17 “Brothers and sisters, I know you acted in ignorance. So did your rulers. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he foretold through all the prophets: that his Christ would suffer. 19 Change your hearts and lives! Turn back to God so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then the Lord will provide a season of relief from the distress of this age and he will send Jesus, whom he handpicked to be your Christ. 21 Jesus must remain in heaven until the restoration of all things, about which God spoke long ago through his holy prophets. 22 Moses said, The Lord your God will raise up from your own people a prophet like me. Listen to whatever he tells you. 23 Whoever doesn’t listen to that prophet will be totally cut off from the people. 24 All the prophets who spoke—from Samuel forward—announced these days. 25 You are the heirs of the prophets and the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he told Abraham, Through your descendants, all the families on earth will be blessed. 26 After God raised his servant, he sent him to you first—to bless you by enabling each of you to turn from your evil ways.”

While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees confronted them. They were incensed that the apostles were teaching the people and announcing that the resurrection of the dead was happening because of Jesus. They seized Peter and John and put them in prison until the next day. (It was already evening.) Many who heard the word became believers, and their number grew to about five thousand. (Acts 3:17—4:4, CEB)

I have been talking a lot over the past few weeks, for the season of Advent, about fear and the state of the world. I have intentionally been linking Advent to fear because it seems like fear is pervasive, and would world is overcome in the past few years with evil. We are becoming more and more turned in our ourselves and looking our for our best interest rather than the interests of others.

I am writing this before the presidential election in the USA and there is an undertone of hope, yet the society is still more concerned with their own self interest and not the best for society. It seems we are in a time when someone says something I disagree with that we immediately say that the other is wrong and start defending our position. That is what is happening in the reading, Peter and John were preaching good news and the religious leaders felt threatened, so they fought back. I wonder what would have happened if they would have listened… They may not have changed their mind, but maybe there would have been an understanding.

I wonder what would happen if we as followers of the coming savior would listen to be compassionate, to hear our neighbor? What would happen if we loved as God tells us to and were a presence of peace in the community in which we live? What would happen is we let love rule rather than fear?

Let love rule, and kick fear to the curb.


10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. 11 Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. 12 We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. 13 Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand.14 So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, 15 and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace.16 Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. (Ephesians 6:10-17, CEB)

I feel like this is a passage we have all heard before. A lot of people use it as a way to fend off the evil spirits. “Oh yeah, you can’t stop me or disagree with me because I’ve got the armor of GOD on.”

The passage lays out all of the different pieces of armor God provides for us and what the armor can protect us from. All of that is nice and dandy, but I’d like to focus on verse 12: “We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens.” With all of the tensions that our nation has experienced over the past month and a half and even over the past year, I think many people are forgetting this part of the passage.

“We aren’t fighting against human enemies.”

God is explicitly telling us that other humans are not the problem. Places of authority and “forces of cosmic darkness” are the problem. And just to be clear, the people holding those places of authority are not the problem, the place and situation itself are. We don’t need to put on the armor of God to defend ourselves and our ideals against other people, we need it to defend against the oppression that comes from authoritative ideals. Remember this the next time you disagree with someone. God doesn’t want us to fight them as human beings, after all God did craft each and every one of us, but wants us to guard against those ideals that stray away from what God truly wants from us.


A man named John was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light. 19 This is John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 John confessed (he didn’t deny but confessed), “I’m not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” John said, “I’m not.” “Are you the prophet?” John answered, “No.” 22 They asked, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 John replied, “I am a voice crying out in the wilderness, Make the Lord’s path straight, just as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 Those sent by the Pharisees 25 asked, “Why do you baptize if you aren’t the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered, “I baptize with water. Someone greater stands among you, whom you don’t recognize.27 He comes after me, but I’m not worthy to untie his sandal straps.” 28 This encounter took place across the Jordan in Bethany where John was baptizing. (John 1:6-8, 19-28, CEB)

Who are you? And why are you doing what you are doing?

So many people in the world want to know who we are and why we live in hope. When the world is collapsing around us and it seems like everything is going wrong, we still live in hope and not the fear that surrounds us. Why, or better yet, how?

Peace. Which is probably something we are missing now, or at least during Advent I am usually missing it. This year with Covid will be interesting to see if December is as hectic as “normal” years. But peace of know that I am waiting for the baby, that will grow to show us how to live, and be faithful to the plan to go to the cross, die and rise and ascend into the heavens. And because He lives I have peace, and hope.

So who are you? You are a beloved child of God and you do what you do because of peace and hope in Christ.

Never lose this. Peace and hope will always be there!


28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. Now he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 “‘No, I don’t want to,’ he replied. But later he changed his mind and went. 30 “The father said the same thing to the other son, who replied, ‘Yes, sir.’ But he didn’t go. 31 “Which one of these two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first one.” Jesus said to them, “I assure you that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering God’s kingdom ahead of you.32 For John came to you on the righteous road, and you didn’t believe him. But tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Yet even after you saw this, you didn’t change your hearts and lives and you didn’t believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32, CEB)

This is an interesting parable I think, because when Jesus asks who did the fathers will, my first answer was neither. And yes, neither son did exactly what was asked, nor did they do what they said they would. But when it comes down to it, the first son did what needed to be done, regardless of what he said or whether he wanted to. This is something that I think we should be mindful of, both as a church and individual people. So often it is easiest to say what we think others want to hear. “Yes, I’ll help you with that,” “Of course we accept everyone,” “I love you,” etc. This is what our words are saying, but do our actions line up with those words? Do we love unconditionally, without question or complaint, and show it in all of our interactions? 

