Tick-Tock…

Shortly after we both were saved (in 1989, at 36 years old), Judy and I began attending a non-denotational church here in Raleigh. The pastor offered a powerful sermon one Sunday morning on the subject of our stewardship before the Lord. It was not so much about financial obligations in support of the ministries of the church as it was about the use of our time and talents.

Sadly, I have a very poor memory, so I count the recollection of that sermon as a reflection of its importance. The illustration I remember most was from the Pastor’s own life. Back in the early 90’s Day-Timers (small paper notebook scheduling calendars) were in vogue and he was never without his. As I recall the Sermon was early in the year and he was explaining how, as he set goals and objectives for the coming year, one of the first things he did (over Christmas) was to write in the bottom corner of each page in his Day-Timer the number of days it has been since he was saved, a slash mark, and then the number of days he had left to live (based on actuarial tables).

After making the illustration, the rest of his sermon revolved around the importance of those numbers, as day-by-day, the first number got bigger and the second, smaller.

This past Sunday as I was thinking/praying about the upcoming Offertory Prayer. My thoughts landed on stewardship and that Day-Timer illustration from so many years ago.

Even though God knows us from eternity past (Eph. 1:4-5), in a sense, God starts a countdown timer at the point we are conceived (Psalms 139:14). It displays the number of days we have in this “human” phase of our eternal existence (1 Cor. 15:54-55).

We are born and begin to live out our lives, often naive to the responsibilities we have before God. At some point (hopefully) we are exposed to the saving gospel message of Jesus and cross over from eternal death to eternal life (Mat. 25:46), or from eternity in Hell to eternity in Heaven. At that point the Holy Spirit enters us and we become followers of Christ, left on this earth to do His work, under His will…

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…… the invisible (to us) countdown timer continues to mark the days, as we live out our lives through the good times and the bad times, though job changes, houses, kids, sports, church, etc.

Like the game of musical chairs, the music will stop at some point, unknown to us when the last tick-tock is heard by God. As believers, that will be a glorious time with new, sinless, healthy bodies in a wonderful, eternal place called Heaven.

However, embedded in that eternal joy, peace, and love is a lesson for those of us whose clock has not yet run out…..

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Many interpret this verse solely as a description of the brokenness of man on earth vs the joy awaiting us in Heaven. A few, based on Isaiah 65:17, treat this verse in Revelation as evidence that God will proactively wipe away just the memories of our sin nature, leaving good memories behind. However, I would offer the thought that, based on varying rewards and recognitions offered at the Bema Seat, we will have some knowledge of both the good and bad of our time spent on this earth (Rev. 22:12, 1 Cor. 3:11-15, 2 Cor. 5:9-10, 1 John 2:28, Rev. 3:11-12). Beginning with the statement “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,” it suggests [to me] that God might actually need to comfort us as we enter Heaven….

I think when we get to Heaven and clearly see our sin nature and all the lost opportunities He gave us to serve Him rather than serving ourselves, we will be in tears. It will hit us, just as we are entering Heaven for eternity, no longer able to serve God from a position of faith (1 Cor. 13:12).

The times we squandered watching TV, stressing over the minutest details of earthly life, in conflict with our neighbor, missing opportunities to share God’s love, etc., will confront us.  As we face the outcome of our actions and inactions, we will be overwhelmed with sadness.

Relative to eternity, our time as earthly foreigners (Phil. 3:20) is infinitesimally short in this sin-cursed world, but holds so many opportunities for kingdom ministry that we will never have on the other side of the grave,….. tick-tock.

Jeff Hilles

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On Reading the Bible

This year our church is reading a Bible plan together called F260.

I am excited as I hear about the changes that are happening and the insights being gained by each of you.  I pray that God will use this in our lives to draw us closer to Him individually and as a church.  As we are learning of God’s goodness and His word we are to actively share what we are learning with others.  We are calling this “Breathe” as we inhale His word and character and exhale His good news.  I have been able to share with a couple of people outside of our church membership and am excited to see that they too are joining us in reading the Bible.  Click here to read another report of another church in Canton, Ohio who is also doing the plan in 2018.  What wonderful news to read about God’s saving work through just reading His word.

