Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 06-09-23

Intro: Many people are afraid to die, but that fear should definitely not be tormenting believers. Eternal life is the gift of God to those who belong to the Christ (John 3:16). The lives of Christ’s followers and disciples are under God’s control; how long we live and when we return home to heaven is known only to God. In the meantime, we are to live for the glory of God and his purpose to exalt the King and further the Kingdom.

In our passage today from Luke, the Apostle Paul meets the Phoenician people of Malta. The people’s belief of justice has to do with a god giving a person what is due them [good/bad]. They know nothing about the Most High God, but when the snake bites Paul, the people of Malta assume he deserves death. However, it doesn’t take long for them to understand the apostle’s life is divinely protected.

Believers are protected by God and we see that in many biblical characters. As long as God has plans for our lives, we will remain alive. That does not mean we can live carelessly or neglect to use wisdom for our decision and lifestyles, but even our reckless ways are no match for God’s purposes. We need to take Luke’s lesson about Paul and the snake to heart. Shake off the poison of fear and live with confidence and courage each day. Enjoy the people around you and refuse to allow fear to rob you of a single minute. Live fully present and available to God.

Acts 28:1-10 NLT Paul on the Island of Malta
1 Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. 2 The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us.

3 As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand. 4 The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” 5 But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. 6 The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.

7 Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us and treated us kindly for three days. 8 As it happened, Publius’s father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him. 9 Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed. 10 As a result we were showered with honors, and when the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for holding our lives in your hands. There is no room for fear when you are with us, because we know Satan has no power when we are submitted to you. Help us to be fully alive to the work of your Spirit and Kingdom, today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 06-08-23

Intro: I have a Greek word for you, today: ψευδής (pseudes)—false/fake/untrue/lying. There is a great deal of ψευδής going on in our world, today. As well, there is some ψευδής doctrine being upheld and taught as truth in some churches. False teaching has been present in every era and it is still present, today. This teaching has no footing on the narrow road of the Spirit; it is primarily focused on the wide gate that exalts the flesh (Mat 7:13-14). This was the case in the first century church even after Christ’s ascension; it will be the case until Jesus returns for his Bride. For this reason, we need the protective work of the Holy Spirit whom Christ promised would lead us into all truth (John 16:13).

False teachers are recognized by their ψευδής fruit, just as teachers of righteousness are recognized by their holy fruit (Gal 5:22-23). So what is the fruit [fake doctrine] of false teachers? I will share just a few things, today. The gospel leads us to respect the authority of Christ, but ψευδής teaching encourages rebellion and refuses to confess Jesus as God or have the correct view of Christ [this is the spirit of antichrist] (1 John 4:2-3). The gospel leads us to know the Word of God (Christ) as living and teaches us what is righteous before God, as well as corrects us when we are wrong, but ψευδής teaching gives people permission to sin and preys on those who do not know the living Word of God or the conviction of sin by the Spirit (2 Tim 3:16). Humility is the way for the Christ follower, but ψευδής teaching drips with pride (Mat 5:3; 2 Peter 2:17). So, run from what is ψευδής.

If we are truly following Christ and listening to righteous teaching, we will be lead on the narrow road of truth (always leading us toward Christ-likeness) and the Holy Spirit will produce abundant fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control!” (Gal 5:22-23). So, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God, because one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (1 Cor 10:31; Phil 2:11).

2 Peter 2:17-22 NLT
17 These people are as useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind. They are doomed to blackest darkness. 18 They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting. With an appeal to twisted sexual desires, they lure back into sin those who have barely escaped from a lifestyle of deception. 19 They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. 20 And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. 21 It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. 22 They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.”

Prayer: Lord, I pray for all of us—believers and unbelievers—to be wise to the work of Satan who attempts to twist everything and lead humanity into a deceived and apostate way of living. Thank you for the Spirit and Truth to guide us, so we understand how to live as your worshipers. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 06-07-23

Intro: Do you need reminders? When John and I were getting ready for vacation, I had notes all over the place to remind me of things I needed to perform, purchase, and pack. It would be wonderful if I could make a mental note of important things and it would be there when I needed to recall it; however, with so much going on this past month, I was pretty sure that was not going to happen. So, I took some practical measures and left written notes. (laugh with me)

Today, in our passage from the gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples he will send the Holy Spirit who will remind them of his teachings. The disciple’s part will be to obey the commands of God, because the indwelling Spirit will lead them into the truth; connect Christ’s disciples with the Word of God. The disciples have been eyewitnesses of Christ’s life, but the Holy Spirit will now help them remember so they can write about everything they have witnessed from a unified yet unique perspective. We are blessed to have the Spirit bringing clarity and helping us with the truth, as well. By the Spirit, we can know God’s will, remember God’s Word, so we can quickly realign our lives when we forget or get off track. (so much better than a note, right?)

