Devotionals

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03/03-03/24 Sermon Series

Follow this link to watch the April 14 sermon:

to come

– Ginny Axelrod

03/03-03/24 Sermon Series

Follow this Facebook link for the March 24 Sermon: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?ref=watch_permalink&v=932433871945774

If my people pray… 

On Monday night we attended our prayer vigil. Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer…or really sweet hour and a half of prayer. It was a sweet and refreshing time, and it was exactly what I needed. I felt the peace of God, and was overcome by His goodness, in spite of the turmoil that I see in the world. As I prayed for our world, and poured out my concerns to God, I heard His still, small voice say, “Pray for revival”, and that is what I did.

I saw a news report this week, well in truth I could not read the whole report, because it was so heart breaking, that I just couldn’t. But from the little bit that I did read, this is the story: Warning this is disturbing. Sixteen-month-old Jailyn Candleario was left in a pack-n-play, unattended, without food or water for 10 days, while her mother went on vacation. This precious little baby suffered a horrible death, and now is being loved and cherished by her Father in heaven.

When I read this, I was sickened, and my heart hurt for this innocent little baby, and yes, I was angry. How could a mother do such a thing? A mother’s instinct is to protect and care for their child, so how does something so unnatural happen? How could the neighbor hear her cries for her mother and do nothing? I just don’t understand. And this is not the only horrifying story in the news. It seems like every day we face the horrors of what is happening in our world, and as we seek an answer to the question: why? we need only to turn to scripture. In Matthew 24:11- 13, Jesus tells us, “ And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved”. In this verse we are told that the false prophets will lead many astray. Prophets were viewed as an authoritative voice, people listened to what they had to say. But these prophets would misdirect the sheep, guiding them in a direction that is contrary to God’s Word, and because of this the people would do “what was right in their own eyes”, just as was done in the days of the Judges, and because the Word of God would not be taught, people would decide what was right and what was wrong according to their own standard….or convenience.

Our culture has been our “false prophet”. It has influenced us. It has made us self-centered, and cold to other people’s pain. We are seeing Jesus’ prophecy come true in this day…the love of many has grown cold, even the love that should come naturally, like the love of a mother. I think that we see that clearly in the story of Jailyn Candleario.

The Word of God defines love, and without God’s standards, or definition of love…or His example of love, the social system breaks down, and we are seeing that now. All the crime, all the violence, is a result of a culture that has turned away from the truth of God. Human life is no longer a sacred thing. Children are victimized. This is a reality in 2024. But we are not without hope. The Gospel of Jesus Christ changes people. God specializes in converting the sinner to saint.

We could stand in judgment of Jailyn’s Mom, but I would ask us all, “what would I be like if Jesus had not entered my life?” Maybe we would not leave a baby uncared for 10 days…but what are the things we would have been capable of? I don’t know what I would have been without God, but I know what I am with Him…which is still a sinner, grateful for the grace He extends to me every day. I know that He loves me and chose me to be His adopted daughter. There was nothing that set me apart…there was nothing that God needed from me.  He just chose to love me, and I will always be grateful for that. Jailyn’s Mom is in need of that same grace from God. I pray that God calls her out of her darkness, I pray that she meets the one who died for her sins, and that she will receive the comfort that she will need when she is overcome with the horror of what she has done.

The Word of God changes everything. The Word of God can change anyone! God promises that in the latter days He would poor out His Spirit on all flesh. I am waiting for that day! The
peace that we can have in these tumultuous times is real…and the world needs it. God is still on His throne, and this Sunday we celebrate an empty tomb, and a risen Savior, but there are so many people out there that do not know the peace that we have.  I want that for them. I will be praying that God will pour out His Spirit, I will be praying for revival, because the world needs it! Will you pray also?

– Ginny Axelrod

Follow this Facebook link for the March 17 Sermon:  https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?ref=watch_permalink&v=1811297362667960

Anchul and I have had quite a few of those “end of life” conversations.  Part of our job, as Christians, is to bring comfort and hope, and that includes at the end of life, but too many of our conversations involve our brother or sister in Christ, wondering if they have been “good enough” to get into heaven.  Are you wondering if you have been “good enough”?  Well if you are, the short answer is….no!  You are not good enough, but your salvation has never been based on your goodness, it has always been about God’s grace.  

When sin entered the world, it had a devastating effect.  It affected every living creature, the earth itself, and all that it produced, and in the instant that it made its grand appearance, everything was changed (Genesis 3:14-19).  Sin brought along with it a curse.  We can see the lasting effect of that curse today.

Sin also created a chasm between God and man.  The communion Adam and Eve shared with their Creator-Father was interrupted.  

