Daily Devotional 4/3/20

Hi, First Methodist! I’m Beth Garza, the director of Worship Arts. Many of you know that I have twin boys that recently turned eight years old. We have been homeschooling with them (and our daughter, who is seven) for the past three weeks because of the virus, and it has been HARD. They miss school, their friends, their activities, sports, church… you name it, and they miss it. Andrew, one of my twins, looked at me yesterday and said, “Are we EVER getting out of the house again?” He was so sad and so serious!

It reminded me of when I first became a mom to my twin boys. It wasn’t easy — feedings every three hours around the clock, minimal sleep, twelve bottles a day, and lots of visitors. I had these two precious, sweet bundles of joy that depended upon me for everything. I was completely in love and completely overwhelmed. One day, when the boys were about six weeks old, my mom came into my room and found me weeping in my bed. When she asked what was wrong, all I could articulate was that I couldn’t figure out when and how I would leave the house EVER again! It was mind-boggling to me. It was our new normal and I hadn’t figured it out, yet.

Pastor Kurt has been talking to us about God meeting us where we are. As a new mom, God met me there. He reminded me that He gave us the children for which we prayed so desperately. He reminded me that He loved our boys more than we ever possibly could, which are comforting words that I cling to often.

Over time, we found our new normal. The boys got past the newborn stage, I got some rest, and we figured out life as a family of 4. Then, as a family of 5! Pretty soon, things got “as back to normal” as they could when you add new members to your family!

As we are entering our third week of social distancing and quarantining, how are you feeling? Does it seem like it will never end? Maybe you find yourself like my son, Andrew, thinking “Are we EVER going to get out of the house again?” In this crazy time, I find hope and comfort in these words from Romans: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Romans 12:12-13

 

Questions of the day:

  1. How might God be inviting you to live out Romans 12:12-13 today?
  2. How can you practice patience and remain hopeful with your family, in your situation, today?

 

Prayer: 

Dear Lord,

Today I will not let fear or worry consume my life. Instead, I will wait patiently for Your peace — the peace that comes from You and transcends all understanding, and I will guard my heart and mind. I thank You in advance for allowing me to feel peace and remain patient. Amen



Daily Devotional 4/2/20

How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence10 Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-10

 

Giving God Some Space

Hi, church family. My name is Mara Dolan, and I am the Director of Children’s Ministries.
I am currently sitting in a place that probably looks familiar to a lot of you. In case you’re not familiar, I am in the nursery area of our church, also known as the ARK. This place is not normally quiet on a Thursday. Children First, our Children’s Day Out & Preschool Program is on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. During the school year, there are usually over 110 children, ranging from age 6 months – Pre-K. In fact, on a “normal” week, we are blessed to hear the joyful sounds of children in the ARK on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. As a person who absolutely loves working with children, not being able to hear or see kids in the ARK, Upstairs, and throughout the church, has been heartbreaking.
I really loved Kara’s quote during her devotional yesterday, “Vulnerability is a curious thing. We resist it, don’t like it, and yet there is actually a raw kind of beauty that is present in vulnerability.” So here I am being vulnerable. It’s hard to imagine that it’s been almost 3 weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic affected our community. I had many different reactions, but I vividly remember one. With tears in my eyes, I cried out, “God, how am I supposed to do ministry? Because right now, I just don’t know what to do.” I began praying for the strength and courage to give God the space, to do what only he can do. As I shared in the Staff Picks, Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr is one of my favorite books. It showed a new way of thinking about vulnerability. “I should always be ready to see things anew, and there is nothing wrong about saying “I don’t know” to God. I need to go to God with a heart and mind of a child.
I will begin closing with an excerpt from Everything Belongs. “It should be the work of Christians who believe in the paschal mystery to help people when they are being led into the darkness and the void. The believer has to tell those in pain that this is not forever; there is a light and you will see it. This isn’t all there is. Trust. Don’t try to rush through it; we can’t leap over our grief work. Nor can we skip over our despair work. We have to feel it. That means that in our life we will have some blue days or dark days. Historic cultures saw grief as a time of incubation, transformation, and necessary hibernation. Yet this sacred space is the very space we avoid. When we avoid darkness, we avoid tension, spiritual creativity, and finally transformation. We avoid God, who works in the darkness — where we are not in control! Maybe that is the secret: relinquishing control.”
As we look ahead to week 4 of this “new normal,” remember God is in control. During this time of continuous change, God has shown me “The Place.” The Place of peace instead of worry, trust instead of doubt, and hope instead of despair. Since then, there has been 4 different Children’s Ministry Zoom Bible Studies, 4 “Connect with Mrs. Mara,” Weekly Challenges, and upcoming Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter surprises. God continues to show me ways to still do ministry because he is The Place!
 

