Daily Devotionals from Envoy Scott Hurula
May 27, 2020

Does your heart break when you see the news each day? It seems like there is a constant barrage of mayhem, death, injustice, suffering, and loss that boggles the mind. We see people at their worst, acting in ways toward one another that are so unfair. Reports of violence, disrespect, manipulation, and racism grieve our conscience. We are tempted to despair and lose heart. But now more than ever we must keep faith, raise up our hope, make our voices heard, and act with the power of the Holy Spirit to show love, justice, and compassion. Our Scripture reading for today comes from a story in the Gospel of John. Jesus used mud made from his own spittle and dirt to give sight to a blind man. The religious powerbrokers felt threatened by this Galilean, miracle-working rabbi who acted outside their authority structures. They interrogated the man and his parents to discredit their story, trying to control the narrative for their own benefit and to the detriment of Jesus…

24 So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”
25 “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”
35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 The man answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”
37 “You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”
38 “Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.
39 Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”  John 9:24-25; 35-39

I love the simple, direct, unpretentious testimony of the man who was healed! He didn’t have all the answers, he couldn’t win a debate with elaborate arguments, he wasn’t trying to play their political games. He just knew one thing, “Once I was blind, but now I can see!” That was all he needed to declare his faith in Jesus and to worship him! Jesus’ mission is still the same and continues today. He is giving sight to the marginalized, the outcast, the condemned, the powerless! The values and ethics of his Kingdom, of his Beloved Community, demonstrate the blindness of the self-serving, self-righteous, and self-congratulatory frauds who feign a futile religiosity. Though we don’t know the name of the man Jesus healed, may we have his same boldness, sincerity, and authenticity to stand up against the posers and proclaim the good news that crystal-clear spiritual vision is available to whosoever will receive it!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for having the power to open our eyes! Forgive us for the times we prefer to remain comfortably blind to oppression. Give us your vision to look with eyes of love and mercy. We believe in you and worship you! When the news overwhelms us and leaves us reeling, grant us your grace to carry on your mission with the hope and vitality that come from your Holy Spirit. We pray for this in your name. Amen.

 

May 26, 2020

We are beginning the last week of May and we are starting to see some changes on the horizon for the policies and shelter in place order. Our Metro family in Lake County, Indiana have quite a bit more of their economy opening. In Illinois the phases of reopening are progressing, too. We are far from returning to the way things were, but it feels good to be able to see the progress. For many, yesterday was a holiday from regular work and I hope we all took the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day, giving thanks for those who gave the last full measure of devotion to secure liberty and justice for all. I saw social media posts of many Salvationist musicians playing bugles, cornets, trumpets, and even a flugelhorn to sound out the mournful tune of Taps in memory of the fallen. The best tribute we can give our heroes is to live our lives to the fullest; loving our neighbor as ourselves and fulfilling God’s highest purposes for us. Our scripture reading for today gives us words of encouragement and challenge to that end…

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:8-11

Our sins are many and daily we come up short. But, let the love of God fill your heart to overflowing! A one-word description for much of our ministry in this time of pandemic could be “hospitality.” Let’s do it with a song, with a smile, and with joy! Whatever gifts and resources God has entrusted to you in your Army mission this week, let’s use them to show His grace in all its forms! The things we say and the way we serve make an impact. May God help us so that it is a positive one!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pause right now to give you thanks! With each passing day in this medical and economic catastrophe we see evidence of Your care and provision. You show Your faithful love for us through new mercies each morning. We ask for your blessing on those whom we serve, that they may feel Your grace and know Your hope. Fill our speech with messages of courage and anticipation for healing and renewal in our communities. We ask this in your name and for your sake. Amen.

 

May 21, 2020

On the Christian calendar, today is the day on which we celebrate the Lord’s ascension into heaven. This marks 40 days after Christ arose from the dead. St. Mark records the ascension with just one verse in his Gospel, “When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.” (Mark 16:19) In his Gospel and in the Acts, St. Luke gives a more detailed description of the ascension. Jesus told his disciples earlier that it was necessary for him to return to the Father so that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, might come. He promised them that he was going to prepare a place for them, so that where he was, they could be also. In the midst of our labor today, let’s pause for a moment and reflect on the amazing scene of Jesus being taken up right before their very eyes…

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:3-11

Because He ascended, we have an advocate, a great high priest who makes intercession for us in heaven! Because He ascended, we know we will have an eternal dwelling with him in a city not made with hands. Because He ascended, we have the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives to enable us to live as His witnesses by our words and by our actions until He comes again.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we imagine the faces of your disciples as they gazed up at the sky when you ascended. Their mouths agape, their eyes wide as saucers, their necks craning to catch one last glimpse of you. How often have we seen the evidence of your love and grace at work around us in this COVID19 response ministry and been dumbfounded and awestruck like they were? We ask you to strengthen our faith and renew our hope in all that is ours because you returned to your glory! All that we are we dedicate to you and your service!  We ask for your blessing and in your name we pray. Amen.

