Easter Devotion 2014: The Light of Christ

Faith UMC Easter Devotion April 20 2014 

 The Light of Christ

Written by Pastors Steve & Cara Stultz Costello

Scripture:  John 1:5 and 14—”The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…and the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. “

Reflection:  The acolytes bear the light of Christ into the midst of the gathered body of Christ. We are reminded that Jesus, the light of the world, has dawned upon us and is in our midst. We are reminded that we are called to be light in his likeness – like a city shining on a hill in the midst of the pervasive shadow of night.

Lent is traditionally a liturgical season likened to intentional darkness. In Lent we are called to focus upon our ‘shadow side’ – to call it into the light; to confess, to be forgiven, restored, saved. Though, when we bring that shadow side into the light it may shrink back, recoil, even snap and snarl. The dimness reacts this way because it is threatened. We become comfortable with our brokenness, our hiddenness, our shame. “That’s just the way I am.” we ascent. This is not the way or who we are. Jesus says to each and all of us, “You are the light of the world.”

You are the light of the world.

When I have the privilege to serve you Communion I see Christ’s light shining in you. You come and look into my eyes as I remind you that Jesus was broken and in him we are made whole. The light from the altar candles, the light of Christ, is reflected in your eyes. Christ’s light is in you. I see it.

Do you see it?

Where do you see the light of Christ reflected?

I also have the privilege to bear witness to the ways in which Christ’s light moves through you. In his name you are about shining his light. What has been broken is healed. What has been kept hidden is respectfully revealed. What has been shrouded in shame is cared for and affirmed. Christ’s light moves thorough you.  I see it.

In what ways do you see Christ’s light moving in and through you and others?

Prayer: Lord God, we hail the Sun of Righteousness in your son Jesus. We give thanks for the light and life that he brings to all. We give thanks that out of the grave and out of our darkness he rises with healing. In this season create in us clean hearts that Christ’s light may ever shine more brightly in and through us. In his name we pray. Amen.

This Week’s Scripture Readings: John 1:5-14, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-18, John 20:19-31, 1 Corinthians 15: 1-28, 1 Corinthians 15:20-56

Prayer Focus: Pray for our community. Pray that Christ’s light may shine brightly in and through our church, community and world.

Family Connection:  Flower Cross

Make a cross out of branches. Cover it with chicken wire or similar material that has holes. Fill the cross with fresh flowers and display it in your yard or porch. Share the traditional Easter greeting with one another: “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” and the response: “The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!”

Faith’s Christian Education & Spiritual Formation ministry team thanks everyone who helped to provide a weekly devotion written by some of Faith’s ministry teams to guide us in reflecting how we are Seeing Christ and Being Christ as we walk with Jesus during the season of Lent and Easter.

Additional resources for Holy Week and Easter  for individuals and for families are available in the literature racks in the Gathering area and outside the Family Life Center as well as in Faith’s Library & Media Center and on our website: http://faithum.weebly.com/lent.html

 

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Lent Devotions 2014: On The Road With Jesus

See christ (2)Faith UMC Lenten Devotions April 13 2014 

 On The Road With Jesus

 Written by Faith’ UMC’s Faith Kitchen Ministry Group

Scripture:  1 John 3:16-18 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us–and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Reflection:  There are so many hungry people in our midst. Statistics reveal that there are 500.000 people, many of them children in Northeast Ohio that do not have enough to eat. There seems to be more people standing on the expressway ramps holding up signs revealing that they are jobless, hungry and in need of help.  It would be so convenient to keep driving, pass judgment and hope someone else can help them today.  Maybe even we could keep going and say a prayer.  “ Oh Jesus please help them.” Everything will be alright now because as Christians we believe that God answers prayers.

But who does God use to answer prayers? 

The answer is the person who is reading this devotion.  Yes, YOU, a follower of Jesus. He implores us to love one another in all circumstances.

In what way is God calling you to love others?

There are responsibilities when you commit to following Jesus and let His love abide in your heart.  Some of the ways you may love a stranger in need is to let them know you see their suffering.  A gift card for a fast food restaurant, gloves, a bag filled with personal care items and snacks can be given to individuals standing on the road asking for help.

In what ways can you share the love of Christ?

