Unless otherwise noted our devotions will be coming from, The Sanctuary for Lent 2014, Abingdon Press, Sue Mink. The scripture readings are from the Common English Version.

SATURDAY, APRIL 19, 2014

LUKE 23:50-56

“Taking it down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid it in a tomb carved out of rock, in which no one had ever been buried.”

How can an act of mercy change the world? Usually, executed criminals were not allowed a decent burial. Families were turned away when they came to claim the body. Joseph of Arimathea, a Sanhedrin priest and a member of the council, was influential enough to convince Pilate to give him Jesus’ body for burial. Therefore, Jesus’ body was not thrown on the heap of smoldering garbage outside the city as were the bodies of other criminals.

Instead, Joseph of Arimathea removed the body from the cross himself, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in his own tomb. Joseph’s act of compassion enabled Jesus to have a proper burial and gave his followers the small comfort of being able to prepare his body for entombing.

Most acts of kindness go unnoticed or are soon forgotten in this world. Donations are spent. Meal are eaten. Favors are forgotten. But God knows when we serve him, and can use our obedience for incredible things.

Joseph didn’t know the implications of his act of kindness. All he knew was that he was being merciful to the followers of an innocent man. But his name has gone down in history. the tomb that he offered would become the symbol of hope for the world.

PRAYER: Lord, open my eyes to acts of kindness and mercy that would serve you. AMEN. {pg. 47}

FRIDAY, APRIL 18, 2014

MARK 15:33-41

“When the centurion, who stood facing Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “This man was certainly God’s Son.”

What had they done? For centuries, the people had waited for the Messiah, the chosen one of God, to rescue them. They had dreamed of the day when God would rule the world, peace would reign, and righteousness would triumph. It was their hope for the future and the basis of their faith.

And the Messiah did come. God announced his birth with a band of angels. His touch healed. His words enlightened. But almost no one noticed. The rulers of Israel thought of him as a minor political nuisance. The religious leaders resented his intrusions and reinterpretations of their law. He became an object of derision and scorn, sentenced to die a criminal’s death.

But at the moment of his death, the sky darkened, and the curtain in the temple was rent violently in two. The soldier watching his death was fear-stricken by a terrible realization. This man was God’s Son. He was the hope they had been waiting for. He was the salvation they had been promised. And they had mocked him, beaten him, and left him to die in agony! Truly it was the darkest day in the history of the world.

What would God do to them now? How could the world survive the murder of the Messiah?

PRAYER: O Lord, grant me, a sinner, your mercy and grace. AMEN. {pg. 46}

THURSDAY, APRIL 17, 2014

LUKE 23:39-43

“Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus was bloody, torn, and dying, hanging in shame from a criminal’s cross. Maybe those who thought he might have been the Messiah had been waiting for something spectacular to happen-an eleventh-hour miracle that would somehow save the day. If he were really who he said he was, surely he would not have let this happen to himself! But now, who could possibly believe this was the Messiah, God’s incarnate Son? What a disappointment!

Even the dying thief next to Jesus scorned him. “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” he snarled. But incredibly, the other thief recognized Jesus’ divinity, even as he hung in agony on a criminal’s cross. He understood the nature of Jesus’ kingship and knew that in only hours they would be in Jesus’ kingdom. He defended Jesus and said, “This man has done nothing wrong.” Then he humbly asked Jesus remember him. He saw that Jesus did have the power to save not only himself, but anyone else who would ask. Jesus responded that there was a place in paradise, the place of the blessed, waiting for him.

What incredible faith! No one else at that moment understood that Jesus was following the path that would offer salvation to all. The simple thief was able to glimpse, in Jesus’ dying eyes, the glory of the kingdom of God.

PRAYER: Jesus, remember me as you rule in your kingdom of God. AMEN. {pg. 45}

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 2014

LUKE 23:32-38

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Jesus, the Son of God, stumbled under the weight of his cross as he made his way to the site of his execution. His disciples were gone. the crowds that had listened to him, enraptured in the temple, watched silently. He was hoisted onto a wooden cross and left to die. Thieves hung on his right and left sides, the place once coveted by his disciples. as he died, Roman soldiers hurled insults at him.

Yet he prayed that they be forgiven. Even their behavior could not lessen the love and mercy of God. In the midst of this hellish scene, love still triumphed.

So how could anyone doubt the grace of God? This forgiveness is for each one of us, too. We may not have stood silent at the cross, but how many times have we ignored those in need? We did not drive the nails through Jesus’ hands and feet, but have we caused someone else pain? We did not hurl insults at him that day, but when have we damaged others with words? We were not beside his accusers and judges, smiling in smug satisfaction, but when have we have taken pleasure in others’ pain? Jesus prays for all of us to be forgiven and continues to pray to God that every one of us might understand, at all times, what we are doing.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for your grace in the midst of my sin and ignorance. AMEN.
{pg.44}

TUESDAY, APRIL 15, 2014

JOHN 18:33-38a

“Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice.”

What a tragic sequence! Not for Jesus, who was only on trial for his earthly life, but for Pilate, who turned away from eternal life. Maybe Pilate was teetering on the edge of belief. He summoned Jesus to talk to him. He was trying to understand. But he couldn’t see far enough past the world in front of him to grasp the kingdom of God.

As in many conversations in the Gospel of John, Jesus and Pilate were talking past each other. Jesus was the greatest king who ever walked the face of the earth, but he was not the kind of king Pilate understood. Pilate believed that they were discussing the political leadership of a dusty little country. Jesus was talking about the eternal kingship of the cosmos.

Jesus came into the world to reveal the truth of God’s righteousness. Anyone who grasped that truth would understand that Jesus had ultimate authority, and they would claim him as their king. Anyone who knew the truth of Jesus Christ would be a part of the kingdom of God.

But Pilate’s final questions, “What is truth?” is a tragic irony. Truth was embodied right in front of him, offering grace, salvation, and eternal life. Frustrated and without understanding, he turned from the king of salvation, condemning himself to a life of sin and death.

PRAYER: Lord, let me walk in your truth as a citizen of your kingdom. AMEN! {pg.43}

MONDAY, APRIL 14, 2014

LUKE 22:54-62

“But Peter denied it saying, “Woman, I don’t know him!”

