Toward a Sane Faith

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Elijah and God’s Care for a Widow, 1 Kings 17:1-16


Devotions for October 24-30, 2016

1 Kings 17:1-16 [17-24]

Because of time limitations this week (my wife had total left knee replacement surgery) I have altered the format of these devotions. There is a devotional thought and prayer concern. It is my prayer that these nurture your faith and strengthen you as you follow Jesus.


Monday, October 24, 2016

“As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years” (1 Kings 17:1).

 How do personal struggles and difficult situations shape our lives and affect our faith?

 Prayer Concern: People who are recovering from tropical storms and hurricanes.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” (1 Kings 17:4).

 In what ways has the Lord provided for our daily needs?

 Prayer Concern: The hungry and the homeless

 Wednesday, October 26, 2016

“But after a while the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land” (1 Kings 17:7).

 Are there times when we are surprised (and dismayed) that we experience difficulties and struggles while serving the Lord?

 Prayer Concern: People who are serving in relief or service ministries

Thursday, October 27, 2016

“When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks” (1 Kings 17:10).

 In what coincidences have you seen the Lord’s hand?

 Prayer Concern: The unemployed and the underemployed

Friday, October 28, 2016

“As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar” (1 Kings 17:12a).

 Do we practice sacrificial generosity in our walk of faith?

Prayer Concern: Eyes to see where we can make a difference in the lives of the people around us.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

“I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die” (1 Kings 17:12b).

 When have we been hopeless, and what changed those situations?

 Prayer Concern: Those who are depressed or who are struggling with PTSD

Sunday, October 30, 2016

“Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son'” (1 Kings 17:13).

 When have we had the opportunity to speak words of hope and encouragement to people?

 Prayer Concern: Those who are challenged to take a step of faith

God’s Covenant with David


Devotions for 2 Samuel 7:1-17

October 17-23, 2016


Monday, October 17, 2016

“The Lord had given him rest from all his enemies” (2 Samuel 7:1).

David had been an ambitious king. During the past years, David had solidified his political base among the twelve tribes of Israel. David had also been aggressive in expanding his kingdom, defeating neighboring nations and securing Israel’s borders. Somehow, David had also found time to build a magnificent palace for himself. God was with him and had granted David’s fantastic successes. Now the Lord moved and granted David a time to rest. David had time to do nothing and to be refreshed physically, mentally and spiritually.

We have not fought the enemies that David rallied against and our names will probably never be found in history books. We have, as Saint Paul wrote, “[fought] the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). Many times we have been physically exhausted, mentally fatigued and spiritually drained. Like David, God grants us rest. God invites us to enter into God’s presence in prayer, to spend time there in meditation, to open the Bible and allow the Spirit to speak to us and to gather with other followers of Jesus for worship, fellowship and service.

Jesus said, “Come unto me all who are weary and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This is an invitation all of us can accept.

Lord of the Sabbath, thank you for your precious gift of rest. Help us to enjoy it frequently and to use it wisely. Amen.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

“Thus says the Lord ‘Are you the one to build me a house’” (2 Samuel 7:5)?

It seemed like a good idea. David had some time on his hands. His enemies had been defeated and the borders were secure. David could take some of his vacation time and build a temple for the Lord—it would please the people and David thought it would please God. God, however, said, “No!” (through the prophet Nathan). The honor of building the temple would go to David’s son.

We have many good ideas. These ideas would help others, honor God and please ourselves. Not all ideas, though, are what God wants us to do. As followers of Jesus, our goal is not to accomplish all of our good ideas, but to be faithfully obedient to God’s will. Thankfully, God gives us “Nathans” in our lives to help us determine what the Lord is calling us to do. Our task is now to heed how the Spirit leads and the Nathans advise.

O Lord, we want to serve you. Enable us to be sensitive to the leading of your Holy Spirit and attentive to the voices you send to advise us. Amen.


Wednesday, October 17, 2016

“I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle” (2 Samuel 7:6).

Ed and Ester Krantz stepped into their thirty-six foot RV, fastened their seat belts and headed off on another adventure. Their RV was their home for most of the year. They loved the freedom that the RV gave them. Everything they needed was packed in the cabinets, bins and storage holds. They could go when and where they wanted to go. When they wanted to stop, they found a nice RV park and enjoyed the attractions of the area.

The Lord had been moving with the People of Israel. While in the wilderness, God dwelt among the people in the tabernacle. Once settled in the Promise Land, the Ark of the Covenant was located in a tent. The Lord’s words through the prophet Nathan contain the nuance that the Lord did not want to be contained in an immovable building. God is a God of freedom and opportunities—not limitations.

As disciples of Jesus, we are again reminded of our tendency to box God up and putting limitations on what God can do. Thankfully, God breaks out of those boxes and surprises us by God’s movement in our lives and in our world. God’s presence is everywhere and God’s possibilities are limitless.

Awesome Lord, open our eyes, hearts and minds that we may perceive your presence and power in our lives and surprise us by going beyond our imaginations and expectations. Amen.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

“I took you … from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel” (2 Samuel 7:8).

We live in lands of opportunity. One of the ways we celebrate this fact is the telling and retelling of “rags to riches” stories. Abraham Lincoln rose from a log cabin in frontier Kentucky to the White House. A woman in Arizona who is seeking election to the US Congress highlights that she lived in a gas station without running water or electricity for three years. Bill Gates went from a Harvard dropout to become the richest man in the world.

In these stories, we often say that the people were “self-made.” Senator Elizabeth Warren reminds us that isn’t true. Military personnel kept the United States safe. The government built the roads and other items of infrastructure that allow people to grow. Friends, family members and small business people all had a part of people’s ascent from rags to riches.

David was reminded that God was responsible for his journey from a shepherd boy to King of Israel. As disciples of Jesus, we too are reminded that God’s hand is upon us. Our goals are not to be the greatest or successful, but rather faithful and obedient. Seeking these goals will allow us to be all that God wants us to be. We can’t ask for anything better than that.

Loving Lord, you have made us your children and your servants. Rejoicing in our relationship with you, empower us and use our words and actions to serve you. Amen.


Friday, October 21, 2016

“I have been with you wherever you went” (2 Samuel 7:9).

David had been in some scary places and situations. He had fought of lions and bears as a shepherd boy. David had faced Goliath and defeated him. Saul had tried to kill David on several occasions but David survived. As a general in Saul’s army, he had faced many enemies. In all of those situations, God was with him. Things never got so bad that God decided to watch from the sidelines.

When everything is going well, it is not difficult to believe that God is with us. We also have been in tough situations, though, when we wondered where God was and entertained the thought that God might have “left the building.” God’s words to David assure us that no matter what we feel God is with us. God has promised to never leave us or forsake us. Such assurances inspire us to live boldly, lovingly and obediently.

Powerful Lord, thank you that you never leave us. May the assurance of your presence empower us in our love and service of others. Amen.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

“I will not take my steadfast love from him” (2 Samuel 7:15).

 Maria had participated on several mission trips that were sponsored by her congregation. She had spent a couple of weeks in New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina, cleaning up the mess left behind by the storm. Another year found Maria in Haiti ministering to the people after an earthquake leveled their country and killed thousands of people. Maria had been in hard situations and in scary circumstances. She always sensed God’s presence in her life and God’s hand upon her.

Maria was now in a different situation. It wasn’t difficult or frightening, but she wondered if it was unforgiveable. Maria had betrayed the trust of several people and hurt many more. She couldn’t forgive herself for what she had done and she wondered how God could forgive her and continue to love her.

