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Friday, December 29 2023
Thank God I'm Forgiven! What are you thankful for this TGIF Friday? I am thankful for being forgiven, my life and choices redeemed, new life in Christ and the opportunity to step into my new nature and operate from my true identity in Christ! That's just a start on this, my 22nd birthday in Christ! TGIF!
Good Morning Redeemed, New Creations of Christ! Now some of us have lost the ability to jump, dance and shout in joy due to age, arthritis, or maybe even temporarily with sickness or grief. However, we can always choose joy and thank God for so many things. Shout for joy! Immanuel everyday! God is with us everyday and every step on the way! PTL! What is on your gratitude list? Is it growing? Mine is, it seems almost daily, as I, and we, have so much to be thankful about in the Lord! Choose joy, worship, praise and abiding in Christ's presence everyday. It's like eating Wheaties: The breakfast of champions! Maybe our picture should be on a box? After all, we ARE children of THE Champion and we will one day experience ultimate victory and many victories along the way! PTL! Rejoice!
Every year on my birthday in Christ, I evaluate the past year and pray into the future one. I have a S.W.O.T. (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats) analysis I did on myself in 2016 that I am still working through. I am always amazed at the progress and, in some cases, frustrated at the failures to correct and grow. I am a work in process and progress. Hopefully, prayerfully (I'm praying that for you), you are as well. Periodically examining ourselves and seeing what is working, what needs correcting, what doors are being opened or closed and assessing next steps is biblical and a very God-led pursuit that yields good fruit and good pruning too. Our vision team will be doing one of these for our church Jan. 9th when we gather to seek God for His vision and plan for 2024 and far beyond. Please pray for us to be seeking God, receiving His vision and plans, and ready to follow His plans for us. Pray for wisdom, discernment and God's will to come alive. Thanks! What would you say are your and our church's strengths (are we operating out of them), weaknesses (are we correcting or working on them like with the Become Me in '23 Challenge and the words we are working on), opportunities (are we sowing into them and making plans) threats (are we standing firm in faith and working on being victorious over them). I'd love to hear what you are sensing! God has some great plans for you and us that are coming to life and awaiting our discovery as we follow Him step by step in faith! PTL!
Looking at our devotionals for today (below), I see God at work and reminding me that I am His and I am growing in Him but still a work in process, I have a future and a hope, and that as I am learning to live as if Christ is all that matters in this life I am seeing God grow me and bring to life His plans for me. He is growing, using me as I am and working on His future plans for me. What joy! I also see this coming to life in many of you! The fruit that is budding from the words some of you are working on this year is being noticed and God is being glorified. PTL! Keep at it! [Thank you Danny Reinsmith for taking down and putting away our Christmas decorations and installing two new toilets for our ladies room this week! His word he was working on is "useful". I'd say he has made much progress at that! Thanks for the great work and example Danny! You are a very useful and growing servant of our Lord and His church!] What word may He be leading you to work on next year as we are challenged to Become More in '24. More of Christ and less of me. More of growing into and doing our created purposes. More disciple making. More of becoming and growing into the people we were created to be and our fuller potential in Christ. More of operating out of our true identity in Christ. Man, I am so excited for what God has in store for you and us and me too! Put on that new nature more fully, secure your yoke to Christ and follow Him to His best, no matter what lies ahead. Work on doing your part in God's Good News Delivery Co. too. We all have a part from prayer warrior to pastor, from sheep to shepherd. And God is working all of that together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. That's you! That's us together! PTL! Check out the Harvest Prayer devo for today about praying! We are a praying, loving, joyful people and church and we are seeing the fruit! PTL!
I stuck an UR devo from Dec 29, 2021 in my prayer starter book. The title is, "Change the World" and has been God's inspiration for me for awhile but was made more clear that day in '21 when I was evaluating my journey and seeking God for what lies ahead. I see Him still bringing that to life in me and us as we allow Him to grow us, empower us, embolden us, send us and use us for His glory. Do you see it too? PTL! He is at work even through weak, but repentant, nobody's like us! The premise of the devo is that with Christ's help, we can change the world. Do you see how that is coming alive through St. Matts and her servants? It really is and the blossoms are budding and fruit is coming! PTL! The ending prayer of the devo is this, "Dear God, as we walk with You, help us continue to change to become more like Jesus so that with you we can change the world." AMEN! Do you see how God got my attention, informed us with His plans and is carrying that out as He continues to grow us into His dynamic movement that changes the world around us! PTL! And worship Him! Keep working at you part. And let us commit to helping each other each step of the way! God is for us! Can you see it? What joy and wonder awaits our discovery as we live and love like Jesus more and more each day!
One final note. Rosa from Victor's church who gets bread and attends sometimes prophesied this over our church...she said we should rename our church Joy Church. She said there is so much joy and love flowing through us! PTL right! People are noticing. God is living, loving and bringing joy alive through us! Rejoice and keep up the good work as we seek Him for more in '24! Shalom!
Harvest Prayer:

December 29 - Prayer: The Life-Breath of the Church

In trying to understand the place of prayer in the early Christian Church, we would do well to remember that the Church was born in the cradle of Judaism. Over the centuries the Church has developed its own forms and practices, but it did not have to invent new ones from nothing. The apostles, like their Master, were all steeped in the Jewish faith and shaped somewhat by the religious life of the temple and the synagogue. The first converts were also drawn from this milieu. So it would be safe to surmise that the earliest Christians understood and practiced prayer from a context of Jewish traditions.

Of course, Christianity and Judaism had distinct differences from the start, the most significant perhaps being the centrality of Jesus and His reinterpretation of the Jewish religion. Jesus participated in temple worship, but in some sense He also replaced the temple and the sacrificial system. Jesus attended and preached in synagogues throughout His Galilean ministry, but He called out a new people, which would soon include both Gentiles and Jews, to be the people of God.

In addition to Jesus’ teaching on prayer His own personal example set the tone and pattern for prayer in the early Church. As the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, we can assume that this included Jesus’ instructions on how we should pray (Mt. 28:20; Acts 2:42). We note also that the role of the Holy Spirit in every aspect of the life of the Church, including and especially its prayer life, marks a new age that has dawned with the birth of the Church (Acts 2:1ff; 13:2).

Prayer has been the life-breath of the Church from its inception. From the earliest days believers have devoted themselves to prayer, individually and corporately, just as Jesus intended. In Luke’s history of the expansion of the church as in his gospel, prayer plays a key role. In the pages of Acts we discover all types of prayers— prayers of repentance, thanksgiving, rejoicing, praise and more. We see the Church praying in times of decision making and in times of crisis. We see them fasting, laying on hands, and kneeling. On occasion God spoke to his people through visions as they prayed. Both leaders and members in the early Church were committed to prayer as an indispensable part of the Christian life. Their example has challenged believers of every generation to be a people devoted to prayer.

Lord Jesus, because Your life is prayer, mine is also! Thank You, Father, for creating Your Body for such an awesome and precious relationship. May the Church of today clearly recognize the power at her disposal and be fully devoted to continually seeking Your face!

--Adapted from Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry (Chapter 42, The Place of Prayer in the Early Church by Steve Booth). This resource is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount on the book.
 

Prayer Points

  • Praise God that the Christian life includes periods of “complete” and unbridled joy (Jn. 15:11).
  • Thank Jesus for being your joy-filled Savior (Lk.10:21).
  • Confess any sin that stands in the way of your experiencing the fullness of joy which Jesus provides.
  • Commit yourself today to rejoicing in the Lord, to being joyful in God your Savior (Hab. 3:18).
  • Ask Jesus to make his joy in you complete.
  • Thank God that his kingdom is full of “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Commit yourself to being a joyful citizen of that kingdom in all that you do.
Prayer Points taken from Patterns for Prayer by Alvin VanderGriend.
UR: Stepping Up

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16 (NIV)

Growing up, I was the youngest of four boys. Sometimes my older brothers would talk me into doing things that would get me into trouble. My parents would discipline me, but occasionally one of my brothers would step up and take the blame for my actions.

A brother taking the punishment that I deserved represents only a small fraction of the love that Jesus has for each one of us. Jesus knows us and all the mistakes we have made, yet he loves us so much that he took the pain and agony of the worst punishment — death. But unlike my brother, Jesus was not guilty of anything. He “stepped up” because of the immeasurable love he has for each one of us. Like today’s verse says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” All of this so we can spend our lives — even into eternity — worshiping God and loving God’s creation. Truly, Jesus is the perfect example of grace and forgiveness.

TODAY'S PRAYER
Heavenly Father, may our love for you always be a response to your grace-filled love and forgiveness — and may it show in our love for others. Amen.
TWFYT:
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ODB:

The Crown of Life

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. James 1:12 nlt

READ James 1:1–12

Twelve-year-old LeeAdianez Rodriguez-Espada was worried that she’d be late for a 5K run (just over 3 miles). Her anxiousness led her to take off with a group of runners fifteen minutes earlier than her start time with participants of the half-marathon (more than 13 miles)! LeeAdianez fell in pace with other runners and put one foot in front of the other. At mile four, with the finish line nowhere in sight, she realized that she was in a longer and more difficult race. Instead of dropping out, she simply kept running. The accidental half-marathoner completed her 13.1-mile race and placed 1,885th out of 2,111 finishers. Now that’s perseverance!

While undergoing persecution, many first-century believers in Jesus wanted to drop out of the race for Christ, but James encouraged them to keep running. If they patiently endured testing, God promised a double reward (James 1:4, 12). First, “perseverance [would] finish its work” so they could be “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v. 4). Second, God would give them the “crown of life”—life in Jesus on earth and the promise of being in His presence in the life to come (v. 12).

Some days the Christian race feels like it’s not the one we signed up for—it’s something longer and more difficult than we expected. But as God provides what we need, we can persevere and keep on running.

By Marvin Williams

REFLECT & PRAY

What difficulty are you enduring right now? What can you do to remain faithful to God as you undergo testing?

Dear God, my legs are tired, and I feel like giving up. Please strengthen me.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

James encourages believers in Jesus experiencing “trials” (1:2, 12) by describing their unseen value—growth in perseverance, maturity, and wisdom (vv. 3-5). How believers respond to difficulty witnesses to their faith in Christ, who promises them a “crown of life” (v. 12).

Many believe these trials included persecution for their faith. New Testament scholar Scot McKnight argues that James’ emphasis on the dangers of wealth and the value of humility and poverty (vv. 9-11; 2:1-7) suggests that this persecution took the form of economic oppression. In James 2:6-7, the author describes the wealthy exploiting and oppressing believers.

Monica La Rose
Charles Stanley
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Friday, December 29 2023

Good Morning Servants! God loves you and has great plans for you--always! He is with you ans always wants to love and bless through you! PTL! Rejoice and follow God's lead well! He is using you and us and being glorified!

I overslept until 5 this morning and am on my way out the door for blood work and then clean up of my flooded again basement before heading to church. Thanks for your prayers! below find today's devos to process wih God and some others, Sarah's prayer letter from last night and a prayer calendar a bread ministry woman made up for me to share with you for a month of praying for your pastors. We need your prayers constantly and can feel God moving through them. Thank you!

Have a great day and choose joy! Shalom!

Sarah's email

Good evening, Warriors......

Here are a few people that need our prayers:

Pastor Don's sister, Connie is in the hospital with breathing distress and is in ICU with a dangerously high

blood sugar.  Pray that her sugar levels come down.

Karen Kerns' mother is sick with upper respiratory issues. She was around some folks that have RSV. 

Pray for her praying to improve.

Eric, Rachael and Maura (Pastor Don and Kerns' family) are all sick - please pray for healing and strength.

Paige and family (Karen's niece who recently lost their baby) the family is having a difficult time, and are dealing with

PTSD type symptoms. The family has been staying with Paige and family 24/7 so help with the family.  Keep them in your

prayers during this difficult time and also keep the rest of the family that has been staying with them, for strength to stay up.

** ** **

A huge thank you to all the 'extra' volunteers that stepped in today to assist with the Bread ministry. Some of the regular

volunteers are feeling under the weather, and unable to make it, BUT GOD.....there were several that came to assist.

Pastor Don mentioned that it was a good ministry day.

Prayers for safety and that all goes well, for Danny and Pastor Don as they install new toilets in the ladies room, in the church.

Yay God and a huge thank you to all of you that gave items to assist the Kindness Project.  We together, have an awesome

grouping of items to present to the Project to assist families that help children and youth in the foster care system. Thank you again,

everyone!!

Hope you all have a great rest of your week!

   Blessings,

   Sarah

Pray for your pastors:

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Charles Stanley:

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UR: The Rose

The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his face to you and grant you peace. - Numbers 6:25-26 (CEB)

While coping with the effects of chemotherapy one winter, I asked my son to purchase and plant a new rose bush in my garden. He went to the garden center and returned with a very spindly standard rose that had been the only one left. According to the label it was a white rose. I was grateful for his efforts but also a little disappointed. I had been hoping for a brightly colored rose.

My son planted the rose bush and come spring it looked healthy and started to thrive. When it flowered for the first time, I was amazed and surprised. It was a beautifully scented, dark pink rose! I was excited and felt blessed and full of praise for God’s goodness to me.

Through that pink rose bloom, I truly felt that God was smiling at me. It was a special blessing in a difficult time, reassuring me that I was loved and cared for. What a gracious, mighty, and generous God we have! God loves to bless us and reassure us in ways big and small.

TODAY'S PRAYER

Abba Father, thank you for smiling upon us. Open our eyes to recognize your generous blessings each day. Amen.ODB

Meeting the Needs of Others

If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset. Exodus 22:26

READ Exodus 22:22–27

audio playLISTEN ONLINE

Phillip’s father suffered from severe mental illness and had left home to live on the streets. After Cyndi and her young son Phillip spent a day searching for him, Phillip was rightly concerned for his dad’s well-being. He asked his mother whether his father and other people without homes were warm. In response, they launched an effort to collect and distribute blankets and cold-weather gear to homeless people in the area. For more than a decade, Cyndi has considered it her life’s work, crediting her son and her deep faith in God for awakening her to the hardship of being without a warm place to sleep.

The Bible has long taught us to respond to the needs of others. In the book of Exodus, Moses records a set of principles to guide our interaction with those who lack plentiful resources. When we’re moved to supply the needs of another, we’re to “not treat it like a business deal” and should make no gain or profit from it (Exodus 22:25). If a person’s cloak was taken as collateral, it was to be returned by sunset “because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in?” (v. 27).

Let’s ask God to open our eyes and hearts to see how we can ease the pain of those who are suffering. Whether we seek to meet the needs of many—as Cyndi and Phillip have—or those of a single person, we honor Him by treating them with dignity and care.

By Kirsten Holmberg

REFLECT & PRAY

How has God supplied your needs through others? Whose needs might you be able to supply?

Heavenly Father, please open my eyes to the needs of others.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

God gave the Ten Commandments to instruct His people how to bring honor to God through their lives. Commandments 1-4 (Exodus 20:1-11) instruct us to love God and commandments 5-10 (vv. 12-17) deal with loving our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18, 34). Moses then laid down various stipulations to teach God’s people how to love their neighbors (Exodus 21:1-23:9). In Exodus 22:21-27, Moses teaches us how to love the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan—the epitome of the poorest of the poor in ancient Jewish society. Love for neighbors means justice and compassion for the needy. Moses reminded the Israelites that God “shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:17-18). And Moses warned, “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow” (27:19).

K. T. Sim
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Friday, December 29 2023
Note: Due to the holiday, our bread delivery will only arrive at 11 this morning. So Bread distribution will be from 12-2 today. We have tons of bread to give away. PTL! We could use some help as well. Come get some bread and maybe help out a bit as well. Pray for Gail Lichtenwalner who was scheduled to serve but has the Flu. Pray for Gina Fuhrman who is suffer with back issues and spent the evening in the ER and is unable to serve today. Thank God for willing servants to step in. Thank God for His provision and this awesome ministry and connection point to people He is sending our way! Pray for those in need who come to get to know God's love through our loving service. Ask how you might help. Come get some bread for your friends and neighbors too. Pray for our next donut day on Jan. 10th and plan to attend and join God in what he wants to do through you.
Good Morning Good Morning Stewards of Many Blessings from God and Lavish Sowers! Hmm? Is that a contradiction? Nope! No matter your status or economic situation, you are being blessed abundantly by God as He meets your needs and provides what you need and gives excess according to your abilities and heart. All we have is a gift from God. God wants to bless through you and as you steward well all His blessings. That will include doing what you can with what you got. Sowing lavishly is a command and an example we see from Jesus and the early church that blessed many and grew the Kingdom. God gives according to your abilities and needs. Think of the parable of the talents where each of the three received according to their abilities. Two of the three invested and grew what they were given. One hid and squandered the potential return on investing. Yes we are called to sow lavishly while stewarding well all our blessings of time, talent and treasure. You have been given according to your abilities, life situation, and for God's plans for you. Talk to God about His plans for you and how He desires for you to invest into His plans with your time, talent and treasure for His glory. Check out our devos below that speak into this. What's God saying to you? What will you do about that? Who will you process with?
For many of us as we age, one of the key ministries we have is prayer warrior. All of us are called to pray as well. Check out the Harvest Prayer devo today about prayer releasing God's power. We need your prayers! God moves through prayer. As you spend time with Him, He will direct your prayers and inform your praying that you would partner with him to release His power where needed. Thanks for praying and stewarding well as you sow lavishly in prayer, love, service and as good stewards. keep at it! God is moving! Love God! Love people! Do something! Live and love, pray and serve more like Jesus everyday! he has great plans for you, even today! Shalom!
Harvest Prayer devo:

December 27 - Prayer Releases God’s Power

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (James 5: 16-18).

“Prayer,” said C. Samuel Storms, “in and of itself possesses no power.” I was astounded by that statement, and I didn’t understand it until I read what Storms said next: “Prayer is powerful because God is powerful, and prayer is the means through which that divine power is released and channeled into our lives.” In other words, all the power in prayer is really God’s power, activated by prayer.

When you pray for another person, there is nothing that flows from you to them – no vibes, no force, no energy. Instead, your prayers go heavenward, and the power of God moves from him to the ones you pray for.

When the Bible says “prayer…is powerful and effective,” it means God acts powerfully and effectively through the prayers of his people. Prayer is the instrument by which God has chosen to have his power directed in the universe. Ole Hallesby provides something of a mental picture of how this works: “This power is so rich and so mobile that all we have to do when we pray is to point to the persons or things to which we desire to have this power applied, and He, the Lord of this power, will direct the necessary power to the desired place.” What a surprising arrangement – God partnering with human beings to accomplish his purposes!

R.A. Torrey, enthralled by the enormity of this power, states, “Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power. All that God is, and …has, is at the disposal of prayer. Prayer can do anything that God can do, and as God can do anything, prayer is omnipotent.”

Prayer can do what political action cannot, what education cannot, what military might cannot, and what planning committees cannot. All these are impotent by comparison.

Prayer can move mountains. It can change human hearts, families, neighborhoods, cities, and nations. It’s the ultimate source of power, because it is the power of Almighty God. This power is available to the humblest Christian. It was “a man just like us” (Elijah) who prayed “that it would not rain,” and God stopped the rain in Israel for three and a half years. Where will the power of your prayers be felt today?

Father, I give You praise for Your great power by which You move in this world and by which You govern the affairs of all people. Thank You for Your willingness to hear my prayers and direct Your power to places and persons through them. In Jesus’ Name I ask that You would help me to grow in my ability to become a powerful and effective pray-er!

UR: Stewardship

A Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. - Luke 10:33 (NIV)

In 2003 I donated a kidney to someone I had never met. I didn’t begin with that outcome in mind. Initially I was tested for compatibility with a colleague who needed a transplant. I wanted to know if I could help.

Going through the pre-donation testing process changed me. I spent many hours in waiting rooms filled with people who could do nothing but hope that an organ would become available to save their lives. For me, it became a matter of stewardship. I realized that I had more than I needed because it’s possible to live a healthy life with just one kidney. I found myself surrounded by neighbors in urgent need of my abundance.

As it turned out, my colleague received what she needed from another donor. But God transformed my heart, and when I was approved as a donor, I chose to give a kidney to whoever needed it most. I’m grateful for the lessons God taught me about giving through this life-changing journey.

Everything we have belongs to God, and God wants us to serve our neighbors out of our abundance. We often think of stewardship in terms of money, but it is also about our time, possessions, and, yes, even our bodies.

ODB:

God’s Wisdom Saves Lives

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives. Proverbs 11:30

READ Proverbs 11:24–31

A mail carrier became concerned after seeing one of her customers’ mail pile up. The postal worker knew the elderly woman lived alone and usually picked up her mail every day. Making a wise choice, the worker mentioned her concern to one of the woman’s neighbors. This neighbor alerted yet another neighbor, who had a spare key to the woman’s home. Together they entered their friend’s home and found her lying on the floor. She had fallen four days earlier and couldn’t get up or call for help. The postal worker’s wisdom, concern, and decision to act likely saved her life.

Proverbs says, “the one who is wise saves lives” (11:30). The discernment that comes from doing right and living according to God’s wisdom can bless not only ourselves but those we encounter too. The fruit of living out what honors Him and His ways can produce a good and refreshing life. And our fruit also prompts us to care about others and to look out for their well-being.

As the writer of Proverbs asserts throughout the book, wisdom is found in reliance on God. Wisdom is considered “more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her” (8:11). The wisdom God provides is there to guide us throughout our lives. It just might save a life for eternity.

By Katara Patton

REFLECT & PRAY

How can you use wisdom to help someone today? How much do you value wisdom?

Heavenly Father, please give me wisdom to follow Your path and directions. Help me to look out for others as You guide me.

Learn more about your God-given calling.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

As general statements of wisdom and guidelines for living, proverbs predict expected outcomes based on our wise or foolish choices. Generosity is the theme of several of these proverbs (11:24-26), and the conclusion is clear: generosity is a wise approach to life. The apostle Paul highlighted the principle of sowing and reaping mentioned in verse 24 when he wrote, “Whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). Conversely, hoarding hurts both ourselves and others. By distributing what we have, we bless all concerned. Bible commentator David Stabnow points out how King Sihon of Heshbon refused to sell grain to the Israelites when they were passing through his land, and he and his people were destroyed (Deuteronomy 2:26-36). Joseph, on the other hand, stored grain for the purpose of distributing it. By doing so, he blessed the entire region with life—and preserved the nation of Israel in the process (Genesis 41:56).

Tim Gustafson
 
Charles Stanley and TWFYT
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Friday, December 29 2023

Immanuel! God is still with us! Everyday! 24-7! Rejoice! And He is always at work working all things together for good and according to His purposes. Amen!

Good Moring! Rejoice. Check out all our devos for today. I'm already working well into the new year with planning. What's God saying to you? What is He working on in and around you? What dreams and visions is He bringing? What will you do about all that? 

