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“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14 When I think of peace, I think of complete silence, and everything around me functioning properly, in perfect order. What about you? When you think of peace, do you think of...
As 2018 approaches, the whole world celebrates the coming of a new year, and with that, comes New Year’s resolutions. The whole point of making resolutions is to become a better person in some way, which might mean losing a bad habit, or making better habits, or anything along those lines...
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 The third week of Advent is here! We’ve...
Jesus chose to look at the people who were responsible for His death and ask God to forgive them. Our Devotions for Lesson 4 help us develop a similar attitude toward the people in our life who are mean to us.
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” Luke 2:10 So imagine you’re handed a bowl of ice-cream on a hot day. You’d be pretty happy, right? But before you can dig in, you trip over a...
Do you actively listen for the Holy Spirit to speak to you? Expand your listening skills using the Jesus and Mean People Devotions for Lesson 3.
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There once was a beautiful, lush, and peaceful land, inhabited by a people that lived under the protection of a wise and splendorous king. One day, the deceitful leader of a neighboring country persuaded the people of the peaceful land, to believe that their king was holding them back...
Ah, Thanksgiving. A traditional holiday of parades, dog shows, and getting the family together to lie around and stuff your gut. There are people who don’t like Christmas or New Year’s, but Thanksgiving is just one of the day’s that’s loved all around. Why wouldn’t...
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The ad above sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Nowadays, there are ads, pop-ups, and advertisements that sound so good you’ll start scanning the fine print for a catch. Because most of the time, there is one. This fact can make us very skeptical when we’re offered something good. For example, if a friend offers you a donut, you might wonder why they’d give it to you instead of eating it themselves. Which might lead you to wonder if it was dropped on the floor a second ago without you seeing.
Now that friend might have just disliked donuts, which what kind of person is that? Who doesn’t like sugar, dough, frosting/glaze, sometimes filling, all fried up in the form of a happy circle? But sometimes it feels weird when we’re given or promised something wonderful that we don’t necessarily deserve.
Does it sometimes seem to you that the promises of God are too good to be true? Why would God promise me a way out of Hell when I don’t even deserve it? How can His promises even apply to me after I’ve done so much wrong? You might wonder why God would pay any attention to you after you’ve turned your back on Him so many times, or disobeyed Him over and over again. Or maybe You believe that He must have more important things to do and better prayers than yours to answer; like World Hunger, cancer, oppression in war-torn countries, tsunami relief, and so on.
Well I can think of two gifts that could seem too good to be true that are promised and shown to us by our Heavenly Father. Those are the gifts of grace and mercy. Is there a difference? You bet your slippers there is! To put it simply, grace is receiving favor; it’s when we get something that we don’t deserve. Mercy is a pardon, it’s when we don’t get something that we do deserve.
First, let’s talk about God’s grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 says: “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
Because of our sin, we do not deserve to be saved. In fact, because of our disobedience to God, what we deserve is Hell! But God provided a way for us to escape damnation and live with Him in paradise forever! The catch? There isn’t one! But there was a cost, and God paid it Himself by sending His Son to die for us.
For example, Little Freddy broke Old Man Rutherford’s window when he was playing ultimate Frisbee. Instead of going on an elderly rampage and demanding payment for his window, Old Man Rutherford gave Little Freddy a pardon that time, and warned him not to play ball so close to his window again. Old Man Rutherford gave Little Freddy a pardon, even though Little Freddy didn’t deserve it. He extended grace to Little Freddy.
Now let’s talk about mercy. Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.”
The Scripture says that God is rich in mercy, rich meaning full of and abundant. Isn’t that beautiful? And because He is eternal, omnipotent and unchanging, God’s rich mercy will never run out or cease. God pardoned our sin when He saved us from Hell because of His great love, His mercy a product of that love. To give you an example of mercy, let’s see what Little Freddy is doing now.
Little Freddy went outside to practice ultimate sling shot. As he’s shooting cans and rocks, he notices Old Man Rutherford’s cat is lazily grooming itself on the side of his porch. Seeing a good target, Little Freddy shot the cat, and the cat let out a loud meow and fell off the porch and onto the ground. The cat tried to run away quickly, but let out another loud meow and just collapsed to his side.
Old Man Rutherford, having seen Little Freddy playing ultimate sling shot and hearing the loud meows, rushed out of the house and saw Little Freddy looking guiltily at the poor cat. Old Man Rutherford quickly scooped up the cat and rushed it to the vet. Little Freddy’s parents were notified and they told Old Man Rutherford that Little Freddy would have to pay for the vet bill out of his allowance and gift money that he had saved up. But Old Man Rutherford refused and said he would pay the vet bill himself. He saved Little Freddy from punishment, even though he deserved one. Old man Rutherford pardoned Little Freddy. He showed mercy towards him.
Get it? God demonstrates both grace and mercy through His plan of salvation! We don’t deserve to be saved, but God has extended grace, or favor to us, and sent His Son that we might be saved. We deserved Hell, but God loved us so much that He didn’t want us to be condemned, so out of mercy, He pardoned us and paid the penalty for sin Himself.
If you are a believer, there is nothing you can do, say, or think that can ever separate you from God’s love. He has shown you grace and mercy, not because you deserve it, but because you’re important to Him and precious in His sight. If you’re not yet a believer, it’s never too late to ask God for forgiveness for your sins and ask Him to come into your heart. He loves you.
Naomi’s Nugget: God’s not an obnoxious salesperson trying to sell you salvation; He’s already paid for you! There’s no catch to God’s love, and there is no scam in His abundant grace and mercy towards you. Though being saved from our sins sounds “too good to be true”, it isn’t! That’s just another reason why our God is great!
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those
on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14
When I think of peace, I think of complete silence, and everything around me functioning properly, in perfect order. What about you? When you think of peace, do you think of practicing yoga by a waterfall, or the feeling you get from sipping hot cocoa on a chilly day? Peace is what you crave when you have to hang around obnoxious people, what many search for in the midst of war, and what we’ll be talking about here in the fourth and final week of Advent.
How did the first coming of Jesus, the Incarnation, bring us peace?
Before Jesus came to us, we were not at peace with God. We had sinned against Him, and made ourselves His enemy. John 3:36 says: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”
I’ve said before that the reason Jesus was born was so that He could die. For your sins, for my sins, for the sins of the entire world. And then be raised from the dead to give us victory over sin and death. By doing this, Jesus brought us peace with God by breaking down the barrier of sin that separated us from Him. Romans 5:1 says: “Therefore, since we have been justified, declared not guilty (The Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms), through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As we commemorate Jesus’ first coming, we remember that He was born to die, and that His death has brought us peace with God.
How will the Second Coming of Jesus bring us peace? I’ve talked to you before about how awesome it is going to be when Jesus returns, sure, but have we talked about how it will bring us peace? I think not.
When Jesus comes again, we will have peace because we will be ruled by a perfect, fair, and just King. Isaiah 9:6-7 says: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.
Jesus will have a glorious and exalted reign over all the earth, Jeremiah 25:3 saying: “For the time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land.” As we look forward to Jesus’ Second Coming, we can be excited as we anticipate His reign, when there will be peace both in heaven and on earth. For where Jesus is, there is also peace!
How is Jesus Himself our peace?
Jesus says in John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus has already told us the answer, plain and simple. Jesus is our peace.
Aroma therapy, listening to rain sounds, smoking, drugs and alcohol, money, and anything else the world has to offer, will only bring us more pain and more trouble. All of the world’s ways of peace are temporary fixes. They may feel good for a time, but eventually, that “peace” will run out, so there’s no point looking to the world for peace.
The world’s answers to our problems are “safe sex” education, anti-drug campaigns, and metal detectors in schools, and the world’s answer to obtain peace often requires war and bloodshed. Even with all of these “answers”, we still have teenage pregnancy, students doing drugs, and school shootings. These things show us that there is no peace without Jesus, so we celebrate the fact that Jesus is our eternal peace. If you have never accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you will never know this peace until you do. Because without Him, all you have are temporary solutions which are not solutions at all.
But if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, rejoice! Philippians 4 says: “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Naomi’s Nugget: As the Advent season comes to a close, it’s important to remember to commemorate, anticipate, and celebrate Jesus through the whole year, for He has brought us hope, joy, love, and peace through His First and Second Coming.
As 2018 approaches, the whole world celebrates the coming of a new year, and with that, comes New Year’s resolutions. The whole point of making resolutions is to become a better person in some way, which might mean losing a bad habit, or making better habits, or anything along those lines. And man is that difficult!
We face challenges every day from outside sources that are mostly beyond our control like schoolwork, jobs, relationships with family and friends, sicknesses, annoying people, and busy schedules. And then there are the challenges that we find within ourselves, like having a habit of lying, being tempted to sin, not holding your tongue, or feeling hatred towards someone. And those inner challenges can be the hardest to change. But what better time to deal with them than at the start of a new chapter in our lives? Hence, New Year’s resolutions.
