Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Sunday Lectionary Readings for SUNDAY, December 9, 2018 - Second Sunday of Advent

The Candle of Peace


The Sunday Lectionary Readings
SUNDAY, December 9, 2018 - Second Sunday of Advent
(Revised Common Lectionary Year C)

Opening Prayer
This is Advent, the season of preparation. The shops are full of gifts that we might give or receive. Streets are decorated and choirs begin the rounds of community centers and retirement homes with their seasonal offerings of carols. As we prepare, we remember another, John the Baptist, who came to prepare the Jewish people for the arrival of Jesus. John, who would prepare a way through a call to repentance, so that hearts and souls would be ready to receive the One who was to come.

Father God, prepare our hearts not only for the celebration to come, but also for sharing that Good News with friends, family and work colleagues should opportunity arise. Grant us courage and a real willingness to talk about the love that came down to earth and walked among us. Amen

Advent Wreath Prayer for the Second Week of Advent
Last Sunday we lit the first candle—the candle of hope. Today we light the second candle, the candle of peace. We light it knowing full well that peace is elusive, and in some parts of the world, it is almost completely absent. Yet in this season of Advent, we trust that God is never absent from us. God is always preparing something new. And even where there is war and discord, whether between countries, within families, or within our own hearts, God is present, gently leading us to new possibilities.

Loving God, in this time of preparation and planning, We thank you for the hope and peace you unfailingly offer us. Show us the creative power of hope. Teach us the peace that comes from justice. Prepare our hearts to be transformed by you, That we may walk in the light of Christ. Amen.

The Collect
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Confession and Forgiveness
Trusting God's promise of forgiveness, let us confess our sins against God and one another.

Most merciful God, We confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have failed to do. We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Words of Reassurance
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world.


The Lessons

First Reading
Malachi 3:1-4
The Coming Messenger
3:1 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

The Song of Zechariah Benedictus Dominus Deus
Luke 1: 68-79
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior, *
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old,
that he would save us from our enemies, *
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers *
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear, *
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, *
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation *
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Second Reading
Philippians 1:3-11
Paul’s Prayer for the Philippians
1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

The Gospel
Luke 3:1-6
The Proclamation of John the Baptist
3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

  “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
  and the crooked shall be made straight,
    and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”


Here ends the Lessons

Click HERE to read today's Holy Gospel Lesson message

The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Closing Prayer
Dear Lord,

Through the darkness, we look for your wisdom. We want our hearts to be open to you. But sometimes in these days, it seems that so many things come between us.

Help us to be awake and aware of the radiance you bring to our lives. Help us to be grateful each day for the blessings of family and friends. Let us be peacemakers in my our lives, and in the world. Let us pray especially for this difficult world and those who are so in need of an end to violence. Our hearts begs for this as our Advent prayer today. Amen.

Optional parts of the readings are set off in square brackets.

The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.

The Collects, Psalms and Canticles are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.
Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

"Tough Words – Good News" The Sermon for SUNDAY, December 9, 2018 - Second Sunday of Advent


"Tough Words – Good News"
by Rev Dr Edgar Mayer
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia

The Holy Gospel comes to us today from Luke the 3rd chapter, beginning at the 1st verse.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
~ Luke 3:1-6, NRSV


Heavenly Father, when your words are at times tough, let us not doubt that they are nevertheless good news. Amen.

A long time ago there was a man that prepared people for the coming of Jesus. John the Baptist preached to everyone: "Turn back to God and be baptized! Then your sins will be forgiven." John put pressure on people to look at themselves and then change. Young and old were asked to meet the challenge: "Turn back to God." "Turn back to God and you will see his saving power."

And the message was not proclaimed meekly. John the Baptist was no softy. He laid into people when they only made half-hearted attempts to be part of his repentance regime. When they thought that they could just turn up and listen to a few of his sermons, then undergo baptism and that would do the trick, he surprised them with rude words: "You bunch of snakes! You bunch of snakes! Who warned you to run from the coming judgement? Do something to show that you really have given up your sins." John was tough! Too tough?

Do we think today that he overdid his cries of repentance? Maybe we do, but the Bible says that John actually spoke good news to the people. Hard words that prick the conscience, that make us honest about ourselves, that shock us with the truth about our lives – those kind of hard words have to knock us down sometimes. Otherwise we hear the cry: "Turn back to God," and actually think that this call does not mean us. Oblivious to reality we may say: "Repentance is for unsaved sinners but not for baptized people like me." Who says that baptized people need no repentance, no renewal? Who says that you and I need not renounce our sin and renew our commitment to God? That's when meek sermons may no longer do the trick but hard words are needed to penetrate one's self-deception.

