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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Author

haydenkris

No Longer Saul

Today’s Reading:  Click Here  –   Psalm 50:1-6; 1 Kings 11:26-40; 2 Corinthians 2:12-17  (to open the scripture links – hover over the highlighted areas, right click, open hyperlink)  

The 2Corinthians passage today brings to mind things like, transformation, renewing, even born again. Why? Because it lead me to remember or think back to my own BC (Before Christ) lifetime. Having grown up unchurched, with a pretty precarious, shameful and untamed young adulthood past, those words fully illustrate and define what transpired when I realized that Jesus was who I needed, faith was what I was missing, and salvation was what I wanted.

Thinking back now, I’m ashamed to say that I was much like Saul who persecuted Christians.  Although I was not out  harming or murdering them, none the less, I did not know or understand their ways, and in my mind, my thoughts and words were not kind.  As vs.15 describes, their peaceful, calm and obedient smell of smells was a like a dreadful and forsaken smell to me.  I could see something good, but did not know how to obtain that. I inwardly mocked their customs and behaviors as a waste of time, and carried on with my own sinful nature as I wandered aimlessly through life. In the beginning, I was in no way, shape or form adequate for such a task, as spoken in vs.16. But God raised me from the miry pits of despair of a dishonorable life ( Psalm 40:1-4 ).  Until, one day, I prayed. I prayed big and I experienced God move in such a way no words can describe.

The life-giving message of the Gospel soon became my framework of living and THIS fragrance of God’s message filled my heart and lungs. Gradually and with much grace, I was transformed from the inside out, and continue today to still be a work in progress.  I remember, as I began to experience something different about me, and seeing things and people around me soon were different too. The renewing of my mind, heart and soul brought new light to my life, and being born again into the grace of God’s love and mercy was a beautiful feeling, to be a NEW Creation, in Christ Jesus.   It was like Holy Water poured over me with an aroma of a sweet perfume that filled my lungs with every breath, as if breathing for the first time. I was LIVING for the first time.

You see, it’s never too late for anyone to halt and do an about-face redirect, letting go of the things that burden and weigh us down and let Jesus take the wheel of our life.  It really is simple.  The hardest part is making that decision. It’s a choice. It’s ours to make.  There’s never a better time than the present to receive the present of God’s amazing gift; His Son, Jesus and experience a relationship like no other.   We acknowledge we are sinners and that we fall short of God’s glory,( Romans 3:21-24 )  but that’s ok, because when we believe that God sent His son Jesus to fix the gap between us and God our Father, and that Jesus died for each and every sin, mine, yours, every ones, we are claimed as His own and we are REDEEMED, just like the beautiful redemptive story of Saul ( Acts 9 ).

Are you ready to Let Go and Let God?  He’s at the door of your heart, just waiting (Revelation 3:20 ). Waiting for YOU.  Feast at the table of the Lord, be no longer a Saul, but a righteous and redeemed Child of the One true King.

Here are a few songs for your spiritual growth and listening pleasure:

‘Holy Water’ by We the Kingdom

‘Less Like Me’ by Zach Williams

‘When Mercy Found Me’ by Rhett Walker  

‘The Table’ by Chris Tomlin

PRAYER

Lord, how amazing is Your love and countless ways that You work in my life. Everyday, I am renewed and set apart from those who do not recognize your sweet aroma. Let me be your hands and feet to bring the work of the Gospel to those much like Saul. Everyday I am grateful for a life transformed, renewed, and redeemed! For this I give you praise and glory. In Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

 Kris

REWIND

Today’s Reading:  Click Here  –   Psalm 35:1-10; Numbers 22:22-28; 1 Corinthians 7:32-40   (to open the scripture links – hover over the highlighted areas, right click, open hyperlink)  

The scripture from Psalms today sure does raise an eyebrow for me.  I can absolutely relate to David’s harsh words, thought or spoken, against an enemy. So often, I say things that depict my hurt, frustration, anger and even visions of revenge.  Rage inside us can escalate and cloud our minds and impact our actions that we may later regret. That is why it is so important to examine how David’s actions are true characters of a Christian, one who walks with God, in the footsteps of Jesus and of those who went before us.  David calls upon God so often to deal with his enemies with extremely harsh and overstated pleas.  David’s heart was sincere.  He did not act on his words of rage, wrath, or revenge.  His words here were merely what he was feeling, a petition for God to step in, his suggestions on how God should handle the matter.

I think we all can admit, guilty as charge, that in our own moments of fear and rage, we scream out what we are feeling and what we would like to do.  And sometimes, that’s all we need, and we feel better.  But not always.  In those times, one of good faith would realize, vengeance is not worth the effort or consequence, and that God is in charge, our words are a faithful cry out to God who knows our hearts, to remove the thoughts and temptations from our midst, just as David had done. It is a good thing that God does know our heart, because when we are in a moment of anger and duress and such thoughts spew from our mouth and our heart,  we can embrace His mercy with the image of placing these words, feelings, temptations and impulses at the cross and walking away, letting God deal with them. It’s like a REWIND, a pass to start again. It’s MERCY! It’s the armor we wear everyday!

