Text "Christmas19" to 84576 to receive a devotional each day of Advent.
Throughout history, the Church has marked time with its own calendar. Every year we celebrate six holy seasons including Pentecost, Easter, Lent, Epiphany, and Christmas, but the Christian year begins with the season of Advent. Advent means to “come near.” It is during this season we prepare for the coming near of our God through the event of Jesus Christ.
Like Lent, Advent is a season of spiritual longing as we make our hearts ready to receive God’s greatest gift to the world, the gift of Jesus. These pages are dedicated to helping us in our preparations during this Advent season. The staff members of Ebenezer wrote these pages. Some are teachers in our Preschool. Some work for KidzRock, manage our facilities, run technology, manage our office. These are the voices of God’s people designed to help us hear once more the voice of God. Our prayer is that this daily devotional guide will help all of us focus on the majesty, beauty, humility and life-changing power that entered the world when God became flesh.
May Emmanuel richly bless you and your family throughout this holy season.
Sunday, December 1, 2019 | Read Psalm 84:5-12
“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere…” Psalm 84:10
Have you ever heard the expression, “Wherever you go, there you are?” It’s one of my favorite daily reminders because I have observed the human tendency to attempt to run, escape, or otherwise hide from one’s true self. It is very difficult to see and accept the entirety of who we are, each a mix of sinner and saint all rolled into one messy and beloved human being. Yet the truth is, wherever we go, there we will be. We just can’t seem to escape ourselves, can we? And we definitely cannot escape God. Perhaps, though, God doesn’t want us to run away, but toward Him?
While that may seem daunting or even scary to some, the Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 84 that power, strength, and belonging will be found in God’s presence alone and that our happiness will be found as we take refuge in God. The Good News for us is that Jesus invites us to take refuge in God just as we are. God already sees us fully, and Jesus is our top cover. We are welcome to find strength and joy in our true home with Christ.
As Advent is a season of waiting and preparing, I invite you to take some time this month discovering or rediscovering who you are. What areas of yourself are you keeping hidden? Are you trying to run away from memories, traumatic experiences, or mistakes? As we wait together for the birth of Christ on Christmas Eve, would you be willing to spend some time alone each day with God allowing yourself to be seen, known, and claimed as God’s beloved?
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for creating humankind in your image and likeness. Though now we can only see damaged reflections of our true self, we trust that you see us, love us, and claim us. Help us to see ourselves as you see us and believe that our strength and belonging will be found in you alone. Amen.
Author: Monica Reynolds, Pastor
Monday, December 2, 2019 | Read Genesis 8:1-19
“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.” Genesis 8:1
Noah and his family were on a huge boat with tons of animals for about a year. Talk about cabin fever – the same eight people together all the time, the constant noise from animals, the awful stench? This, indeed, was no Love Boat.
But maybe it was. This famous story is packed with truth of God’s love for us. You see, in verse 1, God remembered. He remembered His people, who He saw as worthy to be saved from death that they deserved. He remembered, and then He did something. He sent a wind over the earth. Wind that would remove the waters, enabling the land to dry and new life to fill the earth again. Noah and his family would step out of that boat and experience new life and be led to “multiply” and be “fruitful.”
This story reminds me of how God is always in the business of remembering and making new. When I wonder how long a friend must suffer in pain, remember, God makes new. When I feel like I have failed again, remember, God makes new. He makes new and He calls me to go forth and multiply, to be fruitful with the gifts He has given me and tell others of the new life and freedom He gives. Romans 6:11 says, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Like Noah, God has saved us from the stench of sin and the death we deserve and made us alive!
Prayer: Lord, thank you for remembering me when I am stuck in my sin, trapped in my own thoughts, and going through my own flood. Give me eyes to see the olive branch, the hope that you bring. Give me courage to step off the boat and tell others of your hope and love. Send the wind of your Spirit to do only what YOU can do! Amen.
Author: Michelle Paquette, Director of Student Ministries
Tuesday, December 3, 2019 | Read Gen 9:1-17, Heb 11:32-40
“Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” Genesis 9: 14-15
“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:39-40
I love when I read something in the Old Testament that relates to something in the New Testament! In Genesis, Noah, a man of faith, has listened to God and built an ark, saving inhabitants of the Earth from the flood that God has sent. God makes a new covenant with Noah and all living things that He would never again send floodwaters to destroy all life and uses a rainbow as His reminder.
