Daily Word of Comfort

SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2020


“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Psalm 46:1 (ESV)


Personal thoughts from Pastor Brad

Anyone who has ever come to one of my weekly classes or Bible studies knows that I enjoy the history of the Reformation in the 16th century. I wasn't always a fan of history but came to appreciate it later in life.

Martin Luther led a life of constant danger. After he had been found in conflict with the Roman Catholic Church, his life was almost always threatened. There were times when it seemed that his Reformation ideas wouldn't even get off the ground as he watched several setbacks to his movement.

But there was a particular response to the dark times that he and his flock in Wittenberg faced. It was common for Dr. Luther or his assistant Philip Melanchthon to proclaim in the midst of the congregation, "Sing the 46th." An observer from the 21st century might ask, "The 46th of what?" But they knew what it meantsing Psalm 46.

Psalm 46 was the message of comfort and encouragement during the conflict of the Reformation, and it remains the message of comfort for us during this situation involving COVID19.

The word that jumps out to me in this verse is the word "present." It's right now. God's strength and comfort are not merely waiting for us when we get to heaven. It's right now. It's here and present. It's a current reality. — Brad Klostreich

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FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2020


"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins."

Isaiah 40:1-2 (ESV)



Personal thoughts from Pastor Brad


These are the first words of G. F. Handel's most famous work, "The Messiah." 


While most of us are familiar with great choruses like "Hallelujah" and "For unto us a child is born," most are unfamiliar with lesser-known solos like this one. It speaks of comfort. Not just for an individual but an entire nation. Right now, we are a nation in need of comfort. Comfort in the midst of lives lost, jobs lost, income lost, and at times hope lost. 


But our need for comfort is not like that of ancient Israel. Our suffering has only been for a few months, and for many, it's been unnoticeable. But for ancient Israel, their pain was long-lasting. They spent 400 years as slaves in Egypt. They spent 70 years as exiles in Babylon. In our day, they have been persecuted constantly. 


When Frederick the Great asked his physician for proof of God's existence, he responded, "My emperor, the Jews." They survived.


God spoke comfort to this nation of Israel, and he speaks comfort to us. Our suffering is different from theirs, but nonetheless real. Our suffering is not as long as theirs, but nonetheless painful. 


George Frederick was on to something when he started his great work with the theme of comfort and ended it with the theme that Christ is worthy of honor, glory, and praise. — Brad Klostreich


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THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2020


"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."

Matthew 16:18 (NKJV)


Personal thoughts from Pastor Brad


Matthew 16 is a turning point. Up to that point, Jesus had been speaking and preaching about the kingdom. In Matthew 16, Jesus, for the first time, begins to speak of building the church. Jesus does four things in his reply to Peter.


  • He purchases the church at the cost of His death. Jesus came to suffer and die. Do you know what it cost for you to hear the Aaronic blessing? It cost Christ the torments of hell.
  • He expands it through the proclamation of the gospel. Jesus tells Peter, "I'm going to give you a key that will lock and unlock." The key is the gospel. Preaching the gospel sets free, or it binds.
  • He calls us to a life of cross-bearing and self-denial. Some are told that when they become a Christian, all of their troubles will disappear, but when a person becomes a Christian, he discovers troubles he never had before. Jesus suffered, and His people suffer. Bonhoeffer rightly said: "Jesus bids us come to him and die." Are you ready to die? Christians are to die daily to self and to sin.
  • He will defeat every hostile force. Christ builds His church right up against the gates of hell, but the gates of hell will not prevail. Gates are a defensive type of weapon. But if hell is playing defense, then who is playing offense? We are. We're the ones who should be on the attack. Not worrying about our wounds and playing silent defense.


These words of Jesus are a great reminder as we are in the midst of a global pandemic. Because Christ is on our side, we win. And we often win through suffering. But a question remains, should we seek out suffering like is seen in certain monastic practices? To be honest, there's enough suffering in the world without us having to seek it out. If you are truly following Jesus, you don't need to seek out new suffering. Suffering will seek you out.


The question we should ask ourselves is: How closely do we want to identify with a Christ-like life? — Brad Klostreich


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WEDNESDAY, MAY 27, 2020


“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,"

Romans 5:3 (ESV)


Personal thoughts from Pastor Brad


This is one of those verses where we sometimes think Paul has maybe lost his marbles. "Rejoice in suffering…”? Really? We might expect him to say to "endure suffering" or "expect suffering," but not to "rejoice in suffering." Paul is not as naïve as many of the so-called "health and wealth" preachers in our day who think that suffering is something that the Christian can avoid. Nor is he foolish enough to link human suffering with some type of punishment that the Almighty gives to those with whom he is upset. He realizes that suffering is simply part of the human condition. Since the Fall in Genesis 3, suffering has been our lifelong companion in this world.


The most important element about this verse is not the reminder to rejoice in suffering, but the realization of what suffering leads to; what it "produces." It produces endurance. That word is one of Paul's favorites based on its frequency in his letters. When you look at the word in Greek, it simply means to 'hang under' or as we would say in our vernacular, "hang in there." It's not a great victorious word. It's not the image of human strength and accomplishment. But it's the idea you and I are hanging on to God by the edges of our fingertips. We're clinging to him with our very last breath.


What comes after endurance? Character and hope, things that define the Christian. — Brad Klostreich


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TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2020


What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31 (NKJV)


Personal thoughts from Pastor Brad


Whenever I read this line about God being for us, I'm reminded of the story of Jacob. Most of the book of Genesis is actually about him and his favorite son, Joseph. The cliff notes version is that Joseph's brothers sell him into slavery, but eventually, they meet up again. This time Joseph is in the position of power. He decides to put them through a series of tests to see how loyal they are to each other and their father, Jacob. So he takes Simeon captive and tells the brothers to go back and bring Benjamin, Joseph's full blood brother. Here's Jacob's response:


And Jacob, their father said to them, “You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All things are against me.”

Genesis 42:36 (NKJV)


When you think that everything or "all things" are against you, that's the same as saying, "God is against you."


Now I'm sure many people have felt that way in the course of their lives, but this isn't just anyone. This is Jacob. This is the one whose name was changed to Israel. This is the one who saw angels ascending and descending on a ladder that led to heaven. This is the one who wrestled with God all night long and finally was blessed by him. Next to Adam, he's probably had more direct contact with the manifest God than anyone on earth.


But the later years of his life had been hard. He lost his favorite son, or so he thought. He lost his beloved wife, Rachel, in childbirth. So while he had every reason to trust in God's promises, his blessings were mixed with sorrow.


But things are not always as they seem. Joseph was a little more than "no more." He was the Prime Minister of all Egypt. Simeon was a little more than "no more." He was probably in the safest place in the world because his brother Joseph would've moved heaven and earth to prevent his brother from being harmed.


Jacob thinks that everything is against him, which is saying, "God is against me." He needed to be reminded of the truthfulness of what Paul is talking about in Romans 8: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"  — Brad Klostreich


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MONDAY, MAY 25, 2020



"But as for you, you meant evil against me;

but God meant it for good,

in order to bring it about as it is this day,

to save many people alive."

Genesis 50:20 (NKJV)



Personal thoughts from Pastor Brad


This verse speaks about God's providence: his ability to make good things happen out of bad events. How God does this is a mystery to us. But that He does it is clear to us.


So what is the "good" that can or will come out of the current pandemic called COVID-19?


I recently helped one of my daughters on a social studies assignment that asked this exact question. "What good has come out of the last nine weeks as the world deals with the coronavirus?" She had a hard time trying to identify anything good from the current world situation; admittedly, it's hard to think of something good when nearly 90,000 American citizens have died, not to mention the economic impact. Eventually, we came up with a few examples: spending more time with her family, doing her schoolwork at her own pace, and having more opportunities for exercise as well as a few others.


Joseph spoke the words above. He was familiar with suffering. Betrayed by his own brothers, falsely accused by an unscrupulous woman, imprisoned, forgotten. But he never lost sight that God was with him. That was all part of a plan to save his family. So all things did work for good. — Brad Klostreich


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SATURDAY, MAY 23, 2020



"I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart."

Jeremiah 24:7 (ESV)



"It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. … In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. … That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: Bless you, prison" — Alexander Solzhenitsyn



Personal thoughts from Pastor David


God found Alexander Solzhenitsyn in a Soviet gulag, and Solzhenitsyn emerged a new man. Something similar happened to another great Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Our recent inconveniences have been nothing compared to what they endured. Yet, if we learn what God would teach us in our experience, we may be able someday to look back upon this time with gratitude. — David Mauldin



Prayer


Give us the wisdom, O Lord, to recognize the value of our afflictions and our inconveniences. Whether we have suffered much or little through this pandemic, give us the grace to look back on this time with gratitude. We are thankful that you never left us. Thankful for what we have learned. Thankful for how we have grown. Thankful for whatever good you might bring out of all this. Make gratitude the healing balm that soothes our pain. Amen.


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FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020



“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)



“God doesn’t like it when His kids suffer, any more than we do. But he has to let us suffer because we’d forget him if we didn’t—and then we’d suffer more. So if we remember Him by gratitude when things go well, He won’t have to plunge us into shock to wake us up, and then both He and we would be much happier. We really can make God happy by being grateful. We can really do that something for Him, because even though He is eternal, He is love, and love cares.” — Peter Kreeft



Personal thoughts from Pastor David


Is gratitude an answer to suffering? I say, yes. Not that we should be grateful for the suffering, although we may become thankful for it if we are able to see enough good come out of it. In the verses above, Paul prescribes prayer with thanksgiving as an antidote to worry. Peter Kreeft, a professor of philosophy at Boston College, suggests that suffering serves a purpose. If we were more grateful, we wouldn’t need a spiritual wake up call. Suffering can make your heart bitter and erode your faith, or it can teach you to rely on God. Likewise, suffering can make you a complainer, or it can make you more grateful for what is good. If you are suffering, why not double down on gratitude? You certainly can’t go wrong! — David Mauldin


Prayer


Lord, I thank you for life. For every small expression of your goodness: a sunrise, light rain on a warm afternoon, the song of a bird. For every person on this planet who cares for me. For our church. For your Word. For the gospel. For my living Savior. For these ten things that I name in my heart before you … [name ten things for which you are thankful]. All I ask is that you accept my humble prayer of thanks, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.



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THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2020



For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
Romans 8:15-16 (ESV)



"Trials will arise, countless in number and of different kinds, which will hourly beset us in extraordinary ways. Most of all the conscience, weighed down with its load of sin, first laments and groans within, and then accuses itself … Thus, either because adverse events appear to point to God’s wrath, or because conscience finds its own excuse, unbelief arms itself to do battle with faith, employing all its weapons to make us believe that God is hostile and angry with us, so that we should hope for nothing from him and should fear him as our mortal foe. To withstand such attacks, faith is equipped with the word of God." — John Calvin



Personal thoughts from Pastor David



Certain experiences might make you question the goodness of God in general or how favorably he is disposed toward you in particular. I’ve known people who say, “God must be out to get me.” I understand why they feel this way, but they’re wrong. If Jesus paid for your sin on the cross, there’s nothing more for you to pay. You might have to live with the consequences of poor choices, but God is not against you. How can you be sure? As Calvin said, God’s Word. In his Word, God assures you of his love. Part of growing in faith is learning to trust God more than your gut. Circumstances change and feelings change, but God remains faithful. — David Mauldin



Prayer



Father in heaven, thank you for your grace. I thank you that Christ died for me. I thank you that I am, therefore, forgiven.Thank you for adopting me as your child and for giving me your Holy Spirit. Whenever I begin to feel sorry for myself, remind me who I am. May the trials that come my way train me to rely on you rather than doubt you. Amen.