Rejoice. trust. Choose joy always. Follow well. What a great new years resolution! Keep working at becoming the person you were created to be and doing the things you were created and gifted to do for such a time as this. Pray and watch expectantly for all god has going on around you and join in being His hands and feet. Turn off the noise. Tune in and know Christ more and work on becoming more of who you are in Christ and doing more of what you were created to do. God has great plans for you! rejoice!

Here's Kim's pray blog for today from harvest Prayer: TEN PRAYER RESOLUTIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR

TEN PRAYER RESOLUTIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR

ODB:

The Day after Christmas

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

READ Luke 2:15–20

audio playLISTEN ONLINE

After all the joy of Christmas Day, the following day felt like a letdown. We’d stayed overnight with friends but hadn’t slept well. Then our car broke down as we were driving home. Then it started to snow. We had abandoned the car and taxied home in the snow and sleet feeling blah.

We’re not the only ones who’ve felt low after Christmas Day. Whether it’s from excessive eating, the way carols suddenly disappear from the radio, or the fact that the gifts we bought last week are now on sale half price, the magic of Christmas Day can quickly dissipate!

The Bible never tells us about the day after Jesus’ birth. But we can imagine that after walking to Bethlehem, scrambling for accommodation, Mary’s pain in giving birth, and having shepherds drop by unannounced (Luke 2:4–18), Mary and Joseph were exhausted. Yet as Mary cradled her newborn, I can imagine her reflecting on her angelic visitation (1:30–33), Elizabeth’s blessing (vv. 42–45), and her own realization of her baby’s destiny (vv. 46–55). Mary “pondered” such things in her heart (2:19), which must’ve lightened the tiredness and physical pain of that day.

We’ll all have “blah” days, perhaps even the day after Christmas. Like Mary, let’s face them by pondering the One who came into our world, forever brightening it with His presence.

By Sheridan Voysey

REFLECT & PRAY

When are you prone to feeling a “low” after a “high”? How can you ponder today all that Jesus has brought into the world?

Dear Jesus, I praise You for entering our dark world, forever brightening my days with Your presence.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Luke tells us that “all who heard” what had been told to the shepherds about Jesus’ birth “were amazed” (2:18). In the gospel of Luke, amazement or astonishment is a recurring description of how people respond to God’s actions (see 1:63; 2:33; 4:22; 8:25; 9:43; 11:14). Amazement is the appropriate and natural response to His wonders. But such amazement isn’t identical with belief. For example, in Luke 24:41, after Christ’s appearance to His disciples after His death, we’re told “they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement.” It’s possible that Luke emphasizes that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (2:19) to capture the value of not only reacting with amazement but also continually and daily wrestling with the realities of what God is doing. Luke’s comment on Mary’s pondering could also indicate Luke relied on her testimony (see 1:2-3) for his account of the shepherds.

Monica La Rose

UR: 

Jesus said, “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” - Matthew 10:42 (NRSVUE)

My family and community usually let Christmas pass by without any acknowledgment. To comfort myself and appreciate the meaning of Christmas, I usually watch a Christmas concert or go to church and then have my favorite food on Christmas Day.

One year, I wanted to do something different for Christmas, so I chose to visit a friend who was hospitalized. At first I felt awkward about my choice since it had nothing to do with Christmas. But I was encouraged by the Spirit and was filled with abundant love, joy, and peace. I truly felt God’s presence that Christmas Day.

We often associate Christmas with joyous and sometimes glamorous celebrations. But it is also a time to remember God’s love for us and to allow God’s Spirit to shine through our words and deeds. The love we share with others pleases God and blesses our lives.

Even if we are unable to buy gifts or host large gatherings for Christmas, we can still be joyful. The most important thing is that we receive Jesus with humble and worshipful hearts. And we can gladly share what blessings we have with those in need.

TODAY'S PRAYER

Dear Jesus, thank you for giving yourself as a living sacrifice. We celebrate your goodness to us by sharing your love with others. Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:35 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, December 25 2023
Merry Christmas! For unto us a Savior has been born. He is Christ the Lord! Woo Who! Rejoice!
Who is that Baby? How is that affecting your life? He made you, loves you so much that He put on flesh and left heaven to bring forgiveness, hope, love and new life alive so that you could be with Him forever. Worship Him! Offer yourself to Him. Receive Him! He really loves you and wants to spend eternity with you and He has made that possible! Bow down and worship the King of the Universe, our Lord and Savior!
Yesterday our numbers swelled (We would have had over 70 if our sick and traveling members would have been there) as some invited guests joined us and heard the Good News about that Baby/King. We had some extra family members, racing people, bread ministry people, and even some that use our building for an NA meeting place. Why? Because we invited them to come and see and experience the love of God and His love through us. Several families have expressed interest in joining St. Matts. Why? because of God loving through us and a simple invite. PTL and ask Him who He wants you to invite to come experience Love. Then do it! We are really growing at learning to live and love like Jesus and into the people we were created to be as we learn to live and love like Jesus better! PTL!
The angels said to the shepherds to go and find hope, wrapped in swaddling clothing lying in a manger. They did, yet really didn't understand the significance of it all. But went and spread the good news that the Messiah had come! There was hope in baby flesh for all. The longing in prayer for God to send the promised one had been answered. We may not understand, well really can't, fathom the immensity of God's love, wisdom and plans. That's a good thing! But we have met the Savior and know Him as our Lord and we can allow Him to save us, love through us, mold us and use us for His glory. That comes to life as we step into our new nature in Christ and follow Him just as we are to our custom made purposes. What joy! What love! A baby changes everything! Rejoice!
Thank you all for partnering together to love well! Thank you to our Family Ministry team of servants who served us yesterday. Thank you to the anonymous donor that helped fund the meal. Thank you to all who offered their gifts to make the traditional part of worship beautiful. Thank you for the gift given to me! (What a blessing!) And thank you for your love! Many experienced God's love yesterday and want more! PTL! God really loves us and has more great plans ahead! Let us continue to seek Him and follow our Bright Morning Star as we light up the world around us! Living and loving like Jesus, just as you are and doing what we were made to do with what we've been given is Jesus' easy yoke. May we seek more of Him and grow more into our greater purposes in 2024. But for today, be still and know that He is our God who loves us just as we are and enjoy this day of celebration. Receive His love and shalom. Yes a baby does change everything! Rejoice!
Who is that baby? Why does it matter? What's that mean to you? A Baby Changes Everything:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKM9VWcy_so
I am who I am because I am allowing I AM to be who He is in and through me!Living and loving like Jesus begins with a baby and allowing Him to become your Lord, Savior and Shepherd. That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. Rejoice for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Christ our Lord! Open and share the greatest gift ever given--LOVE! Abide in His love always and know His peace! Rejoice!
(NOTE: with many around us being sick and COVID spreading again, we decided to have a week of home church on Zoom only next Sunday Dec 31st to allow things to settle down before gathering again Jan. 7th)
Sarah Prayer Letter from last night: 
Good evening Warriors,
What a great day of worship and fellowship......Our Christmas Eve service was a wonder-filled experience.
 Several new faces and families joined us to hear about the true meaning of Christmas.
Worship, praises, prayer, yummy food, and fellowship.....what a day!
It is our prayer that as you celebrate Christmas with your family and friends, that you will not forget
the true reason for the season!   JESUS!
We have a prayer request to share..... Gladys Ketner was transferred back to the hospital today.
 She has tested positive with COVID. They are hoping to be able to give her the medication she needs
quicker through an IV. Keep her in your prayers for healing...and also her family.
Continue to pray for Lorraine Sigafoss as she is in ICU with heart issues.
Continue to pray for Tara Walters - as her heal weakens we are praying that the Lord will send His
angels to usher her home. Please keep her family in your prayers during this difficult time.
Pray for one another. as some are dealing with sadness, loss of a loved one, depression and illness during this holiday
season.   Found this song tonight..... Bring your wounded heart to the manger. Fall down at the feet of the King, When
thrills of hope don't find you, He loves you just the same. You don't have to be OK, just because it's Christmas.
He is healing for the broken and He's home for all the lost. He's comfort for the weary, sent from Heaven just for us
So you don't have to hide your questions deep within your soul. Emmanuel already knows.......
May we celebrate Emmanuel, God who is always with us!
Have a great Christmas celebration!
   Blessings,
   Sarah

Posted by: AT 12:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, December 25 2023
Joe Toy, Wagner's and Paul's newsletters below.
Good Morning Lighthouses! Jesus is the Light of the World and He lives in us wanting to light up the world around us, drive back the darkness and lead others to safe shores in Christ. AMEN! Today at our worship/brunch gathering we will have the opportunity to be His light. Pray for help, courage and wisdom as we welcome many guests that will be joining us. It's not too late to bring someone along!
Today we will be discussing who that baby in the manger is and how He has affected our lives as we worship, sing, praise, fellowship, commune, feast and shine bright as we love like Jesus! Pray for all hinderances and strongholds to be torn down for those God is sending and calling. Pray for me to bring His Word in power and for Mike as He leads an altar call and Sarah as she brings prayer to life and for all of us to love well. Pray for the Holy Spirit to come fill us, our house of worship and overflow to all who will come. God has great plans for you and for us. He is already at work. And He is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. (That's you and us!) We all matter and have roles to play today and always in His Good News Delivery Co. Pray for all of us to shine bright today.
Many among our fellowship are sick right now. Pray for healing and a covering of health over us all and for those we are engaging with. Our policy is that if you are sick, stay home. You can join us on Zoom. Pray for those who our mourning or going through some hard times to know peace beyond understanding and be able to choose joy. Pray for those who are depressed to be drawn out by God's love and promises and our love. And rejoice with those who are rejoicing! Sometimes, just counting blessings and choosing joy even when we don't feel like it is the key to healing. Rejoice! For unto us is born a Savior--Christ our Lord, Price of Peace, Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, God's Word in the Flesh who came to make a way for all who will come! Rejoice! Who is that baby in the manger to you and how has He changed your life? Someone needs to hear that today, this week and wherever you step.
I'm praying for you all to have the merriest of Christmases and most blessed 2024. God loves you beyond measure! You are His masterpiece, made new in Christ and have custom made purposes awaiting! Rejoice and may your life be an act of worship as you light up the world as you choose to live and love Jesus. I'm praying for you and God is cheering you on! See you soon!

December 24 - A Prayer for Christmas Eve

Before you begin, ask God to reveal to your heart the ways that the enemy has robbed you of the peace that is yours because of Christ. Confess these things to Him and ask Him to pour out on you His peace that passes all understanding.  Ask Him to still the storms in your life and refocus your living.

I thank You Father, that Jesus Himself is my peace and that He has completely destroyed the barrier that separated me from You! How grateful I am that I have been reconciled to Him through His blood shed on the cross and now have peace with You.

Forgive me I pray, for the times that I do not cast my cares and anxieties onto You, but instead carry them myself and allow my heart to be weighed down and needlessly burdened. I ask that Your peace, which is beyond my ability to understand, guard my heart and my mind--cover me, because I am in Christ Jesus. I belong to You. Thank You Lord Jesus, for the peace that You give to me which is so very different than the fleeting attempts of the world to quiet my heart. Guard my heart by Your Holy Spirit, that I might not be afraid. Help me to learn to be still and know that You are God, to hear Your voice in the midst of the storms that I face saying “Peace, be still.” Keep me from fear and increase my faith. May my life be characterized by Your peace no matter what situation I might face, that You may be glorified in me and through me and receive the praise that is due Your name.

May I love Your Word that I might have great peace and not stumble.

May my mind be controlled by Your Holy Spirit and produce life and peace.

May Your strength and peace fill my life because I belong to You.

Lord Jesus, You are my Wonderful Counselor, You are Mighty God, the Everlasting Father incarnate and Prince of Peace! With You all things are possible. I invite You into the impossible situations of my life and ask that as I wait on You, You fill me with Your peace – for my hope is in You alone and I trust in Your great name.

(Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20; Romans 5:1; 1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:7; John 14:27; Psalm 46:10; Mark 4:35-41; Psalm 119:165; Romans 8:6; Psalm 29:11; Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 19:26)

--Advent devotion written by Tiece King, author of Pray the Word for Your Church. This resource is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount on the book.

Prayer Points

  • Focus on Jn. 15:1-17 for the next few days.
  • Praise your Father, who is the gardener of your soul.
  • Thank Jesus for being the true vine which nourishes and gives life to the branches.
  • Confess moments when you’ve tried to sever your relationship to Jesus in some way.
  • Commit yourself to welcoming God’s pruning in your life despite the pain it might bring.
  • Ask God to make you more fruitful as you live for him.
  • Ask that your fruit-bearing will be attractive to unsaved people you know. Pray that they will “taste [of that fruit] and see that the LORD is good” (Ps. 34:8). 
     
    Prayer Pointer
    “God rules the world through the prayers of his people.” —Anonymous
Prayer Points taken from Patterns for Prayer by Alvin VanderGriend. 
Wagner's News:

Greetings Friends, 

Last weekend, we visited the town of Skaneateles (pronounced like “Skinny Atlas”) on the Finger Lakes in upstate New York and participated in the annual Dickens festival. We were with Tim and Sandy who will be covering our dorm for the next two terms at RVA. Thanks for remembering to pray for them as they head to Kenya early next week. Today, we arrived in Minneapolis after driving from PA. This weekend, our kids will be arriving with their spouses. It will be our first Christmas together with the whole family in four years. In 2019, we were a family of 5, as none of our kids were married. This year with everyone happily married, we are a family of 9 and all will be enjoying baby snuggles with a three-week-old nephew/grandson. We rejoice and give thanks recognizing that all good things come from the hand of our faithful Father.

We are writing this quick note to wish everyone a “Happy Christmas”, the phrase used regularly at the Dickens festival. As we remember the birth of our Lord and Savior, and the hope He brings to each of us who trust in Him, we are very thankful to be able to celebrate this wonderful gift with family!

We also wanted to share our contact information for the next 8 months. Our mailing address is: PO Box 214, Millersville, PA 17551. Brian’s cell is 717-615-3795. Missy’s cell is 717-615-3835. We would love to hear from you while we are in the States and try to connect in person. Please reach out as we are currently planning our travels for the next few months. In the very immediate future, we will be near northern Indiana, southern Michigan, and northern Ohio next week on December 29 and 30. Let us know if you are in that area and perhaps, we can have lunch together.
Prayer Updates
Please continue to PRAY that the doctors will be able to discern the cause of the excess pressure in Brian’s heart. It seems like we will start the new year with a battery of tests, essentially every other day. We continue to be thankful that we have good medical care to help diagnosis the cause of the inflammation. PRAY with us for accurate test results, clarity on the cause, and good treatment options.
 
The car that Micah was able to purchase ended up having the engine light come on within the first 150 miles and he has found that quite a bit of work needs to be done. We are so impressed by how well he and Lynnsi are handling this unexpected development and added expense trusting that this is all part of God’s plan, even if they don’t understand why. PRAY that they will be able to sort everything out and end up with a good reliable car that will last them a long time.
 
Reach out and let us know if you would like us to visit or if you would like to come see us in beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
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Joe Toy news:
Our mailing address is:
57 N Chaucer Way
Kittrell, NC  27544
 
Contact: 
Facebook:  OAMPhilly
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Website:    OAMPhilly
Larry Paul News: Paul Prayer Letter December 20232
  • Larry & Enol Paul 
    Sat, Dec 23 at 3:31 AM

    December 2023

    Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

    As we look back at the year 2023, we are thankful for how God has directed, protected, and provided for us.  And we appreciate the prayers and support from all of you.  Because of this, we know that God wants us here serving at Faith Academy to support Bible Translation.

    Larry has been busy with his additional responsibilities due to his co-worker returning to the USA to help take care of his parents and in-laws.  While monitoring the transportation and grounds departments, there's added work in maintenance and campus development.  The new Elementary office and classrooms and the installation of the CCTV cameras around campus are being completed and should be finished in January. After the contractor completed the fencing project around an undeveloped lot in October, they started a new project in a different area of the campus to replace a barbed wire fence with a chain link fence up a steep hill for added security.  Now that it's the end of the rainy season two projects will be started in January: Replacing the concrete deck around the swimming pool and roofing and gutter work on multiple campus buildings.  Larry's also beginning the design to renovate office space since his departments do not need all of the space they are currently using and other departments can use the space next school year. There are larger priority projects currently seeking funding to build a new parking lot, build a handicap ramp near the High School office, and install a wheelchair lift to allow PWD students to access all of the Middle School classrooms.  Other priority projects listed this year include renovating the existing ESD office to a new classroom, building a new High School wing, and building a new facilities building so their existing space can be converted to middle school classrooms.

    Enol is enjoying her time volunteering a few days a week at Faith Academy's Elementary division.  She's reconnecting with old friends and making new friends while helping the teachers with their classes.  Enol's mother went to be with the Lord in September.  She stayed in the village after the Bible dedication in June to be with her family and friends.  Unfortunately, she became sick and was taken to the hospital in the city where she passed on.  Enol was able to return to the village for her funeral and be with her family during their time of grief.  This was important to her since she missed her father's funeral because we were in the USA when he died.

    Richard and Brayden continue to do well in school in both academics and sports.  Richard is doing well and keeping up with the work needed in his AP classes, both the online classes and the in-person classes.  Brayden adjusted to the expected classwork and homework in his high school classes and earned good grades for the first semester.  Larry traveled to Korea with Richard and the rest of the Faith Academy varsity volleyball team to compete in the ACSC (Asia Christian Schools Conference) tournament against other Christian schools in SE Aisa.  They were not expected to do very well since they lost a lot of games against volleyball club teams in the Philippines, but they worked hard and came together as a team and won the tournament!  Way to go Vanguards!  Brayden and the Faith Academy junior varsity volleyball team worked hard and came in second in their season-ending tournament.  Richard and Brayden are both currently on the Faith Academy varsity basketball team.  The team has been playing well and is currently undefeated this season.  Their season will resume after Christmas break when they'll have more league games and a tournament at Faith Academy in January before going to the ACSC basketball tournament in Indonesia in February.  

    Praises

    • Richard and Brayden doing well at Faith Academy, both with schoolwork and athletics.
    • Enol can volunteer at Faith Academy
    • God's provision for our needs and our good health
    Prayer Requests
    • Larry to continue to handle the additional responsibilities at Faith Academy
    • Enol's sister Zeny, complete recovery from stroke, and her financial needs
    Thank you again for your continued prayers and support of our ministry at Faith Academy in the Philippines.

    Larry, Enol, Richard, and Brayden
    New chain link fence being installed on a steep hill!
    Richard and Brayden performing at the October concert.
    2023 ACSC Boys Volleyball champions!
    Our boys playing basketball!
    Richard and Brayden playing at the Christmas concert.

    Financial Partnership

    Mail a check to:

    Wycliffe

    PO Box 628200

    Orlando, FL 32862-8200

    www.wycliffe.org

    Include a separate note stating it’s in preference for the Wycliffe ministry of Larry & Lucena Paul, account #219478.

    Online partnership: https://www.wycliffe.org/partner/DB5529

Posted by: AT 12:23 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, December 25 2023

It's Christmas Eve Eve! Woo who! It's almost time to remember and celebrate THE Gift! The greatest Gift of all time is Jesus Christ--God in the flesh who came in love for us! PTL! Rejoice! "For unto us a Savior has been born! He is Christ our Lord!" Amen!

Find below Sarah's update for prayerful consideration

Good Morning (maybe good night as God got me up at 12;30 and it's now 2:30 am--I used to just be getting home from the bars now in my old nature. PTL for new life and ways!) Anyway, Good Morning Joy Bringers, Love Bringers, Hope Bringers, Watering, Fertilizing, Reaping, and Good News Bringers and Followers of THE Way! That is us! And that is our prayer as we prepare for God to use us tomorrow as we worship, fellowship, eat and commune together in celebration of the birthday of our Lord and Savior! King of kings. Lord of lords. Messiah! Immanuel--God is with us and put on flesh that we might be saved, forgiven and shown how to live for Him and like Him as we prepare for eternity with Him. Joy to the World! May we incarnate and bring that joy, His love and our hope alive over the next few days, weeks and years. That's our mission and why we are here. We are sent, just as we are to share the Good News and make disciples! We all have a role custom made for custom made us with custom purposes all along the journey as we grow at living and loving like Jesus! PTL! Born that men (and women) might live! 

God is speaking to us and awoke me early to refine His message for tomorrow, to pray into tomorrow and to encourage you to come, experience His Love and plans for you and those He is sending and to remind you to pray for the harvest and bring someone along to experience Christ's love as we fellowship and worship together tomorrow. He has great plans for you and some miracles and new life gifts awaiting some tomorrow. Come Lord Jesus! Come alive through us tomorrow! Bring new life, healing miracles, and Your plans alive! Come alive through us! May there be great celebration and joy in heaven tomorrow as we worship with your angles about Who You are, why that matters and bring You and new life alive! COME! Be glorified! Use us and bring in the harvest as we live and love like you! Thank You! Amen!

Check out Our Daily Bread and Upper Room devotionals below. Oh yes, God is speaking to you and us! What's He saying to you and what will you do about it? We are His Body and family and we get to worship, celebrate, fellowship and light up the world together! What joy we will know and love come alive we will experience! I can't wait! A word that is shared often is "believe". Yes believe in prayer with much thanksgiving for what God will continue to do as we remember and experience how He made a way from the manger and continues to light up the world as He loves through us! Rejoice! And pray for many to come to believe that that baby in the manger came to be their Lord and Savior and receive the greatest gift ever--God's love!

Yes, Joy to the World indeed! So, what's that mean to you and who needs to hear it and be invited to experience it? Pray into that! Let heaven and earth receive her King!

ODB:

Fellowship in Jesus

Encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

READ 1 Thessalonians 5:11–15

audio playLISTEN ONLINE

I’m not sure who’s responsible for turning out the lights and locking up the church after our Sunday morning service, but I know one thing about that person: Sunday dinner is going to be delayed. That’s because so many people love to hang around after church and talk about life decisions, heart issues and struggles, and more. It’s a joy to look around twenty minutes after the service and see so many people still enjoying each other’s company.

Fellowship is a key component of the Christlike life. Without the connectivity that comes from spending time with fellow believers, we’d miss out on many benefits of being a believer.

For instance, Paul says we can “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). The author of Hebrews agrees, telling us not to neglect getting together, because we need to be “encouraging one another” (10:25). And the writer also says that when we’re together, we “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (v. 24).

As people dedicated to living for Jesus, we prepare ourselves for faithfulness and service as we “encourage the disheartened” and are “patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Living that way, as He helps us, allows us to enjoy true fellowship and “to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (v. 15).

By Dave Branon

REFLECT & PRAY

What benefits do you gain from being with believers? How can you help others experience fellowship in Christ?

