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Using the Devotional

A Suggested Pattern for Daily Prayer

Breath Prayer: Notice your breathing. Breathe in the breath of God and breathe out the sins, worries, and hurts of the day. Slow your breath. Breathing in, say to yourself, “Come.” Exhaling, breathe out, “Lord Jesus.”

Opening Scripture: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being…And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1)

Prayer of Thanksgiving: Conversationally, pray to God, giving thanks for the blessings of the particular day.

Prayer of Confession: Give to God the sins of omission (things you forgot to do), commission (things you shouldn’t have done), and mistakes that the evil one wants to hold over you. Be specific in your prayer! Ask God for forgiveness and receive God’s word of Grace for yourself.

Scripture Reading: Read the full Scripture reference printed at the beginning of each devotional (yes, this will require you to get your Bible out!). Perhaps use the form of lectio divina to read through the passage four times: read (listen for a key word or phrase), reflect (what is God saying through that word?), respond (what will I do in response to that word?), and rest (bask in the silence of having experienced God’s grace).

Devotional Reflection: Having, hopefully, already spent some time dwelling on the text, now read the devotional for that day.

Other Devotional Acts: Conclude by reciting the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed, praying the Lord’s Prayer, and singing or reflecting on a favorite hymn. Of the Father’s Love Begotten is a great (and ancient!) Advent hymn to learn this month!

Dec 24 – Sharing the Greatest Gift

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people

Titus 2:11–14

It is the day before Christmas and many of us sit just hours away from the anticipated ripped wrappings and torn boxes, hot chocolate and candy canes. Santa and toys, gift cards and garland. It is a time full of smiles and children’s laughter. Rich smells and full bellies. Families return home and households are full again. What could be better? What more could we want for Christmas?

Titus is a young man who was raised up under Paul to preach and teach, leading communities to a fuller understanding of Jesus and the grace brought through Him. Titus had a great challenge to teach those in the church to be holy in every possible way (vv. 2–10). Because we are the recipients of God’s grace and salvation, Paul says (v. 11), we should reflect the character and engage in the behaviors taught in verses 2–10. 

In the midst of a broken world, especially in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, it is so easy to lose track of the character of God, the character we are to emulate. It is easy to buy into the selfish desires of the world. So what more could we want for Christmas? – That we shall express the love of Christ who offers his salvation to the all people. 

May our greatest gift be sharing Christ the Savior. May our lives prove worthy of the gospel. May we gather together this Christmas Eve and tell the story of Christ’s humble birth, as we wait with blessed hope for the appearing of the glory of Jesus!

God of salvation, may I see and experience Your grace this Christmas. Help me to share Your Truth, and may lives be changed this holiday. May Your grace and salvation come to all people. In the name of Christ, the Savior I pray, Amen.

Pastor Tara Fanton

Dec 23 – The Key

Do not be afraid… I have the keys of Death and of Hades

Revelation 1:9–20

The end of our Advent journey leaves us in a slightly uncomfortable position, grappling with the realities of the realm of God (heaven) and the realm of the dead (Hades/Hell). This week, we’d much rather be considering only the meek and mild child in the manger. How precious! It is sweet to hold a newborn baby, especially the newborn savior of the world. And yet, many of the readings of this season remind us of the profound (and even terrifying) significance of Jesus’ birth for the earth and the realms above and below us. 

Tomorrow night we will be celebrating the birth of the one who tore through the curtain between heaven and earth to come down to us, bringing the embodied presence of God with him. We begin again the story that will hit another breaking point on Easter morning as we declare “he is risen indeed!” And don’t you forget, he brings the dead bodies out of the ground with him.

In our life of faith, we find ourselves in a liminal space. A place between heaven and hell, the powers of God and life on the one hand and sin and death on the other. Sometimes the grave seems more powerful to us: a new diagnosis, a loved one on hospice, a loss to suicide, or a life broken by sin. Other times God’s power is on full display: a crowd gathered to hear the Christmas story, the birth of a new baby, the baptism of someone new to the faith. We find ourselves with feet on solid ground, looking up, hoping to escape the power of what lies below. From John of Patmos we are given assurance: our Lord has the keys to death. Those in captivity to sin will be released! Those in captive to death will emerge victorious. Spoiler alert: in the end, JESUS WINS.

