Sunday, December 31, 2017

Jesus the Alpha and Omega

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." (Rev. 1:8) 

Thoughts: The Bible identifies Jesus as saying that He is the beginning and the end.  He is the One who is unaffected by time- for He is at the beginning and at the end. Out time is a gift from Him.  As we enter a new year, we need to remember Christ is never out of fashion- He never grows old.  We do, the world does, He does not.  Let us not waste our time not living for Him. Let us use the time He gives us to Honor Him.  

Prayer: Thank you for the time you give us and for this new year, Lord.  

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Jesus Savior of His People

20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,f because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1)

Thoughts: Luke's angel said that Jesus would be a source of joy to the world. Simeon said that Jesus would be a light to the Gentiles.  Matthew's angel that spoke to Joseph said that Jesus is to be the Savior of His own people.  He would save them not from the Romans, not from poverty, not from sadness, but from their own sins.  Political and economic slavery can be miserable, but slavery to sin can bring death and hell.  Jesus is the sacrifice of sacrifices.  He is the Lamb born to die.  All the sacrifices of the Old Testament point to the only One whose sacrifice is worth more than human life.  While we may give 70 lambs in a lifetime for a Jewish person, everyone knows a lamb is not equal to one human.  In the broader sense God is worth more than billions of humans and their millions of sins each.  He is born that we no more may die.  

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you are the Savior we need.  

Friday, December 29, 2017

Jesus Identified as the Redeemer

36There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.e She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2)

Thoughts: Anna was another godly woman well respected in the Temple.  She too confirmed what Simeon had said.  She believed this baby was the Messiah.  She gave thanks to God and spoke to those who looked with hope to the salvation or redemption of Israel.  Jesus is the Savior and Anna confirmed that for us.  Jesus is identified as the Redeemer,  Our lives were wasted, and Jesus made them meaningful, purposeful and redemptive. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for those who keep the faith so quietly and boldly like Anna. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Simeon Identifies Jesus

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismissd your servant in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2)

Thoughts: Simeon confirmed that Jesus was the Messiah.  He was not a scholar, not a political or religious ruler.  Rather he was known for his godliness.  As a reward, God had promised him he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.  His words confirmed Jesus was the Messiah. There is also more in his prophecy.
     Jesus would be the savior for all the nations.  Jesus was not just the Messiah for the Jews but for all peoples.  He was the key person of the Jews but He was the key to allowing the Gentiles to also experience the true God in fullness. 
      Simeon also prophesied that not everyone in Israel would accept Jesus as Messiah and that Mary would be pierced by this rejection as well.  The cross is certainly a place where we see Mary's piercing in heart. 
      Later Mary would lose Jesus until the third day when He was found in the Temple.  It is a sign that she would lose Jesus later- with her heart pierced- until He rose again on the third day.  Simeon's confirmation was important for it confirmed the angels of Luke and the angel that spoke to Zechariah, and the angel that spoke to Joseph.  Jesus was to be special.  He can be special to you too. 

Prayer: Lord, Messiah.  Be my light.  Pierce my soul with your love and draw me to your true love.  

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Identify Jesus

10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:10-14)

Thoughts: In our world, identity is so important.  Protecting our identity is a multi-billion dollar business.  We have found that not only is each fingerprint unique, but each eye ball is unique, each DNA is different.  But what is Jesus' identity?  What does the Bible say about Him?   Titus 2:13 says that Jesus Christ is "the great God and Savior."   In this passage in Luke 2 the angels identify Jesus as "A Savior, the Messiah, the Lord." 
    He is the Savior who comes to rescue us from our failures and problems.  He is the lifeguard who comes to get us.  He is the ransom payer- who came to set us free. 
     He is the "great God."  He is literally the "mega-God"- God Almighty.  There is no God as great as Jesus Christ.  There is no doubt that the Bible here affirms that Jesus is Yahweh- the Great I Am- God come down.  We may disagree with this affirmation- but we should not disagree that the Bible affirms this of Jesus.  To believe in Jesus means to trust Him as our Savior- reaching out to Him, and to trust in His power- as the great God. 
     He is the Lord.  The word Lord (adonai in Hebrew, Kyrios in Greek) is the word given for Yahweh.  He is the One to be heard and followed.  He is the Lord of all.  The good news is for all the people.  If we follow Him, the Lord provides for us, strengthens us and gives us life.  But Jesus- the Savior, great God, and Lord will give us more- eternal life.  The angels affirmed Jesus' identity glorifying God in the highes.  

