Sharing Life

Twentieth Day of Advent

Isaiah 40:9-11
“9You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,c
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10See, the Sovereign Lordcomes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.”

To attain knowledge of the grace of God in our lives, yet remain silent is impossible. This grace, so precious, can not be merely bottled up within ourselves. We must “lift up [our] voice with a shout”. Compartmentalizing environments where a individual’s faith is proclaimed not only destroys their walk with God, but defeats the purpose of the gospel. It’s God’s breath in our lungs, so we might glorify his righteousness to all. Yes, I did say all. Not just to those who are easy to love, but all. Pouring out declarations of God’s goodness bears joy. By testifying you share life. To know there’s a God who dearly loves and cares for all changes everything. Go and alter people’s preconceptions about our mighty Lord and savior.

With love,
Madeline Senter

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Prepare the Way

Nineteenth Day of Advent

Isaiah 40:1-5 (NASB)
“Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God.
“Speak kindly to Jerusalem;
And call out to her, that her warfare has ended,
That her iniquity has been removed,
That she has received of the LORD’s hand
Double for all her sins.”

A voice is calling,
“Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness;
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
“Let every valley be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
And let the rough ground become a plain,
And the rugged terrain a broad valley;
Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
And all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

What glorious words with which to announce the coming of the LORD!
What is more comforting than to know with surety that one’s sins, transgressions, and iniquities have been removed. Ironside tells us, “Double for all her sins” is a commercial expression. If a property was mortgaged for a debt, a notice spelling out all the conditions, including information of the lien-holder, would be posted on the doorpost. When the lien was fulfilled, the notice would be folded up, doubled, and tacked in place to indicate that all the conditions of the mortgage had been met.
What a rich picture of my life! I am a sinner; the Lord has given His life to meet the requirements of God to erase my sin. Now He has declared me cleansed!
But that is not all. This good news is available to all; it must be shared! The hills and valleys – what a vivid picture of Jerusalem where one must climb to go both to and fro; what an apt description of each person’s life with all its stumbling blocks – will be leveled to make possible the entrance of this GOOD NEWS, in the Person of Jesus Christ – His incarnation, His substitutionary death, His resurrection and ascension, His coming again.
That is my role, your privilege – to remove the hindrances that impede the advance of the Good News, the KING, from coming near to each one within earshot.
The KING is coming. He came as a child and a suffering Servant; He will come as KING and Judge. How can I best share this good news? How can I help to make the way level for His coming?

Anna Kingsbury

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A Child Will Lead Them

Eighteenth Day of Advent

Isaiah 11:1-10 (NIV 2011)
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD – and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and the little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner over the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean.

Financial problems, chronic pain, emotional hurt – these struggles seem to intensify as Christmas approaches. We wonder if God’s promises of peace and joy are out of our grasp. However, God has a plan bigger than we can imagine. These are days to look at our lives through the lens of our eternal tomorrows. Judah’s problems made God’s promise of a Messiah seem impossible. Life for God’s people in Judah held destruction, pain and hardship. Had God forsaken them? No, God had a plan bigger than they could imagine. The promise of a Messiah from the family line of David, son of Jesse was good because God is faithful to His word. As a tree stump grows shoots of new life after a fire so new life would come from God’s people. The Messiah, Jesus Christ would bless the people with the peace of God and transform their lives.

The Messiah’s peaceful rule will one day transform the earth. A day is coming when the wolf, leopard and lion will no longer hunt the lamb, goat and calf. A small child will be safe with wild animals and snakes. What God has promised, He will do. Looking to the future we have every reason not to fear, every reason to be peaceful, joyful people. He is able to transform your anguish into peace. This Christmas will you begin to look at your days through the lens of all your glorious eternal tomorrows?

Barbara Reaoch

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A Child Will Be Born

Seventeenth Day of Advent

Isaiah 9:2-7New American Standard Bible (NASB)
2 The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.
3 You shall multiply the nation,
You shall increase their gladness;
They will be glad in Your presence
As with the gladness of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
4 For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.
5 For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult,
And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.
6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

So much hope resting on the birth of a child. This child is light to those in darkness, freedom to those in bondage, and justice to the oppressor; no earthly king could shoulder such a burden for long. Maybe for a season, with great feats of diplomacy and military maneuverings, a king could usher in brief peace and expansion, but to bring lasting peace from this time forward and forevermore it would take infinitely more that a man with the right earthly heritage, but the King Eternal. The Father did the unimaginable, he sent his Son Emmanuel, God with us, to do what no earthy king could. He sent the Extraordinary Strategist, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. Even more shocking is that the Father accomplished all this in Jesus not because of some lofty merit of our own, or stupendous faithfulness, but out of his own devotion to his people!

Oh thank you Father for sending your Great Light; your Son given to us!

Danny Panter

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With Us

Sixteenth Day of Advent

Isaiah 7:10-14 (ESV)
“Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And Isaiah said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

Listen! A conversation at the far end of the water conduit: Arrogant king; Obedient prophet; Almighty Lord God.

God’s bidding: “Ask for a sign – no boundaries!” Ah, but that means deferring to HIM in submission, trust. So, in false humility (disobedience), Ahaz refuses. Isaiah waits… even he feels the affront to The Almighty: “You weary my God!”

What happens next shakes the universe, deep as sheol… high as heaven…

A child. A name. Immanuel. “God With us” Did the angels gasp? “I am coming… to be ‘with’ you.”

Yes, God would come. Creator taking on the confines of the created, to be “with” in a way never before known.

Face to face. Skin to skin. Rubbing shoulders with all that His Nature abhors. Perceiving the torrent of emotions that inundates our senses, threatening to sweep us away.

