Devotional

5/25/20                                             Devotional                                    John 15:12-13

 

 

On this Memorial Day, let us reflect upon the words of Jesus.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

 

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance.  Memorial Day remembers and honors those Americans who have died in our nation’s wars and made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country.  Today we honor the fallen heroes, America’s armed service members, who never came back.  

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and was first observed on May 30, 1868.  Flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  The day was originally called Decoration Day.   

I quote a section of that original order:  “The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, hamlet and churchyard in the land.”   After WWI, the holiday changed from honoring those who died fighting in the Civil War, to honoring Americans who died fighting in all wars.     

In light of this, we ask: what is it that makes life worth living?   What is it that brings meaning and joy and purpose in life?  Is it achieving notoriety, is it wealth, is it power?  Many would answer in the affirmative, “grab as much as you can before you die.”  We know that is the world’s way, but it is not the way of God.  We have the freedom to choose to sacrifice for someone or something.   God doesn’t force you or me to give our life away in helping other people or in serving our country.   

Scripture, the Christian faith, is clear, the ultimate answer to the question about the meaning and purpose of life is to love God and to love others.  To love God with your heart, soul, strength and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.  A worthwhile life, a Christ-like life is one which gives, shares, serves, and sacrifices.  And sometimes, the ultimate sacrifice is called for.  This is what we especially remember on Memorial Day.  

The Gospel of John 15 says: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”   We have the paramount example of a sacrificial life in Jesus.  This is the life God calls us to emulate.  We’re talking about a giving life-style, a sacrificial life-style.  Why?   For Christians the answer is because God sacrificed His Son for us, for the world and because God in Christ offers new life today and forever. 

1864, the first military ls took place at Arlington National Cemetery, one month prior to its establishment as a national cemetery. The burials took place in the

Are you investing your life in something that’s going to outlast it, the kingdom of God, the will of God, the purposes of God?    

Jesus says: “My command is this, love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Amen!  

Blessings to you, on this Memorial Day,

 

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 
 
 

5/22/20                                                  Devotional

 

Let us consider this teaching of Jesus:

 

You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting

 a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in

the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see

your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16.

 

Light is life.  Light generates life.  The purpose of light is to illuminate.  Light is fundamental to creation.  Creation would not survive without light.  In the book of Genesis God said: “Let there be light and there was light.  God saw that the light was good.  God called the light Day and the darkness Night.”  Light was the first thing that God created.  There was evening and morning, the first day.

Further, the Bible declares that Jesus, the Son of God, is the Light of the World; whoever follows Jesus will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.  God sent Jesus to bring humanity out of the darkness of sin and into the light of God.  

But the word of God doesn’t stop here as we might expect.  It goes on to make an astounding declaration – Jesus says his followers are the light of the world.  Jesus says that you are the light of the world.   Now that is humbling.  We are to glow brilliantly, to burn brightly, to blaze intensely.  Jesus asserts that through our words and actions, filled with the indwelling Spirit of Christ, we reflect the light of His glory to the world.  As lights, we are to witness to the one true Light in our daily lives.  We are not the source of the light; we are reflectors of the Light of Christ.  Jesus’ light shines in and through us so He can be seen.  

A Chinese proverb says: “It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.” In the face of adversity and disappointment, it is more productive to do some good, however small, than to complain about the darkness.  But I know too well, because I’ve been there, that it’s much easier to curse the darkness.

How do we reflect the light of Christ?  We radiate light when we inspire courage in those who are paralyzed by fear, when we help others discover a solution to their problems, or when our witness inspires others to place their trust and commitment in God.  We radiate light when we light the path of others, that is, when we are a guide or mentor to someone.  We are a light when we make the time and take the time to spend with someone who is discouraged and needs the power of light for their heart. 

We radiate light when our words and actions inspire hope in others, when they begin to believe that possibilities exist, that there is a pathway out, that the future is open, and that they are not alone.  We radiate light when we truly love others in Christ without thought of recognition or acknowledgment.   Are you hiding Christ’s light or revealing it?    God’s eternal light shines in you.  The highest calling any of us can have in life is making the world a little brighter because of the way we live and move and have our being.  And what an honor, what a privilege, to be used by God to bring the light of Christ to someone. 

I close with these words from the late artist Thomas Kinkade: “I believe we all have a greater purpose to our lives than merely existing day to day.  Each of us in our own unique way is called to let our light shine.” “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God.”  

God’s grace be with you,

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

 

 

 

May 20, 2020                                       Devotional                                       

 

Let us contemplate the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. 

 

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.”  Matt 5:13.

 

In this metaphor Jesus says something extraordinary to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth.”  Jesus’ disciples knew about salt, but identifying them as salt, must have sounded peculiar.  But Jesus saw something in these disciples which they did not see in themselves. Jesus further knew God’s plan for them which they did not know.  And isn’t that true for us, for you, as well?  We often don’t see ourselves the way others see us.  And we don’t always see ourselves the way God sees us or know the plans God has for us?  

What does Jesus mean in these words?  First, salt is valuable.   Roman soldiers carried salt with them instead of gold when they traveled long distances through arid lands.   It was a prized commodity for trade.   Jesus was affirming the inherent value of his followers.  He was pointing out their worth.  Do you hear Jesus affirming your value, your worth, when he refers to you as the salt of the earth?

Second, salt is a preservative.  It was used to keep food from spoiling.  Sailors in Jesus’ day packed food in salt to preserve it on voyages.  What is God calling you to preserve?  What comes to your mind?  I believe we are to preserve the gospel, the good news of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ and pass it on to the next generation.  We are to preserve biblical morality like the Ten Commandments.  We are to preserve the family and marriage.  We are to preserve biblical values like honesty, kindness, sacrifice, forgiveness, respect and goodness.  We are to preserve biblical precepts like loving others and justice.  We are to preserve the church, the body of Christ, and its worship, fellowship, teaching, and mission in the community and world.   What is God calling you to preserve?

Third, salt is for seasoning; it lends flavor to things.  Food without salt is insipid.  Now salt alone isn’t very tasty.  Most people don’t enjoy snacking on salt.   Salt is a catalyst; salt makes things happen.  Salt brings out flavor and adds taste. The late Christian author William Barclay writes: “Christianity is to life what salt is to food.  Christianity lends flavor to life.”   Perhaps we can see and bring humor to situations.  Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted like undertakers.”   We lend flavor by expressing a positive attitude rather than a pessimistic one.  We bring flavor by showing gratitude and appreciation rather than complaining and grumbling.   We bring flavor by encouraging someone rather than criticizing them.  We bring flavor by searching for solutions rather than blame.  How can you bring flavor in your life?

