Posts in FLOW
Advent Flow #25 - NAME OF GOD: Immanuel, Emmanuel
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“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,    and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”

- Matthew 1:22-23

 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

- Isaiah 7:14

NAME OF GOD: Immanuel, Emmanuel

by Mike Conan

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Merry Christmas Everyone! 

Most of us will have family come into town or we will go and be with our family on Christmas. We leave the comforts of home to invade someone else’s space for a time of relationship and enjoyment. If we are returning to our parent’s home, there is often a strange feeling of being home and yet simultaneously not at home. This is a perfect example of what the first Christmas was like — God leaving the heavens and coming to the world He had created. The Apostle John tells us that “He came to His own”, meaning that Jesus was not only the creator of the universe, but the personal God of the people on earth.   

Immanuel (also spelled Emmanuel) means, as Matthew tells us, God with us. It is the centerpiece of the Christmas story. The invisible, Spirit, sovereign, all powerful force of the universe, took on flesh and dwelt among us. Until this moment, God had revealed Himself primarily to humanity in the scriptures and through His Spirit’s work in the lives of individual men and women. In this moment in history, Jesus came and tabernacled with us (set up his tent with us.) 

I cannot explain the marvelous mystery of the God-man coming to dwell on earth. In my mind I cannot fully understand how Jesus was fully God and at the same time fully human. In fact, throughout history anyone who has tried to explain in detail how Jesus could fully embody the Godhead characteristics and human characteristics at the same exact time has been labeled a heretic and booted out of the church. Inevitably, one would downplay his humanity or downplay His divinity in order to explain how the two could come together. I believe that this mystery is a gift from God to inspire worship and humility as we reach the end of human explanation and continue to dwell in divine inspiration.   

By His taking on Flesh, we have the ultimate revelation of God. Not just in a moment in history, a vision or an inspired word, but He became an actual person to live fully with humans for three years [the time of His ministry]. If one wants to know who God is and who God calls us to be, one needs to look at Jesus. 

In this name, and in this season, we are reminded that God is personal and His plan was to reveal Himself to us personally. Yet, the story does not end there as God is also “with us” today in the personal presence of Holy Spirit. In Holy Spirit the loving, joyful, powerful presence of God dwells with us for eternity! (Matthew 28:16-20)

Questions:

Is Jesus home in my life and heart?

How has the mystery of ‘God with us’ impacted your life?

How does the love and humility of God becoming human inspire you?

Prayer: Immanuel, thank you for revealing yourself to me. Thank you for showing yourself to the world you had created. Help me to see your presence in my world today and every day.

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #24 - NAME OF GOD: Light of the World
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“ I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

- Revelation 22:13

NAME OF GOD: Light of the World

by Steve Wells

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In the Greek, “Phos” is translated as Light, a source of light and radiance. Helps Ministries has a word study that defines “Phos” (light) as the manifestation of God’s self-existent life; diving illumination to reveal and impart life, through Christ.

On either side of today’s scripture verse (John 8:12), you see the pharisees trying to trap Jesus through the sins of an adulterous woman and a group of unbelieving, doubtful people, who never could hear or see that the divine Son of God was physically there right before their very eyes. Pastor Mike asked a question in one of his recent messages where he talked about Adam and Eve before the fall. He asked, “Did Adam and Eve actually get to know and experience what it felt like to live in a world without blemish; without sin; without shame, before their actions took us into a fallen world?” I’m guessing that they might have but, nevertheless, they chose to follow the path that leads to death. Ever since then, God has had to reveal His Glory, His Laws, His Power, His Righteousness through individuals like the Major and Minor prophets, the priests, and those chosen in special ways for specific purposes to reveal God’s glory. However, God chose to send His Son, Jesus, as the final High Priest, to be the last and final sacrificial Lamb; to be the one divine, true illuminating and radiant light in a dark and fallen world.

If we were to be honest with ourselves, how often are we like the pharisees and the unbelieving people? You know — where we doubt the promises of God and question every promise and call upon our life to the point that we miss the mark over and over again — where the darkness of this world begins to be what our actions speak. Jesus IS the Light of the World. Matthew 5:14-16 says,“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

When we are truly walking with Jesus and allowing Holy Spirit to move us into action, we become a lampstand in the middle of a fallen world. His call and our actions speak an undeniable divine truth — JESUS! He’s the Light of the World. We’re His lampstand and He’s the flame that burns within. GO AND LET HIS LIGHT SHINE BRIGHT IN AND THROUGH YOU!

Questions:

Spend the next few minutes listening to these songs. What’s the theme? What are they saying to you?

   a) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhumxplTH9I / “Light of the World” by Lauren Daigle

   b) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNwAK6Oox_w / “Jesus, Light of the World” by Third Day

   c) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d17hi1s6Tgg / “Light Shines Bright” by TobyMac

Is there a truth you don’t want to see that’s keeping you from being that lampstand in a fallen world? Take a few minutes to think and pray about that and ask God to take that distraction or hindrance away.

During this season and beyond, in what way can you let the flame of Christ burn bright to those around you?

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #23 - NAME OF GOD: Alpha & Omega
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“ I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

- Revelation 22:13

NAME OF GOD: Alpha & Omega

by Carolynn Yancey

"Yahweh" by Carman

The church choir at the the church I grew up in sang a version of this song every year at Christmas and I have never been able to hear the names for God without singing this song in my head. I love the lyric: “Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End.”

We often take for granted knowing the definition when we hear the name for God, Alpha and Omega. We know that God is all infinite, all encompassing, and we breeze right through what that means without much examination.

Today let’s explore what it really means that God is the Alpha and the Omega, or the beginning and the end. The Alpha part is my favorite part to think about, though I usually liken it to being someone in charge or the leader - as an adjective. In the context of the noun, as God is Alpha, the beginning, He the first in a sequence of things, He is the start, The Creator.

I don’t know about you, but I love the beginning of things. A new project, the beginning of a vacation, the first bite of my meal, weddings, the first time wearing my new outfit. How often do we look at “Alpha” and get excited and looking forward to what is to come? What are you beginning that you’re excited about?

There is a similarity in the way I look at God the Alpha, I LOVE His beginning’s… promises of new life, a fresh start, a new outlook, a new relationship. I love that He is the creator of all things, He is the source of the beginning. He is creating us newly, doing new works in us, refreshing our minds. He miraculously heals us, giving us a new beginning at life! He is the beginning of something new! Wow! I couldn’t get more excited!

Make a list of all the things and people God has created for you and your life.

I think we should stop this devotion right here so we can just go about the rest our day thinking about all the blessings in the beginnings… Just kidding, but really, who wants to shift gears and think about the OMEGA, or the END of something… of your favorite show on Netflix? You are there getting ready to select play, and you see there are no more episodes, it’s the last one!! Don’t you hesitate and question your timing?! Instantly, aren’t you so sad, and maybe a little panicked?

