• december 1  //  chapter 1

    Made to Be a Witness


    Do you ever wonder why you were put on this earth? In verses 6-9 we are introduced to John and his purpose. 


    There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.


    In verse 29 John reaffirms who He is and why He is sent: 

    The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!


    Our purpose might not seem so direct, but as Christians, can you imagine any other calling? Sometimes I find myself in the same old grind: work, eat, sleep. The next day, it’s rinse and repeat. I do this because it’s what I have been trained to do, but I realize God isn’t impressed by my career, my social status or my bank account. He doesn’t care about my mancave. He wants my heart! The routine is what I do, but it’s not who I am! Like John, I was made to be a witness. Jesus’ endeavor is so much bigger. His plan included me from the beginning and will last forever! 


    Who do you know that needs this reminder today? 


  • december 2  //  chapter 2

    Secret Blessings


    Wow! Turning water into wine… Jesus’ first miracle! If you had a magical gift, one would think that the first time you use it, you would show it off to the world. Well, that is not what Jesus thought. In fact, He does just the opposite.


    We see in this chapter that Jesus’ mother, Mary, informs Him that the wedding hosts have run out of wine. Jesus responds by telling her that it’s not His time yet. But what does He do? He asks the nearby servants to fetch Him jars of water. He doesn’t announce that He has transformed the water into wine… instead, He just simply asks the servants to take some out and serve it.


    Jesus saw the importance of doing things behind the scenes. He reminds us to stay humble and find ways to do great things without getting the credit. This is hard to do; the world tells us that we should put ourselves in the spotlight and announce to the world the great things we are doing. But Jesus calls us to do the opposite… to pray behind closed doors, to stay humble in our gifts and talents, to do good deeds without getting the credit.


    How can you be a secret blessing for the Lord? What is one area that you need to pull yourself out of the spotlight some to allow God to get the credit?


  • december 3  //  chapter 3

    The Source of the Truth


    13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”


    Never be thirsty again. Is that possible? Sychar, a small Samaritan village, had a deep well. Jesus and His disciples had been travelling – going through Samaria rather than avoiding it like most Jews would. Jesus, in His humanness, was tired, and He sat down at the well. A Samaritan woman came about noon. Usually, women came to the well at the end of the day. Was she avoiding the other women in town? She had a past that was nothing to brag about, but Jesus, a Jew, had a conversation with her. He offered her Living Water. He offered her something no one else could. 


    This summer there were days when the sun was beating down during marathon training. Shade was lacking. Thirst was building. Just up ahead, there was a water station. A cup was taken; thirst was quenched, but a few more miles and thirst was building again. 


    Thirsty souls are not easily quenched. We look for something to satisfy us – vacations, new friends, a movie, a book, shopping. Our souls long for something more, something that will sustain us. And then we find Jesus - the Living Water. Only the Living Water can truly satisfy our thirsty souls.


    When your soul is thirsty, where do you go? Look for the bubbling spring of Jesus’ presence to daily satisfy your needs.


  • december 4  //  chapter 4

    Drink Again


    13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”


    Never be thirsty again. Is that possible? Sychar, a small Samaritan village, had a deep well. Jesus and His disciples had been travelling – going through Samaria rather than avoiding it like most Jews would. Jesus, in His humanness, was tired, and He sat down at the well. A Samaritan woman came about noon. Usually, women came to the well at the end of the day. Was she avoiding the other women in town? She had a past that was nothing to brag about, but Jesus, a Jew, had a conversation with her. He offered her Living Water. He offered her something no one else could. 

    This summer there were days when the sun was beating down during marathon training. Shade was lacking. Thirst was building. Just up ahead, there was a water station. A cup was taken; thirst was quenched, but a few more miles and thirst was building again. 


    Thirsty souls are not easily quenched. We look for something to satisfy us – vacations, new friends, a movie, a book, shopping. Our souls long for something more, something that will sustain us. And then we find Jesus - the Living Water. Only the Living Water can truly satisfy our thirsty souls.


    When your soul is thirsty, where do you go? Look for the bubbling spring of Jesus’ presence to daily satisfy your needs.


  • december 5

    Reflect on this past week. Where did you sense God’s leading?


  • december 6  //  chapter 5

    faith


    “Do you want to get well?” For many of us, the real test of following Jesus hinges on this question. Philippians 4:13 says “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” In the Christian life it’s not a question of can--we can do anything God has called us to do—but rather a question of want. If we have the courage to follow, the call is clear: “Pick up your mat and walk.” 


