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Week 13 (6/7/20 - 6/13/20)

A Message from Pastor Zach

This will be my last week posting devotionals. Next week, I transition into my new appointment and will no longer be serving Shamokin First United Methodist Church. A new pastor has been appointed to Shamokin First beginning July 1, so please check back for more devotionals after that time. 

Devotional Day 89 - 6/13/20

2 Thessalonians 3:16

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.


Many people don’t know this, but when you are a lay speaker filling in for pastors when they are on vacation, it is expected that you prepare a benediction, prayers, and other aspects of worship in addition to your sermon. When I first started preaching as a lay speaker, I wanted to find a benediction that was more fitting for me. I came across this benediction in Paul’s second letter the Thessalonians, and I tweaked it for my own use. For almost every service for the past ten years, I have concluded my services with, “May the God of peace himself, bring you peace at all times and in all ways and in every situation.” And so I thought that this would be a fitting way to conclude my devotions.


God is the God of peace. When our trust is in him, all the negative things in this world fall away. He is in control and he is all-powerful, and his love surrounds us every step of the way. Yes, problems may be happening around us and things may be difficult, but when we rely on God, the peace we find in knowing that he is with us and helping us far outweighs anything else. It is only through God that we can find true peace.


That is my hope for all of you. That God’s peace will fill every aspect of your life. That regardless of the problems you may be facing, that your trust in God will grant you comfort and strength. I pray that you will never be far away from experiencing God’s love and that all that you do will reflect your faith in him and his love in you. May God bless you and keep you safe.


Let us pray: Heavenly Father, our time on this earth is short. Help us to take advantage of every situation and every moment in order to bring you glory and to share your love with all people. Keep us safe in all that we do, and may your peace overflow in our lives. Amen.


Song: The Blessing - Global Choir

Devotional Day

Psalm 95:-1-7

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;

    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before him with thanksgiving

    and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,

    the great King above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth,

    and the mountain peaks belong to him.

The sea is his, for he made it,

    and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,

    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;

for he is our God

    and we are the people of his pasture,

    the flock under his care.


God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. There is nothing that will ever happen that could change that statement. God will always be good, and he loves us. He created this world and then created us to live in it. Everything he created, including us, fits into his perfect plan, and he holds it all in the palm of his hands. God cares for us and provides for us. He knows what we need before we do. All that we have comes from him. Without him we have nothing and we are nothing.


As a parent, I am constantly trying to teach my boys about manners, that it is important to say please and thank you. It shows our respect and appreciation for what others have done for us. We refer to “please” as “the magic word,” and when something is done we ask, “what do you say?” And of course the answer is “thank you.” It is an expectation that we place on our children, but we don’t always take the time to use our manners when it comes to what God has done for us. We sometimes expect God to work without us having to ask him. Many times he does, but it is still important for us to ask. And when we do receive something from God, how often do we actually say “thank you?”


God has done so much for us. How can we not say thank you for all that he has done? How can his praise not be on our lips at all times? It is important that we show our appreciation for all that he has done for us. It should be something that is constant. Even in the worst of times, God is still providing for us and we should give thanks. I challenge you to be thankful. I challenge you to look around you every day and think about what God has done for you. And don’t forget to tell God how much you appreciate him.


Let us pray: God of all things, we thank you for what you have done. May your praise be always on our lips. Guide us, and keep us safe in the palm of your hand. Amen.


Song: I will give thanks - Housefires, Kirby Kaple

Devotional Day - 87 - 6/11/20

Hebrews 3:1-6

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.


Hebrews is an interesting book. We are unsure of the author, but it was written to the Hebrews (Jews) in order to point out how Jesus fits into the Jewish religion as the anticipated Messiah. The Jewish people placed a huge emphasis on their ancestors, often referring to God as the God of those who were important to them. For example, in the Old Testament we see God referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the original chosen ancestors through whom the Jews descended. When Elisha received Elijah’s spirit in 2 Kings 2, he calls on the God of Elijah in order to separate the waters to cross the river. They placed such a huge emphasis on their ancestors that it almost seems that they place them on the same level as God.


One of their most venerated leaders was Moses. He was the conduit through which God spoke to his people in the wilderness. In fact, in speaking about the Law that God gave to his people, they often refer to it as the Law of Moses. Even today I find myself catching myself in how I write about the law in my sermons, and purposefully call it, “God’s Law given through Moses.” If the people claim that it is the Law of Moses, it is easy to see how they could begin to lift Moses to a more elevated position than what any human deserves. 

The author of Hebrews is pointing out that Moses was a great man. You never want to discredit a beloved figure of someone’s history if you want to get a point across. Moses did a great job at leading the people for over 40 years while in the wilderness, and he deserved a place of honor, but that honor is no where near the honor that is reserved for Christ. And this is what the author of Hebrews is trying to communicate. Jesus Christ is higher, more important, and has more authority than any person or created being. Many Jews would not believe in Jesus because they felt that his teachings and his example flew in the face of what they had been taught for centuries about God’s Law. Many would argue that this leads to incongruities and contradictions in the Bible canon, but the actuality is that Jesus’ teachings spoke to the heart of the Law give by God. Jesus is God, so the Law literally came from him. So who better to correct hundreds of years of bad teaching and explain what God really meant than the one who was there when it was written in the first place?


