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Monday, December 16, 2013

Advent Day 16: Believe, Belong, Become

Day 16: Believe, Belong, Become






Meditation (3-5 Minutes)
Begin by being still before God.  Read Ephesians 1:20-23 and meditate on the words.

Eph 1:20-23 (The Message)
All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule.  And not just for the time being, but forever.  He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything.  At the center of all this, Christ rules the church.  The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church.  The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.


1)    Be still and know he is God. 

2)    Let the energy from Jesus Christ fill your body.

3)    Praise his power.  Nothing is exempt from his rule. 

4)    Meditate about Christ’s church. 
a)    Christ rules the church.
b)    The world is peripheral to the church and not the other way around. 
c)    The church is Christ’s body in the world.
d)    Christ speaks and acts in the church.
e)    In Church, Christ fills everything with his presence.
f)    Experience the wonder of being a part of Christ’s church.

Prayer (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Requests of the Christ Child (Appendix 1):
a)    Do you know that you “belong” with the family of God? 
i)    If yes, praise God for your church.
ii)    If no, ask God to help you find a church. 
iii)    If you are living on the “fringe” of a church, confess. 
(1)    Ask God to show you what He wants you to do. 
(2)    If you feel you have no time, ask God for the time to “belong.” 
iv)    Write your request regarding the church in Appendix 1.
v)    If your church is having difficulties, pray for your church. 
(1)    Ask to see the situation with clear eyes. 
(2)    Ask God to help you be part of the solution and not part of the problem. 
(3)    Write your requests in Appendix 1.
b)    Appendix 1: Pray and update.

2)    Gifts from the Christ Child (Appendix 2):
a)    Write your church’s name in Appendix 2. 
b)    Praise God for belonging to his family.
c)    Praise God for speaking through the church.
d)    Thank God individually for meaningful people in your church family. 
e)    List their names and the lessons they have taught you in Appendix 2. 

3)    Gifts to the Christ Child (Appendix 3):
a)    Offer God your service to the Family of God. 
b)    Appendix 3: Pray and update.

4)    Ask God for knowledge of his will for you this Christmas and the power to carry it out. 

5)    Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Bible Study (10-15 Minutes)

Christmas Eve worship services attract people all over the world.  For many, this is their only church service for the entire year.  Christmas is a busy time.  Why do so many go to church on Christmas Eve?  I believe it is because people instinctively know that is where they belong.  Christmas raises awareness about Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the church.  At Christmas, people long to be near such sweet truth.  Possibly, they remember and seek what they once found in church. 

Churches are a place to believe, belong, and become.  We believe in Jesus Christ.  We belong in a church.  The church helps us to become the person God intends us to be.  Christians desperately need to be with other Christians, particularly at Christmas. 

Background Scripture

Believe

Read Mark 1:15.  What are we supposed to do before we believe?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

What do you think the good news is?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Mark 5:36.  Believing is a command.  What does the scripture tell us?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Mark 16:16.  What is the consequence for not believing?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read John 14:11.  Sometimes it is hard to believe based on faith.  What does Jesus offer as an alternative?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Acts 15:11.  How are we saved?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

What does the first Christmas have to do with being saved?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Belong

Read John 15:19.  Where do we belong?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Ephesians 2:19-22.  Once we believe, we are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.  Our temporary dwelling place is a difficult place to live.  We need our communion with God and God’s people to keep our vision of the Kingdom of God.  The family of God gathers in his church.  Who was the foundation?  Who is the chief cornerstone?  (Write your answers in your journal.)

Read 1 Timothy 3:15.  What is the church?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read John 4:23-24.  How are Christians supposed to worship when they come together?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Refer back to 1 Timothy 3:15.  Where do we learn truth?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Matthew 7:15-20.  We have a church because Jesus came as a baby, died, and returned from the grave.  Jesus himself instituted his church.  Be warned.  There are many false prophets.  A true church has Jesus Christ as the cornerstone.  How can we recognize truth?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

This time read Ephesians 2:19b from the Living Bible (see below).  Where do we belong?  (Write your answer in your journal)

Ephesians 2:19b (Living Bible)
You are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.

Become

Read John 1:12-13.  If we believe in Jesus’ name, what is our right to become?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read 2 Peter 3:17-18.  What are we supposed to be on guard against?  How do you think the church helps with this?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

How are we to grow?  How do you think the church helps with this?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Luke 3:5-6.  Do you have any valleys in your life?  Do you need any mountains leveled?  Are your roads crooked?  What is the promise in this verse?  How do you think the church helps with this promise?  (Write your answers in your journal.)

Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.  Our commission is to tell others about Christ.  What are we to become in order lead people to Christ?  What do you think this means?  (Write your answers in your journal.)

Read Matthew 27:57.  Joseph was the man who asked for Jesus’ body.  He washed our Lord and prepared him for burial.  He laid him in his tomb.  What had he become?  Are you one?  (Write your answers in your journal.)

