Weekly Devotion

Emotionally Healthy Christians – Pursuit of Happiness (Unhealthy Emotions)

“…and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.” Acts‬ ‭26:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬


Psychologists have discovered happiness accumulates. If we have a particularly happy day, it will boost our well-being over the next two days. If we have a particularly unhappy day, it carries over for the next 4 days! “Chronic Happiness” is defined as 3 happy days for every bad day. People who demonstrated chronic happiness were better physically in terms of stress responses, the immune system, and cardiovascular health. Talk about healthy emotions! Happy people are also more effective at their work. In a research study of physicians, physicians did better on diagnosis and treatment plans on their happier days, and had the best patient satisfaction scores. When we are happy, we make more quality decisions and exhibit more creativity! However, most of us don’t know what causes unhappiness and what fosters happiness! (By the way, clergy are no more or less happy than the population at large.)


The founders of our country drafted the Declaration of Independence so we could pursue happiness. This July 4th read the entire document. You may be surprised by what it contains. The most popular phrase is a reminder of how the original 13 Colonies wanted to be free to engage in, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Freedom was important to them.


Psychologists have learned happiness is often a matter of perspective and not actual events. Some people can suffer a great deal like the Apostle Paul did and still be happy. Psychologists believe you can even redeem a terrible day by ending the day on a high note. Paul was imprisoned and yet while in chains spent his evening praising God. He became shipwrecked and yet his pursuit of God allowed him to experience happiness in the midst of strife. May you be like Paul and allow God to bring happiness to your day. May you accumulate days of  “Chronic Happiness,” so you may share your joy with others.


Questions To Consider:

1. How do you best experience “happiness? What activities make you happy? What people make you happy?


2. What do you do to bring happiness to others?


3. Would you say you are in a state of “Chronic Happiness?” Why or why not?


In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Emotionally Healthy Christians – Emotional Journey

“When they arrived, he said to them: ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents.’” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:18-20 ‭NIV‬‬

Whether we realize it or not we are all on a spiritual journey. We move in and out of relationships with others. We move along the path of life also experiencing an emotional journey. Some would even call it a roller coaster of faith. Our spiritual and emotional journey goes through ups and downs, sharp curves and sudden stops. It is scary at times and sometimes unpredictable.


Saul (also known as Paul) had such a journey. He started out with a different name and job description. He went from persecuting Christians to becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus. Paul experiences extremes lows of being persecuted, jailed, stoned, and tortured. Throughout these mission trips, Paul suffered multiple beatings from opposing groups. In Lystra, he was stoned by a group of Jews so badly that they left him for dead. The Apostle Paul mysteriously alludes to “the marks of Jesus” on his body in Galatians 6:17. Some scholars believe he refers here to the scars left by this beatings. Paul experienced an emotional and spiritual roller coaster that eventually led to death. Paul (on the same day as St. Peter) paid the ultimate price for his Christian faith: martyrdom. He was beheaded outside the walls of Rome on June 29, 67 A.D.


Each of us experience an emotional and spiritual journey similar to the Apostle Paul. We may not have been tortured for our faith, but may have experienced times of persecution. We have also experienced extreme emotional highs and times of joy. Like Paul, we too are called to embrace the journey and realize God is with us. God is with us in our joys and in our sorrows. God is with us in all we do. May we live our lives in a way that glorifies God in the journey. Questions To Consider:

  1. Describe one of your favorite journeys when you were younger? More recently?
  1. What are some of your spiritual highs and spiritual lows?
  1. Have you ever suffered because of your faith? Why or why not?
In Christ’s love and service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Emotionally Healthy Christians – Social Awareness