I got married in my late twenties, had my kids in my early thirties.  I can totally recall the pressure I felt to find the right guy, get married, have kids. Like it was a prewritten life plan.  I don’t even recall if it was MY life plan.  I didn’t know Jesus then, Had I, I often wonder how different my life would have turned out, the different choices I would have made. I love my husband, kids and life together and Jesus is a big part of it now, and I wouldn’t change a thing, but I do wonder.

Today’s 1st Corinthian passages pesuades me to REWIND, to imagine if I were single and had found Jesus then, how I could have served Him wholeheartedly without the strenuous interruptions of life and family.  I figure that it might have been much different but with its own level of challenges. I don’t know if I would  have had a different perspective and a clear plan for my life then,  but it certainly would have been an extraordinary opportunity to serve Christ committedly and with vibrant enthusiasm.

I am grateful that I now walk with Jesus and my heart is filled with compassion, excitement and determination to serve Him with all that I have.  I put Him in the center of my life and let Him lead and take the wheel so often.

I think what the scripture is saying here is, single or married, love, commitment and honor to God is the same, just with different challenges and underlying disruptions, and that he loves us none the less.

So REWIND your mind that is telling you otherwise, and fill it with the goodness of God!

Here are a few songs for your spiritual growth and listening pleasure:

‘Dear Younger Me’ by Mercy Me

‘Truth I’m Standing On’ by Leanna Crawford    

‘New Today’ by Micah Tyler

PRAYER

O Lord, how amazing are you; for you know me inside and out and my every thought before I even speak a word.  You seek and search me always, to guide my path and fight my battles. The depth of your love covers me and fills my heart. I love and serve you completely, this day and always. I pray this in my Saviors’ Holy name. Amen

 Kris

Sowing Seeds of Faith

Today’s Reading:  Click Here  –  Psalm 46; Genesis 45:25-46:7; Acts 5:33-42   (to open the scripture links – hover over the highlighted areas, right click, open hyperlink)  

Psalm 46, a hymn of praise for the soprano choir, hailing the deliverance from enemy, foe and ruin. The Psalmist says here, that even if the world should end, we need not to fear, because in the face of wide-spread destruction and adversity, Psalm 46 expresses a quiet confidence, assurance and buoyancy in God’s ability to save us. What a peaceful assurance.  When we consider the dark and daunting thoughts of the world crashing in around us, uncertain misfortunes and mishaps, and being consumed with fear is a natural response either way.  But thank goodness we can find comfort and armor not only in this psalm, but all throughout scripture. We can rest assure that God is our shelter even in the midst of utter destruction.  He is not merely a temporary fix for a moment of despair, but our eternal salvation, refuge and strength in EVERYDAY and ANY circumstance and situation we face.  Sing out. Sing loud, and rejoice and give God praise!

Like Jacob, in our reading from Genesis today, we too can find it hard to take any breaking news, good or bad, without facts and proof, as truth.  In this case, for Jacob, it was an incredible wave of good news; that his son, Joseph whom he had mourned for so deeply, could actually be alive. One can almost visualize this scene; the words, the circumstances, the mystery of indescribable feelings, wanting so much for it to be true. But for an instant, doubt and disbelief interfere, until facts and proof are unveiled that soon settle his unbelief.  Perhaps, deep down, Jacob never lost hope that Joseph was alive and would return to him. It was his dying wish.

Our New Testament passage today from the book of Acts, is best understood if you start at the beginning of Chapter 5 which I included in the above scripture link. It continues the account of the Apostles’ arrest and trial.  Their crime was preaching that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, that the Jewish leadership murdered Him, and that God has endorsed Jesus through the miraculous sign of the resurrection from the dead.   Earlier in Chapter 5, (vs. 17-21) the Apostles were arrested and placed in a public prison and then sometime during the night an Angel came and rescued them and gave them a message from God…’Go back to the Temple and preach the message of eternal life’.  Also, remember that it was the next morning when their trial was to begin that they could not be found in the prison but were found in the Temple teaching the people that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and that only through Jesus can one be made right with God.  This teaching and the circumstances surrounding it greatly challenged the authority of the Jewish leadership…and they were seriously angered.

The primary claim of this text curtails 1 Corinthians 1:18  ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’. 

For us, this passage directs us to consider our own cost of following Jesus Christ.  What if we encounter trials, hardship or sufferings as a result of speaking the name of Jesus and peaching the good news of the Gospel?  Because, truthfully, the initial effect the gospel has on the unbeliever, is uncertainty, anger and insulting because the message of the crucified, risen and exalted Savior is an offense to those who do not believe.  Are we prepared, are we passionate in our walk and relationship with Jesus, to face such a magnitude of anguish and upset, yet believing wholeheartedly that is it NOT in vain? We pray, that upon hearing this good news, they would humble their hearts and put their faith in Jesus, or at the very least, the sowed seed of faith would take root.

