Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places, and replanted that which was desolate. Ezekial 36:36.
Simeon prayed: My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. Luke 2:30-32.
A small boy, in a fit of anger, kicked out his leg and knocked down the tower that his brother was so pains-takingly building. The older boy howled and pushed his sibling down, sat on him, and began pummeling him with his fists. Their father heard the ruckus and came into the room. Without saying a word, he assessed the situation, separated the boys and pulled them both into his lap. When they had quieted, he asked what the problem was. Each boy blamed the other. Their father then began calmly talking to them, all the time holding them close. He explained to them what was wrong with their behavior and that it was OK to be angry but not OK to take their anger out on each other. The boys probably did not fully understand but they listened. Soon they were rebuilding the tower together.
This was a wise father. He didn’t yell or accuse or lay blame. Instead, he lovingly admonished them and the boys were left with their self-worth intact and hopefully a sense that it was wrong to hurt others.
Our heavenly Father does this for us. He comes into the ruined places in our lives and replants in us his hope and love. We can let go of devastation and sorrow and guilt. We are made new and free to remember that we are loved unconditionally. Thanks be to God.
Thank you for continuing to restore and rebuild your people. Because of your love for us, we can love others. Forgive us and renew us. In Jesus name we pray, Amen
How great are God’s signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation. Daniel 4:3 (NIV)
Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32
I spent some time Sunday with a “little flock,” if a dozen horses, plus a donkey, can be called that. They belong to a friend who takes in horses that need a home, to live along with her own horses. Horses in general tend to be fearful and suspicious of any strange situation including unknown people. Someone told me it is because they are prey and assume everything is out to attack and eat them. One horse had been sent to a slaughter plant in Canada, but was deemed too skinny; she ended up as part of this flock. Another horse was of a gaited breed; the breeders didn’t want her because her knees didn’t look pretty enough although she gaited normally. All these horses were getting along with each other, and were friendly to the strangers who came into their pen. Why were they not fearful of us and what we were doing to them? They were now safe, part of a flock with a loving caretaker, enough food and a home.
Do not be afraid – this phrase shows up in a lot of places in the Bible. Angels tend to say it when they arrive, so they must be a little scary. And here Jesus tells us that we do not need to worry, we will be taken care of and be with Jesus in His kingdom. Not only that, but it is at the Father’s good pleasure, He is actually choosing to do this for us! There are times when it seems all we can focus on is fear of what might be coming. Needless worry about the future over which we do not have much control is not what God intends. It can be hard to avoid worry, but it does help to remember that God cares for the sparrows, the lilies of the field and certainly those of us in His flock.
Is this God someone we can trust to take care of us? Does He have the power to do so? Read the words from Daniel and consider who is saying them. They are said right after the three friends of Daniel are thrown into the fiery furnace (this might be a time to be afraid, perhaps?) and yet survive. They are seen walking around in the furnace along with a fourth person. The king tells the guards to get them out of the furnace. He is also the one who speaks the words in our verse. Yes, it is not Daniel, but Nebuchadnezzar who praises God. He has seen how mighty God is, how great, and that His kingdom is eternal throughout all generations. In verse 2 it says that he addressed this not just to his own people or the Israelites, but “To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth” (Daniel 4:2). This little flock can be a great big flock, as long as the news reaches all of them. With a God like this, none of those of us in the flock need fear anything in this world.
As the song says:
Have no fear little flock
For the Father has chosen to give you the kingdom
Have good cheer little flock
For the Father will keep you in His love forever
Praise the Lord high above
For He stoops down to heal you, uplift and restore you
Thankful hearts raise to God
For He stays close beside you, in all things works with you
Heinz Werner Zimmermann (verse 1) Marjorie Jillson. (verse2-4)
Majestic God, your works are evident in all creational It is awesome to witness what you continue to do for your children throughout the generations. Thank you for your word that promises us your eternal kingdom where we are invited to live with you forever. Help us to not fear the future as we go about our lives today listening to you and sharing the Good News. Amen.
O Lord, you are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Psalm 142:5
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”
There is a time for everything, as the teacher in Ecclesiastes says. There is a natural progression to the rhythm of life.
The Israelites, who spent 40 years in the wilderness, felt great despair and loss of hope . Forty years! Seems like a big waste of time, doesn’t it? Maybe Moses was too proud to stop and ask for directions. You know how guys are.
