First Presbyterian Church of Merrillville
Monday, December 11, 2017
Go and Make Disciples!
Kergyma Bible Study, Wednesday at 10 AM in the Gathering Room - January through May; vacation June through August, then September through December.
An Advent Devotional
of the
 First Presbyterian Church
of Merrillville
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Bible Study Team is pleased to provide you with a devotional to enhance your 2017 Advent Season. A BIG thank you to our church members who contributed their time and thoughts in order to make this booklet possible.
Set aside time each day to read the selected scripture passage and reflect on their meaning to you. Then read the reflection and prayer. Select a word or phrase that speaks to you that you may carry in your heart each day.
In Christ’s love,
The Bible Study Team
          Cathy Moore, Chair
          Cathy Hundt
          Carolyn Meinbresse
          Karen Moore
          Nancy Morosin
Sunday, December 3
Mark 13:24-37
Cathy Moore
Advent is a season that looks forward to Christ’s second coming while also preparing us to remember his first coming. The Gospel lesson on the First Sunday of Advent is always about being alert - awake – watchful for his coming.
There is a hymn in our hymnal that is especially appropriate for today’s Gospel lesson. The second verse of “The Days Are Surely Coming” (No. 357) refers to Christ’s warning in the moon, stars, and sun: “The days are surely coming, says Christ, the promised one, when you will read my warning in moon and stars and sun. Though earth and heaven tremble, stand up and do not fear, for I am your redeemer, and I am drawing near.” The words are set to a lively Welsh tune, which we have sung many times and is named for a Pembrokshire, Wales, village.
Heavenly Father, as we await your birth and your second coming, we ask for the courage to not be afraid but to glorify you for the gift of your Son who took away the sins of the world. Amen.
Monday, December 4
Revelations 15:1-8
Bertha Harms
The Final Judgement. Seven angels will pour out the last seven plagues over all the earth. Sin must be eliminated before God returns. We do not know when or how long it will be. We must be prepared.
Dear Father, help us to prepare ourselves for the new creation where all will be equal, sin will no longer exist and tears will be no more Amen.
Tuesday, December 5
Revelations 18:1-10
Kay Taseff
Our world has become a frightening place. So many have turned away from God, and they follow where greed and envy take them.
The words, “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”, are not a part of their thoughts and lives.
Listen and follow the teachings of Jesus. You will be saved!
God of Grace, when the world around us whirls out of control keep us faithful to the teachings of our Savior, take away the temptations of this life and guide us to love one another as you love us. Amen.
Wednesday, December 6
Micah 5:1-5
Karen Moore
This passage of scripture talked about a promised ruler (Jesus) from Bethlehem whose birth had been prophesied all throughout the Old Testament.  You can see some of this scripture in the Christmas hymn O Little Town of Bethlehem. 
The Virgin Mary will give birth to a son and he will shepherd his flock in the strength and majesty of the Lord.  His flock will live in safety because of his greatness, and he will bring peace.
Father, thank you for redeeming us from ourselves by fulfilling your promise to us in the birth of your Son. Our human hearts were truly blessed with all the good of heaven in the little child born in Bethlehem. Amen.
Thursday, December 7
1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
Denise Swinehart
Paul is writing to the Thessalonians who already know Jesus teachings and the ending of his earthly life. He is praising them for their acceptance of the Gospel as he had brought it to them…not just words, but spirit.
We already know the whole story of Jesus’ life from the nativity to his death and resurrection, but we are now waiting for our annual celebration of Jesus birth to once again use our own faith to follow Jesus’ Gospel, not just in words, but in spirit.
Dearest God, give us a diligent spirit so that we can use the scriptures in our day to day lives. Help us always to remember the teachings of our Savior. Amen.
Friday, December 8
Acts 11:19-26
Cathy Hundt
This reading shows the power of God’s love to all people and that the people were eager to learn about God.
God of All, keep us always eager to study the Bible so that we can expand our knowledge of you, your hope for our salvation and your expectations for us. Amen.
