I’m so glad you’re joining us during this Lenten Season for these short and poignant readings. Lent has always been a time when the Church has prepared its heart for Easter. So let this Lent be a time when we do the same.

Each day you’ll receive (or access on our church’s website) a short reading. The scriptures come from the lections (Church scriptures arranged according to the Church calendar). The reflections come from a number of people in the life of our church. Each reading attempts to reflect on the Word of God from a place of missions. Simply put, these are men and women, boys, girls, teens, who have had experiences in sharing the Good News of Jesus in our community and (quite literally) around the globe. We have done this to remind us that God has a heart for this world and we are the hands and feet of Jesus sharing His love to those around us.

As you access the devotions you’ll notice there are a number that I’ve written as well. Given the fact all the contributors are writing from a place missions, I’m taking the lens of where we are with God in a more general sense. I hope the balance is helpful. Besides, the bottom-line in our life with God and our neighbor is balance. We love others (mission) out of a deep love we receive from the Lord.

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Tim


Week 3 – March 30

Pastor Tim

Scripture:
“Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us give a joyous shout to the rock of our salvation! Let us come before him with thanksgiving. Let us sing him psalms of praise.” (Psalm 95:1-2, NLT).

How do you approach the Lord? Think about it. If you want, go ahead and write some descriptive words that convey your typical approach. As you’re jotting down how you tend to come to God, let me point out a startling reality occurring in some parts of the world right now. A recent study suggests that in places like Australia, Austria, New Zealand, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Canada, Finland, Ireland, and the Netherlands… there’s such a lack of any kind of approach to God that “religion will (eventually) be driven towards extinction” in those regions (cf. “APS meeting in Dallas on March 23”). We’re not just talking about belief in Jesus… we’re talking about the mere adherence to any faith in a god at all. Pretty stunning, huh?

If our approach to God is impersonal…

If our approach to God is done merely out of a sense of duty…

If our approach to God is glum-faced…

If our approach to God is morbidly lifeless…

If our approach to God is detached…

You get the point. If our approach to God lacks life, then eventual extinction of any kind of approach to any kind of god makes perfect sense.

So let me ask you again. How do you approach God? Further, how is your daily approach helping to pave the way for the approach of your kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids? These questions, and more like them, highlight the beauty of the Psalmist’s clarion call: “Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us give a joyous shout to the rock of our salvation! Let us come before him with thanksgiving. Let us sing him psalms of praise.” (Psalm 95:1-2, NLT).

Prayer:
Lord, help my approach to You to reflect the reality of who You are. Amen.

 

Week 3 – March 29

Name and Age: Rhonda Howard, Age 59

Missional Experience: DR Mission Trip (Jackie's Orphanage)

Scripture:
Drop everything and listen, listen as he speaks.

--Psalm 95:7a (The Message)


WOW! "Drop everything and listen, listen as he speaks." How many of us listen so God can speak to us? Well I can say with certainty that I am not one that listens all the time. However, through my journey of daily reading scripture and having a quiet time with God I have learned that if I take the time to listen carefully, God reveals how he wants to use me and what He wants to do through me to accomplish His will. His plan is perfect for our lives.

Mother Teresa said, "Jesus appears to us daily in His many distressing disguises and affords us the opportunity to serve Him."

Listening to how God wanted to use me after I visited Jackie's Orphanage in the Dominican Republic is one of those times. After I returned from my trip I knew I needed to pray continuously asking God to show me how He wanted to work through me with the experience He had given me with Jackie's children.

Let me tell you about the precious children at Jackie's orphanage. They were so dependent on God for everything. I saw happy children, but in my mind they were children in need. You could see plainly that these children depended on God for their care and daily living. Prayer time with them was unbelievable. Every child had their heads bowed and hands folded during this time. You could have heard a pin drop.

God used my trip and the valuable time I had with these boys and girls to accomplish something much bigger than me. During this visit God just kept putting on my mind that a DVD should be made of this orphanage so others could see the need Jackie had for support. I might mention that I am not a technical person and had no idea how to go about this, but God had a bigger plan. With His help I had the DVD made and over $10,000 was raised to help feed these children for next year. God made this happen; all I did was listen and obey.

I know many times I still look at my future and what it holds for me, trying to make things happen on my own. I forget that if God knows every hair on my head He surely will use me according to His plan if I only listen. Things are much more peaceful when I continuously ask God to reveal His plan to me and recognize the ways He wants me to serve.


Prayer:
Give us ears to listen today, God, and to hear you speak.

 

 

Week 3 – March 28

Name and Age: Holly Fohr, age 14

Missional Experience: Celebrate Jesus missions trip

Scripture:
Today, if only you would hear his voice, "Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did..."

