Advent Guide 2023: Abide

Advent Guide 2023: Abide

The coming of God to earth as the babe Jesus was the moment when God changed addresses.

In Christ, God’s presence is now with His people. This was the goal from the beginning: the place where heaven and earth come together in unhindered partnership. This Advent season, we will make it our aim to abide in Christ, to make our home with Him, and watch as He changes us.

Because the Apostle John loves to use this word “abide,” each day’s text will come from his pen. While other passages will also be used (especially since John doesn’t even give the details of Jesus’ birth), the writings of “the disciple Jesus loved” will be the primary launching points.

Each daily devotional will follow the SOAPS Method:

  • Scripture
  • Observation
  • Application
  • Prayer
  • Share

Week 1: Hope

Written by Molly Bunton

Scripture

John 5:31-40

Observation

I love a good Christmas movie as much as the next person. From Hallmark, to comedies, to classics…there’s a Christmas movie for nearly any mood. Though we may find ourselves returning to our favorites year after year, we all know the truth: Christmas isn’t found in our movies. We are not satisfied with merely watching a story about Christmas, or talking about Christmas, or even believing that Christmas exists. It’s something in which we participate. Our traditions, celebrations and memories all testify: Christmas is an experience.

In John 5, Jesus tells us that belief in Him is much more than a story, too. Jesus was not mere words; He was the embodied Word of God. The proof of His identity was in what He did. He did the works the Father gave Him, beginning with His birth and continuing all the way to the cross. In verses 39-40, Jesus makes clear that the path to eternal life is not found in knowing about Jesus but in experiencing Him.

While we celebrate Christ’s coming this Christmas, may we not miss His invitation to us: to come to Him. Jesus says when we come to Him, we will find life. These are not empty words; this is a promise of God. Life to the full is what we experience as we abide in Jesus. Look around today; ask the Holy Spirit to help you pay attention. Where do you see evidence of Jesus’ power at work? How is He bringing hope and joy and life today? May you experience Jesus more and more as you abide this Christmas.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Written by Garrett Holle

Scripture

John 6:53-59

Observation

If there is anything that our culture has shaped us into, it is a “consumer.” We consume entertainment, food, and even our cars consume gas as we travel. Wherever we go, we are experts at it! We are consummate consumers! Much of the world’s economy is centered on Americans doing what we do: consuming what there is to sell.

The only way to screw up our consumption of goods is to try and sell us something that no one wants. I think of a few gifts I was given as a kid at Christmas by extended family members that I did not want to consume. So, I learned how to pretend I wanted these things. A couple were so out of pocket, though, that I couldn’t even fake it…“What’s next?!”

That feeling of being sold something that no one wants might be how the crowd felt when Jesus said, “Eat my flesh and drink my blood,” in John 6. Just a few verses later, the crowd will abandon Him. They were down with being consumers of free food earlier in the chapter, but they didn’t want to consume Christ.

There is a special temptation for us to do the same at Christmas time.

Christmas is ultimately about Jesus, but we consumers can lose sight of that. How can we, throughout this season, ensure we are consuming Christ? Can we make Christ our source this season, instead of nostalgia, financial stress or consumerism?

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Written by Manndi Wilkins

Scripture

John 12:44-50

Observation

Darkness amplifies depression. When you are physically ill, the pain seems more intense at night. Fear tends to overwhelm at night. In a season of devastation, the darkness that covers the earth each evening can amplify those feelings of desolation. Yet something truly amazing, life-changing, earth-shattering, and blindingly illuminating once happened in the dark. The Savior of the world, God’s only Son, was born.

God’s plan was simple, perfect; no minor detail was a coincidence. The long, uncomfortable trek with a pregnant mother and obedient father. The smelly old barn full of rotting hay and wild farm animals. The swaddling clothes. The wise men, shepherds and angels. The dark.

