During this season of sacrifice and reflection we are providing a way for everyone to share a seasonal discipline together.  Our daily devotions, written by 1st UMC members and staff will be posted here on the website and are also available through a daily email.  Each short devotion centers around a verse from the New Testament.

Just click the button below to sign up for the daily emails. 









February 22nd - Edha Brown 

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. - Matthew 6:6 (NIV)

My college roommate was required to take a speech class as part of her major. I remember the morning of her first speech. She was crying, got sick to her stomach and spent most of her time trying to decide if going to class was worth it. She nearly fainted before heading out the door to face the dreaded task. For me, class presentations provoked some anxiety, but my nerves would eventually fall in line. I had friends who lived for such attention—a chance to entertain. Any way you slice it, having an audience evokes some kind of behavioral response. Our focus and motivation shift. It’s human nature, really. The knowledge that eyes are watching and ears are listening, pressures us and influences our behavior. Some seek praise. Some seek shock and awe. Most of us fall somewhere in between—perhaps hoping to say just enough to stay off of others’ radar and avoid unwanted attention. No matter what, our focus is externalized.


Perhaps, this is why Jesus tells us to pray in our closets or a private room. Privacy allows our ego to rest. Now internal, our motivation allows us to communicate our vulnerabilities, needs, hopes and concerns freely. In private we are able to share in a very real way.


Jesus says this type of prayer will be rewarded. I do not think this means that all our requests are granted. After all, Jesus is not a genie. Rather, the reward is connection, intimacy and guidance from the one who is able to answer when the space is quiet enough for us to hear.

February 23rd - Charlie Barton

Therefore (Jesus) is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. - Hebrews 7:25


Hebrews 7 has always been one of those baffling parts of scriptures that has alluded my understanding. It tells the story of Melchizedek, king of Salem and “priest of God Most High.” He is a mysterious character with no family history and with no record after Abraham gave him 10% of all his plunder.  Who was he? Why did Abraham regard him so highly? Who designated him as priest? What happened to him after this encounter with Abraham? How does he fit in with the whole tapestry of scriptural context?  Apparently, he is important because the writer of Hebrews dedicates of good bit of space to rehashing his story. In reading this passage again, I was reminded of what my Daddy used to say, “There are a lot of things I don’t understand.  But I will.” So, I’ll reserve my ponderings on Melchizedek for another day and focus on what I can grasp. Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because HE ALWAYS LIVES to intercede for them. That is my good news this Easter. 

Prayer: Dear God, help me to focus this Lent on the happy news that Jesus will always live to intercede for me.  Amen. 

February 24th - Miranda Brakebill

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord.I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.- Hebrews 8:10


How can I trust you? How can you trust me? How can any of us trust God? People often make promises to each other, but even we hook our pinky fingers together and say “pinky promise,” human beings often break our promises to each other simply because we are human beings. Yes, humans are fallible, weak, and sometimes mean, and we break our promises. Sometimes, although we have tried our very best to keep a promise, the fact is that we have changed. 


In Hebrews 8:10, God states a covenant, or oath-bound promise, with Israel. The Old Testament tells us of several covenants/solemn promises God made with Israel. There were covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. How was God able to make these promises and keep them? Each of these men was fallible, weak, and some might even say mean at some point in their life. And each of them experienced turning points of change in their lives. So, how could God be expected to keep these covenants?


The answer is so simple even little children can understand. God, the creator, knows the complete story. There was one more covenant in the New Testament that God would reveal. His own Son would be the “new covenant,” and God would seal it with Jesus’ blood on the cross. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection fulfilled God’s covenants. Human beings may not be able to trust each other all the time, but we can trust God all the time. God never changes. How do we know? Jesus proved that fact on the cross. God keeps His promises.


