Dec 16

Be Still and Know–a free devotion for this week’s meetings

Editor’s note: We know how busy this month can be for volunteers and church staff. This devotion originally appeared in the December version of our Grab & Go newsletter, but we’re reprinting it here so that you’ll have a ready-to-go devotion for the last full week of the holiday season. As always, feel free to use this devotion with the groups or individuals to whom you minister. Most of all, though, take a moment and read it yourself. Let our Lord Jesus encourage you before you set out to encourage others.

Consider these words: Clamor. Chaos. Commotion. Demands. Uproar. Tumult. Pandemonium!

Now consider these: Calmness. Serenity. Peace. Quiet. Harmony. Tranquility. Silence. Stillness.

Finally, think about the word Christmas.

Does it fit better with the first group of words or the second?

Keeping your answer in mind, consider Psalm 46:10—“Be still, and know that I am God.”

Does this verse strike you as a Christmas text? I’m not sure I have ever heard Psalm 46:10 used at Christmas! At Christmastime, we are much more likely to hear Bible texts like these:

  • She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:7
  • For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. Isaiah 9:6–7
  • For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Those are Christmas verses! And yet, the more I think about the clamor, the chaos, the commotion, the uproar, the total pandemonium that this season so often brings into our lives, the more convinced I become that Psalm 46:10 is the perfect Christmas verse.

These words are God’s Word to us: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

In the roar of the mall, most times we cannot even hear ourselves think. In the commotion of clashing commitments that clutter our calendars, we struggle to find time for anything else, even a moment or two of worship. When agitation and anxiety wrap themselves around our hearts, receiving God’s great Christmas gift, the gift of peace, becomes nearly impossible.

But when we sit in silence with the shepherds, when we listen to the song of the angels as it fades away into the darkness, God’s peace descends. When we join those shepherds in their quiet trek to Bethlehem, we grasp anew the wonder of our Savior’s birth.

As we kneel in the quiet that envelopes the manger, we hear our Savior’s whispered assurance, “I came to take away your shame. I came to bear your guilt. You are my beloved brother, my dearly loved sister.”

When we pause to sit in the stillness beside Mary, when we join her in pondering the mystery of the tiny infant—the Baby Jesus—born for us, we experience the love of God in the face of the Christ, Mary’s Son and God’s Son.

“Be still!” God says. Is it a command? Yes, but it is more. It is an urgent invitation, an invitation of grace. A summons issued from our heavenly Father’s own great heart of love. “Be still! Receive my love. Let my peace enfold you.”

That command, that invitation, doesn’t stop there. “Be still,” the Bible says, “And know that I am God.” Know that I am God! This is not just the kind of knowing that happens in our heads, in our minds, or in our intellects. This kind of knowing goes far beyond that. It is the kind of knowing that happens in our hearts.

When we “know that he is God,” we kneel in awe at his great power. When we “know that he is God,” we rejoice in the forgiveness he pours out upon us in the cross. When we “know that he is God,” we find peace in the very midst of the chaos that swirls all around us.

Be still. Know. He is God. The God who cared. The God who came. The God who forgives and heals. The very Prince of Peace.

Merry Christmas!

This devotion is slightly adapted from the free Ministry Message that accompanies one of this year’s Christmas themes at CTA: Be Still and Know. If you are looking for a meaningful, last-minute gift to thank those faithful volunteers, CTA may have just what you’re looking for! Check out your options on our Web site!

 

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Dec 15

Joy! Joy! Joy!– a free devotion for this week

Editor’s note: Today we’re posting the third in a series of free devotions that are slightly adapted from CTA’s latest family ministry resource: A Night Like No Other Family Activity Sticks. This family activity features 48 prompts that will keep children and parents focused on Jesus’ birth amidst the busy-ness of the holiday season. They are ready to order now and each set comes with four reproducible devotions that can be used at school, church, or home. Go ahead and use this free devotion in Sunday school or during a children’s message. You can even make copies to send home for family devotion time!

