Devotionals During the COVID-19 Crisis: Lesson 15 – From Pastor Joyce

Monday April 6, 2020

That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God,

“You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings.
    But you have given me a body to offer.
You were not pleased with burnt offerings
    or other offerings for sin.
Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God—
    as is written about me in the Scriptures.”
  (Psalm 40:6-8)

First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Hebrews 10:5-10 (NLT)

The writer of Hebrews wants to make it very clear to us that Jesus was clear about the reason God sent Him to earth. For hundreds of years of Jewish history, making an animal sacrifice was required in order to achieve forgiveness of sins. However, this sacrifice of an animal brought only limited atonement for sin – the sacrifice needed to be done again and again. That kind of forgiveness was inadequate since it did not make the sinner “holy.” Holy, in the Greek, characterized an act that had lasting effect.

This sort of sacrifice had been part of Jewish worship from the very beginning. The book of Leviticus gives instructions how to make this way of worship meaningful to the people and to God. The whole animal was burned in the altar fire. This was the most extravagant sacrifice that could be made because the entire animal was given to God. This burning of a sacrificial animal transformed the offering into smoke or a “pleasing odor” that God could enjoy. After the sacrifice, an offering of incense, seen as communion with God, was offered. This communion with God came after the sacrifice was made as an atonement for sin.

But as often happens with rituals that are conducted over many years, they lost more and more of their meaning. God was aware of this lessening of devotion to this sort of sacrifice.

The prophet Hosea delivered this message from God: “I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me.” Hosea 6:6.

And King David in one of his psalms reinforces Hosea’s words: “16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.” Psalm 51:16-17

Because of this breakdown in worship and sacrifice, God sent Jesus, His one and only Son to live among us, teach us, and then become the ultimate sacrifice for us. No longer were sacrifices of animals needed. The sacrifice of Jesus was a once and for all time sacrifice. Jesus followed the will of God, coming down from heaven to live among us and to finally offer His own life as a sacrifice for us all.

In this season of Lent, in this week between Palm Sunday and Easter – Holy Week – we are being kept apart by the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot gather together to celebrate this amazing gift God has given us. We cannot together experience communion together or enjoy an Easter breakfast together; we cannot enjoy Easter lilies together or Easter egg hunts or even Easter candy together. This is indeed a different time, a time of sacrifice for all of us, in order to keep as many of us as healthy as possible. This time surely feels like sacrifice.

Although the Bible does not deal with pandemics and how to stay healthy, we can know that God would want us all to do what we are doing now. It may not feel much like God’s will, but it can be seen in this way. We are making a sacrifice so that we can once again worship in our familiar ways. This may a time of feeling that our spirit has been broken. But this brokenness is like what happens when a horse is first ridden. That horse resists the constraints that the rider can put on it. But it does learn; it does the will of the rider. In a similar way, we are broken by God – in order to do the will of God. Doing the will of God also brings us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the gifts from the Holy Spirit.

During this holy season, know that you are doing the will of God by keeping a safe distance between you and all those around you. Let us be in community, although distant from one another, during this time of sacrifice. May this Holy Week be filled with holy times for you. Amen.

-Pastor Joyce Donigian

Devotionals During the COVID-19 Crisis: Lesson 14 – From Pastor Doug

Friday April 3, 2020

12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. 14 For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. 15 Remember what it says: 

“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”

Hebrews 3:12-15 (NLT)

Jackie Pullinger was a Christian missionary who spent her life working with prostitutes, heroin addicts and gang members in the worst neighborhood in Hong Cong.  She spoke about her motivation saying, “God wants us to have soft hearts and hard feet. The trouble with so many of us is that we have hard hearts and soft feet.”  In other words, love and compassion (soft hearts) should get us walking (hard feet) to where we can help those in need.

How do we get hard hearts?  

It’s basically selfishness that pushes out concern for others.  The Bible talks a lot about Pharaoh in Egypt having a hard heart when Moses asked him to free the Jewish slaves.  Pharaoh cared more about holding on to his power than about the suffering of the slaves.  

