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 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

March 23, 2013

John 44:46
I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness.

As I began researching to find a focus for this Lenten devotional, I came across the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.  He was born in 1182 and died in 1226 at the age of 44.  The son of a wealthy silk merchant, Francis led a carefree youth.  However, he later committed his life to God, avowing poverty, and following all that Jesus said and did.

As we celebrate and muse in the days prior to Easter, it would be good if we, like St. Francis, could be more like Christ.  We should have faith and believe what is written in the scriptures - that God will watch over us and help us to "build and to plant" (Jeremiah 31:27-34) those things which we might need, and give up our focus on worldly matters and material things.  We need to trust in Him.

We see in John 12:37-50 that even though Jesus gave many miracles and signs, the Jews still did not believe in Him.  Can we truly show by our life and our daily activities that we, indeed, believe and act in His ways?  Can we take to heart John 12:44-50?  
". . . When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one that sent me . . . I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness . . . So whatever I say is just what the Father told me to say."

Lent is the perfect time for us to examine ourselves, our actions and our core beliefs to see if we do, indeed, believe and live as the Father has told us to.  The Prayer of St. Francis is written below.  I challenge you to read it and question yourself and your actions as you go through each verse.  All of us could be more Christ-like by following the example set by St. Francis.

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in the giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

~Ann Baker

Jeremiah 31:27-34
Psalms 137, 144 or 42, 43
Romans 11:25-36
John 11:28-44 or John 12:37-50

Friday, March 22, 2013

March 22, 2013

John 11:3
So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."

I was never very nice to my sister - always picking on her, calling her names, and just being a brat toward her.  Then, on December 6, 1965, God took her away.  They called it meningitis.  One day she was sick, the next day she was gone.

God was punishing me, I thought, for being mean to my sister.  This was the way this seven-year-old felt.  From that point on, the only reason I went to church was because Mom made me.  I was so alone, and I hated church.

In our little church every summer, we had a revival.  It was not a short event - it lasted for a whole week.  I didn't mind the music, but I had to sit and listen to that preacher go on and on.  Then, to top it off, every night we had the dreaded altar call.  It seemed to go on for hours, especially if nobody walked to the front.

It was at one of these boring revivals that my life was changed.  Who would have thought a surly teenager like me would actually hear what was going on?  That preacher was looking and preaching straight at me!  I had no choice when the call was made.  With tears in my eyes, down to the altar I went.  It was like getting hit by a truck and losing a giant weight at the same time.  People were gathering around me, offering prayers and encouragement.  I felt so bad and so good at the same time, I could not describe it.

Hard to believe that you are loved so much that God put His Son on the cross so that your sins would be forgiven.  One day, when I get to heaven, my sister and I will be having a talk about how sorry I am for treating her so badly.

Ask Jesus to come into your heart.  Ask forgiveness from those you have wronged.  Turn your life over to the Lord, and don't fret the small stuff.

The best part of this story came a couple of days later.  My best friend, my Dad, made his way to the altar and also took the Lord into his life.

~Dennis Friese
Maintenance Supervisor

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-13
Psalms 22 or 141, 143
Romans 11:13-24
John 11:1-27 or 12:1-10

Thursday, March 21, 2013

March 21, 2013

Psalm 142:1-2
With my voice I cry to the Lord;
with my voice I make
supplication to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.

Are there any atheists in foxholes?  I don't think so!

When we face times of tribulation and turmoil, even folks who never darken the doors of a church or utter prayers during the good times, often find themselves crying out to God for help.  Praying He will hear them.  Protect them.  Save them.

Some, in their desperation, find Him, and their lives are forever transformed.  Others, when the storms have passed, pick up precisely where they left off and go along their merry, if mistaken, way until the next crisis hits.

Do I believe God hears the cries of the righteous and unrighteous alike?  You bet, I do!

But, the Lord won't compel anyone to listen to or heed His answers of comfort and consolation.  He gave us free will.  We can choose to love Him.  To worship Him.  He never forces our hand.  He loves us too much for that.

