THE LUCADO

CHRISTMAS DEVOTIONAL

LIFE LESSONS

Inspirational Applications for Living Your Faith

Prep Your are Hear t

Week

One:

Exper ien c e t h i s Ch r i s t mas se a so n l i ke ne v e r b e f or e wi t h this si x- week d e v ot i on a l f r om

Max Lucado
Let one of America’s most-loved pastors guide you on a memorable journey to the manger. Sit beside the babe. Know what it was like. Be inspired to live out your faith for Him.

Day 1: Cultivating Soft Hearts
Indeed the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the world: "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Surely your salvation is coming; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.'" Isaiah 62:11

Situation in Isaiah 62:1—64:12 Isaiah prophesied that God would one day be proud of His people—a day to long for, prepare for, and pray for. Recollecting God’s past favors and faithfulness, Isaiah passionately pleaded for God’s compassion and mercy and asked that Israel’s enemies be punished.

Observation When Jesus Christ came and provided a way for salvation, God would exalt His people. God would see his children as people without sin because Jesus paid the penalty for their sin.

Inspiration With the constant demands and crazy bustle and overpacked schedules that often harass us during this festive time of year, it's easy to let the real "reason for the season" slip away. And as it does, the soft heart that God longs for us to enjoy too often turns into

a hard heart—which ruins, not only our own time of celebration, but also that of our family members. My executive assistant, Karen Hill, saw the result of such stubbornness in a pasture. A cow stuck her nose into a paint can and couldn’t shake it off. Can-nosed cows can’t breathe well, and they can’t drink or eat at all. Both the cow and her calf were in danger. A serious bovine bind. Karen’s family set out to help. But when the cow saw the rescuers coming, she set out for pasture. They pursued, but the cow escaped. They chased that cow for three days! Each time the posse drew near, the cow ran. Finally, using pickup trucks and ropes, they cornered and decanned the cow. Seen any can-nosed people lately? Malnourished souls? De-hydrated hearts? People who can’t take a deep breath? All because they stuck their noses where they shouldn’t, and when God came to help, they ran away. When billions of us imitate the cow, chaos erupts. Nations of bull-headed people ducking God and bumping into each other. We scamper, starve, and struggle. Can-nosed craziness. Isn’t this the world we see? This is the world God sees. Yet, this is the world God loves. “For God so loved the world that he gave . . .” This hard-hearted, stiff-necked world. We bow before gold-plated cows; still, he loves us. We stick our noses where we shouldn’t; still, he pursues us. We run from the very one who can help, but he doesn’t give up. He loves. He pursues. He persists. And, every so often, a heart starts to soften. Let yours be one of them.

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(Adapted from 3:16 by Max Lucado)

Application If you feel a hard heart coming on (and even if you don't), take a few moments to do something to help soften it. How can you spread Christmas cheer, rather than Christmas overload?

Exploration Holiness—Exodus 20:8–11; Leviticus 11:44, 45; Psalm 93:5; Isaiah 4:2–4; Hebrews 10:14; 1 Peter 1:14–16.

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Day 2: It All Belongs to Him
"The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine," says the LORD of hosts. Haggai 2:8

Situation in Haggai 1:1—2:23 Twenty years had passed since Israel’s return from Babylon. But the people quickly forgot the lessons exile had taught them. They worked hard, but their crops failed. They earned money, but it was never enough.

Observation Sometimes having much can make people lose track of what is most important.

Inspiration We all know that Christmas is a season of giving. But sometimes, if we don't prepare our hearts for it, an abundance of possessions has a way of eclipsing God—no matter how meager those possessions may be. There is a predictable progression from poverty to pride. The poor man prays and works; God hears and blesses. The humble man becomes rich and forgets God. The faithful, poor man becomes the proud, rich man. As God said through Hosea, “When they had pasture, they were filled; they were filled and their heart was exalted; therefore they forgot Me” (Hosea 13:6). The proud, rich man falls under God’s judgment. How can we avoid this? How can a person survive prosperity, especially as Christmas approaches?

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Do not be haughty. Do not think for a moment that you had anything to do with your accumulation. Scripture makes one thing clear. Your stocks, cash, and 401(k)? They are not yours. “Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it” (Deuteronomy 10:14). “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head over all” (1 Chronicles 29:11). “‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:8).

(Adapted from Fearless by Max Lucado)

Application Is all the “stuff” surrounding the Christmas season getting in the way of you focusing on God? If so, shift and sort your priorities until your schedule reflects His desires.

Exploration Priorities—2 Chronicles 1:11, 12; Malachi 2:1, 2; Matthew 6:33; 8:21, 22; Revelation 3:17.

