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Wednesday, December 13, 2017 – Psalm 53; Amos 8:1-14; Revelation 1:17-2:7 and Matthew 23:1-12

Today, we’ll hear what God has against us and how God is calling us to repent, turn to HIM and follow HIS holy ways.

Psalm 53 (NRSV) – 1Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts;
there is no one who does good.

2God looks down from heaven on humankind
to see if there are any who are wise,
who seek after God.

3They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse;
there is no one who does good,
no, not one.

Amos 8:1-14 (NRSV) – 4Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
5saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
6buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

9On that day, says the Lord GOD,
I will make the sun go down at noon,
and darken the earth in broad daylight.

This is what God did when HIS Son died upon the cross. The sun was darkened for three hours, it was dark at noontime and until 3.

Matthew 23:1-12 (NRSV) – 1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2″The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.

Revelation 1:17-2:7 (NRSV) – 1:17When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.

2:1″To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands:

2″I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. 3I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. 4But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.

Recall today when you first really sensed your love for God and God’s love for you. If you’ve never experienced that, I invite you to turn unto God who does love you and wants to share that love with you. Sense a time when you felt truly loved. Now, multiply that love by a thousand, no a hundred thousand, no a gazillion-gazillion’s. That is how much God loves you. How does one respond to God’s love? How does one respond to another that loves them? By loving them back and seeking to express that love moment by moment, day by day.

How will you show God that you love God and are deeply appreciative of HIS love of you?

One way God calls us to do this is to care for the poor amongst us, love our neighbor, seeking to be a help to them. May we find ways to do that. And God asks us, HIS people to be alert and awake to ways that those in power turn from the poor and work only to benefit those who have the money and wealth to help get them elected. Be alert. Be aware.

O God, all have fallen short of YOUR glory. Help us examine ourselves and our world to see how YOU are calling us to help others and follow YOUR holy ways. Forgive us and guide us. Thanks for YOUR everlasting love, shown to us in a babe born in a manger, who then gave HIS very life that we might have life. Amen.

Daily Advent Devotion Tuesday, December 12

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 – Psalm 85; Amos 7:10-17; Revelation 1:9-16 and Matthew 22:34-46

Revelation 1:9-16 (NRSV) – 12Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. 14His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, 15his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. 16In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.

Psalm 85 (NRSV) – 7   Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation. …

10  Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11  Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.

And this is just what God did in sending HIS Son, who descended from the heavens, dwelt upon the earth and ascended again to show God’s steadfast, eternal love.

I read the following yesterday (12/11/17) in Philip St. Romain’s Daily Spiritual Seed. It caused me to pause and wonder about the mystery and joy of this season.

The natural gift of wonder God gave us as children was meant to be kept alive….Instead we let wonder go to sleep. We entered the typical dream state of most humans.

Why else does Jesus tell us today, ‘Stay awake!’…Advent says, ‘Wake up and realize the gifts of love you have received.’ – Rev. Alfred McBride

This calls to mind Jesus’ words when he spoke about children.

Matthew 18:2-3 (NRSV) 2 He called a child, whom he put among them, 3 and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Sunday evening our house was full of Christmas activity. Phyllis had set in motion the making and decorating of Christmas cookies. Phyllis’ mom, Phyllis, Mackenzie, Shelby, Scott and I all participated. Some more than others. All the women definitely got involved. It was fun to watch Phyllis and her mom making and decorating cookies. Shelby and Mackenzie doing the same. Mackenzie even made some small cookies for Play Dough their dog. It was a fun evening. Messy, yet fun!

I didn’t get fully into it. Then I read the quote from Rev. McBride. So, I ask, how can I let the wonder of this season, wonder of God’s gifts, truly enter into my heart, mind and soul?

Friends, during this second week of Advent, ‘Stay awake!’ find the child of God that dwells in you and let the child come to the surface. Enjoy the mystery of this season. ‘Wake up and realize the gifts of love you have received.’

O God, we are all YOUR special child. Each of us is special in YOUR sight. Release anew the sense of being a child, a child of God. Let this joy guide us as we celebrate the gift YOU have given and are giving unto us. Thanks be to YOU, FATHER GOD. Amen.

