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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Advent Day 12: The Family of God

Day 12: The Family of God

Meditation (3-5 Minutes)

Begin by being still before God.  Read Ephesians 3:14-19 and meditate on the words.

Eph 3:14-19 (NIV)
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

1)    Be still and know he is God. 
2)    Kneel before the Father.
3)    Think of your whole family in heaven and earth. 
a)    God is your father. 
b)    His children are your brothers and sisters.
4)    Let his glorious riches strengthen your inner being.
5)    Let Christ dwell in your heart.
6)    Meditate on how wide, long, high, and deep Christ’s love is for you. 
7)    Let the fullness of God fill you. 
8)    Enjoy being in God’s family. 

Prayer (5-10 Minutes)

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

2)    Requests of the Christ Child (Appendix 1):
a)    Ask him to help you to be a good “family member” this Christmas. 
i)    In the home.
ii)    In the church.
iii)    In the world.
b)    If your home is troubled, write a prayer in Appendix 1.
c)    If you are dreading any family celebrations this Christmas, write a prayer in Appendix 1.
d)    Appendix 1: Pray and update.

3)    Gifts from the Christ Child (Appendix 2):
a)    Thank God for the family fellowship offered during the Christmas Season. 
b)    Turn to Appendix 2 and list your opportunities for family fellowship during the Christmas Season.
i)    At home.
ii)    In church.
iii)    In the world.

4)    Gifts to the Christ Child (Appendix 3):
a)    Offer God your love this Christmas.
b)    Offer him yourself this Christmas.
c)    Ask him what other gifts you are to give your family this Christmas. 
d)    Appendix 3: Pray and update.

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)

I will start with an easy question.  Who is your family?  The word family is in the Bible 175 times.  We see families working, worshipping, and living together.  Throughout the Bible, we see stories of family love and betrayal.  God created Eve so Adam would not be alone.  We know where that led.  We see Moses’ mother gently floating him down a river and his big sister tenderly watching him.  We see Noah’s faithfulness saving his entire family.  Jacob and Esau may be brothers but they spent most of their life fighting.  We see sexual abuse between two of David’s children.  Regardless of your family circumstances, rest assured you are not alone.  If you look hard enough, you can find the story of your family somewhere in the Bible. 

As Christians, God calls us his family. To help us understand his definition of family, he sent his son to be part of an earthly family.  The Christmas story models God’s family plan for us.  We see a mother and father tenderly loving a child and doing anything to protect him.  We see cousins supporting one another through difficult but thrilling circumstances.  We see an elderly couple celebrating the birth of their first child.  We see an extended family that included shepherds, a priest, and Wise Men.  Christmas is a time for fellowship with family.  Our family includes God, our church and those we live with.  It also includes anyone with which we have a bond.  Children of Christ all have an eternal bond.

Background Scripture

Read Ephesians 3:14-15.  I wondered what the word family meant.  The Greek word here is patria.  It means a group of families or a whole race (nation).  What do you think this verse means?  (Write your answer in your journal.) 

The more common words for family used in the Bible means circle of relatives, house, or abode.  Our dictionary gives a broad definition of family.  Yes, it does mean a one or two parent house, with children.  It also means a circle of relatives, anyone who lives together in one household and people that are committed to each other or bonded together in some way.  In other words, the definition of family is broad.  No one need be without family. 

I always told my children that family is whom they are with at the time.  I do not ever want them to feel like they have no family.  I have a friend who lost the last three members of her biological family in one year.  Brokenly, she said, “I have no family left.”  As she spoke, I noticed that she was surrounded by a circle of friends intent on taking care of her.  They call her, take her out, take her to the doctor, and help her with her business affairs.  She is not without family. 

Read Luke 12:52-53.  Unfortunately, families are not always like Jesus’ earthly family.  The fact that there are so many dysfunctional families should come as no surprise.  What does Jesus warn us could happen with earthly families?  (Write your answer in your journal.) 

Read Psalms 33:16.  No matter how strong we are, it is not enough.  God gave us families because he knew we would need support.  Knowing our earthly families would fail us, he invited us to be part of his perfect family. 

Read Psalms 33:18-10.  As a parent, I watched my children.  I fed them and protected them.  They are adults, yet I continue to have unfailing love for them. Our father is always watching us.  Describe the promise in this verse.  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Jeremiah 20:11.  When my children were nervous, I would see them look over and find my eyes.  With that one look, they had the courage to proceed.  It is the same with our father.  Describe why we can feel so incredibly safe as a member of his family.  (Write your answer in the journal.)

Fellowship With Family

Bob loves God, his church, family, and the Gators.  Yes, I realize I could be describing my husband Bob.  The Bob I am talking about also loves golf and is active at eighty-seven.  I first became friends with Bob when I was coordinating a summer children’s program for our church.  I needed chaperones every Tuesday and Thursday for the entire summer.  You can probably guess that most people in the church were avoiding me.  I saw Bob and asked, “Will you help chaperone this summer?” 

He said one word.  “Yes.” 

I was stunned.  I was expecting to have to beg.  “How many days can you help?” I asked. 

“How many do you need?” 

“Well, I actually need chaperones for all of the days.” 

