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No Longer Orphans by Steve Hemphill

Sunday, December 30

Psalm 96, 97

The author of Psalm 96 and 97 is surely excited about the sovereignty of God. It is apparent he is speaking to people who are accustomed to worshiping various gods, images, nature... you name it. The concept of there being but one God was still a little hard to swallow for many. It still is.

The Psalmist is exclaiming the greatness of God to the peoples of the earth which, at that time, extended a few hundred miles. It boggles my mind when I travel the globe and share the same Christian experience. A few weeks ago, I was in Ukraine visiting the Revival Church in Kiev. Ukraine is experiencing a terrible orphan crisis due mainly to the war still raging with Russian separatists in the Eastern part of the country. There are nearly 100,000 orphans being warehoused as there is no 'safety net' for them. The Pastor of Revival Church deciding the Gospel demanded something be done, launched the “100 Happy Kids” project. He is recruiting 10 couples to each adopt 10 children... EACH!  They are already on their 3rd family! Repeat the Sounding Joy!

We are raising funds to build homes for these families. It seems the least we can do when these Christians are willing to make such a stunning commitment. The Pastor says he hopes these 100 kids will be so grateful for having been rescued into loving Christian families that someday they will each adopt 10 kids and we'll change the name to the “1000 Happy Kids” project. Repeat the Sounding Joy!

That level of God's love is staggering and somewhat intimidating. But, just like the Psalmist... it is worth repeating that joy from the mountaintops to the rest of the world.  

The excitement of Advent and Christmas is over. But, now we should be excited about what the new year brings and the chance to start anew. When we see unusual examples of God's work in this world, let's exclaim it from the mountaintops... or perhaps just tell our many contacts of God's great joy and the Hope He brings. Repeat the Sounding Joy! It will make for a great new year and surely God will be pleased. Is there a better New Year's Resolution. I don't think so!

Steve Hemphill

at Sunday, December 30, 2018
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Engaging Conversation by Blane Baker

Saturday, December 29

Luke 2:41-52

“Why did you seek me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49)   

In our passage today, we find Jesus and his family in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. Jesus is now twelve years old and apparently independent enough to move around the city and talk with others outside his immediate family. From the context of the passage, Jesus is using his newfound freedom to learn and to grow in preparation for His future ministry. His family begins their journey home after Passover, they assume Jesus is among the company of those who are traveling with them. Luke’s account of the story, however, describes Jesus lingering in Jerusalem. 

After going a day’s journey, Jesus’ parents realize that he is not among the travelers in their group. They are worried and return to Jerusalem to search for Him. They eventually find Him in the temple where he is listening to the teachers and asking them questions. Luke writes that all were astonished by Jesus’ understanding and answers. Once he is discovered in the temple, His parents naturally ask why he did not stay with the group as they began their journey home. Jesus replies simply that He must be about His Father’s business. They do not understand His answer, but they probably remember His words later. Jesus returns home with them, remains under their care and supervision, and continues to grow in wisdom and stature until the time He begins His ministry.          

As a longtime teacher, I have learned to listen to my students and to respond to their questions and insights. Several years ago, I was showing some standard electricity demonstrations in class. A couple of students asked what would happen if we slightly changed the conditions of the demonstration. Some suggested that we would observe different results. After trying the students’ ideas, we found a new way to show forces between electric charges. Ultimately, we were able to publish our results in a scientific journal. Our novel demonstration is a wonderful example of learning from each other through engaging dialogue.   

This Christmas Season I encourage each of us to find time to linger, to ask questions, and to gain new insights. God is speaking. And we know the world needs the love, peace, and joy that Advent brings. As we celebrate the birth of Christ, we ask that God grant us patience and wisdom to engage with others so that we will grow closer to Him.   

Blane Baker   

at Saturday, December 29, 2018
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Two Weeks of Christmas Vacation by Laura Rodgers

Friday, December 28

Colossians 3:12-17

“So clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other.” (Colossians 3:12-13)

Let’s see… three days after Christmas. Three days after the gifts were quickly unwrapped, and delicious meals and yummy treats were consumed. Friends and family may have packed their cars and gone home. You and others in your house may be asking, “What do we do now?” 

This year school is out for more than two weeks! I know my kids (and probably their teachers) are thrilled, but right now I’m a little worried about how we’ll “Repeat the Sounding Joy!” as we spend this time together. 

Being real, there will be times of hurt feelings, complaints, boredom, frustration, exasperation, crying, and even gnashing of teeth! Sometimes the people closest to us get the least of our joy. The stresses we face each day build up, and when we gather back with our loved ones, we pour them out. If we would wrap ourselves in those things listed in the scripture above from Colossians, and be intentional about forgiveness, that could make things easier. What if we changed our language to sound like this?

I understand you had a crazy/tiring/busy day.
You can play with my new video game.
How can I be of help to you?
I will be quiet and sit beside you for a while.
Let’s go take some time to clean your room together.
I forgive you for losing your cool; I know things aren’t easy.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect balance. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…and be thankful.  

Laura Rodgers

at Friday, December 28, 2018
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