“Now What?” The Christian Connection May Devotion “Now What?” By Myra F. Smith Bible Verse: “To these men He also showed Himself alive after His suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross, by many infallible proofs…appearing to them over a period of forty days….” (Acts 1: 3) Jesus, the Messiah, endured a trial, brutal beatings, and crucifixion. Jesus, the disciples’ leader and hope for their future, was dead. Now what? Jesus reappeared to the disciples after His ascension, to assure them that He was alive, and His work would go forward. This period of Biblical history was known as Pentecost, which means, “God equipping His people with the Holy Spirit, to carry out His work in the kingdom.” And how did the Holy Spirit appear? “A sound came from Heaven like a rushing violent wind…there appeared to them tongues resembling fire….” WOW! Violent winds and fiery tongues would get your attention! And, what was the result of this dynamic visitation by the Holy Spirit? The Bible tells us that 3,000 souls were baptized that day! Not only that, but the people fully devoted themselves to the instruction of the disciples, ate meals and worshipped together. They sold their property and possessions and shared with anyone in need. Too often, we live after Easter much like we did before Easter. We live in the present world, and never share the message or our possessions. Do you feel the rushing wind of the Holy Spirit? Have you felt the fire of His love burn within you? What’s next for us? I don’t know, but I’m hoping to be blown away by God’s answer.

Getting Together

The Christian Connection
June Newsletter
“When We All Get Together”
By Myra F. Smith

Bible Verse: “Finally, all of you be like-minded {united in spirit}, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted {courteous and compassionate toward each other as members of one household}, and humble in spirit.” (1 Peter 3:8)

I looked up this chapter in Barclay’s Bible Commentary” and this is a portion of what it says:

“When a man comes to know Christ, he comes to know goodness. In Christ he has a standard by which all actions and motives may be tested. He knows what real goodness is.” Later, he says: “The Christian is called out of no mercy into mercy. The great characteristic of non-Christian religion is the fear of God. The Christian is the man who has discovered…the love of God.”

Now, let’s examine some important words and phrases:

1. Goodness. The love of Christ should dwell in us, causing us to think of others as highly as we think of ourselves. We should want to act and speak with love.
2. A Measurable Standard: As it was with Adam and Eve, when we experience God our eyes are opened, and we are able to distinguish right from wrong.
3. Mercy: In my mind, “mercy” is a mix of love and compassion. Compassion softens the heart for someone, but mercy extends a hand of friendship.
4. Love of God: Non-Christians fear God and act out of fear, but Christians know that God is love. Because we are forgiven, we can start again. Fear creates panic; love creates peace.

What does this mean in our Christian churches now? Here’s what I think it means:

1. The church belongs to God. Therefore, it should be conducted according to God’s standards of compassion, mercy, peace, and love.
2. If we, as followers of Jesus Christ, seek our own way instead of God’s way, we are not a church whose foundation will stand the test of time.

We can’t get everything right, but we can go forth with a spirit of love and unity.

God is perfectly capable of doing the rest.

“Does Jesus Care?”

The Christian Connection
May Newsletter
“Does Jesus Care?”
By Myra F. Smith

This devotion is written with a prayerful heart for Sally Taylor and Mae Joyce Downs.

“Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Franklin Ellsworth Graeff (1860-1919) was known to his Philadelphia parishioners as the “Sunshine Minister” because of his radiant personality and unique way with children. But, as Charles Spurgeon once said in his book, “The Minister’s Fainting Fits”, written to assist ministers with the discouragement and depression that often comes with ministry: “the joyous are not always happy.”

While some of Frank Graeff’s personal history cannot be verified, it is rumored that he lost a beautiful daughter and wife in a horrible house fire; documented accounts of his life show that he lost two-thirds of his family by age 40, both parents and four sisters. And so, in his great despondency and grief, this Methodist pastor asked a pointed question, “Does Jesus Care?” His answer became the words to one of our greatest hymns.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song; as the burdens press and the cares distress, and the way grows weary and long?
Does Jesus care when I’ve said goodbye to the dearest on earth to me, and my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks, is it aught to Him? Does He see?

Oh yes, He cares; I know He cares. His heart is touched with my grief.

Why does Jesus, the Son of God, care about our grief? He cares because He came to earth as a man. He lost dear friends and wept; He became angry and lashed out at injustice; He despaired in the Garden; He needed time away from the demanding crowds; he received continued rejection from priests and commoners alike, and died for OUR SINS with his flesh nailed to two pieces of wood. That’s why He cares.

Truly, if Jesus had walked on earth, the perfect Son of God, in a saintly bubble, I’m not sure I could believe. But This Jesus I know. This Jesus I can relate to: the Jesus who walked, taught, healed and lived among us with dirty feet, calloused, healing hands, and a heart that hurts for you and me.

Does Jesus care? More than our minds can comprehend or our hearts contain. Amen and Amen.

The Christian Connection

November Devotion

The Grateful Leper By Myra Smith

Bible Verse:

“Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’” (Luke 17:17)

The story begins like this: Jesus was entering Jerusalem. He has been teaching and instructing both the crowd and his disciples about the kingdom of God, faith, and sin. As he enters town, ten lepers loudly call out to him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Jesus hears them and tells them to go show themselves to the priests. When they do, they are healed! We don’t know what happened to nine of the men. I would assume they felt of their new skin, free of loathsome sores, and went on their merry way. Only one man returned to Jesus, threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. This man was a Samaritan, considered inferior by the Jews.

