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Daily Devotion – May 31, 2014
05.31.14

John 14:21

21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

 

Devotion by Geoff Heilhecker

For me the word “commandments” has been interpreted by so many for religious meaning.  If we used “code” instead, our view might align closer to military people.  If we even changed it to “values,” then we are now looking at it from a 21st century style of the same meaning.  People have these standards that we hold ourselves accountable to, and those we have around ourselves usually have these same codes or commandments that we feel are important to live by.  When we reveal these commandments given by God, it is these shared bonds of trust, respect, and love that cannot be faked or disingenuous.

 

Prayer:

As we read and reflect on what brought us to this page today, may your written and unwritten words prove the value and love that you share for us all. May tomorrow bring us the courage to accept someone new and share the joy and love that is within us all.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – May 29, 2014
05.29.14

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. John 14:15-17

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

It has been nearly six years since the death of my father yet his life remains an incredible guiding force for me on nearly a daily basis. After a period of time after his death, I learned a trick on how to summon him whenever I needed him. I learned to simply find a quiet and solace place where I can close my eyes and listen. As I listen, I hear his voices of encouragement, wisdom, hope and love. I have good days when the voice I hear from my father extends satisfaction on a job well done. I have other days when I struggle to make difficult decisions. Always, when I listen and feel his presence, I am reminded that he is always very near me and will always be with me. I find comfort in knowing that whatever decision I make I will not make it alone. I find peace in remembering how much he loved me. The voices I hear are wonderful and are my helpers as I make my journey.

So it is with my experience of Christ in this passage. His disciples, who were his friends, his students and his support through his ministry, were the ones closest to him. Whether they knew it or not, when they were with him they were absorbing his life, his teachings, and his wisdom. The voice of their friend, Christ, was being integrated into their very beings. Christ’s voice would stay with them to guide them, encourage them, comfort them, give them wisdom and hope, and most importantly remind them how much they are loved. Jesus taught them how to pray and how to find him anytime they needed him. I can only imagine the conversations each of the disciples must have had with themselves as they walked the labyrinth from city to city. Surely, they drew much needed strength from the spirit and life of Christ now present in them. Thankfully, they had a sweet and holy spirit to be with them as they went.

Prayer:

Almighty God, guide my feet and teach me to listen to the sweet and holy spirit of Christ. May the voices that abide in me bring me comfort, hope, encouragement, peace and most importantly remind me how much I am loved. Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to remain with us always. Amen.



Daily Devotion – May 28, 2014
05.28.14

Psalm 104:33

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

Reflection by Holly CothranDrake

Our service last week was filled with song, and it made my soul smile. From a young age, I have always enjoyed “belting” out those Baptist hymns. Now, as an adult, I often close my eyes when I sing. I imagine standing before God. I don’t think God would mind so much if I was off key or hit a squeaky note. God would know that I am singing from my soul. I am singing praises to my Creator, and this pleases him. So, next time the music starts, close your eyes and “belt out” like no one is listening but God. And trust me, he is.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, God Almighty and Great Creator, thank you for the gift of music. Thank you for our voices and instruments. Let us not be afraid to sing from the depths of our souls as we praise you. In the name of your Son and our Savior, Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – May 27, 2014
05.27.14

 

Ephesians 1:17-19

 

17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength

 

Reflection by Don Tawney Sr.

 

Paul prays that his people might be led into a deeper wisdom of eternal things.  He prays they may be brought to a fuller knowledge of God.  To the Colossians Paul wrote “That you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit, in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  Colossians 1:10

 

It doesn’t matter how long we have lived for the Lord, we will ever learn more of who He is, and more of His plan for our life.  “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.  Amen”  2 Peter 3:18

 

Prayer:

 

Dear God,

       Please lead us into a deeper knowledge of You, and strengthen us to follow in obedience. 

                                                                   

                                                                      In Jesus’ name,

                                                                              Amen  



Daily Devotion – May 26, 2014
05.26.14

Ephesians 1:15-16 

Paul’s Prayer 

15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

 

Reflection by Lynne Buell

During these past three weeks, I have been experiencing family illness AND family drama.  The combination, along with frequent trips to North Carolina and the Atlanta airport, took its toll on me and I became ill.  As a result, I missed Kim’s last worship service before her sabbatical and the last day to sing in the choir before our summer hiatus.

 

I also lost my ability to pray during this tough time.  This is difficult for me to admit since I pray daily during my normal life.  I am the one who prays (in my own words, of course): “I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.”  How could this happen?  I needed God’s comfort more than ever; so why didn’t I reach out?

 

After I read the scripture for today’s devotion, I also read Ephesians’ introduction in the “The Message”; and then the answer came to me.  The turmoil and worry overshadowed my ability to disconnect and pray; I was emotionally and physically exhausted.  I then realized that the Holy Spirit never left my side, because I endured the turmoil until the final trip to the airport when my last sibling boarded the plane for home.  I am finally at peace with what is going to occur in the near future regarding my folks.  As far as the drama with siblings, it will be resolved in due time.

