Jesus is Alive – Life Wins!
Written by Jim Hardenbrook
"For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 116:8-9
This week, the one we call Holy, is filled with death, tears, and stumbling. Just read any gospel account of Jesus’s last week on earth and you will see what I mean.
Jesus becomes indignant about the misuse of the temple.
He cries when considering the future of Jerusalem.
He agonizes over his betrayal and crucifixion.
He stumbles while carrying his cross to Golgotha.
But this is only part of the story. It is only the story until Sunday morning. Sunday morning is when Jesus walked again – in the land of the living! The land of the living isn’t necessarily a place of peace but it is a place where life wins over death.
As Eugene Peterson wrote:
That’s where we Christians are stationed to affirm the primacy of life over death, to give a witness to the connectedness and preciousness of all life, to engage in the practice of resurrection.
We do this by gathering in congregations and regular worship before our life-giving God and our death-defeating Christ and our life-abounding Holy Spirit. We do it by reading, pondering, teaching, and preaching the Word of Life as it is revealed in our Scriptures. We do it by baptizing men, women, and children in the name of the Trinity, nurturing them into a resurrection life. We do it by eating the life of Jesus in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. We do it by visiting prisoners, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, healing the sick, working for justice, loving our enemies, raising our children, doing our everyday work to the glory of God.
This Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, will be such a time: a time to challenge the forces of death and destruction with the incredibly powerful news that Jesus is alive. Life wins!
You, Lord Jesus, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling. May I may walk before you in the land of the living to your eternal praise and glory. Amen.
Quick to Listen
by Deanna Carr
"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." James 1:19 NLT
I went to the bank, but the man I wanted to speak to was busy. I went to Walgreens to pick a up prescription at the drive-thru window. There was a sign there that said "no pharmacist available". That was different from their normal sign they put up when the staff is having a lunch break from 1:30-2:00. Many times I have gone there when they were closed for lunch. But remember this sign was different, NO PHARMACIST AVALABLE. It even said where the closest Walgreens is from Ontario.
I decided to physically go into the store and the shades were down. Then, I went to the front counter and asked the clerk. He said they w²ere probably just at lunch.
I decided to run another errand to the Phones Plus store. The gal messed around with my iPad and she was making progress. She then said that I needed to come back in thirty minutes. So, I went to a coffee place and purchased an expensive coffee. After thirty minutes had elapsed, I went back. Within five minutes it was ready to go and I headed back to Walgreens.
I checked to see if cars were in line and there was one, so I got in line behind it. The driver seemed to be waiting a long time and I could hear her angry words. So, I got out of my car and went to talk to her to see if they were really in there. She said they were but they were just messing around and they didn't know what they were doing.
After waiting a little more, I decided, I would come back later. I tried to get the lady behind me to back up. There was no response. I got back in the car and waited a little bit more. I discovered she had been sleeping. I signaled for her to back up. She did, but I hardly had enough room to back out.
I went home and called the pharmacy. The robot lady can't answer your questions unless she is programmed for the right ones. I finally was referred to someone who could help me. I told the pharmacy tech, Orion, what had happened. I know him. He said he was really sorry, but they had a problem with their Covid shots and were about to lose them. My heart went out to him and the other workers. I said I would come back later.
I went home to discover that the young man who is redoing my bathroom had made minimal progress. He has been working on it since November. He is starting a full time job on Monday.
I learned a little about anger, today.
When is it good to be angry? Jesus got angry. James writes about righteous and unrighteous anger. The late James Lewis talked about good trouble. The January 6th attack on the capital was not good anger or good trouble.
Righteous anger cares about others. Righteous anger doesn't hurt. It doesn't retaliate. Sinful anger opposes love, kindness, and respect. Righteous anger doesn't demean or denigrate. Righteous anger is improving and building relationships.
Our Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace that we don't deserve. Thank you for giving us second chances. Thank you for your magnificent love. Help us to be like Jesus in all we do and all we say. Amen.
Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord – I Want to See You
by Jessica Adams and Lucy Adams-Hardenbrook
"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:8-9
Our daughter-in-law, Jess, shared this conversation she had with our five-year-old granddaughter, Lucy. Feeling like I have a little saint in the making on my hands tonight.
Lucy at bedtime, weeping: I know Jesus is in my heart.
Jess: Yes, he is! Does that make you sad? What’s the matter?
Lucy: It’s just that I’ve never seen him.
Jess: Well, most people don’t, but you could pray for that.
Lucy: You mean I could make up a “pray” and ask Jesus to let me be a person who sees him?
Jess: Yes! You can definitely make up that prayer.
