Advent Devotional 2014-Day 11

Suiting Up 

Sonja Hobson

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend. John 15:13

Some of my favorite novels and movies have a common denominator: many take place during times of war in our world’s history. There is something awe inspiring and romantic about hearing the stories of those who have gone before and put their life on the line for some greater purpose. Likewise, isn’t it exciting to see someone in the armed forces all geared up for duty, looking sharp and ready in a uniform? Maybe some of you have had the experience of putting on that uniform; strapping on those boots, and mentally preparing to serve your country, and possibly put your life on the line for the sake of freedom for your friends, neighbors, and even strangers.baby-jesus-in-manger

The season of Advent causes us to pause and prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming. But have you ever thought about God’s deliberate preparation before the birth of Christ? God had divinely created mankind in His image at Creation. Mankind chose to step into sin, and became increasingly less and less like that intended image of God. So in God’s plan to enter the world and set us free, He needed to “suit up” in a unique uniform to accomplish this task. He could have entered the world in a blaze of fire, or a mighty wave, or some other supernatural force that would be sure to grab the attention of everyone. No. Imagine the almighty God, full of splendor and glory and perfect holiness, humbly preparing to save His creation by putting on the mortal and weak armor of flesh. He chose to take on our likeness, vulnerable to sickness, temptation, and death, so in turn, we could have the opportunity to be restored someday to His likeness of righteousness and holiness. He chose the humble and dependent uniform of a tiny infant to save those He loved. By putting on this uniform, He declared Himself ready to lay down His life for us.

Heavenly Father, You are the example of the Greatest Love. Thank you for choosing to take on our humble likeness to enter our world and be with us. Help us Lord, to follow your example, and clothe ourselves with humility and love in all we think, say & do. Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 12

Love is Something…  

Roxy Larson

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. GOD IS LOVE. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:15-16

How blessed we are that God so loved us that He gave us Jesus and by His grace we have eternal life. How then do we respond to this “Lord of Love”?

When our children, Kurt, Kristin, and Kelly, were small and in Sunday School, one of their favorite songs was… “Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away; Love is something if you give it away you’ll end up having more!” I cherish the love of Pilgrim Lutheran Church members as they work and respond to our mission of reaching out to those who are in need. The programs are increasing and we all have an opportunity to be involved. As we individually live out the call to love our neighbor, what more love can we give? God has blessed each of us with unique abilities. How can we use them to “give our love away”? And, just imagine, we’ll end up having more!! When we bless others, we are blessed many times over.

planned_givingLord Jesus, help us to know you and to live the joy of your love, today and always. Give us hearts eager to serve you and to reach out to those in need. We give you thanks and praise for your abundant blessings. Amen

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 10

Love Your Enemies

Jennifer Altrichter

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Luke 6:35

As a parent you pray your children are able to make friends and avoid bullies. Our neighborhood is small and has three boys a few years older than Logan. The boys would invite Logan to play, then pick on him and make him the center of their jokes. He would come home upset at times and we would talk about what had happened, trying to solve the problem for that day.love cross

This continued day in and day out. After awhile, my feelings were being hurt. Without getting directly involved I did my best to arm Logan with the strength to handle the problem.

One afternoon the kids were playing games on our porch. I could hear some taunting and name-calling. The “Mommy ” in me wanted to go out and send those boys home. Then Logan came inside and asked if he could share the Jolly Rancher lollipops he had just bought with his own gift card with those boys. Surprised, I said to him, “Wow, you are a much bigger person than I.”

He said, “What do you mean Mom? I told him that he was doing what Jesus would by sharing something with those that had picked on him and that I would not have done the same. I let him know how proud I was and that he reminded me I should be kind to those who are not.

Lord, I thank you for the gift of love. You love us with our imperfections and so we should do the same. Please be with us today and every other so that those kind and unkind will feel your love through us. Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 9

Ten Ways to Love

From the TrueLiving Today Blog
https://truelivingtoday.wordpress.com/

ten_ways_to_love Take a little “Bible Study” time today, reading and reflecting on the ways we love and show love to God and to others. 

