2015 DEVOTIONAL CALENDAR Written by Sterling College faculty, staďŹ€, students and alumni
2015-2016 Verse of the Year: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2, ESV
My Christmas preparation and celebration seems to slowly change over time. When I was a kid, preparing for Christmas began the day after Thanksgiving as we took down fall decor and put up the Christmas tree. And of course, this day always included our traditional doughnuts and hot chocolate. As I grew older and moved away from home, I took some of those traditions with me. Kathy and I worked together to combine traditions from both families and started some of our own. For example, cocoa is now accompanied by hot cider when we enjoy doughnuts as we prepare the house for Christmas. The last shift in Christmas traditions began when I started working at Sterling College. Suddenly all of our family was home for the week of Christmas because we all followed the education calendar. Kathy was a teacher, the boys were students, and the College campus closes to allow employees to celebrate with their friends and families. Our new-found time together allowed us to add a few more Christmas rituals. Among my favorites, we now have help from students as we put the decorations into place, always on the day after Thanksgiving. Looking over the years, there is a common theme that is more important to the season than any other—the birth of Jesus. Every Sunday my family attends church where we hear stories that lead up to the Christmas story. This is very important, but it has become apparent to me that what I want to further invest in is preparing my heart and mind for the true meaning of Christmas. I want to take time each day and dwell on a truth surrounding the birth of Christ as I try to fully understand this amazing gift that has been given. Will you join me and the Sterling College community as we travel through this Advent season? Consider taking time out of your day to read a passage of Scripture and its accompanying devotional. Merry Christmas from Sterling College!
Scott A. Rich President Greetings from the President | 03
HOPE Aaron Brown Assistant Professor of Writing and Editing
Isaiah 9:2 “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2, ESV). Have you ever wondered how hope refuses to be silenced, even in the greatest of suffering? How, when trials and struggles come, there is always a light, always a love that urges us on in perseverance? In a difficult time in Israel’s history, the prophet Isaiah directs us to see hope despite the troubles we often find ourselves in. By the ninth chapter of Isaiah, the Jewish nation has split and the kingdoms of Judah and Israel war against each other, forgetting the design God had set in place for them as a unified nation. Into this fray, God sends the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah prophesies the coming of Immanuel, the Christ who will dwell among us, yet he also prophesies invasions from Assyria and elsewhere, repeated destruction of the Promised Land in the centuries to come. No doubt, the Israelites were too stubborn to see that in the wake of physical destruction, a spiritual renewal would come that would surpass all they had ever known. Here, the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God” would bring forth a “kingdom” where peace, righteousness and justice would have “no end” (Isaiah 9).
During the Advent season, it is so difficult for us to relinquish our distractions, set aside the burdens we carry and look forward to the birth of Christ we celebrate every Christmas. We know that Christ’s work to glorify the Father has been accomplished, and we know that He has begun lifelong and eternity-long transformation within us that He will ultimately complete when He comes again. We know that He sits at the right hand of the Father as our High Priest, advocating on our behalf. So why do we as humans struggle and stumble our way to a deeper understanding of God’s divine purpose for each of us? In the midst of suffering and apparent darkness, why do we fail to see the glimmering star of Bethlehem blazing forth, signaling the redemption of humankind? During this Advent season, let this be a time for us to reflect on God’s great deeds, refocus on the calling He has for each of us and recognize that His kingdom is both here now and is to come. Lord, let Your will be done in our lives. Let us remember that you looked at the world, formless and void, and said, “Let there be light.” Let us see Your light shining in the darkness and know that the darkness has already been overcome. Amen. Isaiah 9:2 | 05
HOPE Daniel Swartz Assistant Professor of Art and Design
Isaiah 40:1-2 How well do you remember your home? Not the structure you live or lived in, but your origin story. Where your people are? The land where your roots took hold of the rich soil. Where a young and unsteady soul was cultivated, pruned and prepared. But we have been separated, haven’t we? For one reason or another, we have found ourselves away. And now we are in a strange and foreign land both physically and spiritually, a place that is not our own. Our values, our beliefs and our customs seem strange here because we do not have the same Father as the other occupants. We are immigrant ambassadors desperate to remember we are a chosen and sent people. And we feel that our hope may be fading. But this is the beauty of the Christ child’s coming—it is the long-awaited Word from home. A reminder of all the garden-memories, growing dim with the extent of our exile. Christ is sent as a reminder that our Father is still there, waiting for us, with no love lost over time or space. The Advent season moves us through a great anticipation of the arrival of the hope of the world—the manifestation 06 | Isaiah 40:1-2
of God’s unyielding desire to bring us back home. The prophet in this passage is speaking towards the great reclamation of a people to be returned to the land they were from and meant for. Just like the people of Israel, our hard service is being completed and our homeland is in waiting. We were whole and with God, we rebelled and were exiled, but He pursues us relentlessly. We are the lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost son and the withering grass. Over and over, this Great Story is told—the Word of the Lord is forever. The end of our exile is near. Do not lose hope. Our Father’s next letter is on the way.
HOPE David Landis ’88 Vice President for Administration and Institutional Initiatives
Isaiah 52:7-10 When my daughter Elizabeth was four years old (she is now 16), I was on my roof around this time of year putting up Christmas lights—an annual job that can quickly ruin your Christmas spirit due to replacing burnt out bulbs and fumbling with those maddening little plastic clips that attach the lights to the guttering. Because of numb hands, I kept dropping light clips onto my lawn. I saw that Lizzi and a little friend her age were running around the yard playing, so I asked them if they could throw some of the clips back up to me. After three minutes of the two little girls attempting to do this, all that was accomplished was a lot of giggling. I finally came down the ladder and got the clips from my two “helpers.”
sense of the majesty of the incarnation.
