In the following post, Cindy Ketner reflects on God’s love. Cindy is an elders’ wife, the mother of two beautiful daughters and serves faithfully at Salem Chapel. Read the first and second Advent Devotionals: Jesus Brings Hope, Jesus Is Our Peace and God Our Joy.
The birth of Christ was just the beginning of God’s love for us. “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son.” (John 3:16a AMP) At Christmastime, we celebrate God’s love not only as seen in the coming of Christ but also in his dying and resurrecting. God gave up his son so we could experience an unending life with him. That is love. But what does that kind of love mean for us today?
Love is a rather tired word and so often loses its meaning. We say we love ice cream but we also love our spouse. I sure hope Bill cares more about me than a big bowl of ice cream! How confusing! If we use the same word to describe our feelings about ice cream and our spouse, how can we ever really find the right words to describe the love that God has for us?
In the following post, Cindy Ketner reflects on the Peace we have in Christ. Cindy is an elders’ wife, the mother of two beautiful daughters and serves faithfully at Salem Chapel. Read the first Advent Devotional, Jesus Brings Hope and look for more devotionals by Cindy in the coming weeks.
At Christmas we celebrate the peace that came through the birth of Christ. In the words of the Christmas carol, “Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” Jesus brings us peace with God and because of that we can experience real peace in our everyday lives.
According to the Bible, peace with God is only possible through Jesus, the Messiah, “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa 53:5) We have peace with God because of the suffering and death of our Lord. We speak of this with such over familiarity that we sometimes lose the huge impact of what Christ accomplished, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”(Eph. 2:14) It really is amazing to think that we can bluster right into the presence of the Almighty! And we do it all the time without a thought!
In the following post, Cindy Ketner reflects on the Hope we find in the coming of Christ this Advent Season. Cindy is an elders’ wife, the mother of two beautiful daughters and serves faithfully at Salem Chapel. Look for more Advent Devotionals by Cindy in the coming weeks.
Sometimes in our fragmented culture, Christmas and the traditions that surround it seem imposed from a random source, but in reality they were established by the church a long time ago. The earliest recorded traditions were in the 400’s. As with the Israelites in the book of Exodus, God wants to be the source of our calendar and celebrations. This advent season we are suggesting a couple things to help “prepare him room” and invite Christ into our Christmas. The first is to read through the gospel of John and focus on what you can learn about Jesus. (You can download a copy of the Advent Reading Schedule here.) Another way is to follow the Salem Chapel blog as we post an Advent Devotional each week to reflect on the coming of Christ. And of course, as you continue in your own Christmas traditions, remember to be looking for Jesus.
Week 1 – Jesus Brings Hope
Hope. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Now that sounds good, but what is it we hope for? In this text, it’s God and the promise of our future life. Sometimes we lose sight of this hope and are like Paul said, “to be pitied more than all men” (1 Cor. 15:19).
The Death of Jesus
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9
Jesus had told his disciples that he was going to die (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34). Mark 8:32 records that Jesus said this “plainly”, as in no riddles or veiled remarks. Even still, Mark 9:32 says that they “did not understand” but were “afraid to ask” any questions. Well, not any questions, for James and his brother John did manage to ask,
“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” (Mark 10:37)
Despite repeated warnings of his upcoming suffering and death, the thought on the minds of these two brothers was totally selfish.
The Heart of Jesus
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45
Father: “So Steve, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Son: “Dad, I really just want to be a servant.”
Father: ____________ (fill in the blank)
How do you suppose that conversation ends? Christian parents everywhere are saying “that would be wonderful”, but I am not sure that all the classes, lessons and instruction we funnel our children through is geared to servant-creation, is it? Is that what you really want for your kids, to just be a servant? Is that what you’re aiming for? Servanthood?
Much like the times when Jesus walked the earth, today in many circles,
Authority + Power = Leadership
Leadership + Prominence = Success
And we all want to be successful, don’t we? A sad fact about our sinful little hearts is that we tend to judge our worth by how “successful” we are. The important criteria becomes how do you define success? How do you?
The Cost of Jesus
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38
“Take up his cross? Did he just say, ‘Take up his cross’?” When the disciples first heard these words they must have thought that it was just an extreme illustration. After Jesus died on a cross, they knew it meant much more. This challenge, found about halfway through the gospel of Mark, is a sobering reminder of the foolishness of gaining the world, but forfeiting one’s life in the process.
The cost of discipleship, as described by Jesus, goes far beyond what I think many western believers anticipate when they choose to follow after Christ.
The Power of Jesus
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:45-52
After speaking at our student ministry’s spring retreat, I was asked by a couple of guys,
“Why doesn’t God act like He did in the Old Testament anymore?”
“What do you mean?” I replied.
“You know, like the burning bush, it would be so much easier to get people to believe if God still did stuff like that.”
I think a lot of people feel that way (perhaps even you), but unfortunately that is not the case. Though it is fun to think about. Imagine the impact at the end of a sermon if you could call down fire from heaven or cause it to rain on cue? You would like to think it would be pretty powerful. But in the long run, you’ll be better served by old-school sharing the gospel and praying the Spirit does a work in the heart of your hearer.