Tuesday June 30 2015

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Scripture: Acts 8:1b-13 (14-24)

Key verses: I invite you to focus today on the strange story of that “certain man” Luke talks about in this text, Simon. (Acts 8:9-24).

Reflection: Simon was an entrepreneur. He had a going business practicing magic, amazing people in the city of Samaria. Simon, with many others, trusted the testimony of Philip who came preaching the gospel in that city, the gospel that God’s reign had come in Jesus the Christ. What that meant for Simon was that the magic business was over. For calling on other spirits to perform his magic was not going to work anymore since he now only trusted the Spirit of God evident in Jesus the Christ.

Simon though remained an entrepreneur. He had an entrepreneurial idea. Watching what happened when the Apostles Peter and John came to Samaria and “laid hands” on the believers there, discovering that as that happened those believers were empowered with the Holy Spirit, he thought, “Wow!” What if he could cash in on that? So he offered Peter and John money saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Crass, we may think. But before we write Simon off, have we ever through we could “market” our Christian faith for our own personal gain? Perhaps we are not ones who put fish symbols on our business cards or websites to attract customers. But are we ones who have used our Christian faith and involvement in the church to build up our resume or open access to business opportunities?

Let’s be easy on Simon and turn around ourselves from using our Christian faith and church participation for our own personal gain.

Prayer: Merciful God, keep us this day from using our trust in Jesus for any purpose save serving you and your purposes alone. We pray in the name of Jesus our savior. Amen.

Author: Pete Peery

[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 June 29 2015

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Scripture: Psalm 57

Key verse: (1) “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.”

Reflection: What do you do when the storms of life hit? Most of us want to regain control of the situation as quickly as possible. Illness, death and accidents throw us off balance and disrupt our equilibrium. The uncertainty is unsettling and upsetting. The author of this psalm, King David, was under attack and what did he choose to do? Pray and ask for God’s protection and mercy. The image of being protected under the shadow of God’s wings is powerful. It is metaphorical language that describes God’s protective care in the midst of challenges.  

Recently, I was sitting on my porch and watched as a mockingbird protected her nest from a large hawk. The mockingbird first chased the hawk, nipping at its wings. She was relentless until the hawk flew away – it wasn’t worth the trouble. The mockingbird then covered her nest. Her babies were safe under the shadow of her wings – her protective care. I often think of this scene when I think about God’s protective care. God cares for us even in the midst of the storm. Of course we wish nothing bad would ever happen, but God is there when something does. In life’s storms we can gather under the shadow of God’s wings and ask for mercy and refuge until the storm passes. The psalmist gives thanks for this kind of protection and for God’s steadfast love. This love and mercy is available to all of us. Remember: God is faithful no matter what you might be facing. God will not leave you alone. Give thanks today for this wonderful gift and let your soul take refuge in God.

Prayer: Merciful God, we cry out to you in times of need knowing that you hear us. Help us have steadfast hearts and a strong faith in you. Give us a sign of your presence today and every day. 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 June 26 2015

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Scripture: Psalm 139

Key Verse: (7) Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?

Reflection: There is hardly one sentence in this psalm that does not contain the words I, me, or my. It is an intense, intimate, personal psalm. One feels that they are reading a diary as much as holy writ. Jesus too would have read these words and known their power.

Some writers have suggested the psalmist may be expressing frustration and fear with God’s unflinching gaze: God you hem me in behind and before, you know every word I am going to speak! Where can I flee from your presence? If I turn here–you are there. If I turn there–you are here!? This psalm can be perhaps an uncomfortable psalm for us as we are reminded that no aspect of our lives is concealed from God, no word has been unheard, no action unseen.

One person has described this psalm like living in a small town where even your deepest privacy is invaded. God knows when I sit down and when I rise up. God discerns my thoughts from afar!

But before we get carried away with these descriptions, note that there is no suggestion of judgment in this psalm. God sees us, every part of us, yet loves and delights in us. God who knit us together in our mother’s womb (what a tender image!) spends the rest of our lives calling us to be what he has created us to become. God who began a good work in us, continues to lovingly fashion us, persevere with us, transform us, with his loving gaze.  Let this psalm read you today until its words are your prayer and its truth your redemption.

Prayer:  Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. In Christ, from whom nothing can separate us, we pray. Amen.

Author: Derek Macleod

[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 June 25 2015

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Scripture: 1 Samuel 8:1-22

Key verse: (7) And the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.”

Reflection: After the Hebrew slaves were freed from Egypt and journeyed through the wilderness they settled in the land that God has promised to their ancestor Abraham. The nation of Israel began to form under the leadership of priests, prophets, and judges. When the prophet Samuel grew old, the elders of the people came to him and asked him to appoint a king to govern over them. Samuel knew the request smelled foul and would lead to all sorts of trouble. Apparently he felt personally slighted, offended, and betrayed.

