Faith UMC Scriptures, Devotionals & Prayers

Join us here for Scripture readings, devotionals and prayer as we find ways to fulfill the message of Philippians 4:7 - "It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life." 

  • Many Gifts, One Spirit

    Today's Devotional: Thursday, May 7


    “So Christ himself gave… to equip his people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Ephesians 4:11-12


    I was reminded yesterday of the generosity of God. As I was writing a thank you note to a friend, I reflected on the many spiritual gifts that God has so graciously given us.

    As I thought about how much she means in my life, I was actually in awe of her many spiritual gifts. As I was thanking her for her encouragement, I realized that she is also a talented leader, a caring friend, a person with great wisdom and discernment, an inspiring teacher, and more. She is a wonderful example to me of someone who is using her many gifts to build up others in her family, and in the people that she surrounds herself with.


    Have you discovered what your spiritual gifts are? Scripture tells us that our gifts are not given to us for our own personal holiness, but are given for the sake of others. They are given so that we can build up the Body of Christ. What does that mean? It means that our gifts are there to help others navigate and function in a difficult world. Our gifts are given by God to help others know Christ in a more intimate way.


    When we use our gifts to serve others, the Holy Spirit can also work to perfect us. As we grow and change, we also find a better holy perspective, balance in our lives, and the grace of God. This happens as we work as one with God, as a functioning, active member of the Body of Christ.


    Are you allowing God to use the gifts that have been given to you by the Holy Spirit? Are you using them to build up your brothers and sisters in Christ and for the betterment of our world?


    Let’s pray:

    Lord, thank you. Thank you for continually blessing us and working in our lives to make us stronger in our faith. Help us to grow deeper in our love for you and for others. Thank you for blessing us with spiritual gifts so that we can help others draw closer to you. You are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.


    Curious about your spiritual gifts? Here is one Spiritual Gifts Test that is available for free online:

    https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/spiritual-gifts-inventory

  • Pray About Everything

    Devotional for Thursday, April 23

    Scripture: Philippians 4:6


    "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything." (Philippians 4:6)


    Have you found yourself praying like you have never prayed before? I believe many of us have found ourselves more centered in prayer than normal. Not that we are waking up to pray every morning at 4:00 like John Wesley, but if we are awake, we are probably praying. At least I hope we are praying versus worrying. 


    Over the years, I have had various prayer books that I have turned to from time to time. Yes, one of them is the Book of Common Prayer. But others are random books of prayer that people have composed. Some of those prayers have had a way of speaking or singing to my soul at times that I have needed it most.


    This morning, I came upon such a prayer that spoke to me and I believe will speak to many of you. So I am sharing it with you today as our devotional. I hope you will pray it with me...not just once, but maybe multiple times throughout the day. And not only today, but also in the days ahead. And if you wake up tomorrow full of worry, turn to this prayer and let your worry go.


    Loving God,

          We pray for those who suffer from the coronavirus

          Throughout the United States, and across the world.

    For our families and loved ones, we pray.

          For our neighbors in mourning, we pray.

          For first responders, healthcare workers, and caregivers, we pray.

          For researchers and medical professionals, we pray.

          For our neighbors in prison and without medical attention, we pray.

          For our neighbors experiencing homelessness, we pray.

          For our children, teachers, and schools, we pray.

          For policymakers in need of wisdom, we pray.

          For communities to practice faithful resistance, we pray.

    Send comfort to everyone in distress

          And a sense of calm to all of us in these uncertain times.

          Hear the cries of your people, vulnerable and afraid.

          Teach us to be kind to ourselves and to one another.

          Be for us a wellspring of living water,

          Filling us with your healing and love.

    Remind us of that which makes us human —

          To accept uncertainty without losing hope,

          To trade anxiety and despair for patience and peace,

          To find joy in the simple things,

          To speak and act with compassion,

          To love always.


    We ask these things in the name of all that is holy and good.


    Amen. May it be so.

     

    (Leea Allen, Minister for Faith and Justice at Virginia Highland Church)

  • The Challenges of the Unknown

    Devotional for Tuesday, April 21


    Scripture: Ecclesiastes 8:6-7


    There are so many challenges that we are living into these days!  I could list them for you, but you know them personally as you are living through them.  So rather than list those, let me do one better and add one more to that long, uncomfortable list.  The one that I want to add to the list can best be summarized as "the unknown".


    We are people who love answers.  Answers are usually readily found at our fingertips...at least when those answers are simply informational. And yet, the answers we are seeking during this day and time are not informational.  The answers we are seeking are more regarding planning and directions.  


    That is what brings us to these words from Ecclesiastes 8:6-7. "...for there is a time and a way for everything, even when a person is in trouble. Indeed, how can people avoid what they don't know is going to happen?" 


    I just love questions that are thrown at us in Ecclesiastes.  For a book that we know of as 'wisdom literature', the questions seem to challenge my lack of wisdom.  And maybe that is the intent.  


    Maybe the intent is to remind us we don't know what is going to happen.  Or maybe from a greater scale, maybe the intent is to remind us that while we cannot find the meaning of life, we can find the Author of Life.  Even though God is not mentioned often throughout Ecclesiastes, God is at the center of it all.  


    It is easy to be challenged by the unknown.  And at the present time, I am finding it difficult to plan for the months ahead as so much is unknown.  But what I am finding as we plan with various scenarios in mind is that at the heart of it all is God...the One that we know as our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. 