As I hear from others I am struck by how few of us believers will take the time to read the Bible.  I am afraid that the American church culture has started to read the Bible like one might just read the dictionary.  We can treat it as the “go to” source to find points to prove a theological point or to address a cultural moment, or pressing emotion.  Yet, the Bible has an overarching story that is life-giving and is a gift from God to us.  As one person has recently written, we need to be Bible-readers and not just Bible-quoters.  There is supernatural power in just recounting God’s story with others.  As I shared with one young man last month, he observed, “I can tell you did not make up this story, for no one can make up a story such as this.”  For those of you with children living with you, don’t be afraid to make this a part of your family time.  Let your children be exposed to God’s word in your home.

Jarrod Scott

Gifted

“You’ve been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you.”  This compelling quote is from the classic movie, It’s A Wonderful Life.  Each year around Christmas, one of the networks will broadcast this timeless gem, and I am compelled to watch it each time as if I’ve never seen it before.  Of all the aspects of the movie that I love, I think the irresistible force over me is simply the acting of Jimmy Stewart, who plays George Bailey.  It is he who is given the gift, even as he considers taking his own life after he tells God, “I’m at the end of my rope.”  But to convince him that his rope is much longer and better than he thinks, George is granted the opportunity to see how different the lives of his loved ones, and even the fate of his entire town, would have been had he not lived his “ordinary” life.

The wife of a friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  Being in the vicinity of her late 40’s to early 50’s, she was understandably surprised to learn of her condition at such a young age.  Healthy and active and a follower of Christ, she nevertheless fell victim to this dreadful disease.  But in speaking with her dear confidant and mentor, she was told that she had been given a great gift.  She had been granted by God the opportunity to live out her faith in the midst of dealing with terrible news.  How she processed this unwelcomed setback, and the ways in which she chose to deal with the prognosis and treatment, would speak to many people as to the strength of her faith and the depth of her reliance on God.

Having just experienced the joys of Christmas, we have been reminded that gifts come in all shapes and sizes.  They are wrapped in the most unique ways, and they sometimes mean much more, or much less, than was ever expected or intended.  But nobody boxed up a batch of cancer and put it under the tree.  Nor did anyone look in their stocking and then have to spend hours wrestling with the condition that they no longer existed.  But such as these can be used by God to bring the greatest gift He offers, and that is to experience Him in a deep and loving relationship.  God doesn’t pass out cancer like we pass out the gifts on Christmas morning.  But He does offer the gift of knowing Him deeper and displaying that for the world to see.

The Bible says that every good and perfect gift comes down from God, and also that He makes all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  So, you hold in your hands, or have within your body, or are experiencing in your relationships, something that will be labeled.  Will it be part of a gift that moves you closer to the God who loves you, who can use every situation as a means to express that love?  Or will it be called something much worse, and be for you a means to step away from your heavenly Father?  Your heart certainly longs for the first.

Rich Holt

Breathing God’s Word in 2018

As a church we are beginning a church-wide Bible Reading plan called F-260.  You can find more information about this plan here.
In preparation of starting our Bible reading plan I read a very helpful article which you find here.
I have copied the artlicle for you on this blog.  Jarrod Scott
Article by

Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

Here comes our annual reminder to take stock and make fresh resolves. And for many of us, a new year means an opportunity to re-up on our spiritual disciplines. However poor our eating has been or however inadequately we’ve exercised, we never seem to end the old year with the fully functional “habits of grace” we want to enjoy in the new year.

Inevitably, in this age, even the most basic spiritual-discipline inventory will give us something to feel guilty about. Could we ever avail ourselves enough of God’s ear in prayer? Ever memorize enough of his words in Scripture? Ever personally share the news about his Son with enough unbelievers? Without a seared conscience, we’ll annually find ourselves lacking in some way, and have more to aspire to on this side of heaven.

