March 15th - Julie Labhart
Jesus answered; “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” - Luke 4:8
Everything seems to be going along smoothly and then Satan shows up. He knows how to get into my thoughts. Negativity, anxiety, and self-criticism can take over. Sometimes he can be like an annoying gnat. Other times, he is much larger and harder to push away. With a grateful heart, counting my many blessings can help to change my focus. I am a child of God. I am worthy. Negativity does not let my light shine. Anxiety will not change the future. The future is in God’s hands.
In Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” I need to focus on God alone, serve him only and pray for opportunities to do that. I put my trust in him because He alone is the Way.
Gracious God, keep me positive and focused on you.
March 16th - Pat Scruggs
“Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’ Immediately the leprosy left him.” - Luke 5:13 (NRSV)
This encounter with a leper occurs as Jesus is teaching and healing throughout the land. Growing crowds are following him, amazed by the authority of his preaching. Many are hoping for healing from conditions from which they have suffered for years, even their whole lives. Despite the crowds, Jesus recognizes and reaches out to individuals such as this leper. The leper bows his head and begs Jesus for healing. In the preceding verse, the leper says “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” And Jesus does choose – the man is made clean.
In Biblical times, disease was considered to be punishment for sin. The appearance of the leper (skin lesions, rashes, discoloration of skin) made it clear that the person was not fit to enter the Temple or associate with others. Lepers were forced to live on the outskirts of town, forage for their food, and even ring a bell and call out “Unclean!” if another person came near. They lived a life of shame and isolation.
But here is Jesus, acknowledging, responding to, even touching the leper who has begged for healing. The leper’s request is granted; he is made clean. Jesus continues to reach out to us today. Whatever sin separates us from God can be forgiven and we can be made clean, if we only ask. During this Lenten season of self-examination, reflection, and repentance, may we be mindful that Jesus never turns away; the first step to healing and a closer relationship with Him is up to us.
March 17th - Jim Stovall
But to those of you who will listen, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. - Luke 6:27
In reading this verse alone, without the context of the surrounding verses, I am at first reminded of the time, later in Luke (Chapter 10), where Jesus is questioned by a lawyer about the greatest of all commandments. Jesus asks the lawyer what he thinks. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Correct, says Jesus. But then the lawyer asks, “But who is my neighbor?” That question provides Jesus with the opportunity to relate possibly his most beautiful parable, the Good Samaritan.
In this passage, no one asks, “Who is my enemy?”
We don’t have to ask. Many times in our lives, enemies surround us. We have no trouble identifying them. And therein lies the problem. We can, indeed, identify our enemies.
Jesus calls us not only to action but to “listen” and think deeply about what he is saying. If we do that, we may discover a hidden but essential truth. The person we love, because we love that person, can no longer be our enemy. We cannot identify that person as an enemy.
Yes, there may be those who “hate us.” But we are not responsible for the feelings of another person. We are responsible for our own feelings and actions. If we follow this divine
command, we will have no enemies.
March 18th - Rodney & Julie Nelson
He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” John 9:25
John 9:25 is challenging us to remove our spiritual blinders to better see the power and grace of God in our lives and those around us. In my family, I experienced my Mother losing her sight along with her ability to do many things that brought her joy such as sewing. Even though her body was healed after the removal of a benign brain tumor, many things changed in her life including becoming dependent on others, feeling a sense of isolation, and loneliness. As a child it was easy to be blind to the difficulties my Mom experienced. Looking back I can admire her positivity and resourcefulness. Her faith and trust in God helped her “see” her way through the difficulties of her life.
As adults and followers of Jesus Christ, how often are we blind to the fact that our unkind words and thoughtless actions hurt others? How often are we blinded by our own shortcomings to live the life Jesus expects of us? Many of us turn a blind eye to those around us in need or who are hurting. Acknowledging our spiritual blindness in our everyday lives is imperative to our walk with God.
