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Imagine No Malaria

Just a few short years ago, statistics showed a child died every 30 seconds of malaria. Today, because of your dedicated and generous support, malaria’s impact has been cut in half. According to the World Health Organization (World Malaria Report 2011), this disease now claims a life every 60 seconds. We seek to end all preventable deaths from malaria, so our journey continues….

For almost 200 years, The United Methodist Church has operated hospitals and clinics throughout Africa. Our facilities are a vital and trusted part of the healthcare delivery system on the continent. We are in many hard-to-reach places, beyond the reach of many aid organizations, sometimes even governments.

The Imagine No Malaria approach is focused on four key areas: prevention, education, communication and treatment.

Prevention: To date, Imagine No Malaria is responsible for the distribution of 1.2 million  insecticide-treated bed nets throughout the continent.  Will your gift help us reach 2 million nets to protect families and save lives?

Education: We know that local people are the most credible and trusted source for information about malaria. We have trained more than 5,400 community health workers to personally deliver mosquito nets and measure usage rates. Recent efforts in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo have produced net usage rates exceeding 80 percent.

Communication: Behavior-change communication includes how to use and care for a bed net, and when to seek treatment for the disease. In addition to word-of-mouth outreach, the United Methodist radio station in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) broadcasts messages about malaria to thousands of listeners each day.

Treatment: The United Methodist Church operates more than 300 hospitals, clinics and health posts throughout Africa. This vital healthcare infrastructure is a critical part of how we will overcome the disease. In order to be effective, however, these facilities must have life-saving resources like rapid diagnostic tests and malaria medication.

Working side-by-side with local communities, national departments of health, other nonprofit organizations (like Nets For LifeUNICEF, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) is precisely the way we will beat this disease.

Want to know more?  Check out this map of UMC activities in Africa.

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Kindness Speaks Volumes – Prayer Shows Kindness

Group PrayerKey Bible Verse:  I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.   – 1 Timothy 2:1

Dig Deeper:  John 17

When we are in fellowship with God, his love enters us and remains in us.  When we show kindness to others, his love is revealed through us.

Love, in this sense, benefits both the recipient and the one who gives it.   It is what enables us to become happy people.

Prayer is a great example of this.  Describing the prospect of his release from prison, Paul tells the Philippian Christians, “I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ: this will turn out for my deliverance”( Phil. 1:19).

It is almost as if Paul is putting the prayers of the Philippians on par with the help of the Holy Spirit as one of the things that gives him hope for his release.  Praying, then, is a powerful act of kindness to another.

When we show kindness to others by praying for them, we are also in intimate touch with God, who is the source of love.  This dynamic relationship with God through prayer opens up our lives for intimacy with God, which also means our lives are opened up for an inrush of God’s love.  Thus, love is coming in from God through vital contact with him and going out from us as we pray for others.

—Ajith Fernando in Reclaiming Love

 

My Response:  As I pray for people this week, I will keep in mind that prayer is a way to demonstrate my love for them.

Thought to Apply:  There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him.—William Law (British cleric, writer)

Adapted from Reclaiming Love (Zondervan, 2013)

 

 

RESEARCH: TITHERS ARE BETTER OFF THAN NON-TITHERS

Tithing Statistics

(This research is not about trying to debate the practice of “tithing” — but rather to demonstrate the impact and giving/financial/spiritual practices of the generous people that DO actively give 10% or more of their income to the LORD’s work. )

 

Based on the research and calculations of http://www.STATEofthePLATE.info, , an estimated 10 million Americans donate 10% or more of their income each year — this equals over $50 billion given to churches, Christian/charitable organizations, and the needy.

Without the support of these faithful and generous givers, most churches and ministries would quickly cease to exist.  When they use the word “tither” in their research, they are using it to refer to the thousands of generous individuals that participated in their surveys that voluntarily DO actively give 10% or more (whether they consider themselves “tithers” or not).  For more information, see http://www.stateoftheplate.info/index.htm.

Do you think “tithers” give because they are better off  -OR-  are they better off because they give?

Fight the Flab – Long-Term Upgrade

Good HusbandKey Bible Verses: The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  – 2 Peter 1:8.

Bonus Reading2 Peter 1: 3-11

A college friend of mine was notorious for his brusque manner.  A quick thinker, he became the master of the humorous and quick put-down.

Then he married a sensitive, empathetic wife.  You couldn’t find two more opposite in that regard.  Yet they’ve enjoyed two decades of a rich marriage.

One evening, when my friend and his wife were under a mountain of pressure, he slipped back into his old style.  He said something that ridiculed his wife.  I missed it, but the next morning I received an e-mail from a very contrite friend.  In case I’d heard his unfortunate remark, he wanted to express how ashamed he felt, how sorry he was, how much he loved and respected his wife, and wanted me to know that he wasn’t the same guy he’d been in college.

Over the years I’d almost forgotten.  God had so worked in his life that he’s forged not a different personality but a more mature one. The same quick thinking and good humor remain, but they’ve been refined, and are usually put to good use.

My friend didn’t change overnight.  He didn’t change completely in 10 years.  But where he is today is vastly different from where he was 20 years ago.

—Gary Thomas in “Authentic Faith”

My Response: Over the next decade, which area of my life will I work to improve?

Thought to Apply: Do not be afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.—Chinese proverb

Adapted from “Authentic Faith (Zondervan, 2002)

Today in Christian History – April 28, 1789

April 28, 1789: In the South Pacific, a band of hedonistic sailors stages the famous mutiny on the Bounty.

The mutineers then sailed to uninhabited Pitcairn Island, where they soon fell into drinking and fighting.

Only one man and several women (taken earlier as slaves) and children survived. The man, Alexander Smith, discovered the ship’s neglected Bible, repented, and transformed the community.

The Bible is still on display in a Pitcairn church.

Fight the Flab – Flubbed Chance

Sacked Football QuarterbackKey Bible Verse: You also must run in such a way that you will win.  1 Corinthians 9:24

Bonus Reading:  1 Corinthians 9: 24-27

For one experienced backup quarterback, a game at mid-season was like all the others.  The starting quarterback was healthy and the chances of the backup playing were slim to none.