Through the ministry of Faith Kitchen we have the opportunity to pour into the lives of those in need of the love of Christ and Christian community. When Jesus ask us to love our brothers and sisters He does not use words like empathize, or empower but asks us to show compassion and mercy on those in need.

In what ways have you experienced Seeing Christ Being Christ through compassion and mercy?

There are many scripture readings regarding Jesus and the road. Jesus appeared to His disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Let us as followers be on the road with Jesus in ways that those that we encounter know that we see the suffering and have compassion in His name.

In what ways is God calling you  to be on the road with Jesus this Holy Week?

Prayer: Loving and Compassionate God, as you have loved us help us to love others, not just in our words but in our actions.  Help us to respond to your call to be on the road with Jesus so others will know that we see the suffering and will respond with compassion in Your name. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

This Week’s Lenten Scripture Readings: 1 John 3:13-16, Matthew 21:1-11, Zechariah 9:9-10, Luke 19:39-40, Luke 10:25-37, Matthew 7:13-14, Luke 24:13-35, Matthew 26:36-46

Prayer Focus: Pray for those who are suffering and in need of compassion, love, and mercy. Pray for God to show you how you can Be Christ and See Christ on the road with Jesus.

Family Connection:  Gift Bags

Talk about what it would be like to be hungry or homeless. Perhaps fast from a meal and have the discussion while you are feeling the pangs of hunger. Share ideas of what kinds of things might be appreciated by someone who is hungry. Talk about ways that your family can respond with compassion to help others. Take a plastic zip bag and fill it with gift card, glove, snacks,  and personal care items. Be ready to respond when you notice  someone in need.

 

Faith’s Christian Education & Spiritual Formation ministry team will provide a weekly devotion written by some of Faith’s ministry teams to guide us in reflecting how we are Seeing Christ and Being Christ as we walk with Jesus during the season of Lent and Easter.

Additional resources for Holy Week and Easter  for individuals and for families are available in the literature racks in the Gathering area and outside the Family Life Center as well as in Faith’s Library & Media Center and on our website: http://faithum.weebly.com/lent.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lent Devotions 2014: God, Why Don’t You Do Something

See christ (2)Faith UMC Lenten Devotions April 6 2014

 God, Why Don’t You Do Something?

Written by Faith’ UMC’s 2014 Women’s Retreat Group

Scripture:  Matthew 25:37-40  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Reflection: Several weeks ago approximately twenty women of Faith spent time together in prayer, praise, reflection and celebration of our sisterhood in Christ.  Our leaders, Kathy Schmucker and Pam Wig, thoughtfully and prayerfully designed a wide variety of experiences for us to help us quiet ourselves and ‘retreat’ from our busy lives, schedules and distractions.

We had very gifted guests during our time together who shared music, meditation, inspirational stories and gave us an experience in liturgical stretching of our spirits.  One speaker, in particular brought the group to tears.  She was a special guest from the P.A.L. Mission who told us more about one of the mission projects that Faith Church supports.  This committed young lady, Andrea, shared her work and her life in her work.

P.A.L. Mission provides stable, secure housing and life skills training to the at-risk populations of adolescents in foster care who are preparing to leave the foster care system.  Andrea told us about the challenges of the homeless, foster young men and women in their program.  Four of the ten current youths are 17 years old and are on their own, still in high school, no family, no home, no one to love them, care for them or plan their future with them.  How much hope would could they have?

In what ways is God breaking your heart?

Andrea’s real stories of youth who live only a few miles from us, moved us deeply.  Our hearts were broken and it reminded me of a message from a new Christian song.  The man said he saw poverty and homelessness and he shook his fist at heaven and said, “God, why don’t you do something!”  God’s response in the song, “I did, I CREATED YOU!”  When our hearts are stirred, I believe God is nudging US to DO SOMETHING.

In what way is God calling you to DO SOMETHING?

Andrea did not ask for anything. She simply shared her call to work with disadvantaged foster youth, and told their story.  What happened next can only be described as a true movement of the spirit and discipleship in action.  As we moved to the next activity, clearly we all felt a desire to jump into action.  We spent the next 30 minutes brainstorming what actions we felt called to do to support these youth.  The Women of Faith are excited to prepare and serve a meal on the Monday of Holy Week to the P.A.L. Mission youth and will give each youth an Easter tote filled with needed supplies, (and goodies), additional totes for carrying groceries as they walk from the grocery store to their apartments, gift cards for food and some books to feed their spirits.  I believe this one act of generosity will only be the beginning as we take the next step in service by developing relationships with the youth and listen for how God will call us to live into our faith with them.

