Friday January 31 2014

130801-dailydevovisuals-fri

Scripture

Psalm 148

Key Verses: 1-2, 7-8 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host! Praise the Lord from the earth, myou sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Reflection

Psalm 148 calls everyone and everything in creation to praise the Lord: sun, moon and stars, mountains and fruit trees, wild animals, birds and sea monsters, fire and hail, snow and frost, kings and all people, old and young together. The Psalmist says: let them all praise the Lord! It’s one of the more musical and poetic hymns to read aloud, and it sounds like a fabulous idea: Praise the Lord!

Safely at home in my warm house this week I watched the snow fall and I praised the Lord. It covered the dead grass in my yard with a pristine beauty. We pulled out the sled and the hot chocolate and lit a fire. A snow day! Praise the Lord! I went to work and came home to dripping boots and dirty dishes and siblings snapping, and my praise for a snow day soured a little. Also, I suspect it was not so easy to praise the Lord for those stuck on the icy highway in Atlanta overnight, or for those who have no heat, or no home.

There are plenty of other Psalms that offer up lament, and cries to the Lord about desolation and despair. And there are times lament is truly appropriate, when there are hungry and homeless neighbors out in the cold. Perhaps the challenge of this Psalm is how to praise the Lord when the beautiful snow has melted to dirty slush, and when lament seems more appropriate. Perhaps the praise of the Lord pushes us out of our warm houses into a cold world where we praise the Lord not just with our lips but also with our actions. Perhaps our praise of the Lord means we serve in God’s name, until everyone else can truly praise the Lord as well.

Prayer

God of all creation, I praise you. Rejoicing in all your blessings and in the wonders of the world you created, I am mindful that others find it difficult to praise. Show me where my praise of you must turn from words into action. I pray in the name of Christ Jesus the Lord, Amen.

Author

Julie Hester

[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, January 30, 2014

130801-dailydevovisuals-thurs

Scripture

Genesis 16:15-17:14

Key Verses Genesis 17:1-2:When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.”

Reflection

When you read the Bible you learn a lot about who God is. Here’s a prime example. God comes to a man and his wife who are in their nineties and uses them to create a new nation. Do the math! Why is it God chooses the impossible for divine activity? If you think about it, it does make some sense. If it were possible you could say it was something else. When it’s impossible, it has to be sheer luck, a fluke, or perhaps it is God at work among us!

God has a habit of choosing the least likely candidate and using them for incredible things. It happens over and over again. So, if we’re looking for God over here in the big stuff, we might need to turn around and start looking for God in the unexpected, small stuff. Look for God where you shouldn’t be looking for God! It seems to be a pattern.

Prayer

Lord, it’s good news that you don’t work in normal ways. We see things so practical and logical and yet you work in the impractical and illogical. Our hope is not in what we can predict but in your unpredictability. We thank you for this. It inspires our faith. It encourages us to live in peace. You are not confined to our ways. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Author

Steve Eason

[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 January 29 2014

130801-dailydevovisuals-wed

Scripture

Genesis 16:1-14

Key Verse 13: “Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees” . . .”

Reflection

Human beings are impatient. When God made a promise to Abram (Abraham) and Sarai (Sarah) that their offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens, they were most likely overcome with joy because up until this point Sarai was barren. There was no expectation that she would ever have children. We can only imagine how excitement gave way to disappointment when nothing happened right away. Sarai decides to take matters into her own hands. In the ancient world, it was completely acceptable that a barren wife could use one of her handmaid’s as a surrogate. Sarai asks her maid, Hagar to bear a child for her. Of course, life got complicated. Even though Sarai gave Abram permission to be with Hagar, she changed her mind once Hagar got pregnant. There was tension in the family. In exasperation, Abram tells Sarai to get rid of her maid if she can’t stand to see her pregnant. Sarai begins to treat Hagar harshly and Hagar leaves.

After leaving without a tent, food, or water, Hagar falls exhausted – alone in the middle of nowhere. An angel appears to her and asks her, “where are you going?” Hagar tells the angel her situation and he responds by telling her to return home. The angel of the LORD shares a prophecy with Hagar about her unborn child: she will have a son and she is to name him Ishmael which means “God hears”. In response, Hagar affirms: “you are a God who sees . ..”

God saw Hagar struggling. God saw how the impatience and lack of faith on Abram and Sarai’s part led to Hagar’s unfortunate circumstances. He saw her and heard her cries.

What a good reminder for us. God sees what is happening to us. God hears our cries of pain and regret. God also bears with us when we try to make things happen according to our timeline; not God’s timing. In the long run, God takes our missteps and uses them for God’s purposes.

Prayer
Loving God, remind us today that you see and hear. You see our mistakes and our triumphs. You hear our cries of pain and our cries for help. You are the God who sees and for that we are grateful. Watch over us today. 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].

