Dec 17 - Rejoice Always

TODAY'S PASSAGE

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

SUPPORTING PASSAGES

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, Psalm 126, Luke 1:46b-55, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, John 1:6-8, 19-28


TODAY'S DEVOTION

“Rejoice always…” vs. 5:16 I really like this scripture! And rejoicing does not always mean “happiness” or “exuberance” over something.  I lost my Mom suddenly—she just didn’t wake up one morning.  I could not rejoice as such, other than I knew her health was rapidly declining and although it was a sudden loss, I knew she would no longer suffer.  She entered her heavenly home to reunite with her parents and her five brothers who went before her, and many friends.

My Daddy lived four years after losing his wife and partner on their dairy farm for 59 years.  Daddy spent the last months of his earthly life at our local Life Care Nursing Home.  He never complained, even about the food (well, maybe a few times)!  He had wonderful caring nurses who grew to love him.  His long-time family doctor, Dr. Darby, visited him often.  Farm friends and neighbors were always dropping in to visit and “sit for a while” and talk farming.

When Daddy’s final days became obvious, he became quieter and seemed at peace.  He sometimes would get a far-away look—some say when a person’s life is ending, they begin to see loved ones who have gone before them—his mother, dad, wife, and oldest brother plus many friends who would be there to greet him.

“Pray without ceasing.” Vs 5:17 As I get older, I find that I pray more for family and friends whom I love and cherish.  I pray for my church and our country.  I pray for my pets when they don’t come in for the night, and occasionally one disappears, never to be seen again.  Just this past week, my precious “Layla”, a beautiful, young cat colored like a Holstein cow (black and white) just didn’t come in one night.  I’m assured she crossed over the Rainbow Bridget in our creator’s pet heaven.

A special prayer experience came in the early 90’s when I became a first-time mom three months before my 39th birthday.  I had worked full-time prior and after the first year, I began to contemplate going back to work, but I was not ready to leave my baby son.  I remember praying for God to give me a sign to know what to do.  After many prayers over several days, I remember a real “rushing of calmness and assurance” that I should stay home with my son, T.C.  It was a God-given answer to my prayers and I remember as if it were yesterday (and my son is now 26 years old).

“Our God knows us and what is best for us.” 1 Thess. 5:24 “The one who calls you is faithful…”


LET US PRAY

Heavenly Father God, keep us on the right track of Christian living and loving.  May we always “do unto others as you would have us do unto you.” Amen.


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Diane Grantham is a member of First Baptist Church and a deacon. "During this season of Advent, I am most looking forward to our church’s annual Christmas Eve service which instill in us the 'reason for the season'."

Dec 16 - WRESTLING, WAITING, PRAYING, PRAISING

TODAY'S PASSAGE

13 You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
you stripped him from head to foot.
14 With his own spear you pierced his head
when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
gloating as though about to devour
the wretched who were in hiding.
15 You trampled the sea with your horses,
churning the great waters.

16 I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.
— Habakkuk 3:13-19


TODAY'S DEVOTION

Like the prophet Habakkuk, how often have we wrestled or struggled with God?  The nation of Judah was experiencing a low time in its history.  Habakkuk was frustrated at God’s seeming silence and lack of involvement in the world when injustice and evil were rampant. Our timing is not God’s timing. Our ways are not God’s ways.  We must wait faithfully on the Lord, expecting that God will indeed faithfully work out all things for our good as promised.  The book of Habakkuk reminds us that no place is too dark and no wall too thick for God’s grace to penetrate in a powerful and life-affirming way.

During these days of Advent, we anticipate once again the birth of God’s sacrificial gift of Jesus, His only Son.  We wrestle with what that means for us, our families, our church, our community, and the world.  We wait, sometimes impatiently, but expectantly, for the hope, love, joy, and peace that we so desperately need.  We look to God listening for reassurance that all will be well.

May we, like Habakkuk, look ahead believing and praising the unfathomable mysteries of God:

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

He enables me to tread on the heights.”  Habakkuk 3:18-19 (NIV)


LET US PRAY

Lord, we confess that we struggle.  Help us to claim your faithful promises every day.  We praise you and thank you for your abiding presence.  May we rejoice in you for who you are and what you’ve done through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Nenette Measels enjoys her ministry at Carson-Newman, collecting all things “tea”—tea pots, tea cups, tea tins, antiquing, puzzling, reading, and spending time with her husband, Clark, and cat, Shelley Bella.  "During this season of Advent, I am most looking forward to the music of Advent/Christmas and being with family."

