Thursday, Mar. 1

Read Exodus 20:1-17

From Wesley Howsare

Moundsville, WV First Christian Church

In our grade school age Sunday school class, our teacher decided us boys should memorize the Ten Commandments.  So, we spent some time learning about them, and then memorizing them.  Then, we had to stand up in the front of the whole church and recite them! Quite terrifying for 3rdth and 4th graders.  And using that KJV—what kind of language was that?  But we did it and received an award of a nice lapel pin to wear proudly on our suit jackets.  So, when the news was saturated with efforts to remove the Ten Commandments from public places, we knew exactly what they were talking about.  And our teacher knew that learning the Ten Commandments at such a young age would help us with building a foundation of what God expected from His children.

Then I learned that Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments when he said in Matthew 22:37 about loving God and loving our neighbor. And He demonstrated that love by dying on a cross to save us—the ones who were sinning against God and our neighbor. Now, that is truly love.

But I can’t help think how much easier it would have been to memorize Matthew 22:37!

 

Thank you Jesus for your self-less love of offering your life as an atonement for our sins.

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Wednesday: Dec. 20

Read Isaiah 9:2-7

from Wesley Howsare, Moundsville, WV First Christian Church

Isn’t God great?

It is the Father who directed the bringing of His Son into our world for the forgiveness of our sins, and the gift of eternal life for all those who believe in Jesus, and accept that gift. And it was the Holy Spirit who inspired men and women to write in their own style and in their own words what is in scripture, our Bible.  This is so readily seen in how the prophets predicted the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And in today’s devotional passage, Isaiah prophesied about the coming of Jesus the Christ over 700 years before His birth!  Jesus, the great light; Jesus, the Son who is given; Jesus, the eternal ruler from the lineage of David. This Wonderful Jesus–Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father (or, “the source of eternity,”) and the Prince of Peace. Because God loves us, and wants us to be righteously reconciled to Him, he gave us His only begotten Son, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day.  Christmas is a celebration of God’s love to us, bundled as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem. A baby born to be the Savior of the world.  Our Savior, Christ the Lord.  All because of love.

Isn’t God great?

Father, thank you for your bundle of love that saved a wretch like me. Amen.

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Prayerscapes for Advent is published by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  WV and PA Disciples ministers have given themselves to this wonderful project, which will provide daily devotions in your inbox from Dec. 3 through Jan. 6.  We hope you will share the word with others who would appreciate receiving them, and direct your friends to https://prayerscapes.wordpress.com.  They also will be published daily on our Facebook pages.

All of this is made possible because of your faithful support of Disciples Mission Fund, and the Christmas Offering for Regional Ministries.  Please consider how your gifts will help us continue our work, and encourage others toward generosity in this vital mission.

Read Psalm 32

Lent is a time to do some introspection about our Christian walk.  “None are perfect, no not one,” but we do strive to be more Christ-like.  It is a time to ask the Holy Spirit to help us in this process of sanctification, to manifest the fruits of the Spirit more and more in our lives.  It is a time to dedicate ourselves to Bible reading and prayer.  It is a time to reach out and provide help to others, either financially or with our time and talents.   It is a time to give thanks for God’s mercy and grace, that our sins are forgiven and not counted against us!

Note in the passage from Psalm 32 above, there are also personal benefits to confession.  Blessed – or happy – are those whose transgressions are forgiven! There is a definite mind/body connection, whereby guilt and shame can manifest themselves negatively in us physically. Gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems are just two examples. These are called psychosomatic illnesses – definite physical problems with psychological causes.  No wonder the psalmist was rejoicing in the forgiveness he received from his confession!  May we also rejoice in the forgiveness we receive from a loving, merciful, gracious God!

Father, we are so thankful that if we confess our sins, you are faithful  and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Wesley Howsare

First Christian Church, Moundsville, WV

Wednesday, Dec. 7                  Read Luke 1:26-45

from Wesley Howsare, First Christian Church, Moundsville, WV:

“This is what I want for Christmas!”  Then we are shown webpages, newspaper ads, or certain TV commercials are pointed out to us. And this is from our adult family and friends!  OK, maybe that is a bit of a stretch, but it is true that oftentimes, Christmas has become a time of receiving.