In our scripture today, the man blind from birth was given the gift of sight and became an instant believer in Jesus despite all those around him who questioned and were fearful. Shouldn’t we, as believers, be able to remove all the “blinders” that keep us from focusing on the love, grace, and salvation that God freely offers us? It’s time to open our eyes and take those bold steps forward.
March 19th - Gordo & Rhonda Watson
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Walk as children of light. - Ephesians 5:8
Ephesians 5:8 takes Rhonda and I back to ‘in the beginning’. Light is a numerous and strong symbol throughout the scriptures signifying life for mankind in all God’s glory. We are reminded that God’s first act of creation was the gift of light and that it dispelled the void and darkness
that was the earth. The light brought illumination to our life and established order and routine to daily existence. John’s gospel tells us that God sent Jesus as the light of men providing not just life, but life abundant. Jesus dwelt among us and modeled what a life of light should look like.
Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, encourages the Ephesians to embrace the blessing of God as individuals and collectively as the church. We can live unified as one through Christ, the Head of the Body.
Our lives are immeasurably blessed by God’s grace and love, freely given. Christ came into the world with darkness all around Him but He rose above the world and modeled the life of light for us. Paul reminds us that our response to Christ’s calling is to embody a Christ-like daily life.
Our critics are waiting at every turn to point out our hypocrisy as followers of Jesus. They readily point out when our conduct does not match our beliefs. We are sure we often fall short, but our resolve and efforts must be consistent in our witness as members of the Body of Christ. Where can we model Christ daily? Where can we serve, heal, and love?
We pray that this little light of ours will shine brightly in the darkness.
March 20th - Heather Davis
So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. - Luke 7:22
In this section, John has sent his messengers to Jesus to ask if he is the one or if they should still be waiting on someone else. Jesus had just performed numerous miracles. Everyone was talking about them. Many had seen.
In response to their questioning, Jesus simply tells them to go back and tell John what they had seen and heard. He doesn’t answer the question directly. Doesn’t confirm.
To me, this is another example of building faith and how we are rarely satisfied. We beg for a “sign” that we’re on the right track. Anything to confirm our direction. And even when miracles happen right in front of us, we struggle to recognize. Struggle to accept. It feels like another “what more do you want” moment. Jesus is doing the things we expected him to do and more, but still we have to ask. If it doesn’t fit neatly into our picture of everything he should be at the moment, we doubt. And that’s okay. Jesus doesn’t seem to be offended or angry. But he does ask us to believe in him. He puts it back on us. We make it harder on ourselves even in the midst of miracles. This passage reminds me to spread the word about miracles I’ve witnessed, to attribute blessings appropriately and to accept the goodness being offered.
March 21st - Don and Jewel Smith
One day he and his disciples got in a boat. “Let’s cross the lake,” he said. And off they went. It was smooth sailing, and he fell asleep. A terrific storm came up suddenly on the lake. Water poured in, and they were about to capsize. They woke Jesus: “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”
Getting to his feet, he told the wind, “Silence!” and the waves, “Quiet down!” They did it. The lake became smooth as glass. - Luke 8:24
One day Jesus and His disciples got in a boat to cross a lake. Off they went to smooth sailing, and He went to sleep. Suddenly a terrible storm came up and the boat was about to capsize. They woke Jesus and said, “Master we are going to drown.” He stood up and told the wind and waves-,” Silence”, Quiet down! “And the lake became smooth as glass. Then He said to the disciples, “Why can’t you trust me?” They were in awe, staggering about and stammering. “Who is this anyway? He calls out to the winds and sea and they do what he tells them.
This story tells us that no matter how overwhelming our circumstances are, we must not lose trust; Jesus is always there for us. Everyone has experienced a “storm” in their life that makes them doubt their faith in God. No one can manage this type of situation without a strong faith to fall back on. God is always there for us and will hold us tightly in His arms and help us back to a state of peace and acceptance - “He will calm our sea” if we only trust Him.