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Week 7 (4/26/20 - 5/2/20)

Devotional Day 47 - 5/2/20

Luke 15:1-7

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.


I mentioned this parable in a previous devotional (and used the song as an extra song in that same devotional), but I wanted to specifically focus on this scripture for today. Jesus’ behavior was not acceptable to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. They could not get over the fact that they saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors (the worst of sinners). The basic understanding of their culture was that if you touched something unclean, you too would become unclean, and these sinners were unclean individuals. How could Jesus get away with associating with people of such low caliber and not have them rub off on him?


So in true Jesus-like fashion, he tells them a parable to explain himself and confront their fears and worries. He asks them, what if you had 100 sheep and you lost one. What would you do? For this culture, sheep equaled money. For many, it was their livelihood. It was how they made money to support their families. It was how they survived. To have a sheep wander off would mean to lose all of the time, effort, and resources poured into that specific animal as well as any hope of return on the sale of its wool or the animal itself. So of course, the answer would be to go and look for the lost sheep. Now I do not know if the individual would actually throw a party to celebrate the finding of the lost sheep, but it would definitely be a big deal. To Jesus, these sinners are lost sheep and he is doing all he can to bring them back into the fold.


People often discuss the meaning of this parable. They sometimes think that it is unfair that the 99 get left behind. But people forget that we were all that one last sheep at one point or another. Jesus sought us out and brought us back into the fold. There was much rejoicing over us when we became Christian believers and we have been added to the flock as part of the 99. God’s love has brought us into the flock and now we follow the good shepherd, and we are to follow where he leads. So for me, I feel that if he is going to go find that one lost sheep, I should follow him there as well. I should look out for the one that is missing. I should be going wherever he goes, reaching out for those sinners who are still seeking a way to belong. 


Those Pharisees and teachers of the law missed the point completely. Instead of condemning Jesus for sitting with the sinners, they should have been sitting with them as well, helping them see the love of God. May prayer for you is that you know the love of God for yourself, and that you too will reach out to others to bring them into God’s fold.


Let us pray: God of love, help us to follow you wherever you lead. May we be your hands and feet in this world as we reach out to the lost, bringing them back to you. Strengthen us and keep us safe on our journey. Amen. 


Song: Reckless Love - Cory Asbury

Devotional Day 46 - 5/1/20

1 Peter 2:13-17 

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.


Just a disclaimer, I have been getting most of the scriptures for these daily devotionals from the list of scriptures found in the daily Revised Common Lectionary. Today’s scripture I think is rather fitting because of what looms ahead in the very near future for most of us in the country. Today’s scripture is talking about submitting to human authority, and as talk of lifting some of the restrictions, it is imperative that we follow the guidelines in order to be healthy and safe.


We have seen over the past few weeks, people protesting the suggestions and requirements passed by the government to help limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The news and posts on social media makes it very evident that a lot of people are not happy about what has been suggested and required of them. People are arguing about having to wear masks to protect themselves and others. People are upset that their favorite stores are not allowed to be open at this time. People are frustrated that they cannot do things the way that they are used to doing them. People are hurting.


Regardless of what some may say, the rules that have been implemented have been for the benefit of everyone as a whole. God has put people in place to make the decisions that will help us all get through this, even though we may not always agree with them. That then brings up the conversations regarding what happens when a leader or official does not live up to the standards of their office or does something that is just down right wrong. There are things in our government does to provide checks and balances, and it is supposed to be set up that the officials are working in the best interest of the people and are held accountable by the people as well. But all of that is a discussion for another day.


The long and short of it is this, God provides for us. He puts people in our path to help us along this road of life. And that includes people in position of authority. We need to trust in God that he has set things up in a beneficial way for us. Yes, we need to constantly make sure that justice is being served, that what is happening is beneficial and right in the eyes of God. But we also have to do our part for the greater good of humanity. How can we say that we love our neighbors if we go against the very rules and regulations that are put in place to keep THEM safe (and us as well)? We need to trust that God will work in amazing ways. We need to obey what he tells us. And we need to focus on making sure that our decisions and our actions are what God wants from us. “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” Because when we do these things, we do what pleases God.


