Read Thru Bible ~ Exodus ~ Who is this God?

Read Thru Bible ~ Exodus ~ Who is this God?

This past week as we read through the Bible together we have had the opportunity to discover some of the characteristics of God. Exodus helps us answer the question, “Who is this God?”

We get a close up picture of who this God of the Israelites is through God’s call to Moses. In chapter 3 we hear God say to Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”

What does it mean for us that God sees us, hears our cries, knows our suffering, and comes down to rescue us? What does that mean to you for this day, a day of abundant snow on the East Coast, a day that is hard for some of us, and a joy for others?

In fact, God did see the hardships of the Israelites and called Moses to rescue them. Can you imagine the picture of all those Israelites leaving Egypt and going to a foreign land? Have recent world events given us similar pictures? Those leaving Syria due to war torn lands–They too are refugees, just as the Israelties were. What does God call us to do in this time of flight, this God who sees, hears, knows and comes down?

If you did not watch the video on the Holiness of God, you might want to catch it here. Tomorrow when we worship together on-line, we will use the Exodus passage to talk a little bit about this God who watches over us.

I hope you will be able to join us on line, Sunday morning the 24th at 11:30 am. This is the link to join us at zoom.us.

8d3d12ce47933f0de576f0f9a88a2871

Read thru Bible ~ Lay your Issac Down ~ Genesis 22

Read thru Bible ~ Lay your Issac Down ~ Genesis 22

disciples2

How do we grow in discipleship? One way is by spending time with God through God’s word. That is what we are doing this year. Spending time reading Scripture together. We have chosen this plan as it reads straight through AND they have produced videos to help our understanding. In addition, they have a nice app that you can download on a smart phone or you can ask them to send you a daily e-mail. If this plan doesn’t work for you, there are many to choose from–find one!

We will connect regularly through this blog and we will reference the readings through the sermons from time to time. Don’t be discouraged. Do what you can, the videos and blog will help.

The beautiful things we find here in Genesis is that God’s chosen people are just like us–they have feelings of excitement, discouragement, and at times, feel abandoned by God, just like we do. Reading Abraham’s story gives me encouragement. He was promised by God that he would be blessed, yet the blessing did not come, and it did not come. He was required to wait, and we know how hard that waiting is. Abraham did not wait for a little while, he had to wait for a LONG time until the blessing of his son with his wife Sarah arrived. During that time of waiting, even Abraham thought that God had forgotten him. Abraham needed to hear the promise again. Yet Abraham is the one whom is the Father of the nation, he is the one to whom faith and righteousness is credited.

Some of that faith came out of the reading for today. In Genesis 22 God is called to lay down his Issac. God calls Abraham to offer up his firstborn son to God. The very one who was to carry on the family name was to be sacrificed. There is so much to say about this chapter. The real question that comes is, could I do it? Could I lay down that which is the most important to me, my children for God’s sake?

I cannot answer that question, but I can ask myself another question. Do I believe that Jesus is enough? Do I believe that Jesus will take care of my needs and provide?

Abraham believed that God would provide, and that is exactly what God did. Abraham moved out on faith-knowing that the family dynasty might come to an end before it even began-and Abraham followed God’s call.

Don’t miss the New Testament symbolism here. The very thing that God was asking of Abraham, God will do with his own son, with Jesus. Jesus will be sacrificed on the cross for all of human kind.

Is God asking you to sacrifice something from your life in this new year? It is not Issac that God wanted, it was all of Abraham, fully devoted to God, that God wanted. Is God asking you to lay down your “Issac.” Your Issac might be a habit, or a thing, or something that is more important to you than God is to you. God wants to be the most important thing in our lives. What do we need to lay aside to make God top priority? Ask God to empower you, through the Holy Spirit, to lay down that which consumes you and your time, so that you can give yourself wholly and fully to God.

Check out this song about Abraham laying down his son.

