Toward a Sane Faith

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

temptation

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.

 

Forgiven to Forgive, Matthew 6:12; 18:21-35

forgive us trespasses

Devotions for Matthew 6:12; 18:21-35

August 22-28, 2016

 

Monday, August 22, 2016

“Forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:12a).

 Carlton was the type of guy who couldn’t say the words, “sorry” or “forgive me.” We might think that this was a minor character flaw that could be easily overlooked. Carlton’s inability or unwillingness to say, “I’m sorry,” however, caused significant pain in several of his relationships. When Carlton forgot his wedding anniversary, his refusal to apologize caused his wife to feel overlooked and underappreciated. Carlton’s son lost trust in his father when Carlton missed a major dance recital and didn’t say, “Forgive me.” Carlton’s daughter was so angry with him when Carlton didn’t apologize for missing her soccer tournament that she didn’t speak to her father for several days.

It takes personal strength to admit that we have been wrong. We must confess that we are not perfect and that our imperfections hurt ourselves and others. Asking for forgiveness demonstrates to others that relationships are more important to us than our facades of perfection.

In reality, because of what Jesus accomplished in his life, death and resurrection, God has already forgiven our sins. We ask for forgiveness, though, in order to admit our wrongs, our imperfections and to remind ourselves of our dependence on God’s mercy and grace.

Loving Lord, prevent us from being so proud that we cannot admit our wrongs or so uncaring that we do not seek to restore and renew relationships. Amen.

 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

“As we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12b).

It is so easy to hold a grudge. We really don’t have to do anything. We can ignore the relationships we had with others. We can turn away from the relationships so that we don’t see them wither and die. We don’t need to talk to the people who offend us. We don’t need to make an effort to “patch things up.” Grudges are so easy that we slip into them without thinking as we follow that path of least resistance.

As followers of Jesus, however, we do not choose the easy instead of the hard. Empowered by the Holy Spirit we are up to the task of forgiving. We realize that forgiveness is a two way street. If we want to feel the relief that washes over us when the Lord assures us of God’s love and says, “You are forgiven,” we need to share those words with others. It is a joy to see the guilt and shame slide off the backs of the people whom we forgive. It is thrilling to experience the flow of life in restored relationships. Though forgiveness is never easy, it is worth our effort.

Merciful Savior, as your forgiveness has saved us from the pain of our sin, so may our forgiveness of others save them. Amen.

 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

“How often should I forgive” (Matthew 18:21)?

 Juanita was tired of forgiving. Maria, who Juanita thought at one time was a good friend, spread some vicious, untrue gossip about Juanita. Juanita was deeply hurt personally and her standing in the community was tarnished. Maria denied facts that proved her words to be wrong and refused to apologize for spreading the gossip. Juanita decided that she needed to get on with her life and the only way she was going to do that was to forgive Maria.

Juanita forgave Maria. She shared her action and the reason behind it to her friends. Juanita, however, discovered that forgiveness was not a one-time thing. She would forgive Maria. A few moments later Juanita would discover herself ruminating over the hurt Maria caused or conjuring up a way to get even with Maria. Catching herself Juanita would again forgive Maria. This pattern of forgiving/not forgiving went on for months. Slowly, though, the thoughts of revenge grew farther and farther apart. One day Juanita was able to replace her evil thoughts with a prayer of blessing. How often should we forgive? As often as it takes to forgive and to love.

Patient Lord, your forgiveness is endless. Grant us the ability to follow your example. Amen.

 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

“One who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him” (Matthew 18:24).

During the early morning a driver swerved into the lane ahead of Jocelyne cutting her off and forcing her to slam on her brakes. Jocelyne has tempted to display a mild form of road rage and flip off the offending driver. Thinking better of it, Jocelyne decided to forgive the driver of this minor offense and raised her hand and spoke a brief prayer of blessing. On the other side of town a distracted driver who was busy texting ran a red light and plowed into the Valenzuela family’s minivan. Raul Valenzuela sustained minor injuries but his wife and two children were rushed to the hospital in critical condition. The texter had a few cuts and bruises. She was overwhelmed with guilt, though, over the pain and damage that she had caused. In the next days and weeks, as he hovered over the hospital beds of his family, Raul struggled with his desire for revenge and his need to forgive.

This parable contains vastly varying values: ten thousand talents and one hundred denarii.  They are incomparable. Yet, in both situations forgiveness of the debt was required. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to forgive; it is our way of life. The amount that is needed to forgive doesn’t matter. What does matter is our need to forgive in order to free ourselves and others from the effects of sin.

O Lord Our God, no matter how great or how small, give us the ability to freely forgive for the benefit of both others and ourselves. Amen.

 

Friday, August 26, 2016

“Have patience with me and I will pay you everything” (Matthew 18:26).

Little Andrew Mellon was visiting his grandmother. His visits were infrequent enough that his grandmother had not “childproofed” her home. While running down the hallway—when he had been told to always walk in grandma’s house—Andrew tripped over his shoelace. When he fell, he accidentally pushed over a stand on which stood a vase and flowers. The vase was a family heirloom that had been passed down through six generations. The vase shattered when it hit the floor. Andrew sustained no injuries from the fall, but he knew that he had done something wrong and he cried in fear and shame.

Andrew’s grandmother rushed to the scene when she heard the crash and Andrew’s crying. Seeing her prized vase in scores of pieces on the floor, she was ready to lash out in anger at Andrew. There was nothing that Andrew could do, though, to make things right. The vase could not be repaired and anger wouldn’t help the situation. Instead Andrew’s grandmother knelt down and opened her arms to Andrew. He rush over, buried his face in her chest and sobbed, “I’m sorry grandma.” Andrew’s grandmother folded her arms around him and said, “It’s okay, Andrew. I love you so very much.”

There was no way that the servant could repay ten thousand talents to his master. The servant could only hope that the master would be merciful, and the master was. The master forgave the entire debt. We, like the servant, come before God empty-handed. We cannot make things right. We can only ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy, and that is exactly what God’s gives us.

Holy Parent, we thank you for your steadfast love, endless mercy and overwhelming grace. Amen.

 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

“Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me and I will pay you” (Matthew 18:29).

Andrew returned to his house from visiting his grandmother. The next day he was playing with his neighborhood friends, Tina and Christopher. In the course of their play, Christopher broke one of Andrew’s favorite toys. Andrew started to get angry at Christopher, but then Andrew remembered his grandmother and what she did when Andrew broke the vase. Holding back a few tears, Andrew picked up the pieces of the toy with Christopher. “That’s alright, Chris,” he said. “I know you didn’t break the toy on purpose. I forgive you.”

The words are the same. The unforgiving servant and said to his master, “Have patience with me.” Now a man who owed the servant money asked the same thing, “Have patience with me.” Forgiveness is not just to be received. Forgiveness is to be shared. We don’t need to remember the number or gravity of our sins. All we need to remember is God’s unconditional forgiveness of us and God’s steadfast love. Embraced in God’s love we are motivated and enabled to love and forgive, also.

Forgiving Lord, you never withhold your forgiveness from us. Move within us that we may never withhold forgiveness from others. Amen.

