The Rivers of Life – December 16, 2017

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. … Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
Isaiah 35:1,6-7

The Rivers of Life


Daily Devotion – December 16, 2017

Devotion based on Isaiah 35:1,6-7

See series: Devotions

Right about now, you may be wondering how you’ll get everything done for Christmas.

We all struggle with Christmas because we don’t always have the resources we need to do Christmas right.

We may have a dozen rolls of wrapping paper and enough Christmas lights for an inter-stellar beacon. But do we have the resources to deal with a mother who still corrects how we set the table? Do we have the resources to deal with a father who has been missing for so many years? Do we have the resources to handle children who run and scream and don’t give us a chance to shower before 2 pm, let alone give us peace on earth?

Probably not—because to handle these Christmas situations and to really celebrate Christmas right, we need spiritual resources. Spiritual resources we won’t find in our hearts.

Those resources aren’t in our hearts because, spiritually speaking, our hearts are deserts of burning sand. They are empty and lifeless.

We still have hope. Isaiah promised that the Lord would bring rivers of life winding between the spiritual sand dunes of our heart. These rivers of life flood us with God’s forgiveness, uncompromising compassion, loving patience, and healing peace.

Where do all these spiritual resources come from? From the baby we’re about to welcome in one week. That child in a wooden feed box is God’s Son. He came to earth on a mission to rain God’s love and peace down on us. Thirty-three years after he was born, he suffered for our sins on the cross. His sacrifice opened the floodgates of God’s love for us. He gives us all the peace, love, joy, and hope we can hold – and then some!

So if you want to be ready for the rush of Christmas, tap into baby Jesus. Drink up the rich promises God made through this child:
• Your Father in heaven loves you.
• Your Father in heaven accepts you.
• Your Father in heaven has taken away all your guilt.
• Your Father in heaven has prepared a home for you next to him.

You’ll be surprised how well you can deal with Christmas when rivers of life are drenching your heart.

Prayer:
Lord, fill my dusty heart with the river of your life. Remind me why Jesus came to earth. Then my Christmas can be full of joy. Amen.

This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Our Compassionate Savior – December 15, 2017

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.
Romans 12:14-16

Our Compassionate Savior


Daily Devotion – December 15, 2017

Devotion based on Romans 12:14-16

See series: Devotions

The Bible is not the only book to instruct us to “live in harmony with one another,” as the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans. Buddhism, Hinduism, and other world religions—even secular philosophies—give us much the same guidance for life. Our own consciences warn us that we would do well to treat others around us with love and compassion. But no matter who gives us this advice or how often we hear it, we still struggle to put ourselves in the shoes of others or to put their needs and feelings ahead of our own. Our natural inclination is so turned inward that we are blind to the ways that we could be a blessing to others. And when we do think of others, it is often with jealousy, envy, contempt and pride.

Fortunately, the Bible not only tells us what we should be doing, it tells us what God’s Son has done for us. Jesus Christ perfectly considered what others needed from him. He offered forgiveness to those who crucified him. He wept along with the mourners at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. He performed his first miracle at a wedding reception to help the joyful celebration continue even as he revealed his glory as the Son of God. At Christmas, we rejoice at the news that God loved us so much that he took on our own flesh and blood. He took our sorrows on himself. He took on the weight of our sin. And he carried the guilt of our selfishness to the cross where he paid for it in full.

Jesus has shared in our sorrows so that he can share his joy with us. In him we find God’s grace and the promise of forgiveness. In him we find compassion so deep that it spills over into our own hearts. In Christ Jesus we find joy in serving others and in bringing his message of peace to everyone.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, you loved me when I was unlovable. May your compassion for everyone be reflected in the way that I live. Teach me to see the ways that I can be a blessing to others as you are to me. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Not Too Highly – December 14, 2017

By the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Romans 12:3

Not Too Highly


Daily Devotion – December 14, 2017

Devotion based on Romans 12:3

See series: Devotions

You ought to think of yourself highly. After all, God did. He thought so highly of you that he sent his Son to restore what had been lost through sin and unbelief. Now, through Jesus, you are a redeemed child of God. You are the apple of God’s eye. As such, you are part of a glorious kingdom, a holy nation, the people of God. You are a part of the body of Christ, with unique gifts, talents, and opportunities. You are equipped for great works of service. You are empowered to be and do what God has called you to be and do. Indeed, you ought to think of yourself highly.

But not too highly.

The apostle Paul understood the human inclination to think more highly of yourself than you ought. He had lived it and he had seen it. Apparently, it was a special challenge for the Romans. You can read Romans chapter 12 and see how many ways Paul touches on honoring others above self—you can think about how this continues to be a challenge today. Because of what he had experienced and seen, but more importantly, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, Paul urged his readers and urges us, “Think of yourself with sober judgment.”