Tuesday, January 28 2014

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Scripture

John 5:1-18

Key verse: John 5: 16 “Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the Sabbath.”

Reflection

I know it’s overly simplistic but sometimes I think the world could be divided into two groups: the rule-makers and the rule-breakers. You know who you are! Some of us feel more comfortable with rules. We like to know the boundaries. We feel better when things are clear. Others of us find rules to be cumbersome and restrictive. We like freedom. We feel better when we aren’t constrained or mandated.

Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem to celebrate a festival. He encountered a lame man waiting by a pool at the Sheep Gate and Jesus healed the man, telling him to get up and walk away. The problem was that healing the man on the Sabbath seemed to violate God’s command to keep the Sabbath holy by doing no work on that day. Faithful Jews tried to discern what rules should be followed to keep this commandment. Some were rule-makers. Others were rule-breakers.

I wonder if Jesus offers another way. He honored the intention of the commandment but his behavior wasn’t restricted by a list of rules. He understood that an act of love would trump all the rules and overcome all of the boundaries. Jesus didn’t abolish the law. He was a faithful Jewish man. But he fulfilled the law by reminding us that the law points us toward God. When we are showing the love of God, we honor the commandments. Faithfulness isn’t about making rules or breaking rules. Faithfulness is about loving God and neighbor in all times and in all circumstances.

Prayer

Sometimes, O God, I imagine you are keeping an accounting book to record when I keep the rules and when I break them. In Jesus, I see that’s not who you are. Set me free from my fears and give me courage so that I can love boldly like Jesus did. In his name I pray. 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].

Monday January 27 2014

130801-dailydevovisuals

Scripture

John 4:43-54
Key verses 48-50: Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way.

Reflection

Signs and wonders would make it easier to have faith. The eighth graders are in the middle of writing their faith statements, and I am impressed with their ability to articulate their faith so clearly. Yes, they are honest about being in a journey–yes, they admit to wanting to know more about atonement or the Trinity, but they have a faith that is bold. It is a faith in abstract concepts like Grace. It would be much easier to have faith if we could clearly see amazing signs of God.

This father knew of Jesus’ power and believed enough to ask for the healing of his son. However, he didn’t have faith or truly believe in Jesus’ pronouncement of healing. It was not until he was on his way home, when his servants met him, telling of his child’s healing. Then he had faith.

Throughout our faith, we will waver in it, but we also have many opportunities for powerful transformations. It really is a journey.

Prayer

God, may your signs and wonders within our everyday be revealed but Grant me faith for the days when I cannot see any of them. 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].

Friday January 24 2014

130801-dailydevovisuals-fri

Scripture

Gen. 11:27-12:8

Key verses: 12:1-3 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Reflection
This is one of the key verses in the Old Testament – the call of Abram/Abraham. After the creation of the earth and all that is in it, after expulsion from paradise, after murders, after growing sin, after a restart with Noah and the ark, after the development of civilization, after all this – God chose one man and his family to be the bearers of God’s blessing for the whole world. Why God chooses individuals we may never know. But God does choose individuals, regular folks, like Abram, like you and me.

God also challenges us in that choosing. God choose Abram and told him to leave his homeland, his extended family and travel to a faraway place yet to be revealed. Abram was to pack everything up and follow God into the unknown. The amazing thing was: he did. Abram followed God’s call and in a foreign land became the great ancestor in faith of the Hebrew people, Jesus and his followers, and even you and me today.

God still calls people to be a blessing. Sometimes that call is to make a complete break with where we have been and to risk beginning again. Sometimes it is to follow someone else whom God has chosen. Sometimes it is to pursue a dream or a goal that God has revealed to us. Sometimes it is to live more deeply and fully right where we are. But if God is calling, we can be sure that God will be with us wherever that call might lead. God goes with us to guide and protect us, but also to remind us that we are to be a blessing – to our family, to neighbors we met along the way, to the whole world.

Prayer

If that’s you, God, calling me to leave comfort and security for a future yet to be written then please stick close by me and I’ll try to stick close by you. On my journey make me a blessing to all I meet. Then, set me down where promises are made real, homes are built out of hopes and dreams, and your blessings become the air we breathe. In the name of the God of Abraham we pray. Amen.

Author

Von Clemans

[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, January 23, 2014

130801-dailydevovisuals-thurs

Scripture

John 4: 1-15

Key Verses 13-15: Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

Reflection

Have you ever been thirsty? Not just a little, but a lot? Or have you ever watched a loved one thirst? I remember my sister, in the hospital after a biking accident, with a head injury. She went days without anything other than intravenous nourishment. She started asking for water and we were thrilled! It was a great sign! But we couldn’t help her. She couldn’t have anything but ice chips until she had passed a test on her swallowing reflexes. It took two days to get permission for water from a straw. She thirsted.

