Lenten Daily Devotional

 THE LITTLE CHURCH ON THE PRAIRIE

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, USA

2018 LENTEN DEVOTIONAL BOOKLET

How to Use This Booklet:  Pick a quiet time each day during Lent for devotion.  Start with a prayer.  It is important then to read the Bible passage before proceeding.  The authors of these devotional messages assume that the Bible passages will have been read first, because the messages refer back to the Bible passage on the daily devotional page.  It is much more effective if you read the indicated Bible passage first.  Then reflect on what you have read, and end with a prayer.  It is a five-step process:  Pray, read the Bible passage, read the message for that day, reflect and discuss, then close with a prayer.  It is our hope that this devotional booklet will be a blessing to you each day of Lent.  As you read each daily page, remember that you are connected to the author of each page through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

About This Booklet:  This year we once again reached out to members and friends of The Little Church on the Prairie and Lakewood Grace to write a page for this booklet.  Our Lenten theme for this year is Confess, Repent, Obey.  This theme emphasizes the Books of Amos and Micah, the theme of our pastors’ Lenten sermon series.

It is hoped that each contributor to this booklet will gain from the experience.  It is also hoped that each person who uses this booklet will be moved to a deeper relationship with Jesus, will become a better disciple, and will be motivated to bring the good news of Jesus to others, showing the love of Jesus to all.  It is also hoped that you will, through these devotional pages, receive a better understanding of the meaning of Lent and Easter.

About the Lenten Season:  The term “Lent” comes from an Old English word that means springtime.  The Lenten season is a time for spiritual preparation for Easter, remembering the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ.  Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, forty days before Easter, excluding Sundays (which are the regular days set aside for worship).  The Lenten spiritual disciplines such as prayer, alms giving, and fasting are meant to help us to realize our dependency on God for everything, and to prepare our hearts to hear what God will say to us.  May our Lord bless your spiritual journey this Lenten season.

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Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What does it mean to FAST?

READ:  Isaiah 58:1-12

OPENING PRAYER:  Lord, please help us to understand Isaiah’s words about “fasting”.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  Fasting, nowadays and in the Bible, does seem to have been done in different ways. Primarily it is done by denying oneself some pleasurable food or activity.  We don’t put on “sackcloth and ashes”, but we don’t hesitate to tell everyone how hard it is to give up chocolate or whatever, for Lent.  We seem to be annoyed that we have to give up something to show that we are good Christians.

Isaiah says that fasting is not about what you give up or how difficult that is for you.  It is about what you focus on instead.  God asks us to give up things that just benefit ourselves and substitute things that benefit others.  A true fast would be giving up bad habits, indulgences, or negative and self-centered perspective in favor of doing the good things that living by God’s plan is all about.

Interestingly, in the next verse (13), Isaiah reminds us that we should keep the Sabbath holy.  Given all that he said in verses 1-12, I think he is saying that the Sabbath should always be a day of “FASTING” from our regular self-centered activities to focus on becoming “the hands and feet… the face… of God”.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Lord we ask that your Holy Spirit gives us wisdom to see what you really want from us and a desire to fast in the way you mean for us to fast.  Amen.

Beth Carter

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

 Seek Good, Not Evil

 READ:  Amos 5:11-15

 OPENING PRAYER:  Thank you.  Lord. for letting us have a free country.  Help us know how to use it.  Amen.

 MEDITATION:  Israel’s courts were corrupt.  They were filled with false accusations and bribery.  It is our responsibility, like Israel’s, to make sure we put people of high integrity into the offices that rule our country.

Any society that hates the truth is bent on destroying itself.

God calls us to real and sincere love.  Sincere love requires concentration and effort.  It means helping others become better people.  It demands personal involvement.  No individual has the capacity to express love to a whole community, but the body of Christ in our town does.  Seek people who need our love.

By seeking good, not evil, and with the help of fellow believers, we can make our community a better place in which to live and a better example in Christ.

 CLOSING PRAYER:  Dear Lord, you command us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  You also command us to reform our legal and social system.  Teach us how to do both.  Amen.

Don Becker

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Friday, February 16, 2018

 Relationship, not Religion – The Heart of Worship

READ:  Amos 5:18 – 24

OPENING PRAYER:  Our gracious Lord, let us find wisdom and strength in rendering our hearts to you, in the service of others.  Amen.

 MEDITATION:  The prophet Amos wrote this as an admonishment and prophecy of the coming judgment to the people of Israel.  But, I see it so clearly today, within our own society.  They thought they were doing right in their observances to the Lord, but they lacked compassion and social justice and righteousness for the most vulnerable in their society.

People who espouse Christ as their Lord and Savior and yet take away from the least of his children and give to the rich are doomed.  It is abhorrent to the Lord, and he will not acknowledge them, nor their religious practices in his name.  There aren’t enough beautiful hymns, eloquent sermons, or pious prayers that will satisfy the Lord if we negate and discard the less fortunate members in our society.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. voiced in a speech, “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”  Our religious practices will be acceptable to the Lord when we put action to our faith, by the lifting up, caring for and including his children who feel like outcasts.

 CLOSING THOUGHT/PRAYER:  It is my prayer that we, as a congregation, may find it within our hearts to love and care for those who have been marginalized; that we may come into the Lord’s house with love and thanksgiving, knowing that we can and will make a difference in the lives of people in need within our communities.  Let justice flow like a river!

Kate Burch

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

 Fireworks!

 READ:  Amos 9:11-15

OPENING PRAYER:  Lord, open our eyes to see you at work in our lives.  Amen.

 MEDITATION:  Thank God for Amos 9:11-15!  Suppose the book of Amos ended at 9:10.  Can you imagine that?  Yikes!  From the beginning of Amos through 9:10 the situation is bleak: sin, destruction, lots of things breaking, fire, death, injustice, locusts, more fire, things being ruined, and even this line: “Many, many bodies – flung everywhere!  Silence! (Amos 8:3)”

God simply will not allow sin to have the last word.  A just and loving God has to deal with sin.  Judgment à la the Book of Amos is terrifying until we read 9:11-15, and we are reminded that the entire purpose behind God’s judgment is restoration.  After the firecracker bang of pretty much all of Amos, we are treated to a magnificent bloom of grace and restoration at the end.

When we do our worst, God does his best.  Such is the economy of God.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Thank you for breaking us and restoring us, O Lord.  May we trust you in all we do.  Amen.

Pastor Brad Epperson

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First Sunday in Lent, February 18, 2018

TEST OF FAITH

READ:  Mark 1:9-15

OPENING PRAYER:  Lord, send the Holy Spirit to work with us to meet and defeat our evil temptations.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  These seven verses are loaded with content and meaning:  baptism, temptation, repentance, and believing.  Every day we encounter temptations.  God did not make us to become puppets so that he could pull the strings.  He gave us freedom of choice.