God, with eyes toward heaven, we give thanks for your power at work in our lives and world. Free us from whatever holds us in bondage. Vanquish our eternal foe. Amen.

Joel Peterson

Dec 22 – The In-Between

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

Revelation 1:4–8

The book of Revelation is not the book we generally turn to in order to read the Christmas story, but our passage today certainly tells the whole story of Jesus.  

As we read this letter which is addressed to “the seven churches,” we may think the message is for specific churches “back in the day,” but that is not the case.  

The word “seven” represents a complete whole, so the seven churches represents all the churches everywhere for all time.  Yes, that includes us.  This message is as relevant for us today as it was to the original hearers.   And what a message it is!

This letter is a revelation of Jesus by Jesus.  When Jesus calls himself the Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet), Jesus is saying that He is the beginning and ending of all things, even humanity.  So, what does it mean that God is the beginning of us and the ending of us?  Let’s break it down and make it personal.  

To say that God is the beginning of you means that God created you and has a plan for you.  God doesn’t do anything by accident, so God created you because there is something He wants you to do that no one else can.  (That’s pretty powerful, wouldn’t you say?)  

To say that God is the ending of you means that one day you will return to God to give an account of your life and what you did with that life.  

Now, here’s the kicker:  since Jesus is the beginning and Jesus is the end, who do you suppose must be in the middle?  That’s right – Jesus!  Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega of your life, and He wants to be your priority in-between.    

Today’s passage reminds us that our salvation is the whole reason Jesus came in the first place: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood…to him be glory and power for ever and ever!  Amen,” and Amen!

Lord Jesus, thank you for choosing me.  I choose you.  Help me to make you a priority in my daily life, and may I never forget the reason you came to earth in the first place: to save me.  Amen.

Pastor Tina Hosler

Dec 21 – All Things New

See, the home of God is among mortals.

Revelation 21:1–8

How many times have we heard that God will make us new?  How about the earth and heaven will pass away?  The lyrics of a song come to mind, “No More Night” by David Phelps: “earth and heaven shall soon pass away– it’s not a dream, God will make all things new that day.”  

Did you ever stop to think about what that might look like and why it is happening in the first place?  Looking into this passage, God sent an angel to John so that he could tell us what it represents and why it must happen. 

In the previous passage, we learn Satan and unbelievers have been cast into the lake of fire.  Verse 1 states the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. The “sea” here is a reference from the book of Revelation representing the evil and wickedness of mankind and the nations.  In the new heaven, there is no remembrance of the agony and suffering from earth.  There is also no death, mourning, or crying for the believers.  In verse 4, God will wipe the tears of Christians showing the passing of all of these things.  God will declare “It is done” a direct parallel of “It is finished’ after the ultimate sacrifice on the cross.  

We are all made new through our belief in the Lord our God.  It is the same as the day we accept Him as our Savior.  He erases our sin and makes us new then and on the day the first earth and heaven disappear a new heaven will begin allowing His believers to walk with Him.  What a glorious day it will be!

Heavenly Father, we thank you for bringing us comfort in our agonies on earth and are even more thankful for your promise of a new life with you. Amen.

Stacy Riggs

Dec 20 – Managing the Estate

So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God

Galatians 4:1–7

According to Galatians 4, with the birth of Christ, we are no longer slaves, but the heirs of our own estates or our own lives. God gave us this great gift and made us his sons and daughters. He also made us his heirs. That is a gift. but it can also be a burden if we do not use the gift the way that God intended it.

Anyone who owns property knows that if it is not cared for, it will return to its wild state with weeds, brambles, and garbage thrown about. So, it is with us if we do not care for our inheritance. 