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WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 2020



“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Matthew 7:9-11 (ESV)




“As soon as the smallest drop of faith imaginable lodges in our soul, we at once begin to behold God’s face, kindly and well disposed toward us. True, we behold it from afar, but with so unerring a gaze that we know we are not deceived.” — John Calvin



Personal thoughts from Pastor David



Christian faith lays hold of the promises of God. It trusts him to keep them. It trusts him enough to risk everything for the sake of his promises. This is why Calvin describes the effect of faith as he does. Even a mustard-seed-sized dose will change the whole way we look at God. We will recognize that he is our loving Father in heaven.
 
Calvin seems to assume that without faith, we will question God’s good intentions for us or fear him as a vengeful judge. Some people do. But, what about those who see God as the ultimate nice guy, a grandfather in the sky who only wants to make us happy? Faith recognizes that we must submit to God. Somehow, we must rejoice in God’s grace without taking it for granted. — David Mauldin



Prayer



Lord, we praise you for your mercy toward us. Give us the faith to know that you are our Father in heaven. You love us. Christ died for us. Your purpose for us is to give us life and make us like Jesus. We want to see your face, turned toward us in love. And yet, never let us take you for granted. In Jesus name, amen.



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TUESDAY, MAY 19, 2020


“Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46:10 (ESV)



“Prayer consists of attention. It is the orientation of all the attention of which the soul is capable toward God. The quality of attention counts for much in the quality of the prayer. Warmth of heart cannot make up for it.” — Simone Weil



Personal thoughts from Pastor David



Simone Weil suggests the most important ingredient in prayer is attention. That’s the part I struggle with the most! I can easily pray through a list of prayer concerns or thank God for a list of blessings. I can pray a scripture passage, starting with what it says about God and building my prayer from there. But to pay total attention to God is difficult.


We live distracted lives. We have constant entertainment at our fingertips. We have pressing demands just as close. Even if we retreat literally to a quiet closet, our minds struggle. Our neural pathways have become so accustomed to unrelenting stimulation that we cannot “be still and know that I am God.”


Perhaps we should use this time of disruption to practice attention. Make this a focus of your praying. Focus as much of your attention on God as you can. — David Mauldin



Prayer



Father, give me the grace of a quiet mind. Calm my heart and still my soul. Flood me with a desire for your presence. Give me a sense of your goodness and majesty—as much as I can stand. I offer myself to you now in prayer, for the sake of your Son, who died for me, and in the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.



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MONDAY, MAY 18, 2020



"Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding."

Job 38:1, 4 (ESV)



“Throughout chapter 38, we read that God challenged Job to evaluate his own wisdom against God’s standard. The Lord spoke of matters far removed from human knowledge, especially in Job’s time. God knows the deepest parts of the ocean. He understands ‘the gates of death.’ He intimately knows the full expanse of the entire earth—all that happens on it, over it, and under it. All the wonders of the world, incomprehensible to Job or anyone else, were created by God. And they are also held together by Him.


Job found that in the presence of God, he was accountable to God, not the other way around. When God asked Job to answer for his presumptuousness toward the Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, suddenly Job’s complaints no longer seemed so urgent…After seeing Him and hearing from Him personally and intimately, submission to His power and holiness was Job’s only response.” Community Bible Study, Job, Lesson 6



Personal thoughts from Elder, Rob Johnson


The Hubble telescope orbits earth, and astronomers have used it for almost 30 years to study the universe. Because it isn’t affected by our atmosphere, the photos produced are the clearest vision we have of heavenly bodies. I’m not much of a star-gazer myself, but I recently saw a compilation of some images taken by the Hubble. I was taken aback. They were not only scientifically fascinating, they were beautiful. They revealed a magnificence that my small mind will never fully grasp. More than just the vastness of God’s creation, the photos demonstrate an unending depth of beauty.In the closing chapters of the book of Job, God speaks of the differences between man and the Almighty. Job’s response was both humorous and admirable. He put his hand over his mouth and he shut up for a while.

We weren’t there when God laid the foundation of the earth. We live in fragile bodies in a fallen world. But our God has this universe and all of us in his hands. He loves and provides for all his creation. Now that’s comforting. — Rob Johnson, Elder



Prayer


Father, we stand in awe of you. And we can barely articulate our thanks for your blessings on us, most especially the price paid by your Son for our salvation. We ask for strength and wisdom and opportunities to share the Gospel with others so that you may be glorified. In Jesus’ name, amen.


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SATURDAY, MAY 16, 2020


Personal Thoughts from Elder, Andy Johnson


After escaping from slavery in Egypt, the Hebrew people were across the Red Sea. They were traveling to the promised land of Canaan. With two exceptions, Joshua and Caleb, none of the exodus generation completed their journey. Although the biblical trip is historically accurate, we should read the scripture as an allegory. The story is an allegory of our journey from our present lives to the promised land of the Kingdom of God and eternal life. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us and the scripture can help us to understand how we can avoid the mistakes that the exodus generation made. Among these mistakes were: 

  • not putting their trust in God; 
  • worshipping idols instead of God; 
  • ignoring the laws that God gave them; 
  • living a sinful life. 

As we shall see, we can easily make the same mistakes. None of us is close to perfect and we will make many mistakes. God was very patient with the exodus generation, and he is patient with us. We are saved by his grace although we don't deserve it. 

 

Exodus 16:22–17:14 (From the Red Sea to Mt. Sinai)

 

After crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites became quarrelsome and discontented. God had been taking care of them (providing food, water, and dietary regulations to help keep them healthy). The people were not satisfied. We should not let unpleasant circumstances let us stop praising and following God. God knows better than we what is best for us.


Of particular interest in this section is the encounter with the Amalekites. The Amalekites were a fierce people who made their living by plundering others. God told Moses to hold up the staff had used across the Red Sea. It would be a symbol that with God victory was certain. Without God's help the battle would be no contest—the Amalekites were seasoned warriors and the Israelites were a ragtag bunch of former slaves. When the battle began, the Israelites were winning as long as Moses held up the staff. But when he physically could not hold up the staff, the Amalekites would be winning. Finally, Joshua and another aid sat Moses on a rock and held up his arms and Israelites staved off the foe. This should have convinced the people that would God anything is possible, and he would lead them to the promised land. 


 

Exodus 19:1–24:18 (Writing the Law)

 

The Israelites had arrived at Mount Sinai where they received many laws through Moses. These laws include the Ten Commandments. 

 

Exodus 32:1–34:35 (Breaking the Laws)

 

While Moses was still up on Mount Sinai, the people were making a Golden calf to worship. Although they might worship God, they kept their Egyptian ways and worshipped other gods. This continued idol worship was a major reason that they would fail to get to their promised land. We too can go astray by worshipping our idols of money, power, popularity, good looks, and a host of other things. If our thoughts are obsessed with these idols, we may jeopardize the journey to our promised land. 

 

Numbers 9:15–10:10 (Guidance for the Journey)

 

A little over a year after they had left the Red Sea, the Israelites were preparing to go to Canaan. While at Mount Sinai a cloud covered the Tabernacle. When the people were to move, the cloud would move, showing them where to go. When the cloud stopped, the people would stop and camp. 

 

Numbers 10:11–14:45 (First Approach to the Promised Land)

 

The Israelites were prevented from entering the promised land because of their unbelief. Throughout history God’s people have continued to struggle with a lack of faith. We must prevent unbelief from gaining a foothold in our lives, for it will prevent us from not enjoying the blessings which God has promised.

 

This section includes the story of the 12 spies which Moses sent into Canaan. They were to scout the land for information useful to the Israelites for an invasion. Ten of the spies reported that, although the land was indeed fertile, the cities were strongly fortified, and the soldiers were giants. Only the other two spies (Joshua and Caleb) recommended that they should proceed because God was on their side. The people listened to the 10 and would not proceed. They were so afraid that they were immobilized. As a result, the exodus generation was consigned to wander in the wilderness for another 39 years. Only Joshua and Caleb survived that long and finally entered the promised land. 

 

Numbers 21:1–9 (In the Wilderness for 39 More Years)

 

This is a short snippet of what happened to the Israelites in their long stay in the wilderness. God had allowed the people to live. God had put up with a lot. At least 10 times the people had refused to trust and obey him (Numbers 14:22). The whole nation, with very few exceptions, had shown contempt and distrust in God, but God needed the Exodus generation to bring up the new generation. God gave new laws and regulations to make the people pure. The new generation also became an effective fighting force. God successfully led them to fend off an attack by the king of Arad.

 

Numbers 21:4-9 contains the story of the bronze snake. God sent down a plague of poisonous snakes. He then told Moses to make a bronze snake and raise it up so it could be seen. He told Moses that all who looked up to see the bronze snake would not be harmed. It was not the snake that saved the people, but it was looking up to God for help. In John 3:15, Jesus used this story to say that anyone who looked up at Him on the cross and believed in Him would have eternal life. 

 

Deuteronomy Chapters 31 and 34 (Change in Leaders/Moses’ Last Days)

 

The time came for the Israelites to make their second attempt to enter the promised land. Moses was now 120 years old, and he knew that he was not able to lead the people. Both he and the Lord chose Joshua to be the new leader. He publicly proclaimed this to the people. They all traveled to a spot across the Jordan from the promised land and the fortified city of Jericho. Moses could see the promised land but he died without entering it. 

 

Joshua 1:1–5:12 (Entering the Promised Land)

 

God prepared Joshua and the nation by teaching them the importance of courageous and consistent faith. They miraculously crossed the Jordan and began the long-awaited conquest of the land. It is ironic that the inhabitants of Jericho were themselves terrified of the Israelites. These were the people whom the 10 spies feared and who terrified the Israelites. The conquest had finally begun.

 

Prayer

 


Dear Lord, we praise you for your mighty deeds. We know that we can trust you to do what is best for us. Forgive us for our sins for we know that they are many. May the Holy Spirit and scripture help us to become less sinful and to grow in our faith. The Exodus generation made many mistakes from which we can learn. Help us to trust you more and help us to stop worshipping idols. Our idols are far too often a desire to conform to earthly standards. We crave earthly things, and they keep us from pursuing what should be our main goal of trusting and obeying you. In Jesus’ name we ask this, amen.


 

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FRIDAY, MAY 15, 2020



Jesus Calms a Storm


On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
Mark 4:35-41 (ESV)




"I Am Yours" by Lauren Daigle


I see Your fingerprints

The work of Your hands

It's all in Your hands

I see the evidence

Leaving nothing to chance

The world's in Your hands


So I rest in Your promises

Now I am sure of this

I'm Yours


Let the waters rise

I will stand as the oceans roar

Let the earth shake beneath me

Let the mountains fall

You are God over the storm

And I am Yours


If you’d like to hear this song, click: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9B-81mZV5E



Personal thoughts from Elder, Greg Welmaker



How great it is to know that I belong to God, and, because of this, I have nothing to fear! While I am not one to welcome hurricanes, earthquakes, or falling mountains, I am fortunate to know that God is “God over the storm.” As Jesus was able to calm the storm as described in the Gospel of Mark, God can calm all the storms in our lives. As it says in Romans 8, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”



Prayer



Dear God, thank you for making me Yours. For it is only through your grace that I am saved. Help me remember that You are God over any storm and can carry me through anything that this world can throw at me. I pray that the Holy Spirit would fill my soul with His peace whenever I am caught up in life’s storms. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.


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THURSDAY, MAY 14, 2020


Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
    calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
    and because he is strong in power,
    not one is missing.
Isaiah 40:26 (ESV)




"Look Up Child" by Lauren Daigle


Where are You now

When darkness seems to win?