John 14:25-26 NLT
25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

Prayer: Lord, I am so grateful for the many reminders you bring me each day, so I can remain in fellowship with you. Holy Spirit, please continue to remind me about Christ’s commands, teachings, nature, and character, so I know when I am heading in a wrong direction. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 06-06-23

Intro: The same; but different. When it comes to things of the Spirit there is unity and diversity. When the Spirit moves, we witness gracious endowments that lead to powerful results. The Spirit is always the same and the work of making us new creations is the same. Yet, we remain wonderfully unique and the gifts the Spirit bestows are fresh and different, as well. Every gift given by the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth—is for the unity and diversity of the Church—the spiritual family—in the world.

In our passage today, the Apostle Paul clarifies the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, because counterfeit gifts are surfacing and deceiving people. The spiritual gifts from God unite us with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, as well as with one another. The same Giver: “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ” (Eph. 4:5-13). But, different gifts: God pours out his powerful anointing in very diverse yet individual ways according to His will. It is the work of the Spirit to glorify and exalt Jesus, as well as grow believers in His holy nature and character. We must receive those gifts and allow the Spirit to direct us. When the Church righteously welcomes the gifts of the Spirit, powerful things happen in hearts and lives.

You have been given a spiritual gift(s). If you have not identified yours, then it is time for you to do so. Connect2Christ Church will be offering an opportunity for you to discover yours this summer; and I will be waiting to help you exercise it for the health of the spiritual family. Please plan to sign up soon.

1 Corinthians 12:4-13 NLT  
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. 8 To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. 9 The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

One Body with Many Parts
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

Prayer: Lord, please unite all believers in your Spirit of Truth; help us to welcome the diverse gifts you have individually chosen just for us. Every gift is an expression of your beautiful and perfect love. That is why we must grow in your character and nature to see the fullness of those supernatural gifts in action through our human lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 06-02-23

Intro: Discouragement—a response to something we have hoped for but has not manifest—always seeks to diminish the believer’s confident trust in God. The word discouragement comes from the root word courage. It is the enemy who releases a spirit of discouragement to tempt us to set aside our trust in the only One who can fulfill our hopes. We can lose our courage when we face things that seem insurmountable; but that is the very time we must remember God’s faithfulness and the promises he has given us.

We can also become discouraged when we place our hopes in the responses of people; sometimes we want recognition or the attention of people who ignore or minimize us. We cannot place our hope in people the way we can in God; people may mean well but still wrestle a sin nature. God is holy and can be completely trusted, so let’s keep God the focus of our hope.

There are many places in Scripture where God reminds his genuine worshipers to take courage in his promises, because discouragement is a warning light for us to ask the Spirit to stoke the fire in our souls (Ps 27:14; 31:24; 2 Chronicles 32:7; Deuteronomy 31:6). Believers obediently serve Christ whether or not there are quick answers or instant gratification. Whether we find ourselves on the spiritual mountaintop or in the darkest valley, God is with us ready to supply the resources of heaven as we activate our faith in the Truth.

In our passage, today, from Paul’s letter to Timothy, we are reminded to celebrate the life Christ has given us through the resurrection. Believers can know new life in the salvation that comes from God; a life with focus, wisdom, direction, and power…a courageous life connected to God through the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul courageously places his trust in Christ as he suffers in prison and as he faces his death. He calls Timothy to remain confident in Christ and follow his example of trust. Paul wants Timothy to remember the Spirit and Truth entrusted to him is a precious treasure to be guarded. May you have courage, today!

2 Timothy 1:12-13 NLT
12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.

13 Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. 14 Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.

Prayer: Lord, if Paul, through the power of the Spirit, can remain courageous during his unjust imprisonment and threat of death, we can cast down the discouragement that tries to sway us from keeping our trust in you. Whether we face uplifting times or defeating times, we will stay focused on your holy nature and promises. Holy Spirit, for those who are struggling to fight off discouragement today, please stir their souls with faith, hope, and love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 06-01-23

Intro: Do you struggle with self-discipline? The Bible defines self-discipline as having the ability to control one’s thoughts, emotions, words, and actions. Self-discipline reveals lordship—basically to exercise power over one’s self. Discipline has to do with the training we gain from the Holy Spirit who guides us into living the Truth—like Christ. We need help training our thoughts, emotions, verbal expressions, and actions in order to stay focused on the power and love of God to save us moment by moment from our innate selfishness. If there is no self-discipline happening in our lives, we are not disciples of the Lord of lords.

