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Week 11 (5/24/20 - 5/30/20)

Devotional Day 75 - 5/30/20

Matthew 5:1-12

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

    for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

    for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."


Why did Jesus choose to talk about these topics in the way that he did? As a pastor, I have to choose each week what it is that I am going to preach about. Will I do a sermon series, and focus on a particular topic or series of topics and space it out over several weeks? Maybe I will use the lectionary, preaching on the liturgical scriptures of the week or on the specific week in the Church year or a special holiday. Maybe I will be more topical, picking a specific topic or scripture that tickles my fancy for that week. But the question still remains, how will I choose?


Jesus looked at his audience, sat down on a mountainside so that all could see him and he could see them, and began to speak these words of assurance that are known as the beatitudes. As I read through this scripture, I cannot help but get a sense of the sort of people that were following Jesus to learn from him and to get healed from him. He saw who they were, and being God, he probably knew what problems they were all facing and he met them where they were.


Jesus came to help those in need. I could walk through each one of the above listed blessings, but each one of those can be a sermon in and of itself. But the general gist of it all is that God takes pity and shows mercy on those in need and who are struggling. It is to give a sense of comfort knowing that you will receive your peace and support if not in this world, then definitely in God’s kingdom. Jesus is also making an appeal to the people to express the qualities that God values, being a peacemaker, showing mercy, seeking out righteousness. All of these things are things that God values and wishes people to explore more openly at all times, and he will bless those that do. 


I know we are all struggling with things right now in our lives. Things that were not expected. Things that are uncertain. But God is with us and will bless us in one way or another. Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone, that you are loved, and God is in your corner.


Let us pray: God of all things, help us to trust in you. Help us to see the need around us, and address it in ways that will be pleasing to you. May we be ambassadors for you and do all that we can to spread your love to as many people as we can reach. Amen.


Song: The Beatitudes - Hillsong

Devotional Day 74 - 5/29/20

Romans 8:14-17

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.


Growing up, my brother and I didn’t always get along. I remember one day when I was in Middle School and he was in High School, I started walking home without him because he was running a few minutes late. After about a block I turned around and saw him chase some kids away from behind me who apparently wanted to play some dirty trick on me. My brother and I may not have always gotten along, but we were family, and we looked out for each other.


There are so many people in this world who are lost. They have no families and little to no friends, they are truly alone. We have all had a taste of what it is like to be alone these past ten plus weeks. It takes a toll on us, creating both emotional and physical issues that manifest in numerous ways. We crave connection with someone, with anyone. Some times people turn to “things” to fill the void, filing their lives with material things or turning some activity to try and suppress the need for actual social connections.


But when we believe in God, we are adopted into his family. It doesn’t matter if we are an only child or one of a dozen kids, we are part of the family of God. This is one of the reasons why the church body is so important, it connects us with more of our family members on a regular basis. It provides an immediate and local network of people on whom we can trust and rely. It shows us that we are not alone, and that we are cared for and loved. Sure, we may not get along with every person in our church family all of the time, but they are still our family.


We are unique and special. As part of God’s family, we have a home and a specific roll that we are called to fill. We see that we are part of a bigger puzzle, and without us, the picture is incomplete. Being adopted into God’s family gives us access to God’s heavenly kingdom. We can also better realize that he is there for us, that we can lay our burdens at his feet and that he will always lift us up. We should live our lives with the understanding that we are part of God’s royal family, and that he has invited all people to be adopted into that same family with us. All who believe are part of God’s family, and we should love each other and treat each other that way.


Let us pray: Heavenly Father, help us to see past our differences to see that you love us all as your children. Help us to be the people you want us to be and to spread your love to the entire world. Amen


Song: Family of God - Newsboys

Devotional Day 73 - 5/28/20

Psalm 16

Keep me safe, my God,

    for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

    apart from you I have no good thing.”

I say of the holy people who are in the land,

    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”

Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.

    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods

    or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;

    you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

    surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

    even at night my heart instructs me.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.

