Advent Devotionals 2009
This is the sixth year we have offered these Advent Devotional Guides. They have become one of the traditions of the Advent season here at Lexington Avenue Baptist Church. These devotional guides would not be possible without the dream that Evelyn Crooke had six years ago now.
Each year, Evelyn finds writers and volunteers, and also takes the time to type each day's devotional with great care. I'm certain, were I to try, I could not guess the number of hours she has put in to this gift of love each year. And that is precisely what these devotional guides are for Evelyn—a gift of love to help enrich the Advent season for each of us.
Though she has shunned any attention to herself, and has protested greatly our focus on her this year, I think it quite appropriate and fitting to dedicate this year's Advent Devotional Guide to Evelyn Crooke, a faithful servant of Christ.
The season of Advent is always a meaning-filled time in the life of the church. We reflect on the coming of God's son into this world and into our lives. We discover a richness in unlikely places like a quiet animal-filled stable. We find light in the dark nights where shepherds watched over their flocks. We are reminded of the gift that has been given to us, even as the magi bring their gifts to the Christ child. And in the words of the angel we find hope—'Peace on earth!'
This Advent devotional booklet is written by people like you and me who, like the rest of us, are on a journey toward the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love that the season of Advent brings.
In the days leading up to the celebration of Christ's birth, use these devotionals to enrich your journey. May the fullness of God be yours this year.
Fourth Week of Advent: Love
Christmas Day, Friday, December 25
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30 NIV
Love is a spark —
How much does God love us?
God loves us enough to give us millions & millions of sparks.
Each one of us was made with a unique electrical system.
One spark gives us one heartbeat!
In 3 or 4 years we use over a billion!
What will we use our sparks for???
Saying a kind word to our neighbor we only wave to and don't know?
Taking a stray or lost animal to a shelter?
Donating a dime or dollar to a charity unknown to us?
Finding a moment to write a thank you note?
Calling that ''person'' you would rather not talk to?
Taking care of others before we take care of ourselves?
Celebrating our soul and our spirit?
Praying for our enemies?
Getting closer to God by knowing God?
And God gives us a lot of other things to go along with those sparking heartbeats.
Take a minute to think to yourself what those other things might be.......
How many did you come up with? .....
How much does God love you? .....
And the ultimate question, ''How much do you love God?''
Prayer - Dear Lord, please help us to live for you with each and every heartbeat. Forgive us when we fall short. Let us seek your help and guidance as long as you give us life. Let us not forget you. Amen.
Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24
And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7
Christmas Eve has always held a sense of majesty and mystery for me. As a child Christmas Eve was the culmination of days of waiting to open presents from family and friends and to look forward to the arrival of Santa Claus. The anticipation was hard to contain and it seemed as though I just couldn't stand the sweet tension of that anticipation. But there was always something special in waiting for Christmas Eve.
As an adult, I have not lost that sense of majesty and mystery. I still have a sense of anticipation. I look forward to different things and I experience different emotions, but the anticipation is still there.
Today, as you prepare for the traditions that you and your family observe this day and tomorrow, linger for a moment and experience that majesty and mystery of God who has come to you through his son Jesus Christ.
Prayer: God, I celebrate the birth of your son, Jesus Christ. Fill me with your grace and allow me to experience the joy of your love. Amen.
Wednesday, December 23
God's Unfailing Love
Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NCV)
'Call failed.' 'Unable to connect to server.' 'Please leave a message after the tone.' These are messages that evoke a number of reactions from mild irritation to full-blown panic depending on the urgency to connect with someone or something. How often do we experience failure in our attempts to reach others when we need them? But the Bible tells us that there is One from whom we are never disconnected. His connection to us never fails.
Centuries ago, Paul wrote with absolute certainty the words found in Romans 8:38-39. He was unshakeable in his faith in the unfailing love of God despite the fact that he spent a great deal of time on the wrong side of the law because he dared to speak out loud of God's love and saving grace. If anyone had a right to feel disconnected, it was Paul. How could Paul be so sure of God's love under, what for us would be very discouraging circumstances? Perhaps it was the knowledge that God, Creator and Ruler of the Universe, stepped down from His throne, made Himself into the form of His very own creation, a tiny, helpless baby and in so doing brought upon Himself all of the heartache that being born into this world can bring. He then by His own choosing took our death and made it His own so that we could be with Him forever. In light of the countless times that we have fallen so terribly short of His righteousness, why would He do that? The answer is quite simple. God is love, He can do no less. And nothing can ever change that.
