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Sunday, December 6
The Holy Spirit
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
With the many customs and celebrations we have surrounding the Advent season that remind us of God’s ultimate gift of Jesus, we should also be aware of the gift that Jesus left with us after His time on Earth – the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit in a person is the key identifier of a Christian life, and it is the greatest power that we are left with to help us grow in relationship with our Creator.
Luckily, we don’t need spells, icons, or rituals to awaken this power. We simply have to let the Spirit move and then live in submission to what we are being told by the Father through the Spirit. In my experience, the Holy Spirit never yells out to us. Therefore, it becomes very important to be intentional about mindfulness and meditation in our busy lives so we can develop habits that illuminate our calling.
Much of the time, life is too loud to hear the whispers of the Spirit. And it is only by quieting our minds and retreating from the droning background noise of our daily routine that we can hear these whispers and be in touch with God’s calling on our life.
Only when we learn to lean on and listen to the Spirit will we be able to see His fruits in our life. Jesus was given to the world so that we could have a relationship with the Father. Submitting to the voice of the Spirit in our lives is the only way that we as Christians can fully enjoy and be changed by this relationship with our Creator.
This Christmas season, pay close attention to moments in which you feel slight tugs or quiet whispers from the Spirit. These simple truths, if noted and acted upon, will build themselves into the story that God wants your relationship with Him to become.
By Spencer Dunn
Spencer Dunn is a freshman at Auburn University studying Software Engineering. He is the son of Brad and Melanie Dunn and the brother of Connor and Mitchell Dunn.
Monday, December 7
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11, NIV)
Over the last two summers, I have been keeping a careful eye on the hot pink crepe myrtle we have in our backyard. An invasive vine keeps re-growing, trying to establish itself and overtake the crepe myrtle. With a bit of selective pruning, however, the life source of the vine can be removed, and it will die off, protecting the desired plant.
In John 15, Christ is instructing His disciples about the value of connection to the source of life … to Christ Himself. He “is the vine” and His true followers “are the branches” (John 15:5). He instructs us to abide in Him and His words (John 15:7). And He promises that if we do, we will bear fruit (John 15:2), that our Christ-anchored prayers will be heard and answered (John 15:7), and we will be filled with the joy and presence of His love. As a Christ follower, it is essential that I remain connected to Christ, not merely to survive, but also to thrive. And I should ask myself from time to time: Am I still connected to Christ? Is my connection stronger to Christ today than yesterday or last year or the last life season?
Seasons come and go in our lives … and, boy, has 2020 come, and most of us have longed for it to go. Our individual struggles are many and varied. We long for our community and familial connections which have been lost to isolation and social distancing precautions. My year started with the promise of job loss even before the advent of the pandemic, but His promise to provide remained ever present, unyielding, and timely throughout this most unusual year. Circumstances are often outside of our control, but if I/we remain, abide in, and choose to trust Christ, we will continually find our source of life, joy, peace, and so much more.
By Roger Jackson
Roger Jackson is an Instructor of Biology at Volunteer State Community College. He is married to Jill and is the father of Anna. Roger and Jill are part of the Open Door class in the Cornerstone Department, and both are members of the Sanctuary Choir.
Tuesday, December 8
The Kingdom of God
Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:14-15 NRSV)
What is “the gospel?” In the original Greek the word is euangelion—where we get our words “evangelism” and “evangelical.” The most simple understanding of “gospel” is what we read in Mark 1: “the good news.”
When Jesus was born, the angel said to the shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” People were in need of some good news. Rome ruled, demanding heavy taxes. Religious rulers laid burdens on them and did not practice what they taught (Matthew 23:4). The people longed for the return of glory days long past, when the prophesied king would “reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom” (Isaiah 9:7).
Early in Jesus’ ministry, His extraordinary actions and teachings drew attention. People began to turn to Him. And He had good news to share! The kingdom of God had come, in part – an upside-down kingdom, characterized by kindness, peace, love, and joy. A kingdom near, but yet to come fully.
Just as in Jesus’ day, we don’t have to look hard or far to find things in our world we would describe as “bleak.” War, famine, poverty, hunger, homelessness, illness, and an inexhaustible list of other maladies seem to dominate our world today. But Jesus’ good news is as much an invitation to repent and believe for us today as it was for Galileans 2,000 years ago.
Even more than an invitation, Jesus’ message is a promise. God is already at work in the world—the kingdom has come near—and we are invited to participate, preaching the good news to a world that can seem so bleak. This Advent season, take time to identify the kingdom of God around you and how God is working in the world. How might Jesus be calling you to join in the work God is accomplishing?
By Jonathan Higdon
Jonathan Higdon teaches Sunday School in the Young Professionals class and is Associate Editor for VBS at Cokesbury. He is the grandson of Charles and Betty West.
Wednesday, December 9
Strength for the Weary
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)
He gives strength.
He gives strength to the weary …
I’ve lived off this promise on many days, many weeks, many years. The older I get, the more encouraging it sounds. All over the Bible we find assurance of God’s strength and His availability to each person. As a rock collector, I celebrate the Hebrew and Greek words which translate STRENGTH/ROCK/STONE. (According to Strong’s concordance, over 762 verses refer to rock or rocks, stone or stones, strength).
This promise is all about relationship. God and me. The Sovereign God in His powerful goodness strengthens me, His child. At any age and any location. I trust my Sovereign God and He expects me to be responsible with that gift. Or put another way: He expects me to respond to Him. My part is putting my hope in the Lord. That’s it, folks! Receive a gift … practice hope.