Perhaps you feel so overwhelmed when it comes to the failures in your spiritual habits, or lack thereof, that you barely even know where to start. Do I start praying more, and memorizing Scripture, and sharing my faith aggressively, all at once? But the more resolutions we try to bite off at the same time, the less likely we are to make real and lasting progress on any of them. We can’t change everything at once, but we can pursue in faith, with God’s help, just a few keys habits that may have a domino effect. Even just one key habit.

So, if you’re looking for just one fresh spiritual focus for the new year, I’d like to offer a suggestion: Marry the Bible this year.

God Himself Comes First

Without downplaying prayer or fellowship or witness in the least, I say start with the Bible because hearing God’s voice in his word is the most fundamental of his ongoing “means of grace” for our Christian lives. Having his ear (in prayer) and belonging to his body (in the church) are equally essential, but they don’t play the same fundamental role, because the Christian life is not a symmetrical partnership between man and God.

God’s word comes first, because God comes first. He acts first. We did not create the world or ourselves. And we do not initiate the Christian life; he does. First he speaks, and then we respond in prayer. First he speaks, and his word creates a people called the church. Marry the Bible this year, and it’s only a matter of time before God’s word lights a fire in you to respond in prayer. Marry the Bible this year, and you won’t long keep to yourself, but will soon feel compelled to lock arms with others as his word not only feeds you, but gives you bread to share, with baskets left over.

Absorbing Culture or Christ?

I say marry the Bible because it’s a phrase that jumped out at me recently when reading an early Piper sermon from 1982. I’m sure it made for a powerful call then, but these words are perhaps all the more relevant today, a generation later:

Satan devotes himself 168 hours a week trying to deceive you and fill your mind with junk. He has seen to it that you are surrounded almost entirely by a Christless culture whose mood, and entertainment, and advertising, and recreation, and politics are shot through with lies about what you should feel and think and do.

Do you think that in this atmosphere you can maintain a vigorous, powerful, free, renewed mind with a ten-minute glance at God’s book once a day? The reason there are church people who are basically secular like everyone else except with a religious veneer is that they devote 99% of their time to absorbing the trajectories of the world and 1% of their time to absorbing the trajectories of God’s word.

If you want to bring forth the will of God in your life like a mother brings forth a child, you must marry the Bible. For some of you, it is a stranger that you greet on the way to work but never have over for a relaxed evening of conversation, and seldom invite along to spend significant time with you on vacation. Do not, then, be surprised if you are ill-equipped to read the trajectories of God’s will for your own life. (“He Will Send His Angel Before You”)

It may feel admirable to start a new year with a firm resolve to spend ten minutes in God’s word every morning. Ten minutes every day is a good step forward from less, or nothing. If that’s where you are, take step one first, then step two later. But don’t be naïve about where you stand after one step. And if dipping into God’s word for ten minutes is the grace and joy it really is (rather than mere duty), what’s keeping you from enjoying more? Receiving more grace? Basking in more blessing?

As we look at the larger picture (“surrounded almost entirely by a Christless culture”), we see that a ten-minute glance is just a start. This is not a call to balance every single minute in the world with an equal and opposite minute in God’s word — God’s voice is stronger than Satan’s. But we will do well, here at the outset of a new year, to think how we can indeed walk with our God, and enjoy him throughout the day, and not simply touch base quickly for ten minutes.

More Than a Reading Plan

By all means, yes, make a habit of making a beeline to the Bible first thing in the morning in 2018. Find a realistic, enjoyable reading plan, let your reading give rise to meditation, and meditation to prayer. A daily “quiet time” or “time alone with God” is a great place to start. They are like date nights with your wife — but dates do not a marriage make! Consider what a “marriage” with God’s word might look like for you here as a new year begins.

Perhaps it might include regularly hearing the Bible read. What tremendous opportunities we have in our day through technology to hear the Scriptures. Try the YouVersion app, or the forthcoming Dwell app. Hit play on the treadmill or in the car or while doing chores. The Bible was originally written to be read to crowds of listeners. “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13). In the history of God’s people and his church, far more people have heard his word read to them than have read it themselves. It’s a glorious gift that we have it ourselves today and can read it ourselves, but God also means for us to hear his word. Hearing engages us in a way that reading does not, and vice versa.