The Old Testament is a narrative of what sin can cause people to do, it is the story of how sin destroys, corrupts, and defiles everything in its path, but it is also a story with a moral, and the moral is; man is incapable of defeating sin on his own, he cannot earn or work his way to heaven…man is in need of a savior.  

One of the most beautiful stories of redemption, to me is the story of the thief on the cross.  On the day Jesus was crucified, there were two men that were crucified beside Him.  When you piece together the account from all of the gospels, we find that both of the thieves mocked Jesus right along with the spectators.  (Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32).  Think about that for a moment. You are being tortured to death (that was the point of crucifixion) on the cross, and yet he joined his tortures in their insulting, and blaspheme of the Savior of the world.  Where did he get the energy to do that? Sin…sin produces hate, and that was some next level hate.  He heard Jesus’ prayer on the cross for him, and the crowd, “Father forgive them”, but he was unmoved, prevented from salvation because of his own pride.

Now let’s consider the second thief.  He mocked right along with his pal, but when he heard the prayer of the Savior, he was changed.  In a moment, this second thief realized who Jesus was, and he was given a new heart.  He was a sinner, convicted of a crime, about to die, he had joined the crowd in mocking Jesus, and yet he found grace, or rather grace found him.  

In those moments before his death the thief did not have time to join a church.  He did not have time to serve in ministry or teach a bible study.  He did not have time to do any good deeds at all, and he didn’t wonder if he was “good enough”, because he knew that he wasn’t.  The progression was simple. He came to the realization of who Jesus was, saying to the other thief “this man has done nothing wrong”, (Luke 23:40-41).  Then we see evidence in this man’s faith, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).  This is really astounding when you think about it.  The disciples have scattered in fear, the crowd is cheering for the bloody show, Jesus seems to be at the mercy of His captors…It doesn’t look good, and yet in this unlikely moment, this man sees Jesus for who He is, his Savior.  This is one of the beautiful miracles of Jesus.  This man, through grace, was able to see beyond the moment, and put his faith and trust in Jesus, and for what remained of his life, which wasn’t much, he had peace…there was no wondering…he knew that he would be with Jesus in paradise.

I am writing this because I want you to know that there is nothing you can do to earn your salvation, but on the other side of that coin, once you have received it, it can never be taken away because it is a supernatural work done by God. You are given a new heart, and you are a new creation.  There is an end to worrying whether you are “good enough”, because you know that you aren’t.  You have been saved by grace, there is no boasting, no earning…God had mercy.  So now you can walk in confidence knowing that nothing can separate you from His love.  

The one thing that we can be sure of is that we will die.  We should normalize talking about it.  Because it is inevitable.  But in your final moments, and every moment up till that moment, for you to have the peace that comes with knowing that you have a rich and full future in heaven.

You and I are sinners.  Our sin separated us from God.  God loved us, so He paid the debt of our sin.  Jesus took on all our sins at the cross, and he imparted His righteousness to us, and now we stand blameless and shameless.  We cannot earn our salvation, and it can never be taken from us. In the end, I think that my friend Bob understood that, and I hope that you do too.  I pray that you have that confidence, and I pray that you share it with others, because honestly….it is life changing!                                – Ginny Axelrod

Follow this Facebook link to watch the March 10 Sermon: https://www.facebook.com/BRBUMC/videos/1463256770931365

Before you continue reading this devotional, please read Mark, chapter 2, verses 1 through 12!

I have read the account of the paralytic many, many times. I have heard, probably, over a hundred sermons on the text, but I gotta tell ya…this time it hits differently!

 We are all familiar with the story, Jesus returns to Capernaum, and a crowd gathered…a large crowd, so large that there was no more room…you couldn’t even get close to the door! Four men arrive carrying a paralytic, and they of course could not get in, so naturally they climbed the roof!

As I read this story I am struck by the audacity of this group of men! They hear that Jesus is home, and they know…they just know, that Jesus is the one to heal their injured friend, but when they arrive, they find that there is “no room at the Inn”, not even standing room, so they decide to climb up on the roof. If you think about this for a moment, it was not very safe, and would not have met OSHA standards, I mean four guys, carrying a fifth guy on a stretcher, climb up on the roof (that took some coordinating) , they then tear a hole in the roof, so they can lower down their friend. I have questions. I want to know who these men are. I want to know if they knew Jesus, or had they just heard about Him? Were the men carrying the paralytic his friends, his brothers, or uncles?

I guess the only things we need to know are these; these men had faith, and they were convinced that Jesus could heal their friend. These men were not discouraged; they saw the crowd and realized that they were not getting to Jesus through conventional means, so they devised a plan! Nothing was going to keep them from bringing their friend to Jesus! These men were desperate; they would not stop until their friend met the Savior! I think that is beautiful!