Dear God, please help me to be a “fellowshiper”—one who generously encourages others in love and compassion.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Scholars believe that Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, likely written around ad 50, may be the oldest writing in the New Testament. In this letter, Paul writes to a new community of believers in Jesus who emerged as a result of Paul and Silas’ visit to Thessalonica during Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-9). Paul described himself and Silas as like a “nursing mother” (1 Thessalonians 2:7) or “father” (v. 11) to the Thessalonians. The church was primarily gentile (non-Jewish) believers; we’re told they’d “turned to God” from idol worship (1:9-10), a primarily gentile practice. Paul seems to have written 1 Thessalonians in response to a visit from Timothy, who brought an encouraging report of the believers’ “faith and love” (3:6) but may have also hinted at things “lacking in [their] faith” (v. 10). In this letter, Paul reinforces the heart of the gospel message and encourages the Thessalonian believers on how to live out their new faith.

Monica La Rose

UR: Seasons of Joy

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. - Isaiah 60:1 (NIV)

We have a Chief Joseph lodgepole pine growing in our front yard. This unusual conifer attracts much attention and is the subject of many comments because of its seasonal change from green to yellow. In the winter, when deciduous trees are barren and dark, this pine displays needles that are an effervescent yellow, bringing joy and light to a landscape that some find otherwise depressing. In the spring, its winter job done, the tree transitions back to green.

Like this tree, Christians can spread light and joy. By following in Christ’s footsteps, we can watch for opportunities to ease the burden of others who are going through a difficult season in life. Whether we serve through formal volunteer organizations or as individuals, we may be able to lift someone’s spirit, giving hope by providing a nutritious meal, offering a ride to a medical appointment, assisting with a needed home repair, or simply by providing kind words to a fellow human.

TODAY'S PRAYER

Dear Lord, help us to follow in Christ’s footsteps as we strive to be a blessing to others. Amen.

Sarah email:

Hi everyone.....

Can you believe it, that Christmas is almost here!  Where has 2023 gone!  It seems as though it has 

flown by.  I hope and pray that as this busy season approaches, that you are taking time for yourself and

making time of Jesus in your life.

During this past month of December, we all have gotten to sing some of our favorite Christmas Carols.  One of the carols

we sing wasn't written originally as a Christmas Song.  

Isaac Watts wrote the song, based on the words of Psalm 98......

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things:

his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.

The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness

to the nations.

He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the 

earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;

make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of 

the ram's horn - shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;

let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.

He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.

Anyone know which carol I am speaking of?  It's Joy to the World.

   If you look at the lyrics of Joy to the World, you will see that the lyrics do not reflect

the virgin birth of Jesus, but rather of Christ's second coming.

Another tidbit - the first 4 notes to Joy to the World are the first 4 notes in the chorus of the

  hymn "Lift Up Your Heads" from Handels' Messiah.

As you sing and/or hum this carol over the next couple of days......may we reflect on the excitement

of that day when Jesus WILL RETURN again and gather us all up and take us home! 

We will all then sing.....JOY to the WORLD the LORD has COME!!!

** ** **

We ask that you continue to pray for Gladys Ketner, and Tara Walters....as they are still in the hospital.

Also keep their families in your prayers also.  

Pray for our Christmas Eve service and brunch and all those that will be attending. Some may be hearing

the true meaning of Christmas for the first time; some in attendance may have strayed away and are feeling

a nudge from Jesus to come back; some may be dealing with a difficult time and/or situation during this holiday

time......pray that God's peace will surround us all and that His amazing Love, through the gift of His Son, will

be felt!

Pastor Don has visited several of our homebound family and they are doing well and send their hello's to us, their

church family. Pray for Pastor Don as reaches out to a few other homebound members in the coming week.

We look forward to seeing you all at our 10:00 am Christmas Eve service and brunch to follow.

Have a great weekend

    Blessings,

      Sarah

Posted by: AT 12:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, December 22 2023

Joe Toy Newsletter below

TGIF=Thank God I'm Forgiven! Thank God for that Baby in a manger who grew to be our sacrificial Lamb! Thank God for the free gift of salvation, faith, forgiveness, and eternal life! Thank God always and pray with expectation and thanksgiving!

Thank you for your prayers yesterday for our grieving family. God was with us and the family. God gave the parents strength to share during the funeral. Can't even imagine how without God. Their testimonies show that God is answering prayers and drawing them close during this horrific loss of their two year old. When we get to the end of ourselves, God is there and Travis shared how he has cried out to God because he cannot do this on his own. God is faithful! The pastor reminded us that we may never understand some of God's plans but we can know He promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called by Him. Amen! We are praying for all of you who are clinging to God right now. He promises to be with you always. Receive His loving help and compassion.

Some of our devotionals speak into this today. TWFYT reminds us about doubt we often face in crisis and grief of loss. They remind us, as Travis is experiencing, "True faith only goes into operation when there are no answers." God is using many of us who have already traveled through some of these hard things to comfort others. The Upper Room discuss the "Power in Prayer" to our "Father of compassion and the God of all comfort" who comforts us, prepares us and uses us to comfort others. Ask God for help and for whom He may be sending you. Sometimes just His presence through us is all that is needed. Just listen and love. We usually have no answers for the "WHY's". Don't even try. God's ways are not ours, but He is always at work for good and is always there when terrible-in-our-minds things are allowed. Just be present and love and allow God to love and comfort through you. And keep praying like crazy for peace beyond understanding and for God's loving presence to be received. Remember all Jesus endured and how His heart often broke for His very loved children. Allow Him to comfort and love through you and try to allow Him to love and comfort you.

I end with Harvest prayer's blog today reminding us of the power in prayer. It's a reminder about praying for and receiving Jesus' power. It's about expecting the miraculous love and power of Christ to come alive in, through and around you. Pray for that power to love, comfort and bring healing, hope and new life to those He is sending you to. Pray into that for Sun. (we are expecting many visitors who need to know Who that Baby is and how He has changed your life and can change theirs) Who are you inviting and bringing along? Who are you praying for God to send and draw to Him? I simply have invited several people and they have accepted and say they plan to come. Pray for all hindrances for that to be gone, for God to draw and for strongholds to be tore down as He brings new life, healing and hope alive. I am praying with thanksgiving and expecting to see some miracles on Sunday. Pray in faith with me! God has some great and miraculous plans coming to life as we continue to work on living and loving like Jesus! Amen! and PTL!

We have been given the free gift of love, faith, and hope and are empowered to share it. This year pray into and share the greatest gift ever! The gift that keeps on giving! God's love! Amen!

TWFYT:

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UR: Power in Prayer

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

My mother was 52 when she died of a heart attack. She had not been a heart patient and had been healthy, so her sudden death came as a great shock to my family and me. We did not talk much about my mother for fear that talking about her would cause more hurt.

But during that time of sorrow and trouble God was with us. My mother was a God-fearing and God-loving person. She had taught us to love God, and our family continued to pray in the morning as we always did when she was alive. My dad kept on praying for our family’s comfort, and many friends and relatives also prayed for us.

With so much prayer I started to feel peace and comfort within me. I especially felt that the presence of God was with us all. God’s love and the support of our family and friends helped us to overcome our great loss and helped us to live life normally again.

We are all sent by God to help and support one another in times of trouble. Whether we know someone well or not, we are called as Christians to hold others in prayer as together we are all united in the body of Christ.

TODAY'S PRAYER

Dear God, thank you for your love and comfort that gives us strength to keep going even in our darkest times. Amen.Harvest Prayer Daily Devotion:

December 22 - “Seeing” through Prayer

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12).

Jesus prayed for power prior to or during His miracles. Interestingly, most Gospel records of Jesus’ miracles make no mention of Jesus praying! I count fifty-eight different miracles of Jesus, including groups of His predictions. On only six of these occasions do the Gospels specifically mention Jesus prayed: feeding the 5,000, feeding the 4,000, the Transfiguration, healing the convulsive boy (prayer assumed), raising Lazarus from the dead, and at Jesus’ atoning sacrifice.

However, I believe He prayed at some point during most—if not all—of the miracles He performed. Why? First, He prayed often (Luke 5:16). Second, there are many acts Jesus did that the Gospels do not mention (Jn. 21:25). The Evangelists rarely recorded Jesus’ daily activities of eating, bathing, sleeping and praying (all of which observant Jews did)—unless something was unusual. Third, Jesus said that He did nothing unless He saw the Father do it (John 5:19)—which would include doing miracles, and prayer was the most likely way for Jesus to “see.” Fourth, He said He could do nothing on His own initiative (John 5:30, 8:28, 12:49-50), and prayer was the expected way to ask for permission. Fifth, prayer is the likely means by which Jesus asked the Father for the power to do miracles, which manifested His messiahship from God. Therefore, it makes sense that Jesus prayed each time that He performed these mighty works of God.

Lord, You performed many miracles through the power of Your Father and You have said that if I have faith in You I will do even greater things than You did on earth.  Give me such faith to believe that You can and will use me and other believers to do more than we can think or imagine because You have promised it in Your word.  Give Your Church boldness to step out in great faith!

--Taken from Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry (Chapter 5, God the Son and Prayer by James R. Wicker).

Joe Toy:

Prayer Concerns:  Pray for Mardi Gras Outreach February 7-14, 2024

December 2023
“...and you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.”

Dear Friends,

                As the angels brought a message of hope to the shepherds about the birth of the Messiah, so we continue to spread the good news of the gospel in the Triangle Area of North Carolina.  In late November, a team of six engaged the crowds waiting for the Raleigh Christmas Parade with the good news of Jesus.  We were given great liberty to walk the parade route passing out thousands of gospel tracts and reminding the crowds of the importance of God’s love expressed to the world in the giving of His Son to save sinners.

As the parade began, we moved off the route, so the folks could enjoy the parade. It was way cool to have one of our friends come up and say, “It’s the bus station preachers,” and then shake our hand.  It shows us that our consistent witness in Raleigh is touching lives for eternity and our labors are  not in vain, so we press on with the gospel.

It is hard to believe that fifteen weeks of college campus ministry is over for the semester. We have spent two days of the week at UNC and NC State preaching, witnessing and passing out gospel literature. I have focused all of my preaching on the gospel of John attempting to make Jesus an unavoidable issue. For the first eight weeks, I spoke on the seven miracles of Jesus and His resurrection.  The last seven weeks were spent on His seven I am statements.  Each week, we were able to pass out lots of tracts and engage many students in conversation. 

One young man asked me at UNC, “Do you believe in fatalism or free will?” That is a loaded question.  But after discussing God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, we were able to converse on God’s plan of salvation and our need to trust Christ.  A few weeks later we met Chris, who is an alumni, but has found himself in a place where he has walked away from a previous profession of faith.  He now struggles with the brokenness of life that sin brings.  It was a joy to challenge him to return to Christ in repentance. I have seen him a few times since then, but he is still not where he needs to be.

Eli and Isaac belong to a campus ministry called Wellspring.  These young men are on fire and boldly preach Christ and witness to their fellow students consistently.  It is a joy to work with these young men and encourage them in the task of evangelism.  They are truly an inspiration and the Lord is using them mightily to rock their campus for the Kingdom of God. Pray for these young men to be steadfast in the Lord.

We finished up our college football outreach with a team of ten people at Carter Finley Stadium for the big rivalry game between UNC and NC State.  It was awesome to have a big team as the crowds of people flowed to the stadium.  We were able to break into three teams and cover more of the crowd.  Usually, we begin our outreach  three hours before game time with gospel preaching and literature distribution.  Most of the time we don’t have much gospel interaction, but there are those divine appointments that occur.  As Zack Brady was preaching, a crowd of ten Muslim students engaged him in dialog. Zack did a great job pointing out the flaws of their world view and showing them how they need forgiveness of sins that only Jesus can provide.  It was a great encounter and an awesome way to end our night.

The Moore Square Bus Station in Raleigh has been a weekly outreach for over two years.  Recently, there has been an uptick in crime, which has increased the police presence.  We continue to preach the gospel and pass out literature.  It is not uncommon for seven bibles to be picked up from our literature table.  In the midst of the troubles many are being counseled and helped. 

Pastor Jeremy stopped by from the Raleigh Dream Center and led one man to Christ last week.  Much gospel seed is being sown and we have a group of faithful men and great support form the churches who helped provide for some of the basic needs of the men and the women.
Pray for this outreach to bear much fruit. 
Thanks for all your prayers and support.
God Bless.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Our mailing address is:
57 N Chaucer Way
Kittrell, NC  27544
 
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Open Air Ministries, Inc.

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Friday, December 22 2023

"For unto us a Savior has been born! he is Christ the new born King!" Rejoice!

Good Morning Reborn in Christ, Hope-Filled, Family! Contemplate that salutation as you pronounce it over you and our fellowship! God put on flesh and came to live among us that we might have the opportunity to be reborn in Christ, be filled with hope and enabled to complete our mission together as we spur each other on in faith. What joy we can know as we grow in sharing our hope and inviting others to walk with us as we learn to live and love like Jesus better. Pray into that and pray into Sunday's festive Acts 2:42 type of worship service we will celebrate together and with invited guest who don't know Jesus or us yet. Father, Thank You for love and new life. Thank You for being with us always working all things together for your glory and Kingdom. Move us to be Your hands and feet, to share our hope well and to help others find new life in You. Please tear down any strongholds or barriers for those you are sending Sunday. Thank You! In the name of Jesus we pray as we ask for new life, Jesus' love and for healing and hope to come alive. Thank You! Amen! (pray something like that often for Sun and prepare your heart to allow God to use you.)

Sunday's message will be all about pondering who that baby in the manger is and how that affects our lives. We will use a lot of the Gospel of John we have just completed. Who is that baby to you? How has He affected your life? Be prepared to share that on Sunday. Charles Stanley has a great thought about that in His devotional today. Check it our below! God has some great plans for you, us and some people He is drawing to Him for Sunday! Rejoice, pray and prepare to bring and live the Good News!

Today will be a very hard day for our family as we bury two year old Hunter, our niece's son. We covet your prayers. Thank you. Many of us know grief and are experiencing some real hard things this year. As I have been ministering in this with myself and many of you, I am constantly reminded of my hope, my solid faith, God's ever-present love and care and His compassion. Today as I read Psalm 42 from ODB (open your Bibles and read that and 43 out loud) I was reminded of the last episode of season 3 of the Chosen. Asaph had prepared a Psalm to read to David with a choir humming behind Him. POWERFUL! Watch it and listen to and contemplate that Psalm today as you thirst after God and put your hope in Him. God is there with you with open arms of love and comfort and He may be stirring you to be His comfort as well. Love like Jesus. Be present, still, and share His love and compassion.

Yesterday I was questioned by one of our seasoned, solid-in-faith homebound members about something that was troubling him. How could our God allow death and suffering. He knows the answer but His empathy and compassion were bubbling to the surface and he is struggling with his having questions of God. God loves us and loves we when we question for understanding, healing and wisdom. Think about the virgin Mary wondering how she would become pregnant when she was still a virgin and trying to wrap her head around all that was being prophesied over her. Think about the "thick headed" disciples questioning Jesus all the time. It is ok to seek God for understanding and wisdom and discernment. Don't allow Satan or your own thinking to cause you to question your faith or motives. I'm always crying out to God to help me become a disciple maker, why I am failing, who am I supposed to disciple when it seems like no one is available or wanting to. He knows our hearts. He made us. And He allows and helps us through whatever we are facing step by step including questions for understanding. And we have to know that sometimes, He won't reveal the whys or answers to our questions and learn to be ok with that and continue on in faith. Some things we will never understand this side of heaven as we continue to grow in faith and journey with Jesus. That is a fact. Remember, we walk by faith not by sight. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts not like ours. Seek and love God with all your heart. Don't lean on your own understanding. (that's a command. some things we can never understand) Acknowledge God in all your ways and trust Him to lead you step by step--even through and forward in grief and questioning. He loves you! He knows you.

 At Christmas we celebrate Hope, Healing, Joy and Love coming and putting on flesh. God wants to incarnate those thing in and through you as you allow Him to put flesh on His Love, Healing, Hope and Joy and walk around displaying them wherever you wander. 

Yes we often wonder as we wander. But we do know our Savior and His love is real and perfecting and everlasting. Receive it, dwell in it and share it today. God is love and Love lives in you and comes alive through you. God knows who will come and who will not. Many are choosing Hell. Shake the dust off the flip flops and place those Hell-bound ones in God's hands and look for where He is at work and join Him. But for those He is drawing and sending you to, love like Jesus. Who need to hear who that Baby is to you and hiw he changed your life?

I end below with a photo of my Harvest prayer starter guide for today (no time to type it) pray through those things as we experience God threading His love through our lives, actions and preparation time with Him. He is speaking to your heart right now and pronouncing His love over you. Sit in it a spell as you prepare to follow Him today. Go! Love like Jesus. Know Christ and make Him known! Amen!

Charles Stanley:

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ODB:

The Light of Hope

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:11

READ Psalm 42

audio playLISTEN ONLINE

My mother’s shiny red cross should have been hanging next to her bed at the cancer care center. And I should have been preparing for holiday visits between her scheduled treatments. All I wanted for Christmas was another day with my mom. Instead, I was home . . . hanging her cross on a fake tree.

When my son Xavier plugged in the lights, I whispered, “Thank You.” He said, “You’re welcome.” My son didn’t know I was thanking God for using the flickering bulbs to turn my eyes toward the ever-enduring Light of Hope—Jesus.

The writer of Psalm 42 expressed his raw emotions to God (vv. 1–4). He acknowledged his “downcast” and “disturbed” soul before encouraging readers: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (v. 5). Though he was overcome with waves of sorrow and suffering, the psalmist’s hope shone through the remembrance of God’s past faithfulness (vv. 6–10). He ended by questioning his doubts and affirming the resilience of his refined faith: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (v. 11).

For many of us, the Christmas season stirs up both joy and sorrow. Thankfully, even these mixed emotions can be reconciled and redeemed through the promises of the true Light of Hope—Jesus.

By Xochitl Dixon

REFLECT & PRAY

How has Jesus helped you process grief while celebrating Christmas? How can you support someone who’s grieving this season?

Dear Jesus, thank You for carrying me through times of grief and joy all year round.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Psalm 42 is one of the twelve songs (Psalms 42-49, 84-85, 87-88) credited to the descendants of Korah, members of a Levitical choir commissioned by David to serve in the temple as singers and gatekeepers (1 Chronicles 6:31-33; 9:19; 2 Chronicles 20:19). Scholars say that Psalms 42 and 43 were originally one song, characterized by the introspective question: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” and the repeated assurance, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (42:5, 11; 43:5).

K. T. Sim

Harvest Prayer Starters for today:

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Friday, December 22 2023

It's beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas! What a beautiful morning with just a little snow to make things merry and bright--and no shoveling! Merry Christmas!

Good Morning Broken and Healing, Tested and True, Worshiping in the Storms, Showered with Love, Grace, and Mercy Children of the King of the Universe! Is that you? It sure can be! God is God and we are not. It's impossible to fathom and comprehend all His ways. But it is possible to know and understand that He has our best in mind always, even when we face some very hard testing of our faith, stretching of our faith, and even grief. He wants you to know and be assured that He really loves you, is with you and will help you through whatever you are facing today. Allow God to comfort, strengthen, grow and use you. He does have great plans awaiting the other side. Choose joy! Receive His shalom!

Some days, like this morning, it's very obvious that God is speaking to my heart with something for me and/or others. Last week and continuing into yesterday was not the most fun vacation yet Karen and I were able to choose joy, see God's hand in everything, praise Him and just know that He is at work. His ways are truly not ours and His plans don't always match our expectations, but so what? He knows best! And we have learned to trust Him, receive with thanksgiving His presence and stretching and peace. Yesterday continued the pattern of sickness, storms, and our plans not quite happening as we thought. BUT GOD! PTL! He always has something good in the works! Yesterday Karen started with my cold from last week on her very busy transition day back to work. God awoke me at 1:30 and we had a great quiet time. Expecting to be able to take a nice nap after I sent the blog before working on Sunday's message and plans, I turned around to find water lapping at my chair (my office is in the basement). This hasn't happened in the 4 years we lived here. (Didn't know our house came with a wadding pool!) God allowed Karen the grace and strength to have a pretty productive day. He also, showed me His loving presence with allowing me to complete Sunday's stuff and the strength and wisdom to get everything cleaned up and drying out. And He allowed me to sleep in until 3 this morning, healed and refreshed. PTL! He is really for us in spite of what we may think or our circumstances and His mercies are new every morning! PTL! I really love God and how He works! It's always something different, new, unexpected, exciting and cause for joy and thanksgiving. However, we sometimes have to choose those things and look for the silver linings as we try to count our many blessings. Wonder what all God has in store for today! Whatever, His grace will be sufficient and I have the opportunity to choose joy and receive His shalom. PTL!

Today, I believe God has a word for some of you too as we engage with Him through our devotionals. What's He saying to you? Journal it and discuss it with some friends and choose joy and receive shalom. Charles Stanley speaks about God's restorative mercy. He begins with this thought, "Today, you may be wondering, Can the Father bring joy and meaning back to my life? Can He really heal me of all my regrets?" Well, we all know the Sunday school answer to that, but do we really know and believe and experience the truth? Are we able to make the transition to receiving His loving best and choosing joy? Try to turn off the noise inside your head, of your circumstances and of the chaos all around and still yourself to know and receive. Next I read ODB about learning from our scars. How often have we wrestled with God? How many of us have that "limp" from His reminder and blessing? How has that been transformative as you shed your old ways and nature and step into your new name more fully? As I was meditating on that, I couldn't help but think about Paul's thorn in the flesh. Lo and behold I open TWFYT talking about that and being broken, restored and used by God as He and/or we humble ourselves. What "thorn" is keeping you humble and reliant on God? We remember who we were and how we used to be with regrets and Satan loves to keep bringing those failures to mind. Turn off that noise! You are forgiven--MUCH--Always! Humble yourself. Dying to self sometimes includes letting those past things go and refocusing on our Forgiver, Healer, Restorer. As I was recounting the new lives of Jacob/Israel and Saul/Paul, I started praising God for my new life and His growing me into His man doing His plans. Then I opened the UR reminder of celebrating with all our hearts as we remember and see and know God is at work! Even in the storms, we can choose to count our blessings and refocus. We may not feel like dancing but tapping toes to the beat of a great praise song or hymn can lead to happy feet that want to dance with Jesus! Try it! Keep building those gratitude lists! God is for us and His ways are not ours. Rejoice and keep trusting and growing in faith and usefulness!