    As I read these words, I think back to running the Chicago Marathon. As I trudged toward the finish line, every muscle and joint in my body screamed for me to crawl off to the curb and lay down. I had no idea how much further I had to go, when I noticed a man on the sidelines jumping up and down and waving his arms. “It’s right around the corner!” he cried. “It’s right around the corner!” I realized at that moment that he was talking about the finish line, and that was all the resolve I needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other, pushing through the pain to finish the race. 


    In times when we become overwhelmed by our pain and discouragement, it can be tempting to lay down and sit on the sidelines, ignoring the needs of others and focusing on our own comfort. The Christian life is not an easy life. It requires strength not found in our own power. It takes discipline and sacrifice and the humility to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, to climb back onto the altar again when we fall short. But the Lord has blessed us with the help of the Holy Spirit! When He asks us to pick up our mat and walk, we walk with Him and in His power, and He promises to equip us to do every good thing He has called us to do! 


    A life of faith is a life of action. We cannot sit around hoping to become more like Jesus. We must pick up our mats and walk. Do you want to get well? What small step forward is the Lord asking you to take today? 


  • december 7  //  chapter 6

    Cannibal Christians


    Human blood oozed from both corners of his lips, drooling down his chin. Sounds pretty graphic, right? But that's the image we see every Halloween on the face of the precious little 5 yr old, whose mother dressed him like a vampire, complete with the red lipstick running down his cheek. TV shows like The Walking Dead make this graphic image of human beings devouring the flesh of another a mainstay in our minds, a disturbing image to say the least.


    Jesus’ words to His followers are also unsettling:

    “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you…. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me” (John 6:53, 56-57).


    Jesus words are intended to disturb us, to be unsettling, and the very least, to make us uncomfortable. But taking that next step of faith out into the deep waters of trust is nothing less than scary.


    Consumer Christianity is all about personal comfort. But Cannibal Christianity calls us to take up our cross – to continually remember and taste the sacrificial suffering and death of Jesus – in order that we might truly experience His resurrection life as well. 


    Are you feeding on Christ today? Are you seeking personal comfort, or pursuing the kind of sacrificial service to Christ and others that draws blood? 


    As Christmas approaches, remember that the baby in the manger came to suffer, bleed and die and calls us to do the same for love’s sake. 


  • december 8  //  chapter 7

    Come and Drink


    Just imagine for a minute you were just outside the Temple when Jesus began to speak. Would you have been the one saying, “He’s a good man”? Or would you have been calling Him a fraud? The people were amazed with His teachings. Some even thought He was the Messiah, but others wanted Him arrested. I know in my life there have been times of when I did not speak up for what I believed. In this instance, I’d like to think I would have been on the right side of this story. 


    Jesus spoke with authority and confidence when He said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whomever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow through within them.” When Jesus spoke these words, He was fulfilling Old Testament scripture and claiming to be God in human flesh. This was a significant moment in Jesus’ ministry. 


    Today, this same offer is extended to you. Come to Jesus today. Once we recognize Jesus as the One who offers all we need in this life, we must simply come to Him. Jesus didn’t say you had to have XY&Z figured out to come to Him. You don’t have to clean up your life before He’ll welcome you. You can have a personal relationship with Jesus, not a bunch of rules and rituals to follow. He simply said, “come to me and drink.” Maybe you’ve been a Christian for 40 years or only a week. The invitation is for all of us. All who are thirsty, come!


  • december 9  //  chapter 8

    Coming Home


    Jesus has been calling me for a long time. I didn’t grow up in church, but the awareness of His existence has always been there. Over seasons, I would continuously find Him in nature without really knowing who I was chasing. What I did know was how He made me feel. I wanted more, yet fear held me back. In my mind, a relationship so real could never exist. Life had taken me down roads I never intended to travel. Behaviors circulated from chasing love and worth in all the wrong ways to those that looked so right to the world. Sin is manipulative. Exposure happens at the root of behavior and the journey to accepting the label of sinner isn’t easy. 


    Jesus addresses a crowd where the Pharisees were using an adulterous woman to try to trap Him. Law stated she should be stoned. Jesus said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (Jn 8:7 NIV). No one was left standing, except Jesus. His response was forgiveness. That same forgiveness is accessible to us. 