I think a root cause of selfishness is often fear.  We so fear losing something that we focus on keeping it with no thought about others.  We are so afraid of something, like not enough money or lack of respect or physical danger, that we won’t stop avoiding it, even if we ignore everyone else in the process.

Jesus and God’s angels knew well what fear can do to us.  Again and again they told people in sermons and visions, “Do not be afraid!”  Especially don’t be afraid to do something unselfish and good.  

Our hospital staffs are a wonderful example of this.  They are keeping their hearts soft and their feet hard as they care for Covid19 sufferers.  And we are doing our part.   Yes, we are taking precautions seriously.  But we are doing it as much to protect others as to protect ourselves.  And in many ways we are walking the extra mile to keep people from feeling forgotten and alone.  As we all do this, we also are keeping our hearts from becoming hard.   Thanks be to God. 

-Pastor Doug Donigian

Devotionals During the COVID-19 Crisis: Lesson 13 – From Pastor Joyce

Thursday April 2, 2020

(Written after Nathan the prophet had come to inform David of God’s judgment against him because of his adultery with Bathsheba, and his murder of Uriah, her husband.)
O loving and kind God, have mercy. Have pity upon me and take away the awful stain of my transgressions. Oh, wash me, cleanse me from this guilt. Let me be pure again. For I admit my shameful deed—it haunts me day and night. It is against you and you alone I sinned and did this terrible thing. You saw it all, and your sentence against me is just. But I was born a sinner, yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. You deserve honesty from the heart; yes, utter sincerity and truthfulness. Oh, give me this wisdom.
Sprinkle me with the cleansing blood and I shall be clean again. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. And after you have punished me, give me back my joy again. Don’t keep looking at my sins—erase them from your sight.  1Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires. Don’t toss me aside, banished forever from your presence. Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

Psalm 51:1-12 Living Bible (TLB)

This psalm contains some very familiar words – asking for God’s mercy because of sin and the acknowledgment of our tendency to turn away from God’s direction. That certainly was the case for David, and this was his reason for writing this psalm.

To refresh the backstory found in 2 Samuel 11-12: David was king and as king he was responsible for leading his army into battle. He needed a breather, some R and R, and so he returned to his palace in Jerusalem. But his army continued to engage in battles. He relaxed and even took naps during the day. After one of these naps, he went walking on the roof of his palace. From this vantage point he could look down on the adjoining property. There he saw a beautiful woman bathing. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. He sent a messenger to find out who she was. “Her name is Bathsheba, wife of Uriah,” was the reply. David desired her, wanted to possess her, even though he knew she was another man’s wife.

As king he could ask for someone to come to the palace. That “ask” was really a demand. He asked Bathsheba to come to the palace. She came and David had relations with her. She became pregnant. This was not in David’s plan since he could not blame paternity on her husband because Uriah, her husband, was away fighting the enemy. Since her pregnancy needed to be explained, David decided to call her husband home and have him sleep with his wife. Uriah did return from the fighting, but he refused to return to his own home; rather, he wanted to stay with his troops. Therefore, there could be no way that Uriah might be fooled into thinking this unborn child was his own.

Since that plan didn’t work, David told his captain of the troops, Joab, to put Uriah in a dangerous position on the front line when he returned to the battlefield. Joab followed David’s orders, and Uriah was soon killed. This then allowed David to marry Bathsheba, now a widow. In time the baby was born, and all seemed to be well.

God then sent his prophet Nathan to David. Nathan told David a story about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man wanted to have a feast and, rather than killing one of his own lambs for the feast, he took the only lamb that the poor man owned. David was outraged by the rich man’s selfishness. Nathan then drew the parallel between the rich man/poor man story and David’s treatment of Uriah. David saw how wrong his actions were and confessed his sin to Nathan. Nathan then told David that God had forgiven him but that because of this incident, the baby would soon die. This prophecy came true. David repented. This psalm was written during this time of repentance. David’s honesty in facing his sin shows how repentant he was and how desirous he was of regaining his close relationship with God.

Certainly, David sinned in a mighty way. He lusted after another man’s wife. By his actions he made her commit adultery. He deliberately had her husband killed in order to try to cover up his actions. That’s a lot of sinning.

