Thursday, April 19, 2018

He is Faithful

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (NRSV) Lamentations 3:21-26   
Trust [rely on and have confidence] in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed [securely] on His faithfulness. (AMP) Psalm 37:3

The songs “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” touch my soul. Their verses remind me how loyal and faithful God has been to me throughout my life. Even when I wander, even when I doubt...He's STILL there. No matter how much I sin, He forgives me every time I ask. He faithfully loves me, guides me, strengthens me, provides for my needs, gives me peace and gives me hope. And as I mourn the loss of my mom, He's been there to dry every tear. It's so amazing having such an immensely loving and faithful friend--especially when I'm not always a good friend to Him.

At the top of my lungs, I sing these verses from “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)” by Chris Tomlin: 
Whom shall I fear?
I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

I picture God “before me...behind my side”--at all times surrounded by His powerful love. Wow! That gives me such comfort, such confidence. 

In times when I'm feeling far away from God, and full of fears and doubts; I need to remember the many ways He's been faithful--both in my life and in the lives of others. I also need to call to mind the promises found in His Word, resting assured that He'll faithfully keep every one. It's not always easy to focus on these things in the middle of hard times; but when I do, I find my heart swells with thankfulness. And each time my heart is thankful, I find I'm better able to “hope in Him” and “wait for Him” like I should.

Prayer: Ever-Faithful Father, forgive us for our doubting, wandering hearts.  Open our eyes to see--and our hearts to appreciate--your immense love and faithfulness.  And thank you so much for surrounding us with your powerful love every day. Amen.

Sharon Irvin

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"My Words Will Never Pass Away."

But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. Mark 13:24-31

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Hidden Message

There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?  John 6:9 NKJV

When my friend, Anne, asked me to coauthor her children’s sermon on the topic of unleavened bread, I started to read about barley because I knew it to be the grain of the common (poor) people in the Bible. It was purely an economic decision on their part because wheat was three times the price of barley. 

The number of stories in the OT having barley at the heart of them was surprising to me. I read several of them and found that the destruction of the barley fields was part of the 7th plague (Ex. 9:31-32); Ruth met Boaz because she and Naomi returned to Bethlehem during barley harvest (Ruth 1:22); and it made me smile when I read that Gideon interpreted the dream of a man who told of seeing a loaf of barley bread roll down a hill and flatten a tent to mean that he would have victory in battle against the Midianites (Judges 7:13).

But how does one find the hidden message in the miracle of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000?  According to one bible scholar you have to compare Elijah’s feeding of the poor widow and her son by keeping her flour bin full after she had used her last handful of flour to feed Elijah (1Kings 7:15-16) and Elisha’s feeding 100 men with 20 loaves of barley bread (2 Kings 4:42-44) to Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 with 5 loaves. The people that Jesus was teaching thought Jesus to be a prophet. They would have known both Elijah’s and Elisha’s stories. By comparison, when Jesus fed the 5,000 with 5 loaves, He was showing Himself to be greater than the prophets. 

Without the prompting to make this comparison, I would have completely missed that hidden message! Did you miss it, too? 

Prayer: Thank You, Father, for the scriptures which reveal the glory of Your Son, Jesus’, miracles and for showing us that sometimes we just need to read between the lines to get Your message. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Judy Welch

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Birds of the Air

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them , saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day. Genesis 1: 20-23

As a birdwatcher, I continue to be amazed at the diversity of the birds both in the Midwest and the country. From the tiny, but feisty hummingbirds, to the majestic eagles, the birds come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. The turkey vultures have returned to Lincoln around April 1st every year since I moved here 30 years ago. The large streams of blackbirds fly in ever-weaving forms toward the end of March, and the sandhill cranes, all half a million of them, gather on the Platte River in mid- March. Everyone sees the return of the robins as a harbinger of spring. The shorebirds who funnel their way through Nebraska and then go onto the shores of the Atlantic and Pacific, cover thousand of miles. From the tiny ruddy ducks to the snow geese, the wetlands of Nebraska provide a resting place on their long journeys north. The bluebirds return in early spring, start their nests when it is still cold, lay their pretty little sky blue eggs, and manage to fledge 2 sets of babies before they leave in late July. Each bird has its own characteristics, its habitats, its time line for travel, and its special song. God has given us a blessing with the birds of the air. Take time to thank God for the birds he has given to us and their evidence of his ongoing love and creation.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you are a great and powerful God. Thank you for your creatures here on earth. Help us to respect the environment for all who occupy it. Amen.