 

May 20, 2020

How do you handle situations that defy comprehension? For the most part, I am able to accept God’s peace and reassurance, trusting that “all things work together for good to those who love Him, and are called according to His purposes.” (Romans 8:28) But for sure there are times when the questions nag at my soul: “When? How? Why?” I am fascinated at all the scientific knowledge humanity has acquired. It is amazing the things we have figured out and the discoveries we have made in the material, natural universe! My son has a degree in chemistry and now is in pharmacy school; he blows my mind with the wonders of medicines and their biochemical workings that he studies. But, in the realm of metaphysics, theology, and philosophy, my mind boggles as I pursue the deep things of God and the meaning in life. In our Scripture today, we find Jesus observing his disciples as they struggle to understand what He is teaching them. They ask each other, “What does He mean?” and remain perplexed. The Lord enters into their struggle and speaks to the heart of their fears and anxieties…

20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:20-22

We so often find ourselves in the midnight hour of pain, in the valley of the shadow of death, in the desert place of grief, in the shadowland of anxiety. Across the centuries, the words of Jesus to that ragtag band of rustics resound to his disciples of today. Do you believe? He will return one day, we will rejoice, and no one will take away our joy. If this pandemic leaves you agonizing over the “Why?” and grasping for answers, you are not alone. Ask the Holy Spirit of Christ to speak His words of peace to your heart and listen for the still, small voice of His comfort.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we long to see the day of your return. We are just like your first disciples, puzzled and perplexed. We wonder and strain to discern your hand at work in our life. Grant us a teachable spirit and an open mind to learn from You. In this time of grief and loss, help us to bear each other’s sorrows and burdens as we await the fulfillment of your will. Bless those whom we serve with more hope and grace. We ask all this in your matchless Name. Amen.

 

May 19, 2020

The last time I went to make deliveries of emergency meal boxes, my GPS took me via a route that included a few miles on Lake Shore Drive. It was a sunny day, but very breezy! There was no one on the bike trail, jogging path, or beach as access was blocked by fencing and barriers due to the pandemic. But as I drove along, I could see the waves rolling in and crashing on the rocks. Even above the traffic noise, when I rolled down my window, I could hear the sound of the water pounding the shore. As the crests broke on the rocks huge amounts of spray would soar into the air and rain down again on the beach and paths. I’m sure that for others who have lived by the ocean this would not have been much to see. But for a native Midwesterner, Lake Michigan has always been awe-inspiring to me! In our Scripture reading for today, the Psalmist uses the waves as a metaphor for the power of God…

Psalm 93

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.
Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.

The seas have lifted up, Lord,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the Lord on high is mighty.

Your statutes, Lord, stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days.

Our own strength and resources seem meager and paltry when faced with the needs of Chicagoland suffering under the effects of this pandemic. But in big and small ways everyday God is supplying us with what we need to fulfill our mission. Donations of material and funds, willing personnel, wisdom and discernment, love and compassion, all show up just in time and all are obviously beyond what we could do on our own. As the sea, or even Lake Michigan, are vast beyond our ability to comprehend, so is the might of our God. As the power of the waves, the force of the tides, and the strength of the currents all surpass our own feeble capacities, so does the awesome power of the Lord! Take refuge in Him and trust in His sovereign might.

Prayer: Heavenly Lord, we stand in awe and wonder at your mighty deeds. You supply all our needs and never leave us nor forsake us. When we come up short and reach the end of ourselves, give us more faith to keep our hope in You. We pray for those who are grieving from many kinds of losses today. You know their hearts and we ask you to use us to comfort and sustain them in this time of trial. We love and worship you above all else! And we make this prayer in your holy name. Amen.

 

May 18, 2020

It’s the start of a new week and we’re past the mid-point of the month of May! How did you feed your soul over the weekend? Did you share in a livestream worship service? Did you find socially distant ways to connect with loved ones near or far? Did you join in any virtual graduation celebrations? In our family we did all those things! My wife and I celebrated 25 years of parenthood and the birthday of our firstborn, we Facetimed with loved ones around the area and across the country and worshipped together on Sunday in our living room via a video from our Corps and playing brass instruments, too! I know from scanning social media that you were caring for your communities in amazing ways all weekend and I prayed for you with each post I saw. This morning the Divisional Staff is making a special video as a part of the preparations for Commissioning weekend, so my thoughts are with our Cadets and soon-to-be new Lieutenants at the CFOT. The Scripture for today speaks to our hearts as we support them, and one another, in these days of ministry under pandemic conditions…

1bI urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1b-6

In your service today, be aware that it is God who has called you and placed you in your context. When conflicts, frustrations, stress, and challenges press in on us, let’s consciously rely on the Holy Spirit to manifest His fruit in us: love, patience, gentleness, and peace! We are members of one another under the Lordship of Christ, made as one with the same faith and hope!