One daily temptation deals with our thought processes and what we say.  An example of this comes from the take-a-ways from a previous sermon.  The word “THINK” using each letter to represent a word.  Before speaking ask:  T:  Is it truthful?  H:  Is it helpful?  I:  Is it inspirational?  N:  Is it necessary?  K:  Is it kind?  This is a test of our faith and an opportunity to make the proper decision and grow as a Christian.

We are not alone in this fight.  Through our baptism and as believers we have the Holy Spirit on our side.  He will help us face the obstacles that prevent our growth.  We are all sinners and in need of repentance.  We must daily examine our thoughts, words, and deeds and seek God’s plan for us.  This may involve getting out of our comfort zone and resisting the world’s values.

CLOSING THOUGHT:  The good news is that we have a Sovereign God who is loving and forgiving and has sent his Son to die for us.

Doug Berglund

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Monday, February 19, 2018

TRUST AND OBEY

READ:  Psalm 25:1-10

Opening Prayer:  Lord, please give me ears that hear and listen, a heart open to you, to trust you in all things, and to obey your Word.  Thank you, God.  Amen.

Meditation:  I love the Psalms because they are so down to earth.  They speak to my heart.  And, if I take some time with them, not just to read the words, but really absorb their meaning, I can always find a personal connection.  One of my favorite hymns is “Trust and Obey.”

As my faith journey continues and deepens, I have come more and more to be convinced of these words.  Voila!  That’s all I have to do: trust and obey.  Wow, what a concept!  I admit that I have not always followed this advice.  When that happens, Jesus gently reminds me of my disobedience and steers me right back onto a straight path to him.  His unending love, patience, and guidance is sometimes just unimaginable given my willfulness.  However, he is always there with me and for me and all I have to do is trust and obey.

Closing PRAYER:  Dear God, I love you and trust you with all my heart.  Thank you for continually saving and teaching this sinner.  Help me every day to be a better child of yours and to follow wherever you lead.  Amen.

Cindy Amundsen

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Obey Jesus’ Commands; Jesus Promises Another Helper

READ:  John 14:15-21

OPENING PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for your unconditional love to us as sinners and for providing a path to salvation.  Help us to have a strong faith to follow your commandments.  Amen.

MEDITATION: Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever.”  Jesus knew his death was coming and his disciples, both in the present and in the future, would have their faith sorely tested to continue believing in him and keeping his commandments if they were “orphaned” from his presence.

The “Helper” or “Advocate” to whom he was referring was the Holy Spirit whom the Father would send to abide with us after Jesus’ physical presence had left this world.  Faith is required for us to receive the presence of the Spirit.  By loving Jesus and keeping his commands, we may also live and be loved by the Father.

CLOSING PRAYER: Lord, thank you for sending us the Holy Spirit to abide with us and guide us to the presence of the risen Jesus and his Father.  Increase our faith daily so we may follow your commands.  Amen.

Lee Hudson

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

STRENGTH FROM GOD

Read:   Isaiah 40:25-31

Opening Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for holding us in the palm of your hand and showing your way to us.  Your faithfulness endures forever.  Amen.

Meditation:  We should trust in you, Lord, for though we sin and our plans may go awry, you do not give up on us.  You will renew our trust and give us hope.

Too often we doubt you and this leads to fear that you are not watching over us.  Each day we need to ask for forgiveness and realize that you are always by our side.  Salvation is ours, if we believe and trust in you, Lord.

Last summer people from all over our country traveled to special places to get a better view of the solar eclipse.  Even though it lasted only a few minutes, it was a perfect example of God’s power.  Too often we accept the beauty of God’s world as common place whether it is a view of Mt. Rainier, a simple flower along a country road, or a mother deer and her two fawns walking across our yard munching grass as they go.  God reminds us each day he is with us.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Dear Lord, we thank you for your creations and the mysteries of the world.  We take for granted the everyday beauties when we should be praising you for them.  Again, thank you, God.  May we be eternally grateful.  Amen.

Carole and Morrie Boughton

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

LIVING WATER

READ:  John 7:37-44

OPENING PRAYER:  Heavenly Father, we ask you to quench the thirst of our souls with the living water that is offered through your Son, Jesus Christ.

MEDITATION:  This passage describes what took place during the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles. It is a celebration to remember God’s provision during the journey through the wilderness by the Israelites. The priests would pour water upon the altar, recalling the water brought forth from a rock, and offer thanksgiving for the water God provided for the crops which sustained them.

While this water is important, it is not as crucial as the “living water” which Jesus is offering. On the last day of the celebration, Jesus cried out to them to believe in him; that if they would only do so they would receive “living water” to satisfy their thirst throughout eternity.  Jesus had previously spoken likewise to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:14.  The “living water” about which he spoke, of course, was the Holy Spirit who had not yet been given because Jesus was yet to be glorified.

I recall a trip in 1953. We had stopped at a dry, dusty “tourist trap” for a brief rest. The sign above a drinking fountain read, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.” I took a drink, not realizing the importance of those words at the time.

CLOSING PRAYER:  We thank you and praise you, O God, that however we may thirst, whatever we may need to satisfy our souls, you offer it freely and abundantly in Christ.  Amen.

David L. Shaw

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Friday, February 23, 2018

A PRIESTLY BLESSING

READ:  Numbers 6: 22-27

OPENING PRAYER:  Lord, make us worthy of this great blessing.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  In this passage we see a blessing being bestowed on us from the Lord that is beyond our greatest imagining.  That we, a sinful people, could receive such a rich blessing shows us the great love God has for us, his people.

The blessing repeats God’s name, Lord, (YHWH), three times, representing the three parts of the one God:

God the Father to bless us and keep us,

God the Son to be gracious to us,

God the Holy Spirit to give us peace.

The blessing ends with God saying through Aaron and the high priests, “I will bless them.”

This is a blessing that we, as sinners, are totally unworthy of receiving.  The people of the time of the writing of this passage had to be cleansed and purified by the priests to even be worthy to receive the blessing of the Lord.  We, as Christ followers, have Christ’s death and resurrection to purify us and make us worthy of this wonderful blessing from God.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Lord, thank you for the wonderful blessing and great love you have shown your people. Help me to mirror that love to others.  Amen.

Roger Church

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Introduction to Micah

READ:  Micah 1:1-2

Opening Prayer:  God, who spoke through the prophet Micah, we thank you for speaking to us today.  Holy Spirit, help us to open our minds and hearts so that we can hear you speaking clearly to us today.  Amen.

Meditation:  Dr. James Boice says, “Few portions of Scripture have been so challenging to me as the Minor Prophets.  It is not that they are hard to interpret….  Rather it is because they speak so directly and powerfully to present sins.  It is impossible to read them without having one’s life challenged and without determining to go out and live differently.”

