Skip to content

Archive for

Advent Devotional – Monday, December 10, 2018 – God’s Love for Me

Scripture: John 3:1616 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Like you, I’ve read this scripture a thousand times. When I began my journey back to Christ I understood intellectually that Jesus is the Christ and that he died for the sins of the world. What I could not understand was that he died for me. That God’s love included everyone, even me. I could not accept his love for me.

For years my wife, Marilyn, and I were very good friends. We spent time together, talked a lot, and shared our dreams. But for many of the same reasons I could not accept God’s love, I did not expect her to love me. But eventually I came to the realization that she did…that what we shared was more than friendship.

I didn’t understand it. (I still don’t.) But what I did understand was that it was true. It was not necessary to understand it – I simply had to accept it. Now I know that God so loved me that he gave his one and only son, that if I would believe in him I should not perish but have eternal life. For more than 32 years now I have had an amazing journey with my best friends – Marilyn and Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Creator God; thank you for loving each one of us – so much that you sent your son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for our sins so that we might spend eternity with you. In Christ’s most holy and precious name we pray. Amen.

  – Johnnie Draughon – Virginia Beach, VA

Advertisements

Advent Devotional – Sunday, December 9, 2018 – I’m Praying For You

Scripture: Jeremiah 33:2-3

“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

The number of times someone has said to me, “I’ll be praying for you,” is uncountable. Most folks are sincere, and some – you just know – will pray actively, intentionally, faithfully.

I don’t remember the crisis I was in years ago when I sent an e-mail, seeking the support of my twelve prayer warriors. (They’re the ones who have seen me through seminary, conflict, health concerns, unemployment, grief, and all life’s challenges.) I do remember that one of them replied in a way that changed my life. She replied with the actual prayer she was praying. It brought me to tears.

Separated physically from my sister in Christ, suddenly I felt connected. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I was lifted emotionally and spiritually. I returned to that e-mailed prayer over and over for strength.

In the years since, as a spiritual practice, I often have felt prompted to do the same – to actually send in writing the prayer that I’m praying over a situation. Or to take time to pray on the phone right in the moment. I still say, “I’ll be praying for you.” But more and more, I’m opting for, “This is my prayer for you right now.”

Prayer: God of the past, present, and future, help us pray right away. When we wait to pray, we often forget, or find ourselves too tired for a litany of petitions at the end of the day. We yearn to partner with you in the wonder of “suddenly.” Amen.

  – Katy Yates Brungraber – Brownsville, PA

Advent Devotional – Saturday, December 8, 2018 – A Surprise in Prayer

Scripture: Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In my early twenties, I looked down on myself as a failure, unable to accomplish anything of worth. I lived for the days when I could drink myself into the only ecstasy I ever knew, separated from the misery of my self-condemnation. I continued the habit of church attendance and choir singing, but prayer had long since ceased.

Then church leaders, who could see that I needed an accomplishment outside myself, invited me to a retreat. I refused, right to the last moment, when what I now know was God’s presence pushed me to go. Solitary meditation was part of the retreat. I walked far away from the others to the borders of the retreat property.

My despair at failure, at depending on alcohol, descended on me. But this time it did not defeat me. I felt the presence of one who did not accept me as a failure, of one who cared for me despite it all. Looking back, I know that I had prayed and my prayer had been answered, without words, but with the peace that God promises in Philippians. I had yet a long journey away from the depths, but prayer, my friends’ concern, and God’s surprising presence, had set me on the way.

Prayer: God of surprises, bring to all who despair the promise of new life. Help us to work in love with all who need you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  – Bill Olewiler – Fleming Island, FL

 

Encouraging One Another Through the Holiday Season

Colossians 4:7-18

Final Greetings

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant[a] in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our[b] circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews[c] among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”

18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

During the Christmas holidays, people will send various greeting cards to many people. The purpose of the greeting card is to encourage other people during the holidays. Here, we see that Paul is writing in this section one large greeting card addressed to different people. How would you use your greeting card to encourage others during this holiday season? You know that you don’t have to stop with just greeting cards. You can encourage others who need to hear and read a word of encouragement during this holiday season.

This section is made with a set of greetings. Like a set of greeting cards, Paul shares words of encouragement with others. Since as Christians spread the good news, we should encourage one another.

This section deals with various people in the church. Paul lists groups of people who are associated with the church at Colossae. He shares important insights about each group listed. His purpose is to remind the church that they should encourage one another.

