Lent 2017

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Compassion in Times of Trial

Compassion in Times of Trial

Be Compassionate just as your father is compassionate. Luke 6:36

In his opening sermon for Lent, Bill commented that compassion has often been defined by the Celtic mystics as where the divine and the human touch – the thin places. In times of trial, thin places have the capability to transform a trial into a time of spiritual growth and renewal. A thin place can touch and heal.

What is the link – right in the middle – between human touch and the divine? This Holy Week, I believe the answer is Jesus himself. We have read through the gospel readings of the compassion of Christ for all of mankind and we have witnessed him healing, serving, teaching, comforting, and loving. We have been an eye witness to Jesus’ compassion.

As it is used in the Bible, compassion means to be moved inwardly, to yearn with tender mercy, affection, pity and empathy. It is sharing the feelings of others and possessing a desire to help them in their time of need. And we watch Jesus finalize his week with his deepest feelings saying things like “Not my will but thy will,” and “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Even at the point of Jesus going to his own death, he is thinking of others. He is wanting to please his Father, ignoring his own persecution. And as his death nears he asks God to forgive his murderers. His time of trial becomes this “thin place” between Christ and his Father.

Compassion always comes to us at this thin place – possibly quite often missed by the rapid speed at which we live today. When we are hurting, it is in the unpretentious, humble presence of others where we find solace and comfort. We become part of the uncertainty together, we give up control. We enter the darkness together. And when we do, new strength is born; hope is revived; we discover new directions. God-with-us has committed to live in solidarity with us – our helper, defender, shepherd, our love.

But we must slow down to experience it, and even then, we wonder at the mystery of this divine moment in our lives. Sometimes it comes in the hours before dawn when the world is quiet.

As I cared for my dying daughter, I dreamed of someone instructing me by saying, “Marcia, you can do this.” I would respond, “I don’t think I can do this.” But the voice kept repeating, “You must and you can.” The voice stopped, but I was left with voices singing over and over, “Jesus doeth all things well.” I woke to the music going round in my head and went directly to my hymnal and looked up the phrase. It is from the song entitled All The Way My Savior Leads Me written in 1875 by Frances J. Crosby. We sing it in our church today.

I told my sister about the dream with the music and she quietly remarked, “That was our dad’s favorite hymn.”

All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

The words stunned me.

Could the compassion of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, touch my humanness that night in a way that gave me courage, strength, and a fresh understanding of His compassion? When others were certainly the hands and feet of Jesus during my time of trial, I still savor that dream as a “thin place” of connection and compassion with Jesus at a time when I needed it most. He does “doeth all things well.”

Consider the notion that perhaps the purpose of a thin place is to train us to make the other places in our lives thinner. Moreover, when we realize that the Spirit of God dwells within us, we will come to believe that we are called to be thin places for others, as God makes his presence known through us. His compassion becomes our compassion. Our compassion becomes someone else’s compassion. And our lives are made richer for it.

In his wonderful Lenten devotional Show Me The Way, Henri Nouwen writes, “As long as we live on this earth, our lives as Christians must be marked by compassion. But we must realize that the compassionate life is not our final goal. In fact, we can only live the compassionate life to the fullest when we know that it points beyond itself. We know that he who emptied and humbled himself has been raised high and has been given a name above all other names, and we know that he left us to prepare a place for us where suffering will be overcome and compassion no longer necessary. There is a new heaven and a new earth for which we hope with patient expectation. This is the vision presented in Revelation 21:1-4.

‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now and there was no longer any sea I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, “You see this city? Here God lives among men, He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.’

This is the vision that guides us. This vision makes us share one another’s burdens, carry our crosses together, and unite for a better world. This vision takes the despair out of death and the morbidity out of suffering, and opens new horizons. This vision is indeed of a future world. But it is no utopia. The future has already begun and is revealed each time strangers are welcomed, the naked are clothed, the sick and prisoners are visited, and oppression is overcome. “

Prayer

Compassionate Jesus,

As we walk this final week with you, show us your compassion at a new level of understanding. Fill us by your power with a longing to welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, care for my neighbor, and love my family.