Belonging in Church

I have “belonged” to four churches over the course of my life.  I have loved them all.  I grew up belonging to Murray Hill Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.  We lived two blocks from the church.  My parents still belong and minister in their nursery.  I love visiting Murray Hill.  I feel like I am going home.  The halls that I used to play in look the same.  The sanctuary looks identical to my wedding pictures.  Most of the men that are collecting the offering are the very same men that took up the offering when I was a child. 

The church holds special memories for our family.  The church taught me to love Jesus Christ.  My husband, son Chris, and I accepted Christ and were baptized in this church.  Bob and I were married there.  My late son David sang on their stage many times. 

The people in this church are a family.  I am a part of their extended family and they welcome me when I come home.  They care for one another and have worshipped together for years.  When I go home, I see many people that helped shape my spiritual life.  Mrs. Anderson helped me discover a talent for public speaking.  I have used that ability throughout my life and ministry.  Mrs. Jerrial helped develop my love for sharing Jesus Christ with others.  Mrs. McGuffin taught me about being a Godly wife.  Mrs. Gunn taught me to laugh.  Mr. Bagnal lead me to Christ through a summer camp he directed.  Dr. Carl Howell baptized me.  Rev. Paul Wren helped my family through a difficult time. 

My college church was North Central Baptist Church in Gainesville, Florida.  This church made leaving home for the first time easier.  In 1974, we moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  There, we “belonged” to Monroeville Baptist Church.  My son David accepted Christ in that church.  My son Chris was dedicated there.  While traveling across America on the journey, Pocket Full of Quarters, I was able to visit there.  Their marquee said they were a church to “believe, belong, and become.”  That church was truly such a place for our family. 

Now, we belong to Southside Baptist Church.  We have been part of this family for eighteen years.  My daughter Kelley accepted Christ and was baptized in this church.  My son Chris was married there.  My son David’s funeral was in this church. 

This church is my family.  I learn every time I walk through the doors.  Rev. Mark Willbanks taught me to remember “who and whose I was.”  Vivian Goodwin’s love for everyone around her became a model for my life.  A class taught by Rev. Ron Henson gave me understanding that became the cornerstone for God’s ministry call in my life.  Rev. Eddie Lockamy helped me learn how to truly worship.  Jim Gandy taught me how to be faithful to my church family. 

As I was describing my beloved churches, I noticed myself using the words “belong” and “family.”  One of the definitions of “belong” is to fit into a group naturally.  A “church of the living God” is a place to “belong.”  “Belonging” to a place that is the “pillar and foundation of the truth” is a privilege. 

While traveling across America, I visited churches of all sizes and denominations.  The worship styles varied greatly.  The message was mostly the same.  The churches talked about God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  They used the Bible.  They talked about a God of love.  For the four months I traveled, I only attended one church where I did not have an instant feeling of “belonging.”  Because I was worshipping with Christians, I had family everywhere I went.  Nowhere was I a “foreigner or alien.”  I was a “fellow citizen” with God’s people all across America. 

As I visited churches across our nation, I came to believe that most churches are sincerely trying to be “Christ-like.”  I was astounded by the “truth” that transformed me as I visited a wide variety of churches.  I saw their faults.  They shared their struggles.  I saw their victories as they are being “transformed.” 

Most of the churches I visited across our nation were making Disciples of Christ.  Yes, I’ll admit that some were moving slower than others.  Some were certainly more interesting than others.  But I am convinced that the church a block from your house is probably making Disciples of Christ.  This Christmas, let a church help you to become a Disciple of the baby Jesus.  Jesus is the purpose of Christmas.  Attend his Church.

Application (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Making It Personal
a)    Write a letter (in your journal) to God thanking Him for establishing the church. 
i)    Thank Him for your church. 
ii)    If you have lost faith in the church, confess and ask him what to do. 
iii)    If you have not been faithful to your church, confess and promise to do better. 
iv)    If your church is having difficulties, tell him about it. 
v)    Write all the things you love about your church. 
vi)    Ask him how he wants you to serve his church.  

2)    Praying Continuously  (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
a)    There are churches everywhere. 
b)    Notice them. 
c)    Look at the Christmas decorations surrounding them. 
d)    When you see a church or hear a reference to a church, praise God for establishing his living church. 

3)    Ending The Day
a)    Are you faithfully attending a church?  If not confess and ask forgiveness.
b)    Do you love your church family? 
i)    If yes, praise God for them.
ii)    If no, ask God for help.
iii)    If you have been participating in arguments and dissension in your church:
(1)    Confess. 
(2)    Promise God that you will stop. 
(3)    Ask him to restore your vision for his church. 
c)    If you do not have a regular place of worship, commit to your Father that you will begin the process of finding a church this Sunday. 

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