Weekly Verses…

Weekly Verses…

Monday

This is what the Lord says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
 —Isaiah 43:16 and Isaiah 43:18-19
New International Version
THOUGHTS ABOUT TODAY’S VERSE…
The year is gone, finished, past.  We cannot reclaim it or undo it.  We cannot rest on the things it has brought us.  If tomorrow dawns, it will be another day, a new opportunity, and the time to show our faith in Jesus as Lord.  Let’s journey forward, knowing that God already inhabits the future and promises to provide us refreshment.
MY PRAYER…
Lord of all eternity, please help me to learn from my mistakes but not dwell on them.  Please help me not rest on my accomplishments in this past year, but use them to further your work in me and through me.  Please help me not quarrel with those who injured me yesterday, or last month.  Instead, O Father, lead me in your paths and help me see your mighty works this next year.  In Jesus name and by his power I ask it. Amen.
Tuesday
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17
New International Version
THOUGHTS ABOUT TODAY’S VERSE…
We all like “do-overs” or second chances. God does much better than that! He allows us to become new again. Being the “God of new things” he can even make us new. Beyond forgiveness, beyond cleansing, he makes us holy through Jesus. Let’s use the opportunity of a New Year as a springboard to living a life fresh and new and alive to God!
MY PRAYER…
O LORD, thank you for a New Year and a fresh start. Please give me wisdom and strength to serve you with integrity and faithfulness in this coming year. I pray that your work be done in my life as I offer myself, my plans, and my future to you. I pray this through Jesus, my intercessor and Lord. Amen.
Wednesday
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalms 90:12
New International Version\
THOUGHTS ABOUT TODAY’S VERSE…
So often we look up and time has passed us by. The things we promised ourselves we’d accomplish and the deeds we told others we’d do get left undone. Before we know it, days have become weeks, and weeks months, and months years. We find ourselves unable to do what we once assumed we could do any time we want. We must ask the Spirit of God to help us see and seize the opportunities the LORD places in our path.
MY PRAYER…
Father, I confess that so often I leave undone what needs to be done. Please help me see your plans in each of my days and live in a way which not only honors you, but also blesses those you want me to reach. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Thursday
While [Joseph and Mary] were [in Bethlehem], the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:6-7
New International Version
THOUGHTS ABOUT TODAY’S VERSE…
I’ve always been amazed at how God chose to place his Son into our world.  He could have done it any way he wanted.  But he chose this way — to enter the world in difficult times under difficult circumstances as a helpless infant who must be cared for by parents who were vulnerable to so many frailties. Yet in spite of the challenges that lay ahead and the bewildering mystery that confronted them:  Joseph and Mary, along with everyone around them, were caught up in the great joy this new child gave.
MY PRAYER…
Give me a heart of faith, O God, so that I might always see your sovereignty and grace being poured out on me in special ways.  I am thrilled that you, the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe, chose to enter my world as a child.  Thank you for trusting your wonderful salvation to human flesh so we could know that you deemed us worthy of entering our world to make us right for yours.  Through Jesus.  Amen.
Friday
[God] has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8
New International Version
THOUGHTS ABOUT TODAY’S VERSE…
God’s desires for us are not hard to discern.  He wants to bless us with salvation. The incredible gift of his Son is powerful testimony to this truth.  But salvation from sin and death is not something he wants to happen in our lives only once.  He wants our lives to daily reflect his salvation and to share it with others.  We should act justly and pursue mercy in our relationships, and honor him with our worship from a humble heart.
MY PRAYER…
Almighty and compassionate Father, as I embrace this New Year, help my eyes see what your heart sees.  Teach me to hate sin and be merciful to the repentant.  Teach me to know truth and act fairly, while hating abuse and exploitation. Through your Spirit, stir me to reflect on the great distance between your holy majesty and my inconsistent character.  Make me more your child, I pray, in Jesus name.  Amen.
Saturday
Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!  Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless.
Isaiah 1:16-17
New International Version
THOUGHTS ABOUT TODAY’S VERSE…
Do you find it easy to replace service to those in need with religious rituals?  I know I do!  But God wants us to not get so caught up in talking about him and celebrating his deeds, that we forget we’re supposed to care for others like he does. Whether it is Jesus defining his ministry in Luke 4:18-19 or James talking about the kind of piety that pleases God (1:26-27), we must realize true faith is treating others as God would. Today’s verse defines what God does and asks us to live the same.
MY PRAYER…
O Great God of all comfort, open my eyes today to see those who need your love and give me the attentiveness, time, and compassion to serve them.  May Jesus’ work be seen in my life today.   Amen.
Sunday
Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:13
New International Version
THOUGHTS ABOUT TODAY’S VERSE…
When Jesus came the first time, he came to reveal God (John 1:18).  As wonderful, powerful, and gracious as he was in his earthly ministry, it did not fully reveal Jesus our Lord.  Our hope is tied to his return.  When he comes this time, he won’t come to reveal God, but to reveal himself — the conquering Lord, the Rider on the white horse.  Every knee will bow.  And we will see him as he really and fully is, Immanuel in power and grace.  With this as our hope,  we can be ready for active service to our king as people who live their lives under his leadership and control.
MY PRAYER…
O Almighty God, I long for the day when I get to see Jesus face to face coming with the angels in power.  Until that time, fasten my heart in hope to the glory Jesus will share with me on that day, and please empower me to live as one who knows that victory is mine in Jesus.  Jesus, through your powerful name I pray.  Amen.
Devotional credit: Oneplace.com
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Discovering the Advent Season

