Faith Encounter

Want to live an awesome life? Then brace yourself for an action-packed, 12-week journey through the life of the world most incredible person-Jesus Christ! Through stories about real people you'll discover how to get real relationships, get a handle on school, home, parents, and friends, get rid of boredom, and get a real life with Jesus. In these quick devotions, you'll be given all the gear, all the confidence, and all the preparation to start the adventure of a lifetime-living to the limit for Christ!

(see preview below)

X

Day 2: Cosmic Connection

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a Loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!" (Luke 1:41, 42).

Ultimate Word: Read Luke 1:39-80

Ultimate Encounter

Mary rushes to Elizabeth and Zechariah's place, which is about 65 miles away (not exactly an afternoon stroll). When they meet, Elizabeth's unborn baby leaps for joy as Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and calls Mary the mother of her Lord. Elizabeth tells Mary how fortunate she is, not because she has done anything on her own, but because she has simply taken God completely at His word and trusted Him.

Mary agrees but makes sure the glory goes to the right person. She praises God for choosing her, for His love that encourages the humble, and for the fact that what's happening isn't a new plan but the fulfillment of an ancient promise.

A few months later, everyone is pretty excited when Elizabeth gives birth to her son, John. But the neighbors can't quite swallow the name. A backyard, over-the-fence conversation may have gone something like this:

“What's with this John stuff? Listen, Zech, don't you know the firstborn is named after the father? That's how Jewish people keep the family name going. There's not a single John in your entire family!”

But Zechariah isn't about to make the same mistake twice. When the angel Gabriel first told Zechariah that he would be a father, he didn't believe it so his speech was taken from him. The angel also said to name the son John-which is exactly what Zechariah would do! He writes in no uncertain terms, "His name is John." And because of this act of faith, he immediately begins to speak and prophesy about coming events.

What an amazing account of God's faithfulness. Understand that Zechariah could not speak until his actions said, "Yes, I trust You, Lord." Elizabeth called Mary blessed because Mary said, "Yes, I trust You, Lord." In contrast, Adam and Eve blew it (and put the world in the mess it's in) because their actions said, "No, we don't trust You, Lord."

How many times a day do we say, "Yes, I trust You, Lord"? God promises us love, peace, and protection: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

But how many times do we fall for Satan's lies? How many times do we feel that if we don't fret, fuss, and worry, whatever we want will not work out for the very best? We need to get a clue: These are Satan's lies!

Ultimate Action

Don't let Satan trip you up. Instead, claim the truth
whether you can physically see it at this particular
moment or not. As Jesus says, 'If you hold to my
teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you
will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31,32

Day 3: The King Is Born

“There is born to you this day in the city of David,
a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be
the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in
swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:11, 12 NKJV

Ultimate Word: Read Luke 2:1-20

Ultimate Encounter

It doesn't seem like a suitable place for the King of kings: the animals, the filth, the smells, the flies, the dusty, scratchy hay-and having a feeding trough, of all things, for a crib! But God, in His infinite love, chooses the hum-blest possible surroundings. No one can accuse Jesus of not knowing hardships and pain.

What's more, it's not to the kings, or to the great intellectuals, or even to the celebrities that God sends the ultimate birth announcement. Instead, the Creator of the universe first shares His great joy with simple, humble shepherds. (Apparently high positions don't impress Him too much.) Suddenly, the sky splits apart with "a multitude of the heavenly host praising God" and promising peace on earth to those who please Him (Luke 2:13 NASB).

Meanwhile, Mary remains as obedient as ever, despite the fact that her world has been incredibly shaken. Instead of looking at the stigma of being an unwed mother, she keeps her eyes fixed on God's faithful love and says, "I am the Lord's servant."

Are our eyes fixed on God's faithful love? Can we see beyond our problems to His love? If you're having trouble with that, keep in mind that part of His love involved coming all the way down to our level to live in this dirty, sin-infested world in the person of His Son. Let's move in closer and get a better look at this Son...

No beauty. "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2).

No reputation. The Bible describes Jesus as one who "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" (Philippians 2:7).

No sin. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Ultimate Action

·Focus on Christ's image. His beauty comes from the inside out. His eyes radiate with unlimited peace; His smite speaks of incomprehensible joy. Most of all, His heart beats with boundless love.

·Accept Christ's friendship. He won't make fun of your fears or blab your secrets. Instead, He'll be the grea, most loyal friend you'll ever have.

·Nurture Integrity-not popularity. Even if you become the planet's most popular guy or gal, without Christ ifs all pretty empty and pointless. Through your Bible study, praise times, and prayers, let Jesus show you the meaning of true acceptance, true fulfillment, and true hope.

