December 20th, 2014

Advent Theme December 15-21: Love

Scripture for this week:  Isaiah 40:1-11

Saturday, December 20, 2014

                PREPARATION:  Think about a Christmas family activity (or memory, if you live alone) that brings you comfort.  You might even consider connecting this devotion time to that activity.  It can be anything from a group hug to making cookies to caroling.  Talk about why that Christmas activity is comforting.  Relight the first three candles.

PRAYER:  Gather around the Advent wreath.  Have someone pray in their own words or read a simple prayer like this:  “Lord Jesus, thank you for coming into the world.  As we look forward to celebrating Christmas, we also remember that you are coming again.  Fill us with love as we wait for you.  Amen.”

                ADVENT WREATH:  Light the fourth candle.  Ask the youngest child to say, “Why do we light the fourth candle?”  An older child or adult answers, “The fourth candle is the candle of love.  Jesus brought Love into the world.”

                SCRIPTURE:  Read Isaiah 40:1-11 (or just vv. 1-2 and v. 11 if you have a young family or limited time) and have a family discussion, adjusting the length to your family.  Talk about what you heard from the pastor in church today about this passage.  Read verse 11 again, maybe in another version.  How does the shepherd show his love to the sheep?  Read vv. 1-2 again.  When has someone forgiven you not to get something in return but just because they love you?  How does it comfort you that God has loved and forgiven you?  What does Jesus’ coming have to do with the themes of love and forgiveness?

                PRAYER:  As you pray today, thank God for his love.  Talk about some other words you can use when you praise God for his love (more words like comfort, forgiveness, ….)  Also mention some names of people who need to know God’s love.  (Think of people who don’t show love, because usually they are the people most in need of being loved.)  Then pray in your own words or use a prayer like this:  “Heavenly Father, we love you and thank you for loving us.  Especially we thank you that you loved the world so much that you gave your One and Only Son, Jesus, to us.  Thank you that Jesus loved us so much he died for our sins and rose again.  Help us to share the message of Jesus with others.  Help them to see Jesus’ love in our words and actions.   Amen.”

 What follows are the Advent devotions from this past week.

Advent Theme December 21: Love

Scripture for this week:  Isaiah 40:1-11

Monday, December 15, 2014

I had a little fun this morning.  Ever since we’ve had a work crew from Stone Restoration pressure washing, degrouting, and caulking around the church steeple, I’ve been wanting to see if I could take a ride up there.  This morning the timing was finally right to ask, since I caught the guys just as they were setting up and it was a good moment for me. 

 There’s a nice view up there!  I could see Baker’s Mountain to the south, and well across Lake Hickory into Caldwell and Alexander Counties on the north and west.  Looking down at Jan Ketcham and Neil Forrest (who emerged from the office to watch from the ground), I was amazed at how small they looked.  It’s not like I was on the Eiffel Tower or anything.  I was only a little over 100 feet up in the air.  Still, the panoramic view around and the gaze downward made the people on the ground seem small.

 Isaiah 40 is one of those chapters in the Bible that offers a similar perspective on the human condition.  Later in the chapter Isaiah will say, “Surely the nations are like a drop in the bucket” (15) and “Those who hope in the LORD…will soar on wings like eagles” (31).

 What does such a view provide?  It offers the perspective that even in the midst of pain (and this was Isaiah’s historical situation), there is a God of comfort (1), tenderness (2), hope (3), eternity (8), and good news (9).

 He tends his flock like a shepherd:

        He gathers the lambs in his arms

And carries them close to his heart;

        He gently leads those that have young.

 Pray today by name for those you know who need the assurance of the Savior’s tender love.  Visualizing how God looks down on us tiny little dots with love brings us comfort.


Advent Theme December 21: Love

Scripture for this week:  Isaiah 40:1-11

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

One of the responses to yesterday’s e-mail devotion on seeing our lives as God sees them evoked this personal and insightful response from Todd Byrd, who has just completed the academic portion of his Master’s in Counseling and also leads our men’s workout group here at Corinth.

 When I get tired, physically and emotionally, I lose perspective and stop seeing the bigger picture.  In some respects that describes the past weekend for me.  Yesterday morning, when I got up to get ready for workouts, my prayerful thoughts were “God, help me to gain a new perspective; a new outlook.”

Sometimes it takes a mechanical crane to lift us above the present to be able to see more than what is right around us.  Sometimes it is the buoyancy of the Spirit that helps us to rise above the immediate and discouraging to see a broader and longer perspective.  Thanks for helping me to connect those two.

Isn’t it good to know that God doesn’t see us from afar, viewing us as tiny little dots, but that He is always present, always close to us?

 Yes, Todd, you’re absolutely right.  God “carries us close to his heart” (Isaiah 40:11).

 This morning in my Bible study we closed by asking where in Isaiah 11 we find the most comfort. One guy said, “He knows we all struggle.”  We mentioned our struggles and those of others in our community with needs.  But one group member just reminded us that the Lord says, “I’m still God, and I still love you.”  That’s Isaiah 40.

 Pray today for those who are struggling.  Pray for Pakistan, that yesterday’s violence would open a door for the Gospel.  Pray especially for the persecuted church around the world.  Chris Van Allsburg sent me this link to a story about Christians in India who especially need our prayers today.


