Monday, December 24, 2007

Advent Devotional: Christmas Eve

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

Emmanuel, "God with us."

These days it's fashionable to speak of the "wonder" or the "magic" of Christmas, as though the holiday were simply a time to celebrate human kindness and the enduring strength of old and treasured relationships. For the Christian, this is especially frustrating. At times we are tempted, like Charlie Brown in the old "Peanuts" special, to shout, "Isn't there anybody who knows what Christmas is all about?"

As believers, we alone can share the real meaning of Christmas. It is contained in that lovely name Emmanuel, "God with us." Christmas is Jesus leaving His Glory in Heaven and humbling Himself to become one of us. The wonder of Christmas is that God should not only have good will towards us but demonstrate it in the most personal and costly way imaginable, all out of love for a ruined creation, and broken men and women.

As believers we have known and experienced God with us. He has left us the task of helping others to experience Him as Emmanuel, too.

Lord Jesus, let us be faithful to Your final command, to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. While men's hearts and thoughts are turning to you in this season, help us to make the most of every opportunity to share Your light and your love!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Advent Devotional: Sunday, December 23

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:31)

Persecution, fatigue and frustration can all cause us to give up praying for unsaved loved ones as we once did. As many of us prepare to see family members during Christmas, may we have fresh confidence that God desires their salvation, and so be encouraged to carry them to the Lord in prayer again.

Father, Jesus taught us that we cannot come to Him unless You draw us. Once more we renew our prayer that you would move upon the hearts of those closest and dearest to us. God, draw them to Jesus by the working of Your mighty Holy Spirit!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Advent Devotional: Saturday, December 22

...the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

A mistake all human beings are prone to is the error of judging by appearances. Some people seem to have it "all together," but everyone needs to hear and respond to the message of Jesus, no matter how "moral" they may appear to be. Some of us have a tendency to only go to those who are "down and out." But if Jesus had not shared the truth with the very respectable Nicodemus, would he have been born again?

Lord, teach us to share Your love with all. Let us not be blinded by a person's apparent success or his apparent lack of gross sin into thinking that he has no need of You!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Advent Devotional: Friday, December 21

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth... (Romans 1:16)

The size of the work can seem overwhelming if we compare it to our ability. But God did not choose us to carry His message because we were powerful; nor does He require us to become powerful before we share his love with others. The Gospel message itself has power from God to save people. Jesus also describes the Kingdom of God as yeast that will continue to grow and rise. Do we believe that our little work, joined to the power of God's Word, can become a great harvest?

Lord, increase our faith!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Advent Devotional: Thursday, December 20

For he is our peace... and came and preached peace to you who were afar off, and to those who were near. (Ephesians 2:14, 17)

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and His message is that we can have peace with God through Him. The world has become overloaded with anxieties, cares and fears. Only Jesus can give us the "peace which passes understanding" in the midst of the storms of life. How important it is to remember His compassion for lost people, whom He viewed as sheep without a shepherd, standing in need of His comfort.

Jesus, let people see Your peace in our hearts and may it cause them to wonder at the work of God within us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Advent Devotional: Wednesday, December 19

And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let him that heareth say, "Come." And let him that is thirsty come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)

It is not enough to simply teach people about Jesus - the Church as His bride must together with the Spirit invite people to drink of Him and follow Him. Christians are not to call people to a course of academic study, but to a relationship with a living God who promises to satisfy the thirst of their spirits.

Lord, make us sensitive to your Spirit's Voice, so that we may know when we should invite people to commit their lives to You.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Advent Devotional: Tuesday, December 18

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against...” (Luke 2:34)

We should never be discouraged when people reject and even scoff at the Gospel. The Cross is a sign which is spoken against: to Jews it is a stumbling block; to Greeks it is foolishness. We sometimes forget how offensive the message was to us at first - that we are incapable of saving ourselves through human effort; that Christ had to die to make us fit for God's Presence.

