Belfast United Methodist Church
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
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.
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Blueberry Pie with no Blueberries?
Read: John 1:1-18
“The true Light that shines on all people was coming into the world. The Light was in the world, and the world came into being through the Light, but the world didn’t recognize the Light. The Light came to His own people, and His own people didn’t welcome Him. But those who did welcome Him, those who believed in His name, He authorized to become God’s children” (John 1:9-12, Common English Bible).
The 70th birthday is one of milestone birthdays in Korean tradition. While visiting my parents in Korea about 5 years ago, fortunately my father’s 70th birthday was approaching. I was very excited that I was able to prepare it for him and to celebrate it with my family. My family and I made plans to make it a surprise party. We made a reservation for a party room at a luxury hotel downtown Seoul, made an arrangement to have a famous quartet at the party, sent invitation cards to his close friends, and bought gifts which he always wanted to have. Everything was all set! Finally his 70th birthday! The room was filled with colorful balloons, beautiful flowers, delicious foods, elegant music, close families and friends. The only thing left was to wait for my father. Perfect! But, my father didn’t show up in 10 minutes… 20 minutes… 30 minutes… oh my! Guess what? We totally forgot to invite him to his 70th birthday!
Of course, this is not a real story. I made up this story while reflecting on today’s Christmas culture. It is challenging to “find” Jesus in many parts of our society. The people seem to have so much fun with no Jesus during Christmas season, His birthday. Some even insist that we should not use the name Jesus Christ and/or Christmas when referring to His birthday celebration. How weird and non-sense! Blueberry pies with no blueberries have no point. Christmas with no Christ has no point. Does your Christmas have the point? Do you have Jesus Christ in your Christmas celebrations? Merry Christmas!
Prayer: Happy Birthday to You, Jesus! Thank You for breaking into my life, Lord. I am very happy to have You in my life. Thank You for being my Savior. I love You. In Your precious name. Amen.
Pastor Jinwoo Chun
Saturday, December 24, 2016
THE SHEPHERDS AND THE ANGELS
Read: Luke 2:8-18
“...Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2: 10b).
I would like to see or hear an angel someday. And what about 'a multitude of heavenly host', wouldn't that be amazing to see? That is what some shepherds encountered as they were watching their sheep one cold night over two thousand years ago. After telling them not to be afraid, the angel went on to explain, 'I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people'. Great joy to all people.
Those words are just as much for us today as then. But do we receive them? Do we receive God's gift of His Son and all it means?
Once we know Jesus everything changes, because He will change you. It changed those shepherds who decided to go to Bethlehem and see the 'Savior, who is Christ the Lord' the angel told them about. And then they could not stop telling others what they saw.
I'm not the kind that goes around telling people about the Jesus who lives in my heart, maybe I should, or the Jesus that took the fear from me and gave me greater peace because I trust Him. But He is real.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord Jesus, that You live in our hearts to change us. May our words and deeds bring glory to Your name. In His name I pray. Amen.
Friday, December 23, 2016
MARY’S SONG OF PRAISE
Read: Luke 1:46-55
“And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1: 46-48a).
Do you have a song of praise? I don’t mean a favorite hymn or praise song. I mean your own personal expression of joy and thanksgiving, straight from your heart to God.
Mary has one. It erupts from a deep awareness of God’s grace poured out upon her. It winds its way through the improbable details of God’s blessing in her life. It expands into a litany of wonder about God’s saving power at work in the world: scattering the proud, lifting up the lowly, filling the hungry with good things, remembering forever God’s promise to the people of Israel.
How about you? Do you have a song of praise waiting to be sung — your own unique, deeply personal witness to the power of Jesus at work in your life? It needn’t be as grand as Mary’s, whose profound, poetic, prophetic song is revered in our faith tradition. You see, while Mary’s blessing rested in her being chosen to be the mother of Jesus, we too are blessed with opportunity to carry Christ into the world. Christ in you; Christ in me; Christ through us: the love, power and saving grace that Mary foretold, at work in the world through the people that love and follow Jesus.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” Why not give voice today, to your own personal song of praise?
Prayer: Gracious God, help us sing Your Love. Amen.
Thursday, December 22, 2016
UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN
Read: Luke 1: 26-38
“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).