Lucy, still weeping: Oh, Jesus, I pray that you could please, PLEASE make me a person who sees you because I love you so much and I never want to lose you.
Jess: That was wonderful.
Did anyone out there pray like that when you were five years old?
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord; open the eyes of my heart – I want to see you; I want to see you. Amen.
by Jean Hershey
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
I’ve always loved the word courageous. It means, “not deterred by danger or pain; brave.” When you hear someone say, Be Courageous! It sounds simple, yes. But its not so easy really, is it.
By definition, courageous people believe in themselves. They know who they are and what they stand for. They have strong values, recognize their personal capabilities, and are confident in meeting the challenges that lie before them. Courageous people are passionate and purposeful.
The Bible teaches that we are to take courage from the fact that He never leaves us or forsakes us. ... Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” With God, you can face your fear. You are not alone.
I will say here that being courageous doesn’t mean that you won’t be afraid. That is not always realistic. Instead, being courageous means to press through the fear when you feel afraid. In fact, sometimes your knees will shake or your anxiety will rise. Your mind may even start racing away with all kinds of “what if” thoughts.
About the time this happens, that’s when you have to kick into overdrive and let the Word of God take over. That’s when you have to plunge through your fear and trust in Him. You have to trust God beyond your fears.
God laid out a plan if you read a little bit before verse 9 in Joshua, "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it."
I know it is not an easy thing to be brave and courageous as we face all kinds of fears in life. I have been there too many times and know that this can be tough. Personally, when things have looked dark, scary, or intimidating in my life, I’ve had to trust God beyond my fears. And it hasn’t been easy. However, that’s when the Lord would remind me, “Be strong and courageous, I am with you.” And I would have to repeat those words over and over again, and then walk in His strength and courage.
We, as Christians, know the plan, we have the tools! We are armed with the Word and God’s promise that he is with us, always. He even sent Jesus to seal the deal. We know the ending too, we win! So Be Courageous! Always!
Lord, help me to always remember that you walk with me every step of the way. I never have to face any fear alone, you are always there. Your Word strengthens me. With that faith help me to be courageous and live without fear. Amen,
Don’t Give Up Hope
by Anne DeBord
"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever." Psalm118:1
When my oldest son was about ten years old, he took on the summer job of caring for the neighbors’ yard while they were on vacation. With extra effort and for a little surprise for them, he was arranging medium sized rocks around the outside edge of the pond. All was going well when he accidently dropped a rock on his right index finger and thumb causing blood to flow, pain to start and a short run home to Mom for a look. It looked bad enough for a trip to the doctor, and it was close enough to quitting time for Dad to come home and help out with the crisis trip. Dad could drive and Mom could soothe a scared child.
Causing more problems was the fact that my son was planning a trip with his grandparents to Spokane for the World’s Fair in just a few days. The doctor analyzed the situation, found the thumbnail broken as well as the finger and thumb and it required splinting. We were sure the trip would have to be cancelled, but to our surprise, the doctor said, “You can heal traveling as well as sitting around being depressed.”
“Thank God,” I said.
Our son’s accident didn’t ruin a blessed chance to go have fun with his grandparents.
Praying in the crisis, along with us parents adding our layer of soothing, led to a very positive result.
In simple daily life, we pray for a clear view in moving forward in hope for a good future. Amen.
by Pam Hardenbrook
"Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2
Sally was making a trip from Idaho to Georgia to see her son receive an honor for his Marine Corps service. It was in the mid-1960s and she had never traveled in the southeast—and she had never met a black person.
It was the second or third day of the trip when a young, very pregnant black woman and two small boys boarded, and it was all the young mother could do to manage the children and their belongings. Having been in similar circumstances when her own brood was young, Sally jumped in to help and got them settled near herself.
Sally chatted with the woman, helped entertain the children, and shared her snacks. Near lunchtime, the train stopped for awhile for some passengers to transfer to another train. Sally helped her new friends disembark and fetched their food from the depot lunch counter. The young family was taking another train from there, so Sally hugged them, and said good-bye. She never saw them again.
When Sally re-boarded, the atmosphere was changed. Other passengers, all of them white, were aloof, if not rude to her. But the train employees, who were black, treated her with extra kindness. Later, Sally went to the dining car. Careful not to overspend, she ordered a sandwich and coffee. When her meal arrived, it included much more than she ordered, plus a piece of pie. “Compliments,” said the dark-skinned waiter.
When Sally arrived at her destination, a porter gathered her bags and escorted her off the train to her waiting son. He simply said, “All of us thanks you for your kindness to that family. God bless you, Ma’am.”