Help me to use your time of trial as an example for when my own time of trial comes. Teach me to say with open hands, “Not my will, but thine.”  Teach me to sing with resurrection confidence, “Jesus doeth all things well.”

Amen

Marcia Gaddis
Luke 6:36
March 25, 2018

  • Communion

I Will Be Their God

I Will Be Their God

Devotion:  Jeremiah 31:31-34

“…I will make a new covenant…and [will] write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.”

This week set aside time to ponder this Scripture from the prophet Jeremiah. God has chosen you.  What does that mean to you? Have you chosen Him? How is God’s adoption reflected in your daily life?

Covenant means “coming together.” It is a relationship. It takes at least two: you and God. God wants to come together with us. Remember and claim, “for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16   In Jesus, God is born. He is God-with-us. God’s sole desire is for a personal, intimate relationship with each of us. It is born out of love and compassion. Yet something is required of us in return.  It is our choice to accept His invitation.

Charles Spurgeon wrote: “’I will be their God,’ is the masterpiece of all the promises. The Great I AM is all we ever need.  He is all we could ever hope for. It is joy unspeakable.

In Luke 9:35 God speaks to the Disciples, saying “This is My Beloved Son, whom I have chosen, hear Him.”  Do we hear Him when He tells us to “Tarry here and wait with Me?” Are we listening? Are we waiting with expectancy? When He says “Come,” is our response to follow? When we come to His Communion Table, are we willing to be, as Oswald Chambers says, “broken bread and poured out wine” for others? Each Sunday when we baptize a baby, we, as a congregation and individually, promise to “so order our lives after the example of Christ.”  What does that truly look like?

Christ went to a mountaintop (removed himself from the crowd) to pray. Do you?

Christ humbled Himself, do you?

Christ was drawn to the poor and lost, are you?

Christ taught us not to judge lest we be judged, do we?

Christ never forces. He lets us choose. In John 21, Jesus says, “if you love Me….feed My sheep.”  When you read your Bible, stop at that powerful two-letter word ‘if’ … it means you can make a choice.  You can decide.  As you come on Great Day of Service to ‘feed His lambs,’ consider making it more than a one-day commitment. God might be speaking to you to do more. Open your heart.  Hear Him.

We each have our ‘self’ ~ we each have 24-hours. We each can choose how we spend those hours ~ often the greatest gift we can give is our ‘self.’ No money required. One of the most important spiritual disciplines is that of listening. Stop. Listen. Put others first. Pray.

Come into the silence of one of our two prayer rooms. Volunteer to pray for one hour a week.  AW Tozer refers to silence as “the unutterable beatitude.”  Oswald Chambers says that through prayer we come to know God Himself.  Prayer is the greater work. We are told to pray without ceasing.  You have a choice; will you choose to “pray ye therefore?”  Hear Him, He calls you to pray.

We each have our own journey. We each have our own unique, personal relationship (covenant) with God.  He has called each of you His own.  He has named you. You are His.  Is He yours?

 

Prayer:  Dear Abba, Father, our Beloved, thank you. Thank you for being our God and inviting us to be your people. May we yield to you each day. May your light shine through us to others. When others see us, may they truly see You. We know that we might be the only ‘gospel’ someone might read. Lord, may we trust and obey. Come into our heart ~ abide with and in us. Melt us, mold us, use us each day to the glory of your Kingdom.  In humble gratitude.  Amen.

Lynn Banks
Jeremiah 31:31-34
March 18

  • Leslie Hugging

Forgiven and Forgiving

Forgiven and Forgiving

God’s love for us is eternal, having no bounds and no limits. The writer of Lamentations captures this well, telling us “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is [God’s] faithfulness.” It is from this steadfast love and mercy that God’s forgiveness overflows.

Evident in God’s nature is the readiness and willingness to forgive. God’s journey with humanity has revealed this truth as seen in Israel’s story. Repeatedly, the children of Israel sinned against God; repeatedly they rebelled and chose to go their own way. And though angered, which was just for brief moments, repeatedly God would relent, forgive them and care for them as a mother would tenderly care for a child.

