December 31              Peace On Earth? Pastor Dave

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14, KJV)

That was the promise.

The Angel said that was the reason Jesus came—to make ‘peace on earth’.

However, we haven’t seen much of that ‘peace’.

There are several reasons for that.

1) A more accurate interpretation of that verse is ‘On earth, peace among men with whom He is pleased’.

In other words, the ‘peace’ comes through faith in Jesus. That means that those who reject Him (or fail to accept Him) will not experience it in the fullness that God wants for them.

2) That peace starts with Peace with God (through faith in Jesus) and                  then continues to peace within, peace with others and, ideally,                        peace on Earth.

Again, the relationship with Jesus is the key.

3) Our spiritual enemy—satan—and his demons are busily trying to ruin          everything. He is a liar, a thief, a murderer and he exists to distract                us from anything and everything God wants for us—and the rest of              the world. Therefore, if we don’t actively resist him and submit                      ourselves to God, he will continue to mess us up.

 

Therefore, IF we are ever going to experience ‘Peace on Earth’ then we must submit ourselves to God, we cultivate our relationship with Jesus, and we must get the word out about Him.

Peace on Earth is a promise that God wants to bring about…it comes through Jesus Christ!

 

Consider and Discuss:

In what ways have you experienced the Peace that God gave, through Jesus?

Is there anyone you know who has not experienced it?

Pray for opportunities to share God’s love—through Jesus—with that person this year!

December 30                   REIGN! Pastor Dave

Jesus came on that night so many years ago as ‘The Christ Child’.

Of course, we know He didn’t stay that way.

He grew. He lived. He led. He taught. He worked miracles over disease and deformity. He showed power over nature. He demonstrated authority over religious leaders and demonic forces.

He taught love, grace, and forgiveness.

Then He went to the Cross—for us.

There He paid for our sins, the innocent for the guilty.

He suffered, died and was buried.

On the 3rd day He rose again, conquering death, sin, and the grave.

He appeared to many, and then later ascended into heaven, where

He is seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding on our behalf.

He will come again someday—maybe soon.

In the meantime, He reigns!

He was, and is, and is to come.

He is God, the Lord, the Savior, the Way, the Truth and the Life!

His is the name above all names, and at His name “every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father!” (Philippians 2:9-11)

He Reigns now, and SHALL Reign completely, forevermore!

Unfortunately, some won’t realize it and won’t give Him the     praise He deserves until it’s too late         for them.

But WE—His children, by faith—are the ones who get to praise Him in this life, and in the next.

Let’s Do It—with all our lives—now and forever!

Activity:

Write down everything you can think to PRAISE God for.

Write down everything you can think of to THANK God for.

What do you think it means for Jesus to ‘Reign’ now?

What will it mean when He ‘Reigns’ completely in the future?

Who do you know that needs to know this?

 

Watch/Listen/Sing along to Chris Tomlin’s song:

“He Shall Reign Forevermore.”

December 29               Make Room!    (Pastor Dave)                   

Jesus has come, we’ve celebrated, and now…what?

Well, that depends

IF you believe that Jesus was ‘the Christ Child’ and part of a beautiful story, but that is all, then…nothing!

Put the manger scene away for another year. See you in 11 months.

But, IF you believe (as I do) that Jesus the baby in the story was really Emmanuel–God With Us, then you know that He grew, He lived the perfect life, He represented the Father to everyone, He taught with the ultimate words of Truth, He willingly gave His life to pay for our sin, and He was raised to Eternal Life, Then… GREAT stuff is ahead!

IF you believe that, then you know that He offers you that same Eternal Life, by faith in Him.

He said: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not die, but have everlasting life; for God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world–through Him–could be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

Paul wrote that “It is by Grace that you have been saved, through Faith–and this is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not a result of your good works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

By Grace alone, through Faith alone, In Christ alone!

Now we can have LIFE!

Life as a promise for eternity, and Full Life in the here-and-now. All of it comes through our ongoing relationship to Jesus.