Jesus’s parents took at least two long trips—once while expecting and once with the young Child. I wonder if there was someone like Sally to help them. I wonder if that person had any idea who the family was.
Heavenly Father, at this Lenten Season, open my eyes to those whom I can touch with kindness, grace, and love. Amen.
Playing by God’s Rules
by Chase Van Weerdhuizen
Pharaoh’s officials said to him, “how long shall this fellow be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the LORD their God; do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” Exodus 10:7
It’s hard to lose at the game.
Pharaoh was part of a tradition of winners. The kings and queens of Egypt never lost at anything. They were a global superpower at the time and had stayed that way for thousands of years by being the best at what they did. They had a highly skilled army. They were the best representational artists on the planet. And don’t get me started on how good they were at stacking rocks on top of each other! They had to be good at everything. They were surviving on a temperamental river system at the east of the Sahara. There was no room for losers.
Of course in order to be a winner, someone has to be a loser. In the case of Egypt, it was the slaves needed to maintain their infrastructure. At this point in the story, God had started letting Egypt know that he wasn’t happy about the whole slavery thing. But Pharaoh continued to hold out, causing his own team to suffer.
Pharaoh’s officials were reminding him of his duty to his entire kingdom. Why wasn’t he worried about how their livestock had keeled over? Or how the Deben was going down in value? Or that everyone was still trying to sweep frogs out of their houses? Oh let’s not forget how the sky had been streaked with fire and ice just the day before. Or that beyond their borders they had to deal with enemy states like the Mitanni and the Libyans who were ready to pounce at any moment. Because it wasn’t just God who wasn’t happy with them, it was all their neighbors too. Maybe if they’d been just a bit nicer before…
Pharaoh was willing to give up everything to win in a contest of spite against his adopted brother and his brother’s God. Often we are tempted to do the same, whether it is for our pride, hate, or even grief. God calls on us to be better sportspersons. Not only do we follow Christ’s example so that we might truly enjoy the game being played, but I’m pretty sure he’s willing to pay for an ice cream cone at the drive-in on the way home.
Dear God, help me to play by your rules when it’s so easy to follow my own. As we approach the darkest days of Lent, let Christ be our example of how to win the game against death. Amen.
by Letha Essinger
"Then [Jesus] told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:3-9
Growing up in Kansas on a dry-land farm I looked forward each year to the coming of spring, with all the newness of life that it brought. Baby chicks arrived in the back seat of the rural mail carrier's car, and baby piglets and new calves were born. Weeds and perennial flowers sprung up and bushes promised delicious berries in summer. My father prepared the soil in our gardens and our fields for planting. I loved planting the seeds, imagining the good food that would be harvested in summer and the beautiful flowers to enjoy.
I remember one summer I took a few dried peas and beans from Mom's pantry and made a secret little garden in the draw behind our house. I was delighted to see them actually grow.
I'm told that “you can take the girl out of Kansas, but you can't take Kansas out of the girl.” I still delight in playing in the dirt. The winter chores had better be finished before mid-March, or they will have to wait until fall. You will find me all spring, summer, and into fall in my garden.
Our youngest daughter inherited the “dirt-under-the-fingernails” gene. She plans her spring breaks from the university (where she works) to come play in the dirt with her mom.
I'm wondering – who planted the Jesus seeds in your life? Who was it that loved Jesus and wanted you to love him too?
We had Sunday school in our little one-room schoolhouse. One of my seed planter/saints was Sadie Intermill. She was the organizer that made sure Sunday school happened. The main thing I remember is singing with Mrs. Intermill playing every key on the piano, with exuberance, for us to sing “Jesus Loves Me,” “Brighten The Corner Where You Are,” or “Heavenly Sunshine.” We memorized Bible verses and little poems to recite. When I grew up, I wanted to be just like Sadie Intermill.
As a layperson, and later as a pastor, I pray that I planted some Jesus seeds in many lives. No matter that I could never play the piano. I still love to sing! Hymn of Promise, composed by Natalie Sleeth, captures the idea of how “Jesus seeds” grow and produce fruit.
In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there's a spring that waits to be,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
Our loving heavenly Father, thank you for those who planted “Jesus seeds” in my life. Grant me grace to share seeds of love, hope, and faith in the lives of others. Amen.
by Larry Haley
"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20 KJV
Several years ago our pastor announced his intention to retire. We were a small church congregation and our pastor served us part-time which was just what we needed. We were concerned about who could provide this limited but important role for us. Part-time pastors are hard to find. Would a new pastor be serving multiple churches? Would our worship time need to change? Our retiring pastor suggested we start a prayer vigil focused on a new pastor and what we needed. We decided that for the months of February and March, the time before new pastors are assigned, that we would have Prayer Tuesdays. The plan was to have one hour prayer times in the church sanctuary that individuals could reserve and come and pray. The times were from 6am to 9pm. Immediately folks signed up and we filled most of the slots. And so on the first Tuesday in February the prayer vigil began and continued for the two months.
