Jesus, The Name Above All Names
Advent Devotional by CCF
Christmas Day - Jesus, Lamb of God
December 25, 2020 • Elizzabeth, Bishop Glenn Kauffman
DEVOTION: For most of Jesus disciples the word lamb would have conjured images of bloody sacrifices brought to the temple. But let's take a step back. Why would God require sacrifices in the first place? Sin requires punishment and atonement. The sacrificial system was instituted by God himself to satisfy His righteous wrath, turning it from those who deserve it to the object be in sacrificed. Think of the first sacrifice recorded in scripture, God slaughtered an animal to clothe Adam-and-Eve, covering them and their sins at the animals’ expense. We find many significant sacrifices in the Old Testament. When God tested Abraham’s love, calling him to sacrifice his own son, Isaac, Abraham assured his son that “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering” Genesis 22:8. And God did provide the ram Abraham found at the top of the mountain was killed instead of Isaac. This episode foreshadowed god's provision thousands of years later through the sacrifice of Jesus. Another significant sacrifice was the Passover Lamb. After nine horrendous plagues sent upon the Egyptians in order to secure Israel's freedom, God-sent a final one, meant to kill each firstborn son. But to protect the Israelites, God instructed them to sacrifice a lamb and brush its blood on the doorposts “the blood will be a sign … when I see the blood I will pass over you” Exodus 12:13. Here, the Passover lamb points toward Jesus whose blood would cause God's wrath to pass over those covered by it. Throughout the Bible, sacrificial lambs were killed in order to bear the burdens of people sins. Sin was transferred from the guilty party to the animal. The person was declared innocent while the animal bore the sin’s just punishment: death This sacrificial system, instituted by God himself, was limited in scope: the sacrifice of atonement was required every year. But it was all meant to foreshadow Jesus. The lamb of God came to fulfill and supersede the sacrificial system. His death on the cross atoned for all of humankind’s sins once and for all, through faith in Him This is not blind forgiveness but violent justice, not cheap grace but costly grace, not temporary oversight but eternal reconciliation. God doesn't ignore our sins - he acknowledges them and makes provision for them through his own Son. The lamb of God makes possible our relationship with God CHALLENGE: Have you lost the wonder and awe of Jesus' sacrifice for your sins? Today worship Jesus for His sacrificial atonement, for taking your sins on Himself. Pick a hymn or a song that speaks of His sacrifice and sing it to Him in thankfulness.
Day 4, Week 4 - Jesus, The Man of Sorrows
December 24, 2020 • Lia, Melissa Richardson
DEVOTION: In a society that avoids pain at all cost, Jesus actions are hard to grasp. We’re surrounded by medications to relieve pain. Many turn to drugs, abortion, euthanasia in an effort to eliminate discomfort and inconveniences from life. But rather than run away from pain Jesus ran headlong into it. In the garden of Gethsemane, we glimpse the mental anguish Jesus experiences before his betrayal. He told his disciples, "my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" Matthew 26:38 and Luke describes Jesus distress as so intense that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground Luke 22:44. Knowing full well the suffering that awaited him, Jesus pleaded with the Father to consider an alternative plan. The physical suffering, He would have to endure alone would be enough to cause any one of us to turn away, and we know enough about the Romans cruelty during crucifixions to be shaken by their brutality. But Jesus also suffered in emotional agony of being forsaken by his Father, and the spiritual anguish of bearing all the ugly inhumane horrific sins of the world on his shoulders. It was enough to make anyone want to flee in the opposite direction But Jesus knew that there was no “plan B” to satisfy God's righteous wrath. Only He could secure salvation for his beloved creatures, so He willingly accepted the hard road before him even though He did not deserve any of it: the betrayal, the mocking trial, the beating, the scorn, the humility and the torturous death through suffocation on a cross. Amazingly, Jesus had the power to stop it all with just one word, but His love for us compelled Him to step forward. He willingly walked into this His suffering, humbly allowing Himself to be ridiculed by the very ones he came to safe. Every agonizing moment he hung on the cross was another whispered “yes” to his painful course. He who commanded the universe and enjoys the worship of angels step down from heaven to despise and reject the rejected by humans. And he did it all for love.