So as if that wasn't enough, the last thing I did was open my prayer starter book with these prayer starters. Yes God is speaking to you and wants to speak to someone through you today! PTL! Pray along with me..."Praise God who has invited you into His circle of fellowship through Jesus Christ. Thank Him for His invitation to love Him with all your being (Mk.12:33). Confess to God that sometimes you don't love and honor Him as you should. Commit yourself to Deut. 10:12: 'To fear the Lord (YHWH) your God, to walk in His ways, to love Him, and to serve [Him] with all your heart and with all your soul.' Ask God to enable you to fulfill that commitment today. Think of the oldest and youngest members of your family today. Ask God to meet special needs of those two people. [I can't help but think of and pray for the Henley family at the loss of their 2 year old and the funeral Thurs. And how He wants us to minister to them?] Thank God that His love spans the generations. Pray that the evangelistic outreach of your church will be driven by simple love for people. Ask that any pride or self-will will be confessed and repented. [pray for our evangelistic worship and brunch Sunday to draw many to God and new life and for God to use each of us well] Pray that the knowledge of Christ will be spread throughout the world, even as tiny seeds grow into vigorous plants (Mk. 4:31). Pray for faithful preachers of the gospel (Mt. 24:14). [pray we would all be one, with words and deeds] Ask God to make you alert to the needs of unsaved people you know. Pray that God will show you practical ways you can minister to them and ultimately show them how to believe and become disciples of Jesus." Pray for me as I spend the next two days visiting and loving on our homebound members. (Health, wisdom and overflowing love and joy. Thanks!)

God is Love. He loves you beyond measure! He is with you always! And He is working all things together for those who believe (or will come to believe). He created you for such a time as this and is working you into your best in Christ and for His purposes. Yes sometimes it's hard to see it and know it, but it's always true. (I can't imagine what the HENLEY'S ARE GOING THROUGH RIGHT NOW? But I do know that as they journey through this, God will be there holding them and ready when they are to come to His shalom.) I'm praying for all of you to journey well and with God always! I'm praying for you to be able to choose joy and continue to grow in faith. I love you all! Wish I could give you a big hug right now! God really does love you, know and care! Rejoice! 'Tis always the season for that! Again I say rejoice!

Shalom to you all!

Charles Stanley:

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ODB:

Learning from Scars

The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and [Jacob] was limping because of his hip. Genesis 32:31

READ Genesis 32:22–32

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Faye touched the scars on her abdomen. She had endured another surgery to remove esophageal-stomach cancer. This time doctors had taken part of her stomach and left a jagged scar that revealed the extent of their work. She told her husband, “Scars represent either the pain of cancer or the start of healing. I choose my scars to be symbols of healing.”

Jacob faced a similar choice after his all-night wrestling match with God. The divine assailant wrenched Jacob’s hip out of socket, so that Jacob was left exhausted and with a noticeable limp. Months later, when Jacob massaged his tender hip, I wonder what he reflected on?

Was he filled with regret for his years of deceit that forced this fateful match? The divine messenger had wrestled the truth out of him, refusing to bless him until Jacob owned up to who he was. He confessed he was Jacob, the “heel grabber” (see Genesis 25:26). He’d played tricks on his brother Esau and father-in-law Laban, tripping them to gain advantage. The divine wrestler said Jacob’s new name would be “Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome” (32:28).

Jacob’s limp represented the death of his old life of deceit and the beginning of his new life with God. The end of Jacob and the start of Israel. His limp led him to lean on God, who now moved powerfully in and through him.

By Mike Wittmer

REFLECT & PRAY

What spiritual scars do you have? How might they symbolize the end of something bad and the start of something new?

Father, my limp is a sign of Your love.

Learn more about finding God in life’s hurts.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

The context of Jacob’s mysterious wrestling match (Genesis 32:22-32) is his coming encounter with his brother Esau (vv. 3-6). Because of Jacob’s past treachery (25:29-34; 26:34-27:41), he feared Esau would attack him and his family (32:6-12). Soon after, “a man wrestled with him till daybreak” (v. 24). In other passages of Scripture, when God reveals Himself in human form, people are initially unable to recognize the visitor as more than human (see Genesis 18:1-2; Judges 6:11-22; 13:10, 21-22). But as daybreak dawns, Jacob seems to grow aware that the stranger is more than human, so he clings in hope of blessing (Genesis 32:26-30).

Monica La Rose

TWFYT:

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UR: All My Might

David danced before the Lord with all his might. - 2 Samuel 6:14 (KJV)

On the last day of the school term, I went to my daughter’s class. The teacher had turned on a radio to entertain the children. Most of them were sitting and swaying their little bodies to the music. Then a very popular Christian song began to play, and the children jumped up from their desks. Gleefully they began singing along and dancing in unison. They all knew the dance moves for that particular song.

I was fascinated as I observed how one song could immediately change the atmosphere from calm to full of energy. I thought about the power of music and how in 2 Samuel 6:14-16, David “danced before the Lord with all his might” as he brought the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem. I remembered also how Jehoshaphat appointed people to sing and praise the Lord, which changed the outcome of the battle they were facing. (See 2 Chron. 20:21)

From that day forward, as I offer my praise to God each day during my prayer time, peace and assurance flood my soul. I feel God’s presence and see God acting in my life whenever I worship through songs of praise. This thought keeps me joyful throughout the day and gives me assurance that God is always with me.

TODAY'S PRAYER

Dear God, help us to appreciate the importance of glorifying your holy name. We sing our heartfelt gratitude to you. Amen.

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Friday, December 22 2023

Good Morning Very Loved, Forgiven, Purposeful Perseveres! Oh Yes! Pronounce that out loud over you and us with much joy and thanksgiving! Your are very loved creations of God--His masterpiece! When we confess and come to Christ in repentance we are forgiven--always! We were created for God's purposes and when we come to Christ, we are gifted and enabled to complete them. We come just as we are and grow into who we were created to be and now able to do all the great things we were created to do. Our part is to stop, repent, trust God, choose joy and persevere in faith, on step at a time, as we complete our assignments until He calls us home. The Good News is that we are able to do so because God is with us working all things together for good and guiding our steps, providing all we need each day, and empowering us to complete our assignments well. That just blows my mind sometimes! Praise God. Trust and follow well. Choose joy and be blessed and a blessing today! 

You know we were all one way and now another and as we run our races well we will grow into other ways as we journey to become more like Jesus. He has something good very day and stage of our lives. He sees you. Loves you. Is with you every step of the way from cradle to grave and has so many great plans for you. Rejoice! Yesterday I again had the pleasure of visiting our 103 year old member Doris Hausman. What a joy! She is still worshiping and serving our Lord as she can with what she got where she is at. That can be you everyday as well. Yes she is in a wheelchair in a nursing home but that doesn't matter. She knows and loves Jesus, prays all the time, brings joy to staff, residents and visitors and allows God to love through her. And that is all we need to choose to do as well. Does she have hard days? Sure, even hard hours, BUT she is able to repent when she grumbles and has a pity party, praise and refocus on God and choose joy as she allows Him to comfort, forgive and lead her to her next assignment. That's all God requires of us as well. Choose joy, trust, obey and be used as you are where you are with what you got. Live and love like Jesus! Period! Turn off the noise of circumstances. Choose joy and allow God to use you. That's Jesus' easy yoke that brings many blessings alive. Here's a photo from yesterday with daughter Sally. Notice Doris always carries a Jesus doll with her and even sleeps with Him as a reminder that he is with her always. He is with you always as well! remember that!

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Today this song came to my mind as I read Charles Stanley devo. More Love. More Power: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q539OrgDxk0.

As we continue to work on becoming who we were created to be and doing more of the things we were created for more better, we need God and His power. Still yourself today. Worship with this song and receive His love, power and strength to fulfill your purposes today and for the rest of your life. He is with you, for you, and cheering you on! And wanting you to choose more too. Hammer down!

Here are our devotionals for you today to contemplate with God and some friends. What's God saying to you? What do you need to repent of? Who might you help with refocusing and choosing joy? Who might help you? What is one thing that will help you to take the next step of faith? Do it! What is something measurable that God is revealing for you to do and what will you do about it? More of Christ and less of me! When I am weak, He is strong. Father, give us willing hearts, moving feet and more of You, more love, more power, more of You in our lives and more of You overflowing to others today. Come! Have Your way with me! Use me well and grow me into all You have planned for me! Thank You! I love You and rejoice to do what I can with what I got for Your glory! Bring more alive! Thank You as we seek to become more like Jesus and ask in His name for His glory. Amen!

We are learning to live and love like Jesus more better! PTL! Rejoice I say! More love and more power are available to you today--everyday! Rejoice and cry out for them and receive them with joy as you go, follow and love well!

Charles Stanley:

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ODB: read Isaiah passage. What's God saying to you? Let go, let God and move forward with him!

Forgiveness and Forgetting

I am he who blots out your transgressions . . . and remembers your sins no more. Isaiah 43:25

READ Isaiah 43:18–25

audio playLISTEN ONLINE

Jill Price was born with the condition of hyperthymesia: the ability to remember in extraordinary detail everything that ever happened to her. She can replay in her mind the exact occurrence of any event she’s experienced in her lifetime.

The TV show Unforgettable was premised on a female police officer with hyperthymesia—to her a great advantage in trivia games and in solving crimes. For Jill Price, however, the condition isn’t so much fun. She can’t forget the moments of life when she was criticized, experienced loss, or did something she deeply regretted. She replays those scenes in her head over and over again.

Our God is omniscient (perhaps a kind of divine hyperthymesia): the Bible tells us that His understanding has no limit. And yet we discover in Isaiah a most reassuring thing: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions . . . and remembers your sins no more” (43:25). The book of Hebrews reinforces this: “We have been made holy through . . . Jesus Christ . . . [and our] sins and lawless acts [God] will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:10, 17).

As we confess our sins to God, we can stop playing them over and over in our minds. We need to let them go, just as He does: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18). In His great love, God chooses to not remember our sins against us. Let’s remember that.

By Kenneth Petersen

REFLECT & PRAY

What regrets do you harbor in your memory and play over and over again? How can you give them to God and release the past?

Dear God, thank You for forgiving and forgetting my sins.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

God’s people in Israel and Judah were unfaithful. They’d stubbornly refused to repent and return to God (Isaiah 43:22-24). He’d warned them that He’d use foreign nations to punish them for their covenantal unfaithfulness (7:18-25; 10:3-6; 39:6-7). Against the backdrop of their severe chastening, He reminded them that as His chosen people, they had an unbreakable bond with Him and assured them of His unfailing love: “You are precious and honored in my sight, and . . . I love you” (43:4). God said He’d rescue, redeem, and restore them once the disciplining was complete (vv. 5-21). In His grace and mercy, He’d remove their guilt and forgive their sins (v. 25). This forgiveness wouldn’t be based on what they deserved but on who God is: “I do it because of who I am. I will not remember your sins anymore” (v. 25 nirv).

K. T. Sim

TWFYT: What's the most important thing for you to do today? Will you do it?

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UR: What can you give as an offering to God and blessing to Him and others, just as you are and where you are right now? Receive His sufficient grace as you journey forward in Christ!

Paul wrote, “[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” - 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

Every Christmas I get a little depressed. In this season, Christians do many things to make life brighter for others. But I can’t do the majority of them since my age prevents me from driving or doing much physical activity.

One Christmas, however, I kept hearing the song “The Little Drummer Boy.” It changed my focus from what I can’t do to what I can. The lyrics of the song explain that the little drummer boy couldn’t buy a gift or do something brave for the Christ child, so he didn’t think he had anything to offer. But then he realized one thing he could do: play a song for Jesus.

So I quit thinking about what I can’t do and started concentrating on what I can do. I can pray; I can be cheerful and friendly to those I meet at the senior center; I can celebrate Jesus’ birth at my church. Sometimes God helps us to do things we don’t realize we can. And God will honor even seemingly small actions if they are done to glorify God. So like the little drummer boy who played his very best for Jesus, we can do our best and honor God with our service.

TODAY'S PRAYER

Dear Lord, help us do our best for you in whatever ways we are able. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Friday, December 22 2023
Good Morning Listening, Birthing Pray-ers! Be still and know. Listen, receive and birth God's will in prayer. Keep persevering at fulfilling your call to pray and as one of our key players in God's Good News Delivery Co. God is hearing and responding as He reveals what to pray and brings to life our prayers. Pretty cool, huh?
I often, like today, think I know where God is wanting to lead me for these blogs which are my journal notes from my quiet time each day. And as usual, God has revealed something slightly different as I listen, receive, process with Him and release His Word, will and plans in prayer. I don't know if I can emphasize enough the importance of the role of prayer warrior for our Good News Delivery Co and for God's Kingdom to come and will to be done in, through and around us. Keep persevering in prayer and know that you are a very valued and critical part of our Body and mission! Thank You!
SO let's start with Our Daily Bread (ODB) devo today reminding us of the nearness of God. He is very close and speaking to us all the time. Are we listening? Processing? Releasing? Look at their questions as they remind us of His peace He brings as we still ourselves, listen, understand and pray His peace and presence over ourselves and circumstances. Yesterday Mike reminded us of how we can know God's peace amidst the chaos and know He is with us, near and working all things together. Prepare your hearts to receive His wisdom, peace beyond understanding, and marching orders for the day. Turn off the noise by choosing hope, faith, joy and peace and then release His peace in prayer.
The Upper Room (UR) reminds us to pray without ceasing and to persevere in faith, praying, and following God to His best. We can learn perseverance, how to pray and how to become more like Jesus by practicing, just as we are, and working on growing into the fullness of these gifts. As I think about words to work on for next year, perseverance, prayer warrior, faithful servant are just a few God has brought to mind as ones that some of you (and maybe I) need to work on as we seek to Become More in '24. What's God saying to you? What may He be calling you to release in prayer today? What are you going to do about that?
Before engaging with these devos and God, start with praying through this daily devo/blog from Harvest Prayer about prayer. God has some great plans for you including powerful and productive times as you still yourself, listen, receive and persevere in prayer. St. Matts needs you and God has created you for such a time as this! I end with re-using yesterday's Harvest prayer blog as it informs and releases God's plans for us as we move forward into His plans and future for us. We can never pray enough!
One final note: Yesterday morning when I awoke, I was troubled about the future of our church and where workers would come from and with whom God wants us to connect and disciple. God stilled my spirit with this thought and then reminded me of it during my quiet time yesterday. He said, "I am giving you some workers that are recipients of bread. They want to serve and help. I am preparing and sending them. They have some purposes to discover and gifts to share. So I prayed into that. Last night I learned that two of these ladies that have been joining us in worship responded to Sarah's request for bread ministry help. PTL! Right? He reveals, hears and releases His will as we still ourselves, listen and release His will in prayer! He is at work through you and us! Keep at it harvest workers! Fruit is budding and growing! We have much to celebrate!
May you have a joy and peace filled day as you live, love, pray and serve like Jesus! Rejoice! God has chosen you, is preparing you and is working through you and your prayers! Thank Him! Rejoice!
Harvest Prayer Blog 12-18-23:

December 18 - Praying the Heart of God

“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19, NKJV).

Know God.

Know God’s heart.

Then:

Pray God’s heart into the creation.

Creation is waiting for that reality to be so—for the people of the Spirit to retake the rightful oversight of the creation under God the True Spirit. This is the paradigm for prayer ministry—to know the will from the clear teaching of the Bible and by the experience of the Spirit, and then to pray it into existence.

Praying Christians have known about this principle all their days of prayer. A burden to pray enters their heart. They know the person, and they are given some sense of how they are to pray. Then they pray until the intercession is accomplished.

Today ask God for Him “to initiate” in your praying. When you find yourself thinking of someone and offering a prayer, take this as God at work, reshaping your inner prayer life.

Father, I ask you to reshape my prayer life!  Initiate my prayers by placing people and situations upon my heart that You desire me to bring before You.  Help me to listen with my spirit as Your Holy Spirit leads me to intercede until Your purposes are accomplished.

--Adapted from Power Praying (Hearing Jesus’ Spirit by Praying Jesus’ Prayer) by David Chotka.

ODB:

My God Is Near

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but . . . present your requests to God. Philippians 4:5–6

READ Philippians 4:4–7

For more than thirty years, Lourdes, a voice teacher in Manila, had taught students face to face. When she was asked to conduct classes online, she was anxious. “I’m not good with computers,” she recounted. “My laptop is old, and I’m not familiar with video conferencing platforms.”

While it may seem a small thing to some, it was a real stressor for her. “I live alone, so there is no one to help,” she said. “I’m concerned that my students will quit, and I need the income.”

Before each class, Lourdes would pray for her laptop to work properly. “Philippians 4:5–6 was the wallpaper on my screen,” she said. “How I clung to those words.”

Paul exhorts us to not be anxious about anything, because “the Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5). God’s promise of His presence is ours to hold on to. As we rest in His nearness and commit everything to Him in prayer—both big and small—His peace guards our “hearts and . . . minds in Christ Jesus” (v. 7).

“God led me to websites about fixing computer glitches,” Lourdes said. “He also gave me patient students who understood my technological limitations.” God’s presence, help, and peace are ours to enjoy as we seek to follow Him all the days of our life. We can say with confidence: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (v. 4). 

By Karen Huang

REFLECT & PRAY

How can knowing that God is near change your reaction of worry to one of peace? What specific requests can you present to Him?

Dear God, thank You for being near me. Because of Your loving presence, help, and peace, I don’t have to be anxious.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Centuries before Paul penned the letter to the anxious believers in Jesus at Philippi (see Philippians 4:6-7), God inspired Asaph to write about the blessedness of His nearness (see Psalm 73:23-28). The psalmist’s faith had been challenged by what he’d witnessed around him (vv. 2-14). Those who were far from God—“the wicked” (v. 3)—were doing well for themselves. The writer’s perspective changed, however, when he “entered the sanctuary of God” (v. 17). Then he acknowledged, “You hold me by my right hand. . . . Whom have I in heaven but you?” (vv. 23, 25). He concludes by saying: “But as for me, the nearness of God is good for me” (v. 28 NASB). When we’re anxious by what’s going on around us, we can be encouraged by His nearness. Paul assures us that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Arthur Jackson
UR: Learning to Whistle

Pray without ceasing. - 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)

I remember the struggle I endured learning to whistle. I spent days upon days trying with no success. But I was determined to succeed. I did not ask for help; I just blew and blew until it happened. It felt great to be able to whistle, and I practiced and practiced after I got the hang of it. It was a glorious time.

What I learned was perseverance — a spiritual directive found throughout scripture. God instructed Israel to continue trusting and believing. The New Testament writers encouraged believers to keep believing and living the word they had heard because Christ was going to return.

Being willing to persevere changed me from a kid who wanted to whistle to a kid who could not wait to hear what new sound my mouth and lungs could create. Additionally, perseverance for me became not just striving to know God’s word but allowing the word to change me into something better. (See Jas. 1:22.)

I keep wondering what new song I might hear from God’s Spirit if I continue to persevere in faithfully following Christ.

TODAY'S PRAYER
Dear God, help us to persevere in seeking and knowing the gifts of your grace. Thank you for Christ and those who demonstrate their faith by their perseverance. Amen.
Harvest prayer blog 12-17-23...Our Mission being released in prayer! Keep praying this to life! Thanks!

December 17 - Free Gift (Third Sunday of Advent)

Before you begin, meditate on this thought:  God has chosen to work through me.

Father how I thank You that because I have put my faith and trust in Christ, He has made me a new creation!  The old has gone--the new has come! This great redemptive work is from You Father, through Christ, for me!  My relationship with You has been made right and because of His finished work on the cross You do not hold my sin against me! Hallelujah! Praise Your holy name! (Pause and be thankful that Christ Jesus has saved you from your sin.)

Now Father I ask that You help me to understand what it means that because I am in Christ the message of reconciliation is lived out and proclaimed, through me!  May I be found worthy of the name “Ambassador of Christ” and faithfully implore others to be reconciled to You.

The free gift of salvation through Jesus that alone can make us to be the “righteousness of God” is good news that most around me need desperately to hear. I ask that You capture my heart again I pray, with the joy of this great salvation in You and open my lips that I might praise You and proclaim with great joy, the gospel message.  You are the God of all hope and I ask that I would overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit and continually be prepared to give the reason for the hope that I have in You. 

This day I ask You Wonderful Counselor, that You open my heart and mind and give me ears to hear what You would say to me, what You would speak through me. Make me increasingly sensitive to Your voice and gentle promptings, and give me a willing, submissive spirit that I might obey.

Mighty God, may Your power be evident through the way I live and conduct my life, that I would truly live and move and have my very being in You alone.

Everlasting Father may Your fatherly embrace and great love be expressed through my life. In my conversations and interactions with the world around me, be glorified I pray.  May Jesus be seen through me in such loving ways that many are drawn to Him.

Prince of Peace in the midst of this chaotic fearful world, may the peace of Christ be spread through my life. Increase my trust and hope in You that I in turn might minister to those around me who are as sheep without a shepherd.

Give me Your heart. Your eyes. Your ears, O Lord. That in all things I might respond as Jesus would, and be a worthy ambassador of the gospel. In the name of Jesus, Emmanuel, I pray. Amen.

(2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Psalm 51:12,15; Romans 15:13; 1 Peter 3:15; Acts 17:28; Matthew 5:16)

--This Advent prayer was written by Tiece L. King, the author of Pray the Word.

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Friday, December 22 2023

Updates:

Sarah will be sending some out later. PTL! Maura (our granddaughter) is home and heading to day care today. Please continue to pray for full healing, health for Eric and Racheal and rest and refreshing. Thank you!

As soon as this sends, we are on vacation. PTL that the family doesn't need Karen to babysit today and that we can celebrate our 19th anniversary today and get ready for our flight to Florida early tomorrow. Pray for nice weather. It's suppose to rain all week down there and for refreshing and fun for us. Thanks!

Last evening I received a call from a distressed friend. She and her husband are going through a lot and both are depressed yet seeking God. I was able to refer her to Sarah (counseling should be with same sexes). Thank God for Sarah and her wisdom of resources and shepherding heart. Pray for her as she covers for me this week. Pray for this couple to find shalom, provision, wisdom, and joy.

Pray for Mike Laise. He is preaching for me on Sunday. God spoke to his heart yesterday and gave him a good word for Sunday. PTL!

Pray for all of us to continue to grow in faith and to be able to choose joy more quickly. I am including the Harvest Prayer from yesterday again below. It is a powerful prayer to pray over you and for others. Maybe share it with a friend in need. The couple above came to mind when I prayed it again this morning.

Good Morning Joy Choosing, Growing in Faith, Praying, Friends! This is the day the Lord has made! Rejoice and be glad in it! Joy and choosing joy continues to be the theme as we move toward God's shalom.

Below are our devos today that continue the themes of joy, faith, peace and the importance of small groups and huddling with friends. What's God saying to you and what will you do about it? Choose joy! Grow in trust! Follow God with some friends. Complete your journey here well! God loves you and created you for such a time as this. Rejoice! And receive His shalom. Amen!

Have a great week! Promise, no more blogs until next Mon. However, God will speak to you as you engage with Him on your own or with some friends. Rejoice! Shalom!

Harvest Prayer Blog: from yesterday.

December 10 - Peace, Be Still (Second Sunday of Advent)

Before you begin, ask God to reveal to your heart the ways that the enemy has robbed you of the peace that is yours because of Christ. Confess these things to Him and ask Him to pour out on you His peace that passes all understanding.  Ask Him to still the storms in your life and refocus your living.

