Monday May 25 2020

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Scripture: Joshua 1:1-9

Key verse: (9) “I hereby command you:  Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Reflection: After Moses died, Joshua, a man who is described in scripture as full of the spirit of wisdom, was chosen by God to lead God’s people into the promised land.  Here in the beginning of the book of Joshua he is repeatedly charged by God to be strong and courageous.  The people were facing a big challenge and were preparing for the unknown.  They were frightened and dismayed.  God instructed Joshua to keep his eyes forward and not be distracted because the “LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” In the first chapter of this book, Joshua reminded the people of God’s promises to them.  He called on the people to hold on to their faith in the LORD, knowing that God was with them.  There was a promise of success if they would meditate on the book of the Law day and night and not depart from it.  Joshua was the new leader, Israel was about to cross the Jordan, and life was about to change.

There have been many times in my life when these words from the LORD have encouraged and sustained me – times when life was changing and I was following God into a “new land”.   I believe we are living in such a time now as our lives have changed and been challenged by COVID 19.  This public health pandemic has cost people their lives, their livelihood and their dreams.  It has driven those who are the most vulnerable in our community to the verge of despair.  It has changed how we recreate, work, socialize and worship.  There is anger, frustration and grief. And, yet, I have seen people of faith be strong and courageous knowing that no matter what happens God will be with them.  I have seen people devote themselves more fully to the practice of their faith through devotion and service.  I have seen incredible generosity as people have reached out in love to people they know and don’t know.  I have seen the dedication of those in hospitals, service industries, and social services work tirelessly to provide for everyone.  So many people around us are showing courage as we move forward into the unknown.  We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, yet, we can be strong and courageous in the midst of our fear, because we know that the LORD our God is with us.  This promise made in our text is still the promise God makes to us today and every day.  I hope and pray the LORD will give you the strength and courage you need.

Prayer: Almighty God, we turn to you in our uncertainty and fear knowing that you have promised never to fail or forsake us.  Help us to move into this new season with courage knowing you are with us. Strengthen our faith as we continue to serve you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Author: Deborah Conner

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Friday May 22 2020

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Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10

Key verse: (8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Reflection: As a young person I memorized this Bible verse as I tried to figure out what it meant to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. I’m not so young anymore and this verse means so much more to me now. As I mature I realize more and more the depth and breadth of God’s grace for me.

When I speak to our eighth grade students in confirmation, I teach them this quote, attributed to author Cathleen Falsani: “Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. And grace is getting what you absolutely don’t deserve.” As one wise disciple told me (a lawyer!), we want justice for others, but mercy and grace for ourselves. Grace is the lavish extravagant love of God poured out on us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Grace is so much more than forgiveness; grace is the abundance of spiritual blessing we experience as God’s people.

In my younger years, I was driven to prove myself as a student, as a daughter, as a friend, and as a disciple. I wanted to show God that I was worthy. That’s why I memorized Bible verses and kept long prayer lists in a journal. None of that hard work made God love me anymore than God already loved me from the moment of my birth. I have more understanding of what a gift it is, rather than a reward for my attempts at good behavior. Grace through faith – pure gift. Like the beauty of the sunrise, the laughter of a child, the embrace of a loved one – pure gift. We are surrounded by glimpses of the gifts of God’s grace. May your heart be open to God’s gift of grace today. This is not your own doing; it is the gift of God!

Prayer: Your grace is enough for me, O God. I am grateful for the gift of grace you have so generously given me. May your grace shape my life today. Amen.

Author: Millie Snyder

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Thursday May 21 2020

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Scripture: Psalm 10

Key verses: (12-18) Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
do not forget the oppressed.
13 Why do the wicked renounce God,
and say in their hearts, “You will not call us to account”?
14 But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,
that you may take it into your hands;
the helpless commit themselves to you;
you have been the helper of the orphan.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers;
seek out their wickedness until you find none.
16 The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations shall perish from his land.
17 O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;
you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
18 to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
so that those from earth may strike terror no more

Reflection: Day 487. I really don’t know how to number the pandemic days and I have forgotten what week we are in of this new “virus time”, but some days it feels like 487 days, doesn’t it? How are you holding up?

We go to a psalm of deliverance today because that is exactly where we are and what we need. In these psalms, we are invited to cry out directly to God for support in the chaos of life. We know that God has the power and compassion to respond to our cries. God holds us in the curve of God’s arm and hears us.

It always comes back to God’s love that gives order to the chaos. God’s love that brings transformation around us and within us. In a time when many feel deep loneliness, we are reminded again that we are loved. God loved on day 1, on day 487 and will love you until the end of time. God’s love is trustworthy. Breathe it in and let it transform you.

Prayer: God, even when we cannot create, structure and order the world in the way that makes us feel safe, remind us of your love. Remind us of your love that brings order to our days. Let us live into this love today and always. Amen.

Author: Michelle Thomas-Bush

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

 

Wednesday May 20 2020

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Scripture: Ephesians 1:1-10

Reflection: Today’s devotional is based on Ephesians 1:1-10 and is in video form. You can access it here or by clicking the image below.

