Saturday, December 20, 2014

Devotional 12-20-14

This time of Advent is so special, because it is the time when I really want to make the effort to sit and ponder.  It is the time I ask questions and think about the mystery of it all.  It is the time I just stop and be in the presence of God.  It is the time I need to be quiet and listen while wrestling with my questions.

Mary wrestled with questions and doubt.  Can you imagine what she must of went through, during the time between when the angel came and told her what was going to happen, until the time of Jesus’ birth.  How can this be?  How can I do this? Why me?

The struggles must of seemed insurmountable, and yet in the end, Mary accepted what was to be, and her faith was strengthened and her relationship with God continued to grow.

Each Advent season, I realize that I have two needs – to question and to believe.  God always offers us the chance to voice our questions and wrestle with our doubts, so we may have the opportunity to continue to grow in our faith.

Jesus also reminds us during this time of questioning, that not only did he come to tell us about God, but he also came to show us what God is like.  When people questioned Jesus about theology and rules, Jesus moved the discussion to relationships.  Jesus shows us over and over again that God wants to pull us deeper into relationship. God hears our questions and our doubts, and reaches out to us, always trying to draw us closer.

After Mary questioned and worried, she responded by saying in Luke 1: 46 - 49:

“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.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
Holy is his name.

God continues to reach out to each of us, as we question and search.  How will you respond to God today, as we realize what we truly believe in out hearts?

Blessings,  
Rev. Suzanne Ellis

Friday, December 19, 2014

Devotional 12-19-14

Read Luke 1:26-38

Luke 1:26-27 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

Angels are God’s messengers and they appear in numerous places in scripture.  Often they carried a message from the Lord to either Israel or an individual.  Mary and Joseph were visited by an angel as God prepared them for the birth of His Son.  The angel of the Lord appeared at critical times in Israel’s history and was sometimes a pre -incarnate appearance of Jesus. Not only do angels appear in the Old and New Testaments, scripture describes their being with Jesus at the Last Judgment. Not all angels are heavenly though. Satan and his minions fell from heaven when Satan thought to make himself greater than God. Scripture clearly describes the awful eternal destiny of the fallen angels.

Taken from “Bible Wisdom for Your Life”, written and compiled by Pamela L. McQuade, Barbour Publishing

God’s restoring servants, His heavenly messengers, have encouraged, sustained, and lifted the spirits of many flagging saints; and they have changed many hopeless circumstances into bright prospects.

Billy Graham on angels

Prayer:  God of all, thank you for angels in which You have surrounded us and to help with Your work on earth.  Thank you also for the gift of Your Son.   Amen

Kay Lewis

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Devotional 12-18-14

G I F T S

When we think of Christmas, besides the birth of Jesus we think of Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and among other things Christmas gifts. But God gave us not only the best gift of all, His Son, on that first Christmas, but he has given us some wonderful gifts, our spiritual gifts.

We all have different gifts, each of which come because of the grace God gave us. (Romans 12:6)

How do you use your gifts? Have you ever wondered…
What spiritual gifts God has given you?
How you can use them?

There are different kinds of gifts, but they are all from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve, but the same Lord to serve. And there are different ways that God works through people, but the same God. God works in all of us in everything we do. Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person, for the common good. The Spirit gives one person the ability to speak with wisdom, and the same Spirit gives another the ability to speak with knowledge. The same Spirit gives faith to one person. And to another the one Spirit gives gifts of healing The Spirit gives to another person the power to do miracles, to another the ability to prophesy. And he gives to another the ability to know the difference between good and evil spirits. The Spirit gives one person the ability to interpret those languages One Spirit, the same Spirit, does all these things and the Spirit decides what to give each person. (I Corinthians 12:4-11)

In Hebrew 2:4 we read: God also proved it (salvation God’s greatest gift) by using wonders, great signs many kinds of miracles and by giving gifts through the Holy Spirit, just as he wanted.

Since God is the giver, he chooses what gifts to give each person. He selects from his infinite pool of talents and blessings and chooses something appropriate for you. Every gift is good. You can’t walk away slighted. It’s up to you to discover what gifts he’s placed in your heart and to use them.

Perhaps you wonder why God gives special gifts. In a “fair” economy every person would receive the same gifts, in the same measure, at the same time. But God’s economy operates differently. To some, he gives the gift of teaching. To others, he gives the gift of hospitality. These are very different gifts, right? God’s family needs all of the gifts in order to function smoothly. We are dependent upon each other.

Sometimes we “miss the boat” when we don’t pay attention to our passions. What did you like to do when you were young, play house, or play school, dance or sing? Just what were your talents? God gave the passion to us and it is up to us to follow through in choosing what we will do with our life. God has a plan for each of our lives and when we do not pay attention God has to adjust his plans. Sometimes late in life, maybe after retirement, we are able to follow through and make up for the lost time. If you are young and haven’t made up your mind, be sure to ask God what he would like for you to do. Then say: “As you wish”, Lord. If you are now retired, there is still time to do what God had wanted for you to do all along. Grandma Moses is a great example of someone who was able to make a career for herself, long after most of us would have given up. We bring glory to God, when we listen to him.

