Category Archives: Devotions

Too good not to share.

A few days back I received this email.  After reading it a few times I managed a moment to just sit back and reflect on the life of one of our most beloved members.  We all touch lives every day but do we strive to do it as well as Dallas Semones?  But enough of this, let’s read a wonderful tribute.

Dear Elder Johnson:

I did not know who to address this to so I thought you would know and would pass this on.  I wanted to send a personal testimony of how Vernon Semones forever touched my life.

I was in his 6th grade class at Chesterton Elementary in San Diego, California.  My dad was in the Navy and either out to sea or serving in different countries while I was a child.  My parents were both very conservative and raised their three children in a Christian home.  In 1970, I was in the 6th grade. Girls were just obtaining the right to wear pants, and even blue jeans, however, my parents thought it more appropriate for me to wear dresses to school.  This left me out of a lot of recess games and activities, especially those involving climbing.  What I remember is feeling left out and sometimes ridiculed because I did not wear pants.  But even more than the memory of that feeling, I remember the loving kindness of Mr. Semones.  I remember he made me feel special, allowing me to pass out papers to “help” him. I remember specifically him telling me that I was smart. And he actually filled in the “father figure” blank with little encouragements that things would turn out for me and that he thought I was a good girl.

I went on to Christian High School of San Diego, about 30 miles from Chesterton.  I was in the band and Mr. and Mrs. Semones would make the long drive to hear my concerts for the next 5 years.  I moved on and lost touch but always remembered him as my favorite teacher. This morning, in my office at Klein High School, we were talking about our favorite teachers and what they meant to us and I Googled Vernon Semones and the Endowment report came up.  I was thrilled to find it was my Vernon Semones, that he had lived a long and full life, passing on my birthday in 2010.

I know Mr. Semones was sent to me by God to give me that fatherly reassurance and direction in my life.  Having experienced God’s love and kindness through him during a particularly difficult time in my life was no accident. God’s loving kindness and mercy have kept me. I have served the Lord as a missionary visiting many countries.  I co-founded a school and trained Pastors in Russia from 1994-1998, and also was a church planter in Ontario Canada.  I have taught many classes in the local church on missions.

Like Mr. Semones, I came to teaching as a mature adult.  While I am a geography content expert, my goal is to show the Love of God to my students and fellow teachers and to encourage them to do good in the world.  My theme is always, “Each of us has been given a gift for the earth, find that gift and exploit it to its fullest”. I can only hope my students remember me with the fondness with which I remember Mr. Semones.


Thank you,


Tammy Koonce

Now What?

Well, Easter is over, hopefully all the eggs have been found, the candy collected, the food eaten, and the calendar has turned another page.  But for the Christian, what’s next?  I mean, this whole Jesus celebration is not confined to just Christmas and Easter, it is a 24/7 thing for the Christian.  So following the resurrection, we are left asking the question, “Now what?”

In a nutshell, the message of Easter is all about John 3:16.  In John 3:16 we read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”  But what about His love for individuals?  The rest of the verse reveals the central purpose behind God’s sacrifice of His Son, “That WHOEVER believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Therefore, without exception, every person may interpret John 3:16 like this, “For God so loved me!”

And once we have accepted that love, and we are united with Christ through the waters of baptism, that like Christ in His resurrection, we are brought up out of the water as new creations, what is our responsibility then?  After Easter, what is the Christian to do?  Well, let’s go back to the first few words of John 3:16, “For God so loved the WORLD…”  You do realize that after Jesus rose from the dead, the most important thing that He wanted to share with His disciples before He left them was the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18-20 says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me.  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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””

Do you have family members that are outside of a relationship with Christ?  Do you have neighbors who don’t attend church anywhere?  Do you have coworkers who don’t know the love of God in their lives?  Do you have classmates that have never given their lives to God?  We all do.  No matter what our age, our occupation, our social status, or our family life may be, we all have people in those categories that need to experience the love that God has for them.  So if you are asking, “Now what,” the answer is, “GO!”

In Christ,


Enjoying The Spotlight

It was Easter Sunday in 1993 when Bernhard Langer won the Masters golf tournament. Talk about a huge accomplishment, anyone would be thrilled to reach this pinnacle and then brag about the accomplishment and enjoy their time in the spotlight.

However, as he stepped off the 18th green to receive the green jacket, one of golf’s most coveted prizes, a reporter commented, “This must be the greatest day of your life!”  Here was his chance, this was his time, the spotlight was on him, and it was time to brag a bit, right?  Wrong.  Without missing a beat, Langer replied, “It’s wonderful to win the greatest tournament in the world, but it means more to win on Easter Sunday, to celebrate the resurrection of my Lord and Savior.”