The Lord spoke to David about his son and successor to the throne, Solomon. God must have known the mess that Solomon would make of things—leading the nation into the worship of false gods and idols, and oppressing the people with high taxes and forced labor. Still, God assured David that God would never take his love away from Solomon. That same assurance speaks to us. People may have a difficult time forgiving us. We might struggle to forgive ourselves. God, however, assures us that God will never cease to love and forgive us. Never!

Forgiving Lord, we give you thanks and praise for your steadfast love and unconditional forgiveness. Amen.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

“Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).

The professor stood before her class on the first day of the semester and said, “If you want to get an ‘A’ in this class you will need to work hard and do extra credit. Completing all of your assignments and attending class is only average, ‘C’ work.” When Linda started her job, her boss took her aside and said, “If you want to advance in this company you will need to put in long hours, work hard and demonstrate your commitment to the company.” We have all heard the demands. If we work hard we will be rewarded. There are no free lunches.

God’s words to David are so shocking because they are so different than what we experience every day of our lives. David did nothing to earn this covenant with God. David didn’t even ask for it. Rather, God came to David and said, “This is what I’m going to do.”

God acts the same way with us. God comes to us and tells us that God will forgive all of our sins, make us new people, adopt us as God’s children and fill us with God’s Holy Spirit. This is God’s decision. God assures us that there is nothing that we can say or do that will cause God to withdraw God’s love from us or keep from forgiving us. We can rest in God’s promises.

Gracious Lord, your grace overwhelms us. As your grace changes our lives, may we share it so that it changes the lives of others, also. Amen.

Hannah’s Prayer 1 Samuel 1:9-20; 2:1-10


Devotions for October 10 – 16, 2016

1 Samuel 1:9-11, 19-20, 2:1-10


Monday, October 10, 2016

“Hanna rose and presented herself before the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:9).

Hanna faced circumstances that were beyond her abilities. Life was out of control. Things were not right, even though Hanna had the undying love and support of her husband. Hanna was barren. She had never felt a child’s kick in her womb or held her newborn son or daughter in her arms. Hanna did the only thing that she could do—besides give up and suffer in silence. She entered the Lord’s presence in prayer.

In his explanation to the introduction of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father in heaven,” Martin Luther writes, “With these words God wants to attract us, so that we come to believe he is truly our Father and we are truly his children, in order that we may ask him boldly and with complete confidence, just as loving children ask their loving father.” No matter what our situations in life are, God invites us to come to God in prayer. God is not distant nor uncaring. No, indeed! God is near and eager to listen to us with undivided attention.

Lord, we are your children. Hear our prayers. Amen.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

“She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly” (1 Samuel 1:10).

Akihito carried his office possession in a cardboard box and was escorted by two guards to the entrance of the software company where he had worked. He dropped the box in the trunk of his car, collapsed into the driver’s seat, held his head in his hands and repeated the only word his could say, “God, God, God.” Carlota sat by the hospital bed of her teenage daughter. Her daughter slept while IV tubes allowed the chemicals fighting her deadly cancer to flow into her body. Carlota had no words left to pray. She placed her daughter’s hand in hers and sobbed.

There are times when what we face in life is too big for words of prayer, or so confusing we don’t know what to pray. We may be only capable of sitting in stunned silence, shed tears or cry out for help over and over again. These too are prayers. They may not be eloquent prayers, but they are prayers that God hears and feels.

All knowing Lord, there are times when life is beyond words. Hear our silence, our moans, our screams and our tears. Amen.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

“Remember me, and not forget your servant” (1 Samuel 1:11).

After graduating from college, Lamar had moved several states away from family and friends to begin work in his new career. Lamar had made a few casual friends in the four months that he had been working. He missed his family and his old friends, though. Now it was October 3rd his birthday, and as he silenced his alarm clock and started the day, he wondered if anyone would remember the significance of the day. Certainly, his friends at work wouldn’t have a clue.

Lamar didn’t need to worry. While he was munching his toast and drinking his morning coffee, his phone rang and his parents serenaded him with their rendition of “Happy Birthday.” When he opened his mail later in the day, he had several birthday cards from siblings and friends. Arriving home he discovered a package perched on his doorstep. Lamar took the package inside, set it on the counter and then sat on a chair and looked at it. A smile crossed his lips. They had remembered!

There are times when we are scared people might forget about us. Occasionally fear looms up in our hearts and we wonder if God remembers us. Hannah’s story, along with countless others in the Bible, remind us that God has not forgotten us. In fact, God remembers us and knows all about what is happening in our lives. We are always on God’s mind.

Almighty God, thank you that you have not forgotten us. Empower us to live boldly and lovingly knowing that you watch over us and your hand is always upon us. Amen.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

“The Lord remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son” (1 Samuel 1:20).

While reviewing her credit card bill, Lyla noticed a charge that she didn’t think she made. It was with a company she had done business with previously, but she knew she didn’t make a $149.00 purchase. Lyla got nowhere with the company’s customer service when she called them. Her bank was much more responsive. The customer service representative took all the important information and said, “I’ll look into this and get back to you with the results.” Two weeks passed. Lyla began to think that her bank had forgotten about her case. A day later the customer service representative called her. “It’s taken me awhile,” he said, “but I checked through all the paperwork and talked to the people at the company. We have decided to refund the charge.” Lyla ended the call and realized that the silence of the past two weeks had not meant that she was forgotten.

We come before God with our petitions and intercessions. We plead with God to remember us and then there is only silence. We wonder if God has forgotten about us or has ignored our needs. After the situation has been resolved, we look back and realize that we had not been forgotten. Instead God was moving in ways that we could not see nor understand.

Precious Lord, forgive our impatience. While we wait, enable us to steadfastly trust in your love, presence and power. Amen.


Friday, October 14, 2016

“My heart exults in the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:1).

 Answered prayers are great! Problems are solved, or at least some movement is taking place on solving them. Our worry is lessened. We feel assured of God’s love and presence and our faith is renewed. When our prayers are answered, our hearts sing and praise to God flows freely from our lips.

Hannah praised the Lord. God had heard her prayers and she had borne a son. God is good! God is great!

How unfortunate, though, if our praise is confined to those occasions when our prayers are answered. Praise is always appropriate. God’s love is steadfast, God’s forgiveness is always unconditional and God’s grace is forever overwhelming. No matter what happens today and the days ahead, God is worthy of our worship and praise.

Praise the Lord! God, you are truly worthy of our praise simply because you are who you are. Amen.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

“Talk no more very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth” (1 Samuel 2:3).

Donald couldn’t stop telling people how great he was. He was the most talented in his eyes. According to Donald he knew the most important people, had the greatest vacations, worked on the most challenging projects and received the highest praise from his bosses and co-workers. When Donald was with people, he put on an impressive front. Alone, Donald was consumed with self-doubt, questions about his ability and worry about whether or not he was good enough.

Pride and arrogance are human temptations. Usually they don’t stem from our competency or our accomplishments. Rather our judgment of ourselves and our fears of our own worth spawn such attitudes. We even attempt to hide our self-doubt from God by our pride. Such exercises are pointless and unnecessary. God know us completely—both the good, the bad and everything in between. God knows us and has chosen to love us without conditions or reservations. When we realize the height, breadth and depth of God’s love, we are humbled.

Loving God, overwhelmed by your love, empower us to love mercy, seek justice and walk humbly before you (Micah 6:8). Amen.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

“He raises up the poor from the dust” (1 Samuel 2:8).

Twenty percent of the children in the United States go hungry, but few people see evidence of this. Forty million Americans live in poverty, yet this is not often discussed. Only a few people are concerned that tens of thousands of veterans receive less than adequate medical care. The fact that thousands upon thousands of elderly people suffer physical and/or verbal abuse is a well-kept secret. Little is reported by the news media. It is the rich and the powerful who grab the headlines, capture the magazine covers and receive the rapt attention of the masses. This is the world in which we live.