The study of the Minor Prophets and Micah is timely.  The primary themes of Micah are:

  1. The Sovereignty of God – There is nothing happening today that is outside of God’s will and control.
  2. The Holiness of God – It is God’s holiness that calls and condemns our sins. Our sins stand in such stark contrast to God’s goodness and holiness. The holiness of God summons us to repent and turn from sin and turn to God.
  3. The Love of God – We stand hopeless without God’s love. God’s love refuses to leave us in our sin. God makes a way through his Son, Jesus Christ.

These three characteristics of God are good daily reminders of who God is and who we are because of who God is.

Closing Prayer:  God, you are sovereign. There is nothing that escapes your reign. You are holy. There is none like you.  And the only reason we can call you Father is because of your love for your Son, Jesus, who transforms sinners into heirs, children of God.  Thank you, God.  May our life bring you joy today.  Amen.

Pastor James Kim

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Second Sunday in Lent, February 25, 2018

Focus

READ:  Mark 8:31-38

Opening prayer:  Dear Lord, thank you for suffering and giving your life so that we may have eternal life in Heaven.  We pray that you will guide us through this journey on earth until we can bask in your glory.  Amen.

Meditation:  Peter does not want to hear that Jesus is going to be killed and in three days he will rise again.  He has lost his focus that there is much more in store for Jesus, as there is for us, in the kingdom of God.  Jesus knows that Satan is to blame for Peter’s loss of focus and admonishes Satan to get behind him snd to stay out of his way.

Peter has to be reminded that in order to have eternal life, he must follow Jesus and his teachings.  It is so easy to lose our focus in our day-to-day life.  We will continue to have stresses and worries in our lives and in our world. We need to focus on following Jesus because what awaits us is the Glory of God!

Closing prayer:  Dear Lord, help us to keep our focus on you.  We know we often lose sight of your glorious promise of eternal life with you when we get bogged down in the mire of life on Earth.  Forgive us for our shortsightedness. Amen.

Terry Hudson

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Monday, February 26, 2018

GOD IS MY STRENGTH

READ:  Psalm 73:21-26

OPENING PRAYER:  Our Heavenly Father, we give thanks that we are strengthened by your presence, now and always. You are there when we are arrogant and we think that we do not need you.  You are there when we are in deepest need.  For this we will praise you all the days of our lives. Amen.

MEDITATION:  Psalm 73 is a “didactic” or instructional psalm. Through Asaph (the writer of Psalm 73, and one of the Levites commissioned by David to be in charge of singing in the house of Yahweh), God instructs us not to envy the wicked though they appear to prosper while the godly suffer so much. Their position is tenuous.  They can be easily swept away.

Although we have gone astray and become bitter over the apparent prosperity of the wicked, God is always with us.  We reaffirm our faith in God and confess that nothing in heaven or on earth is more desirable than God.  He will sustain and preserve all who put their faith in Him.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Dear Lord, we ask that you continue to be with us in this earthly life, and that you continue to guide us with your love and wisdom so that we do not envy the wicked.  Lead us to true life through your Son.  In Jesus Christ’s name we ask this.  Amen.

Phil Eng

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

GOD’S DISCIPLINE

READ:  Hebrews 12:1-12

OPENING PRAYER:  Dear Lord, thank you for your encouragement through your Word in keeping me on the right path to victory.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  It is hard to resist the temptations of everyday living in this freewheeling “it’s all about me” society of social media, entertainment, drugs, political thinking, etc.  It’s everywhere and seems OK because “everyone” is doing it.  It’s also hard to escape our hardships let alone the hardships others in our world are enduring through natural disasters, terrorism, hunger, political strife, and genocide. But we, as Christians, are called upon by God to fix our eyes on Jesus.  Eternal life is a free gift but it does not free us from the requirement for faithful obedience.  All Christians must give account for how they lived.

We are called upon to resist temptation and endure hardship as discipline.  Though my hardships right now are few, I cry for what’s going on in our world and the thought of where our society is headed.  But I am reminded, through God’s Word, the Bible, that God’s discipline is for our good.  He disciplines in love as a father to a child so that we might reap our heavenly reward.  It is His way of teaching and coaching us to take the right path.  As painful as it might seem at times, as we obey, we set an example, not just for our own survival, but for others to make it easier for them to believe and follow Christ and mature in him.  Drawing on the strength of Jesus, we can use our growing strength to help those who are weak and struggling.  We will have the encouragement to “run with perseverance” to obtain “a harvest of righteousness and peace” through worship, the strength of Jesus, and God’s discipline.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Dear Heavenly Father, give us the strength to endure and to find joy in your Word through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Judy Eng

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

COME TO ME

READ:  Matthew 11:28-29

OPENING PRAYER:  Lord, thank you that when we are exhausted, you give us rest, rest for our very souls, the rest that we all need, the rest that will recharge and refill us.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  As the dad of three young and energetic boys, the first word that stuck out to me was weary.  This describes me on more occasions than I would like to admit.  It feels like we are in a season of almost constant tiredness.  Parenting, jobs, and the busyness of life all add up to a weariness that seems to sink into our bones.  This passage in Matthew tells us what to do with this tiredness.  It tells us to give all of it to Christ.  Ultimately, committing to live the way that Jesus wants us to live and abiding with him is what gives us rest.  This isn’t just the rest you get from taking a really good nap (although that might be needed too sometimes).  This verse in Matthew says we will find rest for our very souls (NIV verse 29).  This is a rest that goes beyond our current circumstances, beyond our feelings.  It is a rest that can be found nowhere else but in Christ.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Lord, we thank you for a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light.  Give us the rest that we so desperately need as only you can.  Amen.

Justin & Katie Davis

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

THE LITTLE CHILDREN

READ:  Mark 10:13-16

Opening Prayer:  Father, help me to seek your kingdom with childlike wonder and faith.  Amen.

Meditation:  Children are truly amazing creatures.  Their faith is so strong. They don’t need to know everything in order to understand or believe in something. Something happens as we grow and become adults in this world.  As we grow, so does our skepticism and cynicism.  Our hearts start to harden.  It’s important to remember this scripture on a daily basis.  It’s important to maintain a childlike faith and wonder when we seek Christ.  “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  (Mark 10:15)  Let that sink in!  We don’t need to understand everything in this world.  We should be content knowing there is a Father who loves us, who has saved us, and who continues to pursue us relentlessly.

Closing PRAYER:  God, help us to continue to pursue you with childlike wonder and faith.  Help us to guide our own children and children of this world to you. Please soften our hearts, Father.  Help us to remember that you are in control of everything in this life, that you work everything for good, and that even when we don’t see it, we trust in you.

Mike George

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Friday, March 2, 2018

THE THORN

READ:  2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Opening Prayer:  God, let our weaknesses shine brighter for your glory.  Amen.

