Monday, December 24, 2007

Advent – Christmas Eve: Christ

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16, NIV)

The night before Christmas has become an icon for Americans. We quote and re-quote Clement C. Moore’s “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” every year. He gave us the red-suited “jolly old elf” in a sleigh driven through the sky by “eight tiny reindeer.” Families build traditions on the night before Christmas: from opening gifts to decorating the tree, to sitting around the already decorated tree to read or re-tell the Christmas story. Many churches have a traditional Christmas Eve service which includes carols of the season, devotional thoughts, communion, and candle lighting.

This year, on this eve of the birth of the Christ child, let us turn our thoughts to the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of the holiday is not about family, though we often find it easiest to understand Christmas in the midst of our family, enjoying traditions that say “Christmas” to us. The true meaning is not giving, although God gave the gift of His son, the Magi gave gifts fit for a king, and we practice giving to family and charity even more than at any other time of the year. Christmas is not simply about love, though it is during this time of year, more than any other, that we turn our hearts to love and loved ones.

Christmas, instead, is about the Christ—all that He is and all that He was. He is God come to earth as a man. He came in the form of a child. He came so that He could sacrifice Himself in the place of everyone. The true meaning of Christmas is wrapped up, not in gold and silver paper, but in the moment of Easter. Christmas is about the change that is brought to us because the Christ intervened on our behalf. Let us celebrate the resurrected Christ who is the Babe of the manger.

Jesus, our Savior, Thank you for the sacrifice you made. Thank you for being the Christ. Change our lives today just as you changed the world over two thousand years ago. Amen.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Advent – Week 4: Love

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, NKJV)

At one point Jesus told the disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, NIV)

It is for this reason that He came to earth in the first place: to share love with those that He does love. During this time of celebration we must first remember the love that was shown to us, in Bethlehem at the lowly beginning of the King of kings, and then again at Calvary in the greatest act of sacrifice ever witnessed by humanity. Jesus embodied love. The great cantata writer John W. Peterson put it this way, “Love came down at Christmas.”

After we have sufficiently pondered the love that Jesus showed, it becomes our responsibility to let that same love live in us. We are responsible to the world to make Christmas love a reality to the world for all the year. Sharing our life with those who surround us, even to the point of giving up our own life and comfort for the sake of the lives of those in our sphere of influence.

When love becomes a major part of our life because of Christ who lives in us, then that love should demonstrate itself in real ways in our own lives. Especially at the season of Nativity, should we remember to give the gift of love in all our celebrations.

Lord, thank you for loving us so much that you came to earth to die for us. Increase our love to be a mirror of your love. Amen

Monday, December 17, 2007

The “W” in Christmas

by Linda K. Bartlett

Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations—extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas. My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old.

For weeks, He’d been memorizing songs for his school’s “Winter Pageant.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there’d be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.

So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.

Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as “Christmas,” I didn’t expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son’s class rose to sing “Christmas Love,” I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.

Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in the front row – center stage – held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing, “C is for Christmas,” a child would hold up the letter C. Then, “H is for Happy,” and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message: “Christmas Love.”

The performance was going smoothly until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet girl in the front row holding the letter “M” upside down—totally unaware that her letter “M” appeared as a “W”. The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one’s mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her “W”.

Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities. For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:

“C H R I S T W A S L OV E”

And, I believe, He still is.

Scripture thought - [Jesus said,] "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12, ESV)

Prayer for today: Dear Lord, as we think of all the Christmas season was and is, help us to add love to the gifts that we give, just as you gave and give love to us as a result of Christmas and of Easter. Amen

(submitted by Jaynece Dothager)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Advent – Week 3: Joy

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. (Luke 1:41-44, NIV)

In the final moments of the game your team makes the final—the winning—goal! The crowd goes wild and you are right there with them, live and in person.

