December 9, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Luke 2)

Submitted by Jenny C. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

As you review the hymns from this week, reflect once again on the contrast between Caesar in his fortified palace, and Jesus laid in a manger.  List out some words you can associate with Caesar (and similar figures today), and all the words that capture Jesus as shown by his birth.

Caesar: powerful, authoritative, influential, untouchable, commanding, removed from and higher than the rest of society, a person of means, respected and feared, others are subject to him, unapproachable, insulated from the rest of the world, esteemed, well-known

Jesus: gentle, mild, humble, lowly beginnings, poor, a commoner, came near to people, powerless, weak, frail, subject to the whim of others, vulnerable, accessible to even the lowest in society (shepherds, children), unassuming, limited, unknown

What is the nature of the following realities according to the message of Christmas?

–        The heart of God and the need of man
–        Love
–        Power
–        Weakness

In the message of Christmas, the heart of God is revealed because God sends Jesus as that tiny baby, so frail and unprotected, into the world. God has seen man’s condition, his helplessness against the centuries of enslavement to sin and death, his need for a Savior. And God’s response is to descend, to give us His own Son, stripped of his heavenly glory and limited to the vulnerable body of an infant, so that we would know that for “sinners here, the silent Word is pleading.” In Jesus, we know God’s heart is one of compassion and grace for sinful man, that He would not leave us alone to perish, separated eternally from Him because of our sins, but to provide a way back to Him through His son.

In Christmas, God shows us what the nature of love is – the limiting of self, descending, lowering of oneself, and veiling one’s power in order to draw near. In Christ’s birth, we see God forgoing His divine attributes – His omniscience, His omnipotence, the heavenly peace and perfection that He dwelled in – and coming into a world as an unknown baby born to a peasant couple in less than ideal circumstances, in a coarse manger in a stable, so that He could be with us. This is love – to limit and veil oneself, to make oneself vulnerable for the sake of other people’s needs, to surrender personal comforts and any sense of entitlement so that others can find their way back to God.

Christ’s birth shows us that the nature of true power is not used for personal gain, not used to protect and preserve oneself, and not to shield oneself from the rest of the world.  The world’s definition of power would be Caesar, who is respected, feared and esteemed, insulated from the harms and dangers of the world. Yet Caesar, as a powerful human ruler, is able to command whole villages of people to uproot themselves to register for census yet he does not have the power to save people from their sins. Here we see Jesus, who is the Almighty King, who sat enthroned in Heaven from the creation of the world, descending and letting go of the divinity that is rightfully his, and entrusting himself fully to God the Father. True power is not attached to riches, fame, or status.  It is not found in the palaces of dictators and presidential suites of earthly rulers, but it comes from God, who is selfless.  True power came veiled in the form of a crying baby laying his head to rest in a crude manger.

In Christ, God demonstrates that something we consider weak can be used as part of His redemption plan for all humanity. A small baby, born to parents of no means and no influence, whose first dwelling in the world is a stable with animals, would seem inconsequential to others, easily overlooked by the rest of the world. He is vulnerable to disease, to hunger, to poverty, to thirst, to pain, to sadness, to disappointment, to injustice, to mistreatment and to misunderstanding. Yet through this frail baby, God sets into motion His master plan to save men from their sins. God is not limited by what we think is weak, but is able to work through weakness to reveal His power, wisdom and sovereignty – for the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength (cf. 1 Cor. 1:25).

Please write a prayer personally rejecting the way of power and aspiring to man-made security, and embracing weakness in order to love as God would.

Dear Lord, in the baby Jesus, I see You limiting yourself, veiling Your divine power and rights in order to come to us in love and compassion. You did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made yourself nothing, taking the form of a man, in order to save us from our sins. Lord, I want to follow in Your steps to forsake status and to be known, to let go of shielding myself from the pains of the world. I confess that my tendency is to want to protect myself, to raise myself up, to be strong and competent, like Caesar in his palace far removed from the rest of humanity. Yet just as You made yourself weak and vulnerable, as that tiny baby in the manger, I pray committing to relinquishing my hold on my sense of entitlement that my life be comfortable, be easy. I pray that I would be able to honor the divine self-limitation that You willingly went through in order to rescue me from my sins. I commit to opening myself up to that life of suffering in order that other people may be reconciled to God and to know Your love. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Submitted by Joel L. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

As you review the hymns from this week, reflect once again on the contrast between Caesar in his fortified palace, and Jesus laid in a manger.  List out some words you can associate with Caesar (and similar figures today), and all the words that capture Jesus as shown by his birth.

Caesar in his fortified palace was comfortable and powerful. He had wealth and the power of the Roman empire at his disposal, and with all the control and influence he possessed, he chose to take a census to know the might of the empire that was under his command and further fill his heart with pride. Because of his fortified palace and the authority he had, there was no one among the people who could approach him about this census and the burden it placed on everyone part of the Roman empire. Selfish motives were behind Caesar’s census and his distance from the people lacked any kind of connection he could have had with them.

Looking at Jesus’ birth, he left the heavens to dwell with his creation. He exposed himself by taking on the vulnerability and dependency of a child. His life was fragile and yet it was unguarded; those who were near could approach him without fear and trembling. Strangers from a distant land like the Magi could come and see him without fear. Jesus at his birth did not seek to be approved by the splendor of his surroundings, but in his love, he came to descend and be among the poor and be placed in a feeding trough at his birth unlike Caesar who slept on a comfortable bed.

Words that I can associate with Caesar are proud, distant, burdensome, selfish, wealthy, unapproachable, and comfortable. Words that capture Jesus as shown by his birth are: vulnerable, open, fragile, approachable, dependent, poor, weak, and loving.

What is the nature of the following realities according to the message of Christmas?

– The heart of God and the need of man

The heart of God is filled with His love for people, and this love wants to meet the greatest need of man, and it was love that drove him to send His precious Son, Jesus, into the world. Man was in need of saving, but man was also in need of knowing the love of God and what a relationship with God meant. God wanted to show humanity his heart by descending to identify with even the poorest and most vulnerable.

– Love

Descending is the nature of love, and this is what Jesus did by stepping down from his throne and choosing to take on flesh and entering into the world he created in the form of a baby. Love is also vulnerable and what a wonder that Jesus entrusted himself to take on flesh and be devoid of power and strength and be completely be at the mercy of the people he was trying to save under the protection of the Father.

– Power

Caesar was thinking about the power he was exercising for himself, but he was oblivious that he was carrying out the will of the Heavenly Father and solidifying concretely the sovereignty of God by fulfilling what was spoken hundreds of years prior. Christmas shows us that power doesn’t come from the strength of our armies or the influence we can have on the weak, but power comes from God and what He determines to take place. The power we think we have is not true to reality, but God’s will being done through people and events is the ultimate reality.

– Weakness

The Christmas message gives us assurance that weakness in the eyes of the world may not be weakness from God’s perspective. The world sees weakness in the form of lacking resources to provide security, strength, provisions, and power. Weakness is like the vulnerability and dependency of a baby. From God’s perspective, weakness is where humanity can realize that God is in full control of what’s actually happening, and where God is present and actively working, there is really no weakness. God’s glory and power is made known through the weakness of humanity.

Please write a prayer personally rejecting the way of power and aspiring to man-made security, and embracing weakness in order to love as God would.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for showing me that power is not about the strength that I possess, the influence I have over people, or the security that comes from man-made efforts that the world tries to convince me of. I pray for strength to persevere against wanting power for myself and to embrace weakness so that I may grow in my capacity to love and recognize with greater clarity how I have been loved by you and the people you have brought into my life. Help me to not fear when I am led into circumstances or situations where I am weak but find strength in the fact that your will is being done and this is an opportunity for you to receive glory through my life as I obey and serve with love. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Submitted by Brian W. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

As you review the hymns from this week, reflect once again on the contrast between Caesar in his fortified palace, and Jesus laid in a manger.  List out some words you can associate with Caesar (and similar figures today), and all the words that capture Jesus as shown by his birth. 

Though Caesar probably was not the most well-liked person of that age, he epitomizes what everyone would agree as someone with great power – who in a single decree could stir up the lives of thousands of people from those of nobility down the lowly of peasants.  The things that people nowadays attribute to greatness the ability to force and move people like the Steve Jobs and the Mark Zuckerbergs of the age – people who have changed drastically even our apparent “needs” as people flood to buy their company’s product and software, the Caesars of this age that exert influence and the legacy that these people aspire to imitate and become.

He represented the kind of luxury and comfort that comes with the kind of wealth and privilege that he was probably born into and the kind of life that most people would want to live.  Even if not at that level, the appeal of being comfortable, thinking that the world’s worries can’t touch you: that outside the walls there could be poverty, pain, difficulties, that you are protected, that you have control has it’s appeal – and for a long time, this worldview carried a strong notion in my life, and was the path I was happy to head toward.

However Jesus’ life was quite the opposite, here was someone who was born into anything anyone would’ve wanted to be born into.  Povertythe world wouldn’t even ask what child is this, because to the world a peasant couple, who couldn’t even get a room like Joseph and Mary would be the last on their mind, and after all they were disregarded that not one person would let them in.  Jesus was born into filth and disease, lying in a manager having not even a crib, no midwives, no bed, not even adequate shelter.  He was born into scandal given the nature of Mary and Joseph’s betrothal.  And there was nothing about the Christmas story that was to be desired. (undesired).  Quite simply Jesus epitomized the opposite of what Cesar represented; He began humbly.