February 25th - Laura Burchfield

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds, out of the mouth of God. - Matthew 4:4

I grew up spending a lot of my time in my dad’s grocery store. It was full of candy and all the things that would entice a child. (I still love candy stores to this day!) Oh, how I wanted those pieces of Hershey Kisses, Sugar Babies, and Bit o’ Honey. That was my first remembrance of being tempted by something I was not supposed to have. When I took that piece of candy, without permission, the guilt overwhelmed the pleasure I thought I would have. As I have grown those temptations are still there but show up in more materialistic desires and never fill the void that God can.

My prayer to God is to keep me grounded by worshiping him and not worldly things. Can I discern God’s voice from Satan? Do I pause and wait for his answers vs. short-term happiness?  When I do seek God, I not only have less regret but also a full heart that lets me focus on all the gifts I have been given with gratitude and love. Why can I not remember this and fail time after time? Can I give everything to God... living only as he would have me do….avoiding temptation when I have so much?

Prayer: I pray today that I can be more like Jesus and learn from his examples. Seeking my Heavenly Father’s will over my own.

February 26th - Jill Pope

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! - Romans 5:15



Jesus Christ

Dust and breathe to dust

The Word incarnate eternal





Selfish sin

Grace-filled sacrifice and forgiveness

Take and take and take

Freely given in boundless measure


The gift given through Jesus Christ is so fundamentally different than any sin committed by Adam or any other person that there is no comparison to be made. No strength I have, no love I share, no forgiveness I offer, no sin I commit, no anger I feel compares with God’s act of love, sacrifice, and forgiveness.


Nothing I do- absolutely nothing- good or bad will ever be greater than the love and forgiveness shared through the gift of Jesus Christ.

If you take one thing today, let it be the grace of God. Take it humbly. Take it with thanksgiving. Take it to share with all you encounter today. Become one in the body of Christ.


February 27th - Crystal Irwin

Christ died to rescue those who had sinned and broken the old agreement. Now he brings his chosen ones a new agreement with its guarantee of God's eternal blessings! - Hebrews 9:15 (CEV)


When we bought our home in the Springbrook Community of Alcoa in June 2015, the purchase included a home warranty. Great, we thought, this provides some peace of mind! However, the benefits of the agreement left much to be desired. When one day a major appliance needed repair, then another day there was water where water shouldn’t be, and later one room in our home was 15 degrees hotter than another room, we were disappointed to discover that the fine print of the warranty casually mentioned none of these issues were covered.


Unlike our home warranty, Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice has no fine print. Christ died to rescue those who have sinned. That’s all of us! One of the many things I love about the United Methodist Church is that communion is open to anyone and everyone in need of God’s grace. There is no fine print, no list of criteria, no legalistic qualifications needed to receive the sacrament. This verse tells us that Christ brings us a new agreement with a guarantee. This guarantee of God’s eternal blessings is much different than a one-year (or even an extended!) warranty. We can have peace of mind and rest assured that our Wonderful Counselor will remain steadfast, faithful, and righteous. I invite you to consider your acceptance of the Divine’s offered agreement, and how you might choose to share God’s love with others today.

February 28th - Lisa Blackwood

And what God wants is for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time. - Hebrews 10:10


For me, the season of Lent is a time to reflect on my life on the love of God.   This season finds me focused on “Whose I am; Who I am; What am I called to be/do?”  Keeping that in mind and reading over todays scripture, I became unusually focused on one word…..  Holy.  No matter how many times I walked away, that word haunted me.  


So, what does holy mean to you?  I took a poll among my trusted friends and family.  So many answers!  Here are just a few….  forgiven, righteous, whole (completely forgiven), without sin, utmost, sacred, grace-filled, blessed, humbled, dedicated or consecrated to God and finally, set apart.  Try reading through today’s scripture and inserting any one of these understandings. This passage becomes more thought provoking.


The Hebrew word for holy, “hagios”, means to be “set apart” for a specific purpose.  This might be my final choice because it helps me understand that I am set apart for my specific purpose, just as you are. Our callings are not identical. The only way we can live into our purpose is by the grace of God, who sacrificed His son, the only perfect sacrifice.  This is not about our perceived sacrifices, but the one, single sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Savior now and for all time.