For many people, Christmastime is a time for lots of fun things. People bake and decorate cookies. People put up decorations in their homes and sometimes in their yards. People go to parties and concerts. What is the most fun part of Christmas for you? (Let attendees respond.)

At Christmas, we hear the word joy a lot. Fun and joy are alike in some ways. But they are different in some important ways, too. I am going to read part of a Bible story and I want you to listen for the word joy and see if you can figure out what it means.

(Read Luke 2:8–14.) Did the shepherds have Christmas cookies? Did the shepherds have a Christmas tree? Did the shepherds hang wreaths on their front door or sing “Jingle Bells”? No, they did none of these fun things.

But did the shepherds have Christmas joy? Yes! Yes, they did! Just like the angels said. Listen: “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10). The good news the angels shared filled the shepherds’ hearts with joy! The Savior whom God had promised long, long ago had come to take away their sins! That was very, very good news—joyful news!

So how about us? Could we have Christmas joy even if we didn’t have cookies and candy canes? Even if we didn’t have a Christmas tree or get any presents? Yes, we could! Presents, parties, and cookies make Christmas fun. But the good news that God sent Jesus to be our Savior makes Christmas a celebration like no other. That good news brings joy that never ends.

 

The Scripture quotation is from the King James Version of the Bible.

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Dec 09

Christmas beyond the Church

Christmas church services provide some of the most idyllic scenes of the entire year—the brightly burning candles, the peaceful manger scene, the angelic singing, and the children decked out in matching outfits or frilly dresses.  Everyone exchanges warm Christmas greetings as they are surrounded by friends, family, and the presence of God’s love sent down to Earth in baby Jesus.

Beyond the church walls, there are people who won’t have the joy of experiencing a beautiful, heart-warming church service this Christmas. Individuals who are sick or shut-ins who are unable to leave their homes are faced with long and lonely hours throughout the Christmas season.  The month of December presents an extraordinary opportunity to show love to these individuals and bring the joy of Christmas right to their bedside.

Will you consider spending a few hours visiting shut-ins or hospital patients? Just the presence of your company will certainly make a difference in their lives! You could also take along a small, but meaningful gift to share the Christmas story.

  • CTA’s Be Still and Know that I am God coffee mug features a beautiful wintertime design and it comes with a Christmas-themed scripture book, too.
  • The …And Wonders of His Love bookmark and pen gift set makes the perfect addition to personal devotion time. The set comes wrapped in an acrylic box and adorned with a silver bow—ready to give right away!
  • Typical Christmas cards often lose the real meaning of Christmas, but CTA’s stand-up cards feature a Gospel-focused message and come with a mini-ornament. They’re perfect for displaying on a kitchen table or nightstand.

Start making a list now of the people you’d like to visit this Christmas. You could also ask your Christmas or church office for a list of local nursing home or hospital patients. May God bless your conversations and the time you spend with these individuals this Christmastime!

 

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Dec 08

Good News for You This Christmas– a free devotion for this week

Editor’s note: Today we’re posting the second in a series of free devotions that are slightly adapted from CTA’s latest family ministry resource: A Night Like No Other Family Activity Sticks. This family activity features 48 prompts that will keep children and parents focused on Jesus’ birth amidst the busy-ness of the holiday season. They are ready to order now and each set comes with four reproducible devotions that can be used at school, church, or home. Go ahead and use this free devotion in Sunday school or during a children’s message. You can even make copies to send home for family devotion time!

Think about the news your moms and dads read in the newspaper or online or watch on TV. Is it usually good news or bad news? (Let attendees respond.) Sometimes there’s good news, if your team won the big game or someone you know is getting an award. But most of the time, the news focuses on wars and robberies and earthquakes—disasters! It’s bad news.

I want you to listen while I read Luke 2:1–14. Then you can tell me if this is good news or bad news. (Read the text.)

