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Please join us this Easter Season at Dunwoody United Methodist Church Ash Wednesday  March 1 ‐ 6:30 p.m.   Palm/Passion Sunday   April 9 9:00 and 10:30 a.m. Tradi onal Service in the Sanctuary 9:00 a.m. Contemporary Service in the Fellowship Hall Holy Week  Noon Service followed by Complimentary Lunch April 10 ‐ April 14 ‐ 12:05 p.m. Holy Thursday Communion   April 13 ‐ 7:00 p.m. Good Friday Tenebrae   April 14 ‐ 7:00 p.m. Easter  April 16 9:00, 10:05, and 11:15 a.m. Tradi onal Service in the Sanctuary 8:00 a.m. Contemporary Service in the Fellowship Hall Nursery for ages 6 months to 3 years available at all services Shu le service is available from the 100 Ashford Center North parking deck on Ashford Dunwoody Road across from Dunwoody Bap st Church

Welcome to The 2017 Lenten Devotional Guide Each year, the Church sets aside 40 days prior to Easter, not including Sundays, as a me to prepare ourselves mentally, emo onally and most of all spiritually for the good news of the resurrec on of Jesus Christ. We call this me the Season of Lent. Tradi onally during Lent people prepare for Easter by focusing on such disciplines as prayer, fas ng, charity, repentance and service. We may engage in prac ces that involve “giving something up” and “doing something for others.” Some also use this me to make a more concerted effort to reflect on their own spiritual lives. This is where this Lenten Devo onal Guide comes into play. Wri en by our members and clergy, these daily devo ons provide an opportunity to read a passage of scripture, see what others have to say about that passage and engage in a me of prayer. Every year, people tell me how meaningful these devo ons are in their observance of Lent. On a personal level, I have found that to be true as well. So, I invite you to begin turning the pages and listen for the voice of God as the Spirit moves to speak to you through these wri en words about the eternal Word of God which is Jesus the Christ. Thanks to all those who wrote devo ons. May you find their words a blessing as you prepare for Easter. Yours in Christ,

Dan Brown Senior Pastor

Wednesday, March 1 What is Lent?  By Lindsey Odom Psalm 63:1‐4  “O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is be er than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will li up my hands and call on your name.” Have you ever thought about what Lent means to you personally? I believe Lent is a me of complete repentance through self‐examina on and it is a me to focus on spiritual disciplines such as fas ng, repentance and prepara on for the coming of Easter to grow closer to God. Have you ever thought about Lent in terms of a journey? I also believe Lent is an exci ng journey where we, as believers, are challenged to reclaim our bap smal iden ty so that we may engage in God’s transforming word and rediscover its power to save. Lent is a journey where we walk the road of newness because as followers of Jesus, we are on the road again. Through Lent, it is possible to be in this world in a new way, meaning it is possible to be present to the people and problems in the world around us with some newness and freshness. You might ask how do we do this? We can do this through asking the Lord to free us from our normal habits, whether this is an obsession with ourselves or materialism, long enough to care for others. Lent is a journey to a new place in our lives where we put others before ourselves and a gi to come down to where we ought to be in knowing the joy and freedom of pu ng all of our trust in Christ. We begin this Lenten journey addressed by the complete and full assurance that the God who is calling us to go on this journey of newness (a new self, a new society, a new world) one neighbor at a me is the God who goes along with us. Rather, we must not lose focus that God is the center of our lives. We are nothing without God in our lives; thus we must deny our self, move our a en on away from our self during Lent, and truly remember that our life is safely and well held by the God who loves us more than we love ourselves. For what we remember during Easter is that God made the sacrifice in going to the cross for his followers. This shows God’s unending love for us so as followers in Christ we must give back to God in obedience and praise during this Lenten season through denying our self and going on this journey of newness. Prayer Dear Sweet Heavenly Father, May we let go of all that is not life, all that is not you. Help us to put you at the center of our lives, and remember that true life is found only in you. Help us to go on this journey of newness in our lives through compassion and generosity of pu ng others before ourselves so that we can truly care for others as you would have us to do. May we learn to relinquish our old ways so that we are ready to receive your newness. Help us during this Lenten season to trust you and desire you more than anything else, that we may know the joy and freedom of life in you. Amen. Today’s Thought  I invite you during this season of Lent to see differently maybe even for the first me and desire one main thing in your life: God’s presence.    

Thursday, March 2 Hope is a Good Thing  By Samantha Faklaris Hebrews 6:19  “Hope anchors the soul…” I am a People magazine junkie. Well, I used to be…smiley face. I may not watch a ton of TV (well, some mes I binge watch shows that are mindless because it takes my mind off the many things that are on my to‐do list personally, but that’s another devo on for another year!) or see many movies each year, but I usually know exactly what’s going on because of my secret celebrity obsession. I used to look forward to my Friday a ernoon mail. Chris even pokes fun at how much I love to get the mail….I love walking out to the mailbox late a ernoon, coming inside and se ling down on the bed and reading People through cover to cover. My family would lose me weekly for those 90 minutes or so…it was my escape. My guilty pleasure where I wasn’t living in our crazy full (yet VERY FUN) lives by was looking into the lives of others… perhaps with a laugh, but o en with a twinge of jealously or even disappointment in what amazing things surround me. Envy is ugly. Fast forward 18 months and I have a new Friday a ernoon ritual. I s ll read, but it’s much shorter and brings a smile to my face, some mes tears to my eyes and almost always happiness within….a joy, hope, peace and drive that is one only God’s word (and a really good storyteller…smiley face) could provide. A joy about the life that surrounds me every day, a hope and peace that all is going to be okay even when life seems crazy and a drive to do be er, work harder, love more and enjoy what God has blessed us all with. Now every week, I look forward to the newsle er from our girls’ school because I absolutely LOVE the Eagle Eye le er that our Head of School writes each week. Something about how he shares a story of real life but brings it back to God and prayer fills me with so much more than I ever got from People. It’s amazing how his words pull me in and inspire me to be the best I can be with those I love. I s ll get my People magazine…but I tend to let them pile up these days and binge read on a road trip. Slowly, I’m realizing that when life is filled with words of God coupled with inspiring, upli ing stories that I can relate to, life is so much more sa sfying. To have hope and joy in everyday life is so much more than desire and envy. I think this Lenten season, it’s me for me to cancel the People and subscribe to something more….and in the words of Tim Robbins as Andy in Shawshank Redemp on (as reminded by our headmaster), “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.” Prayer  Thank you, God, for giving me such great reading material. Open my mind to the stories you tell, the people you present and the hope of life eternal. Amen. Today’s Thought  What do you read for inspira on and encouragement?

Friday, March 3 Precious Memories  By Barbara S. Sanko Philippians 4:6   “Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks.” When I was a child, one of the things I loved most was spending the night with my grandparents. It was fun any me of the year, but my favorite memories are of the nights I spent with them during the winter. Their house was heated only by a “floor furnace” and a couple of space heaters. The bedrooms weren’t heated so to keep warm I had to wear flannel pajamas and socks and pile at least six blankets and quilts on top of the bed. Some mes one of my cousins would spend the night, too, and we would run from the warm parlor down the cold hall, shrieking every step of the way, jump in bed, pull the covers over our heads and giggle half the night. Before any of us got in bed, however, there were Bible verses to be read and prayers to be prayed. Prayer me at my grandparents’ home was no hit or miss proposi on. When it was bed me ‐ 9 p.m. sharp ‐ my grandmother would appear, Bible (King James, please) in hand. My grandfather would appear beside her and say “Let’s have prayer.” She would sit in her worn easy chair, my grandfather would sit in his chair, and I would light in the closest chair, usually the oak rocker with the green leather seat. My grandmother (occasionally my grandfather) would read a chapter or so, usually from Psalms. I will always remember the night she asked if I would like to read Psalm 1. I was eight, and it took me about 20 minutes to get through it as I had to ask for help almost every other word. She and my grandfather sat pa ently and listened. I have never felt more loved or more cherished, for I knew even then what an important thing I had been allowed to do. A er the Bible reading, my grandparents would get on their knees on that hard, cold linoleum floor, facing their chairs, and pray. I followed suit at my chair. My grandfather always prayed aloud and I listened, fascinated, to his pe ons, his perpetual thankfulness, his conversa ons with God. In the background, I would hear my grandmother’s whispers and murmurs as she poured out her heart to her Maker. (I used to wonder if God could hear her since Granddaddy was talking sort of loud.) In their ma er of fact ways, they told God all that was in their hearts; their ups and downs, the wrongs they had done, their feelings of helplessness, their need for strength, guidance and wisdom. They thanked Him for all that they had and would have, most of all for His abiding love. I look back on those nights o en. There was a simplicity, an earnestness, in my grandparents’ prayer me that I find myself longing for today. I have been privileged to be in the presence of God a few mes in my life when I was not the one who called Him. The first me I knew it was in my grandparents’ parlor, on my knees, in front of the oak rocker with the green leather seat. Prayer  Lord, I am privileged to be in your presence. I am honored to call on you to share my joys and my troubles, to seek your guidance, to ask your forgiveness and to feel your unending love. Thank you. Amen. Today’s Thought  “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare re?” ― Corrie ten Boom

Saturday, March 4 I Will Come Close to You  By Patricia Clark James 4:8   “Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” All the busy‐ness in our lives can hinder the distance between us and God. Your daily rou ne can keep you from being in the presence of God. Some mes in our busy‐ness we see a hard‐working day as a day of comple on, without realizing we have not talked to God or even read His word. This distance that is created some mes can make it hard to go back to being in God’s presence daily. Unfortunately, the enemy will tell you there is nothing wrong with this distance between you and God. But we cannot listen to the enemy. God tells us we will have a far be er life that can only be found in His presence. So we must turn toward God and take steps in his direc on daily. God will welcome us with open arms into a rela onship He has wanted with us since before we were even born. Prayer  Dear God, I never intend to wander away from you, but some mes I do. I hope to always take steps toward you each day. I know that on the days I do wander you will never refuse me or shame me. You will welcome me in with open arms. Amen. Today’s Thought  Start a new habit this Lenten season by stopping to be close to God every day.