Daily Advent Devotion (week 2) Monday, December 11

Monday, December 11, 2017 – Psalm 40; Amos 7:1-9; Revelation 1:1-8 and Matthew 22:23-33

Yesterday in worship we celebrated the beginning of the second week of Advent. Today, is the second Monday of Advent. During this week we’ll continue our journey to Bethlehem and Jesus’ birth. Yet we’ll also continue to look at God’s promises that Jesus will come again.

Revelation 1:1-8 (NRSV) – Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.

8″I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Focus now upon the beginning of all time, that moment when time began. God was before that, for God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit has been and will always be.

Focus now upon when time will come to an end. It doesn’t matter how you imagine the end coming, just that the end comes. The end. God will still be for God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit will be. Wow!

Now focus upon this present moment. This moment that you are reading this daily devotion. God IS! God is with us and is calling us to trust in HIM. God who was, who will be, IS with us right now, right here.

We continue to wait upon God and look for God’s coming among us, yet God IS with us already and calling us to be HIS faithful people.

Psalm 40 (NRSV) – 4   Happy are those who make
the LORD their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods. …

8   I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”

O God, we give thanks that YOU have been, are and will be. YOU are God whose love is everlasting and who IS always present with us. May we put our trust in YOU, seek to follow YOUR holy ways, always looking for Jesus who IS amongst us. During this second week of Advent, may we be preparers of YOUR way and light in people’s darkness. Use us, O God Eternal, to reveal YOUR presence unto others.

If we are dwelling in darkness, we ask that YOUR eternal light and love shine upon us. Come Lord, Jesus, come! Amen.

Daily Advent Devotion Saturday, December 9

Saturday, December 9, 2017 – Psalm 90; Amos 5:18-27; Jude 17-25 and Matthew 22:15-22

Amos 5:18-27 (NRSV) – 21  I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22  Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
23  Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.

I read these words and think about what Christmas, the celebration of the birth of God’s very Son, has become. It is sooooooooooooooo commercilizeddddddddddddddd!

It begins early, here in the Branson area, November 1. The commercials on TV begin almost then. Then we have built days into our calendar to build the hype; black Friday, Cyber Monday and recently Giving Tuesday (a good thing, yet Christ wants our giving to be year round, not just on a day).

I see signs that say, keep Christ in Christmas. Yet, our reading begs us to ask; What does it really mean to keep Christ in Christmas?

I really don’t think God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit is pleased with our Christmas celebrations. I really think it saddens God greatly.

So what to do?

24  But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Jude 17-25 (NRSV) – 20But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22And have mercy on some who are wavering; 23save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.

I believe what we can do is seek to do what God calls us to do; seek justice, live mercifully, hate evil and cling unto God.

Today’s prayer and benediction, from Jude.

24Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, 25to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Daily Advent Devotion Friday, December 8

Friday, December 8, 2017 – Psalm 102; Amos 5:1-17; Jude 1-16 and Matthew 22:1-14

Amos 5:1-17 (NRSV) – 1  Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel:

4  For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel:
Seek me and live; ….

6a  Seek the LORD and live, …

14  Seek good and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you,
just as you have said.
15  Hate evil and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Here are the phrases that jump out at me today.

Seek the LORD and live, .. Seek good and not evil, … Hate evil and love good.

Matthew 22:1-14 – 1Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:

2″The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.

4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. ….

8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

My friends, this day may we not only seek to the Lord and seek to do the good, the Godly but may we hear Jesus’ invitation to come unto HIM and may we enthusiastically say; YES LORD, I COME!

O Lord, we are called to see YOU and seek to do good, not evil. This day and every day, may we make that our goal. May we also listen for YOU calling us to fellowship with YOU and enjoy YOUR holy presence. In this season we often busy ourselves with things and forget to focus upon YOU, the Lord and giver of real life. May we turn our attention unto YOU, so that we hear YOUR call to love YOU and love others as our self. This we pray in the name of YOUR Son, Jesus, who invites us to come unto YOU. Amen.