We don’t want things to end, relationships, an era, good weather, vacation. Pause for moment and listen to the emotions and the thoughts that come up for you when you think about something being the end.

Webster’s dictionary says, “The limitation that indicates full extent.” all used up, none left, no more, all out, or all gone. No wonder we don’t want to talk about the end! It’s so definitive, there is no possibility for anything new or anything else to come after that. It is impossible once you come to the end of your bag of chips, to eat another chip - you are left with no choices.

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Looking at our lives through the lens that God is the END of everything gives us the opportunity to drastically change our perspective of how we see the end, but only when we remember that He is also the Alpha.

You see if the One who ends it is also the One who begins it, we do not have to be sad about the end of anything. We know that the One who ended it it is also the One who began it!

What If you look at God as the Omega and the Alpha? (The end and the beginning?) Hopefully you can start to see the end as an opportunity for God to start again! 

Have you been dancing? I am an awesome dancer(lie); Neil and I love to go out to do a little country 2-step on the weekends, and visually the pattern of God being the Omega & Alpha sort of reminds me of the 2-step.

1st step a little slow, second step slow, third step is faster… right on the ‘heels’ of the step before it. Once that movement starts and then ends, the next step is faster and immediately the next beginning is right there.

God doesn’t leave us in the End, or with no more, or all used up. How many times do we use those words? I don’t have any more energy, there’s no time left, I don’t have enough experience. While there may be an end to your day, God is the beginning of energy. And while there may be a short to your fuse, God creates a new passion in you! While it may be the end of your patience, God is the beginning of patience and He is right there with renewed patience for you! He is right there, after the Alpha is the Omega, and then the Alpha and Omega, and He never stops.

Questions:

In what ways does this conversation change how you can approach “the end” of things in your life? What ways does it change how you approach “the beginning” of things?

Isaiah 43:19a says, “see I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”

Do you see the new things that God is doing in your life? If not, ask him to reveal them to you.

Where is it you would really like to see a new beginning? Is there anything that you need to seek forgiveness for? Do not fear, God is right there with a new beginning for you.

PrayerDear God, we can look and see the evidence of your new beginnings all around us, often times struggling to identify them in our lives. Please forgive us for any place that we see things ending and are bitter, discouraged, or sad.

Remind us moment by moment that you are the Alpha and the Omega, that you have began a new work in us, and that you are always creating newly in and for us.

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #22 - NAME OF GOD: Bread of Life
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““For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘always give us this bread.’ Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’”

– John 6:33-35 NIV

NAME OF GOD: Bread of Life

by Don Mershon

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Jesus says three major things here. First, he recognizes the hunger for bread beyond physical bread. "They said to him, 'Lord, give us this bread always.'" This was a mixed crowd of believers and unbelievers, but when they understood that Jesus was talking about something other than physical bread, they immediately wanted it.

This is true all over the world. You cannot go anywhere on earth today without finding people hungry for something more than a full belly and a comfortable home. There is a hunger in us that cries for more. Jesus recognized this. Everyone in this crowd wanted whatever it was he was offering. They did not understand what it was, but they wanted it. They sensed there was more to life than bread.

Then Jesus tells the crowd plainly (verse 35) how to eat and partake of the bread of life. He uses two simple things everyone understands: hunger and thirst: "He who comes to me shall never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." What do you do when you are hungry? You eat, and if you keep on eating regularly you will never hunger. What do you do when you are thirsty? You drink, and if you keep on drinking you will never thirst. What Jesus is saying is that if you're hungry, then eating him is coming to him. "Coming" means to see him as present in your life and expecting him to do something -- to act, to comfort, to strengthen, whatever it is. "Eating" means a sense of expectancy that he is available and that he will act. "Drinking" is believing, listening to what he has to say and obeying it. If you keep on doing that you will never thirst. The more you have Jesus in your life, the less hungry and thirsty you will be because you will not have the need to look for other things and people to fill you up.

PrayerThank you, Our Father, for the bread that came down from heaven, that Bread of Life which is available to us, Lord, which you have offered to give us, and do give us, as we believe in you. Teach us what these words mean. In Jesus' name, Amen.

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #21 - NAME OF GOD: The Truth
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“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

– John 8:31-32 NIV

NAME OF GOD: The Truth

by Rosalie Lund

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I love puzzles; I like putting things in order, figuring things out through logic, finding the true answer. Also, as a kid (and sometimes now) I loved watching game shows. One of my favorites was To Tell The Truth. This was the show where a panel of celebrities (usually comedians) would try to discover which of 3 contestants were telling the truth about their occupation, distinction, or talent by asking them questions and deciding whom to believe. That’s a big part of what we do all the time in life. And it’s what each of us must do in making a decision about Jesus.

What is Truth?

  • Some dictionary definitions:
  • that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.
  • a fact or belief that is accepted as true.
  • the body of real things, events, and facts
  • actuality; the state of being the case
  • fact

How does this apply to Jesus?

Randy Alcorn says, “Truth is far more than a moral guide. Jesus declared, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). He didn’t say He would show the truth or teach the truth or model the truth. He is the truth. Truth personified. He is the source of all truth, the embodiment of truth and therefore the reference point for evaluating all truth-claims.” (Jesus.com How is Jesus “the Truth”?)

So, Jesus is our reference point for knowing the truth because He is the Truth. Truth is that which conforms to reality as it is perceived by God. He knows all things exhaustively, and so we can trust anything He reveals in Scripture. Truth is not defined by our own subjective standards; it is determined by the Source of truth Himself.

What does Scripture reveal to us?

Psalm 119:142 says, “Your law is the truth.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded His listeners of several points of the Law, then said, “But I say unto you . . .” (Matthew 5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44), thereby equating Himself with the Law of God as the authoritative standard of righteousness. In fact, Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17). Jesus, as the incarnate Word of God (John 1:1) is the source of all truth.

In these words, Jesus was declaring Himself the great “I Am,” the only path to heaven, the only true measure of righteousness, and the source of both physical and spiritual life. He was staking His claim as the very God of Creation, the Lord who blessed Abraham, and the Holy One who inhabits eternity. He did this so the disciples would be able to face the dark days ahead and carry on the mission of declaring the gospel to the world. Once they understood the truth of His words, they became changed people, and the world has never been the same.

So how do we follow Him today?

The same way the disciples did. They heard the words of Jesus and believed them. They took His words and obeyed them. They confessed their sins to Jesus as their Lord and God. They believed that He died to take the punishment of their sins and rose from the dead to give them new life. They followed His example and command to tell others the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment. When we follow Him in this way, we can be assured of following Him all the way to heaven. (Source: gotquestions.org/way-truth-life)

Ponder these things in your heart:

How will I -

  • Hear the words of Jesus?
  • Believe and obey Jesus’ words?
  • Confess my sins to Jesus (God)?
  • Follow Jesus’ example?
  • Tell others the Truth?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to show us the Truth that you are. Allow Holy Spirit to guide us into that Truth, and help us to believe and obey so that we may live free from guilt and shame. Lead us to where we can show others the Truth that is You, Jesus. Amen.

