Advent Devotion: Why are you sleeping?

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“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’” -Luke 22:39-46

I am amazed at the patience of Jesus. In the text, he instructs the disciples, “pray that you will not fall into temptation.” Then, off by himself, he prays with an intensity I cannot even understand. Returning, he finds his disciples sleeping – exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

How many times will Jesus have to teach us the same lessons over and over again before we obey? What is inside of us that so badly wants to rebel against him? This year I have been reminded dozens of times of Amy Carmichael’s saying, “A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even a drop of bitter water no matter how suddenly jarred.” Sadly, what reminded me of this saying was that something had shaken me, and what had spilled out was… bitter.

I am amazed at the patience of Jesus.

And I am thankful that I am adopted and accepted as his child, and that he is continually working on me, showing me new (or old and sadly familiar) ways that he can bring me cleansing and healing.

So, if you are reading this devotion, this is the challenge. Pray that you will not fall into temptation. And if you find that you have fallen – asleep or in some other way – get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.

Dave Brown is a former camper, summer staff member and has served the camp in leadership and other ways for many years. He is an engineer by day and a writer and doodle artist by night. Check out his work, including his new children’s book “No Learning Allowed” at www.davidbrownauthor.com.

Advent Devotion: Conviction

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Luke 22:54-69

Most of us who call ourselves devoted Christians would not openly deny Jesus. But as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. While we may not openly and deliberately deny him with our mouths, how often do we deny him with our actions? As Christians we are called to not just talk the talk but walk the walk.

We may say we believe in Christ but do our actions mimmick our beliefs? Are we convicted in our beliefs? A conviction goes beyond having a personal preference about something. It goes deeper than a subjective opinion. Having convictions is being so thoroughly convinced that something is absolutely true that you take a stand for it regardless of the consequences. When our actions demonstrate that not only do we believe what God says but are willing to act on it, God becomes responsible for the results. That’s the kind of belief in God we all need to have.

During this Advent season millions will be shopping and decorating preparing for a holiday whose meaning is largely lost in society today. Christmas trees have replaced nativities representing the symbolic Christmas. Songs about reindeer and mistletoe have replaced carols proclaiming the Savior’s birth. And Santa has replaced Christ as the most identifiable spokesman for the holiday. In many ways we deny Christ through our actions by excluding him from our lives.

Let’s make this Advent season a time to rekindle our belief in Jesus Christ as the center of our lives and let all our actions be reflective of being a truly convicted Christian.

Prayer: Dear God, may my beliefs turn into convictions, may I put my thoughts and words into deeds and actions, may my actions show the world that I am a Christian. May my words and actions reflect the love that Jesus showed the world and may I never deny Christ as my Lord, savior and redeemer. Amen.

Eric Ulrich has served as the president of the board of directors this year and will continue as treasure in 2013.

Advent Devotion: Bombarded With Stuff

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The “Christmas season” this year, as I observed it, began on about November 1. “Christmas season” is in quotations because while Christmas decorations fill the stores, the focus is not so much on Christmas as it is on commercialism and materialism. Though we have a tendency to forget each year, this is how this “season” has begun for the better part of the last 20-30 years.

What has changed? Have the stores done this? Have they changed the way and the reason that Christmas is celebrated? Well they DO open their doors on Thanksgiving Day, so it must be their fault, right? I must admit that I found some of the door-busters tempting this year, though I didn’t dare brave shopping that day.

The truth is, we live in a culture driven by stuff, by material things. Of course the stores open on Thanksgiving Day! Why wouldn’t they? People (we) show up and the stores make money. It’s the logical chain of events. I have the tendency to believe that as long as people continue to show up earlier and earlier, the stores will continue lengthening their hours. The point is not that shopping is evil; it’s simply that our priorities have changed. So how can we change them back? How can we remember the actual reason for the season as we’re bombarded with stuff?

In John Chapter 3, we find John the Baptist busy baptizing when he is approached by his followers and asked why so many are going to Jesus to be baptized instead of him. They were obviously concerned that Jesus was taking away from their own ministry. John gently reminds them that he is simply preparing the way; that he has already told them that it is Jesus who is the Messiah. In verses 29 and 30 he says, “Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”

John’s job was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. He did that, all the while pointing to Christ. It was never his intent to take any glory away from Jesus and he made sure that people understood that by telling them of the absolute greatness of Jesus.

If more time was spent pointing to Christ, less time would be spent pointing toward the things of this earth. This Christmas season, I encourage you to point your heart towards Christ and encourage those around you to do the same. As more and more people realize the greatness of God and the smallness of themselves, hearts will turn to Christ.

Christina Maddalone is an assistant pastor at Evangelical UMC in Clarksboro where she oversees the youth group. She moved to the area earlier this year and came to Delanco Camp for the first time shortly after arriving. She blogs at Christina in South Jersey.