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Did this pandemic serve a higher purpose from God? : I know, starting it real deep already and I’m still struggling with this one
What can we learn about humanity and ourselves dealing with quarantines, pandemic fear, and news of death not only in human life but in businesses and other economic hardships?: There’s always something to learn from any situation that life throws at you. But I think one simple answer to this question is that this time has emphasized simplicity in life and the importance of slowing down and appreciating what we are blessed with and letting go of things that weigh us down.
And finally bringing it back to this Walk: what changes have you seen in yourself or in the way you think about being more active over the past few weeks? Have you decided to commit yourself to keeping up with walking or working out more even after the Walk is officially over? If not, why not? consider making it a commitment and see what changes you can make happen. Remember all things are possible in Christ who strengthens us!
So this week’s devotion is not inspired by a devotion from the Bible app but please click on the link below for this Bethlehem Star inspired devotion. Some of you may know that I’m kind of a science nerd and get pretty jacked up and excited about space related things, so I’m really excited about this conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter occurring. I think it’s even cooler that there’s such a neat relationship with the time of Jesus’ birth! To me, seeing this bright star symbolizes hope and I feel like the hope it inspired in the Magi to travel so far away from home can be felt just as strongly today with struggles that this crazy 2020 year has put us through. We can have renewed hope with the vaccines starting to be distributed (I’m getting mine this Wednesday ah thank you) and pray that we can see a decline in the covid virus in the coming year.
It’s a little cloudy today in Va Beach but if it clears up take a look towards the SW horizon approximately 45 min after sunset even tonight to get a chance to see the Bethlehem Star! Otherwise tomorrow 12/21 is slated to be the day that the planets are the closest together. See the link below for more information if you’re interested!
Read Romans 8:32; Psalms 100: 1-5; James 1:17
God’s Track Record
Have you ever played the “what-if” game? This is how you play: you hear some potentially bad news. Then you create “what-if” scenarios based on the potential bad news: “What is potentially the worst thing that can happen? What if this is as bad as I can imagine?”
We turn from being people who follow God, into people who fear everything. Bad outcomes are our expectation. We think Murphy’s Law is a real law: “If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.”
A single “what-if” question drives this fearful way of life. What if God isn’t good?
Our greatest fight as Jesus followers is in tightening our grip on God. Period. When all voices scream, ‘Panic!,” the fight is to remember that there is a God and He is good!
Check out this description of someone who wins this fight from Psalm 112: 7-8 (ESV): He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
One major way to strengthen our grip on God is to check His track record. Remember Israel, God’s people? God brought his people out of Egypt. God preserved them through plagues. God divided the sea.
And that’s just a start. Romans 8:32 tells us, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
God gave us His son–the ultimate good gift. If He went as far as giving us Jesus, there is no length He won’t go to be good to us. When we feel smothered by the burden of bad news, we must remember Jesus, the ultimate display of God’s goodness.
What if we looked for what God has done, rather than what God is not doing. What if we looked for the progress we are making rather than focusing on the pandemic we are enduring? Let’s do that.
Where do you need to remind yourself of God’s goodness?
Read Luke 1: 46-50
Mary had every right to be scared.
She was young, betrothed, and now told she was pregnant. And to top it all off, the news was delivered by an angel. You know, spiritual beings that tend to terrify people.
As Mary processed the news, we can only imagine what was going through her head. Would her family disown her? Would people in town make assumptions and gossip? Would Joseph believe any of this? Would she be rejected? Disparage? Or Worse?
But the thought Mary chose to settle on wasn’t one of fear but of faith: “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38). Later on, when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, the latter says of Mary: “you are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said” (v. 45)
It would be nice to say that our typica; response to fear is always Mary’s response: a song of praise and hopeful expectation. But let’s be real. Fear creeps into our minds and souls like the slow roll of a dark cloud before a storm. How do you respond? Retreat? Isolate? Hold your fear close to your chest and spiral into endless “What ifs”? (I’m guilty of that one fo sho)
Let’s look at Mary’s response. After Mary visited Elizabeth, she turned her attention to God in a song known as the Magnificat (which means “my soul glorifies the Lord”). There are a few things in this song that are helpful as you seek to ground yourself in hope when fear swirls around:
Mary began with praise. The whole song is about singing God’s glory, and though Mary probably had so many questions about what it meant to give birth to the Savior of the world, she opened with rejoicing instead of concern.
Mary remembered her part in God’s story. In verse 48, Mary said: “For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.” Mary knew that God was in control; He was the one who created and empowered her. She was His creation, and that reminder allowed Mary to focus on the truth of who she was and who He is. She was reminded that her part of the story was not the end of the story.
Mary Remembered God;s goodness and justice. Mary didn’t just reflect on the blessings God bestowed or the promises He made to Israel; she reflected on how God would also set wrong things back to right (vv. 51-53)
Mary dispelled fear with praise. She put aside insecurity with the truth of who God was, remembering her role in His story. And she looked past concerns of rejection or Gossip, recalling that she served a God of justice.
And because of that, Mary could hope. And so can you.