God’s compassion and forgiving nature is the basis for many of the Psalms and other books of the Bible. Psalm103, which is ascribed to King David, is one such psalm. David had sinned, committed adultery and executed the plan for the murder of Uriah, so he could cover up his adulterous act. As one who needed and experienced God’s forgiveness, he penned the words “as far as the east is from the west, so far has [God] removed our transgressions from us.” David knew firsthand what it is to be forgiven by God.

The expansiveness of God’s forgiveness and compassion is wonderfully captured in the words of the prophet Micah, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sins and forgives transgressions. You do not stay angry forever, but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; You will cast our sins into the depths of the sea” (7:18-19).

What love! What forgiveness! So much so that we who are recipients should not be able to contain it, we should not hide it, but let it flow from us and extend it to those around us. This loving forgiveness that we have received should now be shown to others.

But how can we, you may ask.

Bill shared two of the ways we can in his sermon yesterday:

We can by looking up. Look up to God who readily forgives. When we have sinned, we should look up and ask for forgiveness. And God who knows our weak nature will readily forgive us of all our sins.

We can by letting go. Let go of the hurt and pain that we have held on to so tightly. If held tightly, the wrongs that have been done to us will be a stumbling block that prevents us from forgiving others. We all have done wrong to those around us at some point or another. We must take on the discipline of forgiving others, knowing that God has forgiven us.

As we go through this Lenten season, let us live in the reality that we have been forgiven by God, and we should live out our response by forgiving others.

Carolyn Stephens
Lenten Devotion 2018
Fourth Sunday in Lent

  • Lent 2018: Compassion

The Ten Commandments

 The Ten Commandments

Rules, rules, rules.  Does anyone obey all the “rules” anymore?

     Do the “rules” apply to me or just to other people?

     It’s okay for me to drive and text because I am a good driver, but that person holding up the
traffic because of their technology, well that’s another matter.

     What about my child’s “behavior” vs. another child’s?  Those other children really need
discipline, but my child is just being “cute”.

     It’s not my fault.  Somebody else caused me to break that rule.  Don’t blame me.

Years ago I was having a conversation with a man who was proclaiming the 10 Commandments as the centerpiece of his Christian faith.  When I asked why he picked guidelines from the Old Testament and not the New Testament, he asked me what in the New Testament I would pick.  I quickly responded:  “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  I will never forget his response: “Susan, the 10 Commandments are a lot easier to follow.”

To this day, I can’t think of the 10 Commandments without remembering my conversation with this man.  He was being humorous and truthful at the same time.

When we study the first five books of the Old Testament, or the Torah, we are confronted with lots of rules and instructions for living.  Just continuing to read in Exodus, we find even more ordinances for living.  Sometimes there can be contradictory rules in the same chapter.

Many of us as children probably memorized the 10 Commandments and remember most of them to this day.  Those commandments were picked from among all the words of instruction to give us a template for the Law.  If we were to look more closely at each of those ten, we would find that most people interpret them through their own lens.  We each have our own ideas about keeping the Sabbath, coveting, stealing, murdering, adultery, lying, and all the others. We don’t follow them to the letter, nor do most of us think we should.  And we are not bad or faithless people.

Jesus found himself confronted by people asking questions about the rules, too.

One example is of the rich young ruler.  “I have done everything right.  Am I going to get to heaven?”  Jesus’ reply shows the heart and soul of His message: “Yes, you got the rules, but you’ve missed the meaning.”

So, what do people who want to be faithful and good do?  Can we just pick and choose whatever works for us?  How do we make sense of the message of Jesus and all of the instructions in the Old Testament?