Father, we know that some will be hostile to the Word of Grace. Give us strength not to shrink back or be intimidated when some reject your Son. For we know that if we do speak, some will indeed embrace Jesus and receive the eternal life He brings!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Advent Devotional: Monday, December 17

Then said Mary unto the angel, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" And the angel answered and said unto her, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:34-35)

While we must speak to others with kindness and gentleness, we can never compromise the historic teaching about Christ - about who He is and what He can do. He is the Way of salvation that God has made. The Church has no "product,' no "method," no "plan" to offer people - all it has to offer is Christ Himself. If the Church should ever back away from Who and What Jesus is, then it no longer has any reason to exist. Even when we deal with those coming from historic world religions, we cannot compromise away the uniqueness of the Savior and His Divinity.

Lord Jesus, in all our dealings with people let us remember to point them to You as God's only solution.

Flickr photo by Christian Guthier; some rights reserved.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Service Cancellation Notice


Due to the cancellation of the 10:00 Sunday School classes, the Children's Christmas Sunday School parties will be held today at 12 noon (during the 11:30 Service, after praise and worship).

Advent Devotional: Sunday, December 16

I have come as a light into the world, that whosoever believes on me should not abide in darkness. (John 12:46)

Over the last two generations, society has renounced its belief in the uniqueness of the Christian faith and Christ's salvation. A common vocabulary for discussing religious issues has all but disappeared. Therefore we will need special grace in ministering to "New Age" and other seekers who claim to have found avenues to God other than Jesus.

Lord, give us the grace and wisdom to present You as the True Light. Teach us how to give to every man a reason for the hope that is within us.

Flickr photo by James Jordan; some rights reserved.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Advent Devotional: Saturday, December 15

And when He is come, He will convict the world of sin... (John 16:8)

Jesus said it was the work of the Spirit to convict people of sin. We always do a poor job when we presume to do the Spirit's work for Him! Let us pray that God will cause Holy Spirit conviction to sweep across our region so that people will know their sin and their need of a Savior.

Holy Spirit, we ask You to forgive us for the times we thought we could "fix" people better than Jesus. Please convict people in our area of their need for Jesus the Savior. We acknowledge that this is a supernatural work of Your grace, not something we can achieve by human striving or pressuring people.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Advent Devotional: Friday, December 14

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son... (Galatians 4:4)

God had a perfect time for Messiah to come. This Christmas, let us pray for divine appointments for people - that God will break into their lives at just the right time and just the right way to cut through busyness and distractions.

God, in Your Word You often spoke to people who were not expecting to hear from You. The Christmas story is full of surprises and unexpected encounters with God and His angels. Let this be the time and the hour for many to hear Your living Voice and surrender to You!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Advent Devotional: Thursday, December 13

Why do you spend money for that which is not bread? And your labor for that which does not satisfy? (Isaiah 55:2)

In our materialistic society, it is very common than to see people who have full bank accounts but empty spirits.

Father, create in the people of our region a hunger for You which will cause them to be unsatisfied with purely material pursuits; for Jesus taught us that a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Advent Devotional: Wednesday, December 12

One sows, and another reaps. (John 4:37)

These words from Jesus' own lips should encourage us to continue on, even when we don’t see immediate results. One mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to labor knowing that some days we are only sowing seed. Look to your own testimony: how many ways and times did you hear the message of Christ before You trusted Him for your salvation? No doubt the prayers and sowing of many others worked together to bear fruit in you.

Lord, help us to remember that it will not always be our privilege to be the "midwife" of a soul newly-born into Your Kingdom. Give us grace for those days when we are doing the hard work of clearing weeds, watering and sowing seeds of Your Word.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Advent Devotional: Tuesday, December 11

Then He said to his disciples, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers [are] few..." (Matthew 9:37)

There is nothing wrong with the Harvest – what we lack at times is the number of workers needed to reap effectively and abundantly.

Lord, increase our faith to believe that the Harvest truly is great and that a multitude will be saved at the end of the age!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Advent Devotional: Monday, December 10

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, good will toward men!" (Luke 2:13-14)

Christians do God a great disservice when they promote unbiblical stereotypes about His anger and wrath. The Gospel is good news, and the sending of His Son shows what is in God's heart - that He has good will towards the human race.

