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Central Peninsula Church > 28 Days of Advent

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Welcome to the 28 Days of Advent!

The challenge will be to spend 15 minutes a day in personal worship. When we talk about revitalizing worship, we believe this applies not just to our worshipping together, but also to our personal worship.

We encourage you to join us in this life-changing journey!

Scroll down and you will find each week's worth of worship devotionals. Click on the day and the devotional will pop up. All 28 Days are available so keep scrolling as you enter a new week.

28 Days of Advent Devotionals

Day 1, December 1
Day 2, December 2
Day 3, December 3
Day 4, December 4
Day 5, December 5
Day 6, December 6
Day 7, December 7
Day 1, December 1

Scripture: Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Matthew 7:24-27

Meditation: Those who profess to be followers of Christ often look the same on the outside. Both the wise and foolish people appear to be building their lives—family, career, fun, etc. Both hear God’s word, and both may even be respectable members of the Christian community. The reason you can’t tell the difference is the deep foundation of their lives is hidden from view. The real question is not whether they hear and even believe Christ’s teaching but, whether they do what they hear. How do we know? Only a storm will reveal the truth! Both kinds of builders must endure the storm; no one is exempt. It might be the storm of a crisis or calamity in your life that reveals what kind of foundation you’ve built upon. But if it’s not that, there’s another storm ahead for all of us; it’s the storm of the day of judgment. And if you hear the words of Jesus but then build your life on your career, or your success, or your intelligence, or your family, or your bank account, or your own righteousness, or your political party, or anything else save Jesus and his word, when the storm comes your life will collapse because it was built on sand!

Practice: Lectio Divina

Prepare: Be silent for a moment and ask God to prepare your heart to listen to him.

Read: Read the text like a personal note. Let the words sink in one at a time. Read through it once, and then slow down and read it again.

Meditate: Ponder what you’ve read. Chew on it. What jumps out at you? What doesn’t make sense? How are you reacting to this text? What does it make you feel? How does this intersect with your life? Where do you see yourself in this story? 

Pray: Ask God, “God what are you saying to me today?”

Contemplate: As you read, ask yourself, “Is there a warning to heed? A promise to claim? An example to follow or avoid? A command to obey? A sin to confess?”

By Mark Mitchell

Day 2, December 2

Scripture: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42

Meditation: The early church was devoted to the apostles teaching, which we have today in what we call the New Testament. How can we be devoted to this teaching? Perhaps this quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer will help: 

“The Word of Scripture should never stop sounding in your ears and working in you all day long, just like the words of someone you love. And just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart... Do not ask, ‘How shall I pass this on?’ but ‘What does it say to me?’ Then ponder this word long in your heart until it has gone right into you and taken possession of you.”

Practice: Lectio Divina

Prepare: Be silent for a moment and ask God to prepare your heart to listen to him.

Read: Read the text like a personal note. Let the words sink in one at a time. Read through it once, and then slow down and read it again.

Meditate: Ponder what you’ve read. Chew on it. What jumps out at you? What doesn’t make sense? How are you reacting to this text? What does it make you feel? How does this intersect with your life? Where do you see yourself in this story? 

Pray: Ask God, “God what are you saying to me today?”

Contemplate: As you read, ask yourself, “Is there a warning to heed? A promise to claim? An example to follow or avoid? A command to obey? A sin to confess?”

By Mark Mitchell

Day 3, December 3

Scripture: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Meditation: Paul says that the Scripture is not only inspired; it’s useful. Scripture is not there just so we can theorize about life; it’s meant to help us live life in the most effective and meaningful way possible. That's why he says it’s profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. We all need that, don’t we? Otherwise, we go through life with a distorted perspective on reality, and we act accordingly. We go through life, and we’re like those people who enter a funhouse and look at themselves in the mirror, which distorts their image. One mirror shows them at 10 feet tall and 100 pounds, while another shows them as 3 feet tall and 300 pounds. It’s a distortion. Unfortunately, that’s how most people view life. Left to ourselves, that's how we all view it. And so we need the Scripture to teach, reprove and correct us.

Practice: Lectio Divina

Prepare: Be silent for a moment and ask God to prepare your heart to listen to him.

Read: Read the text like a personal note. Let the words sink in one at a time. Read through it once, and then slow down and read it again.

Meditate: Ponder what you’ve read. Chew on it. What jumps out at you? What doesn’t make sense? How are you reacting to this text? What does it make you feel? How does this intersect with your life? Where do you see yourself in this story? 

Pray: Ask God, “God what are you saying to me today?”

Contemplate: As you read, ask yourself, “Is there a warning to heed? A promise to claim? An example to follow or avoid? A command to obey? A sin to confess?”

By Mark Mitchell

Day 4, December 4

Scripture: He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

Meditation: Jesus teaches us that the greatest commandment is to love God with our whole being, which includes our mind. I often hear Christians talk about how the Christian life is not just about “head knowledge,” and how we need to move things “from our heads to our hearts.” Certainly, knowledge without the engagement of our heart and our will is of little use. But what about the engagement of our heart and will apart from our mind? That’s downright dangerous! John Stott wrote a book called “Your Mind Matters,” in which he said, “Knowledge is indispensable to the Christian life and service. If we do not use the mind which God has given us, we condemn ourselves to spiritual superficiality."

Practice: Lectio Divina

Prepare: Be silent for a moment and ask God to prepare your heart to listen to him.