None of us has traveled such a dark trail of sinning, but all of us do sin. In this time of sheltering in place, it is likely more difficult to get caught up in some kinds of sin. We have minimal contact with others, so it is more difficult to insult others, gossip about them, or do other hurtful things to them. Rather, our sins today are more internal. Perhaps we are having doubts about God’s love of God’s people when so many are contracting COVID-19. Many are sick and more will become sick. Many are dying and more will die. But many are recovering and many more will recover.

Perhaps one of the ways we can sin today is to be filled with worry and anxiety. It seems like this is the only thing we can do since we are powerless to do more than stay at home away from others. Situations such as we are now facing can lead us not to trust in God’s love for us and the promises God gave us through Jesus. But there is a real problem with getting caught up in worry and anxiety – it doesn’t help anyone or anything. It only makes us feel lost or alone or abandoned. It tempts us to feel that we have no one on which to rely but fate or ourselves. This is not where God would have us focus.

In these troubled times, our lack of faith and trust in God’s promises come from our focus on safety for ourselves, our loved ones, our friends and neighbors. Certainly, keep praying for a cure or a vaccine or other ways to minimize the impact of this virus on those we love. Caring through prayer for ourselves and others is a very good thing, but we can also use this time to remember and give thinks for what we do have. And we do have much to be thankful for – especially a loving God Who is in control, even though it sometimes doesn’t much feel like it right now. God is ready to listen to prayers, prayers of concern, anxiety, for health, for the end of the pandemic, whatever is on our hearts. God is also always ready to listen, always ready to forgive. This psalm is a way to give voice to our concerns and to ask for a clean start – no more anxiety, no more worry, no more doubt. Instead let us bask in the joy that comes from confession and forgiveness and trusting in our Lord.

Some of these words of this psalm have been set to music. It is available on YouTube below:

“Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God” by Keith Green

Create in me a clean heart, O God,and renew a right spirit within me.Cast me not away from your presence,and take not your Holy Spirit from me.Restore to me the joy of your salvation,and uphold me with your free Spirit.

-Pastor Joyce Donigian

Devotionals During the COVID-19 Crisis: Lesson 12 – From Pastor Doug

Wednesday April 1, 2020

44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ 48 You are witnesses of all these things.

49 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

Luke 24:44-49 (NLT)

To fully benefit from this passage, we need to remember the setting.  Jesus had risen from the dead and was reminding his amazed disciples of what they had learned.  Jesus had just gone through betrayal by one of his own followers, humiliation by a squad of Roman soldiers, and a barbaric death nailed to a cross.  He was still living in his wounded body.

He could have reacted with rightful anger.  He could have called on the legions of angels at his disposal to seek vengeance.  He could have given up on the people who convinced themselves that they were right to kill him.  He could have abandoned them to Satan without hope.

But he didn’t.  He offered forgiveness to all who would repent.  And he instructed his followers to do likewise.  He did not abandon us to greed, fear, and violence – the goals of Satan.  Rather he sent the Holy Spirit to enable us to bear the troubles of this world, just as he had.  Jesus did not let the trouble in this world change him.  It did not diminish his faith or his love.

Yes, the news is dark.  Best case projections are that 100,000 Americans will not survive this virus.  But every one of them who believes will join Jesus in heaven.  That same Holy Spirit, that Jesus sent to his followers, is with us now, helping us to face the current troubles and to care as much about others as ourselves.  Let us not let the virus change us or make us less followers of Jesus.  Rather let us all encourage one another in faith.  And let us look forward to the time when this challenge passes.  

-Pastor Doug Donigian

Devotionals During the COVID-19 Crisis: Lesson 11

Tuesday March 31, 2020

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:19-21 (NLT)

During the last week and a half or so, I have been able to read one chapter per night from a book called “The King’d Messenger”by Carolyn Clare Givens as a bedtime story for the young families of the congregation of my church. It is a fictional tale that is set in a faraway Kingdom where the King has several messengers who’s whole purpose is to serve the King, and the main character is a young messenger named, “Smuggins”.

