Thursday 1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43

Prayer: O God, open my heart and eyes to the truths in your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A building set aside

23 He said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants…

The church is not just a building…In fact, literally a church is not a building…Solomon dedicates the Temple in Jerusalem. Our text today is his prayer at the completion of the great temple. Finally, a fitting house of worship and prayer.

Many of us have been involved with mission churches or even building programs for new church facilities including a new sanctuary. Usually there are temporary quarters; schools, hotel meeting rooms, even homes. Finally, the day comes when the building is complete and ready for occupancy.  It is a big deal.  The bishop comes, sometimes even politicians and community leaders.  This is when they say things like; “This day is evidence that God is a keeper or promises.  Even when you were wandering with no place to call your own—as you met in a storefront and then a school cafeteria—God was always present, moving, and leading you. God is with you now.”

“This day is also evidence that God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.  This building is a sanctuary where all are welcome, but it is not only to draw people in; it nourishes us to send us out into the world…”

The service begins when we leave the walls of the church to share God’s love with others.  Not only is the building dedicated.  More importantly is the dedication of the members to step out into the community and the world refreshed and emboldened to share and witness to the world.

Prayer: Faithful God, we dedicate anew ourselves and the places we gather, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

1 Kings 8:22-43

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven.  23 He said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart,  24 the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand.  25 Therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, ‘There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’  26 Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David.

27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!  28 Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today;  29 that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place.  30 Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive.

31 “If someone sins against a neighbor and is given an oath to swear, and comes and swears before your altar in this house,  32 then hear in heaven, and act, and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing their conduct on their own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding them according to their righteousness.

33 “When your people Israel, having sinned against you, are defeated before an enemy but turn again to you, confess your name, pray and plead with you in this house,  34 then hear in heaven, forgive the sin of your people Israel, and bring them again to the land that you gave to their ancestors.

35 “When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, and then they pray toward this place, confess your name, and turn from their sin, because you punish them,  36 then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk; and grant rain on your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance.

37 “If there is famine in the land, if there is plague, blight, mildew, locust, or caterpillar; if their enemy besieges them in any of their cities; whatever plague, whatever sickness there is;  38 whatever prayer, whatever plea there is from any individual or from all your people Israel, all knowing the afflictions of their own hearts so that they stretch out their hands toward this house;  39 then hear in heaven your dwelling place, forgive, act, and render to all whose hearts you know—according to all their ways, for only you know what is in every human heart—  40 so that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our ancestors.

41 “Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name  42 —for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm—when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house,  43 then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.

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Wednesday Daniel 1:1-20

Prayer: Gracious God, reveal your direction for me through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

God will see us through

1To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom…

It is about standing up for your convictions and your faith. Here is Daniel in today’s text, a young man whose world has changed because he and the Jewish leaders were taken to Babylon and Jerusalem and the temple were ransacked.  Daniel and his friends were taken to become servants of the king of Babylon and to be trained physically and mentally. Daniel was determined to be faithful to God and the Law.  He would not eat defiled food provided by the king and instead ate only vegetables and drank only water.  God provided for them and they had better health than the non-Jewish savants they served with.

Our devotion writer writes; “This is more than a story about a veggie diet.  When everything around Daniel was turned upside down, he was faithful and stood up for his convictions.  God provided nourishment, knowledge, and wisdom to sustain him. The same is true for us. When our world seems topsy-turvy, and hope has seemingly died, we can trust God to provide and to see us through.”

I might add that it can be important to know the difference of when it is appropriate, or not, to be so strong in your convictions that you disobey the laws or demands of your leaders. Discerning the difference also will come from God, so we need to spend time listening.

Prayer: “Sustain me in times of uncertainty, O God, with your presence and provision. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Daniel 1:1-20

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Four Young Israelites at the Babylonian Court

1 In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods.

Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility, young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah. The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself. Now God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion from the palace master. 10 The palace master said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king; he has appointed your food and your drink. If he should see you in poorer condition than the other young men of your own age, you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 12 “Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe.” 14 So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. 16 So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. 17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams.

