Arise Shine- A Devotion for the Third Week of Advent based on Handel’s Messiah

morning sun bedroom window

Arise, Shine
Readings and Reflection for the third week of Advent

SONGS FROM HANDEL’S MESSIAH:
For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover the Earth and The People That Walked in Darkness
For Unto Us a Child is Born

SCRIPTURES to read this week:
Isaiah 60:1-7
Isaiah 9:2-7
John 1:1-14

REFLECTION QUESTIONS for this week:

  • Where do you see people “letting their light shine” in our community?
  • What local problem or situation most needs the light and love of Christ? How will you arise and shine to address this need?

PRAYER:
Jesus, your light makes us light
What a gift to be made in your image
To reflect your grace and hope, your power and peacemaking
Hallelujah! Help us shine!

Share your light with all, near and far,
Beyond our imagining to your imagining and desiring
A beam worthy of the stretch of your embrace.
Worthy of your glory. Jesus, help us shine!

Unveiled, Bright, Shining before others and for others
So others see you in us and are drawn to your Light

You bathe us in the light of your grace, that we may be grace
You fill us with the light of your truth that we may be truth
You flood us with the light of your love that we may be love

Hallelujah!
Come Glorious One, Lord of Life and Light!
Dispel the darkness.
Reveal what is real so we no longer fear the night nor the light
Dawn in us a new day and a new us.
Help us shine!
~ Help Us Shine, by Lisa Degrenia

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Arise, Shine
A Devotion for the Third Week of Advent
based on Handel’s Messiah © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Lift Up Your Voice- A Devotion for the Second Week of Advent based on Handel’s Messiah

microphone

Lift Up Your Voice
Readings and Reflection for the second week of Advent

SONGS FROM HANDEL’S MESSIAH:
Behold, a Virgin Shall Conceive and O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion

SCRIPTURES to read this week:
Matthew 1:18-23
Isaiah 40:6-11
Luke 1:39-56

REFLECTION QUESTIONS for this week:

  • How are you intentionally sharing the good tidings of Christmas?
  • Make three invitations this week to worship or another Christmas gathering.

PRAYER:
Jesus, Your message is sacred
Holy, Set Apart, Treasured

Your message is eternal
Timeless, Lasting, a Firm Foundation

Your message is salvation
Deliverance, Wholeness, Grace

We bow before your commission
to receive and bear your message into the world

Show us when to speak and give us the words
Never for our agenda, for yours alone

Show us what to do and give us the strength
Never for our achievement, for yours alone

Show others we are from you by your power at work through us
Never for our glory, for yours alone
~ For Yours Alone, by Lisa Degrenia

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Lift Up Your Voice
A Devotion for the Second Week of Advent
based on Handel’s Messiah © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Why you should memorize Numbers 6.24-26, The Priestly Blessing

priestly blessing Numbers 6

Chuck Swindoll wrote, “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified” (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, 61).

What a powerful reminder of the benefits to memorizing scripture. Let’s add one more, especially regarding Numbers 6:24-26. You will always have something to offer when its time to pray out loud. 

Many people are terrified of praying out loud. Some are scared of public speaking, but far more are concerned they won’t choose the right words, or say them in the right way. (That’s a whole discussion for another blog post!)

Numbers 6:24-26 is an ancient, timeless blessing packed with rich, deep meaning.

Asked to say grace before a meal? Use Numbers 6:24-26.

Asked to say a few words for a graduation, anniversary, birthday, retirement, or other celebration? Use Numbers 6:24-26.

Use it when someone just shared their troubles with you.
When someone is ill or headed for a medical test.
At the birth or adoption of a child.
When its the last time you’ll see a dear one before a move or a trip…

It’s always the right thing to say because its a blessing straight from God’s Word. 

The easiest way to always have Numbers 6:24-26 at the ready is to memorize it. Then you can look the person in the eye, and offer the blessing with every ounce of your being.

Numbers 6:24-26 (NRSV)
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

The Meaning of Numbers 6:24-26
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;

  • May the Lord constantly bring good into your life
  • May the Lord protect you and guard all that is sacred and precious about you

25 The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

  • Imagine how a person’s face lights up when they hold a baby. God’s face shines on you in the same way. This is a reminder that God delights in you. May you know how beloved you are.
  • Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting better than what we deserve. We all need grace. Grace upon grace.

26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

  • Imagine you walk into a room and a person is working at a computer. She stops what she’s doing and looks up at you, giving you her full attention. God is fully attentive to you. God is here, already at work, already reaching out to you, already loving you.
  • May you know God’s presence and peace

Fun Facts: In ancient times, God through Moses instructed Aaron and his sons to give this blessing to God’s people. Aaron and his sons served God’s people as priests, thus the name priestly blessing. This blessing is still used today by both Christians and Jews.

HOW TO MEMORIZE SCRIPTURE
Dr. Andrew Davis memorizes entire books of the Bible. In his free, online memorization method booklet, he says, “Saying a verse one hundred times in one day is not as helpful as saying it every day for one hundred days. The absolute key to successful Scripture memorization is repetition over a long time period. This is how you retain old verses while learning new ones.”

Applying Dr. Davis’ method to Numbers 6:24-26

  • Day 1
    • Read Numbers 6:24 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 2:
    • Recite Number 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Read Numbers 6:25 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:25 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 3:
    • Recite Number 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Recite Numbers 6:25 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Read Numbers 6:26 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:26 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 4
    • Recite Numbers 6:24-26 from memory and continue to do so daily.