God, help us to be careful not to misrepresent You before people when speaking of matters of sin and judgment. For You have demonstrated Your good will in sending your Son, and demonstrated Your love in that "while we were yet sinners" He died to restore our fellowship with You!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Advent Devotional: Sunday, December 9

...behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

The message of God's grace through Christ is for all people everywhere. The Bible teaches us that the Kingdom of God will be comprised of those from every nation and language.

Father, as souls come to faith in You, may our church family always reflect the diversity of the people of our region. This will serve as a powerful testimony of the grace of God that has appeared to all men. Help us to remember to go - not just to those who look like us - but into all the world.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Advent Devotional: Saturday, December 8

...and the Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom you delight in: behold, he shall come, says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)

As we reach out to the community, let's remember to keep praying for God to do the things that only God can do. The Lord still comes suddenly to His temple, and when His People pray He will do surprising things and unexpected works of grace will be seen in people's lives!
Lord, we ask You to come on the scene suddenly and do great and mighty works of grace which we did not expect.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Advent Devotional: Friday, December 7

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8b)

In sharing with others we should be confident that Jesus has come to untie everyone and everything that the devil has bound up. May God help us to encourage those who are in the grip of life-controlling habits and addictions that there is power to help them in Jesus' Name.

Jesus, all authority has been given to You in Heaven and in earth. Display Your power in the lives of people by setting them free from bondages of every kind.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Advent Devotional: Thursday, December 6

And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spoke of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)

Once we take positive steps to speak to others about the Lord, we are often pleasantly surprised to find that some are already "looking for redemption." Perhaps they have known God at a distance. Perhaps they have heard about Jesus but do not yet realize that He is the way of redemption God has made – that He is willing and able to buy them back to God out of the slave market of sin. Like the people to whom Anna spoke, they need someone with an experience of God through Christ to share the truth of Jesus with them!

God, let us experience a true harvest from among those who have already begun seeking You!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Advent Devotional: Wednesday, December 5

...they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek (Micah 5:1)

Many of the prophecies of Jesus' first coming relate to His suffering and death. The world does not understand why Jesus had to die. Many view it as foolish, pointless or even blasphemous that God would have a Son and send him to die for mankind.

Father, today we pray that You would enable us to explain the message of salvation through Jesus' Blood to people and that they would see the beauty of Christ's love displayed in the Cross.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Advent Devotional: Tuesday, December 4

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. (Isaiah 9:7)

The Prophet Isaiah tells us that Christ's government and peace will increase forever. But we often fail in our faith by "writing people off." We refuse to believe that the government and peace of the Lord can hold sway over the "hard cases," and that people who begin as hostile towards Him can enjoy the benefits of living in His Kingdom if they will simply come to Him.

Lord, help us to believe that Your government and peace will spread over even the "hard cases!"

Monday, December 03, 2007

Advent Devotional, Monday, December 3

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

The many titles of the Lord Jesus reveal His wonderful multi-faceted ministry to men – the many ways in which He can minister to every broken place in the human heart. We often drink from wells that do not satisfy, for we forget Him who is able to give us counsel, might, and peace.

Lord, may we grow in our ability to present You to others, and hold You up as the answer for every man's need.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Harvest Time Advent Devotional begins, Sunday, December 2

Welcome to Harvest Time Church's Advent Devotional - with an Alpha twist!

Throughout the Christian world, people celebrate Advent as a time to reflect and prepare spiritually for Christmas. This year we are joining together as a church family to make our hearts ready for our Winter Alpha Outreach, which we're calling the Alpha Experience. Please pray with us each day for the Harvest, and for the part each one of us is called to play in sharing Jesus’ love!

Sunday, December 2

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. (Isaiah 9:2)

As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, we're reminded afresh that many do not know its real meaning. Many have forgotten Christ or perhaps have never known Him, and so Christmas for them is just a festive part of the "holiday season." People need the light of God, and on that first Christmas, He revealed His light to the world in the person of His Son.

Father, this Christmas, we pray that You will reveal Your light and life to those in our region who do not know You, to those who walk in darkness!