In Hebrews, the writer is recounting the stories of all the men and women of faith from the Old Testament. He talks about all the sufferings that they have endured for the sake of their faith, never experiencing the fullness of God’s promise. As we celebrate Advent, we remember that this time He sends Jesus Christ our Savior as a beautiful baby. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s final promise to his people and through Him and the Holy Spirit within us, we will be made perfect.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for sending rainbows and Jesus. During the storms of our lives, help us to remember that you are with us and good will prevail in the end as we wait for your glory. Amen.
Author: Pat McGuckin, Financial Manager
Wednesday, December 4, 2019 | Read Psalm 124
“Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 124:8
Where would you be without God? Psalm 124 is all about depending on God. The psalmist offers praise for Israel’s deliverance from their powerful enemies and acknowledges that God, alone, saved her from extinction.
Think back to a time when you were completely dependent on God. I remember many years ago while my husband was looking for a new job. We were a young couple with three small boys just trying to make ends meet. I was working three part-time, minimum-wage jobs while he was working with a temporary agency. That was the first time I went to my church and asked that my children be put on the Angel Tree so they would have something for Christmas. That was a very humbling experience.
Things appeared very bleak, but we kept on praying and moving forward. My enemies (the bill collectors) were calling and we weren’t sure how we would survive. Eventually, my husband received three job offers in the same weekend! God had answered our prayers and rescued us when we felt trapped.
You can always depend on God! He has saved us many times in the past and if you continue to believe, He will surely save us in the future.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for rescuing us when we needed saving. Help me to remember to rely on you and thank you for everything, for without you I am nothing. May your name be glorified in all things.
Author: Julie Todd, Financial Assistant
Thursday, December 5, 2019 | Read Psalm 72:18-19
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen.” Psalm 72:18-19
Psalm 72 is a prayer for guidance and support for King Solomon. The earlier portion of the psalm includes prayers for the king to judge the people with righteousness, defend the cause of the poor, and deliver the needy. The last few lines of the psalm serve as a reminder to praise the Lord. “Blessed be the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.”
Each year I watch in wonder and amazement as our Axis Mission Team serves the Lord. While the work may be fun, it is not easy. Mission teams have spent hours painting and repairing houses. They have removed fallen trees and cleared backyards which were so overgrown, the senior citizens living in the home were unable to use their yard. The teams have spent time with children, not just to teach about the love of God, but to demonstrate that love by playing with the children and being a part of their lives, if only for a little while. Upon their return, the Axis Mission Team shares where they saw God during the mission trip. They do not talk about what they did, they share what God accomplished in their lives and in the lives of those they served.
I wonder what it would be like if we treated our everyday lives like a mission trip. What if we saw each day as an opportunity to share the love of God with whomever we met that day? What if we remembered to give God all the credit for all the wondrous things in our lives, rather than claiming the credit for ourselves?
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for many wondrous things in my life. Please lead me as I seek to serve others in your name. Amen.
Author: Jen Shoup, Pastors’ Administrative Assistant
Friday, December 6, 2019 | Read Isaiah 30:19-26
“This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21
There are times in our lives when it seems like God is far away and doesn’t hear us when we pray. For those times, Isaiah 30 reminds us that God is with us through adversity as well as through times of productivity. If we back up a verse and read verse 18, we see that God longs to be gracious to us and to show us compassion.
I find this important to remember for those times when I feel like God is far way and not understanding my situation. When this happens, it isn’t God who has moved away from me, but the opposite. Perhaps I have found myself too busy and ignored him. He is still there just waiting for me to reconnect. He is gracious and full of love and doesn’t give up on me when I’ve gone my own way.
Not only does God hear us, but He guides us when we remain close to Him. If we listen, we can hear Him prompting us, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” How do we hear God prompting us? Through that inner voice, the Holy Spirit, that helps us know what we should do.
As we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus, God in human flesh, let’s thank Him for the spiritual healing He brought us. With Jesus, we have abundant blessings that remind us that God is always with us. Let’s walk with Him in His way every day.
Prayer: Dear God, we are thankful that you never give up on us and will show us the way when we draw close to you and listen for your voice. Thank you for hearing our prayers. Amen.
Author: Shari Parsons, Director, Children’s Ministries
Saturday, December 7, 2019 | Read John 1:19-28
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” John 1:23
John, cousin of Jesus and son of a priest, was making waves; he was baptizing believers. But under whose authority? The priests and Levites set to find out. When they questioned him, John did not speak of himself, where he came from or what he had accomplished. He redirected to Jesus each time. John’s baptisms were baptisms of repentance, washing away sin in preparation for the coming of Jesus. John’s God-given purpose was to be a witness, to prepare a path for Jesus.