You stand at the front of the church facing the doors. Your hands begin to sweat, but then she appears. The most beautiful woman you have ever seen. You don’t know how she did it, but she is more beautiful today than you have ever seen her before. And your heart swells awaiting the moment that you have been anticipating for months—your wedding day.

You hold a baby in your arms. Not just any baby, but your baby. Perhaps this is your first grandchild. They coo, and they wriggle, and they grin their toothless grin.

All of these scenes, to some degree or another elicit within us the same feeling: JOY. Joy, that wellspring of emotion that rushes up and burns in our chests as it bursts through our eyes and often shouts from our lips unhampered—because joy is something to be shared.

What is it that makes joy well up so strongly? It is Jesus. When Jesus comes close enough for us to sense, joy begins to build. We want to jump, we want to shout, we want to sing. This is why Christmas is such a time of joy. This is why joy is used to describe the holiday, because we feel it before we know it, and then we want to share it with all who come within shouting distance. Share the Joy of the season that wells up at the sound of a favorite Christmas hymn, story, or thought. As we go through the traditions that have attached themselves to our holiday-making let us revel in the joy that is represented in the presence of the One who comes in the manger.

Almighty Joy-Giver, remind us of the Joy You shared in Jesus Christ. Help us to share the Joy with others as we have opportunity.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Advent – Week 2: Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27, NIV)

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus, the Messiah, would be called Prince of Peace. The angels that announced His birth proclaimed, “Peace on earth, good will to men on whom His favor rests.” And still it is difficult for us to believe in this peace. Why is it so difficult?

The answer to this ageless question lies in the arena of belief. When we picture the baby lying in the manger, peace overwhelms us. When we think about the love that is represented by that lowly scene in the manger, peace fills our hearts. Consider this Christmas Carol:

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

"Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.

"Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
(“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

And now, consider peace this season.

Father, grant us peace—the peace that passes our understanding. Amen.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Advent – Week 1: Hope

[On Saturdays for the next few weeks, I hope you will enjoy these thoughts in preparation for the Advent season (traditionally we light one candle of the Advent Wreath each Sunday leading up to Christmas, and the center candle on Christmas Eve).]

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." (Matthew 2:1-2, ESV)

The wise men, we call them Magi, were experts in hope. They followed a star from the East. The star appeared in their night sky signaling a new king. They knew nothing about this new king except that he would be great. After all he was heralded by the appearance of a brand new star – one that had never been seen before.

In hope of a new and special day, they came to Jerusalem from a country far away. Some experts estimate that the trip might have taken up to three years. When the star appeared announcing Jesus’ birth, they began to excitedly make preparations. They gathered together a caravan that would be a worthy envoy to the new royal whose star it was. They then searched far and wide for presents fit for a king. Recorded for us are gold, frankincense and myrrh. Who knows what other rich gifts were brought in anticipation of this new king. Then they traveled no one knows how many miles to greet this new king.

Hope springs eternal when we see these wise men. They held hope for something grand to happen in their time, so they watched the sky. They saw hope represented in a star that appeared in the nighttime sky. They rushed toward hope by making the arduous journey to a foreign land to greet and bring appropriate gifts to the king. They lived on in hope by obeying the warning dream that instructed them to avoid Herod in their journey home.

We might take a lesson from these men who found hope to be so strong in their lives, especially during this season of hope.

Father, renew in us the spirit of hope that was brought to wise men in the form of a star. Amen.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Accept the Invitation

Read Luke 19:1-10

In this parable, a short man, well dressed, well known but probably disliked, elbows his way through a crowd, runs on ahead and climbs a tree. The folks there who know him probably think he's a little whacko. But Jesus finds him and tells him he has to stay at his house. Jesus simply asks Zacchaeus for hospitality.

Zacchaeus welcomes Jesus with joy and offers half of his riches to the poor without being asked. Nice contrast to the rich ruler who is told to sell all he has and his response is to walk away sad. Jesus tells the crowd that salvation has come to Zacchaeus' house. Salvation has come because Zacchaeus accepted an invitation from Jesus.