Thankfully, this is not the God whom we worship. God’s attention is not based on our net worth or our ability to be in the limelight. The Bible repeatedly claims that God is on the side of the poor. Hannah’s song proclaims this truth. God not only remembers the poor and lowly, but God will also raise them up. Most of the time, God does this through the efforts of God’s followers. When we share God’s love and grace through our words and actions, situations are changed for the better and lives are transformed.

Gracious Lord, use our words and actions to raise up the poor and advance your kingdom in the world today. Amen.

A Devotional, A Historical Survey and a Vision

A Devotional

A few weeks ago, during my last week of vacation, I finished my summer reading list. The first book I finished I’d been working on for a year. This wasn’t because it was a bad, boring book, but rather because it was a devotional. The book I’m referring to is We Make the Road by Walking: A Year Long Quest for spiritual formation, reorientation and activation, Brian D. McLaren, (Jericho Books, New York, 2014). Though the book can be used for personal devotions, it is really meant to be used by small groups.

Divided into fiwe-make-a-roadfty-two chapters, We Make the Road is orientated toward the church year. Themes that are addressed by the book are seasonally appropriate. Throughout this past year the book has given me insights, invited me to view things from different perspectives and challenged me to action. I have never been as deeply touch by a book of devotions as I was by We Make a Road. This book is so filled with God’s good news that I plan on forming a small group in my congregation of individuals who will commit to meeting every week for one year and discuss each chapter of the book. I think this will be life changing for everyone in the group and also for the congregation.

We Make the Road is meant for walking—not sprinting. Part of its power is that of time—the Holy Spirit molding and shaping lives over a long period of time. For those people who are willing to walk, open their minds to new ideas, and their hearts to new visions and discuss those ideas and visions with others will find it time well spent.


A Historical Survey

The next book I’d like to suggest to you is Jesus as a Figure in History, Mark Allan Powell (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 1995). It is true that this book is not hot off the press, but it still offers many useful thoughts and ideas.

There has been a resurgence in the study of Jesus as a historical figure. Scores of books have been written on the subject of Jesus the man. These books have brought forth newjesus-in-history-2 facts, entertained new ideas and suggested viewing the historical Jesus from new perspectives. Powell, in his book, surveys this field of study. He identifies the main themes that have surfaced, points out some of their pro’s and con’s and discusses the conflicts that have emerged. Powell does this in such a way that he doesn’t lead the reader to what he believes is the correct conclusion. Instead, he helps the reader understand and empowers the reader to make informed decisions on who Jesus was.

I found this book especially helpful in my walk of faith. The book broadened my understanding of who the man named Jesus of Nazareth was, and helped me see how this new information might affect my theological views and my life as a follower of Jesus. I heartily recommend this book. It is not necessarily an easy read, but I believe you will find it well worth the effort. (On a side note, I purchased a used book for a few dollars on Amazon. There is a second edition that has expanded content and a steep price.)

A Vision

The final book I read was a book of fiction entitled, Patmos: Three Days, Two Men, One Extraordinary Conversation, C Baxter Kruger, (Perichoresis Press, Jackson, MS, 2016).

patmosThis is a book of fiction like The Shack, by William P. Young is a work of fiction. Kruger delves into the Trinity, Jesus’ incarnation and the Nicene Creed. He does this in a creative way. Instead of writing a text book on these subjects, he tells the story of a student of theology who has a vision where he lived with the Apostle John on the island of Patmos for three days. Their conversation over that three day period is enlightening, not only for the theology student, but also for the reader.

I found this book fascinating. Kruger goes back to the early church and sweeps away some of the dust and dirt that has accumulated over the centuries. He helps the reader understand how the first Christians understood the inclusiveness of Jesus and his presence in their lives. Shedding new light on these old truths, enables modern day readers to apply the old to their lives today.

This book is a fun read, but it’s not just to pass the time. It will give you plenty of food for thought and motivate you to examine what you learned in Sunday school, your old assumptions and even what you might hear from the pulpit.


 I purchased the books by McLaren and Powell. I received Patmos free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR 255.

Rejected–Israel Worships the Golden Calf, Exodus 32:1-14


Devotions for Exodus 32:1-14

October 3-9, 2016


Monday, October 3, 2016

“When the people saw that Moses was delayed” (Exodus 32:1a).

Impatience is a human trait. After several days the Israelites grew impatient waiting for Moses to come down off the mountain. Our impatience often grows. We get impatient when we are stopped by a traffic light and become upset when we have to wait two minutes for our fast food hamburgers. The impatience of the Israelites led them to rebellion and sin.

The prophet Isaiah writes, “They who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). Paul writes that patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). As followers of Jesus, patience is needed in our walk with the Lord and in our service to others. The gift of patience grows in our lives as a gift. It is a gift we choose to use or not as we face the daily challenges of loving and serving God.

Timeless Lord, enable us to use the patience that your Spirit has given us so that we may faithfully follow you. Amen.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

“Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us” (Exodus 32:1b).

Cam was angry at the auto repair shop where he took his car for servicing. His car wasn’t finished at the time promised, and when he did get his car back, some of the work was done in a shoddy manner. Cam decided he was going to take his car to a different repair shop the next time his car needed attention. If the new repair shop didn’t meet his expectations he’d take it to still another garage.

The Lord did not meet the expectations of the Israelites. God took too long giving Moses the Ten Commandments. The Israelites wanted a God who acted more expeditiously. Disappointed in the Lord, the Israelites looked for other gods.

We are tempted to follow the example of the Israelites. When God doesn’t answer our prayers, we threaten to stop believing. We might even decide to start worshiping other god’s like money, comfort, security or even ourselves. The Lord remains true to us, though, and is steadfast in God’s love even when we are fickle and self-centered.

Faithful Lord, thank you for your steadfast love even when we are tempted to wander. May you always move in our lives to keep us centered on you. Amen.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

“Take off your gold rings” (Exodus 32:2).

The Lord had moved graciously in the lives of the Israelites. God had heard their prayers. Through the ten plagues and the leadership of Moses, God rescued the Israelites from their Egyptian slavery and led them as they began their journey to the Promised Land. God did not demand any payment from them; God didn’t ask for their gold or silver. In fact, the Lord arranged it so that the Israelites received gold and silver from the Egyptians when they left.

The Lord didn’t meet the expectations of the Israelites so they decided to go after other Gods. Aaron’s first words to them were, “Well, it’s going to cost you.” Isn’t that the truth? We follow the god of career and income and come to the end of our lives, regretting that we did not spend more time with our family. We seek the security of a well-funded retirement plan only to have it wrecked by an economic down turn.

It is true that Jesus told his followers, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).  Following Jesus has its costs, but it also has its rewards. Jesus tells us, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The choices we have as followers of Jesus are clear.

Gracious Lord, you have blessed us abundantly. Help us to always be thankful for your gifts and loyal to you. Amen.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

“He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf” (Exodus 32:4a).

We have always been suckers for strength, power and might. What better symbol of strength than a bull. After all, we have bull markets that we all like—they’re good for our 401k’s. We wish we could bull doze our way through life’s problems. Some past presidents have said that they were “bullish” on America. The Israelites couldn’t have chosen a better false god to follow than the bull, if they wanted to worship strength.

The God of Israel, though, has never been portrayed as a bull. The animal that usually symbolizes the God of the Christians is a lamb. What a radically different symbol for a god than that of a bull. The Lord is different from any false gods. The Lord could use brute force to accomplish God’s will, but rarely does. Instead God uses different expressions of power—love, loyalty, service, sacrifice and generosity.