Dec 15 - Facing Forward

TODAY'S PASSAGE

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.


Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
— Psalm 126

SUPPORTING PASSAGES

Psalm 126; Habbakuk 3:2-6; Philippians 3:12-16


TODAY'S DEVOTION

With its familiar  “. . . .Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own, but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.. . . .” (verses 13-14)  the Philippians passage is one which many of us were taught to memorize in our childhood or adolescent years. But not so with Psalms 126 or Habbakuk 3:2-6. Go look them up and you will see what I mean.

        Notice anything?  To me, the only characteristic common to all three passages is that all three authors long for an Ideal not currently present. The lesson to be learned, however, is in the stark contrast of where the authors look to find that Ideal.  For both Old Testament writers, the tone of the passage is “We remember, Lord, what you did back there in our community’s history; do it again!”  But for Paul, the paradigm of a thoroughly converted follower of Christ if there ever was one, the Ideal is in front of him, in a not yet realized goal which he seeks “to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”  (verse 12)

        What’s the difference?  In two words:  Christ Jesus.

        In the Bible, both Old Testament and New, God is consistently portrayed as a Holy One Who Is Out In Front of God’s People, calling them forward. The people of the community of faith in the Old Testament, however, are often portrayed as looking back and longing for God to repeat an old thing. Once God becomes Incarnate in the Advent of Christ, everything changes.  The New Testament community of faith forever looks forward to what this God Who Can fill Mangers and empty Tombs can do anew.  Paul, the poster boy of traditional Judaism if there ever was one, had a lot to let go of. But he regarded it all as rubbish as he pressed on toward the high calling of Christ.

        Christ Jesus changed everything for Paul, including his orientation to history, his understanding of God’s Ideal, and his role in God’s work. In this Advent Season, what might he change for us?


LET US PRAY

O God, in this Advent Season and forever more, grant us the courage to let go, to grab hold, and to hang on for the wild ride of following Christ Jesus. Amen.


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Ross Brummett is husband to Lea Ann, father to Molly and Will, and friend and colleague to many at Carson-Newman where he serves as Senior Vice-President for Student Affairs and Professor of Religion. “During this season of Advent, I am most looking forward to the Comfort of the Old, the Challenge of the New, and the Quiet Contemplation of both."

Dec 14 - Loss is Key

TODAY'S PASSAGE

7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
— Philippians 3: 7-11 ESV


TODAY'S DEVOTION

The season of Advent is a joyous time of year. That warm feeling comes about when we hear Christmas carols playing or when we make hot chocolate and watch Hallmark movies. We get excited about getting presents and eating all the food. When we think of Advent, joy ensues. When Philippians 3:7-11 is read, I doubt the reaction is very joyful. I do not know very many people who say, “This is fantastic! I am so excited to give up all these worldly possessions and suffer for Jesus!” During Advent, we think about all the things we are going to gain, whether it be possessions, love, or weight. We don’t think about counting all our losses as gain. These verses are here to remind us that worldly possessions are not the goal in life or in the season of advent. While everyone is going crazy in the malls and grocery stores, I encourage you to take a step back and think about these verses. Remind yourself that Christ and His sacrifice are the reason we celebrate, not material things. Be joyous in loss and suffering, even when it is hardest.


LET US PRAY

O gracious God, help us hide these verses in our heart. Let us be your humble servants and count our loss as gain. Thank you for sending your Son to be the perfect lamb, sacrificing Himself for us. May we remember that this season is not about the material, but about the Messiah. Thank you for everything you do for us daily, and most of all, thank you for your fierce love. In the name of the One who became sin for us I pray, amen.


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Mitra Sarshuri is a sophomore religion and political science double major at Carson-Newman University. "I plan on pursuing some kind of career in ministry in the Middle East, where my father is from. During this season of Advent I am most looking forward to spending time with my family and being at home."

Dec 13 - Still Waiting

TODAY'S PASSAGE

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When the wicked advance against me
to devour[a] me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.

4 One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.

7 Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.

13 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
— Psalm 27


TODAY'S DEVOTION

“Wait for the LORD,” the Psalmist writes in Psalm 27.  Around six centuries later Malachi speaks of the coming ‘messenger.’  Four more centuries pass before Luke’s narrative begins with the story of the miraculous birth of John the Baptist.  Over twenty centuries later we wait for the coming of the Lord.