Read: Read the text like a personal note. Let the words sink in one at a time. Read through it once, and then slow down and read it again.

Meditate: Ponder what you’ve read. Chew on it. What jumps out at you? What doesn’t make sense? How are you reacting to this text? What does it make you feel? How does this intersect with your life? Where do you see yourself in this story? 

Pray: Ask God, “God what are you saying to me today?”

Contemplate: As you read, ask yourself, “Is there a warning to heed? A promise to claim? An example to follow or avoid? A command to obey? A sin to confess?”

By Mark Mitchell

Day 5, December 5

Scripture: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

Meditation: How can we “be transformed by the renewing of our mind?” How is our mind renewed? It’s renewed through the Word of God and the Spirit of God. In fact, the Word of God is called “the sword of the Spirit.” It’s only as we read and meditate on the Scriptures, the Spirit of God unmasks the lies the world feeds us, and we’re able to see what’s true and real. It’s only through the Spirit’s application of God’s Word to our hearts that we see the insidiousness of our own fleshly nature. It’s only when that happens that we can discern his “good, pleasing and perfect will.” Everyone asks, “What is God’s will for my life.” Well, you can’t begin to know God’s good and perfect will unless you let your mind be constantly renewed by God’s Word. If you don’t do that, you’ll be duped by the world’s way of thinking.

Practice: Lectio Divina

Prepare: Be silent for a moment and ask God to prepare your heart to listen to him.

Read: Read the text like a personal note. Let the words sink in one at a time. Read through it once, and then slow down and read it again.

Meditate: Ponder what you’ve read. Chew on it. What jumps out at you? What doesn’t make sense? How are you reacting to this text? What does it make you feel? How does this intersect with your life? Where do you see yourself in this story? 

Pray: Ask God, “God what are you saying to me today?”

Contemplate: As you read, ask yourself, “Is there a warning to heed? A promise to claim? An example to follow or avoid? A command to obey? A sin to confess?”

By Mark Mitchell

Day 6, December 6

Scripture: The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper. Proverbs 19:8

Meditation: The book of Proverbs is all about wisdom, and the premise of the book is that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. What we sometimes forget is this kind of wisdom actually pays off. Who doesn’t want to love life and prosper, as our verse suggests? Put two people together. One is a person of faith, the other not. They're the same age and earn about the same salary. Neither of them smokes, drinks, or gambles. They both floss their teeth, exercise, and watch their diet. Which person is most likely to enjoy life and prosper? If Proverbs is any indication, the answer is very clear: the man of faith will enjoy living and prosper more than the other. Are you surprised? If you are, it's probably because you’ve been listening to those who say religion makes people sick, repressed, uptight, and lazy. But researchers are discovering the book of Proverbs is true. A number of studies have shown associations between going to church and living a long life. In a study done this year, The Pew Research Center found that 36 percent of actively religious people describe themselves as “very happy,” compared with 25 percent of the inactively religious people and 25 percent of the unaffiliated.

Practice: Lectio Divina

Prepare: Be silent for a moment and ask God to prepare your heart to listen to him.

Read: Read the text like a personal note. Let the words sink in one at a time. Read through it once, and then slow down and read it again.

Meditate: Ponder what you’ve read. Chew on it. What jumps out at you? What doesn’t make sense? How are you reacting to this text? What does it make you feel? How does this intersect with your life? Where do you see yourself in this story? 

Pray: Ask God, “God what are you saying to me today?”

Contemplate: As you read, ask yourself, “Is there a warning to heed? A promise to claim? An example to follow or avoid? A command to obey? A sin to confess?”

By Mark Mitchell

Day 7, December 7

Scripture: …from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command. 1 Chron. 12:32

Meditation: I love that line, “men who understood the times.” Does that grab you at all? Notice they not only understood the times but also what to do in light of them. That is a powerful and important combination. First, we need to understand the times. We need to understand in a way that is deeper than headlines and tweets. It’s knowing what’s important among the happenings of our world: events, movements, trends, and ideologies. It’s knowing what’s shaping us, forming us, and molding us. It’s knowing that as human beings, we are now alive at a given moment in time, an era that is full of significance, positioned uniquely in the wider story of the world as the world moves toward the final chapter. But that is not all. It also says they “knew what Israel should do.” They knew how to act and the manner in which to respond to their times. Understanding the times, and how then to live, has to be the most pressing challenge facing any life. Do you see the challenge of the men of Issachar? To understand the times, and how to then live?

Practice: Lectio Divina

Prepare: Be silent for a moment and ask God to prepare your heart to listen to him.

Read: Read the text like a personal note. Let the words sink in one at a time. Read through it once, and then slow down and read it again.

Meditate: Ponder what you’ve read. Chew on it. What jumps out at you? What doesn’t make sense? How are you reacting to this text? What does it make you feel? How does this intersect with your life? Where do you see yourself in this story? 

Pray: Ask God, “God what are you saying to me today?”

Contemplate: As you read, ask yourself, Is there a warning to heed? A promise to claim? An example to follow or avoid? A command to obey? A sin to confess?

