Meditations

Week of May 10-14

May 10th –  

Matthew 6:1-4 

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 

“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” 

Jesus reminds his followers that they are living their lives before God and God alone.  Then he provides examples of what it looks like to do this, starting with the giving of our resources.  He has harsh words for those who seek the praise of others and invites us to find contentment knowing that God has seen. 

When are you tempted to seek to impress those around you?   

What brings you back to being content with God’s watchful eye over you? 

Where can you open yourself up more generously, content to be acknowledged by God alone? 

Gracious God, you so lavishly bless us with all that we have and so often it goes unnoticed by us.  Help us to have eyes to see your goodness and out of gratitude, give back to you and the work you are doing here on earth, free from the need to be affirmed by others.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

May 11th –  

Matthew 6:1, 5-6 

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” 

In each of these teachings that Jesus gives, he uses the word “when,” not if.  We are encouraged to pray as part of our practices of righteousness, but in this case, the context is important because it keeps us from the distraction of the people around us and helps us focus our attention on our Father in heaven. 

How are your prayers in private different from your prayers in public? 

What are you praying for in private now? 

How do you experience God’s presence in your prayer life? 

Gracious God, thank you that you meet us when we pray, hearing our words and our hearts.  Help us not be so concerned with what we are saying that miss the sacred space of praying in your presence.  Remind us that our prayers are to you and you alone.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

May 12th –  

Matthew 6:7-13  (Part 1) 

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  “Pray then in this way: 

“  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10     Your kingdom come.  Your will be done
        on earth as it is in heaven.
11     Give us this day our daily bread.
12     And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13     And do not bring us to the time of trial but rescue us from the evil one.’” 

Jesus continues to contrast the righteousness that needs human affirmation with the righteousness he offers his followers.  “Empty phrases” can also be translated “meaningless repetition,” a word that is used to describe someone who stutters.  Jesus reminds us that we pray to a God who knows what we need before we ask. 

Are there desires of your heart that you are unable to speak to God?   

Are there requests that you make to God that perhaps have lost their meaning? 

What is a heart-felt prayer that you believe God already knows? 

Gracious God – Thank you that you have searched us and know us already, and that we can be honest and open with you about our desires and needs.  Keep us from making our prayers rote and without heart as we trust you to know and to hear us in love.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

May 13th –  

Matthew 6:7-13  (Part 2) 

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  “Pray then in this way: 

“  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10     Your kingdom come.  Your will be done
        on earth as it is in heaven.
11     Give us this day our daily bread.
12     And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13     And do not bring us to the time of trial but rescue us from the evil one.’” 

These words that Jesus gave us as an example is a prayer that unites us as his followers.  These words are simple and give us a way to live in this world as those dependent on God.  These are words we say and when we live into this prayer, we keep from letting them become meaningless repetition. 

Where do you see God’s will being done on earth?  Where would you like to see God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven? 

Which of these requests are the most difficult for you to ask?  Why? 

How can you live into this prayer this week? 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And do not bring us to the time of trial but rescue us from the evil one.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

May 14th –  

Matthew 6:14-15 

“14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 

Our own forgiveness is tied to our willingness to forgive others.  In forgiveness, we release the debt that we believe others owe us and as we do, we understand the freedom of having our own debt released and being forgiven.   

Is there an IOU that you are carrying in your pocket toward someone who has hurt you?   

What makes it difficult to let go of that weight? 

When have you experienced the forgiveness of God?  How does that empower you to  extend forgiveness quickly to others? 

Gracious God, forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.  These are easy words to say but not always easy to make true in our lives.  We lift up to you the hurt and the IOU’s that we have been carrying around and ask that you would give us the strength and grace to forgive and release the burden of debt.  Thank you for your forgiveness in Christ.  In His name, Amen. 

Week of May 3-7

May 3 – 

John 1:35-39 

35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 

Jesus engages these two disciples with a question, what are you looking for?  When they ask him where he is staying, rather than answering, Jesus invites them to “come and see.”  We too are invited to engage with Jesus with our questions as we follow him by faith, trusting that the answers are often found in the journey. 

How would you answer the question, “What are you looking for?” today? 

Is there something you want certainty around before you move forward?   

What is in in Jesus’ invitation to “come and see” that speaks to you at this moment? 

Gracious God, thank you for the invitation to follow you that encompasses not just our minds, but our wills, bodies, and spirits as well.  Help us to trust you with our questions and faithfully follow you before we have the answers.  Thank you for your invitation to be in relationship with you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

May 4th –  

John 5:1-9 

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. 

Jesus approaches this long-suffering man, paralyzed for 38 years and unable to get into the water.  And yet, Jesus doesn’t assume what seems obvious to us.  He asked this man if he wants to be made well.  As we think about our own lives, I wonder if there are places that need healing where Jesus is asking us that same question, waiting for us to open up to him. 

Why do you think Jesus asked, rather than just assuming? 

Are there areas of your life where you are paralyzed?  What is paralyzing you? 

As you imagine Jesus standing in front of you, asking you if you want to be made well, what do you want to say to Him? 

Gracious Jesus – thank you for not imposing your will on us, but instead gently inviting and waiting.  Jesus in those places where our pride or shame keeps us from desiring healing, give us the courage and faith to say yes to you.  In Your name, Amen. 

May 5th –  

John 11:32-35 

32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 

As Jesus engages in the grief of Lazarus’ sisters who are caught up in the loss of their brother and the missed opportunity that Jesus had to heal him, Jesus steps away from a theological conversation about life and death and enters into the grief and loss of the moment.  When words fall short, Jesus creates space for us to weep. 

How easy is it for you to sit in the darkness of your grief or the grief of another?   

Can you think of a time when you have tried to talk yourself out of grief? 

Where are you grieving now and how easy is it to be embraced in your sadness by Jesus? 

Gracious Jesus, thank you for meeting us in our grief and when words fail, allowing your presence and tears to co-mingle with ours.  Help us to give ourselves and others the grace to grieve in the midst of loss and to find you with us.  In Your name, Amen. 

May 6th –  

John 14:6-10 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? 

Such a tender, vulnerable question from Jesus.  After pouring himself into the disciples, they were still looking for someone else.  In his question, we are invited to find the way, the truth, and the life in the Person of Christ through encountering him in every circumstance.  And in encountering him, we affirm that He is enough. 

Is there something or someone else you are looking for to assure you of the way, truth, and/or life? 

What does it mean to you that the way, truth, and life are found in God made flesh and blood? 

Where do you need to relinquish doubt so that you can embrace Jesus alone, trusting He is all you need? 

Gracious God Incarnate – Thank you for all you gave up in order to live among us.  We confess that even as your followers, we are sometimes drawn away by desires and distractions that dilute your power in our lives and our devotion to you.  We return to you and thank you that you are always waiting for us to return home to you – our way, our truth, and our life.  In Your name, Amen. 

May 7th –  

John 21:15 

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 

Week of IWef you are familiar with this story, you know that Jesus asks this question 3 times, although he does add “more than these” each time.  This too is a vulnerable question from Jesus, because Peter has the freedom to say know and even struggles to love God the way he is asking him to.  And yet, even as Peter struggles with his allegiance, Jesus entrusts his flock to him.  Regardless of what God has entrusted to us, He continues to ask us, “Do you love me more than these?” 

When have you experienced an invitation to go deeper with Jesus, and to love him more than those around you? 

What emotions are stirred in you as you ponder this question? 

How is God using you even as you continue to be transformed by Him? 

Gracious God, we are awed by the way you use us who are in the midst of transformation to care for your people.  Whatever our context, help us to keep our need for your redemption and transformation in sight that we might serve your people with humility and the love inspired by our love for you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

April 26th –  

Ephesians 5:15-19  

15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

In the midst of our lives with various external voices vying for our time and attention, it is important to stay centered on God through the exercise of spiritual practices. Practices remind us of who God is and open us up for God’s work of transformation and love, regardless of where we are in life. 

What does it look like to live wisely, both in what you are doing as well as not doing? 

What practices are you developing or maintaining and how are they keeping you grounded? 

What are you grateful for today? 

Gracious God, as we continue to wait for you, give us wisdom to know how to navigate life in a way that honors you and others.  Help us to develop rhythms in our day that point us to you and to one another in love.  Give us grateful hearts, we pray.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

 

April 27th –  

Habakkuk 3:17-19 

“Though the fig tree does not blossom,
    and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails,
    and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold,
    and there is no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will exult in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    and makes me tread upon the heights.” 

Many people around us are experiencing great losses from this past year and the invitation to rejoice in the Lord holds much more weight for them.  This is where the rubber of faith meets the road of life. 

How are you experiencing a lack of productivity or fruitfulness in your life?  How has it challenged your faith and/or your joy? 

In what way do you need to lean into the Lord as your strength today? 

Who do you know who has been impacted financially by this pandemic?  What can you do to help them today? 

Gracious God, so many people are living with the grief of loss from the events of this past year.  We pray for their well-being and that their needs would be met quickly and consistently.  Grant them your peace.  And show us how we can help in tangible ways.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

April 28th – 

Lamentations 3:21-24 

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” 

We could preface this passage with our own experiences of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, concern, want, or need.  We are all in need of hope in the steadfast love of God.  He promises to be present with us in difficulty, and  faithful to provide. 

How easy is it for you to believe this today?  What in your life challenges your trust in God’s steadfast love? 

What are you entrusting to Jesus today? 

Who are you entrusting to Jesus today, knowing that He loves them more than we ever could? 

Gracious God, we thank you for your steadfast love and mercies, new every morning.  We lean into your faithfulness, entrusting our lives and the lives of others to you.  We lay our challenges at your feet, knowing that you know already, and we wait patiently for you.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

April 29th – 

Psalm 18:16-19 

“He reached down from on high, he took me;
    he drew me out of mighty waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
    and from those who hated me;
    for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity;
    but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
    he delivered me, because he delighted in me.” 

In this passage, we are reminded of God’s attentive love for us, that delivers us, supports us, and guides us to safety.  All because he delights in us.  Not out of obligation, but unconditional love. 

What are the high waters specifically for you? 

What are the high waters specifically for those you know? 

How do you see God in this moment?  How does it feel to imagine God bringing you to a broad place in this time of calamity? 

Gracious God, we may feel like we are drowning in the fear and chaos around us, seeking to discern what is true.  We pray for ourselves and for our neighbors, that you would draw them out of their difficult circumstances and support them.  Help us to be your hands and feet in creative ways.  In Jesus’ name, Amen 

April 30th –  

Psalm 46:1-3 

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble with its tumult.   Selah 

With the psalmist, we are invited into “Selah,” invited to pause and reflect on the promises of God.  It is no small thing that we have a God who is strong and protective, above the tumult of the world, yet involved in our well-being and the well-being of those around us.   