He’s the Gift that keeps on giving–literally!

 

It’s like a couple of the more famous Christmas carols say: “Let every heart prepare Him room…”, and “mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die; born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth…” 

 

Today, YOU can reach out and receive that life…and Christmas can continue!

 

Consider and Discuss: 

Have YOU, personally, ‘received your King’, and ‘prepared Him room’ in your heart?

If not, what’s stopping you?

Has your faith helped you to experience “Life—to the Full” (John 10:10) this year?

If not, why not?

 

December 28             God’s Mysterious Plan Courtney Dunn

Isaiah 55: 8-9

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

I have always loved the Christmas song “Mary Did You Know?”. It is such a powerful song about how this tiny baby was going to change the course of history; he was going to heal and save the nations. But if it was up to you or me, would we have decided to save the world with a tiny, helpless baby?

 

Gods’ plans are so much bigger and different than our plans. We do our best to plan and prepare for what we think we need to do but God’s ways, his purpose, and his plans are so much bigger than we could ever imagine.

 

When you think of God’s plan for your life, does it intimidate you? Does it scare you a little to even ask what that plan may be?

 

Sometimes I think we are fearful God will ask us to give up the things we love to do or the things that bring us happiness in our life. But what if, just what if, the things that bring us the most joy in life and satisfy us the most are the same things that God wants to use to bring him glory and bring people to him? What if the things we are most proud of and feel satisfied doing are the things that God wants to use for his purposes, as part of his plan?

 

Gods’ ways are much higher than our ways, and he has uniquely made each one of us to play a part in his plan.

 

Consider and Discuss:

 

Are you fearful to ask God what his plan is for your life? If so, why are you afraid?

What are some of your talents, passions and gifts?

How could you use those things to glorify God and impact other people for his kingdom?

 

December 27                     The Unexpected Gift Deb Price

Just like that, it was over. All the gifts from under the tree had been opened. The child sat staring at the tree skirt that was, only a few minutes ago, completely concealed by gifts. But now, the skirt was exposed, void of presents, emptied of promise. She had received everything she had asked for so she wondered why she felt this sense of disappointment deep within her spirit. It didn’t make sense, but although she now possessed more than before, it somehow escalated her feelings of emptiness. The anticipation and excitement that preceded this special day far exceeded the reality of the moment. She felt guilty and saddened by her seeming ungratefulness.

 

Then she heard a voice from behind call out her name. She turned to see her father. He had a big smile on his face, but that’s not all, there was another present in his hands and he held it out to his little girl. He said “I saved the best for last.” Her eyes lit up once more as she reached for that final package. She un-wrapped it gently, slowly, savoring every moment this unexpected gift offered. She finally opened the box. Her eyes grew wide with excitement. As she stared inside the box, all the other gifts she had received paled in comparison. They seemed so insignificant, so trivial. This gift was not on her list, yet it far surpassed all other gifts combined, from Christmas’ past, until this very moment. She picked it up and held it tightly. It was just right, the perfect gift for her. How could her father have known she would love this gift so? She didn’t even know she wanted it until he gave it to her. As ungrateful as she had been for all of the other gifts, she certainly didn’t feel she deserved it. She ran over and hugged her Daddy’s legs and thanked him over and over again for this beautiful, precious, unexpected gift. She promised to take special care of it and cherish it all the days of her life.

 

Before I met Jesus, the expectation of all of the things I thought would bring me security, happiness and fulfillment left me disappointed. The anticipation and excitement of finally receiving my own home, a good job, financial security, and independence far exceeded the reality of my life.

 

God often does that. He gives us what we think we want so we can see just how insignificant, trivial and empty those things really are apart from Him. Before Christ adopted me into His family, I felt like the best moments of my life were already over. Even though I had received everything I hoped for, everything I had asked for, I still felt empty. I had no more expectation of receiving anything better than I had already received.

