Monday, February 22, 2016

The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:26

This verse is the last of three verses of the benediction to petition God for beneficence to be shown to a people.
Lift up your eyes upon me God so that I know I am favorable to you. Look cheerfully on me and be well pleased with me as I walk with you, needing your eternal life and happiness. You are also the eternal peace, the peace giver, inside and outwardly. May I experience your grace, your favor, your visits of love in my life. I ask this not only for me, but that your ways be known in the earth and your salvation to all nations. Amen.

Diane Ballentine

Saturday, February 20, 2016

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows” Luke 12: 6-7

This passage is both comforting and terrifying. Upon a cursory reading of the text, I felt good about myself because God values me more than birds. Great! After scratching the surface and analyzing the text, I realized that what Jesus is saying to his disciples in the book of Luke is that God knows each of us intimately. So much so that he knows how many hairs are on our heads (which unfortunately for me, gets less and less every day). Oh no! If God knows that much detail then he knows my innermost thoughts and sinful nature!! Of course, he does- because God always wants an intimate relationship with us. It is our decision to open up to God. But how can I do that? What if I don’t have enough faith? What if I’m not a good enough Christian? What if I can’t control my sinful thoughts? Jesus, Emmanuel, says to not be afraid. Later on in the same chapter of Luke, Jesus parallels the above passage when talking to his disciples, reminding them “do not worry” as the birds in the sky do not worry about where their food comes from. God knows each of us intimately. We can’t hide our broken nature. If we confess our sins to God and let him take the reins of our life, only then do we let go of our fear and worry.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to listen to the words of your Son Jesus, who reminds us to not fear and worry, as you want nothing more than an intimate relationship with us. Help us to let go and trust you, as the birds in the sky trust you. Amen

Duane Hine

Friday, February 19, 2016

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. Philippians 4:1

I have read and re-read all four chapters of the New Testament Book of Philippians, to gain an insight into exactly what Paul’s letter to the Philippians was intended to mean including the history of the times and the geography of Paul’s being in prison in probably Rome and the destination of his epistle to Christian Philippians residing in Philippi. Philippi is located in northeastern Greece (Macedonia) and Paul was associated with a group of Christians there. He called these people his “joy and crown.”

Paul had been imprisoned because he was a servant of Christ. But he did not give up. His letter shares significant messages and still has great relevance to us Christians today, more than 2,000 years later, even though it was written in a jail cell about 60-62 CE (Common Era), our AD (after Christ’s death).

For several reasons the theologian Paul wrote to his friends – he wanted the church to know how he was and what his plans were if he should be released. Paul wanted his letter to help ward off negative teaching in his absence and also to commend Timothy to the church. And, too, to send thanks for the concern these Philippian Christians expressed when they sent him gifts while he served his sentence.

Paul hoped to dissolve the discord within the church and encouraged humility within his group. He was promoting unity among fellow believers. He urged the Philippians to remain loyal to their faith just as we Christians today, right here and right now, at St. John’s on 141 South Potomac Street, are called to do.

The verse “my brothers and sisters” is used by Paul to refer to all Christians, both men and women. His words are a reminder that they all belong to one family, the family of God. How meaningful to us now!! We are ALL part of that same family. It is our purpose to come together in one camp, one tent – not in separate camps or tents, so we can gain strength as one and continue to follow the Lord’s intentions for us, no matter what. Just as the Christians were to look forward to Christ’s second coming and were to remain steadfast in their faith, so we are called to follow that same direction. Did you know that the words “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” comes from Philippians? Ever hear these words before? Ever stop and think on them? Ever just be still and l-i-s-t-e-n???