Sometime in April we were contacted that our new pastor had been selected and he was brought to our church by our DS and introduced. He was a retired pastor/DS who lived 15 minutes away. He wanted part-time at one church. And then he said “I decided I wanted to return to preaching and on the first Tuesday in February I called the DS to see if there was a possibility.” The day we started our prayer vigil! We prayed for two months not knowing that God had already answered our prayers.
In reflection, I’ve thought of the verse of being gathered in God’s name and I now believe it not only refers to physical gathering but also to spiritual gathering.
Prayer: Lord, you know what we need before we do. Help us to listen to you and to accept what you provide. Amen
We Have Been Set Free
by Jean Hershey
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
I found this story several years ago, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. Let me share it with you today.
As a man was passing the elephants at a circus, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.
He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller, we used the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”
Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before? It seems a common human response to failure. We are bound by the belief that we just can’t, and we don’t try.
Failure is part of learning though; we should never give up the struggle in life. Especially when we have the strongest advocate ever, Jesus Christ, who lifts us up and strengthens us! Our bindings have been broken by the blood and sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross! We have been set free!
Jesus, help me remember that I can do all things through you. You strengthen me and are with me with every step I take. Through you I am released from the bonds that hold me, the fears of failure, and I can make it through any conflict or trial if I but lean on your strength and keep my eyes on You! Amen.
Are You Making Use of this Power?
by Jeanie Hershey
"And you will know God’s great power. It can’t be compared with anything else. His power works for us who believe. It is the same mighty strength God showed. He showed this when he raised Christ from the dead." Ephesians 1:19-20 NIRV
Recently I was reading something online about a product that sounded promising for a need that Lyn and I were facing. As I neared the end of the fairly lengthy information, I began to sense that something sounded familiar. Sure enough, we already had some bottles of that supplement that sounded so miraculous. The only thing is that we had not opened the bottle!
The Spirit nudged my heart then that that is a picture of the many wonderful promises He has made to us, the work He has done for us, and yet I often don’t access.
The Scripture for today is an amazing example of this: We recognize the power that raised Jesus from the dead. And, that is certainly crucial to the Easter story. But, I believe that same power is available for our everyday life and just as important. We are not expected to live life on our own. Actually, we really can’t do that very well as we were created to live a life of faith that claims this resurrection power for our everyday life.
As I understand it, the word that Paul used for power was dunamis, a word that gives us our word, “dynamite.” He is saying here that God wants to give us dynamite power that can change our life, transform us into the being He created us to be. How exciting!
Dear Father, we come to you in the name of Jesus who demonstrated this mighty power through the resurrection. Forgive us for the times that we have tried on our own rather than look to you for the great things you have provided for our lives. Amen.
Facing the Hard Truth
by Chase Van Weerdhuizen
"So the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, Shapan, and Asiah went to the prophetess Huldah…. She declared to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the Lord, I will indeed bring disaster on this place and on its inhabitants — all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read.”" 2 Kings 22:14-15
The prophetess Huldah gets nine verses in the Bible, but boy does she use them! According to Rabbinic thought, King Josiah likely sent his men to Huldah expecting that since she was a woman she would have kinder words for him about his kingdom than the doom and gloom of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah wasn’t known for being a happy camper at the time. Unfortunately what Josiah got still wasn’t the best news. If you read the entire story, God lets King Josiah off the hook for his piety, but speaking on behalf of God, Huldah had a lot to say about his chosen people.
Often in our lives we know the hard truths. We have to actually go out and pull those weeds or they’ll keep coming back. We should put our phones down before bed so that we can actually fall asleep. We even do a quick internet search that says, “Yes, you do need to pull them out” and “Yes, you do need to put your phone down before bed.” We ask our coworker and they concur. We ask our family and they say the same thing.
But there has to be a way to not face the hard truth, right? We take a weed whacker to those pesky goat heads! We buy special glasses that cut down on certain light frequencies so that we can still sit on our phones past bedtime! But unfortunately we still end up with weeds and we wake up tired.
There are certain messages we can expect from God over and over again. When there is injustice in his kingdom, he will bring peace. Where people are cast aside, he will lift them up! Where there is death, he will bring resurrection! And he wants us to be a part of the process.