Prayer: Jesus- my Savior.  Jesus- my Great God.  Jesus- my Lord, help me to trust and follow you are worthy of our worship. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

12/23- The Beatitudes- - Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, those who mourn, the meek

Read: “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” "He has been mindful of the humble estate of his servant...He has scattered the proud and lifted up the humble. (Luke 1)

Thoughts: Jesus is saying the weak will be strong.  In some ways Jesus was all three of these- He was poor in spirit- he was humble- born in a manger, lived without a home.  He mourned over the sadness of sin and death.  He was meek- turning the other cheek.  He deserved all the world’s worship, but instead Jesus was ignored. 
    Jesus asks us by His blessing to value being a servant instead of a King;  He would ask us to value sadness as a teacher and a way to get closer to the God who comforts us.  He would ask us to believe it is the humble who will be exalted by God in the end.  God values things that are available to anyone.  Anyone can be humble.  Not everyone has a lot to be proud of.  The poorest person is valued by God.  Jesus teaches us to value the things of the heart more than the toys of the earth. 
Activity: Donate mittens and gloves to Good Works.  Mary will distribute to those in need.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see value when things do not go my way.  Help me to find your help when I am sad or when our family has bad things happen.  

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The merciful

12/24- Fourth Sunday of Advent- Beatitudes- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
             righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart,

Read: “6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  (Matthew 5:6-8)

Thoughts: These three beatitudes- or blessings have to do with wanting things to be done right, true, and with kindness.  Jesus is asking us to want what is good to happen.   He is asking us to be kind to others when they do not deserve it (being merciful).  He asks us to have pure hearts for then our hearts will be close to God’s heart- we will be near Him and know Him.  Jesus wants us to want what God wants.  He wants us to want what is right but also to want mercy for others.  Advent is about God being merciful to us.  

Activity: Attend one or more of our 5 worship services today. (8:30 am, 10:30 am, 5 pm, 7 pm, 11 pm) 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Poor in Spirit

12/23- The Beatitudes- - Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, those who mourn, the meek

Read: “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”
 46And Mary said: "My soul exalts the Lord,47And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. (Luke 1:46-48)

Thoughts: Jesus is saying the weak will be strong.  In some ways Jesus was all three of these- He was poor in spirit- he was humble- born in a manger, lived without a home.  He mourned over the sadness of sin and death.  He was meek- turning the other cheek.  He deserved all the world’s worship, but instead Jesus was ignored.  Mary, his mother, no doubt taught Jesus this concept- that God lifts up the humble.  if we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord then He will lift us up.  
    Jesus asks us by His blessing to value being a servant instead of a King;  He would ask us to value sadness as a teacher and a way to get closer to the God who comforts us.  He would ask us to believe it is the humble who will be exalted by God in the end.  God values things that are available to anyone.  Anyone can be humble.  Not everyone has a lot to be proud of.  The poorest person is valued by God.  Jesus teaches us to value the things of the heart more than the toys of the earth. 

Activity: Donate mittens and gloves to Good Works.  Mary will distribute to those in need.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see value when things do not go my way.  Help me to find your help when I am sad or when our family has bad things happen.  

[Below: Jesus blesses the children- humbled in stature] 

Friday, December 22, 2017

love for God and neighbor

12/22- The Importance of Loving God and neighbor- Matthew 22:36-40
Read: “36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.c 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Thoughts: The Greatest thing God wants us to do is love- love Him first, then love those around us.  If we love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength we will be happy people.  We are designed to love God and to live in His love for us.  Because we love God, we are also called to love the people around us.  This begins with family.  Children are called to love parents, and parents called to love children.  We are also called to love people around us. Both those like us and those not like us.  If we love God and neighbor we will listen to Him and follow in the way He wants us to go. 