Why?  Because life is challenging.  We all go through various challenges and we need to encourage one another.

10 EXAMPLES OF ENCOURAGING OTHERS

1. Encourage others who serve – Tychicus

The first example of someone I need to encourage are those who serve around me.

“Tychicus, our dearly loved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and so that he may encourage your hearts.” (Colossians 4:7–8, CSB)

Tychicus is an example of a servant. Tychicus encouraged others by serving. He was very dependable. He served Paul and helped him in his work. He also served other people and the churches. Paul sent Tychicus on various missions to different churches:

When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me in Nicopolis, because I have decided to spend the winter there.” (Titus 3:12, CSB)

I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus.” (2 Timothy 4:12, CSB)

There are people whom God sends in our lives to whom we become servants. He can encourage other people by the way we serve them.

2. Encourage others to grow in their faith – Onesimus

A second example of people I need to encourage as a Christian, who are new to the faith.

“He is coming with Onesimus, a faithful and dearly loved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.” (Colossians 4:9, CSB)

Onesimus is an example of someone who is younger in the faith. He was from Colossae and he was new to the faith.

Paul also mentioned Onesimus (“one of you”) who himself came from Colossae. He was the runaway slave who belonged to Philemon and who had been won to Christ through Paul’s ministry in Rome. Paul sent Onesimus back to his master with a letter asking Philemon to receive him and forgive him. It is interesting to note that Paul also called Onesimus faithful and beloved. Onesimus had been a believer only a short time, and yet he had already proved himself to Paul.

3. Encourage others through difficult times – Aristarchus

Aristarchus stayed with Paul during what seemed like very difficult times. He stayed with Paul during thick and thin. He was probably a prisoner of war, who understood what imprisonment was like. Aristarchus stayed with Paul no matter what the circumstances were—a riot in Ephesus, a voyage, a storm, or even a prison.

4. Encourage others through times of failure – Mark

Mark failed Paul earlier in ministry. Paul makes a special note here to encourage and welcome Mark when he comes. Mark is a reminder of people who have failed you in the past. People who have made mistakes need encouragement as well. They may feel sensitive about their failures and they need to be encouraged to continue in the faith and ministry.

Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11, CSB)

5. Encourage others to build bridges and work together – Justus

Justus, Mark, and Aristarchus were all Jews. Luke, Epaphras and Demas were all Gentiles. So here in this letter, we have a reminder that we need to encourage other people, even if they are different than ourselves.

In other words, Paul may well be declaring that some are now cooperating with him as a result of an ecumenical agreement. I intuit from “co-workers for the kingdom of God” a closer than competitive kind of mission with “those who were of the circumcision.”

Paul makes the claim that these people were co-workers for the kingdom of God, even though they were Jewish. In today’s context, that shows that there will be people whom we work with who have different flavors of Christian belief, yet they want the same goal: to encourage others in the faith. We should be willing to encourage others even they see the Bible differently.

Language, national animosities, and differences in religion and culture had divided the world of that day into hostile camps which could only be held together by the sword. Here under Paul’s aegis both camps were meeting together willingly and lovingly—an amazing unity!

We need to be reminded that as Christians, we are in the business of building bridges with others, not dividing into different camps. When it comes to encouraging others, race, differences in opinion, and differences in religion and culture should not destroy the unity in the church. We should not use these forms of separation to discourage one another.

6. Encourage others through prayer – Epaphras

“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. He is always wrestling for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills. For I testify about him that he works hard for you, for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis.” (Colossians 4:12–13, CSB)

Epaphras was a prayer warrior. You and I can pray for other people. Epaphras gives us a model prayer warrior. What were the characteristics of his prayer life?

CHARACTERISTICS OF A PRAYER WARRIOR

A. Pray constantly (“always”)

Epaphras is an example of someone who prayers with devotion. He prayed not only when he felt like it. He did not pray when he was told to pray. He consistently prayed.

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2, CSB)

B. Pray fervently (“laboring fervently”)

Being in anguish, he prayed more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44, CSB)

Like Jesus, Epaphras was in agony as he prayed. This is the same word used to describe athletes as they give themselves to sports. If church members today put as much concern and enthusiasm into their praying as they did into sports, we would have revival!

C. Pray personally (“for you”)

Epaphras interceded for the Christians in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. He prayed for people by name.

D. Pray definitely

Epaphras had a desire that these three churches may mature in their Christian faith.