It was a night like no other! The sky split open and angels came to earth! I bet those shepherds were scared—at least, at first. Did the angel have bad news or good news for the shepherds? Yes, it was good news. What was that good news? Yes, Baby Jesus had been born. The angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14)! It was the first Christmas, and Jesus was the Savior whom God was sending.

We know this is true because God’s Book, the Bible, says so. The Bible has both bad news and good news. It tells us that we have sinned and that we deserve to be punished for our sins. That’s very bad news, isn’t it?

But the Bible also tells us that God loves us so much that he sent his Son, Jesus on the very first Christmas. Baby Jesus grew up, and then one day he died on the cross to take our sins away. That’s good news, very good news! It’s good news like no other! It’s the best news of all!

 

The Scripture quotation is from the King James Version of the Bible.

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Dec 02

Don’t Forget the Volunteers!

Throughout the year, volunteers work tirelessly behind the scenes—directing the choirs, organizing children’s ministries, leading Bible studies, and so much more. Your Christmas list most likely has the names of your pastors, school teachers, and staff members, but make sure to add volunteers to your shopping list, too!

Here are some simple ways to show appreciation for your volunteers this Christmas:

  • Hand out hand-written Christmas cards. Take your time writing a heartfelt message to each volunteer that lets that person know how much he or she means to your ministry.
  • Give each volunteer a small gift to encourage personal spiritual growth. For example, you could distribute Christmas devotional books on the first Sunday of December. That way, your volunteers will have a renewed focus on their devotional time during the weeks leading up to Jesus’ birth.
  • Make it a tradition to give volunteers a special Christmas tree ornament each year. CTA’s Ornaments of Faith® make the perfect gift! Each ornament features a Bible verse and a gift tag.
  • Volunteer for your volunteers! Gather a group of responsible teenagers and offer to babysit for your volunteers while they finish their Christmas shopping.

Do you have other ideas for Christmas gifts for volunteers? CTA offers gifts for every type of volunteer—check them out today!

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Dec 01

God’s Christmas Promises – a free devotion for this week

Editor’s note: This week’s free devotion is slightly adapted from CTA’s latest family ministry resource: A Night Like No Other Family Activity Sticks. This family activity features 48 prompts that will keep children and parents focused on Jesus’ birth amidst the busy-ness of the holiday season. They are ready to order now and each set comes with four reproducible devotions that can be used at school, church, or home. Go ahead and use this free devotion in Sunday school or during a children’s message. You can even make copies to send home for family devotion time!

What’s a promise? Have you ever made a promise? Did you keep it? (Let attendees answer briefly.)

People make all kinds of promises. We keep some of our promises. We break some of our promises. Sometimes we break a promise because we forget. Sometimes we break a promise because we just can’t keep it. Maybe we’re sick or something else gets in the way. Sometimes we break a promise because we didn’t really mean the promise when we made it.

Today’s reading from God’s Book contains a promise. It’s a promise like no other promise. Listen and then be ready to tell me what that promise is. (Read Luke 1:26–33.)

What was the promise? (That Mary would have a baby. She was to name the baby “Jesus.”) Who made the promise? (The angel Gabriel, speaking for God.) That’s right! The Bible says, “The angel Gabriel was sent from God” (Luke 1:26). And did God mean this promise? Did he keep this promise? Yes, he did!

At Christmastime, we remember God’s promise to send a Savior. Jesus is that Savior. He is a Savior like no other! In love, Baby Jesus came to earth. In love, Jesus grew up and died on the cross to take away our sins. In love and power, Jesus rose from the dead. Now, our sins are gone. In love, God promised to save us—and he kept that promise!

 

The Scripture quotation is from the King James Version of the Bible.

© 2014 CTA, Inc. 

Nov 26

Happy Thanksgiving!

As you celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family this week, we here at CTA are praying for you.

We are so thankful for each of you!

And we pray that our Lord Jesus will work in all of us an ever-deeper appreciation of all his many gifts,

especially the forgiveness and new life that are ours in his cross and empty tomb.

