Pastor's Devotionals


Aug. 8

Carolyn Wood's Devotional

August 08, 2020

Who Doesn’t Need Grace?


When was the last time you received a letter from a friend? I’m talking about a true, newsy letter containing heartfelt feelings that concerned you both. Once you’ve spent a moment reflecting on this question, perhaps you will come up with the same idea I had --- letter writing is dead. Too bad, but we must face the fact that there are quicker and more economic ways to communicate these days. One of my husband’s favorite secular songs speaks to the importance of communicating with those who have influenced your life: “One of These Days” where Neil Young sings about sitting down and writing a long letter to his good friends. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RuuyZYGSzU Perhaps one day soon we will both take the time to do this.



One thing I do know, is that the Apostle Paul wrote letters; newsy, lengthy letters filled with love and instruction for the followers of Jesus Christ. In those days, with no email, telephones or texting available, he picked up a quill and put words to parchment or whatever was available and wrote words of introduction, encouragement and sometimes admonition to the congregations scattered throughout the known world of the time. Modern scholars agree with the traditional second-century Christian belief that seven of the New Testament letters were almost certainly written by Paul himself: 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, 1 and 2 Corinthians and Romans. He always included this greeting in his letters: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.

Received on the road to Damascus by the Roman sent to hunt down and murder the followers of Jesus, Grace was a life-changing gift from God to Paul. You will remember the story, but as a refresher, read Acts:9.

I am convinced that, even though we know the words for the hymn, “Amazing Grace” were written by John Newton, they could have just as easily come from the heart of Paul, the Apostle. He lived in the state of Grace, preached about Grace and wrote about Grace to and for all.



AMAZING GRACE

1779



In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:7



It’s hard to shake off a mother’s influence. John Newton’s earliest memories were of his godly mother who, despite fragile health, devoted herself to nurturing his soul. At her knee he memorized Bible passages and hymns. Though she died when he was about seven, he later recalled her tearful prayers for him.

After her death, John alternated between boarding school and the high seas, wanting to live a good life but nonetheless falling deeper and deeper into sin. Pressed into service with the British Navy, he deserted, was captured, and after two days of suspense, was flogged. His subsequent thoughts vacillated between murder and suicide. “I was capable of anything,” he recalled.

More voyages, dangers, toils, and snares followed. It was a life unrivaled in fiction. Then, on the night of March 9, 1748, John, 23, was jolted awake by a brutal storm that descended too suddenly for the crew to foresee. The next day, in great peril, he cried to the Lord. He later wrote, “That tenth of March is a day much remembered by me; and I have never suffered it to pass unnoticed since the year 1748—the Lord came from on high and delivered me out of deep waters.”

The next several years saw slow, halting spiritual growth in John, but in the end he became one of the most powerful evangelical preachers in British history, a powerful foe of slavery, and the author of hundreds of hymns.

Here are some things you may not know about Newton’s most famous hymn. His title for it wasn’t originally “Amazing Grace” but “Faith’s Review and Expectation.” It is based in Newton’s study of 1 Chronicles 17:16-17: “King David…said: ‘Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet…You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree….”

Wintley Phipps presents a stunning and moving rendition at Carnegie Hall:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHTSCJ77SM8


The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine;

But God, Who called me here below, shall be forever mine.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MZgXXUW08Q


Aug. 7

Pastor David's Devotional

August 07, 2020


Matthew 6:9-13


9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come,

your will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts,

    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,

    but deliver us from the evil one.


The Lord’s Prayer helps us focus upon life together. When it comes to prayer, it always helps to remember that God’s chosen way to be at work in this world is through people like you and me. Often, God uses us to be an answer to somebody else’s prayer. (This is important to think about—how might God use you as an answer to someone’s prayer?)


The Lord’s Prayer is a community prayer; it teaches us to pray for the same things together. And, given how it is that God is at work in this world, praying the prayer puts upon us a responsibility for the well-being of all. We pray give us this day our daily bread, recognizing that if there someone within the community who does not have daily bread, we have a responsibility to help. This is Kingdom living, which (of course) is what we pray for (your kingdom come, your will be done on earth).


Today, we turn our attention to two simple words: “lead us.” These two little words remind me of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd…He leads me beside the still waters.” We, like sheep, need leading. We can wander. We can nibble our way lost, as one little sin leads to another and another. “Prone to wander Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love,” we sing (Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”). By the grace of God we do not live our lives without help. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to help us grow in our faith and in faithfulness, leading us beside the still waters, helping us to keep for wandering as, through the eyes of faith, we increasingly see the leading of God at work in our lives. So it is that we pray for God’s leading, even as we give thanks to God for the ways the Spirit has already led us, bringing us to the place where we pray!


