Saturday, December 9, 2023

Evening Advent Reading - Philippians 4:6-7 American Standard Version

In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

Mid-afternoon Advent Reading - Psalm 119:165 American Standard Version

Great peace have they that love thy law;
And they have no occasion of stumbling.

Mid-Morning Advent Reading - Proverbs 20:22 American Standard Version

Say not thou, I will recompense evil:
Wait for Jehovah, and he will save thee.

Embracing the Peace of Christ

Introduction: The Calming Storm
Imagine a storm-tossed sea, waves crashing against a small boat. The disciples, fearing for their lives, woke Jesus, who was asleep in the boat. With a word, Jesus rebuked the winds and the waves, and a great calm fell over the sea (Mark 4:35-41, NLT). This miraculous scene vividly illustrates Jesus as the Prince of Peace, bringing tranquility even to the midst of a raging storm.

1. Read Isaiah 9:6 (NLT):
"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."*

Discussion: Understanding the Title "Prince of Peace"
  • Reflect on the significance of the title "Prince of Peace." What does it mean for Jesus to be the bringer of peace?
  • How does the story of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4:35-41 align with the concept of Him being the Prince of Peace?
2. Read John 14:27 (NLT):
"I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid."

Discussion: The Gift of Christ's Peace
  • What is the nature of the peace that Jesus promises to give? How does it differ from the peace that the world offers?
  • How can we, as believers, experience the peace of Christ in our daily lives?
3. Read Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT):
"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."

Discussion: Finding Peace through Prayer
  • According to these verses, what is the connection between prayer and experiencing God's peace?
  • Share personal experiences of times when prayer brought peace in challenging situations.
4. Read Romans 5:1 (NLT):
"Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us."

Discussion: Peace with God through Christ
  • How does faith in Jesus Christ bring about peace with God?
  • In what ways does knowing we have peace with God impact our daily lives and interactions with others?
Conclusion: Reflecting the Peace of Christ

Reflect on how the story of the calming of the storm, along with the Bible verses, paints a picture of the peace that Christ brings.
Discuss practical ways to actively embrace and share the peace of Christ in our lives.

Morning Advent Reading - Jeremiah 29:11 American Standard Version

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith Jehovah, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Evening Advent Reading - Romans 5:1 American Standard Version

Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;

Mid-afternoon Advent Reading - Psalm 85:10 American Standard Version

Mercy and truth are met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Fueling the Flame of Peace

As the week concludes, let's actively fuel the flame of Peace in our hearts and homes. Your generosity enables us to share the Good News, bringing the light of Christ's peace to those in need. Donate the cost of a meal to keep the flame burning brightly.

Mid-Morning Advent Reading - Proverbs 17:22 American Standard Version

A cheerful heart is a good medicine;
But a broken spirit drieth up the bones.

Morning Advent Reading - Micah 5:5 American Standard Version

And this man shall be our peace. When the Assyrian shall come into our land, and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Evening Advent Reading - John 14:27 American Standard Version

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.

Mid-afternoon Advent Reading - Psalm 37:11 American Standard Version

But the meek shall inherit the land,
And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

Let the Flame of Peace Illuminate Your Day

As we approach the weekend, let the flame of the Peace candle guide your steps. Take a moment to appreciate the peace found in Christ. Your support ensures that this message continues to shine brightly, reaching hearts around the world. Consider donating today.

Mid-Morning Advent Reading - Proverbs 16:32 American Standard Version

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty;
And he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.

Morning Advent Reading - Isaiah 52:7 American Standard Version

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Evening Advent Reading - Luke 2:13-14 American Standard Version

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.

Mid-afternoon Advent Reading - Psalm 34:14 American Standard Version

Depart from evil, and do good;
Seek peace, and pursue it.

Mid-Week Message - Christmas is About the Baby

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.'"  Luke 2:10-11  (NIV)

Through the years I have written and performed a variety of skits for the church that I attended.  For one dealing with Christmas, I brought in a huge bag of Christmas related items and my cell phone.  As I unpacked the items one by one, I carried on a conversation on the phone about how stressed I was about getting everything done in time and would reference the item that I held in my hand.  