Though it is tempting to follow the bull, as followers of Jesus we have been called to follow the lamb. Instead of using power that frequently harms or destroys, we use powers that give life and transform lives.

Lamb of God, empower us with your love, so that your will can be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.


Friday, October 7, 2016

“These are your God’s of Israel who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:4b).

With the election season in full swing, fact checkers have been going wild. Candidates are willing to bend the truth, stretch the truth and completely ignore the truth. If there was a fact checker at the foot of Mt. Sinai when Aaron made this claim, it would have been ringing loudly. Really? The bull led the Israelites out of Egypt?! They hadn’t even created it, yet!

Sometimes we need a fact checker on our actions and words. We look around at our careers, possessions and position and pride ourselves on our great accomplishments. On the flip side, when something bad happens we cry out, “God, what did we do to deserve this?” We take credit for our blessings and blame God for the rest.

It was the God of steadfast love, overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness that led the Israelites out of slavery into freedom and the Promised Land. Just as it is God who walks with us, blesses us abundantly and has promised to walk with us through the good times and the tough times of life. Let’s get our facts straight.

Creator God, you have made us gifted, talented people. Forgive us, though, when we think that the fruit of our labor is because of us rather than because of you. Amen.


Saturday, October 7, 2016

“I have seen the people how stiff-necked they are” (Exodus 32:9).

In our urban, technological society, the closest we get to understanding what it means to be “stiff-necked” is when the power steering on our cars go out. We are able to still steering the car, but it is very difficult to do so. The car doesn’t want to go in the direction we want it to go. Animals with stiff necks posed a similar problem to people in a nomadic or agrarian society. The animal won’t turn if its head doesn’t turn. Farmers cannot plow fields with stiff-necked oxen and travelers can’t make much progress with beasts of burden that won’t follow.

The Lord knew that the Israelites were a stiff-necked people, before God began to prepare for their escape from Egypt. Instead of abandoning the Israelite, God moved in their lives and attempted to loosen up their necks so that they could faithfully, obediently follow God. The God of the Israelites is also our God, and God knows that we, too, are stiff necked. This fact doesn’t change God’s relationship with us. God’s Spirit works within us –massaging us—in order to loosen up our necks, open our minds, soften our hearts and enable us to turn our heads in the direction God wants us to go.

Lord, day by day may we see you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly. Amen.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

“But Moses implored the Lord” (Exodus 32:11).

 God was angry. In this ancient story, God decided to wipe out the Israelites. They were more trouble than they were worth. The Israelites were complainers, stiff necked and now a rebellious people. Moses approached God, prayed for the Israelites and implored God to reconsider. God did. God changed God’s mind.

Theologians love to argue about God’s ability or inability to change the future. At times in Bible studies or over coffee, Christians speculate about the concepts of destiny, foreknowledge and predestination. After all of our arguments, discussions and conversations we arrive at the same place—we don’t know.

What we do know is that Moses prayed and his prayers were effective. Moses prayed and God listened. God forgave the Israelites and continued to lead them to the Promised Land. When we pray, we know that God listens. We don’ know how our prayers will be answered or what the future holds. We do know that we are in God’s hands.

Oh God who listens, hear our prayer, move in our lives and accomplish your will. Amen.

Instituting the Passover, Genesis 12:1-13; 13:1-8

Devotions for September 26 – October 2, 2016
Exodus 12:1-13; 13:1-8

Monday, September 26, 2016
“This month shall mark for you the beginning of months” (Exodus 12:2).

Akihito walked through the door of the Silicon Valley tech giant. One month ago he was walking down the aisle to receive his degree; now he was starting his new job. A new chapter in his life was beginning. Lamar looked at the calendar and realized that it was a year ago since he received a new heart. That transplant operation had given him new life and a new lifestyle.

The Lord instructed the Israelites to make the month of the Passover as the first month of their year. The Passover marked a new beginning. The Israelites were moving from slavery into freedom; nothing would be the same.

Newness is a theme for followers of Jesus. We may mark our baptism as the beginning of our new lives. Other followers may consider the day they chose to walk in the reality of God’s kingdom as their new beginning. Still others view each day as a new beginning. Whatever our starting point we rejoice that God has made all things new.

Holy Lord, through confession and repentance enable us to put the guilt and shame of the past behind us and live in your love and grace today. Amen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
“Your lamb shall be without blemish” (Exodus 12:5).

It was their third anniversary and James wanted to show his love to his wife, Jeanine. He decided to give her flowers. As a young married couple James and Jeanine didn’t have a lot of money and James was shocked at the price of a dozen roses. James decided to purchase a discounted bouquet. The blossoms were full and showed a little age. James reasoned, though, that it was the thought that counted. When James presented Jeanine with the flowers she was less than impressed with his expression of love.

Love inspires us to do crazy, extravagant things–something more than hand-me-downs, imitations and beyond-expiration-dates. We may present our love with fewer flowers, but at least they will be fresh. The loving relationship that we have with God inspires us to generosity. The Lord has loved us without limitations and invites us to respond in the same manner.

Generous God, thank you for your abundant gifts. You have held nothing back. May your love inspire us to hold nothing back as we share your love and grace. Amen.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016
“This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet” (Exodus 12:12).

The Israelites had been waiting for a long time. They had been in Egypt for over four hundred years. Most of that time was spent in slavery. When people wait for a long time they tend to lose hope. They stop being prepared for God to answer their prayers and they are not ready to receive God’s answer.

God was now moving to answer the Israelites’ prayers. Once the Egyptians discovered the death of their firstborns, the Israelites needed to be ready to move. The Israelites needed to celebrate the Passover with girded loins and sandals feet.

One of the last things Jesus said to his followers was that they needed to be watchful, or ready. As followers of Jesus, we need to be ready, too. We need to be ready to tell people our stories and why we are followers of Jesus. We need to be ready to share God’s love and grace whenever opportunities present themselves. We need to be ready to show mercy and to stand for justice. The Lord is moving and we need to be ready.

Almighty God, we see you moving in our lives and in our world. Enable us to be ready to be used by your Spirit and to be a part of your moving. Amen.

Thursday, September 29, 2016
“The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; when I see the blood I will pass over you.” (Exodus 12:13).

The Israelites understood what a sacrifice was. Sacrifice of animals was a part of the Egyptian religions that surrounded them. Sacrifice was probably part of their lives as descendants of Abraham. When they chose the lamb and prepared for the Passover, they understood that painting the lambs blood on their door frames and feasting on the lamb was not a sacrifice–at least not a sacrifice for their sins. The Israelites were identifying themselves as people of God and were acting in faithful obedience to the Lord.

On the cross, God was demonstrating the depths of God’s love for creation. Jesus was experiencing the totality of human existence: pain, suffering and the evil that is a part of us. At our baptisms, God was identifying us as God’s children, part of God’s family and as people who have been called to lives of love of service.

The Israelites looked back on the Passover and remembered what God had done, who they were, and that they continued to be a part of God’s story. As followers of Jesus, we look back on the cross and our baptism and remember what God has done, who we are, and that we are part of God’s continuing story.

Lord, you have gathered us into your family. Empower us with your Holy Spirit and use us. Amen.

Friday, September 30, 2016
“Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13a).

Occasionally when the Franklin family gathered for a reunion, they would talk about a cold November night years and years ago. Jack, a grade-schooler who always slept on his stomach with his head buried in his pillow woke up in the middle of the night dizzy and nauseous. Scared, he staggered to his parents bedroom and tried to wake them. They would mumble and move their heads, but they would not wake up. Jack called 911. When the firefighters arrived they found the Franklins near death from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a faulty furnace. In the years that followed, the Franklins told that story as a reminder of how fragile life is and how a gracious and loving God had moved in their lives.

