The Word of God for You

October 2017

Dilworth Lutheran Church


God speaks to us through the Bible.  But we all know, it’s easy to go weeks, sometimes months without hearing God’s Word in the Bible.  Maybe you find it hard to get to church or make reading the Bible or hearing scripture part of your week.

God tells us that we most clearly know God through God speaking to us in scripture.  Be brave and take a chance.  Take thirty days to hear God, to hear how through Jesus’s life and death and resurrection, we can have real life.  Have a taste of why 500 years ago on October 31, 1517, a young monk named Martin Luther bravely nailed his 95 Theses to a church door to make God’s Word and God’s promises to save us.  Hear God through Word and reflection this October.

To help you hear God, we have thirty days of short Bible readings and devotions written by Dilworth Lutheran people. These include reflection questions to help you think about how God’s Word is for you. If you have time, read the Scripture through twice, and then proceed with the devotion.  We will also have optional small groups offered three times over the month for you to connect with others who are taking this journey of hearing God.  Everyone embarking on this journey through Scripture is invited to attend the #nailed-it-brunch on Sunday, October 29, 9:40-10:20am, between the Sunday services.  Everyone is welcome to this meal! Small groups will sit together, reflect on their time together, and hear from featured voices about their testimony of their time with God.

October 1st

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.

Hebrews 1:1-2

 

Reflection

Do you have a to-do list?  It might include: clean the bathroom, schedule doctor appointment, pay electric bill, work out, make dinner, shop for a birthday gift, and five hundred other things.  Many people have things to do, people to see, and precious few hours in each day to do them. Put another way, our minds and our hearts are often filled to overflowing with obligations and responsibilities.

This month, you are choosing to give yourself a gift in the midst of the fullness of life.  You have signed on for an investment in your faith as you hear God’s voice through His Word.  God’s promise, a promise proclaimed through our Reformation faith, is that God speaks to us through Jesus Christ.  You are beginning an adventure today!

 

Reflection Questions

Choosing one consistent time each day may help you take on the discipline of reading these parts of the Bible and reflecting on them.  Is there one time of each day when you could read this devotion? 5:30 am after letting the dog out? Noon while sitting down with your lunch?  Between flossing and brushing at night?

What is something that you are disciplined about?  Exercise? Paying bills on time? What motivates you to be disciplined in that area of your life?  What has motivated you to take on these 30 Days in the Word?

When was the last time you felt nudged, prodded, stirred or even directed by God?  What was the situation?  How did you respond?

 

Prayer

God, thank you for the opportunity to hear your voice.  Speak to me through your Word in these thirty days. I love you and I want to hear you. In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

October 2nd

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’  28 Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ 29 He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Matthew 14:22-33

Reflection

It is inevitable that we will experience stormy times in our lives – figuratively, and, in recent news, literally.  What amazes me about this story is the play between literal and figurative imagery and the rollercoaster of Peter’s faith.  When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, he was terrified.  Then, in the midst of a (literal) storm, he stepped out (literally) in faith. And it worked!  At first. But even when his faith faltered and he cried out “Lord, save me,” Jesus met him, took him in, and calmed the seas.  Isn’t that a beautiful thing?  Sometimes in life’s storms our faith is strengthened, and sometimes it’s tested. We may seek out God more often in tough times than when the seas are calm.  But God will meet us right where we are in the midst of storms, when we’ve stepped out in faith, or when we are drowning in doubt. He reaches out His hand and saves us.

Reflection Questions

Have you ever done something for your faith that feels risky?  What was it? What was the outcome?

If you have not done something risky for or because of faith, what might a risk for faith be for you?

Faith Activity

Be an example of God’s grace and mercy to someone experiencing storms in their life.  Provide emotional and spiritual support for those in distress, volunteer your time to those in need, or donate to a charitable cause like a hurricane relief effort.

