Categories
Devotions

Got Fish?

Read Luke 24:36-48.

This reading reminds us that resurrection is more than just a spiritual reality, but also is also revealed in flesh and bone, in hands and feet, in daily activities like shared meals and feeding someone who is hungry. The living Christ stands before us in the form of friends, family, and stranger. Despite any fear or reservation, the disciples gave Jesus a piece of fish.

What fears or reservations keep you from open-heartedly engaging with others or responding to an expressed need? What difference might it make if you looked for Jesus in the faces of not only the people you love, but in the stranger, in the refugee, in someone experiencing homelessness, addiction, or mental illness, etc.?

Offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the ways Jesus continues to show up – not only in the spiritual realm, but in tangible ways. Commit yourself to responding with love and openness to the God-print in all people.

Categories
Devotions

Honest Examination

Read 1 John 1:1-2:2.

This passage speaks both to the importance and to the possibilities of self-examination and repentance. As we read in Romans 3:23, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. I suspect most of our sin is not overt and visible to others. That truth does not make sin any less harmful to our relationship with God, others, or self. In fact, according to this passage, ignoring or denying our sin means we are lying to ourselves and to God, making it impossible to expose our true selves – warts and all – to the light of God. The promise in these verses, though, is that when we inevitably sin, we have an advocate in Jesus, who sacrificed himself for our sin, freeing us to begin again with a clean slate and allowing us to live in the light once again.

Spend some time in self-reflection today. What sins in your life do you have a hard time admitting even to yourself? How have these sins disrupted relationship with God, others, or yourself?

In prayer, offer a confession and give thanks for the atoning work of Christ Jesus.

Categories
Devotions

Now I Lay Me…

Read Psalm 4.

“When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord” (vs. 4). Often when something is bothering us, we lay in bed and ruminate on it. If the issue has to do with another person, we rehearse conversations we would like to have, we imagine putting that person in their place, or we dream up schemes for revenge. If it’s an issue that causes us anxiety, we picture all the ways things will go wrong. This psalm offers another option: silence and trust in God.

What if we were quiet enough to listen for God’s words of peace and reassurance? What if we were silent long enough to listen for the still, small voice that might give clarity and wisdom? What keeps you awake at night?

Tonight when you go to bed, offer this situation to God and pray verse 8: “I will both lie down in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.”

Categories
Devotions

Morning by Morning

Read Acts 3:12-21.

Just before this, Peter and John have participated in the healing of a man who had never been able to walk. This man is now walking, leaping, and praising God. Everyone gathers around to witness the spectacle and Peter reminds them that it is not through their own power that the man has been healed, but that it is the power of God working through them. He then calls them to repentance, the reward of which is a slate wiped clean of sin and a time of refreshment.

Guilt and shame often weigh us down, making it difficult to experience true gratitude and joy. Turning to God and finding assurance in God’s pardon releases us to live in the freedom of beginning again. I’m mindful of the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” and the lyrics, “Morning by morning, new mercies I see.” In the freshness of each new morning is the opportunity to live and love as God intends.

Offer a prayer of repentance for those things you have done and for the things you have failed to do. Allow God to lift the weight of guilt and shame, and feel the refreshment of a new start.

Categories
Devotions

Bold Confession

Read John 20:19-31.

We would hardly know the disciple Thomas if it weren’t for his nickname: Doubting Thomas. What he asks for, though, is what the other disciples had already been given. He needs to see it with his own eyes before he believes it. He has probably been raised on the belief that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Before he dares to believe, dares to hope, he needs some evidence besides just the testimony of his friends. Jesus shows up and gives him what he needs to make his bold proclamation, “My Lord and my God!”

My guess is that we are not much different from Thomas. We might find it hard to believe that resurrection is real and that it matters if all we had were words. We need to see the evidence of Jesus in the lives of others and in our own lives. We need to see real transformation and to see that there is something different about people who say they believe in Jesus. Lives dedicated to service, love, and generosity of spirit are irrefutable evidence for those who need more than words.

In what ways does your life testify to the resurrection of Christ? In what ways is Jesus alive in your spirit and in the way you relate to the world around you? What evidence of the resurrected Jesus can be found in the way you think, speak, and act?

In prayer, ask Jesus to help you live a life that testifies to the life-giving, life-changing power of resurrection.

Categories
Devotions

Mutual Care

Read Acts 4:32-35.

“’See how these Christians love one another’ might well have been a spontaneous exclamation in the days of the apostles. The Holy Fellowship, the Blessed Community has always astonished those who stood without it. The sharing of physical goods in the primitive church is only an outcropping of a profoundly deeper sharing of a Life, the base and center of which is obscured to those who are still oriented about self, rather than about God” (Thomas Kelly in A Testament of Devotion).