Meditation:  It’s in our weakness that Christ’s strength can shine brighter.  When we are placed in difficult circumstances, in situations where we feel like we will crumble under the weight, we can rely fully on the strength and grace of Christ.  We realize the fragility of our lives and the great power of the One who holds all things together.  We have the opportunity to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  (Romans 5:3-4)

I have never felt the presence of Christ stronger than when going through the most difficult of times.  When we are weakest, his strength can abound more.  When we are broken, he can make whole.  When we feel like our life is a wreck, he restores.  He is weaving a beautiful story that one day we will fully see and fully understand.  But now we can trust in the goodness that God loves us fiercely and he will never leave us.  We are not in this alone.  He cries when we cry.  He meets us wherever we are and lifts us up.

Closing PRAYER:  Father, let us rest in the sufficiency of your grace.  Increase our faith and let us rely fully on you when troubles are thrown our way.  When difficulties, hardships, and devastations threaten to overtake us, let your strength and your grace abound even more.  Amen.

Robin George

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Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Threat from Within

READ:  Micah 2:1-13

OPENING PRAYER:  Lord, have mercy on us.  Amen.

MEDITATION: In this chapter, Micah shifts from the outer threat to Judah by the Assyrians to the sickness of injustice within Judah.

The case: Those with wealth and power plot and scheme to take over the property of the powerless. Clothes are taken off the backs of unsuspecting soldiers returning from battle. Homes are taken from women and children are cheated of their inheritance.  In short, the wealthy and powerful believe that they can do as they please without consequences.

Sound familiar?

Here we are in the middle of Lent, 2018, when a growing number of politicians, newscasters, and leaders in the entertainment industry are being taken down for various improprieties.  People who claim to be followers of Christ endorse and vote for candidates whose morals and values and ethics and standards contradict Scripture.  Laws are gutted that protect ordinary citizens from predators.  Breaks are handed to the wealthy.  The environment is cast to the wind.  The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.  The middle class shrinks, and the top 1% of families in the U.S. control a disproportionate share of the nation’s wealth.

Today, might Micah say to us what he said to Judah?  If we do not deal with injustice and inequity within our borders, is our society at risk of destruction from within as many have predicted?

CLOSING PRAYER:  Lord, please save us from ourselves.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pastor Jim Probert

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Third Sunday in Lent, March 4, 2018

Jesus Clears the Temple

READ:  John 2:13-22

Opening Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help us to keep your house free of earthly distractions that can crowd our thoughts and cause us to lose sight of whom and why we worship.  Amen.

Meditation:  When Jesus entered the temple courts, he was disturbed to see that it had been turned into a marketplace and there was no room for peaceful prayer.  The temple was supposed to be a place for ALL to worship and many were being excluded because the process had become more important and more lucrative than the act of worship itself.  Are there times when our place of worship is crowded with ideology, formalities, or expectations of how we should dress, talk, or behave?  Are we excluding those who might have a desire to enter?  How can we clear our temple?

Closing Thought:  When we follow God’s word and keep him first, then our temple remains clear.

Pete Semon

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Are you willing to trust?

READ:  Psalm 23

Opening Prayer:  Dear Lord, in these difficult times of uncertainty: political, environmental, economic, health, safety, and many others, please give us the reassurance that you are watching over us, and will guide us and protect us.  Amen.

Meditation:  Reared in the Episcopal Church, married in the Methodist Church, and now a Presbyterian for 50 years, the constant has been the 23rd Psalm.  When I heard it as a child I felt comforted.  The Lord would watch over me.  When I read it now, I believe the Lord will be there to guide my decisions, force me to rest by still waters, and daily restore my soul.

The Psalm reminds us that if we listen, we will be on a path to fulfillment, comfort, and contentment.  Not always what we want, but what we need.  Like a good Shepherd, God may use a staff to redirect us when we question our faith, or stray from the path.  A lesson for me is that I cannot change others.  They must find their own path with God’s help.  It is hard not to feel uncertain about a world that produces evil in terrorism, destruction in nature’s fury, and those who put their own needs before others, but with the Lord as my Shepherd, showing mercy forever, I rest assured.

Closing thought:  As hard as we try to live up to God’s plan, from the Garden of Eden we have failed him.  He is there to forgive and protect us from our own mistakes.  He never gives up on us.

Candy Tingstad

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

strength and joy in the Lord

READ:  Habakkuk 3:17-19

OPENING PRAYER:  Lord, keep me focused on your word and on the teachings of those who have gone before me, those who teach your ways and heart.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  A theme that we hear and feel many times is, “When bad things happen to good people.”  It is through faith that we endure.  We have choices.  We can either throw up our hands and reject God, or we can look for his strength to rejoice in him and be assured that he will take care of us.

When my husband contracted a very rare cancer for a man of his age, we were devastated.  He endured two surgeries, as well as months of very strong chemotherapy and radiation.  We both had been raised in Christian homes, but had slipped away from our “religions”.  We did not throw up our hands in dismay.  We sought out our strength in God, the God on whom we had always depended.  We needed his love and his fulfilled promises in Jesus Christ.  It was then that we joined Little Church and embraced the love of Jesus and our church family.  Our strength comes from this all-encompassing love.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Thank you, Lord, for your love and faithfulness.  Please give us strength to keep our eye on the prize:  The love of Jesus and everlasting life.  Amen.

Bridget Upton

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT

READ:  Mark 12:28-34

OPENING PRAYER:  Lord, you are worthy of our complete love and devotion.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  We see hypocrisy today in all aspects of our culture.  Perhaps politicians are the worst.  We observe them saying one thing and doing another.  It was no different in Jesus’ day.  The teachers of the law, Pharisees, and Sadducees, questioned Jesus, trying to trap him in his replies.  They preached the law, but rarely upheld it in their own lives.  One such teacher asked Jesus which commandment was the most important.  Jesus replied, “The most important one is this:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”  The teacher replied that it was more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.  Let us remember that our love of God and our neighbor supersedes all other Christian actions.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Lord, you are our priority.  We love you first above all that we do in your name.  Help us to remember to worship and bow down before you.  Amen.

Harriett Triquart

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Rejoice in the Lord

READ:  Philippians 4:4-7

Opening Prayer:  Lord, we thank you for your comfort.  Help us to seek you first when we are troubled. Amen.

Meditation:  Philippians 4:6 has long been a favorite verse of mine.  I have it highlighted, even written down on sticky notes.  My grandmother, a wonderful woman who came into a full relationship with Christ later in life, was quite possibly a professional worrier for most of the time I knew her.  She grew up during the Depression and as an adult worried about her siblings, her neighbors, and her children.  And of course, then along came the grandchildren.  More to worry about.

I read this verse and think “It’s really that easy? I can stop worrying by just presenting my requests to God?  Couldn’t my grandmother have just done that too?”  But as I read and thought about this passage for the devotional, I realized I’d only been reading the middle of what God wanted to tell me in his word.  I needed to start at the beginning, and finish at the end, Philippians 4:4-7.  Paul is reminding the Philippians, as he finishes his letter to them, to first, Rejoice.  The Lord is taking care of you. Second, do not be anxious about anything.  More specifically, if we can tell God what we are thankful for as we pray, it leaves less room in our hearts and minds for fear, anxiety, and worry.