Advent Devotioanl ~ Dec. 6 by Elaine Canonico

Advent Devotioanl ~ Dec. 6 by Elaine Canonico

Come To the Manger

Luke 1: 68-79

Many prophets of old foretold that God would raise up a mighty Savior, that He would

remember His covenant with Abraham and send us a Savior…

He did…He sent himself.

Each year, we remember anew the gift that came to us wrapped in swaddling clothes

lying in a manger—and the world is bathed in the light of God’s love once again.

Sinful humanity—our sinful ways block us from God’s presence. John will call us to

repent and will tell of the coming Savior.

Salvation is coming. John is preparing the way for the coming of Christ. He foretold of

the one who would walk the path that led to a cross.

In the name of Christ, we have been saved. We have been given the gift of a right

relationship with our God—God has bridged the gap on the outstretched arms

of a cross.

Advent: A time for us to anticipate anew the fulfillment of God’s promise.

He is coming, He is coming…He is here. Halleluiah, God is here. In His presence,

we find salvation and in salvation, we find His PEACE—the Peace Christ

offers to each one of us.

 

What can I bring to the manger this year?

How can I thank God for what He has done?

I can give Jesus my heart.

Advent Prayer: In this season of Advent, I pray that your heart feels the excitement of waiting, overflows with the joy of anticipation, and is filled anew with the assurance that God surrounds you with His everlasting love…forever. Amen

 

 

Advent Devotional ~ Dec. 5 by Julie Gaver

Advent Devotional ~ Dec. 5 by Julie Gaver

Luke 9: 1-6

It was three weeks before Christmas.  In my home – that represents “go-time.”  There were packages to be wrapped; Trees to bedazzle; Cookies to bake; Cards to address. The to-do list was very long and I worried about how I was ever going to accomplish it all. I had just had foot surgery and doctor’s orders required me to be off my feet for six weeks.
I learned something that holiday season…. My family knew how to do stuff! And what they couldn’t do, just didn’t get done.

And Christmas still came.

When I look back on that Christmas, over fifteen years ago, I realize it was one of the best Christmas’ my family shared together. The simplicity of that Christmas allowed us to focus more fully on the real reason for the season.

How often do we weigh ourselves down with activity? We go to great lengths (and stress) to accomplish everything that we think will help us make it the “best Christmas ever.”  But the Manger requires us to pack lightly and, rather, carry with us only an open heart and ardent willingness to share the good news.

The rest….. is just stuff.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of the Manger. We pray this holiday season that we come to you, unencumbered of the many things which distract us from your message. Help us to make this journey with hands that are still, hearts wide open, and voices poised to share the good news. Amen.

Advent Devotioanl ~ Dec. 4 by Ron Forrester

Advent Devotioanl ~ Dec. 4 by Ron Forrester

Philippians 1:18b-26 [Words from the Apostle Paul]

“But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,  for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,  so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” Philippians 1:18b-26 (NIV)

The apostle Paul expresses a fervent hope that he would, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, always have the courage and ability to serve Christ effectively and passionately – even from a prison cell! Hope is an important part of who Paul was as a believer and follower of Christ. Without hope for the future, we sometimes find ourselves drifting away from God and His will for our lives. We start replacing God is our lives with other things that give us short-term satisfaction but that have no lasting or permanent value spirituality. How do we refocus our spiritual selves to put Jesus first in our lives like Paul did after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus? The answer is simple – we turn our eyes to Jesus on whom our hope is built. We turn to the cross and we turn to His humble birth to remind us of God’s promises. After all, for Christians our hope is built on nothing less that Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Christ is the truth, the way and the life, the solid rock on which we stand since our life experiences tell us all other ground is sinking sand.

Normally at this time of year my thoughts are monopolized by a multitude of tasks that need to get done between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Lists are compiled and my focus is on finding just the right gift for my family members, friends, and other special people in my life that I want to remember at this joyous time of the year. I look forward to beautifully wrapped gifts, family visits, Christmas lights, and Christmas songs. I too often allow myself to get caught up in the hype of the season, which is not all bad, but leads me to neglect turning my eyes to Jesus and, thereby, failing to properly celebrate his miraculous birth in a lowly stable in Bethlehem.