One of those items was a baby doll.  As I handled it, I wondered out loud how it had gotten in my bag, and I moved it out of sight.  But there was a person in the audience whose job it was to put the baby back where I would see it.  As I kept moving it and it kept reappearing, my stress grew and I asked why the baby kept getting in my way.  

Preparing for Christmas can be a stressful time.  As we decorate our homes, shop for gifts, plan the meal for the big day, attend parties and deal with anxious children, our nerves can become frazzled.  Aside from the special preparations, all of our regular needs and concerns need to be tended to as well.  It is extremely easy to get so wound up in the "doings" of the season that we forget what it is truly supposed to be about.

Today's verse recounts when the angel appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of the Christ child.  Can you imagine what that must have been like?  What an honor it was that God chose these men to receive the news.  I can safely say that was a moment that none of them ever forgot nor stopped talking about.  For them, life became all about that birth. 

It is far too easy to lose our focus on what is most important at this time of year.  We get so busy fulfilling what we perceive to be the expectations of the season.  But, when we take the time to stop, spend some time in the Scriptures reviewing the birth of Jesus, then we can be reminded that there is really only one reason to celebrate.  

In my skit, as I picked up the baby doll over and over again and cast it aside, my intent was to show how quick we can be to allow the material part of the season to push aside what is most important.  While we enjoy them, the ornaments, lights and bright colored packages are temporary and will be forgotten once they are all put away.  Christmas is about our Lord Jesus Christ, who left His majestic throne in Heaven and was born as an infant.  He was the ultimate gift and should be the object of our focus.  

It's all about the baby. 

Mid-Morning Advent Reading - Proverbs 16:24 American Standard Version

Pleasant words are as a honeycomb,
Sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Morning Advent Reading - Isaiah 40:3-5 American Standard Version

The voice of one that crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jehovah; make level in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the uneven shall be made level, and the rough places a plain: and the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Evening Advent Reading - Luke 1:76-79 American Standard Version

Yea and thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Most High:
For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to make ready his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people
In the remission of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
Whereby the dayspring from on high shall visit us,
To shine upon them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death;
To guide our feet into the way of peace.

Mid-afternoon Advent Reading - Psalm 29:11 American Standard Version

Jehovah will give strength unto his people;
Jehovah will bless his people with peace.

Embracing the Prince of Peace

Today, reflect on the title given to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6, "Prince of Peace." In Him, we find a peace that surpasses understanding. Extend this peace to others by supporting our mission. A small contribution can make a big impact in sharing the message of the Prince of Peace.

Mid-Morning Advent Reading - Proverbs 16:9 American Standard Version

A man’s heart deviseth his way;
But Jehovah directeth his steps.

Morning Advent Reading - Isaiah 32:17 American Standard Version

And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and confidence for ever.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Evening Advent Reading - Matthew 3:1-3 American Standard Version

And in those days cometh John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of through Isaiah the prophet, saying,

The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
Make ye ready the way of the Lord,
Make his paths straight.

Mid-afternoon Advent Reading - Psalm 27:1 American Standard Version

Jehovah is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
Jehovah is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?

A Tranquil Start to the Week

As we begin the week, let the glow of the second Advent candle remind us of the Peace that Christ brings. In the midst of busyness, take a moment to embrace His tranquility. Your donation, even the cost of a cup of coffee, supports the spreading of this message of Peace to those who need it. 

