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Advent Devotional – Saturday, December 31, 2016 – New Year’s Eve – Let Your Light Shine

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-213 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  –  Matthew 5:13-16

Being a Christian in today‘s society is not an easy task.  We are tempted through the wrath of Satan in our daily lives and are either set upon a path to destiny or a path to destruction.  We must choose to seek the light of faith and walk with our Heavenly Father in our times of doubt, worry, struggles and trials.

Christ made us the salt of this earth and if we lose this salt (our faith in Christ) then how can we be made salty again?  We can do so by leaning unto Him, trusting in Him, and believing in His word.

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Thank you for taking this Advent journey with us here at Central United Methodist. It was a true blessing to prepare this booklet. We thank Christine Aley for all her help in putting this devotional together. We could not have done it without her!

Come, Join us in Worship each Sunday.

Worship begins at 11am. Sunday School begins at 9:45am.

I pray that this coming year will be full of God’s rich blessing to you and yours.

 

 

 

 

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Advent Devotional – Friday, December 30, 2016 – The Cure for What Ails You

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-223 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. 24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.

25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and fromJerusalem, and from Judæa, and from beyond Jordan.  –  Matthew 4:23-25 

Jesus has always been in the business of helping people, and He made it a point to help those afflicted with the most serious of illnesses.  No affliction was too big: leprosy, blindness, paralysis – even demon possession – all covered under the grace of Christ.

People flocked from miles around to hear Jesus speak, not only because He healed the body, but because He healed the soul.  People knew this kind of healing could only come from one Source – their Heavenly Father.

Fortunately for us, Jesus is still the Great Physician today.  His healing hands never get tired.  His prognosis is positive.  Although hard to swallow at times, His prescription is still the best medicine for what ails my soul.

Have you consulted the Great Physician lately?

 

 

Advent Devotional – Thursday, December 29, 2016 – What Do You See?

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-218 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the sonof Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. 22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.  – Matthew 4:18-22

I wonder when God called me as a child in Beaver Falls Pa in 1959, did He see me ―fishing for souls ?  he called me into the ministry in 2013,  I wonder what He sees me doing in 2017, or 2040?

I believe He knows! So I want to stay in touch daily and hourly with the One who saw me, called me, and uses me to help

souls!  I LOVE FISHING FOR LIVES AND RESCUING PEOPLE FROM THE BURNING PIT OF HELL.

It‘s not too late for you to take up fishing, so how about it?  Jesus is still calling.  Do you hear HIM?  He still SEES YOU!  HE NEEDS YOU!  Where will you be fishing this year?

The bait is God‘s love, peace, joy, his glorious blessings galore, his presence and help in times of trouble, his constant provision and protection, strength, courage, wisdom, forgiveness, Godly companions, fun, laughter, tears but joy in the morning and oh yeah, He promised Heaven.  Quite a tackle box!

YOUR FISHING ADVENTURE BEGINS!

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Wednesday, December 28, 2016 – Put On The Armor of God

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-210 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;19 and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.  – Ephesians 6:10–20

Today, I am thinking about my strengths.  There are so many skills, abilities, and traits God has blessed me and you with.  And I am so thankful.  Yet, whenever I consider these gifts, I also begin thinking of my weaknesses.  Why did God forget to sprinkle those in when he was creating me?  Didn‘t He say in the Bible that I am perfect?  That I was made in His image?  Of course He said that.  And He meant it.  But why, you may ask, do I have weaknesses?

Those weaknesses, my friends, are not from God, but rather from the dark world trying to hold me back. And they are trying to hold you back as well. The forces of evil want you to believe that you are not capable.  That you are not smart enough.  Or pretty enough.  Or strong enough.  Or bold enough.  Or whatever it is that is holding you back.  The dark world is tricking you.  It is the Fruit of the Spirit that you need to cultivate in order to be more Christ-like.

As I reflect on today‘s verses, I realize that it is time to join God‘s army and fight hard.  Put your armor on and get ready for battle.  Know and trust that with God, all things are possible.  This is the day, the week, the year to overcome the powers of this dark world that are making you believe you are weak.  Be brave.  Immerse yourself in the Truth that will set you free for eternity.  Do not allow the evil one to bring you down.

Pray constantly for God‘s light to shine through you, that you be filled with the Fruit of the Spirit, and for God‘s plans to become clear to all.  And as Paul does in these verses, ask for others to pray for you.  Use the word of God to OVERCOME YOUR WEAKNESSES.  And know that every day is a new battle.  Do not dwell on the past nor feel like your battle is ever complete while on Earth.

It is through these battles that we become stronger.  And not stronger for our gain, but rather stronger to be everything God intended us to be.  There‘s no better demonstration of appreciation for God‘s gift of Jesus than ―extinguishing all the flaming arrows of the evil one. I now invite you to locate and listen to the song ―City on Our Knees by Toby Mac.  Listen to the words and imagine how you‘re going to wear the armor of God and what that means for you and those around you.

Put On Your Armor In Appreciation of The Gift of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Tuesday, December 27, 2016 – Snatched From The Fire

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-217 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19 These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.

20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 22 And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23 and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present youfaultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 25 to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.  – Jude 17-25 

As we read these verses, it is difficult to believe they were written approximately 68 AD by Jude, the half-brother of Jesus. You would think he is describing our world and churches of today. But we shouldn‘t be surprised.

Jesus said there would be people who did not take things seriously anymore. They would treat everything as a joke and follow their own ungodly desires. They would be more concerned with tearing down instead of building up.

But Jude shouts to us as we look forward to Jesus‘ second coming: Fight with all your might for the faith entrusted to us. Demonstrate God‘s love to others. Share your personal salvation experience and maybe we can be the instrument that helps rescue those that strayed too close to the fire.

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Monday, December 26, 2016 – What Is Tempting You?

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.  – Matthew 4:1-11 

As I thought about all the things I needed to accomplish this week between work, family and church, I became bitter and angry. How did I let my life get so out of balance? When I took my new job, I knew it was going to be very demanding of my time for the first year. My family has been most understanding and helpful, yet I can see that my absence is wearing on them too.

So the guilt sets in and I try to fix it, only to the detriment of wearing myself out physically and also spiritually. First, Satan tempted me to quit reading my Bible; I could have the time to get more sleep. Second, he tempted me to leave church early to go to the store and get errands done so I could have more time. I taught my Sunday school class and the kid‘s class but then started a habit of not staying for the service. I was going, going, going, trying to make it work and leaving out the most important piece I needed: God.

I was becoming very negative, not wanting to go to church, and the thought of writing this devotional was dreaded. I did not have time to do it; I did not want to do it, and then I decided I was not going to do it. I looked up the scripture I was given and read Matthew 4 1-11 and woke up this morning with a new realization on my life.

I have slowly let Satan tempt me out of doing the things I know are right and that I needed to do. Without realizing it, I had let him win a few battles and he was leading me away from God. I did not like the person I was becoming. I had let Satan tempt me away from my Lord for what, some extra time to sleep, time to run errands, time to get work done? I told myself it was time I could spend with my family but that was another lie.

Right after Jesus was baptized God declares, ―This is my son in whom I am well pleased! Jesus was blessed, and then right after that, Satan came to tempt Jesus. When we receive great blessings, Satan is usually not far behind to tempt and take them away.

I had received a great blessing in my new job, at the school I wanted. I was on a spiritual high. I should have been aware that Satan would be on the attack. Shamefully, I admit I let Satan win a few battles, but he will NOT win the war. Thankfully I had this devotional to open my eyes to the reality of what was happening. Hopefully it will help you see your life in proper perspective as well.

What is drawing you away from God?

What is Satan tempting you with today?

 

 

Advent Devotional – Sunday, December 25, 2016 – Christmas Day – The Time Is Right

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-213 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:17 and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  – Matthew 3:13-18  

Christmas only comes once every 365 days.  When I was young, my sister and I could not wait for Christmas.  We got up early each and every Christmas as we could not wait to see what we had received.  My sister and I knew it was time for us to open our Christmas presents when our father had finished reading us the Christmas story.  We knew then that the time was right.