“God knows people’s hearts, and He confirmed that He accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for He cleansed their hearts through faith.” – Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭15:8-9 ‭NLT‬‬
Empathy and acceptance are key factors in growing as a mature Christian. Some are given the spiritual gift of “mercy” and are inclined toward empathy. Others develop social awareness over time as we mature in our faith. “To be empathetic means we are able to identify and understand others’ emotions i.e. imagining ourselves in someone else’s position.” (Wikipedia) 
Some of the benefits of social awareness or empathy helps us with an understanding of how an individual feels and why they behave in a certain way. As a result, our compassion and our ability to help someone increases because we respond genuinely to concerns. Being empathetic shows those around us that we care. It is a great Christian witness to our love of God and others. Peter in this passage of Scripture is sharing with the leaders of the church the importance of empathizing with non-Jewish believers. For example, an adult male probably is not excited about joining a faith where they need to be circumcised. Peter helps the Jews understand God does not want to place additional burdens on new believers. 
Here are some practical tips to help us grow in social awareness or empathy:
  1. Practice listening to family members, friends, and fellow employees without interrupting them.
  2. Observe those around us and try to gauge how they might be feeling.
  3. Seek first to understand then be understood.
  4. To communicate our empathy we should keep our body language open and regulate our voice to show our sincerity.
Come join us this Sunday as we learn more about how to grow in faith and awareness of those around us.

Questions To Consider:

  1. Why do you think there were tensions in the early church between Jews and Gentiles? How were they resolved?
  1. What are some tensions in the church today? How do you feel they can best be resolved?
  1. On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate yourself on social awareness? 
  1. Of the four tips for growth, which one would you like to work on this week? 
In Christ’s love and service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Fathers Day

“So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, ‘Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed.’” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭27:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Father’s matter. In a world that seems to downplay the importance of fatherhood, we must understand men make a difference in the lives of their children, particularly in matters of faith. Like Jacob we all seek our Father’s blessing.  A large and important study conducted by the Swiss government, published in 2000, revealed some astonishing facts with regard to the generational transmission of faith and religious values. (The full title of the study is: “The Demographic Characteristics of the Linguistic and Religious Groups in Switzerland” by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner of the Federal Statistical Office, Neuchatel. The study appears in Volume 2 of Population Studies No. 31, a book titled The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, edited by Werner Haug and others, published by the Council of Europe Directorate General III, Social Cohesion, Strasbourg, January 2000.) Sounds like a page-turner right? Since this report, similar studies have been conducted in the US with like results.
In short, the Swiss study reveals, “It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.”

The study reports:

  1. If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all.
  2. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.
  3. If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church!
In short, if a father does not go to church-no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions-only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). One of the reasons suggested for this distinction is children tend to take their cues about domestic life from Mom while their conceptions of the world outside come from Dad. If Dad takes faith in God seriously, then the message to their children is God should be taken seriously.
This confirms the essential role of the father as a spiritual leader, which I would argue is true fatherhood. Fathers are to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5). Fathers are to care for their children as our Father in heaven cares for us. Finally, fathers play a primary role in teaching their children the truth about reality. Fathers are essential for nurturing kids in a biblical view of reality and a faith in Jesus Christ.
This Father’s Day give thanks if you had a father who helped you grow in faith. If you did not, remember you have a Heavenly Father who loves you very much. Also, if you are a father, examine how you are instilling values in your children and what they are learning from you. May we all receive blessings from God the Father and pass along those blessings to others.
In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Emotionally Healthy Christians – Self Management

“Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was powerful in both speech and action.” – ‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭7:20-22‬ ‭NLT‬‬
Moses was blessed by proper teaching. He was taught how to speak and how to respond. Acts chapter 7 is filled with examples of how Moses listened to God and responded to the struggles before him. An Apostle named Stephen tells this story of Moses to help explain Jesus, like Moses, came to proclaim the Word of God. Moses was rejected by many leaders of his day in the same way the leaders rejected Jesus. Stephen goes on to say, “Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt,” (‭‭Acts‬ ‭7:39‬ ‭RSV‬‬)
In this week’s message we will be further examining this young man Stephen. He was emotionally and spiritually mature. Through the power of the Holy Spirit he kept his composure as he testified about Jesus. Threatened by death he never wavered. At the end, as they stoned him, his response was that of love and compassion. In his final words before dying he echoed the sentiment of Jesus when He died, “And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep,” (‭‭Acts‬ ‭7:60‬ ‭RSV‬‬). Let us follow their example and be more like Moses and Stephen allowing the Holy Spirit to control our thoughts and speech. Pray for the self control to share Jesus even when we are afraid.
Questions to Consider:
  1. Would you consider yourself an emotionally mature person? Why or why not?
  2. When is a time when you “lost it” emotionally and lashed out at others? What triggered the event?
  3. How do you allow the Holy Spirit to control your thoughts and speech?
  4. What are you currently focusing on in your faith to become more emotionally secure?
In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Emotionally Healthy Christians – Relationship Management

