Advent Devotional 2014-Day 23

He Delights in You!

Ann Schumacher

He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3: 17.delights

As a singer, I enjoy music of all kinds. I’m sure many of you do as well. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that most important events in our lives are filled with music. Weddings, graduations, funerals, even Presidential entrances. Of course, the church’s seasons are no exception. “The Old Rugged Cross” was my grandmother’s favorite during Lent. My Dad has always enjoyed, “Lo How a Rose e’er Blooming” and asked me to sing it with him at the tiny country church he served when I was about twelve. And certainly few Lutherans can make it through a Reformation Sunday without singing, “A Mighty Fortress” in full voice.

Christmas is, of course, the most obvious holiday when it comes to music. I suspect your family, like ours, has many a Christmas album. These songs become tradition and an integral part of the celebration. Our kids still ask for Harry Connick, Jr.’s Christmas album after opening presents. We know all the words to White Christmas and can recall that ‘cheesy’ photo of Bing Crosby on the cover. When you hear the quiet strains of “Silent Night,” do you picture a sanctuary darkened and full of candles?

Cathy Warr once shared with me that she sings over her granddaughter every time they meet. It all began in the delivery room and Cathy hasn’t missed an opportunity to sing since! Her granddaughter, Abby, remembers the song now and has come to expect this beautiful moment. It made my heart skip a beat to hear about this special bond between grandparent and granddaughter. It also brings to mind those words of Zephaniah.

What an amazing thought! Our love of music surely comes from God; in fact, God seems to love music as much as we do! But if that were not enough, God goes further. He REJOICES over YOU with singing. It is amazing to me that the God of the Universe would take the time not only to love me but to pause, breathe, and sing thoughtful songs over me. This act of stopping, pausing, and singing words … words which quiet… words which show great delight… reveal God’s purpose, dedication and all surpassing love. What a gift! What joy! I can only feel deep gratitude for the one who gave His Son for this world and
wishes to take the time to sing songs over me.

Dear Father, Thank you for your promise to take great delight in me, to quiet me with your love and to rejoice over me with singing. Help me to be ever grateful for your extravagant love. Amen

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 22

When Love Takes You In

John & Kim Waterstraat

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16

“When loves take you in, everything changes… and this love will never let you go.” Steven Curtis Chapman

Years ago, sitting at a Steven Curtis Chapman concert, these lyrics he wrote about his precious adopted girl from China rang in our hearts and thus the seed was planted to consider taking in a little girl for our own family. Truth be told, John was far more passionate about this prospect than Kim was, his desire to have a little girl far surpassing my exhaustion from having two very small active boys. Yet through the next couple of years, it never escaped our hearts and minds and the seed began to sprout. One day, we were out on a family bike ride and suddenly, thoughts crossed Kim’s mind of god leadshow our life would change by adding a little girl to the mix. None of my thoughts were expressed out loud, yet out of the clear blue, Nathan says to me “Mom, I just wish we had a little girl in the family!” I look around, stunned that those very words just exited his mouth. Did he truly say what I thought he just said? From there, paperwork on a “talkative” little one appeared in our laps and in twenty-four hours, we decided to blindly have faith that this was God’s desire for us.

God speaks to us through others and when we slow down and really listen, His direction and purpose is so clear. Through His immense love for us and that little girl over in Panjin City, China, he guided all of us blindly across unfamiliar territory to the other side of the world, and our lives have been immensely enriched in unconditional love beyond any capacity we could ever imagine.

Lord, help us to listen to you through others and embrace the unfamiliar paths You lead us down, knowing that all You do is out of love and your will for us in this world. Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 21

Who Am I?

Mark Reiman

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is mankind that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them? Psalm 8:4

Through the privilege of assisting with worship in Pilgrim’s praise band, I have had the opportunity to learn many songs from contemporary Christian music. One of my favorites, by Mark Hall, seems particularly well-suited to the Advent season:earthrise800-mine-2

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?

To be sure, who am I to receive this gift of love? I cannot fathom the depths of God’s amazing love for us through Christ. God sent His only Son, the beginning and end of all things that have been, are, and will be, to save us from sin and provide a perfect model of life with Him and in Him. It is an enduring mystery that sustains us in our care and compassion for each other at Pilgrim and in our daily walks beyond. God’s never-ending, never-failing love for us is an awesome thing! This Advent, we think again of the incredible gifts He’s given us: our families, our friends here at Pilgrim and beyond, and the very faith in Christ that sustains and connects us. As the great Advent hymn says, He is “of the Father’s love begotten,” a perfect expression of God’s undying love for us.