The opposite of living with self-discipline is to live a self-indulgent lifestyle; a life lived to please our selfish and sinful natures or flesh. Our present culture is demanding this form of “liberty;” freedom from exercising self-discipline and it is making its way into the Church. This is a very twisted and evil view of liberty that carries no spiritual truth for the Christian and does not belong in genuine disciples.

This false idea of God-given liberty is really indulging self-rule—which leads us into bondage and satan’s plan. When we stand, declare “liberty in Christ,” and live like nothing in us has to change because of grace, we are simply not willing to allow our flesh to suffer for the sake of Christ. The spiritual liberty believers have been given in Christ allows us to live, serve, and proclaim the Lord’s holy purposes for his human creation. The fruit of self-discipline [self-control] reveals and empowers Christ in us (Heb 12:5-6).

In our passage today, Paul has been imprisoned and appears to be awaiting death. Persecution seems to be intensifying for those preaching the gospel of salvation and self-discipline; more and more believers in the early Church are being arrested for sharing their faith in the power of God to transform sinful humanity. So, Paul takes this time to encourage Timothy; to remind him God will provide the strength they each need through the Holy Spirit to remain faithful as they proclaim victory in the Living God who takes an old nature and makes it new (2 Cor 5:17). I encourage you today to invite the Spirit to guide you into a greater measure of self-discipline, because beautiful and righteous fruit will feed your soul.

2 Timothy 1:8-12 NLT
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 11 And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.

12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him [what he has entrusted to me] until the day of his return.

Prayer: Lord, without the Spirit, it can be difficult for your disciples to share the truth of the salvation you offer. So, please pour more of your Spirit upon your disciples, so we can boldly proclaim genuine liberty and be witnesses of the truth with our changed lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 05-31-23

Intro: Water is an essential element for the survival of all living things; it protects organs and tissues. Water carries nutrients and oxygen to our cells, brings lubrication to our joints, and helps our kidneys and liver flush all the toxins out of our bodies. As our physical bodies need water from the earth, our spiritual beings need the Living Water [Holy Spirit] from heaven.

In our passage today, Israel is celebrating the Festival of Shelters—a seven day autumn harvest festival held in Jerusalem about six months after Passover. During the first seven days of the Festival, the people erect temporary shelters/tents to symbolize Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness. For those seven festival days, a water ceremony—water is poured over the altar—reminds Israel how God provided springs of water in the desert to sustain their lives. At the climax of the Festival—eighth day—instead of pouring water over the altar, the people pray and asked God to send rain. So, when Jesus shouts to the crowd, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!” he connects himself as the Source of this water for which they are praying.

Drought can be a frequent occurrence in Israel; especially during the autumn months. The rivers and springs do not run all year round, so the people would pray for rainfall that could be caught in their cisterns/wells. Jesus wanted the people to know the Source of Living Water—the Holy Spirit—whom he promised to send from heaven. Spiritual drought is a real condition, but Jesus has the remedy. For believers, we are called to come to the Lord in prayer and drink of the water that leads to eternal life and blessing. For those thirsty believers, please drink of the Spirit, today!

John 7:37-39 NLT Jesus Promises Living Water
37 On the last day, the climax of the festival [Festival of Shelters], Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” 39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the Holy Spirit who satisfies our spiritual thirst with sufficient tastes of grace and eternal life with you. We are so very blessed by your love and goodness toward us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 05-30-23

Intro: Our nine-month-old granddaughter is starting to baby talk. Like many infants, her favorite word thus far is “dada.” Of course, our son smiles all over when she says it and reaches for him. He basks in the glory of her identity as his beautiful child.

When we accept Christ as our Savior for the forgiveness of our sin against God, as the reborn of God, we receive the Holy Spirit as a Gift. When we welcome the Spirit and obediently follow his guidance for our lives, we become heirs to all God has promised to those who “belong” to Jesus. We share in the glory of the One and Only firstborn Son.

The Spirit affirms our identity as a son or daughter of Father God. The Holy Spirit brings the power of the Living God to our lives, so we can know what pleases our Abba [Aramaic Father]. Abba signifies the close, intimate relationship of a father and his child, as well as the childlike trust that a young child puts in his or her “daddy.” When believers pray and ask for security and the power of God to hold us and move in our behalf, we are crying out, “Abba!”