John 21:16 – “Jesus repeated the question: ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter said, ‘you know I love you.’ ‘Then take care of my sheep,’ Jesus said.”
This Sunday we are starting a new series called “Emotionally Healthy Christians”. We will be looking at different biblical stories and seeing how emotional health is displayed. Also this will be a time where we get to explore together where we may need emotional health in our lives and relationships.
This week we are looking at Jesus and Peter’s relationship after Jesus’ death and resurrection. In this reading Jesus is resurrected and appears before Peter and the disciples. Needless to say, Jesus and Peter have issues. If we were to look at Jesus and Peter as two friends, we could immediately mention two things that they need to work on: trust and communication. Jesus cuts to the point and asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” He does this to reconcile their relationship because previously Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.
There are times in our lives where we need reconciliation. Whether it’s because someone hurt us or we hurt someone else. When I was growing up, my sister and I fought many times. Once I crushed her fingers in a car door, and she once kicked me in the knees. Like most children these conflicts were frequent, but we would always come back together to reconcile and say that we love each other. This week may we seek reconciliation, and let us do it like Jesus and remain in love
Questions to consider:
  • Did you ever have an argument with anyone that was silly or ridiculous? How did it start and did it get resolved?
  • Have you ever had an argument with your spouse or significant other? If so, how did you resolve it?
  • Have you ever had some issue where you were upset or irritated with God?

Mark Schlasner

Overwhelmed – By Transition

John 15:1-4 NLT – “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
Transition is difficult. Transition is an unknown. The unknown can be scary because we don’t know what dangers wait for us. In this scripture, Jesus is telling the disciples everything will be okay as long as they remain in Him. The disciples, though, find it challenging to remain in Him when He’s not there instructing them in what to do. This is a scary transition for the disciples where there is no longer safety in staying with Jesus, but it instead presents many dangers.
We worry about dangers when we’re in transition. We try to prepare ourselves by asking questions. When looking for a new job, we ask, “will it be enough to support my family?” When looking for a new place to live, we ask, “will it be good enough to call it ‘home’ without making me broke?” Sometimes when making new friends, we ask, “will they really accept every part of me? Even the ugly parts that I don’t like about myself?” When looking for new relationships, we ask, “will this next person accept me for who I am or will I have to settle for whomever I get?” Transition can be overwhelming, but it’s important to take that first step knowing Jesus will be with us just as He was with His disciples. So this week let us take comfort in knowing Jesus is with us and whenever changes come He will us throughout the transition.
Questions To Consider
What was a time of transition for you? What challenges did it bring? What opportunities did it present?
Why was transition difficult for the disciples? Why is it difficult for us now?
How has Jesus brought peace during your times of transition?
How can we allow Jesus to use us to bring that peace to others who are overwhelmed by transition?
In Christ’s love and service,

