Saturday, March 30, 2013

March 30, 2013

Romans 5:8
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

It is 2,000 or so years ago, and it is Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.  For the disciples, the previous week ran the gamut from great joy to unspeakable sorrow.  On Palm Sunday, Jesus was greeted like a hero, a rock star.  People lined the streets and shouted, "Hosanna!"

For the next few days, Jesus taught through parables and, with divine wisdom, answered all the criticisms and arguments of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Then, on Thursday night, they shared a wonderful meal in the upper room.  Christ washed their feet.  What humility!  He also talked about betrayal and death, but the disciples didn't understand.

Then, the soldiers came.  Jesus was arrested, tried, sentenced, crucified, and buried.  The disciples joy gave way to fear.  They ran and hid.  They denied even knowing Christ.  Their only goal was self-preservation.  All pledges of love, belief and allegiance were broken and forgotten.  Now they cower in the upper room, waiting for the soldiers to come for them.  What were they to do?  Jesus was gone.  If He didn't save Himself from agonizing death, surely His promise of resurrection was impossible.  The disciples' expectations were based on their own human limitations.

In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul talks about how we find ourselves in that place of hopelessness and fear if we have faith in our own flesh rather than in the Holy Spirit.  In Romans 8:5, 9-11, he writes:  Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.  And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

We celebrate the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, but we need resurrection all year long.  No matter how strong our faith, no matter how we experience God's grace in our lives, we are hounded by fear and doubt.  Like the disciples, we have roller coaster weeks when it appears that God has failed or abandoned us.  We run and hide in our forts of flesh wondering what to do next.  Paul tells us that if we dedicate ourselves to live by the teachings of Jesus and, through prayer, fill ourselves with the Spirit of God, we will overcome all fears.  It doesn't mean we won't be afraid, but we will know that what we cannot do, God can.

If you are going through a Friday of death or betrayal, or a Saturday of darkness and despair, know without a doubt that a Sunday resurrection is coming.  Hold on to Christ, lean on the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead.  This Easter, no matter how things may be in our flesh, let us shout for all to hear, "He is Risen Indeed", and set our minds that we will also rise again.

~Sara Armstrong

Job 19:21-27a
Psalms 95, 88, or 27
Hebrews 4:1-16
Romans 8:1-11

Friday, March 29, 2013

March 29, 2013

Psalm 40:1-2
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
our of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, 
making my steps secure.

Waiting for God to help us is never easy, but in Psalm 40, we see that God helped David after he patiently waited.  David was lifted our of the slimy pit, mud, and mire.  He was given solid ground to stand on and new praise song in his mouth.  God can, and better yet, will take you from despair and depression to singing songs of praise!

Throughout my own life, I've realized that, often, we have to go through bouts of waiting before we receive our blessings.  David lets it be known that those who place their faith in the Lord, in contrast to the "proud" who turn to false gods, are blessed.  I find it interesting that David uses "Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust" rather than "Blessed will be the man . . ."  Even before receiving our blessings that come from waiting, we are already blessed just knowing that God is the truth.

"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire . . ."  God doesn't need our involvement; however, He wants to bless us.  Not for the sake of blessing us, but to bring us into a relationship with Him, and for us to do His will.  God doesn't want our offerings and sacrifice without a devotional attitude.  As Samuel told Saul, "To obey is better than sacrifice." (Samuel 15:22)  Give God the obedience and service He wants.

In verses 9 - 10, David writes that he would speak of God's faithfulness and salvation.  When God is working in us, we can't keep it quiet.  We must share with others what God has done for us.  Don't be timid!  We share groupons and recommend restaurants to others, so why wouldn't we share God with them, too?

Verses 11 - 13 really strike home for a lot of us.  David wants to be protected by God's love and truth from the innumerable troubles which surround him.  Who wouldn't want that?  David also talks about the manifold sins he has committed and how he is engulfed by them.  He uses his heart as a metaphor in this passage, "my heart fails within me."  This describes the depth of his despair; he is having troubles with the most basic of things.