When we juxtapose the New Testament passages such as:
~ Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
~ There is neither slave nor free, male nor female; all are One in Christ Jesus
~ If anyone says they love God and hate their brother or sister, they are lying

With the 10 Commandments and all of the other Old Testament rules, we are met with demands for living.  We may be able to pick around the rules themselves, but we, as Christians, can’t get away from the meaning within them.  Nothing is easy in these examples for sure, but they hold deep within them the roots of the message that God wanted us to get, and Jesus expanded.
The oldest prayer in the Judeo-Christian tradition is the Shema. The opening words are these:

                                    Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE.
The “ONE” tells us about God.  It is about God being One with all the joys and sorrows of living; One with the gamut of all fears and hopes; One with all of the positive and negative experiences of life.  Just as God doesn’t let the rain and sun fall only on the just, but the unjust also, receive God’s bounty.  We are called to be One in God’s love. That is the essence of real compassion.  God calls us out of bondage, even obedience, into relationship.  We can get the rules, but still fail to reach out to our brothers and sisters. My faith tells me that the intent and value of the Ten Commandments is to seek to know God and to love others. To take the rules, the “10” literally, without understanding the context and culture in which they were written, or to say we believe them just as they are, but adjust their meaning to our own comfort levels or interpretations is to miss the meaning.

Susan Anne Bennett
The Week of March 4

  • Lent 2018: Compassion

Compassion Freely Given: What Are You Doing For Others?

Open Your Eyes: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are two lakes in Israel. One is the Sea of Galilee and the other is the Dead Sea. They are both fed by the Jordan River.  Around the Sea of Galilee is where much of Jesus’ ministry was centered.  Life around those villages was and still is based on fishing.  The Sea of Galilee is alive.

At the bottom of the Jordan River lies the Dead Sea.  It is the exact opposite of the Sea of Galilee.  The only human inhabitants that chose to live in that area during the times of Jesus were the Essenes.  They had fled the corruption of Jerusalem and picked the most isolated place to live out their lives in study and prayer.  The lived in the many caves around the Dead Sea.  It’s an area void of life.

There is one main difference between these two lakes.  The Sea of Galilee feeds the Jordan River with fresh water.  Water that gives life.   The Dead Sea is a taker.  It just receives without releasing. This same principle applies to our lives.   Compassion is a gift from God provided to us without reservation.  There is a catch; however, if we keep this gift we will become like the Dead Sea.  This gift is to be shared.

Call to Action:  I started this week’s Devotion with a “God Moment” and God has compelled me to finish with one.  I was struggling with the way the Devotion was ending and that is where God came to my rescue.  Today, in church, the Covenant Choir sung a beautiful anthem, The Children of the World, by Dr. Terre Johnson.  Read the words from this anthem and think about Dr. King’s question, “What are you doing for others”.

If somewhere a child is hungry or isn’t tucked in, safe and warm; if somewhere a baby’s crying, longing for a parent’s arms; that is where the love of Jesus must be shared by you and me, for if we have plenty, love and safety, we must share with the least of these.

In a world so rich with blessings, where there is plenty to be shared; from our lives of such abundance, we can offer love and care. For we know the love of Jesus can be shared with our own hands, we can share our blessings, help our neighbor, be the hands of Christ to them.

The children of the world are our children, made by God, just like you and me. The children of the world must be fed and held and loved, for if one of them is hungry, so are we.

Prayer:  Father, we ask that you open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to our neighbor.   In Jesus’ name we pray.

Romans 4:13-25
Saturday March 3, 2018
Ed Hamlin

  • Lent 2018: Compassion

Compassion Freely Given: You Did It To Me

Open Your Eyes: You-did-it-to-me.

People often asked Mother Teresa why she loved the poor so much and how she could honor them with dignity despite their difficult situations. Her response was simple, “You-did-it-to-me.”   She was alluding to Matthew 25 where Jesus teaches about the final judgment.  In that text, Jesus explains that we will be judge by our compassion.  By “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” But in the passage, the surprised listeners ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink?” Jesus replies, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

For years I found excuse after excuse on why I could not go with my friends on a Mission trip to Honduras.   That all changed 7 years ago.  I am thankful God took away my excuses.