    Don't let the unknowns get you down.  Instead, seek after the One who is known...the Author of Life and find that the challenges of this life will diminish. 


    Pray with me: God of Life, we continually are finding ourselves grasping...for wisdom, answers and guidance. It is easy for us to get caught up in all that we don't know and cannot figure out.  And yet, we are reminded that you are there.  May we find that your presence with us can be enough and is enough to carry us through these challenging days.  May all of God's children say...Amen!


  • It's Time to Remember


    Devotional for Thursday, April 16


    Scripture: Lamentations 3:19-21


    I never thought I would become "a fan" of Lamentations.  I have shared over time how I steer clear of Lamentations as it too often reminds me of people's post on Facebook.  Yes...I know people who lament really well. They are, at times, a real life Eeyore.  But all of that has changed in the past 5 weeks. 


    I have spent more time in Lamentations than ever before.  And what I have found are words of encouragement and of hope in the midst of deep laments.  


    Take this morning for instance. In Lamentations 3:19-20, we hear this lament: 


    "Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable. That's all I ever think about, and I am depressed." 


    I think there are many who could echo those words today...especially the "lonely wandering". And whether it is at the forefront of our thoughts, we think about what's going on much of the time.  How can we not? We have a "new norm" that might include working from home, teaching our children from home, or finding ourselves lost as our routine has undergone a major shift. 


    As we can relate to one lamenting, we then read these words in verse 21: "Then I remember something that fills me with hope." There's that word again: hope. That is a word that I have found myself preaching into often of late.  We began this time of distancing with a message on "Intentional Hope".  Then, on Easter Sunday, I preached into our need to embrace the Risen Christ so that we would also embrace the idea that "Hope is Greater Than Anything and Everything".  And this Sunday, I will be preaching into "How to Live into a Living Hope". These messages of hope are not just happenstance. Messages of Hope fill Lent and Easter.  And don't forget, this Sunday is just the 2nd Sunday of Easter.  


    So, here is what I want you to think about today: What is it that you remember that fills you with hope over and over again?  What has God done in your life to get you to where you are today?  I believe as we remember all that God has done in the past, we will find ourselves being filled with a hope that will carry us beyond our misery and wandering.  


    Let's pray: God of hope, it is so easy to look at all that is going on around us today and feel miserable. Some of us are not good with change and these changes have been a challenge.  But it's not the first time. There have been those times, O God, when we have felt everything crashing down upon us and yet, we were brought out of all of that.  And why would we not trust you to do the same here and now?  Help us to remember all the reasons that we have to be filled with hope.  Remind us over and over again that hope is greater than everything.  And we thank you for the hope that has come to us in Christ...the Risen Christ!  In the name of the Risen Christ we pray, Amen!



  • Matthew 28

    Devotional for Tuesday, April 14


    Scripture: Matthew 28:16-17


    I'm not sure what it is, other than having new lenses these days. No...my glasses are the same. The lenses that I am speaking of are lenses that we all have been wearing for the past month or so. Having spent more than a month now practicing physical distancing (I'm refusing to use the term 'social distancing') has led all of us to probably see things differently.


    That has happened with me when it comes to Easter. As I said during the message on Sunday, there were those parts of the Easter story that had never hit me before...until we were experiencing Easter in "isolation". And then, there is this part in Matthew regarding a post-resurrection appearance with the disciples. It says "Jesus' eleven disciples went to a mountain in Galilee, where Jesus had told them to meet him. They saw him and worshiped him, but some of them doubted." (Matthew 28:16-17)


    So they "saw him" and "worshiped him" and yet, "some of them doubted". Sound like anyone you know?


    OK...so we haven't seen the Risen Christ like they did. But do you remember what Jesus said in response to Peter in the Gospel of John: "The people who have faith in me without seeing me are the ones who are really blessed." (John 20:29)


    I share all of this as I know you sometimes doubt. I know that as one of those who sometimes doubts too. And I'm not so much talking about our inability to touch his hands and side like Thomas did. I don't believe our doubting is in the Risen Christ as much as I believe we doubt when life and our faith collide. And yet...


    ...I believe enough to worship and celebrate the Risen Christ, not only on Easter, but everyday.


    ...I believe enough to pray daily and cry out to God for the sake of many that I have in my heart and at times for myself.


    ...I believe enough to cling to hope knowing that hope is greater than everything.


    ...I believe enough to love God and all of my neighbors with all of my heart and mind and soul.


    How about you?


    Let me encourage you to keep the faith...without seeing...and be blessed!


    Let's pray: Lord, even though I sometimes doubt, I am a person of faith. I believe in all of the ways that I can with everything that I can. And yet, especially in life as we know it today, I find myself questioning and wondering. All of that at times leads me to doubt in ways that I have never doubted before. May my doubts lead me towards you rather than away from you. Help me to proclaim, not only with lips but with my life...I believe! And then God, help my unbelief. And may all of God's children say...Amen!

  • Doubting While Worshiping

    Devotional for Tuesday, April 14

    Rev. Harry Vein


    Scripture: Matthew 28:16-17


    I'm not sure what it is, other than having new lenses these days. No...my glasses are the same. The lenses that I am speaking of are lenses that we all have been wearing for the past month or so. Having spent more than a month now practicing physical distancing (I'm refusing to use the term 'social distancing') has led all of us to probably see things differently.


