Pastor's Devotionals


Sept. 23

"I HEARD THE VOICE OF JESUS SAY "

1846

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28


Anyone can work with adults, but it takes a special person to communicate with

children. Among the early hymnists, none connected with youngsters better than

Horatius Bonar, “the prince of Scottish hymnists.”  


Horatius was born just before Christmas in 1808, one of eleven children. Two of

his siblings---John and Andrew---also became outstanding preachers. After studying for

the ministry at the University of Edinburgh ad serving an internship at Leith, Horatius

was ordained and began pastoring in Kelso. Later he moved to Edinburgh where he

became one of Scotland’s most favorite pulpiteers.


He began writing hymns while at Kelso, and many of them were especially for

children. Later, in his church in Edinburgh where only the Scottish version of the

Psalms were sung, only the children were allowed to sing his hymns. On one occasion

in the adult services, two of his church leaders stormed out in protest when a hymn was

announced. But the children never protested. They loved his visits to Sunday School

when he would lead them in exuberant singing.


Horatius wrote “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” for his Sunday School children in

1846. On the page containing the words, he doodled four faces and the head of a man

wearing a hat. 


He based his three verses on three wonderful promises of Jesus in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. John 4:14

… but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life”

and John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life”. 


The first half of each stanza echoes our Lord’s promise, and the last

half of each stanza frames our response.


Where did his love for children come from? He and his wife had lost five of their

children in rapid succession. But God gave him hundreds of children in his Sunday

Schools. And that’s not all. . . .


Many years later, a surviving Bonar daughter was widowed and returned home to

live with her parents. She had five young children. Writing to a friend, Horatius said,

“God took five children from life some years ago, and He has given me another five to

bring up for Him in my old age.”

Horatius was nearly 80 when he preached in his church for the last time. Among

his last requests was that no biography of him be written. He wanted all the glory to be

Christ’s alone.


I have provided for you today two different versions of this beloved hymn. 

The first is sung by a single voice in a hauntingly fitting Celtic style, accompanied by an Irish

flute.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AmFu58Tk2Y


The second is Arranged by Ralph Vaughn Williams and sung by Chant Claire Chamber

Choir .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rw3dO7S9qI4


May you find peace and reassurance as you read God’s Word and hear it supported through this meaningful

hymn.


Blessings, Carolyn

Sept. 20

Pastor Tim’s Devotional

September 21, 2020

Scripture Reading – Romans 12:3-5


Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable…We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way,

though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other.


Am I proud?


In our current sermon series, “Better Together: Becoming the Body of Christ,” we have been examining St. Paul’s favorite metaphor for the church, the human body (See also 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Eph. 1:22-23, 4:15-16; Col. 2:19).


Our bodies are made up of many different parts. Each part is vital, and for the body to be healthy all of the different parts must work together. Unity is not optional for the parts of our body. Each part is interconnected to the others in such a way that if one part

suffers, all of the other parts suffer with it.


In presenting us with this image, St. Paul is urging us, as individuals called to the Body of Christ, to strive to live together with the same unity and recognition of our interconnectedness and need for each other.


We know from experience that this is easier said than done. In our passage from Romans today, St. Paul begins by telling us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Reminding us, that what most often stands in the way of Christian unity, is the

sin of pride.


In reflecting on this, John Wesley says the following, "The first advice I would give those who have been saved from sin by grace is to watch and pray continually against pride…God has wisely joined us all together as parts of the body so that we cannot say to one another, 'I have no need of you.'"


St. Paul and John Wesley both point to the humility that arises from the recognition of the grace that we have received, as the antidote to pride. We only enter the body of Christ by humbly recognizing our sin and need for God’s grace. In accepting God’s grace, we are called to live together in humility, gentleness, and patience, while accepting each other in love.



Nothing has more power to dismember the Body of Christ than the sin of pride. Pride becomes sin when we give into the temptation of thinking that life is meant to revolve around us. When we start thinking that we are more important than other people, that we are the ones who are better than other people. That we are the ones who know the truth, that other people would do well to be more like us.



Trace prejudice back to its roots and you’ll find pride. Trace racism back to its roots and you’ll find pride. Trace male domination of women back to its roots and you’ll find pride. Trace any kind of bigotry back to its roots and you’ll find pride.


Whenever someone believes him or herself to be better or more deserving or more valuable, we see the sin of pride. In a time of such great division, I can think of no greater or more challenging question for us to consider than “Am I proud?”



May each of us humbly do so in light of the grace that we have received.


God Bless You

Pastor Tim

Sept. 19

Carolyn Wood's Devotional

Sept. 19, 2020

"THIS IS MY FATHER’S WORLD" 1901


. . .For the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Psalm 30:12b


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3ZVLOLMRMw


Maltbie Babcock was arguably the most remarkable student Syracuse

University had ever seen. Hailing from an aristocratic family, he was a

brilliant scholar with a winning personality. Tall and steel-muscled, he

was an outstanding athlete, expert swimmer, and captain of the

baseball team. He also directed the university’s orchestra, played

several instruments, and composed original compositions. A proficient

vocalist, he directed the university glee club. He entertained other

students by drawing and doing impersonations. On the side, he was an

avid fisherman.