    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

    my body also will rest secure,

because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

You make known to me the path of life;

    you will fill me with joy in your presence,

    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.


Anyone who has a child will know that once they start walking, they move pretty quickly. I cannot count how many times I have had to physically run after either one of my boys to keep them from entering into some dangerous situation. You definitely get your work out when you have a small child. I can picture God running after us, stooped down to catch us as we are about to do something dangerous.  It is amazing how we run after things that we care about. The more we care about something, the more we chase after it. So what is it that we chase after?


It’s not uncommon to get a sort of tunnel vision when we chase after things. We get so focused on what we want, that we don’t often see where it is leading us or what is passing us by. We miss out on opportunities, and may find ourselves lost in a place we never thought we would go. David says, “those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.” When we run after the things that are not good for us, we can get stuck in a lifestyle that revolves around it. The perfect example of this would be that of addiction. A person may look for immediate (and quite possibly temporary) relief, but it often sucks the person into a life that is dependent on the next fix. The same can be said about so many things in life. I enjoy a specific type of figurine that I classify as a “bobble-head.” For those who know me know that I have quite a collection. Thankfully, many of them have been gifts and I have not purchased many of them on my own, but it is still very tempting for me to look for that one that I have been waiting for, or the next one to complete a specific set. I find myself trolling various websites looking for what is on sale or what has recently been released. It sometimes takes a lot of will power not to add half a dozen of these pieces of plastic to my shopping cart. It could very well become consuming if I would let it.


But there are good things in life that we should run after. We should run after our loved ones, trying to help them and protect them. We should run after helping those in need. We should run after justice, especially those who cannot find justice for themselves. We should run after peace and kindness. And most importantly we should run after God. He chases us daily, giving us blessing after blessing, pouring his love out upon us. Do we run after him? There are times when I am absent from my family for a period of time, and when I return, I am often met with a flying hug from my boys. That is a great feeling. How do you think God feels when we run after him, where we chase after him, and give him a flying hug as soon as we get close? He is always there for us, and it should be the goal of our lives to seek him and chase after him in all that we do. And as we do so, we should keep our eyes open for those around us whom we can help along the way and bring them with us to God. 


Let us pray: Heavenly Father, we long for your embrace. Help us to see your arms around at all times, and may we seek after you every day of our lives. Amen.


Song: Run to the Father - Cody Carnes

Devotional Day 72 - 5/27/20

James 1:16-18

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.


What do you deserve? Some days we may feel like we deserve everything that this world has to offer. That we are so spectacular that we deserve power and fame and recognition for just how great we are. But let’s face it, there are days where we feel that all we deserve is the left overs, if that. We can get pretty hard on ourselves, saying that our mistakes are too numerous to be forgiven, that we are beyond help or even love. So what is it that we deserve?


If we look at it by the world’s standards, if we work for something, we deserve to get it. There are times when that doesn’t always happen, where someone else is chosen for the promotion, or someone else is rewarded for our hard work. We often deserve more than what we actually get, because what we do sometimes goes unnoticed. But what about looking at it through God’s standards? If we look at it by trying to measure how much good we do verses the bad we do or the mistakes that we make, I hate to break it to you, but we don’t really deserve much of anything. The sin in our lives far outweighs the good we do. It stains us and tarnishes us. It brings us down and separates us from God. As a result, we deserve punishment.


I love this scripture when it says “every good and perfect gift is from above.” Gifts are free and are usually not deserved. The gift reflects more of the giver than the one who receives it. God is so loving and kind that he gives us gifts every single day, regardless if we love him or not. He gives us every breath that we take, every beat of our heart, and every second that we have in this life. He clothes us and feeds us and provides for us. We sometimes take it for granted, that we are alive and that we have our basic needs met. And we may think that we work for all that we have, but in all actuality, it comes from God as a precious gift. Because that is how special we are to God. We may not deserve it, per say, but God has placed such a high value on us, that he was willing to give his own life to give us freedom from sin and eternal life with him. 