Sunday, March 5 How Long?  By Paul Rozeman Hebrews 13:8  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Most of us think about ming and dura ons a bunch. Some examples: I’m going on a seven (7) day trip. I plan to diet for thirty (30) days. I’m definitely going to work for seven (7) more years. I guess in our crazy world, we have to be bound by me. Biblical history is ripe with meaningful and interes ng dura ons, such as 40 days and 40 nights and 7 days and 7 nights. Sound familiar? How about this one, what length of me did it take for the wise men to get to see Jesus? Try your hand at the “ ming” trivia ques ons below: 1. How o en did John Wesley fast? 2. How long did Jesus stay in the desert? 3. How long does the Lent celebra on last? 4. How long does the Easter de last? 5. How long do you let hard‐boiled Easter eggs cool before decora ng them? 6. How long could it take to find a well‐hidden Easter egg? 7. How many Sundays (mini‐Easter Celebra ons) are within Lent 2017? 8. How long did David reign over Israel? 9. How long did the 10 plagues of Egypt last? 10. How long was Jesus actually on the cross? How did you do? The answers are provided on the next page. It’s interes ng to look back at how me fits into the big scheme. Lent is celebrated for 40 days (actually 46, see ques on #7) and the Israelites stayed out in the desert for 40 years. Forty years! Now, push that no on a bit, can you wrap your arms around the enormity of “forever?” There is only one way to put it. It is simply amazing that Jesus saved mankind, well, forever. Genera ons, one a er another, get to experience love as Jesus taught us to love; help, as Jesus taught us to help; and, leadership as Jesus taught us to lead. Nothing is more special than the Lenten season leading up to the Easter celebra on. Shall we all remember together that at the center of our collec ve faith journey is the no on that every day could be a mini‐Easter celebra on? Imagine the majesty of that kind of daily celebra on, forever.

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Prayer God, Our prayer is that we recognize before us the opportunity to celebrate Easter every single day. May we love each other and help each other with no par cular ming, and most of all, may we praise the risen Savior, endlessly. Amen. Today’s Thought  Put away your calendars, the real stuff has no end. Answers: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Twice a week 40 days and nights 46 days 50 days 30 minutes weeks and weeks 6 40 years es mated 4‐5 months es mated 6 hours

Monday, March 6 A Lamp to Your Feet  By Teresa Dietz Mathew 5:16 (NIV) “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Prayer: I have never felt I was very diligent or very good at daily prayer; however, there are three people who helped me focus my prayer life. Last year, Gayle Mitrano wrote how her prayer journal helped her through some difficult mes. What a great way to focus daily prayer, I thought, and I decided to start a prayer journal of my own. And Gayle was right. It does make a difference to put in wri ng the names of the people you want to pray for every day. Several years ago, Mary Ruth, in talking about prayer, said she believed you didn’t have to be in formal prayer mode all day long but if you think about someone throughout the day, God knows you are praying for that individual. What a great way to define prayer, I thought, and I began to think o en of people I was concerned about each day. My mother is a great procras nator. She is very caring and though ul and comes up with ideas of things she can do to let people know she cares about them. But sadly, she hardly ever follows through. A er observing this behavior for some me, I decided that if an idea came to me about how to help someone or let them know I appreciate them, I would consider it a nudge from God and do my best to follow through. This decision has served me well, and I have found fulfillment in recent years when I follow through on ideas such as these. Out of My Comfort Zone: I learned just recently that Bobbi, the lady we encountered at my mom’s Senior Center last fall, had passed away. When we were there last year, she asked me to learn Ave Maria so I could sing it for her the next year. She was ill and not there the day we sang this fall, so when we got to Dave’s parents church later in the week, we made a recording of Ave Maria and sent it to her. Sadly, I recently learned that she passed away before she got to hear it, but we did dedicate the song to her on the program (which one of her friends was going to take to her that a ernoon), so hopefully she knew we had not forgo en her request. Learning Ave Maria was a challenge for me. I worked long and hard on it, even got some coaching from our fabulous Brazilian tenor and when the me came I was able to perform it. All this to say that Bobbi’s request pushed me out of my comfort zone and stretched me to work hard and accomplish something that, had I not wanted to honor her, I probably would never a empted. All of these examples confirm that the things you say or do may not seem important to you at the me, but you never know how God will use you to send a message to another, teach someone a be er way of life or help you to grow in a way you never could have imagined. Prayer  Oh God, Guide our thoughts and deeds so they may be a lamp to the feet of all we come in contact with. Amen. Today’s Thought   Help us to realize what we say and do may be an inspira on to another just when they need it.

Tuesday, March 7 I am Only the Carpenter  By Sarah Greer Mark 6:3  “But in the next breath they were cu ng him down: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?”” My husband, Charlie Greer, P.E., was a team leader on the project that moved the Cape Ha eras Lighthouse during the summer of 1999. Because I was not able to join him on any trips to the site, we scheduled a week last fall to let me walk in his footsteps to relive the experience. I knew ahead of me that “the season” closed the lighthouse Oct. 12, 2016, and it would reopen in April 2017. We forged ahead to at least visit. I had a plan… When we arrived at a visitor center on the island and I introduced Charlie as a major par cipant in the move, the man in the booth had thousands of ques ons which Charlie pa ently answered. Then, I told him of our desire to climb the lighthouse even though it was closed. He made three unproduc ve phone calls before giving us the name of a Na onal Park Ranger at the lighthouse. Armed with a spark of hope, we made our way down the island and at the Ha eras visitor center, I went straight to the desk and again told our connec on and begged for a “pass” on the rules and even said we could wait to go in a er hours…please let us in! “It is a er the season. It is closed. I don’t have the key,” he said. I was thinking he just didn’t know how important Charlie Greer is to his posi on since he wouldn’t have a job if the lighthouse was in the ocean. Of course I did not tell him my thought. I just proceeded to ask for Park Ranger Manager Chris, the name we had been given. The answer came back, “Chris has the key and the authority, but he is on vaca on for a month.” I knew the final result was for us to visit the outside and grounds and give thanks that we were safely there on a beau ful day. As we passed another Ranger, I overheard him say, “I have only been here nine months” so I kept walking because he wouldn’t have any knowledge or authority to help us. This same Ranger walked to the oil house and hand inspected the wood window sills searching for something. As a joke, I said, “We keep our key on top of the windowsill.” A short conversa on ensued, and I explained the purpose of our trip and told him of Charlie’s involvement and my longing to see inside. Listen to his reply. “I am only the carpenter, but I have the key.” Those words momentarily stopped my heart! Looking around and seeing only a few people on the path, he said, “I will lock you in, give you 10 or 15 minutes and I will open the door again.”

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I have never raced up 125 steps so fast! Gasping for breath I looked up to read the sign posted on the spiral stairs informing me I was halfway there! A er 252 steps, I peeked out a slit in the door, saw the light overhead and began the journey down. Heart racing, shaking knees, I hugged our new Ranger friend at the exit. Charlie then proceeded to answer lots of ques ons about the move to visitors who had gathered. I think he would be a great addi on to the Na onal Park Service as a summer Ranger! Prayer Thank you, Father, for the gi of Jesus, who was a carpenter’s son, but who holds the key to your eternal kingdom. Amen. Today’s Thought  “I am the one who is holy and true, and I have the keys that belonged to David. When I open a door, no one can close it. And when I close a door, no one can open it. Listen to what I say.” (Revela on 3:7)    

Wednesday, March 8 Examining Your Sacrifices  By Rev. Jenna Kennedy, Associate Minister   Romans 12:2   “Don’t be conformed to the pa erns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature. When I look at my life I consider all the things for which I am willing to sacrifice.” When discussing having a child, my husband and I knew we would be sacrificing quiet, the op on to go anywhere at any me and sleep for a while. Those sacrifices seemed easy when weighed against how much we wanted a child. When we discussed wan ng to move, we knew we would have to sacrifice ea ng out and unnecessary spending to make it financially feasible. Yet, again, those sacrifices seemed easy when weighed against the benefits a move could bring our family. The season of Lent begs me to consider what I am willing to sacrifice for Christ and my rela onship with God. I am usually embarrassed by the results. I always find it so hard to figure out what I will give up for Lent for a simple 40 days. When I compare sacrifices I make a priority in my life so I can live the life I want, I realize I am not sacrificing anywhere close to what I should be sacrificing for God. Shouldn’t we be sacrificing the most for the Savior who died for the forgiveness of our sins? Shouldn’t we be willing to give up whatever we were called to for the Creator of the Universe who loves us no ma er what? Prayer  Loving God, As we reflect on the sacrifice you made for us through your Son, help us to sacrifice worldly things to spend more me, energy and effort on our rela onship with you. Amen. Today’s Thought  Allow this season of Lent to be a me we can all realize who and what deserves the most of our sacrifice.    

Thursday, March 9 What Ma ers?  By Megan Cann Genesis 3:19 (ESV) “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, ll you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” My pa ents come to me naked. I work in the Cardiovascular ICU at Emory—St. Joseph’s. Covered by a sheet and hooked up to extensive monitoring equipment and IV medica ons, I receive them from an OR table having just endured open heart surgery. I know not what kind of car they drive, where they live, what kind of watch they own or how successful their children are. What I do know is that they have just endured a very anxiety‐provoking day. I o en can get a sense of the kind of person they are when I go to the wai ng area and invite anxious family members back to see them. I really enjoy my job…maybe I love it because I only do it one day a week. Selfishly, I am reminded every me I go into work that tomorrow is not guaranteed and the things that ma er most in life are not things. O en, open heart surgery is planned. Pa ents plan and research and prepare as best they can. Other mes, it is an emergency procedure following egregious, unexpected events. This serves as a constant reminder that although I spend a considerable amount of me planning for the future, those plans can change so abruptly. We spend so much me acquiring things and concerning ourselves with appearances. Yet when I look at my pa ents and their families and their friends, I am consistently reminded that it is the people we surround ourselves with and the experiences and interac ons with them that truly are most valuable. When my daughter, Madeline, was li le she o en would say, “What ma ers?” when “who cares” would have been appropriate. During this season of Lent, take a li le me to contemplate “what ma ers” to you. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to be present to care for people when these reali es are so clear. Prayer  Dear God, Thank you for this life and for the people and opportuni es that enrich it. Please help us to be open to your plans and to use our words and deeds in Your honor. Amen. Today’s Thought  What ma ers most to you?

