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

 

Psalm 104 ~Psalm Study

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Read Psalm 104 here.

To be honest, this is one of my favorite Psalms. Whenever I am in a vast place of natural beauty, this is the Psalm that I pull up and read out loud. Recently, that occurred while in Alaska gazing at the beauty of the land and the whales of the sea. It is a Psalm of praise and it is a powerful  masterpiece acclaiming God as The Creator.

The psalmist first looks at the residence of God: What do the heavens look like? The psalmist imagines God’s palace on the ocean deeps with chariots made out of clouds. Close your eyes and imagine this heavenly kingdom. Someday it shall all be revealed, for now we can only imagine.

The writer then looks at creation itself, step by step. God set the earth on its foundations. Can you see the waters flowing, stopping only by the boundary set in place by God? Is this boundary preventing the water from covering all the earth again also referring to the flood in Noah’s time?

The psalmist then moves to the animals and the vegetation of the earth. We are reminded that the moon and sun know when to go down. Not only does the writer speak of the creatures of the land, but also of the air and the sea. The sea, which is vast and spacious and teaming with life! If God has provided for all of these creatures, who are we to think that God will not provide for us? (Jesus, at a much later time, is perhaps referring to this psalm when he speaks to the crowd in Matthew 6:25–God clothes even the bird of the air, will God not take care of you too?)

Our minds should be blown away by the vastness and variety and creativity of God’s creation. The best part is that God allowed us to dwell here too, to be stewards of this great land. How can we not praise our God our creator, our redeemer and our sustainer of life?

If you want to know more, Pastor Louis Giglio does a wonderful teaching about this psalm and the vastness of the heavens which goes hand in hand with the song by Chris Tomlin entitled, “How Great is Our God”. Click on their names to hear a you tube teaching from the pastor, or to hear the Chris’ song.

P.S. At the end of this Psalm study I will post a Psalm created in the style of Psalm 104 created by a group standing in awe at the beauty of the Alaskan mountains, sea and air. What would your Psalm 104 look like?

MUMC Youth Work Camp ~ Sunday, and almost arrived

Dear Friends,
Yesterday our journey to New York to serve others and the Lord began, within that trip down we encountered the love of God shown through many different people. From all the big grins, waving and honking at our decorative cars with “honk for Jesus” and “we ❤️ Jesus” written all over the windows , to the hotel letting us all stay there and providing all us hungry kids with food and  coupons to all the appreciation and prayers people are sending for us!
   Then today we were warmly welcomed at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church by Father Daniel and the rest of the community where we were preached too, then they provided us with a delicious lunch of pulled pork sandwiches, pasta and salad!! During the service we were preached to about Jesus feeding 5,000 people with fish and bread and the light of God being spread out through an example of a rainbow. Part of the scripture reading from this morning really spoke to me about week were about to take on , it was Ephesians 3:14 “I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with the power through his spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”. I enjoy going to other churches and seeing how others practice there religion however, I’ll always like how MUMC does things the best!!!
   Right now we’re about an hour outside of our destination Rochester New York! and I couldn’t be more excited to get this week started and see the work of Jesus through new and returning work campers!!!
                                 -Jill S.

Psalm 100

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We will start today as a prequel to our Psalm study which will begin on August 1st, 2015. Join in the conversation. Check out this link if you need to read Psalm 100 on-line. Use the questions found throughout the blog and at the end to guide some of your thoughts and please post some of your ideas below. This might be a great time to start a journal and journal some of your ideas.

Psalm 100 is perhaps one of the most used Psalms of praise, it is quoted in songs and hymns. Notice how many times the words thanks or praise are used. It reminds us that too often we forget to give thanks for the ordinary things of life.

This psalm is short and sweet, but it reminds us that we are not our own, in fact we belong to God. That is counter-cultural. Our world says that we are masters of our own destiny, the psalmist reminds us that we belong to God. What a different world view the Psalmist has than that of our daily environment. Do you ever think of yourself as belonging to God? As such, if you belong to God, what does that mean about all of your “possessions?”

We are reminded that God is faithful, that God’s love never gets smaller, but rather goes forward into eternity, forever, and forever and forever. The Hebrew word for loving kindness is “checed” which is so much bigger than our translations can express. Sometimes it is translated as steadfast love, or love, or just kindness. (Check out this link for more information.) Yet it is this all encompassing word that describes God’s enduring love for those whom God has created. Know that God’s love for YOU never ends and cannot be changed or modified. That means YOU are special and will always be special in the eyes of your Creator.

1. How can you make a joyful noise to the LORD today?

2. What experience have you had with this Psalm in the past?

3. How have you given thanks to God this week?

4. What would it look like to insert your own words in this Psalm for that for which you give praise and thanksgiving?