What have you been reflecting on that has brought you comfort and courage? 

How is God your refuge? 

Who needs to be invited into God’s refuge and strength through your acts of kindness today? 

Gracious God, as we reflect on you as our refuge and our strength, a renewed hope rises in us.  Thank you that you are not distant in trouble but you are present.  Give us the faith and courage to lean into you and to extend your strength and help to others.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

 

Monday, April 19th –  

Luke 15:1-7 

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 

So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 

Parables are stories drawn from daily life whose purpose is to set forth a basic truth.  As we look at these 3 parables this week, it is important to remind ourselves the situation Jesus was addressing so we know the truth he was proclaiming about himself.  In each of these the story is about the one who searches, not the one who is found. 

Why would a shepherd be willing to leave the 99 and go after one lost sheep? 

Where do you see God at work in and among those who are lost? 

How willing are you to rejoice with Him over the redemptive work he is doing in your community?  What does that look like? 

Gracious God, thank you for coming after us when we were lost, at the risk of your life and reputation.  Give us your heart for others that rejoices when one is found and is willing to share your salvation with others, even at our own risk or reputation.  Give us eyes to see what you are doing in the world and gratitude for what you have already done for us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

Tuesday, April 20th –  

Luke 15:8-10 

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” 

In his 2nd parable to describe God’s mercy that seeks out the lost, Jesus uses a woman, and a scenario that women of that time could relate to.  Like the woman who knows what she has lost and is willing to scour the house to find the missing coin, God doesn’t quit searching for his lost ones until they are found.  In his abundance, there is always room for one more. 

Can you think of a time when you have lost something and searched until it was found? 

What were your thoughts and emotions as you looked, wondering if you would find it? 

How does this woman reflect the heart of God for those who are lost? 

Gracious God, you never stop pursuing those who are lost without you.  As your hands and feet, give us renewed strength and every opportunity to seek those who need you and help us to never grow tired of making room for just one more.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

Wednesday, April 21st –  

Luke 15:11-16 

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 

We have broken this parable into 3 parts as we continue to consider the generous mercy of God.  At the younger son’s request, the father divides all he has between both children.  Some would say that was a crazy idea for the father, but perhaps Jesus was helping the crowd to see the extravagant, risky generosity with which God gives to those he loves. 

As you read this account, what emotions do you feel toward the father?  Toward the son? 

When have you found your generosity taken for granted or squandered? 

When have you squandered the generosity of another? 

Gracious God, you continue to show us in the gospels how extravagant your love is, risking rejection and loss for us, your beloved.  We limit our generosity toward others for many reasons, and acknowledge that yours is beyond our comprehension.  Instill in us your heart for humanity that compels you to risk it all for our sake.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Thursday, April 22nd –  

Luke 15:17-24 

 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 

We could spend a lot of time on this, but focusing on the father, we see a parent who no doubt strained his eyes daily watching for his son to return.  The father was not about what the son had done wrong, but celebrating that he had returned.  This compassion, grace, and mercy shakes us to the core as we ponder how difficult it can be to grant those who hurt us mercy. 

What do we learn about the Father’s love from reading this passage? 

Where do you feel resistance as you read this? 

What keeps you from embracing the generous compassion of God in your own life? 

Gracious God, we can find it difficult to receive your compassion and mercy, because we want to think that we are less needy of you than we are.  We grieve our sin and we grieve the reality that we continue to be people who sin.  Help us to look at our lives through the truth of your unconditional love that welcomes us back and celebrates our return.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

Friday, April 23rd –  

Luke 15:25-32 

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” 

As the story continues, the older son emerges from his work, wondering what the celebration is about.  Unable to see the love and compassion that his father has lavished on him, he finds it impossible to celebrate and rejoice that his brother is home.  The father reaches out to him with the same compassion he bestowed upon his younger son. 

What does the older son lose by his unwillingness to rejoice with his father? 

Are there places where you are resisting God’s invitation to rejoice in the reconciliation of others you may deem unworthy? 

What do you hear God saying to you in the midst of your resistance? 

Gracious God, we are so led by a merit society that fools us into thinking specific actions and behaviors excuse us from rejoicing in what seems like undeserving blessings bestowed on another.  Thank you for your mercy that meets each of us where we are at and invites us to a celebration that rejoices in your great mercy and compassion which we all desperately need.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

 

 

Monday, April 12th –  

Luke 24:2-5  

“They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.  While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.  The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but they said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.’” 

Imagine the range of emotions the women experienced as they stood inside the empty tomb – grief, confusion, terror, joy.  We can experience these same emotions as we try to make sense of God’s work in our lives and world.  But as the angel says, why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here but has risen.  God is at work among the living throughout the world.  God’s presence and rule is still among us as God draws us to Himself.   

Where do you see the work of Christ’s salvation in your life today? 

Is there a place of death where you are looking for Jesus and hoping he will show up? 

What would it look like for the proclamation, “He is risen indeed” to infuse your attitudes and actions today and this next week? 

Gracious God, through the death and resurrection of Christ, you have conquered all evil and reconciled us to Yourself.  Help us to live in the light of your truth and presence even in the midst of the uncertainty.  May we understand and embrace the resurrection life that you invite us too.  With gratitude we give you glory and honor.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.  

Tuesday, April 13th – 

Luke 24:6-9 

Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 

Twice in this passage, the women who came to the empty tomb are invited to remember Jesus’ words.  And when they remembered, they knew what they needed to do.  When we spend time with Jesus, and listen for him, we too remember what he has said know what is ours to do. 

As you read this passage, are there areas of your life that don’t make sense? 

What is Jesus saying to you in the midst of this confusion? 

What promises give you hope? 

Gracious Lord, thank you for the way you treat us gently and prepare us for what is next.  Help us to listen for you and remember your words and your faithfulness in the past that we might find comfort and direction today and in the future.  In your name, Amen. 

Wednesday, April 14th –  

Luke 24:10-12 

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. 

Imagine what it must have felt like for the women who had just seen the empty tomb to have their good news met with skepticism and dismissal by those who followed Jesus most closely.  And on the other hand, what it would feel like to be told that the one whose death you are grieving is actually alive.  It is this hope beyond hope that we are invited to live in today as followers of our risen Lord. 

What is the good news you have to share with those closest to you?  What do they need to hear from you? 

How well are you listening for good news around you?  Are there voices you are resisting and if so, why? 

What is leaving you amazed these days? 

Gracious Jesus, your resurrection created quite a stir.  As we remember and celebrate it each year, we pray that it will create a stir in us anew, and that we will be witnesses to your good news to those who so desperately need it.  Keep us, we pray, from losing our sense of gratitude and amazement around your redeeming and reconciling work in us and in the world.  In your name, Amen. 

Thursday, April 15th –  

1 Corinthians 15:54b-58 

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

58 Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 

Here is our good news as believers and followers of Jesus.  We find our victory, not in the law or being good enough, but by being covered by the cleansing work of Christ on the cross.  Therefore, as we tune in to what God has called us to do, we can be faithful to Him alone, His mission in the world.   

How does the resurrection of Christ free you up to excel in His work? 

Are there message that hold you back from wholehearted pursuit of God? 

What are you faithfully doing that, in God’s economy, is not in vain? 

Gracious God, thank you that you are the one who has reset the world and the value system under which we operate.  We are free from the law and death, and free to live into all you have created us to be.  Protect us from the messages that seek to restrain us from living wholeheartedly for you and for your glory.  We are yours, and yours alone.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Friday, April 16th –  

John 21:15-17 

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” 

Throughout the gospels, Peter is portrayed as one of the more outspoken disciples.  One moment he is proclaiming Jesus as Messiah and the next, correcting him.  In this intimate conversation, after Peter has denied Jesus and confronted his own weakness, Jesus still asks for Peter’s loyalty, and Peter resists until he can’t anymore.   

If Jesus knows all things, why do you think he asks Peter if he loves him?  

Is there something that the Lord is asking you that you are resisting? 

What would it look like to say yes to Jesus today? 

Lord God, we ask for your grace today to listen for your voice and respond.  Help us to listen for what you are asking us to do, and to say, Yes, wholeheartedly.  Thank you that you know all things, including our hearts, and patiently draw us into yourself and into your mission in the world.  Show us what is ours to do and give us the strength to do it.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Lenten Series – Accompanying Jesus to the Cross 

Just as Jesus’ ministry was taking off and his disciples were becoming wowed by His glory, as in the Transfiguration, Luke writes that, “Jesus turned this face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51).  Amid the many distractions that surrounded him, Jesus never lost sight of his desire that all of us be reconciled to God and his role in making it happen.  We are invited to follow Jesus with that same focus of purpose and depth of desire to be reconciled to God.  During Lent, we encourage you to look to God and ask Him to renew your desire to follow him and to be his agent of reconciliation in the world.  May we all take these next 40 days to hear and to be obedient.   

Week of March 28-April 3

Sunday

The Crowd (Those who passed by):Fickle (Curiosity)(Mt. 27:39-40) 

Monday

Read Mark 14:26-31 

26 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written, 

‘I will strike the shepherd,
    and the sheep will be scattered.’ 

28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” 30 Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same. 

Don’t we all want to be that one person that stands by our friend through thick and thin!  We want to believe that we are better than those who would disappear when the going gets tough, but the truth is, we all falter in relationships, often when we are most needed.  Jesus knew that with his closest friends and spoke to them the truth in love.  And he invites us to hear his truth about ourselves, truth that he already knows and yet still loves us and asks us to follow him. 

How do you think Peter must have felt when his bold commitment was met with Jesus predicting his betrayal? 

When have you made huge promises to God that you were unable to keep?  How did it leave you? 

What is Jesus saying to you about the condition on your heart?  Where do you need to confess and ask for his forgiveness? 

Gracious God, we confess that there are times when we make promises to you that we do not keep.  Fear, pride, selfishness, self-protection – many different voices lure us away from staying with you.  Thank you that even though you know how fickle we are, you still love us and you still invite us to follow you from wherever we are.  Give us the grace for ourselves and for others to continue to seek after you even though we know we will sometimes fail.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 Tuesday

Read Mark 14:66-72 

66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. 69 And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” 72 At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. 

Sometimes our opportunity to align ourselves with Christ comes at unexpected and inconvenient times.  Peter denies knowing Christ and in so doing, denies his own identity.  Backed against the wall and threatened by a servant girl, he relinquished everything he had known and experienced for the last 3 years out of fear.  And not just once, but 3 times.  How heartbreaking it must have been for him to see how, in spite of being with Jesus, he was still ruled by fear and a desire to fit in. 

After reading Jesus’ prediction yesterday, what emotions are stirred in you as you read about Peter’s failure? 