Saturday, December 9
Ezekiel 36:24-28
Jim Shimek
This verse explains how God will restore His people to Israel not for their sake but to show the world that He is God.  He promised them that He would give them a new heart of flesh and remove the heart of stone that sin has caused.  Then He will put His Spirit in them so they have the power to walk in His ways.  This promise is the same today for anyone willing to change from their sinful ways and repent and follow Jesus, God's only son.  He then will give us His Spirit so that we also may have power over sin and walk with Him.  God alone can change our lives though the power of His Holy Spirit.  It is a decision we each must make to be one of His children.  
God of Grace, we ask that you give each of us the strength to change from sinner to faithful servant. We are weak but you are strong and through the life and death of your Son you made it possible for us to be forgiven and live our eternal life with you. Amen.
Sunday, December 10
Mark 1:1-8
Roxanne Shimek
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
While the titles added into our Bibles are not inspired, this sums up the passage and struck me as an example for us, Jesus’ followers.
Verse 1 says, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ”. The word gospel means “good news”, so this passage is about how preparing the way is the beginning of the good news. Then in verse 2 we read how Isaiah the OT prophet had said God would send His messenger to prepare the way. Thus we see the path to understanding the good news about Jesus is through words from a messenger
In verse 3 we read the messenger was to make his paths straight.
Since we are to be God’s messengers in our circle of friends and family, it is important to recognize the need to “prepare the way.” Most people have some type of stumbling blocks that prevent them from wanting to be “involved with religious things.” They have misconceptions; they rule out God based on the actions of some misguided Christians, they are angry at God for the evil they see in the world or the pain in their own circumstances. 
We don’t need to feel we must convince them otherwise with one conversation, or work up the courage to give it our best shot. One stumbling block, one rock at a time, we can help “make the path straight.” Regularly correct one error about God’s character. Give credit to God for what he has done in your life, both big and small. The beginning of the “good news” Gospel of Jesus Christ for our friends is to be the messenger that makes the path straight, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Father, help us to be your voice in this world. Give us the patience and the words we need to lead people into a life of faith and a relationship with you. Amen.
Monday, December 11
Acts 2:37-42
Jim Hundt
Everyone who repents and becomes baptized in the name of Jesus, will receive the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of their sins. And this promise is for everyone from now until the end of time. All that accepted this message were baptized and devoted themselves to the teaching and fellowship of breaking of bread and prayer.
Father, we thank you for your promise of salvation through the life and death of your Son. Keep us ever mindful of the sacrifice and the price Our Savior paid so that we can be delivered from our sins. Amen.
Tuesday, December 12
Acts 11:1-18
Linda Eich
With Christ’s coming a new era began; the old ways of doing were changed, but not everyone was willing to accept that change. How difficult it must have been for Peter who was a practicing Jew to believe that eating previously “unclean” foods were no longer denied to him. And, even more importantly, that no person whether Jew or Gentile was to be looked upon as different for “God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.” Let us rejoice in the gifts that the Christ Child gave to us over 2,000 year ago!
Lord, let me not be resistant to change. Change is difficult for everyone of us in some degree; I must be willing to accept that it is Your will to be followed rather than mine. Amen.
Wednesday, December 13
Malachi 2:10-3:1 and Luke 1:5-17
Pam Barnett
Malachi 3:1 -“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me... [t]he messenger of the covenant …indeed he is coming…”
There are two messengers referred to in this verse, the first being John the Baptist. The second messenger is Jesus, the Messiah for whom both Malachi and John the Baptist prepared the way. 
Earlier in the scripture, Malachi conveys God’s displeasure with his people, their impatience at awaiting the fulfillment of the coming of the promised Messiah. God is unwilling to accept their offerings.
Luke 1:17 –“With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him…to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Comparing John the Baptist to Elijah is a pretty powerful statement. His role: to encourage the people to turn from their sin and turn back to God. Born to devout parents, his birth a miracle, God was guiding the events of history to prepare the way for Jesus to come to earth.
Can we be patient to see what God can do, to answer prayer, to take us through impossible situations?
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus!
Lord of All, give us patience as we wait for the return of our Savior and keep us on the path of righteousness always. Amen.