Salvation is available to us as well if we simply accept the invitation from Jesus. It comes for free. Nothing is required of us to accept it. There is no prayer that makes it available, no act of piety, no special ritual. Just accept the invitation.

What we do after we accept the invitation is a story for another day.

Lord God I thank you for your invitation to join you in eternity. Help us accept and help us show your love to others. Amen.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Holier than thou - NOT

Read Luke 18:9-14

In this parable Jesus compares a Pharisee who thanks God that he is holier than the sinner next to him and the sinner who knows he is less holy than anyone. Of course the one who knows his sins and prays for mercy is put right with God and the one who thinks he needs no mercy is not.

Our worst response in reading the parable is to think "Thank God I'm not like that Pharisee." Because it would make us exactly like that Pharisee. We should not think we are better or holier than anyone regardless of appearance. One might feel superior to a murder, to a Muslim terrorist, or a Catholic priest who is in jail as a pedophile. While they may have done more evil things than we have, they are also children of God and salvation is available to them. We should be praying for their salvation not thanking God that we are better.

A more subtle problem is feeling like we are more holy than some other denomination of Christianity. Thinking that our church has a better knowledge of scripture or superior doctrine or more pleasing rituals. I think God is more interested in the fact that none of us is perfect and neither is any of our churches. We should be praying like the tax collector - for mercy. Then perhaps we would be able to heal the body of Christ on earth by praying for each other.

Lord God, forgive our failure to be what you want us to be. Bless us as we strive to be one body in your service. Amen.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Trust in the Lord

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy path. Proverbs 3:5-6.

These are two verses that have stayed with me since my youth. I have lived in many different areas in my lifetime. Many years we would always go to Eldorado Youth Institute. One year the song leader was a man from Greenville, Illinois named Rex Moon. He as a song evangelist and every evening during the service he had all the congregation repeat these two verses. I have never forgotten them. At that time I had no idea that for many years now I would live in this Greenville area which was his home. Experiences in our youth help us thru many situations later in life.

Thank you Lord Jesus for your continuing help and guidance day by day. Amen.

Submitted by Evelyn Koertge

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

We are one body in union with Christ

October 7th was World Communion Sunday, which originated in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1940 as a global, interdenominational event prompted by the impact of World War II. It reminds us of Paul's many references to our being one body in union with Christ. In his first letter to the Corinthians he states in chapter 12 verses 12 and 13, "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."

Even though our churches are different in our approach to worship, our understanding of scripture and our adherence to ritual and tradition, we are the body of Christ. When we work together in ministry, when we promote each other's programs, we are strengthening the body of Christ.

Whatever any of us do in ministry in our community, give God the glory. As Jesus said in Luke 17:10, "...when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, "We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!" Give God the glory and get back to work.

As Paul sumarized in I Cor 12:27, "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."

Father God, Jesus prayed that we might be one – one in spirit, in mission and in communion with each other. Give us eyes to see you in Christians everywhere. Give us a mind to accept and celebrate our differences. Give us a heart big enough to love your children everywhere. Amen.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Giving Up

"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

Sir Winston Churchill, the great English statesman of World War 2 era, went by the nickname of "Old Winnie". I am not sure what that was all about, but I do that despite the very stupid sounding nickname, at least to American ears, a man of fortitude lived behind that name. Churchill was called to America to give a speech to a college graduating class and this is the text of the entire message he gave, "Never, never, never give up!"

What words of hope that is for us as we live out our Christian walk. When hard times come our way, stand firm. When the world around us is falling down, stand resolute. When people are chiding us for our faith, stand tall! We must never give up.

Look at it this way, in the Bible three rewards are promised to those who are willing to be sacrificial and serve the kingdom. The first reward is to be in the presence of Jesus. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). For some people, that may not be their hope and dream, but for the Christian, it is. The second reward is the inheritance of the kingdom prepared since the beginning of time. (See Matthew 24:34) What God has wanted to give His children since the beginning of time, a great Kingdom, beyond description is what we receive. The third reward is seen in the closing chapters of Revelation (see chapters 21 & 22). That is, a place where there is no suffering and heartache because it will all be gone.