Friday, March 10 Teacher – What must I do?  By Sean Taylor Ma hew 19:16‐22  “A young man came to Jesus with this ques on: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”” Think of the best person you know. Is it one of your parents? A child? Is it your spouse? Maybe an amazing friend who has been there for you in good mes or in bad. Perhaps it is a professor who took you under his wing to propel you down your career path. Whoever that person is, I can guarantee you that he or she has some of the following quali es: Selfless, Kind, Caring, Happy, Genuine, Honest, High Integrity. The list of these great descriptors could go on and on. The young man that came to Jesus in this passage was a “good” man. He was a successful man. While we have to infer some of these things, as well as others, when I read this scripture I come to the conclusion that he was a lot like me. He wasn’t inherently bad. And just because he was successful and perhaps even rich, that didn’t make him bad. No, in fact, he was a lot like the majority of us – a good person. So if he was a good person, why did he feel compelled to ask Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life? If he was good, wasn’t that enough? Jesus responds to the young man first with a ques on. This is Jesus’ sign to him that the young man is asking the wrong ques on. Jesus says “Why ask me about what is good?” In essence, young man, you are asking the wrong ques on because “there is only One who is good.” You see, simply being good is never enough. We cannot do enough deeds to be “enough.” That’s the whole point of why we need Jesus, God’s uncondi onal, loving sacrifice for us. You see, we cannot measure up. The equa on is not “good deeds = inherit eternal life.” The equa on is “faith in Jesus Christ = inherit eternal life.” Without God allowing His son to die for our sins, not all the good deeds you could dream of would get you there. Which is why during Lent we wait for the sacrifice and the resurrec on of our Savior, because only He is good enough. So when I think back to the best person I know, you know why he is the best person I know? Because the things he says and the ac ons he takes are all driven out of his genuine love and acceptance of Jesus Christ. His good deeds spring from his faith in his savior, and mine.  Prayer  Jesus, Thank you for your sacrifice and for making me want to live a good life. Make me an example of how good life can be when it is lived through you. Amen. Today’s Thought   Good deeds come from a founda on in faith in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, March 11 Whose Long Shadow are We Cas ng?  By Mary Ruffin 2 Corinthians 4:6‐7   “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.” When I was a girl the discovery of my first long shadow on a sunny a ernoon seemed like a tall ghost or perhaps an alien from outer space. Who is this standing behind me that I did not first perceive? “On Monday, August 17, 2017, millions in the U.S. will have their eyes to the sky as they witness a total eclipse. The moon’s shadow will race across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina, known as the ‘path of totality,’” the news proclaimed. What is this that I did not perceive? In our society, there is the long and dark shadow of guilt and res tu on that is cast over people in the name of the law, in the name of ignorance and in just plain meanness. Who is this that I cannot perceive like me? As God’s people, let us cast a long shadow over people through acts of acceptance, food for mission, educa ng, forgiving freely, generosity, listening well, mentoring and sowing seeds of thanksgiving. For is it you oh God whom I perceive? Shine Jesus shine so brightly behind me. Dispel the long shadows from whom you know through me and you. You oh God be the orchestrator and us the vessels of clay. Prayer  Lord, Mold me to cast the right shadow in all that I do. Help me to be accep ng, forgiving and loving. Amen. Today’s Thought  This Lenten season, let us turn off the rhetoric, and turn on Jesus.

Sunday, March 12 Self‐Denial and Fas ng  By Hal Gresham Ma hew 6:17‐18 (CEB) “When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. Then you won’t look like you are fas ng to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” A few years ago, a co‐worker and I were talking about our faith, and he shared his experiences with fas ng. I had never fasted before, so his thoughts intrigued me. It wasn’t to the point where I decided to do anything about it, but I do remember it being an important part of his church. As me progressed, I would think about my faith, my ac ons and how to grow closer to God. I remember thinking about fas ng but never making the commitment. As I thought about why I couldn’t fast, there were no real reasons. So, I decided to give it a try. It’s very easy at first – you don’t eat. It’s when the day goes on that it starts to get harder. The hunger comes, and you are challenged with either giving in or finding strength. This is where prayers and conversa ons with God start to pick up. I vividly remember hearing from God about never feeling hunger pains. That is a sad thing to admit in our abundant society. Day two rolls around and those prayers get more frequent and deeper. From my experiences, this is when I start to feel peace and different kind of strength. I did stop a er the third day, and I can tell you it deepened my faith. I s ll struggle with the sense of pride of the accomplishment and the reality that God provided me with the strength. I think that’s God way of helping me find that balance. Prayer  Father, Thank you for the food you put on our table and the strength you give me. Guide me to ways to grow my faith and draw closer to you. Amen.   Today’s Thought  I encourage you to put yourself out there and give fas ng a try. It’s a great way to connect with our Lord and Savior.

Monday, March 13 What God Thinks  By Jay Pryor Proverbs 19:21  “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” My father was in the final days of his life, and he knew it. At dinner a week or so before he died he said, “We all know we have to die sooner or later. With me, it’s sooner.” Following a par cularly bad night when Dad was restless and repeatedly tried to get out of bed to “go home,” my sister and I hired a medical assistance company to provide nurse assistants to watch over and help Dad around the clock. Dad was not happy about it at first, feeling it was an invasion of privacy and an unnecessary expense. But he was a true southern gentleman and as he got to know the nurse assistants he was solicitous of them, wan ng to be sure they had all that they needed. Toward the end, Dad’s health and his strength were leaving him more rapidly. It reached the point that when one of the assistants ended his shi and was leaving I told him how much we all appreciated his care and support. I added that, considering Dad’s deteriora ng condi on, I didn’t think we would be seeing the assistant again. He responded saying, “What we think is not always what God thinks.” Prayer  Father, Thank you for those you have placed in our lives to help us through difficult situa ons. Watch over them, just as you watch over us. Amen. Today’s Thought  None of us knows what the future might bring. We need to remember to praise God for the joyful mes in our lives and also remember that God is our strength when mes are difficult.

Tuesday, March 14 Healthy Choices  By Catherine Greene Philippians 4:8‐9  “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” When I think of Lent, I o en compare it to how many feel about a New Year! For a majority of individuals, plans are made or resolu ons are set to improve something for the coming year. In the same way, we should prepare for the Lenten season with care and dedica on. Lent is a me of repentance, fas ng and prepara on for the coming of Easter. The purpose is to draw us into a closer rela onship with God by making healthy choices in our life. I usually am not very big on New Year’s resolu ons, but this year I decided to par cipate in the Daniel’s Fast along with several of my colleagues. My sole purpose in doing this was not to go on a diet but to deepen my rela onship with Christ and become more disciplined in my faith journey. I began the 21‐day plant based diet on Jan.2 and commi ed to begin my morning with prayer, journaling and devo on. While the diet, prepara on and early mornings were challenging during the first week, I began to crave me with God each morning. You see, I’ve always felt close to God but too o en I wasn’t doing anything to grow in my faith or nurture my spiritual journey. I’ve always prayed at night but in recent years I would find myself dri ing off to sleep before saying, “Amen.” Unfortunately, I didn’t change my habits or my prayer me; I just kept going through the mo ons, giving li le effort to my prayer life. That’s why I needed this renewed focus and discipline, to get me back on track! O en mes in our society, we make unhealthy choices that impact our rela onship with God or our me spent in prayer. The apostle Paul wrote in the above scripture to encourage Chris ans to be wise about what they allowed into their heads and heart. Jesus told his followers that those who possessed a pure heart would live in a close rela onship with God. As you change your habits, it allows God to change your heart. During the 21‐day period, I found this to be so very true as I felt a renewed kinship with God and felt that I approached each day with joy! At Christmas, I was given the Wesley Study Bible that included commentary and a place to journal. While it was difficult to give up the Bible I had owned since confirma on, filled with important reminders from youth retreats, mission trips and persons who influenced my faith, the new Bible has allowed me to dig deeper in my faith. The old Bible became too clu ered and familiar, allowing me to stay stagnant in my faith. The new Bible has resurrected the scriptures for me and I look forward, with an cipa on, to receiving the message in a new light.

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I’ve had such a posi ve experience with this new rou ne that I plan to con nue it throughout the year. While a bit ambi ous, I’ve found it to be so necessary for me so that I remain healthy and happy! Prayer (from Day 4 of fast/journal) Dear God, In mes of struggle and unrest, allow us to be comforted by the “light of your face.” Your constant presence in our lives is all we need. Our hope is in you, and you alone. Allow us not to ques on or be anxious, but by prayer and pe on be reminded of your love, grace and mercy. Thank you for loving us so much and providing us with an assuring peace. Amen. Today’s Thought  This Lenten season set aside at least a few minutes each day to spend me with God. Lent is a great me to refocus your life to be more in line with Jesus by elimina ng the unhealthy choices and distrac ons and focusing on the important things in life!

Wednesday, March 15 Be Prepared  By Joe Seegars Luke 21:36   “Be alert at all mes. Pray so that you have the power to escape everything that is about to happen and to stand in front of the Son of Man.” Revela on 3:20  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me.” Fans of Disney’s The Lion King movie and all Boy Scouts are familiar with the song and the mo o “Be Prepared,” respec vely. Much like the characters in the movie, I don’t think Jesus’ disciples were quite prepared for the events that unfolded and ul mately took the life of their King. It’s probably not fair to expect that they could have been. The characters in the movie should have seen it coming! Boy Scouts, on the other hand, are taught to be prepared for the unexpected. They are taught to be prepared in mind by thinking through situa ons in advance so that they are ready to do the right thing at the right moment, and to be prepared in body so that they are able to act. Jesus was prepared. He was prepared to enter Jerusalem, suffer and die for our sins so that we might have everlas ng life. As Easter approaches, be prepared in both mind and body to celebrate the life, death and resurrec on of Jesus Christ and to claim the gi of eternal life that He has given you. Prayer  Dear Lord, Thank you for sending Your Son to live among us and love us enough to die so that we might know You. Help us to prepare ourselves to live our lives in such a way that we show that love to others every day. Amen.   Today’s Thought Are you prepared to claim the gi of eternal life?

Thursday, March 16 Spiritual Lesson from Life  By Rev. W. Melton McNeill Mathew 16:24‐25  “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”” Two o’clock in the a.m. Outside our home, lights flashing, siren screaming, firefighters yelling and working to put out the fire of our neighbor...and he was the captain of the very unit preserving his home. How did the fire start? The fire chief had cooked on his charcoal grill and, upon cleaning out the ashes and thinking they were ex nguished, he threw them on the ground. However an ember was alive, it lighted the grass surrounding the wooden staircase, which slowly burned un l it became a full me conflagra on. He knew be er than to do that! King David, a er an affair with Bathsheba, one of his soldiers’ wives, ordered the man to be put in the front lines so he would not survive. He knew be er than to do that! Simon Peter, at the so‐called trial of Jesus, was pointed out as one of His followers. Not once, not twice, but three mes he denied that he knew Jesus. He knew be er than to do that! A er the resurrec on Jesus appeared before Peter on the seashore and said to him, not once, not twice, but thrice, “Simon, lovest thou me?” 1st me: "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." 2nd me: "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Shepherd my sheep” 3rd me: “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” Even when we do the worst of things, there is s ll reconcilia on, acceptance, salva on because God never gives up! See? David became the greatest king Israel ever had and was gene cally connected to Jesus. Simon Peter lived up to the name that Jesus called him, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means 'rock'), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Ma hew 16:18) He became the chief among the disciples and the strength of the Church to conquer evil. Prayer  God our Father, Thank you for accep ng us as we are, remaking our lives and calling us your child. Amen. Today’s Thought  God never gives up, neither should you.

