Devotions

Wednesday, October 21st

Psalm 98

 1  O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvelous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.  2  The Lord hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen. 3  He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

4  Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. 5  Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. 6  With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King. 7  Let the sea roar, and the fullness [1] thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. 8  Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together 9  Before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.

 

I can’t sing. 

It’s something I have come to accept in my life.  And it doesn’t mean that I don’t sing, it just means that I am aware enough to realize that those around me probably don’t appreciate my enthusiasm.  But put me in my car, alone, with some Andrea Bocelli, or maybe Ronan Tynon singing “The Impossible Dream”… and one would think I were an opera star! What I lack in talent, I make up in exuberance.  

 

Psalm 98 reminds us to sing exuberant praises to the Lord. Whether it is with our voices, our musical instruments, through the sounds of nature, or the whoosh of joy in our hearts.  I am happiest in nature, and often find myself in awe of a brilliant view, or a bright full moon.  When we catch a stunning sunset, you might see me applauding “yay God”.  Nature gives me perspective; it grounds me, and reminds me of my right size in the world.  And singing praise to the Lord in those moments, even quietly in my heart, fills me with gratitude and never fails to connect me to God. 

 

Lord, in these days of strain and challenges, please remind us to look toward the marvelous things you have done. Let us hear the voices and music, and feel the sounds of the earth.  With gratitude, let us join with your creation, and sing joyous praises to you.

Amen.

Wednesday, October 14th

Psalm 34

"Praise for Deliverance from Trouble"

Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.

1 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.

3 O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.

6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.

7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.

9 O fear the Lord, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want.

10 The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

12 Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?

13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.

14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.

16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles.

18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all.

20 He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil brings death to the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

This Psalm paints a picture of hope for the righteous, for those who fear the Lord. The promise of safety from all fears; the angel of the Lord encamps and delivers. Could it be that easy? For me, it made me think: Do I have that level of fear of the Lord? Can I say that I meet that criteria on a daily basis? Am I like David, the writer of this Psalm, whose fear of humans brought him to this level of fear of the Lord. Our God is all knowing and deserves the utmost respect(fear) and in return we will be rescued and heard. For me, I will keep trying to get there. “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” How about you?

 

Dear Lord,

I pray for strength and guidance daily, to do what I need to do, so I might be righteous in Your eyes. Amen. 

Wednesday, October 7th

Psalms 144.

1 Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
    who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;
2 my rock and my fortress,
    my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
    who subdues the peoples[b] under me.

3 O Lord, what are human beings that you regard them,
    or mortals that you think of them?
4 They are like a breath;
    their days are like a passing shadow.

5 Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down;
    touch the mountains so that they smoke.
6 Make the lightning flash and scatter them;
    send out your arrows and rout them.
7 Stretch out your hand from on high;
    set me free and rescue me from the mighty waters,
    from the hand of aliens,
8 whose mouths speak lies,
    and whose right hands are false.

9 I will sing a new song to you, O God; 

upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,

 

10 the one who gives victory to kings,
    who rescues his servant David.
11 Rescue me from the cruel sword,
    and deliver  upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,me from the hand of aliens,

whose mouths speak lies,
    and whose right hands are false.

12 May our sons in their youth
    be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars,
    cut for the building of a palace.
13 May our barns be filled,
    with produce of every kind;
may our sheep increase by thousands,
    by tens of thousands in our fields,
14     and may our cattle be heavy with young.
May there be no breach in the walls,[c] no exile,
    and no cry of distress in our streets.

15 Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall; happy are the people whose God is the Lord.

 

There are times when worship overflows easily and effortlessly from a heart full of gratitude and praise. Yet, there are other times when God seems far and we feel we have nothing left to offer. We are tired, or thirsty, or imprisoned in our own chains through our own devices, or caught in the waves of a tumultuous sea. This is when God shows us His steadfast love.