This backup had entered games before and he knew he could step up to the challenge if called upon.  So during the preceding week of practice his mind drifted to other interests.  He paid little attention to the films and didn’t open his playbook.  He suited up for the game expecting another day of wearing the headset and carrying a clipboard.

He was wrong.  An injury to the starter thrust him into the action with no warning.  It was a disaster from the start.  The defensive schemes and blitzing attacks had been explained in practice but he hadn’t paid attention and was unprepared to perform his job and lead the team.  After the game he admitted his lack of preparation and was cut the next morning.

This young man lost his significant salary as well as the respect of his teammates and fans.  He hadn’t been ready at the moment of need.  His playing time was unexpected for sure, but his job was to be ready without warning, and he paid dearly for his failure.

— Dan Bolin in “Avoiding the Blitz”

My Response: To avoid being caught flat-footed, I need to …

Thought to Apply: The Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared,” means you’re always to be in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.—Robert Baden-Powell (founder)

Adapted from “Avoiding the Blitz” (NavPress, 1998)

Fight the Flab – Free Spirit

Piano RecitalKey Bible Verse: Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. – 1 Timothy 4:7

Bonus Reading1 Timothy 4: 7-8

Several years ago I was mesmerized by the amazing talent of a pianist named Chris Crossan.  After playing a wide spectrum of music, spanning from Bach to Beethoven to the Beatles, he invited an admiring student to come up and play.

The student was thrown off balance.  He wasn’t timid.  He just didn’t know how to play the piano!  As if he’d missed this important information, Chris insisted, emphasizing that the student was free to play anything he wanted.  Again the embarrassed student explained that he didn’t know how.

Then Chris pressed his point.  Although the student had the opportunity, he really didn’t have the freedom.  Chris’s freedom to play the full spectrum of music, to passionately express the music within his soul, was only available to him as a result of years of discipline.

There’s a gauntlet you must be willing to pass through to be most free.  At first the pursuit of Christian character has the feel of learning scales. But later what is formed becomes music to your ears.

There’s a discipline of the heart that marks the free spirit.  All of us long to play the song within our souls, and I imagine we would if it didn’t require the endless hours of studying the notes.

—Erwin McManus in “Uprising”

My Response: What “scales” do I need to work on right now?

Thought to Apply: In the truest sense freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved. —Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd U.S. President)

Adapted from Uprising (Word, 2003)

Fight the Flab – Pumped!

Football Locker RoomKey Bible Verse: Work hard so God can approve you. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed.  2 Timothy 2:15

Bonus Reading2 Timothy 2: 3-7

A small-town high school football team in Oklahoma had felt the agony of defeat all too often.  This was in the 1930s, before it was illegal to offer monetary incentives to high school kids.  As James Dobson tells it, a local car dealer decided the community had suffered enough.  Following a Friday night loss, he asked to speak to the boys.

In a dramatic locker room speech, he told the students and their coaches that if they beat their bitter rivals next week, he’d give each player a brand-new Ford.  The team went wild with anticipation.

On that fateful Friday night, expectations ran high in the stands and on the field as the team kicked off.  The final score?  They lost 38 to 0.

A seven-day emotional high, it turned out, didn’t make up for the team’s lack of discipline.  They had a losing record because they didn’t do their conditioning drills or study their playbooks.  Without training and practice to back up their newfound emotion, they were still the same pitiful team.

It’s the same on the field of our spiritual lives.  2 Timothy 2: 3-7 says that pursuing godly traits isn’t always easy.  But we need to work hard to achieve them—or miss the thrill of daily spiritual victory.

—Dan Deal in “Power Up!”

My Response: Am I willing to train steadily to build spiritual strength?

Thought to Apply: Discipline is the basic set of tools required to solve life’s problems. —M. Scott Peck (physician, author)

Adapted from “Sports Spectrum Power Up!” (9-10/01)

Fight the Flab – Breakthrough

Dieter on a ScaleKey Bible Verse:  No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest.   Hebrews 12: 11

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:1-4, 11-13

After college and marriage, it was easy to put on weight and get out of shape.  A year ago I committed to taking the “sag” out of my sagging waistline.  Day after day I worked hard on cardiovascular exercise and weight training, seeming to get nowhere.  Straining.  Sweating.  Sucking wind.  Questioning my sanity.

But after several months a quantum leap occurred.  Weight began to drop off.  Muscle began to get toned.  And endurance increased significantly.

Medical friends tell me that during the constancy of working out, regardless of how I felt, a whole new freeway system of small blood vessels and capillaries was forming within my body.  Then, when they decided it was time for a “grand opening,” more blood came flooding into the muscle tissue; the resultant benefits seemed exponential.

Likewise, when we’re walking through deep trials, God is building up a secondary support system of endurance, so we’ll be better prepared the next time adversity comes our way.  I say “the next time” because just about everyone I meet is coming out of, in the middle of, or getting ready to go into some adversity!  God loves you too much to let you go through it alone.

—Bob Reccord in Forged by Fire

My Response: How can I override my natural resistance and chalk up real gains?

Adapted from Forged by Fire (Broadman & Holman, 2000

Prayer for the Week

Lord, I want to become a disciple You can count on; grant me self-discipline to get started.

Fight the Flab – Sob Story

Defeated BoxerWho Said It…Kenneth Ulmer

Kenneth Ulmer pastors the Faithful Central Bible Church of Inglewood, California.  He has seen his congregation swell, since 1982, from 350 to more than 13,000.  It now owns and meets in the Great Western Forum, where the Lakers used to play.  Kenneth also teaches in a seminary, and presides over a fellowship with congregations in the U.S. and five African countries.  He’s married to Togetta; their children are RoShaun, Keniya, and Kendan.

What He Said…Silent Treatment

A sportscaster reported that a Las Vegas boxing match was stopped because one of the fighters had quit fighting in the middle of a round and started crying!