Day 3, Week 4 - Jesus, Son of Man
December 23, 2020 • Paris, Faithful Ladep-Nandang
DEVOTION: A close study of the Gospels reveal that the most common title Jesus used for himself is the “Son of Man”. In fact, he used it 81 times in the Gospels though no one else used it to refer to Him. When the Jews heard Jesus call himself the “Son of Man”, their minds would have immediately leapt to Daniel 7. In this prophecy Daniel writes about the end times when "one like the Son of Man" will come with authority to judge the world. Jesus was claiming that title for himself and communicating to his first hearers that He has the right to judge humanity. But this title also refers to Jesus own humanity. Think of the humility Jesus endured in becoming the “Son of Man”: God eternal and magnificent “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross” Philippians 2:7-8. Jesus emptied himself of heavenly glory while still retaining his Deity and submitted to the humiliation of becoming a human. From his position as Lord of the universe, he stooped down to become a servant, washing his disciple’s dusty feet. He set aside all his prerogatives and became like one of us, bound by time and space, trading all the riches of heaven and becoming poor in both the literal and figurative sense. This “Son of Man” was unlike any other son or daughter of man. Fully God and fully man, Jesus entered our physical existence and experience the joys and anguish of being human, yet without sin. What could possibly motivate him to do this? Love. That is the beauty of the doctrine of the incarnation God invisible, glorious and untouchable took on flesh. For us.
Day 2, Week 4 - Jesus, Immanuel (God With Us)
December 22, 2020 • Burt, Lia Kauffman
DEVOTION: The verse above is the first of 43 messianic quotes from the Old Testament that Matthew includes in his gospel narrative. By linking Jesus life to the Old Testament promises, Matthew demonstrates that Jesus birth and life fulfilled Old Testament prophecy to show God's provision for his people and his faithfulness in following through. Jesus' birth and life physically manifest a spiritual reality God wants to be with His people. He created humans with this relationship in mind, breathing His own life into us, creating us in His own image, and placing within us souls so we may commune with him. In the garden of Eden God's presence was very real to Adam and Eve as he walked with them and the cool of the evening. Although Adam and Eve sin separated them from God, He was never far from His people. When he led the Israelites out of Egypt, he went before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. His glory was visible in a cloud covering Mount Sinai, the tabernacle and the temple as a manifestation of His presence. Throughout history God has demonstrated his longing to be close to his people. Sin has marred our relationship with him, but Jesus embodiment shows God's commitment to dwelling with his people. This is mind blowing when you think about it: God Himself set aside His brilliance, took on human form and became one of us. He walked among us, ate, laughed, cried, slept, felt tired, expressed anger and displayed happiness. He the creator of the world, became as one of the created, because He longs to be with us. And He was willing to do whatever it took, even setting aside his glory, humbling himself to the point of death on a cross just to be with us forever. Amazing love
Day 1, Week 4 - Jesus The Good Shepherd
December 21, 2020 • Ruth Y. , Scott Phillips
DEVOTION: Some of the metaphors and examples that Jesus used in his teaching can be hard for us to understand, though they would have made complete sense to Jesus' first hearers. Jesus as the Good Shepherd is one of those such metaphors. When He refers to himself as the Good Shepherd, His listeners would have pictured a shabbily dressed, possibly smelly man who went all out for his flock. A shepherd was dedicated to his sheep both personally and professionally the sheep were his constant companions and his livelihood. A good shepherd cares for his sheep: he finds pastures with lush green grass that will provide the nutrients they need to be healthy; he anoints their wounds with oil to foster quick healing, he protects them from the elements and from predators. A good shepherd also knows his sheep: he names them and knows their particularities, he watches them and knows if they're acting strangely or if they wander off, he provides for them individually exactly what they need as they age and develop. A good shepherd leads his sheep: he goes before them, he walks the path before they do – make you sure there are no dangers ahead, he always stays close to respond to any need that arises, he maintains a presence by whistling or singing so that they know he is always there. Lots of hired shepherds would do those things also. An employee would have a vested interest in doing his job well. But the distinguishing mark of a good shepherd versus a hired shepherd is this the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. When danger comes, he doesn't run away to save his own life – he run straight onward toward the menacing threat to attack it head on before it reaches his sheep. His own life is not worth saving if he loses his precious sheep. That is our Good Shepherd. He doesn't have a superficial or halfhearted interest in us. NO, Jesus is completely committed to us – caring for us, knowing us, leading us and land down his own life for us. Between continuing His existence without us and facing certain death Jesus chose death. That's how much he loves us. And that's the Good Shepherd who leads us. Be comforted by the reassuring presence of God of the Good Shepherd by your side.