How does the inclination to think of yourself too highly manifest itself in your life? Here’s one way it can happen: by thinking of different as better. When you look at your gifts and the gifts of others, you see your gifts not as different, but better. When you look at your opportunities and the opportunities of others, you see your opportunities not as different but better. When you look at how you and others take on a challenge, you see your way not as different but better.

To be sure, in many cases there are ways of doing things that are better than others. There are tried and true approaches that are best practices. However, when your default is to automatically think that your way is better, that’s not the best practice; it is sinful conceit and arrogance. Such an outlook is not in accordance with the faith God has given you. Faith looks at things differently.

When the temptation to think too highly of yourself comes knocking, remember, like Paul, you are who you are by the grace of God given to you—and read Romans 12 for more thoughts on how that can manifest itself in your life as a redeemed, restored, forgiven child of God.

Prayer:
Lord God, forgive my sinful conceit and arrogance. Remind me that I am who I am by your grace. Help me always to honor others above myself, and you above all. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Honor – December 12, 2017

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.
1 Peter 3:12

Honor


Daily Devotion – December 12, 2017

Devotion based on 1 Peter 3:12

See series: Devotions

About 350 years before Jesus’ birth, a man walked onto the world stage by the name of Alexander. Alexander did not live to be very old; he was only 32 when he died. In addition, his reign as king of Macedonia was not unusually long; he ruled for only 12 years. However, in his short life and within 12 short years, Alexander established an empire the size of which the world had never seen. In an age when armies traveled everywhere by foot, Alexander amassed a kingdom that was over 3,000 miles long. For some perspective, keep in mind that the coast-to-coast length of the United States is only 2,000 miles. Alexander was called “the Great” for a reason.

During Alexander’s reign, a respected philosopher needed money to carry out his work. Alexander told his treasurer to give the philosopher whatever he needed. The philosopher’s request, however, turned out to be a massive one. The treasurer hesitated. He decided to check with Alexander before he turned the money over. When he did, Alexander gave a memorable reply. He told the treasurer to give the philosopher his money at once. Then Alexander said this, “The philosopher has done me a singular honor. By the largeness of his request he shows that he has understood both my wealth and generosity.”

You and I can do the same thing when we approach our Lord in prayer.

Too often, in our sinful weakness, we can doubt our Lord’s wealth and generosity. We can talk ourselves into thinking that our requests to him need to be small and vague. When we come into the Lord’s presence with such a mindset, however, we do not give him honor. Rather, we display our skepticism. We politely question how much our God can really do.

When God became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ, he washed away our displays of dishonor with the blood he shed on the cross. And because he was willing to serve as the One who rescued us from the curse of our sin, he has demonstrated not only that he possesses all things, but that his generosity is beyond description.

The next time you bring a request to your Lord, take that to heart.

Prayer:
Lord, you possess all things and your heart is a heart of undeserved love for me. Move me to honor you with requests that are bold. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Real Comfort – December 13, 2017

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
Isaiah 40:1-2

Real Comfort


Daily Devotion – December 13, 2017

Devotion based on Isaiah 40:1-2

See series: Devotions

My world could use a dose of real comfort. My life is a mess. I do a good job at work. The Lord has given me a family far better than I deserve. Still, my life is a mess.

Most days I feel that I’m behind schedule. Typically, I rush my projects because there just is not enough time to do a good job. I also rush through my time with my family. I don’t give them the quality time they deserve. I even rush my relationship with God, not giving him the quality time he deserves.

The result of all this rushing and cutting corners is guilt. I know I’m not the person I should be, could be, or ought to be. I’m looking for comfort for my guilty conscience. Do you ever feel the same way?

I can find all kinds of comfort to cheer me up: “You’ll do better next time.” “You did the best you could.” “They’ll understand.” “God knows you’re only human.”

I can find some comfort munching on an extra Christmas cookie or buying an extra toy for my child to make me feel better about neglecting her. The comfort of a good tasting Christmas cookie doesn’t last long, though. These comforts don’t work well because none deal with the core problem. I am a sinner. I fall short of God’s expectations of me. For this I deserve to be punished. But instead of the punishment I deserve, God gives me a double measure of his grace.

Punishment for my sin—for the sin of the whole world—God brought about over 2,000 years ago. God’s Son was born in a stable as my stand-in. In my place he grew up and lived a normal human life. He just never sinned. After 33 years, Jesus took his perfect human life to the cross. At that cross he received all the punishment I deserved for my sins. By the time he was done suffering for me, my sin was completely paid for.

God holds nothing against me. There isn’t a crumb of sin I must pay for on my own. When I am rightly troubled for how I have messed up, my God tenderly speaks real words of comfort to me. He doesn’t offer me a Christmas cookie or suggest I can do better next time. He tells me he has forgiven my sin. He tells me not to be troubled. Christ has paid for all my sins. Every moment of every day, I live as a forgiven child of God.

