Devotions

Wednesday, January 19th

Today's devotion, based on Psalm 145

A Praise of David

1 I will extol you, my God and King,

and bless your name forever and ever.

2 Every day I will bless you

and praise your name forever and ever.

3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,

and his greatness is unsearchable.

4 One generation shall commend your works to another,

and shall declare your mighty acts.

5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,

and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,

and I will declare your greatness.

7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness

and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

9 The Lord is good to all,

and his mercy is over all that he has made.

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,

and all your saints shall bless you!

11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom

and tell of your power,

12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

14 The Lord upholds all who are falling

and raises up all who are bowed down.

15 The eyes of all look to you,

and you give them their food in due season.

16 You open your hand;

you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways

and kind in all his works.

18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,

to all who call on him in truth.

19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;

he also hears their cry and saves them.

20 The Lord preserves all who love him,

but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,

and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

 

What a rough ride these last few years have been. I know I am not alone in feeling overwhelmed, saddened, grief-filled, exhausted for a multitude of reasons. So often I find myself depleted and needing to work hard to restore my attitude of gratitude. My depleted self pulls inward, but I know my healthy heart needs to reach outward.

Psalm 145 is a psalm of praise, an antidote and a cure to my overwhelmed self. It shows us how to praise God, to share our praise with the generations, it reminds us of God’s grace, and His presence, and His unending mercy.

It brings to mind the familiar hymn,

“What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear,

What a privilege to carry, Everything to God in prayer”

God, I praise you, for all the blessings and the challenges in my life. Thank you, Lord, for carrying all my burdens, and the undeserved grace you bestow on me. May I always remember, Lord, that you walk before me and that you are always with me. Thank you, Lord, for already answering my prayers, and to you I give all the glory. Amen.

 

Wednesday, January 12th

Our devotion for today is based on 2 Timothy 1:5-10 (NRSV)


5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. 6 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7 for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

8 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

  

As Paul tries to reassure Timothy in this letter to him we are reminded that being a church leader is not easy work, and it especially was not easy in Paul/Timothy's time.  Being a follower of Christ is not always easy work.  To have sincere faith, honest and genuine faith is not always easy.  In fact, it is pretty challenging at times. It's easier to say we have faith and follow Christ, while allowing our actions to resemble something else entirely.  Easier maybe, but definitely not what we are called to do.

 

Paul reminds Timothy of the spirit that God gave them, the power and love inside of them. We are all claimed by God and have that same love inside of us, waiting each day to be rekindled and used in sincere faith. 

Wednesday, January 5th

This devotional is Part 5, the last part, in a series of devotionals on the women in Jesus’ lineage who “lifted up their souls” to God. This series was inspired by The Junia Project. You can read more here: https://juniaproject.com/.

 

Devotionals, Week 5: Mary (Christmas)

 

The last woman in Jesus’ lineage is, of course, his mother, Mary. There is a host of theological perspectives on Mary and what her role means for the overall narrative of God’s redemption of the world, but one thing is clear: her role as “theotokos” can inspire us all.

 

The name theotokos, meaning “God-bearer,” is assigned to Mary because of her role in Jesus’ incarnation. Just as Jesus’ death was painful and human, so too was his birth. That Mary encountered the same form of giving birth as all others who have and will give birth reminds us that the work of laboring for the kingdom of God is not Mary’s work alone, but is a work that we share.

 

As this season of Christmas comes to a close, we remember that Jesus’ birth was not a one time thing, but is something that happens each and every day in our lives. We are all God-bearers so long as there are people in need of God’s good news in their lives. And in a world that continues to ache, we lift up our souls to God as Mary’s soul magnified the Lord, then proclaim good news for all who need it (Luke 1:46-55).

 

For the last time until December, Merry Christmas,

 

Pastor Zach +

Wednesday, December 29th

1 Corinthians 3, 10-17. Blessings for the day.

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

 

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

 17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

 

When I first read this scripture, I was confused as to its meaning, and did some research.  I quickly learned, the Disciple Paul, who wrote this scripture, was referring to the building not of a physical “church”, but a spiritual one that God had commissioned him to create.  With knowing this, the entire reading became very clear that God wants us to build our faith in Jesus, and not something physical like a building. 