05 20 Joe

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Tuesday May 19 2020

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Scripture: 1 Timothy 2:1-6

Key verse: (1) “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone.”

Reflection: In this letter of 1 Timothy, we find a community of new believers in tension with each other and with the world around them. We are a far way from the unity perceived in the early chapters of Acts where the believers shared all things in common and committed themselves to daily prayer and meals with one another. How quickly divisions can arise! And so what is the advice given to the community? Is it to identify enemies, and draw a clear line between us and them? Is it to call out false teaching and condemn heretics? Is it to draw back from the world and forget about earthly matters all together? Throughout the ages, Christians have taken each of these postures at different times. But here, in this context Paul is urging his brothers and sisters to pray. Pray for those who are in power, pray for those you disagree with, pray for those who persecute you, pray for everyone. This call to prayer comes for it is, “God who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:3-4). If it is God’s desire for all to be saved, who are we to cut people out of the family. If it is God’s desire for everyone to be saved, who are we to speak badly of others. If it is God’s desire for everyone to be saved, who are we to hope for the failure of others.

Praying for all is not an easy task, it sounds much more delightful in theory than in practice for we live in a broken and divided world. But, this kind of prayer helps place us within God’s will, so what does it look like? When praying for those in power, we let go of grasping for control and rightfully recognize Christ who reigns over all. When praying for those we disagree with, we open ourselves to a love that is bigger than our opinions. When praying for those who persecute us, we highlight the life giving power of the resurrection as death and destruction lose their grip on us. Praying for all is easier said than done, but when we align our hearts this way our feet and our hands will follow in line so that we may lead a peaceable life.

Prayer: Loving God, grant us the strength to pray for all. Grant us the courage to follow in your will. Grant us the grace to love as you love. Amen.

Author: John Magnuson

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Monday May 18 2020

Monday

Scripture: Colossians 1:9–14

Key verse: (10) so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God

Reflection: Moving from thanksgiving for their faith, love, and hope, Paul employs another trio of divine blessing in his prayer for the people of Colossae: knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. These are gifts of the Spirit. Unfortunately, when we hear terms in verse ten such as living “worthy of the Lord” or live to “please [God] in every way” or “in every good work” we tend to regard such actions as if we can achieve God’s favor in works righteousness. This is not the case. What the author is saying here is that knowledge of God and God’s will through wisdom and understanding empowers us to then live a life that is pleasing to God and reflects God’s will. We live a life “worthy of the Lord” because we are attuned to God’s will.

This is all divine initiative. God loves us; we then love because of God’s love. God has “qualified you to share in the inheritance” of the holy people of light. We are heirs because of God’s rescue and redemption through the Son. It is not by our own doing or by our own wisdom. By God’s grace we have been moved from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of the Son where we are forgiven.

I wonder how you are living a life worthy of the Lord in these days. I wonder what good works are bearing fruit in your life and in the lives of those around you. Give thanks to God for such things; it is by God’s initiative that we are able to live.

Prayer: Fill me, O God, with the knowledge of your will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. Grant that I may live a life worthy of the Lord. You have rescued me form darkness and brought me in to the kingdom of the Son. Thank you. Amen.

Author: Ben Brannan

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Friday May 15 2020

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Scripture: Matthew 7: 1-12

Key verse: (7) “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find’ knock, and it will be opened for you.”

Reflection: There is a familiar saying: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  This saying originates from a mistranslation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 in which the Apostle Paul writes: “God will not let you be tempted more than you can bear.”  But, there is a big difference between being given more than you can handle and temptation – even if some temptations are more than we can handle.  Why do I bring this up in relationship to today’s passage?  Because there is often misunderstanding around the verse I have highlighted in today’s passage that causes disappointment and doubt. Many people in desperate situations have asked and sought and knocked through prayer, but they didn’t get the answer they were looking for.  Sometimes there was no answer at all.  They didn’t experience what Jesus promised that God would give them good gifts just like a loving and kind parent.  Many of the people I interact with in pastoral care situations believe that God is giving them heavy burdens in order to make them stronger, but they end up feeling broken.  Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount Invites us to think about what we could or should be asking, seeking and knocking for. Is Jesus inviting us into a relationship that is more complex than asking for things?  There are prayers that are answered when we ask, seek and knock.  When we ask, we are admitting our vulnerability before God and that we can’t control everything in our lives.  When we seek God, we discover God is with us and God will give us the courage to keep seeking Christ.  When we knock, we continue to remain steadfast and persistent in our faith journey.  Asking, seeking and knocking are more than getting what you want when you want it.  These are key activities of our faith.  We engage with God no matter our circumstances and over time we are transformed.  This isn’t easy.  It requires faith that God does love us even when life crashes down around us.  I pray that if you are in pain today, plagued by fear and anxiety, that you will ask God to give you the strength to endure; the hope to look for God and the will to hold on to our God who will never let you go.

Prayer:  Loving God, we are counting on you to be with us even when we feel you are very far away.  In times of trouble, bring others to us to show your love and support.  Help us in the good times to cultivate our faith so that we will be ready for any storm.  Thank you for your loving care.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Author: Deborah Conner

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].