Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 01-27-23

Intro: Yesterday, John and I were expecting the delivery of a new washer and dryer. It was the second appointment for delivery we had been given, because the first set of appliances associated with the first appointment were damaged before they got to our house. Unfortunately, the second appointment for delivery did not go any better than the first appointment. What was my response? I promptly called Customer Service. Although, the representative who answered my call was kind and apparently wanted to be helpful, the guidelines he was given to read to me for problem-solving was of no value for the issue we were facing. Friends, I am grateful God’s guidelines are always perfect for the problems I face.

Elizabeth George once said, “God has written His divine guidelines for your life right in the Bible.” In our passage today, David affirms this truth. Good guidelines can be very helpful when we have questions about what God may want from us as his children. Rules are associated with laws and permanent policies, but divine guidelines are recommendations that lead to the best behaviors or practices. It was David’s desire to dwell in the presence of God; therefore, he sought the guidelines of Scripture to learn how to dwell or remain in God’s love.

Even though David failed to live in moral excellence during portions of his life, he wanted his future to be filled with success. God wants that same success for all his children. The world’s standards, morality, and ethics may be eroding, but God’s guidelines will never be shaken and always stand the test of time. So, may we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us honor these guidelines for our lives.

Psalm 15 The Voice/Amplified Bible
Eternal One, who is invited [as a guest] to stay in Your dwelling?
    Who is granted [continual] passage to Your holy mountain?

Here is the answer: The one who lives with integrity, does what is right,
    and speaks honestly with truth from [what is held in] the heart.

The one who doesn’t speak evil against others
    or wrong his neighbor,
    or slander his friends.

The one who loathes the loathsome,
    honors those who fear the Eternal [worship with obedient, reverent, and submissive wonder],
And keeps all promises no matter the cost [for his own benefit].

The one who does not lend money with gain in mind [to a fellow believer]
    and cannot be bought to harm an innocent name.
If you live this way, you will not be shaken and will live together with the Lord.

Prayer: Lord, many of your guidelines in this passage today address the evil humans can do with words. Help me to speak honestly and deny evil the use of my mouth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 01-26-23

Intro: Do you associate righteous conduct with God’s blessing? I hope so, because God tells us we are blessed with divine righteous love in order to be a blessing to others (Gen 12:2-3). God releases his righteous love into our lives, because he loves to share himself by serving us. When we serve and bless others, we receive more blessing from God to prepare us for more service. God’s blessing is a picture of a reciprocal love that just moves and flows through the lives of his children like spiritual nutrition. Feast on the love of God + Share the love of God = BLESSING!

In our passage today, the Apostle Peter reminds all Christians of how we must treat one another in order to stay in the flow of that sweet reciprocal love and blessing of God. Peter emphasizes some righteous behaviors: Sympathy, familial love, tenderheartedness, humility, and self-control. When we genuinely sympathize and understand one of our family members has a problem and needs help, we are gentle in our treatment and response, because we value the relationship we share in Christ.
So, if you want to enjoy the genuine blessing of God, remember righteous conduct is associated with God’s blessing. We bless others, not out of duty, but out of love and choice, because this is how God treats us. God desires to bless us, so let’s position ourselves to receive the blessing of his love and allow the Spirit to motivate us toward righteous conduct in our relationships.

1 Peter 3:8-12 NLT/Amplified Bible All Christians
8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. 10 For the Scriptures say,
“If you want to enjoy life    and see many happy days,keep your tongue from speaking evil    and your lips from telling lies [deceit].
Turn away from evil and do good.    Search for peace [with God, self, and others], and work [actively pursue] to maintain it.
The eyes of the Lord watch [favorably] over those who do right,    and his ears are open to their prayers [eager to answer].But the Lord turns his face    against those who do evil.”

Prayer: Lord, thank you for how you love us as your children and provide your blessing so we can serve others. You have set abundance within us, so help us today to release the blessing into the lives of others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 01-13-23

Intro: Some stories have predictable endings. However, our lessons and stories in Scripture are always packed with twists, shifts, and surprises. Sometimes when we think we know how something should end, we witness once again that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and that He is the God of the impossible. I will stop right here and shout out a praise for our miraculous, mysterious, and unfathomable God!

