March 11

  If you are following these devotions, you will realize that this post did not go out on the Monday as usual.  It is actually Thursday the 14th.  As mentioned in my last post, there has been some hospitalizations in my family last week, and with getting out of the hospital and settling in with the new norm, I have been unable to keep up with it all in a timely fashion.  So I beg you forgiveness.  I am also at a loss this morning for what to write.  God has been teaching me patience this last week and with all my own expectations I have that are not being fulfilled in the way I would desire, I must confess I have not been the best person to be around.  So this morning, I confess my frustrations, ill-temper, and impatience.  Lord, help me to trust you and not on my own understanding.

March 4

  I am writing this a day later than usual because of an unexpected trip to the emergency room with my wife after the Sunday morning worship service.  At the time of this writing she still has not been released from the hospital.  And it is hard to be with my wife in the hospital and be with my kids at home.  Needless to say, I am weary and worried and running on empty.  It reminds me of the life of Paul that we looked at in Sunday school two weeks ago.  Paul was traveling to Rome when the boat was caught in the storm.  For 14 days, they struggled and on the 14th day, Paul was encouraging the sailors and helping getting them get fed.  And after they had to abandon ship the next day and swim ashore, there was Paul again getting firewood and being bitten by a viper for his trouble.  I am sure that Paul was as weary and worn as the rest of the 276 people at this point in the story.  Yet here he is ministering and encouraging those around him.  And so I write, hoping in my weariness, I might minister to others.  And even though, I do not know if anybody reads this blog or not, I still hope that this act of serving when all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry, will help and encourage someone.

February 25

The Our Daily Bread devotional had a great message last week that tied nicely with the message Sunday about how your heart needs to be clean and so I am going to reproduce it here.  If you read it this last week, read it again.  Ernest Hemingway was asked if he could write a compelling story in six words.  His response: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn”  Hemingway’s story is powerful because it inspires us to fill in the details.  Were the shoes simply not needed by a healthy child? Or was there a tragic loss- something requiring God’s deep love and comfort?  The best stories pique our imagination, so it’s no surprise that the greatest story ever told stokes the fires of our creativity.  God’s story has a central plot: He created all things; we (the human race) fell into sin; Jesus came to Earth and died and rose again to save us from our sins; and we now await His return and the restoration of all things.  Knowing what has come before and what lies ahead, how should we now live?  If Jesus is restoring His entire creation from the clutches of evil, we must “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:12).  This includes turning from sin by God’s power and choosing to love Him and others well (Rom 13:8-10).  The specific ways we fight with Jesus against evil will depend on what gifts we have and what needs we see.  Let’s use our imagination and look around us.  Let’s seek out the wounded and weeping, and extend God’s justice, love, and comfort as He guides us.  Live out your role in God’s story as He leads you.

February 18

  One of the lesions I was reminded again this last week as I was studying for the sermon yesterday is how God can use flawed, ordinary people to spread His perfect and extra-ordinary message.  You see, people in the 1st century (and even people in our own time) found it hard to believe that nobility or extra-ordinary wisdom could come from those of lowly birth.  Only those who were born with prestige or from well-to-do parents could grow up to be important themselves.  This was why Jesus’ hometown could not see Him as anything more than a carpenter.  “The myth of the Greco-Roman world was that godliness was tied to nobility.  [Similarly] the myth of our time is the godliness to tied to success.  . . . Mark invites us to commit ourselves to the truth that god does awesome thing through people and events that appear to be merely ordinary”  (Kernaghan 119)  I find it fascinating that God uses what Paul refers to as clay vessels to shine God’s love through.  We do not have to be perfect or successful or noble to show forth the message of Jesus.  And in fact, it enhances our message that God loves the broken and imperfect.  None of us should feel superior because without God’s love in our hearts, we are no better than anyone else.  We are all beggars telling each other where to find bread.

February 11

This week we celebrate Valentines Day.  It is a day to express our love and affections to friends, family, and other loved ones.  However, I would encourage you to do something more.  Since God so loved the world, I want everyone who reads this to be a Valentine to someone who is not close to you.  Maybe it is someone you bump into on a regular bases at a store or a restaurant.  Maybe it is a cashier or waitress.  Maybe it is the greeter at the supermarket you frequent.  Maybe it is a neighbor who just moved in or the mechanic who works on your car.  Bless them in some way this week.  Give them a warm hug or an extra tip.  Smile at them and bless them in the name of Jesus.  And if the mood strikes say, “I know someone who loves you more than you can ever imagine.  Would you like for me to tell you about him?”  The verse of the week on my desktop goes right along with this thought. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27).  And may you all have a wonderful Valentines Day.