 

During these days of rest and recovery, I began receiving phone calls, texts, and emails from the folks of Pilgrimage.  I could feel the love and support overflowing within me.  I could also feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Like a vehicle that just received a tune up, I am once again energized and refreshed.

 

Prayer:

Thanks be to God.  Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – May 25, 2014
05.25.14

Numbers 6: 24-26

24 “‘“The Lord bless you     and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you     and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you     and give you peace.”’

 

Reflection by Ugena Whitlock

Music With Friends

Numbers 6: 24-26 is not the passage on the devotional schedule for today. It is not unrelated, however, to Luke 24: 50-53, in which Luke describes the ascension of Jesus the Christ into heaven. As Jesus ascends, he blesses the disciples. When I came home to this morning’s worship service and sat down to write today’s devotional, I was reminded of this blessing in the Hebrew Scriptures, in which God tells Moses to instruct Aaron and his sons (the priests) to bless the people of Israel. Actually, I was reminded of a musical version of it that I heard a long time ago. Actually, I was reminded of it during today’s service, which was powerful and poignant. And musical.

 

Today, after many months of planning and fortifying ourselves for it, we bid Kim bon voyage, happy trails, hasta manana. Now, those of us who are teachers know that summers pass quickly; by the time we pack up the car and go get roasted in the sun on a crowded beach, fall is here. Sending Kim off is a very different circumstance, though, and we may already feel like this is going to be a long, hot summer without her. I think it made it easier for us to send her off—and maybe easier for her to head out—by sending her off with music.

 

Kim is a terrific pastor; she knows what’ll “preach” (I paid attention today). But after attending PUCC for only a little over a year, it is clear to me that music keeps her blood pumping. I wonder if anybody besides me grins a little when they see she has a song on the program some Sundays and thinks, “She’s slipped one in again…” I will share a story about last week’s choir performance that shows something of Kim’s “musical” pastoral interaction with us. Working together, Allen and Kim chose a new piece for us to sing last week, Let It Go (unrelated to the movie Frozen). We rehearsed it at several practices, but it was kind of complicated to get through from start to finish. As it turns out, we had only sung it completely one time, at the last rehearsal before we were to perform it last Sunday. Allen, who, if I knew who to write to nominate him for sainthood, I would, had scheduled one last, intense rehearsal before the service. Partly because one of the key soloists (me) was affected by every newly blooming plant in Georgia, and partly because it was an acapella song with a key change smack in the middle of it, we kind of petered out by the end. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on Allen’s face.

 

Kim, who was sitting in the back of the sanctuary listening to us rehearse, mustered up her kindest tone and suggested gingerly to our Director, “Maybe let them stop before the key change….?” There was a moment—just a moment—when I suspect we—the choir and her—panicked a little. Within an hour, that song had to be a whole lot better or half of it had to be cut. I’m not sure if she knew it, but she was pastoring us in that moment. Good pastors nudge you a little; really good ones get you to stick out your chin and tighten up your musical performance. Kim was, that day, a really good pastor. The choir sang that song like we had been working on it since Christmas. (It will perhaps lessen the inspirational nature of the story but make it honest to disclose for those of you who did not hear it that I only missed one note in the song. It happened to be a very important one, but I sang it with joy anyway.)

 

Today we sang her off. What I enjoyed about the service was that we all sang to her and she sang to us and we sang together to God. A couple of times she stopped us and gave the congregation a dose of “musical pastoring” about singing with the spirit, aka, putting the hymnals away and learning to clap on the off beats. We sang, of course, to God’s glory, yet we sang for Kim. With her, yes, and to her. But today, we sang for her, too. We will miss her for a few weeks, and we will look forward to her return. But one thing is for sure. When we think of her, we will do so with warm hearts—hearts that happen to be filled with music we made today with our friend.

 

Here is a rendition of The Lord Bless You and Keep You. Until we all meet again.

http://youtu.be/QB2FVlaPM-o

 



Daily Devotion – May 24, 2014
05.24.14

John 20:19-23

Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

I’d like to look at this passage from three perspectives. First, from Jesus’ perspective, sure He can talk about the scriptures being fulfilled, but at the time of His crucifixion, even He had doubts. He questioned the Lord, “God, why have you forsaken me?” So even though He knew he would be put to death, and be brought back to life, I don’t think He realized how much suffering He would experience on the cross. He doesn’t want the misery of the crucifixion to be experienced in vain. So, for the benefit of others He’s asking His disciples to continue His work.

Now from the perspective of the disciples, imagine the fear and guilt. Here were the closest followers of Jesus. They lived with Him and walked with Him and ate with Him. And yet, during the arrest and persecution, they hid in fear. And after Jesus’ death, they hid in fear. Yet Jesus doesn’t waste any energy talking about those things. Jesus is future focused. He wants His disciples to prepare to share the good news of God’s love! How liberating it must have been for the disciples to have been instantly forgiven.