 

He wraps His eternally powerful, ultimately creative, nail-scarred hands around our hearts and squeezes with appropriate might—yielding an honest plea for Him to save us and deliver us from our circumstances, fears, and self-control. And He does. He initiates with His steadfast love, and responds with the same. (Lauren Chandler)

 

 

This is why; despite whatever we go through in this life, the people of God are always people of hope. In my early twenties I created an acronym for Hope (Having Outstanding Peace Everyday) which with God’s love has helped me to stay peaceful and calm during this pandemic.  We are people of hope, because we have the capacity to always look to the future and know with confidence that God is in control and he will someday set all things right.

 

Dear Lord,

Help us to continue to be people of hope, sure in our faith of Your eternal, omnipotent Love. Amen

Wednesday, September 30th

Matthew 26: 1-13

 26 When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, 4 and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”

6 Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,[a] 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. 8 But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? 9 For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this good news[b] is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

The disciples saw what the woman did as almost criminal.  She wasted money they could have used to feed people in need.  Not as an act of love for Jesus.  How many times do we take things the wrong way?   I have an elderly neighbor whose daughter lives in another state, but comes and stays with her for a week at a time to check on her and help her.  When she goes home and I go to visit, the mother tells me about how she changed things around. When she shows me what was done, many times it was to make it easier for her mother.  As we get older we get set in our ways and don’t like change, even if it makes things easier and safer for us.  The disciples, I think, felt the same way. They wanted her to use riches to help people not waste it on unnecessary things.  They didn’t realize that the woman was showing her love for Jesus by pouring the perfume on him in preparation of his death. (Whether she knew about it or not.)  WE HAVE to realize that everything is not as it seems.  Right now it feels as if God has forgotten us or is putting us to a test.  We have had many bad illnesses in the past and he has been there for us.  He helped scientists  discover vaccines to prevent future cases.  Most of all we have to remember he sent his only son to save us by dying on the cross.  He will not forget us now as long as we don’t forget HIM.

God, give us strength to get through these hard times due to the pandemic.   We pray for and remember all those on the front lines fighting to keep us healthy and save us when we are ill.  We also must remember those who keep food on the shelves, and those who protect us, the police and firefighters.  We pray, through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 23rd

Genesis 1:1-19  

"In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.


And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day."

 

 

To say this year has been different would be an understatement.  Our lives have been turned upside down.  It is easy to look at what we are missing out on during this time.  It is easy to overlook the positive side-effects of this situation.  This past Sunday we held outside our annual Rally Day, complete with the start of Sunday School.  We started at the beginning with the story of creation and had some great discussions on the first 4 days of creation.  Like our Sunday morning services, Sunday School was held outdoors.  Different.  Blankets, spaced out and a lot of potential for distractions.  We could have been missing the more controlled aspect of being in a classroom.  It's what we're used to, the classroom is what we know.  

 

The side-effect of being outdoors?  After we read about each day of creation, we looked around us.  We looked directly at God's beautiful creation and talked about what we saw that was created that day.  Unlike a classroom, we were able to take the words of each day of creation and put them into the visible things around us.  Students saw the light of day from the 1st day.  We saw the sky and clouds created on the 2nd day.  We saw grass, trees, flowers and other plants created on the 3rd day.  We saw the sun in the sky and talked about how we see the sun in the day and the moon and stars at night, but that sometimes we can still see the moon and stars during the day. This was the fourth day.  We saw so much of God's creation around us that we didn't finish all 7 days in one lesson, and that is okay.  

 

It is okay because after every day of God's creation, God saw that it was good!   Things may be different, but God's creation is still good!  Our Sunday School children are part of God's creation, and God looks at them and says that they are good.  God looks at each of us; we are part of this creation and we are good.  Just like the Sunday School did this past weekend, look for the good in these different times.  They are there and they are good!