We tore through those packages to discover what awaited us.   We have all heard that timing is everything.  The birth and coming of Jesus, the Son of God was all right on time!

Little is known about the days, weeks, months and even years of Jesus‘ early life.  We have some knowledge of his birth and one brief description of a trip to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve.  But we know very little of the days, weeks and months that Jesus lived prior to His ministry.  Thirty years have now passed and Jesus goes out into a desert to meet John the Baptist, who has been calling people to repentance and baptizing them in the Jordan River.   John is preparing the way for the Messiah-for Jesus!  The time is right!

The gift from God had been delivered and was now about to become fully opened.  Heaven was about to open as John begins to baptize Jesus.  John baptizes Him not because of sin . . . for Jesus has nothing to repent of, but rather because Jesus models for us obedience to the command of God.  Just as He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger – – – He now wades out into the water to stand with us in our sinfulness.

 The time is right – – – God is pleased!  Jesus is starting His ministry!  The way had been prepared!  Obedience was called for . . . and given!  Now is the time for you to obey God!  It is time to unwrap the Savior of our world!

He has come!

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Saturday, December 24, 2016 – Christmas Eve – Fulfilled From

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judæa, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judæa, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.  – Matthew 3:1-12    

Tomorrow, as we celebrate the fulfillment of the advent season with the coming of Christ, I want to focus on the word “fulfill”. In this passage the word fulfill continues the theme of “fulfillment” that was so prominent in the beginning narrative of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus‘ conception, birth, and infancy all fulfill specific and general prophecies, and now Jesus‘ baptism will “fulfill all righteousness”.

What is the righteousness that is being fulfilled in Jesus’s baptism? Most likely it is a reference back to God‘s saving grace prophesied about throughout the Old Testament and now being fulfilled with the beginning of Jesus’s ministry and ultimately through his death on the cross.

Many people in Israel believed the coming Messiah would come as a conquering King while others thought of a kingdom in which the temple priest and sacrifices would be elevated. The people also had differing thoughts on how salvation would be brought about. In this passage we once again see fulfillment happening differently than many in Israel expected. Just as with his baptism, the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation through Jesus‘ birth, death, and resurrection required a reshaping of the way people viewed the Messiah and God’s plan of salvation.

So many times God reshapes our thinking. I hope the coming of the Christ child that we will celebrate tomorrow challenges you to rethink and reshape the way you see God, your fellow man, and His church. Maybe the fulfillment of this Christmas season hasn’t come about the way you expected.  Yet many times God works and does something miraculous when we let him reshape our thinking and fulfill our expectations in a way we never anticipated.

This Christmas Eve, let God fulfill his plan for you in his way. The only thing you have to do is let him.

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Friday, December 23, 2016 – Hasty Obedience

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-213 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. 21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judæa in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.  – Matthew 2:13-23

This part of the Christmas story is fascinating. Think of the absolute faith and obedience Joseph had to have to relocate his family and life for a simple dream. Think of what would have happened had he not obeyed. I wonder if he knew his obedient actions were fulfilling prophecy?  I wonder what Mary thought about the whole thing. And yet, knowing her servant heart, I‘m sure she was the ideal wife working endlessly for the safety of their precious child.

What a blessing that God speaks in many ways to His people, even today. He uses dreams, as in this story. He uses His Word, songs, and words of wisdom from a friend or loved one.  Can we hear what he has to say? My hope is that we stop and are able to hear that still, small whisper. Imagine what would have happened and how God‘s story would be different if Joseph had not listened and obeyed with haste?  God, thank you for Joseph’s example of obedience here. Thank you for speaking to us, even today. May we always come to you with open palms, ready to do as you ask, even if it doesn’t make sense.

 

 

 

Worship on Sunday, December 25, 2016

The following article by appeared in the December 13, 2016 issue of Ponder Anew at:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ponderanew/2016/12/13/8-reasons-not-cancel-church-christmas/?ref_widget=related&ref_blog=ponderanew&ref_post=5-christmas-carols-know-heart-forget

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So, should we have services on Christmas Day, or should we cancel?

christmasIs it happening again already? It seems like we just had this conversation…

The first time I heard about a church canceling a Sunday, ANY Sunday, for a reason other than dire emergencies, was early December 2005. This girl I was dating at the time told me that her family’s church, the squarely cool North Point Conglomerate Church in the Atlanta area, was canceling their services on Christmas Day.

Naturally, we broke up on Christmas Eve.

Thanks be to God, I eventually married a Methodist. The good kind, with plenty of good liturgical sense.

These days, I’m hearing about taking this annual snow day more and more, especially on these occasions when the 25th just happens to fall on a Sunday. You’ve heard the supporters, some of them even here on Patheos Evangelical, talk about how great it is that they’re not bound by this stuffy, rote, religious-not-relationship liturgical custom and are free to give back to their volunteers and their families by not putting them through the whole Jesus thing again on Christmas, which, again, falls on a Sunday.

Here is what some of these churches are saying about their benevolent decision to not worship together on one of the church’s traditional sacred days:

North Point Community Church; Alpharetta, GA
Please join us for our Christmas services on December 23 and 24, 2016. We will be back in 2017 on Sunday, January 8, with a brand new series with Andy Stanley.
[Yes, this big box is taking 2 weeks off! But don’t worry! Senior Motivational Speaker Andy “Big ol’ Church” Stanley will be back later on in January to help you with your anger problem and save you marriages!]

Imago Dei Church; Peoria, IL
Christmas Day: No Service or Breakfast Club
Merry Christmas!

Antioch Community Church; Waco, TX
No Service Christmas Day!
We will not have Christmas services on December 25th. We hope you have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful time with your family.
[Baylor friends: Let me know if you see someone out with the cross on castors during this time! A picture would be great!]

Lighthouse Coastal Community Church; Costa Mesa, CA
No Service on Christmas Day
This year, Christmas falls on a Sunday. However, we will not be having service on Sunday, December 25th. Enjoy your family.

The Door Church; Coppell, TX
Christmas Day: No Sunday Service
We will not have services on Sunday morning December 25th.  Please enjoy the time of celebration with your family and friends.

Radiant Church; Newport, OR
No Service on Christmas Day.  You’re invited to join us online at radiantchurchnewport.churchonline.org for a very special Christmas Day message for the whole family.  So grab your hot chocolate and connect online as every hour on the hour we’ll be sharing a message about the “Greatest Gift of All.”
[Well, that was certainly unexpected. A gathering where nobody gathers.]

Conduit Church; Franklin, TN
It truly is hard to believe that the month of December is here and that the Christmas season is upon us. This year has simply flown by, seemingly faster every year. It feels as if it was only a few weeks ago we were celebrating the resurrection on Easter Sunday! And now here we are in a season where we’re feeling the anticipation and excitement of Christmas morning. Oddly enough, this year Christmas day falls on Sunday, December 25th. Therefore, there will be no formal gathering that day, as you spend time with family and friends.

Timbers Community Church; Somewhere in Canada
There will be no service on Christmas day – its a good opportunity to visit another congregation in our community!
[Another unexpected twist!]

River Pointe Church; Missouri City, TX
[Live Chat Operator]: Hi! So our service times are: Fri Dec. 23- 4, 5:30, 7/ Sat. 2,3;30, 5, 6:30, 8 & 11. There will not be service on the 25th.
[Their website advertised numerous Christmas Eve services, but no official word on Christmas Day. Through their live chat feature, I was able to find out that there will be no services on December 25 and January 1.]

