Devotion Archives 2021, October - December

Supply Chain by Kathy Schreiner

     If you have listened to the news or been to the grocery store lately you know there is a glitch in the supply chain. Pictures of huge tankers languishing in the ocean off ports that should be busy seem unreal.  Docks that should be bustling are eerily quiet.  The interstates have many less semis rolling. 

Gas prices are up.  The president has asked OPEC to increase production. We are told to order Christmas gifts early so you can hopefully receive them.  No Guarantees! 

     We have been blessed to live in a country where this is against the norm.  Empty shelves, exorbitant prices and long lines are not what we are used too.  We are not used to having to plan ahead or exercise patience.  It is said, "You never really appreciate something until it is gone." 

     We are also blessed to live in a country where we are able to worship as we please.  We have unending opportunities to be in God's Word.  Church services, bible studies, online offerings are all available to us.  We take these for granted.  But are they important to us?  What if these opportunities were not as abundant? 

     Christians in many countries do not enjoy the freedoms we have.  Yet the “invisible” Church is growing in these places.  These fellow Christians have to make a concentrated effort to be in the Word.  They do not take it for granted. 

     While we may have to get used to having less of somethings or waiting for others there is one thing always available to us.  That is our loving God.  The great "I AM" is on duty 24/7—always listening, always loving, always forgiving, and always available.  No need to order early.  No glitch in His supply chain.  He is constantly pouring out His blessings on us.  Let us give thanks.

 

 Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and do not forget all his benefits—

 who pardons all your guilt,

who heals all your diseases,

 who redeems your life from the pit,

who crowns you with mercy and compassion,

 who satisfies your life with goodness,

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

(Psalm 103:2-5 EHV)

 
A WORD for Women

The Load Bearer by April Cooper

     Imagine for a moment you are an award-winning weight-lifter. You are used to lifting heavy weights daily in practice, and in competitions. But on one particular day, the load was far too much for your strength. The amount of weight exceeded what you thought you could handle. And, just when you felt you were about to crumble, your coach walked by and took the heavy weights from you to ease the pain. Can you imagine the relief?

     Let's move from imagination to reality. How many of us carry far too much weight on our shoulders? Day in and day out, how many times have you tried to carry burdens using your own strength? The burdens of this life can be many and range in topics like employment, finances, relationships, medical, or general worry and anxiety. And, in today's society, safety, sickness, vaccination status and extended outlooks can be included on that list!

     However, scripture is crystal clear. It states, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT) Have you ever tried to put that scripture into action? How about we practice handing all of that weight over to the Lord, right now. Literally. In addition to praying, why not hold out your hands and go through the motions of handing every single thing over to God that you are carrying. Call each weight by name, and hand it over to Him.

     God never told us to carry the load of anxiety, worry or fear. And, He absolutely doesn't require, expect or need us to carry those types of things. He is willing to handle our concerns and worry. We need Him to handle it. He wants to handle it. And, He already said he would handle it. So, go ahead. Hand it over. Hand it all over. He is waiting, and He truly cares. Don't just imagine the relief. Experience it. And let the Lord ease your pain.

 
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Bread Baking 101 by Julie Luetke

     I spent the day helping a sister in-law learn to bake bread.  She had tried six times over the summer and only got close twice. 

     Together, we went step by step with the how’s and why’s of the process from start to finish.  The bread turned out perfectly.  In the final kneading stages the elasticity of the dough was terrific.  Clearly the yeast and gluten had worked throughout the dough.  At this point there was absolutely no way to separate the yeast from the rest of the ingredients. 

     Jesus used bread dough to illustrate a powerful warning to His followers and to us. 

     “Watch out and be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees.”  (Matthew 16:6)

     Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand.  Out of love, Jesus explained that the yeast that goes through the entire batch of dough is like a false teaching or an incorrect interpretation of God’s Word.  It can ruin our faith and cause us to walk away from the only true God. 

     Here is an example.  The Bible tells us that God created the world in six 24-hour days.  Evolution tells us it took millions of years for our world to accidentally become a lush planet of plants, animals and people.  If we think God was not needed in creation, it is a very short step to believing God is not needed in our lives. Days go on one after another.  I grew up in a good home, found my Prince Charming, raised a family and am now happily retired with my prince still at my side.  Do I really need God? 

     You bet I do!  Let me tell you how I know I need my Jesus.  God’s Word has guided me to make good choices, thus given good outcomes in my life.  God’s promises have given me Hope when there was none coming from the world around me.  God’s gift of baptism has lifted the weight of sin from my heart forever.  God’s generosity fills me with thankfulness that lifts my spirit.  God’s peace has covered me inside and out like yeast in bread.  I am His and He is mine.  That is where I want to stay for all eternity.  Thanks to Jesus dying and rising to pay for my sin and giving me victory from death, I will live in heaven with God forever.  See you there.

     “My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.  No one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)

 
A WORD for Women
 

It's Like I Just saw You by Julie Luetke

    Think about the times you connected with a friend or relative you hadn’t seen in a long time.  After a short hello, it is like you were never apart.  The conversation gets going and the laughter fills the room.  It is hard to believe, but the years, or even decades, couldn’t diminish the closeness between you. 

     My parents have both died.  Maybe you have lost a spouse or a child.  If you have any amount of years on you, someone you love has died.  It is devastating to say good-bye, knowing the rest of your days on earth will be without the love and companionship of that person.  Death is never pretty or easy.

     Both of my parents knew Jesus had taken their sin away by His death and resurrection.  They died confident they would be reunited with their infant children who died decades before.   If it is God’s will, I may live another 20-30 years.  When I die, knowing Jesus as my Savior, the reunion with my parents will be like we were never apart.

     This confidence I have comes from Paul’s words to the young pastor, Timothy: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”… “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:1 and 16 NIV)

     We are bombarded with events and ideas that can chip away at our trust in God.  Our personal fears and temptations can weaken and destroy faith if we don’t persevere in the truths of God’s Word.  When our lives are over, and with God’s help we have kept our eyes on Jesus, our only Savior, we will enter heaven just like our loved ones who have kept the faith.

     “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV)

     Dear Lord, I am weak, but you are strong.  Carry me through this life clinging to You and bring me safely to Your side forever.  Amen.

A WORD for Women

A Journey of the Heart: Advent One by Karen Maio

     This week, we begin the Advent season, a time of spiritual preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth. Join us as we embark on a journey of the heart.

     The initial stop is back in the Old Testament times. A long time ago in a beautiful garden, spoiled by the stench of sin-stained hearts, Adam and Eve had succumbed to the temptation of the devil and as a result, were banished from the garden.  The Lord said to Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

     If that were the end of the story, the journey may as well have been over, too!  But, God in his infinite love already had the itinerary to Bethlehem. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

     “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  (Micah 5:2)

      God had a plan of salvation for all people, through faith in His son, Jesus Christ, which offered hope to Adam and Eve and all sinners that would come after them.  Generation after generation waited for the promised Savior to come.  Their hearts were full of hope and trust in God’s promise.

     For you, O lord, my soul in stillness waits, truly our hope is in you (Christian Worship 703)

 
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A Journey of the Heart (Advent Two): A Journey from Fear to Faith

by Karen Maio

     Today’s journey of the heart takes us to Luke 1:26-33 (NIV) that details how God called Mary to serve him:

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

     Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

     Matthew 1:20-21, details how God called Joseph to serve him. “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

     It is no wonder that the angels said “Don’t be afraid”. Mary and Joseph were filled with fear—fear from seeing an angel, the unusual message itself, and fear of rejection and ridicule from others when all this would unfold. God had spoken: “I have a plan; trust me”. Mary and Joseph said "yes" to God and set out on a journey, a journey from fear to one of faith...a journey of the heart.

     God, help us trust and willingly serve you always, and bless us on our journey of faith.

 
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A Journey of the Heart (Advent Three): Mary’s Initial Journey by Karen Maio

     

     The angel messenger had told Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth, your relative, is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.” (Luke 1:35-36)

     The physical part of the journey begins; Mary quickly sets out to Elizabeth’s to share with her both the joy and the concerns of her new and unexpected condition. She may have been looking for familiarity and comfort; a sympathetic ear and a reassuring voice. Elizabeth hears Mary call out as Mary enters the house, and both Elizabeth and her child are filled with joy. The child, the future John the Baptist, leaps in his mother's womb. Elizabeth’s response is full of faith, joy and blessing, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” (Luke 1:42) Mary was not exceptional because she was more godly than others. Mary - a sinner like us - was exceptional because God was in her spiritually (as he dwells within all believers) and physically (he blessed her to be the mother of Jesus) Mary responds with faith and praise: magnifying the Lord, rejoicing in God, singing his praise for his mighty acts, his mercy, his strength, his grace, his help, and his keeping of the covenant promise. 

     May we, too, glorify the Lord and rejoice in God our Savior!

 
A WORD for Women

A Journey of the Heart (Advent Four): Next Stop...Bethlehem by Karen Maio

     

     The journey of the heart theme for our midweek devotions continues...the next stop...Bethlehem.

     By this time, Mary was pretty far along in her pregnancy. Many women at this stage begin nesting - cleaning and organizing and getting everything ready for the new baby. Mary, however, would have to endure an approximately 90 mile trip, up and down hills, probably on foot.

     Luke chapter 2: “In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (this was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”   

     Mary and Joseph faithfully made that probably difficult journey because they loved God and were blessed to be part of his plan for salvation. Many of us know what happens next in Bethlehem. We have been waiting in anticipation for weeks! Finally, this weekend, we get to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

     Father, we thank you for your gracious plan to save us sinners through faith in your Promised One. Help us this Advent season and always to focus our hearts on the peace and love that are ours through faith in Jesus.  Amen

 
A WORD for Women