Although my life very well could have ended up as some derivation of Caesar: success to a degree, comfort of home, and possibly a “cozy family.”  I’m glad that it didn’t, and I’m glad that I was not satisfied with the picture of life that I painted for myself.  Because with all the works of human achievement; all that happiness would’ve been an illusion and what Jesus did was address that reality even in His humble beginnings.  Within those walls I would have built inside would still be the same broken person, anxiously trying to control his surrounding with whatever money and fractured relationships.  In those hollow walls I would have been a person unknown, only known by my limited achievements.  Caesar built an empire but his influence was only temporary on this earth and only finds itself in the pages of history.  And of course my life wouldn’t even have reached as close to those heights, but I would’ve experience the same kind of emptiness and the anxieties of trying to control everything avoid the problems of the world despite the fact that all those problems would have been originated from my own selfishness, ego, and sinfulness.

Jesus however began at the very bottom, fully realizing the plight of man–-born into humble beginnings and if anyone could relate it would be Him.  And think about His life-–it has had more impact on the rest of the world than any other person who ever lived.  Millions of people still follow Him today.  Who was He?  A carpenter, itinerate preacher, with no formalized education, but the things He spoke about eerily addressed people’s need, need for being known, even though we rather hide in darkness, need for being loved, though we would rather build up walls and protect ourselves.

What is the nature of the following realities according to the message of Christmas?

–        The heart of God and the need of man
–        Love
–        Power
–        Weakness

The message of Christmas shows us that what man needs is not another achievement, another title, another person to know his name, but rather to be known.  And that is what God did.  God’s heart has always and will always ache for man.   With all our efforts to try to build up things for ourselves – and for me it would’ve been a lucrative career, a comfortable family without a care for others in this world – these things don’t address the source of all that pain.  Sin would still destroy these empires I build up for myself – as that career would’ve become all consuming and empty, that family would become dysfunctional after factoring in my selfishness, pride, and ego.  Jesus enters into the world not as a great warrior, but as a humble child to experience all the poverty with everything working against Him from the government, to the elements itself, to even the petty and selfish nature of man not being able to find a place to stay.  This is God’s heart, and this is God’s love – to descend like a mother bending her knee to relate to her child.  Likewise God descended the greatest distance to be with us and to show us that He is not cold and distant, but rather he is love – lying in a filthy manger.

Christmas reverses everything we know about power and weakness, from the character like Caesar and Herod who had all the power in the world could not anticipate the affects of a simple peasant boy would have on the rest of history.  It’s a reminder that behind power is still human, it is still people who can try with all their power to control their situation, try to steer their lives – and I know what that feels like, having experience time and time again, disappointments, discouragements, hurts and things people have done in the past that in the end no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t control the outcome of most things in my life.  As I let go of more and more certainties in my life, I am learning to be weak, meaning not jumping on necessarily every opportunity to further myself and making myself more available, I not only find myself at a place where I can be in a better place to love other, but I also find myself in a place where I can relate with less pretense by lowering my guard, being more open and in the end to being known by more people.  In the way God descended as a babe, He revealed that this is the way that I ought to live as love requires the limiting of oneself.  If I build my life around my accomplishments and my family, who could touch my life and whose life could I relate to?  And in the end it is only embracing this life Jesus lived that I could even possibly begin to have any sort of impact with the people around me.

December 8, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Away in a Manger)

Submitted by Abe Y. from Gracepoint Riverside

What is it about Jesus being born into a manger that flows well with the warmth and affection toward him expressed in this hymn?

The hymn evokes imageries of this poor, helpless baby, lying there in the manger. Though there’s “no crib for a bed,” he is fast “asleep on the hay.” We can’t help but feel a great deal of sympathy for this baby. The warmth and affection is extended in Stanza 2, when the table is suddenly flipped: no longer do the “stars in the sky look down where He lay,” but it is he who “look down from the sky,” and we are the ones in the “cradle.” The parallel between Christ and us as expressed in the first two stanzas provides an additional layer of affection, because we know that he is not unaware of our own pain and suffering. After all, he has walked the same journey before.

What characterizes Caesar Augustus, and others like him today, i.e., the kings of the world?

Caesar Augustus had the power to move people all over the Roman world on a whim. It must have been an awesome sight, indeed, to see people suddenly go traveling about–moving entire families–on a dime. Isn’t this what characterizes Caesar and all those like him? They all attain a certain visible power, the power to physically uproot and move people. This characteristic hasn’t changed to our day and age.  We look up to the “Caesars” of this world if they have a certain power: power to absolve companies, power to hire us for a lot of money, power to grant us prestige.

What became of Caesar, and the power of the Roman Empire?

Not too long after this event, Caesar passed away, his body cremated. The glory of the Roman Empire would last for another four hundred years, before it too faded away. Today, the “glory of Rome” is in its ruins, a testament to its former days of wonder and amazement, a testament of an era long passed by.

What is the source of Jesus’ power?

The source of Jesus’ power does not come from any worldly title or prestige. How could it be?   He was born to a carpenter, after all. Rather, the source of his power comes from his obedience to the Father and the love for his people. Even though Jesus possessed these amazing abilities and power to make the lame walk, the deaf to hear, the mute to speak, and the blind to see, he never displayed them ostentatiously. In fact, it was quite the opposite.  When crowds came to him in hopes that he will perform some sort of miracle, rather than seeking for attention, he would often withdraw. However, when he saw need, real need, he moved towards such people: the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, the ten lepers, etc.

Unlike Caesar, his chief aim was to do the Father’s will. Had he played his cards right by befriending the Pharisees, being chummy with certain Roman guards, doing what the crowds would want him to do, he could have easily overtaken the throne. Yet, we don’t see him doing any of this.  Instead, he condemned the Pharisees, he caused many of his own disciples to disperse, and in the end, it was this very same crowd that turned against him. Rather than sitting comfortably at the palace looking down on the people, he eventually became fixated at another place looking down on the people: the cross. Even then, he had the power to call upon a legion of angels to free him. But to the end, he was not fixated on this kind of power.  He was attuned to a very different kind. It’s from the love of the Father that compelled him to embrace the cross. It was his genuine love for others that caused him to embrace the lowly and the weak. It was this love that kept him on the cross and gave him the power that he exhibited: utter self-restraint, utter self-denial.

What kind of life—Caesar vs. Jesus–am I aspiring to?

Isn’t it amazing that even within the church, we can try to play the role of Caesar? It shouldn’t be surprising as this was the kind of power sought after by the Pharisees. When I don’t check myself, I see myself easily playing the same game.

The kind of life I want to aspire to is that of Christ’s. And he laid out the rules and conditions so succinctly in Luke 9:23: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

However, I find myself many times still trying on the role of Caesar, trying to put my will above God’s. The times I get envious because someone outperforms me, the way I become frustrated because someone doesn’t conform to my projections on my own timeline, the times I want to outshine in a certain area. Aren’t these all ways in which I strive to be more like Caesar, rather than to be like Christ?


O Lord, help me to become more and more like You. Let me be reminded that real power comes from obedience to You, that real power comes from a life poured out to others in love. Help me to live out the life that you lived, full of self-restraint, full of love for others, and a blatant disregard for your own personal desires of comfort. Help me, O Lord, to do the same — to continue to die to my Caesar-like self!

Submitted by Jasper C. from Gracepoint Riverside

What is it about Jesus being born into a manger that flows well with the warmth and affection toward him expressed in this hymn?

I think the expression of warmth and affection in this hymn is appropriate for Jesus’ birth because it captures the extent that God made himself very vulnerable and approachable to us. If you asked someone who did not know the gospel to imagine the idea of the Almighty God of the universe coming into the world, the picture that ordinarily comes to mind is one of a powerful being making a thunderous appearance in the sky.  That’s the natural conception of God’s appearance because the reality is that God is infinitely more powerful than us, he is the ultimate authority figure in our lives, and we actually have reason to fear because all of us are in some way guilty of violating his laws. However, the wonder of Christmas is that though God chose not to come into the world with a display of his power, compelling us to surrender to him, but he deliberately came in the form of the vulnerable baby Jesus – through whom God sought to win us over to him. We can sing about God incarnate with warmth and affection because God has dispelled any fear that we might have of him through the humble and vulnerable manner of his coming – it goes to show that God is not interested in forcing us into relationship with him, but that he wants us to freely choose to love him back.

Reflect on the poverty and precariousness of a baby born in a stable, and laid in a manger. Contrast that with Caesar Augustus, whose decree caused all the Roman world scrambling to register for the census.

If you were to rank everybody in the world at the time based on wealth and power I think Caesar Augustus would rank first and baby Jesus could arguably rank among the last. The condition of a helpless baby being born in a stable and laid in a manger in the middle of rural Palestine really does sit on the complete opposite end of the power spectrum to Caesar Augustus, the ruler of the Roman Empire and the greatest human authority of his time. As demonstrated by the census decree, whatever Caesar says ends up being the reality that millions of people must conform to, whereas a baby does not even have the means of surviving a couple of days on his own. It’s so ironic that two thousand years later, we know that Jesus Christ has far surpassed Caesar Augustus in power and influence, there are millions of followers of Jesus Christ today while Caesar ceased to have any followers at all the moment he died. The principles of this world regarding power and influence seem to be completely irrelevant to God’s reality.