Activity: Bake Christmas cookies and share with a neighbor or one of our shut-ins.

Prayer: Lord, give me grace to grow in love for you and neighbor. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

I Believe in the Spirit

12/21- Apostles’ Creed- I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”

Read: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.  (Ephesians 4:4,5) "For that which is born of you is of the Spirit" 

Thoughts: This third paragraph of the creed tells us about the Holy Spirit who makes God real to us.  The Spirit forms the church.  The word “catholic” means the church that is universal and true to God.  The communion of the saints is the special bond we have with other Christian believers.  Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary and conceived in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  The True Spirit of Christmas- is not how we feel, but the Holy Spirit of God. 

Activity: Google “Chrismon ornaments.”  Look at the design of some, especially the one of the Trinity.  The tree in our sanctuary has many of these ornaments.

Prayer: Help me to believe and trust in you, Holy Spirit.  Please work through your fragile and unstable body to bring about your great purpose.  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christ was Born to Save

12/20- Apostles’ Creed- “He was crucified, dead, and buried, he descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the death; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”

Read: “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:45); He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

Thoughts: Jesus came for a purpose.  He came to save us.  The name Jesus (like Joshua) means "The Lord saves."  Christmas and advent are not just that God cares, He cares enough to fully give His Son.  Jesus died to pay for our sins that we might be saved from the penalty of our sins.  His burial is a reminder that He really died.  His resurrection is a reminder that He really is God and we can believe His teachings.  He went up to heaven to assure us that He is with God and one day at the end of time, He will come back.  Jesus the one who loves us holds us accountable.  But He paid the penalty for our messing up.  He is the One who is above and judge of the living (the quick) and the dead.  He was born that we would not have to die forever.  

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for coming down to lift me up.  Thank you that when I could not help myself, you helped me.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Born of a Virgin

12/19- Apostles’ Creed- “And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate”

Thoughts: Jesus came to help us.  He is the Son of God meaning He is the same essence of God.  Just like steam, water, and ice are all H2O, so God is the same yet different.  God wanted to come down to earth to understand us, to sympathize with our joy and our tears/pain.  God wanted to come down to earth so we could come up to Him in heaven.  He did this by coming through a woman, the Virgin Mary.  When Jesus came, He was not born in a palace but in an animal stall, and laid in a feeding trough that animals ate out of (manger).  His parents fled with Him as a refugee to Egypt to escape a king who wanted to kill him.  Jesus had little in this life but He had peace and joy- things that money cannot buy.  He suffered in life and was tortured, falsely accused, and died on a cross because he was falsely found guilty by the Roman Governor named “Pontius Pilate.”

Activity: Sing “Away in a Manger.” Gather around your Advent wreath or manger scene.

Prayer: Thank you for coming, Jesus. Help me to believe and trust in you.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Word of God Speak for I am Listeing,

12/18- Apostles’ Creed- “I believe in God the Father Almighty Maker of Heaven and earth.”

Read: “Whoever hears my word and believes in Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; they have crossed over from death to life.”  (John 5:24); 
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, (1 Timothy 2:5)

Thoughts: God is not an “It” (like a Starwars “Force”), God is a “He.”  He is a person who loves us more than the best father in the universe.  He made all that we see, and is able to answer prayer.  He is the All- mighty Father.  He does not just wish us well, He is able to help us in our time of need.  Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father who art in heaven.”  Because God helps us, we do not believe we are merely in the hands of good or bad luck or fate.  God is our help and as a Father He wants to help.  As God Almighty- He is able to help us too. 

Activity: If it is light outside, take a walk with your family.  Look at all that God has created.  If it is night time, look at the moon and the stars.  Thank God for all he has created.  

