FOR TUESDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: Romans 4:16-25
“No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” (Romans 4:20-21; New Revised Standard Version)
Abraham was a wonderful testament to what God can do in making something out of someone who was a nobody in the eyes of the world. As I would like to emulate the great characteristics of my biological father who was such a generous man of conviction and faith, I also long to be like my “faith father”, Abraham – growing strong in his faith, giving glory to God and being fully convinced in God’s ability.
However, these traits cannot be attained by mustering up enough effort on my part. Such faith is a gift of God which is opened more fully in my life as I come closer in my relationship to God. Here is how Peterson describes this process: “the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does” (Romans 4:16, The Message).
PRAYER: Faithful God, I can only stand on your promises as I stay near You, allowing your loving embrace to hold me up. Amen.
FOR MONDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: Nehemiah 9:6-25
“But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them. (Nehemiah 9:17b; New Revised Standard Version)
The great preacher of old C.H. Spurgeon proclaimed in his message “A God Ready to Pardon” this: “To whom should [we] turn for light but to the Sun of Righteousness? Where look for grace but to the God of all grace? Where for all but to the All in all? If what I am makes me despair, let me consider what God in Christ is and I shall have hope.”
When life gets the best of us and we are overcome with darkness and despair, we need to turn to the Light, the “Sun of Righteousness”. When we finally get to the place where we are willing to confess our shortcomings as well as our need of God and admit our need for grace, we will find that God is already willing and waiting to offer us forgiveness. In fact, God has been waiting for us for some time now.
PRAYER: Ever-patient, waiting God, I thank you for receiving us in our weaknesses so that your Spirit will make us strong again in your love. Amen.
FOR WEDNESDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: 1 Kings 8:22-30
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27; New Revised Standard Version)
These words are from King Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication for the first Temple of Israel. The building of this temple was a monumental task taking seven years, several thousand workers, and using only the finest quality of materials. This crowning achievement of King Solomon’s reign was a glory to behold.
However, as great as this structure was – it could not contain the fullness of God. Neither could the “heaven and the highest heaven” withhold the greatness of God! The glorious essence of God far surpasses anything we can imagine.
When I was a child, I learned a simple blessing that began with these words: “God is great, God is good.” Little did I realize way back then how great and wondrous is our God!
PRAYER: Lifting my eyes to the heaven, my heart is filled with wonder and amazement of Your greatness and glory, O Lord. When the world becomes too much for me, remind me to simply look up and trust in your abiding presence. Amen.
FOR TUESDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: John 12:20-36
“Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’” (John 12:27-28; The Message)
Some claim that when you trust in God, nothing but good will come your way. Evidently, such people haven’t considered the witness of Jesus. Here, in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus confesses that his soul is troubled. No doubt, the easy way out would have been to turn away from the struggles in which he found himself.
But Jesus remembers that to fulfill God’s call upon his life, he needed to stay faithful to the task at hand, enduring the hard times and trusting in the wisdom and goodness of God. In doing this, the glory and honor of God was evident in his life.
I know I need to trust in God today. Yet, not for some false hope that things will always be easy. Instead I need to remember that God’s calling is to get me through all the trying times.
PRAYER: Almighty God, when I don’t understand why life sometimes becomes such a struggle, help me to more fully trust in You and remember your call. Amen.
FOR MONDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: 1 Peter 4:1-11
“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8; New Revised Standard Version)
“I got you covered.” This is what I once said to a friend who didn’t have enough to pay for his lunch bill. Shouldn’t this be our attitude when people in our lives come up short in other ways? We need more of a forgiving heart when others “miss the mark” in life. Experiencing how the love God so freely is given to us should help us offer more grace instead of judgment to others.
I like the way Eugene Peterson translates the first part of this verse: “Love each other as if your life depended on it.” Indeed, for all of us to live together peaceably, our lives depend on us having and showing God’s love to each other.
PRAYER: Merciful God of Love and Grace, pour out your spirit into our lives so that they shall overflow and nourish everyone we see throughout this day. Amen.
FOR FRIDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: Hebrews 12:12-17
“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees.” (Hebrews 12:12; New Revised Standard Version)
Earlier in this chapter, we are called to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). This image continues in verse 12 where the author encourages us to “lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees.” You don’t have to be a marathon runner to get the picture of someone who has been at life for some time getting wearier and more doubtful whether or not he or she can continue in the struggles of life.
We all need a second wind, a new burst of confidence to keep going and not give up. When you feel as if your knees might buckle under the burdens you are bearing, accept the invitation of God to come and find rest and renewal. As a pace-setter in a marathon encourages the runners not to give up but to keep their focus on the goal, God will give us others “clouds of witness” who will cheer us on. Let us all strive to be pacesetters for each other as we run this race set before us together.