The Bible says: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”    If we make no effort as Jesus’ followers to positively touch people around us, we are like Jesus said, “Salt which has lost its saltiness.”  You are the salt of the earth. 

 

Christ’s love and peace be with you,

Rev. Alan W. Deuel    

 

 

5/18/20                                                          Devotional

 

Let us ponder the word of God from both the Old and New Testaments. 

 

“For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.” Ps. 62:5

“Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.” Ps.146:5

“Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what is seen?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Ro.8:24-25.

 

What do you hope for?  How important is hope in your life?  We humans are three dimensional beings; we live in the past, the present and the future.   We find at different periods of our lives that we might spend more time in one dimension than in the others.  Sometimes our energy is backward looking in remembering and at other times we focus our energy in the future.  All three are necessary in the human experience. 

We unquestionably need the dimension of hope.  Hope is essential.  The opposite of hope is hopelessness, despair.  We know that hopelessness brings on depression.  We cannot live in the darkness of despair for long.  God created us with the capacity to hope in the future.  God desires that we be hopeful persons.  

What is hope?  It is a mode of anticipating the future.   It may be a general or particular expectation of the future.  We of course have hopes that the current situation with the Corona Virus will be safely resolved soon so we can all get back to leading a “normal” life. 

As believers we look to the future from the perspective of our Christian hope.  The Bible often speaks of our hope in God.  God’s covenant with Israel and God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ is the basis for our hope.   In Psalm 62 David has composed a song of trust in God alone.  The psalm declares that God is our rock and salvation and that our hope is in God.  In psalm 146 the psalmist warns us not to place our trust in mortals because human lives are finite.  We are instead to put our trust in God who is sovereign and whose reign is forever.   The Apostle Paul reminds us that hope is not visible.  Nevertheless, though hope is unseen, it is real and we are counseled to be patient in our hope for the future. 

What is our Christian hope?  Biblical hope is three-fold.  First, it refers to God’s activity in our lives in the present.  It refers to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives today.  It is speaking about God’s activity in accomplishing His purpose in our lives.  God is sovereign, active, intentional and merciful.  Jesus says: “I am with you always to the end of the age.”  How has God been active in your life?

Second, it is the hope of eternal life.  The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  God loves us as unique persons.  It refers to our hope as individuals. It is the hope of personal salvation.   It is the promise that we shall live with God forever.  It is the promise of resurrection.  Jesus says: “Because I live you shall live also” and “I will prepare a place for you and I will come back and take you to myself so that you will be where I am.”  It is the promise that we shall live with Christ and the communion of saints in glory or heaven.   

Third, it is the hope of the Kingdom of God. God also loves the world.  It is a cosmic or universal hope.  It is the hope of a new world or new creation.  It is the hope of world salvation.  God’s plan is not only to save the individual person.  God’s plan is to save the world.  It is the perfection of all creation in the reign of God.  This is pictured beautifully in Revelation 21:  “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, see the home of God is among mortals.  He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

May the hope of Christ fill your hearts,

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

 

5/15/20                                                      Devotional

 

In this our 17th devotional, let us contemplate the word of God.

 

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11. 

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.”  Philippians 4:4. 

 

What influences your mood or state of mind?  We often find that our inner life is a reflection of our outer life.  It reflects our circumstances.  Our feelings tend to be a reaction to our surroundings.  If life is going well, if our situation is basically positive, we feel good.  When things take a turn for the worse, when we are faced with hardship, we become discouraged or depressed.  This is a common way we experience life. 

 

But are we slaves to such a reality?  Are we prisoners to this fact of life?  Is it inescapable or predetermined?  Can we ever find freedom from our circumstances?  Is it possible to be in a positive frame of mind even when things around us are in disarray?  The Bible says yes.  Our Christian faith says yes.  And the concept, or even better truth, that we discover in both scripture and our Christian faith is that of joy.  Have you ever experienced an inner sense of joy even when your situation was difficult? 

From a faith perspective, joy is different from our popular word happy.  The basic difference is that joy can be experienced even when our circumstances are trying.   Happiness tends to depend exclusively on our situation in life being positive. 

What does joy mean from a faith perspective?   Joy is a serendipity of faith in Jesus.  Jesus gives us hope and that hope is rooted in Christ rather than in the people or events of this world.  Joy comes because Jesus gives us life and that life is richer than simply having a heartbeat.  Joy is a gift of God. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit within us.   Joy is the conviction that adversity is not the final word.  Inner assurance, inner-confidence or a contentment of the soul, is close to what scripture means by joy.  Joy is knowledge, an inner-knowing, that we are through faith in Christ, in a right relationship with God.  Lewis Smedes writes: “Joy is the feeling that it is all-right with us, even when everything seems all-wrong.”

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi about joy, not out of a context of fellowship with other believers, but from a prison in Rome.   His joy clearly was not dependent on his surroundings.

 Joy is the assurance that we belong God.  It comes from knowing in our heart of hearts, that we are God’s child who made us and loves us.  Joy arises when we experience Christ’s promises fulfilled.    Joy is the evidence of God’s presence, power and hope in our life.  Joy is having the confidence that our salvation is God’s free gift in Jesus.  Joy is knowing that in Christ we have been accepted by God.  Joy is the knowledge that we are forgiven and fully accepted by God forever. 

Joy means we do not have to look to the future with dread or despair.  Joy is the confidence that the future belongs to God.  Joy means we live in the knowledge that the victory over sin, death and evil has already been won through Christ’s birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension.  Joy is knowing that our destiny is to live in glory with God.  Joy is a foretaste of the eternal joy that awaits us with Christ and those whom we love.  Joy comes from knowing God, encountering God, hearing God, seeing God’s with the eyes of our heart.  Joy can be a feeling of elation, gladness and delight. True.  But it is more often an inner confidence, knowledge of assurance of God’s presence, purpose and love. Joy is a mark or characteristic of the Christian life.   

May you experience Christ’s joy in your hearts and minds.

Blessings always,

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

5/13/20                                                          Devotional

 

Let us reflect upon the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: 

 

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not grow weary, and they shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

 

We know that there are different seasons in life.  Waiting is one of those seasons.  It is perhaps one of the most difficult seasons in life.  Generally, we would much rather be active than to have to wait.  Patience is a virtue which many lack.  I include myself.   Someone wrote: “Patience is accepting a difficult situation without giving God a deadline to handle it.”  The psalmist says: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”  Psalm 37:7.   What is the prophet saying to us in these words?  What is God’s word in these verses? 