What feelings do you imagine emerged for Peter as he continued to deny being with Jesus? 

 Can you think of a time when you faced your sin and failure straight on?  How did you feel?  What did you do? 

Gracious God, you know us inside and out.  You know what we do and you know why we do it.  You know our regrets and the places where we need to grow.  In the context of your sacrificial and undying love, help us to face the places in our lives where we align with a group around us, rather than being your ally.   Continue to transform us to your image as we lean into your grace and mercy.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 Wednesday 

Read Luke 23:34, 39-43 

[[34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing… 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 

Suffering tends to bring out our true character, whether we are experiencing it or observing it.  In his suffering, Jesus forgave.  The religious leaders divided his clothes as trophies.  The criminals who hung with Jesus expressed different reactions.  The one joining with the criticism and mocking of the crowd, demanding to be saved from suffering, and the other recognizing both his own sin and the undeserving sentence that Jesus bore.  His request reflected his deepest desire, even in the midst of his death – remember me.  And that was a request that Jesus fulfilled. 

Who was Jesus interceding for as he hung on the cross?  When have you experienced Jesus interceding for you? 

 As you read vs. 39-43, when have you been the first criminal in your interaction with Jesus?  When have you been able to grasp reality like the 2nd and ask Jesus for forgiveness? 

 What desire do you have that you may be hesitant to bring to Jesus?   Write a prayer asking him for what you desire. 

Gracious Jesus, even in your physical suffering, you endured the suffering of being misunderstood and scorned by those you were dying to save.  Thank you for the grace that you extended to the repentent thief in your gentle words that met him where he was at and promised him that his desires would be fulfilled.  Help us to be honest with you, aware of our desires and willing to share them with you, knowing that you love us and will give us all that is good.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

 Maundy Thursday

Read John 13:1-11 

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 

This is such a poignant moment for the disciples, a sort of initiation into the ministry and character of Jesus to which he had invited his disciples.  The visual of Jesus dressed as a servant, the  act of washing their feet, the engagement with Peter, assuring him that he was already clean but there was the daily cleansing that was needed.  And Jesus’ willingness to even wash the feet of the one who would betray him. 

What did Jesus know about Himself that inspired him to wash his disciples’ feet? 

 How does your identity in Christ free you to take the role of a servant? 

 How would you feel if Jesus wanted to wash your feet?  What do you believe about Him or yourself that would make it easy or difficult? 

Gracious Jesus, as we follow you into the next few days, we are humbled by your character and the character of your ministry to which you invited the first followers and to which you are inviting us.  Instill in us a confidence that is rooted in you that allows us to go into the world as servants to one another and to those who so desparately need to be served.  Knowing that in you we are worthy, help us to treat others as worthy of your love as well.  In Your name, Amen. 

 Good Friday

Read Mark 15:33-40 

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” 40 There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 

There were many who witnessed Jesus’ death, all looking at the spectacle with different emotions and convictions about what was happening.  But regardless of how each was responding, the work and mission of God was accomplished, with the curtain torn in two and humanity being reconciled to God once again.  As we look on, we remember that in his suffering, Jesus ushered us into a new place where are reconciled with God and agents of that reconciliation to others. 

Read this passage through a couple times.  What emotions are stirred in you? 

Put yourself in the place of each person in this scene?  How are they experiencing Jesus’ death differently? 

In verse 38, it says that the curtain in the temple was torn in two, opening up the Holy of Holies to everyone without the need of a priest.  What does it mean to you that you can approach God without fear and without a mediator?  Write a prayer of gratitude for the reconcilation that Jesus’ death ushered in. 

Gracious Jesus, in the midst of onlookers, then and now, your work is being done, even in the midst of suffering.  As we stand at the foot of the cross, help us to see that the ground around us is level, with each of us in need of your reconciliation and invited to be agents of that reconciliation.  In grateful awe and humility, help us to reflect your extravagent and sacrificial love to others.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Holy Saturday  

Read Luke 23:50-56 

50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, 51 had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.  On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.  

This day is a day of liminal space, between the death and resurrection of Jesus.  His followers know Jesus is dead, but they don’t know what is next.  Joseph boldly asked for Jesus’ body.  The women who loved Jesus’ followed and saw where he was laid, went home and prepared a different blend than was usual for Sabbath.  And then, the passage says, “they rested according to the commandment.”  Again, not knowing what was next, they remained faithful to what they could do – loving Jesus by preparing burial spices and then resting.   

What is it like for you to sit in complete darkness and inactivity?  How do you feel? 

What is God doing in the dark soil of your soul?  What are you asking him to do? 

What is suspended in your life like this day between Good Friday and Easter?  Write a prayer that offers it up to God. 

Gracious Jesus, our crucified Christ, we sit this day in the darkness of liminal space, knowing we can’t go back, but unsure of what the future holds.  Thank you that those times that are dark, when it doesn’t feel like there is anything happening, you are still at work in the deep soil of our souls, doing the work of salvation and restoration that only you can do.  Help us to rest today and lean into the underground work that you are doing, in us and for us and for the world.   In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Week of March 21-26

Sunday –

The Religious (Chief Priests, Scribes, Elders): Fear(Rejection) (Mt. 27:41-42) 

Monday 

Matthew 27:41-42 

41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 

How bold and brash the religious leaders were as the King they rejected hung on the cross.  It is heartbreaking to hear their words that demonstrate their ignorance toward the work of God through Christ.  I wonder if sometimes we misread the work of God because we are viewing it through lenses of status quo and our own comfort. 

How would you respond to the religious leaders if you were standing next to them? 

As you ponder the world around you, where do you see God at work in brokenness and suffering? 

What is God saying to you about what He is doing in the world? 

Gracious God, it is difficult to understand sometimes why you don’t always get your way, while we continue to pray, “your will be done on earth,” because it has not come to fruition.  Give us eyes to see the work that you are doing in the broken places of the world around us and a compassionate heart that welcomes the brokenhearted, knowing that when we care for them, we are caring for you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Tuesday

Daniel 3:16-18 

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. 17 If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” 

It is remarkable the faith that these 3 men had in God and their willingness to proclaim it at the cost of their lives.  They proclaimed and lived in the tension of fireproof faith in God and quiet trust in Him.  Their worship and service to God was not transactional but was based on their faith and trust in God, no matter the outcome. 

What would have happened, do you imagine, if God had not saved these men?  Would this account be in the Bible? 

Can you think of another story where someone was faithful and the outcome was not as good? 

How easy is it for you to walk with fire-proof faith and quiet trust at the same time? 

Gracious God, as we walk with you it is sometimes tempting to put our trust in outcomes, rather than in you.  We think that if we do everything right, you will come through with blessings and protection.  Gracious God, give us the grace and quiet trust to live for you, come what may, and to not waver from our worship of and service to you.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

Wednesday  

John 12:12-19 

12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, 

“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
    the King of Israel!” 

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: 

15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
    sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. 17 So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. 18 It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. 19 The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!” 

This Sunday, we celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus.  We know the end of the story, but imagine being in the crowd filled with hope and a future, as their new miracle-working, authoritative King road into town.  A week from now, he would still be King, but not at all in the way that the celebrants expected.  Even the disciples, who had been with him didn’t understand.   

Why do you follow Jesus?   

Are there ways that you wish he was more the King on Palm Sunday than Good Friday? 

What do you hope for as you follow Jesus into Holy Week? 

Gracious Jesus, you have so much to teach us about what it means to follow you.  Like the disciples, we do not understand even knowing the whole story of Holy Week.  Open our eyes to see you in all the experiences you had as you faced the cross, and give us a heart that desires to follow after you in all things.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Thursday

John 12:24 –  

24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” 

Jesus spoke this shortly after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  While everyone was focusing on the outward celebration of his kingship, Jesus knew that it was in this death that the work of salvation would take place.  In this time we are invited as well to not ignore the dark places of our lives but to anticipate what God wants to do deep within us for the sake of the world.   

How are you experiencing grief and hope in your life? 

What is God doing in the soil of your soul today, though it may be difficult to see? 

Are there ways you have seen death in your life that has led to more fruit?  What does that look like? 

Gracious God, we remember that though we can’t see it, you are at work today.  Keep us from being busy today and distracting ourselves from the grief and hope that co-mingles when you work in us.  Work in the soil of our lives in ways we cannot see, and we trust in your comfort and power.  In the name of Jesus we prayer, Amen. 

Friday 

Numbers 6:24-26 

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, 
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, 
and give you peace. 

This benediction, or good word, carries deep meaning for us as we are filled with concern for others, and even our own loss during this time.  It is good to stop and let these words of blessing and promise wash over us today. 

Read these verses through a few times.  What word of promise renews your spirit today? 

How have you seen the Lord bless you and keep you during this time? 

How might you carry these good words with you as you do the things that are yours to do this day? 

Gracious God, each word that describes your love for us is a blessing to our tired hearts.  Thank you that you are with us and attending to us and those we love during this time.  Comfort those who are alone with your peace.  May we fill ourselves with the hope of these good words that in all we do, your love pours out on those around us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Saturday

This has been a full week of scripture with many themes to ponder.   

Take a few minutes today to skim over the readings and find what stirs in you. 

What have you heard Jesus say to you? 

What has warmed your heart this week? 

What has challenged you? 

Write a prayer of worship, confession, gratitude, and request based on this last week. 

Week of March 14-20

Sunday

The Thieves (Robbers): Cynicism (Reason) (Mt. 27:28-44)

Monday

John 1:43-46 

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”  

As Jesus continues to invite followers, one of them responds by goes and finds another to accompany him.  Nathaniel expresses resistance, based on his prejudice against Jesus’ hometown.  And rather than defending Jesus, Philip simply invites him to come and see. 

Where do you feel like Nathaniel, experiencing resistance and prejudice toward someone because of their origin?   

What would it look like for you to release those feelings of resistance and prejudice? 

Who in your life are you inviting to come and see Jesus, through your words and/or deeds? 

Gracious God, we confess our pre-conceived notions about people that have created barriers to rich and blessing-filled relationships.  Remove the resistance from us that keeps us from living open-heartedly with those around us.  Help our words and our actions to be an invitation to them to encounter you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Tuesday

John 1:47-51 

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” 

What a powerful encounter Nathaniel had as Jesus cut through his resistance straight to his heart.  Jesus knew what he had said and yet cast vision on what he could become.  In one moment, Nathaniel’s heart was laid bare before Christ and he was invited to follow him on a journey of transformation.   

In what area of your life do you hope to experience the transformation of Christ? 

What words of grace and potential for you do you hear Jesus saying? 

What do you think Jesus might want to do in and through you as you continue to follow him? 