This burly guy just broke down.  They later learned that he was physically, mentally, and emotionally unprepared to fight.  The promoter said he’d tried several times to convince the fighter’s coach and trainers to cancel the bout because of concerns that he hadn’t completely recovered from a recent struggle with drug abuse. But his camp insisted that the fight go on as planned. So they put him in the ring, and he gave what he had. When that ran out, he quit—and cried.

If his trainers had postponed the match, this fighter might have won.  But they didn’t, and he lost.  He lost because he wasn’t fit.

Many of us are losing spiritual battle after battle, not because we don’t know Jesus, or because we doubt the promises of God, but because we’re spiritually out of shape.

          Adapted from Spiritually Fit to Run the Race (Nelson, 1999)

Prayer for the Week

Lord, I want to become a disciple You can count on; grant me self-discipline to get started.

Holiness Down Here – Campfire Candor

CampfireKey Bible Verse: Give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life.  Romans 6: 13

Bonus Reading:  Romans 6: 1-14

Twenty close friends spent an unforgettable week fishing remote rivers by day and clustered around a campfire with opened Bibles by night.  On Thursday evening, I asked the men if any had experienced a real breakthrough in one part of his life—where they used to sin “big time” and now no longer do so.  There was silence as someone threw a fresh log on the fire.

Then one man said, “I guess I can begin.  I used to really love money.  Money ruled my life—and it nearly destroyed my family and children.  I was obsessed.

Then God began breaking through about money being my god and me worshipping it more than Him.  For about six months the Lord put me through the wringer until I finally broke and confessed my heart of covetousness.

Now I love to give money away!  I can honestly say that I’m a different person than I used to be—I don’t love money anymore.  It’s great!”

I noticed at least six men looking down at the fire nearly the whole time he shared.  Why?  Well, I knew all of them well, and none of those six could yet say he was free from the love of money.

[Continued tomorrow]

—Bruce Wilkinson in Discovering Personal Victory Through Holiness

 

My Response:  An area in which God is putting me “through the wringer” is…

 

Thought to Apply: The world and the cross do not get along too well together, and comfort and holiness do not share the same room.

—Carlo Carretto

Adapted from “Discovering Personal Victory Through Holiness” (Multnomah, 2003)

Holiness Down Here – Breaking Free

CampfireKey Bible Verse: Now you are free from sin, your old master, and you have become slaves to your new master, righteousness.  – Romans 6: 18

Bonus Reading:  Romans 6: 15-23

[Continued from yesterday] 

Then another man spoke up. “Well, this might surprise you, but for years I was hooked on pornography.  I was never actually physically unfaithful to my wife with another woman, but I lived in sexual bondage and infidelity through magazines, videos, cable—you know what I mean.

Nearly ten years ago, the Lord and I had it out.  I desperately wanted freedom from this bondage—I couldn’t pray, I couldn’t read my Bible much because it always made me feel guilty, and every time I served the Lord at church I felt like a huge hypocrite.

I started confessing my sins to the Lord, and decided I couldn’t do it alone, so I told everything—and I mean everything—to two of my best ‘buds,’ and they held me accountable!

“But guys—” he became very quiet and solemnly looked into the eyes of each man around the campfire, one at a time, “today, I’m free from this sexual perversion!  I haven’t sinned in this area for almost ten years!  You talk about freedom in Christ!  Can you imagine what this did in my marriage and in my sex life with my wife?”  Then he began laughing from deep down inside. “I’m free!”

—Bruce Wilkinson in Discovering Personal Victory Through Holiness

 

My Response:  Do I want freedom enough to confess and become accountable?

Thought to Apply:  Holiness is not freedom from temptation, but power to overcome temptations.

—G. Campbell Morgan (English pastor, writer, 20th century)

Adapted from “Discovering Personal Victory Through Holiness” (Multnomah, 2003)

Holiness Down Here – Old Salt?

SaltKey Bible Verse:  “You are to live clean, innocent lives … in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people.”  – Philippians 2: 15

Bonus Reading:  Philippians 2: 12-15

When I took up fishing as a hobby, friends and I would fish on the eastern shore of the Big Island of Hawaii.  If we were fishing at the right time and had the right bait, we’d catch some good-sized fish.  Nearby was a barbecue grill.  We’d take our day’s catch, clean each one, and then place each trophy on the grill.

Even though these fish had spent all their lives in the salty ocean, guess what I had to sprinkle on our catch as we were cooking them?  Right!  I’d sprinkle salt on the fish to bring out the flavor.

You’d think that would be the most unnecessary thing to do, considering that the fish had been marinating in saltwater for at least a year or two.  Yet even though these fish had lived in the ocean, none of the salt got inside.

If God can do that for fish, He can do that for each of us.

Each of us has been placed in the middle of a world filled with worldly perspectives and philosophies.  But here’s the wonder of God’s design: Although we live in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15), none of that crooked perverseness is supposed to get inside us!

—Wayne Cordeiro in Attitudes that Attract Success

 

My Response:  A practice that helps me stay holy inside is …

 

Thought to Apply:  The greatest miracle God can do today is to take an unholy man, make him holy, and keep him holy in an unholy world.

—Leonard Ravenhill

Adapted from Attitudes that Attract Success (Regal, 2001)

Holiness Down Here – Short Temper, Long Cure

TemperKey Bible Verse:  So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.  Romans 7: 25

Bonus Reading:  Romans 7: 14-25

When I became a Christian, I asked God for help on two serious, practical problems that I struggled with.

The first was cursing.  Almost instantly, without any help or assistance from me, the cursing ceased.  My wife mentioned one day, “Pat, you hardly swear at all anymore.”

I was flabbergasted.  I had made no conscious effort to stop, nor was I aware that a change had even occurred.

My other struggle was a temper.  I would become too angry.  Many regrettable words escaped from my mouth.  As quickly as the Lord helped me with cursing, the temper problem hung on.  Virtually every day I would have to ask for forgiveness; there were many tears and long prayers pleading with God for help.  But five long years passed before my anger became that of a normal person.

Here’s the point: We didn’t get to be the men we are overnight, and we may need to allow some time, perhaps a long time, before we will see our lives the way we want them to be.