So, when you find yourself in a foxhole, what do you do?  Do you pour out your complaint to the Lord?  Tell Him all your troubles?  Or, do you hold back, letting your pain and suffering fester within you?  Thinking, perhaps, God has better things to do than to hold you in His arms?

Take the psalmist's advice - Cry out to Him in your distress.  Expect that He will hear you.  Wants to hear you.  Then, listen for His healing response.

Because, when "we pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody."  

And, that's "better than an hallelujah sometimes."

~Martha Orlando

Jeremiah 26:1-16
Psalms 131, 132 or 140, 142
Romans 11:1-12
John 10:19-42

Martha's website:
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 20, 2013

Psalm 130:3-4
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.

A righteous man/woman is the kind of man/woman that, when their feet hit the floor each morning, the devil and his team of haters say, "Oh, my, he/she's up!" ~Anonymous

Friends, wouldn't we want to be that righteous man or woman in the quotation above?  Of course, we would!  And, because we are assured of God's acceptance and forgiveness, we can renew our hope each day to live righteously for His sake.

Life is too short to wake up with regrets.  Love the people who treat you right.  Forgive the ones who don't, just because you can.

Believe everything happens for a reason.  So, when second chances come along, grab them with both hands!  When they change your life, let them!

Take time to think before you act.  When you are upset, forgive quickly.

And, remember - God never promised us an easy life.  But, He promised it would be worth it.

So, let us seek God's will for us and fulfill our vocation precisely where we are placed. And, pray that you can be one of those people that the devil hates to see wake up!

Enable me, Lord, to take courage in Your love and forgiveness.
Let me not grow weary, but daily exercise my faith.
Enable me to rest in the assurance that with You all things are possible,
so that when life's calamities come my way,
You will unite my heart more closely with Yours.

~Betty Ellison

Jeremiah 25:30-38
Psalms 119:145-176 or 128, 129, 130
Romans 10:14-21
John 10:1-18

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Into the Hills--A reflection on Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
   from where will my help come?

Sometimes when all seems lost, the only place we have to look, is up.

My help comes from the Lord,
   who made heaven and earth.

Sometimes, remembering that God is in control.  That God made everything reminds me that my problems or fears cannot be that bad. 

He will not let your foot be moved;
   he who keeps you will not slumber.

Sometimes, I need to remember that God doesn't rest.  God is always there.

He who keeps Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.

Israel--the chosen people--the people who have striven with God--been blessed by God are protected.  We are adopted into this love and spirit and blessing.  We are God's chosen!

The Lord is your keeper;
   the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
   nor the moon by night.

The Lord has it.  The Lord has you!  You shall be saved!  You are being saved!  You are protected, even from the sun and the moon! 

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
   he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
   your going out and your coming in
   from this time on and for evermore.

When things are bad, don't forget this.  Don't forget that you are loved and chosen and protected.  That the Lord will keep you and love you and be there!  You are special.  Loved.  Forgiven, chosen!

Pastor Emily

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18, 2013

John 9:1-2
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

When we read the story in John 9:1-17, and take its contents literally, we are faced with many questions.  Was the man born blind because of the sins of his father?  Did Jesus purposely heal the man on the Sabbath to prove a point?  Were the Pharisees jealous of the attention Jesus was getting, or were they motivated by fear?

As Christians, we know the answers.  No, this man was not born blind as a punishment for sin, but he was healed as a blessing from the Lord.  We also know that God heals the suffering when He so chooses, regardless of the day.  And, moreover, the Pharisees were legalistic and were, in fact, furious that Jesus would challenge their laws.  All that happened was in God's plan as it moved toward the ultimate sacrifice.

