Life from Death

Read John 11:1-45.

I read in one commentary about this passage that Jesus does not do the easy thing of keeping Lazarus from dying. Instead, he does the hard work of bringing life from death. This is an interesting point to consider when we ask why God allows terrible things to happen. If only good happened in our lives and in our world, maybe it would be harder to see the power of God’s healing, restoration, and love.

If God prevented every painful interaction, every consequence of human sin and brokenness, and every failure, we would not fully comprehend the miracle of survival, the strength that God gives, and the blessed peace that comes when we find ourselves on the other side of that valley, bathed in the forgiveness, compassion, and mercy that is offered to all of God’s beloved.

Consider a source of pain, anxiety, or sadness that you are facing today. What might it take for you to come out on the other side? What might the other side look like?

In prayer, invite God to walk down into the valley with you and to bring you through what might feel like death into the fullness of life.


Imitating Christ

Read Romans 8:6-11.

Often, we emulate those who we admire. Today Paul calls us to become more like Christ by dying to ourselves and rising in Christ. We are called to let go of the ways of our flesh and live into the Spirit. We are called to let go of fear and live in hope. We are called to let go of greed and live in generosity. We are called to let go of our sin and live into the life God desires for us. To be in Christ is to take Christ’s form, dying and rising with him and living in union with the Spirit. Taking the form of Jesus is not optional for Christians, but is the very essence of who we are as individuals and a community, both now and in the future.

Who are the people you most admire and how have you tried to emulate them in your own life? What characteristics of Jesus do you feel you exhibit in your own life and which do you struggle to show?

Today, offer a prayer of thanksgiving for those who have shown you what it means to live as a disciple of Jesus.


Out of the Depths

Read Psalm 130.

This is a psalm of lament. The psalmist cries from the depths of despair, “Listen to me, Lord! Don’t ignore my suffering! How long must I wait for your answer?” Yet, even in that moment, the psalmist finds hope that God, indeed, is listening and is redeeming this seemingly hopeless situation.

There are many things in our lives and in the world that we wonder, “How long is this going to go on?” We may wonder how God could possibly redeem this time when we cannot seem to listen to one another, when we vilify and dehumanize those with whom we disagree, when we continue to find ways to separate ourselves, when no matter how connected we are through technology, we feel lonelier than ever. In times like these, we are called to look a little harder for God’s redemptive work.

How could God be using this time to remind us of our need for God and for each other? What lessons can be learned in difficulties and how easily do we forget those lessons?

Today, think about a specific difficulty in your life or in the world and read this psalm as a prayer of where you see signs that God is already redeeming this situation.


Dry Bones

Read Ezekiel 37:1-14.

Imagine how strange it would be, and scary, to see dried bones coming together and bringing forth life. How many times, recently, have you heard someone say, “These are strange times”? It may seem like we are in the valley of dried bones. We may wonder if these bones can live again.

What if this time in history isn’t about looking at dead bones? What if today, the Lord is calling out to humankind and new life is coming forth? Maybe we are being invited to disconnect from our routines and habits so that we might be drawn more closely to God and to each other. Take some time over the next week and determine what you need to let go of to bring about new life. Ask yourself what you need to hold these bones together.

Join me in this prayer: Lord, open my eyes to the life to which you are calling me. Help me to hold it all together, that I may live. Amen.


I Once Was Blind

Read John 9:1-41.

This dramatic healing story where a man blind since birth receives sight symbolizes conversion to Jesus and the divisions new spiritual sight can cause. After this man miraculously gained sight, it appears no one celebrated his healing. The disciples wanted to cast blame for his blindness. The family and neighbors were afraid to testify to the good work of Jesus, for fear of judgement and ridicule. Finally, the Pharisees couldn’t get past the breaking of social norms that keep a structure of insiders and outsiders intact.

For many reasons, we don’t want to recognize the mighty work God is doing in people, as well. We justify our tempered excitement for people by saying, “I know him. This won’t last”, or, “The church she is attending is too radical.” We can make all kinds of excuses why God can’t be working in someone, including ourselves.

Regardless of your situation, how can you let your gratitude for God’s work be as full as it should be? How can you reflect that gratitude for God’s great works?

In your prayer today, ask God to help you see God’s good works in yourself and in your neighbor.


Children of Light

Read Ephesians 5:8-14.

When we open ourselves up to Jesus, we begin to realize we can no longer hide the parts of ourselves we would rather keep in the dark. Jesus, who is the light, shines into the deepest recesses of our spirits, and makes us want to shed those thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that cause us shame. In verse 9 we read, “…for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.”