—Patrick Morley in The Man in the Mirror

Adapted from “The Man in the Mirror” (Zondervan, 1989)

What is Eastertide?

EastertideEaster for Christians is not just one day, but rather a 50-day period.

The season of Easter, or Eastertide, begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church (see Acts 2).

Easter is also more than just an extended celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. In the early church, Lent was a season for new converts to learn about the faith and prepare for baptism on Easter Sunday. The initial purpose of the 50-day Easter season was to continue the faith formation of new Christians.

Today, this extended season gives us time to rejoice and experience what it means when we say Christ is risen. It’s the season when we remember our baptisms and how through this sacrament we are, according to the liturgy, “incorporated into Christ’s mighty acts of salvation.”

As “Easter people,” we also celebrate and ponder the birth of the Church and gifts of the Spirit (Pentecost), and how we are to live as faithful disciples of Christ.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Easter Monday

And He said to them “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk? (Luke 24; 17)

On the day of Jesus’ resurrection, two of his followers are walking to a nearby village called Emmaus. Jesus begins walking with them but they are kept from recognizing Him. When the stranger asks them what they are discussing, they stop dead in their tracks, stunned that anyone coming from Jerusalem could be unaware of the things that had happened there.

They talked about the powerful prophet Jesus, whom they had believed to be the Messiah, and about his horrible end. They talked about the chief priest who delivered Him to be crucified. They added a bitter disappointment of hoping He was the One who would ransom Israel. They relayed the women’s confusing report about angels at the tomb.

After letting them unload their grief and sorrow, Jesus began to solve their mystery. They had been quick to believe the glorious things about the Messiah, but they stubbornly resisted the passion He predicted and the words the prophets had spoken. The Christ first had to pay the ransom price for sins, only then could He enter the glory the Jews had focused on for so long.

When they reached Emmaus Jesus sat down with them at the table. He blessed and broke the bread, and while He was giving it to them, their eyes were opened to recognize Him. Then He vanished from their sight. They discussed the way their heart warmed with new faith, assurance and joy, when they finally understood the Messiah’s work.

They then returned to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples. They were greeted with shouts “The Lord truly arose! And he appeared to Simon then the two tell their story.”

Prayer:  Lord Jesus thank you for taking the time to teach Your disciples and us about the ransom you paid to free us from our sins. Receive our joyful Thanksgiving Amen

 

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Easter Sunday

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.

For fear of him, the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”

So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Matthew 28:1-10).

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 40 – Holy Saturday

Scripture Readings:  Lamentations 3:37-58;   Hebrews 4:1-16;   Romans 8:1-11

…so we may await with him the coming on the third day, and rise with him to newness of life;…

This prayer and the Scriptures which are appointed for Holy Saturday, point to the need we have to wait, to be still and to reflect upon what has happened throughout Lent. What has happened during Holy Week? What took place yesterday on Good Friday?

I need to hear this “be still and know that I am God” from that quiet, soft inner voice as I hear the unspoken, “and Philip, you are NOT God!” How do we get ourselves out of the center of this drama and into the place where we are able to receive what God has done for us? How do we accept becoming Sons and Daughters of The Lord God? How do we receive His Son Jesus as gift? Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Day, The Great Triduum, are all one moment and movement within the drama of our salvation.

It is here that God acts in Jesus and the singularity of God’s love is focused in the Christ with the Doors of Grace opened to us. We are loved into relationship with God in Christ Jesus, and I need time to grasp this with the impact of the empty tomb and the risen Lord. Wait just a little longer and experience our Risen Savior in the Glory of God who is making all things new.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 39 – Good Friday

Scripture Readings:  Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-33;   1 Peter 1:10-20;   John 13:36-38;19:38-42

In Lamentations, Jeremiah tells of his anguish, struggles, and trials and the feeling that God has put him in very trying situations. He has felt so down trodden, YET he kept his vision and hope in the Lord, because he recalled the great love of the Lord and His compassion.

Sometimes, we are in such a hurry and so impatient we try to rush past the steps that God has prepared for us that truly ready us for the trials ahead—for I believe that with each step we are strengthened and when it comes to that time when it seems we can take no more —we can lean on the everlasting arms and know that God will not forsake us.

As I read verses 19-33, the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” came to mind as did the words “The King of love my shepherd is whose goodness faith never, I nothing lack if I am His and He is mine forever.”

Prayer:  Dear God, make us ever mindful of the sacrifice that you made for us in Jesus, your son dying on the cross for our sins, that we never despair, for we know that you are here when we call.

In 1 Peter, Lord, you remind us constantly that we are not serving ourselves, but you, when we help others. In these days and times you ask us to prepare our minds, be self-controlled, be holy and not conform to the evil desires. As I look at it—the evil desires are the “wanting” of material things that continually invade our lives and take our hearts and minds away from you. You ask us to live our lives in reverent fear because we now know the cost. The price was paid by the precious blood of Jesus. LET US NOT FORGET!

In John 13, Peter says, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for your sake.” Yet we know what happened. How often do we say things that we believe wholeheartedly only to revise it and say that wasn’t exactly what I meant. Peter says it, but when confronted to claim Jesus, what does he do but deny knowing Him at all.

Do we often claim knowledge of Jesus in the good times—at church, in Bible Study, etc., but fail to acknowledge Him in the work place among our friends or people we don’t know?
Help us to be true to you, Lord, and stand up as true Christians and acknowledge you in all that we think, do, or say.

In John 19, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took Jesus’ body to prepare it for burial— several things jumped out at me—Nicodemus brought myrrh and aloes. I immediately recalled the gifts of the wise men which were brought when he was born—gold, frankincense and myrrh. How interesting that this spice was given at his coming in and going out. The other was “tearing the linen strips and binding Jesus for burial”—this act seems very deliberate and a very reverent act. As I envision this act I wonder if we are willing to be bound in Jesus’ words and being?

Prayer:  Oh Lord, let us be bound in the “linen,” the fabric of our faith to honor and glorify thy Holy name, ever mindful of the price you paid for us. We are eternally thankful

 

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Lenten Devotional – Day 38 – Maundy Thursday

Scripture Readings:  Lamentations 2:10-18;   1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32;   Matthew 14:12-25

And he took a cup and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many.”