When a king traveled during the antiquity, a herald ran ahead of him to clear the path and to prepare the people to welcome the coming king. This was John the Baptist’s calling. And he fulfilled it with humility, stepping back and allowing Jesus all the glory.
As we prepare for Christmas, it is fitting that we reflect on our own roles. Are we living lives as a witness for Jesus? Are we proclaiming the Good News and then stepping aside and allowing Jesus to shine? Are we heralding Jesus into our hearts and homes?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us be better witnesses for you. Help us be the modern day versions of John the Baptist you have called each of to be. Help us do so through our words, actions, and attitudes. Let the focus of Christmas be on the true king, Jesus. Amen.
Author: Tina DeBoeser, Director of Missions & Outreach
Sunday, December 8, 2019 | Read 1 Kings 19:1-13
“And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” 1 Kings 19:12
At this point in the story Elijah, had bested Ahab. In response, Ahab reached out to Jezebel informing her of all the things that the Lord had accomplished through Elijah. Jezebel sought retribution and sent a messenger to Elijah notifying him that she was going to take his life. Jezebel was known for killing the Lord’s prophets. In response to this threat, Elijah ran into the wilderness and asked that the Lord take his life. God responded to Elijah by providing him with food to sustain his 40-day journey to Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai). Once he arrived, the word of the Lord came to him and instructed him to wait at the cave entrance. Elijah observed fire, earthquakes and great wind, then, he heard the quiet whisper and knew this was God. At this point, he encountered God, who instructed him on how to proceed.
Elijah relied on God to defeat the prophets of Baal who were led by Ahab. Jezebel, who was a much more prominent threat to Elijah, heard of this and threated Elijah. Elijah did not continue to place his faith in God. In response to Jezebel, he ran. God acted to fortify and direct Elijah.
I can see myself acting like Elijah. I know God has delivered me from harrowing events, but when I am faced with new challenges, I want to run and hide. I forget how powerful my God is. I am reminded by God addressing Elijah with a quiet whisper; when I am fearful, I must let go of the noise in my life and let God whisper truth into me, truth that helps me recognize He is in control. I cannot accomplish anything without Him.
Prayer: Lord you are so powerful. You know what I need to hear and when I need to hear it. When faced with adversity, I pray that you can help me silence the noise and distractions so that I may hear you and your guidance in my life. Amen.
Author: Keith Priest, Christian Counselor
Monday, December 9, 2019 | Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
“But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another… Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more.” 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10
How much should I love people? Even more. How much should my life please God? Even more. Sometimes I catch myself settling for ‘just enough’ instead of striving for ‘even more.’ When I’m tired, ‘just enough’ means counting up all the ways I’ve loved people that day; ‘even more’ means going out of my way to love someone who is hurting and in need. When I’m tempted to give into sin, ‘just enough’ counts up the things I’ve done for God and says one time won’t hurt; ‘even more’ means choosing to set aside my pride and running toward the path God has for me.
What I find so remarkable is that a life that is ‘just enough’ is appealingly unsatisfying. Yep, you read that right. A life of ‘just enough’ won’t be all that great, but it won’t cost me that much either. It sadly can seem like a fair trade-off. What I know is this though – my measure of ‘just enough’ pales in comparison to the perfect example of love and purity we have in Jesus.
God is love. He chose to set aside His power and glory to become a helpless baby in a broken and sinful world. He chose to put on human flesh and become one of us, to be God with us. Pause for a moment and reflect on what it means for the holy and divine creator of the universe to willingly step into the dirt and chaos of Earth. Now take a moment to think about how you can live in a way that pleases God ‘even more’ and love others ‘even more’ as a response to all that God has done for you.
Prayer: Lord, I am in awe of your perfect love and holiness. Forgive me for the times that I have settled for just enough of you in my life. Help me to live a life that pleases you and to love others with the same love you have shown me. Amen.
Author: Allan Paquette, Director of Worship
Tuesday, December 10, 2019 | Read Romans 15:14-21
“I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.” Rom 15:17
Paul wrote his letter to the Romans in preparation for his upcoming visit to Rome during his third missionary journey. He was most likely in Corinth or Cenchreae (about six miles away) when he wrote this letter. He was addressing the predominantly Gentile church in Rome about God’s plan of salvation and righteousness for all humankind, Jews and Gentiles alike. Remember, Rome was the center of the most powerful empire in the world at that time.