By Mark Mitchell

Day 8, December 8
Day 9, December 9
Day 10, December 10
Day 11, December 11
Day 12, December 12
Day 13, December 13
Day 14, December 14
Day 8, December 8

Scripture: “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8

Meditation: My first experience with training for anything came early in my freshman year of high school. As a young kid, I always dreamed of playing basketball for my local high school. I showed up for my first few days of conditioning and was hit with the startling reality of how much training it was going to take for me to become a basketball player. For the next two months, I pushed myself through laps, liners, sprints, and weight training. All of this training was brand new to me, difficult, painful, tedious, and more time than I would like to admit I wanted to quit. But for those two months, I committed to just showing up, and slowly I was transformed into the beginnings of a basketball player. It required a changing of my habits

This is also true of following of Jesus. Paul, writing to the young pastor Timothy, understands this concept of transformation, writing, “Train yourself to be godly.” To be human is to be dynamic; it is to be in the process of transforming into someone or something. This means that spiritual formation is not a Christian thing but a human thing. The role of the follower of Jesus is to enter into training to ensure our transformation is more and more into the image of Christ. But rather than the physical training of running, weights, exercise, etc., training consists of prayer, scripture, and silence. It is training to live our moment to moment lives in the presence of God and opening our lives to the work of the Holy Spirit to transform us into christlikeness.

Practice: Habit Audit

The practices this week are going to focus on how the things we do, do something to us. For Sunday, December 8 through Thursday, December 12, we are going to do a “habit audit.” And Friday, December 13 and Saturday, December 14, we will prayerfully consider a “Habit Swap.” Put simply, a habit audit is the practice of tracking regular life rhythms and habits as a way of better understanding of how these things are forming our loves.

For Sunday-Thursday, keep a short and simple diary of your habits and patterns of life. You can do so by keeping a small notebook on your person for the week or opening a new note on your smartphone to function as a digital journal. Make brief notes of the time spent on your activities throughout the day.

For example, excerpts from such a diary could read something like:

•15 minutes making coffee

•30 minutes on social media

•1 hour working out

•2 hours of Netflix

•45 minutes reading

The practice is to journal these habits, nothing more. On Friday, we will spend time prayerfully reviewing the journal and inviting the Holy Spirit to highlight areas we may be ready to change. But for now, simply journal the things you are doing.

By Kevin Sneed

Day 9, December 9

Scripture: “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16

Meditation: The more you read the stories of Jesus, the more you notice simple verses like this one. It is easy to overlook these simple comments amongst the healings, miracles, and teachings that cover the narrative of the Gospels. But these simple verses point us to a more mundane Jesus. Notice three things the narrator mentions.

First, “often.” For Jesus, his times of withdrawal into the quiet was a regular practice. Throughout the gospel stories, you see Jesus regularly oscillate between withdrawal and engagement. It was in this rhythm that Jesus cultivated his relationship with God.

Second, “lonely places.” In our crowded and noisy world, lonely (or translated in other versions, deserted) places are few and far between. For Jesus, the lonely place was the place to withdraw from the noise and the busy. It was the space of silence and solitude, where he encountered God’s presence in a unique way.

Spend a moment in the quiet - the lonely place - and pray. This advent season, what would it look like for you to find ways to oscillate between withdrawal and engagement in our world. Amongst all of the busy and chaos of the holiday season, ask God to guide you into places of regular time with Him.

Practice:

 

The practices this week are going to focus on how the things we do, do something to us. For Sunday, December 8 through Thursday, December 12, we are going to do a “habit audit.” And Friday, December 13 and Saturday, December 14, we will prayerfully consider a “Habit Swap.” Put simply, a habit audit is the practice of tracking regular life rhythms and habits as a way of better understanding of how these things are forming our loves.

For Sunday-Thursday, keep a short and simple diary of your habits and patterns of life. You can do so by keeping a small notebook on your person for the week or opening a new note on your smartphone to function as a digital journal. Make brief notes of the time spent on your activities throughout the day.

For example, excerpts from such a diary could read something like:

•15 minutes making coffee

•30 minutes on social media

•1 hour working out

•2 hours of Netflix

•45 minutes reading

The practice is to journal these habits, nothing more. On Friday, we will spend time prayerfully reviewing the journal and inviting the Holy Spirit to highlight areas we may be ready to change. But for now, simply journal the things you are doing.

By Kevin Sneed

Day 10, December 10

Scripture: “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:14

Meditation: Both of my daughters have always been picky eaters. It was one of those parenting things my wife and I were not prepared for. Each meal seems like a battle to have them eat something that is of substance, both nourishing and delicious. When my oldest daughter turned five, my wife and I finally decided to put our foot down. A few months prior to her birthday, we started having conversations with her every night, “You know Madison, five-year-olds eat vegetables.” Each night this conversation was met with protest and all the vigilance and indignation a five-year-old could muster. But, over time, we slowly communicated a similar truth to what the author of Hebrews is saying here, maturity and growth require changes.

As we grow in our spiritual formation, we will experience challenges. The author of Hebrews is clear on this, “solid food is for the mature.” What is this solid food? In verse 13, the author notes that those who are able to consume solid food are those who are “acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.” That word righteousness, it should be noted, can also be translated as justice. In order for us to mature in our following of Jesus, we must continue to grow in our understanding of righteousness and justice. This is the solid food which is offered to us. Through consuming this solid food regularly, we will have “trained [our]selves to distinguish good from evil.” But this takes time and training. What is one step you can take today to train in God’s righteousness and justice? Be attentive throughout your day today as you continue in your “habit audit” practice. Pay attention to what habit the Spirit may be leading you to change as a way of consuming more of the solid food of God’s righteousness and justice.

