Advent Week Two
Sunday, December 5 – Karen & Heath Bush
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
When Heath was a teenager, he made a lamp from an old surveyor’s tripod – a special gift for his mom. Today that lamp sits in their living room and it’s one of her most cherished gifts.
Like the lamp Heath made, God’s Word is also a lamp for our lives and a gift to us as we journey through life. A lamp doesn’t cast bright light over a whole room; it just casts light over a small area. It may seem scary that we can only see a small piece of what’s in front of us. But we can trust that God is providing a light along the path and He knows what is around the corner.
When you think of God’s Word as a lamp, you can have confidence that HE is with us in each moment, even when we can’t see what is up ahead. Our faith must rely on Him to cast a light right when we need it most, each step of the way.
Let God’s Word be your true guide. Lean into his teaching, instruction, and promises. Let the word of God bring you peace and comfort so that you will know joy in your heart, no matter what circumstances you may face.
Heath and Karen Bush have been members of Nashville First for 11 years. They are proud parents to Bradford (8) and Katherine (5). You can find them hanging with their Connect Group or serving in various church committees.
Monday, December 6 – Zach Bevill (Project Connect)
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined. (Isaiah 9:2, NRSV)
When I was a kid, I was afraid of the dark. I hated the enveloping presence of a pitch-black room because of all the unknowns and potential dangers that could lurk in it. As most people do, I grew out of it. Now rather than fear of the unknown, I more often fear what I have come to know – I do not like what I’ve found lurking in the darkness of my own heart and in the world around me. And yet, here is this promise. Jesus is the light in the dark.
I have walked in my own land of deep darkness, and even so – a light shines on me. I have been loved by a Savior who knows the deep darkness of my heart, and who still chooses to love me deeply. And I have been changed because of that love.
The darkness in our world is pervasive too. I have seen relationships broken, addictions win, homelessness abound, and hope found elusive or temporary. I’ve also seen marriages saved, addictions overcome, housing stabilized, and the hope of Jesus Christ change lives. Jesus is lighting up the darkness of the world, and the crazy thing is – He chooses to use us!
Those who have faced the darkness of their hearts and allowed Christ’s light to overcome it are now on a mission – we are light-bringers. Yes, until the Kingdom comes in its fullness, this glorious light that shines on us and through us will still cast shadows. There are still dark corners. But we know that the light is winning.
So I’m not afraid of the dark anymore. I know what is there because Jesus Christ came into our world to light up that darkness and overcome it. He is still doing it right now – in us and through us – and He won’t stop until the darkness is eradicated. We have walked in darkness and seen a great light – the light of eternal and everlasting hope.
Zach Bevill is the interim Executive Director for Project Connect Nashville, a local ministry that works to alleviate poverty in Jesus’ name through relationships, resources, and education. He is passionate about seeing everyone come to experience the powerful love of Christ every day, and the broad implications of that love across all areas of life. Zach is married with two kids (ages 10 and 7), and he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, coaching youth baseball, playing disc golf, and leading musical worship from time to time.
Tuesday, December 7 – Mackenzie Carris
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations …” (Isaiah 42:6)
We human beings are generally drawn toward light. Almost like a moth that is drawn to a street lamp in the middle of the night, except maybe not quite so literally. We see it in the way that we choose to be around people who are kind and happy and caring, rather than those who are negative and put us down. We see it in the way that a bright, sunny day after a week of rain is almost recharging to our bodies. We function better in the light. It allows us to see where we’re going, what we’re doing, and keeps us from tripping over random little things that somehow end up on the floor.
The Bible says that as Christians, we are to be a light to those that don’t know Him. But what does that actually mean? What is this “light” that we have? Does it mean that once we start following Jesus, we become perfect and have all the answers? Do we receive a complete list of do’s and don’ts that, if followed correctly, guarantee us to have happy and more successful lives than those who don’t believe? Is it a checkpoint we get to where we don’t have to worry about sin anymore?
Of course not.
The purpose of our light is not to convince the world that we are somehow superior to those who don’t believe. It is not our job to decide who is “good” and who is “not-so-good.” The purpose of our light is to shine through the darkness that is in the world, and [notice italics] draw these people to something that is much greater than what they know. We were not given this light to better ourselves, but rather to expand the Kingdom of God.
Mackenzie Carris and her family have been members of Nashville First since she was three years old. Mackenzie graduated from UT Chattanooga in December of 2020 and is currently working as a graphic designer at nixonPRO Media.
Wednesday, December 8 – Larry Felts & Elaine Hostetter
Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. (Micah 7:8, NRSV)
Oh, how we rejoice as we are again able to gather in celebration and anticipation during Advent. How we missed sharing the sheer comfort and joy of our Christian fellowship last year as we were confined to quarters!
Yet as we gather this year, clouds of darkness gather, and their threats grow more intense. Storms, wars and rumors of wars, and other global catastrophic events grow in strength and frequency. Perhaps the enemy is stirred to action because he senses his time draws near. But for whatever reason, man’s inhumanity to man and nature’s fury have never been of greater concern.
During 2020 and now in this year we have often been implored to live by faith and not in fear. While a most worthy mantra, as the numbers of non-believers, altered believers, opposition, and oppressors grow globally, that attitude of faith over fear is more actively challenged. However, when Jesus said “go and make disciples,” He didn’t condition it on peace and harmony and sunny days. In fact, our challenges pale compared to His while He was on this earth. Rejoice, however, because along with our marching orders, we carry His promise of victory.