We are called to speak this truth and to stand firm in the midst of persecution for Jesus’ name sake. (Luke 6:22)  We too must seek power from on high, trusting that God, in every form, is every ounce of our strength and refuge as we work and move to do whatever is required of us to see that the name of Jesus is proclaimed to all the people and the nations.  

One hardship that I endured early on in my faith walk, was the loss of a 40year old friendship over time. I knew that she did not believe in God and my new life seemed so disturbing to her, that her heart hardened towards me, to the point our friendship endured lengthy periods of silence and was never the same.   As I mourned this friendship, what I really wanted to do was to lash out and give her a piece of my mind.  But my heart was soon comforted by the words of  (Matthew 5:10-12) .  I have to believe seeds of faith were planted through my words and actions back then as a new Christian. It has been over 5years now since I last heard from her. I pray for her so often.

Maybe you are experiencing something difficult in result of your faithful life and actions. Whatever it may be, stay true to God’s word ‘Be Still, and KNOW that He is God’ and He will fill that void, heal that hurt and bring restitution of any situation to light, all for His glory and endless love for you.

Here are a few songs for your spiritual growth and listening pleasure:

‘Psalm 46 – Lord of Hosts’ – Virtual Choir by First Alliance Church –  Calgary, Alberta

‘Psalm 46 Hymn’ by Church Works Media      

‘Truth Be Told’ by Matthew West

‘There’s Nothing That Our God Can’t Do’ by Passion Ft. Kristen Stanhill  

PRAYER

Lord, I sing praise through the beautiful choruses of the Psalms. My heart is still, for I know you are with me. You set my feet on lofty places, and I will dwell with you now and forever. With your gentle nudge and fierce love, keep me on the straight and narrow path that leads to you, to life eternal. Let truth and trust be words for this day. I rest in you, and I am comforted. I speak your holy word to fall fresh on deaf ears. Things and people will come and go, but you Lord remain. You are my constant in every valley and mountain top. I praise you this day and everyday. In Jesus’ name I declare His victory. Amen.

Kris

Resource: gccwaverly.net/k.davis

Equipped to Follow

Today’s Reading:  Click Here  –  Psalm 86; 1 Samuel 9:27-10:8; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:16                                         (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)  

Today, I plan to look more closely at our 1 Samuel passage, bur first a quick glimpse of the other two.

Our 2nd Corinthians message today, is one of great importance. Paul is urging us to be aware and alert to being caught up ‘IN’ the ways of unbelievers that could possibly compromise our faith and divide our loyalties, but not to isolate from them completely, With our guard and awareness, we are to be active in their presence as witnesses for Christ Jesus. This bold passage also holds strong for marriages because a marriage of faith with unity in Christ Jesus is honored and blessed. Forthright passages, such as this one, instruct their importance by the force and weight they foster toward living in complete holiness.

Prayer. I remember early on in my Christian faith, actually telling God that I want to pray like THAT.  Like that of someone whose heart aligns with God and Christ lives within them. I prayed this over and over when I would hear a profound, almost poetic prayer, and think…’Yea, like that.’   When I read through Psalm passages whether it’s a Song of Solomon or a Prayer of David, many of the reminded of those early days trying to find the words of my heart to put them in prayer.  Time and time again, it’s as if I discover undeniable humbled relief through scripture, when I can’t seem to find my own words.  God, who knows my heart before I even speak, Psalms, like this one, are pure expressive bliss of my heart.

I soon realized there is no right or wrong way to pray or talk to God.  Matthew 6:9 says, ‘Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…’   I can do that. I know that prayer, and that alone is conversation with God.  Then, Matthew 6:7 says “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”  And I think, I can do this too. A heart to heart with God, my own heart, my own words. Besides, He already knows my heart and requests, my voice is pure music to His ears. So, I pray so often, it keeps my thoughts aligned with Him.

When we read 1Samuel scripture today, we witness how God’s call to power can be unfamiliar, perhaps even uncomfortable for any one of us, as it may have been for Saul. Who are we to judge God’s sovereign call of us or anyone else?  I imagine how Samuel may have felt, wondering what exactly God’s plan could be for such a mas as Saul, but yet he remained faithful and followed the instructions given to him.   

When we are called by God in any measure, we my experience a similar journey as that of Saul; First, there is a letting go of the past. Maybe it’s cleaning up unfinished business.  Maybe it’s letting go of old hurts. Whatever it is, once we let it go, we can more clearly look to the future and our new calling. Saul had a lot of past to face if he was going to be transformed and adhere to God’s call.

