Thursday, November 30, 2017

Dec 1 - Luke 1:26-27


·         Advent officially starts on Sunday, but …

·         These devotions correspond to kids’ advent prayer chains from church (which start Dec 1)

·         Below is my normal devotion

·         Plus … scroll down … there’s a kids’ devotion

·         Plus … there’s family discussion questions at the end

·         How-To Advent Guide sent out yesterday



the angel Gabriel was sent

by God to a city of Galilee

named Nazareth, to a virgin

[whose] name was Mary.

Luke 1:26-27


Adult Devotion …


Angels are spiritual beings. They were created by God to serve God.


Throughout Scripture, humans generally encounter angels as messengers. Indeed, “messenger” is what the word “angel” (angelos) literally means.


·         Lot, for example, received an angel as a messenger – the angel told him to flee Sodom and not look back.

·         A few chapters later, Abraham received an angel as messenger too. In Abraham’s case, the angel told him where to find a ram as a substitutionary sacrifice for his son, Isaac.

·         Daniel – among many others – also received an angel as a messenger. Michael, the archangel, was sent to Daniel as an answer to prayer, but as this angel reports in Daniel 10, his mission and message was delayed for twenty-one days. Why? Because along the way he had to fight his way past a powerful demon (“the prince of the kingdom of Persia”).  


Throughout the pages of Scripture, God frequently used angels to speak to his people. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that when God was finally ready to send his Son into the world, God first sent an angel as his messenger!


That messenger was the angel Gabriel. God the Father sent this angel to a teenage girl in the village of Nazareth. Gabriel would foretell the miraculous birth of a Messiah named Jesus to a virgin named Mary.


Now, in future days, we’ll contemplate this angel’s message. Today, however, let’s stop to thank God for speaking to our world and into our lives.


·         God spoke through angels.

·         And he speaks continually through his Word.

·         When Scripture says that “the Heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1), we are reminded that any- and everything that God created speaks of God’s power!

·         How else does God speak? The first words of Hebrews proclaim that “in many and various ways, God spoke his people of old by the prophets …

·         but now in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son.”


In other words, God speaks through angels, prophets, creation, and through Jesus himself.


As we journey through Advent, are you hoping to hear from God?


I pray that you approach your Advent devotions with listening ears and an open heart. May God speak to you and make you eager for Christ to be revealed more fully in your life.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who has been in

several Hospice rooms

where patients report

seeing angels –

could it be that the barrier

between heaven and earth is

thin at these sacred moments?

could it be that God is speaking

a word of assurance at

these moments through

these messengers?




Children’s Message …


The word “angel” means “messenger.”


Before Jesus was born, God spoke again and again through his angels. For example, God gave answers, directions, and encouragement to people like Abraham and Daniel.


Then, when it was time for God to send his Son into the world, our Lord sent the angel Gabriel to a teenage girl in the village of Nazareth. Gabriel told about the miraculous birth that was to come: Jesus would be born to a virgin named Mary.


In future days, we’ll consider what Gabriel said to Mary. But today, let’s give thanks that God loves us enough to speak to our world.


·         God spoke through angels.

·         He spoke through prophets.

·         He speaks continually through his Word.

·         The wonders that God has created – stars and starfish and you and me – continually testify to His power and purpose.

·         And finally God speaks to us through his Son.


This Advent, I hope that you hope to hear from God!


Questions for Discussion …


1.    How did Mary hear from God two thousand years ago?


2.    What did the angel Gabriel say to Mary?


3.    How do you hear from God today?


4.    What do you think God is currently saying to you?


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Nov 30 - Hebrews 1:2-3


Read Today’s Other Email

Tomorrow We’re Inviting You to Start Advent

Read How



whom he appointed heir of all things,

through whom he also created the worlds. 

He is the reflection of God’s glory and

the exact imprint of God’s very being, and

he sustains all things by his powerful word.

When he had made purification for sins,

he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high

Hebrews 1:2b-3


Advent starts this week! But before Advent comes Christ the King Sunday. In last weekend’s sermon, I centered on Hebrews 1 and focused on the preeminence of Christ. Some asked for this quote. I found it in a John MacArthur piece, but he lists it as anonymous. I’ll present it in bullet-point form because I think it highlights Christ’s majesty even further …


·         [Christ Jesus]

o   came from the bosom of the Father to the bosom of a woman.

o   He put on humanity that we might put on divinity.

o   He became Son of man that we might become sons of God.


·         He was

o   born contrary to the laws of nature,

o   lived in poverty,

o   was reared in obscurity

o   and only once crossed the boundary of the land that which He was born

§  (and that in His childhood).


·         He had

o   no wealth

o   or influence

o   and had neither training nor education in the world schools.


·         His relatives were inconspicuous and uninfluential.


