Tuesday, March 1, 2016

God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.   Hebrews 2:4

The message of Hebrews is that Christ is real and sufficient for salvation. The beginning of chapter two infers that Christ is superior to the angels. We must, he says, pay closer attention to what we have heard or we will drift away from it. The message we have from Jesus is the Gospel, the Good News, that is spoken by him through his apostles. The apostles testified to it. Verse four tells us that it was testified to or validated by God with signs and miracles and gifts given through the Holy Spirit, as he saw fit.I can testify that Jesus Christ is real and living with us and that the Holy Spirit is within us. Living with chronic pain, fatigue, and several other syndromes for at least 20 years has not been a simple way for me to live. During the earlier

I can testify that Jesus Christ is real and living with us and that the Holy Spirit is within us. Living with chronic pain, fatigue, and several other syndromes for at least 20 years has not been a simple way for me to live. During the earlier years I lived with lots of negativity and depression, but I never walked away from Jesus. By hanging onto him I realized that he is always hanging onto me. He said he would never leave us or forsake us. He is always with us. He has brought me through some very tough times and continues to lead me. Jesus Christ is my salvation. God gave his testimony. The apostles gave theirs and I have given mine. Will you give yours?

Prayer: Father, please accept our humble thanks for our salvation given to us by Jesus Christ, our dear and precious Savior. May we always testify to the Good News he has brought us. In his dear name we pray, Amen   

Bonnie Wine

Monday, February 29, 2016

“He has told you, O Mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Israel was in turmoil. The people had fallen into evil ways and now were looking for a way out. In Micah 6:6-8 we read, “With what shall I come before the Lord? …a calf, ..a thousand rams,..ten thousand rivers of olive oil, ..my first born?” They were looking for a better sacrifice; the ultimate “bribe” to seek God’s favor. Micah tells them what God really wants from them.

It really isn’t much different today, is it? We tend to wait until we are deep in the messiness of our lives and we want to bargain with God to get us out of our chaos.

God does not want Pomp and Circumstance, no royal pageantry, no gaudy show. What God requires is this… God wants us “to do justice;” to be fair, impartial, and honest. God wants us “to love kindness;” to be friendly, generous, and compassionate. God want us “to walk humbly with your God;” to be open minded and concerned about the needs of others. The rest, the “burnt offerings,” is just fluff.

On this 29th of February, this extra day, let us all practice justice, kindness and walk humbly with our God.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving Lord, Open our eyes to what it is that you require of us. Open our hearts to the needs of our neighbors. Open our hands to do your work in your kingdom. Amen.

Debbie Jo Kline

Saturday, February 27, 2016

“You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit.” John 15:16

As a gardener, I especially appreciate the image that the fifteenth chapter of John creates. Earlier in the chapter in the fifth verse are the familiar words, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” And in the fourth verse we are reminded that “a branch cannot bear fruit of itself”. I find it easiest to think of the sixteenth verse in terms of the tree that I see out my window. The leaves are not the starting point—they can only exist when there is a strong, well-rooted trunk to support the branches on which they grow. So John challenges us to think of Jesus as the strong trunk that supports us and his love for us as the thing that binds us, like branches, to him. He challenges us to love Jesus and one another, assuring us that it is the only way to be productive and to secure God’s blessings. So just as the leaf and branch do not choose the tree on which they grow and cannot continue to grow if they fall from the tree, we have been chosen by Jesus, our strong support, and abiding in his love is the way that we can “bear fruit”.

Prayer: Lord, help us to remember every day that you have chosen us, and that only when we abide in your love can we fully receive your blessings. Amen.

Suzanne Hayes

Friday, February 26, 2016

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

God sets before us many temptations and many trials.  They are all to refine us and teach us endurance in his name, that we may become steadfast in our faith so that we will be ready for him to use us as his instruments as he sees fit. The following verses all pertain to how God is refining us and molding us into something better and stronger.  Please read them:
Job 23:10                                                  2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Job 28: 1-28(emp. vs. 28)                Colossians 1:9-14
Malachi 3: 2-3                                        James 1:2-4
Romans 8: 26-28                                  James 1:12
Romans 12:2                                           1 Peter 1:6-7
Romans 12:17-19                                1 Peter 5:6-11

