Monday, March 29, 2021
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47
This sounds pretty good right? This is the kind of connection that many of us have been missing over the last year. While meeting in small groups with the same people has been safer than meeting in large groups, many of us have not been gathering at all.
God designed us to be in community with each other, but community has been a difficult thing to maintain. God continues to call us to support one another in a variety of ways as we also continue to keep one another safe. God has created us with creative minds and empathetic hearts to be able to figure out new ways to reach out and show His love to those around us. Keep up the good work and God will continue to increase our fellowship even under difficult circumstances!
Prayer: Dear God, help us to find ways to continue to enjoy fellowship with one another, to praise you every day and to show your love and care to those around us so that they too may know your hope.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
My Crushing Blow to Hope is Once Again Regained
Back in 1990, I had a stepbrother. As he was managing a service station in Des Moines, a man came in and attempted to rob the station. The robber asked for all the money and then told my stepbrother to turn around. With no remorse, he shot him point blank in the back of his head, killing him instantly. The robber was apprehended later that night and is in prison serving a life sentence without parole. The pain that was brought into my family was extensive. My mom was never the same after that. The hurt in her heart was never mended. My anger towards God was so great. I asked “why?” but got no answers. Then just three years later, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and treatments did not help. In fact, because of the radiation treatments, she ended up on life support fighting for her life. We were told she would not survive and we as a family we had to make the decision to take her off of life support. Night after night, day after day, we prayed and prayed. We didn’t want to be the ones to decide when she would pass. I can remember going to the chapel in the hospital and praying so hard for God to take her so we wouldn’t have to make a difficult choice. But he didn’t take her, so we were forced to make the heart wrenching decision to stop life support. I thought my mom would die quickly, but she didn’t. It was hours before she took her final breath. It left me with so much hurt in my heart and more anger, but at the same time wondering “did she really go to heaven?”
Years passed and my interest, my wonder and my love for Christ was starting to get stronger. God knew that the trials I had faced would help me down the road. On Thanksgiving, 2015, my hope, my faith and especially my trust were very much tested. My dad had eaten with us and felt fine, but by evening he was fighting for his life with a blood clot in his lungs. With advanced age and other health issues, the hospital could only keep him comfortable as they began end of life protocols. The strongest medication they could give him did not even begin to take away the pain. It was so hard to be there for him and to pray for him. After several hours, he looked up and said his mom’s name “Minnie.” At that moment, my dad could see the vision or the spirit of his mom coming for him. We couldn’t see a thing. Hours later, he left us. It was so difficult to pray for him, hold him and tell him how much he meant to me and how much I love him and will miss him. I strongly believe that through God, my dad’s mother came to help him cross over and enter into God’s Kingdom.
One month later, my faith would be needed again as I was near death with a saddle pulmonary embolism. This was the story of almost losing my faith in God and how it barely stayed with me. When I was down to my last breath, my nurse reached out for me and held my hand. My body was flooded with an indescribable love, unlike anything I had ever felt before. I knew that God was holding me in a new way and speaking to me through my nurse. God is real, Jesus is among us, and his Holy Spirit is within us. He will always help us through every tribulation. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but one day God’s light will guide us all home. I eagerly await that moment, to be held by Christ once again, and to feel his overflowing, unconditional and infinite love forever and ever.
Prayer: Deep in our souls, we give thanks to you lord for helping us to keep our strength, our faith and our hope in you, even when we are experiencing the hardest of times. I thank you for giving me hope again and again. Amen.
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
“Don't be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
As our world has been turned upside down for the past year, there have been many times I've wondered, "Will it ever be over?" My life, like most of us, has been changed. Some of it's good, some of it's bad. The one constant that I have held onto throughout it all is that God never changes. I have no reason to be afraid of what the future holds because God is with me. I have no reason to be discouraged about my current circumstance because God is my God and is with me. God is, and always will be, with me and will be there through it all. This gives me hope.