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #20 - NAME OF GOD: The Good Shepherd
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“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

– John 10:11 NASB

NAME OF GOD: The Good Shepherd

by Anne Ivans

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As we know from our studies of Scripture, there are many names for Jesus. I find it interesting that Jesus chose to call Himself different things, many of which form visual images. The good shepherd would be a particularly meaningful name to the people of Jesus’ area and time of life on Earth.

What is a good shepherd? One who lays down his life for the sheep. We are Jesus’ sheep. This verse is so commonplace in Christian culture; it is widely quoted and very familiar. The verses that are very familiar often pass by my attention and contemplation as I have heard them and thought about them before. I develop sort of a spiritual malaise, where my eyes glaze over, and I start to contemplate more meaningful things, such as what is for dinner and what do I need at the grocery store. Fighting that very real battle, I will attempt to do this verse justice.

I remember listening to a sermon years ago where the pastor talked about sheep. My dad’s family were cattle people in southern Idaho, and cattle people are not fond of sheep. Sheep are known to be dumb. Sheep will follow almost anyone; sheep will graze almost anywhere. Sheep will wander away from their shepherd and not even know they are wandering. Sheep are easily distracted and probably have ADHD. Sheep are not considered noble animals. They are not the lions and jaguars of the animal world. There is nothing stealthy or sexy about sheep. When children play, they are lions, tigers, bears, or elephants. It is boring to stand around and graze all day. No one wants to be a sheep. And yet we are… all of the above, we are… we are easily distracted and drawn away from God, we will eat almost anywhere. Put something sparkly in front of us, and we will follow it forever… think sin and the lure of Las Vegas.

But Jesus is the Good Shepherd. How do we distinguish between a good and bad shepherd? 

A good shepherd feeds his sheep. We are fed the perfect food: the food that never runs out or grows moldy. We are fed good and nutritious food, the Word of God. This food nourishes our soul. I think about the prisoners who were fortunate enough to have memorized Scripture, how this very food sustained them, during the most horrific torture, and gave them hope. We are told to be filled with the Word. It is to fill us up and to overflow out of us, onto those around us. 

A good shepherd keeps his sheep with him. He knows each of them and knows which ones are prone to wander and which ones he can count on by his side. He knows their very nature, and he loves them. He knows the sheep are weak and feeble and needy, yet of tremendous value. He knows they have a purpose and importance even in the animal world, where they lack the glamour of the carnivorous beasts.

A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He will fight off the bigger more threatening animals. He will fight to the death, His death, before He allows one of His own to be consumed by the evil one. He will hike over rocky hills in search of the wandering one. We are not like this, but we want to be. We want to be noble, strong and true. We cheer for the solder that will go back for a fallen comrade; we root for the strong and mighty warrior that protects the frail and weak in the movies. We want to be like Jesus, until it gets hard.

Looking again at sheep, consider the value. Sheep are sheared and their wool is woven into beautiful sweaters that warm us. This winter, think on that, when you are cold. Or when you are warm, enjoying the wool that was provided for you. The sheep will grow more wool and provide for us over and over. Sheep are also adaptable. After all, they will eat almost anything.

Christmas is just a few days away, where we will be celebrating the birth of Our Savior, the Good Shepherd. In response to this great gift, we are thankful. Thankful that Jesus chose to be obedient, to come to Earth at all. He must have been enjoying sweet fellowship with his Dad, and then to be born in a cold dark manger… We are also thankful and grateful that Jesus laid down His life for us. Most of us are not called to die for Jesus, but to live. We are called to follow Him and know Him as best we can. We are called to be obedient sheep.

How to be an obedient sheep (the check list):

1. Are you following Jesus? Are you actively listening and feeding on His Word?

2. Are you easily distracted during this season? Are all the bright and shiny things leading you to follow another shepherd — one that is not looking out for your soul?

3. Are you adaptable? When it comes time to lose that wool coat, and you are vulnerable, how will you stay warm?

4. Are you spending time with other obedient sheep or are you wanting to be something more glamorous, like a lion or a jaguar?

In closing, my dad liked to tell this story about my grandfather. My grandpa was a boy in the school room, and his teacher asked him: “Herbert, if you had 10 sheep in the barn, and 3 got out, how many would you have left?” His response was “none”. His teacher reprimanded him and said “Herbert, you do not know your arithmetic facts!” He replied “Teacher, you don’t know sheep.”

Merry Christmas!

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #19 - NAME OF GOD: Lion of the Tribe of Judah
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Your devotional haiku for the day:

Praying our Lord’s names,
He reveals himself to us
So we’ll know Him well.

NAME OF GOD: Lion of the Tribe of Judah

by Kris Hilgaertner

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The Lion of Judah is first hinted at in Genesis and returns fully in Revelation. When Jacob is on his deathbed, he calls his sons in to give them his last blessing and give each a prophesy. Though Judah was a far from perfect son, he’d grown in character and in leadership. Jacob tells Judah and his brothers:

8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down before you. 9 Judah is a lion's cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? 10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, (Genesis 49)

From then on, Judah was known as “Judah the Lion,” who would be a warrior and king that the other tribes would follow. From his tribe would come King David whose "heart is as the heart of a lion" (II Sam. 17:10) and, eventually, Jesus.

Then we hear Jesus referred to in the book of Revelation as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah at a very dramatic point in time. In John’s vision, he has just seen an incredible manifestation of heaven with Jesus sitting on the throne worshiped by the elders and the heavenly beings. 

1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

The Lion has roared and King Jesus has conquered the enemy of death and sin once and for all and has redeemed his people from God’s judgement. Interesting, in the verses that follow we are reminded how the Lion of Judah conquered. He does not conquer with a mighty roar. He does not smite the enemy with a powerful swipe of his paw, or trample the enemy with his strength and might. Instead, He conquers death and sin by becoming a Lamb. He is the sacrificial Lamb whose death paid the price for us all, so that God’s justice is maintained, the penalty is paid and we are forgiven. And for that, King Jesus is worthy to break the seal of the scroll.

 6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, 

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

The mighty Lion of the Tribe of Judah allowed himself to be led like a Lamb to the slaughter in order to save you for eternity with the Father. Out of His immeasurable love for you, he rescued you and brought you home!

Questions:

What has the Lion of Judah conquered in your life for you on your behalf? From where or what has he delivered you?

What does God still need to conquer in your life on your behalf? 

What is keeping you from letting his Kingdom reign in your heart? Mind? Actions?

When was the last time you worshiped like the elders and angels did in Revelation?