        We would be hard-pressed not to conclude that waiting is a big and important part of the plan of God.  To us it seems that God is not in a hurry.  Peter’s reminder that “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day” is dramatically appropriate.

        But waiting is difficult, especially for twenty-first century persons accustomed to instantaneous texting.  Why doesn’t God just zap away the evil and get on with it?  Why must we endure the constant pain and suffering of a world seemingly gone mad?”

        We really don’t have definitive answers to these questions.  But perhaps some insight might be gained by thinking of the character of God.  Again from Peter:  God “is patient with you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”

        Could it be that the answer to our question is that God is waiting for us?  Waiting for us to fulfill the promise of his coming?  Waiting for the kingdom of God, fought for and won at Jesus’ cross, to come via our proclamation of the gospel message?  Waiting for the gospel message to take hold of men and women, boys and girls, everywhere?  “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

        As we wait again this Christmas season, let us wait, not only in patient hope, but in active hope, living out through word and deed the certainty of our faith in the ultimate triumph of God in all that he has created.  We wait, knowing that one day “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord.”


LET US PRAY

O Lord, as we again wait this season for the coming of Christ, let our waiting be full of hope, full of word, full of deed, knowing that one day “we shall reap if we faint not.”


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Bill Rosser is married to Linda and they are the parents of three and the grandparents of nine.  "My life story is one of redemption through the love of God and of those who have shown love to me.  During this season of Advent, I am most looking forward to quiet times away from the noise of life and noisy times with family and friends." 

Dec 12 - It’s Worth the Wait

TODAY'S PASSAGE

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.

4 One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.

5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.

6 Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 ‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me.

Do not turn your servant away in anger,
you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
10 If my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.

13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
— Psalm 27

SUPPORTING PASSAGES

Isaiah 4:2-6; Acts 11:1-18


TODAY'S DEVOTION

When you hear the word “wait,” do you break out in a big smile? Probably not.  Waiting in line, waiting on the next customer service representative, waiting on results from the medical test, waiting is difficult.  Yet the Psalmist says, “Wait for the Lord.” (v. 14) Advent is a time of waiting, in many ways. But why wait for the Lord?

Perhaps the best reason for waiting is stated in the first verse of this Psalm: “The Lord is my light. . .” God is the best guide we have. When we go down unfamiliar paths we need a guide.  Sometimes we need a guide when we are on familiar paths.  Whatever path we chose, we need the light of God to guide us.

As the psalmist says in verse 11, we need God to “teach me thy way.” God lights our path by teaching us the best way to live life.  The problem is that we don’t always know the lesson the Lord is teaching.  In fact it may take us awhile.  How often do we look back at an experience and say to ourselves,” Now I realize what I learned from that.  I just didn’t see that at the time. But I am a wiser person as a result.”

Wait. Wait for the Lord. God can only teach us when we are ready; so we must wait. When we ask the Lord to help us, guide us, support us, we expect God to act very soon. Only God knows when we are ready. Waiting for God to respond to our sincere request calls for more patience than we think we have. But is there value in waiting? Perhaps God waits to give us time to prepare ourselves for the answer.

Advent is a season of waiting to remember the birth of the Christ Child. In the busyness of the season it can be difficult to take time to wait on the Lord.  What light is God bringing to us this season?  What is the Lord trying to teach us?  It’s worth the wait.


LET US PRAY

God of immense patience, in the rush of the season teach me to wait for the light only you can give. Amen


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Carolyn Blevins is a retired associate professor of religion and Baptist historian at Carson-Newman University. "During the season of Advent, I am looking forward to trying to be more patient with God and to being with family."

Dec 11 - Recognizing Our Need for a Savior

TODAY'S PASSAGEs

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
— Psalm 27:8,14
My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.
— Isaiah 26:9
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
— Acts 2:38

TODAY'S DEVOTION

A first step in Advent is to recognize our need for a Savior and long for His appearing. With the Psalmist we should pray “Your face, Lord, will I seek.” And with Isaiah, we must yearn for Him in the night and long for Him in the morning. Although many psalmists and prophets of Israel longed for the coming of a Savior, they did not meet Him in person. However, they trusted that God would send a Savior in due time. We should be assured that their trust in the future coming of a Savior brought them salvation.