At first we won't be pleased. Hard words hurt but at the same time hard words are good therapy/good news because they lead us back to God and his coming salvation. John the Baptist was a man from God with a good message even though he was tough.

Let me illustrate what the Bible means with a modern-day example. The event which I am going to relate to you is extreme and I will take longer to tell you the whole story but we will learn from it. A Christian writer narrates: [Just one comment before I begin the story. The writer uses some words which we do not commonly use and therefore may not understand. Don't worry about it because we will understand the gist of it.]


One of my indelible memories goes back to ... when I was a patient at an alcohol rehabilitation center ... Twenty-five chemically dependent men were assembled ... Sean, our leader, directed a patient named Max to sit on "the hot seat" in the center of the U-shaped group. A small diminutive man, Max was a nominal Christian, married with five children, owner and president of his company, wealthy, affable, and gifted with remarkable poise.

"How long have you been drinking like a pig, Max?" Murphy-O'Connor, our leader, had begun his interrogation. Max winced. "That's quite unfair." "We shall see. I want to get into your drinking history. How much booze per day?" Max relit his corncob pipe. "I have two Marys with the men before lunch and twin Martins after the office closes at five. Then ... " "What are Marys and Martins?" Murphy-O'Connor interrupts. "Bloody Marys – Vodka, tomato juice, a dash of lemon and Worcestershire, a splash of Tabasco; and Martinis, Beefeaters gin, extra dry, straight up, ice cold with an olive and lemon twist." "Thank you, Mary Martin. Continue."

... "As I was saying, we [my wife and I] have two martinis before dinner and two more before going to bed." "A total of eight drinks a day, Max?" Murphy-O'Connor inquired. "Absolutely right. Not a drop more, not a drop less." "You're a liar." Unruffled Max replied: "I'll pretend I didn't hear that. I have been in business for twenty-odd years and built my reputation on veracity not mendacity. People know my word is my bond."

"Ever hide a bottle in your house?" asked Benjamin, [a member of the group] ... "Don't be ridiculous. I've got a bar in my living room as big as a horse's ass. Nothing personal, Mr Murphy-O'Connor." Max felt he had regained control. He was smiling again.

"Do you keep any booze in the garage, Max?" "Naturally, I have to replenish the stock. A man in my profession does a lot of entertaining at home." The executive swagger had returned. "How many bottles in the garage?" "I really don't know the actual count. Offhand, I would say two cases of Smirnoff Vodka, a case of Beefeater gin, a few bottles of bourbon and scotch, and a bevy of liquors."

The interrogation continued for another twenty minutes. Max fudged and hedged, minimized, rationalized, and justified his drinking pattern. Finally, hemmed in by relentless cross-examination, he admitted he kept a bottle of vodka in the night stand, a bottle of gin in the suitcase for travel purposes, another in his bathroom cabinet for medicinal purposes, and three more at the office for entertaining clients. He squirmed occasionally but never lost his veneer of confidence.

Max grinned: "Gentlemen, I guess we have all gilded the lily once or twice in our lives," was the way he put it, implying that only men of large mien can afford the luxury of self-deprecating humor. "You're a liar!" another voice boomed.

"No need to get vindictive, Charlie," Max shot back. "Remember the image in John's gospel about the speck in your brother's eye and the two-by-four in your own. And the other one in Matthew aout the pot calling the kettle black." ...

"Get me a phone," said Murphy-O'Connor. A telephone was wheeled into the room. Murphy-O'Connor consulted a memo pad and dialed a number in a distant city. It was Max's hometown. Our receiver was rigged electronically so that the party dialed could be heard loud and clear throughout the living room ... "Hank Shea?" "Yeah, who's this?" "My name is Sean Murphy O'Connor. I am a counselor at an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center ... Do you remember a customer named Max? (Pause) Good. With his family's permission I am researching his drinking history. You tend bar in that tavern every afternoon, so I am wondering if you could tell me approximately how much Max drinks each day?" "I know Max well, but are you sure you have his permission to question me?" "I have a signed affidavit. Shoot." "He's a helluva guy. I really like him. He drops thirty bucks in here every afternoon. Max has his standard six martinis, buys a few drinks, and always leaves me a fin. Good man."

