Wednesday, Dec. 25 – Matt Orth

25 Dec

Wednesday, Dec. 25 – Love

Today’s Scripture:
1 Thessalonians 3:12

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 1 Thessalonians 3:12

“Two bucks for one shot? That’s outrageous! When I was growing up, you got three shots for a dollar.”
My inner protestor shouts as I walk the dusty, fried streets of the Cleveland County Fair. Everything is expensive, from the games to the rides to the funnel cakes. But this is not my first Fair, so I know the places where the quantity exceeds the cost, where you get the most bang for your buck, the most delight for your dollar. And when it comes to food, that place is Culler’s fries. The French fries are fresh and delicious there, but what I really love is they don’t rip you off. The guy always has a big scooper that he splashes into the fry pan, bringing up a mighty haystack of golden goodness, which he then stuffs into the little paper cones waiting in their holders. He finishes his performance delicately, patting in the last few fries, stuck out like wild hairs, some of them defying the laws of gravity just to be included in my bouquet of Idaho glory. The pick-up station there is always messy, like some battlefield in a potato civil war, french fries lying everywhere, splashes of vinegar and grains of salt surrounding the corpses. Always messy. Because at Culler’s fries, they pack each purchase until it overflows.

Overflow is not a neat word, it is not tidy. Overflow means too much! (Think riverbanks, crowds, toilets, and Culler’s fries. . .) It means excess, surplus, or unable to be contained in the current container.

This season, we have celebrated together the Advent, the coming of the Christ-child, Immanuel, God with us. This child we celebrate is the overflowing love of God. It is too much Lord!
That you would humble yourself to share in our humanity, that you would wrap yourself up in this skin so that we might call you Savior. You have flooded and smothered us with your love, it is excessive and over-the-top, we humans do not deserve such a lavish gift.
But it’s never been about what we deserve, has it?
It’s about your overflowing character.
We come over the hill of shame wishing for the rags of servants,
and you wrap us in your robe and ring.
We come home expecting the scraps of your table,
and you throw us your finest feast.
Overflow. It is too much.

And it’s the word Paul prayed for the folks at Thessalonica concerning their love—
that God would increase their love and make it overflow for each other and for everyone else.

As we celebrate and remember this extravagant love of God in Jesus, may we reflect on what it means to have an overflowing love for each other. . .and for everyone else.

-Matt O.


Tuesday, Dec. 24 – Jess Brock

24 Dec

Tuesday, Dec. 24 – Love

Today’s Scripture:
Romans 8:35-39

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I love these verses! They give me such a hope and peace about the love that Christ has for me. There is so much to rejoice about. Nothing can separate us from the love in Jesus Christ – wow! I immediately think about all the “nothings” that come to mind that we often think will separate us from the love of Christ, like death, hard times, debt, disappointments, and illness. The list is vast; however, instead of thinking about this list, I want us to reflect on the love of Christ!

God is good, and He gives good gifts even when life is full of hurt, loss, and crushed dreams. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! Do you believe that truth today? I know for me that when the “nothings” of the verse come my way, and I start believing the lies of separation, hopelessness, and loneliness, I have to play out the worst-case scenario.  When I play out the worst-case scenario of a circumstance in my life, my ultimate answer is always that God is bigger and has given me freedom over every possible scenario through His love that came to us in Jesus and now comes to us daily as our Comforter through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I don’t live in worry, hopelessness, or loneliness but I rejoice in the hope and love of Christ. In Christ, there is no worst-case scenario, and I can start to walk in the love He has for me. I can start believing I am worthy of His love.

Do we see how Christ loves us daily? Where is our perspective? Is it on us or on Him?

We are loved by God! We are beloved!

-Jess Brock

Monday, Dec. 23 – Scott Pitts

23 Dec

Monday, Dec. 23 – Love

Today’s Scripture:
Zephaniah 3:14-17

Love that quiets you…

It is easy to think of love at Christmas time.  The verse that usually comes to my mind is John 3.16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Here we see God’s love for the whole world displayed in his giving of his only son, and salvation is found in his son.  That is awesome, that is cause for celebration, for rejoicing, for song, for excitement! But when you start to unpack what exactly that means to me today, to think about all that God has done through Jesus for me yesterday, today and in the future, I think that there could be another response.

