Thursday, April 11, 2019

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

When first I read this verse I wondered why it had been selected. After all, isn’t it the same message we read throughout the Bible? Why this particular verse? Then I thought, maybe I’m not “reading it in the proper context.” I decided to review Colossians and realized that I couldn’t even remember what Colossians is all about! It didn’t take long to review – four chapters of less than 100 verses total; but, I still had no idea as to why this verse. So off to a trusted internet Bible study site. Ten minutes later I had the following historical information (most of which is contained elsewhere in the Bible – Acts, Philemon and other New Testament Books).

Paul had written this epistle while in prison, having not yet ever been to Colossae, home to this group of Christians. Epaphras, likely their leader who had been converted by Paul and spent over two years in ministry in Ephesus, had written a report to Paul. He was concerned about false teachers among the Colossian Christians. They were saying that Jesus was not God in human form nor was He a deity. Colossians is Paul’s response to Epephras’ report.

Now let’s look again at the subject verse. It begins: And whatever you do . . . which is almost always a warning, and I believe it is here. Usually, it’s followed by what not to do. Paul chooses to concentrate rather on what you must do for salvation. He wastes no time on the false teachers, which to me seems to place a sense of urgency on the matter. Is this applicable today? We still have the false teacher with us, don’t we?

Prayer: Dear Lord, Please grant to all of us the patience and diligence to closely examine every word that you have given to us through the prophets and apostles, that we might have complete understanding. Amen!

Walt Rudisill

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Jesus called to the crowd along with his disciples and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)

This verse reflects Jesus’ command us to keep vigilant about those things, pursuits, and ways of being that displace God from the center of our lives and distract us from the goal of forever living with God. Given the era in which they lived, the people of Jesus’ day understood crucifixions as the political billboards on the roads of their homeland. If you were to pick up a cross, you were slated to die. Jesus’ instructions to deny oneself and take up the cross meant to die to what is keeping you from God, from being Jesus’s follower.

Excerpted from an online sermon entitled, “Principles of Discipleship” by Pastor John Hamby: What does all this mean in a practical sense? Someone has said it this way, “If when you are good, evil is spoken, and when your wishes are crossed and your advice is disregarded, and your opinions are ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, and even defend yourself’ but you take it patiently in loving silence, then you are dying to self. And when you lovingly and patiently bear any disgrace, any irregularity, any annoyance, when you stand face to face with extravagance and folly and spiritual insensitivity and endure it, as Jesus did, that is dying to self. And when you are content with any food, any money, any clothing, any society, any solitude or interruption by the will of God, that is dying to self. And when you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or record your own good works, or itch after commendation from others, and when you truly love to be unknown, that is dying to self. When you see your brother prosper, see his needs wondrously met, and can honestly rejoice with him [with his big house, with big car, with his big pool – whatever it may be] without feeling envy, and never question God though your needs are greater and still unmet, that is dying to self.”

Dying to self is the most difficult thing we can do. Life affords so many distractions and false paths, and fears and self-doubts, as well as hungers for love and recognition. The transformation requires a discipline borne from self-examination, study, and a daily conscious choice to love of one’s neighbor as you’d love yourself. Somber but lined with promise, Lent is the season to examine ourselves and put to death those things within us that we hold onto and which keep us from entering fully into and reciprocating God’s love.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please grant me the discipline to look deeply into my inner self and release all that holds me back from dying to self and, thus, following you. Grant me the grace to trust the cross I am to bear and to remember that you go before me and yet are beside me all the way. Amen.

Kathy Poole

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. Psalm 145:9

Psalm 145 is known as a hymn of praise written by David. It is known as an acrostic poem because each verse in order begins with a letter of the 22-letter Hebrew alphabet, except for the letter “nun” because the word “fallen” begins with the letter “nun.” This is probably lost on most of us since we are not Hebrew poets, but it demonstrates the level of thought that went into the Psalms.

