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Thanksgiving and Advent 2015

 

Monday - November 23, 2015

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT) Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

"When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves-that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience."

N. T. Wright

This year as we move through the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays, I want to encourage you to think about what all God has done for you, be thankful and give Him praise so that all will know your hope and trust is in the Lord.

Over the course of this week we will look at Psalms 107 and focus each day on the many aspects of our lives and recognize the help and the promises of help God has extended to us in every situation and circumstance. We begin this first day by acknowledging our need to be thankful in each of this circumstances. Take the time to make a note each day of the things you recognize as coming from God and let Him and others know what's in your heart.

Tuesday - November 24, 2015

Psalm 107:1-3 (NLT) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. 2 Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies. 3 For he has gathered the exiles from many lands, from east and west, from north and south.

 

"The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness. gratitude arise from the lived perception, evaluation, and acceptance of all of life as grace-as an underserved and unheard gift from the Father's hand. Such recognition is itself the work of grace, and acceptance of the gift is implicitly an acknowledgement of the Giver."

Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust

On this day as you reflect on the things you have to be thankful for, focus on God's goodness and faithfulness in redeeming your life. This word redeeming means saving or bringing goodness to the numerous perplexing circumstances of our lives. Be mindful of where you could be, but because of the goodness, grace and mercy of God, acknowledge where you are. If you recognize God's hand in your life, make a point to tell someone today of this help.

Psalm 96:3 (ESV) Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!

Wednesday - November 25, 2015

Psalm 107:4-9 (NLT)  Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless. 5 Hungry and thirsty, they nearly died. 6Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he rescued them from their distress. 7 He led them straight to safety, to a city where they could live. 8 Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. 9 For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

"Sometimes when you lose your way, you find yourself" - Mandy Hale

On this day reflect on the times you have lost your way. The times when you felt there was no way out, no way forward and no way back. Think about the times when you can remember being puzzled, wore out and confused. Then remember and rejoice that God did not leave you there, but rather sustained your life and lead you forward. Be thankful today for just such times, and for God's deliverance during those times.

Thursday - November 26, 2015

Psalm 107:10-16 (NLT)Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery. 11 They rebelled against the words of God, scorning the counsel of the Most High. 12 That is why he broke them with hard labor; they fell, and no one was there to help them. 13Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 14 He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; he snapped their chains. 15 Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. 16 For he broke down their prison gates of bronze; he cut apart their bars of iron.

"A creature revolting against a creator is revolting against the source of his own powers--including even his power to revolt. It is like the scent of a flower trying to destroy the flower."  -C.S. Lewis


Consider the many times you have rebelled against God or God's authority in your life. The times when you have declared I will go my own way, I will make my own decisions and I do not care what anyone has to say about it. Now think about the many times this attitude has gotten you into trouble and as you sat hopeless, you remembered God,  and then call to mind how God rescued you and brought you out of, or sustained you through the consequences of your decisions. Remember the Prodigal Son, who took his inheritance, wasted it and found himself in the hog pen, broke, alone and hungry... It was then he remembered his father's house and determined to return home. The story ends with the father welcoming the son home and restoring him to full position in the father's house.

Today is a good day to give thanks to Lord for His mercy  and grace that is always new every morning. Be thankful for the times your heavenly Father has rescued you from yourself and tell someone of His love and care. 

Friday - November 27, 2015

Psalm 107:17-22 (NLT) Some were fools; they rebelled and suffered for their sins. 18 They couldn’t stand the thought of food, and they were knocking on death’s door. 19Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 20 He sent out his word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death. 21 Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. 22 Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and sing joyfully about his glorious acts.

 

 Martin Luther

 

Are you thankful for the word of God? It is his word that encourages, directs, instructs and enlightens our mind. His word brings clarity, healing, hope, correction and help in our times of confusion. I have found that regardless of how foolish I have been, if I can find a place of quiet and can begin to meditate on His word, it is then God can speak to my heart and spirit, and through God's word my soul finds the provisions I need for living and living well.

Today give God thanks for His word and tell others of the hope you have in God's Word.

Saturday - November 28, 2015

Psalm 107:23-32 (NLT) Some went off to sea in ships, plying the trade routes of the world. 24 They, too, observed the Lord’s power in action, his impressive works on the deepest seas. 25 He spoke, and the winds rose, stirring up the waves. 26 Their ships were tossed to the heavens and plunged again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. 27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits’ end. 28Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 29 He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. 30 What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! 31 Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. 32 Let them exalt him publicly before the congregation and before the leaders of the nation.

 J.K. Rowling,

Many times we do foolish things that bring us trouble and causes great perplexity in our lives, but more often than not, trouble comes as a normal part of living and walking out our lives. If you have to interact with people, there will be conflict, if you have a home or a car or any type of possession, then those things will malfunction or age and cause you trouble. Everyday life has a way of pushing us to our wits end. The struggle of finance, health, children and relationships will bring you to moments and periods of great perplexity.

Can you remember those times in your life. Those times when trouble was all you could see and times when your heart is weighed down with great care. But if you are reading this today, then it is a testimony to the grace of God that brought through those times. Be thankful today for God's help in those times and tell someone about what all God has done for you.

"Through many dangers toils and snares, I have already come, His grace has brought me safe thus far and His grace will lead me on" - Amazing Grace

 

Sunday - November 29, 2015

Psalm 107:33-43 (NLT) He changes rivers into deserts, and springs of water into dry, thirsty land. 34 He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands, because of the wickedness of those who live there. 35 But he also turns deserts into pools of water, the dry land into springs of water. 36 He brings the hungry to settle there and to build their cities. 37 They sow their fields, plant their vineyards, and harvest their bumper crops. 38 How he blesses them! They raise large families there, and their herds of livestock increase. 39 When they decrease in number and become impoverished through oppression, trouble, and sorrow, 40 the Lord pours contempt on their princes, causing them to wander in trackless wastelands. 41 But he rescues the poor from trouble and increases their families like flocks of sheep. 42 The godly will see these things and be glad, while the wicked are struck silent. 43 Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.