Next, the required and needed provisions are given to us.  Maybe it’s spiritual gifts. Maybe it’s people. Maybe it’s a willingness to learn and grow into the calling. I certainly felt God’s work early on in my faith walk through the people of my church, who soon became friends and mentors. It was and continues to be a willingness to learn and grow, as I am always a work in progress.  God rarely calls us to tasks that we are incapable of handling. We might not yet be fully equipped to manage it, but that all comes with time. We have within us what we need to follow God’s call — sometimes it just takes a little nurturing to bring those gifts to fullness.  I was called to many roles and tasks within the church early on, that I actually questioned my ability.  Someone shared a quote by Rick Yancey based on 13:21, ‘God does not call the equipped, He equips the called’, and I was being called.  What this meant for me was that He would see me through and that I needed to trust and call on Him through it all, especially when I did not feel suitable for such a time or task. There are more than a dozen scriptures to confirm this: (‘God Has Equipped Us’ )

Finally, like Saul, God’s calling is often unfamiliar and uncomfortable, especially when we are complacent in our ways.  Perhaps you are called to a role in Children’s ministry at the church or to lead a women’s bible study group.  It was so early on, but I knew God had plans for me, so I trusted Him, put on my big girl pants and jumped right in. I think that’s part of what makes it exciting!  Every time I’ve ever been challenged to learn, grow or do something outside my comfort zone, I have always come out on the other side better than when I first began and truly experienced God’s power and guidance through it all.  

What is God calling you to do?  

Talk to Him in prayer, to reveal His next plan for you.

What can you do to prepare?

Perhaps find some online Christian Ministry classes, or seek involvement in your church of things that interest you. Pay attention when others speak highly of your success or talents, those are a good pivotal point.

Is now the time?

Most likely, if you are even thinking about it.  No better time than the present as God will pave the way.

So, begin with saying “yes” to God’s calling. It most likely be the best thing you’ve ever done.

I know it was f or me, and it continues to be, because I know He is not done with me yet.

Here are a few songs for your spiritual growth and listening pleasure:

‘God Is Able’ by Equip Church International

‘I Will Folllow’ by Chris Tomlin

‘Live Like That’ by Sidewalk Prophets

‘Different’ by Micah Tyler

‘No Matter What’ by Ryan Stephenson    

PRAYER

Lord, I am grateful for your word that reminds me of whose I am, the life you have called me to and the warnings that could easily lead me down paths of destruction.  Thank you that you KNOW my heart and hear my prayers no matter what words I choose or not choose to use. My heart aligns with your Spirit, which fills me and guides me always. I am a humbled servant to do your will, because you promise to provide all that I need.  When I begin to feel uncertain and question my abilities, I will RESET my focus and steps toward you. Thank you for calling me to task to serve and honor you. For all I do, may it bring you glory always.  I pray this all, and so much more, in Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Kris

Lead By Example

Today’s Reading:  Click Here  –  Psalm 29; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; 1 Timothy 4:11-16 (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)  

As I read and reflect on our scripture passages today, I am compelled to take a closer look at myself, the beauty of the Earth all around me and just how I fit in, the role I am called to play, and my Lord God’s word that makes this known. 

Psalm 29 seems to illuminate the voice of the Lord, even in the storm. As a Psalm of David, in its poetic beauty, it describes the strength in a storm and unveils it as the powerful voice of God. It is pure praise. It does not call upon us to do anything because the psalm itself is doing the only thing it is compelled to do. It is praising God. Giving thanks and praise IN all things, even the storms!

Our 1 Samuel passage today, reminds me of that famous saying ‘don’t’ judge a book by it’s cover’. Not always is it referring to a book.  Thank goodness, God judges us not by our outward appearance but by our faith and character by seeing and knowing our heart. It is not how we look on the outside; the color of our skin or eyes, our body shape, what we wear, the hairstyle we have. What does our heart look like? What is God seeing?  Anyone can ‘fake it ‘til they make it’, appearing to be righteous and just on the outside, when really, on the inside, they are angry and outraged, frantic and insensible, broken and unstable. We can feel what’s going on in our own heart and live justly and accordingly to His Word even through a stormy vale. Seeing the hearts of others is not openly revealed to us, but often if we listen and pay close attention to the voice of others, we just may get a glimpse of their heart. I often pray that God helps me to have eyes to see the world and others through His eyes, with a heart to magnify His love unconditionally, without reserve, hesitation or judgement, but with a heart of compassion, empathy and pure love. I’m not saying it’s that easy, but when we are intentional to draw close to someone, God can render His love through us.

Our 1 Timothy passage today highlights our call to ‘Be the Example’. We all can recall these words; “Do as I say, not as I do.”   Anytime someone adopts this attitude, we most likely find it hard to respect that person, because it truly is hypocritical to say one thing and do another.  When a person’s actions do not match their words, integrity is lacking. And when one lacks integrity, credibility is lost.  It’s likely that we can no longer trust or respect one who continually displays a lack of integrity and no credibility.

So how does this apply to God’s word and His church as the People of God?  There is no teaching more important than the teaching of God’s word in the church, in our home and our community.  As Christians,   it is extremely essential that we often do a ‘Self Check’ to avoid being consumed by a wrongful and faithless attitude and approach to life.    Even though God’s word is true, if we don’t live and act according to it, we will soon lack integrity and lose credibility as a faithful follower of Christ Jesus.  Without credibility, people will not take God’s word seriously or as truth. I like to follow the GUT RULE, if it FEELS wrong, it probably IS wrong, and we should seek God’s word and prayer in those times of temptation and destruction to set us back on the straight away again. When we are still and focused on God’s word, we are able hear his voice and witness His power and strength as our own.