Friday, March 17 Does it Really Ma er?  By Lanny Gilbert Romans 5:8   “But God proves his love for us in that while we s ll were sinners Christ died for us.” Our Sunday School class is studying the Bea tudes. A recent chapter was called “Does It Ma er Who Said It?” The ques on was “Does it really ma er that Jesus spoke the Bea tudes? Or are they worthy truths regardless of who said them?” The author’s overall thought is that “Yes, it does ma er, because Jesus not only spoke the words, he walked the walk.” As an example, a lady named Agnes Bojaxhiu once said “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” That’s a nice quote but it probably wouldn’t s ck with you, unless you knew that Agnes Bojaxhiu is the real name of Mother Teresa. Once you know that, you immediately begin to remember how she actually lived up to these words, whereas if you only knew “Agnes said it,” you might not be inclined to appreciate it as much. While we go through the season of Lent and we study the Gospel lessons (most of which come from John), let us remember the One who spoke the Words of Life. The One who loves us when we are at our worst, the One who loves us when we (ac vely or passively) reject him for the things of the world, the One who looks at us through the lens of the Cross and says “I love you that much.” Prayer  Jesus, We thank you for your love and we prayerfully ask for your guidance as we a empt to carry out your mission. Amen. Today’s Thought  Jesus’ words will never pass away. Live like you believe them.

Saturday, March 18 A Daily Investment  By Pamela Menefee Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) “For the Word of God is living and ac ve, sharper than any two‐edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and inten ons of the heart.” If you’re anything like me, then you probably ignore or delete most of the e‐mails you receive from stores trying to sell you something. As for the remaining e‐mails, you feel obligated to read (or at least skim) them. Though I’ve never wri en a devo on before now, I read many – almost always those wri en by members of our congrega on for Lent and Advent, some from books (my favorite, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) and several others appear daily in my e‐mail inbox. At mes, I find myself rushing through the devo on in order to check it off my list and move on to the next entry on my to‐do list. As we enter this season of Lent, help us pause and truly absorb God’s word. Remind us to really read the Bible and listen to the message God is trying to reveal. Devo ons o en speak to us in specific life situa ons. Let us not neglect or forget, however, to daily take the me to invest in the living and ac ve word of God. Prayer  Father God, Help me to block out life’s interrup ons and noise and focus on your word in my daily devo on me. Amen. Today’s Thought  If your daily devo on me were a monetary investment, how much of your por olio would it represent?

Sunday, March 19 The Arrest  By John Rhea John 26:49‐50   “Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Gree ngs Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus replied. ’Friend, do what you came for.’ Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.” A lot of the “Good Guys” got arrested in the New Testament. Not only Jesus, but John the Bap st, Paul, James, John and Peter were noted as being arrested. In preparing for a recent Sunday School lesson I was reminded of a ques on asked in a Wednesday morning Bible study that I a end: If I was arrested for a being a Chris an, is there enough evidence to convict me? Luckily in the U.S., being a Chris an is not something I can be arrested for, but it is s ll a good ques on to ask yourself. Is it apparent to those that I know outside of DUMC, that if placed on a witness stand, could tes fy that I am a Chris an? Can they be certain I am a Chris an by how I treat them, by what I talk about, by how I spend my money or share my assets, by what they catch me reading or listening to or looking at, or by how I speak about others? Would a jury of my peers be convinced that I am a follower of Jesus Christ? I’d like to think so, but I’m not so sure. During this Lenten season I have taped the ques on discretely in my workspace to remind myself to do those things that Christ would expect of one of His followers. And Jesus said “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”(John 13:35) He spoke these words, too, on the night of His arrest. Prayer  Heavenly Father, Please change me during this Lenten season to begin to love others in such a way there will be no ques on to those I regularly interact with that I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Amen. Today’s Thought   Be sure there’s enough evidence to “convict” you of being a Chris an.

Monday, March 20 My One Word  By Randy Pilkenton Philippians 4:6‐7    “Don’t worry about anything; rather, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Our Sunday School class is embarking on a 1‐year journey together. We have each chosen a word which will be our “one word” for the year. This exercise is meant to bring focus to our natural human desire to change, to improve, to be be er. O en we make resolu ons to stop this bad habit, change that poor behavior, start doing these good things. With good inten on but sca ered a en on, we typically fail to achieve the change we desire. The focus on one word takes away the clu er and replaces it with clarity. This got me to thinking about another ritual: "giving up” something for Lent. I’ve done it, more so over the last decade than in years before. I do find it to be a cleansing me. I usually also fail to keep it up beyond the day a er Easter. This year I’m recommending not giving up, but giving in. Personally, I plan to use my one word to give me focus and a vision for how I will be changing and growing as a Chris an. Giving in is what God wants us to do. It is what Jesus lived and died for. Through his son, Jesus Christ, we are taught simple lessons that are about giving in to God’s forgiveness, so that we can put aside and behind us our worries, our past and anything else that is holding us back. Once we’ve given in, Jesus gives tells us to adopt a simple focus on living and loving as He did. So "give in” for Lent. To a single word ‐ maybe for you that word might be strong, joy, gra tude, balance, give, surrender, present, or maybe you'd choose my personal word for 2017, which is “confidence.” Or, give in to just one idea or ac on that your heart tells you will bring focus to your spiritual life for the coming year and hopefully beyond. Prayer  In Jesus name, We welcome the forgiveness that is freely offered to us, and pray that we can give in to the call to live and love as Jesus did. May this act of giving in bring us the peace that will surpass anything we have ever known. Amen. Today’s Thought  What is your one word?

Tuesday, March 21 Minimalism By Andrew Chappell Luke 9:57‐58  “As Jesus and his disciples traveled along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”” I recently watched a documentary on Ne lix called “Minimalism.” The documentary follows two guys as they spread their message of an ‐materialism. They preach their good news of minimalism to the masses. “Get rid of your stuff! Materialism doesn’t actually make you happy!” At any speaking engagement, they always end with “Love people. Use things. Because the opposite never works.” These guys are onto something. Materialism, stuff, money, more. In a way, these words have taken over our culture. But this message isn’t new. More than anything else, the documentary made me think of Luke 9. It made me contemplate the original minimalist. It made me wonder about a traveling preacher from a working class village who had no permanent residence. And as I thought about these things, I thought about my own life in rela on to Jesus’ life. During this season, I invite you to check out the documentary. I invite you to think about what it means to downsize, to get rid of items you don’t need, to simplify your life. But most of all, I invite you to consider the original minimalist, his way of life, his lack of things and his joy and sacrifice. Our culture would have us use people and love things, but I think the minimalists are onto something that Jesus may appreciate. Prayer  God, Focus our hearts on what ma ers most. May we begin to understand what it means to give up and may we always be mindful of the joy found in you and in rela onships. Amen. Today’s Thought  "Love people. Use things. Because the opposite never works."

Wednesday, March 22 Life is Hard  By Diane Morgan Ma hew 25:34‐40  “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’” (v.40) It’s 5:30 a.m. on a cold Saturday morning, a me of day rarely seen by me. It is 30 degrees outside, and my fondest desire would have been to remain in my cozy warm bed and finish the wild dreams I o en have in early morning hours. But I can’t. I have to go to prison. I have to go. Not because I am being forced, but rather because I am commi ed. Six years ago I commi ed to serve the Lord in ministry to the women incarcerated at Lee Arrendale State Prison in Alto, Georgia. One Saturday a month and two weekends a year, a team of ladies enters the razor‐wired prison gates to share the love of Christ with some amazing ladies. Our commitment is to meet with ladies who have experienced a Kairos weekend, God’s Special Time, when God meets them just where they are and draws them closer. They learn and feel what it’s like to be children of a loving God, a God who loves them no ma er what and wants to be in friendship with them. The prison is maximum security, which means the roughest of the rough are imprisoned there. Inmates are there for serious crimes: murder, assault, child abuse, drug issues. Some come from homes like ours, some do not. They all made a bad choice in life and that choice landed them in prison. Their choice now is to do their me con nuing to react to circumstances, making bad choices, or work toward a be er outcome through considered response through a life of grace. My me in prison is a sacrifice, but it is a considered choice to give up my free me to guide another child of God to a be er life. I see the effects every month. I hear women, once hardened criminals, share life since they discovered God’s love and sacrifice for them. God’s love has changed them. Even if they never achieve release from prison, they are released from self‐loathing, blame and guilt, and the prison which has held their hearts for years. Life is hard for the ladies inside those walls, but it is also hard some mes in the lives of those of us in the “free world.” During this season of Lent, ask God to help you see the light in whatever darkness you face. For me, remembering Christ’s sacrifice for me makes my sacrifice nothing. Rising early on a Saturday and driving an hour to share the love of God with prisoners is hard, but it is an honor to be Christ’s hands and feet, keeping the light in a very dark world. Prayer  Most loving God, We praise you for the Spirit with which you fill us. Your presence in us can drive us to do things in your Name that we never considered. We pray that you open our eyes to the needs of others this season, and help us to serve in new ways, even if we think it will be too hard. We pray for protec on for those in prison, whether it be a physical incarcera on or one of our hearts. Heal us, we pray. In Christ’s Holy Name we pray. Let it be so. Amen. Today’s Thought  Move out of your comfort zone to share God’s love and serve Him.

Thursday, March 23 Rela onship By Kenneth Abele John 15:13  “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I recall a trip to the grocery store with my wife a year or so ago. I was intent on ge ng through the aisles as efficiently as possible, trying to get everything on our list as if we were compe ng in a NASCAR me trial. To my dismay, my wife was stopped near the meat sec on by a woman she knew from a Bible study. The woman was sharing difficul es she had recently encountered, and my wife pa ently listened and comforted her. I, on the other hand, was impa ently ge ng nervous about our schedule and going back and forth bringing back items to put in our cart. A er about 30 minutes when the conversa on was over, my wife looked at me and responded to my impa ence by sharing that what she had just had was a divine appointment. I was recently reminded of this story when I read from a collec on of readings organized as a weekly devo onal: The fundamental building blocks of the kingdom are rela onships. Not programs, systems, or produc vity. But inconvenient, me‐consuming, intrusive rela onships. The kingdom is built on personal involvements that disrupt schedules and drain energy. In short, rela onships sabotage my efficiency. A part of me dies. Is this perhaps what our Lord meant when He said we must lay down our lives for each other? – Theirs is the Kingdom by Robert D. Lupton Prayer  Heavenly Father, Help me open my eyes to the needs of others and remember to put others first and live a selfless, sacrificial life. Amen. Today’s Thought  Don’t take for granted or miss the divine appointments that you have in your life. You may never know the impact you can have on someone else’s life.

