Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Trusting God

Joseph and Mary were more than engaged.  The custom of their day recognized “betrothal” as more of a commitment, and even more binding, than engagement.  So when Joseph learned Mary was with child before they had been together as husband and wife, he faced a difficult situation.  Jewish custom would have allowed him to break off the arrangement, leaving Mary in disgrace.  He had decided to divorce her quietly, a decision with life-altering, long-term consequences for them both.  One wonders how Joseph reached his decision.  Did he make use of the problem solving process?  Did he identify all of his options, weigh the pros and cons of each one, and select the one that made the most sense?  Perhaps he even questioned the rationale of God’s plan. 

We know that Joseph was a righteous man and, in all likelihood, he spent time in prayer seeking an answer to his problem.  From the angel in his dream, he received God’s command to take Mary as his wife.  In the end, Joseph put all of his faith in God and did as he was commanded.  He did not worry about what the neighbors might think.  He may not have felt that it made perfect sense, however, he trusted God to be in control.  He believed in God to have the wisdom and power to fulfill the prophecy spoken of for so many years.  And on Christmas, the Holy Spirit blessed Joseph and Mary with His son, Jesus, the King of Kings, Immanuel, “God with us”.  

Prayer:  Oh, God, Help me to be more like Joseph.  I know I try to be in control and make rational decisions on my own too much, when what I need to do is put more trust in your counsel.  When I have tough decisions to make in life, remind me to rely upon you to be in control of the situation and to trust that you have the wisdom and power to guide me in righteous ways.  Thank you for sending your son, Jesus, to live among us.  Hear my prayer in His name, Amen.

Suzy Bruner

Monday, December 24, 2012

Prophesying the Birth

Over 700 years before the birth of Jesus, God gave Ahaz a sign by saying “a virgin would conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel”.  God showed us centuries before it happened that He already had a plan for the time when Jesus
would arrive.  God’s plan was carried out and we celebrate that event today.

Tonight many of us will be in church for Christmas Eve services.  Others will be traveling to be with family and friends.  Some will observe the evening at work or home alone.  Wherever we are or whatever we are doing, we should make sure that we recognize and celebrate that this is the eve of the birth of Jesus Christ.  We need
to focus on what this has meant for centuries of Christians throughout God’s world.  We should also remember that this event was only part of God’s plan and that He continues to carry out that plan into our eternity.

Let’s plan to reach out to God tonight.  Let’s have our last thought before we sleep
be a remembrance of the magnificent child’s birth and how that single event changed everything about our past, our present and our future.

Prayer:  God, we are grateful that you cared so much for us that you brought Jesus to earth to live among us, to teach us about you, and to then die for forgiveness of our sins.  Sometimes we don’t feel worthy of the enormity of your love, but we accept it and praise you for this and all your blessings, Amen.

Rod Smith

Sunday, December 23, 2012


A few years ago, I received a Psalm desk calendar as a Christmas gift.  The next year, that calendar took me on a journey thru many Psalms, along which I learned that:

  • some psalms praise God for his faithfulness and his power,
  • some sing of God acting on behalf of His people,
  • some give us hope and encouragement in the love of God 
  • some lament (or cry out) over a tragedy or discomfort that is being experienced.

Psalm 77 begins with the psalmist crying out.  He seems to be overwhelmed by troubles and feel separated from God.  But, the psalm ends with him praising God for His faithfulness.  It is as if the psalmist experiences a change of heart, once he recalls the many wonders of God.

Have you ever felt distant from God, overwhelmed by trouble, or asked ‘where are you, God’?  If we are honest enough to admit it, we all have experienced such times in our lives.

Like the psalmist, we can be encouraged in difficult times – we can possibly even experience joy in pain and in suffering, if we take a moment to look back and recall the faithfulness of God.  He is worthy of our praise!

We might even find ourselves singing:

Great is Thy Faithfulness;
Great is Thy Faithfulness.
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy Faithfulness,
Lord unto me.

Prayer:  O Faithful God, Thank you for your presence with me always.  Help me to see your faithfulness in all circumstances.  Thank you for hearing me when I cry out and when I praise.  You are worthy of praise, Amen.