Discovering the Advent Season

Every year, I plan on buying a traditional Advent calendar to help my family get ready for Christmas.  I like the idea of daily Advent readings that help build anticipation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  Unfortunately, I’m usually busy and forget to buy the calendar until after Advent has already started.  There is so much going on at Thanksgiving, and then the parties start, and before you know it, Christmas is upon us.  The calendar itself is not the most important thing; it’s about what celebrating Advent does for us during a very busy time of the year.

Advent is the season that starts four Sundays before Christmas.  For hundreds of years, Christians have used this season to remember the coming of Christ, and to prepare for Christmas.  It’s more than just a piece of history, though.  So, why do we celebrate Advent?  Celebrating the Advent season can help us today to follow Christ more faithfully in at least three ways.

Advent helps us focus on Jesus.

We’ve all heard the clichés like “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “Let’s keep Christ in Christmas.”  Even though they are clichés, they contain nuggets of truth.  One of the reasons that they exist is that it is just so easy to let all of the activities, and shopping, and parties overwhelm our focus on Jesus.  Celebrating Advent gives us daily and weekly reminders through Scripture about who Christ is and what He did for us when He came to earth.

Advent helps us honor Jesus.

The word “Advent” means the arrival of someone or something important.  When an important event like a graduation or wedding is coming, we work hard to make sure everything is perfect.  When an important person is coming to visit, we work hard to properly prepare for them so that they will know they are valuable to us.  We plan the menu and the decorations; we clean the house and edge the lawn.  We don’t just wait until the last minute and throw something together.  Similarly, celebrating Advent helps us give Jesus the proper attention and focus He deserves.  By focusing on Him throughout this season, and not just on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we honor Him more faithfully.

Advent helps us remember Jesus is coming again.

Advent is not only a celebration of Christ’s first coming as a baby; it is also a reminder of Jesus’ return that is yet to come.  Just as God’s people awaited the first coming of the Messiah, His people now await the return of our Savior.  The four weeks of Advent remind us of both of these comings.  In weeks one and two, the Scripture readings look forward to His second coming and remind us of the importance of being prepared for His return.  Weeks three and four look backward and help us remember the excitement and expectation that the hope of the Messiah brought to the ancient Jews.  It has always been important for God’s people to remember that God is up to something, and that we need to live in expectation of what He will do when He comes again.