I went to Honduras thinking I was going to be in service.  What I soon learned that I was the one being served.  For three and a half days, Monday-Thursday morning, I worked side by side mixing concrete, pouring floors, and building latrines with two young ladies and three men from a remote village our church was supporting.  It was hard but good work.   My Spanish was very weak despite more than 5 years of schooling and my new friends spoke even less English.  But before you knew it we started to speak another language, the language of Love.  By the end of our four days together we knew each other’s children’s names, their ages, spouse’s names, each other dreams, and so much more.

When Thursday afternoon came, we had a party. The kids in the village love it, but not so much for me and my new friends.  We knew it would soon be the time to say good bye.  As the party came to a close and our leader was herding us back on the bus, my new friends and I hugged each other and cried.  I am so thankful that God placed them in my life.

During that trip I began to understood why my friends told me I needed to do this.  You do too.  This is Matthew 25.  God knows that we need this.  Our hearts need it.  Please don’t make the same mistake I did and try to wait for the perfect time because it will never come.  I am certain that if I would have participated in this kind of service sooner I would have been a better parent and a more faithful servant. We are wired for this.

Call to Action:  Sign up for a mission trip.  Support PRUMC’s Prison Ministry.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for PRUMC.  Our church provides us so many ways to strengthen our faith through worship, prayer, study, and service.  Let our light shine.  In Jesus’ name we pray.

Romans 4:13-25
Friday March 2, 2018
Ed Hamlin

  • Lent 2018: Compassion

Compassion Freely Given: Service is the Second Grace

Open Your Eyes: Service is the Second Grace

The Bible teaches us “freely you have received, freely give.”  Abraham understood that he did not deserve the promise nor had he done anything to earn it.  It was simply being credited to him because he trusted God.   That trust in God shows up in Abraham as confidence because he knows he will be taken care of.  We see this confidence in the way Abraham treats the three strangers that approached his tent at Mamre.  He invited them in for a meal.  He showed the strangers hospitality.  That is humble confidence.

When we willingly adopt a servant’s posture and truly bear the burdens of our neighbor, that is when we all become equals.  Superiority vanishes as does our selfish behavior.  God built this into our being.  Darwin believed that sympathy was our strongest instinct.

While I was in Houston serving the Jubilee Prison Ministry, I met a young lady who had recently been released.  While incarcerated she had been given the opportunity to participate in a Jubilee weekend.  It impacted her in such a profound way she chose after being released to drive from El Paso to Houston and support the team I was on.  She served by helping in the food preparation and praying for us all weekend.  She, like Abraham, understood what real hospitality meant.

Call to Action:  The next time you eat at a fast food restaurant, buy the stranger in your midst their meal and invite them to eat with you.  Show them you care as you would a brother or sister because they are.

Prayer:  In my job I travel a lot and occasionally I will find this prayer in my hotel room

To Our Guests

In Ancient times there was a prayer for “the stranger within our gates.”  Because this hotel is a human institution to serve people, and not solely a money-making organization, we hope that you will be granted peace and rest while you are under our roof.  May this room and hotel be your “second home.” May those you love be near you in thoughts and dreams.  Even though we may not get to know you, we hope that you will be comfortable and happy as if you were in your own home.  May the business that brought you our way prosper.  May every call you make and every message you receive add to your joy.  When you leave, may your journey be safe.  We are all travelers.  From “birth till death” we travel between the eternities.  May these days be pleasant for you, profitable for society, helpful for those you meet, and a joy to those who know and love you best.

Romans 4:13-25
Thursday March 1, 2018
Ed Hamlin

  • Lent 2018: Compassion

Compassion Freely Given: Play the Cards You’ve Been Dealt

Open Your Eyes: Play the cards you’ve been dealt

Life is not about getting what we deserve if it were, we would all be in a heap of trouble.  When my girls were much younger, Missy and I would often hear these words, “That’s not fair”.   That would immediately send me on a tirade describing what I thought was not fair like a baby born in Africa with HIV and orphaned because both of his or her parents had succumbed to that terrible disease.