This Advent season let us all focus on the miraculous birth of our Savoir and Lord that gives us all hope for eternity through God’s love and grace for us. We should be shouting – “Come Lord Jesus come” so the Holy Spirit can fill us with joy, hope and love. We then can truly focus on the glorious birth of our Lord and Savior.

Prayer: God, we are grateful that you loved us enough to put on flesh, to come and pitch your tent beside us, to become a vulnerable baby. May we truly understand the power of your love for us through the birth of your son Jesus. Let us share this awesome love with others during this Advent season. Let us celebrate each day of the Advent season with a renewed hope focusing on the upcoming celebration of the birth of your son, Jesus; our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Advent Devotional ~ Dec. 3, 2015 by Heidi Agostini

Advent Devotional ~ Dec. 3, 2015 by Heidi Agostini

Malachi 3:5-12

“Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. “ Malachi 2: 10b

The story in this passage reminds me of Linda, a family friend since I was a child. Linda also happened to be one of the poorest people (from a financial perspective) that I knew. But what was so remarkable
about Linda was that despite her apparent poverty she seemed to me to be one of the most richly blessed Christians around. She was a walking example of someone who had truly given her whole heart
to the Lord. She was generous, compassionate and loving to everyone she met. During the course of her
life at least 30 children and adults sought shelter in her home in Cincinnati. What most said at her funeral a few years ago was that she was always a champion for them and that she always told them to
change their lives and to trust God. For me, Linda was and still is a constant reminder of how rich one’s life can be when you open your heart to the Lord, do His will, and let the blessings flow from you to
others around you. You just need to take that step and trust God, listen to Him through your heart and follow his lead.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please give me the courage to open my heart to You. Help me to see the needs of people around me and bless them as You have blessed me. Amen.

Advent Devotional ~ December 2, 2015 by Barry Salisbury

Advent Devotional ~ December 2, 2015 by Barry Salisbury

Seeking a sign….Be careful of your heart

“When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation
is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it
except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the men of
Nin′eveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation…….  behold,
something greater than Jonah is here.” Luke 11:29-30, 32 (RSV)

Signs of Christmas are everywhere; Christmas music plays in the
stores; commercials blast advertisements of “the perfect gift,” lights
decorate neighborhoods, and people race from event to event trying
desperately to share the “holiday spirit.” And yet, despite the signs of
Christmas being everywhere, how easy it is to miss the real sign that
was given to us over 2,000 years ago, starting that first Christmas. A
baby, like you and me, was born into a world of imperfect people, like
us, with a message, good news, for all to hear: God is with us.
God has come to earth in the form of a baby, to show us how to live in
this world.

Let us remember this special sign given to us so long ago, and help us,
during this Advent season, to share and be that good news.

Dear God,
In the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, let us find time to see
you amidst all the noise and chaos.  Help us guard our hearts, so that
your love can transform us and we can be the sign to others of what
celebrating the birth of your beloved son is really all about.  Amen.

Advent Devotional ~ Dec. 1 by Cathy Watkins

Advent Devotional ~ Dec. 1 by Cathy Watkins

2 Samuel 7:18-29
Revelation 22:12-16

David boldly held God to the promise God made for a Davidic king to reign forever. He praised God for all that was and would be done to save the chosen people Israel.  Counting God trustworthy, David thanked God for the continued blessing that would come as the house of David reigned forever. We see that promise fulfilled in the birth of Jesus the child lying in the manger.  God has remained faithful and given us new life and life forever in the kingdom of God.

God has sent the incredible gift of his son Jesus not because we are in any way worthy of great gifts, but because God is a great Giver. We receive the greatest gift, salvation, through the birth of Jesus Christ with an attitude of gratitude.  This season, come afresh to the manger with heart and eyes open to the wonder of the everlasting life we have together with God the Father and Jesus the Son.

