Monday May 22 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals

Scripture: Luke 9:18-27

Key verses: (20, 23-25) 20 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” … 23 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25 What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?

Reflection: Could Jesus really be the Messiah of God? Peter was bold enough to wonder aloud. The other disciples kept silent, no doubt eager to see how Jesus would react to Peter’s claim. There were many claimants to this title, all promising the world to those who would follow them. Tradition said the Messiah would make the people and the nation exalted once again. So, if Jesus was the Messiah, the disciples’ fortune was guaranteed.

But, as in so many other areas of life and religion, Jesus did not conform to tradition, but redefined it! If Jesus was the Messiah, they were told, they could expect to bear their cross daily, that is, face the threat of death daily. Not an exalted way to live, is it? Rather that becoming more important, they would deny themselves. Those who pursued a safe and secure life above all things would not find it. Those who were willing to follow Jesus even to the point of losing their life for the sake of God’s kingdom would paradoxically, find their life saved and fulfilled.

The point of following Jesus is not to gain all the world offers and, in so doing, losing what God has called us to be. The point of following Jesus is to lose our selves in the following so that we will find and live life in the fullness of God’s embrace.

Before you call Jesus Messiah, make sure you are not looking for a Messiah that conforms to your hopes and dreams.  Make sure you understand what it means to call Jesus the Messiah of God and what that will require of you.

Prayer: Save us from bold pronouncements that do not count the cost. Give us courage to follow the way you have made known. Help us to find our live by following you. In the name of Jesus, the Messiah of God, 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 May 19 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals-fri

Scripture: Deuteronomy 31:30 – 32:14

Key verses: (31:30-32:3)

31:30Then Moses recited the words of this song, to the very end, in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel:
32:1 Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;
let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
2   May my teaching drop like the rain,
my speech condense like the dew;
like gentle rain on grass,
like showers on new growth.
3   For I will proclaim the name of the LORD;
ascribe greatness to our God!

Reflection: It’s a time of transition for some families. School years are winding down. Graduations are taking place. Young people are moving up, moving out, and moving into new situations. Transitions like these are bittersweet for many. Goals that have been long-planned, and eagerly sought, suddenly mean big changes.

As I dropped my eldest off at his first apartment this week, I wondered again: have I taught him what he needs to know? I think we did pretty well before he moved into a dorm. He knew how to do laundry, and get himself up in the morning. He had a pretty good grasp of basic money skills. He has spent time abroad on his own. But another move towards more independence make me wonder all over again: Will he be a good housemate and take his turn doing dishes? Will he ever clean his bathroom? Does he know how to deal with a landlord?

Reading these words of Moses in Deuteronomy, I hear the prayer of a parent during a time of change. Moses delivers a couple of long stirring speeches, over several chapters, to the people of Israel before they move into the Promised Land without him. He wonders if they know enough to step confidently into God’s future.  He prays that his teaching from long years past will be like gentle rain on grass, like showers on new growth, that nurtures a good harvest. Mostly he reminds them (and perhaps himself) to trust always in God, whose faithfulness is strong and sure. God has walked with them through long years to get to this point of change. Trust in that same faithful God for the next steps is what will see them through. May we all walk confidently into the future in that same trust and faith.

Prayer: Lord, you have always been there, guiding and correcting, nurturing and sustaining. Walk with all those facing change. Accompany us all on our way into your future, trusting in your faithfulness and love. In the name of Christ 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].

 

Thursday May 18 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals-thurs

Scripture: Psalm 99

Key verse: (9) “Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy.”

Reflection: I have praised God for many things during my life, but I can’t remember ever praising God for God’s holiness – at least not directly. The definition of holy is:  specially recognized or declared sacred, having a spiritually pure quality; or entitled to worship or veneration.  The word is most often used as an adjective, but it also can be used as a noun to name a place of worship or sacred place.  (The Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem comes to mind.)

Scripture affirms that God is Holy “other” — different from us and beyond our comprehension.  Yet, we have a deep need to try to explain who God is and what God means to us.  Today’s psalm reminds us that …

The LORD is King.

The LORD is great and exalted.

The LORD is a lover of justice.

The LORD is forgiving.

The LORD is our God.