Paul sent great hope to his brethren then, and we can take that same hope off the page of his letter and apply it now in our daily lives, as we await the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! What a joyous day this will be! Did you know that God loves you so much that he has 3 photos of you – one on his mantel, one in his wallet, and one in his heart!! HE sacrificed his own Son, Jesus, so that we could LIVE. There is no greater love.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father – Please encourage us to continue in our daily prayer (not just during Lent but all year long) and follow your example to us, that of humility and of hope. Grow our faith even stronger with your presence in our lives and through the Holy Spirit help us to never become discouraged. May our sincere and dedicated efforts at becoming more like you as we continue your work here in Hagerstown, our home base, be put to good use as you guide and direct us, a “believing” congregation, through this Lenten season, and through all seasons. Thank you always for our many blessings. As we fast, reflect and repent, forgive us our many sins and help us to grow your kingdom in a very troubled world, one day at a time, one shift at a time, one hour at a time. AMEN.

Lois Weil Kaufman

Thursday, February 18, 2016

“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. Psalm 27:8-9

Psalm 27, which I now know has been christened “The “Triumphant Song of Confidence,” has been aptly and accurately entitled. Written by David, a former upstart, sinner, and warrior, who later went on to become king, these verses indeed reflect his new-found faith and glory in God Almighty.

He actively seeks the Lord’s “face,” and in fact pleads that the Lord’s face never be hidden from him. In other words, it would appear that David has discovered and realized the goodness and majesty of his God. Now, he fervently and enthusiastically beseeches God to always make his presence known and felt in his life.

David vows his confidence that he will never be forsaken or deserted by God. He exclaims out loud that he will “make melody, and sing unto the Lord.” He professes his belief that the Lord will “shelter him in his very own tent,” and will eventually “place him high on a rock.” David exudes confidence in his redeemer – and he is not the least bit shy in joyfully shouting it from the rooftops.

Prayer: Dear Blessed Savior, as we wend our way down this rocky path, remind us to continually seek out your “face” each and every day. When we hear the melodious quartet of cardinal, wren, catbird and dove, all at the same time, in the same dogwood. When we can look up gratefully at an impossibly azure-blue sky drenched with golden sunshine, the day after 30 inches of fallen snow. When we see that oh, so special look in our pet’s eyes that confirms they’ve rescued us. When a complete stranger makes our day, somehow. When we can belt out the first stanza of “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know,” completely out of the blue just because it feels so right. Please Lord, do not hide your face, and let us glimpse it daily in all things. Amen.

Stephen Lynn Meyers

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Genesis 15:5

Abram (God later changed his name to Abraham), a descendant of Noah, grew up in an important city of the ancient world – he was probably well-educated. Even though God judged people quickly for sinning, most ignored him and continued to sin. Abram demonstrated his faith by his actions, but it was his belief in the Lord, not his actions alone that made him right with God. He trusted God and God made him this promise.

This meant leaving his home and friends and traveling to a new land where God promised to build a great nation from Abram’s family. He did as God asked, suffering through famine and hardships; many questions and concerns; always keeping God and his promise with him. He truly believed God’s promise – this trust made him right with God.

We, too, can learn from Abraham. We, too, must have that true faith, that trust, that relationship; confident that God is who he says he is and does what he says he will do. God created us and gives us all we have – our relationship with him is vital and gives us true purpose in life. Our actions alone will not be enough but when we have that true faith, our right actions will naturally follow.

Abraham’s faith and obedience made him the father of three religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam- thus creating more descendants than can ever be counted.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Let us never forget your unconditional love for each one of us – keep us alert and obedient. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Betty Roney

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Psalm 96:2

In today’s world, it is easy for us to get wrapped up in our lives. Sports, work, school, society consume us. We start seeing less of people at church. We start hearing less about God in the world. Psalm 96 reminds us to praise him every day and in everything we do. I am very bad at creating habits and routines. This year, I challenged myself to read my devotional book every day. Like other resolutions, mine usually last a couple weeks and die off. Not this one. Reading my devotion for the day has reminded me to bless his name every day. It keeps God in my week longer than just Sunday morning. I want to challenge you, when Lent is over, to continue to reflect every day. Make a point to take time out of our busy days for him.

Prayer: God, please help me to be in the world and not of the world. When the world takes over my life, remind me you are there. You are what is most important. Amen.

Allison Grove