Prayer: Loving God, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior, help us to remember that nothing can separate us from your unfailing love. Help us to freely and joyfully share your love with those around us. Amen.
Tuesday, December 22
Love never ends. These three things continue forever: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13
Who do I love? I love everyone including my Lord.
What is love? Love is Passion given to us by my Lord and our friends and family.
When do I love? I have always loved and my love comes from deep down in my heart.
Where do I see love? I see love in other people, pets, friends, pretty Christmas trees, objects like a favorite blanket (my gigi), ocean and fish, plants, and my new shoes.
How do I show my love? I love by telling and showing others, giving time to my family and friends, by attending Sunday School, and Worship Service, and by my baptism at LABC.
If I didn't have love in my life, I would be an uncaring person. I would be bad, sad, and curious to know what it would be like to feel love.
Prayer: Dear Father God, I pray for constant love in my heart for you as well as others. I pray for my family and friends who exhibit their love for me. I thank you for your goodness, kindness, and great faith. Amen.
Monday, December 21
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
Genesis 3:15 is generally considered the first scriptural prophecy of Jesus Christ. According to those who hold this view, the element of God's love for mankind is introduced/implied in that verse since Christ, God's only child, was to be sacrificed for mankind's salvation and only a Godly love could effect such a drastic circumstance.
Strangely, however, in the Creation accounts of Genesis, there is no mention of God's love toward any part of His Creation, including people. The scripture indicates that God pronounced each part of the Creation as 'good,' except for the Creation of the animals and man, which He said were 'very good.' The element of love is finally mentioned much later in Genesis but it was not God's love for mankind; rather, it was love that existed between individuals. Later, Moses alluded to God's love in Exodus 15:13.
By the time of Genesis 6:7, when God had not expressed love for mankind, God became so disgusted with mankind that He decided to wipe out all living creatures, including people, because of their evil. The obvious observation, on the accepted basis of Genesis 3:15, would seem to be that Christ would have entered the picture at that juncture to effect salvation if that element had been in God's mind before the 'foundation of the world.' It didn't happen. Instead, along came Noah and God changed His mind. Noah walked with God and God indicated that he and his family would be spared because Noah was righteous. Love was not mentioned.
God's idea, of course, involved a new beginning. What He had created in His image had failed miserably but in the ensuing years His people became as wicked as before to the point (Exodus 32:10) that God decided to eliminate at least the Israelites and begin anew with Moses. It didn't happen. God changed His mind again, with a bit of help from Moses.
Somewhere along the way, God felt love toward the people He had created and for whom, in all their goodness or evil, He was totally responsible, just as a parent is responsible for the creation of a child. However, no matter how much God's love and care for His people intensified they responded by disobeying/disgracing Him. God reacted with stern discipline, just as a parent often does. Nothing worked.
According to scripture, God did not again contemplate destroying the people He had made. His love had become so great that He determined to save them, instead, and make them perfect so that He could commune with them in His own perfection. Accordingly, God changed His mind, inculcating mercy instead of justice. But just as mercy for whole populations was bought with blood-sacrifice in WWI and WWII and other more recent conflicts, mercy in God's plan involved blood-sacrifice--His.
People have some understanding of the love they feel for each other, but could never hope to comprehend even remotely the cosmic, divine love of God expressed in His own atoning for the millennia of wickedness of His own Creation by sacrificing a piece of Himself - His own son, Jesus. This, then, is the Love that comes down at Christmas - unfathomable, unbending, unending.
Former Member of LABC
Sunday, December 20
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. I John 3:18 (NIV)
I live with a family that loves animals. Our four girls have asked for every pet they see or can think of. They have written persuasive letters to try to plead their case. They have tried to bring hamsters, turtles, dogs, and other creatures into our home. I have always sent them back to where thy came from. I have to admit I have never been an animal lover. I would even say that I am scared of most animals, even the pet caterpillar and baby turtle they tried to get by with. To me, having a family pet was another responsibility that I would be left with that I couldn't even write off on my taxes. So that was my standing argument, 'We will get a pet when it qualifies as a dependent or is tax deductible.'
There have been a lot of tax laws passed and changed this year but none to this effect. So how did I end up with a dog? For fourteen years I gave them every excuse possible. Well, this year I ran out of excuses. It started with, 'I'll think about it.' and ended with going into the pet store to 'Just look'.
Inside the store we immediately spotted a rambunctious little dog that has a face only a mother could love. Something came over me when I looked into his big brown eyes and then the pleading eyes of my daughters. I couldn't say no. I had easily told them no many times before without hesitation but this time was different. What was it about this little dog? We brought him home that very day. He instantly became a part of the family. To everyone's surprise I fell in love with Brownie as he was previously named. He became my shadow, my constant companion.
