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Monthly Archives: December 2014

Advent Devotion for 12-16-14

December 16, 2014

Luke 1:18-25candle

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

I’ve always been intrigued by this passage- particularly the consequence of Zechariah’s disbelief. God was unwavering in His determination to use Zechariah and Elizabeth to fulfill His purposes despite Zechariah’s doubts. But his resistance was not without repercussions- muteness for nearly a year. Conversations would have to wait. Questions and wonderings remained internal and unexpressed. Even doubts—maybe especially the doubts– would stay tucked away for this season. Sometimes silence is a wonderful teacher. In silence we put our own words on hold and prioritize what we don’t do as well: we listen. For Zechariah that meant listening to the joyous wonder of his wife experiencing the gift of an impossible pregnancy. It meant hours of reflection on God’s words and God’s ways. It meant hearing God in a new way.   We shouldn’t forget that Zechariah’s silence was discipline for a lack of belief in God’s clearly expressed words. But even the discipline was a gift. Perhaps a severe mercy, but a mercy nonetheless.

When do you spend time in silence with God? How might this practice help grow your faith and relationship with Jesus?

For Families

Talk about how hard (or easy) it is to not talk and instead pay attention to God and others. What are ways you can practice the skill of paying attention to God’s voice?

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Posted by on December 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Advent Devotion for 12-15-14

Happy Monday to you!

December 15, 2014 candle

Luke 1:14-17

 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Soil preparation is difficult, unglamorous work. Especially when the earth is hard and unyielding. Digging in requires diligence and prolonged effort. Mostly it takes patience—a willingness to endure a lengthy season of apparent futility, all in the belief that a payoff is coming. But without careful attention to cultivation, fruitfulness is limited at best. Such was the calling of John the Baptist- preparing the soil of hearts in anticipation of Jesus’ arrival on the scene. To patiently, diligently call people back to God- digging the spade into hard hearts, one at a time. Some hearts refused to yield and remained stuck in their resistance. Others softened slowly, demanding years of spade work before any change became evident. This was John’s calling. In many cases it is ours as well. In a spiritual climate like ours, we will need to take lessons from John the Baptist in the hard, enduring work of soil- and soul- preparation.

What people in your circle of influence- work, neighborhood, school, etc- is God calling you to engage in soil preparation with? What’s a next step toward that?

For Families

Talk about the idea of preparing the ground for the seeds to grow. Discuss how that might look from a spiritual perspective with people who are far from God. Discuss people they can be engaging in this way.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Advent Devotion for 12-14-14 Third Sunday of Advent

Welcome to the 3rd week of Advent- it’s going quickly, isn’t it?

December 14, 2014 Advent-Candles2

Luke 1:5-13

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.

“Do you believe in miracles?” These words were made famous over 20 years ago by sports broadcaster Al Michaels, describing the stunning upset of the Russian ice hockey team by a young, hopelessly outmatched USA team. This event became known, in fact, as the Miracle on Ice. Simply put, this kind of thing just doesn’t happen. And yet when we read the pages of Scripture- ones like today’s passage, we encounter miracles in abundance. But somehow we read past them casually, almost numb to the wonder of what is described.

Ponder this one for a moment: an angelic appearance announcing an impossible pregnancy. Like I said, things like this just don’t happen. Not apart from the power of God. And this is not the God of yesteryear, for a people far away and less sophisticated than we. This is our God: unchanging, infinite, and all-powerful. According to Jesus, one miracle ranks above them all. This one is all but invisible- the transformation of a human heart. “I was dead, but now I live. I once was blind, but now I see.” So let’s ask again, “Do you believe in miracles?”

What miracle do you long most for God to do in your own heart? How about the heart of someone else?

For Families

Spend time talking about and praying for God to do a miraculous work in hearts- yours and those around you.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Advent Devotion for 12-13-14

What a cool date today– 12-13-14.  Just saying…

December 13, 2014

Mark 1:1-3

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”— “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

 

Prepare the way for Jesus. How’s that for a job description! I don’t envy John the Baptist’s task, do you? A lonely figure standing against the prevailing tides of empty religiosity and cultural accommodation. A striking (contrast) lifestyle of simplicity and single-minded devotion. Beckoning, even pleading with people to turn away from lives of futility and self-service and return to the Lord. Challenging those cloaked in religion to reconsider whether they were truly seeking God or were simply keeping up appearances. Prophetic work isn’t easy, is it?