Gracious Lord, there is nothing about us that you don’t know, and nothing that blocks you from loving us and inviting us to follow you.  Help us to be honest with ourselves and willing to relinquish the things that lurk in the dark corners of our lives, that we might be whole-hearted followers of you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Wednesday

John 7:37-44 

37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  40 When they heard these words, some in the crowd  said, “This is really the prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? 42 Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” 43 So there was a division in the crowd because of him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. 

Jesus proclaimed a fullness of life that many at the festival were thirsty for.  His invitation led to discussion among those who heard about who he was, based on their own understanding and experience.  But there was a curiosity about him that was fed by his invitation to living water. 

How do you experience the living water that Jesus offers? 

What do you hear the people around you say about Jesus? 

How does Jesus make a difference in you and in the world around you? 

Gracious Jesus, you are the living water that we all are thirsty for.  Thank you for filling us up in our deepest places.  As we drink of your loving and fulfilling presence in our lives, may we allow your love to flow from us to those around us.  In Your precious name, Amen. 

Thursday

Isaiah 58:9b12 

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places,
    and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. 

God is inviting His people to live in the world as sustenance and light as lives of blessing to those around us.  As His people, we are empowered to rebuild that which is broken in our context, and seek the flourishing of our loved ones and neighbors. 

What promise of God in this passage stirs you and why? 

Where do you see a place that God can use you in your context? 

What do you need to let go of in order to live into what God has for you to do and be in the world? 

Gracious God, as your people, we are invited to live in a way that blesses those around us and causes them to flourish.  Help us to let go of the attitudes, things, and desires that hold us back from living wholeheartedly in our context and blessing those we meet.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Friday

Matthew 6:22-23 

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 23 but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 

There is a Latin phrase, Incurvatus in se, meaning “turned/curved inward on oneself.”  When our focus is turn in on ourselves and our concerns, we are unable to see the light of God in those around us or to be the light of God to them.  Even more concerning is when what we think is light is actually darkness in us.  We must keep close to our Light and allow him to transform us so that our light in the world is ever more clear. 

When do you feel most tempted to turn inward on oneself? 

What practices do you have to stay connected to the outward and to Jesus? 

Are there areas of darkness that you have passed as light? 

Gracious God, thank you that you are continuing to work in us and inviting us to be light in the world.  Help us to continue to submit to your transformation so that we may be your people in the world, free from turning in on ourselves and open-hearted toward those in our context.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Saturday

This has been a full week of scripture with many themes to ponder.   

Take a few minutes today to skim over the readings and find what stirs in you. 

What have you heard Jesus say to you? 

What has warmed your heart this week? 

What has challenged you? 

Write a prayer of worship, confession, gratitude, and request based on this last week. 

Week of March 7-12

Sunday

The Women: Gratitude (Loyalty) (Mt. 27:55-56, 61)

Monday  

John 6:66-71 

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him. 

We all know friends and loved ones who have started on the path of following Jesus, but have become distracted, disillusioned, and/or stalled along the way.  Perhaps we have been there ourselves at some time.  What’s amazing is that Jesus has space in his life for people at every point in their journey of faith, even those who will betray him. 

Where are you on your journey toward Jesus?  What trips you up? 

When have you seen the work of God in your life and in the world that has confirm your faith? 

Who in your life needs the loving acceptance of God in the midst of their wavering?  How can you be the hands and feet of Christ to them? 

Gracious Jesus, you are not fooled by our sincere hearts that can also turn fickly so quickly.  Thank you for your grace and for giving us the freedom to choose you or not.  Help us to have the faith each day to say YES to you, trusting and knowing that there is nowhere else for us to go.   And give us your grace and patience to love those around us in a way that invites them to you.  In your name, Amen. 

Tuesday

Luke 17:11-19 

11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” 

What a beautiful account of Jesus’ generous healing of those who were sick and alienated from the church.  On their way, as they realized that they had been made clean, all but one continued on their way to the religious leadersrealizing they could return to worship.  But the Samaritan, filled with gratitude, returned to Jesus and worshiped him as the one in whom he would find the presence and acceptance of God.  We see in his actions echoes of the Samaritan woman’s conversation with Jesus, where he invited all who followed him to worship him in spirit and in truth. 

Have you experienced a time in your life when you have felt alienated from the church and if so, why? 

Are there ways that you are looking to the church or another Christian institution for the acceptance that only Jesus can give? 

Do you know of someone who feels alienated from God and/or the church?  How can you pray for them and invite them back to Jesus? 

Gracious Jesus, thank you for swinging the gates wider than our cultural and sometimes religious restrictions.  Thank you that you have healed each of us in some way, whether we felt worthy or not.  We give you praise and glory for all your healing and restorative work in the world and help our gratitude be reflected in our generosity of spirit in the world.  In your Name, Amen. 

Wednesday 

Matthew 26:6-13 

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

In an effort to express her gratitude to Jesus for transforming her life, this woman lavishly anointed Jesus with costly perfume.  Imagine the sweet aroma of the room as it dripped over Jesus’ face.  By her lavish gift of worship, she exemplifies to us all how open-hearted and open-armed our worship of Jesus can be.  As followers of Christ we are marked by our care for the poor which is rooted in giving Jesus the rightful place in our attention, affection, and adoration. 

Have you ever questioned the generosity of another because you felt it might be misplaced? 

Has your generous worship of Jesus ever been questioned? 

How does your generous worship of Jesus align your care for the people and things that he cares about? 

Gracious Lord, thank you for receiving the lavish gift that this woman poured out on you in love and worship.  Help us to follow her example and honor you and her memory by pursuing ways to give ourselves in lavish, aromatic worship of you that is reflected in care for those around us.  Guard our hearts from questioning or managing the expressions of others who seek to worship you in spirit and in truth.  In your name, Amen. 

Thursday

Luke 18:35-43 

35 As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” 43 Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God. 

As this blind man heard the commotion and asked about it, someone told him that Jesus would pass by.  But when he began yelling to get Jesus’ attention, he was hushed by those same people.  Fortunately, he only cried more loudly and Jesus stopped.  It may have seemed obvious, but Jesus asked him, What do you want me to do for you?”  Jesus asks us the same question as we encounter him in our brokenness and need.  Let’s not stop crying out to him and making a way for others who are in need to get his attention. 

When have you cried out to Jesus?  What happened? 

Has there been a time when you have asked Jesus for something less than your deepest desires?  Why? 

How do you create space for others to cry out to Jesus and be heard?  Is there someone who needs to get Jesus’ attention today? 

Gracious Jesus, thank you that you hear and attend to us above the noise of those around us that may want to hush us.  Help us to cry out to you with our brokenness and ask you for our deepest desires, trusting that you will take us gently by the hand and heal us.  Give us the grace to open a way for others around us to have access to your love and healing.  In Your name, Amen.   

Fridayday 

Luke 21:1-4 

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” 

What would prompt a poor widow to give all she has so generously?  And what would prompt the rich people to give less generously?  This account could be a way to honor the widow as an example of generosity, and it could also be a challenge to the church to provide for those in our midst who are destitute. 

What does this passage stir in you around the rich and the poor? 

When have you experienced the generosity of another? 

What would it look like for you to see and tend to the needs of those you know who are poor? 

Gracious Jesus, thank you for the invitation to be generous to those around us in need.  As we ponder this passage with new eyes, show us what you would like us to take away from it.  With whatever we have, help us to live in the conviction that it is all given to us by you for your work in the world and for the sake of others.  In Your name, Amen. 

Saturday 

This has been a full week of scripture with many themes to ponder.   

Take a few minutes today to skim over the readings and find what stirs in you. 

What have you heard Jesus say to you? 

What has warmed your heart this week? 

What has challenged you? 

Write a prayer of worship, confession, gratitude, and request based on this last week. 

Week of March 1-6

Monday

Luke 9:20-22 

20 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” 21 He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 

What surprises you about Jesus’ command not to tell anyone? 

How does it feel to follow one who would be rejected by the leaders of the church at that time? 

What does it look like for you in your daily following after Jesus? 

Jesus, thank you for knowing what is best.  Help us to stay close enough to you that we hear your voice and follow you against the din of external voices.  Give us the courage to stay close to you.  Amen. 

Tuesday

Luke 9:23-27 

23 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25 What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? 26 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” 

What feelings are stirred as you read this invitation to discipleship? 

Are there ways that you are forfeiting yourself and what Jesus has for you for the sake of something that doesn’t matter? 

What do you hear Jesus saying to you in the midst of this? 

Jesus, thank you for your desire that we follow wholeheartedly after you.  You know how easily we become distracted by the world around us, even good things, and lose the focus of our relationship with you.  Thank you for meeting us where we are at and we ask that you renew our desire to follow you each day.  Amen. 

Wednesday

Luke 9:28-36 

28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen. 

Have you had experiences with Jesus that are too profound for words? 

Can you think of a time where you didn’t want the experience to end? 

Are there other voices in your life that might be keeping you from hearing the voice of Jesus? 

Lord Jesus, thank you for meeting us in deep and profound places.  Help us to carry your voice with us into our daily lives so that we hear your words of loving guidance over the noise of the world around us.  Amen. 

Thursday

Luke 9:37-43 

37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.” 

When have you had a devastating experience that caused you to call out to God in desperation? 

Who are you praying for who is in difficult circumstances?   

What is your prayer for them today?  What do you think their prayer is? 

What has caused you to be astounded at the greatness of God? 

Jesus, thank you for giving those who need you time and presence and healing.  When we are overwhelmed help us to lean into you.  Give us the faith to pray for others, believing that you desire and are able to heal and restore them.  And give us eyes to see you in ways that astound us.  In your name, Amen. 

Friday

Luke 9:44-45 

“While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” 45 But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.” 

Have you ever been told something that is too incongruent and inconvenient in light of your current experience?   

When did the truth sink in? 

What are you afraid to ask Jesus about?  Why? 

Lord Jesus, you do not back away from the truth about why you came to earth to live among us.  We give up our wishing that you had been here to overcome the world through might or political means.  Help us to comprehend your journey to the cross and give us the courage to walk with you.  In your name, Amen. 

Saturday

On Saturday, we take time to review what we have read during the week and remember what God has stirred in us and invited us to in his word. 

Read Luke 9:20-45 

As you read over the passage from the week, what are the words or phrases that stir in you? 

Where do you find yourself in the passage as Jesus continues his journey to the cross, caring for people along the way? 

Where are you being invited to follow Jesus in a new way this week? 

Write a prayer, naming the ways that God has spoken to you this week and accepting his invitation to transformation. 

Week of February 21-27

Sunday

The Soldiers: Wonder (Matt. 27:27-31)

Monday

Luke 9:1-6 

“Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.” 

What surprises you about the instructions that Jesus gave his disciples? 

What opportunities do you have to bring healing to others? 

Where is Jesus inviting you to proclaim the kingdom of God in word and deed? 