Today, ponder what holy means to you in your walk.  



MARCH 1st - MARCH 7th

March 1st - Katie Myers


“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we

do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1, NIV


The NIV study bible describes faith as believing in and obeying God, which requires relying on what we cannot see - God’s promises, provisions and concern for us. An inner attitude alone does not define faith though. For faith to be present, action is required. Faith proves itself by obedience to the Lord. The writer of Hebrews expressed faith in two directions: faith toward future things (what we hope for) and faith toward invisible things (what we do not see). When we are certain God is in control of these areas (and we live like he is in control), that is faith. 


Obedience to God is the proof of faith – it is the “action is required”. Living my life obediently as if God is in control (seeking God’s purpose for my life) – this is the part of the message which intimidates me. I am certain God is in control but what action? What purpose? Am I obedient? Am I living for God’s purpose? I recall a lady telling me years ago that as long as I was asking for God’s purpose to be fulfilled in my life, I did not need to know what my purpose was or call it by name – I just needed to keep on asking and believing and seeking God. 


I am a dilly-dallier, a one-more-thing kind of person. My husband calls me the Energizer Bunny. Yet I never seem to commit to a routine quiet time with God, knowing that when I do spend time with him, he clearly reveals to me how being faithful to him gives me more time, more energy, more peace, more gratitude, helps me to be a better wife, better mother, better co-worker, and less of a complainer.


This scripture challenges me to be obedient, to act on my faith! God may never ask me to build a boat or start a church or sacrifice my life. But I can lift up empty hands of faith to receive his precious presence – His gifts of life, joy, and peace. And then again and again, continuing to lift up my hands being sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see.

March 2nd - Brooke Wilson

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. - Hebrews 12:1   


The writer of Hebrews makes a major transition at this point in the writing (“therefore – ask what its there for”) after reminding those addressed in the letter of the “hall of fame” of those in the Old Testament that pointed to Christ, and beseeches them to embrace all of the faith – firstly, full salvation; and secondly, living out the faith as encouragers to other believers. Wow! 

Take a few minutes and remember those encouragers in your life, who brought you to faith and continue to encourage you.  How can I not do the same? This season of Lent, I know I am going to try to endure the race(I hate running) by figuring out ways that  I can be an encourager to those we meet and greet daily, a real conscious choice, looking to Jesus for that support. We need to acknowledge how hard it will be sometimes – the Greek root for endurance is where we get the word agony.  How do I do this – by looking to Jesus!  Please join me!

March 3rd - Owen & Leslie Ragland

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.  Hebrews 13:2  (NIV)


During Lent we take time to reflect on our relationship with God and what that means to us as we approach Easter.  Remember what our Lord said about the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:37 (paraphrasing), Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.  Our church has great ministries that are focused on “entertaining strangers.” 


Can we substitute “entertaining strangers” with “hospitality to neighbors?”  How can we work with the other members of our faith community / church to show hospitality?  We have so many opportunities through our Go Do ministries, greeters, Welcome Table, Celebrate Recovery, Youth programs, and community services such as Food Connection and Good

Neighbors.  When strangers come on our church campus, do they feel the presence of God at work – through you? 

We have heard testimonies of people who experienced the presence of God on our campus because our church members allowed God to show his love through them.


Prayer: Lord, give me the opportunity to entertain / show hospitality to strangers, my neighbors.

March 4th - Bernice Howard

“While he/Peter was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” - Matthew 17:5

Blaise Pascal lived in the 1600’s and wrote, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”  These words are so appropriate for today!  Except, we do sit still in rooms, not in quiet, but with a device speaking to us.  We are constantly bombarded with noise, news, and sound. 


