Category Archives: Daily Devotion

Thank You Lord

Living in the Spirit
November 22, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
   Worship the Lord with gladness;
   come into his presence with singing. 

Know that the Lord is God.
   It is he that made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
   and his courts with praise.
   Give thanks to him, bless his name. 

For the Lord is good;
   his steadfast love endures forever,
   and his faithfulness to all generations.

I usually do not include the headings provided in my Bible when I copy the scriptures for these devotions, but these are particularly appropriate on the day before Thanksgiving: All Lands Summoned to Praise God, A Psalm of thanksgiving. These headings make me agree with Robert Browning when he wrote: God’s in his Heaven/All’s right with the world!

The last few months have been trying times for me and perhaps a lot of you. Since retirement, I devote more time to justice issues than I was able to accomplish while working full time. Doing justice in our world today is rather like Don Quixote fighting windmills. There are varied definitions of what is right and just, all established with differing understandings of the same scriptures. The principalities and powers have done a great job setting God’s people one against the other.

Everything seemed so hopeless last week, and it still does in many ways, but I somehow leaned in a little closer to God and was reminded that God is ultimately in charge. For that, we must be thankful.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your abiding love that can and does turn hopelessness into hope and reignites the flame of your love in your children. Guide us to share your love with the whole world so that we might all know the joy of being one. Amen

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Common Ground on the Common Good

Living in the Spirit
November 21, 2017

Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

 I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken. –Ezekiel 34:20-24

Wow! What an amazing experience. I turned off the morning news after hearing reports of Congress dealing with the tax bill and read the above scripture for the day. In the news, one Senator* indicated he was a no vote on the bill because it favored large corporations over small businesses which he described essentially as the lifeblood of our economy. Others expressed concern about the tax bill increasing the national debt. Some recognize that health care would be markedly and negatively impacted by the legislation if passed that sounds like fat sheep vs. lean sheep to me.

We are all called to do justice, and followers of Christ are called to be the Body of Christ in the world today. Being a shepherd of all God’s people, and all people are God’s, is one of our tasks as doers of justice. Our representatives in Congress are ultimately responsible to us, not their financiers. We must recognize that we allowed big money to push us aside while distracting us and dividing us through highly emotional issues, changes in political financing through court intervention (Citizens United), and gerrymandering. We need to seek forgiveness for our complicity, primarily through sins of omission, and go about the business of correcting an unjust system.

Prayer: Lord, we do ask your forgiveness for shirking our duties as shepherds of your people through our civil failures. Guide us to work together to find common ground on the Common Good. Amen.

*Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin see at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/us/politics/senate-house-tax-cut.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Are We Able

Living in the Spirit
November 20, 2017

Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. –Ezekiel 34:11-16

In times like these, we need to rise each morning read the above verses and perhaps review them again each evening. We have the greatest of Shepherd. Now is the time to hold tightly to that assurance letting our fears be turned into energy to emulate his goodness, mercy, and justice. God is greater than all evil. We are called to join with God in overcoming evil with good.

I mourn with the families who have lost loved ones through recent mass shooting. I celebrate with the school in California that was able to thwart the worst impacts of such an attempted shooting by implementing a timely lockdown. I join with the millions of people who champion enforcement of current gun laws, the creation of better systems to assure those banned from buying weapons don’t, and improved mental health systems across our country. While needed, these changes are not enough, and the answer lies in the hearts and minds of each person as we struggle to be God’s flock.

Would God recognize us as God’s sheep, when searching for us? Does our behavior set us apart as people of mercy seeking justice? Would the Great Shepherd find people full of hate and envy, fear and privilege, anger and hostility? Would the Great I AM know us by our love for God and our love for one another? Are we able to love as Jesus loves?

Prayer:
Lord, we are able, Our spirits are thine.
Remold them, make us, Like thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance Above us shall be
A beacon to God, To love and loyalty.* Amen.