What characterizes Caesar Augustus, and others like him today, i.e., the kings of the world?  

Caesar Augustus is characterized by power through fear and coercion. He is the ruler of the Roman Empire not because people willingly admire and obey him, but because he wields the ability to destroy anyone who does not obey him–people submit to him because they don’t want to be destroyed. To some extent, all kings and rulers of this world are characterized by this kind of fear-inspiring power, even to this day. We submit to their authority because bad things will happen to us if we don’t.  Furthermore, the theme of fear applies to Caesar as well–since he rules by violence he himself is must fear the possibility that someone could seize power and violently overthrow him as well. There’s no way that he could guarantee always being the most powerful, so he must live in a constant state of fear and insecurity from his enemies.

What became of Caesar, and the power of the Roman Empire?

Caesar eventually died and the powerful Roman Empire eventually collapsed after a few hundred years to the point where they have no effect on our lives whatsoever apart from the fact that we learn about them. In fact, Caesar’s power and influence came to end almost immediately when he died because people no longer had to fear and obey him.

What is the source of Jesus’ power?

Jesus’ power does not come from fear and coercion, but instead it comes from love. He doesn’t compel people to obey him, rather he has won them over and people willingly obey him.

What kind of life—Caesar vs. Jesus–am I aspiring to?

I think there’s a part of me that gets caught up in aspiring to a Caesar-like life–I want to gain power and influence through my capabilities, to make people respect me because I am good at something, or to be wealthy enough that I can afford to pay for things to go my way. One way that comes out is in my desire to accomplish something impressive in my career.  The reasoning is that if I can get a certain title or manage something big, people will look at that and give me respect. The flipside of that is that I end up having to look around at how other people are doing, and I’m constantly insecure about being outshined by someone else who’s better than me at what I’m doing. It leads to greater and greater insecurity and isolation from other people. I recognize that this is actually a miserable way to live, and that going after the world’s definition of power and success is ultimately unfulfilling. However, I know that this is not the only way to live because I personally know of faithful Christians who have given up opportunities to advance themselves in this world in order to serve and care for others.  I’ve been a recipient of their love through the meals they shared with me, time taken out of their schedule to counsel me or impart advice, and in general living life with me, letting me take up room in their lives that they could have devoted to themselves instead. They’ve had a tremendous impact on me and inspired me to also live a life striving to love others and to be generous with my time and money, to live a life valuing relationships and people above personal achievement.

Submitted by Ernestine L. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

What is it about Jesus being born into a manger that flows well with the warmth and affection toward him expressed in this hymn?
Jesus being born into a manger flows well with the warmth and affection expressed toward him in this hymn because it displays that great picture of humility. There is something about Jesus, the King of kings, being born into the lowliest of places that really draws our heart. He is not born behind palace gates or into great royalty, but instead into a manger which was meant to be a feeding trough for animals. He draws no attention to Himself from the great or from the powerful. There is no display of triumph in this picture, and yet in God’s eyes the plan for a different kind of triumph has already begun through this miraculous birth. In this, we can see God’s willingness to descend to reach all mankind. He is willing to send Christ into our midst, into the cold night being birthed into such poor conditions, into this world through His servant Mary. There is a deep response and sense of love and affection for baby Jesus that would perhaps be very different if He were to have received all the wealth, power and riches of this world. There is something so welcoming and approachable about this scene; that is why the warmth and affection is so fitting and well suited.

Reflect on the poverty and precariousness of a baby born in a stable, and laid in a manger. Contrast that with Caesar Augustus, whose decree caused all the Roman world scrambling to register for the census.

The poverty and precariousness of a baby born into a stable and laid in a manger provides such a stark contrast with the description of Caesar Augustus, whose decree caused all the Roman world to scramble to register for the census in that there is such a sense of vulnerability, peace and humility here. There is no security, no sense of solid protection from what may happen to the baby Christ. There in the stable lay God’s gift to mankind. And yet on the other hand we have the Caesar, driven with a thirst for power and a desire to gain something for himself in this world, desiring to accumulate something for himself. Christ came into this world to offer His life, and yet He lay there not asking anything of anyone. Still the shepherds came to worship Him and the Magi sought Him out. For Caesar, there is only a sense of worldly fear or bitterness that exists towards him. There is no desire, whatsoever, to do what the Caesar decrees out of a loving heart. The residents did not want to, but they had to against their will, travelling hundreds of miles to get registered. Again, the picture of Christ in the midst of this chaos, being carried in the womb of Mary and along the long and winding journey to Bethlehem is a picture that elicits our awe and gratitude. 

What characterizes Caesar Augustus, and others like him today, i.e., the kings of the world? 

What characterizes Caesar and others like him today is power and demanding authority. Whatever he issued would be carried out. He offers no freedom and no option. It is only his way or punishment or even death. It is this unwillingness to see things any other way, unwillingness to consider what all these people need to go through in order for his decree to be carried out. He strikes fear into people’s hearts and is relentless about his demand. There is no sign of mercy or grace. There is this seemingly urgent need to build up his power and kingdom, to have everyone else bow down to them, to treat the Jews as second-tier beings, to pat themselves on the back for being born into the Roman world, not recognizing what they’ve been given has been from God. Similarly, the kings of the world also run by this kind of worldly hierarchy with exclusiveness.  If you were born without certain privileges, then it’s too bad. What keeps them in this kind of position and power is only what they have before them–their possessions and status–but these do not last forever.

What became of Caesar, and the power of the Roman Empire?

Caesar and all of the Roman Empire fell. All that’s left of their once powerful and seemingly infallible legacy are the great ruins that many tourists go to Italy to view from time to time. There’s not much greatness now. No average person is familiar even with the names of the famous or powerful rulers of the Roman Empire, but to call upon the name of Jesus–now even the average non-believer has heard of Jesus. The Roman Empire is but a chapter in our history books. What the Caesar once thought was a powerful attempt to gain for himself the entire kingdom, to store up for himself treasures and a name, has all been overshadowed by the greater power we’ve seen throughout the ages of the living Christ who has demonstrated transformation in people’s hearts and lives for ages up until the very present day.

What is the source of Jesus’ power?

The source of Jesus’ power is God alone. He came from God above, was delivered into this world through a miraculous circumstance, and would not have been bestowed as a gift if it were not for God and His decision to love mankind so greatly. The source of Jesus’ power far surpasses that of Caesar’s which was merely his worldly wealth, fear-inducing name, and the seemingly insurmountable kingdom he had amounted for himself. His power crumbled because the source was unstable. He relied on himself and what he had, when all along he missed the greatest provider of all things. Jesus was backed up by the Creator God, who made possible all things. How could there be any greater source of power? God is the source of all power. What Caesar had was not power – what he had was what he and this world thought gave him that power.

What kind of life—Caesar vs. Jesus–am I aspiring to?

The kind of life I find myself so often aspiring to is that of Caesar’s, one in which I am constantly demanding something of others, of this world. I do not seek to gain the kind of life Jesus came to demonstrate–a life of humility, of giving up oneself, of descending in order to relate to others, to draw them in through quiet obedience and humility. The life I aspire to live is a life filled with my desires to be seen, desires for attention, to gain recognition, status. It is a desire to be made something in this world. However, as I gaze upon Jesus’ life the way He entered this world as a vulnerable newborn baby in a stable but possessed the greatest power mankind would ever behold–the power to give life, I recognize the need to align my aspiration with that of someone who has genuinely surrendered her life to Christ, who has been humbled by God’s truth of who she is, who finds utterly futile a life rendered to this world. That is when I aspire to live a life like that of Jesus, surrendered, offered up in humble gratitude, not seeking any longer to establish oneself in this world, not demanding anything of mankind, of others.


Lord, I praise You for delivering Your Son, offering Him to mankind so vulnerable and susceptible to the dangers of this world. I thank You that Your heart aches for us to know You, so much so that You delivered Your Son as an answer to our deepest voids. I am amazed by Your glory and might that lasts forever, surpassing even the Roman Empire and all the kingdoms of this world that are no more. Lord, with Your power, I have set aside the kingdoms I once aspired to because they are meaningless. Father, with this said, I pray a prayer of commitment to let my aspiration be transformed, to no longer thirst for this world and the power it seemingly offers, but to seek after Your life that lasts forever.

December 7, 2011 Devotion Sharing (What Child is This?)

Submitted by Allen C. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

What can you learn from Joseph’s “righteousness” (v. 19)?

Joseph’s righteousness translated into treating Mary with mercy even before the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and reassured him of Mary’s faithfulness. It would have been understandable for Joseph to be outraged, angry, and hurt to find out that the woman to whom he was pledged to be married was pregnant. According to the law, he could have had Mary stoned to death for committing adultery. However, Joseph had in mind to divorce her quietly instead of exposing her to public disgrace. He chose to bear the pain and anger he might have felt. Instead of being caught up in his emotions, he exercised self-restraint and self-denial, refusing to indulge in the feelings he must have had inside—the desire for justice, to exact revenge, to be proven innocent of coming together before marriage. He chose instead to have mercy on her and do what was best for her. And in doing so, Joseph took on the humiliation of what the public sentiment must have been. In the eyes of the community, since Joseph didn’t claim Mary wrong doing publicly, they must have assumed the responsibility of this disgrace on Joseph.

