Digging in Deeper: Psalm 105:42-43

“For he remembered his holy promise to Abraham his servant. He brought his people out with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

What is it that makes you happy? Perhaps many different things fit that particular bill for you. I’m happy when I’m spending time with my family, when my sports teams are winning, when a sermon goes just right, when I’m doing something good for someone else, when I’m out at night to see the stars twinkling, and so on and so forth. Your list may include some things like those, or it may be totally different. What I suspect your list does have in common with mine, though, is that the things on it are all situationally-linked. That is, they depend on the presence of a certain set of circumstances. Happiness is a good thing. But in the Scriptures, we are called to something greater: Joy. This week, as we continue our Advent journey, we are going to dig into the idea of joy and how we can experience this deeper reality in Christ. I hope you’re ready.

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Digging in Deeper: Proverbs 16:7

“When a person’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

This week we are talking about peace. Yesterday we talked about what exactly peace is–not merely what it’s not. Peace is an active sense of calm and wholeness that persists in our hearts and minds because of our confidence in Christ and His promise to never leave us nor forsake us regardless of what our circumstances might otherwise suggest. I know that’s a bit more of a mouthful of a definition, but I think it fairly well captures the idea of peace we find in the Scriptures. What I’m left wondering today, though, is how exactly we come by this peace. What Solomon wrote here in Proverbs gives us a clue. Let’s take a look at this together.

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Digging in Deeper: Psalm 130

“Out of the depths I call to you, Lord! Lord, listen to my voice; let your ears be attentive to my cry for help. Lord, if you kept an account of iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that you may be revered. I wait for the Lord; I wait and put my hope in his word. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning–more than watchmen for the morning. Israel, put your hope in the Lord. For there is faithful love with the Lord, and with him is redemption in abundance. And he will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.” (CSB – That was the whole chapter :~)

We are now officially in the season of…Advent. Raise your hand if you thought I was going to say “Christmas.” While the retail industry may want us to believe we are in the season of Christmas and will be until December 24 at closing time (at which point we will enter the season of “Return-it-and-buy-something-more-expensive,” followed immediately by the season of “Buy-something-new-for-New-Year’s-before-your-annual-period-of-financial-good-sense-sets-in”), that’s not actually true. We are in the season of Advent. Advent means “arrival,” and in the season of Advent we are to be preparing for the arrival of the Christ child. With this in mind, all this month we are going to be reflecting together on how we can do just that. We’ll do this with the help of the four traditional Advent virtues of hope, peace, joy, and love. I hope you’ll come with me on this journey. I’m excited to get ready for Jesus with you.

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Digging in Deeper: Mark 5:9-13

“‘What is your name?’ he asked him. ‘My name is Legion,’ he answered him, ‘because we are many.’ And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the region. A large herd of pigs was there, feeding on the hillside. The demons begged him, ‘Send us to the pigs, so that we may enter them.’ So he gave them permission, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs. The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned there.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

What is the value of a human life? That’s a big question to ponder, especially if you’re reading this mid-morning when it hits your email inbox. But let’s get the juices flowing early today. What is the value of a human life? With what shall we compare it? Is a human life roughly comparable to the life of another creature? Is it worth more or less than riches or fame or convenience? Can we trade stock in lives? Are some worth more than others such that sacrificing one for many is a worthwhile exchange? This snapshot from Mark’s story about Jesus’ first visit to this region of Galilee seems like it’s about the shocking destruction of a huge herd of pigs. But it’s not. It’s a reminder–along with this entire tale–of just how valuable each human life is. Let’s look together at why and how.

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Digging in Deeper: Mark 5:2-5

“As soon as he got out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came out of the tombs and met him. He lived in the tombs, and no one was able to restrain him anymore–not even with a chain–because he often had been bound with shackles and chains, but had torn the chains apart and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

We’ve talked before about the interest people have long had in the spiritual world and specifically the demonic. There is enough out there that is nothing more than wishful thinking and unhelpful. When we encounter real information in the Scriptures, then, it is worth our time to try and learn what we can from it. When Jesus and the disciples arrived in Gentile territory they were met by a demon-possessed man. Let’s talk about how Mark describes this scene.

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