Friday, March 24, 2017

Devotional 3-24-17

You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover
1 Samuel 16: 6-7
6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.”[a] 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

We have all heard a story of a person being disrespected or mistreated because of their outward appearance. There are others that admire certain people or things because of their beauty.  We are all taught from a very young age that looks can be deceiving.  But, the way things appear, the way someone or something looks is many times our first and only judgement.

In the story from Samuel, he looks at Eliab and knows immediately that this is the Lord’s chosen.  This is based on the fact that Eliab is apparently a handsome, tall man.  But we see quickly that the Lord isn’t looking at our appearance, but looking at our heart.  David, the youngest son of Jesse, is handsome but thought to be the runt of the family.  Yet this is God’s anointed, not because of his stature, but because of what is in his heart.

How often do we look away from people that are dirty, and disheveled, the “runts” of the town or community?  Some may stop and offer assistance, but unfortunately many of us pass by hoping that nothing will be said.  Changing this behavior is difficult, but if we listen for God he will lead us in the right direction just as he did with Samuel.

Recently I noticed a new commercial on television.  A young boy is getting snacks from the kitchen.  His mother asks, “Where are you going?”.  He responds, “I am going to have a snack with God”.  The mother smiles and says OK as the boy runs out the door headed for the park.

The scene changes to the boy walking through the park, passing people playing with animals, or throwing a ball when he notices a lone woman sitting on a bench.  The boy sits for a while, and eventually they begin to chat.  Satisfied, the boy opens his bag and removes the snacks and shares with the woman.

When it is time to go home, the boy gives the woman a hug and says goodbye.  The scene changes again, and the woman is sitting down in a shelter for a meal.  Another woman asks, “What did you do today?”.  The answer was I had a snack with God in the park!

Most of our encounters with God are probably not going to be this easy.  Many times we need to look and listen very closely to be sure we receive the messages he is trying to send.  But, as long as we keep God in our heart he will show us the way.

Lord, Help us to always see through to the heart of others.  Do not let appearances be a distraction that prevents sharing your grace with another.  Let your light shine through us that others may know your love!
Amen

Hulse Budd 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Devotional 3-17-17

WATER FROM THE ROCK

Please read Exodus 17: 1- 7

I learn so much each time I write a devotional. I just finished reading about Moses (Student’s Edition of the New International Version) in the introduction to the Book of Exodus. Though Moses did have an Egyptian upbringing, he became the true liberator of the Israelites, leading them from bondage as slaves in Egypt, to their freedom. It is the book of Exodus that tells the full story.

Moses didn’t have an easy time with these Israelites! In fact, Moses wasn’t sure he would ever gain their trust. And he called on God frequently to find out how in the world he was going to lead this long journey with them to the Promised Land. I have read very little of the Book of Exodus, but have begun and intend to finish it during Lent. I think it will be a fascinating journey!

The scripture noted above is the story of the Israelites’ reaction when they realize, upon reaching Rephadim to set up camp, that they have no water. They are furious with Moses and quarrels abound as they argue with him and proclaim that God is no longer with them. Moses cries out to God in frustration, asking for help. He is given instructions to proceed on to the Rock at Horab. He is to take several of the elders as witness, and once there, touch the rock with his staff. Amazingly, water flows from the rock for the Israelites. Appropriately, Moses calls this place Massah (meaning “testing”) and Meribah (meaning “quarreling”)! The Israelites, however, continue to rebel against Moses and because of their lack of faith in God, the Israelites wander the wilderness for forty years!

Have you ever felt like the Israelites, as if you are being tested by God? Perhaps you have shown anger, lashing out at Him because of something awful in your life which you believe God has done to you. Or maybe you didn’t receive an answer from God for something you have asked over and over again to do for you. There are times in each of our lives when it is so easy to forget that God is with us.

Unlike the Israelites, however, we are not wandering in the wilderness.  That is because God sent his Son to us as our Savior. We acknowledge Him as the Son of God, we are guided by the Holy Spirit to do his work. Our belief in Christ as our Savior tells us we will not perish, but have everlasting life. Our sorrow during Lent at His crucifixion becomes great joy upon His resurrection.  Though we make mistakes, sometimes question our faith, or unintentionally or otherwise separate ourselves from God, He never leaves us. He is always there for us.

Let us take time during the Lenten Season as we remember Christ’s death and resurrection, to think upon these things. And once we’ve finished this heart-to-heart talk with ourselves, let us try a heart-to-heart with God, to renew our relationship with Him and listen to Him speak to us. It seems the right thing to do at this time during Lent.

Diane Feaganes 



Friday, March 10, 2017

Devotional 3/10/17

From the Glory of Christmas by Charles Swindon, Flying Closer to the Flame

WE BECOME CHRISTIANS BECAUSE WE "RECEIVED CHRIST JESUS THE LORD"

We become empowered and filled with the Spirit as we "walk in him."