As I look around me, and assess the state of the world, and humanity, I think what a dark world we live in. Basic empathy, kindness, and compassion seems to be lacking, and there is only one thing that can bring about change, and that is a revival of the soul. We can put laws in place, and we have plenty of them, wouldn’t you agree?  But they don’t seem to be transforming the masses? The only way to transform the masses is to deliver the life changing message of Jesus….one person at a time. But it’s not just about changing our world. It’s also about saving individual men from a meaningless life, and an eternity of suffering.

We Christians love John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”. But we so often stop at verse 17, and without following the continued thought process we miss the urgency of verse 18. John 3:18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”. There is a lot at stake. The world stands condemned, they are guilty, and sentence awaits them, but God is kind and compassionate, and sent His Son to pay our debt. The four men who carried the paralytic knew that Jesus was the only one who could save their friend. They risked their lives…maybe…to get him up on that roof. They saw his life as valuable, so valuable that they broke the law by destroying another man’s roof. They broke the rules of polite society…they “cut the line”, they didn’t care if the crowd objected, they just wanted their friend to meet Jesus. There is something so gorgeous about that!  So, what about us? What are we willing to do? For the people that are already condemned, are we willing to speak the truth?

Have you ever seen the “Co-exist” bumper stickers? I only mention it because of all the religious symbols on them, but on those stickers that tell us to co-exist, there is only one “symbol” that can save a world that stands already condemned, and that is the Cross. We are told today that Christianity is intolerant, but that is not true…some Christians may be intolerant, but Christianity is welcoming. Every other religion claims to be the “right way”, but in order to be “acceptable” you must be part of their religion, and of course there are requirements within those religious systems, or put another way…there are certain “works” that must be carried out in order to obtain acceptance within these systems. Christianity is opened to all, you don’t need to be part of any religion, just a part of the “family”! Christianity realizes that all men have fallen short of the glory of God, and they desperately need atonement…God does not require us to clean ourselves up…He provided the Savior that we all needed so that we could have our sins washed clean by HIs blood.

The message of the gospel is clear, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved”. (Acts 16:31). Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And in the book of Acts we are told, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). There are not many “paths” to God, there is only one way to God, and to redemption, and that is through Jesus Christ.

Many people, even some Christians find that statement offensive, they feel that it excludes a whole lot of people, and they are right…it does, but here’s the thing…Anyone, and I mean anyone…a Buddhist, a Muslim, a jew, and even a satanist, will be received by God, if He accepts what Jesus did on the cross, no one is turned away!, because God loves His creation, each man, woman and child is a precious life that He crafted lovingly, and they all  have intrinsic value, because God’s “fingerprints” are on them, and He loves them so much that He paid the debt of their sin, with His Son. Jesus willingly, joyfully, went to the cross to pay the ransom, to set them free from their bondage. The keys to their prison are waiting for them, but if they don’t know that they are in prison, how will they know to grab them? That’s where we come in.

Each of us has a calling. We have been set free, we have met the risen Lord, and He has changed us. We all have a testimony, or a story to tell…and as we share that story, God will work through it. Yesterday, as I was writing this devotional, I had a young man arrive to fix my oven. My oven did not get fixed…but…I had an hour-long conversation. We talked about all sorts of things, and God used all the weird little circumstances of my life to create a “connecting point” with this young man. Mostly, I just listened to his story, and answered his questions, but in the answers, I got to tell him about my God, and what He has done for me. I got to share about my life and my struggles, and how I had seen God work through the tough times. I got to share the hope that comes through a relationship with God. You see, people are struggling out there, and they need that hope, and you and I are the ones who have been called to extend it to them. And it isn’t difficult, it really is just being available, and waiting to see what God does, and what God tells you to do. He probably won’t tell you to climb up on a roof, but then again, He does tell us to “shout it from the rooftops”! but at least you won’t be carrying a man on a stretcher! I invited my oven repair man to church, and to Passover Supper. I don’t know if he will come, but he is a man who is being drawn by the Spirit…that was clear, and I did what I was asked to do by God, which was to stop writing and go and talk to the man standing in my kitchen. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

                                                                      – Ginny Axelrod

Follow this link to watch the March 3 sermon: https://www.facebook.com/BRBUMC/videos/267080129670190

Story telling is an art! The pale blank pages its canvas, the words create shadow, contrast, and impression…the words “paint” a picture and it evokes an emotion. As I read Luke 17:13-19 I think to myself wow, Luke was a good communicator. Luke is a good story teller, he records details that are so important, but often go unappreciated by the reader, because they do not understand their significance, but when we explore these details we find…. well, that God is in the details.

