Thursday, March 30, 2017


Change Our Selfish Hearts    

 

Matthew 16:24-25 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me].  For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity].  (AMP)

 

Romans 12:10-11  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (NIV)

 

James 4:17  If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (NIV)

 

The other day, I was reading about the importance of loving others in Rick Warren's book, The Purpose-Driven Life.  He suggests praying: “God, whether I get anything else done today, I want to make sure that I spend time loving you and loving other people--because that's what life is all about.  I don't want to waste this day.”  (Being a champion time-waster, I definitely need to pray this daily!)  The next sentence I read really hit me: “Why should God give you another day if you're going to waste it?”  Ouch. That's a good question. 

 

Somehow, I've managed to fill my spare time more with self-serving fun activities than with serving God.  I'm not saying that fun and relaxation are bad necessarily; nor am I saying that I don't spend any time serving God.  I'm saying too much time spent on ourselves and not enough time spent on others makes us lose sight of their needs.  Sometimes I “forget” to check in with those God wants me to care for because I'm too consumed with my own fun and/or comfort.  Do I actually “forget”?  Sometimes, yes.  But sometimes, I admit, I hear God's call, but choose to ignore it.  I want to wait for a more convenient time.  However...time is fleeting.  The opportunity may be lost if I don't act now.

 

When I choose my own comfort over what God wants, the sin of selfishness rears its ugly head.  It's so hard to change my selfish habits, but I want to.  When He calls me, I need to trust that He has a greater purpose in mind, even though I may not understand it.  If I make loving and serving Jesus most important in my heart, hopefully I'll be more willing to make sacrifices for Him--giving up my time, comfort, energy and more, for the benefit of someone else.  I pray that I can: “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.  He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)

 

PRAYER: Dearest Savior, forgive us when we ignore your call to show our love to others.  Help us to change our selfish hearts, so we may be ready and willing to love and serve you. And thank you so much for offering yourself as the ultimate sacrifice--so we can forever live in your amazing love. Amen.

 

Contributed by Sharon Irvin

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Do Right   

 

Deuteronomy 6:18a  “You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord.”

 

James 1:22 “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers only, who deceive themselves.”

 

I Peter 3:14 “But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed.”

 

Galatians 6:9 “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.”

 

When our children were young, bedtime prayers were part of our daily ritual.  Many families repeated variations of this familiar bedtime prayer:

 

            “ Now, I lay me down to sleep,

            I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

            If I should die before I wake,

            I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

 

I felt this prayer might be scary for my children.  After each of my children said their nightly prayers of praise, thanksgiving, and asking God’s forgiveness, I would conclude with the following prayer.

 

“We ask God to keep you safe through the night and help you to do right tomorrow.”

 

I sometimes wondered if my children understood the meaning of “do right.”  Parents and teachers often admonish children to “be good.”  Do children really know what it means to “be good?”  Likewise, do they understand what it means to “do right?”

 

How do we know how to do right?  I believe that God’s love for us, and our love and appreciation for God will lead us to do what is right. It will lead us to spend time with God, and love others more.  Sometimes, we know the right thing to do.  The hard part is doing it.  Scripture and the Holy Spirit guide us in knowing ways we can do right. We know that no matter what, God is with us and forgives us when we fail to do right.  Lent is a time that we focus on how we can more closely follow God’s direction.

 

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to not grow weary in doing what is right.  Thank You for Your assurance that You are always with us.  Thank You for forgiving us again and again.  Amen.

 

Contributed by Lois Poppe

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


A Prayer for Belfast  

 

In 2013, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, then Lord Mayor of Belfast, commissioned a prayer for the City of Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Throughout the year prayer vigils were held throughout the city so that the people of Belfast could join in prayer together.  The revolutionary part of the prayer meetings lies in the meaning of that word - together.  Gladys Ganiel offers the following reflections on a prayer vigil held December 11, 2013:

 

"Those of us who work or live in North Belfast know that the claiming of space for political and sectarian purposes is a common practice, and the point is to exclude others from that space. 

And while I acknowledge that Christmas carol singing may exclude non-Christians, I appreciate the organizers’ intent to be as inclusive as possible and to welcome others to share a space in an ‘interface’ area….

As Northern Ireland prepares for how we ‘deal with the past,’ I am struck by the theme of reconciliation that runs through the prayer. 

It is a vision of reconciliation that does not settle for a ‘peaceful co-existence’ or a ‘benign apartheid.’ And it is a vision of reconciliation that is orientated towards a future together. Events like the Prayer Vigil for Belfast are just one example of what such a future together might look like.”

 


A Prayer for Belfast

God of love whose love streams

unceasingly and relentlessly to all, we cry to

you for our city.

We pray for peace on our streets, for

economic well-being, for understanding

across our differences.

Build us as one community, though diverse,

that being reconciled to you we might be

reconciled to one another.

Lord, turn our hearts to you that your glory

might dwell in this city

In the name of Jesus, who is Lord of all.