When Jesus came, however, many of Israel’s leaders did not recognize Him. They rejected His Gospel of peace and crucified Him. Many of those who rejected Jesus were later convinced of their need for a Savior by the witness of His followers. They asked, “What must we do to be saved?” Those who did repent and believe came to a personal knowledge of the Savior and received His salvation, as recorded in the second chapter of Acts.

During this Christmas season, we too must long for God’s continuing salvation and expect to daily receive Him into our hearts and lives. Having received Him, we must proclaim His Gospel of peace, so that others may experience the coming of Jesus in their own hearts.


LET US PRAY

Lord help us to long for You to come into our hearts and lives in a new and fresh way this Christmas season. May we recognize You and fully accept Your Gospel of peace. Help us to proclaim that Gospel so that others may satisfy their longing for a Savior. Amen.


TODAY'S AUTHOR

John Burton (middle) is a retired professor of physics. He and his wife Patsy have four children, ten grandchildren and one great grandchild on the way. During this season of Advent, he is most looking forward to being inspired by family gatherings and Christmas music.

Dec 10 - The Art of Preparation

TODAY'S PASSAGE

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord[a];
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.[b]
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
6 A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
9 You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,[c]
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 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.
— Isaiah 40:1-11

SUPPORTING PASSAGES

Isaiah 40:1-11, Psalms 85:1-2, 8-13, 2 Peter 3:8-15a, Mark 1:1-8


TODAY'S DEVOTION

This year I have taken on a new role and job in my life: a head basketball coach. Basketball has been something that has been instrumental in life ever since I was a little boy. After playing in college, I often toyed with the idea of coaching and finally I find myself in that position. My favorite thing about coaching is preparing for the opponents. I watch hours of film over and over to try to get my team prepared for the opponent. But more times than not, I find that my kids don’t execute anything we have prepared for and it is the most frustrating thing to me. I leave the gym every night after a game thinking to myself, “Didn’t we practice this play less than 24 hours ago? Why can’t we execute it?”

Preparation is a word often associated with Advent in the church. To me, prepare is an action verb-it requires some sort of action. This Advent season I am reflecting on this question, “Am I truly preparing the way for the Lord?”  Possibly God may be asking this same question that I ask myself after practice, “Why aren’t these people executing my commands? What more can I do?”

What we must remember is that a good coach doesn’t give up on his team when they don’t execute something the right way. The next day at practice, you change the way you prepare or you prepare a different way.

In our text for today, it evident that preparation is an important facet in our spiritual life. Preparation is a way to show that one is ready for the task at hand. Maybe, just maybe it is time to show Jesus that we are ready for his arrival in our everyday life.

“Prepare the way for the Lord[a];

make straight in the desert

   a highway for our God.[b]

4 Every valley shall be raised up,

   every mountain and hill made low;

the rough ground shall become level,

   the rugged places a plain.

5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,

   and all people will see it together.

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

 

Put our words to action and prepare for the one who prepared life for us.


LET US PRAY

God, help us to realize to pause and rest this Advent season. Push us to put our faith into action and listen to new ways to prepare for your presence this Advent season. Amen.


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Jonathan Smith is a History Teacher and Basketball Coach at Halls High School in Knox. He loves sports, the outdoors, and the McGraw’s barn.  “During this season of Advent, I am most looking forward to rest!

Dec 9 - Seeking Peace

TODAY'S PASSAGE

You, Lord, showed favor to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered all their sins.
— Psalm 85:1-2


TODAY'S DEVOTION

One of the names of Jesus we love so much is “Prince of Peace” because we all yearn for peace. Our world is full of anything but peace.  There are nations warring against each other for political reasons. There are people killing each other for religious reasons. In our own country, turmoil seems to abound. We are politically, racially, and economically divided. And perhaps worst of all, we are suspicious of the motives of others. We judge others by their actions, but ourselves by our intents. Depressing, right?

Today’s text is like the balm of Gilead for our souls. God tells us that He will speak peace over his people and His glory will fill the land! He also says “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” Can you imagine better news than that? Let that sink in for a minute. Imagine a world in which those words are true! While only God can bring that to pass on a large scale, He asks us to be his “hands and feet” to accomplish it right here and right now! We can do that every day by seeking to bring love, faithfulness, righteousness and peace to every person with which we come into contact and into every place we go. Look for those opportunities today.


LET US PRAY

Eternal One, help us to carry out your heart’s desire by being peacemakers that spread love, faithfulness and righteousness to the people in our families, our community and our world! Amen.