It reminds me of a song that came out several years ago but still lightens my mood when I hear it.  The lyrics remind us that “In every life we have some trouble, but when we worry we make it double.  Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.

Closing PRAYER:  Lord, your Word can fill us up and guard our hearts.  Be with us daily, helping us to make time to study the Bible and come to you in prayer.  Amen.

Amy Trevino

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Rainbows and Hammers

READ:  Genesis 9:8-17

Opening prayer:  Lord, thank you for your promises, thank you that you know every little thing about us, that you covet our constant presence, our faith, our love, our obedience.  Amen.

Meditation:  How many times have you overheard a mother trying to give instructions to a three-year-old?  After the third “Why? Why? Why?” the exasperated mother responds, “Because I’m your mother, and I said so.”

Noah didn’t require a “Because I am the Lord your God” response.  He just obediently set to work, ark-building, amidst the ridicule and jeering of his neighbors.

That’s what God wants from us:  blind obedience, being in his presence so that we can hear his voice giving us those instructions. obeying because we know that he has the Big Picture.  What he wants for us is far better than what we can ever envision for ourselves.

What was Noah’s reward?  Many more years on earth.  A covenant with God.   And the first ever glorious, iridescent rainbow, splashed across the sky, a symbol of that covenant.  What a beautiful reminder of how much God loves his creation.  It is also a reminder of WHY Noah was chosen for this task:  his obedience.

Closing Prayer:  Lord, thank you that you always keep your promises.   Keep me so attuned to your presence and so obedient to your will that when you ask me to build that ark, rather than ask “why?” I will ask, “Where is the hammer?”  Amen.

Carolyn Teevin

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

BIBLICAL PROPHECIES, THE FOUNDATION OF FAITH

READ:  Micah 4:1-5

OPENING PRAYER:  Heavenly Father, thank you for instilling the wisdom in the prophets so they could inform the nations what to expect with the coming of the Messiah.  Amen.

MEDITATION: The prophet, Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, spoke among the people of the changing of times and that they should reassess their life styles, “and walk in the way of our Lord God, forever and ever.” (Micah 4: 5)

In this day and age, we have pastors and evangelists preaching the same message and it would behoove us to sit up and listen.  We still have those who profess today of doom and gloom, but to me they lack the veracity of the word of the Lord.  I feel faith must be first and foremost in living a Christian life.  The ability to believe what’s in the Bible and live a corresponding life of confession, repentance, forgiveness, and love is entirely based on faith in God.  Sometimes it is a real struggle, but in my humble efforts I trust the Lord to guide me in the right direction.

Words to live by: One of my favorite quotes is found on a water-color painted by my daughter-in-law that states, “Faith is not believing God can, it is knowing that God will.” (Author unknown)

CLOSING THOUGHT: The Prophets of old were accepted by others for their farsighted knowledge given by God. Even today we can insure our faith in God because of their writings.

Ken Upton

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Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 11, 2018

GOD LOVES THE WORLD

READ:  John 3:14-18

OPENING PRAYER:  Our Heavenly Father, your love for us is exemplified by your sacrificing your only Son whom you sent to save the world.  Help us to believe and live as we should, so that our witness will draw others unto you.  This is our way of holding you up.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  Moses lifted a serpent on a pole so that Israelites who viewed it could be spared death from an attack by a serpent.  The Lord Jesus was lifted onto a cross so that we may believe and we must believe in his being sacrificed by his Heavenly Father to save us from sin.  We do not need to sacrifice lambs or sons as in the old days; the supreme sacrifice has already been made on behalf of all believers – the Lord being the Lamb of God.

The choice is provided for us to be with Jesus in love, respect, and relationship.  We are to live with him and others as he lives with us and in us.  We hold him high when we believe as he would have us believe and we act toward others as he has instructed.

CLOSING THOUGHT:  He is lifted up for us to choose.  We may choose his way or the way which leads to condemnation and perishing.  He came to save.

Bruce Kennedy

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Monday, March 12, 2018

PRAYER PLUS PRAISE YIELDS FAITH

READ:  Psalm 71:1-14

OPENING PRAYER:  Dear Lord, open up the meaning of your Word.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  The Old Testament is consistent in its call for deliverance from harm: a protection, if you will, from all enemies.  Throughout the Old Testament the Jewish nation is under attack from its many enemies.  The ever-present prayer for safety is repeatedly a constant theme. Forgiveness is needed by a people who admit their sinful nature.

CLOSING PRAYER:  We thank you, Lord, for the message of your Word. Help
us to fulfill your wishes.  Amen.

Bob Lordahl

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

POST-IT NOTES FOR LIVING LIFE IN THE SPIRIT

READ:  Romans 8:1-4

OPENING PRAYER:  Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of your written Word, equally timeless and timely.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  Paul’s words of assurance to all believers and followers of Jesus Christ are welcome indeed!  How to live Life in the Spirit passages are sprinkled throughout Paul’s letters.  They make for great Post-It note reminders to one’s self.  Some I find helpful are:

  • Let love be genuine; hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Romans 12:9 RSV
  • Serve others with love and humility. Philippians 2:1-7 RSV
  • Forgive – love – let the peace of Christ rule in your heart. Colossians 3:12-15 RSV
  • Undo sinful patterns. Colossians 3:5-11 RSV
  • Contentment in your life brings gain in godliness. I Timothy 6:6 RSV
  • Life in the Spirit. Ephesians 5:8-10 RSV

CLOSING PRAYER:  Lord, may we continually be inspired to pursue our study of your Word.  Our personal growth of living Life in the Spirit will enrich our lives and bring us ever closer to You.  Amen.

Janet Lordahl

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

DAY AND HOUR UNKNOWN

READ:  Mark 13:32-37

OPENING PRAYER:  God, thank you for all you have done for us.  I look forward to your coming.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  We have all been anxiously waiting for news of a new job offer, the arrival of a child or grandchild, or even the arrival of a long-time friend.  We all wait in anticipation in many different ways.  I remember how excited I was while awaiting the birth of my grandson; I thought the time would never come and it seemed like the longest day of my life, but it was well worth the wait.

We can wait for so many different things, and we can wait in so many different ways.  Jesus, in this passage, isn’t commanding us to wait with anticipation or inviting us to imagine that the Christian life is absent from worry and anxiety.  Rather, he’s promising that our waiting will not be in vain, promising that even though we do not know the day and hour, yet it will come.  He will return.  We are, therefore, invited to watch in anticipation, alertly, but with full confidence that our Lord will come and come for us.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Dear Lord, help us to trust your promises.  Help us to await your return with confidence and joy.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Bob Kagarise

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

OH YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT, GOD IS RIGHT NEXT TO ME

READ:  Psalm 46:8-11

OPENING PRAYER:  Lord, please unglaze my eyes and help me a little to see your meaning more clearly.  I’m limited, as you know.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  This Psalm is the basis for Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”.

