Advent Devotional 2018
"When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beer-sheba. Yet his sons did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him,“You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they have said to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you.” - 1 Samuel 8:1-8
My wife and I had been in Belgium for 28 years doing church and mission work. We were weary, and it was time to return to America. The details of how the move would work out were unclear. Sitting at the piano in our living room in Waterloo, thumbing my way through an old hymnal, I sensed God encouraging me through an old song I’d not thought of for years.
Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Our theme for this week of Advent is “Peace.” Are we able to find peace when destabilizing change comes our way? The critical question is where we will look to reestablish a solid footing. The enduring peace that God intends for us is found as we rest on Him alone.
The cycle and circumstances of life impose change upon us. Samuel had been a source of stability for Israel, but he had grown old. What seems a stable source of security in our lives will wobble and can even crumble, creating unease, anxiety, and sometimes panic. But change is also an opportunity to examine the foundation and to reaffirm that we are built on Christ alone.
God was shaping Israel to be a people who would trust Him entirely. His all-wise timing in the process was disconcerting to the elders and it is often mysterious to us. But God is working his greater purposes in our lives.
Advent is a season to remember that the promise of redemption and completion is certain. We are reminded that Christ alone is the King of Peace.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
David Floyd and his wife, Mary, have been members of the John Knox family for three years. David serves as an elder and the leader of JK Connect.
Note: We will not be posting devotionals on Saturdays normally during Advent. But this week we had six writers respond and we wanted to include all of them. So, please enjoy this special extra devotion!
"The same day some Sadducees came to him, saying there is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying, 'Teacher, Moses said, 'it a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow, and raise up children for his brother.' Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman herself died. In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her." Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is God not of the dead, but of the living." And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching. - Matthew 22:23-33
The Sadducees, a sect of Judaism, asked Jesus what the situation would be like for a woman who was married seven times to seven different brothers who had each died, to fulfill the law of the Levirates. Since no children had been born in the marriages, the brothers were required to marry her. Sadly, the brother's all died, until the woman was left alone. "In the resurrection of the dead, in the final day," the Sadducees asked, "to which of the brothers would she be married?"
Jesus first condemned the attitude of the Sadducees for denying the power of God to raise the dead. Then, he clarified that in the next life there will be no marriage as an institution but that we will be like the angels who do not marry nor live in marriage. He reminded them that God is not "God of the dead but of the living" and that when he speaks of the Patriarchs "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," he does it as if they were alive, because in God there is no death, but only life. "I am the resurrection and the life; He who believes in me, even if he dies, will live." (John 11:25)
Christian hope in the face of death centers on the fact that Christ himself rose from the dead. With Jesus' resurrection, God has assured us of our own resurrection (1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). On the other hand, Jesus condemned the Sadducees, religious leaders, for they were unable to discern the power of God to raise the dead from the grave and give them new life. That is, they were religious, but also governed by unbelief in the resurrection.
Questions to meditate on:
1. Do you believe in the power of God to resurrect the dead and give them eternal life?
2. How is your Christian life impacted by the knowledge of God's power?
3. What can you do for those who still do not have the hope of the resurrection?
Prayer: Lord, thank you very much for the hope we have in you, because you have the power to resurrect the dead and give them eternal life. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Robert Ruiz is the Pastor of the Mision Igleisa Hispana, the Spanish speaking congregation affiliated with John Knox Presbyterian Church. He was elected an elder of JKPC at the Nov. 2 Congregational Meeting and will begin serving on the Session of JKPC in January.
"When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, 'Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.' And he said to him, "I will come and cure him." The centurion answered, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and the slave does it.' When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, 'Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' And to the centurion Jesus said, 'Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.' And the servant was healed in that hour." - Matthew 8:5-13 (NRSV)
“Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” Growing up in Pentecostal churches, the faith that brings healing was a frequent sermon topic. Honestly, hope and Advent wasn’t my first thought when I read this passage. I remembered praying for a miracle of healing for a family member or restoration for someone whose life was in tatters, and longing for Jesus to just say the word. Was my faith not enough?
But taking a step back from this passage, and looking at the context, as well as considering this week’s theme of Advent – HOPE - I find more in this passage. First, this story is right after the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus taught us about His kingdom, so the miracle demonstrates those truths. Next, Jesus himself concludes this story emphasizing not how much faith the centurion had, but how the centurion is the first of many outsiders invited to join God’s kingdom. Many will come from the east and the west. The outsiders are in. The insiders aren’t an automatic shoe-in. Jesus responded to the faith of an outsider, to heal a slave who is suffering greatly. It’s not how much faith – just faith. Faith in the Messiah, who has power over the torment of illness, over the wind and waves, over all.