Was Peter courageous or a coward? One could argue for his courage. The Gospel of John says that he drew his sword against a cohort of soldiers when Jesus was arrested (a cohort was approximately six hundred men)! Peter followed Jesus after his arrest. He waited in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, a very dangerous place for him to be. Maybe Peter was there for support, maybe out of concern. Maybe he was there trying to figure out a way to rescue Jesus. Whatever the reason, he was not acting like a coward.

So why did he deny Jesus? Maybe Peter thought that if he were arrested he would no longer be able to help Jesus. Maybe he was just frightened. But it didn’t matter. His denial was an attempt to distance himself from what was about to happen to Jesus. Jesus had told him that the Son of Man had to be put to death. If Peter was hoping to change that, it was just another form of denial. Loyalty to Jesus means following him where he takes you, not trying to direct what he is doing. It means claiming him even if it is frightening or blows your cover. It means giving up control to allow Jesus to work through you, whatever the situation or circumstance.

PRAYER: Lord, give me the courage to follow  you wherever you lead. AMEN! {pg.42}

FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2014

LUKE 22:31-34

“When you have returned, strengthen your brothers and sisters.”

We are human. We often stumble and fall, failing to be true disciples. Crisis has a way of exposing our weaknesses. Jesus knew that the disciples would struggle mightily and fall away from him in the next few days. Satan would bring all their faults out into the open, just as sifting flour through a mesh exposes any impurities.

But there’s good news hidden within this bad news. Despite our flaws and failings, Jesus remain with us, giving us strength. Even though Jesus was about to face his own suffering and death, he was praying for his disciples so that their faith would remain strong. Peter, in characteristic over-the-top emotionalism, vehemently denied that his faith would need any strengthening. Of course he would never fall away! But Jesus knew what would happen, and even with Peter’s failure looming, Jesus prayed for his encouragement.

The other good news is that even if you fail Jesus, it doesn’t condemn the relationship. There was no question that Peter would deny him, but there was also no question that Peter would return to him. Peter would not only be welcomed back, but Jesus would command him to give strength to others, just as Jesus had strengthened him. Even when we turn away from Jesus, he is waiting for us to return, offering us encouragement and strengthening us to encourage others.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for your grace and your encouragement when I fail you. AMEN. {pg. 39}

THURSDAY, APRIL 10, 2014

JOHN 13:3-17

“If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet.”

Imagine you found Jesus standing over a stove cooking dinner for you or personally washing sheets and making up a bed for you. How would you feel about the Lord of creation doing menial tasks for you? This is how the disciples must have felt when Jesus knelt down to wash their feet. Footwashing was usually assigned to the lowest of servants. No wonder Peter was appalled!

Jesus’ humble washing of the disciples’ feet was a demonstration of service to his followers, but Jesus was also demonstrating something even greater. A gracious host would make sure that the feet of guests were washed when they came to visit. By washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus was taking on the role of a hospitable host, welcoming them into full relationship with God, as if they were beloved guests in his home.

After he was done, he gave them further instructions. Followers of Christ are to go out as servants to all people, inviting them all into relationship with Jesus Christ. They are to graciously welcome all who come to Christ, inviting all into their spiritual homes as welcome guests, serving them with humble hospitality and love. If the Son of God would kneel to wash their feet in an act of gracious hospitality, could they do any less?

PRAYER: Lord, help me be a humble and gracious host for you. AMEN. {pg. 38}

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9, 2014

LUKE 22:14-20

“This cup is the new covenant by my blood,which is poured out for you.”

Throughout the Bible, the most solemn promises were called covenants and were sealed with blood. The lifeblood of sacrificed animals became the sacred symbol of a promise that would not be broken. In Exodus 24:8, Moses sprinkled the blood of oxen over the Hebrew people to seal their first covenant with God when they were given the law. But this time, the covenant was to be sealed not with the blood of oxen, but with the blood of God incarnate as man on earth. Jesus himself would be the sacrifice.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke of a new covenant when the Law would be written on the hearts of people (Jeremiah 31:33). Therefore, the new covenant would be a profound, cosmic change. It would usher in a deeper understanding of the relationship between God and humanity by removing the final barrier of sin and death that was between heaven and earth. People would no longer have to live with the specter of death hanging over them. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, all believers would be offered eternal life.

So when Jesus was lifting up the cup, he was changing the fabric of the universe. With his blood, Jesus sealed the new covenant, which enables every one of us to enter God’s presence with confidence and live on with God for eternity.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I am awestruck and eternally grateful to you for sealing the new covenant. AMEN. {pg. 37}

TUESDAY, APRIL 8, 2014

MATTHEW 21:12-13

“It’s written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you’ve made it a hideout for crooks.”

Jesus’ protest in the temple was more than just frustration with greedy moneychangers.  Jesus’ cry in Matthew 21:13 used the same words used by the prophet Jeremiah when he warned the people that they could not continue to break the word of God by stealing and lying and then simply make offerings in the temple to make everything better again (Jeremiah 7:9-11). Jeremiah asked, “Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury...and then come and stand before me in this that bears my name , and say, ‘We are safe,’  only to keep on doing all these detestable things?”  Those who take refuge in God’s mercy and grace must also devote themselves to a relationship with God. God’s grace, while always a free gift, requires taking on the responsibility of discipleship. Jesus was about to sacrifice himself for the salvation of all people. He didn’t want people to claim the grace of God while doing their duties at the temple but continuing to live lives that hurt others or didn’t honor God. That would make Jesus’ sacrifice meaningless. No wonder he was angry! Jesus did not come to save hypocrites.

Christians cannot claim the name of Christ without claiming the life of discipleship. To do anything less cheapens the great gift that Jesus was about to give.

PRAYER: Lord, may my discipleship honor your sacrifice. AMEN.

MONDAY, APRIL 7, 2014

“They said, “Blessings on the king who come in the name of the Lord.” LUKE 19:38a

On Palm Sunday, Jesus was proclaimed king-but what kind of king? In Jesus’ day, conquering kings came home in ceremonial parades, with the people lining the streets waving palms and shouting praises. But instead of riding a warhorse, Jesus rode a borrowed donkey. Instead of the cream of Jerusalem society calling out his name, the crowds lining the streets were his disciples-fisherman, people who had formerly been crippled, a former tax collector, women and the poor. They were welcoming him to begin his rule, but it must have seemed pathetic to outsiders who were watching. How could this backwoods carpenter even dream of overthrowing the Romans? He had no army. He had no political power. This was no real conquering king. He was at best an annoyance.

