Sunday, December 4, 2022

Dec 5 - Hope


Monday, December 5, 2022
by Donna Taylor

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 60

Key Verse: Isaiah 60:1
“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.
    For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.
It's winter. It's 6 a.m. Outside my window the world appears dark and cold. There's just enough light to make out the trees, standing tall and mostly bare. They look as lifeless as I presently feel. Most mornings I wake and say, “Thank you, God, for this good day!”...but not today. Today sorrow weighs my spirit down. So I sit here in my warm home feeling cold and heavyhearted, asking, listening, waiting for God to give me what I need to begin this day. 

Time passes as I sit in prayer before the Lord.

By 6:50, the sun has begun to rise. I watch as the light overcomes the darkness and the world brightens. A spark of hope flares bringing Psalm 30:5 to mind: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Yes! Coming with the light, the presence of God rises upon me and within me. My hope has come. I am ready. 

Thank you, gracious God, for daily reminders, both in your world and in your Word, that you are not far from us, you will not fail us. Our hope is in you. Shine your glory, Lord, upon us, that we might be reflections of your light and love. Amen

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Dec 4 - My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation
Sunday, December 4, 2022
by Carol Powell

Scripture:  Luke 2:21-35 

Key Verse

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation…
Luke 2:29-30

Christmas music was in the air.  I looked around my kitchen, at the mess of flour and sprinkles and cinnamon and sugar; at the two happy faces of my young neighbor boys, hard at work decorating Christmas cookies.   I rolled some more dough for them to cut and sighed as I envied them their excitement and innocence.   Christmas was a time of hope and joy and expectation for them.  They’d never lost a loved one who was poignantly missed during the advent season.   They’d never made foolish life choices that carried with them profound regret.   They’d never felt isolated and alone when it appeared everyone else was wrapped up with family and the joy of the holiday season.  

My thoughts moved to the Bible verses I had read that morning, when an elderly Simeon had held the Christ child in his arms in the temple, and had proclaimed that he could now die in peace, because he knew that he’d held the hope of Israel in his very hands.   Lucky Simeon, I thought.  God had made a promise to him that he’d see the Messiah before he died.  No matter how difficult his life may have been, no matter the challenges of advancing age, he could cling to God’s promise and know that one day it would be fulfilled.  

Then I looked at the dancing eyes of those two boys and I do believe the Holy Spirit spoke to me in my messy kitchen, as those youngsters impatiently waited for the cookies to bake. I, too held the promise of the Christ child-if not in my arms, then in my heart and being.  The promise of Israel for Simeon was the promise for the whole world- for me and everyone I knew.  My lost loved ones were safe in Christ’s care, my foolish choices had been forgiven by my savior and my family was each of God’s precious children who came in my path.  Because of God’s promise to Simeon, Christmas can again be a time of hope and joy and expectation for all of us.  

 Father God, never let us underestimate the gift you bestowed on us with the promise of a Messiah, the hope of a wounded world.  May we remember always to love each other as Christ has loved us.  Amen



Friday, December 2, 2022

Dec 3 - Follow Without Hesitation

Follow Without Hesitation
Saturday, December 3, 2022
by Debbie Stauffer

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38

Key Verse: Luke 1:38
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Imagine being Mary, a young virgin who was engaged to Joseph, suddenly being approached by the angel Gabriel.  We don't know if she & her family had heard anything about their relative Zechariah's encounter with an angel during his recent temple service.  We know that he lost his ability to speak until Elizabeth delivered John the Baptist because he doubted the angel's words. But it was well known that it had been over 400 years since the Jewish people had heard from GOD through a prophet. Here Mary was going about her daily duties and a heavenly being approached her and spoke very specifically to her!
Annunciation by Titian

Gabriel told her she was highly favored & that the Lord was with her!  We are told that Mary was greatly troubled by his words, but Gabriel explained to her what would take place. It doesn't seem to me that Mary had much time to consider Gabriel's words before she had to make a choice to either obey God's plan for her or to express doubt as Zechariah did.

Dr. David Jeremiah has a recent article pertaining to the Nativity that discusses Mary's reaction to Gabriel's visit.  He noted that there must have been something special about Mary for God to choose her to carry HIS child--the Savior of the world!  Mary's response to Gabriel so quickly indicates that "she was already living a life of submission to the will and ways of God." She did not take the time to consider the cost of her submission (that cost would be great in many ways), but submitted immediately to God's plan!  Then Gabriel left her.  He had come to deliver the message God had given him--& was able to leave Mary, knowing the message had been received and would be implemented without hesitation.

I want to be like Mary, so in love with the LORD that HE can count on me to quickly and  faithfully carry out the instructions HE has given me & equipped me to do. Today, we receive those instructions from the LORD through HIS holy word in the Bible.  I want to follow that WORD without hesitation, just like Mary did! 

Heavenly Father, Give me the strength to have the same trust in You that Mary had, as she awaited the birth of Jesus.  Amen

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Dec 2 - Proof of Divine Intervention - Miracles

Proof of Divine Intervention - Miracles
Friday, December 2, 2022
by Millie Ball

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38

Key Verse: Luke 1:35-37
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.  What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.  For the word of God will never fail.”