Let us pray: God of all, help us to see your design in this world and what you have created. May we follow where you lead us, and may we obey you even when things seem unclear. May your love flow out of all that we do. Amen.


Song: Trust and Obey - Big Daddy Weave

Devotional Day 45 - 4/30/20

1 Peter 2:9-12

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.


When we think about the people Israel, we must note that they were chosen by God to be his people long before they even existed. He chose to bless Abraham and called him to be the ancestor of his people (that calling actually started with Abraham’s father, Terah, when he was called out of the land of Ur). As more and more children were born into the line of Abraham, they become God’s people. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:29, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” So we who are believers in Christ are considered to be part of Abraham’s line, and therefore part of God’s chosen people.


As we see in the scripture from 1 Peter 2, “we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” I like this imagery of being a priesthood. Yes, there were specific people within the nation of Israel that were specifically designated to fulfill the priestly duties in the temple, but as a whole, the people were all considered to be priests. Think about the implications of that statement. Priests were seen to be intermediaries. They would be the mediators between God and the people. So if all of the people were to serve as mediators, who would they be serving on God’s behalf?


As a royal priesthood, we, God’s chosen people, are to serve as mediators between God and the rest of the world. We are to represent God to the people, and intervene on their behalf with our prayers and petitions to God. That is our job, that is our purpose. Everything that we do is to reflect this purpose in our lives. We are to care for the people, we are to serve them and love them. We are to hold ourselves to a priestly standard, knowing that we stand in God’s presence. We are to do good, knowing that the eyes of the world are constantly looking at us, waiting for us to slip up so that they have another reason why they should not believe. The good that we do should speak for itself. So regardless of what others may say abut us, they cannot argue with the good that is obvious in our lives. We are God’s people. We need to live that way.


Let us pray: God of mercy and second chances, help us to be the people that you have called us to be. Help us to be good representatives of you in this world. May all that we do reflect your glory, and may our prayers for the salvation of our neighbors be heard and answered. In your love we pray. Amen. 


Song: Chosen Generation - Chris Tomlin

Devotional Day 44 - 4/29/20

Exodus 24:1-11

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.”

When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.

He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.


Sometimes I think that the Israelites get a bad wrap. We see them mess up time and time again while they wander in the wilderness, which they needed to do as a result of failing to trust God when he brought them to the promised land the first time (see Numbers 13-14). For 40 years they wandered in the wilderness and we see them complain and constantly want to turn back to the land that held them in captivity as slaves for over 400 years. These people did not know how to live in the new normal that was waiting for them. They had been living in a system where they were told what they could do and when they could do it. For generations, every aspects of their lives were dictated, and now God was showing them a life of freedom to be lived in a new land. They were scared and found it hard to rely on God’s promises because no one had kept their promises to them for centuries prior.


But there are some things that they actually did quite well. Our scripture for today shows us the ratification of the covenant between God and the people. We look at the Law of the Old Testament that God gave to the people through Moses, and we often think of how strict God must have been towards these people, but that is not the case. As I just said, these people did not know how to live a free life, so God laid out everything that they would need to survive. He told them everything that he “required” for them to be just, morally right, and ceremonially correct. These are the three areas that we can break down the Old Testament Law. The Law was not so much rules to keep them in line, but teachings for them to know how to live.


These people listened as Moses explained the words that God had spoken, and the people agreed, saying, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” Then Moses wrote it all down, and read it to the people who then affirmed it again with a similar statement, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.” Even though they had messed up (and would continue to mess up), they still knew the right thing to do and they promised to do so. God had been so kind to them. He had blessed them and rescued them from their bondage, and now he was showing them how to live. And they all acknowledged in one voice that they would follow God and obey him. 


We are not bound by that law. Christ came and freed us from obeying the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. Jesus sums it up for us, to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We have been given God’s love. Hopefully everyone reading this has accepted that love and the forgiveness that comes with it. But now it is time for us to step up and say that we too will do as God says. That we will obey him. He has taught us how to live morally right lives. He has taught us how to be ceremonially clean and correct. He has taught us how to be just to all people. All of which he has done through the life of Jesus Christ. 