·         In infancy, He startled a king.

·         In boyhood, He puzzled the learned doctors.

·         In manhood, He ruled the course of nature.


·         He walked upon the billows

o   and hushed the seas asleep.


·         He healed the multitudes without medicine

o   and made no charge for His services.


·         He never wrote a book,

o   yet all the libraries of the country could not hold all of the books about Him.

·         He never wrote a song,

o   yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all songwriters together.

·         He never founded a college,

o   yet all the schools together cannot boast of as many students as He has.

·         He never practiced medicine,

o   and yet He healed more broken hearts than the doctors have healed broken bodies.


·         This Jesus Christ is

o   the star of astronomy,

o   the rock of geology,

o   the lion and the lamb of zoology,

o   the harmonizer of all discords,

o   and the healer of all diseases.


·         And throughout history great men have come and gone

o   yet He lives on.


·         Herod could not kill Him.

·         Satan could not seduce Him.

·         Death could not destroy Him,

·         and the grave could not hold Him.


·         This is our Christ the preeminent one.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who needs to

learn to look up in

more and more awe!

START ADVENT TOMORROW: How-To Guide Attached!!!!

Advent is the Season of Preparation

for the coming of Christ.


Starting tomorrow, we’re encouraging you

(and your family) to begin praying together.


Here’s why … How many of you have said,

“This world is getting crazier and crazier,”

and “My life is getting busier and busier”?


If you’re tired of it, it’s time

to put a stake in the ground!


For twenty-four Days leading up to Christmas, intentionally reject the crazy busyness of the world and invest 5-10 minutes with your family, slowing down and letting the peace of God fill you.


Below is a potential Advent prayer service you could use. (It’s also attached in PDF form.) I really encourage you to spend 5 minutes a day.


·        My daily email devotions will match the prayer chains that families made last Sunday

·        But you didn’t have to be at the Advent Festival to do the devotions! Devotions are devotions!

·        Each day in my devotions you’ll find the normal daily devotion … and below it, will be a simpler version for kids and families.

·        Either way, scroll down to the bottom and spend a minute or two to answer a few questions to stir discussion and draw you deeper.


Here’s a devotional outline …


Advent Prayer Liturgy

m a y   b e   d o n e   a s   a n   i n d i v i d u a l   o r   a s   a   h o u s e h o l d


G a t h e r i n g


you may mark yourself with the sign of the cross


We gather … in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Advent Wreath

as you light the wreath, one person may pray

or this may be read responsively


O Lord, be with us as we gather around this evergreen wreath.  

Stir up thy power and shine your light into the darkness that is in and around us. Amen.


O P E N I N G    P R A Y E R S


Pick one or more elements.

Options that fit your household.

Offerings to help you worship in a manner

(timely enough) that you will continue to pray daily.


Where Have You Seen God Today?

Invite those who gather to recall and share where

they’ve seen the presence of God at work this day.


If it is morning …

Luther’s Morning Prayer

leader may pray it or all gathered may pray together

I give you thanks, heavenly Father, through your dear Son Jesus Christ, that you have protected me through the night from all harm and danger. I beseech you to keep me this day, too, from all sin and evil, that in all my thoughts, words and deeds I may please you. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all that is mine. Let your holy angel have charge of me, that the wicked one may have no power over me. Amen.


If it is evening …

Luther’s Evening Prayer

leader may pray it or all gathered may pray together

I give you thanks, heavenly Father, through your dear Son Jesus Christ, that you have graciously protected me through this day. I beseech you to forgive all my sin and wrong which I have done. Graciously protect me during the coming night. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all that is mine. Let your holy angels have charge of me, that the wicked one may have no power over me. Amen.


Advent Prayer

can be spoken or sung

Come, Thou long expected Jesus

Born to set Thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us,

Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,

Hope of all the earth Thou art;

Dear desire of every nation,

Joy of every longing heart.




Look for daily reflections from the church

(or find a set of Advent readings for you own use).


C L O S I N G    P R A Y E R S


Pick one or more elements.


Personal Prayer

One person may pray spontaneously and aloud,

or each individual may be given a chance to pray.


Alternative or Additional Prayer

one person may pray or this may be read responsively


God of Love, Your son, Jesus, is your greatest gift to us. He is the King of Creation, the Savior of the Nations, and a sign of your gracious love.

As we wait and prepare for his coming, remove our heart’s defensive armor and help us walking in your love. Amen.


The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.





one person may speak this on behalf of the household

or you may speak it together and to one another …


The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine on you

and be gracious unto you;

the Lord look upon you with favor

and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26


Prayer of Compassion

as we go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord,

the leader may pray or you may pray responsively.


O Lord, open our hearts to those who have so much less than we do; those whose lives are so full of pain that they cannot see the light of your love.

