Weekly Devotional 12.31.2017

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  1 John 1:8
It should not come as any surprise that each one of us is bombarded with hundreds, if not thousands of messages every day. They range in scope from truth to which we should pay attention, to half-truths to which we should be wary, to lies that we should avoid.

Most of these come from the outside and can be easily controlled in terms of our response. The fact is that most never reach our consciousness as we’ve developed filters to keep them out.

There are another class of messages that are not easily filtered, some even argue that they cannot be. These are the messages that we send to ourselves – our “self -talk” that only we can hear. they are also the messages that have the greatest potential for harm.

They’re potentially harmful because they are often based upon outright lies, an incorrect interpretation of events, or the willful distortion of the truth. They serve to protect us from having to face the consequences of the truth.

If John is correct when he says that it is a lie to tell ourselves that we have no sin then we do harm to ourselves. He goes on to say that when we tell ourselves this lie the truth of salvation is not in us; we have turned our back on God. We’ve harmed ourselves in that we’ve closed the door to the part of salvation that is our inheritance of eternal life with God. What is left to us is an eternal life spent separated from Him with no means of undoing what we’ve done.

Heavenly Father, help me to control my self-talk, especially when it is harmful and leads me away from You. I stray often so when I do, show me the path to return to You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Devotional 12.24.2017 (Christmas Eve)

And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28)
Mary – Jewish, young, a virgin, and engaged to be married. Sounds ideal doesn’t it? But wait – there’s a problem, she’s pregnant!

Mary’s pregnancy is grounds for divorce should Joseph choose to exercise his right to divorce her. Mary’s situation, however, deserves a second look.

For reasons known only to Him, God chose Mary to be the mother of the Messiah, the Savior that He had promised His children so long ago. From her flesh, sinful as it may have been for no one is without sin, Mary was chosen to bring into the world the greatest gift that mankind has ever received.

It is her child who will eventually hang on the cross in your place. It is her child who will suffer the wrath of an angry God on your behalf. Her child took upon Himself our sin so that we could stand before our Creator just as if we were without sin.

So, after all of the gifts have been unwrapped, the trash bagged and taken to storage, take time to give thanks for the one gift that didn’t need to be unwrapped – the gift of your salvation, a gift freely given to you by your Heavenly Father.

His is a beautiful gift, the most precious one that you will ever receive. Treasure it.

Merry Christmas,

Pastor

Heavenly Father, like Mary, I’m humbled by Your gift to me of Your Son Jesus, my Lord and my Savior. I know Father that I will stumble so when I do, please guide me back to a right path with You for there is where I want to be – in communion with You for all of eternity. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Weekly Devotional 11.26.2017

Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ the He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:44-45)

It’s easy to get seduced into thinking that God only sees the “big” things that are done in His name. The truth is that while “big” acts are important and do get noticed it is often the little actions that we do in serving one another that carry the most weight.

In this passage from Matthew, Jesus is speaking to each one of us about just this idea. Nowhere in the list of acts that He mentions is there anything that could be called “big.” The things that He mentions are the little acts of ministry that are one-on-one. These are the acts that allow us to touch the soul of another as we meet their need.

These small, individual acts that He lists in this passage are important. However, the true weight of this list is not in the list itself, but in His response when He is asked when one of the actions was done for Him. Jesus puts the lesson clearly in front of us when He says, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”

Do the little things that we do in serving others get noticed and are they important? Absolutely they do and they are! Your words of comfort, that loving touch, your quiet presence – they are acts that serve Him by serving another.

So, the next time the opportunity to serve the need of another presents itself, don’t pass it up. You may just be touching Jesus and not even know it.

Heavenly Father, help me to see and respond to the little acts of service when they are before me. Guide me so that my hands, my touch, and my words are Yours. Act through me, Father as I serve my brother or sister. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Weekly Devotional 11.20.2017

 

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)
It seems that there are those times when it feels like the wrath of the entire world is being directed solely at us. Someone in the world is angry at us and they are not the least bit shy in letting us know about it.

There are other times, however, when instead of being the recipient of the wrath of others we are the issuers of it. We lose sight of the fact that we are a child of God and unleash the wrath of our anger on someone else; knowing full well that this is not how God wants us to behave.

Life is not always fair and as such, we cannot control how others behave toward us. We are often the receivers of someone else’s anger just because we are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can control how we behave, however. When we live with Christ at the center of our life our words are those that bring comfort and peace to others, not anguish, more anger, and anything but peace. It’s when we forget (ignore) His presence in our life that we all-too-often find ourselves spewing wrath on another when we should be doing just the opposite.

Until that day when Jesus comes again, how do you want to live? Do you want to be known by Him for your words of wrath or your words of comfort to others? Your choice.

Heavenly Father, help me to live with Jesus at the center of my life. Guard me against the wrath of the world that I be calm in my response and that I not return wrath for wrath. Guide me so that my words are not those of wrath but of comfort that build up rather than tear down. In Jesus’ name, AMEN

Weekly Devotional 11/12/2017

But I don’t want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have not hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
Over a lifetime, most of us will attend far too many funerals. We will gather with family, or friends, to pay our respects; trying to come up with words of comfort that while politely received are generally not really heard by the survivors that remain behind.

In spite of the slide show of the deceased’s life that plays over and over in the background, we’ll wonder what kind of life the deceased really had. We wonder whether he, or she, was satisfied with life or not, happy or not, surrounded by friends or lonely, or something altogether different.

