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December 25: Christmas Day

Love Came Down

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

On Christmas Eve when I was young my family traveled to my grandparents’ home. The house was always full of good food and fun. We opened presents and played dominoes. When it was time, one of the adults in the house proclaimed, “It’s time to go.”

We bundled up and headed over to my cousin’s church. Watching the houses decorated in lights go by, the loud of the day drifted away. The hush of anticipation filled the air as we took our seats in the sanctuary.

Cousins dressed as angels and shepherds made their way to the manger. I listened as they told about Mary and Joseph’s journey, and my heart overflowed when they placed the babe in the manger. I’m not sure how to express the love I encountered in that church. If it had a smell or a sound, I experienced it there. It was in that place I experienced what holy felt like for the first time.

I’m much older now, but I can still feel it. My heart overflows when I consider Love lying there in the manger. The same Love that makes its way to the cross to save you and me. Love that transforms hearts and makes us holy. Love so deep I cannot fathom, so wide I cannot cross.

Love came down at Christmas, and I will never be the same.

Don’t let this day pass by without lighting your Advent candles. Ring the bells! Sing out loud! Hug tighter and smile brighter.

Christmas-Love-Jesus-FUMC-Advent.jpg[Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash]

For this is Christmas Day! This is the day our hearts become holy with the light of Love, and it’s the most precious gift of all.

Stacy Boyer

Oh God! Your incredible love for Your creation overwhelms. To think of You – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – separating Yourself in such a way to make the Way for us to return to You is truly awesome. Fill us with the wonder of Your love for us and bless us with the faith to love others the way You love us. Amen.

Additional readings: John 1:14, 1Corinthians 13:4-13, 1John 4:9-10

December 19

Chosen to Share the Good News

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:8-20

In the time that Jesus was born, shepherds were not considered important people, but God chose to tell them about Jesus’s birth. The shepherds hurried off to see for themselves, and when they saw Him, they were excited to tell others about the baby Jesus.

Sometimes, we may not feel like we are very important. But God does not see us the way we see ourselves. He knows everything about us and still loved us enough to send Jesus to save us. We should be like the shepherds when they heard the news from the angels about Jesus being born – we can be excited and hurry and tell everyone that Jesus is born, and He is all the reason we need to celebrate Christmas.

Paxton's Pic.jpg

Dear God, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus. Help us to be brave like the shepherds and share the news of Jesus and of Your love for us all. Amen.

 Paxton Johnson

Additional Scriptures: Romans 10:15, Psalm 8, 1Peter 2:9

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

Another Side of Sunday

Our Pastor began a series this week on the fruit of the Spirit. He spoke about love.

The very foundation of our faith is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37).

I sat in the early morning light and read,

Know that the Lord is God!

Psalm 100:3

I am reminded, to know Him is to love Him. Love cannot be manufactured or created by man.

It is He Who made us, not we ourselves.

Psalm 100:3

God’s love made us. God’s love sustains us. Any other love is not love at all.

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Psalm 100:3

His love binds us together, calls us into the fold, leads us to green pastures.

For the Lord is good. His mercy and loving kindness are everlasting, His faithfulness and truth endure to all generations.

Psalm 100:5

As the end of the week draws to a close, and you enter the rhythm of the weekend, may His love flow over you. May you know He is God, He created you, and you are His. Amen.

December 12

[Today’s post follows the reading of December 12 in John Piper’s The Dawning of Indestructible Joy.]

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1

So it seems to me that calling Jesus “the Word” is John’s way of emphasizing that the very existence of the Son of God is for the sake of communication. First, and foremost, he exists, and has always existed, from all eternity for the sake of communication with the Father. Secondarily, but infinitely important for us, the Son of God became divine communication to us. One might say, in summary, calling Jesus “the Word” implies that he is “God-Expressing-Himself.” To us.

–John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, page 43*

Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting for God to enter the world and communicate Himself to us.

What is God saying to you this day through the manger? Is He calling you to something? Making Himself known in some new way? How is He telling you He loves you?

God, I can’t think of a more brilliant, beautiful way for You to tell us You love us, then to send Your Son. Your quiet entrance into the world whispers to me this season. My child, “I love you.” Thank You for Your love. Amen.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Jez Timms on Unsplash]

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

December 11

[Let’s continue our journey through The Dawning of Indestructible Joy. Read the December 11 devotional and may what follows here enhance what’s there.]

God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Meditate on that this Advent. It was a very costly love. A very powerful love. A very rugged, painful love. The meaning of Christmas is the celebration of this love. “God so loved…”

–John Piper, The Dawing of Indestructible Joy, page 40*

All we do at Christmas, hanging happy decorations on trees, baking special once-a-year recipes, and looking for the perfect gift is a reflection of love. We forget it sometimes in the busy of the season.

What love have you forgotten this season? What did love cost God? What has it cost you?