In the movie, Dead Man Walking, both the swaggering, macho, posturing of the condemned murderer Matthew Poncelet, and the cold, arrogant power of the law and politicians and prison officials come up short. The quiet spiritual power of an inexperienced Catholic nun’s unconditional love for both Poncelet and the parents of his victims, make manifest the power of God’s weakness in the cross of Jesus.

At the end of the movie, Matthew, through the love of Sister Helen, is finally able to confess to what he has done, and to acknowledge the wrongness of it. “You have dignity, now,” she tells him. “You are a child of God.” “No one ever called me a child of God before,” Matthew responds. “Isn’t it funny, I had to die to find love?”

What Jesus wants the disciples and us to realize is that in Jesus’ kingdom, a great reversal of values has taken place. His teaching and life cut through all the normal and conventional definitions of power and status. In this kingdom, power and status are radically redefined as suffering, submission, and service.

In God’s kingdom, that which was insignificant becomes significant. A tomb…death…leads to triumph. That which has no status is given status; that which is weak in the eyes of the world confounds the strong; that which is sinful, is declared righteous…and while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

To be a disciple is to be a servant and a “slave of all.” And to be a servant is to be delivered into the hands of humanity, to drink the cup Jesus drank, and to be baptized with the baptism with which he was baptized. We hear Christ speak, “The cup I must drink, you shall drink, the baptism with which I must be baptized, you must be baptized.”

Our baptismal vows call us to seek Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves; striving for justice and respecting the dignity of every human being. This is the motivation for our mission, not our power. The sole purpose of the church is to minister to God’s people.

When we seek Christ in others, we find that humanity is a mosaic —showing us the very face of God. It is urgent that we be about —and remember who we are called to be…the compassionate sons and daughters of a loving God, baptized into the mission and servant-hood to which Christ.

 

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 37 – Bad Day

Scripture Readings:  Lamentations 2:1-9;   2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11;   Mark 12:1-11

How the Lord in his anger has humiliated daughter Zion! Lamentations 2:1 I wrote to you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears2 Corinthians 2:4   The Parable of the Wicked Tenants: “This is the heir; come, let us kill him…” (Mark 12:7)

What negative readings we have for today! God is angry with the Chosen People; Paul has had a hard time with the people of Corinth and they, with him; Jesus is reproaching the temple authorities for their rejection of him, the Messiah, and they are angry and fearful. What are we to make of such painful and difficult passages, especially when grouped together? But then, this is the middle of Holy Week, and the climax of the Passion is approaching; even the psalms for the day are “dark.”

These are very human emotions, feelings with which we can all identify. Perhaps it is appropriate that we stop to consider that the human condition has always been troublesome, even for the Son of God in human form. He’s had a very bad week since he entered Jerusalem, and it will get worse. He has cursed a fig tree (hard to see what that bit’s about!), driven the animal-sellers from the Temple, overturned the tables of the money-changers, and lectured the disciples about asking for forgiveness when they pray, even as their prayers are answered. The chief priests, scribes, and elders have confronted him, and the Pharisees and Herodians will be next, then the Sadducees. He must realize that there is no way to avoid a violent outcome to his ministry on earth. There’s no happy ending for this week!

I think we have to look at these readings as people who know how the story comes out. The bad times will be concealed by the glory and joy of the Resurrection—but not quite yet. We must still wrestle with some very intense lessons about pain and suffering and where the Kingdom of God is to be found.

Prayer:  Holy God, source of all wisdom, creator of all that is, guide your children in all things, that we may learn the lessons to which you have set us and be refined by the times of trial that life will bring us. Help us to be obedient and cheerful, seeking your guidance in all circumstances, that we may be strengthened to fulfill your purposes and bring glory to your name. Amen.

 

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 36 – Authority

Scripture Readings:  Lamentations 1:17-22;   2 Corinthians 1:8-22;   Mark 11:27-33

Authority. Where does it come from? When Jesus reentered the temple he was approached by the chief priests and scribes who demanded to know who gave him the authority to do the things he was doing (Mark 11:27). The scribes and Pharisees considered themselves to be the absolute authority and did not want to consider any alternative.

In our current society we are surrounded by authority—it can be respected, obeyed, ignored, circumvented or questioned. When my grandkids were visiting with me, I heard Bryson say to Brooke, “You are not the boss of me!” He was really not questioning her authority or who gave it to her, he just wanted to do whatever he wanted to do without interference from her. To be told that the Bible tells us to obey our parents and she was doing what her mother would have told him to do didn’t make much of an impression—at least not at the time.

The elders knew where Jesus’ authority came from. He did not need to tell them, for the works he did told them plainly he had authority from God since no man could do the miracles which he did unless God were with him. When Jesus asked them, “Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” (Mark 11:30) they knew the answer but also knew that if they answered correctly their perceived authority and esteem would be lost. They really did not want the truth but just wanted to undermine Jesus’ authority.

The Lenten season is a time of reflection—a special time for us to reflect on spiritual things and examine how they are shown in our daily lives. A lot of people give up something for Lent: e.g. candy, computer, gossiping, etc. I have found it more meaningful to “take on something.” The something can be a habit, a person, a situation or whatever stands out as needing special time and attention in my life. This year I am planning on examining my reaction to authority and how I make decisions. In other words, how do I look for answers—by praying, seeking spiritual help, reading books or by just making snap decisions?

Jesus’ answer to the chief priests and elders was brilliant. By giving them a question to answer he forced them to accept the truth about who he was and who gave him his authority, but they chose to not answer. I hope that I will be able to recognize answers and respond accordingly.

Prayer:  Lord, give us the strength and courage to seek answers from you and accept them. Help us to look to you for the ultimate authority. Amen

 

 

 

Downstairs Floors Refinished!

With the help of 72 men from our Saturday AA group, we started the process of tear-down to refinish the floors at 9 pm Saturday after their meeting since we now need to get such projects completed before people arrive for our free community lunch around 10 am on Tuesday.