Passover is a celebration remembered by Jews around the world. They gather together as families with roast lamb and other symbolic foods to remind themselves of what God has done in their history. They were slaves in Egypt. God heard their prayerful cries and through acts of wonder led them out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. This event shaped their lives. They lived in the present remembering how God moved in their lives in the past.

We have stories and our families have stories of how God has moved in our lives. These stories remind us of God’s presence, love and grace and how our lives have been shaped by God’s movement. Our memories comfort us and inspire us to live lives shaped by our own stories.

Loving God, may our stories of your love and grace encourage us in our struggles and inspire us to live for more than the present moment. Amen.

Saturday, October 1, 2016
Because the Lord brought you out from there by the strength of his hand” (Genesis 13:3b).

An off hand comment saved Sarah’s life. While at the beach with friends one of them asked Sarah, “What’s that mark on the back of your leg?” Sarah didn’t know so she had it checked out. That mark turned out to be a melanoma. A friend’s question allowed a deadly cancer to be diagnosed in its early stages. Karen had been out of a job for several months and was getting desperate. She had brought a ream of resumes to the job fair with the dim hope that she would find a job. Karen didn’t find a job, but the next best thing–a childhood friend whose company was hiring. Their chance encounter enabled Karen to leave the job fair with a new position. Both Sarah and Karen looked back on these events and realized that their lives were not solely the product of their natural talents and hard work. God was moving.

The Israelites looked back on their time in Egypt and realized how enslaved they had been. They had been weak and demoralized. There was no way that they would have been able to free themselves from their servitude to the Egyptians. Their freedom was because God heard their prayers, broke their bonds and led them out of Egypt and slavery. God had acted in a mighty way.

We may be extremely gifted and hard workers, but life is more than that. Life is filled with coincidences, gut feelings, off hand comments and little miracles. Life is filled with God’s presence and power. For this we offer God our thanks and praise.

O Holy Spirit, we are in you and you are in us moving in ways we do not fully realize or comprehend. Thank you. Amen.

Sunday, October 2, 2016
“You shall tell your child on that day” (Exodus 13:8).

Life is filled with mysteries for children and children are filled with questions. “Why do we celebrate Christmas and Easter and go to church most Sundays?” “Why do we say a prayer before we eat?” “Why do mom and dad read their Bibles and pray?” “Why do we give money to the church when we could use it for ourselves?” “Why do we volunteer to work at the food pantry, or take care of an elderly neighbor’s yard?”

All those questions are opportunities for us, as adults, to tell God’s story and our stories. They are occasions when we can share what we believe and why we believe. Such conversations are ways that our children’s faith are informed and nourished. They are ways that the faith is passed down from person to person and generation to generation. If we do not tell the story and answer the questions, who will?

God of Wonder, thank you for questions and for the opportunity they give us to tell the story and share the faith. Enable us to take advantage of such occasions. Amen.

Joseph’s Story–Genesis 37:3-34; 50:15-21

josephJoseph sold into slavery by his brothers

Devotions for Genesis 37:3-8, 17b-22, 26-34, 50:15-21

September 19-25, 2016


Monday, September 19, 2016

“But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him” (Genesis 37:4).

Conner was a middle child and, as a middle child, he felt neglected and ignored. His two older brothers excelled in both athletics and academics. Connor wasn’t athletic and earned “B’s” and “C’s”. It took two months before his high school teachers realized that Connor wasn’t like his brothers and to show their disappointment. Connor’s younger sister couldn’t do any wrong. Connor was blamed for just about everything. Connor longed to be loved and to be appreciated for who he was.

We all crave love. We want to be loved so much that there are times we seek love in inappropriate and harmful ways. As followers of Jesus, we can rejoice in God’s steadfast love. It is a love that will always be ours. Instead of waiting to be loved by others, or allowing our envy of another’s love to spawn hate, we can strive to share our love (as little as it may be) with others. Like many things, if we hoard love we will always lack. If we give our love away, we will have love in abundance.

Loving Lord, thank you for your love. Open our eyes that we may see who needs to be loved and share our love with them. Amen.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

“Before he came near to them they conspired to kill him” (Genesis 27:18).

A fight broke out in the stands during a Green Bay Packers/Chicago Bears football game. Some Packer fans expressed their hate for a few Chicago Bears supporters. A thirty-four year-old was arrested for setting a Mosque on fire. When he explained his actions to a judge he said, “I hate those people.” A fifty year-old man was arrested for threatening an Orlando style massacre at several gay bars. “Those people are just losers,” he said.

Though they were of one family, Joseph’s brothers didn’t view him as a part of their group. It was an “us and him” situation. When we stop using “we” and begin to say “us and them,” hate becomes easy and along with it violence. The truth is that there is always a “we.” We are all children of God. We are all part of God’s creation and loved by God. Everyone is included and no one is excluded in God’s kingdom. As disciples of Jesus we are called to live in the truth rather than accept a lie.

O Three in One, you are the divine “We.” Change our hearts that we may always see what unites us rather than what divides us. Amen.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

“But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands” (Genesis 27:21).

Binh and his friend went to the frat party, to which they had been invited. The booze was flowing freely. Even though Binh wasn’t a drinker, he found himself following the crowd, drinking way too much and becoming drunk. He regretted it the next morning. Lacy sat with a group of her co-workers during lunch. The group began to trash talk the Latinos who were moving into their area. Lacy said nothing. She didn’t agree with the group, but she didn’t want to start an argument.

It took courage and determination for Reuben to go against his brothers. It is so easy to follow the group. As disciples of Jesus, though, we are called to follow Jesus and no one else. Often this leads us along paths that are quite different from the group and challenges us to go against the crowd.

Lord and Master, grant us the boldness and the courage to follow you no matter what the cost. Amen.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

“Come let us sell him to the Ishmaelites” (37:27).

Money rules the day when the bottom line is the bottom line. Companies place inferior parts in their products—some that might cause injury to their customers—all to make a few more dollars. Workers are laid off because there is a drop in orders, but the CEO, CFO and COO all get huge bonuses. Actions that would protect the environment are spurned because they will cost too much money.

Joseph’s brothers saw a chance to make some money. Instead of killing Joseph, which would get them nothing, they could sell him to slave traders and make a tidy profit. Joseph was sold into slavery and shipped to Egypt where the story continues.

In a society where wealth and materialism are so highly valued ,it is difficult to be faithfully obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In fact we often fail. The Lord does not turn away from us, though. We are still invited to confess our sin, repent and return to following the Spirit’s guiding.

God of Abundance, we confess that we are attracted to the things of this world. Hold us tight so that our attraction does not pull us away from you. Grant us both the will and the ability to follow you. Amen.


Friday, September 23, 2016

“Then Jacob tore his garments … and mourned for his son many days” (Genesis 37:34).

Death was much more a part of life, in the days of Jacob and Joseph, than it is today. Jacob was accustomed to death, but this was the death of his son—the son he loved the most. As we read Jacob’s story, we can understand the depth of his grief. Perhaps, though, Jacob was also grieving over the split in his family. He saw the sneer on his sons’ faces when they presented him with Joseph’s blood soaked coat. Jacob was aware that his sons were not grieving Joseph’s death. Jacob might have realized that he was, in part, responsible for the split and his sons’ lack of grief.

Sometimes our rebellious, self-centered and unloving actions have far reaching effects. They adversely touch the lives of others—innocent bystanders. There are times when the ripples of our actions turn into waves. When this happens we can be racked with grief and overwhelmed with guilt.

