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Daily Devotion – September 30, 2012
09.30.12

Job 1:1 

Job and His Family 

There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job.
That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from
evil.
 

Job 2: 1-10

One day the heavenly beings came to present
themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among
them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered
the Lord, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from
walking up and down on it.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have
you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a
blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still
persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him
for no reason.’ Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Skin for
skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out
your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your
face.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, he is in your
power; only spare his life.’

 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his
foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself
and sat among the ashes.

 Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still
persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.’ But he said to her, ‘You speak
as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God,
and not receive the bad?’ In all this, Job did not sin with his lips.

Reflection by Monty Wyne

Just how strong
are your beliefs?  How many times have they
been put to the test? Did you survive with your beliefs in tact? Did you
succumb to temptation? Did you find yourself in the heat of challenge or adversity
and say to yourself “I give in or give up?”  How many of us have “the strength of Job?” I
am sure there are a few among the many or there may be many.

Life is filled
with trials and that’s what builds character and unshakable faith—faith in God
and faith in yourself. How many times have you or I said to ourselves, “Life
isn’t fair. Why am I so unfortunate? Why am I the only one?” Where can we go
inside ourselves, inside prayer, inside the everlasting wisdom of God for
answers, for strength? Isn’t that one of the eternal questions?

What I find
interesting is that in adversity we often find truth, answers to things that
until that moment remained questions. And so often, we are not alone in our
struggles, but fail to see because we are too consumed in the immediate.      

Yet, when we
least expect it, someone (an angel?) or something appears that moves us
forward. Happenstance?  Or a gift from
God to let us know He hasn’t forgotten us? 
I’ve asked myself that question more times than I can count. And, in
most instances, I would answer a gift.

Something each of us
should remember the next time we are presented with a difficult hardship.

 

Prayer

 

Our Heavenly Father,

Although we may feel alone in the face of adversity, reassure
us, let us know You are there with us, that You hear us, that You will give us
the strength, the courage to look for the light in the darkness.   Amen



Daily Devotion – September 29, 2012
09.29.12
Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.   
Psalm 124:8
 
Reflection by Jean Ward
 
As I began this journey with cancer, I was given a book:  Trusting God When You have Cancer.  I read this in the chapter on denial:  “Cancer has a hopeless tag attached to it.  It eats away at your mental health as fast as it can destroy your body.”  I decided to go for a week of denial.  We had planned a trip out west before I was diagnosed.  I truly believe God planned this trip for me.
 
We went to San Francisco then drove to Yosemite Park.  I was observing the Lord’s wonderful creation of Earth firsthand.  Each day the sights were more wonderful than the day before.  And during my denial week, I began to understand God did not give me cancer and that my help is in the Lord my God, who made heaven and earth.
 
My six year old grandson, who was on the trip with us, loves to be by the window when flying.  We were flying to our altitude and riding on top of the clouds when Mark said, “Isn’t it great how we fly through the clouds but don’t see heaven but we know it’s there?”
 
 
Prayer:
 
Dear Lord, Thank you for your wonderful creation of heaven and earth.  It is in seeing all this beauty that we become aware that our help is from you.  Help us remain childlike in our faith without the questioning of how or why.  Help us remember that you, Lord God, you alone have plans for us and will always help us.  Amen.


Daily Devotion – September 28, 2012
09.28.12

Mark 9:42-50

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

 

Reflection by Diane Ingram

 

Stumbling block.  That phrase takes me right back to the smallBaptistChurch where I grew up.  It came up in a lot of sermons as an admonition. Most of the time the warning was that if “saved people” behaved in bad ways, then “sinners” wouldn’t listen, wouldn’t respect Christian advice about salvation or leading a better life.  In essence, bad actions on the part of Christians could cause others to go to hell (literally) – and that was a heavy responsibility. 

It was such an important responsibility when Mark wrote about the idea that very vivid examples were given for preventing actions that influence others in negative ways:  Do whatever you have to do to keep your life as a beacon for others so that you are never a bad influence.  If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off.  Get rid of those temptations.  Think about what you’re doing.  Are your actions – actions which may not be directly hurtful to you – nevertheless leading others astray? 

Besides that, the verses say, have salt in yourselves.  In other words, doing nothing, losing your passion, is bad, too.  Inaction itself can be a bad influence. 

A lot of what I heard from that Baptist pulpit, I took too literally (perhaps, often, because the interpretation actually was too literal).  But, this one stuck in a more positive way and has always seemed like sensible advice.  If we make Christianity look bad, if it doesn’t make those of us who call ourselves Christian more open, loving people, then why should anybody else follow Christ?

 

Prayer: 

Loving God, help us to think about the way we live out our Christianity, help us to influence in positive, caring ways. Take away our stumbling blocks of prejudice and holding too fast to our individual opinions and judgments.



Daily Devotion – September 27, 2012
09.27.12

Mark 9:38-41

38 And John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone
who does

not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him

because he does not follow us.