After the Fellowship Hall was cleared, the floor was scrubbed twice late Saturday night and prepared to receive the new finish.  Six thin coats of finish were applied starting Sunday evening and ending this evening.  Six coats were necessary to get a balanced, uniform look to the shine.  The 6 coats also mean that we should be able to snap the finish back at least a few times with our burnisher when the shine fades with use.

After the final coat cured, we carried the tables and chairs back into the Fellowship Hall tonight and got everything set up so our Soup Tuesday crew can start as early as they like tomorrow morning.

Many thanks to our dedicated Trustees for providing us with a brilliant, shining floor for Easter this weekend!

Here are the “Before” and “after” pictures so you can gauge the improvement for yourselves!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 35 – Pain

Scripture Readings: Lamentations 1:1-2, 6-12;   2 Corinthians 1:1-7;   Mark 11:12-25

All of us at some point or another in our lives have experienced great hurt, great pain and great sorrow. As much as we would like to be, we are not immune from pain and grief. I met a young boy who experienced this pain and grief firsthand.

At the age of 18 or so, he lost his mother due to complications from HIV/AIDS. You see, as a child, he and his sister lived in the ghettos. There were often nights when there was not a whole lot of food to go around. And because his mother was an illiterate, uneducated woman, she could not maintain a job. So to provide for him and his sister, his mother turned to prostitution; to ease her broken heart and numb the hurt, she turned to crack cocaine.

As a young adult this young man often wondered where God was in all of the pain and heartache. There were times that he even cursed the name of God. He did not deserve to have a mother who was strung out. There were times he even wondered if I had done something to upset God. He said his prayers, He was kind, and He did all those good Christian things; yet his family life was awful.

I am certain that many of us have faced some of the similar problems. Maybe you are like this young man in that you have prayed and yet, the health problems that plagued us before are still present. Though you prayed and prayed, the financial difficulties did not end. Perhaps you have tried and tried and prayed and prayed and done all the good Christian things to mend that estranged relationship, but it was not mended. And no matter how many times you have attended that healing service and sought the best medical treatment, your loved one is still ill.

The writer of Lamentations must have felt the same way. Imagine that these words were written today. Many of us can reflect the words, “[I have] no one to comfort [me].” Some of us have been sad for so long that we have forgotten what happiness is. The writer of Lamentations is encountering a season just as this and has forgotten what happiness is; his expectation about God has been crushed.

My friends, if we are not careful, we can find ourselves in these dark valleys of life, unable to move because of fear. We can be down so long that it has become comfortable, and we don’t have the courage to get up. We can be in the dark so long that the light feels like daggers. If we aren’t careful, our anger calcifies into bitterness and ferments.

It is most helpful in times of pain to remember the words of Lamentations 3:20-24, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” This will help us realize that God is with us even in the midst of what we are going through.

St. Paul said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Even though life has presented us with unforeseen challenges, God is walking right beside us. It is because God is with us that we can have HOPE!

Prayer:  Oh God, you have promised that you would never leave us or forsake us. Come, oh God of grace, and fulfill that promise. Give me and those I love that peace which surpasses all understanding. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Palm Sunday

 

 

 

Tale of a Blessing: 72 Men and 17 Minutes

Central Church has a vibrant spiritual life that includes a robust missional feeding ministry to anyone in our community who comes through our doors.  Every Tuesday, we provide a free lunch, and every Friday, we have a free community dinner.  Several Saturdays each month also feature a free breakfast.

In addition, Central Church hosts weekly meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous on Friday and Saturday evenings.  Add in our Sunday School and Worship offerings on Sunday, and you can see that our routine calendar is very full, even before adding in special events and programming.

The success of our community outreach programming is a blessing to both our volunteers and community participants, but the associated wear and tear and jam-packed calendar creates some stress in other areas, such as routine and periodic maintenance.

In particular, all of the groups using our Fellowship Hall throughout the week make it difficult to fit in our routine maintenance of the floor, and the periodic stripping, resealing, and refinishing of our old floor tiles presents real problems with finding an uninterrupted block of time to tear down and carry out all of the tables and chairs, scrub and strip the floor, reseal, refinish, and cure the new finish, and carry back and arrange all of those tables and chairs.  Add in the shortage of youthful backs and getting the job done in the tiny available time blocks is almost impossible.

Central Church’s AA program has blossomed in recent years, from a small group of 20 men to weekly meetings of 80 men and women.  Despite their size, this group has managed to retain the warmth and fellowship of a much smaller group, and the folks attending are always willing to lend a hand to a friend in need.

When we made the decision to refinish the Fellowship Hall and hallway floors in this final week before Easter, we mentioned our plans  to the group and asked if they would be willing to help by folding up their chairs after their Saturday evening meeting to help us get a jump on getting all of the work done before our community luncheon on Tuesday.

Instead, all 72 men attending on Saturday night meeting stayed after their meeting and completely cleared out the Fellowship Hall and hallway in 17 minutes flat!  Even at top speed, our volunteers would have needed hours to achieve a similar feat.

Getting that huge task out of the way enabled our dedicated floor crew to get a big jump on the process of scrubbing and stripping in advance of the refinishing yet to come.

Our thanks go out to our AA friends for all of their help.  What a blessing to have such a dedicated group meeting in our Fellowship Hall every week!   

Stay tuned for further updates as the work continues!

 

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 34 – God, Shine Your Light

Scripture Readings:  Exodus 10:21-11:8;   2 Corinthians 4:13-18;   Mark 10:46-52

From today’s reading, we find a strand of the often-repeated theme of light and darkness, both literal and figurative.

So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all of Egypt for three days; they did not see one another…but all the people of Israel had light where they dwelt (Exodus 10:22-23, RSV).

The literal darkness enveloping the Egyptians is connected against the light among the Hebrews; likewise, the divine light in the hearts of His people today shines in bright contrast to the darkness enveloping those who have not come to know Him. And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians (Exodus 11:3).

