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Advent 2020: Conclusion

Continuing the journey.

Christmas 2020 is now in our rearview mirror. It’s the day after, the joy all spent, and now clean up begins. Memories will remain, some a short while and some lifelong, depending on our experiences.

As we wrap up our time with John Piper in Joy to the World, let’s consider what we will remember beyond Advent 2020.


Read Conclusion: My Favorite Christmas Text

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What is your takeaway from the Conclusion of Joy to the World?


We are called to join Jesus in this conscious self-humbling and servanthood.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Jesus made Himself nothing to serve others. He made a way to set us free from sin and death.

With pure freedom and joy, Believers lay down all illusion of independence and pride to follow Him.

As we leave Advent 2020 behind, let us consider continuing the spiritual journey we began in Joy to the World. Because the truth is, we live life in a season of Advent, a season of waiting. We are waiting for Christ’s return, His Second-Coming when He will make all things right.

Practicing the steps we learned this Advent is a means to help us prepare our hearts and spirits for Jesus’s return: Meditate. Examine. Build. Be.

Meditate, think about, contemplate your need for Jesus in community and personally. Consider all the ways you depend on the blessings He pours out each day and the hope you have in His promises. Ask God to remind you of your need.

Examine, check, inspect your heart and attitude toward Jesus. Look for signs of joy in Jesus and willingness to serve humbly. Consider how much of your life is also Christ’s life. Ask God to show you what you cannot see in yourself.

Build, fashion, construct habits to form an attitude of anticipation and excitement for His return. If you are not looking forward to His coming back, consider the underlying reasons. Ask God to reveal barriers in your heart. Sometimes construction projects begin with clearing out and tearing down obstructions. Cooperate with God as He works to change your attitude.

Be and live in the Word of God. Make it a daily priority in your life. Learn all you can about Jesus, from Genesis to Revelation. He is not only the Reason for Christmas but all creation and beyond. Get to know your Savior and find joy in your current waiting. Ask God to guide you to the specific Scriptures you need in each season of life and open yourself to His teaching by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today consider how you can establish these steps as a foundation for your spiritual journey.

Do you envision a daily, weekly, or monthly time to walk through these steps?

Who can you invite to join you on the journey for encouragement in the current waiting?

Ask God for the inspiration and faith to continue preparing physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally for Jesus’s return. Ask Him to guide you to light, truth, and joy, joy, joy!

For thus says the Lord… You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:10, 13 ESV

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Blessings for the new year and beyond.

Grow Team

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Advent 2020: Christmas Presents

The gifts of God through Jesus.

Merry Christmas! As you celebrate with gifts and games, family and friends, however you spend the day, take a moment to consider your Advent journey.

Sense your level of adoration for Jesus as Savior and King, Creator and Redeemer. Think about what you learned from the spiritual discipline of Advent.

Rejoice in the Lord! Your Savior was born this day!


Read December 25: Three Christmas Presents

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What did John Piper give to you through today’s devotional?


Believe Jesus and love others. That is your purpose. …
Let the freedom to fail give you hope to fight. …
Christ will help overcome sin in you. …

John Piper, Joy to the World

Purpose. Forgiveness. Help. According to John Piper, these are the three presents Jesus gives us through Christmas. Gifts to help us persevere on our faith journeys.

Which of these Christmas presents means the most to you? Why?

Does one stir your heart with more joy and adoration for Jesus than the others? Explain.

Do you see the need for all of these gifts of grace in your life? How?

Ask God to bless you with the faith to open each of these Christmas presents in your life and use them to the fullest. Let Jesus define your purpose, forgive your failures, and help you move ever closer to Him.

May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.
2Thessalonians 3:5 NLT

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Advent 2020: The Son of God

He disables sin.

Christmas Eve. It’s here! We’ve journeyed a long way, even though it may seem like the time flew by.

Today we celebrate the eve of the birth of the Babe in the manger, the Son of God, the Son of Man, God-Incarnate, Jesus.