The date was December 24, 1978. The time was a little after 7:00 PM. The event was the annual Christmas Eve service at the Searsport United Methodist Church. I can remember the date because our newest daughter, Sarah was twenty days old. I remember the time because we were a little late. I remember the event because I had an "understanding" during the church service.
The church was nearly full as we entered the warm sanctuary that cold night. The only empty seats were in the pews near the front so down the aisle we went..Ron holding on to the hand of 2 1/2 year old Amy in her pink winter jacket and boots. I was holding our newborn, Sarah, who was all bundled up her yellow hooded snowsuit. I felt like all eyes were on us, especially on our new baby. Everyone wants to take a look at a newborn. Everyone seems amazed at the miracle of each new birth.
Holding our baby, Sarah, and marveling at the way our daughter, Amy had grown from being a baby to this amazing little toddler who could walk and talk and play and love her new sister, I suddenly understood that Christmas is the story of a mother and her child. Mary must have held Jesus as all mothers do, checking for fingers and toes, watching his little chest go up and down with His first breaths, and hearing His cries and His sighs. She must have felt instant love as Ron and I did for Amy and for Sarah, feeling as if our hearts could burst. This Christmas Eve, I totally understood that Jesus came to earth as all babies do, wet and wrinkled, yet complete enough to be able to eat and smile and breathe and sleep.
God in His wisdom, decided to send His Son to earth as a helpless newborn. Yet God also allowed us to be parents, too. We, like Mary and Joseph, can experience the priceless gift of holding our babies, singing lullabies to them as our mothers did for us, rocking them to sleep and watching them grow and learn. I love the words of Psalm 139:13 which says "You knit me together in my mother's womb". That Christmas Eve I received a new understanding of the words spoken to Mary by the angel: "Don't be afraid, Mary. God has shown you His grace. You will give birth to a Son and you will name Him Jesus".
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your Word which tells us of the birth of Your Son, Jesus. Thank you for letting us be parents, too. You are so kind and good. Amen.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST FORETOLD
Read: Luke 1: 1-25
“Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years” (Luke 1: 18).
We all know the story of Zacharias and Elizabeth who were childless. Elizabeth was beyond child bearing age. The Israelites considered barrenness a curse from God; punishment for sinning. But Luke tells us that Zacharias and Elizabeth "were both righteous" and "blameless" obeying all the commandments and laws. We can tell by Zacharias' reaction to angel Gabriel's message that Zacharias had stopped praying for a child. Otherwise his reaction would have been one of joy, not disbelief.
Maybe Zacharias doubted God would keep this promise. At the time of Gabriel's visit Herod was the ruler. Since Herod was not an Israelite many of the Jews felt that God did not keep all His promises. After all, He had promised them that they would always be ruled by a Jewish king. But God had not broken His promise. Herod was appointed by the Romans; by man not God. God's promise was fulfilled: Zacharias could not speak and Elizabeth did have a son whom we know as John the Baptist.
As a child I loved the book "Cheaper by the Dozen" and dreamed about having 12 children. I remained childless so I decided on adoption. I spent many years trying various adoption paths, even choosing children from "waiting" lists. I was praying for a child but I was trying to force my will not truly trusting God. When I was approaching "grandmother age" another adoption fell through at the last step in the process. It was at this point that I finally "let go and let God". My prayer now changed to: "Lord, please let me receive a referral by my next birthday. If I do not get one, then I will take it as a sign that it's Your will that I follow a different path". One week before my birthday I received the awaited call for a 1 year old boy from El Salvador. He is my son Matthew John whose name means "gift of God" "God is gracious".
Prayer: Dear Lord, We know that You answer our prayers. The answer may take longer than we like and may not be the answer we seek. Please help us to remember that You are a loving and giving God and You always keep Your promises. You promised us a Messiah and You sent us Jesus. Help us to remember that the words of the Lord's Prayer say: "Thy will be done" not "my or our will be done". Amen.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
TAMING THE CLUTTER
Read: Isaiah 9:2-7
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2a)
Our lives are completely cluttered, just like a hoarder, we clutter our lives with belongings, activities, books, smart phones, and the list goes on. Each new “thing” comes encumbered with extended cluttering.