"Gratitude—a deep sense of who God is and what he is giving to us in the most ordinary moments—helps us to make sense of our lives. On airplanes and in taxi cabs, amid prom dresses and pictures in the park, while managing professional commitments and parenting children who are growing up too fast…the willingness to make space for gratitude opens up dimensions of reality that we would otherwise miss. Gratitude is a lens that sharpens our ability to see the gifts and the graces of our lives as more real than the material world to which we are often tethered. Gratitude energizes us for living more fully in the middle of the life we have been given as we become more practiced at finding God there. When practiced as a spiritual discipline, gratitude is an inner dynamic that enables us to recognize Advent—the coming of Christ—in the ordinariness of our own lives which is where we need him most." -Ruth Haley Barton

 

I believe that learning to recognize God in our everyday lives prepares us for receiving Him more and more in our lives. As we move into this Advent season, a time that marks the coming of Christ, may our hearts be filled with gratitude and thankfulness for all God has done, so our hearts may be prepared, expectant and open to what He wants to do in the future.

Be thankful if you can recognize God in your life and be thankful to God that He is there.

Monday - November 30, 2015

Matthew 3:1–3 (NLT) In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 2 “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” 3 The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’ ”

Jeremiah 33:14 (NLT)“The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them.

Fire of Advent

Advent, like its cousin Lent, is a season for prayer and reformation of our hearts. Since it comes at winter time, fire is a fitting sign to help us celebrate Advent....If Christ is to come more fully into our lives this Christmas, if God is to become really incarnate for us, then fire will have ot b e present in our prayer. Our worship and devotion will have to stoke the kind of fire in our souls that  can truly change our hearts. Ours is a great responsibility not to waste this Advent time.  -Edward Hays, A Pilgrim's Almanac, p. 187

 

As we enter this advent season I am reminded of the words of the Christmas song that says, Let every heart prepare Him room. Now is a time for us to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord. Though it is just symbolic, can we allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn away the clutter of the year and truly prepare our hearts to receive Christ afresh in our hearts during this season. 

May you live mindfully throughout this next month... Let us be mindful of the hope, the joy, and the love Christ brings to your life. May you live this next month in great expectation of Christ and begin today by preparing your hearts to receive Him.

Tuesday - December 1, 2015

Luke 2:8–11 (NLT) That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!

Joy is the True gift of Christmas

"We realize that today's world, where god is absent, is dominated by fear, by uncertainty." Nonetheless, the words be joyful because God is with you and with us, truly open a new time."

 

"Joy is the true gift of Christmas, not the expensive gifts that call for time and money. We can communicate this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, a little help, forgiveness. And the joy we give will certainly come back to us.... Let us pray that this presence of the liberating joy of God shines forth in our lives."

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI - 12-18-05

 

A traditional way to celebrate Advent is to light a candle each week symbolizing an aspect of Christ's coming. The first candle is purple and represents the Joy that Christ brings. For the earliest announcement of Christ birth to our message today, the word of the Lord is that Christ brings joy in a troubled and distressed world.

Today begin to focus on the areas of your life that are starved of joy and begin to believe for Christ to fill you with His Joy.

 

Wednesday - December 2,  2015

Psalm 84:1–5 (NLT) How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 2 I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God. 3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God! 4 What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. Interlude 5 What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

"Joy is the infallible sign of the Presence of God." -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Psalm 16:11 (NLT) You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.

 

There is a direct connection between joy and the presence of the Lord. A part of the reason that Christ's coming was so vital for mankind was that with His coming there was a reconnection of man to God. In the garden of Eden, there was a separation between God and man because of sin, that can only be restored in Christ. Once connected to God's presence we are reunited with our life, because man became a living being when God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life. We need to be in God's presence and thus when we recognize the path is made available again through Christ and when we make efforts to follow that path, joy is a natural consequence of that connection.

Today recognize the path to God is Christ and expect and make room for joy that only can be realized through your personal relationship with God. 

Friday  - December  4, 2015

Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT) And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.”Jack London,The Call of the Wild

Once we are reconnected to God's presence, it is no wonder that we would feel alive, that every part of our being would feel as though it had been born again. The joy of the Lord brings strength to our weaknesses, His joy bring strength to our day to day lives. Face each day with new strength!

Consider this verse....

Isaiah 40:28–31 (NLT)Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. 29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. 31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Today remind yourself that the joy of the Lord is your strength... and that this joy is the result of making room and receiving Christ into your life.

Saturday  -  December 5 , 2015

James 1:2–4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

 

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”―Rumi

Today focus on the power of the joy of Christ to help you through the difficult places in your life. As you allow the strength that comes from Christ to fill your life, you can face even the most difficult of times with Joy knowing that the trouble will pass,  new opportunities will present themselves and that you will learn and grow from the current situation.  In this season of advent, embrace, confess and believe for the Joy of the Lord to fill your life.

Sunday - December 6, 2015

Hebrews 6:18–19 (NLT) So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

The capacity for hope is the most significant fact of life. It provided human beings with a sense of destination and the energy to get started.  -Norman Cousins

One of the candles of advent represents hope. Hope is a powerful force that we use every day to walk us through the perplexing times in our lives. It is the force of hope that allows us to hang on through the night and believe that Joy is coming in the morning. To believe that for our sadness, Christ will give us gladness, and that for our mourning, Christ will turn that into dancing. Hope does deal with the future and it place it allows us to believe that things will change. Our scripture verse states  hope is what we hold to and it anchors our souls (mind, will, emotions) through the difficult times in our lives. But not only does it hold us through the storms, hope is our guide into the presence of the Almighty.

Today as you light a candle or  just simply consider this season of advent, focus on the strength and stability that Christ brought to the world and to our lives individually through the hope His life gives.

