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Devotions

Feeding Sheep

Read John 21:1-19.

In the days after his resurrection, Jesus is still showing his followers what his kingdom looks like. He’s still pointing them to where abundance can be found, feeding and caring for people, seeing to their sustenance. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him and three times, Peter said yes. After this, Jesus says, “Feed my sheep,” and instructs them to follow him. It almost seems like what Jesus is teaching is that saying the right words is not the declaration he is looking for. Instead, the best way to show love for him is to care for the ones he loves – to do what he does and to go where he goes. We expect nothing less in our human relationships. If you truly love someone, there is evidence of that love in how you speak and in your actions.

In your life, what evidence is there of your love for Jesus? In what ways do you feed his sheep? Can you think of someone who, this week, could use some nourishment – either physical, emotional, or spiritual?  Who might benefit from sharing a meal and having some company?

Make an effort this week to reach out to that person and maybe offer an invitation to get together.

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Devotions

Allegiance

Read Revelation 5:11-14.

With Revelations, we sometimes get so caught up in the vivid imagery which evokes a wide range of emotions in people, we miss the overarching theme of the book: that God and God’s lamb, alone, are worthy of our worship. In the writer’s time and place, worship of God would have stood in contrast to allegiance to the Roman government. In this reading, the Lamb (Jesus) is at the center. He is the subject of every creature’s adoration and praise.

This causes us to consider our own time and place, asking who and what receives a majority of our attention and energy. Where do your allegiances lie? What object of devotion might rival your allegiance to God? How does that object of devotion align with God’s kingdom? What steps might you take to realign your allegiance with the One who deserves your devotion?

Today, take a walk or sit by an open window and consider the ways nature is singing praise to God.

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Devotions

Joy in the Morning

Read Psalm 30.

In this psalm, we are reminded of God’s presence and provision in both the good times and the bad. We may be in a period of sadness, disappointment, fear, or loss, but these words declare it won’t last forever. “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” In the same way, when we are in a period of peace, accomplishment, happiness, or hopefulness, there are no promises it will remain that way. We, like the psalmist in vs. 7, are somehow surprised when things fall apart. Yet, in all of it, there is the Lord, turning our mourning into dancing; taking off our sackcloth and clothing us with joy. And the best response to all of it is praise and thanksgiving.

Can you recall a difficult time from which you though you would never recover? What gave you hope? What burden might you be carrying into God’s joy-filled morning?

Offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the newness of each day, no matter what it brings.

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Devotions

Blind spots

Read Acts 9:1-20.

We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that Saul is a bad guy, through and through. To his way of thinking, though, he was defending the faith. This is something that has happened over and over throughout history and across different religions. We, as humans, have a tendency to view anything new or different as threatening, especially when it comes to something as close to our heart as our faith. We develop tunnel vision and focus our energy on eliminating that threat. Saul’s sight had become fixed so keenly on that goal, he had become blind to the values of the tradition he was trying to preserve. He had become blind to the values of the God he was trying to serve. It took an episode of blindness to open his eyes to what God, through Jesus, was doing.

Can you think of any examples in your own life where your dedication to preserving what you thought was right caused you to think, speak, or behave in a way that was contrary to yours and your faith’s values? When it comes to what God might be up to in the people, places, and situations around you, what might be obstructing your vision? How do we, as individuals and as the church, narrow rather than expand God’s mission in the world? What, in our good intentions, do we mis-read completely?

In prayer, ask God to remove any “blind-spots” you may have.

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Devotions

Clear Evidence

Read John 20:19-31.

At the end of that first Easter day, the disciples were still locked in the room, having heard the news of Jesus’ resurrection, but still paralyzed by fear and confusion. Jesus showed up among them and it was then that they believed. Having seen him, they began sharing the news with those who had not been there. Thomas was one of those who received the news with disbelief, insisting he would believe it when he saw Jesus just as the others had. All the disciples needed clear evidence that Jesus was no longer dead, but had, in fact, risen.

If, as followers of Jesus, we profess his resurrection to be real, what is the evidence of that in our lives? How can we show – not just talk about, but show – Jesus to people who have a hard time believing? How can we reveal the resurrected Christ in the way we share our story and in the way we respond to the doubts of others? What evidence of Jesus’ presence in your life has helped you to believe and has helped you to grow into a more committed disciple? What do you still need from Jesus?

In prayer, tell God what you need and be willing to wait, to watch, and to be filled with wonder.

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Devotions

Questioning Authority

Read Acts 5:27-32.

In this reading, it seems that the biggest issue for the religious authorities is that they did not get their way simply by virtue of their status. Their power and authority have been brought into question and they don’t like it.

Have you been angry or disappointed when your spouse, your children, your coworkers—even God—didn’t conform to your wishes? What made that difficult? How did you react?

In prayer, ask God for a more pliable spirit when it comes to relating to and interacting with others.

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Devotions

The Building Block

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

This is a call to praise. The psalmist has been delivered by the Lord from a tight spot and calls upon the whole community to acknowledge and offer praise for God’s faithfulness. As I read these verses, I can think of no fewer than five songs inspired by them. One is “This is the Day,” which I learned as a child in Sunday school. Another is, “The Building Block,” which I learned at church camp. Are there any songs these verses make you think of?

Think of a time when you were in a tight spot. What part do you think the Lord had in delivering you from it? Did you recognize it as God’s work at the time? As Christians, we read this psalm as not only pointing back at what God has done, but also pointing forward to what God will do through Christ. How does reflecting on God’s redemptive work in the past help you to look at your future with hope?

As an expression of praise, hum, sing, or listen to one of the songs that these verses have called to mind.

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Devotions

What if?

Read Luke 24:1-12.

Early on Easter morning, the women come to the tomb, expecting to find Jesus’ body exactly where it had been left. What greeted them was an empty tomb and, we’re told, they were perplexed. They weren’t horrified. They weren’t angry or afraid. There were perplexed. It made no sense. Death is death and they had seen him die. They had watched as Joseph of Arimathea took down Jesus’ body, wrapped it in linen, and laid him in the freshly-hewn tomb. After the messengers tell them what has happened, we aren’t told the women come immediately to belief. They report to the disciples, who themselves cannot make sense of it. Peter runs to see for himself and is amazed. Like the women, he is not yet at the point of belief.

But I would imagine they were all asking, “What if it’s true?” What if death is real, but it’s not the end of the story? What if death does not have the last word, but is only a door through which Jesus had walked into a wholly different life? What if it’s true that because Jesus opened that door through his death and resurrection, it remains open for each of us? How might that affect the way you live this life you’ve been given? How do you respond to this news? If Jesus isn’t found in the place where we expect him to be, where is he and what is he up to?

Today, offer a prayer of praise for the promise of resurrection and what it means both in this life and in the life to come.

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Devotions

It is Finished

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gx6_rGLz20&t=77s

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Devotions

Known for Love

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 pride and stubbornness was 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.