What kind of fruit do your bear in your life and in your relationships? Is it the fruit of darkness or of light? Who is nourished by your fruit?

Offer this prayer (from “Everlasting God, You have given us this life in the hope we might make our world a little better, and make Your light known a little brighter. Help us to do this work You have called us to do. In the name of Christ, who was in the beginning with You, who walked this earth among us, and will come into this world in a new way, we pray. Amen.”



Read Psalm 23.

This is one of the best-known and revered texts in the Bible. In times of trouble or anxiety, these beginning lines remind us of God’s eternal and loving presence. We take comfort in knowing God is with us. The following lines remind us of God’s nearness even in facing death. “I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…you are with me.”

Was there a time this scripture reminded you of God’s faithfulness? How does God’s nearness draw you into a deeper, more trusting relationship with the Lord?

I invite you to join me in this prayer: Come my Light, and illumine my darkness. Come my Life, and revive me from death. Come my Physician, and heal my wounds. Come, Flame of divine love, and burn up the thorns of fear and doubt, binding my heart with the flame of your love. Come, my King, sit upon the throne of my heart and reign there. For thou alone art my King and my Lord. Amen. (based on a prayer by Dimitrii of Rostov)


Surface Beauty

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13.

Prior to this episode, the Lord has told Samuel that Saul will no longer be king. Saul, who is described in this way: “There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else” (1 Sam. 9:2). Between the choosing of Saul to be king and the time the Lord rejects him, Saul proves that outward appearances are not always an indication of worthiness, goodness, or righteousness. Standing before Jesse’s sons, Samuel assumes the Lord’s chosen one must be the tallest, best-looking one. But the Lord says, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

We get so caught up in maintaining our outward appearance and place great weight on what the world around us sees. In the same way, we might assume that a person’s appearance indicates their worthiness. How comfortable would you be if the people around you could see what is on your heart? How comfortable are you with the idea that God looks at your heart rather than at what you present to the world? In the end, God chooses David, the youngest and smallest (although we are told he is still handsome!). As the youngest, he would have the least authority and respect among his brothers, but the Lord still chose him.

What do we learn from this? Have you ever been surprised by the gifts of one who appeared a little rough around the edges?

In prayer, ask for help in seeing others through the lens of God and commit yourself to offering up the deeper parts of yourself to God and to the world.


Wellspring of Hope

Read John 4:5-42.

We must be careful not to make this story into one about a sinful woman who was changed by Jesus. We don’t know the circumstances surrounding her marriages, but we do know that women in that time and place did not have the right to make their own choices in life. Maybe she was widowed or maybe she was unable to bear children, leading the husband(s) to divorce her. Regardless, no ordinary Jewish man would acknowledge or interact with a woman he didn’t know, and a Samaritan woman at that! Of course, Jesus was not an ordinary Jewish man, and it is to this Samaritan woman alone in the gospel of John that he reveals his true identity.

This is the first “I am” statement of Jesus. “I am he [the Messiah]…the one speaking to you.” It was that acknowledgement, that interaction, and that self-revelation of Jesus that changed her, giving her the confidence to boldly share the good news with her community. This story reminds us that Jesus goes out of his way to bring in those the community would push away. It reminds us of the importance of noticing, acknowledging, and interacting with those who are not normally in our orbit. Imagine the good news that might spread to and through such an interaction!

Who are the people you ignore? Who are the people you go out of your way to avoid? Can you think of a time when you interacted with someone you normally wouldn’t have? What was the outcome of that interaction? Could Jesus have been at work in that situation? In prayer, ask for the courage and the compassion to reach out to someone you might otherwise avoid.


Path to Hope

Read Romans 5:1-11.

According to Paul, because we have been justified by faith through the grace of Jesus, we are on a hopeful path towards eternal salvation. Still, there is life to live between our present justification and our future salvation. We can live peaceably despite any hardships that come our way because we are anchored in the steadfast love of God. We can look for the gifts of endurance, character, and hope that come from suffering, even while wishing the suffering away. We can find comfort in knowing we are not alone on the journey.

Can you think of a time in your life or in the life of another when difficulty led to growth? To what degree do you agree with the statement, “No pain, no gain”? How does the assurance of reconciliation with God in the present and the promise of eternal salvation affect the way you live today?

In prayer, lift any difficulties you are experiencing today and ask for the vision to see how God might be working through this situation to bring a measure of good.