Prayer: Father God, thank you for a new week! Bless our Metro Division family today as we serve you. We pray for our colleagues who are now on furlough and facing difficult times. Surround them with your grace and meet their needs, we ask. Touch the hearts of our Cadets and Candidates in a special way today and fill them with hope and inspiration as they live worthy of their calling. Guard our hearts and minds from fear, dismay, and disunity. You are our all in all, and we praise you with all our heart! It is in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

May 13, 2020

In recent days I have observed how our Corps are continuing to meet the needs of children during this time of pandemic. And they are making plans for how they can adjust their youth ministries in the weeks and months ahead as we progress through the phases of reopening and relaxing the restrictions on gathering. What I have heard is a deep love and concern for kids and a desire that they not miss out on opportunities to grow emotionally, mentally, and spiritually because of this disaster. Our youngsters are precious and the impact of COVID19 on their lives is significant. Jesus cares about them and Mark’s Gospel records a time when the Lord gathered them in his arms to bless them…

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16

When I was a child there was a divisional youth rally and a massed Singing Company rehearsed and presented a special song. The theme of that year was “Every Child Matters” and there was an international flavor to event. We kids were dressed colorfully to represent cultures from around the world.  The melody of this song was an 18th century traditional Irish air and the lyrics were written for English Sunday School children in the 1840’s by Jemima Luke. I hope they are a blessing and inspiration for us today!

I think, when I read that sweet story of old,
When Jesus was here among men,
How He called little children as lambs to His fold,
I should like to have been with them then.

I wish that His hands had been placed on my head,
That His arms had been thrown around me,
And that I might have seen His kind look when He said,
Let the little ones come unto Me.

Yet still to His foot stool in prayer I may go;
And ask for a share in His love;
And if I thus earnestly seek Him below,
I shall see Him and hear Him above.

But thousands and thousands who wander and fall,
Never heard of that heavenly home;
I wish they could know there is room for them all,
And that Jesus has bid them to come.

In that beautiful place He has gone to prepare
For all who are washed and forgiven;
And many dear children shall be with Him there,
For of such is the kingdom of heaven.

I long for the joy of that glorious time,
The sweetest and brightest and best,
When the dear little children of every clime
Shall crowd to His arms and be blest.

Here is a video of the US Navy Band playing the tune – with some Euphonium duet fireworks, to boot!

Prayer: We ask your blessing today, Father, on all our children who have been impacted by COVID19. Their schooling was ended abruptly, they’ve been deprived of normal activities, and they have been anxious about what is happening around them. Help us to listen to them, allowing them to talk about their feelings and concerns. Enable us to be patient and creative in sharing your love and grace with them through technology, care packages, and resources. Give us wisdom as we make plans about our youth ministry in the coming days. We make this prayer in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

 

May 12, 2020

Our Scripture reading for today comes from the letter of 1 Peter. I try to imagine the life experience of the initial audience of this letter. It was a time of great suffering among those early Christians living in the Roman Empire. They undoubtedly felt much anxiety and fear. Our current experience of pandemic illness, economic turmoil, and uncertainty about the future can perhaps give us a new perspective on these verses…

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11

Before COVID19 we had some sense of control over our plans and our calendars. Much of that has been taken from us and we have had to humble ourselves. Let’s be on the lookout today for the mighty hand of God to lift us up. It will come not according to our schedule but according to God’s timing. If you are carrying a heavy load of anxiety, God invites you to let it go and trust it to Jesus who cares for us with an immeasurable love. We have a family of believers around the world that share in our sufferings and we share in theirs. God will bring us through this crisis stronger, more firm in our faith, and steadfast in our relationship with Him!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we bow our hearts before you. Our own strength and capacity are insufficient to the demands on the ministry you have entrusted to us. We know we need your mighty hand to move through this Army! Help us to bear patiently these trials until your will is fulfilled in us. Give us your vision for the stronger, more vibrant, more holy Salvation Army that will emerge from the forge of this season of testing. You are our “all in all” and we love you! We pray these things in your Name. Amen.

 

May 7, 2020

Fatigue is widespread among Salvation Army workers these days, I’m sure. Some of us are weary from physical labor with sore muscles and aching backs. Lifting and carrying are tiring in normal times, and even more so when trying to breathe through a mask or face covering. In addition, there can be the weariness of monotony for those in isolation looking at the same four walls. Then there is the emotional exhaustion from carrying our own anxieties and experiencing secondary trauma from entering the stories of those whom we serve. In our scripture reading today, we find a group of fatigued fisherman…

1One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.  Luke 5:1-7

Let’s note that even in their weariness and frustration from an unproductive shift the night before, they are still at work washing their nets when Jesus speaks to them. The Lord sees you today as well, Metro Salvationists! He invites them to put out again into the deep waters. Is he calling you to do the same? Simon presses through his fatigue to obey, because Jesus said so. May we have that same heart! Our reading ends with an abundant blessing which was more than the fishermen could contain. Be on the lookout in this season for how God will surprise and overwhelm you with His love and provision!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we feel as though we’ve reached the end of our resources. We’re tired on so many levels and we confess our need to you. As you spoke to our fishermen brothers so long ago on the lakeshore, we open our spiritual ears today to hear your comforting voice. Invite us again into the deep as we welcome your abiding presence in the boat of our life. Fill our nets we pray! We’ll share your grace with those who are hurting and feed your people with hope and loving kindness. It is in your Name we ask for these blessings. Amen.