I thank You Father, that Jesus Himself is my peace and that He has completely destroyed the barrier that separated me from You! How grateful I am that I have been reconciled to Him through His blood shed on the cross and now have peace with You.

Forgive me I pray, for the times that I do not cast my cares and anxieties onto You, but instead carry them myself and allow my heart to be weighed down and needlessly burdened. I ask that Your peace, which is beyond my ability to understand, guard my heart and my mind--cover me, because I am in Christ Jesus. I belong to You. Thank You Lord Jesus, for the peace that You give to me which is so very different than the fleeting attempts of the world to quiet my heart. Guard my heart by Your Holy Spirit, that I might not be afraid. Help me to learn to be still and know that You are God, to hear Your voice in the midst of the storms that I face saying “Peace, be still.” Keep me from fear and increase my faith. May my life be characterized by Your peace no matter what situation I might face, that You may be glorified in me and through me and receive the praise that is due Your name.

May I love Your Word that I might have great peace and not stumble.

May my mind be controlled by Your Holy Spirit and produce life and peace.

May Your strength and peace fill my life because I belong to You.

Lord Jesus, You are my Wonderful Counselor, You are Mighty God, the Everlasting Father incarnate and Prince of Peace! With You all things are possible. I invite You into the impossible situations of my life and ask that as I wait on You, You fill me with Your peace – for my hope is in You alone and I trust in Your great name.

(Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20; Romans 5:1; 1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:7; John 14:27; Psalm 46:10; Mark 4:35-41; Psalm 119:165; Romans 8:6; Psalm 29:11; Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 19:26)

--This Advent prayer was written by Tiece L. King, the author of Pray the Word. This resource is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount on the book.
 

Prayer Points

  • Praise God as the one whose arm is “not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” (Isa. 59:1).
  • Thank God for the promise to hear you when you come to him in prayer.
  • Confess any sin which may result in his not hearing your prayers (59:2). If you are struggling in this area, commit yourself to regular, daily times of prayer and fellowship with God. Ask him to draw close to you as you fellowship with him.
  • God has long arms when it comes to salvation. No one is beyond his reach. Thank him for that truth and pray for one unsaved person you know. 

ODB:

God Is More than Enough

The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. Ruth 4:17

READ Ruth 4:9–17

audio playLISTEN ONLINE

Ellen was on a tight budget, so she was glad to receive a Christmas bonus. That would have been enough, but when she deposited the money, she received another surprise. The teller said that as a Christmas present the bank had deposited her January mortgage payment into her checking account. Now she and Trey could pay other bills and bless someone else with a Christmas surprise!

God has a way of blessing us beyond what we expect. Naomi was bitter and broken by the death of her husband and sons (Ruth 1:20–21). Her desperate situation was rescued by Boaz, a relative who married her daughter-in-law Ruth and provided a home for her and Naomi (4:10).

That might have been all Naomi could hope for. But then God blessed Ruth and Boaz with a son. Now Naomi had a grandson to “renew [her] life and sustain [her] in [her] old age” (v. 15). That would have been enough. As the women of Bethlehem put it, “Naomi has a son!” (v. 17). Then little Obed grew—and became “the father of Jesse, the father of David” (v. 17). Naomi’s family belonged to Israel’s royal line, the most important dynasty in history! That would have been enough. David, however, became the ancestor of . . . Jesus.

If we believe in Christ, we’re in a similar position to Naomi. We had nothing until He redeemed us. Now we’re fully accepted by our Father, who blesses us to bless others. That’s so much more than enough.

By Mike Wittmer

REFLECT & PRAY

When has God blessed you beyond what you imagined? How has He shown you that He’s more than enough?

Jesus, You’re more than enough for me.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

The story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz takes place during the period of the judges (Ruth 1:1). Though we don’t know which judge presided during the days of Ruth, the contrast between the events of the book of Judges and the story of Naomi and Ruth’s redemption is striking. During a time when “everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 21:25) and “did evil in the eyes of the Lord” (a phrase used seven times in Judges; see 2:11; 3:7,12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1), Boaz looked out for the good of another—a foreigner. In a setting of selfishness lies a story of compassion and grace.

J.R. Hudberg

UR:

From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. - Psalm 22:10 (NIV)

For as long as I can remember, my father was not present in my life. During my childhood, I struggled and felt sad when we had homework regarding Father’s Day or when I heard from friends about how their fathers were the center of their families.

When I was in middle school, a friend invited me to church. Many of my friends and their families also attended the church. Occasionally, I was filled with longing when I saw the fathers there with their families.

In high school, I met a girl who loved God. One day she and I discussed faith. She had also been brought up by her mother, and she too had experienced the difficulties of not knowing her father. She told me that since becoming a Christian, she had come to know God as her father.

Her testimony deeply resounded in my heart, and tears streamed down my cheeks from the inferiority I felt for being without a father. She then shared with me scriptures that comforted her. That day I understood the spiritual meaning of having a heavenly Father who created me. And I was greatly comforted.

TODAY'S PRAYER

Father God, thank you for the comfort of knowing we have life in you. Help us to comfort our brothers and sisters as you have comforted us. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.TWFYT

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Charles Stanley:

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Friday, December 22 2023

Please pray for Mike Laise as he brings God's Word today and for Sarah as she leads worship. Pray for any kids that come to connect to God as we have no Children's Church teacher available today. Ask God to raise up a few more helpers for that.

Good Morning Teammates! Even though in many ways this week of vacation could be deemed the week from Hell for us, Karen and I were able to choose joy as we allowed God to give us rest, His peace beyond understanding and to experience His unfailing, even refining, love. Thank You Lord! In the midst of sickness, and a washout rainy week, we learned that Karen's ex-sister-in laws family had a major tragedy (we are still very close with this part of her ex's family and numb right now). Karen's niece and our kids cousin lost her two year old son in his sleep on Thurs. with no apparent cause at this time. We will be burying him Thursday. Please pray for the Henley family, especially Paige and Travis the parents. We just got their photo Christmas card on Friday. Ask our God of comfort and peace to come and be very real to them and to help us minister to them all.

I really had no intention of restarting my blogs until at least tomorrow, BUT GOD! He had other plans, so here I am trying to recount and recall all He has been revealing this morning. He awoke me with a headache and sore throat and a dream or vision of some plans for us, so I got up at 1:30. Please bear with me as this may get a bit long. (I guess He wanted to make up for lost time! Emoji Actually, He used this down time to bring to light a ton of things for me and for us together. I'm still trying to process and this blog will be an attempt to journal some of all He is revealing. Thanks Lord!) Lord open all of our hearts and minds to hear Your heart and discern Your revelation for us individually and as Your Body. Thanks! Lead us into much more of You and Your plans in 2024. And Lord bring dreams and visions to our St. Matts Vision team for our gathering in Jan. As we ask in Jesus' name and for your glory. Come! Amen

I think what God is showing me is that He does have a future and hope and some great plans for us that need some processing with the leaders of our church. We know that our bishop has called us to become a dynamic movement of God as we get to know Christ more and make Him know more all around us. We know His plans for us include learning to live and love like Jesus as we bring Him to life to those He is connecting us to. We know we need to find a few more connection points to those He is drawing besides our bread/pantry/clothing ministry. We have been praying and seeking and receiving. It's time to continue to do that as we move towards enacting His will, plans and way for us. Keep asking Him to reveal what's for now and what's for next and discernment and a willingness and hunger to become disciple makers. We are birthing in prayer His next steps for us. Keep up the good work team!

Over the past few years, God has been leading and growing us from B.E.L.L.S. and realizing He wants to use and is sending each of us. He has led us through several challenges as He continues to help us grow into the people we were created to be and preparing and readying us for our purposes for such a time as this. God really does have great plans for us being revealed each step of faith and growth with Him. Thanks Lord! We are completing the Become Me in '23 Challenge and God recently revealed to me that for next year He wants to expand on that with the Become More in '24 Challenge. More of Him and less of me! Become more of who we are in Christ and become more better at fulfilling our purposes. Amen!

Today He wants us to just listen, dream and receive as we sit at His feet prayerfully, open-heartedly and engage with Him through our devotionals. In each one he revealed a piece of the puzzle to me today. What's He revealing to you? Charles Stanley reiterates God's Mission or plan for us. ODB reveals the how to for growing into His plan. The UR speaks into His provision for this plan. (He always provides Where He guides and we are His provision too). And TWFYT reminds us of the cost we need to assess to see His plans come to life. As you study there today ask God to give you a word or two to work on next year and for some people to process with. As I finished my time with God the Harvest Prayer blog was in my email. End with praying that and save it to pray often. May God bless you with ears to hear, hearts to respond well and many dreams and visions of His plans for you and us. And may he bless us with others to process, pray and plan with. he is speaking and we do have a future and hope. may we all choose joy as we grow in faith and trust as he leads us to the new thing that is springing forth in our midst! Shalom!

Please pray for Mike Laise as he brings God's Word today and for Sarah as she leads worship. Pray for any kids that come to connect to God as we have no Children's Church teacher available today. Ask God to raise up a few more helpers for that.

Good Morning Teammates! Even though in many ways this week of vacation could be deemed the week from Hell for us, Karen and I were able to choose joy as we allowed God to give us rest, His peace beyond understanding and to experience His unfailing, even refining, love. Thank You Lord! In the midst of sickness, and a washout rainy week, we learned that Karen's ex-sister-in laws family had a major tragedy (we are still very close with this part of her ex's family and numb right now). Karen's niece and our kids cousin lost her two year old son in his sleep on Thurs. with no apparent cause at this time. We will be burying him Thursday. Please pray for the Henley family, especially Paige and Travis the parents. We just got their photo Christmas card on Friday. Ask our God of comfort and peace to come and be very real to them and to help us minister to them all.

I really had no intention of restarting my blogs until at least tomorrow, BUT GOD! He had other plans, so here I am trying to recount and recall all He has been revealing this morning. He awoke me with a headache and sore throat and a dream or vision of some plans for us, so I got up at 1:30. Please bear with me as this may get a bit long. (I guess He wanted to make up for lost time! Emoji Actually, He used this down time to bring to light a ton of things for me and for us together. I'm still trying to process and this blog will be an attempt to journal some of all He is revealing. Thanks Lord!) Lord open all of our hearts and minds to hear Your heart and discern Your revelation for us individually and as Your Body. Thanks! Lead us into much more of You and Your plans in 2024. And Lord bring dreams and visions to our St. Matts Vision team for our gathering in Jan. As we ask in Jesus' name and for your glory. Come! Amen

I think what God is showing me is that He does have a future and hope and some great plans for us that need some processing with the leaders of our church. We know that our bishop has called us to become a dynamic movement of God as we get to know Christ more and make Him know more all around us. We know His plans for us include learning to live and love like Jesus as we bring Him to life to those He is connecting us to. We know we need to find a few more connection points to those He is drawing besides our bread/pantry/clothing ministry. We have been praying and seeking and receiving. It's time to continue to do that as we move towards enacting His will, plans and way for us. Keep asking Him to reveal what's for now and what's for next and discernment and a willingness and hunger to become disciple makers. We are birthing in prayer His next steps for us. Keep up the good work team!

Over the past few years, God has been leading and growing us from B.E.L.L.S. and realizing He wants to use and is sending each of us. He has led us through several challenges as He continues to help us grow into the people we were created to be and preparing and readying us for our purposes for such a time as this. God really does have great plans for us being revealed each step of faith and growth with Him. Thanks Lord! We are completing the Become Me in '23 Challenge and God recently revealed to me that for next year He wants to expand on that with the Become More in '24 Challenge. More of Him and less of me! Become more of who we are in Christ and become more better at fulfilling our purposes. Amen!

Today He wants us to just listen, dream and receive as we sit at His feet prayerfully, open-heartedly and engage with Him through our devotionals. In each one he revealed a piece of the puzzle to me today. What's He revealing to you? Charles Stanley reiterates God's Mission or plan for us. ODB reveals the how to for growing into His plan. The UR speaks into His provision for this plan. (He always provides Where He guides and we are His provision too). And TWFYT reminds us of the cost we need to assess to see His plans come to life. As you study there today ask God to give you a word or two to work on next year and for some people to process with. As I finished my time with God the Harvest Prayer blog was in my email. End with praying that and save it to pray often. May God bless you with ears to hear, hearts to respond well and many dreams and visions of His plans for you and us. And may he bless us with others to process, pray and plan with. he is speaking and we do have a future and hope. may we all choose joy as we grow in faith and trust as he leads us to the new thing that is springing forth in our midst! Shalom!

Charles Stanley: Our Mission

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ODB: Read and meditate on Prov. 3: 5-18. WOW! Our how to!

Christmas Dilemma

For the Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence. Proverbs 3:32

READ Proverbs 3:5–18

audio playLISTEN ONLINE

David and Angie had felt called to move overseas, and the fruitful ministry that followed seemed to confirm it. But there was one downside to their move. David’s elderly parents would now spend Christmases alone.

David and Angie tried to mitigate his parents’ Christmas Day loneliness by posting gifts early and calling on Christmas morning. But what his parents really wanted was them. With David’s income only permitting an occasional trip home, what else could they do? David needed wisdom.

Proverbs 3 is a crash course in wisdom-seeking, showing us how to receive it by taking our situations to God (vv. 5–6), describing its various qualities such as love and faithfulness (vv. 3–4, 7–12), and its benefits as peace and longevity (vv. 13–18). In a touching note, it adds that God gives such wisdom by taking us “into his confidence” (v. 32). He whispers His solutions to those who are close to Him.

Praying about his problem one night, David had an idea. Next Christmas Day, he and Angie put on their best clothes, decorated the table with tinsel, and brought in the roast dinner. David’s parents did the same. Then, placing a laptop on each table, they ate together via video link. It almost felt like they were in the same room. It’s become a family tradition ever since.

God took David into His confidence and gave him wisdom. He loves to whisper creative solutions to our problems.

By Sheridan Voysey

REFLECT & PRAY

What dilemma are you facing? What loving solution might God have for you?

Father God, please whisper to my heart Your creative solution to my problem.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Proverbs 3 contains a father’s instruction to his son on the vital importance of wisdom and how humility plays a key role. In verses 11-12, the father highlights the importance of accepting discipline from God. These verses provide a classic example of how the New Testament engages with the Old. The writer of Hebrews quotes this passage while emphasizing the father-child relationship we enjoy with God. “Do not lose heart when [God] rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Hebrews 12:5-6). The writer then notes, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” (v. 7). It’s fitting that an earthly father should offer his son advice with our heavenly Father’s correction of His children in view.

Tim Gustafson

UR: (Our Provision) 

If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. - 2 Corinthians 8:12 (NIV)

I once participated in children’s ministry at a church in an impoverished community. As Christmas approached, my colleague announced that the church would host a celebration and invite children from a local orphanage. Since the children in the church were in need themselves, I didn’t expect them to offer anything to the children from the orphanage.

On the eve of the Christmas celebration, I was surprised to see the children bringing gifts to church. It turned out that in early December, the children had worked together to collect discarded water bottles. They used the proceeds they received from recycling the bottles to buy gifts which they presented to the children from the orphanage. Our children opened my mind because they succeeded in doing what the verse above states. Even though our children were living in poverty, they gave what they had to the children in the orphanage to show their love and care.

It is easy to feel burdened by difficult circumstances and think, Why should I give while I am still lacking? However, God gives us the strength and the ability to do God’s will. We can all offer something to help the children of God.

TODAY'S PRAYER

O Lord, give us the strength and ability to do good for our neighbors. Amen.TWFYT: Count the cost

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Maybe start with this and end with this today!

Harvest Prayer blog:

December 17 - Free Gift (Third Sunday of Advent)

Before you begin, meditate on this thought:  God has chosen to work through me.

Father how I thank You that because I have put my faith and trust in Christ, He has made me a new creation!  The old has gone--the new has come! This great redemptive work is from You Father, through Christ, for me!  My relationship with You has been made right and because of His finished work on the cross You do not hold my sin against me! Hallelujah! Praise Your holy name! (Pause and be thankful that Christ Jesus has saved you from your sin.)

Now Father I ask that You help me to understand what it means that because I am in Christ the message of reconciliation is lived out and proclaimed, through me!  May I be found worthy of the name “Ambassador of Christ” and faithfully implore others to be reconciled to You.

The free gift of salvation through Jesus that alone can make us to be the “righteousness of God” is good news that most around me need desperately to hear. I ask that You capture my heart again I pray, with the joy of this great salvation in You and open my lips that I might praise You and proclaim with great joy, the gospel message.  You are the God of all hope and I ask that I would overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit and continually be prepared to give the reason for the hope that I have in You. 

This day I ask You Wonderful Counselor, that You open my heart and mind and give me ears to hear what You would say to me, what You would speak through me. Make me increasingly sensitive to Your voice and gentle promptings, and give me a willing, submissive spirit that I might obey.

Mighty God, may Your power be evident through the way I live and conduct my life, that I would truly live and move and have my very being in You alone.

Everlasting Father may Your fatherly embrace and great love be expressed through my life. In my conversations and interactions with the world around me, be glorified I pray.  May Jesus be seen through me in such loving ways that many are drawn to Him.

Prince of Peace in the midst of this chaotic fearful world, may the peace of Christ be spread through my life. Increase my trust and hope in You that I in turn might minister to those around me who are as sheep without a shepherd.

Give me Your heart. Your eyes. Your ears, O Lord. That in all things I might respond as Jesus would, and be a worthy ambassador of the gospel. In the name of Jesus, Emmanuel, I pray. Amen.

(2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Psalm 51:12,15; Romans 15:13; 1 Peter 3:15; Acts 17:28; Matthew 5:16)

--This Advent prayer was written by Tiece L. King, the author of Pray the Word. This resource is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount on the book.
 

Prayer Points

  • Praise God who has invited you into his circle of fellowship through Jesus Christ.
  • Thank him for his invitation to love him with your whole being (Mk.12:33).
  • Confess to God that sometimes you don’t love and honor him as you should.
  • Commit yourself to Deut. 10:12: “To fear the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, to love him, and to serve [him] with all your heart and with all your soul.”
  • Ask God to enable you fulfill that commitment today.
  • Pray that the knowledge of Christ will spread throughout the whole world, even as a tiny seed grows into a large and vigorous plant (Mk. 4:31). Pray for faithful preachers of the gospel (Mt. 24:14).

Charles Stanley: Our Mission

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ODB: Read and meditate on Prov. 3: 5-18. WOW! Our how to!

Christmas Dilemma

For the Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence. Proverbs 3:32

READ Proverbs 3:5–18

audio playLISTEN ONLINE

David and Angie had felt called to move overseas, and the fruitful ministry that followed seemed to confirm it. But there was one downside to their move. David’s elderly parents would now spend Christmases alone.

David and Angie tried to mitigate his parents’ Christmas Day loneliness by posting gifts early and calling on Christmas morning. But what his parents really wanted was them. With David’s income only permitting an occasional trip home, what else could they do? David needed wisdom.

Proverbs 3 is a crash course in wisdom-seeking, showing us how to receive it by taking our situations to God (vv. 5–6), describing its various qualities such as love and faithfulness (vv. 3–4, 7–12), and its benefits as peace and longevity (vv. 13–18). In a touching note, it adds that God gives such wisdom by taking us “into his confidence” (v. 32). He whispers His solutions to those who are close to Him.

Praying about his problem one night, David had an idea. Next Christmas Day, he and Angie put on their best clothes, decorated the table with tinsel, and brought in the roast dinner. David’s parents did the same. Then, placing a laptop on each table, they ate together via video link. It almost felt like they were in the same room. It’s become a family tradition ever since.

God took David into His confidence and gave him wisdom. He loves to whisper creative solutions to our problems.

By Sheridan Voysey

REFLECT & PRAY

What dilemma are you facing? What loving solution might God have for you?

Father God, please whisper to my heart Your creative solution to my problem.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Proverbs 3 contains a father’s instruction to his son on the vital importance of wisdom and how humility plays a key role. In verses 11-12, the father highlights the importance of accepting discipline from God. These verses provide a classic example of how the New Testament engages with the Old. The writer of Hebrews quotes this passage while emphasizing the father-child relationship we enjoy with God. “Do not lose heart when [God] rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Hebrews 12:5-6). The writer then notes, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” (v. 7). It’s fitting that an earthly father should offer his son advice with our heavenly Father’s correction of His children in view.

Tim Gustafson

UR: (Our Provision) 

If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. - 2 Corinthians 8:12 (NIV)

I once participated in children’s ministry at a church in an impoverished community. As Christmas approached, my colleague announced that the church would host a celebration and invite children from a local orphanage. Since the children in the church were in need themselves, I didn’t expect them to offer anything to the children from the orphanage.

On the eve of the Christmas celebration, I was surprised to see the children bringing gifts to church. It turned out that in early December, the children had worked together to collect discarded water bottles. They used the proceeds they received from recycling the bottles to buy gifts which they presented to the children from the orphanage. Our children opened my mind because they succeeded in doing what the verse above states. Even though our children were living in poverty, they gave what they had to the children in the orphanage to show their love and care.

It is easy to feel burdened by difficult circumstances and think, Why should I give while I am still lacking? However, God gives us the strength and the ability to do God’s will. We can all offer something to help the children of God.

TODAY'S PRAYER

O Lord, give us the strength and ability to do good for our neighbors. Amen.TWFYT: Count the cost

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Maybe start with this and end with this today!

Harvest Prayer blog:

December 17 - Free Gift (Third Sunday of Advent)

Before you begin, meditate on this thought:  God has chosen to work through me.

Father how I thank You that because I have put my faith and trust in Christ, He has made me a new creation!  The old has gone--the new has come! This great redemptive work is from You Father, through Christ, for me!  My relationship with You has been made right and because of His finished work on the cross You do not hold my sin against me! Hallelujah! Praise Your holy name! (Pause and be thankful that Christ Jesus has saved you from your sin.)

Now Father I ask that You help me to understand what it means that because I am in Christ the message of reconciliation is lived out and proclaimed, through me!  May I be found worthy of the name “Ambassador of Christ” and faithfully implore others to be reconciled to You.

The free gift of salvation through Jesus that alone can make us to be the “righteousness of God” is good news that most around me need desperately to hear. I ask that You capture my heart again I pray, with the joy of this great salvation in You and open my lips that I might praise You and proclaim with great joy, the gospel message.  You are the God of all hope and I ask that I would overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit and continually be prepared to give the reason for the hope that I have in You. 

This day I ask You Wonderful Counselor, that You open my heart and mind and give me ears to hear what You would say to me, what You would speak through me. Make me increasingly sensitive to Your voice and gentle promptings, and give me a willing, submissive spirit that I might obey.

Mighty God, may Your power be evident through the way I live and conduct my life, that I would truly live and move and have my very being in You alone.

Everlasting Father may Your fatherly embrace and great love be expressed through my life. In my conversations and interactions with the world around me, be glorified I pray.  May Jesus be seen through me in such loving ways that many are drawn to Him.