Lord Jesus, as we follow you to the cross, give us the courage to step into the places you have called us, knowing that you are with us and will provide for us.  Thank you for bringing others into our lives to share the journey of discipleship with.  Help us to be faithful to your call on our lives.  In Your name, Amen. 

Tuesday

Luke 9:7-9 

Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.” 

Where do you see God at work in ways that may be perplexing to those who don’t know Him? 

How does your life reflect the work of God in a way that makes others wonder about who He is? 

What does it look like to follow Jesus in a way that keeps you from blending in with the status quo? 

Lord Jesus, thank you that you are continuing to work in, through, and among us in ways that cause others to be curious about you.  As you work in our lives, help us to look to you for our daily needs and direction so that you will be glorified in all we do and say.  Amen. 

Wednesday

Luke 9:10-11 

10 On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.” 

What words are used to describe Jesus’ actions in these verses? 

When have you experienced Jesus’ loving actions toward you? 

How do you see yourself in partnership with Jesus? 

Jesus, thank you for the opportunity we have to be your witnesses in the world, and to find rest in you as well.  Give us a sensitivity to your leading that we might know when to rest and when to step into your work as a participant in what you are doing in the world.  Amen  

Thursday  

Luke 9:12-17 

12 The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 They did so and made them all sit down. 16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.” 

When have you felt like what Jesus was asking you to do was too much for what you had to offer? 

How did Jesus provide for you and those you served? 

What has Jesus blessed and broken in your life in order for his kingdom to expand to others? 

Jesus, thank you for meeting us where we are at, even if it is at the end of our rope.  Thank you that you don’t leave us there but give us the provision we need to be faithful to what you have called us to do.  Help us to receive from you what you have provided for us.  Amen. 

Friday 

Luke 9:18-20 

18 Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” 20 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” 

Who do you hear those around you say Jesus is? 

Who do you say Jesus is? 

How does your belief in who Jesus is shape who you are? 

Jesus, as we walk with you, we continually learn what is means to follow the Savior of the world.  Thank you that we are the recipients of your saving grace and agents of your grace in our context.  Help us to stay connected to you and to who you are that we might continue to shine your light to our world around us.  Amen. 

Saturday

This weekend, read back through Luke 9:1-20 

As you read over the passage from the week, what are the words or phrases that stir in you? 

Where do you find yourself in the passage as Jesus interacts with his disciples and the crowd? 

Where are you being invited to follow Jesus in a new way this week? 

Past daily devotionals

Week of February 15-19

Monday

Ephesians 3:17-19 

“… and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” 

What a beautiful prayer for us and a reminder of the invitation that Jesus extends to us – to be filled with him, rooted in love, having the capacity to comprehend that love that is more precious than knowledge.  Imagine being filled with the fullness of God in every nook and cranny of your body, mind, and spirit.   

Are there areas of your life that are keeping you from experiencing the fullness of God? 

How are you experiencing the love of Jesus in your life and in your community of saints? 

How can you cultivate opportunities to grow in your capacity to experience and extend the fullness of God’s love?  What does that look like today? 

Gracious God, we look to you and thank you for your love, the source of all you are and all you do.  God, keep us from distractions that take away our awareness of your love and our commitment to be rooted in that love.  May our attitudes, thoughts, and actions reflect the fullness of your love in our hearts today.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Tuesday  

Philippians 4:8-9 

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” 

In times like these, it is easy for our minds to mill around in the anxiety of this time, where we are experiencing loss and witnessing the loss of others.  Paul encourages us to find hope in the midst of difficulty and work toward it for well-being of all.  He is a good example for us, and as we participate in God’s mission in the world, we too are agents of God’s peace. 

What fills your thoughts today? 

Where in your thoughts do you find truth? Honor? Justice? Purity? Pleasure? Commendation? Excellence? Praise? 

How can your focus on these thoughts guide your attitudes, actions and words today? 

Gracious God, in the midst of darkness, help us to find your light today and be your agents of peace.  It begins with allowing your light to shine into every part of our being, so we lift our minds, hearts, and bodies to you.  Help us to see our world with your eyes and walk into it as a reflection of your love and character.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Wednesday 

Lamentations 3:40-42 

40 Let us test and examine our ways,
    and return to the Lord.
41 Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands
    to God in heaven.
42 We have transgressed and rebelled,
    and you have not forgiven.” 

Lent is a season for followers of Christ to consider their ways and humbly listen for God’s direction in our lives.  There may be things we need to let go of, or fast from; there may also be things that God is inviting us to take on – practices of confession, generosity, silence, service, and/or Examen, to name a few.  Lent is a ritual of the church, but it is never routine.  It is a way for God to meet us in a new way and purify our heart to serve him more wholly. 

During this Lenten season, what are you being nudged to fast from?  Is there something in your life that distracts you from God? 

Is there a new practice or habit that you would like to add to your life.  Write a prayer of commitment to God, asking him to meet you as you listen for him in the practice. 

What do you hear God saying to you in this moment?  What is your response? 

Gracious God, for all you’ve done we thank you.  As we enter this season of following Jesus to the cross, help our lives to be align with his life and heart that we might bring glory to you and draw others into your presence.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Thursday

Psalm 51:1-2 

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.” 

Sometimes pride or shame can keep us from coming before God in confession.  We compare ourselves to others, rather than standing before the throne of God, in need of and covered by His grace.  When we can honestly acknowledge our sin and God’s abundant forgiveness, we begin to extend the same generosity to others. 

Where do you need the mercy of God in your life? 

What keeps you from imagining with gratitude standing in God’s presence, forgiven? 

How does your ability to confess your sins and receive forgiveness impact your capacity to forgive others? 

Gracious God, it is so unfathomable that we are the recipients of your generous forgiveness, especially in a world that is so quick to judge and condemn.  Help us, Lord, to come to you with uplifted hearts and hands to confess and receive your forgiveness, so that we might turn toward those around us with the same mercy and compassion.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Friday

Psalm 51:15-17 

15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you have no delight in sacrifice;
    if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” 

How do we live in a state of brokenness?  In a world that honors strength and confidence, God invites us to live out of a place of self-awareness, recognizing that we are wholly dependent on Him for our way in the world.  This isn’t about beating ourselves up because of our shortcomings, but living in a spirit of praise because of God’s grace that shines in us and through our broken hearts to others who need God’s love and forgivness. 

How do you handle the reality of your shortcomings? 

What does a broken and contrite heart look like to you? 

What is God saying to you as you ponder your own brokenness right now? 

Gracious God, you are good to us and desire that we live open-hearted before you.  You are not surprised by our sin and are ready to forgive when we are ready to confess.  We are broken-hearted that we can not meet the mark of your character, and we thank you and praise you that you are a God who loves us in our brokenness and will not cast us out.  Through Jesus’ blood, Amen. 

 

Week of February 1-5

Monday

Psalm 34:9-10 

9O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,
    for those who fear him have no want.
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. 

What promise we have when we fear the Lord and seek after him.  We have everything we need.  (Remember Psalm 23:1 – the Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want).  Unlike young lions that are focused on their prey, anxious to find their next meal, we are invited to seek the Lord and be satisfied in Him and His provision. 

Are there things you are seeking as a lion seeks their next meal? 

How can you turn your hunger into a prayer to the Lord? 

Where have you seen God provide in your life? 

Gracious God, we thank you that we stand before you as holy people in whom you delight.  You do not desire to consume us but to provide for us as we seek you.  Help us to seek you and fear you with our whole hearts and find our satisfaction in what you provide.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Tuesday

Psalm 34:11-14  

11 Come, O children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” 

These verses sound like they could be a part of Proverbs as David invites us near to glean from the wisdom he has learn through his dependence on God.  As we prayerfully read this passage, it is an opportunity for us to take inventory of how we are investing our time, our voice, and our gifts. 

What does the fear of the Lord look like in your life? 

How does your desire for life reflect itself in the way you conduct it in word, deed, and generosity? 

Where do you need to seek God’s forgiveness and a renewed commitment to reflect the fear of the Lord in your life? 

Gracious God, this can be a challenging passage to us in the midst of a divisive world.  Help us, we pray, to leave behind evil and deceit and to pursue goodness and peace.  May we live in a way that demonstrates to others that we are children of the God of love and goodness.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Wednesday 

Psalm 34:15-17 

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
    to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears,
    and rescues them from all their troubles. 

As God’s righteous, those partnering with him in his mission to make all things right, we can trust that he is watching over us and hears our cries.  Because he faces the evil in the world, we can work for righteousness with confidence and assurance of his protection. 

What makes up your cries to God these days? 

Are there ways that you are focused on evil and as a result losing focus on what is yours to do? 

What would it look like to remind yourself of God’s guidance and protection? 

Gracious God, we become so quickly distracted by what we perceive as evil danger around us that we get thrown off the course of what you have called us to do.  Help us to live confidently in you, trusting you to guide and protect us, and engaging others is the hope that you are setting things right.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Thursday  

Psalm 34:18-22 

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

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the Lord rescues them from them all.
20 He keeps all their bones;
    not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil brings death to the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
    none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.” 

The psalmist assures us that the righteous are not immune from difficulties and suffering, but that God will meet us and bring relief.  These are challenging times and it is easy to sometimes wonder what we did wrong or what our neighbor did wrong to bring on their plight.  The reason for suffering is not often clear to us, but we can be confident that God is present with us, loving us and holding us in our grief. 

Where are you experiencing a broken heart?   

What do you hear God saying to you? 

Is there someone in your life who is suffering who needs the comfort of God?  How can you extend his presence to them? 

Gracious God, thank you that we don’t have to pretend that our lives are free from difficulty.  Help us to turn to you when we are crushed and brokenhearted and to be honest with you where we are at, that we might experience your deepest comfort in those places of grief.  And help us to extend that same mercy and comfort to those who are hurting around us, for your glory.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Friday

Hosea 6: 3 

“Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;
    his appearing is as sure as the dawn;
he will come to us like the showers,
    like the spring rains that water the earth.” 

The prophet is talking to a people who have wandered away from God, inviting them back to God’s merciful and faithful presence.  In this verse of invitation and promised we are assured that when we pursue God as he pursues us, he will surely appear, just as the sunrise, bringing light to our lives.  And he will come as the rain, refreshing us as showers do and watering us so that we might produce the fruit of being His children. 

What does it look like for you to press on to know the Lord? 

Is the dawn of the Lord’s presence a bright, magnificent sunrise or a gently movement of dark to light? 

Where do you need the refreshment and watering of God? 

Gracious God, we thank you that you are infinite and that we never get to the other side of knowing you completely.  Renew our desire to continue our pursuit of knowing you and what you are doing in, around and through us, that we might reflect you and bear fruit that honors you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

Week of January 25 – 31

Monday

Read Psalm 27:7-10

“7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger,
you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
10 If my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will take me up.”