Some days are more difficult than others. Sometimes it takes a little more work on our end to make what we have stretch a little further to meet our needs. But the point of it all is that God is good and gives us every good thing in our life as a free gift. He never demanded that we love him back, threatening to take our life away if we do not reciprocate his love. He gives us reason after reason as to why we should love him, and those who believe in him have seen those reasons and decided to do so. Matthew 5:45(b) tells us that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” He does not differentiate his love from one person to the next. He loves all people equally. Yes, he blesses some more than others, but he loves us all the same.


How will you react to the fact that God loves you? Will you respond with a love that is reciprocated, or will you take for granted the gifts that he has given you? I challenge you to look around you and see all of the good gifts that God has given to you. From the greatest blessings, to every single little breath that you take. It all comes from God. How grateful are you for what he has done?


Let us pray: Father of the heavenly lights, we thank you. We cannot say thank you enough. Help us to see your fingerprints on all that we have and in all that we are. We love you and your Son, Jesus Christ, who lived and died and rose again for our sake, and in whose name we pray. Amen.


Song: Every Good Thing - The Afters

Devotional Day 71 - 5/26/20

1 Peter 4:7-11

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.


The opening of this scripture is a little ominous. “The end of all things is near.” Every generation has had some sort of global crisis that has triggered the thought that they were in the midst of the final days. Our generation is no better. Within the last 100 years we have seen a several wars, including a world war (two if you go back another additional 2-6 years), and countless hate crimes and terror attacks. Natural disasters seem to be happening more frequently and with a greater intensity. Things seem to be going downhill rather quickly.


It is easy to point fingers, assign blame, or even say that much of what we hear and read is all just a conspiracy theory or a cover up. But the truth of the matter is that this is a fallen world and there are problems. It is not uncommon for people to butt heads whenever a problem exists, which is why so many people are up in arms about what we are allowed to be doing and what we want to be doing.


Peter knew that there would be problems we would face, and he tells us to be of sober mind and to pray. During a time of crisis, it only makes matters worse when we lose ourselves to anger and resentment, where our knee-jerk reactions dictate how we live and what we say. Peter encourages us to think first which allows us to spend time in prayer, and then react in a way that is appropriate. Peter tells us that we should react in love. 


When we love one another, it covers a multitude of sins. We are able to see past people’s mistakes, understanding that they too are doing the best that they can and may have tripped up a time or two. I know I have made mistakes in the past day, let alone the last 70+ days of this quarantine, and I appreciate it when others show me love, grace, and compassion. When we act in love, we see other’s needs as at least being as equally important as our own, if not more important. We strive to make sure that others are provided for and taken care of, and we try to make it so our own personal actions do not overstep and trample on the feet of those around us. We do what we can to lift others up, rather than selfishly demand more for ourselves and take what we want regardless of how it will affect the person next to us. 


We have to share this world. It is not always easy and not always pretty. But we are to live elbow to elbow with the people next to us. May all that we do and all that we say be in an attitude of love, and may that love draw us closer together rather than tear us apart.


Let us pray: God of all things, we eagerly wait for you to return. In the meantime, may all that we do be seasoned with love for one another. Help us to love each other even in our differences, and even in our mistakes, because you have loved us even though we sin against you. We love you and your son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.


Song: Hold Us Together - Matt Maher

Devotional Day 70 - 5/25/20

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—

    where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,

    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—

    he who watches over you will not slumber; 

indeed, he who watches over Israel

    will neither slumber nor sleep. 

The Lord watches over you—

    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,

    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—

    he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going

    both now and forevermore.


We have all been in need of help at one time or another. We have all had problems and issues throughout our lives. Some of those things have been more severe than others, and some people have faced many more problems than the next person. But regardless of the severity or the frequency of the issues, we have all faced difficulties. 