God is not very likely to yell at us from a cloud, as he did Peter! He is more likely to come as he did to Elijah on that mountain, not in a windstorm, earthquake, or fire, but in a “still, small voice.”  Without sitting in the quiet, how can we hear God’s still, small voice?  How can we “listen to Him”?


Jesus modeled this way of listening for us.  He withdrew alone from the crowds and noise, to pray.  He listened and heard when God spoke in that still, small whisper.  We must emulate Jesus!  We need to withdraw, to be alone, to pray silently and to listen for that “still small whisper.” We need this daily.  But we won’t make it happen without disciplining ourselves as Jesus did.  Make a vow to withdraw, unplug, turn off electronics and find time to tune in to God.  Just listen!  He might be whispering right now…

March 5th - Kathryn King

But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. - Romans 4:5


It seems we often want a checklist or instructions for salvation. In America, where we like to believe hard work yields achievement, perhaps this is understandable. However, this verse from Romans states that those without works who trust in God are counted as righteous.


This statement is echoed in the United Methodist Book of Discipline, which states, “Faith is the only response necessary for salvation.”


I often think Christianity is more simple than we try to make it, but simple does not equal easy. For example, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all reference Jesus saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” This statement is followed by “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Simple? Yes. Easy? Not really.


Trust in God. It’s a simple statement—just three words. Why is it so hard?  

I think it’s hard because we have to acknowledge that we are not in control. It’s hard because it is something bestowed upon us, not something we earn. As stated in Romans 4:4, “Now to one who works, wages are not received as a gift but as something due.” We all acknowledge we are not worthy of God’s righteousness, yet He gives it anyway if we trust in Him. Thanks be to God. 

March 6th - Laura Derr

“For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God..” Colossians 9-12 NIV


St. Paul had a challenging task acting as cheerleader for early Christian communities like the Colossians. At first glance, my mother’s task bore no resemblance to Paul’s. But she embodied the spiritual injunction to lead a life worthy of God and to bear fruit in every good work. When my siblings and I were growing up in rural KY, mom insisted that we attend church every Sunday. This was no easy matter, since we had only one vehicle and my father worked on Sundays. In order to get to church, we had to go with dad on his way to work, arrive at church an hour before Sunday School started, and spend the rest of the day in town at my grandmother’s. And that’s what we did throughout my growing up years. Mom began teaching Children’s SS, and after we were grown, volunteered in the Nursery on a rotating schedule. She fulfilled these roles for more than 30 years. It would have been easy for her to decide it was too hard to go to church. Mom led a life worthy of God and bore good fruit throughout her lifetime. Who bore good fruit in your life? Because of her, I ask myself am bearing good fruit today?



 March 7th - Kevin Painter

Rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.– Colossians 2:7


This verse in the 2nd chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae focuses on the fullness of Christ and guides us to live our lives in him.  According to Bible Gateway.com, there are 62 different Bible translations of this verse.  58 of them mention the word “root” in some form, while 47 of those translations mention “abounding” or “overflowing” as it describes how the Colossians should show their thanksgiving or gratefulness.   These words are at the core of this passage.


I am particularly drawn to the CEV translation of this text which calls us to “Plant your roots in Christ and let him be the foundation of your life.  Be strong in your faith, just as you were taught.   And be grateful.”

We are called to plant deep roots in Christ’s teachings, while also recognizing those that have taught us those lessons.  We are then called to be overflowing or abounding in our thanksgiving to God. I am so grateful for my Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, choir directors and pastors that taught me the fullness of life in Christ.    It is fitting that it is our congregational call to tell the world about Christ, teach the world about Christ and touch the world for Christ.  On this day during Lent, let us affirm our foundation in Jesus, remain strong in our faith, and abound in thanksgiving.



MARCH 8th - MARCH 14th

March 8th - Glenn Doig

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. - Colossians 3:17

When I began my involvement with Welcome Table at our church, starting with the planning stage, I felt I was doing a good thing to help people . When we opened up I was a volunteer server and helped with transportation. I kept thinking  I was doing a good thing, however not making the connection about doing it in the name of the Lord. It was more about me.