In what ways do you sense the movement of God’s Spirit stirring your discipleship into action?

Prayer:  Break our hearts, Lord, for what breaks yours, and help us discern how we can be true disciples who are your hands and feet in our community.  Help us to see others with your eyes, Father, with the clarity of what help is needed when it is needed.   Thank you, Father, for the talents and resources that we have available in our Faith family and help us be the best stewards of your blessings.  In Jesus’s name, Amen. 

This Week’s Lenten Scripture Readings: Matthew 25:37-40, John 11:17-27, 1 John 3:16-18,  Galatians 6:1-10, James 1:22, Psalm 82:3-4, Luke 14:12-14, 1 Corinthians 13:3, James 2:5

Prayer Focus: Pray for those who are homeless, ill, lonely, living in poverty.  Pray for God to show you how you can do something to make a difference for others. Pray for God to show you how you can Be Christ and See Christ in our community.

Family Connection:  Spring Cleaning

Renew a corner of your home: the attic, the garage, or the yard. Paint a room or clean out closets. Give unused toys and clothes to the poor. Hold a garage sale and donate the profits to a charitable organization.

 Click here to listen to the song Do Something by Matthew West and hear the story of one young woman who responded to the call to do something!

 

Faith’s Christian Education & Spiritual Formation ministry team will provide a weekly devotion written by some of Faith’s ministry teams to guide us in reflecting how we are Seeing Christ and Being Christ as we walk with Jesus during the season of Lent.

Additional resources for Lent for individuals and for families are available in the literature racks in the Gathering area and outside the Family Life Center as well as in Faith’s Library & Media Center and on our website: http://faithum.weebly.com/lent.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Story: Jesus, The Son Of God

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He asked them, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?” 

Peter answered, “The Christ sent from God.” - Luke 9:20

 

 

This Week’s Scripture References: Matthew 17; 21; Mark 8-12; 14; Luke 9;22, John 7-8; 11-12 Who do you say I am? Imagine Jesus asking you that question. How would you respond?

Teacher, Healer, Counselor, Messiah, Deliverer, Immanuel, King of Kings

Jesus spent a lot of time traveling with his disciples teaching them who he was and what would happen to him. In The Story this week we encounter Jesus as he weeps at the death of his friend, Lazarus. Jesus amazes everyone when he raises Lazarus from death. Can you imagine being one of those present to witness such amazement? By the touch of his hand or by the words from his lips the blind are healed, the deaf can hear and the lame can walk. Jesus healed to help others understand who he was.

How do these stories help you to understand Jesus?

Jesus also teaches that to understand his kingdom one must have faith like a child. Jesus teaches that the greatest commandments are to love God and others. Jesus love and compassion for others may have been his greatest power.

What does this reveal about Jesus?

Spend some time exploring the stories of Jesus from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Who do you say Jesus is?

 

To listen to this week’s sermon,  Jesus, The Son of God, Sermon 4/6 in “Walk” The Story Mini-Series, click here! 

For Family Devotions related to this week’s message, click here!

For more information and additional resources for The Story at Faith UMC, click here!

 

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Lent Devotions 2014: A Childlike Curiosity

See christ (2)Faith UMC Lenten Devotions March 30, 2014

A Childlike Curiosity

Written by Faith UMC’s Library Ministry Group

Scripture:  “Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ “   Matthew 19: 14

Reflection:  We have worked to make the library a welcoming place for both our adults and our children.  To keep our library current, we have been withdrawing out-of-date materials and offering them to the congregation at our annual Book Give – Away.  This has given people a chance to build their home libraries and through the generous donations we collect, we are able to purchase new books, both religious and secular.  We are always asking member to give us ideas of what books they would like to see in our library.  We have also received several gifts during this time: a colorful carpet for the Children’s Room, a revolving bookshelf for our Young Adult books, a book cart to store books about the current sermon topics for our members to study further, and a computer to store all the information about our collection.  We also have received many books from members as well as books from our UMW for their reading program.  Books are purchased to update areas where we are weak in subject areas and supplement the preschool and Sunday School/Small Group curriculums.  By doing these things we have seen increased circulation of all our materials and more members have been introduced to this wonderful resource.  We see members “Seeing Christ, Being Christ” throughout all these activities.