Monday - December 7, 2015

1 Peter 1:3–5 (NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

“It's not the law of religion nor the principles of morality that define our highways and pathways to God; only by the Grace of God are we led and drawn, to God. It is His grace that conquers a multitude of flaws and in that grace, there is only favor. Favor is not achieved; favor is received.”―C. JoyBell C.

A big part of the Hope of Christ is seen or exampled in the death burial and resurrection of Jesus. The power and hope of the resurrection has broad sweeping implications for mankind. First the hope of the resurrection is that our sins that have separated us from our heavenly Father are forgiven and that we experience salvation, which is a spiritual reconnecting with God in a relationship that is built on the confident hope that  what Jesus did by coming and walking out His life, His death burial and then resurrection by the power of the Spirit, breaths hope into our lives that we are at peace with, and have direct access to God.

Ephesians 2:4–5 (NKJV) But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

Romans 5:1 (NKJV) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Today focus just on this aspect of the hope Christ brings. The hope of peace with and right relationship with God.

Tuesday - December 8, 2015

1 Peter 1:3–5 (NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

“The death of a dream can in fact serve as the vehicle that endows it with new form, with reinvigorated substance, a fresh flow of ideas, and splendidly revitalized color. In short, the power of a certain kind of dream is such that death need not indicate finality at all but rather signify a metaphysical and metaphorical leap forward.”
Aberjhani,The River of Winged Dreams

We postpone the finality of heartbreak by clinging to hope. Though this might be acceptable during early or transitional stages of grief, ultimately it is no way to live. We need both hands free to embrace life and accept love, and that's impossible if one hand has a death grip on the past.

KRISTIN ARMSTRONG, O Magazine, Feb. 2007

For today and tomorrow we will use the same devotion verse as yesterday, because I want us to fully realize at least three aspects of hope that the resurrection of Christ brings to our lives.

The first was hope of a relationship with God Himself. Next is the hope pertaining to the things that die in our lives. I am speaking about  areas of our health, of peace, of love, of joy, area's pertaining to relationships with others and many other aspects of day to day living. We have hope that these area's can live again and be revived even though we destroy them ourselves, or are destroyed by others, or are merely destroyed through the process of everyday living.

Today think on this aspect of hope, hope that your relationships can be renewed, your health can be regained, your dreams revived. Just this week I had a lady share that she is beginning to write music again after many years, and doing so because of her relationship with God. What is dead in your life that needs to be resurrected? Think on these things and then grab hold of the HOPE that Christ gives because of His coming.

Wednesday - December 9, 2015

1 Peter 1:3–5 (The Message) What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, 4 including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! 5 God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

 

“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”―Timothy Keller,The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

Again I am using the same verse from yesterday, just a different translation. One of the most mysterious, unclear, yet amazing parts of the hope of a Christian is there is more than just this life.  A third aspect of hope seen in the resurrection is that hope that one day, we will be changed from the realities we understand now and that we will live in a different reality. For those who have died, they will be resurrected to life again, and that those who are alive at the time of this change will also be changed. Paul said our mortality must put on immortality and that we will enter a realm of relationship with God that is unfettered by the limits of time space and humanity as we know it.

1 John 3:2 (NLT) Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.

 

1 Corinthians 15:51–57 (NLT) But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I realize that for many this seems like "pie in the sky" and that this type of thinking is useless. But, I believe that we should think on these things and even though we don't understand them fully, we can allow the hope of a future resurrection to bring stability to our souls as we face the death of loved ones past and as we weary of the grind of human mortality.

Thursday - December 10, 2015

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the windows which hope has opened.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“Hope is the raw material from which faith builds the house.”

“A Desire becomes a Hope when we discover a reason for its expectation, and there is no better reason to expect something than a promise given in the Word of God.”

"Hope is the road, Faith is the Victory"

Rex Rouis

Consider the connection of hope to Faith in Christ. For the Christian our hope is not merely wishful thinking and day dreaming, but because of our faith we can be confident that the things we hope for, will and can actually come true. There is an element in our faith that gives us the power to live and walk out the things we hope for. Our hope is not idle, rather it is powered by our faith in God, that in turns gives strength to live and walk out our days. Consider this scripture...

Galatians 2:20 (NKJV) I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Today, focus on the connection of your hope and your faith. Thank God for the hope you have, but also rest assured that your hope is not in vain, but because of your faith in Christ you can live and walk out your life and realize tomorrow the things you hope for today.

Friday - December 11, 2015

Ephesians 2:12 (NLT) In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.

“A man devoid of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future.”―Albert Camus,The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

In ancient Greek mythology hope was locked in a box with all the evils of the world. Pandora opens the box but fails to let hope out at first, only to return later to release hope as well. How relieved the ancient Greeks were when Pandora released hope, because even though hope was and is considered an evil by some, without hope the world falls into despair.

Today be mindful of how grateful you should be to have hope. You shouldn't waste today hoping for tomorrow, but because of hope you don't have to live in the despair of today's circumstances if they are bad. Rejoice in the HOPE Christ brings.

Saturday - December 12, 2015

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT) Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”  Robert Fulghum,All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Hope, often overlooked, seemingly simple and adolescent is one of the most powerful forces in the world. It is more than a human emotion and more than just childhood whim, it is a force that scriptures teach us will last forever. Though love is listed as the greatest, HOPE joins it and faith and will exist throughout all times, in all situations and is available for all people.

Today give another consideration to the power of Hope and resolve to embrace the Hope of Christ this Advent more than any time in the past. Hope for a future, for healing, for restoration of relationships and dreams. Hope for life, for love and most of all Hope to see Jesus, in this life and in the ages to come.

Sunday - December 13, 2015

John 3:16–18 (NLT) “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

“When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of 'No answer.' It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, 'Peace, child; you don't understand.”
C.S. Lewis

One of the candles of Advent represent the Love of Christ. For me there are many aspects of this love. There is the Love of God that motivated the events we know as Advent, there is the Love of Christ seen in Christ living His life as one laid down for mankind, there is the benefit of love to our own lives, and the lastly is the fact that being loved so immensely, we are able to love. These are but a few of the aspects of love that I want us to think about this week of Advent.