And marrying the Bible in 2018 will include, in some form, hearing God’s voice through faithful teachers. God gives his church pastors and teachers for her equipping and upbuilding (Ephesians 4:11–12). First and foremost in person, in our local churches. And then, secondarily, in the wider church. Come ready to receive God’s word from your pastor each Sunday, and midweek, and avail yourself of the remarkable riches pouring out today from faithful Christian publishers, along with the plethora of substantive, well-written articles online (like TGCLigonierChalliesFor the Church, and more). And as long as it’s been in coming, perhaps we’re coming into a golden age of podcasting as untold millions seem to be discovering not only the convenience of audio as a medium, but also its power to engage the heart through the imagination. (Choose from among eight such podcasts here at Desiring God.)

Better When You Share It

Finally, marrying the Bible this year will eventually mean some fresh effort to share your nourishment with others. As the very life of God himself in and through his words dwells richly in you, and feeds your soul, you will want to extend and deepen your joy by sharing him with others. When we commend to others what we ourselves are tasting as sweet in God’s word, we enjoy it all the more. Hearts full of joy in Christ don’t stay full by putting a lid on them, but by taking the lid off and spreading out the feast before others.

Marrying the Bible is not a sequestering pursuit. As God fills us with the spiritual life and joy he imparts to us through his word, he will put a word in our mouth and make our meal all the more filling as we pass it around to others. The dominos will begin falling as the word of God comes into its central, initiating, energizing place in our souls.

Current state of the Church and Evangelism

Matthew 28:16-20
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ ”

The Great Commission – The last chapter, the final verses of the book of Matthew represents God’s calling to believers to spread His truth, the gospel message to all who will listen.

After more than two thousand years, what direction are we headed as a nation in continuing to focus on that calling with the next generation of Christians?

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is often viewed as a bellwether for the larger evangelical community. Every year they publish an Annual Church Profile, which summarizes the state of the denomination.

The 2017 Annual Report sadly does not have much to celebrate…

The good news: The number of churches grew by 1 percent over the previous year. The number of Southern Baptist churches has increased for the last 18 years.

But the bad news :

  • Lowest # of baptisms since 1946.
  • Lowest total membership since 1990.
  • Lowest # of worship attenders since 1996.
  • Average weekly worship attendance declined 7% over 2016.
  • Baptisms ­dropped to another record low, down 5% over 2016.

In short, our denomination continues to shrink and its baptism rate has slumped to its lowest level since shortly after the end of World War II in 1945. For decades Southern Baptists were the standout among faith groups, reporting strong baptism numbers while Methodists, Presbyterians, and others encountered deterioration at all levels. But now even the SBC is finding it difficult to overcome the same headwinds that has brought others into a retrenchment mindset. In fact, for the past decade Our domination has actually lost members as the US population has seen a new growth spurt.

A few observations on why is this happening?

  1. Many Southern Baptists have lost their passion for reaching the unchurched.
  2. The single fastest-growing religious group of our country are the ‘none’s’, those having no church or denominational affiliation.
  3. The sad reality is that 80 percent of churches in the SBC are plateaued or declining. Struggles associated with that decline have lessened an intentional focus on evangelism.
  4. Over the last 20 years we, as a nation, have moved away from an Acts 2 form of evangelism to an Acts 17 mission field.
    1. Acts 2 – Peter, taught biblical truth to those who already believed in a monotheistic God and knew the prophecies of a coming Messiah.
  1. Acts 2:22-23 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
    1. These people knew about Jesus and the true God. They had seen or heard about Jesus’s miraculous works and were curious about who he was.
    2. Acts 17 – Paul, preaching in Athens, had to start all the way back in Genesis to explain the gospel to a totally unchurched, agnostic or polytheistic audience.
  1. 2. Acts 17:23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
    1. Paul could not assume anything.
    2. Like Acts 17, millennials today are less willing to accept basic concepts such as the authenticity of Scripture, the Trinity, the reality of sin and, most importantly, the need for Salvation as a starting point in spiritual discussions.  This refusal to accept long accepted foundational beliefs intimidates church members and lengthens the time and commitment of building relationships as a necessity for evangelism.
  1. 3. Said another way, it is difficult to share Christ with individuals who have never had a church background and little understanding of who Christ is. The believer has to start from scratch, explaining who God is before having any discussions regarding His plan for a fallen creation.

