Category Archives: Advent Devotions
Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.
The book of Romans is a beautiful explanation of the gospel, written as a letter to the Christians in Rome. At the end of the letter, the apostle Paul concludes with a word of glory to God. This final praise recalls many of the letter’s major themes. Paul begins by saying that God is the one “who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ” (v. 25). Paul began his letter with a desire to encourage and strengthen the Christians in Rome, and now he makes it clear that if any strengthening is to come, it will come through God, who alone can bring strength to his people.
Are you in need of strength? Then this message is for you. How do we receive this strength? The Lord strengthens his people through the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ (v. 25). The gospel strengthens us because it is the “power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). We can be strong only “in the Lord and in the strength of his power” (Ephesians 6:10), but we cannot come to him until peace with him is established. Only Jesus can establish peace between us and God, and when we believe the gospel message that Christ alone can forgive our sins, we have peace with God (Romans 5:1). Beloved, if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, then this peace is yours. Receive it with gladness and be strengthened.
All of this takes place through “the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed” to all people (vv. 25-26). In the Old Testament, the gospel was taught in symbols and foreshadowing, but now with the advent of Jesus, the gospel is now seen with full clarity. Through Israel, the Messiah came, uniting Jew and Gentile in one body. Today, we are all one body, regardless of race or ethnicity. Through Jesus, we are the family of God in Christ.
Prayer: Father, glorify Thy Son that Thy Son may glorify Thee. Holy Spirit, do Thine office and take of these things of Christ and reveal them unto us. We gather up all our prayers in that salvation through the blood of the Lamb. Amen. (Charles Spurgeon)
Chris Marquez is a seminary student and pastor, currently planting Reformed Church of Los Angeles in Lynwood, California.
Then you spoke in a vision to your faithful one, and said:
I have set the crown on one who is mighty,
I have exalted one chosen from the people.
I have found my servant David;
with my holy oil I have anointed him;
my hand shall always remain with him;
my arm also shall strengthen him.
The enemy shall not outwit him,
the wicked shall not humble him.
I will crush his foes before him
and strike down those who hate him.
My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him;
and in my name his horn shall be exalted.
I will set his hand on the sea
and his right hand on the rivers.
He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, and the Rock of my salvation!’
How many times have we been promised something that never comes to pass? Most of us have experienced the feeling of being let down by an unfulfilled promise. After all, promises can be hard to keep.
But God has no trouble keeping his promises. With Christmas around the corner, we are reminded that God promised a Savior and fulfilled his promise by sending Jesus. Faithfulness is one of God’s attributes. Though many people have failed us, God is the faithful one.
Perhaps you have been waiting many years for God to fulfill a promise, and you think God has forgotten about you. Remember: throughout the Bible, God never forgets his promises. He always keeps his word.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of God. He came to earth, was persecuted as a baby, rejected throughout his ministry, and sentenced to be crucified on the cross. It was not easy for him to go through so much suffering and to end up dying on the cross. Yet in all of his life, Jesus was faithful. God’s faithfulness is bigger than anything we are going through. God is a God of covenant. He will never break that covenant and leave us. He has made a promise that he will be with us. As Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.”
God has made a covenant with his church, telling us that he will always be with us. Even when we walk through darkness, he will be there with us.
Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, because you do not break your covenant. You are faithful and you bring the assurance to my life that I will never be alone, and that you are always with me. Amen.
By Ángel López
I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to my servant David:
‘I will establish your descendants forever,
and build your throne for all generations.’”
When I was a boy, my abuelito (grandfather) taught me how to pray as he was taught by his abuelito a long time ago. Today, I pray with my daughters using almost the same words my abuelito used to pray. My hope and prayer is that my daughters and their children will continue proclaiming God’s faithfulness to the next generations.
When I immigrated to the United States, I brought with me a treasured bundle of memories and stories from past generations. I might not be able to find a physical photograph of my abuelos (grandparents) but it’s their faith in God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, that sticks with me and that I am passing to my daughters. This God of my grandparents is the most tangible gift that I am passing on to my family.
In a world where nothing lasts, this gift is particularly special. An ancient building may collapse from an earthquake, and the city is forever changed. When a flood hits, rising water erases the work of generations of human hands. Loved ones are here one day and gone the next. Or consider the computer: a new model makes the previous model look old and out of fashion. Things come and go, and there is a constant fight between our present and future. We find ourselves in a frantic race with time and with ourselves.