The same when we started Family Promise at our church. Even though I volunteered, it was still about me. When I began my involvement with the start up of Celebrate Recovery, things were a bit more difficult for me. I would be working with people with drug addictions, and people with serious personal problems . After a year of training, I still was not sure about doing this. I began as the opening speaker at our weekly meetings. I would welcome people, go over the 12 Steps, and make announcements. It was enjoyable and easy, but it still was about me.


As time went on I began working with the people attending Recovery  who had serious problems. I listened to their stories over and over, and it began to get to me. I went home many nights sad and depressed. I questioned myself as to why am I doing this. Then I was reminded about a part in the Serenity Prayer where it talks about trusting Jesus for he will make all things right. Our Recovery minister would always remind us the importance of putting it into God’s hands. It all of a sudden made sense to me. It’s not about me. It’s about doing it in the name of Jesus. I continued volunteering at Recovery with a new perspective.

I was very pleased when I got the verse Colossians 3:17. It pulled it all together for me and I thank God for that.


Dear God, continue to remind us that whatever we do, do it in the name of Jesus. Amen.

March 9th - Phil Large

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2 (NIV)

That great theologian (?) Mark Twain once said “It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” I once had a pastor who frequently quoted passages from the book he called 1st Calamities. I think Twain picked this quote up there. Well, what’s not to understand with this verse in Colossians ? Seems like we should pray, pray, pray, right ?

Biblical scholars say that Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Colossae while under house arrest in Rome. While a skeptic might say that it would be pretty easy to understand and practice ceaseless prayer if one were in prison (similar to “no atheists in foxholes”), Paul is urging Christians to devote ourselves to the discipline for prayer. It may require practice or rededication to commit to a life of prayer. What better time than during the Lenten season to make a concerted effort to do just that. My daily prayer is to do just that.

March 10th - Greta Smith

He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors him as God.

Luke 1:50 (CEB)


The promise of redemption is the heart of our Christian faith.  During this season of Lent, when my thoughts turn inward and I meditate on brokenness and failure and repentance and forgiveness, I need reminders of this promise.  Mary sings of God’s mercy at a time which must have been fraught with uncertainty, fear, and shame.  She had received the assurance of an angel, but she still had to live under the scrutiny of the world.  Her words remind me that God’s mercy prevails where humankind’s does not.

Her words remind me of another scripture.  It is one I have struggled to understand, and it has always troubled me: “…I punish children for their parents’ sins - even to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me.” - Deuteronomy 5:9 (CEB) 


Over time, I have come to understand these words not so much as a message about punishment but about consequence.  Throughout history, human sin has resulted in a legacy of suffering. Colonization, slavery, and the Holocaust all caused trauma that extended -still extends - through many generations. 


Deuteronomy 5:10, along with Mary’s song, however, signify redemption.  For where sin and suffering are great, God’s loyalty, grace and mercy are greater. 

March 11th -  Rev. Bill Green

God is spirit and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.

John 4:24 CEB

She went to the well to draw water. A task she had done daily for most of her life. In the midst of this routine part of her life she encountered a stranger and everything changed. From Jesus she learned that worship was not focused on a place or time. God's Spirit was everywhere and you can encounter God at any time, in any encounter with another and in the midst of the most routine tasks. This truth transformed her life.


There is a church in Samaria over what is claimed to be Jacob's well, the site of this encounter. Here they honor this woman, who before this meeting with Jesus, was shunned because of her questionable lifestyle. This church considers her to be a saint, one to be honored and whose life teaches us how to live. All because she was open to God's spirit breaking into the routine of her life.


As you go through these days of Lent, look for God's Spirit in every moment. Be surprised at where it explodes into your life. Be expectant that God might be wanting to transform you just as the woman at the well was transformed.


Prayer: Loving God, fill us with your Spirit. Make us aware of your presence everywhere and in likeness to you. Amen.