Questions

  1. Have you had a conversation with God about what you are noticing?
  2. How are you becoming more authentic in the presence of God?

 
 

Prayer

Lord, I come to you for protection. (Psalm 71). Guard my heart and soul and protect me from evil. Lord, you go before me; I am not alone. Show me how to trust that you will never leave or forsake me. Thank you for letting me see things anew.
In Jesus Name, Amen!



Daily Devotional 4/1/20

Meeting God in a Guatemalan Bathroom

 
“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.”
Psalm 27:13-14
 
 
Last week, Pastor Kurt challenged us to look at a particular name of God used in the Bible, Ha Makom, which means “The Place”. When God comes to a location, it becomes THE place because God is there and His presence changes everything.
 
Our world certainly finds itself in a new place. We each find ourselves in a new place and we may be wondering, where is God in this place? As a staff, we have been participating in these daily devotionals – an opportunity to share a little of our place, our story. Today I would like to share with you a little of mine.
 
In 2006 my husband, Daniel, and I felt a strong calling to commit two years of our lives to living and serving at the New Life Children’s Home in Guatemala. This was a really big deal for us, especially for me because I don’t particularly like big changes, uncertainty, things that are new, and I’m not exactly what you’d call adventurous. The most adventurous ride I go on when visiting Six Flags is the scenic train! So to sell my car, box up all of our possessions, and move to a new country – while exciting – was also pretty scary, too.
 
I vividly remember getting off of the airplane in the Guatemala City airport and joining a sea of people trying to collect our baggage and exit the airport. The signs and language that I didn’t yet understand as people were talking and shouting around me, felt so disorienting and chaotic.
 
I remember being driven to the children’s home and I knew I wasn’t going to the safest of areas – my husband and I had been there before with a team, but I felt so much more alone and vulnerable with just Daniel with me this time. I watched with wide eyes as a guard with an automatic weapon draped over his shoulder guarded a Coca-Cola truck and another stood outside a bank that we passed. We encountered a blocked road on the drive and had to turn around. The only comment from our driver was – oh there must have been a murder, that’s too bad. My pulse rate increased as the reality was hitting me that this was now my home. We pulled into the children’s home which has high walls surrounding it, electric razor wire at the top, and an armed guard at the gate.
 
That night I was having trouble sleeping. I heard gunfire and just felt so alone wondering what on earth we had gotten ourselves into! Our familiar culture, language, and perceived safety had all been stripped away in just one night. And then, Daniel and I both got sick … very sick, a few days after our arrival from water that had not been properly filtered. I actually didn’t know my body contained that much fluid until it kept coming out of me. At one point, I felt so weak that I was just laying on the bathroom floor. As you might know, all kinds of fears creep in when you are that kind of sick and just feel alone in the night. My sweet husband covered me with the prayer quilt that our home church had made for us before we left. If you have ever made a prayer quilt or received one, you know these are powerful! That physical representation of prayer and community draped over me was an indescribable comfort. God met me there and filled me with peace, hope, and gratitude for His presence.  
 
Would I have thought that Ha Makom, THE PLACE for God, would have been the floor of a Guatemalan bathroom? No. It was not a place I particularly wanted to be. I would have really liked to skip that part but God met me there. There is nothing that strips us quite like illness, revealing our great vulnerability and that our lives lie completely in God’s hands.
 