 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

“So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

Really?! Will God actually NOT forgive us and hand us over to be imprisoned and tortured like the master did to the unforgiving servant? No! There is no limit to God’s forgiveness nor is there ever a precondition for God’s forgiveness. This doesn’t mean that we have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

The lack of forgiveness creates its own prison and torture. It robs us of life as we review the wrong perpetrated against us and imagine what we would like to do to our enemy. We lose the joy of life, the depth of love and the freedom of an unshackled life. Like a festering wound the lack of forgiveness can cause sickness to spread through our entire being.  There may come a time when we realize the hell that we have created for ourselves. We then release the hold we have upon the offense and forgive. When we do, God welcomes us to new life. It is a life that is filled with God’s love, forgiveness and grace.

Merciful God, open our eyes that we may see the pain that we wish for others is actually experienced by ourselves. Move us to let go and forgive so that we might live and love. Amen.

 

 

Daily Gifts and Worry Over Nothing, Matthew 6:11, 25-35

liliesA Field of Calla Lilies

Devotions for Matthew 6:11, 25-34

August 15-21, 2016

 

Monday, August 15, 2016

“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

Seth Meyers regularly attend worship services at Community Church. During every service the Pastor would invite the congregation to pray the Lord’s Prayer. Seth would join in until he got to the “give us this day our daily bread” phrase. It just didn’t make sense to Seth. The Lord had never caused manna to cover the ground so his family could eat. Unlike the Israelites in the wilderness whose clothes didn’t wear out for forty years, his children were going through clothes and shoes at an alarming rate. Seth couldn’t see the gift. He worked hard to provided food, clothing and shelter for his family.

Seth’s discomfort with the Lord’s Prayer began to eat at him. He decided to schedule an appointment with his pastor. When they met Seth explained his struggle to her. After some thought the pastor replied, “Perhaps were focusing on the wrong gift. Instead of the food and clothing for which you work hard, you might thank the Lord for the gift of a job, or the physical and mental gifts that allow you to work. You might also be thankful for a country that allows you to live in peace and for the family and friends that fill your life with companionship and joy.” Seth was quiet, thinking about what his pastor had said. Nodding his head he looked at his pastor and said, “You’re right. God does provide our daily bread for us in a variety of ways.”

God of Abundance, thank you for the multitude of blessings and gifts you pour into our lives. Please keep us from forgetting that all of life is a precious gift from you. Amen.

 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

“Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life” (Matthew 6:25a).

No one wants to worry. All of us fall into the worry trap, though—some more than others. The moment we tell ourselves not to worry, we begin to worry more. We look around us and there appears to be so much to worry about. The problem is that we can’t change any of the worrisome problems by worrying. Worrying accomplishes absolutely nothing except high blood pressure and sleepless nights. Because of worry’s adverse effects and uselessness the Lord gives us the command, “Don’t worry!” God’s words are not a suggestion nor an invitation. They are a command.

We cannot follow God’s command by telling ourselves not to worry. Nor can we wait until a solution presents itself. We can stop worrying, though, by looking away from the problem and looking to our loving Lord. The Psalmist understood this truth when he penned, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come?/ My help comes from the Lord,/who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

Divine Obsession, enable us to keep our eyes fixed on you. Amen.

 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

“Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Matthew 6:25b)?

It is easy for us to reply to Jesus’ question, “Of course life is more than food and the body more than clothing.” Our actions, though, speak louder than our words. The Epicureans (followers of an ancient Greek philosophy) were materialists and focused on the here and now. They had a saying, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die.” Even though this may not be our official motto, it is easy to get wrapped up in the physical demands, family expectations and societal pressures of everyday life. Jesus’ words remind us that there really is more to life.

As disciples of Jesus we live each day in a relationship with a living God. Besides nurturing our body, we also nurture our spirit; we spend time in prayer and worship. Jesus’ resurrection has opened up an eternal dimension to our lives. We are free to do more than make ends meet. We can share our blessings and serve others. Life can be limited to food and clothing, but because of what Jesus did on the cross there can be so much more.

God of Life, enable us to loosen our grip on our physical lives and to open our hands to all of life. Amen.

 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

“And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life” (Matthew 6:27)?

 Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying, “Let go and let God.” It’s good advice. Carley and Jim Franks figured this out when their oldest son left for college. They had bordered being “helicopter parents,” but they no longer could do that. Now they needed to trust that they had raised a responsible young man and that everything was in God’s hands and not theirs. Carlota Sanchez realized the reality of this saying when she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. She could work hard to stick to her diet and follow the doctor’s orders, but beyond that she needed to let Go and let God. Worry would not help her. Lamar John lost his job during the economic downturn. He sent out resumes to scores of companies. He was asked for a few interviews, but his worrying kept him from doing well. Once he decided that God would open the right door for him he was able to let go of his worry. His interviews went better and eventually he snagged a great position in a growing company.

We are all confronted with the temptation to worry. As followers of Jesus we have a choice. We can either worry, or we can “Let go and let God.”

Faithful God, break the chains of our worry. Empower us to concentrate on doing great things for you while expecting great things from you. Amen.

 

Friday, August 19, 2016

“For the Gentiles strive after these things” (6:32).

We are individuals but we are also members of various groups. While keeping our identity we strive to fit into those groups. We want to be in style so we dress in a similar fashion. The people in some groups may have the same political or sociological beliefs. They may drive similar cars or possess the same toys—boats, ATV’s and PWC’s. At the same time that we want to be a part of the group, we may also want to stand out in the group, so we have the most expensive car, the biggest house, or toys that are top-of-the-line.

Groups are distinctive also. The French dress differently than the Americans. Australians speak differently than their United Kingdom brothers and sisters and those in Canada. Followers of Jesus are different, too. In our call to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus, we use our gifts and talents for others. Another difference is that the followers of Jesus are not to get caught up in the materialistic rat-race of the world. Because of who we are, our lifestyles are different and our questions. Instead of asking what is the best, biggest and most expensive we ask ourselves, “How can we best love our neighbor as ourselves?”

O Holy Teacher, instruct us on how to ask the right questions to serve you and love our neighbor. Amen.

 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

“But strive first for the kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33a).

Two teenagers came across the eagle as they hiked along a stream. It had been injured and it couldn’t fly. They called for help. The eagle was captured and brought to the town’s veterinarian. She examined the eagle and found that its wing had been broken. Setting the bone, she cleaned the eagle, fed it and put it in a cage so it would be safe and could heal. Several people volunteered to help care for the eagle; for a brief time the eagle became the town’s mascot. The day came, though, when the eagle’s wing was healed and it was time to let the eagle fly. A crowd watched as the eagle flapped its wings, circled the crown and flew high into the sky. The eagle was free.

We too have been set free. We no longer need to be concerned about our salvation because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In this passage of scripture Jesus assures his followers that we do not need to be concerned about what we will eat or what we will wear. The Lord will provide for our physical needs. Now we are free to seek the kingdom of God. Without distraction we can love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. We are free to be the people God created us to be.

Loving God, thank you for setting us free. Move in us and through us so that we do not use our freedom for ourselves, but to serve others and to share your love and grace. Amen.

 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

“These things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33b).

 It was a difficult time for Akihito and his family. Akihito had lost his job due to a corporate merger. He had a severance package, but it was no golden parachute. After four months it ran out and Akihito was forced to apply for food stamps. His family cut their spending drastically. Akihito focused on searching for a new job and worrying about his family’s finances.