March 12th - Gary Hensley

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. - Romans 5:1


This letter was written by Paul to early Christians in Rome. These Roman Christians were probably mostly gentiles and more educated than many of the early church members.  Paul must have perceived that they were confused about how to be rectified with God. He wanted them to know that living a “good” life and obeying the laws of Moses were important, but that the way to justification with God was actually based on faith.  He taught that to to be justified in God one had to have an unwavering belief that Jesus died for our sins and that God raised him from the dead.  The result of that deeply held belief is peace with God through Jesus Christ.


Many years ago while on a business trip our two engine turbo prop plane lost an engine. I prayed for God to protect us and keep us safe, but I always wondered why I was not particularly scared. We flew on one engine to Memphis - the nearest airport – and made the evening news.


Now, years later in my journey of faith I recall that eventful day, and realize that I see it in a different light. I have faith that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and that God raised him from the dead.  That faith justifies my relationship with God and brings me peace even in scary times.

March 13th -  Emmit Rawls

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” -  Luke 2:49


In my red-letter edition of my NIV Bible, these are the first recorded words of Jesus. It is also the first mention of Jesus’ awareness that he was God’s Son. As a twelve-year-old we might imagine what Jesus was doing on the journey to and from Jerusalem. Perhaps hanging out with friends, playing simple games, or possibly getting into mischief. Nowadays with helicopter Moms, phone tracking devices and such, parents want to know where their kids are even at age twelve or maybe more so at age twelve.


With perhaps a few hundred travelers making their way to and from Jerusalem for Passover, it could be hard to keep track of a twelve-year old. Once Mary and Joseph became aware that he was not with them, they began to frantically search for him. They finally found him with teachers after days of searching. I recall hearing of my Mother’s becoming hysterical when I wandered away from home and her rejoicing when a farm hired man brought me back to her in his horse and cart.


Even though Jesus was becoming aware of his real Father, he did not reject his earthly parents. He went back to Nazareth with them and lived under their authority for another eighteen years. Verse 52 says, “He grew in wisdom and statue and in favor with God and man.” We like Jesus need to continue to grow in wisdom through study, prayer taking advantage of resources and opportunities available to us.

March 14th -  Barry Mathis

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” - Luke 3:16

The first baptism referenced by John is in the form of water illustrating our surrender and acceptance of Jesus Christ as our savior. This is a pronouncement to the world that God is cleansing our sins and claiming us as his child. This is the making of a new beginning of our life as the water symbolically washes away the past. 

The second baptism is with the Holy Spirit that clothes and saturates our hearts with the personhood of Jesus Christ. The flooding of our hearts with this power source is the basis of our new life in Christ. In addition, we receive a controlled fire that is used for purification, changing the direction of our lives, and providing our tongues the ability to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our neighbors.

We can look to the cycle on nature in our national parks, the park ecosystem requires rain, sunlight, shade, trees, and plants that provide both food and shelter for the wildlife.  After time passes without rain, the ground becomes dry, and the vegetation begins to wither and brown.  When the rain comes, it washes, cleans, and feeds the ecosystem.  Over time, the park service conducts a prescribed burn to further rejuvenate plants that the wildlife depends on for food and cover.

The biblical scripture today reminds us as believers to celebrate the gifts we receive from the two types of baptism. One by water as stated by John, “I baptize you with water.” The second being the one provided to us by the Lord Jesus Christ when he baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire.


Thought for the Day

Today I will thank God for the gifts of baptism by water, the Holy Spirit and fire.



Dear God, through the cleansing, clothing & purifying by water, the Holy Spirit and fire prepare my heart for daily service. Amen.



MARCH 15th - MARCH 21st

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.