Many blessings be yours this week and throughout the holy days ahead!

Nov 25

A Night Like No Other Family Christmas Activity Sticks

Pssst. Are you looking for a way to help families keep Christ in Christmas? Then you can’t do better than CTA’s new A Night Like No Other Family Activity Sticks. This simple, yet powerful idea will get everyone thinking about the true meaning of Christmas and sharing it through simple, yet fun activities like these:

  • Make some Christmas cookies shaped like stars. While you eat them, read about the Wise Men in Matthew 2:1–12.
  • Think about holding a baby – tiny fingers, tiny ears, tiny nose and toes. Imagine God being that small? (Yes, he was!)
  • Read Malachi 3:1. How did John the Baptizer get the people ready for Jesus? How are we getting ready?

Each kit includes 12 punch-out cardstock sticks, printed on both sides. Each stick has 2 activities per side, for a total of 48 activities. Plus, each kit comes with a set of four devotions to use at church and four reproducible Faith Talk @ Home pieces you can send home each week.

Everything in this package works together to help everyone prepare to celebrate the night like no other—the night when Jesus was born!

 

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Nov 24

A Prayer for Thanksgiving – a free devotion for this week’s meetings

Editor’s note: This week’s free devotion includes a prayer/meditation written by faithful pastor Walter E. Schuette who has since gone to be with the Lord. We pray that his witness will encourage you for your own life of witness!

Read Deuteronomy 8:10–18, focusing especially on verse 10.

Heavenly Father, how wonderfully you provide for your children! Both land and oceans are filled with good things, and you care for every living creature. In your care, we are kept safe and satisfied in both body and spirit, thankful to live in a prosperous country.

Yet despite all these blessings, we often forget that every good and perfect gift comes from you. Your care for us is continuous, but all too often our thanks are meager. Sometimes we think we have earned our own rewards and end up thanking ourselves instead of you.

Forgive us, Father, and help us to see your blessings all around us. Give us the Holy Spirit to keep us humble. We do not ask to be rich; we only ask for enough to satisfy our needs.

If in your love you do enrich us, do not let that wealth lead us away from you. Help us remember that our real assets reside in your kingdom, and teach us that the kingdom’s treasures are much more valuable than worldly goods.

No matter how much you give us, may the healing blood of Jesus always be our most prized possession. We ask it in his name. Amen.

 

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Nov 19

Caring for One Another at Christmastime

Are you ready? The hustle and bustle. The parties and concerts. The cookies, the wreaths, the shopping. And all the fun connected with all of this is on its way! While most of us are looking forward to the opportunities for worship and the time we get to spend with family and friends, some of us . . . well, we are not so excited.

You can guess who some of the not-so-excited individuals and families in your church might be. And you may have no clue about others who may be feeling this way:

  • Consider those who have lost loved ones in the past year. This will be their first Christmas without Dad, without Grandma, without a sister or brother whose presence was a treasured part of the holidays—and, perhaps, of every day!
  •  Consider those families still trying to eke out a living on an unemployment check, those who declared bankruptcy in this past year, and those who are on the brink of losing their home in the year ahead.
  •  Consider those newly diagnosed with MS or Parkinson’s or ALS. And their family members who are just starting to understand what living with this challenge is going to involve.

As you plan ways to serve ALL the individuals and families in your church this Christmas, ask that the Lord Jesus keep your heart sensitive to individuals in crisis, families coping with tension—whether new or chronic. Listen! Pray!

And think about ways to use Praying with Hope to provide encouragement and comfort when you can’t be there. This 64-page, soft cover book includes reassuring Scriptures, heart-touching prayers, and words of wisdom for those journeying through life’s ups and downs. The four-color book comes with an envelope and makes it possible for you to provide ongoing encouragement for less that the cost of a greeting card!

CTA’s other care and comfort products may be of help as well. Check them out! 

 

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

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