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Christmas Sunday – Answered Prayer – God’s Gift: Life

Christmas Sunday – Answered Prayer – God’s Gift: Life

Scripture Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

Sometimes God’s gift in the answer to our prayers comes in ways we don’t expect!  As we read the story of the birth of Jesus in Matthew it is from Joseph’s perspective.  Even when we are being faithful in our lives there are times when God’s ways are a mystery.  Joseph thought life was going according to plan – his plan and God’s plan.  He had a good life, good job and was engaged to be married to a good woman.  Then, the wrench in the works – Mary was pregnant.  He knew it wasn’t his and tried to faithfully follow God’s plan and to dismiss her quietly.  Then the messenger of God came and showed him that this baby was a gift from God that was going to bring the gift of life to God’s people.  And we know the rest of the story!  Merry Christmas!

Pastor’s Pondering: As we celebrate Christmas today, reflect on times when God’s plan may have been different than yours and ultimately was for the best!

 

Christmas Eve Saturday – He Has Arrived!

Christmas Eve Saturday – He Has Arrived!

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:1-20

As we read the story of the Messiah’s birth in the gospel of Luke, it is not just the story of the birth of Jesus, the Christ child.  It is a story of the answer to our prayers for Faith, for Hope, For Peace, For Joy and for Love.  It is the story of how God’s Son united with us in flesh that we may be united with Him in God’s Kingdom, as our Savior, as our Lord, and as our Brother.  It is the story of God’s answer to our needs – Love.  It is a celebration of our life as God’s family.

Pastor’s Pondering: May Christ shine in our lives with the light of God’s love through the Holy Spirit as we celebrate Christ’s birth!

The Lord’s Prayer

4th Week of Advent(18 – 24 Dec) – For Thine is the…

Sunday – Joy in God

Scripture Reading: John 17:1-5

As we look to Christ’s own prayer to God, it begins with a request for God to Glorify him, so he might glorify God and gather all those whom God has given him.  It is recognizing that all is in accordance to God’s plan, purpose and will.  For us, it means that there is Joy in God because the glory of God is God’s perfect love that we all in God’s family receive, grow and share in this love.  When we come to our Father it is recognizing that out of Love and in Joy we realize “For Thine is the…”

Pastor’s Pondering: How does knowing that we are the Father’s children bring Joy from knowing that all is from the Father’s love?

 

 

Monday – Kingdom

Scripture Reading: John 3:1-8

When Nicodemus comes to Jesus it is to find out how to “see the kingdom of God.”  Jesus teaches him how that comes to be in not just seeing but about being in the kingdom of God.  When we pray “For thine is the kingdom” it is recognizing that the Kingdom of God exists in Spirit and now in “Flesh.”  Christ on the cross brings about the ability for us to be born into God’s Kingdom and thereby through Christ bring about God’s kingdom not just in our lives but in this world.  This is bringing Joy to the world!

Pastor’s Pondering: What images does Jesus use to describe entering into the Kingdom of God and what do they mean to us as we pray, “For Thine is the Kingdom?

Tuesday – Power

Scripture Reading: Luke 9

As Luke shares with us these stories in chapter Nine, each one speaks to us about the Power of God’s Kingdom.  Jesus gives us power as his disciples to reach out to the world as Jesus did.  Jesus gives us power to care for those who hunger and thirst.  Jesus gives us power to confess our faith in Him.  Jesus gives us power to shine before others.  Jesus gives us power to be humble.  Jesus gives us the power to withstand opposition.  Jesus gives us the power to be true followers who put their hands to the plow and don’t look back.  This is the power bringing Joy to the world!

Pastor’s Pondering: What Power to you need to ask for when you pray “For Thine is the Power?”

 

Wednesday – And the Glory

Scripture Reading: John 5:30-47

When we pray to God “For thine is the glory” we are reminded of the glory that Jesus prayed for in John 17:1-5 – the glory of the Father as the Son.  Jesus teaches us in this lesson that the Glory of God is relational.  The Glory of God is in the love that is shared between God and God’s children.  The Glory of love is the testimony and the works that prove God’s word to be true.  So, the song is true about the Glory of God in us – “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”   This is the glory bringing Joy to the world!

Pastor’s Pondering: How is our love in what we do and say to be an answer to the prayer, “For thine is the glory?”

 

Thursday – Forever

Scripture Reading: John 12:44-50

When we end The Lord’s Prayer with the word forever it is recognizing that it means that we have eternal life.  Forever is forever and that is a long time.  To have life is to be in relationship with God as God’s children.  This life is an eternity of knowing God’s love in Christ, growing in God’s love in Christ, sharing God’s love in Christ.  It is to be family together forever.  And someday, this love will be perfect in Christ’s presence.  This is the love bringing Joy to the world!