Jesus’ humble birth in a barn, in the black of night, holds much deeper meaning. He is with us in the darkness. His light is most apparent when we cannot see beyond our mortal pain. His luminous glow meets us beyond the blindness of sin and the inevitable darkness of deceit. Jesus’ light is enough to overcome any level of darkness we will ever know, shining the light of hope into our weary souls.

It is hard to have hope in a season of suffering. However, Jesus’ light shines brightly when the light of our world seems all but extinguished. Jesus specializes in turning darkness into light. The hope we have in this blessed Redeemer is a pure, unequivocal spotlight that heals, brings peace and provides the pure, eternal love of a Heavenly Father to His beloved child. Hope found in Jesus is the only remedy which defeats earthly darkness.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

 

Written by Kevin Punch

Scripture

John 15:4

Observation

If you have ever planted a garden, you know that it takes work to create the right environment for plants to grow. The soil has to be tilled and prepared for planting. The seed has to have the right amount of water to germinate. Once the tiny sprouts come out of the ground, it needs the right amount of sunlight and the right temperature to thrive. It is the task of the gardener to do his or her best to create the right environment to grow the garden and reap the rewards of the work.

Jesus calls us to grow and bear fruit, but we do not do it by our own effort. Instead, we place ourselves in the right environment to grow. It may surprise you, but growth doesn’t come through attending worship services or serving more in ministry. Spiritual growth comes when you abide in Jesus and make your heart open to the work of the Holy Spirit. When we take this posture to reading the Bible, prayer and personal worship, it places us in the right environment and God produces His fruit of hope in our lives. This Christmas season, make it your prayer to abide in Jesus and let Him do His work in you.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Written by Ed Holt

Scripture

John 15:7-8

Observation

As Christmas approaches, those of you who have children have been trying to determine what kind of gift you’re going to give your child. Their hopeful expectations are high and sometimes their lists are not only long, but also unrealistic.

Jesus told His disciples, however, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Regrettably, taken out of context, some people have used this verse to present God as the great slot machine. However, this verse was spoken conditionally, in the context of a very special word found eight times in the first eight verses of this chapter and 120 times in the New Testament. It is the word “abide”. As Jesus has come to abide in us through the presence of the Holy Spirit, His desire is that we will also dwell in Him.

When that happens, God changes your “ask.” When you truly make Jesus your dwelling place, your “ask” is focused on God, His will, His purpose, His glory. Jesus’ expectation for His disciples is that they will produce fruit. The fruit of the Holy Spirit? Yes! The fruit of people brought into the Kingdom of God? Yes! The fruit of repentance? Yes!

So, during this season, perhaps the question that you ought to be asking your Father is, “What fruit do you want to produce in my life? Will you please do the work in my life to make me fruitful for Your Kingdom?” If that desire defines your wish list, Jesus promises that He will grant your request and that as a result, God will receive glory.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Written by Lexie Thomason

Scripture

1 John 2:24-25

Observation

We all know those people. You know, the people who eat, sleep and breathe Christmas. Their tree is up early, and comes down late. They have their shopping done well in advance, own Christmas sweaters, listen to Christmas music, and bake Christmas cookies. Okay, fine, I’m one of those people. You could say I abide in Christmas.

That word abide is one we don’t use unless talking about the Bible. So, whether Advent was the first you’ve heard it or the hundredth, it may still feel unfamiliar. To abide means to remain stable or fixed in a state. These verses remind us that if we remain in a stable state with Jesus, we are promised eternal life.

So, what does that look like? Well, there’s no doubt that I love Christmas. Whether you know me well or are a complete stranger, my actions make my love for it obvious. The same should be true for our love for Christ.

Advent is a great time to refocus our lives on Christ. Then, let these habits and commitments remain stable throughout the rest of the year. Let your thoughts, words and actions be fixed on Christ. Live in a way where everyone around you sees your love for Him.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Written by Annie Denney

Scripture

2 John 1:7-9

Observation

When I think about how many people in Jesus’ day were eagerly waiting on the Messiah but totally missed it when He came, it’s easy for me to think, “How could you miss this? It’s so obvious. All the Scripture points to this.”