Thursday, December 14
Philippians 3:7-11
Mary Page
What matters most is our belief in Christ. Forget the wrongs of the past and present and pray that they are forgotten, we can throw away the rubbish. It is possible when we believe in Christ and trust and obey him. This is the power and confidence of his Fellowship.
Father, help us to accept the gift given to us in the death and resurrection of our Savior and understand that our belief alone in Him brings us forgiveness. Amen.
Friday, December 15
Philippians 3:12-16
Mary Lee McFarland
The season of Advent seems an appropriate time to take stock of our personal journey in Christ and what difference His coming makes in our lives. In this passage (NIV), Paul writes to the Philippians that he is “not perfect” and is still in the race toward all that God would have him become in Christ. Are you growing in faith . . . growing in the likeness of Jesus . . . open to new revelations from God through his Word? Like Paul, we need to press on toward the heavenly goal, but the prize depends on our commitment to the journey. The Advent Season is yet another opportunity to receive God’s greatest gift at a more meaningful, deeper level. Merry Christmas!
Heavenly Father, it is always easy for humankind to admit that we are not perfect, but with your help all of us can grow stronger in our faith journey. During the celebration of Jesus birth, open our eyes to the wonder of his coming. Amen.
Saturday, December 16
Habakkuk 3:13-19
(Habakkuk means “embraced by God”)
Nancy Morosin
Every day there is news of actual or impending bad things: acts of violence, weather related devastation, lack of civility, murder of innocent people, invasion of places we consider safe, and so on.
Habakkuk reminds us that these things have been going on for centuries. Like Habakkuk, we try to make sense of it all and want to believe that as people of God, we will be spared somehow, forgetting that life is not free of difficulties, but that we have a God who is with us through our challenges.
Habakkuk was able to say that even if everything is taken away, he will rejoice in the Lord, not because he is happy with the circumstances, but because he realizes that God is our strength and Savior. This is our faith statement in a nutshell. Praise be to God!
God of Grace, we are so grateful that you love us even when we doubt and question our faith. We ask that you help us to carry in our hearts the knowledge that you never promised us a life without pain and suffering here on earth but one with you in heaven once this earthly life has ended. Amen.
Sunday, December 17
Luke 1:46b-55:1
Karen Highsmith
Riches and worldly possessions are only earthly treasurers. Our true treasurers come from God:
          For He is mighty – He gives us strength
          In His house – He freed our souls with goodness and mercy
          Through scripture – we gain wisdom
          Without prejudice – we are blessed.
Almighty God, all of us allow the world to convince us that it is important to store up as much money and “stuff” as we can to make us comfortable and important. Help us to think beyond our worldly treasurers and instead to store up acts of love, mercy and forgiveness. Amen.
Monday December 18, 2017
Ephesians 6: 10-17
Craig Meinbresse
Armor Yourself with God
Paul was chained to and a prisoner of Rome when he wrote Ephesians. Paul mentions the mighty Roman Centurions that were well trained military warriors and the great battles they fought; however, he was aware of a much greater battle.    This was the more deadly battle in the spiritual realm of evil adversaries.  
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
It’s against the powers, authorities, rulers of this dark world
Against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)
Every believer must always wear the armor of truth, faith, salvation, and the word of God in order to beat the evil forces in our lives.
Refrain from a song “Armor of God” regarding the musical settings of Ephesians Eph 6:10-17.
“Belt of Truth
Breastplate of Righteousness
Feet prepared with the Gospel of Peace
Shield of Faith
Helmet of Salvation, and
Sword of the Spirit.
Almighty Lord, we need you to guide us through the battle against evil. We ask that you strengthen the armor of each of us and through your mercy protect us from the pitfalls of this world. Amen.
Tuesday, December 19
Acts 3:17-4:4 or 2 Kings 2:9-22
Amy Anderson
Acts 3:22

Moses said, “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.”

Acts 3:17 - 4:4

 Saint Peter is speaking after a miracle has been performed that made a cripple man able to walk.  Peter said that all the glory should go to Jesus because it was through his power that this miracle happened. He then goes on to say that this Jesus was an extraordinary figure that fulfilled the promise of Moses when he said that the Lord God will raise up a prophet like Moses from among the people. So Jesus is like Moses, according to Peter, and needs to be listened to because like Moses he brings forth the word of God.