 

May 6, 2020

This pandemic has made us ever more mindful of our human condition. Tears, illness, weeping, and mourning are all experiences we have faced in these recent weeks. And we will experience them again and again so long as we have breath. The hope that we in all this comes from our faith in God. Hear the Word of the Lord for us today. (Read it out loud. Read it to someone else in our office or home. Sing it, if a melody comes to you!)

2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me…
4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning…
10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. Psalm 30:2; 4-5; 10-12

Our healing comes from God; physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. These trials won’t last forever. God’s favor will see us through to the end. This season of hardship is a long night of tears, but joy WILL come in the morning! The time for exuberant dancing will return. Let’s not be silent, rather let’s raise our voices in praise in advance!

Prayer: Gracious Lord, you are our refuge and strength. The night of COVID-19 seems dark and endless. Give us your perspective, God, and reassure us that the morning will dawn. We ask for your healing on our world. We pray for wisdom for our leaders. We seek your Spirit’s touch to make our hope new this day. We adore you, God! We make this prayer in your powerful Name. Amen.

 

May 5, 2020

Today is Cinco de Mayo! Have you heard of this holiday? Some people think it is Mexican Independence Day, but this is not correct. (That is celebrated on September 16.) The 5th of May marks the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla in the war between Mexico and France. A ragtag army of Mexican peasants were outnumbered 3 to 1 by a detachment for Napoleon’s professional military men. Yet they won the day! This victory against all the odds became a symbolic rallying cry in the years ahead until the French were finally defeat and driven from Mexico. My dear friends the Cielo family, who are among the active Soldiers of the OBT and Blue Island Corps, come from Puebla. I honor them on Cinco de Mayo as they display the same courage, fortitude, and resilience of their Poblano forefathers in living their lives for Christ in the Metro Division today! At the Hurula house tonight, there will be a feast of tacos, tamales, and special sandwiches from Puebla called Cemitas as we celebrate. Thinking about those who overcame when no one imagined they could reminds me of the children of Israel and King Jehoshaphat in our scripture for today…

15 “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s… 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

18 Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. 19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. 2 Chronicles 20:15;17-19

If you feel outnumbered and outmatched by everything you have to do today, by this pandemic, by the hardships you are facing, take courage! You’re not alone. The battle is the Lord’s and in His strength you will prevail! Let’s do like the Israelites of old, worship the Lord and lift up a voice of praise as we serve people in His name today!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to take up our positions, to stand firm, and to have faith in You as you daily bring us toward victory. We ask for your blessing on those who are grieving today, those who are impoverished and lonely due to COVID19. Raise up your Army each day to care for those who are hurting and to share your hope with the discouraged. We love you, God! It is in your Name we pray. Amen.

 

May 4, 2020

How are you coping with this stay-at-home order when it comes to not being able to gather with others for worship? My neighbor is a leader of the single young adult ministry for his church and his faith community meets on a Zoom call every Sunday at noon to share the scriptures and encourage each other. I am a part of a small group Bible study and we have been meeting using the Lifesize video call platform. Last night we shared a prayer time and then played Trivial Pursuit, which was hilarious. We miss being together in each other’s’ homes, but this was the next best thing. A few brass musicians from our Corps in two ensembles played hymns outside 4 different homes and a retirement community. I don’t know if the residents or the players were more blessed by the experience! Whether via livestream or recorded services, our Christian communities are finding new ways to carry the timeless message to all the world that God’s love is with us. We can hardly wait for the restrictions to be lifted and to be able to gather in person once again! But, in the meantime I want to encourage you to keep sharing your faith. We can take inspiration from today’s scripture lesson which records the day Jesus returned to the synagogue in his home town…

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you set an example for us in keeping the Sabbath, gathering with other believers for worship and study of the Scriptures. You also gave us the great commission to carry your message to the ends of the earth: God’s favor is with the poor and the prisoner, the blind and the oppressed. As we serve you today, missing so much all the ways we used to be able to gather, we ask you to give us your Spirit’s touch. Give us hope for tomorrow and gladness in our presence, we pray. In your Name we ask. Amen.

 

April 29, 2020

I continue to be surprised and inspired by the care I see neighbors expressing for one another during this pandemic. Today our friends’ daughter has her birthday. She can’t have a party or typical gathering due to social distancing. But this afternoon dozens of friends and family will drive by her home honking and waving and cheering; letting the whole neighborhood know that this young woman is special and especially loved!

Yesterday when I was delivering emergency meal boxes I arrived at one address and the recipient greeted me from the upstairs window above her front door. There was a long sidewalk from the street to her porch, and as I walked up to the door and back she poured down words of blessing, encouragement, concern for my safety and wellbeing. Even as I crossed the street and returned to the van she never stopped telling me all the things I should be doing to practice good self-care for body and soul! Salvation Army Metro Division, take heart! Your efforts are making a huge difference in the lives of so many people. Our Scripture today includes the words of the Lord Jesus to remind us His love and His mission. His heart is with the hungry and thirsty. He turns no one away. He will raise us up! …

35Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:35-40

Prayer: Dear Jesus, we love and praise you! Thank you for all the ways we see your hand of mercy at work around us. Spark in our minds and hearts the desire and the courage to comfort and serve those who are hurting. Give us your vision for ways we can share your message of love, through words and acts of kindness. We ask for your Spirit to accompany, guide, and protect us today. It’s in your Name we pray. Amen.”

