“Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts;
and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many.
We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body,
whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free,
and we all were given one Spirit to drink. ………
You are the body of Christ and parts of each other.”
I Corinthians 12:12-31a (Common English)
There are so many places where divisions and distinctions are given a higher priority than the recognition of the fact that we are all created by God for one purpose….to work together to bring God’s realm into reality. We are called to all work together for the purpose of making this a more just society where the equitable distribution of all things occurs without thought. Our task as members of the body of Christ is to insure that we have done our best for the benefit of the whole body. When one child is hungry, the whole body starves. When there is one incident of domestic violence, or homelessness, or discrimination or any other injustice, the whole body suffers. The media and society would make us to believe that we should only look out for ourselves and no one else. But our Creator reminds us daily that we are linked to each other whether we like it or not!! And, the task of each of us is to spread the message that God’s love and care is for everyone, regardless of the station in life, the upbringing, the current reality, the history or the affiliations.
Our one small act of kindness can, indeed, make a difference in the world. Try it and see!!! Be the change you want to see happen in the world!
PRAYER: So many times God, we feel as though we are in this alone. Remind us that we are all a part of your family of creation and each of us is an important part. Amen.
“The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing. He lets me rest in grassy meadows; He leads me to restful waters; He keeps me alive. He guides me in proper paths for the sake of His good name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me. Your rod and your staff—they protect me.
You set a table for me right in front of my enemies. You bathe my head in oil; my cup is so full it spills over! Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the Lord’s house as long as I live.”
This, by far is one of the most well known and loved Psalms that ever existed!! It gives a sense of calm and confidence in the most trying of times. Many had to memorize and recite it as children in Sunday School performances. We have heard it at funerals and other kind of settings. But familiarity sometimes means that we repeat and don’t internalize.
This Psalm is a reminder to us of the constant care that God takes to let us know how much we are cared for and about. A reminder that we do not travel life’s roads alone, we are protected, we are forgiven and that our current state is just temporary. Those assurances and many more are contained in just a few verses. Maybe we should read it again??!! Take time and think carefully about each verse as we read it. Then we will get part of a glimpse of how much God loves us!
PRAYER: Loving and Protecting God, continue to remind us of how you care for us, even when we don’t acknowledge it! Thank you for your love and your peace. Amen.
“I give you all the credit, God—You got me out of that mess, You didn’t let my foes gloat.
God, my God, I yelled for help and You put me together. God, You pulled me out of the grave, gave me another chance at life when I was down-and-out.
Psalm 30:1-2 (The Message)
Here is another Psalm believed to be written by David. Can’t you hear David saying those words……..”You got me out of that mess” after Nathan reminds him of his indiscretions with Bathsheba and Uriah!??! How often have we been like David, uttering those same words? The “mess” that we have caused or the “mess” that has been caused around us and we find ourselves in the middle of? Our lives, our communities, our world, our churches all get “messy” at times. The key is to remember how we got into the “mess”, the lessons learned there and who to give credit to when we see the “mess” from the other side.
Instead of placing the blame in other places and on other people, let us keep in mind that sometimes the “mess” is our own doing and we have to take responsibility for it. The growth for us is when we recognize where we have stumbled and then take the necessary steps not to be a “repeat offender”. At that point, when we call for help, God clearly answers us and “puts us together” as David writes in this Psalm. What an awesome feeling to know that in the middle of our “messes”, God is performing miracles and putting us back in right relationship!
PRAYER: Loving God! Thank you for reaching into my “messes” and showing me your mercy. Hallelujah! Amen.
“Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy house of worship,……………... Let every living, breathing creature praise God! Hallelujah!”
Psalm 150 (The Message version)
Imagine the world if every person who attends worship services over any given weekend walked into that particular place of worship with this Psalm resounding in their ears and rolling off their tongue??!! Talk about a “high” worship experience!! Every place of worship that acknowledges God as Creator and powerful presence in their lives, would be a happening place!! There would be unspeakable joy, grateful hearts, and wonder-filled spirits!
And then Monday comes. Talk about a letdown!! Most of the time, the joy we experience and feel on Sunday is quickly forgotten when Monday rolls around. Life happens. Reality sets in. The world is a mess. Our communities are a mess. And for some, our lives are a mess. Things are just not as happy and uplifting as our weekend worship experience.
Our weekend worship experience should be able to carry us through some portion of the week and not get lost in the busyness of our responsibilities. What happens? Most of the time, we blame it on that worship experience……the preaching was not relevant, the choir was off key, the prayers were not heartfelt. When in fact, we need to keep in mind that the worship experience includes our participation as well. So…….. (long pause)….what did you bring with you to that weekend worship experience? What do you bring to your daily worship experience? Maybe we should start using Psalm 150 as our daily word of praise because the truth of the matter is……everywhere we are is God’s sanctuary! Hallelujah! Praise God wherever you are!”