*Refrain from Are Ye Able by Earl Marlatt see at https://hymnary.org/text/are_ye_able_said_the_master

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Role Models

Living in the Spirit
November 19, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:14-30

Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” –Matthew 25:24-30

I will admit that I see the world uniquely, some might say peculiarly. When I read the words above, I instantly thought the man who hid his talent reminded me of the very wealthy citizens of the USA who work so hard to avoid paying taxes, investing their time and energy in exploring tax loopholes or moving their money to offshore accounts. They prefer to buy politicians rather than invest their wealth in improving their country. The other parable that applies here is The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21). The church may contribute to their delinquency as it craves the mite the rich might toss its way. Of course, there are the Warren Buffett’s of the world who seem to gain joy from their philanthropy.

Perhaps the greatest problem with the example, of those who hoard their wealth, is the rest of us see them as role models. If we become just like them will we be rich and famous too? Greed causes much of the grief in our world today. Christ as a role model gives generously of himself and thrives on the wellbeing of others.

Prayer: Forgive us, O Lord, when we chase after the ways of the world rather than following your example. Guide and direct us to follow you more nearly. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Multiplying Resources

Living in the Spirit
November 18, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:14-30

‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” –Matthew 25:14-25

When I have the time, I enjoy exploring my genealogy. Once while tracking down some information on my family, I opened the census for the area in Oklahoma where my dad’s family lived and where I lived as a child. It surprised me that I recognized most of the names listed. They were the grandparents of my classmates. What was called the unassigned lands in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, were opened to settlement by homesteaders in 1889 through a run where the first person to get a stake taken from a 160-acre tract and turned it in got the land. First appearances would indicate that all the homesteaders started out with equal potential. Of course, that was not the case. Some came with household goods, and money others came with a horse and the shirts on their backs.

What struck me as I scanned through those names was the vastly differing outcomes for the families involved. Some prospered buying other farms and becoming wealthy. Others were still living off the land in poverty. What was the difference? Tragedy for some paved the way to desperate times. My grandmother’s first husband was struck by lightning and killed while plowing a field leaving her with six children to raise and no means of support. Others were like the one-talent servant settling for what they had.

The parable instructs us on our servanthood as followers of Christ. It encourages us to make the most of our resources. Look around at what some of done with very little simply by doggedly pursuing their quest.

Prayer: Lord, prod us forward to invest every ounce of our resources I the furtherance of your Kingdom. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Giving Encouragement

Living in the Spirit
November 17, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

So then let us not fall asleep as those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
–1 Thessalonians 5:6-11

Sleep, of course, has its purpose in preparing us for the work of the day as does food and exercise, study and prayer. Our focus must, however, be on our purpose: building a world ruled by God’s love.

The need for quality sleep is in the news a lot. Modern people tend to sacrifice sleep for things they rank more important than sleep. Others get so caught up in the stress of the day; they cannot sleep as they revisit the problems turning them over and over in their minds. Still, others believe sleep allows time for our brains to process things unencumbered resulting in new insights.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to thy God to order and provide;
in ev’ry change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

 Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
to guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice, who ruled them while He dwelt below.*

We do need to encourage one another whether we are missing sleep to sit with a sick friend or wrestling with an issue that seems to have no good conclusion or waiting patiently for God to open a window to let in light on a life situation ensconced in darkness.

Prayer: Lord, enable us all to be encouragers of others as we welcome encouragement ourselves. Amen.

Verses 1 and 2 of Be Still,My Soul by Kathrina von Schlegel see at https://hymnary.org/text/be_still_my_soul_the_lord_is_on_thy_side

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Walking with God

Living in the Spirit
November 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 123
To you I lift up my eyes,
   O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
As the eyes of servants
   look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid
   to the hand of her mistress,
   until he has mercy upon us.

 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
   for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill
   of the scorn of those who are at ease,
   of the contempt of the proud.

Have we as people who identify as God followers lost the ability to walk humbly with our Lord? Have we relegated God to just another strategy to apply as needed to win a political campaign?

I was stunned when I heard someone defending a politician accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl by saying his actions were no different than the actions of Mary and Joseph. The assumption is that God approves the alleged action of the politician. Apparently, the speaker is not well acquainted with the story of the birth of Jesus recorded in Matthew. To the contrary, Joseph went beyond the call of duty by standing by Mary when he had had no sexual relations with Mary saving her from being stoned for becoming pregnant outside of marriage.

