Friday July 17 2015

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Scripture: Mark 3: 7-19a

Key verse: (14) And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons.

Reflection: Many people followed Jesus and were disciples, but in today’s passage Jesus appoints twelve who will provide leadership in his ministry of teaching, preaching and healing. The disciples appointed were: Simon (who was given the name Peter), James (son of Zebedee), John (the brother of James), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the Cananaean), and Judas Iscariot. These were very different men.  Sometimes we tend to lump them all together as if they were of one mind, one profession, or one personality. Some of these disciples we know more about than others. Peter would go on, after Jesus’ resurrection, to become a great preacher. Thomas would be remembered as the one who doubted Jesus resurrection until he could see and touch Jesus’ wounds. Philip would become a great evangelist to the Gentiles and Judas would forever be remembered as the one who betrayed Jesus to the authorities for 30 pieces of sliver. The other disciples are less known. We know very little about what happened to them after Jesus was gone. However, they each fulfilled the mission they had been given in the places where they lived and worked. They each, like many other disciples of Jesus over the centuries, quietly proclaimed the Gospel message of hope and forgiveness to everyone they met. These men, who we know only by name, made an impact for Christ during their lifetimes.

This story reminds me of the impact of all the men and women I have known who made an impact for Jesus Christ in my life — my second grade Sunday School teacher, my math teacher who prayed for me when I was sick, the saints who greeted me at church and made me feel like I belonged to a community. These and so many others faithfully served Jesus. The love they shared continues to grow. Whenever I get discouraged I think about the impact of their ministry. Most of us will never be remembered for what we did for God on a national or global scale.  But, the people whose lives we have touched will never forget. We may not be Apostles like those first 12 who were appointed, but we are called by Jesus to serve others in his name. Let us do this with joy knowing how many saints have gone before us leading the way.

Prayer: Eternal God, we give thanks for the ministry you gave the disciples that has been handed down to us. Help us to live lives worthy of this calling. May others looking at us see something of 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].

Thursday July 16 2015

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Scripture: Mark 2:23-3:6

Key verse: (27)  Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath;’

Reflection: We often speak of spending time or saving it, killing time or wasting it, while also managing to be upset that there is never enough of it.  Do you know what God calls time? It was the very first thing he ever called holy (Gen 2:3). Qadosh is the Hebrew word used and before there was ever a holy site, a holy temple or mountain, there was holy time. God called this sacred time Sabbath and it was a time (day) of rest. God rested in this time and invited (commanded, we could say) that his people rest too.

To celebrate the Sabbath command is to celebrate that God is God and we, thank God, are not. Think of the many things we can make today. We can make money, friends, enemies, mistakes, love. We can make good or make do, we can make a start, make a move, we can make something with our hands and talents. But there is one thing that we cannot ever make: time. There is really no such thing as a self-made person, for there are some things that only God can do, things only God can give. Our time is God’s gift.

Jesus understood that the Sabbath isn’t a rule to observe but a gift to receive. Time belongs to God and time is a gift that has been given to us by God. Time is yours to receive, to keep, to cherish, to enjoy. Sabbath time can help you enjoy and appreciate the time you are gifted with by inviting you to stop and remember that the most important thing you have, you cannot make or earn. Sabbath will give you the time you need to understand and appreciate the time, the blessings, you have. Sabbath gifts to you the world around you and the life within you.

Prayer: Lord help us hear Jesus’ call today to the weak and weary, that we may find rest and renewal in him. 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].

Wednesday July 15 2015

130801-dailydevovisuals-wedScripture: Mark 2:13-22

Key verse: (17) When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

Reflection: The church is full of sinners! From the very beginning of his ministry Jesus reached out to welcome and include sinful people. In today’s passage he calls Levi, a tax collector, to follow him as a disciple. Tax collectors were particularly hated because they handled Gentile money (making them unclean), they worked for the occupying Roman Empire (making them traitors), and they frequently extorted money from the citizens (making them thieves). When religious leaders saw that Jesus included Levi, they challenged Jesus and he responded with the line in our key verse above.  Jesus came to call not the righteous but sinners.