In our passage today, Luke reminds us the disciples thought the death of Jesus was the end; however, the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and he spent 40 days with the disciples. They just got used to having Jesus around again and suddenly he ascends back into heaven. Then, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit and the story continues! So, read your Bible and enjoy the resurrected Christ teaching you as his disciple. Believe in the power he alone can provide you to live as a new creation. Finally, join with your spiritual family in the love of God and be the hands and feet of Jesus for the community. The Holy Spirit will bring you all you need; you have the Father’s promise. Have a blessed weekend.

Acts 1:1-5 The Promise of the Holy Spirit
1 In my first book I told you, Theophilus [name means ‘one who loves God’], about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. 3 During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

4 Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Prayer: Lord, thank you for writing not only every story in the Bible, but for continuing to write your story through every disciple who will follow you, today. You are the Beginning and the End. Help us to embrace your power, Holy Spirit! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 01-12-23

Intro: As human beings, we hunger for the Truth because our souls [mind/will/emotions] were created by God to live and dwell in the Truth. The world and sin leaves our souls spiritually empty, but Truth is our supply and abundant Home. If we are open to the possible existence of absolute Truth, we can choose to live according to the Word. Otherwise, we will live by our misdirected worldly cravings and fleshly demands that vie to fill our emptiness. Trying to fill our spiritual emptiness with worldly desires can lead us into all kinds of evil and hard places from which we must find a way of escape. Friends, when we find ourselves lost because of our choices…Jesus is the Way back to God [John 14:6].

Certainly, very few people like the idea of absolute Truth [something is true for all people, at all times, and in all places], but doubting the existence of absolute Truth is faulty reasoning, because Truth is a Person; Christ the Living Word and Creator is the absolute authority for all creation. So, our perspective and interpretation of Truth is the problem; we traverse a world that encourages us to trust lies. God’s nature and character never changes, so if we want to know the Truth about God and His plan for our lives, we must go to Him and wait for guidance.

Our passage today is a song from David sung to glorify his Lord and Shepherd. He sings about his experiences with God. He shares about his failures and need for a Savior. Then, he breaks into praise, because David knows when he places his trust in God and waits patiently, God comes as the Redeeming Rescuer. Real joy comes from knowing the Truth of God’s love for us! If you are struggling today, please pray, ask for God’s help, and wait patiently, because God will faithfully turn to you and lift you out of the spiritual mire of the world’s lies and into a better place for his glory! Embrace Truth!

Psalm 40:1-4a NLT

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.

He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.
Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,

Prayer: Lord, I want to thank you for always being there for me. You patiently wait for me to come to you and patiently wait for me to align myself to the Truth. You work in such amazing ways when I trust you. So, thank you for the joy of my salvation. Like David, I will share the experiences of my faith with others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 01-11-23

Intro: Whether or not we realize it, we all have a reputation for how we treat other people, animals, and our earth. People are always watching other people and forming opinions. Obviously, we should be consistently taking care of all of these areas of God’s creation, but hypocrisy sneaks into our flesh and we can care a lot more for one and very little for the others.

For example, the Pharisees had a reputation of rescuing injured animals on the Sabbath, while at the same time neglecting the physical and healing needs of their fellow human beings because they believed it violated the Sabbath law. These leaders had a reverence for God, but they had neglected to allow God’s genuine love to connect them in compassionate service to others. These religious leaders fastidiously followed the law, but they failed to rise to the greatest and most important issue—Love.

In our passage today, we can clearly see the compassionate nature of Jesus and the justice he championed. Isaiah prophesied about Messiah’s loving nature. Jesus did not add to people’s burdens, he lightened them in God’s love by offering support, forgiveness, and kindness. Curiously, Jesus did not want the people he helped to tell others, because he did not want others coming to him for the wrong reason. Yes, he came to be humanity’s King; however, the reputation Jesus wanted ascribed to him was one of the Servant King of all creation. May we be mindful of our reputation.

Matthew 12:15-21 NLV Jesus Heals Many People
15 Jesus knew this and went away from there. Many people followed Him and He healed all of them. 16 He told them to tell no one of Him. 17 It happened as the early preacher Isaiah said it would happen, saying, 18 “See! My Servant Whom I have chosen! My much Loved, in Whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit in Him. He will say to the nations what is right from wrong. 19 He will not fight or speak with a loud voice. No man will hear His voice in the streets. 20 He will not break a broken branch. He will not put out a little fire until He makes things right. 21 In His name the nations will have hope.”

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the example you always provide about having a Servant’s heart. May we, as your children, be willing to have the same heart as we faithfully care for all of your creation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 01-10-23

Intro: God never wastes the suffering of his people; many times he works powerfully through the most painful places. This process may not make sense to our natural minds, but we must always remember God’s power is made perfect in our weakness [2 Cor 12:9]. Sometimes, God is preparing us for a special work in his Kingdom, so he uses pressing situations to draw us closer to himself in order to gain the help we need.

Truthfully, many believers never pray or spend time in the presence of God until they have issues they cannot solve themselves. When we get really uncomfortable, we are more willing to listen, move, and follow Christ. Friends, this tendency to neglect our relationship with God flows from a very wrong perspective and has nothing to do with the Good News of Christ. We all need a SAVIOR!

In our passage today, the early Church believers had been forced from their homes and scattered throughout Jerusalem due to persecution. However, God used this persecution to expand the reach of the Church. Philip, a deacon [not the apostle] was in charge of food distribution while he shared the Good News. The Spirit of God empowered these displaced servants of Christ to accomplish many extraordinary miracles.

Acts 8:4-8 The Living Bible 4 But the believers [the Church] who had fled Jerusalem went everywhere preaching the Good News about Jesus! 5 Philip, for instance, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about Christ. 6 Crowds listened intently to what he had to say because of the miracles he did. 7 Many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed, 8 so there was much joy in that city!

Prayer: Lord, thank you for using all things to benefit our lives and the work of your Kingdom. May amazing miracles begin to manifest according to our faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 01-06-23

Intro:  As we enter into a new year, I am praying for the Spirit to help more people come to salvation and step into God’s family.   Wouldn’t it be amazing to experience God leading a revival by pouring his Spirit across the globe?  God longs for his human family to come back into fellowship with him; he loves us all so very much.  I believe a prayer for revival should cross our lips every day.

 It is the work of the gospel to bring all worshipers—Jews and non-Jews—together as One in God’s kingdom and family.  The Apostle Paul—a Jew—was imprisoned for proclaiming this Oneness to non-Jews [Gentiles].  God’s grace was on Paul to minister this truth and he knew that wherever he found himself and whatever situations came his way this was God’s purpose for him.  So whether free or imprisoned, he was a servant of Christ not a victim of his circumstances.  This is a truth each one of us who belong to Christ must accept. 

According to Paul, for the saved—those who believe in the work of Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of sin—there is to be no racial, social, or spiritual distinctions. In Christ, no one is beyond the work of restoration; all human beings require restoration and can be made whole in Christ.  Together we can all glorify God and display his power and wisdom.  But, we must be willing to step into God’s family in humility, repentance, obedience, and champion a heart for the world’s salvation.  That means things like pride, hatred, and greed for power must be left at the cross before crossing into Kingdom Living and the glorious presence of God.

Ephesians 3:1-12  NLT God’s Mysterious Plan Revealed

3 When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles . . . 2 assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending his grace to you Gentiles. 3 As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me. 4 As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ. 5 God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets.

6 And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.  7 By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.

8 Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. 9 I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.

10 God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for calling all of humanity into your glorious presence.  May we let go of the petty attitudes and selfish actions that divide us, all bow to the Truth of your Word, and unite as One in Christ for your honor and glory.  Send a revival across the world we pray!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 01-05-23

Intro: Once in a great while, I will find myself tripping over someone else’s foot. It is always an odd accident, but in those times I have to catch myself from falling. Well, sin is the spiritual foot of Satan to trip us up and he places that foot strategically in front of us as we seek to walk confidently by faith. Satan is counting on us spiritually falling down [due to sin], finding ourselves in a mess we have created, and then turning to blame God for not loving and protecting us.

Here’s something mighty important to remember. Sin cannot co-exist with God, because God is holy. God hates sin, because holiness is his nature. As God’s children, we need to hate sin, too, because it separates us from our Creator Father. That’s why every follower of Christ—covenant disciple—knows sin must be removed from our lives. If we do not allow God to discipline us and help us rid ourselves of sin, we limit his presence and power operating in our lives. Besides, sin is a heavy burden that God never created for us to carry. We were created to walk in liberty and obedience to our good God (Mat 11:28-30).
In our passage, today, the writer of Hebrews reminds us faith is living what we believe about God (Heb 11:6). Let’s obey and follow Christ, then we will not be slowed down from running the race God has set before us.

