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Advent 2020: Things Are Not as They Seem

To the glory of God.

Faith puts trust in what we hope for as evidence of what is still unseen (Hebrews 11:1). It feels slippery sometimes and requires spiritual work to keep it intact.

The basis of our life in Christ is faith. Self-examination of feelings and actions reveal what we believe, especially as we approach the celebration of Jesus’s birth.

Consider your life in Christ today. Look for places where you need to build anticipation for Christmas and Jesus’s return. Seek words of faith from Scripture to memorize and set in your heart.

We all need Jesus.

Read December 16: God’s Most Successful Setback

Two white pillar candles wrapped with purple ribbon tagged Hope.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash


Was your faith challenged by today’s reading? How?

The way up is down. The way forward is backward.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Things are not always as they seem. Sometimes a feed trough is a crib for a King. A Babe born in a barn the Savior of the world. Sometimes God allows things we don’t understand and make no sense to us. These are the times that challenge our faith. They call us to trust the unseen.

What seems like a setback in your life rather than a step toward success?

How do you handle setbacks? Consider if your response to disappointment is an act of faith or evidence of unbelief.

Ask God to bless you with the faith to trust His promises and hope in what is still unseen.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV

Christmas tree ornament hanging with a red ribbon inscribed: Faith.
Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

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Advent 2020: A Long Wait

Blessed be the Lord!

Meditate. Examine. Build. Be. Our roadmap for approaching Advent as a spiritual discipline.

Meditate. Ponder. Reflect. Contemplate.
Intentionally considering, thinking about, our need for a Savior is the first step on our way to adoring Jesus.

Read December 3: The Long-Awaited Visitation

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash


What attitude does John Piper suggest we should have when it comes to waiting on God?

These were days of great expectation. Now the long-awaited visitation of God was about to come in a way no one expected.

John Piper, Joy to the World

What are you waiting for? Are you growing weary in the waiting? Or are you filled with excitement and anticipation?

What does your attitude in the waiting reveal about your trust in the One you are waiting for?

Take your “waiting” attitude — whatever it is — to God in prayer. Ask Him to encourage your heart in what you are waiting for.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2Peter 3:8-9 NIV

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

December 14

Christmas: 1964

 I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

Christmas is a time for rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” But for some people Christmas is a time for sadness.

I remember it well, the day I learned my dad was dying. Thanksgiving had come and gone and Dad had been home to enjoy our traditional family gathering.

It was now the Christmas holidays and I was watching Father Knows Best on television. Mother was at the kitchen sink peeling potatoes for lunch. At first I thought she was laughing to herself, but realized she was crying instead.

Rushing to her side, I said, “Mother, Dad is dying, isn’t he?” She said, “Yes, he has only weeks to live.” Christmas was never the same after that. And I relied heavily on Scripture. In Deuteronomy 31:8 God promises never to leave nor forsake us. Instead, He walks by our side (Psalm 23:4) and provides a way of escape.

Dad passed away peacefully with my mother at his side on January 6, 1965 at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas. He had fought lymphatic cancer for two years. Dad had told Mother that God answered every one of his prayers and to read Luke 2:26, “And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

My father prayed one last time before he died. He prayed for God to take him Home. He had told us many times that he would be Home for Christmas, if only in his dreams. His last prayer was finally answered. In Philippians 4:6 it says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

Comfort-God's Promises-Hope-Advent-Faith-FUMC.jpg

[Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash]

With the birth of Jesus Christ, the beginning of a promise of eternal life was given to us. By remembering this and the way He died for our sins helps us to make the Christmas holidays a time for rejoicing.

I can do anything as long as Jesus Christ gives me strength.

Paula Small

Father God, You are the God of all compassion and mercy. Thank You for sending Jesus as our salvation and strength. Bless us with the words to encourage others who may be having difficulty experiencing the joy of the Season.

Additional Scripture: 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, Romans 12:15

December 1: First Sunday in Advent

Advent is here and with it comes the first light of hope. Anticipation fills the air as we prepare to celebrate The Light of the World. This day is the beginning of all our watching and waiting and hoping.

What are you hoping for this year? What waiting lies deep in your heart? What keeps you watching with anticipation?