Friday, March 24 The Rock  By Bill Robinson Luke 22:58b‐62  ““Surely this man must have been with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was s ll speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three mes.” And he went out and wept bi erly.” Poor Peter. He wanted to be close to the Lord, but was too scared to tell the truth. I doubt if there is a minister alive who has not preached a sermon during Lent about Peter and his faults. Peter was headstrong, impulsive, rash and o en spoke before thinking, to list a few of his shortcomings. But Jesus knew him well, announcing that He would build His church on Peter, His rock. St. Peter’s Basilica is the name given to the church on Va can Hill that is said to be built on the site where Peter was buried. Peter, the first pope, indeed became Jesus’ rock. Is there a message in this scripture to each of us? Do we wish for forgiveness when we slip? When we tell a lie to save our skin or to avoid incrimina on? When we refuse to forgive someone who has hurt us? Of course we want forgiveness. But are we willing to accept it, or do we worry that it will be denied us? Jesus said while nailed to the cross that He forgave them, implying that His forgiveness extended beyond those who crucified him to everyone ‐ even us. Prayer  Lord, Give us the strength to fully accept your forgiveness and the strength to be be er Chris ans this season of Lent. Amen. Today’s Thought   Are we a lot like Peter, quick to speak or act out, but unwilling to be responsible when challenged?

Saturday, March 25 Figh ng Fear with Thanksgiving  By Debbie Boden 2 Corinthians 12:9   “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me!” FEAR! FEAR! Go Away! Why does it always find a way back into my heart? I have ba led this emo on for some me. At mes, I have it all under control and other mes it keeps me up at night. I believe fear has controlled me personally more as a parent than it ever has before. I do not seem to fear for myself as much. I have failed many mes but I have always been able to get back up and keep going, I can even see how certain failures have turned into posi ves in my life. But for some reason, I s ll fear watching my children go through failures. I’m really not sure why I con nuously struggle with this emo on. As I sat down one morning to do my devo ons I told the Lord “Here I am again having the same feeling of fear in my heart. I don’t know why I am always back to this feeling, Lord. I don’t know why I can’t swing it.” As I wrestled with this in my head I saw a Bible verse I had wri en down ‐ “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and pe on, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 4:6) I have read this verse many mes before as I have about 10 note cards with verses that I refer to o en but on this morning a word stuck out to me: THANKSGIVING! I looked through my other cards and there it was over and over ‐ THANKS, THANKFUL. It hit me! The only way I am going to fight off fear is by being thankful. It was such a powerful moment as I read these verses. “Put on then, as Gods chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and pa ence, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgive each other as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which bonds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful!” (Colossians 3:12‐15) “Be joyful always; pray con nually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9) It was a er reading these verses that I could hear the Lord telling me, here is your answer, you can fight your fear with thankfulness. We are all so blessed, I thought, and have so many things to be thankful for. I felt a weight being li ed off my chest and felt renewed that I had a real a ainable answer. When fear enters, fight it with thankfulness!

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I would like to say that all of my fears went away that morning but that would not be true. I s ll have fear that creeps into my heart but at least I now know how to fight it. The Lord has said blessed is the man who trusts in him! I 100% trust that my savior has given me the tools to fight these human emo ons; my confidence is in him, not me! “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17: 7‐8) I also know and can admit that this is a weakness of mine but don’t be afraid! Prayer Dear Lord, Thank you for your words, which help us to navigate this world. You have given us the answers to so many of our problems, we just need to take the me to be s ll and listen. Please help us to sit in your presence even during the busy, tough and good mes. Help us to have confidence in your love for us always! Amen. Today’s Thought   I invite you to join me, if you wrestle with fear in your heart, whether it is for yourself or someone you love. Join me in figh ng that fear with thanksgiving! I promise the Lord will fill your heart with peace and gra tude!

Sunday, March 26 The Greatest is Love  By Wade Hatcher 1 Corinthians 13:13 (CEB) “Now faith, hope, and love remain – these three things – and the greatest of these is love.” The world today is an interes ng place. As I read that sentence, it comes across as the “understatement of the year.” The dynamics of each of our daily lives func ons at a pace that o en makes us glad when we can simply keep up with it all. When we look at the world around us, we some mes stare in amazement at where we are and the direc on it is all going. My concern is that people are losing hope for a be er tomorrow. My hope and prayer is that this frene c world is ge ng more people to pray, and that is a good thing. Many people will use this Lenten season as a me to turn their thoughts to God. God has given us all our own special abili es to share our faith each day with everyone we see and speak with. As the scripture describes, the greatest of these is love. No ma er what is going on, we can share a smile with the grocery store clerk, be inten onal to say thank you to the waiter/waitress and tell the people in your family you love them. Prayer  Heavenly Father, Thank you for loving us so much you sent your son to die for our salva on. We Praise you for being a God of Love. Help us to share your love for us and our love for you with the people we see all day every day. Amen. Today’s Thought   Let’s all love our neighbor each day!

Monday, March 27 Showing Support and Love  By Margaret Gallagher Romans 12:10  "Love one another with mutual affec on; outdo one another in showing honor." Our high school recognizes its sports seniors before a game at the end of each season. They also include marching band, guard and cheerleaders. The senior, escorted by family, walks "between the posts" while the announcer calls their name, the name of their escorts, the sport/group they par cipated in and post‐ gradua on plans. The official photo is taken, and they walk off as the next senior is announced. It was a special moment when we escorted our son, but what moved me was a band senior a few families ahead of us. As the line inched her closer to her turn, she alternated between madly tex ng and craning her neck to spot her parents. Her moment came, but they were nowhere to be found. She blinked back tears, walked alone to the posts for the picture and walked off. As the remaining seniors got their turn, I lost track of her. But, when the final senior finished and the announcer turned the crowd's a en on to the players taking the field, I saw a dozen band uniforms swamp the official photographer. Bringing her back to the posts, this senior's sec on surrounded her while the photographer took a replacement official picture. The picture and memory that remains is a smiling girl and her spontaneous escorts: her instrumental family that stepped in to turn loneliness around with support and love. What a great portrait of showing mutual affec on and honor. Prayer  Lord, Especially when the crowd turns its a en on elsewhere, may I have vision that sees the need, grace that meets the need, and compassion that feeds the hungering soul. Amen. Today’s Thought   Whose darkness can I brighten today?

Tuesday, March 28 Life is Simpler Here  By Sid Linton Genesis 11:9  “Therefore was the name of it Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD sca er them abroad upon the face of the earth.” But a er Jesus: Acts 2:8‐11   “And how we hear, every man in our own language…Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia in Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans an Arabians, we hear them speaking in our tongues the mighty works of God…” I am in the not so sunny downtown of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The people here live in a high, dry valley surrounded by mountains except for an enormous steppe that extends hundreds of miles to the northwest into Russia. They’re 1,200 miles from the nearest ocean and their airlines are banned from flying into Europe. It’s a four‐hour plane ride to anyplace you’ve ever been or want to go. They’re as far north as New York so it’s cold. In this second poorest country in Asia, on this early February day, it’s cold and cloudy and dark early. Bleak is the best word. But the people are lovely, deligh ul even. And mixed. Many have mild Chinese‐like features, many are more western and many are Turkic and many are, well, who knows? But mostly, who cares? They get along wonderfully. Very near the Roman Catholic enclave, the call to prayer from the minarets is heard by those leaving weekday a ernoon Mass. And the thousands of Orthodox take it all in stride as they do every day. And nobody minds. They get along. All they have is each other, the burdens they share, the few comforts they share and the remoteness they share in this simpler, yet fairly urban life style. Dismayed as they are about the news of discord in the U.S. s ll going on the second week a er the Inaugura on, they don’t just get along, they thrive by ge ng along. Unlike us, they have fewer choices; life is not as plush, but it’s not as hec c either. So, they appreciate and value each other ‐ as they must. Why can’t we? Prayer  Loving God, Give me the wisdom, grace and courage to appreciate and value those I come in contact with today and every day. Help me to show them your love. Amen. Today’s Thought  Does our affluence get in our way of each other?

Wednesday, March 29 Grace, How Powerful!  By Don Robinson Ephesians 1:2  “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In Paul’s gree ngs to the Chris ans at Ephesus, he salutes them with the offering of “grace and peace.” When I was about 10 years old, my father coaxed me to open a savings account and put my en re life savings of $57 from lawn mowing into it. With some reluctance, I listened as he said, “They are going to give you more money (interest) and you don’t have to do anything to earn it.” Three months later when he took me to the bank, I had made $2.67 in interest, without the sweat of pushing a lawn mower! It was just given to me. While I did not fully understand the concept, I was very excited. For me, grace is the strongest word in the Bible and in Chris anity. I fall far short in walking a Chris an life. But God has bestowed his grace freely on me. There is nothing we have done, nor can we ever do to earn this. It is a gi . Prayer  God, Thank you for marking me as a Chris an with Your grace. May I remember this promise as I walk a life you have taught me. Amen.   Today’s Thought  Realize the power and the me frame of God’s grace to us. It is a gi to us. But most importantly… it has already been given.

Thursday, March 30 Prayer First  By Cindy Hatcher Psalm 46:10  “Be s ll and know that I am God.” During a recent W. O. W. Bible study, the author of When God’s Spirit Moves, Jim Cymbala, made a simple sugges on that has resonated with me. His sugges on was basically to pray before beginning to read the Bible. While I have o en prayed in associa on with reading of scripture, the habit of always praying before reading was not developed. The importance of reading with God and the Holy Spirit became clear in that moment in the lesson. Cymbala offers Psalm 119:18 as that prayer: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” (NIV) The Common English Bible varies slightly, “Open my eyes so I can examine the wonders of your instruc on.” A few other verses I find helpful during a me of scripture reading are: “But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit; the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” ( 1 Corinthians 2:10) “Search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23) Prayer  Heavenly Father, Thank you for being present with us at all mes; thank you for the gi of your Holy Spirit that comforts, guides and teaches us. And thank you for your living word that you bring alive to us. In Jesus name, Amen. Today’s Thought   What a comfor ng and powerful thought to visualize God and the Holy Spirit reading with me!