 

April 28, 2020

Almost twenty years ago, I was part of a group of believers who pioneered Salvation Army ministry intentionally focused on reaching and caring for Spanish-speaking neighbors in east-central Dupage County.  This was in the months right after 9-11 and there was a lot of tension, anxiety, and social unease in the community.  It was different in the details, yet I think it was similar in many ways to the feelings surrounding us now.  As we shared the Scriptures together each week, the Psalm that is our reading for today became a favorite and one we used as a theme passage particularly in that first year…

1 How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore..”  Psalm 133:1-3

Today as you go about your work for the Lord in Army ministry, it is a living demonstration of the goodness and pleasantness of God’s people in unity.  The psalmist’s poetic metaphor of fragrant and valuable anointing oil being poured out on God’s servants speaks to us of the Holy Spirit and His refreshing and empowering presence in our life.  Likewise, the imagery of the morning dew.  My family lived for a year in San Antonio, TX during a time of drought.  It only rained 3 times the whole year and very rarely did the air temperature and the humidity result in reaching the dew point.  It was a stark contrast for us who were accustomed to the climate of Chicago.

How lush and green is the grass on summer mornings drenched in dew!  That’s how it is like when God pours out his blessings on us as we serve others in unity and in His love.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we seek a fresh anointing of your Spirit today.  Unite us in our common humanity and need of You.  Renew within us a right spirit, of compassion and dedication to your mission.  May your joy and peace permeate our lives so that our coworkers and those whom we serve experience your presence through our ministry.  We ask you to grant these blessing as we make this prayer in your Name.  Amen.”

 

April 27, 2020

We begin yet another week of life and ministry under this state-wide “stay at home” order.  Over and over we see this Army at work through creative expressions of practical compassion and hope-giving witness.  God has His hand on you in this time and He is using you for His glory.  Your ministry is needed now like never before.  From the key support functions which keep the mission moving forward, to the frontline caregivers serving neighbors on the phone or with their facemasks in place, to the folks packing bags and boxes of meals in pantries and warehouses: you are Jesus’ hands and feet in this time of pandemic.  As you labor for Him, take courage and strength from the words of His prophet…

6 On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;
8  he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
9 In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”  Isaiah 25:6-9

Prayer: Father God, we ask for your blessing once again today.  Help us approach a new week with renewed commitment and resolve to meet each challenge with faith in You.  You have the answers we need and the strength we require.  By your grace, help us trust you and rely on you more.  We long for the day when we’ll see this suffering and loss diminish and ultimately come to an end.  In the meantime, grant us your peace and reassurance to face this trial.  We pray in your holy Name.  Amen.

 

April 24, 2020

Each day we receive as many as 50 calls on the Emotional and Spiritual Care Hotline – 877.740.8829. We are grateful for everyone who has shared the number throughout Chicagoland. Many callers simply want to express their appreciation for the meal box which was delivered to them. We use those opportunities to remind them of God’s great love for us all and His ever-present grace. When the caller needs material assistance beyond the emotional and spiritual care we provide, we reach out to the Service Extension volunteer or Corps that serves their area. We say a huge “THANK YOU” for the way everyone has stepped up to respond! One caller, through his tears, told us that his supply of food at home had completely run out and he was two days without anything to eat before his emergency meal box arrived. In all our roles, we each one continually rely on God’s mercy to work in and through this Army to fulfill our mission. Our hearts resonate with the Psalmist who wrote…

“1In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city;
God makes salvation
its walls and ramparts.

2 Open the gates
that the righteous nation may enter,
the nation that keeps faith.

3 You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.

4 Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.” Psalm 26:1-4

In your tasks today, remember that God is our salvation, His arms of love are open to all, He fills us with peace when we fix our mind and trust on Him, and He is the solid Rock on which we stand in this storm of pandemic!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we love you today. We give you praise and glory for the thousands of lives across Chicagoland who have been touched in this crisis through the ministry you have given us to do. We confess that we need You and we are weary. Holy Spirit, speak to our hearts just now to bring us comfort and peace, to renew our strength to carry on, and to fill us with joy in your service. It’s in Your Name that we pray. Amen.”

 

April 23, 2020

On long road trips my family likes to play “car games.” We try to spot things of a given color, or silos, or the letters of the alphabet on signs. We’ll play “20 Questions”; the category of Disney movie characters is a favorite of my kids. My favorite, though, is to name a category and then find one for each letter of the alphabet: boys names, zoo animals, world capitals, Bible characters, etc. How would you do with the category of songs about love? There are hundreds, right? Love might be the most popular musical theme of all time. Have you found comfort in particular love songs during this time of COVID19? I don’t know when we’ll be able to take our next road trip, but I am fully confident that the day will eventually come. In the meantime, I’m being challenged by today’s Scripture reading…

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” John 15:12-17

Let’s do all we can to pray for and support those who are putting their lives on the line every day for their neighbors through their work in healthcare, civil services, up and done the food supply chain, etc. Let’s live every moment in the joy of the Lord Jesus calling us His friends. He chose us, and He appointed us to the fruitful ministries we are a part of today. Let’s love one another with the love He has shown us!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us! We are surprised over and over by your amazing grace! We ask for a fresh touch from your Holy Spirit as we undertake the tasks set before us today. In big and small ways, help us to show your love to one another. Please accept the offering of our service and bless it bear fruit among those to whom we minister: the fruit of hope, courage, faith, healing, freedom, and salvation. We pray this in Your Name. Amen.”