This is a message to take hope in as we wait for Jesus to come again. Not that I can get enough faith to persuade Jesus to say the word to heal but that Jesus’ birth brings in a new reality. In this new order, faith in Jesus brings the outsider into the feast. The mentally ill I step around at the library, the refugee washing my dishes, the pock-marked second cousin, the kid acting out in my child’s class – all are welcomed to join the kingdom, to sit at the table with Abraham, amidst his many descendants. Let us be encouraged to wait in hope for Jesus' second coming, when he will heal and restore all things!
Emma Skjonsby Manousaridis grew up down the street from JKPC in a big Pentecostal church. She served as a missionary after college, working with International Teams (now One Collective) caring for refugees and human trafficking survivors in Athens, Greece. There she met her husband and after their first 2 kids were born, moved back to Seattle and joined John Knox. She now works in a hospital providing behavioral health care in the Emergency Department.
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the people. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgements he has uttered, O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.
He is the Lord our God; his judgements are in all the earth. He is mindful of his covenant forever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, 'To you I will give the land of Caanan as your portion for an inheritance.'
When they were few in number, of little account, and strangers in it, wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people, he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, saying, 'Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.'" - Psalm 105:1-15 (NRSV)
In Psalm 105:1-15, the author praises God for fulfilling what God had promised. This verse is a good reminder to the fact that we can always trust that God will fulfill his promises and provide for us.
During my sophomore year in High School I began to realize how unhappy I was with my friends. For years, I had chosen to surround myself with people based on their status, not their character. I started to see that the friends I had weren't really there for me. I also began to notice myself growing farther and farther away from God and my family. I felt really unhappy and stuck in that bad situation. Because I go to such a small school it was hard to change people's perception of who I was. I wanted friends I could be real with and not have to hide my struggling, but all those girls who I knew would be true friends to me had already formed a false opinion of who I was.
This was a time in my life that I now look back and realize how God used this situation to push me closer to him. I started going to youth group more and trying to become friends with girls I knew I could be real with. Going into junior year I had been praying daily for new friends I could rely on. Then, this one day in the summer sparked the beginning of a whole new friendship with a girl who is, to this day, one of my best friends. I had been without good friends for almost four years and God provided. Even today I still struggle with finding true people who I can be real and talk about God with but I know that God keeps his promises. As I continue to cling to him, he will provide for me.
Danaelyn Watson is a senior at Seattle Christian School. She and her family have been attending JKPC for 7 years. She is active in the JK Students Ministry.
"Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many. For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of son." - Isaiah 51:1-3 (NRSV)
Hope. Sometimes I find it hard to have hope. You don’t have to look far to find some kind of pain or atrocity. This world is full of it. It can break you down and tear you up.
In verse 1, Isaiah says to consider from what rock we were cut. I like this image that I am cut from rock. Rock lasts a long time, even in the face of harsh conditions. I think of the coasts and mountains, where mighty bulwarks of rock stand the test of water, wind, snow and rain. This gives me hope that I can stand in the face of harsh and cruel events and be able to last.
But even rock gives way. Given enough time, the shores will erode and mountains will fall. I am not enough on my own.
“The Lord will comfort Zion;
he will comfort all her waste places,
And will make her wilderness like Eden.,
her desert like the garden of the Lord;”
Restoration. This is where I find hope. Not that I can last, or persevere through the storms, but that God will come back. That is the second coming we look forward to during advent. This is the life-bringing, joyous occasion I hope for. And we can trust God that it will happen. God doesn’t back down from His promises, not to Abraham, not to Israel, not to us.
Glenn Nordman has been coming to John Knox, along with his wife Erin, for just over 4 years. His two biggest interests are music and working with computers. He regularly assists in worship by playing guitar and singing and is serving on JKPC's Senior Pastor Nominating Committee.
Tuesday, December 4 - The Pargman Family
"The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, "God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me." And she said, "Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age." Genesis 17: 1-7 (NRSV)
Hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised. We know God’s promises are solid and true because of his amazing faithfulness. God’s promises are always fulfilled, even if the timing is not what we expect. Isaac’s birth is a story that holds great hope and is intertwined with three promises; each is unexpected, impossible, and laughable (this seems to be God’s favorite style).
Imagine a 90 year old woman bearing her first child. Imagine what Sarah might have felt when she realized that she was pregnant. Abraham and Sarah were promised a child in their old age. This promise is so inconceivable that Abraham laughs at God’s words when he first hears them. The birth of Isaac (which means “laughter”) then fulfilled a deep longing and hope.
God also promised Abraham that he will be the father of many nations (Genesis 17) and Isaac is the intended heir. Can you imagine how Abraham’s mind must have reeled when God promised as many descendants as the stars in the sky! Israel later leaned into the hope and knowledge of this promise.