Day 4: Boy Savior

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers (Luke 2:46,47).

Ultimate Word: Read Luke 2:39-52

Ultimate Encounter

At age 12, a Jewish boy becomes more responsible for his actions. No longer can he get by with saying, "Hey, I'm just a kid" or "I didn't know any better." Jesus is 12, nearly 13, when He goes to the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem with His parents. Jerusalem is about 65 miles from Nazareth, so after the seven-day festival, Mary and Joseph join a caravan (it's usually safer to travel in a large group) and head home. As a rule, the women leave earlier in the morning because they walk slower and have children to contend with. Then the men leave, and the two groups meet and camp together in the evening.

During the journey, Mary probably figures Jesus is with Joseph, while Joseph figures He's with her. It's quite a shock when they get together in the evening and discover. He isn't with either of them! Mary and Joseph comb the camp looking for Him, then spend three days searching the streets of Jerusalem. They hit all the festival attractions that should interest a boy of Jesus' age. The last place they'd expect to find Him is in the temple. But there He is, politely listening and asking questions of the top teachers and amazing all of them with His solid insights and answers.

Mary is naturally upset and asks Jesus why He's being so inconsiderate.

Jesus' response? "Why were you searching for me?... Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"

These are the earliest words of Jesus quoted in the New ament. Before this time, no one had ever used the term "My Father" as Jesus had. No one had ever referred to the Creator in such a personal, intimate way. If we reread Jesus' words, we discover two things about our young Messiah:

1. He knows who He is. No cruising into the turbulent teen years with an identity crisis. No giving into peer pressure or experimenting with the dark side of life. Jesus accepts who He is and stays true to His identity.

2. He knows His life's mission. Best of all, He accepts it. Keep in mind that Jesus is fully God and fully human. Yet He keeps His frail, human side in check and stays committed to His calling. One more amazing thing happens: Jesus returns home with His parents and remains obedient to them. The fact that He's God's Son doesn't give Him the right to rebel.

Ultimate Action

· Don’t lose your identity. In the world's eyes, your wrapped up what you do, how smart c you are- and how you Look. But in God's eyes, what matters is who you are-His child.

· Find your identity in Christ. Our Lord wants the very best for you. His plans for you are even better than your wildest dreams. Jesus doesn't Look at you and say, "This is who you are, and who you'll always be." Instead, He says, "Just imagine who you can become!'

Day 5: Repent or Perish!

"I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie" (John 1:26,27).

Ultimate Word: Read John 1:19-28

Ultimate Encounter

John the Baptist is drawing such a crowd that the religious hotshots figure they'd better pay a little visit to check him out. Keep in mind that everyone is waiting for the Messiah to appear. The Savior of Israel has been promised by God for thousands of years, so the crowd is expecting Him to make His debut any minute. It's little wonder, then, that the first question out of the authorities' mouths is, "Are you the Christ?"

John's answer couldn't be clearer: "No way!"

Next they ask if he is Elijah, the Old ament prophet who was whisked up to heaven hundreds of years ago (a guy many thought would come back to announce the Christ).

Again John says no.

Next, they ask if he's the prophet (somebody a lot of folks also thought would be showing up).

Wrong again.

In desperation, they throw out the true-or-false quiz and get right to the point: "Who are you?"

He answers by quoting from Isaiah, an Old ament prophet who spent a lot of time writing about the coming Messiah: "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord" (John 1:23). In other words, "It's my job to tell you to straighten out your lives because God's on His way!"

At this point, the bigwigs are getting a little hot under the collar. They came to grill John, not to be preached at. So they demand to know, "If you're just a nobody, then who do you think you are baptizing all these people? Who gave you the authority?"

John gives them an answer, but not the one they're expecting. He says that standing right there among them is somebody they don't know-somebody whose sandals he's not even fit to untie.

For what it's worth, John's not talking about being a shoe salesperson here. Untying sandals was considered such a low-level job that only slaves were supposed to do it. So John makes it pretty clear that he's not out there on some ego trip. Instead, he's there to prepare the people for somebody else-somebody he's not even fit to be a slave to.

Needless to say, he's got everyone's attention.

It had to be a pretty strange sight. John the Baptist was out roasting in the desert, wearing camel-hair clothing, eating locusts and wild honey, and telling people they'd better get their acts together because God was on His way Yet there was something about John the Baptist that people were taking seriously. He struck a universal chord-one that still rings true today. He hit upon an intangible feeling of guilt, a deep-rooted sense that somehow humanity has failed. More importantly, the people of the world needed to find a way to wash themselves from these failures-to be cleansed from these sins.

John the Baptist was pointing to the answer: Jesus Christ.

