Friday, August 18, 2017

Devotional 8-18-17

Scripture text is Genesis 45: 1-15

This scripture tells about Joseph in Egypt after gaining great power and influence with Pharaoh. Famine had reigned in the region for two years. Joseph's brothers had been sent to Egypt by their father, Jacob, in order to try to purchase food for their family, since their region was suffering also. Before this time period, Joseph had forecast the great famine and had prepared the Egyptians . Thus they had great storerooms of food to outlast the drought.

As we can recall, Joseph had arrived in Egypt previously because his brothers were jealous of him and sold him into slavery. They were totally unaware of whom they would encounter.Had they  known, do you think they would have ventured near him in fear of retribution? Joseph held their lives in his hands, to punish as severely as he wished.Let's look at some of the verses and see how the situation was handled.

3.And he said, I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me here before you to preserve life.....
He then goes on to tell them that God sent him to Egypt to save Jacob's family.

My gosh, this was the ultimate example of forgiveness. If we had been treated as Joseph had, could we possibly rationalize forgiving these scoundrels? In my case probably not.

As we go about our every day life we encounter so many things which lead us to believe we deserve revenge for these slights.

We must keep in mind what Jesus commands us to do in the Lord's Prayer: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

If we are unable to forgive those who sin against us, we shouldn't be seeking forgiveness for our own misdeeds.

Heavenly Father, as we go through our daily lives, help us to remember and practice forgiveness as you have commanded.

Scott Ramsey

Friday, August 11, 2017

Devotional 8-11-17

Early in the morning, he (Jesus) came walking toward them (the disciples) on the sea. . . .   And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.”  Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus said, “Come.”  So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.  But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  (Matthew 14: 25-31)

How many times have YOU heard about something new or different to try, or you have thought of something new or different to do, and it sounds enticing, but then those doubts you have about yourself, come creeping in, and you say to yourself, “I can’t do that!  What if I fail?”  And so that is the end of THAT story.

But what if – what if – what if this new or different thing might encourage you in your relationship with God or bring someone else to better understand about God and God’s love for them?   Do you dare try it?  Do you remember this story of Jesus and Peter, and think about the possibility that Jesus is always there, reaching out his hand and loving you through every experience, whether you can do it or whether you fail?

I was reading a science lesson about the mother eagle and her baby eagle, with my grandson Sam, and all of these pieces of this story about Peter and Jesus fell into place for me.  You see, the mother eagle just seems to know when it is time for her baby to learn to fly. So she takes her baby out of the nest and flies as high as she can go, and then she drops that baby.  The baby falls fast, for the baby has never flown before.  But the mother eagle watches her baby, and at the very last minute, she swoops down and saves her baby.  The mother eagle then flies back up as far as she can, and drops her baby again. She keeps doing this, until her baby begins to fly.

The reality is that Jesus is always present in our life, through every experience, whether it is good or bad, a success or a failure. We just forget about his presence, until we think there is a real need and cry out, “Lord, save me” or sometimes we don’t even attempt something because of our fear of failing to begin with.  Jesus is always there.  When are we going to remember and trust that He is always there, reaching out for us and loving us no matter what?

Amen and Blessings,
Rev. Suzanne Ellis   

Friday, August 4, 2017

Devotional 8-4-17

The Feeding of the 5000

Matthew 14: 13-21   

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.  14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food."

16 Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."
17 "We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered.
18 "Bring them here to me," he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

In these scriptures, Jesus withdrew to a solitary place to mourn.  Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist, has just been beheaded by Herod.  Who among us does not want privacy and solitude when we lose a loved one? Yet- his desire for solitude was interrupted by the large crowd of people who wanted to see and hear him.  Even as Jesus was in spiritual pain at the loss of his cousin- he looked out at this mass of people and had compassion on them and immediately starting healing the sick!

As evening comes, the disciples urge Jesus to send the crowd away, but instead Jesus commands the disciples to give them something to eat.  The miracle of feeding the 5,000 ensues.

