Belfast United Methodist Church
Tuesday, December 06, 2016
The mission of the Belfast United Methodist Church is to be a community of Disciples in service for Jesus Christ, sharing God's love with all.
07 advent devotional
Welcome to the Belfast United Methodist Church Advent Devotional. During the Advent Season, you will have the opportunity to read reflections from various members of our congregation. They share what a Bible passage for the day says to them as they prepare their hearts, minds, souls, and lives with remembering the birth of the Christ and anticipating the return of the Son of God.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
JOHN THE BAPTIST
Read: Matthew 11: 12-15
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it” (John 11:12).
Let me tell you what is going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him. For a long time now people have tried to force themselves into God’s kingdom. But if you read the books of the Prophets and God’s Law closely, you will see them culminate in John, teaming up with him in preparing the way for the Messiah of the kingdom. Looked at in this way, John is the ‘Elijah’ you’ve all been expecting to arrive and introduce the Messiah.
A thought about this passage:
Some people today think they can buy their way into heaven. They use money, provide good deeds to the public that they don’t really care about and sit on church boards because it makes them look powerful. God keeps reminding us throughout the Bible, that these actions will not put us on God’s priority list for heaven. This message to me says, don’t try to bully and buy your way into heaven. Simply follow God’s laws which are clearly spelled out in the Bible. Keep your eyes and ears open for Christ’s return. He will return and we want to be ready.
Prayer: Lord, during this season, may we read, interpret and
enjoy the words of our Bible. These are the most sacred words that tell us exactly how to live our lives as He has told us. May God’s love and His words remain with us through this holiday season. Live well and be true to His word. In His name. Amen.
Kearny Neagle of the Women’s Bible Study
Monday, December 5, 2016
Read: Luke 1:67-79
“His father Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:...” (Luke 1:67)
The scripture is the prophecy of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, days after John's birth. Zechariah was a priest and a righteous man who momentarily had doubts when the angel Gabriel came to him with the news that his wife Elizabeth was to bear a son. As a result, Zechariah was mute during Elizabeth's pregnancy. It was at the naming of their son that Zechariah's tongue was loosed and he prophesied the imminent coming of the Savior which had previously been told in Jeremiah and Isaiah. He told John that he was chosen to pave the way for Christ by providing the people with the "knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins."
Once again, we are at the Advent season. We are again overwhelmed at times with the busyness of our Christmas preparations. But then we slow down, take a breath and contemplate the mysteries of Christ. We think about His birth, His ministry and all that lays in store for us in the kingdom of Heaven and we know PEACE. A peace that is calming, joyful and full of hope simply because we have a God who loved us enough to send His son.
Prayer: Most gracious and loving Heavenly Father, Thank You for the gift of Your Son. Amen.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
THE YEAR OF THE LORD’S FAVOR
Read: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” (Isaiah 61:1a)
We serve a Mighty God, who has anointed us to bring Good News of the Gospel to the poor and to those who are held captive by sin. Through His power they can find forgiveness and new life in Him.
He walks with us through our trials. I know from experience that He heals the brokenhearted, and He comforts those who mourn. Sometimes our suffering may come as a result of our own mistakes, from someone else’s mistakes or an injustice. He still is faithful to give us beauty for ashes, and joyous blessings and praise instead of despair. He never fails. His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!
“I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For He has dressed me with the clothing of Salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness.” ...His righteousness!
Let us go in the power and the anointing of the Holy Spirit to do the work that He has called us to do.
Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank You for the privilege of celebrating Your birth and all that it means. Thank You that we can rejoice as the angels did when they brought good tidings of great joy! We look forward to the new year with confident expectation that Your plans will be accomplished in our lives. Amen.
Christine Brackett of the Women’s Bible Study
Saturday, December 3, 2016
Read: Mark 1:1-18
“I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8).
When I read the church bulletin and there is to be a Baptism as part of worship, I am excited. It seems to me that the entire church family is excited. Baptism gives us hope, joy, and love.