Practice: The practices this week are going to focus on how the things we do, do something to us. For Sunday, December 8 through Thursday, December 12, we are going to do a “habit audit.” And Friday, December 13 and Saturday, December 14, we will prayerfully consider a “Habit Swap.” Put simply, a habit audit is the practice of tracking regular life rhythms and habits as a way of better understanding of how these things are forming our loves.

For Sunday-Thursday, keep a short and simple diary of your habits and patterns of life. You can do so by keeping a small notebook on your person for the week or opening a new note on your smartphone to function as a digital journal. Make brief notes of the time spent on your activities throughout the day.

For example, excerpts from such a diary could read something like:

•15 minutes making coffee

•30 minutes on social media

•1 hour working out

•2 hours of Netflix

•45 minutes reading

The practice is to journal these habits, nothing more. On Friday, we will spend time prayerfully reviewing the journal and inviting the Holy Spirit to highlight areas we may be ready to change. But for now, simply journal the things you are doing.

By Kevin Sneed

Day 11, December 11

Scripture: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

Meditation: I’ve never been a runner, nor do I foresee myself ever becoming a runner, but I did play basketball throughout high school and eventually coached for a few years as well. I have seen the way strict training can yield long-term results and progress. But often, this process is longer and more arduous than most are willing to endure. Most of the young basketball players I coached wanted to shoot like Steph Curry but didn’t want to take the 1000s and 1000s of shots a few feet away from the basket, which cumulatively creates a shooter like Steph Curry.

In this verse, Paul is drawing a familiar New Testament analogy between athletic training and spiritual formation, which was an apropos analogy for his readers due to Corinth being home to the Isthmian Games. No athlete who desires to excel in their race will ignore the necessary preparation. In the same way, our following of Jesus requires that we diligently train also. To “run in such a way as to get the prize,” means we organize our lives in such a way that we train for christlikeness. What does this look like for us? It is the process of intentionally opening our lives up to the work of the Holy Spirit who transforms us more and more into the image of Christ. As you continue the practice of a “habit audit,” spend a moment with God asking what area of your regular rhythm is not in line with training to “get the prize.”

Practice: The practices this week are going to focus on how the things we do, do something to us. For Sunday, December 8 through Thursday, December 12, we are going to do a “habit audit.” And Friday, December 13 and Saturday, December 14, we will prayerfully consider a “Habit Swap.” Put simply, a habit audit is the practice of tracking regular life rhythms and habits as a way of better understanding of how these things are forming our loves.

For Sunday-Thursday, keep a short and simple diary of your habits and patterns of life. You can do so by keeping a small notebook on your person for the week or opening a new note on your smartphone to function as a digital journal. Make brief notes of the time spent on your activities throughout the day.

For example, excerpts from such a diary could read something like:

•15 minutes making coffee

•30 minutes on social media

•1 hour working out

•2 hours of Netflix

•45 minutes reading

The practice is to journal these habits, nothing more. On Friday, we will spend time prayerfully reviewing the journal and inviting the Holy Spirit to highlight areas we may be ready to change. But for now, simply journal the things you are doing.

By Kevin Sneed

Day 12, December 12

Scripture: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” 1 Peter 2:2

Meditation: In a similar manner, as a baby longs for milk for its sustenance, so to as followers of Jesus, we seek “spiritual milk.” Most scholars assume that the spiritual milk referenced here is the word of God. What I find interesting about Peter’s analogy is the perpetual nature of its message. A baby’s appetite is not satiated through one feeding but requires continual nourishment multiple times a day, every single day. As we continue to crave nourishment from the word of God, we will “grow up in our salvation.” Progress and growth is the natural outflow of a life nourished on the word of God. What would it look like for you to take a small step toward craving spiritual milk? Maybe it is memorizing a favorite passage, or carving out five minutes on your lunch break to prayerfully reading scripture. Maybe it is writing out passages of scripture on index cards that you keep in your car to read while you wait to pick up your kids from school. Whatever it is, take a small step today to cultivate a greater craving for God’s word.

Practice: The practices this week are going to focus on how the things we do, do something to us. For Sunday, December 8 through Thursday, December 12, we are going to do a “habit audit.” And Friday, December 13 and Saturday, December 14, we will prayerfully consider a “Habit Swap.” Put simply, a habit audit is the practice of tracking regular life rhythms and habits as a way of better understanding of how these things are forming our loves.

For Sunday-Thursday, keep a short and simple diary of your habits and patterns of life. You can do so by keeping a small notebook on your person for the week or opening a new note on your smartphone to function as a digital journal. Make brief notes of the time spent on your activities throughout the day.

For example, excerpts from such a diary could read something like:

•15 minutes making coffee

•30 minutes on social media

•1 hour working out

•2 hours of Netflix

•45 minutes reading

The practice is to journal these habits, nothing more. On Friday, we will spend time prayerfully reviewing the journal and inviting the Holy Spirit to highlight areas we may be ready to change. But for now, simply journal the things you are doing.

By Kevin Sneed

Day 13, December 13

Scripture: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Meditation: One of the most prevalent markers of our current moment is that we are an anxiety-ridden age. With all of the immense good that has come from modern technological advances, these have not come without unintended consequences. As the world shrinks and our lives speed up, levels of worry and anxiety are on the rise. 