The LORD is holy.  This holiness is powerful.  It reminds us of who we are and who we are not.  It reminds us that God acts in the world and in our individual lives.  God hears us, advocates for us, answers us, forgives us, and defends us.  Great men and women throughout history and in the biblical record have been led by this holy LORD – the same God who leads us.  I know that I am very thankful that God is greater than I am.  This leads me to give thanks and to praise the One who cherishes and sustains me.

So, as I read today’s psalm, I am reminded of the blessings God’s holiness brings.  Praise the LORD!

Prayer: Holy God, we give thanks that you are great and powerful!  May the mention of your name strike awe in our hearts as we reflect on your strength and tenderness.  Help us to give praise to you 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].

Wednesday May 17 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals-wed

Scripture: Luke 8:16–25

Key verse: (25a) [Jesus] said to them, “Where is your faith?”

Reflection: My wife’s great-aunt was engaged to a ship’s captain who perished at sea, Lake Superior, to be exact, and she never married.  Sounds romantic, but I think for the 99-year-old woman I knew, it was just tragic.  The ocean, the sea, the lake, the local pool — places we will flock to in the warm months ahead — bring along with great refreshment the potential for great danger too.  But gloat not mountain people, for where on this earth are we free from trouble’s reach?

So, on a lake, in the midst of a storm, afraid of losing their life, the disciples in our passage today lose their cool, their faith, to be exact.  Trouble can happen so quickly.  Though he soothes the wind and therefore the waves, Jesus is not so soothing to his companions.  He asks “Where is your faith?”  I usually answer for them in the story thinking “I lost it with the rest of my stomach over the side of the boat an hour ago, thank-you very much.”

But here is what they didn’t lose: Jesus.

I know, I know, such an obvious answer. Let’s just tie this devotion up with a ribbon and call it done.  But, when storms swell, trouble ensues, and everything falls apart again, even the most obvious, most predictable, answer to every children’s story is hard to find, and with no Jesus, we have no faith either.

“I am right here,” Jesus says.  And he will still a storm, feed a crowd, heal the sick, pray, preach, go to hell, and even raise the dead just so we get the point. Where on this earth are we out of God’s reach?

Prayer:  “O, God, be kind to me.  Thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”

Breton Fisherman’s Prayer.

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].

Tuesday May 16 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals-tues

sower

Scripture: Luke 8:1-15

Key verse: (15) “But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.”

Reflection: The parable of the sower is incredibly frustrating for me.  The sower seems so foolish — casting valuable seed in such a haphazard way, scattering it on the path and in the rocks and amidst the thorns and in shallow soil.  By dumb luck, some lands in good soil and brings a harvest.  Why waste so much seed?  Why throw seed on the path in the first place?  Who does that?  Why not do some weeding before you plant, pull out those thorns and thistles and till the soil? Why not break up that rocky ground and add some fertilizer and top soil and prepare the dirt before you start casting valuable seeds to the wind? What a waste! What kind of farmer would ever be so wasteful?

No wonder the disciples had trouble understanding this parable!  They were rural folk who knew a little something about farming.  They may have been fishermen, but even they knew you don’t waste seed like that.  In a world where too many people are starving, how can the sower be so careless with such valuable resources?  In a world of scarce supply and unlimited demand, where the gap between limited resources and insatiable need causes acute pain, the parable of the sower makes no sense.  In this world, seeds must be sown very carefully.  In this world, scarce resources must be wisely employed, not cast to the winds.  That’s the way things work in this world.

But Jesus is not talking about this world, is he?  He is not teaching the crowds gathered beside the sea about the harsh realities of market-driven economies.  He is not talking about the persistent gap between limited supply and insatiable demand.  He is not talking about the pain caused by the ways of this world.  He is talking about the Kingdom of God.  He is talking about God’s world: a place not defined by limited supply and unending demand; a place where the supply of seeds is never-ending so the Sower need not worry because there is plenty of seed to go around.  And the seed that lands in good soil, well, it yields 30 and 60 and 100-fold.  It floods the wheat market, so wheat seed becomes dirt cheap.

It starts with a seed.  That seed is the Word of God, the Gospel of God’s love for all people made known in Jesus, embodied in his life and witness.  There is not scarcity when it comes to this love. God need not conduct a soil test before sowing the seed to consider whether the soil is worthy of being sown, worthy of receiving this love—which is a good thing!  God knows I’ve got some rocky patches in the fields of my soul. Maybe you do too.  There are some thorns and some briars and a few places that are a bit shallow—Lord, have mercy.  But if the seed of God’s love finds that place within us that is good dirt, then by the power of the Holy Spirit, something good can spring forth, yielding a harvest beyond anything we could ever imagine.  According to Jesus, that’s the way the kingdom of God works.