Psalm 102 (NRSV) – 12  But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever;
your name endures to all generations. …

25  Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26  They will perish, but you endure;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You change them like clothing, and they pass away;
27       but you are the same, and your years have no end.

Advent Daily Devotion Thursday, December 7

Thursday, December 7, 2017 – Psalm 18:1-20; Amos 4:6-13; 2 Peter 3:11-18 and Matthew 21:33-46

Prepare to meet your God.

How do you hear this? What do you hear God saying to you, as he says that to you?

We hear that phrase in our reading from God’s prophet, Amos.

Amos 4:6-13 (NRSV) – 6b, 8b, 9b, 10b, 11b yet you did not return to me,
says the LORD.

12Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel!

With those words, I hear a word of judgment. So it is; PREPARE TO MEET YOUR GOD!!!

Yet as I read 2 Peter, I get another sense.

2 Peter 3:11-18 (NRSV) – 11Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, 12waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? 13But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

14Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

Knowing that Christ is coming again, prepare to meet your God. Do so by doing that which HE has called us to do; be a peace, strive to live holy lives, always preparing for Christ to come.

I believe HE comes to us every day. Even as we meet a stranger and visit with them, we meet the Christ who comes to us.

Prepare to meet your God, for HE comes to us this day.

As I was writing my devotion, this phrase jumped out at me. Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. Each day God gives to us, is another day of salvation. A day to serve HIM by sharing the salvation given to us, with others.

Thanks be to God for this day of salvation, that God did not promise us, yet is giving to us.

Psalm 18:1-20 (NRSV) – 1I love you, O LORD, my strength.
2The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

O God, thank YOU for this day, here is the United States, known as Pearl Harbor Day, a day to remember the sacrifices made for our freedom. May we remember those who died and all who fought that we might be free. May we also remember all YOU did, so that salvation could be offered and given to us. May we receive this free gift and find ways to share it with others. This we pray in the name of Christ, the Corner Stone that was rejected by many but affirmed by YOU as the Chief Corner Stone of our faith. Amen.

Daily Advent Devotion Wednesday, December 6

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 – Psalm 50; Amos 3:12-4:5; 2 Peter 3:1-10 and Matthew 21:23-32

2 Peter 3:1-10 (NRSV) – 8But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 9The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

Waiting is a major theme throughout Advent. We hear how God’s people, in the Old and New Testaments have been waiting for the Messiah to come. In the case of the Old Testament, for the Messiah to come to restore God’s people, to save them. In the case of the New Testament to come again and usher in God’s new kingdom once and for all time. So we hear how God’s people wait for God to act.

This time, right here and right now, is a time for us to actively wait. We are to be about the Lord’s business. We are to be sharing God’s love, revealed through HIS Son, Jesus Christ unto others. God’s desire is that none perish, but all come to repentance.

God’s call for us to repent, is God calling us to turn unto HIM, trust in HIM and turn from trusting the things of this world.

I like to think of this in the terms of my driving. There are times when heading to my destination, that I discover I’ve taken the wrong road. When I discover this, I have a choice. Continue down the wrong road and see where I end up or do a U-turn to get on the right road and head to the right destination.

What is God calling you to turn from this day? What do you place your trust, faith and hope in? Turn from this and put your full trust, faith, hope and love in God the giver of real life.

Psalm 50 (NRSV) – 14Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High. …

23Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me;
to those who go the right way
I will show the salvation of God.”

What will be your thanksgiving offering unto God this day? Your very life? I hope so, for in doing so, you will find the gift of new life offered and given through Christ.

From that time Jesus began to preach his message: “Turn away from your sins, because the Kingdom of heaven is near!” (Matthew 4:17)

O God, we put our trust in things or people of this world, instead of fully trusting in YOU, the Lord and give of life. It is YOU who created all that is. It is YOU who sustains all that is. And it is YOU who seeks to redeem all creation and people. Reveal to us how we are trusting things or people other than YOU. Reveal to us our sin. Then having revealed it, may we turn from it or those and place our full faith in YOU. This is true repentance. In doing so, we will find real life. Thanks be to YOU, O God, for how you reached out to us through YOUR prophets, through YOUR Son and now through YOUR Spirit given to us. This we pray, in Jesus’ name who said; “repent and believe in me.” Amen.

