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Week 10 (5/17/20 - 5/23/20)

Devotional Day 68 - 5/23/20

John 8:21-30

Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”

This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”

But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

“Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many believed in him.


Who is Jesus to you? Regardless of what we think of him, or how we describe him, he is the Son of God, but he has revealed himself to us in different ways. We have experienced God’s presence in our lives, and those experiences have influenced our lives in many ways. Those who follow Jesus have made a conscious decision to do so based on how we have encountered him. But not all who have encountered him believe. This scripture is a prime example of how people have seen Jesus, but have not understood who he is. He even pointed out to them that he would be lifted up on the cross and all would see him for who he truly is. But still they did not understand him or believe in him. 


So when you think of Jesus, what is it that you think about? Do you see simply a good man, or do you see the Son of God? Do you see a man who did good things, or someone who produced miracles that could only have come from God? If Jesus is who he claimed to be, how has your interaction with him changed your life? 


I love the song that I chose for today. It speaks of how we think about God and the impact it has on us. It points out various way in which Jesus works on our behalf. We see him praying for us. We see him celebrating over us through singing and dancing. We see him calling to us. We see him loving us. God’s loving kindness pours out over us. His banner flies over us, saying that we belong to him. As his children, we are part of his family and we reap the benefit of that relationship. God has never changed, and his love for us has never changed. So how does that love affect how we perceive him? What is it that you can focus on to bring you a better sense of who he is? We cannot argue with who he is, but we can allow who he is to influence our lives. May our lives be forever changed by the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.


Let us pray: God of all things, you love us and go before us. You protect us and provide for us. You cheer us on and call us to yourself. Be with us in all that we do and keep us safe in all things. Amen.


Song: When I Think of You - Michael W. Smith & African Children’s Choir

Devotional Day 67 - 5/22/20

2 Kings 2:7-12

Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”

“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

“You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.


We are approaching the end of another school year. A new class of young adults are leaving the nest (so to speak) to head out into the world to blaze the new path that is before them. It has not been the ideal way to end a school year, foregoing the pomp and circumstance of graduation and the celebrations that would inevitably follow. Regardless, many of our young people will be looking for new ways to fit into society.

Today’s scripture looks at the great prophet Elijah passing the mantle onto his predecessor, Elisha. Elisha had refused to leave Elijah’s side even though Elijah told him to stay behind. As they approached the place where Elijah was to be taken up, Elijah rewarded Elisha’s tenacity by offering him the chance to request something from the great prophet. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. This is not saying that Elisha wanted to be greater than Elijah, but that he was requesting the portion of the inheritance that was reserved for the firstborn. Elisha was requesting to be the legitimate successor of Elijah, to carry on the work, to be the one to pick up where Elijah was leaving off.


As our young adults head out into the world, they may not have specifically asked to receive the mantel of their predecessors, but they have an obligation to pick up where other generations are leaving off. It is a huge task, in an unprecedented time. So how are we going to encourage them and allow them the space they need to flex their imaginations and help this world? 


God created us as unique individuals and gave us all special gifts. He has equipped us all for the various jobs that he has given to us. Like it or not, we have had to pick up where those before us left off, and more often than not, we have had to clean up some pretty big messes along the way. What can we do to help those who come after us? What can we do to prepare them for what lays in front of them? I pray that God uses us (and those following after us) to do some amazing things for this world, and his kingdom. 


Let us pray: Lord, we look to you for our only source of salvation. We look to you in good times and in our time of need. And we look to you to equip our next generation for whatever they are to face. Be with us all, guide us, and help us to take care of this world for the ones who will come after us. Amen.


Song: The Days of Elijah - Robin Mark

Devotional Day 66 - 5/21/20

Acts 1:6-11

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”


How often do we think, “God, it would have been so much easier if Jesus was still walking on this earth”? It would be rather easy to prove the existence of Jesus Christ if he was here and we were able to talk to him. He would be able to explain things, and we would be able to validate his claims and his miracles. However, people were able to do that at one point in history, and they still didn’t believe. They saw him feed thousands of people with just a little bit of food. They saw him heal the incurable, cast out demons, and bring people back from the dead. They saw all of those things, yet still some denied the possibility that Jesus was from God, let alone God himself. 


But Jesus needed to leave this earth, and when he did, he provided something so much wore wonderful for the rest of us. He gave us his Holy Spirit, something that would not come until he ascended into heaven. Jesus walked this earth and lived a perfect life. He gave that perfect life to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He rose again three days later, showing that he has power over sin and death. Then he ascended into heaven, resuming his rightful place on his throne as Lord and ruler of all. Through our faith in him we have forgiveness of sin and we have eternal life, but we also have his spirit within us. His spirit guides us, and instructs us. It connect us with God in a way we cannot imagine. But we would not have had that opportunity if Jesus did not first ascend. 