    That has happened with me when it comes to Easter. As I said during the message on Sunday, there were those parts of the Easter story that had never hit me before...until we were experiencing Easter in "isolation". And then, there is this part in Matthew regarding a post-resurrection appearance with the disciples. It says "Jesus' eleven disciples went to a mountain in Galilee, where Jesus had told them to meet him, They saw him and worshiped him, but some of them doubted." (Matthew 28:16-17)


    So they "saw him" and "worshiped him" and yet, "some of them doubted."  Sound like anyone you know?


    OK...so we haven't seen the Risen Christ like they did.  But do you remember what Jesus said in response to Peter in the Gospel of John: "The people who have faith in me without seeing me are the ones who are really blessed." (John 20:29)


    I share all of this as I know you sometimes doubt. I know that as one of those who sometimes doubts too. And I'm not so much talking about our inability to touch his hands and side like Thomas did. I don't believe our doubting is in the Risen Christ as much as I believe we doubt when life and our faith collide. And yet...


    ...I believe enough to worship and celebrate the Risen Christ, not only on Easter, but everyday.


    ...I believe enough to pray daily and cry out to God for the sake of many that I have in my heart and at times for myself.


    ...I believe enough to cling to hope knowing that hope is greater than everything.


    ...I believe enough to love God and all of my neighbors with all of my heart and mind and soul.


    How about you?


    Let me encourage you to keep the faith...without seeing...and be blessed!


    Let's pray: Lord, even though I sometimes doubt, I am a person of faith. I believe in all of the ways that I can with everything that I can. And yet, especially in life as we know it today, I find myself questioning and wondering. All of that at times leads me to doubt in ways that I never doubted before. May my doubts lead me towards you rather than away from you. Help me to proclaim, not only with my lips but with my life...I believe. And then God, help my unbelief.  And may all of God's children say...Amen!

  • The Disciples Running to the Sepulcher

    On the Morning of Resurrection

    Today's Devotional, Maundy Thursday, April 9


    by Melissa Cheng


    The Disciples Running to the Sepulcher on the Morning of Resurrection by Eugene Bernand is a painting I return to often during Lent. It is a powerful piece full of buzzing energy and a mixture of emotions. We can imagine Peter and John rushing toward the tomb in the first light of dawn after they have been told Christ has risen. John wringing his hands together with brow furrowed as he strides toward the seemingly impossible. Peter perhaps feeling the combination of the shame of denial and intense hope as he hastens toward the one who has overcome the world.


    Unlike them in this frozen moment of history, we know exactly how the story ends. We know with certainty that they will find Jesus at the end of the road. And they will find themselves - along with the rest of us - redeemed. We also know what they will do with their new lives - spread the faith and write of their experiences. They will not be held back by their missteps of denials, ignorance and doubt but will leave them at the cross and boldly step into their newly redeemed lives.


    Like them, we have traveled through the darkness of Lent and are coming out on the other side. We have examined. We have repented. We have hoped. Finally, we are about to face the risen Christ. And as Henri Nouwen observes, He “asks for…transformation. Every time we take a few steps along [that path], we become aware that something new is happening within us and experience a desire to try yet another step forward. And so, step by step, we come closer to the heart of God, which is the heart of an indiscriminating, always-forgiving inexhaustible love.” We are redeemed, renewed and loved. And called to keep walking along the path of transformation to do something for the kingdom. It will look differently for all of us, yet have the common thread of Christ which will bind us all together creating a strong unit to make an impact in our fallen world.


    As Peter and John rush hopefully toward Christ and then out into the world, let us all take the next step on our own paths to become more Christ-like and to do His work alongside one another with joyful hearts.

  • Transparency

    Devotional for Friday, April 3

    Rev. Harry Vein


    Scripture - Psalm 34


    Transparency.


    It's one of the reasons that I love the Psalms. As beautiful as the Psalms can be, they are raw with feelings, emotions and transparency. They are not sugar coated in the least!


    I guess it's due to the time that I've been spending in the Psalms that I'm feeling the need to be transparent. Like the Psalmists, sometimes you've just got to let it out. So here goes...


    I wake up in the mornings and wonder if it has all been a bad dream. This can't be real, can it? It feels more like a really bad "B" movie, like "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" or "Sharknado", than it feels like reality.


    But then it sinks in that it's real. It's real as I find myself each morning praying for those that I know who are experiencing the reality of it all...sick, afraid, and quarantined. Yes, that's when reality sets in.


    And that is what drives me to the Psalms. This one, from David, was written when he felt threatened and afraid of Abimilech. He pretended he was crazy so that he would be sent away and could escape.


    Tucked within these words, we find this assurance in verse 4: "I sought the Lord and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears." Or from The Message: "God met me more than halfway, God freed me from my anxious fears."


    Yes, reality sets in...both from the reality that this isn't a "B" movie and the reality that God is present. Take assurance that as we "cry for help, God is listening, ready to rescue us" (v.17).


    So go ahead and let it out. Be transparent with all that is going on inside of you. God knows. God is listening. And God will meet us more than halfway.


    Pray with me: God of this present moment, as much as we live and breathe in you, we find ourselves living and breathing in the uncertainty of all that is going on around us. As unreal as it may seem, reality sets in as names and faces become part of the story. Free us from all that can grip us, whether it be in the light or the darkness of night. Continue to hear all who cry out to you and be the Rescuer that you have always been. In the name of Christ, our Redeemer and Rescuer. 