So what do you do when you face a problem? This is a question that I often ask during pre-marital counseling. Do you face it head on, attacking it until the problem is conquered or at least contained? Do you turn and run, waiting for the trouble to pass? Do you take a moment to asses the situation and formulate a plan to fix whatever it is you are facing? And then what about handling the stress that comes from dealing with those problems? Do you bottle it up, do you explode, do you have a healthy outlet, do you talk it out? These are important questions that we need to ask ourselves in order to help address the issues in our lives. Once we figure it out, we can equip ourselves to handle things better, or at the very least, inform people around us in how they can help us when we are in need of support.


Ultimately, there is one that is greater than all of our problems. God is our help. He is with us always. He watches over us, providing shade in the heat of the day and protection while we sleep. He does not take time off from protecting us, and will not let our feet slip from the path that we are on. God is always with us, and we can look to him to help us in our time of need. Whatever we face, we do not face alone. That should provide us with comfort and hope, giving us peace even in the most difficult of circumstances. Sadly, there are many that do not turn to God for the support that we all desperately need.


We need to understand how we handle problems and conflicts in our lives. We need to seek out appropriate avenues to address our issues and reduce our stress while we do so. But we also need to look to God. We need to allow him to help us and guide us. We need to rely on his wisdom and his understanding. And we need to trust that he will do what he says he will do, and follow him wherever he leads. If you are in need of help, look to God, because he will help you. But also know that he has put people in place to help you as well. Do not be afraid to reach out to professionals to help you find better coping skills. Do not be afraid to reach out to a therapist or counselor to be a person with whom you can safely speak. These things are here to help us, and they do not take away from our faith in God, or our ability to trust in him. Do not be afraid, for God is with us. 


Let us pray: Protecting God, guide us and keep us safe from all harm. Help us to see that you face all of our problems with us. Help us to rely on you for strength, and may we trust you in all things and in all ways. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


WARNING: Video depicts a car accident and medical reenactments

Song: Shoulders - King & Country

Devotional Day 69 - 5/24/20

Psalm 34

I will extol the Lord at all times;

    his praise will always be on my lips.

I will glory in the Lord;

    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the Lord with me;

    let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;

    he delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant;

    their faces are never covered with shame.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;

    he saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,

    and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;

    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Fear the Lord, you his holy people,

    for those who fear him lack nothing.

The lions may grow weak and hungry,

    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, my children, listen to me;

    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

Whoever of you loves life

    and desires to see many good days,

keep your tongue from evil

    and your lips from telling lies.

Turn from evil and do good;

    seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

    and his ears are attentive to their cry;

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,

    to blot out their name from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;

    he delivers them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,

    but the Lord delivers him from them all;

he protects all his bones,

    not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;

    the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

The Lord will rescue his servants;

    no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.


We’ve all done it. We have all gone to those big box stores and tasted those free samples with which employees line the aisles holding a tray of crackers, or cheese, or whatnot. It gives us a taste of the product in order to entice us to go down the aisle to buy it. And if going down the aisle is too much work, they usually provide a nice little display next to the employee to make things even easier. 


The Psalmist tells us to taste and see that the Lord is good. To me it almost seems like a dare. “Go ahead, try him out. Take a sample, and try to deny the fact that he is good.” The rest of the Psalm describes just how good he is and what we should do in response. God answers us and delivers us from our fears. He hears us when we call and provides for us in all that we need. His eyes are on the righteous, he is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in the spirit. He protects us and rescues us. God is good, and those who love him are blessed because of his goodness. 


For those who believe, we have tasted and have seen how good God really is. He is our refuge, and in him we have abundant life. There is nothing else that is as good as God, and he loves us and pours out his love upon us. We should praise God because of his goodness. We should praise him for who he is. How can we not be thankful when we look at all that he has done for us? God has blessed us. May we see his blessings in our lives and may we share those blessings with others.


Let us pray: Lord, we exalt your name. You have done such great things throughout all of history, and you have done such great things in our own lives. May our lives always bring you praise. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


Song: Psalm 34 - Taste and See - by Shane & Shane

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