God assured Samuel that he wasn’t being rejected, God was the one the people were rejecting. The people of Israel wanted a king like all the other nations around them. They were probably anxious that other nations might conquer them and destroy them. They were hopeful that a king would be a barrier between Israel and destruction.They were hopeful that a king would protect them and solve their problems.

Appointing a king meant rejecting God. Trusting God for protection was difficult to do. Trusting God to guide and lead was frightening. I wonder how we might be rejecting God and asking for our own “king.” When do we want a quick fix or an easy answer? When do we look for a human response to something only God can really provide?

Prayer:  Almighty God, I confess that I look for immediate tangible answers rather than trusting in you. Teach me to place my trust in you always. 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].

Wednesday June 24 2015

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Scripture: Luke 22: 14-23

Key verses: (19-20) Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Reflection: Taco Tuesday is now a tradition during Vacation Bible School. The youth are volunteering this week with the children. They love serving, love the children and love spending time with each other. VBS is a place of acceptance, support and encouragement where youth can share the good news without fear. Why not celebrate all of that!  Yesterday, they celebrated by going out to Moe’s.  Taco Tuesday is not just eating Mexican, it is a ritual celebrating the community living out their faith.

Eating is an important part of our lives. Major celebrations of our lives include special food: wedding receptions, Thanksgiving, birthdays, Fourth of July and even Taco Tuesday. The mutual joy we find in community is celebrated with a feast. If we are celebrating, we are eating and forging a bond that holds us together.

The Lord’s Supper is a primary example of the bonding power of food. It seems that in Jesus’ mind the supper had significance that went beyond the Passover meal that was normally shared. It was a symbol of the coming kingdom of God, a feast that celebrated the unity found at the table with the Lord as host.  Each time they shared in this meal they would find renewal and hope. We celebrate but we also remember.

The Lord’s Supper is a celebration of present hope and future restoration.  Thanks be to God!

Prayer: God, may my ordinary meals become holy. In sharing a meal today, guide me to reach out in hospitality, reduce hostility and strengthen my family. Help me and those around me to catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God as we break bread. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Author: Michele 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].

Tuesday June 23 2015

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even more Scripture: Acts 5:27-42

Key verses: (38b-39 ) Because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!

Reflection: You might call this the Gamaliel Test.  How do you determine if something is God’s will?  How do you know when the things around you are part of God’s plan or just random circumstance, or worse, something malevolent?

The Test comes from an unlikely source in this story of the early disciples. Peter and the disciples were thrown in jail for preaching the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But during the night they escaped from prison and went right back to the temple and began teach the people, angering the religious leaders even more. The disciples were recaptured and brought before the authorities who were ready to “throw the book” at them all.

One Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel gave this advice: Be careful with these guys. In fact it might be better just to let them go and do nothing!  Here’s why. If this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!

Maybe we don’t have to right every discovered wrong or fix every controversy.  Maybe letting it go is the best course. Perhaps it’s enough to trust that God will sort things out and we don’t have to be in charge. Remember the Gamaliel Test.

Prayer: Give us wisdom, O God, to know when to fight for things and when to let go.  Help us to relinquish our need to be in charge. Give us the courage to turn it over to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, who alone is Lord. Amen.

Author: Von Clemans

Monday June 22 2015

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Scripture: Psalm 145

Key verse: (4)
One generation shall laud your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.

Reflection: This week over 200 adult and youth disciples are serving at Vacation Bible School, sharing stories about Jesus with over 260 children. It’s a massive undertaking of love and faith. The children are going back in time to Nazareth and meeting Mary, as she shares what it was like to be the mother of the Son of God. There are snacks and amazing decorations and art projects. Games are being played and songs are being sung. A collection for Loaves and Fishes is being gathered. The Children’s Ministry office and the VBS team have generated a multitude of spreadsheets and nametags and permission slips. The Facilities staff has worked wonders. The Youth are here in force. Five of your seven clergy are pitching in, some even in costume. Some disciples are here all week. Others have taken a day or two off work to be here.

I am reminded every year of the baptismal vows this congregation takes whenever a young child is baptized. We promise to partner with parents as together we guide and nurture the child, and encourage him or her to know and follow Christ, and to be faithful disciples. That’s what happens at VBS, with every song, every snack, every story. We are also living out the call of the Psalmist, for one generation to laud God’s works and mighty acts to another. Keep our young members, and all the disciples serving with them in your prayers this week, that our collective faith in our good God might be strengthened, and God’s name be praised.

Prayer: Holy God, the story of your Son Jesus is one that we are privileged to tell. Keep us mindful of your call to share our faith with all generations. Equip the disciples serving with VBS this week and make your love real to all the children and helpers. In the name of Jesus 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].