 

Bottom line – Biblical Christians, as a group, no longer have the same level of passion as they have had in the past, for sharing the gospel with their neighbors. It’s perceived as too hard and too time consuming.

We have become more and more a closed society, communicating through text messages, twitter and snapchat rather than building relationships face-to-face.

Yet the the Bible has not changed. Scripture calls the church to serve the lost with the Great Commission. But if the Church is defined as a local congregation of believers, they (we) are sadly failing God’s calling.

Church-based efforts to evangelize the lost remain focused on traditional visitation in the home, even as members are more and more fearful to share their faith and the lost millennials become more isolated and resistant to narrow minded Christians and their outdated beliefs. Today’s neighbors do not know each other. People have moved from their front porches to their back patios, often unwilling to even answer the door when church members try to engage local communities. This is not to say that conventional visitation should not be conducted. We, as believers, need to take every opportunity to share what has been shared with us. But it does open the question of whether there is a better, more effective way to spread the Good News.

Where do we spend nearly 40% of our waking hours every week interacting with people? Where can we efficiently invest the time to build deep relationships with people and engage them at whatever place they are in their spiritual walk? Where can we share the gospel message with many who will rarely attend a church service and who have no relationship with a local Pastor?

The Workplace

Luke 10:27 was Christ’s response to the greatest commandment – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

The greatest expression of love we can show to others we work with every day is to tell them about Jesus Christ.

Jeff Hilles

Despair Gives Birth to a Christmas Carol

The beard barely covered the scars on the 57-year-old face, but the heart was still raw.  It was just two years prior when Henry woke up to see his wife aflame and tried to extinguish his wife with a rug and then his own body.  His efforts were futile as his wife died the next day and his face was burnt from the effort.  Now Henry was sitting in a room in Washington D.C. to attend to his son who was recently injured in the war.  The initial news of potential paralysis was grim, but hope would grow.   The son who was so eager to join up with the army was paying the price and the dad shared the cost. The son never asked him until he had left and the recruiter notified him to seek the approval of a father.  Henry gave approval, but how could he approve of this cost?  It seemed the world around him was going to hell, but it was Christmas day.  People were exclaiming to one another “Peace on Earth” and the bells were ringing for Christmas morning.  He believed the message of Christmas, but it sure didn’t feel like anywhere close to peace and justice this morning.  As he stroked his scarred and bearded face, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gave expression to his dissonance and hope with a poem, you have sung called, “I heard the bells on Christmas Day”.

Pastor Jarrod

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,

A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn

The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Listen to a version of this song:

Share the Hope of Christmas

I love this time of year…. there’s just something about this season that seems to change us in ways that we don’t see quite as much the other 11 months of the year.  Maybe it’s Hope…… Now don’t get me wrong, Hope is certainly around all year and let’s face it, we all use the word numerous times daily.  We hope for good weather, we hope for a good day, we hope for good health for ourselves and others, we hope for success, we hope dinner is good, you name it, we can “Hope it” and we’re not afraid to share it.
So, how then, could Hope be the catalyst that changes things at Christmas?  It’s simple, Christ became Hope that first Christmas and we still aren’t over it.  From Creation, God promised a Savior and for hundreds of years His children waited, yearning and Hoping for the arrival of this Savior and King.   And when God’s timing was right and He put His plan in motion for the birth of his only begotten Son, Hope started taking on a new look.  Born of a virgin in a barn in Bethlehem wasn’t the look most were expecting for this King, but God’s plans were happening just as he said they would.  And as they were unfolding the Hope GOD had promised for hundreds of years was finally here and the Good News is ~ it hasn’t changed.  So while we hope for nice gifts, good meals, good fellowship etc, I think the HOPE found in our Savior and the promise of spending eternity with him as He planned is what makes these next few weeks different.   So Go and Tell it from your Mountain and see what the True Hope of CHRISTmas can do in the lives of those who are seeking Hope.
Chris Best

Advent

Celebrating-advent-graphic600

Are you preparing for Christmas?