Though he felt unworthy, John baptized Jesus. Why would this perfect Son of God, want to be baptized? I had to do some research and study in order to try and answer this age old question. This was Jesus' first public step in His mission to teach by example. Jesus would not ask us to do something that He was not willing to do. It showed Jesus' humanity and submission to the will of God. Jesus identified with sinners. With baptism others could rise free from sin and walk into a new life.
Why do Christians still continue to seek and honor baptism? Baptism is an outward change in a believer's life. It is an act of obedience to God. The church is responsible to teach Jesus' word, make disciples, and baptize those disciples. It is a public profession of faith and discipleship. When babies are baptized, parents and the church family promise to guide their child to a Christian life. When Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove. When we are baptized, perhaps the Holy Spirit descends on us also, even if we don't actually see a dove. The excitement we feel could be the Holy Spirit affirming our baptism.
Prayer: Help us to remember why we were baptized. Help us to live as Your disciples. May we live each day sharing Your word and Your love. Amen.
Friday, December 2, 2016
COMFORT FOR GOD’S PEOPLE
Read: Isaiah 40:1-6
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly…” (Isaiah 40:1-2a)
Comfort ye… these are joyful words! God has made the way for forgiveness of our sins, plans prepared before the beginning of time. What conversations God and His Son had as Holy Spirit hovered around them. Wonderful and tumultuous decisions were made as they conversed in their heavenly dwelling. Jesus was to come and fulfill God’s redemption plan. In the fullness of time Jesus was born as a babe and when grown ministered to people. He gave blessings to those who mourned and said they would be comforted.
Today we are able to say “Comfort ye…” to one another because of our blessed hope in Jesus. One day God will make a new heaven and a new earth, with no more tears or sorrows. Yet one thing will remain constant and unchanging- “...the word of our God shall stand forever”. This is our anticipation, our comfort —for the best is yet to come!
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your abiding Word, truth in Jesus Christ, and Your everlasting love. Please bless each person with Your precious comfort as they read this. Help each of us to comfort one another with “...the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God”. I pray this in the wonderful name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Betsy Davis of the Women’s Bible Study
Thursday, December 1, 2016
THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER
Read: Philippians 1:1-3
“I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3).
Paul writes to the Philippians with thanksgiving. It is in chains, having suffered greatly, that Paul reflects on the bounty of Christian friendship and love shared with the Philippians. What was difficult was made bearable, in part, by this relationship.
Paul’s writings have recently been weighing on my heart and mind in my spiritual journey. I find myself reflecting about relationships God has blessed me with and whether I am truly present in these relationships.
So often my “to do” list takes precedence. As I tackle laundry, respond to an “important” email, or allow my mind to fret over the happenings of the day, am I present for the children God has entrusted with my earthly care? Do they sense what I feel in my heart: a love that is so deep that I struggle to even put it into words? In the bustle of every day living, do I tell those with whom I interact regularly that I am thankful for them by pausing to really listen to the burdens of their heart, joy of their day, or even the ordinary? Have I rushed through these moments, focused on my “schedule” thinking I’ll have more time to be present when a project is complete or the rush of the holiday season is over?
The truth is, there will always be laundry and timelines. Like Paul, I want take time to thank God upon every remembrance of those dear to me. I also want to show my thanksgiving by being present.
Prayer: Dear God, thank You for bonds of friendship and family. Help us show our thanksgiving by being fully present. Amen.
Kara Giron Wisniewski, Ph.D., N.C.S.P.
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
SIGN OF HOPE
Read: Isaiah 11:1-10
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9 NIV).
Isaiah writes during a stormy period of Assyrian expansion and decline of Israel. Assyria is the great power currently in charge, and with incredible cruelty, conquers Samaria and Israel. Now Judah’s on the list.
Yet despite present conditions, Isaiah, who lives 700 years before Jesus, foresees a future of safety, peace, and stable serenity with the coming of the Messiah. Assyrian’s seeming strength in armies, war, brutality, represents only a false wisdom, for even in devastation, new life stems from a shoot.
Isaiah’s message continually reminds us that fierce and cruel dispositions are changed by the grace of Jesus Christ—not only for Jews but for all nations.
Today, just like then, God brings hope into the hearts of those who suffer destruction and defeat, or live in the agony of hopelessness and despair.
