Wednesday December 31 2014

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is:  Our Wellness Ministry.

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2
Key Verse 17: So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Reflection: On the eve of a new year perhaps you are thinking about what could be different in the year to come. It’s a good time to assess what has past and make plans for the future. Maybe you make resolutions and keep them. (Good for you!) Maybe you make them and then don’t keep them. (There are many in this boat.) Maybe you know yourself well enough to not even make them, since you know you won’t keep them. (Honesty is often the best policy.) Whatever your own personal track record with New Year’s promises and resolutions, hear this: the good news is that God keeps God’s promises!

In this letter to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul boldly states the promise of God that for those who are in Christ, the old has passed, and a new creation is begun. The former things don’t count anymore: all those broken promises and resolutions, all our disappointments and mistakes. None of them matter. In Christ there is grace and mercy and a new beginning.

Those of us who have been forgiven and freed by the grace of God are entrusted with sharing the good news that results. We are “ambassadors for Christ.” We have an amazing message to proclaim to the world. Perhaps there is a resolution for the new year in that.

Prayer: Holy God, I have heard the good news of great joy for all the world. Help me embrace the new creation begun in me through the grace of Christ Jesus. Help me share his message of reconciliation with all whom I meet this day, and in the year to come. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.

Author: Julie Hester

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Tuesday December 30 2014

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is:  The unemployed and underemployed.

Scripture: Isaiah 25:1–9
Key Verses: 25:6-8 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7 And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. 8 Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

Reflection: It has been said that if you want to make God laugh, just tell God your plans! As we come to the end of 2014, some people make New Year’s resolutions, things they hope to accomplish or do. But I wonder if it’s our plans that make the difference or if it’s in discovering what God’s plans are and being a part of them that makes the difference. Most of my plans get changed in some ways. But Isaiah lays claim to the bedrock of God’s character that has proven itself in the past and will prove itself in the future. It’s what God will do that really matters in this world. Therein lies our trust as we enter the year 2015!

Prayer: Lord, there are things that I hope for and pray for as we enter this New Year. I even have some plans! (Is that you chuckling?) My hope and trust are in what you are planning, what you will do, that your will might be done on earth as it is in heaven. Whatever that will is, I will accept with praise and thanksgiving for your activity in our lives. As I move into a new year, a new frame of time, I recommit myself to you, you who gives us time, who gives us our days, who grants to us your grace and peace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Author: Steve Eason

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Monday December 29 2014

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is:  Resident members of Plantation Estates.

Scripture: Revelation 1:1-8
Key Verses: 5b-6 “To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Reflection: At the start of every funeral I remind the gathered congregation that the Lord God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last – “who is and who was and who is to come.” This message of hope, offered to early Christians who were suffering and dying, can sustain us in the face of sadness and grief. This is also the message of Advent and Christmas when we are reminded that God is with us now and always. God will come again to right every wrong and restore the world. The God described in the book of Revelation is personal, glorious, faithful, and almighty. When Jesus comes again everyone will see him. Quite a change from the few people who witnessed the birth of a little baby in Bethlehem!

So, as we draw closer to the start of a new year, let us remember that many people are struggling and suffering in the world. Horrible things are happening that we don’t want to think about like war, torture, poverty and starvation.   You may be suffering because of terminal illness, grief, or broken relationships. No matter what wilderness you or someone else is living in right now, God is still the Alpha and Omega who is and who was and who is to come. Of course, we all want trouble to go away. We want God to restore us to joy and happiness, to help us escape the hard realities of human life. But, we know that there are times when we have to wait for relief and walk the difficult path. God is with us even when we feel like our faith is failing us, even when we despair. Remember, God is the Alpha and Omega who is and who was and who is to come. Cling to this hope while we support one another in the good times and in the bad.

Prayer: Almighty and glorious God, we pray for those who are suffering pain and heartache. Help us to be instruments of your hope and love as we draw near to those who need compassion and care. May we set aside our anxieties so that we might more fully rely on you for wisdom and direction. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Author: Deborah Conner

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Friday December 26 2014

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is:  Resident members of Sharon Towers.