What resources have helped you grow closer to Christ?

In the last two years, we have introduced a preschool reading program where various members of our congregation volunteer to come in on Tuesday mornings to read aloud a story and share life experiences.  Our members touch about 20 children’s lives on a weekly basis showing them what it is like to live a Christ-like life.  It is always heart-warming to see those little children come in with excited looks in their eyes, asking questions, selecting books to borrow, and glowing as holidays approach.

In what ways do you model a Christ-like life for others?

May we all have the childlike curiosity of getting to know Christ and his teachings through stories so we can “See Christ Be Christ” in our daily lives.

In what ways has your childlike curiosity helped you to experience Seeing Christ Being Christ this Lent?

Prayer:  Heavenly Father,   We ask you to bless each of us with the awe and wonder of childhood.  Help us to feel anew your daily presence with praise and thanksgiving in our hearts.  In Christ’s name, Amen.

This Week’s Lenten Scripture Readings: Matthew 19:14, 1 Peter 2:2-3,  Matthew 18:1-6, Mark 10:13-16, Galatians 3:26-28, Matthew 6:5-13, Matthew 6:31-33

Prayer Focus: Ask God to help you experience God’s kingdom as a little child. Pray for the children, youth, and families of our congregation and community. Pray for those who struggle with literacy.

Family Connection:  Show Love to Others

Write each person in your family’s name at the top of a piece of paper. Under the name, put ways others in the family can show love to that person. During the week, ask each family member to do one thing for all others in the family from their lists.

 

Faith’s Christian Education & Spiritual Formation ministry team will provide a weekly devotion written by some of Faith’s ministry teams to guide us in reflecting how we are Seeing Christ and Being Christ as we walk with Jesus during the season of Lent.

Additional resources for Lent for individuals and for families are available in the literature racks in the Gathering area and outside the Family Life Center as well as in Faith’s Library & Media Center and on our website: http://faithum.weebly.com/lent.html

 

 

 

 

 

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The Story: No Ordinary Man

H-Icon_Ch24_Bread“Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:31-33

 

This Week’s Scripture References: Matthew 5-7, 9, 14; Mark 4-6; Luke 10, 15           John 6

For centuries the Jewish people were expecting a great king to come and save them. They thought the king would be strong and powerful with a great army that would set them free. But the king God sent to them was different. Instead of ruling by power and might, Jesus taught a different way of living. a way of living that involved putting God and others before ourselves.

Jesus was no ordinary man. What does that mean to you?

This week’s chapter of the The Story covers so many amazing stories of Jesus. Stories that cause us to wonder and ponder. Stories that help to shape our understanding of who Jesus is, leave us in awe at the depth of God’s love and ignite a longing for more of God’s kingdom.

Are you curious to learn more about Jesus? Do you wonder about the kingdom of God?

During Sunday’s sermon, Pastor Steve painted a beautiful picture of the wonders of nature one might experience along Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park.  Maybe you’ve experienced something similar. You encounter a beautiful place where there is so much to see but so little time to explore that you miss out on all there is to experience. Don’t let that happen to this week’s chapter of The Story. Take some time to wonder and ponder and dive into these amazing stories!

Jesus tells some beautiful stories like the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. There are incredible events such as Jesus healing a blind man, calming a raging storm, walking on water, and a woman who is healed just by touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak. We find awesome teaching about the Greatest Commandments, the Beatitudes, being the light of the world, and storing treasures in heaven. Then there are the life-changing parables where Jesus uses examples and events from every day living to cause people to ponder and move towards change. Parables such as the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Parable of the Lost Coin, Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Sower reveal what the Kingdom of God/Heaven is like.

Through all these stories Jesus helps us to understand the Kingdom of God/Heaven:

The Kingdom of God is a great treasure.
The Kingdom of God is a gift.
The Kingdom of God is already here.
The Kingdom of God is not yet fully here.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray for God’s Kingdom. Perhaps praying for God’s Kingdom helps us to be more open and receptive to receiving God’s Kingdom. Jesus also teaches us to “…seek first God’s Kingdom…” 

What does seeking God first mean to you?