 

April 22, 2020

Earth Day, an event to increase public awareness of the world’s environmental problems, was celebrated in the United States for the first time fifty years ago today on April 22, 1970. Millions of Americans participated in events and educational programs across the country. The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy. It had an almost immediate successful impact as only a few months later in July of that same year the Environmental Protection Agency was established to regulate and enforce national pollution legislation. Earth Day also led to the passage of the Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

For Salvationists, the principle of “Creation Care” is rising in importance. Our International Social Justice Commission has published these declarations:

  • The Salvation Army believes people are made in the image of God and have been entrusted with the care of the Earth and everything in it.
  • The Salvation Army recognizes environmental degradation as one of the most pressing issues facing the world today with its effects felt disproportionately by the most vulnerable communities, particularly in terms of health, livelihood, shelter and the opportunity to make choices.
  • The Salvation Army is concerned about the effects of environmental damage on present and future generations. Sustainable environmental practices are required to meet today’s global needs and aspirations without compromising the lives of future generations.

We’ll spend this 50th Earth Day serving on the frontlines of pandemic relief or functioning in support roles for that effort.  Some Scripture on which we may reflect comes from the book of Job.  God urges Job, and us, to trust Him and to confide in His sovereignty…

7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
9 Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.”  Job 12:7-10

Our life is in God’s hand, and there is no better or more secure place to be!

Prayer: Father God, we pause just now to marvel in wonder at the world you have made, the works of your hands.  Forgive us for the times we took for granted the environment you provided to nourish us.  Help us, Lord, to become better stewards of all that you have entrusted to our care.  In our ministry of service this day, may our attitude and actions demonstrate the gratitude and responsibility we owe to you.  We ask for these mercies in the Name of your Son. Amen.”

 

April 20, 2020

It’s the start of yet another week, and I’m wondering how are you holding up? Are the social distancing procedures becoming automatic to you or do you have to keep thinking about them? Are the things you miss most weighing on you and making you feel discouraged?  Have you found some aspects of your life and work under these conditions to be a positive improvement? If you are like me, you might admit that it is a mixed bag.

For sure there are so many losses we are grieving, but there ARE some blessings for which can truly give thanks! The Apostle Paul could have been addressing us with his concluding exhortations in his first letter to the Thessalonians …

“…encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14b-24

Are helping, encouraging, rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks at the top of your “To Do” list each day? The Holy Spirit wants to use you to bless others in this season, so don’t quench His work in your life. When you feel overwhelmed today, remember this. The truth is, the moment when we come to the end of our own capacity and resources is the moment we are in the best posture for the God of peace to sanctify us!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the positive blessings we are finding even in this time of sickness and loss! Open our eyes to the evidence of your love and care around us. Holy Spirit, we need you. Do you sanctifying work in our life again today. We praise you for your faithfulness. We entrust you with our loved ones, our community, and our ministry tasks today. We present these requests before you in your Name. Amen.”

 

April 17, 2020

Our God is a God of redemption. He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. He takes what others meant for evil and uses it for our betterment. In his time, He turns our mourning into laughter. One scriptural metaphor for this truth which I especially love is included in Handel’s oratorio Messiah; every valley will be exalted! Let us all be on the lookout for ways that God is redeeming the present crisis to bring us closer to Him, to display His compassion, and to show His grace. The effects of the pandemic in Chicagoland have brought some hard realities out of the shadows. Examples include the plight of the poor, the unequal health outcomes of different communities, and the imbalanced access to resources among diverse populations. God wants to use us to change these realities for the better. He sent His prophet Isaiah to give His people a message in times in many ways much like our own…

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden; like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:9b-11

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for redeeming us when we were far from you. Thank you for taking the brokenness of our lives and remaking us in the image of your Son. Forgive us for the times we have turned a blind eye to people and systems around us in dire need of redemption. We give you praise for all the ways you are using Salvationists in these days to bring hope as they spend themselves in behalf of those battling this pandemic. We ask you to give us a clear vision of how you want to use us in your redemptive mission in this world and grant us the courage to speak up and do your will. We ask these things in your Name. Amen.”

 

April 16, 2020

A couple of the phrases I hear a lot these days are “We’re in this together” and “We’ll get through this together.” But our current practices of social distancing, quarantine, and isolation all have the effect of causing people to feel alone. The longer this crisis goes on, the greater the sense of loneliness many experience. Translating slogans into reality takes intentional effort. Salvationists, staff, and volunteers engaged in ministry today are putting substance to the hope and desire for “togetherness” in spite of the anti-contagion policies we all must observe.