 

God ordains times of waiting.  These can be holy times.  Seasons of waiting are essential.  Seasons of waiting are not optional, but mandatory.   The season of waiting is indispensable, necessary, because it is a time when God works in our lives.  It is a time when God can renew our strength.

These verses presuppose that there are periods in our lives when we are exhausted.   It recognizes that there are times in our lives when we are confused, frustrated or disillusioned.  It presumes that there are times when we have lost our courage.   It is based upon these givens in life, that we hear this promise. 

Times of waiting, if we allow them to, can be opportunities to focus or re-focus on God and God’s will for our lives. They are just the opposite of constantly being distracted or preoccupied or busy.  By waiting, and attempting to do so patiently, we shall be prepared and receptive when God speaks to us.  Sometimes God asks us to wait.   And waiting always requires patience. 

What does renew our strength mean?  It means different things.  It may be that God strengthens our heart and gives us courage when we are afraid.  Fear is a heavy burden to carry.   It may mean that God gives us an entirely new perspective on our situation.  Sometimes we need to get some distance from a problem or challenge, before we can begin to focus and see clearly.  A trial looked at from below is far different than a trial looked at from above.  It may be that we find strength by ceasing being so active.  We miss a lot when we are always on the go.  We want to keep on going and going.  We believe we must keep going because that’s what faith and life are all about.  God made us with the need to pause from time to time. Activity alone, without times of reflection, will not give us the strength we need to face the challenges of life.  It may be that God wants us to redirect our lives.  We can’t see that in the heat of the moment.  God may desire for us to take a new path and to change the direction that we are going.   If God wants to change the direction of our lives, before that can happen, we need to stop.  Once God has stopped us, God can guide us on a new path or purpose. Waiting is one of the ways God speaks to us to help us change course or to change the purpose we are striving to fulfill.  It may mean that we begin to sense the presence and power of God in such a time.  Our spirit, our soul is renewed and empowered.  It may mean that we are surprised by the support and care of others, when we felt isolated and alone.  Their encouragement lifts our spirit and renews our strength.

Isaiah is saying God wants to strengthen our soul.  Waiting is one of the ways that God accomplishes this.  Waiting requires patience.  God created us, God made us, for seeking His word and will in times of waiting.

Christ’s peace and patience be with you,

 

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

 

5/11/20                                                Devotional                            

 

This is the 15th in our series of devotions.  Let us reflect upon this teaching of Jesus. 

 

No one sews a piece from a new garment on an old one, otherwise the patch pulls away from the old garment, making the tear worse.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins, or the wineskin bursts, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.  New wine must be put into fresh wineskins so both are preserved.”  Matthew 9:16-17

 

In Jesus’ day wine was kept in the skins of goats rather than bottles.  When it was full of wine, the neck of the skin was tightly sutured and the fermentation process began.  When fermentation was complete the new wineskin was stretched to full capacity.  Once the wine was gone the empty skin was dried.  It hardened and became brittle and incapable of further elasticity.  It could be used for pouring water, but not wine, because the fermentation process would burst the old skins.

Jesus’ parable about old and new wine was controversial.  It’s a parable about change and people as a rule resist change.   We become comfortable with certain ideas, habits and traditions.  Our attitudes tend to become fixed. We tend to close our minds to new concepts, forms and practices.

Jesus is speaking about the tradition of Judaism symbolized as the old garment or old wineskin.  Jesus didn’t come to patch up the tradition of Judaism.  The Law had become legalistic.  He didn’t come to pour new wine into an old wineskin.   The gospel didn’t fit into the old religious tradition.  Did Jesus respect tradition?  Yes.  Did Jesus say throw out the old tradition of Judaism.  No.  Jesus said: “Pour new wine into new wineskins and both are preserved.”

The new wine is Jesus’ new teaching about the Kingdom of God.  The parable says that a new day has arrived. It is about repentance and faith and the joy of becoming Jesus’ followers and the new life He offers.  Jesus is the new wine, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”  Jesus came to bring something new, the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

How do we apply this teaching?  First, we need to remember the old wine in the old wineskins, that is, how God has worked in our lives in the past.   God has been a light to our paths in the past.  We can celebrate this truth and praise God for it. The past is significant.  We should never devalue it.  We value and respect tradition, history and heritage.  We should remember yesterday, celebrate it, and build on it.  But we don’t want to make an idol of it and worship it and bow down to it.  “But we’ve always done it this way.”

Second, we need to trust the new things that God is leading us toward in the future.  We need to be open to change, that is, to innovative and creative ways of serving, worshipping and following Christ in the future.  We need to put new wine into new wineskins.   God may point to changes we need to make.  God may seek to take us in new directions and unfamiliar paths.  Doing things differently, is also a part of life and we don’t want to devalue it either.   And yet we don’t want to make an idol of change and worship it and bow down to it.    

What do you hear God saying to you in this parable?   How does this truth apply to your life?  What about a friendship?  Is God calling you to make some changes in a friendship that has been neglected or that has grown unhealthy?  What about the church?  Is God calling us to make some changes in the church’s ministry and outreach?   What about our role as parents?  Is God calling us to make some changes in our parenting style?  Is God calling you to make changes in your spiritual life?

Sometimes putting patches on or using old wineskins doesn’t work anymore.   God may be calling us to something new.

 

God’s blessings to you,

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

 

5/8/20                                                     Devotional                                   

 

This is the fourteenth in our series of devotions.  Let us ponder God’s word in Ephesians 4:32:

 

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

 

The gospel is the message of God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  Christians are forgiven and forgiving sinners.   We are to forgive as Christ forgave.  What does forgiveness mean?  Biblically it is about change, a change in your mind, your heart, your attitude, and your spirit.   It doesn’t mean you must forget what happened.  It doesn’t mean you deny that someone hurt you.  It doesn’t mean you must make an excuse for their action.  It doesn’t mean the other person is not accountable for his or her actions.  It doesn’t mean you must become best friends.    

In the Old Testament one Hebrew word for forgiveness is nasa, which means “to remove or lift up or carry away” a barrier or obstacle which stands between you and another person.  Another Hebrew word is salach, which means to “let go” of the resentment or anger you harbor toward another. 

How do we forgive?   Author Lewis Smedes wrote: ”How, you do it slowly, with a little understanding, in confusion, with anger left over, a little at a time, freely or not at all.”    Forgiveness is an intellectual, emotional and spiritual process.  Forgiveness takes time.  Forgiveness is a journey.  It requires patience.  One’s commitment to it has to be renewed every day.

We must also forgive freely.  You cannot be forced to forgive.  Neither the person who hurt you nor even your friends should try to coerce you to forgive.  It must come from inside of your soul. The ability to forgive someone is an act of God’s grace.  The power comes from God.   