But our calling isn’t all that different, is it? Followers of Jesus are called to be a contrast community- displaying the truth and grace of our King in the midst of a world gone astray. We, too, are to look in the mirror and ask whether our faith is worn for appearances or is a genuine garment, consistent with our interior life.   How about simplicity and single-minded devotion? Should these not mark our lives as well?   Prophetic work is never easy, it’s true. But this, too, is part of our calling. What if we took a few steps in John’s footsteps, leaned into our shared prophetic calling? Perhaps we’d be better able to point others- and even our own souls- to Jesus.

What aspects of John’s prophetic calling and message do you need to imitate?

How can you be pointing others to Jesus more clearly this Advent?

For Families:

Talk about what it’s like to do and say what is right, even when it might not be popular.Advent-Candles2

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Advent Devotion for 12-12-14

Welcome to Friday!

December 12, 2014

John 1:9-18Advent-Candles2

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

On the night Jesus was born, shepherds were visited by angels proclaiming that God had come near- that a Savior had been born– Go and See! But part of this passage we tend to skip past is these words: “And the glory of the Lord shone around them…” What was that glory? In the past, God’s unique presence with the Israelites in the wilderness was displayed in a pillar of fire and cloud. Later, God’s glory would shine through Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration in dazzling light and brightness. But before Jesus’ arrival, God’s glory had not been seen for hundreds of years (because of His people’s sin and rebellion). But that night, out in quiet fields to a ragtag group of shepherds, God’s glory explodes in the night. The glory of God had come near once more. In Jesus, God’s glory returned to earth.

To see Jesus was to see glory- “God’s glory, full of grace and truth.” The glory of God in human form, hidden in plain sight. Most people missed it, apparently looking for fireworks and a big show. I think we can easily miss it, too, looking for the spectacular. Advent calls us to simply draw near to a baby in a manger and eavesdrop on the murmurings of shepherds and freshly minted teenage parents. To peer in at an apparently helpless child and find, along with others who have eyes to see, we are once again gazing upon the glory of God.

When you think of God’s glory, what comes to your mind? How can focusing on Jesus bring you closer to the glory of God?

 

 

For Families:

Talk with your family about ways to be reminded to think about Jesus regularly during this time of year.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Advent Devotion for 12-11-14

Here’s today’s:

December 11, 2014

John 1:1-8Advent-Candles2

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

Lights are one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. They illuminate displays, decorate stores, brighten homes. Lights can be colored, shaped, even made to paint a canvas of illuminated beauty. But light is more than decorative; light is necessary. Essential. No light = no life. Without the light (and warmth) of the sun we would quickly die. Without light to guide us in the dark, we are hopelessly, endlessly lost. Light is… life.

John the Baptist was not the source of light, but rather one who pointed and directed attention to the Light. And Jesus is not simply A source of light and direction, He IS Light. He IS Life. Personified and real. As necessary and fundamental as the air we breathe and the sun we see. So this holiday season, let your attention be drawn to the lights- whether that’s an eye-popping display or the simple warmth of a candle. And let your heart turn toward Jesus. Let His light shine into dark places of your heart for healing and wholeness. Allow His light to guide you to see clearly. Draw near to His light and simply gaze in fresh wonder at Jesus, the Light of the world.

What aspects of the light of Jesus are you most in need of these days?

For Families:

Turn off the lights and light a candle or flashlight and talk about how important and beautiful light is, and reflect on Jesus as the Light of the world.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Advent Devotion for 12-10-14

December 10, 2014

Malachi 3:1-6Advent-Candles2

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. 6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.

Have you ever seen metal purified? Lots and lots of heat is needed, to melt the ore to liquid ooze. In this molten state, the impurities rise to the surface, so they can be scraped away and removed before the liquid cools and hardens once again. Such a great picture of the way God often works in our lives. He allows the heat to be turned up- through trials, pain and challenges, and our impurities tend to pop right to the surface. Impatience, anger, self-pity, rebellion, to name a few. And the best time to address those? While the temperature is still hot, before things cool down and harden in place. Even though we want the pain to pass as quickly as possible, God has a larger purpose in mind- purity and wholeness. This is the way of our King.

What “impurities” is God bringing to the surface of your life these days? How can you bring these before Jesus for His help and healing?

For Families:

Talk about this picture of metal heating up. What are ways you notice God working in your life when things get “hot”?

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2014 in Uncategorized