Meditate on Revelation Chapters 4 and 5. And use the time to worship Him in his majesty. Feel free to use this song in your prayer time to worship.

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #18 - NAME OF GOD: Lamb of God
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"The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”

– John 1:29 ESV

NAME OF GOD: Lamb of God

by Kara Helland

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Lamb of God- it sounds so personal, so loving, so safe…

I love this name of Jesus, it reminds me that God is not some unreachable Higher Being in the sky, but He is a humble and loving Father - He is the Lamb of God. The Lamb of God name for God is timeless - as we will see, it is used frequently, from the Old Testament throughout the Bible all the way to Revelation. Today, let’s take some time to look at some Bible verses that pertain to Jesus being the Lamb of God.

“Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His, we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” - Psalm 100:3 ESV

“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” - Revelation 7:17 ESV

Psalm 100:3 reminds us that not only is Jesus the Lamb of God, but we as Christians are also considered God’s sheep. Since Christ died for us, we can be considered unblemished before our Father. God loves us so much, and He has displayed His love by finding a way for us to be included in His family as His sheep. At the same time we see from Revelation that Jesus is not only The Lamb of God, but He is our Shepherd. He is both man and God, both Lamb and Shepherd.

“Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb.’” - Exodus 12:21 ESV

In the Old Testament days, a lamb would have been a common sacrificial animal. Calling Jesus the Lamb of God displays how He is the Perfect Lamb who died in our place. We no longer have to follow the procedures of sacrificing animals since Jesus has covered our sin once and for all. This is an evident example of how the Old Testament speaks of the King to come - Jesus.

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” - Revelation 21:22

When Jesus is called the Lamb of God, it shows that He is the final offering. Not only does the Old Testament point to Him as being the Lamb of God and therefore the ultimate sacrifice, but Revelation shows us that Jesus is the eternal Lamb of God who lasts forever.

“And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals. And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.’” - Revelation 5:5-6 ESV

Lambs are completely helpless and vulnerable animals. When a Lamb senses danger, he flees since he has no other way to defend himself. Likewise, when Jesus came to earth, He made himself helpless for us. We also see in verse 5 that He is referred to as “the Lion of Judah” which sounds anything but defenseless. It’s like He took His Power, and He set it aside for us.

Questions:

   •   What do you first think of when you hear Jesus being referred to as the Lamb of God?

   •   How does “the Lamb of God” reflect Jesus’ character?

   •   Reflect on how Jesus is able to be both the Shepherd and the Sheep; Lion and the Lamb.

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #17 - NAME OF GOD: Lord
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“You call me ‘Teacher' and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.”

– John 13:13 NIV

NAME OF GOD: Lord

by Joe Emmi

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In the New Testament we find Jesus addressed or referred to as Lord many times. The Greek word for Lord is "Kurios". It carries the meaning of supreme authority. It is sometimes translated as "sir" or "master", and in one place "God", but usually as “Lord". At the time of the early English translations of the bible, "Lord" was a term of respect for someone in a higher position, usually a member of the nobility, a higher social class. Even today In England, they still have people who are called "lords" and "ladies" because they have been given or inherited a title. 

What is interesting about Jesus' case is that people often referred to him as Lord, even while he was under cover, so to speak. As we celebrate his birth we are reminded that he was born in a stable and laid in a feeding trough. As Isaiah declares, “He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” (Is. 53:20). He was a simple craftsman from an ordinary family from a despised village. When Nathaniel first heard of Jesus, his reaction was, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

However, in Jesus we meet a human who truly is in a higher class. He is Lord, not by title, but by his very nature. Because he is both divine and human, he is in a category above all others. When he walked this earth everyone could sense that Jesus spoke and acted with authority, even his enemies. The people marveled that he taught with authority, the rulers questioned by what authority he cleared the temple, his disciples wondered at his authority over the wind and waves of the sea. However, Jesus' authority and power emanated from his being and not from a title he carried or something external. That tripped many people up. The folks from his village thought , “isn't he just one of us, didn't he grow up here, don't we know his whole family?” Yes, he was by all appearances just one of us, and he was rejected by many. And yet, people who had an honest heart, knew they were in the presence of someone who was different and somehow greater than themselves in spite of appearing as a very ordinary man. They could not help but recognize his nobility, his authority, even though they did not yet know he was in fact God incarnate. So, they called him Lord.

At the same time, Jesus' nobility was so different from any other. You could get close and be perfectly safe in his presence. He came not to "Lord it over" others like earthly rulers (Luke 22:25). He taught that the first should be the last and that the greatest was the one who served everyone else. He had time for children, for the broken, for the outcast. He humbly stooped to wash his own disciples’ feet in our passage from John 13. Even though he was rightly called “Lord", yet he came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life for us all. He died the death of a condemned criminal in our place, not willing to say a word or call on his angel army to defend himself, because he wanted to save the people who were his rightful subjects. Even after his resurrection, we find him cooking breakfast on the beach for his disciples. The world had never seen a Lord like that. Yet, that is what true nobility is all about...

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,  and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9-11)

Questions:

How do I see the nobility of Jesus in the gospels?  

Does the humility and gentleness of Christ diminish or enhance his Lordship? 

Have I ever seen the nobility of Christ reflected in a brother or sister? How so?

What is the path to glory that Jesus modeled? 

If the Lord Jesus lives in me, what might I expect his Spirit to lead me to do or be?

How might my amazing Lord Jesus be asking me to follow his example today?

Pray:

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #16 - NAME OF GOD: Living Water
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Jesus answered her, “if you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

– John 4:10

NAME OF GOD: Living Water

by Laura Bodine

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One of my very favorite stories in the New Testament is Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well as told in John chapter 4. I love this story because Jesus purposefully sought out someone not even seeking Him. A woman considered a nobody by others. She was seen not just as worthless by economic and societal standards, but when Jesus came to her, she was also living an immoral life.

The Jews and the Samaritans had a mutual disdain for one another so the fact that Jesus, a Jew, would even enter Samaria let alone take the time to rest there was a big deal. Also, in Jesus’ day, it wasn’t acceptable for a Jewish man, much less a Rabbi, to speak to any woman in public let alone a Samaritan woman.

The Rabbis also thought that Jewish women should not be taught the Scriptures. So, when Jesus goes beyond merely asking for a drink and directs the conversation into spiritual things with the Samaritan woman, this interaction is off the charts.

In verse 11 of John chapter 4 it says “the woman said to Him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Notice that He does not say that He is the living water, but that He would give living water to her, and when she received it, she would never thirst again. Of course, that does not tell us what the living water is. For that, we must go to another passage of Scripture. In this case, Jesus is in the temple surrounded by a throng of worshipers. He suddenly cries out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37–39, emphasis added).