Pastor’s Pondering: What does forever mean to you?

 

Friday – The Messiah has Come!

Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:13-20

When Jesus asks the disciples who do they say he is, Simon Peter is the one who gets it – “You are the Messiah, the Son of God.”  As we have seen, Christmas is about God’s answer to not just our prayers but even the prayer that our Lord taught us to pray as we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.  On earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.  Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.  The Messiah has come!

Pastor’s Pondering: How does knowing Jesus as the Messiah bring Faith, Hope, Peace, and Joy to us and the world as we pray Our Lord’s Prayer?

The Lord’s Prayer

3rd Week of Advent (11-17 Dec) – Forgive, Lead, Deliver

Sunday – Peace in God

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 53

Isaiah 53 presents the picture of the Messiah who will through Faith bring God’s people to God as the suffering servant.  The Messiah is the one who will bring peace between God and God’s people “because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”  In other words, the Messiah “…shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”  This week we look at how the Messiah makes possible this Peace in God through forgiveness, leading us from temptation and delivering us from evil.

Pastor’s Pondering: How are the images of Isaiah 53 prophesies of the Messiah on the cross and the answer to the Lord’s Prayer about Christians and sin?

 

Monday – Forgive Us Our Debt/Trespasses

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:67-69

As we see from the beginning of Zechariah’s song of praise, the Holy Spirit has revealed to him that this Savior would redeem God’s people.  To be redeemed is to be forgiven of our sins and brought into God’s family as children of God.  As we are taught to pray for God to forgive us our sins by Jesus, it is knowing that it is only through Jesus that we can be justly forgiven by a righteous God.  Jesus instructed his disciples to pray this knowing that he would be the answer to this prayer for those who pray it.

Pastor’s Pondering: How does knowing that Christ died for our sins able to bring us peace as we pray for God’s forgiveness?

 

Tuesday – As We Forgive Our Debtors/Trespassers

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:70-75

As Zechariah then shares in his song how we “might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” it is to love as Christ loved us.  It is to forgive our debtors as we have been forgiven.  Jesus turns this on edge by having us ask God to forgive us as we have forgiven others.  But, if we truly know through God’s forgiveness peace in God then, more and more, we should strive to know peace with others through sharing that same forgiveness.  Through Faith in the Messiah then we should not only know peace in God but also peace with others as we share in forgiveness.

Pastor’s Pondering: What is the connection between God’s holiness and righteousness, forgiveness and peace?

 

 

Wednesday – Lead Us Not into Temptation

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:76-79

When Zechariah turns to prophesy about his child, it is about the one who will not only prepare the way for the Lord, but of one who will “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  In other words, “Lead us not into temptation.”  John the Baptist was going to bring people to the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, who through faith would enable them to walk in the light of peace in Christ and away from the darkness of separation from God.   Christ gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, and God’s people to help “lead us not into temptation.”

Pastor’s Pondering: What are the ways that we have for the Messiah to give light and guide our feet into the way of peace and lead us not into temptation?

 

Thursday – Deliver Us from Evil

Scripture Reading: John 1:1-5

As we turn to the Christmas story in the gospel of John it begins with how God delivers us from evil.  God’s Word was from the beginning in the beginning and was the beginning.  It brings light into the world broken by our sin that resulted in our darkness, our separation from God.  But, this darkness, this separation, this evil did not overcome us and the world.  The good news is that the Word, the Life, the Light, the Messiah delivers us from evil.

Pastor’s Pondering: What is the connection between peace and God’s Word giving life and delivering us from evil?

 

Friday – In our Minds

Scripture Reading: John 1:6-9

Just as John the Baptist was a “witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” so we are to do the same with others that they may know in their minds when “the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”  People need to hear from us the Peace we can have through the Messiah who brings us Faith in God and the Hope that God brings into our daily lives in this broken world.

Pastor’s Pondering: How does our testifying to the witness of Christ in us help bring about delivering us from evil in our minds?

 

Saturday – In our Hearts

Scripture Reading: John 1:10-18

As we see we can be like John who testifies and witnesses about Jesus but it is only Jesus who truly changes the hearts of people to become children of God.  We can only Know Christ, Grow in Christ, and Share Christ but it is only Christ who can truly deliver people from evil in our minds, in our hearts, and in our lives.