Some days he drives me crazy and I start to question why I ever agreed to allow a four-legged, hairy, little creature into my home. I've asked myself many times if it was worth it, for instance while buying new glasses for my husband because I evidently have a seeing eye dog or while throwing away my favorite flip flops that had become doggie dessert. I guess sometimes there is a price you have to pay for love. Through it all, I continue to love my 'Brownie'. Sometimes if you open your heart just enough to consider something you can obtain a greater love than you ever thought imaginable.
Prayer: I thank you Lord for giving me forgiveness even though I am a sinner. Soften my heart and help me to extend to others that same love and forgiveness which you have shown in all your grace and mercy. I love you Lord. Amen.
Third Week of Advent: Joy
Saturday, December 19
But the angel said to them, ''Do not be afraid." I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Luke 2:10
The fabulous news is for us as well. We have been sent a Savior; he is Jesus Christ!
Sometimes I go on a news fast - a period of time where I do not listen to TV news. I give myself a break from being bombarded with bad news. How often is our society's daily news worthy of the description: good news or news of great joy?
Nehemiah 8:10 says, ''the joy of the Lord is our strength.'' We become weak when our joy is stolen. John 10:10 says, ''the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.'' Jesus came that we might have and enjoy life. In what ways does the enemy steal your joy? When he steals our joy, he takes our strength and renders us ineffective. Joy stealing is a sneaky tool!
Through our struggles we sometimes lose our joy. Where do we go to have it restored? Where can we find our lost joy? Psalm 16:11 states, ''you will fill me with joy in your presence.'' The place to go is right into the presence of God. As we start to praise him and just be with him we find our joy in the purpose and power of Jesus in the midst of the problem.
As we begin to really understand from what and to what we have been saved we will experience joy restored. ''God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.'' 2 Corinthians 5:21. Now there is some good news!
Prayer: Dear God, thank you that''you are our joy and salvation.'' And because of your boundless love for us, our joy can never be taken away. Amen.
Friday, December 18
Joy. What is it? Is it a toy at Christmas time, a new baby brother or sister, getting all 'A's on a report card, or maybe even getting to meet the famous star, Robert Pattison. Stop and think about it for a minute. The things I just listed were happiness. There is a difference between joy and happiness.
Happiness is something you can choose to have. Joy is a gift from God, a piece of our heart. Joy is something we will treasure for now and forever. It is what makes every person equal. We will never run out of joy. It will always be with us. We will rely on it. Go back and ask yourself, 'What is joy?'
Joy, it's with you all the time whenever and whereever you go. Joy could be when you get something you've really been wanting, or when your favorite team wins. I was filled with joy when we got our dog, Casey. Joy is not always a feeling we get when we get something we want. Joy is what happens in our lives when we are surprised by God. Joy is also with us when we are worshiping God. So just remember that Jesus brings you joy all the time.
Thursday, December 17
Christmas Joy, WOW!
'But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.' Habakkuk 2:20
Christ is born! Often, when I think of Jesus' birth, I see the Star of Bethlehem shining brightly, but peacefully, in a clear, almost blue, moonless night sky. All the earth is held quiet, timeless, at His birth. Where I get this image I do not know, probably from a Christmas television special, such as, 'The Little Drummer Boy,' or pictures from a favorite Christmas book, of which, I was fond.
However, we all know that Christmas can be anything but quiet, restful and peaceful. The first Christmas wasn't very calm either. Angels PROCLAIMED His birth; shepherds went HURRYING to see the Christ child; and Mary and Joseph, perhaps late getting into Bethlehem, resigning themselves to sleeping (if they could) in the place where the manger lay.
Today, the true celebration of Christ's birth has many competitors for our attention: work pressures, shopping for that right gift, our own health, other 'holidays' and commitments. Where can we find the joy of Christmas in all this busyness? Right in the center of God's will. Take time to be still, to be silent, to listen for God's voice, and to feel His presence. Let the love of God flow through you in the quietness. Let Him turn your mourning into dancing. Feel the joy of being Christ's this Christmas season and take it with you all the long year through. 'For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.' (Galatians 5:22)
God rest ye merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born upon this day,
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy!
Prayer: Stop me, Lord. Let me be still. Fill me with Your presence. Let me hear your voice in the stillness. I come open to You now. Amen
Wednesday, December 16
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Matthew: 2:10
Every year people write me saying how much they dread Christmas. Often their complaint stems from how busy they will be, or how much money they will spend.