Paul’s story is so amazing as he went from a violent persecutor of Christ’s followers to the chosen minister to preach the gospel to Gentiles throughout the Roman empire. Paul offered encouragement to the Gentiles, sharing that he was convinced that they were “full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” Paul felt called in his duty to proclaim the gospel so that Gentiles could become part of the church of Christ, then grow the church as disciples of Christ.
Paul shared that his main purpose in life was to preach the gospel where Christ was not known so that “those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” This is the mission of all Christians, to share the love of Jesus with those who do not know Him. But it’s so hard, isn’t it? Why is that? We have been blessed so greatly by having Jesus in our lives that it should be so easy to share our story with others. Let’s use Paul as our example. His personal journey of change is so dramatic, he shows us that we can shed our fears and share our own story of Jesus’ love with others.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for sharing Jesus with us and for Paul’s amazing example of discipleship. Help me to recognize that I am competent enough to share your Word with others so that they, too, can be blessed by your love. Amen.
Author: B.J. Priest, Executive Director
Wednesday, December 11, 2019 | Read Matthew 12:33-37
“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Matt 12:34
Matthew was a tax collector who left his work to follow Jesus. Matthew’s purpose in writing his gospel was to confirm that Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
In today’s reading, Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees who disputed His ability to heal a demon-possessed man by the power of the Holy Spirit. They claimed that it was only by the power of the devil that Jesus healed this man. Jesus countered their logic, saying, “If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?” This is the motivation for Jesus to talk about good fruits and good trees.
If you fill yourself with good fruits, such as worship, and scripture reading, and mission work, you then become a good tree. People acknowledge that Christians should possess the fruits of the Spirit, such as love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). However, if we fill ourselves with bad fruit, “an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” Words have power. Our words are an outward sign of our inward character.
We want to strive to be bearers of good fruit. We want to be the “good man who brings good things out of the good stored up in him.” Practicing good spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, reading the Bible, worshiping, and acts of service, can help ensure that we are demonstrating to others what being blessed by our God is really like.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for sharing Matthew’s scripture with me today to help me understand that when I speak, I demonstrate the kind of person that I am. Help me to recognize that words spoken cannot be taken back, and to strive to be a representative of a good fruit tree. Amen.
Author: Sandy Lytle, Property Manager
Thursday, December 12, 2019 | Read Ruth 1:6-18
“…Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
Elimelech fled Bethlehem with his wife Naomi and their two sons to escape famine. They settled in Moab where his sons met and married their wives, Ruth and Orpah. Within ten years, Naomi’s husband and both sons died leaving her with no one to provide for her. Hearing the famine had passed in her home land, she planned to return to her people. Both daughters-in-law began the journey with her until she insisted they return to their mother’s house. Naomi hoped they would remarry and have children. Orpah reluctantly returned to Moab; however, Ruth stayed with Naomi and proclaimed her devotion, “where you go, I will go.”
As a military spouse, there have been times I’ve felt like both Ruth and Naomi. Shortly after marrying, my husband and I moved from my home in Virginia to California (Naomi). Many times over the course of his military career, I quit my job, left my friends, and moved away from my family (Ruth). While I may have been away from my home, I was never alone. There was always a seat for us at a neighbor’s table during holiday dinners. We were supported during deployments. My kids were loved by a community of strangers who were our family. Looking back, I see we were at God’s table and surrounded by God’s community.
In my mind, I recreate the conversation between Ruth and Naomi. I play the role of Ruth and my husband is Naomi. Where you go, I will go…anywhere in the world. Your people are my people… the military community. Most importantly, your God, my God…who teaches us kindness, devotion, and connection.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for teaching us the importance of caring for one another and being kind. Never let me forget the love I’ve found in the kindness of strangers. Help me remember kindness is a choice I make in your honor. Amen.
Author: Michelle Joyner, Communications Director
Friday, December 13, 2019 | Read Psalm 146: 5-10
“The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion” Psalm 146:10
Psalm 146 begins a series of five final songs in the Book of Psalms. Many call them the “Hallelujah Psalms.” These Psalms all start and end with the Hebrew word “Hallelujah.” In Hebrew, the word “Hallel” means “praise” and is a Jewish prayer. The “u” means “you” and “Jah” is another name for God. So, the word Hallelujah, loosely translated, means “Praise the Lord” and that is the message the Psalmist is giving us in this Psalm. We should trust the Lord and He will be your support in all things.