    My first steps through the doors of Crossbridge were hard. I broke down in fear, sure that exposure and judgement would be my fate. I saw God as this harsh ruler, and I wasn’t living up to expectation. Little did I know what I would find. Reprimand wasn’t waiting for me, Love was! That day changed my life. I finally found what I’d been chasing through nature all along. It felt like coming home. 


    What behavioral roots need examining in your life? Are you letting the label of sinner hold you back in any way? Now knowing you are not alone, how can you instead, use that label for growth? 


  • december 10  //  chapter 9

    Looking for Opportunity


    As Jesus and His disciples were traveling along one day, they saw a man that had been blind since he was born.


    A common belief in Jewish culture was that suffering was a result of some great sin, so the first question that the disciples asked was- who sinned, this man or his parents? Jesus answered, “Neither this man or his parents sinned but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life”. Jesus also suggested that they needed to be about the work of God and not wasting time looking for someone to blame.


    What a much better world this would be, if instead of looking for someone to blame, we looked for opportunity. Jesus took the opportunity to heal this man so that the work of God could be displayed in his life.


    Notice how the man that was healed from his blindness grows in his faith. The neighbors are surprised and skeptical. They asked him “How were your eyes opened”? Without hesitation he told them that he was healed by the man they call Jesus. He was boldly witnessing to his neighbors by telling them about what Jesus had done for him.


    He showed consistent growth in his faith. In answer to their comment “we don’t even know where he (Jesus) comes from “, the healed man said “nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” Good answer!


    Where can you look for opportunity today?


  • december 11  //  chapter 10

    Is that you, God?


    Have you ever heard a song play and you instantly know who is singing? Or heard someone talking and knew exactly who was speaking? The world is full of recognizable voices. I think of Aretha Franklin, Morgan Freeman, Blake Shelton, Christopher Walken, Mariah Carey, and so many more. You can recognize the voice because you have spent time listening to them.


    This is what God wants from us, to spend time listening for His voice so that we can recognize it instantly and be able to distinguish it from the voices that aren’t His. Sometimes to some people, God will speak in an audible voice, but sometimes He speaks in a quiet whisper, through another person or a physical sign. There is no limit to how God can speak… but when He does, we should be able to recognize that it is Him.


    As we spend time in quiet prayer and reflection, God will help us to know His voice better. We must carve out time to block out the many voices of the world and listen for the voice of our Good Shepherd.


    Right now, take just a few minutes to quiet yourself and just sit in the presence of your Good Shepherd who loves you. Put your phone on silent, turn off the music and just listen. In fact, be intentional all day today to how God is speaking to you. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9)


  • december 12

    Reflect on this past week. Where did you sense God’s leading?


  • december 13  //  chapter 11

    Trust God's Timing


    “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” John 11:14-15


    I had been off work for quite a while due to having a surgery and it was time to start looking for a job. I noticed during the many visits to my surgeon’s office that the girls at the front desk were always cheerful, patient and worked together so well. I decided I wanted to work there and asked several people to pray me into that office ASAP. It didn’t occur to me that God had something far better for me in mind. After impatiently waiting for several months, I was offered a different job with the same company. Soon after starting there, I saw exactly why God did not want me in the position I so badly thought I had wanted. Looking back, I wish I had trusted God for His best and His timing.


    In our reading today from John 11 Jesus could have come when the sisters had first asked, and Lazarus would not have died. Jesus could have healed him, but they never would have known any more about Him than they already knew. His refusal and silence were not rejection, but rather an opportunity to show more of Him than they had ever known and to show them that He is the Light of the World.


    Have you ever looked back to see that God had protected you from what you thought you really wanted? Take some time to thank Him today as you begin to trust in His timing.


  • december 14  //  chapter 12

    Be the light


    I was on a walk recently, and on the sidewalk in front of the high school, kids had written messages. The messages said things like “You are enough,” “Just breathe,” “We are glad you’re here.” Seeing that made me think of John 12:35-36, which says, “Jesus replied, ‘My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.’ After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.” 


    In this passage, Jesus is telling a crowd that He will be with them, in person, for a short time, but He is a Light shining in a dark place, letting people know how they should be walking. When we walk in the light of Jesus, we are children of the Light. When we let Jesus into our hearts, we change. His light shines through us through our actions, and we show people Jesus. I bet the kids who wrote those messages on the sidewalk weren’t thinking about how Jesus was shining through them, but someone who is hurting could read those messages and see Jesus’s light in a dark place. 