MARCH 22nd - MARCH 28th

March 22nd - Jenny Green

 “You feed them,” Jesus said. They said, “We couldn't scrape up more than five loaves of bread and a couple of fish-unless, of course, you want us to go to town ourselves and buy food for everybody. ” (There were more than five thousand people in the crowd.) -  Luke 9:13 (Message)


As a child I remember being utterly astounded at how 5,000 people could be fed that day in Galilee, with twelve baskets of crumbs left over! Jesus, in the blessing and feeding of his crowd of listeners, nourished not only their physical bodies but also fed their souls with his teaching that day. The listeners certainly must have gone from the place refreshed and renewed, filled with blessings beyond the meal of bread and fish. As you move through this time of Lent, consider your sources of nourishment, those things that sustain and deepen your faith. How can you offer these strengths to bless and nourish the people you come in contact with during Lent and beyond? Prepare to be astounded at what can happen.


Prayer: Loving God, refresh our faith and expand our opportunities to nourish others. Fill us to overflowing with the miracle of your presence. AMEN.

March 23rd - Steve & Dianne Hankal

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. - Luke 10:41


In Luke 10:41, Jesus tells Martha that she is worried and bothered by so many things. My first thought is that since our Lord spoke those words, people are much the same today. Martha was probably thinking about what needed to be accomplished to make Jesus comfortable in her home. She didn’t realize the opportunity to hear and be taught by the creator of universe as did her sister Mary. Jesus didn’t tell Martha that her preparations were wrong but that Mary's priority was better. Things that bother us and worries we have can rob us of peace that God wants for us. We don’t know what Mary and Jesus discussed and we don’t know whether Martha joined in or not. But we can be assured that it was a time of spiritual insight and reverence. I am reminded of what Jesus said in John 14:27 “ My peace I give unto you.


I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” And in John 15:11 Jesus says “I have told you these things that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

When “we are bothered and worried about many things,” we can avail ourselves of Christ’s counsel and assurance.


Prayer: Father strengthen our faith and may we always make fellowship with you our priority. Amen.


March 24th - Ron & Carol Werker

So, I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.   Luke 11:9 NIV


Following the advice that Jesus gives his disciples in Luke 11:9, we want to be in relationship with our creator.  We have developed a habit of “couple prayer” each morning to start our day.  We may ask for direction in our lives, or for forgiveness, and many times we ask for God’s blessings on others who are suffering with health issues, loss of a family member or loved one.


We seek God by consciously seeing the beauty in His creation through the changes in the seasons, a new born baby, and God’s many miracles before us every day.  We seek Him along with other church family in our Christian Trendsetter Sunday School Class as we study, search and question the teachings in the Bible and how it applies to our lives today.


To knock and the door will be opened implies that we need to take action to “ask and seek”, to build our relationship with God.  He is with us 24/7.


Prayer:  Dear God our Creator. We want to be in relationship with You and we know You want to be in relationship with us.  Help us to ask, seek, and knock, knowing that it will be given, we will find, and the door will be opened; as You are with us each moment of each day.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

March 25th - Shirley Stinnett

Jesus said to her “I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die”  - John 11:25 (NIV)


My husband of 58 years was the love of my life.  The day he passed away, my heart broke into a thousand pieces.  I did not want to live without him.  I had read about broken heart syndrome-a traumatic event can trigger stress hormones to create spasms which mimic a heart attack.  That night, I felt intense pain in my heart.  I wanted to be with my husband.  I went to bed and prayed God would take me.  I wanted to leave this earth and join my partner in Heaven.  I could not imagine my life without him.  Hours passed as I prayed continuously to God until sleep overcame me.


I awoke the next morning to find I was still alive.  I was disheartened and wondered why God had not answered my prayers.  Suddenly, a warmth came upon me, as if I were wrapped in a warm comforter.  Then I heard God’s voice within My heart, whispering,  “Trust me.  I am with you”. And I remembered Proverbs 3:5.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  I could not understand why I could not be with my husband, but I was going to trust God.  