We find in the psalmist’s words a back and forth of confidence in God’s protective presence while at the same time a plea for God’s continued attention. Every day we are invited to trust God more deeply or more widely, and we prayerfully ask God again to continue to be gracious to us and answer us in the present time.

What is David asking of God in these verses? How do they resonate with the cry of your heart?

Where do you need God to answer you?

For whom can you be God’s agent of presence and protection?

Gracious God, we thank you that you invite us to a relationship with you that is dynamic and allows us to be vulnerable before you with our emotions and doubts without the fear that you will forsake us. We ask that you would meet us where we are at and build in us the resilience that never grows tired of seeking your face. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday

Read Psalm 27:11-12

“11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.”

The psalmist feels vulnerable among external pressures that would do him in. We have all felt assailed on every side and are grateful that we can lean into God’s ways and level paths as we keep our eyes fixed on him. This allows us to not only withstand the conflict we feel between us and our foes, but also to extend grace to those around us who are afflicted.

How is God’s way unclear to you right now?

Where do you need to experience the protection of the Lord?

Are there ways that you can extend grace to those who may be experiencing affliction? What would that look like?

Gracious God, thank you that you do not abandon us in our places of vulnerability. Thank you for your leading in our lives and we pray that we will follow you. Help us not to treat those we may count as our enemies with anger, but extend your grace to them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday

Psalm 27:13-14

13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

What a wonderful declaration the psalmist makes. To see the goodness of the Lord is something we can all desire and believe that we will see. As we strain to see, we are also invited to wait, be strong, and take courage. Our waiting isn’t passive, but it is an active, faithful response to what has called us to even as we look forward to the continued unfolding of his goodness.

What will the goodness of the Lord look like for you?

How are you waiting actively for the land of the living?

Where do you need the strength and courage that God provides?

Gracious God, we affirm the words of the psalmist that your goodness will be revealed. Give us eyes to see it and the hope, strength and courage that comes from our conviction that you will come to us. As we receive your promise, help us to be agents of that promise by encouraging and strengthening those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday

Psalm 34:1-4

“1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together.

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

The psalmist demonstrates a life that is constantly aware of the Lord’s presence and turning to God with praise and blessing. His worship of God is contagious as he invites others to join with him. His worship is of a God who hears him when he cries out and relieves him from fear.

How often does your mind and heart turn toward the Lord with praise and blessing?

What does it mean for one to make its boast in the Lord and find joy in giving God the glory?

Is there something that is troubling you? What would it look like to seek God in this?

Gracious God, I bless your name and praise you. You are always with me and I pray that I will respond to your presence with joy and honor of you. Thank you for hearing our prayers and delivering us from all fear. Help us to seek you in our times of unease and find in you our solid rock. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday

Psalm 34:5-8

“5 Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
and was saved from every trouble.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.

These verses incorporate our senses into our experience of God – Look to him! Be heard by him! Taste and see that the Lord is good! We are invited to engage all of our being in our relationship with Christ. As we look to him and experience God as the one who is all in all, our lives can shine with the radiance that comes from trusting Him.

What promise in this passage do you find most hopeful?

What invitation do you want to accept more fully?

What do you hear God saying to you in these verses?

Gracious God, You are the source of our lives, our deliverance, and our refuge. Help us to loosen our grip on the things and/or people that distract us from wholeheartedly looking to you. May your face shine on us that we may reflect your radiance to those around us. In Jesus name, Amen.

 

Devotions, Week of January 18 – 23

Invitation to Peace 

This is a time of turmoil for many of us, with the ongoing spread of the virus, the unresolved racial disparities and unrest, and the division of our nation as we inaugurate a new president.  In the midst of the loud, sometimes frantic inner and outer voices, what does it look like us to turn our attention and affection to God and to give him our full allegiance, today, tomorrow and into the future?  And how can we find peace and be agents of peace among our loved ones, our neighbors, our community? 

We need new lenses to see Christ as our Prince of Peace, and clear eyes that can reflect his character through us.  He invites us to rest and patiently waits for us to return to him and receive his rest, his protection, and his strength.   

Monday  

Read Isaiah 30:15-18 

15 For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
But you refused 16 and said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”— therefore you shall flee!
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”— therefore your pursuers shall be swift!
17 A thousand shall flee at the threat of one,
    at the threat of five you shall flee,
until you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
    like a signal on a hill. 

18 Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for him.” 

In my first read of this, I wanted to skip over the part about God’s people choosing to flee instead of staying and the resulting fear that overcame them.  But doesn’t this describe us?  We are invited to rest in God to find our salvation and our strength and yet we instead choose to get caught up in saving ourselves in our own strength.  And this leads to angst, fear, and feelings of being overwhelmed.  BUT…God waits and continues to extend His offer to be gracious, to shower us with His mercy and justice. 

How might your heart, mind, and body be caught up in fleeing from God’s rest? 

Where is Jesus’ presence in your life?  What is he inviting you to right now? 

What does God’s grace, mercy, and justice look like for you today? 

Gracious God, in these times when our fear overwhelms us and we are compelled to flee, help us to find all we need in you.  We ask that you will quiet our hearts and bring rest to our minds.  Replace the fear that clouds our view and fill us with your grace and mercy that we might lean into you, trust you, and participate in your justice.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Tuesday

Read Matthew 6:31-33 

31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” 

During this time of anxiety and uncertainty, we can become tethered to our worry and feel controlled by the big and little concerns that we each face.  Jesus invites us to tether ourselves to him and his rule and let our devotion to and trust in him guide us in peace. 

How do you remember that you are tethered to Christ? 

What most captures your attention during the day and causes you to feel adrift and untethered? 

What might Jesus be saying to you in the midst of your anxiety? 

Gracious God, these are troubled times as wave upon wave of grief and loss and confusion wash over us.  Our only hope is you, present with us and without fear. Help us to experience your peace-filled presence and seek your kingdom, being your agents of love and peace.  As it says in 2 Chronicles 20:12, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Wednesday

Read Psalm 27:1-3 

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 

When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall. 

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.” 

The psalmist David had many opportunities in his life to trust God in adverse circumstances.  Sometimes his enemies attacked him from the outside.  Other times it was his internal enemies that rose up and overtook him.  We may feel like we are battling enemies – big and small, internal and external – but our God is our light, our salvation, and our stronghold and we can find our confidence in him. 

What are you battling today? 

What role is fear playing in how you are responding to it? 

What would it look like to lean into God as your light, your salvation, and your stronghold?  What images does this description of God stir in you? 

Gracious God, help us to be tethered to the truth that you are our light, our salvation, and our stronghold.  We entrust our day to you, in the confidence that whatever happens, you remain the same, and we do not need to fear. Renew our confidence in you that we might invite others to embrace you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Thursday

Read Psalm 27:4 

One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” 

The psalmist David’s deepest desire is to live in the presence of God every day.  It is there that he wraps himself up in our Lord’s beauty and comes with a desire to know and understand more of him.  With the presence of the Lord living in us, we are invited to make this intimacy with God that which we seek after as well. 

How are you cultivating an awareness that you are in the presence of God? 

What do you find beautiful about the Lord? 

What do you desire God to do today? 

Gracious God, thank you for your presence in our lives, whether we are aware of it or not.  Make it our desire to find you in all we do, to encounter and soak in your beauty and continue to seek you.  As we inquire in your presence, reveal your truth to us that we may reflect your character to the world around us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Friday

Read Psalm 27:5-6  

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will set me high on a rock.
6 Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.” 

In our times with God, we are strengthened not just for today, but for the unexpected troubles in the future.  The confidence and trust in Him that we build as we turn to the Lord and behold his beauty and seek him in our daily lives becomes a protection and place of worship in the times of difficulty.   

When has God’s faithfulness and protection in the past allowed you to trust him in the midst of present difficulties? 

How do you cultivate worship and joy in your life when you are experiencing trouble? 

How is God lifting you up above the difficulties that surround you? 

Gracious God, thank you for the confidence that you instill in us that carries us in times of uncertainty.  We ask for your protection and shelter during this time, not just for us, for all who feel exposed and vulnerable.  Help us to be agents of your protection as we share with others the security and peace that we experience in you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Saturday 

Read Psalm 27:7-10  

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
    be gracious to me and answer me!
8 “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
    Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9     Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger,
    you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
    O God of my salvation!
10 If my father and mother forsake me,
    the Lord will take me up.” 

We find in the psalmist’s words a back and forth of confidence in God’s protective presence while at the same time a plea for God’s continued attention.  Every day we are invited to trust God more deeply or more widely, and we prayerfully ask God again to continue to be gracious to us and answer us in the present time. 

What is David asking of God in these verses?  How do they resonate with the cry of your heart? 

Where do you need God to answer you? 

For whom can you be God’s agent of presence and protection? 

Gracious God, we thank you that you invite us to a relationship with you that is dynamic and allows us to be vulnerable before you with our emotions and doubts without the fear that you will forsake us.  We ask that you would meet us where we are at and build in us the resilience that never grows tired of seeking your face.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

Devotions, Week of January 11- 15 

Monday 

In 2 Chronicles 20:5-12, King Jehoshaphat prays to God on behalf of his people.  He reminds God of His faithfulness and appeals to God’s faithful judgment.  At the end of his prayer, in vs. 12, the king says, We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  If you skip down to verse 15, God assures the people, saying, “Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s.” 

As we enter this new year, where are your eyes focused?  

Are there thoughts or emotions that are clouding your view of Jesus? 

What might Jesus be saying to you in this moment? 

God of Love, Fighter of our Battles – we pray that you will provide what we need in this new year.  We don’t know what is before us but help us to focus our eyes on you.  Remind us that you invite us to not fear or be dismayed.  Help us to reach out to one another in love creatively and intentionally that we might reflect the love of your followers.  In Your Name, Amen. 

Tuesday 

Isaiah 55:1-3   

“Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
    my steadfast, sure love for David.” 

For many of us spending more time at home than usual, it is easy to be distracted by the many sources of information and other things that grab our attention.  It can leave us feeling anxious, angry, untethered, even empty.  In this time, God invites us to come to Him for that which will satisfy and fill us with hope, meaning, and contentment.  

How do you answer the question in verse 2?  What distracts you? 

What are God’s words of invitation in this passage?   

What invitation do you need to accept with gratitude today? 

Gracious God, we lift our lives up to you, knowing that you are the only one who can satisfy our deepest needs.  We relinquish to you the habits and practices that distract us from finding our fulfillment in you and being a source of your love to those around us.  Help us to receive your invitation today.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Wednesday 

Isaiah 55:8-9 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
     nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
     so are my ways higher than your ways
     and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

 During times of discomfort and difficulty, our minds want to make sense of it all, so that we can gain back our equilibrium.  This can lead us to conclusions that bring comfort to us, but may not be sourced in the heart of God.  As we continue in this season that is impossible to understand, we remember that God is at work in ways that we can’t comprehend, and we trust him in that. 