A smart phone comes with texting, online searches, Facebook, games and an endless amount of stuff that adds to the clutter. Activities that build relationships and foster well-being are needed, but become annoying when we clutter our calendars. Buying stuff when we don’t need it often leads to a desire to buy more.
Most things are good in moderation. When we allow the clutter to be bigger and louder than the voice and face of God, that’s when we become a hoarder of clutter.
Thank goodness God has given us Himself in Jesus Christ to give us clear uncluttered paths to follow. He is a perfect example of how living uncluttered allows us to be blessed even when we have nothing. It is true, all the best things in life are clutter free.
So, turn off the cell phone for a while, skip Facebook for a day, put down the book and spend time with someone, stop playing that game, learn to say ”No” and embrace the clutter-free blessings of GOD; love, relationship, forgiveness, acceptance, tolerance and freedom, to name a few.
Prayer: Dear God, please show me the areas of clutter in my life and help me to tame the clutter so that I never lose sight of Your face or stop hearing Your voice. Help me to know the difference between the word “need” and “want” and give me eyes to see all the free blessings You have already prepared for me. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
Monday, December 19, 2016
THE RIGHTEOUS BRANCH
I will raise unto David a righteous branch refers to our blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, who was a branch out of the stem of Jesse. Jesus Christ who would be the righteous King; by the power of his spirit and influence to reign, prosper, and execute judgement and justice on earth. The real Israel in this verse refers to the believers in Christ Jesus who are free from the bondage of sin. The Lord of our righteousness having been made of God and of Gods wisdom, righteousness and redemption.
Jeremiah 23; 5-6 is Gods promise of Christ Jesus and his birth at the Christmas season we celebrate annually. We know as Christians the true meaning of Christmas is the King of Righteousness. God’s ultimate gift to each of us isn't wrapped, placed under a tree or opened on Christmas Day. The King of Righteousness is placed in our hearts and is opened every day. The King of Righteousness is the gift of eternity.
Prayer: Lord guide us and remind us to share our eternal gift with others every day.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Read: John 3: verses 16-21
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18)
Too often we take things for granted and could possibly miss things that are in front of our very eyes!! The Lord’s word explains right away the vehicle by which we can be in a relationship with Christ It is for us to accept “ Christ as your personal Savior” and failing to do so creates an ending for us that would not be as we would like because we could be separated forever from him.
“Cheer up” though, because the Lord has told us how to be with him and all we have to do is to say “YES”. How special is “that”!! In this Christmas season as we gather with family or in groups together, remember the reason for the season. Show your love for sisters and brothers of the faith and always be ready to share with those that have not heard the truth nor were interested before. You never know how or when the time is right that you could affect a person with a kind word or a touch of your hand or a hug! We just need to be ready to share the Love of Christ. All we have to do is to plant the seed in God’s garden of Love and God will water the garden and help it grow to “Full Bloom in Christ”.
May God’s grace fall upon all of us during the joyous season and help us to be more attentive to the needs of others.
Prayer: Strength in Jesus comes with a willing heart and a loving way. Pass this grace to others
Saturday, December 17, 2016
EXPECTIATIONS FOR A KING
Read: Micah 5: 2-5b
“...though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will e ruler over Israel,” (Micah 5:2b)
Micah was hoping for a king who would deliver them from Assyria but he foresaw in the distant future that there would be a King born in Bethlehem. This messiah would shepherd and rule in the strength of God the Father. And so it came to pass that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He would bring peace, perhaps not to end wars but to bring peace to our own lives.
The Bible speaks of peace many times. One example is John 14:27, “My peace I leave with you, let not your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid”.
At this time of year, we become very busy. Let us remember that Advent is a time for reflection and also a time of waiting and of expectation.
Children look forward to the gifts under the tree but as Christians, we know the gift has already been given
The greatest gift was given by Jesus, who died on the cross so that we could have eternal life.
Prayer: Thank You, God for this wonderful gift. May we celebrate this season with love for all and be thankful for all our blessings. Amen.
Friday, December 16, 2016
THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST
Read: Matthew 1:18-25
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel”—which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:22,23).