Verse nine stresses God’s love for us, all of which is the central theme of our Christian faith.

I doubt Luther had Wikipedia to help him figure it all out, but he seems to have hit the nail on the heard. Our faith as Christians is summarized in this one Psalm.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we thank you for your love and compassion to us, even though we are not worthy and have done nothing to deserve it. Amen.

Wayne Johnston

Monday, April 8, 2019

If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

We are all human. Meaning, we make mistakes and do and say things we shouldn’t. We at times allow our emotions to get the best of us. We make decisions out of anger or sadness. We judge before we really know. We think we are always right. But then we are reminded how we should be towards others, how we should be treating each other. Loving one another, supporting and uplifting one another. Working together to help all.

Overall, we cannot fully accomplish any of these things without God. We can come to God at any time of the day or night, and ask for forgiveness, express our love, and thankfulness for God and his love and mercy for us.

Prayer: Dear God, help us to remember your never-ending forgiveness for us and your willingness to love and protect us and help us become better versions of you. In your name we pray, Amen.

Samantha Startzman

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. John 12:3

About a week before Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus dined with Mary, Martha and Lazarus (and Simon). While Martha was busy preparing the meal, Mary was moved to sit at Jesus’ feet and wash his feet with expensive perfume. Judas, who would betray Jesus in less than a week, complained that Mary should have used her money more wisely – rather than wasting expensive nard perfume oil, sell the oil and give the money to the poor. Jesus knew that what Mary had done was from a place of pure love and dismissed what Judas had said.

Have you ever given a gift that you knew was “too much” or “extravagant”? Have you ever just given out of the kindness of your heart with no thoughts to your financials? My husband will tell you that I love to give and receive gifts. Gifts are my favorite. It’s a little-known fact. I see things all the time that remind me of a friend, a loved one, my kids. I have learned to show restraint but every once in a while, I’m moved to just throw caution (and money) to the wind and make that purchase. There is a feeling that comes with the purchase of a thoughtful gift. A sense of internal joy. I admit that this is a feeling that I love.

I imagine that is what Mary must have felt on that day 2000 years ago. Picture it yourself – loving Jesus with all of your heart and soul. He brought your beloved brother back from the dead, after all. He loved your father, who was a leper. Mary’s love of Jesus was pure. Now, picture that you are seated at the feet of Jesus and want to honor him, give him a gift. What is a gift that you could possibly give him (A KING) that would feel even close to grand enough? Meaningful enough? I picture Mary remembering the nard and being moved to make this generous and extravagant gesture. That perfume was said to have cost as much as a year’s wages. Let that settle for a minute. A full year’s wages. That number is different for you and me but imagine giving a gift that was worth your whole salary.

Mary’s gift was extravagant. But she was MOVED to honor Jesus in that way. Let’s all try to be a little more like Mary. A little more extravagant in our giving, our generosity, our love for Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord, move us to make sacrifices in the name of your son. Move us to be generous with our giving. Move us to make gestures that show we are followers of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Kim Hine

Friday, April 5, 2019

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. Philippians 3:7

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul carefully points out that any man’s human accomplishments, even in the area of religion, carry no value when compared to the greatness of knowing and following Jesus. Paul is most likely speaking of his own accomplishments, which were numerous and impressive. He wants people to recognize that past gains do not compare to a present relationship and experience with Jesus Christ. While there can be a certain value in looking back and learning from our past, we cannot dwell on any triumphs that we may have enjoyed. Instead, we should see the value in being able to recognize that God has done wonderful things throughout time and He continues to want to do them in our present and future lives.

Lent seems to be as good a time as any to reflect upon the past gifts and gains that we have had in our lives. But, perhaps it is an even better time to inventory how our personal gains can compare to the greatness that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, may each of his recognize the mediocrity of our own gains. Please help us to know that when we have a fellowship with Jesus, we have all the greatness that we need. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tara Conrad