We get so hung up on the “what ifs” that we often fail to see the bigger picture. “What if God did this or that differently, then we wouldn’t be in the mess that we are in.” But the fact of the matter is that even if we think things are out of control, God is still in control. He is Lord of all and is sitting on his throne. He is in charge and he provides for us and guides us through his spirit. We should thrilled that we have that opportunity and grateful every day for what he as done. Jesus may not be physically with us right now, but God is always with us, so may we always bring him where ever we go.


Let us pray: Thank you Lord for all that you have done. Thank you for showing us your glory so that we know who you truly are. May those around us who do not believe in you, come to know your love for themselves. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.


Song: He Is Exalted - Shane & Shane

Devotional Day 65 - 5/20/20

Deuteronomy 31:1-8

Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the Lord said. And the Lord will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. The Lord will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”


What does it mean to be strong and courageous? If you look up the meanings of these words in the original Hebrew language of the Old Testament, they mean something very similar. To be strong is exactly what you think it means, to grow in strength. In reading the definitions, I cannot help but picture a tree because the description is being firm, steadfast, and rooted while possessing power and strength. I picture huge lumbering old trees that are not affected by practically anything. Likewise, being courageous is defined as being stout and strong, but with the idea of being bold and alert ( One brings an understand of being physically strong while the other a psychological and emotional strength. 


The people had followed God in the wilderness for 40 years under Moses’ leadership, and now their journey was coming to its conclusion. Moses knew his time was short and so he needed to help the people see that God would still provide for them when he was gone. He gave them a wonderful speech, showing that what was happening to Him was God ordained, that it was God’s timing that Moses’ leadership was coming to an end. Moses closed with a powerful statement, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”


But Moses did not leave them on their own. God had provided Joshua who had walked along side of Moses for 40 years. Moses mentored Joshua in how to lead the people. Joshua was even on the mountain when Moses met with God. Everything Moses did, Joshua quietly joined him, learning all that he could. And now it was his time to step up and to lead the people into the promised land. Moses left Joshua with a similar blessing as he did with the people, to be strong and courageous and remember that God would never leave him as he led the people into the promised land.


We too need to be strong and courageous. We have been wandering in a time of uncertainty. There is no doubt that God has been working, teaching us and guiding us along the way, but we are still unsure of where we are going or when we will get there. God has plans for us, and I am sure that they are going to be great. I am also sure that we will need to be strong, firmly planted in God’s love. We will need to be unmovable and unswerving in our dedication to him and his will. We will need to be courageous, willing to be bold for our Lord, standing up even when this world may want to knock us down again. It takes a conscious effort on our part to follow God. There may be scary things in our path, people who will purposefully stand in our way. There may be giants, obstacles larger than life, that we will need to confront and face. But regardless, God will always be with us, he will not leave us nor forsake us. When God is in our corner, we can stand up against all things, and his strength will be our strength as he leads us into the land that he has prepared for us.


Let us pray: Oh Lord, guide us where you want us to go. Give us the strength and the willingness to do as you ask, whatever that may be. Please remind us daily that you will never lead us and are with us wherever we may go. Amen.


Song: Courageous - Casting Crowns

Devotional Day 64 - 5/19/20

1 Peter 3:8-12

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For,

“Whoever would love life

    and see good days

must keep their tongue from evil

    and their lips from deceitful speech.

They must turn from evil and do good;

    they must seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous

    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”


Sometimes when we read scripture, we simply gloss over some of the phrases, focusing on the big picture but missing some of the nuances in the process. It is incredibly important to be like-minded, sympathetic, loving, compassionate and humble. It is important to not repay evil with evil, and to do good, seek peace and justice. But as I read this, it all seemed to revolve around the sentence, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.”


We use our words for everything. Our culture has become dependent on words, either spoken or written. We see signs everywhere, opinions are posted on social media, and people stop to speak to us wherever we go. We cannot escape the words all around us. Words are powerful. They can lift us up and tear us down. Even words that seem helpful or benign can be seen as hurtful, condescending, and accusatory. 


I truly feel that Peter is pointing out that all that we do revolves around the words we use, and we need to watch what we say and how we say it. We need to make a conscious effort to watch what we say and how we say it. Too often we just allow what we are thinking to dribble out of our mouths (or from our fingers), without considering how it will affect those around us or reflect on who we are. When that happens, it can cause a lot of problems. Sadly, this is probably happening more and more frequently as we are two months into social distancing and self-isolation, and the stress of it all is wearing on us. We need to purposefully filter ourselves so that we do not say something that we will regret. I am not saying that we cannot have the freedom of speech, or that we are not entitled to our own opinions, but we need to season what we say. Someone may be doing something wrong, but would it really be helpful or appropriate if we flatly say, “you’re doing it wrong, you’re an idiot,” regardless if that was how we were thinking? No, a person would be more open and receptive if you approached them and said, “let me help you with that,” or “let’s try to find a better what to do that.”


