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December 20, 2013, 6:49 AM

Preparing For Joy!

Preparing for Joy (shared from Lifeway's devotional-)

Scripture Reading: "In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, ‘Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.' But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. Then the angel told her: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end'" (Luke 1:26-33).

Happiness is an emotion that can disappear as quickly as it rises to the surface. Joy, however, is a choice. We have a choice. God gives us a joy that is unconquerable. We can choose to live in an attitude of resentment, anger, and fear or we can choose to pursue the joy of Christ. So what is the picture of joy in the Bible?

Joy is trusting when you want to doubt.

"Trust in the LORD forever, because in Yah, the LORD, is an everlasting rock!" (Isaiah 26:4). As Christ followers we aren't pressured to do it all for everyone. We trust in Jesus to do the heavy lifting. The key is trust. We just need to have Mary's response to the coming of Jesus, "'I am the Lord's slave,' said Mary. ‘May it be done to me according to your word'" (Luke 1:38).

Joy is receiving what you want to reject.

Can you imagine how the innkeeper would have felt if he said to Mary and Joseph, "Of course you can't stay in that stable! That's for paying customers. Who do you take me for?" We find joy in making room for people in need. Reflect on the mysterious words found in Hebrews: "Don't neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2).

Joy is celebrating when you want to fear.

What's the first thing angels say to mortals? It's standard protocol. In just about every divine encounter the angels say: "Fear not." I can hear Jesus instruct His most trusted angels. "OK, let's go over this again ... Most of the people that I'll tell you to speak to will be scared out of their wits! So let's practice the greeting one more time." Then the angels would all say in unison, "Fear not."

The message is clear. God is not looking for ways to scare us into faith. He drew near to us to relieve the worries we have about crossing over the divide between heaven and earth. He wants us to know that He's going to take care of us no matter what happens. One of the names that He was called long before he ever stepped on this world's stage was Immanuel meaning "God with us." No matter what we go through we can whisper this simple truth: "Jesus is with me." Think about it. He is with you in your greatest victories and your most humiliating defeats. Jesus is with you at all times in all things.

Share: Invite each family member to share one thing that they're trusting God to handle.

Encourage: Write a note to someone who is experiencing fear and worry. Let them know you're praying that God will give them the courage they need.

Evaluate: Make an inventory of the things that bring you joy.


December 13, 2013, 8:20 AM

The Journey to Peace

I discovered something this morning -

Peace is found in a manger; on a journey - not in opulence or in static lack of motion. To often I think we equate "peace" with lack...lack of confict, lack of movement, but peace is a journey to where God fills the space, our space. - Is your journey to a manger filled with God's presence or are you headed where peace cannot be found?

I am wondering what our lives would be like if instead of complaining about the noisy rushing about that always seems to accompany the month of December, if instead of focusing on what we are going to get or give, if instead of trying to do all and be all the things our society says we should do and be, if instead of all this we focused on the simple journey to the manger found in Luke 2:1-7. 

Most of you know that I love Nativity displays.  I own many and i came to this thought as I was setting up my latest, a gift last year from a church member (thank you again).  I was reminded as I was setting it up (without directions or picture) that "every eye should focus on the baby."    This reminder is what triggered this thought - all of the characters in a nativity have been on a journey to the manger... Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the wisemen and now even you and I.   

I invite you to discover with me - peace in a manger. 




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