Friday, April 21, 2017

Devotional 4-21-17

Shadow of Doubt

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 16; Acts 2: 4a, 22-32; 1 Peter 1: 3-9; & John 20: 19-31
“You never saw him, yet you love him.  You still don’t see him, yet you trust him---with laughter and singing.  Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to:  total salvation”. 
1 Peter 1:  8-9  (The Message)

It was a week of highs and lows, pain, disappointment, wonder, and awe.  Was it only last week??  We started Holy week with a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, a celebration with a parade and then the week ended with the amazing miracle of the resurrection.  In between these two mountaintop experiences were some of the lowest of “downer” events: the anger of Jesus in the temple that had become a marketplace, the Upper Room Last Supper, the trial, mocking and scourging and then the ultimate crucifixion and death of Jesus.  It was a traumatic week filled, to say the least, but filled with miraculous love and redemption.

It is no wonder that after the crucifixion, the disciples experienced much anxiety and fear.  And after Easter, when he appeared to them on several occasions, they thought they were dealing with an imposter or a spirit of some kind.  I don’t think I would be any different.  Doubt is easy for me.  I can second guess myself and the circumstances of my life without any trouble at all.  Is that what God is really saying to me?  What is God sending me to do? Who am I supposed to care for??

And here we are, more than 2000 years past the actual events and we are still dealing with our doubts about these riveting events.  How do we cope with the unreality of the Holy Week events??  What do we do with those shadows of doubt?? What do we do with our lives to show that we do believe??  We can’t touch Jesus’ nail wounds to give us physical proof.  We don’t have a time machine so that we can go back and observe and “take notes” to fill in the gaps of time and knowledge.  We have to take it on faith that Peter and the gospel writers were relating the events as they happened.

There are not many “sure things” in this world.  But as the writer of 1Peter affirms:  “What a God we have!  And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus!  Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!”  Peter was convinced of the truth of the situation beyond a “shadow of a doubt”.  He had no room for error, speculation or vacillation.  He was absolutely convinced that Jesus was the Messiah and through His amazing and wondrous love, had willingly sacrificed himself for our sins.

We are not promised a life free of aggravation, suffering or heartache.  Peter tells us that even pure gold must be refined in the fire.  Our faith in the resurrection means that our suffering in this life will be the proof of the fire that refines us for the wholeness and healing of the next life.  When we surrender our doubts to the God of Grace, His grace is sufficient for our every need, including our eternal life.

Dear God of Power and Grace, we thank you for your many gifts.  Most of all we are grateful for the gift of your son, Jesus.  We cannot easily believe that you love us so much that you would allow the death of your son for our sins, but we pray that you will help us with our unbelief.  Be with us as we struggle with this precious gift.  We thank you for the grace of your love for us and that we can be sure, beyond a doubt, that your love is dependable and faithful. We are thankful that we are yours and do not need to fear, because our eternal life has been arrangedAnchor.  AMEN!!

Chyrl Budd

“I serve a Risen Savior, He’s in the world today! … You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!!!”

Friday, April 14, 2017

Devotional 4-14-17

Please read Acts 10:24-43

Have you ever read something many times only to be suddenly hit by a passage that you had never really noticed before? That’s what happened to me when I read Acts 10:24-43. I was hit by not one, but two passages. The first was the second half of verse 28: “But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.” (NIV) The second came in verse 34: “Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what’s right.’” (NIV) This reading is Peter, at God’s insistence, bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles, bringing God’s love and acceptance to us. At that time Jews were not allowed to associate with us. We were the impure and unclean.

Peter arrived at the home of Cornelius, the centurion (a Gentile) with some of his brothers from Joppa. Cornelius was expecting him and had called together family and close friends. While Peter was telling them about Jesus, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The men who came with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out--even on Gentiles--even on us!

Is there any group of people that you would be astonished to find accepted by God? God does not show favoritism. We should not call anyone impure or unclean. We are each special to God.

The dark day is here, the day that Jesus died a horrible death for our sins. The good news is that Easter morning follows. On Easter we will shout Hallelujah! Christ the Lord is risen today! He is risen indeed--for everyone! Hallelujah!

Margaret Williams

Friday, April 7, 2017

Devotional 4-7-17


"You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.
James 2:1-4
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
Do you remember in the movie West Side Story, Anita sings to Maria, "Stick to your own kind, one of your own kind..."?
I'm glad I have not followed that advice in my life. When I was in grade school, I was fascinated by my Jewish friend's matzo sandwiches during Passover. Not one of my own kind, but my friend to this day. I'll admit, I didn't have an African-American friend until high school. Not because I came from a racist family. Unfortunately, that's just the way it was back then. My horizons broadened during college, but not a lot.
 I taught in a rural WV community for 3 years. I was in my 20's and knew everything and was quite superior and my first impression was "these poor country people." Well, guess what? Those poor country people had plenty to teach me!
Over the years, I made many friends via my children and their activities. I discovered over and over again that people who I first judged as a little rough around the edges were the very ones who would give you the shirt off their backs and would work long hours to send their kids on a band trip or make sure a sports team had a coach and uniforms. 
Some years ago, a Muslim woman was my substitute co-teacher for a year. We could easily share our faiths with each other and were eager to learn from each other. I consider her a precious sister.
Jesus said,  "Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit._ (Matthew 28:19). Notice he said ALL THE NATIONS. He didn't say, "Go minister to people just like you." 
Stick to your own kind? No thanks!
Anita Gardner Farrell

Friday, March 31, 2017

Devotional 3-31-17

To Follow Christ
              
Here, O Christ, our sins we see,
Learn Thy love while gazing thus;
Sin, which laid the cross on Thee,
Love, which bore the cross for us.

Here we learn to serve and give,
And rejoicing, self-deny;
Here we gather love to live,
Here we gather faith to die.”
--Elizabeth Charles

When I read these words from an old Methodist hymnal recently, I felt that it expressed what I am thinking about during these days of Lent:  to look at Christ and his purity and his sacrifice, to see my sins, my lack of love, to learn of Him and to seek and follow Him more closely as long as I live.

Lent is a time to reexamine our lives, to seek to follow in Christ’s steps.  However, I know we need others to encourage us and to hold us in love.  May all of us who read our Lenten devotions, open our hearts, seek God’s presence, think about Jesus, and share his love in all the ways we can.
Please think on these verses:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:8-9

“Jesus said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.”  Mark 8:34

Martha Casey 

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