Some of the homes of Christian entertainment culture’s biggest stars are meeting on the 25th, some aren’t. I looks like at least some Saddleback campuses are meeting. Willow Creek Chicago has a Sunday service, other locations don’t. My biggest surprise? Lakewood Church in Houston will have a full slate of Sunday gatherings with Joel “I Praise God By Not Eating Pork” Osteen at the helm. All 735 NewSpring locations will apparently worship together every day but the actual day itself. Bishop Ed Young is proud to report that Second Baptist Houston will be open for business on the 25th. Life.Church.will.not.gather.together.but.you.can.watch.online.at.your.convenience.

So, hold the phone, we’re not going to let worship get in the way of celebrating Jesus’ birthday.

Friends, I’m going to say this as kindly, as gently, and as astutely as I can, theologically speaking:

This. Is. Bullcrap.

[FYI: If you read that last line correctly, it would have sounded a lot like Johnny Gilbert saying “This… is… Jeopardy!”]

Allow me to share a few reasons for calling out this nonsense:

  1. It’s Sunday. The whole “church” thing happens on Sundays.
  2. It’s CHRISTMAS, for God’s sake. That whole thing about the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us? Yeah, that’s what this whole Christmas is all about.
    For me personally, I think those are more than enough reason to take an hour or so off from celebrating the indulgent, gluttonous, sentimental, Hallmark reasons for the season and get your happy butts to church. But in case you aren’t quite convinced, read on.
  3. Canceling Christmas services turns Christmas into a civil observance instead of a sacred day. I do love many things about this time of year. The weather, hitting the mall late into the evening, holiday parties, watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (“Where’s the Tylenol?”). But, as fun and exciting as these things can be, the discipline of the church year helps us realize that these things are merely periphery. Our lives are divided up into semesters, work schedules, electric bills, tax deadlines. Intentionally choosing a gospel-centered organization system helps us to maintain our first allegiance to Christ and his kingdom.Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Stop worry being the “Happy Holidays” police or petitioning to keep the nativity scene on City Hall lawn. We serve a higher throne that calls us to rise above that noise.
  4. Even if it’s a low-attendance Sunday (shouldn’t be, but often it is), people will come. They will bring their families and out-of-town guests. Is worship only worth it if we get lots of butts in the seats? I would hope we haven’t sunk that low, but apparently, some of us have.
  5. It unites us with the holy catholic church, past, present, and future. Christ wasn’t crucified during the Clinton administration, and we don’t do the Christian life in a vacuum. We are part of a long faith tradition, one that wouldn’t have canceled Christmas for anything in the world until, oh, the rise of the megachurch.
  6. It’s theologically negligent (also practically unnecessary…maybe stupid) to deny your people the Word and Sacrament. Of course, most of the megachurches and aspiring megachurches don’t believe in all the sacrament stuff, anyway, but still. If what you have to offer is so important that it constitutes the life blood of those who claim Christ’s holy name, why would you take a week off? Oh, right, family. And volunteers.
  7. The suggestion that cancelling church on ANY Sunday, particularly on Christmas, is a pro-family idea just doesn’t make sense. Is the church a drain on families in general? Really?!? On a Sunday when virtually everyone is off work for a day, and often longer? I would hope that our official position would be different; that corporate worship is vitally important, that the gifts God has to offer would grow, refresh, and strengthen us as individuals and as families. Certainly, don’t guilt anyone for not coming to your church, but don’t delude yourself into thinking giving families one more hour of toys and calories is going to strengthen them more than God’s gifts. And, oh yeah, again, Christmas is about Jesus, not family.
  8. If your volunteers are so over-taxed that you have to give them all a Sunday off, perhaps you need to scale back your ministries in other areas during the rest of the year. Christmas Sunday shouldn’t be the first thing to get the ax. Cancel all your other regular Sunday opportunities. Cancel Sunday School. Cancel breakfast. Cancel yoga. Cancel Bible study. Cancel life groups. But please don’t cancel worship.

So, church, for the love, keep Christ in Christmas.

Remember what Christmas is.

Remember who you are.

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Central Church’s pastor, Rev. Jan Davis, was involved in a serious automobile accident while returning from visiting members of Central Church who were receiving physical therapy services in a local  rehabilitation facility on Thanksgiving morning.

Following several surgeries and procedures, Pastor Jan is herself currently receiving rehabilitative services, and is anticipated to return to active ministry at Central Church sometime in January.  However, a rotating cast of visiting pastors and lay speakers have enabled Central to maintain its regular worship schedule, and support for daily ministerial needs during Pastor Jan’s absence is kindly being provided by the pastor of one of our local sister Churches.  (If you have a ministerial need, please contact the Church Office at (724) 846-3474.)

Central Church’s Christmas Eve worship service will begin at 6:30 pm on Saturday, December 24, and our Christmas Day worship service will begin at 11:00 am on Sunday, December 25, 2016.

Merry Christmas!

 

Advent Devotional – Thursday, December 22, 2016 – The Greatest Experience

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.  – Matthew 2: 1-12 

I wonder what it was like to be the Magi…as they were looking for the star that was going to lead them to the Savior of the world. Our Savior, that would mean so many thing to us: Defender, guardian, protector, love, rescuer, Father, healer, redeemer. Night after night…just knowing that they were getting closer to Him is something that I wish I could have experienced.

Oh wait I have…in my teenage years and early adult years I was looking for something in this earth to make my problems go away, to ease my pain, to fill an emptiness I had. I had been blessed with a wonderful family and had all I needed, but there still was something missing. I was looking for someone to love me even with all my sins – to love me unconditionally, someone that would never hurt me.  Then, one day I started coming to First Church, hoping that no one would see my sins and still love me…week after week I heard of someone that was fitting all the things that I was looking for…that person was my Heavenly Father.

I was so excited to get to know my Heavenly Father because HE IS THE ONLY ONE that would fill that emptiness inside me, and I have learned to turn to Him when things are down and praise Him for everything that He has provided me with.  So like the Magi meeting our Savior that night, though this was many years later, I realize we all have our journey to meet our Savior for the first time!

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Wednesday, December 21, 2016 – Joseph, “A Righteous Man of God”

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-218 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.  – Matthew 1:18-25 

Can you imagine the initial shock on Joseph‘s face when Mary first told him that she was pregnant? He knew that he had been faithful to their vows, so had Mary been unfaithful? What would his family and friends say when they heard the news? I‘m sure his parents were disappointed in the couple and yet mortified at the same time. What would their family, friends, and the townsfolk say when they heard? And when Joseph told his friends about the pregnancy, what would be their reaction? I‘m sure comments were loud and clear-―You‘ve been messing around and now you‘ve gotten her pregnant. Joseph and Mary would be taunted by everyone.

Go back to verse 19 of this chapter. Before the age of surnames, people were often identified by their occupation. Due to this, we would expect Joseph to be introduced as ―Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth, yet Matthew introduces Joseph as ―a righteous man‖. This speaks volumes about Joseph‘s character. Would Joseph‘s response to the situation be different than other men? This might be why we aren‘t surprised when later we learn that Joseph received divine instruction by an angelic messenger in a dream. He woke up from his informative sleep and ―did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him.

Joseph reacted compassionately. Verse 19 states that he was going to ―divorce Mary ―quietly. During this period of time, divorce was required because in his day, engagement was as binding as the marriage vow. But a quiet divorce was not the common practice. It was quite the reverse, especially when someone became pregnant through what appeared to be adultery. Joseph had every right to publicly denounce Mary and possibly have her stoned. But, ―Joseph was a righteous man‖ and he responded compassionately. Such a spirit of love must have been one reason why he was so open to the angelic message. His heart was righteous and therefore filled with compassion and caring. Such a heart was ready to hear from God and obey the instruction regardless of the consequences.

Jesus was omniscient; but as a man, he had to grow up and figure things out. His wisdom had to develop in response to many different experiences of life, just like we do today. In order to insure that His Son would develop into the man he was meant to be, God‘s plan included providing just the right influences during his childhood years. I think part of that plan was in the selection of the perfect earthly father to raise the Son of Man, and God chose Joseph.