Here Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the living water. External influence of the Spirit had always been given in the conversion and sanctification of the Old Testament saints and prophets, but the gift of the Spirit who would indwell believers had not yet been received (Acts 10:44–45). So, though many people say that Jesus is the living water, Jesus Himself intended the phrase to mean the Holy Spirit who dwells in believers and seals them for salvation (Ephesians1:13–14).

It is the ministry of the Spirit, flowing out of a heart redeemed by God, that blesses believers and, through them, brings life and light to the world.

The Holy Spirit is the never-ending fountain of living water. And this living water is meant to fill our lives and then it’s meant to overflow from us in order that others might be served, refreshed and drawn to the Spirit of God that dwells within us. How does one get to a place where they are living a Spirit filled life that overflows to others? We simply ask God for the empowerment of His Spirit. We admit we’re thirsty and desire a life that draws others into a relationship with Jesus.

In Luke 11:13 Jesus said “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?”

Christ is the spring of life that flows from each believer`s depth, as an endless wellhead. The Holy Spirit is the never-ending fountain of living water. When we accept the fullness of the blessings that Jesus offers, he will fully and permanently satisfy the deep thirst of the human soul. We will find peace and we will become a source of blessing for others, just as the woman at the well ultimately became a blessing to those around her. Nothing the world has to offer will ever satisfy the thirst and hunger in our souls. Only Jesus and His Holy Spirit, the Living Water, will quench our thirst forever.

Questions:

Are you feeling spiritually dry? If so…

How often are you going to the source of living water? Through prayer, time spent in the Word of God and in church where the Spirit flows?

Have you offered this living water to others as Jesus did with the woman at the well?

Prayer:

Lord, we come to you today in need of your Living Water. Walking in this world with distractions and things that pull us from you, remind us that what our souls thirst for and long for is more of You. Empty us of ourselves and empower us by your Holy Spirit to do your work.

We pray our lives would be a source of refreshment and blessing to the people you put in our path. Help us to see others the way you see them. Just as you saw the woman at the well as being of great worth just as she was, we pray you’d give us the ability to see others the same way. Give us the desire to share the great hope we have in you. In Your great and perfect name we pray, Amen.

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #15 - NAME OF GOD: Vine
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NAME OF GOD: Vine

by Brett Bodine

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The idea of the vineyard and the vine would have been familiar to the Disciples and the Jewish people. There are several references in the Old Testament including Isaiah 5:7 which says,

“The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel,and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in…”

In the seventh and final “I AM” statement from the book of John, Jesus declares that He is the True Vine and His Father is the vinedresser. He tells us that we are the branches. The vine is the source of life for the branches. When the branches are attached to the vine they have everything they need to thrive and bear fruit. Jesus then tells us that we are to abide in Him so that we will bear fruit. The Greek word for abide is ménō meaning to continue, to dwell, to endure, to be present, to remain and to stand. Without Jesus, we can bear no fruit but when we abide in Him not only will we bear fruit but much fruit. John 15:8 says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” What exactly is this fruit?

The ultimate fruit of our abiding in Jesus is love. Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love…”. John 13:34, 35 says, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Only by abiding in Jesus, our vine, can we demonstrate true agapē love for one another. Jesus tells us that there is no greater love than to lay down our lives for our friends. As branches connected to the true vine of Jesus we are connected to the source of love and have this love in us. 

What makes this even more amazing is verse 16 in chapter 15 of John: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” Paul says, in Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Putting this all together means that God created us to do good works, He chose us to be connected to the vine, He supplies everything we need to bear lasting fruit, He prepared the good works in advance for us to do and He promises to give us everything we ask for to accomplish those works. It’s all about Him. It has nothing to do with us. Our only responsibility is to be present, to be connected, to endure, to abide in Jesus. When we abide we will bear the fruit of love which will produce more fruit: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Questions:

Are we abiding in Christ or are we distant?

If we examine our lives, do we see fruit?

What does it mean to love one another?

Do you remember the amazing things that God has done in your life and tell others about them?

Prayer:

Jesus, you are the True Vine. Help us to draw closer to you and abide in you that we may bear much fruit in our lives. Fill us with Holy Spirit in order to love others as you first loved us. May we find joy in our lives regardless of our circumstances knowing that you are the source of life and without you we are nothing. Prepare us for the good works you have planned for us. Thank you for choosing us. In your name we pray, Amen!

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #14 - NAME OF GOD: Word
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NAME OF GOD: Word

by Diane Anderson

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I've been part of a ladies' Bible study this fall. We just started the book of Revelation. Our very first lesson focused on John's vision of Jesus and I was struck by the image of a sharp, two-edged sword coming from His mouth. The sword is a metaphor used throughout the Bible for God's actual words. Yet John, in his Gospel, referred to Jesus himself as THE WORD. I had to research more—to get a better understanding of all that this Name of my Savior meant. (Imagine my awe, a few weeks later, when I saw that I would be writing a devotional on this very thing)! There's so much, it's hard to pare down what I learned. However, I do see three main ways that Christ, as The WORD of God, works in our lives through the Bible—the inspired spoken words of God.

First, we exist because "God said…"

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:1-5, NIV)

It's hard to see a person as being a word printed on paper. I think John was a bit of a poet. He used a lot of metaphors and descriptive language in his writing. (Probably why God chose to reveal the visions in Revelation to him). But since Jesus was with God as the WORD, when "God said…" all of creation was SPOKEN into being through the WORD—through Christ! This simply proves Christ's authority over all creation—that He was and is the WORD that gives us life! We exist simply because of Christ.

Second, we have access to God.

"God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what." (Hebrews 4:12-13, MSG)

If you read the whole of Hebrews 4, you will see that its opening subject is entering into God's rest and the closing one is about being able to approach God through Jesus as the High Priest. Verses 12 and 13—a small section—are sandwiched between two pictures of relationship with God. The WORD is so sharp it cuts away the fluff and disease of sin to expose the unseen thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. It's only then that we are convicted of our sin and can repent and accept Christ's work of salvation from those sins. It's the acceptance of the WORD's entire work that allows us the fullness of life in fellowship with God.

Third, The WORD brings fully abundant life.

Because Christ spoke us into being and because we've accepted His work of salvation from sins, we are His people. In another metaphor, John pictures us as His sheep. I love this imagery. I love that the WORD is implied in a voice.

"The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice…The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:3b-5, 10, NIV)

When we know the Bible Word, we know Jesus' voice. He will not speak anything contrary to Scripture. So when the thief of peace, hope, life and love speaks we can tell it's not our life-giving WORD. Running away—rejecting—the words of our enemy keeps us safe. It doesn't limit our freedom to only follow Christ. It saves us for life—and not just any life. We have fully abundant and eternal life. Hallelujah!

Questions:

How can you know more of the Word and the WORD?

What part of this devotion is a word for you?

Reword that part in a prayer to God.

What does God want you to do in response to today's devotional?