Advent Theme December 21: Love

Scripture for this week:  Isaiah 40:1-11

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

If your family is like our family, you’re right in the middle of all those things you love about this time of year but somehow wish you could do better next year.  You’re planning to travel or you’re preparing to host those who travel to you.  You’re buying and wrapping gifts.  You’re giving time and money to those less fortunate.  You’re eating too much of the stuff you love to eat.  You’re wondering if you shouldn’t have said no to a few more commitments you made.

 Our daughter Jeni is a Middle School Music Teacher, and this morning she shared a note she received from one of her students.  After the printed “Have a wonderful Christmas and the Happiest New Year yet!” the student wrote, “Hope you spend it with your family and have a lot of fun.  P.S. Make shore (sic) you watch Frozen and sing Hark the Herald.”

 I can’t clean up your task list and calendar.  I can’t even clean up my own.  But there are some things I want to “make shore” I do in the next week.  Just a few minutes ago I took my Excel spreadsheet and changed a bunch of “1” priorities to “2.”  Not everything I thought I had to accomplish today is THAT important.

 Based on chapter 40:1-11, what would Isaiah say you should “make shore” you do between now and next week?

  • Comfort God’s people (1).
  • Speak tenderly to someone who’s been suffering because of their own sin (2).
  • Notice the ways God has revealed his glory (5).
  • Remember how fragile and brief life is, and live for the eternal (6-7).
  • Don’t be afraid to speak clearly about the gospel (8-9).
  • Set aside some time to rest in the arms of the One who loves you most (11).

 Name at least one in person in prayer today who comes to mind as you think of Isaiah’s #1 priority list.


Advent Theme December 21: Love

Scripture for this week:  Isaiah 40:1-11

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The protagonist (main character) in Washington Irving’s short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, has an odd name:  Ichabod.  He’s a strict moralist in the classroom, but excessively superstitious and therefore perpetually afraid.  He falls in love with Katrina Van Tassel, but his rival for her affection (Brom Bones) uses Ichabod’s fears to his advantage by spooking him in the guise of a headless horseman.

 What does Ichabod have to do with Christmas?  More than you might think.  The name “Ichabod” is borrowed from the Bible.  The story is in 2 Samuel 4.  The unfortunate child with this name was the grandson of Eli, a priest.  Eli’s daughter-in-law was “great with child” (to use a phrase associated with Christmas) when her husband and his brother died in battle with the Philistines and the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the enemy.  When he heard the news, the elder Eli lyfell off his chair, broke his neck, and died after a 40-year tenure as Israel’s leader.  All of that chaos put Ichabod’s mother into labor.  She named her son “Ichabod” because it means “No glory.”  Think about going all through life with that name!

 I say all that to teach you a Hebrew word: chabod, which means “glory.”  I’m hoping the association with Irving’s character will help the word stick in your mind.  Ichabod loses the girl, loses the competition, loses his place in the story.

 By contrast, chabod indicates weight, abundance, honor, position, and splendor.  Bones in Washington Irving’s story could be called “Chabod.”  But Bones would be an inadequate reflection of true “glory” the way the word is used in the Bible.  “Glory” is a bigger word, a brighter word, a better word.  “Glory” is most often used of God himself.  It is part of what gives him uniqueness – he alone ultimately owns all the glory, because his position and splendor and honor are matchless.

 In Isaiah 40:5, we read, “And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.”  That will be our Scripture passage Sunday morning at Corinth (10 AM service only!).  Then Sunday afternoon at 4:30 for Candlelighting, the text will be Isaiah 60:1-2, which begins, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.”  Note that God wants to share his glory!

 Ichabod in Irving’s story and in 2 Samuel lived life with a name that essentially meant “Loser…Nobody…Nothing Left.”  Undoubtedly they struggled with the shame of rejection and failure.  But God wants his sons and daughters to share the reflection of his glory.  We’ll talk about that more tomorrow.

 Pray today for those who have believed the lie that they are “inglorious.”  Pray that the light of Jesus’ coming into our world would fill them with the knowledge of who God created them to be.


Advent Theme December 21: Love

Scripture for this week:  Isaiah 40:1-11

Friday, December 19, 2014

Today I’m going to borrow a guest blog for my devotion, written by Corinth’s Rebecca Little.  Click here to find Becca’s blog for yourself –

 Lighting my advent candles tonight I found myself deeply yearning to light the fourth candle and the Christmas candle.

 Today I feel incomplete.  Things didn’t go the way I planned or assumed, and I feel beat up.  I’m longing with all my heart for the certainty of joy, for Emmanuel (“God with us”).

 ‘What will it hurt if I light all the candles and pretend that all is right in my world?’ I think to myself.  And because I’m that kind of crazy, I answered back…or maybe it was the Holy Spirit cautioning me:  “No, there is something better for you in the waiting, in the way you become strengthened from holding on (possibly for dear life) with fully extended arms to the end of this rope.”  

 This is what it feels like to have muscle fibers tearing intentionally in order to build muscle….only it’s not my quads or triceps, it’s the spiritual and emotional muscles of my heart.  

 So I’m gazing on these three candles that symbolize Hope, Peace, and Joy.  

 And I slowly drink in their healing 

 …because waiting is impossible without hope, uncomfortable without peace, and not worth it without joy.

 I love her honesty that shifts in faith to trust.  The fourth candle – the next one Becca is impatient to light – is the candle of “Love.”  Some traditions change up the order, but I think the Love candle belongs at the end of the sequence.  While I’m waiting for hope to get a foothold, peace to find its home in my heart, and joy to rise like a fountain, I find that what is enough for me in the waiting, is to know that I am loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

 Pray today for those who are yearning for hope, peace, joy, and love.

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