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Daily Devotion – September 30, 2014
09.30.14

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.   Philippians 3-4b-11

 

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

We live in a country that has so much to offer us. Whatever we can dream up, it is possible to accomplish with enough ambition, drive and endurance.  Want a bigger house and nicer car, work a little harder and it can become a reality.  Want to be famous so that everybody will know your name, go out and audition for the next reality show that comes to town.  Want to be skinny, there is a pill for that.  Not happy with the way you look, there is surgery that can fix that.  Whatever you want, you can have it.  It is all possible for better or for worse.

Paul had it all. He had everything a person of his time could possibly want; money, power, and righteousness before God according to the Law.  He had no reason to change his lot in life.  All he needed to do was sit back and reap the rewards of his position in life.  For Paul, however, it wasn’t enough.  All of it he regarded as rubbish and loss next to knowing Jesus.  Paul believed in this Jesus guy so much that he was willing to give up everything to follow him.  He believed there to be nothing greater than to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.

Paul calls us to give up all our creature comforts to follow Christ, claiming that righteousness comes through our faith; a faith, by the way, that will require us to suffer. Any person in their right mind would think twice before giving up any of their wealth only to live a life of suffering for the sake of Christ.  It’s a tall order, especially when you have been so comfortable with the life you have established for yourself.

Paul though asks of his readers to consider living a life based on accumulating hope that renews our spirit regularly rather than one that causes us to be fearful that all will be lost. Living by faith requires us to let go of our fears and live in confidence. We need to practice waking up each day believing in the possibility of new life; in the possibility of the resurrection.  We need not spend our morning and days trying to figure how to accumulate more desires that the flesh wants us to have.  Those who have been called by Christ are called to a higher purpose.  We are called to live with faith in power of Christ’s resurrection, so that one day we can obtain the greatest asset of all, resurrection from the dead that will allow us to rise to new life.

Are we willing to let go of our fears that asks us to accumulate more wealth, power, and the things of the flesh to obtain the new life promised to us? We are promised greater life if we can do it. Are we willing?

Prayer:

God of faith, help us to let go of our fears so that we can live in confidence of the faith demonstrated to us by your son Jesus. Teach us to make room in our life for the possibility of hope.  Instill within us the courage to open ourselves to what faith wants to teach us.  May we learn to wake each morning watering and nurturing that hope.  Teach us this so that one day we may live in confidence and rise to the power of the resurrection. Amen.  

 

 

 



Daily Devotion – September 28, 2014
09.29.14

1 Thessalonians 5:17

 

…pray continually;

 

Reflection by HollyCothranDrake

I consider myself a simple person. I guess that’s why I like this verse.  It’s simple.  There is nothing confusing about this verse.  There isn’t much to misinterpret.  It’s just two words; pray continually.  We aren’t told where to pray or what to say.  There are no instructions on special garments to wear or chants to use.  It’s just two words; pray continually.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, God Almighty, and Great Creator, I promise to pray continually. I say this prayer in the name of your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – September 27, 2014
09.27.14

 

Matthew 28:1-6

 

28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

 

 

Reflection by Don Tawney Sr.

 

For proof of Christ’s resurrection, we have the testimony of the angel, and of Christ Himself, concerning His resurrection. He foretells His crucifixion and resurrection to His disciples saying He would be mocked and scourged and killed, and on the third day He would be raised up. (Matt. 20.19).

We might think if a great number of competent witnesses had been present to see the angel roll the stone from the grave, they would have seen the angel’s

Lightning-Like appearance and garment white as snow.  The witnesses would have seen Christ walk out of His tomb!  As it was, there were no witnesses; only that of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who saw Jesus Christ in His resurrected body and reported it to the disciples.  Christ gave such proofs of His resurrection as were made certain by the scriptures, and His own words.  The disciples had to take the word of the women on faith.  Jesus earlier had said to them, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”  (John 20.29)

 

Prayer:

 

               Dear God,

                     Thank You for Your grace which saves us through faith.  It is not by anything we have done; it is by the gift of Your Son, Jesus. (Eph. 2.8) Amen



Daily Devotion – September 25, 2014
09.25.14

Revelation 22: 1-4

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

Reflection by Ugena Whitlock

Hissing Balls of Fury: Losing Diana

The cat hated everybody. Everybody, that is, except me. And Sarah, of course–but she had owned Sarah for seventeen years, so that was to be expected. I only knew her for five months, and I didn’t really expect her to warm up to me. More than that, I never expected to warm up to her. So when we helped her to her final sleep on Monday, the last thing I expected was to feel what I felt and react how I did.