Where are You now

When the world is crumbling?


Oh I, I, I hear You say,

I hear You say,

Look up child, look up child.


If you’d like to hear this song, click: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iymkk85ELxw




Personal thoughts from Elder, Greg Welmaker



When times are tough, it is not uncommon for us to ask the question, “Where is God now?” The answer we are given in Isaiah and the song is simply to lift our eyes or look up. It is important for us to remember that God is always present, in good times and bad. Our God is a powerful God who created the heavens and is full of power and strength. It is by His grace that we are saved, and as His children, He will protect us.



Prayer



Dear God, blessed be Your name in all the earth. Help us raise our eyes to You in times of trouble. Even when the world appears to be crumbling all around us, remind us that You are in control. The battle has been fought and Your victory has been won. In His name we pray, amen.



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WEDNESDAY, MAY 13, 2020



Again Jesus spoke to them, saying,

“I am the light of the world.

Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,

but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12 (ESV)




"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" lyrics by Helen Lemmel


Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.


Oh soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!


If you’d like to hear Lauren’s version of this hymn, click: https://youtu.be/m0soLOJ94m8



Personal thoughts from Elder, Greg Welmaker



Lauren Daigle remade the wonderful hymn (first published in 1918) “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” on her latest album, and I am grateful. With all that is going on in the world today, I can relate to being weary (and sometimes troubled). It is wonderful to be reminded that if I only look to Jesus, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim” and, even better, we can enjoy Jesus’ glory and grace.



Prayer


Dear God, You are holy and worthy of our praise. When we are depressed, help us to turn our eyes to You and Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to focus on Jesus who gives us the light of life. In His name we pray, amen.



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TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2020


Personal thoughts from Elder, Greg Welmaker


As I was thinking about words of comfort, I realized that I often find these words in music. I am a fan of contemporary Christian music, and one of my favorite artists today is Lauren Daigle. In 2019, Lauren was the big winner at the 50th annual Gospel Music Association's Dove Awards, winning Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, and Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year. Today, Lauren is 28 years old, but, at the age of 15, Lauren was diagnosed with cytomegalovirus, an immune deficiency disorder that kept her homebound for about 2 years. (I find this interesting as we are all somewhat homebound today by another virus responsible for COVID-19.) It was during Lauren's sickness that she learned to sing, and now Lauren has said, "What you think might overcome you, is actually the place you're supposed to launch from." Over the next few days, I will be using lyrics from some of her songs that I hope you will find comforting.



"Trust in You" by Lauren Daigle

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings.
There's not a day ahead You have not seen.
So, in all things be my life and breath.
I want what You want Lord and nothing less.

When You don't move the mountains I'm needing You to move;
When You don't part the waters I wish I could walk through;
When You don't give the answers as I cry out to You;
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

If you'd like to hear this song, click: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_aVFVveJNs



"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths."
Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)



These verses from Proverbs are some of the most quoted in the Old Testament. My parents have written "Prov. 3:5-6" on the bottom of every correspondence I have ever received from them. They are easy words to hear–"Trust in the Lord"–but hard words to put into practice, especially when times are tough. The song reminds us that God is in control and how great it is if we can say that all we want is God's will and nothing less! In times of trouble, I pray that we all can put our trust in God.



Prayer


Heavenly Father, praise to You for who You are. In these times of trouble, help us to put our trust in You for You know what tomorrow brings. In Jesus' name, we pray, amen.


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MONDAY, MAY 11, 2020


"But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." 

Jeremiah 9:24 (ESV)



Personal Thoughts from Elder, Rich Porter



In Chapter 2 of A Little Book on the Christian LIfe, by John Calvin, there is considerable discussion about self-denial, a subject that touched me. One passage challenged my humility (or lack of):  "Our lust is furious and our greed limitless in pursuing wealth and honors, chasing after power, heaping up riches and gathering all those vain things which seem to give us grandeur and glory."


In truth, I have long since stopped aggressively pursuing wealth, honors, and power. My love for Christ and old age has replaced these desires. My new ambition is for recognition and a laughable desire to be remembered. This is all about self. Rather, I should be focused on using my skills, talents and treasure to help others without regard for reward!


All I need is a blessing from the Lord ... my wife, my necessities, my church, my family, and friends. I hope to be an encouragement to others and an example for the few I can influence to follow in the footsteps of our Savior, Jesus Christ. - Rich Porter



"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation."

Hebrews 11:1-2 (ESV)



Prayer


Heavenly Father, gracious Lord, let us not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of our minds. Help all of us be aware that we have much to give--give generously without the expectation of reward. Be loving and caring to our spouses, family. and friends, always sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ gently. Use these times of seclusion to read the bible, reach out to family and friends--particularly to those who are alone. We pray that our leaders would be wise in their decision making. May we be secure in the understanding that God uses challenges to fuel our faith in the future. Amen.

                                                      

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SATURDAY, MAY 9, 2020


“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV)



“In the darkest of nights cling to the assurance that God loves you, that He always has advice for you, a path that you can tread and a solution to your problem–and you will experience that which you believe. God never disappoints anyone who places his trust in Him.” — Mother Basilea



Personal thoughts from Director of Youth Ministry, Jason Pridmore


It doesn't take much for life to spiral into chaos—from simple deadlines and day-to-day requirements to overwhelming unknowns and the unimaginable. To say anxiety is along for the ride would be an understatement; anxiety is most often the one driving. But because Christ is our only guaranteed constant in life, He is our ever-present comfort in life. Therefore, comfort is found in our creator, not our circumstances.

In times of uncertainty, we tend to fear, worry, and doubt. But the word of God gives us comfort, peace, strength, and joy during these times. If we seek His face, we can experience these attributes; promises of God. Scriptures tell us that He is our comforter. Psalm 23:4 says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me your rod and staff they comfort me." We must know that God is in control and He sees all and knows all we are facing. He gives us peace. Psalm 29:11 says, "The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace." John 14:27 says, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, I do not give to you as the world gives, do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." The peace that God gives is not like the world gives. It's a knowing in your heart, a trusting in your spirit. 

In the moments of crippling anxiety, impossible unknowns, and the minuscule day-to-day commitments, know this: we are praying that God brings your heart back by renewing your understanding of His promises and that He stills your heart with a refreshed dose of His peace. — Jason Pridmore



Prayer



Lord, thank you for your promises and your gift of peace. Thank you that YOU are my PEACE. Help me not to be afraid when trouble comes my way. Help me trust and rest in you at all times, regardless of what my feelings try to convince me to think. Bring peace into my soul that passes all worldly understanding and make me a light for others to see your strength. In Jesus' name, amen.


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FRIDAY, MAY 8, 2020



“No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us.”


1 John 4:12 (NABRE)



"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.” — Fred McFeely Rogers, “Mister Rogers”



Personal thoughts from Director of Youth Ministry, Jason Pridmore



It is perfectly understandable, when in times of uncertainty, to ask the question, “Where is God in all this?” But a big part of our faith is knowing that our doubts are not limitations for God. He continues to have an active presence in this world, whether we acknowledge Him or not. God doesn’t always wait for us to be on board with His will, but He does call us into a lifestyle of partnering with him where he is already at work. There is nowhere you can go that God won’t be. There is no one you could talk to whom God doesn’t already see, love relentlessly, and have amazing plans for. And because humans were made in God’s image, a key to answering the question “Where is God in all this?” is not only recognizing God working through the “helpers" but also crediting Him with those good things. The good that is done by others, is a reflection of God’s character and affirmation that God is at work—in the world, in tough times, in others around us. James 1:17 reads, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” People caring for others in this world is an extension of Gods love at work today.


May you too, begin to look for the “helpers” in the world today. May you learn to see God in the challenges of our lives. May you recognize that He is still at work in and through others, in His mission to reconcile the lost. And may you glorify Him in all that is good and respond to Him, by partnering with him in his work. — Jason Pridmore



Prayer



Heavenly and most gracious Father, open our eyes, so that we see you working in this world. Cultivate in us a lifestyle of seeing where we can come alongside you and partner with your work. Give us your eyes to see the ways you are pursuing humanity. Give us a heart like yours. Let us meet you where you’re already at work today and seek to share you with a world that desperately needs to know you. And in our recognition of you and all that you do, let our hearts be filled with gratitude, for you are God. Thank you. In your Son’s name, amen.


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THURSDAY, MAY 7, 2020



"Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known."
Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)



"Many solitaries living in the desert have been lost because they lived like people in the world. It is better to live in a crowd and want to live a solitary life than to live in solitude and be longing all the time for company." — Amma Matrona, Desert Mother (c. 4th-5th century)



Personal thoughts from Director of Youth Ministry, Jason Pridmore



Billy Graham talked a lot about what it means to “long” for someone. He said, "It means that a person is unsatisfied or unfulfilled because there is someone he or she very much wants to be near, to hear that certain voice, to experience that special presence. Usually, particularly when the object is someone very much loved by the person who is longing for another, there is hardly a waking moment when that person is not on the mind of the one who is longing for."

Through this time of recommended quarantine, we have all come to long for the presence of others—our friends, our family, our church.  We talk about all the things we will do and people we will see when this "thing" is over. We gather in anticipation for every coronavirus update and "re-opening" announcement. We have learned new ways and have used new technologies in order to "hang-out" with people because we long for that connection. But what about God?  God wants us to long for Him in that same way. He wants us to discover more and new ways to connect with Him. He wants us to long for Him because He knows it is in that longing that He fulfills and overwhelms us with His presence in our lives. He wants us to long for Him because He longs for us. His greatest desire is for a relationship with us. God is pursuing each of us with his relentless love, seeking out those who might respond to his open invitation by opening the door of their hearts to Him.  — Jason Pridmore



Prayer



Dear God, we pray, that in response to your desire to meet with us, that we would be among those people who say yes to meeting with you; that we would say yes to centering our lives around your presence. Fill us with the longing to know you more. Let us feel the reality of your presence and the longing of your heart for us. And may we be marked by your love in our own lives and as we interact with the lives of others. Amen.


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WEDNESDAY, MAY 6, 2020



"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever."

Psalm 136:1 (ESV)



"There is a comfort in the strength of love; 'Twill make a thing endurable, which else would overset the brain, or break the heart." ― “Michael: A Pastoral Poem” by William Wordsworth



Personal thoughts from Director of Youth Ministry, Jason Pridmore



Like Wordsworth, the Beatles also had an idea about this. "All You Need is Love" is a song they wrote that catalogs all the things that are possible, as long as you have love. And though I'm not ready to give in and agree that "love is ALL you need," love is a powerful element when present in one's life. Love motivates us and drives us to do all kinds of great and crazy things.


How much more awesome is God's love for us? There is no force more powerful than the love our heavenly Father has for us, his children. His love can move mountains, stop the roaring seas, heal broken bones and wounded hearts, transform lives, and set free those held captive by sin and shame and fear. In 1 John 4:18, we read, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." And God's love for us is perfect; it's supernatural. God loves you simply because he loves you. You don't have to work for his affection. You don't have to make yourself right before God can pour out his love over you. His love is steadfast, ongoing, and it endures forever. William Wordsworth understood this kind of love. A love like God's love for us empowers us to endure through many a thing, that without, would render us captive to our fears. Know that today, and always, God's love for you is steadfast and endures forever. — Jason Pridmore



Prayer



Loving and unchanging God, we thank you. Thank you for being good. Thank you for your love and for your promise to always be there. Help us to remember that even in the tough times, though it may not feel like it to us, your love for us goes on. Let us feel your love in our lives today and in these times of anxiousness, fear, and uncertainty. Give us the comfort and the peace only you can provide. We ask for you to reveal through your Spirit a renewed sense of your grace and love for us. And with confidence, let that renewal lead us to draw closer to you. All we need is YOUR love. Amen.