As you celebrate this night before Christmas, take time to focus on the steps of the spiritual discipline of Advent. Invite those with you into the conversation.
Meditate. Share your thoughts on the need for Jesus in your life.
Examine. Ask each person present to consider what is in their hearts this Christmas Eve: Emotions. Thoughts. Desires. Invite them to speak openly.
Build. Take a survey of those with whom you gather to discover different ways to stir up excitement for Jesus at Christmas and all the other days of the year.
Be. Open up a Bible. Read a portion of Jesus’s birth story out loud. Ask God to open hearts to the joy of Christmas.


Read December 24: The Son of God Appeared

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Reflect.

What did you hear in today’s Joy to the World devotional?


Jesus came into the world to help us stop sinning.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Sometimes, we view the Christmas story as unconnected from the work Jesus came to do: Disable sin.

We make a big to-do of His arrival in the manger, but the reality is He quietly appeared. Hardly anyone noticed.

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Jesus’s life as a child or young adult. The next time we hear of Him, He’s all grown up and undergoing baptism in the waters of the Jordan River. He enters ministry by fighting off temptation. Then He begins teaching, healing, and working miracles as He forms fellowship with a band of brothers.

The Babe in the manger seems far removed from the Messiah on the cross.

John Piper wants to make sure we connect the whole story and see the Babe in the same light as Christ: The Lamb of God. The Savior of the world. The King of kings.

Why do you think we need to see the incarnation of God, from baby to manhood, as an integral part of His mission on earth?

Do you tend to compartmentalize Christmas from the cross? His resurrection? His return?

Today think about how you handle the whole story of Christ. Examine your attitude toward Jesus’s birth, life, crucifixion, resurrection, and return. Are they a single epic written on your heart? Or do you view them as individual accounts?

Ask God to open your eyes and heart to the full story and purpose of Jesus. Be prepared to let go of old attitudes and make way for a fuller perspective to take hold.

Because God’s children are human beings — made of flesh and blood — the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil who had the power of death.
Hebrews 2:14 NLT

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Advent 2020: Rejoice!

It’s all about Him.

Today marks the eve of Christmas Eve. The day when we finally resign ourselves to what will get done by Christmas and what will not.

Spend a portion of today reflecting on your expectations and hopes for this holiday season. Celebrate the accomplishments, grieve the disappointments and things lost in the cracks of life.

Then relate your Christmas season expectations to your spiritual journey. Think about where you expected Christ to lead you and the reality of where you are. Embrace both the joys and sorrows.

Now, remember: His mercies are new every day! His steadfast love never fails! And He is currently redeeming, restoring, and renewing ALL things!


Read December 23: God’s Indescribable Gifts

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Reflect.

How did John Piper speak to you on a personal level today?


Exultation without the content of Christ does not honor Christ.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Exult. Rejoice. Celebrate. Christmas is one of the few holidays celebrated internationally, on a global level.

The world finds common ground in Christmas, a time to give, seek peace, and express love to others. But most celebrate the season without the Reason. The birth of Christ, the beginning of God’s promises coming to fruition, is left out.

Celebrating Christmas without the story of Jesus reconciling the world to God because of sin is not a celebration that honors Him. It’s like someone throwing a birthday party for you, but your presence is not welcome.

Consider your Christmas celebrations. Where is Christ in your Christmas? front and center? relegated to the sidelines? a footnote? a fuzzy detail?

Ask God to grab your attention with the Indescribable Gift He has given you, made available to your family, friends, and even those at odds with you. Ask Him to fill your heart with exultation, joy, and excitement over the One who came quietly into a dark world to battle for your life.

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.
Isaiah 49:13 ESV

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Advent 2020: Believe

Find Him awesome.

The calendar tells us we have two days until Christmas Eve. With yesterday’s winter solstice, the light of day begins to increase, little by little.

Most often, the light of Jesus in our lives waxes and wanes in the same way — little by little — it doesn’t stay the same. We are either moving toward Him or away from Him on any given day or season of life.