39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle

in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.”

40 “For he who is not against us is on our side.”

41 “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because

you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means

lose his reward.”

(Written by Don Tawney’s Dad.)

Jesus rebukes His disciples for their
“He’s not really one of us”
attitude. To be a servant of Jesus Christ, we
cannot make use of the
name of Christ to build ourselves up. When you and I do this, we
become judges, making your own rules about who is a follower of Christ
and who is not.

The disciples used Christ’s name to try to stop someone who was
casting out demons in the same name of Jesus Christ. Imagine that!
Two parties claiming approval by the one name! This still continues
in the church today. Casting out demons and destroying Satan’s
kingdom are very good things. No one should be forbidden from doing
them, merely because they do not “follow us.”

Jesus said because the “someone” made use of His name to cast out
demons, he is “on our side”. He must have received that power from
Christ and His Holy Spirit, just as the other followers of Christ
have. He was honoring the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is
above every name.

Prayer:

Thank you, God, because our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
(Ps. 124:8)



Daily Devotion – September 26, 2012
09.26.12

Psalm 124:1-3

Thanksgiving for Israel’s Deliverance

A Song of Ascents. Of David.
1 If it had not been
the Lord who was on our side
—let Israel now say—
2 if it had not been
the Lord who was on our side,
when our enemies attacked us,
3 then they would have
swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;

Reflection by Lynne Buell

These times are tough.  Some of us are victims
of the economy, some are suffering with illness, and some are bogged down with
both.   Each Sunday I listen with empathy
to the concerns that touch our small congregation.  When I read this Psalm, it puts everything
back into perspective for me.  As long as
we’re on this earth, there will always be bad things happening.  We will sometimes feel like the walls are
caving in on us; that we can’t bear it any more.  But read this Psalm at least three
times.  (I learned that from Henrietta’s
Art & Spirituality Workshop last Saturday!) 
You’ll begin to feel what the writer is trying to instill in you.  Give it all up to God.  God will bring us through our sorrow and lift
us up once again.  Rejoice!  God will always be on our side.

Prayer:

Dear God, I give thanks for my
health and well-being, but help me to do my best to assist my loved ones in
their quest to find jobs and security, happiness, and good healthiness; if only
to guide them toward your comfort and love.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – September 25, 2012
09.25.12

James 5:16

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.  The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.  (The New Oxford Annotated Bible)

 

Reflection by Gabriela Mills

The book of James has always been a favorite of mine because
of the practical approach the writer illustrates to living the Christian
life.  The connection between confession
and healing in this short verse is no exception – it’s an extremely practical
thing to do.  Healing can only come when
one recognizes they are in need of such. 
Without the ability to acknowledge the stumbling blocks within, we risk
continuing patterns of unhealthy, selfish, or perhaps even self-destructive
behavior.  It takes courage to face one’s
weaknesses; it takes greater courage to acknowledge those weaknesses to someone
else. 

James states that we should acknowledge our shortcomings to
one another so that we may be healed. 
That’s asking a fair bit of someone else – don’t you think?  How confident are we in acknowledging our
weaknesses to one another?  How could we
be sure that the recipient of our confidential “confession” would act
appropriately with the information shared with them?  This activity of confessing to one another and
praying for one another takes trust, it takes a community which is committed to
prayer, and it takes a commitment to “act each other into well being.”    I
think we call that church?

 

Prayer –

Heavenly Father, thank
you for always grounding us in a practical, albeit humbling, approach to
wholeness.  Thank you for the reminder
that healing begins with self-acknowledgement, and thank you for your
faithfulness in answering the prayers of your people.

Amen 



Daily Devotion – September 24, 2012
09.24.12

James 5:14-15

Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

There are three steps to this scripture. Step 1 is that people in need should ask for help. This isn’t an easy thing to do. It takes humbleness. It requires the sick to make their needs known publicly. It requires trust and comfort that in their asking, the sick won’t be made to feel less than or belittled.

Step 2 is for the elders of the church to pray over them. Again, I see this as a public action. Being with those in need, not separate or apart from them. In concert, the sick and the elders asking for God’s intercedence to help. 

Step 3 is the Lord will answer the prayer and raise the sick up. And quite often, as we have seen at Pilgrimage, God works though many within the congregation to lend a helping hand.

Prayer:

Dear Lord, We give thanks that Pilgrimage UCC is a safe place for worshippers to bring forward what ails them. We give thanks for those who pray for everyone’s wellness. And we give thanks for the blessings of Jesus Christ who through the Holy Spirit, moves us to action, to help perform God’s work in our congregation and our community. Amen.



Daily Devotion – September 23, 2012
09.23.12

James 5:13

The Prayer of Faith

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 

 

Devotion by Rochelle Lofstrand

 

When you are suffering, you should pray.  When you are cheerful, you should praise.  Simple words to live by, right?  Sometimes when I am suffering I find myself praying for the same things:  courage, strength, wisdom, love, and grace.  In times of happiness I often find myself praying less because these times of happiness may make me complacent.  Why do I need to pray when everything is going well?  In this passage, we are being told to pray all of the time!  ALL of the time!

I have tried in recent times of struggle to also take time to praise.  Sometimes I need to get out of my own sorrow in order to remember how much God has and is always working in my life.  By all means, pray in times of trouble and pray and praise in times of happiness – just pray.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for today’s reminder to just pray.  Sing praises when we are happy or pray for strength in times of sorrow.  Prayer is a way for us to always be in relationship and covenant with you.  AMEN.



Daily Devotion – September 22, 2012
09.22.12

Isaiah 2:2-3

In days to come

the mountain of the Lord’s house

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be raised above the hills;

all the nations shall stream to it.

Many peoples shall come and say,

‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob;

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.’

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,

and the word of the Lord from
Jerusalem.

 

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

 

Earlier in Isaiah 2, the
prophet admonishes all of the evil-doings that mankind is practicing. Here,
Isaiah is hopeful that peoples will turn toward God’s goodness, peacefulness,
light and truth.

 

I’m struck by two
thoughts in this passage. First the notion of learning from God, “that he
may teach us his ways”…”For out of Zion shall go forth
instruction”. Isaiah is telling us that we can learn from God, so
“that we may walk in his paths”.

 

This notion of
learning from God does a couple of things for me. It excuses me when I mess up.
I wasn’t born with everything that I need to know. Of course, as I learn the
difference between good and evil, I’m no longer naive, and I no longer get a
free pass for choosing evil. It also suggests that since faith is learned, I
should continue to be aware of what I know and don’t know, and strive to become
a better believer, whatever better may mean.

 

The second notion is
that this learning should be done in community. “Let us go up to
the mountain of the Lord.” “That he may teach us his ways and
that we may walk in his paths.” Isaiah could have easily said you,
but he chose us and we.

 

Have you ever watched
a Christian television program, perhaps on a Sunday morning, and felt something
was missing? Those programs do serve a need. They bring God’s word to the
homebound. But there is an added dimension to attending a church service with
brothers and sisters in Christ that you know.

 

At Pilgrimage we have
the wonderful opportunity to share with each other throughout the service on
Sunday and through events throughout the month. Imagine what church would be
like without any community. We would all be in our personal boxes without the
ability to see or hear or touch anyone else. It would be as if we divided up
the sanctuary in a multitude of little cubicles and we were all wearing
headphones. No one would sing along with the hymns, or share the peace, or
recite the Lord’s Prayer together, or share communion. Imagine worship service
without sharing Birthdays and Anniversaries, or Joys and Concerns or holding
hands and singing Let There Be Peace on Earth. There’s something special
about being in faith with others.

 

I think that’s why
Isaiah wanted peoples to come to God, not just persons. If you regularly attend
Pilgrimage, I’m glad that you do, because you help make up the church family.
If you haven’t attended for a while, consider coming back. Because by being
here, your presence will make a difference.

 

Prayer:

 

Dear God, Continue to open our minds and our ears and our eyes
and our hearts to the Holy Spirit so that we can learn more about God’s grace.
And let us do so in the love and compassion and community of our church. Amen.

 

 



Daily Devotion – September 21, 2012
09.21.12

Excerpt from Luke 7:24-35

“They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one
another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance.'”

Reflection by Martin B. Copenhaver

Among the most non-committal people in the world are young teenagers at their
first dance. They stand at the edge of the dance floor, all hands, and no place
to put them. They assume a look that struggles to be casual. The look says,
“Don’t think I came here on purpose. Somehow I just ended up in this
place.”

Looking in on this scene you might wonder, “What are they waiting for,
anyway? Waiting for the right dance partner to look in their direction? Waiting
for the right song? Waiting to be a few years older?”

Jesus said people can be very much like that when it comes to religious
commitment — they refuse to dance. They are like those who sit in chairs around
the edge of the hall for the entire evening. They listen through waltz after
fox-trot, after tango, after jitterbug, without so much as tapping a toe.
Finally, the piano player decides he’s had enough: “Hey, what do you folks
want, anyway?”

“We’ll know it when we hear it,” they reply. “Nothing you’ve
played so far.”

Some people avoid religious commitment in a similar way. Nothing is ever quite
right. Their song is never played, or so it seems.

Those who remain forever on the sidelines may avoid the risk of commitment, but
they will never experience the joy of dancing. And the music always sounds better
on the dance floor than it does from the sidelines.

As Gertrude Stein once observed, “You look ridiculous if you dance. You
look ridiculous if you don’t dance. So you might as well dance.”

Prayer

God, don’t let me remain forever noncommittal. Get me on the dance floor so
that I can truly hear the music.

 

About the Author

Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church, United
Church of Christ, Wellesley, Massachusetts. He is the author, with Lillian
Daniel, of This Odd and Wondrous
Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers
.