“OK,” he said.  Was I hearing correctly?  I resisted the urge to ask if he was joking.  Bob attended every event.  The children loved him and fought over being included in his group.

I loved to watch Bob with his wife Virginia.  Their romance was obvious to anyone that watched.  They loved to be together and shared a beautiful fellowship.  When Virginia got sick, Bob carefully and lovingly took care of her.  When she went home to be with the Lord, he celebrated her eternal life.  He constantly tells everyone, “I was so blessed to have been married to Virginia.”  He was married to Virginia for fifty-five years.

I worried about Bob after Virginia died.  His children were grown and I thought he was alone.  I asked him how he was.  “God has called me to continue living on earth.  I am grateful to still be here.” I should not have worried about Bob.  He knows he is part of the family of God and he sees everyone as family or potential family. 

Bob carries a business card with him.  He gives it to people as he tells them about the love of God.  “The card helps me witness and gives people a way to get in touch with me.  Virginia loved roses.  See the picture of the rose.  I use it to tell people how beautiful a Christian marriage can be.” 

Bob tries to talk to everyone he meets.  “God says I’m supposed to tell people about Jesus, so I do.”  His business card also has a picture of a cross and praying hands.  “I use the cross to tell people about Jesus.  I use the praying hands to tell them about the prayer ministry at church.  Then, I invite them to church.” 

Bob had lived in his home with Virginia for forty years.  Her roses were in the front yard.  Eventually, the time came for Bob to move to a place that was easier for him to manage.  So many people hang on to their past.  They feel sorry for themselves when they have to let go and make a change.  Not Bob.  Bob knows how to “let go and let God.”  He faced this change with the same courage he has faced everything else. 

First, he asked for prayer.  Then, he made sure Virginia’s roses would continue to live by giving them away.  He took inventory of his belongings and kept only what he needed.  He even found a way to get a recliner chair that he had always wanted.  Bob proudly moved into his new home. 

“I love where I live.  I enjoy having my meals prepared for me again.  I like to be around people.”  One of the definitions of family is people that live under one roof.  Bob has found a new family. 

Bob loves his church family.  His current ministry is helping coordinate our church’s prayer ministry.  For several years, I had the privilege of being in a monthly prayer group with him.  He responded to my needs like a faithful family member.  He has prayed for my family, health, business, career, and ministries.  I have prayed for his family, health, ministries, and even his golf game. 

Bob enjoys the fellowship of his church family.  He attends and ministers during all of the Christmas celebrations.  I noticed him at the dress rehearsal for our church’s Singing Christmas Tree.  He was just there to help.  On opening night of the Singing Christmas Tree, he helped to feed our guests, the city’s homeless.

Bob knows who his father is and understands his body is his father’s temple.  Bob takes care of his body the same way he would take care of any family member’s home.  “God wants me to take care of my body.”  Because he has taken care of God’s temple, he is still able to serve God faithfully.  I have watched him face the aging process with the courage of a warrior fighting in battle.  For example, Bob’s knee started giving him some difficulties.  First, he asked for prayer.  Without hesitation, he had a knee replacement.  He went through the painful physical therapy without complaining.  He was back on the golf course in just a few weeks. 

Bob loves Christmas.  “Christmas is a time for fellowship with families.”  Bob is an expert at fellowship.  He fellowships at church, where he lives, in the community, and on the golf course.  “I love the Christmas Season because it allows me to reconnect with family members that I haven’t seen during the year.  Christmas strengthens our family bonds.  I spend Christmas with my children and grandchildren.”

“What was your favorite Christmas Gift?”  I asked. 

He had no trouble answering.  He became emotional as he shared.  “My favorite gift was a gratitude letter from a friend I helped.  This letter contains my favorite scripture.  This gift hangs in my new home.”

In case you are wondering, Bob’s favorite scripture is also on the card he gives out as he tells people about Jesus.  Proverbs 3:6 describes the life of Bob. 

Proverbs 3:6 (NIV)
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Application (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Making It Personal
a)    Do you know your favorite scripture?  Write it in your journal.
b)    How can or do you share your favorite scripture with the world?  (Write your answer in your journal.)
c)    Do you enjoy the fellowship of Christmas? 
d)    How can you use Christmas to strengthen the family bonds (Write your answer in your journal)…
i)    In the home?
ii)    In church?
iii)    In the world?
e)    How well do you take care of the Holy Spirit’s home, your body?  How can you do better today?  (Write your answers in your journal.) 

2)    Praying Continuously  (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
a)    Take some time today just for the purpose of fellowship with family. 
i)    Suggestions:  Play a game.  Go out to dinner.  Make a phone call.  Read to someone.  Go to a party. 
ii)    Praise God for your family as you do it. 
b)    Every time you see a family member, whisper a quick prayer of thanks. 
c)    Anytime there is a family problem, stop and pray. 

3)    Ending The Day
a)    Do you take care of the home of the Holy Spirit today?  If not, confess and ask forgiveness. 
b)    Were you a good family member today?  If not, confess and ask forgiveness.
c)    Praise God for your family.
d)    Tell him your concerns about your family.
e)    Praise God for letting you be a part of his family. 

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