But God does not become obsolete. The psalmist has a realistic view of the past, the present, and the future, and he reminds us that God’s love is as firm as the heavens, is faithful to every generation, and will be so forever and ever.
Prayer: God of our grandparents and God of our children’s children, we proclaim your faithfulness throughout the earth.
Ángel López is an RCA minister serving in Holland, Michigan.
By Fernando Jensen
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. …
Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.
David has been delivered from all his enemies, has been proclaimed king, and is living in a palace. In a moment of quiet, David reflects, “The Lord took me from the pasture, where I was tending sheep, to a palace to be the leader of Israel. I must build a house for the Lord.” David has a plan and good intentions; it’s part of a response of gratitude to God. But is this what the Lord expects of him? Are King David’s good intentions sufficient?
There is an old phrase, “All roads lead to Rome.” It’s very common today to believe that there are many different ways to draw near to God and please him. But that’s not actually the case. The writer of Proverbs says, “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). Even though the way seems right, it may not be. Even though David wants to build a house for God, God does not want David to build it. Instead, God says that he will make David a house and establish David’s throne. God will keep his covenant to the people of Israel.
The reason David runs into trouble is because he doesn’t ask, “What is God’s plan?” As Christians, we ought to start by seeking the truth and trying to understand God’s will. Rather than looking to our own experience alone, we should look to the Word of God, since we believe in “Sola scriptura” (Scripture alone). We know that God is sovereign, and we want to live according to his plan.
As we go about our lives, it’s important to seek God’s purpose and plan, and this plan is found only through his Word. Despite our intentions, the promises of the Lord are unbreakable: “I will not violate my covenant, or alter the word that went forth from my lips.” (Psalm 89:34). The Lord never forgets his covenant.
Prayer: Lord, help me to seek you, and to trust that you will keep your promises to your people. Give me the humility and insight to recognize when my own best intentions don’t align with your purposes. Amen.
Fernando Jensen is a retired church planter in the Orlando, Florida, area.
Dear God, we carry many burdens and worry over many things. Help us to hear your promise in the Advent season, that in hearing, we may receive the Spirit’s gift of joy. And may our spirits be kept sound at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
John 1:6-8, 19-28
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said,
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’”
as the prophet Isaiah said.
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
Advent is a season that I anticipate with great cheer and expectancy. For many, Advent is one of the most joyful and awaited seasons of the year. This season also makes space for the good news of Jesus to be shared. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the light that this world so desperately needs. The true meaning of the season is often replaced by the parties, Christmas cookies, twinkling lights, and presents.
The real celebration is of the true light: that a Savior was given to us (Luke 2:11). As believers, we have the confidence of knowing that Jesus Christ came into the world to bring hope, a future, and salvation to all people who accept him as their Lord and Savior. We proclaim that Christ is Lord, not only by our words but also by our actions.
As ambassadors of Jesus Christ, and as John came, so do we, “as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (v. 7). Our story and our testimony help shine the light of Jesus wherever we go. Let us be the light to people who don’t know the true meaning of Advent. Let us be the voice that helps direct them onto a straight path.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the gift of Jesus. You sent your only Son and you did it all for love. Help us not forget this ultimate sacrifice. Let us also be a light, so we can share the good news with people in need. May God’s presence in our lives be the best present we can receive and share with others this year. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Diana Cano runs the Family Leadership Initiative (FLI) program for Comunidad Cristiana de Grand Rapids, an RCA church plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that is pastored by her husband, Rodrigo.
By Gianni Gracia
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
Between the “now” of our daily lives and the “not yet” of Christ’s return, the apostle Paul writes to encourage believers in the faith. First, he who sanctifies is God, who is also “the God of peace” (v. 23), a peace established on the cross. Additionally, God’s sanctification of us signifies our separation from a life of sin, and he creates in us the desire to devote ourselves to a life set apart for him.
Second, this sanctification is the transformation of a being in its entirety. Certain groups of people in Greece and Macedonia placed a low value on the human body, considering it merely a prison from which the soul must be set free. For this reason, many believers in Thessalonica felt overwhelming sadness and uncertainty when someone died because they were doubtful of whether or not buried bodies would participate in the glory of the coming of Christ. But Paul reassures the believers that, as a result of their sanctification through God, they will be entirely and completely conserved by the power of God to be accepted in the glory of Christ when he returns for his church.