Sue Kennedy was badly hurt in an accident at her work. For several months she endured surgeries, physical therapy and rehabilitation. During that time, she received disability payments but they covered only a portion of her regular income. Things got tight for the Kennedy family. Instead of staring at her problems and worrying about finances, Sue decided to look for ways that she could help others during her recovery. She began work at the local food bank helping the people who needed assistance through the application process. Focusing on helping others, Sue discovered that her other problems worked themselves out.

As followers of Jesus it is amazing what happens when we stop being selfish, self-centered and turn our attention to helping others. In a remarkable way our needs are met and so are the needs of others.

Loving Parent, thank you for your care and your involvement in our lives. Thank you also for the opportunities that you give us to share your love and grace with others. Amen.

 

 

The Lord’s Prayer-God’s Will Be Done Matthew 6:9-10; 26:36-46

Lords Prayer

Devotions for August 8-14, 2016

Matthew 6:9-10; 26:36-46

 

Monday, August 8, 2016

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9a).

Seth Jones had a loving father who worked hard to provide for Seth, his mother and his sister. Seth’s father’s love didn’t stop at simply providing for his family. Seth’s father also wanted to be involved in Seth’s life; to spend time with him. Seth had joined a youth soccer program and his father had started taking Seth to practices and watch Seth’s games. Knowing that he had a loving father, gave Seth the boldness to wake his dad up from a nap and ask him to kick the soccer ball around with him. Seth was soon practicing his new soccer skills with his father.

As disciples of Jesus, we have a loving father. Following Jesus’ example we address the God of all creation as “Father.” Such a practice stresses the relational character of the Christian faith. Living in a close, loving relationship with our heavenly father, we are able to approach God boldly and share our wants and needs and those of the people around us with God. What a privilege and blessing it is to have a relationship like this with our God.

Loving Father, thank you for your love and for your desire to be intimately involved in our lives. Amen.

 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

“Hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9b).

The ring wasn’t encrusted with diamonds and gold. It was rather a simple ring, hand crafted with a small diamond. The ring was a family heirloom and it had been handed down from generation to generation. It held an honored, almost holy place in the family’s history.

Unlike the heirloom ring, God is holy independent from our thoughts, words and actions. As disciples of Jesus, though, we want God’s holiness to be evident not only to ourselves but to everyone around us. We do this by words that thank and praise God, and with lives that honor God and reflect God’s love and grace. We live this way not because we want God to think well of us, but because of our love for God.

Holy God, release the Holy Spirit to move in and through our lives so that your holiness will be experienced by all. Amen.

 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

“Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)

There’s a lot of talk about the coming of God’s kingdom. One branch of Christianity believes that Jesus will return at any moment, rapturing believers into heaven and beginning a period of tribulation and the end times. Other Christian expressions have the return of Jesus in their official documents, but don’t spend much time talking about it or speculating when it will happen. Many other Christians wait for God’s kingdom by working to establish it on earth today.

When Jesus walked among us, he said that the kingdom of God had come and called on people to repent and to believe. Jesus demonstrated the presence of God’s kingdom by healing the sick, casting out demons, stilling storms and feeding the hungry. We spread God’s kingdom today by continuing Jesus’ ministry. We seek justice for the oppressed, include the marginalized, feed the hungry, strive for equality and stand against evil. As followers of Jesus we not only live in God’s kingdom, we live so that others may experience the kingdom of God in the world today.

King of kings, empower us that we may use the blessings that you have given us to spread your kingdom in the world. Amen.

 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

“He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated” (Matthew 26:37).

There are times when the will of God is challenging. Jim Elliot felt God’s call to be a missionary. Jim and his wife travelled with a friend to Ecuador so that they could begin a ministry to the Auca people. Jim and four other missionaries made contact with the Aucas. Together the missionaries accomplished something that they couldn’t do alone. The missionaries began to build relationships with the Auca people, but they were martyred for their efforts by Auca warriors.

Jesus’ confrontations with the religious authorities and Roman powers were increasing. He knew what lay ahead. The cross was something he had to do alone, but Jesus still surrounded himself with his disciples on that fateful Thursday night. As he wrestled with God’s will, he brought with him Peter, James and John.

God’s kingdom is spread and God’s will is done when followers of Jesus join together. Combining our gifts and talents we are able to live out God’s will more effectively than we can individually. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ to pray and to work together and to accomplish the tasks that the Holy Spirit sets before us.

Three in One, thank you for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Use our talents together to accomplish your will and to share your love and grace. Amen.

 

Friday, August 12, 2016

“I am deeply grieved, even to death” (Matthew 26:38).

Death and life are involved in following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” We might have to die to old habits, pet sins and prejudices. Changing job, communities where we live and comfortable lifestyles may be involved in following God’s call and accomplishing God’s will. Death is never easy; it hurts. Death is also scary, because we don’t know what’s on the other side.

Yet with death there comes new life. Bad habits are replaced with good habits. New jobs bring with them new opportunities. Changes in our lifestyles may bring a new zest for living.

Grief is okay. Grief is a part of being followers of Jesus. Still, grief isn’t everlasting. There is also thanksgiving, praise and joy as we live to accomplish God’s will and share God’s love and grace.

Comforting God, don’t allow our grief to prevent us from following you. May our obedience both accomplish your will and bring new life. Amen.

 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want” (Matthew 26:39)

Our will is often at odds with God’s will. Ed and Carol Baker were active members of their congregation and comfortable middle class Americans. One fall their pastor preached on the subject of Christian stewardship. The Holy Spirit moved through the pastor’s words and Ed and Carol felt called to increase their giving to a tithe. It wasn’t a simple decision, though. To give at that level would force them to alter their lifestyle and there was a part of them that did not want to make the sacrifice.

Carlos had a good paying job as a bank executive. In his spare time he worked with immigrant families teaching them how to practice good financial management. As time passed he became more involved in his volunteer activities. Carlos began to sense that the Holy Spirit was guiding him to expand his work with the immigrants and work full-time. Such a move would require many changes to Carlos’ life and to his family. Carlos struggled many months with this call to do God’s will in a new way.

Life as followers of Jesus is abundant and free. It is also challenging and often requires sacrifice. We are frequently reminded that life is not about us, but rather about doing God’s will and serving our neighbors. The Holy Spirit is patient with us when we struggle to follow the Spirit’s leading. As with the rest of our lives God is by our side as we wrestle with God’s will. God never leaves us even when we are hesitant to follow.

Holy Spirit, lead us and enable us to follow you so that God’s will is accomplished in and through our lives. Amen.

 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Matthew 26:42).

Jesus had struggled. He had asked God to take the cup away from him and to help him avoid the cross. That was not God’s will, however. The cross was part of God’s plan. In the end Jesus yielded and accepted God’s call. Jesus walked out of the Garden of Gethsemane at peace, both strong and confident that whatever happened God’s will was being accomplished.

Saying, “Yes,” to the leading of the Holy Spirit brings peace. We may be unsure as to what the future holds. We still may be apprehensive. At the same time, we are able to rejoice that no matter what happens God will be with us and God will see us through.

Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief. Amen.

 

Restoration and Reunion, Job 42:7-16

reunion“There came to him all his brothers and sisters

Devotions for Job 42:7-16

August 1-7, 2016

 

Monday, August 1, 2016

“My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends” (Job 42:7a).

It is difficult to practice what we preach. The story-teller of Job found this to be true. For forty-one chapters of his story, he has sought to tell his listeners that neither their misfortune nor their blessings were directly related to their pleasing or displeasing God. Now, as the story-teller wraps up his story he has the threat of God’s wrath directed at Job’s three friends. Suddenly there is a disconnect.