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Ann McGraw (in red) is a member of First Baptist Church and serves in many ministries of the church. "During this season of advent, I am most looking forward to celebrating the birth of Christ with my church family and my own family."

Dec 8 - Righteousness and Peace Will Kiss Each Other

TODAY'S PASSAGE

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.
— Psalm 85:9-13


TODAY'S DEVOTION

I tend to be an optimistic person, but even I look around and see the brokenness of our world and wonder if it has ever been this bad before. War, racism, sexual abuse, corrupt leaders, deep and angry cultural divisions . . . these problems and so many more plague our daily headlines. This is certainly not the world that God intended in Genesis 1 when God looked at all that was made and called it “good”, and it is not the world Christ came to re-create. As our world spirals further downward, despair finds us all too easily, and hopelessness plunges over us like a blanket of darkness. In the midst of such darkness, it is most helpful to remember the words of the Psalmist who, like so many of the Psalmists and prophets, looked forward to a day of redemption when God’s world would be as God intended it. In today’s Psalm, the Psalmist looks forward to a time when the Lord will speak peace to God’s people, and when salvation will come. What does that salvation look like? The Psalmist uses many wonderful images:

“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet.”

“Righteousness and peace will kiss each other.”

“Faithfulness will spring up from the ground.”

“Righteousness will look down from the sky.”

Take time to read each of those phrases, meditating slowly over each. Pray over those phrases.

Things like steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace are in far too short supply these days. We all look forward to the day where they not only abound, but where they are so abundant that the only way to describe such a world is one in which they simply sprout up from the ground like the creation itself, or fall from the sky like manna in the wilderness. They will kiss each other. If ever such a world will exist, it will exist in the Christ child, one who comes not with a sword or the fires of judgment from heaven, but a vulnerable newborn who comes bringing peace, righteousness, and steadfast love. On that first Christmas day as a baby made an obscure entrance into the world, righteousness and peace kissed each other. When Christ breaks into your world and my world even now, righteousness and peace kiss each other. And these moments are a foreshadowing, a down payment, a promissory note, for a redemption yet to come, one where Christ reigns and righteousness and peace will kiss each other.


LET US PRAY

Christ, as we pray over these phrases from the Psalmist today, may you, and we, work to bring such a kingdom to earth, both now and forever. Amen.


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Chad Hartsock teaches New Testament at Carson-Newman. He is husband to Ami and father to Kaylin. “During this season of Advent, I am most looking forward to time spent playing with my daughter, whose joy and spirit reminds me of everything the world ought to be.”

Dec 7 - What’s Coming in the Form of a Baby

TODAY'S PASSAGE

2-5 Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father. It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.

5-6 You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit!—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.

7-10 Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore—you’re the message! People come up and tell us how you received us with open arms, how you deserted the dead idols of your old life so you could embrace and serve God, the true God. They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of his Son, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescued us from certain doom.
— 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 (The Message)

SUPPORTING PASSAGES

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; Hosea 6:1-6


TODAY'S DEVOTION

The passages for today point us toward what’s coming in the form of a baby.  The psalmist declares that God is about to pronounce His people well.  With a wink and a smile, He lifts the cloud of guilt and puts the peoples’ sins out of sight.  The prophet Hosea, who loved a prostitute, is a parable of God’s love for us.  God loves us at our worst and keeps after us until we know real love – a love that lasts and that is more than mere doctrine.  Paul writes to the people assembled in the church of Thessalonica.  He says that based on reports, it is evident that the Word of God has become more than just mere words and has permeated their lifestyle.  Paul tells them that the word has gotten out about their lifestyle and that believers in surrounding provinces are looking up to them.  Although trouble has accompanied this lifestyle, the Holy Spirit has allowed them to take the trouble with the joy and has put a steel in their conviction.  Paul declares that they are the message!  So, what’s coming in the form of a baby?  Sin has been put out of sight and out of mind.  The meaning of real love has been defined.  A way of living has been revealed, one that puts a steel in conviction and that allows for joy in the midst of trouble.  This way of living makes us the message!


LET US PRAY

Lord, remind me that You have removed the burden of guilt for my sin that sometimes I continue to carry.  Help me love others no matter what.  Show me a peace that takes the trouble with the joy in living.  Put a steel in my conviction.  Form me into the message.  Amen.


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Jean Love is the Associate Professor of HPSS and Head Coach of the CN Men's and Women's Tennis. She was born into this church family and was baptized by this church.  Although she has not always lived in Jefferson City, she has remained a part of this church family. During this season of Advent, I am most looking forward to rekindling the expectancy of Jesus’ birth through the music and ministry of this church.