Vulnerability is a curious thing. We resist it, don’t like it, and yet there is actually a raw kind of beauty that is present in vulnerability. We are currently in the season of Lent. It seems like ages ago that we gathered as a church family in the Sanctuary on February 26th for Ash Wednesday. That night, I had a unique vantage point as I sat off to the side of the choir loft. I was deeply moved as I watched the lines of people coming forward, the posture of humility in kneeling at the altar, faces of all ages and backgrounds looking up with great vulnerability at the pastor as they received the sign of the cross in ashes on their forehead. There was a strange and stirring beauty about it all – so many unique and beautiful faces, the same vulnerability and humility as the words were spoken “From dust you have come to dust you will return, repent and believe the Gospel.”
 
Everything about this pandemic and this time is odd and it is somehow oddly fitting that it is occurring during Lent.  Lent is traditionally a time of stripping things away. When the season began and you might have been asked “What are you giving up for Lent this year?”, I doubt any of you responded by saying this year I will be giving up toilet paper, or milk, or going to any kind of a store or restaurant. We sure didn’t see this coming.
 
There is certainly immense suffering in our world right now. So much has been stripped away. In the midst though, there is always good. To say this is not meant to make light of the suffering and pain, it just acknowledges the truth of the juxtaposition in the presence of good too. We can’t focus only on the bad. We weren’t meant to. May our eyes be opened to the good and may we pause to take notice.
 
While in those early days in Guatemala, I was sure thankful for a bathroom, for medicine to get rid of parasites, for that prayer quilt, and for a kind missionary who brought me jello and salted cubed potatoes when I could eat again and nothing has ever tasted better in my life!
 
All of us parents found out yesterday that schools will remain closed until at least May 1st. That’s a loooong time.  It feels hard and daunting but there are still moments of immense good. I’ve heard people talking about the guilt they feel that while there is so much hurting and suffering taking place in the world, there are some parts of this strange time that they are thankful for: the slower pace, not watching the clock to have to get to the next thing, not running from one activity to the next, unrushed meals and conversations, finally sitting together around the table, games and bike rides, long walks, and phone calls to catch up and check in, being reminded of what really matters.
 
May we never forget that God is present in the hard – and not just present but transforming it with His presence. May we look for Him and for the small blessings of God’s grace that are always present in the hard. May our eyes be opened and our hearts overflowing with true gratitude as we see God transforming our place.
 
My questions for all of us today are:

  1. Where have you noticed God at work in your place? 
  2. What small blessings have you encountered today?
  3.  Is there something keeping you from noticing and if so, what will it take to get your attention?

 
I pray that this time will be a gift for all of us, a time when we lean more closely on God and one another. May we not have to experience the sickness of the virus to truly be stopped and stripped of everything except the reality of God’s presence.
 

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, you are in our midst and you are at work in the world. We pray for those who right now are suffering, scared, and hurting. May they experience a special measure of your presence, peace, and comfort. Thank you for the good that is always present because of You. May we stop and pay attention, listening for your voice. Thank you for filling our place to overflowing. Amen.
 
 
“If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, and beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.”

 Frederick Buechner



Daily Devotional 3/30/20

DAILY DEVOTIONAL – 3/30/20

From: Jim Collett

 
As a historian, I often look to the past as well as the Bible when I seek to understand something like a pandemic or other significant national or international event or circumstance. And, as I thought about this pandemic and how it is affecting all of us—the entire world, I was reminded of the passage in Ecclesiastes that speaks about there being nothing new under the sun.

To me, that passage helps me understand that a pandemic is not something new. In fact, in the history of the world, there have been several. The Black Death, for example, in the fourteenth century, which was the deadliest. But there are others that touched great swaths of the human population.

So here’s what I have to offer today. The world has been here before. In fact, Midland has been here before. Near the end of the First World War 1918 a flu epidemic swept the world in three separate waves, killing millions. There was no vaccine, no antiviral, not antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections such as pneumonia. Victims died within hours or days of developing symptoms, their lungs filling with fluid. (I wrote about this epidemic and its effects on Midland in a blog on the Midland County Historical Society webpage. You can read it at http://midlandhistoricalsociety.com/ Select “Midland History Musings” and scroll down to “The Year of the Great Flu”).