Prayer

God, help those experiencing storms in their life. Calm the waters and cease the winds. Give them the faith to seek You and a time of peace in days to come. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

October 3rd

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.’ 10 So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, ‘Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.’ 11 As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, ‘Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.’ 12 But she said, ‘As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.’ 13 Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ 15 She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

1 Kings 17:8-16

Reflection

A close friend works for an organization that runs refugee camps in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.  Every time there is a famine, civil war, or epidemic which cause mass migrations of people, her organization responds.  There is never enough money, resources or staff to be everywhere they are needed.  This reality strikes against the truth that in God, there is enough.  So what are we to make of the reality of our world, and God’s promises that there is enough?  When it seems like there’s not enough money or time or compassion in my own life, I often notice that I have not been open to receiving what God might be offering.  Could God be sending a prophet to perform a miracle? Has God provided a jar of oil that we don’t even notice as we worry?  Until Jesus returns, there will be war and hunger and worry about what is enough. It will often feel like there is not enough, but where there is no way for people to go forward, God so often makes a way.  Each year, my friend who works with refugee camps is amazed at the miracle of the huge number of people who support work in refugee camps.  These are refugees that none of these Minnesotans will ever meet, yet they share of what they have so that there is enough.

Faith Activity

Listen to this song about God’s abundance.  http://www.musicthatmakescommunity.org/there_is_enough Listen hard for the descant—the pretty high part—at the end.  Where does this song declare that our help comes from?

Prayer

God, you are the source of all that we have.  Please help us know that You are enough, and that you will open a way for us when it seems like there is no way,  Amen.

October 4th

He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’

Luke 19:1-10

Reflection

Prior to meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus maybe wasn’t an honest man. As a tax-collector he collected money and took extra for himself, making him rich. The people in Jericho knew this and Zacchaeus wasn’t well-liked.  After meeting Jesus, because of Jesus’s grace, Zacchaeus is changed.

I just love this story, like so many more in the Bible. The story of a sinner, an imperfect being, one that others didn’t think was worthy, coming to Jesus. Desiring Jesus. And Jesus befriends him. Despite Zaccheaus’s short-comings. Despite the views of the popular.

All that Jesus desires is a willing heart. No matter what we’ve done, it’s been taken care of. Because of the cross. Not because we deserve it. Because Jesus loves us. How amazing is grace?

There’s a song that comes to mind when I hear this passage, Matthew West’s Broken Things: “Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King * I wish I could bring You so much more * But if it’s true You use broken things * Then here I am Lord, I am all Yours * The pages of history they tell me it’s true * That it’s never the perfect: it’s always the ones with the scars that You use * It’s the rebels and the prodigals: it’s the humble and the weak * The misfit heroes You chose * Tell me there’s hope for sinners like me.” If interested check it out on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdUu6ZsdVfM or local radio stations Air1 89.5, Life 97.9 or K-LOVE 100.7.

Reflection Questions 

How has Jesus’s grace changed you? Who in your life could you extend more grace to?

Prayer                                                                                                                  

God, you love us and seek us despite who we’ve been and what we’ve done. Help us to live in your grace, extending that grace to others. In Jesus name,  Amen.

October 5th

Jesus said “Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:1- 8:11

Reflection

When we hear the of God’s grace, we often think of it as something kind, gentle, and nice, as something comforting and warm. It can be these things, of course, but in our reading for today, Jesus shows us that grace is challenging and confrontational. An angry mob has gathered to stone a woman to death. Instead of getting caught up with the crowd’s righteous anger, Jesus sits by quietly and refuses to get caught up in the emotional appeal. When questioned, he reverses the crowd’s expectations—instead of condemning the woman, he shames the crowd. Jesus reminds the crowd that they too are sinners and in need of God’s grace. Jesus shows here that grace does not simply comfort, but challenges the crowd to reflect on their own sin and need for grace. Finally, when Jesus turns to the woman, his grace challenges her—he loves her for who she is, but calls her to live her life in a new way, as a beloved child of God. Grace transforms the situation: where there was anger at another, there is now self-reflection; where there was sin, there is now love and a new life. This grace does not simply coddle, but it is effective precisely as it challenges us to be children of God.

 

Reflection Question

How does God’s grace challenge you? What would it mean in your life to go and sin no more?

 

Faith Activity

Reflect on people in your life you may need to forgive. Today start praying that God will help you forgive them in order to reflect God’s love for them.

 

Prayer

Dear God, You have set us free from all sins, so that we may freely love you. You do not condemn us, but freely shower us with grace and mercy. Challenge us to live in this grace that says both  “Neither do I condemn you” and “Go and sin no more.” Empowered by your grace, help me live my life to your glory.  Amen.

October 6th

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding* him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah?* Save yourself and us!’ 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ 42 Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into* your kingdom.’ 43 He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Luke 23:39-43

Reflection

I suspect most people live with some regrets: “if only I had done….”  “If only I had not done….”  Jesus is crucified with two criminals who may have felt “if only” they had not fallen into a life of crime.    But the story reminds that even in the last hours of life, repentance is possible.  If Jesus could communicate acceptance to a dying felon, Jesus certainly can hear, accept and forgive any and all of our mistakes, regrets, and open breaks with the will of God.