Other helpful memorization techniques

  • Write the scripture you want to memorize several times for several days
  • Post the scripture where you will see it often- on your refrigerator, on your bathroom mirror, in your planner, on your calendar, etc.
  • Make up a tune or find a tune so you can sing the scripture. If you aren’t a singer, say the scripture rhythmically.
  • Create hand motions or use American Sign Language to help you remember the scripture.

What other scriptures have you memorized and how have you found it helpful?

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Why you should memorize Numbers 6:24-26 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Reflection Questions to Help You Write a Christian Testimony

speak witness good news

John 4:39
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”

If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, you have a testimony. Yes, you!

Never dismiss or underestimate the power of sharing your encounters with the One True Living God. People remember and are moved to action by stories, especially true personal stories, far more often than by facts or debate.

Stories open us up and make deep connections. Our brains are literally different when someone is telling us a story. 

Your story, your witness, your testimony needs to be heard. Don’t worry if you don’t have a dramatic testimony. Your authentic voice and experience are enough. Like the little boy’s loaves and fishes, offer Jesus what you have and watch him make abundantly more than you could ask or imagine.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF TESTIMONIES:

Type #1: Conversion
How did you come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

Type #2: Character
What character traits of God and/or promises of God are most meaningful to you? Why?

Type #3: Calling
Where do you join Christ in serving others? Why this place/project? What have you seen God do in you, through you, or in spite of you? How does serving shape your faith?

Type #4: Circumstance
Tell of an important event which shaped and/or strengthened your faith.

Type #5: Commendation
For centuries, the faithful wrote their last will and testament, aka their testimony. What spiritual message would you like to leave your loved ones?

IMPORTANT POINTS FOR ANY TYPE OF TESTIMONY:

1. Pray first and often as you prepare. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, empower you, and draw the right situation to mind.

2. Focus on Jesus more than any other person or detail of your testimony. Point to Jesus again and again so it is clear who deserves the glory.

3. What scripture speaks to the main point of your testimony? Include it! If you’re having trouble finding one, ask for some help.

4. Speak as you usually speak. There’s no need for formality or fancy church words.

5. Be vulnerable, honest, humble, and real. 

6. Write your testimony down. Be prepared to write several drafts with some time in between each one. The writing process will help you organize and clarify your testimony. Take a breath, it won’t be graded. It doesn’t have to be grammatically perfect.

7. Testimonies include a beginning, a middle, and an ending.

  • The beginning focuses on what life was like before your transforming experience.
  • The middle focuses on your awakening. You awaken to your need of salvation, to God’s presence, to God’s action on your behalf, to God’s healing, to a need or injustice you are to address, etc. What brings you to the moment of decision and action?
  • The ending focuses on God’s action in and through you. Your life is now different, and hopefully the lives of others. How so? Consider including an invitation or call to action as part of your ending.

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Reflection Questions to Help You Write a Christian Testimony
© 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Cast Your Net Again (John 21)

Cast Your Net Again by Daniel Bonnell

Scripture
Jesus said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

Sermon/Poem
This poem was inspired by Matthew 13:47-50, John 21:1-14, John 12:31-32, Psalms 40:1-3, and the painting Cast Your Net Again by Daniel Bonnell. It could be voiced with one or two speakers.

Cast Your Net Again
It’s been a long night of fishing
We smell of bait and salt-
salt from the sea
salt from the sweat
salt from the tears
It’s a strange combination of perspiration and desperation

The sun is about to come up, and we haven’t caught a thing
We downhearted
Not so much because we haven’t caught anything,
But because everything’s changed
He’s gone
our leader
our teacher
our friend
our future
We missing Jesus

He called us from our nets years before,
Come, follow me…
And that’s what we did
We gave up everything we knew
our nets
our lives
“Fishers of men,” he said…

Now he was gone and all that ‘s left is the nets… empty nets…

Children, you have no fish, have you?
                                                                     No, no fish
Cast your net again and you will find some

Cast your net again,
We know this familiar foolishness
So we cast it… we cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Suddenly! So many fish!

The cry goes up with our hope
It is the Lord! It is Jesus!

He sank down to the bottom
Down to the mud and the darkness
Down to the pain and the brokenness
Down to our level

Until he was lifted up- lifted up on a cross
Up went the fists
Up went the curses
Up went the sign
Up went the stares

Down came the hammer
Down came the tears
Down came the blood
Down came the love
Down to our level- buried beneath waves of fear and injustice and sin
Buried beneath earth

He did as he promised
Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself

It is the Lord! It is Jesus!
He is lifted up from the earth!
Up from the grave
Up goes the shout
Up goes the sun with the Son

Cast your net again, my Jesus
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Draw us up from the bottom with you
Draw us up from the mud and the darkness
Up from the pain and the brokenness and the selfishness and the loneliness
Draw us up from the fear and the hate and the sin and the death
Draw us up from the bottom with you

Draw us up,
Draw us all, my Jesus
Fisher of men and women, sober and addicted, poor and prosperous, infant and aged
Draw us up, Draw us all, my Jesus
Healthy and ill, free and imprisoned, questioning and confident
Draw us up, Draw us all
Fisher of nations and galaxies

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Cast your net again into the sea of humanity
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Draw us up
Draw us in
We are caught in your saving embrace

“Now follow me,” says Jesus.
“Come, cast the net
Cast the net again and again and again and we will find some more
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
So many, so different, so beautiful
Use all your strength to bring them in
Have no fear, the net will not break.”

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© 2009, revised 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please, leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.