18 At the end of the time that the king had set for them to be brought in, the palace master brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar, 19 and the king spoke with them. And among them all, no one was found to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they were stationed in the king’s court. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

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Tuesday Proverbs 8:4-21

Prayer: O God, share your wisdom to me through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

A guide along the way

20 I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice,

It is important that you learn about hiking before you take off on a long hike.  In other words hiking is not just a walk in the park.  It is not just a walk around the block. Hiking in mountains or wilderness requires some wisdom and learning.  Our devotion writer writes about Jasmine who had never hiked in the wilderness before, so she read books and even called an experienced hiker for advice and guidance. The experienced guide knew the best ways and what to expect up around the next corner and how to avoid problems which might get her lost or injured.

Our devotion writer explains; “It is said that life is a journey, and there are so many choices for us to make along the way, so many paths we can choose to take. As people of faith, we strive to walk the path of right relations with God and others. There also are perils along the way, but we have a guide and a guidebook to direct us on the journey. The insights we receive from God’s wisdom in the Scriptures, including these words from Proverbs, and from other people of faith, instruct and direct us.”

If you haven’t already, read all of Proverbs. It has a wealth of common and uncommon sense for living, not just in a godly way, but for dealing with life’s paths and bumps. What makes is wonderful is that it is a way to live in a Godly way, with respect for all.

Wisdom is something to be desired, valued and cherished. It is “more precious than silver, choice gold, or rare jewels.

18 Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and prosperity. 19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.

Prayer: “Guide us, O God, along the paths of righteousness and justice, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

 

Proverbs 8:4-21

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

“To you, O people, I call,     and my cry is to all that live. O simple ones, learn prudence;     acquire intelligence, you who lack it. Hear, for I will speak noble things,     and from my lips will come what is right; for my mouth will utter truth;     wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are righteous;     there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to one who understands     and right to those who find knowledge. 10 Take my instruction instead of silver,     and knowledge rather than choice gold; 11 for wisdom is better than jewels,     and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. 12 I, wisdom, live with prudence,     and I attain knowledge and discretion. 13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil     and perverted speech I hate. 14 I have good advice and sound wisdom;     I have insight, I have strength. 15 By me kings reign,     and rulers decree what is just; 16 by me rulers rule,     and nobles, all who govern rightly. 17 I love those who love me,     and those who seek me diligently find me. 18 Riches and honor are with me,     enduring wealth and prosperity. 19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold,     and my yield than choice silver. 20 I walk in the way of righteousness,     along the paths of justice, 21 endowing with wealth those who love me,     and filling their treasuries.

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Monday Proverbs 7:1-4

Prayer: All knowing Father, let us see the wisdom in your Word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Above all else

keep my commandments and live, keep my teachings as the apple of your eye;

I remember the “apple of your eye” quote.  It is that “special” person often a child, that has a special place in your heart. I didn’t recall that it came from the Bible. Our devotion writer translates it from Hebrew literally as “Little man of the eye”—a reference to the tiny reflection of yourself that you can see in the pupil of another person’s eye. “To be the apple of someone’s eye is to be someone precious and dear to him or her, cherished above all others.” (I still don’t see why they call it “apple”.)

In the context of today’s text, we are urged to keep God’s teaching and commandments above all else—to embrace wisdom and insight as we might embrace our own family members. To keep them in our hearts.  Our devotion writer explains; “To do so is to know the fullness of life and the wholeness of peace. What a beautiful expression of living in a loving relationship with God and God’s teachings!”

So, we should keep God’s wisdom and commandments as the “apple” of our eye! It will bring us peace and harmony in our lives.

Prayer: “Loving God, help us to cherish you and your teachings above all else. In Christ’s name. Amen.”

 

Proverbs 7:1-4

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The False Attractions of Adultery

7 My child, keep my words     and store up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live,     keep my teachings as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers,     write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”     and call insight your intimate friend,

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Sunday John 16:12-15

Prayer: Your love, O Lord, is wonderful; lead us through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

Trinity Sunday

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth;

How often do we suspect the words and promises of those in authority? We seem to have been lied to so many times that truth is hard to see.