I have had this feeling a couple of times in my life when I can't manage to do anything but wallow in depression alone in my room.  Nothing seems like it is working.  During times like this, David requests that God not withhold His mercy, but come quickly to help him.  Sometimes, all we have to do to receive the help we need is to ask.

I leave you all with a verse from Psalm 40.  I think it speaks for itself . . .

Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me.  You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.  ~Psalm 40:17

~Wayne Famber

Genesis 22:1-14
Psalms 22 or 40, 54
1 Peter 1:10-20
John 13:36-38 and John 19:38-42

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 28, 2013

Psalm 143:8
Let me hear of your steadfast love
in the morning,
for in you I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

Growing up brings so many challenges; some small, some big, and some that seem like facing a giant.  To those who have journeyed through to the other side of their giant, looking back, it doesn't seem so ominous.  They move forward to face new challenges and new giants.

Within our preschool, our three-year-old class begins the challenge of eating lunch independently.  They learn to open their own water bottles, open their own lunch containers, use a spoon or fork, and clean up when they are finished.  These are giants to a young child and milestones which adults have long mastered and forgotten.

When we first begin practicing independent lunch skills, these precious little ones look with wide eyes and want to know why you aren't doing these task for them with questions like, "You've done it for me before, why won't you help me now?"  As teachers of young children, we know it's time for them to move forward in this journey called "growing up."  We are right beside them, supporting them and guiding them as they have need.  We know we won't always be there beside them to open those containers.  We want to enable them to do these tasks on their own so they can move forward to new challenges as they grow into the people God needs them to be.

There are many times as we "grow up" that we don't understand the hardships we face with certain challenges; small ones, big ones, giants.  We look up at our Heavenly Father and say, "You've done this for me before.  Why aren't you doing anything now?"

He's right there beside us, supporting us, guiding us, loving us.  He knows it's time for us to grow up.  He needs us to trust Him.  He needs us to trust in His intense love for us.  He needs us to remember His Son.

Jesus told us that He would be with us always, even to the end of the age.  We don't need to be afraid or wonder where He is.  We are growing up under His watchful eye into the people He needs us to be.

~Mylinda Milley
Preschool Director

Jeremiah 20:7-11
Psalms 102 or 142, 143
1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32
John 17:1-11 (12-26)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 27, 2013

Philippians 4:4-9
Always be full of joy in the Lord.  I say it again - rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.  Remember, the Lord is coming soon.  
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me - everything you heard from me and saw me doing.  Then the God of peace will be with you.

This Lenten season, I have been leading a book study on Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, and this scripture ties in perfectly with this book.  I read it a few years ago and always recommend it to my friends.  

When Pastor Emily suggests we need to do a book study of One Thousand Gifts, I think "Yes!"  I don't think Emily asked me outright to lead the study, but God sure did.  I was hesitant . . . "Do I have time to read and prepare while being momma to my two kids?  Can I commit to a weekly meeting?"  I didn't know exactly how it would work out, but I agreed in my heart to lead the study before meeting up with Emily at Starbucks to chat about the details.  We decided to host a book study which I would lead once a week during Lent.

So, during the past few weeks, our book study group has been reading about Ann's journey to finding joy through thanking God for the gifts around her.  We have shared our stories and struggles.  We have prayed together.  And, we have gained further insight into how we can, as Paul says, "thank Him for all he has done." (Philippians 4:6)  Paul says we must thank God for ALL He has done - not for the things we want, not the things that make life good, but ALL things.

We have learned through the author's story that Paul is right on:  "Keep putting into practice all you learned and received." (Philippians 4:9)  We needed practice giving thanks for all things and "giving thanks in all circumstances." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)  So, we started our own gratitude lists - things that we have noticed in our day-to-day moments and thanked God for.  We learned that we need practice in being present and aware of the grace around us.