Show us how to carry that light to other people. Amen.



Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Nov 29 - part 2 - 2 Corinthians 7:1


Since we have these

promises, dear friends,

let us purify ourselves

from everything that

contaminates body and spirit,

perfecting holiness out

of reverence for God.

2 Corinthians 7:1


Do you remember The Beverly Hillbillies?


It's a classic fish-out-of-water comedy. Kentucky Hillbillies discover oil, get rich, and move to the foreign planet of Beverly Hills. 


Occasionally, the old country wisdom of the Clampett family is worth savoring ... and when I say yesterday's graphic -- with words from 2 Corinthians 7 -- I remembered an old Beverly Hillbillies quote. In the spirit of "Let us purify ourselves," consider the wisdom of Granny ...  


Many a time we’ve been down to our last piece of fatback. And I’d say, “Should we eat it, or render it down for soap?” Your Uncle Jed would say, “Render it down. God will provide food for us poor folks, but we gotta do our own washin’.”


God will provide ... but we gotta do our own washin.' Therefore, "let us purify ourselves."


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who's discovered

that when I take a step

-- like working to

purify myself --

God will take two steps

... helping me do it!


Monday, November 27, 2017

Nov 28 - 2 Corinthians 7:1


Since we have these

promises, dear friends,

let us purify ourselves

from everything that

contaminates body and spirit,

perfecting holiness out

of reverence for God.

2 Corinthians 7:1


Good people do NOT go to heaven!


That’s a provocative statement. But sometimes you have to be provocative for people to hear the truth.


Of course, among all those who go to heaven, some are “good” … but … it’s not on the basis of their goodness that they get in. In the formula for salvation, “we are justified by God’s grace … effective through faith … apart from works prescribed by the law.” That’s the formula for salvation that the Apostle Paul starts laying out in Romans 3:23. And it clearly says that it’s not our works – our goodness (or badness) -- that save us.


So what does save us? It is (1) God’s grace when it is coupled with (2) our faith (and not our goodness or our works). Therefore, it is not “good people” who go to heaven; it’s faithful people who go to heaven. Indeed, it is our faith in Christ the Savior which links us to the salvation our Lord Jesus won for us on the cross.


So does our goodness matter?




In fact, today’s verse reminds us of this. Scripture repeatedly calls us to “purify ourselves.” And “holiness” is invaluable. Not only does it bless our lives, but it’s a form of worship. We should strive to be holy – it says – “out of reverence for God.”


Indeed, we should love him and his ways more than the world and its ways. “Since we have [all of Christ’s] promises [and blessings],” we should love God more than ourselves and our selfish desires.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants to

borrow Christ’s goodness

… not try to manufacture it

on my own


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Nov 27 - Psalm 27:1


The LORD is my light

and my salvation —

whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the

stronghold of my life —

of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1


Look at that word "stronghold."


Typically Christians, especially those of a more charismatic stripe, use the word stronghold to talk about spiritual (even satanic) bondage. To find the common meaning of this term, I typed "stronghold" into a search engine. Here's the first quick explanation I found ...


·         "The devil and his army of demons look for and know how to find the chink in our armour, to enable them to get a toehold, then a foothold, then a stronghold and then a stranglehold in people’s lives. ...

·         "A stronghold is a false view of God and a false view of ourselves, which is not according to God’s word.  It is a set of beliefs or collection of ideas ... which is not of God and which is not the truth and so therefore by default consists of lies." (from a site I don't even know - Truth in Reality)

·         What does this tell us? Satan's minions continually sew falsehood to draw away us from God, and the lies that we choose to believe put us at great risk. They cause us to compromise in areas of attitudes, beliefs, morals, etc. When we bind ourselves to these lies and vices, these corruptions and deceits become a stronghold, a spiritual/mental prison, that is hard to escape.


Do you like that definition?


Have you experienced it in your life?


Well, whether you use the word “stronghold” to define the deceptions that confine you or not, it’s a valid concept. We’re all prone to be tripped, tricked, and imprisoned. But … that’s not how today’s Psalm uses this word!


Here the Psalmist celebrates that his stronghold is the Lord! What does that mean? Well, use the preceding definitions … except substitute words like truth for lie and freedom for imprisonment!


·         God wants to be a holy stronghold. The Creator and his angels look to deliver us from evil by shoring up the chinks in our armor.

·         A holy stronghold is a true view of the truth God. It’s also an accurate view of ourselves – made in the image of God … but on our own, sinful and unclean.

·         The lies that we choose to believe put us at great risk, but “the truth,” as Jesus said, “shall set you free.”

·         Lies compromise our attitudes, morals, and beliefs. Truth guards us, protects us, breaks the chains of corruption, and sets us free.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants

a stronghold –

a foothold on the

beachhead of truth