From the earliest days of the church, Christian community has been a vital expression of faith. Joining together in prayer and service, in worship and study and accountability, is what sets a community of faith apart from the rest of the world. The early church inherently understood the value of connection, of being a blessing to one another, and of attending to the spiritual and physical needs of others.

When has the community of faith been a blessing to you? What are the gifts of Christian community? How important has being a part of a community of faith been in your spiritual growth and development?

In prayer, thank God for the faith community of which you are a part and commit yourself to deepening (or maybe reestablishing) your connection to it.

Categories
Devotions

Rescuer

Read Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24.

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has opened the gate of righteousness. We can enter fully into the court of relationship with God, redeemed, restored, and renewed. We can rejoice with each day we are given. We can share with others the many ways we see God at work in and through us, in and through others, in and through the world. Many times, we begin the day with the best of intentions for a joyous, gracious, and grateful spirit. We commit ourselves to open hearts and willing hands, but find our minds distracted and our energy flagging. And before long, we may be grumbly, impatient, and critical.

What prevents you from entering God’s court with praise? What distracts you from rejoicing? What keeps you from living in the fullness of Christ’s saving, life-giving grace?

Today, watch the following video:

Rescuer by Rend Collective

Clap your hands, move your feet, and let a spirit of joy overtake you. Let go of your inhibitions. What God has done in Christ is worth celebrating!

Categories
Devotions

The Need to Explain

Read Mark 16:1-8.

Compared to John’s account, Mark’s gospel is spare in the details. John ties the resurrection up in a nice little bow with Jesus calling Mary’s name and Mary running to tell the disciples. Mark leaves the women fleeing in terror and amazement, afraid to tell anyone. It’s no wonder that decades later, scribes felt the need to flesh out the ending by adding vs. 9-20. Obviously, someone told someone who told someone else or we would not have heard the story, but it tells us something about human nature that we need to fill in sketchy details. It is sometimes uncomfortable to sit in the mystery of the unknown.

Can you think of a time when something happened or someone acted in a way that you didn’t understand? How did you make sense of it? What motives did you assign to God or to the person involved? What reasons did you give? How helpful did it end up being to fill in the story yourself? I wonder if a more faithful response would be to say, “This thing has happened and I don’t understand why. But I am going to trust God to bring something out of it – whether it be a sense of God’s presence and strength, a deeper understanding of myself, or a stronger human connection.”

In prayer, ask Jesus to give you peace about something you do not understand and commit yourself to trusting that God is up to something, even if you cannot grasp it right now.

Categories
Devotions

It’s Friday

Read John 18:1-30.

“It is finished.” Jesus’ suffering is over, but his suffering is only part of the story. If it all ended with him dying on the cross, Jesus and his little band of followers would have hardly merited a mention in Jewish history. We know what happens on Easter morning and we can anticipate that celebration, but we must first witness the depth of human cruelty and suffering.

We must recognize our own participation, even today, when we turn inwardly towards our own needs, when we are careless with another’s spirit, when we deny or turn a blind eye or perpetuate hate. We must hear the promise that, even when we are at our worst, Christ loves us enough to suffer for our redemption. It is a gift we could not even imagine asking for or receiving from another person. And yet Jesus, Emmanuel, God-With-Us, endured it all to save us from ourselves, to redeem us, and to restore us to right relationship with God. We can sit in the despair of Good Friday, knowing that Sunday is coming.

If you have a few minutes today, watch the following video:

It’s Friday…but Sunday’s a-Comin’

Categories
Devotions

Love One Another

Read John 13:1-17, 31b-35.

“Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The question is, how has Jesus loved us? He knelt at the feet of his friends and humbly washed their feet. He not only knelt before those who were part of his inner circle – those closest to him – but included them all. Even Judas, who had already decided to betray Jesus for his own gain.

How does the world know we follow Jesus – not only as individuals, but as a faith community? What sets us apart from those who are not disciples of Christ? Are we willing to humble ourselves and serve even the people whose actions and motivations we may not like? There are times when I catch myself speaking ill of someone I disagree with or judging someone without taking time to learn more about their story. There are times I build walls and refuse to consider a different perspective from mine. I identify this as sin and a failure to love. If this is all someone heard coming from my mouth, they would have no way of knowing I am a follower of Jesus. What, in your life, keeps you from being known for your love?

Offer a prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus’ example of love and humility and ask for the same spirit in yourself.