    And may all God's children say... AMEN!

  • The Glory of the Lord

    Devotional for Thursday April 2

    by Rev. Jennifer Gros


    Scripture: Exodus 16:10


    “They looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.”


    Have you heard the phrase “Every cloud has a silver lining”? Today is a cloudy day, and sometimes things can seem more difficult, more discouraging, and less optimistic on a dark and cloudy day.


    It is human nature for our minds to wander with worry and anxiety, but it is especially at this time that we need to keep our focus on promises of the Lord above.


    The Israelites in Exodus 16 were wandering in the desert after escaping Egypt several months before. They were grumbling against their leaders, Moses and Aaron. They were worried about having enough to eat and starving in the desert.


    But God provided and promised to send quail and bread, or manna. “… in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”


    As Aaron was telling this news to the community of people, “they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.”


    The Lord commanded them to only take as much as they needed.


    “And when they measured it… the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.”


    Are we keeping our focus on the One who provides? Are we giving in to discouragement, or stress, or anxiety?


    Let us look up, to see the Lord in the desert, in the clouds, and watch for God’s glory to be revealed to us.


    As we look to scripture and spend time in God’s Word, we can find helpful verses like the one we read today. God can speak to our hearts through scripture and prayer, bringing comfort and confidence that the clouds that we see today will be gone tomorrow.


    God’s glory will always be revealed. 

  • I Thank God Every Time I Remember You

    Devotional for Tuesday March 31

    by Rev. Jennifer Gros


    Scripture - Philippians 1:3-5


    “I thank God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.”


    Yesterday I received a beautiful post card in the mail from a friend. It was such a nice surprise, and reminded me of being a child and having a pen pal. Did you ever have a pen pal? Mailing letters and postcards to friends and family who lived far away was so much fun, and a reminder to each other how much we cared. It takes time and effort to write a letter, purchase a stamp, and go to a mailbox to mail it. But what joy it brings to the letter writer, and to the recipient!


    Today we get to read a letter that was written from Paul to his friends in Philippi nearly two thousand years ago. Paul is thanking God for his friends, his brothers and sisters in Christ. Every time he prays for them, he is filled with joy at remembering each and every one of them. They have shared something special between them, the gospel of Christ.


    There is a bond that they now share, a bond of joy and thankfulness for each other.


    There is a bond of joy and thankfulness that I feel when I remember each of you, and a bond that I feel with my family and friends that I am now separated from. It is easy to get discouraged when we hear that we will be separated even longer.


    But I find it encouraging to see all of the ways that people are being creative in connecting with others. Just mailing a small letter, note or postcard can touch a person’s heart. Picking up the phone and calling someone we care about can make their day brighter. A chalk drawing on a driveway or sidewalk can bring a moment of encouragement to others. Driving by a person’s home on their birthday with signs and balloons can remind them that they are not alone, that they are remembered, and that they are loved.


    And let us not forget that we can pray.


    We are reminded today by Paul that the simple act of prayer can be a very special way to connect. By this simple but powerful act, we connect not only to our loved ones, but to God, the creator of the universe. We extend our thankfulness to the One who created us, who loves us, and who watches over us.


    Let us constantly pray with joy for each other every day, thanking God every time we remember each other. Let us be grateful for the people that God has put into our lives to share in the gospel, and to share in this life.


    I thank God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you.


    Let’s pray: Thank you God for the people that you have chosen for me to share my life with. I am so grateful for each and every one of them. I am filled with joy when I pray for each beautiful person. I lift up to you each name and each face as I remember them, and ask for your peace, comfort, strength, hope, and protection to surround and fill each and every loved one.


    Thanks be to God, Amen.


  • Just Breathe

    Devotional for Monday, March 30

    by Rev. Harry Vein


    Scripture - 2 Timothy 3:16


    “God has breathed life into all Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again. It is useful for training us to do what is right.”

    ‭‭

    Every once in awhile (which seems more often of late), my Apple Watch tells me to Breathe. I have no idea how it knows or feels I need to do that, but it does. There have been times I wish it would tell me to Chill or Trust, but instead, I always get Breathe.


    I feel I need to encourage you to do the same: Breathe. Yesterday, when the Federal National Social Distancing Guidelines were extended until the end of April, I found myself needing to Breathe. That simply confirmed what I have thought of late...that we would not be worshiping together in our physical community anytime soon. Now the soonest that could happen is May 3. And some of you have heard me say that I will be pleased if we get to gather in worship sometime in May.


    So, let's go back to our call to Breathe. In 2 Timothy, we hear that "God has breathed life into all scripture." And then we hear what Scripture does: teaches, corrects, trains and makes us whole again.


    Think about that last part: " It is useful for making our lives whole again." Those are words we need to Breathe in right now, for our lives don't seem to be very whole right now. Our norm is out of sync. Order has been displaced. We cannot just go and do like we were doing just a few weeks ago. And our children feel it and don't know how to speak into it. So what do we do with it all.


    Breathe. Take in scripture every day. Take it in before you take anything else in. Breathe and allow God to teach us what is true, to correct our mistakes, to train us to do what is right and to make our lives whole again. And realize that the wholeness we experience today will look different than the wholeness we had a few weeks ago. And God knows, that may not be such a bad thing as God uses all of this to bring us the wholeness we truly need. If only we would Breathe.