In verse 5, the psalmist tells us that when we encounter overwhelming situations, we will be blessed when we trust in the Lord. Remember the story of the five loaves and two fishes to feed the 5000? In the following verses 6-9, the psalmist shows us that the Lord helps those who are weak and trust Him. Those who have been ridiculed or discriminated against, the Lord protects. He supports the orphans and widows. He feeds the hungry. The point is, when we trust in the Lord, we will be blessed. In the end in verse 10, the writer shows us that when we trust the Lord in our weakness, He is forever faithful. So, if you want God’s blessing in your life always praise Him and trust Him.
This Christmas season, we celebrate one of the greatest blessings – that God came to dwell with us in the person of Jesus. This means we are blessed because we have Jesus with us even if life doesn’t feel like a blessing because of the hard things we’re going through. And that’s a big reason why we can say “hallelujah” with the Psalmist this season!
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the great things life has given me even though I have fallen short of what is expected of me. Please use me and my life to honor your wishes. Help me to be open to ways that you can work through me. Amen.
Author: Vicki Stones, Director of Empty Nest Ministries
Saturday, December 14, 2019 | Read Luke 3:1-18
“…Prepare the way for the Lord…” Luke 3:4 NIV
Whenever I read this passage of scripture to children, I change the words “the way” to “our hearts” so it helps them to understand that John is instructing the people and us that we need to prepare our hearts for Jesus.
John is helping the people understand that they need to repent, ask for forgiveness and be inspired to live like God wants them to live. He is telling them that Jesus is coming and that He will be God’s salvation in the flesh. John is telling the people that Jesus will give them salvation. All obstacles are going to be removed in their relationship with God.
How should someone live who has salvation through Christ? We should live a life of repentance with an open heart that looks to God for direction. We should be compassionate and have concern for others, show love to those around us, and be honest. We should faithfully serve others. It isn’t about us anymore, it’s about letting others see God in us.
True repentance is a matter of the heart and results in change in our everyday behavior. Christmas is a wonderful time to prepare our hearts for Jesus and let His light shine through.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for sending your son, Jesus, to give us life changing hope and a relationship with you. Help us to live lives pleasing to you. Amen.
Author: Shari Parsons, Director, Children’s Ministries
Sunday, December 15, 2019 | Read Acts 27:13-34
“I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost” Acts 27:22
Can you imagine how scary it must have been to be on that boat during a hurricane-force storm? Imagine being on a boat filled with frightened sailors who presumed they would not survive. It must have been terrifying!
But this time it was Paul who was calm on a boat in the midst of a storm. An angel of the Lord stood next to him and told him, “Do not be afraid.” This was not the first time that Paul received a message like this. When he was spreading the gospel in Corinth and facing danger, the Lord spoke to him in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack you and harm you…” (Acts 18:9-10). So it’s probably safe to say that Paul knew he could trust in the Lord’s message that he and his shipmates would be delivered from the storm.
It can be scary when we’re in the midst of a personal storm. The fear is real, and it is powerful. And once you’ve lived through a storm, that fear can become even more powerful when you face the next one. But there’s hope! We can remember the words that are in the Bible more than 300 times: Be not afraid! One thing we know for sure is that we will have storms in our life. But if we face them with courage, knowing that God is with us, we can draw strength from that knowledge. The other thing we know for sure is that storms end. And sometimes, when we’re lucky, there’s a beautiful rainbow when it’s all over.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the constant reminder in your words to us to be not afraid. Help us to remember to be courageous when we are facing our storms and to remember that you are with us always. Amen.
Author: B.J. Priest, Executive Director
Monday, December 16, 2019 | Read Psalm 42:1-4
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. Psalm 42:1
The Psalms are songs or poems that instruct us. Many believe Psalm 42 and 43 were originally one because Psalm 43 is the only one without a heading. Psalm 42 has a heading in most versions, that refers to a choir director and to the sons of Korah, who were a group of priests charged with the ministry of singing. It is likely that this Psalm was sung. Psalm 42 gives us ways to deal with our own seasons of thirst or darkness or depression.
You see that the psalmist uses the imagery of the deer being thirsty to illustrate times of struggle and turmoil in our spiritual life. One of the solutions the psalmist talks about as a remedy for that thirst is the importance of corporate worship or the coming together for worship and song. Don’t underestimate the value of being together with the body of believers as a way of preserving your faith now, but also to remember later how God was present for you in corporate worship.
Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for the opportunity to come together each week in worship so that we can quench our thirst for your guidance, hope and encouragement. Amen.
***At Ebenezer we have four opportunities for corporate worship on Sundays. We also have an opportunity to be a part of an online worship community when participating in person is not possible. The message board helps to have a sense of community even while watching from your computer at home.