Thankfully our God is a God of forgiveness. God’s steadfast love can remove the weight of guilt and turn our mourning into dancing. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are set free to love, heal and set things right.

Gracious God, you shed tears with us in our grief. Walk with us through those painful times and restore in us the desire to live lovingly and to serve. Amen.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

“’I beg you forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you” (Genesis 50:17).

Katelynn struggled to forgive the drunk driver who took her son’s life. Though two generations removed from the incident, Akihito occasionally found himself unforgiving of a government and country that imprisoned his grandparents in World War II. Pastor Laura knew that she was supposed to forgive the members of her congregation who started false rumors about her, in order to drive her out of the congregation. Sometimes Laura had the strength to forgive and at other times she imagined revenge.

Joseph had a lot to forgive. He had been beaten, sold into slavery, lied about, imprisoned, forgotten and ignored. Decades separated him from his comfortable life with his father and family. Joseph knew, though, that getting revenge on his brothers would not be satisfying or productive. He knew that forgiveness was the path to freedom and the future.

Forgiveness is the superpower of followers of Jesus. Forgiveness has the ability to change lives and to transform situations. Forgiveness enables us to step into the future.

Forgiving Lord, give us the will and the way to forgive others as you have forgiven us.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

“Even though you intended to harm me God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

 The Frazier family had to move because of a job promotion. That meant that Dustin would lose all of his friends. He was devastated and fought the relocation. After a couple of months at his new school, Dustin realized that he had found several new friends and that he liked his new school. Karen lost her job in an office reorganization. She was scared and depressed about what the future might hold. After two months of searching, though, Karen was hired for a job that had a better salary and fit her talents more closely. Bad things happening that is just a fact of life. Sometimes, though, good things come from the bad.

Joseph certainly realized this truth. His brothers had planned evil. Their actions were sparked by envy and hate. Certainly Joseph experienced many years of slavery, imprisonment and dashed hopes. Yet in the end, things worked out better than okay. Joseph could see God’s hand in all that had happened. He was in the right position at the right time to save his family from starvation.

God’s hand is upon us. God is moving in our lives so that we experience an abundant life and others encounter God’s love and grace.

Powerful Lord, may your kingdom come and your will be done in our lives and in the world. Amen.

Promises, Faith and Hope – Genesis 15:1-6

god-and-abraham“Look toward the heaven and count the stars … so shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5)

Devotions for Genesis 15:1-6

September 12-18, 2016


Monday, September 12, 2016

“Do not be afraid” (15:1a).

The playground was filled with children. Screams of excitement along with laughter filled the air. The children didn’t have a care in the world. They were free to enjoy the moment and celebrate life. All around the playground were the parents and the caregivers. While they watched the children play, they worried about having enough money to pay the bills, rehashed office arguments, speculated what the flashing “service engine” light in the car meant and cast a wary eye toward the sky wondering if they’d have enough time to mow the lawn before it rained. The division between those who lived without fear and those who lived in fear was obvious.

Freedom from fear does not come from convincing ourselves that there is nothing to fear. Living fear free comes from know that we are a sheep of the Good Shepherd’s flock, that God is our rock and our fortress and that God is with us always. The world is filled with scary things, but we really do have nothing to fear.

Loving God, thank you for being intimately involved in our lives so that we have nothing to fear. Amen.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

“I am your shield” (Genesis 15:1b).

The battle scene filled the screen. Men swung swords at their opponents, while their adversaries fended off the blows with their shields. The shields took a beating but they saved the lives of the soldiers wielding them. The men were able to live to fight for another day because of their effective use of their shields.

God is our shield. God doesn’t prevent the conflicts of life. God never promised that God would. The Lord, however, is there with us when the peace breaks down and the battles begin. As our shield, God fends off the blows of others that would wound, maim or kill us. The Lord gives us the ability to live to fight and serve for another day.

We enter the day not knowing what skirmishes, conflicts, battles or wars we will face. Our shield is with us, though, and we are well prepared to face the day.

Oh God our Shield, thank you that you defend us against the people and forces that seek to harm us. May you not only be our shield but also the shield of others as we stand with them against the forces of injustice. Amen.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

“Your reward shall be very great” (Genesis 15:1c).

We all want to have rewarding lives, but we seek different rewards. An athlete may strive after gold medals. A chef might seek a raving review by a food editor. A raise might be a goal for an employee and flowers or a bottle of wine for a stay-at-home parent.

Abraham and Sarah were richly rewarded as they lived their lives of faith. They had flocks and servants, and the clan of Abraham was an economic and physical force to be reckoned with. Many people of faith have taken the story of Abraham and Sarah as an assurance that they too will be financially rewarded for their lives of faithful obedience. There are many sincere Christians for whom such a hope is ridiculous for number of reasons. Do these followers of Jesus lose their rewards because they live and minister in war torn countries, or serve the poor, homeless and needy?

Our understanding of how God moves in our lives has progressed so that we no longer see a person’s net worth as a measurement of their righteousness. So what rewards might we anticipate as followers of Jesus. Going beyond the physical rewards, rewards that we all can share, is God’s steadfast love, adoption as God’s sons and daughters, God’s presence in our lives and God’s promise never to be separated from us. No matter what our physical situation in life is, we can consider ourselves richly rewarded and give thanks.

God of Wonders, keep our eyes open that we may see the blessings you have given us and live lives of thanksgiving and gratitude. Amen.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

“You have given me no offspring” (Genesis 15:3).

In one of the areas of the world where poverty is rampant, a pastor was asked what he felt was the greatest challenge the people of his congregation faced. Without hesitation he replied, “Materialism.” The person who asked the question was taken aback so the pastor continued with an explanation. “No matter what our economic situation is in life we always want more.”

This was certainly true in Abraham’s life. Abraham had been richly blessed by God. Still, Abraham wanted more. He wanted heirs. Certainly this was an important need in the ancient world. While we can understand the importance Abraham placed upon having heirs, we see that Abraham focused on what he didn’t have rather than celebrate and give thanks for the abundance that he had been given.

We see ourselves when we look at Abraham. We too are tempted to look at what we don’t have instead of giving thanks for what we do have. Changing our perspective so that we focus on our blessings rather than our needs is a sure way to transform our lives.

God of Grace and Mercy, we are such complainers. Forgive us. Direct our attention away from what we don’t have to the abundance we have received from you. Amen.


Friday, September 16, 2016

“Look toward the heaven and count the stars—so shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5).

God took Abraham out into the starry night and told Abraham to look up and start counting the stars. That would be how many descendants Abraham would have. Abraham didn’t need to worry about the one heir. God challenged Abraham to look at the big picture; to consider the long-term. We can imagine that all the starry nights that followed, Abraham would look up into the sky and stand in awe at what the Lord was going to do.

We can become transfixed on our needs. When we do, we lose our perspective. We begin to see God as stingy rather than as a God of abundance, and we begin to grumble and complain rather than give God thanks and praise. When this happens, God invites us to go outside and look at the starry sky. In our case that means pausing for a few minutes and counting our blessings; name them and give thanks for them. Like Abraham, we will receive the assurance that God is true to God’s promises.

Faithful Lord, enable us to live each day in the reality that you keep your promises. May such knowledge empower us to live lovingly and generously. Amen.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

“And he believed the Lord” (Genesis 15:6a).

 What did Abraham believe? Did Abraham believe that God was three in one; that God was Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Perhaps Abraham believed that God was omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Certainly these were doctrines that we were told by pastors, parents and teachers we needed to believe in order to be Christians. These theological niceties had not been developed when Abraham walked the earth. Abraham had a much, more simple faith.