Jesus’ mother, Mary, was pledged to marry Joseph. However, before they got married it turns out Mary s pregnant. Joseph says, WHOA! We haven’t even been together yet. So he decides to dump her, quietly because he doesn’t want to embarrass her. Then Joseph has a dream and an Angel tells him to go ahead and marry her, The Holy Spirit planted the seed and you will have a boy and you will name it Jesus. Devine Intervention?
Now, earlier in my life journey my girlfriend June and I were an item while we were in college. Well, she became pregnant and I was pretty sure God didn’t plant the seed! So, we decided to abort. I borrowed the money, borrowed a car, and made an appointment to go to a facility in Canada, (illegal here in USA). I traveled to her school to pick her up at the appointed time. We had a cup of coffee, discussed our plight and decided to not go through with it. So, we had a boy, and named him Daniel, and raised a wonderful, successful so who has two lovely daughters etc. and so forth. Devine Intervention?
Prayer: Please watch over young folks who have heavy decisions to make in their lives. Amen.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
CHOSEN BY GOD
Read: Romans 1:6
“ And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6).
I lived with my aunt and uncle from the time I was an infant. They had a son a year older than me and I always thought of him as my brother. By the time I was old enough to go to school I couldn't understand why all the kids would tease me saying he wasn’t my brother because we had different last names. This was 65 +years ago, before it was accepted to have different last names and be siblings. That was when I realized my biological parents didn’t want me. I couldn’t understand and I would go home from school every day crying because of the teasing. When I was 9 my aunt and uncle adopted me so I would have the same last name.
Some time later I came to realize that Jesus was also adopted, by Joseph. That somehow made me feel better.
Now in Romans 1:6 it says that I am also among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. WOW! What an amazing blessing to know I belong to the most wonderful Lord and Savior.
Prayer: Dear God, Thank You for such a blessing. I feel Your unconditional love surrounding me everyday and I now know I truly am loved and I belong to You. Amen.
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
GOD’S PROMISE TO DAVID
Read: 2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16
“Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you” (2 Samuel 7:3b).
Think about a time when you were about to do something new for the very first time. Do you remember those nervous feelings in your stomach, the feelings of doubt, the feeling that you had made a mistake, and the desire to back down and not do it? There have been many times in my life when I had these feelings and I was so sure that I could not do it, especially when I had to do it alone. But then I would be reminded that I was not alone. God would be with me every step of the way.
I remember 5 years ago when I was starting my job as a first grade teacher. I was hired literally 3 days before school was going to start. I had taught in the pre-k program for 19 years, but I had never taught first grade before. I needed to set up a brand new classroom and I needed to learn all new curriculum material, all in 3 days. I was totally overwhelmed! I immediately decided that I had made a terrible mistake in accepting the position and wanted to back out. But then I prayed; I prayed for wisdom, I prayed for strength, and I prayed for patience in myself.
Before I knew what had happened, my classroom was full of my family who were there to lend a helping hand. My parents as well as my aunt and uncle, all retired educators, were there in full force, setting up the classroom environment and getting me organized. My new classroom had actually belonged to my uncle who had taught first grade in that same classroom for many, many years. I felt a sense of peace about my new job, knowing that God had sent them.
Every day on my way to school, I ask God to be with me as I teach. I ask for patience, kindness and wisdom; I ask that I may be slow to anger and slow to speak, but quick to listen. Teaching is not an easy job, but knowing that God is with me makes me assured that I will do my very best for the benefit of all of my students.
Prayer: Dear God, Thank You for being with us each day as we go about our daily activities. We pray that You will help us to be Your hands and feet, here on Earth. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
WHO ARE YOU?
Read: John 1:6-8, 19-23
"He said, I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness , make straight the way of the Lord...'" ( John 1:23b)
John makes it clear that he is a messenger, a voice, a man with a mission. Sent from God to witness and testify, His story applies to us even today. As we pause to ponder the coming celebration of the birth of our Lord--The Light Of The World--Let us each and every one ask ourselves the question "who am I?
Am I one of God's messengers in today's world? Have I accepted the charge to witness? Am I willing to testify in deeds as much as in words? Will my light be visible to wanderers in today's dark world?
...Silent flames flicker
shattering darkness with light.
One flame ignites another
When souls touch some day or night...