Max leapt to his feet. Raising his right hand defiantly, he unleashed a stream of profanity worthy of a stevedore. He attacked Murphy-O'Connor's ancestry, impugned Charlie's legitimacy and the whole unit's integrity. He clawed at the sofa and spat on the rug.

Then in an incredible coup de main he immediately regained his composure. Max reseated himself and remarked matter-of-factly that even Jesus lost his temper in the temple when he saw the Sadducees hawking pigeons and pastries. After an extemporaneous homily to the group on justifiable anger, he stoved his pipe and presumed that the interrogation was over.

"Have you ever been unkind to one of your kids?" Fred asked. "Glad you brought that up, Fred. I have a fantastic rapport with my four boys ... Two of my sons graduated from Harvard, you know, and Max Jr. is in his third year at ... " "I didn't ask you that. At least once in his life every father has been unkind to one of his kids. I'm sixty-two years old and I can vouch for it. Now give us one specific example."

A long pause ensued. Finally, "Well, I was a little thoughtless with my nine-year-old daughter last Christmas Eve." "What happened?" "I don't remember. I just get this heavy feeling whenever I think about it." "Where did it happen? What were the circumstances?" "Wait one minute!" Max's voice rose in anger. "I told you I don't remember. Just can't shake this bad feeling."

Unobtrusively, Murphy-O'Connor dialed Max's hometown once more and spoke with his wife. "Sean Murphy-O'Connor calling, ma'am. We are in the middle of a group therapy session, and your husband just told us that he was unkind to your daughter last Christmas Eve. Can you give me the details, please?" A soft voice filled the room. "Yes, I can tell you the whole thing. It seems like it just happened yesterday. Our daughter Debbie wanted a pair of earth shoes for her Christmas present. On the afternoon of December 24, my husband drove her downtown, gave her sixty dollars, and told her to buy the best shoes in the store. That is exactly what she did. When she climbed back into the pickup truck her father was driving, she kissed him on the cheek and told him he was the best daddy in the whole world. Max was preening himself like a peacock and decided to celebrate on the way home. He stopped at the Cork 'n' Bottle – that's a tavern a few miles from our house – and told Debbie he would be right out. It was a clear and extremely cold day, about twelve degrees below zero, so Max left the motor running and locked both doors from the outside so no one could get in. It was a little after three in the afternoon and ... "

Silence. "Yes?" The sound of heavy breathing crossed the recreation room. Her voice grew faint. She was crying. "My husband met some old Army buddies in the tavern. Swept up in the euphoria over the reunion, he lost track of time, purpose and everything else. He came out of the Cork 'n' Bottle at midnight. He was drunk. The motor had stopped running and the car windows were frozen shut. Debbie was badly frostbitten on both ears and on her fingers. When he got her to the hospital, the doctors had to operate. They amputated the thumb and forefinger on her right hand. She will be deaf for the rest of her life."

Max appeared to be having a coronary. He struggled to his feet making jerky, uncoordinated movements. His glasses flew to the right and his pipe to the left. He collapsed on all fours and sobbed hysterically. Murphy O'Connor stood up and said softly, "Let's split."

Twenty-four recovering alcoholics and addicts climbed the eight-step stairwell. We turned left, gathered along the railing on the upper split level and looked down. No man will ever forget what he saw that day, the twenty-fourth of April at exactly high noon. Max was still in the doggie position. His sobs had soared to shrieks. Murphy O'Connor approached him, pressed his foot against Max's rib cage and pushed. Max rolled over on his back.

"You unspeakable slime." Murphy O'Connor roared. "There's the door on your right and the window on your left. Take whichever is fastest. Get out of here before I throw up. I am not running a rehab for liars." [Quoted from Brennan Manning: The Ragamuffin Gospel, Oregon 1990.]

