April 12, 2021
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:9 KJV
When Eve and then Adam ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden a broken relationship with God began and continues throughout the generations on earth (Genesis 2:16-17). Our sinful nature and our sinful practices have such a stronghold on our daily actions that we drift continuously further and further away from the holy image of God. We stray so far away that we can barely see God and His mighty works in this world.
God is telling us the same thing that He told Joshua, “Be strong and of a good courage, be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9). Greater things are yet to come if we are strong and courageous to claim this opportunity. God promises to strengthen us and give us the courage to face giants in our lives and move forward toward reaching the goal that He has for each of us.
As we move forward on our daily journey, “Let us look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus will show us opportunities, and not opposition to accomplish God’s mission for us. In Jesus Christ, we have a new life now and the promise of eternal life to come. In His promise there is a certainty of greater things to come.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we come to You humbly as we know how. We thank You for all that You have provided and as the Bible says, “that the Holy Spirit will show us things to come” (John 16:13). Lord, please help us to spend more time with You through prayer, the reading of Your Word, scriptural meditation, and fellowshipping in love with each other. Through individual meditation, corporate prayer, and fellowshipping, we know you will show us things to come, in Jesus name. Amen.
Submitted by: Rev. Dr. Rosemary Simmons-Brown, Pastor of Three Mile Creek Christian Church, Ehrhardt, South Carolina
On this week’s prayer list: Rice Patch, Islandton; Communication
Ministries and Mid-America Region
April 4, 2021
Mark 16:1-8 New Revised Standard Version
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Our devotional theme this year is “Greater Things to Come”. That certainly applies to the scripture lesson I have chosen for today. In the New Revised Common Lectionary, a three year cycle of scripture readings, one for each Sunday of the year, found in our Disciples Annual Planning Guide and Calendar, this is year B and the Gospel focus is primarily on Mark. For Easter Sunday, two Gospel lessons are listed, one is Mark 16:1-8. It will be good to think of “Greater Things to Come” as we read the words of the chosen text.
The earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end right there, “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” The late esteemed Bible Scholar Dr. Bruce Metzger, Princeton Seminary Professor, and chair of the Revised Standard Version translation committee for the Bible, gives two possible explanations for why Mark would have ended his Gospel that way. Either he died before he finished writing it, or the final page of his original handwritten manuscript got lost. The early church thought that there was a need for more to be said, so one century added a summary statement and another century added the familiar resurrection stories from Matthew, Luke and John, to provide what some thought would be a more fitting ending to the Gospel.
But what if Mark really did stop there? Well, to me that suggests that the responsibility to share the Good News of the Gospel of the risen Jesus Christ falls to us, today, in our churches, in our towns, in our nation and in our world. We know that greater things are to come following the account of the empty tomb. Indeed, Christ is risen and He has revealed Himself to His followers, even to us in the breaking of the bread each Sunday! Mark may well have left us with a job to do: It is up to us to proclaim that Good News which each of us discovers as we encounter Christ for ourselves.
Prayer: Eternal God, we thank you for the Good News of the Gospel which has been handed down to us. Help us to find Jesus today, and to welcome Him again into our hearts, and then to share the risen Christ. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen
Thought for today: If “they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid,” it is up to us to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Submitted by: Pastor Fred Clarke, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Charleston
On this week’s prayer list: St. Phillip, Reevesville & National Benevolent Association
March 28, 2021
Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Mark 11:9
Our Scripture for Palm Sunday is Mark 11:1-11. Jesus approaches Jerusalem. Jesus approaches death. Death is all around him. Danger lurks like a John le Carre spy novel. Jerusalem has not been kind to the prophets. How would it feel to know death is right around the corner? Jesus faces life and death with dignity and grace. Jesus goes about living his life with courage and peace. Insult and abuse will be heaped upon him. Jesus will face the ugliness of life. There is nothing rosy about this week for Jesus and those who follow him.
Death is ugly and life is messy. We have often rushed through Passion Week quickly to get to Easter. Those of us who have a lost someone special know nothing will ever be the same. We are changed and life is changed. Some of us see the world differently afterwards. Death has a way of focusing our priorities. Jesus provides us the model of how to relate to one another reminding us what is important.
Every Lenten season there is one movie I watch. The movie is entitled Calvary. It is a difficult movie to watch. The movie revolves around a week in the life of Father James, a priest. A man offers his confession to Father James concerning the abuse at the hands of a priest years earlier. The confessor says he will seek revenge by killing a good priest. The good priest is Father James who will pay the price for another's sin. This movie is dark and ugly. Father James goes about his duties with grace and humor. The movie reminds me to face life everyday with purpose and love. Our Lord approached life and death well.