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

Micah 7:7

(Light the first Advent candle.)

The first candle is called the Prophet’s Candle. Prophets in the Old Testament told the Israelites a Savior was coming. Isaiah and Micah spoke words of hope to God’s children and they waited and watched for the signs of the coming Savior.

We see signs of the day approaching to celebrate the Savior’s birth too. Stockings hang waiting to be filled, wreaths of green welcome us home, and the music of the season fills our ears. There’s just something special about this time of year. Smiles are brighter and eyes twinkle a bit more. This is Advent and with it comes the spark of hope that lights our first candle.

Yet our hope goes much deeper than presents under trees or the special foods we enjoy.

Read Luke 1:26-28

Gabriel’s greeting to Mary were words of hope, the same words of hope for us this season: You are favored by the Lord. The Lord is with you! (Luke 1:28)

The light of the first candle reminds us we are favored by God. We are chosen to watch and wait with hope for the coming of the King. The words of Micah ring true. God hears us and is with us. This is our hope. This is the hope of the world!

Sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”:

O come, Thou Day-Spring

Come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

Lord of Hope, fill us with the light of Your love this Advent. Help us to shine hope into the world. Thank You for hearing us, for being with us. Amen.

Additional Scriptures: Psalm 119:81, Isaiah 40:30-31, Jeremiah 29:11

Advent 2019-Devotional-FUMC

[Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash]

Hope for your weekend

Paul says, Hope that is seen is no hope at all. (Romans 8:24)

Sometimes we catch a glimpse of hope. It’s like God pulls back the veil to enlarge our hope capacity.

May you be hope-filled as you recharge this weekend.




And for your weekend listening.


Another Side of Sunday: For your weekend listening

They lyrics of a song caught my attention yesterday. Hearing the word anchor reminded me of this week’s scripture.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.–Hebrews 6:19-20

Music can often inspire another look at God’s word. Enjoy!




December 24

[One more day. Don’t let the anticipation and love of God’s coming as a Babe get lost in the shuffle of the season. Read John Piper’s devotional for December 24, and if you have one more moment, read what follows.]

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of the brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

Micah 5:2-4

Christ is the yes of all God’s promises, so if you trust him, they will all be your inheritance.

– John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, page 73*

It’s Christmas Eve. An exciting time, especially for children anticipating whether their hearts’ desires will be fulfilled Christmas morning.

Think back to a time when you anticipated a great gift. Were your hopes fulfilled? or did you find yourself disappointed?

If you received what you desired, how long did the excitement of the greatly anticipated gift last? a week? a month? a year?

What about disappointment? did the heartache last a day? a week? has it left an unhealed wound on your heart?

This Christmas Eve, remember Baby Jesus is the Yes! to all God’s promises. He is the One gift whose joy will never dim and who will never disappoint.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:5 NIV

Ask God to help you fully receive the gift of Indestructible Joy.

Father God, open my heart to all You have for me in Jesus.

[Feature Image Photo on blog by Arun Kuchibhotla on Unsplash]

*© 2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187,

December 10

[Let’s continue our journey through The Dawning of Indestructible Joy. Read the December 10 devotional and may what follows here enhance what’s there.]

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

1John 3:8

Thus says the Lord: the meaning of Christmas is that what is good and precious in your life need never be lost, and what is evil and undesirable in your life can be changed. The fears that the few good things that make you happy are slipping through your fingers, and the frustrations that the bad things you hate about yourself or your situation can’t be changed – these fears and these frustrations are what Christmas came to destroy.

– John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, page 38*

Restoration and redemption. That’s what Christmas is all about.

Consider all you feel is lost… slipping away… or will never change…

What are you afraid of losing? What frustrations do you face?

Today, take those things to Jesus in the manger. Lay them at His feet as the Magi laid down their gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh. Remember He came to take those things to the cross. There is where restoration began. Resolve to wait for Him to return, focusing on the joy set before you.

Lord Jesus, You defeated all that is wrong in the world. You are making all things new. Don’t let me forget what truly lies in the manger. Hope. Pure unadulterated hope.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash] 

*© 2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187,