So, when it seems like the sacrifice is too much or you can't hold on any longer, remember what Old Winnie said, "Never, never, never give up!" In the words of an old gospel song, we are too close to the crown to give up the cross!

Father, thank you for the hope of today and tomorrow and memories of the past. May we learn from each of them to stand firm when we are tempted to fail. You have given us Christ and for that we shall be eternally grateful! In Jesus name, Amen!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Words, Words, Words

James 1:26: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his relgion is worthless!

Have you ever said something you were sorry for. In the old novel, "Man Without a Country", after many days of traveling on boats and just seeing land in sight, the man who so vehemently denied his country began to long for a return to the land he remembered. Oh, if only he had been more careful with his words!
Have you ever said that, "I wish I had been more careful with my words!" Did you ever say something that hurt others so deeply, life would never be the same. You can no more take those words back, than you can squirt the deodorant you use back into the can! And it hurts.
Maybe you have made promises to someone else you didn't keep. Maybe you made promises to God you didn't keep. Whatever the case, you sure wish you had.
Each Lord's Day, we have a chance to come and look at where we have been this past week. Maybe you can't change the hurtful things you said, but you can repent of them. And you can make it right between you and God because of the death of Jesus on the cross. Today, start to decide you want to do what is right and you want to mean what you say and you want to do what you say. It will change your life.
And while you are thinking about your words and seasoning your tongue, don't forget on September 26 to stop and praise God for our schools and the people who lead them. They may not always make the "right" decision but they usually make the "best" and I am thankful for them. Would you encourage your children in school to be at the flag pole at the school at 7:45. And, maybe you could join somne of us adults across the street as we pray as well.
God, we don't intend to say mean and unkind words. Sometimes they slip out. Please forgive us when we don't do and say what we should. Help us to be different because the world needs to see different. And, Father, thank you for our schools. Guide its leaders and administrators. Direct its teachers to teach in wisdom and its students to learn. We want to be more like Jesus where we live. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Friday, September 14, 2007

And A Time For Everything Under the Sun

The writer of Ecclesiastes understood very well. Life comes at us in cycles. It is day and then it is night; we are born and then we die; we laugh and then we cry; we work and then we rest.

If this is true, and I am sure that it is, why are we so surprised when we discover we have good days and bad days. You know what I mean--some days we are joyful and excited and everything is right with the world. And the next day, we are down in the dumps and even our faith in God can't pull us out of the shadows we feel, or at least so it seems.

Our hope is this: the Hebrew writer reminds us that Jesus Christ is the same everyday. His love and compassion of yesterday is still the same as today, no matter how bad today is going. And the joys and mountaintops of today, when when we are in the valleys tomorrow, He is still there with us encouraging us and kicking us on through despite the blackness we feel.

Friends, don't give up. If the Bible is right, and I believe it is, this old globe has been spinning for 6000 or more years. And from the very onset, God has been watching it and holding it together and taking care of us. He has seen the cycles; he created them I suppose it is fair to say. So, as you face them, go with God. Trust Christ! And get ready for the ending of the cycles is the ending of the world. And we will go to be with God forever. Praise His Holy name.

Dear God, I confess there are things in this world I don't understand. But as I see the cycles of life, help me to be prepared to face both the good and the bad with integrity. And prepare my soul to be with you forever. Help that to always be good enough for me. In Jesus name, AMEN!

Friday, September 7, 2007


We have received some much needed rain the past couple of September days here in Mulberry Grove. While I don't have the exact numbers, I can see the results of the thirsty ground drinking in the rain. The grass has begun to green and my dried and parched garden is beginning to once again show signs of life. The cracks in the ground are beginning to close and the swimming pool is a bit fuller than it had been. When water quenches the thirst of a parched ground, things begin to happen.