Mid-Morning Advent Reading - Proverbs 16:7 American Standard Version

When a man’s ways please Jehovah,
He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Morning Advent Reading - Isaiah 26:3 American Standard Version

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Evening Scripture Reading - Hebrews 11 American Standard Version

Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen. For therein the elders had witness borne to them. By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts: and through it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God translated him: for he hath had witness borne to him that before his translation he had been well-pleasing unto God: and without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him. By faith Noah, being warned of God concerning things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; through which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out unto a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he became a sojourner in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith even Sarah herself received power to conceive seed when she was past age, since she counted him faithful who had promised: wherefore also there sprang of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of heaven in multitude, and as the sand, which is by the sea-shore, innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things make it manifest that they are seeking after a country of their own. And if indeed they had been mindful of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city. By faith Abraham, being tried, offered up Isaac: yea, he that had gladly received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; even he to whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God is able to raise up, even from the dead; from whence he did also in a figure receive him back. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was nigh, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months by his parents, because they saw he was a goodly child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to share ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he looked unto the recompense of reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of the blood, that the destroyer of the firstborn should not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were swallowed up. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been compassed about for seven days. By faith Rahab the harlot perished not with them that were disobedient, having received the spies with peace. And what shall I more say? for the time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah; of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, waxed mighty in war, turned to flight armies of aliens. Women received their dead by a resurrection: and others were tortured, not accepting their deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted, they were slain with the sword: they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves, and the holes of the earth. And these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 118:28 American Standard Version

Thou art my God, and I will give thanks unto thee:
Thou art my God, I will exalt thee.

Beyond the Tinsel: Unwrapping the True Gift of Hope

As we gather in the warmth of fellowship, I extend to you a heartfelt welcome, grateful for this precious time together in the name of our Savior. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season, adorned with twinkling lights and festive cheer, let us, with intentionality, carve out a sacred space to reflect on the profound meaning of Christmas.

In a world often consumed by the frenzy of consumerism and the quest for the perfect gifts, we stand united in the knowledge that, as Christians, we have already received the most extraordinary gift of all—the miraculous birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Beyond the glittering packages and holiday melodies, let our hearts resound with the timeless refrain: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11, NLT).

As we navigate through the hustle of finding the perfect gifts for our loved ones, let us not lose sight of the unparalleled gift we have already received—the gift that transcends time, the gift that brings eternal joy and redemption to our lives. Christmas is more than a season of festive decorations and exchanging presents; it is a sacred reminder of God's ultimate expression of love.

Let us, together, pause amid the holiday rush to reflect on "the reason for the season." In the midst of the tinsel and wrapping paper, let us unwrap the layers of our hearts and rediscover the profound truth that Christmas is about the birth of hope, the advent of love, and the revelation of God's grace.

May this Advent season be a time of deep reflection, as we immerse ourselves in the story of the Nativity—the story that changed the course of humanity. As we light the first candle, the Candle of Hope, may it ignite within us a flame of gratitude for the greatest gift we have ever received.

In this sacred space of reflection, as we consider the immeasurable gift of Christ's birth, our hearts are naturally drawn to the radiant flame of hope that flickers within the first candle of Advent. As we dive into the significance of hope, let the words of Romans 15:13 resonate in our spirits: "I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit" (NLT).

Hope is not merely a fleeting wish or a distant dream; it is a confident expectation, a steadfast assurance that God's promises are true. To capture the essence of hope, consider these profound words: "Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness" (Desmond Tutu). In a world that often grapples with shadows, hope becomes the beacon that guides us through the darkest nights and lights our path with the promises of God.

As we explore the Candle of Hope, let us delve into the transformative power of this virtue. Join me in illuminating the corridors of our hearts with the radiant glow of hope, understanding its true value in the tapestry of our faith.

In the rich tapestry of hope, we find threads woven with the concept of expectant waiting—a theme beautifully encapsulated in the scripture from Isaiah 40:31 (NLT): "But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." Picture a scene where hope intertwines with patient anticipation, much like a quiet wilderness echoing the promises of God. In this spirit, let me share with you a poignant story—a narrative that mirrors the ageless truth of Isaiah's words, a contemporary tale of expectant waiting.

