Advent Devotional – Peace

Isaiah 9: 2, 6-7

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

The people were walking in darkness, but Isaiah gives a prophecy that gives them hope for a peaceful future. That one will come and the weight of the world will be upon his shoulders and his kingdom will uphold justice and righteousness. A light was coming in the midst of their darkness.

God’s presence is associated with light throughout scripture. During advent we light candles to represent Peace, Love, Hope and Joy. This week we focus on Peace. The people in this scripture did not have peace because they were turning away from God and trying to deal with the war they were facing on their own. They were walking in darkness when Isaiah gives them a light that they can follow.

Today, many times we are walking in darkness, trying to take care of whatever “war” we are facing on our own. Sometimes I find myself trying to fix things on my own rather than asking God for help. Perhaps it is my need to control things or other times my feeling of unworthyness, God is busy and doesn’t have time for me. So many of us, have a tendency to run to friends or family first instead of God and only turning toward God when we are desperate. Many times when we do this, without realizing it, we have stumbled into the darkness. Living life without God. But when we do this we eventually realize there is no light in our life. Things can begin to feel empty and we have a feeling something is missing.

Advent is a time when we allow God to help us come out of our own darkness and into His light. Allowing the God that is with us, that loves us unconditionally, the God that sees us as His own child, to draw us out of the darkness, the chaos and brokenness in our life where we can find peace. The peace that Mary had when she gave birth to a baby in a stable.

This week, create a space where you can sit with God alone, and light a candle and ask for His help to bring you into His light, to give you peace that surpasses all understanding. A heavenly peace that only comes from God. As you sit with this peace, sing the first verse of Silent Night and reflect upon the words knowing that this peace can only come from our Heavenly Father.

Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright, round young virgin mother and child. Holy infant so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

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I Have Decided to stick with Love…

I purchased this box of “Colors of the World” for one reason – the reminder that they are “non-toxic.”

I’ve visited a few museums, I’ve read a few books, I’ve had conversations, but none of that fully opens my mind to what it means to be hated and feared simply because of the color of my skin,

In the Gospel of John 2:1-11 we are told of Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine. This wasn’t done merely as an introduction to what Jesus could do or setting the stage for more miracles. This was done so that a family would not experience shame and disgrace.

We mustn’t forget that it was Mary, the mother of Jesus, who stood in front of that shame and provided another way: “Do what he tells you.”

We try to make it so complicated, but if we truly heed the words of Mary we will respond with love because Jesus tells us to love our neighbors and our enemies. We will respond with compassion because Jesus tells us to care for one another. We will respond with grace because Jesus tells us that how we treat one another, is how we treat him.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Advent – Love

John 1: 1-14 New International Version (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The gospel of John is the great book of love.  Love is mentioned 46 times in 135 verses, just so you know!

And the most quoted verse in all the Bible is in this gospel… John 3:16 – an amazing gift of love, that if we believe we will receive the gift of eternal life.

God loved us so much, that He emptied himself and became human flesh, in the way of a son born to a virgin in a manger. 

That is our gift of Love!

That is what this advent season is about, to focus on that gift, the true light, the birth of Jesus.

But, before God gave us this gift of his son, it was a time when people were living under the old covenant, under the old written laws. 

And God saw that we were not capable of living up to those written laws, because humanity wasn’t perfect and still isn’t – we need grace. 

You see, the law was given by Moses, ……but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

The third verse of Silent Night speaks of the presence of God in human form …… the dawn of redeeming grace. 

God so desired to be “up close and personal” that God came to live, … breathe, … feel, … teach, ……to touch, …..and to love.  

And this verse contains one of my favorite phrases, ……“love’s pure light.”

God’s face…… in Jesus Christ…. has entered the world where it will be……… kissed by Mary, ….cradled in Joseph’s arms, ……and washed after the feeding and burping.

This is real human life, …….full humanity …….wrapped around ……’s pure light …….that will shine in a way that will be remembered forever.

It is a love that “redeems” us………….makes good on God’s promise…….. to be with us always.

The beauty of the hymn’s poetry in this verse speaks of light as a “dawning”.

Dawn rises up, ….dawn pierces the dark night, …..and transforms it.

John 1:5 New International Version (NIV)

“5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it!”

Light… life……., and we come ……seeking life….. and light …… this Advent season.

We light candles to remind us of the light of Jesus Christ. 

From the very beginning of time, when God created the earth and a beautiful place for us to live in, the Garden of Eden, with everything we needed to be happy and survive and live. 

God created and wanted the very best for us. 

Adam and Eve were not perfect (and consequently neither are we) …… they broke the only rule that God gave them, ……….and became separated from God because they sinned. 

And God took them out of the place that He had prepared for them.

And they went and multiplied in the world, and there were many. 

And throughout time if we look at the Old Testament, we learned that we were on sort of a roller coaster relationship with God, or at least that is what I call it.