Yesterday’s chapter was titled “The King’s Ambassador”, and in this chapter, Smuggins and the rest of the messengers were tasked to go throughout the Kingdom, including to people who had rebelled against the King, and to tell them that the King will forgive them if they only stop their rebellion. The messengers were scared to do this, but they gained confidence that if people were upset, they wouldn’t be upset at them; they would be upset at the King because they were relaying the words of the King. They were the King’s Ambassadors.

Chapter 9: The King’s Ambassadors

Like Smuggins, we are all messengers for our King, and we have been tasked to spread a message of reconciliation and love, just as Smuggins was tasked to tell others of the King’s offer of forgiveness. But what does that look like from inside of our doors as we are stuck inside?

I think it means something like calling those we love to check in on them and to see if they are doing okay, and then asking what we can pray for.

I think it means remaining faithful to God’s hope in the face of fear and confusion.

I think it means taking advantage of this time to have intentional conversations with those closest to us about the faith that pushes us onward; about the God who forgives us and calls us back to grace.

– Jon Bauman

Devotionals During the COVID-19 Crisis: Lesson 10

Monday March 30, 2020 – From Pastor Joyce Donigian

15 That is why, ever since I heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and of the love you have for Christians everywhere, 16-17 I have never stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you wisdom to see clearly and really understand who Christ is and all that he has done for you. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can see something of the future he has called you to share. I want you to realize that God has been made rich because we who are Christ’s have been given to him! 19 I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great his power is to help those who believe him. It is that same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in heaven, 21 far, far above any other king or ruler or dictator or leader. Yes, his honor is far more glorious than that of anyone else either in this world or in the world to come. 22 And God has put all things under his feet and made him the supreme Head of the Church— 23 which is his body, filled with himself, the Author and Giver of everything everywhere.

Ephesians 1:15-23 Living Bible (TLB)

Do you remember times in your life when someone praised you? Someone you admired who was now applauding your accomplishments? Or perhaps you remember winning an award or winning a sporting event and heard shouts of encouragement. Or perhaps it was an unexpected encouraging word from someone whom we have admired.

Whatever the situations, those memories bring smiles to our faces and warmth to our hearts. It is part of who we are to feel pleasure at getting compliments.

These words of Paul’s recorded in his letter to the Ephesians bring thoughts of comfort and pleasure because they remind us that God is pleased with us when we follow in Christ’s footsteps. Paul commends those reading this letter for their strong faith in Jesus and the love that they share with others.

What a compliment! Paul has not been with these folks to see first-hand how they are witnessing their faith and love; instead, he has heard reports from others. This means that their faith is faith in action – faith shown in how they relate to one another and to others. They are showing love in a way this can best explained by the shape of the cross – their love is both vertical – love for God in Christ and horizontal – love for those around them. This is a good reminder to all people. Too often we rely heavily on our own efforts, driven by our own wisdom, carried out by our own abilities. We too often can become more reliant on ourselves and less reliant on God.

Paul tells them something we all know – that we cannot be faithful to Jesus and not love the other Christians. Nor can we love other Christians rightly and not be faithful toward God. Christianity is built on these two principles – to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor. We are called to live beyond ourselves. We are called to live for Christ and for one another. Paul praises them and declares that he has heard of their faithfulness to Jesus and the love for the saints. This causes Paul to pray continually for the Ephesian Christians with thanksgiving to God. But listen to what Paul wants God to give these Christians.

Paul is also encouraging them to do more because their faith will lead them to greater wisdom and understanding. In other words, by continuing to live their faith, they will grow in the knowledge of who Christ is and what Christ has done for them. What he has heard about them is wonderful, but even greater things are in store for them as their faith continues to grow. Additionally, Paul knows from his own experience that as wisdom and understanding increase, they will gain greater insights into the indescribable power of God.

We have just heard that the President has extended social distancing guidelines until the end of April. We cannot know what this coming month might bring. Our lives are in so many ways put on hold. We are asked to rely on ourselves more than ever before since we are no longer able to rely on friends, social gatherings, and other activities that might add additional benefits to our lives. But we are not alone. We have our faith in God and our love for others to uplift and uphold us.