Day 5, Week 3 - Jesus, The Bread of Life
December 18, 2020 • Ted & Hannah, Lia Kauffman
DEVOTION: In the ancient Middle East bread was a staple part of people's diet. It was the most reliable source of energy for the body and was readily available with little preparation. For the Israelites in particular, bread was considered a special food because of its religious connotations. In the tabernacle and later the temple, there was a table of showbread in the holy place that symbolize God's desire to fellowship with his people as well as a bit of manna that was hidden in the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies as a symbol of God's provision When Jesus used the phrase “bread of life” and “bread from heaven” his listeners would have immediately thought of the story of manna. God gave manna to the traveling Israelites in the wilderness to save them from certain death by starvation. In a similar way God gave Jesus into the world to save us from certain death by separation from him. But Jesus wasn't simply drawing a parallel to Moses. He taught that THE Bread of Life is greater than the manna of their ancestors received under Moses. In fact, His declaration came shortly after the feeding of the 5000 a miracle that became an object lesson about the greatness of Jesus over Moses. The manna of God provided through Moses satisfied only temporally. The manna Jesus was offering, His very life, satisfies eternally. Jesus offers himself to all who believe in Him, an invitation to fellowship that isn't restricted to priest as the showbread was but is open to all – just as Jesus himself ate with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners. And in the beautiful picture of the last supper we’re reminded that Jesus broke broken body secures our place at God's table. As a morsel of bread becomes part of our bodies and gives us energy so Jesus becomes part of us when we believe in him and open access to fellowship with God. He satisfies every longing and desire with Himself “in your presence there is fullness of joy at your right hand there is pleasure for evermore” Psalm 16:11. The bread of life invites us to feast on him
Day 4, Week 3 - Jesus, The Prince of Peace
December 17, 2020 • Veronica, Melissa Richardson
DEVOTION: During His time on Earth, Jesus restored peace everywhere he went. He calmed tumultuous storms, He brought healing to the sick, He raised the dead to life, He forgave sinners their sins. Isaiah prophetically called the coming Messiah the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) and the angels announcing the birth of Jesus declared “on Earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). Jesus came to restore not just peace as we understand (a cessation of hostilities) but a rich, full, abiding harmony of life. His first coming began this process of restoring peace between us and God, His second coming will bring wholeness as He intended his creation to be when he first set the universe in motion. In contrast to human history filled with war, gloom and despair the reign of Jesus will be marked by flourishing piece, holiness and delight. Isaiah 9 describes the shift from gloom and darkness to the Messianic age and Malachi describes a time when “the Son of Righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings” Malachi 4:2. Jesus rule will restore well-being to individuals and to society as a whole when He brings worldwide peace in his future Kingdom on the new Earth. But Jesus reign of peace is not reserved for his future Kingdom, it begins here and now for all those who follow him. The Prince of peace brings us peace with God, the end of spiritual enmity and striving to secure God's favor through our good works, as well as a piece of mind and heart, a state of being at rest despite difficult circumstances because we know that God is in control. In fact, the very night that Jesus was betrayed, in his last teaching moment with his disciples, Jesus promised them peace not as the world offers it, but as only he can give them (John 14:27). No matter what would happen, they could rest and enjoy sweet fellowship with God, which would then create ripple effects in the relationships with the world around them. We live the present reality of God's Kingdom, pushing back the kingdom of darkness and bringing to fruition the peace of Jesus. Just as He is the Prince of Peace, so He calls us to be makers of peace all around us (Matthew 5:9). Though the world may be caught up in anxiety and worry, we can rest securely in the knowledge that Jesus is making all things right and we can participate with him in bringing peace to a broken world as we look forward to the future Kingdom of peace.