In the second wave, from September to November 1918, 20,000 Texans died. By the end of the third wave in mid-1919, somewhere between 675,000 to 850,000 Americans died! What made this flu so deadly was that those most vulnerable were young people between the ages of 20 and 40. This range of course included all those young men we recruit to fight our wars, collecting them together in close quarters, where the disease could ravage them. In fact, more U. S. soldiers died from the flu than in battle, some 43,000 of them.
To make it worse, many countries brought their soldiers home as the war ended and they returned with no quarantine process, carrying the disease into their communities. The world death count was somewhere between 20 and 40 million people.

To combat the spread of disease, social distancing and isolation was used, much as it is today. Schools closed; churches closed; funerals had time limits; stores shortened their hours. Where those measures were strongly taken and followed, fewer died. A lesson for us today.

Midland had 160 flu cases by October 1918. Dr. John Thomas, Midland Health Officer, announced in the paper that schools and churches were closed. There would be no public gatherings. The paper added its own warning that coughs and sneezes were “as dangerous as poison gas shells” (Poison gas was one of the horrors of combat used in the war). The pastor at our church, the only Methodist church in town at that time, was Reverend J. W. Cowan. Reverend Cowan’s own son, Luke, had enlisted, only to die of meningitis, another victim of disease.

In the First Methodist archives is an old journal that contains the Quarterly Conference Record of the Midland Episcopal Church, South (as we were then officially known). Revered Cowan wrote, in shaky handwriting that still reflects his sorrow, “We have had a great deal of sickness. The Death Angel has brought to us sore sadness and bitter sorrow of heart. Much uncertainty and anxiety have been caused by the long, continued drought and the war has exacted from us its toll of both money and means, some twenty of our members of our choice young men have gone from us to give their services to their country’s cause.”

So here is my thought for us from history. This pandemic, this passage into a new reality, a different world is not something new. Revered Cowan and the Methodist congregation of those days were in a very different world when those terrible times had passed. They were in a different place but, as Pastor Kurt has reminded us, God was with them in that place.

And the world they lived in from then perished in the hard years of the Great Depression and World War II. And that congregation found themselves in a different place, but God was in that place as well. And, in fact, many of us found ourselves in a different world after the events of September 11, 2001 shook the world.

So, as we look forward to passing through the tribulations of this time to arrive at what we believe will be a better day, let us remember that however changed and different, easy or difficult, we find that new place to be God is with us in that place.

While not exactly a traditional prayer, I believe some other words from Reverend Cowan can serve to help us focus less on the fears of today. In closing his April 23, 1918 report he wrote, “With unabating faith in God, praying and trusting for divine leadership, and with a sincere desire to do acceptable service, we will continue to bend our energies in our God-given work.”

Questions:

  1. Can you recall times in your own life where you went through a time that brought you to a different place and how you discovered that God was with you in that place?
  2. In a time when many grab what they can for themselves or ignore how their actions endanger others, what actions can you take in the new few days and weeks that may help save or restore others from illness, from fears, for losses?

Ecclesiastes 1: 9-10

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new?” It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.


Daily Devotional 3/27/20

Jehoshaphat’s Coronavirus Pandemic Crisis 

Hello First Methodist Midland Family, I’m Wade Cobb Director of Celebrate Recovery for our church. 

Scripture:
Second Chronicles 20:1-4, 12, 20-21 

V.1-4 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.  V.12 O our God, For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.  V. 20-21 Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say,  “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 

We are presented with an encouraging story of how King Jehoshaphat led his people from being fearful to being fearless in the face of their “Coronavirus Pandemic Crisis”.  

Having a daily time alone with my Heavenly Father by reading His Word, praying and listening to Him, journaling what He is teaching me, and meditating on Him throughout the day helps me to keep my eyes on Him.   

In fact, it was through a recent struggle that I found myself led to this passage we are discussing.  

Throughout my journey as a follower of Jesus, I have used different Christian growth tools and resources to help me grow in my relationship with the LORD.  

I would like to provide some examples of what I’m talking about and then share about my recent struggle in this area. 

The workbook Experiencing God: knowing and doing the will of God by Henry Blackaby helped me grow in my faith toward God. He helped me to believe that God can and will do big things through his children for His Kingdom, if we are willing to follow Him into the deep waters of obedience. 

MasterLife by Avery T. Willis, Jr. This workbook gave me a good biblical model of how to live a well-rounded life as a disciple of Jesus. 

Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life is a book that teaches us how to live God’s five purposes out in our lives wherever we find ourselves geographically, professionally, or spiritually. It is a message of how to live a balanced, simple, and yet powerful Christian life. A word of caution about this book. Don’t expect to find your “One Big Purpose in life. This is a book about how God calls each of His children to live one day at a time from His five purposes. 

The One Year Bible has been a great Christian growth tool for me. I have found this to be so enjoyable and helpful in my overall understanding of the Bible. 

So, my struggle came to ahead this past Sunday. I was telling the Lord just how frustrated I was becoming in not being able to find a resource to help with my Bible study time. I need something, Lord, especially in view of these days we are living in. 

 I decided to try chapter one in the Gospel of Matthew. I’m reading and the Lord nudges me, (you know what I’m talking about.) at verse 8 “and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat,”. I finished chapter one and I’m ready to move on looking for “Something earth shaking”.  At that moment, it was as if the Lord said, I have already given you something. I knew what He meant. My thought was “what in the world LORD does Jehoshaphat have to do with preparing me for today? I had to travel back to the Old Testament to find Jehoshaphat. To my amazement, I discovered that he and his people had gone through a great crisis somewhat like our Coronavirus Pandemic Crisis.  

There are so many takeaways of how to move from fear to fearlessness in this story that It would take many devotions just to scratch the service.  

Here was the BIG take-a-way for me. It was how King Jehoshaphat and his people were able to move from fear at the beginning of the story, verses 1-4, 12 to fearlessness at the end of the story, verses 20-21 

As you read through the story, you’re going to discover that Jehoshaphat led his people to do three things. They saw this crisis as a Real and Present danger. They would have to look beyond themselves to God for help to overcome this crisis. And they based their prayers to God on the Word of God.  

Here is the Chinese word for “Crisis”. Notice that is takes two Chinese characters to make our one word for “Crisis”.  

The first character means “A time of danger” while the second character means “A time of opportunity”Was Jehoshaphat living in a time of danger? Yes. In my links for this devotion, I have put a clip from the battle of Helms Deep from the Hobbit movie The Two Towers. This clip is for the youth and the adults. This is to help you to see and maybe feel something of what Jehoshaphat and his people could have experienced if they would not have called upon the LORD for help! I have put another clip from the Veggie Tales “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” for the children and the whole family to watch. Are we living in dangerous times? Yes, we are. 

It’s clear from second Chronicles 20:20 that Jehoshaphat led his people, his nation to seize the opportunity to trust in the LORD and to overcome theirTime of danger”. If we are willing to follow King Jehoshaphat’s example, we too will be able to seize our opportunity to overcome the danger of our day.  

 

Links to encourage us in our faith journey with God through our personal Coronavirus Pandemic Crisis: 

  1.  Worship Time for the Family: https://youtu.be/N6T3klwVLBk (Move the time marker at the bottom of the YouTube video to around 3 minutes to hear the worship time) 
  2. For Children: https://youtu.be/LsqtKx2NRSw 
  3. For Youth and Adults (This is to help you to see and maybe feel something of what Jehoshaphat and his people could have experienced if they would not have called upon the LORD for help!): https://youtu.be/gXC-jJhFaUI

Questions for us to ponder: 

  1. What are some of the personal crisis’s that you and your family are presently experiencing, feeling, undergoing as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic Crisis? 
  1. Have you moved from “A time of danger” to “A time of opportunity” putting your personal trust in your Heavenly Father to see you through this Crisis? If not, then what is keeping you from trusting in your Heavenly Father to move you to the other side? 
  1. How are you being intentional about spending time with the LORD? Bible study? Prayer? Worship? Serving? Journaling? Being a Witness/Testimony of the Good News? 
Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for always being present with us, especially, during these difficult days. Help us to become fearless in the face of this crisis as we focus our hope on you to deliver us from it. And may we come out of these days more in love with you than before.
Amen


Daily Devotional 3/26/20

Listening for the Birds 

 

Hello Church Family! Pastor Melissa here… Here we are nearing the end of the first week, for many of you as parents, who are homeschooling their kids… I can only imagine the challenges and creative ways you have had to come up with in this new endeavor, on top of those working from home and trying to balance it all…  

I never thought we’d be looking ahead to week 3 (for us Midlanders) of staying home and practicing social distance…. Then I was reminded of the folks in Italy who have been entirely on lockdown for most of the month of March and in the epicenter, Wuhan China, it’s been over 60 days of this new normal…  

So many days that they say the skies are actually blue again and you can constantly hear the birds singing as Spring arrives there.  