Author: Vicki Stones, Director of Empty Nest Ministries
Tuesday, December 17, 2019 | Read Jude 1:17-25
“But you dear friends… keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you eternal life.” Jude 1:20-21
Jude was Jesus’ brother. During his life, the church was challenged with heretics and non-believers in its ranks. Jude wrote to early Christian people, reminding them they must watch out for these false teachers who did not believe, warning that they would try to change the hearts and minds of Christians. He was warning true believers that heeding false teaching could destroy the church.
Do you think Christians today face the same danger that Jude wrote about? Do you feel in today’s society it is hard to be a good Christian? God has to contend with television, movies and most of all, social media, telling His children how to act and what they should believe. Jude reminds us to build up our faith, to pray, to keep loving God, to look for opportunities to show mercy and to be compassionate. Do we as Christians not desire the same blessings that Jude said we should have? Jude calls the readers of his letters “Beloved” because we are the beloved children of God. We Christians must accept personal responsibility and make every effort to build upon what Jesus taught us. Reading the Bible and praying to God are two simple steps we can take to build up our faith.
Prayer: Dear Lord, open up our hearts to remember you are our Father and you sent your beloved son for us. Help us remember that we must continue to build our faith by praying to you and loving you. Help us show mercy and compassion to others so we can do what you commanded us to do. In your saving name, Amen.
Author: Crissy Sharon, KidzCare Director
Wednesday, December 18, 2019 | Read Psalm 42: 2-5
“My soul thirst for God, for the living God. My tears have been my food day and night…Put your hope in God…” Psalm 42:5
I lost my father six days before Christmas in 2017, and my mother-in-law just two days later. Upon learning of my father’s last moments, I was in a complete raw, deep, ugly sorrow, unable to control my rage, asking where are you God? I was angry. I remember screaming, crying out in pain, falling to the floor, looking into my daughters’ eyes and seeing fear, confusion, pain, and sadness and being paralyzed to help them. In fact, it was the other way around; they became my caregivers. It wasn’t long before members from our church were in our living room, holding my hand, and comforting our family until 4 AM; at 7 AM, more came. We were not left alone. Every need was met. Losing my father was completely unexpected and utterly heartbreaking.
Overwhelming grief took over. The days passed in a dizzying blur. I’d like to say I turned to God and put my trust in Him. I’d like to say that I held on to every word I knew to be true, but I didn’t. I was angry, I cried ALL THE TIME. I lost my joy and my hope. My soul was desperate for communion with the Lord, but my anger would not let me meet Him yet.
Each of us has moments when life shakes our very core and brings us to our knees. In these moments, we feel bitter and confused. We wonder, where is God in the chaos? I’ve come to realize our God showed up that night, and for many days since then. HE sent the right people that night. HE provided safe travel, HE brought me to this place, where I found my joy, my hope, my GOD again. The beauty of this life far outweighs the sorrow. Meet God in the darkness, HE will walk through it with you.
Prayer: Dear God, I am here, I am broken, I am angry, and I need you. I need your peace. Please come and meet me here in this place of darkness. Let it be well with my soul. Amen.
Author: Dana Czzowitz, Office Manager
Thursday, December 19, 2019 | Read Galatians 3:23-29
“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.” Galatians 3:26-27
One of my favorite and most anticipated days arrived, Back-to-School Night. Before joining the staff at Ebenezer, I was a teacher. Back-to-School Night was exciting because I got to meet the 25+ students and families God entrusted to me. I’ll never forget one little girl because of how she referred to herself.
I walked up to a family with two little girls. I shook the hands of the mom and the dad, asked them their names, and introduced myself. I then bent down to get the names of my new student and her older sister. My student proudly said, “I’m Hannah!” I then turned to her sister and asked what her name was. She pressed a bit closer to her dad’s side and said, “Nobody, just her sister.” This little one’s words, have stuck with me because I remember thinking, “Oh sweetie, you are not a nobody, but full of so much potential.”
And it’s true, isn’t it? Nobody is a nobody, and nobody is just a sister or brother. Or, just a mom or dad. Or, just a teacher. Or, just an anything! But, we often find ourselves in places or seasons of life where we feel like a nobody. It can be hard to see our own value if we feel overlooked or relate our value to certain successes or standards. Galatians 3:26 reminds us our identity doesn’t change with our circumstances or sway with our confidence. Our identity is fixed by faith and anchored in Christ!