From the hymn, “The Solid Rock,” we sing: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. / On Christ the solid rock (strength) I stand.” Our wonderful time of Advent reminds us that He came. He lived. He died. He arose. Christ will come again!
If you haven’t read all of Isaiah chapter 40 in awhile, I urge you to do that now. Stirring words about Almighty God, who wants to take away your weariness today.
By Martha Kirkland
A member at FBC for 36 years, Martha Kirkland has taught Children’s Choirs most of those years. She is a member of the Sanctuary Choir and the Devotional Service group. She retired after 22 years as a Lifeway Music & Worship consultant. Her four children include Amy McNeilly and Joy Fisher; she is grandmother of 7.
Thursday, December 10
Joy and Peace through Hope
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrased Romans 15:7-13:
So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. … Jesus, staying true to God’s purposes, reached out in a special way to the Jewish insiders so that the old ancestral promises would come true for them. As a result, the non-Jewish outsiders have been able to experience mercy and to show appreciation to God. Just think of all the Scriptures that will come true in what we do!
… Outsiders and insiders, rejoice together! (Deuteronomy 32:43)
People of all nations, celebrate God!
All colors and races, give hearty praise! … (Psalm 117:1)
Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!
Last Christmas morning all of our kids, their spouses, and the grandchildren were sitting around dozens of gifts with a full, stuffed stocking for each person. Preston, my 6-year-old grandson, sweetly but dejectedly dumped out his stocking and said, “Don’t they know they’re not supposed to put food and juice boxes in here – just toys and gift cards and stuff I want!”
Often we as students and adults are expecting God to put exactly what we want and need inside of our life experiences. Sometimes we express disappointment and at other moments confusion when life’s not what we expected and what we had planned. So we replace hope with issues like irritability, resentment, loss, bitterness, sadness, and anger. But the purpose of life is to celebrate the life given to us by God, the Father.
As Eugene Peterson says in his paraphrase, insiders and outsiders and people of all nations, races and colors, come together to celebrate Him. The two things we can always anticipate with God’s gift to us are joy and peace. That’s a promise that He has kept in the past and we anticipate in the future. I’m glad He gets to choose how He fulfills His assurance instead of putting “in our life-stockings” what I would want or think I need. Now that’s what hope looks like!
By Tony Rankin
Tony Rankin is a clinical therapist, speaker, author, husband, father, grandfather, and the Minister to Pastoral Care at First Baptist Church Nashville. He has been married for 37 years and has three adult children, one daughter-in-law, a grandson and a granddaughter, and a son-in-law. He loves to collect baseball and train memorabilia and walk.
Friday, December 11
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)
As a former math teacher, I used to develop mathematical thinking by giving students a new math problem to solve without any context. I would meander around the classroom stopping, waiting for students to ask a question to show deep understanding of the problem. I let students know that I would answer questions that were mathematically sound. If a student asked, “What’s the answer?” my frustrating response would be, “That’s not the right question.” Students would try their hardest to figure out the questions that would lead me to give them the much-sought-after answer. I would continually respond this way until someone asked the important question that unlocked the problem and showed they were thinking mathematically.
Matthew’s gospel reminds me of this experience. We often ask God for the final answer. The verses make it sound so easy. Knock, and the door will be opened. Ask and an answer will be given. Seek and you’ll find it. When looking closely though, these verses call us to create within ourselves a Christlike mindset. God says to ask, and ask again. He tells us to seek, referring to a continual pursuit of His response. God has the answers. He waits on the other side of the door.
Unfortunately, like my students, we often get caught up on superficial questions, and what we seek doesn’t line up with the plan God has for us. Our questions may seem to go unanswered. We may seek worldly things without success. We can’t seem to find what our heart thinks it desires. When we change our mindset and ask questions with a Christlike focus, God promises to answer the door, to deliver the answers which we seek, and to reveal to us his plan.
Are you standing at the door, feeling locked out? Maybe you are not asking the right question.
By Zach Williams
Zach Williams is a Data & Assessment Coordinator for LEAD Southeast Middle and High School, a part of the LEAD Charter network in Nashville. He is from South Carolina and has attended First Baptist for the past three years. Currently he serves as the Sanctuary Choir Vice President and works with the Grades 3-6 Children’s Choir.
Saturday, December 12
What Child Is This?
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
- Completely unique
- God and man in one individual.
- Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5)
- Has all the wisdom of His Father and reveals it to His people (Isaiah 28:26,29; 29:14; Psalm 16:7)
- Intercedes for us (Romans 8:34)
Jesus performed similar miracles to miracles of God, such as
- Power over nature (Exodus 14; Mark 4:35-41)
- Feeding thousands (Exodus 16&17; Matthew 14)
- Healing infirmities (2 Kings 5; John 9)
- Raising dead to life (1 Kings 17, Luke 7)
Both Son and Father:
- The “only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16)
- Eternal/Everlasting (John 1:1)
- Not bound by time (Psalm 105:8; 2 Peter 3:8)
- Here I am with the children God gave me. Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these … (Hebrews 2:13-14)
Prince of Peace
- Our peace (Ephesians 2:14-17)
- Peace with God (Romans 5:1)
- Peace among men (Luke 2:14)
- Peace in mind and heart (John 14:27)
- Peace in nature (Isaiah 11:6)
- Will rule in peace (Micah 5:2-5)