Prince of Peace in the midst of this chaotic fearful world, may the peace of Christ be spread through my life. Increase my trust and hope in You that I in turn might minister to those around me who are as sheep without a shepherd.

Give me Your heart. Your eyes. Your ears, O Lord. That in all things I might respond as Jesus would, and be a worthy ambassador of the gospel. In the name of Jesus, Emmanuel, I pray. Amen.

(2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Psalm 51:12,15; Romans 15:13; 1 Peter 3:15; Acts 17:28; Matthew 5:16)

--This Advent prayer was written by Tiece L. King, the author of Pray the Word. This resource is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount on the book.
 

Prayer Points

  • Praise God who has invited you into his circle of fellowship through Jesus Christ.
  • Thank him for his invitation to love him with your whole being (Mk.12:33).
  • Confess to God that sometimes you don’t love and honor him as you should.
  • Commit yourself to Deut. 10:12: “To fear the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, to love him, and to serve [him] with all your heart and with all your soul.”
  • Ask God to enable you fulfill that commitment today.
  • Pray that the knowledge of Christ will spread throughout the whole world, even as a tiny seed grows into a large and vigorous plant (Mk. 4:31). Pray for faithful preachers of the gospel (Mt. 24:14).
Prayer Points taken from Patterns for Prayer by Alvin VanderGriend. 
Posted by: AT 02:48 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, December 22 2023

Good morning Joyful, Rejoicing Worshipers! We will hear a lot about joy and rejoicing today during worship as we light the Joy Candle on our wreath and explore joy in the Gospel of John. I think back several years when we explored a different spiritual virtue each month. Maybe one of those virtues might be a word God is leading you to work on next year as you work out your salvation with fear and trembling and work on becoming more of the person you were created to be or doing more of the things you were created to do. God has plans for you and is at work in you and all around you to bring His perfect will and plans to life. REJOICE! The spiritual virtue for Jan. was joy. I think about how we get to choose joy often since that study and have been working on that virtue myself since then.

Joy is a choice we get to make despite our circumstances. Joy flows from an active faith life where we know God is always at work bringing His will to life, that He never forgets us, and is working all things together for good for those who believe. He is working ALL things together and may allow some trials, testing and hardships into your life as part of that working all things together. So, choose joy as you trust Him to be with you, carry you, teach you, prepare you, stretch you and use you for His glory and plans for you. Check out our devos below as they do tie to this theme of trust and joy and the peace beyond understanding that you can know in Christ. We will start with Harvest Prayer's blog for today about praying for that.

You all have purposes no matter your age, circumstances, faith level or gifts and abilities. God knows, cares and has something just for you just as you are. One of the most important purposes in our Good News Delivery Co. is the role of praying. Prayer is vital! And what's cool is everyone can pray and learn how to pray more effectively as you practice praying. Check out this quote from Harvest Prayer's blog today: 

Prayer Pointer
“Ministry without prayer becomes work in the power of the flesh. Prayer without ministry is complacent Christianity.” —Anonymous

May you grow in faith as you trust God more, choose joy and come to know His peace. Rejoice and worship well today! Shalom!

Harvest Prayer Blog:

December 10 - Peace, Be Still (Second Sunday of Advent)

Before you begin, ask God to reveal to your heart the ways that the enemy has robbed you of the peace that is yours because of Christ. Confess these things to Him and ask Him to pour out on you His peace that passes all understanding.  Ask Him to still the storms in your life and refocus your living.

I thank You Father, that Jesus Himself is my peace and that He has completely destroyed the barrier that separated me from You! How grateful I am that I have been reconciled to Him through His blood shed on the cross and now have peace with You.

Forgive me I pray, for the times that I do not cast my cares and anxieties onto You, but instead carry them myself and allow my heart to be weighed down and needlessly burdened. I ask that Your peace, which is beyond my ability to understand, guard my heart and my mind--cover me, because I am in Christ Jesus. I belong to You. Thank You Lord Jesus, for the peace that You give to me which is so very different than the fleeting attempts of the world to quiet my heart. Guard my heart by Your Holy Spirit, that I might not be afraid. Help me to learn to be still and know that You are God, to hear Your voice in the midst of the storms that I face saying “Peace, be still.” Keep me from fear and increase my faith. May my life be characterized by Your peace no matter what situation I might face, that You may be glorified in me and through me and receive the praise that is due Your name.

May I love Your Word that I might have great peace and not stumble.

May my mind be controlled by Your Holy Spirit and produce life and peace.

May Your strength and peace fill my life because I belong to You.

Lord Jesus, You are my Wonderful Counselor, You are Mighty God, the Everlasting Father incarnate and Prince of Peace! With You all things are possible. I invite You into the impossible situations of my life and ask that as I wait on You, You fill me with Your peace – for my hope is in You alone and I trust in Your great name.

(Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20; Romans 5:1; 1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:7; John 14:27; Psalm 46:10; Mark 4:35-41; Psalm 119:165; Romans 8:6; Psalm 29:11; Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 19:26)

--This Advent prayer was written by Tiece L. King, the author of Pray the Word. This resource is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount on the book.
 

Prayer Points

  • Praise God as the one whose arm is “not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” (Isa. 59:1).
  • Thank God for the promise to hear you when you come to him in prayer.
  • Confess any sin which may result in his not hearing your prayers (59:2). If you are struggling in this area, commit yourself to regular, daily times of prayer and fellowship with God. Ask him to draw close to you as you fellowship with him.
  • God has long arms when it comes to salvation. No one is beyond his reach. Thank him for that truth and pray for one unsaved person you know. 

ODB:

God Won’t Forget You

I will not forget you! Isaiah 49:15

READ Isaiah 49:13–18

audio playLISTEN ONLINE

As a child, I collected postage stamps. When my angkong (Fukienese for “grandfather”) heard of my hobby, he started saving stamps from his office mail every day. Whenever I visited my grandparents, Angkong would give me an envelope filled with a variety of beautiful stamps. “Even though I’m always busy,” he told me once, “I won’t forget you.”

Angkong wasn’t given to overt displays of affection, but I felt his love deeply. In an infinitely deeper way, God demonstrated His love toward Israel when He declared, “I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15). Suffering in Babylon for idolatry and disobedience in days past, His people lamented, “The Lord has forgotten me” (v. 14). But God’s love for His people hadn’t changed. He promised them forgiveness and restoration (vv. 8–13).

“I have engraved you on the palms of my hands,” God told Israel, as He also tells us today (v. 16). As I ponder His words of reassurance, it reminds me so deeply of Jesus’ nail-scarred hands—stretched out in love for us and for our salvation (John 20:24–27). Like my grandfather’s stamps and his tender words, God holds out His forgiving hand as an eternal token of His love. Let’s thank Him for His love—an unchanging love. He will never forget us.

By Karen Huang

REFLECT & PRAY

When were you clearly reminded that God never forgets you? How can His unchanging love give you hope and security in your present situation?

Father, thank You for Your constant love and presence. 

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

The scope of Isaiah’s ministry is introduced in Isaiah 1:1: “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” While Isaiah’s ministry was largely localized to Jerusalem and Judah, it spanned decades and the rule of four different kings. J. A. Martin, writing in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, says: “Isaiah ministered for at least 58 years (from at least 739, when Uzziah died [6:1], to 681, when Sennacherib died).” Isaiah’s name means “Yahweh is salvation,” which is appropriate since his writing gives numerous prophecies of Jesus the Savior, including Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7; and 53. The work of Jesus is clearly in view in Isaiah 53:5: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Bill Crowder

UR:

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. - Luke 2:4 (NIV)

Every year, many of us enter the Christmas season with a vision of the perfect Christmas. We dream of smooth and safe travels, gatherings filled with laughter, no one sidelined by illness, gifts perfectly selected and joyfully received. But rarely do we get that ideal Christmas!

Even the first Christmas was not perfect. The government had issued a decree, so Mary and Joseph packed what they needed and made their way to Bethlehem. As she neared the end of her pregnancy, probably the last thing Mary wanted to do was leave her home and her community of friends.

Maybe in this first week of Advent some situations are already far from ideal. Family tensions, financial burdens, health challenges, work-place stress — any and all of these can steal our joy. But God comes to be with us in the life we have right now, not the life we wish we had. Circumstances we resent won’t change the truth of Christmas. The first Christmas in Bethlehem is a powerful reminder to us that God comes to be with us in places and circumstances that are sometimes less than ideal — offering us the light of eternal love.

TODAY'S PRAYER

Gracious God, we need your presence with us in all our circumstances. Come this Advent, we pray, and meet us in the reality we are living right now. Amen.

TWFYT:

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Wagner's Newsletter:

Greetings from cold and snowy Minnesota,

As we sit in the living room of Luke & Rachel’s home in Minnesota, holding our newborn grandson and watching the snow(!), it is hard to believe that classes at RVA finished just two weeks ago. Over the last few weeks, we have witnessed God’s perfect timing again and again.

A New Grandson

We arrived in the US just 10 days ago. Three days later, we were on a train to Philly where we boarded a plane to Minneapolis. Arriving that afternoon, we enjoyed family time together and made plans for the next day, as we anticipated waiting a few days for this little one to arrive. Those plans changed quickly as we joyfully welcomed Cayden Thomas into the world the very next afternoon! God’s perfect timing - amazing! Getting over jetlag while enjoying a large dose of baby snuggles has been a wonderful gift to our weary minds and bodies.

Finishing Up at RVA
Our last weeks at RVA were quite full, as expected, celebrating an early Christmas with concerts and fun parties before sending our dorm boys and students off for the December term break. We also had some unexpected things to navigate. Missy had been dealing with a cracked tooth since May. The repair worked for a time, but early in November it began hurting again. A week before our departure, she was having the tooth extracted. Thankfully, this is much easier and cheaper in Kenya where we have an excellent dentist. Again…God’s perfect timing as we could deal with the tooth before leaving and not have to figure it out in the US.
 
As part of the process of preparing to leave, we also scheduled regular physicals and other medical check-ups. The doctor that Brian was supposed to see was not available; and instead, he met with a different doctor. One of the questions that came up was a low resting heart rate that has been noticed in the past, but not really a big concern. This doctor decided to run some extra tests that turned up an issue for which Brian is not showing any symptoms. That led to even further tests right before we left Kenya, including a cardiac MRI on the morning of our departure. Again…God’s perfect timing, as these tests were easy to schedule, relatively inexpensive, and fully covered by our overseas insurance.
The Next Steps
Now that we have a diagnosis in hand along with extensive testing data, we are scheduling doctor appointments on this side of the ocean to figure out exactly what is going on and determine the best course of treatment. We’re thankful for our Kenya connections as one doctor contacted another, who contacted another and ultimately got Brian an appointment with a pulmonologist this next week. We are in the States, able to get excellent care, with the time and space needed to do the follow-up necessary…God’s perfect timing!
Prayer Requests
PRAY that the doctors will be able to discern the cause of the excess pressure in Brian’s heart and develop the best treatment plan. We are so thankful that this has been discovered before it causes any noticeable symptoms and long-term damage. PRAY with us for accurate test results, clarity on the cause, and good treatment options. We are grateful that we have time to work through this.
 
This next prayer request just turned into a PRAISE! Micah has been diligently searching for a car and prayed about several options with God closing the doors each time. Earlier today, he and Lynnsi purchased a car! We’re thankful for this provision for them which allows us to use our own car throughout the next nine months.
Upcoming Schedule
We will travel back to PA early this coming week and spend about ten days there before driving back out to Minnesota for a family Christmas. As our travel plans begin to solidify for 2024, we will share more frequent updates to let you know where we will be and when. We would love to have time together while we are in the States.
 
Thanks for standing with us in prayer. You are a blessing!
 
Brian & Missy
Posted by: AT 02:47 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, December 09 2023

Good Morning Praying Friends! You prayers are being heard and releasing God's power and will on earth and in the heavenlies. PTL!

Couple of updates:

Glad Ketner has been moved out of ICU to a regular room. She is alert and tries to talk but hard to understand yet. She will be moved to a rehab in the near future. Praise God for the healing that is coming and pray for shalom over her and family and for wisdom for the staff.

Maura Specht (Pastor Don and Karen's granddaughter) has been moved to CHOP for a higher level of care. She has RSV and is on oxygen.

The Canfield family and Caleb continue to heal from bad colds

Lori Rohrer has been able to move forward with resolution with insurance companies after her accident. the car that hit her was cited and deemed at fault. However the driver gave false insurance info. Pray for provision, resolution and shalom.

Pastor Don and Karen will be flying to FL Tues. (Lord willing) to visit his mom and Terry. There will be no blogs next week.Pastor Don is feeling exhausted and a bit under the weather. Pray for healing and for God to go before them with favor. (Mon is our 19th anniversary! WOW! How did I get so blessed! Pray for Karen--you can only imagine what it's like to live with me! Emoji)

Thanks for praying!

We light the JOY candle tomorrow. I love how God keeps bringing up the theme of joy and ties things together as we sit at His feet and engage with Him through our Bible readings and devotionals! I'm going to let you check them out and engage with God through your own quiet time. Remember to ask what's going on in this passage? What is God saying to me? What measurable thing will I do in response? Who can I process this with? God is speaking to your heart right now. Turn off the noise and tune out the chaos. Be still and know! He loves you and has some good things in store for you, even today, even in the chaos as He brings His peaceful presence and joy alive through your faith. Rejoice! 

See you tomorrow at 10 in person or on Zoom. Sounds like tomorrow will be a day filled with showers of blessings, God's downpours of love, and a day of being washed whiter than snow! Rejoice! Reign our Lord and King!

Let's start with the Harvest Prayer devo for today as we release God's will together! 

You Kingdom come Father! Your will be done! May we glorify You and pray as you would have us and worship by responding well to your leading today. Cleanse us. We are purified In Christ. Thank You! May we incarnate Your Son, joy, healing and hope today. Come. be glorified! Amen

December 9 - Opening Earth to Heaven’s Influence

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will” (Romans 8:26-28).

Search the Scriptures and you will search in vain for any prayer in which Jesus didn’t know what His Father wanted done. There were a few times when He was surprised (e.g., the faith of the Roman centurion compared to the faithlessness of His own people). However, even in those instances, He would wait to understand what God wanted done, and then He would pray in perfect, sinless harmony with God’s purposes. Through that praying, the will would be done on earth, just as in heaven. His role, as the Second Adam (of both earth and heaven, dust and Spirit), was to bridge the two realms, invoking heaven’s presence and power through the mediation of His earthly nature.

Heaven and earth intersected in the man Jesus and opened earth to heaven’s influence. Through being joined to Christ Himself (by virtue of His atoning death and His Spirit residing within) heaven and earth intersect in us too. Our praying also opens earth to heaven’s influence as well. Through our intercessions, we act as a conduit through which the power of the Lord can flow through us to reshape the fallen creation back into something that suits God’s purposes. That is the thrust of Romans 8:18-30. We are to discern what God would have us pray, rather than simply to pray, “God do this, if it be Your will.”

Holy Spirit, I am a weak created being without Your power!  I am never at a loss for expressing my heartfelt needs to God because Your groaning bursts forth on my behalf, aligned with the perfect will of the Father.  You allow heaven and earth to intersect in me…a deep and holy realization!  How I give thanks for the privilege of praying the purposes of God into reality upon earth! 

--Adapted from Power Praying (Hearing Jesus’ Spirit by Praying Jesus’ Prayer) by David Chotka.
 

Prayer Points

  • Praise the God who lays claim to the entire world and all that live in it (Ps. 24:1).
  • Thank him for the food, shelter, and clothing that sustains you and gives comfort to your life.
  • Confess the times when you have failed to acknowledge God’s riches in your life.
  • Commit yourself to examining your acts of stewardship.
  • Ask God to give you a heart of liberality, knowing that all you have comes from him (1 Chron. 29:14).
  • Ask God to show your family new and creative ways to share the abundance of your lives with families who have much less.

Charles Stanley:

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TWFYT:

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ODB:

Be the Church

Let us consider how we may spur one another on . . . not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing. Hebrews 10:24–25

READ Hebrews 10:19–25

audio playLISTEN ONLINE

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Dave and Carla spent months looking for a church home. Following health guidelines, which limited various in-person experiences, made it even more difficult. They longed for connection to a body of believers in Jesus. “It’s a hard time to find a church,” Carla emailed me. Within me rose a realization from my own longing to be reunited with my church family. “It’s a hard time to be the church,” I responded. In that season, our church had “pivoted,” offering food in surrounding neighborhoods, creating online services, and phoning every member with support and prayer. My husband and I participated and yet wondered what else we could do to “be the church” in our changed world.

In Hebrews 10:25, the writer exhorts readers not to neglect “meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but [encourage] one another.” Perhaps due to persecution (vv. 32–34) or maybe as a result of simply growing weary (12:3), the struggling early believers needed a nudge to keep being the church.

And today, I need a nudge too. Do you? When circumstances change how we experience church, will we continue to be the church? Let’s creatively encourage one another and build each other up as God guides us. Share our resources. Send a text of support. Gather as we’re able. Pray for one another. Let’s be the church.

By Elisa Morgan

REFLECT & PRAY

How can you be a help to those today who can’t gather in a church building? How does the church fill your need to be a part of a much larger purpose?

Dear God, please show me how to be the church.

Posted by: AT 08:46 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, December 09 2023

Good Morning Thankful Pray-ers! Thank God it's Friday is pretty irrelevant for those who are retired, people that work on weekends and those serving the Lord 24-7. However, celebrating Thank God I'm Forgiven daily is a great exercise and helps to keep our focus right, our attitudes joyful, and our lives on track. This season between Thanksgiving and Christmas is usually a blur and a reminder of how quickly time moves along. Instead of getting all bound up in the busyness, stress, and even grief this season can bring, let us commit to stilling ourselves and focusing on God with much thanksgiving and praise. Try it and watch and see how your attitudes, actions and joy level changes. Be still, know and overflow with gratitude. He came so we might live! PTL! Enjoy the life you are living in Christ. Again I say rejoice! Joy to the world flows through joyful worshipers like us! Amen!

According to some Christmas songs and hymns 'tis the season of joy, the season of love, the season to be jolly and merry. We have the opportunity and get to choose joy because of Christ's coming, His finished work on the cross, and the gift of salvation and faith given to us. Rejoice! Choose joy today as you offer many thanksgivings and praises to our Father. We just completed reading through the Gospel of John challenge we began in Sept. PTL right? And we are winding down the Become Me in '23 Challenge where we have been working on words God led us to to help us to grow into the people we were created to be and to become better at fulfilling our created purposes. PTL! I have seen much growth and experienced that myself this year. God has used these challenges the past few years to help us grow in Christ and to teach how to go live and love like Jesus better. PTL and keep at it! What word is God revealing to you to work on next year as we seek to Become More in '24? Great fruit lies ahead as God uses us well and grows us into His greater things!

We are finishing up reading and meditating on John 20 and 21 this week. We've been asking the questions weekly, "What's going on in this passage? What's God saying to me? What is a measurable response I will pursue to what God is saying?" I added the challenge for you to process these things with someone besides what we have been discussing on Sundays. Why this challenge? To help us learn to hear God better and to understand how we can help others hear and grow as disciples of Jesus. We are commissioned to make disciples. How are we doing? "Discipleship is the process of becoming who Jesus would be if He were me." We are challenged to know Christ and make Him known as we work on becoming a dynamic movement of God. Those will continue to be challenges for us at St. Matts for the year and years ahead. What's your part?

The failure of many churches at vitality and growth has been created by the failure to make disciples. Church is not about gathering in a building an hour or two a week and listening to some talking head babble on about his thoughts. Church is about being Christ's body with Him as the head leading us to what's now and what's next in our journey to become disciples that reproduce disciples that reproduce disciples of Jesus. That happens as we adapt to our context and follow Jesus, becoming more like Him and doing the things He is doing. All of that takes prayer and each of us fulfilling our created purposes for such a time as this. What's your part? Talk to God about that and process with some others as you discover some measurable ways to move towards that. God has plans for us. Future fruit is beginning to blossom and bud. PTL! But we need to stay connected to God and following Him to His plans and new things along the way. We need to stay supple and open as we carry out our assignments and we need to keep checking in and evaluating how we are doing and what may need to change or be focused on. We even need to expect and be ready for some pruning along the way. That is being the best stewards of all God has given!

Last night our Support Team had a lengthy meeting as we sought God, worked through and tweaked our budget to follow His provision for us into 2024 and beyond. If the provision dries up, whether that provision is finances, laborers, or God's open door we need to know that, make His plans and adapt. God provides where He guides is a fact and what we need to focus on and adapt to constantly if we are to become a dynamic movement of God. And that is our goal and focus at St. Matts. Who knows what lies ahead? Only God but we get clues along the way as He reveals our next steps. Our leadership team is that vision team for us as well and are committed to meeting quarterly with the finance team next year to assess our progress and seek God's leading for what is now and what's next. We are committed to becoming a dynamic movement of God and flourishing in Christ well into the future or to pour ourselves out and do what we can with what has been given until there is no more and only God. We are learning to rely on Him more fully and follow well as we learn to live sacrificially and love lavishly like Jesus. Thank you for doing your part and choosing joy and to have an open-handed approach to follow Jesus with us. His best lies ahead! Amen!

Everything of value in Gods Kingdom is birthed from prayer and carried out through prayerful, faithful servants that love God and long for His Kingdom to come and will be done. Servants who do what they can with what they got as they follow the Holy Spirit to their created purposes for His glory. And that is our Good News Delivery Co. called St. Matts. Rejoice! Keep seeking, releasing, receiving, birthing and empowering through prayer as you move more fully into your purposes! God has some great stuff for you! Thank God I'm/You're  Forgiven and being used by God! Rejoice!

Prayer Pointer
“It is not possible to explain the power and effectiveness of the New Testament church without reference to prayer.” —Anonymous

Posted by: AT 08:44 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, December 09 2023

Good Morning Obedient, All-In, Living and Loving like Jesus Believers! Oh that is us! Pronounce that out loud over you and us today and pray it expectantly with thanksgiving as you offer yourself to God as a living sacrifice, receive His best and go love like Jesus! What joy and satisfaction you can know as you live your life well in Christ! I'm going to let you spend some more time with our Daddy this morning as you engage with Him through our devotionals below. He was really speaking to me this morning! Thanks Lord! What's He saying to you and what will you do about it? Who is helping you on that journey and who are you bringing along?

I just want to let you know that Tue afternoon we celebrated the Bread/Clothing/Pantry volunteers with a nice luncheon and last evening we celebrated a great meal with all our other church volunteers. What joy and fellowship both days. Thank God for these faithful servants and for Him using and growing us. Pray for God to continue to speak to and lead us to His best and more of Jesus in 24. I am so honored to be called to this church full of love, prayer warriors and faithful, love-filled servants! What joy!

Be still, listen, receive, journal and share with some others what you are hearing as you turn off the noise and tune into God now. he loves you and is speaking right to your heart! Shalom!