It may be uncomfortable for us to face facts and join in the work. We may not want to listen to the answer we know we’ll hear, but God’s truth won’t change no matter which source we go to.
Dear God, Today please open my ears to your messengers. Help me to tackle the hard challenges instead of the easy solutions. Amen.
God Will Take Care of You
by Leslie Olson
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1
An old hymn, found in our United Methodist Hymnal was written in 1904. The title is “God Will Take Care of You.” The second verse reads:
Through days of toil when heart doth fail, God will take care of you;
When dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you.
God will take care of you, through every day, o’er all the way,
He will take care of you; God will take care of you.
My life has been blessed with good health, a loving family, nice Christian friends, and comfortable surroundings. I thank God each day for his many blessings. However, I likely tend to be complacent in realizing that God does take care of me, instead, feeling as if I am in control. Yet, I’m sure he has been with me and saved me from doing harm to others and to myself at different times in my life.
His presence was proved to me last month as I was driving on the freeway, coming home from Caldwell. I used very poor judgment and suddenly realized I was not in control of my car. I was within seconds of causing a very serious, multi-vehicle accident. Panic set in, and my reflexes seemed to freeze. There’s no doubt in my heart and mind that God was with me and took control of the situation, preventing my causing a very bad accident, which could have resulted in the fatality of others and myself. I think of that situation every day and thank God for reminding me that he does work in my life to care for me.
Lord, I praise you for being with us in our lives, especially in our times of need. I pray that I might always feel you working in my life throughout each day; please strengthen my faith in your loving presence. Amen.
Even When They Are Old
By Lyna Kittelmann Wilkins
"Good people....will take root like trees that stay healthy and faithful, even when they are old." Psalm 91:14
Some people dismiss older citizens as old and useless. They see the white hair, the hearing problems, and the physical disabilities as hindrances. They are!
However, like leaves on a maple tree, as they age seniors become more beautiful. They have experiences, wisdom, and inner strength to help others. God gives us all gifts to use to help others. We just need to let him lead us in what he wants us to do—no matter our age.
To God we are beautiful, created in his image!
Dear Lord, lead senior citizens, especially me, to further your kingdom and to bring Jesus’ love to others. Amen.
By Roxie Tolbert
"We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!" Matthew 20:18-19
Our daughter-in-law, Wendy, got a phone call, a few weeks before Easter, from our granddaughter Trisha, who was away at college. Trisha was very upset and told her mother that she had just found out that she wasn't doing Lent correctly. She said that she had just learned that she was supposed to give up meat for Lent and instead she had been giving up her favorite daily fancy coffee drink from Starbucks. Trisha was attending St. Mary's College, a private Catholic college, and part of the requirement was attending worship services. Apparently it was suggested in the service that it was appropriate to fast from meat. Wendy explained to Trisha that, as she didn't care one way or the other if she ate meat, it would not be a sacrifice for her; so to give up her precious coffee drink was, of course, the right way to fast during Lent for her.
I've had several interesting conversations around doing Lent—everything from being told that, as a Methodist, I can't do Lent because it's only for Catholics (and, no, this bit of wisdom did not come from someone who was actually Catholic) to friends asking me if I do Lent, how I do Lent and if they should do Lent the way I do. My first reaction when someone asked about doing Lent instead of observing Lent was that Lent is a Christian season, not an activity. After giving it a little more thought, I realized that I couldn't be more incorrect. Lent is something you do.
Lent is our time of spiritual preparation before Easter. Preparation, any kind of preparation, requires activity. Some suggested activities are fasting, spiritual discipline, repentance, moderation, and self-denial. Lent is the time when we make an extra effort to draw closer to God – to really think about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a time to reflect on the sacrifice that was made for us—the gift that was given to us. The suggested activities provide both time and constant reminders for us during Lent—something to keep us centered during this special time.
So, how do we do Lent? We do it in the way that is the most meaningful to each of us. We do it in the way that brings us closer to our amazing God who loves us so much that he gave his Son to us and for us. However you do lent, do Lent.
Lord, we seek to come closer to you through our Lenten disciplines. May they be a gateway between You and each of us. Amen
Different Gifts, but the Same Spirit
By Cris Warzyn
"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." 1 Corinthians 12: 4-6 and 27 NIV
I have been the Trustee Chair for a long time. I have a unique perspective of the goings on at the church because I am also the church secretary.