And so with the Sower, we keep sowing seeds: the seed of God’s Word, the seed of God’s love, the seed of God’s hope.  We keep sowing seeds refusing to give into the despair when they are snatched away or choked by the thorns or whither under the scorching sun because they lack depth.  We keep sowing seeds of faith and hope and love trusting in God’s time a harvest of righteousness will spring forth.  We keep sowing seeds even as we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Prayer: “Break up the soil of our souls, O God.  Pull the weeds of worry that choke out your Word.  Dig deep within our hearts that the seed of your Word might take root and yield abundant fruit in our lives for your kingdom.  We wait with patient endurance.  Amen.”

Author: Joe Clifford

[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 May 15 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals

Scripture: Jeremiah 32:1-15

Key verses: (14-15) Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

Reflection: Jeremiah was a prophet in a time of turmoil and division (sound familiar?). He was a social critic who called the people, and especially their leaders, to be faithful in the midst of crisis. Today’s passage comes from a section of the book when the city of Jerusalem was under siege by the Babylonians. When we are frightened, when we feel threatened, when we are besieged, when we know that our enemies are close, we are easily tempted to give up hope, to turn toward idolatry, and to seek help from the wrong rescuers. We need prophets to be our social critics calling us back to faithfulness.

In that context, the Lord told Jeremiah to buy a field. He bought the field and put the deed away for safekeeping. This was an act of faith, a symbol of his confidence in God. Jeremiah had hope and lived out his hope while everyone around him was hopeless. He trusted that destruction would not be permanent, enemies would not have the last word, and death would not win. One day God’s people would buy houses and fields and vineyards again in the land. At the time, Jeremiah looked like a fool. Who buys property when an enemy is surrounding the city?

In our own time, we might be called to look foolish as we live out our hope. If we refuse to succumb to despair or hopelessness, if we avoid the demeaning and vitriolic rhetoric, if we offer a positive vision of the future instead of a frightening dystopia, we can be prophets today. How will you live out your hope? How can you invest your time, your money, and your energy in a way that shows you are trusting in God and you believe in God’s gracious future?

Prayer: Sometimes I am discouraged, O God. I lose heart and I want to give up trying to make a difference. Give me courage to live out my hope in foolish ways today.  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].

 

Friday May 12 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals-fri

Scripture: Luke 7:1-17

Key verses: (13-15) When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

Reflection: When I read stories like this I tend to focus on the miraculous actions of Jesus. That’s the way Jesus was portrayed as I grew up in the church – a miracle worker. As I have spent more time with the Scriptures I have come to see another dimension to how the gospels tell the stories of Jesus.

In this story, Jesus and his disciples were passing through a town called Nain. They saw a funeral procession leaving the town for the burial. It was a man who had died, the only son of a widow from the town. Anyone in the first century, when they heard that a widow’s only son had died, would have immediately realized that the woman was in deep distress. Any woman who lost her husband would have been completely dependent on her male children. Losing her only son would mean spending the rest of her life begging for food and shelter, at the bottom of the social hierarchy, dependent on the generosity of others.

It is miraculous that Jesus could, with a spoken word, bring the man back from death. Just as miraculous is the fact that Jesus stopped on his travels, noticed this woman engaged in burying the dead, sensed her distress, appreciated her predicament, and had compassion on her — a poor, destitute widow grieving not only for the loss of her son, but also for the loss of her life as she had known it. Jesus stopped what he was doing, not to prove he could do amazing things, but to live out God’s compassion for the least, the last, and the lost. The compassion of Jesus is more profound that his ability to raise the dead. It demonstrated what was important to God. It modeled how disciples should live, how they should travel, what is worth stopping for, and who is valued in God’s family.

In our busy lives, with busy schedules and places to be and things to do, what stops us in our tracks? Do we notice the people God loves? Do we take the time to offer what we can? Do those who observe our actions ever say, “God has looked favorably on his people!”

Prayer:  Compassionate God, break through our focused attention so that we might see the needs of the world and share the love you have first shown us. In the powerful name of Jesus, 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].