Prayer: Father, help me to trust in your love and in your power to help. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Jesus Loves

12/17- Third Sunday of Advent- Believing- John 3:16- “Jesus Loves Me” 

Read: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

Thoughts: The key to Christianity and church is first of all- belief.  Belief is not just thinking there is a God, but trusting in that God.  God is not just up there- He is a God who loves us enough to come down for us.  This is what we celebrate at Advent and Christmas.  Part of having belief in Christ is being willing to trust Him- believing He will help you.  Belief in Christ is like a key that unlocks the door to eternal life.  A key is important.  One time I had a toy chest that had my favorite toys in it, but someone (probably a playmate) had put a lock on it- and no one knew where the key was.  It was so sad not being able to get in.  But someone brought a special tool and broke that lock right off.  Faith is like the key to the lock that helps us to live the way we ought to live now- and then opens the door to eternal life.

Activity: Talk with your family about how much you love each other. We are all children of God. Imagine how much love God has for us. Sing “Jesus Loves Me.”

Prayer: I believe Lord.  Help me to believe more. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Bible and Advent

12/16- Why is the Bible important- 2 Timothy 3:14-18
Read: “You have known the scriptures from infancy.  All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the Prophet…” (Matt. 1:22)

Thoughts: The Bible is not just a history book recording what happened long ago.  Millions of people (even today) have found God in it, and have found that it teaches us about what we are believe concerning God and what God requires of us.  The Bible is like a telescope helping us to see the stars.  The stars are always there- and we know it.  But just as a telescope helps us see the stars better, so the Bible helps us see God better and understand what God wants us to do.  The stories in the Bible are not of perfect people.  Except for Jesus they all mess up and need God’s help.  The stories in the Bible are there to be examples and warnings to help us see what we should do and what we should avoid.  The Bible not only prophesied the coming of Christ many times, it also tells us about Him.   We would not know about Jesus or Christmas without the Bible. 

Activity: Ask parents to tell their favorite verse in the Bible (if you don’t know one, then try to find one- google a few words you may know).  Then, if you have a telescope (or even better a “skyview app”) go out and look at the stars for a minute to show how the Bible clarifies things that are there for us.  [You might add for an advent flavor singing “Rise Up Shepherd and Follow.”]

     “There’s a star in the east on Christmas morn.  Rise up shepherd and follow.  It will lead to the place where the Christ was born.
Rise up shepherd and follow.  Follow, follow, rise up shepherd and follow.  Follow the star of Bethlehem.  Rise up shepherd and follow.
     If you take good heed to the angel’s words: rise up shepherd and follow.  You’ll forget your flocks, you’ll forget your herds. 
Rise up shepherd and follow.  Follow, follow, rise up shepherd and follow.  Follow the star of Bethlehem.  Rise up shepherd and follow.”

Friday, December 15, 2017

Coveting vs. Giving

12/15- 10 Commandments 9, 10- Do not lie, do not covet
Read: “You shall not lie against your neighbor.  You shall not covet whatever your neighbor has.”
“Speak the truth in love.”  (Ephesians 4:15); Herod said, “Tell me where He is that is born that I may worship Him…but Herod intended to kill the child.” (Matt. 2:8,13)

Thoughts: The actual command says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” meaning you shall not say something that is untrue- especially under an oath or in the presence of authorities.  The positive side of it is God wants us to tell the truth.  God created reality- the truth.  He wants us to appreciate the reality that we have.  This also means not making ourselves look good by putting other people down.  The Bible also says, “Speak the truth in love.”  This means speak the truth at the right time and in a kind way. 
       The Bible also tells us not to “covet.”  This means to not want something in an absorbing way that someone else has.  It is similar to being greedy- living for things, toys, stuff instead of living for God.  We should try to avoid wanting too much stuff.  Maybe you have seen some of the hoarder shows (a hoarder is someone who has so much stuff they cannot get around in their house).  Most of their stuff is useless, but they cannot get rid of anything.  One of the best way to fight covetousness is to be generous, giving things to people in need.  Honest giving is much better than dishonest greed.  We know this, but we need God;s; grace and help to live it.  Jesus did live an honest and generous life.  