 

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Tuesday, December 20, 2016 – John Explains the Light – No More Waiting

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. 16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.  – John 1: 1-18

God knew the plans he had for each one of us before we were born.  Before there was light, God had the plans made for us to receive the light.  The light was life of man.  This light was in darkness and was not understood.  To understand, God gave us the Word that became flesh and sent it to live with us.  The law was given through Moses, but God’s people received one blessing after another from the fullness of his grace.

Through God’s grace, he sent John ahead of Jesus Christ, to testify concerning the Light, so that we would receive Him as the Light of the world.  God knew his people were doubters so he sent John as a tangible messenger to the truth.  The truth being that Jesus Christ in the flesh was on earth to let us receive Him, and to who believed would become children of God.  Grace & truth came through Jesus Christ, the light of the world, our salvation!    This season seek God’s plan for you.

Embrace the Light & let it shine through you.

 

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Monday, December 19, 2016 – A Love Song

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-267 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,

68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel;
for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
69 and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David;
70 as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets,
which have been since the world began:
71 that we should be saved from our enemies,
and from the hand of all that hate us;
72 to perform the mercy promised to our fathers,
and to remember his holy covenant;
73 the oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
74 that he would grant unto us,
that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him,
all the days of our life.

76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest:
for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
77 to give knowledge of salvation unto his people
by the remission of their sins,
78 through the tender mercy of our God;
whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
79 to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.    – Luke 1:67-80 

There is something so special about Jesus that has caused many to write and sing songs about Him.  If I said to you, tell me one song you know written about Jesus, you could actually give me ten.  What is it that compels so many to write and sing songs to Him?  In Zechariah‘s Song, he understands the importance that the coming Messiah brings hope and salvation, showing mercy to our ancestors, to the people of Zechariah‘s time, and to the future (us).  We read in Zechariah‘s song about how this Great King (Jesus) will rescue us from our enemies and will enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives.

Zechariah understood.  This life is hard and difficult.  Divorce happens.  Children disappoint us.  We lose our job.  The abuse is just too much……….   The enemy lies in waiting, ready to devour our weak souls.  But there is Hope!  Jesus has come!  And He has overcome death and hell!  He brings salvation for us all!  Looking back on my entire existence, I‘m beginning to understand how easy it is to write a love song to my Savior, to my King.  So let me leave you with a challenge to do the same.

Suggested Actions: Pray that God will allow the Holy Spirit to fill you as you read this passage. Read Luke 1:67-80 and meditate on the words that speak truth to you. Write a song, poem or letter to Jesus, expressing your gratitude and love to Him.  No one has to see it but Him. Pray for those feeling unloved this Christmas season and ask God to help you show   someone the love of Christ this Christmas.

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Sunday, December 18, 2016 – You Love God With Your Choices

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-251 He hath shewed strength with his arm;

he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats,
and exalted them of low degree.
53 He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
54 He hath holpen his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy;
55 as he spake to our fathers,
to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

57 Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. 58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.60 And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. 61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. 62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. 64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.

65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judæa.66 And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.  – Luke 1:51-66

I love the courage Elizabeth showed in announcing John‘s name, especially given the status of women back then and the fact that she was breaking the naming traditions of the day. Zachariah showed that same courage that comes from a God-ordained prompting when he verified what Elizabeth requested.

Then something amazing happened—Zachariah‘s voice returned and he began to speak and praise God!  Have you ever faced a time where you had to choose whether to follow God‘s prompting or the world‘s?  Or how about whether to follow God‘s prompting or your parent‘s or a friend‘s when they are not believers?

Choosing to obey God takes real courage, and God absolutely LOVES when we say, “Yes” to Him! In my personal life, I‘ve seen God richly bless me for my obedience to Him in a tough situation, and I encourage you the next time you face a situation like this, remember that God is watching to see who you will follow, worship, and obey for you love Him through your choices!

I also cannot help but notice the impact Zachariah‘s choice had on his neighbors as they saw him obey God then heard his voice return. They were filled with awe and spread the word throughout the land. I am reminded once again that our courageous obedience not only glorifies God but also emboldens others to courageously obey God as well. We are often witnesses when we don‘t even know it!

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Saturday, December 17, 2016 – Plenty of Blessings to Go Around

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2Mary Visits Elizabeth

 39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah‘s home and greeted Elizabeth.

41When Elizabeth heard Mary‘s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!

43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Mary’s Song

46 And Mary said: ―My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has   done great things for me—holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. – Luke 1:39-50 

The angel Gabriel had foretold the births of Jesus the Messiah and John the Baptist, and then we see God orchestrate this family meeting to confirm, between these two excited mothers, that God does indeed follow through on His promises!  It is amazing how God brings people together so that together they may see God in action.

God brings us all together in the same way – so that we may see all He has in store for us.  We are filled to overflowing with the same blessings Mary had.  Mary sang a song about her notice God‘s work in her life.  In the busy hustle and bustle of life, it is easy for me to forget that those blessings are still present today.  Do I sing about them as Mary did?  Or do I get caught up in the busy season?  Can others see through my actions and words that the Lord has blessed me, or do I keep these tucked away?

I want to praise God with all my soul and live my life in such a way that those around me know that I have been blessed beyond measure – and most importantly – that they can also share in His blessings!

 

 

 

Beaver County is among the poorest counties in western Pa.

Local OutreachWe thank God for the opportunity to provide free warm and nutritious food for body and soul to many people in the City of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, as we work to cultivate a season of peace and joy for the people God has placed in our lives.

“Come to me all you who are weak and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

On December 16, 2016, the Beaver County Times reported that Beaver County is among the poorest counties in western Pennsylvania, according to data released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.  (See http://www.timesonline.com/news/local_news/beaver-county-is-among-the-poorest-counties-in-western-pa/article_8fcd858c-c312-11e6-a269-0b0fd180c24f.html.)

The county’s median salary of is 10 percent less than statewide, and 1 in 5 children in the county live in poverty. Statewide, the county is in the middle of the pack, ranking 29th in median income and 32nd in poverty rate.

“It’s tough in Beaver County,” said Mike Rubino, executive director of the United Way of Beaver County. “It’s something to think about — just one of our supported programs, the Salvation Army, is feeding 4,000 people each month through food banks.”

According to the federal poverty guidelines, a family of four lives in poverty if their household income is lower than $24,250.

The new data comes from the census bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates program, which uses information from the American Community Survey, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, federal tax records and other federal data collection programs. It is used to determine how much money school districts will receive through the federal Title I program.

According to a release from the census bureau, the majority of counties — more than 84 percent nationwide — did not see a statistically significant change in median income between 2014 and 2015. Even fewer counties saw a significant change in poverty rates.

Central Church provided over 10,000 free, nutritious meals to our community in 2013.  In 2014, that number increased to 11,500, and the numbers of the hungry coming to us continue to increase as we reach the end of 2016, all through the generosity of many small givers and an active congregation of less than 25 dedicated souls. 

  • Please click on the “Donate” button in the right column of this page if you would like to support this critically-needed outreach ministry.

Every meal that we serve is hot, nutritious, and wholesome.  A warm welcome and a promise from God go a long way to lift a heavy heart.  When someone knows how much God cares, they don’t feel lonely and powerless anymore.

Please join us to care for those in hard times.  Your gifts meet desperate needs for food, and you pave the way for hurting people to be blessed.

This is our prayer for everyone who walks through our door – providing hope for new life. 

 

 

 

Vote for Your Favorite Hymns!

united-methodist-hymnal-2United Methodists are being asked to name their favorite and least favorite hymns as part of the initial research conducted by Discipleship Ministries and a diverse committee to revise The United Methodist Hymnal after almost three decades.

The first of several online surveys is under way to support the development of the new hymnal, which will be a hybrid print/electronic resource for use in multiple contexts.

