 and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
This is really just the beginning of an amazing rescue that involves crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, wandering in the wilderness for 40 years...   But today’s ornament is the door frame with drops of blood on it.  
Yikes!  An ornament with drops of blood on it!?  That seems like something a boy might do, but why would we pick THAT to put on our Jesse Tree?  What could that possibly have to do with Christmas?
Well, really, it has everything to do with Christmas! In Hebrews 9, the writer tells us that the Old Testament priest was to sprinkle the tabernacle and all the vessels used in worship with blood and that without the shedding of blood there could be not remission (or removal) of sin. (Hebrews 9:21-22). He then writes further that sprinkling of blood in the Old Testament was a hint or shadow of the time when Christ's blood would be shed. His blood, sprinkled on the cross when He was crucified, did (and does!) what the blood of bulls, goats, lambs and doves could never do - it cleanses our hearts from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). 
For the Christian, the blood of Christ is figuratively sprinkled on our hearts and the judgment of God passes over us for all eternity. 
At the Passover in Egypt, the Death Angel could not enter into a home that had the blood sprinkled on the doorpost. Today  we CAN enter - not into death but into eternal life when the blood of Christ has been sprinkled on our hearts. That is why the true Christian can joyfully sing "There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel's veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains" (William Cowper). What a great song to sing at Christmas! Let's sing it now.

Jesse Tree: December 8

December 8
Hang ornament with Coat of Colors
Gen. 37:1-36; 50:15-21

Today’s symbol is the multi-colored coat.  I am sure you can guess the main character in today’s devotion!  We are going to talk about the experience of a man named Joseph, and how God used him to preserve the nation of Israel.  

Joseph had many brothers, but he was the favorite of his father Jacob.  The entire family knew this, and the brothers were not very kind to Joseph.  One day Jacob sent Joseph out to check on his brothers, and they hatched a plot to get rid of him.  They threw him into a pit, sold him into slavery to the Midianites, and the Midianites sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharoh’s officer.  

The Bible goes on to tell us that the Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man.  Even though he was put in jail at one point because of false accusations, the Lord did not forget him.  

When Pharoh had a dream which no one could explain, Joseph was summoned.  God revealed the meaning of the dream to Joseph, and Joseph explained to Pharoh that famine was coming.  Joseph proposed a way to store up reserves and prepare for this famine, and Pharoh put Joseph in charge of the whole operation.    

Genesis 41 tells us
53 When the seven years of plenty which had been in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said, then there was famine in all the lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, you shall do.” 56 When the famine was spread over all the face of the earth, then Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians; and the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 The people of all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the earth.” (Genesis 41:53-57, NASB)
Joseph’s father Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and he sent his sons to buy grain for their family.  Joseph recognized them, and after a time he revealed himself to his family.  
Here are our key verses for today’s Advent devotion:  Genesis 50:16-21says, 
16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. 21 So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
This history of Joseph can point us to Christ in several ways.  
The Jews in Jesus’ day were just like Joseph’s brothers.  When they had Jesus crucified, fulfilling many Old Testament prophecies about the way in which our Savior was to die, they did NOT mean it for good.  They were trying to get rid of a problem, just like Joseph’s brothers were trying to get rid of a problem.  
Little did either group know, this was all part of God’s plan for preserving His people.  God used Joseph as part of His plan to physically preserve His people from starving, and God used Jesus to preserve His people from the death that is a result of sin.  
Also, it is helpful to notice HOW Joseph’s brothers went to him.  They did not come demanding their rights, but they came HUMBLY, confessing their sins, begging forgiveness, and placing themselves in a position of servanthood.  
Likewise, when we see that our only hope is God’s grace and mercy that comes through Christ alone, we must go to him humbly, confessing our sins, begging forgiveness, and placing ourselves in a position of servanthood.  
In addition, the bible tells us that Joseph spoke kindly to his brothers and promised to provide for them.  (Remember, these are the same brothers who hated him and sold him into slavery, because that would be more profitable than just killing him.)  
How can this example set by Joseph help us think about the coming celebration of Christ’s birth?   OR  How is this similar to the way that Jesus deals with us?
We are sinful people who have chosen to place ourselves against God.  Christ calls us to Himself, with kindness and promises to provide for us spiritually.  When we see that we have no hope other than Christ, we must run to him humbly in repentance.  Just as Joseph received his brothers with forgiveness, Christ does not turn us away.
Jesus promises in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”  

