November 30, 2020

The Fall

Genesis 3:1-6, 8-15

God loved giving gifts to His kids, Adam and Eve.

But these weren’t the kind of presents that could fit in a box and be wrapped up with shiny paper and bows. No, they were better than that! God scattered stars across the sky and lit them up, like white twinkly lights. He gave them slow-moving, silly-looking, sleepy sloths and speedy, spotted cheetahs. Mighty trees with strong branches bursting with juicy fruits. See-through waters where scaly fish swam past spiny seahorses and crawling crabs. God gave Adam and Eve some good gifts to show them some important things about Himself: He was good, He loved them, He could always be trusted.

Then one day, along came Satan, who spoke lying words with his snaky tongue. He made Adam and Eve think, Hmmm, maybe God isn’t good. Maybe God doesn’t love us. Maybe God can’t be trusted. Satan whispered that to really be happy, they needed the one gift that God hadn’t given them—fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But instead of feeling happy after eating the fruit, Adam and Eve became very sad. Instead of being wise, they were ashamed.

Maybe you’re thinking after all this, God won’t want to give Adam and Eve any more gifts. But God had actually been waiting this whole time, until Adam and Eve had disobeyed and broken His one rule, to give them His best gift. What?! After they had disobeyed, He was going to give them His best gift? What could it be? What could God give His children that would be better than all the world? It was the gift that Adam and Eve most needed, the gift that would take away the sin that they had brought in, the gift that would smash their enemy’s head under Jesus’s foot. This gift would be a person who would make Adam and Eve remember that God was good, that God loved them, and that they could always trust Him.

God promised them His best, most perfect gift—the gift He had always wanted to give them: His Son, Jesus.

Discussion Questions

Can you think of a time that your mom or dad told you “no” to something that you really, really wanted? Why would your mom or dad, who love you, say “no” to something you really, really want?

Was there a time today that you disobeyed God? When you disobeyed, can you think of a lie that might have been whispered to your heart that made you think you’d be happier doing things your own way?

Do you think God was surprised when Adam and Eve ate the fruit off the tree?

This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.

November 27, 2020

Today you should read: Philemon

I returned to Facebook this year after a long absence. It is useful for my job that people can look me up, see my adorable kids and my lovely wife, and know that I’m not some weirdo texting them out of the blue. I must say that I’ve been very sad at the pile of refuse I’ve found there. Some things are good, most is not—even from believers. Let our contempt be challenged by Paul’s words to Philemon. 

The book of Philemon presents an amazing example of the unity and reconciliation found only in the Gospel. Onesimus ran away as a slave, and possibly a thief (18). Somehow someway, Onesimus found Paul. Perhaps Onesimus found Paul out because of the previous relationship with his master. We don’t really know how, where, when, or why Onesimus and Paul were joined up in Rome. All we know is that they were, and it was time to send Onesimus home. 

Paul sent this letter with Onesimus, carried by Tychicus, who also delivered Colossians (Colossians 4:7–9). Who knows what Philemon might have felt when Onesimus walked back into his home—rage at the betrayal, contempt at the thievery. Paul’s letter has several important keys worth noting. 

First, Paul widened the circle. Paul did not write to Philemon only. He wrote to Apphia and Archippus,, as well as the church that met in his house. Everyone was included in the process of reconciliation. That’s how it should be—the Lone Ranger attempt at relationships is not the way God designed it. 

Second, Paul butters up Philemon and the others masterfully as we see in verses 4–7—I hear of your love and of the faithfor all the saintsbecause the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. Basically, Paul is gushing at Philemon and the Ephesian church and how they take care of believers, and now the slave, Onesimus is a believer

Paul makes an appeal in verses 8–16. By verse 17, Paul’s position is pretty clear. Philemon owes Paul everything as his spiritual father (19). In verse 20, Paul wants Philemon to refresh his heart as with the saints back in verse 7. Paul makes the strongest statement in verses 21–22, Paul has not asked Philemon to free Onesimus, however, it’s pretty clear that that’s his expectation. Verse 21 says, “You better obey, and, oh by the way, (v 22) I’ll be visiting soon.” 

While many may say, “Oh, slavery in ancient Rome wasn’t like American slavery…” the truth is that both groups were thought of as property, not people, and had no rights of their own. Under both circumstances, killing a slave would be like destroying a valuable piece of farm equipment—it’s not illegal and you wouldn’t go to jail, it just cost you personally. 

We are tempted to ask, “Why didn’t Paul outright condemn slavery?” The first answer is I don’t know. Secondly, it was a normal societal relationship. What Paul did do, and ultimately what led to the abolition of slavery in most modern countries, was show the value and humanity of slaves. All people are created in the image of God (Imago Dei), slave and free alike. 

Church, we need to remember that fact. All people reflect the Imago Dei with all the dignity and value therein. We might disagree on politics, theology, parenting strategies, the usefulness of essential oils, etc. but everyone with whom we might disagree is worthy of our respect and deserve fair treatment. In a very difficult and divisive time, let us live in grace and truth, and be a light in a dark world. 

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

God is honored when we intentionally seek Him in prayer. As a church, we want dependent prayer to be something that marks us. Use the comment section to post prayer requests and experiences of how God has answered prayer and/or changed you through prayer! If you would like to be enrolled to get weekly prayer reminders, text @cpclex to 81010.

November 26, 2020

Today you should read: Zephaniah 3

In Zephaniah 3 we read the story of life… the narrative of humanity.  Your story and my story.

We see:

The Damage of Sin (v.1)

Sin is a terrible taskmaster.  Just ask Samson – or David – or Adam.  It brings damage into our lives that we can’t undo for a long time.

The Pain of Rebellion (v.2-4)

Rebellion distorts our view of God and reality.  It causes us to make decisions that are imprudent and costly.  

See it in the text…

  • No one can tell you anything (v.2)
  • You refuse all correction (v.2)
  • You trust in yourself – not in the Lord (v.2)
  • You seek your own gain (v.4)
  • You disobey God’s instructions (v.4)

BUT the Lord is still there… (v.5)

Even though we walk away from Him, He does not desert us.  He patiently waits while He works in our lives to bring us back to Himself.

The Benefits of Repentance (v.10-13)

Repentance is when we realize we’ve drifted, and we turn back to the Lord in humility.  We seek to be restored.

The Blessings of Obedience (v.14-20)

Watch what doors obedience opens…

  • The Lord will remove His hand of judgement (v.15)
  • He will protect you (v.15)
  • His presence will surround you (v.15)
  • He will bring you home again (v.20)

All of this is because of the goodness and grace of the God to us.  Verse 17 highlights His goodness…

  • He will live among you
  • He is a mighty Savior
  • He will delight you with gladness
  • He will calm all your fears
  • He will rejoice over you with joyful songs

Questions to think about today…

  • How am I experiencing the damage of sin in my life?
  • In what ways am I feeling the pain of rebellion?
  • How can I experience the benefits of repentance?
  • How can I enjoy the blessings of obedience?
  • Take a moment and bask in the goodness of our Savior in verse 17.

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor

God is honored when we intentionally seek Him in prayer. As a church, we want dependent prayer to be something that marks us. Use the comment section to post prayer requests and experiences of how God has answered prayer and/or changed you through prayer! If you would like to be enrolled to get weekly prayer reminders, text @cpclex to 81010.