God has told us what is right. He speaks to us through our very souls. Are you willing to listen to him? Are you willing to do the right thing and live your life based on the understanding that he has delivered us from slavery to sin and death and that our lives should reflect that freedom in God? Will you keep your promises to follow him?


Let us pray: God who saves, you have told us what is right and have shown us how to live. May we, like the Israelites, stand up and say ‘we will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.’ May our lives reflect your love, and may our lives be dedicated to following where you lead, trusting in you, and carrying out your will. Amen.


Song: Covenant Song - Caedmon’s Call

Devotional Day 43 - 4/28/20

Proverbs 8:32-9:6

“Now then, my children, listen to me;

    blessed are those who keep my ways.

Listen to my instruction and be wise;

    do not disregard it.

Blessed are those who listen to me,

    watching daily at my doors,

    waiting at my doorway.

For those who find me find life

    and receive favor from the Lord.

But those who fail to find me harm themselves;

    all who hate me love death.”

Wisdom has built her house;

    she has set up its seven pillars.

She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;

    she has also set her table.

She has sent out her servants, and she calls

    from the highest point of the city,

    “Let all who are simple come to my house!”

To those who have no sense she says,

    “Come, eat my food

    and drink the wine I have mixed.

Leave your simple ways and you will live;

    walk in the way of insight.”


It is important to “know” things; to learn about all of the things of this world, how and why things work the way that they do. You have all probably heard it said that “knowledge is power,” and that is true to some extent. We stress educating our children, getting a higher education, because that will help us succeed in the “real world” of being an adult. But what good is that knowledge if you do not actually use it?


There is another word that is prominent in scripture that usually goes hand in hand with knowledge, and that is wisdom. If knowledge is the basic understanding of something, wisdom is the application of that knowledge. We often see wise old gurus in movies, offering their sage advice to the weary traveler who searches for enlightenment. They speak to the specific needs of the individual, often being cryptic so that the seeker needs to find their own way to reach their goal. But wisdom is more than a nugget of understanding that will unlock the potential of our lives.


Wisdom is taking what you know and applying it. It is understanding what to do and when to do it. It is discerning what is right and wrong, and acting on it. The book of Proverbs was written as a book of wisdom to provide insight into the human life and how to use that knowledge and apply it. Solomon is accredited for writing the majority of the book of Proverbs as the king of Israel that was specifically suited for the job. We can read about it in 1 Kings 3 where Solomon asked God to help him be a good leader rather than asking for power or riches. God responded, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.” God values wisdom (and the pursuit of wisdom) so much that he rewarded Solomon with much more than he ever asked for.


So how do we find wisdom? God is the ultimate source of wisdom. As Proverbs 1:7 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” All wisdom comes from God, and it is important to seek it out. Wisdom calls out in today’s scripture, “‘Let all who are simple come to my house!’ To those who have no sense she says, ‘Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of insight.’” James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” God is a fount of knowledge, understanding and wisdom. He has created all things and knows all things, and he encourages us to come to him to seek after what he knows. But again, knowledge means very little if it is not applied or used. That knowledge needs to play out in our lives as wisdom, and it needs to be evident. James 3:13, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”


God wants us to seek after him and his wisdom. But wisdom is not wisdom if it is not carried out in our lives. Sometimes that looks like helping others in need, offering assistance and help as needed. But sometimes wisdom is found in knowing when not to act or speak. It is not always easy, but it is sometimes needed. We need to look to God for assistance in knowing when to act and how, always living in the love that he has given to us.

Let us pray: God of wisdom, help us to see with your eyes and understand with your heart. May our lives reflect your wisdom, and may we always strive to do what is right and just. Amen.

Song: The Perfect Wisdom of Our God - Keith & Kristyn Getty

Devotional Day 42 - 4/27/20

Genesis 18:1-14

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”


I love Old Testament stories. They show the realness of these spiritual giants. In this scripture, we see God appearing before Abraham on his way to Sodom. He appears to Abraham as three men, which many see as another Old Testament reference of God expressing himself as the Trinity. I love Abraham’s first response. He immediately gets up while the three men are still a little ways off and offers his hospitality. He begs them to stay while he prepares them food, the finest that he had available.