Reflect on the mission of Jesus–his reason for being born–as described in Matt 1:21, and answer the question: “What child is this?”

The mission of Jesus was to save people from their sins. It was to undo the curse of sin, to offer amnesty to rebellious man, to declare peace to those who are far away, to reconcile God and sinners. It was not to bring political peace or independence, not to ensure economic stability or redistribute wealth or end poverty, not to provide the cure for all sickness and disease, not to become a successful phenomenon, not to find a renewable energy solution, not to establish the perfect human government. God could have sent someone into the world to do all of these good things, but the fact that Jesus came to address sin shows how serious a problem it is and how helpless we are to do anything about it. It shows that sin is our greatest problem that it took no less than the Son of God to deal with sin. The whole purpose of Jesus’ life was to die on the cross to reconcile us to God. This child, then, is Christ, the King, the One who can deliver us from our sins by dying on the cross and being the rightful Lord over our lives. He is the King of Kings who brings salvation, who defeats sin and death, who brings us back home to the waiting Father. He came to do what no one else could do: wash away our iniquity, our guilt, our shame, and our rebellion, and absorb it all on the cross.

Write a personal response to the fact that Jesus came to save me from my sin, and to destroy the work of the serpent.

I’m so amazed and thankful that Jesus came into this world as a vulnerable and helpless baby, that the whole purpose of his life was to die and take the punishment that I deserve for my sins. In the person of Jesus, God completely emptied Himself and poured out His life for others. Jesus came into the world to not to condemn the world, but to save the world through him, and that includes saving me from my sin. He came to address the brokenness in my own life, the emptiness, the hopelessness, the anger, and the hunger I had for the love I was missing because I was cut off from God. Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary! He came to reconcile me to God, to reverse the curse of sin, and to destroy the work of the serpent who only brought lies and enmity. For this, Jesus deserves my highest praises and adoration.

Write a prayer of personally enthroning Jesus in your life.

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son Jesus into the world and into my life, for pleading for sinners such as me. You rescued me when I had no hope or power to save myself. Who would have thought that You, the King of Kings, would come so humbly and so vulnerably into the world? You had such a lowly birth and a lowly death in order to identify with sinners such as me. You paid a price higher than I could have paid, pouring out Your life in order that my iniquity could be washed away. All the while, You are the King of all Kings, the true and rightful Lord over my life, and I want to respond by surrendering my life to You. As we celebrate the coming of baby Jesus into the world during Christmas, may You be the King over my whole life—my time, my resources, my energy, my will, my hopes and dreams, all that I hold dear—as You are the true and good and rightful King.

Submitted by Hannah Y. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

What can you learn from Joseph’s “righteousness (v.19)?”

I can learn that Joseph’s righteousness came from being someone who was practiced at denying his own feelings and impulses.  From this account, I can really learn something about what it means to be righteous before God.  As someone who was pledged to be married and to find out this news, Joseph’s feelings would have been telling him to be outraged, to be vengeful towards Mary, and to indulge in anger.  He probably felt so hurt upon hearing the news that the woman he was to marry was with child.  However, instead of acting out of his feelings, Joseph instead thinks of Mary instead of himself.  He didn’t want to expose her to public disgrace so he decided in his mind to divorce her quietly.  I thought about the fact that he even had these thoughts in his mind.  That means he was thinking about what would be the right thing to do, and he was not irrational or acted out based on his feelings or his ego.  Then it says that he was considering this, implying that there was some time between the news and his response.  This is also something I can learn from Joseph.  For me, I catch myself being such a person of strong emotions.  When I hear something perplexing or if I am hurt by someone, I often automatically react with words and feelings that later are out of place because I did not get the whole story.  I often just want to react and say something quickly.  But choosing to be righteous lends a person to have self-control.  In that sense, it is someone who is meek and humble.  Someone who is not out of control but someone who is can take the time to consider and react out of love and grace toward the other person.  Even when the situation seems pretty clear, like in this situation, that a certain party is in the wrong, I can learn that there may be something that I am not considering.  In my daily life, I come across situations where I need to heed this lesson from Joseph.  In the past, I have reacted out of my own pride, emotions, feelings of hurt and betrayal, but have ended up regretting things that I have said to people and the way that I reacted.  I shudder when I think about those instances.  I want to commit to having this picture of Joseph, being someone who is so righteous and trusting in God and being able to humbly consider the other person before I act.

Ultimately, I can learn that through Joseph’s righteousness, Jesus was able to be birthed and salvation brought to the world, all the way down to me.  I can learn that even in this one act of humility and trust in God in this situation, Joseph’s righteousness actually brought blessing upon blessing for generations to come.  He probably did not know the kind of repercussions this had, but God knew.  Joseph’s obedience and ability to take Mary in as his wife allowed God in the flesh to be birthed into life and bring salvation to many.  In the same way, I do not know how my acts of humility and trust in God will bless future generations.

Reflect on the mission of Jesus–his reason for being born–as described in Matt 1:21, and answer the question: “What child is this?”

This is the child, through whom all the prophecies point to, from the beginning of Scripture.  In this child, God, enthroned in heaven, became flesh and came to the earth of be with His creation.  God himself took on the form of man, so that He could reveal himself to us and provide a way to reconcile our relationship with him. This child is the one who will save his people from their sins, who solves that greatest problem and the greatest need of all mankind.  This child is the one who will grow up to be subject to the cruelty and sins of the entire world–to be mocked, beaten, flogged, ridiculed and humiliated, and nailed to the cross and suffer the penalty of our sins.  This child is the one who will come back to life and provide a place for us in heaven.

Personally for me, this child is the one who has changed my life from one that was full of darkness and destined toward eternal death, to one of life and eternity with God.  This child is what my whole life hangs on.  He has given me hope for life and a purpose for living because through His life, I know that this world is not my home and my real home awaits me.  This child is the one who concretely shows me how much my Heavenly Father loves me and that He is willing to go to this length to show me that He wants a personal relationship with me.  This child is what has brought me such an abundant life, full of people, full of richness of fellowship and love, full of grace, full of purpose and meaning, full of good work to do, full of hope of heaven, full of hope for others.  This child is Christ my Lord and whom I will praise and worship all the days of my life.

Write a personal response to the fact that Jesus came to save me from my sin, and to destroy the work of the serpent.

As I reflect on the fact that Jesus came to save me from my sin and to destroy the work of the serpent, the only proper response is to live a life of gratitude and always remember the truth that my life was bought at a price and it is not my own.  I still amazes me and boggles my mind that God would come to reveal himself to me in such a humble way.  He came as a helpless baby, and like this hymn says, “Why lies he in such mean estate?” It is because of His love for me and His zeal to save me from my sin.  I really want to commit to being someone who lives with this sense of gratitude and love toward others.  To tell others about who Jesus is so that others can also receive His gift of being saved from their sins and to destroy the work of Satan in their lives.

Submitted by John C. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

What can you learn from Joseph’s “righteousness (v.19)?”

The text describes Joseph as righteous because he did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace.  This is a remarkable thing, considering the situation that he finds himself in.  His betrothed has been found with child, which can only mean that there was adultery.  The life that he envisioned and had in mind of starting a family and a happy life together with his new wife is shattered.  He must be experiencing both grief and anger at Mary for this betrayal.  Without the facts of what really happened, Joseph has the right to lash out and expose her.  Joseph could have claimed it as his right to exact some personal justice on his betrayer, but he doesn’t.  Joseph’s righteousness lies in the way he lays down his rights and dies to himself and has mercy on Mary.  In the thick of his emotion he has enough space in his heart to consider Mary and to have compassion on her.  Righteousness is not merely a Pharisaic obedience to a moral code—it’s having this kind of heart of mercy and compassion on others at the cost of giving up your rights and whatever justice you are due. 

Reflect on the mission of Jesus–his reason for being born–as described in Matt 1:21, and answer the question: “What child is this?”

Jesus’ mission was to save his people from their sins. Sin has ravaged humanity since the day it entered through Satan’s tempting, and Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Yet on the very day that sin entered into humanity, God had a plan for salvation and redemption. Jesus is the fulfillment of even this prophecy from the very early days of human history, the offspring who would destroy death, and bring life and immortality. This child who lies so humbly in Mary’s lap in the middle of a stable is the answer to the problem of sin, the promised Messiah that would save the people from their sins. This child is the one who would once and for all defeat death and redeem mankind from sin.

Write a personal response to the fact that Jesus came to save me from my sin, and to destroy the work of the serpent.

Jesus has came not only into the world, but specifically into my life and has saved me from a life of emptiness and sin.  The work of the serpent (Satan) is mainly to deceive, and I was so wrong about what is truly valuable and worth pursuing.  Not only this, but Jesus has also saved me from harmful and destructive ways of relating to other people, and trying to find my significance and worth through worldly achievements.  I’m so thankful that today I find myself on the road of redemption where before I was on the road towards destruction.  Now Jesus has commissioned me to work alongside him as he continues his mission to save people from their sins and to reverse the work of Satan in their lives.  God has called me to be his agent of peace, and a minister of reconciliation.  It’s a privilege and honor not only to find myself in the company of the redeemed, but also to be entrusted with the rescue mission of bringing God’s hope of salvation to those without hope.

Write a prayer of personally enthroning Jesus in your life.