Did those wise men who journeyed hundreds of miles across the desert to seek out the infant Jesus ever feel that way? After all, it took months to make the arduous trip, and they had gone to great expense to provide gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the new child.
I doubt it. In fact, as their journey neared its end we read they had 'exceeding great joy.' What made the difference? Their focus was totally on Jesus, the One who would be called 'Immanuel, . . . God with us' (Matt. 1:23).
Don't let this Christmas season overwhelm you. Don't feel you have to do everything, or go into debt just to impress other people. Focus instead on Jesus. Take time every day to read the prophecies of His coming, and the wonderful story of His birth. Make this Christmas one of 'exceeding great joy'!
Submitted by Alberta Moynahan
Tuesday, December 15
'This is the day which the Lord the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.' Psalm 118:24
Keeping track of monthly activities and events, a calendar on the front of my refrigerator is marked in red keeping me informed and on track of daily schedules.
However, before filling in the dates, the blank days remind me of God's forgiveness - He offers us a clean slate. He throws away all of our old record.
We need not wait until the month's ending to seek forgiveness; we can ask for and receive pardon every day, every hour, every time we fail or disappoint our Lord.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to confess and repent of my many wrongful sins. Teach me how to pray and then to listen for your answers and for your loving guidance in my life. Amen.
Monday, December 14
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:8-11
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. As a child, we had very little. Being one of nine children, we wore used clothing and ate off our land. We didn't know we were poor, because everyone in our neighborhood lived as we did. We had no news media, so our world was very small. We had nothing more to compare our living conditions to.
We had no Christian training. Our parents went to church and dragged us along occasionally, but there was no Sunday School Class, nor Children's Church for us to attend. Sitting in 'big church' was no fun and the service was long with singing and preaching that a child could not understand - usually a three-hour service with a lot of squirming from the children whose parents didn't allow them to run wild outside the church building. Hungry bellies were pacified with a saltine or Graham cracker.
In spite of everything, our parents made Christmas special for us. There was always great excitement for several weeks leading up to The Day! On Christmas Eve, we sat by the chimney knowing that Santa would be arriving during the night. We listened expectantly for the sound of bells jingling, hoofs or footsteps on the roof. Christmas usually meant new toys for each of us. We could count on games in our stockings, such as 'bob' jacks, pick-up-sticks, balls, dominoes, Old Maid, Authors, etc. There was the time we also got fresh fruit and candy from the store. If we were lucky, we just might get a 'store bought' item of clothing. We expected no more than this. Birthdays were not celebrated, and this was the only time of the year that lost items/games were replaced. Even now I can vividly remember those long days before the holiday and the anticipation of something special.
Yes, we were aware that it was Jesus' birthday, but had no concept of the true meaning of Christmas. It was not until I was in college that I had the opportunity to learn about Jesus and why He was born. That knowledge transformed my joy as well as me.
I still love Christmas and I still have the same anticipation, but with a different kind of joy. Now, it's the joy that the angels announced to the shepherds, the joy promised by Jesus when He said, 'I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.' My joy is made complete by my relationship with Jesus, the One born that night so long ago. How grateful I am that God sent His Son on that special day that we may have eternal joy in our hearts. Let us enter this Advent season knowing that this isn't about giving and receiving gifts but about the celebration of our Savior's birth.
Prayer: 'Precious Lord we thank you for the joy of Christmas. Let us be aware of the true meaning of the season, today and always.' Amen
Sunday, December 13
REJOICE WITH EXCEEDING GREAT JOY
'Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.' Psalm 30:5
Dr. Tommy will tell you that I am NOT a technically-gifted person. He is always fixing my computer. He, Gail, and Angela are constantly in my office trying to figure out 'how in the world he got it jammed up again!'
Well, yesterday I messed up my computer - again. I was trying to copy CD's for a Christmas Ensemble, and could not get it to work. And, of course, yesterday was a Monday - Tommy's day off. Angela is not in on Mondays. Gail was busy, but tried to help me as much as possible. I worked on it most of the afternoon, until I was exasperated, and finally just had to quit.
Last night was not one of joy. I worried and fretted all night long about that silly computer. I had trouble sleeping, trying to figure out what I had done wrong. It was not a fun experience.
Oh, but then came this morning! Angela was in the office when I arrived, came to my aid, and had it all fixed in less than 20 minutes! I made my copies, mailed them out this afternoon, and all was well. It may have been a bad night, but in the morning my joy was restored. The ironic thing about this experience is that the names of two of the songs on the CD were, 'Rejoice with Exceeding Great Joy' and 'Celebrate the Joy'!