This is where Zephaniah steps in.  3.14-17.  What does it say?

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
Shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
He has cleared away your enemies
The King of Israel, the Lord is in your midst
You shall never again fear evil
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Notice the progression of the passage.  It starts with great singing and rejoicing on the part of the people and then lists all the things that God has done for his people.  And at the end, it is God who is doing the rejoicing and singing over the people, and the people are quieted by the love of the Lord.  It is almost like the rejoicing and singing that we are doing is smothered by his love.  Or maybe we first see his love towards us and we celebrate but then He just keeps bringing out one course of love after another, after another, after another, and we are overwhelmed by it all; it quiets us.  As we have been going through Ephesians as a church, we can see this.  Ephesians 1 is so full of all the blessings, grace, love that God has for us in Christ that is overwhelmingly right like a 10-layer chocolate cake! (I like chocolate cake, so that illustration really makes me salivate). The cake is so huge, so tall, so thick—and my fork is so small, where do I, how do I start getting into this?!?!

So maybe quietness is part of a great response to the Lord for all his love for us. Quietness to hear the love. Quietness to think about the love. Quietness to be overtaken by the love. Quietness so not to miss the details of the love. Quietness in the silent night, holy night kind of way.

A love that quiets me. I think that I should be quiet now….


Sunday, Dec. 22 – Christa Edwards

22 Dec

Sunday, Dec. 22 – Love

Today’s Scripture:
Psalm 145:13-14

Growing up, one of the most beautiful things I learned from my mom was to journal. Every morning, I watched my mom spend time alone with the Lord, reading through Scripture, and then writing out in her journal her deepest prayers and longings. It was a discipline that I adopted as my own and one that has sustained me in the darkest times of my life. I write out my prayers and laments to the Lord so I can remember the faithfulness of the LORD in my life, because, honestly, it’s incredibly easy for me to forget. It’s easy to forget how the LORD has provided for me or how he has sustained me or how he has comforted me or how he has shown me grace. But every once in a while, I’ll bring out old journals and begin reading through them. I begin reading through the exclamation marks of joy and the tear stained pages of sorrows, and, in that sacred moment, my journal becomes a tangible way for me to remember that even in my darkest and loneliest nights or in my greatest moments of rejoicing, the LORD has been and will continue to be good and faithful and trustworthy, regardless of my circumstances.

If you don’t know me, one of my favorite things to study is the Old Testament because in it I find stories of men and women of faith, who have been through the rigors of this life, wrestling with the LORD, encountering him in the midst of the chaos of their lives, and being significantly changed because of it. The more I read the Old Testament, the more I find myself in the stories and relate to the people’s struggles and sins and redemption. Often times, I find myself relating to the Hebrew people as they wander about the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. After seeing the mighty hand of God rescue them, perform incredible acts of power, provide food for them, and protect them, they begin to complain. They complain about their sustenance, they complain about how dirty the wilderness is, and they complain about the season of life that they are in, proclaiming that it would be better to be back in Egypt as slaves. The people don’t realize that in this season of the wilderness, they’re being prepared for their life of freedom. It’s a difficult transition to go from slavery to freedom, especially when slavery is all one has known. It’s a whole lot easier to be fearful and to worry and to want to go back to slavery when it’s the only life we’ve known. It’s a whole lot easier, but it isn’t better.

What is better is learning to believe that the LORD is with us, even when we don’t feel his presence.  It’s learning that even when darkness and brokenness and evil surround us, the LORD is our light and our salvation. It’s learning that fear has no place where the love of God reigns. It’s learning that even when we don’t see ourselves being prepared in the wildernesses for lives of freedom, the LORD is molding and shaping us to be participants in his kingdom. It’s learning to trust that we are part of a greater story, the narrative of the LORD’s love and faithfulness and redemption of his people.

My favorite Hebrew word is the word hesed. Hesed is often translated mercy or loving-kindness, but it can also be translated steadfast-love or covenant faithfulness. These concepts of the steadfast love of the LORD and his faithfulness to us can’t be separated. His love and his faithfulness are what sustain us in the dark and lonely seasons of life, when we are fearful and hurting and wanting to go back to slavery in our own Egypts—whatever they might be. When we begin to remember the faithfulness of the LORD, how he has provided for us and been merciful to us and redeemed us and given us grace that is sufficient, it is then that the shackles of fear begin to break loose and the love of God can permeate our weary souls and reign in our lives, lifting us from our brokenness.