Jesus, you are the king of my life.  Forgive me for stubbornly trying to hold onto the throne of my life, for wanting control over my life.  Lord, you are the rightful owner of my whole life.  When I put myself on the throne, and denied you the authority to rule over my life, what resulted was sin, a sense of emptiness, and a restless anxiety towards life.  Jesus, I surrender my desire to make something out of myself and any kind of drive for worldly power and significance to your much grander agenda of saving people.  Lord, may your cares become my cares, and your burdens become my burdens, and your joys become my joys.  May your will be done in my life.

Submitted by Linda K. from Gracepoint Riverside

What can you learn from Joseph’s “righteousness (v. 19)?”

What I can learn from Joseph’s righteousness is that he did not focus solely on himself, but looked out for the interest of others. The person in this case was Mary. Though he had the right to divorce Mary because she was with a child before they had come together, he did not because he “did not want to expose her to public disgrace”. This means he was willing to take the hurt and pain of what had happened to him rather than placing it on Mary. I recognize that being right is not as important as doing the more loving thing. There are so many times I would prefer to be right and enact justice so that I can feel like things are fair, but I seldom think about the implications it has on the other person and the relationship. From Joseph I learn the importance of having an “other-centered” attitude rather than a “self-focused” attitude. From verse 19 it is clear that he thought about the implications of divorcing her, so he chose to do it quietly. I learn that to be an other-centered person it requires me to think out the details and the implications of my actions rather than acting on my impulse or to quickly judge and condemn the person. I need to put on the same attitude that Joseph had especially as God has placed so many people in my life to love and protect them.

Reflect on the mission of Jesus–his reason for being born–as described in Matt 1:21, and answer the question: “What child is this?”

Jesus was no mere child. He came into the world to save us from our sins. He was destined to do this in Genesis 3:15 when man first sinned. He was the seed of the woman and he was going to “crush” the head of the serpent and have victory over it. So it is appropriate that the “angels greet with anthems sweet” because through him he was going to do what man could not do.  No one could have imagined that this child would be the savior of the world because he came in the world so lowly and unpronounced. He had been placed in the manger where “ox and animals” were feeding yet He is the King of Kings and through him salvation will come. It’s sometimes hard to believe that God would choose to come in the form of a helpless young baby because we often think that it is through power and strength that can save, but this is the worldly view. God’s wisdom and ways are so much higher. The kind of birth he had through a peasant couple and born in stable and laid in a manger reminds me of God’s humility and desire to relate to me.

Write a personal response to the fact that Jesus came to save me from my sin, and to destroy the work of the serpent.

Long before I was born, God had already worked out a salvation plan for me through the birth of Jesus and his death on the cross. God’s promise of Jesus into the world is the greatest gift I could have ever received because apart from him, I would be helpless against Satan’s schemes and deceitfulness. So thanks be to God for bringing Jesus into the world to be my lord and savior. When I was in darkness and following my own ways I was filled regret and shame, while trying to find significance and unconditional love by gaining the approval and acceptance of others–all of which cannot be found in the world. Thankfully, through Jesus, I have learned that I am eternally loved and accepted because He came into the world to be with me and rescue me out of the miry pit of my sins. As I have grown in my relationship with God through his word, I have seen how He has destroyed the work of the serpent by guiding me on a lighted path – to help me make decisions that honor him and to live a surrendered life modeled after Jesus.

Write a prayer of personally enthroning Jesus in your life.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for bringing Jesus into the world to be with me and to be the savior of my sins. I recognize that Jesus was no mere babe, but the one you had promised long before I was born to crush the serpent’s head and to defeat sin and death. So Jesus is worthy to be the King of King and the one who sits on the throne of my life. I recognize that following you and your commands is the only right and best way to live as I have experienced the emptiness and uncertainty of life on my own. God, may my life be a living sacrifice for your gift of salvation and eternal life. To you I bring all my time, effort, money, resources, relationships, emotions, mind and everything of worth because freely you have given these things to me and freely I offer them back to you. I love you, Jesus. In your name, I pray, Amen.


December 6, 2011 Devotion Sharing (What Child is This?)

Submitted by Eunice K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

What is the answer to the question posed in the second stanza of the hymn: “Why lies He in such mean estate?”  What does this say regarding the nature of God’s love?

The reason why Jesus came as a baby in such “mean estate” or lowly circumstances is to plead for sinners.  Stanza 3 goes on to say, Jesus, the King of kings, brings salvation.

The nature of God’s love is that He came to provide what we needed the most, salvation from sins.  And the way He came to do that was by stepping into our experience of powerlessness, vulnerability, lack of resources, and inadequacy in this kind of real way.  God’s love is not limited to pity or compassion shown to another, but he came to step into our shoes and be with us in the thick of our sins and the realities of this broken world.

In what ways have you experienced this kind of love from God and others? Who are the people you need to show this kind of love to?

I think this kind of love is so radical, it really takes a picture, a story like the Christmas story to really understand.  I realize that my default (and wrong) understanding of God and His love is always that He is a little removed and distant from me, and that His love needs to be earned on some level.  But when I think about the times when I really felt helpless and at a loss, when I had nothing I could bring to God to earn what I truly needed, I experienced God not as a distant and demanding figure, but a God who was graciously there with me.  Through His words and through His people, I experienced God grieving with me over my sins or over some of the biggest heartaches in my life, speaking to me in specific ways to give me encouragement, or lead me to repentance.  I experienced God working in the midst of fearful and disappointing circumstances, giving me reassurance of His presence and His love for me, and that He would not abandon me but continue to guide me.  He is not a God who keeps his hands clean and wants to just send some kindness my way–He is fully with me in my need.

I have experienced this kind of love from my leaders and friends, who did not settle for a polite and impersonal relationship, but who were willing to build a relationship in the context of my real sinfulness and character issues, and to walk with me through dark and discouraging times.  I have experienced people sticking it out with me and others and praying together for the long haul in the worst or deepest kinds of prayer requests, where there is no quick solution, but a long, extended struggle.   These kinds of relationships exemplify the kind of love from God illustrated in the Christmas story.

The people I need to show this kind of love to are all the people God has given me to love – my leaders, my friends, my husband and family, the staff and students God has placed in my life, and the many students yet unknown to us on our campus.  God asks me to share His love with these precious people He has given me, and it’s not a distant kind of “love” where I can keep my hands clean and keep things convenient.  It’s the same kind of love that I’ve experienced, of willingness to be with you through the good times and bad, of commitment to share the burdens and the joys, and to always push against the desire to draw lines of boundaries of how far I will care for this person.

From the second stanza of the hymn, why would sinners not respond to the “Word pleading?”  What has been my response to this pleading?   

I think sinners would not respond if they don’t see themselves as sinners, or if they don’t feel like God’s pleads are really something that addresses their need. Perhaps they don’t recognize yet their true brokenness and don’t think that they really need Jesus to save them from their sins.

As I grow older, I recognize more and more that God’s words are so true, that my greatest problem and need is my sin and brokenness.  I appreciate more, and I am more grateful for God’s love and his salvation as I continue to understand more about how this affects every part of my life.  Every day I am reminded of these truths through daily devotion and just the experience of daily life.  I’ve come to see how truly Jesus’ coming in order to save us from our sins is “good news of great joy” in my life.

Submitted by Ben K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

What is the answer to the question posed in the second stanza of the hymn: “Why lies He in such mean estate?” 

The Jews had long anticipated the Messiah, but they believed the Messiah would be a political one, one that would rise up in power and lead them to be free from Roman rule.  But Jesus was not to be that kind of Messiah.  He came to plead with sinners and win the hearts of men so that they may love him and receive salvation.  Had he come in power and extravagant luxury we might follow him out of intimidation or awe, but we would not necessarily love him.  His coming as an infant born to peasants in a manger was so that he could identify with us and that we might follow and obey him out of love.

What does this say regarding the nature of God’s love?

God’s love is such that he wants us to return his love.  The lowly birth of Christ is part of a love story in which God is trying to woo us.  He goes out of his way to lower himself, giving up his privileges, rights, and comforts as the King of kings so that we might notice him and love him.

In what ways have you experienced this kind of love from God and others? Who are the people you need to show this kind of love to?

I’ve experienced this kind of love time and time again in my life from God through His people.  When I was a youth, my leaders at church gave up part of their weekend to hang out with me and teach me the bible.  I was an awkward shy kid and these adults had no good reason to sacrifice their time and energy to hang out with me had they not wanted to share God’s love with me.  In college I came to our church on Sunday of our move in day and I met some very nice people who immediately took me under their wing.  They had already graduated from college and were working professionals.  But instead of spending their weekends hanging out with their friends and traveling as most people do, they hung out with me.  Fridays and Saturdays, week after week.   It was through self-limitation and lowering of themselves that I understood that they loved me and took the Great Commission very seriously.  The way they lived their lives gave great weight to their faith and belief in God and caused me to take Christianity seriously and eventually I came to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior.  It’s been 10 years since I’ve been a freshmen and I find myself in the same position as the older guys who took care of me—a college graduate and a working professional.  Last year I moved to Riverside with my wife along with some of my college friends to minister to students at the UCR campus and God has entrusted me with a good group of freshmen guys that I’ve taken under my wing.  These are the guys that I need to show the kind of love God and others have shown me.