Scripture: Acts 7:59-8:8 
Key Verses: Acts 7:59-60 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

Reflection: Let’s let Wikipedia explain Boxing day and let the shoppers do their shopping while we pause for a moment and acknowledge that today the church calendar celebrates St. Stephen. It was this day – when Good ol’ King Wenceslas looked out, on the snow that lay round about, deep and crisp and even –the Church set aside for Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian Church. I can’t imagine there were a lot of people vying for that particular place in history. It’s one thing to live a life of faith, it is another thing to die for it. The word martyr means witness and it does not mean witness to your faith by killing, but by dying. A martyr doesn’t take lives, but sadly, has their life taken from them. We remember Stephen, not because he died, but because of how he lived. He dared to see beyond the horror of the angry mob that engulfed him and saw instead the love of God that enfolded him. And he claimed that love not only for himself but also for the ones bloodying the stones. As he died, Stephen prayed that the Lord would forgive the very ones who were killing him. Stephen was the first martyr in the fledgling church and the first one to prove that the cross Christ asks all to carry can indeed be carried. Stephen was the first to teach with his life that Christ’s life can transform us all.

Stephen, the first martyr, the first one to taste death because of Christian faith, is ironically the first one who teaches the church how to live like a Christian and how to follow their Lord.

Prayer: Lord, in Jesus you show us your way and will for us. Grant to us a gentle heart and a steady will so that we might joyfully welcome Jesus in to our lives and courageously follow him. Amen.

Author: Derek Macleod

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

 

 

Thursday December 25 2014

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is:  Our Community of Faith.

Scripture: 1 John 4:7-16
Key verse: 1 John 4:9 “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.”

Reflection: Merry Christmas!

As you celebrate the holiday today, take time to think about how God’s love has been revealed to you. Perhaps you have felt God’s love in the embrace of someone who arrived from far away. Perhaps you have seen God’s love in the twinkle of a child’s eyes waiting in anticipation for you to open a gift. Perhaps you have heard God’s love in the quiet background music playing in the house.

God chooses to be revealed to us in the flesh. That’s what “incarnation” means—God came in the flesh to live among us so that we might live through him. God’s love for us was revealed in Jesus Christ. We see God’s love in everything Jesus did. We hear God’s love in everything Jesus said. Our God does not remain distant from us, but has become flesh and dwelt among us. We experience that power alive in the world around us, in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Praise God today and tell the story of his love to someone who needs to hear it. Jesus is born! Jesus has come! God’s love has been revealed!

Prayer:
Joy to the world! The Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and heaven and nature sing.

May my heart sing praises to welcome you today Lord! Amen.

Author: Millie Snyder

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Wednesday December 24 2014

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is: Our clergy.

Scripture: Luke 1:67-79
Key Verses: 1:76-79 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. 78 By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Reflection: Christmas Eve. When I was growing up, this was the day my Dad always went shopping. Even when we moved to only $5 gifts, my Dad would declare that EVERYTHING he purchased on Christmas Eve was on sale for $5! This is not a peaceful time to do all of your shopping, to send Christmas cards and bake all of the Christmas goodies for neighbors. However, it is still a time of preparation. We could use John the Baptist to keep us on the task of Advent. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” We could use “a voice of one crying out in the wilderness” in whatever your crazy looks like today.

People were drawn to John the Baptist. He called people to wake up, turn around and John guided their feet in the way of peace. Scripture has a unique way of speaking to the people in that day and speaking to us today. Zechariah’s prophecy is a reminder on this Christmas Eve, that light has cut through the darkness and that Jesus Christ was sent to guide our feet into the path of peace.

God sends messengers to bring us back to Scripture, angels to bring us to the manger, prophets to point us to justice. God’s messengers point us to what matters.

Prayer: Prepare us for this holy night, O God. Give us hope to see beyond what eyes can see to the Christ who was and is and shall surely be. Amen.

Author: Michelle Thomas-Bush

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

 

Tuesday December 23 2014

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is:  Our Celebrate Band.

Scripture: Luke 1:57-66
Key Verses: 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed.

Reflection: Do you know the story of where your name came from? Most of us have a story. In the south family names are often passed down from generation to generation, just like in Bible times.

One such naming story comes at Christmas alongside the story of the angel giving Mary and Joseph the name of their son.

Some months before, an angel had appeared to Elizabeth, an older relative of Mary, who was married to Zechariah, also getting along in years. The angel appeared to Zechariah and told him that he and his wife would have a son (sound familiar?). Zechariah scoffed and was punished. He became mute and couldn’t speak for months.

After Elizabeth gave birth, she and her husband took the baby to be circumcised and named. Elisabeth announced her son’s name: John. All her relatives and neighbors wanted Elizabeth to name the baby Zechariah, after her husband. But he named him John. For the first time in many months Zechariah was able to speak.

In the Bible, stories of older parents having babies and the frequent great drama around names usually means someone significant and amazing is being introduced. Their son, John, named by an angel, was the one who paved the way for the coming of the Messiah.

You probably don’t have angels in your naming story. But God continues to use parents and children to prepare the way for the coming of the Savior of the world.

In a few days we remember Jesus’ birth. The rest of the year we get ready for his coming again. What are you doing to prepare the way for his return?

Prayer: Open our minds, O God, to believe in things beyond our experience. Open our mouths to interrupt the silence of inaction. Open our hearts to receive your Son, Jesus. Open our hands to prepare the way for the Messiah and his Kingdom on earth. In the holy name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Author: Von Clemans

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Monday December 22 2014

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is:  Families caring for a sick loved one.

Scripture: Luke 1:39-56
Key verses: 46-49 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

Reflection: The gospel of Luke tells us that Mary stayed with her cousin Elizabeth for three months in the early part of her pregnancy. As Elizabeth was also expecting a child, the two no doubt shared hopes and dreams and fears together. Imagine the advice and gossip they must have heard from Elizabeth’s neighbors: Pregnancy woes and birth stories; predictions of the babies’ gender; whispered comments about the conception of Mary’s baby. At the same time, they must have also strengthened each other’s faith in God’s plan. Surely Mary drew comfort from Elizabeth’s words of joy and recognition: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

I am struck by how quickly Mary’s song in verses 46-56, traditionally called “the Magnificat,” turns from her great fortune and favor, to an exclamation of praise for God. She thinks ahead to how all generations will call her blessed. Then she looks back to what God has done for the people of Israel. Finally she leaps even farther ahead to describe what God will accomplish someday through the child she is carrying. God is praised by this young mother, whom we might expect to be all wrapped up in her own troubles and future. Instead, she gives voice to a song of joy for her Lord.

If you are blessed this day with a feeling of joy and good fortune, remember to give praise to God. How can your soul magnify the Lord, and your Spirit rejoice in God your Savior?

Prayer: Holy God, open my mouth to sing your praise today. May I be blessed with the vision to see all good things as a gift from you. Teach me to rejoice as Mary did. In the name of her Son, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Author: Julie Hester

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Friday December 19 2014

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is:  Those seeking to overcome alcohol and drug addiction.

Scripture: Psalm 102
Key Verses: 11-12  My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass. 12 But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; your name endures to all generations.

Reflection: The human condition is not always great. We sin, we get sick, we make mistakes, we hide. The human condition is spread over every page of the Scriptures. But then there is this shift.

But you, O Lord, are in enthroned forever; your name endures to all generations. (Psalm 102:12)

If the Bible just diagnosed the human condition it wouldn’t be worth reading, but it offers a treatment plan! It provides a different prognosis than what is predicted. Life comes out of death. Hope comes out of despair. Forgiveness comes out of sin. Reconciliation comes out of brokenness. Love overcomes hate. Sacrifice trumps greed. Resurrection nullifies the crucifixion.

The Bible doesn’t duck the human condition, it just doesn’t stop there. There’s more to the narrative. Thank God!

Prayer: Hear the cries of your people on this day, O gracious God and be merciful to us. Our hope and trust is in you and in your unrelenting love for all of us that conquers our sin and death. We give you thanks and praise. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Author: Steve Eason

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Thursday December 18 2014

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is:  Our Holiday Travelers.

Scripture: John 3:16-21
Key Verses: 16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believe in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Reflection: When I was ordained as a pastor, the preacher at my ordination service said some words that have always stuck with me. Mid-sermon, he looked directly at me and said, “The world has enough condemnation in it. People don’t need more of it from the church. Teach others that God came to save the world, not condemn it.” My early evangelical zeal easily lead me to proclaim the perils of hell without sharing the joy of salvation. Before seminary, I would focus on what would happen if one didn’t accept God’s love. This led me to be more negative than positive. So, that day of ordination was pivotal for me. It has guided much of my ministry as I have discovered there is enough hurt in the world, so I must share God’s love.

What might happen if we refuse to condemn one another? Yes, there are things in the world that deserve our condemnation. But, my guess is that the person sitting next to you in church or your next- door neighbor isn’t that person. A lot of people make terrible mistakes that hurt others – lying, stealing, cheating, adultery and even murder top the list— but God wants to share love with people who do these things as much as God wants to share the love of Jesus with you. We have the opportunity to be reborn this Advent season. Knowing this, let each of us turn toward God, set aside the sin that clings so closely and discover salvation once again.

Prayer: Merciful God, we are grateful for your great love. May this love shape us in such a way that the light of your mercy and grace will shine through us. Help us to show your love today to someone who crosses our path. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Author: Deborah Conner

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].