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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

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

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Advent 2020: Supernatural Wonder

His star rose.

Yesterday we considered building excitement and anticipation for God’s presence in our lives and Jesus’s return in the future. A synonym for build is forge.

Forge can mean “to move forward slowly and steadily” or “to move with a sudden increase of speed and power” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

In our spiritual journeys we generally move slowly and steadily. Regular times of worship and a daily rhythm in our walk with God through prayer, study, and obedience, lay the foundation. But there are seasons in our spiritual lives when we forge ahead with extra intensity. Advent can be one of those times.

Be on the lookout for inspiration in building anticipation for celebrating Christmas in your home and for Christ’s ultimate return as you read the devotionals in Joy to the World.


Read December 8: Bethlehem’s Supernatural Star

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Reflect.

What, in today’s devotional, fueled your anticipation of celebrating Jesus?


What is plain concerning this matter of the star is that it is doing something that it cannot do on its own: it is guiding magi to the Son of God to worship him.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Do you accept your limitations when it comes to understanding the supernatural ways of God? Or do you spend time and energy trying to figure it out for yourself?

Embrace the unknowns. Just admit: I don’t know.

Trusting God’s hand is in and behind all the events of the world is an act of faith. Believing we can figure out how He does it belittles God’s greatness.

Ask God to bless you with the faith and humility to embrace the unknowns and wonder at His unimaginable unfathomable greatness.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Romans 11:33 NIV

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[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

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Reflect.

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

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[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

Another Side of Sunday: Hope

Our series on Christian Characteristics points us toward hope this week. Hope is “to cherish a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true; to expect with confidence” (Merriam-Webster).

Let me ask you:

Are you a hope-full person? What do you anticipate or expect with confidence? Is your glass half-full or half-empty?

Paul reminds us in the book of Romans:

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 8:24-25

Paul’s thought didn’t end with verse twenty-five. He continued with four words, in the same way, connecting two paragraphs.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27

Reading The Message, beginning at Romans 8:22, gives us the context of our hope. We are waiting for something new to come to fruition.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Romans 8:22-28 The Message

Hope is wrapped in waiting, but waiting can be a tough, lonely thing.

The truth is we don’t like to wait and often become weary. Sometimes we’re prone to give up. We throw our hands in the air and turn to something that instantly gratifies.

Paul’s words remind us of the hope in waiting. Everything we wait for, every moment we wait with confident anticipation enlarges our soul. The longer we wait the larger we become.

And we are not called to do it alone.

Meanwhile…

During the waiting, when time seems long and nothing is happening. When we don’t see any fruit from the labor, no new birth on the horizon. When we come to the end of ourselves and can’t find the words to pray anymore.

The moment we are on the verge of giving up, Holy Spirit is there to help. Maybe the enlarging of our souls comes the second we raise our hands to Him and find comfort in having no words at all.

Oh, sweet brothers and sisters, do you see it? Can you feel hope rising?

God knows us better than we know ourselves. He tenderly looks at our pregnant condition and keeps us right in the middle of His presence. This is our ultimate hope. And it will never disappoint.

And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:5 NLT

Every detail, every single thing we’re waiting for is wrapped in His arms. The hard relationship, the wayward child… the thing you continue to pray for… and the very thing you’ve given up on…

God is working all of it into something good (Romans 8:28). This we can expect with great confidence. In this we hope.

Jesus, in Your house are many rooms and You have gone to prepare a place just for me. The waiting is long and I’m sorry for the times I’ve given in… given up. Renew my hope, restore my expectation, enlarge my soul. I want to hope in You, to let go of words and trust You know my condition… my heart. Keep me in Your presence until the day all the good You are working comes to fulfillment. In Jesus name, Amen.

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