Dec 6 - Peace

TODAY'S PASSAGE

Now you are walled around with a wall;
siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the ruler of Israel
upon the cheek.

2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labour has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
5 and he shall be the one of peace.

If the Assyrians come into our land
and tread upon our soil,
we will raise against them seven shepherds
and eight installed as rulers.
— Micah 5:1-5a


TODAY'S DEVOTION

Peace. The idea of it seems so easy. In a broad sense, we think of “peace” as stress-free, non-contentious, living. Peace and quiet. The kind of peace that comes from everyone just leaving you alone. If only it lasted. We chase it only to find that it is as elusive as a wild goose, and we frustrate each other when the terms of the ceasefire are not upheld. Thankfully, this is not the “peace” I read about in Micah. “And this One shall be peace”. In the Hebrew, shalom refers to the presence of all good things. Health, favor, blessings, and “right relationships” with others are all included. With this in mind, I re-read the Micah passage, and the description of Jesus becomes clear. “And this One shall be peace”. This coming baby Jesus is the presence of all good things. This Jesus is God’s making “right” our relationships with Him. It is this Jesus who, even still today, actively engages a broken world and brings about redemption and reconciliation. Pure peace, as is Christ, throws off pride and seeks the well-being of the world around us. Peace is not to be maintained. Peace is to be made. No wonder this same Jesus refers to peacemakers being called the “sons”, the very character, of God. He is the embodiment of made peace. If we want peace, true peace, we must start with making it in the world around us. With those who look, act, and think differently than you, make peace. With family, friends, and enemies who betray your trust, make peace. With brothers and sisters in Christ who attempt to “out-church” you, make peace. In the book of John, Jesus can be found comforting his disciples, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”. Though wars continue to rage, and people continue to shout each other down in the streets, in Christ, we have the assurance and comfort of a continuously redeeming relationship with God. “And this One shall be peace”. As we recognize the coming Jesus as peace, may the world recognize us likewise.


LET US PRAY

Father God, help us to emulate your Son by being peace in our world. Allow us more opportunities to bring redemption and reconciliation to those around us. This, I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Timothy C. Guthrie II is the husband to Hannah, and works at Carson-Newman University as a Senior Admissions Counselor. During this season of Advent, I am most looking forward to continuing traditions, both, with my wife and our church.

Dec 5 - Glory Days

TODAY'S PASSAGE

1 O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple;
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
2 They have given the bodies of your servants
to the birds of the air for food,
the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth.
3 They have poured out their blood like water
all around Jerusalem,
and there was no one to bury them.
4 We have become a taunt to our neighbours,
mocked and derided by those around us.

5 How long, O Lord? Will you be angry for ever?
Will your jealous wrath burn like fire?
6 Pour out your anger on the nations
that do not know you,
and on the kingdoms
that do not call on your name.
7 For they have devoured Jacob
and laid waste his habitation.

8 Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and forgive our sins,
for your name’s sake.
10 Why should the nations say,
‘Where is their God?’
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
be known among the nations before our eyes.

11 Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;
according to your great power preserve those doomed to die.
12 Return sevenfold into the bosom of our neighbours
the taunts with which they taunted you, O Lord!
13 Then we your people, the flock of your pasture,
will give thanks to you for ever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
— Psalm 79


TODAY'S DEVOTION

This Psalm was written by Asaph, who saw what Israel was like under the rules of Solomon and David. He begged for those “glory days” to return to Israel. Are we not the same? We have read and read about what life was like for those who lived by the laws of God. Do we not wish for those days to return? Where the “law of the land” is that which God has set in place. We have laws to follow in this day but they are not always the laws that God has set before us. Too often we put the laws of man in front of the laws of God and act just like the Israelites did. We deserve the punishment that Asaph prays for in Psalm 79.

        There is good news though, God sent His son Jesus and that gift gives us eternal life when we choose to follow the laws of God, with Christ as king. We get to look forward to a day that all the laws of man will be broken and we can live in a kingdom where the law of God is supreme. This second coming may not happen in our lifetime but when we follow Jesus, we get the assurance that God has set a place for us in Heaven. It all started with a baby in a brand-new world and that baby has given us the assurance of a new body in a place where there is no more pain or persecution. Won’t it be grand?