The people in the Old Testament were in relationship with God…….. until things weren’t going their way,…….. and they turned away from God, ……..and turned to other things like idles, ………..whatever they thought would give them what they needed, ………..and when that didn’t work ………and they got themselves into trouble,………. they would turn back to God,……hurt,… God still responded and rescued the people time and time again.

And this continues today, doesn’t it.  We are still a broken people. 

And God still loves us — in spite of ourselves – and still wants what is best for us. 

God pursued us with his grace, ……… sending his son Jesus…. to save us ……..not condemn us, ….through his redeeming grace. 

Jesus died on the cross to take away the sins of the world and restore us back to that love relationship with God, and if we believe this, we shall have eternal life. 

That is God’s redeeming grace.  That not only are we restored or redeemed to that love relationship – be He goes and prepares a place for you and for me – in heaven – eternal life.

That beautiful place, where we have everything we need, that God intended for us in the very beginning.

 This has always been God’s desire for us. 

That no matter where we are…… in this journey called life, ……that God will meet us right where we are, ……in our messed up place whatever that is,….with loving arms wide open, …..ready to love us unconditionally, right now today.

The commitment of love, …..lived out in the birth,……life …..and death of Jesus Christ. 

And that light is visible in us …today….when we believe, ….and it shines through you and me to the world. 

The third verse of silent night, reflects the ….. son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

May we reflect the glorious light of God’s redeeming grace, where ever we go.

Take a moment to reflect on the Light of the World by listening to one of my favorite songs: Light of the World by Lauren Daigle.

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Advent – God Prepares Us

Luke 1: 57-66

57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

When ever we are on a mission with God like Elizabeth and Zechariah were as they waited for the birth of John, we have to prepare.

No one plants seeds one day and expects a harvest in the morning. There are things to do. We are to cultivate our lives and rest in the fact that God has our future in his hands.

I remember the year I decided to grow Brussel sprouts. I did not know how long it took for them to grow. But I did like any other thing I would want to grow; I prepared the soil and planted the seeds and waited and waited and waited! I thought those Brussel sprouts would never grow, then a stalk starts coming up, and then finally after waiting a long time, the little sprouts starting growing on the stalk. Not without trouble, bugs tried to eat them, the weather tried to kill them, the preparation was more than I anticipated!

What I learned is that part of preparation is patience! It is not always doing!

During this time of waiting, God prepared my heart.

During this time of waiting God showed me just how little patience I had. During this time of waiting I sat with God in my garden, and He prepared my heart for Him. Sometimes it is when we stop and sit a while in the stillness and silence that God can prepare us!

While Elizabeth and Zechariah waited for the birth of John, God prepared their hearts. He silenced Zechariah and in the silence God prepared his heart. During this silence, he knew that his name would be John and what God would be doing in his life. God prepared them to raise him for the mission that God called him to do, prepare the way for the Lord. Zechariah developed patience and God showed him many things that he shared in a song:

Zechariah’s Song

67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73     the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
    and to enable us to serve him without fear
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Every detail of the Christmas story tells us that Mary and Joseph endured more than their fair share of trials as they waited for the arrival of Jesus. During this time of preparation, God also prepared them for the arrival of His son.

This advent we prepare, by allowing God to Prepare Us!

Spend some time this week to eliminate any distractions, don’t allow the Christmas season to distract you from allowing God to prepare your heart. Be intentional about looking and watching for God in your daily life, and plan some time to be still and sit with God for a while. Allow God to prepare your heart for following Him. Mary and Joseph undertook an amazing mission on the way to Bethlehem. It certainly must have strengthened their bond as they conquered many obstacles and challenges. And this was just the beginning of their journey. It may very well be the beginning of yours….allow God to harvest your heart.

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Jesus and the Ten Lepers – Help me be the one

I saw God today as I read the scripture in Luke 17:11-19.  A familiar scripture about the ten lepers that were healed by Jesus but only one came back and was thankful and praised God for the healing.

But what God showed me today was looking at this story differently.  Instead of thinking negatively about the other nine lepers who I have always seen as ungrateful…. today I saw them differently.

These men called out to Jesus to have mercy and Jesus response was probably not what they expected.  Jesus did not say: because you believed you are healed, it was not some miraculous moment where Jesus took the dirt and made mud and put it on their skin and then they were healed, Jesus didn’t tell them to go and dunk themselves in water and they would be healed.  Instead, Jesus said: “Go and show yourselves to the priest.”

I thought about how many times I had called out to Jesus to have mercy on my own situation and waiting for an appropriate response, one that I would recognize.  One that would answer my plea according to what I imagined it would be, the solution that I had dreamed up, in just the right timing.

The scripture says that “as they went, they were made clean”.  But how far had they gone? Had they traveled long enough to lose hope?  So much so that they didn’t see Jesus in their situation at all, thinking that Jesus had given up on them?  Perhaps thinking that Jesus didn’t have time for them so He sent them to see the priest instead.  Did they feel rejected?

It is our human nature to respond this way.  Only one out of ten did not lose hope, only one out of ten kept believing, only one out of ten never lost hope, watching and knowing that eventually he would be healed.  So when it happened, he knew exactly who had healed him and returned to give thanks and praise.