    Let's pray: O God, who breathed life into us in the beginning and continues to breathe life into us throughout eternity, let us take a deep breath of You into us today. As we do, may your Word find that place in our life that brings about the wholeness that all of us have needed. Breathe on us Breath of God. And may our lives and our world be made whole again. Amen.

  • A Lent To Always Remember

    Devotional for Friday, March 27

    by Rev. Harry Vein


    Scripture: Joel 2:12-17


    It's been difficult remembering things lately. I would be worried, but I have learned that I am not alone! Many of us are having trouble remembering simple things, like...what day is today? (It's Friday, March 27...right up at the top of this devotional.) But that's not all.


    There are times I walk into a room and can't remember what I was going to do. There are times that I have been talking and can't remember what I was going to say. Yeah...these are crazy times. And just in case that's not enough, I will throw another out at you.


    There have even been times when I can't remember what I was "giving up" for Lent. Now, in case you don't remember, Lent began one month ago on Wednesday, February 26. But I do remember some of my famous last words, like "I have had people in my life ask me if I could ever give up baseball for Lent. But none of you would want to be around me if I did that."


    Well, all of us have found out we can give up far more than we ever imagined! I went back to read that passage from Joel 2 that we read almost every Ash Wednesday, I thought about these words a little deeper: "Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all you hearts, with fasting..."


    All of us are "fasting" from things that we never dreamed we would be going without. I think about myself and my love of sports. I never dreamed that I would go without the start of the baseball season, March Madness, the Stanley Cup, The Masters, and more all at the same time. And it goes further than that for many of us. We are going without time with friends, running to the store, shopping, and toilet paper. (OK...hopefully we are finding some of the later.) We are even having to go without gathering for community worship.


    But my heart goes out for those that are experiencing this on a much deeper, more personal level. I am so mindful of those who can't go to the hospital to see loved ones! (Just yesterday, Memorial Hermann began restricting visitation.) There are families that are having to wait to hold services of celebration of their loved ones who have passed. There are healthcare workers who are intentionally separating themselves from their own family .


    I may be having trouble remembering things lately, but here is what stays with me. People matter! Life matters! We may be having to practice distancing right now, but only physical distancing. That human connection is more vital than all the rest rolled up together.


    This will be a Lent that we will always remember!


    Let's Pray: God of Life, we have been reminded of late about the gift of life. We have found we are more connected to each other than we ever realized. We miss seeing faces. We miss our gatherings. We miss embraces. But God, you remind us we are still connected. Distance cannot separate us, just as nothing can separate us from your love for us. Hold us close together as the Body of Christ in all of this. 


    And may all of God's children say... Amen.

  • Unity in Peace, Called in Hope

    Devotional for Thursday, March 26

    by Rev. Jennifer Gros


    Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-4


    Being set apart and physically distanced from our friends and extended family, can be isolating and difficult. As humans, we crave community. 


    However, this situation of isolation can provide us with unique opportunities to reach out to others, including those under our roof and those outside of our homes. 


    For inspiration today, we look at the words of Paul in his letters to the people in Ephesus. Paul was a prisoner at the time, locked away and isolated.


    Even though Paul was a prisoner, he found a way, through his letters, to encourage his friends and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. He wrote letters to inspire unity, like the one we read today in Ephesians chapter 4, verse 1-4:


    1 Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. 

    2 Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, 3 and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. 

    4 You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. 


    Even from isolation, Paul is encouraging his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to live as people worthy of the calling they have received from God. 


    What does this mean for us today, to live worthy of our calling? I believe the answer lies in verse two. We should be conducting ourselves with humility, gentleness and patience, accepting each other with love. 


    This seems all the more interesting when the roles have been reversed, and WE are now the ones in isolation. Of course we cannot compare our situation to a first century Roman prison, but we can stop and think about how we are “living” in our isolating situation. 


    Are we conducting ourselves with humility, gentleness and patience with regard to the people around us? With regard to our messages on social media? With our children? With our older parents? With our spouse?


    I believe that the next line of this scripture is of utmost importance. Are we “accepting each other with love?”


    Accepting each other with love when we are “sheltering in faith” in small and crowded spaces can be a challenge. Or if we are alone, the isolation can be difficult without anyone to talk to.


    This is where Paul’s words can be a light in the darkness - we are to “make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.” 


    Because we have the Holy Spirit, there is a unity of peace that ties each of us together. This not only includes the people living under our roof, but there is a unity of peace that ties all of us together. Are we reaching out to others through letters, messages, phone calls, or a simple note scribbled on a driveway in chalk? 


    How can we preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties us together?


    Are you reaching out to your brothers and sisters in Christ?


    Even though we are trying to distance ourselves physically from others, Paul tells us that we are called to be unified in the “one body and one spirit” called together in “one hope.”


    Now is the time to be unified, even though we must be apart. Now is the time to reach out and to stay connected to our friends and family, in loving and peaceful ways. We can encourage one another and inspire one another.


    Let us pray. 


    Dear God, we know that you are with us, even in isolation. You hear our prayers and you love us. Our world is hurting, and we are called to love others. We pray for the humility, gentleness and patience to live our lives worthy of our calling. Help us to accept one another in love, and to preserve the unity in the Body of Christ.