What fuel is to a car, the Holy Spirit is to the believer. He energizes us to stay the course. He motivates us in spite of the obstacles. He keeps us going when the road gets rough. It is the Spirit who comforts us in our distress, who  calms us in times of calamity, who becomes our companion in loneliness and grief, who spurs our "intuition" into action, who fills our minds with discernment when we are uneasy about certain decision. In short, he is our spiritual fuel. When we attempt to operate without him or to use some substitute fuel, all systems grind
to a halt.

Submitted by Fred Herr

Friday, March 3, 2017

Devotional 3-3-17

Angels All Around

Please read Matthew 4:1-11.    Key Verse: Matthew 4:10-11
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

When I think about my parents and all they gave me, I am most thankful for my membership at Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church. As a baby, I was baptized, I later joined the Carol Girls, Crusader, and Chapel Choirs, showed up for MYF, and looked forward to discussions in Sunday School.  As I grew in wisdom and stature, I gained an appreciation for honesty and kindness. Unfortunately, I got a little big for my britches in my 20s and took some time off from my church and church family.

When my 30s rolled around, I began to feel that something was missing from my life and the lives of my two daughters. I knew they were good girls, but I wanted them to have a background that would sustain them when times got tough or adolescence turned them into teenagers – whichever came first.

The three of us returned to JM (Don said he would audit from home) and became enmeshed in Sunday School, Kids Klub, and church services. Thirty years passed quickly.

This past November, Don lost a four-month battle with metastatic kidney cancer. He died on Sunday, was cremated on Wednesday, and was celebrated on Friday. I was alone for the first time ever on the next Monday.

If you read the scripture listed at the top of the page, you know that Jesus was fasting and praying for forty days and nights. You also know that Satan tried three times to get Jesus to use his position as God’s son for his own gain, but Jesus was not to be tempted – just annoyed.

When I read this, it reminded me of my first forty days and nights without Don. Satan tempted me. “If you drink a martini – or two – you’ll feel so much better, and you’ll forget that your heart is broken.” Or “There is no need to get up, shower, and venture out because your gloom and doom will cause your friends to be uncomfortable.”  Or worst of all, “You just sit here and think of all the things you said or didn’t say, or did or didn’t do, that may have caused your husband to suffer more than necessary. Or maybe you could have saved him.”

Many times I have called on God to get me out of the prison of guilt and fear I have made for myself. Every time He has sent angels to bail me out. I won’t name them because I fear that I’ll commit a sin of omission. They called to walk and do yoga, to have lunch or see a movie, to go to concerts and plays, to attend benefits and forums, and to cut down a dead tree. Best of all, they gave me jigsaw puzzles because we learned that when I focused on a  puzzle late at night, I couldn’t hear Satan’s voice.

Four months have passed – almost 3x40 days. My heart overflows with love for my friends and family, and most of all my God. I know that I must guard against listening to that evil voice whispering in my ear. Next time he’ll hear me singing, oh, so softly, “Jesus loves me, this I know.”
 
Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank You for the angels You have placed in our paths. We feel Your love through them, and that makes us want to pass it on. As Pastor Deane’s grandmother always said to her, “You may be the only Bible some people will ever read.” Let us be the Bibles You want Your children to read. All of this we ask in Your name. Amen

Becky Warren

Friday, December 30, 2016

Devotional 12-30-16

Untethered by time, God sees us all. From the backwoods of Virginia to the business districts of London; from the Vikings to the astronauts, from the cave-dwellers to kings, from the hut-builders to the finger-pointers to the rock-stackers, he sees us.
Vagabonds and ragamuffins all, he saw us before we were born.

And he loves what he sees. Flooded by emotions. Overcome by pride, the Starmaker turns to us, one by one, and says, “You are my child. I love you dearly. I’m aware that someday you’ll turn from me and walk away. But I want you to know, I’ve already provided a way back.”

And to prove it, he’d did something extraordinary.

Stepping from the throne, he removed his robe of light and wrapped himself in skin: pigmented, Human skin. The light of the universe entered a dark, wet womb. He whom whom angels worship nestled himself in the placenta of a peasant, was birthed into the cold night, and then slept on cow’s hay.

Mary didn’t know whether to give him milk or give him praise, but she gave him both since he was, as near as she could figure, hungry and holy.

Joseph didn’t know whether to call him Junior or Father. But in the end called him Jesus, since that’s what the angel had said and since he didn’t have the faintest idea what to name a God he
could cradle in his arms.

....Don’t you think.....their heads tilted and their minds wondered, “What in the world are you doing God?” Or better phrased, “God, what are you doing in the world?”

“Can anything make me stop loving you?” God asked. “Watch me speak your language, sleep on your earth, and feel your hurts. Behold the maker of sight and sound as he sneezes, coughs
and blows his nose. You wonder if I understand how you feel? Look into the dancing eyes of the kid in Nazareth; that’s God walking to school. Ponder the toddler at Mary’s table; that’s God
spilling his milk.

