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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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[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

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Advent 2020: A New Covenant

Better promises.

A big part of trusting God is believing what He says in His Word. Understanding we need a Savior just because He says so.

Today, by faith, consider your need for salvation — from yourself and others, from situations and circumstances — listen to your heart’s response. Write down your needs, then go to God’s Word and find His promises that speak to your needs.

Do it all in the name of increasing your capacity to adore Jesus.


Read December 14: Making it Real for His People

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Reflect.

How did today’s devotional speak to your faith?


God brings about our inner transformation by the Spirit of Christ.

John Piper, Joy to the World

We enter into the New Covenant by faith. Putting our trust in Jesus — His life, death, resurrection, and return — makes us recipients of His better promises.

His blood makes way for us to be transformed by God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Believing in Jesus starts the process.

Have you experienced God’s transforming power in your life? How?

Which of His promises are you most looking forward to being fulfilled? Why?

How does your heart respond to the truth that God alone brings about transformation in your life by faith in Christ’s sacrifice and the power of the Spirit?

What does your emotional response to this truth say about you? your relationship with God? with others?

Ask God to prepare your heart and spirit to receive the changes He wants to bring about in your life. Ask for the faith to trust His guidance and a willingness to obey.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Psalm 51:12 NIV

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[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

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Advent 2020: His Peace

Peace for those who please Him.

Self-examination is not a means of building self-esteem or an exercise in self-judgment to send us on a guilt-trip. Inspecting, interrogating, and examining our hearts is about looking closely to see if our thoughts, emotions, and desires line up with what God says His people of faith should experience.

Testing our hearts is a way to open the door to God — Father, Son, and Spirit — inviting Him into our lives to share with us what He sees and discover where He wants to lead us.


Read December 6: Peace to those with Whom He’s Pleased

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Reflect.

What is your heartfelt response to today’s reading?


The key that unlocks the treasure chest of God’s peace is faith in the promises of God.

John Piper, Joy to the World

How is your peace these days? Is it disturbed?

Do you anticipate the celebration of Jesus’s birth with joy? What about His return?

Take your answers as an indicator of how much you trust God. Bring your response – whatever it is – to Him in prayer.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:17 ESV

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[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

December 17

Pregnant with the Promises of God

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

Luke 1:1-4 NASB

For many years, my preparation for celebrating Christmas focused on the story of Jesus’s birth. Looking into the Nativity story beyond the superficial facts into the deeper teachings of God’s Word woven into this story.

Becoming a Believer at 33 years old with three small children, five-years-old and younger, provided the perfect incentive to seek the truths found in Jesus’s story and share what I discovered with them. It was all new to me too.

The heart of my preparation for Christmas was to know more about Jesus, the One who captured my heart, and share Him with others. The continuing practice of preparing each year through reading the stories surrounding His birth led me deeper and deeper into a passion for Him, and like Luke, for others to know Him. Not just know about Him but know Him!

After many years, those moments with my children, the study and spending time with Him in His Word, became a series of twenty-five devotionals I published into a book: The Heart of Bethlehem. This was an unexpected result of pursuing Him in His Word, because I didn’t set out to write a book. I simply set out to know who He was and share Him with my children.

Mary and Elizabeth are the two mothers central to the Nativity story. They both experienced supernatural births. Elizabeth, old, barren, way past menopause, carried her firstborn son who was designated by God to prepare the way for Jesus in the world (Isaiah 40:3). Mary, a virgin, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and carried the Son of God (Isaiah 7:14). Both believing women, both familiar with the truths planted in their hearts from the Word, both pregnant with the promises of God.

Pregnant-Promises-Fruitful-God's Glory-FUMC.jpg[Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash]

The Truth was planted in my heart, and after a very long gestation period, a devotional book was born to help others see the Extraordinary God we have: One who takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. All who receive the wonder of His Truth, Way, and Life enter into an extraordinary journey too.

Once we come to know Jesus, every Believer is implanted with the Truth and becomes pregnant with the promises of God. Each of us as followers of Christ carry around a promise of peace, hope, restoration, love, and grace. With time and obedience, something will be birthed through us to help others know God and His glory.

What promise has He planted in you? How are you preparing for Him to use you to fulfill His promise to a dark hurting world?

Begin asking God to prepare you to be used for the building up of His Kingdom and as a means of fulfilling His promise to all creation.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

Romans 8:18 ESV

Lord, reveal the promise of the Holy Spirit You’ve implanted in me. Grow the gifts, the graces, and the power You’ve given me, to glorify You in the world. Amen.

 Additional Scriptures: Philippians 1:9-11, Colossians 1:3-6, Luke 8:9-15, John 15:5

Carol Weaver

Another Side of Sunday: Hebrews 6:13-20

Begin by reading Hebrews 6:13-20, the first Sunday of the year’s Scripture. For another version, read The Message.

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. –vs. 19-20

We go to great lengths to keep our promises. Remember as a child making a pinky-promise or adding “cross my heart and hope to die…” to solidify your words? I don’t know about you, but it is hard work for me to keep my promises.

Hard to follow through when I’ve doled out a consequence while parenting my three. At times, hard to remember what promise I’ve made. There were times I broke promises, even when I made it to God.

As I sat and reflected quietly in my pew I heard the words spoken, “God always keeps His covenant.” I jot down four words in the margin of my Bible.

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Think about that.

Not, God won’t break a promise.

Not, God tries really hard to keep His promises.

Not, God chooses never to break a promise

God can’t. It is not in His nature, doesn’t even occur to Him.

I breathe awe deep as I think about it. It’s like warming myself by the fire on a crisp night. God can’t break promises… ever. This new insight leaves me basking in the goodness of God. A goodness beyond my imagination.

And this, sisters and brothers, is the Hope that anchors our soul firm and secure. It ushers us into the inner sanctuary, behind the curtain of separation and brings us face to face with our High Priest… Jesus.

You’re a good, good Father. It’s who You are, who You are… And I am loved by You. It’s who I am, who I am… You are perfect in all of Your ways to us. I am amazed by You Jesus. Amen 

(Today’s prayer comes from the lyrics of Chris Tomlin’s song Good Good Father.)

[Feature Image Photo on blog by Kaley Dykstra on Unsplash]