Friday, February 7 2014

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Scripture

Hebrews 12:3-11

Key Verse Hebrews 12:7: Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?

Reflection

Have you ever thought that God may give some of us the experience of parenting (all of us have the experience of being a child) just so we can see what it’s like for God to have to deal with all of us? Parents love their children but they have to discipline their children. Kids need to know where the boundaries are in order to be safe. The same is true for all of us. God loves us enough to discipline us because we need to know where the boundaries are in order to be safe. We are free in some ways but not in others. We’re not free to break the rules without suffering the consequences. If you put your hand on a hot stove, you get burned. You’re free to put your hand there!

The discipline of the Lord is a good thing. God loves humanity enough to discipline us. We experience that on a personal level but we also experience it on a corporate level. As a nation we are free – but not from the consequences.

We’re not “illegitimate.” We belong to God. Discipline is always painful but Hebrews reminds us, “But later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (12:11)

Prayer

I need your discipline in my life, O Lord. We need your discipline as a people. We’re grateful that you love us enough to teach us your ways. As painful as it may be, thank you for the kind of love that disciplines us in our time of need. 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 February 5 2014

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Scripture

Hebrews 11:23-31

Key Verse: Hebrews 11: 23 “By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”

Reflection

In this passage the phrase “by faith” is used seven times!

The letter to the Hebrews was written to encourage Christians to live faithfully, following Christ in the midst of difficulty and persecution. With beautiful, poetic language the author describes God’s powerful work of salvation throughout history. The God of the Old Testament is the same God who sent Jesus Christ. God who made a covenant with Abraham, and called Moses to lead, and delivered Hebrew slaves from Egypt is the same God who sent Jesus Christ.

The author lifts up the heroes and heroines of the Old Testament as examples of faithfulness. They lived by faith, making difficult choices in spite of their circumstances. They stood up for what was right no matter what the consequences might be. They trusted God even when they faced hardship or violence.

Imagine a wonderful poet writing your obituary to honor your memory. What choices are you making today that reveal your faithfulness? When someone writes a summary of your life, will the phrase “by faith” appear?

Prayer

You have been faithful to us, O God. Help me to be faithful to you. Teach me to live “by faith” every day, standing up for what is right and making difficult choices. Through Christ 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].

Tuesday February 4 2014

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Scripture

Gen. 21:1-21

Key Verse Gen 21: 9-10: Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”

Reflection

We do not see Sarah at her best, but instead we see her struggling with jealousy and fear. When Sarah was barren, she arranged for her maid and husband to have a child. When she was able to have a child, she saw what she had done. This is where we find ourselves in the story. Sarah has Abraham take Hagar and Ishmael into the desert. Wandering in the desert of Beersheba, Hagars waterskins empty, she abandoned Ishmael to die “and began to sob” with the love of a mother for her child. God then made an extraordinary promise to Hagar that is almost identical to the promise made to Sarah and Abraham: “I will make him into a great nation…God was with the boy” (Genesis 21:18, 20; see also 12:2).

Ishmael, means God hears. God is not deaf, dumb or blind. God is not impersonal, without feeling or emotion. God is not an absentee landlord. God sees every human misery, hears every painful sob. It is the same for us today. Ismael and Hagar have come to represent many people who are cast out from family, home or country who identify as refugee’s.

Who are we in this story? Are we Sarah and Abraham, living with a deep fear even after we hear of God’s promises? Wanting to push out those that threaten our places of comfort and security? Are we Hagar and Ishmael, the ones excluded, pushed out into the wilderness with nothing to help us find our way? Could we be either one at different times and in different circumstances?

Listen to these words of comfort from verse 17: “Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.” God is faithful and hears the cry of those in need. We will not be abandoned to the wilderness places of life, when it seems everyone will their backs. It is in those times that God will show us a new way, a new path that we could not have imagined before.

Prayer

God of the Covenant, may fear not be my guide throughout today. May I see a new way when it is necessary. 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].

Monday, February 3 2014

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Scripture
Gen. 19:1-17, 24-29
Key verse: 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.

Reflection

Sodom and Gomorrah! What happened there is not a story for children. Yet it is a legend in the Old Testament, in the Gospels and in our culture.

Two messengers (angels) came to Sodom to visit Lot, Abraham’s son. In the ancient Middle East hospitality was always extended toward strangers and visitors. The harsh desert climate made travel survival difficult without the kindness and provisions of the inhabitants of the land. Lot offered the visitors lodging and hospitality, welcoming them into his home.

For reasons not explained in the story, all the men of Sodom came to Lot’s house and demanded the visitors appear. They wanted to violently humiliate them in a way most despicable both then and now. Such humiliation would also shame Lot’s household. Lot went out to plead with the townsmen. In a response offensive to our modern sensibilities Lot offered to appease the crowd with his two daughters! But the men were focused on the visitors. Lot was dragged back in his house for safety and the violent men were struck blind. In the morning God destroyed the evil in Sodom and Gomorrah with sulfur and fire. Sodom and Gomorrah has become the symbol of the evil inclinations of humanity.

We can focus on Sodom and its evil. But to do so without recognizing and acknowledging our own evil ways is wrong. When God’s messengers come to earth our first inclination is to destroy them, not welcome them. Just look at what happened to Jesus. We do the same thing to people upon whom God’s image has been placed – the stranger, the different one, those not like us. To recognize God’s presence in the stranger is the first step. Second, is to treat them as if we were hosting God. Third, is to resist every effort to belittle or diminish the worth God has given to everyone who crosses our path. No exceptions. Or we will be found wanting, like Sodom.

Prayer

Deliver us, O God, from our blindness that cannot see your presence among us. Open our hearts and minds in welcome and hospitality toward all you send our way. Help us welcome others as fully as you have welcomed us. In the name of your Son, who was rejected and killed, 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].