As we approach this Christmas, my prayer for us is that we would remember how the LORD has been good and faithful and trustworthy to us as individuals, and to us as a community. I pray that we would see how the love of God has calmed our hearts when the things in our life have broken us and caused us to fear. And lastly, I pray that we would remember that in any season that we find ourselves within, whether we are on the mountain tops of joy or in the valleys of sorrow, that from mountain to mountain and from valley to valley, our God sustains us and leads us in his hesed, his faithfulness and his perfect, steadfast love, that he lavishes upon us.

-Christa Edwards

Saturday, Dec. 21 – Kevin Kollock

21 Dec

Saturday, Dec. 21 – Love

Today’s Scripture:
John 14:19-23

19 “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.
20 “In that day you will know that I am in My Father and you in Me, and I in you.
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”

When I first began to attend Broad River Community Church in 2004, my now wife Jaime and I were dating. We looked like your normal dating couple, well, except we were 6 months pregnant. We had committed the unforgiveable sin in the Bible belt. We were pregnant and not yet married. I was ashamed, but I had not grown up in Shelby, so it was easier for me to work through. It was harder for Jaime, I think, because she grew up in the area and everyone decided to judge her negatively. A lot of people wanted to judge us and not love us. Love is a very precarious word. Different communities and families use this word differently. Some thought in order to love us they had to remind us of the mistakes we made. Some decided that true love needed to make sure we knew what we did was wrong. Others decided to love us a let us open up about it when we felt comfortable. It made it hard to find a church because we had to explain our relationship, our sin, and our plans for the future every Sunday. This was all humiliating, and just thinking of having to explain it all for the “thousandth” time did not seem like fun. Going to church, fellowshipping with believers, and personal time with God seemed impossible because a lot of people wanted to dwell on our personal sin. Needless to say this was a very discouraging and embarrassing time for us. Thankfully, we found BRCC and the attendees at the church chose to love and accept us from day one.

In verses 19-23 Jesus talks about some core ideas of Love that Jaime and I had to identify with early on in our relationship. First, He mentions in verses 19-20 that we are in him and he is in us. Knowing that God still wanted to live in me was a really encouraging idea in this time, especially when people were reminding me of how far from God I was. I knew that even though I did a bad thing, God still loved me and was even closer than ever. His love and desire to be one with me was not dependent on my acts. He loved me without any conditions. His love was not based on my inability to obey him. Knowing that he did not desert me gave me hope to continue to strive in a one-on-one relationship with him.

The second part of this Love Christ is explaining unfolds in verses 21-23. This is the idea of how “keeping” his commandments creates a bond between the believer and Christ. To “keep” signifies the idea of observing and analyzing. When sports analysts watch a game, they look at all the details. They catch things that the untrained eye would never see. God is challenging us to take the oneness he has graciously given and apply a steady analysis of his words. This is what Jaime and I had to do during this season in our lives. Did God want us to study his word so we could learn the rules? No, it was so that we could deepen our love relationship with him. Our motivation to regularly analyze his word and apply it to our lives enhanced our love relationship with Christ. So much so that, as Jesus puts it in verse 21, “He disclosed himself to us.” When something is disclosed it comes into view. Slowly but surely what seems blurry becomes clearer and clearer. By observing God’s words, we put ourselves in a position to see his ways more clearly and to know him deeper. I realized that God does not tell us to not sin because he is the cosmic kill joy and wants us to know all the rules. He really has our best interest in the forefront of his thoughts. God’s love and protection are one of his top priorities, and that is why he warns us against sin.

This time of year we celebrate the birth of Christ, which is one of the main themes of the Advent season. Love is alive and ready to disclose himself. He wants to sustain us with his Love by placing Himself within us. No matter our situation, as we get to know him more we will know his ways more clearly. This is the message of LOVE!