Nancy Hall

Friday, April 13, 2018

Storm Insurance

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46:1-3

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46: 10-11

As we Midwesterners think about the storms in our lives, we may conjure up thoughts or images of severe weather—especially this time of year.  Lightning, thunder, floods, hail, and high winds frequently threaten destruction to our crops, property, or sometimes, our lives.  We often take assurance from the idea that we can and will be able to recover from these misfortunes by rationalizing, “After all, we do have insurance, right?”  What happens to us when we face storms and damages that are not necessarily alleviated by this monetary safety net?  We often reach out to those displaced by natural disasters through financial relief efforts, but how do we muster the spiritual strength to bounce back from deeper storms and scars left by physical injuries, debilitating diseases, broken relationships, or even loss of loved ones?  It is tempting to believe that we have protected ourselves from harm by covering our financial bases, but the Lord is truly the one we must rely on.

Prayer: Creator God, in the quiet stillness of this hour and in the midst of life’s storms, help us to find comfort in laying down our concerns and troubles before you.  We humbly ask for your help to strengthen us and give us hope as we navigate each day.  Thank you for the knowledge and assurance that you are always with us.  Amen.

Barry and Alinda Stelk

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Home Sweet Home

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” 
John 14:2-4

Last week in February and the first week of March, I took a vacation to stay with friends in southern Texas and visit Mexico. The second week I stayed with my sister out of town. I had great accommodations and the hospitality was fantastic. My dog Hastings had stayed with my nephew during the first week and I picked her up and she greeted me with that happy puppy energy and excitement. She still seemed hesitant staying at my sister’s home. After the two weeks we went home and you could tell she was home. She ran all around the house checking all the corners to make sure things were in their proper place, every dog toy had to come out of the basket and be examined to make sure they were all there. She took each toy for a run around the house. You could tell she knew she was home. After the return home ritual, she climbed into her bed, relaxed and fell asleep. I too retired to my bed after the late night drive home and I too was excited to be in my own bed in my own accommodations. I was home sweet home.

Recently I saw a picture of Jesus with a person wrapped around him.  Their feet were wrapped around his waist and their arms around his neck as tight as possible. A hug beyond imagination. Their face had the biggest grin as if they were greeting a long lost friend. That is what I imagine when I see my loved ones in Heaven. That they too were greeted and got a huge hug welcoming them home. The warm embrace filled with love and comfort.   

Lori Hood  

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Light and Love

Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” John 12: 35-36  

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12  

At the February Trailblazers group meeting, we all shared something that has meaning for us. My husband and I shared a photo of a wall-hanging that has hung in our homes since our children were young. As a family, we together created it using tissue paper (in shades of brown, yellow, and orange) and glued it on fiber board panels. Our family members saw varying things – sunrise, sunset, for example. I saw the darkness of our world driven away by God’s light of love.

There are many kinds of darkness. Some describe being in the darkness of depression. Some struggle with physical pain or other health issues as a kind of darkness. Worries of conflict in our country and world can darken our views.

The song, “I Am the Light of the World” reminds us how we can follow and love today.


            “I am the Light of the World.

            You people come and follow me.

            If you follow and love,
            You’ll learn the mystery,
            Of what you are meant to do and be.”

I reflect on how I can be a part of dispelling the world’s darkness each day.

Prayer: God of light and love, show me how I can reflect your presence in our world today. Amen.

Lois Poppe