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Daily Devotion – February 29, 2012
02.29.12

Mark 8: 34-35

34He called the crowd
with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let
them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those
who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

 

Reflection by Angela Gula 

What a powerful message and an even larger charge in just two short verses! As I
read these versus I’m taken back to the time when they were written. I can see
Jesus, the crowd and his disciples. I can imagine them hearing these words and
taking them in a more literal sense rather than the figurative sense that I
read them with today.

Either way, it is quite a challenge Jesus asks of us. Deny ourselves, take up our
crosses, follow Him. Deny ourselves—let go of our confidence, realize that we
don’t have all of the answers, admit that we can’t do it alone. Take up our
cross—find ways to bear the burdens of others—reach out and help, listen, give
to others who have less. Follow Him—re-order our priorities, reflect on ways
that Jesus can come first in our lives, and then find ways to act on it. 

Prayer: 

God, in such a busy
world it’s so easy to say one thing but do another. So often it’s easy to
proclaim that we are followers of you but we fail in the follow through.  Be with us as we continually work to be your
disciple. Give us the strength to take up our crosses and follow you.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – February 28, 2012
02.28.12

 Mark 8:31-38

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be
rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and
after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him
aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind
not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become
my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their
life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will
it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can
they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words
in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be
ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

 

Reflection by Diane Ingram

 Who among us wants
to hear the bad news? I certainly don’t.  After a childhood spent hearing sermons about
hellfire and brimstone, I am particularly pleased to hear the Good News now,
the comforting and uplifting aspects of Christianity.  

According to
Mark’s account, Peter didn’t want any bad news, either. He and the disciples
probably mumbled and complained among themselves with remarks like:  Why does he say those depressing things?  I look to him for positive news, and it’s
upsetting when he starts talking about this bad stuff.  I didn’t sign up for this.  I don’t want to hear it. He needs to get back
on track. 

We’re still like
that. Christianity is sweet when it tells us about God’s love.  It’s not so pleasant when it tells us to love
that hateful neighbor or to stand up for the downtrodden in ways that take
courage and effort.  In our human desire
for comfort, we want to wear only the cashmere jacket and leave off the hair
shirt.

 Prayer: 

Compassionate God, we ask your help in those
not-so-pleasant tasks that we know we need to do. Give us wisdom and courage in
our words and in our actions.



Daily Devotion – February 27, 2012
02.27.12

The Sign of the Covenant

17When Abram was
ninety-nine years old, the Lord
appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk
before me, and be blameless.
2And I will make my
covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’
3Then
Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,
4‘As
for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude
of nations.
5No longer shall
your name be Abram,
but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of
nations.
6I will make you
exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from
you.
7I will establish my
covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their
generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your
offspring after you.

15God said to
Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall
be her name.
16I will bless her,
and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give
rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Reflection by Lynne Buell

I’m beginning to understand “covenant” the word more and how
important it is to have this in our lives. 

I speak for myself when I say that I really enjoy living alone with my kitties, Sammy, Petey, and
Biskit.  But living with this trio is not
really living alone.  They are in my face
purring and rubbing on my forehead every morning as early as 5:30.  They take turns and don’t converge on me all at
the same time.  If one doesn’t first
succeed in getting me up, then the next one will give it a try and so on until
I sit up.  I love on them with face and
head scratches, and then I hop out of bed.  I enjoy it as they run ahead of me—the 3 of
them together—running down the stairs with their fluffy tails in the air
anticipating what comes next.  By the
time I get into the kitchen, there they are huddled at the pantry door.  

Fast forward beyond the feeding frenzy to when I get on the computer
to talk to my Dad on instant message, check email, and post the daily devotion.
 Sammy (my talker) comes over to where I’m
sitting and begs for my attention. 
Petting isn’t always enough for him so he stands on his hind legs and
pats my hip until I acknowledge his presence and talk back to him and assure
him he is my favorite one.

Fast forward to shower time. 
Petey dashes ahead of me as I head upstairs, because he thinks I’m going
to bed.  Petey is my toddler (not really ‘cuz
he’s 10 years old) and loves to snuggle in bed. 
He lacks the grace that most cats have when walking around objects and continuously
knocks stuff over, and he loves to tip over my glass of ice water trying to get
the ice, so I try not forgetting to leave my water glass unattended.  When Petey realizes I’m not going to bed,
Biskit takes over (she is my little girl who loves water).  Biskit will sit on the edge of the bathtub
eagerly waiting when I open the shower door so she can step in and lap up the
water from the floor.  And you can count
on Biskit dashing from wherever she is to get at the faucet you have just
turned on, because you know that tap water is much better than the water in the
bowl on the floor (regardless of the fact that it is changed and filled
faithfully).