In any event, they knew a lot of despair out there in the wilderness. There were times when they were hungry and very thirsty. There were times when they were simply burned out from all the uncertainty and endless challenges of just living. At times, I am sure; the idea of returning to bondage looked appealing.
But they were not abandoned. They were cared for day by day, by a God who provided for them.
The wilderness can take many forms in today’s world. There is the wilderness of unexplained tragedy and random violence that gives school kids and their parent’s bad dreams. The wilderness of domestic violence that can turn a home into a minefield. Or the wilderness of escape, of running away from reality at full speed, with alcohol or drugs.
But everything changed when Jesus entered the picture. When the life changing love of God, broke into the heart of human history, to throw us a life line………
So that we may have life and have it abundantly…both now and in the world to come. He overcame sin and death once and for all, by the resurrection power of Christ on the cross.
When all hope seems to be slipping away, He gave us these words of comfort, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
“To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”
Like a newborn, I rejoice in your great grace and mercy to me. Thank you for giving me life and faith so that I might live in hope. I’m sorry for the times when I have diminished hope for others. Breathe hope and life into those who feel hopeless and dead. Today make me a vessel of your promises. Amen.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. Psalm 16:6
God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8
Recently I read the Star Tribune article titled “Durable Greenway calling it quits after a decade.”* Chad Greenway was lauded by many throughout the article, because of his many accomplishments as a Minnesota Viking linebacker. Then the article shifted to note his accomplishments off the football field saying, “Greenway was as helpful off the field as he was on it.” He and his wife, Jennifer, established charitable endeavors to aid sick children and their families in the Twin Cities through the Lead The Way Foundation. The Greenways and their four daughters have lived with every blessing in abundance and have enough of everything. They then share abundantly in every good work. Today’s verses reminded me of the Greenway family’s contributions of their many resources.
As I prepared for today’s devotion, I thought of the many blessings bestowed on each one of us. Certainly most of us cannot share as the Greenways have shared, but there are so many things done to share with us throughout our lives. We also share with others. One day recently, after a considerable snowfall, musicians from the Kennedy Show Choir went over to shovel the snow from the driveway of the lady who volunteers to sew costumes for singers. She told how she watched them with tears in her eyes. She was thankful and knows her investment of time is a blessing to herself. “I just love those kids!” she said.
Christ the King or any other church community could hardly survive without a legion of volunteers. These creative active people are a life source to dozens of church outreach activities. We are blessed indeed that the abundance people have in their own lives is shared in their willingness to help others. To God be the glory.
Dear Lord and Savior,
You have provided us in such abundance by sustaining and renewing us each day. Help us to reach out to others in your name as we remember all of your gifts to us. Amen.
Where is the one who is wise? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 1 Corinthians 1:20
Sometimes as we drive down the road of life, we come to dangerous intersections. And we probably refer to them as “forks in the road.” These are those moments where a choice we make or don’t make sets us on a course that could influence the rest of our journey. Do we stop or go. Turn right or left. Go ahead or turn back. There are many times when we will approach one of those intersections and we will realize we have a shortage of wisdom.
There are various definitions of wisdom. Webster defines it as “the ability to make right use of knowledge.” But maybe the definition of wisdom should be the convergence of knowledge and skill which enables a person to make right choices that honor God.
So ask for some wisdom. God will not make fun of you. He will not insult you. He is not looking around at the angels as he dispenses wisdom saying, “would you look at this guy?” He delights to give you wisdom. He wants you to come to Him and ask for it. Ask as many times as you need it (which for me is every day).
“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day.”
Lord of wisdom and power, thank you for revealing to me the foolishness of my wisdom – instead of leading me to know your ways, it leads me astray. Forgive me for thinking that my own understanding and knowledge I can believe in you. Renew your Holy Spirit with in me and make me whole. Amen.
y eyes are awake before each watch of the night that I may meditate on your promise. Psalm 119:148
Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19
Anyone else awake in the middle of the night? We do sometimes wake up, maybe more than once, and then find it a little hard to get back to sleep. I remember years ago when we had a Bible study on the Psalms, facilitated by Anne Janda. She loved reading the Psalms, and studying them, and in turn teaching the rest of us what she had learned. One thing that stood out was their usefulness in the middle of the night. When you wake up, and can’t get back to sleep, pick up the Bible, select a Psalm or two to read and, yes, meditate on.