Prayer: God, thank you for the gift of your Son whom we celebrate this Christmas season. Empower us to accept the gift and share him with others. Amen.

Advent Devotional Nov. 30 by Pastor Beth Hutton

2 Peter 3:8-15

“Are we there yet?” Since the invention of GPS this question has become obsolete in my car.  On long trips I can always show the kids the map and the estimated time of arrival to answer their question.

As the Christmas season begins and the focus is on the birth of a baby do you dare to think about the second coming? I know it seems a little strange to think about destruction by fire and the earth melting in the heat during this time of the year when twinkly lights are going up, trees
are being decorated, gifts are being purchased and family gatherings are being finalized.

Advent is a time of preparation, lifting up both the first and the second coming of Jesus.  What are we really supposed to be preparing for? The people reading Peter’s 2 letter were roughly seventy years out from Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Perhaps after seventy years they began
to think this second coming wasn’t really going to happen?  Have we like this early Christian community wrapped ourselves so tightly in the world that we have forgotten to prepare?

With all of the turmoil, conflict and violence in our world today it’s easy to hear the naysayers.  With all that going on do you really still believe in this Christ?  This God? “We have waited for seventy years and we could wait seventy times seven and he still won’t come.”

That’s the power of this passage.  The author remind us that God’s time is nothing like our own. Seventy years is but a moment in God’s time, like a thousand years is but a day.  We shouldn’t give up.  God keeps covenants, promises, and will return, Jesus will come like a thief in the
night, and we should be prepared.  We have this time each year to prepare ourselves and renew our lives of faithfulness and holiness.  We can turn to the New Year with hope, expectation and watchfulness.  A new heaven and a new earth may or may not come in our lifetime but we will be ready nonetheless.

Like those who this letter is meant for in the early church, we also live in equally chaotic, violent times. We may wonder where God is; what is God up to? And perhaps, as we live into Advent, the answer to our question, “are we there yet?” might just be yes. We will prepare our homes,
our church and our families to welcome the Christ into our world.  And we will have hope in a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth.

Prayer: God of the covenant, through the prophets of the past and of today you call us to live up to the challenge of the gospel if we want to be your people. Stir us up from our comfortable, self-satisfied ways. Make us restless to hasten the coming of your Son and your kingdom and fill us
with the fire of his Spirit to bring the warmth of his love and integrity into this cold, hurting world. Give us the lasting peace of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Advent Devotional ~Nov. 29, 2015 ~by Pastor Sarah

Sunday, November 29, 2015     HOPE

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” Jeremiah 33: 14-16, NRSV.

Come to the manger? I do not even have time to shop for groceries or hang with the kids, how can I come to the manger? Maybe those are your thoughts as we enter into this season of Advent: A season of waiting—a season of wishing—and a season of preparation. Here we are again, anticipating another season of Advent, which means preparing for Christmas, which means more work in getting ready. Sometimes it feels that we just cannot do it all. Or, maybe you are not in a position of wanting more time, but you are in a season of wishing for Christmas of the past; a time when the entire family was home. Maybe you are wishing loved ones who used to be with you could be with you once again.

Sometimes we can become so wrapped up in our own needs, wants, and desires that we forget that it is up to us to prepare our hearts to welcome the Christ Child. How do we prepare our hearts? How do we present ourselves at the manger of the baby Jesus? It begins right now, in this season we call Advent, which means “the coming.” What is so special about this season? We are waiting for the promise of God to be fulfilled. Yes, we know it was and is fulfilled in the Christ Child—the anointed one. But, is there something more? Could it be that the promises of God are really for me? Maybe, just maybe, there is a promise for me this Advent season. What promise could you look towards that would make you feel like a giddy child all over again?

Prayer: Open my heart, Jesus, so that I might be expecting you to enter in. Open my eyes, Lord, that I might see you with fresh eyes. Open my ears, Lord, so that I might hear your voice. Open my mouth, Lord, that I might speak your praise. Open my spirit, Lord, that I might receive you anew. Amen