Pastor’s Pondering: What does this say about how true peace can only come through the Messiah, forgiveness, being led from temptation and delivered from evil?

The Lord’s Prayer

2nd Week of Advent (4-10 Dec)

 Give Us This Day our Daily Bread/Provisions

Sunday – Hope in God

Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:25-34

This teaching from Jesus the Messiah about having faith in God is all about having hope as we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Hope is about trusting in God’s love for us that our heavenly father will provide what we need to live.  Christ assures us that God will provide what we need as we strive for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.   This 2nd week of Advent we will explore what our daily needs are as we look to Zechariah offering up incense to God in the Holy of Holies in Israel’s pursuit of God’s Kingdom and Righteousness.

Pastor’s Pondering: What is the connection between “strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness” and “all these things will be given to you as well?”

 

Monday – Family

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:5-7

As we are first introduced to Zechariah and Elizabeth, we find a couple who are striving for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness as they are identified as “living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord.”  God provides for us our families that we may strive and support one another in our lives together.  Even as Zechariah and Elizabeth seem to be the “Perfect Couple” in God, so we find that they have a storm they are dealing with – no child of their own.  In their daily need they have each other to help them face the daily struggles/challenges.  God provides us families for to help us strive for God’s kingdom and righteousness and receive our daily bread.

Pastor’s Pondering: Who is your family that God gives to provide for your striving and daily needs?

 

Tuesday – Vocation

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:8-9

For Zechariah this day is the ultimate dream of a priest.  To be the one selected by God to enter the Holy of Holies and offer up incense on behalf of God’s people is a great honor.  But, it is an honor that comes with great risk.  To be in God’s presence one must be perfectly forgiven through the forgiveness of sin offering or suffer death in God’s presence.  The priesthood was Zechariah’s vocation/calling in life and God was blessing him with this ultimate honor/job as a priest.  When we seek God’s will in our lives it is not just for a vocation/calling to provide us our daily bread but also that we might stand out to lead others to strive for God’s kingdom and righteousness through the Messiah.

Pastor’s Pondering: What is your vocation that God gives to provide for your striving and daily needs?

 

Wednesday – Movement of the Spirit

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:10-13

For Zechariah, the Spirit moved through an angel/messenger to inform Zechariah of God’s plan to bless Him and Elizabeth with a child that will not only be a blessing to them, but to everyone in the service of the Lord.  God wants to move us through the Spirit daily.  God wants to be an integral part of our daily lives and through the Holy Spirit provide for us as we strive for God’s kingdom and righteousness and give us our daily bread.

Pastor’s Pondering:   How is the Holy Spirit moving to provide for your striving and your daily needs?

 

Thursday – People to Help Heed God’s Word

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:14-17

When Zechariah comes out of the Holy of Holies he is met by the people who have been praying for him as he completed his task of offering incense to God.  These are the people who have worked with him and in their life together have been striving for God’ kingdom and righteousness.  Just as Zechariah was there to help them heed God’s Word so they are now there for Zechariah to help him heed God’s word as he shares with them what happened.  God provides us with people to help us heed God word as we strive for God’s kingdom and righteousness and give us our daily bread.

Pastor’s Pondering: Who are the people that help you heed God’s Word to provide for striving and your daily needs?

 

Friday – God’s Discipline

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:18-20

Unfortunately for Zechariah, because of his unbelief, he finds God disciplines him through making him unable to speak until the baby is born.  We, in our unbelief, also will find that God will discipline us as his children.  When we fail to strive first for God’s Kingdom and righteousness ignoring God’s Spirit, Word and People, then God will discipline us to get us where we need to be to give us this day our daily bread.

Pastor’s Pondering: How has God disciplined you to provide for your striving and daily needs?

 

Saturday – Home of Provision

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:21-25

Last, but certainly not least, when Zechariah returns home it is to a place that provides the support he needs in life.  We, too are to have homes where we have family to support us, we have vocations that God uses us, where the Spirit is moving in and through us, we have people helping us heed God’s word, and a place where we find God’s discipline at work and in this environment we are able to strive first for God’s kingdom and righteousness and give us this day our daily bread.

Pastor’s Pondering: Where is your home that God gives to provide for your striving and daily needs?

