February 2016

Read 1 John 3:14-22

from Zach Estep, Co-Pastor, St. Albans First Christian Church

No matter what we want to attribute it to, we all have periods in life when we question our salvation. When someone questions us about our faith, when we let our flesh have its way and we make a stupid decision, it is natural to have doubts and wonder if Christ has truly entered our hearts and made us new creatures as the scriptures say.

It is for these moments in life that we need this word from 1st John. The Good News that we read here is that our salvation is not based on our ability to have perfect behavior all the time, but that transformation does become evident in how we feel towards those who are in need. For we know that Christ abides in our hearts because we have compassion for those who are cold or hungry, and because we do something to help them if we can. We can know that our sins have been washed away and our names are written in the Lambs Book of Life because of the change that begins deep on the inside in the heart. This change is shown in how we become less about ourselves and learn to love more.

Help us, Lord, to let your presence in us be made known –

known to others, and known to ourselves –

through our loving compassion and acts of mercy


Read Luke 13:1-9

from Judy Bennett, Bridgeport, Ohio

            REPENT!   REPENT! REPENT! Get the message?   On this third Sunday in Lent, Jesus most certainly attempts to drive home the point as he calls us to repentance three times, the third being with the parable of the fig tree. And if we don’t? It’s simple…we shall perish! Perish as a withered fig tree.

Why does that word makes us so uncomfortable as Christians? And why do we despise the word so greatly? We seldom hear it even from the pulpit. Maybe it’s because repentance is not a one-time action on our part. What if we honestly faced our sin and made repentance an everyday part of our spiritual growth?             Ouch! That just might mean that we need develop a new perspective – one of acknowledging sin in all of its complexity. What if at the end of the day we not only count our blessings, but also our sins, and repent of them immediately – sins both of commission and omission. I need not name them – we know what they are. We also know that God’s judgment is certain, and also that he transforms us through grace. Life’s fragility gives repentance its urgency. As we continue the journey with Jesus to the cross, may our repentance be sincere and complete so that our trees may bear lush fruit for all to see.

O God, open my eyes that I may see the full extent of that

which separates me from the fullness of your love.   Amen.

Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

from Darrell Pierce, Clarksburg, West Virginia

This is one of the most encouraging and comforting passages in the Bible.  In times of stress, it assures us that we are not facing an impossible situation, but one which many have faced throughout history.  God prepared a way out for them and will prepare a way out for us.  It promises that God will provide light in the darkest situation.

But this text gives no approval for careless living.  Verse 12 reminds us that some carelessly feel that they are safe when they are not. The Israelites in the wilderness were examples of this carelessness.  God’s care was shown by the manna and the water from the rock, but many ignored God’s instructions and lived careless, disobedient lives and many died as a result of their carelessness.

In Christ, God offers a covenant to all people.  In a covenant, the superior power grants gifts, rights, and privileges, but the lesser power is expected to meet certain conditions.  God’s promises have conditions for us to meet.

In this chapter, Paul states that God will always give us a way out of any danger, but that God requires that we live a life of worship and obedience.  Lent is a time to make sure that our worship and obedience are up to God’s standards.

Our Father, we glory in your promises of care and blessings.  

May we never take you for granted and forget to humble ourselves before you and to serve you with all our hearts.  

In this Lenten season, may we renew our confidence in you,

as well as our desire to serve you.

Read Psalm 63:1-9

from Valerie Parsons, Co-Pastor, Wheeling Island Christian Church

The older I grow, the more it seems that life is a Psalm, each day a new one, like today’s scripture written by King David. In a class I took at Buffalo Seminary last fall I made the comment that I loved all the Psalms and wasn’t sure I could pick a favorite with which to work. Several of the others attending were quick to say “There are some terrible Psalms!” I had to agree. There are, but I was too embarrassed to say that that’s what I love about them! I love them all because I see myself and my life reflected in them.