Today I want to challenge you to say that you love those around you not with your words, but with your actions. This can be smaller things like a friendly smile (or wave, if you’re wearing a mask) or something larger like offering to do a chore, buying a coffee, giving someone a call and genuinely being interested in their day. Whatever love looks like to you, show it to those around you.


12 It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. 13 Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. 14 The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. 15 So all of us who are spiritually mature should think this way, and if anyone thinks differently, God will reveal it to him or her. 16 Only let’s live in a way that is consistent with whatever level we have reached. (Philippians 3:12-16, CEB)

Is anyone perfect?

Paul is telling us here that he is not perfect, nor has he reached the goal, but he is striving ever forward reaching for Christ.

In a world that tells you to look to self gratification, and self pleasure, Paul and Christ are calling us to press on towards Jesus and not focus on what we leave behind, or our selves but to keep looking and pressing forward.

Christ will never leave us and will always move with us through this world, to be our foundation and our hope. Never let go fo the hope we have in the baby in the manger. Know that he came to show us how to love the world around us and to help us along our journey.

Press onward and live in Christ’s hope.


These things were my assets, but I wrote them off as a loss for the sake of Christ. But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ and be found in him. In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith. 10 The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings. It includes being conformed to his death 11 so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11, CEB)

The portion of Philippians right before this is where Paul lays out his lineage and all the things as a Jew he can brag in, the proper lineage and tribe, blameless under the law. But all of this is garbage, trash because it is only the fact that Christ came and died and made a way that we are acceptable.

And only our conforming to Christ’s death may we obtain the goal of eternal life. This is made possible by the baby born in the manger, that is faithful to the plan to go to the cross.

Know you will never make it on your own, but don’t let that weigh you down in fear. Know the hope we have in Christ and live in that.


During the rule of King Herod of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron. They were both righteous before God, blameless in their observance of all the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to become pregnant and they both were very old. One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God because his priestly division was on duty. Following the customs of priestly service, he was chosen by lottery to go into the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense. 10 All the people who gathered to worship were praying outside during this hour of incense offering. 11 An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear. 13 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. 16 He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God. 17 He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:5-17, CEB)

He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were unable to have children and they prayed that God would bless them with a child. And God heard the pray and blessed them. And an angel announced this to Zechariah in the sanctuary while he was burning incense. John will be his name and he will make ready a people, prepared for the Lord. 

What are you doing to continue what John started? 

Are you living in fear of the day, allowing people to control your life or do you live in the hope of the coming savior and share God’s love with all of the world?

Be like John and make ready a people prepared to receive the Lord!


The apostles and the brothers and sisters throughout Judea heard that even the Gentiles had welcomed God’s word. When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him.They accused him, “You went into the home of the uncircumcised and ate with them!” Step-by-step, Peter explained what had happened. “I was in the city of Joppa praying when I had a visionary experience. In my vision, I saw something like a large linen sheet being lowered from heaven by its four corners. It came all the way down to me. As I stared at it, wondering what it was, I saw four-legged animals—including wild beasts—as well as reptiles and wild birds. I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter! Kill and eat!’ I responded, ‘Absolutely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ (Acts 11:1-8, CEB)

This is an interesting passage out of context. It stops at Peter saying that he would never eat anything dirty or unclean. The word that my bible uses is “common.” Reading only this passage, I was honestly somewhat confused as to what the point of the dream was, and what it was supposed to illustrate. Reading on, the same voice says to Peter, “Do not call unclean what God has made clean.” Peter goes on to the house of a gentile and baptizes him and his entire family, making them ‘clean.’ Verse 17 says “If then God gave them the same gift that he gave to us when we believed in Jesus Christ, then who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 

It goes to show that we should not judge others, because we can never say that we truly know what is in their hearts or minds, just as we certainly can never truly know what is in the mind of God. If God has forgiven someone, why shouldn’t we? We have no way of saying that a person is ‘deserving’ of God’s forgiveness or not, because none of us are ‘deserving,’ and that is the point. We are all a part of God’s creation, and as such we all are created good and have been made clean by God. Who are we to stand in the way of that?


37 When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” 40 With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day. 42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. (Acts 2:37-42, CEB)

I was excited to write this devotional because Acts 2:42-47 is a passage that for some reason I have always found very comforting. I think it stems from the idea of this ideal society that the new believers had with each other; sharing all they had, living in community with each other, making sure everyone’s needs were met. I like to imagine that I will find a community like that one day. The first summer that I worked at camp, where I met some of my friends who first brought me to Treehouse, this was a reading for our Thursday bible study. It is bookmarked and highlighted in my bible, and is something that I still turn to years after that first summer ended, hoping I can find another community in which to live, to share what I have with others, and to take care and be taken care of.

The verses 37-42 however, details not that perfect society but the way to get there. We get there by changing our hearts and our lives, loving one another, being forgiven of our sins. This is what we need in order to get to that place of love and caring. We leave behind the old, the sin, the hurt inside us, and we step into a community of believers who truly love and care for each other.


The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah: Look, I am sending my messenger before you. He will prepare your way, a voice shouting in the wilderness:Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.” John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals.I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:1-8, CEB)

I remember first hearing about John the Baptist in Sunday school and having a hard time connecting to him. Now reading this I think about all the people who have acted as John in my life. All of those friends and family that reminded me of Christ. Not all of them have been Christian or Lutheran either, they remind me of Christ through their love and kindness. 

I urge you to look for the John’s in your life and think about how they remind you of the coming of Christ every day.