The views expressed here are those of each individual devotion writer. Thank you to our writers for their contributions to this ministry!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Words from Second Corinthians

Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3: 4-6

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.  We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away.  But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.  Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3: 12-18

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Growing for the Lord

I am the true vine, and my Father is the Gardener. He lops off every branch that doesn’t produce. And he prunes those branches that bear fruit for even larger crops. He has already tended you by the commands I gave you. Take care to live in me, and let me live in you. For a branch can’t produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me. Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in Him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing. John 15:1-5

How very true that a plant will not grow and may even die and wither away if it is not nourished correctly. We also need this nourishment. I experience this day in and day out in my profession. Sometimes only certain pieces need to be added or removed for the plant to flourish again. But if those pieces are broken or severed it doesn’t matter what is added or deleted for nourishment, the plant will not grow.

Our lives follow this same pattern. We see those plants (people) that always are struggling to live by God’s word. Someday we might slip into that category, but as long as we do not become severed, faith in God, his love and our desire to grow will nurture us through those rough times. When we start growing good again, we can bear fruit and seeds. We can then plant these seeds so that they may grow. As these seeds grow it is our job as God’s children to nurture the new plants until they too bear fruit and seeds. This also ties together with our need for passionate spirituality. This spirituality or nourishment will give us the desire to grow and plant more seeds so that this word will be spread throughout the world.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for nurturing us every day. Please give us the spirituality to help us grow, and help those who do not know you like we know you. Be with us as we spread your word. Give us the wisdom and strength to carry out your plan. Apart from you we can’t be anything. In Jesus' Name We Pray, Amen.

Brooks Rushman (reprinted from the Eastridge Daily Devotion book, 2008)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Rest on the Seventh Day

And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done Genesis 2:2-3

Sometimes it is right and appropriate to do absolutely nothing. Even God chose to conclude his work by resting. Every living thing needs its rest. Sleep reverses the tiring activities of the day. Energy and vitality return to us after a rest. Industrious, highly productive people sometimes feel guilty about doing nothing. The last thing most people want to be is lazy. Some say, “The devil finds work for idle hands.” But God himself has set us an example of rest. Sometimes with our work, rest cannot always come on Sunday. But each of us needs time when ordinary work gives way to God, the Word, and our families.

Prayer: Lord God, teach us that it is our duty to work, and also to rest from our work. Amen

Peg Olmstead (reprinted form the Eastridge Daily Devotion book, 2008)

Monday, February 25, 2019

In One Ear and Out the Other

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. James 1:22-24 (The Message).

How many times have you been talking to someone and felt that your words were going "in one ear and out the other"? Listening is sometimes difficult. Our brains may be swirling with thoughts of errands we have to run or tasks to be completed, but a friend is trying to tell us something that's important to them.  We may think we're being good listeners, when we really aren't. Often, we’re thinking about what we’re going to say when the other person finishes their thought.

With the divisions in the country today, it seems the art of listening is even more remote than it was in the past. We fail to listen and tune out anyone who has an opposing viewpoint. An example that swirled on social media this weekend was the encounter between a Kentucky high school student and a Native American in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. It seems every media site showed  video clips, but they were taken from different angles and by various individuals. It’s virtually impossible to determine what really happened when we weren’t there ourselves.  The public has taken sides and decided that the young man was disrespectful or that the older man started it.  It’s difficult to try to figure out whether any one person was in the wrong. It’s also hard to tell whether any of the parties shown in the video clips were really listening to each other. In order to get along in the world, we need to listen to others, to God, and to ourselves. It's easy to appear to be listening, but we may only be hearing the words, without understanding their meaning. 

If we hope to take part in civil discourse with those who may disagree with us, we need to strive to be open to all voices. And we need to be ready to act on what we hear.  James tells us to listen to the Word. We can ask God to help us remember to do that. 

Prayer: Dear God, We thank you for giving us the ability to listen and to hear your voice.  We pray that you will continue to be with us into the future, reminding us when necessary to be patient.  Help us to listen and to hear the voices around us.  Amen.