Like the Hebrews, we often emphasize the wrong parts of our faith. We get hung up on differences like how and when a person should be baptized, how churches should be structured, and who establishes what sound doctrine and theology should look like. We begin looking so much at what the original church founders and our current church leaders teach and argue about, that we lose sight of the main point of our faith. We pour out so much energy debating over who is right or wrong when interpreting a specific nuance in the scriptures, that we get worn out and unable to actually put into action the faith that we claim to follow. We fight so much over defining sin and condemning people for those sins (including those who define it differently than we do) that we miss the point that Jesus told us to love everyone. We pass our judgements on other churches for taking a slightly different stance than us, but we forget that Jesus told us, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt 7:1-2, NIV). We cannot put more emphasis on our interpretation of God’s written word than we do on Jesus’ explicit commands to love all people regardless of who they are, what they believe, or whether they sin or not (and for the record: we all sin).


This world has enough division in it. Why should the Church add to it as we fight over our differences rather than looking to our similarities and working together to love God and to love one another? I know we will never agree on everything, but I ask that we agree on this; that God loves all of us and gave himself for all of our sins. His love is free and open to all, so let’s do all that we can to show the world this good news.


Let us pray: God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and of all of the saints that have gone before us, be with us today as you were with them. Guide us and lead us through this life. Help us to see the heart of your Law, that we are to love you and love one another. May all that we do reflect your love for this world. Amen.


Song: Love God Love People - Danny Gokey ft. Michael W. Smith

Devotional Day 86 - 6/10/20

Psalm 145

I will exalt you, my God the King;

    I will praise your name for ever and ever. 

Every day I will praise you

    and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;

    his greatness no one can fathom.

One generation commends your works to another;

    they tell of your mighty acts.

They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—

    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

They tell of the power of your awesome works—

    and I will proclaim your great deeds.

They celebrate your abundant goodness

    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,

    slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all;

    he has compassion on all he has made.

All your works praise you, Lord;

    your faithful people extol you.

They tell of the glory of your kingdom

    and speak of your might,

so that all people may know of your mighty acts

    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

    and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises

    and faithful in all he does.

The Lord upholds all who fall

    and lifts up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look to you,

    and you give them their food at the proper time.

You open your hand

    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways

    and faithful in all he does.

The Lord is near to all who call on him,

    to all who call on him in truth.

He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;

    he hears their cry and saves them.

The Lord watches over all who love him,

    but all the wicked he will destroy.

My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.

    Let every creature praise his holy name

    for ever and ever.


God is God. That may seem like a simple statement, but it is true and it is something that we sometimes seem to forget. The Psalms do a wonderful job of spelling out for us just how great and awesome God truly is. As David puts it, "Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” God is so good, and his goodness is poured out on us, his people. That is something that we need to tell our children and our grandchildren so that they are able to find the love of God for themselves and continue to share his goodness with their children, and so on. It should be second nature for us that we praise God’s name for all that he has done. It should be something that we do every day for all of our days.


But sometimes other things enter into our lives that seem to prevent us from being able to praise God the way that we should. Fear and anxiety can often worm their way into our thoughts and feelings, keeping us from focusing on God and who he is. But the beauty of God’s love is that if we come to him, he meets those negative feelings in our life with peace, love and comfort. So what is it that is causing you fear or anxiety today? What is it that is troubling your spirit? Have you taken it to God yet? Have you actually sat down and spoken with God, telling him how you feel? David writes, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.” Whatever we may be going through, we need to realize that God is always there and will always take care of us and provide for us. He is king and ruler of all and worthy of our praise. May the closing line of this Psalm be your meditation for this day and all your days to come. “My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.”


Let us pray: Heavenly Father, you are good. We bow before you, knowing that you are Lord of all. May we look to you in out time of need, and may all of our fears and anxieties shrink as we stand in your presence. Comfort us and provide for us as we live for you. Amen.


Song: King - Portraits Music

Devotional Day 85 - 6/9/20

Colossians 3:12-14

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.


We sometimes forget who we are. There are so many people in this world who define themselves by their failures, their mistakes, or the negative things that have happened to them. We have a negative outlook on ourselves as time and time again the world reminds us of how often we fail or don’t measure up. If someone is told all of their life that they will never amount to anything, that statement will be engrained in their mind and that is how they will see themself. They will tend not to even try to succeed at anything, because they believe it is impossible that they ever will. They will not take risks, expect bad things to happen to them, and possibly even find comfort in their failures because they believe that is what they deserve.


But what happens when someone is told over and over again that they matter and that they can do anything if they put their mind to it? They will be more likely to strive for something better, doing all that they can to be successful in all that they do. There would seem to be no limits to what they can accomplish because they have people in their corner who believe in them, even if they don’t believe in themselves. 