Langer had just won on the biggest stage in golf, and now he had the opportunity to boast about himself, but instead he turned the spotlight on God.  Perhaps that is what it means in Matthew 5:16 when it says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

In other words, when the spotlight is placed on us, we should shift the attention to God, so that others may see Him.  And that is almost the exact opposite of what the world teaches, isn’t it?  Our world tells us to point out our strengths, to boast in our successes, to brag about our accomplishments, to enjoy our time in the spotlight.  And because of that, it’s easy for us to draw attention to ourselves, to make sure that everyone sees us when the spotlight shines on us.

But that isn’t what we need to be doing, we need to be turning the attention to God instead.  Look at the apostle Paul, he had plenty that he could have bragged about.  In Philippians chapter 3 he gives a list of all sorts of things that he could have taken pride in, but instead he considered it all garbage compared to knowing Christ.  We would be wise in following in his example.

So, if you really want something to brag about, brag about God, and what He’s done for you.  And not just this Easter, but every day, look for opportunities to turn the spotlight on Him!

In Christ,


Spring Cleaning!

Well, with yet another snowfall accounted for, many are eager for spring to roll around.  And with Spring comes the dreaded spring cleaning that we all have a tendency to need to do.  Maybe it’s a closet that needs to be better organized?  Perhaps you have an attic, a garage, or a basement that needs a good cleaning and sorting?  Or, it may be the total package, your entire house, from top to bottom, inside and out needs a good cleaning.  And when you do that spring cleaning, you are in hopes of giving everything a new look, a fresh start.  And as a result, a lot of things need to be thrown away.  But what about our lives, do we ever feel like we are just a bunch of throwaway junk that needs to be cleared out?

This week, I was reading an article from Our Daily Bread that shares the following thought.  “In many countries, health laws prohibit reselling or reusing old mattresses.  Only landfills will take them.  Tim Keenan tackled the problem and today his business employs a dozen people to extract the individual components of metal, fabric, and foam in old mattresses for recycling.  But that’s only part of the story.  Journalist Bill Vogrin wrote, “Of all the items Keenan recycles . . . it’s the people that may be his biggest success” (The Gazette, Colorado Springs).  Keenan hires men from halfway houses and homeless shelters, giving them a job and a second chance.  He says, “We take guys nobody else wants.”

Luke 5:17-26 tells how Jesus healed the body and the soul of a paralyzed man.  Following that miraculous event, Levi answered Jesus’ call to follow Him and then invited his fellow tax collectors and friends to a banquet in honor of the Lord.  When some people accused Jesus of associating with undesirables, He reminded them that healthy people don’t need a doctor, adding, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

To everyone who feels like a “throwaway” headed for the landfill of life, Jesus opens His arms of love and offers a fresh beginning.  That’s why He came!”

As we approach that time of year when we try and give our places a facelift, let’s not forget about the spiritual “spring cleaning” if you will, that needs to take place in our lives.  We are not throwaways.  Christ came to this earth to give us all the cleaning tools we need.  His life, His teachings, His death on the cross on our behalf, and finally, His resurrection as He defeated death once and for all.  That’s all that is needed this spring to really cleans ourselves, inside and out.  Let’s lift our faces to Him, and clean out all the junk in our lives, and allow God to lead us into a fresh beginning with Him.

In Christ,


Have You Had Enough Already?

Not sure about you, but when it comes to all this snow, many have thrown their hands in the air and screamed, “Enough already!”  Perhaps you share that feeling.  Maybe you have seen more than enough snow this winter, and you are ready to wave the white flag and say to God, “I’ve had enough, I can’t take it anymore.  I surrender.”

Well, this week I was reading in Our Daily Bread and came across the following article that talked about surrendering in another way.  The key text was found in Deuteronomy 6:1-9, and it said, “These are the commands, decrees, and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children, and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all His decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.  Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.  Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.”

And here is what the article shared, “Recently, while watching a video of a church service held in South America, I noticed something I had never seen before in church.  As the pastor passionately called his flock to yield their lives to Jesus, one of the parishioners took a white hankie out of his pocket and started waving it in the air.  Then another, and another.  With tears running down their cheeks, they were expressing full surrender to Christ.

But I wonder if there was more to the moment than the flags of surrender.  I think they were waving flags of love to God.  When God told His people to, “Love the Lord your God,” it was in the context of His urging them to surrender their lives to Him.

From God’s point of view, life with Him is far more than just trying to be good.  It is always about relationship.  Relationship in which surrender is the way we express our grateful love to Him.  Jesus, in amazing love for us, surrendered Himself on the cross to rescue us from our helpless bondage to sin and set us on a journey to all that is good and glorious.

We don’t have enough words to tell God how much we love Him!  So, let’s show Him our love by surrendering our hearts and lives to follow Him.”

Surrender, by definition means to yield in favor of another.  So have you demonstrated that degree of love toward God?  Have you waved the white flag and told God you surrender to Him?  If not, why don’t you?  Surrender your heart to Him, and surrender your lives to Him in service.

In Christ,