Jesus tells the thief, “today you will be with me in paradise.”  We may debate over the meaning and place of “paradise” but the real promise is that one will be with Jesus.  That is what finally matters.

 

Reflection Questions

Do you have any unforgiven, troubling regrets or sins?  Can you trust Jesus enough to leave them all at the cross of Jesus and know relief?

What prompted the thief to respond as he did to Jesus?  What did he see in Jesus that encouraged this encounter?  Do you see Jesus as open to you?

 

Faith Activity

Think of the times in your life when you felt forgiveness was impossible only later to discover that God’s grace was available to you.  Reflect on how sometimes we have trouble believing God can and does forgive.

 

Prayer

Thank you for accepting me as I am with my mistakes, regrets and sins.  Help me believe you have set me free.  Amen.

October 7th

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—

Ephesians 2:8  

Reflection

The biggest struggle in my life is procrastination. Whether it was writing a paper in school, doing yard work on the weekend, beginning a task at work, or writing this devotion, I am terrible at starting things. I am consumed with doubts and fears about whatever I need to do: What if I get a bad grade? What if my neighbor thinks I’m mowing my lawn the wrong direction? What if I screw up and my boss gets mad at me? What if I miss the point of this verse and everyone thinks I’m a bad Lutheran? Every time this happens, I eventually remember all the times I got a good grade, or the neighbor complemented my lawn, or my boss told me I did a good job, or I shared a story about my faith journey that helped someone. I have faith that I can do whatever God has planned for me, even though I have had some doubts along the way.

 

Reflection Questions

Think of a time that you struggled with doubt, and faith overcame your doubts. What happened?

What are some other ways you have felt saved?

 

Faith Activity

Start to do something you’ve been putting off.  Call your aunt, wash your dishes, or shred that paperwork.  See how your faith feels after.

 

Prayer

God, thank you for believing in me when I doubt myself. Give me the faith to accomplish everything you set in my path.  Amen.

October 8th

27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.

John 10:27

‘The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.’

John 10:3-4

Reflection

God’s ability to communicate with us is to me a fascinating mystery.  I usually hear God via what most describe as a “still, small voice.”  Almost like a thought that comes to me but is not my own. And it is often preceded with calling me by name.  It’s a strange phenomenon.  Even trying to write about it here with an audience who have most likely heard God’s voice, I think it sounds a little crazy. Thankfully, God’s advice is usually short and simple but in the end, pretty profound.  Personally, God likes to tell me in seven different ways to Sunday to “be patient” or “be still,” almost as much as I tell my kids to take off their shoes, or put on their shoes and let’s go, whatever the case may be. (God’s tone is almost always kinder than my shoe bit though.)  Just like my children, I’m still learning to listen to God’s voice and heed his directive. When I do finally get still, that still, small voice is a whole lot easier to hear.

 

Reflection Questions

Have you ever been in a store and heard a familiar laugh a few aisles over and knew immediately who it was?  Or watched an animated movie and thought “Hey, I know that voice!?” Do you respond with the same certainty when you hear God’s voice?

How can you practice listening to God’s voice?

 

Prayer

God, Help us to hear your voice and follow your word.  In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

October 9th

“…The word is with you, on your lips and in your heart…”           

Romans 10:8   

16 ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds’,

Hebrews 10:16

Reflection

I grew up in a home with an evangelical, southern Baptist mother and a quiet, devout, Methodist father.  They each had an equally strong faith, but they expressed it in very different ways.  I tend to be more like my dad in a quiet, live out my faith kind of way.  But one thing I accredit my mother is her constant quoting of scripture and the impression it has left on my life.  She was not shy to speak the Word of God, sometimes even to strangers she’d strike up a conversation with in the aisles of Walmart.   Sometimes God’s Word pops into my head in her southern twang of a voice:  “Be ye kind one to another.”  “For I have not given you a spirit of fear…”  “For I know the plans I have for you…”  I spent a year in young adulthood reading the Bible cover to cover.  I still have that Bible with all its highlights and notes. And yet hearing my mother all those years quote scripture is what really stuck.  I thank God for writing it on my heart through her.

