Advent Reading for week of 12/9/18

Sunday. December 9

Luke 3:1-6

“ And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

John had a clear picture of what he was being called to do.  He had heard the stories of his father’s encounter with an angel.  He had heard about his mother and her encounter with Mary while she was still pregnant with John.  He had no doubt heard about his father regaining his voice when he corrected family about what his son was to be called.  He had been raised and set apart from the very beginning of his life.  He didn’t eat what everyone else ate.  He didn’t drink like others did.  He was truly well prepared for the journey ahead.  God had a plan, and John had been following it all of his life.

Have you ever wished God’s call for you was as clear?  Did you want to have a burning bush like Moses or a divine announcement like John?  Do you feel like it would be easier to be faithful and to follow God’s leadership if it was just spelled out plainly?

I have.  I have often wondered, as I sat pondering a decision or a direction, why God didn’t just hand me the map, or the answer.  Surely I would be good at following (if I knew that I knew that I knew) where I was going.

So I read ahead a little.  In Luke 3:7 there is a different feeling.  John sends some of his disciples to Jesus to ask, is this what we have been waiting for?  All that divine direction, all the preparation and planning, all that inspiration and dedication, and now John was in jail awaiting death.  Is this it?

I have asked that question too, though in less dire circumstances.  I have asked, “God is this the plan?” when the doors I thought would open have closed.  “God did I miss you?” when a dream that looked possible becomes less and less likely, and sometimes just disappears.  “Why?”, I have asked, wondering really if God was even listening.

Jesus sends John reassurance, and God sends it to me when I stop long enough to listen for the words of comfort.  God’s plans are not ours, but they are good.  God’s love is deep enough for our questions, our hurts, and our desperation.  Go ahead and ask, the answer is good!         Sue Engle

 

Monday, December 10

Romans 8:22-25

Christmas is a time of joyful anticipation of the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But for many, it can be a sad time of fighting illness, missing loved ones and recalling painful experiences. To make matters worse, 24-hour news channels and social media unceasingly remind us of a world that often seems doomed by hate and violence.

Paul tells us in Romans 5:12 that Adam’s sin spread not only to mankind but all creation. He continues in Romans 8:22-23 that the “whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together” while “waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”

Christ died for our redemption. Our glorification will trigger events bringing about a new heaven and earth, but until then, plenty of pain and suffering will continue. Paul likens those experiences to childbirth, in that birth grows more imminent as the intensity and frequency of labor pains increase.

While pain and suffering seem to bombard us, we are being pushed closer and closer to a new creation. God alone will end our suffering.

Paul continues in Romans 8:24-25 that we are saved through our hope. However, “hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

To Christians, hope means the “joyful expectation” that our future with God is an absolute certainty. Our hearts have been immersed in His love through the Holy Spirit living in us and helping us in our weakness. As Romans 8 continues, we learn that the Holy Spirit intervenes with groans “too deep for words” when we have no idea what we need or how to ask for it!

As the birthday of Jesus approaches, we are assured by God’s word that He has made a place for us despite the gloom and doom that threaten to swallow us. In fact, we are made stronger through our suffering. We can find comfort in his loving arms and promise of eternal salvation, just as the baby Jesus felt the love of his mother Mary’s warm embrace more than 2,000 years ago.

Joe Walker

Tuesday, December 11

2 Peter 1:2-15

Verses 5 through 8 of 2 Peter encourages us to make every effort to add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love to our faith. And that by possessing and increasing these virtues we will be more effective and productive in our knowledge of Jesus. Adding these virtues to all aspects of our lives will always make us more effective and productive in relationships with family, friends, co-workers, etc. Efforts to add these virtues also have the added benefit of making these relationships deeper and more enjoyable. Even difficult relationships will become better.

Advent is a season of joy, peace and hope. This makes the season of Advent a natural time for us to reflect on our relationships with family, friends and co-workers. We should also take time this season to reflect on our personal relationship with Jesus. The first question is: where are we in our relationship and journey with our Savior? By knowing where we are, we can assess the next step, which is: what can each of us do to add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and, most important, love to our relationship with, and faith in Jesus? By doing so our relationship with Jesus will be deeper and more enjoyable.

As Peter tells us, we must always strive to add/increase these virtues to our faith. The season of Advent is a natural season to do just that.

Prayer for today: “Lord open my mind, heart and soul to recognize opportunities to add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love to my faith and relationship with You”

Steve Wagner

Wednesday, December 12

Isaiah 35:3-7 & Luke 7:18-30

Our Scriptures today speak of big things, miraculous life-changing events.  Isaiah prophesies that “waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the Arabah (a desolate land).”  He says, “the eyes of the blind will be opened…the ears of the deaf unstopped…the lame will leap like deer…the tongue of the mute will shout for joy!”  Then in Luke 7, disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus if He is “the expected One.”  Jesus tells them to “report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, & the poor have the Gospel preached to them.”

Do you “think big?”  Do you expect God to move in powerful ways in your life and in the lives of those for whom you pray?  Too often, we Christians are timid in prayer.  We act as if God can’t handle the pressure of big requests or that we take too much of His time away from helping others if we ask too much.  Can a person overburden God?  Put too much on His shoulders?  No.  The only thing that limits God in our lives is our own unbelief.  Jesus performed many miracles everywhere He went EXCEPT in His hometown where “He wondered at their unbelief” (Mark 6:6).