Back to the Lord’s Prayer! In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask for God to lead US (not just me). As a community of faith, we too can wander. We need God’s leading to be certain our community is giving witness to God’s love. This includes providing daily bread for those who are hungry, and forgiving those who have caused harm. It also includes God helping us to stay on the path of righteousness as a church, and be a community of faith that gives witness to God’s Kingdom. It is all too easy for a community of faith to wander. We know stories of churches who spew hatred, we know stories of churches who only care for themselves, and we know stories of churches who are judgmental and hurtful to children of God. We know the stories. We also know we need the leading of God, in order for Desert Spring to be faithful and for our witness to be one worthy of being called “the body of Christ. And, so we pray for our community of faith: lead us.


One last thought. God often answers prayers through people like you and me. Could it be that God will answer our prayer for God to lead us through people within our own community? Of course, that is possible, and maybe even likely! As such, it is important for all of us to be deeply rooted in scripture and prayerful, so we are able to discern the leading of God. Pray for one another and for our community of faith, that we will be faithful to God’s Kingdom and recognize the leading of God among us. Let’s prayer the Lord’s Prayer.


God bless you and stay well!

Pastor Dave


Aug. 6

Pastor Tim’s Devotional

 

August 6, 2020

 

Scripture Reading – Exodus 15:22-25



Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the

wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When

they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That

is why it was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What

shall we drink?” He cried out to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a piece of wood; he

threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.



Three days – it only took three days for the Israelites to lose sight of God’s mighty acts

to deliver them from Egypt. After ten plagues and a wondrous victory on the banks of

the Red Sea, the Israelites rejoiced in song: “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?

Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders (Exodus

15:11)?”



It only took three days for their wonder to turn into doubt and for their praise to become

complaints upon their lips. It can be so easy to lose sight of the wonders that God has

worked in our lives. And, it would be easy to criticize the Israelites if I wasn’t so often

guilty of doing the same. Guilty of singing of God’s wondrous deliverance on Sunday,

only to face Monday in my own strength. I am too often surprised at how quickly the

normal difficulties of life can cause me to complain.



The healing wood of this passage reminded early Christians of the cross of Christ,

which sweetened the bitter waters of their affliction. In the same way, the cross of Christ

can make the bitter waters sweet to us today, as we turn in surrender and trust to the

Lord. May our praise on Sunday become our prayers on Monday, as we remember the

salvation of our God.



God Bless You

Pastor Tim

Aug. 5

Pastor David’s devotional for August 5, 2020.


Matthew 6:9-13


9  “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10  your kingdom come,

your will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.

11  Give us today our daily bread.

12  And forgive us our sins,

    as we forgive those who sin against us.

13  And lead us not into temptation

    but deliver us from the evil one.


Yesterday, we reflected upon the phrase “forgive us our sins.” This is only the first half of the

phrase dealing with forgiveness. In the prayer, we ask God to forgive us our sins AS WE

forgive those who sin against us.” The need to forgive people who have sinned against us is so

important to Jesus that he reiterates it immediately following the prayer. He says: “If you forgive

other their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others,

neither will your Father forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14)


Yesterday, we talked about how praying “Forgive US OUR sins” is an act of compassion, for we are

praying not just for “my” sins to be forgiven, but also for ‘Yours” and for our “communities” and even

for the guy down the street to be forgiven. And, God’s forgiveness is offered to us. Of course, if God

forgives someone who sinned against us, then reconciliation with God is possible for the person. But if

we don’t forgive the person who harmed us, then brokenness remains a part of our lives and a part of

our community. So, for the sake of our lives and for the health of the community, Jesus teaches us to

pray “as we forgive those who sin against us.” Forgiving people who harmed us is critically important to

the life of faith! Of course, it is not always easy to forgive, so it is a good thing Jesus includes this phrase

in the prayer. It reminds us of the importance of forgiveness, and our need for God’s help in doing so.

I spoke about forgiveness a couple of months ago, in my series of devotionals on the Sermon on the

Mount. In that devotional, I talked about our need to forgive in light of what Kingdom of God living

requires. In the Kingdom, we experience forgiveness because forgiveness is akin to the air we breathe.

It is something we receive and offer. In comparison to Kingdom living, the world often teaches us to

hold a grudge, to judge others and to want to get even. The Kingdom is different. Jesus makes it clear

that we cannot have Kingdom benefits (being forgiven) without Kingdom responsibility (forgiving

others). We cannot live with one foot in God’s Kingdom and with one foot in the world. Kingdom living

doesn’t work that way. And, so Jesus teaches us to pray “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin

against us.” This is an “all in” Kingdom of God prayer! And, given that earlier in the prayer we prayed

“Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus

teaches us to pray an “all in” Kingdom prayer. It is what we are asking for!