 

Reflection Questions

When you think of scripture, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

How can you spend more time getting to know God’s Word so that it is impressed upon your lips and heart?

 

Faith Activity

Share with someone your favorite verse or story.  Tell them why it means so much to you and how it came to be that way.

 

Prayer

God, Thank you for giving us your Word, written on our hearts.  Help us to live it, to speak it, and to know it more and more. In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

October 10th

For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building…Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 3:10, 16

Reflection

Especially in the fall, after we enjoyed the slower pace of summer, life feels frantic.  I often feel like I don’t have enough hours in the day.  I feel like I’m not doing enough for our kids, our house, our gerbil, or even, God. It boils down to me feeling like I am not enough.  Yes, few of us do all that we want to do each day.  But our identity does not come from what we do or do not do.  Our identity, who we are, is found in God, and we are enough for God to dwell in.  In 1st Corinthians 3, the people in the Greek city of Corinth are treating each other like dirt, and still, God chooses to dwell inside of them.  We are not perfect, but how precious we are to God that God chooses to dwell in us!

 

Reflection Questions

Have you ever felt precious to God?  When?  If not, why not?

What does it mean for how you live that God is choosing to live inside of you?

 

Faith Activity

Take extra care of yourself today. Put your phone down and go to sleep half an hour early. Use fancy lotion, or drink an extra cup of coffee, whatever it might mean for you to feel cared for.  Remember, you are precious to God. God dwells in you.

 

Prayer

God, help me to remember that you dwell in me.  Amen.

October 11th

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord.

                                                                 Psalm 96

Reflection                                          

In early August, a small group of women from the church drove 70 miles north to Fertile, Minnesota.  Half had never been to Fertile before.  A few had never heard of Fertile before.  We spent a half day at Bergeson Nursery.  The flowers were at their glorious Minnesota summer peak, with huge blooms and bees buzzing over blossoms.  It was heaven.  When we drove home, the mornings’ clouds lifted and a blue sky contrasted with the ripe yellow wheat.  Friends, laughter, incredible flowers, and picture perfect fields overwhelmed me with their beauty.  I was overwhelmed with these undeserved gifts from God.

 

Reflection Questions

Read the Psalm again.  Describe the last time you were overwhelmed with beauty or the gifts of God.  When was it? How did you respond?

What does overwhelming beauty in our world tell you about God’s character?

 

Faith Activity

Go outside.  No matter the weather. Look around.  What are five things that God has made interesting or beautiful?

 

Prayer

God, you are so generous to us. You have made so many beautiful things in our world. Thank you.  Help us to praise you for these gifts. In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

October 12th

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

                                                       Romans 8:26-27

Reflection

I was never good at the practice of prayer. For me, the idea of talking to God seems awkward. God already knows what I need, what I’m thankful for, and that I love Him. One summer, when I was counselor at church camp, one of the adult leaders taught me and some of the other counselors about centering prayer. Centering prayer is similar to Buddhist meditation. You try clear your mind, letting thoughts drift past like boats passing on a river. Sitting in the outdoor chapel at camp that week, with my eyes closed, hearing the sounds of the wind in the trees and the waves on the shore, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, and experiencing God’s presence within me and all around me was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.

 

Reflection Questions

How do you like to pray? Think of a time you couldn’t pray the way you prefer. Did you feel God listening anyway? Has God answered prayers you didn’t know you prayed?

 

Faith Activity

Pray in a way that is different for you. Kneel by the side of your bed. Stand with your arms and face raised to the heavens. Try centering prayer. See if you feel God’s presence by trying something new.

 

Prayer

God, we often don’t know how to pray to you. Thank you for answering the prayers in our hearts instead of the prayers in our heads.  Amen.

October 13th

Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?’

                                                                                                              Numbers 22

Reflection 

After leaving Egypt, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years. The wilderness was not some big empty desert. There were tribes of people, and kingdoms and cities in the wilderness. Many of these people were scared that the Israelites were going to take their land, so their King Balak summoned Balaam, who could speak to God, and asked him to curse the Israelites. When Balaam was riding his donkey to meet Balak, an angel appeared to the donkey, blocking the way with a flaming sword. Balaam struck the donkey and took a different path, but the angel appeared again. Again, Balaam struck the donkey and took a different path. A third time, the angel appeared, and Balaam struck the donkey. This time the donkey lay down in the path. Then God made the donkey speak, and he asked why Balaam kept hitting him. The donkey reminded Balaam that he’d always been a good donkey and he never had acted this way before. Finally, God let Balaam see the angel. The angel told Balaam that if the donkey had not turned away, the angel would have killed Balaam because he was on the wrong path.