We don’t have a problem viewing the beautiful skies here in West Texas, and most of the time we can hear the calls of the doves and cackle of the grackles…. But it does remind me of the time I got to see a red cardinal up close and personal. I was on one of the Spiritual Formation Retreats Daniel Harris puts together for us. We were at Christ the King center in San Angelo, which if you haven’t been there it’s like an oasis right in the middle of town….  

There’s a river that runs through San Angelo and right alongside the property. During a long break I walked down to the river to sit for a while and take in my surroundings. I had just come off a very busy and full week and this was my one chance to decompress. I wasn’t there long when I spotted the red cardinal from across the river. I was stunned by its vibrant color and was fixated on it. The bird flew across the river and landed on a tree on my side of the river and I was able to see it even better!  

A few minutes later it flew to a tree that was literally within arm’s length of me and it was the most beautiful bird I had ever seen up close and in person. I didn’t dare move a muscle, afraid it would fly off. For what seemed like a really long time for a bird,  just sat there together, watching each other, in this place of meeting and I knew it was special…  

You see, I had been feeling tired and anxious and had let the distractions of life, be my focus for so long, I had forgotten how to just sit and notice, how to just be in the moment without constantly worrying and thinking of what comes next….. 

As soon as I allowed myself the time and space to sit and be, to pay attention to the moment I am in instead of worrying about what will be…. God met me in that place and restored hope in me once again.  

It may seem like we have a lot of time and space right now…  

It may also seem like we are continually being stripped of more in the days to come. But when we allow ourselves to be open to God, it’s also the place where God can continually meet us, and that by His presence he can change the nature of that place. 

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  Matthew 6: 26  

 

 It’s because of this time, we have seen community and creativity soar to new levels, we have new perspective of what it means to slow down and not be in a hurry. So as we look towards the next week and all the things it will bring to us in the news, as we continue to work on homeschooling kids, as we continue to see some of the devastating ways the Corona virus has affected our world….All the worriess that continue to occupy our time remember God can meet us here too. 

Look up, look around, listen for the birds, and know that God is in this place, God is longing to be with us, because we are that valuable to him.  

 

Prayer –  

Heavenly Father,  

We continue to try and walk through each day as it brings new obstacles to overcome, new things to learn, new ways of living in this world. It’s still so easy to become distracted and worried about what’s available and what is not. Worried about what comes next and how will we handle it? Father, remind us that it is you who covers the sky with clouds, who provides for the birds of the air and you tell us we are more precious to you than anything else. Remind us each day to stop, look and listen, because that is the place where we can meet you today. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen 



Daily Devotional 3/25/20

“Cleaning House”

March 25, 2020

 
 
          Pastor Kurt started us off this week with an understanding of the “Ha Makom” which is translated The Place. This is an old name for God that speaks volumes as we look not only at the places that God met his people, but also where he continues to meet them through Jesus Christ. As I thought about this, I wanted to share a little bit about where I was at and some things that I have been thinking of pertaining the place that I am at.
 
          During this time of being at home more than ever, Brooke and I have had plenty of time to make lists of what needs to be done around the house. The first on that list was to mow the back yard. The day before I want out to mow it, I was playing fetch with my dog Ginger. She is a red healer mix that lives to play fetch. She is incredible at it. However, the ball took a bounce and went into some of the admittedly tall grass where she was unable to find it. Before I mowed, I tried to rake it out and still wasn’t able to find the ball. Luckily, the lawnmower tire hit it and I was able to set it aside instead of hitting it with the blade. Mowing the grass was necessary before we would be able to play fetch again.
 
          I wanted to share this story because this was the place where God met me with this idea of cleaning house. I want to look at a few scriptures that show us what this looked like spiritually.