The story-teller may have revealed to us a very human trait. God’s steadfast love, overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness is beyond our belief and understanding. Punishment is so much a part of our lives that we cannot imagine lives without it. Yet the truth of God’s love is what the Holy Spirit continually reminds us. Bad times do not come from God nor do they separate us from God.

God of love, enable us to always remember your love and to walk in the freedom that it provides us. Amen.

 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

“For you have not spoken what is right” (Job 42:7b).

Job’s three friends were quick to share their thoughts and opinions with Job, and they believed that they spoke the word of God. Job successfully refuted their accusations and judgments. He was not what they claimed him to be. Now, as the story of Job draws to a close we read that the words of Job’s three friends were not right and they were not pleasing to the Lord.

Job’s three friends teach us a lesson. We live at a time when there are deep divisions between people. We are slow to listen and we are quick to argue. In our haste to proclaim what is right our words can appear to be judgmental and condemning. We might be more like Job’s friends than we want to be. In such a climate, we as disciples of Jesus are challenged to speak words of respect and love. We may not win the argument, but we will remain true to our calling.

Divine word, enable us to speak words of love to our friends and our enemies and to those who agree with us and those who don’t. Amen.

 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

“My servant Job shall pray for you” (Job 42:8a).

Sometimes the words, “I’ll pray for you,” slip off our tongues all too quickly. We make a brash commitment to pray and then forget to do what we have promised. At other times the offer to pray seems to be so superficial. We want to do more, but for one reason or another we are limited to prayer. As disciples of Jesus prayer is a part of our lives. Prayer can be a very powerful part of our lives.

Ken and Mary sat by the hospital bed of their son. He had been critically injured in an automobile accident. The people of the congregation where Ken and Mary worshiped heard what had happened and immediately began to pray. Later, when their son had recovered and returned home, Ken and Mary shared during a worship service how they had felt supported and encouraged by those prayers. Over coffee at the local coffee shop Carlota shared about her troubled marriage with a close friend. Near the end of their time together Carlota’s friend offered to pray for her. There in the coffee shop with bowed heads and holding hands they prayed and Carlota felt peace and hope flow into her life.

It may be a cliché, but it is true. “Prayer Changes Things.” Alleluia!

O Holy Listener, hear our prayers as we lift up the needs of others and our own needs to you. Amen.

 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

“I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly” (Job 42:8b).

Surely Job’s three friends rejoiced when they heard that the Lord would not deal with them according to their folly. We can join Job’s three friends. We too have received God’s mercy and God has not dealt with us according to our folly. We are not rare cases, however. Throughout history God has not dealt with God’s people according to their folly.

In the garden of Eden God clothed Adam and Eve after their rebellion. In the Sinai desert God wanted to vent God’s wrath against God’s people when they crafted the golden calf as their idol/god. Moses interceded and God withheld God’s fury and then for the next forty years God lead the Israelites, provided for their needs and defeated their enemies. God forgave David’s folly with Bathsheba and established a covenant with David for his continued dynasty. Once the Israelites were in the Promise Land, God forgave their inclination to follow idols and false Gods. When Jesus had breathed his last God forgave all of humanity who had nailed God’s son to the cross.

Thank the Lord that God does not deal with us according to our folly. God is not a God of judgment and wrath. God is a God of love who wants the very best for God’s people and all of God’s creation.

Forgiving God, thank you that you do not judge us or condemn us, but rather forgive us, correct us, and assure us of your love. Amen.

 

Friday, August 5, 2016

“And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job” (Job 42:10).

The teller of Job’s story must be the prototype of the American playwright and scrip writer. He had to create a happy ending. Unlike some of the European plays and movies, American plays and movies usually have an ending where good defeats evil and there is at least a hint of hope. After all of Job’s suffering and his misguided rantings God restored everything that Job had lost. In the end Job had twice as much as he had when the story began. It would be nice if life was like that, but it is not.

Even with the miracles of modern medicine there is no guarantee that our prayers will be answered and our loved ones healed. A better job with more money and nicer bosses is not a sure thing when we lose our job. We trudge through our trials and tribulations not know what is in our future.

There is only one thing that we can be sure of—God’s steadfast love. God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us and God has kept all the promises that were made. We are not alone and often God sends family, friends and sometimes even strangers to walk with us through the tough times and help us over the obstacles before us. Assured of God’s love and grace we place one foot in front of the other and continue the journey toward the end of our suffering.

Trustworthy God, move in us that we may rest in your promises as we live each day loving you and serving our neighbor. Amen.

 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

“Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before” (42:11).

 Twelve year-old Stacey was diagnosed with cancer. Her treatment involved several bouts of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. She was in the hospital for weeks on end and surprisingly she had very few visitors. Many of her schoolmates were uncomfortable with her illness and didn’t know what to say. Others were too busy with their own lives and interests. When Stacey returned to school her friends were quick to reestablish their relationships with her, but they couldn’t walk with her through the dark days.

Job had a similar experience. Everyone abandoned him except for his three friends who play major roles in his story. The story-teller used the return of Job’s family and friends to illustrate the reversal of Job’s plight and the renewal of Job’s fortunes. Still, we can question the closeness and strength of the relationship Job had with them. On the surface it appears that they were “fair weather friends.” Even though they did not speak what is right, at least Job’s three friends stayed with Job.

Walking with someone through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23) is not easy. There are many times when we will not know what to do or to say. It is important, though, that we are present to bear each other’s burdens. Being present is not only what friends do, it is our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Loving Lord, you walk with us through our most difficult days. Empower us to walk with those around us who are going through difficult times and who should not be alone. Amen.

 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

“Job died old and full of days” (Job 42:17).

There are times when life hurts us so badly that we hesitate reengaging. We don’t want to be hurt again. We don’t want to open ourselves up to the possibility of repeating our sufferings and struggles. There are times when we echo those famous words of movie star Greta Garbo, “I want to be alone.”

Job resisted the temptation. After his suffering he reentered life with gusto. He managed his riches, had more children and lived a full life into old age. Job had learned an important lesson during his journey through suffering. He realized that God was a powerful God who was intimately involved in his life. Job understood that God would never forsake him. Such knowledge allowed Job to step into his new life with courage, faith and hope.

Job’s God is our God. God’s steadfast love is something that we have experienced. God’s presence and power are things to which we can bear witness. These truths enable us to take our first steps into the day, and begin our journey into the future.

Faithful Lord, like Job, may we live the full and abundant lives that you created us to live. Amen.

 

The God of Creation Speaks Job 38:25-27; 41:1-8; 42:1-6

creation

Devotions for Job 38:25-27; 41:1-8; 42:1-6

July 25-31, 2016

 

Monday, July 25, 2016

“Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt” (Job 38:25)?

Some people like to watch a power storm sweep through the community. We don’t like the storm fronts with tornadoes, microbursts and damage to life and property. We do like, though, to hear the deep roll of thunder, the firework display of lightning and a hard rain. The strength of these storms is awe inspiring, and while enjoying the cacophony of light and sound it is easy to begin to reflect on God’s power. As disciples of Jesus we serve a powerful God.

During those times when life threatens to overpower us and things get out of control, it is both comforting and encouraging to know that the Lord is a powerful God. We journey through each day in the presence of such a God.