During every week, people stop by to share their gifts of service. I suppose most people don’t think about this happening but it is crucial to the life of the church. They all do different kinds of service but they belong to the same Lord: Mike might come by to shovel snow. Floyd might trim the bushes. Jean might fix the computer. Gary might install the new router. Mark might climb up the highest ladder and hang a banner or change the time on the clock. Glenora might pick up the bills. Roxanne might get the deposit ready for the bank. Sharon might get the attendance books ready. Ed might fold bulletins or stuff giving statements. Teresa might come to give away ice cream. John might bring groceries for the coffee shop. Ron might program the thermostats and Chuck might drive through the parking lot almost every day to make sure all is well or to help me save a goat!
There are so many more examples I could add to this list. These folks all have the talent or gift of service. Not everyone has this gift but I’m sure thankful for the ones who do. They do different tasks but it is the same God at work.
Thank you, Father, for the many gifts of service that your Spirit distributes; and thank you for your people who are so willing to share those gifts in the church. Help me to open myself to ways your Spirit leads me to serve – to the praise of your glory! Amen
Our God Is an Awesome God
by Glenora Wright
Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you,
they sing the praises of your name.”
Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!
He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot--
come, let us rejoice in him.
He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations--
let not the rebellious rise up against him. Psalm 66:1-7
The passage from Psalms tells us to look around and see the wonders that God has done for us. His creation is the work of an awesome God. Take a minute, close your eyes, and think about nature, the huge mountains, the vast seas, the plains, all the different animals, plants and even the little bitty ladybug. Think about His creation of man and woman and how we are to take care of His world.
That is just one thing our awesome God did for us. After man messed up, God provided a way to reconcile with Him. That is what Lent and Easter is all about. John 3:16 tells us “God so loved us that He sent His only Son” to die for us on a cross that we might live with God forever. Lent gives us a little over 40 days leading up to the cross to reflect on the enormity of His love for us. It is amazing, humbling and even more than we as humans can imagine.
The title of this devotion is “Our God is An Awesome God,” which is a song by Rich Mullins. It says in part, “Our God is An Awesome God, He reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power and love...” This song always lifts me up and helps me realize that I am not alone no matter what is happening here on earth. God is my rock and I can always lean on Him. Praise be to God!!
Pray with me – My Awesome God, thank you for all your wondrous works, your love and for the gift of your Son. Help me to love and honor you with the choices I make every day. Humble and thankful, Amen.
by Leslie Ward
"Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay them for their deed." Proverbs 19:17
During Lent a common practice is to give up something that you enjoy. I understand the idea behind that: to experience, in an infinitesimal way, the sacrifice that Jesus made. If this helps you to feel closer to Jesus, I commend you. I however would like to ask you to add something to your already busy life.
I challenge you to add one or more of the following:
One more Bible verse reading
One more devotional reading
One more random act of kindness
One more compliment to a stranger
One more prayer for a difficult person
One more call to someone lonely
Find a Christian song that you love and live it
Offer grace to someone
Listen when you want to talk
Use your imagination and add something to this list!
I love to praise Jesus as I listen to music on the way to work in the morning. I am quite sure that people think I am crazy. One of my favorite songs right now is “Less like me” by Zach Williams. I think music can speak to us and sometimes for us.
Dear Jesus, May I accept the challenges of each day and may I become more like you each day. Amen.
Less Like Me
Oh I have days I lose the fight
Try my best but just don’t get it right
Well I talk a talk that I don’t walk
And miss the moments right before my eyes
Somebody with a hurt that I could have helped
Somebody with a hand that I could have held
When I just can’t see past myself
Oh Lord help me be
A little more like mercy
A little more like grace
A little more like kindness, goodness, love, and faith
A little more like patience
A little more like peace
A little more like Jesus
A little less like me
Yeah, there’s no denying I have changed
I’ve been changed from who I used to be
But even at my best I must confess
I need help to see the way you see
Somebody with a hurt that I could have helped
Somebody with a hand that I could have held
When I just can’t see past myself
Oh Lord help me be
A little more like mercy
A little more like grace
A little more like kindness, goodness, love, and faith
A little more like patience
A little more like peace
A little more like Jesus
A little less like me
Oh to feed the beggar on the street
Love to be your hands and feet
Freely give what I receive
Lord help me be
I want a friendship first above all else
Love my neighbor as myself
In the moments no one sees
Lord help me be
A little more living
Everything I preach
A little more like Jesus
A Little less like me
By Holly Hutchinson
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
I spent my earliest years in Pinedale, Wyoming, a mountain town famous for long, hard winters. The word “spring” was never spoken aloud before April first. But a woman in our town was a nut about Spring Cleaning.
