"The Old Brick Church"

National Register of Historic Places in the United States of America: Reference number 83001136.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

"Brief Devotions For Busy Lives" by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson: Matthew 17:20 (NLT)

 July 12

"You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible." -Jesus in Matthew 17:20 (NLT) 

Have you ever experienced failure? It is tempting to give up. In order to succeed however, we need to keep trying. Pablo Picasso, once said "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."  Consequently, Picasso became one of the most successful artists of all time. Yet most struggle with wanting to quit if we can't do something, just as the disciples did in today's scripture. When Jesus speaks to them about their discouragement because they were unable to heal a man immediately through their own prayer efforts, his purpose was not to criticize them. Rather it was to encourage a greater faith for greater success. After the disciples had been unable to heal this man, they were discouraged wondering why. Jesus said their faith was too small. They had the authority to heal, yet had not learned how to access God's power.  However it is that power combined with our faith that moves mountains. Jesus says faith in God even as tiny as a mustard seed is sufficient to do great things. There is awesome potential in even a little faith if don't quit and then trust in God's power to act in his time. If we feel weak or powerless, we need to examine our faith and make sure we also trust God's power and not just our own ability to produce results. Jesus didn't condemn the disciples for faithlessness but tried to show how important faith is in our lives and life journey. Are you facing a seemingly impossible situation today? Do you have a chronic problem that seems immovable as a mountain? Turn your eyes from the mountain and look to Christ with faith. Then will you be able to overcome any obstacle that stands in your way. Or as an old country proverb reminds us:   

 "Strength doesn't come from what you can do 

But comes from overcoming those things

 You once thought you couldn't do."


Prayer: Jesus, Increase my faith and trust in you.  Amen

Meditation For The Day: Success never quits. Defeat just sits.

Brief Devotions For Busy Lives: Daily Spring Renewal Paperback – February 21, 2017, by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson (Author)



Saturday, July 9, 2022

"Brief Devotions For Busy Lives" by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson: Proverbs 17:17 (NRSV)

 July 9

"A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity." Proverbs 17:17 (NRSV) 

 One of the wonderful things about July is the opportunities it offers for enjoying friends and family. Whether outings, cookouts or quiet moments on the porch in good conversation, it often seems what really matters most in life is God, family and good friends. Helen Steiner Rice once wrote a beautiful poem that reflects today's scripture in Proverbs called "A Prayer For Friends":

"Stores don’t sell,

I must confess, 

the joys of life

that cheer and bless,

but friends and prayers 

are priceless treasures

beyond all monetary measures –

and so, my friend,

I say a prayer

that God will keep you 

in his care.”

 Friends are treasures indeed and often like family! Yet there is a vast difference between acquaintances such as most "Facebook Friends" and tried, tested, proven true friends. There is also a big difference between knowing someone well and being a real friend. The greatest evidence of genuine friendship is loyalty and being available to help out in times of distress, hard times, or personal struggles. Unfortunately we find out some are fair-weather friends. They stick around when friendship helps them and leave in the difficulties of adversity. This behavior can leave us feeling betrayed and hurt yet our friend Jesus can heal our pain with his love if we take it to the Lord in prayer. We need to remember Proverbs says a true friend "loves at all times." As Christians we are called to be the kind of true friend the Bible encourages us to be: cheerful, ready to welcome others, offering encouraging words, helping with tasks, and offering a positive outlook on the future. Such people are always valued as true friends and are God's awesome gift to you!

Prayer: Lord, Thank you for the gift of true friends. Amen

Meditation For The Day:  True Friends remain. False Friends flee. 

Brief Devotions For Busy Lives: Daily Spring Renewal Paperback – February 21, 2017, by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson (Author)


"Brief Devotions For Busy Lives" by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson: Joel 2:25-26 (RSV)

 July 8

"I will restore to you the years which the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame." -God in Joel 2:25-26 (RSV) 

   Have you ever been so stressed you felt like you lost a day or even a year? If so, you can understand the reality of "years the locusts have eaten" in Joel. What would such years look like for us today?  They may look like the hard years we experienced a great deal of loss. It could have been the result of illness, death of loved ones, or financial disasters that left us feeling like that year was one locusts of affliction ate up all we had including days and time. Lost years are years we can't seem to get back. They come in many varieties and are usually painful years. They may be times we had plans for a future that didn't materialize and now we fear our future years may be empty. They may be conflict-filled or loveless years of divisions in families or alienation from those we once loved. Or we may not have found the "Love of our Life" and years moved on and left us alone. It is as if locusts have eaten them. 