When it’s bedtime, Petey, without fail, dashes up the stairs ahead
of me.  I reach my room, and he is
sitting on my bed impatiently waiting for me to get into pajamas, brush my
teeth, remove the pillows and comforter, and FINALLY get in bed so he can
snuggle up next to me with his little head on my pillow.

Miscellaneous activities include the fact that I cannot sit
without having at least two of them on my lap or lying next to me; all of them clustering
around the door every time I come home (no matter what time of day or night);
Biskit loves to watch me cook (she doesn’t want anything—she just watches);
Sammy enters the room talking (in fact, he’s talking now) telling all about it;
Biskit likes the smell of bleach so when I bleach my counter tops I have a time
of it keeping her off because she wants to rub on them; catnip time can offer
more entertainment than you can imagine; Avon boxes make the best places to lay
in (both the tops and the bottoms); and always leave the bathroom door open or
you will have to deal with the wrath of Sammy.

The covenant of my little household is very important.  The covenant of my faith family is crucial to
my well-being.  This is an amazing
scripture telling of God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah and changing their
names to what were their true names.  But
then God binds to their offspring—us; and he will also reveal to us our true
names.  

Prayer:

Amazing God,

Every Sunday I look
forward to being with my faith family and to learn more from Kim’s sermons
about the Bible’s teachings.  For this I
give thanks and eagerly look toward what you have planned for the remainder of my
life.  I give thanks for showing me how
significant events in my life were necessary for me to reach the place I am in
now.    Amen.



Daily Devotion – February 26, 2012
02.26.12

Prayer for Guidance and for
Deliverance

Of David.

1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.
6 Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord,
and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord
are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Psalm 25:1-10

Reflection by Lynne Buell

When I was 10 years old, I went trick or treating with my friend.  No other Halloween nights stick in my mind like this one did.  My friend decided to soap the last house’s windows, and I was the one who got blamed for it.  She was a mean little girl.  She turned and ran off and left me standing there when the little old lady came to the door.  The lady yelled at me and said she would tell
my parents.  Being the meek child that I was, I stood there and took the heat before (what seemed like hours) I turned and ran off too.  This lady didn’t know who my parents were.  Her street was 3 blocks away.  But I felt like I was a first-rate criminal, even though I was only an accessory to the crime.  I never told my parents.  And my so-called friend?  She eventually moved away but not before she tried to turn other little friends against me so that they would be only her friend. . 

After I read this scripture, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.  As an adult I know the truth and really how minimal the event really was.  But I never ever wanted to disappoint my parents, not to mention I would
have probably experienced the wrath of Dad which scared me even more.

Prayer:

Loving God, when past experiences leave a dull ache in my chest, help me to remember this prayer for help, protection, and salvation.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – February 25, 2012
02.25.12

With You I am Well Pleased 

Mark 1:9-15 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  And a voice came from heaven, “You
are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.  Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

 

Reflection by Gabriela Mills

In this passage we see Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness because he was driven to do so by the Holy Spirit. 
Whatever work lay before him, he had to withdraw for a time first and prepare himself.  Forty days seems like a
long time, but maybe it was necessary.  I wonder if this was a probationary period before he was commissioned to the task
he was ultimately called for.  Jesus is tempted by Satan and had to be among wild beasts, but obviously passed the
tests since after his spiritual ‘work out’ Jesus is pumped and ready to go.  His buddy John has been arrested, which gives
us an indication of the sentiment toward anyone who wasn’t happy about being under Rome’s control, and Jesus knows what he must do – he must do all that he can to tell everyone that God has not forgotten them, God loves them and yearns
to bring true life to everyone.

Four days into Lent with thirty-six to go.  Just as Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, we have 40 days of Lent,
40 days of opportunity to seek God more deeply, and strengthen our spiritual muscles.  Just as Jesus was made stronger
by his time of spiritual renewal, we, too, can use this time to pump some spiritual iron and experience God in a new way in our lives.  

Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this time of seeking you and thank you for the blessing of being revived by your
presence.  Help me seek you more diligently, not just during this Lenten season, but always. 
Amen



Daily Devotion – February 23, 2012
02.23.12

2 Cor. 5:20b

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 

Reflection by Rochelle Lofstrand

Reconciliation.
The word has a beautiful ring to it even in terms of human life-for a marriage scarred by bitterness and distance and hurt; for friends who have fallen out; for parents and children whose relationship is now broken, hostile, and painful.