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 8

We Love Because He First Loved Us

Mike PelusoGod-Is-Love-Graphic-HD-Wallpaper

When I first set out to read the entire Bible, I consciously searched for one small verse that I could use to guide my everyday life. I found that verse in 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.” Before that, I was quite judgmental and only certain individuals who fit into my own personal set of values, likes, and dislikes were worthy of my love—not “love” in the romantic sense, but rather love in the unconditional sense of being valued as another human being. That verse hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. It was like God said to me, “Just what makes you so special that you can pick and choose who is worthy of love when My love for you and every last one of My children is total, complete and unconditional!?” Wow! What a revelation!

Our son, Scottie, would soon put that commitment to the test. To say that Scottie was a difficult teen-ager is like saying that water is wet! The wrong choice was always the best choice for Scottie. And so it went for six years.

One day God talked to me. Well, I didn’t exactly hear a voice, but God had a loud and clear message for me: “Love this child as I have loved you. Remind him constantly of your unfailing and unconditional love for him. Love him no differently than if he were a model child. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach him about Me and My undying love for all of mankind. Never rebuke or punish him without also reminding him of your total love for him.”

It worked! We followed God’s “instructions” to the letter. Just like the prodigal son, Scottie came around. Scottie now never misses an opportunity to remind us and thank us for never giving up on him, and for never making him feel unloved, even in his darkest, most unlovable moments. We certainly cannot take credit for that. Without the love of God channeling through us to him, it would have never happened. God has again proven that His love for us will never die.

Most heavenly Father, Thank You for the gift of love that You bestowed upon us through Jesus Christ Your Son. Remind us always that it is only through You that we are able to love one another. Teach us to especially love those who are most unlovable, and may we always remember, in the words of Paul, that the greatest of virtues is love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 7

A Parent’s Love

Matt DeBoer

“For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

The best example of love I experience on a day-to-day basis is a parent’s love for a child, especially young children. A parent loves their child when they keep you up at night, when they test the limits, and through every power struggle. Parents are delighted with every achievement, persevere through every failure, and use discipline to rein in what goes astray. Taken in total, parents gladly accept the mundane tasks of cleaning up all of the little messes and scrapes of life for the joy of seeing their child grow and mature over the days and years.

Consider what you would do if a wild animal (insert your worst nightmare here) were to come near your child. You might grab the child and run, or attack wildly with any handy weapon, sharp or dull. In either case, there is no question whether you will risk your life to put yourself between the child and the animal. So, on the one hand, a parent is a nurturing caregiver, and on the other hand a formidable warrior. In that way, a parent’s love for a child is like God’s love for us.

god_is_love_by_liriheart-d4128hnGod watches over and loves us, protecting His children from the threats of an imperfect world. Not that we are never exposed to danger, death, or disease because we most certainly are. But know that God has a plan for you and the ultimate good that will result. God wants us to succeed as Christians, taking joy in our accomplishments and forgiving our frailties. Take comfort in knowing that God embraces you as a parent does a child, and nothing shall separate us from Him.

God our Father, I stand in your presence aware of my imperfections and overwhelmed by your love for me. I thank you that there is no human experience that I might face where your love cannot reach me. Teach me to be content in your love that asks nothing more than the trusting faith of a child. Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 6

Loving the Unlovable

Nancy Haughee

For this is the message you heard from the
beginning: We should love one another
unlovable
let us not love with words or speech but
with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:11, 18

Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves:
do what it says.”  James 1:22

It sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? Love one another. And it would be easy to love one another if everyone was always polite, generous, even-tempered, and kind. However, as humans, we do not live up to that description. We are decidedly NOT always lovable—some of us are that way most of the time.

Is that an excuse to ignore or be unkind to those who are unlovable? Absolutely not! We are directed by God Almighty to love each other at all times and in all seasons—even when we are not so loveable. We are directed to love those who persecute us, those who may lie, cheat, steal, even murder. Jesus is our example in this. He loved us—even the most sinful and nastiest of us—so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment we deserve upon Himself and paying the price God demands for sin. All we have to do is believe that Jesus, the son of God, took our place on the cross, died and rose again conquering sin and death forever.