Prayer:
Father, comfort me that through Jesus all my sins are paid for. Thank you that no punishment is left! Doubly blessed by your grace, I praise you for making me your forgiven child. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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The Work Begins – December 11, 2017

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Mark 1:1

The Work Begins


Daily Devotion – December 11, 2017

Devotion based on Mark 1:1

See series: Devotions

“I’m going to build a shed!” With great optimism and determination Tom announced his plan. Tom’s neighbor was a little more guarded. George was a contractor by profession, so he thought a few questions were in order. “Do you know what kind of shed you want?” “Do you know where you are going to build it?” “Do you know if you need a permit?” Tom, undeterred by the questions, responded confidently, “I haven’t a clue, but I’m going to start today.”

How blessed I am that God doesn’t work this way. When he first announced his plan to send a Savior, it was simple and direct—the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head. As time went on, God added more details. Not only did he create a specific plan, he carefully measured it out and staked it off. He even laid a secure foundation on which to build. Then the time came for the work to begin.

This is what Mark announced when he wrote, “the beginning of the gospel.” This wasn’t the first mention of God’s good news to rescue sinners. It was the beginning of the actual work, and that work would be accomplished by Jesus Christ the Son of God.

It is a message which brings me great joy and peace. It is also a message which gives me a secure foundation and an unshakable hope.

God didn’t go about my rescue in a haphazard way. He planned it in eternity. He proclaimed it through the Scriptures. He accomplished it through his Son. This gospel offers me the good news of my forgiveness. It comforts me with the hope for heaven. It even provides me with confidence to face the challenges of life and strength to endure times of temptation.

When the time was right, God sent his Son into the world for the work of rescuing sinners. Now I celebrate that Jesus has come, and rejoice that my rescue is secure.

Prayer:
O gracious Lord, you have blessed me with the good news of my Savior. Give me the faith I need to rely on the testimony of your Word and the completed work of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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The Story of Your Salvation – December 8, 2017

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Romans 10:14-15

The Story of Your Salvation


Daily Devotion – December 8, 2017

Devotion based on Romans 10:14-15

See series: Devotions

Novel writers will tell you that there is no secret recipe for producing a best-selling page-turner. But many successful authors start with the ending and work backwards from there. They have a goal in mind—whether it’s a happy ending or a shocking surprise and the rest of the story builds toward that last chapter.

As a believer in Christ, you already know how your life’s story will end. You will joyfully spend eternity in the glorious presence of God who loves you. But how do you, a sinner that has broken that same God’s commandments, come to such a happy ending? In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul “reverse engineers” your story. You will be saved from the punishment you deserved through your faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who died in your place. You were led to call out to God for mercy and he answered you for the sake of Jesus. But how did you know to call on him? How did you learn that he was such a merciful God and that he offered full and free forgiveness? Someone—a family member, a friend, or a pastor perhaps, shared with you the good news of what Christ has accomplished for all by his death on the cross. But that person who told you had to have been told by someone else. And so on.

Your life’s story begins and ends with the love of God in Christ Jesus. He has arranged everything to happen in your life for the purpose of your salvation. The events that lead to your eternal life in heaven began long before you were born. Always remember in prayer those that God has used to bring you to know him and consider how God may be using you in someone else’s life story. As you share what you know about Jesus with others, you become a vital character in the story of how that person also arrives at their happy ending.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I thank you for sending gospel messengers into my life. Let me know the joy of revealing to others the not-so-secret ending of the story of your love. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Expect the Unthinkable – December 7, 2017

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.
Romans 10:9-12

Expect the Unthinkable


Daily Devotion – December 7, 2017

Devotion based on Romans 10:9-12

See series: Devotions

On December 7, 1941, the unthinkable happened. At 7:48 a.m., the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service launched a surprise military attack against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor. The attack lasted 90 minutes and came in two waves. When the smoke settled, the shocking results were tallied: all eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four sunk; the attack also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. One hundred eighty-eight U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. Most did not expect such an attack and the devastating loss of life was correspondingly high.

This, however, was not the first time the unthinkable happened. The unthinkable happened when God said to Satan disguised as a serpent, in front of Adam and Eve, “The woman’s offspring will crush your head.” The unthinkable happened when God told Abraham, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” King David did not, in fact he could not, expect that God would say about his son, “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” The virgin Mary did not, nor could she, expect that the angel Gabriel would say to her, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” This—God’s plan of salvation—is not something that Adam or Eve or any other human being would have or could have come up with.

For us it is unthinkable that, rather than requiring us to approach him, God came to us in the person of his Son, who was put to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. For us it is unthinkable that God did this for all people, regardless of race or family background or lifestyle or record of good versus evil.