 Yet God did indeed keep this awesome promise to restore lost years to the Israelites in Joel 2:25. It meant that seasons of abundant harvests followed the years of devastation and famine that had been brought about by swarms of locusts devouring everything. But God also put this promise in the Bible for us today. Take heart! There is Hope! There is Hope because God says he can restore our lost years!  He can do so in unlimited ways. First, God says he will remove our shame which includes any sense of failure or embarrassment. While we do not know exactly what the details of the restoration of our lost years will look like in our lives, or precisely when it will happen, you can rest assured God will keep his promise even as he did for the Hebrews. We may see broken relationships mended and new ones forged. Or we may experience physical, spiritual, or emotional healings. Yet God can give us all a supernatural joy, revelation, peace and victory far beyond our human circumstances or abilities! He can accomplish more than you ever thought possible and restore your lost years in amazing ways if you only ask. Seek God's perfect path! Jesus wants to bless you with only the best!

Prayer: Lord God, Thank you for restoring my lost years.  Amen.

Meditation For The Day: Locusts devour. God empowers.

Brief Devotions For Busy Lives: Daily Spring Renewal Paperback – February 21, 2017, by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson (Author)

Thursday, July 7, 2022

"Brief Devotions For Busy Lives" by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson: Mark 16:9-11

 July 7

"After Jesus rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went to the disciples, who were grieving and weeping, and told them what had happened. But when she told them Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her. -Mark 16:9-11 (NLT) 

 Have you ever told someone wonderful news and they refused to believe you? It can be very hurtful. Yet Mary Magdalene did not stop spreading the Good News of Jesus' resurrection even when others didn't believe her. She persevered in spite of initial rejection by Peter and the apostles, ridicule from friends, and threats of governing officials. Yet her courage to persevere telling the truth in the face of the threats and slander of the authorities eventually earned her a revered place in the early Christian church. She holds a unique position in history today as not only the first person to see the risen Christ, but as the first Evangelist. 

 While it is clear historically there were many women among Jesus' disciples, it is also clear Jesus didn't treat women as others in his culture but with dignity, as people of worth. Mary, from the town of Magdala, was a wealthy independent woman and early disciple of Jesus who was energetic, generous, and caring. She not only traveled with a group of other women disciples supporting Jesus and his apostles but contributed financially to the needs of their ministry along with the rest of these faithful women. (Lk.8:1-3) Mary was one of the few disciples remaining present at the cross after all male apostles but John had fled in terror. She was preparing to anoint Jesus' body on Sunday morning when she discovered the empty tomb and was first to see the risen Christ.

  Mary Magdalene is an inspiring example of courageous living. After her affliction was miraculously healed by Jesus, she left all to follow him. In the gospels Mary acts out of appreciation for the freedom Christ gave her. That freedom allowed her to stand under Christ's cross when most of the male disciple were hiding in fear. After Jesus' death, she intended to lovingly prepare his body for burial, in spite of the risks. She never expected a bodily resurrection but was overjoyed to see it. Mary was more eager to believe and obey Jesus' instructions to tell others than to understand details. Because Mary's faith was so courageous, Jesus honored her by appearing to her first and entrusting her with the Good News of his victory over death. She remains an inspiration for all today!

Prayer: God, Help me be courageous like Mary Magdalene. Amen.

Meditation For The Day: True courage can transform our fears to faith!

Brief Devotions For Busy Lives: Daily Spring Renewal Paperback – February 21, 2017, by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson (Author)



Wednesday, July 6, 2022

"Brief Devotions For Busy Lives" by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson: Colossians 2:8-10

 July 6

"Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.  For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority." -Paul in Colossians 2:8-10 (NLT) 

 A great philosopher once said, "There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ."(Blaise Pascal in Pensées)  Paul also asserts this truth in today's scripture when he says, "In Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body". He also warns the Colossians against any philosophy of life based solely on humanism. Paul himself was a gifted philosopher, so he is not condemning philosophy but teachings that credit people, not Christ, with the answer to life's problems. That approach can become a false religion. There are certainly many approaches to life's problems that disregard God. Yet if we have Christ, we have everything needed to fill our emptiness up with the completeness we can only find in Christ's presence in us. 

 Yet if we look around and within, we can recognize the depth of Paul's and Pascal's profound truth. When feeling empty, we can become like vacuum cleaners sucking up very bad things trying to fill our void. We are all searching for something to fill us up whether bad or good including alcohol, food, drugs, workaholism, etc. Few are content within. A strange inner vacuum gives us a sense of emptiness. Yet Christ can fill that vacuum! Since Jesus is fully divine, we find personal completeness in him. Paul says in today's' text that "You also are complete through your union with Christ."