--Psalm 95:7b-8


The words "Massah" and "Meribah" actually trace Psalm 95 back to Exodus 17, when the Israelites grumbled against the Lord after He freed them from Egypt.

Exodus 17:2a: "[The people]...quarreled with Moses and said, 'Give us water to drink.'" The place at which this happened was named Massah and Meribah, meaning "testing" and "quarreling." This became its name "because they tested the Lord saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?'"

Was the Lord among them or not? He had just freed the Israelites from captivity in Egypt and split a giant body of water in half. After they saw all that God had done for them they asked, "Hey God, are you with us or not? You in or out?" It almost seems humorous, but I think the Israelites sometimes reflect our own hearts.

Sometimes we like to put God to the test and doubt Him, despite all He's done for us. At a Celebrate Jesus mission two years ago, I was presented with the opportunity to pray with a complete stranger, right then and there. When she said she had no particular prayer requests and just wanted prayer in general, that stumped me a little. Standing there in her front lawn, I completely doubted that God would place words on my tongue to pray over her with.

Yeah, yeah. I know You gave me words to speak that last time. You've never failed me before, but...this is different.

What if You don't come through?

He may not have parted the Red Sea for me to travel through like He did for the Israelites, but of course, He did deliver!

"He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness....you have not lacked anything" (Deuteronomy 2:7a).

Even when we quarrel with God in "the wilderness" and "harden our hearts," we never leave the palm of His hand. We want to help others but don't have the words to say, the courage to step out in confidence that the Lord is among and in us. Don't let doubting what God has done interfere with what God has called you to do, who He has called you to reach out to. If you're (figuratively, of course) in Massah or Meribah, let God soften your heart. Remember what He's done for you, and remember--there will never be a day, during Lent or otherwise, where He will let you down in your time of need!

 

Prayer:
Lord, we've seen Your power, yet sometimes we still doubt what You will do for and through us. Soften our hearts. Use us, despite our doubt, to reach the lost and the hurting, in Your strength.

 

 

Week 2 – March 26

Pastor Tim

Scripture:
“I look up to the mountains--does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth!” (Psalm 121:1-2, NLT).

The Songs of Ascent were the songs of pilgrims who traveled to the Temple to worship the God of Israel. They were as familiar to the people back then as the Top 20 songs on iTunes are to us today. The people would have sung them. Adults, teens, and kids would have rehearsed and memorized them. The lyrics would have interplayed with their faith and would have reminded them of their hope and calling. The Songs of Ascent would have been to the Israelites like the doxology might be to us… or Amazing Grace… or the rosary to a faithful Catholic. Rehearsed. Sung. Shared. Spoken. Cherished. Formative.

The critical truth ringing out from Psalm 121 is found in the first 2 verses. In that day (some 3,000 yrs ago) people looked to the majesty of the mountains for help. Makes sense in an earthy way doesn’t it? I mean really, just imagine standing before the heights of Kilimanjaro or plodding up the steep grade of Everest. Their size, looming presence, breadth and beauty leave a person feeling much like you or I might feel in a small row boat out in the middle of the Atlantic. Further, people tended to worship on the heights of the mountains. It was believed the closer the proximity to the heavens the more adequate one’s worship would be.

So the mountains were the prime venues for worship. If you wanted to call out to the vast hosts of local deities and idols, you’d literally go vertical. But look at the psalmist! He looks to the heights. He squints his eyes to see the pinnacle… the awe-inspiring summit… and he grunts and disregards all of it. The mountains? Puny. The heights? Too low. The summit? Un-tantalizingly dull. In other words, there is somethi… no… SOMEONE… far greater! He is the Creator of all things and the mountains are mere speed bumps to Him. He is Yahweh. He is the great I Am. He is our sure and true help… all other locations of trust are helplessly inadequate.

Prayer:
Lord, help me relinquish my mountains… my idols. They are useless to me. Amen.

 

Week 2 – March 25

Name and Age: Caroline Byington, 9

Missional experience: Hope Foundation, making Bible verse bookmarks for mission teams.

Scripture
I lift up my eyes to the mountains--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you--
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

--Psalm 121

Reading Psalm 121 makes me think of another set of verses in the Old Testament. It’s a well known favorite that I have read during the services at church from Isaiah 40.

The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will grow weak and young men will fall in exhaustion, but those who trust in the Lord will find new strength and fly on wings like eagles. Run and not grow weary, walk and not faint.

These strong words make you feel weak and weary but when you open your life to the Lord your life is better and you feel that God carries you on the wings of eagles.

 
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