LET US PRAY

 

Dear Father God,

                  Help us to pray for those who do wrong against us and you. Lord, we pray that as we strive to be like you that our Christian brothers and sisters, who are being persecuted for following you, will be strong in their faith. Help them to look to you and not to others for their strength. Let us stand with them in solidarity and stand up for what is right. Thank you for this season to prepare our hearts for your coming to take away all this persecution and suffering.

  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Merci E. Kelly is a recent graduate of Carson-Newman with dual degrees, B.S. in Business Administration and a B.A. in Religion. Merci is going to seminary in the fall of 2018 to pursue her calling into ministry. During this season of Advent, she is looking forward to preparing for a new year of growth.

Dec 4 - Advent Christians

TODAY'S PASSAGE

In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and peoples will stream to it.
2 Many nations will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
3 He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
4 Everyone will sit under their own vine
and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the Lord Almighty has spoken.
5 All the nations may walk
in the name of their gods,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord
our God for ever and ever.
— Micah 4:1-5

SUPPORTING PASSAGES

Psalm 79; Micah 4:1-5; Revelation 15:1-8


TODAY'S DEVOTION

The word advent refers to the coming or arrival of a notable person or event.  On the church calendar it is a time of preparation to celebrate the birth of Christ. Yet in reality Advent embraces a larger hope for the future. Micah 4:1-5 provides metaphors for this hope. In a time of uncertainty, political chaos, war, and personal suffering, Micah looked forward to the day God would be exalted and persons from many nations would obey his will (4:1-2). In that day peace between nations and personal well-being would be a reality (4:3-4). Micah’s words are similar to the message given to shepherds at Jesus’ birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14). In this sense, Advent refers to more than a religious season. It can also define persons of faith. We are Advent Christians, living each day of the year expecting and experiencing the peace of Yahweh.  How do we do this? Micah expressed it simply: “All other nations may follow their own gods, but we will follow the Lord our God forever and ever” (Micah 4:5).


LET US PRAY

Benevolent God, we are grateful that you are always coming to us in our personal lives which are often challenging and chaotic. May we welcome your presence each day by obeying your will. Amen.


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Dr. Bill Blevins is the Emeritus  Professor of Counseling at Carson-Newman University. He and his wife, Carolyn have been members of First Baptist Church for almost 39 years. During this season of Advent, I am most looking forward to the presence of God that enables me to cope with life now and assures hope for the future.

Dec 3 - Taking Time to Prepare

TODAY'S PASSAGE

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
2 as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
3 When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
4 From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
5 You meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
because you hid yourself we transgressed.
6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7 There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
9 Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and do not remember iniquity for ever.
Now consider, we are all your people.
— Isaiah 64:1-9

SUPPORTING PASSAGES

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-37


TODAY'S DEVOTION

One of the great gifts of the Church universal is the season of Advent. Instead of rushing headlong into Christmas, we take time to prepare ourselves to greet Jesus anew each year. In the craziness of the holiday season, Advent provides a calm center around which to order our lives. Remembering the words of Scripture and spending time in prayer reorients us to God’s time and reminds us to anticipate Jesus – not only as a baby, but also at his return. We trust in the hope of his coming to bring all of creation to completion. And hope is the first watchword of Advent.

Late in the book of Isaiah, we learn that the Israelite exiles in Babylon are returning to their holy city. Imagine! The exile had lasted 50 years – 50 years of waiting, of praying, of hoping against hope that life would go back to normal. But when they get home, their hopes are dashed. The city is in shambles. The Israelites who had remained resent the intrusion of the exiles, who assume that they can have their old property back. And their freedom isn’t complete – they are still under the thumb of imperial power, this time Persia instead of Babylon. In their grief, they cry out to God: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

Hope seems hard to come by these days. We know too much. We have seen and heard too much to keep investing in hope. But there is a way – through lament. Lament is the time-honored and God-honored practice of crying out to God. It is grief expressed with honesty, and it is ultimately faithful, because it assumes that God is listening and that God cares. Hope doesn’t always sound cheerful. Sometimes it sounds heart-rending, because God’s own heart is also rent in two by our suffering.


LET US PRAY

God, we come to you in lament for the world as the season of Advent begins. Never have we wanted you to tear open the heavens more than we do right now. Come quickly. Amen.


TODAY'S AUTHOR

Reverend Ellen Di Giosia is the Pastor of First Baptist Church Jefferson City.  She is most looking forward to spending time with her family and friends during this Advent season.