That is the easy part. The hard part is living out our gratitude to God by truly loving one another in deed and in truth. It is not a “maybe” request—it is an absolute necessity. We cannot do it on our own but with Jesus’ help, spending time with Him in the scriptures and in prayer, we can work at it. The more we look at others through Jesus’ eyes of love, the better able we will be to truly love them and treat them as a precious child of God regardless of circumstances.

Lord God, help us to love one another in deed and in truth as You command. Let us see each person we come in contact with as one of Your precious children, treating them as we would like to be treated. Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 5

The God Chapter

Melody Rath

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

 We hear this passage—called the Love Chapter—most often at weddings. And while the sentiments are appropriate in a “romantic love” kind of way, the Apostle Paul is describing something entirely different.

Paul has been talking about spiritual gifts and the importance each part plays in the body of Christ—the church. No part is considered more important than another is; all the parts are necessary to make the body complete. Then he tells us, in chapter 13, that if these gifts are used without love, they are useless. For example, verse 3 says, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

At this time of year, we express love for our family, friends, and neighbors through gift giving. We even participate in collecting and distributing food and gifts to the needy. Gifts can certainly express love. However, if I’m just checking something off my list or looking for some personal benefit, I have missed the point of Paul’s message.

God-is-love_472_275_80The first epistle of John (4:8) tells us that “God is love.” With that in mind, go back and read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 again, substituting every reference to “love” with “God” (even read the whole God chapter!).

If we always put God first, our gifts will be given in Love and used for His glory. That truly is THE most excellent way!

Loving God, thank You for Your great example of Love, and for sending Him to be our Savior. Help us, in turn, to reflect Your love to those around us as we seek to serve them—and you—every day. Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 4

His Best Work

Steve Lessard

I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me. John 17:23

Imagine your best work, whether it is something made in SteveL Chest
your workshop or something special from your kitchen, which you worked hard to make. You write a label. You put your mark on it to make it your own. How did it make you feel? You know that it was made with love and caring. You know the trials in putting it together. Only you know the small imperfections that may still be in the finished piece that no one else would ever notice.

You never ask the question why you did this. You did it because you loved doing it. You did it because it was something special from you.

I can only imagine what God was saying when He made all of us. He loved us unconditionally and sent us forth to live out His plan, each of us with our own imperfections, but to Him perfect in every way.

I have learned to thank God for these loves.

I have been blessed with many loves in my life—my wife, my son, my daughters, and my grandchildren. Each of them is His best work in my eyes.

A quote from Dieter Uchtdorf reads, “Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely… He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken.”

Lord in Heaven, thank you for loving us. Thank You for everything You have created with Love. We are Your creations, Your works, perfect in every way. Though we often think that we are imperfect, show us the grace to seek out what You have shown to us through all of Your love and caring. Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 3

Advent of Love

Pastor Steve Schumacher

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16, NIV

Since this is the season of Advent, consider love in light of the season. John says God loved the world so much that He gave His Son for the sake of our world. And for His part, the Son was willing to go along with the plan. Jesus Christ is Immanuel, that is, God come to us and with us.

We are on the other side of this relationship; and for our part, we look forward to His coming. That is what the season of Advent is about, looking forward, eagerly and expectantly to the coming of the Christ.

This is about our relationship. God comes to be with us, while we eagerly wait for His coming. We both desire to be together. This is when everything is right and good. And that is the key point.

One of the enjoyable aspects of Christmas is family getting together. This is becoming more evident as our kids get older and start moving out of the house. For our family, Advent is also a time of expectation, looking forward to the kids being home again; and having us all together. For us too this is about relationships. And for us this is when everything is right and good again. It is our relationships that sustain us and give us joy in life. It is in relationships where we are truly alive.

Revelation 21:3 gives a picture of what it will be like one day, when all things come to their fulfillment, and everything is as it should be, right and good:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.”jesus coming soon

And then Revelation, as well as the whole Bible, ends with the words, “Yes, I am coming soon.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” God with us; grace with us.

Lord, we pray for your coming again, when you will make all things right and good. We give you thanks that you love us enough to desire to make your home with us, and us with you. May we love you as you love us. May we look for your coming, ever watchful, hopeful, and expectant; anticipating the joy of life together. Amen.