Advent Devotional 2018

Freedom to Love | Galatians 5:14

Read Galatians 5:14.

Love. God sent his son to be incarnated love. Incarnate means made into flesh, made plain, made visible, factual, real. It’s a theological word, and it’s never used in the Bible. The fact of the incarnation is God’s love made flesh in Jesus. The method of incarnation was the immaculate conception in the virgin Mary. God freely gave; we are free to receive. Jesus is God’s love to us incarnated and we are Jesus’ love incarnated to those around us.

God made himself visible in Jesus. Jesus makes himself visible in us. The world will know we are Christians, not by how we look, but by the demonstration of his love. Living it. Love is being committed to our spouse, an aging parent, a challenging child. Love is calling a depressed friend every morning to encourage them to get up and go to work. It is listening to and walking with the grieving as long as it takes. Love is understanding with Kingdom values and seeing with God’s eyes. Love is moving at the Holy Spirit’s leading. Love is thinking of others first and loving them as you would yourself.

As we begin the new year let’s embrace the profound gift we have been given: God’s love, made real, made flesh. This gift can change everything around us; it can change us.  We are free to make the choice to let his love change us. You can live in the fullness of Christ, his love made visible, this January. You are Jesus’ love made real to the world if you choose to live it.  


Look back over your advent journal for places you have highlighted. Do you notice a theme or direction? Has Jesus’ love filled you in new ways this Advent? Perhaps a new perspective, a new leading by the Holy Spirit, a conviction to act? You have been filled up with Christ and given freedom to love.


By Donna Burns  

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Freedom to Love | Galatians 5:142019-07-22T16:35:29-06:00

Freedom to Serve | Galatians 4:8-10; Ephesians 4:32-5:2

Read Galatians 4:8-10 and Ephesians 4:32-5:2.

In this Christmas season, we celebrated the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. We opened presents, shared meals, and gathered with family. As we find ourselves here today a few days after Christmas, we may be sensing the holiday joy wearing off. There are houses to clean, jobs to return to, and tasks to be done. We also may find ourselves falling back into our same routines of relating to God.

We are programmed to think we have to earn grace as if to say, “It was nice that Jesus came to earth, but now we have to make it up to him. We have to work harder to keep earning his love.” Thankfully, the birth of Jesus is the death of religious striving. Through faith, we now have freedom in Christ. Our relationship with him makes us free and enables us to serve, not out of “religion,” but out of love for God.

All throughout Scripture, we see the pattern of what God has done for us, and what we do in response. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” We are dearly loved children because of Christ’s deep love and sacrifice for us. As a result, we walk in the way of love from this place of freedom. What we do comes from who we are, rather than vice versa.


Today, meditate on Romans 8:38-39, which tells us nothing “in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As we come to the end of the year, let this new freedom in Christ encourage and fill you up to serve God and others.


By Billy Berglund 

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Freedom to Serve | Galatians 4:8-10; Ephesians 4:32-5:22019-07-22T16:35:29-06:00

Freedom while in Captivity | John 8:36

Read John 8:36.

Throughout history, God’s people have been proclaiming freedom while in captivity. Israel sings praise songs to God while locked in slavery under Egyptian rule. At the mercy of the wilderness, Israel still rejoices. Even after establishing themselves in a turbulent land and being taken into exile, the people of Israel worship their God. Worship is what sets God’s people apart, because even under the worst of circumstances, God’s people know they are free!

The Apostle Paul and the disciples of Jesus rejoiced in suffering and found joy during periods of suffering. James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). Paul says, “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8-9). And before Jesus underwent some of the most horrific human suffering, he was reminding the people around him that the “truth will set you free…everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So, if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32, 34-36).

Like those who have gone before, our circumstances may threaten to enslave us, but the true oppressor is sin. The truth of Christmas is that Jesus Christ came to set us free, has conquered sin, and won the victory. We need not succumb to the enemy’s attempts to enslave our hearts ever again.

Although this Christmas season may become heavy with a pressure to consume, over-filled schedules, and expectations of family members, this season is a time to rejoice. Christ has come. We know the truth. Christ came at the fullness of time. Christ came to make us children of God. Christ came to give us his Spirit. Christ came that we might claim victory.


Ponder in what ways you may feel in captivity right now and choose to rejoice today! Thanks be to God, who has given us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:37).


By Yvonne Biel 

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Freedom while in Captivity | John 8:362019-07-22T16:35:29-06:00

Freedom for Freedom | Galatians 5:1

How many of us, when our parents set a boundary, thought, “Someday, I’ll be old enough to do whatever I want.” We dreamt of all the things we would do when we were free. Where we would go. How much money we would spend. How late we would stay up. And then, just like that, we were old enough to move out on our own. The sweet nectar of freedom!

I remember going to college, with unlimited freedom, and no one to oversee my actions. It was bliss – at first. Before long, however, I had spent all the money in my meal account because Taco Mayo had such good burritos and was open until 2 am (who could blame me?). Plus, I had flunked out of school because I found it inconvenient to regularly attend classes. What I perceived as freedom became a huge hardship.