But, what if we looked at this story as an abstract message?  How many of us are blind to our surroundings on a daily basis and miss the many miracles right in front of us?  Doesn't God want us to rely on Him?  Don't we find ourselves sometimes wearing blinders and avoiding or blatantly disregarding what God has in mind for us? Are we being narrow in our focus?  Are we blind to the needs of those around us?  When we are blind, we are also disobedient to God's will for us.  We are, in fact, turning our backs on our faith.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?  Are you stressed, tired, unhappy with your surroundings, and wishing you were someone or somewhere else?  Are you being obedient to the will of God?

God made us beautiful, inside and out.  We each have amazing gifts to share.  It is our responsibility to use those gifts as God intended.  Share God's love with the world (that includes your family).  Love the children.  Feed the hungry.  Clothe the naked.  House the homeless.  Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matt. 25:40)

Not sure how?  Start and end each day with prayer.  Rise in the morning simply thanking God for another day to be used by Him.  End your day with gratefulness that He walked with you during the day.  Read your Bible.  Attend church with your fellow Christian brothers and sisters.  Love the Lord with all your heart, your strength, your might.

Don't be like the blind man.  He had no choice but to accept his surroundings and wait for the Messiah.  We know better.  Our Messiah has come, He has died for us on the cross, and HE IS RISEN!

Glory to God in the Highest!  Amen.

~Robin Harris
Nursery Director

Jeremiah 24:1-10
Psalms 31 or 35
Romans 9:19-33
John 9:1-17

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 17, 2013

1 Corinthians 9:22-23
I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Do you ever feel as though you are outside of the reach of God's love and grace?  Sometimes, you just know that you are going to do the wrong thing.  No matter how willing your heart or your spirit, you just know that you have one particular temptation or weakness you cannot seem to stand up against.  Maybe, you feel this is keeping you from being close to God, or that you are not fit to spread the Word of God to others while still trapped in your own sins.

First, let's get a couple of things straight.  Scripture tells us that there is nowhere we can hide where the Lord cannot see us; He fill the heaven and earth (Jeremiah 23:24).  So those things that you know you're going to do wrong?  God knows about them, too.  Sometimes, we may turn away from God in an effort to hide our wrongdoings, or because we feel unworthy of His grace.  Or, maybe, we're just not ready to acknowledge - or turn away from - our sin.  But, you can't keep secrets from God, so there's no us in trying to hide from Him.  You are never outside of His reach.

Second, don't ever believe that your shortcomings stand in the way of God using you to bring others to Him.  Yes, we should continually strive to turn away from our sin, and no, this is not a get-out-of-jail-free card to continue doing whatever we'd like.  But, our Lord works in mysterious ways, and even into our darkest places His light will shine.

Without giving any revealing details (which makes for a terribly dull anecdote - my apologies in advance), I was once somewhere I shouldn't have been, doing something I shouldn't have been doing.  While there, I felt strongly compelled to make what seemed to me to be a horribly awkward statement to someone I had just met.  This person immediately teared up.  It turns out I had given them just the message they needed to hear . . . though, it certainly had not come from me.

The point of that maddeningly unspecific story is that even in the places where we're not living the best example of a heart after Christ, in those places where we wish we could hide in secret from the Lord, He is still with us, still able to use us in His mysterious ways.  

We know that Jesus' twelve disciples were chosen from different professions and walks of life.  Each had their own strengths and weaknesses.  But, we sometimes forget that there are many examples in the Gospels where Jesus rebukes the disciples.  Yet, these, as apostles, were responsible for spreading God's Word and establishing His church after Jesus' death and resurrection.

Many of Paul's letters to the early Christians, such as those at Corinth, remind us that Paul was trying to instruct them in the ways of the church, not because he felt he was better than they were, but because he, too, was a sinner, and was able to speak to others of God's mercy and grace because he, himself, had received it.  He knew the things with which they were struggling not because he was looking down on them, but because he had been down among them.

During the Lenten season, when some of us use the time to try to let go of a particular vice, let us remember that God can turn our test into a testimony.  Whatever we may be struggling with now, God can still use us to reach other members of His flock.  Sometimes, even in our weakest moments when we feel the farthest from His light, we can still reflect that light onto others.