7. Encourage others through faithfulness – Luke

Luke is faithful to the end of Paul’s ministry. He continued to encourage and helped Paul through Paul’s final imprisonment.

“Luke, the dearly loved physician, and Demas send you greetings.” (Colossians 4:14, CSB)

“Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my coworkers.” (Philemon 24, CSB)

Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11, CSB)

8. Encourage others now no matter what the future may hold – Demas

In contrast to the faithfulness of Luke, Paul reminds us to encourage others, even when you don’t know how faithful they may be. Demas was a fellow laborer who later was caught up and loved the world, so he abandoned the faith.

because Demas has deserted me, since he loved this present world, and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.” (2 Timothy 4:10, CSB)

Demas thought that he could serve two masters, but eventually he had to make a decision; unfortunately, he made the wrong decision.

Demas is an example of someone who we can encourage, but whom we will never understand why things happen in their lives.

9. Encourage those who work with other churches – Nympha

I need to encourage as a Christian are those who serve alongside me in other churches. As a church, we need to encourage the work of the Gospel in other churches. Churches need to encourage the work of other churches. Paul did that by asking this church to pass along the word to other churches.

“For I testify about him that he works hard for you, for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis.” (Colossians 4:13, CSB)

“Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her home. After this letter has been read at your gathering, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.” (Colossians 4:15–16, CSB)

Churches should not be in competition. Instead, we are called to be in cooperation to share the Gospel.

10. Encourage others to stay on mission – Archippus

Archippus has some work that God has commissioned him for the church. Whether it is financial, pastoral, or a form of evangelism, there are people whom we can encourage to continue in the ministry God has called them.

“And tell Archippus, “Pay attention to the ministry you have received in the Lord, so that you can accomplish it.”” (Colossians 4:17, CSB)

“to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets in your home.” (Philemon 2, CSB)

I saw them tearing a building down,

A gang of men in a dusty town.

With a “yo heave ho” and a lusty yell,

They swung a beam and the sidewall fell.

I asked the foreman if these men were as skilled

As the men he’d hire, if he were to build.

He laughed and said, “Oh, no indeed.

Common labor is all I need.”

For those men can wreck in a day or two,

What builders had taken years to do.

I asked myself as I went my way,

Which kind of role am I to play?

Am I the builder who builds with care,

Measuring life by the rule and square?

Or am I the wrecker who walks the town,

Content with the role of tearing down?

  • What kind of encourager are you?

Advent Devotional – Friday, December 7, 2018 – Something New

Scripture: Isaiah 43:19

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

The new…I love new! I always expect great, new things in a new year. God will do it, and I want to join him. I have realized through the years that many times the new that needs to spring up is in my own heart.

I often desire for the change to occur in my circumstances, not in my own life and attitudes. It can be humbling to realize that I am looking for the new in the wrong place.

God, too, will make a way where there seems to be only roadblocks, and he will make living water spring up in hearts, including my own, where he sees fit. Sometimes the drought seems too extreme to conquer, but the Lord can do it. I desire, in this New Year, more so than anything else, to bask in his goodness, in his provision, and take comfort in his way. It will be new, I just need open eyes to perceive it and a willing heart to experience it.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your promises to make new things happen to fulfill your amazing plan. It’s going to be a great ride in this New Year that may not always be easy, or go my way, but I do know it will be good, because you are good.

  – Amy Williams – Skopje, Macedonia

The Principle of the Test: Every Time You Get Paid, You Take a Test

Here is a short Stewardship meditation by Josh Daffern.


I enjoyed school growing up, but there was one fear that I had, and in fact it was a nightmare I had on more than one occasion. In fact, I’m willing to bet some of you have had a version of this same exact nightmare.

The nightmare is that you walk into school one morning, and everything seems normal. You walk into your first class, and you start to get bad vibes because you see everyone with their heads buried in their textbooks, frantically flipping pages and looking stressed.

And then (here’s where the horror comes in) one of your classmates looks up and says, “Are you ready for the test today?” And then you say the two words you never, ever, ever want to utter as a student: “What . . . test?” Isn’t that a horrible feeling?

As Christian adults, we all take a test multiple times a month, and most of us don’t even realize we’re taking one.

I believe in the Principle of First, that if God is first in your life, everything will come into order.

But if God is not first in your life, nothing will come into order.