Almighty God, when we are weak and heavily burdened we thank you that we can run into your strong embrace and find rest. Amen.

 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

“To satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground put forth grass” (Job 38:27).

Binh popped a TV dinner into the microwave and sat down alone to ingest tasteless Salisbury steak, mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes and apple crisp. Things weren’t going well at work; there was conflict with his boss and some of his coworkers. Binh had just broken off a three year relationship that wasn’t going anywhere. Now single, all Binh’s friends were couples and he felt separated from them. To Binh his life was a desolate land.

Like Binh there are times when, for a multitude of reasons, we feel that our lives are desolate lands. They are voids where nothing grows and a hot, dry wind is free to blow. Clouds can cover a wasteland, however, and rain can fall. When it does, lands that appeared empty burst for with life. This is our hope that the Lord who sends clouds and rain to the wastelands of the world will bring rain and new life into our lives. We might not see life, but when the rains come life bursts forth abundantly.

God of Creation, may the refreshing rain fall upon the dryness of our lives and sprout the beauty of new life. Amen.

 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook” (Job 41:1)?

Fishermen always are angling for the big catch. No one, though, would want to snag the Leviathan. This mythical sea dragon was gigantic and powerful. Along with the storm waves of the sea the Leviathan represented chaos. No one among us wants to catch chaos and bring it into the boat of our lives. Though unfortunately, this does happen.

The God whom we worship, however, is more powerful than the awful Leviathan. God is able to catch it, fillet it and serve it with a savory sauce—no problem. We can rest easy. The Leviathan will not capsize our boat—though he may give us a frightening ride. Our comfort and strength comes in knowing that God is in the boat with us.

Lord, we praise you that you are a God who walks on water, stills the storm and whispers in our hearts, “Do not be afraid.” Alleluia! Amen.

 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

“Will it make a covenant with you to be taken as your servant forever” (Job 41:4)?

Control—a master must be able to control his or her servant. That control may be the payment of a salary, the master’s position in society, society’s values and norms or even physical power. Without that control the master can easily become the servant. The Leviathan will never be our servant because we can’t control it.

There is someone who can control the Leviathan, though. The Lord is able to control the beast. Not only can the Lord control the Leviathan, but God can also use the Leviathan as God’s servant. Imagine, chaos can be a servant! Encountering chaos is never a pleasant experience. Still most of us will admit that it is those chaotic times in life that shape us, make us stronger, and even empower us to be the person God wants us to be. The Leviathan will never be our servant, but as God’s servant it can bring us a delicious cup of coffee and a delightful pastry. Yum!

Divine Potter, use the Leviathan of our lives to mold us and shape us into the people you want us to be—to your honor and glory. Amen.

 

Friday, July 29, 2016

“I know you can do all things” (Job 42:1).

 Seven year-old Raul Sanchez idolized his father, Francisco. His father was a firefighter who had served a decade in the city’s fire department. Francisco had helped put out many fires and he had saved several people. Francisco’s bravery was only one reason why he had won the respect of his son. Raul was proud of his father because his father provided everything Raul needed from day to day, was present at all of the important activities in Raul’s life and Francisco loved Raul. Raul truly believed that his dad could do anything.

Most of us have had people in our lives when we were growing up who we thought could do anything. Their powers have diminished as we have grown older, but they still may have a place of honor in our lives. There is one, though, whose power never diminishes—the Lord. Job asserts this truth when he says to God, “I know you can do all things.” It is this truth that empowers us to step boldly into the future and to carry on the ministry of Jesus the Christ.

Powerful Lord, we confess that we can do nothing without you, but with you we can do great things. Empower us, Lord. Move in us and through us to accomplish your will. Amen.

 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

“Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:5).

Ask a teacher what he or she thinks is the most important thing they can teach a child. They won’t say it is proper English grammar, the multiplication tables, world history, evolution, sex education or even the joy of reading. Teachers will say that their most challenging task is to instill a love of learning in the child. They want to teach their students to journey through life with open eyes and an open mind ready to investigate and to learn new things.

In the story, Job comes to a point where he is quite sure of himself. He doesn’t need to learn anymore because he knows it all. He says that he could approach God like a prince. In that vaulted evaluation of himself, Job pontificates on subjects he knows nothing about. Job realizes his error when God comes to him in a whirlwind and gives Job a glimpse of the mysteries of creation.

Disciples are those who follow and learn. As disciples of Jesus it is a good idea for all of us to cultivate the trait of journeying through life with open hearts and minds. God has much that God can teach us.

Holy Teacher, create within us a love of learning so that we may walk with you with open hearts and teachable minds. Amen.

 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5).

They teach pastors many things in seminary, but it isn’t until they begin to serve in their first calls that pastors truly understand what it means to be a pastor. College graduates wave diplomas and teaching certificates in the air, but it isn’t until they have taught that first year that they begin to understand what it means to be a teacher. It is one thing to read, but it is something entirely different to do.

We can sing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” or popular contemporary songs in our congregations’ worship services. We can shout “Amen!” during the preachers’ sermons and offer our opinions in a small group Bible study. These actions are different, though, from living our daily lives trusting in God’s steadfast love, overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness. They are different from holding a friend’s hand and sharing the hope of the gospel, or stooping down to help the poor, needy or fallen. In one set of actions we hear. In our daily walk we see; we behold a living and loving God.

Loving Lord, may our walk with you not be confined to hearing about you. Empower us to love and to serve that we may behold your glory. Amen.

Book Provides an Alternate View of Christ’s Cross

Atonement of GodThe Atonement of God: Building Your Theology on a Crucivision of God, J.D.Myers, (Redeeming Press, Dallas, 2016).

We’ve heard for decades that Jesus Christ died for our sins. Adam and Eve sinned and God broke off the relationship with humankind. Our sin separated us from God and the only way to restore the relationship between humankind and God was for Jesus to suffer and die. Jesus died that we might live. God had to have a sacrifice. Once Jesus died all was forgiven. The problem with this view of what Jesus accomplished by his life, death and resurrection is that God is made out to be bloodthirsty, judgmental and unmerciful. This is a very different portrait of God from the one Jesus paints of God as a God of love.

 J.D. Myer addresses this problem in his book, The Atonement of God. Myer points out that this view of the cross of Christ (Myers call it the Penal Substitution View) is not the only view. In fact, this view of Christ’s cross was not the “gospel” of the early church and wasn’t the “gospel” of the Christian Church for a significant part of its history.

 After establishing these facts about the Penal Substitution View, Myer offers an alternative that is both Biblical and historical. He does so in a clear manner that both Christian and non-Christian can understand. Myers does this, in part, by sharing his own faith journey and changing theological views.

I like Myer’s clear writing style, his use of Scripture and his solid theological foundations for his argument. What I really like, though, is the way Myer demonstrates how our view of what Jesus accomplished on the cross affects our approach to justice issues, diversity, service, stewardship–in fact every area of our lives as followers of Jesus.

 If you are uncomfortable with the Penal Substitution View this is a good book for you to read. Even if you aren’t uncomfortable with the idea that God had God’s son killed, Myer’s book is a good read. It is an important read, too. Not only does it enlighten our understanding of the Bible, it also enlightens our lives of faith.

God Speaks from a Whirlwind, Job 31:35-37; 38:1-11

whirlwindGod Answers Job in a Whirlwind

Devotions for Job 31:35-37, 38:1-11

July 18-24, 2016

 

Monday, July 18, 2016

“O that I had my indictment written by my adversary” (Job 31:35).