Our words are very powerful and can connect us or rip us apart. I’m sure we could have averted many arguments and disagreements if people would have merely thought about what they said and the impact that their words could have. I know that is true for myself. 


What is it that you want to say? Do you want your words to encourage or bring people down? Do you want your words to be of love or hate? Do you want your words to bring people together or rip them apart? God gave us his Word, and his word became flesh and walked among us. That Word is a word of love from beginning to end. As believers, that word of love is what God wants us to communicate with every person we can reach. So how will you?


Let us pray: God of love, your love never ends. You tell us daily of your love for us. Help us to use our words to lift each other up and to show them your love, so they may know your love for themselves. We love you and your son, Jesus Christ, in whom we pray. Amen.


Song: Words - Nelson Hawk

Devotional Day 63 - 5/18/20

Psalm 93

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;

    the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength;

    indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.

Your throne was established long ago;

    you are from all eternity.

The seas have lifted up, Lord,

    the seas have lifted up their voice;

    the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,

    mightier than the breakers of the sea—

    the Lord on high is mighty.

Your statutes, Lord, stand firm;

    holiness adorns your house

    for endless days.


I know we already spoke about God reigning in this world. But every now and then we need to be reminded of it. God is beautiful. He is wonderful. He is awesome. He is full of majesty and is more powerful than anything in the entire universe. He created all things and all things point back to their creator. All creation sings God’s praises.


God reigns over all things. He has the authority over all things and all things bend to his will in one way or another. But God created humanity to have free will, giving us the choice to follow him or not. There is no denying God’s kingship, or his authority in this world, but we choose whether or not he will reign in our lives. It is our choice to let God instruct us, to guide us, and to influence what we do. That does not mean that we have more power over him that we “allow him to work,” but that we allow ourselves to give into his authority, which directly influences our choices, thoughts, and behaviors. 


As believers, we have made the decision for God to rule in our lives. We have said that we follow Jesus, we follow where he leads and follow his example as best as we can. But have we really allowed God to reign in our lives? Have we given every aspect of our lives over to his rule and his authority? That is a hard question to answer because we often have aspects of our lives that can be painful or embarrassing and we tend to hold on to them. Maybe we do it because we are ashamed to allow anyone else see those areas, and we try to hide it from God. Maybe we feel that we are not valuable or worth enough to allow God to come in and heal that area of our lives, a sort of self-punishment for what we have gone through. But to truly allow God to reign in our lives, means that we give every aspect of ourselves over to him. We need to allow God to come in and clean out those dark corners of our lives, to come in and heal us. We also need to put him as a priority over everything else in our lives. When we do those things, we truly submit to God’s reign in our lives.


Let us pray: God of all, we praise you for who you are and what you have done. May our lives reflect your presence within us and around us. May we give every part of ourselves over to you. Amen.


Song: He Reigns - Newsboys

Devotional Day 62 - 5/17/20

John 14:15-21

 “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”


Have you ever felt distant from someone? I know that is an ironic question to ask while we are stuck keeping at least six feet from everyone, isolating ourselves as much as possible. But it is easy to feel that we are disconnected from someone, even if they are sitting right next to us. Jesus knew it would be difficult when he would leave the earth to return to heaven. He knew that his followers would feel lost and not know exactly what to do or where to go, and so he told them, “if you love me, keep my commands.” If you love me, do what I have told you to do. Do as I have taught you. Love the way that I have showed you to love, and you will walk the same path that I have traveled.


And in case that wasn’t enough, Jesus made arrangements to provide his guidance even when he could not physically be with us. He promised the Holy Spirit to his believers. This Spirit is the spirit of truth. It does not lie, it does not guide us in directions that we should not go. It shows us what is right, and in doing so, it points us to God and his will for us. 


God does not want us to feel that we are alone. He is right there next to us every single day. He is around us, and he lives within us. He helps us when we need it, and comforts us when we are lonely and grieving. We have life because he has given it to us. We have eternal life because he has shared it with us. We are blessed, and out of our love for him, and our thankfulness for all that he has done, we should do all that he has taught us and follow his commands. 


Let us pray: God of truth, help us to lean on you. Help us to feel your presence even when there is no one around. May we see your fingerprints everywhere we look. May we follow your commands, and love as you love. Amen.


Song: Spirit of Truth - Ipha

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