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus; “What is truth?”  In a courtroom witnesses are asked to swear to the truth…”so help you God.” Our devotion writer writes; “Telling the truth implies an impartial rendering of the facts…”

For Jesus said; “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Truth is not just facts, it is what is real and can be trusted and reliable. In our devotion writer’s words; “Truth is God’s continuing revelation. It is the presence of the living God, Truth is Jesus.”

Also, truth is a gift from God as the Holy Spirit give us awareness.  Knowing Jesus also leads us to the truth.  When we trust in this truth, we are called to share this truth with others.

Prayer: “Guide us, O God, to know and experience your truth, in Christ our Lord. Amen.”

 

John 16:12-15

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

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Saturday Romans 5:1-5

Prayer: Lead us in your ways, O God, through your Word, In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hope in the midst of suffering

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

God bless those who suffer with long illness or disability.  Certainly they have earned much character and have their share of hope. It is hard to imagine struggling with long periods of medication, surgeries and recoveries.  What about when the disease is terminal? What is the hope one looks for?

And then some say as our devotion writer relates; “The illness has really been a blessing.  It’s made me cherish every day.  And I’ve found that people share their struggles with me more easily than before. I think they can see that I know some of what they are going through.”  That kind of attitude reflects great faith in God.  It makes their survival worthwhile in a way because they show great courage and character and they have hope for the future.

My own mother did not appear have such a positive attitude when faced with Multiple Myeloma. It was a terrible disease where your bones begin fracturing under the stress of your own weight. After treatment it goes into remission for a few years, but then comes back with a vengeance.  I remember my mother fighting the disease until the end by denying that it would be terminal. It seemed all she could do near the end was to fight through the ever present pain.  She remained quite angry and bitter until the end.

God bless those who suffer their trials and prepare themselves and their families for what may come. God bless those who can cling to the cross and receive the joy of hope in Jesus Christ.  They indeed have the Holy Spirit present in their walk of life. Our devotion writer says of his friend; “When asked, she would quote today’s reading from Romans 5.  Maria’s suffering was transformed into hope. She knew the source of her peace—a gift given through Jesus Christ, who dared to enter into our suffering and illnesses so that we can share in God’s grace.”

When we know the presence of the Holy Spirit, suffering can be addressed with hope and blessings can come. If God can use the cross as a symbol of pain and suffering, He can also use our suffering to share God’s message of love and peace to others.

Prayer: “Source of all healing, grand us hope in the midst of suffering, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

 

Romans 5:1-5

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Results of Justification

5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

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Friday Psalm 8

Prayer: Guide me, O Lord, to be your hands and feet, in Christ. Amen.

How Great thou art

what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

God’s creation is full of wonders of beauty and grandeur.  Our devotion writer refers to the Grand Canyon. I am sure that each of us has experienced many of the wonders of our world and could be moved to say verse 1:

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Look at the stars, especially when you are away from the city lights, even better at higher elevations, the multitude of stars that are visible.  There are too many to count. How then can God actually care about us? Little old me? Little all of humanity? Yet we read and hear that He does care a lot.  Our devotion writer declares; “God—Creator of all—made us ‘a little lower than God’ (v. 5) and put us in a place of honor and dominion over all else in creation.”  This makes us also responsible as caretakers. God has put us in charge of the many things He created. How are we doing?

Well in some ways it seems we aren’t too good.  In others we try hard and have success. Don’t you wonder a little bit sometimes why God would put man in charge?  But if we stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon, or walk among the spires of Bryce Canyon, or stand on the beach at the ocean, we can marvel at the beauty of God’s creation and be moved to do something to protect it for future generations.

God, How great thou art!

Prayer: “God, we see your majesty in all creation. Help us care for all you have made. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Psalm 8

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 8

Divine Majesty and Human Dignity

To the leader: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, our Sovereign,     how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.     Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,     to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,     the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them,     mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,     and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;     you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen,     and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,     whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign,     how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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