God loves you just the way you are. If you think his love for you would be stronger if your faith were, you are wrong. If you think his love would be deeper if your thoughts were his thoughts, wrong again. Don’t confuse God’s love with the love of people. The love of people often increases with performance and decreases with mistakes. Not so with God’s love. He loves you right where you are?

Ask God what gifts he has given you. Ask your family, friends pastor and yourself. Consider your talents and your passions, and pray that God would show you how he wants you to serve the family. Then snap up your prize and use it for God.

Gloria Peek (with help from Max Lucado)
Originally published in our Advent Devotional 2007
Reprinted in memory of Gloria.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Devotional 12-17-14

The Christmas Cactus

Marleen, complete with a red Santa hat on her head,  pushed her cart into Room 3157. “Good morning, Mr. Davis and ho, ho, ho, it’s time for your breathing treatment.”

The frail-looking man sat up in the bed, “It’s Christmas day. What are you doing here?”

“Well, all the elves were busy, so I was elected to give you your treatment this morning.” Marleen had taken care of Mr. Davis several times over the past four years and he was one of her favorite repeat customers. 

“I thought you’d be spending Christmas with your family,” he said.

“It’s just me and my daughter and she’s in the marching band at Perdue. They’re playing for the Giants game this afternoon.”

He asked, “Didn’t you want to go?”

“Oh sure, but do you know what a hotel room in New York goes for? Cassie and I decided we’ll celebrate Christmas when she comes home for spring break.”

“Gee, that’s too bad.”

“Oh, it’s alright. Sometimes you just have to make do. Now, here, breath into this tube. You know the drill.” As she was entering data into her computer, Marleen looked around the room. There was one green plant on Mr. Davis’s bedside table. It occurred to her that she had never known him to have  any family member or visitor while in the hospital.

“I’m working a double shift today, but I get to take a break during half time of the game so I can watch Cassie’s band. Would it be alright if I came and watched with you? The TV in the lounge never works.”

“Sure. Will you bring popcorn and beer?” he asked with a mischievous smile. 

“I’ll see what I can do.”

That afternoon, she returned with cookies and soda. “It’s the best I could do,” she said. Mr. Davis was already watching the game. As the bands came onto the field at half time, Marleen strained to find her daughter. “There she is! Third clarinet on the left,” she pointed excitedly at the screen. 

Later, she came to administer Mr. Davis’ evening treatment. He was obviously tired. 

“I was able to talk to Cassie. Those kids are having the time of their lives.”

“You’ve work all day--all Christmas day. I want you to have this.” He pointed to the plant on his nightstand.

“Oh, I can’t take your plant. Someone gave it to you.”

“My son in Albuquerque sent it and I don’t know what to do with it.  Do I look like a person with a green thumb.”

“I’ll take it but you have to let me give you something in return.” Marleen was thinking fast. What could she offer? She reached into her pocket and felt her lucky penny, the one with a cross cut out of it that her friend Karen gave her eight years ago when she’d had medical problems of her own. “Here ya go, a lucky penny.” She pressed it in his hand.

“I can’t take your lucky penny” he wheezed.

“A deal’s a deal,” she said. A plant for a penny.” She picked up the plant and added, “I’ll see you in the morning. Have a good night.”

When she got home, she read the card with the plant: Christmas Cactus. Succulent green foliage with rosy red blooms.

“Ha,” she thought to herself, “I don’t see any red blooms. Probably false advertising.” She placed it in her kitchen window next to an African violet.

The next morning she was preparing for her rounds and looked at her schedule: Room 3157, George Farley.

She looked at the charge nurse and asked, “Where is Mr. Davis?”

Helen gave her a look that said, you know what happened to Mr. Davis. Don’t make me say it.

Two and a half months later, Marleen was driving Cassie home from the airport. It was so good to have her daughter home for a week. When they walked into the house, Cassie saw the small Christmas tree decorated with green and white shamrocks with wrapped presents underneath. Then she walked into the kitchen and exclaimed, “Mom this plant with the red flowers is amazing! What is it?”

Anita Gardner Farrell

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Devotional 12-16-14

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of the prophets... (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20)

Before I worked at the United Methodist Foundation, I was a research associate in the field of Vitamin A deficiency and diabetes. Part of what I did involved working with chemicals that would emit low level radiation – so low in energy that it was hard to detect it. I would add a liquid that would become “excited” by the radiation, and release light – light that could be detected by a sensor. In this process, it was important to avoid quenching. Quenching is physical, chemical or color barriers that could keep the radiation from being detected by the sensor.

You still reading?

In this passage from Thessalonians, Paul warns the church to avoid quenching the spirit. God’s light shines through our lives, but there are so many things that can be barriers to the light illuminating the Way for those around us.