I don’t think many Christians would disagree with this concept in theory. It’s the application that gets a bit tricky. This principle includes every area of our lives, including our finances. If God is first in every area of our life but not in our finances, then He’s still not first. That leads to another timeless principle (kudos to Robert Morris and his original sermon on this concept): the Principle of the Test.

The Principle of the Test: Every time you get paid, you take a test. Whether you get paid once a week, twice a month, once a month or at any other interval, every time you get paid, you take a test. The test is simply this: is God first in your finances? Where does the first portion of your income go? Does it go to God or somewhere else? In Matthew 23:23 Jesus affirms the old covenant concept of the tithe when he says,

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23

  • Do we trust God with the first portion, the first tenth (tithe) of our income?
  • Tithing is ultimately about trust: do you trust that if you give God your first portion, that He will provide for you and take care of your needs?
  • Do you trust that 90% of your income blessed by God will go farther than 100% of your income not blessed by God?

Whether you realize it or not, multiple times a month, every single time you get paid, you take a test on this critical decision of trust.

  • Is God really first in your life?  Your words may whisper an answer but your pocketbook screams the truth.

 

Tim Hawkins Shares His Favorite—and Most Hilarious—Christmas Memories

Tim Hawkins shares some of his favorite Christmas memories in a way only he can.

There’s the time as a child that he got the words to “Do You Hear What I Hear?” mixed up during the Christmas pageant and ended up singing about baby Jesus’s tail. Then there’s the time he splurged to give his daughter a new iPod, only to find out it was the wrong one. Finally, there’s the Christmas puppy that every child wants and every parent tries to talk them out of.

If you haven’t laughed enough this Christmas season, you’re in luck. Hawkins is here to share the best and most humorous parts of Christmas.

 

10 Differences between a Believer and a Christian

Warning: This might shake up your faith.

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. James 2:19

Here are 10 differences between a believer and a Christian.

1. A believer believes in Jesus.  A Christian follows his commands.

2. A believer goes to church on holidays.  A Christian knows that a church community is the paradigm for their faith.

3. A believer reads their Bible when things get tough.  A Christian reads their Bible regularly.

4. A believer prays when things get tough.  A Christian gives thanks no matter the circumstance.

5. A believer twists the Bible to fit his or her lifestyle.  A Christian works to make his or her lifestyle resemble the teachings of the Bible.

6. A believer will sacrifice when it’s convenient.  A Christian will sacrifice no matter the potential outcome.

7. A believer tithes when there is no risk.  A Christian will tithe no matter the risk.

8. A believer conforms under the pressure of culture.  A Christian holds fast against temptation.

9. A believer will share their faith when it’s comfortable.  A Christian will share his or her faith regardless of the scenario.

10. A believer knows about Jesus.  A Christian knows Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior.

This article originally appeared here.

 

9 Common Christmas Myths Christians Believe

9 Common Myths Christians Believe At Christmas
Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year, because it calls our attention to one of the most beautiful teachings of Scripture—the Incarnation of Christ.

When you realize the incredible truths behind the reality that God came and dwelt among us, it can’t help but impact the way you live.

Plus, it’s an awesome reminder that God kept His promises from the Old Testament to send a Messiah to rescue His people from their sins.

However, since that time, many myths have been added to the greatest story ever told.

Here are nine common myths Christians believe at Christmas:

The Bible Says That Jesus Was Born on December 25

It’s the age-old question, “Is December 25 Jesus’ birthday?” The answer is that we really don’t know when His actual birthday was. The Bible doesn’t tell us an exact date. So, it begs the question, “How did Christmas land on December 25”? Some historians believe that it was a Christian reaction to a Roman pagan holiday, while others believe the date is a response to the traditional date of Jesus’ crucifixion in March. Honestly, we don’t really know when Jesus was born, however, two things are certain—Jesus was born of a virgin, and the Bible doesn’t give us an exact date.

The Bible Says Mary Rode Into Bethlehem on a Donkey

An extremely pregnant Mary riding into town on a donkey is definitely a common myth most Christians believe is in the Bible. Now, she very well could have made the 65-mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey. Nevertheless, the account of this story, in Luke 2:1-6, does not specifically teach this. Nevertheless, we all should consider how tough Mary was to make this trip while being pregnant, because most of us men can’t get out of bed if we have the common cold.