 

Let us pray, as our Sunday School did this past weekend:

God, we thank you for all that you’ve created in this world! Thank you for the sun, moon and stars that shimmer and shine. Thank you for the plants that give us shade, food and help us breathe. Thank you for all of the animals that splish and splash, flutter and tweet, growl, bark and snort, creep and crawl, and for all of the people of the world. Please help us to take care of your special creation! Amen.

 

Wednesday, September 16th

Gospel of Mark 11: 20-25.

The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree

20 In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

With everything that is happening in today’s world it comes as no surprise that we may have doubt in our heart about Jesus’ love for us.  We pray for peace and for healing, yet it seems that the world continues to see pain and suffering.  We may ask ourselves, how do we continue to believe in the everlasting love that God gives to us if it seems that our prayers go unanswered?  It may be that God cannot give us what we are asking for because it is not up to him but instead it is up to us.  By believing in God and having faith in God’s love our prayers will be answered, but it doesn’t stop there.  We must remember to show that same love towards others, to open our hearts towards unity and understanding, so that we may achieve peace within ourselves and around the world.

 

Lord, thank you that even when you don’t appear to answer our prayers it is out of compassion.  Thank you for the lessons that we learn from “unanswered” prayer.  Thank you for showing us what true greatness is all about.  Help us to devote our lives to your service and to the service of others. Help us to understand that there is no reason to doubt the love you have for us today and always.  Amen. 

Wednesday, September 9th

--Matthew 18: 1 – 5

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a child, whom he put among them, 3 and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

 

Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  Our God, Jesus and holy spirit are the greatest.

When Jesus called for the little child to come to him and he pointed out to the disciples that unless they were converted as little children, they would not reach heaven, he meant that they needed to be innocent and open to him as the most powerful teacher.

We must all try to be more like a child because their minds are open to new things and God’s wonders.

We should coax the children we know to be mindful of our beloved Father as they grow to adulthood.  We must show them sinful ways in this world that we need to avoid.

If we do not do our part where they are concerned, we are in God’s eyes evil and punishment could arise.  God wants us to be uplifting teachers in his word and never lead the children astray.

Let us pray,

Dear Heavenly Father, you are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  We are your children, open in mind and heart to be your followers.

Please accept us as humble and loving people who want you in our lives.  We shall teach our children in your ways and hope that they believe in you as we do as they grow into adulthood.

Amen.

Wednesday, September 2nd

Jeremiah 17:5-8.

 

5 Thus says the Lord:
Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
    and make mere flesh their strength,
    whose hearts turn away from the Lord.
6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
    and shall not see when relief comes.
They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
    in an uninhabited salt land.

7 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
8 They shall be like a tree planted by water,
    sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
    and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
    and it does not cease to bear fruit.

 

Trusting in the Lord is easier said than done many times.  We are a society that prides itself on being self-reliant, and needing others is viewed as a weakness.  These verses remind us how important it is to put our trust in God.  We cannot rely solely on ourselves.  We cannot rely on "mere mortals."  If we take our focus and hearts away from God, we are no stronger than a shrub in the desert struggling to survive.  As we are trying to do everything on our own, we create our own desert around us.  We struggle harder to gain the basics necessary to survive.  

 

But when we trust in the Lord and look towards the Lord for our strength, we find that the Lord works through all those around us to support and guide us.  Trusting in the Lord is also trusting in those around us that the Lord works through.  There is a joke that's circulated around for years that tells of a man on an island waiting for God to rescue him.  A boat comes by, and he declines saying God will save him.  A plane comes by, and he declines saying God will save him.  Eventually God tells him, "what more did you want?  I sent you a boat & a plane."  I don't know the original source of this joke, but it reminds us that when we trust in God, we must also trust in those he works through.  Without trusting those God works through it would be like the tree planted by the water, it's roots reaching the stream but the roots refusing to accept any water from the stream.  Like a tree whose roots reach the stream, our roots find support through those around us.  

 

Let us pray:

O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

(From Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 76)   

 

 

 

 

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