He is descended from David and was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He gave sight to the blind and healed the paralyzed (Isaiah 35:5-6). He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He died on the cross for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-5).

The Scripture was right in front of them, but because Jesus didn’t come like they wanted Him to, they missed it. They expected a warrior king who would lead a revolt against Rome, not a baby born in a feeding trough. They had false expectations of who Jesus is and what He should do for them.

Have expectations of what you think Jesus should do for you ever kept you from obedience?

John warns about deceivers who reject the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh and don’t abide in His teachings. Since Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6), this means they don’t have a relationship with God.

It is vital to know who the true Jesus is and to love and serve Him, which is easy to say but harder to live out. This is a daily decision to put one foot in front of the other and to live in obedience to His Word because Jesus is who He says He is. He is Emmanuel. He is God with us.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Week 2: Peace

Written by Cheryl Kepes

Scripture

John 1:32-33

Observation

Throughout the Bible we see examples in which God sends signs to lovingly reassure His followers. During the Christmas season, we reflect on signs such as the angel God sent to Mary prior to Jesus’ birth and the star God placed in the sky to guide the wise men searching for the newborn King.

In today’s verses, we witness a magnificent sign God gives John the Baptist at Jesus’ baptism. Scripture reveals the Spirit, in the bodily form of a dove, descends from heaven and resides (abides) in Jesus. This was not a temporary phenomenon. The Holy Spirit remained in Jesus.

Any doubts John the Baptist may have held about Jesus’ identity were erased at this moment. What an amazing experience that must have been for John the Baptist as he stood in the water next to the Son of God, seeing with his own eyes God’s Spirit dwelling in Jesus. Through this encounter, God affirmed what John the Baptist already knew in his heart, that Jesus is “…the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

We, too, have the same assurance God bestowed on John the Baptist. And there is additional truth for us. Ephesians 1:13 says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” What a gracious and beautiful sign of God’s love for us.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Written by Kyle and Rebecca Koval

Scripture

John 1:35-39

Observation

Up until Jesus’ birth, only select men had encountered God or received special revelation from His messengers. When Jesus came, everything changed. Jesus, the Son of God, in Whom the fullness of God dwelt and who declared His equality with God, revealed Himself to us. He came born as a baby to live on earth and show us what God is like, His love, His grace, His compassion, His authority and His power.

Here in John 1:35-39, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, we see the invite that God has been extending to all people since the creation of the world: “Come and see.” It’s an invitation into a relationship, an invitation to spend time with Him. To walk with Him. To talk with Him. To listen to Him. And to remain with Him for the rest of our lives. For He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins. It’s a simple invitation that invites a simple yet life-changing response. It’s not easy, but it is worth everything to be with Him. If you haven’t heeded His invitation, “come and see” today.

If you are walking with Him and are remaining with Him, think about who around you needs to hear Jesus’ invitation, and invite them to experience Him today. God wants to use you to extend His invitation to the ends of the earth. Join Him this Advent season in calling many to “Come and see.”

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Written by Ethan Scott

Scripture

John 8:31-36

Observation

Freedom is not often something that we equate with rules. When your boss tells you that you have to come to work even on Christmas, you don’t usually feel an overwhelming sense of freedom. When your teacher tells you that you’re not allowed to ever be on your phone throughout the school day, it’s tough to feel any kind of freedom there. When you’re told you can’t say what you want to say to the person who was driving 10 miles below the speed limit because the Bible calls you to speak “only what is helpful for building others up” (Eph. 4:29), it’s tough to feel freedom in that situation.