Reconciliation.
What a beautiful ring that word has. The reuniting of those who are estranged so that the state of hostility is gone, enmity removed. And now there is peace.  (Rev. Carl Haak)

Today is the first day of Lent. During Lent, Christians all over the world, from all different denominations, are asked/challenged contemplate their sinfulness, repent, ask God’s forgiveness, and realize the infinite sacrifice God made on their behalf.

Lent is the perfect time to reflect, contemplate, and even RECONCILE your relationship with God. For the next 40 days, think about one thing that you can do to help you reunite with some part of your relationship with God.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for this time every year to focus daily on your love for me and for all of your children.  I pray that I will find a special time or a special act that I can do that will help me reconcile any part of our relationship that might need more peace.  AMEN.



Daily Devotion – February 22, 2012
02.22.12

Psalm 51:1-17 

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

4Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in
your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you
pass judgment.

5Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

6You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in
my secret heart.

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall
be whiter than snow.

8Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed
rejoice.

9Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit
within me.

11Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy
spirit from me.

12Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing
spirit.

13Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return
to you.

14Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my
tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

15O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

16For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt
offering, you would not be pleased.

17The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and
contrite heart,

O God, you will not despise. 

 

Reflection by Rev. Kimberleigh Buchanan 

Once on a visit to the UCC Church House in Cleveland, a West Coast
UCCer and I were comparing our churches’ worship formats. When he saw that we
do a confession every week, his jaw dropped. “You do a confession? Like a
confession of sin? Well, that’s just depressing. We’re much more positive
at my church.” 

Not confessing our sins certainly would make for a more positive worship experience, but it would not be as authentic. The truth is, we’re human beings and as human beings, we’re going to mess up sometimes…sometimes in really BIG ways. 

Like David did. Remember David?  Greatest king in all of ancient Israel? Author
of beautiful Psalms…a man after God’s own heart. And –remember
Bathsheba?an adulterer. A murderer. A willful abuser of his power.
David didn’t face his sin until Nathan the prophet confronted him. When David
realized what he’d done, he was crushed. He’d sinned against his fellow human
beings. He’d sinned against God. 

David’s first desire after facing up to his sin was to confess it,
to come clean with himself and with God about what he’d done. That’s what he
does in Psalm 51. There was no cover-up, no blame game, no media spin, no
impeachment proceedings, none of that. Just good old fashioned confession.
“I was wrong. I’m sorry.” Took some guts to do that, don’t you think? 

I wonder what gave David the courage to confess. Maybe he felt
confident to confess because he believed in a loving God, one who would still
love him despite everything he’d done. “A broken and contrite heart, O
God, you will not despise,” he wrote. David believed that. He believed
that, as the Apostle Paul will later write, “God is faithful and just to
forgive us of all sin.” How heartening to come clean with our sin and
still to be loved by God! 

We have the opportunity to come clean with our own sinfulness and
experience God’s love and forgiveness this evening. At 7:00, we’ll join together
in prayer, song, and the Imposition of Ashes to begin the season of Lent. I
don’t know if my UCC friend will be participating in an Ash Wednesday service
tonight…but I hope he does. Receiving God’s loves on the far side of
confession? It can be a truly moving experience. 

Prayer: 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not
cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – February 21, 2012
02.21.12

Psalm 34:4

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears”

 

Reflection by Wayne Scott  

There has never been a week in my life more like this past week that I have felt like God has placed certain knowledge in my path. As I reflect on the times that I have spent with my father, all of the lessons that he taught me and my brothers, and all of the things that I discovered about my father after his passing, I realized that, in spite of the fact that he stopped going to church before I was ever born, he continued to lead a quietly faithful Christian life.

When I was growing up I always went to church with my mother – my father always stayed home. I knew that my father was heavily involved with the church at one time, but had stopped going at some point for reasons unknown. It felt like one of those safely guarded family secrets – you know the ones that everyone kind of knows about but doesn’t ever talk about. While my mother and my brothers had their own theories, my father never really explained the real reason why he quit going to church. Aside from not going to church, I never saw my father reading from a Bible nor did I ever witness him praying (unless it was at one of the three big holiday meals and someone else was giving the blessing). Up until this past week, I simply assumed that my father had completely lost faith.

So what did I discover about my father this past week? And how does it fit with Psalm 34:4?

I discovered that my father liked to help people in need and didn’t tell anyone (not even my mother) when he did. Sometimes it was financial assistance (even at times when he wasn’t in a good position to do so) and other times it was some other act of Christian kindness. It wasn’t until those individuals came forward at his funeral service that we knew how much my father had secretively
helped people in their times of need. I discovered that my father not only had a Bible, but that he actually used it. He had placed items of importance to him, as many people do, inside of his Bible. Many of these items were bulletins from the church that my mother attended. Sometimes the scripture verses were highlighted, other times prayer concerns were highlighted, and yet other times it was something specific to our family – like the order of service that listed me as a soloist or the announcements of the births of his grandchildren. Not even my mother knew that he was collecting, highlighting, and storing these items in his Bible until after he had passed. I always knew that my father enjoyed his quiet moments (sometimes hours) on the back patio – silently watching his garden grow or watching and feeding the birds – but I always thought that he just enjoyed being outside. In light of this other evidence, I believe that those quiet moments on his back patio were the moments that he went to the Lord in prayer – only he really knows.

