Friday, October 25, 2019

Devotional 10-25-19

When we mismanage powerful emotions and fail to completel embrace the pain or release control, the emotions can bury themselves  like the root of a noxious week that sprouts again when most unexpected to spoil the landscape of our lives.  -- Elizabeth Barker

Resentments can destroy your life the same as weeds in a garden and when we think we are just setting things right by letting others know how a person hurt us we are really hurting more than them. We hurt ourselves, we hurt that person’s reputation and we can hurt other’s opinion of them. If we can’t give a person grace, then just shut up and take it to God. He is the only one who can bring peace to any situation or circumstance or heart.

I failed in this regard. Learn to pause. Learn to reign in those powerful emotions that can destroy us. That is when we are our most vulnerable. That is when we will make mistakes. That is when we will fail if we are going to fail. It can sneak up on you. Sometimes it takes a long time to fall. By the time you land face down with dirt packed in your throat, it’s too late for wishing you had controlled your emotions. It’s been years but I still taste the dirt in my mouth from bitterness. Not the bitterness of what that person did but the bitterness of my own hard heart. Take it to God. Never run from God. He is grace. He is never the cause of your pain. He is the rain of love that surrounds and enables us to get through any circumstance or emotion. Pause and Pray. Pause and Pray. Pause and Pray. Don’t run. Stay close to God.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that "no root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:15

Barbara Smith Lavalley

Friday, October 18, 2019

Devotional 10-18-19

Inspired by Psalm 145

I speak for the moment.
I speak in the time I have available to me.
I pray that my words of praise to God
would last forever.

My gratitude stretches across time,
into eternity,
My thankfulness is for today,
for it is all I have,
but I offer it to you, and
and I praise your name forever.

Great are you,
my God and King.
My creator,
for without you I would not live today.
My redeemer,
for without you I would not live tomorrow.
My sustainer,
for without you, I would not live at all.
Great are you,
and worthy to be praised.

You are unknowable,
and yet you hold my heart
in your hand.

I pray my generation,
my children's generation,
and those who come after me
who I cannot even imagine,
know you,
and declare your work
in their lives.

My mind,
my heart,
my breath
are full of your grace and mercy
and I pray I will never forget.
I pray that my words of praise
would last forever.

Kim Matthews

Friday, October 4, 2019

Devotional 10-4-19

"Because of the Lords great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."
Lamentations 3: 22-24 NIV

 In Lamentations 1: 1-6 Jerusalem is in mourning. Psalm 137 is about suffering in captivity. I have never experienced physical captivity, but I am all too familiar with mourning and the captivity of grief. In January, as most of you know I lost my 26 year old grandson. In April, I lost one of my best friends since 7th grade to brain cancer. During that time I also lost three old friends that although they were no longer a part of my life, were still friends who will always have a special place in my memories and in my heart.

Our church has also had more than its share of mourning and grief in the past 12 months. We have lost people who we felt were irreplaceable to us personally and to our church. We have experienced the ups and downs of joy and fear as three of our grandchildren were born with health problems. We have celebrated, cried, prayed, and loved each other through all of this and so much more.

How do we as Christians deal with living in a world that will never be quite the same without our loved ones in it? In Philippians 4: 4-7 NIV Paul tells us: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." How do you "Rejoice!" when you heart is breaking? When I am feeling sad, it helps me to remember the good times and to thank God for that person, the relationship, the love, and all the joy that they brought into my life and the lives of many others. Could this be a way rejoicing?

Because of the Lords great love, we are not consumed by our grief, for his compassion never fails. I will wait for him--for his healing love.

Margaret Williams

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Devotional 9-28-19

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”   Romans12:12
"Continue earnestly in prayer. Being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.”  Colossians 4:2

Recently, I was reading The Secret of the Abiding Presence by Andrew Murray.  He has a chapter,  “The Power of Intercession” in which he writes about the value of united intercessory prayer. Never had I thought of prayer in quite that way.  One prayer adds to another and the effects are great.  Murray writes about the “superhuman energy” of such prayer.

Today I am thinking about our beloved country with its deep divisions, a country that needs badly united intercessory prayer. Our prayers might include ones for the healing of our nation, for those suffering at our border looking for asylum, Puerto Ricans seeking better government, members and friends in our church who grieve over the death of a loved one, those who are ill, jobless, and missionaries abroad and at home.

I believe that I am part of a congregation that prays, and I am thankful.  May we always “be one in the spirit” and, although we go different ways, let us pray united in the spirit, abounding in love.  Jesus has promised, “Surely I will be with you always.”
"Bless be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love
The fellowship of kindred minds.
Is like to that above.” 

Martha Casey

Friday, September 20, 2019

Devotional 9-20-19

Prayers for Rulers
 Lectionary Readings:  Jeremiah 8: 18- 9: 1; Psalm 79; 1 Timothy 2: 1-7; Luke 16: 1-13.
“The first thing I want you to do is pray.  Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.  Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply in humble contemplation.  This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.  He wants not only us but EVERYONE saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned:  that there is one God, and one Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free.” 1 Timothy 2: 1-5. (The Message)

Throughout the years, many authors have provided instruction and guidance on the methods and mechanics of prayer.  Still others have given witness to the saving and sustaining power of prayer. The gospels record Jesus’ instructions on prayer for his disciples and Paul provides instruction in many passages of his letters.  In this letter to the disciple Timothy, Paul urges Timothy to make prayer a priority and to include everyone including rulers in his prayers.  What??? I don’t know about you, but even though I know that praying for our governmental leaders is a good thing, I have a hard time putting them on my priority list.