When you read, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” what comes to mind? Does freedom really mean doing anything we want? Is that always the best path? Going hog-wild without boundaries can ultimately leave us in more bondage. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23, You say, “I am allowed to do anything” —but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. True freedom submits itself to the lordship of Jesus. Grace isn’t a license to do anything we want – it’s the power to operate in a healthy way when given freedom. If you’re courting the line of, “how far can I go with this?” or if you’re actually living in bondage rather than true freedom, remember the Father waits for the prodigal to come home. True freedom comes from laying aside our own indulgent pleasures and pursuing the mind of Christ.


Have you been indulging your freedom in areas that don’t fall under the Lordship of Jesus? What is one step you can take to bring that area into alignment?


By Larry Boatright

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Freedom for Freedom | Galatians 5:12019-07-22T16:35:30-06:00

Celebrating Freedom – It’s Offered to Everyone! | Luke 2:8-18

Read Luke 2:8-18.

Ahhh…Christmas is finally here! I remember when I was a kid staring at our nativity set perched on top of our TV.  It was a cardboard one – with very English-looking people in it. Baby Jesus was lily white. One of the shepherds was wearing an old English-style hat and one of his legs was missing (a mishap caused by either my brother or me). That didn’t stop me from being mesmerized by this nativity set. I would go from one character to the next, imagining what they experienced at that stable.

I was a toe-headed, blue-eyed kid.  I grew up thinking Jesus was too. And you know what? That’s OK.  It reminds me of a carol I love. Take a moment to listen and reflect on Some Children See Him, by James Taylor. The video can be found at the bottom.

Now, go back to that shepherd scene. The shepherds are in a field, guarding their flocks, getting ready for another typical night. But it’s anything but typical. An angel…a blinding radiance…a heavenly choir. In the middle of all this, it’s the message that catches my imagination: “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! (Luke 2:10  NLT)

Have you ever tried to think what kind of news would be good and full of joy for everyone? I might rejoice that a war is over – but what if I’m on the losing side? Think about it. The only kind of news I can come up with that is “good news… for everyone” is this one – “The Savior – yes the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight!”  (Luke 2:11 NLT)  The good news of Jesus doesn’t depend on nationality, race, age, gender, societal or vocational status, physical abilities or shortcomings. This is good news for everyone and it’s filled with joy!


Imagine yourself stepping into a nativity scene.  Let each character’s faith fill and stretch your own. Read today’s scripture verses again. It’s Christmas!  Jesus has come!

By Dan Elliott 

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Celebrating Freedom – It’s Offered to Everyone! | Luke 2:8-182019-07-22T16:35:30-06:00

Hoping for Freedom | Hebrews 2:14-15

Read Hebrews 2:14-15.

Centuries of oppression. The Israelites experienced hundreds of years of being conquered and oppressed. It’s easy to say they brought it on themselves, especially after what they were told in Leviticus 26. That doesn’t make their suffering any easier. These centuries were spent looking and hoping for the arrival of Messiah, whom they believed would deliver them.

Hope. The people were hopeful for freedom they imagined their Messiah King would bring. Deliverance. Delivery from the oppression and injustice of this foreign regime, the Roman Empire. Peace. Their hope for future peace was probably based on experiences during King Solomon’s reign, and the realization of just how little peace they’d experienced since. Little did God’s people know their desire for hope, deliverance, and peace would be incarnated soon, and not as they expected. Their expectations of Messiah King revolved around their nation being freed from their earthly oppressor and their former power being restored. Their hope for freedom was based upon national liberation and restoration. Israel discovered Messiah’s freedom to be very different, and their reaction followed the prophecies (Psalm 22:1,8; Psalm 31:13; Isaiah 53:3; Zechariah 11:12-13; Isaiah 50:6). While the Messiah would bring hope, deliverance and peace, the oppressive mantle thrown off wasn’t the Roman Empire, but one more insidious, invisible, and having near-eternal presence: sin and death (Hebrews 2:14-15, 1 John 3:8).

We have hope today, too. We have hope in the resurrected Son of God, our Messiah King, who gives us incomprehensible peace and life eternal, delivering us from sin and death. We shouldn’t miss what the Israelites did: this is why Jesus came. Christ-given hope, peace, and deliverance were given to usher us into the Kingdom of God, which is now and to come.


What comes to mind when you think of the freedom Christ came to give you?  Consider how you might share peace and freedom with another believer today.


By Rich Obrecht 

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Hoping for Freedom | Hebrews 2:14-152019-07-22T16:35:30-06:00

Fullness of Freedom | Galatians 5:1


Place both feet on the floor, relax your entire body and breath in deeply. As you breath in a second time, pray “Lord Jesus.” And now as you exhale, pray “You are freedom.” Do this two more times.


For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1


When you think of freedom what comes to mind? What are the ways you have attempted to be free of sin, free of worry, free of responsibility, free of pain in your life? Ask your Heavenly Father, who gives wisdom freely to all who ask, to fill your heart with the truth of his incomprehensible freedom, lavished on us through Jesus.