Robin Hadfield

Friday, February 22, 2019

Romans 5

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 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, while 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 boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
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—
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. 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.
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!  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.  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!
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Embracing Technology or God?

Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. . . Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

It’s virtually impossible to go anywhere today without seeing a number of people who are entirely focused on their cellphones. Whether it’s a restaurant, a concert, a sporting event, or a movie, folks have their heads down looking at the smartphone. While the ability to look up a phone number or to find directions in a matter of seconds is convenient, think of how society has changed because of these ubiquitous gadgets.

If you’re old enough, you remember when young people were advised to always carry change so they could make an emergency call at a pay phone. You remember when you called friends on a Tuesday to make arrangements for a movie on Friday, rather than calling and expecting your friends to meet you in 15 minutes. You remember when you shared personal thoughts and feelings only with your closest friends and family, rather than with Facebook “friends” and acquaintances.  There’s a funny video online that shows two teenagers who are given four minutes to make a phone call on a rotary dial phone.  They have no idea how to use it.

With all the changes in technology, we are turning into a society in which personal relationships are pushed aside in favor of an iPhone, iPad, or iPod. I’ve heard several athletic coaches comment on the fact that it is more difficult to find young people who can serve as leaders because they haven’t developed leadership skills.  They have come of age where the norm is spending most of their time talking to or texting friends via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

The scripture advises us to be cautious about trying to fit in so well in our culture that we forget God. Our society continues to challenge us in our relationships with others and with God. The time spent using a smartphone detracts from time spent talking with a friend, praying, or reading His word. God alone can bring out the best in us, and we would all be better served if we turned our attention to God and away from technology.

Prayer: Dearest Lord, Please forgive us for getting drawn into the technology of our culture, for thinking it helps us fit in, for failing to work on our relationship with you.  Please help us to fix our attention on you. We know you can change us for the better.  We pray that we can strive to embrace you, instead of our smartphones. Amen.

Robin Hadfield

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Sin and Forgiveness

Due in part to our media-driven world, we’re ultra-aware of others' missteps. While the range of these sins is wide, it’s not up to us to condemn. Lawbreakers should be made to face justice, but for most of us, we are asked to not judge lest we be judged.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8 ESV  

However, when someone says or does something that’s wrong, we’re quick to feel outrage, but how about forgiveness? We vilify people when they do bad things, but how about condemning the action, not the person? How about remembering that we sin as well?

We’re so quick to fire someone, take privileges away, request that they relinquish awards, banish others when they do things that we consider wrong at the very least, evil at the very worst. Well, what if something is just a mistake? What if the worst thing you’ve done isn’t a sign that you’re Satan himself, but just a fallible human being? I like this quote from Sister Helen Prejean: "It is easy to forgive the innocent. It is the guilty who test our morality. People are more than the worst thing they've ever done."

This can be tricky. With anything I’ve suggested above, I know someone will probably find something that is so evil that I may have a hard time defending my words. And that’s okay. God doesn’t put conditions on forgiveness. What I’d like to leave you with today are these passages below:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15 

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. Matthew 7:1-2 

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 1 Peter 3:8

Prayer: Dear Lord, none of us are perfect. Where there is lawlessness and evil, let those in power deliver justice. As for ourselves, help us to show your love, compassion, and forgiveness, as you have taught us. Amen.

Donna Gustafson

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Twenty-three Sins

Ezekiel 22:6-12 and 23-29 list numerous sins that were happening while Judah was captive in Babylonia. Our Bible Study noted these twenty-three sins being committed at the time which the prophet Ezekiel was trying to stand in the gap between God and the sinful people.

dishonoring parents
abusing foreigners
abusing orphans
oppressing widow
treating holy things in contempt
violating sabbath
giving false accusations
worshiping idols
taking part in lewd activities
committing incest
men forcing themselves on women
committing adultery
hiring murderers
profiting from the poor
being loan racketeers
being extortioners
plotting conspiracies
priests violating the law
leaders being like wolves-tearing apart victims
prophet covering up politicians
falsely speaking for the Lord
lying divinations -white washing sin

The prophet’s task was to repair the broken places in the covenant wall. Here the prophet’s task was simply to stand before God in the broken place, to beg God to have mercy on the sinful people according the “Life Change Series” on Ezekiel by NavPress.

