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Shaking Packages by Jerry Hill

Monday, December 10
Romans 5:12-21

But the two are not the same, because God's free gift is not like Adam's sin. It is true that many people died because of the sin of that one man. But God's grace is much greater, and so is his free gift to so many people through the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ. And there is a difference between God's gift and the sin of one man. After the one sin, came the judgment of ‘Guilty’; but after so many sins, comes the undeserved gift of ‘Not guilty!’" (Romans 5:15-16) GNT

One Christmas, when I was just a boy, all my sister wanted was a new pair of black slacks. (That tells you how long ago it was!)  That is the only gift she would discuss.  My Mom sewed her a pair of black slacks just like she wanted, wrapped them, and placed them under the tree a few weeks before Christmas. Now, the absolute rule at our house was that we never touched the packages once they were placed under the tree.  Of course, Mom knew we never obeyed that rule so when she wrapped those black slacks she put a lose button in the box so when it was shaken you heard the button rattling in the box.

Christmas morning arrived and my sister opened all of her other packages, each time disappointed that it was not her black slacks.  She never touched the box with the lose button.  Finally, Mom told her she had one more gift to open.  My sister responded that she knew it was just a game since it rattled.  Mom handed her the package, she shook it to prove her point and then opened it only to find her black slacks.

Too often we think we know just what we want and need from God, and we fail to see the tremendous gift he’s already given us. Paul tells the church in Rome in today’s scripture, that God’s gift of his Son was far greater than our sin.  As we prepare for Christmas this year, may we be open to the gift of God’s wondrous grace. Like my sister that Christmas morning, may we discover the unexpected joy of God’s gift to us.

Jerry Hill

at Monday, December 10, 2018

The Tree of Life by Luke Campbell

Sunday, December 9
Revelations 22:1-5

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” (Revelations 22:1-3)

What incredible language and imagery we are confronted with here! Take a moment to read this passage multiple times, letting the words come to you slowly and deliberately. Perhaps the most indelible aspect of this passage is the glorious picture one’s mind will paint when carefully considering the language. What hits me almost immediately is the seasonal contrast that we are experiencing at the moment. Presently, we inhabit a season in which the literal fruits of the trees have all been picked and in which the light and warmth of the sun are often fleeting. Even so, this passage brings me joy; it fills me with a warmth and light far greater than a mere celestial glare.

The tree of life is redolent with connections to Genesis, of course. But rather than plunging humankind into sin, this tree is healing for the nations; it is life-giving! And the curse, our sin, shall be no more! The Lord our God will be with us eternally! A new and everlasting Eden will come.

So, when you see the trees, bare and howling in the fall and winter winds, I hope you look upon them with joy, hope, encouragement, and the promise of a new season that Scripture tells us is coming. Look up and wonder!
Luke Campbell

at Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Right and Wrong of Behavior by Rick and Cathy Cole

Saturday, December 8
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) 

Our firstborn son was reading with comprehension well before kindergarten. While we noticed his success, the pace of his progress was much quicker than we could comprehend. When he was four we found him sitting on the toilet reading the local newspaper. When asked what he was reading he actually understood and could provide a synopsis of the stories. Needless to say, his intellectual development was a source of pride, concern, even humility for Cathy and me. He was always a few steps ahead of us. 

One day while riding in the car he used a word that horrified Cathy. She immediately wanted to know; “Where did you hear that word?” Thankfully her investigation ended quickly without identifying a cause or culprit, but after a long silence in the car, Richard simply asked, “Would you make up a list of words I should not say?”

How often in practicing our faith do we seek a list of what not to do? Such a list offers comfort in judging the right or wrong of our behavior but also provides a simple metric to judge the behavior of others. 

Paul, however, defines our responsibilities as a series of goals. Not a list of what to do or what not to do but a clear description of what we are to accomplish. Our lifelong purpose and role. The reason why we exist.

Paul indicates that just as God reconciled himself to the world through Christ we now must continue to not only reconcile ourselves to Christ but be ambassadors ministering to others in their search to reconcile themselves with God through Christ. 

God forgive me for losing sight of your purpose for me. Forgive me for judging others. Guide me through daily reconciliation to you through Christ. Make my life an example. Amen 
Rick and Cathy Cole

at Saturday, December 8, 2018