Thoughts from Heidi:
So in this time of Covid and the continued unsureness and fears of how long will this craziness last, will the vaccine work and how long will it take to distribute, and when will things “get back to normal”; we can look to Mary and how she responded to fear. We can use her response of praise and hope to help calm our fears and worry. Use her reflections of being a blessing to help us discern what blessings have been bestowed on us during this pandemic and how we can use ourselves to be a blessing to others who may need help to see and feel the blessings that God still provides during these trying times. We can continue to have hope that God will set things in this world right and that whatever lessons and outcomes from this global pandemic can be used as a blessing and forever change this world ultimately for the better.
When have you felt overwhelmed by far? How did you respond?
What emotions do you think Mary felt when the angel delivered the news?
How can Mary’s response to God’s news encourage you this Christmas?
Devotion for Week 1: Overcoming Food Temptations
“Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh (body) is weak.”
Ever get frustrated at how often you give in to your cravings and temptations? (Heidi raises her hand especially because she works with some really excellent bakers…) This is a good time to remember that in our flesh, we will never be able to consistently resist temptations–our flesh is just too weak. The Bible says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh (body) is weak.”
This scripture is taken from the gospel of Matthew. The conversation takes place right after the Last Supper. Judas had left the dinner to orchestrate the betrayal of Jesus and now we find Jesus agonizing in the garden of Gethsemane. He is talking to the disciples (specifically Peter) and is warning him about the weakness of his physical body as he grows sleepy, and Jesus reminds him how easily his body will give in to temptations.
If we apply this scripture in Matthew 26:41 to the context of your healthy habits journey, it means that you may really want to eat well but you’re just not able to muster up the energy, discipline, motivation, or drive to actually do it.
The “flesh” Jesus referred to in Matthew 26:41 is our physical body with its appetites, desires, and weaknesses, always looking for the easy way out. Your body easily gives in to temptation. Your body will always overpower your spirit if you don’t watch and pray as Jesus instructed the disciples to do, as was the case with the disciples.
How does Jesus instruct us?…to watch and pray!
You will give in to temptation when you’re not standing on guard. You need to guard your mind and your emotions like a hen taking care of her chicks. If you let negativity and temptation into your mind, it will wear down your spirit, so be mindful of who you talk to, and what you listen to on the TV, radio, or the internet.
From the Daniel Plan: “whatever gets your attention, gets you.”
These types of activities will wear you down!
Pay attention to your emotions because the enemy will attack when your resistance is low. As the Daniel Plan teaches us: Your thoughts and emotions sometimes LIE! Therefore before you react to an emotion ask yourself, “Is it true?” because it is often how we perceive a situation rather than the actual situation itself that causes us to react. Use the acronym HALT to be more mindful of times when your emotions can affect your eating habits when you are too Hungry (aka food emergency), angry, lonely, or tired.
If you’re too stressed, your body will grow weak. If you’re too emotional about a situation, your body will grow weak. If you’re sleep-deprived, your body will grow weak. If you’re not properly hydrated or fueled with healthy foods, your body will grow weak.
Your body will be more willing to do what God intended for you when it is well-rested, well-fed both physically and spiritually, and feeling at peace. That’s when your resistance to temptation and staying strong on your health journey will be strongest.
Jesus prepared the disciples by telling them to pray.
The struggle was real for Jesus too! He just finished practicing the same principle with the disciples. We learn in the earlier verses that His flesh was failing Him, so He prayed to God to be strengthened. The Bible says. “And after going a little farther, He fell face down and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will’” (Matthew 26: 39) The same God that strengthened Jesus when He prayed is the same God that will strengthen you during your periods of weakness, trials and temptations.
As you go about your day, practice watching and praying before you eat. Be mindful of what you are eating and WHY. Learn to “worship with your fork.”
Dear Lord, giving in to my temptations is one of the most frustrating parts of my journey. I start the day feeling strong and encouraged, but as the day goes by I just get weaker and weaker until i feel so defeated. Then I wake up the next day and start the same cycle over and over again. I’m grateful that I am learning how to identify why I keep repeating this pattern. I’m also glad that I’m learning that I am not powerless. But I am also no match for my cravings and that’s why I must pray. I must come to you every time and must stand on guard so that you will help give me strength to HALT my temptations. So I take a deep breath, I let go of all the anxiety I have around my fears of never overcoming my temptations. I watch, I pray, and I trust that you will help me. You will strengthen me. You will satisfy my hunger and cravings. Thank you, Lord. In your name I pray, Amen.
Reference: 5 Day Weight Loss Devotion; Healthy Eating God’s Way: 12 Pillars to Calm your Cravings, Master your Diet, Look and Feel Great (on the Bible App)
Many of us wonder why faith matters. In his book, Creed, Adam Hamilton breaks down the Apostles’ Creed into six parts, explaining the fundamentals of faith and why it matters. By exploring the basics of Christian faith together, we hope to grow in our individual and corporate understanding of why what we believe makes a difference in daily living.
We are encouraging everyone who is connected to Thalia UMC to join us in exploring Creed through individual and corporate study. There are a variety of ways to study with a group. Several adult Sunday School classes, in addition to Children’s Sunday School, will be utilizing this resource in conjunction with the worship series. Additionally, Pastor Joe will be teaching the confirmation class with this book for 6 weeks from September 10 – October 15.
The Creed study guide is $13.50 each and can be paid for through the donation link on our website. Books will be ordered by the Church office and made available starting September 3rd.
If you would like to order a book and/or join a Sunday School class, please fill out the registration form below: