Advent 2021

Witness: Thursday, January, 6, 2022

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Witness: Sandi Madsen

Scripture: Matthew 2:9-11


My family and I were Jewish. Every Christmas Eve, we gathered with family for dinner. When I was seven years old, I went upstairs to this relative’s house and turned on the television. Another guest came upstairsand sat down with me. She was not Jewish.

I was watching a show called “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” I didn’t understand this show so this woman sitting with me told me all about Jesus, whom I had never heard of. Something clicked! As I got older and had non-Jewish friends in high school, I learned about Jesus, even going to Church with a friend.

My Grandmother was Jewish Orthodox, and I think my Father rebelled because we never had religion in ourhome. We celebrated a few holidays but never had a Bible or teachings.

I married my husband, a Methodist, and began going to Church with him and later our children. I always enjoyed being involved in Church, but my faith did not go very deep. I was even baptized in my early 30s.

In my 50s, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and have followed the ways Jesus wanted me to as much as possible. Things came full circle when we moved to Minnesota and joined a church where I was asked how I came to my faith during a Christmas gathering, and I told the story of the show I watched.

A woman in the gathering somehow found a live production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” and purchased two tickets for my husband and me. It was an exceptional experience that I will always treasure.

Daily Prayer:  Lord, I pray that I will be in the true spirit of Christmas and celebrate Jesus and not thematerialism of the time.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. At what age did you first learn about Jesus?
  2. How did you learn about Jesus?
  3. When did you accept Jesus as your Savior?

Thank you for joining us for our Advent/Christmas Devotional! See you for our Lenten Devotional.”

Love – Pastor Kristyne

Advent 2021

Witness: Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Witness: Kathleen Caron

Scripture: Luke 13:18-20 NIV

Weekly Theme:  Announce 

“What is the Kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which man took and planted in his garden.  It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”

In 1985 I was a volunteer co-director of a church youth group. My friend Janet and I thought it might be a safe gathering place for teenagers.  Our focus was on the Spiritual, Social, and Service needs.  We met as a group every Sunday night in the Church basement. The young members decided that all young people of our town would be welcomed, whether or not they “belonged “ to the church. 

There was always a table of food.  Always a group project to work on, collecting food and clothing, inviting speakers to address topics important to them, ski trips, and all-night game nights to raise money for service work. And prayer for one another.

One Sunday night, a few members approached us with concern over “John,” a member recently hospitalized with depression. John was a quiet young man, always seeming to be outside looking in but happy to be included with the others.  His family circumstances did not allow him as much free time as the other kids had.  What to do? 

A few days later, I received a call from John.  He said,” Mrs. Caron,  I just came home from the hospital.  My youth group friends came to see me in the hospital. They brought me all colors of balloons and candy.  I never knew I had so many friends.
I’ll see you on Sunday night.”

I do not know how life turned out for John, but I know the impact of the kindness and acceptance given to John when he was most in need.

Daily Prayer:  Dear God, We have You and each other.  “Great is Thy Faithfulness” is what you want from us as we travel through life together, on our way to You.”

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Who has reached out to you in your time of need?
  2. Who may need your outreach today?
  3. What is God asking of us as a faith community?
Advent 2021

Witness: Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Witness: Lynn Clever

Scripture: Hebrews 13:16 & Romans 12:13

Weekly Theme:  Announce 

What an exciting day! Dad has just announced we are going shopping for a new car!!! No more shockinglyugly lime green 1957 Ford in our family driveway!

After piling into the car, we first stopped at a gas station.  Next, we still didn’t head for the dealership but went to a church member’s home. Mom went to the door, but she returned, saying, “she won’t do it.” Then dad took the keys, headed to the house. He asked the lady to get her purse. “Do you have a dollar?” he inquired.”Yes,” came the reply. “Good,” dad said as he slipped the bill from her fingers and laid the car keys into the palm of her hand. “You just bought yourself a car……deal done!” (What a wonderful lesson for two youngbackseat observers to learn.)