Job was feeling pretty proud of himself. For over twenty chapters of his story Job has withstood the accusations of his friends. Job has maintained his integrity and his righteousness. While his friends have tried to knock him down, Job has focused on building himself up. He has succeeded—perhaps overly so.

The Job we see in these verses is not an attractive sight. No one likes a braggart and that is what Job has become. There is a subtle, but important, difference between pride and self-confidence. Pride announces to the world how great we are. Self-confidence is an attitude and posture by which we walk through life. It is one thing to believe that we are God’s gift to creation and another to hear the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Job will soon learn that he has built his pride on a false foundation. Once again the words of the Prophet Micah are shown to be true. The prophet writes, “What does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” As self-confident disciples of Jesus we follow him in humility.

Lord, God, enable us to turn away from our self-centeredness and pride that causes us to want to be served rather than to serve. Amen.

 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

“Like a prince I would approach him” (Job 31:37).

We may not live in countries with royalty, but we have seen enough movies and video clips to know how royalty act. Kings and queens, princes and princesses have dozens of servants to wait on them. People bow and curtsy in their presence. Royals make their wishes know and their will is carried out.

We may not see ourselves as royalty, but at times we approach God like princes and princesses instead of God’s children and servants. In our prayer times we tell God what we think we need and expect God to do our bidding. We tell God we need more money, less stress, a new car, respectful children, less dominating parents, easy teachers and a grand vacation. “Hurry now,” we say, “do what we want.”

Martin Luther reminds us that we should approach God as children approach a loving parent. Children are bold and specific with their requests. Still, the motivation for their requests to be granted is not because they are mommy’s little angels or daddy’s little princes and princesses. Needs are met and requests are granted because of the parents’ love. As disciples of Jesus we are children of a loving God.

O God of Love, thank you that you have adopted us into your family and provide for us as a loving parent. Amen.

 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1).

The breeze began to pick up. The wind chimes began to sound. Leaves started to wave and branches bowed. Storm clouds rolled in and the wind grew in force. Soon people were not able to stand against the wind. Tables, chairs and other objects were tossed to and fro. Building shook and then the whirlwind arrived and nothing stood in its way. The power of the wind was awe-inspiring, frightening and humbling. With all our knowledge and technology, humankind cannot control the wind.

God’s presence is sometimes revealed through a mighty wind because of its power and the

fact that the wind is uncontrollable. We might recall that the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost like the rush of a mighty wind (Acts 2:1ff). God appeared to Job in a whirlwind—a reminder of who was speaking to Job. Job’s God and our God is not a carved chunk of wood that stands quietly waiting to be worshiped. Rather, God is a powerful God who is active in the world and in our lives.

Powerful God, blow mightily in our lives and through our lives. Amen.

 

Thursday, July 27, 2016

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge” (Job 38:5)?

 Ken was a know-it-all. There wasn’t a subject on which he couldn’t wax eloquent. Ken had the right opinions and the right answers. If a person disagreed with Ken that person was obviously wrong. Ken’s friends didn’t pay much attention to what Ken said. They realized the limits of Ken’s knowledge even if Ken didn’t.

The problem with know-it-alls is that they don’t listen and they don’t learn. What’s scary is that we sometimes act like know-it-alls. We find ourselves not listening to differing opinions because we are so sure of our own. Discussions become arguments. While someone is making a point we’re busy planning our rebuttal.

Job was about to learn how much he didn’t know. Once again he would become a student with God as his teacher. This change would transform his suffering and his life. As disciples of Jesus we seek to open our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit so that the Spirit will teach us. No matter how much we think we know there is so much that we don’t know. We can always learn.

Divine Teacher, instruct us and give us knowledge, understanding and wisdom so that we may live lives that honor you and so that we may better serve you. Amen.

 

Friday, July 23, 2016

“Who determined its measurements—surely you know” (Job 38:5).

We gaze up into a sky filled with thousands of stars and we stand amazed. Creation is so big and we are so small. Observing the fiery colors when the sun rises or sets we are awed by creation’s beauty. The God we worship is a BIG God. Yet God is also a God of details—the small and the minute. When we look at the complexity of our bodies, we agree with the Psalmist who wrote, “[We] are fearfully and wonderfully made. The microscopic world is as amazing as the world in which we live.

The God of creation is the God who was involved in Job’s life. God appeared to Job in a whirlwind and spoke to Job specifically addressing the situation with which Job was struggling. This God of creation hears our prayers and moves in our lives. God touches our lives with God’s steadfast love, overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness. It is both awe-inspiring and humbling that the God of creation is intimately involved in our lives.

Almighty God, our maker and our redeemer, thank you that you love each and every one of us and are involved in all of our lives. Amen.

 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

“When the morning stars sang together and all heavenly beings shouted for joy” (Job 38:7).

Life was not easy for Cathy Snyder. She had served in Afghanistan and wounded in battle. Her wound caused her to be paralyzed from her waist down. She endured several months of healing and rehabilitation and now she was learning to live with her new life style. There were days when Cathy slide into the pit of depression. Her life became a life of pain and suffering. All of creation turned dark and foreboding. Things would change, though, when her daughter climbed into her lap and hugged her and when her husband stroked her hair. Cathy would hear the song of a bird or feel the gentle brush of the wind on her cheek. Light would enter her darkness and Cathy would understand that even in her struggle life was precious and beautiful.

Job’s grief and struggle had darkened his life. He had cried out against the capriciousness and unfairness of life. Life for Job had become something to be endured rather than enjoyed. God appeared to Job and reminded Job that even in his suffering, life and creation were still precious and good. At the beginning of time the morning stars sang and the heavenly beings shouted for joy—and they hadn’t stopped since then.

God of creation, raise up our eyes from our suffering and struggles. Enable us to see the preciousness and beauty of life and the goodness of life lived with you. Amen.

 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

“And said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no further” (Job 38:11).

Things were out of control for Job. He couldn’t hold onto his wealth and prosperity. He hadn’t been able to protect his children and he was unable to regain his health. His world had come apart and try as he might he couldn’t put it together again.

Like Job, things are out of control in our lives. We try so hard to be in control and to attain our dreams, but then our lives fall apart. Well laid plans disintegrate. Hectic schedules are constantly changing. Accidents happen and our children struggle in school or rebel against our love and hope. Try as we might, we lose control and we feel helpless, exposed and fearful.

Thankfully God is in control. God was the one who spoke to the waters of the oceans and seas and said, “This is as far as you go. The rest of the earth shall be land.” We may not understand how God is in control of our lives—bad things still happen and we still experience our trials and tribulations—but we know that we are in God’s hands. As we struggle so hard to regain control, God speaks to us and tells us to relax and to rest in God’s love. We don’t need to be in control because God is.

Powerful Lord, forgive our foolish and feverish attempts at controlling our lives. Embrace us with your love and enable us to rest in that love. Amen.

A Glimmer of Hope, Job 14:7-15, 19:23-27

Devotions for July 11-17, 2016
Job 14:7-15, 19:23-27
Monday, July 11, 2016
“For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down it will sprout again” (Job 14:7).