“We are a singing church, and this survey will help us launch an important new hymnal for our denomination,” said the Rev. Junius B. Dotson, General Secretary (CEO) of Discipleship Ministries, which shares responsibility for the denomination’s hymnal with The United Methodist Publishing House.

The survey, “Favorite and Least Favorite Hymns,” is available online through Jan. 9 at http://sgiz.mobi/s3/Favorite-Hymns-2016 and seeks responses for all United Methodists.

The initial survey will be followed by other general surveys about hymn and worship resource preferences and use and about worship styles and perspectives on congregational music, said Naomi Hope Annandale, director of research and strategic evaluation at Discipleship Ministries, who is directing the hymnal research.

Diane’s Joysong Christmas at Central Church

dianes-joysongIt’s officially Christmastime and everyone’s schedule is filling up with shopping, decorating and visiting.

While you’re making your holiday plans, why not take a break from the hectic shopping season and take a moment or two to reflect on the true nature and reason for our Christmas season.

Central Church would like to invite you to a special Christmas concert on Saturday evening, December 17.

Central Church is hosting a special concert of Diane’s Joysong Christmas on Saturday, December 17 at 7:00 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public. 

After growing up in a pastor’s home, Diane hit the night club circuit traveling around the country.  She is a master of stagecraft, an actor at heart, who understands the connection of lyric and music.

More than a singer, Diane is a thoroughly engaging performer who is thoroughly engaged.  Her joy attests to her passion for the Lord and her personal connection to Him while embracing everyone in the audience.

The concert will begin at 7 pm and will be between 45 & 50 minutes – a perfect, refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of the season, especially for those who are active in the work and ministry of our local Churches.

The public is invited to attend the concert. There is no admission charge, but a free-will offering will be received.

Please share this opportunity with your friends, and join us on December 17!

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Friday, December 16, 2016 – INTERRUPTIONS!!

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2 26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name wasMary.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that arthighly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.   Luke 1:26-38

This time of the year the word “plans” takes on a whole new meaning! Most of us have a book full of plans! I plan to decorate my house from top to bottom with glitter and glow and all that says Christmas! I plan to search through cook books to pull out favorite Christmas recipes that scream tradition! I have dates jotted down for traditional Christmas parties that make Christmas…Christmas! I have not allowed or planned for interruptions! Have you?

How do I handle interruptions? Even small interruptions can send me, asking “Why me Lord – I didn’t plan on this? This is too hard, I did not see this coming, Lord! Lord, did you not look at my daily planner before you sent this interruption into my life? When I think of how I handle interruptions, I am afraid” ―gracefully doesn‘t always come to mind!

As I read the account of Mary, I can imagine that she had not planned on any interruptions either. In fact, this very young bride to be, maybe as young as twelve, had her life planned out for her. Her father would have planned who she would marry and when – she would marry Joseph the carpenter, who she was already legally bound to. She would have known where she would live and would have known her primary role in life would be to have children – heirs for her husband. Everything was planned for Mary except the visit from an angel announcing that she, a virgin, had been chosen to be the mother of God’s only Son, Jesus!  The Messiah!

Oh, to have the courage of Mary as she stood looking into the face of God’s will, understanding the magnitude of what He was asking and saying “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled!” No wonder the angel Gabriel called her highly favored by God!

Lord, help me, even in the chaos of this season, to stop and remember Mary who sought only to do God’s will.

 

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Thursday, December 15, 2016 – The Blessings of a Child

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judæa, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. 20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. 23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.  – Luke 1:5-25 

I recently spoke to a man who is the father of 8 children. He told me he simply cannot imagine being an old man, alone without children.  His children are such a huge presence in his life, he cannot fathom being without them. But that is just where we find Zechariah.  Old, and without children.  I imagine him a little sad, and heartbroken. There are people who choose not to have children, but Zechariah was not one of them!

I can completely understand his doubt, when the angel Gabriel came to him, to tell him that he was soon to be a father.  It was simply not possible in Zechariah‘s mind!  It would require a mighty miracle of God‘s hand!  I do not think Zechariah doubted God‘s power.  He was well versed in God‘s power and might. I just think he was afraid to be excited about God granting him such a blessing!  Afraid he might have misunderstood, or God might change his mind!  Afraid to completely let go, and go crazy, like he wanted to in his heart!

When the angel Gabriel muted him, I bet in a strange way this brought JOY to Zechariah‘s heart!!!  It was a confirmation that God’s hand was at work here, and that God was insulted over Zechariah‘s doubt!  It would have been interesting to see exactly how Zechariah told his wife, without words, that she was going to be a momma!  I can only imagine the celebration in the household of Zechariah!

God wants to bless those who serve Him well.  He wants to give us the desires of our hearts.  He, like our earthly daddy, wants to see us happy!  He blesses us despite our doubt, and he deserves our undivided praise, devotion, and obedience.  He is a mighty God.

Thank you, Lord, for showing us the miracle of life, through Zechariah.  Thank you for showing us your power, and your compassion.  Let us make a stronger commitment to you this Christmas season, and give you all the praise and glory you deserve.  We love you and are privileged to be your children!

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Wednesday, December 14, 2016 – What Is Truth?

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-28The Lord has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel. 9All the people will know it – Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria- who say with pride and arrogance of heart, 10 “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.” 11 But the Lord has strengthened Rezin’s foes against them and has spurred their enemies on. 12 Arameans from the east and Philistines from the west have devoured Israel with open mouth. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.

13 But the people have not returned to him who struck them, nor have they sought the Lord Almighty. 14 So the Lord will cut off from Israel both head and tail, both palm branch and reed in a single day; 15the elders and dignitaries are the head, the prophets who teach lies are the tail. 16Those who guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are lead astray.  17Therefore the Lord will take no pleasure in the young men, nor will he pity the fatherless and widows, for everyone is ungodly and wicked, every mouth speaks folly.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, is hand is still upraised.  – Isaiah 9:8-17

In this information society you can find just about anything and everything at the touch of a few strokes. The internet is a wonderful resource of information.  It can be used for research, give you directions to your next vacation spot, tell you how to have a better marriage, provide ―social interactions/dating, or be used to self-diagnose a condition, which doctors just love.  With so much information, our society seems to be less informed about the truth.  I‘m talking about the Absolute Truth of Jesus and his message of hope for all people.

In the above-referenced passage of Isaiah, God is angered at the wickedness he sees in Israel.  His hand is upraised waiting for the time of punishment.  These people are said to be guided by those who mislead them and are therefore led astray.  In the referenced passage of 2 Peter it talks of false prophets and false teachers who secretly introduce destructive heresies (beliefs that are contrary to Christian doctrine) and even deny the Lord.  Many people will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  Now you‘ve heard of the phrase, ―Ignorance is Bliss. If you read the full passages of Isaiah and 2 Peter as referenced above, you will find that God holds all responsible who sin against him.  He will not have pity on your ignorance!

What this means for you is that you must know the truth for yourself.  As I write this, I beg you to seek out the truth in this message….look up the passages and determine if what I am saying holds true against the inspired, God-breathed, word of God.  And I beg you to do this for everything you hear or search for.  The most important truth I want you to know is that God loved you so much that he sent his one and only son, that if you would believe in Him, you would not suffer the wrath of God but would have everlasting life, with the one who gives life.  (John 3:16 paraphrased).  You deserve to know the truth for yourself.  You are responsible for knowing the truth.  It is then your decision to believe it.

Suggested Actions: Pray that God would open your mind and heart that you will understand and know the truth hidden in the passages. Read the above-referenced passages. Say this Final Prayer: If you‘ve not made the decision to believe the truth, now is the perfect time.  If you are willing to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior, say this simple prayer:

Jesus, I want to know the truth and I want to know you.  I want you to come into my life.  I believe who you say you are and I thank you for dying on the cross for my sins.  Please forgive me for all of the sins that I have committed against you.  Thank you for the gift of salvation and eternal life.  I give my life to you.  Amen

Don‘t stop here!  Tell someone about the decision you‘ve just made.  Then, continue to seek the truth daily through scripture reading and attending Church and Sunday School.