 What is difficult for you to understand during this time? 

 Are there conclusions you have drawn in order to make sense of what we are experiencing?  What are those conclusions based in? 

 Is there an area of confusion that you can entrust to the Lord today? 

 Gracious God, as we continue in this season of isolation, our restless hearts and minds want to make sense of it.  Help us to lean into you, believing that your understanding is far beyond ours.  Comfort us and lead us that we might focus on what is ours to do, knowing that your ways are far above what we see.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 Thursday 

Isaiah 55:10-11 

10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
     and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
     giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
     it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
     and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” 

This is a continuation of the passage from yesterday and reminds us of God’s irresistable intentions in the world.  It is impossible for us to see it clearly, especially during times of difficulty, but we are invited to join God in his work in the world, even when we do not completely understand. 

Where have you been blessed in seeing the consistency of the seasons these days? 

When you think about the promises of God during this time, what do you wish to humbly lay before him? 

What is the gift God desires to give to the world through you? 

Gracious God, we thank you for the rhythm of the year that demonstrates your consistency and intentions.  Help us trust you, believing you are accomplishing what you have purpose in this time, and participate in your work in the world.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday 

Isaiah 55:12-13 

12 For you shall go out in joy,
     and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
     shall burst into song,
     and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
     instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
     for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” 

What a passage of hope as God leads this people in joy, peace, and worship.  We participate with nature in praise to God as we faithfully discern and do what is ours to do.  And graciously, God causes the fruit of our lives to be strong and life-giving. 

With what emotions are you going about your day? 

Where do you see nature celebrating God? 

Where would you like to see God produce good fruit?  What is yours to do in participation with his work? 

Gracious God, thank you for the joy and hope that this passage expresses.  This seems in contrast to the ways many of us are feeling.  Help us to restore our hope in you as we watch for you at work in our world and give us willing hearts to join you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

Devotional, January 4 – 9th 

Monday 

Psalm 139: 1-6 

Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.” 

What a comforting truth it is that the God of all creation knows us intimately and has his hand upon us.  Perhaps we are starting this new year feeling disconnected from the people we love, and it is good to remember that God is with us and cares deeply about our lives. 

How have you experienced God hemming you in this week? 

Is there something you want to say to God this morning, understanding that he knows already? 

What emotions are stirred in you as you acknowledge that God is acquainted with all your ways?   

Gracious God, you know us better than we know ourselves.  Free us from our attempts to hide anything from you.  Thank you that you know us and that your love does not falter.  Help us to feel your hand of grace and mercy today and surrender to your guidance.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Tuesday 

Psalm 139:7-12 
“Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is as bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.” 

David recognized that God was close to him, no matter where he found himself.  Near or far, God was present.  Light or dark, God’s presence was sure and unwavering.  We may have a number of different thoughts and emotions during this time, and we can be assured that God is with us in all of them. 

What 3 words describe your thoughts and feelings today?  How are these different since the same time last week? 

Where do you see God in your present state? 

How can you be present with someone in your life who is experiencing reality differently than you?  What can you do for them?  

Gracious God – thank you for your nearness to us.  Even as we each respond differently to the daily news, you are present with us with your comfort and guidance.  Help us to look to you, to not be overwhelmed by fear, and to see those around us with your eyes, that we might serve others as best we can during this time.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Wednesday 

Psalm 139:13-18 

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15     My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
    I come to the end—I am still with you. 

David acknowledges that God has been with us every step of the way.  God’s knowledge of us goes before our own self-knowledge and as we come before our all-knowing God, we discover more of who He is and who we are.  Nothing we are is a surprise to him.  We can honor our bodies, minds, and spirits because they are a wonderful work of a God who created us beautifully and with delight. 

What phrase in this passage do you find difficult to believed and why? 

How do you honor your body, mind, and spirit as a creation of God? 

What do you desire to say to God about His handiwork displayed in you? 

Gracious God, we believe in these words of David, that you indeed know us and have created us in fearful and wonderful ways.  With gratitude we thank you that you continue to create us in every day that we live as you guide us and turn your thoughts toward us.  These are wonderful promises that are difficult to comprehend.  Thank you for your presence that never leaves us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Thursday 

Psalm 139:19-22 

“O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
    and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
    and lift themselves up against you for evil!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
    And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
    I count them my enemies.” 

These verses seem a bit disconnected from the rest of this song of meditation.  The psalmist is acknowledging that if God knows him intimately, he also knows the wicked and is acquainted with their ways.  David wants to assure himself before God that he will look on wickedness with the same eyes as God, and align himself with God’s righteousness.   

How do your habits and attitudes reflect a life that resists wickedness of all kinds? 

How would you imagine God responding to David’s desire that the wicked be killed? 

How can your heart reflect God’s heart for the wicked? 

Gracious God – we are reminded that you are acquainted with the ways of all, including the wicked.  Thank you that because of Christ, we are called to love our enemies, as we seek to reflect you.  Help us to put into practice ways that help us discern wickedness and align our allegiances with you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.    

Friday 

Psalm 139:23-24  

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.” 

These verses are tucked into the same stanza in the psalm as the verses from yesterday.  David acknowledges that God knows everything about him, including wickedness, and yet he invites God to examine his life.  God knows all about each of us, but in surrendering ourselves to him, we are inviting him to show us the ways in our lives that need God’s loving transformation. 

As you echo these words of the psalmist, what area of your life comes to mind?   

Is there an attitude, recurring thought, or behavior that needs God’s transformation? 

What might happen this week if you make the prayer in these verses your prayer this week? 

Gracious God, we are aware of and grateful for your grace and mercy and open ourselves up to you, asking that you point out in us those areas of our lives that we need to surrender to you.  We invite you to show us the things that you already know about us, but that we may be blind to.  May we see and confess and follow you more fully this week.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

North Sound Church Advent Devotional   by Pastor Nancy Eckardt (nancye@northsoundchurch.com) 

December 20 – 24 – The Love We Are Waiting For  

How do you know you are loved?  How do those in your context know that they are loved by you?  This week we focus on love – just what we are waiting for, and just what we need.  Love that is without fear; love that goes the distance and more to restore relationships with God and humanity.  Love that is freely offered by God and embodied in Christ, for us, regardless of our cultural or religious standing.  

Monday

Read Luke 2:8 

In this passage, Luke demonstrates that the good tidings of Jesus’ birth were accessible to and even initiated with shepherds, ones who ranked low on the scale of power and privilege.  They weren’t expecting much but a quiet night with their sheep, hopefully free from predator attacks.   

Where do you place yourself on the spectrum of power and privilege? 

How does your sense of value in culture impact your preparation for Jesus’ birth? 

Suggested Songs: 

The First Noel (Sleeping at Last) 

O Come All Ye Faithful 

Tuesday

Read Luke 2:9-11 

Into their quiet and dark night, where their only fear was animals, a bright light shone and an angel appeared before them.  They were accustomed to animals, but this fear brought on by the angel caused a fear deeper than they had experienced before.  But the angel’s intent was not to instill fear into them, but invite them into a celebration of love because a Savior, the Messiah, Christ – God Himself had entered the world and they were worth knowing about it. 

What emotions do you experience in anticipating the appearance of Christ and why? 

How do you imagine God’s love in His appearance? 

Suggested Songs: 

Love Has Come (Amy Grant) 

Wednesday

Read Luke 2:12-14 

Not only did the angel bring good news, but he invited them and showed them the way to go and see this newborn King.  Our great Emmanuel, the one infinitely more worthy of the names that Caesar insisted on being called, could be found in the humbleness of a manger in a stable.   

How do you respond to the reality that our good and perfect God was born in a humble stable? 

How does the context of Christ’s birth speak to the good tidings proclaimed to the shepherds and extended to us as well? 

Suggested Songs: 

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear/Glorious (Onaje Jefferson) 

O Come, O Come Emmanuel 

Thursday

Read Luke 2:15 

The shepherds had a choice – to stay with their flocks and imagine what it would be like to see the newborn King of Love or to actually go and encounter him.  We have the opportunity in our lives to imagine a better, deeper encounter with Christ or to actually move toward him in new and powerful ways that undo us. 

What are you longing for this Christmas? 

How is God speaking in your longings, inviting you to encounter Christ in new ways? 

Suggested Songs –  

O Come, Let Us Adore Him 

All the World Awaits (Chris Tomin) 

 

Christmas Day – Here is the One We are Waiting For!

Luke 2:16-18 

16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” 

Christ – our Hope, our Peace, our Joy, and our Love –  has come to us humbly as a baby, dependent on other humans to care for him, vulnerable in a world of danger.  God made Himself one of us that He might draw us to Himself in love.  Jesus came to earth over 2,000 years and He continues to come to us with all He is surrounding us.  Just like the shepherds, as we encounter Jesus, our lives will forever be changed and we will be proclaimers of the good news as well. 

Come Lord Jesus!  Move in our hearts we pray! 

 

Third Week of Advent – December 13th – 19th – The Joy We Are Waiting For  (Luke 1:39-56) 

As we enter into the 3rd week of Advent, with the continued restrictions that make our normal seasonal celebrations impossible, we are invited to experience joy.  It isn’t a feeling that requires us to grit our teeth or ignore the loss we are experiencing this December, but rather to acknowledge the reality of time and at the same time, cultivate a joy that is attached to and enlivened by God Incarnate.  God came to earth in the form of a newborn child and God continues to come to us through the Spirit, promising to never leave us.  In this we can find joy in the midst of whatever circumstances we are experiencing. 

Monday –  

Read Luke 1:39-45 

Early in her pregnancy, Mary went to visit Elizabeth, who for different reasons, was also surprised to be expecting a child.  Both women were participating in the work of God in the world and despite the hardship of being a teenage single mom or one in later years, they found joy as participants in what God was doing in the world. 

Where do you see God at work in your context? 

How is he inviting you to participate in his work? 

Suggested Songs: 

How Great Our Joy 

The Little Drummer Boy 

Tuesday –  

Read Luke 1:39-45 

When Mary entered the room, Elizabeth’s womb became a center of worship and joy, as the spirit of Christ revealed himself to the one who would prepare his way.  Although it may have been missed by those outside, God was present and working and bringing joy and meaning in the midst of difficult and confusing circumstances. 

Where do you need to see what God is doing in the midst of confusing circumstances? 

Where are you cultivating space to worship and find joy as you experience God? 