Peter asks Jesus: “How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me, up to seven times?  Jesus answers: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”  That equals 490 times, is that the limit?  No, this is a Jewish maxim which means there is no limit to forgiveness.

Why forgive?  First, we are children of God, followers of Christ.   Since we are forgiven, Jesus commands us to forgive others.  We have received God’s free gift of salvation by grace through faith.  Forgiveness is one of the marks of being a Christian.  It’s a sign of living in-Christ.  It is a witness to the world.  

Second, because forgiveness possesses an incredible power to transform lives, our own and other people.   There is power in forgiveness, the power to find freedom and healing from shame and guilt. Forgiving ourselves or others ultimately brings renewal and peace to our minds and hearts. It brings healing from resentment, anger, or the desire for revenge.  The inability to forgive the past robs you of joy and gladness for today.  Someone wrote: “Forgiveness is in the long run the only remedy for the pain which you didn’t deserve and the pain that will not go away.”   Forgiveness allows us to experience God’s grace

Third, forgiveness opens up the possibility for restoring a broken relationship.   It provides an opportunity for a new beginning.  Forgiveness brings about a hope for reconciliation.   Nothing else can do this.  No, there are no guarantees that reconciliation will occur.  

A way to begin the process of forgiveness is through prayer.  Pray that you can learn to forgive yourself.  Pray that you can learn to forgive someone else.  Pray for the person who hurt you.    This can be difficult.  Ask God to give you strength.  Remember the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  Forgiveness is ultimately a paradox.  It is something you can only do on our own.  At the same time, we can only forgive when we open ourselves to God’s grace and allow God’s Spirit to empower us.   

 

God’s grace and peace be with you,

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

 

5/6/20                                                         Devotional                               

Let us reflect upon the truth about love from I Corinthians 13.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”  

I Corinthians13:13.

 

What does it mean to love another person?  We can answer that question culturally.  We can also answer it biblically.   In the New Testament we find three different Greek words for love.   The first word is Philos which refers to brotherly or sisterly love.  It symbolizes the love between family members or the love between friends.  A second Greek word for love is Eros.  It refers to romantic love, passionate love, or sensual desire.  It is a love that is attracted to someone because of certain qualities that person possesses: beauty, personality, compassion, or intelligence.  Both of these biblical words for love are grounded in human emotion.

The third biblical Greek word is Agape.  Agape love is not grounded in feelings, but rather in principle, values, or faith.  It is rooted in faith’s understanding of God.  The accent is on giving, not receiving in return.  It is a unilateral, not a mutual love.  It is an in-spite of love, not a because of love.  It is loving a person you may not like.  It is helping someone because of their need, not necessarily because you care for them.  Agape love is about doing the right thing, the good thing, out of obedience to Jesus Christ.   It is love motivated by the grace, power and love of God.  Agape love is literally God’s love.  By grace through faith, it is loving like God loves.

Our passage from I Corinthians 13 uses the third word, Agape, when it speaks about love.  

Love is patient!   It is grounded in an awareness of one’s own imperfections and flaws.  It is rooted in humility and maturity.  It knows relationships take time.  It acknowledges that a person is a work in progress.  Patience means we make allowances for another’s shortcomings because we are acutely aware of our own.   We allow time for another person to grow and learn from their mistakes just as we are growing and learning. 

Love is kind!  Kindness is pragmatic.  It expresses love in practical ways.  Kindness is helping another person simply because that person is in need.  Kindness means you are willing to share your time and resources without expecting anything in return.   Ephesians 4:32 says: “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted.” 

Love is secure!   Love is mature.  Love does not envy others; it isn’t boastful, resentful, rude or arrogant.   Envy and jealously reveal insecurity.  A loving relationship does not keep secrets or keep a record of wrongs or hurts against another.  Love forgives and let’s go and moves on.  We can love because we know God loves us.   Being secure is a vital dimension of love.

Love is generous!   It doesn’t insist on its own way.   It gives with no thought of receiving back. It is willing to give more than is needed or asked.   Someone said there are four kinds of relationships.  First, take and take relationships.  I take from you and you take from me.  Second, give and take relationships.  I give and you take.  Third, fair exchange relationships or guid pro quo; you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.  Fourth, give and give relationships.  Persons are willing to share, to sacrifice, to compromise, as an expression of their love for one another. 

Agape love is pro-active, it takes the initiative!  It is not afraid to give first or to forgive first or to share first.  Love is based in truth and honesty.  It is not deceptive.  It values integrity.  Loving involves being vulnerable, even risking one’s life for another.  To give one’s life for another is the ultimate act of agape love.  

Love endures forever.  It perseveres.  It’s tenacious.  It honors commitment.   It doesn’t quit at the first sign of trouble.  It bears all things, and believes, and hopes.  It rises above childish ways and grows in wisdom.  May our ministry in Christ be one of love.

 

Christ’s grace and peace be with you,

 

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

 

 

5/4/20                                                       Devotional  

 

This is the twelfth in our series of devotions.  Let us ponder the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.

 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:25-27;33-34   

 

Jesus clearly thought worry was a problem in life.  He addressed worry in the Sermon on the Mount.    Someone said: “There are three kinds of people in world – those who worry about little things, those who worry about big things, and those who worry about everything.”  But can we help it?  It’s seems impossible not to worry. 

 

Let’s think about what Jesus is NOT saying in these words.  He is not saying: “Life doesn’t have any troubles, it’s just your imagination.”  “Life is always fair.”   “Everything always turns out all right.”    “It’s okay to make irresponsible decisions and to lead a reckless life.”  “Poor choices don’t have consequences.”   “You don’t have to work hard; you can get by on your charm or good looks.”  “Don’t plan things out for the future.”  Jesus isn’t saying any of these things.  What does Jesus mean in these words?

 

First, Jesus uses the Greek word merimnan.  Jesus is not speaking about our daily passing worries and concerns.   Jesus is speaking about anxious-worry, fearful, fretful, and vexing worry.  It’s the kind of worry that plagues you, that haunts your every waking moment, that can harm your spirit and health, that can damage relationships, that confounds your thinking, that wakes you up at night.  It’s the burdensome, tormented, and all-consuming anxiety that draws the energy, joy and hope out of you.   Worry is a heavy burden.  It can paralyze us with fear.