Friday, March 31 By What Name Do You Call Him?  By Rev. David Melton, Minister to the Congrega on Mark 8:31‐38   “He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”” (v.34) By what name do you call the man Jesus of Nazareth? Did you ever stop to think about the fact that everyone in your life has some kind of name? Your friends have very specific, individual names: Abraham Lincoln, Carol Burne , Mickey Mantle, Dan Brown. You use names that iden fy the voca on or role of people: he’s a lawyer, she’s a minister, he’s a professor, she’s an accountant, he’s a neighbor. You also use tles to show honor or respect for people or their posi on: reverend, your honor, sir. You iden fy groups or points‐of‐view with names: Presbyterian, Jew, liberal, conserva ve, Republican, Democrat. And you designate certain rela onships with names: associate, colleague, mother, grandfather, cousin. Names and tles are very important and necessary to the human experience. They facilitate learning, help understanding and aid in communica on, despite the nega ve or extremes to which we some mes take them. So, an appropriate ques on for this Lenten season is, “By what name do you call Jesus, the man from Nazareth?” The words from Mark concern this ma er of naming or tling. It deals specifically with the person of Jesus. This scripture passage follows the verses in which Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Then turning from the general ques on, Jesus puts the ques on to the disciples personally asking, “Who do YOU say that I am?” Peter blurts out, “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:29). Peter bestowed the tle on Jesus. To Peter, Jesus was the anointed one whom Israel had been wai ng, the one of whom the prophets Isaiah and Micah had spoken, the one who would restore faithfulness and obedience for God’s people, the one who would help the poor and establish jus ce. So, by what name do you call him? Prayer  Gracious God, I am grateful that you have chosen to live, not in temples of stone, but in my heart. Be with me now as I seek your forgiveness and to praise you. Glory and honor be to your name. Amen. Today’s Thought  Recognizing through faith that Jesus is the Son of the living God frees me from fear, fills my heart with gra tude, inspires me to serve God and others, and makes life worth living.

Saturday, April 1 The Gardener  By Charlie Nichols John 20:15  “Woman”, he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Surely Mary Magdalene, of all women, would recognize Jesus. Mary of Magdala, a passionate follower of Jesus the Christ, a contributor to the needs of the disciples, present at the crucifixion, and on her way to anoint the body of Jesus when she discovered… the body was missing...the tomb was empty. Startled, she bolted and ran to fetch two of the disciples. A er the two disciples le the empty tomb and went home, she stayed and stood outside the tomb crying. And then…a miracle…the risen Christ mysteriously revealed himself. To Mary, the revela on appeared in the form of…. the gardener. I was lucky. I observed first‐hand the characteris cs of wonderful people who were gardeners. There was my grandfather Henry, a rural New York state dairy farmer who was one of the first to prac ce crop rota on, who cared for the landscaping on his personal property for the enjoyment of his large and growing family. Then there was my other grandfather Harry, an a orney by trade that, due to setbacks from the depression era, decided to live simply and owned and maintained a five‐acre mango farm in southern Florida. He spent long days nurturing his orchard, nourishing his trees using compos ng techniques, pruning when necessary, gra ing to produce healthier and tas er hybrids, and in general producing marvelous fruits. And, of course, there was my mother Mary. She wasn’t a whole person without a garden to tend to! You could feel the love that she poured out on each of the living plants and trees for whose sustenance she was responsible. When you visited her home, she was eager to introduce you to each one of her beloved species of growing things. So during the course of my youth and beyond, I saw these quali es first hand from my family of gardeners: caring, nurturing, working, pruning, producing fruits and loving. Why am I not surprised then that the risen Christ revealed himself to his faithful servant, admirer, and loved one…Mary Magdalene, first…as a gardener. Prayer   Father, I just want to thank you for the gardener in each of us, and ask that you help us to grow these gi s in ways that will grow your Kingdom for the sake of our souls and for humankind. Amen. Today’s Thought  What seed will you plant today?

Sunday, April 2 Looking Within  By Rev. Josh Amerson, Associate Pastor Luke 17:21   “Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ Don’t you see? God’s kingdom is already within you.” There is an old story about an abbot who lost the key to his house and was looking for it in the grass outside. The young postulants came along and asked their teacher what had happened. “I’ve lost the key to my house,” he said. “Can we help you look for it?” they asked. “Thank you,” the abbot replied, “that would be deligh ul!” The young monks joined the abbot on the ground, crawling around on their hands and knees and si ing through the grass. A er some me had passed one of them asked, “Master, do you have any idea where you may have lost the key?” He answered, “Of course I do. I lost it in the house.” The monks all stood up and cried out together, “Then why are we looking for it out here?” The master replied, “Because it’s such a nice day to be outside!” O en many of us search for the kingdom of God everywhere except for where God has placed it. We look to work, hobbies, family, and even church ac vi es, but rarely do we pause to look within our own hearts. Lent is an opportunity to leave the bright comforts and the company of the outside and join Christ inside the inner room of our souls where the true light can be found. Prayer  Dear God, Give us the courage to search for you and to find you in the places where you dwell—our hearts. Amen. Today’s Thought  Where are you looking for God?

Monday, April 3 The Wedding Band  by Glenda Joiner 1 John 5:14  “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” In 2010, I took my mother, Nonie, and my Aunt Irene to the beach in St. Augus ne, FL, for a week. On our way, we stopped off in Savannah for a day to visit my teenage grandniece Nikki and stayed in a hotel. The next morning I went to see if everyone was ready for breakfast. My niece opened the door looking perplexed. Aunt Irene said, “I can't go? I’ve lost my ring. I’ve got to find my wedding band.” The three of them had searched the room. Aunt Irene took her wedding band off, placing it on the sofa, to put on lo on. Nikki had taken the sofa apart where she had been si ng. I could see Aunt Irene’s distress, this ring represented 56 years of a good marriage to a Chris an man. He had gone to be with the Lord five years earlier a er a ba le with Alzheimer’s. I believe in and have experienced the power of prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit many mes. I said to them, there are four of us and we should all pray now for God to show us where the ring is. We all bowed and quietly began calling on God, then I followed with an open prayer to end. Before I could say “Amen,” Aunt Irene began shou ng. “I know where it is. It is in my shoe.” She said she never felt it with her foot, but during the prayer me a ngling sensa on went down one of her legs and she knew then the ring was in that shoe. Because she believed, she picked up her shoe, put her hand in it and pulled the ring out. She will tell you that she has never before experienced anything like that in her life and has told her miracle story of prayer many mes. Prayer  Our Heavenly Father, Thank you for the power of the Holy Spirit that lives in us. Thank you for the amazing gi of communica on with you that we know as prayer. Amen. Today’s Thought  If it ma ers to you, it ma ers to God, talk to Him.

Tuesday, April 4 Human Interac on the Sin of Omission  By Ed Moncrief Philemon 5:6‐7  “I pray that your partnership in the faith might become effec ve by an understanding of all that is good among us in Christ. I have great joy and encouragement because of your love, since the hearts of God’s people are refreshed by your ac ons, my brother.” Being 50+, I have some connec on to five genera ons of our family. Some of you may relate to what I’ve observed: With each genera on, the level of human interac on is slowly eroding. We’re becoming less communal. I’ll share some examples from my family tree. Voca on/Customers/Co‐workers: My grandfather, a small‐town pediatrician, made house calls to deliver babies. He knew his pa ents personally and was an overnight guest if deliveries ran long. My father was tex le salesman. Not only did he socialize, a end church and play golf with them, he also knew the vendor’s plant managers and creel operators. I own my own business. I know my customers strictly on a business level. Many, I would not recognize in a crowd if not for linked‐in or Facebook profiles. I know li le about those that work for me. I sign checks to names of field personnel I couldn’t iden fy in a police line‐up. My children, other than random chores, don’t work yet, not even my 26‐year‐old. But my general observa on of the millennial genera on is that the extent of what they need to know on a personal level can be found on line or by “following” someone. Family Memories: My grandparents told stories from memory with such degree of detail that I felt I was there. Even the telling of the stories made for fond memories. My parents weren’t the orators their parents were, but mom kept scrap books. We’d go thru them, and she’d share special memories of the moment and the people. My wife started scrap books for our girls. We’ve accumulated thousands of electronic images but it would take months to organize them. Even if we did, there never seems to be me for us to collec vely sit and reminisce about the past. My children know very li le about their great‐grandparents nor our family history. It seems we all have lost interest in who and where we came from. Vaca on: My grandmother and granddad loaded up the boys, met up with my great uncle Mu ’s family and road tripped to faraway places like Niagara Falls. The journey was as much a part of the experience as the des na on. My parents always took us to Ormond Beach, stopping halfway there and back to visit family in South Georgia. My sister and I made vaca on friends and usually stayed in touch for a while via le ers and pictures. Vaca ons now are plane flights, reserva ons, pre‐arranged cars and agendas; younger kids are enrolled in day long ac vi es.

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Youth Ac vi es: I don’t recall what my grandparents did other than it came a er all the necessary chores and homework were completed. It was never organized but did involve imagina on and improvising. My father never played organized sports un l high school; they played pick‐up games. Moultrie kids, both black and white, would come out to the fields and put together teams. When I was young, we also played pick‐up ball. Kids throughout the neighborhood would just show up. We’d create games or fill our day with imagina ve adventures in the woods beyond our back yard or venture over to other neighborhoods and meet up with other kids. Today, we shell out obscene money for organized ac vi es, which require en re weekends and extensive travel. Our kids chat, twi er, “follow.” Essen ally, they interact in a virtual world. Somewhere in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Le ers, the senior Demon tells his protégé Wormwood not to worry about promo ng the Big sin in his human “pa ent” as much as to slowly erode his good traits. Something has been lost over genera ons when personal interac on is no longer meaningful. As we draw farther from our personal interac on with others, and become more self‐absorbed, the devil has won the day. Take this season of Lent as an opportunity to grow more humanly connected. Not just family; but talk to your Coffee Barista who prepares your la e, and know their name and something significant about them. Next me you’re there and ask them by name how their situa on turned out, you will have connected on a level that’s worth more than the $5 cup of java. Prayer Thank you, God, for our families and our friends and those we meet along the way. Guide us to grow more connected on a personal level. Amen. Today’s Thought  Disconnect from electronics and connect with humans, face‐to‐face, eye‐to‐eye, heart‐to‐heart.