 

At least nine months before the first Christmas in Bethlehem, an unmarried virgin Mary is told by an angel that she will conceive and bring forth a Son whose name will be Jesus.  Hmm, now just how was that going to happen? The angel explained how.  And rather than protesting and giving a litany of social reasons why that just wouldn’t work, Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”  Instead of thinking of herself, she accepted what the angel had said and gave to us the Savior of the world!

 

And then when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, rather than complain about why she wasn’t chosen by God herself for the role of giving birth to God’s Son, she heaped blessings and praise upon Mary.  For Mary and Elizabeth, it wasn’t about receiving for themselves, but about giving to others.  Wouldn’t it be nice if every Christmas was like that first Christmas, with a focus on giving?

 

Father, help us to be other-focused during this season…and always.  Amen.

We express our gratitude to the ministers of the regions who have offered their devotional thoughts and prayers through this project, which is sustained by your gifts to the Christmas Offering for Regional Ministry.  To contribute to the offering, please visit the following pages:  Supporting the PA Region   or    Supporting the WV Region

Prayerscapes is published by the Christian Church in West Virginia and the Christian Church in Pennsylvania for the not-for-profit distribution of their members and friends in the ecumenical church.  ©2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

Read Isaiah 42:1-9

from Wesley Howsare, Moundsville First Christian Church

Our church had just completed a Bible study on the book of Revelation. One thing we noticed was how John used a lot of the Old Testament in that book, and how some of those prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures were uncannily fulfilled during the period of the Roman Empire. In this passage of Isaiah, the first of four “Servant Songs” about the Messiah, God gives Isaiah prophecies that were partially fulfilled during the earthly ministry of Jesus. Such fulfillments of prophecy lead to increased faith and trust in God, that He is in control, and that His hand is in the happenings of our world – both present and future. We can then also view scripture as a compilation of books from different writers, but one Author who gave the writers their inspiration.

When we see the fulfillment of prophecy, we can be assured that the other prophecies in scripture will also come to be fulfilled. God will ensure it! So, we can be assured that Jesus will come again, that He will receive us unto Himself, that there will be a new heaven and new earth, no more pain or sorrow, and that we will forever be with the Lord! Even so, Lord Jesus, come.

Father, we thank you for your Word, and the assurance that what your Word proclaims will come to pass. Amen.

Read Matthew 25:31-46

from Rev. Wesley Howsare, First Christian Church, Moundsville

If you are reading this on New Year’s Day, and you didn’t make your New Year’s resolutions before midnight last night, well then, I’m really sorry about your luck! Because apparently if you want to lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, save more money, attend church more regularly, or be nicer to others, you had to resolve to do that before midnight last night. Otherwise, like health insurance enrollment, you have to wait until that window of opportunity opens up towards the end of this year.

Obviously that is a bit of a stretch, but it is rather humorous to me that it seems the only time we can resolve to change is right before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t work that way? In advance, He shares what He expects of us: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” But we can resolve to do those things anytime—like now! Even if it is after midnight.

Father, we thank you for your guidelines for us and your grace as we resolve to follow them.

Thursday: Dec. 4         Read Luke 1:5-25

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”

The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”

Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

 

from Rev. Wesley Howsare

First Christian Church, Moundsville

In our neck of the woods here in West Virginia’s northern panhandle, we are experiencing a natural gas boom, with the drilling for and extraction of gas in the Marcellus shale. Large pieces of equipment are needed to set up the drilling sites, build processing plants, and move the gas itself. It is common to see a vehicle with flashing caution lights and a sign on it that says “Oversize Load”. It is to warn us that something big and powerful is coming. In essence, the truck is preparing the way for this huge equipment. And that equipment is coming, whether we want it to or not!

In this passage in Luke, the stage is being set for John the Baptizer, who had a calling to prepare the way for the Messiah—the first coming of Christ. John would prepare the way for the One who John admitted was much mightier. And the Messiah was going to come, whether the folks wanted Him to or not!   And this same Jesus who came, was crucified, buried, resurrected, and ascended into heaven will come again. This time He will come for judgment and to establish His kingdom. And He will come whether folks want Him to or not! But who will prepare the way for His second coming? Who will caution the people of the impending judgment?

Dear Lord, use us to prepare the way for your Second Coming. Amen.