Wednesday July 22 2015

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Scripture: Psalm 4

Key verse: (1)

Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
You gave me room when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

Reflection: Prayers are sometimes gentle appeals.  But there are times, in the midst of our anguish and distress, when they are impassioned pleas of great urgency.

I remember when our young children would complain, “Daddy, listen to me when I am talking.”

That’s the sense I get from this psalm. The author is trying to get God’s attention, trying to get God to focus on the current distress and do something about it. “I am talking, God. Listen to me,” prays the psalmist.

At those times when we are disturbed, distressed and dejected, when there’s a shadow across our faces, we can lift up our prayers to God.  We can share with God our longing for some action and even plead with God for an urgent response.  We do so trusting that God hears when we call. We dare to pray and trust because God is faithful and puts gladness in our hearts.

Listen to me, O God, when I am talking to you.

Listen to me and do something so I can lie down and sleep in safety and in peace.

Prayer: O Lord, you have set me apart for yourself. You hear me when I call. Calm my anxious spirit and give me peace. But please hurry! 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].

Tuesday July 21 2015

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Scripture: Mark 4:21-34

Key verses: (30-32) He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Reflection: Sometimes we think that the little things don’t matter. We look at big, monumental problems in the world, and wonder what we can do to change things. Or we see grand movements and inspiring actions of others and think that we can’t contribute much ourselves. We are only regular people. We aren’t particularly gifted or prophetic. What difference could we possibly make?

The Bible is full of stories of God using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Abraham and Sarah were just regular (old) people. Moses was called despite a problem speaking. David was just a small shepherd boy. Mary was just a young girl. Paul had some kind of problem, his “thorn in the side.”

Jesus tells this parable of a mustard seed, just a tiny little speck, the smallest of all. Yet it grows into the greatest of all plants, so great that birds find shade for their nest. He says that the Kingdom of God grows like that. God can use the smallest seed to birth a kingdom.

Maybe there is a word here about not measuring our personal success or ministry in huge numbers or gestures all the time. Perhaps there is something powerful happening when two or three gather together in God’s name. Maybe the kingdom is growing when even one person responds. Maybe the lemonade stand the children set up, that raises $23.75 for flood relief matters, not just in total cash, but in kingdom work. Maybe every penny donated for Loaves & Fishes this summer matters, one cent at a time. Maybe just one kind word from us, or one grievance forgiven, matters. Today, look for a small way to join in the work of God’s kingdom.

Prayer: Lord, I am only one person. I am not particularly gifted or brave. But I know that you can do great things. Use me somehow, in a small way, to build up your kingdom today. Through Christ the Lord 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].

Monday July 20 2015

130801-dailydevovisualsScriptureMark 4:1-20

Key Verse: (3) “Listen!  A sower went out to sow.”

Reflection: This is a familiar parable.  If you are like me, as you have listened to the parable you have focused on the different types of soil on which the seed fell:  the path where the birds come and eat it up;  the rocky ground where the wheat springs up quickly, but in the shallow soil withers in the heat of the sun;  the soil full of thorns where the wheat is choked; and finally the good soil where the wheat grows into an overwhelming harvest.  Yet as Jesus tells the parable he does not begin talking about the soil.  He says, “Listen!  A sower went out to sow.”

Is this the parable of the four soils or the parable of the sower?  If it is about the sower what do we hear?

My dad gardened.  He made sure all of his children helped in the garden whether we wanted to or not!  One of my gardening tasks was to sow seed in rows for peas, for beans, and in little mounds of three seeds together about a two feet apart for corn.  I assure you if I had gone into the garden and tossed seeds everywhere paying no attention to the places where the seed fell I would have heard from my dad!

Yet consider this sower.  He scatters seed far and wide.  He sows seed with no regard for where it is going to fall.

Could this be a parable of God’s generosity, of God’s deliberate choice of not sparing the gospel, of wishing it to grow, yes, in the good soil, but also in any soil?

Perhaps you consider yourself hardened soil, or rocky ground, or thorn-infested ground.  Regardless, God showers you with grace just as God showers grace on the fertile soil.  What if we shared God’s grace in the same way?

Prayer: Generous God, in Jesus the Christ you shower your grace with abandon upon us regardless of the condition of our heart and will.  Lead us to share your grace in the same manner, leaving the growth up to you.  In the name of Jesus 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].

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].