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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Advent Day 7: Mission Gifts

Day 7: Mission Gifts
 (Loving Our Neighbors As Ourselves)





Meditation (3-5 Minutes)
Begin by being still before God.  Read John 3:16 and meditate on the words.

John 3:16 (NIV)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


1)    Be still and know he is God. 

2)    Experience God’s Love

3)    Do you truly believe in Jesus Christ? 
a)    If yes, enjoy that belief.
b)    If no, ask God to help you believe.

4)    Think about eternal life.
a)    Picture an eternity with God.
b)    Picture singing with a Heavenly Host.
c)    Picture your new body.
d)    Think about heaven with anticipation.

Prayer (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Ask God to speak to you during this devotional time.

2)    Requests of the Christ Child (Appendix 1):
a)    List people who need Christ in Appendix 1…
i)    Do you know people who have never accepted Christ? 
ii)    Do you know people who once believed but have fallen away? 
b)    Ask God to help you have a heart for missions this Christmas.
c)    Prayerfully update Appendix 1 with new requests and any answers from God.

3)    Gifts from the Christ Child (Appendix 2):
a)    Thank God for loving us and sending His son.  Praise Him for the simplicity of the process for committing our lives to Him. 
b)    Think of the gifts you have received from being his child.  List them in Appendix 2.
c)    Praise him for loved ones that know Christ.  List them in Appendix 2.

4)    Gifts to the Christ Child (Appendix 3):
a)    Offer him yourself this Christmas. 
b)    Make a commitment to donate to a mission fund in the name of Christ.  List it in Appendix 3. 
c)    Prayerfully update Appendix 3.

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

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

Bible Study (10-15 Minutes)

Our mission in the world is to tell others about Christ.  Another word for mission is evangelism.  I have heard it said that our ministry is to other Christians and our mission is to the world.   We love our neighbor as ourselves when we share the greatest gift we have ever received, Jesus Christ.  At Christmas, we have many opportunities to share Christ’s love with the world. 

Everywhere, the world honors his coming.  They may not be deliberately honoring him but they do it anyway.  Malls light up with Christmas lights.  Stores plan campaigns around Christmas.  Christmas music plays on our radios and in stores.  How clever Christ is to use worldly desires to spread his message. 

Background Scripture

Read Matthew 28:19-20.  What do you think it means to “Go and teach all nations?”  (Write your answer in your journal.)

We tell the world about Christ but we baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Describe your relationship with each of the three faces of God.  (Write your answer in your journal.)

What are we supposed to do after we baptize?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Who is giving us this commission?  (Write your answer in your journal.) 

Like us, the Disciples doubted their abilities and were frightened by this commission.  Jesus made them a promise.  What was it?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

If you are willing to accept your commission this Christmas, open your journal and write Jesus a letter.  Let him know you are willing to accept your commission.  Tell him your concerns and insecurities.  Tell him what distracts you from fulfilling his commission.  Thank him for his promise to be with you.  Claim his power. 

Read Revelations 3:20.  When we tell others about Christ, we know Christ has gone before us.  He is standing at the door and knocking.  What is his promise to us?  (Write your answer in your journal.) 

Giving

The Southern Baptist Convention has a mission fund named after the faithful servant of God, Lottie Moon.  Lottie Moon was born in the late 1800’s.  She spent her life as a missionary to China.  The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering funds much of the Baptist Missionary work all over the world.  Through funds like the “Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” each of us has the opportunity to share in the work of missions around the world.

James and Jennifer are a precious young married couple that has committed their lives to helping their world.  They are missionaries to Africa.  They have made the sacrifice to leave their family and country and live far away.  They are raising their two small sons across the world from their grandparents. 

In Africa, James and Jennifer cover a wide territory.  Their car was unreliable and became a barrier to helping those they are called to help.  Through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, James and Jennifer received a “mostly new” van.  Now they drive where they need to go without fear of their car breaking down.  Those that gave money to the Lottie Moon Offering became a part of James and Jennifer’s ministry in Africa. 

Bibles

My daughter Kelley had no trouble telling me her favorite gift.  “That’s easy.  It was my Precious Moments Bible.  It led me to Christ.” 

As background to Kelley’s story, I must tell my son Chris’s story.  When he was six, we gave him a Bible.  He had just learned to read.  It is a family tradition that everyone gets to open one gift on Christmas Eve.  He opened his Bible.  Reverently, he traced his engraved name with his fingers.  He stared at the picture of Jesus holding a lamb and surrounded by children.  He knew that he had received something important.

We opened the Bible to Luke and haltingly, he read the Christmas story. 

“Do you understand what you read?”  I asked. 

“Yes.  God’s son came to earth.  He knew that Mary and Joseph took care of the baby.” 

“When you are older,” I explained, “You will want to become a Christian and give your life to the baby Jesus.” 

Chris was my analytical child.  Calmly, he asked, “Why do I have to wait?” 

“Most people wait at least until they are eight years old.  Some wait much longer.  You will have a better understanding when you are a little older.” 

“What don’t I understand now?” he demanded.  His question caught me by surprise. I had to think.  I quickly asked God for the words. 

“Do you know whose son Jesus is?”

Solemnly, he nodded, “God’s son.” 

“Why did Jesus die on the cross?”