When I was down on her level, Lizzi asked me, “Daddy, why do we put Christmas lights on our houses anyway?” I admitted that I did not know. As I got back up onto the roof, I was pondering my little girl’s question when suddenly she reappeared and yelled, “I know, Daddy; we put up lights because Jesus is the Light of the world!” God tells us that His most profound praise often comes from the lips of little ones (Psalm 8:2). In a world that increasingly misses the simple beauty of Christmas, children often become our portal to regain our biblical
Therefore, during this wonderful season, let each of us take one small step forward in exalting Jesus Christ as the Light of the world!
Isaiah reminds us that Christmas is about “good news,” “peace,” “good tidings” and most importantly “salvation” (Isaiah 52:7). Each Christmas season, the church has a responsibility to bear witness to these truths to a world that knows neither the Savior nor the peace He promises. A.W. Tozer wrote, “Yet we must not think of the Church as…a mystical religious abstraction. We Christians are the Church and whatever we do is what the Church is doing. The matter, therefore, is for each of us a personal one. Any forward step in the Church must begin with the individual.”
Isaiah 52:7-10 | 07
HOPE Dr. Joe Skillen ’03 Atlanta, Georgia
Jeremiah 33:12-16 Matthew’s Gospel document is explosive; I can imagine that there was a legitimate need for the first recipients of the Gospel to carry it around in a first-century paper bag. It was evocative, honest and spooky. And, above all, the story could preach!
We should find it interesting, then, that when leadership comes from “the East” to bless and not to battle Israel in Matthew 2, we are reading a new type of story. In Jeremiah’s day, leadership came from the East to haul Israel off into exile, as slaves. In Matthew’s story, leaders from the East bowed low and The birth narratives would have reworshiped Israel’s new king. Someone minded the careful listener of their rich in the back of the room would’ve probhistory of rescue stories, including the ably said, “Who’s bowing now!?” complex story of the “Visit from the Magi” in Matthew 2. Matthew shares We are indeed hearing fresh, new that dignitaries from the East followed words in a fresh, new day. “The hopes a star all the way to Jerusalem and that and fears through all the years are met those men came with gifts for the new in thee tonight.” king in Israel and, ultimately, to worship him (Matthew 2:1-2, NIV). As you and I make our own pilgrimages in order to worship the arriving “When King Herod heard this he was King this Christmas season, may we disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him” look into the face of a lovely and pow(Matthew 2:3). This is quite disturbing erful God who animates dead things to consider in front of the amazing with new life again. backdrop of Israel’s theological history. From the beginning, the authors of the Old Testament never flinched at the opportunity to place themselves on the main stage in the world, even when they appeared to be miniscule to the watching world. Whether it was Abraham (and his tiny family) interacting with the Table of Nations in Genesis or Moses confronting Pharaoh in Egypt, Israel believed they belonged in the major arc of human history. 08 | Jeremiah 33:12-16
HOPE Kendra Grizzle Assistant Registrar
Psalm 147:1-3, 12-14 While reading Psalm 147, I couldn’t help but to consider the three little people playing in front of me. An intense lightsaber battle had resulted in injuries to my two Jedi warriors, but not to worry, because my Doc McStuffins daughter whisked in to the check and patch the soldiers’ wounds. As I read, I was also reminded of the Lego forts that are constantly torn down in anger and then rebuilt with patience and great detail.
the Lego forts, with patience and detail, and gives us peace. This Advent season, find hope in the healing and rebuilding nature of our Savior.
This Advent season is no different. It’s hectic, busy and a little frustrating or sad at times. The holidays bring most people great joy, but this time can also come with emotional wounds that are long in the healing process. Psalm 147 tells us in the first few words to “Praise the Lord.” The writer jumpstarts this passage with the excitement of singing and joy. He goes on to tell us that it’s fitting or appropriate to praise God and then offers hope. The third verse says, “He heals the broken-hearted and binds their wounds.” Just as my Doc McStuffins rushed in to heal the Jedis, God does the same for us. He binds our wounds, heals our brokenness and then blesses us. Verses 13 and 14 say, “He strengthens the bars of our gates and grants us peace.” God heals our wounds—then He rebuilds us like Psalm 147:1-3, 12-14 | 09
Scott Carter ’88 Vice President for Institutional Advancement and External Relations
Exodus 3:1-15 God doesn’t stay hidden forever. Though we may not feel His presence to the level we might expect, He is with us in our dark times and places. He will reveal himself and His plan, when the time comes. The Israelites had been enslaved by the Egyptians for generations, and I am guessing that some had lost hope of being redeemed and restored to an independent people group. I have a feeling that I would have lost hope by then. Actually, it did not take me but a few short months to lose hope. Loss of job. Loss of finances. Loss of relationships. I was in a dark place, and I stayed there for far too long—trudging through an absence of hope and meaning. I was not feeling connected to people, my family or my spouse. I was hollow, emotionless and not caring. Alone. Not knowing what to do or where to step next. Yet although I cannot describe it, thankfully I always felt tethered to God. This period of darkness in my life could not, and should not, have been avoided. Scripture shares that many desperate people came to Jesus from a similar place, a desperate time, and He meets us there. God, once again, met me. 10 | Exodus 3:1-15
Thankfully, God does not always wait for generations to reveal His plan. Most of us are able to look in the rearview mirror and see the wondrous unfolding of His work in our lives. As we celebrate this Advent season, remember that Jesus’ birth was part of His plan for your life. He wants you to be fully restored as His child and in relationship with Him. And as you wait for the next step in the journey God has for you, pray for patience and endurance to sustain you through the difficult and silent times. Be still. Wait. Listen for God.