However, in spite of rampant persecution and abuse of power and authority such as Paul was dealing with in the first century, he commanded Timothy to pray for governmental leaders.  In fact, throughout all the accounts of strife and warfare between countries, the church is always encouraged to pray for those who rule. No stipulations such as “only pray for the good leaders” were tacked on to the command.  Jesus said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44). Also, Peter said, “Fear God.  Honor the King/Emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).

How can we ignore the commands of Jesus, Peter and Paul???
Will you join me in making it a priority to pray for all rulers and leaders of governments? We may not know specifically what to pray for, but we can pray that God will guide decisions; that God will give directions to all who request it; that God will give each ruler insight, compassion, strength and love in all their dealings.

This passage in 1 Timothy repeats the foundation of Christ’s message:  that God’s grace and mercy are for everyone.  All are to be welcomed at the table and are to be included in the fellowship of believers.  Jesus’ sacrifice was for every person.  All are capable of receiving God in a personal relationship.  As believers, it is our responsibility to pray just as Paul describes “in every way we know and for everyone we know”.  We are not required to be or act perfectly-- we are only commanded to follow as best we can; to live as closely to God as possible; to share the love of Christ with all we meet.

Dear God, we come to you today asking for forgiveness.  We have not always followed your commandments.  In fact, we have been quite derelict at times.  Please help us to follow your teachings more completely and faithfully.  We ask that you be with our rulers and leaders today and every day.  Give them skill and compassion in dealing with their responsibilities and in making decisions.  Give them insight into the lives of those they are governing so that the best solutions and plans can be implemented.   Grant us all peace and the mercy of your love.  AMEN.

Chyrl Budd

Friday, September 13, 2019

Devotional 9-13-19

The Negative Superlative

1 Timothy 1:12-17 Common English Bible (CEB)

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength because he considered me faithful. So he appointed me to ministry 13 even though I used to speak against him, attack his people, and I was proud. But I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and without faith. 14 Our Lord’s favor poured all over me along with the faithfulness and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 This saying is reliable and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I’m the biggest sinner of all. 16 But this is why I was shown mercy, so that Christ Jesus could show his endless patience to me first of all. So I’m an example for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life. 17 Now to the king of the ages, to the immortal, invisible, and only God, may honor and glory be given to him forever and always! Amen.
Common English Bible (CEB)
Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

When I read today’s scripture reading, I was reminded of Sunday school lessons that I heard when I was a child. Stories about Saul’s conversion and Moses leading his people out of Egypt played in my mind. When I heard the stories, I was impressed but thought they really didn’t have much to do with me. I would never do anything important.

Now that I’m much older and have twenty-twenty hindsight, I see that Jesus Christ used me in much the same way as He used Paul and Moses – of course on a lesser scale!

Do you remember taking timed tests in elementary school?  They were the bane of my existence! We took timed tests on multiplication tables and the timed CTBS (Achievement) Test. But the one that seems to have affected me the most was the timed reading test that came with the SRA Reading Lab. You see, I could read fast. Or I could read for content. I just couldn’t do both at the same time.

The lab was simply a box containing color-coded cards. Each color corresponded to a reading level. The idea was to read the article and answer the questions at the end correctly. Of course, before we could begin, we had to know what our reading levels were. How would we know? You guessed it! We took a timed test!

I won’t keep you in suspense. I was one of the last ones to finish the questions. When I got my assessment, I was in the lowest level, green. As the months passed, I did work my way up the color scale, but I never quite got over the embarrassment of being the slowest reader – which meant to me that I was the dumbest student.

I made my way through junior high and high school with good grades, but I always felt insecure about my intelligence. In order to remember information, I would read orally to myself, make up acronyms and draw pictures and charts to remind me of facts. It would be later, in the college of education, that I would learn that the more senses I could use to learn something, the more likely I was to keep it in long term storage. I realized that I wasn’t stupid after all, and later I was able to teach those strategies to other “slow” students in my classroom. I would tell them, “I was the slowest reader in my class. If these strategies can change my life, they can certainly change yours!”

I think that is what Paul is saying in his letter at the top of the page. As Saul, he had hunted, persecuted, and killed Christians. He was filled with hate. That was just the sort of person Jesus needed to spread the word of His grace and love. After his conversion, Paul would tell anyone who would listen,” I was the worst sinner ever. If Jesus’ love and grace can change my life, they can certainly change yours!” He meant it then. It’s still true today.

Prayer: Immortal, invisible God, many times I act in ignorance and without faith, but You always take me back. Thank You for guiding my life. Like a good parent, You don’t always give me what I want, but You have always given me what I need. Let me remember that even when I’m the worst, You love me best, not because I’m worthy but because I’m Yours. In Your name I pray.

Becky Warren

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Devotional 9-7-19

Philippians 4: 8-9

This week has been terribly sad week for Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church,

We have lost a great leader and friend in Mr. Frank Hanshaw to a terrible accident outside the family business.

Mr. Hanshaw has been part of my memories at JMUMC for as long as I can recall.  His presence and leadership have always been dedicated to doing what was right in all phases of his life but especially here at our church.  His example has been a guidepost for a lot of lives.  His impact will be present for a long time.

The scripture in Philippians offers a blueprint that I think Mr. Hanshaw would wholeheartedly endorse and offer a direction for us all to emulate.

May God comfort his family in this tragic circumstance and assist us all to remember his example.

Mike Bowen