Let’s do what the author of our devotional says. Let’s meditate on love for the remaining of this Advent season.

Lord, don’t let me forget the pain and power of your love this season. Help me to remember with every step I take, every celebration preparation I make. Show me how to be Your light of love in this world. Amen.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by rawpixel.com on Unsplash]

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

December 3

[Read the December 3 devotional in The Dawning of Indestructible Joy before entering into this reading.]

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

One of the things pleasing in God’s sight is that his people keep on drawing near to him forever and ever. And so he is working in us this very thing.

– John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, page 19*

Consider God the Son, emptying Himself of all divinity to enter the world as a baby so we might be near Him.

Consider the great extremes, the great cost He endured to make the Way to restore relationship with you.

What feelings arise?

How determined are you to draw near to Him?

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

James 4:10 ESV

Father, Son, Holy Spirit, work in my heart to stir up a desire to be near You. Remove any barriers keeping me from coming closer.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash]

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

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The Way of Wisdom: Proverbs 31

Today we finish up Proverbs!

Read Proverbs 31

My perception of the call to be a Proverbs 31 wife has changed over the years. I used to read it with dread, feeling like “that woman” was so far away from who I was.

I saw it as a checklist:

  • be nice to my husband… every day
  • get up early… eagerly
  • cook breakfast
  • maintain an organized home
  • be productive… all day long
  • readily assist those in need
  • don’t worry
  • be prepared
  • sew??? (I may or may not own a sewing machine that is still in the box from 7 years ago)
  • always speak wisely and kindly
  • leave no room for laziness
  • raise respectful, productive children

And I was not stacking up.

I would drown in the details of verses 11-27 and lose sight of the message waiting for me in verse 30.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

All of the qualities listed are wonderful, but I don’t count check marks (or lack thereof) anymore. My desire is to live in love and fear of the Lord, every single day.

Lord, remind me all Your ways add up to love. Loving You. Loving others. In those two things the whole law is fulfilled. Amen.

 

P.S. Tomorrow the journey through the Advent devotional by John Piper begins: The Dawning of Indestructible JoyIf you haven’t picked up a copy for your household yet, they are available in the Commons Area.

Here we will be adding to the devotional with thoughts and questions to consider. Hope you will continue to follow along.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Kris Atomic on Unsplash]

The Way of Wisdom: Proverbs 25

Read Proverbs 25

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.

Proverbs 25:21-22

Jesus stressed the principle of this proverb (Matthew 5:43-44) and Paul quoted it directly (Romans 12:20). Out of all of the things God asks of us, this is the one thing I struggle with most. I could make a list (maybe even a book) of reasons why my enemy doesn’t deserve my love.

But He doesn’t need that list or any of my excuses for that matter.  It takes sacrifice, swallowing my pride, letting go… Am I willing? Am I willing to trust His Word over my emotions? Am I willing for Him to change my heart no matter how hard I pray for Him to change them?

He was willing to love me, knowing I didn’t deserve it. He sacrificed, forfeited pride, let go. He trusted His Father knowing He would never be the same, and those people might not change.

Yes, Lord use me. Change me. I am willing.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Ben White on Unsplash]

Songs of Praise: Psalm 119:145-176

We begin the week with the final stanzas of Psalm 119. Read the verses in your Bible or click the reference to read online: Psalm 119:145-176.

At the heart of our passage today is a verse I discovered several years ago and hold onto as a promise and precept to pursue.

Great peace have those who love your law; and nothing shall make them stumble.

Psalm 119:165 ESV

The King James Version was the one I found first and memorized:

Great peace have they which love thy law: And nothing shall offend them.

If I found myself offended by another, my peace disturbed, then I concluded I must not be loving His law. I would search my heart, ask Him where I was failing to love His law, and to fill me with the great peace He promised in return.

You see, the whole of His law is wrapped up in loving Him by loving others the way He calls us to.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:14 ESV

When we find ourselves offended by someone, we are most likely looking out for self, loving ourselves more than Him or others.

To be offended by another is to stumble in the law when the whole law is fulfilled in: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

His definition of love does not leave much room for being offended by another. Jesus also told us:

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13 ESV

When we lay down our lives, we lay down our rights, our way, our pride. We trust God’s sovereignty, His judgment, and His setting all things right in the end. We will not miss out on what really matters. And peace will be ours in abundance, no matter how others treat us.

Have you found yourself offended lately? Did you sin in your anger? stumble over your pride?

To love His law is to give others the same grace He gives us. When we love His Word in all the ways described by the psalmist in these 176 verses, we love like Him. Without being offended.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:24 ESV

Oh Lord, teach me, grow me, to love Your law, Your Word, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Fill me with Your love for others. Fill me with Your great peace.

[Featured Image Photo seen on website by Chelsea Bock on Unsplash]