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Daily Devotion – July 29, 2014
07.29.14

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me. Genesis 32:22-26

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

Fear, distrust, guilt, paranoia and isolation are a nasty combination in the psyche of a person. When left to play around in the mind, and left unchecked, a person can wreak havoc not only on their well being but on the well being of others. As result, if the person is particularly religious, an image of God that is fearful, distrusting, paranoid, and isolated can be created. Torment and struggle accompany this mind set.

When the reader comes to this point in the story of Jacob, the reader has heard of Jacob’s jealousy and theft of his brother Esau’s blessing. The story of Laban and how Jacob tricked Laban out of his wealth, his flock, his gods, and his family is heard. When Laban hears of Jacob running away with everything, Laban catches him, asks why he did it, and states, “I would have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre. And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and daughters farewell?” Instead, Jacob responds with paranoia and distrust of Laban (Gen. 31:27-8).

Jacob is also preparing to meet his brother Esau, sending gifts ahead of him, hoping Esau would be appeased by what has been sent. When Jacob and Esau meet, Esau wants only to journey with his brother, refusing the gifts sent. Jacob could not accept the kind hand of Esau, however. Instead, Jacob just felt happy his brother did not bring harm to him (Gen. 33:8-17).

Then there is this passage stuck in the middle of it all. Jacob wrestles with a man, demanding that the man bless him. Nobody knows for sure who this man was who had the power to bless. Was it an internal struggle or was it God? I have tended to believe it is both. I believe it is Jacob’s internal struggle with a God he has created for himself. Jacob’s God is like him, fearful, distrusting, full of guilt, paranoid, and worst of all isolated. Jacob’s God also tends to show up when Jacob needs justification for his actions throughout his story. In the instance of this passage, Jacob is left alone and takes action under his own guidance, seeking blessing that the other is not willing to give. Out of fear, Jacob pushes for the blessing.

When left unchecked, our fear, our distrust, our guilt, our paranoia and our isolation can lead to terrible tragedies. They can cause us to harm our self and those around us. And probably most dangerous of all, they can cause us to create an image of God that justifies that harm. Israel’s war rages on today. If only we could learn to be courageous and trust the blessing that God and others extend out to us all.

Prayer:

Be with us Almighty. May we find in you peace, solace, community and blessing. You are with us all. Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – July 28, 2014
07.28.14

Psalm 105

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;     make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him;     tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name;     let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength;     seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done,     his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,     his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.

Reflection by Holly CothranDrake

I love this Psalm.  It’s like a giant “to do list.”  It instructs us to give praise, proclaim, make known, sing, tell, rejoice, look, seek, and my favorite, remember.  When I pause during my busy day and remember my Lord, it’s much easier to give praise, proclaim, make known, sing, tell, rejoice, look, and seek.  I remember that my God created me, so I can’t be too shabby.  I remember that my Savior died for me, so I have to be worthy of something.  I remember that I am a child of God, so indeed I am special.  Just as we remember fond memories of a loved one, and we are prompted to call or email them, when we remember our Creator, we are prompted to do all each of the items on this “to do list” Psalm.

Prayer: 

Heavenly Father, Almighty God, and Great Creator, help us pause during our busy days to remember you and your Son, Jesus.  May we pause to give you praise, honor, and glory in our actions, words, and songs.  In the name of your son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.



Daily Devotion – July 27, 2014

John 13: 3-5

 

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.—

 

Reflection by Don Tawney Sr.

 

Christ washed His disciples’ feet to give them an example of His own humility, and to show how lowly and humble He was, how low He could stoop in Love to save the world.  Christ knew He had come from God.  This tells us something about His divine nature.  He was with Father God in the creation of everything; He flung the planets and the stars in their place.  He created the world we live in.  He made everything that was made.  He formed you and me in our Mothers’ womb.

Jesus knew that the Father in heaven had given all things into His hands.  Can we imagine what this means?  To have power over everything, all things, possessor of heaven and authority to receive the souls of all the souls of all the saved into its glory, yet say to the wicked, “depart from Me, workers of iniquity”  (Matt. 7:23).  Jesus said in Matthew 11:27, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father.”  He has the power of chief administrator of the Kingdom of God, the commissioning of all citizens for their calling and labor as faithful servants in their field of service.  All the acts of Legislation passed by all governments, all judgments by courts, all edicts given by earthly kings, in the end, will pass through the hands of the King of Kings.  This is the Christ, who has all power over all things, yet bowed the knee to wash His disciples’ feet in order to show you and me the way of greatness by way of humble service in His name.

