Friday August 29 2014

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Scripture: Acts 10:34 – 48
Key verse: Acts 10:47 “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

Reflection: The early church faced a major controversy. Should Gentiles (people who were not Jewish) be welcomed and included? Jesus was Jewish and all of his disciples were Jewish. Did he come as Savior and Lord only for the Jews?

In the book of Acts, we read about the spread of the gospel from the first disciples out into the world to include many more people. In chapter ten, Peter is called to share the good news with Cornelius, a Gentile soldier. Peter undergoes a tremendous transformation, letting go of his old understandings of right and wrong, and his old categories of in and out. Apparently God intended the good news of Jesus to spread among Gentiles.

This is wonderful news! If the early church had decided that Jesus was only Savior and Lord of Jews, most of us wouldn’t be disciples today. We are the recipients of the gracious welcome and inclusion first seen between Peter and Cornelius. So, who are we tempted to exclude today? God is at work tearing down boundary walls and welcoming outsiders. God invites us into transformation that will push us outside of our own comfort zones. Will we withhold ourselves from those God loves?

Prayer: “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea.” I am thankful that your wideness includes even me. Open my heart to share your love across all the boundaries. Overcome my fear with the power of love. 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].

 

Thursday August 28 2014

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Scripture: John 7: 14-36 
Key Verses: John 7:33-34  Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me.  You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”

Reflection: Jesus spoke concerning his death, resurrection, and ascension. The crowds that came to Jerusalem were curious but had no idea what he was talking about. The disciples were in that crowd and they did not comprehend his words, either. They were in awe of their teacher. The crowds, however, were skeptical of Jesus. Even though they were amazed at his knowledge of scripture they were unsure of his authority.

I am exhausted just thinking about the crowd, the disciples and the Pharisees. Their fear of the unknown and unfamiliar bubbled up inside them until they collectively created a mob against Jesus. I can only imagine how frustrated Jesus was in that moment and how frustrated he continues to be with our mob mentality. I wonder if Jesus’ prayer was: “Oh dear God, don’t they know me by now?” I want someone in the crowd to say “I know him. He is love.” Where are the voices of peace and justice? Jesus taught us about loving our neighbor and not being the first to pick up a stone. I know his promise of living water that quenches our parched places. I wonder why no one spoke up. Then I wonder on some days why I don’t speak up.

Prayer: God, I know your son. The redemptive love of Jesus and the power of his resurrection, offers me new life every day. Give me courage to raise my voice among the skeptics and in the mob. 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 August 27 2014

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Scripture: Psalm 91
Key Verses 1-2: 1 You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, 2 will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”

Reflection: Sometimes the best way to approach a Psalm is by reading another translation of it. Eugene Peterson’s contemporary retelling of this Psalm, in The Message, opens new doors to understanding. Enjoy!

Psalm91 1-16 You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, Say this: “God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!” That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you—under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm. Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows in the day, Not disease that prowls through the darkness, not disaster that erupts at high noon. Even though others succumb all around, drop like flies right and left, no harm will even graze you. You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance, watch the wicked turn into corpses. Yes, because God’s your refuge, the High God your very own home, Evil can’t get close to you, harm can’t get through the door. He ordered his angels to guard you wherever you go. If you stumble, they’ll catch you; their job is to keep you from falling. You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes, and kick young lions and serpents from the path. “If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!”

Prayer: God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe. 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].

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

 

Tuesday August 26 2014

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Scripture: Acts 9:32-43
Key Verses: Acts 9:36-43 36 Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. 37 At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40 Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. 41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. 42 This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

Reflection: If we saw more things like this there might be more Christians in the world! That’s why they call this the book of Acts. Something was happening that was transforming the world. I wonder where all that went and why these kinds of miracles are so rare? Is it because we have so little faith? Is it because God has changed the way God acts in the world?

You wouldn’t want to have to produce these miracles in order to convince people to be a Christian. You would constantly be doing “tricks.” The only reason people would come to Christianity would be because there was something in it for them. They get healed. They are raised from the dead. Broken things get fixed. So now I am a Christian! That’s pretty thin stuff.