 

 

Advent Devotional – Tuesday, December 13, 2016 – Who’s Larger-and-In-Charge in Your Life?

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-222 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judæa; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. 23 And John also was baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. 24 For John was not yet cast into prison.

25 Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. 26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. 27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. 28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.  – John 3:22-30  

Jesus had just finished explaining to Nicodemus about spiritual birth and was now in the countryside with his disciples, baptizing.  Well, that stirred the pot!  John the Baptist‘s followers came running, whining that everyone was going to Jesus now.  John would have no part of rivalry with Jesus.  He told them plainly that he was not the Christ, but only the one sent to proclaim Him.

I admire John.  There was no gray area, no hesitation.  He might have been tempted to focus on himself and what ―his‖ followers meant to him in terms of popularity and self-promotion, but he didn‘t.  He didn‘t just give lip-service to Jesus.  He humbled himself to Jesus.  He told his followers, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

What would change in our lives and attitudes if we followed John‘s example, putting aside our own pride and agendas and letting Jesus become greater?

Thank God that He has sent the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us closer to Him so that Jesus can become number one in our hearts and minds.  How‘s that for the best gift ever?

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Monday, December 12, 2016 – The Significance of a Child

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2Moreover the Lord said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz. And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the Lord to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz. For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.

The Lord spake also unto me again, saying, Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son; now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks: and he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.

Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.10 Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.

11 For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, 12 Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. 13 Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.  – Isaiah 8:1-15 

After I read this scripture, it took me awhile to really figure out what God was saying.  If you go through these verses, you will see we find an unmistakable and unavoidable concentration upon the figure of the child.  God is pleased to convey the expansiveness of his plan in the figure of the child. He is pleased to convey even the monumental transformation he intends to bring for the entirety of the world in its course of history.

God’s big dreams come in tiny packages. The large and the immense are compressed into the small and the minute and into the figure of a child. God’s magnificent work of salvation, by which he changes everything, is brought about through and in a child.  Being a Mom and a Grandma, I get to see all the joys children bring.  I get to see the innocence in my grandchildren and that is what God‘s children are.  Sometimes it really amazes me how God shows himself to me through my grandkids.  I often forget to have that childlike faith.

 

 

 

Give Money to Have Less Money: God Will Bless You, Every One.

A_Christmas_Carol_-_Scrooge_and_Bob_Cratchit_optScrooge got angry with his nephew Fred over a “Merry Christmas” claiming he would like to see such humbugs boiled in their own pudding and buried with a stake of holly in their hearts.*

This is a far worse reaction to Christmas than a Starbucks red cup.

Scrooge loves money because he thinks it keeps him safe. He is a fearful man and money protects him from the world. Oddly, there are not-really-Christians who claim that people should give (especially to them) so that they can have more money.

I have no doubt that God can bless us financially if we give to God. I have seen it happen, but God and giving are not an investment scheme. He sees our heart and knows that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. God sees that few rich people are saved from evil, because money is so seductive. Simultaneously, the people I have known most free of money, most giving, were wealthy and some of the people consumed with the lust for money were poor.

Loving money cannot make us happy, cannot keep us safe, and can be a curse as easily as a blessing. Oddly,  money used wisely can make happiness, can create more safety and can multiply jollification. How?

When we use money to bless a community, we are blessed by blessing other people. We almost surely will have less money, but we will have created a community by our wise giving that blesses us. A person can own money, but only a person in a community can be happy or blessed. Money cannot create a community, but money can create the space in which community flourishes.

Scrooge begins to provide “Christmas cheer” to the needy, helps little Tim get well, and makes the workplace better for Bob Cratchitt. He is willing to take time “off” for a party with his family and that too is a gift! The result is that Scrooge gains physical life! He would have been dead in a year from his griping, miserable existence. His giving provides a new lease on life. When he dies, as die he must, he will be ready and honored in his time. No man can ask for more.

At the end of The Christmas Carol, Scrooge has given away a great deal of money, there are many back payments in his giving, and he does not make a dime. He has less money at the end of the story than at the start, but Scrooge does have something. The old miser is the new jolly man and has friends, a restored family, and much jollification. Most of all, he has returned to church where he experiences healing.

We are blessed when we give, but the best blessings are not money or giving money would be a foolish idea. We usually give money and end up with less money! Instead we give because it is blessed . . . and when we give we are blessed .  . . every one.

——————-

*Based on a stewardship talk I was asked to give at Saint Paul Orthodox Church.

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If you want to give away some money, try Central Church! 

As part of our feeding community outreach ministry, we have provided over 10,000 free meals to our community in the past 12 months, and the number of hungry people coming to us continues to grow. 

Simply click here for our secure PayPal giving portal!  (All gifts to Central Church are tax deductible as  itemized deductions.) 

Your support helps those who cannot help themselves to find hot, nutritious food and the love of Christ.

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Advent Devotional – Sunday, December 11, 2016 – The Significance of a Child

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2Moreover the Lord said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz. And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the Lord to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz. For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.

The Lord spake also unto me again, saying, Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son; now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks: and he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.

Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.10 Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.

11 For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, 12 Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. 13 Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. Isaiah 8:1-15  

Do you ever try the patience of humans?   Do you ever try the patience of God?  I am truly sure that I do.  As a teen growing up, I distinctly remember my father telling me that I had tested every bit of his patience!  And, my husband would gladly tell you that I try his patience on a regular basis.  It seems to be a common occurrence around our home to test people‘s patience, as my children have learned to be very good at this also!

But how does it make you feel to know you test the patience of God?  God is the very ONE I do not want to disappoint.  I do not want to make Him angry, or frustrated with me, and I certainly do not want to test His patience.  But I am sure I do.  I am sure I already have this morning!

So how can we not test God‘s patience?!?!  The first thought that comes to my mind is to OBEY Him.  Let‘s not make Him ask us over and over.  We teach our children first time obedience, so we should learn it ourselves!  When God gives us that gentle nudge to reach out to someone, to help someone, to call someone, to bless someone, let‘s do it!!  And not just for the Christmas season, but all year long! And when we read the commands in God‘s Word, let‘s accept them as commands, not merely suggestions!

Thank you Lord Jesus, for accepting us into your family, when we obey you, and even when we do not.  Thank you for having patience with us, and for giving us second chances.  Please help us strive to please you.   Thank you for sending Jesus to our world, and for the salvation he brings to us!

 

 

Advent Devotional – Saturday, December 10, 2016 – The Significance of a Child

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2Moreover the Lord said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz. And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the Lord to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz. For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.

The Lord spake also unto me again, saying, Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son; now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks: and he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.

Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.10 Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.

11 For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, 12 Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. 13 Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.  –   Isaiah 8:1-15 

Do you ever try the patience of humans?   Do you ever try the patience of God?  I am truly sure that I do.  As a teen growing up, I distinctly remember my father telling me that I had tested every bit of his patience!  And, my husband would gladly tell you that I try his patience on a regular basis.  It seems to be a common occurrence around our home to test people‘s patience, as my children have learned to be very good at this also!

But how does it make you feel to know you test the patience of God?  God is the very ONE I do not want to disappoint.  I do not want to make Him angry, or frustrated with me, and I certainly do not want to test His patience.  But I am sure I do.  I am sure I already have this morning!

So how can we not test God‘s patience?!?!  The first thought that comes to my mind is to OBEY Him.  Let‘s not make Him ask us over and over.  We teach our children first time obedience, so we should learn it ourselves!  When God gives us that gentle nudge to reach out to someone, to help someone, to call someone, to bless someone, let‘s do it!!  And not just for the Christmas season, but all year long! And when we read the commands in God‘s Word, let‘s accept them as commands, not merely suggestions!

Thank you Lord Jesus, for accepting us into your family, when we obey you, and even when we do not.  Thank you for having patience with us, and for giving us second chances.  Please help us strive to please you.   Thank you for sending Jesus to our world, and for the salvation he brings to us!