Reflection Questions

Think of a time that God spoke to you in an unexpected way. Were you surprised by the source? Did you need to hear God’s message several times before you realized He was speaking to you?

Have you ever realized that God spoke through you in an unexpected way?

 

Prayer

God, you are always speaking to us, even when it isn’t what we expect. Help us to hear you when you speak in surprising ways. Amen.

October 14th

I will stand at my watch-post,
and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.

                                                            Habakkuk 2:1-4

Reflection

Sometimes you will wait and wait for hear God or for God to answer your prayer. Sometimes you won’t receive the answer to prayer that you hope for. Habakkuk was a prophet living in Judah. He saw his small kingdom being surrounded by Babylon and Egypt. He prayed to God, angrily questioning why he allowed his people to suffer. God’s answer was not an explanation, but rather a vision of a better future and a reminder to have faith and trust in God. Martin Luther was studying to be a lawyer. While travelling through the countryside, he was trapped in a powerful storm. He prayed that if God saved him, he would become a monk. God had bigger plans for Martin Luther. After becoming a monk, he began studying scripture and questioning the Catholic Church, eventually leading the Reformation.

 

Reflection Questions

Think of a time you prayed for something, and felt your prayers were not answered. Did you feel that God wasn’t listening, or was God answering your prayers in an unexpected way?

Did you ever feel that you had part of your life all planned out, but you learned that God had different plans? What happened?

Prayer

God, our plans often don’t work out the way we expect them to. Grant us the faith to follow your plan, where ever it leads us. Amen.

October 15th

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is* useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

2nd Timothy 3:16-17

Reflection

People who have been raised in the church usually point to the Bible as the way God communicates with God’s people.  We turn to the Bible expecting that God meets us in scripture and will communicate with us in this way.  In this passage to Timothy, Paul reminds us that scripture has value in our lives in a variety of ways.  It inspires us, it reminds us of our sins, it corrects our misunderstandings and it trains us to live rightly with God and to be equipped to do the work God wants us from us.

Paul says all scripture is inspired and worth studying.  We do well to remember that God’s word is first of all the living Word or Jesus.  So when we look at the Bible, we can find many things of value but key to our understanding is that in the Bible we meet Jesus our Savior and Lord.  Let the Bible teach and correct you, but always remember that God’s Word to you is a word of grace, forgiveness and love given in the Word made flesh (Jesus).

 

Reflection Questions

What have you found most profitable about your study of the Bible?

Which book in the Bible speaks to you most clearly?

 

Faith Activity

Whatever portion of the Bible is your favorite, read it in a different translation than you normally use looking for new insights and blessings.

 

Prayer

Thank you O God for letting us know how you feel about us.  We thank you for your record in the Bible of your word of life for us.  Amen.

October 16th

43 You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

Matthew 5:43-45

Reflection

We live in comparative safety.  In reading the Psalms, I have not been threatened by enemies as the Psalmist often is.  Life has been much easier for me and perhaps for you.

But then I think of a “wider vision.”  The truth is that our world is very unsafe.  Terrorists leave bombs, people are shot randomly, and car drivers deliberately plow into crowds with many hurt and killed.  Some people see the immigrants as threats to their way of life.  So many people would easily say “we have enemies.”

Jesus says we are to love our enemies.  He did not say that we would end up liking all enemies but to love them means to do for them what we would like done for ourselves.  Jesus challenges our fears, our worries and asks us to respond not in like manner but in the love he first gives us.

 

Reflection Questions

Do you feel you have enemies?  If so, what makes it hard to love them?

How has your life been blessed by persons of other races, religions or other national origins (either first hand or through media)?  If you do not feel you have been so blessed, remember our relationship with a Jewish man named Jesus.

 

Faith Activity

Seek out one person from another religion, race or nation than your own and have a conversation.  This might be in line as you wait at Walmart, or it might be in your church pew this weekend.

 

Prayer

Jesus you love me as I am.  Forgive my fears and my ease at seeing enemies around me.  Help me to show others the love you first have given me.  Amen.