How about you and your spiritual journey?  Have you mourned the loss of a loved one?  Ever yearned for peace & quiet to heal your hurts? Regret words said or actions done?  In this account, I feel there are several miracles we can learn.  First- no matter the pain, no matter the suffering, no matter the sin.... Jesus is there with us.  He knows our inner struggles and can help shoulder the weight, because he has been there too!  Secondly- Jesus challenges us to stretch our faith beyond what we can imagine.  You see what is not possible with man is achievable through Jesus.  Jesus physically fed 5,000 but only after giving thanks.  Today in God's kingdom here on earth we can be fed the bread of life no matter how desperate our situation if we, like Jesus, give thanks!  May it always be so.

Prayer: Father thank you for helping each of us as we wrestle with the problems of life. Help us to remember that when we give thanks miracles happen! Amen

Marv Jones

Friday, July 21, 2017

Devotional 7-21-17

My All
When I taught middle school English and reading, I was adamant that my students learn Greek and Latin word roots to help them unlock word meanings. The prefix omni was especially important when we discussed an author’s point of view.

Omniscient third person point of view gives the narrator the ability to tell the story through the actions and thoughts of ALL characters, as if the narrator were God and could see and hear everything. It is preferred by many because it reveals the most information to the reader.

I can remember teaching the prefix omni to a group of eighth grade students at Vinson Middle School. As we discussed the words omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, I saw Jeremy’s eyes light up. He said his pastor had used those words in his sermons many times, but he hadn’t understood their meanings. Now he would be more successful in following the pastor’s line of thought.

Just as the light came on for Jeremy, it came on for David as he sang about his all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present God.
Psalm 139:1-12   The Message (MSG)
A David Psalm
 God, investigate my life;
    get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
    even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
    I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
    before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
    then up ahead and you’re there, too—
    your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
    I can’t take it all in!
Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit?
    to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
    If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
    to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
    you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
    At night, I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.
Investigate my life, O God,
   find out everything about me;
Cross -examine and test me;
   get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong,
   then guide me on the road to eternal life.

Isn’t this a beautiful description of what it means to be loved by God? Isn’t this how it feels to love the people in your life?   “You know everything about me, and you choose to stay.”

Take a minute and rejoice in the thought that you’re loved that much. Take another minute and rejoice in the realization that you have the capacity to love that much. Finally, bow your head and give thanks to your omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Father for the love in your life and the loves of your life.

Becky Warren

Friday, July 14, 2017

Devotional 7-14-17

How firm is your root?

Gospel Reading for this week; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 “Parable of the Sower”

This parable is the first of many that Jesus will be teaching the Disciples and the people concerning the Kingdom of Heaven.  Although the people he is speaking with at the time for the most part are rejecting him.  In the parable Jesus uses the actions of a person sowing seeds by broadcast seeding.  On a land that is rocky, dry and where other vegetation may also grow with the sown seeds, not all of the seeds will mature.  In the first illustration, the seeds land on hard ground and are soon eaten by the birds. In the second some of the seeds land in rocky areas with some soil but not enough to sustain growth.  The third example, the seeds fall on soil but the seeds from weeds grow at a faster pace and choke out the farmers seeds.  The seeds that are sown on fertile land will grow and produce good crops some of which will produce great yields.

So how does this parable speak to us today?  First, There are those that hear the spoken Word but may reject it or let the evil one distract them from understanding the Word.  Second, The Word is heard and understood, even rejoiced, but when turmoil enters their life and their roots in faith and understanding the Word are weak they fall away.  Third, The worries of life and distractions of fame, money and things, choke out understanding the Word and the call to be Disciples for Christ.  Fourth, The Word is heard and understood with fruitful results of bringing others to Christ, “thirty, sixty and even one-hundred-fold, thus leading others to Salvation.  It also means working for Christ by using the fruits of the Spirit that we are all given.

A friend of mine recently told me his story after he accepted Christ.  He was so excited about what he had experienced he wanted to share it with others, to bring them to Christ.  So he talked with all of his friends and thought that they would attend his church one Sunday.  But when Sunday came not many attended.  He began to doubt himself.  (The Evil one speaking to him).  He prayed and tried again.  But he let Christ enter the hearts of those he nurtured and before he knew it some, then more and soon others started their journey with Christ.  So he was sowing the seeds where there was good nurtured soil.  There was one thing he didn't think about but how those he brought to Christ would themselves bring others over and over again.   All of this is preparing us, the Saved the well rooted, for the Kingdom of Heaven and we to should be increasing the yield for God !!