Watching someone you love thirst for something so basic, and not be able to provide it, is painful. There is something so simple about water, and so life-giving. We must have it to survive. But it’s not the only kind of thirst we know. There is a deeper thirsting, for life and for love and for grace and peace. We try to quench it in many ways. Not all of them are healthy. And none of them will truly fill us, except for one.

In the Bible there is this story about Jesus meeting a woman at a well. In the middle of a hot, dry day he asks for a drink from her– just water from the well, she thinks. But then he tells her about the living water he offers: water that cleanses all sin, restores broken relationships, quenches the deepest thirst, and never runs out. It was a kind of water she couldn’t imagine, though she knew about spiritual thirst, as we all do. Jesus tells us, “I am the bread of life…whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Thanks be to God.

Prayer

Jesus, you are the living water that quenches our deepest thirst. Teach us to set aside all the other ways we try to fill ourselves and look only to you. In your name we pray. Amen.

Author

Julie Hester

[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 January 22 2014

130801-dailydevovisuals-wed

Scripture

Hebrews 6:1-2

Key Verse Hebrews 6:4-6: For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.

Reflection

Those are some powerful words! The Bible very rarely uses the word “impossible.” Why is it impossible to restore someone who has abandoned the faith? Could it be because they renounce the Holy Spirit which is the one avenue for restoration? This isn’t referring to a little relapse. This is referring to denouncing the Christian faith, crucifying Christ again and “holding him up for contempt.” Jesus died once and for all and was raised from the dead, forgiving us of our sins. You can’t re-crucify Jesus and stay in the flock.

God loves us enough to give us warnings in the Bible. It’s like having a sign posted on a dead end road at the edge of a cliff. You put the sign there because you care about people and don’t want them to go off the cliff. God doesn’t want you or me to go off the cliff and so the Bible gives us these warnings.

All of us have times when we are weak in our faith, we doubt, we’re tired of praying, we fall out of fellowship, we neglect the Scriptures. Hopefully, we come out of that dive and recommit ourselves, getting back to it and continuing to grow in our faith. The danger is in never coming back – letting it go, abandoning the faith. The warning sign is there because God loves you.

Prayer

Your grace watches over me, O Lord, even when I am weak or asleep at the wheel. Your spirit stirs me and calls me back to a life of faith. Watch over all of us less we stumble and fall and never get up, never reclaim our faith, and discontinue our journey with Christ. Through Christ we pray. Amen.

Author

Steve Eason

[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 January 21 2014

130801-dailydevovisuals-tues

Scripture

John 3: 16-21

Key Verse 17: “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Reflection

We live in a time when there is a lot of criticism aimed toward the Christian Church – some of it for good reason. There have been crimes committed by church leaders who cross boundaries of behavior harming others. But there are other things that Christian people do that aren’t criminal but color many people’s attitudes about religion and the church. We can be judgmental and overbearing. We can turn away from people who are different. We can focus on ourselves and neglect the hungry, homeless, poor and hurting. We forget to share Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness outside of our own comfortable circles. Intentionally or unintentionally we can act as if we are “in” and others are “out.” We can distort and twist the words of Scripture to harm rather than heal.

Today’s scripture passage reminds us why Jesus came into the world–to show us God’s love. He came to save, not to condemn. He came to bring people together; not drive them apart. All of us depend on God’s great love and mercy. None of us is better than anyone else in God’s eyes. This can be a hard reality to accept: God loves everyone. What might happen if we share this kind of saving love with others?

Prayer

Gracious God, help us to live in the light of your love. Forgive us when we forget you came into the world to offer eternal life to everyone, not just some. Give us wisdom and courage to share your hope and love with others. 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].

Monday January 20 2014

130801-dailydevovisuals

Scripture

Hebrews 4:14-5:6

Key verse: Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.”

Reflection

In some mysterious way, Jesus was fully human and fully divine. I believe if we put humanity and divinity on opposing ends of a teeter-totter, many of us would sit on the “divinity” side when we think about Jesus. We affirm that Jesus is God in human form. But sometimes it’s hard for us to also affirm that Jesus was fully human.

Jesus was born as a baby, unable to speak or to walk or to feed himself. Like every human baby, he learned to speak by mimicking those around him. Someone held his hands as he took his first steps. He was loved by human parents and surrounded by human friends. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that Jesus faced human temptations. Faithfulness wasn’t automatic and easy for him. He consistently chose God’s will but I suspect he struggled sometimes to make the right choice.

Jesus is not a distant impartial high priest or a condemning judge. He is sympathetic because he understands just how difficult it is to be faithful to God in real life situations. Jesus knows what it’s like to be tested, yet he chose God’s will and did not sin. That truth should encourage us that God’s way is possible in the world. We follow Jesus, fully human, fully divine and he is our high priest who offers us grace.

Prayer

Jesus, when I feel alone or overwhelmed, remind me that you understand all my weaknesses. You know what it’s like. Thank you for your sympathetic grace. Deepen my trust in you. 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].