Important Word

Re: Verse reading–John 21:1-25  (day five)

“Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”  There is uncertainty among scholars about the word “these”.  Did “these” refer to the other disciples?  Did “these” refer to the fish, boats, and nets? Maybe the more profound answer to the clear up this question is “YES”.   What if the most important word in the question was “MORE” ?  Then we filled in the blank “do you love Me more than ______________”.

Jesus challenges that our love and devotion to Him needs to be “more” than our earthly relationships, occupation, priorities, and security.  Is it fair or wise for Him to ask/demand that loyalty?  Again the answer is “YES”!  What Jesus knows, is that loving Him MORE than ___________________, results in us becoming better spouses, parents, workers, students, friends, disciples, and church family.  We gain a clearer understanding and have constant encounters of grace, forgiveness, patience, devotion, and sacrifice.

I am.

Re: Verse reading–John 14:1-14 (day six)
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life”–v 6.  There is no “I” in team.  It is, therefore, a heads-up to the uniqueness of Christ that He so often makes “I am” statements.  Christ is not on anyone else’s “team” (Except the Father’s).  He, without the aid of others, claims to be full and comprehensive sufficiency for those who come to Him.  He denies that they need anything/anyone else!  Consider a human analogy.  What if I said something similar to Holly?  “Sweetheart, I love you.  From this day forward, you do not need anyone else.  Not your sons. Not your family or friends. Not at any level.   You need never listen to another sermon.  I am it!  I am what you need.”  Would you think me crazy, arrogant or in danger?  Yes!  Yet, Christ makes this claim without pause or pride.  Why?  Because He truly is the all-sufficient Son of god.  Praise Him!

Responding to Christ

Re: Verse reading–John 11:17-44 (day four)
There are many responses to Jesus.  For those who have a relationship with Christ (Martha and Mary), the response was the same.  “If you had only been here, our brother would not have died!”  Trust.  For those who mourned with the family (the Jews), some were moved by His obvious love for Lazarus and some criticized Him for not saving His friend.  After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, some of the Jews believed in Him while others rushed to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done.  (Hint:  They were not witnessing to the Pharisees so they could believe!)  It is the same today…different people have different responses.  How we respond to Jesus is of critical importance.  For those who recognize who Jesus is (In verse 27, Martha says she has believed that Jesus was the Christ…sent from God.) and respond in faith and trust, they will have life.  That was why Jesus waited to come to Bethany…That others might believe!

Magnify Him

Twenty-fourth Day of Advent

‭Luke‬ ‭1‬:‭39-56‬ ESV

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. (‭Luke‬ ‭1‬:‭39-56‬ ESV) ‬‬‬

I LOVE worshipping with young people, with the abandon that comes when a teenager has, at last, received confirmation that the Lord is GOOD, that He is Who He says He Is, and that she belongs to Him.

Every Jewish girl, every night: Lord, make me a woman fit to bear Messiah. This angel – this story – IT HAPPENED, it was more reality than any other day. But if it’s true, then Cousin Elizabeth will understand. This will make sense. I’m going there to see her – NOW; I’m keeping this secret for now… So to the hill country – Hebron? – she travels, she knocks. Elizabeth shouts. IT’S REAL – YOUR WORD IS REAL – IT’S ALL TRUE – YOU ARE SO GOOD!

And out spills this song – the Magnificat – from a poor, young girl. The overflow of a heart that KNOWS His goodness. This, perhaps the most profound song in all the Bible.

This Christmas, count His goodness to YOU, to your family. He has indeed filled us with good things.

Sing THIS song. Sing YOUR song. Sing it every day to your children, your grandchildren. SHOUT it to this hurting, broken world. Magnify Him. He has indeed filled us with good things. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Sandi Faulk

Re: Verse reading – John 8:31-47

A Child Will Lead Them

Eighteenth Day of Advent

Isaiah 11:1-10 (NIV 2011)
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD – and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and the little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner over the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean.