One of my former pastors, K. Allan Blume,  was influential in my life in regards to celebrating Christmas.  He has a great article of resources in his helpful paper the Biblical Recorder, which he now edits.  You can access his article in this link or just scroll down and read below.  Jarrod Scott

 “Building Family Traditions”

by K. Allan Blume

Advent is the season traditionally reserved for preparing for the coming of Christ. The word “advent” means “coming,” so this is the season for remembering the first coming of Christ to this world as a baby, enjoying His coming to us day by day, and preparing for His second coming one day as reigning King. This is a time to make the most out of Christmas. It is a chance for godly fathers and mothers to lead their children in a healthy, Biblical emphasis on Jesus as we prepare for Christmas. What better way is there to take the focus of Christmas off material things and place proper emphasis on the birth of our Savior!? A family advent celebration can help your home eliminate much of the rapid pace of Christmas by taking less than 15 minutes each day to worship the Lord Jesus. Advent puts the joy, the celebration, the peace of God and deep awareness of God’s love into your family’s Christmas celebration. Isn’t that the way Christmas should be?

The celebration of Advent always begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This year, we begin on Sunday, December 3, 2017. It continues through Christmas Day, and many carry their family celebrations another week to New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Some celebrate using the advent wreath, while others use the advent log.

 

The advent wreath is decorated for the holidays with four candles in the circular pattern – one candle for each Lord’s Day. The candles have traditionally been purple, the color of royalty. However, most families use colors that fit their Christmas family traditions. One candle is lit the first Sunday, with the same candle being lit daily for a full week as the family meets for a 10 to 15 minute devotion. On the second Sunday, light one more candle and continue lighting the first two candles each night through the week while the family shares a devotion. Continue lighting one new candle each Sunday until all four are burning brightly on the fourth week. An additional white candle each Sunday until all four are burning brightly on the fourth week. An additional white candle should be placed in the center of the advent wreath and lit on Christmas Day.

The advent log expresses the same symbolism as the wreath. The difference is that the log provides a new candle to light for each day of advent. It dramatically symbolizes the coming of Light into the world, as each night the glow becomes brighter until finally the whole room is filled with light. Also, since the candles are lit alternately from one end to the next, with the center candle lit on Christmas Day, the effect of a mountain peak beautifully points to the heavens on Christmas Day. You can download a pdf file with a diagram of the advent log, including dimensions. (Scroll to bottom to see a list of resources.)

Several themes should remain dominant through your daily family celebrations:

  1. Coming — Remember, we celebrate His first coming, rejoice in the ways He comes to us daily, and prepare for His second coming.
  2. Waiting — Our studies will show us how God’s people waited patiently for the promised Messiah. We too, wait. We celebrate while we wait!
  3. Covenant — Advent devotions trace the path of God’s covenant with His people and reveals the fulfillment of God’s plan through the coming of Jesus to the world.

The family devotion time will probably be most appropriate at the close of each day, before going to bed. A suggested procedure is:

1. Get your Bible and devotional materials ready. Keep them in a central place through the season.

2. Light your advent candle(s). Children enjoy doing this each evening. If there are several children in the family, let them alternate lighting candles from day to day. Even adults may alternate in the daily lighting of the candles.

3. A family member should read the devotional for the day as others listen.

4. Another member of the family could read a few scripture verses that relate to the day’s theme.

5. Share prayer requests together and allow each family member to pray. Be sure you are not just asking God for something in your prayers. Rejoice! Praise Him for His goodness to you.

6. Blow out the candles. If you allow your candles to burn too long each night, they will not last the full 26 or more days. Ten to fifteen minutes is the maximum you should allow.

7. Share something fun together. This could be a time of having hot chocolate or cinnamon apple cider together. Some nights you may have some special cookies or other Christmas treats on hand. There may be a game the family can play together. The anticipation will be greater if a different type of activity is planned for each evening or if a special activity is planned for only one evening each week. Write a letter to a missionary, an old friend, or a grandparent one night if possible.

Be flexible and enjoy your family time. Do what is meaningful to your family. Don’t let the structure kill your worship experience, but remember that structured family traditions are cherished for the rest of life.

Resources for Advent:

Giving Thanks to God

I am one of those people who refuses to play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving.  I don’t think of myself as a Scrooge as much as a “Thanksgiving purist”. Thanksgiving holiday reminds me to live out my thanksgiving.   In a society that rushes through Thanksgiving so that they can capitalize on materialistic hearts in Christmas, let’s not forget to thank God.  I can think of few ways of starting a new year, then with a Thanksgiving hangover lingering into 2018.  No, not from alcohol or a carb comma from the stuffing, but the attitude impacted by giving thanks.   In fact, Ephesians 5:20 tells us to “give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  I did a little study in the Bible of the things we are to be thankful for, even when life is difficult.  This is what I found we can give thanks for:

  1. For our share in the inheritance of the saints: Colossians 1:12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. NKJV
  2. God’s Kindness that leads to repentance:  Romans 2:4
  3. Goodness of God and His enduring Love: Psalm 106:1; 107:1-2, 15; 118:1
  4. Receiving Christ in faith: Colossians 2:6-7
  5. Ability to pray: Colossians 4:2
  6. A Future Permanent Home with God in Heaven: Hebrews 13:14-15
  7. God’s workings and miracles in our past: Psalm 105:1-5
  8. All men and leaders: 1 Timothy 2:1-3
  9. Food: 1 Timothy 4:3-4
  10. Gift of Christ: 2 Cor. 9:15
  11. Power and reign of Christ: Revelation 11:17
  12. Working of the word of God in others: 1 Thessalonians 2::13
  13. Deliverance from adversity: Psalms 31:7, 21; 35:9-10; 44:7-8
  14. Deliverance from indwelling sin: Romans 7:23-25.
  15. Our aging Bodies will one day be changed into a glorified body with out age:  1 Corinthians 15:53-57
  16. Victory over death and the grave: 1 Corinthians 15:57
  17. Triumph of the gospel: 2 Corinthians 2:14
  18. Conversion of others: Romans 6:17
  19. Faith and Love exhibited by others: Romans 1:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:3
  20. Nearness of God’s presence: Psalm 75:1
  21. Supply of our bodily wants: Romans 14:6-7; 1 Timothy 4:3-4

What can you add to this list?

Jarrod Scott

Expecting death and life

I had the honor of standing by a family of faith as they said goodbye to their wife, mother, sister, and daughter at her graveside.  The death was relatively fast and unexpected and we prayed for a miracle.  The miraculous healing did not happen and death occurred. Yet God’s power was still on display. Instead of God healing a body from cancer, His power produced spontaneous singing by a graveside.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you.”

The scripture tells me that God purposely chooses to display His power through fragile vessels.  We are ones with fragile health. Our security on this earth is fleeting and fickle.  Our comfort zones are temperamental things. The love and respect for others, which we desire, can be as short-lived as our own health.  As I read 2 Corinthians, it seems that in the very act of dying physically and metaphorically, God reveals His power in our life.  His power may look like perseverance, determination, hope, and conviction of His presence. As we step out into the uneasy waters of sacrifice and unfamiliarity, we can expect to meet Jesus in those same waters. If we want to know God’s power on display then expect to die to yourself. Which is the greater miracle: seeing someone healed from cancer or spontaneously singing by the graveside of someone you love?  I would count them both as miracles.

Jarrod Scott