He would have been successful in any profession, but God called him

to the ministry; and after further training at Auburn Theological

Seminary, he became pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in

Lockport, New York. It was a beautiful area---midway between Lake Erie

and Lake Ontario, not far from Niagra Falls---and Maltbie enjoyed hiking

and running in the hills outside town. Telling his secretary, “I’m going

out to see my Father’s world,” he would run or hike a couple of miles

into the countryside where he’d lose himself in nature.

It was during his pastorate at Lockport that he wrote a sixteen-stanza

poem, each verse beginning with the words, “This is My Father’s

World.”


In 1886, Maltbie was called to the Brown Memorial Church in

Baltimore. While there, he traveled widely and was in great demand on

college campuses. He was a fresh, engaging speaker who never failed to

stimulate students. In 1899, he moved to the Brick Presbyterian Church

in New York City. Here he found it more difficult to take off on his hikes.

The work load was enormous, but Maltbie faced it stoically, writing:

Be strong! We are not here to play, to dream, to drift,

We have hard work to do and loads to lift;

Shun not the struggle. Face it. ‘Tis God’s gift. Be strong!


These amazing words of exhortation turned by mind squarely in front of

the pandemic currently ravaging every aspect of our lives these days.

The desperation and fatigue that some of us are facing can be

overwhelming at times, but I found today that I could read these words

from Maltbie and face it with a new courage, knowing that God is right

here with us!


When he was 42, Maltbie’s church presented him with a special gift--

-a pilgrimage to the “Holy Land.” With great excitement, he departed by

ship. While enroute at Naples, Italy, he was seized with a deadly

bacterial fever and died at the International Hospital on May 18, 1901.

After his death, his wife compiled his writings into a book entitled

Thoughts for Everyday Living, published in 1901. Included was Maltbie’s

“This is My Father’s World”.

Sept. 18

Pastor David's Devotional

September 18, 2020

Matthew 22:1-10


Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests."


Today, I conclude this series of devotionals on the parables of Jesus as we take a look at one of Jesus most surprising parables. Much of the parable is easy to understand. The King represents God, and the wedding party represents the Kingdom of God. The King throws a wedding party for his son, representing Jesus. Servants go out to invite guests to attend. The servants represent the prophets of old and the disciples of Jesus. Those who are invited first are the chosen people of God—the Jews, and those who refuse the invitation and kill the messengers are the religious leaders who reject Jesus. The King brings judgement upon those who mistreat the messengers, closing the door to their entering the party. Next, the King sends messengers to gather whoever they can find, the good and the bad, and to bring them into the wedding party. Extending the invitation represents Jesus coming with good news for all people—people like you and me.


If the parable ended here, it is a pretty easy allegory to understand. Religious leaders rejected Jesus. Sinners, Gentiles, Samaritans, welcomed him. So, who is let into the wedding party? We understand the parable. However, the parable doesn’t end here and verses 12-13 of the parable can leave us scratching our heads:

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

King ordered the servants to invite everyone they could find to the party—good and bad. So, why does the person wearing the wrong clothing get thrown out where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth? It is helpful to remember that in the New Testament (and in the Gospel of Matthew) the life of faithfulness is sometimes compared to clothing. And, a dominant theme that runs throughout the Gospel of Matthew is summed up in Matthew 7:21. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew makes it clear that it is not enough to believe in Jesus (even the demons believe); to be a Christian is to believe in Jesus AND to follow him. A true faith, the letter James tells us, is a faith that shows itself in action. The man dressed in the wrong clothes had nothing to show for his faith. Such a faith is not a real faith. Thus the man was not allowed to stay in the party.


The parable asks us very important questions. Do we put our faith in action? Can others look upon how we live and see faithfulness to God? How we live our lives matters.

Think about today, and what you plan to do. What clothes are you wearing?


God bless you and stay well.

Pastor Dave


Sept. 17

Pastor Tim’s Devotional

September 17, 2020

Scripture Reading – 2 Timothy 3:15-17


And how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct

you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is

useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that

everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Do I give the Bible time to speak to me?


In many ways, today’s question is a companion to our question from Monday: Am I

enjoying my prayer life? Both are focused on our relationship with God. In our last

devotional we reflected on the fact that relationships take work and that just as good

communication is an essential part of our human relationships, the same is true in our

relationship with God.


As in human relationships, good communication requires both talking and listening. In

our relationship with God sometimes we talk and sometimes we listen. Sometimes God

listens and sometimes God speaks. This is something that we experience through both

prayer and through giving the Bible time to speak to us.


When we give the Bible time to speak to us, we learn about God. How it is that God

works in this world. What God hopes and dreams for our lives. We learn about who we

are and who we can become. We learn about the life that we can live that is full of

meaning and joy. We learn about the ways that God is at work in our lives bringing

healing to our brokenness and forgiveness for our sins. In giving the Bible time to speak

to us, we learn about the new life that we can have in Christ Jesus our Lord.


How I love the Bible. I encourage you to find some time today, and every day, to open

your heart and mind and life to God’s word. Find a place far from the busy ways of life.