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TUESDAY, MAY 5, 2020



"And he said, 'Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.' And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave."

1 Kings 19:11-13 (ESV)



"Rest is a decision we make. Rest is choosing to do nothing when we have too much to do, slowing down when we feel pressure to go faster, stopping instead of starting. Rest is listening to our weariness and responding to our tiredness, not to what is making us tired. Rest is what happens when we say one simple word: 'No!' Rest is the ultimate humiliation because in order to rest, we must admit we are not necessary, that the world can get along without us, that God's work does not depend on us. Once we understand how unnecessary we are, only then might we find the right reasons to say yes. Only then might we find the right reasons to decide to be with Jesus instead of working for him. Only then might we have the courage to take a nap with Jesus." ― Mike Yaconelli, Youth Specialties



Personal thoughts from Director of Youth Ministry, Jason Pridmore



I understand asking the question, "Why would God allow this to happen?" But, I'm not one to blame God for the crises in this world or in my life…anymore. What I have found more helpful and even more telling of God and His character is asking the question, "How is God working through this situation?" or "What is God using this season of life to teach/tell me?"


Busyness is something I think most of us can relate too. Between family, work, school, and social life (what's that?), our time can be quickly consumed with the things we deem most important in life. But what about God? Where do we fit Him in? An hour a week for church? 15 minutes for devotions in the morning? Prayer before meals? All good things. But when did you last spend the afternoon with God? I mean, when was the last time you were intentional about carving out a few hours? A full day? A weekend with God? Not the leftover time, once housework and daily routines are completed, but planned out, real-time spent with God, like you would a friend or loved one. What if, in this time of quarantine and social distancing, God was reaching out to you to say, "Hey, slow down. Did you forget about me? I want to spend time with you." Instead of looking for God in the wind or the fire or the earthquake or the pandemic, carve out some intentional time to reconnect with God in the still, quiet, and slowed-down pace of life we find ourselves in now...it won't last forever. — Jason Pridmore



Prayer



God, speak to me. Let me drown out the noise of life. Let me turn down the volume of all the things I continually put in between myself and You.  Give me rest, but also, give me time time with You. Let me focus my mind, my heart, and my life back to you. In this moment, now, let your presence wash over me. And may I use this time to reprioritize you back to Lord of my life. Thank you for being here. Amen.


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MONDAY, MAY 4, 2020


"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 than food, and the body more than clothes? ... Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)


“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin." -- Mother Teresa



Personal thoughts from Director of Youth Ministry, Jason Pridmore


Matthew 6:25-34 has always been my favorite scripture. I've always found a sense of freedom in the command, "Do not worry." The song "Don't Worry, Be Happy" comes to mind. But in more recent years I have appreciated this passage more for what it doesn't say, than for what it does. Jesus in this passage says, "Don't worry." What he doesn't say, but implies is, "Don't worry because God's got this." 


I grew up thinking that the level of my worry was inversely correlated to my trust in God---the more I worried, the less I trusted God. I think to some degree that is still true. But what I've really come to take from these verses is not simply that I should not worry, but that I have no reason to worry because of who my God is. God's in control. This is not God's first rodeo. This too shall pass. And as our daily routines change, because we know that God is in control, we can live out of faith and not out of fear. Because of who God is, and recognizing who we are to Him, I'm given a sense of peace to do the things that I need to do---to do the things He puts before me. 


Knowing that "God's got this," removing that pressure, what can you do today to partner in His work? "Go ... boldly." -- Jason Pridmore



Prayer



Awesome and most powerful God, thank you for being in charge. Thank you for being in control. Thank you for taking the pressure off of me today, so that I can do the things you want me to do. I pray for your peace and your continued encouragement to live boldly today, in the presence of your strength. Let my focus be on you and the now, not on what might be or what could happen. Let my confidence reflect the faith I have in you and your promises. I surrender control of my life to you. Go before me today, so that I will know where to follow. In your name I pray. Amen.


-------------------------------------


SATURDAY, MAY 2, 2020


For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11 (ESV)



“With uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic and many people holed up in their homes, people are ordering books online, especially the Good Book, according to sales from top Christian publishers. While the vast majority of Americans own Bibles, a large percentage say they never read it. But that could be changing.” —Fox News online, April 6, 2020



Personal thoughts from Pastor David



The online news piece quoted above reported increased Bible sales during the early days of the pandemic. Publishers noted sales increased from 44% to 162% versus the same week the previous year. The use of online Bible resources also rose dramatically. People seek truth and solace during times of uncertainty. Our culture has been fleeing its Christian heritage for some time now, but many people still instinctively turn to the Bible.


No doubt about it: people are more spiritually open now than they have been. We’ve lost our illusion of control. We’ve faced our own mortality. This crisis has been a wake-up call. But will people find the answer without someone to guide them? Maybe that someone is you.

Now is a great time to talk about big, important questions. Now is a good opportunity to have spiritual conversations. Perhaps you know someone who does not know the Savior. A friend. A relative. A neighbor. Why not have a meaningful conversation about the things that matter and see where it goes? Be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within you. —David Mauldin



Prayer



God of grace, you are the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 and seeks the one who is lost. I pray that in these days of fear and frustration, you would draw to yourself those who do not know the Savior. Cause those who are indifferent to become curious. Cause those who are curious to seek for you. And when people seek for you, find them. Lord, I also offer myself for your use. Use me to speak truth to those whom you bring into my life. I especially pray for ______, and ask you to give me an opportunity to share the gospel with him/her. Help me speak the truth in love. Amen.

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FRIDAY, MAY 1, 2020


Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Philippians 4:5 (NIV)



Personal thoughts from Pastor Brad



"Another way to translate the word gentleness is one of my favorites: unflappability. Some translations use the word steadfastness. It means you don't get bent out of shape when there are difficulties in life. People who are unflappable don't always see the glass as half empty. They don't give up instantly when presented with a problem. They realize that part of the enjoyment of life is overcoming hurdles that will inevitably get in the way.

Paul reminds his readers and us that we Christians should be a people who are not rattled. We're unflappable and steadfast in the midst of life's trials. And not only that, but these traits should be obvious to everyone.

Now let's admit it; there are some things about us that only those closest to us know. There's the person you are in public, and the person you are in private. I remember one of the first churches I worked in had a well-known businessman in our community as one of its lay leaders. One week a young couple came into the church for the first time, and I introduced myself. When they mentioned who they worked for, I said, 'Your boss is actually a member of our church.' Guess what? They turned around and walked out the door. There was such a discrepancy between how this individual acted at work and how they acted amongst the church that it actually caused someone to feel uncomfortable in our worship service.

That's a good example of a person in private versus a person in public. Paul says that our gentleness should be evident to all. Not just those who live with us, but everyone who sees us.

Not only does Paul give the instruction to be calm, cool, and collected, but he also gives the rationale as to why. The Lord is near. It's the presence of God's Spirit within us that gives us the power to be gentle or steadfast. It's because of His nearness that we don't need to get upset at trivial issues. It's because of His proximity that we are calm under fire.

As economies go up and down and governors decide whether or not to open things up, we Christians need to be a people who are not jostled by what's going on around us. Our gentleness should be evident to all." —Brad Klostreich


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THURSDAY, APRIL 30, 2020



For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?

Romans 8:24 (ESV)



Personal thoughts from Pastor Brad



“Right now, our country needs some hope. The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about hope in his letters to various churches. But when he used that word, it wasn't the way we use it. When we use the word hope, we mean our desire for some future result that is presently uncertain. For example, I hope that my favorite football team, the Seattle Seahawks, will win the Super Bowl this year (if there is one). When I use the term hope in that context, I'm merely using wish-projection. I have no idea whether or not that will happen. It's wishful thinking at best.

But the Bible uses hope in a different way. When Paul uses the term hope, he's indicating a situation in which the future is absolutely certain. There's no wishful thinking or a pie in the sky ideology. The biblical concept of hope is simply faith looking forward. The reason biblical hope is more certain is because of who our hope is grounded in. It's grounded in the person and nature of the Triune God. Because He always keeps His promises, we can have that biblical type of hope that is rock solid and confident.
 
This type of hope is the only explanation for Christians who, through various ages, were willing to lay down their lives and go into the lion's den or the Roman arena. They had a confident hope in where they were going. They had a hope that would never embarrass them or make them ashamed. May we have that same steadfast hope in this current crisis.” —Brad Klostreich


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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29, 2020



For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Romans 8:18 (NASB)



Personal thoughts from Pastor Brad


"Let’s face it; the whole world is suffering. Any comparison between our present suffering and the future God has in store for us will fall short. The word that pops out at me in this verse is the word “present.” Suffering is real to the Apostle. It’s not just an illusion. He understood in a real way, the stark reality of human suffering because he himself had suffered so much. Next to Jesus, Paul was one of the most persecuted people ever to live. Despite all the suffering he endured, he said it’s not even worth comparing to what’s waiting for us in heaven.
 
As bad as things look right now, what’s down the road is so much better and more glorious, that our current predicament will seem like “small potatoes” in comparison." — Brad Klostreich



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TUESDAY, APRIL 28, 2020


For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NASB)



Personal thoughts from Pastor Brad



"This was one of C.S. Lewis’ favorite verses. He talked about it and preached from it a lot during the days of the Blitz in World War II. Paul was familiar with suffering. Prior to the above verse, he has described how many different types of persecutions he has had to endure. From whippings to being stranded at sea, Paul knew suffering first hand. And then he describes them as a 'weight of glory.' All these difficulties, including the current one, are preparing us for something. We must remain focused upon the future glory that awaits us as we experience sufferings here on the earth, sufferings such as a worldwide virus pandemic.

This is where the rubber meets the road. We live in a fallen world surrounded by trials, death, sickness, failure, and disappointment. We are not immune to these things. We experience the same hardships as unbelievers. But on top of that, we also experience sufferings that only a believer will experience: persecution, tribulation, suffering for Christ, being put to death all day long like sheep being led to slaughter. On top of everything the world experiences, we have another layer. Suffering is part of the Christian life.

But let us not forget, we also have some problems removed. We are no longer living in darkness, making poor decisions. We now have the mind of Christ and the wisdom and lamp of Scripture leading us through this world. So there has been the removal of some problems. Nevertheless, there remain sufferings that Christians endure. We must not forget that our sufferings do not compare to the glory that awaits us in Christ." — Brad Klostreich



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MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2020


Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

Psalm 16:1-3 (NIV)



Personal thoughts from Pastor Brad


"It’s hard to know where we should be right now. Some of us are sheltering in place per the governor’s order while some of us are wandering around town looking for something, anything, to entertain us. The early signs of ‘cabin fever’ are crankiness, laziness, lethargic behavior, even depression. The writer of Psalm 16 reminds us that the best place, the safest place, for us to be at any time, is in God’s presence." —Brad Klostreich


Where did Jesus most want to be?


And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

John 17:5 (ESV)


"Jesus’ greatest desire was to be home with his Father in heaven. In some ways, the day of his Ascension was probably the greatest day of His life because that was the day he got to go home.