The third promise was to be revealed in Abraham’s descendants. The birth of Isaac foreshadows the birth of Jesus. Consider these similarities:
● The births were promised in advance and happened in the timing God promised (Genesis 17:16 and Isaiah 7:14);
● They were both named by God in advance (Genesis 17:19 and Matthew 1:21b);
● The announcement amazed both mothers and were miraculous (Sarah barren, Mary a virgin);
● They were a joy to their fathers (Matthew 3:16);
● They were both obedient to their fathers to the point of death.
Do you think these similarities are a coincidence? God often gives us a glimpse of what is to come, which gives us something solid to focus on as we hope for the eventual fulfillment of God's great promises to us. Remembering that God has always been faithful strengthens our hope.
What promises has the Lord kept in your life? What do you dare hope for?
The greatest hope was fulfilled in the birth of Christ; that we can live with God eternally. Now we can live in the hope of His return!
The Pargmans have been attending John Knox since 2013 and truly enjoy the church family they are part of. Randy, Lindsay, Ben and Nora have enjoyed participating and serving in multiple ways within John Knox that have helped their family grow spiritually.
"An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham."
The term "advent" has its roots in the Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival.” The season of Advent is a time where we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus, when God first arrived in human form, and to remind ourselves of the hope we hold that Jesus will come again.
This Advent and Christmas season, we will focus on the Gospel of Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus’ birth. From the beginning of the Gospel, Matthew depicts Jesus as the fulfillment of expectations held by the people of Israel. Matthew 1:1 refers to Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of David, the son of Abraham.” In this simple line, Matthew lets his readers know that Jesus is the flourishing of the hope planted when God promised to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through Abraham’s descendants. In this simple line, Matthew lets the reader know that, as the Son of David, the Messiah, Jesus is the King who will establish the true peace of God. And, throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is depicted as the second Moses, a joyful fulfillment of the promise God made in Deuteronomy to raise up another “prophet like Moses.”
In this devotional, we will look at the expectations of the people of Israel and, as we do so, we will get a better sense of what it is that we are expecting, as we await Jesus’ return.
May the Holy Spirit shape you and form you, as we prepare to celebrate the Birth of our Lord. May the Holy Spirit shape you and form you as we are reminded of the promises of God fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. And may the Holy Spirit shape you and form you as we prepare for the return of our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Son of David and the Son of Abraham.
In the book of Genesis, God made a promise to Abraham that Abraham’s descendants would be as the stars. This promise became a source of hope for the people of Israel, as Israel lived through her tumultuous history as God’s people. God also promised to Abraham that all the nations would be blessed through Abraham’s descendants.
As Christians, we believe that this promise was fulfilled through the birth of Jesus, as the entire world was blessed by Jesus’ life, sacrifice and resurrection. The fulfillment of this promise, culminating in the resurrection, leads us to a new hope, the hope that the God of the living will raise us from the dead at Jesus’ return. This week, we will be looking at key references to the promise of God to Abraham throughout scripture, as we look at the hope that Israel held.
Monday: Genesis 15:1-6
Tuesday: Genesis 21:1-7
Wednesday: Isaiah 51:1-3
Thursday: Psalm 105:1-15
Friday: Matthew 8:5-13
"After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great." But Abram said, "O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue to be childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir." But the word of the Lord came to him, "This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir." He brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be." And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness." - Genesis 15:1-6, NRSV
In Genesis 15:1-6, we see God making a promise to Abram that his descendants would number the stars. I can imagine this was difficult to believe at the time considering he was already 75 years old and had not been blessed with a son of his own. Yet the scripture tells us that Abram believed the Lord. How often in our daily lives is it hard to look beyond what we see right in front of us and believe that the Lord has a plan and a purpose?
I know I face this challenge each year as a kindergarten teacher when I get a whole new class of students. As our class spends many weeks in the Fall laying the groundwork and setting expectations, it can be difficult to believe that we are going to make any progress at all. I set goals for our class as a whole - for myself as a teacher, and for each individual student. Sometimes I don't get to see those goals met right away or even come to fruition at any point during the school year. I hope and I pray that we will learn together and that amazing things will be accomplished, but sometimes don't see the result I am expecting. I may not ever get to see what God is doing behind the scenes in the life of one of my students.
As we enter this season of advent, let us put all our hope in Jesus and believe that there is more to each challenge that we face than we can ever see or understand. "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen; since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18
Shari Watson has attended John Knox with her husband and three teenagers for the last 7 years. She serves as a deacon and on JK Adults. She has been working in the field of early childhood education for 20 years and currently teaches kindergarten at Seattle Christian Schools.