 

Second, Jesus is saying that anxious worry is useless, futile, pointless, and unproductive.  It is a waste of time and energy.   Matthew 6:27 points this out.  The meaning is ambiguous.   It can mean that no one by worrying can grow taller or add a cubit or 18 inches to his height.   It can also mean that no one by worrying, can live longer or extend one’s life.  You won’t add one minute, one hour, or one day to your life by worrying

 

Third, Jesus is saying that you are of ultimate value to God.  “Look at the birds of the air, your heavenly Father feeds them, are you not much more valuable than they?”  Believing this truth in your heart is crucial for faith.  God gave us life and God will give that which we need to sustain life

 

Fourth, Jesus is saying that you and I are to put God, and worshipping and serving God, first in our lives.  Nothing else can become the center of our lives.   “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given you.”  If we let something or someone else become our number one priority, it will eventually become our number one worry.  Focusing upon God, God’s kingdom, God’s will, will help to defeat and lift the burden of worry.

 

Finally, Jesus is saying cultivate the art of living one day at a time Handle each demand, carry out each task, as they present themselves each day. “Today’s trouble is enough for today.”    

 

May God’s word grant us strength and peace.

 

Blessings always,

 

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

 

 

 

May 1, 2020                                                   Devotions                                        

This is the eleventh in our series of devotions.  Let us reflect upon two psalms.

Ps. 100:4-5: “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise, give thanks to him, bless his name.  For the Lord is good, his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”  

Psalm 138:1-3: “I give you thanks O Lord, with my whole heart, before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple, and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness.  On the day I called, you answered me; you increased my strength of soul.”  

The Bible exhorts us as people of faith to give thanks to God.   It exhorts us to be thankful people.  This is not always easy.  We have a tendency to focus on what we lack, or what we want, or what others have.   I believe being thankful runs counter to our sinful nature.  Becoming thankful takes time and is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit.  It demonstrates a change of mind and heart. 

 

We are to give thanks because the God whom we worship is good and because God’s love is steadfast and faithful.  God’s nature is good, that alone is reason to give thanks.  Further, the psalmist prayed to God for inner-strength, for God to lift his soul, and deliver him from some ordeal.  God answered his prayer and he gave thanks.  Has God ever strengthened your soul?

 

God knows that being thankful is essential to our character as human beings and for our faith as God’s people.  If we have a thankful spirit, we can perceive special blessings, small miracles, new possibilities, second chances, hints of God’s amazing grace through unexpected people and events.     If we lack a grateful heart, we miss seeing these things.

 

How does God desire for us to give thanks?  To worship Him, to pray, to grow spiritually, to love God with our minds and hearts, to learn, to study, to love others, and to express thankfulness in words and actions.   Acting out of gratitude is a healthy motive for all of our pursuits in life.  

 

Why does God desire for us give thanks and to be thankful?  First, a thankful heart can reduce stress in your life by making you more content with who you are and what you have.  You will enjoy the freedom that comes from being captive to feeling resentful and dissatisfied.  Second, a grateful heart can increase joy by enlarging your sense of God’s abundant blessings.  Focusing on blessings helps to develop an attitude of thankfulness.  Third, a grateful heart builds healthy relationships.  Thank-less, ungrateful people repel; thankful, appreciative people attract other people.  Expressing our gratitude to others draws us closer to people and them to us.  Fourth, giving thanks for the gift of life brings us ever closer to God the Giver of life.   Fifth, if we do not learn to be a thankful person, we can become bitter, callous, selfish and insensitive.  We can become totally self-absorbed and thereby develop an attitude of entitlement and narcissism.  Praying steadily to God, walking humbly with God, sharing with others, builds a thankful spirit. Finally, a thankful heart can positively affect the people around you.  It can influence their attitudes, their identity, their spirit, and their behavior.   

 

Scripture reminds us that being grateful is the healthiest possible way of looking at life.  Appreciating who we are and what we have, as a child of God, is key to a sense of fulfillment in life.  True joy begins with being thankful.  What are you thankful for?

 

Blessings always,

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

 

April 29, 2020                                              Devotional          

This is the tenth in our series of devotions.  Let us reflect upon Hebrews 6:10-11;

I Cor. 15:58.

 

Hear the word from the letter of I Corinthians: “Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.” 

Hear a similar word from the letter of Hebrews: “For God is not unjust, he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.” 

 

We know that positive thinking is important in life.  But there are times when we wonder, we question, when we have doubts about the difference we are making.  Are our efforts worthwhile?  Are we making a difference for the Kingdom?  Sometimes pessimism subverts optimism.    We feel like our efforts are not bearing fruit, no matter how much we want them to or how hard we work.   Our energy and efforts at times appear fruitless.   

In this light let’s hear a word from scripture. It’s a foundational word.  One we need to remember and to stand upon. The apostle Paul who wrote these words, personally knew not only success and joy in his life and ministry, but failure, disappointment, frustration and suffering.  We see behind these words a mature faith. 

It is a faith which trusts in the power, love and grace of God.   It is the conviction deep in your soul, that whether your efforts and energies bring visible, tangible results, they mean something to God.  They are not wasted.  Your life counts in God’s eyes.  Your efforts for His Kingdom matter to God.  We are in a spiritual battle.  The book of James says – “Resist the devil and the negative thoughts which can poison our life.”        

When do you feel like you’re just spinning your wheels?   First, God wants us to be steadfast, immovable; to persevere and be strong.  Don’t allow your own self-questioning to stop you.  Stand firm and steady.  Don’t give up, or give in or give out.  Second, always abounding in the work of the Lord, praying for how God wants to use you in His service.   Sometimes we are completely surprised with how God decides to use us.   And third, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain. When through prayer you commit your efforts to God, when you ask for God’s inspiration and power and blessing, your work will be useful in the plans and purposes of God.   God will honor it.  This is God’s promise.

I like the way the book of Hebrews puts it.  “God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints.”    God never forgets your work done in His name.  God knows your efforts to love and serve and glorify Him.  God sees what you have done and are doing and what these things mean for His kingdom.  God sees the difference, the influence, even when we can’t see it.   

When you seek to serve God and others rather than to only advance your own interests, when you earnestly pray to God to bless your efforts, we have the assurance that God will do so.    

Let us keep a Christian perspective on our goals and work.  God may allow you to see results immediately.  God may allow you to see results later on in your life.  God may allow you to see results in the life to come.  May we be patient and trust in the Lord with all our hearts.  You work is not in vain.  God sees what you are doing for His Kingdom.  May God’s name be praised.  Amen!

 

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

 

 4/27/20                                                     Devotional                                    

 

This is the ninth in our series of devotions.  Let us consider Psalm 118:24.

 

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.  The Lord is God and he has made his light shine upon us.  His love endures forever.”  

 

In Genesis we read: “Let there be light and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness, and God called the light Day.”  Yom Tov is Hebrew for good day.