Even though we’re not allowed to go about our daily business as much as we’d like, we need to remind ourselves that we are continually in God’s presence thanks to the Holy Spirit. And that is always the safest place to be." —Brad Klostreich

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SATURDAY, APRIL 25, 2020


Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:4-5 (ESV)


"In this prophecy, grief, suffering, and sickness are rolled up together with sin and guilt and loaded onto the Messiah’s back. And when Jesus comes, he carries that load. He bears the moral weight of guilt and sin in our place. But he also bears the heartbreak of our suffering. Jesus holds us close as we lament. He weeps with us as we weep. He knows the end of our story, when he will wipe away every tear from our eyes. But this does not stop him from cleaving to us in our pain. In fact, pain is a place of special intimacy with him." —Rebecca McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity


Personal thoughts from Pastor David


In times of distress, remember that Jesus not only bears your sins, he shares your sorrow. Yes, joy comes in the morning. But we endure a long night of sorrow before the sun rises. We do not, however, endure it alone. Jesus is with us. He holds you and gets you through until the light breaks on the horizon. What a Savior! He both makes the sun rise, and he holds you through the darkness! —David Mauldin


Prayer


Lord, watch with me through this night. Whether it is long or short, get me through it. I ask this mercy also for others who suffer, many worse than I do. Be near to them. Show them who you are. Sustain them. I praise you for you make the sun rise, and you keep us through the night. You promise new creation, and you walk with us through this old creation, redeeming all that is good, overcoming all that is evil. Glory to you, with the Father and the Spirit, now and forever. Amen.


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FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2020

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.

Ephesians 1:3-5 (ESV)


"And what does faith imply? That we should know what our God is like! We must know him as our Father, must depend unreservedly on him and must boldly call on him in prayer, confident that he will answer and will help in time of need. We must also look to him for the everlasting salvation which he has promised. That is what Paul understands by faith. We must be certain of what our God is like; we must worship him and cease to make idols in our heads or invent whatever gods we please. We must know that the living God has revealed himself to us and in his free goodness adopted us. For what purpose? So that we might turn to him for refuge, never doubting that, as his children, we are also heirs of his kingdom." —John Calvin, sermon on 1 Timothy 1:5, translated by Robert White



Personal thoughts from Pastor David


If we knew God better, our lives would change. We would not be afraid. We would meet adversity with greater confidence. Our suffering would seem less important. We would be more grateful and joyful. Our peace would be harder to disturb. Take a moment and reflect on the goodness and power of God. —David Mauldin



Prayer


All praise to you, Lord God the Almighty, for your wisdom, power, and goodness are infinite. You have no beginning or end. You have no need or lack. You are perfect in holiness and majesty. In the cross, you demonstrate your love. In the resurrection we see the beginning of new creation. By your Holy Spirit, help us to know you as you are. In Jesus’ name, amen.



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THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 2020

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 (ESV)


“Faith is no solitary thing. It means that once God has pardoned our sins we can call upon him in perfect freedom and with such confidence that we do not hesitate to call him Father, and to count ourselves as his children for the sake of Jesus Christ. It means also that we can glory in the face of death and of all our spiritual foes, and that we can live in the midst of danger under the protection of our God, having nothing to fear since he leads and governs us.”  —John Calvin, sermon on 1 Timothy 1:3-4, translated by Robert White


Personal thoughts from Pastor David

Calvin, in the quote above, reminds us what faith means. We know God as our Father, and that means we live without fear. Difficult circumstances test our faith. Overcoming those circumstances strengthens our faith as we learn to rely on God and he proves himself faithful. As frustrating or discouraging as these days may be for you, someday they will be over. Someday you will look back on them. If you have faith in Jesus, you can expect to look back and perceive God’s faithfulness. Even if you can’t now recognize what he is doing—even if you still don’t know when you look back—he is working out his purposes. So trust him. That’s also what faith is. Faith means you trust. —David Mauldin


Prayer

Father, we praise you for the grace that allows us to call you Father. We thank you for the freedom and confidence we can have in you. We ask you to daily increase in us, by your Holy Spirit, our freedom and confidence. We also pray that someday we will look back at these days and, seeing your hand at work, glorify you. But we also pledge that even if we never understand what you are up to, we will glorify you anyway. You have given us faith. Therefore, we don’t have to know your plans to know that they are good. All praise be to you, the Eternal and Living God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22, 2020

[Jesus said:] Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV)


"This is how afflictions work for the good of God’s children, and how therefore they may glory in them. God’s grace is the beginning of all that is good and makes for our happiness. Paul rightly associated the one with the other. Thus we are warned not to put the cart before the horse whenever we ask God for what we need. There is an order here which we must observe. First of all God must receive us in his grace; then he must send us what is good and needful. Our nature, of course, works the other way around, in the same way an invalid is more concerned by his pain than by what is causing it! Hence when we pray to God we ask for bread to eat and for our needs to be met. If we are sick we ask for healing; if we lack something we ask him to provide it. That is why our prayers are always back to front. We forget the major things—God’s grace and peace—and we concentrate on the minor. … When we address God in prayer, we should ask above all that he may be gracious to us, and that in pardoning our sins he may gather us to himself. We should also ask him to rule over us and in all things be our guide." —John Calvin, sermon on 1 Timothy 1:1-2, translated by Robert White


Personal thoughts from Pastor David

Calvin is right. We usually pray for food, health, protection, and the like. We less often ask for God to be gracious to us, forgive us, and rule over us. But our usual practice is backwards. Because if God gives us his grace and makes us his children, he will give us everything we need. —David Mauldin


Prayer

O Lord God, look with mercy upon us. Give us your grace. Forgive our sins. Make us your children. Bind us to you through your covenant. And then we will have no need or lack, whatever our circumstances. You know our needs and you are good. Teach us to trust you. Amen.


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TUESDAY, APRIL 21, 2020

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)


"Although believers and God’s children long for rest, they must nevertheless not seek to be comfortable here below. Let it be enough that God makes his strength perfect in their weakness." —John Calvin, sermon on Matthew 26:40-50, translated by Robert White


Personal thoughts from Pastor David

As stay-at-home and social distancing drag on, you are likely to grow weary. Depression and anxiety sap our physical strength. The psychological strain drains us. This emotional fatigue is a spiritual issue. Physical and emotional sickness always have a spiritual component. We human beings are complex, but we are each one person, so inside of us, everything is connected—heart, mind, soul, and strength. Happily, the grace of God is as comprehensive as our need.
In the verse above, Paul shares the answer God gave him when Paul prayed that God would remove Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” We don’t know what that was, but Paul was afflicted in some way. And that was a spiritual problem. He asked God to get rid of the problem. God refused but assured Paul that “my grace is sufficient for you.” God’s grace is sufficient for us as well.

If you are weary, ask God to demonstrate his power in your weakness. —David Mauldin


Prayer

Lord, we are ready for this to be over. We want our lives to return to normal. Some are sick. Many are hurting financially. All of us are tired. We ask you to demonstrate your power in our weakness. Forgive us for always asking for a lighter load rather than a stronger back. We ask for this to be over, but don’t let it be over until we know that your grace is sufficient for every need. Teach us to find our rest in you. In Jesus’ name, amen.


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MONDAY, APRIL 20, 2020

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content."
Philippians 4:11 (ESV)


"He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase,
To added affliction, He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, He multiplies peace." - Annie Johnson Flint


Personal thoughts from Pastor David


Paul managed to be content in a wider range of circumstances than most of us could manage. Most of us need a fairly comfortable life in order to be genuinely content. And let's face it, a pandemic doesn't help. Yes, it reminds us how much we have to be thankful for. Yes, others are suffering more. We are grateful for every mercy. And yet ... this pandemic is a trial, a burden, an affliction.


Of course it is! Paul had those too. So how was he able to be content in the midst of them? He tells us a few verses later: Christ strengthened him. Even in his suffering, Paul could fall back on the everlasting arms. As the hymn lyrics from Annie Johnson Flint attest, Christ's power in us is greatest in our weakness. - David Mauldin



Prayer


We praise you, Lord, for your strength never grows weary. As our burdens grow heavy, increase your strength in us. As afflictions multiply, give us mercy. In our trials, give us peace -- so that we might glorify you and bring glory to your name. Look with kindness also on those whose need is great, whether in health or finances or whatever their need. Show us your kindness. Amen.


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SATURDAY, APRIL 18, 2020

"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation."
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (ESV)


“You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.” – Corrie Ten Boom, Holocaust survivor and evangelist


Personal thoughts from Pastor David

“What is God doing in this mess we are in?” People are asking that question. Some ask, “Why did he allow it?” Others (with a more robust view of providence) ask, “Why did he send it?” Everyone wants to know, “What is he up to?” I’m not sure those are questions we can answer. I imagine God is doing a lot of different things. John Piper has written a book about Coronavirus, and he lists at least six. A friend of mine who is also a pastor wondered during a recent Pastor Accountability Group meeting if God’s purpose is not to strip away all the stuff and busy-ness from our lives, to take away all the stuff (even the good stuff) that distracts us from God. I’m not sure about that, but it’s worth pondering. In any case, we do not have to know what God is doing in order to know what we should do. We should trust Christ and rejoice in the Lord. Habakkuk says it well. Even though everything I have come to depend on gets taken away, I will still take joy in the God of my salvation. – David Mauldin


Prayer

Father in heaven, God of our salvation, we do rejoice in you. We praise you in good times and bad. We gratefully receive every good gift from your hand, and we pray that this pandemic would pass, sparing our family, our church, and our community. We ask your healing and blessing and provision for those who suffer the most. We all suffer in some way. Perhaps in this time you are teaching us that you are all we need. In any case, that is true. Help us to know it is true, not just in our heads, but also in our hearts and down deep in our bones. You are our God. We are your people. Blessed be the name of the Lord! Amen.

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FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 2020

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:28-31 (ESV)



“Though He gave a certain logical priority to loving God by mentioning it first, answering a question about the greatest commandment with two commandments shows that Jesus regarded the commands as distinguishable, not separable. That is, Christ held that we cannot truly love God without loving our neighbor and we cannot truly love our neighbor without loving God.”  – “The Greatest Commandments” Devotional at www.ligonier.org


Personal thoughts from Elder Rob Johnson

When there’s a lot of uncertainty in my life, I often find it comforting to have directions to follow. It can take some anxiety away to simply have something to do. However, if I were a Jew in Jesus’s time, the quantity of rules to follow would be overwhelming. Ligonier Ministries counted up 613 biblical commandments. Fortunately, Jesus makes it easy when he teaches that two are the greatest commandments. After reading his response, I’m tempted to say, “Well, of course I love God, and I love my neighbors. That’s not so hard.” But what does he mean when he says do it with ALL my heart, soul, mind, and strength. “Jesus”, I say, “I might not be able to do that. I want to save something for myself. I can’t give you ALL of it.” The only way I can overcome this selfishness is with God’s help. Prayer is the start. Prayer brings us closer to God, which brings us to a closer understanding of God’s love, which brings us to love God even more. Like other Christians, I am a work in progress. For today, it’s enough to listen to the words of our Savior. The words of Jesus may challenge me, but they always make me feel less anxious.  – Rob Johnson


Prayer


Father, thank you for sending Jesus to walk among us and teach us. We often fall short of what you desire for us, and we are not always obedient. But Father, we love you. Help us love you with all of our hearts, soul, minds, and strength.  And help us share that love with our neighbors. We pray you will strengthen and encourage those who are having a hard time during this pandemic. And we pray you will use each of us to glorify your name. Amen.