Prayer: Father, you chose me. Sometimes I have to stop and marvel at that. Thank you for making me your child. Thank you for granting me a life beyond this one. Thank you for loving me enough to send your only Son as a sacrifice for me. Thank you for creating plans and a purpose just for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Author: Chrissy Leathers, Director of Connections
Friday, December 20, 2019 | Read 2 Samuel 7:18-22
“Then King David went in… ‘Who am I, O Lord God…” 2 Sam:18
When I read the words of some of our heroes of the Bible, I can be thrown off by their response to God. In verses 12-16, King David is essentially told that through his lineage, God will set up His kingdom on Earth through Jesus Christ (2 Sam 7:12-16). David’s response, in so many words was, “Who, me?” King David, the guy who took down Goliath and would be the greatest King known on Earth, questioned how God could use him.
I feel like that a lot. Inadequate, unqualified, sometimes even disqualified because of my past. I wonder how and why God would want to use me, but He does use me. I’ve been volunteering in youth ministry for about 20 years, and I believe that is no accident. God uses me to speak His truth into our teenagers and to connect with their parents as new generations rise up. What qualifies me for that job? When I started in youth ministry, I had only accepted Christ a year before. I had no real Bible knowledge; in fact, I was still figuring things out for myself. I believe what qualifies me is God’s calling… there’s no other good explanation. I think many of us feel the same way. Why me? While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling that way, we need to make sure we don’t stay there. Back to David.
Reading the rest of chapter 7, we see David affirm his own calling. Now that I have heard your calling, do it! David quickly shakes off doubt and stands firm knowing what God says is true.
We are all called to greatness through God. We just have to determine if we are going to doubt our qualifications or if we’re going to serve God with all we have knowing He has qualified us.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for calling me from the darkness and into your light and for calling me to serve you. Please allow me to follow your lead every day of my life. Amen.
Author: James Mills, Director of Technology
Saturday, December 21, 2019 | Read John 3:31-36
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…” John 3:36
The Gospel of John emphasizes the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus did not come to merely deliver a message from God – He Himself is the message. Jesus is the Word, the Messiah and the incarnate of God who has come to reveal the Father and bring eternal life to all who believe in Him.
This is where we see God’s true heart revealed. We see on the cross that God is a being of total self-giving love. Trusting in God’s love, love defined by the self-sacrifice for the wellbeing of others, will change us. The personal love of God can permeate our lives and provide healing and transformation. Those who know and believe in His son, Jesus the Messiah, will know the God of love and have eternal life.
Ground yourself in God’s love. Find solace in the certainty of His eternal love through Christ’s sacrifice. Find peace in the knowledge that there isn’t anything that you can do to deserve His love. It is given to you freely and without exception through grace by faith, for God sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins on the cross. Believe in God, the Father and the Son, and you’ll receive the gift of eternal life.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I believe in your son, our savior, Jesus. Lord, thank you for a life infused with your eternal love. Thank you that you loved me so much that you sent Jesus to die on the cross in my place, so that by faith in Him I could receive the gift of eternal life. Lord, I pray that I might live for Him and thank you for your amazing grace. In your name I pray, Amen.
Author: Brandy Willetts, Graphic & Web Designer
Sunday, December 22, 2019 | Read Ephesians 4:1-6
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3
As a leader in the early church, Paul did not want the Christian movement to destroy itself from the inside. Paul wrote this from prison and emphasized that “living a life worthy of our Christian calling” is worth being imprisoned for. They faced plenty of persecution from external sources during this time. It would have been very hard to maintain the momentum they were developing if they were not committed to maintaining unity of the Spirit.
Human nature is not always agreeable. Sometimes it might be something as basic as a personality conflict. Paul encourages us to bear with each other in love, particularly within the church. He doesn’t promise us that we are all going to get along perfectly. We are called to maintain the unity of the Spirit with our brothers and sisters. Unity is grounded on love. Love bears fruit: tender mercies, kindness, humility, joy, gentleness, patience, and forgiving one another, as Christ forgives us. These are ingredients in the recipe for unity. It might be difficult, but in the end, the result of doing God’s work as a united force is worth all the effort we put into overcoming our differences.
Take a moment today to listen to the songs “Make Us One” by Jesus Culture and “Here’s My Heart” by I AM THEY.