Take some time this week to dig into some of these amazing stories and parables. Just take a look and allow yourself to wonder and ponder. Take a walk through the Gospels and allow yourself to have an encounter with the amazing experience of God’s Kingdom! Allow yourself to experience God in Christ Jesus, no ordinary man!

This week in The Story we learn about God’s kingdom and what the world would look like if everything were as God wants it to be. Jesus taught us to think of others before ourselves. Jesus taught us to trust God. Imagine what the world would be like if we all lived this way.

How is God calling you to experience God’s Kingdom?

To listen to this week’s sermon,  No Ordinary Man, Sermon 3/6 in “Walk” The Story Mini-Series, click here! 

For Family Devotions related to this week’s message, click here!

For more information and additional resources for The Story at Faith UMC, click here!

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Lent Devotions 2014: Finding God in the Highs and Lows of Life

See christ (2)

Faith UMC Lenten Devotions March 23, 2014

Finding God in the Highs and Lows of Life

Written by Faith UMC’s Young Adult Ministry Group

Scripture: Daniel 9:9-10, NIV - “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets.”

Reflection: In our small group discussions about The Story, we often come across a theme of the Israelites cycling between worshipping God and falling away from Him. We always mention how this seems impossible, as they pass down the rest of their stories from generation to generation. For example, after Israel splits into two nations, both nations have a good king or two, but then end up with three or four kings who lead them away from God. This is the same story that was being told seven hundred years earlier as the Israelites were wandering through the desert towards Canaan. Even though the stories are well-known, the Israelites still seem to fall repeatedly into this cycle.

It’s great to talk about the stories of the Old Testament, but sometimes it is hard to connect them to our daily lives. We often find ourselves in the same kind of cycle, whether it is abiding by laws, our friendships, or our relationship with God.

 In what kind of cycle do you find yourself this Lent?

Have you ever told a lie to someone? We all have secrets we like to hide even though we know that it’s wrong. But those moments are lows compared to the times you just have to tell the truth, and when you do, the weight of the world comes off your shoulders.

In our friendships, there are times we focus on ourselves and our needs more than the other person. This is a low point in a friendship – it feels like no matter how much you try, something about your relationship isn’t working. When you put the needs of your friend first, though, your relationship is stronger, and you feel connected to one another.

In the same way, our relationship with God has these ups and downs. There are days when we feel like God is miles away from us, and we have no support from Him. And then there are those great moments where we feel like we want to shout His love from the mountaintops and show everyone how great He is.

No matter our circumstance, we must remember that God is with us. Unlike the Israelites who forgot Him every few generations, we need to find God in both the highs and the lows of life. But even when we do forget, just like with the Israelites, He will continue to love us and bring us back to Him.

How have you experienced God with you in the highs and lows of your life? Where do you see Christ?

Prayer: Dear God, help us to break the cycle of turning our backs to you when you should be at the forefront of our lives. Thank you for forgiving us when we make mistakes. Be with us today through both the good moments and the bad. Amen.

This Week’s Lenten Scripture Readings: Daniel 9:9-10, Matthew 4:23-25,  Matthew 6:25-34, Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:23, 2 Chronicles 30:9,  Jeremiah 24:6-7

Prayer Focus:  Thank God for always being with you. Pray for those who are struggling in the lows and highs of life. Pray for those who are wrestling with their relationship with God and for those who don’t yet know Jesus. Pray for those who seek God.

Family Connection:  Clay Pots

Shatter an inexpensive clay pot and give each family member a piece to keep during Lent as a reminder our brokenness when we move away from God. Also give each family member a lump of clay as a reminder that we are like clay in God’s hands. During Lent, we can allow God to shape us into new vessels.

 

Faith’s Christian Education & Spiritual Formation ministry team will provide a weekly devotion written by some of Faith’s ministry teams to guide us in reflecting how we are Seeing Christ and Being Christ as we walk with Jesus during the season of Lent.

Additional resources for Lent for individuals and for families are available in the literature racks in the Gathering area and outside the Family Life Center as well as in Faith’s Library & Media Center and on our website: http://faithum.weebly.com/lent.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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