So, after reading this assurance that we need have no fear, do we not have any fears?  Don’t know about you, but we still do.  It’s maybe just another one of the ways we fall short.  Thus, the need for God to remind us that he is able to help, and that he is easily accessible to us.  We two non-theologians think maybe other “idols” aren’t so available and loving and able.

So, does the passage mean that we need have no fear because nothing unfortunate will happen to us?  Or at least that God will neatly undo our misfortunes in the way we wish?  Well, we know the answers to these questions:  No.  It seems maybe God protects us, even goes to war for us, and battles what he knows to be our enemies, in the way he sees as best.  Best for us, even.  We just have limited understanding.

CLOSING PRAYER:  My God, my God, thank you for being ever-present and able and willing to help me understand and live, in times of trouble and always.  I should trust in you and talk with you and praise and thank you more.  I’ll try today.  Amen.

Jane and Alan Macpherson

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Mortal or Heavenly Clothing?

READ:  2 Corinthians 5:1-10

OPENING PRAYER:  Dear Lord, dear Father in Heaven, please grant us a greater understanding of your word, and let it impact us.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  There are several things in this passage that stand out to me.  Paul uses a metaphor of ‘clothing’ in this passage, telling the Corinthians to be confident that they will be ‘clothed’ in a heavenly dwelling provided by God, greatly preferable to being ‘clothed’ by a mortal body.  He gives us a beautiful concept, “that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” — the word ‘mortal’ originates from the Latin word for death.  Thus, the God-given eternal life shall swallow death.  Further, Paul tells us that God has “given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”    I had not thought of the Holy Spirit in this way before, and I can only feel grateful.  Paul also affirms living by faith, rather than requiring proof before our eyes, thus by example challenging us in this scientific age.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Paul as an instrument to counsel us and educate us.  Thank you for your Word; thank you for your love; thank you for your Son; and thank you for your Holy Spirit within us.  Amen.

Janice Swartz

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

THE PROMISED ONE

READ:  Micah 5:1-5

OPENING PRAYER:  Dear Lord, thank you for sending us our Savior, the Promised One.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  Micah was a countryman, peasant prophet from the small town of Moresheth.  Despite his low status, he prophesied about a mighty ruler who would come from a small clan of Judah originating from a small town of Bethlehem.  The One promised to us would be our shepherd.  He would be our ruler and he would be our peace even in times of war, as Israel was being invaded by the Assyrians that year.

The year 2017 was a devastating year as well, with some of the worst natural disasters all over the world and some of the most horrific violence and crimes here in the United States.  We have seen much chaos and confusion among our people here in the U.S. and the world.  But for everyone, we have been promised a king, a ruler who will bring us peace in times of chaos and trouble.

Just as we are called to be God’s hands and feet, may we be a source of peace for those around us who have no knowledge of this great promise.  May we share the Peace who has been promised to us.  Even though we are from a small church in the small city of Lakewood, let us be the voice that proclaims the good news of the Promised One.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Dear Father, use us, your children, to proclaim and share your love and peace to those who need your love and peace. Thank you for being our Promised One and allowing your promise to live through us.  Amen.

Helen Kim

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Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 18, 2018

JESUS PREDICTS HIS DEATH

READ:  John 12:20-33

OPENING PRAYER:  Jesus, our lives are wrapped up in your life, death, and resurrection.  Help us to make sense out of your death as it relates to how we live today.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  Yes, Jesus now predicts his death.  But wait.  There is more to the story.  Jesus tells us that his death will provide the way for a harvest of many new lives.  In telling us this he leaves us with two truths about our way forward – the good hate, and the importance of following Jesus closely.  The good hate is that we are not to hate ourselves, but that we are to hate our lives “in the world” – what Bible scholar Dale Bruner refers to as life “in this fallen, messed-up, other-hating, self-seeking, rebellious world.”  That is what we are to hate.  So, it is a good hate because it leads to a new love in following Jesus and his new way.  Bruner adds that Jesus is saying, “Then come on, walk as closely to me as you possibly can, and I promise that you will be right there where life’s deepest

events and issues are, in fact, taking place.”  This good hate and this following Jesus is how we gain, not lose our very lives.

CLOSING THOUGHT:  How do we really feel about our world?  I suspect there is a tension between love and hate.   Jesus says, hate this fallen world, but love him.  That is possible, and that is life-changing.

Dave Coleman

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Monday, March 19, 2018

PURITY IS AN ACTION WORD!

READ: Psalm 119:9-16

OPENING PRAYER: Gracious God, open our hearts and allow us to receive with purity that which you have for us this day. Amen.

MEDITATION: As we continue through our Lenten journey, we hear the words of the psalmist reminding us in powerful ways that purity is an action word! Among other things, we’re called to “seek” (vs. 10), “recount” (vs. 13), “rejoice” (vs. 14), “meditate” (vs. 15), and “delight” (vs. 16) in God’s decrees.

The psalmist truly seems to understand that often times, life can be a very challenging proposition and maintaining purity of heart and mind in the midst of it all can be extremely daunting! Our natural predisposition sometimes tends to be somewhat less than pure. Left to our own devices and desires, we often fall far short of God’s intentions for us!

Get active, the psalmist seems to say! Seek God, recount God’s blessings, rejoice in God’s mercies, meditate on God’s eternal word, and delight in the fact that God is completely worthy of our pure, active praise! During this Lenten season, may we be like the psalmist as we hear with new ears God’s call to purity. May we renew our resolve to follow with our whole hearts God’s commands. May we recognize the indescribable riches attending lives attuned closely to God. And may we be those people who consistently strive to embody that which is holy, acceptable, pleasing, and upright in the sight of God!

CLOSING PRAYER: Righteous and loving God, empower us this day to actively seek purity in all that we do. We ask these things in your most holy and precious name. Amen.

Steve George

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

LOVE IN ACTION

READ:  Romans 12:9-21

OPENING PRAYER:  Hear my prayer, Lord.  Lead me to be an example to others by loving others and by staying away from evil.  Place your loving arms around those who do not know you.  Bring peace to our world, not hate and evil.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  In this scripture, one is to sincerely love one another, and is to stay away from evil.  In this world today, it is hard not to be affected by all the terror attacks and mass shootings. One needs to prayerfully remember that we, as Christians, are to love even those who are evil.

A few years ago, I was part of a group that fed the homeless and disadvantaged.  One gentleman asked me why I did this.  My answer was that as Christians we are asked by God’s Word to love, be helpful, feed the hungry, and don’t judge others.  One gentleman, with tears in his eyes, gave me a hug and said more people need to show kindness in this world.  Did I make a difference?  To those I talked to, yes, I think I did.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Lord, thank you for your love and guidance.  May those who do not know you listen and believe.  Amen.