It is safe to say that this applies to our spiritual lives as well. Or at least it should! If you have ever heard anyone tell their "story" of how Jesus changed their lives, it usual starts with a starving or thirsting longing to find something they were missing. And the moment comes when Jesus touches their lives and refreshes them in a new, different, and nearly unbelievable way. Even for those who don't have the remarkable "stuck in the gutter" experiences, the moment when Jesus began to refresh their lives was totally amazing.

If you remember the accounts in the Bible of the final moments of Jesus, you will remember that one of his last 7 phrases was, "I thirst." At that time, someone there gave him a sponge soaked in cheap wine and drugs for the pain. At that moment, Jesus took in the fluid and shortly thereafter he died. Was this a moment in which the laws of nature did not come true? No, because His refreshing brought an even greater refreshing to our lives.

Today, are you thirsty? Why not try a drink of the "living water" that shall means you shall never, deep down inside, thirst again? I am sure all of us could use a little drink!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Procrastination Is Making Me Wait, Keeping Me Waiting

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

It occasionally strikes me that I have been waiting ‘til the last minute to do things again. I’ve made a commitment to do this, write that, speak here, go there, and I’ve wasted precious time before addressing the commitment. When we wait until the very last minute to start on the way to an appointment, we often find that we’re not prepared for the flat tire, the wreck just ahead, or the road construction that was supposed to be completed two days ago. We walk into the meeting late with an apology hanging on the tip of our tongue.

I plead guilty once again, for those few who have begun reading here. A few weeks ago, our ministerial alliance group divided the next several months (beginning with August) with the goal that each of us would post at least one devotional thought a week. I missed last week. Mea culpa, pardon moi, I’m so sorry. But doesn’t that illustrate what we all do all of the time—put it off until we’ve either missed the opportunity or turn in a shoddy, half-hearted attempt at the job? Of course, while the idea of “there is a time to wait and a time to go” included in the preacher’s words from Ecclesiastes 3, the assumption of “there is a time to put it off and a time to ‘git ‘r done’” doesn’t quite foot the bill.

Franklin suggested, “Why wait until tomorrow to do what you can do today?” We often turn it into, “Why do to day what you can put off until tomorrow?” There is a time for everything, and the time is now to do what we have committed to do.

Lord of all time, help me to use wisely the time you have given me. Thank you for the time to work, to play, and to live. Help me to be faithful to the commitments I have made.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

“Have a Blessed Day”

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3)

That’s how the waitress said good-bye to the patrons at the table near mine in the restaurant just this week. I like this greeting better than the one it seems to be replacing: “Have a good one.” After all, as believers in Christ we are to be blessed and be a blessing, are we not?

In thinking of this way to say good-bye, I began to think of ways that I am blessed. My family of origin (that’s my parents, my brothers and sister, the family into which I was born) is one in which God was important and church life was a natural succession. My family of choice (that’s my wife, the family I got to have a say in) is supportive of my ministry and loves me in spite of who I am. My children provide times of growth and pride for me. I can’t imagine life without them.

I’ve had experiences that have allowed me to grow closer to God along every step of the way. You may have had those, too. Mine are time spent as a public school teacher, time spent living overseas in service of the Lord and His work, and time spent on staff at a local church. That brings me to my next blessing: the church. We live in a place where church involvement is available at an easy rate. Even in our village with a population of 700, there are three churches within the city limits (not to mention those which are planted outside the city limits). We are a church saturated society. Do you want to be blessed? Get involved in one of the local churches on the corner of the street near you.

And the list goes on: health, safety, love, food. An old hymn says, “Count your many blessings name them one by one . . . And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” (“Count Your Blessings, Words: Johnson Oatman, Jr., Music: Edwin O. Excell)

Have a blessed day!

Father, thank you for my many blessings. Keep them coming, and keep me thankful. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I Am Thankful . . .