Prayer: Lord in heaven above, kindle flames within us that we may stand as beacons, bearers of Your true light. Let us dare--even yearn--to disperse some degree of darkness around us. Dwell in us and shine through us we pray. In Jesus Holy Name, Amen.
Monday December 12, 2016
WHEN GRACE APPEARS
Read: Titus 2: 11-14
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared…. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live upright and godly lives…. (Titus 2:11-13)
Creation has fallen entirely. Creation was never set into motion to sustain nor salvage itself. Mankind is broken. Grace does not appear by self-effort nor will-power. Earthly ambition living down in its self-help seminar hardly realizes that pleasure mud puddles are inevitably consumed by the Ocean of Divine Grace.
Comfort-seeking humanistic-driven world systems clamor endlessly in holiday celebrations. Grace is not needed to equip us for this. Human effort is sufficient. What Grace does appear for is to teach and redirect earthbound affections, appetites, and desires. Grace begins when our efforts fail. Grace is not ambiguous.
Grace operates from Heaven alone. Grace is prevenient to all human will. Grace truly is universal in scope, but quite limited in efficacious application. Not every soul is given Grace to digest enough ungodly worldly lust to truly see it for the horror it is. Unmasked. Unpackaged. Unpainted. The long haul unveils the smug bravado to reveal our vanity. Vexation opens us.
The clamoring vicissitudes of terrestrial desire are permitted by Celestial Grace to rub us raw. Self must fail. Grace staggers us. Teaches the unrelenting power and value of one drop of God the Son’s blood. Grace sobers us to lift us from our mud puddle to desire Christ’s return more than life itself.
Prayer: Almighty Lord, remind us of all Your Grace is doing. Remind us when we miss the mark Grace will carry our souls higher. Amen.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
FINAL EXHORTATIONS, GREETINGS, AND BENEDICTION
Read: 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a)
We are told to pray no matter what, and give thanks in both good and tough times. How true this is!
Moving to a small rural community in Maine, during the late seventies, proved challenging to us. We didn't know if we would be accepted, especially since we came from away. We soon experienced a slash in personal funds due to job loss, consequently, we did have a real struggle to meet our monthly responsibilities.
We needed to make some serious decisions that would test our marriage, and Faith. It was an exhausting and emotional journey. We were determined to do whatever it took to make it. We sorted through it all and prayed, worked at a variety of jobs, made our choices and were surprised to be touched with a monetary gift from a local church.
We were on the path to a more stable and productive life. With our faith, prayers, and each other working together as one it proved successful. We did it and returned the gift so that someone else could be helped and accepted.
Prayer: Dear God, thank You for Your never ceasing love, support, guidance, and devotion. Amen.
Greg & Mary Jane Coleman
Saturday, December 10, 2016
Read: Philippians 4: 6-7
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, wit thanksgiving, present your request to God” (Philippians 4:6).
Paul's words , especially Chap.4 ;4-9 have become my “go to” bible verses lately. I've printed them out and placed them where I can “bump into them” in my busy day. What Paul advises is not who I am everyday but what I strive for as God's child. Maybe the few minutes I spend at times “rejoicing in the Lord” might become a full day of celebration!
Please reread the verses 6-7 again. The words that stand out to me are “anything”, “every”, “thanksgiving”, “transcend' and Jesus Christ. Paul asks us not to be anxious about “anything” and to be “thankful” in “every” situation. Well, that's a lot of homework right there!
I must say, as I've aged, I do have more moments of not being so anxious when the perceived bad things of life happen. In my early years I wanted control. In these latter years I look back over my shoulder and see that the hand of God has guided me in spite of myself and my ego. So now I'm more inclined to let go, be less anxious and let God be God in my life.
Then there's verse 7 and Jesus Christ. That foundation I seek. I've experienced glimpse of that peace which transcends anything that I can understand. Maybe you have too, hopefully often! That's my daily homework assignment. To listen for His knock on my door and recognize His voice in me. Jesus offers us love and peace, we just need to acknowledge and accept it into our lives!
Prayer: Lord, open my heart and mind so that I can see clearly what You lovingly offer me in Your Son, Jesus Christ. May You lead me to peacefulness and may the words of my mouth be pleasing to You. Amen.