But those who scorned him, and even most of those who praised him, didn’t understand who he had come to conquer. It wasn’t the oppressive rulers of some dusty, ancient two-thousand-year-old city. Jesus’ kingship was much broader and more ambitious than that of any human king. Jesus came to conquer nothing less than sin and death! But instead of riding toward a throne, he was riding toward a cross, and nearly all of those who called out his name on Palm Sunday would soon desert him in fear and confusion.

PRAYER: Help me to understand that your kingdom is greater than anything on earth! AMEN.

FRIDAY, APRIL 4, 2014

LUKE 18:18-25

“Sell everything you own and distribute the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.”

It’s hard to read this familiar story without becoming uncomfortable. While a few of us might be rich, nearly every one of us has more than someone else. But don’t we have responsibilities to our families? And don’t we deserve a little bit of comfort now and then? Is this story telling us that God would love us more if we were poor?

The key is in the words Come, follow me. What would you have to leave behind to follow Jesus? Maybe, like the rich man, you have comfort and security. Maybe it is social standing. Maybe friendships challenge your discipleship. Jesus didn’t want the rich’s man money. He wanted the rich’s man heart. He wanted to know that there was nothing standing in the way of the kind of bold discipleship that puts serving God before any other concern. It’s not about giving up things for God, it’s about giving up oneself to God.

Imagine the rich young ruler as a modern day successful businessman, standing before Jesus with an open checkbook, asking, “Okay, how much does God want me to give?” Jesus stands among his ragtag group of disciples and smiles, answering, “I want you to become one of us.”

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, open my eyes to all that stands in my way of my discipleship. AMEN. {pg.32}

THURSDAY, APRIL 3, 2014

LUKE 18:15-17

“Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children.”

Babies have nothing to give. They are absolutely helpless and dependent. And so, after a long stressful day, when Jesus was swarmed with parents asking blessings for their infants, the disciples thought that they were doing Jesus a favor by sending away these inconsequential children. After all, the children could do absolutely nothing for Jesus.

But that is exactly the point. The kingdom of heaven is a gift. If we come to Jesus believing that we can somehow earn his favor, we have lost it. Jesus is not impressed by titles or accomplishments. He does not want what we have or what we have done. He wants who we are. This is why he welcomed children. There is nothing more genuine than a baby.

How could we possibly offer the Creator of the universe anything more than our hearts? What do we have that could mean anything more to him? Everything we have and everything we’ve done crumble into dust before him. We truly are like helpless infants before him, with nothing more to give than our love and devotion. How wonderful that the only thing we can give him is the only he values!

PRAYER: Lord, I give you the one thing I can: my heart. AMEN. {pg.31}

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2, 2014

LUKE 14:7-12

“All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and all those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”

Banquets in Jesus’ day were a place to see and be seen. Guests sat according to social status and jockeyed for the best position. Not only was it more prestigious to be seated nearer to the host, even the food was better! Ironically, the religious leaders were pushing past the Messiah for their place at the table. They were blind to the God that they served while claiming honor for serving him. They were in a social setting that valued clever conversation and prestigious family and social connections above humility, righteousness, and mercy.

The only reason we are invited to God’s heavenly banquet is because of his mercy and grace. Discipleship to the Creator of the cosmos is an astonishing honor. None of the trappings of high society will matter when we are standing before our Creator. Righteousness, not social standing, is the goal of discipleship. Righteousness includes looking past another person’s upbringing, social position, or economic status to the qualities that are valued by God. It means opening our hearts and homes to those who are outcast and seeing each person as a beloved, valued child of God.

The Son of God sat in the back of the room at the banquet. Would you welcome Jesus and show him the place of honor?

PRAYER: Lord, open my eyes to the worth of every one of your children. AMEN. pg. 30}

TUESDAY, APRIL 1, 2014

LUKE 11:42-44

“How terrible for you Pharisees! You give a tenth of your mint, rue, and garden herbs of all kinds, while neglecting justice and love for God.”

My imagine of Jesus from Sunday School is one of gentleness and infinite patience. However, the Scriptures show that Jesus could be very upset by religious hypocrisy. Just as his Father did in Old Testament times, Jesus would not excuse those who preached piety but mistreated others in the name of God. He would happily talk to Samaritans, pagans, and unbelievers, but he got angry at those who took on the trappings of faith without allowing God to change their hearts.

How does Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees apply to us? First, Jesus accused them of piously paying attention to insignificant religious laws without reflecting the very foundation of faith, which is justice for others and love for God. Today there are many who can quote the Bible for every occasion, but are judgemental and unforgiving toward others. Next, he accused them of using religion for status. It is well known today that the “right church” can be a good place to make business and social contacts. Finally he accused them, as religious leaders, of thwarting other people’s faith by being bad examples. Those who lead must lead into mercy and love.

How do your actions align with your faith? Do you ever anger Jesus?

PRAYER: Lord, save me from hypocritical faith. Open my eyes to ways I may disappoint you. AMEN. {pg. 29}

MONDAY, MARCH 31, 2014

LUKE 10:38-41

The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.”

Like so many people, I often feel pressured to get things done. Many times, things that seem overwhelmingly important at the moment are only my own expectations. Other times, I adopt what I believe others expect of me. I wind up spending my time and energy on things that only seem to be important and neglect those things that should be priorities. A friend once told me that when I am stressed, I should ask myself, Will this matter in a year? Most times, the answer is no.

Mary was defying social convention by sitting at Jesus’ feet. In Jesus’ day, men were disciples, and women took care of men. Martha was getting worried and distracted because Mary was breaking expectations and social conventions by sitting at Jesus’ feet as a disciple. But Mary was taking control of her own life, setting her own priorities, and responding to the expectations of Jesus, not of others.

The reason we were created was to have a relationship with our Creator. There is nothing more important in our lives than spending time with Jesus. This story reminds us to examine the expectations put on us. Are they getting in the way of our being at Jesus’ disciples? Spending time with Jesus will matter not only in a year, but also for eternity.

PRAYER: Lord, keep my expectations from causing me to miss out on the better part. AMEN. {pg. 28}

FRIDAY, MARCH 28, 2014

JOHN 11:21-27

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Step back from this verse for a moment and read it again. These words tell of the existence of an entire dimension beyond our current knowledge. Those things which we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell are not all there is. Life exists beyond our physical plane, and the one who enables this is Jesus.