We are encouraged to find ways to show that faith and love in order that we might continue to grow in wisdom and understanding. Our all-powerful God is with us, seeing how we respond to this crisis. By staying home, even from church, we can slow down the spread of COVID-19 in Quakertown. While we are sheltering in place, we can pray in thanksgiving for all of those who have stepped up to care for those who are sick – the doctors, nurses, techs, EMTs, police, and all those unnamed folks who clean, mop, wipe, empty trash, and all of the other behind-the-scenes activities that are necessary to keep our hospitals as safe as possible. And to all of the volunteers who are making masks at home, all who are looking for ways to help during this difficult time – we give thanks to God for all these folks who are witnessing to their faith.

In all things we are to continue to grow in faith – faith in action – because we desire to grow in wisdom and understanding of the power, might, and love of our God.

There is a song that describes this longing for greater heart-knowledge of God. The title is “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord.” Below are the lyrics, but if you want to listen to these wonderful words, it is available on YouTube Here!

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You (repeated)

To see You high and lifted up
Shinin’ in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You (repeated)

To see You high and lifted up
Shinin’ in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy

To see You high and lifted up
Shinin’ in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy
To see You high and lifted up
Shinin’ in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy

Holy, holy, holy
We cry holy, holy, holy
You are holy, holy, holy
I want to see you

Holy, holy, holy
Holy, holy, holy
You are holy, holy, holy
I want to see you

Holy, holy, holy
Holy, holy, holy
Holy, holy, holy,
I want to see you

Source: LyricFind
Songwriter: Paul Joseph Baloche

May you be blessed this day with the knowledge that our faith in Almighty God and our love for others will bring wisdom and understanding – even in such times as these. We (Pastors Doug and Joyce) have witnessed your faith and your love, your growing wisdom and understanding, and we thank God for you all. We pray for you. We love you. Be safe. Be well.

Blessings, Pastors Doug and Joyce

Devotionals During the COVID-19 Crisis: Lesson 9

Friday March 27, 2020

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

I have never liked crowds, but for some reason, when I’m at large outdoor concerts, they don’t bother me. I tend to ignore the other people, and just focused with the people that I am with, and the music that is playing, and I get by. But the best concerts are not always the ones with the best sound, or even the best bands; the best concerts are the ones that make an impact on you and the people that you’re with. Sometimes this impact is just because the music is really good, sometimes its just because it was a lot of fun, but the really good concerts are the ones that inspire you to do something.

For a few years in a row in my teen years, I went to one of the largest outdoor Christian Music festivals in the country with a church group that I was connected with. I listened to some of the bands I saw, but the experience was much more than the music. For several days, I was surrounded by people I loved, I listened to motivational and encouraging music and special speakers, and on the last night the whole ‘audience’ lit candles and took communion. There were around 100,000 people there on the last night.

Those concert experiences had a drastic impact on my life for a few weeks and months afterwards. I was more into my faith, mor positive in general, and I kept wanting to go back.

But soon, the excitement faded as everyday life crept in.

When we pray, we remind ourselves that we have a God who listens to us and is able to help us through anything.

When we read the Bible, we remind ourselves that our faith is all about a story; a story of God caring for and guiding God’s people through many hardships and many joys.

When we gather to worship God together, even if its through a virtual service, we remind ourselves that we are part of a community of different people who are all seeking the one true God.

When we say the historic Creeds of the faith, or when we say The Lord’s Prayer, we are joining Christians around the globe and throughout time in worshiping our God.

In the everyday worries and stress of this crisis, in the times of bad news or fears, it will be easy to abandon the parts of our faith that inspire us with the strength to overcome fear. I will be easy to abandon a faith that provides true empathy and hope in the midst of suffering.

And so, while praying and reading, and listening to services may all provide you with an opportunity to engage with God and with the Church, strive to make those times inspiring for you. Take those times seriusly by prioritizing them in your life – like taking medicine for the soul.