As God prepared the Israelites for their departure from Egypt, God’s favor spread even into the homes and hearts of those who did not know Him. They esteemed Moses and listened to him; they even gave their best silver and gold to the Hebrews just because they asked.

The Divine Presence was so strong that it permeated even these heathen hearts, and helped the Israelites prepare to follow his will into the unknown wilderness. …because we look not to the things that are seen but to things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Paul reminds us in verse 17, that heaven, that place of the divine presence, is so much more an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. Anything here looks like the Egyptian camp in contrast.

Finally, blind Bartimaeus the beggar could have asked for riches, for delivery from the poverty and the life of begging for food just to survive. But he didn’t. Jesus seemed to offer a free ticket, for anything.  And the blind man said to Him, “Master, let me receive my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well” (Mark 10: 51-52).

The darkness of a lifetime suddenly vanished, and was replaced by a whole new world of sight, color and depth. Oh, that we would be so wise! Oh, that we could trust the Jesus who delivered the Hebrews, the Christ that Paul reminded us “will raise us up and bring us into His presence,” (2 Corinthians 4:14) and the light of wholeness that He offers us as He did Bartimaeus.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you that you shine your light to guide our every step. Help us to choose the light and receive your healing presence.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 33 – Are You in First Class?

Scripture Readings:  Exodus 9:13-35;   2 Corinthians 4:1-12;   Mark 10: 32-45

“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

One of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes involves a bunch of big-headed aliens who come to earth toting an impressive reference book. At first, everyone is terrified, but after a little diligent Alien-to-English work, one of the scientists declares that the title of the book is “To Serve Man”.

The earthlings are thrilled and start crowding onto space ships headed for the alien planet. Alas, after a little more translation work, the scientist tries to stop people from leaving earth with the cry, “Wait!  To Serve Man is a cookbook!”

That Twilight Zone episode bears some similarities to the Gospel reading in Mark. Zebedee’s boys, James and John, are trying to fight their way onto Jesus’ heavenly space ship by crawling over the other disciples and asking not only to board, but to be given seats in First Class, with Jesus in the middle seat.

Don’t you just know that Jesus got tired of this kind of silly stuff? I picture him sighing before he continues. First he tells them that they have no idea what they’re asking. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink? Be baptized with my baptism?” Like children, or anyone who doesn’t have or understand the whole story, James and John eagerly boast that, yes, of course, whatever.

By this time the other ten guys are steaming with indignation, thinking James and John have crossed the line with their demands. But Jesus gathers them together, and then switches things around, turning logic and reason upside-down.

“First of all, I’m not the one with authority to give out seats in First Class,” Jesus explains. “And by the way, all the great and rich people who think they can buy their way up front are in for a surprise.”

And here’s the twist: Jesus tells them that whoever wants First Class seats will have to become a servant to everyone else on board. Just like him. Jesus lets them know that he did not come to sit in First Class. He did not come to be served. He truly came to serve man, and not in the Twilight Zone cookbook-sense.

When reflecting on our place in this kingdom and the next, we would be wise to stop clamoring for the First Class seats and consider our true purpose as people who serve Christ in the world.

Are you in First Class?

Prayer:  Lord, show us how to become better servants. Help us remember that our earthly bodies contain the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Christ, granting us the tools we need to serve you in the world.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 32 – Reflect God’s Light

Scripture Readings:  Exodus 7:25-8:19;   2 Corinthians 3:7-18;   Mark 10:17-31

But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.
(2 Corinthians 3:18)

My dear friends daughter majored in musical theater in college, and in one of the shows in which she had a part, she performed a song called “Reflect the Light.” I was so proud of her! I was overwhelmed by her wonderful singing, but I was also incredibly touched by how the director, near the end of the song, had each of the cast members pull from their pockets hand-held mirrors to reflect the stage lights throughout the small theater.

Now, whenever I remember this part of the performance or even see light reflecting from a shiny object, questions form in my mind, such as: Do I, as a Christian, even cracked and sometimes broken, always reflect His light as the mirrors did in the show? Or, do I shine His light in all places, always radiating His glory and grace and love wherever I go? The answers, of course, are no.

Though we are made in God’s image, I am the first to admit that I am fully human—one who falls short in my efforts every day. What is comforting to know is that we all are still God’s beloved children and qualified with our imperfections to serve Him and to spread the Gospel. It is even more comforting to know that we only have to look to God —Father, Son and Holy Spirit—to be changed into a being more like Him. Then, when the brightness of His image is seen in us, it reflects on others too.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, please polish us daily, so that we may always reflect Your glory. Amen.

 

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 31 – Do You Smell?

Scripture Readings:  Exodus 7:8;   2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6;   Mark 10:1-16

Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way to salvation–an aroma suggestive with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

In the scriptures appointed for today, the words “heart” and “fragrances” appear often. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened more than once as Moses and Aaron attempted to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go into the wilderness to worship Him.

In the gospel of Mark, when the Pharisees questioned Jesus about divorce, Jesus remarked it was because of their hardness of heart that Moses wrote that commandment for them. The gospel then told the story of people bringing little children to Jesus, whom Jesus welcomed and blessed in spite of the disciples’ protests. That contrasting story to the ones before goes along with Paul’s comments to the Corinthians on how they lived their lives as Christians, a good change in their hearts received from the Spirit of the Living God, as the only letter of recommendation needed.
If you look to your life, how is your fragrance or heart most of the time? Is your scent such that all would know from it that you were a follower of Christ? Does your scent change or is your heart hardened when you do not get your way or when you feel hurt, betrayed, lonely or unloved? Do you work to change both, at those times, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to bring about “an aroma suggestive with life” and feelings of trust, joy, acceptance, wonder, and love?

I imagine Jesus recognized all of these things in the hearts of the children who came to him and is expecting the same of us when he tells the disciples, “Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in” (Mark 10:15).

I received a slightly revised version of the Prayer of Cardinal Newman in the 1980’s. I have re-read and shared it many times, always keeping the message close to my heart. I pray you can bring it into your lives and continue to make a difference in our world with a Christ-like heart and scent.