Prayer: Oh Lord God Almighty, we don’t like to talk about sin today. However, we see many of these delineated sins happening around us today. Help us to be strong like Ezekiel and speak against the evil. Teach us to follow the greatest commandment, “Love One Another.” If we truly love those around us we will treat them accordingly and with respect. Help us follow Jesus who committed no sins. Amen.                                                      

Sandra Hilsabeck

Monday, February 18, 2019

A Journey

Just think—you don't need a thing, you've got it all! All God's gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that. 1 Corinthians 1:7-9 (The Message)

Through the years, I’ve taken part in a number of small group Bible studies.  We often talked about our spiritual journey.  I like thinking about my spiritual growth as a journey.  It makes me realize that I'm constantly evolving as I learn more about my faith.

One aspect of the faith journey that had not crossed my mind previously is that a spiritual journey can be very similar to any other kind of trip. When we prepare for a vacation, we may make a list of tasks to complete before we leave—do laundry, pack, stop the newspaper and the mail, make reservations, etc. But I've never made a list of tasks that need to be done to continue on my faith journey. I guess I've just assumed it would happen without a lot of planning.  I'm beginning to think I may be wrong.

If I put more time into thinking about my faith and this "spiritual adventure" I'm on, I would probably get more out of it. Maybe I'd be more in tune with God's plan for me, rather than always trying to take control of everything myself.  I'm not sure what tasks I would put on my list to prepare for the spiritual journey, but I'm sure prayer, study, worship and fellowship would need to be included.

As Eugene Peterson says in The Message, all God's gifts are right in front of us, and God is right next to us. He's on the journey with us—have we included him in our plans?

Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank you for being our travel companion through this spiritual journey we are on.  You keep us steady and on track—when we let you.  We appreciate your willingness to share your son with us.  Please forgive us when we get wrapped up in the details of planning a trip without remembering to include you.

Robin Hadfield

Friday, February 15, 2019

We Do Not Lose Heart (2 Corinthians 4)

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.  Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4 New International Version (NIV)

Thursday, February 14, 2019


Recently on Facebook, Jason Anderson posted the following by Jon Gordon. 

   Focus on three things today and everything else will take care of itself.
      3 Keys to a Happier Life:
      Love without expectation.
      Serve without wanting recognition.
      Care even if others don't.

Love: John 15:17 This is my command: Love each other. Love is reflected in human relations of brotherly concern. Jesus commands that you love each other and Jesus gives you strength to love. How can you show love today? You can smile and say hello to people you see today. You can call a friend.

Serve: Galatians 5:13 For you have been called to live in serve one another in love. How can you serve? You could take a meal to someone.  You could volunteer for an organization. You could help in Eastridge's Food Pantry.

Care: James 1:27 … we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles. Caring is showing concern to others in a positive way. How can you care? Send a card to someone for their Birthday, Get Well, etc.  Talk to others and ask how they are.

Think daily about the Keys of Happier Life.  Show Love, Serve, and Care and make them a part of your life.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for sending Jesus to show us how to Love, Serve, and Care. Give us encouragement to Love, Serve, and Care. Amen

Susan Taylor

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Seek God's Presence

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Psalm 37:7 (NLT)

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NIV)

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

 “...and they shall name him Emmanuel”, which means, “God is with us.” Matthew 1:23 (NRSV)

Christmas Eve. In the stillness of that beautiful night, I found God's presence in a powerful way.  In the sanctuary, as I stared at my flickering candle, I was able to leave my worries outside the door and just BE.  As I focused on God and everything beautiful about that moment, I was moved to tears. The difference this year was that they were not “pity party” tears. You see, Christmas Eve has often been difficult for me because I don't like coming to church alone on this special night. I miss not having my family there. But this year, I recognized how beautiful it was to have God sitting in the pew beside me...and to have my Mom there in Spirit...singing along with the “heavenly hosts”.