PrayDear Father God, Thank you for our existence. Thank you for your WORD—Jesus, our Creator, Savior and Guide. Please help us to keep our focus on Him so that we can continue to hear His words and voice and follow Him in trust. We want that fully abundant and eternal life you have planned for us. So keep us from the enemy who wants to destroy our souls. Praise you, Almighty Word. In Jesus's Holy Name, Amen.

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #13 - NAME OF GOD: Christ, Messiah
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Jesus asked, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They replied, “The son of David.”                                                       

 - Matthew 22:42

“But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” 

- Luke 9:20

and, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" 

- Matthew 16:16

 

The woman (at the well) said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you – I am he.” 

- John 4:25

NAME OF GOD: Christ, Messiah

by Rosalie Lund

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Christos, The Anointed One: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” (1 John 4:2) John uses two names, Jesus, which refers to His human name, and Christ, which refers to His divine title. Jesus Christ is fully man and fully Messiah at the same time. Christ, which means Messiah, the Anointed One is His divine title. Jesus is God in human flesh. – lwf.com(LoveWorthFinding)

The Old Testament is filled with prophecy, and the New Testament references that prophecy, of a coming Messiah, a Savior King, coming to rescue the people of Israel from their oppression. Isaiah 40:10 says, “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him."

The Israelites clung to that prophecy and waited. They waited a long time; so long that the waiting became “part of the furniture,” as I sometimes like to say. They got so used to waiting that they no longer noticed the waiting. Many got so used to waiting that they missed the coming, and didn’t want to give up the waiting, because the coming wasn’t what they expected. Isaiah 40:11, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

But the shepherds knew – “And the angel said unto them: Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

Having been born into a musical family, and having been involved in choirs for a good ¾ of my life, one of the classical works most near and dear to my heart is Handel’s Messiah. I’ve sung the Christmas portion many times and even had the honor of performing the soprano solo, “Rejoice, O Daughter of Jerusalem.” Of course, performances always culminated in the singing of the “Hallelujah Chorus” at the end of the Christmas portion, though many don’t know that it is from the Easter portion of Handel’s work about the Gospel of Jesus Christ – which ends with His ascension to heaven and praise to Him for our hope of eternal life with Him. We don’t want to wait; we want to get to the exciting ending!

The “Hallelujah Chorus” is appropriate in many situations because it is a glorious exclamation, proclamation and celebration of the coming of Messiah, Jesus the Christ, God’s Anointed One! We use it at Christmas-time to celebrate Christ’s birth, and we use it at Easter-time to proclaim His Lordship. Is there anything more worthy of celebration? I think not. But, let’s not forget this “Hallelujah” excitement during the long times of waiting.

Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Questions:

Who do YOU say that Jesus is?

Today the waiting has changed from waiting for Christ to come, to waiting for Christ to come again.

Are you waiting eagerly for that?

Or, are you waiting in fear that…?

Or, has your waiting become “part of the furniture” (something you don’t really think about anymore)?

How can you (re)ignite an eager anticipation of Christ’s impending return?

Pray: Dear Sovereign Lord, holy is your Name – Jesus the Christ! Forgive any weakness of faith in me, any apathy that may have set in as the waiting for your return becomes longer, in my estimation. Restore to me the joy of my salvation and spur me to active anticipation of Your return. “Then shall I teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto You.” (Isaiah 51:13) Amen

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #12 - NAME OF GOD: Abba
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"The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 

- Romans 8:15

NAME OF GOD: Abba

by Steve Wells

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When I was given the name of “Abba” to do a writing on, I was excited and weary all at the same time. I’ve always loved my Dad, Jim, but it wasn’t until I held my first child that the word “Father” gained a whole new level of importance and meaning. When you read this devotion, my family and I will be experiencing the 1 year anniversary of my Father’s death. It’s been tough to experience the loss within me, but even more disheartening is to watch your child grieve the loss as well. Additionally, I have watched other mothers, siblings, wives, sons and daughters…my friends…mourn over the loss of their fathers. I’ve heard stories of fathers that inspired and some that were truly heartbreaking. I could go on and on about this, but I will spare you. I did want to tell you this: The only way that I was able to stand firm on my faith during my grief was through my relationship with Jesus Christ and His relationship with his Father, God. This gave me comfort and peace.

Did you know that “Father” is used of God in the Old Testament only 15 times while it is used of God 245 times in the New Testament? As a name of God, it stresses God’s loving care, provision, discipline, and the way we are to address God in prayer. Abba is the Aramaic word meaning Daddy, Father. It’s a term of warm affection, intimacy, and respect for one’s father. It is a distinctive New Testament revelation that through faith in Christ, God becomes our personal Father.

All of us have a father, but not all of us know our fathers. Father is just a title to some. I have a friend who told me of his biological father and how it was hard to respect him and he struggled to be with him in his very few moments spent with him. Yet, he still had the privilege of calling one man, “Daddy,” his stepdad who adopted him and raised him as his own. Galatians 4:4-7 and our main scripture for today, Romans 8:15, talk about adoption and being brought into the family of God as sons and daughters, heirs to the kingdom of heaven.

As you go through the rest of this day, reflect on those you call “Abba (Daddy), Father” and think of the ways in which they loved you. For those who are foreign to a loving Father AND for those who are familiar with having a loving Father: God, your ABBA FATHER, wants to graft you into his family tree by way of adoption. He wants to offer you sonship through his Son, Jesus Christ. He wants to make you heirs to the kingdom of heaven. I believe that in every heart of stone, lies the longing of a Father who will embrace them with warm affection and intimacy that leads to Heaven’s gates.

Questions:

Think back on who you considered to be your Abba (Daddy), Father. What were the attributes or words that best describe that person?

As you see the world around you as a Mother or a Father, a brother or a sister, how can you pay it forward to those who long for an “Abba?”

Is there anyone in your life that you think needs to hear that there’s a “Abba” in Heaven who loves them? Pray for them this week that they would come to know the love of their Abba in Heaven.

Pray:

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #11 - NAME OF GOD: Comforter
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NAME OF GOD: Comforter

by Carolynn Yancey

Six years ago was the last time I got the flu, and though I don’t remember much, I do remember being sure that death would be better than having the flu. I prayed to die, I prayed to just stop shaking, and I laid, buried down in my bed under my huge down-comforter; knowing that if I got out from under its protective warmth, it’s shield of safety, I would surely die.

“But the Advocate the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

- John 14:26

The English Standard Version has, the word ‘Advocate’ here to describe the Holy spirit, The original word Paracletos translates to Comforter or counselor, as a helper and an advocate; and properly means, “one called to the side of another”. Having the flu was one of the most terrible episodes of my body being sick, but even when I am not sick, my favorite thing to do at night is curl up under my comforter. It’s where I can close my eyes, rest my weary feet, and where I find the quiet peace. 