 

Prayer: 

              Thank you, Jesus, for your love and forgiveness.  To change the heart and life from sin to righteousness before God is true power. 

                                                                              Amen



Daily Devotion – July 26, 2014
07.26.14

Genesis 29:15-20

Jacob Marries Laban’s Daughter

15Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?’ 16Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17Leah’s eyes were lovely,* and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. 18Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’ 19Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.’ 20So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Reflection by Lynne Buell

Jacob was at least 57 years old, and he kept sheep for seven years so he could have Rachel for his wife.  His love for her was such that “(the 7 years) seemed to him but a few days…”  

I used to yearn for someone to love me that much.  Only to find that the emptiness I had once felt could be filled with my renewed faith in God, my friends, family, and my church community.  When others have found true love with a partner or spouse, I am delighted and happy for them.  My strength comes from the Holy Spirit every day, and I give thanks to God for my many blessings every night.  I feel sad for the acts of violence that we hear about, and I always pray for peace.

So as we seek out the happiness of heaven, will the sufferings we experience during our lives on earth be nothing to us?  My best efforts are noticed by God.  God loves me like Jacob loved Rachel.  What more could I ask for?

 

Prayer: 

O Lord, my God,

grant us your peace; already, indeed, you have made us rich in all things! 

Give us that peace of being at rest,

that sabbath peace,

the peace which knows no end. 

 — St. Augustine

 

 



Daily Devotion – July 25, 2014
07.25.14

Matthew 13: 44-52

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

The Parable of the Net

47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

“Yes,” they replied.

52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

 

Reflection by Ugena Whitlock

 

Jesus Blows Their Minds

 

Today’s passage contains the last three in a string of parables. The first, “The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearls,” is directed toward all of Jesus’s disciples; the second, “The Parable of the Net,” is meant for the Apostles—those sent out with the express task of preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. Just so we’ll have a common point of reference, I’m using a definition of the Kingdom of Heaven from a Bible.org commentary: “[The Kingdom] is…fulfilled in a spiritual rule of God in the hearts of those who put their trust in Christ. Many variations exist [by those who] regarded the kingdom as the unification of the human race, prompted by universal love.” I like either of these definitions, and I would add a word to make it “radical, universal love.” I believe Jesus was indeed a radical, but he was a radial for love.

 

The first two parables seem pretty cut and dried to me—in fact, they apply to me. The Kingdom of Heaven—a place of radical love among people in relation to God and one another—is a treasure. Sometimes hidden, sometimes not; sometimes you’re looking for it, sometimes you find it. Regardless, it is of great value, and everything else becomes secondary to it. The finders sold everything they had to buy it. One had great joy. There would be no buyer’s remorse with the purchase of these treasures. I’m not sure I can imagine what it would be like if we felt like this today about the Kingdom of Heaven. Maybe we should start by recalling that the Kingdom is not just an old Bible story. The same one Jesus talked about is here today—same pearl of great price. What does it say about me, I wonder, that I get more excited about when my latest purchase will arrive from Amazon.com than I do about the Kingdom I’ve already been admitted to.

 

Jesus speaks the final parable to the apostles, those whom he is sending out to preach the word—sow the seeds, offer the treasure. Now, this is not a parable for the faint of heart, although it starts out as a fishing tale. It’s after the good catch has been separated from the inedible fish that things get scary. I think this is the part where the message of a joyous treasure has been transformed into an end-times nightmare. This is where the well-known phrase, “weeping and gnashing of teeth” comes from. I don’t know enough theology to be able to offer much about what this part means. But it’s kind of like taking out the trash when you’re a kid. At first you probably do it so you won’t get in trouble with your parents; later, as you understand things like respect and responsibility, you take the trash out of love. This makes your folks a lot happier. So I’d rather approach the Kingdom from a place of joy rather than a place that is not the blazing furnace.

 

So, after all of this, Jesus turns to them all and asks, “Have you understood all these things?” Here’s my favorite part: “Yes,” they replied. That’s it. Jesus has just explained the Kingdom of Heaven—in plain language, true, but it was a whole different concept to his Jewish listeners—and they say, yep, got it. Now, I know what they were probably thinking. I have a friend who teaches math, and every now and then (not often, but every now and then), I find myself having to do a bit of math. And I have to tell you, I want an easy answer. I don’t want to have to figure or understand why the answer is the answer. So, she will usually explain and ask me whether I understand. You already know how I reply. Yes. No questions, no re-cap, no extension of the explanation indicating that I have any idea what she was talking about. Yes. Sometimes I even nod for emphasis. I wonder if those disciples saw in Jesus’s eyes what I see in my math friend’s. I bet he knew they just wanted the fast answer. I bet he knew they really didn’t get the complexity. I bet he knew they probably weren’t prepared for what lay ahead as they accepted and preached the Kingdom. He gave them what he could and hoped some of it “took.” And some of it did.

 

I think his question remains the same for us today. “Do you understand all these things?” I mean, why would it have changed? Do we understand that we have a treasure? What are we willing to throw off so that we can truly possess it? What will we part with? And are we willing to cast our nets to bring others into it? Do we understand? I want my answer to be yes, and more than yes.



Daily Devotion – July 24, 2014
07.24.14

Matthew 13:31-33

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’

The Parable of the Yeast

He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

Both of these parables take common examples of the day to explain that heaven is expanding. Why would Jesus make note of this dimension of heaven?

Too many religions today are exclusionary. They have a vision that heaven is finite. They view heaven as a limited hotel with just so many rooms for just so many people. If you aren’t a member of the right club, or faction, or denomination, or faith, there isn’t a place for you. If you aren’t a member of the right race, or gender, or sexual orientation, there isn’t a place for you. If you aren’t good enough, repentant enough, work hard enough, donate enough, pray enough, there isn’t a place for you.

I remember meeting a friend of my uncle’s in California. This friend was an executive with Hughes Aircraft and an Asian-American. As a Mormon, it was his belief that upon his death he would become white and thus gain entry into heaven. That didn’t sit well with me. I was going to be denied entry into heaven because of my race?

But Jesus, at least not in these parables, doesn’t talk about an exclusionary dimension to heaven. He speaks to the fact that heaven is a place that is making more room. He is speaking to me, that there is hope for me. That God is preparing a place for me. And He is preparing a place for you. Each and everyone one of us.

God accepts us. Why would He create something to be thrown away? He loves us. It would please Him more if we could love one another and be kind to each other and help do His will through loving acts of kindness and support for each other. But no matter what we say or think or believe, He loves us. Like a parent loves a child, He will always love us, and always make room for us in heaven.

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord, I thank You for loving me. Sometimes I don’t love myself. But I know that You love me. And because You love me that is all I need to join You in the kingdom of heaven. Thank You for blessing me. When Your chariot swings low for me, I shall not fear hopping aboard, because I know that You will continue to love me in heaven. Thanks be to God!

 



Daily Devotion – July 22, 2014
07.22.14

Psalm 105:7–11

 

7. He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

8. He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded,

for a thousand generations,

9. The covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Issac.

10. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant:

11. “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.”

 

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

 

At present, blood is yet again being shed in Palestine and Israel over the “promised land” of Canaan. Large portions of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities embrace violent thoughts and violent deeds for the cause of possessing a physical “holy land”. Such preference for the physical world over the inner world of the Spirit has led to great violence and suffering since the Crusades.  Personally, I do not see how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor Christian fantasies of apocalyptic war have any bearing upon scripture passages such as Psalm 105. To me, it seems that Christ’s words: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), bear a more direct relation to the promised land of Canaan. The words of the church father in the Epistles “we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (II Corinthians 4:18), are similarly relevant.

 

 

Prayer:

 

Eternal Mother,

How does your peaceableness manifest

in sentiment, thought, deed, or spoken word

across all situations of my daily life?

May I be guided by your Shepherd-Son,

resisting without raising violent hands!

The earth now trembles in her weariness

of bloodshed’s insult to the good she gives.

A new, Unvanquished Peace, requires practitioners

who never seek revenge nor its allure

nor strive for just ends by violent means.

Sweet gentle Goddess whose touch eases hurts

within, calms discord separating hearts,

and promises to mend this world of rifts,

to your unwavering Spirit bind me tight!



Daily Devotion – July 21, 2014

Psalm 105: 1-6

God’s Faithfulness to Israel

1 O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,    make known his deeds among the peoples.  2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;    tell of all his wonderful works.  3 Glory in his holy name;    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.  4 Seek the Lord and his strength;    seek his presence continually.  5 Remember the wonderful works he has done,    his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,  6 O offspring of his servant Abraham,    children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

 

Devotion by Anne Mooney

This psalm is one of the many written by David.  He wrote this psalm for use at a special occasion.  It was written to be presented to the people of Israel when it was time to move the Ark of the Covenant into the place David had prepared for it now that he was king.  The ark had been a constant reminder of God’s presence and care of his chosen people.  David wanted his people to remember and be grateful for the many gifts God had bestowed upon the children of Israel.  These introductory verses of Psalm 105 are a call to practice gratitude and to remember.

For me, today, this psalm is also a reminder of God’s faithfulness.  I can very easily be overwhelmed by the complexities of life.  Keeping up with work, paying bills, managing a household, and maintaining relationships sometimes feels like more than I can handle, especially when things don’t go smoothly.  Too many work tasks, more debt than I can pay, and unexpected challenges often rob me of my peace and I am once again struggling with fear and hopelessness.  But I have learned through the years that counting my blessings is a good place to start when I am feeling low.  Like the people in David’s kingdom, I need to remember and thank God for the many blessings that have taken place in my life.  It is a good practice for me to say prayers of gratitude every day, but sometimes I have to be more intentional about praising God.  It lifts my spirits when I do and sets me back in my rightful place in the scheme of life.  I am a child of God.

Prayer:

Oh God!  I praise you and thank you for all the many blessings you have bestowed in my life.  Help me to always remember you are always with me and helping to guide me, even when times are hard.

Amen



Daily Devotion – July 20, 2014
07.20.14

 

Luke 1:  76-79 

 Zachariah’s Prophecy 

And you child, will be called the profit of the Most High;

For you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways,

To give knowledge of salvation to his people

By the forgiveness of their sins.

By the tender mercy of our God,

The dawn from on high will break upon us,

To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death

To guide our feet into the way of peace.

 

Reflection by Monty Wyne

This is the prophecy that Zachariah the priest spoke over his newborn son, John, who later became John the Baptist. The verses above are a treatise of salvation. They tell us of the greatest gift God has ever sent to this earth—the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is also a reminder that light can cut through the darkness that separates some from the goodness of God and His son, Jesus. It’s God’s tender mercy shinning upon us. The last passage reminds us that Jesus was sent to this earth to guide our feet onto the path of peace.

I look at the world today and there is good, but there are also pockets of deep and troubling darkness. “TWO ISRAELI SOLDIERS KILLED; PALESTINIAN TOLL TOPS 300,” blares one headline. “MALAYSIAN AIRLINER SHOT DOWN, 295 DEAD,” says another. I read that and wonder where is the light? Will the “dawn from on high” ever break here? Where on earth is Jesus? Has He tried to lead them to the path of peace, but found the evil power of darkness too great? Where is His voice and do they listen or push His words aside, drowned out by the shouts of hatred, war and violence? Questions?  Answers?

I am sure God asks the same questions and may not have the answers. Or, if He does then why have we not arrived at solutions? Has He left it for us to figure out on our own, while He watches intently, silently encouraging, attentively hoping? As long as there is free will, there is choice. So, the overriding question becomes why can’t we as humans choose the path of peace?

 

Prayer: 

Loving and understanding God,

It is time for the world to ask itself why can’t “the path of peace” be the choice that leads us all to an enlightened and forgiving coexistence?

Amen

 

 

 

 



Daily Devotion – July 19, 2014
07.19.14

Acts 2:44-47

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Reflection by Jim Kennedy

All who believed were together and had all things in common. This was a community of believers, a community who shared the same values and thereby had all things in common.

And they decided as a community that they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all. They would just do it as people had need for their generosity, so it wasn’t a redistribute the wealth gig, but as they saw people who had need they sold their goods and possessions and made sure that those in need got the proceeds.

After doing this they were able to spend much time in the temple, breaking bread and eating their own food, the food they had not given to the needy. And they did this with glad and generous hearts because they had followed God’s wish that they share their bounty with the needy.

And this was a statement of praise to God, their giving of their goods to the needy as they needed them. And the community had the goodwill of the people in the rest of the society, the people who were watching them give their goods to the needy as they needed them.

And this is what God wanted in the world, for people to give as a community to those in need as their need arose. So God added to the community who was willing to do so from the people who were watching the community give their goods to the needy as they needed them. The community was doing God’s work on earth, and for this God saved them.

Prayer

Dear Lord I pray that I may work in community to give my goods to the needy as they are needed and thereby do your work and be saved.