There was more of God's beauty to be found on the drive home. The weather was nicer than usual, so I opened my sunroof. The sky was gently lit by the glow of the moon behind some clouds. It was very still and quiet, but for the occasional gentle breeze. I parked my car and gazed upwards, trying to soak it all in. I talked to God some, but mostly just sat quietly, watched and listened.  An interesting thought occurred to me.  Would I have noticed and appreciated God's presence in the same way had I been with others? Probably not. Maybe God had purposely sent me alone to church on this silent, beautiful truly appreciate what his name means. Emmanuel. God with us.

Unfortunately, far too often we let the “stuff” of this world get in the way of noticing God's presence.  That's why it's so important to “Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his presence continually” (1 Chronicles 16:11). And our reassurance is, “If you seek him, he will be found by you”(1 Chronicles 28:9).  Always! He's “an EVER-PRESENT help” (Psalm 46:1). Sometimes He gives us obvious, beautiful reminders of his sunsets, rainbows, flower gardens and bird songs...but other times we have to stop, quiet our minds, and really pay attention to find (and appreciate) Him. And when we do, He can give us a whole new perspective. It's in those moments, He gives us hope, peace and strength to carry on.

Prayer: Ever-Faithful Emmanuel, forgive us for sometimes being too distracted to notice you right there beside us.  Help us remember to “seek” you “continually”, so our relationships with you can grow.  And thank you for the beautiful reminders you send us of your presence. Amen.

Sharon Irvin

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Baalam and the Donkey

But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.

Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.

Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

“No,” he said.

Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”

Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”

The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials. Numbers 22:22-35

Who would ever expect to hear the word of God from the least expected source?  Even a donkey! 

Baalam was invited by the king and elders of Moab and Midian to come with them and assist them because of a people from Egypt who have conquered the land next to them (Numbers 21). The people of Moab and Midian were afraid and were not able to defend themselves should they be invaded.  But the Lord advised Baalam not to go or to do anything foolish against those new neighbors, for the Lord called them “blessed.” Still the king and the people of Moab and Midian insisted that Baalam come with them.  God said for Baalam to go, but do nothing except for whatever God tells him to do.

Apparently, Baalam went, but God wondered if he was really faithful.  As Baalam rode his donkey, the donkey suddenly stopped and would go no further for the donkey saw an agent of God – possibly an angel – with a sword blocking their passage. Baalam could see nothing. He beat the donkey three times and then the angel spoke through the donkey to wonder why he would beat the donkey. Just then, the Lord made it possible for Baalam to see the agent of God and hear once again the word of caution that God initially gave Baalam, He could go to Midian and Moab, but only do what God would ask of him.

I had the rare opportunity to watch the Legislature in session on TV this week and Ernie Chambers was speaking. Now I admit, I have many times disagreed with Ernie on many, many things! He is a regular critic of the Church and Christianity. However, this week I heard Ernie give a reflection citing Jesus and how His disciples and even the chief priests would not listen to whatever Jesus would teach them. Chambers mentioned that Jesus showed them what He wanted to do through the miracles of the feeding the thousands, healing people, or raising some from the dead like Lazarus. Would the disciples see, believe and listen? Chambers’ point was that one listen to the other and work with one another regardless of political persuasion. Will I agree the next time Ernie speaks?  Likely not, but this time he spoke sense.

My challenge to all people of faith is to listen as Baalam had to listen to a donkey and I had to listen to one with whom I have disagreed many times.  God speaks His word and we better have ears to hear.

Prayer: Lord, give us ears to hear Your counsel. Grant us the faith and trust to risk doing what You would have us do this day in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Rev. Dr. John J. Duling

Monday, February 11, 2019

Mercy, Let's Show Mercy!

"God blesses those who are merciful, for they shall be shown mercy."  Matthew 5:7

Webster defines mercy as compassion or forbearance, especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power; compassionate treatment of those in tough situations. It seems that being judgmental is not very compatible with showing mercy to others. The ultimate show of mercy is Jesus dying for our sins on the cross.