 When we know Jesus, we don't need to seek God by means of other religions, cults, bad habits, or unbiblical philosophies as the Colossians were doing. Christ alone holds the answers to the true meaning of our life because he is life. Christ is a unique source of knowledge and power for our lives. No person needs anything in addition to what Christ has provided to be saved. Some days we may not feel like it, but in Jesus our vacuum has been filled with God's loving presence. If the full power and presence of God has taken up residence in your soul and heart, you will become a new person satisfied and filled up with God's love. What you can do with Christ filling your heart with divine power will amaze you!

Prayer:  Jesus, Thank you for filling my emptiness. Amen.

Meditation For The Day: Only God can fill the holes in our souls. 

Brief Devotions For Busy Lives: Daily Spring Renewal Paperback – February 21, 2017, by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson (Author)

Thursday, June 30, 2022

"Brief Devotions For Busy Lives" by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson: Matthew 4:18-22

 June 30

"As he was walking along the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (called Peter) and Andrew. They were throwing a net into the sea because they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me! I will teach you how to catch people instead of fish.” They immediately left their nets and followed him. As Jesus went on, he saw two other brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee preparing their nets to go fishing. He called them, and they immediately left the boat and their father and followed Jesus." -Matthew 4:18-22 (GW)

June is a great month for fishing but the kind of fishing Matthew describes was not our relaxing, serene, line-fishing. It was a grueling vocation using circular nets with heavy weights around their perimeter. Fishing in Galilee was labor intensive and involved long hours, and often little results. Profit margins were thin because of heavy Roman taxes. Equipment used in fishing businesses included expensive specialized boats and nets. For Peter, Andrew, James, and John to immediately leave their nets and follow Jesus as disciples is a shocking statement in today's scripture. The decision of these struggling fishermen to give up all they owned was one that cost them dearly financially and personally. Yet they didn't make excuses about why it was impossible or get emotionally entangled in the financial values of their nets and what could happen to their ability to ever earn a living again. When they "followed Jesus" it was not only a courageous physical action, but a spiritual/emotional commitment to follow him as their guiding priority in life.

When Jesus told Peter and Andrew to leave their fishing business and begin fishing "for people" by helping others find God, he was calling them away from a productive trade to be productive spiritually. We are all called to fish for souls. If we share the Good News of Jesus, we will be able to draw those around us to Christ like fishermen who pull fish into our boats with spiritual nets. James, John, Peter, and Andrew, were the first disciples Jesus called and motivated to immediately leave their old life behind for greater opportunities ahead. They didn't make excuses about why it wasn't possible. Are we still able to leave our nets of fear, insecurity, and indecision behind to follow Jesus today? Even if difficult, it is still more than worth it! Your rewards will be infinite and eternal.

Prayer: Jesus, Grant me the courage to follow you always. Amen.

Meditation For The Day: God's fishing nets are priceless.

Brief Devotions For Busy Lives: Daily Spring Renewal Paperback – February 21, 2017, by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson (Author)

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

"Brief Devotions For Busy Lives" by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson: Galatians 4:4-7

 June 29

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God." - Paul in Galatians 4:4-7 (RSV)

Many are involved today in genealogical research with the access the internet gives to explore old family records worldwide. A goal of many researchers is tracing family lines back to royal blood. However, as a believer, you can rest assured you already belong to a royal family! The word "Abba" in today's scripture from Paul is an Aramaic word most accurately translated “Daddy.” Aramaic was the common language in Jesus' time and spoken in Judea. Jesus taught publicly in Aramaic and often used it when praying. Hebrew was reserved for more formal occasions such as high holy services in the temple and parts of services in synagogues. However, Abba was a very common word small children used for their fathers. It shows the close, intimate relationship of fathers to children and the childlike trust a young child puts in “Daddy.” It is life-changing to have the privilege of calling God Almighty our “Daddy” and shows us today what it really means to become joint "heirs" with Christ. Under Roman law, an adopted son was given all legal rights to his father's property. Even if a former slave, he was not a second-class son but equal to all other sons, biological or adopted, in his father's family.

As Christians, we are all adopted children of God, and share with Jesus all rights to God's family estate. Paul tell us that, as God's heirs, we can claim all provided for us including our full identity as God's children. However, in Roman culture, the adopted person also lost all rights in their old family when gaining rights of legitimate children in their new family. Likewise, when we become Christians today, we also became full heirs to our Father's estate and gain all privileges and responsibilities of sons in God's family. Because we are God's children, we have great wealth now as co-heirs. Yet our Daddy has already given us his best gifts including Jesus, eternal life, forgiveness, heaven, and God's love. Our Daddy invites you right now to ask for everything you need anytime!

Prayer: Father God, Thank you for adopting me as your beloved child and for always loving me anywhere and every day. Amen.

Meditation For The Day: God is my perfect Daddy!

Brief Devotions For Busy Lives: Daily Spring Renewal Paperback – February 21, 2017, by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson (Author)