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Day 3: Listen for God's Voice
Get up, sanctify the people, and say, "Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.'" Joshua 7:13

Situation in Joshua 7:1–26 After dreaming of a homeland for forty years and tasting victory in Jericho, Israel suffered a stunning defeat at Ai. One man, Achan, stole plunder from Jericho and brought God’s judgment on all the people. God helped Israel conquer Ai after the sinful man and his family were destroyed.

Observation God insists on obedience to His commands, no matter how small or strict they may seem. Only then can we enjoy His blessing.

Inspiration One of the best ways you can prepare yourself for a great Christmas is to listen for God's voice. What might he want to say to you as December 25 draws near? Consider several tools for listening to God that I have found helpful. A regular time and place. Select a slot on your schedule and a corner of your world, and claim it for God. For some it may be the best to do this in the morning; others prefer the evening. Choose what works for you. 6

An open Bible. God speaks to us through his Word. The first step in reading the Bible is to ask God to help you understand it. Don’t go to the Scripture looking for your own idea; go searching for God’s. A listening heart. If you want to be just like Jesus, then let God have you. Spend time listening for his voice, and when he gives you your lesson for the day, apply it.

(Adapted from Just Like Jesus, by Max Lucado)

Application As Christmas approaches, noise levels tend to rise, along with busyness, and it gets harder and harder to hear the "still, small voice" of the Lord. How will you listen for his voice during this joyful season? What will you do differently than normal?

Exploration Obedience—Genesis 3:11–13; 17:1; 22:3; 2 Kings 23:4–8, 25; John 14:23, 24; 2 John 1:6.

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Day 4: Illustrate the Christ
"And the temple which I build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods." 2 Chronicles 2:5

Situation in 2 Chronicles 2:1—5:1 Solomon prepared to build a temple in Jerusalem according to the plans his father, David, had given him. Only the best wood and precious metals were used for God’s house.

Observation God deserves the best we can give. God deserves our finest possessions, our most valuable time, and our precious money.

Inspiration Tucked away in the cedar chest of my memory is the image of a robust and rather rotund children’s Bible class teacher in a small West Texas church. She wore black eyeglasses that peaked on the corners like a masquerade mask. Silver streaked through her black hair like a vein on the wall of a mine. She smelled like my mom’s makeup and smiled like a kid on Christmas when she saw us coming to her class. Low-heeled shoes contained her thick ankles, but nothing contained her great passion. Hugs as we entered and hugs as we left. She knew all six of us by name and made class so fun we’d rather miss the ice-cream truck than Sunday school.

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Here is why I tell you about her. She enjoyed giving us each a can of crayons and a sketch of Jesus torn from a coloring book. We each had our own can, mind you, reassigned from cupboard duty to classroom. What had held peaches or spinach now held a dozen or so Crayolas. “Take the crayons I gave you,” she would instruct, “and color Jesus.” And so we would. We didn’t illustrate pictures of ourselves; we colored the Son of God. We didn’t pirate crayons from other cans; we used what she gave us. This was the fun of it. “Do the best you can with the can you get.” No blue for the sky? Make it purple. If Jesus’ hair is blond instead of brown, the teacher won’t mind. She loaded the can. She taught us to paint Jesus with our own colors. God made you to do likewise. He loaded your can. He made you unique. But knowing what he gave you is not enough. You need to understand why He gave it: so you could illustrate Christ. This Christmas season, make a big deal out of him. Beautify his face; adorn his image. . . . color Christ with the crayons God gave you. Don’t waste the next few weeks embellishing your own image. No disrespect, but who needs to see your face? Who doesn’t need to see God’s?

(Adapted from Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado)

Application

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This Christmas season, how can you show others the face of God? What can you do, specific to yourself, to help both others and you prepare to celebrate Jesus' birth?

Exploration Preparations—Proverbs 15:22; 20:18; Luke 14:28–32; 2 Corinthians 1:17.

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Day 5: Come and See
He said, "I am 'The voice of one cyring in the wilderness: "Make straight the way of the LORD,'" as the prophet Isaiah said." John 1:23

Situation in John 1:1–51 The Greeks and the Jews were familiar with the concept of "the word." For the Jews it was an expression of God’s wisdom, and for the Greeks it meant reason and intellect.

Observation Leaving His heavenly home, Jesus put on human flesh to bring us God’s Good News.

Inspiration For John and Andrew, it wasn’t enough to listen to John the Baptist, the world’s most famous evangelist. God had tasked John with preparing the way for the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Most men would have been content to serve in the prophet's shadow. Could there be a better teacher? Only one. And when John and Andrew saw him, they left John the Baptist and followed Jesus. Note the request they made.

