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Daily Devotion – October 29, 2014
10.29.14

You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

I don’t know if you have ever looked at a M.C. Escher drawing. His drawing entitled “Three Worlds” always makes me stop and pause. I’m never sure if I am seeing the three worlds he wants me to see. I can caught up in staring at the trees alone or the water or the leaves floating on the water. It’s not until I step back and look at the drawing as a whole do I see more of it, especially the beauty of it. There is death and there is life and something in between all occupying the same space on the image. Being able to gain a different perspective allows me to appreciate what he is able to accomplish.

I am like that when I read this passage. I read Paul as both full of pride—to the point of arrogance–and humble in this passage. He boost about the work he has done, making sure the Thessalonians are clear about how well behaved and kind he was when ministering to them. He wants them to know how hard he worked so they didn’t have to. Many images of preachers standing at the pulpit gloating on themselves on how great of ministers they are come to mind when I read this passage with this particular set of lenses.

On the other hand, with those same words, there is beauty if you think about those actions as they were taking place. He worked hard while he was among them. Day and night he toiled to make sure they were not burdened in any way. I imagine him and the other apostles running around frantically trying to tend to all the needs around them. He was pure, upright, and blameless. I bet he stood self-assured and confident in the message he was spreading. He was also deeply grateful for the entire community of believers. All qualities that we would love to have not only in ourselves but in others as well. These are the qualities we are called to embrace as we embrace the work of bringing in the kingdom and glory of God.

An argument for pride to the point of arrogance along with an argument for the beauty in which he carried out his work can be made simultaneously. If we just take one side of the argument we lose something important. Locking our focus on to one item, one image, or one trait for too long can cause us to forget the beauty in the work. We should not rush to judgment before we understand. By taking the time to understand beauty unfolds. Paul can be a lot to deal with at times but there is true beauty to the entirety of his ministry.

Prayer:

Teach us to understand before we rush to judgment. Teach us to have pride in the work we do. Teach us to see all that has been done so its beauty can be revealed. May it be grounded in your kingdom and your glory. Amen



Daily Devotion – October 28, 2014
10.28.14

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Devotion by Holly CothranDrake

As I spend this week at the beach with my husband and parents, I stare out over the ocean for hours. The amount of water is beyond my comprehension. The amount of marine life that calls the ocean home is mystifying. Each time I visit the beach, I am reminded of God’s greatness and creativity. I am humbled for having the opportunity to experience God’s beautiful creation.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, God Almighty, and Great Creator thank you for the opportunity to experience your creation. Thank you for including me in your plan. Thank you for loving me. In the name of your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.



Daily Devotion- October 27, 2014
10.27.14

 

Joshua 3:7-13

 

And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”

 

Reflection by Don Tawney, Sr.  

 

God speaks to Joshua to put honour upon him.  God honoured Joshua in that He spoke to him as He had done to Moses.  He told Joshua He would be with him as He was with Moses.  God magnified, or exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel.  He placed Joshua in command, to lead the people into Canaan, and the people saw the greatness and the Spirit in Joshua; therefore they were assured of his ability to lead them just as Moses was great in the carrying out of God’s plan for the people of Israel.  By the dividing of the Red Sea, Israel was convinced that God was with Moses in bringing them out of Egypt, and upon that occasion they believed him (Exodus 14:31).  Now, by the dividing of Jordan, they shall be convinced that God is with Joshua in bringing them into Canaan.  The visible sign of God’s presence with the people of Israel was the Ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth, which was carried ahead of the people into the new land.  Jesus Christ, our Joshua, was sent into the world to save the world from sin and lead us to our eternal home, heaven.

Jesus said, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”  (Jo.12:26)

 

Prayer: 

      Most gracious Heavenly Father, please give us the faith and courage to follow You in these times of fear and darkness. 