Blessings to all,
Fred Herr
Ref. A Christian Apologetics Blog posting by Bill Pratt

Friday, July 7, 2017

Devotional 7-7-17

Lectionary Readings:  Genesis 24: 34-67; Psalm 45: 10-17; Psalm 72; Romans 7: 15-25; Matthew 11: 16-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11: 25-30

Life is like a roller coaster – multiple ups and downs, twists and turns.  Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any resting place or even a slower pace.  I knew life was going by quickly, but the world seems to be speeding out of control these days.  I make matters worse by trying to change each situation myself.  I try to push and pull through until I am hopelessly tangled in the mess:  Saying the wrong things;  Interfering when I should stand back;  Spreading my opinions and agenda, not the love of God.

God keeps reminding me, though, (Sometimes gently and sometimes very loudly--but always persistently) that all I need to do is join with him and let Him take the lead.  When a lone ox is harnessed into the yoke, the ox just goes around in circles, because the yoke is so heavy.  The ox cannot get a bearing on balancing the load and moving forward.  Only when the oxen are attached to the yoke as a twosome, is the weight of the yoke and the load balanced so they can move forward with their task.  It’s a picture that makes so much sense, but in practice is so difficult to follow.  I can’t seem to relinquish my illusion of control for the assistance of the Master.

Jesus tried all through the Gospels to teach us about the power of God and to learn to trust Him in our daily walk.  The parables and the examples such as this one help to make things clearer.  God also sends messengers through the ages who preach and teach and share their thoughts through their writings.  God most especially uses music to help us learn more about our relationship with God.  George F. Handel used this passage from Matthew in his famous oratorio, The Messiah.  The words are first sung in a solo which is followed by a chorus singing “His yoke is easy and His burden is light.”  When the words and music are wafting through my brain, the message becomes clearer.  My role is to surrender.  But, NOT as a brain-dead zombie!!  He wants a thinking-doing follower who puts love into action.

God promises “rest”.  We tend to think of rest as an absence of activity.  But in reality, God promises that if we surrender, we can be freed from the ruts of worry and brooding. He will provide direction and strength to persevere.  Surrender, like forgiveness of sins and giving thanks is a daily activity.  We are called to awake each day and surrender to God all that the day holds.  We ask, not for an easy burden, but the strength to carry what we are given, knowing that we are not alone and the burden is always shared.

Dear Loving and Forgiving Father, please continue to send us messages to guide and teach us.  Hear our prayers as we ask for your understanding and eternal patience as we learn these lessons again and again.  Thank you for your love and for always giving us another chance to change.  Help us to surrender daily so that we might serve you by sharing your love through our words and our actions.  AMEN

Chyrl Budd

Friday, June 30, 2017

Devotional 6-30-17

The Gift of Silence

Habakkuk 2:20  “ The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”

I have recently been using a book of devotions by Sheila Walsh called “Quiet Time for Your Soul.” As the title suggests, the devotions focus on taking time to slow down, read scripture, and spend time with God. Sometimes that means we need to listen quietly to Him, to hear what he is saying to us during our prayer time. As busy as we all are, we sometimes find it difficult to take the time to be silent and just listen.

She asks, “Am I too often so concerned with being heard that I miss what God is saying? Is He speaking, but I can’t hear Him because I never embrace the silence?

I don’t think I’m the only one. Sometimes it seems our world is afraid of silence. It seems like almost every moment of the day is filled with motion and sound. Even in the middle of the night, our phones buzz and beep.

Does silence still matter in a world addicted to noise? I think it matters more than ever because practicing silence before God clears the way for Him to speak to us.

If you are new to the practice, you might find it challenging at first, but be patient with yourself. Begin by finding a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Then give yourself permission to put everything aside for just a few minutes—your worries, to-do list, whatever you need to do next—and be silent before God.

If your mind wanders, don’t beat yourself up. Just gently bring your heart and mind back to Jesus. He’s waiting there for you always…with love…with mercy…with forgiveness and grace. Let all the earth be silent before him.”

Dear Lord, help us to be silent. We so often ask You for direction in our lives, and then don’t take the time to listen. Our lives are so much better when we quietly sit to hear what you are telling us. We are grateful, Lord, for the gift of silence. Help us to better appreciate that gift. Amen

Diane Feaganes