Let us pray:
Dear Lord, I know that I can never do enough on my own to be deserving of Your mercy and Your grace.  Though I try, sometimes it feels that I just can't break free of sin.  Please help me to remember that even when I am at my worst, I cannot hide from Your light.  Your love never fails; it endures forever.  You are near to all who call on You, and You lift up all who are bowed down.  Thank You for using even my weakness to bring others to Your glory.  Amen.

~Mary Elizabeth Watson

Jeremiah 23:16-32
Psalms 118 or 145
1 Corinthians 9:19-27
Mark 8:31-9:1

Saturday, March 16, 2013

March 16, 2013

John 6:66-69
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?"  Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and know you are the Holy One of God."

As I read John 6:60-71 about how some followers questioned Jesus, and Jesus said to them, "Hey, if you can't follow the word, then you can't follow me," it reminded me of my own relationship with God.  In looking at my track record with going to church and being a follower of Jesus, it has been very touch and go.  It seems that it is easy, convenient even, to not be an active participant and recipient of God's Word.

The excuses come . . . I work full time, I have two boys who keep me busy . . . I am spending time with my family; wouldn't Jesus want that? . . . I was up late Saturday night, I need the sleep in . . . and the excuses can go on and on.

How does this make me any different than those followers who were with Jesus and questioned the Lord's Word?  I wonder if they had those same excuses running around in their heads . . . We have followed this guy for years, and what do we have to show for it? . . . I am hungry . . . I am tired . . . I want to see my family again . . . And, who is this God he keeps talking about?  We haven't seen anything yet.  I am sure the list of complaints would go on and on.

Then Jesus, in His way, called them out on it!  There are so many times when something happens that I know is a God thing, I look up and point my finger and say, "God, You are a funny guy."  That is because Jesus knows how to slap us with a two-by-four right when we need it.  It is like that V8 commercial when the people need a bop in the head!

So, I challenge you, when you begin to sway from your path with Jesus and think, Well, maybe I don't need to go to church this Sunday or attend Bible study that morning . . .Think of those disciples who went home instead of continuing the journey with Jesus.  Think about that opportunity they chose to miss out on, walking personally with the physical Son of God.  We may not be able to walk in Jesus' actual footsteps as they did, but we can read our Bibles, hear the Word preached, and be in the company of other Christians.

No excuses!!!

~Trisha Crawley

Jeremiah 23:9-15
Psalms 107:33-43, 108 or 33
Romans 9:1-18
John 6:60-71

Friday, March 15, 2013

March 15, 2013

Romans 8:31-32
What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  

I'll admit it.  Trusting in God doesn't come naturally to me.  I get it honest, though, as I come from a family of worriers.  I'm amazed at how some people can stand firm as pillars and approach each day without worry or care.  They are confident in their faith. They know where their help comes from.  They're strong and unwavering.

Me, on the other hand, I'm concerned about how much money it's going to take to fix the leak in the foundation of our "as is" home we purchased just two years ago.  I'm too worried about tax season.  God is blessing us with another beautiful little girl due this June, but the only thing I can think about is formula and diapers.  They're expensive, you know!

It's funny how I worry about these petty things which seem so significant at the time, but trust God for the salvation of my soul.  Wait . . . I can trust God for my salvation, but  still worry about the price of diapers?  This doesn't make sense!

It's exactly what Paul is saying to the Romans:  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Paul is declaring that we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus.  We simply must fix our eyes on Him.  I'm reminded of a thought-provoking worship song by the same name which you can listen to here.

The prayer for my own life and yours is this:  that we fix our eyes upon Jesus, and spend less time worrying about the insignificant aspects that will always be prevalent. God always takes care of us.  We must simply trust in Him.

~Chris Owenby
Music Minister

Jeremiah 23:1-8
Psalms 102 or 107:1-32
Romans 8:28-39
John 6:52-59