Activity: Think about what you can give to the Children’s Consignment Sale of Rummage Sale at the church.  This is a way to turn your old stuff into doing God’s work.

[Giving Tree gifts at LMPC for the needy]

Prayer: Lord, help me to be an honest person that people can count on.   Help me to be honest with myself and to be content with what I have and generous toward others.  

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Do Not Steal- and Christmas

12/14- 10 Commandments 6, 7, 8- Do not murder, commit adultery, steal

Read: “Do not murder. Do not steal another person’s spouse.  Do not steal.”
“Stolen bread is sweet but it turns to gravel in the mouth.”  (Proverbs 20:17)
“The angel said, ‘Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife…for what is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit…the virgin shall be with child and give birth to a Son and they shall call Him ‘Immanuel’ which means God with us.’” (Mt. 1:20ff)

Thoughts: These commandments ask us to not do any harm to our neighbor.  It is a part of the commandment to love our neighbor as yourself.  These commands also tell us that life, marriage and property are something important and we should protect them.  They also involve taking what is not ours to take.  The opposite of this is giving, encouraging and loving.  These commandments teach us to respect others and care for their feelings and lives.  God gives us all we have- our lives, our relationships, our possessions.  To steal things goes against God’s blessing.  Do not take what you have not paid for in a store, or take a toy or game that is not yours without clear permission first.  It is hard to believe, but more is stolen around Christmas than any other time. Yet Christmas is about God gave us- free- if we will take Him- His only Son.  When we take and believe in Jesus we will have another gift that no one can steal from us- eternal life!  The opposite of stealing and killing is giving.  Around Christmas we celebrate the gift of Jesus, and we also celebrate that the wise men came and gave gifts to Jesus.  

Activity:   Have you ever had something that was taken that was not yours?  Today, take something from another family member for one day (do not tell them ahead of time; take it for one day; then tell them the next day).  Sometimes it can make you feel good if you get away with it.  The Bible says “stolen bread is sweet but it turns to gravel in the mouth.”  Stealing ends up hurting us whether it is cheating or stealing. 

Prayer: Lord, let me see everything I have is a gift from you.  Help me to respect the gifts you give to others.  

The Wise Men Giving Gifts in response to God's Great Gift of Jesus.  

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Honor the Father at Advent

12/13- 10 Commandments 5- Honor your father and mother
Read: “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land.”  John the Baptist ill turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the right ways.”  (Lk. 1:17)

Thoughts: Honoring your parents is important.  They care and sacrifice for you.  Parents can teach you things that they have learned from experience to help you.  No parent is perfect.  Every parent makes mistakes, but they are still worthy of honor- for without them you would not exist.  In many ways this commandment teaches us to be thankful people.  Some teach us that this commandment means to honor those that God has placed to care for us or teach us.  When Jesus came to earth he honored Joseph and Mary- listening to them- though God the Father was Jesus’ real father. 

Activity: Tell your parents (by words, letter, or text) that you love them and want to honor them.  If you can, give them a blue ribbon of honor to show you want to honor them.  Tell your parents one thing you are thankful for that they do.   

Prayer: Father, help me to honor my parents even if they mess up.  Help me to love them but above all help me to honor you as my heavenly Father. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Sabbath

12/12- 10 Commandments 4- remember the Sabbath Day

Read: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  Six days you shall work, but on the seventh you shall rest.” “God allows us to enter His Sabbath rest because He came.”  (Heb. 4).

Thoughts: The Bible indicates work and play are good.  God calls us to work and to play.  We are to work for six days.  But we need to leave room for rest and worship.  God calls us away to take a breather to refresh our bodies, our minds, and our souls.  The Bible picks one day for everyone so we can rest together and not encourage each other to work.  For Christians, the Sabbath is called “The Lord’s Day” because it is the day Jesus rose from the dead- Sunday.  We need to leave room for refreshment.  Just as the body gets dehydrated without water, so the soul gets dried up without rest and worship.  If we believe work and play is important, we also need to believe rest and worship is important.  When so many others are playing instead of worshiping; or working instead of resting this is a reminder from God we are to be different from everyone else.  Perhaps more than any other commandment, this commandment invites us to show our friends we believe and our belief effects our what we do. 