In our passage today from the Apostle Paul, we are reminded when we do not know how to pray about something, the Holy Spirit prays through us for the will of God. We do not have to cope with our problems alone; God desires to be our Helper. So, do not be afraid to ask God for what you need, because even if you cannot articulate perfectly, the Spirit knows God’s plan for you, is speaking it to Abba, and ready to act in your behalf. Holiness is God’s Way for you.

Romans 8:26-27 NLT 26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.

Prayer: Abba Father, thank you for the Gift of the Holy Spirit who helps me with all things in my life including the content and power of my prayers. Holy Spirit, I honor you for making my prayers align with Abba’s holy plans for blessing me and others. I believe you have only good things in store for me and the promises you are holding—waiting for me to ask and receive—are for your glory. May everything the Spirit prays for me, be manifest in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 05-26-23

Intro: One word this morning for you to think about as you read: relationships—the state of being related by kindred, affinity, or other alliance. God cares so much about relationships he gave us 10 commands so we would take care of them. In fact, by God’s design, everything about redemption—price paid by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins—flows through the starting point of relationship.

We are to love God relationally—to connect with him personally as our Creator and Lord. To know him in this way is to have eternal life (Jo 3:16). Jesus brings us into a new relationship with God, so we can receive communication from his Spirit and choose to follow divine direction into a deeper measure of his love. Believers—those in right relationship with God through Christ—now have the honor and responsibility to be led by the Spirit. We can know we belong to God by the inward witness of the Holy Spirit (Ro 5:5).

Therefore, we are to love others relationally, because we identify as our Father’s children. Saying we know God, but do not treat our relationships with others—family, friends, work, church, other acquaintances—as an essential point of sharing God’s relational love is to completely miss the gospel. We choose to love through our relationships, because God first loved us in relationship (1 Jo 4:19). And remember, when the Kingdom comes up against God’s spiritual enemies, great pressure is the result. We will feel the spiritual pressure in ourselves and relationships. Therefore, we must pray for the Spirit to help us stay the course in commitment and Love. If you are feeling pressure in your relationships with others, just remember human flesh is at war with the Spirit (Gal 5:17). Pray and ask the Spirit to be your Helper and Guide; then, follow in obedience because Love never fails.

Romans 8:14-17 NLT
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for bringing your children into divine relationship with you, so we know how to handle ourselves and our relationships in the world. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who leads and guides us to represent you relationally to others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 05-25-23

Intro: This weekend in the United States, we will celebrate Memorial Day—a time to honor and mourn our fallen [killed in battle] military heroes who fought for our freedom. To celebrate the holiday many will enjoy family gatherings, visit flag-dressed cemeteries, and attend parades. Many people will choose to wear red to remember the field of red poppies growing where so many soldiers died during WWI. A poem, In Flanders Field, written by Col. John McCrae tells of a wall of red poppies covering the wheat fields of war. Memorial Day (aka Decoration Day) is a true celebration of sacrificial love. Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). He should know because Jesus, the Son of God, not only said it; like our fallen heroes, he did it.

As well, many Christians will celebrate Pentecost this weekend—the descent of the Holy Spirit—third person of the Trinity—to help fallen [subject to sin] humanity to experience spiritual freedom from sin, as well as affirm the Church’s mission to represent Christ and his work of salvation in the world. To celebrate the holiday many will gather to share food; invite neighbors and even strangers to share in the harvest feast. Many will wear red to remember the joy and the fire of the Holy Spirit that descended upon the apostles (Acts 2:1-4). The Holy Spirit is the source of revelation, wisdom, and power and he has chosen to live in those who believe in the work of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension. The Apostle Paul proclaims, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16).

In our passage today from the psalter, we are reminded about the nation God cares for and protects with the divine life of the Spirit. When God’s love and principles for living rule a nation, it flourishes. God’s presence, in that nation, serves as the protection for its people; let’s remember even military might is directed by God. May the leaders of this amazing country—the United States of America—remember who is ultimately in control and will be descending once again to re-establish the rule of his world.

Psalm 33:12-22 NLT
What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord,
    whose people he has chosen as his inheritance.
The Lord looks down from heaven
    and sees the whole human race.
From his throne he observes
    all who live on the earth.
He made their hearts,
    so he understands everything they do.
The best-equipped army cannot save a king,
    nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.
Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—
    for all its strength, it cannot save you.
But the Lord watches over those who fear him,
    those who rely on his unfailing love.
He rescues them from death
    and keeps them alive in times of famine.
We put our hope in the Lord.
    He is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,
    for our hope is in you alone.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the salvation and eternal life Jesus provides and for the work of the Holy Spirit to set us free from sin and death. We trust your love and care for us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.