If you are lighting a candle each Sunday, as you light this one today, ask God to allow the light of His love to shine into your heart and illuminate all the areas of question so the power of His love can bring about great blessing in your life.

Monday - December 14, 2015

John 3:16–21 (NLT) “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. 18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”

“It's not about finding ways to avoid God's judgment and feeling like a failure if you don't do everything perfectly. It's about fully experiencing God's love and letting it perfect you. It's not about being somebody you are not. It's about becoming who you really are.”  Stormie Omartian,The Power of a Praying Woman

The Love of God - For most God's love is such a mystery because we only view love on mans terms and from mans perspective. We love with such restrictions and such limitations and with so many strings attached that we miss the purity and power of God's love that will develop our lives.  This development is not merely into something we are not, or something God would have us be that is somehow beyond our ability to be, no, this development is maturing us to a place where we are free to be ourselves. This is the aspect of God's love and grace that many miss. God designed our lives with an ideal in mind that is who we truly are. This ideal is holy, accepted, blameless, confident, courageous, peaceful and all the other virtuous adjectives you could come up with. All that is left for us to do, is not be afraid to run to Him, belief in Him and allow Him to begin a work in us that we cannot accomplish on our own.

“Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? . . . No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.”―Pope Benedict XVI

For this week ask God to allow you to move past you fear and come to Him, motivated by the great Love you see in the coming of  Christ. Allow the light of His Love to illuminate the areas of your lives where you are living so under the potential and ideal of who you are. Don't be afraid, walk to His light that is made possible by His Love. 

Tuesday - December 15, 2015

1 John 3:16 (NLT) We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us...

 

“It was no accident, no coincidence, that the seasons came round and round year after year. It was the Lord speaking to us all and showing us over and over again the birth, life, death, and resurrection of his only begotten Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord. It was like a best-loved story being told day after day with each sunrise and sunset, year after year with the seasons, down through the ages since time began.”
Francine Rivers,The Last Sin Eater

 

A few years ago I preached a message about how Christ laid down His life so humanity could live. I tried to imagine the man Jesus who denied himself many of the norms in life, because something inside of him made him to know that the things others enjoyed would never be his to enjoy.  A few years ago a very controversial movie came out entitled "The Last Temptation of Christ". I never saw the movie and many Christians were up in arms at the thought that Jesus could be tempted. But in fact Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, and on my view many more points than we. I believe Jesus knew there would never be a normal childhood, girlfriends, a career, a wedding, children and grandchildren. I believe he knew that he would never celebrate the joys of long life and have possessions as many of his peers and as we do today. But the bible teaches us that he laid it all down for the joy of knowing that a lost world would be reunited with their heavenly Father. He truly sacrificed His life in order that we may have life.  Consider this text...

 

John 10:11–15 (NLT) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep. 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.

2 Corinthians 8:9 (NLT) You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.

Today ask the Father to show you the love with which His son Jesus loved you. Focus on the sacrifice of the man Christ Jesus and how much the man gave up to walk the path he did in order for you to have the relationship with, and the confidence toward our God. That is a picture of love that will inspire you to live and live well every day.

Wednesday - December 16, 2015

Romans 5:6–11 (NLT) When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

The world takes us to a silver screen on which flickering images of passion and romance play, and as we watch, the world says, “This is love.” God takes us to the foot of a tree on which a naked and bloodied man hangs and says, “This is love.”―Joshua Harris,I Kissed Dating Goodbye: A New Attitude Toward Relationships and Romance

Truly the Love of Christ that we are able to experience doesn't just end at the birth and during the life of  Jesus. But the story of the cross and the death of Christ on Calvary brings such revelation of the Love of Christ and provides inspiration for you and I to be able to live. The writer of Hebrews writes this....

Hebrews 12:2–4 (The Message)  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. 3 When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! 4 In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed!

What love for mankind can be seen in the death of Christ on the cross. Don't be ashamed of His death, but rather glory in it. In His death we see the ultimate sacrifice of love for one person to another... and that is to be willing to die for another.

Today ask the Father to flood your soul with the revelation of Jesus' love that comes from him being willing to die for you. Experience that love each time you hear the story of His birth, death, burial and resurrection.  

Thursday - December 17, 2015

Romans 5:1–5 (The Message) By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. 2 And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.....

5 In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Augustine of Hippo,Confessions

There is much teaching about how man was created to fellowship and commune with God. Several times over the course of my ministry I remind people that just as a fish out of water and a tree out of the earth can't live long, so too mankind is restless and the essential parts of his life begin to die outside a relationship with God. This is because the water is the essence from whence a fish was created and sustains life. The earth is the essence from whence a tree was created and sustains its life. So too, God's presence is the essence from whence you and I are created and sustains our life as well.

Not only do we find peace with God through this relationship, but we also are able to begin to make peace with ourselves. This journey is made possible by accepting the unlimited love that God has shown us through Jesus Christ His Son.

“There will always be someone willing to hurt you, put you down, gossip about you, belittle your accomplishments and judge your soul. It is a fact that we all must face. However, if you realize that God is a best friend that stands beside you when others cast stones you will never be afraid, never feel worthless and never feel alone.”
Shannon L. Alder

Focus on the total peace promised you as a result of your accepting the love God has shown you through Christ. Ask God to flood your soul with His peace and begin to live confidently knowing that God will never push you away. No matter what you may struggle with, God is not surprised, He is not angry and will allow you to come to Him just as you are. Don't be afraid, come to Him confident in the sacrifice of Christ.

Friday - December 18, 2015

Matthew 16:13–19 (The Message) When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” 15 He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. 18 And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out. 19 “And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”

“I have known friendship love, parental love, romantic love, family love and unrequited love in my life time, but the only love that made a difference was self love. You don't need confirmation from the world or another person that you matter. You simply do matter. When you finally believe that truth and live it then you can do amazing things with your life!”―Shannon L. Alder

I have always loved the personality of Peter. I identify with his quick to speak, opinionated, quick to fight and then first to back away when significant confrontation arises personality. He was always in other people's business, making sure he wasn't getting left out, or making sure more wasn't being required of him than others. Peter in my view was just so human... and that's why I love looking at him and what makes him so significant. Peter exemplifies the fight we all have to face of coming to peace with ourselves and realizing our value in  Christ. Peter unlike others is just so transparent in his process.

Upon really realizing who Jesus is and the totality of what is His love towards us as an individual, we are then truly able to begin to come to peace with who we are. I am not trying to justify our sins and struggle. I am merely declaring that we all struggle with something, and when we come to trust in Christ, find peace with God, then we are in a position to find peace within ourselves and this is when our lives can truly begin to thrive. 

Ask the Father to put you at peace with yourself, and then you can truly begin to submit your life wholly to Him and watch the Holy Spirit begin to work in your heart to bring about change and create confidence to live like never before.

Saturday - December 19, 2015

1 John 4:7–11 (NLT) Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
Steve Maraboli,Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.

--Augustine

One of the greatest aspects of the influence of the love experienced during Advent is  the love we have to give to others. Upon the revelation of how loved you are, there is a freeing that empowers you to begin to love others around you. That love is not just in words, but also in deeds and in how we interact with and treat the people we  encounter daily.

I believe accepting His love empowers and frees us to love others. This will be seen first by those closest to us, by those in our own houses and those in our own families.  But it will not stop there, it will awaken you to the people you are most familiar with, as well as the stranger you meet. It is then that you will be empowered to make a difference in people's life by fulfilling the law of God.... loving your neighbor as yourself and doing for others as you would have done unto you.

Ephesians 5:1–2 (NLT) Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

I pray the Father will awaken you to not only the immensity of His love for you, but also the capacity you have to love others. Live unafraid and aware of those around you and be as generous to them with your unconditional love as God has been to you.

 

Sunday - December 20, 2015

Luke 2:6–7 (NKJV) So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

 

“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”  G.K. Chesterton,Brave New Family: G.K. Chesterton on Men and Women, Children, Sex, Divorce, Marriage and the Family

Consider the impact of this text.... The God of this universe, the creator of everything, came to the world and had no place to be born...

John writes about this.....

John 1:10–11 (NLT) He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.

The implications of such a situation are astounding. At first glance, what kind of a creator would he be, how powerless must this creator be to not be able to provide for his own self a room in which to be born. But WOW a deeper look at this story reveals an astounding message. The one who loves all, can do all, heal all, save all is rejected by all. I believe the story is such just to show the secret to accessing all this creator has to provide,  is by simply making room for Him in your life.

If you are lighting candles for Advent this year, carefully consider your life and then contemplate the reality that the giver of your life, the one who sustains your life, the one who desires to come to your life and provide salvation to the whole of our situation is looking for a chance and opportunity to find room in your life.

Revelation 3:20 (NLT) “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 

Monday - December 21, 2015

Luke 2:8–15 (NLT) That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

There are a lot of ways you can make God feel at home in your heart. First of all, you can simply be obedient to His Word. -- Joyce Myers

Each of the devotions this week will focus on how easy it is to become so consumed with life that we fail to make room for the Advent of Christ in our lives. It is so easy to hear the good news about Jesus and still not act on that in our hearts and lives. In the scripture text above, we see the shepherds hearing the good news about a savior and acting on the message and taking time and effort to travel the distance necessary to go to where the child was. The first thing is to simply respond to what we hear.

John 8:36–37 (NLT) So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. 37 Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message.

One line I love from  popular Christmas carol Joy to the World is, "Let every heart, prepare Him room." Truly this week purpose to prepare Him room in your life. As God speaks to your heart about areas you have filled with others things, purpose to react and respond by making room for Jesus in your life.

Tuesday - December 22, 2015

Luke 12:16–21 (NLT) Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!” ’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ 21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

The time came for Mary to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first- born Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. These words touch our heart every time we hear them [because] in some way mankind is awaiting God, waiting for Him to draw near.

But when the moment comes there is no room for Him. Man is so preoccupied with himself, he has such urgent need of all the space and all the time for his own things, that nothing remains for others – for his neighbor, for the poor, for God. And the richer men become, the more they fill up all the space by themselves. And the less room there is for others.” – Pope Benedict XVI

We are so blessed. Even those who do not claim faith can find paths to blessings in our society. Again the paradox is that every talent and ability that we have is first and foremost from Him. In a class I took recently at GSU, we looked at one man's argument about how the talents we have are merely accidents of nature and we did nothing to deserve them and thus we owe them to the betterment of society. Though I disagree they are accidents, we certainly did nothing to deserve them. In the course of life it is easy to use the abilities we have been given and forget about the one who gave them in the first place. Not only do I owe my society, most importantly I owe honor to the one who gave me my life.

Nowhere in scripture is blessing condemned, in fact it is promised, but when our focus shifts from the one who gave us our ability to obtain blessings, to our use of that ability... priorities can quickly become skewed and we quickly find ourselves feeling as though we have no need of anyone or anything except ourselves. It is here where we are so full of self we have no room for others and most critical, no room for God.

 

Proverbs 10:22 (The Message) God’s blessing makes life rich; nothing we do can improve on God.

 

Recognize the life you have been given is a gift from God. As you reflect on Advent this week and specifically preparing room for Christ in your life, decide to honor God and in this way you will continually give God honor and place in your life first, and this in turn will make you a better member of your particular society and you will always have room for others. 

Wednesday - December 23, 2015

2 Kings 4:8–10 (NLT) One day Elisha went to the town of Shunem. A wealthy woman lived there, and she urged him to come to her home for a meal. After that, whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for something to eat. 9 She said to her husband, “I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God. 10 Let’s build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by.”

 

Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ's birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehem's of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is so wondrously present.
Edward Hays,A Pilgrim’s Almanac,p. 196

 

This is an interesting story of someone preparing room for God in just an everyday normal way, and in doing, so inadvertently prepared room for God to work in their life continuously in miraculous ways. This woman set aside a physical space that was available anytime the prophet was passing through. It was this room that would prove to be such a critical place for events in her life. A son would be promised in this room and later when that son died... it would be in this very room that a second miracle of life would be given to her by God.

I believe many are so afraid to make room for God for fear of Him taking all their time. Again we see the paradox of the man fearing that the one who gives life desires to block our living of that life. Nothing could be further from the truth... the one who gives life, only wants you to make room for him in your life, and by doing this you insure His involvement in the affairs of your life, forever!

I believe that learning to acknowledge God in your everyday lives prepares you for receiving Him more and more in your life. As we move into this Advent season, a time that marks the coming of Christ, may your hearts be filled with gratitude and thankfulness for all God has done, in this way your hearts will be prepared, expectant and open to what He wants to do in the future.

I encourage you to purpose to set aside space in your everyday life for God. Make sure God figures into your plans, your dreams and your actions. Make room for conversation with God, room for His word, honor God with your time, talents and resources and watch as His miracles never cease in your life.

Thursday - December 24, 2015

Matthew 1:18–21 (NLT) This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

 

Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. Advent is a winter training camp for those who desire peace. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide and where the birth of the Prince of Peace might take place.

Daily we can make an Advent examination. are there any feelings of discrimination toward race, sex or religion? Is there a lingering resentment, an unforgiving injury living in our hearts? Do we look down upon others of lesser social standing or  educational achievement? Are we generous with the gifts that have been given to us, seeing ourselves as their stewards and not their owners? Are we reverent of others, their ideas and needs, and of creation? These and other questions become Advent lights by which we may search the deep dark corners of our hearts.
Edward Hays,A Pilgrim’s Almanac,p. 196

So many times as we celebrate and remember Advent we forget the impact of Jesus being born on the life of Joseph. A new baby under any circumstances causes a rearranging of priorities in the parents' lives and especially when the parents aren't even married yet. There are rooms to rearrange and things to prepare, all in preparation for a new life entering the family.

So certainly it came as a shock to this young man named Joseph when he discovered that his wife to be was already with child. The scriptures tells us he was a good man and though he began his plans to break the engagement to Mary, he still was trying not to embarrass her or himself in the process. Think about the shifting in mental preparation that had to take place in this young man's life. First preparing to marry the love of his life, then the sheer and utter heartbreak of discovering her secret. Next the adjustment of his mind and working through all the steps of grief, anger and resolve. Then as he began to implement a mental plan, the shock of a visit from an angel with the news your wife is carrying the child of God. Wow... what a ride!

The point of this day's devotion is that in preparing room for God in our lives, we must understand that there very well could be a major disruption of our plans and of the path we have chosen. Certainly if we make room for Christ there will be a challenging of our status quo, a challenge to the mindsets of culture, family and friends. But oh the joy and fear of knowing that God is at work in your life.

Luke 20:18 (NLT) Everyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.”

Today carefully consider your life.  Be willing to lay your plans at the feet of Christ and trust Him to work all things together for your good. Ask God to give you His grace to be able to walk out the details of your life. You will find new strength as you wait upon the Lord each day. Don't be afraid, prepare and be ready to make adjustments and let go of all norms as He comes into your life.

Friday - December 25, 2015

Luke 2:16–20 (NLT) They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

“The nativity mystery “conceived from the Holy Spirit and born from the Virgin Mary”, means, that God became human, truly human out of his own grace. The miracle of the existence of Jesus , his “climbing down of God” is: Holy Spirit and Virgin Mary! Here is a human being, the Virgin Mary, and as he comes from God, Jesus comes also from this human being. Born of the Virgin Mary means a human origin for God. Jesus Christ is not only truly God, he is human like every one of us. He is human without limitation. He is not only similar to us, he is like us.”
Karl Barth,Dogmatics in Outline

Consider how many times we have heard rave reviews or bold predictions about what the restaurant is like, or how great the resort is, or how amazing the show was. Those times when people promised the other person was beyond explanation. The promises of the politicians who proclaim what is to be. We hear all these promises, we make room in our schedules to check it out, only to be disappointed more times than not.

Well this is not how it is with our story! For thousands of years the prophesies were given concerning a savior, a messiah. It was told of His birth and now these simple shepherds had such an amazing encounter they left their sheep and went to see this child. But unlike so many experiences in our lives, this one was different. This time what was foretold was actually true...The baby was there and though many might have overlooked the child, the shepherds came expecting and were not disappointed... it was just as the angels had declared.

So now some two thousand years later we have the privilege of time. We are able to compare what was foretold to what actually happened. We see that what was said about Christ and about what He would do, actually occurred. Historically it is just as they said it would be.

More importantly for you today, what you celebrate on this Christmas day is real. There was a baby born and He lived, grew up, worked, taught, healed, transformed and ultimately saved so many people from their sins and circumstances. Today as you meditate on these things, know of assurance that what He has been to and done for others, is available for you today. Ask Jesus into your heart and recommit to providing room for Him in your life every day.

Saturday - December 26, 2015

John 14:1–4 (NLT) “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

“Fortunately Jesus didn't leave [the disciples]-or any of us-without hope or direction. Where we fail, Jesus succeeded. The only One who as able to recognize and follow His purpose from the beginning was Jesus. He alone was able to obey consistently and please God completely. And His divine mission was to make a way for each of us to do the same.”

“Jesus has prepared the way and has made following our destiny possible, whereas we are helpless by ourselves. We can find and fulfill our purpose by responding to the clear, simple call of Jesus Christ: "Follow Me." He is the doorway to fulfilling our destiny, where our divine design and God-ordained purpose live in perfect harmony.”
Charles R. Swindoll

On the last day of this week's devotion, I want us to consider that we should prepare room for Christ, because Christ promised to prepare room for us in the Fathers house. I am very aware of the traditional way of looking at this verse, but today I want you to consider the possibility that there is a much broader meaning than merely Him preparing a room for us one day in a far off heaven somewhere. Though those promises are there, and even though I don't fully comprehend them, I believe them still, yet today I want to look further at this promise.

