top of page

Week 6 (4/19/20 - 4/25/20)

Devotional Day 40 - 4/25/20

Luke 14:12-14

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”


How many times do we do something for the specific purpose of being repaid? We often barter, asking what will we get out of the transactions, or what is in it for us. This world encourages us to do to others so that we can get more in return and climb the ladder of success. But that is not a new concept. It has been something that humanity has been dealing with since the very beginning.


Our scripture today shows us Jesus talking to a prominent Pharisee who was hosting a Sabbath meal. Earlier, during the meal, Jesus healed a man with abnormal swelling, and observed the various guesting trying to pick the seats of honor and prestige. Even after being invited to this prominent Pharisee’s house, these people still wanted to prove just how important they were. By picking places of honor at the table, they were telling each other that they were better than the others who sat below them. Jesus addressed their insatiable desire to prove their worth, but he didn’t stop there and continued by addressing the host himself. 


Look at the caliber of the people that this man invited to his dinner. They were all about proving themselves to one another. At that time in history, it was part of their culture to return the favor whenever you were invited to someone’s house. If you did not repay the invitation, you probably would not be invited again. So it was very political when you hosted an event. But Jesus corrected his host. He told him to stop inviting these types of people, and in their place, invite those who need it. Invite all of those people that are hungry and in need, because in doing so you will be blessed. Why do you think that a person would be blessed by hosting a party? Because in doing so, and inviting those in need, he would be blessing others. Those people that Jesus mentioned, probably hadn’t had a decent meal in years. They did not have the luxury of all of the fancy foods that the rich and powerful took for granted. And think about how that Pharisee would have been seen by the common people if he reached out and showed kindness to those that society looked down upon. He would have been seen as a hero to the people!


We need to set ourselves aside. We need to stop “doing” for the sheer purpose of getting something in return. We need to reach out to those in need, regardless of how other people will view our actions. We need to love, we need to give, we need to be present in the lives of others. When we bless others, God takes notice and blesses us in return. It may not be right away, but we are promised that God will reward us in due time, even if it is when we arrive in glory. We need to learn to set aside our feelings and our attitudes and focus on doing what God wants from us. To love others and help those in need.


Let us pray: God of love, grace and mercy, help us to be the people who you want us to be. Help us to look more to the benefit of others rather than to our own betterment and success. Help us to love others as you have loved us. Amen.


Song: Litany of Humility - Danielle Rose

Devotional Day 39 - 4/24/20

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;

    he heard my cry for mercy.

Because he turned his ear to me,

    I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,

    the anguish of the grave came over me;

    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.

Then I called on the name of the Lord:

    “Lord, save me!”

What shall I return to the Lord

    for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation

    and call on the name of the Lord.

I will fulfill my vows to the Lord

    in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord

    is the death of his faithful servants.

Truly I am your servant, Lord;

    I serve you just as my mother did;

    you have freed me from my chains.

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you

    and call on the name of the Lord.

I will fulfill my vows to the Lord

    in the presence of all his people,

in the courts of the house of the Lord—

    in your midst, Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord.


One of the neat things about the Psalms is that the writers are often very real. These songs are expressions of the writers’ souls. They pour out their hurt and their pain, expressing their fears and how negative the world can seem. I mean you can’t get any more negative than, “the cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.” Just like us, these people saw some pretty difficult times. Yet they do not stop with just the negative things of life. They continue with the good as well. It is a common theme in the Psalms that when the authors are down, they call out to God and he rescues them. The authors then continue to express just how grateful they are for what he has done.


When something good happens to us, it is important that we are thankful. When God rescues us, when he provides for us, it is important to acknowledge what he has done and tell God just how grateful we are. That is something that we ingrain in our children from a young age. We instruct them, ”When someone does something nice for you, what do you say?” And of course the answer is “thank you.” But sometimes it is nice to put some actions with those words of thanksgiving. As the Psalmist writes, “What shall I return to the Lord for all of his goodness to me?” 


As I read this scripture for today, I couldn’t help but think about all of the times that I have tried to bargain with God. “God, if you would rescue me from this situation, I promise that I will…” (and you can fill in the blank). We often make promises to God. Sometimes it is bargaining. Sometimes it is simply our way of saying thanks. But do we always hold up our end of the promises? The Psalmist shows us his dedication, “I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.” It is important that we keep our promises and tell God how thankful we are for all that he has done.


God has done so much for us. He has loved us even when we didn’t deserve it. He rescues us when things are falling apart around us. He has done so much for us. So today I want to challenge you to think about how you can show God your gratitude, and find a way to carry it out.