Lastly, Paul affirms, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this” (v. 24). In other words, the guarantee here is that our God is not a mediocre God, and that should fill us with an abundance of hope and trust. We doubt, we fail, and we feel the weight of our sufferings, but God does not doubt, God does not fail, and he does not falter. Hence, not only does God’s sanctifying work reassure and strengthen us, but it also renews our yearning for Christ’s return, where he will receive us as unblemished and blameless and with exuberant joy because it will be the moment in which we will ultimately fulfill our purpose.
Prayer: Jesus, come soon. Your people are here, and in the midst of our own struggles and the pain of a broken world, we yearn for your return. Only then will everything be made new. Only then will we will abide in your perfect presence forever. Help us be renewed in your sanctification today and every day. Amen.
Gianni Gracia is pastor of Vida y Esperanza Church, an RCA church plant in Miami, Florida.
By Liz Testa
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Can you imagine what it must have felt like for Mary to be chosen by God to become the mother of the Messiah? What a sense of awe and wonder must have come over her—as well as a good measure of astonishment and even fear. Another person might have run in the opposite direction upon hearing such news, but Mary stayed calm and sensible, and most importantly, she listened. She listened to what the angel told her about God’s plan, about the presence of the Holy Spirit, and about the great impact this unfolding story would have on the whole world.
The angel also told her about her cousin Elizabeth, who was also pregnant unexpectedly. Mary listened to all this and moved forward with purpose. Whatever her initial feelings, she quickly went to visit Elizabeth, where she found joyful confirmation, affirmation, and companionship. This must have given her great confidence and peace, and allowed her to embrace her “chosen” status fully, resulting in her sharing this beautiful song of praise, known as the Magnificat.
The words of Mary’s song echo her own transformation from a startled, questioning young woman to a purpose-filled, trusting mother-to-be. When the Holy Spirit covered her, she not only became pregnant with our Lord and Savior, but was empowered with a deep sense of purpose, giving her holy boldness to embrace God’s favor and see herself among the faithful, in the family tree as one of those who fear God from generation to generation (v. 50).
During this Advent season, as we once again await the coming of the Christ child, how might we embrace the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, emboldening us, like Mary, to live into God’s plan for us?
Prayer: Holy and loving God, thank you for the example of Mary, who listened, believed and embraced your plan for her life. Like Mary, empower us to live confidently, joyfully, and boldly into our callings so that others may experience the liberating love, hope, joy, and peace of the one we call the Messiah. In the name of Emmanuel, God with us, we pray. Amen.
Liz Testa is the RCA’s coordinator for Women’s Transformation and Leadership
By Enrique Cuevas-Castillo
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
The psalmist reminds us that, although we live with the joy of the Lord, and his mercies are new each morning, tears are also a reality in the life of the believer. Jesus never promised a life free of affliction and tears, but he did promise us a life that is victorious over problems: “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33). So what can we do when we are faced with painful situations?
I grew up thinking that money was used for two things: saving or spending. I either put my money in my piggy bank or I bought material goods. As an adult, I have realized that there is a third option: investing the money to obtain returns. God encourages us to carry out this third option with our tears and our pain. He doesn’t want us to keep back or avoid our tears, nor does he want us to squander them. Instead, God wants us to invest them by offering them in prayer to him so that they produce returns of joy, of character, and of maturity in our life.
Have you ever viewed tears as an investment? We have a God to whom we can pour out our tears, our frustrations, and our pain because he understands us and transforms us through them. These days of Advent remind us that we have a God who became flesh, who came into this world and experienced suffering, affliction, and pain. Advent also reminds us that this affliction gives a return of salvation and eternal life for those who believe.
Just as the return doesn’t happen overnight, the tears that we pray before God will take time to bear the fruit of joy, character, and hope. But we are assured that, by sowing our tears in Christ, we will reap the fruit of justice with rejoicing.
Prayer: Holy Father, I remember and give you thanks for sending Jesus, your beloved Son, the man of sorrows. Through him, you justified and took away the iniquities of your people. Through your Holy Spirit, help us to pour out our tears and sadness in your presence, knowing that you understand us, console us, and strengthen us. Amen.
Enrique Cuevas-Castillo is pastor of Iglesia Alas de Aguila, an RCA church plant in Allendale, Michigan.