Jesse Tree: December 7

December 7:
Hang ornament with Ladder
Genesis 28:10-17

We have talked about Abraham, Isaac, and today we will talk about Jacob.  Do you remember that these men are referred to as the Patriarchs?  

The story of Jacob is an interesting one.  Remember, Jacob had a twin brother named Esau.  When our reading for today takes place, Jacob has tricked both his brother and his father into giving him the birthright and blessing, and now he is fleeing for his life out in the wilderness.  

God, because of His mercy and kindness, did not let Jacob get eaten or killed out in the wilderness; instead, he came to him in a dream.  We will read about it from Genesis chapter 28:

10 Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. 12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. 14 Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
God chose to bless a selfish trickster, and God even promised that in Jacob and his descendants all the families of the earth would be blessed.  What a wonderful reminder of God’s willingness to redeem us and give us life even while we are dead in sins.  

This ladder in Jacob’s dream, which is often referred to as “Jacob’s Ladder,” is our symbol today.  It reminds us of how God does all things for His glory, and it can also remind us of the way that Christ goes to the Father on our behalf.  That is called MEDIATION.  We can read about this dream and think about Christ as the ladder.  

He is this ladder, the foot on earth in his human nature, the top of the ladder in heaven being His divine nature.  Everything that goes on between heaven and earth since the fall is by this ladder.

Christ is the way; all God’s blessings come to us, and all our services go to him by Christ.  We have no way of getting to heaven, but by this ladder; if we climb up any other way, we are thieves and robbers.  

Christ refers to this picture of Himself in the book of John when he speaks of the angels of God ascending and descending upon the son of man.  All of the kind things the angels do, and the benefits we receive by their works are all because of Christ.  Jesus has reconciled things on earth and things in heaven and made them all meet in Himself. (Paraphrased from Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Genesis 28:10-15)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jesse Tree: December 6

Hang ornament with ram

Today’s ornament is the ram, and we will be talking about Abraham again.  God always keeps His promises, and he did indeed bless Abraham and Sarah with a son named Isaac.  This is where we pick up the story, and it is one of FAITH and SACRIFICE. 

Our reading comes from Genesis 22:1-18:
 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”  15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
“What a demand God made! But Abraham did not withhold his only son of promise. What God wanted was Abraham’s heart, not Isaac’s life. So when the knife was raised to slay Isaac, a provided substitute appeared.”*
Abraham was ready to give up his son for a sacrifice to honor God, and on that occasion, God promised to give His Son as a sacrifice for the Salvation of man.  God provided a lamb for Abraham, and at the same time, God promised to provide another Lamb through Abraham.  
This promised Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world, is Jesus.  God sent his Son Jesus to be THE sacrifice for our sins.  1 Peter tells us that we are redeemed “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” 
Christ came to earth and took flesh and blood, that he might obey and suffer as a man.  He kept the whole law for his people, but he never sinned.  He was holy, blameless, and undefiled, and he lived a life of perfect obedience to the law of God.  Not only did he live a perfect life while He was here on earth, but also He satisfied divine justice by his sufferings and death in the place of sinners.  So He lived a life without sin, AND he suffered all of the punishment that our sins deserve.  
Through the years, godly people were saved by believing in this Savior to come, and they offered sacrifices to show their faith.  These sacrifices represented Christ, the Lamb of God, who was to die for sinners.  But now, we no longer need to make sacrifices.  Hebrews chapter 10 tells us, “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God... For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified....”  God’s saving work is complete through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, and that is exactly why we are waiting expectantly during this season of celebrating Christ’s birth!
* From resource, “All Men of the Bible”

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Jesse Tree: December 5

December 5:
Hang ornament with star

Today’s ornament is the star.  I bet you can think of several different Bible stories that involve stars, but today we are going to talk about God’s promise to Abraham. 