PRAYER: Every praise is due You, O God! For Your grace, mercy, love and care surround me every day and everywhere I am. Thank you and hallelujah! Amen.
“Give thanks to the Lord because he is good,
because his faithful love lasts forever.”
Psalm 118:1 (Common English version)
Psalm 118 was also the Psalm for Easter Sunday!!! How appropriate it is!! When thinking about the message of the Resurrection, we can’t help but think about how God through Jesus Christ “acted” on that day to change the course of history. A day that shows us how love can conquer all that hate tries to make happen in the world. Or how we are reminded on Resurrection Day that there is always hope in the midst of the most despairing circumstances. How good and faithful God was, is and will always be in our lives.
The message of the Resurrection is an important one that reminds us of the goodness of God as well as a reminder to give thanks for that sacrifice. Sharing the message with others was the way the disciples and the women showed their thanks. Our task is very similar. We have the responsibility of “spreading the Word” about what God through Jesus Christ has done and continues to do. When we share our time, our talents, our energy working for the good of others, we are “spreading the Word”! Our daily quest should be in discovering ways that we can better share the love of Christ with the world.
PRAYER: O God, show me how I can spread the message of Your love, grace and faithfulness with everyone I encounter on today’s journey! Amen.
“This is the day the Lord acted;
we will rejoice and celebrate in it!”
Psalm 118:24 (Common English version)
For more years than I can remember now, I have started the worship services that I am presiding over with the same declaration…….”this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and celebrate in it!” Acknowledging our Creator and the day we have been given, especially for corporate worship. Always reminding myself and those who gather with me, that we gather to celebrate and give thanks. Sometimes we get it and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes there is a misspelled word or a wrong note on the piano or by the choir, or maybe the children’s message goes awry or the community concerns go off on a tangent and we lose focus. But the fact remains.......this is God's created day, given to us with the only expectation being one of worship, celebration and thanks.
But several weeks ago when I was reviewing the Psalms for this series for worship and devotion, I came across a different translation of this verse that stopped me in my tracks. What a difference a new perspective can give!! “This is the day the Lord ACTED”!! Yes, I remember that God’s creative energy caused the sun to rise and my body to reluctantly move from under the nice warm covers. But to hear the word ACTED can change how the rest of the day is viewed.
It’s as if the active part of God’s creation of the day and calling us forth to be a part of it has stepped up a few notches! Whatever the day may hold, God has ACTED! Acted by showing us that we do not walk alone and that we are loved beyond compare. Acted by showing us how faithful and trustworthy in times of distress He can be. Acted by restoring our relationship and protecting us from dangers seen and unseen. Acted by allowing us to change the direction of our lives and to be thankful for all that we have and all that we are. This is the day that God ACTED on our behalf! We can’t help but rejoice and celebrate in it!!!
The Psalms of Lent remind us that God is always with us, surrounds us with love and care and keeps us in moments of distress and challenge.
PRAYER: Thank you gracious God for ACTING in my life, forgiving my shortcomings, extending to me grace and mercy beyond measure and for helping me see a different perspective. I will show thanks by rejoicing and celebrating today! Amen.
“When the Lord changed Zion’s circumstances for the better,
it was like we had been dreaming. Our mouths were suddenly filled with laughter; our tongues were filled with joyful shouts. It was even said, at that time, among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them!” Yes, the Lord has done great things for us, and we are overjoyed.
Lord, change our circumstances for the better, like dry streams in the desert waste! Let those who plant with tears reap the harvest with joyful shouts.”
Psalm 126 (Common English version)
The Israelites had been in captivity for many years and lost all hope of returning to Jerusalem. And then God “changed their circumstances”!!!! They went back to their homeland and all you could hear were shouts of joy. After all this time, they thought all was lost and that they might not ever be able to return to the homeland they knew and had been passed down by their ancestors. And then God………
Being in exile is not always a “physical” place. It can sometimes be a state of mind. Or it may be that the circumstances around us have caused us to feel separated or isolated or alone, as if the answer to the world’s problems depended on us. That isolation or separation causes us to empathize with the Israelites and say “I know what you mean”.
And then God changes our circumstances for the better!!! Hallelujah! We get a different outlook, a better perspective on things. Restoration of what once was occurs and we find ourselves in a much better place than before. Sometimes we just need to step back and say, “Lord, change my circumstances!” And be sure to be thankful when they are!
The Psalms of Lent remind us that God is always with us, surrounds us with love and care and keeps us in moments of distress and challenge.