In reflecting on all of this and much more (too much more to write about here) I am convinced that my father’s faith was NEVER shaken. He sought the Lord – not by attending church, but by quietly tending to the needs of others and having his own inwardly personal relationship with God – and he was ultimately delivered from all of his fears. May we all strive to have our own deep
personal relationship with God!

Prayer:
Spend about 15 minutes (seems like a long time doesn’t it – try it for an hour or two if you REALLY want a challenge) sitting quietly with nature and have your own private conversation with God.



Daily Devotion – February 20, 2012
02.20.12

February 20, 2012 

I John 3: 1-3 

The Love of the Father

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

 

Reflection by Monty Wyne 

God loves us like a father loves his children. Like a loving parent, God wants the best for his children. And like loving children, we strive to please God, our creator. There are times we are neglectful or rebellious. Sometimes we disobey and yet God continues to love and forgive us.  

“What we will be has not yet been revealed.”  Although we may not know now what life holds for each one of us, as we live out our lives more will be revealed to us and we’ll find what God has in store for us. I know that I have experienced God’s watchful presence when I find myself in an unfortunate life circumstance in which I feel there is no way out. I feel trapped and helpless. I have no answers, yet more often than not a path is revealed to me. 

I feel myself grow stronger and wiser as a person. I also feel closer to God for I know that it is He that has provided a way. He has shown me that despair can become triumph and that helplessness can become hopefulness and for that I am grateful. 

Since we are made in God’s image we should strive to be more like Him. God is the perfection, the purity that we should strive to emulate. In our striving, we become kinder, more loving and understanding people. And in that metamorphosis, we become purer of heart and soul. 

Prayer: 

Dear God,

There are times I struggle as one of your children, yet you pick me up. There are times I lash out with resentment and anger, yet you forgive me. I strive to be more like you and yet there are many times I fall short, but you give me the benefit of the doubt. Your boundless love and understanding are a mystery to me, but I am so thankful you are there to catch me when I fall prey to my human shortcomings.  Amen

 



Daily Devotion – February 19, 2012
02.19.12

Joshua 24:14-15

Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’

 

Reflection by Jim Kennedy

This is the polytheism versus monotheism issue of the Hebrew scripture; “the gods your ancestors served” versus “the Lord” And
you must choose, oh my.  In The Evolution of God Robert Wright described the polytheism, monolatryism, and monotheism phases of God. Polytheism was many gods; monolatryism was one god for each society, but of course my society’s god is more justified, important, and powerful than your society’s god; and monotheism was one true-and-all-powerful god in charge of everything.

In monolatryism the feeling was that my god can beat up your god in the pig-pen scrap. Monolatryism had none of the working
together of polytheism or the I’m-in-charge-of-everything of monotheism.  Monolatryism was the true precursor to my dog (house, car, bank account…) is bigger than your dog…

Wright also wrote about how, in the eighth century B.C.E., god had achieved the “Yahweh-alone” phase of development. Each
society had its own monotheistic deity, but for those of Judea the winner was Yahweh alone. Woe be unto you who don’t buy into Yahweh alone.  You’ll end up in the pig pen. Eventually Yahweh (God, Allah) won over all the other monolatric gods and became the winner of monotheism.

In The Faith Instinct Nicholas Wade wrote that biologists have come to realize that social animals have developed rules for restraining their self-interest and that religion, which grew out of social rules, embodies the moral rules that members of a community observe toward one another to sustain the quality of the social fabric. Wade wrote about how the existence of special neural circuitry in the human brain dedicate to moral decisions is evidence that morality is an evolved faculty with a genetic basis.

So why did the human brain evolve to the monotheism of “the Lord” and not the polytheism or the monolatry of “the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt”? Was “the Lord” right and “the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt” wrong?  Or were these two way of saying the same thing about a transcendent and imminent God? Remember when Albert Einstein asked the question, “Is light a wave or a particle?” The correct answer is “Yes”. Maybe the human brain hasn’t
evolved solely to monotheism. Fortunately many of us are open to the many ways of thinking about God.

Prayer:

Dear Lord, I pray that you are one, but if you are not that’s OK, as long as you are the loving and accepting God(s) for all.