We live way out in the country in Mississippi.  There are no street lights or city lights, and when we turn off our house lights and go outside on a clear night, the stars are AMAZING.  We can see so many more than when we are in town, and we would not even dream of trying to count them all!  

Let’s think about Abram (whose name was changed to Abraham).  There was no electricity in his day, and so at night everything for miles and miles was dark.  It’s easy to imagine what the sky might have looked like on the evening when the Lord spoke to Abram.    

1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying,
“Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great.”
2 Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” 4 Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” 5 And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Abram was old.  His wife Sarah was old.  They had not yet had any children, and there were a LOT of stars.  The promise of descendants numbering the stars seemed incredible.  YET ABRAM BELIEVED GOD, and God counted him righteous.  
There are two things going on here.  On one level, there is the amazing power of God and the granting of a child to Abram and Sarah against all odds.  Now childless Abram would have an heir, and Abram would become Abraham; he would be known as one of the patriarchs- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob- and the 12 tribes of Israel would be born directly through him.   
That’s great- and even miraculous- but why would we put this star on the Jesse Tree as we expectantly wait for the celebration of the birth of Christ?  
On another level, there is the promise of the coming of Christ through Abraham’s family line. We can look to Galatians Chapter 3 in the New Testament for a little explanation.  
Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer...
16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ...
29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:6-9, 16, 29 NASB)
Galatians tells us that Abrahams’s descendants are not only those who are directly related to him.  All who are in Christ are the offspring of Abraham, and therefore heirs. 
 When we look up at the stars on a clear night, we quickly realize that it is impossible to count them all. When God told Abram to “count the stars, if you are able to count them”, He knew it would be impossible for Abram also. Yet even small children can count to one, and there is one Star on which we can continuously gaze. 
The wise men actually saw a star in the sky which guided them to Jesus. We have much better than that. We have the Word of God and the Spirit of God to guide us to Christ, the only Star really worth gazing upon. It is those who follow that Star who are the real descendants of Abraham.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jesse Tree: December 4

December 4:
Hang ornament with rainbow

Today we get to hang the ornament with the rainbow!  I have always loved the bright colors of the rainbow, because they make me feel cheerful and hopeful.  The rainbow has been a symbol of hope and promise for a long, long time.  In fact, the very first rainbow was meant as a promise. 

After the fall of mankind, humans continued in sin and choosing self over what was right. 

Genesis chapter 6 says, 
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”  (Genesis 6:5-8)
Because Noah had found favor in the eyes of the Lord, He spared Noah and his family from the destruction of the earth.  When the waters had subsided and the family had come out of the ark, God made a covenant with them. 
What is a covenant?  A covenant is an agreement between two or more people.  It’s like a promise that we KNOW will not be broken.  
We read about it in Genesis chapter 9. 
 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. 11 I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; 13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. (Genesis 9:8-13, NASB)
When God made this covenant with Noah and his sons, God knew that man would still be born with a sinful nature.  He knew that the world would become wicked once again.  
Why do we put a rainbow on the Jesse Tree?  Even though God knew we would still choose sin, God promised not to destroy the earth by flood again.  
God does not deal with us according to our sins.  He deals with us according to His mercy through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, His Son.  Let’s think about that for just a moment.  
We are all born with what kind of nature?  A sinful nature.  This means we are all bent toward sin and we all choose sin.  Sin deserves consequences, and the bible says that, “The wages of sin is death.”  We deserve death and separation from God because that is what our sins have earned us.  However, the good news is in the second half of that same verse:  “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)  
Mercy is God NOT giving us what we deserve.  God does not deal with Christians according to their sins.  When we place our faith and trust in Jesus and HIS righteousness, we receive mercy and eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When we see the rainbow, whether it is on the Jesse Tree or in the sky after a storm, we can remember God’s kindness and mercy to man.  Sending His Son Jesus into this world was God’s GREATEST act of kindness and mercy, and THAT is what we are celebrating this December.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Jesse Tree: December 3

December 3:

Hang ornament with snake and apple.