HOPE Heather Smith ’17 Christian Ministries: Missions | Biblical Studies: New Testament
Luke 21: 25-36 Who knows the time that Jesus the Christ is going to return? Not one.
more aligned with His. This conviction leads to a burdened heart for the lost, those that do not know the Lord and Many individuals believe that the rehave yet to realize the vast love God turn is going to be soon due to parallels has for them. seen in the Bible and in our world today. If this is the case, or even if it is At the exact moment that Jesus returns not, Christians should be concerned or a man dies, his eternity is sealed by and their hearts burdened, as much of his relationship status with God. We the world has yet to hear the Gospel. do not have unlimited opportunities to As Christians, it’s great that we are share the Gospel with those who have saved, but what about everyone else not yet heard. With this in mind, we who has not heard the message? If we must not simply be content knowing look at our world today, we can see our salvation is secure, but realize that that the Church is currently lacking an there are people who are going to Hell urgency to spread the Gospel through- unless we take on the responsibility the out the nations. Lord has given us to share His good news. Our heavenly Father has called us, His children, to have hearts that are ready for His return, which requires us to pray with expectation, believing that He can answer our prayers. Only when we come before Him with a heart that is ready to give up our own will for His, will we begin to pray and live in accordance with His purpose and plan. The Lord calls us to an unending prayer that speaks with a heart that is convicted with the knowledge that Jesus the Christ could be coming back soon. I believe that when we turn our prayers from worldly expectations into prayers of the Lord’s will, we not only see more of who God is, but our hearts become Luke 21:25-36 | 11
PEACE Matt Ehresman ’10 Wichita, Kansas
Isaiah 9:6-7 I typically try to avoid talking about politics, but it’s hard for me to read this passage without drawing parallels to our current election cycle. The prophet Isaiah prophesied (hundreds of years before Jesus was born) that one day a Savior would rise up and rule, “and the government will be on His shoulders” (9:6, NIV) and “of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end” (9:7). This was just one of many prophecies made in the Old Testament about a coming Savior. The Jews of Jesus’ time knew these passages well, and most—if not all—expected a powerful, militant and political leader. They had been taken advantage of, abused and ruled unfairly for hundreds of years. They were understandably anxious for the powerful leader that Isaiah and the prophets had promised them. Strangely, a few chapters later, Isaiah also predicted that this coming Ruler would be “despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (53:3). He would, indeed, save the Jews, but He would do it because of His willingness to be “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (53:5). The punishment we deserved was put on Him, and “by His wounds we are healed” (53:5).
That’s an interesting political strategy. I doubt many people initially expected that a humble carpenter born in a manger to a simple couple would become this leader who would eventually have the government on His shoulders. Jesus wasn’t vocal about overthrowing military regimes or taking power from the upper class. He wasn’t a successful CEO, influential politician or controversial reality TV star. Instead, this Savior attracted people no one else cared about, routinely spoke about loving our enemies and eventually sacrificed Himself so we could spend eternity with Him. All of this started with a baby in a manger, whose birth was predicted hundreds of years in advance. Jesus’ power and influence wasn’t what anyone expected, but I, for one, am grateful that He is the leader we ultimately follow. He had no desire to gain fame or tout His agenda; instead, this humble King came to claim these titles: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). That is a leader worth following and devoting your life to, and we have assurance that His reign of peace will never end.
Isaiah 9:6-7 | 13
PEACE Melissa Wisner ’09 Prescott, Washington
Exodus 15:1-21 It has everything needed for a good action movie: a background story seeping with injustice, an unlikely leader for the underdogs facing off against the powerful leader from the longtime champions, a thrilling chase scene and a surprise last-minute victory over the antagonist. This story also holds something far more important. It holds a foreshadowing (ooh, there’s another good movie word) picture of the Gospel message seen long before the coming of Christ. And it shows the source and fullness of peace that God intended for us, His chosen people. God created the world with a divine design of peace, or shalom—a space of wholeness and completeness. Everything exists as it was intended in shalom when all aspects of creation are valued and not abused. Peace was sourced from God’s creative design. Often, we are unable to experience shalom, because there are systems of abuse and oppression that surround us. The Israelites experienced the pain and suffering from a system functioning far outside of God’s original design. We all experience this brokenness. Therefore, the fullness of peace can only come after experiencing freedom from the enemy and healing from brokenness. The Song of Moses and Miriam focuses 14 | Exodus 15:1-21
on the victory God gave them over their enemies and oppressors, because freedom—in a very literal sense in the case of the Israelites—was essential for them to experience the peace of God. They celebrated at the death of the enemy, because it restored the intrinsic purposes of God. I think that celebration came with a lot of tears and cheers from the Israelites. Without first experiencing freedom from brokenness, we cannot know the wholeness of peace in our lives. We are able to celebrate the freedom we have from abusive systems of the world because Jesus came to bring the full message of shalom. In fact, Jesus is the full message of shalom. In this Advent season, take a moment to recognize the systems of oppression that are enslaving your mind, heart and body. Jesus came to bring you shalom, which is first experienced in freedom from these enslavements. Dwell on this truth and spend some time crying or cheering in celebration. He has the power to part the waters. Hmm, a quiet pervasive sense of peace brought on by a hero who cannot be defeated. Would this be an appropriate spot to end the action movie references?