    How brightly is your Light shining? Can others see Christ in your actions? 


  • december 15  //  chapter 13

    A Servant's Heart


    In this chapter, Jesus knows that time is growing close to when He will be taken away and crucified. Yet in his final hours, He still had lessons to teach. 


    As Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, they were reminded that regardless of title or position in life, what Jesus did for them, they must in turn do for others. Years ago, when I first took on a leadership role of overseeing a staff of 200+, I believed that because I was in charge, everyone would easily listen to me and do what I told them to do. Boy, was I wrong. It wasn’t until my staff saw that I was willing to pull up my sleeves and work right alongside them that “together” we were able to accomplish incredible things regardless of our titles.


    Later in this chapter, Jesus points out that Judas will betray Him, and Peter will deny knowing Him. Again, I was reminded, as I reflected over my own life, of times I knowingly “sold” others out to protect my own reputation and times when I denied associating with someone, or even made fun of them, so that I could “fit” in with the “cool” crowd!


    Each of these examples has made me ashamed to call myself a Christian, yet Jesus still took His place on the cross and died so that I could be forgiven. As you reflect on past actions, you’re not proud of, ask yourself how you might be able to alter your response in future situations. But above all, never doubt how very much God loves you and has already forgiven you. 


  • december 16  //  chapter 14

    Just Believe


    Haven’t we all been Thomas before? Thomas was confused and did not understand what Jesus as talking about. I think its ok to simply ask the Lord to explain Himself to us when we need some clarification. We’ve all been lost and really needed the Lord to help us. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and life.” Jesus is making the statement that He is the way to the Father, and He asks us to “just believe”. Believing or trusting in the Lord is something we talk about often at Crossbridge. Maybe fully believing in the Lord is your next step. Believe He died for you, all your sins are forgiven, and that He wants a relationship with you. 


    Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.” The Holy Spirit is a gift from the Lord and is meant to comfort us when we are in need. The Spirit is meant to be felt within us and around us when we feel afraid or alone. It’s comforting to know the Lord goes with us wherever we go. Whatever you’re dealing with today, the Holy Spirit is available simply by praying and asking for His presence, right now. Talk to Him and may you begin to believe in the power of the Lord. 


  • december 17  //  chapter 15

    The True Connection


    ”I am the TRUE vine.” We read this in the first few words of John chapter 15, and they are so profound. Jesus is referencing Himself as the true vine. Later on, in the chapter Jesus refers to us as the branches, “If we remain in Him we will then produce good fruit.” He didn’t say we couldn’t be connected to other vines…Jesus was trying to articulate not just the importance of staying connected, but asking what are we choosing to be connected to? We live in a world full of vines that seem to represent happiness, joy, fulfillment, etc. If we act a certain way, spend money a certain way, speak a certain way for a season, we feel like the connection is benefiting us! But there is a reason that Jesus says His vine is TRUE. We tend to connect to things that make us feel secure, what we think are true, but Jesus has more for us than what this world has to offer. 


    We are a society that is more connected than ever before, but where is the benefit? What fruit has been produced from us connecting with the world? Now is a time to truly connect with the vine that is TRUE!


  • december 18  //  chapter 16

    God Keeps His Promises


    Jesus is talking with His disciples the night before He was crucified. He is trying to leave encouragement with His friends whom He loved so very much. He feels they will need the encouragement in the heartbreaking days that they will be facing. His message to His disciples also applies to each of us today. Jesus is warning of the trouble we will be facing as His followers. Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever.”


    Jesus tries to comfort the disciples with the promise of the Holy Spirit. He explains the Holy Spirit will show us where we are wrong and will also lead us to the truth and a relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit will glorify the Lord through each believer.


     Jesus tries to explain to the disciples that He is going to leave them to go to His Father. He understands their confusion and tries to reassure them, with His promises, which holds true for each of us today. 


    John 16: 23b “Truly I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give you.”


    John 16:24 “Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”


    Promises from Jesus to His disciples over 2000 years ago and still true today.


    God always keeps His promises... in His time.


  • december 19

    Reflect on this past week. Where did you sense God’s leading?