PRAYER: Life-changing God, we thank you for changing our circumstances for the better!! Amen.
2016 WEEKLY LENTEN DEVOTION (5)
“You are my secret hideout! You protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of rescue!”
Psalm 32:7 (Common English version)
Many times I have tried to “hide” from God until I realized that it was an exercise in futility!! No matter what it is (some misdoing), or where I was (some place I had no business being), or thoughts I was thinking (I know better than that) God already knew what was going on long before I admitted it!! It was if God was standing there with crossed arms saying “are you done yet? You are wasting so much time with this nonsense!”
I remember when I recognized and acknowledged my call to ministry, it’s as if God was saying to me “it’s about time”. I didn’t think I was qualified or “up to the task” or any of those excuses that a person can make. And yet God reminded me…….”it’s not up to you. It’s up to Me.”
Our lives are filled with places that we would like to keep hidden from God when all the time God knows and already has a plan for us. When life is difficult, God has a plan for our protection and care. When answers are needed, God has the solution already figured out. When we need direction, God already has the way mapped out (without the help of Google!!). We must learn to put our trust fully in God.
The first step is confession that all is not perfect. Let it go and give it to God. Then, through prayer and honest desire for change, God works in our lives to reconcile us back into that right relationship of trust and care. We have that promise from God as indicated in this Psalm and many others. God cares for us and wants us to be close.
PRAYER: Loving God, we bring to You all of our shortcomings. Work in our lives that we might recognize that you see all that is in our lives and just want us to be honest about our need for Your care and protection. Help us to confess honestly and trust completely in You. Amen.
“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.”
Psalm 63:1-4 (New International Version)
One of the essential nutrients for our bodies is water. After all, the majority of our body is made up of water. And we cannot go for long periods of time without it. Think about the number of times you have been thirsty. While there are so many choices of “thirst quenchers” nothing feels as good as just plain water. Even if we say “I don’t like plain water”, we know that there are times when Coke, Pepsi, Starbuck’s or Jim Beam just don’t quite satisfy like that “plain, old water” does.
The writer of this Psalm alludes to that feeling of being in a dry parched land where there is no water. The physical need for water is great. He uses this analogy because the people of his time (and we) know what its like to be thirsty and can relate to his example.
To be “thirsty” for God is very similar. We feel as though our lives are out of control, we can’t seem to find answers, or know peace……all examples of being thirsty for God. The season of Lent is where we take a look at our lives and how we might work to “quench” our thirst for God. Maybe we need to expand our time of prayer and/or worship. Maybe we need to study more. Maybe we need to find more opportunities to be the living presence of God in the world. For each of us, that thirst is different.
Once we discover what it is, we must be diligent in our efforts to find that “refreshing spring” that is offered without price – God’s love and grace. As the Psalmist testifies…..”Your (God’s) love is better than life”. That’s a true thirst quencher for all of the dry, parched places life finds us!
PRAYER: Life-Giving Water, we are in need of Your love and grace to quench our thirst. Meet us at the places we need you most….the dry and parched places life takes us. And we will always give You praise. Amen.
2016 WEEKLY LENTEN DEVOTION (3)
“The Lord is my light and the one who saves me. So why should I fear anyone? The Lord protects my life. So why should I be afraid?......
I truly believe I will live to see the Lord’s goodness. Wait for the Lord’s help. Be strong and brave, and wait for the Lord’s help.”
Psalm 27:1 (New Century Version)
This is the beginning and the end of the Psalm for this week. As I mentioned in worship, this is my favorite. It is the one I had to learn in order to receive my Bible in 3rd grade Sunday School. But it is also the Psalm that has been the foundation of my life.
Life is (and has been) full of circumstances and situations which cause us to hesitate, but none that we should be “fearful” of according to the writer (believed to be David) of this Psalm. After all, we learned on Sunday that FEAR is nothing but False Evidence that Appears Real. It is all in the way we view the challenge that is before us…..are we afraid or are we trusting in God? The Psalmist reminds us that we should be trusting in God.
Reality says that is not always so easy to do. In the moment of trials and challenges, our first inclination is not always toward “trust”. Especially when we feel as though we have the answers or we know how to “fix it”. Our tendency is to believe that we can handle the situation. But reality steps in and reminds us……maybe not. And that is why we are called “human beings” and not GOD!
Our growth point for this season of Lent is to move toward “trust” and away from “fear”. Where are the places we need to get rid of fear or places where fear is holding us back or blocking our way? Those are the places we need to begin to learn to trust more in God.
PRAYER: God you are always with us, protecting us and loving us. Help us to move away from the challenges of life that cause us to fear and move us to trust You more. Amen.