Recapturing the Wonder of Christmas: Strive For Peace

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Have you ever been in a situation in which there wasn’t conflict, but you could sense that it was coming? A moment when there was some level of unease or tension, but everybody present just pretended like everything was OK? 

The simple reality is that we all experience these moments. And when they happen we immediately have to consider how to respond. Do we raise our hand and say something, or do we just continue to sweep it under the rug? 

These moments show us that peace is so much more than a lack of conflict. While there may not be open conflict, the unspoken tension reveals the lack of true peace.

Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

1 Peter 3:11

This passage reveals that ongoing peace in our relationships with God and others takes effort. Peace isn’t merely a lack of conflict. It’s identifying anything that can be hindering personal and relational health and taking the necessary steps to overcome those barriers. Avoiding tough conversations or having them in an unhealthy way isn’t helpful. Instead, make ongoing efforts to experience and maintain peace with others.

READING & JOURNALING:

     1 PETER 3:11, PSALM 34:14

Think of a time when somebody else worked really hard to maintain peace with you. What was that experience like?

In what ways do you need to work to maintain peace with others today? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I confess that there are times when I pretend everything is OK and don’t take the difficult steps to work for real peace. Moving forward, help me have the wisdom to know when not to avoid difficult conversations. Similarly, help me have the wisdom to have these conversations in a godly, healthy way. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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Recapturing the Wonder of Christmas: Experiencing Peace

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Take a few minutes to be honest with yourself and answer this question. “I will experience peace when __________.” If you have more than one answer, take time to write them all down.

After thinking it through, were you surprised by your own answer? There are hundreds of potential answers you could have. Some examples include, I will experience peace when…

  • …I’m out of debt. 
  • …I have a car that runs well.
  • …I get the promotion I deserve. 
  • …I have children or…the children I have leave the house.

Our culture loves to communicate that the grass is always greener on the other side. But the other side is a moving target, and you’re not likely to hit a moving target. 

Today, take opportunities to remind yourself that real peace comes only through Jesus. Romans 5:1 says, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 

What is peace? Peace is knowing that Jesus is all we really need.

READING & JOURNALING:

     ROMANS 5:1-11

Review how you’ve spent your time over the previous 48 hours. What have you been going to in an attempt to experience peace? Has it worked? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, today has helped me realize that I am often a product of our culture, and therefore believe the lie of “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Today, I will simply rejoice in the truth that I have peace with God because of what Jesus has done for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Recapturing the Wonder of Christmas: Peace

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If you were to write down how our current culture defines the word peace you would probably discover a lot of different answers. Some would say that peace is a lack of conflict. You’re “at peace” with others as long as you’re not experiencing conflict with them. Others may say that peace is a lack of stress or anxiety. 

But in ancient Jewish culture, individuals and families would often greet one another by saying, “Peace (Shalom).” This Hebrew word isn’t simply a lack of conflict, but instead means ‘completeness’ or ‘well-being.’ As such, it wasn’t merely a greeting, but a personal blessing. Saying, “Shalom,” in greeting was akin to saying, “May you experience completeness and the presence of God this day.” 

Similarly, those who sought shalom knew that it could only be experienced as a gift from God. It couldn’t be purchased. It couldn’t be found in work or relationships. Instead, God’s people knew they could only experience real peace in Him. This principle continues to apply to us today.

What is peace? Peace is knowing that Jesus is all we really need.

READING & JOURNALING:

     ISAIAH 9:6-7

What do you think it means that Jesus is the Prince of Peace? How would you describe this title to somebody else? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, as I begin this next week of Advent I simply pray that I would experience your Shalom this week – the peace that only You can provide. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Recapturing the Wonder of Christmas: Write it Out

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What usually comes to mind when you think of the word Advent? 

In what ways have the readings this week helped you grow in your understanding of Hope?

Take some extra time today to write out a prayer to God. Share your heart, fears, and feelings with Him, knowing He is intently listening, and believing He is with you in all things.

Recapturing the Wonder of Christmas: Look Back to Look Forward

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Romans 15:13 reads, I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

There’s no shortage of Scripture passages on the topic of hope. But, as was mentioned earlier this week, our culture has had a negative impact on how we may understand hope. We may define hope by thinking of a material object (hoping for a specific Christmas present) or even an emotion (I hope ____ happens so I can experience more happiness in life). 

Because we’re tempted to think in these ways, we have to rid our minds of what our culture says about hope, and instead regularly remind ourselves what God says. God essentially says, “Put your hope in Me. Remember who I am. Remember what I’ve done. Then, you can have real hope. You can look forward to what I’m going to do, because you have trusted in what I’ve already done.”

What is hope? Christian hope is a choice to wait for God to act, and it looks back to the risen Jesus in order to look forward.

READING & JOURNALING:

     ROMANS 15:13

How often do you take intentional opportunities to look back on all Christ has done in and through You?

Take some time right now to write down some specifics of what Christ has done in and through you. Then, write out your own prayer of Thanksgiving. 

PRAYER:

Today, write out your own prayer of Thanksgiving.  

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Recapturing the Wonder of Christmas: Becoming Hopeful

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If you were to participate in a job interview today, there’s a good chance you would be asked, “Where do you see yourself five years from now?”

