Monday, December 28, 2009

Water Daily

By Joyce Tepfer

Water Daily is what the little card said attached to the lovely bouquet of flowers that came my way while recovering from surgery. Truer words were never spoken.

With the daily-ness of life, it takes disciplined intention to take in daily watering…from our heavenly Father through His Word and prayer. Don’t you think the Enemy enjoys keeping us distracted in dozens of directions every time we anticipate the watering hole?

We need not be motivated to include daily watering by guilt. It’s a simple case of NEED.

While recovering, I also received a plant that serves as a super example of this need. When the plant becomes completely dehydrated, the blooms droop from dryness. It’s a study in the benefits of water to watch the plant again take on shape and beauty as water travels to each limb, leaf and bloom with NEED—meeting hydration. 

I don’t have to meet with God daily for His watering, but my look, feel and attitude will take on vibrancy and fresh perspective if I do.

If you’ve ever experienced or seen someone else experience dehydration, you know it’s nothing with which to mess around. Dehydration brings a lethargy that overrides all energy output. It is pure struggle to get to the emergency room for that needed IV. 

Just as the body was designed to require the nutrients of water, so is the spirit responsive to drinking deeply at God's well.

If your spirit is sagging and your motivation to serve is falling off, check out the watering station. It could make all the difference.

For Best Results…Add Water Daily.

He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. — Psalm 23:2-3 (KJV)

This devotion is from Joyce Tepfer’s new book of devotions and teacher training ideas, Refresh, available in February from or by calling 1-800-854-1531. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Candlelight Devotion

Here’s a Christmas devotion you can use at home or in your church services this week. Use an advent wreath (with greenery and a sprig of berries or red flowers or ribbon, if possible). Place four white candles around the wreath with a fifth candle in the middle (or place the candles as your wreath allows). Adjust the speaking part below depending on your wreath. Copy this devotion so each participant has a copy. (Do not leave lit candles unattended.) This devotion is taken from A Church Family Christmas Celebration (Item #3031) © 2008 Christian Ed Warehouse, . Reprinted with permission.

During this time before Christmas we are preparing for the arrival of God’s Son, Jesus. Because God loves us, He chose His Son to be born on earth.

The candlelight wreath is round. The circle reminds us of God. God has no beginning and no end; He is eternal. The evergreen part of the wreath stands for life and hope. Jesus is the hope of the world. Red berries or flowers remind us that Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood so that our sins could be forgiven. The white candles remind us that Jesus has forgiven (or cleansed) us of our sins so that we may have eternal life.

(To be read by an adult or older child)
Luke 2:11-13, 21; John 1:9, 12 — “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger . . . . And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb . . . . That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world . . . . As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”

Candle Lighting:            
Gather around the candlelight wreath. Have one person light the first candle as another says: The first candle we light is the Promise candle. God promised to send His Son, Jesus, and that promise came true.

Have another person light the second candle while someone else says: The second candle is the Bethlehem candle. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, was born in a stable at Bethlehem. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace.

Have someone light the third candle, while another says: The third candle is the Angels candle. The joy and praise of the angels should be our joy, too, during this Christmas season and all year long.
Have another person light the fourth candle while someone says: The fourth candle is the Shepherds candle. Just as the shepherds told others about Jesus, we, too, should share the Good News of Jesus’ birth with others.

Have someone light the fifth candle while someone says: Today we light the final candle, which represents Jesus. This candle reminds us that Jesus Christ is God's Son, the Light of the world. We celebrate the arrival of the long-awaited King, born as a Baby in Bethlehem.

Song:     Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
              The little Lord Jesus laid down 
              His sweet head.
              The stars in the sky looked down
              Where he lay.
              The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

Reading:         (To be read by a leader, child, and adult or older child.)

The candle in the center of the wreath represents Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Even before He was born, the angel told Mary the Baby's name. When the days were accomplished, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem.

Child:            They presented Jesus to the Lord.

We thank God for His wonderful Christmas gift to us. We thank Him that Jesus Christ came to be the Light of the world. We can spread the light of His love to everyone we meet.

Song:   Silent night, holy night, all is calm, 
             All is bright.
             Round yon virgin, mother and child.
             Holy infant so tender and mild,
             Sleep in heavenly peace.
             Sleep in heavenly peace.

Ask family members to share their thoughts and feelings about what the birth of Jesus means to them personally. Talk about Christ, who is God's Son, having to be born into our world of sin. Talk about His love for each of us.

(To be read or spoken from the heart by one or two family members)
Dear God, We thank You for Jesus, the Savior of the world, who was born as a Baby in Bethlehem. Thank You that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that You raised Him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 10:9). Help us to spread the Light of Christ’s love wherever we go during this Christmas season. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

(Have a family member extinguish the candles.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Celebrating Jesus’ Birth

For many of us, the Christmas season is a hectic time with too much to do and not enough time to do it all. But the Christmas season is really a time of preparation for Jesus’ birth. Beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continuing through Christmas Eve is a time often called the advent season. The word advent is derived from the Latin word “adventus,” which means “coming” or “arrival.” The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is recognized as the first advent. The advent season is a time to prepare spiritually for the birth of Christ.

Set aside family and/or Sunday school or children’s church time to read about the preparation for Jesus and His birth in Luke 1:1-80 through 2:20. Read a few verses at a time, letting some of your good child readers alternate with adults to take turns reading the verses. Talk about how the people of so long ago must have felt as they prepared for the birth of Jesus.

You may also want to read Matthew 1:18-24. Explain that when the angel appeared to Joseph, he told him to name the Baby Jesus, “because He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the LORD saves. (You may  need to explain that "sins" are the wrong things we say and do.) This took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet Isaiah: “The virgin will … give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel —which  means, 'God with us.'” This Scripture is taken from Isaiah 7:14.

Let each person describe how he feels as Christmas approaches. Take time together to remember all of the reasons you have to be joyful. Sing a favorite Christmas carol or two. Close with a prayer of thanks to God for sending His Son, Jesus, to earth.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Prayer Makes a Difference

A few generations ago, in many families, the way to begin and end a child’s day was with prayers. They were recited out loud, usually beginning and ending with requests for God to bless the child’s family and friends. Today, however, in most homes, prayers have disappeared, except perhaps before meals. To encourage your family and your students to pray regularly (even for a minute or two at a time), try the following suggestions:
 •    Point out blessings as you notice them. Say a brief prayer of thanks with your students for the beautiful sunset, a rainbow, a rabbit scurrying across your path, or the rain.
 •    Give thanks for the small acts of kindness you catch your students doing (sharing a toy, giving another child a turn, saying “please”).
 •    Let your students share some of the praises and blessings in their own lives. Or point out some blessings for them. Say, “I’m so thankful to God for that yummy fruit we just ate.”
 •    Help your students verbalize some of their own praises and blessings. Say, “[Jason], why don’t you thank God that your grandma is home from the hospital.”
 •    Since children are great imitators, try spending some quiet time in prayer by yourself, and let your child know that you are also having your own conversation with God.