It had been a harrowing nine months for Salvador. A routine colonoscopy had discovered polyps that were cancerous. Salvador had endured surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Throughout the process Salvador had been determined to beat the cancer. There were some day, though, when he wanted to give up and die. Now, the surgery was in the past and the chemotherapy and radiation treatments were complete. The doctor had just told Salvador that he was cancer free. So many months had passed since he felt alive and well, but now Salvador felt like life was beginning again.

Talk about tough times. Not only had Job endured the loss of his family, wealth and health, but he also had to sit through hours of accusing lectures by his friends. Days and weeks had passed. Job was over the shock of the tragedy and the pain caused by his loss was less raw. Inner healing had begun anew it brought with it the first rays of hope. Job looked around at the trees. When they were cut down sprouts would appear from the roots and the tree would live again. Job wondered if that might be what could happen to him.

When the days are dark and we despair, God is still with us walking beside us through those terrible days. The Spirit moves and though not much has changed we begin to see the first rays of hope. Life may not be fully extinguished. We will live again!

Oh God, you have conquered death. Overcome that which has befallen us and bring us hope. Amen.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
“But mortals die, and are laid low humans expire, and where are they” (Job 14:10)?

Job expresses an opinion of death that is common in the pages of the Old Testament. There is no heaven or hell. Instead there is Sheol, the place of the dead. The writer of Job may have been very intentional in not emphasizing life after death. His purpose was to address the topic of suffering, how we react to suffering, and how we live in its presence. The writer’s view is rather pessimistic and can be summed up in the modern adage, “Crap happens and then you die.” Humans have less hope than a tree (that can sprout again).

We live after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and it is important to view our suffering from that perspective. Jesus has conquered death. Our physical death is not the end of life, but rather a new beginning. Standing back and looking at our suffering from the perspective of eternity diminishes the darkness and despair of suffering; it lets in a ray of hope. Our pain and suffering are still real. Our lives are not defined by our suffering, however, but rather by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Precious Jesus, we thank you for what you have done for us and for how it impacts our lives today. May it empower us in our struggles and in our service. Amen.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
“That you would appoint me a set time and remember me” (Job 14:13).

One of the great joys of the technological age is the ability to fast forward through commercials. No longer do we need to sit through several minutes of various sales pitches before we are able to return to our program. Now we press a button and within a few seconds we are back to the story.

Job appeals to God to fast forward through his suffering, or at least allow him to sleep through it in the realm of Sheol. In his request, Job envisions a time when God would be more visibly active in Job’s life and would bring order out of chaos. Again, there is a glimmer of hope.

There are those days when we’d like to pull the covers over our head and sleep through the problems of our lives or at least fast forward through them. Though this is not possible, we do rejoice in the fact that God does remember us and God is involved in our lives. We live our days in the comfort and hope that this knowledge provides for us.

Comforting God, there are days when we want to escape from life. During these times help us to rest in your embrace and find hope in your presence. Amen.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
“You would call and I would answer you” (Job 14:15).

Akihito and his wife Kauru had a strong marriage, but it wasn’t without its bumps. They were currently experiencing one of those bumps. Kauru had been offered a substantial promotion, but it meant a move from one coast to the other. The promotion/move also meant that Akihito would need to give up his career at his company. The two had discussed it–loudly–but had not arrived at a solution. Presently there was an icy silence between them. Both Akihito and Kauru wanted to return to the close, loving relationship that they usually enjoyed, but they didn’t know how to get there.

The tragedies that Job experienced had disrupted his relationship with God. The pain and grief that he felt masked the sense of God’s presence and love in his life. Job longed for a restoration of his relationship with God when communication would be free and clear; God would call and he would answer. Job had the hope that there restoration would take place.
Like our other relationships, our relationship with God has its ups and downs. There are times when we feel so close to God and other times when God appears to be silent and distant. Even the strongest of faith and the most “saintly” among us experience these ups and down. Thankfully the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives reminding us of God’s love, renewing our trust and restoring our relationship. Again there will be a time when God will call and we will answer.

God of Steadfast Love, thank you that you do not forsake us. Remind, renew and restore us so that we may be equipped to share our blessings and serve. Amen.
Friday, July 15, 2016
“O that my words were written down … They were engraved on a rock forever” (Job 19:23-27).

On her refrigerator Carol Thomas had posted the Bible verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). The verse enabled her to face each new day with courage and confidence that God was with her and would empower her to do whatever God called her to do. It is said that Martin Luther as he struggled against his enemies would repeat the phrase, “I have been baptized.” These words reminded him that God had claimed him as God’s own, had forgiven his sinfulness and brought Luther into the family of God.” Standing on that firm ground enabled Luther to accomplish all that he did.

Job wishes that his words could be written in stone forever. They were words of hope; words that helped him through his suffering.

Powerful words are written in the Bible. “For God so loved the world,” is inscribed on the cross of Christ. When Jesus was baptized the heavens were torn open and God proclaimed, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” God proclaims those same words at our baptism. These words are written down on paper, on rocks and in our hearts.

Lord God, thank you for your words of hope. May we never forget them. Amen.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
“For I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25).

In Old Testament times a few people were called redeemers. These people were peace makers and would seek to reconcile people and families. If offense had been given, the redeemers would seeks to sooth the offense. If there was a debt, the redeemer would pay the debt. Redeemers would look after their family members and work so that no harm came to them.

Job’s words have often been linked to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We have no way of knowing to what type of redeemer Job was referring. We do know that though we may not have an earthly redeemer, we still have a redeemer. This redeemer has freed us from slavery and walks with us through our daily lives. Our redeemer lives and gives us hope.

Loving God, thank you for moving to redeem us. Now that we are free, empower us to live our lives in service to you and in love of our neighbors. Amen.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
“When I shall see on my side” (Job 19:27).

Job has walked a long path. He was first struck down with unimaginable tragedy. He walked through the slew of despair and wished that he had never been born. His three friends have assailed him with their accusations, and slowly the light of his journey changed from complete darkness to a glimmer of light and hope on the horizon. Job still had a long way to go on his journey, but he had traveled a long distance.

In our modern world we are destination orientated. We are not so concerned with the country that we drive through as we are with getting to where we want to go (especially if we have restless children in the back). We are usually in a hurry to get to where we are headed, also. We can hurry through some trips that we make, but the journey through grief and the tragedies of life is not one of them. The journey is long and it takes time. During our journey, however, we have the hope that we shall see God and at the end of the journey we shall see God more clearly. This hope doesn’t end the journey but it does transform it.

Open our eyes Lord, we want to see Jesus. Amen.

Lost Patience, Accusations and Denials, Job 3:1-10, 4:1-9, 7:11-21

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Devotions for Job 3:1-10, 4:1-9, 7:11-21

July 4-10, 2016


Monday, July 4, 2016

“Let the day perish in which I was born” (Job 3:1).

 Kyle sat on the edge of his bed with a bottle of pills in his hand. His life had become a living hell. Kyle was small of stature, a scholar rather than an athlete and gay. Every day he went to school he was reminded of these facts–especially that he was gay, queer, different, a pervert. He couldn’t change who he was and the kids at school didn’t want to change.

 Lisa walked along the bridge. It was so tempting to climb over the rail and plunge into the river below. At least she would get away from her husband, his words that shredded her spirit and his blows that pulverized her body.

 We may never have been suicidal but there have been those times when we have been close to giving up. The idea that life was a precious gift seemed a ridiculous notion, and we wouldn’t have minded if death would have overtaken us. Yet our hearts still beat and air goes in and out of our lungs.