How exciting it is to discover that a baby is on the way, especially if you have been trying for a few years with no success. That was our situation when we moved to Hawaii and I decided to take a civil service test and start working for the government. A few days before my scheduled test date, God changed my plans and directed me to His master plan. I was scared and a long ways from home, but after days of praying, trusting in God and thanking Him for my pregnancy, He gave me PEACE like a river.

The Annunciation - Arther Hacker, 1892

Nothing is impossible for God, and Mary experienced that beginning with a visit from the angel Gabriel. He told her about the pregnancy of Elizabeth, a close relative who was advanced in age and had never been able to conceive, when he was telling her that she herself would conceive by the Holy Spirit. Surprised and very confused, Mary decided to confirm what the angel had told her. Cell phones were far in the future, so Mary must have walked 40+ miles to Elizabeth’s home to discover that Elizabeth was, in fact, six months pregnant; and not only that, but Elizabeth recognized the fact that Mary was pregnant when the Holy Spirit leapt in her womb at Mary’s greeting. This visit confirmed both miracles for Mary, because Elizabeth was well past the age of childbearing and Mary herself was a virgin.  Mary found peace and comfort in knowing and trusting God’s perfect plan. We, too, need to keep that faith and trust as we let God work His perfect plans in our lives. 

PEACE be with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Gracious God, we love you and praise you and thank you for the peace and joy and understanding that you place on our hearts and minds as we strive to work your perfect plan. Amen. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Dec 1 - Expectations

Thursday, December 1, 2022
by Hattie Patillo

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38
Key Verse: Luke 1:31-33
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel[c] forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Expectations are found everywhere. They can be big or small and can cause both good and bad emotions to sprout from the people they affect. The key to making them come with good emotions is to make them achievable. That doesn’t mean you have to set easy goals and lower expectations for yourself,  but you should consider if it is something that is going to better you as both a person and as a Christian. I have found in most cases the expectations I have for myself are often the hardest to meet and for some of you, I am sure this is similar. The truth is that in the long run, it will not matter if you did the best on your test or placed the highest on your contest or said and did everything just right, because we are all human. We are going to mess up and fail; it is unrealistic to think otherwise. That is okay, though, because as long as we are serving God in what we are doing and trying to become, and hold Him as the priority in our lives, He will guide us and set our paths straight. What you think is a requirement to meet your goal might not even be in the plan that He has for you. Fear and expectations that are cast on us by the world have caused society to create an inaccurate picture of what success really looks like. The truth is that success can look so many different ways and is unique for each individual. Your path and your success is never going to look like anyone else’s. It is not about having the most money or the highest job or the best social status. We can all be successful in our own ways, on our own paths. Is it not better to listen to what Jesus is telling us now about what success looks like than listen to what the world is telling us to be and do, only to figure out later that we went the wrong direction? Without listening to what your purpose should be, you may climb all the way up your ladder only to realize you are on someone else’s wall. When expectations cause us to want to stray from our God-given path, then it is time to seek God and realign ourselves with His plan.

And that leads me into the Scripture I’d like to share with you today, which comes from Luke 1:31-33. Just prior to those verses, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was greeted by an angel and told she had found favor with God. And then in verses 31-33, the angel says: 
“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And He will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 

If you want to talk about some pretty high expectations, these verses lay them out. I obviously want to talk about the expectations placed on Jesus, but can we start with Mary? Can you imagine being the mother of the Son of the Most High? God had entrusted her with this amazing responsibility and she had to have known that He had His own expectations in how she would perform, but also, she had to know that those around her would be watching her, as well. What is a bigger responsibility than birthing and raising the Messiah? Every parent makes mistakes under the pressure of raising their own child, but to be told that you are to raise the Son of the Most High is a whole new level of expectation and pressure. She had to keep him safe, keep him healthy, and help prepare him for the great things that he would accomplish in his time on Earth. And did she always get it right? Absolutely not; she was human, and she made mistakes. She even lost Jesus, once, when he was 12; she lost him for days and had no knowledge of his whereabouts. In Luke 2: 41-46 we can read that Jesus’s parents even became separated from him. They lost him for days and had to travel back in order to find him.

Even though she faced challenges and made mistakes like this one, she was successful in the mission that was given to her by God because she listened to his instruction and prayed about her worries. When the angel brought the message found in Luke 1: 31-33 she listened to the instruction given and was willing to accept the task. She responded to the angel in Luke 1: 38 with these words, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” She continued to work to fulfill her duties all the way until Jesus’s crucifixion, where Jesus said to her “Woman, here is your son” (meaning John) and to the disciple “here is your mother.” Jesus used the disciple whom he loved (John) to protect, care, and love Mary even when he knew he would no longer be with her in person. This was because of the great loyalty that she showed to him and the Father. So although she did not always get it right in raising her son, we can say that completed her task with great, unique success.