PEACE Rebecca Swartz Marketing Writer
1 Samuel 3:1-10 I remember hearing the story of Samuel in Sunday school, and the lesson was often about listening for God’s voice. Today, as I raise my two-year-old son and prepare for a second child to join our family, I am learning another lesson from this story. I am learning about peace. It is my job as a parent to teach my son about Jesus. Yes, there is a community of believers that surrounds my family to help us. But I am a worrier. What if the Bible stories he hears get mixed up in his mind with the mythical world of dinosaurs, talking cars and TV shows? When will my son understand the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross to save his soul? What if I don’t tell him the story of salvation enough? What if the world interferes with the work of the Lord and he doesn’t hear Him calling?
He was surrounded by the right people, the right stories and had been dedicated to the right practices, but God had not called him. So we will continue to celebrate Christmas in the simple terms my son understands—Jesus’ birthday. I will tell him Bible stories, celebrate Easter and surround him as much as I can with Christian influences. And when my son is ready, God will speak to his heart. Peace. This Advent season, pray for our children as they grow up in a broken world. Pray that the truth of His Word would be hidden in their hearts, and at the right time, they will clearly hear and respond to God’s calling.
Some of my questions seem silly when I write them out, but the questions still flood my mind. I think that is why the story of Samuel being called by the Lord gives me peace. Verse seven states, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him” (NIV). How is it that a boy who was serving in the temple did not know the Lord? 1 Samuel 3:1-10 | 15
PEACE Brad Evenson Director of Marketing and Communications
Luke 1:68-79 As we find ourselves in a world further and further removed from the one Jesus walked, the message of hope and peace that is found only in Christ and His redeeming work can be all too easily lost on us. I love the Christmas season and surrounding myself with the story of Jesus: how He came to the world, our world, to redeem us. How is that for a peaceful thought? “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27, ESV). What kind of peace does He give those who trust in Him? It is a quiet confidence—since our sovereign, loving, all-powerful God is in control, we have nothing to fear. Christ provides a peace in the acknowledgement that we serve an all-powerful God. This is why we have no reason to be afraid. In fact, we are even told to not allow our hearts to be troubled (John 14:1). In Philippians, Paul tells us, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in 16 | Luke 1:68-79
Christ Jesus (4:6-7). Crucially, the peace Jesus bestows comes to us from God, through the forgiveness of our sin. This forgiveness allows us to have a relationship with Him. Only by knowing this true peace will we, in turn, have the ability to live in peace with others, by loving them and serving them the way Christ modeled for us. Know Christ and know peace this Christmas season.
PEACE Christian Dashiell ’02 Chaplain
John 14:27 When we consider the significance of Christmas gifts, our minds often go to the three wise men and the gifts they brought the young Christ child. Gold and frankincense and myrrh. Worthy and valuable gifts that are significant acts of worship. We would do well to remember that mindset as we both give and receive this season, orienting our own hearts to worship and glorify Jesus through our celebrations.
We are all too familiar with both internal and external discord. The peace Jesus offers is something that humanity has always longed for. In Jewish culture, shalom was a common phrase for both greeting and departure. Peace would be one of the foundational elements of the messianic kingdom as anticipated in the Old Testament. As the fulfillment of that kingdom, Jesus gives us that which we need. Peace.
But we would also do well during Advent to remember that Christ is the consummate gift giver. He is not a salerack shopper. He doesn’t rush around at the last minute, content to find something that will simply “work.” The gifts that Christ gives us are not borne from convenience or obligation. He doesn’t always give us what we want, but instead offers us what He knows we need.
Under the reign of Christ we are made whole. Jesus calls us out of our distressed and fearful existence, and into a place where we can embody boldness and courage. Our invitation into the life of peace is extended to us each and every day, and extends throughout all eternity.
And what we need is peace.
What an amazing gift for us to enjoy and share this Advent as we remember The Giver.
The peace that Jesus speaks of harkens to the Hebrew word “shalom.” The concept is deeper than simply the absence of conflict. It evokes notions of wholeness and completeness. These are not characteristics that the powers of the world can give us, as even our attempts at ending conflict typically involve methods of violence and force. John 14:27 | 17
PEACE Cord Carlin ’17 Business Administration: Economics and Finance
Philippians 1:3-11 When you pray, what and who do you pray for? Sometimes we wonder, “If God is truly sovereign, why should I pray?” A man once wrote, “God’s sovereignty does not keep us from praying to God; rather, we pray because He is sovereign.” This is why prayer changes things. God’s Spirit compels us to pray, and then God acts. That being true, we as Christians need to be connected to God through prayer. Where prayer is not present, likely, the Spirit is neither. Therefore, we must pray for our brothers in Christ and for those who have not surrendered to His Lordship. Prayer happens throughout the day, but it also needs to happen in a secluded place where you can get one-on-one time with the Giver and Sustainer of Life. We are in this world together, and we can choose to bear one another’s burdens, or we can choose not to. Paul understood this. His life was full of prayer. By praying for Christ’s people, he bore their burdens. When we pray for others, our affection and love for them grows. I’m going to challenge you. Take a minute and consider someone in your life who you struggle with showing love to. It could be a co-worker, family member, friend or a fellow Christian. I challenge you to pray for them. Christ commanded us to pray 18 | Philippians 1:3-11
for, and to do good to, our enemies (Luke 6:27-28). In the passage today, Paul gives us a brief example of the things he prayed about concerning fellow Christians whom he loved. He prayed that their love would grow with knowledge and discernment of God’s Word and His ways (Philippians 1:9). The ultimate goal of this prayer is that the people would be found blameless and “filled with the fruit of righteousness” when Christ returns (Philippians 1:10). Since we are all sinners in need of the grace of God, we trust that God, in His sovereign grace, will lead us and sustain us until He either comes back or calls us home (Philippians 1:6). Pray for people, and pray that God would change their hearts more and more each day, so that they may continue to grow into the image of Christ until the day He returns. As it did with Paul, you also will experience true joy that compels you to continue pursuing and praying for God’s righteousness.