The Bible Says There Were 3 Wisemen

One of the most popular Christmas carols, We Three Kings, shows the commonality of this particular myth. The Gospel of Matthew describes these men as magi or wise men. People commonly think there were three in number, because the Bible details the fact that they brought three gifts—gold, frankincense and myrrh. But, this doesn’t mean there were three magi; there could just as easily have been four, eight or 10. Also, one could ascertain that these guys were the very first Essential Oils dealers.

The Bible Says a Star Hovered Over the Manger

You’d be hard-pressed to find a nativity scene that doesn’t include a bright shining star hovering above it. It’s definitely a nice sentiment and symbol. The problem is there’s no reference to this in Gospels. The magi were given a star that first lead them to Jerusalem (Matthew 2:1 – 2), then on to Bethlehem (v. 9 -10) where they found the child. In jealousy, King Herod gave a command that all babies in the region younger than 2 years old to be killed (v. 16). This suggests that Jesus had been in Bethlehem for some time at this point, so neither the wise men nor the star were hovering over the manger the night Jesus was born.

The Bible Says Jesus Was Born in a Barn or Stable

Just about every nativity set places the baby Jesus in a barn, surrounded by animals. Once again, this is an assumption because the Bible does not specify this. The Scriptures actually say, “And she gave birth…and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:7).” It’s easy to assume that Jesus was born in a barn or stable, because of the manger mention. A manger is a feeding trough for animals. However, these feeding troughs were also commonly used inside homes, because families would sleep upstairs while small animals were kept downstairs on cold nights.

The Bible Says There Was a Little Drummer Boy

A little drummer boy playing his drum—pum pum pum pum. That’s what all first-time parents want, right? Mary and Joseph haven’t had any sleep. The birthing arrangements and location haven’t been ideal, but yes, please come play your drum for my newborn baby boy. Just make sure you play it as loud as humanly possible. It doesn’t make much sense, and there is no account of this ever happening.

The Bible Says Jesus Was Born in 0 A.D.

“B.C.” stands for “before Christ,” and “A.D.” stands for a Latin phrase anno domini; which means “in the year of the Lord.” However, according to Matthew 2:1, Jesus was born during the days of Herod the king. Most historians place Herod’s death at 4 B.C. With Herod ordering all boys 2 years old and younger in the area to be killed before his on own death. It seems as though a more proper estimate of Jesus birth would have sometime between 4 B.C. and 6 B.C.

Saying Merry X-mas Is “Taking Christ Out of Christmas”

Over the last decade or so, many Christians have felt like there is a “War on Christmas.” Some believers see the phrase “Merry Xmas” as an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas. Although some people may be deliberate in their attempts, the statement by itself is not offensive. The first letter in the Greek word for “Christ” is chi. In the Roman alphabet, chi is represented by the symbol X. Therefore, Xians don’t have to be flustered by hearing or seeing “Merry Xmas!”

Saying Happy Holidays Is “Taking Christ Out of Christmas”

This statement may be an attempt at being “politically correct.” However, holiday literally means “holy day.” Celebrating the birth of Jesus definitely makes it a holy day. Thankfully, because of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus; every day can be a happy holy-day. To the believer, Christmas shouldn’t be a one-day celebration, but rather a lifestyle of celebrating the truth that Jesus is Immanuel—God with us.

This article originally appeared here.

 

 

Advent Devotional – Thursday, December 6, 2018 – Guess Who’s In Front Of You?

Scripture: Matthew 25:3737 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?

About thirty years ago, my mother was shopping in a small antique store in the Pennsylvania countryside. Because of her deep southern accent, whenever she was out of the south, people would ask her where she was from. The proprietor asked, and she answered, “A small town in upstate South Carolina.”

Another shopper said, “Oh, my wife is from upstate South Carolina.” My mother said the man looked to be about her age, so she asked where his wife was from. “Greenville.” “Oh, I know a lot of people from Greenville. What’s your wife’s name?” “Joanne Woodward,” he said.

Mom said it was not until that point that she realized she was talking to the famous actor, Paul Newman. She told me, “It was like scales fell from my eyes. I never expected to see him there.”

Jesus, too, is found all around us. We just do not notice because we do not expect to see him there. But he is.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you who gave sight to the blind, during this season of Advent, remove the scales from our eyes so we may see you. Amen.