We think up a million excuses to justify our inactions. We are too busy; the kids have soccer games; our boss demands our time; we’re too tired; or we need to clean the house. Our excuses could fill a book, yet we find time for the activities we really want to do. 

So how do we keep our estate ready for God? Each day we should set aside a time to spend with Him. Our calendars reflect our true priorities. “But I don’t have time,” you argue. Pick a time to give to God. Skip the news (there is never anything good on it anyway); read the Bible in the bathtub; or get up a half hour early and read and pray before the day gets hectic. Read the Bible each night as a family. (When your kids tell you none of their friends read the Bible tell them, “God knows that. He also knows that you do.”) How about when you’re in your car stuck in traffic? Instead of yelling at the person who cut in front of you, talk to Jesus. Tell Him about your day. God made us heirs of his estate. We need to be good stewards of it.

Dear God, Please, forgive us when we neglect you for other activities. We know you have given us more than we need. Thank you for freeing us and giving us the gift of your son.

Barb LaPosta

Dec 19 – Belonging to Grace

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:23–29

As we remember Christ’s birth and await the promise of His return, we are reminded we become heirs to the promise of Abraham through faith: the promise of peace and salvation, eternal holiness with the Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ.

Little children sit on Santa’s lap asking for the newest toy and your spouse/teenager/parents ask for tools, books, clothes and the latest gadgets. But remember that the greatest give has been given. This great gift is available to all races, nations, genders, social or economic statuses. We cannot be too rich or too poor. Too black or too white. Too foreign or too American. And there is no layaway, no credit card debt, no guilt or disappointment.

No one shall ever be excluded from the family of God if there is faith in Christ Jesus. No matter where you stand; no matter what you think of yourself; no matter what another might say – Jesus gifts you with the promise of belonging. Of family. Of purpose. Of life. 

You belong to Christ, who came into the world and yet was rejected by the world he loved. You belong to Christ who shed his blood, and died an innocent death on the cross. You belong to Christ who will return and gather all who are justified by grace and sanctified by faith. There you will gather with the children of God and together you will feast in the Kingdom of God, forever.

Giving God, by your grace we are your children. Help us to experience the gift of belonging. Thank you for the promise of life eternal in your family. Bless us this season and always. Amen.

Pastor Tara Fanton

Dec 18 – Misplaced Concern

‘What do you want with us, Son of God?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?

Matthew 8:28–34

Satan has stolen the lives of two men in our reading, taken them from their families, cut them off from the community and driven them to violence.  When Jesus arrives, the possessed men address him as the “Son of God,” because Satan knows that Jesus is God. 

Jesus cast the demons out of the men and into the pigs, causing the pigs to run into the lake and die. The men tending the herd of pigs ran into town to tell the townspeople what happened. When Jesus arrived, the townspeople asked Jesus to leave instead of welcoming him.  They feared Jesus’ supernatural power, a power they had never seen before.  Their concern was more about the loss of the pigs than about the deliverance of the demon-possessed men. 

This passage makes me think about the old saying, “Keep your friends close, by your enemies even closer.” However, how do we keep the enemy of God and enemy of everything good, close enough to keep an eye on his schemes without letting him in? Our enemy Satan comes to steal and destroy as he did to the two men in the passage. Satan will do anything to see us fail God, hurt the people we love, and even ruin our own lives. 

We must always keep watch for Satan as he will take every opportunity to enter our lives and demonize us. 

As Christians and believers let us not fear Satan and let us walk in the light and live according to God’s truth and not Satan’s lies. 

Heavenly Father we pray that you would surround us, protect us, and guide us. Father, we accept your grace, salvation and love.  We thank you for all that you do.  

Patty Noah

Dec 17 – Doubt

Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Jude 17–25

As children we doubt.  We doubt because we don’t know any better.  But as we grow in age and experience, we trust more and more because we see that God is in control and he works things out for his good will.

Jude talks of the ‘Last Times’, the last days, Jude says there will be scoffers, doubter; people who don’t know where they are or what they are facing.  But Jude tell us to build ourselves up in our faith and pray.  So we will know where we are, what we are and whose we are. 