Financial problems, chronic pain, emotional hurt – these struggles seem to intensify as Christmas approaches. We wonder if God’s promises of peace and joy are out of our grasp. However, God has a plan bigger than we can imagine. These are days to look at our lives through the lens of our eternal tomorrows. Judah’s problems made God’s promise of a Messiah seem impossible. Life for God’s people in Judah held destruction, pain and hardship. Had God forsaken them? No, God had a plan bigger than they could imagine. The promise of a Messiah from the family line of David, son of Jesse was good because God is faithful to His word. As a tree stump grows shoots of new life after a fire so new life would come from God’s people. The Messiah, Jesus Christ would bless the people with the peace of God and transform their lives.

The Messiah’s peaceful rule will one day transform the earth. A day is coming when the wolf, leopard and lion will no longer hunt the lamb, goat and calf. A small child will be safe with wild animals and snakes. What God has promised, He will do. Looking to the future we have every reason not to fear, every reason to be peaceful, joyful people. He is able to transform your anguish into peace. This Christmas will you begin to look at your days through the lens of all your glorious eternal tomorrows?

Barbara Reaoch

Re: Verse reading – John 6:25-51

Forever Family

Twelfth Day of Advent

Galatians 4:4-7 The Message (MSG)

4-7 But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.

Two years ago, my daughter Kate and I had the privilege to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa and work with an organization called the Door of Hope, a group dedicated to taking in abandoned children and loving them until they are placed with a “forever family.” Each time a child is adopted, a celebration takes place. Photo displays of happy children and excited families cover the walls in the baby houses. The process is a beautiful illustration of God’s love—the kind of love Paul is addressing in this passage. Paul is explaining that the Gentiles, because of the arrival and work of Christ, no longer needed to wait for someone to find them a forever family. The rights and privileges of being called a child of God were extended to all, despite the conditions of their birth. The same is true for all of us today: once we accept this gift of grace, the Savior of the world calls us His child, and we can intimately call him Abba, Father, Papa, Daddy. As in Johannesburg, there are millions today who have been abandoned by either an earthly parent, or the world in general. As we prepare to celebrate the Nativity, let us pray that we, as believers, will serve to be a Door of Hope, introducing those in need to an eternal parent and forever family.

Laura Aten

Re: Verse reading – John 3:1-21

Spirit-filled, ego-freed

Re: Verse reading–Ephesians 5:21-33, 6:1-9 (day six)
“be subject to one another in the fear of Christ”–v. 21.  Submission is a lightning-rod issue in this age.  People (all of us, not just women) resist the loss of autonomy and self-determination that it implies.  Demanding our rights (and feeling entitled to do so) blinds us to the wisdom of this eg0-displacing step.  Those who submit to Christ and are subsequently filled with His Spirit (rather than self–see v. 18) find freedom.  NO PRISON is worse than self!  “There is nothing so pathetic as a person determined to be crucified on the cross of personal grievance”–Abraham Lincoln.  And, NO FREEDOM is sweeter than to serve God and others without competition or anxiety.  When Paul speaks about family (wives submit to your husbands, husbands love your wives, children obey your parents) he assumes we already have some  experience of this “more excellent way”.  Ego is not my savior.  It is, very often, a trouble causing tyrant.


Re: Verse reading–Ephesians 5:21-33, 6:1-9 (day two)
“After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-for we are members of his body.” (vs. 29-30) We don’t take care of ourselves as we should. This isn’t a new profound thought, but a pretty obvious observation. There is a large industry for fitness that many have bought into, but for the most part we tend to be overweight and out of shape. Do you find any correlation to the family here? Paul asserts that no one hates their own body, but our lifestyles would certainly put that to the test. And if we aren’t willing to spend time taking care of ourselves why would we invest time on others? This can be remedied both by physical conditioning and spiritual discipline. Take care of God’s Temple (your body) and take care of each other.

Fear of Man

Re: Verse reading – Romans 10:8-15; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (day four)
It is a simple message…1 Corinthians 15:3-4.  We call it the Easter verse…”that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  It is not hard to learn, so why do so many fail to communicate this message of redemption?  Could it be the fear of man?  Peter faced the same fear…he was more concerned with what a young slave girl thought about him than what his Lord thought.  Fear of man…does it keep you from sharing the Gospel message?  It does not have to be complicated…Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose on the third day…according to the Scriptures!  Are we afraid of what our family will think? …our co-workers? …our neighbors? …our friends? …a perfect stranger?  Fear of man vs. fear of the God of the Universe…go share, according to the Scriptures!