Our congregation, pastors, and staff write devotionals to help us experience the seasons of Lent (before Easter) and Advent (before Christmas) more fully. They are posted below with the most recent on top and do not post until the season begins.

Friday, February 23

Isaiah 60:1
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. “

DEVOTION BY Shanon Hartford
“Riiiiiiise aaannnnnnd shiiiii-iiiine!” Mom seemed to relish the opportunity to irritate me, her teenaged daughter, her only child, even as I struggled to sleep, pillow over my head, resentful at the faux-friendly wake-up song. I believed that her intention was to irritate. To provoke me. To prod me into action. I was annoyed: mission accomplished, Mom.

Contrast this with: My bedroom, seven years earlier, cloaked in darkness. Outside, morning sunlight just beginning to glow. Shuffle, creak. Grown-up bare feet pad softly across the hardwood floor of my room. A silhouette leans down. Soothing words, quiet murmurings. My strong father scooping blankets and his sleeping girl up into his arms. A feeling of butterflies and then weightlessness. His kind face, dimly lit, awash in cool gray light as he carries me down the hallway and into the kitchen for our standing date: breakfast.

He would set me on a stool at the counter, my blankets wrapped around me. He cooked from the other side of the counter, and we sat face to face to share a simple meal; oatmeal, eggs, maybe french toast to be fancy. Just the two of us.

Isaiah’s message is one of joy and anticipation; it’s a turning-point for all who hear and respond with obedience.

It’s through prayerful meditation that I often recognize the memories and experiences that will anchor Scripture to my heart. What am I getting right? Where am I lacking clarity? What is God saying to me in this verse today?

When I first started writing this, the memory of breakfasts with my dad was a buried treasure. Reading Isaiah 60, I could only hear the sound of frustration in my mother’s voice and it troubled me. I was adrift as a teenager, and my mother’s best (back then) was to rattle and cajole. I have sympathy for her, especially now that I am a parent. And, amidst the laughter and love, my dad and I would go through our fair share of pain and disappointment. The good and the bad would all follow me into adulthood and help make me who I am.

How do you hear Isaiah’s call to rise and shine?

What does your response look like?

When we are groping around in the dark, or asleep at the wheel, God may give us a much needed poke. He wants to be light for our path. Sometimes it takes pain, the great wake-up call, to see just how in need of His light we are. It’s got to be this way. After all, it is God who created our innate and good sense to run towards the light and flee from the shadows.

I’ve been a member of Bel Air Church for nearly ten years, involved in a number of life groups, and recently became a Deacon.

We began attending Family Camp five years ago. If you’ve been, you probably already know how Mission Springs is one of those places where God’s light shines in abundance. But there is probably no underestimating the impact of a week’s worth of catered meals. Every meal, in advance is planned, shopped for, cooked and then cleaned-up afterwards for you and your family. It is literally all included and provided. Plus dessert is already on the table when you sit down! And the best part? Getting beyond the casual “hi - bye” on the church patio, and making genuine connections. This is a table made for sharing stories, pie, and laughter. It’s a table of invitation, to make your circle a little bigger. It’s a community at its best when gathered at God’s table.

When I come to the table with an obedient heart, extraordinary things happen.

Thursday, February 22

Proverbs 14:12
“There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.”

DEVOTION BY Richard Turner
When we look at the cross and imagine the horrors of the crucifixion, it’s easy to think: “That’s not right.” This Lenten season, we may ask: Is God really that holy? Is a Savior absolutely necessary? Isn’t there any other way to forgiveness and being right with God?

Our quote from Proverbs reminds us that what seems right to a person is the way to death. Conversely, the way to life – not just eternal life – but a fulfilling life in Christ every day, is God’s way. It’s challenging to think of Jesus being crucified as an act of God’s love for us – but it is. It’s that act of sacrificial love that allows us to draw near to Jesus. So, let’s draw near through God’s Word, let’s draw near to Jesus through loving fellowship with one another, let’s draw near to Him in worship, song and prayer, and let’s draw near to Jesus through the willingness of our hearts – for this is God’s way, and it leads to a rich and fulfilling life, full of joy, peace and thanksgiving.

I’ve worshipped at Bel Air for five awesome years; I’m on the hospitality team, I’m a deacon, I serve with the Men’s Ministry and I love going to Family Camp. My name is Richard Turner and I’m a MEMBER of Bel Air Church. I don’t just worship here – I belong here.

Over the course of three years I was part of a mission team serving in Colombia, and each year we participated in worship at a rural church in the mountains. After service the first year, we had the Colombian equivalent of punch and cookies with the congregation. It was pleasant and friendly. The second year we were invited to lunch with the pastor and elders; we talked and shared music and food. The third year we had a full meal with the whole church! Everyone brought food, there was tons of laughter, and even though their English was bad, and our Spanish was worse, we talked for hours. I remember a moment where I just stopped and looked around the tiny church; kids were on our laps, we were talking to the elderly, we were serving them as they served us, and there was just…profound joy. Maybe that’s what Heaven will be like, I don’t know; but I do know that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we were truly experiencing the presence of Jesus.

May I offer a Lent challenge? Look around our church THIS Sunday and pick out someone you’ve seen often and maybe even talked to on the patio, but don’t really know…and invite them to a meal. Doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be out at a restaurant or in your home. Breakfast, lunch, dinner – doesn’t matter. But invite them and invite Jesus to be present too. Then, just relax, eat, talk and experience the power and pleasure of table fellowship. I guarantee you this – Jesus will be there.




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