Are we any different today?  Things not happening the way we expected or in the time frame we expected, and so we lose hope, fall into dis-belief, fall away from God, sometimes feeling rejected and so we reject back?

Here is what really struck me, no where in any version of scripture does it say that Jesus took the healing back.  Jesus still blessed the other nine, still healed them, still loved them and still longed for a relationship with them.  And I rejoice because I know that it is the same today, Jesus never gives up on us!  Even when we lose hope and our faith is weak, even when we walk about from Him, Jesus never gives up on us.

I think about the times that I looked back on a situation and realized what God had done and it looked very different from my solution and my time frame.  And I am thankful that God took care of me.  God has a better plan for me than I could ever have for myself.

Lord God, help me be the one, then one that never looses hope, never looses faith knowing that you have my back in all my situations good and bad.  I am thankful and praise your name for all my blessings.  In Jesus name, Amen!

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God Whispered…Jesus Loves Me

We had a wonderful opportunity to go to Magnolia Community Service to administer ashes to the 253 adults with special needs.

To logistically take all of these adults to church would not be possible. So God opened the door so that we could go to them.  In order for this to happen it took many hands, this was where connectionalism in the United Methodist church came together.

We had a plan! Everything well planned out who was going to do what and when. All the adults came into the room where we were set up. We were waiting on one group to come and everyone began to get a little restless. In my spirit God whispered, sing Jesus Loves Me, so I asked them if they wanted to sing a song, and they said yes. I asked them if they knew Jesus Loves Me, and only half of them raised their hands, wow only half. So we sang Jesus Loves Me and by the end everyone was singing the words and it was just a trans-formative magical moment.

Our plan went out the window and the message of the day was Jesus Loves Me.

When God has a plan ….he will work through you to make it happen…are you listening to his whispers?

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I can’t hear very good – speak up

I saw God today at the mechanic shop.  We had a sweet old man waiting on his car and every time I would speak to him he would say, “I can’t hear very good – speak up”  so I would speak louder.

I sat at my desk doing some paperwork while he waited for his car to be repaired.  We had K-Love Christian radio station playing.  I began to notice that he was tapping his foot, and realized that Old Church Choir was playing.

Yes indeed, God speaks up when you can’t hear very good!  He was so happy when he left, God lifted his spirit.

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Cross Roads

I saw God today when someone reminded me of this.  All of us at some point in our lives get to a cross road, when we have to make a decision to go right or left.  And sometimes we look back and think, I should have gone the other way.  Here is the good news, that no matter which path we take, God is always with us, and provides another cross road in our future.  He has a good plan for us!  Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Lord help me make the right choices to go the right path, but when I don’t thank you for going with me anyway and loving me anyway and providing a “do over “with another cross road.



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How Jesus Responded to Rejection

We all have felt the pain of rejection.  Whether it was when we were in school and did not get picked to be on a particular team, or as an adult overlooked for that job position and never acknowledged for the work you do.  So many forms of rejection.

It is one thing to be rejected by a stranger, but quite another to be rejected by people who know you and care for you, your own people.  Jesus felt this type of rejection from his home town, his own people.  And he teaches us in Mark chapter 6 how to respond to rejection, with compassion.  In this scripture Jesus did not reject back but loved back.

Today Jesus continues to be rejected and his response is the same, with compassion and grace.

As disciples he teaches us to do the same.  He sends us out, but not alone, together as a community of faith, so that we can strengthen and encourage one another, comfort each other in times of rejection, lift each other up and be in discernment with one another so that we are stirred to action fully relying on God for the journey.

Lord help me to be this type of disciple, that I do not reject people, especially when they have rejected me,  but love them in all circumstances.

Have you ever felt rejected and were able to responded like Jesus?  Share your story with me.


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The Story within the Story – Blind Faith

I saw God today as I read a familiar scripture.  Mark 5:21-43 shares about the story of the unnamed woman who reached out and touched the hem of Jesus garment.  Most of the time when reading this scripture this is where the focus is,on the woman.  But in the book of Mark this scripture also shares about a man named Jarius who is a synagogue ruler whose 12 year old daughter is about to die.  This is the story within the familiar story. 

Jairus falls at Jesus feet and ask Jesus to save his daughter.  They are traveling to Jarius house so that Jesus can see his daughter when the unnamed woman arrives.  An unexpected delay for Jarius.  While Jesus is speaking with this woman some people from Jarius house came to tell him his daughter had died.  During this unexpected delay, his daughter has died.  Spend some time thinking about how he felt in this moment.  The men that came to give him this news tells him to leave the teacher and go home – in other words Jesus can’t help you now.  But Jesus looks at him and says “don’t be afraid, just believe”.  At this point Jairus has a choice to make, to either follow Jesus or turn away and go home.  In this situation which choice would you make?  Jarius decided to follow Jesus with no expectations, there was no reason to believe that Jesus could raise his daughter from the dead, but he believed and had faith that Jesus had a good plan for him, he couldn’t see the details of the plan, he followed with blind faith.


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