JOHN THE BAPTIZER
“ The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
Watch closely: I’m sending my preacher ahead of you;
He’ll make the road smooth for you.
Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight.
John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.
As he preached he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”
At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice, “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.” Mark 1:1-8 (Message)
Prayer: Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives: through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
THE PERFECT GIFT
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. ‘“ Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
This time of year many fret over finding the perfect gift for their loved ones and friends. Hours upon hours are exhausted searching, waiting for the perfect gift, name brand gift. This year, how about giving the most awesome name brand gift of all—God? Isn’t this the awesome gift any of us can receive? Then why don’t we share His gift with others? Aren’t we disciples of Christ?
Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) We have been instructed to go and make disciples. It is not an option, but a command to all who call Jesus “Lord”. It is our greatest commission. So, can you think of a friend, a loved one, or someone who has walked across your path who has not accepted our Lord, Jesus Christ as their Savior? Why not give the gift that keeps on loving no matter what—God? Now, that’s the best name brand. What a gift, and the best part is it is free, no gift wrapping necessary.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for rescuing me from the death penalty of living life my way and thank you for restoring me to a relationship with You. Place in my heart one person you would want me to reach for You. Amen
MY ASSOCIATION WITH GOD AND MY ART
“ There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them.” 1 Corinthians 12:4 (NIV
Through my adult life I have found it difficult to separate what I do from my relationship with God. Back in the days when I was deciding what I wanted to do with my life, back in my “university days,” I found the Good Lord was always coming into the deciding. There were never any great lights, voices or sensational happenings, only the very true feelings He needed to be a part of whatever I decided to do.
Certainly he was with me quite closely in my twenty some years in the Lutheran ministry or my people, I and God couldn’t have accomplished all we did in His kingdom. Likewise, now that I use the artistic talent he gave me and for which I earned a BFA degree at Wittenberg University, I constantly thank Him for it. In this artist’s life God is still a constant companion as He would be no matter what we decided I should do. Art is a skill given by Him and I always relish the use I can make of it.
Prayer: Dearest God. Thank you for guiding me on my journey to become all that you intended for me to be. Help me to continue to discern my gifts, and give me strength to follow your will. Amen
THE GIFT OF FAMILY
“ We do not need to write you about having love for your Christian family, because God has already taught you to love each other. “ 1 Thessalonians 4:9 (NIV)
As we prepare for the baby Jesus to be born into the family of Mary and Joseph, I find myself looking at my family and tanking God for the blessing of this gift to me. Beginning with my grandparents, parents, sibling, husband, children and spouses, and grandchildren,, I am in awe of the blessings I have felt through these people. I see how my life has been shaped by each of them. We have shared good times and bad, happy and sad.
When we moved back to Ohio our home became the gathering place where the holidays were celebrated. Family from far and near would come to share these special days. Our family bonds were forged even stronger through these times. The amazing thing is that everyone gets along with each other. We simply enjoy each other’s company.
Throughout the years we have held together to face whatever situation arose. The cares of the world may come and go, but nothing will destroy the strong bonds of our family. I realize this family togetherness is not always the case, and I often pondered why I have been so fortunate as to have been blessed with such a gift, This poem is one that I found in Amish country a few years age and it sums up my feelings very well.
Is a circle of strength and love.
With every birth and every union, the circle grows.
Every joy shared adds more love.
Every crisis faced together makes the circle stronger.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for the gift of families. Be with us each day as we share our lives with each other. Grant us guidance through our daily lives. Help us to rejoice in the good times and grow together in the difficult times. May our home be a sanctuary where love and peace is felt. Thank you for watching over us. Amen
SERVANTS OF GOD
“The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that God chose her to give birth to His Son. Mary responded, saying, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38 (ESV)
Mary accepted her role with pride, not thinking she was better than other women. She was herself as a servant of God, as the handmaid of the Lord.
How do we see ourselves as God’s people today? How does our preparation for Christmas reflect our self-understanding? What do the gifts we gift we give and those we expect to receive say about our Christian Life? During Advent we are invited to reflect on our relationship with God in Christ. Do we inflate our own importance? Do we try to make ourselves look good?
Prayer: Dear God, Mary accepted her role as your servant. Her focus was on the savior coming into the world. During Advent let us take some time, even just a little time, refocus our lives on Christ. Let us join our voices with Mary saying, I am the servant of the Lord. Amen
LET THE LIGHT SHINE IN
“The Lord is God and He has given us LIGHT.” Psalm 118:27 (RSV)
My kind neighbor recently gave me this verse and I found it so meaningful that I would like to “share” it with you all:
Ring the Bell while it STILL can ring
Forget the PERFECT offering;
There is a CRACK in everything,
That is how the LIGHT gets in!
I thought of our precious Liberty Bell, ‘cracked” as it well may be.
Then…popped into my head two old Christmas carols-
“Ring, oh ring those Christmas Bells”…and…
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”.
Then… I recalled that in the late 1960’s, country singer, Johnny Cash.
(The Man in Black) recorded the smash-hit song,
“I Saw The Light!”
“The LIGHT shines in the darkness and darkness has not overcome it.” John 3:5 (RSV)
Prayer: In this new Advent season while again waiting for the LIGHT to come, let us each ring our own bell, while it STILL can ring giving adoration to our king! Amen
PRAY IN FAITH
“But when you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all…” James 1:6 (TEV
In James 1:2, James writes to us that whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance (perseverance) has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed you will be strong in character and ready for anything.
Ephesians 6:16 teaches us that faith is a vital part of a Christian’s armor because the Christian’s life is a warfare, a spiritual conflict. Paul teaches us that with the shield of faith “we overwhelmingly conquer through Him.”
How important is FAITH?
1. You cannot be saved without faith—John 3:36
2. You cannot please God without faith—Hebrews 11:6
3. You cannot live victoriously over the world without faith—1 John 5:4
4.You cannot pray without faith—James 1:6
5.You cannot have joy without faith—1 Peter 1:8
6.You are to live by faith—Galatians 2:20
7. You are made righteous by faith—Romans 10:1-4
8. Christ dwells in your heart by faith—Ephesians 3:17
9. The Holy Spirit is received by faith—Galatians 3:2
10. Whatever is not from faith is sin—Romans 14:23
Faith is important because it honors God, and God always honors faith. So pray without doubting—pray with the confidence and faith that God is able to answer your requests.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see that with faith in You there are no bounds. If we believe, we will receive whatever we ask for. Amen