We don’t know how this works. We don’t have to know the details of life beyond the grave.  We do know that we have the promise of Jesus Christ, and so we can be confident that our future is in the hands of the Good Shepherd, who loves us dearly. When we leave this earth, we will step not into an endless abyss, but into the arms of love.

This knowledge should profoundly affect our understanding not only of death, but also of life. Eternal life does not begin when we die, but is happening right now, as soon as we experience the renewal of Jesus Christ. Those parts of us which have been defeated and destroyed resurrect through his power even during our time on earth, and we have the promise of Jesus that we will continue to be healed and empowered throughout eternity.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for offering me the eternal power of your resurrection! AMEN. {pg. 25}

THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 2014

MARK 8:22-25

“He looked with his eyes wide open, his was restored, and he could see everything clearly.”

This healing is puzzling. Why would Jesus need to heal the man twice? The man had faith; in fact, he begged Jesus to heal him. Certainly Jesus had the power to restore his sight completely the first time-why didn’t he?

Put yourself in the blind man’s place. If you had never had vision, and suddenly you had partial sight given to you, wouldn’t that be an amazing gift?  Yet he knew there was more, and he asked that Jesus heal him completely. He could see the shadows of people, but he couldn’t recognize their faces. He needed a second healing to be able to truly recognize Jesus’ face-the face of the Son of God.

Seeing and recognizing Jesus are often two different things. We know of him but we don’t recognize his power or his mercy. This story tells us that we should not be satisfied unless we can recognize Jesus clearly. How often do we believe that we have “enough Jesus” and walk away with partial sight? We realize the great gift we have been given, but then the  world calls and we turn away with only a part of who we could be in Christ. We know of Jesus, but he’s only a shadowy figure to us when he could be something more vibrant and real in our lives.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, open my eyes so that i can recognize you clearly. AMEN. (Pg 24)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26, 2014

JOHN 8:1-11

“Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.”

What is the purpose of God’s law? The scribes in this story were using the law of Moses to attempt to trip up Jesus and discredit him. If Jesus said to stone the woman, he was violating his own words of mercy. If he said to let her go, he was violating Mosaic Law.

Many have noted that Mosaic Law required both the man and the woman caught in adultery to be put to death, so the scribes weren’t even following the law themselves. Most important, the law was written not as a means to destroy, but as a means to guide God’s people into righteous living. There was nothing righteous about using this woman as a pawn in a power play. The scribes were willing to have a woman stoned in order to assert their authority, and certainly the crowd knew that even if she was guilty, she was being used. Jesus’ call to have the one without sin throw the first stone would make someone responsible and put a name and a face on her death. Whoever had the audacity to claim to be sinless would be condoning the sin of the scribes and would actually violate the true spirit of God’s law.

Jesus told the woman not to sin anymore. But he also exposed the sin of twisting God’s word into a weapon to hurt others.

PRAYER: Lord, may i never use your word in a harmful way. AMEN. {Pg. 23}

TUESDAY, MARCH 25, 2014

MATTHEW 14:22-33

Peter replied, “Lord,if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”

The disciples were in a little boat, tossed on the stormy and chaotic waves of the Sea of Galilee. Suddenly they saw Jesus walking across the water toward them. in the ancient Near East, it was believed that walking water was a sign of divinity. So why did Peter try to walk on water, too?

Peter’s response was a daring test. “If it you…” he began, testing the waves. Jesus had been left on the shore. Could Jesus really be coming for them in the midst of chaos? The typical lesson gleaned from this story is that if Peter had only had enough faith, he could have walked on the water. But that wasn’t possible. He wasn’t a god. If he had truly had faith, he would have stayed in the boat, never doubting that Jesus would have come to save them in their trouble. There would have been no need to create spectacular proof of Jesus’ existence in the storm. He would have believed when Jesus made his presence known.

Sometimes Jesus seems to be on the other shore when we’re tossed by chaos. When he comes to you, do you doubt his existence, asking for a sign? Or do you rejoice in faith that the One who loves you has kept His promises and never left you after all?

PRAYER: Lord, may I never doubt your presence in my life. AMEN.

FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 2014

JOHN 4:7-15

“The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.”

In Jesus’ time, fresh, moving water was known as “living water” because it was more likely to be free of contaminants. When he offered the Samaritan woman “living water,” she was puzzled. How could he draw flowing water from a still well, especially without a bucket?”

But Jesus meant more than just ordinary water. He told the woman that anyone who drinks of this water will never be thirsty again. He was speaking not of physical thirst, but of that emptiness, that longing we feel as we go through our day-to-day lives. Spiritual thirst is a devastating feeling of just going through the motions of life, working to pay the bills, and following the predicted routine with no real purpose or meaning. Singer Bruce Springsteen says that “everybody’s got a hungry heart.” Jesus was telling this woman that “everybody’s got a thirst soul-everybody, that is, except those who accept what I am offering you.”

Living water revitalizes us to see our true purpose and worth as a beloved person of God. It is able to wash us clean so that we can shed those things which keep us from being all that God created us to be. It frees us from sin and shame so we can be aligned with God for all eternity.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, quench my thirst with your living water. AMEN. (pg. 18)

THURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2014

MATTHEW 13:54-58

“Where did he get the power to work miracles? Isn’t he the carpenter’s son?” Matthew 13:54b-55a

Why was Jesus rejected in his own hometown? Perhaps it was because he appeared to be too ordinary. People were expecting the Messiah to be like a superhero, but Jesus was truly human as well as divine. His neighbors knew him as a child. He was completely familiar. Who did he think he was, dispensing wisdom and healing in the synagogue? Instead of being open to his teaching, they were scornful. They knew him too well to recognize him as anything special.

But often our encounters with the living Christ are rooted in the ordinary. Christ is within our everyday life, revealing himself in everything from the concern of a friend to the realization of common blessings to a birdsong that lifts our spirits. Jesus Christ meets us in our human simplicity and in the ordinary moments of ordinary days. So often we rush past, looking for the miracles, searching for the superhero. We miss seeing Jesus in the small stuff of life, the gritty, everyday human moments that truly define us. When we miss seeing Jesus, we miss seeing his work and how he is truly with us every day. It is recognizing him all around us, every day, in the simple things, that opens us to his life-changing presence.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, open my eyes so that I can see you in the ordinary moments of my life. AMEN.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014

LUKE 8:30-39

The demons left the man and entered into the pigs. The herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and drowned. Luke 8:33

What are your demons? What are the things that haunt you, that tempt you, or that lead you away from right living? The lunatic in this story was so overwhelmed by demons that he had lost his true identity. They had taken him over and he was completely imprisoned by them.