Day 3, Week 3 - Jesus The True Vine
December 16, 2020 • Steven and Andrea, Faithful Ladep
DEVOTION: If you have ever visited a vineyard and carefully observed the workers you would see them spending hours pruning, twisting, tying, digging, watering and doing all that they can to ensure a full harvest. Throughout the Old Testament the Vine was used as a symbol of Israel often to show where they lacked something. God carefully tended his Vine, protecting it from harsh elements and creating an environment for it to flourish, yet they still chose to rebel. God was just to judge them harshly but He has graciously provided another Vine. In contrast to Israel, Jesus is the true Vine. He is the faithful one who fulfills all that Israel failed to do: whereas she was wild and rebellious, He was submissive and obedient; while she yielded bad fruit, He produce good fruit in keeping with righteousness. He was in every way the epitome of all God called His people to do and He calls us to union with Him so that we may also produce good fruit Left to ourself we cannot produce good fruit any more than Israel could remain faithful. We are subject to the same weaknesses and sin as they were thousands of years ago. By ourselves we would go the way of rebellious Israel. So God snipped our branches from the wild vine and grafted it into His family through Jesus. He tenderly creates the opportune environment for us to flourish in. If you wonder about your spiritual fruitfulness, Jesus last conversation with His disciples before his death offered a beautiful opportunity for prayerful reflection, “I am the Vine you are the branches, whoever abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). These were the very men who in a few hours would abandon their teacher, but afterwards repented and went on to spread the good news of Jesus throughout the world. So there is hope for any one of us who have walked away but returns with a repentant heart. The Vine dresser will prune us to produce outward fruit that demonstrates inner transformation. Surprisingly Jesus does not call us to work hard to be more fruitful rather he calls us to abide in him, to wait on him. Fruit will naturally follow for those who remained connected to him, because His spirit is the one who produces fruit (Galatians 5:22-25). We belong not because of what we do but because of who He is. He is the Vine. We are the branches, and he will bear fruit through us as we remain in him. As the true Vine, Jesus both fulfills Old Testament prophecy and makes possible our inclusion in God's family. He sustains us, connecting us with the nourishment we need to bear fruit. When we are pruned by the Father to be more fruitful, He provides the healing salve. He supports us when the weight we carry seems to be too much. Jesus is the reason we are part of the vine, apart from Him we can do nothing. In him we can bear much fruit for the Kingdom. We only need to abide and He will do the rest.
Day 2, Week 3 - Jesus the Alpha and Omega
December 15, 2020 • Dana, Pastor Akeia
DEVOTION: For those who are unfamiliar with the Greek alphabet this name may not mean much at first. But simply saying alpha and omega means “A to Z” wouldn't do it justice. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and represent the entirety of not just letters but all knowledge, all existence and all time. From beginning to end, Jesus was, is and will be & all things live, move and have their being in him (Acts 17:28). There is nothing outside the realm of His presence. He sovereignly rules over all existence. Through him all things were created that will be and in him all things hold together (Col 1:16-17). But Jesus is not only the beginning and end of all creation, He is also the author and finisher of our faith. He experienced the full range of human life alongside us, yet without sin. From his birth in a humble stable to being ostracized by his own community and hanging on a cross like a criminal, Jesus lived the life of faith, and trusting Himself to His Father and walked in obedience. And when he breathed His last breath, he declared “it is finished”. The work of justification had its beginning and its end in Jesus Jesus did all this looking at His current circumstances through the eyes of faith knowing the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). For Jesus, that joy was knowing that He would be resurrected in glory and spend eternity with His bride, the church, which He came to save. We can take comfort in our Alpha and Omega, knowing that whatever we experience in this journey of faith we are not alone. Jesus has gone before us, He welcomed us into this journey and He will see us safely to the end.
Day 1, Week 3 - Jesus, Great High Priest
December 14, 2020 • Paris, Lia Kauffman
DEVOTION: The most prestigious spiritual leader in Israel was the high priest. Of all the priest and rulers in the nation, he was the one, the only one, who could enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the day of atonement to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. After ceremonial cleansing for his own sins, he would go behind a thick veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. There he would offer the blood of a goat on the golden mercy seat that sat atop the Ark of the Covenant so that the sins of Israel would be covered for another year. The old priesthood and system of sacrifices was not meant to last forever. God gave them to Moses and the Israelites to foreshadow their fulfillment in Jesus. They had to repeat with sacrifices every year, but Jesus death on the cross made final atonement for our sins and abolished the system once and for all. Just as the Aaronic high priest would disappear from the people's view when they entered the Holy of Holies, so Jesus passes through the heavenlies into the sanctuary of God. He is the one that hears our prayers because He has entered the Holy of Holies in heaven. As the writer of Hebrews explains, there were many high priests throughout history since death prevented them from continuing in office, but because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood (Hebrews 7:23-24). He remains to this day the enduring High Priest who is alive and able to fulfill that role. In heaven, Jesus sits on the great throne of grace ready to hear our prayers and assist us in our time of need. He sympathizes with our weakness because He himself was tempted in every way just as we are yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15-16). Jesus is not aloof and prideful, but rather concerned and available. This comforting truth invites us to approach the throne of grace with confidence. Because Jesus is our High Priest, we no longer need anyone else to intercede between us and God. We have direct access to the father through Jesus and he stands ready and willing to help us in our time of need.
Day 1 , Week 2 - Jesus, Word of God
December 7, 2020 • Safi (CCF Partner and ESL Student), Keayana Reeves
John 1: 1-5 1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.