The crazy thing is that we are told in today’s passage that freedom is found in Jesus and the truth that He proclaimed in His Word. The statements within Scripture that are seen as restrictive laws can be better described as guidelines, and when we live within those guidelines, true freedom can be found in Christ. We no longer have to be locked in by the bondage of sin because the Word (i.e. Jesus Christ) has liberated us to live a life in the fullness that He desires for us. We should be able to find peace as we abide in Christ’s Word through living as His disciples.

Freedom is not often something that we equate with rules, but when it comes to the commands we find in Jesus’ Word, freedom is forever found.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

 

Written by Wyatt Jenkins

Scripture

John 14:8-11

Observation

Have you ever caught a glimpse of your reflection in a Christmas ornament? It’s normally distorted, like some kind of Christmas-funhouse mirror. Imperfect vessels have a way of distorting the images they reflect. Is your view of the Father distorted? Does that leave you unsettled, struggling with thoughts of what He is truly like? Does the Father love you? Does He care?

Jesus says something amazing in John 14:9: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” This is the talk of a crazy person, if there is nothing to back it up. Coming from Jesus, who was raised from the dead after predicting His own death and resurrection, this statement carries life-changing power.

The Father did not leave you lost, trying desperately to piece together an image of what He is like from distorted glimpses of the Father’s image in imperfect vessels. He made a way for you to see what He is like. If you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father.

Seeing Jesus’ sacrifice to reach the lost and broken is seeing the Father’s sacrifice to reach the lost and broken. Seeing Jesus’ love is seeing the Father’s love. Seeing Jesus in action is seeing the Father in action.

You can know the Father. You can trust that He loves you, that He cares for you. You can be at peace in the mercy, grace, compassion and goodness of the Father because you have seen it in Jesus. Fully trust in the Father and be at peace this Advent season.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Written by Mitchell Denney

Scripture

John 15:5-6

Observation

In the busy season of Christmas, we often get caught up with gifts, celebrations, gatherings, etc. Personally, I find it difficult to slow down and experience Christmas for what it is, a celebration of Christ’s birth.

We are called to abide in Christ. What does it mean to abide? Many modern definitions lead us to the idea of abiding by laws and regulations. But upon further research we see that the term “abide” was also used to describe where you lived. You would abide in a city.

In this passage we are called to abide in Christ. Our life is to be firmly rooted in Christ. During such a busy season as Christmas, it can be difficult to really abide in Jesus. As John 15:5-6 says, we are to abide in Christ. We are to remain on the vine producing fruit or else we would be cut off.

The fruit we produce is often grown through our time abiding in Christ and following His will. Throughout this busy season, let us not forget to spend time abiding in Christ, keeping our focus on Him rather than the hustle and commitments of the holidays. Through Christ we produce fruit, and it is in Christ that we must abide.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Written by Libbie Hampton

Scripture

John 15:5-6

Observation

Where do you find peace? Perhaps a walk in the woods on a sunny day, a hot cup of coffee sitting in your easy chair, or in the middle of a loud group of friends? I know the latter may not seem peaceful because, often, when we think of peace, we think of an atmosphere of quiet. However, peace can simply be a state of mind. Our peace may be disrupted when we allow outside conditions to affect it. To find true inner peace, we must first go to the faithful source of peace and drink in what is offered there. Jesus is that source. He brings peace to those who follow Him, who abide in Him, who direct their life toward Him. It doesn’t matter the circumstance; peace is present in Jesus.

In John 15:15, we see Jesus calling His disciples “friends.” He brought peace to them with His very presence, but by calling them friends, Jesus would leave them with a lasting sense of peace, long after He was no longer physically with them. This peace would be sustained in them through every future circumstance and trial, no matter how difficult.

We long for peace and a kind of faithful friendship that can never be broken, and yet it is offered to all of us through Jesus. He invites us into friendship and provides a peace that can only be found in Him. Tranquility in the middle of chaos! Peace that cannot be taken away, but rather can only be given away. So, where do you find peace? I pray you find the peace of Jesus in whatever season of life you find yourself, and that you hold firmly to it.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Written by Nicole Berger

Scripture

1 John 2:5-6

Observation

Just imagine…it’s Christmas day, and underneath the tree is a big, beautiful present with your name on it. You excitedly unwrap the shiny packaging. All you find inside is dust and moth balls.