From the second stanza of the hymn, why would sinners not respond to the “Word pleading?”  What has been my response to this pleading?   

Sinners might not respond to the “Word pleading” because they are not interested in God’s love.  People who are convinced that they will find fulfillment, ultimate satisfaction, or love somewhere else in the world won’t look to God.  Though I’ve been a Christian for some time, there are still times when my career ambition causes me to look for acceptance and validation from the world.  Underlying this ambition is the belief that I will be satisfied and fulfilled when I am accepted by the world.  But the truth is, the world cannot fulfill the deepest longing of my heart to be loved and accepted unconditionally.  The world’s love is fickle and once I am unable to offer anything of value, I will lose value in the world’s eyes.  God’s love on the other hand is unconditional, and the “Word pleading” is the story of the King of kings being born in a manger to save me from my sins.  This reminds me that the unconditional love and acceptance I long for can be found in God only.

Submitted by Jammy Y. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

What is the answer to the question posed in the second stanza of the hymn: “Why lies He in such mean estate?” 

The answer to this question, “Why lies He in such mean estate?” is that God wanted to show us and reveal to us that in searching for the answer and solution to life, it is not in the high and lofty places but in the poor and lowly places.   The answer to this question is also that God wanted to show us that it’s nothing we did in order to bring Christ in.  We did not entice or convince God with money and power, but God came willingly in human form through Mary and Joseph.  The mean estate is completely opposite of where we would find a king and yet this is where God chooses to come so that we would know that here is a king that we can relate to.

What does this say regarding the nature of God’s love?

God coming to dwell with us in the form of a baby, born in a manger, in the lowliest of places tells us that God’s love is not found in riches or power, but in humility and weakness.  God’s love comes to those who feel desperate, who have tasted and seen poverty, who have known hardship and difficulty in life.  The nature of God’s love is such that it is not found where money and power is, but God’s love is found where we are found to be helpless and where we cannot give anything back in return.  God’s love to mankind came through Mary and Joseph, a poor peasant couple.  It wasn’t with riches or power that God was convinced to come and share his love with us, but came on his own accord to come and identify with us.  I can imagine Mary and Joseph feeling so terrible that the place where they brought Jesus into the world was not in a nice home, where everything was well prepared, but it was in a manger, where animals feed out of.  As a parent, you do everything in your ability to bring this child into a safe environment.  But this was not the case for Mary and Joseph.  They were helpless and yet God was faithful and came through and provided for Mary and Joseph nevertheless and ushered in the promised savior, Jesus.

In what ways have you experienced this kind of love from God and others? Who are the people you need to show this kind of love to?

The one concrete way I’ve experienced this kind of love is through my salvation.  What did I do to deserve God’s love but only confess that I am a broken sinner?   God’s love was freely given to me and he gave it to me at no cost.  However the cost was on God, who sent his one and only son to earth to show us His love and in the end to sacrifice and atone for my sins through the cross.  I’ve also experienced this love through people.  In just thinking about my undergrad days, though in my mind, I thought I was decently behaved person, I know that I gave trouble to those around me, especially to my spiritual leaders, yet they endured and preserved with me, and they showed me unconditional love.  Why would they do that?  Why did I do to deserve that?  The answer: nothing.  This is the nature of God’s love.  It is unconditional and freely given.  This is the love that a father has for his child.  No matter how much trouble my daughter gets into, she is still beloved daughter.

When I think about all this kind of love that I’ve personally received I know that I need to show this same kind of love too.  When I think about people closest to me, I have to start with wife and show this kind of love where I have to die to myself and give myself freely and love her unconditionally.  Then there are the staff brothers here at Riverside.  We see each other so often and we are susceptible to annoying each other, but likewise my love for the other guys cannot be based upon whether they are on my “good side,” but my love for them comes because God has loved me unconditionally.  I also need to show this kind of love to the students that I minister to.  I can be the one link to God that they have and I need to represent God properly and exemplify the very same love that I received that God has shown me.

Submitted by Dora W. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

What is the answer to the question posed in the second stanza of the hymn: “Why lies He in such mean estate?” 

I think the only answer to this question that would make sense is love. This is the Son of God, after all…. You would think that He would come into the world in grandness and splendor; that he’d be welcomed by all in a huge celebration with all his needs met. We have these expectations when the people we know give births to babies. How much more should the Son of God be welcomed into the world? So the question “why” is really important. Why would the Son of God come into the world in such a quiet, humble, lowly way—born to a peasant couple, lying in a manger? It’s because of love that God would restrain and descend himself to make himself lowly, even by human standards. The picture that comes to my mind is how a grown up with get down on his knee to talk to a child face to face and uses a voice and plays games that he would never use or do with another adult. Why does the adult do this? It is because she loves the child. She wants the child to know that he is loved and understood. She wants the child to feel safe. I think this is why God came to us in this way—because he loved us. If he had come in this loud booming sort of way, I know that I would be running away in fear. But because he comes in such a humble way, He draws us closer to Him.

What does this say regarding the nature of God’s love?

I think for myself, in the ways that I relate with God, I see that I often have this broken view of God’s love: It’s a picture of God’s love being something that I need to earn and something that I could lose when I fail or sin. In this way of thinking I see that often I have this image of God of being someone who has standards for me to meet before I can be worthy of His love.

From this hymn, I see that God’s love is very different from what I often think it is. The nature of God’s love is very much like a child’s in the sense that a child gives all of his love to his parents unconditionally and unquestionably. He loves completely and in doing so his love is also very vulnerable. In this humble child-like way God comes to us.  He doesn’t scare or intimidate us, but instead invites us to draw closer to him. He doesn’t come into world, making demands. Instead, he takes the weaker position.

I also see that God is willing to descend this far to save humanity. God’s love is constantly sacrificing. Not only does he leave the glory and splendor of Heaven to enter into this broken world, but also by this world’s standards, he comes in one of the lowliest ways possible. This is what he was willing to go through just to come into this world. I see that from the very beginning, God has been sacrificing himself—pouring out all of himself in order to complete his mission of saving mankind.

I think another aspect of God’s love that I can learn from his birth is its greatness. God knew the extent of sin in this world and in each man’s heart. He knew how we were all far from him. And yet he willingly chooses to come into this world. The reality is that it didn’t have to be this way—Jesus didn’t have to come. But because God loves us THIS much, he did not leave us to our own destruction.

In what ways have you experienced this kind of love from God and others? Who are the people you need to show this kind of love to?

One way I experienced this is how I first came to this church. Back then my heart was far from God and I was living a life seeped in sin and self-destruction. However, the leaders I met here did not turn away from me but continued to love and care for me. Who was I to them? They had no connection to me. I was a broken sinner who had no intention of becoming Christian or developing relationships. And still, Eunice & Grace continued to meet with me, spent time with me, and tried to meet me where I was spiritually. They made no demands of me, and I really had nothing to offer them. In this way, I know that God used them and used many more of my leaders to show me the true nature of his love.

And I see this as I continue on this life journey with God. Especially being part of a church plant, I see all the more clearly all the ways I fail and fall short. But each time I face my brokenness, I see that God does not condemn me, but meets me where I am at and restores me. He reminds me of his love for me either through his word or his people.

I need to show this love to my students, as many of them are where I was when I first came to this church. Many of them don’t know what God’s love looks like and have their own broken ideas of God’s love. But I think the people I usually fail in showing this kind of love toward are those closest to me–my sisters, other staff members at Riverside, and my parent.  These are people that I often find myself being less willing to descend to love because I think of them as being at the same or greater level than me. I think of them as people who are going to be okay on their own. However just as I know that I go through struggles and low points throughout my own life, these are things that they too go through. And it is in these times that I need to be flexible with my own plans, to be sensitive to the needs of others, to respond to a friend in need even if they try to push me away, to make myself vulnerable to rejection in order to love someone or remind them of God’s love.

From the second stanza of the hymn, why would sinners not respond to the “Word pleading?”  What has been my response to this pleading?   

Sinners don’t respond for many reasons. The prevalent reason is pride. We are proud and do not want to admit that we have a big problem or that we need help with out problem of sin. I think another reason that is more common today than before is the issue of laziness. While we may be aware to the “word pleading” many of us are too lazy or distracted to respond. We quickly try to brush it off or immerse ourselves in something that will help us not to think about it. I think another reason is despairing. They hear the “word pleading” but just think that the sin is too big or too bad.

I think for myself, I can relate to all of these. My common respond to the pleading is to try to deal with my problems on my own. After years of doing this I know that every time I do this the sin or issue only gets worse and more people get hurt in the end. When that strategy fails, my other common response is to despair. However when I finally respond to the pleading of God’s word, though it is painful initially, it eventually gives way to freedom. And in these times I get frustrated with myself again—why can I not just respond in the beginning. I’d be able to save myself and others from so much pain and torment if only I’d respond more quickly.

December 5, 2011 Devotion Sharing (What Child is This?)

Submitted by Steve K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

Place yourself on the scene in that Bethlehem stable.  A group of shepherds come running, terror and joy in their eyes, wildly crying out news of the Angel’s message.  The natural question that arises is: “What child is this?”

Highlight words in the following passages that answer the question “What child is this?”

Luke 2:8–12

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

What is the significance of the identity of Jesus to you personally?