In desperate moments I have cried out, “I want only you, God.” He whispers: “Immanuel, dear child.” “With me!” A verity that fills my deepest longing and sways me to Him in submission and trust.

The babe in the manger? His identity, God with us, must shake our personal worlds daily. If it does not, perhaps, we “weary our God.”

Susan Kaminski

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Ecstatic Joy

Fifteenth Day of Advent

Psalm 89:1-4 (Message)

1-4 Your love, God, is my song, and I’ll sing it!
I’m forever telling everyone how faithful you are.
I’ll never quit telling the story of your love—
how you built the cosmos
and guaranteed everything in it.
Your love has always been our lives’ foundation,
your fidelity has been the roof over our world.
You once said, “I joined forces with my chosen leader,
I pledged my word to my servant, David, saying,
‘Everyone descending from you is guaranteed life;
I’ll make your rule as solid and lasting as rock.’”

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one…” Psalm 89:3

“Jesus Christ is the object of everything, and the center to which everything tends. Whoever knows him knows the reason for everything.” –Blaise Pascal

“I’ll rise and fall with you, ’cause you can’t fail me now.” –Joe Henry

There are and will come again times in our lives when we’re stricken with a suffering that we can’t surmount. These trials don’t exist in vacuums: they always pull back the curtain to reveal our ever-present and profound dissatisfaction with the world and ourselves. The psalmists are certainly no strangers to this, and they groan under their imperfections while waiting for God to fulfill His climactic promise to their people. Yet, in the midst of their agonized waiting, they also can ecstatically rejoice in the love of God. As Psalm 89 shows us, this is because they cling to the words of God’s promise, Whom He will reveal as Jesus, His divine Word made flesh. Christ, through His own sorrows, transfigures the psalmist’s earthly pain into heavenly joy, and He does exactly the same for us. By inviting us into his life, Christ also invites us into His suffering so that He can freely lead us into His happiness. Right now He is waiting to transform our tears into glories. Let us wait in faith and love with Him, so that we might fully know Him.

Garner Richardson

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Leap in to Action Mode

Fourteenth Day of Advent

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (‭James‬ ‭2‬:‭15-18‬ NASB)‬‬‬‬‬‬

“Put your money where your mouth is.”
Cambridge Dictionary says about this phrase “to show by your actions, and not just your words, that you support or believe in something”.
James is saying the same thing about a Christian’s faith. Statements about faith in the Gospel message are important and good, but what evidence is there to support those words of belief? Are there actions to back up what is said?
In the movie “Batman Begins”, at the climax of the story, Rachel Dawes asks Batman, “Wait! You could die. At least tell me your name.” Batman replies, “It’s not who I am underneath (the mask), but what I DO that defines me.” And as Rachel realizes that Batman is her friend Bruce Wayne, Batman turns and leaps off the roof to go into action mode.
Now James does not say our works define us, but they do give substance to our professed faith.
James is saying in effect to us “you say you have faith? Good, put your works where your faith is..take a leap in your faith and go into action mode.”

Tony Gerloff

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Be still…

Thirteenth Day of Advent

Psalm 46:10-11 (ESV)

10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The current culture has conditioned us to think and believe that waiting or being still is unproductive. There is an immense demand to always be on task and shortening the “to-do list”. We feel this tension in restaurants, traffic jams, and grocery stores. To a degree, we all “hate to wait”. We have come to believe that waiting is a waste of time.

Scripture teaches that waiting is not wasting when we are still (waiting) before the Lord. Why? When we are still and quiet before the Lord, we begin to discover and understand more about Him. We become aware of His Deity and Authority. The scope of His Rule and His Reign becomes clearer and larger. Finally, we are convinced of His Goodness (He is near and present) and His Strength (we are safe and secure). “Be still, and …”

Scott Lane

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Forever Family

Twelfth Day of Advent

Galatians 4:4-7 The Message (MSG)

4-7 But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.

Two years ago, my daughter Kate and I had the privilege to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa and work with an organization called the Door of Hope, a group dedicated to taking in abandoned children and loving them until they are placed with a “forever family.” Each time a child is adopted, a celebration takes place. Photo displays of happy children and excited families cover the walls in the baby houses. The process is a beautiful illustration of God’s love—the kind of love Paul is addressing in this passage. Paul is explaining that the Gentiles, because of the arrival and work of Christ, no longer needed to wait for someone to find them a forever family. The rights and privileges of being called a child of God were extended to all, despite the conditions of their birth. The same is true for all of us today: once we accept this gift of grace, the Savior of the world calls us His child, and we can intimately call him Abba, Father, Papa, Daddy. As in Johannesburg, there are millions today who have been abandoned by either an earthly parent, or the world in general. As we prepare to celebrate the Nativity, let us pray that we, as believers, will serve to be a Door of Hope, introducing those in need to an eternal parent and forever family.

Laura Aten

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Just Believe

Eleventh Day of Advent

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18 NASB)

It has always been easy for me to define myself by my works. If you perform well one day, you have done well; if you perform poorly another day, you have not done well. This works-based thinking easily pours over into our spiritual lives if we aren’t careful. Have you ever felt further or nearer to God based on your works? I do, quite often. The gospel seeks to destroy a works-based lifestyle. John 3:16 will utterly ruin a legalist. Think about how the Pharisees (exemplary legalists) felt in John 6 when they simply wanted to know how to perfectly perform the works of God. To their inquiry Jesus essentially replies: “Believe.” That’s it?! All I have to do is believe? Reliance on your works will only get you so far. Reliance on His work will get you to heaven. It’s no longer about how faithful you can gather yourself to be; it’s about how faithful He is. It’s no longer about how hard you try to know Him, but about how much He knows you. If you change your perspective, then your entire life will change. You will find more freedom than you have ever found. Jesus’ answer is: just believe.

Chris Butler

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