Advent Devotion: Getting to know Him

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“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son, from the Father.” -John 1:14

I go to a Bible college, Lancaster Bible College that is. It takes about five minutes to walk from one end of the campus to the other. It is a very small campus, which makes it easy for everyone to know everyone. It is great; everyone knows everything about everyone. Or do they? It is easy for us to make that assumption.

Knowing a person is more than just knowing their name. It has to do with time; time being invested in the relationships. Getting to know people means learning people’s stories, knowing where they come from, knowing what makes them happy, sad, angry, and fearful. Those are just a few examples.

As I think about the people that I am thankful for who want to get to know me, I can’t help but think about Jesus. We serve a God who knows us. Psalm 44:21 says, “would not God discover this, for he knows the secrets of the heart.” God knows everything about us, and God loved us enough to send his Son to break the divide that sin created. Because of that grace we can know him also. As John says in his gospel, Jesus came to earth, so that we could come to know God. How great is that?!

That is part of the message of the babe in the manger. At Christmas we forget this. We tend to just read the story of his birth, and we neglect to remember that he did live 33 years after that. So let’s go beyond the story of the manger this Christmas and look at how he lived for those 33 years. What made him happy? What made him sad? What made him angry? How did he react in certain situations? What was his life like for all of those years?

In order to know people we can’t just know about the story of when they were born. We need to get to know their whole story. Knowing them means knowing how they do life. What makes them happy, sad, angry, and what is their story? This is the same for our savior. In order to know him these are some of the things that we have to look into. So my challenge this Christmas for you and I is to dive into the other years of his life also.

I want you to know that I am striving to do this also. Part of the reason that I feel so inclined to write this is because the last couple weeks I have felt convicted. Finals, classes, and some other things were taking up so much of my time. I wasn’t in the Word. Now instead of dwelling on that, I want to look ahead and dive into the Word this Christmas. My prayer is that you and I would get to know our savior on a deeper level this season. I don’t want to let the craziness of preparing for Christmas get in the way. Besides, Christmas preparations are no excuse for not doing that. We can come up with all of the excuses we want for not reading His Word. The list is long. I have presents to buy. I have presents to wrap. I have cookies to make. I have cookies to eat. I have to put up the tree. I have to decorate the tree.

What is the point of Christmas if we are too busy to truly get to know Jesus? If we get all that stuff done, but don’t take the time to learn about Jesus, then we have done all of this preparing in vain.

Em Taylor has worked on summer staff and is a student at Lancaster Bible College.

Lent Reflection: We are Not Destroyed

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We all love David. Good and perfect king David. He obeyed God fully, and never committed a sin, right? Is that not why we call him a “man after God’s own heart”? No! This man that was “a man after God’s own heart” was an adulterer, and a murderer. He was a mess. We are all a mess. We need to understand this. The problem is that we let the mess tell us that we are totally hopeless. The Bible says something different in 2 Corinthians 4. Verse 8 says “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

I see after reading the story of David that he did a good job with dealing with the mess. In Psalm 143 David seems to understand that no matter what he does, it is not too bad for God to fix. Even after he committed adultery and murder he realized that. We need to strive to be like that. We need to first understand that we are a mess, and second understand that we may be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, but we are not destroyed. When we realize how much of a mess we are in, that is the start of allowing God to work, but the other problem is that we always let our guilt shame us. We need to let Christ forgive us and work in us.

I have a tangible story that might help you, and I grasp this point a little easier. I have a friend from Lancaster Bible College who has an eating disorder. This past year she was struggling so badly to the point she didn’t realize how much she was struggling. It got so bad during the semester that friends were watching her food intake and how much she went to the gym. She was encouraged to go home and get some help. She went home, and things got worse for a while. One night she was so tired of struggling and being so sick and she was at the end of herself. She recognized that she was struggling and needed God’s help. She cried out to him, and she was determined to go to a place that would help her. That is so important in our faith. Realizing we have struggles is an essential part of Christianity. We need to realize this because then grace can set us free. If we deny that we struggle we don’t see the need for a savior.

So my friend got help for a while. She battled and still battles thoughts every day. So you ask “did the help really work since she is still battling?” Heck yes, along with being able to see all the things she is struggling with, she understands that she is not destroyed or destined for nothing. This struggle does not put her out of the grace of God and she knows that. She is an example of a person who can recognize a struggle and its ramifications, yet does not view it as something that has destroyed her. That is why I love the story of David. He was not perfect. When he committed adultery and murder he admitted it. Psalm 51 is his honest confession of it. He also understood that the sin did not destroy him. God is way more powerful than allowing some sin to destroy his creation that was made for him.

In summary, remember we are all sinners. Sin is evil, and we need to understand the ramifications of it. On the other hand we need to understand that realizing we sin should not make us feel destroyed and without hope. This is what makes people men and women after God’s own heart. Those people let God work in their lives and eliminate the sin from their lives. They don’t have to live thinking that they are destroyed, because like David, and my friend, God has made them new. His grace is always enough.

Em Taylor is a student at Lancaster Bible College and has worked on summer staff at Delanco Camp. Image credit: Matt Gruber, via CreationSwap.

Lent Reflection: The Heart of the Matter

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Jeremiah 7:22-23- “For when I (God) brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.

After reading all of these passages I had a lot of time to think about what Lent is all about. All of this thinking reminded me of a sermon I once heard some time ago on lent. Lent is not so much about giving something physical up for God. It’s more about what is done instead of doing the thing you gave up for lent. That seems kind of broad so I will be more detailed. Let’s say you give up junk food for Lent. You spend the first day doing well and don’t even look at a potato chip or think about drinking a coke. For the next week you have a few cravings, but all is well. Then all of the sudden out of nowhere that bag of chips and that gallon of ice-cream starts taunting you saying “come get me, you know you want some.” Then after a while you falter. Then you feel like you failed God, because you thought that Lent was just about giving something up, and nothing more after that.

See I have tried to give up things for lent and have failed, after the sermon I heard, I got a whole new perspective. How about looking at Lent in a new way? When you give up something for lent it usually means that there is some freed up time in your life. For example I am a huge fan of a huge bowl of ice-cream with chocolate syrup smothered over it. Now let’s say I was to give that up. That would take about 15 minutes to prepare, eat, and clean up. What to do with the extra time? Well how about spending that time with God?! What if we gave up something for lent and as soon as we had a craving or had extra time we went to the Lord in prayer or read God’s word. We would grow so much more and we would become so much closer to God. We wouldn’t even think about what we gave up. Now in order to have this time with God, we do need to give something up, but that isn’t where it ends. It’s about where the heart is at. Are we giving things up because the world says we should on Lent? Or are you giving something up because that time would be better spent with our Heavenly Father?

In the verse in Jeremiah God doesn’t see the burnt offerings or sacrifices as important. He sees the heart of love and obedience for him as the important thing. To sum this all up, God doesn’t find his pleasure in the things we give up. God wants our heart. That is what Lent is about, the heart of the matter.