 

When this scripture refers to “the fire will test the quality of each person’s work”, I believe it is referring to the strength of our faith to do good works towards others.  If what we build in our life is based on our faith and not on material items, we’ll be rewarded. 

 

I believe this reading speaks loudly by reminding us that we must continue doing good deeds for all of mankind regardless of who they are or what they think.  The only way we will be better is being better to others.  

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 22nd

This devotional is Part 4 in a series of devotionals on the women in Jesus’ lineage who “lifted up their souls” to God. This series was inspired by The Junia Project. You can read more here: https://juniaproject.com/

Advent, Week 4: Bathsheba

There has been much debate about the role of the character Bathsheba in scripture. On one hand, some say she was a temptress who stole the heart of King David. On the other hand, some say she was a victim of sexual violence. To read more, you can find the beginnings of her story in 2 Samuel 11. Yet this much is clear: there is a serious power imbalance in the relationship between King David and Bathsheba, and the story is not pretty or fun. It’s actually downright painful for some people to read. Some might even wonder what it is doing in scripture, yet it’s important to remember: scripture mirrors the wide array of human experience, good and bad, and it’s in remembering this that we find meaning.

 

In this power imbalance between Bathsheba and the king, one might expect her to be docile and passive. She is anything but! Despite the vulnerable place she ends up in, Bathsheba uses her proximity to the seat of power in the empire of her day to ensure that God’s unfolding plan to mend things can take place. Of course, her genealogy leads us to Jesus, but as people of faith, how can we slow down and listen to her story? There is always time to celebrate Jesus, especially this time of year! In slowing down though, we meet women throughout the Bible who were willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of the good news: that in lifting up our their souls and making themselves vulnerable, God ends up making a way for good news to take root in places and moments where it seemed like there was no way forward.

 

As Advent draws to a close, do not lose sight of the fact that God’s gifts abound even in people and places we least expect to see them; that the manger of Christmas is itself one of those places. Blessings to you this last week of Advent!

 

Looking forward to the celebration of our Lord’s Nativity,

 

Pastor Zach +

 

 

Wednesday, December 15th

Advent, Week 3: Ruth

 

This Sunday, we will hear from the book of Micah (5:2), “but you, O Bethlehem, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” This comes true through Ruth!

 

Ruth was a destitute widow (along with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law) because of famine in the land. In leaving their homeland in search of a better life, these three strong women vow to stick together and see each other through their circumstance. Though they find distant relatives, no one helps them out of obligation, and so they work in the fields in their new home until the harvest ends. In short, this is a story of migrant field laborers.

 

Ruth and her mother-in-law decide to take a bold step and petition the owner of the field owner to marry Ruth. Because Boaz is a descendant of the ancient King David, Ruth becomes part of that lineage that we Christians trace to Jesus! By baring her soul to God, and putting herself in a vulnerable position before the landowner, Ruth is placed in the lineage of God who comes to dwell here on earth.

 

Writer and theologian Gail Wallace writes: “God doesn’t give up on us, but keeps coming back to meet us in those places of need, giving us the opportunity to take our own place in the family of God.” This is true for Ruth, and it is most certainly true for the rest of us! As the season of Advent begins drawing to a close, we remember that, in baring our souls to God, God only responds graciously with the abundance and fulfillment of God’s promises. What is your place in the family of God?

 

Continued blessings to you this Advent season,

 

Pastor Zach +

 

Wednesday, December 8th

Advent, Week 2: Rahab 

Let’s put this right out there: We can’t talk about Rahab without talking about her nickname, “the prostitute.” The Junia Project goes into great detail about the weight that this title carries, both in today’s society and in the society of her time. But the project also commends us to think of the word prostitute as something that “brings imagery into our minds about a woman in bondage or desperate financial need and few options for survival, not someone voluntarily living a life of sin.” Because, when it comes down to it, the actions of Rahab tell us much more about her character than any title she has been assigned.

 

Rahab is the second woman listed in the lineage of Jesus. In her lifetime, Rahab gave word to the people of Israel that they would be able to establish a society in the land, beginning in the city of Jericho (Joshua 2). Things didn’t look so good for them, yet Rahab offered a word of hope. Eventually this people and their society became the society into which Jesus was born, with Rahab being a direct ancestor of Jesus!

