Category Archives: Daily Devotion

Gifts Differing

Living in the Spirit
July 10, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 25:19-34

Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If it is to be this way, why do I live?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,

‘Two nations are in your womb,
   and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
one shall be stronger than the other,
   the elder shall serve the younger.’

When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterwards his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. –Genesis 25: 21-26

My sister and I, while close all our lives, are very different people. I do not do money; she is a bookkeeper. She is an excellent seamstress, re-attaching a button taxes my sewing limits. She plays the piano, and while I love music and sing, I am not an instrumentalist. I love genealogy; it is no big deal to her. We need all kinds of people in the world for the world to be one. It takes a little effort to bring people differing together to maximize their gifts creating wholeness from oneness and oneness from wholeness.

Things did not start out well for Isaac’s family. It rarely does when parents pick favorites and pit them against one another. Parents and their children are like siblings as they are drawn together by common interest. My sister became a seamstress because my mother was an excellent one. They loved to sew together. I inherited my interest in genealogy from that same mother.

In families as well as within the Body of Christ and all human interactions, before we build walls with people because they have different gifts or different ways of perceiving the world, we need to take a few minutes to examine the relationship and find the source of our frustration. Open dialogue helps. Using “I” language works better than “You” language: “I don’t get what your are saying.” as opposed to “You are not making yourself clear.”

Loving one another requires us to take the time to try to understand one another.

Prayer: Lord, help us to understand one another so that we can grow together in loving all our neighbors as we love ourselves. 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.

Yoked

Living in the Spirit
July 9, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ –Matthew 11:25-30

Matthew 11:30 makes my top ten list of scriptures. I am just as guilty as anyone of making things harder,  processing stuff too much, not understanding, if I start with God’s way, my labor will be more fruitful and ultimately my journey joy-filled. We still have a job to do; there will still be hazards on the road, and we still have the challenge of learning to work as one when we are each as unique as snowflakes.

God created us with what Paul calls gifts differing for a reason. I do not do money, have two left feet, and am 5”2” tall. So, I greatly appreciate the gifts of accountants and bookkeepers, enjoy watching ballet dancers and athletes, and am particularly grateful for people who can reach the top shelves in grocery stores.

I probably drive accountants and bookkeepers crazy because not having enough funds to do something in my mind is just a roadblock to be overcome in some way. God created discourse for such events. I learn from them; they learn from me, and ultimately we answer God’s call to build a kingdom ruled by love.

The vision of oxen yoked together is beautiful. While the walk side-by-side one leads, the other follows. Christ is our leader and promises us when we pull with him our work is easy. When we pull against Christ, our labors are fruitless. When we pull against each other, we lessen our productivity.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we pull away from you, stubbornly planting our feet unwilling to move forward, or trailing off in a wrong direction. Forgive us when we invest more time in fight each other than finding areas of agreement to tackle. Guide us in your ways. 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.

Plumb Line of Love

Living in the Spirit
July 8, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
   we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’ –Matthew 11:16-19

“WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US.”—Pogo*

As true as Pogo’s wisdom may be, it is really hard to accept. If we want to know what is wrong with our government, for example, we need only look in the mirror. We can’t have the best of all worlds or as Jesus put it ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24)

Health care represents one-sixth of the USA economy. The U.S. spent 17.1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care in 2013. This was almost 50 percent more than the next-highest spender (France, 11.6% of GDP) and almost double what was spent in the U.K. (8.8%). U.S. spending per person was equivalent to $9,086 (not adjusted for inflation).** Some of our people are not getting any health care at all. Those other nations have some form of universal coverage providing accessible, affordable healthcare for all their citizens.

The word no one uses when addressing the problems of our failure to have accessible, affordable health care is profit. Profit is the leading contender for causing the higher cost of health care in the USA. Even the Affordable Care Act could not escape the tentacles of profit. ACA requires insurance companies to spend 80% of their premiums on health care resulting in a 20% allowance for insurance companies to cover their costs of providing coverage. Administrative costs for the Medicare program is somewhere around 2 or 3%***.

These administrative costs are just the start of profit’s influence of the cost of health care. For-Profit businesses provide much of our health care, including pharmaceuticals. The irony of this dilemma is profit making companies benefit the most from a healthy workforce that is why 80% of them provide insurance for their employees.

Of course, everything I have said above is refuted by some think tank or another. We do not know who to believe. I do know we are offspring of a loving God who wants the very best for us. The plumb line by which we evaluate our choices must be God’s love and concern for all God’s children. Changing our trajectory as a people starts with us.

