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Here we are on the last session of this Advent study. Here is the link: https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/101#4.
Thank you for joining me this Advent season! Merry Christmas to each and everyone of you! I truly pray that your home and your life is filled with hope, peace, love and joy now and forever!
On the night of our Savior’s birth, the angel was sent to bring good tidings of great joy. This joy would be the hope of redeeming grace for every person. What is redeeming grace? At the end of this video Pete asks us if we truly believe in redeeming grace or is it just something we say as Christians. Do you own grace? Grace is defined as unmerited favor for something undeserved. Or many of us think of the acronym’, “God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense”.
The term, “redeeming grace” is used in the famous Christmas choral, “Silent Night, Holy Night”. Have you ever thought about what redeeming grace really means? To me this term reminds us of the importance of forgiveness; it tells us of the amazing love that God has for us. Through the dawn of redeeming grace, God offers us life.
How can we truly believe in redeeming grace and not believe that we are a masterpiece that God has created for his glory? Do you truly believe that God loves you beyond all your brokenness, loves you above all of the many sins that you have committed and continue to commit on a daily basis? How can he continue to love us even when we are so broken? Because He is God – He sends angels to re-direct us. He used angels to help re-direct Jesus even in his temptations and to strengthen him in the garden.
Think about angels for a minute – how do you see angels? Do you think of cute, little cherubs with golden halos and glistening wings? If you look closely at the Christmas story you might develop a new image of angels – the shepherds were terrified. This makes me think that there was something about them that made the shepherds be afraid, maybe it was not their looks but there was something that frightened them initially. I believe there was also something authoritative about the angels – the shepherds appeared to waste no time in going to tell others about the coming of Jesus. Do you believe that angels are among us today? I do, I believe they are sent to do God’s will, they are sent to execute God’s judgement. In the Christmas story, the angels immediately told the shepherds to not be afraid, we “bring good news that will be for all the people”. They brought joy!
Think about it this: the message of Jesus coming into the world could not be delivered quietly! After the angels told the shepherds that a Savior was being born, a whole “host of angels” came down from heaven and surrounded them, praising God and glorifying God (this is when I think I would have been afraid. But I also wonder how I would respond if suddenly I became surrounded by angels praising God!) Thinking of this makes me think about the song, “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe. (I digress)
I also find it interesting that God chose shepherds and not the chief priests or elders to hear the good news. The shepherds were prepared to hear these tidings of joy. They had been keeping watch over their sheep all night and were fully awake to interpret the news. God wanted to use the shepherds as he often uses people of humble means today to “speak” to others; and shows his glory through their meekness.
And can you imagine what the shepherds thought once they got over the initial shock, don’t you think there were shocked again to hear that the Christ child was born in the town of David, Bethlehem; wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger – most people would never consider placing a newborn baby in a feeding trough or being born in a manger. But don’t you know this was almost a reassurance to the shepherds that the King of Kings was born in a place where they felt very comfortable and not in a royal palace.
Remember shepherds were at the bottom of the social status in Israel. They were plain, honest, hardworking men. They were asked to spread the good news everywhere they could. I have often been asked why Mary did not run through the streets shouting the good news, but I have often wondered how much Mary knew even when Jesus was a newborn. I do believe she knew enough to trust God to light the unknown path for Jesus and to protect her virtue. Scripture tells us that she kept all that was happening locked in her heart. But I am not sure that she truly realized the impact that he would have on the world.
Part of the last week’s challenge was to read Romans 5:1. Looking at how this verse parallels the story of Jesus’ birth, when Jesus was born peace came into the world and it became apparent that the decision to accept him was at the hand of all people. When our life is surrendered only then will we find true peace. Peace with God means that we have been reconciled with him. Peace with God is possible only because Jesus paid the price for our sins through his death at the cross which could not have occurred without his birth in the manger.
From the cradle to the cross, Jesus came as a humble servant. We are now responsible with what we will do with his life. The only natural response is to give him our lives in exchange and to surrender everything to the Prince of Peace. This Christmas allow hope, peace, love and joy to reign in your hearts from now into eternity.