I end with a great devotional and prayer form Harvest prayer that wraps this all up so well. God loves you and has great plans for you today...choose joy, trust and follow well to His best! Shalom!

Charles Stanley:

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ODB:

Giving like Christ

Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Romans 12:1

READ Romans 12:1–3

audio playLISTEN ONLINE

When American author O. Henry wrote his beloved 1905 Christmas story “The Gift of the Magi,” he was struggling to rebound from personal troubles. Still, he penned an inspiring story that highlights a beautiful, Christlike character trait—sacrifice. In the story, an impoverished wife sells her beautiful long hair on Christmas Eve to buy a gold pocket watch chain for her husband. As she learns later, however, her husband had sold his pocket watch to buy a set of combs for her beautiful hair.

Their greatest gift to each other? Sacrifice. From each, the gesture showed great love.

In that way, the story represents the loving gifts the magi (wise men) gave to the Christ child after His holy birth (see Matthew 2:1, 11). More than those gifts, however, the Child Jesus would grow up and one day give His life for the whole world.

In our daily lives, believers in Christ can highlight His great gift by offering to others the sacrifice of our time, treasures, and a temperament that all speak of love. As the apostle Paul wrote, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). There’s no better gift than sacrificing for others through Jesus’ love.

By Patricia Raybon

REFLECT & PRAY

What sacrificial gift have you received from someone that showed Christ’s love? What sacrificial gift can you give to others in return?

In my daily life, dear God, may I show others Jesus by sacrificing my needs for theirs.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

In Romans 11, Paul writes to the church at Rome about how the salvation available through Christ is offered to everyone: the faithful remnant of Israel (vv. 1-10) and the ingrafted branches of gentiles (vv. 11-24). And the hardened hearts of Israel will be softened so that all will embrace Jesus as Messiah (vv. 25-32). In the concluding verses (vv. 33-36), the apostle can’t help but burst into celebratory song over the wisdom, grace, and power of God.

Chapter 12 is a continuation of his reasoning. It begins with the word therefore, which is a classic literary signal that what’s coming is the result of what was said previously. Because God offers salvation to so many and because His wisdom is beyond scrutiny, those who’ve chosen Jesus should offer themselves as living sacrifices (v. 1), renew their minds so they’re not conformed to this world (v. 2), and be humble (v. 3).

JR Hudberg

UR: Something New

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

My spouse and I have two amazing children. As they grew older and more independent, I was thrilled by my increasing freedom. But when I realized they no longer needed my assistance as much, I felt a little depressed. I worried my life would continue without anything new. Then the Lord encouraged me to volunteer in my community. Since then, I have volunteered as a Bible study leader, tutor, mentor, and served in other roles. I’ve learned a lot, met many people, and experienced many new things.

Some stages of life can cause us to fall into monotonous cycles. The lack of variety in our lives might cause us to lose hope and become depressed. Yet we must always remember God has more for us. God knows us far better than we even know ourselves. When we feel stuck in our routine, we can ask our loving Father to show us something new. It might be a fresh way of thinking, a new way to live, or another unexpected change for the better. Every day is a gift the Lord has made for us to rejoice in. God has new mercies for us today, tomorrow, and far into the future.

TODAY'S PRAYER

Almighty God, forgive us for letting fear hold us back. Help us to accept the new experiences you offer us with joy and courage. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.TWFYT:

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Harvest Prayer

December 7 - Come as a Devoted Child

God the Father wants to hear from us in prayer. I believe He wants us to stretch our hands to Him in humble submission to His authority, rule, reign, and loving kindness. He wants to commune with us as a daddy communes with his devoted child. He wants us to surrender ourselves to His godly judgment and will for our lives. God wants to bless us so that we can be a blessing to others. When we pray, let us pray to “our Father who is in heaven; holy is His name, and may His kingdom come.” When we pray to God the Father may we be transcended beyond the reality and connotations of our earthly father to an intimate, eternal relationship with the perfect true and benevolent, almighty God.

Benevolent, Almighty God, Your child is crying out to You!  I am longing to have faith to surrender my whole self into Your hands without holding anything back.  I’m not sure why I will trust You with some areas of my life and not with others, but I know that You are patiently loving me towards full surrender.  Thank You, Father, for You are True, Right and Perfect.  Holy is Your Name alone! 

--Taken from Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry (Chapter 4, God the Father and Prayer by Patricia A. Outlaw). This resource is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount on the book.
 

Prayer Points

  • Praise God even in your weakness, believing that in Christ, when you are weak, then you are strong (2 Cor. 12:10).
  • Thank God for opportunities to serve him with perseverance and purpose.
  • Confess those times when you chose to believe that spiritual power comes from within you.
  • Commit yourself to appropriate “boasting” in your weaknesses so that Christ’s power might be made even more evident in your life (12:9).
  • Ask God to help you “delight” even in the tough times of life.
  • Pray that Christians in every part of the globe will be strengthened to do battle with the evil spiritual forces that are at work in our world. Pray for an outpouring of God’s power throughout his church worldwide.
Prayer Points taken from Patterns for Prayer by Alvin VanderGriend.
Posted by: AT 08:43 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, December 09 2023

Good Morning Focused Friends of God! Try it! You'll like it! Turn off the noise and tune in to what your Friend has to share with you today! I worshiped God this morning by honoring His healthy rhythm of working from rest. I slept in until 7 this morning after a rough night. I have been awakening between 2-3 the last few weeks. God knows I have a crazy busy and long day today and needed some rest. I didn't get to spend as much time with Him as usual but it was quality time and I know He will be my Lord today and lead me to where I need to be, what to say and what to do. God is good at that! So, I won't be babbling on here sharing all i heard today even though in my brief hour of quiet time I heard plenty. Thanks Lord! I will let you discover for yourself the joy if sitting and listening and understanding.

Here is the Charles Stanley devo today as he verifies what I've been reminding you for a long time now--turn off the noise and tune in to God! ODB and UR follow. Have a blessed day! Come have some donuts with us this morning! And worship God well as you are by following His lead. Let every heart prepare Him room! May we learn to live sacrificially and love lavishly like Jesus and receive our daily marching porders from our Master! Amen! God loves you and has great plans for you today! What's He saying to you? What will you do about it!

I have seen God at work in and through many of you the past few days as you listen, receive, follow and allow God to use you! How awesome it is to be part of this Body of Christ! Keep living, loving and worshiping well! Shalom!

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UR: Prepare Him Room

To us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

In October 1975 I had a near-fatal car accident and suffered a dislocated hip, a wounded knee, broken ribs, and facial lacerations. After multiple surgeries and two weeks in the hospital, I was released to recuperate.

When Advent arrived, m

emories of past Christmases engulfed me: gift-giving, letter-writing, baking, candy-making, pageants, parties, cantatas, caroling, and special worship services. I lay in bed with a tear-stained face and cried out, “Dear God, how will I ever get ready for Christmas?” Then familiar words sprang into my mind, “Let every heart prepare him room.”* I realized that the only preparation I truly needed was to prepare my heart to receive Christ anew.

And what blessings I received! My children were close by and helpful. I embraced the help of my sisters in Christ who worked around my home. I discovered ways to minister while I recuperated at home. When I was able to get around on crutches, I attended three events that made my Christmas season feel complete. Let us truly hear and respond to the call to prepare room for Christ in our hearts.

*Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World,” 1719.

TODAY'S PRAYER

All thanks and praise to you, Holy One, for the precious gift of Jesus Christ. Open our hearts to accept Christ anew and serve him joyfully. Amen.ODB

Saint Nick

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

READ Matthew 1:18–25

audio playLISTEN ONLINE

The person we know as Saint Nicholas (Saint Nick) was born around ad 270 to a wealthy Grecian family. Tragically, his parents died when he was a boy, and he lived with his uncle who loved him and taught him to follow God. When Nicholas was a young man, legend says that he heard of three sisters who didn’t have a dowry for marriage and would soon be destitute. Wanting to follow Jesus’ teaching about giving to those in need, he took his inheritance and gave each sister a bag of gold coins. Over the years, Nicholas gave the rest of his money away feeding the poor and caring for others. In the following centuries, Nicholas was honored for his lavish generosity, and he inspired the character we know as Santa Claus.

While the glitz and advertising of the season may threaten our celebrations, the gift-giving tradition connects to Nicholas. And his generosity was based on his devotion to Jesus. Nicholas knew that Christ enacted unimagined generosity, bringing the most profound gift: God. Jesus is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). And He brought us the gift of life. In a world of death, He “save[s] his people from their sins” (v. 21).

When we believe in Jesus, sacrificial generosity unfolds. We tend to others’ needs, and we joyfully provide for them as God provides for us. This is Saint Nick’s story; but far more, this is God’s story.

By Winn Collier

REFLECT & PRAY

What’s your experience with gift-giving—is it forced or free and joyful? How does Jesus’ life change your notions of generosity?

Dear God, I want to be generous, but I don’t always feel it. Please help me to practice true generosity.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

The biblical record includes very little about Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. He’s mainly mentioned in narrative accounts of Christ’s birth. What we do see of Joseph, however, validates God’s wisdom in choosing him for his unique role. He was a man of the Scriptures and a man of grace: “Joseph . . . was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose [Mary] to public disgrace” (Matthew 1:19). He was a law-abiding citizen who made the trek to Bethlehem to register for the census with his pregnant wife (Luke 2:1-5). Finally, not only did he adhere to the laws of God, his heart and ears were open to His leading concerning taking Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:24) and protecting and settling his family (2:13-15, 19-23).

Arthur Jackson
Posted by: AT 08:42 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, December 09 2023

(Sarah update below and Nov financial statement)

Good Morning Bold and Courageous Followers of Jesus! AMEN! Our devotionals tie to this today talking about the faith of Abraham and Joshua, both called to follow God in faith into the unknown. Walking by faith and not by sight seems to be a theme this week! Step by step our mustard seed size faith keeps growing as we follow Jesus step by step. We have a promised land we are heading toward and we are building treasure in heaven as we trust, obey and follow well. PTL! Be bold and courageous my friends!

We finish up our reading of the Gospel of John this week (20 and 21). Where are you seeing faith discussed and grown in these readings? How about Doubting Thomas? Is that you sometimes? How about Peter being restored. Imagine what that did for His faith journey! We see that reflected in Acts as he became a bold and courageous apostle on mission with God. Isn't that our life story? We were one way and now another and growing in faith and being used by God, just as we are. Then growing into the greater things He has for us. PTL! That is our mission in life and God is using you and us! This week we have the opportunity to bless and thank our servants. Today Bread, clothing and pantry workers and tomorrow all our other volunteers and servants. Thank God for all the workers and how He is using them to touch, bless and draw some of our neighbors. Pray for His continued provision and for our growing faith to seek, trust and follow Him well into the unknown like Abraham and Joshua. He does have great plans for us and good fruit is budding! PTL! (I am told we have had 8 different people from the Bread Ministry try us out. Several want to join. PTL! Who are you inviting to join us and bringing along? Pray for us to find some new connection points in '24 where we can serve neighbors and connect them to God. Thank Him for what He is already doing and what He plans to do as we follow in faith!)

See our devos below. Sit at God's feet for a spell. Listen, receive, reload, and go live and love like Jesus today! He does have something special for you and for someone you will encounter! Share that Good News as you live it! And ask God to unite you with a couple of close friends to process and grow with. As we will be seeking God for More in '24, part of getting to that "more" will require us processing, praying, and helping each other in small groups or huddles. Ask God to raise them up and to send you to some to join with.

Today at 10-11 on Zoom is our last huddle until Jan. All are welcome. This huddle has actually become a church plant of sorts as we have attendees from FL, Myerstown and our area that are unable to attend but have become a big part of our church. Pray for how God may want to grow this new church in the new year. Thanks! Groups like this may become a growing ministry for us. 

God is on the move! He's calling you to trust and step out in faith to follow Him to unknown blessings and opportunities today and always. Seek, listen, receive, trust and obey--for there really is no other way! have a blessed day of being a blessing! And may you be filled with the joy of the Lord each step of faith along the way! Shalom!

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Nov finances: As you can see we are running at above a $25,000. deficit for the year. Please consider your year end giving to bolster our general fund. All our other funds are good right now and we will let you know if there is a need. Yes we walk by faith and God will keep providing as we trust, obey and follow Him in faith. Maybe God is calling you to tithe? Even if not, He loves a joyful giver as we give back from what we've been blessed with! All we have is a gift from God!

St Matthew’s Financial Update

 

November

2023

Monthly

Revenue

Monthly

Expenses

YTD

Revenue

YTD

Expenses

General Fund   

$9,097

$12,193

$138,054

$166,326

 

The figures for the “General Fund” include all revenue and all expenses for the month.  This includes all revenue from offerings, rent, and other income.  The expenses reported above are actual expenses for the month.  The totals reported for Missions and the Rebuilding Fund are also included in the “General Fund” figures.

Missions 

$611

$1,030

$10,079

$14,330

Rebuilding Fund

$70

$0

$4,197

$8,224

Sarah Prayer Update:

Good evening, church family,

Here we are on the eve of the first day of the week. Hope your  Monday has been going well.

Just a few reminders of those that need our prayer support and encouragement:

Friend of Lisa Wenner's - Andy's husband, Jack is in his 70's and is suffering from dizziness, and a nasty sinus infection.  Prayers for healing.

Extended family member of Barb Schware's - Jackie is going through some marital problems - divorce 

She has an 8 yr old daughter and things have the potential to become messy. Prayers for Jackie, her daughter and family that is there to support her.

Ron Boyer - 41 year old - having testing done at Hershey Medical Center, testing currently for a heart transplant. Pray for a donor and his medical team.

Harry Waterman will be having a catherization procedure on Tuesday. Prays that it goes well and in the very near future he will have a valve replacement.  Praying for God's peace and comfort to surround him.

Caleb, His mom, Dani and grandmother Kathy Canfield, have all been dealing with a horrible cold since

Thanksgiving. Please pray for baby Caleb to be able to fight off this cold and for Dani and Kathy to feel themselves soon so are able to keep up with helping Caleb......He is our miracle baby.  

UPDATE as of TODAY: Caleb was to the doctor today and his lungs sound good, but his ear is beginning to start with an infection. He is on an antibiotic. Dani is also on medication to help with healing.  Kathy is asking for prayer to get this sickness out of their home!  

Ruth - the friend of Josie's that we were praying for housing for recently passed away. She had strong faith in

God so she has finally moved into her forever home!

Praises that were shared....let's continue to praise God for what He is doing:

Darlene Geiger has been ill recently and she is praising our Awesome God for healing and recovery.

Harry Waterman is praising the Lord for healing on his shoulder. It's feeling better and the pain has

diminished.

Sally Williams is thanking God for her mom and the energy she has. She is 103 years old and went out to eat

with the 'gang' where she lives.

Pastor Don and Karen's daughter, Lauren, has been able to find housing that is closer to her place of employment. She will be transitioning in January.  Please keep Lauren's parents in your prayers as they make this transition with her.

Praising God for providing a vehicle for Pastor Don

Yay God - our church family is able to support the ministry of Everlasting Life. And for this Christmas holiday, we have collected $400 to send to them to help with the Christmas dinner. Please pray for the take out dinner in your prayers: the volunteers, those that will be coming to receive a meal. They expect to pass our over 400 cooked meals.

Outreach opportunities:

The Kindness Project - we are continuing to collect items for the project. The Kindness Project helps Foster families settle in children that may come to their homes without any supplies/clothing.

  Items that have been suggested to collect are:   Twin bed sheet sets, New games for kids, Hygiene items, Gift cards for local stores.  

Thank you to all of you who have already brought items in for this project and have placed them on the back table.

Food Pantry - over the past several weeks we have been able to assist several families who were in need of food.  So our pantry supplies is growing thin. If you are able to assist with helping with this need, and can purchase a few cans of non-perishable food items to help with the pantry, please place them in the tote at the back of the sanctuary.  

Wednesday, December 5th - in our Fellowship Hall, 10:00 - 12:00pm - it's time for Coffee, Donuts, and conversation!   Why not plan to join.....it's a great opportunity to chat with some that just want to chat with

someone.  This time is a great time for us to share Jesus Love to those He brings into the Fellowship Hall.

I believe I have covered everything....

Let me just remind you that as we are in the Advent season, we, as His children are waiting with anticipation of Christ's return at the Second coming. As we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, we are honoring the sacrifice He made for us. As we gather around the manger, that is only part of our Advent season, We also need to 

journey to the foot of the cross.  May we all be intentional this year to take time during Advent to prepare our hearts. Remember that God laid aside His glory to become human because of His great love for you, and He WILL return one day to restore glory to His people.

Have a great rest of your week......keep an eye out for opportunities to share Jesus with others.

 Blessings,

    Sarah

UR: Stepping Out In Faith

Abram trusted the Lord, and the Lord recognized Abram’s high moral character. - Genesis 15:6 (CEB)

Abram was a man in a seemingly impossible situation. He had been commissioned by God to leave his father’s house and journey to an unknown destination. The commission came with a promise: God would bless him and his descendants immensely.

As wonderful as this promise was, it must have seemed just as impossible as the commission. Abram was advanced in years and his wife was barren. But despite the odds, Abram decided to believe the Lord. Abram took a leap of faith, trusting the word of an unseen God who made a never-ending covenant with him.

This is the kind of faith that pleases God. Faith requires that we do what God calls us to do, trusting that God knows our abilities better than we do. And God will back us with power and resources we otherwise wouldn’t have so that we can step out in faith to obey God’s call.

TODAY'S PRAYER

Faithful God, thank you for calling us to follow and serve you. Help us to rely on you as we step out in faith. Amen.ODB:

God’s Comforting Commitment

The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

READ Joshua 1:1–9

audio playLISTEN ONLINE

Years ago, our family visited Four Corners, the only place in the United States where four states meet at one location. My husband stood in the section marked Arizona. Our oldest son, A.J., hopped into Utah. Our youngest son, Xavier, held my hand as we stepped into Colorado. When I scooted into New Mexico, Xavier said, “Mom, I can’t believe you left me in Colorado!” We were together and apart as our laughter was heard in four different states. Now that our grown sons have left home, I have a deeper appreciation of God’s promise to be near all His people wherever they go.

After Moses died, God called Joshua into leadership and guaranteed His presence as He expanded the Israelite’s territory (Joshua 1:1–4). God said, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (v. 5). Knowing that Joshua would struggle with doubt and fear as the new leader of His people, God built a foundation of hope on these words: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (v. 9).

No matter where God leads us or our loved ones, even through difficult times, His most comforting commitment assures us that He’s always present.

By Xochitl Dixon

REFLECT & PRAY

How has God recently comforted you with His constant presence? How does His commitment to be present help when you’re far from loved ones?

Ever-present God, thank You for comforting me with the promise of Your constant presence.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Joshua, a leader from the tribe of Ephraim, was one of the twelve spies Moses sent to survey the land of Canaan. Moses changed his name from Hoshea, meaning “salvation,” to Joshua, meaning “Jehovah is salvation” (Numbers 13:8, 16). He’d been Moses’ aide since his youth (Exodus 24:13; 33:11; Numbers 11:28; Joshua 1:1). God commended Joshua as one who followed Him wholeheartedly. And Joshua and Caleb were the only two persons who were twenty years old or more when they left Egypt who were permitted to enter the promised land (Numbers 32:11-12). Even Moses wasn’t allowed to enter (Deuteronomy 3:23-29).

K. T. Sim

Charles Stanley:

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TWFYT:

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Saturday, December 09 2023

Good Morning Receivers of Love, Wisdom, Healing, Hope, and Faith! Love came down at Christmas is an old carol yet so true. For God so loved not only the world, but you! He made a way that all who will come to Him can actually choose. Many reject. We chose Love. God gave us the faith to believe and receive His saving grace through coming to faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Yesterday, we lit the "FAITH" Advent candle and I tried to discuss faith. I am never really sure what all I say and how far along the Holy Spirit allows me to move through the message when I wing it. What did you hear yesterday?

Faith is a free gift from God that humans have the opportunity to open. PTL! We chose to open it! As we open that gift and receive His love, forgiveness, healing, hope and help we are given another gift, the Holy Spirit, who brings more gifts, spiritual ones, and the gift of His help to lead us towards becoming more like Jesus and to grow into our fuller potential as we work on our faith journey. Our faith journey can be a wild ride, like a roller coaster of many ups, downs twists and turns, but of we stay on track, God will lead us to His best and our final destination. PTL! Check out our devos below and spend some time at Jesus' feet preparing for the day and weeks ahead. Listen, receive and then process with some others. What's God saying to you? What will you do about it? Who is praying for you and helping you to process and move forward towards that goal? Who are you inviting to join your journey or to experience faith for themselves?

Many of us chose words to work on this year as part of the Become Me in '23 Challenge. I've been praying for you all year and processing with you how that has been going. I've seen some great growth and strides towards growing in that chosen spiritual weakness. Faith was a word several chose and really all our words flow from and towards faith in Jesus and knowing He wants to help us become more like Him. Keep at it! As we move towards the New Year I am challenging you to seek God for the next word to work on or if you should keep working on the word you chose. Our focus next year is Become More in '24. It's about less of self and more of Jesus in our lives--dying to self and taking up cross to follow Jesus more better.It's about continuing to work on our faith journey's to become more like Jesus and doing more of the things He planned for us before we were created.

I'm attaching below the handout from yesterday that many of you left behind. We never got to the last part and I want to challenge you to process that for the rest of Dec. and talk to God about what He wants to work on with you next for your growth. Process with some others and to grow into the greater things He has for you. We do walk by faith and not by sight. Things are not always as they appear in the physical realm. We are believing that God is bringing revival and that comes to life as we allow Him to grow our faith and lead us to His purposes for us for such a time as this. We may be traveling through some dark valleys and trials right now, BUT GOD! He's allowed them and will walk with us through them to better things (ODB). We need to make time to be still in this busy time of year and prepare and listen and receive to know His peace and follow Him well (UR). We never retire from serving the Lord as we prepare for eternal life. We need to keep learning, growing and adapting to who we are and where we are today (TWFYT). God has placed us here for a reason and He has great plans for you today--everyday!

I think Charles Stanley's devo for today really sums up what God has been leading me to, as I try to lead you to what He is revealing as His desire for us individually and then as His body. He came to offer us a personal relationship that will help us to grow into our fullest potential, impact His Kingdom here and now and prepare us for what's next and what is eternal. He loves us so much! He is standing with open arms of love and saying come, weary one, and find rest. Put on my yoke and walk with Me to My best. Come! I am your Friend, Deliverer, Defender, Lord and Savior. Come! Let Me grow your faith as you see how much I love you and experience the great plans I have for you along the way. You are mine. I call you by name. I am with you always. I am working all things together for the good of those who believe. And if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move any mountain you are facing or climbing together. Let me grow you and your faith! I love you! Come! And I say AMEN! May we all have the faith or grow into it, of Mary the mother of Jesus who said, "Have you way with me Lord. I trust you! Come!"