And why was there such a need for a car? This mother of three walked more than twenty blocks to hernursing job at the local hospital because her husband had deserted the family and had taken the car!

Daily Prayer: Gracious and most loving God, help us always be on the alert for times for action, share generously, and show kindness to people in need.  Thank you, Father, for forgiving us when we miss the mark.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.  

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you have something for which someone else has a greater need? What can you do about it?
  2. When offering a gift, preserve the receiver’s dignity to avoid the appearance of charity. How can you dothis?
  3. One small act of kindness can save the world for generations. Is this possible?     (Quote is the SonriseProgram moto for this fall.)
Advent 2021

Witness: Monday, January 3, 2022

Monday, January 3, 2022

Witness: Glenn Dennison

Scripture: Revelation 3:20

Weekly Theme:  Announce 

To have a relationship with Jesus, I first had to open the door.  This meant more than just knowledge about Jesus.  For me, this was a long and not always steady journey.  Fortunately, Jesus was patient and gave me the time to answer His knock on the door of my being; my mind, my heart, and my spirit.

After 12 years of Catholic education, I knew a lot about God and Jesus.  After all, it was a school study subject, and I was tested frequently on my knowledge.  Heck, I was even an altar boy who knew the entire ritual of the Mass in both Latin and English.  

For a change, while pursuing an undergraduate degree at Wesley College, I studied religions of the Far East and enjoyed reading Greek Mythology.  After a couple of decades of being a wandering (and wondering) Christian, I settled in a Presbyterian church in Raleigh, NC.  This was when I started to approach the door to Jesus ever so slowly as I attended annual church retreats, listened intensely to great speakers, and participated in small group discussions.  I heard the knock but did not yet answer.

It was only about 6-7 years ago that I decided I wanted to know if I was a true Christian.  I started by getting a Life Application Study Bible.  I started with Luke, as advised by a pastor, and after the New Testament (NT), I went to the Old Testament (OT).  Two questions arose.  First, “Can I trust what is written in this copy of the NT?”

So, I researched for information on the history and authenticity of the books of the NT.  And, I found overwhelming evidence that the books do provide an extremely trustworthy account of what occurred during the time of Jesus.  This was very comforting.

This led to my second big question:  “How do I know that Jesus actually rose from the dead and appeared to many before returning to the Father?”  This started me on another search, reading and listening to debates on proof of the resurrection by Christians vs. Atheists.  The debates were excellent.  The Christians easily won.

In the end, I was finally and thoroughly convinced that Jesus was whom He said He was and returned from the dead to prove it.  This proof of the resurrection was the “key” to open the door of my existence to Jesus.

Since my door had finally opened, I continuously seek to improve my relationship with Jesus and develop a Christian mind, heart, and spirit.

Daily Prayer:  Lord, thank you for giving me life and this earth you created for us.  I’m sorry for my sins.  Please send your Spirit to guide me down a better path.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you opened the door to a relationship with Jesus?
  2. What would it take to open your heart to Jesus?
  3. How do you nurture and grow your relationship with Jesus?
Advent 2021

Witness: Sunday, January 2, 2022

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Witness: Don Argus

Scripture: Exodus 33:12-17

Weekly Theme:  Announce 

For about twenty-five years before moving to The Villages, Lynn and I served in a small beach community church called Sandbridge Community Chapel. I served in many positions at that church, and at one point, I was in charge of Men’s Ministries. I taught a few Men’s Bible Studies during that time, but one, in particular, was one in which God directly affected me. 

I had chosen to use John Eldridge’s book “Wild at Heart.” The premise of the book centered around getting validation from God. And one of the assignments in the book asked each man to go off by themselves with a Bible and a notebook and be alone with God for as long as it takes to hear from him. It was a powerful exercise meant to enforce the importance of Man’s relationship with God.

I should also explain that I was in a spiritual place where I questioned my effectiveness in my ministry. I did not think I was being very effective with the Men in the church, and although I prayed about it, God seemed to be silent.