I have found that recording gifts brings a smile to my face.  My moments can go from stressful to joyful in the simple act of thanking God.  When I open myself up to God's gifts, whatever they may be, I also open myself up to joy.  But, it isn't always easy.  Because, opening myself up to grace means I take a risk that things might not turn out the way I planned.  It's not easy because I want control.  It's not easy because . . . what if I don't like the gifts (because I can't see the full picture and understand God's plan)?

But, my faith asks me to trust God.  My faith asks me to surrender.  My faith asks me to thank God for the endless gifts and graces He has given to me.  I need to focus on these things:  the "true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable." (Philippians 4:8)  When my understanding fails, I can rely on the truth that God's plan is perfect and worthy of praise and thanksgiving!

I am so thankful that I pushed aside my questions and doubts and said "yes" to God's call to lead the book study this Lent.  It has been a blessing to meet weekly with some wonderful women, and to set aside time in my week for learning more about God and my relationship with Him.  It has helped me focus on Him and helped open my eyes to the many gifts around me that I so often overlook.  And, it has brought more joy to my life.

What around you is "true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely and admirable?"  What gifts can you thank God for today?  Take time, each and every day, to give thanks to God!

~Lindsay Ward

Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-17
Psalms 55 or 74
Philippians 4:1-13
John 12:27-36

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Follow Me

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.--John 12:23-26

Some people come wanting to see Jesus, and this is his answer.  I always read this and scratch my head.  I imagine Jesus, wrestling with what is to come.  His humanity must be wrestling right?  He is in three more days or so left with his disciples.  He is about to go to his death.  He is about to be beaten and betrayed and spit on.  And he knows it. He sees it coming.  So, when people ask to see him—to be healed, counseled, taught, helped, worshipped, this is his answer.

He says, “Its about to be all over.  Its all about to change.  I am about to fulfill my purpose, to be held up in glory.”

“Don’t forget, that in order to be reborn, one has to die.  We cannot fulfill our purpose, we have to die. To self, to this world.  We have to die.  Just like a seed, or grain of wheat, or a Phoenix.”

“People are the same way.  If you cling to your life here, you will love everything. You will lose your soul, yourself.  You will lose it all.  But, if instead you hate this world, and hold fast to me—to God, then you will keep it forever!”

“If you serve me—you must follow me.  Even to death.  But don’t worry, I’ll be there with you. You’ll be with me, and my father forever.”

I imagine him saying, “Don’t forget, I’ve told you so many times.  I’m worry! I’m going to die, and come back three days later.  I know you don’t understand, but you will.  I promise.”

Good Friday is coming.  Jesus is walking to the cross.  And we will mourn and be sad and heart broken.  But there is redemption.  There is now life coming.  There are new promises.  Are you ready to follow Jesus?  Not just a little, but to the cross.  To your death?  Are you ready to give up everything to follow?

Today, examine your life.  What do you love more than Jesus?  Maybe its time to let it go.  To leave it be.  Maybe its time to pick up your cross and follow.

Are you ready to die?  To be reborn?  To live forever?  I am trying.  I am praying.  One foot in front of the other Lord.  I’m coming.

Because of Christ—
Pastor Emily

Monday, March 25, 2013

March 25, 2013

Psalm 51:10
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

Winter has flown.  Spring has sprung.  And, with it, the deep and compelling call for that dreaded, but much needed, spring cleaning.

I'll be the first to confess.  I hate housecleaning!  But, I love a neat and tidy home, so I do what needs to get done.  some chores, like wiping down the stove after dinner, keeping up with dishes, pots and pans, making the bed, and sweeping the floors, I do daily.

Dusting?  Sadly, not until I actually see those infintesimal varmints coating the surface of furniture.

Vacuuming?  Always after I dust.  The two go hand-in-hand.

Bathrooms?  Once a week, with touch-ups in between.