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6, NIV)

I am thankful for the gift of life in this beautiful world that God ahs created and for parents and grandparents who taught me about God’s love and His promise of eternal life through His son Jesus.
I am thankful to be born in a country where we can live and worship in freedom and for those who have sacrificed and are still sacrificing for that freedom.
I am thankful for my home and family who have blessed my long and happy life.
I am thankful for the hard times and disappointments that have taught me to understand and appreciate the grace and comfort of the Lord.
I am thankful for each person who has blessed my life and given me a reason to live; my husband and our children and grandchildren and all the little ones yet to come.

God has given us so much of life
And love and health and such:
Little ones to bless our home,
Three boys and two girls of our own.
Wonderful, happy, busy days
For all of these we give You praise;
Some troubles, sorrows, disappointments, too
You’re always there to see us through.

Thank you, dear Lord, for Your presence with us here and now and for the promise fo a life everlasting in Heaven with You that You have given to all who believe Your word and receive You as Savior.

Jaynece Dothager, First Baptist Church of Mulberry Grove

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Cream of the Crop

"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown." (Luke 8:5-8)

Planting season is in full swing, and we live in corn country. As I was driving through the countryside recently I noticed that some of the cornfields are beginning to sprout. Carefully cultivated rows are beginning to have small plants pop through the soil. On this particular day, I noticed that one field was rife with weeds cropping up between the rows. What was interesting was that the neighboring field was pristine—the corn was about three to four inches high, evenly distributed, and the soil was clean between the rows.

I was reminded of the way we treat God’s word in our lives. Some people are filled with distractions and struggles that take away from the focus on God’s word in their lives. At the same time, others are ordering their lives with the aid of God’s word. May we rid our lives of the distractions that fill our lives with weeds keeping our crop from growing strong.

Father, use your word to till the soil and rid our lives of the weeds that distract us.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Something New in Things Familiar

Matthew 6:28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.”

The bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas. As a native Texan (transplanted to Illinois) I’ve always loved this wildflower. It thrives in hot, sunny areas and thrives in rocky soil.

The wildflowers that we see along the way are God’s way of creating beauty in a place where there would otherwise be desolation. Recently, God did something unique. When He was visiting our country—even our part here in Mulberry Grove—with a winter breeze when we’d already been welcoming Spring, a few inches of snow found its way to central Texas. The wildflowers in full bloom donned a quiet coat that they normally don’t even get to try on. The beauty and the message struck me—God is able to take those things that I count beautiful and make them new.

At Easter time, He did something totally new. The beauty of the spring wildflowers was joined by the beauty of winter’s frost. The result was breathtaking. Pause and thank Him for His care for you, and the reminders of that care in the beauty of a new moment.

Father, thank you for provision, for life that you breathe new each day. Help me not to forget that you make even the old seem new. Thanks for the reminders from your creation.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

More Than a Legend

Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.

The picture along with the post tells the story of the legend of Spook Hill in Lake Wales, Florida. Supposedly, if you pull your car up to the white line in the road and put it in neutral the car will roll backwards, apparently uphill. We got out of the car and watched as the driver put the little PT Cruiser in neutral and took his foot off of the brake. It most certainly began a backward roll that appeared to be up a small hill.

How can I, a preacher from Mulberry Grove, Illinois, explain what happened? I can't. I have been told that people have taken building levels and all sorts of tools to determine that what seemed to be happening indeed was. And it appears to be true. Of course, the story about an alligator and an Indian chief fighting makes a good story for something to supposedly happen.
Did you ever stop to consider how many people have real events in life which should lead them to faith in God and Jesus Christ, but somehow they don't? Many people have wonderful blessings coming their way. But they just can't believe there is a God or that they need a Savior, when in all reality they do. To them, it seems to be an impractical and unbelievable legend which piques the curiosity but offers nothing for them to live by.

Let me encourage you today to trust in Christ if you haven't done that all ready! It is not a legend. It is a reality that has stood the test of time. And I pray you will know the truth of Jesus in your life.