So, I had asked the men to do this assignment over the weekend. Upon returning home, I heard God say to me – “You need to do this.” My reaction was, of course, “what do you mean, God – I am the teacher.” Then I felt God prompting me to go to the beach with a beach chair and the Bible and notebook.

At this point, I need to tell you, although we lived in a beach community, I am not very fond of the beach, to put it mildly. I am still not. Way too much sand and wind. I would visit the beach when we had visitors, but I did not stay long.

So, I took my beach chair, Bible, and notebook and walked to the beach. Upon arrival, the atmosphere was just as I expected – about a 15 – 20 MPH wind and hot. But – I set my chair down, sat in it, and opened my Bible. The pages on my Bible would not stay in one place, and I kept trying to find my favorite Psalm, to no avail. Suddenly the wind stopped, and the pages stopped turning, and I looked down to these verses in Exodus Chapter 33:

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name , and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways , so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you, and I know you by name.”

Then the wind started up again – just as strong as before. It was as if God was saying – Ok – you can go home now. 

Discussion/ Reflection Questions:

  1. Was there a time in your life you were not sure you were being effective for God?
  2. Have you ever experienced that “Direct Communication”?
  3. How hard is it to rely on God for validation instead of others?
Advent 2021

Witness: Saturday, January 1, 2022

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Witness: Jim Divine

Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:6–7

Weekly Theme:  Proclaim

In the fall of 1990, I was at a big life junction. I had been living in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, for a year and a half; we had a new nine-year-old, Maysson, and a newborn, Christina, who had both come into our home in the past six months. Also, I had recently begun teaching Computer Science at the American School while having a job waiting for me back in the United States with IBM. 

Despite all these significant life happenings, I struggled with my future. Over my year and a half in Honduras, I had begun to dive deep into living out the life of a disciple. I read my Bible daily, grew in my prayer life, met with a mentor to help me grow, and was active in our local church. The outcome of these discipleship actions was not more peace but a terrible nagging in my heart that I was being called into ministry. 

This was not the first time I had felt this call, but in the past, it had always been something that I could just push to the side, and this time it would not go away. One night as I was preparing to go to bed, I knelt at our living room couch to spend a few minutes in prayer. Suddenly, I felt like a voice was speaking into my mind that was clear and sharp, “Jim, when are you going to give me all of yourself?” The voice was so clear and strong in its tone that I raised from my prayer startled! I knelt to pray again, and I heard the voice again, “Jim, either you are going to surrender all of yourself to me, or you are going to walk away from me; what will it be?” Nothing in my thoughts was focused on ministry; I very simply realized that I had been holding out on surrendering my whole life over to Christ.

It only took a few seconds to realize that I needed to give everything to God––there was simply no question in my life that I wanted all of Christ. I knelt for the last time and prayed a simple prayer, “Lord, you have all of me, today, tomorrow, for the rest of my life I am yours. Amen.”

I got up and was surprised that nothing felt any different. A few minutes later, as I lay in bed, it seemed like a light came in through the ceiling enveloping me with a fullness of God. I laid in bed the entire night, worshiping and praising God, while Loida slept restfully a few inches away.

The next day, as I drove to school, I could not stop laughing as I realized that not only had I surrendered myself fully to Christ but that I no longer had any desire for any vocation other than ministry. Within a few weeks, I was enrolled at Wesley Biblical Seminary, and we were beginning the process of preparing to come back to the States. What an experience!

Daily Prayer:   Lord, help me always be open to your continued growth in my life and lead me on the path of holiness where I will praise you all of my days.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Paul called Timothy to fan into flame the spiritual gift given him; what spiritual gifts has God given you, and how are you growing in your gifts?
  2. How do you position yourself to hear from God?
  3. What are you doing with what you hear God sharing with you? 
Advent 2021

Witness: Friday, December 31, 2021

Friday, December 31, 2021

Witness: Shirley Cromwell

Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:8-9

Weekly Theme:  Proclaim

Our vision team to Kenya consisted of 10 Methodists from across North Carolina. We were accompanying a local pastor to his weekly Bible study on this day. We stood in a grassy field in the middle of Nakuru, Kenya, and watched the young street boys appear on the horizon. They gathered in a group and prayed a blessing over the loaves of bread. Then they began to devour the slices of white bread – stuffing it into their mouths till their cheeks were full. As I watched, one of the younger boys looked up to me, held out his bread, and offered me some of his precious meal. My eyes filled as I smiled and declined, he continued to hold the bread up to me, and our guide encouraged me to take some. 