A declaration of belief without deeds is like that, a dusty box wrapped in shiny words. It isn’t real.

Some of us might think we’re good. After all, we have our Christian checklist: We go to church. Pray before each meal. Tithe. Read a verse daily.

These are good things, but are we doing them to get closer to Christ? Are we praying just to mark it off our checklist? Are we writing his Word on our hearts or just reading it to say we did?

A true declaration of Jesus doesn’t merely come from the mouth but makes itself known by the overflow of His love in our walk toward Him. This means putting Jesus into every day. It means praying for guidance for every decision, and following through on His answer. It means memorizing His Words and acting on them during our day. It means giving up on things that make us stumble. It means praising Him for His creation and everything He’s done.

I’m not always good at these things. I’ve been more often like that empty box. But when God looks inside me, I don’t want Him to find mothballs.

So I’m going to walk toward Him because I know that walking like this, looking for His face, is the only way I find true peace.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Week 3: Love

Written by Angela Young

Scripture

John 14:18-25

Observation

Love can make people do crazy things. Obligation can make people crazy. The Christmas season can be a time when both of these things can be felt quite profoundly, especially when it comes to Christmas gift giving. If we’re honest, we know that sometimes gifts are given out of love, and sometimes they are given out of obligation, because…‘tis the season.

Christ came into this world and lived side by side with others in a community and time exactly where God chose to place Him. Christ was the embodiment of God. His lifetime on earth gave the opportunity for the world to experience the Father’s love within the confines of our human scope of understanding. His promise in today’s Scripture is His gift to us of the Holy Spirit, given in love.

All created things have the common purpose of reflecting the glory and beauty of God. But we are created uniquely by God. We are created in His image, an image that can receive and hold the true treasure of heaven, the Holy Spirit. Being a reflection of God is giving the gifts of grace, kindness, forgiveness to others, to those in this community and this time where we have been placed.

During this season of giving gifts to others, may we remember in whose image the Father created us to be. May we be intentional about loving those around us in the way that only we can. May we be crazy with kindness, grace and forgiveness to those around us because it’s our purpose, not our obligation.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Written by Josh Howard

Scripture

1 John 2:10-11

Observation

During this Advent Season, we celebrate the fact that the Light of the World was born. Love literally put on flesh and came here to show us what true love and light look like.

Can you imagine living in a situation of utter hopelessness, the feeling of darkness in your heart, with no hope? Hundreds of people will be feeling these same feelings in your community during this Christmas season. Elderly men and women in nursing homes often have no one to visit them. Children in orphanages have no one to hold them. Men and women are left on the streets with no home and no friends. What would it look like to let the Light of Love shine this Christmas season?

Together, may we become light in dark places around us. With your family, what would it look like to make a plan to visit one of these places in your area? What could you do to shine Jesus’ light and love into dark places? Bring a gift to an elderly person who has no one visiting them? Take a meal to a homeless person? Take a less fortunate child shopping for Christmas?

These are just a few ideas, but the main thing is this: Go somewhere and love people who do not feel loved on a regular basis. Don’t just do this one time and check it off of your list. Make this a regular part of your walk with Jesus, and watch as darkness turns to light.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

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Written by Ken Bryant

Scripture

1 John 2:26-28

Observation

John is telling us that in the last days, the time between Jesus’ birth and His Second Coming, Satan will be working overtime in the areas of fake news and identity theft! Satan knows that if he can devise his schemes in ways to expose our hearts to his false news, ways to gratify our flesh, feed worldly allurement and drive us toward worldly status and importance, he can possibly lead us astray from our true identity in Christ, dearly loved children of God who have a glorious, eternal home in heaven. Therefore, John reminds us to make sure that we ABIDE in Jesus and in His good news about our true identity that can never be stolen when we allow God’s holy anointing of His Word and His Spirit to abide in us.