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“Rabbi,” they asked, “where are You staying?” (John 1:38). Pretty bold request. They didn’t ask Jesus to give them a minute or an opinion or a message or a miracle. They asked for his address. They wanted to hang out with him. They wanted to know him. They wanted to know what caused his head to turn and his heart to burn and his soul to yearn. They wanted to study his eyes and follow his steps. They wanted to see him. They wanted to know what made him laugh and if he ever got tired. And most of all, they wanted to know, Could Jesus be who John said he was— and if he is, what on earth is God doing on the earth? You can’t answer such a question by talking to his cousin; you’ve got to talk to the man himself. Jesus’ answer to the disciples? “Come and see” (v. 39). He didn’t say, “Come and glance” or “Come and peek.” He said, “Come and see.” Bring your bifocals and binoculars. There is no time for side-glances or occasional peeks. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV). A true disciple fixes his eyes on the Savior.

(Adapted from 3:16 by Max Lucado)

Application John prepared the way for Jesus. He let the people know that if they wanted to know what God is like, they should look at Jesus. In a similar way, if people today want to know what Jesus is like, they should be able to look at His followers. How do people see Christ in you?

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Exploration The Word Is Born—John 14:6, 7; 1 Corinthians 8:5, 6; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:7, 8; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 1:1, 2; 4:2.

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Day 6: Come to the Party
"I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." John 10:10

Situation in John 10:1–42 The parable of the Good Shepherd described Jesus’ role perfectly. Unlike a hired worker, Jesus, through love and affection, offered to lay down his life for His flock. Believers trust and know Him.

Observation Christ is our faithful shepherd. Put your trust in Him. He wants to give you life to the fullest!

Inspiration Heaven never exports monotony. So Christ once announced: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." Nor does God author loneliness. Among our Maker’s first recorded words were these: “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). He gets no argument from us. We may relish moments of solitude—but a lifetime of it? No way. Many of us, however, are too fluent in the language of loneliness, especially in this season of silver bells and twinkling lights.

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No one knows me, we think. People know my name, but not my heart. They know my face, but not my feelings. I have a Social Security number, but not a soul mate. No one really knows me. And . . . No one’s near me. We hunger for physical contact. Ever since Eve emerged from the bone of Adam, we’ve been reaching out to touch one another. We need to make a connection. And we need to make a difference. The anthem of the lonely heart has a third verse: No one needs me. The kids used to need me . . . The business once needed me . . . My spouse never needs me . . . Lonely people fight feelings of insignificance. What do you do with such thoughts? How do you cope with such cries for significance? Some stay busy; others stay drunk. Some buy pets; others buy lovers. Some seek therapy. And a few seek God. This Christmas season, He invites us all to the party. God’s treatment for insignificance won’t lead you to a bar or dating service, a spouse or social club. God’s ultimate cure for the common life takes you to a manger.

(Adapted from Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado)

Application

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Jesus left heaven and came to earth to give you a life of joy, peace, and fulfillment. Are you experiencing it? Unto you a Son has been given. How will you welcome him into your life today?

Exploration Shepherd—Genesis 48:15; Psalm 23.

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Day 7: Remember Jesus
And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, And said, "here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God Is My brother and My sister and mother." Mark 1:34, 35

Situation in Mark 3:1–35 Mark affirmed the spiritual authority and power of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus properly interpreted the Mosaic law. His power was greater than evil spirits. This passage also revealed Jesus’ ministry to call His spiritual brothers and sisters to do the will of God.

Observation Jesus demonstrated remarkable patience. Though many questioned His authority, He patiently refuted them. When His immediate family thought that Jesus was a lunatic, He expanded the concept of His family to include the kinship of people who love God.

Inspiration Can you still remember? Are you still in love with Him? This holiday season, remember Jesus. Before you remember anything, remember Him. If you forget anything, don’t forget Him. Oh, but how quickly we forget. So much happens through the year. So many changes within; so many alterations without. And, somewhere, back there, we leave Him. We don’t exactly turn away from Him . . . we just don’t take Him with us. Assignments

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come. Promotions come. Budgets are made. Kids are born, and the Christ . . . the Christ is forgotten. Has it been a while since you stared at the heavens in speechless amazement? Has it been a while since you realized God’s divinity and your carnality? If it has, then you need to know something. He is still there. He hasn’t left. Under all those papers and books and reports and years. In the midst of all those voices and faces and memories and pictures and presents and tinsel and carols . . . He is still there.

(Adapted from Six Hours One Friday by Max Lucado)

Application How can you make sure that you don't "forget" Jesus this Christmas season? Let Christ renew your love for Him and let it flow freely again, as it once did.

Exploration Spiritual Family—Isaiah 63:16; John 1:12; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 2:11.

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Exper ien c e t h i s Ch r i s t mas se a so n l i ke ne v e r b e f or e wi t h this si x- week d e v ot i on a l f r om

Max Lucado
Let one of America’s most-loved pastors guide you on a memorable journey to the manger. Sit beside the babe. Know what it was like. Be inspired to live out your faith for Him.

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