3 And not only that, but we also boast in our
sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and
endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope
does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Lent is a
time for reflection, but reflecting inwards on yourself can be a daunting task,
especially when you know that you have not been the best that you can be. When
faced with suffering and tragedy, it can be difficult to remain steadfast in
your faith and strong in spirit.
years ago, I came face-to-face with possibly the hardest thing I will ever have
to deal with: I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. For a long time, I
struggled to come to terms with the fact that I would be burdened with this
disease for my whole life. I felt that God had turned his back on me, forgotten
about me in my hour of need. I resented Him, frequently asking what I did to
deserve the punishment that I was given.
I am now able
to look back and know that God was with me in my time of suffering. I finally
understand that He was not punishing me, but simply allowing me to learn on my
own that I am strong enough to live the life I was given. Like it is written in
the scripture, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character.”
What seemed like a tragedy at the time became one of the most important factors
that shaped me into the person I am today.
Perseverance is essential to any journey, be it a
faith journey, or simply a journey in your life. In this Lenten season, I
implore you to be strong and be brave and be not afraid to turn to God in times
“God grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things
I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” (Reinhold Niebuhr)
15 I will
remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of
all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all
flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds,
I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every
living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
This scripture speaks to
me of three distinctly different themes wrapped up in one story, and those
themes are the importance of promises, signs, and relationships. How many times
do we make a promise that we are unable or unwilling to keep, and don’t
consider the consequences? How many times are we presented with a sign, and yet
we are unwilling or unable to embrace it? And how many times do we behave in a
way that puts a relationship in harm’s way, and yet we are unwilling or are
unable to make amends?
Let’s dig into promises.
God makes over 7000 promises throughout the bible to man, and yet this tends to
be the story we learn in Sunday School very early on. And it is a pretty scary
tale. God purposely destroying the earth! Yikes. So why do we gravitate toward
it? I believe because the promise to never flood our world again encompasses
faith, love, and hope, so important to learn in our formative years.
I’m going to go out on a
limb and say there are a few “signs” that most of us really pay attention to,
and a Rainbow ranks really high. When we see one, we often stop in our tracks.
We admire. We take pictures. We say prayers of thanks. It’s the symbol that
visually connects us to our faith, love, and hope. What an amazing gift from
God. These verses cover important pillars of a relationship, and those are
understanding and agreement. The everlasting covenant God makes with us after
the flood shows His love for us as He provides partners for every species: one
of the best demonstrations of hope for a better future built on faith. Praise
Dear Lord, thank you for keeping us in your
everlasting care and for giving us the gifts of faith, love, and hope. Help us
keep our promises, see the signs and practice understanding in our
relationships as you have taught us. In your blessed name we pray, Amen.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters; 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.
Being CEO to several companies I was expected to be their best salesperson and I typically sold clients products and services we didn’t offer. I had total faith in my own capabilities and never doubted my ability to reinvent our companies and keep my client promises. Our companies flourished and as a naive young man, I thought it was all me. As I matured and faced challenges that were completely out of my control, I realized having faith in myself just wasn’t enough and spiritually foolish. So, I began reciting Psalm 23 every morning. It reminds me God is always present and that I’m truly never alone. Through prayer, I can feel the Holy Spirit guiding me, and I seek God’s influence in helping me to make decisions. Sensing the presence of Jesus Christ is especially important when my judgments will impact people’s lives. Knowing I can connect with God at any time and seek His guidance is comforting and leads me to make smarter, better decisions.
During the most difficult of times, God is there listening to my prayers. His answers convert monumental challenges into manageable actions; transfer doubt into hope; replace fear with reassurance, and turn stress into relief. God provided David the poetic talent to pen Psalm 23 providing each of us the security to know that even in death, God will be there to comfort us. God’s hand touches everything in my life including my business activities and competitive negotiations. Once I surrendered my old ego to God, I began to truly believe He will always provide for me.
God, You have blessed me, my family and friends beyond my wildest dreams and aspirations. Thank you for placing Your mercy and grace upon my head no matter where I am, or where I go … I am forever in Your house. Amen. ~Dave Scelba
11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.