The psalms are songs and prayers by Jewish poets and kings.  They are honest and heartfelt responses of faith to God.  They put the events of life into a theological and spiritual framework. 

In Ps. 118 a king leads the people of Israel in a liturgy of thanksgiving to God for deliverance after a battle.  The king lifts his heart in gratitude to God for victory.  He says: “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.  The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things.  I will give you thanks for you answered me, you have become my salvation.  The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.  This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.  The Lord is God and he has made his light shine upon us.  His love endures forever.”   It is day to rejoice.    

We are living in difficult days.  We are trying as a nation and world to cope under trying circumstances.  We must deal with fear, death, sickness, economic issues, adversity, uncertainty and darkness.  We are trying to navigate each day as it comes.  We are looking to government, science and technology to help us get though these tough days.  As Christians, we are also looking to God.  We are looking to our faith and to the church to help us.  

As believers we look at the idea of a day from a biblical and theological perspective.  A day is not an accident or a phenomenon with no known cause or something trivial and expendable.  The day is a creation of God.  God is the author. Each day is holy and special.  A day is a divine design.  Every day is unique. Each day is a loan from God.  Each day is God’s gift.  Each day has value and significance.  Each day has meaning.  Each day has hope.  Each day is a new beginning.  You never know what each day might bring.   We can look to tomorrow, but we know we can only live one day at a time.  Each day provides opportunities and possibilities.  Each day means we can worship, serve, witness, grow, learn and love God and others.  Each day is to be appreciated.

Every day we have a chance to draw close to God and to share in the Kingdom of God.  May we live it purposefully.  May we make the most of it.  Every day represents an eternal investment of our lives.  Don’t underestimate what God can do in and through your life in a single day. 

Begin each day spending time with God in prayer or devotions. God’s love and will is unchanging even in changing days.   Even in dark days, as believers we can look to God and find a reason, even a small one, to rejoice.  God has given us this day to worship and serve Him. “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Blessings always,

Rev. Alan W. Deuel 

 

4/24/20                                                     Devotional

 

This is the eighth in our series of devotions.  Let us reflect on the Gospel of Matthew 13:1, the first verse of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-9.  I invite you to read the entire parable.

 

“A farmer went out to sow his seed.” 

 

Jesus’ central teaching, as we hear in this parable, was about the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God means God’s rule or reign in our lives and in the world.  The Kingdom is about God’s power and will being accomplished or completed.  It’s wherever and however God’s loving purpose is being achieved, whether in the life of an individual, a community, a nation, the world or in the church.   Some examples are: “God answered my prayer.” “It was a God thing.”  “It was by the grace of God.”  The Kingdom is where God is doing or saying something in accord with His plan and purpose for our lives and for the world.   

Jesus says: “A sower, other translations say farmer or planter, went out to sow.”  Who is the sower?  It can be interpreted on two levels.  First, the sower is God or Jesus.  Second, the sower is a disciple or follower of Jesus.   The sower or farmer is you and me.

What is the seed?   The seed is anything God gives to us to fulfill His purpose.  It may using our mind or our heart for the Kingdom.  It may be using our talents, our abilities, our experience, our training, for the Kingdom.  It may be sharing our faith, our resources, our love, or forgiving someone or receiving forgiveness.  It may be a call of God, a call to service or to right some injustice or to repentance and faith.  It may be God challenging you to think out of the box or to step out of your comfort zone.  It may be God sending you to help someone or sending someone to help you. 

The story teaches us that there are different types of soil, in other words, that people have different responses to the seeds God desires to plant in our lives.  People’s spiritual receptivity varies widely.    When you share Jesus’ word or love expect a range of reactions.

The sower encounters hard and closed hearts, shallow or superficial hearts, distracted or preoccupied hearts, and open, ready and receptive hearts.  The seed only takes root in the fertile soil, in the souls which are open and receptive.  People are not always ready or willing to receive God’s seeds.  People are free to respond or not to respond.  This is a painful truth.

We sometimes blame ourselves when a person doesn’t respond to our witness.  We do our best.  We pray.  Our efforts are not always successful.   Remember this parable.   Sometimes God uses us to spiritually prepare a person, but then God calls a different person to lead them to faith.  You and are I not responsible for the response of people.   Our responsibility is to be sowers, farmers, planters for the Kingdom.

You never know the influence you can have on someone for God’s Kingdom.  Don’t underestimate God’s desire to use you.  I believe that one-day God will reveal to us how God used our seeds for His Kingdom.  Think of one seed someone planted in your life.  Think of a seed you planted in someone’s life.  What a joy, what an honor, to be used as a means of grace.    

A sower went out to sow.  God plants seeds through you and me.  What seed is God calling you to plant?   Blessings always,

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

 

4/22/20                                              Devotional

 

This is the seventh in our series of devotions.  Let us reflect on the letter of Philippians 4:4-7.

 

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again, rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

Covid-19 has generated an incredible amount of uncertainty, fear and anxiety in our world.  But it is not the only thing.  There are innumerable things in life, in addition to a virus, that can cause us to feel anxious. We learn from an early age, that fear, anxiety is a part of life.   It seems counterintuitive to talk about peace amidst life’s threats and problems.  And yet Jesus often said to his followers: “Peace be with you.”  In our scripture passage, the apostle Paul writes about peace.  What did Paul mean?

First, peace is not the absence of problems.  Peace is the presence of God.  The Lord is near.  God dwells within us through His Spirit.  Peace is God’s presence amidst the storms of life.  In spite of uncertainty and difficulties, it is knowing, trusting, believing, that God is with us.

Second, Christ’s peace is different from the world’s peace.  You can’t buy it or make it or import it.  It is a peace which transcends our own understanding.     Peace is a gift of God’s grace.  It is peace from above.   Jesus said to his disciples; “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.”   It comes only from God and the world cannot take it away.  Peace heals a troubled heart.  God’s peace is an inner calm, an inner serenity, an attitude of inner courage despite the outer problems in our lives. God’s peace can surprise us and come when we least expect it.  

Third, the peace of God comes from knowing, claiming and remembering one’s identity.  It is affirming – I am a child of God. I was created by God. God knows me. I was baptized into God’s family. I belong to God. God loves me. I am God’s friend. God is for me and not against me. God accepts me as I am. God seeks to change me into becoming like Christ.  It is trusting that God is working out his purposes in and through your life.  It is believing that God is using you for His ends and glory.  

Fourth,  ”Rejoice always, again I say rejoice.”  Peace and joy are synonymous.  Peace is a manifestation of joy and joy is an expression of peace.    Even in dark and disturbing times, you are able to perceive rays of light, unexpected blessings, small joys or surprises, where you can praise God. 