 

This season of Advent, we are marching towards the day when God’s reign of justice and peace will be a reality for all. We also march towards the celebration of Christmas. At Christmas, we celebrate God’s “word-made-flesh” in Jesus. So, today, let us acknowledge the words of one woman, Rahab, and how they became flesh—became a reality—for a people; let us stand up for the justice of a woman whose title has superseded the importance of the actions she took; let us lift up our souls to God who upholds grace and promise and truth and love to stand above all else.

 

Continued blessings to you this Advent season,

 

Wednesday, December 1st

Advent, Week 1: Tamar

 

This past Sunday, we talked a lot about what it means to lift up one’s soul to God. If you missed it, or if you need a refresher, feel free to review Sunday’s worship on Facebook! But know this: to lift up our soul to God means to bare our most vulnerable selves for the sake of spotting God in our midst. The stories of the women in Jesus’ lineage are stories of this sort of vulnerability.

 

The first woman in Jesus’ lineage is Tamar (Tay-mar). Tamar’s husband died and her father-in-law, Judah, sent her back to her father’s house to live as a widow. Yet Tamar clung to the promise found in Zechariah 10: “Out of Judah shall come the cornerstone.” That her husband died with no heir meant that there would be no promised birth out of the line of Judah. So, to take matters into her own hands, Tamar conceived a child with Judah, ensuring that the promise of God would come true.

 

It may be difficult for us modern day people of faith to understand all the dynamics here, but in her actions, Tamar made herself vulnerable for the sake of the promises of God. She could have been sentenced to death; she could have become an outcast. Yet instead, Judah responds with humility saying, “Tamar is more righteous than I” (Genesis 38:26). That righteousness is found in the actions of a woman who asserts herself as Tamar did might be surprising to you. And yet, this is found in our scriptures, right down to the gospel of Matthew’s lineage of Jesus which includes Tamar!

 

When we delve into what our scriptures have to behold, we find people who are righteous because of what God has done through them. The lineage of Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas and whose coming again we look forward to in Advent, is full of people no different than us. Lift up your soul to God, and find that God is already near!

 

Peace be with you all this first week of Advent

 

Wednesday, November 24th

John 16:25-33.  Blessings.

Peace for the Disciples

25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26 On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.”

 

29 His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

 

In Jesus, we have peace!  As Jesus tells the disciples, they are soon to be scattered.  He will no longer be here, but instead be with God. He knows the persecution that they will face, knows that although it wasn't necessarily easy following him, it will be harder for them when he returns to the Father. 

 

He doesn't hide this message in a parable but tells them straight. This will be difficult,  but with their faith, with their belief in him, he encourages them. He reminds them that God loves them. He gives them some peace about the future. 

 

We can always use this reassurance from Jesus. We luckily do not face the type of persecution as the disciples did. But we all have our own struggles. Like the disciples when scattered, we can sometimes feel alone. Yet we can still find comfort, courage and peace in Jesus. Knowing that he is with God, that we are loved by God, and our faith will see us through our challenges.  

Wednesday, November 17th

Philippians 4:6-7


New International Version
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

 

The book of Phillipians is the writings of Paul to Phillipi.  Often to encourage and help them keep their faith in troubled times. Paul reminds the Phillippians, and us, how important it is to put our faith and trust in God. He reminds us of the importance of prayer.  With faith and prayer, God will ease our worries.  

 

It reminds me of the hymn "What a friend we have in Jesus".  This hymn, which was originally written as a poem, says:  What a friend we have in Jesus all our sins and grieves to share, What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer, Oh what peace we often forfeit oh what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer"  And how true it is! The additional worry and unrest that we often take on when we try to handle everything all ourselves.  Instead Paul reminds us to lift up these worries and concerns to God! 

 

Jesus, Prince of Peace, you are our strength and our protector.  You are our calm when our lives are filled with worry and turmoil.  We thank you for the peace and understanding that you bring to our hearts and minds.  We thank you for being with us when we're anxious as well as when we're calm.  You are the solid ground which we stand upon when we are struggling.  Please continue to love, calm and guide us and all people.  Amen.