Mature love is not based on what you can do for me. We don’t love God so we can get blessed. We love God because we are blessed. There is something dead within all of us that needs to be raised. God’s love and grace comes to us in those places. It may not be a physical resurrection, but we certainly need a spiritual one. This kind of event still remains a mystery to us. But you wouldn’t want a steady diet of this anyway. It would turn Christianity into a circus!

Prayer: Lord, if you never did anything for me I would still love you. I’m grateful for my life and for the life of others. I’m grateful for your creativity in heaven and on earth. I’m grateful for the opportunity to pray. Something in me has been risen from the dead, faith, trust, love, hope, gratitude! All of these things are alive in me as I give you thanks and praise for who you are. Through Christ our Lord. 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].

 

Monday August 25 2014

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Scripture: Psalm 57
Key Verses: Psalm 57:9-10 “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

Reflection: There is a praise song sung by the band Third Day based on Psalm 57. The words are:
Your love, oh Lord
Reaches to the heavens
Your faithfulness stretches to the sky
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains
Your justice flows like the ocean’s tide
I will lift my voice
To worship You, my King
I will find my strength
In the shadow of your wings

A lot of contemporary praise music is based on the Psalms. Following an old tradition going back centuries, people learn scripture through singing. Sometimes I hear criticism of praise music as singing 7 words 11 times. The repetition bothers some people because it is simple. But, many people have learned the Psalms through this kind of repetition and it has deepened their devotional life inspiring them to serve others. Our traditional hymnbook has an entire section of music devoted to the Psalms, so this isn’t a contemporary music innovation.

There are at least four other Psalms that pick up on the phrase “your love, O Lord reaches to the heavens”. What a powerful reminder of the height of God’s love! Aren’t we grateful that we can enjoy many styles of music at our church? This is something we can shout with praise to God about as we draw closer to God through the music of an organ or the strum of a guitar.

Prayer: Loving God, we thank you for the powerful reminders of your steadfast love that we find in the Psalms. Help us to find encouragement and strength in words and music as we sing your praises. Give us grateful hearts for your faithfulness toward us. 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].

Friday August 22 2014

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Scripture: Job 2:1-13
Key verse: Job 2:13 They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

Reflection: Job was a righteous man who endured horrible undeserved suffering. He lost his property, his children died, and he became sick and covered with painful sores. Job’s tale is a journey of trying to make sense out of what is inexplicable. Through much of the book of Job, his friends offer mistaken explanations and bad advice.

But before they opened their mouths with stupid rhetoric, Job’s friends did something wonderful. They tore their robes and threw dust on their heads as signs of sorrow and grief, and then they sat in silence with him for seven days. This was a wonderful sign of their care and love.

When we love someone who is suffering, we are tempted to open our mouths and talk. We find ourselves quoting silly platitudes, or offering bad advice, or searching for an explanation of the inexplicable. Our own anxiety drives us to jabber and to fill the silence with the sound of our voices. What if we learn from Job’s friends and just sit with someone in silence? The ministry of presence, just being there, can be a tremendous gift when someone is suffering. Words aren’t needed. Our presence is a sign of care and love.

Prayer: O God, when I face suffering I feel anxious. I don’t know what to do and sometimes I say stupid things. Help me to deal with my own fear so that I can be present with those who suffer. Give me the courage to be quiet. 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 August 21 2014

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Scripture: John 6:16-27
Key verses: John 6:16-20 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

Reflection: Sometimes we get more concerned with what “might” be in the darkness. The disciples were not afraid when they were on the rough sea with strong winds blowing them around. However, when they saw a figure out on the water, they became afraid, imagining all that it might be or bring. Why must darkness always bring fear?