DIG A LITTLE DEEPER
Look in the hymnal at the words to Silent night and reflect on the meaning of the words and journal about their significance to you today.
Read the account of the first Christmas in Matthew (Matthew 1: 18-2:23) and note how these two accounts of the same event are different from one another.
Here is the link for week 3: https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/101#3.
Our study continues looking at the birth of Jesus through the eyes of the shepherd. What an amazing night that must have been! Think about each one of the scenarios:
- to be on a hill out in the country of a small town tending to your sheep,
- watching for night creatures to keep them safe,
- trying to keep them all together, remember it’s dark and sheep tend to wander;
- making sure those who were injured during the day were taken care of,
- making sure they have water and food,
- just simply taking care of your flock
And then an angel appears and tells you that the Lord of Lords, the Christ child is being born and you are supposed to go and tell the people of the town?
Let’s think for a minute about the shepherds in that time – they lived on the land, probably were not very clean, they lived among sheep who are foul-smelling usually, and they often slept in the fields with the sheep. But we refer to Jesus as a shepherd as he watches over us (his flock), he makes sure we are cared for, he makes sure we have food and water, at times we are not very clean and can “smell a little foul”, but he loves us anyway. Jesus knows that we are easily led astray and constantly need his encouragement, patience, and perseverance to keep us following him. He wants us to experience the depth of his love and comfort. Hmmm!
In the video Pete mentions Isaiah 40 and refers to the sovereign Lord as a shepherd revealing that the same God who judges sin and wickedness will overcome Israel’s oppressors. He is not only omnipotent, but he is tender toward affliction. He is the perfect balance of justice and love. He further describes the power of God and indirectly exclaims God is above the gods and images the people are idolizing. Idols will never compare to the one true God. Even though most of us do not worship idols today we worship other things like social status, career, economic status, relationships, lust, power – idols are anything that is put before God’s rightful place, anything that fulfills our need for true meaning and significance and makes us think is brings meaning to our life. We must remember that idols are powerless, futile, and ignorant. Worshipping idols replace the true joy and protection that God brings because we are not focused on what is important. They often get in the way of allowing us to worship how we are created to worship.
How often do we call on the Lord to help us when we are worn out physically, spiritually, and emotionally? We forget to listen for those small quiet voices that whisper to reminds us that he is listening. He often uses other people and His word to remind us He is there. We hang on to the hope that He gives us through his love. So why do we lose sight of Christ’s glory and replace it with doubt and impatience?
Jesus is a shepherd who guards us and gathers us into his flock. He redeems us from our sin and restores us into God’s likeness. When we rebel, and choose to go our own way, we are basically telling God that we don’t need Him. To reject him is to reject the very purpose we are created for.
The beautiful imagery of a Shepherd tending, leading and caring for his sheep should make us want to do nothing but serve and love Christ forever. But we are human and we constantly stray because we are human.
God’s faithful love for us changes everything. His protective love changes us. His Word, his people, prayer, and His presence provides us with the comfort we need to continue to seek Him. This love, this agape love, perfectly describes the meaning of Christmas because Christ himself is love.
DIG A LITTLE DEEPER
Go out of your way to encourage an unbeliever or maybe someone that you are not sure if they are a believer or not. Share how God has helped you in your struggles with seeing God as the sovereign Shepherd in your life.
Read Romans 5:1. What does it mean to be justified by faith? How does this tie into the Christmas story?
Welcome back. We are on week two. Here’s the link for this week: https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/101#2.
So after this session we are ½ way done. Last week we talked about God intervening in Mary’s life and performing what we think of as the “impossible”. We talked about having hope in God and His plan for our lives. We talked about how we must trust God even when we do not understand or believe in what he wants from us. We talked about hope. This week we will talk about peace and how Christ is our peace. Because of God’s grace we have been redeemed and with His redemption comes a peace beyond our understanding. We must remember that peace is a gift, a gift from God only given to those who accept it and who meet its condition. Peace can never be separated from a personal relationship with God as it branches out to all aspects of our lives. Peace is from God and is of God.
