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Devotions

Fulfilled

Read Luke 4:14-21.

Imagine someone who grew up in our congregation comes into church, reads an Old Testament prophecy, then makes the claim that he or she is the fulfilment of that prophecy. How might we react? What would you feel or think? Because we know the rest of the story, we tend to shake our heads at his community’s response.

Now imagine what it might mean to hear these words of promise if there was no one on your side, if you felt as if something or someone held you captive, or if you held a position on an issue that was unpopular. What impact might that have on you?

In prayer, thank Jesus for these words of hope and promise.

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Devotions

Unity and Diversity

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a.

Here, we continue with Paul’s celebration of the diversity within the body of Christ and his assertion that unity within that diversity is an ideal for which we should strive. He also gives us a glimpse of God’s kingdom, where the weak are viewed as indispensable, the least honorable are treated with honor, and the least respected are treated with respect.

In what ways have you found that to be exhibited in our church? How could we do a better job of practicing that?

In prayer, thank God for the gifts of those who might otherwise go unnoticed in our community of faith.

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Devotions

The Law

Read Psalm 19.

In verses 7-10, we hear the potential of scripture (what the Hebrew people call, “The Law of the Lord”) to shape our daily lives. The words of scripture revive the soul, give wisdom, enlighten, and even give warning.

To what degree does scripture inform the way you think, speak, and behave? Are there special passages that revive your soul? How might the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart offer those same gifts to the people around you?

This week, pray vs. 14 as you begin each day.

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Devotions

Lift Your Heads

Read Nehemiah 8:1-10

In the book of Nehemiah, Israel has returned from Babylonian captivity to find Jerusalem in ruins. Ezra, a well-respected priest, and Nehemiah, the governor, join forces in the physical restoration of the city and the temple, as well as the spiritual restoration of the Jewish people. Men, women, and children gather in the square, standing for hours as they hear the scriptures of the Law read and interpreted. Faces turned downward, their tears falling to the ground, they weep as they grasp how far off-course they, as a people, had wandered.

Have you ever had an experience when a passage of scripture convicted you, causing you to feel a sense of guilt or shame? According to Nehemiah, we should not become mired in shame. Instead, we should celebrate God’s grace and find joy that the Lord gives us the strength to try again, to do better, to be drawn into a deeper understanding of how God would have us be in the world.

Today, offer a prayer of confession to God and find comfort in Nehemiah’s pronouncement of grace: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

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Devotions

What Mother Says

Read John 2:1-11.

This is a rich story of Jesus’ first miracle in the gospel of John. Mary understands the shame this might bring on the host of the wedding and she knows how to remedy the situation. She tells Jesus to do what she knows he can do. His hesitation is interesting. Is he worried he can’t do it and will look foolish? Does he know that once he steps onto the path of his mission and ministry, there’s no turning back? Does he want to be a regular wedding guest like everyone else for just a little longer? Regardless of his initial reticence, he obeys his mother, far exceeding her expectations, turning water into the best wine anyone there had ever tasted.

Sometimes we need a little encouragement to step outside of our comfort zone and try something new. Can you think of a time in your life when this has been the case? Who encouraged you? How much prodding did it take? What were your fears or hesitations? How did it work out in the end? Is there something new you’ve been thinking of trying – maybe a new ministry, a new hobby, a new friendship? Who is someone you could share this with who would encourage you to go for it? What is the worst that could happen?

Today in prayer, ask for the courage to try something new and for a soft landing if your effort fails.

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Devotions

Many Gifts

Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11.

In this passage, Paul is reminding the church that within the body of Christ, there are a variety of gifts. Each is given and each is enacted by the Spirit of God. This wisdom should help us to recognize and appreciate the gifts of others, while at the same time challenging us to do the same with ours. It is a call to be good stewards of the gifts we are given, to hone these gifts, and to be willing and ready to share them. A lot of the time, I find myself comparing my gifts to those of others and all-too-often, slide down the slope into self-criticism or envy. To do this, though, reveals a lack of gratitude for what God has done to equip me for a specific calling in different times and places.

Of the gifts listed in this reading, do you feel you have any of them? What other gifts have you been given? In what ways do you appreciate and share these gifts? How might God be challenging you to use these gifts in answering a specific call?

Offer a prayer of praise and gratitude for the variety of gifts represented in yourself and in the people you know. Commit yourself to a more intentional practice of affirming these gifts.

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Devotions

The Goodness of God

Read Psalm 36.

In this psalm, there is a clear distinction between the all-too-human heart and the steadfast love of God. When we are in a cycle of sin, we often try to justify our bad behavior both to ourselves and to others. Not only does this prevent any self-reflection or self-accountability, but our thoughts, words, and ill motives can also spill over into other areas of our lives.

Contrast this to God’s love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice, which wash over  all of creation. This psalm invites us to consider the effect of sin on our relationships and on what we contribute to the world. It challenges us to choose a better, more life-giving and life-receiving path of the One who is loving, faithful, righteous, and just.

Today, offer a prayer of confession for any sin in your life – both the visible and the hidden – and find hope in the assurance of God’s forgiveness.

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Devotions

A New Name

Read Isaiah 62:1-5.

These words are likely addressed to those who have returned to a decimated Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. In vs. 2, we read, “You shall be called by a new name.” In what other Bible stories do people receive a new name? How do these names reflect God’s action in the person’s life? What are the names by which you are called? How do they reflect your identity? In prayer, thank God for the name you have been given: Beloved.

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Devotions

Baptized


Read Luke 3:15-17, 21-22.

The story of Jesus’ baptism is included in all four gospels, each with a little different take on what happened. Interestingly, in Luke, it’s not clear whether John was even there for Jesus’ baptism. If we read chapter 3 straight through, it seems that John is put in prison and then Jesus is baptized. Luke’s account makes it seem like this baptism is a direct interaction between God and Jesus alone. It is about God claiming Jesus as Son and Beloved. It is an identity that will shape Jesus’ ministry from that point on.

This is a story that invites us to think about what our baptism, what God’s claim on us, means in our lives. How does your identity as beloved child of God affect the way you interact with and respond to the world? What evidence of your baptism is there in the way you think, speak, and behave? What fruit is your baptism bearing?

Today, think about what it means for God to lay claim on your life and in prayer, commit yourself to living out your baptismal vows. If you’re not sure what those vows include, read them here: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/book-of-worship/the-baptismal-covenant-i.

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Devotions

Good News

Read Acts 8:14-17.

An important part of baptism is that it grafts the baptized into the body of Christ. We know from stories in the gospels that Samaritans were not generally accepted as orthodox. They worshiped the same God, but held different beliefs about worship than other Jews. These verses show the apostles are carrying out Jesus’ commission in Acts 1:8, where he says, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

It is a reminder that we, too, are to be bearers of good news to all people, even and especially to those we might otherwise think of as unworthy or unacceptable. In what ways do you use your interactions to bring good news into people’s lives? How intentional are you about interacting with, welcoming, and including those who are different from you?

Offer a prayer of praise for the ever-growing, all-inclusive body of Christ.