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THURSDAY, APRIL 16, 2020

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"
Psalm 46:10 (ESV)


“It’s easy to be fearful when things aren’t going well or when we are faced with challenges and conflict in our life. In the midst of their struggle, however, God tells His people to wake up and recognize who’s on their side…In the midst of conflict and life turmoil, sometimes we just need to open our eyes, step back, stop what we’re doing, and acknowledge who God is and what He can do. Doing so provides comfort in the chaos and peace in the midst of struggle.” –Joel Ryan, Crosswalk.com


Personal thoughts from Elder Greg Welmaker


Throughout my life, I have often reflected on Psalm 46 when anxious and/or troubled about the future. This verse has always brought a greater perspective to my environment and reminded me that I belong to God, and He is in control. I especially appreciate the command “Be still” as it reminds me that I must stop what I’m doing, stop trying to control the situation, simply stop everything, and take a deep breath. Once I am still, I can acknowledge our God for who He is – “Holy! Holy! Holy!” and worthy of my praise. The verse closes by reminding me that God is God, and in the end, He will be exalted, which to me means God wins! For this, I am thankful. –Greg Welmaker


Prayer


Heavenly Father, You are holy, holy, holy and worthy of my praise. Provide me the strength to let go of my fears and anxieties and reflect upon Who You are. Thank you for being in control, even when I feel lost and afraid. Thank you for the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who died and rose again that I may be called Your child. Provide your peace to all of those who are anxious and give me the wisdom to pause and acknowledge you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15, 2020

“For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
James 1:3-4 (ESV)


Personal thoughts from Elder Russ Rykse

I cannot help but look around and see how the world is responding to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. It becomes painfully clear to see those who are being opportunistic and divisive in contrast to those who are jumping in to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We have a choice to respond to the needs of those who have fallen to the virus itself, incurred financial hardship, or experienced social isolation. 

I believe our present trials are an opportunity to be refined by fire or pruned by our Heavenly Gardener. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-5 (ESV)

Our Heavenly Father may be using this historic occasion to refashion us to more clearly reflect His power and majesty in a world which ignores His very presence.

Is God whispering to you?
Is He rearranging our focus?
Is God calling us to re-examine the priorities of our hearts?
How tightly are we holding our resources?
Are there relationships that need mending?

When we survey the landscape of our nation and our societal trends, we ought not to be surprised that God needed to get our attention. As believers in Jesus Christ, we have hope, and I see new opportunities. We can rely on God. He will not waste any of our pain or loss. As our landscape changes daily, remember to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer, for we know that “… in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).


Prayer

Father God, we humbly bow before you and ask that you will hear us. Thank you for caring enough to reach down and get our attention. Lord, we pray that in this season of intense pruning, we will unclutter our lives, quiet our minds, and turn our faces to you. Work in our hearts and minds that we may reflect your grace and compassion. Let our personal transformations be a witness to those around us and to be your hands and feet. May your ministry around this world touch those who do not know you and help us to understand we can be your servants right where you’ve planted us at this moment in time. We are in your grip. May your will be done. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

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TUESDAY, APRIL 14, 2020



[Jesus said,] "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life..."

Matthew 6:25 (ESV)


"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

Romans 8:28 (ESV)



Personal Thoughts from Elder Andy Johnson



Because of the ill effects of worry and fear, Jesus tells us not to worry about things, because God will provide. Excessive worry can and will:

  1.  damage our health

  2.  cause the object of our fear to dominate our thoughts

  3.  disrupt our productivity

  4.  negatively affect our ability to relate to others

  5.  most importantly, reduce our ability to trust in God


There is a big difference between worrying about our own fate and having concern for others as well as ourselves. In the current coronavirus situation, our thoughts should be about comforting others. This can be done by frequently staying in touch with them and through prayer. Worry will immobilize us, but concern will cause us to take action. 


Romans 8:28 tells us that no matter how bad we think things are, for those who love God, all things will work for the good. In our current coronavirus situation, it is not obvious how things will work for the good. We don't know how the situation will end; some possible ways it could work out well are:

  1.  The current crisis may reverse the increasing trend of ignoring the gospel and persecuting Christians.

  2.  It may topple some evil and ungodly regimes (China, Iran, etc.).

  3.  It may hasten the second coming of Christ to completely establish the kingdom of God on earth.


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MONDAY, APRIL 13, 2020


"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV)



Personal Thoughts from Elder Tom Lytle



I have been reading the March issue of Tabletalk, which focuses on 2 Thessalonians. Paul refers to the three cardinal Christian virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love. In 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul writes, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

I personally feel that something God has given us, in addition to God’s love, that separates believers from others is that we have eternal hope.

Dr. Sproul, in his notes in Hebrews 6:7, says, “Biblical hope is a conviction that the future promises of God will be fulfilled. Hope is not a mere wish projection, but an assurance of what will come to pass.” He goes on to say that as believers, we have the Holy Spirit, who is not only a sign of our hope, but a sustainer of our hope.

Our current situation may be challenging, but we have hope in knowing that things WILL get better. God has promised us that. - Tom Lytle


Prayer


Gracious God and Heavenly Father, you are the creator and source of all things. In your goodness and love, you have provided for our needs, and with hearts full of gratitude, we give you thanks. For your grace and mercy, your love and patience, we give you thanks. For our family and our health, we give you thanks. For the many blessings you have bestowed on us and our Church, we give you thanks. Eternal God, in your magnificent generosity, you shared your son with us. Through him, we learn more about you and your purpose for our lives. Thank you for allowing us to live in your peace. Amen.


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SATURDAY, APRIL 11, 2020


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV)



“Everything that is tearing us down today will become a memory, and this memory will be shared as an anecdote or a story or a poem or a play or a warning. It will be shared with another human being, who will then understand that he is not alone in his sadness. This is why we show up for others and tell our tales and listen to others. The great congregation meets daily, and you are someone’s angel today.” - Tennessee Williams


Personal Thoughts from Director of Youth Ministry, Jason Pridmore


There is an important distinction between empathy and sympathy. Sympathy is defined as: "feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortunes." This feeling is not an unloving one, nor is it one that should be frowned upon. Sympathy is hearing a sad story and feeling bad for someone. It is saying, “Sorry," when someone has a parent who dies. Sympathy can even come alongside someone in love, compassion, and encouragement. We sympathize with those with whom we do not share history.

Empathy, on the other hand, is a shared experience. It is "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another." A person shows empathy when they show sympathy towards another while sharing the same experiences. Empathy is the nod of a man returning from war to a veteran who returned the year before. It is the silence between two siblings as they cry over the loss of their parents. It is the "I'm sorry" of a friend who also miscarried their first child. Empathy creates an emotional bond between two people because of shared experiences.

Jesus is the ultimate example of empathy. He literally put himself in our place when He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Empathy is more than standing by and shaking our heads in sympathy. It's jumping into someone's grief and hurt, shedding tears and sharing the truth and hope of Jesus Christ. Empathy opens doors into another's soul, gives us opportunities to encourage and strengthen someone's faith, or most importantly, points a lost soul toward eternity. So, when God allows us to go through a hardship, we can consider it a privilege to suffer as our Lord Jesus suffered and use our experience to bless others. - Jason Pridmore


Prayer


Abba, Father, you are the author of compassion, the Great Comforter. Your love for me knows no bounds. You walk with me and before me, knowing that I cannot do this on my own. You step into my story to calm and soothe and remind me that I am not alone. Let me learn from the gift of your Son, to love others and to comfort them in their sufferings. Allow me to express compassion for those I can relate to as well as those who are different from me. Make me like you. I ask that you continue to bless me, that I might in turn participate with you by being a blessing to others. I ask these things in Your name, Jesus. Amen.


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FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2020


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials. 

1 Peter 1: 3-6 (ESV)



"It's Friday. Jesus is praying. Peter's a sleeping. Judas is betraying. But Sunday's comin'. 

It's Friday, Pilate's struggling. The council is conspiring. The crowd is vilifying. They don't even know that Sunday's comin'. 

It's Friday. The disciples are running like sheep without a shepherd. Mary's crying. Peter is denying. But they don't know that Sunday's comin'. 

It's Friday. The Romans beat my Jesus. They robe him in scarlet. They crown him with thorns. But they don't know that Sunday's comin'. 

It's Friday. See Jesus walking to Calvary. His blood dripping. His body stumbling. And his spirit's burdened. But you see, it's only Friday. Sunday's comin'. 

It's Friday. The world's winning. People are sinning. And evil's grinning. 

It's Friday. The soldiers nail my Savior's hands to the cross. They nail my Savior's feet to the cross. And then they raise him up next to criminals. 

It's Friday. But let me tell you something. Sunday's comin'. 

It's Friday. The disciples are questioning. What has happened to their King? And the Pharisees are celebrating that their scheming has been achieved. But they don't know it's only Friday. Sunday's comin'. 

It's Friday. He's hanging on the cross. Feeling forsaken by his Father. Left alone and dying. Can nobody save him? Ooooh. It's Friday. But Sunday's comin'. 

It's Friday. The earth trembles. The sky grows dark. My King yields his spirit. 

It's Friday. Hope is lost. Death has won. Sin has conquered, and Satan's just a laughin'. 

It's Friday. Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard. And a rock is rolled into place. 

But it's Friday. It is only Friday. Sunday is a comin'!" - S.M. Lockridge (adapted by Tony Campolo)



Personal Thoughts from Director of Youth Ministry, Jason Pridmore


What's so "good" about Good Friday? We remember the suffering of Jesus: the beating and torture, the humiliation and degradation, the crucifixion and death, the sacrifice of God's only Son. And for what? For us. Not just for us, but because of us. It's a reminder that our poor choices, our rejection of Him, our turning to self, put him on that cross. But it is "good," isn't it? He offered himself in our place. Death, we deserve, but He puts it on himself. Thank you, God. 


The biblical account of Jesus' crucifixion is one of betrayal, denial, cowardice, envy, hate, brutality, suffering, despair, defeat, and death. There was nothing "good" about that Friday for Jesus. Yet, we celebrate the cross because the story does not end on that fateful Friday. It does not end at the cross. The irony of the cross is that the very instrument Jesus' enemies used to defeat Him became his greatest victory--a victory he invites us to share in. In our troubles, in our suffering, in our guilt, and in our pain, Jesus reminds us that in a world full of "Fridays," because of his work on the cross, every day is a "Sunday" for those of us who believe. In every situation, we can have that same reconciliatory, restorative, resurrection hope. I know it may feel like a "Friday," but thank God, "Sunday is a comin'!" - Jason Pridmore


Prayer


Dear God, thank you that you make all things new. Thank you for the victory and power that is in your name. Thank you that you hold the keys over death. Thank you that by your might, Jesus was raised from the grave, paving the way for us to have new life with you. Thank you that you had a plan, and that you made a way. Renew our hearts, minds, and lives for the days ahead. And when the enemy reminds us where we have been, may we hear your voice louder and stronger, reminding us we are safe with you and that your purposes and plans will not fail. For we are an Easter people, and because of you, everyday is "Sunday." Alleluia! Amen!


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THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 2020


But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
Isaiah 43:1-2 (ESV)



“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God is of a different nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It never denies reality. It stands in the very teeth of suffering. The love of God did not protect His own Son. The cross was the proof of His love – that He gave that Son, that He let Him go to Calvary’s cross, though 'legions of angels' might have rescued Him. He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.” - Elizabeth Elliot (wife of slain missionary Jim Elliot)


Personal Thoughts from Director of Youth Ministry, Jason Pridmore


As parents, my wife and I go to great lengths to protect our children from things that we think will hurt them (too great of lengths, if you ask our kids). If it were within our control, we would shelter them from every hurt and take on for them the hurts that slip through our defense. We do it because we love them, and because it hurts us to see them hurt. But God is not the same. If He loves us like we love our children, shouldn’t he protect us from any pain and suffering?