Activity: Prepare the family to really take a day off Sunday.  Worship comes first.  No one plays sports today.  Leave room for doing something to help someone in need- maybe writing a letter to a relative or a friend; or visiting a neighbor who is sick;  Leave room on the Sabbath for deeds of love and mercy.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for rest.  Thank you that you came that we might have peace and rest.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

God is first

12/11- - 10 Commandments- 1,2,3

Read: “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other Gods before me.  You shall not worship idols.  You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” (Ex. 20); “Glory to God in the highest.” (Lk. 2:14)

Thoughts: The first three commandments teach us to respect God.  We have a tendency to make God in our image instead of listening to God’s description of Himself.  We should be careful to not make other things more important than God in our lives- or those things become our false gods.  This means no toy, no game, nothing should be above God in our hearts.  When we talk about God we need to be careful to talk about Him reverently and kindly.  When the angels sang at Christmas, "Glory to God in the highest" they meant that He is always first and receives highest praise and glory.  

Activity:  At Christmas we can get so busy.  Make time each day to do these devotionals together, and make time to go to church – even if we stayed up late doing other things the night before.  

Prayer: Help me to remember Lord, that you are God.  May you have first place in my heart and life.  

Lake Murray Presbyterian pulpit at advent

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Listening to God

12/10- Why is Talking and Listening to God important?  John 14:21

Read: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.  He who loves me will be loved of my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”  (John 14:21)
“I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.”  (Luke 1:38)
“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”  (Matthew 1:24)

Thoughts: We talk to God in prayer.  We listen to God through God’s Word- which is the Spirit speaking through the Bible.  We believe the Bible is not just a history book or a record of how people loved God years ago.  We believe the scriptures are written for human beings to convey God’s purpose and will for us.  Therefore it is important to read the Bible- or Bible story books.  There are great Bible apps (like the Youversion Bible apps), that can be on your smartphone, ipad or computer.  When we love God we are called to listen to Him- just like when you love someone here on this earth you want to listen to them.

Activity: In the room you are in, have one person start singing, “Old McDonald had a farm” over and over, turn up two music players (phone or something else), one TV (if in the room),then try to tell each person in the room one thing you like about them.  Now turn it all off- yes the singing too- and try to say the same thing.  When there is a lot of noise we call those things distractions.  Many things can distract us from hearing God today.  Make sure you make non-distracted space to listen to God and the Bible each day. 

Prayer: Thank you God that you listen to me.  Help me to listen to you through your Word.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Thine is the Glory

12/9- Lord’s Prayer- 60 “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”
Read: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31); He shines on us to guide us into the path of peace. (Lk. 1:79)

“What is the main purpose of man?”  “It is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  (Westminster Shorter Catechism- question 1). 

Thoughts: In the end, God’s purpose and plan will happen.  No one can fight against God and win.  We might as well be on God’s side and try to do His will.  To glorify God means to reflect His glory or His light or His will in your life.  We are to be like mirrors- so that when someone looks at us they get a little glimpse of God’s glory or light. 

Activity: Bring a flashlight.  Go in a room with a big mirror.  Turn off the light.  Have the children turn on the flashlight- pointing at the mirror.  Note that when the light shines on the mirror it makes it twice as bright than when the light is shined somewhere other than the mirror.  As we reflect God’s glory in our lives, we make His light and truth brighter in our world.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

12/8- Lord’s Prayer- 5- “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”

Read: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:21);
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  (I Corinthians 10:13);  God raises a Son to rescue us from the hand of our enemies and enable us to serve Him without fear.”  (Lk. 1:74)

Thoughts: God is our protector from temptation and from evil.  It is good to pray for God to protect us not only from hurt and harm but also from temptation and evil.  “God Guard our hearts” is a good prayer for families to pray. 