 Advent is a time when we prepare for the Lord’s coming. The one who is coming is not an ordinary figure that on occasion does something extraordinary; He is an extraordinary one who like Moses knows the Lord face to face and is in fact the face of the Lord. This one that God raises up, our Lord Jesus Christ, is in fact the very son of God, the word made flesh, and the promise of God‘s presence with us.  It is His words that we are called to listen to and follow in this season and all the seasons of our life.

God of Love, we thank you for sending your Son as a human who lived and died for our salvation. Help us always to remember that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords who now sits by your side. Amen.
Wednesday, December 20
Malachi 3:16-4:6
Carolyn Meinbresse
As I read this passage, I thought of our Sunday worship – all of us coming together for the purpose of calling Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be with us so we can sing our praises to them. It is a time that we share our thoughts on God and his mercy to us and when we thank our Savior for his gift of forgiveness and eternal life with him. So, we can liken ourselves to “those who revered the Lord and spoke with one another”. In a time when so many took the path of sinfulness and ridiculed God and Jesus, those who were dedicated to their faith found it easier to survive clinging to each other. Our church family knows the Lord and understands the wonders of heaven – how different the ways of heaven are from the ways of this world. 
This passage also tells us that Jesus is pleased with those who are faithful and that he created “a book of remembrance of those who revered Him”. It was normal in the times of Jesus, that Kings had their chronicles written wherein people's good or ill deeds toward them were recorded. But the image is one of the oldest in Scripture, and in the self-same words, "the Lord said to Moses, Write this, a memorial in a book." Thus, Jesus promises that when the Day of Judgment comes the godly should be assured that, though no hope appeared; there would be a door of penitence opened for them before God.   The non-believers and evil doers will have no place with him and good will triumph over the evil. 
How wonderful to look forward to the day when our Savior comes again and know that we will be remembered.
Wonderful Father, help all of us to find a place in the book of remembrance so that we can there will be a door open to us when the Day of Judgment comes. Amen.
Thursday, December 21
Hebrews 1:1-4
Rev. Paul Anderson
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.                          (Hebrews 1:1-3)
One of the most important claims of Christian faith is that God has revealed himself to us through his dealings with the covenant community of Israel and through the person of Jesus Christ. In this opening verse in this sermon or letter to the Hebrews, the author represents God speaking through the covenant community this phrase, “In many and various ways God spoke of old through the prophets…”   The prophets were those inspired persons who were noted for proclaiming the word that God had for the people, characterized by the phrase, “Thus says the Lord.” This word spoken by the prophets was good, necessary, sound, and profitable for the people in as much as it could be as it was given by limited human messengers. The deeper, fuller, more complete and perfect revelation comes through the One who comes from God. In Christ, the Son of the Father, God has spoken the necessary word for our salvation. We celebrate in this season the birth of an extraordinary child whose life and word brings us the perfect revelation of God.
Dear Lord, we are thankful for the prophets who brought us your messages. May each of us take their messages to heart and learn to live by them as we journey through this earthly life. Amen
Friday, December 22
Hebrews 1:5-14
Rhonda Courtright
In Hebrews 1:5-14, the distinction is clearly made between the Son of God & the angels who serve Him, & us as His children. The assurance in this passage is that there is indeed a hierarchy, that the Father & His Son are Lord of all - the heavens, the earth, the angels - & yet He made us to be like Him; He gave us the option, the choice of serving Him. We are not angels who are "sent out in service" (vs. 14) but we are indeed the ones they assist! As we reflect this Christmas, take note of the position & authority of Christ within our universe that He willingly set aside to become like us in our most vulnerable state - a newborn child. Praise God for His infinite wisdom & love.
Holy God, make us strong in our resolve to serve you as Jesus asked us to serve. May we all choose to be your angels here on earth continuing to work for the good of all. Amen.
Saturday December 23
John 7: 40-52
Craig Meinbresse
What Do You Believe?