    Let us be unified in the Holy Spirit with peace, and called together in one hope.


    Lord, hear our prayers.


    Amen


  • Yet I Will Not Forget You

    Devotional for Monday, March 24

    by Rev. Jennifer Gros


    Scripture: Isaiah 49: 13-16


    One of the most beautiful trends that I have seen as a result of physically distancing ourselves from each other, is the creativity in song that has been spreading via social media! For me it began with beautiful videos of Italians singing together from their balconies.


    First, a video was posted of Italians singing from their windows at night, a few lone voices connecting with each other in a beautiful melody. Then more videos began circulating, with entire Italian apartment complexes singing together from their balconies. There were people playing pianos, saxophones, and tambourines. 


    Here in the U.S. people have been posting videos of their children singing, of themselves singing, and even professional singers like Phillip Phillips have been giving small, free concerts from the comfort of their living rooms.


    Singing has always been a natural way of connecting emotionally with others, and it seems that this is magnified when people are separated by a distance. We are all craving an emotional connection! Thank goodness for technology, so that we can more easily share our songs of praise! 


    Even in quarantine, even in the midst of suffering, people are finding ways to share the gift of song — songs that uplift, songs that praise God, and songs that comfort.


    Today we look at Isaiah, chapter 49 verses 13-16:


    “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;

        break forth, O mountains, into singing!

    For the Lord has comforted his people,

        and will have compassion on his suffering ones.


    But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,

        my Lord has forgotten me.”


    Can a woman forget her nursing child,

        or show no compassion for the child of her womb?


    Even these may forget,

        yet I will not forget you.


    See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.”


    We are called to sing for joy, universal joy, along with the heavens, the earth and the mountains! We sing because the Lord has comforted his people in the past, and because of this, we have the assurance that God will have compassion on those who are suffering today.


    Even in our suffering, we can sing with confidence that the Lord hears our prayers, and has compassion and comfort for us.


    Even when we feel abandoned, forgotten or forsaken, God tells us “I will not forget you.” God has a tender affection for us and does not want us to be discouraged. God loves us like a nursing mother loves her child, or loves the child in her womb. Even if a woman could forget her nursing child, or not show compassion for the child in her womb, the Lord will not forget us. 


    We can be assured of this, because our names have been inscribed on the palms of God’s hands. He is ever mindful of us, and will never abandon us.


    Let’s pray: Dear God, you have said that you will never forget us. There are times when we may feel forgotten, scared, and out of control. Life can be challenging during this difficult time in our lives. Thank you for the assurance of your care, your compassion, and your motherly love. You will never forget or abandon us, and for that, we are so grateful.


    Let us rejoice with song in the hope and glory of Your love!


    In Jesus name, may all of God’s children say Amen.

  • Shelter In Faith

    Devotional for Monday, March 23

    by Rev. Harry Vein


    Scripture: James 1:3


    "Your faith will be tested. You know that when this happens, it will produce in you the strength to continue."


    Right now, as much as each day seems the same, each day is also different. Each day seems the same as many of us don't even really know what day it is. How many times has that happened to you in the past few weeks?


    But every day is different as news and events continue to change. Last night, I began to see friends from up in the Dallas area posting that this evening at midnight, they will have in place a Shelter-at-home order. And many are believing that will travel down I-45 in the very near future and that we will be doing the same.


    So I began to think...what if we think of this time as a Shelter-in-faith order? (Please note that I said "in" and not "@"). In the letter of James, he begins by writing into the fact that we will face all kinds of trouble in life. In verse 2, he writes "My brothers and sisters, you will face all kinds of trouble." Those words sound much like the words I spoke into yesterday morning in worship when Jesus said "In this world, you will have troubles".


    James uses this as a chance to challenge people regarding their faith. There was no such thing as a "Shelter-in faith" order given, although there were times that some were imprisoned and their faith was tested.


    As we move forward during this week, think about what your days would look like if you thought of them as a time to "Shelter-in-faith". What will you do with your time? When times begin to feel anxious, how will you move towards faith and away from fear? How will you build up that strength that James was writing about?


    We will do all that we can on this end to help you along the way. If that time comes, I am going to think of these words of David: "He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul." May all of these days be used to continue to "awaken us to God's presence" and transform us more and more into all that God wants us to be.


    Let's pray: Dear God, you have been our shelter time and time again. We have especially found you to be our shelter during those times when life has challenged us the most. May we feel your presence, hear your call, and find ourselves sheltering in your presence throughout these days. 


    In Jesus name, may all of God's children say AMEN!

  • Perfect Peace

    Scripture Reading - Isaiah 26


    Devotional for Saturday, March 21

    by Rev. Harry Vein


    This morning, I made a quick run to church and was amazed how many people were already out running and walking. I probably saw at least 40-50 just driving through our neighborhood.


    As one who loves to get out every morning and get those steps, it was good to see so many during these stressful times taking care of themselves. This is definitely one of those times that we need to be taking care of our body, soul, and mind. All of that brought this thought to mind...what are we doing to firm up our faith?


    There is a verse in Isaiah 26 that speaks into that in ways we need to hear today. In what is known as this Song of Victory, Isaiah 26:3 says "The Lord gives perfect peace to those whose faith is firm."


    Of late, it is as if I hear God reminding me that this is not going to be a sprint. I guess God knows that I am hoping that this is like a 100 yard dash and then life will be back to "normal". But this is seeming more like a marathon. And as we train for it, it is more imperative that our faith is firm as we are going to need the Lord's perfect peace to sustain us through it all.