Her name was Madge. She moved to our town and became the lone employee of the Welfare office. Her tiny, century-old log cabin was one of the town’s first structures. Located on Main Street, the house was passed daily by everybody in town. Its living room had two chairs in front of the fireplace and a huge upright piano. Coats hung on a row of hooks. The tiny kitchen and bedroom were monk-like. The “facilities” were out back. The tiny windows made the interior somewhat dim, but colorful braided wool rugs adorned the floors. It was perfect for Madge. Not a stay-at-home person, she liked to be out and about. Playing piano by ear, she provided raucous music for local dances and community events, especially at the Episcopal Church. She started the town’s Campfire Girls, brought Red Cross swimming lessons to town, and helped start a museum. She organized a box supper for Valentine’s Day, an Easter egg hunt on the courthouse lawn, and Thanksgiving meals for shut-ins, where the deliverer sat down and shared the meal.
But the event Madge directed every year on April first was unlike any other: Spring Cleaning Day. That day everything from her cabin (except the piano) was carried outside. The house was dusted, scrubbed, and polished. Madge didn’t accomplish this alone; she recruited people to help—expecting us to honor the frontier tradition of “pitching in”—and she could be a little bossy. Kitchen cupboards were emptied; shoes and clothing were taken outside; rugs were draped over the fence; curtains were hauled to the laundromat. Then, after the last corner was swept and the last window washed, Madge started putting things back. But before each item was returned to the house she asked two questions: What is it for? Do I need this?
Madge said this yearly ritual helped maintain her balance. Not interested in possessions, she did not give or receive gifts. She appreciated beautiful things, but did not need to own them. “I need Spring Cleaning Day to eliminate clutter and make way for what is important,” she said.
Don’t we all? The season of Lent is a good time for de-cluttering our messy lives, and changing the focus to our faith and the lessons of Jesus.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I know I spend too much time counting, organizing, maintaining my possessions; and not enough time maintaining my relationships with people. I am determined to use this time before Easter to work on this, to “get my house in order.” Amen.
Beauty Grows from Trials
By Mark Hershey
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14
I love woodworking, and I love wood. One of my favorite things to work on is wood burl. No one knows for sure what causes it, but it is widely believed that it is caused by an injury to the tree, by severe stress, or disease.
Most burl will appear as a growth, or a misshapen part in a growing tree. While it may appear ugly on the outside, when it is opened up, worked, sanded, finished and the inside is exposed, you will see amazing beauty in the wood. This beauty comes from the continual growth as the tree is healing from its wounds or stress. The swirling grain is not only more beautiful, it is also much stronger than the normal straight grain of the tree. The burl is almost impossible to split apart, where the straight grain will split apart easily.
As I was thinking about this, I realized that God can, will, and does do the same for us. If we continuing to grow, face challenges, work through hurts and stress, but look to God to heal the damage in our lives, we will come out stronger, and more beautiful than we ever were before, as only God can make us.
We need to allow ourselves to open up to God and to each other to expose this new beauty created in our lives by these trials and scars. We may never know how us opening our hearts and allowing people to see the scars and the beauty that God has made of it will impact other people’s lives
We also need to open our eyes to the beauty of the same growth and change in other people’s lives. The grain is never the same from tree to tree. Each has its own unique and wonderful pattern, just as no two people are the same. God has touched us each uniquely and created in us his own imprint and pattern of beauty.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for being right there with me through all the trials and struggles in my life. They have formed me and made me who I am today, and without Your love to carry me through them, I don’t know where I would be. I am forever grateful You carried me through and made me stronger for them. Amen
by Doris Homan
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
A very dear friend sent me this little story many, many years ago. I keep it in a place where I can refer to it whenever I want, and I always hear an important message in it.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted an old friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.”
When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing. Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror. The mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.”
At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.”
Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience.
The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn’t recall what else the great master played, only the classic, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.”
Perhaps that’s the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren’t always graceful, flowing music. However, with the hand of the Master, our life’s work can truly be beautiful.
The next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You may hear the voice of the Master whispering in your ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.”
Regardless of our age or situation, we can be sure our heavenly Father still has his arms around us and we can hear him whisper, “Keep playing!”
Lord, thank you for transforming our meager efforts into greater blessings for your people. Help us to “keep playing,” knowing that you are there to help us. Amen
Salt of the Earth, Light of the World
by Deanna Carr
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16
When I was little, we used to have a special speaker, well known in our denomination, come to preach every night at our church for a special week. It was always a big deal and I looked forward to it.
We also were blessed with a children's story. One night, our special speaker told us he had something in his shoebox that he would show us the next night, that had never been seen before and would never be seen again after that night.
All the next day, I thought about what it could be. I was very excited when we got to go up for the children's story that night. When we were all assembled at the front and we had been welcomed, he opened the box, took out a peanut in its shell, broke it open and ate it! My disappointment was probably palpable.