Amen

Monday, March 27, 2017


The Widow's Offering    

 

Mark 12:  41-44  He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury.  Many rich people put in large sums.  A poor Widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.  Then he called his disciples and said to them,” Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of heir abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all that she had to live on”.

 

Lent is a time for repentance, prayer, preparation and deprivation.  These traits are highlighted in Mark's Gospel.  This story also appears in the Gospel of Luke.

 

When we were children one of the big questions we asked or were asked was “What are you giving up for Lent?”

 

How often do we give from our abundance?  Someone once said give until it feels good. That is good advice. Whether we are giving money, time, talent, service to others or giving Kindness.

 

Prayer: Dear Lord God, thank you for all the gifts you have given to us.  Help us to realize that all things belong to you and we are required to share what we have with others. In Jesus' name, Amen.

 

Contributed by Kathy Kuehn

 

 

 

 

Sunday, March 26, 2017


Restoration     

 

2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.

 

Recently I read in the paper about the restoration of a hotel in the Haymarket. A new owner had planned to literally gut the building. Everything was to be removed, from floor to ceiling, room by room, all the furniture gone, the carpets, the wiring, the plumbing, the TV’s. Staying previously at this well-known chain was comforting, all the rooms looked alike (like hotel rooms), the conference area looked like many others in the region, and the restaurant served OK meals conveniently to the residents. But now, a new hotel was promised. Something totally different. Everything will be new with new themes, new suites, and new colors. It is to be something Lincoln has never seen before.

 

As I researched restoration in the Bible, I thought of the hotel. But our restoration in Christ is so much more. We are new creations—the old has passed away, and the new has come.  We are all unique, special beings, here to serve our savior with our own individual talents.  What a great hope, joy, and purpose has come into our lives and our hearts.

 

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for the opportunity to be a new creation, to be able to serve you and do your will in our lives. Be with us during this Lenten time as we prepare ourselves for your service. Amen

 

Contributed by Nancy Hall

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Deepening Prayer and Relationship   

 

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

 

1 Thess. 5:16-18  Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

 

The details are long forgotten, but the words of John 3:16 have been memorized in my head and heart since middle school.  In Marion, Ohio I visited the church of my best friend since elementary school, Kathy, and all of the youth that day learned this verse. 

 

The second verse, one of my favorites, I see every day on the mirror in our bathroom.  I am trying to talk to God more each day, trying to see his wonders all around me, if only I would stop and take time for Him.  My daily living would be so much more fulfilling and less stressful if I would be in communion with God continually.  I want to learn how to discern God’s will and really listen for his voice; to be still instead of continuing my own words in prayer; and most importantly to deepen my daily personal relationship with Him.  That is my Lenten focus this year.

 

Prayer:  Dear Father, Forgive me for neglecting spending time with you.  I use my busyness as an excuse.  But as the patient and loving Father you are, you wait for me and I am truly thankful.  The precious gift of your Son allows me this personal relationship with you and I so want our relationship to deepen and grow ever since my own baptism and memorizing John 3:16 many years ago.  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. [Psalm 51:10]  Amen.

 

Contributed by Cathy Schapmann

Friday, March 24, 2017


If you love those who love    

 

Luke 6:32  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners love those who love them.

 

Many hours in my life have been spent watching birds and growing flowers.  In the springtime comes the restoration of the flower beds as spring heads into Nebraska.  There is nothing more beautiful than the call of a cardinal or the chirp of a robin.  Also in the springtime come first Lent and then Easter and the resurrection of our Lord.

 

With the warmth of the out of doors comes the warmth inside our hearts.  We forgive and forget and reconcile all our small woes we have with friends and family and wallow in the love of Christ our Savior.  We may feel the sadness of Lent but we know like the thieves on the crosses that Christ died for us and feel the joy of his resurrection.

 

In our joy, we may nearly feel like flying as the birds do. But we are unable for our faith is not quite strong enough but we can enjoy our friendships and loves and thank God.

 

Prayer:  Dear God, we come again to our church season of Lent with heavy hearts mourning the death of our Lord, Jesus Christ, but again we look forward to a time of joy when again we can again celebrate our risen Lord.  Amen

 

Contributed by Carolyn F Olsen

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, March 23, 2017


RECONCILED!   

 

Romans 5: 8-11  But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life. Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

 

God created man in His image.  He walked and talked with him in the Garden.

 

Only when, listening to the serpent Satan’s lies and choosing to disobey God, did Eve, Adam, and I create separation from Him.

 

Each time I choose to listen to my human side, to indulge in things that harm me, to judge others, to try to please other people over pleasing God, I slip away from being at peace with Him.

 

Even so, He still loved us so much He sent His only son Christ to teach us the way back to Him, indeed, to be our way back to Him through His death and resurrection!

 

Prayer: Father, Thank you for wanting a sinner like me back, for reconciling me, bringing me in harmony with You, through the blood of my Lord Jesus Christ. Help me to always stay in harmony with you and to share that message of reconciliation with all I meet.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

Contributed by Carolyn Fetterley

Judging Others   

 

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. ... Matthew 7:1-29  

 

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:1-4

 

Many of us run into those who, in their daily lives, struggle for things we may take for granted: food, a home, lives that are not ruled by extreme ups and downs.