If you were to make a checklist (I love lists!), what would you include as ways a church could avoid quenching the spirit and blocking God’s light from others? Perhaps a church should avoid focusing only on its own members, or offering an attitude that is built upon beliefs of scarcity?  Could disunity quench the light? Bickering? Gossip? What would be on a list of ways for a church to be a beacon of light? Hospitality that welcomes everyone? What about generosity of spirit that gives of itself freely? Service that extravagantly dies to self and lives for others?

To quote a favorite song of mine, “Let you light shine before others so they will know our God of love’s in the land.” Amen.

Kim Matthews

Monday, December 15, 2014

Devotional 12-15-14

Please read Luke 1, vs. 26-38

This scripture is about the angel appearing to Mary and telling her that she has been chosen by the Lord to give birth to the Son of God. Mary’s only question was how she, a virgin, could give birth to this child. What a truly amazing young woman Mary is. The plans that she has for her life are put on hold. She accepts this pronouncement and says she is the Lord’s servant.

What a wonderful acceptance Mary has. I hope that I would be eager to obey something that would change my life this much. I’m afraid I would not. I would have all kinds of excuses for why I couldn’t do what I was supposed to do. I’d be too tired, too busy, too old, too ,too, too.

The words to an old hymn occasionally run through my mind. It may be my own angel telling me that I need to do the things I don’t want to do or I’m afraid to do. Maybe, during this Advent season we can all think twice before we pass up a chance to do something that would make our Lord smile. Maybe we should have the faith of a young woman who not only took the step that many would have avoided but also gave her heart to be broken by the loss of a son.

This Advent Season let us remember to...

Trust and Obey
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What he says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Dear Heavenly Father, as we celebrate this blessed season of the year, help us to have faith enough to accept your call to serve you even in places we are not comfortable, doing things we are not comfortable doing.

May we always be ready to trust and obey.
Amen.

Debbie McGinnis

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Devotional 12-14-14

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

Lectionary Lessons:  Isaiah 61:1-11; Psalm 126; 1 Thessalonians5:16-24; & John 1:  6-8 & 19-28

There came a man who was sent from God:  his name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the Light:  he came only as a witness to the Light.  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.  John 1:  6-8  NIV

As I read the scripture readings for today, I was reminded of one of the first songs of the musical “Godspell” which was written by Stephen Swartz in 1970—“Prepare ye; The Way of the Lord”.  The musical is primarily based on scriptures from the gospel of Matthew.  We have very few verses in the gospels that tell of the life of John the Baptist.  By piecing the passages together from the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, we know that John was a cousin of Jesus’.  John was the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah. Elizabeth had been considered “barren” and both of John’s parents were beyond a normal child bearing age. So because of the birth of John, many neighbors and friends identified John as a very special person.  They were in awe of the birth and asked:  ”What then is this child going to be? For the Lord’s hand was with him?  John was considered “special” and in God’s favor.  His father, Zechariah prophesied that John would become a prophet to go before the Lord to prepare the way for him.  John would shine a light in the darkness of the world.

John did indeed become a ‘Voice in the Wilderness’.  He called out to everyone who would listen to “Repent and Get Ready”—because there was one coming into the world who would actually be The Light of the World.  Many listened to him and were baptized in the Jordan River.  John was steadfast in his devotion to the task he had been given.  He denied that he was the Messiah or even a prophet whenever he was questioned by authorities.  He faithfully told his followers that they needed to be watchful, for Jesus would be coming soon.  His job was to “Prepare the Way” and that is exactly what he tried to do.

I am inspired by this review of John’s life and the holy task he fulfilled.  How can we learn to be more faithful with the tasks that God has asked of us?  How are we preparing for Christ’s birth this Advent season?  Paul urged the church at Thessalonica to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. (1Thess. 5:16-18)   These instructions seem like impossible tasks, to me.  I find that in this joyful season, my “to do” lists are long and my patience is frustratingly lacking.  I waste time on activities that keep me busy, but unfulfilled.  I fail to follow Paul’s instructions which are meant to urge us to remain close to God, to allow God to support and guide us.

I therefore challenge you (and myself) today—turn off all the electronic devices and put down your books and papers.  Spend some time in quiet reflection to renew your walk with God.  Allow his voice to fill your ears with guidance and instruction.  Shine the light in those hidden places of your life that are full of dust or neglect. Surrender yourself to your holy tasks or “calling” just as John did centuries ago. Allow the example of John’s life to help you (and me) to prepare for the Christ Child who is coming soon. God wants us to live in the light and sends His Son to shine the light into the darkness that keeps us apart from Him.  Find some time today to get ready to receive his love.

Dear Father, please forgive us for being such wayward children.  We do not deserve and are unworthy of your love.  But we are so very grateful that you love us anyway.  The gift of your love is so precious and awesome.  Help us to find a way to prepare our hearts for your love.  Help us to invest our energy in ways to draw closer to You, rather than continue to be caught up in superficial holiday busyness.  Come into our hearts, Lord Jesus.  Shine the light and help us to emerge from the darkness of our lives in the world.  AMEN

Chyrl Budd
 

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