The Hebrew people had to wait through 'a long night' for the Messiah to be born. Mary, Jesus' mother, had to go through 'a long night' of labor and delivery before she could experience the joy of holding her baby boy. If you are having a difficult time, hold on. Things may look dismal right now, but God knows of your need, and will deliver you from the darkness.
Prayer: May God give to you the JOY of Christmas morning, and may His love light up your day. In the name of Jesus. Amen
Second Week of Advent: Peace
Saturday, December 12
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not let it be afraid. John 14:27
This verse regarding peace really speaks to my heart. ''my peace I leave with you'' became a big part of my life in May, 2004, as my husband suffered a stroke. I thought my world was coming to an end that day as the rescue squad took him to Lexington in a comatose state - unable to communicate. We were allowed to enter intensive care only a few precious minutes every three hours. I prayed so much for God to give me peace as I spent time in the hospital chapel alone with God pouring my heart and crying out ''Why''? On my first visit, I found this little prayer which gave me peace and it has meant a lot to me:
Do not look forward to what might happen tomorrow.
The same everlasting Father who cares for you today,
Will take care of you tomorrow and every day.
Either he will shield you from suffering, or he will
Give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at Peace, then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.
I am reminded each day of this peace God blessed me with in my life, because God gave me unfailing strength to bear this situation and miraculously gave me my husband's life back, for which daily I thank Him.
Prayer: Lord, please help me each day to be deserving of the peace you have given me and help me never to forget your unfailing Love and have Joy and Hope for our future. Amen.
Friday, December 11
Brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall always be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11
In the realm of our world today peace seems to be distant. Our economic conditions are unstable and Americans seem to be unnerved. Challenges face our economy and financial system. This has led to an economic recession and financial disruption.
We face many challenges throughout life, but we need to take a moment to reflect what we can do to have peace within ourselves. We need to have a strong commitment to God; this can be on a daily basis within ourselves. Showing our love and commitment not only to God, but to our families, friends, and those in need. I tend to think of this more during the Advent season, but this should be a choice we make daily.
During this Advent season let's open our minds and hearts and let God's love, guidance, and caring shine throughout the year and within ourselves.
Prayer: Dear Lord, let me have a caring attitude, a righteous life, and live within your spirit. Amen.
Thursday, December 10
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Peace has a variety of meanings. It can mean freedom from or cessation of war. It may mean public security as a result of law and order. It can also mean harmony, concord, and undisturbed state of mind, serenity or tranquility.
On the basis of any of the meanings, the absence of peace is very obvious in our world today. According to recent reports there are at least forty wars now in progress! Several of these wars have been in progress for many years.
While peace is free, wars are very costly! World War II cost more money than any war in history. That was minor in comparison to the cost of lives. Seventeen million combatants died. Civilian deaths were much greater, the total being at least thirty-five million!
At the same time we know that peace is much more than the absence of military conflict. How can the cost of the absence of peace ever be calculated when you take into account the following areas that are affected: the high rate of divorce, spouse and/or child abuse; in religious denominations, in the work place, in every city, and town with the ever rising rate of crime and even in our churches too often there is lack of harmony?
Is there any possibility for people to experience peace? The type of peace that the angel announced at the arrival of the Messiah, and accompanied by a great crowd of heavenly hosts, Luke 2:13? The answer of every believer is yes! The Bible majors on two aspects of the peace announced at the arrival of Jesus. First there is the peace that comes with salvation; Romans 5:1, 'being justified by faith we have peace with God.' So if you have a personal relationship with Christ, then you have 'peace with God'. That makes it possible to experience peace on a much higher level 'the very peace of God'! The apostle Paul spoke of this in Philippians 4:6-7.
Peace with God and the peace of God qualifies us to experience peace on the highest level and makes us capable of accepting the challenge given by the 'Prince of Peace'. . . happy are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God'. Matthew 5:9.
Prayer: Our heavenly Father, at this Advent season we give you thanks for making it possible to have peace with you and as a result to experience Your peace as we journey through this life. Amen.
Wednesday, December 9
PLEASE WALK WITH ME
If my footsteps tend to wander
From the righteous path I roam,
Lord, please walk with me and guide me
To the road that leads back home.
Please let me feel your presence
Through every passing day,
And though at times I may be tempted,
Help me just walk in your way.