Father God, how thankful we are for the hope we can have in Jesus Christ! Thank you for His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead that were truly wonderful events, and not just glorified stories. May we trust in Him with all of our hearts! In Jesus Name, Amen!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How Has God Gotten Your Attention?

Exodus 3: 2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.

It was cold and silent as I walked onto the porch. Snow had been falling at a steady rate and the traffic was now quiet on the usually busy road. As I admired the winter wonderland, a strange noise made its way up the road. The clopping of the hooves grew steady. I expected to see horses making their way up the road. Perhaps riders were out for a winter ride with their trusty steeds.

As I looked, I was not ready for what I saw. Wild deer were making their way down the street in front of my Mulberry Grove home. Steadily the noise became louder. As the herd approached I silently counted and found there were 16 deer clopping past my house in the dark of the evening on the asphalt pavement. In the dim street light I could make out some of their features. Thirty-two eyes glistened in the dim light. Sixteen coats of brown fur laid back in the wind as some of the snow bounced off the sides of the animals. It was truly a reverend moment.

Watching this otherwise silent parade, God laid on my heart that what I was seeing was something no man could do. No man could create the marvelous creatures that mystified me on this brisk, snowy evening. No man could create the fur. No man could put the glisten in the eyes. No man could create the firm hooves which tromped the road.

I had to praise God for what I saw that only He could do. It prompted me to remember that God made me and all that I could see around me. He had really gotten my attention, which sometimes gets diverted with the worries of life! What has God been doing to get your attention? Has He got it?

Dear God: Thank you for the marvels of your creation. Thank you for taking the time to put them in front of me to make me think about you. Thank you for saving me through the death of Jesus, something else I could not do for myself. In Jesus name, Amen!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Call for Stories

For all the residents living in the Mulberry Grove, IL community, we would like to send out a request for devotional moments. We, the Mulberry Grove Ministerial Alliance, would like to invite you to share your stories and thoughts, including relevent Scripture quotations and prayer, to be included on this website, and for possible inclusion in an upcoming publication entitled 30 Days of Thanksgiving. If you are interested, please note the guidelines below. We welcome devotional thoughts to any of the members of the MGMA. Thank you for your participation.

--Benjamin Potter, FBC Mulberry Grove

Writing Guidelines for the 30 Days of Thanksgiving Devotional

  1. Anyone in the community is welcome to submit a devotional of an inspirational and Christian nature.
  2. All devotionals will become property of the Mulberry Grove Ministerial Alliance and no payment will be made for any of the devotionals.
  3. The recommended length will be 250 words, with an appropriate verse of scripture and a short prayer to be included on the page.
  4. The theme of the devotional is to reflect Thanksgiving or praise for God’s goodness.
  5. The devotional is to reflect a local flavor – featuring events or happenings that would relate to the people of Mulberry Grove. Each devotional should have an appropriate title.
  6. The deadline for submission will be Memorial Day and they are to be submitted to one of the local pastors. They will be reviewed by one of the pastors and may be resubmitted to writer for editorial corrections. Ministerial Alliance reserves the right to edit based on available space.
  7. Devotionals may be selected for use in a local publication of a devotional book entitled “30 Days of Thanksgiving” or a blog set up to distribute similar material. Material may be made available to each resident of Mulberry Grove or other persons without fee. Freewill offerings to help with publication would be most welcome.
  8. Decision of the ministerial alliance will be final in determining usage in the book or blog.
  9. All submitted articles must include the signed release below stating transfer of intellectual property rights.

I, ____________________________________, hereby submit the devotional entitled _____________________

for possible use in the devotional booklet “30 Days of Thanksgiving” or on a blog site set up for this purpose.

I assign all publication rights to the Mulberry Grove Ministerial Alliance. I understand I do this as a community

project and that no fees or royalties will be paid. I understand that apart from the preceding mentioned work,

I retain all rights to my work for future publication and use.

Signed: __________________________________________ Date: ________________________________