                        Amen



Daily Devotion – October 26, 2014
10.26.14

Deuteronomy 34:10-12

 

Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. 11He was unequalled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, 12and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

 

Reflection by Lynne Buell

 

The first thing I thought of when I read this scripture was, “Wow, Moses is a tough act to follow.” The words above describe a very great man.  Moses’ connection to God didn’t happen in dreams or visions; he was awake every time he was in communication with God.  In the words of Matthew Henry (http://classic.studylight.org/):   “The miracles of judgment he wrought in Egypt before Pharaoh, and the miracles of mercy he wrought in the wilderness before Israel, served to demonstrate that he was a particular favourite of Heaven, and had an extra-ordinary commission to act as he did on this earth. Never was there any man whom Israel had more reason to love, or whom the enemies of Israel had more reason to fear.  Observe, The historian calls the miracles Moses wrought “signs and wonders,” done with a “mighty hand and great terror,” which may refer to the terrors of Mount Sinai, by which God fully ratified Moses’s commission and demonstrated it beyond exception to be divine, and this “in the sight of all Israel.””

 

Let’s take the scripture a half step further. While it is full of praise for Moses’ powers, the meaning behind it is to encourage the People of Israel to cross over and possess the new land ‘leaving nothing behind of what they learned through commandments, covenant conditions, and sacrificial procedures. And now poised at the River Jordan, ready to cross over and possess the new land, Moses, preaching his great Plains of Moab sermon, makes sure that they don’t leave any of it behind, not so much as one detail of their experience or God’s revelation…’ ‘…and then he wraps it all up in a charge and a song and a blessing to launch them into today’s obedience and believing…‘Let’s go.’ “ (THE MESSAGE; Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.)

 

Now, after doing a little bit of research about Deuteronomy, I realize even more the powerful connection that God and Moses had. It supports my belief on the influential affect God has in my life.  I am loving this learning process!

 

Prayer:

Precious and Loving God, thank you for your intervention. Amen



Daily Devotion – October 25, 2014
10.25.14

Deuteronomy 34: 9

 

Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.

 

Reflection by Ugena Whitlock

 

I don’t know about you, but I would not have wanted to be Joshua. First, he had been handpicked by Yahweh to be Moses’s successor. And, while he got to lead the Hebrew people into the Promised Land, he had to fight every step of the way. Aside from one really memorable quote, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” (24:15) most of what we know about him from Scripture is that he was a warrior, always smiting one people or another.

 

I’m pretty sure the parts of today’s verse I’m supposed to write about are that 1) he was filled with the spirit of wisdom and 2) the Israelites listened to him. Those are good things. But I can’t help thinking that Joshua must have been a little like Lyndon Johnson on November 23, 1963. He was confident that he was qualified and ready to be president after President Kennedy’s assassination, yet he knew the people would consider him an interloper. Or Harry Truman, who said after FDR died and he learned he was now president, “I feel like the sun, the stars and all the planets just fell on me.” This must be how it feels to sometimes come next. To be “Not-Moses.”

 

Come to think of it, maybe that is why Yahweh filled Joshua with the spirit of wisdom, the Holy Spirit. I think, maybe, Joshua might have needed another voice in his head besides his own—a voice that would quell those thoughts like old LBJ and Harry had. My Mama always says that your mind can play tricks on you. That’s true. We can talk ourselves into our out of believing most anything. We can make ourselves believe most anything about ourselves. We can create doubt about our capabilities and get overwhelmed, before we even take one step of the journey. We can create what I call my fictional narratives, which means that for any given situation, I make up in my mind a whole story around it—one that usually ends in disappointment or disaster or both. It’s a story that takes place completely in my head and talks me out of taking any action because, after all, what would be the point.

 

The Holy Spirit, the spirit of wisdom in the Hebrew Scriptures, is one of the most complicated topics in theology—and I sure won’t go into it here. But I have my own idea about practical applications of the Spirit, and I don’t think it conflicts with what we read. For me, it is how God visits with me—by dwelling in me. It isn’t my conscience or my soul. Those are me, not God. Fundamentalist friends believe that the Holy Spirit only appears in the text—that is, by reading, we can understand what Scriptures mean, and what allows that is the Spirit. I don’t think God’s spirit is trapped on the page like in some Harry Potter movie. I like to think of it as always immanent, there when I ask to be filled. There even when I don’t ask, but when I ask, then I am ready to listen. To the voice. Joshua could have disaster planned, could have created his own fictional narratives; instead, he tuned in to the Spirit. I like to think of it as a conduit for the peace that transcends understanding (Phil 4:7). And radical peace beats disaster planning every single time.