-Kevin Kollock

Friday, Dec. 20 – Don Raisch

20 Dec

Friday, Dec. 20 – Love

Today’s Scripture:
1 John 3:11-18

But The Greatest of These is Love…

Our themes for Advent this year have been Hope, Peace, and Joy. Other themes could have been Faith, Salvation, Mercy, Grace, Sanctification, and/or every other aspect of our relationship with God through Christ. However, the greatest of all these (and any other you might think of) is Love! It is greater than everything because it is the fulfillment of everything.

God’s Love is, in many ways, like air. It is made up of things you can’t see, but when it begins to move, you know it’s there by the effect it has on everything it touches. When I think of God’s Love, I think of its many effects on my life…His redeeming me, the gift of salvation, His patience with me, His compassion, mercy, forgiveness, being slow to anger, His faithfulness, and never leaving or forsaking me.

Several years ago, I had an experience with my youngest son that taught me a lesson in this area. I had been working hard, was tired, and ready for a restful weekend. Devon approached me and asked if I could take him “bike shopping” the next day. Giving way to my feelings, I snapped at him verbally. His response was to look at me and say, “Dad, you wouldn’t let us talk to you that way!” His words hit home, and I realized their spiritual implications as well as asked him to forgive me. John 15:12 says, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” God asks us to recognize the manifestations of His Love and be as patient, forgiving, merciful, longsuffering, kind, faithful… to others as He has been with us!

I John 4:12-15 expresses this so well. “… If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”

We live life to the fullest when we confess that Jesus is the Son of God. Then God dwells in us and we dwell in Him. His Spirit indwells us, teaches us, convicts us, encourages us, and loves us!! His Love changes us from the inside out…and enables us to truly love others. What more could we ask for? As we celebrate Christmas, let’s resolve to be channels where we will (with the help of the Holy Spirit) love others more in the same measure and in the same ways as God loves us.

– Don Raisch

Thursday, Dec. 19 – Jane Woods

19 Dec

Thursday, Dec. 19 – Love

Today’s Scripture:
Psalm 143:8-10

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
for I hide myself in you.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.

Why do you wake up?

Is it because of work? Because class is starting? Because the kids are hungry? Because today’s to-do list presses against your frontal lobe?

Many mornings, I wake up with an anxious-dread complex, reminding me I need a semi-professional outfit to attend the semi-professional job I work in the liminal space between college and a career. At my age, I still experience life as if it’s a Christmas gift perched on the horizon; this giant package in gold paper, tied up with satin ribbon, and hundreds of miles out of reach. I sense it’s waiting to be opened, waiting for me to open it, and I feel there is something magnificent inside.

If only I could get to it. If only it wasn’t so far off and the hike didn’t seem so treacherous.

The feeling doesn’t exactly correlate with what I understand. I understand living presently. I understand seeking meaning in my day job. I even understand being (and believe myself to be) deeply, unconditionally loved by Jesus. But big, influential pieces of me still think life is found in becoming something important, in doing something significant. Having not achieved either by worldly standards, I’m caught in this sticky web of anxiety, spun around and around and around in the silk of one-days and maybes until I’m utterly wrapped up—awaiting certain death.

I forget. I forget the sweat and love and precious blood that brought a Savior into this world, and I forget the sweat and love and precious blood He went out spilling.

I forget my life and my path and my purpose are already found in the curtain-tearing love of Jesus.

But because I can’t ever remember well enough, I feel like the spider in Jonathan Edward’s 1741 sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” A vermin hanging over the pit of hellfire from a spindle between the fingers of God, expecting to fall at any moment, expecting the fall I deserve on account of all my awful sin. Waiting, knowing. And yet… living still!

For the Love of God is too big to drop me.

Let me ask you: What if you woke up to hear the word of God’s unfailing love?

What if you believed, in first blink from under your covers, the to-do list was already done, the hungry children fed, the work finished, the house cleaned. What if, in the tiny sliver of light from between the curtains, you knew, for certain, there was nothing to earn in the hours of a day. And what if, before a yawn reached your lips, you trusted (really trusted) the path to be laid, your enemies defeated, and the ground made level before you.

And in rolling from your left to your right, still tangled in the sheets,
all the distrust and anxiety,
every fear and shame,
every uncertainty and need,
each to-do left on the list,
was silenced by remembrance of the King.

Replaced with a whisper like a roar!

Listen, child, for His Love comes on the rays of the rising sun.

-Jane Woods