He had already memorized John 3:16.  “Jesus died so that we could live in heaven with God.” 

“Do you know what sin is?”  I asked.

Chris liked knowing the answers.  “Sin is when I do bad things.”

“Have you ever sinned?”  He nodded and gave a couple of examples of things that were serious to him. 

“Are you really ready to commit your life to Jesus?” I asked.  I was a little worried because he was so logical and “matter of fact.” 

“Why would anyone decide not to commit their life to Jesus?” he asked.  

Personally, I have always wondered the same thing.  I gave the answer a weak shot.  “Sometimes people want to do things their way instead of God’s way.  Some people don’t believe in Jesus.”

“That’s silly.”  He wanted to move forward with his decision. 

That Christmas Eve, Chris and I prayed together as he invited Jesus into his life.  As an adult, Chris clearly remembers the experience.  He says he never doubted his conversion to Christianity at that moment. 

Now back to Kelley.  Kelley was still five when she got her fist Bible.  She was in kindergarten and could not yet read.  “I want a Bible,” she announced.

I had planned to get her one in first grade.  “Why don’t we wait until you can read?  You have your little New Testament to take to church.”  She looked stubborn.  Since she loved to copy her big brother, I offered, “Chris did not get his first Bible until he was six.” 

When I saw her eyes light up, I knew I had said the wrong thing.  My competitive daughter liked getting a Bible a year younger than Chris did.  “I want a Bible. You can read it to me.” 

While Chris was analytical and reverent, Kelley was bursting with excitement and emotion.  She could not wait to get her Bible.  “I want to open my Bible on Christmas Eve.” She was bouncing as she opened her Precious Moments Bible.  “Read me the Christmas Story,” she said as she handed me the Bible.  She climbed in my lap so she could see any pictures.

As we read the Christmas story, I told Kelley about Chris accepting Christ when he got his first Bible.  She was fascinated. “Can I do the same thing?” 

“Honey, this is serious.  You don’t want to do this just to copy your brother.  You should wait until you are older.”

Kelley became indignant.  She emphatically said, “I already love Jesus.  I want to invite him into my life right this very moment.” 

I read her some scripture.  “Do you know what this means?”   There was no doubt in my little Kelley.  She clearly understood what she doing.  Five seemed young but it felt wrong not to honor her request.  We kneeled and prayed together.  She confessed her sins, such as they were.  She told Jesus she loved him and asked Him to be her friend. 

On January 7th, 1986 she talked to the pastor and told him of her decision.  He was concerned that a five year old could not possibly understand her decision.  She firmly announced, “I do too understand.” 

After many gentle questions, he said, “If you decided to “walk the aisle” and present your decision to the church, I will joyfully baptize you.  Kelley, when you get older, you might feel the need to go through this process again.  Don’t ever feel badly about that.” 

She looked him straight in the eye and said, “No I won’t!”  He smiled at her enthusiasm.  Kelley has loved Jesus all of her life.  He became her close friend the night she got her Bible.  She knows her decision for Christ was real at age five and remembers the change in her life.  She never felt the need to go through the process again.  She has never rethought her decision.

She is now at seminary learning to be a minister with children.  She believes children have the capacity to turn their lives over to Christ at a young age.  “Their lives will be easier if they make this important decision early.”  She is committed to helping them know Jesus at an early age. 

As adults, Kelley and Chris are close friends.  Older, Chris has had tremendous influence on Kelley’s life.  That influence was apparent even when she was five years old and wanted to be just like him.  In addition to her Bible, Kelley had another mission gift that Christmas.  She had a Godly brother that taught her how to surrender to Christ.  Chris’s Godly influence on his sister has helped shape a Godly adult that now influences his life. 

Mission Gifts: A Warning

Like other gifts, there are some warnings that go with giving mission gifts.  Not everyone appreciates getting mission or evangelism gifts.  Some think they are boring.  Children usually prefer toys.  Giving a Bible to someone who has made it clear that he or she does not believe in Christ may create a very tense situation that becomes a barrier to future decisions. 

Pray about the decision to give a mission gift.  I know several people who were led to Christ by Bibles that made them angry when they received them.  I also know other people who say they are not a Christian because family members “shoved it into their faces.” 

Closing

Find a way to support the work of missions this Christmas.  Send money to a missionary.  Give a Bible.  Donate to a mission fund.  Accept your commission and tell the world about Christ.

Application (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Making It Personal
a)    Have you given gifts, money, or time this Christmas for leading our world to Christ?  Why or why not?  (Write your answer in your journal.) 
b)    Have people close to you rejected Christ or the Bible?  Have they been delaying a decision to accept Christ?  Get on your knees right now and pray for them.  Ask God what you can do for them this Christmas.
c)    Is there a gift you need that will help you personally with missions?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

2)    Praying Continuously  (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
a)    At meal times and bedtime, pray for people to find Christ this Christmas. 
b)    As you interact with people: 
i)    Ask yourself, do I know if they are a Christian? 
ii)    Ask God what you can to do tell them about Christ. 
c)    Communicate your needs in 1 c above to a friend or family member.

3)    Ending The Day
a)    Did you tell the world about Christ?  If not, confess.
b)    Ask God for his power to do better tomorrow. 



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