On the one hand, that is very disappointing. It means that people in the church are just as troubled and broken as the rest of the world. It means we hurt one another’s feelings. We mess things up. We make mistakes. We make bad decisions. We are hypocrites because our lives don’t always reflect what we believe. We sin.

On the other hand, this is great good news! When I acknowledge my own mistakes and my own shortcomings and my own sinfulness, I realize how powerful it is that Jesus called me to be a disciple. I am welcomed and I am included. Jesus’ gracious welcome of me enables me to welcome those around me no matter who they are.

Prayer:  Loving God, thank you for calling me to be a disciple and welcoming me into your kingdom. When I am tempted to judge others, remind me of your grace. When I am tempted to exclude any of your children, remind me of your welcome. In Jesus’ 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].

Tuesday July 14 2015

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Scripture: Mark 2:1-12

Key verses: (1-3) When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.

Reflection: It is not only the body that needs healing. Jesus shows this by healing a paralyzed man who is brought to him. The man does not say a single word. Jesus tells him, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”

The paralyzed man did not expect to hear those words. I wonder what his friends thought? They brought him to Jesus for a physical cure and Jesus speaks about forgiveness. Jesus sees that the man needs healing from the inside. Often our inner wounds paralyze us. The forgiveness that Jesus gives restores, liberates and heals.

Forgiven, healed, the paralyzed man stands up, takes his mat and walks. The man cannot help but respond with joy and shouting!

We are on Outdoor Challenge this week and I have seen this exact story unfold. On the high ropes course, repelling down the side of a mountain and frozen in the deepest part of a cave, friends have carried each other. These really young but brave youth found fears they didn’t know they had but they also found a healing unlike anything they have experienced.

We are all broken and paralyzed in some way. God knows and is waiting to restore us to wholeness. Thanks be to God!

Like the paralyzed man, let us remain silent as we approach Jesus in this moment.

Prayer: (in silence)

[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 July 13 2015

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Scripture: Acts 11:19-30

Key verses: (25-26) Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”

Reflection: Have you ever wondered where we got our name — Christians? This text from the Acts of the Apostles tells us.

As the early church expanded after the death and resurrection of Jesus it moved out into the larger world — into Egypt and Asia and beyond. One of the centers of that expansion was Antioch of Syria. Antioch was the third largest Roman city of the Roman world (after Rome and Alexandria). It was here that Jewish followers of Jesus from Jerusalem settled creating a large Jewish presence which served as the launching pad for the spread of the Good News into the larger Roman world. The Jews there began to encounter Gentiles who had also heard the Good News and had become followers of Jesus. One of the early disciples, Barnabas, was so encouraged that he went to find Paul who had gotten a reputation for working with the Gentiles. Together they met with and taught many people. It was here in this large center of Roman life that we got our name: Christians.

The word Christian means “one belonging to Christ.” It’s not at all clear whether this was meant as a term of derision by opponents of the movement or a term of self-identification by the disciples. Whatever its origin, the word soon came into common use.

So when someone asks if you are a Christian, remember back to those first Christians in Antioch, long before creeds and confessions and tests of doctrinal purity, remember it’s really quite simple: do you belong to Christ? If Christ has claimed you and you trust in him, then you can answer, yes, I am!

Prayer: Gracious God, we belong to you, not because of our worthiness and value, but solely because of your compassion and love. May all who observe our life have no doubt that we belong to you. In the strong name of Jesus the Christ, by whose name we are known and in whom 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].

Friday July 10 2015

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Scripture: Psalm 25

Key verses: (4-5)

Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.