I am not sure if Abraham knew who these men were. Yes, he calls him (them) lord, but that was a common form of greeting in those days. But I think that was Abraham’s personality…if you see someone, you treat them like an honored guest. God had already made his covenant with Abraham, that he would be a great nation. He already promised that Abraham’s descendants would number more than the grains of sand on the shore, or the number of stars in the sky. God had already promised that the entire world would be blessed because of Abraham. But at this point, Abraham had only child, which was because he tried to take matters into his own hands, and used his wife’s handmaid to accomplish God’s plans (but that is a completely different story). During this interaction with God, Abraham reaches out to these strangers, offers them a place to rest, water to clean themselves, and the best food he had to offer, and it is at this point that God reveals his plan for Abraham’s progeny. (This was a big deal, because Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 or 91 by the time Isaac was born.) Abraham was a righteous man, he did more than what was required for even strangers. He went above and beyond to bless someone else. 


The song that I chose today plays on Abraham’s response to the presence of these strangers. “Do not pass your servant by.” This famous hymn looks at wanting to be used. Abraham did not want the opportunity to bless someone else pass him by. Do not pass your servant by. Stop and talk with me, use me, let me be of service to you, oh Lord. That should be the plea of our lives, that we take every opportunity that we see to be of service. As we see God using people all around us in various ways, we should want to be used as well. And in being used for God’s plans, may he bless us as he blesses others through us.


Let us pray: Heavenly Father, your plans are perfect. Use as as you want us to be used. Help us to see every opportunity where we can be of service to others. Amen.


Song: Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior - Ernie Haase

Devotional Day 41 - 4/26/20

Psalm 11

In the Lord I take refuge.

    How then can you say to me:

    “Flee like a bird to your mountain. 

For look, the wicked bend their bows;

    they set their arrows against the strings

to shoot from the shadows

    at the upright in heart.

When the foundations are being destroyed,

    what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;

    the Lord is on his heavenly throne.

He observes everyone on earth;

    his eyes examine them.

The Lord examines the righteous,

    but the wicked, those who love violence,

    he hates with a passion.

On the wicked he will rain

    fiery coals and burning sulfur;

    a scorching wind will be their lot.

For the Lord is righteous,

    he loves justice;

    the upright will see his face.


The Lord is in his holy temple. The King is on his throne. That is a very satisfying thing to read. When a king is on his throne, he is active and present. He does all that he needs to ensure that his kingdom runs smoothly. God is in control. He reigns.


It is interesting to see the commentaries on the Psalms, especially on this one. In looking up the probable timeline of when the Psalms were written, it is suggested that this one was written at the time when David was encouraged to flee for his life as recorded in 1 Samuel 19. At this point in the story, David is still in the service of the king (Saul), playing music for him when he was not out fighting with the army of Israel. But Saul was unravelling and even tried to pin David to the wall with a spear while David played his lyre for the king. Some commentaries suggest that David writes this song of peace and confidence while those around him encourage him to run away and save his life. And we see this confidence in the very opening line, “In the Lord I take refuge.” In response to this statement David poses the question, how can you tell me to run away because people are looking to hurt me? For David, this just doesn’t make sense. If God is in control of all things, if he is ruler of all and nothing happens without his knowledge, then what do I have to fear?


When we find refuge in the Lord, we are safe. We are cared for and protected because he is in control. Nothing happens in his kingdom without him knowing about it. He is not some absent ruler who lets others run the show. He is actively deciding how the entire universe is to be run. As the psalm continues, God has his eye on everyone on earth. He sees all and he knows what is going on. The psalm concludes with hope for those who follow him. “For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.” When we follow God, he notices. He wants what is best for us, and he will make it happen. We will see his face, we will receive his blessings, because he rewards those who follow him. 


Things in this life can be difficult, but take comfort in knowing that God is on his throne. Even when things seem to be falling apart around us, he is in control. Never forget that he is our King and he reigns absolutely. May we find peace and hope in this psalm. May the King’s praise be ever on our lips.


Let us pray: King of kings, you rule over all the world. You hold us in the palm of your hand, and you shelter us from the evil that is around us. May we trust in you and rely on you in all ways and in all things. Bless us, and bring us your peace. Amen.


Song: Hallelujah Our God Reigns - Passion ft. Brett Younker

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