I tell families at funerals God doesn’t take our loved ones. God receives our loved ones. Perhaps we can face life with the knowledge God receives us no matter where life takes us. God is waiting for us on the other side of all our Jerusalems. Amen.
A Prayer for the Community: O God, this Holy Week reminds us life is ugly and fragile at times. Help us to know in all our Jerusalems You stand ready to comfort us and to understand our plight. O God, receive us fully. Receive our fears, disappointments, betrayals, insults, abuses, and failures. O God, may we face all of life with courage knowing You go before us paving the way. O God, grant us Your peace and love in the name of our Redeemer our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Submitted by: Pastor Charles Clary, Pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Columbia, SC
On this week’s prayer list: New Beginning Outreach Ministries, Walterboro, SC & the Easter Offering supporting the General Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
March 22, 2021
"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13)
It is Service Time
“As members of the Christian Church…we accept our mission of witness and service to all people.”From the Preamble of the Design for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I bear witness that there is no other name under heaven whereby men might be saved except the name of Jesus.
What a privilege it is to share in the ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. What a joy it is to serve with fellow Holy Spirit led Disciples in this hour to enable God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven as the movement for wholeness continues in a fragmented world.
We learn in scripture that the source of our enabling for Christian conduct is the presence of the Holy Spirit. "It is God which worketh in you." The person who fears he cannot live the Christian life will especially be encouraged by this text that he will be given Divine help to live the Christian life. God enables one to live a holy life. It is the only way one can live a holy life. Specifically, Paul cites two particular things which God does for us to help us "do of his [God's] good pleasure" which is doing God's will. First, the desire in the enabling. "To will." God puts the desire in you to live a holy life. The ungodly do not have any desire to live godly. Rather, they want to do evil. Second, the dynamic in the enabling, "And to do." This is the power, the dynamic for doing the will of God, for living a holy life. God not only puts the desire in us to live right, but He also puts the dynamic in us to enable us to live right.
For each of us the Christian life began with the Good Confession of faith in Jesus as the Christ our Savior. When we affirm that for us Jesus is Christ and Lord, we are committing our lives to the service of God whom he reveals to us. Jesus Christ our Lord set us free. The greater our commitment to him, the more we are freed from our lower selves, from our sin and guilt and fear, from our preoccupation with false values. Freed to proclaim the good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recover sight to the blind, release the oppressed and announce the year of the Lord’s favor. Following Christ means walking with Him in the way of servanthood. It means taking the hurts of others upon ourselves and helping them find healing. It means looking with joy on birds and flowers and the goodness of God’s earth. It means living simply and gladly and prizing human possibilities. It means doing each day’s work faithfully as service to God. It means communing with God in prayer and trying to live the “good life” as persons transformed in the likeness of God.
Prayer: God may Your kingdom come and what You want be done, here on earth as it is in Heaven. In Jesus name. Amen.
Submitted by: Edward L. Cushingberry, Jr., Pastor of New Hope Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Burton, SC.
On this week’s prayer list: New Hope, Burton, Christmount Christian Assembly & the Easter Offering supporting the General Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
February 22, 2021
John 14:12 “Most Assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also: and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (NKJV)
Destined for Greater!
God wants me to remind you that you are destined for greater. It is not because of where you grew up, who your parents are, your economic status, your vocation, your position, or your title as to why God has allowed you to be in the space that you are in now. It is because of the Divine plan that God has for your life. God put you in places to make room for the gifts that He has bestowed upon you. God knew you in your mother’s womb and set you apart to be used by Him. Just like God had a plan for Jesus, He has a plan for you and me. When Jesus walked this earth, he was able to heal the sick, raise the dead, give sight to the blind and walk on water. Greater is what God has in store for each of us. It all begins and ends with your belief system.
John 14:12 begins with clarifying whom Jesus is addressing. Jesus is talking to those who believe in Him. You must first be sure in whom and what you believe. It goes on to tell us that the work that Jesus did, those of us who trust in Him, will be able not only to do the same work but greater works. You and I are destined for greater because God has a plan for our lives.
As you go through your week, say this poem and believe God. Grab hold to the greatness you are destined for.
Before I was born, God, you knew what I was going to be.
But I did not know your plans would make me free.
Understanding no weapon formed against me will prosper,
God you helped me to discern every imposter.
Those who tried to make me believe that I was such a monster,
God you held me close daily so that my mind could foster.
All the things that I’ve done wrong on my life’s journey,
Forgetting sometimes that you are my attorney.
Pleading my case day in and day out
Reminding me no matter how I go all about.
Jesus died and paid the price for me.
I am redeemed and salvation is the key.
That will lead me through all these storms.