Matthew 21:1-17

          Jesus enters the city for the “Triumphal Entry” that we have all heard about a thousand times. He then goes to the temple and “Cleanses” it. This is often a passage where we talk about Jesus being angry or maybe more violent than we think him to be, but the reality is that Jesus was cleaning house. He was getting everything that was distracting and preventing the people of God out of the way. This was necessary for the people of God to worship the way that they were called to.
 
          Titus – The whole book.
The book of Titus comes to my mind because in many ways I resonate with him. Titus was young and not the “normal” religious authority. However, Jesus, through Paul, sends Titus to go to Crete and clean house. There are plenty of churches there, but they are all over the board on what they believe and how they live. Titus steps in and “cleans house” through creating accountability structures and rhythms for people to live into so that they may live a life that is “Ready for every good work” as chapter 3 has commanded.
 
             In such a time as this, when everything feels different and out of the ordinary, God is still desiring to meet with his people and to Transform them into who they are called to be. The church is not just a building, but it is most importantly a people. I encourage you to take this time of newness and change and evaluate these two questions.

Questions:

  1. What may be preventing you or distracting you from living the life that you are called to live, or worshiping God who is worth it?
  2. What accountability structures and rhythms can you build into your life during this time, and how can you sustain them into whatever the next season looks like?

 
          To finish up, once the yard was mowed and the grass was cut down short, I was able to pick up the ball and begin to play fetch again with Ginger. Getting rid of the distractions and what was hindering her made her faster and even more able to do the things that she was created for. I hope that we will take the chance to do the same.
 
 
Thanks for reading and have a great day,
 
Ty Lust
Youth Ministry Director
First United Methodist Church Midland



Daily Devotional 3/24/2020

 
7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.  –Exodus 3:7-8– 

Looking Back On Hard Times 

          As these difficult and uncertain days continue to unfold, I wonder if you have ever engaged in the practice of remembering past difficult times to help you through the current ones.  For me, one of those hard times began on Monday, June 5th 2006.  That was the day that our fourth child, Joey, was born. To be honest with you, the day was actually a little bit anticlimactic. This was our fourth child and we were getting the hang of this by now.  However, on the following Wednesday afternoon a pediatric oncologist walked into our room to tell us the news that Joey had cancer. Of course we knew something was wrong as testing had been happening since his birth, but hearing those words felt like a punch in the gut.  Alayna and I listen intently as the doctor walked us through the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.  As the doctor spoke, I had a deep sense that God was present and with us in a deep way in that place.  When the doctor finished talking to us she said, “You both sure do seem to be taking this news well. How is that?” I muttered to her a couple of things and then said, “We have a tremendous support system, and we have a God that is with us no matter what.  We are going to get through this.  The doctor whom we found out later was not a follower of Jesus replied to me, “Well that may be fine and well but within a couple of weeks you two will be gouging each other’s eyes out!  This is going to be hard!”  I was stunned by her response to my statement of faith, but by golly we became determined to walk through this difficult and scary time trusting in the goodness of God, depending on our support system for help, and trusting in our marriage.  The next 18 months WERE hard.  We worried and cried many tears through Joey’s surgery, scans, blood test and weird results, but we came far away from gouging each other’s eyes out. I love Alayna’s eyes is eyes I like mine too. I am so glad that our faith in our support system, our marriage, and in the good presence of God led us through that difficult time all eyes intact.
           You see, God is attracted to suffering like a magnet to metal.  Where those things are, God is.  God sees our affliction, suffering and our trouble and God comes down to deliver us and bring us to a new place of living, thriving, serving, and loving.  Just like God saw and came to the suffering Israelites when they were suffering slaves, God is present and with us in these deeply challenging days.  God will restore us and renew us in spite of these hard days.  Please rest in God’s goodness and Trust in the LORD with all your heart. 

  

Grace and Peace, 

Pastor Steve

Questions:

  1. Is there a hard, difficult thing you have experienced in the past that God helped you to navigate through to a good resolution?
  2. How can that memory be an encouragement for these days?
  3. Give thanks to God for His guidance, healing, and presence in the past and the present.

Prayer:

       
Gracious and loving God, You are our refuge and strength and very present help IN trouble (Psalm 46).  God, our world is in now IN trouble.  Reveal your presence to us as we seek to be still and deeply trust your goodness.  Then, give us the courage to believe and do the next good thing that you would have us to do.  In Jesus name we pray.  AMEN!