Jesus being the “Savior” is personally meaningful for me, because I was once lost and in desperate need of a Savior.  I’m reminded of how lost I was in my in my sinful, self centered perspectives.  I was so convinced that I was the victim of everyone else’s faults and shortcomings.  I felt entitled to everyone’s pity and for everyone to put up with my obnoxious demands for attention and arrogant assertions.  I was just so full of myself, and there was very little room in my heart to care about others.  In fact I drove people away from me with my self-centeredness, which often left me lonely and painfully insecure.  Always feeling out of place and a misfit.  I’m so thankful that Jesus came to save me from my pathetic self.  He had saved me from my sins and had given me a new life in Him that’s full of love for God and other people.

It’s also very meaningful for me that Jesus was not only my Savior, but my Lord, because I would’ve been a poor captain of my own soul.  In fact every time I had tried to usurp Jesus’ reign over me, I consistently found myself running amuck in sin and self-imposed misery.  A misery that would ruin me and those around me, and so I’m thankful that Jesus is my Lord for He alone knows how to rule over me and properly govern my desires, thoughts, emotions and actions.  He keeps me from thinking foolish, unproductive thoughts, so I can keep be more other centered and focused on the things that will bring glory to God and bring blessings to others.

Lastly, I see Jesus appearing in the form a of a helpless baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger as a sign of how He has come to be with even the lowest of the low in society.  This is personally significant for me as I see how unworthy I am to approach him with all my sins that are so repulsive to see in the face of such a pure and holy expression of love.  Seeing what a filthy sinner I am, I’m encouraged to know that Jesus came in a way that tells me that I too can approach him and claim Him to be my Lord and Savior.

Submitted by Greg D. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

What is the significance of the identity of Jesus to you personally?

Jesus is my Savior, Christ, and my Lord.  He is first my Savior.  This small child that entered the world in a dirty manger ended up being the answer to my sins.  In my life, my default solution to any problem in my way is to try harder, work more furiously, put more time and effort into it.  And it has gotten me pretty far in life, gotten me through college, served me well in my career.  But when it comes to the sins I face each day, when it comes to struggling with my flesh, when it comes to trying to sanctify the very way I think and see this world and other people, when it comes to trying to deny myself and actually put others first, I find my effort does not get me nearly as far as I would like.  I find it inadequate.  And I certainly cannot fix the wrongs already done to others, or undue the damage of sin in my life.  It is then I realize I need a Savior, someone more powerful needs to come down and take away my sins, cover my weakness.  I look at God’s perfect standard laid down and I realize there is no way I could ever measure up.  So Jesus is my Savior.  My only hope, my only chance at eternal life.   Every time when I fail in trying to fight my sins, Jesus is there to give me forgiveness and another try, strength to go on.


Lastly, Jesus is Lord.  Looking at this small child in a manger, in such “mean estate” I am sure Jesus looked anything but Lord. The hymn remarks this baby is “the king of kings, salvation brings.”  The shepherds must not have known what to make of it.  The wise men must too have been surprised.  That God Himself, the one who fashioned the world should be in a dirty stable, born in about as lowly conditions as one could find.  But this is our God, this humble God is my Lord.  It means he gets the keys to my life, he gets to sit in the driver’s seat, it means He decides the dates and times of my life, what I can and cannot handle, what I should receive and what should be taken away.  It means everything, job, where I live, marriage, ministry, future, all of it is now God’s to decide.  That I cannot cling to the small dreams and hopes I had for my life, and I can take nothing for granted.  I am a person who naturally takes things for granted, who seems to overlook the good and can only see what is lacking or difficult in my life.  But through the eyes of Jesus as my Lord, I need to be a lot more focused on what I do have, what God has provided for me up to this point, and less worried about when I will get over a certain sin, or know more about my future.  I get so bent out of shape when my schedule does not work out, when my day does not go according to my plan, and much more when life does not go according to my plan.  But the day I became Christian I gave up the role as planner of my life over to Jesus my Lord, so I need to go back to that, to live each day with humble, grateful trust in my God.

Isaiah 9:6–7
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Reflect on the titles that are given for the prophesied Messiah.  In what ways have they been fulfilled in Jesus Christ?   What human need does each of the titles meet? Which title is most meaningful to you?

Submitted by Michelle Y. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

The title that is most meaningful to me is that of “Everlasting Father.”  All my life I have been searching and longing for love.  I tried to find this love in things of this world, but I was always left feeling empty and hollow.  The gospel tells me that God is my “Everlasting Father” and by extension, this means that I am God’s daughter.  It means that I am cherished and valued in God’s kingdom, and that I am accepted and loved for who I am.  Also, this title ministers to be the most because God’s relationship with me is everlasting and nothing can alter or change it.  I often fear that my sins would separate me from God, but here I am reassured that my relationship with God is eternal, unchanging, and forever.  I am thankful for this new status and identity that I am given, that I am no longer rejected, condemned, unwanted but instead called beloved daughter.

Submitted by Dennis P. from Gracepoint Riverside

For me, the most meaningful title that is given to Jesus is that of Prince of Peace, because for most of my life until coming to know Christ I experienced everything but peace. I was constantly stressed out trying to out-compete other people in my classes and though I worked so hard to forge my identity through academic success, I was left with a gnawing sense of loneliness that prevented me from having peace all throughout my high school years. It was only after I finally surrendered my life to Christ and invested in Christian community that I really started to feel that sense of peace and I’ve been able to let my guard down and live a life filled with true peace and joy. I’m reminded of all the fun times I had living at Dana House my senior year, and how it felt so easy to just walk into another room on the second floor and strike up a conversation with one of my peers. I really grew a lot closer to a lot of people during that time and experienced a peace as I was able to open up and share… I’ve continued to experience this kind of closeness here in Riverside with my peer Howard and increasingly with the other staff brothers. I’ve been able to experience this sense of peace through all the warm times of hanging out and sharing at Steve and Eunice’s house and the home where the single brothers live. God has clearly been my Prince of Peace, and I am so thankful for the kind of life he has put me in now because I know I am clearly undeserving of it.

Devotion Time November 28th – December 3rd, 2011

Here are the DT Packets for November 28th – December 3rd, 2011 on Christmas Hymns Week1

1. Christmas_DT_on_Hymns_Nov28-Dec3

2. Christmas_DT_on_Hymns_Nov28-Dec3_questions_only

December 2, 2011 Devotion Sharing (We Three Kings)

Submitted by Ahmi K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

What contrasts and ironies are in Luke 2:1-20?  What do these tell you about how God works, and the preoccupations of people?

Caesar was taking a census to determine his kingdom and power. Jesus was the true King, promised and fulfilled, unhampered by Caesar.

The whole nation and Israel was being moved around because of Caessar’s decree (he was this powerful), but the real power was Jesus, being born just as the Scripture promised, not hidden or secretive, but openly, and, in fact, THROUGH Caesar’s decrees.

The King of Kings was born in a manger, whereas the worldly king is born in a palace.

The angel proclaiming good news appeared to a group of shepherds lying watch in the night, not to the highest officials in the land.

This tells me that God is not hindered by the greatest authority on earth – in fact, He is the One who makes things happen – He arranged it so for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem at this time in such a way, while Caesar had no idea what was going on with God. Caesar thought he had control over this situation but it was God who was in control. Mary and Joseph thought they were just obeying Caesar’s decrees, when in fact, they were doing exactly what God was leading them to do.

I can learn how God is sovereign and powerful, the true authority over all. He is the one at work, even though the authority of the time – Caesar Augustus – seemed to be so powerful.

He is faithful and true to His Word and promise. He fulfilled the prophecies of long ago.

I can learn to humbly submit and obey Him through the circumstances in my life and not be frustrated. What I see is so limited. God chooses not to reveal everything to us, but that is okay, because I know He is in control. I need to lift my eyes from my self-centered world and see the truth of God’s sovereignty.

What are some responses that the hymn calls for in stanza 1?  Given that only the shepherds ended up hearing the Angel’s song and responding, what can we conclude about what it takes to give “glory to the newborn King?”

Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph in skies;
With angelic host proclaim,
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!’
Hark! The herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the newborn King.’

The hymn calls for a response of the shepherds to joyfully rise, join the triumph and proclaim the good news together. It is a majestic, mighty proclamation and exhortation, but it was given to a group of lowly shepherds. I can learn that to be a herald of Jesus does not require any worldly qualifications but to simply hear and obey. What it takes is immediate obedience, regardless of the cost. In order  for the shepherds to respond and look for the king, they had to leave behind their post. However, they risked it all, like the magi, to find the King. Shepherds got up and responded to the call.

As you read the description of Jesus in this hymn, which ones cause you wonder and praise? Which ones bring you comfort and encouragement?

th’incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Immanuel

I think this aspect strikes me the most, because it is such a wondrous and mysterious thing how Jesus came to DWELL and be WITH.

How much He descended and came down to the lowliest.

Write a prayer of worship and gratitude for the veiled, incarnate deity, son of God, Jesus our Immanuel, who was pleased to take on flesh to dwell with men, and even now, dwells with all his followers.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I praise You and worship You for Your Son – Jesus. Thank You that He incarnated and descended to the lowliest depths. Thank You that He was pleased to take on flesh and blood and dwell with men, with me, and dwells with me today. In this world of failed and broken relationships, there is nothing everlasting or secure, and, even the best of things ends in death.