Barbara Riggs

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

LEARNING FROM JESUS’ RESPONSE TO BETRAYAL

READ:  John 13:21-32

OPENING PRAYER:  Dear Lord, please give us the strength and courage to handle difficult personal relationship issues in a way that will honor you.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  One of the great challenges that we have in life is properly handling our personal relationships with others.  That we maintain those relationships in a loving and caring way is an important lesson we need to learn from Jesus’ behavior in this passage.  We can’t predict which of our friends or acquaintances might treat us poorly in some way, so we must be ready to accept that poor behavior or betrayal in a way that will honor Jesus the Son and God the Father.  Just as Jesus was hurt and troubled by the betrayal of Judas, we would also feel bad and we might be tempted to act out in anger and revenge – to respond in-kind.  However, we must remember that only when we act as Jesus did, will we be glorified in him and with him in us.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Lord, please be with us and guide us in those difficult life circumstances that confront us.  Amen.

Glen Graves

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

IMITATE CHRIST

READ: Philippians 2:5-11

OPENING PRAYER: Thank you for your obedience to death on the cross for our salvation and for your life of obedience to God and service to people to show us how to live. Amen.

MEDITATION: This hymn-like passage is a picture of Jesus’ incarnation, life on earth, death for our salvation, resurrection, and deserved exaltation to the “highest place”. It makes me look forward to worshiping Jesus in the glory of heaven.

Until then, how can our attitude “…be the same as that of Christ Jesus”? All of the Bible tells us, but some verses before and after this passage challenge me. “… In humility consider others better than yourselves… and look also to the interests of others”. (Verses 3-4) “Do everything without complaining or arguing…” (Verse 14). I may try that someday for a few minutes! And of course, tell people that God loves them, and wants to save them, and what God has done for them.

CLOSING PRAYER: Dear God and Jesus, we look forward to the glory of heaven and worshiping you there. Until then, help us to have your attitude of love and service for people whom you love and died to save. Amen.

Jim Foster

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Jesus before Pilate

READ:  Mark 15:1-15

OPENING PRAYER:  Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.  Amen.

Meditation:  It had to be Jesus.  This had to happen.  The Good News was promised by God’s prophets in the Old Testament, painful as it all was to those who loved him and followed him. How else would we know God’s word?

He was not only God’s son; he was a messenger to the world.  Little did the crowd know what they had done that day.  They expected his message would die with him.

That was not to be.  The resurrection changed EVERYTHING.  So, we can somberly observe Good Friday knowing that on Easter Sunday we can celebrate our faith and live in God’s loving kindness.

Closing Prayer:  Dear Lord, we realize today that your death and resurrection mean forgiveness, freedom, and an opportunity to walk with you in this world and into eternity.  Hallelujah!  Amen.

Duncan Cook

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Three Simple Rules

READ:  Micah 6:1-8

Opening Prayer:  Lord, thank you for making it clear to us what you desire for our lives.  You do this through your Word and in the way that you love us.  Help us to center ourselves through your words and the actions of your Son.  Amen.

Meditation:  Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in trying to earn God’s love or approval.  We worry that our career may not be godly enough, or that we may not have as much to give financially as someone else.  We compare ourselves to others and feel we may be falling short.  We get distracted and bogged down in wondering what we can and should do to honor God in the best way, and we put the burden on ourselves to figure it out.

Micah 6:8 makes it clear and simple for us.  God only wants our hearts.  When we surrender to him and seek his guidance, it makes the following three requirements seem an obvious way to show our commitment to him and his people:  Acting justly in what we do and say, loving mercy by showing loving kindness to those around us, and walking humbly with our God.  This last one is so important because it keeps us focused and able to abide by the first two requirements.  When we keep a humble heart and rely not on our own abilities, but instead on the power and strength and guidance of the Lord, we can see more clearly how to act justly and love mercy in our everyday lives.

Closing ThoughtMake a commitment to yourself to recite this verse when you get sidetracked in life or confused about God’s expectations for us.  Pray that he will show you opportunities in your day-to-day life to carry out these three requirements and demonstrate your love and commitment to Christ and his people.

By Heather Epperson

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Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Triumphal Entry

READ:  Mark 11:1-11

Opening Prayer:  Lord, we are reminded of your timing and that things are not always as they appear.  Amen.

Meditation:  The cheering crowds gathered and seemed to understand that Jesus’ actions were a symbolic statement of his identity as the Messiah, however, they did not realize the nature of his mission. Jesus chose this opportunity to select a humble mount on a small colt, which was symbolic of the type of Kingdom that he would establish.  This, however, was overlooked initially and wouldn’t be understood until after the crucifixion and resurrection.

I know that there are many times in my life that I have looked back and was able to see a very clear progression of events that seemed unrelated at the time, but were proven to be critical elements of the journey.  God is always working on our behalf and everything has a purpose or a lesson.

Closing Thought:  We may not always understand God’s timing or be able to see what is going on, but we have his word that he will always be there for us.

Lisa Semon

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Monday, March 26, 2018

A PRAYER TO GOD

READ:  Ephesians 3:20-21

Opening Prayer:  Dear Lord, thank you for the reminder that your love is unconditional and that through your mighty power at work within us, we can accomplish much more than we ask or think.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  This scripture reminds us that Christ loves us deeply and we can trust in him always.  Through his mighty power, if we pray to the Father, the creator of everything in heaven and on earth, he will empower us with inner strength through his spirit; he will answer our prayers.  Many times, the prayers will be answered differently from what we asked for.  We are often given more than asked for.  I look back to the experience of prayers I had about 15 years ago.  I had lost my hearing through an autoimmune disease.  I was so distraught and heartbroken at the thought of not being able to communicate in the “hearing world”.  I remember praying for my hearing to come back.  My doctor told me that there were only two options: either be totally deaf (not hearing at all) or getting a Cochlear implant.  After praying, I made the choice to hear.

After I received the Cochlear implant, I was upset and angry with the cochlear implant.  I did not think it was a success.  It was a struggle.  I had to relearn how to hear.  After a few months, I realized I was hearing sounds I had never heard before with hearing aids.  WOW!  It was an incredible experience.  I feel so blessed to be able to hear again although differently from what I had prayed for or thought possible.  I realized God had indeed answered my prayer of being able to hear again.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for always being there for all of us, loving us unconditionally, and answering our prayers.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Dede Powell

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Salvation Offered to the Whole Earth

READ:  Isaiah 49:1-7

Opening Prayer:  Lord, open our eyes and our ears to see and hear you as we meditate on your Word.  Amen.

Meditation:  This passage makes reference to Jesus’ humble circumstances, not only his lowly birth in a stable, but the respect, glory, and honor he never received while on earth.  He knew from the beginning what his reception on earth would be, yet he never wavered in offering himself for us.  This brings to mind a common occurrence in my own life.  As a high school math teacher, I inevitably spend hours and hours after the school day, coaching students one-on-one through the math concepts.  The students usually manage to scrape by with a passing grade and move on to their next challenging class.  Of those students, many never thank me for the extra time and guidance.  In fact, in some cases, once the year has ended, many will pretend like we’ve never met.