First of all, I am not a cat person. I had a cat once, and I despised it. Yes, my cat-loving friends will be shocked at that. Kitty was part Siamese and was mean. Worse than that, she caused me to lose sleep every night. If she was outside, she wanted in; if she was inside, she wanted out. Day in and day out. Why didn’t I just leave her in or out, you might ask? Well, I believe if you ask that, YOU are not a cat person. She would come to my bedside and claw at the blinds until I was awake. If I shooed her away, she’d wait till I lay back down and begin again. When she was outside, she would come to my bedroom window and claw on the screen, which is not a sound conducive to sleeping, especially as I lay there envisioning a trip to Home Depot to replace yet another screen. When I moved from Louisiana to Georgia, I gave the neighbors a bag of cat food and $20 to take care of the cat. I drove the U-Haul truck away as fast as I could so that Kitty couldn’t somehow attach herself and hang on for the cross-country trek. I was free of cats. Until Diana.

Sarah called her Hissing Ball of Fury because that’s what she turned into whenever anybody tried to touch her. Over the months, as I met Sarah’s friends, they all asked, “And how are you getting on with the Little Cat?” Only they don’t say “Cat.” They had learned the hard way. “Oh, she’ll like ME,” they had said, one by one. “I’m good with animals,” they had said, one by one. And one by one, they had approached Diana talking softly and reaching to pet her, only to have her turn into Miss Fury. Diana had been banned from veterinary practices in two states because she bit. I witnessed this myself when we took her to the vet three months ago. Two young techs had assured us, “Oh, she’ll be fine with us,” only to bolt from the room to fetch the doctor to do this first-year vet school procedure himself. “Diana bites” was written in bold red letters across the top of her chart. And so she did.

So what was my secret? I think it was that I let Diana be Diana. I let her come to me. When she sat with her back to us, which was her usual position until she got ready to be petted, I let her be. I only spoke to her when she looked at me, and never reached out to touch her. Then one day when she came to Sarah for her evening head-butts (Diana was a head-butter), she walked right into my hand. Then one morning I awoke with a cat sleeping on my head. On my head. She only hissed at me once. I had reached down to pet her as I walked by the couch where she was lying, foolishly thinking that we had bonded over the head-sleeping. “Don’t get to comfortable with me, old gal,” she seemed to imply in that hiss. “I come to YOU.” I only picked her up once. It was the day before she died. That is how I knew it was over.

The vet must have felt the same way when he picked her up on Monday morning and said, “This is the first time I’ve really gotten to examine her completely.” He gently felt her frail body and asked Sarah if she was sure of her decision. She was. We had set up what Sarah called “Kitty Hospice” at the bungalow over the weekend, administering IV fluids and concocting what looked like an awful mess but was evidently a cat delicacy Sarah called “duck soup.” Diana would take a little, then lie on a pile of Sarah’s clothes and her old teddy bear, Ted, until we took her outside to lie in the grass warmed by the sun. The fluids never pepped her up as Sarah had expected; she was that far gone. So we fed her duck soup and let her be outside as much as she wanted. She even hissed at a stray cat once. We had one brief second of hope, then watched as she turned away all but a bite of food. I am glad we had that weekend. As we watched Diana, I watched Sarah say goodbye to her friend of seventeen years.

I think things happen for a reason. Like finding an abandoned kitten two weeks ago–one that has pretty much taken over our lives by blessedly taking up our attention during the last week. I’ve heard the old saying that we don’t find pets–rather, pets find us. This one was put in our way at precisely the appropriate place and time. Just like Pastor Kim’s prayer in church on Sunday. As I sat there in the choir loft during the service, the words startled me out actually praying, hoping that it might in some way bring Diana’s human some comfort. Give us the courage and grace to live through the dying season, was the prayer. The grace to understand death, as well as life, even though the dying–the perpetual winter–dims a light in our souls.

As we sat outside with Diana Saturday, Sarah told me that she had chosen her name from Edith Hamilton’s famous book Mythology. It is appropriate–and somewhat ironic now–that her name had come from that book. In it, Hamilton quotes from Aeschylus’s Agamemnon:

Drop, drop—in our sleep, upon the heart
sorrow falls, memory’s pain,
and to us, though against our very will,
even in our own despite,
comes wisdom by the awful grace of God.

