December 18: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Luke 2:17-20 When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child.Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

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Yesterday, we talked about how the shepherds went as a group (community) to wear the angels said the baby Jesus would be (God’s calling), and that they moved quickly (our response).

They found the family at the exact place the angels said they would be and saw Jesus. After the shepherds left the manger, they went off telling people about what they had seen. What did they say? They told about how this baby had been born, how they found out and constantly praised God. They kept the message simple and God-focused.

This is how we should tell people about what God has done today: by telling what we heard, what we saw, and then give praise to God. Sometimes people may not understand, nor appreciate, the message at first; but we should still keep the message focused on God. God coming into the world as one of the humans he created. God walking with us. God experiencing life with us.

What a great reason to celebrate and praise God!

I’m sure after the shepherds made their way home, they were different people. How are you different after encountering God?

Gracious God, you have come to us in the form of a human, Jesus the Christ. Change us and allow the time spent in your presence to make us new creations. It’s because of what you have done for us that we are new people and we should allow you to make us whole. Help us remember to praise and glorify you with all of our heart, soul, mind, body, strength. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Real Strength

One of the traits I have observed people attempting to show is being a “strong man” or “strong woman.” I believe it is important to be a strong person; however, it also seems that people may have somewhat of a wrong idea about what it means to be strong. These are some qualities that may provide some idea that show true strength (emotional, mental, social, etc). I invite you to study this list and see if something should be taken off or added.

A “strong man” or “strong woman” should:

  • be compassionate toward others
  • be able to listen
  • realize there are things we can learn from anyone
  • be able to learn from other people
  • not think anyone is beneath them
  • be the most loving person (without allowing others to “run over them”)

These are just some of the qualities and traits of strong people. What else would you add?

Worship…Take Time to Worship this Weekend

Psalm 122:1 says “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let’s go to the Lord’s house.'”

How is it to you to go to a place of worship? The only thing that matters is that when we go to worship, we pause what we’re doing and allow the Holy Spirit of God to fill us once again. We all have busy schedules and an almost never ending to-do list, but we can also be excited to be around with other imperfect people so together we can worship the One who created each of us.

The joy of worshipping as a community comes from support and realizing we all have struggles in life but we can still be there for each other. Sharing the love of Jesus Christ with those around us in a worship service helps us to visibly see God moving in and through us to work with God and fill other hearts with peace and joy.

Where ever you might be this weekend, I hope and pray you find a place to worship and praise God (whatever that looks like for you), so that we can be filled together and go out together to bring the Kingdom of God closer to those who need it most (the outside world….and us!).

If you do not have a place of worship, you are invited to get a group of friends together and worship with us online Saturday night from 6:00pm-6:30pm central standard time. The message is “Seeking & Knowing God’s Presence” and we’ll look at and explore Exodus chapter 33.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZnpdwYGbVY (may have to copy and paste link)

We do not worship for ourselves, but to give honor and glory to God, our Creator.
Psalm 115:1 “Not to us, Lord, not to us–no, but to your own name give glory because of your loyal love and faithfulness!”

May the peace and love of God fill your heart and strengthen you today and forever more. Amen.

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Judging & Dividing

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When we look at our world today, it is easy to see divisions on many grounds. We have divisive politics, economic standards, acceptable social practices, how people need to view other people’s way of life, etc. These are challenging times we live in and it is sometimes difficult to take a stand on one side or the other without being ostracized and downgraded by opposing sides.

One of the biggest issues we face today is how we can do the loving thing to our neighbor so the love of God through Jesus Christ can be shown. The phrase “WWJD” is thrown around a lot and people use this to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” This has become a very divisive phrase since people have a particular viewpoint based on “their interpretation” of the Bible.

Matthew 7:1-5 says, “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.”

These verses have been used to point out the “other person’s” errors and that “they” need to be more loving and compassionate. These verses come straight out of the Sermon on the Mount which deals mainly with how to live with our fellow neighbors. If you or I believe we are the ones in the right, we will typically explain to the opposing person why they are wrong and try to belittle them into feeling bad for having a “wrong” viewpoint which is really different from ours.

What could these verses from Matthew be telling us today? Let’s look at them again. Notice it does not explicitly give which side is right. It is really saying that before we go around telling another person why their wrong, maybe there is a reason they believe themselves to be right. What if we simply took time to listen instead of writing the other person off? Also, we should be careful that we are not being hypocrites and try to think we are better than the other person, because the truth is that we all have a “log” in our own eye and should work to remove that first.

Have you ever noticed how we have been given opportunities to “love” a sports team, political party, school, religious teaching and automatically demonize the other side? Think of it like this, “if you like (or love) UT, OU is the evil enemy and visa versa.” This can really be applied to anything we “love.”

So basically, before we (no matter what side on ANY issue) try to demonize or belittle the opposition, maybe we can realize they have value as well. Maybe, instead of thinking we are the ones in the “right,” we could take some time and understand where the other person is coming from.

If we acted this way, we can easily change “WWJD” to “WHJD.” Instead of asking “What Would Jesus Do?” we could remember “What Has Jesus Done?” The answer to this is simple: he ate with the sinners, welcomed and ate with the outcasts, prayed (and prays) for people (you and me), discipled people society thought unworthy, lived a life we don’t live, died for our sins and for us. Remembering what Jesus has done can change our way of thinking and could help us move the Kingdom of God closer to those who need to experience it instead of arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong.

The mission Jesus entrusted to his disciples, and to us, is still to be witnesses and bring people to Christ not showing a division and pushing people away from Christ.