Thankfully, no. In fact, it is precisely because He loves us that he allows us to suffer. He might allow us to suffer in order to get our attention; often, it is in our distress that we turn back to God. He might allow us to suffer so that we might mature and grow wise to areas in our life that need to be addressed. He might allow us to suffer to prune attitudes and actions that are not godly or fruit-bearing. He might allow us to suffer to teach us obedience; as we conform to His image, we increasingly learn to obey Him. But maybe God allows us to suffer so as to show us how much He does love us, particularly in the tough times; to be there with us, suffer alongside us, and show us his comfort when we need Him the most. And by so doing, we learn how to suffer with and alongside others, that we might comfort them. If He is allowing you to suffer, you can be assured that He has a purpose for it and that He is right there with you in it; and that in the end, it’s for your good...because He loves you. - Jason Pridmore



Prayer


God, Father, You are so good. I am humbled by your love for me. Let me feel your presence in my hour of need. Teach me to look for you in my hurt and suffering. Draw me back to you when I wander away. Be my assurance that “this too shall pass,” and when it does, show me how it was you who brought me through. I pray for your comfort in my struggles, for my own relief, and that I might learn to comfort those around me. Thank you for being there for me and loving me as much as you do. Amen.


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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8, 2020


"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth."
Colossians 3:1-2 (ESV)



“We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety. This is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.”― A.W. Tozer



Personal Thoughts from Director of Youth Ministry, Jason Pridmore


I remember being told the story of a missionary who, while working among a tribal community, decided to cultivate a pineapple garden. He loved pineapple and longed for the day he would be able to enjoy the fruit of his labor (literally). Now, pineapple plants can take a couple of years of caring to produce fruit. So, you can imagine the anger the missionary felt when, nearing peak ripeness, his pineapples where picked and stolen by the very people he was trying to minister to.

This scenario played out several more times over the next several years; the missionary would plant and care for the pineapples for months and months and months, only to be deprived of the treasured fruit. Through a number of attempts to protect his pineapples, the missionary eventually gave them to God. The missionary would still plant the pineapples, and work the garden, but the pineapples themselves belonged to God. And so God could make them grow or not. He could let the missionary have them or allow the locals to take them. Whatever happened with them, they were God’s to do with as He saw fit. In the end, God blessed the missionary with a harvest of pineapples, who in turn, shared them with the locals. Ultimately, when the pineapples were given to God, they were able to be used in a greater capacity and for a greater purpose than the missionary had envisioned.

What would it look like if we gave everything we had over to God? Our families, our jobs, our homes, our dreams, our money, our stuff? It’s not that God wants it, and He certainly doesn’t need it. But what He does want is for us to surrender to Him our lives entirely, to show us what He’s capable of doing with us and through us. There’s a strange freedom that comes with releasing our grip on our stuff.

As we give Him our stuff to use for His purpose, he also takes our stress and worry for those things as well. When we truly trust God with the treasures of our hearts and our lives, He gives us in exchange His peace and contentment. May you find His peace in your surrender to Him. - Jason Pridmore



Prayer


Heavenly Father, we can be so silly sometimes, thinking what we have is ours because of our efforts, not because You blessed us with them. Let us recognize that all we have was first Yours to give. Teach us to focus on you and not our possessions. Allow us to participate in your work by committing to you all of “our” things. We thank you for allowing us to enjoy your gifts. We ask that should you “re-purpose” them, that you give us your understanding, and if not your understanding, that you would give us your calming peace. May your joy be our strength. Amen.

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TUESDAY, APRIL 7, 2020


"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
James 1:2-4 (ESV)

“Of course, it would be easier to get to paradise with a full stomach, all snuggled up in a soft featherbed, but what is required is to carry one’s cross along the way, for the kingdom of God is not attained by enduring one or two troubles, but many!” - St. Anthony of Optina (1795-1863)



Personal Thoughts from Director of Youth Ministry, Jason Pridmore



Adversity has a way of bringing out the best in people, but it can also bring out the worst. I will admit, “joy” is not my immediate response when I face any kind of trial, let alone “various kinds” of trials. In fact, the times that I’ve closed my eyes and have hoped for a difficult situation to go away, ultimately resulted in the situation worsening or even multiplying. Trials, difficulties, suffering are simply a part of this life, even more so for the Christian. We need to learn how to go through them.

James, the ultimate optimist, introduces an unnatural correlation here with the words “joy” and “trials,” but don’t misunderstand him. He is not suggesting that we enjoy the hardships we face. Rather, the implication here encourages us to alter our perspective; how we view the trials set before us. Instead of focusing on our woe, James is suggesting that we recognize the moment or season as a time in which God has chosen to work in us; to strengthen us and to grow us, to bring us closer to the person He created us to be—to bring us closer to Him. And through it all, He is there. - Jason Pridmore


Prayer


God, you are the Great Potter; we are the clay. Mold me, change me, transform me into who You created me to be. I pray that You guide me in my times of trouble and help me recognize Your presence in their duration. Give me the endurance to weather the storms of this life, and teach me not to embrace the trials I face, but to face my trials while embracing You. Thank You for always being there.


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MONDAY, APRIL 6, 2020



"But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ."

2 Thessalonians 3:3-5 (ESV)



"In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. 'How are we to live in an atomic age?' I am tempted to reply: 'Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.' 


"In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors--anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty. 


"This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things--praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts--not huddled together like frightened  sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds." - C.S. Lewis "On Living in an Atomic Age" (1948)



Personal Thoughts from Director of Youth Ministry, Jason Pridmore


Heavy thoughts for a Monday morning. Thankfully Lewis' words were written during another time and under much different circumstances, right? In our struggle to make sense of what's going on around us today, it's easy to become consumed with fear and anxiety, feeling that these are "unprecedented times." "Surely, no one has dealt with anything like this before." But we are not alone in this. We are not alone in history. We are not the first to deal with uncertain times. And as unique as this moment feels, it is not "novel."


Now, to clarify, I don't believe Lewis would suggest that we abandon common sense or ignore social distancing protocol. What he is saying is that as Christians, we recognize the existence of evil, even within the natural world. And because there exists a God beyond nature, as we confront unsettling times (as Christians always have), instead of hopelessness or irrationality, we can respond with hope and in confidence because we know God is in control. He is sovereign over EVERYTHING. And it is this understanding that should encourage us to live boldly, unafraid, before the world and in the face of any and all circumstances; persecution or oppression, plague or pestilence, atomic bombs or corona virus.  - Jason Pridmore



Prayer


God, Creator of all things, Lord of my life, teach me to live differently than this world. Teach me to live differently in this world. Let my response to Your grace, especially in these strange times, be a witness to my assurance in You. Be the confidence in me, that overflows to a frightened and confused world, with the hope, the peace, and the comfort that only You can provide. Amen.


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SATURDAY, APRIL 4, 2020

"But above all...let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no."
James 5:12 (ESV)

Personal Thoughts from Pastor Brad

This was written by the brother of Jesus.

Ministers are often asked what the most important thing about Christian living might be. Jesus didn’t quite address this question, so the next best thing we have is the brother of Jesus, who is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

James says,“above all...” That’s his way of saying, “this is the most important thing.” In a world crisis, we see what is most important to us and our nation.

We see the world from a biblical world view. We distinguish between natural evil and moral evil. It’s not always clean, but we at least see the difference. Kidnapping is a moral evil. An earthquake is a natural evil.

When a crisis hits the whole world, we get a taste over what becomes important to us. We see the best and worst of human nature. We see doctors on the front lines. But we also see bad behavior going on. Quarantines put people in a moral conundrum. Some people are obeying the protocol to social distance. Some are not such as those hanging out at the beach. For some, the only thing that gets people to obey is public shame.

An earthquake is not like a virus. A virus goes on and on. Most natural evils bring people together, but not so with disease. We are being forced to stay apart.

We want to do something to prepare...so we hoard toilet paper? What does that say about our values? During this crisis, we will discover for ourselves and others what is most important. The city of San Francisco has already stated that cannabis production is absolutely essential. The city of New York has stated that abortion clinics remaining open during the coronavirus is essential. They never let a crisis go to waste!

As Christians, what’s most important to us is that our “yes” be yes and our “no” be no. In other words, be people who tell the truth. Be people whose word can be relied on. Be people who are trustworthy.

May God assist us in this endeavor.

- Brad Klostreich


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FRIDAY, APRIL 3, 2020


“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;” - Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter III)


Personal thoughts from Pastor Brad


During the last month, the adult Sunday school class has been studying the Westminster Confession. This opening section of chapter three states that God ordains everything that happens, including things like worldwide pandemics.


The skeptic's initial response to that is to blame God for the bad things that happen. However, we also have a role in the good and bad things that happen. To blame God for our bad choices turns us into mindless robots or worse.


It's tough to worship a God who is in total control. We want so badly to claim some of God's power and authority for ourselves.


When the whole world is dealing with a pandemic, we are reminded of a simple truth we learned as children; "He's got the whole world in His hands."


- Brad Klostreich


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THURSDAY, APRIL 2, 2020


“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him...”

Romans 8:28 (NIV)


Personal Thoughts from Pastor Brad


That’s a popular “Bible Bullet.” By that I mean something people to use as a quick fix to solve some type of conundrum or offer people comfort.


This is a verse which is easier to describe by what it doesn’t say rather what it does; the way of negation. It does not say that all things are good. Evil is a reality in this world whether it’s moral or natural evil. One of the greatest sins is to call good evil or to call evil good. The things of God can never be called evil because he is a good God. Instead it says that “God works.” He’s actively working to make all things whether they be good or bad in their initial state into something that glorifies Him and fits his eternal will which is always good. How He does it I have no idea. But that He does it I’m absolutely confident.


Nor does this verse say that God is working for the good of all people. Not everyone is part of God’s family. In the 50's a famous German theologian set out to determine the essence of universal religion and Christianity in particular. At the end of his research he stated that the essence of Christianity was the “universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man.” The great tragedy is that neither of these concepts is taught in the Bible.

The Bible teaches that all men are my neighbors. Not that all men are my brothers. The only one who I can call “brother” is the one who calls Christ their master. Brotherhood is only by those who belong to Christ. The only one who can call God his Father is one who calls Christ his brother. You can’t get to God and somehow bypass His only begotten Son.


During this worldwide crisis, we claim the promise that our good God is using this to work for our good. He only has our best interests in mind.


Alleluia!


- Brad Klostreich


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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1, 2020


“The priest shall shut up the diseased person for seven days...”

Leviticus 13:4 (ESV)


Personal Thoughts from Pastor Brad

 

One interesting thing in recent days is people looking for justification for shelter in place restrictions. There’s no doubt that our country is an active population. We’re used to being productive. 


Halting this virus will take harsh steps. But not everyone is willing to abide by those steps. What is the Christian response?


Quarantine is actually found in the Bible. In Leviticus 13-14, we find specific instructions to stop the spread of an epidemic. Israel had a responsibility to isolate those infected and protect the nation from the larger threat. The same logic in Leviticus is now coming from the White House and the World Health Organization. 


What’s amazing is that these restrictions found in the Bible were written down centuries before anyone had discovered bacteria, viruses, or even germ theory. How could the writer of Leviticus have known about the same steps that our entire nation is now being asked to follow? God Himself ordered this procedure for the protection of his people.

 

Romans 13 tells us to obey the government. The only grounds for disobedience to the government is if an order conflicts with the worship of the one true and living God. Staying inside doesn’t force us to worship Baal.


My father-in-law taught me this way; “praise Him in the good times and praise Him in the bad.”


- Brad Klostreich


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TUESDAY, MARCH 31, 2020


“And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Revelation 21:4 (ASV)

 


Personal Thoughts from Pastor Brad


The promise of Revelation 21 is that no tear is wasted. If you grew up like me, it was not unusual to get into a scrap with another kid in the neighborhood. And more than once, I would run home with tears in my eyes looking for my mother to dry them. As usual, she was in the kitchen, and she’d take the corner of her apron and wipe away the tears from my eyes and the sniffles from my nose. However, the irony of that story is that it happened somewhat frequently. It happened over and over. 