Fifth, peace is a by-product of prayer and prayer includes a thankful heart.   Prayer means opening up your heart to God.  Turn your worries into prayers; worry less, pray more.  The peace of God stands like a sentry guarding the soul.  It keeps back evil powers which threaten to rob our soul of courage and serenity.  God’s peace brings rest and quiet to anxious hearts.  Anxiety arises when things are out of control or our control. God’s peace is a sense of well-being which comes from knowing and trusting that ultimately God is in control.   

Peace be with you.

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

 

4/20/20        This is the sixth in our series of devotions.  Hear now this teaching from Jesus.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30.

 

Invitations are one of life’s joys.  It’s always a nice surprise to be invited to a birthday party, an anniversary party, a graduation or a wedding.  Jesus extends this gracious invitation “Come to me!”

“All who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens!” To be human is to carry burdens.   We may carry different burdens and handle them in different ways, but they are real nonetheless.  We think of burdens of guilt, stress, illness, pain, disappointment, failure, fear, loneliness, or a lack of purpose.  Are you carrying a burden?

Jesus continues: Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.”  Jesus, our Risen Lord offers support, encouragement and an opportunity to learn from him.   Do you find it surprising that Jesus offers burdened people a yoke?  When we are troubled, we need an escape, a holiday, a party, a break, not a yoke. 

What does Jesus offer with this invitation? He offers to ease the strain of burdens, to shoulder their load, to release them, to come along side us.  Nobody else can do that but Christ.  Scripture says:   “Behold the Lamb of God who lifts up and bears away the sin of the world.”

Jesus offers us a new kind of yoke.   Jesus is referring to a farm practice common in his day.  A yoke is a piece of equipment that binds an ox to a plow.  Whenever a young ox needed to be trained, he would be attached to the yoke of an older ox. The older ox would pull the yoke and the younger ox would follow in his footsteps, even though he wasn’t actually pulling any of the load.

Jesus is saying: “Yoke yourself to me.  Let me help you carry the load and I will lead you and teach you how to live.”  “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  

Jesus concludes his invitation – “I will give you rest.  You will find rest for your souls.”  What a comforting word – rest.   Are you tired physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?  We need rest in life.

What does Jesus mean by “rest for your souls”? The Greek word here literally means “an intermission.”  Jesus is saying accept my invitation and you will have an intermission, a respite, a reprieve, a break from life’s day-to-day struggles.  You will experience spiritual renewal, refreshment, a time of peace. 

It takes humility to say: Jesus I need your yoke, your power and strength.

 

I close with the translation from The Message.  “Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me, watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

God’s blessings be with you. 

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

4/17/20                                                       Devotional

 

This is the fifth in our series of devotions.  Let us reflect upon two of Jesus teachings. 

 

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.” Luke 19:10. “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  John 10:10.

 

Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world to bring divine revelation and salvation.  Jesus was God’s self-revelation.  In Jesus we see God.  Jesus revealed God’s nature and character.  Yes, Jesus was fully human, but paradoxically, Jesus was also fully God.  Jesus knew his purpose and his mission.   His birth, ministry, death, and resurrection were all in order to fulfill his divinely appointed mission.   Jesus never wavered from his priorities.  His priorities were the pathway to fulfill his mission.  Jesus came to seek and to save.  Jesus came to bring life, new life, abundant life, everlasting life.

 

Priorities are important.  The challenge for us all is to discipline ourselves, to motivate ourselves, to keep them before us in the decisions we make.  We use different criteria to determine our priorities. We sometimes set our priorities by preference.  We all have our likes and dislikes and we do what we want to do and don’t do what we don’t want to do.  We also arrange our priorities by urgency.  Urgent issues get our attention and we strive to take care of them while pushing other things aside.  We also sometimes set priorities by our values, by what we deem significant. 

 

There are many benefits to having and following priorities.  They enrich our lives in various ways.  They open a pathway when our lives feel aimless.  They give meaning to our lives.  Meaning comes when we are engaged in things that we believe are right for us.  They provide a sense of direction.  It’s been said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”  They bring a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.  They help us reach our potential and build self-confidence.  They help us to use our time efficiently rather than spending our time in trivial pursuits. 

 

Priorities are imperative for our spiritual lives.  I have talked to people who said they wish they were closer to God and had a more vital spiritual life.  When I asked about their spiritual practices, they indicated that they were too busy.  They occasionally worshipped at church.  They rarely read the bible.  Prayer at most was grace at meals.  They didn’t participate in church or in the community.  Yes, many of us do lead busy lives.  But being busy can also mean that one isn’t setting priorities.  One is simply being reactive rather than proactive.  Even Jesus, made solitude, silence, and prayer a priority.  We are often told that Jesus would go off alone, away from the disciples and crowds, to pray.

 

What is your philosophy of life?   How would you answer that question?  Is your life in tune, in sync with your priorities?  Or conversely, do your priorities reflect your philosophy of life?  Jesus clearly lived his life by following his priorities.  May he inspire us to do so as well.  Blessings always,

Rev. Alan W. Deuel
 
 

4/15/20                                                      Devotional

 

This is the fourth is our series of devotions.  Let us reflect upon the letter of Philippians 2:2-5. 

 

“Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

 

Attitude is critical.  We are familiar with thinking that someone has a bad attitude or a good attitude.  In these verses we find a number of insights about attitude; I want to point out two of them.

First, our attitude toward others.  The word of God in this context reminds us not to live only to please ourselves or to only meet our own needs.  We are to look to the interests and needs of others.  This demonstrates an attitude of humility.  We are to strive to seek unity with one another in the body of Christ, unity in spirit, in truth and in purpose.  Humility builds relationships.  Why?  Because others feel that you care about them and respect them.  They are confident that you are genuinely interested in their story and their opinions.  Humility recognizes that we are all forgiven sinners in Jesus Christ.  It recognizes that God has bestowed gifts and talents among us all, not just a few.  It recognizes that all are valuable in God’s sight as persons created in God’s image.

Second, attitude is a choice, a really important choice.  The apostle Paul is challenging believers to choose the right attitude, the attitude of Christ.  Attitude is a decision.  We may make it once or we may make it over and over again in life.  God has created us in His image with a mind that has the ability, the freedom and power to think, to believe, to choose, and to respond.  Victor Frankel, who survived the atrocities of a German concentration camp wrote: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Our attitude affects everything we do in life.  It can be positive or negative, destructive or constructive.  How one thinks about events in life determines how we will get through these events.  God’s Holy Spirit empowers us through faith, to choose how we shall respond to incidents in our lives.  We can choose to be victims or victors.  We can choose to give up or endure.  We can choose to go it alone or to reach out to others for support.  We can choose to pray to and trust in God or to renounce our faith in God.  We can let our circumstances mold us, or by our faith and trust let God shape us in and through our circumstances.    