It is time for all the people of God to let God be God and for all of us to become the people God created us to be. For most of us that will require repentance and return to God’s leadership.

Prayer: Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
   for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill
   of the scorn of those who are at ease,
   of the contempt of the proud.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Self-Identified Privilege

 

Scripture Reading: Judges 4:1-7

At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, ‘The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, “Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.” ’—Judges 4:4-7

I named this web address after Deborah because I value her as a person of action. If you read her whole story in judges, the violence may overwhelm you. It does me, and I do not condone it. What I am impressed with is Deborah’s seeing injustice and doing something about it. Our country seems to have self-righteously lost its moral center.  What do I mean by that? I hear a lot of pontificating about what is wrong with our country from people who are caught up in sex scandals, business corruption, greed, and misuse of power. They seem to be under the impression, if they do something, it is right. Only what others do are subject to judgment and punishment. The sin described here is self-identified privilege, and it is epidemic in our land.

What shocks me most is the support given to the purveyors of such behavior by the people their actions probably hurt the most. The people who identify as privileged seem to be saying if you become like us all will be well as their supporters fall further and further into despair. We seem to be suffering from a collective case of being out of touch with reality. I keep remembering the children’s book, The Emperor’s New Clothing. We all need to read or re-read it.

How do we discern what is right, what is just? Jesus taught us that the most important guidance for righteousness is to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. If loving oneself is the measure by which we must love others there is no place for privilege in our world.

Prayer: Lord, open our heart to your reality. Help us to see how what we do impacts others. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Evil in Sight

Living in the Spirit
November 13, 2017

Scripture Reading: Judges 4:1-7

The Israelites again after Ehud died. So the Lord sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly for twenty years. –Judges 4:1-3

When will we ever learn? I wonder how many times the Bible records something similar to The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. While theologians may debate whether God rains punishment down on God’s people, there is no question that we all must suffer the consequences of our own actions even when God forgives us. Are our memories so short that when good times abound we forget what we did to cause the bad times?

God gave us standards from the beginning to understand how to thrive in the world God created. The overall primary standard is to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. God sent prophets to warn us of our misdeeds and ultimately sent Jesus Christ to redeem us. And still, our eyes glass over, only seeing what we want to see and doing only what we want to do. Many of us justify our actions projecting them as God-given. They may be self-righteous but do not meet God’s standard of righteousness. Racism will never pass God’s test of love.

We live in a time when some deep soul searching is needed. Some beautiful examples of sharing God’s love exist, caring for hurricane victims and the victims of recent gun violence, alongside some very ugly rhetoric. We need a lot more of the former and a lot less of the latter.

Prayer: Lord, guard our tongues to be uplifting now down-putting. Let the light of our love wash out the dark of hatred and bigotry. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Ready to Play

Living in the Spirit
November 12, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:1-13

The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
–Matthew 25:8-13

First, I would like to point out that the foolish bridesmaid reportedly had the resources necessary to buy more oil. They either did not choose to use it for purchasing the oil, or they were procrastinators. They sound a lot like most of us. Funny how I can ignore something which seriously needs my attention like the slow leak in my shower head. When my hard drive crashed recently, I took it to the Geek Squad, like taking someone who is ill to the emergency room.

Whether we like it or not, God expects us to be purpose driven and intentional in our work related to the coming of the Kingdom of God and everything we do relates to the coming of the Kingdom of God. Being a follower of Christ is not a spectator sport. Players in a basketball game who are taking a rest on the bench during the game never disengage from the game itself. They have to remain diligent to the process for when reinserted they must blend in seamlessly with the rest of the team. The same is true of our service to Christ.

Called as partners in Christ’s service,
    Called to ministries of grace,
    We respond with deep commitment
    Fresh new lines of faith to trace.
    May we learn the art of sharing,
    Side by side and friend with friend,
    Equal partners in our caring
    To fulfill God’s chosen end.*

Prayer:  God, give us the courage to prepare for whatever we face in our service to you, help us stay in good spiritual, physical, and mental health, so our entrance I flawless when sent to do your work. Amen.

*First verse of Called as Partners in Christ’s service, by Jane Parker Huber see at http://worship-organizer.awtrey.com/hymnal/?number=343

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.