Friday, November 9, 2018

Devotional 11-9-18

Please read Zephaniah 3:14-20

I remember.  I remember in the months following the births of our sons, holding them, and marveling over them. They were tiny and new and miraculous.  I remember standing and rocking them, swaying on my feet, and singing to them, overwhelmed with the love I felt for each of them. 

If you’ve held a newborn, I imagine you can understand and relate to this.  When they are so small and so new, they are innocent and amazing. We hold them close and sing over them in joy.

The book of Zephaniah is set in the time of King Josiah of Judah.  Josiah was king of Judah just before the invasions by the Babylonians that ultimately caused the fall of Judah and the exile to Babylon.  The words of Zephaniah are prophecies meant to warn the people of Judah of coming judgment and consequences.  Zephaniah 1:17b says, “because they have sinned against the Lord, their blood shall be poured out like dust and their flesh like dung.”  Read the book, but be warned that it is not very pleasant.

It is a book of judgment against Judah, but at the very end, in the verses of our reading today, it is as if God says, “I remember.”

“[The Lord] will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud signing as on a day of festival.”  (Zephaniah 5:17b)

What is grace? I think this verse is an example of what grace is.  Even though God knows – and completely understands – the wickedness and disloyalty of his people, God remembers that they are his.  God remembers what it was like to create these children in his own image. God remembers how much God loves us – the people of Judah and us.  That memory of love is so much stronger than anything else. 

As you move through Advent, remember:

The Lord rejoices over you with gladness. 
The Lord renews you with his love.
The Lord exults over you with loud singing
As if it were the day of your birth.

And when you are angry or upset or disappointed with someone else, remember these words.  The Lord rejoices over ALL of us with singing – yes, even that person.

Remember that, as God remembers us.

Prayer: Creating, loving, sustaining God, remember your love of us. Recreate us daily in your own image so that we can see others as you see them, and remember the love you have for our neighbors and for us.  In your son’s name we prayer together, Amen.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Devotional 11-2-18

Is there a difference between God and Jesus?
 Have you ever thought of the differences between God and Jesus? We know that they are one and the same. In John 11: 33, John stresses that we have a God who cares, in contrast with the Greek concept of of God that was popular in that day—a God with no emotions and no messy involvement with humans.

In John 11: 33 we see many of Jesus emotions—compassion—indignation—sorrow—even frustration. He often expressed deep emotions and we must never be afraid to reveal our true feelings to him. He understands them because He experienced them. Be honest and don't try to hide anything from your Savior. He cares

When Jesus saw weeping and wailing, He too wept openly. Jesus showed that he cares enough for us to weep with us in sorrow.

God values honesty—Dishonest communication will hinder our relationship, with out honesty, a relationship with God is impossible. If we lie to others we begin to deceive ourself. God cannot hear or speak to us if we are building a wall of self deception.

In Isaiah 25: 6-9
Here is a marvelous prophecy of “all people”. It shows that God intended his saving message to go out into the whole world, not just to the Jews. When God speaks He does what he says. It is comforting to know that God’s plans and activities are closely—tied to his word.

When we pray according to God’s will and claim his promises he hears us and answers our requests.

All three members of the Trinity are involved in our lives. God the Father loves us and sought a way for us to come back into a relationship with Him. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, provided the way back to God by offering Himself as a sacrifice in our place. Now that we believe, The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, fellowships with us as we journey through life, guiding and comforting us every step of the way.

As we go through our daily lives we must remember that God wants a relationship with you, and He will be there for you. God wants us to honestly communicate with Him. Jesus it there for you and wants to show His love for you and all you have to do is ask Him to come into your heart. He will always be there for us and will be our connection to God!

Please Pray,
Dear God, thank you for always being there calling us to you and letting us know that you love us unconditionally.  Sometimes we fail to be honest with you. You never give up on us and will be there to show your love for all of us.
We praise you name, and remember to communicate with you honestly to receive a relationship with you. We must “Let Go and Let God” lead us on our journey through our lives.
In Jesus Name,

Melanie Herr

Friday, October 26, 2018

Devotional 10-26-18

John 11: 32-44     Raising of Lazarus

32  When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34  “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see they replied. 35  Jesus wept.  36  Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”  38 Jesus ,once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.  39 “Take away the stone,” he said.  “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”  40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”  41 So they took away the stone, Then Jesus looked up and said “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called out in a loud voice,”Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

