Good Options for Paperless Advent Devotionals

Appropriating time for devotional reading, contemplation, and prayer is a discipline crucial to faith development in all seasons. Advent, however, is a prime season for deepening or re-igniting one’s devotional life. And if you opt to go “paperless,” there are many excellent Advent devotional resources available online.

During my high school years, the student ministry at my home church challenged us to begin the practice of a daily “quiet time.” Since that time, my personal devotional time has been a primary catalyst for spiritual growth and direction.

Across the years, however, that seedling notion of a “quiet time” has emerged into an early morning ritual which centers on inspirational reading, prayer, and reflection. And the resources I utilize are highly diverse, ranging from testimonial to liturgical.

Three years ago I decided to go “paperless” in my devotional time choosing to utilize online Bible apps and a variety of e-resources for my devotional time. Online resources are especially helpful during holiday travels because the resources can be accessed on any internet computer or smart device including laptops, tablets, and smartphones.   Going paperless also keeps my desktop a lot less cluttered whether I am at home or in my office.

Most online devotional sites provide complimentary access, and the costs are covered through donations or advertising revenue. And perhaps most importantly, like any electronic communication, e-devotionals save paper and are friendly to the environment.

As I began preparing for Advent this year, I previewed a few good resources to share with my congregation and to use in my own personal devotional time. I wanted to find resources that are easily accessible, theologically sound, and culturally relevant.

Like other online devotional resources, Advent E-Devotions may be posted by churches, missional organizations, or individuals. A few of the devotional sites invite you to register your email address and they will send a daily devotional directly to your inbox. Other sites have corresponding “apps” that you can download making access easier on your mobile devices. And all online sites can be bookmarked or added to your favorites list for ease of access.

Here are a few examples of online Advent devotional options that you might find helpful:

Local churches often provide links to their Advent Devotional Booklets. For example, the Advent Guide at my church is compiled by our Children’s Ministry and is posted at http://www.fbcp.org/Uploaded/15-Advent-Book.pdf. These booklets can usually be accessed as a PDF file, or downloaded to a tablet, Kindle, or E-reader.

D365.org is sponsored by Passport Camps and provides a daily Advent devotional that is appropriate for students or adults.

Buckner International is a faith-based social service organization based in Dallas that serves hundreds of thousands of people each year across the United States and around the globe. Their Advent guide, written by assorted authors, can be downloaded at http://www.buckner.org/adventguide/.

The Denison Forum on Truth and Culture provides multiple resources to equip people to “change the culture for the kingdom.” The DFTC web site offers inspirational Advent devotions that are written by Janet Denison at http://www.denisonforum.org/store/download/0-/17-advent-devotional.

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary provides an Advent Devotional W-Book written by members of the seminary community. This e-book follows Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary and can be downloaded at http://www.pts.edu/devotional_1.

Sacred Space is an online prayer site provided by the Irish Jesuits. They provide a guided Advent devotional series and an Advent Retreat option at www.sacredspace.ie.

Whether you are new to the practice of a daily devotional experience or a long time practitioner, you may discover that a good Advent E-Devotion will enrich your spiritual preparation for Christmas, and ultimately deepen your celebration of the birth of the Christ.

(Barry Howard serves as the Senior Minister at the First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida)

Ten Blessings Counted That I Never Want to Take for Granted

On this day designated for us to count our blessings, after giving thanks for faith, family, friends, and freedom, a few things popped up in my gratitude inventory that some folks might label as minor blessings. But for me, they are a big deal. Some are simple pleasures, others are personal preferences, and a few are stress relievers. For me, however, all ten are blessings that add richness and meaning to life, gifts that I never want to take for granted:

  1. Oatmeal laced with honey on a cool morning.
  2. Hot coffee any day of the year.
  3. Handwritten notes of encouragement found on my desk or received in the mail.
  4. A novel that engages my heart and the mind, providing for me a temporary diversion from work.
  5. Informative and spirational books, such as Lee Strobel’s A Case for Grace which I am currently reading.
  6. Hugs from nieces and nephews.
  7. A sunrise over the bay or sunset over the Gulf.
  8. A refreshing nap.
  9. An occasional walk for about 18 holes.
  10. The privilege of dedicating, baptizing, marrying, encouraging, and even eulogizing others…walking alongside them through all of the seasons of life.

Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace…. Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.  -Robert Robinson

(Barry Howard serves as the Senior Minister at the First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida.)

 

A Prayer for Veteran’s Day 2015

by Barry Howard

God of faith and freedom, on this Veteran’s Day we are thankful for all of the men and women, past and present, who have served or are currently serving in the various branches of our nation’s military services.

We are especially grateful for the privilege of living in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”  And we are thankful for each and every veteran who has paved the way for the unrivaled liberties that allow us to freely make choices about our work, our worship, our political convictions, and our lifestyle.  We are forever indebted to these past and present veterans who risked life and limb in the pursuit and protection of these freedoms.

As we observe this Veteran’s Day with memory and story, we also ask you to forgive our sin and to heal our land. You tell us in an ancient but relevant scripture that, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)

On this day, we pray for the leaders of our nation, our state, and our community that they will lead with wisdom, courage, and integrity. And we pray for the men and women who currently serve in our military forces that they will fulfill their mission effectively and return home safely and soon.

Just as we have come to know you, O Lord, as a freedom-loving God, send us into the world to be your freedom-loving people.  And may every story and every memory inspire us to live responsibly, serve generously, and sacrifice selflessly, as we treasure and pursue liberty and justice for all of your children.  We pray in the name of one who gives ultimate freedom and unmerited grace.  Amen.