There are three disciplines that this passage brings to light;

  • set an example for others, (vs. 11-12)
  • do not neglect your spiritual gifts (vs. 13-14)
  • make visible progress and persevere (vs. 15-16)

The examples we set begin with the force of our faith and desire to serve God by our actions and behavior within our own lives to glorify and praise Him and extending His love to others. We are called to model this life of faith, to be an example.  Like children who learn from the example and teachings of their parents, whether good or bad, it is the same for us in living a life of faith committed to serving God, and keeping our ‘self’ in check to be the exemplar Child of God, the best we know how, and we know this by reading scripture, our life manual. We are to be a Christlike example, an inspiration and blessing to family, friends and others, even strangers.

Each one of us has been given spiritual gifts to do the work God has called us for. These gifts are to be used to serve God in the journey we are on. In verse 14, it considers the laying on of hands of the Elders to bear and bring forth the spiritual gifts within us. I remember this very well, moved by such spiritual force and crusade, I knew then, without a doubt that I was called to serve. Through prayer and supplication, I asked God to reveal my gifts and ways in which to best use them.  I found my passion in planning and developing practices that benefited the church and glorified God, as well as the deep care for others. 

Having recognized this, I have put my best intentions and strengths to work, giving 100% of my efforts  dedicated to the call of God’s work through the ministries of the church. Verse 15-16 instructs us to do this with outward measures for all to see, again setting that example. God acknowledges our work and deeds that glorify Him and serve His people, and His reward is ten-fold, which flourishes our desire to persevere and receive God’s extraordinary blessings. 

Go and hear God’s voice. Act on it. Set the example as a faithful believer for his glory. Model to the world what ‘a heart for God’ really looks like, and preserve always!

Here are a few songs for your spiritual listening pleasure and Advent meditation:

Alive & Breathing – Matt Maher feat. Elle Limebear (Lyrics) – YouTube

Start A Fire – Unspoken – Worship Video with lyrics – YouTube

Confidence- Sanctus Real (Lyrics) – YouTube

Who You Say I Am – Hillsong Worship [Lyric Video] – YouTube

PRAYER

Lord, let your voice ring loud through my praises that I would feel your Spirit move within me. Show me Lord, the way to be an example as your faithful servant and your beloved child.  Your blessings are abundant and your love is unconditional, because you know my heart. Open my eyes to see myself and others through your eyes. I persevere because you are my rock and you uphold me with your righteous hand.  May I always act on your precious love, grace and mercy! In this, I pray in Jesus, our Savior’s name.  AMEN.

Kris

Choose Light!

Today’s Reading:  Click Here  –  Psalm 148; 1 Kings 3:5-14; John 8:12-19 (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)   brave

As 2020 rolls to the finish line and a new year awaits, we reflect on all we have experienced; a deadly virus, lock-downs, isolation, mask wearing, unemployment, shootings, BLM protests, a presidential election, and our own personal experiences on what this year has revealed.  As winter frigidly arrives, we find ourselves still experiencing the darkest days of the year, we can rest assure that scripture sustains us and faith remains, even in darkness as a child of God.  Christ proclaims He is the Light of the world. He promises us that as Christ followers we have the Light of Life before us and within us, as our scripture passage today (John 8:12) declares.  What a gift to be shared in these dark and uncertain times.

Jesus’ claim to deity throughout the scripture, demands a response. A response of obedience by following Him.  (James 1:22, John 14:23, 1 John 2:17, Matthew 7:24, Proverbs 10:17) .

As we enter into a new year, this usually warrants some resolutions laced with challenges, and this year brings  its  own alterations rooted by our unsettled and disturbed world.  We read in our 1Kings passage today that, when Solomon was beginning his reign as King, he was seeking guidance.  In a dream God asked him a question, “What shall I give you?”  Wow!  How would you respond?  He could have asked for anything, but in his faithful love for the Lord, Solomon humbly requested an understanding mind, and the ability to discern between good and evil in order to govern well.  What an inspiring and direct request with such a simple plan, to govern well.   We too can pray for that same wisdom that Solomon asked for, the wisdom to live well in these new ways of living that has plagued our nation and is required of us all, when we can step back into our life of normalcy, whenever and whatever that may be.  Until then, we have a choice to seek God’s strength and wisdom in all situations to see the LIGHT ahead, keeping it in focus, always.

A friend shared with me this week that as upsetting and unbearable that 2020 has been, she reminded me of the importance of focusing on the blessings and presence of God.  They are there, we just have to look a little harder for them.  Her heart embraced the blessings of finances, good health, a warm house, return to a job she loves, mind-blowing technology to worship online and keeping in touch with family and friends. This brought me to do the same, looking back through the year to see God in the midst and through every dark corner. I am grateful and blessed.

