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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

Reflect.

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: 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

Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash

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

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

December 21

Life… It Happens

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippians 4:6

As most everyone knows, I have had some “situations” in my life this year that have tested my ability to face them. For several years I have either flown or driven to Central Ohio to check on my mother every 6 weeks or 2 months. She was in a nursing home nearly 10 years as her health declined steadily. During that time, I have also gone to Ohio to attend the birthdays and funerals of my extended family for my immediate family as I am the oldest in my family.

All that pressure wore on me and made me question my devotion to my mother in Ohio and my family here in Texas. Every time I let myself question where I needed to be, God would show me that my mother and my family here supported me no matter where I was. It was at those stressful times that I would slow down and pray for help so that I would know where I belonged. (I pray at all times, but this was when I would stop and pray specifically about my concerns.)

Finally, on July 4th of this year, my mother joined my dad, the angels and God. I truly believe she is doing everything now with my dad as she plays piano, sews, crochets and cooks happily.

Life-Baking-Fruitful-Serving-Love-Advent-FUMC.jpg[Photo by Gabriel on Unsplash]

I thank the Lord that He has given me the peace and understanding of where I belong. I am glad to have done what I did, but I am glad to be here.

Jackie Gruber

Father God, life doesn’t stop for holidays and Jesus showed up in the middle of it all. Not many took notice of His arrival because of politics, religion, illness, financial needs, family concerns. Show us this Christmas season how You came to be with us in all of life. To show us the way through it and reveal Your love for us. May we find Your peace and put our hope in You as we walk through the daily drama of life both expected and unexpected. Amen.

 Additional Scriptures: 2Corinthians 5:14-15, John 10:9-10, Philippians 1:21-24, 2Thessalonians 1:11-12

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 137-138

We continue our journey today by reading Psalm 137-138. (Click on the link to read the verses.)

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Psalm 138:8

Many writers in the Bible remind us God will fulfill His purpose in us. Paul writes to the Philippians:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6

Sometimes we forget. We come to the conclusion we’ve been left to accomplish on our own what God has called us to do. We strive and work to grow in our love for God, and our love for others. It makes sense I guess. After all God created us, gave us the gifts and talents we need to get the job done.  And so we work, try, make every attempt to complete what God started.

The problem is… on our own we will never complete it. Because it is not ours to complete. Our culture shouts, Just do it… Make your own way… You can do anything you set your mind on to do… We’ve been told a lie.

The writer of this psalm understands only God makes things grow. Only God fulfills and completes His purpose in and through us. He will not forsake the work of His hands.

What would happen if we decide in this moment to live out this truth in our lives. What would change for me? For you?

Think about it. Maybe even write it down. Ask God to reveal to you where you have tried to do what only He can do. Now, trust Him to do the work He promised He will do.

Lord, today I choose to trust You to fulfill Your purpose in my life. I will no longer work on my own to do Your work my way. I will seek Your desire for me. I will obey what I hear You say. You alone bring to fulfillment all You have planned for me.

[Feature Image Photo seen on website by Bethany Legg on Unsplash]

Songs of Praise: Psalm 123-126

Today’s readings: Psalm 123-126 [Click the reference to read online.]

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy on us.

Psalm 123:1-2

God sent me to Psalm 123 as my life reeled from devastating news. My feet couldn’t find a firm place to stand.

When a moment came I could finally consider this psalm, I heard Him say: Trust Me. Watch. Wait. I will have mercy.

The circumstance didn’t end as I would’ve chosen. But I did clearly see His mercy through and through. And I learned to look to Him as a maid to her mistress, trust Him, and wait when life careens out of control.

Looking at these four psalms in context today, stringing them together, I see the blessings of setting our eyes on the Lord as a servant to His Master. From the perspective and attitude of being fully obedient to His Way, we find security, peace, protection, strength, and mercy when the trap has been set, the enemy attacks, and circumstances rage out of control around us.

Submitting ourselves wholly to God as Lord and Master, keeping our gaze fixed on Him alone, trusting Him with all we are and have, we find His mercy and discover Him trustworthy. No matter what circumstances threaten, He surrounds and encircles us as a mountain range.

He is trustworthy, even in the most devastating of circumstances. I know.

Choose to serve Him only. Not self. Not the things of the world. Nothing else will provide what we need to survive the perils of this dark broken world.

Today, I ask you to submit to Him fully as your Lord. List your fears and wants. Bring them before Him and say:

I want to serve You with all I have. I want what You want. Teach me to serve You. I will wait for You to direct me at home, work, and play. I want to know the joy of Your work in my life, bringing mercy and joy out of all I face. You are trustworthy.

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!

Psalm 126:5

Lord, may all my tearful sowing be in full obedience to You. I know serving You alone secures my life and brings me to a place of  eternal joy.

[Featured Image Photo seen on website by Andrew Ruiz on Unsplash]