Prayer: Lord, hang your plumb line of love next to every consideration we make and make sure we see it. Amen.

*http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2011/04/we-have-met-enemy-and-he-is-us.html
**http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2015/oct/us-health-care-from-a-global-perspective
***http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2011/09/20/medicare-is-more-efficient-than-private-insurance/

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.

Love is a Choice

Living in the Spirit
July 7, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 7:15-25a

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

 So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. –Romans 7:21-25a

Choices, God gives us choices. Made in God’s image, we must assume that God has choices also and God chooses to love all the time, every time. God’s goal for each of us and as importantly all of us together to come to that same conclusion choosing to love, all the time, every time. If it is not our choice, we are not loving. There is something about the nature of love that requires righteous or just engagement one with another.

Humans like to define love with adjectives—tough love, eternal love, erotic love, brotherly love, Agape love. Love in any sense is wanting the very best for another or all others. In the final analysis, we do not get to define what that best is. Blessed with a role model in the life of Jesus, we can start our journey in love by loving as Jesus did. That requires us to take the time to study his ways of being with others. He seemed to have all the patience in the world for some and routinely expected far better out of others, like the religious leaders of the day. He welcomed the stranger, extended open arms to children, mixed with the untouchables, enjoyed a good party, mourned with those in grief, shared his love of God with everyone and as Saint Francis suggests sometimes used words.

The devil never makes us do evil; we always choose to do evil. That does not mean evil is non-existent and not tempting us at every turn. It just means we need to grasp the better way with a tighter grip.

Prayer: Teach us to love each other as you would have us, love. 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.

Works in Progress

Living in the Spirit
July 6, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 7:15-25a

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. –Romans 7:15-20

We are works in progress. None are perfect, yet we strive for perfection, learning from our successes and failures, asking for forgiveness and mercy when needed. We should not be too hard on ourselves nor too easy. Wasting time and energy in continual self-deprecation helps no one. Continuous self-evaluation and adjustments are key to overcoming our deficiencies.

God generously provided within the scope of God’s love scripture to guide us along the way, Jesus as a role model, communities of faith to support and nurture, and the Holy Spirit to guide and direct. When we engage with these gifts, we grow in spirit and truth enabling us to turn away from evil and seek God’s good.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart;
Rise to all eternity.*

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your grace. Thank you for inspiration and expectation and for insight and passion. Direct us to use all our gifts to your service in creating your Kingdom on earth. Amen.

*Final verse of Jesus Lover of My Soul by Charles Wesley see at http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Jesus_Lover_of_My_Soul/

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.

Oneness Not Oppression

Living in the Spirit
July 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 45:10-17

Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear;
   forget your people and your father’s house,
   and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him;
   the people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
   the richest of the people with all kinds of wealth. –Psalm 45:10-13

My first inclination was to skip this scripture. It reeks of centuries of oppression of women worthy only regarding how they enhance their husband. In this case, the future husband is also the king. Heady stuff for a beautiful young woman, the right woman with the right cunning can and has taken full advantage of the role. The legendary Queen of Sheba stands as a positive role model. On the negative side, we have Delilah and Jezzabel. How does one rise above oppression? How does one avoid letting oppression cultivate evil?

Michelle Obama said it well, “When they go low; we go high.” Of course, that responds not only applies to women’s issues but all our actions as followers of Christ. Therein lies the solution. Paul said it this way; There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Of course, that is a lot easier said than done. Generations of cultural norms intertwine with our rapidly changing world. What do we keep and cherish? What do we kick to the curb? More difficult, how do we find the oneness to which Christ calls us in dealing with such issues?

My fall back always seems to be from another Psalm.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me. (Psalm 51:10-11)

We need to allow God’s grace to cleanse our hearts and minds and rid us of the clutter that keeps us from being one with each other and with God.

Prayer:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me.  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.

Stepping Out in Faith

Living in the Spirit
July 4, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 24:34-36, 42-49, 58-67

And they called Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ She said, ‘I will.’ So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

‘May you, our sister, become
   thousands of myriads;
may your offspring gain possession
   of the gates of their foes.’
Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. –Genesis 24:58-61

Arranged marriages seem a little strange to us but they still happen in the world. I do not know how much of a choice Rebekah really had, but it seemed to be her decision. My guess is she and her mother had some long talks weighing the pros and cons. Marriage and bearing children were her culturally designation destiny.

I had wondered how my family members felt when they got on that ship to come to America aware they most likely would never see their loved ones who remained in the homeland ever again. I thought the same thing about family who traveled west in the USA until I found records where some aunts living in Pennsylvania visited Illinois in the 1840’s. We don’t think much about such a trip now. It was a major event then.