 

So, what do we do? We help them. We feel pity for them. We love them, in our Christian way. But we don’t necessarily want to spend time with them, or become friends with them. Something might rub off on us. We don’t have anything in common with them, or so we believe. We may have our own issues and weaknesses, but our particular problems and failings are “not as bad”. This attitude is dangerous. It turns our dealings into “us vs. them” mentality, when it should really be: all of us together, making our way in this world.

 

Recently I gave a ride to a woman whose life is hard right now…she’s far away from family, her health is failing, and she struggles to find work. It was on a particularly busy day for me, and she was late getting ready. I felt impatient, inconvenienced. She is close to my age, and was asking me about my family, even though her English is not good. One thing she said that was so simple, but has stayed with me: “you have a good life”. It made me realize that the little things like being late, being busy, are small problems to have. She’s right, I have a good life! I am blessed, and should share those blessings with others. It’s great that we give food, money, clothing…but let’s give our time and friendship, also.

 

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to notice those with less. Help me to reach out and be a friend. Give me ears to hear, so that I may truly listen to the needs of others around me. Amen.

 

Contributed by Donna Gustafson
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


More like Christ, leading to Christ   

 

Mark 9: 14-29 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

 

Psalms 103: 1, 6-8

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!...

The LORD works righteousness

and justice for all who are oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,

his acts to the people of Israel.

The LORD is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

 

Many things are broken in this world, and many good people are upset by injustice, cruelty, and suffering.  I’ve noticed that in many instances this awareness of injustice and cruelty then leads good people to become angry, cruel, and unjust to other people – lashing out with accusations and name-calling, and a spiral of anger, cruelty, and injustice perpetuates.  It makes my heart so sad.  I have to admit that BOTH the injustice AND the anger make me angry too.  I see many places in the Psalms where the Lord’s wonderful ways are extolled, and His ways look quite different from ours: merciful, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. As Christ’s disciple, I want to be more like God than like the angry mob, but I also know I am to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.  How can I do both? In my despair about this, I cried out to the Lord, and in one week was led to both these passages – through a sermon and in my wonderful Bible study class.

I was privileged to be able to hear the Stated Clerk of the PCUSA preach at our church, using the passage from Mark, above.   He used the passage to point out that Scripture teaches us not to lean on our own ways, for they are faulty – both as individuals and as the Church.  This passage teaches us that the faithful pray and lead others to Christ, and Christ heals.  Through Christ, we can make things happen that we can’t do through our own power, or by our own ways.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is helpful to me here, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes;  fear the Lord and shun evil.” (Proverbs 3: 5-7).  So when I find myself becoming angry at either the injustice OR the anger, I pray to God in trust and ask to become more like Him: merciful, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Does it always work?  No, but God isn’t finished with me yet.

Prayer: Lord of my life, please make me more like you - merciful, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love - and through this to point more people to you.  For you, alone, can solve the problems this world faces.  So many are hurting; so many are angry.  You died and rose again so that we could be restored to you and reconciled to one another.  Yet we throw that away in our anger.  Please reach down to this hurting world that needs Your love, and help us to reach up as well.  Amen

 

Contributed by Lori Snyder-Sloan

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Reconciliation     

 

Romans 5: 10-11, 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

 

Romans 5: 4-5, 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

 

In my life, I have prayed for hours about reconciliation.  Asking God to heal old disagreements, to renew relationships, to provide the strength to forgive another and for compassion when I ask for forgiveness.  In preparing to write this devotion I thought about the conflicts present in the world today and the challenges of reconciliation.  In the past few weeks I have noticed a strong and recurring feeling of irritation.  It is as though the strife that has been brewing politically, vocationally, and even religiously seems more intense, or perhaps just more troublesome.  Since this irritation feels almost universal, I have blamed the unrest on my personal human response, from long hours at work, or particularly stressful conversations or situations.  After surrendering to prayer and acknowledging that some of this persistent irritation is certainly internal, me not letting things go, or becoming frustrated by the outcome of a situation that I cannot control, there are other parts of it that are external and are impacting my distress.

 

When searching for a verse to help me endure this challenging time I was comforted by the verses from Romans about strength of character and our reconciliation to God.  In agitated times I need to remember the need for endurance and strength and know that God is with me.  When I become frustrated or afraid, I need to remember that I have hope that reconciliation is possible in every part of my life.  In moments when I am disappointed I need to let go of the unrest and either walk away from the issue or try a new approach or solution.

 

With the turmoil in our world today I know that I am not the only once experiencing these feelings and that as Christians, we are all praying for relief from many of the same problems and symptoms.

 

Prayer: Resilient and mighty God, please give me strength to endure the challenges before me.  Help me to find outlets for my frustration.  Help me to see your work in the world.  When I am frustrated or irritable, help me to show love instead of anger.  Amen.

 

Contributed by Christi Moock