Whether it’s one year, three, five, or another number, there’s a good reason this question comes up. Employers are curious to know what potential employees are ambitious about. “Is this somebody who will be able to work here for several years, or is this somebody who’s just passing through? Is this somebody I can lean into and educate as they take on more and more responsibilities, or is this somebody who just wants to run their department without any interference?”

But this question isn’t only for employers and potential employees. It’s a question that can get to the heart of what a person really believes. 

Think of it this way: In one year (or three, or five), do you see yourself as being more cynical about what’s to come, or more hopeful about it? Who are you becoming? Are you becoming a person who fails to see good? Or a person who has real hope?

What is hope? Hope is believing that the best is yet to come. 

READING & JOURNALING:

     PSALM 42

Do you the author of Psalm 42 was growing in being cynical, or growing in their ability to live with hope

Who are you becoming? Somebody who struggles to see good, or a person with real hope? (If the former, what is one step you can take today to begin walking the path of being a more hopeful person?)

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, there are seasons in which I may not put much thought or prayer into who I am becoming. As we continue this season of Advent, help me to see the person You’ve made me to be, and to make the decisions necessary to be that person each and every day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Recapturing the Wonder of Christmas: A Light Will Shine

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The Old Testament Prophet Isaiah had a lot to say (write) to the people of Israel. While some passages are complex and have a lot of cultural references to them, others remain easy to interpret. For example, God desired His people to “walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5). But some of God’s people neglected to do so and instead walked in darkness. The result was disastrous. 

But Isaiah responds later, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine (Isaiah 9:2). This passage doesn’t say that God’s people were wishing to see a great light and be restored. Instead, it clearly communicates that God was making a future promise. He was promising to reveal light to all who were walking in darkness.

This was ultimately fulfilled by Jesus. He not only was light, but He brought light to restore what had been broken. (John 1:5, 1:9, 8:12) Today, as you follow and trust Him, you can be confident that He will continue to restore you by His light. 

What is hope? Hope is believing that the best is yet to come. 

READING & JOURNALING:

     ISAIAH 9:1-2

What is one way you’ve personally experienced the light of Christ while you were surrounded by darkness? 

What, if anything, prevents you from sharing this experience with others so that they can better understand real hope?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, today’s reading is a simple reminder that I haven’t always walked in the light, yet You continually fulfill Your promise to shower me with Your love and grace. Help me to see the countless opportunities I have to share Your love and grace to others. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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Recapturing the Wonder of Christmas: Hope

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The season of Advent is officially upon us! The word advent – which originates from the Latin word adventus, “coming”) has its roots all the way back in the 400-500’s AD. Historically, the season of advent is not only about preparing for Jesus’ birth, but also recognizing the future of His return. 

In Protestant Christianity, there are four primary themes for Advent, including Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Unfortunately, our culture has had a negative impact on the meaning of each one.

Just think about how you and/or others use the word hope on a regular basis.

  • I hope I did well on my Math exam. 
  • I hope my team wins this game! 
  • I hope my boss gives me a raise. 
  • I hope I get ______ for Christmas. 

But within the Scriptures the word hope has a much deeper and more profound meaning. It isn’t about test scores, a sports team, or how much money you make. 

What is hope? Hope is believing that the best is yet to come. 

READING & JOURNALING:

     1 PETER 1:3-4

How do you generally use the word hope?

Be honest: Do you wholeheartedly believe that the best is yet to come? Why or why not? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I confess that I sometimes struggle to believe that the best is yet to come. I’ve experienced the brokenness of this world and these experiences sometimes lead me to doubt that the best is yet to come. For this season of Advent, I ask You to help rid my mind of these thoughts and to instead have real hope. Help me to know and experience real hope, and live in confidence that the best really is yet to come. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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The One Who is Lord – Write it Out

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Take the opportunity to review this week’s questions and scripture readings. 

What is one way you’ve grown this week in your understanding of God, yourself, and others? 

Take some extra time today to write out a prayer to God. Share your heart, fears, and feelings with Him, knowing He is intently listening, and believing He is with you in all things.

The One Who Is Lord – Your Faith Has Made You Well

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When you really dig in to the life and ministry of Jesus, there are a lot of things that surprise you. One example unfolds in Mark 5. Jesus learns of a little girl who is sick and dying. Desiring to help, Jesus goes with the girl’s father.

But while traveling, a large crowd gathered around Him and pressed up against Him. In the midst of a crowd was a woman who had been suffering for years with constant bleeding. She thinks if she can just get close enough to Jesus to touch his clothing, she will be healed. 

Upon doing so, Jesus immediately senses that power has gone from Him. After inquiring about who had touched Him, the woman comes forward. He tells her, “You faith has made you well,” and then He continues on His way. 

The surprising aspect of this event, is that Jesus would’ve been made unclean by having this woman touch His clothing (see Leviticus 15:26-27). But Jesus was much more concerned with her well-being than the risk of Him being labeled as unclean. As the Cultural Background Study Bible says, “Jesus was willing to be identified with our uncleanness to make us whole.”

READING & JOURNALING:

     MARK 5:21-43

In what ways is your faith similar to, or different from, the woman who touched Jesus’ robe to be healed? Be specific.

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, today I am grateful for the reminder that not only do You have ultimate authority over everything, but You have also expressed mercy upon mercy throughout my life. May I reflect Your love and mercy to others today. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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