Let's finish here. That was quite a therapy session and I told you all that happened because I myself could not forget the story. Sean Murphy O'Connor was a tough counselor conducting a cruel group interrogation, unmasking all self-deceptions and in the end kicking the liar Max with his foot. In that respect he was like John the Baptist who called people like Max: "You bunch of snakes." However, both Sean Murphy O'Connor and John the Baptist were nevertheless bringers of good news. Later that same day Max pleaded for and obtained permission to continue treatment. He proceeded to undergo the most striking personality change a fellow alcoholic ever witnessed. He got honest and became more open, sincere, vulnerable, and affectionate than any man in the group. Tough words of repentance had made him real and the truth had set him free.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Bible says: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). In this time before Christmas, before the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, who brings to us saving forgiveness and a new start in life, let us not mind those who prepare us with tough messages: "Turn back to God." "Turn back to God and you will see his salvation." You and I, we don't want to miss out on divine therapy. We don't want to hear what Max had to hear: "I am not running a rehab for liars." Prompted by his messengers we turn to God, open ourselves up, allow him to deal with the sin in our lives, and then receive what he has promised. Promises of forgiveness, healing, new life, a change beyond words. The former alcoholic Max could authenticate that it is true: The tough message: "Turn back to God," is good news. Amen.


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The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.
In this time before Christmas, before the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, who brings to us saving forgiveness and a new start in life, let us not mind those who prepare us with tough messages: "Turn back to God."

The Morning Prayer for SUNDAY, December 9, 2018


Sunday morning prayer

My loving God, I thank You for bringing me safely to another day of worship. How I desire to praise You with a pure heart and right spirit! To that end, I again ask Your forgiveness for all my sins and renewing of my faith. As I speak to You today, fill my heart with true praise and thankfulness for all You have done for me. Lead me to appreciate more fully the blessings of worshiping with my fellow Christians. Thank You for the opportunity to pray and study Your Word with other believers. Make me a faithful witness in my congregation and my family so that others will see me leaning only on You, who saved me in Jesus Christ.

Lord on this special day, I run into Your loving arms. May Sunday be a celebration, filled with thankfulness, where I connect with the presence of Heaven, seek Your beauty and goodness, and cherish special family time together. Come fill my heart afresh with Your love. May it overflow with Heaven's bounty, moving through this rest day and into the week ahead.
Amen

Verse of the Day for SUNDAY, December 9, 2018


John 15:5,8 (NIV) “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Read all of John 15

Listen to John 15

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Un dia a la Vez - Cambios repentinos


Cambios repentinos

El Señor dice: «Yo te instruiré, yo te mostraré el camino que debes seguir; yo te daré consejos y velaré por ti.
~ Salmo 32:8 (NVI)

Nadie en este mundo puede estar preparado para un cambio. Por lo general, las pruebas nos sorprenden y nos estremecen.

Sé que algunos atraviesan cambios que nunca esperaron, y en vez de acordarse de Dios y saber que Él tiene el control, maldicen su propia vida y ponen a Dios como el malo.

Quiero que sepas que no todos los cambios vienen de Dios, ni del enemigo, aunque hay quienes piensan que es por mala suerte.

Muchas veces somos nosotros mismos lo que propiciamos esos cambios. Si se trata del trabajo, quizá se debiera a que no hacíamos al cien por cien lo que se nos mandaba. En ocasiones, tenemos actitudes que perjudican nuestra situación laboral, así que caemos en chismes, malas reacciones, incumplimiento y todo eso afecta.

Al nivel de la iglesia, se reflejan esas mismas actitudes. No hay sencillez, sino rebeldía de querer hacer lo que se nos da la gana. Olvidamos que si estamos en un ministerio, nos debemos a ellos en honrar, sujetarnos y simplemente servir.

Reflexionemos, pues, y hagamos una evaluación de cómo somos y en qué esferas necesitamos cambiar.

Un Día a la Vez Copyright © by Claudia Pinzón
Nadie en este mundo puede estar preparado para un cambio. Por lo general, las pruebas nos sorprenden y nos estremecen.

Standing Strong Through the Storm - OUR SPIRITS BLOSSOM WHEN WE SING


OUR SPIRITS BLOSSOM WHEN WE SING

God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
~ Psalm 68:6 (NIV)

Our Open Doors colleague, Ron Boyd-MacMillan, shares the following insight from his teaching, “Why I Need to Encounter the Persecuted Church.”

Chinese evangelist, Mrs Yang, was visited by another full time preacher who was very downcast. The preacher wanted to buy a tape player, but had no money. Mrs Yang sat down and just began to sing to him. Her voice was deep and scratchy, the tune barely discernible, the words simple: I am a wanderer, my home is in heaven/ Life is fleeting/ Our home is in heaven/ In this world we have many trials/ And sadness and sickness/ True happiness is not in this world/ But in heaven.