Never let me get too busy,
So involved in selfish needs
That I can't find time for others,
Time for good and thoughtful deeds.
And when my life is over,
Let my friends remember me;
Not for little acts of kindness,
ut for having walked with thee.
Submitted by Hazel Brant
Tuesday, December 8
'Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of you mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that is may benefit those who listen.' Ephesians 4:29
When I was a little child, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work. On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage and extremely burned biscuits in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed. Yet all my dad did was reach for his biscuit, smile at my mom and ask me how my day was at school. I don't remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that biscuit and eat every bite!
When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the biscuits. And I'll never forget what he said: 'Baby, I love burned biscuits.'
Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his biscuits burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, 'Your Momma put in a hard day at work today and she's real tired. And besides a little burnt biscuit never hurt anyone!'
You know, life is full of imperfect things and imperfect people. I'm not the best housekeeper or cook. What I've learned over the years is that learning to accept each other's faults - and choosing to celebrate each other's differences - is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship.
And that's my prayer for you today - that you will learn to take the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of your life and lay them at the feet of God. Because in the end, He's the only One who will be able to give you a relationship where a burnt biscuit isn't a deal-breaker! We could extend this to any relationship in fact - as understanding is the base of any relationship, be it a husband-wife or parent-child or friendship! (COPIED)
Monday, December 7
PRINCE OF PEACE
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulders. And His name will be called...Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Royalty means very little to Americans, but in some places it signifies the privilege of birthright. By virtue of their parents and ancestors, royalty assumes positions of power and authority. It may be largely symbolic, but traditionally, royalty set the rules.
Isaiah characterized the coming Messiah as Prince of Peace because of His birthright. As God's Son, Jesus, had a right to reign over the earth. While many nations have been burdened by the tyrannical rule imposed by royalty, that's not the case of Jesus in God's kingdom.
Jesus came to bring peace to those who would accept Him. He showed us how to live. He made it possible for us to have eternal life. He gave us His life so that we might have peace with God.
Because we put our trust in Him, we have peace now. In the future He will establish a lasting peace, and reign as King of kings (Revelation 17:14).
Prayer: Thank you Jesus, Prince of Peace, for giving us real peace. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Sunday, December 6
The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want . . . . Psalm 23:1a
I am 97 years old and during these almost 100 years, I have suffered many losses in my life. When I was about three years of age my brother who was five died of a ruptured appendix. Shortly after his death, my 18-month old baby brother died of pneumonia. The death of these children devastated my mother and, as a result, she would not let me out of her sight for fear something would happen to me. I was never allowed to do what other children did but lived a very sheltered life.
In spite of this, I graduated from high school and college and became a teacher.
Then I met Jack Gray! Love blossomed and we were married. A baby girl came along and, needless to say, Caroline was the love of our life. When Caroline was 14, my father died and five years later death claimed my mother.
Caroline came to Danville to attend Centre College. After graduation she married and two baby boys were born to the happy couple. In the meantime, my husband, Jack, went to be with the Lord. After his death, I moved to Danville to be near my daughter and grandsons. I joined Lexington Avenue Baptist Church and the JOY Sunday School class and was greatly blessed by the friendly people here.
Unfortunately, this happiness was not to last! Another tragic blow came to my little family; Caroline was stricken with cancer and died within a year or so.
How could this be? How could I survive it? Through previous hardships and now in the worst one of all, I've had many sleepless nights. To find peace, I learned not to count sheep but to talk to the Shepherd. 'Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . . thou art with me'. My Shepherd comforts me and gives me Peace.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the Peace that passeth all understanding. Amen.
Dictated by Ruby Gray
To Evelyn Crooke
First Week of Advent: Hope
Saturday, December 5
And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.--I Corinthians 13:13
This is the time of year when we stop to remember Christmases past. My Christmas memories seem to be all centered around church and family ...Lottie Moon and the annual missions offerings to remind me of children around the world... those Christmas pageants on Christmas Eve in which we all had a part to play, whether in angel wings or bathrobes...Christmas dinner at Grandma's house with Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Dad, six uncles, five aunts, two sisters and twenty cousins ... rushing with my sister to the tree on Christmas day ... the ring that Ernest gave me on Christmas to announce our engagement to be married ... our first Christmas at home with our new baby ...etc....etc.
These memories of Christmas with family and loved ones have given me joy, faith, hope and love, throughout the years knowing that the greatest Christmas gift I have ever received is the gift of God's son, Jesus Christ, who was born that blessed Christmas Eve to live as an example on this earth for future Christians and to save me for eternity with Him.
Prayer: I thank you, Lord, for memories of Christmas that elicit feelings of joy, faith, hope, and love. This inspires us to share your love with other people regardless of their language, race, nationality, or circumstances. Amen.
Friday, December 4
December the fourth was my father's birthday. He died of cancer a few months before I came to Lexington Avenue Baptist Church. I miss him. I remember as a very young child going to a Fairdale High School basketball game with my dad. I felt secure and content, there in the gym with my daddy, and I drifted off to sleep in his lap, to the lullaby of bouncing ball and squeaking sneakers. We would watch many more football and basketball games together, up until the night before he died, when we watched a basketball game on the television in his hospital room.
As much as he liked sports, the most important thing in his life was his faith and his church. We rarely missed Sunday worship services, Wednesday prayer meeting, or Thursday visitation at our church. Dad was faithful to God, the church, and his family all his life.
"And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace," so says Isaiah 9:6, the verse so often quoted at Christmas and sung in Handel's Messiah.
My dad was a good dad, but he was not the everlasting father. Jesus can do for us what no earthly father, no matter how faithful, can do. Jesus is there for us before and after death. Jesus came to live among us and though he died he lives again. Because of Jesus, not even death can separate us from the love of God. And because of Jesus, death will not separate us forever from our family and friends. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—our everlasting father—gives us hope for everlasting life in heaven with God and with those who have gone before. I have hope that I will be together again with my dad and my everlasting father.
Thursday, December 3
December 23, 1983 I traveled to my home in Pennington Gap, Virginia from the University of Kentucky where I was attending college. That night my mother and I sat in the family room watching the Christmas tree lights blink and shine. As we sat in silence she could sense something was troubling me.
In the fall of 1979 I had walked on as a football player at UK. I was the first in my family to attend college. In those days being the first in your family to attempt a college education was not something celebrated with grants or scholarships or guidance programs. Simply put, being first meant I was unprepared in every way and had no one to help guide me through this most challenging time of my life. I began to share with my mother how I felt like a failure.
The day before, the UK football team had lost to West Virginia in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama. This was one of only two times I had made the traveling squad in the past five years. It was my senior year in football but I was not on track to graduate and did not have a plan as to when or how I would ever graduate. Being from Virginia, I was paying out-of-state tuition and had a huge school loan pressing down on my financial future. I had failed at getting a college education. I had failed at college football. I said, 'Mom…I'm a failure and I don't know what I am going to do.'
She said, 'David, no matter what has happened, no matter how you have failed, keep HOPING and DREAMING of what GOD has for your life.' My mother could not help me select a degree program. She could not give me study tips on how to take notes at the university. She was not able to share with me insightful stories about her college experience. In fact the first time my parents ever set foot on a college campus was to see me dress at a home football game my freshman year. The only thing my mother knew about college football, was that I played college football. Amazingly in that moment my mother gave me the one thing that would change everything. Hope. She gave me permission to hope and to dream for what God had for my life.
Now faith is being sure of what we HOPE for and certain of what we do not see.--Hebrews 11:1
This Christmas give someone HOPE for what God has for their lives.
Be The Best!
UK Alumni Class of 1991
Wednesday, December 2
A Wise and Loving Leader
And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. —— Luke 2:1
Heaped high on the end table next to the recliner, where I collapse each evening after my nightly chores, leans a stack of books waiting to be read. Currently the pile reaches halfway to the lampshade, an eclectic blend of two health and nutrition guides, three spiritual memoirs, one best-seller, four education how-to's, and an 800 page historical romance. Some nights just looking at them towering next to me renders me too tired to open a page!
Most nights, however, I choose a book of spiritual nature from which to read a chapter or two before proceeding to a somewhat less exciting education guide. Having recently participated in an on-line professional development class on distributive leadership and in a leadership mentoring group, much of my reading has focused on the qualities of effective leadership.
A recurring theme in several of the books emphasizes the power of telling stories. A good leader, I have learned, uses stories both to inspire and to keep the flames of enthusiasm burning while nurturing a shared vision in people's minds and hearts. After reflecting on the validity of this theory, I realized that this is one of the ways God leads us, too.
Consider the Bible. It is filled with stories that remind us of our rich history as Christians and inspire us to become our personal best. Then think about Jesus. He spoke in simple parables as he presented the fundamental truths of the kingdom of God to his eager, attentive audiences.