I have been thinking of ways that I can be more merciful. For friends and family members who have annoying habits, I would like to try to be more accepting and kind. So she talks too loud or too much, I shall overlook that and focus on my feelings of love and appreciation for that person. I shall try to be more patient. Focusing on others' negative traits is not being merciful nor does it make me look better or even feel better.

I have also been working on forgiveness and giving people second chances. Helping others when they make mistakes is more God-like than kicking them when they are down. It is not merciful to remind them of their mistakes, or to not help that loved one grow or do better. It is merciful to be there for them.

I want to extend help and kindness to those who are hurting, to be there for them and to help relieve their pain and suffering.  

I want to extend mercy to those who are on the edge of society, who do not fit in or have a place at the table. I want to help them feel loved and accepted.

Prayer: Father God, we thank you for being merciful and loving. May we strive to show mercy to others on a daily basis. Thank you for the ultimate show of mercy: Jesus, your Son, dying on the cross so that we might have eternal salvation.

Connie Barry

Friday, February 8, 2019

Truth Presented

It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. Exodus 31:17-18

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah. Matthew 17:1-3

There are some instances when you realize the truth because it just makes sense. It must have been a very significant time in the world when Jesus was born, because most of the world started counting the years over again. The time before Christ counted down to his birth and the time after Christ counted forward to our year 2018. What do atheists think about that?

Then in the Exodus verses above we have a written record of the time of Moses when God himself wrote the Ten Commandments with his own finger in the presence of Moses. This is not just man’s law but the law of God. I am so happy these laws are written on the front entry of our national Hall of Justice.

Another time in Matthew 17 we have three first hand witnesses. Again, the Peter, James and John were on a mountain top. They saw Moses and Elijah, from a past time alive again with a transfigured Jesus. What a truth is portrayed when life after death is portrayed as Moses and Elijah are shown (they lived in the 1500’s and 800’s BC). The glory is shown by Jesus’ own face. They saw it and wrote about it.

Prayer: Oh Lord, thank you for these circumstances to help our unbelief. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Barns and Structures

"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

Depending on the building, it can bring back certain memories. If I see a chicken coop I remember all the chickens we raised when I was a kid. If I see a house with a porch, I remember sitting on my folks' porch talking with them while looking out on the fields. I see a windmill, I see my uncle's farm with the big metal tanks filled with water and sometimes fish. A farm building with a fenced area makes me think of the horses, sheep, pigs and other animals I was privileged enough to be raised around.

I remember our big barn where we played as kids. It was a place to work but also a place to be kids.  Now there is a big barn where I live and as I was walking around the yard by the barn and windmill it’s hard to explain the comfort I feel.

Then there are the churches, a small white church with a tall steeple with a bell reminds me of singing, Sunday school, and the church service that always gave me comfort and renewed hope and strength to go through each day knowing He was with me each step. 

I remember when my father passed away, Sunday morning came and my mother said God would understand if we didn’t attend. It is a time of mourning. I remember telling her no, I want to go to church and we did. Where else is a better place to be when you are in pain?  A few congregation members were surprised that we would attend but I never felt more of the comfort of our Lord than in His house.

It is so important to attend church, bring your children, family and friends. To build that structure, not only the physical, but the spiritual structure.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for churches, the pastors, and congregation that join in building a solid foundation for us to stand on when we need it and at times while we continue to grow in His love. Amen

Lori Hood

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

We Seem to Forget

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

Several years ago, I attended the National Elders Conference of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Nashville, Tennessee. At the meeting, I was fortunate to be able to meet Ann Weems, who has been called the Presbyterian poet laureate.  She passed away in 2016.  She served on the committee that wrote The Brief Statement of Faith. Her work has often been published in Horizons, the magazine of the Presbyterian Women. Here is one of her poems:

“We Seem to Forget” by Ann Weems

What concerns me, what lies on my heart is this:
That we in the church -- papered and programmed,
Articulated and agenda’d—are telling the faith story all wrong.
Are telling it as though it happened two thousand years ago
Or is going to happen as soon as the church budget is raised.
We seem to forget that Christ’s name is
Emmanuel, God With Us. . . .
Not just when he sat among us, but now;
When we can no longer feel the nailprints in his hands.