Friday, December 9, 2016
PATIENCE IN SUFFERING
Read: James 5:7-10
“See how the farmer waits for the lad to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains” (James 5:7b).
I am not a farmer; I'm not even a gardener, but I do understand ripeness. There is one special point at which the ultimate taste, appearance, and nutrition are combined to give us a perfect--- let's say--" tomato." We all want to have this--not green, or partly pink, but glorious red and juicy. It's worth waiting for.
Waiting is not always easy. I don't know if some of my children will ever know the taste of a perfectly ripe banana, because we buy them only half-ripe, and they eat them right away.
The farmer knows that many factors influence the crop he is waiting for, and waits patiently for the autumn and spring rains. In the fullness of time, harvest will come.
We are waiting for the establishment of God's kingdom on earth, and we, too need to be patient. The terrible things that sometimes happen can be signs of nearing ripeness; the autumn and spring rains necessary for real growth. So let's not complain and grumble about one another, because when the fullness of time has come, the Judge of all the earth will set everything straight, and we will taste the perfectly ripe fruit of the Spirit we have been waiting for.
Prayer: Lord, give us the patience to wait for Your timing, so we can taste and see Your goodness in its fullness. We know that what You have for us is infinitely better than we can imagine. Amen.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
LOVE IN ABUNDANCE
Read: 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
“Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3: 11-13, NRSV).
Direction … abundance of love … strengthening of your hearts … what better Christmas gift could you ask for? Paul is asking for help getting to Thessalonica, but we often ask God for direction around a decision we are trying to make … or about a relationship, or a career choice, or finances, or a habit we want to change. I bet you have prayed hard for direction around at least one of these, and maybe are doing so now. This scripture is a gift, a blessing for us to receive in grace.
Besides direction this scripture blesses us with the gift of love, what the Christ is really about. Imagine your heart filling with love for others; maybe pushing out a critical spirit, maybe pushing out loneliness, maybe pushing out the inability to let go of a hurt that someone caused you … now that is a real gift!
And last, but not at all least, this scripture is a blessing of strength of heart. I love the concept of a strong heart … a heart for others and for our Lord that has a bountiful source of Christ-energy, increasing as you gift the gift of love to others. Try reading the scripture again, this time as an anointing, a blessing for you this Advent.
Prayer: May each of us receive this blessing into our hearts and souls as the Christ’s gift to us.
Prayer focus: Those of us who are running on auto-pilot, unaware of all the grace around us.
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
CHRIST’S SECOND COMING
Read: Matthew 17:10-13
And the disciples asked him, "Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?" He replied, "Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things…” (Matthew 17: 10,11)
For those of us who pray and meditate on the Bible and Jesus' words, we can prepare the way for what is to happen. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for the coming and eventual suffering of our Lord we too have the responsibility to prepare for His glorious return. In this passage we are told there is preparation for the coming of Jesus.
Today we continue to contemplate and prepare for the coming of Jesus. We must turn away from the evils of the world and continue to carry out Jesus' will of love, caring, peace, assistance, prayer, acceptance and hope. Particularly now, during these very trying political times. We need Jesus' love, peace and teachings and our never ending prayers to end the hate, hopelessness, exclusion, bigotry, greed, self-promotion and negative stereotypes that surround us. We need to embrace our brothers and sisters of all cultures as Jesus would. We need to help the needy, the ill, the poor and all people from all cultures as Jesus would want us to.
Prepare the way for the coming of the Lord by fully and truly acting out His creeds. Every small act can make a difference for those who are being targeted and ostracized, blamed and hated. Prepare for the coming of Jesus by embracing human kind and loving all people. This is the way Jesus would like us to pave the road for his return.
Prayer: Jesus please bestow upon me the strength to act in love, acceptance, tolerance and compassion. Give me the strength to stand against evil and those who want to blame, exclude, target, and hurt innocent people for their own benefit. We need strength during this difficult time to carry out Your desires and Your commandments. Please help me to help others to express love, compassion and empathy so that we may pave the way for Your return and You may be pleased with us. Please help us to know that ALL people will be welcomed in Your Glorious Kingdom. In Jesus Holy Name we pray. Amen.
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.