As I reflect upon the power of those stories, I'd be willing to bet that, like me, you have some personal favorites. During this season of the year, however, the one I find to be most inspiring is Luke's account of the Christmas story. In just 20 brief verses, he penned a tale of love, mystery, and hope describing how God reached down to us from heaven in the gift of His Son, Jesus. This familiar story challenges me to possess the faith of Mary and to practice the patience of Joseph. It encourages me to trust in a God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
And speaking of tomorrow, I think I'll add just one more book to that mound teetering beside my favorite chair. I'm going to place my Bible on the very top of the stack so that every day I can read a few more chapters and allow the power of God's stories to lead me forward in my life of faith.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the living gift of your Word, your precious Son, Jesus. Lead us and guide us as we celebrate this season and throughout the coming year.
Maureen Moynahan Elwyn (Daughter of Alberta Moynahan)
Tuesday, December 1
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy has he saved us . .. that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5a, 7
From: The Ruth Class
Life is lived with one universal response to many questions. 'I hope so', uttered in genuine emotional response, often serves as the cover for anticipation of good things. We hope to succeed, not fail, not fall, not lose courage, not lose interest, not quit, etc. Our lives are filled with unknown circumstances and undeveloped themes of goals not yet met.
Hope is the unseen twin of every human being. Our daily existence, in a world spinning in many directions, is often held hostage by events over which we have no control and this levitating in untethered space makes us queasy. In looking for something that can keep us in place we often find that hoping for a good outcome is the only emotion available.
Our experience with hope identifies our need to seek some stronger force in our life that can hold us in the tumult that often defines our changing circumstance. Nothing seems to last and change is inevitable as we ricochet from the buffeting that often comes to us in the storms of ruptured status quo existence.
It is, for the Christian and for one who would embrace Christian faith, a comfort to know that hope is not that which is elusive or unattainable. We stand with the generations who have preceded us and proclaim: 'My hope is built on nothing less that Jesus' blood....'and in that profession of faith we move into a deeper realization that our ultimate hope is not in the levitation of space that can be alarming, but in the security of Christ who took upon Himself our limitations and died. His blood covered our past, present, and future inabilities to live in sinless conformity with His will and in that cocoon of promised redemption our hope is realized.
Monday, November 30
The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.
About a week before my eight year old grandson's birthday his mother found him one day sitting in the middle of his bed, head down and looking a little forlorn. She asked Charlie if anything was wrong and he waved his hands in a manner that said 'go away'. So she left and gave him some space. Later that day she approached him about it again. He proceeded to tell her that he was asking God for a baby sister for his birthday.
His mother explained to him that it took nine months to grow a baby and with his birthday only a week away that probably could not happen and also that sometimes those things don't always work out. He had asked his parents several times for this very special gift but nothing had happened so I suppose he decided to take it to the top and put his hope there.
Charlie's 8th birthday was December 7, 2008 and on September 9, 2009 little Josie was born. You do the math!
Actually this isn't such a stretch in our belief system. We believe that a baby was born unto us many years ago. And... He was!
No wonder Jesus said 'Let the little children come unto me and do not hinder them' (Mark 10:14). They have so much to teach us about hope and the expectation of answered prayers.
As a Grammy, I feel very blessed that he knew to take his request to God. My hope now is that he will continue to grow in the Lord and keep receiving all things that pertain unto life and godliness from his benevolent Father and therefore learn about the abundant love that his Heavenly Father has for him and in turn share that love with others.
My hope for you is that you will trust and believe that your Heavenly Father is not only able but is very willing to give unto you all things that pertain unto life and godliness through your knowledge of him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3
Sunday, November 29
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God: for I shall praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.
Psalm 43:5 (KJV)
The above quotation is often attributed to David, the author of many of the psalms. We remember David as the shepherd boy, the friend of Jonathan, the one who spared Saul's life, and the mighty king of Israel.
In spite of these good qualities, David was a sinner. He was an adulterer and a murderer. As a result of his sins, David spent countless days repenting and asking God for forgiveness. Many of the psalms recount David's praise to God for His goodness and mercy.
In Psalm 43:5, David appears to be in a state of depression. However, he quickly asserts that there is hope for him and this hope is in God. The hope David feels results in praise and worship of God.
The four weeks of Advent and Christmas are often times of depression and despair for many people. This may be due to broken relationships, financial difficulties, or the loss of a loved one. These are serious situations and cannot be shoved aside in the blink of an eye. But even in the worst of circumstances, there is Hope because God has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Our Hope is in God!
Prayer: Thank you, God, that we need not be cast down or disquieted. Help us to put our trust in you, knowing that you are bigger than any of the problems we may have. In Jesus name. Amen.