Abraham believed the Lord. He believe that God was able to keep promises and that God would keep promises. Abraham believed that God lived in a relationship with Abraham and that this relationship with God was a gift. God had told Abraham that God had blessed him so that Abraham could be a blessing to others. Abraham’s beliefs shaped his life.

We have doctrines that we can believe. But we can also believe—put our trust in and live in the reality—that God loves us and is present in our lives. We can celebrate that all that we have is a gift from God and that God has blessed us so that we can bless others. Such beliefs are life transforming

Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief. Amen.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

”The Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6b).

This statement is shocking to some people. They will exclaim, “We can only be righteous by keeping to law and living good lives!” Other people will insist that righteousness is earned only by doing good deeds such as visiting the sick, feeding the hungry and serving those in need. The fact that God reckoned Abraham as righteous because of Abraham’s faith is beyond comprehension to such people.

Though contrary to some people’s beliefs, the truth that Abraham’s faith was reckoned to him as righteousness is good news to us. Righteousness is not earned. Abraham believed that God was whom God claimed to be and would accomplish what God said God would do. Righteousness is a gift. God gave it to Abraham and God gives it to us. We are people of faith—we are “righteous dudes!” God has transformed our lives through our faith, and seeks to change the world by our lives of faith and righteousness.

Changeless God of Change, change us into your image and, through us, transform the world into your kingdom where love, peace and justice reigns. Amen.




The Creator and the Created, Gen 2:4b-17; 3:1-8

Adam and God

Devotions for Genesis 2:4b-7; 15-17; 3:1-8

September 5-11, 2016


Monday, September 5, 2016

“Then the Lord formed man from the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7a).

The lumber pile in the woodworker’s shop looked like high-priced kindling. The woodworker chose three different pieces from the pile and gently ran his fingers along the grains. He went to work cutting, gluing, sanding and finishing. When the project was completed those three pieces of wood had been turned into an exquisite jewelry box—a handmade original.

Genesis 2 shows the God of creation as a master craftsman. God scoops up a handful of dirt and forms it into a human being. This isn’t the almighty, transcendent God who spoke and created. Genesis 2 shows God as a God lovingly and intimately involved in creation. Humankind is a handmade, original work of God.

The Psalmist writes, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14). Sometimes we may not like what God has created, but we have God’s mark on our lives. We are God’s and we are beautiful in God’s sight.

Creator God, we praise you for your creative touch on our lives. Continue to craft us into the people you want us to be. Amen.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

“And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7b).

A day at the beach almost turned into tragedy for young Juan Carlos. While swimming he got caught up in a rip current that pulled him further and further out to sea. Try as he might, he could not reach the shore. His arms and legs soon tired and he slipped beneath the waves. The next thing he experienced was a flash of light and a man breathing air into his lungs. It was a breath of new life. That breath created a relationship with the lifeguard and Juan Carlos that has lasted decades.

Adam was a lump of dirt until God breathed the breath of life into him. In this story in Genesis, Adam was the only created being in whom God breathed life. We are forever linked with God by that action. Before that breath, we are like Adam, lumps of dirt; merely existing. God then breathes into us the breath of life and we become animated. We are transformed into the people God wants us to be and live the lives for which we were created.

Breathe on us breath of God, fill us with life anew, that we might love what you would love and do what you would do. Amen.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).

A few words, only one sentence, and we begin to understand what life was meant to be. We were created to live in relationship with God. God intended to be involved in our lives–God would walk with us and provide for us. God placed our ancestor, Adam, in a garden and provided for Adam in abundance. In that same way God provides us with our daily bread. Adam, in turn was to till and care for the garden, just as God calls us to be good managers of the blessings we receive and to share them with others.

When we contemplate the meaning of life, we tend to make it more complicated than it is. Genesis reminds us that life is to be lived in grace and service.

Gracious God, we thank you for the daily bread with which you so abundantly provide us. Enable us to celebrate your grace and love by sharing our blessings with others. Amen.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

“You may freely eat of every tree of the garden” (Genesis 2:16).

Ted was envious of his neighbors. When he compared himself to them, they always seemed to have more. They had nicer, bigger homes, newer and more luxurious cars, children who were scholars and star athletes, and worked at jobs that paid better and accomplished greater things. Ted’s envy would make him miserable, robbing him of the joy of life. Ted’s wife would occasionally set Ted down and remind him of reality. She would say, “Ted, we have a beautiful home. Our cars do what they need to do—they get us from point “A” to point “B” safely. We have two wonderful children who love us and we love each other. We have a good marriage. Both of us have good jobs. Look at the abundance with which we have been blessed. We have so much to be thankful for and so little to be envious of.”

God placed Adam in the garden and told Adam that he could eat freely. Adam would not need to limit himself to a diet of brussel sprouts and crab apples. God provided abundantly for Adam and God continues to do the same for us. If we concentrate on our neighbors, we may become envious. When we look to God, though, and see God’s loving provisions for our lives, we can only be thankful. We are truly blessed.

God of abundance, forgive our envy of others. Open our eyes that we may realize how abundantly you provide for us. Amen.


Friday, September 9, 2016

“For in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Genesis 2:17).

Lamar unlocked the front door and slowly opened it—trying not to make any noise. He tip toed across the floor and was about to climb the steps to his room when a light went on and his father’s voice boomed out, “Where have you been?” Lamar had broken curfew for no reason other than time had gotten away from him (Lamar also thought he was a little too old for a curfew.) Lamar and his father sat down and talked about what had happened. A punishment was decided. Lamar apologized. He and his father hugged and said, “Good night.” On the outside things appeared the same, but their relationship had been bruised and their trust and respect for each other had been altered.

It is interesting to note what would or would not be the result of Adam’s disobedience and rebellion. God’s good creation would not suddenly turn bad. Humankind would not become helpless or despicable, but there would be death. It would not be a physical death, but rather the death of relationships. Our relationship with God would be affected along with our relationships with our neighbor, creation and ourselves.

We live with the consequences of our disobedience and rebellion. We have experienced death. God, however, is not a God of death but a God of life. Through God’s actions—Jesus’ life, death and resurrection—God has once again breathed the breath of new life into us.

Merciful Lord, breathe new life where there is death so that we may be enabled to live lives of faithful obedience and service. Amen.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

“You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).

 The fruit was doubly attractive. Not only was it forbidden, but it would also make humankind like God. We still have that craving to be like God. Children want to be like their superheroes who have super powers that make them godlike. Adults picture God as powerful, secure, comfortable, with indescribable wealth and indescribable abilities. We try so hard to be like God that we miss the point. Life was not meant to be about trying to be like God.

A wise person once said, “There is a God, and I am not God.” It is good to remind ourselves of this truth. Life is so much more abundant and fulfilling when we allow God to be the loving, forgiving, providing, gracious God that God is, and when we focus on being the faithful, obedient, servants of God’s love and grace that we were created to be. It is difficult to turn away from the temptation to be like God, but we are never happy when we try to live out that role.

Lord our God, forgive us when we try to be like you. Move within us that we may be content being the objects of your grace and love. Amen.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

“And the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord” (Genesis 3:8).

Hide and seek is a popular game. It’s fun trying to find a hiding place where no one can find you and you win the game. There are times, though when our hide and seek is more than a game. We don’t want to be found because we are embarrassed, ashamed or guilty.

Adam and Eve were guilty. They had disobeyed the Lord and rebelled against him. They had succumbed to the serpent’s temptation to eat the fruit and become like God. They knew they had done wrong and they didn’t want to be found out. So they hid. Look what happened, though.

God didn’t wait for Adam and Eve to come to their senses and to ask for forgiveness. God came and sought them out. God found them, heard their confession, announced the effects of their rebellion and then clothed them. Yes, sin had its consequences: there would be pain in childbearing and thorns and thistles became a part of life. One thing Adam and Eve’s rebellion wasn’t able to do was to lessen God’s love for them or keep God from caring for them.