 

By God’s grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit, as we read in these verses, as hard as it is to believe, we may be able to actually have the mind of Christ.  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”  Blessings,

 

Rev. Alan W. Deuel

 

 

4/13/20                                              Devotional

This is the third is our series of devotions.  Let us reflect on the letter of Acts 20:1-2:

 

“When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia.  He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece.” 

 

The apostle Paul was a great encourager.  In this chapter we find Paul in Ephesus.  He has become the center of a riot over his preaching.  He was saying that idols, gods the craftsmen were making, weren’t gods at all.  He preached that there was only one true God.  He was being threatened with violence because of his controversial message.  

And yet in the very next verse we read, when the uproar was ended Paul began encouraging people.   What an inspiring example. 

 

Can you be an encourager when your own life is not perfect?   Are you totally happy or content today?   We can always find things we don’t like about ourselves or our circumstances.  Examine your relationships.  Relationships are always less than ideal; they don’t usually meet all our expectations.

 

Think of one person who encouraged you at a critical time in your life. Why do you think he or she was such a good encourager to you?

 

I have found that people who are encouragers have themselves experienced pain in their lives: suffering, hurt, disappointment, and even tragedy.  They have an understanding and empathy for others.   I have found that encouragers are thankful, grateful and humble.  They can encourage because they do so out of a heart of gratitude.   I’ve found that people who possess a faith in God, who have a genuine spiritual life, are good encouragers.  Encouragers are good listeners.  They are genuinely interested in you and what you have to say.   It’s been said that you will encourage more by listening than by talking.

 

The word encouragement comes from the ancient Greek.   The Greek word is paraklesis and means a holy urging, a personal urging, an urging of the Spirit.  Recall Jesus promise to his disciples – “I will send you another Paraclete who will remain with you forever.”   Paraclete is translated as comforter, counselor, and encourager. Encouraging others is God’s holy work in and through us to inspire, to warn someone, to spur or urge someone on, to hearten, to embolden, to fill with courage or confidence, or strength of purpose.

 

Compliment people when it occurs to you to do so.  Express appreciation and gratitude.  Be happy for others in their good fortune.  Jesus calls each of us by His grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit to the ministry of encouragement.  And what a powerful and astonishing witness it can be. 

 

I am personally grateful for brothers and sisters in Christ who have encouraged me in the church over the years. Their words and support have made all the difference.  May your walk in the Spirit be a ministry of encouragement to others so that God may use you for His glory.  Amen! 

 
4/8/20 
Devotional                                                  

 

This is the second in our series of devotions.   Let us hear God’s word from the prophet Jeremiah.   

 

“For I know the plans I have for you.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you.  Jeremiah 29:11-14.

 

God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel.  The prophet was speaking to the Jews who were in captivity in Babylon.  Jeremiah was announcing God’s will to the Jews.  He was speaking about God’s plans for the Jews.  He was bringing God’s word of hope amidst their despair of living in a foreign land.  And God’s living and breathing word speaks to us through the scriptures today. 

 

We often think of God as distant, beyond, majestic, transcendent.  We think of God as the ruler of the universe, the maker of heaven and earth, the creator of all things.  We see God’s handiwork in nature, in the majesty of a rainbow, in a thunderstorm, in the Grand Canyon or in the oceans.  We understand that God is the ruler of the universe and has plans for the nations of the world and an ultimate purpose for history. 

 

Where do we see God or hear God or sense God’s presence in our personal lives?  The challenge for faith is to also see God at work in our daily lives.  It is to remember that God has plans for our individual lives.  God is involved in our everyday activities.  God is involved in our daily interactions.  God has plans for the details and small things of our lives.  Believing this, knowing this gives a sense of holiness to the small things, the mundane things, the little things that we do in life.  These things matter.  They matter in the larger kingdom of God.  They matter in terms of God’s plans for our lives.  Doing a good job with little things matters in the realm of God.   It is the small decisions we make, the little gestures and commitments, that lead to the larger accomplishments in our lives.  If we are not faithful in fulfilling the small things, we will not be ready for the larger tasks and opportunities in life.   

 

Nothing escapes God’s notice.  Nothing is too insignificant for God.  Keeping a promise, making that phone call, doing an errand, finishing up one’s work, asking if someone needs help are all vehicles for God to implement his plans for our lives.  Small things show your character.  Small things show forth your faith.  Little things are a witness to your love.  Taking pride and being responsible in little things is a way of showing thankfulness to God.  Daily thank God for gifts and tasks.  Display what you believe.  Look for opportunities.  Be teachable and reachable.  Make good on your promises. 

In the name of Jesus our Lord, Amen.   Rev. Alan Deuel

04/006  Devotional
By Rev. Alan Deuel
 

To Members and Friends of Lakeside Community Presbyterian Church

Good afternoon:  I welcome you in the name of the Lord.   This is the first of a series of devotionals I will be sending to you.  I am honored to share in your ministry for a temporary time while we pray for and await Rev. Randy Yenter’s return to leadership and pray for others and our world.  This is a difficult and uncertain time for us and for our world.  There are still many unanswered questions about Covid-19.  Amid the challenges and fears, our souls are lifted when we hear good news about some promising treatments, about people caring for one another in small ways, and about people recovering from the virus.

 

In such a time as this we turn to the Word of God.  Listen to these words from II Corinthians 1:2-4:  “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

 

The first word is that comfort is a wonderful gift.  It can come as a surprise from a family member or friend.  It can come when we least expect it.  This I believe is an expression of the surprising grace of God.  Can you think of a time you experienced comfort in your life?  How about in recent days?  Scripture is clear that God is the ultimate source of mercy and comfort. What does the Bible mean by comfort?  It is speaking about experiencing strength and courage.  God’s Holy Spirit is among us, near us and in us.  God personally brings us strength and courage through His Spirit.  That is wonderful news.  Comfort is an experience of God’s personal touch in our lives.  In it we find strength and solace.  Be open to hearing or seeing or feeling God’s comfort.  But hear also the second word from the scripture.  God calls you and me to bring the comfort which we experience from God to others around us.  It is something we both receive as God’s gift and are called to share.  We are to be channels of God’s comfort to others.   To whom is God calling you to bring a word of comfort? 

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Rev. Alan W. Deuel