The Lord’s Prayer

1st week of Advent (27 Nov – 3 Dec) – Our Father

Sunday – Faith/Messiah in God

Scripture Reading: Micah 5:2-5; Matthew 6:9-15

The prophet Micah was prophesying the time when the Messiah would gather his flock and his sheep would live secure in life in the Shepherd’s care and love and they would know peace in this security.  This is what is meant by being in God’s Kingdom.  When Jesus is teaching about prayer, it is about how to talk with God/the Father as we live in God’s Kingdom/ the Shepherd’s fold.  The specialness is not just about talking with God but to be able to call God, “Father.”  We, as God’s children, have a special relationship with God that makes our conversations with God special and effective and only Jesus the Christ makes possible.  As we look to the Christmas story, it is recognizing that it is an answer to our prayers and especially the Prayer that Jesus teaches us to pray.

Pastor’s Pondering: What does it mean relationally to be able to begin our conversations with God with “Our Father” in the gift of faith through the Messiah?

Monday – Who Art in Heaven

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26

As we turn to the start of the story of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, it is with an angel/Messenger of God sent from heaven.  We call God our “Heavenly Father” not just because he is perfect but more importantly because of location.  There is a separation from God we feel because of our sinfulness but also because of this place called heaven where God, the Father, abides and where Christ now abides and where the Holy Spirit is the connecting point for us in this separation.  A Messenger came to Mary here on earth from God in heaven.  This is the reality we find when we pray to “Our Father, who art in heaven.”

Pastor’s Pondering:  What is the connection between Our Father in heaven and us on earth in the gift of Faith through the Messiah?    

 

Tuesday – Hallowed Be Thy Name

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:46-55

As we make a jump in the story to Mary’s song of praise in response to the confirmation of what God is doing in her life and will be doing in the lives of all through her baby during her visitation with Elizabeth it is with recognition that if we recognize God at work it is to respond with worship and praise of God.  In other words, as Jesus teaches “Hallowed Be Thy Name.”  But, in order to do this we must recognize our place as God’s children/Sheep of the Shepherd and the need for us to place God as God in our lives.  Jesus not only teaches but enables us to truly “Hallow God’s Name. “

Pastor’s Pondering: How does Jesus the Messiah make it possible for us to truly answer ourselves the prayer “Hallowed be thy name” in the gift of faith through the Messiah?

 

Wednesday – Thy Kingdom Come

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:27-35

As we return to the Messenger and Mary, we find that even as God plans to use Mary to be the mother of the Messiah, it is the announcement of God’s plan that this baby she would carry would bring God’s people together to be in God’s Kingdom is the answer to “thy Kingdom come.”  When Christ teaches us to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come” it is recognizing that God’s kingdom comes through the hearts of people coming into the kingdom.  Thy Kingdom come is not just a prayer for God’s kingdom to come to earth but more importantly into our hearts.

Pastor’s Pondering: How does Jesus usher in the Kingdom that we pray to come here and into our hearts in the gift of Faith through the Messiah?

Thursday – Thy Will Be Done

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:38

The angel comes to Mary not just to announce the purpose of the baby she will carry, but also to give her the choice to live out God’s plan.  God gives us the choice to live out his plan for us.  When Jesus teaches us to pray, “Thy Will be done,” it is recognizing that we have the option to seek, follow and live out God’s will in our lives.  It is also recognizing that in the midst of this world there are many wills out there and the prayer that ultimately “God’s Will be Done” is not just in our lives but in our communities, our nation, and our world.  Christ enables us to choose and live out God’s will in our lives.

Pastor’s Pondering: How does Jesus as Messiah help us to live out “Thy Will be Done” in the gift of Faith through the Messiah?

 

Friday – On Earth

Scripture Reading: Matthew 1:1-17

When we look to this genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, it is with looking to the earthly connections of Jesus – Son of Man.  It is with the perfect generational breakdown of 14 between Abraham to David, David to Deportation and Deportation to Jesus the Messiah that demonstrates the fulfillment of God’s Will/plan through the Messiah and the coming of God’s Kingdom on Earth through the gathering of God’s people from the East to the West and the North to the South.

Pastor’s Pondering: What does this signify in Christ bringing the answer to our prayer thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth in the gift of Faith through the Messiah?

  

Saturday – As It Is in Heaven

Scripture Reading: Luke 3:23-38

This genealogy of Jesus is given to show Christ’s heavenly connection as the Son of God.  It outlines his spiritual connection through Joseph’s family that leads to Adam as the Son of God.  Jesus is the unique connector between humans as earthly creation and the heavenly connection as Spirit of God.  It is this uniqueness that makes Jesus able to be the Messiah that through Faith he brings us into our living relationship with God, Our Father – heaven to earth and earth to heaven.

Pastor’s Pondering: What does this signify in Christ bringing the answer to our prayer thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven as the gift of Faith through the Messiah?