Just as the Lord refines the gold and silver and gems found within the earth that he made for us, he is also refining us and renewing our faith through temptation and times of trial.  He is there with us every step of the way.  He wants us to realize that he is in control, we are following his lead. We are to suffer through times of trial and mistreatment, he will be the one to care for us, he will teach us endurance for what is to come. 2 Peter 1:3-11 is what the Lord wants for all of us.  He wants us to work with him to touch the hearts of as many people as you can with your faith in him.  The escape he provides is our faith and that teaches us endurance.  He wants to prepare us for when he comes again.  Matthew 24:3-51 and Matthew 25:1-46 are verses where Jesus is talking to the disciples about when he will come again.  He speaks of endurance and how we should be prepared for his return, what we should be doing in his name. John 14:3-6 is the reward we will be given through him, he is the way, the truth and the life. His endurance on the cross prepared the path to eternal life. All we need to do is follow it.

Dear Lord,   Thank you for our times of trial and temptation. Let these times strengthen us and prepare us to walk better on your path. Amen.

Laura Waeyaert

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. Psalm 63:3

What is greater than the steadfast love of our Father and Creator? Our friends? Our family? Our very lives here on earth? No. None of these things even come close when considered and compared to this most holy and all-encompassing love. In our secular society, we are taught to find and give love in things like money, material goods, cars, clothes… the list goes on and on. But the truth is that which we need the most (and deserve the least) is the love from God our Father that is Real. Unconditional. Given by Grace. Whatever adjectives we use to describe this love cannot even begin to give justice to how inclusive THE love really is. We cannot ask for it, earn it or hide from it. The only directive that we have been given is to accept this love and all that comes with it and in return give praise. Amazing!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Your love is steadfast and true, of that there is no doubt. Please help us to find the words of praiseworthy to magnify and glorify your most holy name and the love that we can scarcely understand. We thank you for your most precious gift and pray in his name, Amen.

Tara Conrad

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

I’m no fan of Donald Rumsfeld but I’ve appreciated his famous quote, “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

Makes sense, yes? Whether you are a good reader and researcher or prefer to go with your gut on most things, most people operate from the belief you can ferret out those unknown unknowns and do what is needed for success, whatever that definition might be. Your unknown unknown might be the need to worry about and work the stock market to have a sure retirement, or to watch your children’s homework, their selection of friends, their extracurricular choices, and other needs to try to ensure they will grow up to be safe/happy/educated/successful. You might find death is your most fear-inducing unknown unknown and so you work out daily and maintain a healthy diet in order to escape cancer or heart disease and guarantee a long life. And yet, no matter how much we read, study, source, vet, or try to control through better knowledge and actions, etc., we will meet our known unknowns and unknown unknowns and we will not understand them nor will we necessarily achieve dominion over them. God is speaking through the scripture of Isaiah to tell us the known unknowns and unknown unknowns will always exist and remain out our intellectual reach but we are to understand that he holds them and they work to his good end. These unknowns aren’t random events and they aren’t without a greater scheme. We may be made in God’s image but at a low level of his image and no amount of human effort in studying, researching, or overthinking will shoot us through the mystery barrier to know his knowns. Not in this life. Isaiah 55:9 as stated in my Aunt Lorraine’s The Living Bible, Paraphrased says, “This plan of mine is not what you would work out, neither are my thoughts the same as yours.” We simply don’t have the capacity to work it out at God’s level. Human frailties (e.g., pride, fear, shame, laziness, indifference, selfishness, etc.) keep us from this capability. It’s the brokenness we carry and can’t self-fix.

The other side of Isaiah 55:9 tells us a portion of his knowns, however, are available to us through Christ and the Scripture and through the actions and sharing of our faith community. Tap into God’s voice through Scripture, tap into the Gospels to read of Christ’s humanity and understanding of our struggles and you can gain access to God’s thoughts and his promises of steadfastness, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. God deliberately sent Jesus—and Jesus deliberately undertook human form—to provide the knowns we need and to walk beside us. As we encounter struggles and seemingly disastrous experiences in our lives and those of our loved ones, friends, community, and world, we need to remember there will be much we are not privy to understand but what is most important to know has been given to us in Word, sacrament, and relationships.

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic. – Anonymous

Be an amateur. Tap in and listen for the real architect’s instructions.

Prayer: Dear Father, please help me today to be mindful I am a created creature lovingly designed in your image. Help me to understand that my mind, my thoughts, and my plans—no matter how seemingly well and bright intentioned—are not your thoughts and plans. You reign above me and for me. Help me to discern your thoughts and purposes through Scripture and the life and words of Jesus and all the saints. Amen.

Kathy Poole