Sit down alone. Quiet yourself. Close your eyes and begin with prayer. Then open the

Word and let it speak into the current circumstances of your life. Listen. Allow the living

Word of God to speak words of truth and love and hope and healing and forgiveness

into your life.


Give the Bible time to speak to you today. May it be so.


God Bless You

Pastor Tim

Sept. 16

Pastor David’s devotional for September 16, 2020

Luke 5:37-39


37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”


The parable of the wineskins is often quickly passed over as a simple analogy. But, there is a depth to this parable that is important to the life of discipleship. In the parable, the old wine

skins represent (in part) the beliefs and traditions of the Pharisees and Scribes who were grumbling about Jesus (Luke 5:30). Their practices had grown rigid, just as old wine skins lose elasticity, and become rigid. Jesus' teachings are like new wine. New wine is wine that is still fermenting. So, if poured into old, rigid, wineskins the fermentation of new wine will cause the skins to break. It is a simple idea.


It is easy to look back upon the Pharisees and Scribes and see how their traditions, values, beliefs and opinions had grown rigid. It is a little harder to think about the possibility that there

are aspects of our lives that are like old wine skins. We are painfully aware that we are living in a time of great divisiveness. Many of us have strong beliefs and opinions about problems confronting us: racism, proper handling of the pandemic, global warming, and (central to them all) politics. Regardless of one's positions on these matters, if we cease to be willing to have civil discussions with one other, especially those of differing beliefs and opinions, with the goal of growing in our understanding and love for one

another, our wine skins may be more rigid than we want to believe.


Of course, no matter one's position on the problems of the day, it is easy for Christians to assume that it is our traditions, values, beliefs and opinions that represent Jesus. We picture

Jesus siding with us, which makes us all the more rigid. But, what if Jesus teachings don’t fit into our wineskins? We can try to force him into our traditions, values, beliefs and opinions, but

we can’t contain him for long. He is like new wine; he requires new wine skins.


In times like this, a good practice is to try and set aside our traditions, values, beliefs and opinions, in order to read the Gospel of Luke. Setting aside such things is very difficult. It helps

to read the Gospel with a couple of questions in mind: What are new wineskins made of? What does Jesus teach us to value, to believe, to practice? How would he have us talk to one another

and respond to the needs of others?


Don’t start reading with answers to these questions already firmly planted in your mind. Simply listen for how Scripture answers the questions. Write down answers to the questions as they present themselves in your reading.  


After reading the gospel, review what you wrote down, asking yourself a question: Is my life open to new wine that ferments and stretches people like me? Am I willing to allow Jesus to change me, even my traditions, values, beliefs and opinions?


I know I am asking a whole lot of you. It might take several hours to read the Gospel. But, the time will be well spent. And, in the end, reading the Gospel with an open mind will take far less time than cleaning up the mess left behind by broken wineskins. 

Just a thought….

God bless you and stay well.

Pastor Dave

Sept. 15

Pastor David's Devotional

September 15, 2020

Matthew 13: 24-30


24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”


Last Friday, on the 19th anniversary of 9/11, my devotional was based upon this parable. I return to the parable today, this time thinking about my own life. I invite you to do the same.


In Matthew 13: 36-43 Jesus explained the parable. He said that the sower of seeds was him—The Son of Man. The field represents the world. The good seed represents Christians, the enemy is the devil and the weeds represent folks who give themselves over to sin. The starting point for thinking about his parable is the recognition of how easy it is for us to identify ourselves with the good seed. After all, we are Christians, we believe in Jesus, and we are trying to follow him. So, in Jesus explanation of the parable, it is clear that we are the good seed. If only life were that simple!


In many ways our lives are like the field. All of us have grown up in this world. We carry with us lessons we learned along the way. Some of the lessons we learned helped us on our faith journey, and some of the lessons we learned were full of weeds! The weeds can include attitudes and beliefs and ideologies that have nothing to do with the Christian life. In addition, we all face temptations that come from the world, temptations to behave in ways contrary to our faith. So, if we are honest with ourselves, we probably have a few weeds growing up alongside our faith. Sometimes it seems like the weeds cross-pollinate with the wheat, resulting in behaviors we try to justify as Christians, yet are contrary to Jesus teaching. As such, the weeds can end up hiding behind the wheat, making it hard for us to see, hard for us to acknowledge that there are times when what we say or do or think is contrary to following Jesus.


Fortunately, we have help. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to deal with the weeds in our lives. We can partner with the Holy Spirit’s work by reading the Bible. We also partner with the Holy Spirit as we contemplate one simple question: “Do I act, or talk, or think in ways that are contrary to the law of love? Do I act or talk or think in ways that are contrary to loving God and loving others, even others I am tempted to talk about? If there are times when I act or talk or think in ways that are contrary to loving others, weeds are likely close at hand. Of course, we can change that. We can pull out the weeds—with the help of the Holy Spirit and a whole lot of prayer, we can change how we act or talk or think. With the help of the Holy Spirit, little by little, there are fewer weeds in our lives, as increasingly we produce a greater harvest for God’s Kingdom.


God bless you and stay well.

Pastor Dave