What do you expect this Christmas season?  Tired feet and minds?  Lights that won’t work?  Bills that last longer than the gift itself?  What do you expect in 2019?  More of the same?  A limited faith?

It is time to change our thinking, to dramatically raise our expectations!  Isaiah said “encourage the exhausted & strengthen the feeble.  Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not…He will save you’.”  Don’t be like the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Luke 7 who “rejected God’s purpose for themselves.”  Believe and expect God to do greater things in and through you.  Expect God to strengthen and heal your family.  Ask God to fill you and your church afresh with His Holy Spirit, to empower our work in His Kingdom on earth.  Ask for the gift of Pentecost at Christmas!  May God forgive us for thinking small.  May we see big things from God.  And then, may we report to the world what we see and hear!  In Jesus name, Amen.    Ron Beaton

Thursday, December 13

Isaiah 12:2-6

 Portions from Isaiah 12:2-6: “Surely God is my Salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name. Make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted. NIV

I love how God works!  As my service is primarily in the ministry of music, I smiled as I read from various Bible translations, the headings for my Advent passage from Isaiah: “Hymns of Praise, “Songs of Praise,” “Songs of Thanksgiving.”

As I write this, it is pre-election, but as you read it, thankfully the campaign season is behind us, regardless of whether or not we are pleased with the outcome.  We have been bombarded with the many opinions of how we should think, act, react, spend our money and of course, vote.  During this season, we have watched countless attacks on the reputations of men and women alike as if we are to be the judge and jury of any person’s character. I’m so thankful The Bible says God’s reputation cannot be soiled nor stained in any way.  People have tried and will continue to, but The Word of God will stand forever and cannot be defeated.

So how do we negate all we have heard and said, and go forward with JOY and confidence of better days?  Amos 8:11 tells us that our Sovereign Lord says He will send a famine, not for food nor water, but for hearing The Words of The Lord. I have to believe that today, we are that people hungry and thirsty for The Word of God.  We the church are a blessed people and when we eat and drink of it, it is our responsibility to offer to others His Words that will exhort and edify. We know THE WORD made flesh, Jesus, who paid greatly for our salvation, and the world needs to see and hear Him in the lives we live before them.

Isaiah tells us we are to draw JOY from the well of our salvation, and we are to proclaim that joy wherever we go.  We are called to give thanks to God!  When we don’t understand life, The Message says: “We can call out His name and ask Him anything!”  We talk about everything else, but it is time to elevate Jesus and tell the whole world about Him, who He is, what He has done and how much He loves them! It’s time to sing to The Lord, because “Greater is He who lives in us than he that is in the world.” (Hebrews) Our God loves the praises of His people and we have much to sing about, to shout and proclaim His word!  I love verse 6 in Isaiah 12 from The Message translation:  “Raise the roof! Sing your hearts out to Zion. The Greatest lives among you: The Holy One of Israel.”

It’s time to celebrate as we prepare our hearts this season, and even more, to prepare for His second coming, for He indeed is coming again!  “Look up, for your redemption draws nigh.”       Marsha Beaton

Friday, December 14

2 Corinthians 9:6-9

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” NIV

 

God can’t bring forth a harvest from a seed that you keep in your hand.

Once a man was asked, “What did you gain by regularly praying to God?” The second man replied, “Nothing… but let me tell you what I lost: anger, ego, greed, addiction, insecurity, and fear of death.” Sometimes the answers to our prayers is not gaining, but losing, which ultimately is the gain.

Let’s think about this: the praying man was giving the Lord time, energy, and most importantly—his heart. He did not pray with a “I have to pray now” attitude. He prayed with an open heart, an open mind and open ears. The Lord showed him a perspective that was different from what the first man was thinking.

We are talking about giving not recovering. It relates in the principle of the Lord that whatever one sows so shall he reap. It’s not a matter of size that makes the gifts acceptable to the Lord, but it’s about how we give. The gifts are acceptable based on what you have, not what you don’t have. If you give small, you will receive small. If you give lots, you will receive lots.

Jesus said to pray, “Forgive us of our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

What are you sowing? What are you giving?

Prayer: Lord thank you for giving me the ultimate gift. Help me to give with a joyous heart, help me open my mind to the prospective that you want me to have. I ask that you give me eyes to see and ears to hear. We give grace because you have given us grace. Thank you for all you are doing and all you continue to do. Amen.     Matt & Gabby Lacefield

Saturday, December 15

Luke 1:57-66

“He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John’.

The people asked Elizabeth what the child’s name would be. When she answered, “John” they turned to Zechariah to ask him as well.  Remember that Zechariah had been chosen by the casting of lots to offer incense in the sanctuary of the Lord that day.  When the angel told him his prayers to have a son would be fulfilled and that his son would be named John, he lost his ability to speak.

The friends and neighbors of Zechariah and Elizabeth were amazed for no one within the family had the name John. They all thought the baby boy would be named after his father. They all pondered and wondered. What would this child become?

A proud father proclaimed that his son John would become the prophet of the Most High. Imagine, his son would go before our Lord to prepare his way.

What an amazing gift; to receive a son. What is even more amazing is that this son would be the forerunner of the Messiah.

Stan Waldon