Ultimate Action

Give up the performance trap. Following the Letter of the Law and trying to be a good person won't bring you Life. Only God's Love and mercy can do that.

Stop reliving old sins. And stop thinking that you just can't cut it as a Christian. If you've confessed your sins to Jesus and have committed our Life to Him, you are forgiven and free! Not only free from punishment, but if you Let Him, He can actually free you from sinning! That's definitely ultimate life!

Day 6: Spirit-Filled Son

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending Like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:16,17 NKJV).

Ultimate Word: Read Matthew 3:13-17

Ultimate Encounter

John the Baptist can't believe what he's hearing. His cousin Jesus just asked to be baptized by him. Imagine that!

"I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" John asks.

Jesus isn't kidding, He means what He says: "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Jesus knows He doesn't need to be cleansed, but He points out that He needs to identify fully with the people to whom He was sent. What's more, His Father has chosen this occasion to publicly declare that Jesus is the Son of God: “This is my Son, whom I love," God's voice booms from heaven, "with him I am well pleased." It's a moment that will live forever. Heaven opens, the Father speaks, and the Spirit of God descends on Jesus like a dove. It's the first time since Creation that God publicly reveals His amazing nature: Three persons in one-the Father (the voice), the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove); all three forms, yet only one God.

Astonishing!

Now for the obvious question: "How can one God be in three forms?" This is a biggie. It's a question that's given mankind headaches for centuries (probably because of our limited capacity to comprehend). One good way to understand God is by looking at a man.

A man can be a son to his parents, a father to his children, and a husband to his wife. He's all three things at once, but he's still one person. We have one God, but He's three persons.

Another way of tackling this question is by taking a look at water (H² 0). Even though it can be found in three separate forms-ice, liquid, steam-it will always remain H² 0. The same is true of God. He can take on three forms, but He will always remain one God.

Ultimate Action

· Be in awe of God. So end some time praying to Him, thanking Him for His awesome nature and for coming' to 'earth to save humanity. Ask Him to help you trust Him more each day.

· Take comfort in God's presence. Know that He is with you at all times. Ask Him to help you seek His voice and to depend on His guidance.

Day 7: The Master's Plan

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him
and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes
away the sin of the world! This is the one I
meant when I said, 'A man who comes after
me has surpassed me because he was before me’.”
John 1:29,30

Ultimate Word: Read John 1:29-34

Ultimate Encounter

"Look, the Lamb of God!"

At first, John the Baptist's description of the Lord seems a bit strange to the ear. After all, he could have said, "Look, the Creator of the universe! It's God-the one and only. Drop to your knees, folks; it's supreme ruler time!" But John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uses an interesting word picture-a lamb-when he introduces Jesus. John the Baptist knows the Master's plan, and he doesn't want anyone to miss it.

If John insists upon comparing Jesus to an animal, why not: "Behold, the Roaring Lion" or "Behold, the Soaring Eagle"? Why some ninth-rated animal like a baby sheep?

First of all, it was lambs that were used in the temple sacrifice. Every day a lamb was killed in the morning, then another in the evening to pay for people's sins. This sounds pretty cruel, but keep in mind that sin is pretty cruel. In fact, it's deadly-and somebody has to pay for it. Arid, as unfair as it seems, it's better that an animal pay with its life than a human.

So, in one sense, John is saying, "Look, this is the Lamb God has supplied. This is the one who will suffer and die in our place for all our sins."

Another reason the analogy works is that the blood from lambs is what saved the people of Israel just before the exodus, when they were getting ready to leave Egypt. Remember? Despite all the miracles God was performing through Moses, Pharaoh would not let the Israelites leave. So finally, to get His point across, God made plans to wipe out all of the firstborn in the country There was one problem: The Israelites had a few firstborn, too. How could they be protected while God carried out His judgment on the Egyptians?

The solution was simple. To be saved, the Israelites were to kill lambs and smear their blood over their doors. Later that night, when the Angel of Death went from house to house to kill the firstborn, he'd see the blood over the Israelites' doorways and literally pass over the homes that were covered by the blood.

It's Jesus' blood that saves us from eternal death.

Ultimate Action

Pause for a moment and consider John the Baptist’s message. In essence he is saying, "Look, here's someone who will take all of your sins-every failure, everything you've ever done wrong-and dispose of them forever. He will take all that guilt, all that blame upon Himself. He will take the punishment that should be yours so you can be clean, so you can be free."

Do you believe the Master’s plan? Jesus came to take away your sins so you can Live forever. He is the only answer to your sin dilemma. He is the one through whom you can experience grace. Eternal Life is yours for the asking .... But you have to ask.

COPYRIGHT ALL RIGHTS RESERVED