Steadfast Lover, your decision to allow nothing to separate us from your love is overwhelming. Certain of your love, may we tell others about your love for them. Amen.

Trials, Temptations and Evil, Matthew 6:13; Mark 5:1-15


Devotions for Matthew 6:13; Mark 5:1-15

August 29-September 4, 2016


Monday, August 29, 2016

“Do not bring us to the time of trial” (Matthew 6:13a).

Jill did not do well with tests. It’s not that she’d sluff off during the semester and not know the material. Quite the contrary. Jill would study hard and master the various concepts and facts of the class, but on the little pop quizzes and the big finals she would freeze. It didn’t help that Jill would worry about her testing performance throughout the semester. As a disciple of Jesus, Jill would pray that the Lord would help her during her tests—that God would be present with her, calm her nerves and help her to recall the material that she had studied.

Not too many people like tests and trials. Most of us fear trials and some of us spend a considerable amount of energy avoiding trials. Still, struggles and tough times are a part of life. In this petition we aren’t praying that God would allow us to live charmed lives free from pain and suffering—even though the thought is rather attractive. We are asking that God will walk with us through life—even the trials and tribulations—and give us the ability to honor God in all that we say and do.

Powerful God, you never leave us nor forsake us. Enable us to live in this truth and allow it to give us comfort and strength when we face the trials of life. Amen.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

“And deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13b).

There is a popular game show where contestants are asked to estimate the price of an item. Whoever comes closest to the actual price without going over it wins the item. During the time that they are trying to figure out their answer the crowd is yelling wildly the answers they think will win the prize. Dozens of numbers fill the air at the same time. The contestants’ challenge is to listen for the voice that has the correct answer.

Like the game show there is a cacophony of voices that fill our lives. Voices tell us to buy something, do something, say something and act in a certain way. It is difficult to discern what voices will enable us to be faithful witnesses and followers of Jesus and which voices lead us toward evil. There are times when it is difficult to discern where the Holy Spirit is leading us. This petition is our cry for help that the Lord will open our ears to hear God’s voice and follow the guidance that we are given. As disciples of Jesus we want to honor God by being faithfully obedient to God.

Divine Guide, help us to hear your voice so that we can follow you along the way and not get lost. Amen.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

“A man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him” (Mark 5:2).

Whether or not we believe in demon possession, we all fight our own “demons.” Shirley was in her third treatment program as she battled her alcoholism. Her drive to drink had separated her from her family, friends, job and co-workers. Lamar battled with anger issues that erupted because he was always judged a black man rather than seen simply as a man. Because of his anger, only a few people wanted to be around Lamar. Carter battled PTSD, post-traumatic stress syndrome after three tours in Afghanistan. His deep depression bruised and broke relationships with others.

The demoniac who Jesus encountered was an outcast. No one wanted to be around him, so the people of his community shunned him. The man lived among the tombs. Many people would not have wanted to touch him because he was unclean from his exposure to death. Jesus did not run from the man, though. Jesus met the man, touched his life and healed him.

Sometimes our demons separate us from others. We find ourselves rejected and alone—often misunderstood and judged. Jesus, though, does not turn away. Instead, Jesus embraces us with his love and with his strength enables us to face the demons of our lives.

Almighty God, you are stronger than all of our enemies. Empowered by your presence, strength and love, enable us to overcome. Amen.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

“No one had the strength to subdue him” (Mark 5:4).

Evil is frightening. It can be powerful like the Nazi regime, religious terrorism or the local bully. Evil can be subtle like the racism and bigotry that most of us harbor. Evil can be enticing like the materialism, greed and self-centeredness of modern society. We may see evil and not recognize it and we may be under its influence and not sense it.

Jesus knew that the man who ran to him from the tombs was demon possessed. Jesus did not run but rather he stood his ground and confronted evil. Jesus’ presence in our lives enables to deal with the evil with which we are confronted. Jesus opens our eyes that we might recognize the evil. He gives us courage to stand against it and Jesus gives us the strength to overcome it. In the presence of Jesus evil never wins.

Lord of all, so often we cower and run from evil. Inspire us and strengthen us so that we can stand firm against the evil in our lives and in our world. Amen.


Friday, September 2, 2016

“’What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the most high God’” (Mark 5:7)?

Several years ago there was a publishing craze with Where’s Waldo? books. The reader had to find the character Waldo on every page of the book. Sometimes it was easy to spot Waldo and sometimes it was not. It was not necessarily the adults who found Waldo before the children. Finding Waldo did not depend on age, intelligence, education or experience. People simply needed to know for whom and for what they were looking.

The demons knew who Jesus was. Like Waldo, Jesus stood out from the crowd. Jesus was the one who didn’t run from them. Jesus was the one who loved the man so much that he stopped and helped him. Jesus was the one who cast out the demons and restored the man to health and society.

We try to see Jesus in our daily lives. Often we try to find Jesus in the successful, the affluent, the comfortable and the secure. Rarely do we find Jesus when we look in these places. Instead, we see Jesus when students and faculty stand together against bullies. We see Jesus in the homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Jesus can be seen in protests against racism and in the support of gay rights. When we look around for Jesus we might find him in places we would least expect to see him.

Open our eyes, Lord, help us see Jesus. Inspire us and empower us, Lord, help us to be Jesus to the people around us. Amen.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

“The unclean spirits came out and entered the swine and the heard … were drowned in the sea” (Mark 5:13).

Bridge to Hope is a ministry to homeless mothers and their children. Several congregations and scores of people who participate in this ministry seek to get mothers and families off the streets, provide them with shelter, help the mothers face their addictions and teach them a marketable skill so that they can become self-sufficient. The ministry isn’t inexpensive. Congregations agree to pay $400.00/month and recruit a team of at least seven volunteers to work with the mothers and their families for the two years that they are in the program. The time, money and commitment given to the ministry transforms lives.

For some reason, Jesus allowed the demons to possess a herd of pigs when they released their grip on the man. The pigs stampeded over a cliff and fell into the Sea of Galilee where they drowned. The owners were upset at the loss of their herd. They didn’t really care that the man had been set free. For them the cost of salvation and freedom was too great.

Standing against evil, seeking justice and loving mercy demand a price. As disciples of Jesus, are we content only to pray to be delivered from evil, or are we willing to pay the price to stand against evil and overcome it? Sometimes the answer to our prayer involves more than just a prayer.

Precious Jesus, you paid the price to defeat evil and set humankind free. As your followers, move within us that we too are willing to pay the price that others may be freed. Amen.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you” (Mark 5:19).

It was Thursday evening. The campers gathered around the campfire and shared what the week at Bible camp meant to them. Many lives had been changed. The young people didn’t want to return home the next day. They wanted to continue to be close to Jesus. The congregation’s worship service had been a special blessing. The music moved the people. The sermon both taught and inspired them. When the last note had been sung, the people didn’t want to leave. They wanted to blessings to continue.

We can certainly understand how the man who had been possessed by demons felt. Jesus had changed his life. He wanted to join the disciples and stay by Jesus. Jesus had other plans for him, though. “Go tell your friends,” Jesus instructed. “Tell them what has happened.” The man did as he was told. The people listened and when Jesus returned they welcomed him. As much as we want to stay to listen to the music, enjoy the fellowship, coffee and pastries, Jesus tells us the same thing he told the man in this story. “Go tell your friends.” That is the way our prayers are answered and both ourselves and others are delivered from evil.

Savior, we’ve a story to tell to the nations. Empower us to tell it lovingly and boldly. Amen.