Let us pray: God of all, you have rescued us from the clutches of sin and death. You have saved us from this world. May we offer our lives to you as pleasant sacrifices, using all that we have and all that we are to bring you glory. Amen.


Song: The Lord Is My Rock/God You Lifted Me Out - Elevation Worship

Devotional Day 38 - 4/23/20

Isaiah 25:1-5

Lord, you are my God;

    I will exalt you and praise your name,

for in perfect faithfulness

    you have done wonderful things,

    things planned long ago.

You have made the city a heap of rubble,

    the fortified town a ruin,

the foreigners’ stronghold a city no more;

    it will never be rebuilt.

Therefore strong peoples will honor you;

    cities of ruthless nations will revere you.

You have been a refuge for the poor,

    a refuge for the needy in their distress,

a shelter from the storm

    and a shade from the heat.

For the breath of the ruthless

    is like a storm driving against a wall

    and like the heat of the desert.

You silence the uproar of foreigners;

    as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud,

    so the song of the ruthless is stilled.


When I read this scripture, my first thought was the song, “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.” It is amazing the blessings that God has given us. It amazing how wonderfully faithful he has been in how he has provided for us and protected us. We sometimes look at these Old Testament scriptures and think of a God who is mean and angry, where he reduces cities and fortresses to a heap of rubble. But that is not the case. What this scripture says (and many other scriptures like it), is that we cannot put our hope in the things of humanity. We build large cities with fortified walls and put our trust in ourselves and what we have built, but what happens when those things fail? Because it all fails. Anything we build on our own will eventually decay and fall into ruin. But God is eternal and will not fail. He continues on long after all of those things of which we conceive pass away. So those that we see as being strong and powerful, are nothing in comparison to the all powerful and wonderful God.


How can we describe just how wonderful and awesome God is? How can our words do justice in describing who he is and what he has done for us? He has taken our burdens away. He has set us free. He has reached down into this world and saved even the worst of sinners that has repented. His love and grace covers all that we have ever done. He covers our sin, he covers our mistakes, and he loves us anyway. God’s love for us is larger than the tallest mountains, it is deeper than the deepest ocean, it covers all of us and makes us righteous in his eyes. Nothing can match God’s love for us. So in response, we should praise his name!


Let us pray: Lord be with us. Guide us and love us. We know that you do that anyway, but we want you to know that we appreciate it. Thank you for who you are and what you have done for us. We love you. Amen.


Song: Wonderful Grace of Jesus - The Cathedrals

Devotional Day 37 - 4/22/20

Matthew 12:38-42

Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”

He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.


Yesterday we talked about Jonah. Today we see the scripture of Jesus talking with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who want to see a sign from him to prove who he is. These people knew the story of Jonah and they knew the implications of what he did, how he ran from God but God still used him to save the people of Nineveh. Those people were horrible to begin with, but God used Jonah to turn their hearts around. And now Jesus was telling the religious leaders of his time, that the people of Nineveh, those who were seen as completely sinful, would rise up and judge them. 


They wanted a sign from Jesus to prove who he was, but honestly, they wouldn’t have believed regardless of any proof that Jesus could offer them. But what Jesus did offer them, was the promise of the miracle that would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt who Jesus truly is, the Son of God. He pretty much told them, that he would die and in three days rise from the grave. The worst people in the world believed what Jonah had to say after a three day cruise in the belly of a fish. But Jesus was greater than Jonah, yet the religious leaders didn’t believe what he had to say, regardless of how many miracles Jesus performed prior to their encounter. The people that Jesus was talking to were the religious leaders of his time. They were to be the ones that had their finger on the pulse of what God wanted for his people. Yet instead of leading the people in the way that God wanted, they were leading them astray for their own benefits. If anyone was supposed to know who Jesus was, it was these Pharisees and teachers of the law, yet they were blind to the truth.


How often do we miss who Jesus truly is? How often do we look for miracles to prove our faith, while we miss the myriad of miracles that God has already provided? God has created all of the universe. He provides miracles and wonders for us every day. He created the beautiful tapestry of this world for us to observe wherever we look. What more proof do we need to know who God is? What more proof do we need to see God’s love for us? We should be first in line to proclaim who God is and what he has done in our lives. God is greater than all things, and he loves us. We need to share that with the world.


Let us pray: God of wonders, you love us more than we can fathom. You care for us and provide for us every day. May we always see you at work in this world and in our lives, and may our lives reflect your glory into the lives of others. Amen.


Song: God of Wonders - Third Day

Devotional Day 36 - 4/21/20

Jonah 1:1-17

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.