Everywhere across our Division there is abundant evidence that we are putting into practice the Scripture that tells us…

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

In these times of economic and medical crisis, let’s tighten our grip on what is good. We don’t seek our own safety or recovery alone, but our devotion to each other is an outward display of God’s love. In our service, by God’s Spirit we can show forth enthusiasm, passion, or eagerness to share what we have.

Prayer: God in heaven, your joy is the strength of our life. You are worthy of all our praise! We ask for power and courage in our time of need. Fan into flame the gift of your Spirit within us. Grant us hearts full of love to share with those who are hurting and lonely. Help us overcome all sorrow and fear. We ask in your Name. Amen.”

 

April 15, 2020

I was shocked this morning to find my car covered in SNOW! Not what I wanted to see in the middle of April! I had been enjoying in the last few days the plants coming up from the soil and many of the trees starting to bud and bloom. Now they are covered in a coat of icy white. The snow made the roads slick and caused a pre-dawn, 60-car pileup on the Kennedy Expressway.  With my day starting on such a down note, I was reminded that Luke’s Gospel records a story that holds special meaning and encouragement for us today. As we journey together in ministry during the COVID19 pandemic and facing so many obstacles and even a late-season arctic blast, I believe this narrative can speak something we need to hear. In the late afternoon of the day Christ arose…

“Now on that same day, the first day of the week, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. … As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?””  Luke 24:13-16;28-32

What keeps your eye from seeing Jesus at work around you? For these two, perhaps it was sorrow and disillusionment, fear and grief. Could our own swirling emotions perhaps blind us to the still-living and active Christ in our midst? It was the Lord’s simple but loving act of sharing food and a blessing that opened their eyes. Hearing the words of Scripture from Him touched their hearts. I believe we are Christ’s ambassadors and as we share food and a blessing many will see Him and know they are loved. In all your busyness and effort to serve, be sure to take time for yourself today, to spend a moment with God, open his Word, and feel your heart warmed by his Spirit.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I ask you to walk with us today as you did with those two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Calm our fears, ease our anxieties, and comfort our sorrowing hearts. Nourish our soul with your Word. Grant us strength to serve others with Your love. May their eyes and our own be opened to see You in one another. It’s in Your Name that we pray.  Amen.”

 

April 14, 2020

It is a common aphorism that we tend to see what we are looking for.  If we have a critical eye or suspicious perspective, we will tend to see what confirms our bias.  If we look for the best in people or situations, we’ll likewise be more likely to see a more positive outcome.  On what do you have your eyes focused?  Years ago, McDonald’s had an ad campaign that urged viewers, “Keep your eyes on your fries!”  When I lived in San Antonio I recall that it was common to hear these words sung (to the tune of I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad) – “The eyes of Texas are upon you!” with the sense of high expectations for achievement.  In our Scripture passage for today the Psalmist tells us that the eye of the Lord is upon us:

“Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him, on those who wait upon his love, To pluck their lives from death, and to feed them in time of famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.  21 Indeed, our heart rejoices in him, for in his holy Name we put our trust. Let your loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, as we have put our trust in you.”  Psalm 33:18-22

In these days of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty due to the pandemic, let’s keep our faith strong.  He loves us, he is the source of our life, and he feeds our soul.  He is our help and protector in times of trouble. Take comfort in knowing that if his eye is on the sparrow, you can know that he certainly watches over you!  Keep your eye focused to see him at work around you and through you as you serve him today.

Prayer: Lord God, we give you thanks for your compassionate, watchful eyes of mercy.  We long for an end to the suffering, grief, and distress which has descended upon our community.  We are waiting on you and fully trusting in your loving-kindness.  Your faithfulness to generations past inspires our hope for today.  Grant us vision to see your hand of grace at work in this Army of yours!  We give you all the praise through Jesus, our Savior and friend.  Amen.”

 

April 13, 2020

A new day, a new week, a new outlook and perspective in the light of Easter!  Our labor is not in vain.  Each act of kindness, each meal box, each phone call for emotional and spiritual care, all these and so many more bring hope and courage to neighbors in distress.  While the needs are immense and far beyond our capacity to meet, God’s grace and love continually prove to be more than sufficient.

Let your spirit resonate with these words from the Psalmist:

“My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; my body also shall rest in hope. For you will not abandon me to the grave, nor let your holy one see the Pit. You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.”  Psalm 16:9-11

Christ is risen!  He went to the grave and conquered death!  This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!  When our muscles ache from the efforts of our service, God invites us to rest in His hope.  We’re on the path of life, though the going may be rough.  His presence surrounds us and offers us fullness of joy.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we seek a fresh portion of your grace to meet the challenges of today.  Your mercies are new every morning.  Help us to perceive your nearness and to follow your Spirit’s guiding hand.  You’ve comforted us so that we can comfort others.  When our patience wears thin and our frustration with our “new normal” in this time of pandemic grinds us down, may your peace like a river attend our way. We ask for these blessings in your Name.  Amen.”

 

April 10,2020

For many Christians, Good Friday is considered the most holy day on the calendar.  We commemorate on this day the ultimate sacrifice, the Son of God laid down his life, he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. In years past this may have been a day of quiet reflection, but in 2020 for many of us it is a time of anxiety and stress as we cope with the myriad effects of the pandemic.