“You wonder how long my love will last? Find your answer on a splintered cross, on a craggy hill. That’s me you see up there, your maker, your God, nail-stabbed and bleeding. Covered in spit
and sin-soaked.

“THAT’S YOUR SIN I’M FEELING. THAT’S YOUR DEATH I’M DYING. THAT’S YOUR RESURRECTION
I’M LIVING. THAT’S HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU.”
Melanie HerrTaken from The Glory of Christmas by Max Lucas in The Gift of Grace

Friday, November 18, 2016

Devotional 11-18-16

New Beginnings
Colossians 1:11-20   (CEB)
... by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience; 12 and by giving thanks with joy to the Father. He made it so you could take part in the inheritance, in light granted to God’s holy people. 13 He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. 14 He set us free through the Son and forgave our sins.

Hymn about Christ’s work
15  The Son is the image of the invisible God,
        the one who is first over all creation,
16  Because all things were created by him:
        both in the heavens and on the earth,
        the things that are visible and the things that are invisible.
            Whether they are thrones or powers,
            or rulers or authorities,
        all things were created through him and for him.
17  He existed before all things,
        and all things are held together in him.
18 He is the head of the body, the church,
who is the beginning,
        the one who is firstborn from among the dead
        so that he might occupy the first place in everything.
19  Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him,
20         and he reconciled all things to himself through him—
        whether things on earth or in the heavens.
            He brought peace through the blood of his cross.

This is a time of new beginnings for our church, you the church, at Johnson Memorial UMC.  Eleven months, Dec. 27, 2015, many received a message that the church building had been struck by a fire.  Although the fire was quickly contained with minimal structural damage, blackness filled the whole building with soot.  We all felt some sort of blackness that day.  Where would we worship, how long before we could get into our beautiful sanctuary or even use the building on a daily basis?  Our prayers were answered and we, the church, were able to have function and worship the following week in JM.

The restorations have taken months but through the glory of God we celebrated our new beginning this past Sunday.

I don’t know how you heard the first choir anthem this week, “For the Beauty of the Earth”, but I heard a choir of angels descending but upon JM.  Wrapping us, the church, in Glory and letting us know that it is a time of new beginnings for us, the church, at JM.  Not only a revised space but with new leadership, by Rev. Deane and a revival in our mission to the community, not only in JM, but to all those around JM.

As in Col 1:13 He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.  And verse 20 “and he reconciled all things to himself through him— whether things on earth or in the heavens.  He brought peace through the blood of his cross.”

We are reconciled to Jesus Christ to be the church for all!

This is a time of new beginnings at Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church.  A time to LOOK FORWARD and not back.

God Bless all in moving forward together as the CHURCH!!!
Fred Herr

Friday, November 11, 2016

Devotional 11-11-16

Reset Your Gratitude Meter
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Written by Daniel Darling, pastor and author

What are you thankful for? We gather, every year at this time, to reflect on the blessings of God over the past year. But in most families, Thanksgiving is less about real gratitude and more about stuffing your face, watching football, and hanging with the family. Some actually dread Thanksgiving, because they're forced to sit in a room with people they really don't enjoy. 
Now I'm all in favor of the food and the football. But this year, let's make Thanksgiving about giving and about thanks. This year, more than any, might force us to dig deeper. For many, it will mark a year since they've had employment. For others, Thanksgiving will bring another reminder that they haven't found that significant other. And there are those couples who have to face the family questions of why they still don’t have children. 

For many, this was a year marked by pain. So how do we summon the gratitude? Well, if you're a Christian, your basis is not your circumstances, but something greater. Paul tells the people of Thessalonica that they could "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ."

In other words, followers of Christ believe that hardship is a grace gift from the Lord, sent for their growth, sanctification, and further intimacy with the Almighty. We don't believe we're here on this earth all alone. We believe God is firmly in charge. Though life may get hard--and it does--it all falls under God's sovereign will. And so we give thanks. 

As Americans, we really have cause for gratitude. I have to periodically remind myself of this and remind my family. We so easily get caught up in the easy lust for more stuff. Bigger house, nicer car, better clothes, newest gadgets. But then I remember my travels to third world countries, where I've seen real poverty--and real gratitude on the part of the Christians there. 
Tonight, my kids will go to bed with full stomachs. They'll have a roof over their heads. They will have two parents in the next room. They will ride in a nice car. They will have a future that includes a good education. All of those are things most kids in the world don't have. And so, they should be grateful. 

Let's not sit around the table carping about the election, complaining about our job status, whining about injustices from friends. Let's instead reset our gratitude meters and offer genuine, heartfelt thanks to God. For salvation in Christ. For His daily care. And for friends and family He graciously provides. Oh, and for wives that allow us to stuff our faces and watch football.


Provided by Diane Feaganes