We are not just to come to Christ and prepare room for Him in our lives, but He promises that because of what He did, there is room for us in God and God's house. I have the promise that I can move freely into the presence of God. I can come boldly and ask for what I need pertaining to grace to help me in life.  I believe Jesus literally prepared room for us to  exist now and for eternity in the presence of God or the Kingdom of God. How exciting it is to know that we are God's children. How amazing it is to know that we are members of Christ body with permanent place at the throne of God. If we prepare room for Christ in our lives, He in turn prepares room for us in God...WOW!

Today as you reflect on preparation for Advent, prepare, make room for Him in your life, but also keep in mind the place you have now in the presence of God. You are no longer strangers and aliens from God, but you are citizens of His Kingdom, you are heirs of His promises. Embrace what Jesus said and boldly take your place in the house of God and walk out your days on earth with a sense of purpose and destiny and trust that whatever comes next... you will  have room in God.

Sunday - December 27, 2015

Matthew 2:1–2 (NLT) Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,2“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

"Never be too busy to notice what God is doing around you" -- anonymous

As we enter this last week of Advent, we see that Christ becomes the focus and the center of all that is going on. More than what He brings, He becomes the focus and we are left with what our response is to who He is.

As we consider Matthews account of the birth of Christ, Matthew focuses on a group of wise men who had seen something that caught their attention. Most likely in their cultures and history men such as themselves paid attention to the stars to watch for events and happenings. They could have been kings, or scientist but were definitely men of wisdom and wealth, but still they made time for paying attention to thing outside the norm. Out of all the Kings and wise men of the East here this group had not been too busy with their normal stuff that they didn't notice the new star in the sky that shone so brightly.

I wonder how many important things we miss because even though we have heard the stories, we are just too busy with our lives to notice what God is doing around us. It is easy for those of us who claim to be seekers of God to be so obsessed with ourselves that we are merely self-absorbed and really oblivious to what God is doing around us. You can be assured that when God is wanting to send us on a journey of seeking, He will make the message clear, the star will be bright, the only question is whether or not we are going to take notice and begin the journey of seeking Him.

“I suddenly saw that all the time it was not I who had been seeking God, but God who had been seeking me. I had made myself the centre of my own existence and had my back turned to God.”  ― Bede Griffiths

For today remember that people of wisdom are always aware of the reality that God is always present and to the possibility that He may be up to something in your life. Ask God to renew your passion for seeking Him and purpose to live in such a way that you are never too busy to notice what God is doing around you.

Monday - December 28, 2015

Matthew 2:7-11 (NLT) Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

The best is the enemy of good.” ― VoltairePhilosophical Dictionary

The quote above was made popular by Voltaire though is shows up in French and Italian lore, as well as in Shakespeare and popular American culture.  Interestingly it has taken opposing forms that vary by who is making the argument and what point they are trying to make. As for Voltaire, the original proverbs and Shakespeare the point is that many times we are seeking an ideal, and in the process are not contented with what is good and already working in our lives.  Many modern authors speakers and writers have changed the quote to read, "the good is the enemy of the best." Their aim is to encourage people to always be reaching for the best or the better in their lives and to not live complacently and end up underachieving.

Philosophically I could argue for both points and depending on the context, I feel I would be justified in doing so. But for this devotion, I want you to consider that the best in the minds of others, should never distract us from the good that we are pursuing at present.

Our text is a perfect example of this. The Wise men had seen the star and had begin a journey to seek out the King. In this process, another King, Herod, who had his own agenda, attempted to seize on their good intentions and impose what could have appeared to them as a better mission.  It would have been easy for the wise men to have gotten so caught up in the reception Herod gave them that they could have forsaken their mission and exchanged it for his. It may have appeared the same but it definitely was different.

For today, ask God to help you stay clearly focused on what He has called you to seek out and to not be swayed by the opinions and agendas of others. Prayerfully and respectfully shake off the expectations of others when it comes to your seeking God and stay focused on your journey.  In the end you will be the benefactor of not allowing the best according to others to distract you from the good you are currently doing.

Tuesday- December 29, 2015

worship

Matthew 2:9-11 (NLT) After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

“The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship” ― Ralph Waldo EmersonNature

“Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to their Creator-God precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so.”― D.A. Carson

The goal of the wise men's trip was to seek the cause of the star. The impact that the star had on their lives  caused them to undertake of journey of at least a few weeks and maybe even months. Now they find the object of their journey, the subject of their inquiry and what do they find, a small baby or a child. Think of the paradox, that kings would bow to a child, but that is just what they did. Something in the scene, something in their hearts caused them to seek out and worship what they did not know.

The phrase is heard many times at advent, wise men still seek him, and certain for me this is true. Sadly though many are so consumed with judging Him and comparing their opinion of him to themselves, they miss the magnitude of who He is. Oh that we all knew what these men did, that more than comparison of the  one they sought to others or themselves, something inside of their being recognized the child as the one who had given them everything they possessed. Their intellect, their reasoning, their possessions, status and life was all due this child.  May we never use the intellect we have been given by God as a means to judge whether or not worship of God is deserved. 

It is in the worship of the wise men that we come to understand that worship is not just in words or actions, but in the gifts we bring. For the skeptic or the cynical we may try and reason away these actions, but at the heart of worship is a desire to offer back something to honor the one who gave all. They brought what they had and gave what was in their hearts to give. In worship, God is honored and we are humbled. In such a scenario is there anything too extravagant that we might do.

Many Spirit-filled authors have exhausted the thesaurus in order to describe God with the glory He deserves. His perfect holiness, by definition, assures us that our words can't contain Him. Isn't it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?” ― Francis ChanCrazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

For today, focus on what your heart is saying about God. What do you desire to do inyour worship and honor of Him. What can you give to the one who gave you all to begin with. Some might reason nothing, and walk away not responding, but for those who realize all you are comes from Him, you respond by giving all back to Him. Today purpose to worship the Lord everyday with all of your being, inclusive of your time, talent and resources.