On one of the last days of the Feast of the Tabernacles, Jesus was standing in the Temple Courts and was yelling to those in attendance. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” Some thought he was the promised Prophet, while others thought He was the Christ. Many debated whether or not the Messiah could even come from Galilee.   The Messiah was said to be a descendant of David and would come from Bethlehem. The crowd in the Temple soon became divided and confused as to who was speaking.
The Chief Priests and Pharisees heard of Jesus speaking and sent guards to arrest him but when they returned, empty handed, they stated that the man that was speaking had mesmerized them by the way he talked. They told of how they had never heard of any man speak with such generosity, clarity, and authority. 
The Pharisees accused the guards of being fooled by the Galilean stating that no Prophet ever came out of Galilee. 
However, Nicodemus, a Pharisee himself, spoke up against the powerful religious leaders in Jerusalem.   He directly challenged their authority of the Law which they claimed to know so well. Nicodemus tells them that they should not judge this man until we know who he is and what he is doing. The Pharisees then asked Nicodemus if he was from Galilee. 
What do you believe? The Pharisees did not speak the truth. Don’t fall into the Pharisee trap. Seek out the truth and don’t be fooled by those claiming to be the experts. Your decision will decide the direction of the rest of your life.
God of Grace, may each of us come to the Lord when we are thirsty and flow rivers of living water. Amen.
Sunday, December 24
Luke 1:26-38
Carolyn Meinbresse
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations
Imagine you were a young woman, soon to be married. And, one night an angel comes to you with a message from God saying He has found favor with you. The angel continues saying you will conceive and bear a son and you will name him Jesus. Jesus will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give him the throne of David. Would you be scared, frightened, confused, angry, worried about what people will say or would you humbly bow before God and rejoice? Just think about how brave she was, how strong a believer and how thankful that she was chosen from all women for this wondrous honor. Mary never hesitated; she immediately accepted God’s will for her life. 
God’s will for our lives may not be as wonderful as the one he chose for Mary, but each of us should find it in our hearts to accept what he has chosen for us. If we follow the path he lays out for us, I am sure our rewards will be just as great.
Father and Lord of All, we are humbled in the light of your love for us. Help each of us to react as Mary did, without hesitation when asked to do your will and not ours. Amen.
Monday, December 25
Luke 2(1-7)8-20
Rev. Paul Anderson
But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.  (Luke 2:19)
We come now to Christmas day. The day that the season has been pointing to and all the planning and effort has been put forth for this day; a day of festivity, celebration, good tidings, joy, hope, love and peace. A day when so much of the world sits up and takes notice of the birth of this wonderful child.
The actual birth story was quite different though. There were no festivities or celebrations or family get-togethers, just a humble, peasant couple giving birth to a child in the normal human way. But in the midst of this routine event came some amazing things. Some shepherds came with the report that there was an announcement from angels about the birth of this child. The announcement was about who this child was and what he would do. It was incredible stuff for this couple and especially this young mother who was hearing and seeing things she could never have imagined. At the end of it all, we are told that Mary “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” We can only imagine what went through her mind when pondering these things. Could she have known all that would take place with this child as he “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man”? (Luke 2:52) So we too, come to this birth, yet again, and ponder in hearts all that took place with this One, so humble and simple, yet so majestic and divine. We do not have to speculate about what will be with this child; we know that he is the Savior of the world and Lord of all. So we ponder the greatness of this child, the glory of his love, and the joy he brings to us and the world. “Joy to the world the Lord is come, Let earth receive her King,… O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!” Ponder and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the Lord.
Merry Christmas!
Prayer for Christmas
A Root shall come forth from the stock of Jesse
And a Flower shall rise out of his root!
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him
the spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the spirit of counsel and of fortitude,
the spirit of knowledge and of godliness.
The people that walked in darkness
shall see a great light,
For a Child is born to us
and a Son is given to us.
To Him all power shall be given.
His Name shall be: Wonderful One,
Strong God, Eternal One, Prince of Peace.
He shall sit on the throne of David,
And He will found a new Covenant
which will last for ever and ever.