Advent is a time of change and personal growth. Isaiah’s vision encourages us to be the bearer of good in a marginalized society.
Prayer: We thank You, God, for Your constant presence, and for the gift of Jesus Christ. We thank You for our ability to change. Help us to be open to Your Spirit. Amen.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Read: Jeremiah 33:14-16
…”I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel…” (Jeremiah 33:14b)
Have you ever made a promise that you could not keep? God hasn’t! The Old Testament gives many examples of promises that God made and fulfilled. In fact, Joshua 21 tells us, “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; everyone was fulfilled.”
Hebrews 11 says that men and women of the Old Testament trusted God and won God’s approval, yet they did not receive all that was promised; “a righteous Branch from David’s line.” We are New Testament people who have received the fulfillment of God’s promise; the wonderful gift of God’s Son. And through God’s Son, more promises- to be with us, to love us, to care for us, to forgive us, to return for us and to take us to be with God. As we celebrate throughout this holiday season, we must remember to give thanks for God’s gift and all the promises fulfilled through Jesus.
Throughout the coming year we can stand on God’s “promises that cannot fail” and “by the living Word of God” we “shall prevail.”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for sending us Your Son, the fulfillment of Your Old Testament promise. Help us to stand on Your promises and rest in our Savior in whose name we pray. Amen.
Monday, November 28, 2016
DON’T IGNORE GOD’S PROMISE
Read: 2 Peter 3:3-15a
“Strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish” (2 Peter 3:14b)
What do I avoid? Some of those things are doubt, evil, greed, darkness, terrorism, want, alone-ness, fear, pain…I’m sure you can add to this list. The message from God is to focus on His promise instead of our avoidance list. Like so much in our media, both news and fiction, we can get entangled in our negatives and work against ourselves.
What do I desire? I think the broadest way to look at this is not to list “stuff”, but to realize that the only thing that can’t be taken from us is the truth of God’s love and His promise that we can ALWAYS be sheltered by HIM. We could be penniless, ill, falsely accused, misunderstood, physically lost or in danger. God is the only real rock to build our lives on.
So, how do I get to that safe place? Some lines of Peter’s letter tell us to lead lives of holiness and godliness, to grow in grace and knowledge, to be at peace, stable. 2 Peter 1:3-5 are very specific about our “how to’s”. Divine power has given us everything needed for life, to escape corruption.
Then you will never stumble, but enter the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Think of a raging fire. Avoid it. Move away. Seek a safe place. Stay there.
Prayer: My God, I know You are my safe place. Hold me close. Show me how to draw others to Your patient love. Amen.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
A LIFE OF FAITH
Mark 13: 32-33
“No one knows about the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert!” (Mark 13: 32-33a)
These words of Christ are a warning to us for daily use. If we stop and think, we realize that the length of life here on earth is uncertain. What is certain is that we need to prepare for that judgement while we live here. First and foremost we need to really believe in Christ as our redeemer. He died for our sins. I know that my sins are ever before me and I need this grace that God offers us if we but believe that Christ died for everyone's sins. Secondly, we need to confess our sins and ask forgiveness in Jesus' name. Living a life with the Holy Spirit to guide us and to help throughout the day is essential. Feeling God's guidance is such a great feeling. But what about those times when we find ourselves sinning? What happened to our feeling close to the Lord? Looking back even in this past week, I find that this closeness to the Lord was often times out of mind. Then finally I would realize that tasks that I have to do would go much better if I included the Lord. The important thing is, God wants to be included. He wants to help us.
Living a life after retirement is great. For the past 10 years I have lived one day at a time. I mean, I want my activities to be working for and with the Lord. One of the things I find really meaningful centers around retired people, older people like myself. I visit nursing homes and retirement homes where I play and sing “The oldies” 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's music (for the most part), some faith songs and some secular. I am using my God given talents instead of burying them. But I know that I can't play a note without the Lord's help. Everyone has talents they can use to stay close to the Lord.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, we offer thanks for the guidance, the closeness You provide and are eternally grateful for the salvation Christ offers to us. Thank You Lord, Amen.