 

Then God gave me an unexpected gift. He introduced me to His one and only Son. He had truly saved the best for last! I didn’t ask for Jesus, at least not at first. To be honest, I didn’t even have Him on my wish list, yet God extended His hands of mercy and presented to me the greatest gift I have ever, or expect to ever receive. Everything else pales in comparison. I didn’t deserve Him, but thankfully, God doesn’t always give us what we deserve.

 

So many of my Christmas’ were spent desiring what I longed to possess. Now, my desire is for Christ to possess my heart in such a way that there is no more room for emptiness at the end of the day, but rather, the joy the angels proclaimed that first blessed morning.

 

Jesus, you are a gift from God to me. You far surpass anything I have ever received in this life. You are just right, perfect for me. I promise to take special care of you and cherish you all the days of my life. I look forward to the day when I can physically hug my Daddy’s legs and thank Him for the gift of you!

 

Read and Discuss:

 

Read John 3:1-17

 

Have you ever felt ‘empty’, even though you’ve received gifts and blessings?

 

Which would you rather have—gifts that last a long time, or gifts that are short term?

 

Have you ever really ‘received’ God’s gift of Jesus into your life?

 

December 26          Happy Day-After-Christmas!             Pastor Dave          

The day after Christmas.

When I was little, it was just about the most depressing day of the year!

After all the excitement, the presents, the Christmas Carols, the parties, the cookies, the movies and all the traditions, now…it’s over.

Thud. Period. The end.

 

The thing is, IF Christmas was only about these things, then that would be all there is–and that really IS depressing!

But, alas, that’s not it.

Christmas is about much more.

Christmas is about Christ Jesus, and Jesus (as you know) did not stay a ‘baby in a manger’. Rather, He “grew in wisdom, and stature, and favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52) and, once He began His public ministry, He taught all who would listen about the heart of God, and how to please Him, love Him, worship Him, and follow His will. Jesus, you probably know, would go on to fulfill His ultimate calling–the ‘Main Reason’ He came to earth at Christmastime–to ‘give His life as a ransom for many’ (Matthew 20:28), then conquered death and the grave! He is still alive!

 

The Light of the world is still here!

For those of us who have placed our faith in Him, acknowledged Him for who He is (Savior and Lord), and surrendered their lives to Him, He is the Source of meaning, direction, hope, power, love, security…the list could go on!

Now THOSE are gifts that ‘keep on giving’, and THAT is reason to celebrate.

 

So “Happy Day-After-Christmas, and Merry rest-of-the-year. Even when Christmas is over, the Light of the World is still here!” (Matthew West: “Happy Day-After-Christmas”)

Consider and Discuss:

Do you get ‘depressed’ because Christmas is over?

Do you, personally understand the ‘gifts’ that Jesus gives?

How do those gifts help you make it through ‘the Day-After-Christmas’, and the rest of the year?

Activity: Listen to the Song “Day After Christmas” by Matthew West

December 25               JOY to the WORLD! Pastor Dave

Joy!

The Whole World—everyone in it, in all of history—all people everywhere—have reason for Joy today.

 

All of Creation—plants, animals, people—everything—has reason for Joy today.

 

Today we celebrate the birth of the Savior, the promised Messiah who would begin to put things right again, and eventually will make things perfect again—the way it was created.

It starts with us—those who choose to follow and to share that message—but it doesn’t end with us!

It is supposed to spread. We are to spread the news!

Today is a great day to do so…share the JOY!

 

Joy To the World, the Lord is come.

Let earth receive her King!

Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing;

Let heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

 

Joy to the Earth, the Savior reigns.

Let men their songs employ.

While fields and floods, rocks hills and planes repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy.

Repeat, repeat the sounding joy!

 

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found
Consider and Discuss: What would it mean for YOU to “Prepare Him Room” in your heart?

Activity: Sing this song as a family today, and sing it in CELEBRATION!
Who do you know that you need to tell about the Joy that Jesus has brought to your life?