PEACE Paul Brandes ’11 Kansas City, Missouri
Philippians 4:4-7 My wife Ashley and I had our first baby earlier this year. Bevyn is a wonderful gift from God, and we love him dearly. The gravity of this new chapter set in quickly. It hit me immediately: “We are responsible for the care and well being of this tiny human!” And then, the worry set in.
this peace? Prayer. Because “the Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5), we should approach Him “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6).
Soon after we had Bevyn, someone gave us a soothing CD where some of the songs are set to Bible verses. The Is his car seat strapped in tight enough? first song is a paraphrase of Philippians Is he getting enough to eat? Why are 4:6, and it opens: “Don’t you worry his naps so short? What’s this rash? about anything. Instead pray about Should his diapers smell like that? Why everything. Tell God what you need, is his hair falling out on the sides of his and thank Him for all He has done.” head, giving him a weird pseudo-moSolid advice. For new parents, and for hawk? And so on. Concern, on top of everyone. worry, with anxiety for a side. In other words: parenting. This Advent season, don’t forget that Jesus (who is our peace—Ephesians But it isn’t just parents who are worried 2:14) came near that He might grant us these days. Anxiety is rampant, and peace with God, so that we would have peace is nowhere to be found. Thanka way to approach the Father in prayer, fully, the Bible talks a great deal about thereby receiving the peace of God. peace. Romans 5:1 tells us that we, who were once enemies with God, now have peace with God, through Jesus Christ. We are no longer at war. Peace has been accomplished and declared; the relationship has been restored! But the Good News about peace doesn’t end there. No, as Christians, we can also receive the peace of God, which is an inner calm, no matter what storms rage. But how do we receive Philippians 4:4-7 | 19
JOY Dr. Spencer Wagley Associate Professor of Education
Isaiah 65:18 As a child in east Texas, I looked forward to the weekly Sunday school opening assembly at my little country church. During that time, all the children would gather together and sing songs that would prepare our hearts for Sunday school and the morning service. Our pastor’s wife would play that old piano, and we would sing our little hearts out. My favorite was easily: “Down In My Heart” I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy Down in my heart Down in my heart - Where Down in my heart I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy Down in my heart Down in my heart to stay
What are you allowing to steal your joy this Advent season? We have become so busy during the Christmas season that our focus drifts away from the birth of Christ and onto the latest holiday trend. It may be time to step away. I encourage you to step away from the gifts, the Christmas programs and the potlucks and rejoice in the birth of Jesus. Advent is the perfect time to refocus and be in awe at the birth of Jesus. I invite you this Advent season to rekindle the joy in your heart. Does your joy come from the world or from Jesus?
And I’m so happy So very happy I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart And I’m so happy So very happy I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart Now that I have that song stuck in your head, you should just go ahead and sing it. Really, go ahead and sing it. Belt it out. Now don’t you feel better? But seriously, do you have the joy down in your heart?
Isaiah 65:18 | 21
Jack Dillard ’03 Head Coach Cross Country and Track
Psalm 126 I am not sure how many people had the same exact childhood experience with Christmas Eve as I had, but I can vividly recall the excitement that kept me up anxious for what was to come the next morning. Year after year, I would wait up as late as possible, checking every 10 minutes to see if “Santa” had come. Yet, year after year, I would always fall asleep late in the night and sleep late into the morning. I would dream of what the new morning would bring and was overjoyed with the thought of what new “stuff ” I would get. There were years of joy and excitement, and years of questioning why someone would give me such a horrible gift. So much of my life was wrapped around waiting for a gift, for something of this world, something that may or may not bring me joy. What is better than a Christmas Eve joy? A joy that can be found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To live each day knowing that He provides us with deliverance, that He provides us with hope, and He brings us to a joy that could and should make us laugh out loud. How much better would our society be today if only we cared more about our life in Christ and lived in the joy He provides than the Facebook post or text message we respond to 22 | Psalm 126
with LOL? I sing Psalms every Lord’s Day at church and in our house throughout the week. How much more could I impact those around me if my life “sang” of the joys of the Lord through my attitude and my attention to others’ needs? How can you show the world with your attitude, “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (Psalm 126:3, KJV) and show them Christ? I challenge you to wake up each day with the joy of the Lord, laughing out loud of all the goodness He brings, of all His deliverance, and share with the world Christ’s goodness, grace and hope.
JOY Teryn Irvin ’12 Manager of Alumni and Marketing
Galatians 5:22-25 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galations 5:22-26, NIV) Have you ever been walking in the presence of God and then, weeks later, feel you were miles and miles away from Him? I have. There are seasons where my work and relationships are going seemingly perfect, not because of anything I had done, but because I was walking in complete surrender to God’s Spirit within me. However, because life was going so well, I got arrogant and began to do things in my own strength. It was almost as if I was saying to God, “Okay, God. Thanks for bringing me to this place. I’ve got it from here.”
and motivation, that I was no longer being Spirit-filled or Spirit-led. I felt spiritually blah. I look at this scripture in Galatians and find so much joy in the fact that even I, a sinner easily tossed here and there by my circumstances, can be clothed with the fruits of His Spirit and can walk alongside Him in all that I do. That I do not, and should not, try to manage things on my own but instead can be filled with the Spirit, keeping in step with what He has for my life. As you continue through this Advent season, I pray that your hearts will be open to the Holy Spirit and that He will bestow upon you His sweet Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. May you continue to rely fully on Him and trust in Him in all that you do. Amen.