Aeschylus describes the process by which we come to the understanding for which the pastor prayed. Drop by drop upon the heart by the awful grace of God. How profoundly simple that it might come from the great blessing of being owned by a pet. But, if you are a cat person–like I am now–that is no surprise.

Kim has graciously shared Sunday’s prayer, below.

Prayers of the People (9/21/14)
September 21–the first day of autumn.

As trees molt their leaves, as hostas and other flowering shrubs go to ground, as grass turns brittle and pale, as mosquitos go wherever it is they go (thank goodness!)…we are reminded of the vital role dormancy, rest, and death play in the cycle of life. In autumn, days shorten, vegetation rots, all nature begins its inward turn so that–from death– new life can emerge come spring.

Holy One, we confess that we don’t always enjoy the way things shut down in autumn–or any season of our spiritual lives. The riot of color that comes with spring, the full-on joy of playing in summer? Those are great! Spring and summer are easy to love. Even winter’s not so bad… everything looks dead then, but we know that Spring is just one season away. With autumn, though, we have to watch things die…and that’s not easy.
Here’s what we ask today, Holy One, give us the courage to look at our lives and–as honestly as we can–identify what is in the process of dying. Whatever that dying thing is, show us how new life will someday emerge from it. And give us the grace to be patient in our waiting for that new life. We have other concerns to lift into your care today–concerns for ourselves, for our friends, for those who live in a perpetual winter with seemingly no hope of spring. In the quiet of this moment, we lift all our concerns into your care.

 



Daily Devotion – September 24, 2014
09.24.14

Genesis 9:12-17

God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

Talk about being repetitive. God repeats himself five times in this scripture. Is He getting forgetful or is He repeating for emphasis? Or maybe because the ark is so crowded with animals, God has to shout over their noisy din!

So what is a covenant? It is a promise or bond. God has created a bond with us and all living creatures. As frequent as are rainbows, we are to remind ourselves of this bond we have with God. If we forget God’s love for us during the storms of our lives, we need only to seek the tranquility of a rainbow to know that He loves us. How comforting is that!

Prayer:

Dear Lord, Please give me the confidence to trust in Your love, O God! Lift up my face so that I may see the rainbows you provide for us. Thank you for the covenant You have provided us. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.



Daily Devotion – September 24, 2014

Genesis 8:20-22

God’s Promise to Noah

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelt the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.  As long as the earth endures,    seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night,    shall not cease.’

 

Devotion by Rochelle Lofstrand

When I was young and first heard/read/studied the Noah story, I was terrified every time it rained. I would look out the window at the downpour and wait for the world to flood again.  No one ever finished the story for me and I was left with a sense of dread.

Today’s scripture finishes the story. God promised to never again destroy the earth.  We can all rest assured that God loves us and will not punish us again.  That is living in faith and for the young girl inside of me . . . the story has been finished and sealed with God’s love.

 

Prayer: 

God, thank you for your promise to love me and others enough to never destroy living things in the way you did with Noah. Your love overwhelms me . . . every time I see a rainbow I will think about your promise.  AMEN.



Daily Devotion – September 22, 2014
09.22.14

 

Psalm 104:27–33

 

27. Those all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.

28. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand they are satisfied with good things.

29. When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.

30. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.

31. May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works –

32. He who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains,

and they smoke.

33. I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

 

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

 

Judging from passages of these preceding verses 27 through 33, the psalmist observes how the animals of both land and sea demonstrate an utter dependence upon their Creator. As animals are observed in their wild habitat, each creature goes about its appointed task in the ecosystem seemingly without worry. Their Divine Sovereign meets all their needs through intact, unspoiled Nature. When an animal dies, there is hope as others of its kind are born, thus renewing its life upon the earth. While “Mother Nature” is never explicitly mentioned anywhere in scriptures, in the psalms and in the teachings of Christ (e.g., Matthew 6:25-30) the natural world is often presented as the greatest of teachers on matters of faith.

Unfortunately, the high-tech lifestyle of modern humans separates them from observing Nature’s lessons on the Divine Spirit. Worse yet, our ambitions to amass monetary wealth or to build destructive weapons leaves Nature broken, diminishing her ability to teach us about the transcendent Creator beyond. As a consequence of alienation from the natural world, many people are unable to believe in even the slightest hint of a Divine presence. Many people who profess to believe do not experience a living faith, but rather an abstract, mechanical list of doctrines. By destruction of Nature, humanity is destroying one of it’s primary means of connecting with the Divine.