We all know the story of Jonah. (It’s even mentioned in Marvel’s “The Avengers.”) It is the story of a prophet of God who was told to take a message of God’s judgement to the city of Nineveh. To say that Nineveh was the worst city in the world at that time would be putting it mildly. They were hated and despised for just how cruel and horrible they were. So the fact that God was going to pour out his judgement upon the city should have been good news to the rest of the world. Yet Jonah ran. He ran in the opposite direction, headed for the very edge of the known world to get away from his God given mission. During his voyage, a storm came up and Jonah knew that his fleeing was the reason for the trouble. Jonah told the crew of the ship to throw him overboard, which immediately calmed the storm. God, in his mercy, sent a large fish to swallow Jonah, keeping him safe for three days until he was spit up on the shore from where he left with a second chance to accomplish the task that God gave him. Jonah then went to Nineveh, where he delivered God’s message and the entire city repented and was saved.


I have always found it interesting why Jonah fled in the first place. At first blush, one would think that Jonah fled because he was afraid about going into a city that was known for how brutal they were to outsiders and foreigners. But the fact of the matter was that he knew how bad the city was, and he knew that if they heard the message of God’s coming judgement, they could repent and God would spare them. He was angry that there was the possibility that a people so horrible could be saved from their sin (see Jonah 4:1-3).


There are so many lessons to be learned from the story of Jonah. (And since it is only 4 chapters, it is a pretty short read.) We see that God gives second chances. He gave a second chance to Jonah, a prophet of God who disobeyed a direct order. He gave a second chance to Nineveh, the worst city on the face of the planet at the time. It shows us that God offers the same forgiveness and opportunities to both the pious and the horribly sinful. We also see the completeness of his forgiveness, that there is nothing so sinful that he will not hear the cries of those who repent and offer his forgiveness.


This story also shows us that God can use our mistakes and our bad attitudes (and no this is not condoning mistakes and bad attitudes). When Jonah fled and the storm came upon the boat, God used that situation to help the crew of the ship understand who he is. “At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him” (v. 16). God still used Jonah and his rotten attitude to change the lives of an entire city of more than 120,000 people. 


It also goes to show us that God’s plans are bigger than anything that we can anticipate. We do not always understand what God is doing. We may not even agree with or appreciate what God is doing. But God will work with or without us. The question is, are we willing to be a part of God’s awesome plans? Or are we going to turn and run the other direction?


Let us pray: God of second chances, help us to be a people focused on you. Help us to want what you want, and help us to be a bigger part of your plans in this world. Equip us and encourage us to carry out your will. Amen.


Song: In the Belly of the Whale - Newsboys

Devotional Day 35 - 4/20/20

Judges 6:36-40

Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised—look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.

Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.


I love the story of Gideon. I think he is one of my favorite Old Testament characters. The Midianites (and other local peoples) had been oppressing the Israelites for seven years by the time Gideon is introduced. They were so oppressive that the people of Israel were hiding in caves and anything that the people of Israel could have used for food was taken by the controlling armies. When we first meet Gideon, he is hiding in a winepress, threshing wheat. Now this statement is packed with information. Threshing was usually done on the top of the hill. The wheat would be thrown into the air and the chaff would blow away, leaving the grain to fall to the ground. A winepress, however, was a hole in the ground. Grapes would be put into a shallow pool cut out of rock and smashed, which would allow the juice to then drain into a lower pool where the solid particles would be strained out. After this, the juice would flow into a third pool used as a holding chamber, usually well underground at this point. To thresh wheat in a winepress meant that it was probably a very labor intensive job as grain was picked from the chaff by hand in a small and condensed area. In other words, Gideon was hiding in a pit and probably gathering grain a handful at a time. This is what he is doing when God appears to him and says, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”


Gideon was scared, and rightfully so. To be seen in public meant that he could have been killed and whatever food he had managed to scavenge would be taken and used by the enemy. Yet God called him as a mighty warrior to lead the people of Israel against the Midianites (and that story is another one of my favorites, but for another time). Now the scripture for today shows us the famous test of the woolen fleece that Gideon uses to question God and his message. 


Now I don’t know about you, but growing up, I always felt a little odd questioning the will of the all-powerful and all-knowing God. Why ask questions of someone who knows all the answers and wants you to follow his directions, right? But Gideon shows us that it is ok to question. Gideon had no faith in himself. As least in his family, which was part of the weakest clan of one of the smaller tribes of Israel, Gideon felt like a nobody. The future of Israel was uncertain, his own future was even more uncertain, and God was asking him to stand up to an entire nation. So Gideon questions, why me? And being as cautious as threshing wheat in a winepress, Gideon asks God for a sign as proof that things would happen as God said they would.