Mrs Yang sang as if before the Lord himself. Every word poured out from her core with total conviction. Tears rolled down her cheeks, her hands clenched the air, and she beat time on her hip. Soon the visiting preacher had joined in, and I watched them, roaring out the hymn together, smiles over both their faces. The preacher left, still with no money for his longed for tape player, but refreshed and encouraged.

Then again, I watched one morning as Mrs. Yang went out into the hills to pray. I followed her at a discreet distance. First she prayed for twenty minutes, and then she sang, walking around, for another twenty minutes. For the next hour she read her Bible, making notes, planning the day’s sermons. After that she sang again, for another half hour.

I confessed I had been spying on her, and asked “Why do you sing so much when there is no one to hear?” She said, “My father once told me, ‘One of the sweet things about the Christian life is that you will do things because they are commanded, and then you will spend the rest of your life gaining deeper insight into why God’s commands are so good.’ So singing is a command. In the Psalms we are constantly exhorted to sing praises to our God. But as for why, I confess it is one of those wonderful mysteries my father told me about. You see, while in prison, I could pray and read scripture, but nothing raised my spirits like singing. Maybe it’s because singing somehow concentrates all of the body on the praise of God, but I have found it essential to the maintenance of a positive spirit.”

Then she looked embarrassed. I said, “What is it? You were about to say something, but you have gone all reticent.” She replied, “Well, it’s just that an old lady told me something that really sums up the main reason I sing. She said, ‘Our spirits are like flowers, and song is the sun. Just as flowers only truly open when the sun shines, so our spirits only blossom when we sing.’ I believe that. I don’t know how, but it’s true. Since my prison cell, I cannot do without song, and I am very frightened that as China gets more open, and the churches get more organized, we are going to leave the singing to the professionals. This would be terrible. The only way you can have a full blossoming spirit is to sing to it.”

RESPONSE: Today I will make my spirit blossom positively by singing to the Lord in the Spirit.

PRAYER: Ask God to impact all Christians with this valuable insight of singing praises to Him.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS), a daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks. © 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission.

LHM Daily Devotions - BEING PUNISHED?

https://www.lhm.org/dailydevotions/default.asp?date=20181209

"BEING PUNISHED?"

Dec. 9, 2018

And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child ...
~ Luke 1:6-7a (ESV)

The Bible says that Zechariah and Elizabeth were "righteous" and "blameless" in God's eyes—a compliment the Bible gives to almost nobody. They were clearly believers, and their lives brought glory to God. But they had no child.

In that culture, not having children was a terrible thing. Most people assumed that God had cursed you—that He was punishing you for something. Having no child meant there would be nobody to support you in your old age, nobody to take care of you, nobody to carry on the family name. Doubtless there were rude people then, just as there are now, who asked the couple, "What did you do to deserve this?"

If you are suffering right now, you may be wondering the same thing. What did I do to deserve this? Is God punishing me? Should I do something so that God will be happy with me again and my problem will go away? To all of these questions this story offers a decisive answer—no. God was planning to bless Elizabeth and Zechariah, not to curse them. If the blessing came at an odd time and in an odd way, well, that's God for you!

And to all of your questions, too, God gives a decisive answer—His Son Jesus Christ. No, you are not being punished—your Savior Jesus has taken all your wrongdoing upon Himself, and set you free of it. It doesn't matter what you have done or not done—Jesus has removed your sins "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12). Your suffering is real, yes—but Christ shares it with you, carries it with you, as He promises us, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you ... I am with you always, to the end of the age" (John 14:18; Matthew 28:20). And when Christ returns for us, we will live where there is no more "mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore," where "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 21:4).

THE PRAYER: Father, help me to trust strongly in Your Son Jesus, who has taken away all my sins. Thank You for making me Your own. Amen.

The Coming King REFLECTION QUESTIONS!

What kinds of questions were you raised to believe are rude and should never be asked?

Have you ever felt judged by someone who seemed to be holding you responsible for your own misfortune? When?

What answers from God are you waiting for right now?

Advent Devotions were written by Dr. Kari Vo. Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin! Used by permission; all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).
What did I do to deserve this?

Devocional del CPTLN de 09 de Diciembre de 2018 - ¿Estaban siendo castigados?


ALIMENTO DIARIO

¿Estaban siendo castigados?