Paul’s vision of life for the follower of Jesus is to be freed from this anxiety, “Do not be anxious about anything…” A difficult statement for any modern reader to hear! But one can’t arrive at a life rid of anxiety by sheer will power. So how does Paul envision the follower of Jesus riding their life of anxiety - through prayer. In prayer, we lean into the presence of God in whatever circumstance and in every situation we are facing. In prayer, we seek to grow in trust of God. The continual turning to God in prayer strengthens our ability to look beyond our circumstances to God. In doing so, we slowly grow in resting in the peace of God that “transcends all understanding.” When you find yourself in difficult situations, where do you turn first? How would turning to God in every situation transform your ability to rest in God over the next week? Year? Decade?

Practice (Habit Swap):

All week we have been tracking our habits and rhythms of life. Pull out your journal where you have been recording these things and spend a few moments prayerfully working through the following steps.

Be Still: Spend a moment in the quiet, invite the Holy Spirit to be present with you.

Consider: Now prayerfully read through your journal over the past week. What patterns do you notice? Ask the Spirit to highlight a few habits or regular activities you have that are shaping who you are. 

Ask: Spend some time praying through the following questions. 

What rituals and habits are shaping me?

What has been shaping me without my knowledge?

Are the things that I am dedicating my time to, leading me toward or away from Jesus?

Resolve: Ask the Spirit to highlight one habit that you should swap out for a discipline like, prayer, silence, or reading a Psalm. 

The key here is to think simple, don’t try to overhaul everything in your life right now. Just make one simple change, one swap of a habit for a habit that draws your heart toward Jesus. It could be as simple as cutting out one Netflix show to spend time ten minutes in prayer before bed. Or ten minutes less on social media that is swapped for reading Psalm 23.

By Kevin Sneed

Day 14, December 14

Scripture: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Meditation: It only took about a year or two as a parent for me to realize how much I was like my own parents. My mannerisms, comments, and bad jokes all reflected my own parents. Thankfully, I was blessed with great examples of parents, and so this likeness was a welcome surprise. In many ways, we become what we continually see.

Paul understands this about us. His encouragement to his readers is, “and we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory…” The word contemplate carries the connotation of “beholding in a mirror,” or “to reflect.” We are to contemplate, gaze, and behold the Lord’s glory. This is one of the fundamental tasks of the follower of Jesus. It is in keeping God before our mind’s eye that we begin to be transformed into the image of God through the work of the Spirit. Fixing our gaze upon God intentionally opens our lives up for the work of the Holy Spirit. What would it look like for you to contemplate the Lord’s glory more today? As you go about your day today, look for the little mundane spaces where you can spend a moment turning your mind to God. It could be standing in line at the grocery store, sitting in traffic on 101, or waiting to pick up your kids, etc. Turn these moments into opportunities to commune with God in the ordinary rhythms of your day.

Practice (Habit Swap):

All week we have been tracking our habits and rhythms of life. Pull out your journal where you have been recording these things and spend a few moments prayerfully working through the following steps.

Be Still: Spend a moment in the quiet, invite the Holy Spirit to be present with you.

Consider: Now prayerfully read through your journal over the past week. What patterns do you notice? Ask the Spirit to highlight a few habits or regular activities you have that are shaping who you are. 

Ask: Spend some time praying through the following questions. 

What rituals and habits are shaping me?

What has been shaping me without my knowledge?

Are the things that I am dedicating my time to, leading me toward or away from Jesus?

Resolve: Ask the Spirit to highlight one habit that you should swap out for a discipline like, prayer, silence, or reading a Psalm. 

The key here is to think simple, don’t try to overhaul everything in your life right now. Just make one simple change, one swap of a habit for a habit that draws your heart toward Jesus. It could be as simple as cutting out one Netflix show to spend time ten minutes in prayer before bed. Or ten minutes less on social media that is swapped for reading Psalm 23.

By Kevin Sneed

Day 15, December 15
Day 16, December 16
Day 17, December 17
Day 18, December 18
Day 19, December 19
Day 20, December 20
Day 21, December 21
Day 15, December 15

Scripture: And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 1Thessalonians 5:14

Meditation: I remember back in seminary, one of my professors, with a twinkle in his eye, said to us, “Ministry would be great if it were not for all the darn people.” Some of you might be saying this morning, “Christmas will be great if it were not for all the darn people.” This past fall, we learned we can’t grow spiritually unless we are engaged in relationships with other people. What kinds of people? All kinds: Fellow Christians, neighbors, family members, people we love, and people we pray to love.   

 If we are committed to grow, we invest in authentic relationships. We trust God that whether a relationship is in a good place, a bad place, or even an ugly place, God will work in them and in us. Think about God working in you and through you at every holiday party, every family Christmas gathering, and every time you have an opportunity to love your neighbor this Christmas season. 

Paul’s words are written to us, so we may see the great strategy God has for us when we do life with others. He says, to everyone show patience, to those who need help, help, to those who are disheartened, encourage, and to those who are messing up, warn them. It won’t happen without committing to life with others. As we learn about others, we learn about ourselves, and we grow. And you know what? Life wouldn’t be so great without all those darn people.   

 Spiritual Practice of Community 

Is there space in your life to grow as Paul urged? Spend some time reflecting on the relationships in your life. Ask God where more patience is needed, where you need to help, encourage, and even warn. May God give us the courage to live in authentic relationships. 

By Dan Reid

Day 16, December 16

Scripture: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

Meditation: We will soon celebrate the birth of our Savior. Some Christian traditions celebrate the birth of our church by celebrating an event called Pentecost recorded at the beginning of Acts 2. Right after Pentecost, Peter stood on the temple steps in Jerusalem and gave a bold sermon, and over 3000 people responded and were born again spiritually. Peter and the other apostles were tasked to care for 3000 baby Christians. How would they do it? What was their next step on their spiritual journey? 

 Our passage today reveals their next step. They devoted themselves to meeting together regularly in smaller groups to read God’s Word, fellowship, break bread, pray, generously care for each other, serve each other, and welcome new people that God was daily bringing into their community. This is my favorite example of community in Scripture. In fact, we define our purpose and practice of our community groups from this passage.

By Dan Reid 

 

I know this passage seems warm and fuzzy; maybe that’s why I like it so much. But I also know practicing real community is hard because real people are messy. Community requires sacrifice. It requires courage. It requires commitment. It requires people to roll up their sleeves and engage, to help and be helped. People on our Peninsula are starved for authentic community. Are you starved for authentic community? Maybe God wants you to double down on community at CPC. Maybe God has a next step for you in community. 

Practice: Reflect on the importance of the spiritual practice of community in a group. If you are currently in a group, how might this passage in Acts help you and your group to grow deeper in community? If you are not in a group, pray about joining one at the beginning of 2020.

Day 17, December 17

Scripture: As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:18-20

Meditation: It was 1980, and I was a college freshman. My life was in a bad place. I was in and out of superficial relationships. I was unsure of my future, and I was heading in the wrong direction. Two friends and I were compelled to go to a Christian Music Concert. I remember the band was called the Daryl Mansfield Band. These guys rocked. Their lyrics were different. They were hope-filled. After the band finished, a surfer guy got up and shared about Jesus and asked if anyone wanted to receive Jesus as Savior and follow Him. That was the day I dropped my nets and followed Jesus. And looking back, that was the day I rearranged my life around Jesus.

 As the new year approaches, many of us have a tradition to set aside time to reflect on our year and make resolutions on how to make space to rearrange life around these new resolutions. The best resolution we can make in 2020 is illustrated in the dramatic conversion of Simon and Andrew. They were fishermen. When Jesus calls them, Jesus rearranged their lives, and they were instantly given a new and heavenly purpose.  

 Jesus said, “Come and follow me…. and I will send you out to fish for people.”  As you think about new 2020 resolutions hear Matthew’s words, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” They entered into community with Jesus, and their lives were changed forever.  

 

Spiritual Practice of Prayer: Along with resolutions to eat less, exercise more, watch TV less, and interact with your kids more, consider instead, “follow Jesus more.”  Watch how all these other things just fall into place around Jesus at the center. Spend time praying, reflecting, journaling, and even calendaring about what it might look like to carve out space to follow Jesus more in 2020.

By Dan Reid

Day 18, December 18

Scripture: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:9-10

Meditation: The words of the Christmas carol, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, say, Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die; Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King.”  Every phrase in this hymn sings of God’s love for us. Secular holiday celebrations are about sentimentality. Christmas celebrations are about God’s perfect love. Our greatest Christmas gift is God’s love flowing from heaven to earth. God became flesh and dwelt among us. Our response to God’s free flow of love to us is to share God’s love with others.

 I like the picture of God’s love flowing through us like water through a hose. God’s love flows freely if we keep the spigot open by abiding in Christ. God’s plan is that His love flows into us and then flows out of us into a world that is starved for real love. 

 In Romans 12:9-10, Paul gives us rapid-fire instructions on how that love should flow out of us.  He says to love like Jesus. Love sincerely. That means making sure our loving words and emotions lead to loving actions. Hate what God hates. Fight hard for what is good. Live as a devoted community and demonstrate your love by putting others above yourself. All of this to give glory to this newborn King we sing about at Christmas. 

Practice: Spend a few minutes practicing the presence of God. Empty your mind of thoughts that compete and distract you and fill your mind with reminders of God’s love. Meditate on a favorite verse like John 3:16. After a few minutes, imagine people you know that need the love of Jesus. This Christmas, take the next step to give them the love of Jesus that flows out of you from God.

By Dan Reid

Day 19, December 19

Scripture: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:14-16

Meditation: It’s a high bar to practice what Paul teaches in these verses. Paul is summarizing what Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount. It’s the way things ought to be for all of us.  Life is hard, and the bar is high. What is our strategy? It’s connection. It’s slogging through the messes of life with a connection to God and connection to other believers.

 I heard from two friends this week who are ministry leaders: One from Africa and one from Asia.  Both shared about the persecution they and their fellow believers were enduring. I tried to imagine the pressure they and their families endure. As I reflected on their letters, I actually felt a sense of peace. I think it is because my friends share a sense of peace. They do not feel alone, scattered, or disconnected. They feel connected to God through His Spirit in them. And they feel connected to their community of believers around them. One more thing, they both were vulnerable and shared their feelings and fears with other believers.

 I heard recently that we will never know true intimacy with others unless we show the courage to be vulnerable. That certainly makes sense for the church. How can we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep without getting close? How will we understand God unless we reach over to connect with believers who are not like us? It takes courage to give and receive love.

 Spiritual Practice of Community: Do you feel alone, scattered, or disconnected? For you who are in a season of weeping, what is one courageous step you can make to connect in community? For you who are in a season of rejoicing, what is one courageous step you can make to invite someone with different life experiences into your community? 

By Dan Reid

Day 20, December 20

Scripture: Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21

Meditation: In five days, we celebrate the birth of The Peacemaker. The Prince of Peace was introduced to the world in dramatic fashion. Luke 2:13-14 says, Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Jesus came to restore peace between God and humankind. The sin that separates us from God was removed and placed on Jesus on the cross. And his sacrifice, his death, the perfect son of God, atoned for our sins and reconciled us to God and gave us the gift of peace with God.

So how do we imitate our Savior and become peacemakers in our own right? How can my peacemaking heap burning coals of conviction on those who are far from God so they might draw to God and find peace themselves? How might my peacemaking bring peace between people in my community? How can we celebrate the Prince of Peace without considering imitating the Prince of Peace?

Is there someone in your life with whom you need to make more of an effort to live in peace? There is in mine. Maybe I’m convicted because it’s Christmas. Maybe I’m convicted because Romans 12:17-21 is God’s Living Word for today.

Practice of Reflection: How about you? As you reflect on Paul’s words, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Is there anyone who comes to mind with which you can be a peacemaker? How might you be a peacemaker to someone who has hurt you? Or how can you bring peace between those who have hurt each other? Being used as a Peacemaker might be the greatest Christmas present you could ever receive.

By Dan Reid

Day 21, December 21

Scripture: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17

Meditation: I’m dating myself here, but my kids are 27 and 24. When they were little, we wore out a bunch of VCR tapes and recorders. Their all-time favorite movie was Toy Story. I still sing, “You Got a Friend in Me” in the shower. When Jesus came to earth that first Christmas, it was as if God was singing, “You Got a Friend in Me.” 

When we look at Jesus, we find a friend who loves the unlovable. Jesus came to us. He didn’t run away from pain, suffering, or sin; he ran toward it. He never gave up on his friendship with us despite all our sins. He died for us when we didn’t deserve it.   

Unlike Jesus, our tendency can be to give up on difficult people. Instead of running toward them, we run away. We let selfishness and fear turn us away from friendships that God is forging in adversity. Like Jesus, we are to be there for our friends, even when things get bad. And we are to stay there when things get worse. 

I think of times when I was struggling in an area of weakness. My friends didn’t abandon me; instead, they said, “You Got a Friend in Me.” They got real with me. Instead of ignoring my weaknesses, they encouraged me to own my weaknesses. A deeper friendship was forged in adversity. I hope for you this kind of friendship. 

Practice of Worship: Spend a few minutes reflecting on Jesus instigating a friendship with you. Maybe sing the hymn, “What A Friend We Have in Jesus.” What thoughts and feelings come to you? Then think about another friend who is real with you? If you don’t have one, what is a step you can take to find one? And finally, consider a friend who isn’t lovable right now. What next steps can you take to run to them and be a friend?

By Dan Reid

Day 22, December 22
Day 23, December 23
Day 24, December 24
Day 25, December 25
Day 26, December 26
Day 27, December 27
Day 28, December 28
Day 22, December 22

Scripture: Romans 5:3-5  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

MeditationAll of life matters. That’s what Paul wanted the church in Rome to embrace. Their suffering was a means of hope. It’s easy to think of certain seasons as more meaningful, and other seasons as less important. It’s easy to believe that difficult seasons will never turn to ease, or seasons of plenty will last indefinitely. But that’s not how growth happens. Growth happens in the journey through every season. In every up and down, victory and defeat, success and failure, God forms you. Whatever situation is happening outside of you, God does a good work in you. John Bunyan was a pastor in 17th century England, who was imprisoned for preaching the gospel. During a season when he could easily have been bitter, he instead chose to understand his experience as formative, writing, 

“We could not live without such turnings of the hand of God upon us. We should be overgrown with [sin], if we had not our seasonable winters. It is said that in some countries trees will grow, but will bear no fruit, because there is no winter there.” 

Your growth happens under the warmth of the sun, bundled in the cold of the winter, and in each space in between. 

Practice: Journal

Today, journal about a time when you lived a difficult season of life that formed you in ways you needed in the future. 

By Dominic Rivera

Day 23, December 23

Scripture: James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Meditation: God’s way often contradicts the way of the world. This passage in James is a prime example. When we read this passage, the words do not sit well with us at first because it is so far from our natural tendencies. How can we find joy in the hardest parts of life? James and the other apostles would have known great trials as they were regularly persecuted and even killed for following Jesus. James tells us that in the face of hard times, we must look to God for joy. Joy comes from knowing that we are secure in the Hands of the Father. While you may not be happy with your circumstances, you can trust that God has a plan. 

God can use even the hardest of circumstances to reveal Himself to us and to grow us in our faith. People cannot wake up one morning and just run a marathon. Marathons take months of training. Trials are our faith training. Walking in faith is not always a cakewalk. We run into questions we cannot answer, theology that does not make sense, and believers who trouble us. God knows that walking in faith is hard, so He gives us opportunities to practice keeping our eyes on Him. Faith that leads to perseverance does not allow the trials of the world to pull our attention. Faith that leads to perseverance reminds us that God is in control and pushes us to keep going.

Practice: Journal

Today, journal about a time when you went through a hard time. Looking back, what joy can you see in that trial, and how did that time strengthen your faith?

By Megan Horvath

Day 24, December 24

Scripture: Genesis 50:19-21 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.


Meditation: Joseph should have been pulled away from God by his life experiences according to the world’s standards. He was despised by his brothers, sold into slavery, thrown into prison for a crime he never committed, and separated from his family for a long period of time. If anyone had a right to complain about their life experiences, it was Joseph. But, in the midst of every trial he faced, Joseph sought the Lord. He relied on God to guide him. Everywhere that Joseph went, God blessed him and multiplied his efforts. Eventually, Joseph saves the entire nation of Egypt and many of the surrounding communities because of the gift God gave him. He was reunited with his brothers (the ones who threw him in a well and sold him). If Joseph was cruel or harsh to his brothers, many of us would call that righteous anger and claim that Joseph earned the right to punish them. Instead, Joseph does not allow his life experiences to harden his heart. He claims that the bad things he experienced were used by God for good. God does not want bad things for us, but He does use the bad things for His glory in the end. We live in a fallen world filled with sin and sinners. As a result, we will face many circumstances that hurt us deeply. God can use these circumstances for His purpose and turn a terrible experience into a blessing (for you or others as you share your story). We have to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in us to keep us from a hard heart.

Practice: Journal

Today, journal about a time when you were affected by the sin of others. How did you handle that experience? Did you allow it to harden your heart? Have you seen God’s hand at work in this circumstance?

By Megan Horvath

Day 25, December 25

Scripture: Job 1:20-22 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Meditation: Today, we read about another hero of the Bible who had every right to be angry with God and to allow his life experiences to harden his heart. Job was a wealthy man with a lot of land and a great family. All of a sudden, everything was taken away from him. He does not respond the way I would. He responded by worshipping the Lord and praising Him. How could this man possibly praise God in such a time of loss? Job understood that his earthly wealth did not define him. He understood that God is the One who gives and takes away. He understood that God is in control and God’s justice does not always line up with our earthly view of justice. When you face a time where you lose a job, a house, or a loved one, how will you respond? Will you remember that God is still good, even in the most painful moments of life? Job trusted God in the midst of the hardest time of his life. In the end, God gave Job everything back two-fold. Our God has already given us the greatest gift we could ask for in Jesus Christ! Today we celebrate what God has given, and we praise Him even when we feel the loss of what has been taken away.

Practice: Journal

Today, journal about a time when you lost something or someone you loved. Have you been able to praise God in the midst of the loss?

By Megan Horvath

Day 26, December 26

Scripture: John 5:17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”


MeditationJesus understood something that people often miss. Jesus understood that the Father is always at work. The Father has been directing, shaping, correcting, and calling forth His redemptive work. Not only did Jesus believe this, but He saw His role connected to the redemptive work of God. He was aware of the Father at work. 

Our default perspective as human beings is to assume little is happening. We explain away wonder, hedge joy with fear, and draw boundaries around acceptable hope. But what if God is working in ways you haven’t considered? What if events, people, and creation are speaking and calling for you to pay attention? The writer, Frederick Buechner, wrote, 

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is in the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” 

Grace is all around you - in the smiles, tears, fears, and hopes. Grace is all around you because the Father is always at work. Today is your opportunity to listen.

Practice: Journal

Today, journal about the ways that you saw the grace of God yesterday. Be open to consider experiences, emotions, people, and events as vehicles of the grace of the Father. 

By Dominic Rivera

Day 27, December 27

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

MeditationPaul had a problem. We don’t know what the problem was. We don’t know the cause of the problem, nor do we know what eventually transpired. But we know it was a significant burden for Paul. Paul did what you would do - he asked God to relieve his burden. Something fascinating happens in the response that Paul receives. Instead of removing the burden, the Lord says in essence, “It’s grace for you, Paul.” Don’t read past that; dwell on that for a moment. Paul asked for a burden to be released. If God released his burden, we would say, “That’s grace.” The Lord doesn’t release Paul’s burden and says, “It’s grace.” In other words, it is grace if the burden goes, and grace if it stays. It’s all grace. 

What in your life have you asked God to change, but it stays the same? It is grace now. Have you made a deal with yourself (and God) that when He changes your circumstance, you will celebrate it as a gift of grace? Celebrate now - it’s all grace. Right now is a gift. Today is favor to you, whatever may come your way. Henri Nouwen wrote, “When joy and pain are both opportunities to say, ‘yes’ to our divine childhood, then they are more alike than they are different.” If the burden stays, it’s grace. If God removes it, it’s grace. As Paul reminded the church in Rome, God uses “all things” (Romans 8.28). Not that all things are good (they sometimes are not), but rather that God uses all things for your good and His glory. You can celebrate today that because God is for you, it’s all grace. 

Practice: Journal

Today, journal about how you have seen God’s grace at work for you through this past week. 

By Dominic Rivera

Day 28, December 28

Scripture: James 5:13-14, Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.

Meditation: We have focused a great deal this week on life experiences that were out of our control or that hurt us in some way. James brings to light another aspect. When we are happy, we are to praise God. He does great things for us and is worthy of our praises. We often turn to Him in times of trouble but forget that we need Him just as much in times of jubilation.

The bottom line is this, in all circumstances, God is working, and He wants us to pursue Him in the midst of it all with singing songs of praise to Him and pouring our broken hearts out to Him in prayer. 

He also has placed people in our lives to support us along the way. Go to them. Ask for prayer. When we sit alone in the darkness of our painful life experiences, we rarely see the light. We keep stewing over the words that were spoken about us or the memories we have of someone we lost. We have to be willing to be vulnerable enough to say we are not okay and that we need others to walk alongside us. Do not allow yourself to be defined by your life experiences. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in you to bring healing, and through you, to help others heal. 

Practice: Trusted Conversation

You have spent the week journaling your life experiences (good and challenging). Today, have a conversation with someone you trust. Ask them to give you feedback on where they see God at work in your life.

By Megan Horvath