A Scripture portion that speaks to the meaning of this day and to our present circumstances is Hebrews 12:1-3:  “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.”

 

April 9, 2020

Social distancing while doing ministry is so difficult!  Our impulse is to extend our hand or a pat on the shoulder to those around us.  Holding back runs counter to our experience and prior practice. Folks are weary or overwhelmed, and we want more than anything to ease their pain and lift their burdens!  Our present ministry context is different from any we’ve known before. But our calling and our mission are unchanged! The Psalmist gives us a challenge for today. Are you ready to accept it?

“Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him, and speak of all his marvelous works. Glory in his holy Name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.  Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face.” Psalm 105:1-4

Can we find things for which to give thanks, even in these days of crisis? Have you seen the love of God at work in the Army ministries where you serve? Let’s make those “God-sightings” known to everyone!   Whether you were born with musical gifts or you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, your actions in caring for your neighbors and co-laborers are a song of praise to God! Scripture promises that we will seek Him and find Him, when we seek Him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13). I am convinced that seeking and seeing the face of God in the faces of those whom we serve will bring us joy and strength.

Prayer: “Heavenly Father, bless us today with an extra measure of your power and mercy.  Open our eyes to see You in the people and activity all around us. Help us to point people toward You when we have opportunities to share our story of faith.  We need more of your joy in this season of suffering, loss, and uncertainty. Though our faith is small compared to the immense needs that press down on us, we know You are greater by far!  Strengthen our faith, we pray in Your Name.”

 

April 8, 2020

The headlines we see each morning are disturbing and can make us anxious.  The number of COVID-19 cases grows, the stress of caring for those in need continues to mount, and the resolution of this crisis is not yet clearly in view.  God is in the midst of all of this! His Spirit is at work in and through His people! That’s you and me! The Psalmist’s words give utterance to the pleading of your heart and mine today: “In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be ashamed. In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free; incline your ear to me and save me.  Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; you are my crag and my stronghold. Deliver me, my God, … you are my hope, O Lord … I have been sustained by you … you have been my strength; my praise shall be always of you.” Psalm 71:1-6

We cry out for our community to be delivered.  By faith we are finding again and again that God is our refuge, our strong rock, and our sustainer.

Prayer: “Dear Lord, grant strength and grace to your servants today.  May their caring ministry, listening ear, and compassionate sacrifice bring comfort to the hurting and bring praise to You.  We ask for these blessings in your holy Name.”

 

Daily Devotionals from Major Johanna Pook
April 7, 2020

I watched a news report last week that showed this guy running in place right on his balcony. He has been training all this time for a marathon and unfortunately due to everything being cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he will not be able to run the marathon he has trained so hard for. So, he decided he will run in place on his balcony the equivalent distance of a marathon. Watching this guy do this led me to think about how marathon runners are often faced with a variety of obstacles when they are in a race. They face poor road conditions, hills, curves, wind, sun, rain, screaming people, sweat and clinging clothes all of which makes their running difficult. The guy running on his balcony did not have to face all those obstacles but mainly the same boring view of his balcony scenery. Regardless of running outdoors or running on the balcony one of the things that impress me about runners is the commitment to accomplish their goal.

The Bible talks about perseverance when it tells us in Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV);Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” So as we continue on this marathon, do not give up my friends! The view for you might be the same boring place or you might be running through some rough conditions. Whatever the case, continue pressing on while keeping your eyes on Jesus! Our communities count on our services. People depend on our love. The Lord desires our faithful services. And remember, be blessed and stay safe!

 

April 6, 2020

During these days all of us have been meeting with our ministry teams either through phone conferences, Teams, Zoom, Facetime, etc., all with the goal of planning what our next steps could possibly be as we aim to continue to provide services to our people. Lots of planning, lots of creative thinking, lots of trial by error, and as things change daily, lots of re-strategizing of our plans of execution and so on and so forth of a lot of lots. Maybe you are running out of ideas on ways you can keep up with what’s taking place and how to do the things God has called you to do.

Another of my favorite verses of scripture (I do have quite a few favorites) is this one from Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) which states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your path straight.” We have to remember that God has got this and that He will grant us the wisdom we so need in order to continue to do His work within the restrictions and regulations we currently face. Continue to ask the Lord to increase your knowledge of Him and of what directions you should take in all of your ministry. Be Blessed and Stay Safe!

 

April 3, 2020

We are so blessed in our division to have some creative, talented and giving officers. Everybody has been hard at planning and strategizing ways we can continue to meet our community needs. We are still calling our people, sharing random acts of kindness with others and we continue to pray for one another. Why do we do this? We do this because of our love for God and ultimately, because of His love for us! You remember that old 60s song that said, “what the world, needs now, is love, sweet love…” 55 years since it was released, those words are still true and boy, we do need to show some love to one another during these days.

Next week as we gear up for celebrating Good Friday and Easter, although differently to how we have celebrated this in the past, we still have an incredible opportunity to share about God’s love to everyone through all of our connections. More than ever the world needs to know about God’s love and we can be diligent to share that message. Why do we do all we do? “We love because He first loved us” 1 John 4:19 (NIV). Be blessed, keep on loving God’s children and be safe!

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