Reflection: The Psalmist asks a lot here. If you separate out the petitions he asks God, here is what you get in his prayer:

Do not let me, or those who wait on you, be put to shame. Do not let my enemies exult. Make me know your ways. Teach me. Lead me. Be mindful of your mercy and love. Don’t remember my sins. Remember me. Pardon my guilt. Turn to me and be gracious to me. Relieve my troubles. Bring me out of distress. Consider my affliction and trouble. Forgive all my sins. Consider how many are my foes. Guard my life and deliver me. Do not let me be put to shame. (Oh, and while you are at it, God,) Redeem Israel from all its troubles.

My prayers sound like this sometimes. I need so much from God. It is heartening to know that the biblical writers also poured out their hearts to God and dared ask for what they needed. But need is not the only thing in this prayer. There is also faith and trust, and praise. The Psalmist is sure that God can do all that he asks, because he knows that “you are the God of my salvation.” God’s steadfast love and mercy have been from of old. God instructs sinners in the way, and leads and teaches the humble. God makes the covenant known to those who fear the Lord.

The other thing that comes through in this prayer, is patience. Yes, much is asked by a needy sinner. And God can and will do much. But the Psalmist waits for the Lord, knowing that God acts in God’s good time. May we be as bold, and as faithful, and as patient in our prayers.

Prayer: Lord, I know that you hear my prayers. You know what I need before I ask it. I trust in your mercy and your steadfast love. Teach me to wait patiently on you. In the name of Christ 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].

Thursday July 9 2015

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ScriptureLuke 24: 36-43

Key Verse: “Look at my hands and my feet;  see that it is I myself.  Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Reflection: What if Jesus were just a “ghost” — one who lived in the past but now only exists as a spirit?  Luke tells this account of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples after his crucifixion, death and resurrection because of the church’s tendency to consider Jesus only as a spiritual presence.

The late preacher Fred Craddock put it this way:  “If the Jesus who died belongs to the historical past but the one disciples now follow is the eternal Christ, then the Christian life can take on forms of spirituality that are without suffering for others, without a cross, without any engagement of issues of life in this world, all the while expressing devotion to a living, spiritual Christ. . . . . ‘See my hands and my feet’ (vs. 39) is Christ’s word to the church.  Easter is forever joined to Good Friday, and to follow the risen Christ is to follow the one who bore the cross.”

No wonder the disciples were startled and terrified (vs. 37) when Jesus himself stood among them in the flesh.  For what would it mean to them to keep following this One who shows the scars of suffering for the world so vividly and who still comes to be identified with them, still claiming them as his disciples?

Are you and I today following this Jesus who bore the cross.  Or would we rather Jesus remain for us a spirit from the past?

Prayer: Holy One, we tremble at following Jesus who continues to live and suffer and die for the world you so love.  Give us courage — and trust — that even in the midst of suffering and death your will is done.  In the name of the Crucified and Risen One, Jesus the Christ we pray.  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].

Wednesday July 8 2015

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Scripture: 1 Samuel 16: 1-13

Key verse: (7) For the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.

Reflection: Saul, the King of Israel, failed to carry out God’s commands.  He had a bad habit of doing what he wanted to do and then hoping God would bless him. Finally, God had enough and rejected Saul as King because he wouldn’t obey. Saul admitted that he was more interested in pleasing the people than following the LORD’s commandments. He spent a lot of time asking for God’s forgiveness with no intention of changing his ways. So, the prophet Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to anoint a new king to take Saul’s place. In this story we are introduced to the youngest son of a man named Jesse. The son was a shepherd boy. From the outside he didn’t look like much, but God knew his heart. Others were distracted by his outward appearance, but the LORD could see who he really was. It didn’t matter that he didn’t look like the best choice from a human point of view. The LORD saw him in a way that Samuel, Jesse, and his sons couldn’t and the LORD chose him.