Advent Devotion Tuesday, December 5

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 – Psalm 33; Amos 3:1-11; 2 Peter 1:12-21 and Matthew 21:12-22

Amos 3:1-11 (NRSV) – 10  They do not know how to do right, says the LORD,
those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.
11  Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
An adversary shall surround the land,
and strip you of your defense;
and your strongholds shall be plundered.

These days I find myself wondering if any know how to do right?

God sent us HIS Son to show us what was right, what was Godly, what was desired of us. Yet, we continue to follow our own devices and desires. Is there any good in us? And if so, where can it begin to show itself?

I believe it begins with us, you and me. Then hopefully it will spread to others.

The following was in yesterday’s (12/4/17) Daily Spiritual Seed. I found it really helpful.

If we do not at least try to manifest something of Creative Charity in our dealings with life, whether by action, thought, or prayer, and do it at our own cost — if we roll up the talent of love in the nice white napkin of piety and put it safely out of the way, sorry that the world is so hungry and thirsty, so sick and so fettered, and leave it at that: then, even that little talent may be taken from us. We may discover at the crucial moment that we are spiritually bankrupt.

… Evelyn Underhill, The School of Charity

(How will you “manifest something of Creative Charity” this day? Pray for the grace to be true to your resolution.)

Scriptural reference for her thoughts can be found in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents; Matthew 25:14-30. Here is a link to that reading.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+25%3A14-30&version=NRSV

What good? What Godly act are we being called to do this day?

Psalm 33 (NRSV) – 20  Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and shield.
21  Our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22  Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

O Lord, during this season of Advent, as we wait for thee, may we be about YOUR business of loving others as our self. Help us do the good, the Godly, YOU call us to do this day. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

First Advent Monday, December 4

First Advent Monday, December 4, 2017 – Psalm 122; Amos 2:6-16; 2 Peter 1:1-11 and Matthew 21:1-11

2 Peter 1:1-11 (NRSV) – 2May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

3His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

In this season of gift giving and receiving, one of our hopes is to give and probably receive the perfect gift.

For you what would the perfect gift be?

What would be the perfect gift to give ….. (you fill in the name(s))?

We often think about things as we think about the perfect gift, yet in reality the perfect gift is the relationships we have. Our relationship with God. Our relationship with family members. Our relationship with friends. And yes, our relationship even with a stranger sent our way. The relationship is the perfect gift.

God, through HIS divine power has already given us everything needed for life and godliness. Thanks be unto God.

Hear now what Peter has to say about what God has given to us.

4Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature. 5For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, 7and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.

Goodness – Godness,
and goodness with knowledge,
and knowledge with self-control,
and self-control with endurance,
and endurance with godliness,
and godliness with mutual affection,
and mutual affection with love.

Thanks be unto God who gives us these perfect gifts that flow from our relationship with God given through HIS Son and nurtured by the Spirit, so that we might have strong, healthy, life giving relationships with others.

This is what Christmas is all about. The relationship given to us through HIS Son, that is  now t0 flow upon others. This is the perfect Christmas gift.

Welcome to Advent 2017 and our continuing journey with God who reached out to us long ago and reaches out to us even this day, this season. Even now.

O God, thanks be to YOU for giving us the perfect Christmas gift. May we focus upon the gift YOU gave and are giving, that we might truly enjoy and find ways to pass on YOUR gift unto others. This we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Daily Devotion Saturday, December 2

Saturday, December 2, 2017 – Psalm 63; Micah 7:11-20; 1 Peter 4:7-19 and Matthew 20:29-34

Matthew 20:29-34 (NRSV) – 32Jesus stood still and called them, saying, “What do you want me to do for you?”

That is the question Jesus asked the two blind men who were calling out to him.

Sense Jesus asking that question of you. How would you respond? What is your prayer this day?

O Lord, hear our prayers. ….

Psalm 63 (NRSV) – 5   My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
6   when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7   for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
8   My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.