The watches of the night were three in Jewish tradition – the first or “beginning of the watches, the middle watch and the morning watch. That is about sunset to 10 PM, sunset to 2 AM, and 2 AM to sunrise. (Smith’s Bible dictionary). So our Psalmist too must be awake in the middle of the night. Perhaps he took time at sunset and at sunrise to meditate on the promises of God, and again in the middle of the night at 2 AM. I don’t think I want to set an alarm for 2 AM to do this, but maybe I can take time in the morning, at sunset or bedtime to read the Word and meditate on it.
As part of our 40 days of Lent, “Fast, Pray, Give” set up by our Health Cabinet, yesterday we were to try to have some silence:
Fast • Give up noise and distractions.
Pray • Pray for calm and peace in the world and the ability to discern what is important to listen to in our very noisy world.
Give • Donate 30 minutes to solitude and quiet to let stress melt away.
I did try this. For a couple hours I did not turn on the TV, or the radio, or use any media. I did some reading, and just spent some quiet time to let stress go away, it is a little strange to just have silence, but it seems like something I could do every day. Silence is needed to focus and allow us to meditate. We have so much noise around us: Radios and TVs playing, perhaps video games are being played. Conversations where we hardly listen since we are so eager to speak and add our comments. We rarely have peace and quiet or take any time to quietly reflect. Mary knew this. As we read in Luke she has just heard some pretty remarkable news; her reaction wasn’t to go out and tell all her friends, but to quietly listen, keep the words in her heart, and think about them. She took time to reflect on her new role as the mother of Jesus, our Savior. Somehow I think she probably did this every day as she listened to God’s words, and followed them.
God of hope, we are grateful for the promises you have given us in your Word. Help us keep awareness of your message in our thoughts as we meditate. Heavenly Father, remind us to pause within the busyness of our day, to feed our souls with your words of peace. For it is in those words that we find our strength, our hope and our purpose. Amen.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within met? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. Psalm 42:11
Your sorrow will be turned into joy. John 16:20
Interesting that in the verse from Psalms there is almost a conversation with one’s own soul. Why are you sad? Well there are lots of reasons that we might be disquieted, and in sorrow. There are deaths of family or friends that cause us sorrow. Many things cause anxiety from worries about jobs and income, health concerns, bills to pay, and income tax to figure out. It doesn’t take the Psalmist more than one sentence, however, to declare what the soul should be feeling. Why be cast down when there is hope in God? The writer states that he will again praise him, even though at times the sadness seems overwhelming.
The verse from Psalms is called a “refrain” as it is repeated in verse 11, the last verse of this Psalm. The writer starts out the Psalm telling how much he yearns for the presence of God. He compares it to a deer wanting a stream of water using phrases such as “my soul pants for you, O God,” and “my soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Even though there are times when all seems sad and lost, there is always hope in the knowledge of God’s presence.
In John we read that sorrow will be turned into joy – that seems a little strange why can’t we just skip that sorrow part and get to the joy? Jesus tells this to the disciples not long before He is crucified. He wants them to know that they will grieve, but that this grief will turn to joy when they realize what comes next – Jesus’ resurrection and our salvation. Much the same thought is in Matthew, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). It sounds almost as though there is to be a time of sadness before there can be joy. Sadness and anxiety are part of our lives. Certainly we can be comforted and joyful when we realize that God has promised to be with us no matter what. When we are mourning we can turn to Him in prayer and be patient for the coming time of joy.
Lord Jesus, you come to us in our discouragement and despair. You lift us up by the power of your resurrection, and our suffering is turned to joy! O God of all comfort and grace, be especially near to those who are suffering from illness and pain. May their souls and bodies be flooded with the light that penetrates our deepest darkness. Send your healing presence this day. Amen.
“Because your heart was penitent and you have humbled yourself before me, I also have heard you.” says the Lord. 2 Chronicles 34:27
The royal official said to Jesus, “Sir, come down before my little boy does.” Jesus said to him, Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. John 4: 49-50
Life is filled with “why” questions. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why am I hurting? Without a doubt, some of these questions are hard to answer. And, I think many of them relate directly to our relationship with God. Why do I have to wait a long time for answers to my prayers? How come some of my prayers never seem to be answered?