So, at this Christmas season when we are preparing to celebrate Christ’s birth, His first coming, may we also be mindful that His Second Coming is growing closer, and Satan is diligently looking for ways to continue to flood our hearts with fake news about joy and peace. May we courageously abide in Christ as we remember real joy and peace are only found as we abide in what the Holy Spirit has already taught us: Christmas is about finding peace and joyful confidence as we kneel alongside the cradle that is resting in the shadow of the cross, knowing that it will not be long before we will be abiding eternally with Jesus.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

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Written by Paul Highfield

Scripture

1 John 3:13-15

Observation

Today let’s think about 1 John 3:13-15. There is a lot of hate out in the world for people who are trying to follow the truth. There is even hate among them. However, we know there is a different way, and we are called to model this new way. This is the way of love. When people see this true kind of love, they are drawn to it.

I remember a Chinese family that came to our Bible studies here in the states and we fellowshipped with them over meals. When they saw the love we had among ourselves, the mother said she wanted to be baptized. She did not understand what baptism was all about, so we did not baptize her. She didn’t even know who Jesus was, but she was drawn to the love we had among us.

As Christians, we are called to model this kind of love and when we do not love each other, it is like we are dead and are as bad as a murderer. We must think deeply about love because love is not just about being positive all the time and never telling the truth. Sometimes Christians misunderstand love and so they are always just being positive. However, we need to understand that if we have true love for one another, we should also speak the truth to one another. Paul says about love: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6).

May God help us to have true love for everyone with deep insight into what that person really needs both now and for eternity and may the love God has shown us in the incarnation of Jesus be the ultimate example for us.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

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Written by Leah Scott

Scripture

1 John 3:16-18

Observation

Tis the season of love and generosity, right?! Somewhere in the midst of stockpiling gifts, baking for neighbors, dropping a few coins in the bucket and giving to our favorite charities, we can easily convince ourselves that we’ve got this one covered! And yet, if we’re honest, even some of our best efforts are often rooted in selfish pursuits.

Jesus, however, doesn’t call us to a season of generosity, so we can merely receive tax benefits or feel good about ourselves. Instead, He invites us into a lifestyle of genuine, sacrificial love because it’s who He is! By very definition, He is love, and His life and death perfectly model what it means for us to love as well, without even the slightest hint of selfishness or vain ambition. 1 John 3 defines love as this, that Jesus Christ laid down His life for us, and as recipients of His love, He expects us to do the same.

In response to a world full of brokenness and desperation, God put on flesh and entered in, Love came down! And that’s exactly what His Spirit continues to do through the lives of His followers. He longs to use our schedules, resources and connections to reveal Himself to those who are hurting. When love abides in us, when His compassion guides and directs us, His ministry carries on.

As Christmas draws near, may we reflect on the abundant generosity and love we’ve received, and allow His Spirit to lead us into actively loving a world that remains so desperate for Him.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

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Written by Jody Benson

Scripture

1 John 3:23-26

Observation

Jesus, the One who came as a babe, with a radical plan to love us like we had never been loved before. Going to great lengths, He fulfilled His radical plan that went so far as to make a way for His very Spirit to be implanted in the heart of each one who believes in Him, changing forever the way in which we interacted with God. From now on, He would abide in us.

This life of love and abiding presence is the mark of His Holy Spirit in us. You and I, as believers in Jesus, are the only ones in the whole world who carry the unique mark of His Spirit, experiencing love and fellowship with Him. It stands in stark contrast to the rest of the world who do not yet know or understand the message of a babe, who came with such extravagant love in mind.