Preparing me for what will be my new norm.
Thanking God in advance for all the struggles that I go through.
Believing as I praise you God, I will always be true.
To the purpose and plans by activating the greater work
You have destined for me without a quirk.
Prayer: Gracious and loving God, we come to You as humbly as we know how. We give You thanks and praises for all the many blessings that You have bestowed upon us. God, we ask that You create in us a clean heart. God, renew the right spirit within us. Help us to remember that we are destined for greatness, not because of ourselves but because of the plan and purpose You have for each one of our lives. We invite Your Holy Spirit to guide and direct us in the way You would have us to go. As we progress through this week, the months, and years to come, grant us grace and mercy as we continue our life’s journey. God, keep our minds stayed on you. Cover, protect, and keep us from all hurt, harm and danger. It is in the matchless name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
Submitted by: Rev. Claudette President, Pastoral Associate at First Christian Church, Charleston, SC
On this week’s prayer list: First Christian, Aiken & Global Ministries
January 25, 2021
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. Mark 1:17-18
If you were told to drop everything and follow – what would you leave behind? What would be important to you? My niece was in Charleston during Hurricane Hugo and had to leave. When I asked her what she brought that was important, she replied “I grabbed all my bills!” I don’t know that I would have thought about that!
The disciples were taking a risk. Why would they do it? They responded completely based on Jesus’ words “Follow me.” They left their old lives behind and followed to become “fishers of men.” They left everything because they believed Jesus’ word to be true. They literally took him at his word when he declared “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15) They believed.
The call of God in our lives may not be as radical, but it can be just as meaningful. Belief involves action on our part. We can leave the old behind and begin again as “new creatures in Jesus Christ” because we too can take Jesus at His word. His word is trustworthy. We receive the challenge to follow Jesus. Are we willing to follow Jesus as he calls us in the community-at-large? We are called into the world. He washed dusty dirty feet. He fed the hungry and healed broken limbs.
Are we willing to follow Jesus into the workplace and even our homes? It would be risky because it would bring an end to “life as usual.” It brings us to a new direction, a new sense of purpose, along with understanding and hope.
Are we willing to follow Jesus no matter where He leads us? Search your hearts and pray for guidance as we seek to follow! “And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me and I will make you become fishers of men” and immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask that You take care of all Your children. Help us to look to you for guidance that can only come from You. Lead us in the way You would have us to go and give us the strength and will to follow. We ask this in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Submitted by: Rev Joan Daniels. Retired Disciples of Christ Pastor
January 18, 2021
Verily, Verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go to the Father. John 14:12
WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE WE DOING?
I can remember as a youngster, my grandmother would often ask me, "What in the world are you doing?" as it related to my academics, doing my expected chores, or many of the other responsibilities that were entrusted in my care. The question served as a personal assessment which was weighty and thought provoking within its intent. It was as though she had seen that which was not visible at the time, but yet she recognized its existence: the maximum potential, the capabilities, and the power that were awaiting me to recognize, to embrace, and utilize. Often resounding and rhetorical, the purpose was to stir up, to ignite, to illuminate, and to reassure that all I needed to do was to tap into that which was already there.
In this chapter, Jesus is warning His disciples that much trouble was to come, but He also reassures them, even in the midst of it all, in order for them to have an untroubled heart and to trust in God! And although the time has come that He would no longer be physically visible to them, He reassures them that He shall never leave them alone or helpless, for He shall send A Helper, Holy Spirit, an Indwelling Presence! While the God (the Son--Jesus Christ) was with them now physically, the God that is in them (and in us) is ever present! (Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Cor.3:16)
Because HE LIVES IN US, His power dwells in us, enabling and empowering us to a greater work with greater opportunities, a greater sphere of influence, the submissive power to let God be God without limitations or reservations. (LORD LET THY WILL BE DONE in us and through us that we might be open, sensitive, and faithful to whatever that may entail).
Today we still witness the evidence of trouble, trials and tribulations and we also have been forewarned to not be troubled. Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore is faithful and His blood never loses it power and His power never loses it Strength! Jesus says upon this rock--and this rock is Jesus-- I shall build My Church and the gates of Hell (the devil in all his ploys, plots, pandemics, devises, and worldly troubles) shall not prevail against God's church! It is evident! For when the brick and mortar--the buildings--where we gather close as many have, the church still stands! The blood bought, born again, faithful and committed believer still shows up and is accounted for!
We the church continue to be led by Holy Spirit and shall continue to see the hand of God, for we are His hands. We shall continue to hear Him speak, for we are His voice. We shall continue to not only see but willingly participate in the greater works that this troubled world is so desperately in need of.
May we be reminded and reassured of the power of God that we as followers of Christ possess in order to fulfill this great assignment for WE have. Let us be reminded that we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. (2 Cor. 4:7)
Prayer: Father in the name of Jesus, we thank You for You are truly the Lover of our souls and the Forgiver of our sins. Thank You for reminding us that we are never alone. May Your Holy Spirit trim our lamps that we may be illuminated in a world so dark. Allow Holy Spirit to stir us, encourage us, lead us, and strengthen us for this journey, in Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.
Thought of the day: Greater things to come for Greater is He that is in you (church) than he that is in this world!
Submitted by: Pastor Cynthia Johnson, Magdalene Christian Church
January 11, 2021
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 16-20
Jesus’ ascension marks the beginning of a new era. He leaves his earthly ministry, having been crucified and resurrected. For the disciples, it means accepting the new mantle of teachers and prophets. It is graduation day.
As Elijah passed his mantle to Elisha, and is then taken up to heaven, Jesus spreads his mantle on the disciples. The difference is that as Jesus commands his disciples to go and teach all that he has taught them, he reassures them that they do not go alone. He will be with them forever, no matter where they go or where they find themselves. He will be with them giving them power and encouragement and grace that are more than sufficient for the day.
We have just ended one year and celebrated the beginning of another. We are looking back and looking forward, like the goddess Janus from whom the name of the first month of the year gets its name. Looking forward brings new hopes, new dreams, and a sense of both excitement and angst as we see the tasks before us. Looking back may bring celebration at a significant milestone, grief for what was lost, hope for what was begun, regret for what could have been done or done better, and inspiration for the journey forward. But in it all, the words of Jesus echo, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
2020 brought with it the pandemic, social isolation, loss, physical distance, face masks, lost jobs, and many other trying events. It had a vitriolic campaign and election, social unrest, and Americans pitted against Americans. But, it also had acts of bravery, heroism, creativity, and generosity that often got lost in the noise of the moment. Yet, Jesus was with us.
2021 opens before us with opportunities for feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned, clothing the naked, seeing the marginalized, seeking social justice, and bringing grace to all we meet. Our opportunities present themselves every day. All we must do is accept our commission and know that Jesus is with us.
Prayer: God of mercy, love, and justice, open us to Your direction and power. Open our eyes to the needs that each of us can meet. Give us voices and actions to follow Your commission. And remind us constantly that You are with us. Amen.
Submitted by: Rev. Susan Galasso, Chaplain at St. Joseph Hospice North Augusta
January 4, 2021
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12
This is one of the most astonishing promises in the scriptures. Notice the reason Jesus gives for these greater works. It is because He goes to the Father and when He goes to the Father, He will send the Holy Ghost. He says in John 16:1b, “Unless I go away, the counselor will not come to you.” He is referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit. For as the Spirit of God comes into human hearts and dwells in them, these things will happen. The Spirit is releasing to us the life of Jesus, so that it is still Jesus who is doing these things. Some people read this passage and think that we, ordinary humans, are somehow so capable that we can do greater things than the Son of God himself did when he was on earth in the flesh.
Jesus goes on to say: “And greater works than these will you do." What are these greater works? We can't perform greater miracles. Can we do anything greater than opening the eyes of those born blind, or speaking a word and the lame man walks, or raising the dead? The only answer that makes sense is that the works are greater in their significance and importance. They are spiritual accomplishments not physical. Anything done to the spirit of a person is far more significant than something done to the body.
As you read the account of Jesus’s ministry, take note of how crowds followed him when he did the amazing wonders. When Jesus was in a city, they would gather to hear his message. Yet when Jesus is hanging on the cross just before the end of his life surrounded by two others on the cross, the crowds were not there to support him. His miracles did not completely change people. Instead, they merely touched the surface of their lives. Isn't it interesting that the ones whom Jesus healed would not stand with him through the test of the cross, but when these disciples went out and preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, they won converts by the thousands? When presented with the test, these men and women were willing to face lions, to be pulled apart on the rock, and to be burned as living torches rather than deny Jesus.
You may remember that Jesus said to his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I have chosen and appointed you go and bear fruit. Fruit that will last," John 15:16b. That is what they did. They bore fruit. They did greater miracles. Anything done to the spirit of a person is permanent and that which is done to the flesh is temporary. All those whom Jesus healed and raised from the dead died again. Therefore, what is done to the spirit of a person is far greater, and this is what Jesus means by "greater works.”
Prayer: Thank you, God, for the miracles You are doing in and through me. Only You can change my heart, O Lord! Only You can make me more like Jesus.
Submitted by: Rev. Freddie Lawton, Regional Moderator