Daily Devotional 3/23/2020

 
3 One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.” 4 When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied. 5 “Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground (Makom)

Exodus 3:1-5

 

Introduction: The Place

        Our world has been turned upside down. In the matter of a week, our kids have been sent home from school, our churches closed, store shelves have emptied, and our economy has tanked. It is a hard time to stop and think about God. But it is Jesus that we need most at this time.

        Now is the time when our hearts turn towards Christ. We need the hope that comes from an eternal Father that loves us. Now is the time to expand our relationship with God and deepen our faith. Let me invite you to spare a few extra minutes and focus on this study. Let there be a blessing at the end of this trial.
 
        Let us dig deep into our relationship with God. Think about the names we use for God. We nearly always use titles for God that describe actions He takes for us. Thus, we call Him creator, savior, lord, etc. The Bible presents us with a number of names for God, that we rarely use. Each one of these names is a unique insight into the nature of God.

        There is a very ancient and profound name of God. This name is HaMakom. The name literally means “The Place”.  What a strange name for God- The Place.  It sounds like a neighborhood restaurant! The name has its origins in Genesis 28:11, as Jacob witnessed the angels of the LORD ascending and descending a ladder from heaven.  This miraculous event is said to have occurred at hamakom. The Bible usually goes to great lengths to give us geographic details about events.  In this passage, however, no specific location is given other than hamakom. The reason for this becomes clear in Jacob’s interaction with God.  Jacob is in the presence of God and that presence changes everything. When God comes to a location it becomes “the place” because God is HaMakom. Our understanding of this process is expanded when God appears to Moses at the Burning Bush. When God appears the ground (makom) becomes holy and Moses is asked to remove his sandals. Later, at Mt. Sinai God appears to Moses as HaMakom, as the Law is given to Israel. The Tabernacle and the Temple in Jerusalem were “the place” (HaMakom) because God’s name rested inside. Even in the New Testament, we witness the extraordinary power of God’s presence. When Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up the Mount of Transfiguration, they experience the HaMakom (Matthew 17:1-13).  The Bible even concludes with this concept.  Revelation 21:3 tells us, “the place of God is now among His people.” Heaven is another name of HaMakom.
 
         What does all this really mean? And what does it teach us about God? Imagine if you will, a party in Hollywood. All the A-lister celebrities are in attendance. As the party progresses a new actor arrives. This actor is so famous and renowned that the others at the party say, “Hollywood has arrived!” The actor is so important that they represent all the best of Hollywood. The Bible is saying this of God.  Where God appears becomes the most important, the most real, point in all the universe. HaMakom reveals to us the awesome reality of God. When He appears in a location, He changes the nature of that place and by His presence makes it the focus of reality.  It is no longer any average location; it becomes “the place” once God has appeared. The Rabbis explain the depths of this concept, “God is the place of the world, and the world is not His place.”  In other words, God cannot be limited to one individual spot.  Rather, God transcends location, and He is accessible to all people in all places. Where God exists is “the place”. What does this mean for us?  The Coronavirus has driven us from our normal places. Our lives have been completely disrupted. We are forced to retreat into our homes. Yet, we now can invite God to make our home “the place”. A place where we rediscover the miracle of our children, rekindle the love of our spouses and hear again God’s call for our lives.  You are in “the place” to experience God.
 

 

Questions:

  1. Where did God choose to meet Moses? Was it someplace special?
  2. How did God capture Moses’ attention? What does the LORD need to do to capture your attention?
  3. Why did God want Moses to recognize he was standing on holy ground?
  4. Can we hear God’s call to meet Him in our new quarantined life?

Prayer:

       
Father our God,
     Help us, LORD in the hour of our need.  Our whole world has lost its place.  We have seen the works of our hands turn to dust and we are reminded that You alone are Lord of all creation.
     Remember, your children Father and heal us from this plague that stalks our land.  May we feel Your closeness in this time of distance.  May the place we find ourselves be the place where You appear.  Help us to discover the holy in our midst.  Help us to hear Your call in our time away.
 
     In the Name of Jesus, we pray.
     AMEN