Windows?  When I see a smudge.

It's cursory cleaning at best.  Spring cleaning means more.  Much more!

It's time to get down on hands and knees, wiping every baseboard, vanquishing every spot marring the wood floors.

It's time to haul everything out of the closets.  Sort through the clothes and pack up for donations what is still in good shape, but needs to be purged.  Dust and vacuum closet shelves and floors.

It's time to grab my step stool and scrub down every surface I can only reach when using it.  This includes hauling everything out of the kitchen cabinets so I can 409 to my heart's content.

And, it's time . . . time to wipe down the blinds.  This wouldn't be so bad if we didn't have 14 sets of blinds in our home.  I'd rather take down 14 sets of curtains and wash them any day than have to face this painstaking and tedious chore.  But, face it, I must.

Because, just as the rigorous, sacrificial practices we take on during the Lenten season help create within us a clean heart, one prepared and pure to meet the risen Lord on Easter Sunday, the discipline of spring cleaning rejuvenates and enlivens the home I share with those I love.  A house which shines with peace and joy and comfort.  A house which says, "Welcome home."

So, I'll don my I-pod, crank up the tunes, gather my cleaning supplies, and plunge in.  With some stick-to-it-ness and elbow grease, my spring cleaning will be done by Easter.

Prayer:  Dear Father, as the Lenten season draws to a close, let us reflect upon how the practices and disciplines we have taken on have helped prepare our hearts and minds for the glory that is Easter.  Help us to examine ourselves prayerfully and honestly.  Renew a steadfast spirit within us.  Amen.

Jeremiah 12:1-16
Psalms 51 or 69:1-23
Philippians 3:1-14
John 12:9-19

Martha's website:
Martha's blog:

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Today is Palm Sunday, when the kids stomp around the room with branches and shout Hosanna.  The day we remember Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and the beginning of Holy Week.  We remember that in a week's time Jesus went from the Fan Favorite to being voted off the Island.  I think of so many celebrities in our time that have done that.  Tiger Woods.  PeeWee Herman.  Michael Phelps.  People often wonder how quickly the tide could change--and I like to remind them of these modern examples.

But in Matthew's gospel, directly after Palm Sunday, comes this story.  Not Judas selling out Jesus.  This story.....

Jesus and the Money Changers.  Turning over the temple tables.  The day Jesus got angry.  Its a familiar story.  If you aren't familiar, or need a refresher, just click the link above.  Don't worry!  I'll wait.  Matthew 21:12-17

What caught your attention?  What stuck out to you?

Well, I'll tell you what stuck out to me.  I always thought Jesus did what I'd do.  Get mad.  Righteously indignant, perhaps.  Flip over tables and storm out.  But that's not what happened!  He stuck around.  He healed people.  His frustration didn't take away from his ministry.

He did it so much that the kids started to praise him more.  The adults stood around frustrated and the kids praised.  

Which got me right back to Palm Sunday.

Have you noticed how we celebrate Palm Sunday in church.  Often, we even sit down during the hymn so we can watch the children praise.  We don't carry the Palms, we sit and watch them.  Have you ever watched the kids RUN up to children's time with Miss Lin?  When was the last time you ran into church (especially when things were GOOD in your life!)  Have you watched them as they sing?  Jubilant.  Excited.  Full of Joy.

Or our youth?  When they come in as sixth graders, they aren't so sure what it means to worship.  And then they watch the high schoolers--the ones who sit on the FRONT ROW of worship so they can praise and sing and lift their hands.

When was the last time you gave your all in praise to God?  I'm not suggesting that you have to dance or lift your hands, but when was the last time you used what you had to praise God?  Maybe this morning we can take a palm and praise too!  Maybe we can get lost in a hymn or a song.  Maybe we can go out of our way to tell someone about Jesus or do something kind in His name.  Can you be like the little children?  Can you praise?

Because of Christ--
Pastor Emily