 

For your listening pleasure, here is the Golden Gate Quartet singing “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” http://youtu.be/JMohuzLl6UU

 



Daily Devotion – October 24, 2014
10.24.14

Deuteronomy 34:1-8

Moses Dies and Is Buried in the Land of Moab
 

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain-that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees-as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants”; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.’ Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

 

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

 

Life and death are both miraculous events. Who knew that a little baby who floated down the Nile would be a leader amongst his people? I think God knew. 

And when it came to his death, God showed Moses a glimpse of his family’s future and took his life as was God’s calling. 

I wonder why so many people think that death is a bad thing? We strive to discover and invent new ways to keep people alive longer. Do we do these things to please God? Do we do these things to please the survivor? Or do we do these things to please ourselves? So many people proclaim to “Let go and let God” until it comes time to really let go. How many more breaths or heartbeats will a full life make? 

In this scripture, Moses was shown the Promised Land before his death. I only hope to be as fortunate. Hey, wait a minute. The Bible has told me about heaven and being reunited with God for all of eternity. So I have been shown the Promised Land. I’ve been ready to die for many years. I don’t want to rush it. There is so much joyfulness in life, I don’t want to wish it away. But I don’t fear death either. God will take me when He wants, whether I am ready or not, whether I am accepting or not, whether I am grateful or not. So I may as well be ready, accepting and grateful. It will make it easier for me, and I pray it will make it easier for those who love me here on Earth to know that I so believe. 

Prayer: 

Dear Lord, I thank you for loving me. I thank you for the gift of knowing you. I am ready for life’s end. Please comfort those who love me and will remain here after I am gone. But until that fateful day, let me continue to please You in thought, word and deed. Amen.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

 



Daily Devotion – October 23, 2014
10.23.14

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Paul’s Ministry in Thessalonica

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully maltreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

 

Devotion by Rochelle Lofstrand

 

During my Pathways courses over the past two years, I am often challenged to open my heart to the ministry of those around me with whom I don’t often agree; however, I have tried to push myself out of my comfort zone and listen anyway and you know what . . . I have learned, I have deepened my relationship with God. During one class, we watched a video of a street theologian ‘preaching’ his interpretation of the Bible and God’s love (or hatred) for all sorts of people. Of course, as I watched I was terribly troubled by this person’s ‘skewed’ (in my opinion) interpretation; however, I began to look at the audience on the street. They were responding with love . . . love for the God that they worship, love for their friends, and love for their neighbors on the street.

 

In today’s scripture, Paul is proclaiming God’s love for the people of Thessalonica. The man on the street was doing what he thought was the right thing to do . . . he was proclaiming the love of God just like Paul. Paul’s message was kind and full of love but for the people, this may have been the first time they truly listened and understood the full extent of God’s love for them.

 

I am thankful for PUCC . . . the message of God’s love for EVERYONE is kind and gentle. God’s has loved us, loves us now, and will always love us. AMEN.

 

Prayer

God, thank you for loving us . . . always and forever. AMEN.

 



Daily Devotion – October 22, 2014

Psalm 90:1–6, 13–17

1. Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

2. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world,

from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3. You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”

4. For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by,

or like a watch in the night.

5. You sweep men away in the sleep of death;

they are like the new grass of the morning.

6. though in the morning it springs up new,

by evening it is dry and withered.

13. Relent, O Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants.

14. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,

that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

15. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,

for as many years as we have seen trouble.

16. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children.

17. May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;

establish the work of our hands for us–

yes, establish the work of our hands.