In the bustling heart of the city, where the rhythm of life beats steadily, resides a young couple, Alex and Jessica. They navigate the challenges of modernity, anchored by their unwavering faith and trust in God's promises. Despite facing the complexities of fertility treatments and the strains of a fast-paced life, they hold onto the belief that God's timing is perfect. One ordinary day, as they faced the trials of their journey, an unexpected message of hope arrived—a passage from Isaiah shared by a friend: "Fear not, for the Lord has heard your prayers. In His perfect time, a seed of promise will be sown, and you shall reap a harvest of joy." With expectant hearts, Alex and Jessica embraced the promise, navigating the seasons of waiting with a hope that transcended the contemporary challenges. Their story became a testament to the transformative power of trusting in God's providence. Much like Alex and Jessica, our lives are stories of expectant waiting. The Advent season calls us to mirror their unwavering faith as we anticipate the fulfillment of God's promises. As we light the Candle of Hope, let us embrace the beauty of patient expectancy, knowing that in God's perfect time, our hearts will soar on wings like eagles.

Reading from Psalm 33:20-22 (NLT) - "We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him, our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone."

Amid the tumultuous currents of life, we find solace in the Psalmist's timeless words, anchoring our hope in the unwavering presence of the Lord. As we navigate the complexities of our daily existence, it is inevitable that shadows will cast themselves upon our paths. Some Christians may believe that they will be miraculously snatched out of dark moments, while others may feel there is no hope in the midst of hardship. However, it is through these tough times that we witness the true meaning of hope. Before the birth of Jesus, we walked in constant darkness with no hope. When that small child came into the world, hope in its truest and purest sense entered our lives. It is precisely in the heart of our struggles that we grasp the depth and significance of this hope. As we stand at the threshold of uncertainty, let our hearts rejoice in the trust we place in His holy name. As we immerse ourselves in the Advent journey, may the Lord's unfailing love envelop us, and may our hope be firmly anchored in Him alone.
Reflecting on Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) - "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."

In the rhythm of our daily lives, we often find ourselves at crossroads, grappling with uncertainties about the future. The comforting assurance emanates from the words of the prophet Jeremiah, echoing the divine declaration that the Lord knows the intricate plans He has for each of us. It is a promise not of disaster, but of goodness, and a future that unfolds under the tender wings of hope. As we traverse the landscapes of our individual journeys, let us cultivate hope as a resilient companion, walking hand in hand with the awareness that our steps are guided by the Creator of the universe. The Advent season beckons us to embody this hope, embracing the unfolding chapters of our lives with the understanding that God's plans, though mysterious, are always rooted in goodness. In the stillness of prayer and the sacred moments of reflection, may we find the courage to entrust our futures into the hands of the One who holds the master plan, allowing hope to blossom and flourish in our hearts.

As the gentle glow of the Candle of Hope illuminates our hearts, we stand at the culmination of our Advent reflections, immersed in the profound significance of this season. The birth of Jesus emerges as the truest and purest form of hope for a world shrouded in darkness, echoing the sentiments of Psalm 33:20-22 (NLT), "We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him, our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone."

The story of Alex and Jessica serves as a contemporary testament to the transformative power of hope in the face of adversity. Much like them, we navigate the complexities of our modern lives, holding steadfast to the promise that, in God's perfect time, a seed of promise will be sown, and we shall reap a harvest of joy.

As we conclude our time together, let us stand firm in His grace, knowing that the plans the Lord has for us are plans for good and not for disaster, giving us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT). The Advent journey beckons us to cultivate hope as a resilient companion, to rejoice in the trust we place in His holy name, and to embrace the unfolding chapters of our lives with courage and expectancy.

May the light of hope continue to shine brightly within each of us, not only during this Advent season but throughout the coming year. As we carry the essence of hope into our homes, communities, and beyond, let us be living testimonies to the transformative power of the birth of Jesus—the truest and purest form of hope that has graced our world.

In the days ahead, let us stand firm in His grace, anchored by the radiant promises of hope, and may the peace, love, and joy of Christ fill our hearts abundantly.

May our lives reflect the brilliance of these Advent candles, illuminating the world with the transformative power of the Gospel. Let our celebrations be a testimony to the enduring hope, peace, joy, and love found in Christ alone.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 23:10-11 American Standard Version

Remove not the ancient landmark;
And enter not into the fields of the fatherless:
For their Redeemer is strong;
He will plead their cause against thee.

Morning Scripture Reading - Ezekiel 16:60 American Standard Version

Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant.