Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 9

Dove

Genesis 8:6-12; Leviticus 1:14-17; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Galatians 5:15‑25

The dove is mentioned often in the Bible, from helping Noah know when the waters had receded, to serving as a sacrifice for the poor.  The dove is also the most common image of the Holy Spirit.  Do you recall the scripture passages which tell of the Holy Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove? (Matthew 3:16) 

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead.  He is the Comforter of Jesus’ followers, and the Giver of the gifts of the Spirit and the Fruits of the Spirit. 

The Gifts of the Spirit are God-given abilities.  Every believer has at least one, a few have several, and they are all to be used for the building up of the church and the glory of God.  These are not the natural talents, inherent in nonbelievers and believers alike.  Preachers and evangelists often display speaking gifts (prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, teaching and exhortation) and while serving gifts (leadership, helps, giving, mercy, faith and discernment) are frequently found in other groups.  Prophecy is the speaking forth of God’s Word, knowledge is the understanding of His truth, and wisdom is the practical application of that truth.  Teaching is the ability to help others understand a concept fully, and exhortation is the power to effectively encourage.  Of the nonverbal gifts mercy is the ability to empathize and sympathize, faith is an unusual depth of trust in God, and discernment helps the individual distinguish truth and falsehood.

The Fruits of the Spirit are character traits planted by the Holy Spirit and growing in everyone who knows and loves the Lord.  Their presence proves that a man is a Christian, and their absence proves that he is not.   Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are all within our reach. God develops these fruits within us as we read and obey His word, and as we step out in faith. 

The incessant demands of life, especially during this season, can prevent us from developing our spiritual gifts, and slow our growth in spiritual fruit.  The Spirit of God rarely shouts through an earthquake or a storm, but usually whispers to us during our quiet moments.  Lives that overflow with frenzied activity and mountains of material goods will never overflow with the Spirit of love and power.  The dove is not a prince among birds, but in its simplicity and ordinariness it was chosen above all other birds to represent the Holy Spirit. 

Will you develop your Gift of the Spirit this Advent season?  Will you cultivate your soul in trust and obedience so that the Fruits of the Spirit can grow in you?  This Advent season, and any time you see a dove, remember the Holy Spirit of God, and thank him for the gifts He has given you, and in the Fruits of the Spirit available to all.

 

What Child is This?

 

What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

Chorus

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies he in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Chorus

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him.
the King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.

Chorus

 

Life’s Biggest Blessings – A Large Family

Overpopulation is a myth – the world’s real problem now is not enough children. And children are worth to a family and a nation than almost everything else.

My in-laws had two children, one girl and one boy, but my father-in-law always wanted more. My parents had two sons, and sometimes said they wished they had also had a girl. I have often met people in the autumn of their lives who wished they had had more children, but never any who wanted less. Despite this, the fertility rate in America, the number of children per woman, is below the replacement level of 2.1, meaning parents are not having enough children to replace themselves. According to the 2013 CIA World Factbook, the US birth rate is 147th out of 224 countries worldwide. People chatter about how important family is to them, and then endlessly complain about children being too troublesome, too expensive, and too much of an interference with what they want to do. My goal today is to remind readers of a truth that for millennia was taken for granted; children are a gift from God and large families are a blessing.

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“Haves and have nots” or “Do and do nots?”

Our acrimonious political debates often center on class struggle, those who “have” against those who “have not.” Perhaps the conflict is really between those who “do”, who contribute to wider society, and those who “do not,” who take without giving. 

The 2012 Presidential Election campaign is in its final weeks, and while one candidate seems to relish contrasting the “haves and have nots”, the other candidate recently implied that the real division is between the “do and do nots.” One group seems to boil with resentment against those who they perceive have more than they do. Another group seems to boil with resentment against those who they perceive do less than they do. Is either narrative accurate? Are both narratives accurate but incomplete? The debate is not limited to candidates or even parties; large swaths of the American population seem to feel the same way. The structure of the human body can shed light on these questions.

The human body is made of billions of cells, the building blocks of life. The cells are fundamentally the same, including parts such as the nucleus, the cytoplasm, the mitochondria, and the cell membrane. There is also diversity amidst the unity, with cells of hundreds of types and functions, including muscle cells, bone cells, hormone secreting cells, nerve cells, skin cells, fat cells, and many others. They are arrayed in a system of incredible complexity, and work together with precision to accomplish the purposes of the body. The human body is a truly magnificent creation.

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Jesus’ Birth, Childhood, and Family Tree

What was Jesus’ background? Did God the Father arrange the Old Testament to prepare the way for Jesus as the Messiah? 

It is interesting that the one part of Jesus’ life that is most recognized in mainstream American society is His birth.  We celebrate Christmas, and despite the concerted and oftentimes angry effort to take Him out of Christmas, He remains an important part, even for many who may not believe much else about Him.  Both Matthew and Luke provide valid historical accounts.

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