Some days are wonderful and so full of grace and light that praise comes easily for me. Other days are dark, and I feel terribly alone and lost. On still other days, my thoughts and feelings can be as vicious as anything found in the Psalms. That gives me hope, because even in the very worst of them, the psalmist still manages to somehow turn it all to praise. I hope that as I live out my days– the good, the bad, and the downright ugly—I can somehow manage to live it all as praise, too.

God of Hope, as we journey through Lent

help us to live all of our days for your honor glory.

Read Psalm 28

from Gregory Widener, Huntington, West Virginia

Psalm 28 contains a number of interesting titles for God. In verse 1 we have “my rock.” In verse 7 we have the words “the Lord is my strength and shield,” and in verse 8 we have the words “fortress of his anointed.” In the last verse of this Psalm most translations say “be their shepherd” (of Israel), but the Hebrew actually says “be the feeder of the people.”

The interesting thing about some of the names and titles for God in the scriptures is that some of them do not seem to modify God well. For example, we have in Psalm 28 the words “rock,” “shield,” and “fortress” used for God. Normally, if you want to use skilled metaphors for something you use the same typology for comparison. For example, if you want to describe an inanimate object (like a rock) you would use another inanimate object for comparison; if you want to compare a biological entity (like a person) you would use another biological creature for comparison. Yet we find in scripture that God is compared to a rich variety of objects, creatures, and human descriptions. Since God is simply beyond human description, any comparison will do as long as it makes a point.

I believe that meditating on the titles, metaphors, and names of God is a very helpful way to draw our hearts closer to God—particularly in the Lenten season. The very purpose of Lent is to acknowledge our own sins and frailties in light of the awesome forgiveness, grace and redemption of God. When we ponder the vast number of titles for God in the Bible we become more aware that “God’s thoughts are above our thoughts, and God’s ways above our ways.” This realization is a helpful prerequisite for repentance on our part. In this Lenten season, let us contemplate our great God, and choose to draw closer to the God of the Ages.

O God of the Universe, help us to love you more

and to draw ever nearer to You. Amen!

Read Isaiah 55:1-5

from Patrick Felton, Co-Pastor, St. Albans First Christian Church

On a winter morning I was cold.

My pipes were frozen and I had nothing to drink.

And the Lord says “Come all who are thirsty. Come to the waters.”

I was a month away from payday, wondering where my next meal would come from ashamed and humiliated by my poverty.

And the Lord says “Come and buy wine and milk without money or cost”

In the midst of it all, The Lord provided.. I never lacked for food. I spent many nights in places of great food, restaurants, diners, huts of pizza. Yet the hunger remained.

Still when I sit at his table and eat the bread made from wheat I did not grow, when I sit in the temple I did not build, when I drink the wine of grapes I did not harvest, I think of those of nations I know not, who are hungry, thirsty, poor, imprisoned, dying who are faithful yet found their seat at the table. The Lord shall provide to them too. For the day will come that I will come not to the table simply to be fed, but to feed as well.

For he has endowed me with his splendor.

Lord, spark my ear and I will come to you.

Give me the focus to hear that my soul might live.

You are the feast that I hunger for.

Help me feed the masses.

Read 1 John 3:1-3

from David Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister

I’m told by my mother that, when I was about five years old, she ran into a friend who told her that she had passed me walking in our neighborhood, and knowing fully who I was, asked me for my name. The answer I gave her, I am told, was “I am Tom Chafin’s son.” Apparently, that was just delightful to both of the ladies.

But how often do we identify ourselves as sons and daughters of God? Many of us have been told this all of our lives, but how often, when asked, would we reply that our identity is fully vested in God?

It is said that every morning the reformer Martin Luther would touch his brow and remind himself, “Martin, you are baptized.” Do it now – claim your identity. Touch your brow, marked by the waters of baptism. Truly, we have our identity, just like Christ our brother, as a child of God.

Remind us today, O Lord, of who we are,

and of Whose we are in Christ Jesus.

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