Tuesday Luke 18:15-17

Prayer: Guide our hands and feet, O God, to be good stewards of the gifts you have given us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A kid’s world

17 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

Children say the strangest things! They are often full of enthusiasm for the smallest things. Our devotion writer quips; “A child’s enthusiasm knows no bounds.”  It is this attitude of trust and excitement that Jesus noted as important for faith.

Our devotion writer notes that such faith is “profound.” He writes; “Children believe in God, whom they cannot see, and pray without doubt. Their world is uncluttered by the false modesty of an adult. Children don’t say, ‘you didn’t’ have to do that for me.’ They think you should—and are glad you did.”  And then they come running to get and give hugs.

Receiving Jesus and His kingdom can only be done by accepting grace as a little child. Acceptance, rather than by adult intellect and wisdom. It is not a problem to be solved. It just is! “Rather, such faith comes from trusting that one is loved and accepted by God, without deserving such grace.”

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see you clearly and my heart to love you fully. Amen.”

 

Luke 18:15-17

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Blesses Little Children

15 People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. 16 But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 17 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

 

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Monday 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

Prayer: Loving God, guide my actions through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

Twilight time

14 …what fellowship is there between light and darkness?

Sunrise? Or Sunset? I like both, but my favorite is sunrise. Our devotion writer reminds us that at these times of transition from light to dark, or dark to light, can be some of the most beautiful times. However, Paul speaks comparing light and darkness as being incompatible together.

Since our bodies are the temple of God, we cannot fill it with ungodliness and make “holiness perfect in the fear of God” (v. 7:1). That is today a bit of a conundrum. How can we be “inclusive” and still keep separate?  How do we welcome sinners and not fall into more sin?  How do we keep from being “mismatched with unbelievers?”

We can look to Jesus as our example.  Jesus associated and ministered to non-believers, the sick and the lame. He visited the home of unbelievers and sinners who were hated by the Jewish leadership.  So how do we temper that with our relationship with those of other faiths? Our devotion writer says; “…we need our neighbors in other faiths. We need healthy connections with those who are not Christian in order to sustain life in community.” I am not sure that I can totally agree with that. I can see that it is good to live in the world and get a long with the peace of Christ. Jesus did not allow Himself to fall into sin. He maintained His authority by not sinning.  How hard is it to become one of the crowd and still maintain your Christian values? Only by the Holy Spirit and the Grace of God can we stay on the right path.

Prayer: “Sovereign God, claim us as your people so that we may peaceably and lovingly live with all others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Temple of the Living God

14 Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness? 15 What agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will live in them and walk among them,     and I will be their God,     and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore come out from them,     and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean;     then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be your father,     and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God.

 

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Sunday John 1:43-51

Prayer: O God, guide through your Word to service in your name. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Our devotion writer says that the word epiphany means ‘to shine all around.” I guess, but my software word look-up says; “the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).” I somehow remember the word to be one of experiencing a moment of enlightenment…an “Ah Ha” moment, or I get it now!

Whatever the case, Nathanael had such a moment after Jesus told him how he saw him sitting under the fig tree before Andrew even told him about Jesus.  Even now Jesus calls out to us to “come and see.” All around us are the works of creation and great things God has done. Maybe we just need to stop and smell the roses to see them.

Our newly elected Bishop has suggested that we need to be telling our own stories about God’s work in our lives.  We know what has happened to us, but telling others about it helps them to see that God has helped them in their lives too.  Since when were we asked to keep these a secret?  Aren’t we asked to let our little lights shine?

Our devotion writer writes; “Maybe our eyes do not witness such miracles. Jesus also showed his power through weakness. John tells how, even after performing all the wondrous signs, Jesus kneels with a towel in hand and washes his disciples’ feet.  Mutual service, such as foot washing, also is a sign of God’s presence among us. Where have you seen this light shining lately?”

Prayer: “God of love and light, shine through us to bless the world, through Christ Jesus. Amen.”

 

John 1:43-51

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

 

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Saturday 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Prayer: Let your Word shine through me, Gracious God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The body of Christ

20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Many of us can take a fair amount of guilt associated with today’s words from Paul. Our devotion writer writes that since our bodies are made and blessed by God, in today’s society we are inundated by intense body shaming. What if we are the wrong size, the wrong color, or wrong shape? Today’s culture demands we consider changing it.

Or even more, how do we treat our own bodies. We eat junk food and suffer poor health because of it.  Some turn to food for comfort instead of nourishment. About Paul’s words our devotion writer teaches; “When inviting Jesus’ followers to honor and care for their bodies by avoiding fornications, Paul closes his comments by affirming the great value all bodies have before God.  Our physical bodies aren’t created to obey some societal standard of beauty or to me ‘in fellowship’ with impurity. Each one is made to be a temple for the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are made to be strong and beautiful not through effort of our own, but through the mystery of baptism—membership into Christ’s body.”

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own.

Prayer: “Loving God, give us courage to live joyfully and humbly in our bodies. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Glorify God in Body and Spirit

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

 

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Friday Psalm 139:1-6; 13-18

Prayer: Help me listen, O God, to your calling through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

Clothed in love

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

I don’t identify easily with today’s devotion writer story.  It is about being a new bride in a traditional type marriage, who asked women in her family to add signs of their love to her wedding clothing. Things like a piece of old lace, an old family brooch or some old yarn? I have never heard of such a practice before. But “she was hemmed in with care” on the day of her wedding.