Things in our lives are uncertain. Maybe you are facing the loss of a job or a financial burden as you struggle to make ends meet. Maybe you are facing a health concern that may change your life forever, or possibly even claim it. Maybe you are worried about the fact that we are isolated in our own little caves as a viral enemy seems to be sweeping across our nation. We are in a season where tomorrow is more uncertain than anything we have felt before, and yet God still has work for us to do. 


It is ok to question God, especially in an attempt to clarify what he is asking of us. God is an infinite God, he is big enough to handle our questions. So do not worry about approaching him to seek his will and his guidance. In fact, he would welcome that. But I do want to warn you, you may want to do so in a respectful manner. Gideon first asked if God would offer him a sign, which he followed up with offering a sacrifice, and then finally telling God the specifics of his request. 


God has so many things in store for us. He has plans for us. He has blessings waiting for us, but too often we find ourselves hiding in caves doing what we can to survive. We need to step out in faith to do what God is asking of us. And yes, it is ok to ask for signs. It is ok to ask for God to show us that what he is telling us is true. We need to get out of our rut, we need to do what God is telling us to do, to go where he sends us, to love those around us, and to stand up for the ones that need our help. God loves you and will give you the strength and the power to do all of the amazing things he has in store for you. 


Let’s pray: All powerful God, you are in control of all things. Help us to see your hand, even in the most unlikely of places. Help us to see your confidence in us, and your hand strengthening us in all that we do. May our lives reflect a desire to follow you wherever you lead us. Amen.


[Song disclaimer - this song partly documents a medical struggle faced by the artist, Matthew West, and includes some minor medical images]


Song: The Motions - Matthew West

Devotional Day 34 - 4/19/20

Micah 6:6-8

With what shall I come before the Lord

    and bow down before the exalted God?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

    with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,

    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

    And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

    and to walk humbly with your God.


In the Old Testament, the people worshiped God through sacrifice. When things went wrong, they offered a sacrifice to make themselves right with God. When things were going well, the people would offer sacrifices in thanksgiving to God. When things were confusing and they did not know which way to go, they would offer sacrifices to seek God’s will. Sacrifices were an integral part of their lives, their culture, and their worship. 


Even though they were God’s chosen people, and God’s presence and blessings were very evident in their lives, the people turned away from God time and time again. Each time that happened, God would have to bring the people back to himself. He would send messages through the prophets, he would give them signs and wonders, all pointing the people back to him. Yet they would not listen. Sometimes they would continue to go through the motions of bringing their sacrifices to God because it was routine, not because of their love of God or their need/wanting to worship him. It was just what they did because it was how they always did it.


The prophet Micah puts forth a very interesting proposal. What should I bring to God to please him in worship? Should I focus on quality and bring the perfect sacrifice? Should I focus on quantity and bring an abundance of sacrifices, thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of oil? Should I offer my child like the pagans do in worship to their gods, or offer my body? Some read these questions as a sarcastic response on the part of Micah, asking God “what more do you want from me?” But I do not see that as being the case. I believe Micah is proving a point by placing the exaggerated alternative next to the real truth of the matter. The point was never what was brought before the Lord in worship, the point has always been (and will always be), how it is brought to the Lord. If I am filled with resentment and contempt, then God will not be pleased with my my offering. Instead of a pleasing aroma, my offerings will be a stench of bitterness.


God shows us what he wants. He wants our hearts. He wants our attitudes. He wants our love. He gives us the perfect example of what a good life should look like. He spells it out for us in his word, and shows us in the example of Jesus. Micah tells us three things that God wants in our worship. The first is to act justly, to treat others the way that they are meant to be treated. It speaks to the relationship between members of the community, especially in legal affairs. The second is similar to seeking justice, and that is to love mercy. This speaks more towards the attitude of the individual, a heart-filled desire to do good, even when it is not deserved. And the third is to walk humbly with God. This is the idea that we are to do all things with God as our Lord, knowing that he is God and we are not, and that all that we do, we do in the context of this relationship with him. So again, treat others in a way that is fair, be actively looking to do good, and to keep our relationship with God in perspective. 


Our lives are to be lives of worship. We are to worship God constantly with every fiber of our being. But if we do not do these three things, If we do not treat others the way that we are expected to treat them, if we do not treat God the way that we are to treat him, how can our worship be effective? And it all comes back to our hearts. How do we come before the Lord in worship?


Let us pray: God or mercy, you expect much out of us. You expect us to love and treat others the way that you have loved and treated us. May our lives be an act of worship where all that we do is done in a way that is pleasing to you. May we worship you in all ways and in all things. Amen.


Song: I Will Worship You - Aaron Gillespie

bottom of page