Christmas Advent Devotional Schedule

“Every journey has a beginning and an ending. Along the way, we may face hills to climb, rivers to cross, challenges to engage, but many times we encounter unexpected pleasures. It is the unexpected that becomes the most powerful part of the journey. Opening your heart to the adventure of a journey can release unexpected treasures for you to find along the way.” – Mike Stewart, Journey to Christmas

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Join us this year as we celebrate Advent together.

You can see daily live devotionals from The Bridge Church Facebook page or posted here. Each day has an inspirational quote, scripture reading and challenge to put our faith in action.
Advent comes from the Latin word “Adventus” meaning “coming.” During this busy holiday season, let us prioritize our time to COME TO HIM daily, as he first came to us! This year let the season be a journey into God’s beautiful presence, instead of a holiday of hassle, hustle and hostility. Take your heart on a journey of awe and wonder for how Jesus CAME into the world, how he continues to COME into our hearts, and how he will COME again!

NOTE: Each Sunday before Christmas we will focus on the Advent themes of Hope (week 1), Peace (week 2), Joy (week 3) and Love (week 4). If you’d like to participate at home, each Sunday light a new candle for that week’s theme, until all four candles are lit. This is a great time to bring your family together and refocus on the true meaning of Christmas.

Devotional Schedule:

Based on the book, Journey to Christmas, by Mike Stewart. Available on Amazon

Week 1:

DEC. 1 – Lamentations 3:26 | Challenge: Express extra patience and graciousness today when you have to wait.
DEC. 2 – Psalm 62:5-8 | Challenge: Every time you are tempted to worry today, say out loud, “Lord, I will trust you.”

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT – HOPE
DEC. 3 – Psalm 46:10-11 | Challenge: BE in the moment today. Don’t let distractions keep you from engaging your all in the moment. (Put the phone away and have a conversation with someone.) Make sure nothing distracts you from your Advent time.
DEC. 4 – John 1:1-4 | Challenge: Pray for an opportunity to shine into someone else’s darkness today. Let His love be a light!
DEC. 5 – Matthew 20:28 |  Challenge: Find a way to significantly serve someone like Jesus today.
DEC. 6 – Luke 1:26-28 | Challenge: Look up the prayer of St. Patrick, called “Christ Before Me” and pray it out loud.
DEC. 7 – Luke 1: 30-33 | Challenge: Surrender your will to the Lord and give him the right to totally rule your life.
DEC. 8 – Luke 1: 34-38 | Challenge: Pray for miracles for someone that comes across your path today.
DEC. 9 – Luke 1: 39-45 | Challenge: Write out scriptures of God’s promise to you in an area of struggle. Place them where you can see them throughout the day.

SECOND SUNDAY of ADVENT – PEACE

DEC. 10 – Luke 1: 45-55 | Challenge: Find a NEW song of praise today and share it with someone special.
DEC. 11 – Matthew 22:37 | Challenge: Take time at the top of the hour to tell the Lord how you love him.
DEC. 12 – Matthew 22: 39 | Challenge: Do something special today for a neighbor, co-worker or friend to express God’s love to them.
DEC. 13 – Philippians 4:7 | Challenge: Make peace with someone that you’ve had a strained relationship with. Do something to bless them and see the peace that rebounds into your own heart (no matter if they appreciate it or not).
DEC. 14 – Galatians 4:4-7 | Challenge: Refocus your schedule and calendar to reflect what’s important to God and his kingdom as his child.
DEC. 15 – Luke 2:1-5 | Challenge: What fears do you have for your future?Say a prayer of faith to trust it to his good purpose for you.
DEC. 16 – Luke 2:6-7 | Challenge: Show hospitality to a stranger today.

THIRD SUNDAY of ADVENT – JOY
DEC. 17 – Luke 2:8-9 | Challenge: Say a simple prayer of availability and see opportunities God places before you in small ways that may be significant to someone.
DEC. 18 – Luke 2:10-12 | Challenge: Share the “good news” today about Jesus love.
DEC. 19 – Luke 2:13-14 | Challenge: Take inventory of your thoughts today. Are they peaceful or anxious? Banish thoughts that aren’t peaceful or don’t give glory to God. (Philippians 4:8)
DEC. 20 – Luke 2:15-16 | Challenge: Is there something you know you need to obey the Lord in before the year ends? Do it now. Give him your YES.
DEC. 21 – Luke 2:17-18 | Challenge: Speak positive words of love and encouragement. Notice people who need some life-giving words today.
DEC. 22 – Luke 2:19 | Challenge: Store up God’s treasures in your heart today. God for a walk, look around and notice God’s big and small blessings in your life.
DEC. 23 – Luke 2:20 | Challenge: Fill your day with praise today–start to finish! Take 5 minute PRAISE PAUSES through the day and praise him for his goodness!