Our group was so touched that we began emptying our backpacks of our daily snacks…granola bars, Hershey Kisses, M&M’s, even chewing gum! They ate it all with great abandon. We sat together in the grass and shared our meal, and heard a Bible story in Swahili. Then we had a prayer while holding hands in a circle. As we broke apart, we presented them with frisbees. Several of the more agile in our group showed them how to throw them, and soon they were all running around laughing and yelling. As we drove away, they waved fervently, and the team was strangely silent as we waved back…

As I reflected on this experience, I thought I would probably not have been so generous with my bread if I had been the starving one. I realized that this precious little moment in time was indeed life-changing. Sometimes God calls us in small but definite moments. On that day, I knew “He touched me, and now I am no longer the same.” 

Daily Prayer: Dear God, please heighten our awareness of the powerful little moments and gentle nudges that come from you that keep us on the right path. Amen

Discussion/Reflection Questions: 

  1. Reflect upon when you felt a powerful moment or gentle nudge that moved you to serve.  
  2. Have you ever reached out to help those living in extreme poverty?
  3. You may not be ALL you can be but are you on the way?
Advent 2021

Witness: Thursday, December 30, 2021

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Witness: Scott Curry 

Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:8-10

Weekly Theme:  Proclaim

I think I remember giving my life to Jesus during a Promise Keepers event when I was in my 30’s. I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior……He accepted me the day I       was born and never gave up on me.PTL.

After that, I felt as though I had prayed, was gifted, gave in service, was present, and had given testimony.  But I had not yet taken a Walk to Emmaus.  

The weekend of my Walk to Emmaus changed my life.  We studied, discussed, listened to pastors and laity ontopics centered around Jesus’s walk to Emmaus. All the while still not realizing the impact of “this walk.”

Well, “the walk” came finally came near the end of the weekend of the Walk to Emmaus, and I pictured myself walking with Jesus under a perfectly clear star-lit sky. 

I crossed the area that looked onto a pond with a lighted cross beaming across the water. I entered a darkbuilding…I had to squint to make out candles and people from all over the world showing up to pray andsupport a sinner like me. I found the pew and kneeler and knelt, recognizing many familiar faces from mychurch and neighborhood.

Letters from all over the world had come in all weekend with prayers and support.  The letters from localbrothers and sisters in Christ particularly moved me.

How powerful…I met GRACE head-on while kneeling, and my eyes flooded with tears of joy.  I felt I was worthyand felt God’s love in a way I’d never imagined.

The experience has enlightened, guided, and propelled me to this day.  I presently serve in men’s ministry,small groups, greet at service, play the piano once in a while, and clean up the grounds.  I also play the piano at the cancer hospital in the Villages, and grant wishes to Make-A-Wish kids throughout Central Florida.  I have been moved to work with House of Hope, Wildwood Food Pantry, and Bargains and Blessings.  I have also been blessed to finish my tenure at summer youth camps in Illinois.  I will continue to serve the Lord withall my heart, strength, and ability.  I have time to use my gifts and talents wisely as they are from God. I rejoice in paying it forward and giving back.  

God is Great…God is Love…His grace is all I need.  

Discussion/Reflection Questions: 

  1. What was your “Aha” moment in life? 
  2. Did you or do you feel the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life? 
  3. Did you or do you feel overpowering grace from God? 
Advent 2021

Witness: Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Witness: Susan Cosmai 

Scripture: Psalm 96

Weekly Theme:  Proclaim

Whenever I have a discussion with someone who doubts God’s existence or whether or not he hears or answers our prayers, I always feel compelled to share this story.