Delyn Cronk

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Gift

In the book of Acts, the writer (whom most Bible experts agree to be Luke, a
non-Jewish physician) tells the story of what happened after Jesus was taken up
into Heaven.  The first eleven verses, however, explain that Jesus gave instructions
to His apostles before He ascended into the sky.  Jesus told the men to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift that God had promised, that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5.)  Jesus goes on to tell His apostles that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them and that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8.)

During this gift-giving season, no gift can compare to the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Scripture tells us that Jesus promised He would send the Holy Spirit as a comforter and advocate in His absence (John 14:16.)  In my Bible Dictionary, the word “comforter” is defined as a title for the Holy Spirit which means “to strengthen” or “to bolster.”  The same dictionary explains that as the advocate, the Holy Spirit provides power for world wide evangelism (Acts 1:8) and will abide with believers forever (John 14:16.)

Prayer:  Dear Lord, We thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Melinda Burk

Friday, December 21, 2012

Watchful Servants

Most often, when we invite guests into our homes, we spend hours preparing for their arrival; we clean behind every nook, we cook a lavish meal, and we set out our nicest china.  Upon their arrival time, we listen for the car door so we can greet them at the door, and offer them a warm welcome.

How much more we should prepare for Christ’s return!  God tells us to be watching for Him and ready to open the door for Him.  Because he will come at an unexpected hour, we must prepare as though He were coming tonight!  We must honor Him daily with what He has given to us, and as we do so in the seemingly smaller areas of our lives, HE will entrust us with even greater responsibility to glorify Him.

Are you ready for Christ’s return?  In what ways can you prepare for Him on a daily basis?  Do you honor Him in all things so He will entrust you with more?

Although, many are servants, few are watchful servants.  For those preparing and ready for His return, He promises a great reward.

Prayer:  Lord, Although I do not know when you will return, I am overjoyed for that day to come.  Help me to be a watchful servant, and to be ready to open my door for you.  Thank you for revealing yourself to me so that I may know you personally, and to one day sit at your table with you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Shelby Hall

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chariots of Fire, Dry Bones, and Advent

The Shepherds Take from the Sheep
          At first glance these proclamations by the strange prophet Ezekiel seem to be far removed from the theme of advent.  A closer look at the reading, and further in the chapter, reveals the fact that God is not only displeased with the shepherds currently leading the sheep of Israel, but that he will remove the current leadership and governing system, replace it with David, his lineage, and ultimately the Messiah.  Hence, a possible old testament reference to the coming of Christ. 

          Living in the time between the first and second advent of Christ, it is worthwhile to ask if the developed nations of the world, the current shepherds, have become like those of ancient Israel, and the third world people have become the new sheep.  Have we reached such a stage of extravagance that far too many sheep, including their natural resources, are required to “feed” the shepherds?  One obvious example is the ongoing deforestation of the tropical rainforest in South America.  This not only takes from the indigenous peoples’ resources, but upsets the natural balance of the fragile ecosystem.

          During the advent season, could it be possible that old dry bones Ezekiel has a message that remains relevant today?

Prayer:  God, remind us that Jesus came to redeem all of the world and that all should share in his bounty and blessing, Amen

Warren Davenport

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Future

Revelation verses at Christmas?  That was my first thought because I generally don’t think of scripture from the book of Revelation as Christmas scripture.  There is no mention of Joseph, Mary or the birth of Jesus.  So how is it that it’s included for an advent study?  It is because it’s a revelation of Jesus Christ and He is what Christmas is about.

These scriptures are about God communicating to his people a message; a message for promise of happiness, of spiritual blessings and of joy.  God, through John, gave us a grasp of the future, a future with grace and peace.  We also receive the glorious message that He is coming for us!

While we focus on the birth of Jesus during our countdown to Christmas, these scriptures give us a pause to focus on the meaning of Jesus and our future.  These scriptures give a great restatement of this person who we know both as a man and God.  In verse 8 God declares he is the Alpha and Omega; he is eternal from time past to the future.  While we reflect on the birth of Jesus, we should also rejoice in how we know the full story, including how marvelously the story ends for we who believe. 

Prayer:  God, we ask you to help us know that this brief time on earth is only the beginning of a great adventure you have prepared for us.  While we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we also remember to thank you for His death, resurrection and the promise that He will come again.  We are truly blessed by your presence in our lives today and your promise for our eternal tomorrows, Amen.

Rod Smith