  – Michael Henderson – Florence, SC

Advent Devotional – Wednesday, December 5, 2018 – Holding Hands with God

Scripture: Matthew 18:20 –  20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

I was in Nashville one summer with a friend who was attending a spiritual writer’s workshop when I decided to visit an enterprise established by an Episcopalian priest to employ and empower formerly abused, trafficked, and addicted women. These survivors make fragrant candles, body lotions, and anointing oils by hand as part of their healing process, as well as acquiring a life skill. The products are then sold nationally and the money goes back into the program.

I wanted to volunteer for a week, but the facility was being renovated, leaving only one chance to be engaged with this ministry. Each Wednesday at 9:00 a.m., the community is invited to join the women as they gather in a circle for prayer and meditation. The traffic was extremely busy that day and I wasn’t sure if I’d get there in time – perhaps missing that window of opportunity entirely.

I arrived a little late and was escorted into the big work room to join the circle. All kinds of women were there and they made room for me to join in. I’ve participated in prayer groups before, but, as I clasped the hands of these formerly oppressed women, the power of the connection was as electrifying as if I were holding the hand of God in person – which I surely was.

Prayer: Loving God, sometimes, when we aren’t paying attention, you remind us of your presence in surprising ways. Help us to be alert and not miss those moments. Amen.

  – Gayle Fiser – Little Rock, AR

 

Advent Devotional – Tuesday, December 4, 2018 – I Praise You, For I Am …Wonderfully Made

Scripture: Psalm 139:1-10

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

I was raised on a small farm in Amherst County, Virginia. My nearest neighbor was a mile and a half away. We had a one-room church and a one-room schoolhouse, of equal distance from home. I was introduced both to school and church at an early age.

I knew that the church was “God’s House” where all were dressed in their very best and cleanest clothes, and one never made noise. God was watching and listening. I never felt that God was at school. Waiting outside maybe, but never inside.

Maturing physically, mentally, and spiritually, I began to travel more, and my world grew and expanded. How can God be everywhere? I’m going in the Army — surely God won’t be playing soldier. I started at Fort Polk, Louisiana for 16 weeks and ended up at Baumholder, Germany for 18 months. In the aloneness among thousands of guys, of whom I knew none, the presence of God was so very real to me. Because of my need for the closeness of God, I sought him more and more.

One day, riding in the back of a big truck with six other men, I clearly felt God saying, “Don’t be afraid, I am with you; I am in you. You are taking me with you wherever you go.” What a joy, what a blessing, what an honor to have traveled a lifelong journey in the conscious presence of God.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the blessing of your constant presence with us. May we live our lives so as to share your presence with others with whom we come in contact.  Amen.

  – Fred L. Fauber – Lynchburg, VA

 

 

Christmas Poinsettias – Time to Order

It is once again time to order your Christmas Poinsettias that will be part of our Christmas display in the Sanctuary through our Christmas Eve candlelight communion service.

 

This year, our poinsettias are available in the following colors:

  • Red;
  • White;
  • Pink; and
  • Jingle (spotted red and white).

They are available in the following sizes and prices:

  •  6″ – $ 6.85;
  •  8″ – $16.85; and
  • 10″ – $20.75.

 

The nursery has requested that our orders be submitted early this year, so please contact the Church this week to ensure that your selections are included in our order.

When you order, you may also designate to whom your poinsettias are dedicated in honor or memory.

  • Orders can be submitted now through Sunday morning, December 9 in person at the Church, by email at centralumchurch@gmail.com, or you can leave your order on the Church’s answering machine at (724) 846-3474.

Christmas Eve Luminaries at Central Church

Merry Christmas!

 

 

Advent Devotional – Monday, December 3, 2018 – Surprising Growth

Scripture: Mark 4:26-29

The Parable of the Growing Seed

26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

When my husband entered seminary in 2008, the possibility of having to leave home seemed far away.

In 2011, we had to move. Although we moved 90 minutes away, I visited friends and church family often. While struggling with my new situation, a dear friend urged me to grow in our new area. My desire was to go home. Yet my friend continued to encourage me to “grow where you’re planted.”

Recently I chose to take my friend’s words to heart. While helping with a skit, a church member suggested I audition for the local theater’s stage version of Miracle on 34th Street. Thinking I would only get a walk through, instead, I got a speaking part. Surprise!

We started the shows around Thanksgiving and received rave reviews. As Jesus describes to his disciples how seeds grow, he says they wouldn’t know how it happens. Similarly, I have no explanation.