    That is part of the reason that I am taking time every morning to send out these words to you. And I think you know, doing this each morning has been good for my soul. But don't let it stop here. Let this just be the starting point for your today. Keep that faith workout going so that our faith will be firm and we will have that perfect peace that we will need each and everyday.


    Let's pray: God of the ages, this morning we celebrate the love that you have for us. It is a love that sustains us and strengthens us. From the time that some of us were young children, you have told us that when we are weak, you are strong. Lord God, strengthen our faith each and every day so that we might experience Your peace, Your perfect peace, that will sustain us in the days and weeks that are ahead of us. 


    In Jesus name we pray, and may all of God's children say ... Amen!

  • Praying for Our First Responders

    Scripture Reading - Joshua 1:9


    Devotional for Friday, March 20

    by Rev. Harry Vein


    "I've commanded you to be strong and brave. Don't ever be afraid or discouraged. I am the Lord your God, and I will be there to help you wherever you go."


    Those words seem personal for all of us right now. But today, I'm going to ask you to stretch out the personal side of those words. I want us to stretch them out to cover those who are going to work everyday in hospitals, medical clinics, and all other places where they are coming into contact with those who are sick.


    We have always been good in thinking about and praying for first responders. I just want to make sure that we know that right now, first responders includes some that you may not have considered in the past.


    I've been reading so many stories of families who have a husband or wife working long shifts at hospitals. Some of those families have been put in a situation where they are having to practice social distancing from them, once they come home, to protect others within their family. I read stories from some of my friends on Facebook who are there and I think of these words from Joshua..."I will be there to help you wherever you go."


    So take this in personally, but don't let it just stop there today. Extend these words to those that are out there offering people healing and hope during these days. And pray for them everyday! And if you know someone who is out there and could use some encouragement today, pass this along to them!


    Let's pray...Mighty God, we thank you today for those that are caring for the sick that are around us. Thank you for all of those who are continually putting others before themselves. Give them strength. Cast out fear. And remind them that you are with them wherever they go! May we all keep these words in our hearts and minds during these uncertain times to remind us of what is still certain today...and that is You. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.

  • Loving Your Neighbor

    Scripture Reading - Mark 12:28-31


    Devotional for Thursday, March 19

    by Rev. Harry Vein


    I know these are familiar words. But don't allow the familiarity of them to keep us from hearing what I believe they are saying to us today...at this moment when it comes to "love our neighbor".


    As we have been talking into throughout our Faith community, there are times when loving our neighbor calls us to love them from a distance. Let's be real...we haven't been prepared for such a time as this! But out of our love and concern for each other, we are learning.


    So here is a short lesson and exercise for today's session on Loving Your Neighbour From a Distance.


    Thankfully, we live in a day and age where we can still be connected to each other from a distance. As hard as I sometimes am regarding social media, it has been good seeing so many connect with each other. And some of you have even helped me live into this "time to laugh" as I've read your posts about your "co-workers" (these are posts people are sharing about their children as if they are their co-workers).


    And here is a gift that I have been experiencing that I would love for you to participate in. I've been calling at least 4-5 people each day. There's no plan or methodology in doing so. But as people come to mind and as I'm in a place and time to do so, I've been calling to let people know I'm thinking of them. I know other members of our staff have been doing the same. And just imagine if each of us did that today! How many people would we connect with that would know that they were being thought of and loved? 100? 500? More?


    Don't let this time keep us from loving our neighbor!


    Let's pray...God of us all, we thank you today for all of those persons we have come to know and love. You have brought us together in ways that we never imagined. And even though we are apart, you are reminding us that we are still together. Help us to use this time to reach out to each other. As people come to mind, nudge us to call them, to check on them and let them know we have them in our thoughts and prayers. Let us love even more generously and passionately during this time. And thank you for reminding us of your love during these times too! In Jesus name, Amen!


  • Ecclesiastes 3  "A Time To Laugh"

    Scripture Reading - Ecclesiastes 3:1-7


    Devotional for Wednesday, March 18

    by Rev. Harry Vein


    Surprised? There are many times/seasons that are listed in this passage. And with everything going on, are you surprised that I want to write into a "time to laugh"?


    Have you ever looked at laughter in scripture? It's there and it's in places you might not expect, like Job. That tells me God knows what's good for us and that includes laughter in times such as this. In fact, years ago I used to have a picture of Jesus in my office. It wasn't the one by Warren Sallman that seemed to be placed in every Sunday School room I remember as a child. It was one of what is known as The Laughing Christ.


    It would be so easy for us to look at this as a time to do many other things than laugh. But I believe it would be good for our soul to find ways to laugh from time to time.


    That happened with Susan and I the other day. As we have said we would not sit and watch the news throughout the day, we were looking on one of the movie channels and came across one of our favorites, Patch Adams. As we found ourselves laughing, we also talked about Robin Williams, having learned so much more about his life and struggles since when we first watched that movie.


    We are all different when it comes to humor and what can make us laugh. For me, I'll be sitting down to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail in the very near future. And maybe even some of the first seasons of Saturday Night Live.


    And remember, one of Job's friends said to him, "He will fill your mouth with laughter." (Job 8:21)


    Live into these challenging times embracing all of the times that God gives to us. (And who knows...I might be writing about A Time to Dance before you know it.)