Last month, I asked Pastor Sara to assign me a Star Word. I was not surprised when she emailed me the word “trust.”  I need to trust God every day.  He is in control.  Some days are harder than others.  Valentine’s Day was painful for me.  But the next day, Pastor Jonathan assigned me the scripture, John 11:25, to remind me Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.”  If we believe in him, we will live, even though we die.  I have peace, knowing my husband lives in Heaven, and I trust I will be with him again one day.

March 26th - Mary Stanley

Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:8


My grandparents had all passed before I was born so I never had the pleasure of that experience until I met a woman who filled that void. I was showered with my favorite baked goods, apron hugs….the whole experience I thought I missed. However, all of that aside, she touched me profoundly simply by how she lived every day.


She never had the experience of an engaged husband to share her burdens but she never dwelled on that.  She always talked about how God gifted her with a husband, several beautiful sons and many grandchildren…all of whom she loved dearly!  She would have never been rich according to modern standards, but she felt rich.  She never failed to acknowledge what God had provided in her life and she never, ever wished for more. When her mother passed, I remember her saying “please don’t be sad!  My mother is with Jesus now!”  As her body began to fail her, she never complained.  She always focused on what she could still do to the glory of her Lord and Savior.   This beautiful, loving woman probably had more reasons than most to focus on where “life in the realm of the flesh” had failed her but she never did.  She lived a full life and a life of peace simply by always looking up.  She lived every day with the goal of living in the Spirit and one day with Jesus in Heaven.  When she passed away, I remember imagining her saying “please don’t be sad!  I’m with Jesus now!”


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, this lent, help me to focus on living my life looking up and living in the Spirit.  Amen.

March 27th - Bill Beaty

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows - Luke 12:7


How vast and powerful is the authority of our Lord! He has command over all things in the universe, yet he still makes himself available to help each one of us that will let Him. If God cares for the sparrows in the field, he surely will guide us as we make our way through life. Chapter 12 in Luke, full of analogies, simply points to one end:  God loves us so much that we who believe in him should not fear for our future care and security.


From the very beginning of our existence we were made in his image and put on earth for his glorification.  As humans we have natural concerns about actions to take, how to survive in a sometimes violent world, what happens to us after death, etc.  The world can look daunting to us that are weak at heart and soul, pushing us to turn inwards to our own resolutions or to get onboard with the nay-sayers who project an easier and glamorous way of life.  We can easily be enticed to follow that path. 


But through prayer, faith, and a daily relationship with our Lord we can shuck the burdens of depression and fear, happily knowing that God “has our back!”  He said it through Christ’s testament: “Fear not, for I am with you always!” 


FOCUS: Memorize the 23rd Psalm!

March 28th - Justin Hall

Keep on striving to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to enter in and will not be able to.” - Luke 13:24


Years ago I had an internship one summer in Jackson, Wyoming. I loved being outdoors and the opportunities there to explore were endless. One day some co-workers asked if I wanted to climb The Middle Teton. Not having ever hiked above 10,000 feet, I was a little intimidated by the idea of scaling this 12,806 foot peak. Doing so would require a 13-mile roundtrip with about 6,000 feet of elevation gain (the vertical equivalent of going from the beach to Clingman’s Dome). The route included crossing a snowfield (even in July) and would end in a 1,200 foot scramble up a rock face. “Oh yeah,” my coworker added, “We’ll have to summit by noon, or the risk of getting caught in an afternoon thunderstorm is too great.” It is hard to hide from lightning on the top of an exposed rock at twelve thousand feet. The trip was an excruciatingly hard hike and climb, but the views and the experience were amazing.


When I read Jesus’s words about striving to enter the narrow door, I am reminded that seldom do we gain remarkable things without difficulty and sacrifice. Our human nature is to look for the simplest path, but here Jesus implores us to strive for something greater. I am reminded that my walk in faith will require great effort to cross the many valleys and mountains, but experiencing the true Kingdom will be an event that compares with nothing.  



WEEK 6 (plus April 5th - 9th)

MARCH 29th - APRIL 8th

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