And how do we do that?  We spend time in God’s word.  Fellowship with other Christians.  Serve God’s church.  Worship the Lord and be of service to others.  And he tells us to have mercy on those who doubt. Not to look down on them or avoid them.  Not to give up on them.   But to try to snatch them from ‘the flames’; from certain judgment.  Try to teach them, try to encourage them.  

For as scripture tells us, there will be more rejoicing over the one that was saved than over the many that didn’t need to be saved.  But Jude calls us to again show them mercy mixed with fear.  Lest they drag us down with them, we have to try to lift them up without letting them corrupt us with their doubts.  Thereby bringing a lost lamb back to the fold.

God, we admit that we have much in common with those who doubt. We aren’t sure of everything, but we know for sure that you have snatched us from the fire. Help us to share that work of mercy with others.

Bobby Jones

Dec 16 – Inner Healing

Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles.

Acts 5:12–16

In the book of Acts, believers came to the apostles despite the risk of persecution. Crowds gathered bringing their sick and tormented to be healed, wishing to get close enough that Peter’s shadow might fall on them.  This was God’s power at work!

What does physical healing look like?  If someone has knee surgery, they will have a healing incision on their leg, be using a cane, and then walking on their own.  Someone with cancer may have surgery, chemo with loss of their hair or radiation.  They may finally be told the disease is gone.  They get their energy back and return to normal activities.  We celebrate with them!

Now, what happens when someone’s spiritual health is in trouble?   We can all relate to times our spiritual health has suffered.  Maybe we are too busy for God, maybe we think we are not good enough, maybe we just aren’t interested anymore or any multitude of sins.  All of these are pushed by the father of lies.  How can we get our spiritual health back on track?  Who is our spiritual physician?   

Like the person with knee issues or battling cancer, we need help!

In Luke 5:30, Jesus is criticized by the Pharisees for sharing a meal with tax collectors and sinners.  In verses 31 and 32 he tells them “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Since we are all sinners, Christ gave his life for all of us so we can be forgiven.  Just like going to a medical doctor for a physical healing, we need to go to the one who can give us inner healing.

Jesus, we have committed to this journey of following you, but there is still sin in our life. By your Spirit, continue the work of full healing in our life. Thank you for your constant forgiveness. Amen.  

Karen Cowan

Dec 15 – Standing for the Truth

What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?

Matthew 11:2–11

John the Baptist was quite a character.  He was no ordinary-looking guy, and probably turned the heads of everyone passing by.  Can’t you just hear them:  “Did you see that guy?  What in the world is he wearing?”  People had never seen the likes of someone like him, so they went out to the desert just to check him out.  

In our passage today, Jesus is asking the crowd a rhetorical question when he asks them what they went out into the desert to see.  When Jesus asks if they went to see a reed swayed by the wind, He was basically asking if they went out to see some wishy-washy preacher.  

A “reed swayed by the wind” suggests a fickle person; someone whose judgment and decisions are caught in the winds of public opinion.  John was no such person.  He preached the gospel without excuse.  

He stood up for the truth of the gospel even though it ultimately cost him his life.  

John the Baptist was the last in the line of the great prophets and the first to point to the arrival of the Messiah.  John had a calling to live up to, and he took it very seriously.  His whole mission in life was to prepare the way for Jesus.  He is trying to convey the message that following Jesus is the only thing that matters in life.  

It’s not a coincidence that this passage comes up so close to Christmas.  We are challenged to pause in the midst of our holiday preparations to reflect on the reason for the season.  

If Jesus were invited to your house for Christmas, He wouldn’t care about the state of your house. He would care about the state of your heart.  

Take some time today to reflect:  Are you a reed being swayed by the wind of consumerism or are you the voice of one calling in the desert: prepare the way of the Lord?

Lord Jesus, may my preparations this season begin with me.  Change my heart, O God.  Amen.

Pastor Tina Hosler

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