 We may be very critical of Job’s bumbling friends. Their words are examples of exactly what not to say to hurting people. Still they were there for their friend Job. They demonstrate our vital need for relationships. We need to have other people in our lives and we need to be involved in the lives of others. Together we can live. God moves mightily in our lives, but most often God uses people to do so.

 Kyle’s parents came home and found him with the bottle of pills in his hand. Surrounding Kyle with their love they intervened and got Kyle the help that he needed. Eventually Kyle was able to accept himself and enjoy life. Lisa didn’t stop on the bridge. She crossed it and entered a shelter for abused women. It took a long time, but eventually she was able to start her life over again.

 Loving Lord, forgive us when we are not able to celebrate and enjoy your gift of life. Thank you for the people in our lives who help us through difficult times and for the opportunities to help others. Amen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

“If one ventures a word with you, will you be offended? But who can keep from speaking” (Job 4:2)?

 The conversation was going nowhere. Lamar and Carlos held opposite views on the topic and they were intent on convincing the other that they were right. They had stopped listening to what the other person was saying, because they were busy formulating their next argument. It would have been beneficial to them if they would have paid heed to that old adage that we were born with one mouth and two ears for a reason; listening is more important than speaking.

 We long for someone to listen to us–to really hear what we have to say. One reason for this is that we are surrounded by voices telling us what to do. Our parents, teachers, bosses, co-workers, neighbors, friends, the television, the radio and the Internet all direct us to do one thing or the other.

 Jobs friends sat silently with Job for a while and listened to Job’s complaints. This was probably their greatest ministry to Job. They could not maintain that silence, however. They had to speak and offer their advice and solutions to Job’s problems. Their helpfulness to Job ended at that point.

 The Lord has blessed us with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers (though admittedly sometimes they don’t seem to be blessings). We have the opportunity to be a part of their lives and to listen to them–to hear their pain, frustrations, joy and triumphs. While appreciating the gift that we have been given it is also important for us to realize our need to have a confidant, someone to listen to us, in our lives. To listen and to be heard are both wonderful gifts. They are gifts that show God’s steadfast love and presence in our lives.

 Divine Friend, thank you for the relationships with which you have blessed us. Move in these relationships so that they may be sources of strength and encouragement. Amen.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

“But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed” (Job 4:5).

 Hanh lived an easy life. She was raised in an upper middle class family. Hanh excelled in both athletics and academics. He won a scholarship to an Ivy League College, graduated and began a promising career. A few years after her graduation she met husband-to-be, married and eventually had two children. During this time Hanh was active in her congregation. She taught Sunday school, hosted an adult small group Bible study along with her husband and served two terms on the congregational council. Hanh was strong in her Christian beliefs and faithful in living out the teachings of Jesus.

 It wasn’t until Hanh was forty-five that tragedy struck. On a routine self-examination Hanh felt a lump in her breast. After a number of tests it was confirmed that the lump was cancerous. A mastectomy was needed and because it was an aggressive cancer Hanh would need to endure both radiation and chemotherapy. Suddenly all her Christian beliefs were put to the test. Hanh discovered that it was easy to say that God is present and powerfully moving in a person’s life when you’re not the person going through the crisis. It is a different matter when you are the person. Hanh struggled, but supported by her family and friends and surrounded by the prayers of her congregation, Hanh survived and discovered that what she believed was true.

 It is always difficult to practice what we preach. When we find ourselves in difficult times, though, we discover that the God whom we worship is faithful. God is a God of steadfast love, overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness.

 God of Love and Grace, thank you that you are with us in both the good times and the bad. At all times enable us to give you thanks and praise. Amen.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

“Is not your fear of God your confidence” (Job 4:6).

 Job lost everything. If he had been tempted to trust in his financial acumen, agricultural skills, devotion of his children, or even blind luck, Job could no longer do so. During his ordeal, Job discovered that the only thing in which he could place his trust was God’s loving relationship with him.

 It is tempting for us to put our trust in things that we can see and touch. We trust that our health will enable us to achieve our dreams and our career will provide us with the good life. We have faith that our retirement plan and 401k’s will allow us to enjoy a comfortable retirement, and that our health insurance will enable us to seek whatever medical treatment we need. We place our faith in these items even though they repeatedly fail. We lose our health, we are laid of from our jobs and the market crashes.

 In reality, it is only our fear of God, our trust in God’s love and grace that is our confidence. That is all we need.

 Faithful Lord, forgive us when we place our faith and hope in other things besides you. Enable us to rest in the truth that you alone are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2016

“As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:8).

 After God freed the Israelites from the slavery in Egypt, God gave them the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. These were not ten demands that had to be followed in order to please God and live in a relationship with God. God was already in a relationship with the Israelites and God remained true to that relationship even when the Israelites didn’t. Rather, the Ten Commandments were teachings that enabled the Israelites to worship God and live in peace with each other. The commandments enabled people to live the “good life.”

 We know what happens when people rebel against God’s teachings. We read about it in the newspapers or see it on the evening news–violence, hate and brokenness. We experience it in our everyday lives–the petty squabbles, office politics, long-held grudges and ever-present envy. In the words of Job’s friend, “We plow iniquity, sow trouble and reap the same.”

 We may be tempted to look at other people and shake our heads when we see how they have made a mess of things. It the truth be told, though, we have occasionally made a mess of our lives, too. Thankfully our words and actions are not the final, determining factor. God’s love is. We don’t need to live in the guilt of the past. Instead we can experience God’s love and forgiveness today and live in the freedom that they give us.

 Forgiving God, it is easy for us to cast a critical eye on others, but in judging them we judge ourselves. We all need your love and forgiveness. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers. Amen.

 Saturday, July 9, 2016

“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit” (Job 7:11).

Ken was angry at God. His life was falling apart and God wasn’t doing anything. God didn’t seem to be listening to Ken’s prayers. Ken was enveloped in fear, pain and despair. He came to a point where Ken could no longer contain his anger. Ken exploded–he yelled, screamed and cried. Ken’s wife was appalled. “How can you speak that way to God?” she questioned. Ken’s only excuse was that he could not help himself.

 Ken was in good company. Job eventually came to the point where he was no longer patient and he expressed his anger to God. The Psalms are full of laments, which are litanies that express the anger, fear, frustration and despair of the writer and of the people of Israel.

 There are times when we need to vent to God. It’s okay. God can withstand our anger and God won’t respond by casting a lightning bolt at us. These episodes allow us to remove the veil of religiosity from our faith and be truthful to God and to ourselves. They can be freeing and healing times. Later we may be ashamed of what we said and feel the need to ask for forgiveness. God never withholds that forgiveness, but embraces us with God’s love.

 Forgiving Lord, there are times when our fear and despair cause us to be angry at you. We thank you that you do not turn your back to us but hear beyond our yelling. Amen.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

“Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? (Job 7:21).

 Job’s words are words that we never need to speak. Job had not heard of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He had not seen God’s overwhelming love nor had he been told of the new relationship that we have with God because of what Jesus did. Job did not know that he no longer needed to live in guilt and shame, but rather he could live in the freedom of forgiveness.

 Thank the Lord we know! We have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in the truth that we are forgiven and free and we experience the new life with God that has been given to us. Even in the middle of our trials and tribulations we can give thanks for the forgiveness we have received and for the new life that we have been given.

 Generous God, thank you for making all things new through Jesus. Amen.