Soon after that attitude set in, I began to see things crumble and fall apart before me—my spirit became easily agitated by my situations and circumstances, and I struggled with getting anything done. I had allowed myself to be so far removed from the Spirit of God, due to my own selfish ambition Galatians 5:22-25 | 23
JOY Hannah Kelley ’16 Biology | Writing and Editing: Professional
Luke 2:8-10 Do you ever wonder why God sent the angel heralding His son’s birth to these simple shepherds? Surely these men weren’t of high social status. They certainly didn’t have money or fancy gifts to bring the child. So why did the angel let them in on the biggest, juiciest piece of news ever to be told? If we look closely at what the angel said, we might find out.
more inclined to volunteer at homeless shelters, write friendly notes to troops overseas, or buy groceries for the person in line behind them at the store. There is so much effort put into “spreading the joy” at Christmas—and that’s great!
But do we feel that same inclination when it’s July and we see a post from that friend on Facebook who has Luke 2:10 states, “And the angel said radically different political views, or to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring when we meet the noisy kids from next you good news of great joy that will be door, or even when we pass the local for all the people.” All the people—not homeless man asking for money on just the “good” ones. Jesus was a gift for the corner? God gave His son for all every person, regardless of social staof these people, and that information tus, ethnicity, religion, etc. God chose needs to be an integral part of how we to make an example of these men. interact with them. If we view everyone Though they might have been looked we encounter as God’s cherished ones, down upon by society, they were we will be more inclined to act with important to Him, and this gift He was love. Only then will we be able to keep sending—in the form of His son—was the joy that surrounds this wonderful for them as well. Christmas season alive all year long. When we look at others that are different than us, do we see them as God sees them? Do we see them as somebody who is equally as worthy to partake in the gift that was so graciously given over 2,000 years ago? To be honest, the holiday season surrounding Christmas is probably when we can most truthfully answer, “Yes, I do.” During this time, people suddenly feel 24 | Luke 2:8-10
JOY Jenny Bradley ’02 Director of Ministry Teams
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 As we look through 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 today, we see the brief but powerful exhortations the writer gives regarding joy. As we come days away from Christmas, we can be guided to look to Christ for a greater joy—something not of this world, not of this busy season and not of this time that turns our moments with each other into tasks.
nate triune God living among us fully divine and fully human. In Him we can truly rejoice! May we be encouraged today to pause, give thanks and rejoice that God is with us. May our joy this season be found in Him!
How can we redeem our time to be mindful of the true joy of Christmas? Breathe, and give each moment to God. The short statements given in this passage guide us in rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, giving thanks in everything and holding onto what is good. Sometimes that can feel like it’s easier said than done. However, the writer is giving his original audience, and now us, a tool to look beyond ourselves and our circumstances—something that helps us look at joy differently than a temporal happiness. As we communicate with God throughout our days (praying without ceasing) and give thanks, we put our mind on things above this week and not on all the hustle of the season. The God of peace is with us. After all, that is what we are ultimately celebrating this Advent: the coming of the incar1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 | 25
JOY Dr. Daniel Julich Assistant Professor of History
Luke 2:1-20 One of the enduring themes of Christmas is peace. The angels in Luke 2 announced, “Peace on earth” to shepherds, a reconciliation of God and humanity. The peace proclaimed at this season, though, is not just an obliteration of enmity—a ceasing of war in the world. Christmas is pervaded by images and traditions of quietness and reflectiveness—the flickering of candles, light snow in the darkness of winter and the echoing voices of Christmas carols. Many of these carols speak of this theme of stillness: “Silent Night, Holy Night” is perhaps the most obvious, and “Away in a Manger” the most unrealistic (“but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes”?). My favorite Christmas hymn for many years has been “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” by Phillips Brooks. Its lyrics speak to me some of the most profound theological truths of the season. The “God became man” truth, the Incarnation, was a profound act of humility, and even more so for its happening with no announcement but to the outcast pastoral community beyond the frontier of this “small among the clans of Judah” town. Yet what has captured me even more is how the story of this unknown baby’s entry into the world expresses the 26 | Luke 2:1-20
truth of God’s work in our lives. Just as Christ came into the world unnoticed, so the most important event of our lives takes place: How silently, how silently The wondrous gift is given; So God imparts to human hearts The blessings of His heaven. In that moment when a “meek soul will receive him,” an occurrence that is imperceptible with physical eyes, rebirth and transformation occur. The “dear Christ enters in,” and not simply the peaceful baby in the manger, but the eternal, almighty and unconquerable Jesus. Measured in meaning, the noise of this Advent would drown out the roar of a tornado; but in the unsurpassed wisdom of God, it is hidden from the world. It is right for us, I think, to take time during this season to quiet our souls for reflection on the marvel of God with us, when “the hopes and fears of all the years” collided. As we contemplate these truths, let our souls speak in earnest: “Oh come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!”
JOY Amanda Hood â€™18 Elementary Education
Romans 15:13 Christmas is a time of celebration and excitement. It is a time of family and giving. A time of memories and love. But most of all, it is a time of remembering and of hoping.
to do. To save us. Remember why He saved us. To live today for His glory and share His story with others. Today, take time to share the story of the baby in the manger. Share the excitement of having the power of God in us! Tell others that they too can remember and have hope! Such a joyful thought that is. We have hope of eternity because of that baby.