Activity: What do you do when someone is mean to you?  There are bullies at school, work, even home- and we can be tempted to be a bully too.  Talk about what to do if someone is mean to you.
The Bible is full of stories of people who were mean.  People were mean to Daniel- throwing him in a lion’s den.  Joseph’s brothers were mean to him.  People were even mean to Jesus- trying to kill Him on the cross- but the cross was not the last word.  Make a cut out of a cross as a reminder that when people were mean to Jesus He overcame them by both his death and rising at Easter. Trace the Lord’s Prayer on the picture, saying it together. 

Prayer: Father, when people are mean to me, help me to trust in you.  Let me not be afraid of people.  

Other thoughts: The Pope recently raised an issue about re-translating the Lord's Prayer particularly about this petition.  Below are my thoughts on this: 

Lead us not into temptation is the phrase in question.  The words "lead us not" (the traditional translation) vs. "do not let us fall into" (as the Pope proposed).  No doubt the idea of God's leading us into temptation is problematic.  The problem, I believe, is not with the text, but with our ability to believe it.  The passage is a prayer that God would not bring us to a place where we will be tempted.  God guides us wherever we go in His providence.  Sometimes suffering and crosses are not evil in themselves.  God often uses the sufferings we face to sharpen us and shape us as a potter would mold clay.  It is more problematic, perhaps, to believe that God is not able to keep us from a situation that is tempting.  To "not fall" is passive whereas to "lead us not" implies God plays a more active roll in protecting us from both temptation and evil.  Either way, we are the one who falls into temptaion.  

In Greek the word "lead" is eisphero- which means to bring in.  It is actually not fall.  It literally means bring us not to temptation.  It seems to me the gist of the passage means, "Do not bring me to the place of temptation."  The Pope has good intentions, and it is not wrong to re-translate this, but it just misses a good portion of the point of the prayer.    

I am not opposed to translating the Lord's Prayer so that it is in modern English.  Language changes.  But we're not supposed to change meanings just because we don't think it jives with what we think God should have said.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

He Came to Forgive

12/7- Lord’s Prayer- 4- “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
Read: “Be kind, one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.”  (Ephesians 4:32);You…will give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.”  (Lk. 1:77)

Thoughts: Jesus came at Christmas so that when we mess up we can still get to God.  God gives us a second chance.  He also wants us to give others another chance too- even if they hurt us and we don’t want to trust them.  If we want to be forgiven when we mess up, then we need to be forgiving toward others who also hurt us- even if they do not deserve forgiveness.
    There are lots of people who rise up out of their inaction to hurt or get revenge for a wrong.  Jesus came to forgive.  Then He asks all those who follow Him to be forgivers too. 

Activity: On a piece of paper write down one thing you want to be forgiven.  Put the pieces from each family member in a box.  Then go outside and burn them- saying, “As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”  Trace the Lord’s Prayer on the illustration above, saying it together.

Prayer: Thank you Jesus that you came to forgive us.  Give us the grace and help we need to forgive others.  

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Daily Bread- Jesus the Bread

12/6- Lord’s Prayer- 3- “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Read: “All good things are a gift from God coming down from the father of lights and the Lord of love.”  (James 1:17) Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came from heaven.” John 6:51

Thoughts: God is the great provider.  All that we have is a gift.  He gives us life, time, ability, and puts us in the right place at the right time to get the right job.  The prayer here is not for a lot of extras- but for only daily bread.  This doesn’t mean God only wants us to eat bread.  It does mean God wants us to ask Him for help in providing for our needs.  When God provides more than just the stuff to survive, He would ask us to think of sharing with others. 
     Jesus is the living bread that came from heaven.  We need to nourish our souls on Him daily by reading His Word.  The Bible is also called "the bread of life." 

Activity: Put aside a can for each family member to give to We Care Sunday.  If you feed the birds, give them an extra helping of bird food today- reading Matthew 6:26 before filling up the feeders. Trace the Lord’s prayer on the picture above, saying it together.

Prayer: Thank you that we have enough to eat.  We remember people like in South Sudan or Puerto Rico who struggle to have daily food.