 

Advent Devotional – Friday, December 9, 2016 – Do You Try the Lord’s Patience?!?!

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-210 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”  12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.” 

13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and  will call him Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. 16 But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”

18 In that day the LORD will whistle for flies from the distant streams of Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria. 19 They will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the crevices in the rocks, on all the thornbushes and at all the water holes. 20 In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the River —the king of Assyria—to shave your head and the hair of your legs, and to take off your beards also. 21 In that day, a man will keep alive a young cow and two goats. 22 And because of the abundance of the milk they give, he will have curds to eat. All who remain in the land will eat curds and honey.

23 In that day, in every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, there will be only briers and thorns. 24 Men will go there with bow and arrow, for the land will be covered with briers and thorns. 25 As for all the hills once cultivated by the hoe, you will no longer go there for fear of the briers and thorns; they will become places where cattle are turned loose and where sheep run.  – Isaiah 7:10-25

Do you ever try the patience of humans?   Do you ever try the patience of God?  I am truly sure that I do.  As a teen growing up, I distinctly remember my father telling me that I had tested every bit of his patience!  And, my husband would gladly tell you that I try his patience on a regular basis.  It seems to be a common occurrence around our home to test people‘s patience, as my children have learned to be very good at this also!

But how does it make you feel to know you test the patience of God?  God is the very ONE I do not want to disappoint.  I do not want to make Him angry, or frustrated with me, and I certainly do not want to test His patience.  But I am sure I do.  I am sure I already have this morning!

So how can we not test God‘s patience?!?!  The first thought that comes to my mind is to OBEY Him.  Let‘s not make Him ask us over and over.  We teach our children first time obedience, so we should learn it ourselves!  When God gives us that gentle nudge to reach out to someone, to help someone, to call someone, to bless someone, let‘s do it!!  And not just for the Christmas season, but all year long! And when we read the commands in God‘s Word, let‘s accept them as commands, not merely suggestions!

Thank you Lord Jesus, for accepting us into your family, when we obey you, and even when we do not.  Thank you for having patience with us, and for giving us second chances.  Please help us strive to please you.   Thank you for sending Jesus to our world, and for the salvation he brings to us!

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Thursday, December 8, 2016 – Fear: One Of Our Greatest Temptations

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it. And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.Then said the Lord unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shear-jashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field; and say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal: thus saith the Lord God, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.Isaiah 7: 1-9

When things go majorly wrong in our lives, we so easily give our minds over to fear and lose faith that the God of the universe will keep His promises to take care of us and be with us every step of the way.  I believe fear is one of the greatest temptations we Christians face, though we don‘t often think of fear as a temptation or sin. Yet it is because it can cause us to turn from God and rely on our strength and actions, and this breaks God‘s heart because it says we don‘t truly trust Him all the way.

So I encourage you the next time you or a loved one faces a serious illness, loses a job, or encounters some other situation that frightens you to the core, turn FIRST to God and let Him show you His power and how trustworthy He is by taking His hand and surrendering to His plan. For just as the last sentence of this scripture says, ―If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.

 

 

 

Prayer Request – Pastor Jan

Pastor Janice M. Davis

Pastor Janice M. Davis

Pastor Jan was involved in an auto accident on Ing-Rich Road on Thanksgiving Day morning returning from visiting shut-ins.

She collided with a telephone pole at sufficient speed to crack the telephone pole and destroy her car.  Both of her femurs were snapped above the knee.

In view of the extent of her injuries, the Medical Center transferred her to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Oakland, where metal rods were placed in her femurs in a 10-hour-long surgery.

Following the surgeries, a CT Scan discovered a blood clot in her lung, for which she is now receiving blood thinners.

Pastor Jan has now been transferred from UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Oakland to the Providence Care Center in Beaver Falls to begin her long road of rehabilitation.

Your prayers for Pastor Jan’s recovery would be appreciated.

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Wednesday, December 7, 2016 – You’re Being Called!

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3And they were calling to one another; “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

4At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5”Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

6Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the alter. 7With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9He said, “Go and tell this people: “Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’10Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

11Then I said, “For how long, Lord?” And he answered:

“Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, 12until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. 13And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”  – Isaiah 6:1-13

Isaiah‘s call came in the year that King Uzziah tragically died after reigning for 52 years. Understandably, this event could cause people to be discouraged or worried because the great leader of Judah was no longer on the throne. Yet remarkably, God shows Isaiah that He is sitting on the throne in heaven and in charge of all creation! It was if God was saying, ―Don‘t worry about it Isaiah. Uzziah may not be on his throne, but I am on My majestic throne.‖

In the presence of the Lord on his exalted throne, Isaiah watched the  angels  praise, worship, and honor God and declare to one another: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory. Surprisingly, this amazing experience of the throne of God did not cause Isaiah to be joyful.  In fact, the more clearly he saw the Lord, the more clearly he saw how bad of shape he was in.  He felt guilty of his sin and was convicted to cry ―I am ruined; I am a man of unclean lips‖. Our merciful and wise God then sent a seraphim with a hot coal to be placed on Isaiah‘s lips to remove his wickedness.

After Isaiah was cleansed from guilt, the Lord said: Who should I send?   Who will go for us?

Without hesitation, Isaiah responds:  Here I am.  Send me!

Do you realize that you are being called? God does not force any of us to seek him, to ask for forgiveness, or to serve him. He simply calls for volunteers. Pray to God for the kind of heart that gladly submits to His will. Isaiah certainly wasn‘t called for an easy mission. Yet like Isaiah, may you be quick to respond when God asks you to go.

Dear Lord, I recognize my sinfulness and I ask for your forgiveness.   God, please help me surrender to your will.   I want to respond to your call without hesitation.   I ask that you prepare my mind, heart, and soul to serve you.   I am eager to say: “Here I am.  Send me.”  Amen.

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Tuesday, December 6, 2016 – So Be Good for Goodness’ Sake

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-212 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.  

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God‘s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil. 

 23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.  

25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 26 Greet all God‘s people with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.   – 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

A familiar children‘s Christmas song:  ―Oh you better watch out! You better not pout!  You better not cry, I‘m telling you why…Santa Claus is coming to town.

Paul is warning people that Jesus will be coming back again.  So to make sure they will be found holy, he provides them with a challenging list of good behavior goals in this passage.

If you and I just choose this list as our daily Christ-Like Life challenge, I am sure everyone around us will be able to see the change.

Vs 12: RESPECT everyone, even your boss!

Vs 13: Live in PEACE with each other

Vs 14: WARN those who are idle, ENCOURAGE the timid, HELP the weak, be PATIENT!

Vs 15: No paybacks! Be KIND!

Vs 16: Be JOYFUL!

Vs 17: PRAY CONTINUALLY!

Vs 18: Give THANKS ALWAYS!

Vs 19: Follow the SPIRIT of GOD!

Vs 20: Listen to the PROPHETS!

Vs 21: TEST everything! HOLD ON TO THE GOOD!

Vs 22: AVOID EVIL!

Vs 23: LET GOD SANCTIFY YOU WITH HIS PEACE! WATCH FOR HIS COMING!

Vs 24: Trust in GOD’s FAITHFULNESS!

 

Advent Devotional – Monday, December 5, 2016 – You Are Mine!

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-21Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant women, and they will not escape.

4But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.

7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  – Thessalonians

How many times have we heard the saying ―The day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night? But read on. You are children of the light and that day will not overtake you as a thief.   I remember many a Christmas when I would run into the living room and under the tree would be presents covered in wrapping paper, but I would have to look for my name on the package before I knew it was mine. Then and only then could I rip open the paper and see what my gift was. But one Christmas morning as I ran to the tree, there was a bright, shiny bicycle with a bow on it. Just what I had asked for-so instantly I realized: That‘s mine!