Heavenly Father, we give You thanks for loving us so much despite our sin that You sent Your Son Jesus. Forgive our consistent failure to love others as You have first loved us. Be for us once again the “joy of every longing heart”. Help us to honor You with joy by being instruments of Your perfect love and forgiveness to one another during this Advent season and beyond. Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 20

Unconditional Love

Mike & Catherine Warr

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

 Jesus had a lot to say about love. Just check out the Gospels. Jesus taught about love over 28 times. Why is love so important? When asked by a teacher of the law which of all the commandments was the most important to follow, Jesus mentioned two, one from one from Deuteronomy 5:4 and the other from Leviticus 19:18. Both had to do with love. Jesus said that all of the commandments were given for two simple reasons—to help us love God and love others as we should. What else did Jesus say about love? As God loves us unconditionally we are to extend that same kind of love—not just to those who are easy to love, but to love our enemies, or those who disagree with us, or are different from us, or who have harmed us. How is this possible? We can love with God’s love when it is hard to love. As we love God, He makes it possible to love others.Greater Love_det

Jesus demonstrated His love for us by giving His life for us. We may not have to die for someone, but there are other ways to practice sacrificial love: listening, helping, encouraging, giving. Think of someone in particular who needs this kind of love today. Give all the love you can, and then try to give a little more. When you are uncertain about what to do, ask yourself which course of action best demonstrates love for God and love for others.

May you feel the empowering of God’s unconditional love this holiday season.

 Father, just as you shower us with your unconditional love, help us to extend unconditional love to others, especially those you put in our path each day. Amen

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 19

What Is This Thing Called Love?

Maynard Hedegaard

But the fruit of the Spirit is love… Galatians 4:22

Before Paul became a Christian, his sinful nature was in rebellion against God. Luckily for Paul, the Spirit came to integrate his life with God and man, centering his life in the unifying love of Christ.

Love. It’s one of the fruits of the Spirit mentioned by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22. But why is love listed as the first fruit of the Spirit? Is love the most important “fruit?” Are all the “fruits” in Paul’s list simply love in other forms?

Children don’t know about the fruits of the Spirit, but they know love. These little people haven’t yet been programmed with society’s norms or expectations. A group of 4- to 8-year olds was asked, “What does love mean?” Their answers were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouths.
  2. Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen
  3. There are two kinds of love: our love and God’s love, but God makes both kinds.
  4. Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you have left him alone all day.PuppyLickingBoysFace

We humans sometimes leave God alone all day or all week. But when we finally stop to call out to Him in prayer, God is like the puppy who doesn’t hold a grudge because he has been neglected. God is ready to listen, to lift us up, or, like the puppy, to give us a loving little “lick” of blessing and reassurance.

Dear God, This Advent season, help me to understand the full measure of Your unconditional love. Let me live every day with this fruit of the spirit: love. Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 18

Sacrificial Love

Jim Wilkerson

As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you keep My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:9-13

Perhaps not a passage normally associated with Advent, but strong on the theme of love. Advent and the preparation for Jesus’ birth abound with the theme of love. As we all know, however, that love is tinged with sadness on God’s part as He knows the pain and loss that is to come for His Son and the world. Parents, teachers, and mentors all know a type of this kind of pain, as ultimately their children or charges will grow and leave out on their own. As Jesus indicates in the first several lines though, those leaving remain in the love of those left behind.

Giving-HappinessThe last line of the passage is well known, but how can that apply to Advent? Perhaps love for those less fortunate does not need to be as extreme as the loss of life, but instead expressed as giving up a part one’s life in the form of donations of time, possessions, and money to those in need. One’s life may be diminished on the material plane, but enriched in many ways on the spiritual.

So this Advent season, as family and friends gather, reflect on the joy of being near to loved ones. As parents we try to make traditions and joyful memories to keep our children close to the spirit of God’s love, as we know they will grow and eventually leave to start families of their own. Make part of that tradition laying down part of your material lives to enrich the lives of others less fortunate.

Dear God, during this Advent season and all year long, make me grateful for Your love that’s expressed through the love of my family and friends. Help me to see others’ needs and how I can lay down part of my life to enrich theirs. In Jesus, Your beloved Son’s name. Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 17

God’s Love in Action

Gary Hagen

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son,
that whoever believes in Him may not perish by have
everlasting life. John 3:16St Joseph and Baby Jesus(www.jasonjenick.com)

I was serving a small rural parish in North Dakota in the mid-seventies. Part of my ministry was teaching 7th and 8th graders, preparing them to be confirmed. This training included a weekend trip to a facility for the disabled near Dunseith, ND, similar to our own facility at Buckley.

First thing, the students toured the area of the facility that housed the most severely handicapped residents. They were not emotionally prepared to see people who were unable to feed themselves, walk, or speak. Later, we were able to visit with those who
were not physically disabled, and who were able to interact with the students. We called them the “walk-a-rounds.”