I praise You and thank You, O Lord. Please help me to dwell and wonder in this amazing truth, and be alive in its light.


December 1, 2011 Devotion Sharing (We Three Kings)

Submitted by Wilson F. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

There is so much we’d like to know about the magi, these star-gazers and adventurers from the East.  Though they did not have much light, they responded to the light that they had.  Their journey—over field and fountain, moor and mountain—was long and dangerous (as all long travels were in those days).  What possessed them to take such a journey, bearing such precious gifts? 

These Magi had real questions as well as the hope that there were real answers to those questions.  They must have believed that there was more to life than they had already known, and they looked to the stars for some sign, some clue, some indication that there was something more.  During the Israelite exile to Babylon, there might have been an exchange of cultures, religions and ancient literature, and so these scholars might have been familiar with the prophecies of Isaiah regarding a virgin who would give birth to a child destined to be King of kings and Lord of lords.  So when they saw the star, they packed their camels and headed westward, following its movement.  These men were people of rank and status and position, people with wealth (as they brought costly gifts), people with everything going for them from the world’s perspective.  But I suspect there was a sense of dissatisfaction, of unfulfillment – sort of like an itch they were trying to scratch.  Why else would they brave a perilous journey across barren wilderness, venturing into foreign lands, in search of “the one who has been born king of the Jews” when this child might not have even existed?  In their very own words, they were looking for the One who was truly worthy of worship.

As you think about the journey of these magi, think about your own journey.  How were you led to Christ? What “star of wonder, star of light” guided you?  Or, how are you being led to him now?  Do you have a seeking heart like these magi?

I attended Catholic schools since kindergarten, but I started going to church for Sunday worship at the age of ten.  I heard about God during those early years, but to be sure, I did not understand or appreciate the relevance of what I learned.  The “star” first caught my eye around the eighth grade, when I found myself full of questions about the Bible and what it means to pray and the nature of God’s will.  I became a spiritual seeker, and throughout high school, I learned more and more about God as revealed in Scripture.  However, like the chief priests and teachers of the law, I had all the right answers, Bible quotes with references and all – but I lacked the most important thing, which was an authentic relationship with the God I claimed to believe in.  It was all head-knowledge, but it did nothing to address my true impoverished spiritual condition

The “star” that captivated me was experiencing our church, the first time being New Student Welcome Night back in August 1998 – hearing Pastor Ed’s message and feeling the warmth of our community kept me coming back more and more, and then I took Course 101 and attended Friday Bible Studies, Sunday Worship Services and retreats, until one day, I acknowledged that I was living a lie, that I did not know Christ personally, but I wanted to become one by surrendering my life to Jesus.  That was eleven-and-a-half years ago, and since then, I can honestly say that I still want to know God more, to understand the gospel and the cross more deeply, and to draw closer to him in my relationship with him.  As long as I am in this body, I remain a spiritual seeker, hungry for his Word, dissatisfied with the offerings of this world, and longing to be home where I may worship the King.

What lessons do these magi teach me about spiritual hunger, about decisive commitments, about generosity and the purpose of my treasures?

First, spiritual hunger has to translate to decisive action.  Just as in the case of physical hunger, you cannot expect that sensation to simply go away or to be resolved all on its own; rather, you need to move toward a reliable source of physical sustenance.

Second, spiritual seeking requires commitment and perseverance.  For the Magi, there were points at which they could have turned their camels around and headed back home, but they remained undaunted, determined to find the child.  Arriving at the wrong city after traveling a great distance, encountering a people that had no idea what you are talking about and instead being disturbed by the very prospect, losing sight of the star – all these factors could have discouraged them.  That is why they were overjoyed to see the star once again.  They embarked on this journey, regardless of the costs, the dangers, the uncertainty of success – but with courage and faith, they sought, and they found.

Third, my treasures are an entrustment from God, and the best use for them is as gifts for worship.  All that I possess – my wealth, my car, my time and energy, my very life – were given to me, and I need to be generous with what I have in honoring God.  My life, as precious as it is to me, belongs to God, and as small and trivial as it is, becomes a gift welcomed by the King.

November 30, 2011 Devotion Sharing (O Come, O Come Emmanuel)

Submitted by Michelle S. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

We need to be saved from endless envy, strife and quarrels.  None of us experience the heaven’s peace as we are constantly at war within our souls, particularly our desires that are unfulfilled.  Jesus has come to deal with our unholy and incorrect desires, to bind it to one desire that will bring peace.  We are plagued with many of our own desires that are in conflict with other desires and if we get all we want, we end in destruction.  Only God’s holy desires are what will bring peace to all of us.  I am reminded of what Jesus said in Luke 19:42 “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.”  The problem is that we do not know what would bring us peace.  Only God could bring us together.  There is a lot of strife because my desires are not the same as God’s.  One true sign that Jesus is the Savior would be because He is able to bring salvation and unite His people.  He can bring true peace to people who do not know how to find peace.  There will be no more violence and no more of hatred and strife.  It’s so tiring to live life and it seems so hopeless because our desires are winning the battle.  I see people who are not able to find peace because they need to fend for themselves constantly.  The quarrels we have, the desire to not be taken advantage of, the desire to not be the only one who is left behind… so much strife and angst.


Submitted by Sieun C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Lord, you see how broken and mangled this world is, how we are captive prisoners to a system that either sends us through horrors and misery and breaks us, or blinds us from the true state of our lives that it’s going to end in death. The more I do your work and try to embrace people, I get convicted more and more that this is the state of everyone, that we’re all captive and desperately in need of you. And you saw this all along and had this amazing redemption plan ready. I don’t know how I somehow stumbled upon this path, how you found me and brought me onto this path, but I thank you for entering into this dark and broken world to bring salvation to us, to your people who were held captive. We love darkness, I love darkness, yet each time, you shed light on my path, reminding me of what my darkness led me to, and you show me through the broken lives of people around me that it’s something so universal, it’s something I need to hold as my greatest weapon and greatest treasure to share. Help me never to buy into the lies of this world as I remember my own brokenness and how even the best of human efforts cannot thwart death, mistrust, strive, or envy. Your way of life is true wisdom, your way of life is what is beautiful and the way things are meant to be. I pray that as I end this year and confirm this as true, that next year will be yet another year of committing to this and becoming increasingly convicted, especially as we take on greater ministry responsibilities. I think about the students under my care who recognize the strife and emptiness in this world. May each of them come find you, our Day-spring, who lifts the clouds and brings light into our darkened hearts and lives. May they find you the true source of wisdom and guidance in this life, apart from whom our lives will always be filled with envy, strife, quarrel, and with no peace.

Thank you for being our Emmanuel God who came to be with us, that you saw us held ransomed captive, and you came fully knowing the suffering and grief you would go through. I pray that as I grow in understanding how this is the only solution in this dark world, that my life too can emulate the being with and suffering life that you lived out for me….

November 29, 2011 Devotion Sharing (O Come, O Come Emmanuel)

Submitted by Jeannie L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Oh come Lord Jesus, please come quickly.  Thank you that you are my Emmanuel God with me. I was captive to my sin, and living in exile, distant and isolated, because of my own sins and jealousies, my own bitterness and resentments, my own strife and envy and quarrels.  And you ransomed me.  thank you for paying my ransom. Thank you for redeeming my unworthy life. I was indeed mourning in lonely exile, the exile of my own thoughts and sin, thinking that no one understands my situation, thinking that no one cares, thinking that I have to fend for myself, that I am alone. I was, but you appeared, and brought me back home from my self-imposed exile.  I become captive again and again and you bring me home again and again.

Lord, because of that, I shall rejoice, because you are with me.  Lord, come and cheer my spirit with your presence.  Your presence disperses the gloomy clouds of night and casts away death’s dark shadows.  Indeed, my life was gloomy, and my thoughts clouded with darkness and death overshadowed my life, and still threatens to overtake me, but you solved that with eternal life.  I now experience LIFE, and community instead of gloomy exile.  I know that regardless of whatever Satan throws at me in life, that I am safe at home with You, for eternity.  because of that, I can be cheerful and rejoice.

Lord, my pathways are often cloudy and foggy, and there are rocks and other obstacles that make me stumble and fall, and so I ask of you to come and to order my life, to bring order to the chaos of my worries and thoughts, to guide me to the path of knowledge and please to cause me in those ways to go.  My own wisdom and the wisdom of the world has only gotten me further into trouble and has only led me in the wrong ways.  I need your principles, I need your values, I need your presence literally to nudge me down the right ways, to help me to think proper thoughts, to order and elevate my values and tastes.

And lastly Lord, my desire, I ask of your presence to help me to be at peace in my heart and mind.  I desperately need that peace to guard my heart and mind, to reassure me that you are sovereign and in control.  When terror surrounds me and fears overtake me, Lord, fill my heart with your peace and quiet and calm and assurance that YOU ARE GOD almighty God.  And please cause the envy and strife to cease around me. Lord, I pray that I may be an agent of your peace to others, as I have experienced your comfort for my life.  And your peace that you give me, the fullness and richness and contentment of being found in you, that you bestow upon me, help me Lord, to be a source of that love and light and warmth and peace to others around me who are in desperate need of it, who are in exile now.  I pray that I can be that to my own husband and children.  Please protect them, please protect us lord.  Please protect our church, our ministries, our people, my brothers and sisters.  Lord, come quickly.