At a time such as this, we cannot let our perception of the power of our faith fade from our sight, and from our lives.

May you all be blessed.

Look for the next devotional on monday, and tune in to see our Sunday Service any time 8am and after, here:

Devotionals During the COVID-19 Crisis: Lesson 8

Thursday March 26, 2020

1-3 So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!

3-5 That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.

Romans 6:1-5 (The Message)

Five years ago, I adopted Ally, the first dog that I have had as an adult. When I was searching for a dog, I wanted the dog to be at least a year old, housebroken, and well-mannered, but Ally was a 4-month old puppy who was not housebroken, had a past that affected her disposition, and who was full of energy.

At the beginning, Ally would have many accidents in the apartment, and even in her crate! It took a little over a month to train her that going outside was the way to go, and even longer to train her that her crate was not a Porta Potty. But once she was housebroken and crate-trained, life was a lot easier! My canine companion and I had more time for other training, more time for snuggles, and I spent significantly less money on carpet cleaner, paper towels and shampoo!

BUT, she still had accidents every now and again, and even now, while she doesn’t have accidents nearly as much as before, if she is scared, or stressed, she might have an accident.

Ally is a good dog who is truly house-broken; her existence is no longer defined by not knowing where to go, or refusing to go where she needs to. But she still has accidents. These accidents don’t make her non-housebroken though – they are just accidents, and I know that.

Imagine though if Ally became housebroken, and then started making a habit of having accidents in the house to the point where I no longer could consider her housebroken anymore. I would then ask myself – maybe I wasn’t stern enough, maybe I was too forgiving, etc..

But the bottom line is that if Ally is truly housebroken, she won’t return to being non-housebroken if she is healthy. She may have accidents here and there, but the accidents wouldn’t define her existence.

When we accepted that Jesus came to earth to live a sinless life, perform miracles, teach us how to live, die on a cross for our sins, rose again, and when we proclaim that Jesus is our Lord and savior, we become changed.

For some of us, we can think of a day, a season, or a year, for when that may have happened, for some of us, that may have happened over a period of many years; Its just something that we grew up knowing, accepting, and believing.

After we reach that point, whenever it is, if we truly believe, we have ‘accidents’/sins that happen and that we do, but we are no longer defined by those things.


Because we seek to be daily surrendered to Jesus, we ask for forgiveness when we do something wrong, and our lives are defined by Christ’s forgiveness of us, our identity as Children of God, and they are not defined by our mistakes.

Devotionals During the COVID-19 Crisis: Lesson 6

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

And now, brothers, I want to write about the special abilities the Holy Spirit gives to each of you, for I don’t want any misunderstanding about them. 2 You will remember that before you became Christians you went around from one idol to another, not one of which could speak a single word. 3 But now you are meeting people who claim to speak messages from the Spirit of God. How can you know whether they are really inspired by God or whether they are fakes? Here is the test: no one speaking by the power of the Spirit of God can curse Jesus, and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” and really mean it, unless the Holy Spirit is helping him. 4 Now God gives us many kinds of special abilities, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service to God, but it is the same Lord we are serving. 6 There are many ways in which God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work in and through all of us who are his. 7 The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church.

1 Corinthians 12:1-7 (The Living Bible)

A devotional from Pastor Joyce of First UCC – Quakertown, PA:

To suggest that our lives have changed over the last couple of weeks is one of the biggest understatements ever made.  Almost no part of our lives is quite the same. And yet, we are to continue on, knowing that there is one thing that hasn’t changed – and that is God’s love for us.  Because God loves us unconditionally, we can show our gratitude by passing on some of that love to others. But how do we do that when we are confined to our homes, with little contact with others?  Today’s scripture lesson helps us, I think. We all have at least one spiritual gift, and many of us have more than one. Yet how can we exercise our spiritual gifts when we are separated from one another?

Here’s one idea.  Most of us have a church directory containing the names of members and friends of First Church.  Each day, choose a person from the directory and pray for them. They may be someone you know well, or they may be almost a stranger.  It doesn’t matter. You can still pray for them. And then, if you are feeling really inspired, call that person (their phone number is right there) and let them know you are praying for them.  I can almost guarantee that this will be a day brightener to that person. My guess is that you will be able to hear them smile! Such an act will help spread the joy we have because we are all children of God.