How often do we judge people by their outward appearance? If we are honest, it is most of the time! We are swayed by appearance, education, social standing, money, possessions and position. We can be fooled by someone who looks good, but isn’t a very good person. God, however, can see each of our hearts. Are we more like Saul following our own rules in order to be admired by others? Are we kind and generous for our own gain? Or, do we live out our Christian faith, no matter our vocation, in such a way that God’s love, mercy and justice is reflected in our lives?  Ask yourself if you are pretending to be someone you’re not. God knows your heart. And, God can transform your life if you want to change.

Prayer: Almighty God, you know our hearts even when we put on a show.  Help us to be more fully integrated people who do not conform to this world, but are transformed by your amazing power. Encourage us and inspire us today to be more like Jesus. In his 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 July 7 2015

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Scripture: Psalm 36

Key verse: (9) For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

Reflection: Two weeks ago in Charleston, Emanuel AME Church, joined by the entire nation, began the heavy-laden task of burying the nine dead. The first to be commended to God was Ethel Lance, a long-time member and custodian at the church. Only parts of her service were broadcast but what was heard of the music, sermon and eulogies was indeed powerful as Ethel’s example of love and life of faith were so very palpable (remember her family publicly forgave the one who did this). It was at the very end of the service as the family was led out, after all that had been scripted was said and all that was planned had occurred, that one of Ethel’s granddaughters cried out with the words from a spiritual, “I will see you in the morning…I will see you in the morning.”  This honest, Spirit-prompted cry was a proclamation of the Gospel at it’s finest and purest. Nothing can ever ultimately separate us from Christ’s love and the ones whom Christ loves.  Christ brings us to a new morning every day of this life and the life to come.

You might miss our Psalmist’s version of “see you in the morning” if you didn’t get past the first five verses of Psalm 36.  He is so angry, so frightened, so threatened by his foes (sometimes as many internally, as externally) that you wonder how the psalm–and psalmist–were not consumed. But something changes, not with his declared enemies, but with his vision. He looks to God and begins to describe God instead of describing all that is wrong. And as he changes what he sees, what he sees changes. It changes what he feels and it changes what he does, it changes his direction. Some scholars think that two different psalms are combined, as there is such a discrepancy in the psalm. Maybe. Or maybe, to see God’s light is to see God’s world in a new light.  God’s tears have fallen this summer, but God’s light yet shines on this world. There yet may be darkness as deep as hell in our world and hearts but there is a light that can never be overcome, there is a morning that will always dawn, a love that is eternal. A light shines upon you and for you.

Prayer: In your light, Lord, we see light and we are never again he same.  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].

Monday July 6 2015

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Scripture: Psalm 9

Key verses:  (19-20)  Rise up, O Lord! Do not let mortals prevail; let the nations be judged before you. Put them in fear, O Lord; let the nations know that they are only human.

Reflection: We just celebrated the fourth of July! We gathered for picnics and parades and fireworks to celebrate the birth of our nation. We rejoice in our freedom and in our independence and we give thanks for all of those who worked and fought to make us free. Then today we read Psalm 9 and we are humbled. The writer of the psalm calls for God to triumph over mortals and to remind nations that they are only human.

Our nation? Any nation?  All nations?  Only human? The psalm calls us to trust in God no matter what happens in our national circumstances or in nations around the world. No human leader will be perfect. Sometimes we are frightened by the current events on the TV news and we need to remember to trust in God and to seek God’s will. Sometimes we are arrogant about our own national heritage and our opportunities and we need to remember that any nation is fallible and human. We should never confuse our nation with the kingdom of God. Our nation might reflect some of the ideals of God’s kingdom but, as a human construct, will always fall short of God’s perfection.

We give thanks for freedom and we are grateful for those who worked and fought for it, but we also recognize our nation’s shortcomings. We cannot trust in any human leader in the same way we trust in God. We enjoy our picnics and our fireworks, but when we gather for worship we worship the Lord who is over heaven and earth, the God of every nation.

Prayer:  Almighty God, you are the Creator of all people. When we put our trust in human leaders, remind us of your presence and teach us to trust in you. We worship you alone and place our faith 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].