The story of Lazarus is a well know scripture for most Christians. It serves as a reminder that true faith can sustain and heal us no matter the situation.  I like this scripture for several reasons. First- it is an example of genuine faith on Mary’s part!  There was no doubt in her mind that had Jesus been with Lazarus he could make him well.  Another reason I like this passage is because it tells us that Jesus wept!  What could this be?..... the son of God has feelings?  Being fully human entails enjoying all the good that can exist in our lives. Likewise, there will be days where we will experience pain, suffering, loss and regrets.  Lazarus demise can represent our own spiritual death for a short time. It could come with the ending of a relationship, the sudden, unexpected  loss of a loved one or a change in a medical diagnosis.  Each event in and of itself leaves emotional scars.  But todays’ reading reminds each of us that Jesus is with us.  He too sheds tears when we cry out asking “WHY did this happen?”  The good news is that Jesus will call out to each of us to “Come out” from our self-imposed spiritual cave and remove that which burdens us as we await that house not made with hands but eternal to the Heavens. May it always be so!

Prayer: Father- help us as we struggle with pain and loss. Give us strength to carry on and be bold in our spiritual walk with you. Forgive us when we get angry or withdrawn and forget that you are with us always. Turn our tears of sorrow into tears of joy for all you have given. In Jesus name we pray-Amen

Marv Jones

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Devotional 10-20-18

Not Just Lip Service

Mark 10:35-37, 41-45 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him (Jesus) and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Dear Becky,
Thank you for participating in the Laity Day Service. I really appreciate how you said “yes” immediately and didn’t make me beg. It is good to have someone I know I can always count on.
Love, Anita

I received this sweet note in the mail yesterday. Keep in mind that all I did in the service was read two scriptures. I’m sharing this not because I’m special but because I think Anita and so many others in my life are.

Why are they special? Because they do so much for so many for no other reason than it’s what Jesus taught us to do. They are leaders in the church and the community, not because they demand it, but because they serve those in the church and community.

How do they serve? They work to provide scholarships, organize the backpack ministry, work at food and clothing pantries, prepare dinners and serve them to those in need, and tutor children at area schools. They preach, teach Sunday School classes, write devotionals, sing and play bells in the choirs, and provide the church and other community groups with financial and spiritual guidance and support.

As Christians, we know that we will gain the Kingdom of Heaven not through good works but through Grace. But we also know that if we truly love one another, we must do good works to show that love. I am so glad that I have role models who encourage me to serve others. They make it very hard to say “no” on Laity Sunday or any other day of the year.

Dear Anita,
I am the one who should be thanking you. I loved being part of the Laity Service. But more than that, I love that you depend on me. You and the other leaders/servants in our church and community make me a better Christian.
Love, Becky

Let this hymn be your prayer:
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.

Becky Warren

Friday, October 12, 2018

Devotional 10-12-18

God Brings Me Peace!
Job 38: 1-7, 34-41

1And now , finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent storm.  2He said: "Why do you talk without  knowing what you're talking about?  3 Pull yourself together, Job!  … 4 Where were you when I laid earth's foundation?
34Can you get the attention of the clouds and commission a shower of rain ?  35 Can you take charge of the lightning bolts and have them report to you for orders?"

Job had been questioning God, but God did not think Job's questions were of the issue. So God threw out questions to Job, more of the moral order.

In today's world of news reporting, I question much. I listen, think, feel, believe, and assume, what is true or not. Right now we are  bombarded with political ads, many attacking the opposition. How do I determine what is best for my home, city, state, country, and world?  Do I truly know?   NO!  But God knows! This is why I pray for wisdom, trust, belief, to know the truth, to know what to do, how to vote. I get so sick of what is going on in my/our world today, that most of the time I am physically and emotionally sick.  No standard is higher than God himself to judge.  My only option is to submit to God, to rest in his care, and wisdom in order to give my opinion, vote, and gain peace.

God, I pray for your  guidance and direction for us all and blessings and peace for our earth.  Amen

Kay Lewis

Friday, October 5, 2018

Devotional 10-5-18

Prayers for a Friend

Lectionary Readings:  Job 23: 1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22: 1-15; Hebrews 4: 12-16; Mark 10: 17-31.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Matthew 7: 6-8

I’m not very proficient in memorizing Bible verses. However, the above passage is one of the exceptions.  I remember memorizing Ask/Seek/Knock in elementary school.  It was like the opening of a door and revealed the power of the Almighty to me. Little, insignificant me could go to God with a request and He would hear me.  For an Omnipotent Power to be responsive to a speck (me) in the sea of humans was a clue to the individual relationship that would develop. This passage has continued to point me to the importance of prayer for myself and for others. As we pray for ourselves and for others, we grow a little closer to God.