Today, being December 31st, 2020 , we approach the end of one race as the beginning of a new race unfolds before us, just like that!   We have a choice to make, a choice to choose how we plan to step into the new race of the new year ; with demise and regret from the past, OR  with eyes wide open ready for whatever lies ahead with confidence and trust in an omniscient God with one step and one day at a time?   Bring on 2021, we can AND will prevail!  Our Lord Jesus goes before us and prepares the way through the darkness, with an illuminating Light that we cannot deny.  May we undeniably trust in Him as if it’s the first day of the rest of our life, secure in the Light of the World!  Immeasurable faith, hope, peace, joy and love to you in the coming New Year! Choose Light!

Here are a few songs for your spiritual listening pleasure and Advent meditation:

‘Let The Light In’ by Kari Jobe

‘Best News Ever’ by Mercy Me

‘All Things New’ by Big Daddy Weave

‘Day One’ by Matthew West

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, as we close out this year, sadly being so apart, we light a candle and give thanks for all the gifts and blessings received: health, safety, support, love, family, friends and our forever gracious and loving Lord of Light.  In this new year, may our faith and spirit be renewed to sing praises to you, Lord, who loves and guides us towards your Light.  Light of Life, thank you for your ever saving grace. May we be the bearers of your Light and grace throughout the new year, now and always. In the name of our Lord Jesus, we pray this and so much more. Be still our hearts, AMEN.

Kris

Peace Begins With Me

 Today’s Reading:  Click Here  –  Matthew 2:1-12  (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Looking at our scripture passage today, it tells the story of the Wise Men and their travels far and wide to see the King of the Jews, and how they responded with adorning joy, pure worship and extravagant gifts, which is quite a different approach we may see these days. Often, one may expect God to come looking for them, to explain Himself, prove who He is, and give them gifts.  But those who are WISE will seek Him and worship Him, NOT for what they can get but for WHO Jesus is.

It was the acknowledgement of a future king that the wise men sought after the news of a king born in Bethlehem, and presented exquisite gifts. These gifts symbolized Jesus’ identity and what greatness He would accomplish;  Gold was a gift of royalty; Frankincense was a gift of deity; and myrrh was a spice used for anointing a body for burial.  They brought gifts and worshiped Jesus for who He was, even as a baby, born in stable.  The true essence of worship is honoring Christ for who He is and being willing to give Him all that is valuable to us.  As the perfect almighty Creator of all,  He is worthy of the best we have to give.

Just like the wise men were warned by God to not return back the same path traveled after finding the baby Jesus, we too may be called to take a new direction or path in life when we experience and find Jesus, one that is responsive and obedient to God’s word. A path that is most rewarding and full of life. A new life we choose when we acknowledge, trust and follow Jesus.

As we come into our final week of Advent, and Christmas is just days away, we light the Advent candle of PEACE and we recall what the angels proclaimed “Peace on Earth” when the Baby Jesus was born. Today, we wonder, as we listen to the evening news, is peace really possible? I believe it is and that two kinds are of peace exist and are needed in our lives; inner peace; peace of mind, heart and soul. The second being an outward peace; peace with others.  Through scripture, God addresses both and He tells us how to acquire and experience them.  

Inner peace hinges on our trust in God (Matthew 22:34-40)  and begins with a personal relationship with Jesus. (Make it personal). As we cultivate our relationship and faith, exchanging our weaknesses for His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9),  we can cling to God’s words from Isaiah 26:3, and personalize it ;  “[God] will keep [me] in perfect peace as my mind is devoted to Him and I fully trust in Him.”  

Perhaps, inner peace is eluding you these days and anxiety is spilling over in your life.  It’s no surprise given the circumstances and situations all around us that we all seem to be experiencing, this year especially.  We have to CHOOSE to trust God and draw from His source of power for patience and wisdom to move forward as He guides us through our maze of life. And when we CHOOSE to trust Him in those blind corners of anxiety, stress and worry, we can begin to experience inner peace as he leads us down that road.  Choosing not to trust Him can create a downward spiral to disaster, unsettled stress and discontent.  Inner peace is there for the choosing when our heart and mind aligns with what God’s word confirms. Various forms of training, techniques, or practices such as, centered prayer, meditation  breathing exercises or journaling are just some ways to help settle our mind, heart and soul as peace sets in.

The Second kind of peace mentioned is defined in Matthew 5:9,  “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God”.  God has called each of us to be peacemakers in our world. This is no easy task, but when we understand what God is calling us to do, we can accept and embrace this call to love others and bear peace in broken relationships, shattered lives and our imperfect world.  Don’t miss the blessings that God promises to us when we respond to His call to be a peacemaker, bearing peace, one heart at a time.  

With our attention on being a peacemaker and wondering what does that look like, I am reminded of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.  