Yesterday we talked about how Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, created the earth.  We also talked about how we are created in God’s image and for His glory.  
Today’s ornament is a snake and an apple.  Does anyone have a guess about what we are going to read about?  
Our Scripture reading for today is a full chapter from the book of Genesis.  Let’s listen and try to figure out why this ornament is part of our Advent story.
 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15  And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
16 To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 
‘You shall not eat from it’;                                                                                                       Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
19 By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.”

20 Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

As we celebrate this season of advent, remembering the fall of man reminds us how much we need a savior. 
Remember those questions and answers we talked about a few days ago?  Well, we have learned a few others that go like this:  
Q: What happened to our first parents when they had sinned?  
A: Instead of being holy and happy, they became sinful and miserable.  

Q: What effect had the sin of Adam on all mankind?  
A: All mankind is born in a state of sin and misery.

Q: What do we inherit from Adam as a result of this original sin?
A: A sinful nature.  

In Genesis 3, mankind was cursed as the consequence for sin, but GOD did not leave it at that.  Remember the part about the serpent eating dust and being bruised on the head?  In those verses we are given a promise, and that is why we have hope.   

God gives us a gracious promise about Christ in this passage, telling us He will be our Deliverer from the power of sin and Satan.  God was talking to the serpent, but Adam and Eve were present, and surely they took the hints of grace being given to them.  They would have seen the door of hope that had been opened to them, or else they would have been completely overwhelmed.  This was the dawning of the gospel day.  A terrible wound was given, but God provided a remedy.  Here, in the very beginning of the Bible, we see the hope for the promised Christ, a Savior. (Summary of Matthew Henry’s Comments) 

If we are not convinced that Adam and Eve were given hope at this point, we can always look to verse 21.  Genesis 3:21 says, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.”  

Adam and Eve had tried to make coverings for themselves, but they were too small and insufficient.  God’s covering for them was much better, and it showed that although there would be consequences for disobedience, He still cared for them.  Where do we think God got skins to clothe Adam and Eve?  This was the first sacrifice, and a picture of God covering sinful Man. 

As we look forward through History, we see God’s Son, Jesus, as the fulfillment of this promise.  Because of Adam’s sin, everyone is born with a sinful nature.  We can never cover our own sin, and any covering we try to make is always going to be too small and insufficient, just like the fig leaves.   BUT, when we place our faith in Jesus Christ and turn from our sins, He will cover us with His righteousness and make us right with God.  HE alone is our acceptable covering.  

Jesse Tree: December 2

December 2:

Hang ornament with the symbol of the world. 

As we look forward to the coming celebration of the birth of Jesus, let us start at the beginning.  Today’s reading is from Genesis chapter 1.

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."  God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."  (Genesis 1:26-31 NASB)

Our family has learned a series of questions and answers to help us learn about God.  The first three questions we learned go like this...

1.  Who made you?
     A.  God made me.
2.  What else did God make?
     A.  All things
3.  Why did God make you and all things?
     A.  For His own glory.

The passage we just read in Genesis tells us all of this about God's creation, and it also tells us that He created us in His image.  

We are going to read three more short passages from the New Testament.  As you listen, keep in mind that God made you in His image and for His glory, and see if you can figure out why we would put a symbol about creation on our Jesse tree.

First, from Colossians...

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created,  both  in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. (Colossians 1:15, 16 NASB)

And also from Romans...

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for  our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:22, 23 NASB)

One more from John...

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4 NKJV)

Why do we put an ornament about creation on our Jesse tree? 

Because Jesus made us and all things!  The Bible tells us that Jesus was the firstborn of all things, and even now all things are waiting expectantly for Him to return.  Our everlasting God is Creator and the source of all life and spiritual light.