Life is not easy, fair or carefree.  We all have struggles, trials, challenges and heartaches.  Prayer is a primary key to dealing with all of the ups and downs of the journey.  Corrie Ten Boom asks “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?”  Do we pray first or as an after-thought?  The example Jesus set in his ministry was definitely to pray first.  He spent 40 days before beginning his ministry in prayer and fasting.  He prayed before calling the disciples, before healing, before sharing a meal, before offering his life as a sacrifice for us.

Perhaps the most satisfying part of my conversations with God is the chance to offer prayers for others who are in need.  I certainly have been the recipient of the uplifting and support of other’s prayers for me and my family.  This sharing of prayers for each other, our neighbors, friends, city, country and world help us to shoulder the burdens and challenges of life.  The JM choir will offer an anthem on this very topic soon.  The words of Mr. Choplin are very meaningful and the melody is beautiful, as well.   It reminded me of what a privilege it is to prayer for each other, to connect to God without worrying about personal gain or request. To pray for the welfare, comfort, sustenance or healing of another is probably the most unselfish we can be.  Here are some of the words of the anthem:

Sweet are the Prayers of a Friend by Pepper Choplin
Friends pray for healing, they pray revealing-- the heavy burdens of our souls.
They pray for courage, unfailing courage--asking God to make us whole.
Friends pray through troubles, pray through struggles-- when life seems to fall apart.
They pray us through grieving, always believing, God can heal the broken,
God can heal the broken heart-- God can heal.
O how sweet are the prayers, are the prayers that are offered up by a friend,
by a friend who calls, calling up to heaven-- calling, “Lord come down, come down and bless again.” Sweet are the prayers of a friend—for a friend.

Dear Father and Mother of us All:  We call on you to come to us again.  We ask that you make your presence know to all that need you.  Heal them of their hurts and pain and grief.  Allow us to be supportive and demonstrate Your care for them.  We seek your blessing to continue to serve one another by using our time, our resources and our gifts.  We seek a greater understanding of your Word and the purpose you have for our lives.  We knock on your heart, knowing that you have already answered our pleas to open the door, to help us understand and become your obedient child.  Guide us as we continue to learn to more faithfully serve you in our neighborhood and world.  Thank you, O merciful One, for hearing and answering our prayers.  AMEN.

Chyrl Budd

Friday, September 28, 2018

Devotional 9-28-18

Please read Psalm 26

In preparation for this devotion, I found several listed scriptures for this Sunday’s liturgy, and randomly selected the above. Silly me! As I’ve gotten into it, I find I’ve picked a somewhat difficult scripture. Let me explain.

At first read, the speaker is bragging about how good he is. In fact, he sounds like he’s perfect: “…I have led a blameless life….” “…I walk continually in your truth….”; “I wash my hands in innocence….”; “…I love the house where you live….”

And he gives assurances to God: “I do not sit with deceitful men, nor do I consort with hypocrites; I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.” What’s this? I learned we should be humbled in the presence of the Lord.

I read on only to discover that the psalmist says it again! “…I lead a blameless life!” Then he’s defending himself, not knowing where he stands when it comes to eternal life.  His declaration moves full circle from an attitude of certainty to one of uncertainty! So what’s the explanation here?

Well —something I have learned about Bible Study over the past few years is something that, in a rush for time, I forget. And it’s this: If your Bible has a study guide or editors’ notes, read them—preferably first! I did not read the notes for this scripture. But here they are for you:

“This claim to be blameless or righteous…should not be stretched too far. Whenever the psalmists examined themselves before God, they acknowledged their deep need for forgiveness. Here though the issue is God’s fairness. Knowing little about life after death, the psalmists expected that good people would do better in this life than bad people…. In calling for justice, they emphasized that they had been more faithful to God than their enemies. Compared to the people plotting murder and betrayal against him, the psalmist was blameless. In a wholehearted, sincere way he had followed God. He doesn’t mean he never makes a mistake. He means only that he doesn’t deserve punishment.” (The Student Bible, New International Version, Psalm 26:11, page 506)

And now, we understand.
Heavenly Father, when we are challenged by something—be it great or small, let us not dismiss it in frustration. Rather, help us to be patient, to find help, and to never give up until that challenge is resolved. Amen

Diane Feaganes