Freedom of Expression: Have a Christmas dance party in your living room! Talk about the “why” behind freely worshipping Jesus.


By Ellen Rosenberger 

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Fullness of Freedom | Galatians 5:12019-07-22T16:35:30-06:00

Focusing With The Spirit | John 15:26

Read John 15:26.

This week we have directed a lot of attention on the Spirit. I wonder if he is blushing? You see, If you study the Holy Spirit through texts like John 15:26, you begin to learn that the Spirit is constantly pointing people to Jesus. Jesus is the Spirit’s favorite subject. There is this beautiful little verse in Romans 12:10 that says, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” It would seem that the trinity takes its own advice. Jesus is always deferring to the Father, the Father delights over the son and the Spirit points us back to Jesus.

When Jesus is born he comes bearing gifts. One of those gifts is the promise of the Holy Spirit. But it’s not just any spirit, it’s that selfless spirit that he gives us. One way to know how in step we are with the spirit of Christ is to evaluate how Jesus-focused we are. If we choose to accept God’s Christmas present to us, namely the Spirit, we must also remember our Christmas present, by nature, is focused on Jesus.

So in the spirit of Christmas, how Jesus-focused are you? How interested are you in pointing others to Jesus? If you don’t feel as Jesus-focused as the Spirit is, it’s not a thing to feel guilt about, it’s just a sign that you may not be listening to the Spirit. You may not have opened and enjoyed that Christmas gift from God to and in you. Ask the Spirit to drive more of your motivations. See what happens. Keep asking and see if the Spirit will make his voice heard more through you. I suspect he might say, “Isn’t Jesus amazing!”


Make a list of characteristics of Jesus. Hang it somewhere you’ll see throughout the season.


By Aaron Bjorklund 

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Focusing With The Spirit | John 15:262019-07-22T16:35:30-06:00

Suffering with the Spirit | Romans 5:1-5

Read Romans 5:1-5.

When it comes to expectations this time of year, we are often like those kids in the famous Night Before Christmas poem, where “visions of sugar plums danced in their heads”. We want our holiday to look a certain way, be a certain way and have certain gifts. As Christmas comes closer, are we engaging the season as it is, or as we wish it were? Is it beautiful or broken? Wonderous or woeful? Precious or pressured? Paul proclaims, “no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, you can rejoice.”  Paul learned from his experiences that God produced character in him as Jesus’ love poured into his heart through the Holy Spirit.

If your Christmas isn’t filling it up with what you wished, have hope. Paul’s encouragement is that we are already filled up. We might not get the gifts we want for Christmas, but we have been given the gift that never stops giving. Our spirit is born again with the coming of Jesus in our life. Through the Holy spirit, God continually pours his love into us. We might be experiencing difficulties but we are filled in the midst of them. We are not without resources. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God in our lives.

Suffering is part of the human condition, but God doesn’t leave us to suffer alone. The Holy Spirit suffers with us and for us. He is our comforter, constant companion and guide. Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) The Holy Spirit is pointing you to Jesus in the midst of your circumstances, and filling you this season.


Listen to Shoulders by For King and Country on YouTube found below. Take a moment to claim your free gift, the miraculous indwelling of the Holy Spirit, by being reborn in Christ Jesus.


By Donna Burns  

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Suffering with the Spirit | Romans 5:1-52019-07-22T16:35:30-06:00

Maturing in the Spirit | Galatians 5:25

Read Galatians 5:25.

Our celebration of Christmas portrays God as infant. Let’s imagine God as a tiny living creature, not yet fully developed, a dependent, innocent, and immature child.  We press into Jesus’ incarnation today, may he show us the way to maturity from a place of weakness.

Jesus came into the world much like Adam and Eve, who were also dependent, innocent, and immature. They were invited to mature in the context of unhindered relationship with God. However, they were quickly tempted by the enemy and their sin blocked them from growing in the unhindered presence of God. Now we all grow up in the context of distorted relationship with God.

Also, remember Jesus “grew up like a young plant.” We don’t have much recorded of this process except for Luke 2:52, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” We can imagine he was dependent on his family and community as he learned and matured in his relationships. Like us, Jesus had to grow into his true identity.

So, how did Jesus, being immature, never sin? In our immaturity, like Adam and Eve, we sin easily. Jesus was an immature child and entered human life not fully developed, yet he grew up in the context of unhindered relationship with God. This only happened because he was connected to God through the Holy Spirit his whole life and he fought to maintain this connection. Jesus demonstrated that we, too, have a fighting chance to live in context of the presence of God, all because Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit. We now fight to live in connection with his Spirit in order to fully mature as Jesus did.


Praise Jesus today for maturing in the context of the Holy Spirit and ask his Spirit to come quickly to your aide as you fight to live in his presence today.


By Yvonne Biel

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Maturing in the Spirit | Galatians 5:252019-07-22T16:35:30-06:00
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