I recently had the opportunity to see another version of its not fair.  I spent a weekend serving a prison ministry in Houston, Texas called Jubilee.  What I learned in those three days was eye opening.  I walked out of there knowing there was very little difference between my “brothers in white” (the inmates) and me.  We had all made mistakes along the way.  Lucky for me most of my “mistakes” got minimized because of my particular situation, the color of my skin, or some other reason that was largely out of my control.  Not so for most of my “brothers in white”.   Their chance of living the American Dream was doomed from the beginning.  Most grew up below the poverty line in a single parent home where addiction was common place.  Much to my surprise going in I soon discovered that my “brothers in white” were smart, articulate, courteous, kind, and many with a faith in God that I long to have.

Is it fair?  I am more certain now than ever before that life is not fair.  The real question for all of us is what are we going to do with the cards we been dealt?   I witnessed my “brothers in white” loving each other and me in ways that I have seldom seen before.  Many lead Bible Study with their fellow inmates.  I think they know the cards in their hand are hardly playable, but play they must.  Many are making a difference.

I can imagine that Abraham and Sarah felt that that life was not fair.  In that culture the more son’s one had, the “richer” they were considered.  Their heir was a favorite slave.  But that did not deter Abraham because he knew our God was not normal.  He had hope.  Hope and faith are very similar. Hope is the desire and expectation that something is going to happen. Faith is the confidence that it will happen.   Abraham focused on what he had and not what he didn’t have.

Call to Action:  Prayerfully consider this quote from Aristotle as you try and discern where your gifts and talents can be best utilized for God’s Glory, “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.” Sign up today for the Great Day of Service.

Prayer:  Father, help us to become the person you had in mind, nothing more nothing less.  Forgive us when we measure ourselves against milestones that don’t matter.  In Jesus name we pray.

Romans 4:13-25
Wednesday February 28, 2018
Ed Hamlin

  • Lent 2018: Compassion

Compassion Freely Given: He’s Got This

Open Your Eyes: He’s got this

Trusting in God, especially when you can’t see the big picture is really hard.  It was hard for Abraham and Sarah.  They spent 25 years hoping and waiting for the time they would receive the promise of a son.  More often than not we find ourselves looking at our own circumstances in a logical manner as Abraham and Sarah did.  At 75 and 65 years old they were certain their opportunity to have a child was as good as dead.  Despite what logic or his friends said, Abraham still believed in the Author of Hope.  He knew that his God could bring life out of death.

Abraham’s trust was not without challenges.  Our special couple did what many of us do when they didn’t see the results they are looking for, they decided to take control.  I can hardly blame them.  They had waited for 10 years for the promised son.  I feel certain they began to rationalize what God was saying and decided that God really meant for them to use their mind to figure this thing out.  When we try to make God fit nicely into a little box that we can manage that is generally when we get into trouble.  That is what happened with Abraham and Sarah and thus Ishmael. God’s ways are not our ways and sometimes they just don’t make good sense to us folks with nearsightedness.

Our lives are like a puzzle.  The only problem for us is we are missing some key pieces and that is OK.  God gives us just what we need, when we need it.  Do you like it when people micromanage you?  Let’s try and stop micromanaging God.  He’s got this. He knows the plans he has for our lives.

Call to Action:

Step back and look at pieces to the puzzle that have come together to form the person you are today.  Have you ever considered you are the person you are today as result of the miles in your rear view mirror?  Stop beating yourself up for the wrong turns along the way.  The one who created the universe loves you beyond all comprehension.  Never forget God loves us anyway.

Prayer:

Father, thank you for wrong turns and bumps in the road.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Romans 4:13-25
Tuesday February 27, 2018
Ed Hamlin

  • Lent 2018: Compassion

Compassion Freely Given: Compassionate God

Compassion Freely Given
Open Your Eyes:
Compassionate God

If you are like me sometimes faith doesn’t make sense.  One thing I learned over and over again in Disciple 1 was God keeps his promises.  Sometimes promises show up as unanswered prayers and in time frames not of our choosing.  But one thing for sure, God is always faithful.