 

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

 

The psalmist here expresses complete confidence in the sovereignty of the Divine Spirit.

Some aspects of the Divine Spirit presented in this Psalm are quite frightening; Death, along

with the brevity of the human life span, are attributed to the Divine Sovereign. Yet, the

fatalistic and despairing recognition of human mortality is tempered with hopeful entreaty for

Divine blessing.

 

The complicated portrait of the Divine as both life-giving and life-destroying highlights my

own conflicts with the Christian faith I inherited. How can a Deity characterized by selfless

love allow large numbers of his believers and disciples to commit cruel deeds against the

poor, the imprisoned, or sexual minorities? As I doubt the goodness of the Divine images I

grew up with, I long for a Divine Spirit who is pure kindness and love. Atheists and

fundamentalists may delight in debunking my faith as a delusion, but the pure Love I seek is

has long sustained my very life.

 

Hymn:

 

Queen of my life look tenderly down.

Behold the pain I feel.

I trembling fall before thy throne,

as my life’s days are few

Burned as a moth before thy fire,

I fade to ash and dust.

My failing strength cannot endure

and years of youth are lost.



Daily Devotion – October 21, 2014
10.21.14

Matthew 22:41-46

 

The Question about David’s Son 

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ 43He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,  44 “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand,    until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?  45If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ 46No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

 

Devotion by Anne Mooney

 

This question by Jesus comes after the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians have previously questioned him. Each of their questions was designed to be a trap.  The Jewish leaders were jealous of Jesus’ popularity and hoped he would say something that made him look bad to the Jewish people or to the governing Romans.  Jesus was not fooled, however, and he answered their questions wisely.  Then he turned around and had a question for them.  He asks them, “What do you think of the Messiah?”  This was a reference to Psalm 110 in which King David prophesies about the coming Jewish Messiah.  The Jewish leaders reply that the Messiah is the son of David.  But Jesus goes on to tell them that the Messiah is more than just a human descendant from the line of David.  He points out that David called the Messiah Lord, and no one would call a descendant, Lord.  Therefore, the Messiah must be much more than that.  This must have amazed the Jewish leaders, because the scripture tells us that no one dared to ask Jesus questions after that.  Jesus questioned their beliefs about their interpretation of scripture about who the Messiah would be.  He also questioned their ideas about what kind of a Messiah he would be.  The Jews were hoping for a king who would free them from Roman rule, but Jesus knew that the Messiah came to set people free in a different way, a spiritual way.

 

I can be like the Pharisees and Sadducees. My vision of the Messiah can be small.  I’d like to think of Jesus as more like a Fairy Godmother, granting my every wish, but he is so much more than that.  Jesus is the friend that is always with me when I am feeling broken.  He whispers in my ear when I need courage.  He lets me be myself.   He charges me to make my own decisions, and ultimately my own mistakes.  But Jesus rejoices with me when I choose to live according to God’s will.  Jesus helps me live a full life.

 

PRAYER: 

Jesus, thank you for your presence in my life. Amen

 



Daily Devotion – October 20, 2014
10.20.14

Matthew 22: 34-40

 

The Greatest Commandment 

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

 

 

 

Reflection by Monty Wyne

I begin my reflection with a question. If everyone in the world followed these two commandments daily, how would the world change?

 

Would there be less hatred? Would “Me-ism” disappear?  Would ISIS disband?

Would black respect white and white respect black? Would child abuse vanish? Would weapons become words?  Would young people engage with more old people? Would you give up your dream so another could live his or hers?  Would enemies become brothers and sisters?  Would long lost relatives be found?  Would world leaders open their hearts? Would the world listen to the wisdom of children?  Would life become a journey of joy?  Would divorce lessen and marriage last?  Would the meaning of life have more meaning?  Would the less fortunate become fortunate? Would borders truly have no boundaries? Would sacrifice be truly honored?

Ask yourself…

 

Prayer: 

Dear God, 

I have not always loved you with all my heart and all my soul. Help me and others like me love you more for your love for us is everlasting and never ending.         Amen