FOURTH SUNDAY of ADVENT – LOVE
DEC. 24 – Isaiah 11:1-2 | Challenge: Sing “Silent Night” and let God’s spirit rest upon you in a special moment. (Look up all the verses and sing them. You can also read the special story of how it was written here.)
DEC. 25 – John 3:16-17 | Challenge: What is your gift to Jesus? Pray about something special he would really love you to give him for 2018. Write it down and present it to him. (This is a great thing to do with your kids before or after opening presents.)


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Are Your Roots Showing?

I prize and protect my hair appointments to ensure my “roots” are NOT showing. These “holy hair days” have priority in my calendar and are scheduled months in advance. They are sacred.

I have legit blonde moments, but honestly I’m not a natural blonde. (I know you’re shocked and surprised.) I’m not quite sure what color my hair really is now, but every six weeks my roots emerge with a mishmash color of dishwater blonde, dark brown and…um yes, grey. Ew, HURRY and cover it up!

Today I took a walk in Northern Ireland where we’re staying near the village of Cullybackey.

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The views of the rushing river are intoxicating.

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I felt God’s presence cleansing my soul as I watched the water wash over the rocks.

Life dumps lots of messes. If only there were SOUL MAIDS who rushed in after us and tidied up the disarray of stressful lives.

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Maybe this is the call for a Sabbath.

Could it be the reason Jesus snuck away for solace with the Father? To let the water of heaven wash over the residue EARTH leaves behind…on the soul.

“Learn character from trees – values from ROOTS and change from leaves.” – T. Hameed

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As I walked down the river path, I noticed some extraordinary roots supporting a huge tree. I laughed at my attempts to cover my roots, but this wooden beauty displayed them majestically.

Roots reach down to find the refreshing.

Nothing lives long without the root. Good or bad.

Root: 1.) the part of a plant which attaches it to the ground or to a support, typically underground, conveying water and nourishment to the rest of the plant 2:) the basic cause, source, or origin of something

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Could it actually be our GOAL to let our roots show?

Roots need time and attention…and more time. Roots thrive on faithfulness, with a daily agility that does not ascribe adulation. Fruits get attention. Fruits are displayed in bowls and prepared in puddings. (Okay, I’m in UK – Americans go with me. :) )

The Holy Spirit’s work in us flowers into great fruit.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Meekness. Faithfulness. Self-Control. (Gal.5:22-13)

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BUT…the ROOT determines the fruit!

Some people say LOVE is the fruit that manifests into the other characteristics. I can see that, but LOVE is the ROOT as well. Ephesians 3:17 expresses that thought as we are “rooted and grounded” in the LOVE of Christ.

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As I ponder my heart ROOTS today, I’m thankful for those who showed Christ’s love to me…those who helped plant seeds of God’s word in me, who encouraged me, who believed in me, who corrected me, who grounded me in truth.

Lord, let my ROOTS show, and help me ROOT and establish a new generation in faith.

 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17 -19


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Why is it hard to feel loved when corrected?

This week my dog, Winston, and I had a showdown of wills—my desire to trim his horribly long nails and his will to be left alone. I’m not sure where his complete and utter abhorrence of nail trimming originates. I’m sure it’s from some dark moment from his puppyhood. The fact remains he is in danger of harming himself and others. Because I love him, his nails must be corrected!

winston the Olde English Bulldog

This job is usually a two-man task. My daughter feeds him wienies, while I sneak up and grab a paw. This week I had no help, but I determined—today is the day, this has gone on long enough! As you can imagine, it wasn’t pretty. I persevered and ended up with a small tooth mark and bruise on my hand from him biting me! I know he didn’t mean to hurt me. In his mind, he was only defending himself from the horrible silver-trimming monster. He saw the potential hurt, not the intended help. Why is it so hard to be corrected?

Correction: a change made to something in order to correct or improve it, or the action of making such a change (Cambridge Dictionary)

Sometimes I’m like Winston and bite the hand that’s trying to help and heal me when it looks like correction. Correction comes to keep us from hurting others, and ourselves, but why does it sting? Hebrews 12 says God only corrects those He loves, but why don’t I feel loved during the initial correction? It’s uncomfortable, it’s scary and it requires change. Sadly, our first response is defense.

So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. (Hebrews 12: 5-6, MSG)

A few years ago, the doctor warned my husband that he had to lose weight in order to correct his blood pressure. He tells the story how his first thought was, “well, you’re not so trim yourself!” The Lord quickly corrected him, “Well, we’re not talking about the doctor now are we?”

I’m loving the Olympics right now. Listening to a coach’s correction is crucial (even in table tennis)! Can you imagine an athlete looking at their coach and saying, “Well I’d like to see you do it!” No. They are getting paid to correct and train them. But sadly, this is often our defensive response when God sends people our way to train and correct us.

Correction requires a choice. Will I RECEIVE correction and change, trusting God has my best in mind? OR, will I RESIST and grow stagnant in my defense? That decision will be the mark of maturity.

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A poignant verse in Zephaniah 3 reveals the results of resisting correction.

“Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city! She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God.” Zephaniah 3:1-2

If we draw near to Him, we’ll see His love behind the correction and hear His true voice. Instead of hearing, “You screw up, what are you thinking? You better do better!” We hear the Father’s heart saying, “Hey, let’s tweak this and you’re doing to be a lot happier with the results of your life.” Maybe the next time we sense the Holy Spirit’s correction; we’ll welcome the scary trimmers that help heal us. Even if we don’t feel “loved” at the moment, we’ll realize how LOVE is the motivation and will be the result if we obey.

If you love Me, obey the commandments I have given you. John 14:15 (The Voice)

My prayer of correction…

Lord, keep your finger on my heart. Give me a teachable spirit. I don’t want to be a know-it-all, because I defiantly have more to know! Help me to keep growing and learning. I boldly say…(brace yourself) CORRECT ME Lord, and I will obey. Because no matter rather I FEEL loved at the moment or not—I trust your heart for me is good and your lovingkindness leads me to life through my repentance.

 

 


The One Wedge I Hate

I love all kinds of wedges, let’s see…there’s cheese wedges…

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potato wedges…

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door wedges…

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and my favorite (especially for testing my grace and agility) high heel wedges…

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Wedges are powerful things. They are one of the six ancient simple machines devised for making a job quicker and easier by using leverage to multiply the force. It’s two inclined planes that come to a sharp edge. If you can get the edge “wedged” in between two things, they separate and start working against each other to move apart.

He drives wedges between us.

Being a pastor for over twenty years, this device sounds very familiar to me. It’s the exact method the devil schemes to separate relationships–he drives a WEDGE between us. Same game he’s played through the ages. Adam and Eve. Cain and Abel. Paul and Barnabas. He looks for any gaps–hurts, disappointments, misunderstandings–to bring separation and ultimately destruction.

It starts out small, but sharp enough to hurt. Then the force behind it continues to drive the wedge deeper and deeper until it’s jammed between hearts. Vain imaginations, gossip and insecurity are the hammer force to the WEDGE which splinters offense, mistrust and even disdain as it obstructs the beauty that once was.

Romans 8:35, & 39 assures us nothing can drive a WEDGE between us and God’s love for us.

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us?…I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:35, 39 Message

The Message translation uses the word WEDGE for the Greek word chōrizō which means, to separate, divide, depart, or pull asunder. Jesus tried to tell us how important it was to take THAT unswerving love from the Father and let it fuel our love for each other. But…and this is a BIG BUT, I know… It’s so much harder to love others! The Lord never fails. His unconditional love is always patient, pure, selfless, mature and purposeful. He’s perfect, people aren’t. People are broken, fickle, hurtful, manipulating, and self-centered. People fail. I fail people.

What is the glue that can heal our relational wedges?

Paul instructed the Corinthians that “there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12:25 KJV, underline added) Isn’t that a lovely King James word, “schism”? It means division, split or gap. Paul knew what he was writing about. At this exciting time in the New Testament, there was ripe opportunities for believers to take sides and stick to old mindsets. He and Barnabas decided to stop being travel buddies, when they disagreed about John Mark, who was Barnabas’s nephew. (Add in some family expectations and tension and we have a real wedge on our hands!) Paul didn’t believe John Mark cut the mustard because he had run out on them before, and this could have been a permanent wedge of hurt between them.

And Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp contention, so that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. [Acts 15:37–40]

We don’t know what happened in Paul’s heart or Barnabas’s heart or in John Mark’s, but at the end of Paul’s mission while imprisoned he asks Timothy to send for John Mark because “he was profitable” to him. 2 Timothy 4:11 Somewhere love removed the wedge.

We know WEDGES will happen.

The threat of wedges are unavoidable. Husbands and wives, fathers and sons, sister to sister, friend to friend–no one is immune. The definition of a wedge is very interesting to me. I thought it would simply be “something used to pull apart.” But look…

Wedge: 1. a block of solid material, esp wood or metal, that is shaped like a narrow V in cross section and can be pushed or driven between two objects or parts of an object in order to split or secure them. (dictionary.com)

What the enemy schemes to SPLIT us — God intends to use to SECURE us!

FACE the wedge!

Yes, it’s the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Yes, it’s easier to splinter off and stay hurt and offended. Yes, it’s easier to fall into the devil’s schemes to stop God’s purposes and Kingdom relationships in your life. But, YES, it’s worth it! Do all you can to pursue peace. Maybe you just need to face the wedge in your own heart and forgive, or maybe you need to talk to the other person to work it out. You stand before God for your heart condition. Are there wedges and splinters there?  You aren’t accountable for other’s choices, and you can’t control them; but you can control yours!

Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. (Hebrews 12:14-15 Message)

Here’s to seeing more cheese and potato wedges than bitter wedges! Oh wait, and “door wedges” too! Let me be a person that holds doors open for others–not slam them shut. (And then they’ll know that we are his disciples, because we love like him. John 13:35)

What kind of wedge will you be?