There are two main points in including this story.  The first is the sense of entitlement that these students feel; they are getting what they rightfully deserve.  The second is the lack of gratitude.  This ties in with this passage in several ways.  First, what Christ did was noteworthy.  What he did for us on Calvary is not what he rightfully deserved.  Unlike the few hours I have contributed to students over the years, he contributed his life; while we were yet sinners.  Secondly, Christ deserves our gratitude.  Do we only call on him in time of need and then look the other way when things are going okay?  Are we acting as if we are entitled to these free gifts?  The last few verses say, “Kings shall see and arise, Princes shall also bow down, Because of the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel has chosen you.” (NASB).  One day we will all bow before the Lord and give him the glory and honor that is due him.

Closing Prayer:  Lord, may we express our gratitude to you not just in times of trouble, but each and every day.  Remind us of your sacrifice and help us to honor you.  Amen.

Erin Anderson

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Third Servant Song of Isaiah

READ:  Isaiah 50:4-9a

OPENING PRAYER:  Dear Lord, as I participate in this devotional period, I pray that I will feel your presence.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  My relationship with Jesus Christ did not start until I was 25 years old.  I was baptized in a Christian Church in Cleveland, Ohio.  I probably believed that there must be a God, because otherwise how could the world and universe have been made.  However, I had never gone to a church before then.  My belief and involvement in Christian study and my faith journey have been continuing works in progress.

You need to believe that our Lord can enter the mind and soul of his people and cause them to do things that are necessary at various points in time.  During this time the Lord gave his people the tongue of the learned, opened their ears to hear, gave them the courage not to be ashamed of what needs to be done.  He gave us the justification for all things he has called the believers to do.

CLOSING THOUGHT:  Without this faith I would not have been able to do some of the things I have done in my life after age 25, such as feeling comfortable about talking to anyone about my Christian faith and praying openly.

Darrel Stutesman

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Maundy Thursday, March 29, 2018

REMEMBER ME

READ:  1 Corinthians 11:23-27

OPENING PRAYER: My Lord, inspire my heart to express your love for all mankind in these few verses. Amen.

MEDITATION:  “Remember me.”  Why was there a need for Jesus to say this? Of course, whenever we read “remember” we know there is something the Lord wants us to take to heart so Communion takes on a greater meaning. It’s not just the daily communion through prayer or the heart-felt journey through his Word that teaches and directs us, but a uniting of Christians coming together to honor Jesus and his sacrifice.

In our age it seems even more poignant, because we’re living in a time of such division.  How joyous to come on the 1st Sunday of the month and take Communion in remembrance of Jesus with the congregation, knowing we leave the world and all its turmoil outside the church doors.  Jesus died on the cross and took my sin for all time, yet it is my need for cleansing that draws me closer to him. It is the heart-felt need to apologize to Jesus for my sin that lifts me up and lightens my day, that washes away the fog that separates me from a closer walk with him. When I leave my sins at the Cross, I know his sacrifice is at work in me and I remember him.

CLOSING THOUGHT/PRAYER:  I open my daily prayer singing the Holden Prayer so I’m closing with it for it says it all so perfectly:  “Let us bless our God: praise, and thanks to you.  May God, Creator, bless us and keep us.  May Christ be ever light for our days.  May the Spirit of Love be our guide and path for all of our days.”  Amen.

Kathy Stevens

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Good Friday, March 30, 2018

SACRIFICE

READ: Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

OPENING PRAYER: Dear Lord, I am humbled by the death of your Son for the forgiveness of my sins. May I live every day in a way that justifies his sacrifice for me. Amen.

MEDITATION: The word “sacrifice” has many meanings. It means to bunt the ball in baseball to advance other runners but then causes the batter to be out. It is a strategic move in chess where one player allows the capture of one of his own pieces by the other player to gain an advantage. In the business world, it is a low contract bid just to win the work over another company. These are sacrifices to help win a game or gain an advantage at work. These are not too shocking; to give up something valuable for the greater good.

But the killing of a person or an animal as an offering to God or a god? OK, now we are getting serious. The ending of an animal’s life. Whoa. This was common practice in Isaiah’s day. The ending of a human’s life, sometimes a child. What?! Now we are getting really serious. This would have been shocking to the Jews of Isaiah’s day! God’s telling Isaiah that God himself would sacrifice his servant’s life as an offering for sin was shocking back then and today! Then to find out that the servant was God’s only son! God sacrificed his only son for our sins! Wow!

CLOSING PRAYER: God, we can’t begin to understand your sacrificing your son for our sins. We bow our heads in praise for your precious gift. Amen.

Carla and Bill Pelster

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Saturday, March 31, 2018

OUR HOME IN HEAVEN

READ:  1 Corinthians 15:1-11

OPENING PRAYER:  Heavenly Father, help us to remember that the best home of all is our home in heaven.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  As we journey in our life on earth, we, as Christians, get caught up in our life of daily living.  Feeling the importance of looking forward to vacations, daily fun, caught up in our work, activities and time with our family and friends, we forget that this life on earth is only temporary.

In these verses, Paul wants to remind us of what the Gospel is.  Gospel means “good news.”  The Gospel message is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is applied to our lives by faith, repentance, and baptism.  Once we come into the Gospel we have forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life.  Paul preached this to the Corinthians and is writing in confidence to them, telling them that “what goes down must come up.”  The Gospel gives us a place to stand.  Jesus Christ is our stability and security.  WOW, what a wonderful feeling!

CLOSING PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of eternal life in fellowship with you today and forever.  Amen.

Jean Rich

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Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018

the resurrection

READ:  Mark 16:1-8

OPENING PRAYER:  Most merciful God, we come before you with all praise and honor, giving thanks for your faithfulness in raising Jesus from the dead.  Amen.

MEDITATION:  Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb.  They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid….  (Mk 16:8, NIV)

They were afraid, of….  Of what?  Is that really how Mark ends the Gospel?  Yes, it is.  And through the years many have been quite uncomfortable with this ending.  Later writers have tried adding to it (verses 9-20).  But Mark ended the story abruptly at verse 8 and leaves us all hanging, wondering what had happened next.  Now, we know from the other Gospel accounts that the women eventually did report what they had seen, and that Jesus did meet the disciples in Galilee.  But we get nothing of this from St. Mark.  The story comes to an abrupt ending and is left incomplete….  Or is it?

The story of Mark’s Gospel doesn’t have an end because it isn’t over.  Jesus was crucified, he died and is risen, and now the power of God is at work inviting men and women, young and old – you and me, into new and transformed lives.

CLOSING PRAYER:  Dear Lord, let us accept your invitation to receive new and transformed lives.  Take us out of darkness into the light and, in so doing, wash away our sins.  Jesus has risen!  Praise his name!  Amen.

Jim and Laura Pledger

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