We remember what happened that clear night back in Bethlehem when the God of creation was born as a humble baby in a manger. We remember why He did that. He did that for us! He saved us through His death. And Share that hope and that joy you have. because of His death, we can live every day with hope for our future in heaven All because of one special Babe. with Him. Every day we can live with the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Because of the little baby that was born in a humble stable to a young teenage girl, we can live today. That baby grew to live a sinless life. That baby died a sinful death. That baby saved the world. As we celebrate this Christmas season, remember what that baby did. We celebrate that babyâ€™s birth, but it goes so much further than the birth. His life, death and resurrection give us hope. It gives us the presence of God in us. Right now we have access to the power of God! All because of that baby. Christmas is a time of giving, sharing, remembering and hoping. Today, remember what that baby was born
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LOVE Taylor Fair ’15 Christian Ministries: Youth and Worship Leadership
Deuteronomy 10:17-19a People usually give me strange looks when I eat eggs. This is not because I eat them in any sort of gross, morbid or disgusting manner. No, it is simply because before eating them, I like to mash them into tiny pieces with the butt end of my fork. Strange? Possibly. Why do I do it then? Simple. Because my dad did. The Bible is centered on a very similar idea: “Be imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1). In the same way that we pick up on mannerisms from our parents, we are to be following God so closely that we pick up on His character and exemplify it in our lives. This concept is seen throughout Scripture: Paul tells us to follow Christ’s example of humility by placing others’ interests before our own (Philippians 2:1-11); John notes that once abiding in God’s love, we should respond by showing that love to others (1 John 3); and Jesus provides a powerful parable in Matthew that calls us to show others the same degree of mercy God has shown us (Matthew 18:21-35). In this passage in Deuteronomy, the same idea shines through. Moses reminds the people of the God they serve—a God of justice, a God who cares for the underprivileged and a God who loved them when they were foreigners and unworthy of being His people. With this in mind, Moses com-
mands the Israelites to follow God’s example in deed; that is, to show no partiality and love equally those among them who are different or in need. God places the same call on our lives today: Go and work for justice in the world, providing for the needy and loving those who are different than you. For when you were in that position, I did the same for you. The Christmas season is a blessed time of giving and receiving—a time to be thankful for what God has given us. But it is also a time to remember those who are in need. Who are the different or underprivileged people that “reside among you”? Maybe an annoying person on your dorm hall or at your workplace comes to mind. It could be a homeless woman and child you pass on the sidewalk. Or perhaps there is a family member you have been fed up with for a number of years. Whoever that person is, let us imitate God and show love to the “least of these” in the world this Christmas season. May we remember Jesus’ words of warning: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Amen.
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LOVE Don Reed ’68 Sterling, Kansas
John 3:16-17 John 3:16 is without question the most well-known verse in all of Scripture. But it also might be the most misunderstood verse. Many who quote this passage like to dwell on the phrase “for God so loved the world,” linking this “love” by God for all the people in His world to the final phrase of the verse, “everlasting life.”
demned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Reading this verse with verse 16 makes an even stronger reason for us to know what God means by this keyword.
God provides the answer and definition just five verses after the 16th. God But there is a key, qualifying phrase has the writer link “those who believe” in between the initial phrase of God’s to people who “love the light,” which love for His world and the outcome of God says in verse 19, “has come into His love. This well-known verse says the world.” This refers to His Son that that because God loved His world so he noted He gave in verse 16. Then much, He sent His only Son (because God defines those who believe in verse Jesus was the only one who could make 21 as “He who does the truth comes to the proper and complete payment the light… .” required), but He sent Him not for everyone, but only for “whoever believes There it is. Those who believe do the in Him.” That makes this phrase—and truth. Their lives and actions are the word “believes” in particular—vichanged. God did not send His Son tally important. for us to merely believe intellectually that Jesus was the Son of God. He We must know what God means when sent His Son for those whose hearts He has the Holy Spirit guide John would be changed by the Holy Spirit to to write this verse with this defining become obedient sons and daughters phrase. The word believes becomes that would want to keep the true and the all-important hinge on which this unchangeable statutes of God. whole gift of eternal life hangs. Let us, in this wonderful season of Why does God make this union? And Advent, thank our God for giving us a what is the definition of “believes” in new heart with a new purpose of doing John 3:16? God says in verse 18, “he His truth! who believes in Him is not con30 | John 3:16-17
LOVE David Earle â€™88 Due West, South Carolina
Colossians 3:12-14 As December rolls around each year, we prepare for the Christmas season. It is very easy in todayâ€™s culture to prepare for Christmas by stringing multicolored lights all over our houses, in the trees and across our yards. We prepare by picking out the right gifts, wrapping them in shiny paper and sticking a fluffy bow on top. We fill our calendars with one event after another, making sure that we donâ€™t miss out on any of the numerous Christmas parties. And then of course there is the myriad of Christmas specials on television that we take time to watch, record and watch again. But as Christ-followers, our preparation for the Christmas season should look different from the rest of society. Christmas is remembering that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, gave up the majesty and glory of Heaven to be present, in the flesh, with humankind. He came to us, to be in our midst, to walk amongst us. He came to interact with us, to break bread with us, to socialize with us. He came to minister to us, to heal us and to ultimately offer Himself up as a spotless, sinless sacrifice for us. But first, He had to come to us. He came to be present with us. During Advent, we as Christians should take time away from the hustle and bustle of the television specials,