 

Prayer:

Dear Eternal Mother, how your realms

of Nature’s bounty endless teach

my doubting, anxious heart your songs

of grace, of sustenance through love!

I pray Dear Mother, for the health

of Nature’s animals and plants;

such innocents who suffer threats

from human pride and selfishness!



Daily Devotion – September 21, 2014
09.21.14

Romans 8:26-27

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Devotion by Anne Mooney

These words serve as a reassuring promise for me. I am often overwhelmed by life’s challenges. Things pile up and I have so much on my mind I can’t discern God’s will or even my own will. I simply feel confused and broken, uncertain about where to begin to ask for help. These words offer comfort to me because they assure me that God knows what is on my heart. I don’t have to have all the answers or even the right words because the God who created me and loves me hears the unspoken cries from my spirit. I can rest in the knowledge that God knows my heart’s desire and I am not alone.

Prayer:

Dear God, I am so grateful that you know my heart and its desires. Help me find strength in this reassurance to face my difficulties. Amen

 



Daily Devotion – September 20, 2014

Romans 8:18–25

Future Glory

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

 

Reflection by Monty Wyne

 

In this passage, Paul wants us to understand that there are two certainties in this world and a practical conclusion flows from them. One: The present time is marked by sufferings because of man’s fall into sin. Two: Our future will be marked by glory for believers as God fulfills all His promises to us. So, we would conclude, if we keep our eyes on the future promised glory, we can endure present sufferings with perseverance and hope.

Given the suffering in the world this may seem easier said then done. We humans can be unmercifully cruel to one another, but we also possess hearts that are filled with compassion and love. And those hearts are sometimes shattered by violence or broken by the sudden loss of a loved one. How does that impact our relationship with God? Some will turn to Him for solace and prayer. Others will probably turn away from God wondering how He could witness such acts without intervening.

The history of nations is marked by struggles and catastrophes—wars, natural disasters, internal conflicts, power struggles and crime. The history of individuals is also in large part a history of trials—the trials of growing up, figuring out what to do with your life, whom you will marry, rearing children, working through conflict and struggles in your marriage, divorce, providing for your needs, growing old and facing the struggles that come with age and the final fact that each of us has an expiration date.

It all seems so overwhelming, so incomprehensible, so impossibly impossible. How does one cope? How does one overcome? Rise up? What lies at the end of each of our life tunnels? Is that light I see?

I certainly don’t have all the answers. And in my heart of hearts, I don’t know that God has all the answers either. But I think He is constantly watching. I think He is perplexed at times, confused, disappointed, saddened and yes, I think He weeps for and with us at times. He is a powerful, empathetic and loving God.

So, as we face the world and its struggles, its inequities, its tragedies, I think we somehow have to look for the light, for the hope that tomorrow will renew our spirits. That as the sun rises in the east, so does God, so does hope, so does the belief that something greater awaits us. Something we can’t even begin to comprehend. And the next time you or your child, your spouse or a good friend asks, “Why do people do such bad things to hurt each other?” How will you answer?

 

Prayer: 

Loving and understanding God,

Help us to see and appreciate the good in the world and in people and the glory that awaits each one of us.

Amen

 

 



Devotion – September 18, 2014
09.18.14

 

Romans 5:12-17

 

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

 

 

Reflection by Don Tawney Sr.

 

I Corinthians 15:45 reads “So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”  Jesus Christ is called The Last Adam.  Adam, by his sin or offense toward God, brought death to every soul on earth; death eternally.  “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive”. (I Cor. 15. 21-22)

The first Adam, who was the head of the human race, fell by his sin of disobeying God, and brought misery to all his posterity.  The love and mercy of God came to our miserable condition and brought recovery and hope by a much greater power in the second Adam, Jesus Christ.  He is our Mediator, becoming the Head of all the redeemed, dealing with God for us.  Jesus did all for us; He died for us, rose for us, opened the way to God for us.  Romans 5:8 reads “But God demonstrates His own Love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.

 

 

Prayer 

       Much more did Your grace, dear God, and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.  (Romans 5:15)  Thank You.  

                                                                                                 Amen