I am only guessing, but I think I remember the gist of what he was saying. He was telling me that there was no one on earth like me and never would be. Awesome. No other peanut like me. I have a purpose. I told this story to many of my students.
Jesus loves us all – all of us peanuts.
I had great parents who loved me. They took me to church, where I had teachers, friends and formed lifelong relationships. I learned about Jesus, who taught us about being salt and light. I have to let His light shine through me to enhance the beauty of the world. My peanut is designed to uplift, enhance, and bring light and to glorify God, but I’ve gotta be out of the shell.
So, is my life transparent so that the light of Jesus can shine through me; and does my life have the flavor that only God's grace can impart? What kind of peanut am I growing up to be?
Thank you Jesus for being the Way, the Truth and the Life; and thank you for stories. Amen.
Make Me Your Vessel
by Jean Hershey
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:21
I remember hearing about the conversation that my dad had sitting in the presence of his doctor and surrounded by some of my siblings. Upon hearing that his heart was failing and his time on earth nearly over, he didn’t break down. Instead, he gave a very dignified response about how he had lived a good, full life. His kids were all grown and doing well and he was ready.
I often think about how I might respond in that situation. Would I be able to say I’m ready? It leads me to think about my life, how I’ve lived it, and am I worthy in God’s eyes to say I have been a servant and a vessel for His use. I try to be, but as you may relate, it’s hard to stay on track. I fail, I fall, and it seems to become a daily struggle and need for forgiveness, for cleansing.
There is a worship song by Hillsong Worship called New Wine that goes over and over in my mind each time I hear it. The chorus says:
Make me Your vessel;
Make me an offering;
Make me whatever You want me to be.
I came here with nothing
But all You have given me.
Jesus, bring new wine out of me.
The song goes on to say much more, but that pretty much sums up my daily prayer.
Thank you, Jesus, for making it possible that I can be forgiven and cleansed, even daily, and filled with the Holy Spirit so that I can be a vessel, forgiven and sanctified – useful to the Master! Amen.
Repent and Believe
By Jim Hardenbrook
“The time has come,” Jesus said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15
Jesus’ message was perplexing, yet simple: The kingdom of God is available, but repentance and belief are required to enter that kingdom.
Sometimes I’m perplexed by Jesus’ insistence that we believe. Of course, we believe! But do we? I wonder. Jesus often asked those closest to him, “Do you still have no faith?” Yet he was surprised when he observed faith. Remember his
reaction to the Roman commander in Luke 7:9?
Do we believe what Jesus said about worry, or forgiveness, or loving those who curse and hurt us, or commitment, or material possessions, or eternal judgment.
Maybe that’s why repentance is linked with belief. When we get close enough to observe and hear Jesus, we clearly see that he proposes a life radically counter to our culture and nature. If we believe him, change (or repentance) is mandatory. Eugene Peterson wrote, “[Repentance] is always and everywhere the first word in the Christian life.” The hardest thing to change is the way we think. That change, essential if not easy, inevitably leads to a changed lifestyle.
Lent is a time of repentance. Years ago I had a cancerous tumor removed. Because of surgery the cancer was survivable. But without surgery, it would have killed me in five or six years. Sin and unbelief are survivable, but only when repentance enters the picture. I had to submit to the advice and scalpel of my surgeon. When will we submit to the call and command of Jesus, “Repent and believe?”
Lord Jesus, thank you for making God’s kingdom available. In this season of repentance, reveal whatever is keeping us out. Amen
Who Do You Hang Out With?
By Pam Hardenbrook
Let your gentle spirit be known to all. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5
I remember a sweet saint named Mary Glover. She was in her late nineties when I met her and we remained friends until she left this earth in her 104 th year.
Mary hung out with Jesus. Many times at church she would grab me or another sister or brother for a hug, and she would whisper in our ear. When that happened, I was never quite sure if she was talking to me or to Jesus. Her sentences were often interspersed with prayer.
Her last years were spent in a retirement home that had lots of corridors. She turned those hallways into prayer walkways, praying for everyone she knew every day. Mary could no longer sing in the choir, teach Sunday school, or lead her ukulele band. But because of her closeness to Jesus, her whole life was a prayer.
Like Mary, I want my best friend and confidant to be Jesus. I want to hang out with him because he is the one who calms my storms, soothes my soul, and gentles my spirit. Hanging out with Jesus is the key to my joy and peace of mind.
Prayer: Just a closer walk with Thee! Grant it, Jesus is my plea. Daily walking close to Thee – let it be, dear Lord, let it be. Amen.