October 17th

25 And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’  28 Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ 29 He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind,* he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Matthew 14:25-33

 

Reflection

This story has always struck me as strange.  Why would Peter even think about walking on water?  Perhaps the point is that in the presence of Christ, one dares to follow Jesus into new adventures.  Without Jesus who would ever dare to become a prophet, a pastor or a Sunday School teacher?  Only the empowering presence and call of Christ makes it a possibility.

This story reminds of three great things:

  1. With Jesus we are enabled to dare the seemingly impossible.
  2. We, like Peter, may fail but Jesus picks us up and gives us a second chance.
  3. It appears it is better to dare than not to try at all.

Reflection Questions

When have you dared to move out of your comfort zones to follow Jesus?

Have you experienced forgiveness and grace when your efforts did not go well?

 

Faith activity

Think of those people to whom you are indebted for their efforts to help you in your life of faith.  Think of the times someone “got out of the boat” in order to help you.  Thank God for their efforts.  Send one thank you note, text or message today.

 

Prayer

Lord make me bold to follow you even when it seems like I would have to walk on water to do what you ask.  Amen.

October 18th

14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.

Acts 16: 14-15

Reflection

“The Lord opened her heart eagerly,” upon reflection of this verse I think of my good friend, Mel, a truly godly woman and obedient follower. During our junior year of college Mel (reminds me of her trip), “ I went to Australia for my DTS (discipleship training school) through Youth with a Mission. It was three months of Bible school in Perth and then we did outreach. One month was spent in the outback of Australia doing kids camps for the aboriginals and then a few months in Indonesia working with different churches, schools, and projects. It was after the tsunami so northern Indonesia was in rough shape. I loved the team building with my team on outreach, learned a lot about myself and how to live alongside others different from me, flexibly and serving. The relationships and the global experiences were the most life-changing.”  Mel is a girl with a heart of gold. When you are with her, she always makes you feel SO important, because she listens more than she talks. She has a bubbly personality and an infectious laughter. Her house and her heart are always open.  Today she is active in her church and Young Life groups in the Cities where she lives with her husband and (soon to be three) young kids.

Now back to Lydia. Really what makes Lydia so special? The verse said she worshipped God, she was a businesswoman, and she opened her home to Paul. She did this because the Lord opened her heart. All she did was open her home, and she’s IN THE BIBLE!!!!! God used her! Lydia teaches us that God can use us in our ‘ordinary’.  That we don’t need to be extraordinary to be used for God’s purposes.

 

Reflection Questions

How is the Lord opening our hearts? How is the Lord calling us to follow Him in ordinary ways?

 

Prayer

God, like Lydia, open our hearts to receive the ways that you call us to follow. In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

October 19th

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.  21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Matthew 4: 18-22

Reflection

I am a spouse of a pretty serious walleye fisherman.  I never knew a whole lot about fishing before meeting my spouse. I imagined fishing like you see in a children’s book: a stick with a line and a hook. Maybe a worm. HA!!!! Scheels would go out of business if it were that easy.

I have learned that there are many types of things to consider before walleye fishing: rod length, line weight, bobbers, jigs, rigs, GPS, water depth, weather. They all play a factor in the results.

You also have to consider your goal. If you are in a fishing tournament your goal is to catch the biggest fish. However, if you are cooking a walleye dinner for lots of people and you fry up a big walleye, it’s going to taste too fishy. Therefore, you’re better off to catch mid-sized fish, and lots of them.

In the verse Jesus is calling his disciples. For his disciples he picks specific people (like a fishing tournament). Then Jesus wants the disciples to “fish for people” (more like fishing for a large dinner, where ALL are invited. The more the merrier).  The thing that amazes me the most in the verse is the obedience of the disciples. They IMMEDIATELY drop their nets and follow Jesus. (But what if……insert a million excuses and doubts).

 

Reflection Questions

In what ways has the Lord called you to follow Him? What are some things in this life that get in the way of our following/listening/obedience? Who is Jesus calling us to “fish for”?

 

Prayer

Lord God, like the disciples, help us follow you without excuse. Help us to discern your calling and our purpose in this world, for your glory alone. In Christ’s name we pray,  Amen.

October 20th

When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time

Matthew 10:19

Reflection

Disclaimer: When I read this verse I thought, Darn you, Pastor Elizabeth, I was raised Lutheran. Evangelism seems like a tough subject.

I encourage you to read from chapter 10, verse 5. How powerful?!? Jesus commands the disciples to be evangelists.