Our self-identity will often dictate how we function in this life and whether or not we will take risks or try to improve ourselves or our position in life. But sadly, there are so many people whose self-identity has been damaged by years of self-doubt caused by the psychological abuse of others and the events they have experienced. However, how we view ourselves is often imperfect. We determine what we know about ourselves by what imperfect and hurting people tell us we should believe, while we should be looking to the truth about who we are. God tells us that we are his, and that he loves us very much. Paul says in Colossians 3 that we are “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.” God chose us, and he did so for a reason. We are special and unique, and he created us for a purpose. We are holy, which means “set apart for something special.” The scripture tells us that we are dearly loved. He loves us very much, to the point where he gave his own life on the cross to forgive us for those things that we have done wrong. So if God forgives us for our mistakes, why would we continue to define ourselves by those same mistakes? We should look to the God who made us and believe what he tells us about ourselves, that we are special and loved. 

Since God sees us as being special and loved, we should treat ourselves that way. We should love ourselves too, and take on the characteristics that he values. Paul tells us we should clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. We then need to use those characteristics and treat each other the way that we are supposed to, bearing with one another and forgiving each other. We should not add to the problems that people face by continuing to tear one another down. If we are loved, and we know that we are loved, why would we want to tell others that they are not? We should try to be people who encourage one another, to be the people in other’s corners telling them that they are special and that they can accomplish anything. Hopefully we have had people like that in our lives. We should be one of those people for others. 


Let us pray: Heavenly Father, help us to see just how special we are. Help us to look past all of the negative self-talk that this world tells us to believe, focusing on how you see us. May your love for us pour out of us and into the lives of others. Amen.


Song: Remind Me Who I Am - Jason Gray

Devotional Day 84 - 6/8/20

Isaiah 40:28-31

Do you not know?

    Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

    the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,

    and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary

    and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,

    and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord

    will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.


We have been running a marathon over these past few months. We have been trying to survive as things seem to fall apart around us. Day after day we have been grinding through the monotony of isolation as we try to find new ways to live life and exist in the midst of so many things being closed or restricted. It is a long race that we are running, and even though things to be seem heading in a positive direction, it will still be awhile until we are able to actually say, “this is the new normal.”


We are finite beings, and what we experience is temporary. It may seem like a long ordeal for us, but in the grand scheme of things, it is merely a hiccup in time. God is eternal. He existed before time began and will exist long after all that we know comes to an end. It may be difficult for us to wrap our minds around this concept, but it is part of our faith that God is eternal and everlasting, and he has prepared an eternal home for us to be with him.


So what do we do in the meantime? How do we get through this daily grind? We need to look to God. Since he is eternal, since he is all-powerful, since he loves us, we need to look to him for strength. As Paul puts it in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” It is only through God that we have enough strength to get through all of the issues that we face. As Isaiah puts it, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”


We cannot try to live this life on our own. He gives us the strength that we need each day, but he also puts people in place to come along side of us to help us on this journey of life. There will be many things in this life that we cannot handle through our own power, but that simply means that we need to rely on God for the strength that we need to overcome what we face. During these difficult times, look to God for your strength, and rely on one another for care and support. 


Let us pray: All-powerful God, you love us and you share with us your strength. Help us to turn to you and rely on you for everything. Lift us up and guide us in your love. Amen.


Song: Soar - Meredith Andrews

Devotional Day 83 - 6/7/20

Matthew 28:16-20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


This scripture is known as the Great Commission. It is the marching orders for all Christians, to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey” everything that Jesus has commanded. 


Whenever I read this scripture, I always think of two words: “go” and “do.” These are two simple words that are in much of our every day vernacular. But yet these two little words pack a powerful punch. Jesus commanded us to “go” into all of the world. Ironically, right now we are stuck in our homes. Things may seem to be getting better, but there is still much that is limiting when and where we can go. But even so, Jesus told us to go into all the world. We “go” everyday. Maybe it is not into the farthest reaches of this world, but we go into the corners of our own little world. We go to the grocery store, to a restaurant, or to some other place, and we meet people that need to know the love of God. Even just sitting on your porch you can see people walk by who need God’s love just as much as you do. 


The second word is “do.” Do can mean so many different things. It is an action word, telling us that there is some activity that needs to be accomplished. The action that Jesus wants us to accomplish is to make disciples of all people. A disciple is someone who follows a teacher. Jesus never told us to make disciples of ourselves, but to make disciples for him. We are to help people see, to learn, and to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. But we cannot do that if we are not following those same teachings. We are to teach people the things that he has commanded us to do. And the greatest thing that he taught us was to love God and to love others. He also tells us to baptize those believers into the family of God, bringing them officially into the Church. But the focus of it all is to “go” and “do.”


It does not matter if we are self-isolating or not, we are called to be God’s missionaries in this world. Maybe it is to some remote area, or maybe it is in our immediate area. We are to be God’s hands and feet in this world, carrying his message of love to all people, regardless of their background, culture, race, orientation, or any other difference. God loves you. God loves us all.


Let us pray: God, send us. Send us into this world in your love and your mercy. Help us to love the way that you love, and to bring more people into your family. Amen.

Song: Sound of the Saints - Audio Adrenaline

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