And I can almost guarantee it will brighten your day as well – to be in prayer for another, knowing that you are using one of the spiritual gifts God, through the Holy Spirit, has given you.  That is a truly awesome feeling – because we will be working for our awesome God. Feel the joy!

– Pastor Joyce

Devotionals During the COVID-19 Crisis: Lesson 5

Monday March 23, 2020

17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” 22 Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.

Acts 9:17-22 (NRSV)

Growing up with long eyelashes is incredibly frustrating. When I was a kid, I constantly got eyelashes in my eye, and I would become essentially debilitated for a good amount of time while I tried to get the eyelash out of eye, and usually making things worse.

When I had the eyelash in my eye, I couldn’t think of anything else, and the mind of a child quickly forgets what it was like before to see clearly, and to not be distracted by the irritation.

I’m sure that you’ve had times where you have had a stuffy or runny nose, back or neck pain, and though it may have been temporary, when you had those problems, you began to forget what it is like to live without those problems.

Paul had his sight taken away from him after just realizing that although he thought he was serving God – he was actually persecuting people that God loved!

Imagine how it must have felt to have your physical sight taken away. Throughout that time, Paul would have been constantly focusing on his blindness as he stumbled through his daily life, as he prayed, and as he thought.

I imagine him praying something like this: “God, I wish I could see right now. I’m sorry for what I did. Please give me my sight back! I’m sorry”

And then maybe something like this happened as he thought about it longer: “God…Though I thought I could see clearly before, I was actually blind. Though I thought I read your laws well, I was blind to your heart. Though I saw the story of you saving your people over and over again, I was blind to who Jesus is. Though I read about your forgiveness, I was blind to what forgiveness meant until you blinded me with your truth instead of taking my life. I now know that I have a mission, and although I may be physically blind now, I have never seen more clearly!”

For Paul, spending time alone, without the distractions of his own desires and pursuits, was a time where he grew more reliant on God than he ever had before.

Right now, we are beginning to wonder when our country will get back to ‘normal’. Some of us are afraid of our upcoming bills at a time when we are not able to work. And churches across the country are wondering when they can get back together again.

But although this time brings with it a lot of problems, and a lot of worries, I believe that God will meet us in this time in larger ways than we could imagine. This past Sunday, our church had its first ever “virtual service”. We had no prior experience, and our congregation had no more instruction than we could give them in short notice. However, our “congregation” on that Sunday was large in number, and those who responded to the church about what they thought and what they were feeling during this time, warmed the hearts of the church staff because we saw other people’s faith, and it encouraged us in our own faith.

I believe that God wants us all to use this time away from the busyness of life for the betterment of our souls and our character. We could easily slip into worry and bitterness, but just as Paul was transformed while blind, I believe that we are going to be transformed while homebound.

Lets Commit to some actions:

  • Take more time to pray. Commit to a prayer schedule. Do not let fear or bitterness RULE over you – Instead RULE over your fears and bitterness with Prayer – seeking the hope, and peace of God.
  • Begin or end your day with a devotional and scriptural reading (If you have a smartphone, download “The Bible App” from Youversion, and find a reading plan that works for you!
  • Parents – Spiritually lead your children through family prayer time, and family bible reading time. Set the example for them to follow.
  • Parents – Take this time to have family game times – and if they get bored with what you have, grab some paper and some markers from the drawer and make a game together! 🙂
  • If you live alone – invest in your relationship with God, start a new hobby, get to know yourself more, and take advantage of thise time to yourself for your own betterment.
  • Spouses – Go to God in prayer Together, as well as apart from one another. Read a passage from the bible together and ask each other what each of you think. Make date nights at home something to look forward to. Play a card or board game and laugh together.
  • Spend more time in nature while being safe and maintaining social distancing. Over the last few weeks, I have seen more families outside together than ever before – that is a GREAT thing.
  • Above all – Use this time to seek God and love others – even at a distance.