Wednesday, April 5 The Promise  By Jerry Sanders  1Corinthians 15:51‐52 “Listen, I’m telling you a secret: All of us won’t die, but we will be changed—in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the final trumpet. The trumpet will blast, and the dead will be raised with bodies that won’t decay, and we will be changed.”  During Lent we prepare for Easter. But for what are we preparing? In looking at the deriva on of the word “Lent,” we find that it comes from an Old English word “lengten,” a me of the year when the days get longer and various forms of new life appear—literally, it means Spring! The tulip bulbs display their beau ful flowers, and the jonquils, daffodils, hyacinths, and crocus all spring forth and burst open in their full majesty. It reminds me of one of my favorite songs—“The Hymn of Promise:” In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, and apple tree; In cocoons, a hidden promise: bu erflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, Unrevealed un l its season, something God alone can see. The composer of “The Hymn of Promise,” Natalie Sleeth, indicated that when she wrote the hymn she was thinking of a line by the poet T. S. Eliot who wrote, “…in our end is our beginning.” She further stated that she was “…pondering the ideas of life, death, spring, and winter, Good Friday and Easter, and the whole reawakening of the world that happens every spring.” Let us, too, during this Lenten Season ponder and prepare, reflect and rejoice, and celebrate and shout our joyous Alleluia for our believing in the promise of everlas ng life that was given to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who died for us and arose from the dead so that we might not die but have everlas ng life in Him. As the last stanza of “The Hymn of Promise” states: In our end is our beginning; in our me, infinity; In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity, In our death, a resurrec on; at the last, a victory, Unrevealed un l its season, something God alone can see. So, during this me of Lent, during this Spring of the year, as we prepare our soils let us also prepare our souls, and let us make our hearts ready to remember Jesus’ death and resurrec on. And while we are at it, let us also remember the words in the third verse to another one of my favorite hymns, “In this Very Room:” In this very room there’s quite enough love for all the world, And in this very room there’s quite enough joy for all the world. And there’s quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom, For Jesus, Lord Jesus…is in this very room. Prayer  Our Heavenly Father, We give you thanks. Thank you for the gi of your Son, our Lord Jesus, who gave us victory over death through His resurrec on that assures us that in our end is our beginning. Amen. Today’s Thought  Let the beauty of Spring reawaken your soul as you ponder God’s promise.

Thursday, April 6 The Promise of Easter By Linda Leake Ma hew 28:5‐6  “But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” My favorite Easter service was when we lived in Vienna ,VA, outside Washington, D.C. We went to Easter Sunrise Service at Wol rap for the Performing Arts, an incredible outdoor theatre in Vienna. Both our teenaged girls complained for days before about having to get up so early for service. And, they complained again that Sunday morning as we le in the car in the dark. As it turned out that chilly morning, the music was incredible and the sermon was beau ful, and inspiring. The sun came out just as we started singing "Christ the Lord is risen today." Surely the presence of God was in this place. We talk about that experience every year. Prayer  Easter holds a promise of Spring, of flowers, of HOPE. Thank you, God. Today’s Thought   Think about the words in the song, Hymn of Promise. "In the cold and snow of winter, there's a spring that waits to be, unrevealed un l its season, something God alone can see."

Friday, April 7 Radical Love, Let’s Do It!  By Leslie Shuford John 13:34‐35  “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Wow! Jesus said the iden fying mark of His followers is love. If we are to be “a dynamic Chris an community of fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ,” our iden fying mark must be love. And not just any kind of love, but Jesus said, “As I have loved you.” What does His love look like? He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) He did that for us. That’s radical love! Think about what He set aside in heaven to come suffer persecu on, injus ce, betrayal, pain and death because He loves us! My love falls so short of that. I have to think twice when someone I love interrupts something I am doing to do something for them…let’s not even talk about someone I don’t find so easy to love. He also loved his o en confused, o en failing band of Disciples. He even loved his betrayer, Judas, to the end. Go a love Jesus for his slow‐to‐ anger, pa ent, persevering love for them…and us! I Corinthians 13 says love “keeps no record of wrongs.” But how o en do we (as Rick Warren calls it) get “historical” with our loved ones…”you always…” or “you never…” How o en do we just write someone off because we get impa ent with them or are unwilling to forgive them for a past hurt? Anyway, in the current climate of our divided culture, I keep thinking what an opportunity we have, as followers of Jesus Christ, to make a drama c difference by obeying Jesus’ command to love one another. Prayer  Father, Your love is perfect. As we meditate on your love for us this Lenten season, let it compel us to love the people you have put in our lives. Help us to love so radically that people no ce, wonder why, and discover it’s because of you! Amen. Today’s Thought  Think of how we could turn heads to Jesus by showing His radical love! Let’s do it!

Saturday, April 8 Suit Up for God’s Service  By Sharon Gilbert   Ephesians 6: 10‐19  “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.” (v.10) All throughout the Bible are references about armor. Some symbolize the armor for figh ng, an armor‐bearer or descrip ons of soldier’s clothing. The armor references always intrigued me because I thought maybe there was some symbolism. If there was symbolism, was it consistent throughout the Bible, and does it have special meaning like the numbers 40, 12, 7, 3, etc.? With that curiosity, I decided to take the Bible study by Priscilla Shirer on The Armor of God. I just knew that I was going to learn this unknown symbolism that I could share with others. God had other plans for what I would learn. I love that about God. First, I learned there are six garments for the Armor of God. But Priscilla suggested that really there were seven with the last being prayer. I am so excited because it is one of the symbolic numbers: 7 ‐ Seven days of crea on. Second, we need this armor to fight against spiritual warfare. I wasn’t sure what that was at first. When Pricilla explained spiritual warfare, I realized I do have spiritual warfare. I just didn’t know it had a label. This warfare goes on inside our own mind. It reminds you of the things you’ve done wrong, brings on doubts, self‐ consciousness and much more. There’s also external spiritual warfare, such as when those around you are reminding you of how you’ve failed. Pu ng on the Armor of God protects from the spiritual warfare. When I was half way through the class and learned about three pieces of armor, I fell down four steps, severely sprained my ankle and had to wear a boot cast for eight weeks. The next piece of armor within the study was the helmet of salva on which protects your thoughts from the spiritual warfare. While recovering from my fall, my mind just went rampant and it became clear to me how spiritual warfare was working in my life. It also became clear that pu ng on the helmet was how to protect myself from this warfare. Third, I learned how to pray on the armor of God to prepare myself for the everyday spiritual warfare that will happen. I want to share that prayer. Lord, I pray that you suit me up for your service today. Strap on the belt of truth. The truth that Christ died and resurrected for my sins. Drape over me the breast plate of righteousness. With Christ and the truth, I am righteous and redeemed through His blood. Shod my feet with the shoes of peace. I pray that my feet are firmly grounded in you and your love but will move forward confidently when necessary. Cover my head with the helmet of salva on. When the spiritual warfare begins, I remind myself that through salva on I am forgiven and heir to your throne. Guard me with the shield of faith. Through my faith in the truth of Christ, my shield will ex nguish all the fiery darts of external warfare coming at me every day. Finally, arm me with the sword of the spirit. The sword that is by my side always. I know I can call on you at any me and know you are there with me.

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It’s at this season of Lent, we remember that Christ paved the path for us by His death on the cross and resurrec on. We are suited to wear the armor because Christ paid the price. “Thanks be to God, who gives us this victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:57) With the external spiritual warfare going on in our na on, we all need to suit up for God’s service. Prayer Loving and merciful God, I pray that you will suit me up for your service today and every day. I am so thankful that you are ready to listen whenever I call your name. Amen. Today’s Thought  Pray on the Armor of God and be God’s servant.

Sunday, April 9 The Counselor, the Holy Spirit  By Peggy Browne Romans 14:25‐26   “All this I have spoken while s ll with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” I am in a day me Bible study on the Holy Spirit. Once I began the study, it was amazing to me how many places in the Bible, both the Old and New Testament, that the Holy Spirit appeared. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit’s presence worked through individuals such as the prophets, judges, Samuel, Joshua and many key persons to accomplish specific tasks. In the New Testament, Christ told the disciples that he would be leaving them, but he would send a Counselor, Holy Spirit, to be with them. This He said would be a good thing. At this point in the disciple’s spiritual journey, I’m sure they wondered how Christ’s death could be a good thing. This Counselor, the Holy Spirit, is available to all who accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. I know that the Holy Spirit is always within me, but some mes I think I’m not listening as I should. For some me I have felt my prayer life was in trouble because my mind would wander during my prayer me. Recently, I opened Jesus Calling and felt directed to read a day that I had skipped, that being January 23. It read: “It’s alright to be human. When your mind wanders while you are praying, don’t be surprised or upset. Simply return your a en on to Me. Share a secret smile with Me, knowing that I understand.” I believe this was a reassuring message from the Holy Spirit that God understands my desire for a powerful prayer life and my weaknesses. Prayer  Heavenly Father, help us to accept your grace of forgiveness paid for by Christ’s death on the cross. Father, we thank you that within us is the Holy Spirit that will teach us all things and remind us of all you have said. Amen. Today’s Thought   Be open to the Holy Spirit in your life.

Monday, April 10 Prayer By Lynne Byrd   James 5:16  “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effec ve.” I have a favorite prayer, which I first read on the bulle n board of a Sunday School member. It was centered right in the middle of the board. This gentleman was a re red Army Colonel and one of the most Christ‐centered people I have ever known. This prayer has helped me so much when I am having difficulty expressing to Our Lord what I really want to say. “The Radical Prayer” comes from Prayer, Stress and Our Inner Wounds by Flora Slosson Wuellner. She writes: I have found a special form of prayer extraordinarily helpful when I am perplexed about a moral decision or direc on for myself. “Holy Spirit, if this is right for me, let it become more firmly rooted and established in my life. If this is wrong for me, let it become less important to me, and let it be increasingly removed from my life.” We should not pray this prayer unless we mean it. It is always heard and answered in definite and surprising ways. Habits begin to lose their grip. Rela onships change. Neglected parts of our selves begin to grow. New a rac ons and likings surface. Surprising abili es appear. Some familiar old tendencies become una rac ve to us. Something always happens when we pray this prayer in honesty. Prayer  “Holy Spirit, if this is right for me, let it become more firmly rooted and established in my life. If this is wrong for me, let it become less important to me, and let it be increasingly removed from my life.” Amen. Today’s Thought    Place this prayer where you will see it o en. It will be fresh and new each me and will be a blessing to you.