When was the last time your heart was tired, over-worked, and weary? Many of us have lost loved ones this year, and this will be your first Christmas without them. Maybe you're heartbroken for a friend you see with struggles. You are weary worrying about your children, or you are looking around at our world wondering where any of it is going.

What would life be like if you took all that worry, and weary heart, and wrap it up in your Comforter, the Holy Spirit? What kind of healing can we have if we give up our souls and hearts to the one who can bring peace, quietness, and rest?

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Here are some scriptures, pray and meditate on them, that the Holy Spirit who has come as Comforter will give you of the peace and rest that can only be found in Him:

 Joshua 1:9-10          Psalm 23:4       Romans 8:26

Ephesians 1:13-14     John 16:13         1 John 2:27

Questions:

What am I struggling with that I need to give up to the Holy Spirit?

What do these scriptures promise about my struggles?

Pray: Dear God, Thank you that you sent us Holy Spirit to comfort us, to come to our sides and advocate for us. When my heart is hurting, and my soul is tired from this life, please remind me that you are The Comforter, the only place I will find true peace. Please refresh my mind seeing my tears through your eyes, and bring me comfort and care even in the darkest times.

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #10 - NAME OF GOD: God Is Love
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"But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love”

- 1 John 4:8

NAME OF GOD: God Is Love

by Don Mershon

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When we surrender our lives to God and become his, the Holy Spirit renews our minds. We develop a love and a desire to care for others that we did not have before. We will find ourselves being more selfless by thinking and doing for others on a regular basis to reflect God's love. We will gain a love and compassion for others that God will put into our hearts. The closer we are to God, the more love we will have for others. We truly know God is love by him sending his only son to Earth for the ultimate sacrifice of dying for our sins. He cares for and loves us..

How can we show God's love towards others today?

God forgives us for sins and wants us to forgive others that have hurt us (Ephesians 4:31-32). When we forgive, we are showing love-God is love.

God says that to love your neighbor like you love yourself is the most important commandment of them all (Mark 12:31). When we love our neighbors like ourselves, we are showing love-God is love.

God created everyone and loves everyone like his children. He wants us to love everyone-even our enemies (Luke 6:27-36). When we pray for or do good things for our enemies, we are showing love-God is love.

Pray:

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #9 - NAME OF GOD: Our Peace
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“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.”

-Ephesians 2:14 NASB

“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

-Philippians 4:9 NASB

NAME OF GOD: Our Peace

by Anne Ivans

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“He himself is Our Peace.” When you read the first verse, you can see that He joined groups and broke down barriers. Earlier in the chapter, Paul discusses how the Gentiles (us), were separated from Christ and excluded from the blessing that was to be for Israel alone. Through Christ, the walls between groups, between races and cultural differences are eliminated. The text also talks about how we were created for good works, therefore we should “walk in them”. I like how it says “walk in them” rather than do them. We are to live there, rather than have a few good works as a sprinkling to our day, like one more item on our “to do” list. It is as if wherever good works are done, there we are….our friends would know where we would be.

The verse from Philippians tells us how to have peace. I love how God makes things so clear and simple. You have learned and received instruction. We even have some visual aids and some mental videos of Jesus’ example… now PRACTICE these things. Not other things. These things. The ones we saw Jesus do. It is not confusing… but we like to make it so… We think our situations are so difficult and complex. Really? Who are we fooling? Practice. I remember listening to the statistics of how much piano practice went into the creation of a concert pianist. If most people practiced that much, they would reach the same level of greatness. I have heard the same for professional athletes. Yes, there is natural gifting, but this accounts for about 3% of the difference between the super star and the really good performer. I think about the things I practice, and I really get better at them! I also don’t get better at the things I don’t practice. I practiced not eating candy after Halloween, and every time I passed it in the grocery store, I got a little better at not buying it.

I am going to practice peaceable responses. I am also going to practice silence. It is amazing how powerful silence is, instead of the witty and snide comments I think. With more practice, I predict I will think more peaceful thoughts more often.

When we have the Creator of the Universe as Our Peace, think of the power we have! Christmas time is not traditionally associated with peacefulness, but consider a winter’s night after a snow fall. Consider a clear cold night, where the stars are magnificent. If you haven’t star-gazed on a cold winter’s night, I suggest it this year. Our kids loved bundling up in throws from the couch and going out on the back deck to look up in the heavens. It is a great place to discuss the Christmas story.

Lastly, He is OUR Peace. We are meant to enjoy the Peace of God, the Peace that IS God, together. He called us to celebrate the Peace that passes all understanding. As we live our days this Christmas season, let’s make the effort to see the peaceful and calm wonder. Underneath all the crazy hustle and bustle, find that undercurrent of cool refreshment, and breath it in deeply.

Questions:

Will doing “that activity” or saying “that thought” increase or decrease your peaceful nature? 

When you are with extended family this season, how can you share that God is Your Peace?

Are there activities that you can incorporate into your day, this season, to reduce stress and increase your peacefulness?

Ultimate Challenge: Peacefully and joyfully get through parking at the Mall or bad traffic. Thank and praise God for your practice time.

Pray:

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #8 - NAME OF GOD: The Lord of Glory
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Passages for today: Psalm 29:1-4, Psalm 24:7-10, James 2:1, 1Cor 2:8, Exodus 33

NAME OF GOD: The Lord of Glory

by Kris Hilgaertner

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In the Old Testament, the word “glory’ is usually the Hebrew word ‘kavod’ (כָּבוֹד), as in Psalm 29 and Psalm 24. ‘Kavod’ kind of glory suggests a figurative “heaviness” or “weight” as in a weighty idea. If a person carries “weight”, he has power, influence, might, honor, and worth. The “Lord of Glory” reveals a God who is worthy of our praise, our respect, and our awe.

In the New Testament, the Greek word “glory” in the James and 1Corinthian passages is ‘doxa’ (δόξα) means an opinion resulting in praise, honour, and glory, as well as “splendor” and “brightness” as it pertains to the moon, sun and stars. To God it pertains to His “majesty”, “magnificence”, “excellence”, “dignity” and “grace”.

One of the two pivotal stories in the Bible that have been central to my coming to faith and to my staying in the faith all these years through everything is Exodus 33, which immediately came to mind contemplating this “Lord of Glory”.

God was leading his people thru the desert to come into his Promised Land, and He’d called Moses to lead His people out of slavery—a tall order for a reluctant leader who kept begging for God to use someone else. Moses was called on to have massive amounts of faith as God had put him on the most ultimate ‘need to know basis’ of all time. He was given only bits of instruction and mere pieces of the plan each day. With that had to lead hundreds of God’s chosen people through a desert wasteland, and through a spiritual desert of doubt and worry, as they learned who God was and lived in hope of one day seeing the Promised Land to live out their special covenant with their Almighty God. But since of the Israelites continued to doubt and complain, God had decided to send them along to the Promised Land without Him.