What Rebekah did was step out in faith to leave her family and travel to a new life. We are called in both small and large ways to step out in faith, move out of our comfort zones in service to God. It may mean interacting with strangers who become new friends, it may mean traveling to places far away or simply driving to the elementary school a few blocks from the church. It may mean learning how to use a saw, hammer a nail, or sack food. It may mean advocating for people whose voices alone are not heard. Whatever we are called to do, we must remember that we never do it alone. God is always with us and there are communities of faith ready and eager to join with us in a common cause.

Prayer: Grant us the courage of Rebekah to step out in faith when you call. 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.

Sent to Serve

Living in the Spirit
July 3, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 24:34-36, 42-49, 58-67

So he said, ‘I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has.

 ‘I came today to the spring, and said, “O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, ‘Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,’ and who will say to me, ‘Drink, and I will draw for your camels also’—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.” –Genesis 24:34-36, 42-44

“That’s a God thing.” is my normal response when something appropriate happens that results in wholeness, oneness, or justice. I usually say the phrase in hindsight. In the midst of life, I think most of us respond with instinct, although I too like Abraham’s servant send prayers for guidance.

Instinct should not be whatever will happen, happens. Paul talks about Christ’s followers being like well-trained athletes. When a player is on the court or the field, his or her body and mind must meld together instantly in response to the movements of the other person or team. Really good athletes usually possess natural talents, and they enhance those talents with hour after hour of intense workouts, the study of opponents, shared wisdom from a coach, and practice, lots of practice.

Christ followers are charged with similar tasks designed to hone our whole being with the goal of serving God with all our hearts, minds, strength, and souls. Such preparation allows immediate response when indicated. Someone caught and saved a baby dropped from the 11th floor of a burning building recently in England. Most of us are rarely required to respond to such a serious circumstance. All of us live in communities where children are falling through the cracks of poverty, hunger, and inability to take full advantage of available education. There is something each of us can do to catch these children before they fall. It may take dusting off some old skills or learning some new ones. Start now, for the opportunity awaits.

Prayer: Lord, help us to find our niche in serving others and when needed to hone our skills in preparation. 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.

A Cup of Cold Water

Living in the Spirit
July 2, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 10:40-42
‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

I jut received an alert on my telephone that Oklahoma City is under an excessive heat warning, one of the first of what might be a long hot summer. Such alerts come when the combined temperature and humidity is expected to reach a level that could prove life threatening if one is in it too long without adequate water. These conditions are especially dangerous for the elderly, who do not feel the heat as much as younger people, and for the homeless who must seek both shelter and water to survive. I suspect the people of Galilee and Judea were well acquainted with the problem in the first century sans air-conditioning and electric fans. Many were dependent on others willing to share life-essential water.

Love, too, is life-essential. Jesus encourages us to share our love in very ordinary ways without question and without judgment. Children absorb everything happening around them. Our attitudes and actions toward them plant seeds of hope or fear or love or lost self-esteem. It does take a village to raise a child.

Prayer: Lord, help us to love each other as you love us and particularly help us be good role models for the children we encounter along the way. 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.

Loving like Jesus

Living in the Spirit
July 1, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 10:40-42

‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

My paternal grandfather died when my father was ten years old. I obviously never knew him. So you can imagine my surprise several years ago when I met with a state senator from my home county. Upon hearing my last name, he asks who my father was. I told him, and he said “I knew your grandfather. He was one of the finest men I have ever know. Have a seat what can I do for you?” I not only had my foot in the door for the business I needed to conduct but I also felt the responsibility of living up to my grandfather’s reputation. I was welcomed not because of who I was but because of whose I was.

Our lives as followers of Christ speak volumes about God and Christ. We are responsible for conveying the love of God in every aspect of our lives. In sharing our love, we transmit to others that God loves them too.

Sometimes we feel obligated to place restrictions on our love requiring a certain behavior, mode of dress, language, religion, even skin color or sexual orientation, which, I fear, puts us out of step with God’s righteousness. Loving without judging takes a whole lot less effort and does a whole lot more good. We would do well to remember that we learned about love because God first loved us.

I was sinking deep in sin,
Far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within,
Sinking to rise no more.
But the Master of the sea
Heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me.
Now safe am I.

Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me.
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me*.

Prayer: Teach us to love as Jesus loved. Amen.

First verse and chorus of Loved Lifted Me, lyrics by James Rowe see at https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/1070

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.