PRAYER: Remind us, God of Light and Life, that we are not running alone as we go through this life of challenges. Help us to see your Spirit in the witness of others as we seek to be a witness of your love as well. Amen.
FOR THURSDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: Philippians 2:1-11
“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.” (Philippians 2:1-2; The Message)
When I read Peterson’s version on the passage above, I couldn’t help myself from humming that song made famous in the late 70’s “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life!” It’s one of those tunes that’s hard to stop hearing once it’s gotten back in your head.
Tucked away in the lyrics is a verse that is sometimes left out which shares the purpose of the song: “Love to me was just a word in a song that had been way over-used. But now I’ve joined in the singing cause you’ve shown me loves true meaning. That’s why I want to spread the news – what a difference you’ve made in my life!
The best way we can “spread the news” about the difference Jesus has made in our lives is to seek the way of God which will lead us to “agree with each other, love each other, [and] be deep-spirited friends. In doing this, what a difference we could make in the lives of others.
PRAYER: I thank you, Healing God, for touching my life and mending all that’s broken. Help me life in such a way this day that others might experience the love you have so generously poured into my life. Amen.
FOR FRIDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 20:20-28
But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” (Matthew 20:22; New Revised Standard Version)
Have you ever been singing a song only to stop suddenly when you realized just what the lyrics you were singing actually said. That happened to me when I was proudly singing with the congregation the hymn written by Earl Marlatt called “Are Ye Able”. Answering the question which Jesus once posed to his disciples, I lifted my voice proudly affirming with my family of faith, “Lord, we ARE able.” Then, one day while singing these words, I stopped singing and began to doubt – no, I’m not sure I am able.
The fact of the matter is – I’m NOT able, all by myself, to do all that God demands. This must be why the refrain does not say “Lord, I am able” but instead it affirms “Lord, WE are able”. God never intends for us to be alone in our service – we are called a part of a community of faith whose prayer together is to be remolded and remade more like the Spirit of God.
While I alone am not able and neither are you by yourself able, God is able. So, when we join our hearts in worship and service, God will do amazing things in and through us.
PRAYER: Today, I need your Spirit, Almighty God, to face the challenges before me. Remind me of the community of love and service You have given me to walk with me in your name. Amen.
FOR THURSDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 16:1-13
Then one by one he called in the people who were in debt to his master. He asked the first one, “How much do you owe my master?” “A hundred barrels of olive oil,” the man answered. So the manager said, ‘Take your bill and sit down and quickly write ‘fifty’.” (Luke 16:5-6; Contemporary English Version)
Sarah Dylan Breuer offers us an important insight on this challenging parable. She notes that while the steward in this story forgives things he “had no right to forgive” and forgives “for all the wrong reasons” (i.e. personal gain and to compensate for past misconduct), he does in fact, forgive.
This is the moral of this story and the emphasis of Luke’s Gospel: FORGIVE. We are called to forgive it all; forgive it now; forgive it for any reason you want or for no reason at all, but forgive all the same. Ms Breuer writes “We don’t have to do it out of love for the other person, if we’re not there yet. We could forgive the other . . . because of that whole business of what we pray in Jesus’ name every Sunday, and because we know we’d like forgiveness ourselves . . . or, we could forgive because we are, or we want to be, deeply in touch with a sense of Jesus’ power to forgive and free sinners like us.”
It all boils down to this – there is no bad reason to forgive. “Extending the kind of grace God shows us in every possible arena – financial and moral – can only put us more deeply in touch with God’s grace.” [sarahlaughed.net]
PRAYER: Gracious God, your call for us to forgive others is sometimes a difficult pill to swallow. However, it may be the only medicine that brings us wholeness and healing in your name. Amen.
FOR TUESDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 24:36-53
“You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:48-49; New Revised Standard Version)
In The Voice, a helpful website dedicated to provide “Biblical and Theological Resources for Growing Christians”, Dennis Bratcher makes an important comment regarding Jesus mandate for us to those who would be witnesses: “The message here is, first, to wait. To wait for the power. It is far easier to recruit people for a cause, or for a program, or for a crusade, than it is to ask them to wait. And yet here, before the church can be the church, it must wait for the power, for the ability to carry out that mission. . . . we simply cannot do what God has called us to do on any level without God’s help.” [http://www.cresourcei.org/lectionary/YearC/Ceaster7nt.html]
Too often, we jump right in to solve a difficult problem without taking the necessary time to seek God’s guidance. When we are so hasty to offer our opinion about what needs to be done we fail to listen to what others may have to offer as an alternate solution and we miss out on the insight which God seeks to give us.
Before you do anything else today, remember to be still and wait for God’s Spirit to come and provide for you the power you will need to faithfully fulfill your calling. Then, don’t forget, to GO and carry out your mission.
PRAYER: Teach us, Wise and Loving Savior, the ways of hope and healing as we seek to share your love with others this day. Amen.