I grew up in the church and always attended Sunday school and sometimes Bible camp in the summer.  Having a relationship with Jesus was comforting to me growing up, and I turned to him daily.

I married in my early 20’s and blissfully thought it would last “until death do us part.” There were many struggles during this marriage, and I always turned to God in prayer to show me the way.  I didn’t believe that this was the plan God had for me in my heart.  With the courage I received from God, I moved out with my 18-month-old daughter and an old car and moved back in with my parents.  A month later, I received a call from a friend who moved to St. Louis and invited me to visit (God’s work was just beginning.)  Once I arrived, she convinced me that I needed to get a part-time job and attend secretarial school to improve my skills since I had not worked in four years. 

A two-week visit turned into six months, and then it was time to return home to N.Y.  While I was on the plane with a two-year-old sitting on my lap, I pleaded with God to help me. I was returning home, and I didn’t have a permanent place to stay, a job, or a car.  It was the lowest point in my life, but I truly believed that God would help me.  He wanted better for me. I never lost my faith.

I arrived home, and my mother let me know she had to sell my old car.  The next day she co-signed a loan to get a new car. Two days later, I went on a job interview in Manhattan and, through a fluke, ended up on a job interview with the President of Lincoln National Life Insurance Co. and was offered a high-paying job (thank you, God!) Two days later, I received a call from someone I worked with years before, and she was in a desperate search for a roommate because her current one unexpectedly moved out and left her with the expense of a two-bedroom rent! (Thank you, God!)

Within one week I had a new car, a job and a place to stay!  Miraculous! To this day, I still marvel at what God did for me.  I genuinely feel He rewarded me because I never lost faith in him.  Even in my darkest days, I trusted that He was listening to my prayers….and He was.  Two years later, I met and married Bob, and we have been happily married for 47 years! (Thank you, God!) 

Daily Prayer:  Dear Lord, please bless all those who have read my message and give them the courage to make bold decisions that will improve their life.  May they trust in your love and guidance and believe that if they ask, they will receive.  The answer may not always be in their time frame, but their prayers will be answered.  Amen

Discussion/Reflection Questions: 

  1. Do you remember a time in your life where your faith was challenged?  
  2. Do you find yourself blaming God when things don’t go right in your life?
Advent 2021

Witness: Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Witness: Don Schober

Scripture: Mathew 18:20

Weekly Theme:  Proclaim

Like many people, I traveled a great deal in my profession. I have also been blessed with the opportunity to travel with my wife Judy and occasionally with the family at large. 

Throughout the years, I have managed to spend time in all 50 states and visit or work in 33 countries. 

In many cases, I visited some of the most iconic cathedrals in Europe and the U.S. 

It seemed odd that in some of these churches, their primary existence appeared to be more as a museum than a functioning church where people worshiped, and the community flourished through God’s word. 

Then I went to China. Over time, I learned how fortunate we all are to be able to worship so freely and not be under the watchful eyes of a government that monitors Christian beliefs and how people worship. 

While Christian Churches can be found in many larger cities, less than 4.5% of the population identifies themselves as Christian. My friends and professional colleagues would tell me about small worship services they were hosting and that I was welcome to join with them. 

There was even a baptism that took place in someone’s home in the family bathtub. 

During that time, I decided my daily prayer would become one of gratitude. 

My Daily Prayer: Heavenly Father, I give you thanks for my salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I give thanks for my faith, the freedom to worship freely, and my family. I give thanks for the many blessings you have bestowed on us as a family, church, and country. Amen 

Wherever 2-3 are gathered in my name, I will be present with you”.

Mathew 18:20 

Discussion/Reflection Questions: 

  1. How does freedom of choice impact your ability to worship? 
  2. What risks would you be willing to take to share God’s word? 
  3. How do we ensure that all Christians maintain their ability to witness God’s grace in this changing world?