The story of the ten lepers is a very familiar story to most people. It is a story about ten men who ask for a miracle from Jesus, and it is also the story about one amongst them who received the greater miracle, and it was one he didn’t even know that he needed! Leprosy was a life wrecking disease. It destroyed everything. Yes, it destroyed the body, but also the spirit. Leprosy caused separation from your family.  Imagine not being able to see your family…your wife, your kids, your parents. Separation from your community; you could not interact with people at the market, and you certainly were prohibited from the house of worship. You were unable to work, and provide for yourself, leaving you dependent on the generosity of strangers…your freedom, and independence were taken from you through the social ramifications of this disease…and leprosy was seen as a judgment, so the social stigma played a hand in how society viewed the victim, and how the victim saw themselves.  We are told in the text that Jesus is on HIs way to Jerusalem, and as Anchul pointed out, this is Luke reminding us that Jesus is on His way to live out His greatest miracle, but on His way there, Jesus is ever seeking to do the will of His Father; heal the broken and bring life to the spiritually dead. As Jesus enters a village on His way to Jerusalem, He is met by ten lepers standing off at a distance.  They call to Him, or as Anchul pointed out on Sunday, they pray, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”. Jesus told them to, “Go and show yourselves to the priests”, The purpose of this was to keep the law laid out in Leviticus 13:9. According to the text, “as they went, they were cleansed”, meaning before they even got to the priests they were healed. All of the lepers were healed. All of them recognized Jesus as someone who could heal them, so they had some sort of “faith”, and notice they called Him “Master”. But only one came back with a heart full of worship. The nine remind me of the religious folks of Jesus day….and ours. The lepers, like the religious folks, prayed…they asked Jesus for mercy. They understood the Law, and sought to keep it, but they failed to understand that the Law was being fulfilled. They, much like the pharisees were on “auto- pilot”, when it came to the law. The pharisees did not like that Jesus healed people on the sabbath. They considered the act of healing to be work, and in their reasoning, Jesus broke the Law, but Jesus came to fulfill the Law completely. He faced the wrath that the Law promised, so we would be spared. In Matthew 22, Jesus summarized the Law by saying that it is loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, Jesus displayed His love for His Father by loving people that He created and healing His neighbor. The nine lepers sought to keep the law, they did what Jesus told them to do to keep the Law…they went to show themselves to the priests, after all they were good Jewish men, who wanted to be restored to society. But it seems to me that they chose religion and ritual, over a true authentic, spiritual encounter, with the one who had made them whole. They were more concerned with restoring their “image”, and how they appeared to the rest of society…they wanted to be officially pronounced “Holy”, by a priest, a mere man, rather than have a truly “holy” experience worshipping at the feet of Jesus and be transformed by that experience.  The nine lepers did exactly what Jesus had told them to do…go to the priest, they were obedient, but they lacked spirit, and they lacked a love and appreciation for God. They called Jesus “Master” but did not recognize His authority over the authority of the priests. They said the “right” thing, but just like the people Jesus speaks of in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father”, they lacked true understanding.  Amongst the lepers there was a Samaritan. He also prayed and asked Jesus for mercy, he also called Jesus “Master”. All the lepers had faith that Jesus could make their bodies whole, but this man, a despised Samaritan, saw so much more than the good religious folk! As this man sought to carry out Jesus’ command, he realized that he had been healed. “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet giving him thanks.” (Luke 17:15-16). Guys…I love this! He is on his merry way, with instructions, but this man…this man is overcome! He just cannot carry on; his joy is so overwhelming that he erupts with spontaneous worship! And He must return to the one who healed him. He falls at Jesus’ feet and worships Him, and that is the evidence of a changed life! Jesus told him to go to the priest, and so he went to the “great high priest” Jesus (Hebrews 5:7), who pronounced him whole! The Samaritan was an outsider, most respectable Jews would have crossed the street if they came upon him, the only ones to accept him were his fellow unclean lepers…sin is welcoming and likes its own company. The day the lepers called out to Jesus, they all received healing, but only one received the grace that bought him to a lifesaving faith in Jesus. They all sought a priest, but only one chose the High Priest that died for his sins. They all obeyed in the “physical command”, but only one received the call of the spiritual. That day, the Samaritan was born of the spirit, and he worshipped “in spirit and in truth”, and I just think that is a beautiful story! We have all been given that same spirit. We have been healed of our greatest malady…sin and death. When God sees us, He does not see the sinner that we are, but instead He sees the righteousness that Christ imputed to us, and we can stand before the throne of God, we can worship without shame. We have been called to worship! It is an outward display of all the goodness that we have been given on the inside! So, this Sunday…or any day, lift your voice in praise…worship like only God is watching, because He is the only one who matters! He is deserving of our worship, and we are most content when we are worshipping Him! 

– Ginny Axelrod