But even when we know that sin is destroying us, our demons can still be seductive. Righteousness is demanding. We know that turning away from sin will change us, and change is always hard. Even if sinful living ultimately destroys, it’s often what we know and can be comfortable with. Therefore, Jesus was terrifying to Legion. Legion realized Jesus’ power and his desire to change Legion’s life, so Legion, and his demons attempted to strike a deal. The demons begged to be sent into the swine nearby instead of being destroyed. It’s as if Legion said, “If you insist on healing me, heal me only a little bit.; Keep my demons nearby! Don’t make me give them up completely!”

But as soon as Legion understood the salvation Jesus offered, the swine possessed by the demons destroyed themselves. When Jesus touches our lives we see our sins for what they are. They are no longer welcomed.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, cleanse and heal me completely. Reveal to me the destructive power of all my sins. AMEN (pg.16)

TUESDAY, MARCH 18, 2014

LUKE 8:26-29

Then he shouted, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!”

The land of the Gerasenes was a wild, gentile area on the far side of the Sea of Galilee. The land near the town was full of tombs and feeding areas for swine. For a Jew, it was the epitome of an unclean, defiled place. Roaming amidst the tombs was a lunatic.l Every shred of humanity was torn from him. He was naked and lived among the dead. It was scenario as close to hell as one could imagine.

But Jesus found this man. He traveled to the depth of depravity to confront him. Unlike so many other people, the man immediately know who Jesus was and recognized his power. Imagine his shame and horror! Standing right before him was the Son of God, but the lunatic knew his was completely unworthy. Certainly there could be no mercy for him!

Jesus will find us, no matter where we hide ourselves and no matter how unholy our surroundings. We can try to send him away, but Jesus will not be deterred. We can shrink away from him in shame, but he will never withhold his mercy. Jesus offers even the most unworthy the grace to be whole again.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you that no one is beyond the reach of your grace and that you love even the most unworthy. AMEN>

FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 2014

JOHN 3:1-3

Jesus answered,” I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.” John 3:3

We worship a God of transformation. Blind people see, the lame walk, and the old become new. Most important, hearts and minds change. Instead of focusing on survival in a dog-eat-dog world, followers of Jesus become harbingers of the kingdom of God. Disciples truly are transformed people, empowered and emboldened by God’s strength.

We’ve all heard the phrase “born again,” but John’s Greek is much more nuanced than the English translation. “Born again” doesn’t just mean that one has accepted Christ as a personal Savior. The word anothen, translated “again” also means “from above.” In other words, one must be re-created or transformed by the power of God in order to see God’s kingdom. Just as a baby is unable to see the world until after its moment of birth, no one is able to grasp the full implications of God’s kingdom until God has transformed them. Then they are able to see an entirely new reality. They are able to view the world through the eyes of Christ, but seeing as Christ sees can never be just passive acceptance. Anyone who is truly born again becomes a part of a cosmic movement to bring God’s peace, mercy, and justice to earth, just as Jesus did.

PRAYER: Lord, show me what it means to be a citizen of your kingdom. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. AMEN “ (pg. 11)

THURSDAY, MARCH 13, 2014

LUKE 8:22-25

“Who is this? He commands even the winds and water, and they obey him?”

All throughout the Bible, stormy seas are a metaphor for chaos. Ancient listeners to this story would understand that while the disciples were facing the forces of nature, a tiny boat on a stormy sea was also an image of being caught up in any kind of uncontrollable and chaotic force. This force was threatening to overwhelm the disciples, yet Jesus was in their boat. When they woke him, terrified, Jesus calmed the seas; he then asked them the scathing question, “Where is your faith?”

He didn’t blame their lack of faith for causing the storm or say that if they had believed they could have calmed the waters themselves, Jesus was questioning their fear. They had not yet grasped the implications of having Jesus Christ with them in the boat. Didn’t they realize that even the forces of chaos could be tamed by a word from his mouth.

We should not blame every storm of life on a lack of faith or spiritual weakness. Chaos continues to swirl around us, and sometimes we are caught in its currents. But Jesus is in our boat. If we truly understand who Jesus is, we know that the chaos does not have the ultimate power over us. The one who commands the winds and the water can command the circumstances of our lives, as well.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, calm me with the knowledge of your power. AMEN. (Pg. 10)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12, 2014

MATTHEW 9:2-8

“But so you will know that the Human One has the authority on earth to forgive sins...get up, take your cot, and go home.”

We are surrounded by miracles too common to see. Dry brown bulbs blossom into beautiful flowers. Children become strong and tall, Nourishing food grows from rain, sunshine, and soil. Even though we see these miracles, we sometimes still demand more proof of the power of God.

Who can see a change of heart and mind? Sins wiped clean and guilt removed? Yet these moments that transform lives are miraculous, even if invisible. God glories in the triumphs of life that are ordinary and explainable, whereas we look proof in the spectacular. Thus, when Jesus performed the miracle of healing the paralyzed man’s soul the onlookers were unimpressed. They wanted something solid and verifiable-their definition of a miracle. They couldn’t see the miracle of the healing of the man’s soul, but when he “got up and went home...the crowds...were afraid and praised God.”

A transformed life is no less miraculous than a transformed body. To prove his power, Jesus told the man to get up and go home. It was only when the man stood and walked-his body healed too-that people believed that Jesus also had the power to heal hearts and minds, The grace of Jesus Christ continues to perform ordinary miracles every day. Do we need further proof?

Prayer: O Lord, help me recognize the miracle of your transforming grace. AMEN. (Pg.9))

The Season of Lent March 11, 2014

Luke 7:36-50

“This is why I tell you that her many sins have been forgiven; so she has shown great love.” (CEB)

Were you ever offered something you didn’t know you needed? You probably wouldn’t value it much until you understood its worth to you. Jesus offered forgiveness to all, but the Pharisee discounted his own sin and therefore didn’t value forgiveness. The woman in this passage grasped the true worth of the grace of Jesus, and her thankfulness spilled over into an extravagant display of love and devotion.

The Pharisee didn’t even treat Jesus as an honored guest. He neglected the common courtesies of a host, while he harshly judged Jesus for accepting the woman’s lavish display of hospitality. She washed his feet not with water, but with her tears, and dried his feet not with a towel, but with her hair. She understood not only what she had been given, but that Jesus’ gift to her was of infinite value. The Pharisee didn’t even realize that the gift of forgiveness was relevant to him, too.