In our world, there are so many things that can occupy our attention.  The Christmas season is one of the most exciting times of the year, but it is also one of the most distracting seasons of the year.  Even for those who want to keep focused on Jesus, it is difficult to do so.  By celebrating Advent, we acknowledge that celebrating Jesus is more than one evening and the following day.  The ‘how’ to celebrate Advent isn’t as important as the connection you make with Him, so create special traditions as a family and grow in Him together.  Let us be a people who acknowledge God’s great love and generosity for his people every day this Advent season.

Devotional credit: Dayspring.com

Simple Advent Activities for Your Family

Simple Advent Activities for Your Family

I often think of the crazy holiday season countdown as a great big package we tear into (earlier and earlier!) every year. It’s bright and flashy, but we don’t find a whole lot at the heart of it.

And then there’s Advent.

Advent is like a small and carefully-wrapped gift that invites us to open it slowly, day-by-day, to discover new treasures inside each year. It’s the quiet, magnificent story unfolding beneath all the shopping and celebrating. It’s the real journey that will still be beautiful and true when everything else passes away.

This is the story I want my children to be swept up in.

They love anticipation and discovery; They love creating and celebrating.

I want to help them pour that God-given energy and excitement into the stuff that truly matters.

If you’re looking for some simple, meaningful ways to celebrate a special Advent season this year, read on. Find a few easy Advent activities that feel right for your family, and give them your personal touch! Starting your own Advent traditions is a wonderful way to celebrate the marvel of the season.

Start simple.

Hang a traditional Advent calendar that includes Scripture near a busy place in your home. Let children take turns opening each day, and spend a few moments talking about the message that’s revealed. Or place a small dry erase board orchalkboard in the kitchen to keep track of how many days until Jesus’ birthday.  As simple as it seems, even taking a few moments each day to shift our focus toward the One we’re truly celebrating can make a big difference.

Pray each day.

Have the kids decorate a prayer jar, box or basket. (Check out our Bible journaling craft supplies for some great inspiration!) Cut 24 small slips of paper and sit down together to fill them out with names, situations and even parts of the world you want to pray for. Set it in the middle of the dinner table or living room, and have a child draw one out each day of Advent as your family gathers to pray.

Shine your light.

Set out an Advent Wreath, and take a moment to light one of the candles each Sunday during Advent.  Talk about what it might look like to shine God’s light in the coming week.

Then consider putting His love into action with a weekly family outing to bless someone in need. It could be a nursing home visit, flower delivery, or a grocery store run for a homebound neighbor. Make a reverse advent calendar collection box and add one new item each day or week to donate to a food pantry or other organization. Get the kids involved and see what creative ideas they come up with!

Have some fun.

Our family doesn’t have the magical plush toy that shows up in some houses at the holidays, but we do love to have fun with our Shepherd on the Search. We hide him around the house each day of Advent, and he makes his way to the manger on Christmas Eve.

Create your own advent calendar countdown.

Make an advent calendar together for a personalized way to count down. Gather some supplies and give the kids a few hours one afternoon to create their version of a Christ-centered Christmas countdown. There are no rules; it can be as simple as stickers on paper, or elaborate as a colorful clay sculpture. Talk with them about how we each have a special journey to take, and theirs is unlike anyone else’s. Remind them how much God delights in walking with us every step of the way. Allow their creativity to guide you through the Advent season as you draw inspiration from their homemade advent countdown.

Go all-inclusive.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive guide for the season, there are some wonderful advent devotionals that include Scripture, devotions and activities for your family to share. One of my favorite Advent books is Ann Voskamp’s “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.”

No matter what, remember that every little step we take toward the heart of this beautiful season matters: every meaningful conversation we share, every prayer prayed together, every act of kindness that shines His light. Don’t let the celebration of Advent become another burdensome thing to check off a holiday to-do list. Pray about your plans; do what’s right for your family in this season of life, and enjoy the journey of a Christ-centered Advent celebration together!

Devotional credit: Dayspring.com