Yesterday, we also reflected upon corporate sins, how it is that we as a community of faith don’t always

get it right. It is also true that we, as a community of faith, can be mistreated by the world. We have

experienced this in the past in small ways when people have vandalized our church. Some congregations experience it in big ways, when they are victims of violence and or persecution. Whether our community experience of being sinned against has have been relatively insignificant (like vandalism) 

or very significant (like violence), Kingdom living required forgiveness. And so, Jesus teaches us to pray

“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” Let’s pray the Lord’s Prayer

together.



God bless you and stay well!

Pastor Dave

Aug. 4

Pastor David’s devotional


Matthew 6:9-13


9  “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10  your kingdom come,

your will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.

11  Give us today our daily bread.

12  And forgive us our sins,

    as we also have forgiven those who sin against us.

13  And lead us not into temptation,

    but deliver us from the evil one.


One day, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus' response to their request was to teach

them a prayer, the prayer we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” The prayer Jesus taught is a corporate prayer,

and by that I mean it is a prayer intended to be recited together. Of course, it is totally fine to pray the

prayer in our private prayer life—when we do, we are simply joining our voices with Christians

everywhere who pray the same prayer. But, we don’t want to miss the corporate nature of the prayer,

for when praying the prayer with others, some of what we pray takes on greater meaning. We saw this

truth in my last devotional when we considered the phrase “Give us today our daily bread.” We see this

truth again today as we consider the next phrase in the prayer: “Forgive us our sins.”


Certainly, the phrase “Forgive us our sins,” includes me and my need for forgiveness. There are times

when I miss the mark and fall short of what God desires for my life. Each of us know this to be true, and

each of us have times when we stand in need of God’s forgiveness. Thank God, Jesus' sacrifice is

sufficient for all sins, for we know we are forgiven.


When we pray “Forgive US OUR sins, we are recognizing that all of us have fallen short of God’s will for

our lives, and all of us stand in need of forgiveness. This prayer means there is no more “grading on a

curve.” By that I mean, there is no room in the prayer to think “I know I am not perfect, but at least I am

better than the guy down the street!” Just as the guy down the street is in need for forgiveness, so am I.

In the prayer, I am asking not only for God to forgive me, but also for God to forgive people around me,

people in my community, and maybe even the guy down the street! As such, this portion of the prayer

is an act of compassion toward others. “Forgive US OUR sins", we pray.


But there is more to this corporate prayer than simply understanding that all of us are in need of

forgiveness. The reality is some of our sins are corporate sins! Sometimes we sin together, and in those

times asking “Forgive us our sins” takes on new meaning. As I think about the reality of corporate sin, I

am reminded of Jesus message to the seven churches that we read in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Jesus

calls the majority of those churches to repent because of something the congregation was doing, or

failing to do. I also think about the time in which we live, a time filled with struggle as we deal with the

impact of covid-19, systemic racism, and with the realities of global warming (I could go on).


If the church fails to act in compassion toward others (people God created in God’s own image), and if the

church fails to take responsibility for the care of God’s creation (our job, given to us in Genesis chapters

1 and 2), we have failed in carrying out God’s will. As such, we (as a congregation) stand in need of

forgiveness. Jesus certainly knew imperfect people would create imperfect community—he knew that

whole communities of faith would have times when confession was needed. So, he taught his disciples

to pray “forgive us our sins.” 


St. Paul addressed corporate sin throughout his letters. Most of his letters were written to communities of faith who were getting some things wrong, and needed to be corrected. An example is I Corinthians, who Paul corrects on seven different matters. They stood in need of confession! Given how challenging the path of discipleship is, there are times when we all do! And so we pray, “Forgive US OUR sins.” 


Join with me in praying the Lord’s Prayer.


God bless you and stay well,

Pastor Dave

Aug. 3

Pastor Tim’s Devotional

 

August 3, 2020

 

Scripture Reading – Exodus 14 and 15:1-20


Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown

into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him…

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the

women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them:

“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into

the sea.” Exodus 15:1-3, 20-21


After ten grueling plagues Pharaoh finally relented and set the Israelites free. God

commanded Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and to set up camp at the Red

Sea. Pharaoh came to regret letting his slaves go free, and in a rage, he assembled his

chariot army and went after them.