So, while we are assured by His word of the second coming of our Lord and Savior, we are not to sit meekly in anticipation. We are to go boldly into a world filled with darkness of growing hostility toward Christianity. Literally billions of God’s creations are ensnared by the false assurances and blatant lies of our enemy and are being taken further from the light. In our own city the evidence of rampant non-believers grows daily as our security and peace gives way to anger and rebellion. It is time to “go” and celebrate Jesus to the world that those in darkness may know Light!
It is time for us to carry the word and light of our risen Savior into the darkness in a spirit of revival and salvation. It is time for us to light the path out of darkness through the strength of Jesus Christ. It is time for us to also declare: “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be light to me.”
After a whirlwind romance, Larry Felts and Elaine Hostetter were married 10 years ago on Amelia Island. They joined First Baptist in 2014 and are members of the Encouragers Class. Larry is the father of two and grandfather of five. Larry and Elaine enjoy playing golf and going to tournaments to watch the pros. They love getaways to the beach and NYC.
Thursday, December 9 – Lisa Pruitt
The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Matthew 4:16, NIV)
We sometimes use the term “Dark Ages” to mean a time before modern scientific knowledge began to emerge. Historians no longer talk about the “Dark Ages,” but instead use “Middle Ages” to refer to a time in Europe, before about 1450 CE, when knowledge of classical learning from Ancient Greece and Rome lay dormant in manuscripts preserved in monasteries throughout Europe.
As that knowledge gradually began to revive and spread after the mid-14th-century plague, Europe began to experience a “Renaissance,” an intellectual awakening in literature, the arts, and eventually science and medicine. The Renaissance didn’t just happen, however. It was brought about by the intellectual labor of thousands who were supported by the physical labor of millions (most of whom couldn’t even read). All of that was built on top of centuries of tedious work by monks cloistered away copying ancient manuscripts. The light of the Renaissance breaking over the “darkness” of medieval Europe produced great benefit for humanity, benefit that we still reap today.
The darkness referenced in Matthew 4:16 went deeper than the intellect. It was a profound spiritual darkness resulting from the sin that separates us all from God. The light that broke through that darkness came as a gift from God in the form of his Incarnate Son, Jesus. Millennia of spiritual labor had proven that, for all our creative ingenuity, we humans couldn’t reconcile ourselves with God. We could not satisfy His demand for righteousness; we could not save ourselves. Therefore, God did the work on our behalf, bringing us out of the land of shadows and into the light.
Lisa Pruitt has been a member of FBCN since January 1994. She sings in the choir and currently serves on the Music Committee and as a deacon.
Friday, December 10 – Cheryl White
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, NRSV)
I have taken part in attempting to hide a city. Growing up in South Korea as a missionary kid, air raid drills were a regular part of life. When these drills occurred during the day, traffic and any other outside activities came to a halt, and we all went inside the nearest building. Air raid drills at night were basically the same except we added turning off all our lights to the exercise. The city I lived in had over 500,000 people living there, so I’m sure we didn’t get every single light turned off, but we tried to make our city as difficult as possible to find.
In the past few years, one of the darkest places I have frequented is an amusement park ride at Lake Winnie in Chattanooga. It’s called the Boat Chute, and it dates back to 1926. You begin the ride by riding through a tunnel for a few minutes, go up an incline, and then accelerate to a splash down to end the ride. The part of the ride through the tunnel is pitch black, and it is easy to imagine spiders and bats overhead. There is one place in the middle of the ride where a tiny pinprick of light shines through the roof of the tunnel and offers welcome respite from the darkness.
Jesus didn’t mean for our identity as one of His followers to be hidden from the world. He puts an inner light in us that, just like a city or a pinprick of light, is difficult to truly hide. Right now, our world can seem like a dark place, but it is this very darkness that allows us to provide a glimpse of the light of Jesus through the way we serve and love others.
I see this light in so many of you and it inspires me. You welcome the stranger, you provide food to the hungry, you give shelter to the homeless, you adopt the orphan, you teach faithfully, you give generously, you love and encourage one another and you pray for others. Your light shines brightly in our dark world.
Cheryl White is a consulting actuary and partner at Select Actuarial Services. She has taught mission friends at NFBC for many years and enjoys participating in NFBC’s Room in the Inn and Second Harvest Food Bank ministries. She enjoys watching sports and rarely misses a day of getting in 10,000 steps
Saturday, December 4
Shining as Lights in Our World
Nashville First has found different ways to spread the light, meeting needs as times change. Today, working through our ministry partners, we continue to engage in many of the same kinds of ministries, meeting spiritual, physical, and educational needs.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
During the summer of 2020 I began to walk almost daily in my neighborhoods. While walking, I would often pray about most everything: the pandemic, my family, other people, our church, my safety as a medical provider, etc. One Saturday evening toward the end of the summer, the overcast sky began to lighten up as I got back to my driveway. My daughter, who had accompanied me on this particular walk, looked up and exclaimed “Look a cross”! The sun was behind a cloud, but the reflection of the rays bounced off creating a large cross of light across the sky. It lasted only a minute or two, but it was a special sighting that I will never forget! It gave me great peace and hope that has sustained me during the past year and a half.