It’s through belief that we enter into an abiding relationship with Him. And it is within abiding that we grow in our knowledge of His extravagant love. But it doesn’t stop there; it also compels, drives, and urges us to live out that love as a proclamation for all to know in Whom we abide, and Who abides in us.

This extravagant love, His ability to abide in us, is ours to experience and share because He came. Let’s abide in that reality today.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

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Written by Emerson VanDeWege

Scripture

1 John 4:10-16

Observation

What amazing love that God has for us! God is fully love, but, because of our brokenness and sin, we lost our ability to truly be with God. However, by love, Jesus gave up His heavenly abode and came into our broken world, then died on the cross and rose again, defeating sin. We are not capable of this kind of love. God gave His Son, whose birth we are celebrating in a few days, not because we loved Him, but because of His own perfect love.

It is this love that promises to be made complete in His followers. As we accept His salvation and are baptized, God gives us His Holy Spirit, and He lives in us. When He lives in us, His love is made complete in us because God is love. Because of this, we are called to love one another, just as He loves us. We are filled with God’s love as we pour out this love on those around us, not just those who love us, but those who hurt us, as well as complete strangers. As we abide in God and love His creation, He abides in us. We are made whole in Him, through His love.

For this reason, spend time abiding in the presence and love of God as Christmas fast approaches. Pray that the Holy Spirit will make His love complete through you, and show this love to everyone around you, those you know, don’t know and your enemies as well. God bless.

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.

Week 4: Joy

Written by John Presko

Scripture

John 15:9-14

Observation

Jesus’ teaching from the text for today can be such a hard concept for us to understand because it requires self-sacrificing love, and this goes against the American concept of taking care of ourselves and striving for a comfortable life. This can especially be hard during the holidays as we get so caught up in all the plans for our family get togethers and traditions, which are all good. The question is: Can we also go a step further and make this Christmas great by doing something self-sacrificing that comes at a price?

I still remember when Brenda, Becca and I delivered Christmas meals with the church on Christmas morning and the joy that it brought all of us as we delivered those meals and prayed for people.

Maybe you will join our church to deliver meals tomorrow, pay the medical bill of someone who will never pay you back, take a Christmas gift to a widow who is shut in tomorrow or start making plans to care for an orphan by adopting, fostering or becoming a CASA volunteer.

What could you do tomorrow, or even today, that would obey Christ’s commands by living for others like Christ lived and died for you?

If you will do this, Jesus promises three things:

  • You will be filled with Jesus’ joy (v.11).
  • You will be Jesus’ friend (v.14).
  • Jesus will answer your prayers (v.7 & v.16b).

The reward is worth the cost!

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

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Written by Core Scott

Scripture

John 12:30-36

Observation

If you’re reading this early in the morning (since the kids may be awake anyway), it might still be dark outside. Even if you’re choosing to read this in the evening, you might find the same lack of sunlight. This is that time of year when a larger portion of our day is spent in the dark. On this Christmas Day of Advent, we remember that Jesus is the Light. He is our Source!

In our text, we find that Jesus is not far from His arrest and betrayal. His words carry the gravity of a man about to fulfill the greatest purpose in the history of everything, the reason He came to earth in the first place! Read John 12:35-36 again, and this time, allow the context of what was about to happen to Jesus add weight to His words.

We are given a couple commands to follow, along with some promised results: 1) walk while you have the light, so that darkness doesn’t overtake you; and 2) believe in the light, so that you may become children of light. As we live our lives in the light of Jesus through faith, we discover the victory that comes through our belonging to His family. Isn’t this what the incarnation was all about?

Today, as you remember God changing addresses through the incarnation of Christ’s coming, may we commit to living in the light of Jesus so that we, too, might become children of God.

Merry Christmas!

Application

What is a truth you can carry with you? How will you obey this passage? Are there any promises to claim or sins to avoid?

Prayer

Take time to pray for God to help you understand and apply this text today.

Share

Write down the name of someone you can share this with today.