We all go through storms in our lives. At times we get caught up in the agitation of daily drama that tears away our peace of mind and at times we must face fears that rage within our hearts. But we are reminded time and again throughout the scriptures that Christ can calm those storms with just a simple word, “Quiet, be still”. How often do we need to remember these words in the busyness of our day. Peace comes often when we depend on Him to help us through these storms of life. And when we share his love with others who are going through their own storms. How can we choose to fill our mind and heart with this truth that God is working, rather than rely on our ever-changing emotions? I believe that we must daily meditate on scripture – it keeps on focused on what really matters and give us the strength and ammunition to fight what comes our way each day.
Our world is filled with people who are broken and unstable. There is a desperation in our culture all around us. How can we bring hope and peace to those in our sphere of influence? How can we impact our world to impact the world as a whole? We must constantly look to Christ for his peace so that we can share it with others. We can share the story of Christmas which is much more than the story of Jesus’ birth – The whole meaning of Christmas is that Christ entered the world as an infant so that through the cross he could redeem us from our sins and give us a new life that is whole, peace filled, and lived to the fullest through the strength of his Spirit. Our world desires to hear this story – we must share the story of Christmas, the story of peace, the story of hope.
Let’s look for a minute at Bethlehem and the significance it plays in this story and other stories throughout the Bible. Remember Mary’s Bible was the Old Testament and she had probably heard the prophecy from Micah, “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” As we see in this passage it is where the prophet Micah foretold of the birth of the Messiah. Bethlehem is a small town about 5 miles southwest of Jerusalem in the Judean hills. It is best known as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, but it is also mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Rachel, wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph, was buried near Bethlehem. Ruth and Naomi settled in Bethlehem. It was the birthplace of David and the place where the prophet Samuel chose David as the future king, to succeed Saul. That’s enough about Bethlehem, but I found it interesting the connections.
Do you think Mary had a peace about her? Don’t you think that when Mary remembered the words of Micah she felt a sense of peace when Gabriel Angel appeared and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” And continued on to say, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High”.
Dig a little deeper
Think of someone you know who has a need (emotional, physical, or spiritual). Seek a tangible way to help meet some of their need. If possible, share how God meets your needs and helps you through your personal trials.
Read Isaiah 40. Think about how Jesus has been a “good shepherd” in your life? How does Satan deter you from embracing the shepherd? This passage reminds us that even when your life seems to be falling apart there is comfort in God’s presence. You may not escape the adversity but you may find God’s peace as you face it.
Welcome to the first session of “A Savior is Born”. Here is the link for this week: https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/101#1.
We will be exploring hope, the hope brought to us by Christmas and our Savior. Thank you for joining us as we explore Luke’s writings about the birth of Christ and how that points us to God’s plan of redemption for the world. Just like Mary there are times when God asks us to do things that seem impossible or insurmountable and we all react in unique ways. I think it is important for us to remember that Mary was given a huge task and although she was asked to do something insurmountable, she was no super hero, she was an ordinary girl just like you, me, or many other young girls we know. She was human in every way just like us with the same natural tendencies of fear, doubt, and worry. But with God Mary realized that nothing was impossible to accomplish.
What is your normal reaction when you are asked to do something that you think you cannot do?
Go back and read Genesis 3: 14-15, have you ever realized that God was revealing his plan for salvation in Genesis?
Why do we brush over the truth that nothing is impossible with God? Why do we doubt that we can do it? When we doubt that we can do it, we are truly doubting that God can do it! We often have a very low view of what God can do through us. We doubt what He can do because we are so focused on ourselves and do not give Him the full glory and control.
Have you ever been in a situation where your world is so shaken that all you can do is lean on God? How do people manage that do not know God?
Through prayer we can be in tune with God’s will for us and know what He wants us to do. How do we help ourselves remember to make choices based on the leading of the Spirit and not what we as humans’ think is best?