spectacular sales at the department stores and the busy social calendar to truly prepare ourselves for His presence. How do we do this? Colossians 3:12 tells us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. These are all characteristics that Christ exemplified on Earth. One way to prepare for His presence is to become more like Him. Verse 13 communicates to us that we are to bear with each other and forgive one another. We are to forgive as the Lord forgave us. It is difficult to prepare for the presence of the King of kings and the Lord of lords when we hold grudges or wish vengeance upon someone. Christ demonstrated what perfect love and forgiveness looked like. To prepare for His presence, we need to follow His example and offer forgiveness freely. The final thing we are called to do in this passage is to put on love. Bestowing love to the unlovable, allowing love for our neighbors, our family, our friends and even our enemies, is a key step toward preparing ourselves for His presence. Scripture tells us that love is over all virtues. Love binds together all the other virtues of Christian character. It is through love that all the other virtues flow. Colossians 3:12-14 | 31
LOVE Jared Reimer ’15 Assistant Coach Cross Country and Track
John 13:34-35 Christmas is a wonderful time. Personally, I have always enjoyed it. More often than not, however, we adhere to our social calendars in order to put together the “perfect Christmas.” This leaves us overloaded, overcommitted, overwhelmed, overtired, overstuffed and overspent in every way. Often we arrive at the doorstep of the New Year empty of the true meaning of Christmas and devoid of much, if any, peace, joy and love. At the very heart of Christmas, amidst all of the giving and receiving, it is possible to have never given or received the glorious truth of Christmas: the presence of God on Earth, peace and goodwill to all and being present to Christ within ourselves and everyone around us, in-laws included. How did the Light of the World become replaced by countless multicolored lights meant to bring that feeling of peace, joy and love to all? We squeeze out Jesus and His hands-on, full-out love for others in our attempts to “show” and “do” Christmas justice. Our priorities of time and treasure are misplaced. So how do we refocus Christmas to really be the annual rebirth of Jesus’ love in our hearts and lives? This is not the familiar command to 32 | John 13:34-35
“love your neighbor as yourself.” It is “love one another, just as I have loved you.” Christmas is a time to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, not mine or yours, so our gifts ultimately should be in honor of Him, given in ways and to whom He would want. The focus of Christmas should be, and can be, the birth of love shown to others who need the life-changing touch and warmth of Jesus’ love in action. Jesus made it very clear and very simple why He was born and what the real meaning of Christmas is: Immanuel—God come down to Earth to live among us and within us, and to love one another! This is how we express our appreciation for the birth and life of Christ and show that we are disciples, believers and followers of His way, not ours: by loving one another.
LOVE Austin Porter ’16 Biblical Studies: New Testament
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 On this day, a little over 2,000 years ago, Mary and Joseph traveled through Bethlehem, anxiously searching for a place to stay. In mere hours, Mary would give birth to the Savior of the World in a lowly, animal-scented manger because there was “no room for them in the inn.” She must have desperately desired a comfortable room in which to bring her son into the world. Little did she know that she was the one who needed the provision of the child she carried, not the other way around. This Christ-child would soon provide all that she needed and more. He would grow up into a man who displayed love for Mary and for all of humanity in a way that changed history. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, NIV). Christ’s patient and kind love shone as He welcomed in the little children who eagerly sought His presence. He was not envious, boastful or proud when He selflessly, tenderly washed the feet
of His disciples. Nor did He dishonor the woman caught in adultery; rather, He graciously whispered, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Christ was not self-seeking when He offered living water to the Samaritan woman at the well. His anger was righteous when His Father’s house was turned into a disgraceful market. He kept no record of the wrongs His disciples committed in betraying and abandoning Him, nor does He keep any record of our sins. Christ rejoiced with the truth rather than delighting in evil when He asked His Father to forgive His crucifiers, “for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Christ protected Peter from falling into the thrashing waves. He trusted God in the Garden of Gethsemane. Because He persevered through a torturous death and then rose from the dead, His forgiveness and love will never fail. Let us remember the Advent of our Savior and be confident that Christ’s love has conquered death. For truly, as N.T. Wright put it, “Love is not our duty, it is our destiny.”
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LOVE Dr. Roy Millhouse Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies
Matthew 2:1-12 “. . . a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17, ESV). “Where is he who has been born the king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). The magi began their journey convinced that something significant had happened. An event so spectacular took place in the sky that they knew it must herald a great king. Despite the time and cost, they determined to follow the star in order to see who it might herald. Perhaps they already knew, or perhaps they discovered along the way, that the rising of the star had been foretold long ago, no doubt adding to their anticipation. This journey was indeed worth the cost! Eventually, the men found the young king. In response, they showered Him with their worship and their treasure. After so much time spent getting there, their visit with the child must have seemed incredibly short. Their worship surely seemed odd, offered to one of such apparent low-status when compared to their own. Undoubtedly, their gifts would look extravagant for a child of such humble surroundings. 34 | Matthew 2:1-12
To the men, the cost in time, honor or treasure was irrelevant. “And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:9-10). The journey, their worship and their treasure was worth the cost. They knew God had done something incredible. He had raised a star as a herald, and they had seen its fulfillment. Was it not worth all to have pursued and seen this? As we reflect this Christmas day, we know this event was a herald of even more. For this child would live and die, as had all other humans before Him and as all have done since. But this child was different. Like the star that heralded His coming, He himself would rise, securing our salvation. Knowing this, is this child not worth the cost of our time, our worship and our treasure? Indeed, He is. Today, as we reflect on the birth of this child and are assured in the certainty of His resurrection, may we rejoice at His coming with the same indescribably great joy!
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Written by Sterling College faculty, staff, students and alumni