Tuesday, April 11 The Symbols Speak  By Anne W. West John 3:16  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have life eternal.” My husband, Lou, and I taught kindergarten Sunday School for six years. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun. Every year at Easter I would look for new material, hoping to connect the harsh story of Jesus’ death on the cross with the beau ful message of the resurrec on in the language of five and six year olds. This is no easy task. I kept going back to the book, The Symbols Speak: A Story for Easter, because it told the story so well through childlike illustra ons, poetry and scripture. Year a er year, the kindergartners got it! We moved from the triumphant entry into Jerusalem to the breakfast on the shore a er the resurrec on. It reads: These faith symbols tell an amazing story, As one by one they announce Easter’s glory. The palm shouts, “Hosanna!” as believers rejoice, The One on the donkey is their jubilant choice. The bread and the cup offer a Passover meal, “Do this and remember me,” Jesus appeals. The silver coins jangle in Judas’s hand, His betrayal of Jesus, hard to understand. Hands pray, “Father, take away this burden,” As Jesus waits in the Gethsemane garden. The rooster crows twice, “Morning is near!” In denying his friend, Peter weeps bi er tears. The crown of thorns mocks, “King of Jews.” Jesus stand before Pilate falsely accused. The dogwood cries out with Jesus, in pain. Its blossom is marked with nails and bloodstain. The angel dispels the grief and the gloom. “He is not here. Come, see the tomb.” The boat splashes in joy toward the risen Lord. On shore, Jesus calls to the disciples on board.

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The rock echoes, “On Peter, the church will grow, As he and the others preach what the world needs to know.” The fish first whispered in secret but now proclaims, The fellowship of believers gathered in his name. The empty cross beckons the Savior’s great call, A promised of salva on to one and to all. Prayer Oh God, The Easter story is so complicated, yet so simple. Quiet our minds to contemplate the beauty of the cross and the promise of salva on. Amen. Today’s Thought  What are your faith symbols?

Wednesday, April 12 The Emmaus Road  By Jim Boyea Luke 24:30‐31  “A er he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight.” The story of Cleopas and his companion mee ng the risen Christ on the road to their home in the small village of Emmaus is my favorite Easter story. It is late morning, perhaps, on the first Easter. Two disciples are walking home, grieving and dejected, crushed by the trauma c events of the past few days. And they are met on the road by the risen Christ; although they are kept from recognizing him. Through the course of their walk together, Jesus relates to them the long history of their faith and his place within it. When they finally reach home, it is growing dark and they invite him to spend the evening. In that founda onal act of hospitality, of sharing bread together, they recognize Jesus. Because this is an Easter story, it generally comes at a me when spring is very much in the air. There are buds on the trees, the weather is turning warmer and the days seem longer. And because it is an Easter story, it is a story of resurrec on, of new life springing up in surprising places. It is also a great “road” story; and like all “road” stories, it invites us to see things a li le differently, to shi our perspec ve a li le and take fresh stock of old certain es; and it reminds us that our view of the world and our place in it is never the final word. That word belongs to something beyond us. Like all good gospel stories, the Emmaus Road encounter gives us permission to see our lives and the life of our community in a different way. Like those disciples, our lives are o en journeys burdened by ques ons, hopes, disappointment and grief over opportuni es lost, over change we cannot seem to control. And like them, we have this remarkable promise of all those things overturned by the presence of a God who constantly seeks to reclaim life from death. Easter reminds us that God never allows life to lay dormant forever; and rebirth and resurrec on are not merely the eternal hope we share, but the present reality that God ensures in our lives and in the life of the world. Acknowledging the Risen Christ in our midst is not merely the answer to our shared yearning for immortality; but our affirma on that the God of the Risen Christ is a God that breathes new life into every moment of our lives, that resurrects life from all the smaller deaths that afflict us … and that empowers an Easter faith that always assumes the possibility of life in all places. Prayer  Oh God, Open my eyes that I may see and my heart that I may feel your love and shine your light as we celebrate the Risen Christ. Amen. Today’s Thought   This Easter season may you know the presence of the Risen Christ, who reveals to us all the resurrec ng faith of our God.

Thursday, April 13 Spiritual Discipline  By Rev. Kathy Brockman, Associate Minister Mark 8:34‐35  “He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” I recently spent me researching and studying different spiritual disciplines as I was preparing to lead a retreat. As a part of my prepara on, I completed an assessment of sorts to see where I was in my walk with God. My assessment indicated that one of my growing edges is to let go of some of my earthly concerns and give myself more authen cally to God. That realiza on was somewhat of a slap in the face. How could that be something that I need to work on? I have a regular devo onal me daily and I pray mul ple mes per day, surely that was a mistake. But as I read more on the topic, I began to understand it be er. Our iden es – our truest selves – are not based on the things that we accomplish or what we earn or prove. Our individual true iden ty is a gi from God. Each of us is a beloved child of God and there is nothing we can do or say that is going to change that. And, that needs to be enough. But what does that mean in the world today where we have bills to pay and families to feed? And, for me, soon to have two boys in college! I don’t think it means we need to give up our jobs or seclude ourselves in a monastery but rather to let go of some of the control over things we strive to maintain, that we let go of the pretenses and the images we feel we have to project. It means that we need to bare our souls to God and let go of the things that stand in the way of a closer rela onship with God. Francis de Sales wrote in his Trea se on the Love of God, “No one can perfectly love God unless he gives up his affec ons for perishable things…Our free will is never so free as when it is a slave to God’s will, just as it is never so servile as when it serves our own will.” Prayer  Loving God, I long for a closer rela onship with you. Help me to trust in you. Give me the spiritual discipline to strengthen our connec on. Amen. Today’s Thought  On this Lenten journey, join with me in detaching from the need to maintain an iden ty that is a ached to an image, achievements, or possessions. Join me in working on trus ng outcomes to God and not to my own capabili es. By doing these things, I hope that we can strengthen our connec ons and our trust in God alone.

Friday, April 14 His Promise  By Cheryl Dunbar 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)  “If anyone is in Christ, the new crea on has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” My husband o en can be a roman c. He sends flowers and writes notes and does other pleasant, happy things for me. He knows that I love flowers. There is a par cular florist we use that sends the most beau ful flowers that last for a week or more. These flower arrangements usually come with lilies with many buds. To watch the buds bloom makes the flowers even more exci ng. It means that something new is being formed. At Easter, these buds represent new life. As we celebrate the Resurrec on of Jesus remember all that Jesus has done for us. There is His promise for new life for all of us. Hallelujah is Hebrew for “Praise the Lord.” As we celebrate Easter, we discover how hallelujah is an exclama on of hope and joy. Jesus. He gave all of us new life because he died and rose again. Prayer   Dear Lord, Thank you for loving us and caring for us now as well as at Easter. Amen. Today’s Thought   Hallelujah! Jesus is risen.

Saturday, April 15 What’s Love Got to Do With It?  By Rev. David Melton, Minister to the Congrega on 2 Corinthians 5:16‐21  “So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new crea on. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (v. 17) Tina Turner once sang, “What’s love got to do with it?” Her ques on was about roman c rela onships. She called love a “second‐hand emo on.” The kind of love this scripture passage refers to is a different sort, and there is nothing second‐hand about it. We could s ll ask “What’s love got to do with it?” What does love contribute to the Chris an life? This passage follows up on a statement Paul made in verse 14 where he said, “The love of Christ urges us on...” We all can agree that true love does compel us to exhibit new a tudes and behaviors. God’s love urges us to see people from a new perspec ve. Paul admits that he once saw people from a worldly point of view. As a Pharisee of the Pharisees, he no doubt thought the Gen les were unworthy of God’s grace. Now that his life is in Christ, he sees Gen les as brothers and sisters. Christ’s love had urged Paul to see people in a different way. Paul also admits that he once regarded Christ from a worldly point of view. He once regarded Christ as a mere human being, one to be despised or pi ed, not someone to be emulated or worshiped. Paul is at the point in his life where it is now Christ who gives him meaning and purpose. In verse 17 Paul gives us the great declara on that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new crea on. God’s love also urges us to share the Good News with greater urgency. Paul talks of the importance of reconcilia on through Christ and the fact that those who receive reconcilia on then become disciples of reconcilia on. It is not enough to receive the Gospel; we must be willing to share it! He describes himself as Christ’s ambassador. For Paul this is no small thing. He says in verse 20, “We beg you to become Christ’s representa ves: Be reconciled to God.” Those who have been reconciled must share the message of reconcilia on with others. The whole ma er is summed up in verse 21: “God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God.” Let us use Easter and beyond to truly reconcile ourselves with those we have wronged and become agents of Christ’s love in the world…beginning right here in Dunwoody! Prayer  Gracious God, I come before you today burdened by countless distrac ons, worries, and fears. Holy God, li me up with your healing grace, and revive your spirit within me. May my life be focused not on my failures, but your forgiveness. Amen. Today’s Thought  True reconcilia on is not just saying, “I’m sorry,” and going through the mo ons. Reconcilia on must sincerely seek the redemp ve truth, purpose and love of God, who is con nuingly seeking to reconcile the world to himself.    

Sunday, April 16 Defeat Death  By Jerry Carnes John 11:25‐26 (NIV)  “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrec on and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” There is no such thing as death.” Six years ago, I watched my father suffer. Cancer chipped away at his body un l it was nothing more than a withered hull. Eventually, that ba ered shell surrendered. His body faded, but my father’s spirit lived. At the me, I mourned what I believed to be my father’s death, not realizing that it was actually his triumph. He’d beaten cancer. The disease that a acked his body was six feet underground, hidden beneath a mound of dirt where it could never harm another soul. My father, on the other hand, was soaring. Jesus defeated death. He pounded it into oblivion. He came to this earth, walked among us, suffered and perished so that He could rise again. Christ Jesus showed us that we no longer have to fear death. “I am the resurrec on and the life,” Jesus told us. “He who believes in me will never die.” Never die. Now, it is my sister who struggles. Once again, it is cancer that has appeared, believing that it can claim another of my loved ones. She has fought for 14 years. Her body can’t take much more. Her spirit, however, is impenetrable. Cancer, so smug and arrogant, doesn’t know that it can’t win. It can’t take her spirit. She believes. She will never die. To believe in death means ignoring Christ’s triumph over the grave. He promised us that His father’s house has many rooms, and that He is busy preparing a place for us. Not a grave. Not a tomb, but a place where we can live in peace with Him. Our life con nues. There is no death. John wrote in Revela on that, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Jesus defeated death. He did it not for his own selfish ambi on, but for us. He crushed death and the fear that comes with it so we can live, not just now, not just on this earth, but forever. There is no death. Christ’s victory is ours to celebrate. Prayer  Loving God, Wipe our tears. Give us strength to defeat death here on earth as we look toward eternal life with you. Amen. Today’s Thought  Look beyond the grave. Christ is risen today!

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2017 Lenten Devotionals - Dunwoody UMC  

2017 Lenten Devotionals - Dunwoody UMC