Fast forward a few years to when the Holy Spirit brought me to my knees at the altar and I gave myself to Lord Jesus. Yes, I‘m yours Lord!  From that day to this one, by the grace of God, I have been a child of the light. Jesus says, ―He‘s mine!  The Lord doesn‘t care what you‘ve done or haven‘t done. How pretty you are or aren‘t. How rich you are or aren‘t. He doesn‘t care what color your skin is or anything else. He wants you to live your life for him, since he gave his life for you.

When you do, He becomes not only your Lord and Master, but also a friend that is always there for you. He equips us with armor to protect us from the enemy and loves to see us do well. He is the Good Shepherd. Should we wander away as lost sheep, he will continue to search for us until he finds us. Everyone of us is important to him. He has given us the title of ―children of the light. He called us, separated us, and loves us. Once you make the decision to follow Jesus, he proclaims ―You are mine! and nothing can separate us from his mighty hand and loving heart.

 

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Sunday, December 4, 2016 – The Coming of Jesus

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-211Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness 

14So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.  – 2 Peter 3:11-18

So as the prophets of old and those to whom they ministered looked for the coming Jesus (the Messiah), so we God‘s people look for His second coming…the second great advent. Christians look for a new heaven and a new earth, in which a great deal more of the wisdom, power and goodness of God and Savior Jesus will be manifested.

In these new heavens and earth we shall be freed from the futility of our former life and the sin with which it was polluted. Now only righteousness shall dwell; this is to be the habitation of such righteous persons as do righteousness, and are free from the power and pollution of sin; all the wicked shall be turned into hell; those only who are clothed with a righteousness of Christ, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit will be admitted to dwell in this holy place.

What is the basis for this thought? First of all, if we look for anything which God has not promised, we presume upon Him. Second, if our expectations are according to the promise, both as to the things we look for and the time that they will occur, we will not be disappointed. Scripture says, ―He is faithful who has promised it all.‖ “See therefore that you elevate and are in command of your expectations of all the great things that are to come according to the word of God.

As to the new heaven and new earth, look for them, praising God for this new advent. The second coming of Jesus sees him clothed in white robes of righteousness in place of swaddling clothes!! He is alive! Expect to see Him any time. …what kind of people ought you to be?

 

 

 

The Redemption of Scrooge

the-redemption-of-scrooge-1As we move into the second week of Advent, our elves at Central Church have been busy decorating the Parlor with Christmas trees to match the theme of our current short-term Sunday School study, “The Redemption of Scrooge”, based upon Charles Dickens’ classic novel “A Christmas Carol”.

“A Christmas Carol” is a story of brokenness and redemption.  The beginning is dark – the book opens with, “Marley was dead.”  Scrooge begins the story as an unrepentant miser whose greed has caused harm to himself and others, and ends with him a changed – a redeemed – man.

"The Tree of Christmas Past"

“The Tree of Christmas Past”

Just as Christ brings light and hope to a world in darkness, the events of A Christmas Carol shine light into the darkness surrounding Scrooge’s life, ultimately leading him to embrace the peace, hope, love, and joy that we associate with Christmas.

Our study is looking at the four main parts of A Christmas Carol the opening and visit of Marley’s ghost, the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Past, the visit of the Christ of Christmas Present, and the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

"The Tree of Christmas Present"

“The Tree of Christmas Present”

In our study, we are exploring how we can draw from the past, present and future, important truths about brokenness and redemption and the Advent themes of peace, hope, love, and joy.

Take a moment when you’re at the Church to examine the three Christmas trees in our Parlor: the Tree of Christmas Past, the Tree of Christmas Present, and the Tree of Christmas Yet to Come. 

"The Tree of Christmas Yet to Come"

“The Tree of Christmas Yet to Come”

As we walk with Christ, we discover the divine all around us, and, in turn, the world invites us into a deeper picture of its Creator.

Join us this Advent as we continue our exploration of A Christmas Carol and discover how God is working in and through us and in the world around us to tell God’s great story of redemption!

 

 

Advent Devotional – Saturday, December 3, 2016 – Do not mourn for those who have died. Celebrate their births just as we celebrate the birth of Jesus!

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who have fallen asleep, or grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  According to the Lord‘s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage each other with these words.  –   1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

When I had my daughter, my mother-in-law told me how funny it was that babies come into the world crying, but yet everyone who leaves this world does so quietly.  She then said how wonderful Heaven must be that someone so little would hate to leave.  I never thought much about it until I

was at my mother‘s side when she went to heaven. She was at peace. It was quiet. After I felt her soul leave the room, I was at peace.  Why do we mourn human loss on earth?  Should we not celebrate that they have gone to meet God and Jesus?

Just as we celebrate the rebirth of Jesus with Easter, let us celebrate the rebirth of our loved ones. They feel no more pain. They live in gorgeous splendor. They have achieved what God has promised us all.

I do mourn loss for a moment, but knowing that God has promised a life in Heaven, I feel more jealousy then sorrow when someone dies. Are you ready for God to call you home? Do you realize what wonderful pleasure awaits you?  Do you know that all you have to do is believe in Christ?  During the holidays, we all believe in traditions. This holiday, start a new tradition. Celebrate the loss of your loved ones!  Tell God how happy you are they are safe at home with Him. Let go of the loss and live like you will be called to heaven tomorrow.

 

 

Advent Devotional – Friday, December 2, 2016 – What Is Your Standard Of Measurement?

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-21Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living.  Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.  2For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

3It is God‘s will that you should be sanctified:  that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.  The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.  7For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.  8Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

9Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.  10And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia.  Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. 11Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.  – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12  

In this passage we learn that there is only one standard of measurement and it‘s Jesus Christ.  From the time of his birth, he demonstrated for mankind the way our life is to be lived.  His ways are our example of how to treat one another, specifically His new commandment we are given in the New Testament.  We are to love one another.  This is a goal that we need to have in mind on a daily basis.

It‘s not always easy to do this, but through the power of the Holy Spirit we can be like Jesus.  We can be love, compassion, Holy, humble, and so forth.  This is the will of the Father, that we set ourselves apart from the world and be in a holy relationship with God through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I challenge you today to be Jesus to those around you and to show others the love Christ has for us!

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Thursday, December 1, 2016 – More Than Enough

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming[a] the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor had been in vain.

Timothy’s Encouraging Report

But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. For this reason, brothers and sisters,[b] during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 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. 13 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 3:1-13 

What does it mean to do life together at Central Church?  The reality is the more I get to know people, the more I see their brokenness.  It is easy to see my church family with our church faces on.  It is painful, and always takes commitment – to see others as Jesus does.  Then of course there is the responsibility – and I think that‘s what I fear most.

John Lennon said, ―living is easy – with your eyes closed.  I smile and shake hands with some who bear burdens that would cause me to faint in despair.  I can‘t help but wonder, is this how Jesus intends for us to do life together?  It‘s not easy letting people see me as I am.  It‘s not easy accepting others as they are.  Yet, the closer I look, the more I see that under every nice smile is a person like me, burdened with doubt and fear, struggling with temptation and sin, striving to realize his heart‘s limitless potential for love, striving to trust God more.

In his first letter to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul tells us that it is God‘s will that we enter his kingdom through afflictions.  He refuses to flatter us with expectations of worldly prosperity in faith.  He tells us plainly that we will encounter trouble in the flesh.  Oswald Chambers asks, ―Why shouldn‘t we experience troubles?

Through these doorways God opens up ways of fellowship with His Son.  Yet most of us collapse at the first grip of pain.  We sit down on the threshold of God‘s purpose and cry, and all the so called Christian sympathy aids us to our death bed.  But God will not.  He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, and says – Enter into fellowship with Me; arise and shine.

Thank you Father, for the gift of your Son Jesus, the object of my faith, the Savior of the world.  Thank you for the faithfulness of your Church, which keeps me going despite my afflictions.  Renew my confidence in your holy presence, and shower me with your love until it splashes on everyone around me.