Today’s Psalm shows us an image of God’s care; that we are covered on all sides.  God has made us perfect from conception. We are wonderfully made to serve His purposes and in so many ways are His thoughts about us.

18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;

God’s handiwork in our lives is a long term “knitting.”  Too often, maybe all the time, we pray and expect, or seek a quick answer. Responses that fit in our turnpike living. Often, I think, the answers are slow in coming, and the “right” prayers take time to express. But He hears them all. We are not sewed in, but we are free, not trapped, to develop in our life journey under the watchful guidance of a loving God

Our devotion writer writes; “Stitch work” like this isn’t quick or heavy-handed; it is slow, careful, even tender. How might our image of God change if this is the primary way we imagine God working?”

Prayer: “Loving God, knit me together with brothers and sisters in faith, that we all may know your tender care. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Psalm 139:1-18

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 139

The Inescapable God

To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up;     you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down,     and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue,     O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before,     and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;     it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?     Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there;     if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning     and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me,     and your right hand shall hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,     and the light around me become night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you;     the night is as bright as the day,     for darkness is as light to you.

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;     you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.     Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. 15     My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,     intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written     all the days that were formed for me,     when none of them as yet existed. 17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!     How vast is the sum of them! 18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;     I come to the end—I am still with you.

 

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Thursday 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)

Prayer: Guide our ministries, O God, through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

What now, God?

…visions were not widespread. (vs. 1)

God’s direction or communication was limited in those days. “Rarely heard”, according to our devotion writer. So what about us today? Are we hearing clearly God’s directions?  The call of Samuel is a favorite story of many.  And the news that God gave Samuel is not really good news.  Eli was having trouble hearing God and it appears that he wasn’t listening.

Discernment is at gift. The ability to interpret God’s will and communicate it for others is something I think we need more of.  I am having trouble hearing God’s will in these days.  Our devotion writer explains; “Eli’s word of instruction to Samuel was to listen. Deep listening is s struggle for us too; we live in a world of constant noise. Just getting our own noisy heads to quiet down is hard work.”

One might think that God does not seem to be speaking very much these days.  But we have Jesus Christ with us at all times and His Word. Maybe we should try listening more deeply?

Prayer: “Speak to me, O God, and help me to listen. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

1 Samuel 3:1-20

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Samuel’s Calling and Prophetic Activity

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”

15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” 17 Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”

19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.

 

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Wednesday Psalm 69:1-5, 30-36

Prayer: Holy God, let your Word lift our hearts and guide our actions. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A lifetime for the drowning

33 For the Lord hears the needy,

The psalmist describes someone who has been overwhelmed by a flood of bad news.  Like the flooding of the Mississippi our devotion writer has seen, flooding can sometime wipe out entire towns and people’s houses and lives.

But even in the shadow of this bad news, the psalmist still clings to God. Our devotion writer explains; “However, even in the despairing state, the psalmist still turns to God for hope and help…some have described God as being like a life line or a raft. God can carry us to safety; God alone can preserve us when the waters rise around us. Floods leave wreckage and damage. God is our help when we are faced with the task of putting our lives back together. Christ never abandons our side.”

Prayer: “O God, our refuge, protect us and be our living hope in all things, through Christ Jesus. Amen.”

 

Psalm 69

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 69

Prayer for Deliverance from Persecution

To the leader: according to Lilies. Of David.

Save me, O God,     for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire,     where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters,     and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying;     my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim     with waiting for my God.

More in number than the hairs of my head     are those who hate me without cause; many are those who would destroy me,     my enemies who accuse me falsely. What I did not steal     must I now restore? O God, you know my folly;     the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me,     O Lord God of hosts; do not let those who seek you be dishonored because of me,     O God of Israel. It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,     that shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my kindred,     an alien to my mother’s children.

It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;     the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. 10 When I humbled my soul with fasting,     they insulted me for doing so. 11 When I made sackcloth my clothing,     I became a byword to them. 12 I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,     and the drunkards make songs about me.

13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.     At an acceptable time, O God,     in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help 14 rescue me     from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies     and from the deep waters. 15 Do not let the flood sweep over me,     or the deep swallow me up,     or the Pit close its mouth over me.

16 Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;     according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. 17 Do not hide your face from your servant,     for I am in distress—make haste to answer me. 18 Draw near to me, redeem me,     set me free because of my enemies.

19 You know the insults I receive,     and my shame and dishonor;     my foes are all known to you. 20 Insults have broken my heart,     so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none;     and for comforters, but I found none. 21 They gave me poison for food,     and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

22 Let their table be a trap for them,     a snare for their allies. 23 Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,     and make their loins tremble continually. 24 Pour out your indignation upon them,     and let your burning anger overtake them. 25 May their camp be a desolation;     let no one live in their tents. 26 For they persecute those whom you have struck down,     and those whom you have wounded, they attack still more. 27 Add guilt to their guilt;     may they have no acquittal from you. 28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;     let them not be enrolled among the righteous. 29 But I am lowly and in pain;     let your salvation, O God, protect me.

30 I will praise the name of God with a song;     I will magnify him with thanksgiving. 31 This will please the Lord more than an ox     or a bull with horns and hoofs. 32 Let the oppressed see it and be glad;     you who seek God, let your hearts revive. 33 For the Lord hears the needy,     and does not despise his own that are in bonds.

34 Let heaven and earth praise him,     the seas and everything that moves in them. 35 For God will save Zion     and rebuild the cities of Judah; and his servants shall live there and possess it; 36     the children of his servants shall inherit it,     and those who love his name shall live in it.

 

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