Hope can be a fantasy. Hope can be unrealistic. But the hope that we have in Jesus is very real. We have the hope that tomorrow will be better because we know the God who can make it better. God has conquered and defeated everything. Nothing is too big for God. Nothing is too small for God. He holds us up when we need to be held. He strengthens us when we need to be strengthened. Nothing that comes our way should scare us or frighten us because God is always with us. Our hope is with God. Our hope is God.
Thursday, April 1, 2021
“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp”. Psalms 92: 1-3
I will admit it. I wasn’t a good Christian when I was in high school. I fell into the hole of sin that surrounded me with pride, lust, anger, and other wrongdoings. At the time, I did not think about it and I really didn’t care. As long as I had my friends and I was one of the lead roles in the school musical, I was happy. Almost six years later, I look back on my time in high school and ask myself, what was motivating me? I didn’t care for Jesus that much back then, so what was keeping me going? Music. Every morning, afternoon, and night, I would listen to music of all kinds, from all different artists. However, I never listened to Christian music because I thought that it was kind of lame. Anyways, I found myself giving in to these different sins because of the music that I was listening to. I would listen to songs about sex, drugs, violence, and arrogance. At the time, I never thought that it was the music that was fueling my wrong desires. Six years later, it really makes sense to me. I gave my life to Christ when He called me to ministry five years ago, but I did not stop listening to some of the music that I was listening to. Well, as you may have guessed, the music was holding me back from being the strongest Christ follower that I could be. Now, I don’t listen to anything else except for Christian music. When I decided to stop listening to secular music, my life changed. I felt like I was able to see more opportunities that God was laying out for me. On top of that, I was prepared for those opportunities because I had God’s praises in my head and on my heart. There is something for everybody! There is rock, rap, country, and pop music that praises the Lord and tells the Word. I wanted to share this with you all because I want everyone to know how much of an impact music has on our hearts. You will act like the music you listen to, it’s just how we work. Christian music is not lame, and it is definitely not boring. I encourage all of you, especially during Lent, to turn off the bad stuff, and to turn up the good stuff. The good stuff being praises to the Lord. We need to focus on the Lord, and what better way to focus on Him than listening and singing praises to Him.
Prayer: Lord help the world of music. Let the harmonies and the melodies of your praises ring with beauty in our ears. Let us not be afraid to lift our arms to worship you. Guide us to the songs and praises that we need to hear. All glory to you. Amen.
Friday, April 2, 2021
“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:3-6
Perseverance, Character, Hope
One evening in August 1992, after a particularly frustrating summer, I walked into my “prayer closet,” which happens to be our extra bedroom, and said a little prayer to God for some words of wisdom, comfort and strength. Simply put, I really needed some encouraging words! The Bible reading that night took me to Romans 5:3-6. It was like the words jumped off the page at me. It was the quickest answer to prayer that I have ever received.
The SUFFERING we all have at one time or another. The PERSEVERANCE we learn day by day, sometimes one hour at a time. That’s how our CHARACTER is strengthened. But the HOPE is what I needed most that night, reassurance that this frustrating time our family was going through would pass, and with God’s help, we would make it together.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for being there with us in our times of trials and suffering. You and only you give us peace and comfort to live each day and to be hopeful toward tomorrow. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen
Marlys McDonald – from SUMC “Our Three Gifts” 1999
Saturday, April 3, 2021
Read Matthew 27
This is Holy Saturday. The day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. The disciples did not know what would happen the next day. It was a Sabbath so no work could be done to prepare Jesus’ body properly for burial. I know that many were wondering, “What next?” We read in verses 59-60 in Matthew 27, “Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.”
Jesus’ body was secure, but the disciples would have been in deep mourning. Many of us have been there. We have lost loved ones we have dealt with diagnoses of disease. We have been filled with questions of “What next?”
I hold onto the fact that Resurrection came, and new life continues to come our way. On days when I am confronted with questions, I find it good to sit in the presence of friends and invite the presence of Jesus to minister to me. Today may we all reflect on the good news that Jesus if Lord of life and death. He conquered death so we can live forever.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for loving us enough to suffer and die for us. May we come to you in our darkest moments and put our trust and hope in your loving care. Amen.
Pastor Kevin Gingerich