In most of the other world religions the emphasis is on what the people do for God.  In our Lectionary text, Romans 4:13-25, Paul uses the example of Abraham and Sarah to show us God’s sequence and perspective.  Paul explains that God will not negate our human responsibility, but we need to remember that always comes second to what God wants for us.   God always acts first in Grace.   God credits his spiritual Grace into our account because of Jesus’ righteousness.   Our slate is clean; we are counted as righteous.

Lent is our opportunity to experience God’s compassionate care for us and to share our love for God by loving our neighbor.  Before we can share, we must first be willing to receive.

Call to Action:

One way we grow in our faith is through study.  Get a spiral notebook and on the outside write boldly, Thanksgiving Journal.  Each day encourage everyone in your household to write at least one thing that has happened that they are thankful for.  Place the journal on your kitchen table.   While everyone is getting ready for the Thanksgiving feast, review all the many blessings you have received.  You will be amazed at how gracious our God really is. Think of your journal as your Thanksgiving perspective.  Hopefully, this exercise will open your eyes to the source of your many blessing.

Prayer:

Father, thank you for the subtle reminders of who and whose we are.  Forgive us when we fail to give credit or when we take credit for your many blessings.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Romans 4:13-25
Monday, February 26, 2018
Ed Hamlin

  • Lent 2018: Compassion

Compassion Freely Given: Faith

Compassion Freely Given
Open Your Eyes: Faith

As I was preparing what to write for this week’s Devotion, I got an email from a dear friend who suggested that if I didn’t get Pope Frances’ daily tweets, I should.  This morning he tweeted, “A faith that does not trouble us is a troubled faith. A faith that does not make us grow is a faith that needs to grow.”  Now my friend had no idea that I was tasked with writing this week’s devotion much less my topic.  Isn’t our God amazing?  Here I am worrying (yea of little faith) about what to say and like mana from heaven it drops in my lap.  I just love these God Moments.

This week our text requires us to think about the word faith.  Some folks in my opinion don’t get it right when studying this week’s text.  They think it was Abraham’s faith that gave him the promise.  God gave him the promise.  Abraham’s faith served as the necessary link to God.

All of us want to have a strong link to God.  We want a link that will weather all the storms we will face.  The link we have is made available to us through our faith in Jesus Christ.  If we choose, we can make that link even stronger.  We can pray, study, and practice.  Like an athlete training to get stronger, we too must exercise our faith.

Call to Action: While driving, turn off the radio and your phone.  Use this new found quiet time to pray.  Find a small group at PRUMC to study God’s word.  And finally, think about James 1:2-3, “My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy.  After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

Prayer:  Father, thank you for “God Moments”.  Allow us to embrace life challenges and to see them as an opportunity to grow closer to you.   Encourage us to learn to appreciate our humanness and to grow stronger through our weakness.  We offer this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, the link that will not fail.

Romans 4:13-25
Sunday February 25, 2018
Ed Hamlin

  • Lent 2018: Compassion

Compassion: Empowering Love

“And a voice came from heaven: You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).

There is no feeling comparable to knowing that we are loved. If we can think back to when we were children and what it felt like when our parents told us they love us, or said or do something that expressed their love for us, we will remember the pride and affirmation we felt in those times. Or even as adults when others express and show their love for us; it does something to our hearts and minds that becomes like a fuel to us and makes us more fully aware of our self-worth and abilities.

Jesus went to the Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist. When he came out of the water, God affirmed the Divine’s love for him, telling him that he is loved, and how please the Divine One is with him. In the wilderness, although the Tempter tested Jesus, the presence of the Holy Spirit with him must have been a present reminder that God loved him, and that God was with him. I believe that empowered him even in the midst of being tested. Afterwards Jesus went out to do ministry in the power of the Spirit.

I wonder often how many people need to know that they are loved? How many need to hear the words and witness the actions of love shared with them repeatedly? What would our homes, communities, cities, and even the world be when compassion is shown? I think we would see a better world, a more compassion and just world.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. Throughout the season of Lent as we focus on compassion, let us express it both in words and actions.

The First Week of Lent
February 18-24
Carolyn Stephens