Doesn’t God work in the darkness as well as in the light? What would happen if we did not place light and dark against one another? In Learning to Walk in the Dark, Author Barbara Brown Taylor asks us to put aside our fears and anxieties and to explore all that God has to teach us “in the dark.” The disciples found Jesus in the darkness. Maybe we should take the words of Jesus with us into both the light and darkness: “do not be afraid.” Equipped with the words of Jesus, we will find courage as God guides us through whatever the day brings. Light or Dark.

Prayer: God, may I feel your presence all around me. Continue to equip and transform me with your words, your hope and your people. In the name of your son. 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 August 20 2014

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Scripture: John 6:1-15
Key verse John 6:11
Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.

Reflection: This familiar story, of Jesus feeding a multitude of people, never gets old to me. Every time I read it, something new jumps out of it. Today it is this idea: Where we see scarcity, God sees the possibility of abundance. The disciples saw only that there were so many people, and not enough money to buy bread to feed them all. Then Jesus took a few loaves, given in hope by one little boy, and multiplied them into more than enough, and there were leftovers! Abundance was possible all along. The disciples just couldn’t see or imagine what Jesus could do.

Where do you see scarcity right now? Where in your life, or in the lives of those around you, is there not enough? Where is the closed door? Is it possible that abundance is there, and you just can’t see it yet? Maybe it looks different than you think it should. (Imagine if some of the 5,000 hungry people were gluten-free….the multiplication of the loaves might have looked not so great to them.) Keep your eyes open to what Jesus is up to, and be ready to be amazed.

Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I see only scarcity and problems. Help me look with your vision of abundance and hope and grace. Help me be a part of bringing abundance and hope and grace to others. In Christ’s name I 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].

Tuesday August 19, 2014

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Scripture: Acts 8:1-13
Key Verses: Acts 8:9-13
9 Now a certain man named Simon had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. 10 All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.

Reflection: So Simon the sorcerer gets converted to Christianity. He needs something grander than himself! Is there a “Simon the Sorcerer” in me or in you? Is there a part of yourself that spends your life doing magic tricks to keep people entertained and impressed by you? That can be exhausting! We have to keep everything going. We have that “model of success” hanging over our heads. Everywhere you go you have to be great. Can you imagine what relief Simon the Sorcerer felt when he acknowledged something greater in his life than himself? It says he was “amazed!” I bet he was. The show is over. The heart finds peace. The mind finds rest. All of a sudden you line up with the universe and there is joy, true meaning and purpose in life.

Prayer: Lord, I can relate to Simon the Sorcerer. I go from place to place putting on my “show.” I always hope people like it and I need the affirmation. What I need more is to acknowledge something greater than myself, found in you. It is your love and grace that works the true magic in our lives and brings us joy and peace. What a miracle and what a gift. In Jesus’ name. 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].

Monday August 18 2014

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Scripture: John 5: 19-29
Key Verse: John 5:24 “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

Reflection: Speaking to the Jewish leaders who opposed him, Jesus emphasizes the authority that God had given him. He is clear that he does nothing of his own accord, but only what God wants him to do. We can only imagine the Pharisee’s rage as he states that he is equal with God. They wanted to kill him. Jesus continually points back to God as the source of life and eternal life. At the end of this passage, there is reference to the future resurrection of all believers.

The focus today is on verse 24 and the gift of eternal life to all who hear and believe. Many people think of eternal life as heaven – something that we experience after we die. But, eternal life is a gift that we can experience now through new life in Jesus Christ. Eternal life changes our perspective and informs our actions and choices. It is a gift we are given when we are alive and a gift that promises a future resurrection after we die. Eternal life assures us that God knows who we are and that we belong to God. The question is: are we hearing? Do we listen to Jesus’ words and act on them? The more we discover about Jesus, the more we learn about God. The more we listen for God and devote ourselves to God, the more we will experience eternal life now. We can live with a deep and profound joy even in the bad times when we live out this precious gift in our everyday activities. Hear Jesus’ words of hope and pass from death to life.

Prayer: Almighty God, help us to hear your voice through the teachings of Jesus so that we might have eternal life now. May others see your saving grace in us as we live out our faith. 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].