Hope is defined as desiring something with confident expectation of its fulfillment. Hope that our bad luck will turn around. Hope that we will find that job we have been searching for. Hope that our loved one will be cured. Hope that we will be able to complete the task before us. Hope that life will get easier. Hope that our children will grow into happy productive individuals. Hope that those we know who are suffering are no longer in pain. Hope in tomorrow. Hope in “this world”. Hope in family. Hope in friends. Hope in our self.
None of these hopes compare to the hope we should have in our Savior, hope that we offer others by sharing about our Savior, hope for “eternal world”, Hope in Jesus Christ, Hope in our Father God, Hope in eternity! Hope!
PREPARING FOR NEXT WEEK:
(This section is for those who want to dig a little deeper, have time to study a little more!
Re-read Mary’s song (Luke 1: 46-55) – this is often referred to as “The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise” It has often been used as the basis for choral music and hymns. Mary is praising and glorifying God for the work He is going to do for the world through her. Now write your own song of praise to God for who He is to you. We each have a unique relationship with Him so there is no right or wrong way to do this. I would love to read yours if you are willing to share but it is your own time with God and worshipping Him in a new and different way.
Read the book of Ruth. (Don’t panic; it is not very long – only 4 chapters.) Look up the definition of lovingkindness and search for its significance in the book of Ruth. Think about this word and its significance as you go about your week. Think about when lovingkindness was shown in the story of our Savior’s birth. Be encouraged as you read the book of Ruth and realize god could use you as he used Naomi – to bring family and friends to Him.
As we begin this crazy time of year when we are being pulled in so many different directions we want to offer a way to help you remain focused on what the season is truly all about. We want to invite you to join me over the next four weeks in an on-line Advent Bible Study. Many of you joined during Lent for an online study and we had great success, so we wanted to offer the same format again.
First, I would like to give a brief overview of the meaning of Advent and then we will get started on our study. The season of Advent, which comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “visit,” begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve (Which is on a Sunday this year). Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Christians. [Liturgical — from liturgy, which means the forms and functions of public worship.]
During Advent, we prepare for, and anticipate, the coming of Christ. We remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.
Now on to the study – Some of you joined me last year in a face to face Bible study as we looked closely at Mary and what it meant to be the mother of the Son of God. Well, my fascination with Mary and this story did not stop here, I continue to be amazed at Mary and her complete trust in God, her willingness to upset her entire life, to go against the norms of her day, to bring into this world the Savior.
We are going to look at the Luke version of the Christmas story (Luke 1: 26 – 2:20). Remember each of the synoptic gospels share the Christmas story, however, each story is told a little differently based on the author’s perspective and insight. Luke is believed to have been a physician who accompanied Paul on some of the apostle’s missionary journeys. Luke was not an eye witness to the events that he narrates but offers a unique distinctive story of the birth of Christ with many details not revealed in other gospels. Luke relied on other people’s stories and information shared through the generations, however, the detail in the story leads us to realize that Luke did his homework; he researched thoroughly before he wrote.
So, by using the Gospel of Luke we will be looking closely at every intricate detail of the first Christmas. We will look at Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel. We will discover why God first appeared to the lowly shepherds, and how/why was Christ born in a manager in Bethlehem? There are so many details to cover so please join me as we delve into at the humble beginnings of our Savior’s birth and how He redeemed us from sin to give us life. This undeserved gift of redemption is truly what the wonder of the first Christmas is all about.
We are offering this on-line study as a means of helping you to find time in your busy schedule to meet God, to get connected. The beauty of this study is that you can enjoy it wherever you are able to secure internet connection. Here’s how to get started: We will be using a video series on RightNow Media titled, “A Savior is Born” by Pete Briscoe. If you already have an account with RightNow Media, please review the log-in information for your specific account. If you have not set up an account, please contact Dale Reid at firstname.lastname@example.org for the link to get that account set-up – a simple email to Dale requesting access to RightNow Media will get you going. On RightNow Media, search for “A Savior is Born” and get ready for an exciting study looking closer at Jesus’ birth. We will start the weekly blogs next week so know that they will post on Sunday evening for you to start each Monday morning. Find time in your schedule to join me and know that I look forward to your comments and questions so please respond throughout the week.