We need to remember what the true purpose of the church is – to tell the faith story.

Prayer: Dear God, As members of your church, we sometimes get wrapped up in the details of the organization, and “we seem to forget.”  Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus and the sacrifice he made for us.

Robin Hadfield (shared previously)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Hoshea and Two Parties

Hoshea, Elah’s son, became king in Samaria in the twelfth year of Judah’s king Ahaz. He ruled over Israel for nine years.  He did what was evil in the Lord’s eyes, but he wasn’t as bad as the Israelite kings who preceded him. 2 Kings 17:1-2

The Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible says “Hoshea was one of those who sealed the covenant in Nehemiah and was the last king of Israel. The chronological data of our text are not entirely accordant (2 K 15:30, 17:1), but we know that he came to the throne not far from B.C. 732. Taking into view the Assyrian annals along with the Biblical accounts, we gather that there were two parties in Samaria:

One advocating submission to Assyria

The other hoping for independence

Pekah was placed on the throne by the latter; Hoshea was the candidate of the Assyrians, and was perhaps actively supported by them in his revolt against Pekah, whom he supplanted.”

From these words about the political climate of Israel about 700 years before Christ, we can believe differences in political parties is nothing new. There was support coming from different factions for each party.

When we hear of disagreements in the political parties of today, we can pray for God to give wisdom to our elected officials.

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, we don’t have all the information available to our government officials, but you know exactly what the truth is in all things and which decisions will benefit the people of our nation. Please guide our leaders to work together in a way that is not evil in your sight, but beneficial to the people. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Journey

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.  Job 12:7-10

I consult Facebook every day. Because I am connected to a community of caring and perceptive people, I am rewarded with many heartening things. But the feed I scroll through also contains many small-minded posts from others who have friended me for various reasons, or from marketing sources. 

A few nights ago I checked Facebook after a tiring day and read something hypocritical written by an acquaintance, on a very timely subject. I had a knee-jerk emotional response of indignation and disappointment. 

I had to step outside of myself for perspective, and realized that I was reacting to something with disproportionate strength of attention and emotion. So often, when this happens, I discover I have spent too much time on an activity of little worth. 

Through the day, I try to monitor what draws my attention.  I have to turn off the car radio sometimes, because the sky is too beautiful to split my attention with (other than driving safely). Sometimes the channels I have to change are in my thought patterns. My mind is fed by everything I see and experience, and it does not always tend to ruminate on the most inspiring, joyful, and courageous things. Especially when I am weary, I find I need to choose carefully what I listen to.

Like many people I know, I have an ongoing project for personal growth. With the new year, I feel renewed energy for pursuing the current steps in my goals. When the poet Mary Oliver died recently, many of her words were reprinted in articles about her. I found them to resonate with my inner journey. Her references to nature reminded me of how much I want a deeper relationship with God's world, and how it requires turning down the volume drastically on the attention-getters in the material world. 

It really doesn't matter that Facebook gives as much space to things that matter as to things that irritate. One is not required to listen to the news in order to get on with the day. Every thing that catches attention is not as worthy as the thing that the discriminating mind has the power to pursue. But this is a lesson that is ongoing with me. I am amazed at how far I have to go.

This prayer is excerpted from "The Journey", one of the many compelling poems by Mary Oliver.

God of the earth which teaches me when I pay attention, help me to be fueled by these thoughts: "One day you finally knew what you had to, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice--But you didn't stop. You knew what you had to do...Little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world...." May your voice be the one I listen to above all others, and most deeply in my heart. Thank you for the gift of your world to teach me about your love. Amen.

Mollie Manner

Friday, February 1, 2019

Your Shield and Great Reward

The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
    I am your shield,
    your very great reward.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Genesis 15:1-5