    Let's pray:


    God of Joy, thank you for reminding us that as people have gone through challenging times in the past, they have done so with faith, hope and even laughter. Help us to take care of our souls with all that you have created within us. We thank you for the smiles and laughter that we have already discovered in the past few days. Help us to be more intentional in living into all of the times that you gift to us. In Christ's name we pray, Amen.

  • Psalm 46 "Be Still & Know"

    Scripture Reading: Psalm 46


    Devotional for Tuesday, March 17

    by Rev. Harry Vein


    There are so many good and comforting words found in this Psalm, but I want to take a moment to dwell on verse 10: "Be still and know that I am God."


    I think of the past when it has been such a challenge for people to "be still" with everything we have had going on. But now...that has all changed. Even the most extroverted of you are finding yourself having to be still. And I know that can be a challenge! 


    But I want us to get past the "still" part of this since right now we are living into that whether that has been our desire or not, and realize why we are being still...  "to know that I (God) is God". How does that happen within our stillness? What can we do as we are being still and having plenty of downtime to recognize God's presence and in so doing, come to better understand who God truly is?


    Some of this goes back to some of what I said on Sunday as we try in live into Intentional Hope. But I'll give you some more detailed ideas:


    * Practice the Presence of God - that might sound familiar to some of you as it is a book by Brother Lawerence that was written back in 1691. My copy is barely 100 pages and yet, it is packed full of what I believe the writer of Psalm 46 had in mind. One small piece within the book I hope will stay with you as it does with me: "Above all, make thinking about God your number one habit." Can you think about ways that can happen for you? Can you get into the habit that before you look at your messages or emails or social media or news in the morning that you spend time with the One who is going to be our number One habit? 


    * Read in ways that connect you with the presence of God - OK, Scripture still is primary! That is why I am sending you scripture each day to take in. ButI said I would give you some suggestions on Sunday, so here they are:


    (1) If you have not read The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer yet, now is the time! This one is short too...120 pages. But the pages and knowledge is deep. You have time on your hands, so dig in!


    (2) If you are struggling with being overly anxious right now, order or download a copy of Adam Hamilton's Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times. I can't recommend it enough during these "uncertain times".  


    (3) If you like to read novels, but want something right now that is touching and moving, almost anything by Charles Martin. My favorites of his have been Long Way Gone and When Crickets Cry. And if you read those, you will understand why they are some of my favorites.


    (4) Anything by C. S. Lewis. I always find myself being more aware of God's presence when reading Lewis.


    * And finally, pray. Be open to praying in a way that you may never have prayed before. And it you find it difficult to pray for an extended period of time, offer up what is sometimes called "breath prayers" or "arrow prayers". In fact, I do those so often during the day. And when I do, yes...  I sense God's presence and experience what God is longing for me to experience in those still moments.


    So, while you are still...know! Know like you have never known before! And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, be with you!


    Let's pray:


    God, in the stillness of these days, help me to know you more. And as I know you more, help me to experience your peace, your comfort, and most of all, your presence. Be not only with me, but all of those that I carry in my heart today. May they unexplainably experience your presence in whatever they are doing at this moment and throughout this day. Help me to acknowledge your presence in all that I do and all that I think. In the name of Christ we pray, Amen!

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  • Psalm 121  "My Help Comes From the Lord"

    Scripture Reading: Psalm 121


    Devotional for Monday, March 16

    by Rev. Harry Vein


    I lift up my eyes to the hills - from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1)


    Devotional

    I remember taking vacations back in the day when we had to navigate where we were going with the assistance of either a map that you were unfolding and trying to read while perilously driving down the road or you would pull into a gas station and ask for directions. (I know...I'm really showing my age now!) Today, it is different and so much easier as I simply plug the destination into my phone navigation and I am literally told how to go, which lane to drive in and how long it will take.

    All of this has come to my mind as I am trying to grasp how to navigate life during these days and times. It is definitely a new way to navigate and it is no longer business as usual! And I know my phone navigation system is not going to be of any help. But I did have these words from the 121st Psalm come into my head the other day.

    I think we all know where our help comes from, don't we? We don't know who wrote this Psalm, but there are some things that I think I know about this person. I believe they were at a place in their life that was troubling and maybe even causing them to feel anxious. You see...I think they were feeling some of what some of us are feeling today.

    That is why I want you to be reminded of the "help" that comes from the Lord. That help may not come with all of the instructions lined out as you and I might like, but that help can come in the form of a nudge, a presence, or a "still, small voice" that is telling us how to take care of life right now. As I have been seeking that help to navigate life and in leading a faith community at this time, I am thankful for all the ways God has been providing that help. I have found it in all of the ways that God has asked us to care for one another and protect each other. I have found it in doing worship in a way that we have never had to worship before. And I found it this morning in meeting with some of our ministry staff as we are coming up with ways to make that experience even more personal for you and your loved ones at home.

    Join me in finding help from where it really comes from...not only during these challenging times, but also in the years still to come!


    Let us pray:

    O God, who is truly our help at all times and in all places, we praise you and thank you for being there for us and with us! Continue to be our help in these uncertain times as we try to make our way through it all. Remind us of your presence that is watching over us. And may we be mindful that you are here with us...now and forevermore. We pray all of this is Jesus' name, Amen.