Revelation says that when we get to heaven, God himself will wipe away our tears. But the difference is that when God wipes away your tears, He doesn’t have to repeat the process the next day. When He wipes away your tears, they are gone. They don’t come back.

 

We face a time of tears in our world right now. Some day, all those tears will be taken care of by the One who Himself has shed tears for us.


- Brad Klostreich


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MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2020



"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me."

Psalm 23:4 (WEB)
 


Personal Thoughts from Pastor Brad



I often tell my classes, "what a difference a preposition makes." The most famous chapter in the Bible talks about suffering in describing it as the "valley of the shadow of death." That valley is where death is. The one who walks through it is one who is close to death or in a situation where death may occur.


However, for the Psalmist, this journey isn't just theoretical or possible. He doesn't say "if I walk..." or "though I may walk..." For him, there's a certainty to the Valley of Death. There's a certainty to suffering in this world whether you're a Christian or not. I've never met the person who could look me in the eye and say that everything is "coming up roses." We all have some type of crisis regardless of where we are in our walk with Christ. 


Now, the whole world is facing the same crisis. We are all walking through the same Valley of the Shadow of Death. Suffering, such as disease, doesn't ask permission to attack. Nor do diseases affect some over others based on things like skin color, financial status, academic background, or family upbringing. Diseases are universal and non-discriminatory.


So what's the Psalmist's answer to this trajectory? It's not by us doing anything. But rather, it's the reminder that our God is one who is close by. "For thou art with me..." It's the nearness and proximity of our great God that gives us hope. Paul says something similar in Philippians 4:5: "Let your steadfastness be known to all men, for the Lord is near."


Our God doesn't stand afar and keep his fingers crossed, hoping we figure out what to do. He enters into the human experience and walks alongside us in our journey, both the good days and the bad.


- Brad Klostreich

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SATURDAY, MARCH 28, 2020



"These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival."
Psalm 42:4 (ESV)



It is by God’s grace that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly around God’s word and sacrament in this world. Not all Christians partake of this grace. The imprisoned, the sick, the lonely who live in the diaspora, the proclaimers of the gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible community is grace. … It is easily forgotten that the community of Christians is a gift of grace from the kingdom of God, a gift that can be taken from us any day—that the time still separating us from the most profound loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let those who until now have had the privilege of living a Christian life together with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of their hearts. Let them thank God on their knees and realize: it is grace, nothing but grace, that we are still permitted to live in the community of Christians today. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together



Personal Thoughts from Pastor David



The quote from Bonhoeffer proved to be eerily prophetic. When he wrote it, he lived in the boisterous community of a seminary, surrounded by students and friends. Only a few years later, he would experience that profound loneliness in a Nazi prison. Tomorrow, our church will not gather for worship. It will feel wrong. In a way, it is. And yet, it can serve as an important reminder that a normal Sunday is actually a gift of grace. And how often did we perceive this and give thanks? How often did we take it for granted? Or neglect it?



However, although we will not gather together, we will worship. Each of us in our homes. Perhaps the technology that allows us to download the worship guide and watch the sermon are also gifts from God. They are poor substitutes to a normal Sunday together, but let us not despise even the smallest of God’s mercies. - David Mauldin



Prayer



I am sorry, O God, for every Sunday I took for granted the opportunity to gather with your people. I am sorry for those times worship was not important enough to me. Thank you for my church family. Thank you for every opportunity for worship. Thank you for your Word, which draws us, and your Spirit, who gathers us. Tomorrow, give me the grace to worship you in Spirit and in truth. And may this experience stay with me, so that when life returns to normal, I will treasure your people and your house. Amen.


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FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2020


"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
John 14:27 (ESV)



Our Lord Jesus Christ has bequeathed true peace and comfort to his followers. Christ is called the "prince of peace" (Isaiah 9:6). And when he was born into the world, the angels on that joyful and wonderful occasion sang "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace;"   because of that peace which he should procure for and bestow on the children of men; peace with God, and peace one with another, and tranquility and peace within themselves. - Jonathan Edwards, Works



Personal Thoughts from Pastor David


In the verse from John, Jesus promises peace to his disciples--and to us. The peace the world gives is fragile. It depends on circumstances. When all is calm, the world can be at peace. The peace Jesus gives is durable. It remains through drought and storm. Is your heart troubled? Does it need to be? I am not asking whether you have a good reason for your troubled heart. You probably do. I am asking whether Jesus has given you peace, but you have taken your eyes off him. Peace is your birthright as a child of God. If you do not have it, ask your Father in heaven. He does not withhold his blessings from his children. - David Mauldin



Prayer



Lord Jesus, thank you for your gift of peace. I pray that you will give that peace to me by the power of your Holy Spirit. Give your peace to all whose hearts are troubled. I pray for my church family and lift them up to you. I pray for my neighbors and my community. I pray for those who do not know Christ; draw them to the Savior and give them faith. May the trials we face in these days teach us to rest in your peace. Amen.


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THURSDAY, MARCH 26, 2020


"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice."
Philippians 4:4 (ESV)



Every possible experience, if prayed to the God who is really there, is destined to end in praise. Confession leads to the joy of forgiveness. Laments lead to a deeper resting in him for our happiness. If we could praise God perfectly, we would love him completely and then our joy would be full. The new heavens and new earth are perfect because everyone and everything is glorifying God fully and therefore enjoying him forever. - Tim Keller, The Songs of Jesus


Personal Thoughts from Pastor David


Praise God anyway. God is worthy of our praise, not only in good times, but also in bad times. We who are God’s children, who have experienced his grace, ought to praise him regardless of circumstances. Paul and Silas sang songs of praise in prison after having been beaten. When we praise God, he is glorified, we are strengthened, and our problems are brought into the right perspective. I love what Tim Keller wrote in that first line of the excerpt above: every experience, brought to God in prayer, ends in praise. That may seem fantastic. It can only be true if God is much bigger than our suffering. - David Mauldin



Prayer



All praise and glory unto you—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I praise you for you are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. You are perfect in holiness, justice, goodness, and love. I praise you for you are the Creator and the Redeemer. You alone are Lord. There is no other like you. In good times and in bad, my heart will lift praises to you on high. I praise you that whatever the state of my heart when I begin to pray, I can always end with praise. Give me the grace to know you as you are, and by your Spirit teach me to praise you as I ought. Amen.

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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25, 2020



"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

Psalm 23:4 (ESV)



In the midst of dark and difficult circumstances, which we consider hostile and evil, we share in Christ’s sufferings. For just as He entered into heavenly glory from a labyrinth involving every kind of evil, so we, in the same way, are led through various trials. And thus Paul himself says in another place that as long as we are learning to share in His suffering, we will know the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10). If it has been allotted us to share in His death, then we are prepared to share in the glory of His resurrection. How perfectly suited this reality is to lessening the severity of every cross—the more we are afflicted with adverse circumstances, so much more certainly is our communion with Christ confirmed. By virtue of this communion, sufferings themselves not only become blessings to us, but they also serve to promote our salvation. - Calvin, A Little Book on the Christian Life



Personal Thoughts from Pastor David


If suffering does nothing else, it draws us closer to Jesus Christ. In fact, suffering brings us close to him in a way that nothing else can. As Psalm 23 says, knowing he is with us comforts us. Knowing that we share his suffering makes our suffering meaningful. Whatever you are feeling today—fear, frustration, loneliness, anxiety—Jesus knows how you feel. He has been there. He is there with you. You do not know how he felt in Gethsemane and on the cross. He died so that you would never have to. Yet when you suffer, you have something in common with him. And if you belong to him, you will have something else in common with him … glory. - David Mauldin


Prayer


Lord Jesus, teach me to suffer well. Not that I ever need to welcome suffering, but when it comes, I want to rest in you. I want my suffering to draw me close to you. Do not let it make me selfish and bitter. Suffering often does that to people. But it did not do that to you. I praise you that you know my heart and all its sorrows. I thank you that you give my suffering meaning. Whatever I suffer today, may it bring glory to you and some small measure of goodness to me. Amen.


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TUESDAY, MARCH 24, 2020




"In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered"

Hebrews 5:7-8 (ESV)



For although Christ is the Son, beloved before all others--the one in whom the Father's soul delights--we nevertheless see how little ease and comfort Christ experienced (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). Indeed, it could be said that He not only had a cross continually placed upon Him when He lived on earth, but even that His life was nothing other than a kind of perpetual cross. Scripture gives the reason for this: It was necessary that Christ "learned obedience through what He suffered" (Heb. 5:8). Why, then, would we exempt ourselves from the same situation to which Christ our head was subjected--particularly since He was subjected to suffering for our sake to provide for us a pattern of patience in Himself? On this account the Apostle Paul teaches that all God's children are appointed to this end--to be made like Christ. - Calvin, A Little Book on the Christian Life



Personal Thoughts from Pastor David


Does God owe us a comfortable life? Obviously, when we ask the question that way, the answer is no. And yet, when things go wrong, do we feel God has let us down? We think life ought to be calm and easy. But what if God has a reason for the difficulties we face? Hebrews says that Jesus' suffering benefited not only us, but also him! He learned obedience. Calvin, in the quote above, reasons that if God's goal is to make us like Christ, and Christ suffered ... well, you do the math. Christians should never be surprised by adversity. Nor should we fear it. Instead, we know God is working out his purposes for us, so we persevere. At times, we may not be able to handle the burden alone. We buckle under the weight. In those times, we look to our brothers and sisters. And, we know God will sustain us by his powerful hand. - David Mauldin



Prayer


Father in heaven, give me courage in the face of adversity. Make me like Jesus, who, for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is seated at your right hand. When I am weak, give me a friend who can help me. When I am strong, make me a friend to someone else. And at all times, keep my heart set on you. To you be glory, now and forever. Amen. 



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MONDAY, MARCH 23, 2020



"This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life."

Psalm 119:50 (ESV)



What is your only comfort, in life and in death?


That I belong—body and soul, in life and in death—not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. At the cost of his own blood he has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil. He protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head. Indeed, everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him. - The Heidelberg Catechism (ECO 2020)



Personal Thoughts from Pastor David


Comfort … we all love comfort. I do. A comfortable routine. A feeling that all is well. Honestly, we are spoiled, for our lives are far more comfortable than those of earlier generations. Then something disrupts our comfort. (Coronavirus, I’m looking at you!) We suffer inconvenience. Hardship. Perhaps even sickness. What are we as Christians to do with that? Remember that our comfort comes ultimately in God.


I love Psalm 119:50. We have a comfort that persists during affliction. That comfort comes from God’s promise. God’s promise gives us life. And therein lies our comfort. The first question and answer from the Heidelberg Catechism spells this out for us. Its bold faith comforts and challenges us. Can we really believe that God protects us? That he directs our lives toward his one purpose for us: to give us eternal life and make us like Jesus? Perhaps this kind of faith can only be forged in affliction. - David Mauldin



Prayer


When my heart is afraid … or lonely … or despairing, O Lord, turn my heart to you. When this world denies me all comfort, teach me to find my comfort in you. I praise you that you are sovereign. My life is in your hands. I thank you that you direct all my ways toward your good purpose for me. Bring me at last to your eternal kingdom, where with all your saints and angels I will rejoice in you. For you are holy, good, and beautiful. By your Holy Spirit, give peace to me, to my church, and to our community. Through Christ our Lord, amen.



We will be posting new messages for you daily.

We hope these words of encouragement will brighten your days, and be a source of comfort in these trying times.

Remember, we are never alone. God is ALWAYS with us.