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me show  love; Where there is injury, show pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; and Where there is sadness, joy… Divine Master; Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Be the source of peace and light in a darkened world that so desperately needs more Jesus, and with more Jesus, He is our perfect and unfailing portion of love, hope and peace to share with the world. May the HOPE, LOVE, FAITH and PEACE that is born on Christmas day, be the REASON for the season to celebrate the birth of our Messiah, Eternal Savior, Almighty Son of God, Good Shepherd, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace.

Here are a few songs for your spiritual listening pleasure and Advent meditation:

‘Peace Has Come’ by HIllsong Worship

‘Glory – Let There Be Peace’ by Matt Maher

‘Light of the World’ by Lauren Daigle

‘Christmas Offering’ by Casting Crowns

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, regardless of our circumstances or our situations, you offer us peace that surpasses all understanding, now through the Christmas season and always, no matter what our chaos or situation bids us otherwise.  Lord, keep us in your perfect peace as our hearts and minds are secure in your love. We look to you for our guidance, wisdom, hope and peace this day. We pray this and so much more in our mighty Savior, Jesus’ name. AMEN.

 Merry Christmas, Kris

Preparing THE Way

Today’s Reading:  Click Here  –  John 1:19-28 (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Last week, we read about Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, who both were with child, and that Elizabeth’s son was to be named John and that he would be great. In our passage today, we discover that greatness that was foretold, of one to ‘Prepare the way for the Lord.’ (Matthew 3:1-3).  As he baptized the people, the leaders kept pressing John to say who he was because the people were expecting the Messiah, but John only emphasized WHY he had come, which was  ‘to prepare the way for the Messiah,’ thus, the Pharisees missing the whole point. In wanting  to know who he was,  John would prepare them to recognize who Jesus was when he came.  John baptized with water – he was merely helping the people perform a symbolic act of repentance, that soon, one would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit, truly forgive sins and save the world, something only the Son of God – the Messiah- could do, and John was preparing the way.

We are in the third week of Advent, the ‘Wonder of Love’. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without love. In fact, Christmas wouldn’t even exist without God’s love!  In John 3:16-17 we read:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Christmas only happens because God gave his son, Jesus, so that the world could be saved and our relationship with our Heavenly Father be restored.  And right now, we feel that we live in a world that needs to be saved today.  I’m not just talking about covid, or politics, but about each and every one of us as individuals.  You see, every human being was created by God with a plan to love and to be loved by Him.  But along the way, the entire course of humanity became tainted, God was ignored and people went their our own way – it’s what we call “sin”, and sin separates us from God and from the real meaning of life, which is to love God and to be loved by Him. 

God SO loves you and me, more than we could ever imagine. That’s why he sent Jesus, to save us from that unintended separation. We were created to be with God.  Jesus died for our sins, took our place so that our broken relationship with God could be restored.  And He didn’t just stop there – he conquered death and rose again – so that every person who believes in Jesus can have eternal life and be with God forever, even after our human bodies have passed away. This life on Earth is temporary.  Just like a woman’s womb is a temporary home for a baby until it is born into this life, not meant to remain there forever.  We too are not meant to remain here forever. God wants each of us with him in eternity.

And that is what we celebrate at Christmas, the birth of Jesus, who came to this world to die, so that we could be saved. And Jesus only came because of God’s LOVE for us, created in His image.  This love, taught us to love one another.  Amazingly, we are God’s treasure and if we follow Him, He is truly ours.

Love consists in this: “not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10). “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8).

If we  want to know how to love one another, we can look at the love that sent Jesus to earth to live a life of love and pay the price for all of our sins.  THAT is LOVE in the purest form.  This isn’t a love of fancy words and impossible tasks. This is a love that says, ’I am willing to love you no matter what.’  We CAN love BECAUSE He first loved us!  The way has been prepared!

We express that no matter what the church tradition, we can assuredly know that virtues such as love, hope, peace, joy, and faith are important in the Christmas story as well as in our daily walk with Christ. Whichever we celebrate on whatever Sunday in Advent, we realize all of them are important hallmarks of the Christian faith and the focus is Love this week, known as the Message Candle, as a time for one to convey LOVE or thank those special some ones during this Advent week.  

            Share: a special Christmas memory.

            Encourage: one who is struggling this season, point them to Jesus.

            Evaluate: if your heart set right to love people the same way Christ loves you?

            Pray: for wisdom and direction to strive to be ‘righteous in God’s eyes’.

            Search: for LOVE so amazing this Advent week.

Here are a few songs for your spiritual listening pleasure and Advent meditation:

“The Light of the World (Sing Hallelujah)’ by We the Kingdom

‘O Come, All You Unfaithful’ by Sovereign Grace Music

‘Miracle of Love’ by Chris Tomlin

‘Make Room’ by Casting Crowns ft. Matt Maher  

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, you have always been all about LOVE, Love pure Love. Your precious gift of your Son Jesus was of that pure love. Keep us safe from the thieves who come to steel the message of love, joy, faith, hope and peace at Christmas.  For you have taught us to LOVE one another from this Holy Night and always.  May LOVE be what fills our hearts this Christmas and every day.  Amen.