We cannot stand before God without the grace of Jesus Christ. Even if we believe that we’ve sinned “only a little bit,” none of us is whole without Jesus’ forgiveness. All of us need to hear Jesus’ healing words: “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for your grace and forgiveness, Humble me to see the need for you in my life. AMEN. (pg. 8)

The Season of Lent March 7, 2014

SCRIPTURE

Psalm 130

1   Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.

2           Lord, hear my voice!

         Let your ears be attentive

              to the voice of my supplications!

3   If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,

              Lord, who could stand?

4   But there is forgiveness with you,

              so that you may be revered.

5   I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,

              and in his word I hope;

6   my soul waits for the Lord

              more than those who watch for the morning,

              more than those who watch for the morning.

7   O Israel, hope in the LORD!

              For with the LORD there is steadfast love,

              and with him is great power to redeem.

8   It is he who will redeem Israel

              from all its iniquities.

DEVOTIONAL

Today, we turn to the evening reading, Psalm 130. “More than those who watch for the morning.” Today, the sun came up. And the day before. And the day before. In fact, morning is a pretty sure thing. Morning will come.

To say my soul waits and hopes more than those who watch for the morning—that’s more than a sure thing. Though this is a psalm written from the darkness of night, it speaks of a hope that is surer than the hope that the sun will rise tomorrow.

It’s important for us to remember that hope in sunrise doesn’t dispel the night. The psalmist still has to endure the darkness of night, but it’s with the knowledge that sunrise is coming. As we continue our journey through Lent, we are tempted by our experience of instant downloads and overnight shipping. We want to get to the end. We are tempted to skip ahead to Easter morning—to ignore or forget the events of Lent and Holy Week. Instead, let’s sit with the Psalmist and wait. Let’s continue our journey, not only anticipating what lies ahead, but noticing what God is doing at this very moment.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

The Season of Lent March 6 , 2014

SCRIPTURE

Psalm 147:12-20  

12  Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!

              Praise your God, O Zion!

13  For he strengthens the bars of your gates;

              he blesses your children within you.

14  He grants peace within your borders;

              he fills you with the finest of wheat.

15  He sends out his command to the earth;

              his word runs swiftly.

16  He gives snow like wool;

              he scatters frost like ashes.

17  He hurls down hail like crumbs —

              who can stand before his cold?

18  He sends out his word, and melts them;

              he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.

19  He declares his word to Jacob,

              his statutes and ordinances to Israel.

20  He has not dealt thus with any other nation;

              they do not know his ordinances.

         Praise the Lord!

DEVOTIONAL

This psalm is filled with such rich imagery. Frigid words like snow, frost, and hail are compared to images of warming up after dinner–wool, ashes, and crumbs. After this juxtaposition we switch to the power of God’s word to melt away the cold. Though the author describes “his cold,” he uses imagery of warmth, and then moves to a springtime image of blowing wind and flowing water. This paradox is perfect for us as we journey toward both the cold dark night of the crucifixion, and then the warmth of sunrise on Easter morning.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Unless otherwise noted the devotional material will come from, “Special Delivery”, Brief Daily Prayers Based on the Messages of the Advent and Christmas Angels, Arden W. Mead, Creative Communications.

Devotion 12/23/13

 CHRISTMAS DAY…... ……….…………………..…………………...Isaiah 61:1-3

When they saw, they made known what had been told them about this child. ..Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”-Luke 2:17,20

And so, in a way, the story comes full circle. The shepherds who had heard your heavenly messenger became messengers themselves; they joined the holy angels in “glorifying and praising God.” And they joined them also in their blessed work of telling others what had first been told to them concerning the newborn Christ. What a privilege was granted to those lowly shepherds, to be engaged in “angel work”!

And now that privilege is mine as well. For I too have heard the wondrous story once again, the message of the Lord whom you sent to earth to be my Savior, who gave his life and overcame death so that someday I might be granted the privilege of joining the heavenly host in offering eternal praise.

But I don’t need to wait for heaven to begin that blessed work. O gracious God, give me the peace to speak your message and proclaim your praise even now...and into the new year.

Devotion 12/24/13

 Christmas Eve ……….…………………..…………………………......Isaiah 2:2-5

“...and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”-Luke 2:14

At last, O God, the full intent of your message is known-not only the message of the Bethlehem angels and the words proclaimed to Zechariah and Mary and Joseph, but the message of all the Word of God, from your first promise in Paradise to the last Word you will yet speak in the final coming to Christ. And that word is PEACE!

Not the kind of fleeting peace the world offers and then snatches back to shatter, but a message that begins-every time it is offered-with “fear not!”-a message that offers the love of heavenly Father for lost and wayward children, the yearning of a Father’s heart to reclaim us even yet, and the great cost by which it is accomplished, the death of your beloved Son.

It is a message that insists that, for the sake of Jesus Christ, the war is over, and that victory is no longer to be won but to be given...and received and enjoyed and used in the assurance of certain faith.

Shalom, the ancient Hebrews said-everything is the way your good will intends it to be. At last, PEACE!

Devotion 12/23/13

Monday, Christmas Week ……….…………………..…………………...Isaiah 11:1-10

“a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”:-Luke 2:11

Am I ready to meet you, Jesus? For you are truly coming to meet me.

You come as the LORD, the Creator and Owner and Ruler of everything that is, the One to whom all the world owes unfailing allegiance, How honored I am!

You come as the MESSIAH, the One designated to speak God’s ultimate and final Word, to bridge the gap between Holy God and fallen humanity, to take up the power of the Almighty and rule all things forever. How honored I am to receive you!

But am I ready to receive you? Am I able? If you come in such awesome glory, as the LORD, the MESSIAH, will I be able to confront you without being overwhelmed, condemned in my sin and doomed in my guilt?

Yes, before anything else the angel might have said of you, this God’s good Christmas word: “a SAVIOR”! {Bold Emphasis Added)

Devotion 12/20/13

Friday, the Third Week of Advent…………………..…………………...Isaiah 56:6-8

“...for all people…”-Luke 2:10

You really meant it, didn’t you, O God? You meant the Good News to be so universal that even I would someday be a part of it. Down through the centuries and across the miles, the message of your love in Jesus Christ found its way to me.