What about us? You and me? We don’t live with Him or walk with Him or eat with Him physically. But we live with the knowledge of Him. We walk cloaked with the knowledge of His love. And we symbolically eat with Him every time we take communion. And He doesn’t waste any energy talking about us hiding our beliefs. Jesus is still future focused, even with us! He is preparing us to share the good news of God’s love, even today, everyday! How liberating to know that all of our sins and shortcomings of thought and deed are instantly forgiven. He doesn’t dwell on the negatives of the past. He focuses on the delights of the future! Jesus is asking us to share the good news of God’s love. I guess I just did. Tag, you’re it. Now it’s your turn.

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord, help me remember to undo the binds of fear and guilt. Help me to bite my own lips when I am tempted to place those same shackles in judgment onto someone else. Let me be a light for You in this sometimes dark world. In Jesus’ name I pray.



Daily Devotion – May 23, 2014
05.23.14

Acts 1:9-11

When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’

 

 

Devotion by Rochelle Lofstrand

 

To lose a loved one is one of the hardest things for those left behind.  Our loved ones are no longer around us to hug, kiss, laugh with, or talk to.  The end of a life here on earth is difficult; however, as Christians we are taught that our spirit lives on and that our loved ones are finally ‘home’ with God.  Like Jesus in today’s scripture, our loved ones are always with us . . . just in a different way.

 

Today’s devotion also gives us hope for that day when Jesus will come again – when he will ‘come in the same way as (we) saw him go into heaven’.  Just because Jesus left and ascended into heaven, it does not mean his work is finished or that there isn’t something wonderful in store for the future.

 

As Easter has drawn to a close, we now focus on life after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  We can do this by holding onto hope for the future and love for those who have left us.

 

Prayer

 

God, thank you for all of the times that the loved ones we have lost still are a part of our lives and for the daily reminders of their unending love for us.  Jesus also shows us that love and for that I am grateful!  AMEN.



Daily Devotion – May 20, 2014
05.20.14
Acts 1: 6-7
So when they had come together, they asked Him, ‘Lord is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.’
Reflection by Monty Wyne
God’s timeline is not our timeline. The Apostles asked Jesus when God would restore the kingdom and Jesus said that decision is up to God. “It is not for you to know.” In other words, you can wish in your heart of hearts, you can ask or you can pray profusely in an attempt to set a hard and fast deadline with the Lord, but the Lord determines when and if the time is right.
How many times have you knelt by your bed at night or prayed over an evening meal about something you want to resolve, something you want to have closure with, yet it lingers. Imagine how the Apostles felt when Jesus ascended. There they were, left on earth, their leader, their teacher gone.
Do you ever wonder where God is when you pray to Him time and time again yet your prayer goes unanswered? Does He hear me, you probably ask? Does He truly care about me? Does He want to help me? And the answer is ‘yes.’ But God’s timeline is not our timeline. But God is always present in our hearts. Always listening. Always understanding. Always there. Let us remember that next time we ask for an answer.
Prayer:
Loving and understanding God,
Forgive our impatience, our need to have immediate answers, our inability and  strength to deal with the unknown. Let us find comfort and reassurance in your constant presence. 
Amen.


Daily Devotion – May 19, 2014
05.19.14

Acts 1:1-5

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’

The author of the Gospel Luke was probably the same as the author of the Act of the Apostles. By “in the first book” the author refers to details of the gospel that were told to Theophilus. Theophilus may have been a Roman government official, a Jewish priest, or perhaps a lawyer. Regardless of what Theophilus was, she or he was considered by the author of the Gospel of Luke to be a friend of God.

The author referred to what was written about what Jesus had done and taught in his time on earth. He also referred to how Jesus had given instructions to his chosen apostles through the Holy Spirit. He didn’t give the instructions in person but rather through the Holy Spirit. This is the promise of the Holy Spirit, that when you hear from it you are hearing from Jesus and God. And Jesus gave the message to the apostles, not to the many that followed Jesus and listened to him at place after place.

Jesus had been appearing to the apostles for forty days after his death. The pre-Easter Jesus had been earth bound just like everyone else, and may have been limited by what he could do on earth. The post-Easter Jesus had a chance to go to heaven with God, and this probably gave Jesus a whole new perspective on the Kindom of God. This may have been the message Jesus wanted to bring to the chosen apostles through the Holy Spirit.

The apostles met together at Jerusalem. Jesus ordered them not to depart, but to wait for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. The water of John the Baptist was one kind of immersion, but the immersion in the Holy Spirit was going to be way beyond what John could achieve. This would be a baptism by the Holy Spirit, giving them power to work miracles, and enlightening and sanctifying their souls. This was just what the post-Easter Jesus needed to carry on in the not many days from now the work done by the pre-Easter Jesus.

Prayer

Dear Lord I pray that I may always hear from you through the promise of the Holy Spirit.