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, Help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through us and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us but only Jesus. Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as you shine, to shine so as to be light to others. The light, Oh Jesus, will be all from you. None of it will be ours. It will be you shining on others through us. Let us praise you in the way you love best, by shining on those around us. Let us preach you without preaching— not by words, but by our example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do, the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 30 – Sharpen Your Focus

Scripture Readings:  Exodus 5:1- 6:1;   1 Corinthians 14:20-33a, 39-40;   Mark 9:42-50

Reflections about Lent bring temptation, sin, and consequences into sharper focus. Sometimes the temptation is to just ignore a situation you recognize as wrong but at the moment it might appear to be the easier choice to make. Such was not the case when “Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘Thus, says the Lord, the God of Israel: Let my people go, that they may celebrate a feast to me in the desert’” (Exodus 5:1).

Their intention was honorable, but Pharaoh’s wrath over a challenge to his authority brought devastating consequences to the Israelites, to the point that Moses regretted his action —“Lord, why do you treat this people so badly. And why did you send me on such a mission? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people of yours and you have done nothing to rescue them” (Exodus 5:22-23). But the Lord did respond positively to Moses and brought about the exodus.

That questioning by Moses reminds me of my own impatience when things don’t go the way I want them to go, or I am not treated like I felt I should have been. That temptation to blame someone or something else for a disappointment is again an easier thing to do. Given time for self-reflection, I realize I have just been given another opportunity to practice patience, as we are reminded: “Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another” (Mark 9:50)…and peace with yourself, I would add.

Just as Moses’ intent was to lead the Israelites on a 3-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifice, (Exodus 5:3) so too are we reminded to sacrifice at Lent, to grow spiritually —“In respect to evil be like infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20) —and as believers, to prophesy to make believers of nonbelievers. (1 Corinthians 14:22-25)

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 29 – Are You Listening?

Scripture Readings:  Exodus 4:10-20 , 27-31;   1 Corinthians 14;   Mark 9:30-41

Moses was a leader. He had already demonstrated his faith and character. He was already aware of the plight of his people in bondage in Egypt, and he had intervened. Yet when God communicated with him directly and told him what He wanted him to do, Moses said “not me, I am not qualified, I am not articulate enough.” In Exodus 4:10 his reply to God was, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

God told him much like he told Job, “Who made you? Who gave you speech? I will give you the words. All I want you to do is have faith and trust in Me. It will be My words you speak.”

As God directed him Moses performed the acts to demonstrate his power. Together they chose Aaron to speak (the words of God) for Moses as he performed the signs and wonders God directed. Moses must have continuously been in awe of the amazing things he was able to accomplish with God’s help. Who knows what we could do if we listened, trusted, and acted on God’s guidance in our lives? Surely this is worthy of our prayerful reflection at this Lenten Season. All of us remember the times we have been operating way beyond our own capabilities when we knew God was with us as we did His will.

Then we are reminded in 1 Corinthians that God gives us all unique and special gifts and He expects us to use them. In 1 Corinthians 14:12 Paul tells the Corinthians to…. “strive to excel in them for the building up of the church.”

Developing our gifts and talents God has given us should never be a distraction to others or used only for our own selfish goals. Rather our gifts are to be used to build up others—to encourage and build up the Church (the body of Christ). Surely we can use this time at Lent to seek how we can use our unique gifts to build up the Church.

Christ had to remind even his disciples in Mark 9:35, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” He explained to them that no act of love, no simple kindness would go unnoticed. He reminded them that to be great in His Kingdom, they must seek and serve those in need. Lord Jesus:

Prayer:  We pray that we may remain close to you this Lenten Season. May we listen to your guidance in our lives and use all the gifts you have given us to love and serve others.

 

 

 

Lenten Devotional – The Fifth Sunday of Lent

 

 

 

Happy Sunday – See You in Church!

Lenten Devotional – Day 28 – God Provides

Scripture Readings:  Exodus 2:23-3:15;   1 Corinthians 13:1-13;   Mark 9:14-29

. faith, hope, love . . . the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

In the reading from Exodus God speaks with Moses. God “remembers” the covenant with the people of God and promises to be with them continually and by extension us. “Remember” is a powerful word. As Christians we are a story formed community. Should we forget so goes the community, thus, we are called to continually share the story of our salvation history.

God gives God’s name to Moses, “I AM,” saying that it is God’s name forever and a memorial to all generations. The message in Exodus is one of assurance providing us with a secure foundation to bring life to the words we proclaim.

Words spoken without actions are often hollow. Often people have asked “Can’t you just recycle your sermons?” My response is that the only reason I keep a sermon file is to be certain I don’t use the same stories and examples. Every time we read or hear the scriptures we are at a different place in our life experiences, since life is rarely stagnant.

The scriptures speak to us constantly, giving us new insights and renewed energy on our journey of faith, no matter where we are or how strong or weak our faith may be, helping us to become more fully the people God prays us to be.

The reading from 1 Corinthians directly follows Paul’s teaching on the variety of gifts that come from the Spirit and their uniqueness to each of us. The reading is often used at weddings; however, it’s actually referring to the gifts of the Spirit and agape’, an unconditional love that loves for love’s sake. Without agape’ the gifts are meaningless.

With it the gifts of the Spirit are amplified, taking on a life of their own, and are mutually beneficial to all undergirded by belief and deeds. In the Gospel of Mark Jesus says to the father of the epileptic boy, “If you can believe, all things are possible.” “All things” are those things which God has provided to give us, e.g., peace and joy. The verse is not saying that we will get everything that we “want.” The word “believe” refers to knowing that God loves us unconditionally and in the certainty that God provides us with what we “need.”

The boy’s father asks for help in his unbelief, meaning that he doesn’t have much faith, but he has a little and because of it Jesus cures his son. God does not wait until we are perfect (which will never happen on earth) before hearing our prayers, and even the teeniest bit of faith is enough. It is through the gifts of the Spirit, of faith, hope, and love being the greatest of all, that we are empowered and strengthened through continually sharing them with all we meet.

Prayer:  Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; then use us, we pray, as you will and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Church is Tomorrow!