Over the years I have collected many Bibles. Eight of them sit within the view of my chair as I ponder this text. From King James to RSV, to NIV and now The Message; they are all a part of my collection. One was a gift from my grandmother, and another was given to me by my childhood church. Others were gifts from my brother, (some of which have my name(s) in gold lettering embossed on the covers), who always included either an index card or a bookplate with a passage for me to read, ponder and pray with. There are a number of different passages that he shared with me over the years. One of those passages quickly became my favorite, Jeremiah 29:11-13.
Often throughout my life, and mostly in reference to my career, I turned to Jeremiah, trusting that God had a plan for my future. During the past year, this passage has meant even more to me, because it was that promise of hope and a future that I needed to help me through a very difficult time in my personal life. God’s plan isn’t always what we thought it was going to be, but God’s plan is always best, even if we don’t understand it at the time. We know that God is working through every event in our lives. We need to realize that God’s plan is not always the easiest in our eyes, but it is always the best.
If God has a plan for our future and has promised to be with us through the journey, then all we really need to do is to trust in his assurance of hope and a future by seeking Him with all our hearts. We can then fully embrace His promise and a future filled with hope!
Loving God, give us faith during the times we’re weary, discouraged, confused and uncertain. Inspire us to trust in your great hope-filled promise. Please give us courage when our faith wavers. Thank you for giving us this gift of hope and a bright future in Jesus. Amen.
Speak in such a way
that others love to listen to you.
Listen in such a way
that others love to speak to you.
It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again, but Ash Wednesday is a month from today!
In preparation for Lent, we are launching our 4th annual Lenten Devotional. This is a daily Lenten guide written by members and friends of this faith community and has been not only a wonderful daily companion but a terrific tool for evangelism.
Last year we posted the devotional each day online, on both our website and Facebook pages and also printed over 250 for distribution! I pray you might feel called to again, or for the first time, write a devotion this year.
This year’s theme is ” A Future with Hope” from Jer 29. Since the Lenten theme is Hope we have already selected 12 texts that speak to Hope. We thought it might be interesting to see/read different perspectives on the same texts, so there are 12 texts (repeated 3 times each) along with some more specific ones for Holy week. You can use poetry, a story from your life or from someone else’s, you can offer artwork or photography as long as you speak to the connection to the scripture.
I have attached the texts along with a sample devotional. The word limit is 430. Please keep to that limit (which includes the date chosen, assigned scripture and the prayer) The deadline for submission is Feb 17th.I hope you will consider being part of this devotional. You never know who might read your words and find HOPE.
Lent begins on Wednesday, February 26 with Ash Wednesday. Plan to join us as we explore Hope throughout the Lenten Season. We will be announcing services, bible study and more. Stay tuned!
You may or may not have heard that our monthly worship and ministry theme, is “Loving through Deeper Listening”. WAIT! Before you scroll down or away from this missive, don’t worry. I am not expecting that we’ll be working on all sorts of esoteric contemplative practices (unless that’s your favorite method – to listen). But I DO hope that you’ll be open to learning different ways to listen more deeply. This means listening more deeply to scripture, more deeply to God in prayer, in worship and as you go about your day and your life. But we all get busy, especially when we’re under deadlines.
A few weeks ago, I was in my office working on the readings
for the Lenten devotional. This is no small undertaking and takes tremendous
focus. I was so intent on finishing this project I hadn’t even realized it was
getting dark especially because my office faces east. When I got up to get some
more water from the library, the pink hue in the eastern sky was stunning.
I ran into Sandy’s office (which faces south) to see the most extraordinary sunset which lit the south and west in a palette of pink, oranges, and purples. It took my breath away. I was all alone in the delicious quiet of the end of the day. There I stood, trying to drink it all in. It just kept getting bigger and brighter and deeper. It quieted my heart, calmed my tension and eased the pressure I had been putting on myself. Only then could I allow God to cut through the noise and speak to me in the way I needed. That can happen to all of us, but it helps to pay attention.
Listening, noticing and loving more deeply with you,