Before we get started I want to ask you to read Luke 1: 26-56, 2: 1-40 and think about these questions?
How Mary handled the startling message from the angel Gabriel? Now how would you handle that news?
Why the shepherds and a manager in Bethlehem?
What would it be like to stand before a multitude of angels?
See you next week!
14 Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master’, he said, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
21 ”His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with the two talents also came, ‘Master,’ you said,’ you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24 Then the man who had received the one talent came, ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So, you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 “Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Very often this parable is used during stewardship time and although this parable is about money it is truly more about obeying God and doing what He calls us to do. We are called to use our abilities to bring glory to His name and to invest our time and talents (not only of the financial type) in serving God as these people will be rewarded. It challenges us to use what God has given us to bring glory to his name.
This parable depicts how the disciples are to demonstrate their faithfulness as they anticipate the return of the Lord. Simply put God rewards faithfulness. Those who are faithful to God will be rewarded for this faithfulness, whereas those who are not faithful cannot expect to be treated the same. What does faithfulness look like in a time of waiting? In Matthew’s Gospel faithfulness is demonstrating the ministry of Jesus. Jesus has announced the arrival of God’s kingdom by feeding the hungry, curing the sick, blessing the meek, and serving the least. How are you being faithful?
1 In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. 2 His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion. 3 There he broke the flashing arrows, the shields and the swords, the weapons of war. 4 You are resplendent with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game. 5 Valiant men lie plundered, they sleep their last sleep; not one of the warriors can lift his hands. 6 At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both horse and chariot lie still. 7 You alone are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry? 8 From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet — 9 When you, O God, rose up to judge, to save all the afflicted of the land. 10 Surely your wrath against men brings you praise, and the survivors of your wrath are restrained. 11 Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them; let all the neighboring lands bring gifts to the One to be feared. 12 He breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth.
Psalm 76 is part of book III for the books of Psalm. This psalm praises God for he is holy, and his perfect holiness deserves our worship and reverence. How do we worship God? How do we show our reverence to him?
It praises God for his awesome power calling God to punish evildoers. This psalm reminds us that God is to be feared when we have angered him. Are we afraid of God? Should we be afraid of God? Very often in today’s world we want to think of God only as the one who takes care of us and we forget or choose not to remember that our sinful ways angers God. I believe part of the reason we feel this way is self-preservation and making ourselves feel better. We also only understand anger in a human sense and not in a Godly sense. When we think of someone being anger we do not think of God’s agape love for us.
The latter part of the Psalm speaks of making commitments to God and being sure to carry them out. When was the last time you made a promise to God? Do you fulfill that promise or did you decide that God would forgive you for not fulfilling your promise to him?
After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the Lord. 2So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly appressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.
4 Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”
The book of Judges is a fast-paced book with many exciting stories about kings, and rulers, judges, and warriors. Judges portrays a major transition of the rulers/judges of Israel. Our reading today shares the transition from Ehud to Jabin on to Deborah as a ruler of Israel. Repeatedly we see the nation of Israel sinning against God and God allowing suffering to come upon the land and the people. But as we know sin always has its consequences. We are reminded in this passage that our sins harm us, others, and mostly importantly God. When we sin, we are saying to God that we really think we are smarter than him, more powerful than him. When we sin, we disregard God’s authority over us. In this passage God has finally had enough of Israel’s sinning and finally the people cry to him for mercy; they ask him for help.
Why do we push and push God (& others) so hard until something reaches a breaking point? Why do we keep doing what we know is wrong and expect a different answer? When will we stop and think about how our sin affects God? When will we stop and remember that he loves us more than anything we can comprehend? When will we learn to simply follow Jesus?