Prayer: God, thank you for sending such a beautiful example of love through your son, Jesus. I pray that I can walk in your Spirit and be one in Christ with my brothers and sisters. Help me to set my differences aside with those I encounter. I pray I feel what Paul felt when he discovered your truth and love. Father, unite us all through your love and be glorified through my actions and words today. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Author: Chrissy Leathers, Director of Connections
Monday, December 23, 2019 | Read Galatians 3:6-14
Just as Abraham ‘believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’.” Gal 3:6
Abraham is the father of the Jewish nation, yet an often-overlooked detail is that he was a Gentile until God converted him. Abraham was not exposed to the law in his day. God had provided the law to Moses 430 years after his covenant with Abraham. Abraham simply believed in God, and this was enough for God to consider him righteous. He did not have a checklist to follow or activities that must be accomplished, Abraham believed in God, it was that easy. Paul explains in this passage that we are free from the curse of the law. Christ redeemed us from the penalties associated with the law. Through our faith in Christ we receive the promise of the Spirit. Just as Abraham, our righteousness is based on our belief in Christ; nothing more, nothing less.
What an amazing gift from our loving Father. Our Father wants us simply to believe in Him, He wants us to place our faith in Christ. Many of our earthly relationships are based on interactions with others based on wants, needs, and desires. This is not true of our relationship with God. He has done all the work and needs us to have faith in who He is. When I struggle, I turn to Abraham and this passage. I ask myself, “Do I believe in God and what He has done for me?” This seemingly simple question provides me with a firm foundation to begin to address the areas in which I may be struggling.
Prayer: Lord I cannot put into words how amazing you are. You created us to be in relationship with you, to worship you, to depend on you. When we strayed from you, you provided us with the simplest task to receive your grace. You only ask that we believe in you. I pray that you help me defend against making my relationship with you more difficult and complicated than you had defined it to be. Amen.
Author: Keith Priest, Christian Counselor
Tuesday, December 24, 2019 | Read Luke 2:1-20
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” Luke 2:8
This passage in Luke is beautiful. It is the grand appearance of our God coming to this earth. But it isn’t grand in the way one would expect. He was born to an “average” couple and placed in an animal’s feeding trough. His first visitors were shepherds.
Here is where it gets more beautiful than we could imagine. Shepherds were often looked at as unclean, dishonest, and thieves. But a good shepherd would faithfully look after their sheep, never leaving them, caring for them, ready to protect them from harm. We know these were good shepherds because they were keeping watch over their flocks at night. Not just any flocks, these were most likely sheep reserved for temple sacrifice because they were in the fields near Bethlehem. Think on that for a second: Sheep reserved for temple sacrifice.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” -Jesus, John 10:14
“I lay down my life for the sheep…” -Jesus, John 10:15b
These shepherds were the first to hear the good news of the Good Shepherd who was born to become the final temple sacrifice! A Savior indeed had been born; Glory to God in the Highest!
We are the sheep of His pasture! I am so in need of His protection, His guidance, His provision, and His sacrifice every day. It is indeed good news of great joy- for ALL the people!
Prayer: Thank you for your Son, your sacrifice, and keeping watch. Wake us up! Like the shepherds, let us not keep this news to ourselves. Give us eyes that see what you are doing and join you. May we throw off what hinders us and let us spread the GOOD NEWS with JOY! Amen
Author: Michelle Paquette, Director of Student Ministries
Christmas Day 2019 | Read Luke 2:1-20
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10b-11
And so it begins. This is the advent of the great and eternal reversal: because of the birth of Jesus Christ, once and for all, fear shall be turned into joy. Commandments not to fear are the most prolific in the Bible. God tells us not to be afraid with more regularity than any other message the Lord conveys in all of scripture, but this one was special. This was the mother of all “don’t be afraid” injunctions because this one came with the force of God becoming flesh.
In the most important moment in history, God sends a message to the lowest members of society, the most vulnerable. Indeed, this was good news for all people. The angel says, “Don’t be afraid, the source of all good, the hope of all people, the template for all heroes, the forgiver of all sin and giver of all life has come to the earth.” This is no poetry, fiction or fantasy. The one true God walked with us, and nothing can be the same again.
On this Christmas Day, take heart, let your fears melt to joy. Yes, our sin was real. Our death was certain. We were without hope. Then, God did what we simply could not. God did it. Once. For all.
Rejoice. The Savior is born.
Prayer: Holy God, You have given us every blessing, every breath, every hope, every joy in our lives. You have been good to us beyond what we could ask or even imagine. On this holy day, we give you thanks for that greatest of all gifts, Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. We thank you for canceling our fears and fulfilling our hopes. By Your grace, may we live this and all days to bring you glory. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Author: Rob Lough, Pastor