We are entering the season of Thanksgiving. For most of us, it means eating a lot and spending time with family. But for this man who had been ill, isolated, shunned, demeaned, and loathed his entire life, Thanksgiving Day was the day he met Jesus and was healed. How often do we thank Jesus for our many blessings? When we are sick, lonely, hurt, and needy, we call out to Jesus to save and heal us. But, as soon as our lives are better, we forget to thank God.

This Thanksgiving, and every day, remember to thank the One who loves, listens, helps, heals, and forgives.

 

There were ten who were healed, but only one returned to say “thank you” to Jesus. And what did Jesus say to the grateful man? “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Happy Thanksgiving. May we all be made well by our gratefulness.

Abide With Me

The Christian Connection
April Newsletter
Abide With Me
By Myra F. Smith

“Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.” (From the hymn, “Abide With Me”)

Henry Francis Lyte and his wife Ann were pastors of a little fishing town in Devonshire England for over twenty years. Three years before his death in 1847, Henry was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He preached his last sermon on September 4, 1847, at the age of 54.

He took a walk that same September afternoon and came back to his room to rest. One hour later, he walked out with a copy of “Abide With Me”. He traveled to Italy soon after to escape the damp and cold, but died only days later. A fellow pastor was with him on his trip and reported that Henry’s last words were, “Peace! Joy!”

“When other helpers fail and comforts flee, help of the helpless, O abide with me.” How perfectly Henry phrased his deepest emotions! There is no effective medication or medical assistance to prevent his death. Helpers are gone and life’s comforts have vanished.

“ Change and decay in all around I see; O thou who changest not, abide with me.” His death is coming quickly. But, wait! Henry knows the comfort and love of a God who never changes.

Henry’s hymn was first sung at his own memorial service and went on to be a favorite of King George V and Mahatma Ghandi. Sung at the weddings of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II, it has been included in the soundtrack of no less than ten movies and television shows.

But the true legacy of this beautiful song is the peace and joy it has given to millions through the years. God printed the words to this song on Henry’s mind within a single hour, but the message lives on forever.

Now, that’s Joy.

Saved By A Song

SAVED BY A SONG
THE CHRISTIAN CONNECTION
MARCH NEWSLETTER
BY MYRA F. SMITH

“We are Thine, do Thou befriend us, be the Guardian of our way; keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray;” (from the hymn, “Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us…words by Dorothy A. Thrupp, 1836)

Dorothy A. Thrupp was a Londoner who wrote only a few songs, mostly for children. She was a private, quiet soul, and not much is known about her except that she wrote this hymn at the age of 57, to comfort small children. She died only ten years later.

Now, let’s move on to another story concerning this hymn. It was on a Christmas Eve that Ira Sankey traveled by steamboat up the Delaware River. Oddly enough, he was asked to sing and sang this song. At the conclusion of the song, a stranger walked up to him and asked, “Did you ever serve in the Union Army?” “Yes, “ Mr. Sankey answered. “I served in 1860. “Do you remember if you were on picket duty on a bright, moonlit night in 1862?” the stranger asked. “Yes,” answered a surprised Sankey.

The stranger proceeded to tell an amazing story. He was in the Confederate Army and saw Sankey, a Union soldier, on that very night at his post. He raised his musket to kill him and was shocked to hear his enemy singing this song. He took his finger from the trigger, vowing to kill Sankey when he stopped singing. But the words of this glorious hymn touched the stranger’s heart, reminded him of his God-fearing mother, and he told Sankey, “my arm of its own accord dropped limp at my side.”

Listen to these words from the hymn: “we need Thy tender care”; “do Thou befriend us”; “be the Guardian of our way”; “Thou hast mercy to relieve us….and pow’r to free.” Is it coincidence that this song saved a man’s life? Random luck that the two enemies meet years’ later and share their amazing story? I don’t think so.

Most of us have dodged bullets in our lifetime. We were lost, but now we are found.

Thank you, precious Shepherd, for always bringing us back to You.

Seize The Day

SEIZE THE DAY
JANUARY DEVOTION
THE CHRISTIAN CONNECTION
BY MYRA F. SMITH

BIBLE VERSE: “There is a time for everything, and everything on earth has its special season.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1…The Inspirational Study Bible)

What can the four seasons tell us about life? What lessons can we learn from them? We understand that the cyclic change on earth from summer to fall, fall to winter, and winter to spring, causes the earth to experience death, nourishment, growth, and new life. Does any of this sound familiar?

How many times do we hear, “I’m sick and tired of winter. I want it to be warm!” Then, a few months pass and we say, “I can’t stand this heat. Will it ever rain again?” Listen again to the words of the apostle Paul after being imprisoned, shipwrecked, and threatened with death. He said: “I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens.” (Philippians 4:11…ISB)

Wait just a minute, Paul. Satisfied with EVERYTHING that happens? Satisfied with loss of fortune; loss of loved ones, family and friends? Satisfied to be hungry, cold, lonely, or sick? HOW?

Look again at God’s plan for the earth. See the bleak, cold days of winter rest the earth in preparation for the bloom of spring. See the heat of summer warm the trees, soon to be tossed by strong winds and become dormant. See the cold, hard earth rest before another season of rebirth.

There is a reason for our dark, dreary days. They prepare us for a second chance at growth, joy, and new possibility. And these joyful, growing seasons give us hope when cold winds blow and showers fall.

God’s gift to us is the present. Open it with joy, and be content.