In our own way each of us will feel the sorrow in our heart that comes from the passing of a beloved family member or friend. Yet, Paul in his letter to the Christians in Thessalonica tells us to be careful of the type of sorrow that we feel. He tells these Christians not to sorrow as one without hope.

He reminds us that for the world, the non-believers, death is the final act; there is nothing beyond but the decay of the body. The person is gone never to be seen again. Death just leaves a loneliness that can never be satisfied.

He is reminding them, and us, that death is not the final act of life. Rather, it is the gateway into an eternal life filled with peace and joy that comes when we collect on the promise that God made to His children. No longer is the departed one beset with the problems that were a part of living on this side of death. Suffering is no more; replaced by the peace and joy of being with the Father and the Son.

For the Christian who has lost a fellow brother or sister we will see the one called home again. Yes, we will know grief but it will one day be replaced by the love that we will experience when we are once again united with our brother or sister.

Father, I do grieve the loss of my family members, my friends, my brothers and sisters. Guide me through my grief to come to know peace that only You can provide. I look forward to the day when we will be reunited in Your presence. Until then, comfort me so that I can comfort others who are also grieving. In the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus, AMEN.

Weekly Devotional 11.05.2017

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. (1 John 3:1)

 

We live in a world in which titles are important and they carry weight; perhaps more than they truly deserve. They serve to define us, at least in part. And, they tend to stick with us, even when they may no longer be accurate. They are a “shorthand” of perceived value.

Like-it-or-not, even though most titles are positive there are some that are not. We may be known as a father or mother, sister or brother, or friend; however, we may also carry the title of dummy, or stupid, or ugly. All of these titles, positive or negative, however, are the work of men.

When we look beyond the titles that men can bestow there is one title that soars far above any of them. This title is bestowed by God for He knows us as Children of God. It is simple, direct, and is the measure of how He perceives us.

We know the meaning and intent of the titles of men, but what does it mean to be Children of God? On the surface, it means that we are His beloved creation but is there more to it?

The short answer is yes!

As a Child of God, you are loved when you are at your best but especially, when you are not. He knows that you will have “bad hair” days and as such are often in need of comfort and forgiveness – both of which He is willing and eager to provide because He loves you.

It also means that the world will not be kind to you because as His child it will not know you because it does not know Him. As His child, He will provide the strength to weather the storms that the world will send your way.

Finally, as His child, you will know true peace that comes from knowing that you are loved, cherished, valued, simply because you are His and that you will be with Him for eternity if you so choose.

 

Heavenly Father, I am blessed to be Your child. I am comforted by Your love and I wear the title Child of God with humility because You have bestowed upon me. Guide me as I share this title with others of Your children who may not know that they also wear it. Give me the strength to weather the storms of the world as I share Your blessings with those in it. I pray in the name of my Lord, Your Son, Christ Jesus. AMEN!

 

Weekly Devotional 9.24.2017

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
There are situations in life where fear is a natural and appropriate emotion. We face an unknown and our anticipation of what could be there; a sense of danger only serving to heighten the anticipation.

Look back at David as he faced Goliath, nine feet tall and in full battle armor. David is significantly shorter and armed only with a sling and some stones from the river. While others may have been afraid, David trusted that God would protect him and enable him to defeat this seemingly undefeatable foe.

We see this same trust in God in Esther. She was tasked with carrying knowledge of a plan to destroy her people, God’s people, to her husband the King. She knew that if she entered the royal chamber to speak to him without his permission he could have her killed. Yet she, fearful, entered anyway.

What did David and Esther know that we at times forget?

They knew that as long as they were acting according to the will of God, He would give the strength to accomplish the task. They knew that neither one of them possessed the strength to succeed on their own.

Heavenly Father, there are those times when I am overcome with fear. Help me to remain calm when fear overtakes me. Remind me that I have no strength of my own but that You are the source of my strength as I face the unknown. Lead me to react with grace that honors You. In the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus, AMEN.

 

Weekly Devotional 09.17.2017

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matt. 18:21)

 

It would be interesting to know what had taken place to prompt Peter to ask this question. Had something happened that sorely tried Peter’s patience? Was he venting that frustration to his Rabbi? We’ll never know.

What we do know, however, is that Jesus tells him that there is no limit to the number of times that forgiveness should be offered. Probably not what Peter wanted to hear.

Buried just underneath the surface of this conversation is the key question that drives it – what is forgiveness, what does it mean to forgive (or be forgiven)? What is it about this act of forgiveness that dictates that it be limitless?

To forgive is to dismiss an offense as if it never happened. It implies that the offense will never be brought up again. It doesn’t mean that we tolerate the offense. Even though we forgive, the sin behind the offense must still be addressed.

We often wrestle with forgiveness because we want our “pound of flesh” before we are willing to forgive. That is not the model that God has given us. If God demanded His “pound of flesh” before He forgave us, how could we know when He had satisfied Himself and we are forgiven?

And what if God said that each person only has so many times that he, or she, can be forgiven before He just gives up on us and permanently separates Himself from us? Again, we could never know when we are forgiven.

So, the next time that you are in the position to forgive or not, ask yourself this question, “does what I want in this situation match what God wants for me, for the one who has offended me?”

 

Heavenly Father, so often I am in the situation where I’ve been hurt by the actions of another. Help me to see the path of forgiveness and choose it over that of revenge. Guide me by the Holy Spirit to forgive when it seems as if that is the last thing that should be done. Help me to heal from the offense committed against me so that I will remain on the path of righteousness. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.