The fact is a lot of our questions in life can’t be answered with our limited human understanding. But when we’re faced with spiritual struggles and dilemmas, we can find comfort in knowing that one question has a relatively simple answer: “Why should we pray?” There are many reasons, but one solution might be by stating that prayer connects us with the heart of God. It’s a strong source for finding understanding of His plan for our lives. We receive guidance and wisdom through prayer, and I believe it can have a tangible impact on our everyday life. Prayer forms a unique, powerful communication link with God—an intimate, “heart-to-heart” conversation with Him. That alone is a compelling enough reason to pray.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for not trusting that I can come to you for anything. Create in me an open heart and humble spirit for your dwelling place. Remind me today that talking with you can become easy and natural. I’m thankful that you promise to listen and help me through any situation. Amen.
Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go, where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:16
You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of God. Ephesians 2:10
How many movies has Hollywood made with the theme of “where you go I go, your people shall be my people “ and so on. This is my immediate thought on the first verse. The second verse seems a bit broader in that it is about all of us. Yet here again without much reach one can envision another Hollywood scene where refugees are being welcomed with open arms.
Apparently this is a simple concept for us humans and has been discussed for a very long time. Yet today (literally today) we have significant discord on who is allowed where. It isn’t just here in the US. It is everywhere. Citizens from countries or parts of the world are allowed in some countries but not others. I would guess that this really boils down to concept of protection against “the bad guys” which in turn is driven by fear. No one wants to be afraid. From there, right or wrong, societies put up barriers.
We do this too. In our own lives. We have lunch with “the usual gang” at work. We socialize with “our friends”. We tend to sit in the same places at Church. Face it. We’re humans, we are creatures of habit and we like what we like. Or rather, we tend to like who we like.
So that’s all well and good. But where does this leave us with God’s very old and very true message that we are all part of a big thing together.
I guess it is up to each of us to decide. Maybe today some of us pay more attention to the world around us and how we fit in or how we can help. Or perhaps there is someone out there that you’ve been meaning to reach out to, perhaps that is meant for today. Or maybe it is just taking that deep breath and being a little more patient with a loved one or someone who just need a little more patience. There are many paths. We just need to decide to follow one and maybe today is the day to do that.
Thank you Lord for the gift of family and friends and the opportunity to journey through life with one another. Forgive me for neglecting the needs of others as I focus on my own desires. Give me the grace to live as a member of your Kingdom. Amen.
The Lord said to Moses, “You cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” Exodus 33:20
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. Hebrews 11:1-2
Moses had quite a few conversations with the Lord before this statement in Exodus. He has become the spokesman for his people, gotten them out of Egypt and heard all kinds of rules for them to follow, including the Ten Commandments. He has even had to journey back to talk to God after the people disobeyed and made the golden calf. While Moses has been doing this communicating, the people he left behind were not following the few rules they had: faith in one true God, the one that had just saved them from Egypt. Finally the people seem to have caught on, accepted the laws of God and are happily proceeding to the Promised Land.
God has told them He will be with them, and tells Moses to “lead these people.” But Moses has a request, he has done all this and now he wants to see God in all His glory. But God says “no”, and he is not allowed to. At some point God will allow Moses to see God’s back in passing, but not His face.
No matter the works that Moses has done, there is still a gap between human worthiness (uh, unworthiness) and God’s holiness. There is a gap here that we cannot cross; we cannot make a bridge over this expanse. We manage to sin and fall short of what God asks on a daily, hourly basis.
We are entering the season of Lent when we take time to focus on our own sin and confess our shortcomings to God. We do this in faith that He will listen and forgive us. The writer of Hebrews has this wonderful chapter 11 on faith, on all the faithful people that have come before. He defines faith as something that we have without seeing, it is an assurance we have about the future. From Abel, through Noah, to Moses and numerous prophets, examples are listed of those who persevered in their faith without seeing its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. We have seen the glory of God revealed in Jesus’ death and resurrection. God has provided the means for us to cross the gap between our unworthiness, and His holiness.
As we begin our walk with you through this season of sorrow and self-sacrifice, may our eyes be opened, our ears attuned to the stirrings of your spirit. May we experience, once again, your passionate love for us. It is your Word that has revealed your love to us and given us assurance that you are our Savior. Help us to focus on this incredible gift as we begin our journey through the Lenten season. Amen