But while Mary had a pretty big job, no one on earth had greater expectations placed on them than Jesus himself. Sometimes, I think we take for granted the fact that Jesus was fully God AND fully man; he faced every single trial and temptation we could ever imagine, but he never failed.The time that Jesus spent on Earth was filled with expectation and he met every single one that held importance. Notice I did not say every expectation; I only said those that hold importance. This is because some of the expectations that were placed on him by humans, be that the Roman government or false prophets or even community members, would have caused him to stray from his purpose. 

In Luke 1: 32 & 33 it says 
“He will be called great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 
These were expectations listed by God. Before Jesus was even born all of these expectations were being placed upon him by the father. Even the name Mary and Joseph were instructed to give him brought expectations with it. In Luke 1: 31 it states “you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” Jesus, coming from the Hebrew name Yeshua, meaning to deliver or to rescue. Not only did he have so many expectations placed upon him before birth even but he came onto earth already fulfilling the prophecies and expectations that the people had been told would happen with the coming of their messiah. He continued through his time on earth to meet the expectation of being “great” and “Son of the Most High.” He performed miracles and taught to not only those who could come to him but to those that he could go to. He worked to advocate and share the word of the Lord like he was expected, even through persecution. He even willingly allowed himself to be crucified in order to fulfill the purpose that God had given him during his time on Earth. He was able to fulfill these expectations because they were achievable, and they were achievable because they were on his God-given path.

As Christians, we have to understand that the only expectations that hold true importance are those placed on us by Christ. Our biggest priority in life should be to maintain a healthy relationship in our faith. We have to fulfill the expectations given to Christians as a whole and the ones that God uniquely speaks to us. We are all going to have at least one time in our lives where we are called on by God to speak up or act, but we have to be willing to prioritize him over everything else and push past judgments, fears, and socially accepted “norms.” When we finally surrender ourselves to him, our expectations become more achievable because we are finally able to see the ones assigned by Him.

This does not mean that we will not face fear or obstacles because nothing that comes easy is ever truly beneficial and fulfilling, but God is there to listen and guide us when we ask for it;we can find peace knowing we are on our God-given path to success and fulfillment. 

God of hope

God of hope,
we cling to you,
for your renew the face of the earth. 

Through the gift of your Son,
our Lord Jesus,
we follow you on the path of dawn.

Enlightened by your love and wisdom,
help us to lead each other
and all creatures
back to your open arms.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Nov 30 - Favor with God

Favor with God
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
by Ava Hunt

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38

Key Verse: Luke 1:29-30
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.  “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  
Annunciation by Caravaggio
When leading up to the announcement that Mary would be having a child of God’s, Mary was worried about the “message” she would be receiving, and why she was chosen to hear from Him. 

When the Angel told her to not be afraid of what God was going to tell her because she has favor with Him, is something we can all relate to. Most of us have worry in our daily life, but especially when we think about what God wants from us and how we need to live for Him. However, we should often remind ourselves, the way the angel reminded Mary, to trust Him and know that he is not here to bring us “bad” news, and that His word is “good”. What he wants from us is to trust his word and that he will lead us to the path we need to be on.  Just like Mary trusted and was given the greatest blessing of all time, being the mother to Jesus.  Later in the same chapter in will read “for no word from God will ever fail”. 

The angel was telling Mary that just because she is hearing from God does not mean worry, or fear. It can mean calmness and joy, because that is what God is: Joy.  

Heavenly Father, Give me the strength to have the same trust in You that Mary had, as she awaited the birth of Jesus.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Nov 29 - Peace and Trust

Peace and Trust
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
by Larry Ball

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38

Key Verse:  Luke 1:26-28
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!  

How often are we surprised by events in our lives and ask God, “Why me, and why now?” A young man once had this question to deal with while stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. He had contacted the Department of the Army and asked if he could stay another year there to finish his master’s degree.  The initial answer was yes, so he registered, paid his fees and started class.  Then, six weeks later, he received a call from that same office saying that the needs of the army must come before a master’s degree. That was an incredible shock, and certainly not the news he wanted. However, after much prayer, faith, and obedience, that man found peace in knowing that God’s plan is perfect; that plan may not always be what we want, but He knows what we need.

The Annunciation by Bartolom√© Esteban Perez Murillo 

I’m sure Mary must have had similar thoughts and questions when the angel Gabriel told her she was going to have a baby and she was a virgin. She even asked the question, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34) She must have been terrified thinking, “what will the man I’m betrothed to think? Can or will he believe me?” But the angel had already told Mary, “do not be afraid for you have found favor with GOD.” (Luke 1:30) It is no secret what God can do; He knew her heart and her thoughts and her fears, and He sent an angel to tell Joseph that all was well and he had nothing to fear. And Joseph too trusted God and his plan. And just as it was with Mary and Joseph, as they found peace and joy in knowing and trusting in God’s perfect plan, we too need to let go and let God work His perfect plan in our lives. And the peace that passes all understanding can work in our lives.

Father God, open our hearts and minds and help us find PEACE 
and understanding in your perfect plan for our lives, 
as we give you all the praise and glory. AMEN