Kris

Resources: lifeway.com/Matt Tullos /Festival.church/Kerry Perry

Let FAITH Be Born In Me

Today’s Reading:  Click Here  –  Luke 1:5-25 (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

We have entered into the second week of Advent with our attention centered on ‘The Wonder of FAITH.’  Our passage today paints a picture of one being ‘righteous in God’s eyes.’  Zechariah and Elizabeth were well into their years and without children. They remained faithful in following God’s laws with an outward compliance stemmed from their inward obedience that was from the heart, hence being called ‘righteous in God’s eyes’.  They were chosen to fulfill the prophesy and  promise of a Savior. They would bear a child, name him John and he would be great, set apart for a special service to God, and prepare the way for the Messiah.  It was here, when Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, both righteous in God’s eyes, were pregnant through the miraculous will of God, that Elizabeth’s baby, while still in the womb, rejoiced at the news of a Savior, Jesus. Luke 1:39-45:  A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town  where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth.  At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s baby leaped within her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.  Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.  You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, we experience and witness answered prayers and God’s mighty work within and around us with a ‘Right Heart’ to be open to what God can do IN impossible conditions, and wait for God to work in His way and in His time.  Waiting on God can sometimes make or break our faith,  but when our hearts are right and tuned in to His promises, we realize that faith AND waiting go hand-in-hand.

One waits to hold their newborn child.

Some wait for their prodigal child to come and return home.

Many wait for that much needed job.

Countless wait for an eye-opening spiritual breakthrough.

All are waiting for the healing of our land, spiritually and physical, the hope of a Savior.

We all wait for something. It is the genuine embodiment of faith. We are to remain faithful in our waiting. Advent IS about faith and waiting.  What are you waiting on God for right now?   I’m sure most of us have the same prayerful mindset as 2020 looms to an end, anxious to put it all behind us. Waiting for a new day that will shine God’s light with healing and restoration.

As we recall the years of silence as God’s people waited for the Messiah, take time today, right now, to reflect on the fact that God’s timing is quite different from our own.   When we recognize this, it eases the restlessness in the waiting and the rejoicing becomes that much more exuberant, which then fortifies and enriches our faith.

The story of Jesus’ birth gives us assurance and joy because even though the waiting lingered for decades, God broke through at just the right time, fulfilling prophesies and promises, bringing hope and eternal life!

Are you struggling with a questionable faith?  That’s OK. It doesn’t take much faith to get God’s attention. In fact, he is always right there, just waiting, waiting for you.   Jesus encouraged his frustrated followers this way: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Our mountains are our struggles, fears, doubts, challenges, even our sins.  Every single one of these can be overcome by the faith we cultivate, the condition and claim of our heart, and the relationship we nurture and make personal with Jesus.

It’s our nature to start big, to try to grow a forest, so to speak, in one day.  Jesus, however, invites you to begin with a tiny seed.  Watch it grow and wait for it to become all that you dreamed it would be. Let faith be born in you, nurture it and watch it soar within your heart.

Today, examine how waiting affects you. How do you do in the waiting?  Share with a friend or family member something you are waiting for.  This opens a channel of communication through the waiting.  Encourage someone you know who is weary and waiting to remind them of God’s promises, and wait together.

Evaluate and take inventory of your relationship with God.  Are you struggling with His silence?  Are you open to a life eclipsed with His goodness and direction, with an understanding that requires a relationships with his Son Jesus?  He want’s nothing more than for you to open your heart to Him, to be the center of your life. What do you have to lose?  Actually, a lot, because it’s worth it all, it’s worth the waiting. Always. Every day is the perfect day to take that first step, and  the rest just falls into place and faith grows.

I’m often quite impatient with my life. I rush to fill my time and thoughts with all things good that bring glory to God.  I seek the Lord’s precious and gentle examples that teach me to enjoy Him and not just the blessings in these days filled with laughter and joy, but also through seasons of hardship and uncertainty.  I am reminded to start and end each day with a ‘Right Heart’ that is attentive to the One who loves and leads me in this Advent season, now and every day!  Right your heart today and wait… wait on God to fill your soul with the love and compassion of His son Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Be born to FAITH, this day.

Here are a few songs for your spiritual listening pleasure and Advent meditation:

‘While I Wait’ by Lincoln Brewster

‘Let Faith Arise’ by BridgeCity

‘Give Me Faith’ by Elevation Worship   

‘Born Is A King – It’s Christmas’ by Hillsong Worship

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, little did I know I needed a savior, until that day I opened my heart and Jesus was there. Faith was born in me that day. In every moment of every season, there is a purpose for me.  Let my eyes be wide open and my heart be right in relationship with Jesus,  to cherish and grow that faith born in me. I pray in this moment of waiting for the stillness of the season to cover me with a gentle caress of God’s perfect goodness. In the name of Jesus, our King and Prince of Peace. Amen.

Kris

Resource: lifeway.com/Matt Tullos

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