Today consider how Advent as a spiritual journey has affected you. Discern whether your heart is a little nearer to the adoration Jesus deserves or if the light from the manger is dimmer than in seasons past.


Read December 22: That You May Believe

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Reflect.

What was your heart’s response to today’s devotional? How did it make you feel?


Something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God…

John Piper, Joy to the World

John Piper tells us there is no more exciting story, no more thrilling tale, than the one of the Son of God, yet it fails to capture our attention.

What stories are your favorites? action-adventure? mystery? science-fiction? romance?

What is it about your favorite genre that holds your attention? captures your imagination? speaks to your heart?

Consider what you do know about Jesus’s story — the one told from Genesis to Revelation. Are there elements of the stories you love in His story?

Ask God to help you see His story in a fresh light. Ask Him to capture your heart with the truth of all He did, does, and will do. Open your heart for the Holy Spirit to tell you the greatest story ever told.

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” — Jesus
John 16:12-14 NIV

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Advent 2020: Incarnation

The King has come.

Three more days to prepare for Christmas. Three days to prepare our hearts to glorify God by celebrating His Son’s birth.

Take time to reconsider our steps in the spiritual journey of Advent.
Meditate. Remember your need for a Savior.
Examine. Be honest about the place Christ has in your life.
Build. Anticipate your eternity.
Be. Carry Scripture with you on a notecard, sticky, or in your memory.

Use these steps as a foundation for your celebration of Jesus. Whether you spend it alone or with family and friends plan a joy-full celebration.

Prepare the way for the Lord.


Read December 21: The Birth of the Ancient of Days

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Reflect.

What images came to mind as you read today’s devotional?


His birth was not a coming into being of a new person, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old person.

John Piper, Joy to the World

The Person of Jesus existed before He was born in the flesh and laid in a manger. In a way, this is what we experience in our spiritual birth — the old becoming new (2Corinthians 5:17).

Learning to live a new way of being when you are old can be challenging. Letting go of old habits, thoughts, and feelings, replacing them with new ones.

What do you think it was like for Jesus? the Old becoming New? Spirit becoming flesh?

Can you relate His birth experience to your spiritual journey of being born again?

Does this truth help you relate to Jesus on a personal level?

What does it mean to you for the old to take on something new?

Let this idea stick with you. See what stirs in your heart.

Ask God to solidify this thought in your mind and use it to fill you with adoration of the Ancient of Days.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:3 ESV

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Advent 2020: Light in the Darkness

Stand firm with Jesus.

Four days left in Advent. Five until Christmas. The daylight hours continue to decrease while the hours of darkness increase — until tomorrow. This year December 21st is the first day of winter, the day marked by the fewest hours of light and the longest night of darkness.

Spiritual darkness presses into our lives daily: sin, bad moods, discord in relationships. Today consider Jesus as Savior, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace. Let Him bring light into your darkness.

Find a passage in the Bible to speak to your current battle with darkness. Memorize the Word God gives you. Let Him shine the light of truth to dissipate the dark.

Stand firm against the forces attempting to extinguish the light in your life.


Read December 20: Christmas Solidarity

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What captured your imagination in today’s devotional?


Christmas is a call to go on strike at the assembly plant of sin.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Sin is the work of Satan. Its sole purpose is to bring spiritual darkness into the world and break our relationship with God.

Where are you standing in relation to what John Piper calls: Satan’s business?

Are you an active contributor to the sins coming off the enemy’s assembly line? a part-time employee? or a protestor picketing at the gates?

We all sin, yet Satan is a devious business manager. The lies he weaves into the world make us think we are doing good, or at least what is tolerable, as we blindly contribute to the darkness.

Today, consider whether your thoughts, words, and deeds contribute to the darkness in the world or bring light.

You’ll need God’s help. Ask Him to bless you with discernment and eyes to see things accurately. Ask Him to reveal the lies you’ve been believing and replace them with the light of truth.

“Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!”
Matthew 6:22-23 NLT

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Advent 2020: Freedom

The destruction of sin and death.

So far this Advent season, we’ve gone deep into the heart of Christmas, perhaps seeing things previously unseen.

Today, as you go about your day, think about what you’ve learned. Look for signs of the deeper meaning of Christmas in the world around you. See past the temporary and into the eternal.


Read December 19: Christmas is for Freedom

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Did today’s reading give you a different perspective on Christmas? How?


Christmas is for freedom — freedom from the fear of death.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Christmas frees us from fear. A good thing to remember when fear of death is rampant in a world gone viral with a pandemic.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being high), what is your current level of fear? anxiety?

What does your fear-rating tell you about your faith?

Take time today to consider: Christmas ushers in freedom from the fear of death. Does this concept ring true in your heart? or is there resistance? Do you hear a “Yeah, but…” in your spirit?

After considering your heart’s response to this good news, ask God to reveal the sin keeping you bound to fear of death. Ask Him to speak the truth of the power of His love and grace into your life.

Ask Him to set you free!

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1John 4:18 ESV

Store window decal: Joy, Peace, Love ornament. Merry Christmas.
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Advent 2020: On Mission

You are sent.

Only six days remain in Advent. The last week before Christmas gets more frantic for some. Others seem to have it all done with time to spare. And some have no one and nothing for the holidays.

Let the final days of Advent be a time to slow down. Think about the heart of the season and be like Jesus. See the needy. Lay down your plans to help someone else. Find joy and peace in giving and forgiving.


Read December 18: The Christmas Model for Missions

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Reflect.

Did you read something unexpected in today’s devotional? What?


Christ came to his own, and his own received him not. So you.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Too often we come to Christmas and never look past the manger. We fail to consider why Jesus came. All we want to do is rest in the peace of the silent night.

But this moment in history marked the climax of a war that originated in the garden of Eden. Jesus came as the offspring of Eve to crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3:14-15).

The Babe in the manger came on a mission: To give His life to rescue many (Mark 10:45).

The same can be true of our journeys as Christians. We fail to look past the joy and peace of baptism — the descent of the Spirit — and forget we’re engaging in war. We find ourselves blindsided by the battle. Confusion sets in if we don’t understand the story we’re entering.

Surprise attacks can put us at risk of distrusting God and stir up unbelief.

Have you ever considered Christ came to win a war?

What about following Him into battle? Is this a part of your understanding of being a Christian?

Today, ask God to open your eyes to the spiritual battle you’ve entered. Then remember Jesus already won the war!

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.
1John 5:4 ESV

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Advent 2020: Behold

The greatest salvation.

The spiritual discipline of Advent provides a means to increase our adoration and enjoyment in Jesus. Within it is the potential to open our hearts to a greater understanding of all He did, does, and will do.

Christmas Eve is one week away. Today, test your heart and spirit. Rate your adoration and joy of Jesus on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the high mark). No matter where you find yourself, take steps of faith to increase your capacity for joyful adoration.

Remember the steps on this spiritual journey:
Meditate on your need for Jesus.
Examine your heart and life in Christ.
Build anticipation for His return.
Be in His Word.

Exercise your faith.


Read December 17: The Greatest Salvation Imaginable

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Reflect.

What did you read in today’s devotional to use as fuel for finding joy in Jesus?


Christ bore our sins in his own body when he died. He took our judgment. He canceled our guilt. And that means our sins are gone.

John Piper, Joy to the World

God took on flesh so He could take on our sins and then… forget about them. For those who believe, this is the gift of Christmas: The Greatest Salvation!

If there was ever a reason to anticipate the celebration of Jesus with great joy, this is it.

What does this truth stir in your heart?

Do you have sins (past or present or both) you would love to be gone?

What does your heart’s response reveal about your understanding of who you are? who God is? the great gift He offers?

Ask God to prepare your heart to receive the greatest gift He has to give.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Romans 3:1-2 ESV

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