In my case, it was not a heavenly angel who proclaimed the message, but agents far more human...beginning, I guess, with parents and pastors and teachers. But who told them? Is it even possible for me to trace the line back only a few generations? In order to transmit you Word, did my ancestors-in-the-faith have to face hardships or even persecutions? What is involved here, I begin to realize, is actually the whole history of the Christian Church, tracing back the transmission of your Word through missionaries and monasteries, councils and confessions, and literally thousands of faithful people through the centuries who took their part in an unbroken chain that reaches from the angel at Bethlehem right into my own life.

What good news! Not only the message itself, but even the means by which you made it possible for me to hear it, dear Lord God. Truly a special delivery!

Devotion 12/19/13

Thursday, the Third Week of Advent…………………..…………………...Isaiah 25:6-9

“...of great joy…”-Luke 2:10

What a wonderful time of year this is, Lord Jesus Christ, “the season to be jolly.” So many happy things are taking place all at once-gift giving, celebrations, festive decorations and happy music, greetings in the mail and surprises at the door, homecomings and homegoings, good smells from the kitchen and bounty on the table.

Even more wonderful is the reason for them all: the joy we find in you, Lord Jesus Christ, a joy so great that even the Christmas season cannot contain all of it or the Christmas spirit express it fully, joy that cannot even be bound in by all of life itself, but that is destined to spill over into the endless reaches of eternity!

In order that such joy might be mine, Lord Jesus Christ, you endured the agony of the cross. But even then you said, “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22).

Thank you, dear Lord, for all the joy i experience right now. And thank you especially that this joy is but a prelude-a kind of foretaste-of the real gift of Christmas: “great joy” that will be forever mine!

Devotion 12/18/13

Wednesday, the Third Week of Advent…………………..…………………...Isaiah 52:7-10

“I am bringing you good news…” Luke 2:10

In the ancient world, a herald always spoke with the absolute authority of the ruler who had sent him. If the announcement happened to be about some sort of “bad news” (like a new tax, for example), there was not much that could be done about it. As always, the herald was sent to announce “the way it is.”

So I can imagine how relieved the Bethlehem shepherds must have felt when this messenger of the Most High God begins by announcing that what he has been sent to announce is “good news,” the announcement of your birth, Lord Jesus Christ...and more, for in the Bible the “good news” (the Gospel) involves the rest of the story: the life you lived for us, your teaching and healing, your suffering and death for the redemption of the world, your rising from the dead as the eternal Lord of life, your ascension into heaven to prepare a place for us, and the promise of your coming again to receive us to yourself.

Perhaps it should been capitalized: “I bring you Good News.” Or capitalized even more: “I bring you GOOD NEWS!” It doesn’t get any better!

Devotion 12/17/13

Tuesday, the Third Week of Advent…………………..…………………...Isaiah 62:10-12

“...for behold…” Luke 2:10

I know that modern translations use words like “Look” or “See” to translate this ancient word, but I prefer “Behold,” Lord Jesus Christ. To me that word seems to say, “Pay attention!”-for this is something important, something not to be missed.

And that’s a reminder I may need right about now, as the season gets so hectic-so cluttered with things to do, places to go, activities to participate in, plans to make, presents to buy, people to invite, goodies to bake, lists to check and check again-that in the midst of it all I may actually overlook you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Whatever form your messengers take this season, Lord, help me to take your Word to heart. And let me begin by actually paying attention. The way you always pay attention to me.

Devotion 12/16/13

Monday, the Third Week of Advent…………………..…………………...Isaiah 40:1-11

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.” Luke 2:10

What a difference! In the ancient world, the arrival of an official herald was designed to strike fear into people’s hearts. But every time I have confronted one of your herald angels this Advent season, Lord Jesus Christ, their special delivery always began with words like, “Fear not.” Those words were spoken to Zechariah and Mary and Joseph, and now to the shepherds at Bethlehem: “Be not afraid.”

That is a message I should take to heart, for someday, I know, I too will see your angels, Lord, when you come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

But even there, you seem to promise, the message for those who are your children continues to be, “Do not be afraid.” Because you came, and lived and died and rose again, your Holy Spirit continues to assure me that even death-and the judgement that lies beyond-is not something to be feared.

Devotion 12/12/13

Friday, the Second Week of Advent…………………..…………………...Isaiah 12:1-6

An angel of the Lord appeared in a dream and said,” Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20

Even though you sent an angel to Joseph to explain everything, Lord God, that didn’t solve all of Joseph’s problems, did it? Joseph and Mary would still have the shame and embarrassment to deal with. Once the wedding had taken place, they would still have the day-by-day business of setting up a household, earning a living, and making their marriage work. An explanation had been provided, true; but that did not by any means solve all the problems.

For those times when I wish you would send an angel Lord, to let me know exactly what is going on...Well, if you did send one, would I really understand? And even if I did, would it change the plan you have for me, the way I must live my life as your child day by day?

At this moment, all Joseph had was the assurance that your Holy Spirit was involved in all that was going on. Well, since the Holy Spirit has brought me to faith in Jesus Christ, I have that assurance too. Please give me the faith that Joseph had, to trust and do.

Devotion 12/12/13

Thursday, the Second Week of Advent…………………..…………………...Isaiah 64:1-8

“And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:36-37

I thank you, God, that you have not called me to exercise my faith in a vacuum, but you constantly provide the examples of others for my comfort and encouragement.

Mary was not alone in her faith, your angel informed her. Her relative Elizabeth was a living demonstration of what you can do in the lives of your children, loving God.

I thank you, therefore, for the relatives you given me to help me in my Christian faith and life...as well as for the members of my “family of faith,” the church...and also those saintly “heroes of faith” whose stories continue to be an inspiration.

In all of them, O God, help me to see you as the source of all their success. “Nothing will be impossible with God,” your messenger announced. What you demonstrated in the pregnancies of Elizabeth and Mary you confirmed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. When I look to others for the comfort and encouragement they offer, help me always to see you in their lives, O God, for you are surely there.

Devotion 12/11/13

Wednesday, the Second Week of Advent…………………..…………………...Isaiah 43:8-13

“The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35

Was that much of an explanation, O Most High God? It looks to me as though Gabriel spent more time describing the results rather than the process. Mary was simply left to trust your wisdom, Most High God. That’s not much to go on.

Or is it? I don’t understand how my car works, but that doesn’t keep me from driving. I don’t really understand how a telephone works, but I still use it.