Wednesday- December 30, 2015

Matthew2:12(NLT) And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Don't let the doubts of others ring louder than God's whispers to your spirit. -- Tricia Goyer

Hear what others have to say, but listen to God --Anonymous

This particular verse will be the focus of our devotion for both today and tomorrow.  For today consider the pressure exerted on us by others. The pressure to conform to the expectations of others. The pressure to have others be pleased with our actions. The fear we have of others. The peer pressure to fit in, to feel important and be somebody important to others. What we don't see is that when we give in to what others are saying more than what we are hearing inside of our hearts, we could be exchanging who we are and what we could be, for what others have in mind for our lives. We are making others more important that the one who gives us purpose  and life to being with.

In the story of the wise men we have already focused on how easy it is to allow others to replace what we are doing that is good, with what they envision as the best. In this story we clearly see that others will attach themselves to our journeys in order to fulfill their selfish purposes.  We must learn to trust that the one who started us on our journey and placed the desire in us to begin with is the one who can daily direct our steps. Yes God uses others to speak to us from time to time, but in those moments when what others are saying conflicts with what we are hearing, we must learn to trust His voice.

What would have happened if the wise men had returned to Herod, giving in to the expectation and commands of someone powerful at that time in history. It may have been that Jesus would have been killed as a baby, and the story of advent might have be cut short and we would never know the power of His amazing hope, joy and love. You may say, that could have never been and you may be right, but the thing I know for sure is these wise men would have missed the mark and purpose of God for their lives.

For today, ask God to speak clearly to your heart what you are supposed to do. Purpose to hear what others have to say, but listen to God. The fact God is not seen makes it easy to trust those you are able to see physically and hear audibly. But why would God place something clear in your heart and then send someone else to contradict what you know to be good. Don't be afraid to listen to the voice of God in your life and trust that voice more than the voice of others.

Thursday- December 31, 2015

Matthew2:12(NLT) And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

“It is not we who seek the Way, but the Way which seeks us. That is why you are faithful to it, even while you stand waiting, so long as you are prepared, and act the moment you are confronted by its demands.” ― Dag HammarskjöldMarkings

In life there is much conversation and dialogue about which path we should take. Many stand still for fear of walking a wrong path, while others ignore the many warnings and continue selfishly walking paths that lead to their destruction. Others walk paths that are dictated by someone else, yielding to the expectations of others as to what life they should live. I believe the secret to the path to take is revealed in this simple story about wise men who sought for Jesus.

The journey began as they plotted a path toward the star that had so impacted their lives. They left everything familiar, undertaking a journey and most likely taking the most obvious path in the direction of the star.  I imagine they faced many things as they traveled and made adjustments for difficulties,  roadblocks and dangers along the way. Still they traveled toward the star. It was this journey that lead them on a path that intersected the path of Herod. At first flattered and honored that such a leader would take note of them, they most likely left his presence fully determined to return and direct him to the child. The secret though was in what came next. On the path  a voice warned them of not returning to Herod, and a different path had to be chosen if they were to be obedient to the voice inside,  more than the expectations of Herod.

Proverbs 3:6 (The Message) Listen forGod’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.

The truth of the quote above is that in fact as we walk the path, the path finds us if we will but live courageous and without fear of others. If we dare to follow the voice of God more than we do the expectations of others, we will find that we have truly found our path.

“True morality consists not in following the beaten track, but in finding the true path for ourselves, and fearlessly following it.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

For this last day of the Advent devotions, purpose to walk courageously the path you are on. Respond to the subtle signs along the way. Never give in to the request of others when they contradict the voice inside. Don't be so quick to fit in with your culture and don't yield to the behaviors of the world around you. Be brave and courageous and adjust as time and circumstances present a different path. Walk confident that even when you don't know where God is, God knows where you are and will direct your path.

Blessings

Pastor David

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I hope these devotions have been a blessing to you and would love to hear from you if they have blessed your life in any way. Send me an email atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.and let me know. I will leave you with this last scripture to finish out today and start off your new year.

Romans 12:1–3 (The Message) So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.2Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.3I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

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No Greater Love” presents the infallible, unconditional, unexplainable love of Christ and how just one moment with Him will change your life forever.  Each vignette provides an opportunity for the characters to share their rare moments they experienced first-hand explaining it in the most passionate way conveying the message of God’s love.

 

You will be introduced to this man named Jesus as you are about to hear the greatest story of love ever told and that how any life that came in contact with Him was touched------never to be the same again. The presentation, “No Greater Love”, will begin on April 6th at 7:00 p.m. in the little town of Bethlehem at the precious manger scene of the birth of our Lord and King.

 

Featured vignettes will introduce Peter, Zacchaeus, the priceless love of Mary and her  Alabaster Box, Three Rugged Fishermen with their nets by the Sea of Galilee; the Marketplace where Jesus made His Triumphal Entry, The Crucifixion of Our Lord and Savior, and the Finale when Jesus comes back to take His children Home.

 

The Church At Covington personally invites each of you to see these powerful scenes that will be etched in your hearts and minds forever - you will never be the same again – your life will be touched as you have the opportunity to experience “No Greater Love”.

 

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January is a time of new beginnings and New Year's resolutions.  This year we don't want a resolution; we want a revolution.We want a sudden, complete marked change in our attitudes and ideas in seeking God first.  It is so easy in our culture to allow other people, things, and activiites to take our focus from God.  This year we want to make a concerted effort to change that mindset and to start the year off as we should start each day - a time dedicated and focused solely on God and what He wants for us, our church and community, our nation, and our world.
 
The first full week in January has been set aside for focused prayer.  Please see the dates, times, location, and focus of each night as we dedicate this year to God and His will.
 
12 21 14 insert prayer revolution-2

                                   

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