February 4

   A song popped into my head this morning as I was starting to think about what to write in this devotion this morning.  As you know, if you attended service yesterday or listened to the podcast of the sermon (2/3/19 Sermon) we talked about the battle we are in against Satan.  Well the song “The Battle belongs to the Lord” came to me.  It is an upbeat song by Jamie Owens-Collins that talks about how we can rely on God and His strength when we do battle against Satan and his forces.  “In heavenly armor we’ll enter the land, The battle belongs to the Lord. No weapon that’s fashioned against us will stand, The battle belongs to the Lord.  When the power of darkness comes in like a flood . . . He’s raised up a standard, the pow’r of His blood . . . . When your enemy presses in hard, do not fear . . . Take courage, my friend, your redemption is near. The battle belongs to the Lord.”  And the refrain is a praise, “And we sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord. We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord”  And as I said a couple of times in my message, we need to trust and rely on the Lord and the power he has given us when we are out in the world – Satan’s world – spreading the life changing message of Jesus.  Satan may be more powerful than us, but “greater is He who is in us than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4)

January 28

  I had a lot of information that I read this last week about the Sabbath and how we are commanded to keep it.  But “keeping” it means different things to different people.  Here is a quote from one of the commentaries I looked at this last week.  “In our culture we have lost this gift of a day when we can reconnect with the holy and recharge our spiritual batteries. Our daily struggles may produce economic triumphs but can make our lives a spiritual wasteland. Lily Tomlin said the trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat. We need time for ennobling our souls and must enjoy this gift. One must be cautious, however. The incident recorded in Mark reveals how a gift can be nullified by rules that saddle others with additional burdens rather than unchaining them from their load. (Garland, D. E. (1996). Mark (p. 124). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.)  It goes on to say, “The observance of days (like Sundays) and seasons is not to be the sole element that distinguishes Christians from others. What Jesus affirms is that the Sabbath is for doing good. Jesus never criticizes the law that requires the Sabbath to be treated as holy. He simply affirms that the Sabbath can become an occasion to do good rather than simply a time to refrain from work. (p. 124).  I hope that our “Sabbaths” are not just days of rest, but also days of work . . .  doing God’s work.

January 21

  As usual, I am writing this blog on Monday morning.  And this Monday morning is the Monday on which our nation celebrates the great man Martin Luther King Jr.  And ironically as I was reading my personal devotions this morning (which includes reading through the Bible in one year), the passage I was “assigned to” was at the beginning of Exodus.  And I could not help but think of all the parallels between this passage and the civil rights movement that Dr. King led for many years.  He helped to bring about some of freedoms and liberties that some Americans were denied.   And just as Moses led the people out of their land of slavery, King did too.  So today, I wanted to pay honor to the legacy that Martin Luther King Jr. left for us and for the message that he delivered to all of us.

January 14

We did not have any services on Sunday due to the snowy weather.  However, I thought I would write a quick jot to keep this weekly blog going (or should it be a weakly blog?)  Either way, I look forward to writing these things and it gives me something to look forward to on Mondays.  I was all set to start a new series this week on the book of Mark.  It is a fun book and I hope that you will attend or tune in with us each week for the next 12 as we dig in to this gospel.
I came across something in my daily devotions today that kind of builds on the faithfulness of God I preached on a week ago.  Talking about all the people in the 11th chapter of Hebrews (faith chapter), “All of these expressions of faith were made by those anticipating a hope that would be fulfilled by God in whom they had place their faith.”  God is Faithful.

January 7

  I am sitting in my office this morning looking forward to the new year.  I have not had a time to set aside in this last month or so to plan out my next six or so months of sermons.  I have fallen behind.  I try twice a year to set aside a day or two or even a weekend when I can prayerfully consider what to preach on for the next six months.  It sometimes come easy and at other times, I wonder what direction the Holy Spirit is leading me and this church.  I know some pastors do not plan ahead like this and pick their sermon/passage of scripture week by week.  I think they think that the Spirit will inspire them on what He wants them to preach about using the “hot topic” of the week or some other recent event that will trigger a response on which they can base their sermon.  I figure, if the Holy Spirit can direct a pastor to a particular topic or passage of scripture for the next Sunday during the previous week, He (who knows the future far in advance) can guide me month by month on what I can preach on.
   I have experienced first hand how this takes place.  Several years ago, I put together a six month plan for my sermon series relying on the Holy Spirit to guide me on what to preach on week by week.  Then 9/11 hit.  Three months before, had planned on preaching from a particular passage the Sunday following that traumatic event in our country.  That week, I questioned whether I should change what I had written down months earlier or change it. But as I saw the scripture and message that the Spirit had laid on my heart months before, I realized that it was exactly what the church needed to hear that Sunday and I knew that with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I did not need to change.  God knew far in advance that 9/11 would take place.  And He knew the message, He wanted me to bring the Sunday following.
  So as you read this, pray for me that God would lead and direct my thoughts this next week so that His messages for these next months would come upon my heart and impress them on my spirit as I plan accordingly.