Friday June 19 2015

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Scripture: Acts 2:37-47

Key verses: (38-40) Repent…the promise is for you, for your children, for all who are far away…Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.

Reflection: You have probably heard the definition of insanity. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Often, it seems to me, we are people caught up in a lifestyle that is literally killing us. It is a lifestyle focused on achievement, success, and avoidance of failure at any cost. Buying into this lifestyle we discover in our careers it is all up to us to make it.  With our children it is all up to us to make sure they make it. Even in our play, it is all up to us to make sure we are having fun or winning at the sport we have chosen to prove, in part, that we are making it. It is a lifestyle that insidiously proclaims to us, “It is all up to you. You are the lord of your life.” I wonder if this is our equivalent of the “corrupt generation” from which Peter urges his listeners to save themselves.

Peter testifies that a whole new social order has already begun, an order in which the only Lord is “this Jesus whom you crucified,” this now-risen Jesus whom “God has made both Lord and Messiah.”  “Repent,” he says.

Repent. It is a word from which we often shy away. All it means is, “Turn around and go, live, in a different direction.” In vs. 42-47 we get a glimpse of what life lived in a different direction looks like. It is life in community, life shared, life, if you will, in the Beloved Community, breaking bread together at the Banquet Feast in the Kingdom of God.

Being lords of our own lives is wearing us out. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So what about repenting — turning around, living in a different direction, entrusting ourselves to the only One who is indeed Lord — Jesus, the Crucified One whom God has now made Lord and Messiah?

Prayer: Holy God, this day, even if only in a tentative way, give us the courage to turn around from being lords of our own lives and to trust that indeed you reign over all life, including our life, in Jesus whom you have made Lord and Messiah.  We pray in his name. Amen.

Author: Pete Peery

[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 June 18 2015

130801-dailydevovisuals-thursScripturePsalm 62

Key verses: (1-2) For God alone my soul waits in silence; from God comes my salvation. God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.

Reflection: Do you trust in God no matter what is happening in your life? When life is going well, it is easy to trust in our own strength. Our stuff, our money, our position and our power all conspire to draw us away from God. When the economy fell into a deep recession seven years ago people lost their jobs, businesses, homes, and life-savings. All of a sudden, our trust was put to the test. The way we viewed our security changed and we found out how unhappy or happy we were without the money and possessions that had come to define us. Many returned to God with renewed enthusiasm. We were reminded that God is a refuge for us.

There are always crises around us – some we experience directly and some we only observe in another person’s life. Every day, no matter our circumstances, we are called to place our trust in God. Sometimes we only do this when we have been driven to despair over our losses. Loss of health, loss of life, loss of innocence, loss of security, loss of relationships, and loss of our dreams are just some of the losses we face. We try to handle everything on our own – in our own strength – only to find out we don’t have the strength or resources to hold up under every stressful circumstance. This psalm reminds us: to lay our burdens down and hope in God; to rest in God’s deliverance and learn to trust; to let God’s strength lighten the load and change our perspective. Let us encourage one another to trust in God’s power to transform our lives in the good times and in the bad.

Prayer:  Faithful God, help us to trust in your loving kindness during times of challenge. Through your power may we find rest in you.  n 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].

Wednesday June 17 2015

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Scripture: Psalm 33

Key verses: (20-22) Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield.
Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

Reflection: Someone once had the audacity to tell Mother Theresa, of all people, that God only gives you what you can handle.  She replied, “Perhaps so, but I wish he wouldn’t trust me so much.”  Amen!  It probably wasn’t Mother Theresa who said this, but whoever said it, we all feel it from time to time. There are burdens that seem too big to bear, prices too high to pay and challenges we face too often. There are days when we are unsure how we will get through it and get over it. Another St. Theresa, this time from Spain in the 16th century, did say to God after a personal mishap, “No wonder you have so few friends, Lord, if this is how you treat them!”  I like her cheekiness.  Whatever the reason and no matter the person, hardships and tragedies occur in this life of ours.

And while I understand the power that can come from trusting in God who will only give what you can handle, I don’t believe it enough anymore for it to work.  What I do trust is that God only gives what God can handle.  There is much that I cannot carry, much that I do not understand, and frankly much that I do not know how to accept.  So I turn to the One who can do far more than I can ever imagine. I have learned to say with the psalmist today: “The Lord is our help and shield, our hearts are glad in him because we trust his holy name.”

Prayer: We wait in you Lord for you have made your heart our home.  As we struggle with what we do not understand and as we grieve for those who suffer, grant us patience, peace and faith for tomorrow.  In Jesus name. Amen.

Author: Derek Macleod

[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].