Mark Schlasner

Overwhelmed By Anger

John 10:31-33 NLT – “Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. Jesus said, ‘At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?’ They replied, ‘We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.’”
A person’s anger can run very deep. Anger’s history can reveal a lifelong struggle to overcome resentment, bitterness, and hostility. Anger is easy … self-control is hard. There are a variety of causes for anger. Externally, we may become angry with others who tempt or entice us to do something morally wrong or against our better judgment. And we might get angry when someone lies or preys upon our vulnerability or weakness. Internally, we may become angry with ourselves for being gullible, buying into a lie, or participating in a sinful act—even though we knew it was wrong. We blame ourselves and often feel shame—living disgraced, dishonored, unworthy, or embarrassed in our own minds. God wants us to know there’s a better way to react.
Anger is a thief. A thief of peace, joy, and time. In today’s Scripture, the people become angry at Jesus to the point of wanting to kill Him. Jesus demonstrates forgiveness and does not respond with anger back toward the crowd. When we’re assured of our relationship with God, we can take responsibility for our own actions including our anger. And when we accept God’s forgiveness for our sins and extend that same forgiveness toward others, anger has no power over us. May we release whatever anger we may be feeling this week. May we all demonstrate the love of Jesus when others are angry toward us.
Questions To Consider:
When have you witnessed someone who was angry? How did it make you feel?
Are there certain things that trigger anger in you? What makes you most upset?
When was the last time you were angry? What happened?
When you are angry what helps you get over it?
In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Overwhelmed – By Anxiety

“There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, ‘He’s a good man,’ but others said, ‘He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.’” John‬ ‭7:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Bible does not assume believers won’t have anxieties. Like Jesus, we will experience people being frustrated with us. The Bible tells us how to fight when we experience those feelings. For example, 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” It does not say, you will never feel any anxieties. It says, when you have them, cast them on God. When the mud splatters on our windshield (or depending on the season it may be snow) we temporarily lose sight of the road. We may start to swerve in anxiety because we can’t see. The solution is to turn on our wipers and squirt our windshield washer fluid. We fight anxieties by fighting against unbelief and focusing on our faith. The way we fight this “good fight” is by meditating on God’s assurances. We also focus on God’s grace and by asking for help from the Holy Spirit. The windshield wipers are the promises of God that clear away the mud of unbelief, and the windshield washer fluid is the help of the Holy Spirit. The battle is to be freed from sin — including the sin of anxiety. The work of the Spirit and the word of truth. These are the great faith-builders. Without the softening work of the Holy Spirit, the wipers of the word just scrape over the blinding clumps of unbelief on the windshield.

Both the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures are necessary to overcome anxiety. We read the promises of God and we pray for the help of God’s Spirit. And as the windshield clears we can see the plans God has for us. Our faith grows stronger so we are better able to “wipe off” the anxiety holding us back. My prayer for us today is we allow the windshield wipers of the promises of God to help us this day. May each of us follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit this week in our lives.
In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Overwhelmed By Guilt

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” ‭John‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬
Guilt is a complex topic because it involves both subjective elements (opinions or preferences) and objective elements (facts and truth). Subjectively, feelings of guilt are a universal phenomenon. We approach guilt in a variety of ways through religious confession, psychological therapy, self help, and so on. As human beings, we want to erase our personal experiences of guilt and regret. As God’s image-bearers, we feel overwhelmed with guilt whenever we are aware we have disappointed God. Scripture alludes to guilty feelings in many places, especially in the Psalms. In today’s reading from John, Jesus confronts a woman about her adultery. She confesses it to Jesus after He encounters her at a well during the middle of the day. She acknowledges her sin of having been intimate with several men. It is not stated as “guilt,” but we can conclude the feeling is guilt because she is coming to get water at an uncomfortably hot time of day when others would typically not be around to stare and point at her.

Feelings of guilt are an acknowledged reality. We must admit our objective guilt is far more important than our subjective experience of it. In the first place, guilty feelings do not always correspond to our actual, guilty situation. Many of us are plagued by guilt because we think we have broken God’s law even when we haven’t, and there are others who are actually guilty of violating God’s commands are not bothered in their violations. Repeated indulgence in sin can deaden one’s conscience to the point where it is all too easy to call good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20).

In the final analysis, true guilt results from us violating the objective standards of God. Guilty feelings help us become aware of violating God’s standards. Whether we “feel” guilty or not, all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Let us take time today to repent of our sin and acknowledge the truth that God forgives us. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to make us hate sin so our conscience will be stricken with disgust and sorrow each time we violate God’s law. May we all strive to imitate the holiness of Jesus and hate sin just as God does.
In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn