Blog
Daily Devotion – August 31, 2014
08.31.14

Exodus 1: 15 – 22 

Pharaoh Orders Hebrew Boy Babies Killed 

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birth stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’ So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.’

 

Reflection by Monty Wyne

Frustrated by the utter failure of previous administrations to curtail the rapid growth of the Israelites, concern seemed to have turned to near panic. This prompted the King’s ruling to direct the midwives to kill all male babies conceived by Hebrew women. The Egyptians felt threatened by the increasing birth rate among the Hebrews. The fear was that they would become more numerous and mightier than the Egyptians.

What role does fear play in our lives?  The King fears the eventual dominance of the Israelites. The midwives fear God’s view of such a barbarous act. Fear sometimes forces us to do things we may later regret. There are also times fear acts as a motivator, pushing us forward into making important decisions that impact our lives in a positive and constructive manner. Fear is also one of life’s most powerful emotions.

Fear can be crippling or it can be empowering. It can eliminate logic and reason or force us to focus on solutions. It can blind us and negate human compassion or it can unite us in the eventual benefits of a common cause. The King fears dominance. The midwives fear betraying God.

How has fear driven decisions in your life, for better or worse?  Have you taken time to logically view the outcome of a decision made out of fear?  Or has fear overtaken your sense of reasoning?  What if the King had taken a different course of action?  Relate that course of action to modern day. In 1990, South African President F. W. de Klerk released Nelson Mandela from prison. They came together to negotiate their vast differences and curb the violence that engulfed the nation.

The result?  In 1991, the government and the ANC held the first Convention for a Democratic South Africa, which included parties and stakeholders from across the country. They negotiated a new constitution that would protect and empower all citizens and prepare the nation for its first multiracial election. In the absence of fear and the presence of good will, came a positive solution. When’s the last time you put fear aside in hopes of finding a positive resolution in your life?

 

Prayer: 

Dearest God,

Help us to overcome fear with compassion as we search for a reasonable solution.      Amen

 

 



Daily Devotion – August 29, 2014
08.29.14

Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham. And the LORD made his people very fruitful, and made them stronger than their foes, whose hearts he turned to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants. He sent his servant Moses, and Aaron whom he had chosen. Praise the LORD!
Psalm 105:23-26, 45c

 

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

I remember talking to a woman who happened to be the church historian at her church. She had a remarkable story to tell about her church, how it started and how it has sustained itself over the years. Her church has been around since the 19th century. It was one of the original churches in Canton. With great enthusiasm, she told me how it survived the Civil War and how its very existence was almost abolished early on. They had pastors and other church members that remained persistent and faithful to the community to help keep the church moving forward. Many of these church members were part of her and her husband’s family; great-grandfathers that helped to establish the Hightower Baptist Association, grandparents that helped start the church. She became so excited about telling her story that at one point in the conversation she stopped talking, ran back to her room, and came out with a book that she had written that recounted the complete history of her church. “It was a labor of love,” she told me. I was amazed. As we talked more, she recounted how much she felt God’s presence through it all, especially during her 60 plus years as a member of the church. She told me that sometimes it was hard to see but when she looks back on it all she knows that God was present all along.

We should give thanks for the presence of God throughout our life. By retelling the history of our communities, our families, or ourselves the memory of that history can be preserved. Interpreting our history with hindsight gives us, the storytellers, an opportunity to remember how God has been present with us all along. The Psalmist, David, uses song to recount the history of Israel going into the land of Egypt. Storytelling, painting, dancing, and drama are some of the other ways our history can be recounted, remembered and used to show just how God has always been with us. For God’s presence with us always we should give thanks and praise God for.

Prayer:

We give you thanks Lord for your bounty, for your presence with us even when we forget to remember. Grant us the wisdom to remember who we are and where we came from so that we can be awakened to your life that has always been very much alive within us. Amen.

 

 



Daily Devotion – August 28, 2014
08.28.14

Matthew 9:35 

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

 

Devotion by Holly CothranDrake

I wanted to share this verse with you after the successful fundraising effort of ALS’s ice bucket challenge.  I attend ALS support group meetings.  I have customers who fight ALS every day.  I know their loved ones have prayed for a cure and complete healing.  I believe those prayers are being answered.  The ice bucket challenge has raised more than $90 million dollars.  This extraordinary amount of money will fund research to find a cure.

I believe Jesus is the great healer.  I believe our prayers are heard.  Sometimes we may not get an answer immediately.  But keep praying.  Keep praying.

Prayer: 

Dear Heavenly Father, God Almighty, and Great Healer thank you for hearing our prayers for healing.  Thank you for loving us.



Daily Devotion – August 27, 2014
08.27.14

 Exodus 3:13-15 

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
 the name you shall call me
 from generation to generation.

 

Reflection by Don Tawney Sr.

God is sending Moses as a redeemer to gain Israel’s freedom from Egyptian bondage.  Moses says to God, “When I come to the children of Israel, and tell them You sent me, and they say,’Who? What’s His name?'”  You see, Israel had grown very ignorant in Egypt, being in bondage for 400 years and not having teachers, or prophets to show them who God is.  They had little to no worship experiences to have knowledge or instruction about God.  “When they ask ‘What’s His name’, what do I say?”‘ said Moses.  God gives him full instruction regarding Himself.  He tells Moses to say, “The God of your fathers has sent me”.  Further, God said to Moses, “I AM THAT I AM sent you.”

God is; He is not a god who is going to be someday, a god who was.  He is not like us humans, who, when we were born, were brought into the world by our parents.  God doesn’t grow to maturity to be a better God.  We were created by someone else, we aspire to be successful, productive, and become so.  Someday, we grow old and change to adjust to no longer doing what we used to do.

To the New Testament we go to learn how the great I AM comes to us personally.  The gospel of John (1.14) says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth”.  Christ Jesus is The Great I AM who came to set us free from sin’s bondage by sacrificing His Life on the cross.

 Prayer: 

         Dear God,

                You teach us that You are the true way to freedom.  You are the Light of the world.  Thank You, Almighty God!                                                              

                                                                                                                                                                  Amen



Daily Devotion – August 26, 2014
08.26.14

Exodus 3: 7-12

 

7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[b] will worship God on this mountain.”

 

Reflection by Ugena Whitlock

Who Am I?

So God asks one little thing of Moses, and what does he do? He balks. Who am I, he asks, that I should do this thing? Granted, the task was to go to Egypt (where he was a wanted man), confront Pharaoh, and liberate the Hebrew people from their enslavement by the reigning superpower. His question was not an unreasonable one; after all, he was one guy, working for his father-in-law. Now, we know how the story ends. Moses succeeds in leading the people out of bondage. He becomes a hero-arguably THE hero for Jewish people, ancient and modern alike. Under his leadership, the Exodus is the central organizing narrative for the Israelites and Jews-and also important to Christians. References and allusions to the event run throughout both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (OT and NT). It verifies the covenant between God and God’s people for it has both promise and sign: I will be with you..and you will worship God….That covenant is still binding. If Moses had only known.

And yet, during his conversation with God (think about that for a minute: Moses was having a two-way conversation with God), Moses asked the wrong question. The point is not who he was, but who God is. Scholars tell us that this portion of Exodus was likely written by one of four sources, called the Elohist source. Its name comes from Elohim, the name it uses for God. This section was probably written during or just after the Babylonian exile. Look at the message above. God says, I have seen the misery of my people…I have heard them crying out….I am concerned about their suffering….I will deliver them….This narrative had special, intentional meaning to people who were again, exiled, and who were again, crying out. It was a message by the Elohist writer to illustrate the transcendent power of God who wanted a mutual relationship to God’s people.

In Psalm 8, the psalmist asks, “What is man [sic] that thou art mindful of him?” (verse 4). But we should remember that Psalm 8 begins and ends with this declaration of praise: Oh Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! It is apt that the question, a sort of “Who am I?” is located between these exclamations, surrounded by the ground of our being. I think, then, if we can remember who God is-and that God seeks to be in-relation with us-then we might be able to answer the other, secondary, question for ourselves. We are God’s.

For your viewing pleasure, Charlton Heston as Moses at the Burning Bush:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUm6rC0o7Po&feature=youtu.be  



Daily Devotions – August 25, 2014
08.25.14

Exodus 3:1-6

Moses at the Burning Bush

3Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ 4When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 5Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ 6He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Reflection by Lynne Buell

It’s a story we are all familiar with.  And clearly, God is trying to make a point.  It frightens Moses because he turns away from the flame but decides to face the bush and God begins to speak to him.

If I could put myself in Moses’ place, I wonder what my initial reaction would be.  Not so much with the burning bush.  How would I respond to hearing God speaking to me?  Does God ‘speak?’  That is the part of the story that I have an obscure view of.  I’m sure scientists have numerous theories about this burning bush.  I’m cool with that.  My curiosity is aroused by how God communicates with us.  Does God communicate differently with each of us?  What I mean is some believe that God speaks to them in dreams, while others are spoken to through their own actions and decision making.  I believe that other persons actually hear God.  (I would like to be one of those people.)  Nevertheless, I’m completely gratified with how God communicates with me.

 

Prayer:

I am forever grateful for breaking through the communication barrier that had been built between me and God over the past 30 years.  While I didn’t have a burning bush to open my eyes, the obstacle is gone and life blooms brilliant every day for me.  Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – August 24, 2014
08.24.14

Matthew 16: 13-20

Peter’s Declaration about Jesus

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

The disciples surely must have been in wonderment. Here they were, following the son of God. Jesus has told them that they will have the keys to heaven and that they will be protected from the devil. But then “sternly ordered” not to tell anyone! Jesus knows that eventually He will give up His life for the sins of all. But the disciples are not aware of this. They must be wondering, how can they contain themselves!

Yet, as Christians, we know the good news. We know how the life of Jesus ends. We know the story of the resurrection. We know the story of forgiveness. We know the blessings of heaven and the promise of peace everlasting. Yet, I for one find it easy to “contain myself”. I’m not public about my Christianity. In this secular world, I grumble to myself and to my wife how Christ and religious belief are moving further and further toward the back of the bus we call American society. And yet, I quietly continue to move further back.

Why is that? What do I fear? I sadly acknowledge that I care more about being accepted by others than showing non-believers their acceptance by God. How sad for me and for them.

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord, Forgive me. Forgive my fears and my selfish thoughts of belonging. I know that I will always belong to you. Help me build the courage to really believe so that I don’t have to live in fear. Help me to grow into a disciple that can share your good news with those who need to hear it. In your name, I humbly pray. Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – August 23, 2014

Romans 12:1–8

The New Life in Christ

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

 

Devotion by Rochelle Lofstrand

 

I’ve successfully completed three weeks as a new principal of a new elementary school. This was outside of my comfort zone (as the Sisters of the Cloth know) but I was ready for the challenge. What have I learned during this time?

1. Nothing brightens your day better than an enthusiastic hug from a 5 year old.

2. Fire Drills can totally derail a child’s morning.

3. There is absolutely no way I could do my job without the help of so many people.

Yesterday I looked around my school after dismissal and I counted the number of teachers, staff, parents, and students that all came together to get a job done – educate our youth and keep them safe. There is no way one person can do a job without the support, gifts, and talents of others.

Today’s devotion reminds us of this. Never should we think that we alone are capable of something. Everyone contributes to the success of someone else. At PUCC, someone puts the letters on our street sign that attracts others to our building. Someone puts together the volunteer schedule so that we have people greeting and handing out bulletins. Someone puts the music together. Someone writes a sermon. Someone sets out coffee and/or snacks. The list goes on and on. The most important thing is that even on Sundays, there is a village full of talented people contributing to our own personal walks with Christ. We are all integral members – that is our Christian community!

 

Prayer:

God, thank you for my Christian community. Thank you for allowing me to be one of the hands that serve. I am blessed to be one of many. AMEN.



Daily Devotion – August 22, 2014
08.22.14

Psalm 124

1. If the Lord had not been on our side – let Israel say –

2. if the Lord had not been on our side when men attacked us,

3. when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive;

4. the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us,

5. the raging waters would have swept us away.

6. Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth.

7. We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare;

the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.

8. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

I must admit that I shy away from the war-like language of this psalm. Upon reading its first

two lines, I reflect upon how the God of the psalmist is not the same as my Goddess who

requires me to be peaceable under all circumstances. Yet, as I read further, there is no

mention in this psalm of violent retribution against the unnamed enemies. The psalm speaks

of patient endurance in the face of brutal and terrifying forces. Such endurance is here

realized by the Divine Light living within the Jewish people – not by physical weapons nor

attitudes of vengeance. When I look back upon my own experiences, I see how I’ve endured

and thrived in midst of the marginalization inherent to my intersexed and transgender

condition. Not by my own human strength did I remain steadfast in both self-confidence and

non-violence. My heart and mind endured and I even found some earthly success through the

ongoing realization of the Divine Light as Goddess in my life.

Prayer:

To you I cry in pain and toil, my dearest loving Mother!

Hear the breath and heartbeat of my prayers when I plead at your feet!

Instruct my hands and feet in calm compassion as I face

the slanderous crowds and hate-blind rulers of this world.

I pray of you dear Mother, light the way ahead

and walk beside me in this night!

 



Daily Devotion – August 21, 2014
08.21.14

Exodus 2: 1-10

Birth and Youth of Moses

2Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. 2The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. 3When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. 4His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

5 The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. 6When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said. 7Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’ 8Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, ‘because’, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’

Devotion by Anne Mooney

This is one of those Bible stories I heard over and over as a child.  I heard it in Sunday School and it was read to me at bedtime by my mom.  It is like a fairy tale to me.  The beautiful baby Moses is delivered from the evil Pharaoh’s plan to kill all the boy babies that are born to the Jewish people.  It’s a romantic story and it has the classic happy ending. But, in my childhood, I don’t think I ever really thought about the significance of who Moses later became and I certainly missed the point about how God used a time of great pain and suffering and used it to come up with something great.

So, when I got the assignment to write about this scripture I did some research.  The commentaries I read had some differing thoughts, interpretations, and beliefs about this story and that was a bit of a surprise to me.  It seems like a simple enough story, one a child can grasp.  But I was actually bothered by some of what I read.  Things like, Moses’ parents must have gotten a message from God (The Bible didn’t say that.), Moses was saved because he was more beautiful than other babies (Beauty makes one more worthy of saving.), or that Moses’ parents gave up and finally put Moses out to die in the Nile River like all the other Jewish boy babies at that time (No loving parent wants to throw out their child).  The fact that I was bothered by these ideas got me to wondering why, and if it was important.  I tried to imagine what I would be feeling like and doing if I were Moses’ mom.  All I came up with was great fear, anxiety, and conflict.  How could my God allow my son or any other son for that matter be thrown to the crocodiles in the Nile River?  How could I let that happen to my baby?  I would be like Moses’ mother and take a wait and see attitude.  I have a tendency to put off decisions until circumstances force me into action.  I suspect a growing infant became difficult to hide, but I think Moses’ mom hatched a plan in her desperation.  Did she know that the Pharaoh’s daughter bathed in a special place along the river?  I am guessing that she did, because she had her daughter stay nearby to watch what happened.  I just can’t imagine a mom letting her daughter watch her brother being left to die or be eaten by crocodiles in the river.  She must have had a plan.

The plan worked and Moses ultimately grew up in the home of the Pharaoh who initially sought to kill him and all the other Jewish baby boys in an effort to control the Jewish people.  More importantly, Moses grew up to be the leader who was instrumental in helping the Jewish people get their freedom from the enslaving Egyptians.  What a testimony to God’s power and imagination!  A mother’s act of desperate love in a time fear, hatred and aggression made the difference in what ultimately led to the rise of the Jewish nation and eventually the birth of Jesus.   This story gives me hope that good can always come from the saddest and sorriest of times.

Prayer

Dear God, Thank you for the Bible stories of the Old Testament that show us that your hand is always there working things out.  Help me have faith like the mother of Moses to take action. Amen