So, what’s your resolution? Do you want to be a better Christian, sibling, student, daughter or son? Have you resolved to stop cursing, eating junk food, watching so much TV, or practicing some sin? Have you resolved to exercise more, share the Gospel more, be kinder to your little brother, be on time for things, READ more (because reading is great), or strive to do your very best in everything you do?
You may be wondering if the Bible actually says anything about this kind of stuff. Of course, it does! I thought I would share some Scriptures for you to consider when you experience moments that challenge your New Year’s resolution; moments of weakness, or temptation, or when you feel like giving up (because you will feel like giving up).
Choose the ones that fit your needs, and then to help remember them, write them on a sticky note, save them as notes to your phone, make them your screensaver, or even simply commit them to memory!
When you are tempted to flip out on someone
James 2:19 “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”
When others are not supportive of your resolution
1 Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”
When you think negative thoughts about others
Colossians 3:12 “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Philippians 2:3-5 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”
When you feel your mouth (cursing, eating, lying) your body, or your desires (alcohol, shopping, violence, drugs, sex, food, etc.) are out of control
Colossians 3:5:10 “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”
Note: It’s important to remember that TEMPTATION IS NOT A SIN. Even Jesus was tempted in Matthew 4. But it’s also important to remember that temptation is what leads to sin, and has to be resisted. James 4:7, “So humble ourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
When you think negative thoughts about yourself
Philippians 4:8 “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
When you fail or feel defeated and you want to give up on your resolution
Galatians 6:9 “So, let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
When you feel too timid to share your faith
2 Timothy 1:7-8 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.”
When you are doubting God because of bad life experiences
Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me”
When you are not sure that God will help you
Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I can’t say it any better than this from the book of Ephesians:
“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we[d] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:11-17
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17
The third week of Advent is here! We’ve talked about hope and joy, and now it’s time to talk about love.
How did the first coming of Jesus show us God’s love? Love is the main reason that Jesus came! It tells us right in John 3:16, “For God so love the world”! John gives us the motive of Jesus’s coming right up front: He did this because He loves you.
Notice how the verse goes on to say what God did, and what the outcome of His actions were. God sent His Son to die for us, so whoever believes in Him will live with Him forever. Then the next verse specifies that God did this to save us, not to harm or condemn us. When Jesus died and raised, we were rescued and freed. So to commemorate the Incarnation, we meditate on His tremendous love for us.
How does the Second Coming of Jesus show us God’s love? In 2 Peter 3:9, Peter writes about the Second Coming, saying: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God has not forgotten us. Jesus will return!
Since we know how much God loves us, and that He is giving others a chance to come to Him, we have work to do as we anticipate His return. I’ve mentioned before that we’re not on this Earth to wait for Jesus with Starbucks in our hands and Netflix on our screens. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus calls us to witness to nonbelievers! Jesus isn’t timidly asking: If you could, I don’t know, go out and witness to all the world, that would be nice. As long as it’s convenient, I don’t want to trouble you. No! Jesus has commanded us: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
God has chosen us to be instruments of His love, meaning we are responsible for pointing others to Him. This is a job from God, and we cannot neglect our responsibility this Advent! The return of Jesus seems slow to us because we get impatient. But God is patient and full of love and grace and mercy.
How is Jesus Himself love? 1 John 4:10 and 19 says: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…We love because he first loved us.”
Love requires sacrifice, and these verses remind us that Jesus sacrificed His life for us out of his great love. Not only did Jesus give the ultimate sacrifice, but Jesus continues to give! He has given us authority to do good work by the power of His Holy Spirit, His powerful name, and He is coming back to receive us to Himself! He gave His all and still He keeps on giving!
This great love of Jesus causes us to celebrate! We sing songs of joy about it, we have parties to celebrate it, and we decorate our homes as if we’re expecting Him to show up! We dress in colors that honor His blood sacrifice and the everlasting life He has given, and some of us even bake cakes and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas Day. We can see this celebration of love everywhere! During the Advent season, we give gifts to each other, we give money to people ringing bells, we buy gifts for the children of people in prisons, and we send shoeboxes full of toys and gifts to children that we don’t even know! Why? We love, because He first loved us!
Naomi’s Nugget: As we commemorate, anticipate, and celebrate, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God… since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:7 and 11.
Jesus chose to look at the people who were responsible for His death and ask God to forgive them. Our Devotions for Lesson 4 help us develop a similar attitude toward the people in our life who are mean to us.