Hebrews 12:1-2 God’s Discipline Proves His Love
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Prayer: Lord, help me to stay in your presence and Love, today, and to walk wisely by faith in the Light you shine on my path. Satan has no power to trip me if I am focused on Truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 01-04-23

Intro: In January 2012, I went to portions of the Middle East with a group of seminarians from Asbury Theological Seminary. We visited Greece, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine. Egypt messed with my soul and grieved me more than any other place.
We visited the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The museum is filled with a huge collection of Pharaonic antiquities, gold, jewelry/precious gems, and extremely rare artifacts. It certainly contains priceless history, but the museum holds unbelievable treasure and wealth. During the Mubarak uprising in 2011, a mass of people arrived ready to lay down their lives in order to protect the contents of the museum. They were very dedicated in protecting their “history” from being harmed. Yet, how well were they taking care of their people? Here’s an example…

We also visited the impoverished Coptic Christians in Garbage City [Manshiyat Naser], Cairo. You see these Christians have managed to survive in the slum only by recycling all the trash of the city. Cairo has a population of about 20 million people and it produces more than 15,000 tons of solid waste every day. Approximately 272,000 people live in Garbage City so that helps you understand the size. Yes, these folks live surrounded by garbage and they worship at a church located in the heart of the dump. Fifteen thousand Coptic Christians can gather at the Cave Cathedral at a time to praise and worship the goodness of the Lord Most High! When we went to the church, the leaders radiated faith in the love of God in spite of their circumstances; they encouraged their people to live likewise. One of their priests had been executed that year in Cairo, but they all kept praising and serving the Lord. Sadly, Egypt still does not know how to treat God’s children.

Today, we will look at Moses and the faith he required and used to fulfill God’s divine purpose in the land of Egypt.

Hebrews 11:23-29 Living Bible
23 Moses’ parents had faith too. When they saw that God had given them an unusual [grace-filled] child, they trusted that God would save him from the death the king commanded, and they hid him for three months and were not afraid.

24-25 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be treated as the grandson of the king, but chose to share ill-treatment with God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.

26 He thought that it was better to suffer for the promised Christ than to own all the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking forward to the great reward that God would give him. 27 And it was because he trusted God that he left the land of Egypt and wasn’t afraid of the king’s anger. Moses kept right on going; it seemed as though he could see God right there with him. 28 And it was because he believed God would save his people that he commanded them to kill a lamb as God had told them to and sprinkle the blood on the doorposts of their homes so that God’s terrible Angel of Death could not touch the oldest child in those homes as he did among the Egyptians.

29 The people of Israel trusted God and went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians chasing them tried it, they all were drowned.

Prayer: Lord, we are so blessed living here in the United States, but we are also oblivious to how hard it is to live as a Christian in other countries. Help us to care about people. I praise you for this country. I praise you for the ability to gather and worship you without oppression or fear. I praise you, Jesus, for helping us to love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 01-03-23

Intro: Faith is a journey we must take with God, because without it we cannot please Him (Heb 11:6). We need to remember, however, a faith journey with God can take us way beyond our comfort zones. Sometimes, God makes us prove our faith and our willingness to follow him into the unknown—not within the range of our knowledge, experience, or understanding. God can lead us into very strange places or speak a word to our hearts that makes no sense at all; according to Scripture, He calls these trials a valuable “test.” When God tests our faith, it makes us stronger, as well as reveals our devotion and spiritual maturity.

In our passage today, the writer of Hebrews reminds us of the extraordinary faith of Abraham—the father of true faith. God promised Abraham He would make him the father of innumerable descendants. So, when God tested Abraham by asking him to give back [sacrifice] his promised son, Isaac, Abraham trusted God. You see, Abraham believed God’s promise was unconditional, so he believed God would fulfill the promise even if he had to raise Isaac from the dead. Scripture teaches God never allows us to be tested beyond what we can handle in His power (2 Cor 12:9). I cannot imagine the faith this request and test required. Truly, Abraham is a hero of the faith!

Hebrews 11-17-19 NLT 17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for bringing the grace and strength we need when we face the testing of our faith. We know every test fulfills more of your purpose for us to make us more like Jesus. In Jesus’ name. Amen.