Ever so slowly, seeds planted in me through God’s love
seem to have sprouted this year. Preparing for the birth of our Lord Jesus is an opportune time to spread our talents; allowing them to take root and grow.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us this Advent to prepare for our “planting” and anticipate the growth which you have entrusted within us. Amen.

– Kelly Desclos-Estes – Montross, VA

 

Advent Devotional – Sunday, December 2, 2018 – Trail Magic

Scripture: Psalm 90:14Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Twenty-five percent of the Appalachian Trail (AT) falls within the Commonwealth of Virginia, which I call home. AT thru-hikers refer to pleasant surprises along the way as “trail magic.” A few years ago, I found some trail magic in my Christian walk.

As a former Roman Catholic, I had come to dislike the “styrofoam” communion hosts many churches use. I much prefer the wide range of leavened breads I’ve received within the various protestant sanctuaries in which I have worshiped, including my seminary’s chapel. Unfortunately, my final year’s schedule kept me from attending either of the regular worship services.

The second week of class, however, I discovered a small group of Episcopalians meeting right as one of my classes let out from the room directly below the sanctuary! It was there, every Wednesday at noon, that I experienced Christ anew through those thin wafers.

Curiously…mysteriously…they fed me deeply, preparing me for the next stage of my journey.

As we enter this year’s Advent season, my hope is we would each be joyfully surprised at the many ways God yearns to provision us as together we “skip and dance all the day long,” (Psalm 90:14) every step of the way with Christ.

Prayer: Gracious Lord, open our eyes and whet our appetites to experience the surprises you have in store for us this and every day of our lives. Amen!

  – Charlie Stribula – Woodbridge, VA

 

 

 

Effective Stewardship – Month #4

The amount of money we have is determined by God.

“But remember the Lord your God, for it is he

who gives you power to get wealth” (Deut. 8:18).

 

There are some wonderful principles in the Old Testament which apply to present-day Christians.

One of these is in Deuteronomy 8:10-18.  Stated in contemporary language, it says, “When you have eaten and are full, when your cars, houses and bank accounts multiply, don’t forget where it came from: Remember the Lord your God.”

In truth, all that we have comes from God.  He determines what we will receive, whether it be money, gold, silver, houses, land, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.

It all belongs to Him in the first place, and He entrusts it to us.  According to David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29, riches, honor, power, and wealth all come from God.

That’s why there is no such thing as a self-made man or woman.  Oh, we have to do our part.  God’s plan is not that we just sit around praying and reading the Bible all day long so that what we need to survive will miraculously drop into our hands.

We’re not just to pray for “our daily bread,” but we’re also to get up each day and work for it!   That’s why the Apostle Paul stated clearly, “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).

But in reality, the amount of money and wealth which we receive is determined by God.  According to His divine will and knowledge, He entrusts to each of us the amounts which He knows will be best for us.

What should be our reaction to our financial state?

  • Some might pray, “Dear Lord, you must have made a mistake concerning me and my finances.  Please give me more money.”
  • Others might try to circumvent God’s design for their lives by trying to win the lottery or to obtain large sums of money through some other means.
  • Mature Christians, however, will realize God’s infinite wisdom far surpasses their limited perspective.  They will accept with a thankful spirit what God has entrusted to them and seek to honor God by their living and by their giving.

Supernatural Animation – Achieving Your Potential

Unlocking Our PotentialRomans chapter 12 begins with an appeal for believers to give themselves to God as living sacrifices.

But the verses that follow make clear that each person’s sacrifice will look different.

As you surrender yourself to God, He’ll help you gauge your strengths and understand what He wants you to do with them. He promises that you’ll find the result “good and pleasing and perfect.”

Interact with God’s Word

Romans 12:4-11

  1. How aware are you of needing every other believer to perform his or her “special function” (v. 4)?
  2. Do you have a feel for what your special function might be?
  3. The list of abilities, in verses 6-8, is far from complete. But who in your group is bold and articulate? Faithful and loyal? A motivator? Generous and trusting? A good organizer and manager? Caring and happy to give his time to others?
  4. Are you aware of a special ability God has given you? How would you describe it?
  5. In what ways does Scripture urge you to exercise this ability (vv. 6-8, 11)?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for people He has gifted in ways completely different from you. Pray for their strengths to balance your weaknesses, and vice versa.

Romans 12:4-11

4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others. 6 God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you.

7 If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. 9 Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good.

10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.

Prayer for the Week: You designed me, Lord. Show me how my potential can be fully harnessed for Your kingdom.