That evening we discussed their feelings after experiencing what, for most of them, was an eye-opener—to see for the first time those who suffered physically through no fault of their own. They were able to see the presence of God’s love shown by those who were caretakers, nurses, nutritionists, and volunteers.

The next day was a little easier for the students, since they were able to experience the love expressed to them by the “walk-a-rounds.” The students were surprised with what warm love and appreciation they were able to experience.

What this taught me was how God’s love, when shared, is not prejudiced. It is not held back by what we see, hear, taste, smell, or feel. The power of God’s love has no barriers of race, color, sex, or creed.

One of those students was so captivated by what she saw that she volunteered a whole summer at a similar facility. Later, it would prepare her for a time when one of her own children had a rare bone cancer in his cheekbone and needed her unconditional love. After years of treatment and many plastic surgeries, he is now healed.

As we come to celebrate Christmas, we are reminded that God’s love came down to this earth, taking on human flesh, giving His life on the cross that symbolized God’s love for all.

Thank you, God for the healing of Your love and for filling us with Your love in Christ Jesus, so that we may serve as Your instruments of love to others. Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 16

Abba, Father

Elaine Jacobs

“But Jesus called the children to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” Luke 18:16

Refrain:
Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

  1. boydsJesusLovesMebearJesus loves me! This I know,
    For the Bible tells me so;
    Little ones to Him belong;
    They are weak, but He is strong.
  2. Jesus loves me! This I know,
    As He loved so long ago,
    Taking children on His knee,
    Saying, “Let them come to Me.”
  3. Jesus loves me still today,
    Walking with me on my way,
    Wanting as a friend to give
    Light and love to all who live.

Dear Abba Father, Thank you for loving us so much that you call us your children and we may call you our father. Amen

Jesus Love Me by Anna Bartlett Warner, William Batchelder Bradbury. © Words: Public Domain; Music: Public Domain

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 15

He Loves You Big!

Paige Rath

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers. Neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the LOVE of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38

God is so in love with you! So much that He stopped at nothing so you would know this love. Jesus died willingly out of His great love for you. And we do not deserve any tiny portion of this love. But good news; nothing can separate us from His love! God desires us to spend time with Him, to serve Him and to love on His people, but mostly He just wants for us to love Him right back. He loves you big, and its overwhelming, perfect, and it covers each and every one of us. For me, singing my praises to God is one of the most powerful ways for me to encounter God’s presence. One of my favorite worship songs really helps make this amazing love real to me. It is called “One Thing Remains” by Jesus Culture.never fails

Higher than the mountains that I face,
stronger than the power of the grave.
Constant through the trail and the change,
one thing remains.
Your love never fails, it never gives up,
it never runs out on me.
And on and on and on and on it goes,
it overwhelms and satisfies my soul.
And I never ever have to be afraid, this one thing remains.
Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.
In death in life, I’m confident and covered by the power of Your great love.
My debt it paid, there’s nothing that can separate my heart from Your great love.

I encourage you to spend time figuring out what showing God’s love looks like for you if you don’t already know, or maybe find additional means of sharing His love.

Heavenly Father, thank You so much for Your unconditional and unending love for us. I thank You that you have claimed my heart and marked me with Your seal. And when anyone or anything tries to steal my heart away from You, You step in and say “nope, back off, you can’t have her, she’s all mine!” I thank You that you will not allow anyone, anything, nor any circumstance separate us from Your love. Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014-Day 14

Love Is An Action, Not An Emotion

Shirley Lindsey

From Shirley Lindsey’s poetic compilation of her beliefs about God and His amazing love for us, His creation. The collection is titled Rhyme and Reason: A Christian Witness. As a preamble she writes: “There are no human words to adequately describe God’s divine love that caused Him to give His only Son for our salvation. These are the best I can do!”

Shirley went home to her Lord on November 13, 2014.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them,“Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) John 18:4-5)

The following, poem based on John 18:5, speaks of Christ’s love for mankind and His obedience to God the Father. He willingly was the perfect sacrifice, the atonement for the sins of each and every one of us who accept Him as Lord and Savior.

My Lord stood in the garden i-am-he
midst the beauty of flower and tree,
and when they came to take Him,
said simply, “I am He.”

My Lord had all the power,
and glory from above,
He could have shown resistance,
instead He offered love.

My Lord loved man so fully,
that when they came,
to nail Him to the tree,
My Lord said, with full knowledge,
simply, “I am He.”

Thank you, Lord Jesus for loving me. Help me to love all those who touch my life in even the smallest way as You have commanded. Amen.