When the Israelites saw the army of Pharaoh approaching and realized that they were

trapped by the sea, they cried out to the Lord. Moses said to the people, “Don’t be

afraid. Stand your ground, and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see

today you will never ever see again. The Lord will fight for you. You just keep still

(Exodus 14:13-14 CEB).”


Deliverance from an enemy is one of the chief metaphors for salvation in the scriptures,

and the Israelites would “never ever” see their enemies again!


Today, this story reminds us that God cares about the nobodies. That God will

ultimately defeat the arrogant, the prideful, and the cruel. It means that God sees our

suffering, and that God will deliver us. It means that we don’t have to remain enslaved

to the things that bind us. That God can set us free. 


Jesus told his disciples that he had come like Moses to deliver God’s people. Jesus had come to deliver the human race from enslavement to sin and death. Jesus has delivered us from our enemies, and

when the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.


When the children of Israel witnessed the salvation of their God, they could not contain

their joy. 


I invite you to take a moment to read the song of Moses out loud (Exodus

15:1-20). Imagine what it would have been like to sing this song on the shore of the Red

Sea just after God divided the waters and forever swallowed up your enemies.


How have you experienced the salvation of your God? In what ways has God set you

free? Is there anything to which you remain enslaved? What keeps you in bondage?

Spend some time in prayer giving thanks and praise to God. Offer up the things that still

bind you. “Stand your ground, and watch the Lord rescue you today…The Lord will fight

for you. You just keep still.”


God Bless You

Pastor Tim

Aug 1

Carolyn Wood's Devotional

August 01, 2020

It Is Well


Do you have someone close to you who, no matter the circumstance, when asked, “How are you doing?”, answers, “Just fine!” or “O.K.” ? I’m generally one of those people, but last week, I had to finally admit that I needed help from medical professionals. I was more than grateful that I could be in a place where my medical team could “do their thing”. As I became more and more ill, the time came that thoughts of my mortality crept in and it became necessary for me to lean into God. What a comforting feeling to know that he was there and that he would be no matter what. The words of one of our amazing hymns, “It is Well With My Soul”, kept singing it’s way through my mind for hours. Finally, I proclaimed to myself, “Yes, it is well with my soul”! And today, it is better for my body. Now at home with my family, being cared for so beautifully, I must still proclaim with the words of “It is Well”: “O, Lord haste the day When my faith shall be sight. The clouds be rolled back as a scroll, The trump shall resound And the Lord shall descend, “Even so, It is well with my soul”


It Is Well with My Soul

1873


Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19

When the great Chicago fire consumed the Windy City in 1871, Horatio G. Spafford, an attorney heavily invested in real estate, lost a fortune. About that time, his only son, age 4, succumbed to scarlet fever. Horatio drowned his grief in work, pouring himself into rebuilding the city and assisting the 100,000 who had been left homeless.

    In November of 1873, he decided to take his wife and daughters to Europe. Horatio was close to D. L. Moody and Ira Sankey, and he wanted to visit their evangelistic meetings in England, then enjoy a vacation.

    When an urgent matter detained Horatio in New York, he decided to send his wife, Anna, and their four daughters, Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie, on ahead. As he saw them settled into a cabin aboard the luxurious French liner Ville du Havre, an unease filled his mind, and he moved them to a room closer to the bow of the ship. Then he said goodbye, promising to join them soon.

    During the small hours of November 22, 1873, as the Ville du Havre glided over smooth seas, the passengers were jolted from their bunks. The ship had collided with an iron sailing vessel, and water poured in like Niagara. The Ville du Havre tilted dangerously. Screams, prayers, and oaths merged into a nightmare of unmeasured terror. Passengers clung to posts, tumbled through darkness, and were swept away by powerful currents of icy ocean. Loved ones fell from each other’s grasp and disappeared into foaming blackness. Within two hours, the mighty ship vanished beneath the waves. The 226 fatalities included Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie. Mrs. Spafford was found nearly unconscious, clinging to a piece of wreckage. When the 47 survivors landed in Cardiff, Wales, she cabled her husband: “Saved Alone.”

    Horatio immediately booked passage to join his wife. En route, on a cold December night, the captain called him aside and said, “I believe we are now passing over the place where the Ville du Havre went down.” Spafford went to his cabin but found it hard to sleep. He said to himself, “t is well; the will of God be done.”

    He later wrote his famous hymn based on those words. Please enjoy Wintley Phipps’ presentation of this beloved hymn:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8HffdyLd0c&index=24&list=RD96gOjU54YOs


The melody for “It is Well,” titled VILLE DU HAVRE, was written by Philip Bliss who was himself soon to perish, along with his wife, in a terrible train wreck in Ohio