Yet God invites us to expect the unthinkable. Expect that the Holy Spirit creates and strengthens faith in his plan of salvation through the gospel in Word and Sacrament. Believe that God raised Jesus from the dead for your justification. Trust that anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame. Then, in faith, declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord!”

As it was on December 7, 1941, ultimately those who do not think that the unthinkable will happen will be unprepared and will awaken to a devastating loss of life. Thank God you expect the unthinkable!

Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for bringing me to faith and enabling me to declare, “Jesus is Lord.” Through your gospel and the witness of your people may more and more be led to expect the unthinkable. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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How Can We Be Saved? – December 6, 2017

How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:5-8

How Can We Be Saved?


Daily Devotion – December 6, 2017

Devotion based on Isaiah 64:5-8

See series: Devotions

Can you think of a more basic question? Can you think of a more important question?

How then can we be saved?

Every human being, no matter where they live, or their religion, struggles with this question. The answer most people have in their hearts and on their lips, is simple. “I’ll do my best.” They hope this is good enough, but their hopes are false.

God’s prophet, Isaiah, doesn’t speak of the actions that we’re ashamed of and feel guilty about. Instead he talks about the good things we do. He judges our very best moments of being unselfish, considerate of others, reverent to God, kind, compassionate, and willing to serve others. In view of God’s commands for absolute perfection, Isaiah renders a gut-wrenching verdict. Our righteous acts are like filthy rags. They aren’t even clean rags. Our best actions are disgusting, corrupt, and soiled. Our best will not save us. We beg God to give us a second chance. We plead that he relaxes his standards down to our level. But in response to our sin, God hides his face from us. He closes his ears and will not hear our pleas.

How then can we be saved?

The only hope we have, the only hope we need, is that God is our Father. In undeserved compassion for us soiled human beings, God the Father sacrificed his Son. In a few weeks we will celebrate the birth of innocent Jesus. Through hard work and great sacrifice, Jesus preserved his innocence throughout his life. Finally, he collected our filthy righteous acts and our even more deeply fouled sinful acts. He carried our guilt to the cross where his Father, our Father, measured out every ounce of punishment our vile sins deserved. The Father then exacted from his Son the just punishment we deserved.

The Son of God suffered the punishment of hell in our place, without asking anything in return. He placed into our hands eternal life with our Father as a gift freely given.

By his gift, by his death—this is how we are saved.

Prayer:
Father, we have nothing to offer you because our very best is filthy in your sight. Thank you for giving us your very best. Your perfect, innocent Son died so we would be saved. How can we thank you enough?

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Perfect Christmas – December 5, 2017

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:4

Perfect Christmas


Daily Devotion – December 5, 2017

Devotion based on 1 Corinthians 1:4

See series: Devotions

In the coming weeks, millions will sit down in front of their TVs and watch one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time. It’s simply entitled, A Christmas Story.

A Christmas Story is set in the 1940’s, and it centers on a nine-year old boy named Ralphie. Ralphie’s dream is to receive a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Or, in Ralphie’s words, “A Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle.” Ralphie’s life takes all kinds of twists and turns throughout the movie, but on Christmas morning (spoiler alert), he receives the gift of his dreams.

The next time the movie happens to be on, pay close attention to its closing moment. The narrator for A Christmas Story is a man by the name of Jean Shepherd. The movie is based on his childhood, and as the narrator he’s speaking as the adult Ralphie looking back on this perfect Christmas. The closing moment of the movie shows young Ralphie fast asleep in his bed, holding his beloved Red Ryder in his arms. It is then that the voice of the narrator—the adult Ralphie—says this. “[It was] the greatest Christmas gift I had ever received, or would ever receive.”

One cannot help watching and hearing that moment without feeling a small clutch in the throat. “[It was] the greatest Christmas gift I had ever received, or would ever receive.” In those few words, Jean Shepherd—the real-life Ralphie—was acknowledging that the Christmas joy he’d felt, at nine years old, had never come back.

There are times when that truth can hit you and me pretty hard. As adults, you and I may think back to a particular Christmas when—as Jean Shepherd said—“all was right with the world.” But because of your sin and mine, such moments are rare, and they are fleeting.

And that’s why you and I can be thankful beyond description for what God gives to us in Jesus Christ.

Through faith in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, you and I possess full forgiveness, peace, and eternal life. Because we do, we now possess a Christmas joy not only that is undying, it is also a Christmas joy which promises that the very best is yet to come.

And so, savor this Christmas season. And if this Christmas is far from perfect, that’s all right. In Jesus, joys beyond our comprehension are on the way.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my Christmas this year will be far from perfect. But remind me of the joy I have in you, and the perfect joy that is yet to come. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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