  • december 20  //  chapter 17

    Spiritual Breathing


    I heard once that prayer is spiritual breathing. It’s necessary. As I was reading John 17, I noticed that the passage is divided into 3 sections: 1. Jesus praying for Himself (verses 1-5); 2. Jesus praying for His disciples (verses 6-19); 3. Jesus praying for all believers (verses 20-26). Then it struck me that the order reminded me of the instructions they give you on an airplane before takeoff. In the event of an emergency, you should first, secure oxygen for yourself, then for your children or family and lastly for others who may need help. The order is crucial to helping as many people as possible to breathe and be prepared for events to come. In John 17, Jesus says \ these prayers before His betrayal. He uses some spiritual breathing to prepare for what is coming. His desire was that His actions would glorify God so the world would know Him. So, He prays. He prays so that we know His mission on earth is complete, and He is ready for what is coming. He prays so that we will be protected and ready for the future. He prays that everyone will be unified and prepared for future glory.


    Prayer is necessary to navigate all situations in life. It connects us to God’s protection, strength and power and helps us align our actions with His desires. It prepares us for what is to come. What does your spiritual breathing look like?


  • december 21  //  chapter 18

    Whispers and Nudges


    On that fateful night, Judas led the search party to the familiar garden where Jesus had once again gathered with the disciples. As the group approached, Jesus courageously stepped forward to surrender to His arrestors. He requested the disciples be set free so His words might be true, “I have not lost one of those You gave me”.


    In reckless retaliation, Peter attacked a servant of the head religious leader by cutting off his ear. Jesus quickly corrects him with an order to put away his sword. As it sometimes happens to the best of us, Peter’s passion and human vulnerability got the best of him. Fortunately for Peter, Jesus was right there to rectify the situation. We are not so fortunate to have Jesus with us in person. However, we can listen for and obey His nudges and guidance with open ears and hearts.

    As a young child, my aunt consistently reminded me to listen to Jesus’ whispers. I’d ask, “How will I know it’s Him”? She would advise, “You’ll know it, and the right action will become clear to you. This is an opportunity to be thankful that Jesus whispers to you and be grateful for the opportunity to follow Him. You are encouraged to pause here and reflect or pray on that thought.


    Even though Peter would go on to deny our Lord three times that night before the rooster crowed, he had been blessed earlier by Jesus correcting him in time before things got out of hand. In stark contrast, it was too late for Judas. His actions took him past the point of return and he would soon take his own life. Judas set an example of what we absolutely do not want. In complete despair, he suffered the worst of all consequences. Separation from God is the ultimate penalty. 


    Are your ears and heart open to Jesus’ whispers and nudges? Will you be courageous enough to listen and obey? Always be thankful and offer praise. 


  • december 22  //  chapter 19

    It Is Finished


    “It is finished” - Some of the most painful but rejoicing statements in Jesus’s ministry. The final task had been completed. But what had been finished? Jesus’ physical life? 


    What had finally ended was the sacrifice that we could not pay on our own. Jesus voluntarily gave His life in our place. What needed to be finished could not have been done under our own power or form of giving. Jesus finished the task so we could experience God fully. To be redeemed of our sins, and to live into a growing relationship with Him. Soon the veil would be torn and the access that we would have to God would radically change! In this season, we tend to focus on the birth of our Savior, but it is good to reflect and remember the ultimate gift of His sacrifice for you! Take a few minutes to reflect and remember the ultimate gift of His sacrifice for you.


  • december 23  //  chapter 20

    A Christmas Miracle


    There is so much we could sink our teeth into in this chapter: Jesus' tomb is empty! Jesus appears first to Mary! Jesus stands among the disciples despite the locked doors of the upper room! Jesus appears again, for the sake of our favorite doubter, Thomas! So much awesome in this small passage.


    It hits different, though, reading the resurrection story while Christmas is on your mind.

    As I asked God to show me what to write about, verse 5 stopped me in my tracks: “the strips of linen lying there.”


    How much does this imagery, the linens lying in the empty tomb, mirror the swaddling cloths of Jesus' birth and the manger where He lay?


    Mary swaddled her newborn son in burial clothes. She laid her baby in a manger - not the A-frame wooden crate perfectly sized for an infant that we see in modern nativity scenes - in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago a manger was made out of stone; more akin in appearance to a tomb.

    Jesus, the only baby to have ever been born to die...so that we may live.


    I venture to believe that if you're this far into the devotional, you desire to know Him more intimately. Let me encourage you to experience His heart for us through a deeper understanding: carve out an hour to watch a Christmas message rich in historical and cultural knowledge and Biblical promises - google search: The Christmas Story, From Creation to the Cross, by Pastor Joseph Prince.


    Marvel at the wonders of His love.