Who is that man Jesus? How is He impacting your life? Who is being drawn to Him by your love and joy?Process these questions and the ones at the end of the handout below. I'm praying for you and God is cheering you on! Come and see and experience all He has for you!

FAITH Handout for Sun 12-3-23

 

Hebrews 11:1, Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

Matthew 24:45, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them.”

Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” 

Become Me in ’23 Challenge words people are working on:

Faith, Hope, Love, understanding, restoration, relationships, boldness, change, peace, time, energy, useful, courage, rest, valued, patience, pause, agape, stewardship, healthy rhythms, disciple maker

·       Faith is the basis for all these words as we work on growing our faith and working on journeying to becoming more like Jesus. These words are also used to help us do our custom made tasks better.

·       This is a word God may want me to work on for 2024________________________________

Becoming More in ’24…more of You and less of me, Lord!

Discipleship is the process of becoming who Jesus would be if he were me. I am who I am because I am allowing I AM [God] to be who He is in and through me.

In Luke 8:28 Jesus asked the disciples, “Where is your faith?” [O you of little faith] The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!”

Matt 17:19-20, 19 Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?”

20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

Paul reminds us in 2 Cor 5:17, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

·       God said it. I believe it. That settles that!

o   Do you have faith the size of a mustard seed?

o   How is your faith showing up in your actions?

 

FAITH…how would you explain your faith to someone?

·       Faith starts with the most important question anyone can ask…who is that man Jesus?

o   And faith shows up in how He affects our lives!

Our faith is a gift from God, given to those who He knows will respond to His call to life in Christ

What does your life reflect that you are putting your faith in?

·       Who is that man? How is He impacting your life?

Since we walk by faith and not by sight, what might be limiting your faith walk?

Walk by FAITH

What things that seem impossible are you praying in faith to happen? 

What BIG GOD things would you like to see happen in your life or in and through our church?

ODB:

Shadow and God’s Light

Blessed are those who . . . walk in the light of your presence, Lord. Psalm 89:15

READ Psalm 23

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When Elaine was diagnosed with advanced cancer, she and her husband, Chuck, knew it wouldn’t be long until she’d be with Jesus. Both of them treasured the promise of Psalm 23 that God would be with them as they journeyed through the deepest and most difficult valley of their fifty-four years together. They took hope in the fact that Elaine was ready to meet Jesus, having placed her faith in Him decades before.

At his wife’s memorial service, Chuck shared that he was still traveling “through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4 nkjv). His wife’s life in heaven had already begun. But the “shadow of death” was still with him and with others who’d greatly loved Elaine.

As we travel through the valley of shadows, where can we find our source of light? The apostle John declares that “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). And in John 8:12, Jesus proclaimed: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

As believers in Jesus, we “walk in the light of [His] presence” (Psalm 89:15). Our God has promised to be with us and to be our source of light even when we travel through the darkest of shadows.

By Cindy Hess Kasper

REFLECT & PRAY

What valley have you been walking through? Which of God’s promises provide light for your journey?

Loving God, thank You for Your promise to never leave me. I trust You to be my strength, my provision, and my joy throughout my life.

For further study, read The Promises of God.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Before David was king or warrior, he was a poet and shepherd to his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 16:11). In fact, God used David’s shepherding as the training ground to help prepare him for the challenges he’d face. For example, when his flock was attacked by a lion and a bear, he stood strong and defeated them (17:34-37). Those events, David felt, prepared him to face the giant Goliath in battle. The responsibilities of leadership and the care of the flock were also good preparation for caring for God’s flock, the people of Israel (Psalm 78:70-72). Like those in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 25:21, 23), David had been faithful in a few things and God made him ruler over many things. Likewise, his poetry helped to shape Israel’s worship as David is credited with at least seventy-three psalms in the book of Psalms.

Learn more about the book of Psalms.

Lecture - Our Daily Bread University

Bill Crowder

UR: Making Time for God

[Jesus] answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.” - Luke 10:41 (NRSVUE)

I’ve been doing early morning devotions using The Upper Room for over 35 years. I am now retired, but I remember that when I was working there were mornings when my mind was preoccupied with work and family responsibilities. Sometimes I felt I had so much to do that I shortened my devotion time so I could move on to that day’s activities. In hindsight, I can see that I was putting other priorities ahead of spending time with the Lord.

We see several examples of this in the Bible. One story is in Luke 9:57-62, where two men said they would follow Jesus, but only after they had attended to other tasks. Another example is from today’s Bible reading. When Jesus arrived to visit Martha and Mary, Martha was too distracted and busy to spend time with the Lord. When she complained about Mary sitting and listening to Jesus, he gently rebuked her. Martha let little things get in the way of big things. I can relate because I have done the same.

As I now reflect back, I can see that the days when I was “too busy” were exactly the days I should have been spending more time in prayer, not less. Our goal is not to fit Jesus into a busy schedule; it’s to make him the focus of our life.

TODAY'S PRAYER

Heavenly Father, we know that sometimes we get too caught up in the daily activities of life. Help us always to focus on you. Amen.TWFYT:

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Charles Stanley:

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Saturday, December 09 2023

Good Morning Baptized by the Spirit, Anointed, Worshiping Servants of the Lord, Jesus! Ok! There's our blog for today! See at church or on zoom soon! Emoji

That is an apt description of Christians. It's part of our true identity in Christ. We were custom created by God for His purposes. We were baptized by His Spirit when we were born again. We are anointed to complete our purposes. As we live and love like Jesus and fulfill our purposes we are worshiping. Worship is more than sitting in a pew or behind a computer screen and attending a worship service. Worship flows from our gratitude and love for God as we fulfill our purposes and celebrate all God has, is and will do. Without Jesus as your Lord and Savior and the seal of the Holy Spirit in you, you really can't worship, trust, and obey God or fulfill your created purposes well. BUT GOD! He calls us His masterpieces and made a way for sinful us to come to Him for forgiveness, eternal life, and His gifts and help to achieve all we were created to do and become all we were created to be. Now that should lead to some true worship!

As we approach the celebration of God putting on flesh and coming to live among us with the purpose of making that way to Him, we may encounter some that ask why we celebrate or what Christmas is really all about. Would you be able to answer like Linus to Charlie Brown? Would you be able to explain who that man Jesus is to you and how He has impacted your life?  We all do have stories to share of how we were one way, met Jesus, and how He led us to be another way. Come and see! Even in our journey through life in Christ and as we work on reaching our fullest created potential, maybe even daily, we can share how we were one way but by the grace of God and love of Jesus, He has transformed and refined us to a better way. That's the real story of Christmas and our lives as Christ's ones. God incarnate (God in the flesh) came to us, changed history, destiny, and us, and opened the door for all who will come. What love!

As we incarnate Jesus (bring Jesus to life) to the world around us, may many see Him and be drawn to Him and changed to new ways too. Pray into that and ask God to show you someone to invite along Christmas Eve and on the journey to Christlikeness with you. Christmas is coming, but the door of hope has been opened and as we walk in faith with Jesus may we bring His light, love and hope alive with great joy this year and beyond. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father, except through me." Who do you know that needs to understand how that works and how Jesus has changed and impacted your life? Check out Our Daily Bread below talking about Surrendering to Jesus. That's what it really is all about Charlie Brown!

Check out our other devos as well speaking into ministering to those grieving this holiday season and how to have wisdom to minister to all who are struggling with love and how to keep seeking God for wisdom, learning, understanding and growing. We were one way, but now another. And if we keep at this faith journey we will be another way soon as we follow Jesus to His best into eternity. May God grant you the faith, courage and wisdom to follow Jesus well, reach your fuller potential and disciple some others! He has some very good plans for you and is steering you to some who need some Good News today! Rejoice! Celebrate! And worship in Spirit and Truth! Amen!

ODB:

Surrendering to Jesus

Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you. Then . . . your life will be spared. Jeremiah 38:20

READ Jeremiah 38:17–23

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In 1951, Joseph Stalin’s doctor advised him to reduce his workload in order to preserve his health. The ruler of the Soviet Union accused the physician of spying and had him arrested. The tyrant who had oppressed so many with lies couldn’t abide the truth, and—as he had done so many times—he removed the one who told him the facts. Truth won anyway. Stalin died in 1953.

The prophet Jeremiah, arrested for his dire prophecies and kept in chains (Jeremiah 38:1–6; 40:1), told the king of Judah exactly what would happen to Jerusalem. “Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you,” he said to King Zedekiah (38:20). Failure to surrender to the army surrounding the city would only make matters worse. “All your wives and children will be brought out to the Babylonians,” Jeremiah warned. “You yourself will not escape from their hands” (v. 23).

Zedekiah failed to act on that truth. Eventually the Babylonians caught the king, killed all his sons, and burned the city (ch. 39).

In a sense, every human being faces Zedekiah’s dilemma. We’re trapped inside the walls of our own lives of sin and poor choices. Often, we make things worse by avoiding those who tell us the truth about ourselves. All we need to do is surrender to the will of the One who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

By Tim Gustafson

REFLECT & PRAY

How do your life choices line up with the claims of Jesus? What’s keeping you from surrendering to Him?

Compassionate God, please forgive me of the pride that keeps me from You.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Zedekiah (formerly Mattaniah, 2 Kings 24:17), King Josiah’s son, was the last king of Judah. He was placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, after he sacked the temple and took captive Judah’s fighting men and “skilled workers and artisans” (2 Kings 24:14) along with King Jehoiachin and his family (vv. 13-17). In 586 bc, because Zedekiah failed to listen to Jeremiah’s warning (see Jeremiah 38:17-23) and instead foolishly rebelled against Babylon, his family was killed, he was blinded, the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed, and most of the remaining people were carried into exile (39:6-10).

Alyson Kieda

UR: (Note: today is technically the first Sunday in Advent, but we started a week early and are lighting the second candle today--the faith candle)

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. - Isaiah 53:4 (KJV)

In July 2014, my stepson Ryan was killed in an accident. For three days he was a missing person before we found him and learned what had happened to him. Grief overshadowed my joy that Christmas.

One December day I was home alone. It was late afternoon and had gotten dark outside as I sat on the couch. Holiday music played in the background, but I paid it no attention until “O Holy Night” began. The words “and the soul felt its worth” broke through my thoughts and reconnected me with hope.

Isaiah 53:4 says, “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” The word used for griefs in that verse means sickness, disease, anxiety, affliction. It refers to suffering. Reading that verse as we began the journey to Advent after Ryan’s death reminded me that Jesus came not just to take away the sins of the world but also to walk with us through our darkest times because he loves us.

Seven years later “O Holy Night” is one of the first carols I listen to as I prepare for Christmas because it reminds me to turn my pain and my empty seat at the table over to Christ. It also serves as a reminder of all Jesus has carried me through.

Each of us has faced loss, and holidays can magnify the missing faces at the table. I understand. More important, Jesus understands.

TWFYT:

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Saturday, December 09 2023

Good Morning Patiently Waiting Brothers and Sisters in Christ! Are you longing for more of Jesus or for God to intervene in some situation you are facing? Are you crying out for God to come and bring a prodigal to Jesus, heal something, bring His favor, change you or something? Are you trusting and choosing joy while you wait? BUT GOD! He is not slow, hasn't forgotten you or forsaken you--even in times of testing and stretching and pruning. PTL! He is working all things together and knows how many hairs you need on your head to accomplish His custom made plans for you. Think about that and check out the Charles Stanley Devo below speaking into how to wait on the Lord successfully. I think about all the Jewish people waiting for God to speak again and to send the Promised One in those long, dark, silent years before Jesus came. Think about Jesus starting His ministry and very few realizing God had already put on flesh and come down as a baby. God is at work, even when we don't see it, know it, or sense it. He is with us always and He is always at work. PTL! Look for Him and keep steadily plodding forward with His Spirit as your guide. Have faith like Mary the mother of Jesus who basically said, Lord, Whatever! Here I am! Have at it!

Check out Our Daily Bread about building up Goodwill. Peace on earth and goodwill to people...what's that mean? Goodwill is actually valuable if you own a business. The price of my business was affected by the goodwill I had built up before I sold it. Does our church have goodwill? Absolutely! But we are not selling it. We are continuing to invest in our goodwill as we bless many as we live sacrificially and love lavishly. We are pouring out ourselves and stewarding all God's blessings to build His Kingdom and goodwill. Can you see and sense the goodwill asset of St. Matts? I really like the story of the CEO in ODB. What truth we glean as we apply that to out church! Many people and churches have the tendency to circle the wagons and hold tight to resources instead of investing and sowing lavishly when times are hard. It's human nature and helps us have a little sense of security. But is it really wise and God's way of thinking? His Word reminds us to sow lavishly and reminds us that we reap what we sow. If we sow nothing, we reap nothing. God's ways are surely not our ways of thinking!

How people view us is our goodwill. People are seeing us as caring, compassionate servants of God. Thank you! And thank God as He blesses us, guides and prospers our sowing. Let us keep at it no matter what we face! Here's the reality, we can hoard our resources and hang on for 7-10 years before we run out of money or we can pour ourselves out for God's glory and invest in His Kingdom as we sow lavishly. There are two possible outcomes of this: We close our doors in 7-10 years with people knowing we ran our race well and loved lavishly like God; or, We start reaping and growing and producing many new disciples of Jesus and our legacy carries on for decades. (FYI: that has begun to blossom already! PTL!) Along the way, we need to constantly evaluate and adjust as God reveals the next steps, but either way we bring Him glory. There is one more options: circle the wagons and hoard our resources and hang on until "ICHABOD"--the Spirit has left us and we close our doors. It's kinda a Scrooge type of living. If you want to call that living.  Honestly, that could easily happen in five years or less if we aren't careful to keep trusting God, sowing lavishly in love and living sacrificially live Jesus. I see us more as the first two options kind of people--pouring ourselves out for God's glory. No matter what, trusting Him and doing what we can with what we got to keep building His Kingdom. As long as you will have me as your shepherd, we will continue to work on pouring ourselves out, living sacrificially and loving lavishly like Jesus. He has great plans for us and is working all things together for good as we humbly trust and follow Him. Peace to you all and His goodwill for all people who He sends our way! We are moving forward to become the dynamic movement of God that will bless many, attract them to God, meet needs and produce good and lasting fruit as we sow lavishly and love like Jesus. I can't wait to see what God will do next and where he will lead us next in our journey forward! PTL! And keep praying into it!

One last thought, we are family. God has brought us together for His custom made purposes for each of us and us as His body. We all have roles. Like any marriage, God seems to bring some opposites together and they flourish by learning how to balance life and goals. The church is full of all different sorts. Our priority is to meld together as one. That takes a lot of grace, love and even some hard work. We all have ways we think are best and even assume they are God's best. We need to constantly work at deciphering the times and God's plans for us and how He wants us to continue to invest and sow in ways that keep us unified and focused on following God together. He knew what He was doing when He brought us together. He knows best how we can all feel comfortable while being stretched as we follow Him. It take unity of the body and we need to keep working at that. Read through those Ephesian passages in ODB and ponder with God how to die to self, take up cross and follow Jesus for His benefit and for His Kingdom plans for us. We will all be stretched and have to move out of our comfort zones but we will be in it together and glorifying God! And I believe continue to be a healthy growing body of Christ that produces great fruit and many disciples for decades to come. PTL!

What's He saying to you right now? What measurable thing will you do about it? Who will you process with? Maybe we will talk about that tomorrow as we light the "Faith" candle and discuss having faith like jesus. he has faith in us! Do we have faith to follow Him?

Charles Stanley:

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ODB:

Building Up Goodwill

From [Christ] the whole body . . . grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:16

READ Ephesians 4:15–16, 22–32

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When we think of best business practices, what first comes to mind probably aren’t qualities like kindness and generosity. But according to entrepreneur James Rhee, they should. In Rhee’s experience as CEO at a company on the brink of financial ruin, prioritizing what he calls “goodwill”—a “culture of kindness” and a spirit of giving—saved the company and led to its flourishing. Putting these qualities central gave people the hope and motivation they needed to unify, innovate, and problem-solve. Rhee explains that “goodwill . . . is a real asset that can compound and be amplified.”

In daily life too, it’s easy to think of qualities like kindness as vague and intangible, afterthoughts to our other priorities. But, as the apostle Paul taught, such qualities matter most of all.

Writing to new believers, Paul emphasized that the purpose of believers’ lives is transformation through the Spirit into mature members of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:15). To that end, every word and every action has value only if it builds up and benefits others (v. 29). Transformation in Jesus can only happen through daily prioritizing kindness, compassion, and forgiveness (v. 32).

When the Holy Spirit draws us to other believers in Christ, we grow and mature as we learn from one another.

By Monica La Rose

REFLECT & PRAY

Why do you think we often fail to see the tangible impact of “goodwill”? How can you grow in prioritizing kindness?

Dear God, teach me daily what truly matters—the love poured out through Your Son.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

One of the underlying themes in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is the city of Ephesus’ relationship to magic. Acts 19:19 says that because of the gospel’s impact in the city “a number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas” (a drachma was worth about a day’s wages). Therefore, it was imperative that the Ephesian believers in Jesus clearly understood that the miracles performed among them were the result of God’s power—not some magical incantation to the powers of darkness (Ephesians 5:8, 11; 6:12).

Bill Crowder

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Friday, December 01 2023

Thank God I'm Forgiven! And Thank God It's Friday! What are you thanking God about? (I'm thanking Him for all of you, your prayers, and our fellowship and friendship!)

Don't forget those gifts for The Kindness Project and non-perishables for our pantry.

We are collecting for Ever Lasting Life Ministries Sunday

Please sign up for our Christmas Eve Brunch and invite someone to join you (bulletin board in rear of sanctuary)

Pray for our Support Team meeting Thurs. as we review and hopefully approve the budget for next year. Pray for wisdom to follow God's vision for us while being the best stewards. Thank God for all his servants at St Matts!

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Good Morning Empowered Disciple Makers--Servants of the Lord! Pronounce that out loud over you and our church. (The words we say and the things we think do matter!) Say this, "I am/ we are empowered disciple maker(s) serving the Lord and others with love and wisdom! God has created us, gifted us, empowered us and sent us to make disciples. Send me! Thank You!" That comes alive as we serve others through our God-given gifts and abilities empowered by the Holy Spirit and led by Jesus. He is bringing alive His great and greater plans as we respond to His invite to join Him on mission with very thankful and surrendered hearts. PTL for all our empowered, willing and responding servants of the Lord! Check out Our Daily Bread and Upper Room devos below as they tie to this and your part.

You need to know and celebrate that God is responding to our prayers and using us to grow His Kingdom and bless many. Keep praying and serving expectantly with thanksgiving! God is on the move!

Let's end with some prayer starters for today: "Praise God who is a refuge for the poor and needy (is. 25:4). Thank Him for caring about those in desperate circumstances. [Lift those you know who are desperate to Him by name]. Confess times when you have not shown compassion to the needy. Commit yourself to serving others in new and stretching ways. Ask God to provide those opportunities for you and for willing hands and feet. Thank God for being a shelter from the storm for your family (25:4). Pray that teens and young adults will seek that shelter rather than taking refuge in the world. Ask God to anoint the fellowship in your congregation with the Holy Spirit. Pray that any friction between members will be addressed and healed. Pray that new comers will find love and refuge in your congregation. Intercede for ministries which bring Christ's compassion to the poor and needy. Pray that their needs will be met as they bring hope to thousands. [Lift our bread and clothing ministries and the Kindness Project before God for provision, great stewardship, wisdom and vision from God]. Pray that one unsaved person you know will see and desire shelter which Jesus offers. Ask that God will use you to guide that person into eternal safety." Amen

ODB:

God’s Heart for All

Come to me, all you who are weary. Matthew 11:28

READ Matthew 11:27–30

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Nine-year-old Dan Gill arrived with his best friend Archie at their classmate’s birthday party. When the mother of the birthday boy saw Archie, however, she refused him entry. “There aren’t enough chairs,” she insisted. Dan offered to sit on the floor to make room for his friend, who was Black, but the mother said no. Dejected, Dan left their presents with her and returned home with Archie, the sting of his friend’s rejection searing his heart.

Now, decades later, Dan is a schoolteacher who keeps one empty chair in his classroom. When students ask why, he explains it’s his reminder to “always have room in the classroom for anyone.”

A heart for all people can be seen in Jesus’ welcoming life: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This invitation may seem to contradict the “first to the Jew” scope of Jesus’ ministry (Romans 1:16). But the gift of salvation is for all people who place their faith in Jesus. “This is true for everyone who believes,” Paul wrote, “no matter who we are” (3:22 nlt).

We rejoice then at Christ’s invitation to all: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). For all seeking His rest, His open heart awaits.

By Patricia Raybon

REFLECT & PRAY

What was your situation when you accepted God’s gift of salvation? Who do you know whose heart Jesus is calling?

Dear Jesus, You called me when others didn’t. Thank You for offering me salvation and love.

For further study, read Keeping the Faith: The Cost of Following Christ.

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Yokes were wooden frames “placed upon a person’s shoulders in order to make a load or burden easier to carry, by distributing its weight in equal proportions to opposite sides of the body” (William Hendriksen, Matthew). When Jesus speaks of His yoke in Matthew 11:29-30, it’s in contrast to the teaching of the religious leaders whose interpretations and applications were extraneous to the law and burdensome. Christ exposed such leaders saying, “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (23:4; see also Acts 15:10). Being a believer in Jesus is about being in relationship with the One who gives true rest. He says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

Arthur Jackson

UR: Courage to Act

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. - 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)

My mother adjusted to her blindness so well that her sight-loss support group asked her to visit new members who needed help. Eventually, we wrote a pamphlet with information for those with low vision. The trouble was that no one wanted to publish it. An editor suggested that I write a blog instead because the information changes so fast.

No. I can’t do that, I thought. Forget it. How could those with low vision even find a blog? I repeated those negative words and believed them for two years. I did not have the courage to step out of my comfort zone.

When I read the words in 1 Peter, I wondered, Is this the way the devil works? Is the devil blocking me from serving God and helping those with vision problems?

Negative thoughts can determine our actions or, in my case, inaction. Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, we can repeat God’s words of affirmation and love: “Peace be still.” “I am with you.” “I will help you.” “Come unto me.”

Six years and 64 blogs later, I’m glad I listened to these positive words. God’s promises can strengthen our faith and give us courage to act.

TODAY'S PRAYER

Guiding Father, help us to be attentive to your voice. Give us courage to act when we hear your call. Amen.

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St. Matthew's EC Church

5th & Ridge Streets
P.O. Box 433
Emmaus, PA 18049
Telephone 610.965.5570
Email: stmattsecemmaus@gmail.com

ABOUT US

We are learning to live and love like Jesus. 

We are working on becoming who we were created to be and doing our custom made purposes well. 

We are part of the Evangelical Congregational Church http://www.eccenter.com/

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