This parent was exasperated with his children and their continued bellyaching! I mean they had a miraculous cloud from God to follow by day and a pillar of fire by night, but still they wondered if they were safe, and doubted God’s goodness and providence?? Haven’t you been “that guy” at one point or another? I know I have.

Yet, through his own doubts and worries, Moses loved God. He trusted his God. He sought the Lord. He wanted to know His ways. He longed to please God, to know Him, and to be with Him. And now God was sending them off alone??

12Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ …., “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?…17And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

God relented, and Moses got what he asked for. Yet he ached for more. So, he asks what I think to be the most profound request of all time:

18 “Now show me your glory.”

Five rather small words. But earth-shattering. The unadulterated nerve of Moses. The desperation of Moses. The honest, guttural yearning of the child to see his heavenly Father. The servant to presume of his Master. The courage to accept his own death for the opportunity to truly see Almighty God and Creator—for no one, to date, could be in the presence of a Being so pure and holy, and not be crushed under the “weight” of “glory”. No one could see God and live.

Yet Moses asks, “Show me your glory.” Moses can’t even begin to comprehend what he’s asking. Yet he asks. He beseeches. And God is wise. God is compassionate. He knows he cannot grant Moses exactly what he asks because Moses would not survive such “kavod” glory. 

God tells Moses, I cannot show you all of my glory. But I will allow my goodness— the shadow, the reflection, the close and lesser relative of my glory— to pass near you. And I will whisper my name as I go. The powerful wind that comes from the whispering of my holy and righteous name will even be too much for you. But I love you and will always protect you. I will place you in the cleft of a rock so you will not be blown away by my supreme omnipotence and holiness. And I will protect your eyes by covering them with my hand, so you will only see my goodness thru that veil of protection. (Exodus 33:19-23).

Friends, this is our Lord of Glory! He is that mighty!! I mean, when you and I want to impress someone, we say “You better sit down for this one.” With the Lord of Glory, he has to wedge a person inside a mountain, cover their eyes, lower His voice, and pass just nearby so they only see him from behind! And the vision of just the shadow of His back changed Moses forever. It changed me. This Lord of Glory, who is that great, yet he knows each puny little one of us by name and loves us with an undying love that will never give up on us! Has His revelation changed you?

God didn’t stop there. No, he continued to reveal himself in all his “doxa” with the New Covenant thru Jesus Christ. Now there is no need for the former protections, because through the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ, we can stand boldly in the presence of the Lord of Glory and not be crushed because, in Jesus, God sees us as pure, holy and acceptable. 

“And we all, with unveiled face beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2Cor.3:18)

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Take some time to praise the Lord of Glory for his greatness. Thank Him for His love, protection, salvation, compassion, kindness, faithfulness and revelation. And enjoy this song as part of your devotions today:

Pray:

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #7 - NAME OF GOD: Ancient of Days
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Prayer: Lord speak to me through your word this morning, show me part of who you are today.

NAME OF GOD: Ancient of Days

by Mike Conan

I have a confession to make. When I was younger we sang the praise song and hymn about the “Ancient of Days” in church, I had no idea that Ancient of Days was a name for God. I thought of the words as referring to a time before now. I was a little surprised that this was a name for God in the Book of Daniel.

The name comes from an apocalyptic vision of Daniel. His description of the vision is awe inspiring and full of glory and power. Daniel 7:9-10:

The Ancient of Days Reigns

9 “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.

10 A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment,  and the books were opened.

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The meaning of the name: In the Ancient Near East the throne symbolized who was in charge (king) and who would determine what was right or wrong (judge). The ancient of days name reminds us who is really in charge and who really determines what is right and wrong. This description presents God as the perfect King and judge. The very term “Ancient of Days” implies that God is full of wisdom and that He recognizes everything for what it is, he has seen everything and knows everything. God sees our actions and our intentions and He Himself defines whether they are good or evil. He also has full authority over the world. He has been on the throne and in power over the world for generation after generation.

The purpose of the Name: In the second part of this vision, the Ancient of days uses His power and wisdom to put the Son of Man in charge of the world! The description may sound familiar. 

The Son of Man Is Given Dominion

13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.

14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

For us today: The vision of Daniel was written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth. But, we now know that Jesus is the Son of Man from this vision. Jesus referenced himself as the Son of Man on numerous occasions (i.e. Matthew 9:6, Luke 9:22). In Matthew 28:16 and Philippians 2:9-11 we learn that “all power and authority have been given to Him”, just as was envisioned hundreds of years before. Jesus is the great king and judge and what He thinks of us and our actions is the most important thing in the world. 

Let’s be real for a moment, judgment to a broken and sinful people is a terrifying thing! Yet, Romans 8:31-34 reminds us that Jesus is not only our judge, but His victory on the cross has made Him our advocate! “If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Our king and judge has taken on judgment for us, that we might be free to serve Him!

Questions:

How does the name Ancient of Days inspire worship?

How does judgement associated with the name Ancient of Days cause you to pause?

How does Christ as the Son of Man cause you to be thankful?

Prayer: Ancient of Days, you indeed are the great King and the great judge of the world. Thank you for sending Christ to be judged in my place. Thank you that instead of living by fear I may live in bold freedom, knowing that Christ is not against me, but for me.

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017
Advent Flow #6 - NAME OF GOD: Lord God of Hosts
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“Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your Name, O Lord, God of Hosts.” 

-Jeremiah 15:16 ESV

NAME OF GOD: Lord God of Hosts

by Kara Helland

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“LORD God” means Yahweh or I Am. “Hosts” means sabaoth which is Hebrew for “armies.” Essentially, Lord God of Hosts means “God of the Armies of Heaven and Angels.” The Lord God of Hosts is a name that describes the Lord as being the God of the spiritual armies, and it shows up 261 times in the Old Testament. 

The Lord God of Hosts is such a humbling name to call our Father. It reminds me that God is not only God of everything that we see - the trees, the ocean, the seasons, etc. - but He is also God of so much more that we cannot see or can hardly imagine. Referring to God as God of Hosts means that we acknowledge that He is Lord of earth, heaven, space, mankind, angels, and everything else. It displays and recognizes how truly infinite and powerful our God is, and how He has a plan and purpose for everything He has created. It reminds me that God is so much bigger and greater than we even know, and how we have seen only a sliver of His creation. 

Everyday, God has armies fighting for us and our faith. He continuously protects and intercedes for us when we are unaware. His Power is so much greater than our struggles. As Christians, we can be bold knowing that the Lord fights for us and is for us. He is greater than our fear, He is greater than our pain, and He is greater than our hardships.

Questions:

How can knowing that God has armies fighting for you impact the way you live your daily life?

When was a time that God fought for you?

Today, focus on ways that God fights for you and your relationship with Him.

Pray:

FLOWFLOW StudyAdvent 2017