I don’t understand how the Holy Spirit works either, but I know from my own experience that the Spirit does-I have been brought to faith in Jesus Christ, made your child and your eternal heir, O God, and directed to live my life in service of my Savior. However your Holy Spirit manages to make that miracle take place in me, it works!

So if I don’t always understand O Lord-as Mary didn’t fully understand-please forgive my questioning, and keep on doing what you have planned and promised. I know it will be something special!

Devotion 12/10/13

Tuesday, the Second Week of Advent…………………..…………………...Isaiah 28:5-6

“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:32-33

You certainly are “great”, Lord Jesus Christ. As Gabriel pointed out, all of history points to you, the past looking forward to you in expectation and the future (reaching even beyond history to eternity itself) getting its ultimate meaning from you.

Perhaps that has something to say to those of us who are concerned about “making a name for ourselves,” as though everything we are-everything that gives us value or make us memorable-must somehow be of our own accomplishment. That can be a hectic pursuit, and often quite futile.

But like Mary of Nazareth, I have received great value because of my relationship to you, Lord Jesus Christ. It is for me that you came into the world as Mary’s child, for me you taught and ministered in fulfillment of God’s Word, for me you gave your life on the cross and rose from the dead. Because you are as “great” as Gabriel said you are, I have an eternal share in that greatness!

Devotion 12/6/13

Monday, the Second Week of Advent…………………..…………………...Isaiah 7:10-14

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”      Luke 1:31

From your point of view, Almighty God, I’m sure this all made sense; it was part of your ancient plan, now coming to fulfillment.

But from Mary’s point of view, it must have been nearly incomprehensible: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” I suppose I would have answered something like that too. In fact, I think I have a time or two. I’ve been so convinced that what you seem to have in store for me doesn’t make sense, Almighty God, that I have been willing to bypass your blessing.

Take this business of a Savior, for example. I can come up with dozens of arguments to show that what you promise me in Jesus Christ-forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation-just cannot happen for me the way you say is so, by faith in Jesus, Mary’s Son and yours. But the simple fact is that it can, and does!

Omniscient God, keep me mindful of the limitations of my logic. But keep me assured that just as you once gave Jesus to Mary, you have given him to me as well-special delivery!

Devotion 12/6/13

Friday, the First Week of Advent…………………..…………………...Isaiah 63:7-9

“But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.” -Luke 1:20

People often don’t appreciate what we have until it is taken from us. That is probably true  of your gift of speech, O God-a wondrous gift, the ability to communicate by forming words and saying them.

For three-quarters of a year, Zechariah would be deprived of speech. But when his time came, the old priest would know exactly what to do with his newfound voice. He would offer praise to you, O God, because you keep your word.

Meanwhile, I don’t have to wait nine months to know all the wonderful things you have done for me, O Lord. Even though Christmas isn’t here yet, I already know the story of my Savior’s birth for me...and I am able to trace the story from there all the way to the cross and the open tomb...and beyond, into my own life.

Right now, I have so much to tell, so much to sing, so much to share. And...I have never been struck dumb!

Devotion 12/5/13

Thursday, the First Week of Advent…………………..…………………...Isaiah 55:6-11

The angel replied, “ I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” Luke 1:19

Zechariah wasn’t so sure that your good Word to him could really come to pass. O God. He doubted, and he questioned. The way I do sometimes.

But if Zechariah had his way, John the Baptizer would have never been born. The way would not have been prepared as it should have been for Jesus to come as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (as John would proclaim).

Fortunately, your angel Gabriel was not deterred by Zechariah’s doubt, O God; and neither were you. Gabriel simply presented the good news you had sent him to announce...and you simply went ahead and did what you were planning to do, anyway. John the Baptizer did come to herald Christ’s arrival, and Jesus did come too,to suffer and die for the sins of everyone, including Zechariah’s doubt, and mine.

Thank you, God for being God, for doing even the impossible when that is part of your “good news,”  without waiting for my understanding or consent.

Devotion 12/4/13

Wednesday, the First Week of Advent…………………..…………………...Isaiah 42:22-25

He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:16-17

When I hear words like these, O God, I find myself tempted to say, “It’s a good thing you are concerned about all those disobedient people. God, and that you are doing something to straighten them out and get them back on track.” Why do I is so frequently think you are talking about someone else?

Is it possible that even I could use an Elijah now and then, someone to point an accusing finger in my direction and point out the error of my own ways? Zechariah’s angel spoke about a “people prepared.” Am I? Oh, I am beginning to get things in order for Christmas, but am I truly ready for my Lord to come and confront me as I am? A John the Baptizer may be just what I need, crying in the wilderness. Or and Elijah, warning me to turn away from what I so often refuse to acknowledge as wicked ways.

Help me to take it personally, God.

Devotion 12/3/13

Tuesday, the First Week………………………………………………………...Isaiah 43:18-21

“ You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice in his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord...even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.”                      -Luke 1:14-15

O Lord, Zechariah overwhelmed to hear of plans-already detailed plans-you had in mind for a child who hadn’t even been born yet? I’m sure he and Elizabeth should have been honored that you were that involved in their lives and that concerned about what their future would hold. When they got over their fight and their confusion, they should have found great comfort in the angel’s words.

And should I take great comfort too, dear God, in the message that the future-mine and those I love and am concerned about-is in your hands, and that you are able to work things out even more gloriously than I ever could?

After all, I don’t think it would have entered my mind to provide a John the Baptizer to prepare the way of the Lord...or send the Savior of the world into a manger, much less to nail him to a cross or raise him from the dead. But all of that was in your plan, O God, and so much more. You had the future firmly in control. You still do!

Devotion 12/2/13

Monday, the First Week……………………………………….………………...Isaiah 55:1-5

The angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, you will name him John”-Luke 11:3

This a message I may really need to hear, Lord God. For there are times when I suspect that you are not listening to my prayers. Times, too, when I wonder whether what I am praying about is really all that important in your sight. Should I  be bothering you with all of this? Do you really care?

And then your angel tells old Zechariah not only that his prayers has been heard, but that you have even working on his plan. His prayers, and those of his aged wife, will be answered in ways beyond their wildest imaging! Trival? Inconsequential? Hardly!

I know, dear God, that once you sent your Son to answer my most serious prayer. And Jesus spent a lot of time dealing with people’s everyday problems and concerns. I guess i should learn from that-to keep on praying, and waiting, and trusting your good Word.

Thank you for listening, Lord God.