09 de Diciembre de 2018

Ambos eran íntegros delante de Dios y obedecían de manera irreprensible todos los mandamientos y ordenanzas del Señor. Pero no tenían hijos...
~ Lucas 1:6-7a (RVC)

La Biblia dice que Zacarías y Elisabet eran "íntegros" e "irreprensibles" a los ojos de Dios, un cumplido que la Biblia casi no le da a nadie. Pero no tenían hijos. Y en esa cultura, el no tener hijos era algo terrible que suponía una maldición o castigo de Dios por algo malo que uno había hecho. No tener hijos significaba que no habría nadie en quien apoyarse en la vejez, nadie que fuera a cuidar de uno, nadie que siguiera con el apellido. Sin duda más de uno le habrán preguntado a la pareja: "¿Qué hicieron para merecer eso?"

Si en estos momentos estás sufriendo por algo, quizás te estés haciendo la misma pregunta. ¿Qué hice para merecer esto? ¿Será que Dios me está castigando? ¿Qué debo hacer para que Dios vuelva a ponerse bien conmigo y mi problema desaparezca? Para todas esas preguntas, esta historia ofrece una respuesta definitiva: nada. Dios estaba planeando bendecir a Elisabet y Zacarías, no maldecirlos. Si la bendición llegó en un momento y de una manera extraña, es porque ¡así es Dios!

Y a todas tus preguntas Dios también da una respuesta definitiva: su hijo Jesucristo, quien ha tomado todos tus errores sobre sí mismo y te ha liberado de ellos. No importa lo que hayas hecho o dejado de hacer: Jesús ha borrado y alejado tus pecados "tan lejos como está el oriente del occidente" (Salmo 103:12). Es cierto que tu sufrimiento es real, pero Cristo lo carga contigo, así como lo prometió: "Yo estaré con ustedes todos los días, hasta el fin del mundo" (Mateo 28:20).

ORACIÓN: Padre, ayúdame a confiar cada vez más en tu hijo Jesús, quien ha borrado todos mis pecados. Gracias por hacerme tuyo. Amén.

PREGUNTAS DE REFLEXIÓN:

¿Alguna vez te has sentido juzgado por alguna cosa en tu vida que tú no has causado?

¿Qué respuestas de Dios estás esperando en estos momentos?

© Copyright 2018 Cristo Para Todas Las Naciones. Que a través de estos devocionales, la Palabra de Dios te refresque en tu diario caminar.
¿Qué hice para merecer esto?

Notre Pain Quotidien - Un amour durable

https://www.ministeresnpq.org/2018/12/09/un-amour-durable/

Un amour durable

La Bible en un an : Daniel 11 – 12 ; Jude

Louez l’Éternel, car il est bon, car sa miséricorde dure à toujours. V. 1

« Je t’aime ! », m’a lancé mon père alors que je claquais la portière et marchais vers l’entrée de l’école. J’étais en dernière année du primaire, et il y avait des mois qu’une version ou une autre de cette scène se jouait chaque matin. Puis un jour, mon père m’a lancé : « Passe une excellente journée ! Je t’aime ! » Et tout ce que je lui ai répondu, c’est : « Salut. » Ce n’est pas que j’étais en colère contre lui ou que je ne faisais aucun cas de lui. C’est juste que j’étais absorbée dans mes pensées au point de me rendre sourde à ses paroles. L’amour de mon père est resté ferme malgré tout.

Or, l’amour de Dieu y ressemble, mais en plus grand. Le sien dure à toujours. Il s’agit d’un amour inébranlable que traduit le mot hébreu hesed, employé maintes fois dans l’Ancien Testament, dont vingt-six dans le seul Psaume 136 ! Comme aucun mot moderne ne saurait rendre pleinement sa signification, on le traduit par « bonté », « miséricorde » ou « fidélité ». Hesed décrit un amour fondé sur un engagement inaliénable à aimer avec loyauté et fidélité. Même lorsque ses enfants pèchent, Dieu continue de les aimer, car la miséricorde fait partie intégrante de ses attributs (EX 34.6).

Enfant, j’ai souvent tenu l’amour de mon père pour acquis. Ce que je fais d’ailleurs parfois aujourd’hui avec l’amour de mon Père céleste. J’oublie d’écouter Dieu, de lui répondre et de lui être reconnaissante. Je sais que l’amour que Dieu me voue reste néanmoins inchangé, une réalité qui procure un fondement sûr à ma vie entière.

Veillez aujourd’hui à manifester l’amour de Dieu à quelqu’un.


© 2018 Ministères NPQ
Enfant, j’ai souvent tenu l’amour de mon père pour acquis.