Suggested Songs: 

Breath of Heaven (Amy Grant) 

Waymaker (Michaell W. Smith) 

Wednesday –  

Read Luke 1:46-49 

I wonder if this encounter with Elizabeth was just the confirmation that Mary needed that God was at work within her body and spirit as the angel had said.  Caught up in the worship of Emmanuel, the child growing within her, she burst into a song of praise, putting into words the hope and joy that she had hidden in her heart. 

As you read this passage, what words stir joy in you? 

Where do you need to experience God’s favor? 

Suggested Songs: 

Away in a Manger 

God’s Favor (Daniel Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers) 

 Thursday –  

Read Luke 1: 50-55 

Mary’s focus turns from the favor that she is experiencing from God to the way that the birth of her child, the Son of God, would bring healing and restoration to the broken and level the path to God.  There are echoes of Isaiah’s prophetic words to “prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain be made low…” (Isaiah 40:3ff) 

Where do you see the work of restoration and healing in your context? 

How do you find joy in the work that God has invited you to?  What does that look like? 

Suggested songs: 

O Holy Night 

 I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Casting Crowns) 

Friday –  

Read Luke 1:56 

This passage closes with Mary staying with Elizabeth for 3 months.  Away from the critical eyes of friends and family, Mary was able to rest in the companionship of one who believed in the work of God and to share in the joy of being a part of God’s unfolding salvation and reconciliation for the world. 

Who do you have to share the journey with? 

How can you share in the work of God in another and find joy in their companionship? 

Suggested Songs: 

Be Thou My Vision (Audrey Assad) 

Did You Hear the Mountains Tremble? (Delirious) 

Saturday –  

This week we have followed Mary’s journey of coming to grips with a call that she didn’t expect and that exposed her to scrutiny and uncertainty.  Yet in the midst of the disruption of her life, she experienced the presence of God and embrace the reality that He was doing something in the world that was new and she was invited to be a part.  Letting go of the life she expected to live, she found joy in joining God’s mission.  We too are invited to look below the surface of our lives and see what God is doing in us, through us, and around us, and how we are invited to join God’s mission too. 

Today, spend time reading the whole passage, seeking to enter the story and discover what God might be saying to you today. 

Read through Luke 1:39-56 

Quietly stay present with what you read for 30 seconds. 

Read the passage again.  As you do, what word or phrase stirs you or sticks with you? 

After reading the passage, ponder that word or phrase for 1 minute.  After a minute, write down the word or phrase and share it with your companion if you are doing this with others.  Listen to one another without discussion. 

Read the passage again, and ask God, what is it in my life that needed to hear this word or phrase today? 

Spend 1 minute pondering what God might be inviting you to through this passage and the particular word or phrase you are holding. 

Write down the invitation and/or share it with your companion. 

Read the passage for the last time and as you do, rest in God with the invitation given to you.  Spend a minute, letting God continue to minister to you around this invitation. 

Close in prayer. 

Second Week of Advent: December 6 – 12th – The Peace We Are Waiting For  

This week, we look at Matthew 1:18-25, the story of Joseph as he learned of Mary’s pregnancy and was invited by God to participate in the bringing of peace, well-being, and flourishing to Mary and his new unconventional family.  We can learn from Joseph that walking in obedience to God can sometimes seem to take us off the expected path in order to bring others the peace that we have been waiting for this season. 

Monday 

Read Matthew 1:18.  “18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.” 

This story of Jesus’ birth, told from Joseph’s perspective, opens with a shocking revelation for Joseph and the death of a vision of flourishing in his future.  We know the end of the story, but we have to remember he didn’t. 

When have you experience the disruption of your sense of peace and well-being? 

Where are you experiencing disruption in your life this season? 

Suggested Songs –  

Look Up, Child (Lauren Daigle) 

Mary, Did You Know? (Pentatonix) 

 Tuesday 

Read Matthew 1:19 

19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 

If we put ourselves in Joseph’s shoes, we could easily justify his decision to put an end to their engagement and move on with his life.  His doing it quietly seemed like a noble move, considering the consequences. 

Can you think of a time when you were hurt and felt like the only option was to walk away? 

How did the situation affect your sense of shalom – peace, well-being, flourishing? 

Suggested Songs –  

Called Me Higher (All the Sons and Daughters) 

Good, Good Father (Chris Tomlin) 

Wednesday 

Read Matthew 1:20-21 

 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 

What a surprise and invitation to faith that Joseph received from the angel, to step out of the certainty of his righteous convictions and provide shalom for the mother of Jesus, the Savior of the world.  

When have you experienced an invitation to step outside your sense of what was right and bring shalom to someone? 

Can you think of a time when you have needed someone to step out of their righteous zone and extend grace and peace to you?  What did that look like for you? 

Suggested Songs –  

Joy to the World 

O Come, O Come Emmanuel 

Thursday 

 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 

These verses remind us that the coming of Immanuel would be through unconventional means, means that violated the laws of the religious community.  In retrospect we can see and appreciate that God’s will was done on earth as it is in heaven. 

As you look back, when has God brought peace or shalom to your life through unconventional means? 

Where are you being invited to extend peace in ways outside the norm this Advent? 

Suggested Songs: 

Joseph’s Song (Michael Card) 

Lead Kindly Light (Audrey Assad) 

Friday 

 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. 

Joseph was a great example of what it meant to be righteous and faithful.  His sensitivity to God’s leading gave him the capacity to step into a very different story than he anticipated.  We are invited to cultivate that same sensitivity to God that gives us eyes to see what he is doing in the world and how he might desire to uniquely use us to be agents of shalom in the lives of those we love and those God brings our way. 

Are there places where you are resisting the invitation to expand your capacity to bring shalom to some outside your comfort zone? 

What would it look like to follow God in this circumstance? 

Suggested Song: 

 Oceans (Hillsong) 

I Will Follow (Chris Tomlin) 

Saturday 

Today, spend time reading the whole passage, seeking to enter the story and discover what God might be saying to you today. 

Read through Matthew 1:18-25 

Quietly stay present with what you read for 30 seconds. 

Read the passage again.  As you do, what word or phrase stirs you or sticks with you? 

After reading the passage, ponder that word or phrase for 1 minute.  After a minute, write down the word or phrase and share it with your companion if you are doing this with others.  Listen to one another without discussion. 

Read the passage again, and ask God, what is it in my life that needed to hear this word or phrase today? 

Spend 1 minute pondering what God might be inviting you to through this passage and the particular word or phrase you are holding. 

Write down the invitation and/or share it with your companion. 

Read the passage for the last time and as you do, rest in God with the invitation given to you.  Spend a minute, letting God continue to minister to you around this invitation. 

Close in prayer. 

1st Week of Advent:  Simeon and Anna – Hope 

As we long for hope this Advent season, we are reminded of the 2 saints, Simeon, and Anna, who waited in the temple for the redemption of the world to appear in the form of Emmanuel. Their longing turned to joy when they met JesusAlthough a baby, they were close enough to God to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah. This week we ponder hope and how it is found in Christ during this season. 

Luke 2:22-38 

Monday 

Luke 2:22-24 “22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” 

At this point, Jesus is 40 days old, almost 7 weeksBeing committed Jews, Mary and Joseph performed the rites required by the law, the offering for Mary’s purification and the dedication of the 1st born son. In the process of following the law, they are about to be reminded that their son, the Son, is the Savior of the world. 

Have you experienced being surprised by hope in the midst of fulfilling your regular responsibilitiesWhat did that look like? 

What are you hoping for this Advent seasonWrite a prayer expressing your hopes to God. 

Suggested Songs: 

Heaven Come Down (Robert Seay Band) 

O Holy Night 

 Tuesday 

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law. 

Simeon is described as one who was righteous, devout, hopeful, and Spirit-filled. During a time when the nation of Israel was swallowed up and made desolate by the Roman Empire, God guides Simeon to the temple, and because he is in touch with the Spirit, Simeon hears and obeys. 

Where do you hear God speaking hope into your life and community right nowAre there other voices that overpower God’s voice of hope? 

Write a prayer, lifting to God the thoughts, feelings, and messages you are hearing that seem to overpower his voice, and asking him to focus your heart to hear him. 

Suggested Song: 

The Hope of Christmas (Matthew West) 

Christ Alone, Cornerstone 

Wednesday 

 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 

29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 

When was the last time you took a baby in your arm? Remember their smell (after they were changed, of course), and the sense of peace you haveSimeon sees this child, Jesus, and knows that this is the one they have been waiting for, the one who will reconcile Jews and Gentiles to God and to one another.  

Where do you find hope in your relationship with Jesus 

List some ways that you can share your hope with those around you? 

Suggested Songs: 

Look Up Now (Lauren Daigle) 

O Come, O Come Emmanuel 

Thursday 

33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 

Simeon’s prophecy over Jesus was that he would be a game-changer, one that lifted the layers of religious propriety that excluded many and reached into the very heart and motives of humankindThis is what the world needed then and now so that God’s will might be done on earth as in heavenAnd this gave Simeon hope. 

Where do you find your hopeHow does the Holy Spirit fill you with hope? 

What do you hear God inviting you to as you ponder your own sense of hopefulness? 

 Suggested Songs: 

New Every Morning (Audrey Assad) 

It Is Well (Kristene DiMarco) 

Friday 

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 

Anna dedicated her life to worship, prayer, fasting, and prophecyDuring her many years of commitment, she no doubt hoped beyond hope for the coming of the Messiah that would bring redemption to the worldSeeing the Christ-child renewed her hope and energy to share with all the good news of the coming Savior. 

When have you experienced hope become realityHow has that shaped your relationship with Jesus and with others? 

Write a prayer about a place in your life where you have been hoping for a long timeExpress how you are maintaining hope and how you might be struggling. 

Come Alive Dry Bones (Lauren Daigle) 

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 

 Saturday 

To end the week, we will engage in the practice of Lectio DivinaThis practice of divine reading helps us to listen attentively to a passage in order to open ourselves to what God might want to say to usIn this exercise, avoid trying to analyze the passage but stay present with GodYou could do this with your spouse, your roommate, or a friend over the phone, and be encouraged by what the Holy Spirit says to you and your companion.  

Read through Luke 2:22-38 

Quietly stay present with what you read for 30 seconds. 

Read the passage againAs you do, what word or phrase stirs you or sticks with you? 

After reading the passage, ponder that word or phrase for 1 minuteAfter a minute, write down the word or phrase and share it with your companion if you are doing this with others 

Read the passage again, and ask God, what is it in my life that needed to hear this word or phrase today? 

Spend 1-minute pondering what God might be inviting you to through this passage and the particular word or phrase you are holding. 

Write down the invitation and/or share it with your companion. 

Read the passage for the last time and as you do, rest in God with the invitation given to youSpend a minute, letting God continue to minister to you around this invitation. 

Close in prayer.