What is the most important thing in life? What is our purpose? If we look to the commandments it is to Love our God and love our neighbors. And this verse wants us to share God with our neighbors. I once heard a saying and I cannot recall where I heard it: If I died today, would I have done enough to (allow God to use me) to advance the Kingdom? Would I have shared Jesus and His love enough? Would people know I love Jesus by how I live? In college I had gotten a shirt somewhere that said, “God could use someone like you.”

I really stink at letting God use me. I cannot speak in front of people. I cannot minister well to peers. I am unable to sing in a choir. I have found something that I feel I can do: teach Sunday school. Anyone can light candles, shake a hand, hand out bulletins, or serve communion.  What is your gift and how can you use it? GOD COULD USE SOMEONE LIKE YOU!!!

We are living in times that God’s people really need God. And forgiveness. And grace.  Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.” There’s a line in a song (Matthew West  Do Something) that says, “ We’re never gonna change the world by standing still”. GOD COULD USE SOMEONE LIKE YOU!!!

We understand we need to do something, and share something. The peace comes in this verse- we don’t have to know what to say, we don’t have to worry. God will give us the words.

Reflection Questions

Think about ways/times in your life that God has used you to further the kingdom? When has God put you in a situation that you were able to share God?  When has God filled you with the ‘right words’?

Prayer

Dear God, I know you want to use me to advance your kingdom for your glory in a dark world. Use me as your light. Fill me with your confidence and your Spirit. For your glory alone,  Amen.

October 21st

Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

                                                                    Psalm 27, verses 11-14

Reflection

We are often faced with tough decisions. The writer Barbara Brown Taylor once told the story of a young man named David in her high school. David was the captain of the varsity basketball team, the best player, and he lived and breathed basketball. He was so good that the school retired his jersey number when he graduated. David was also a devout Jew. This meant that when basketball games began on Friday night after sundown, David did not play. He spent that time with his family, eating their Sabbath dinner, and sharing Bible stories of God’s faithfulness.

One night, when Barbara and others went to his house after the basketball game, another teen asked David, “Does it kill you that they make you stay home Friday nights?”  David answered, “No one makes me stay home. I’m a Jew and Jews observe the Sabbath.”  He went on to explain that sure, he felt a tug to play Friday nights, but that was the whole point. Sabbath was his chance to remember what was the most real and the most important in his life: God.

Especially with our children’s schedules, and honestly, with our money, I struggle at times to do what honors our faith.  When I am in the midst of one of these decisions—of whether my kid can be in another Sunday tournament—or if I give what I want to church this month that means I can’t afford a new couch for another few months—I remember David.  And I remember that through whatever challenge or difficulty I face, whatever hard decision I’m making, God is the most real and important thing in my life.  It is a privilege to follow God and to trust that God has my back. When I am patient, when I listen for long enough, God will show me the way and give me the wisdom I need.

 

Reflection Questions

What parts of your faith feel like a privilege?

Think about a time where you felt like you had to wait for God as you went through a difficult time.  How did your faith change through this experience?

 

Prayer

Holy God, thank you for the gift and privilege of faith.  Amen.

October 22nd

When you pray, don’t be like those show-offs who love to stand up and pray in the meeting places and on the street corners. They do this just to look good. I can assure you that they already have their reward. When you pray, go into a room alone and close the door. Pray to your Father in private. He knows what is done in private, and he will reward you. When you pray, don’t talk on and on as people do who don’t know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers. Don’t be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask..

                                                                                 Matthew 6:5-8 (CEV)

Reflection

Nana believed in letters. She was also a great letter-writer. When I went off to seminary, she wanted a letter every week. I didn’t think I had that much to tell my grandmother. I would occasionally call her and she would always end the call by saying, “I’m still expecting your letter!” I tried. I really did. Of the few letters I actually produced, she would send them back to me corrected!

 

Reflection Questions

What kind of letters/talk do you think God wants to hear from you?

What kind of writer/talker are you with God?

Do you need a set time to pray? Mornings – meals – Evenings? Before a test?

If you were on God’s side of the letters/prayer, what would you like to hear? What would you not want to hear (or correct)?

 

Faith Activity

Write a two sentence prayer/letter. Try saying it when you rise in the morning and before you go to sleep for two days.

Write something you are happy about. Share it with God. Does it feel different if you do it in your bedroom, car, or school/work? Why?

 

Prayer

Dear God, this is _________. I know it’s been some time since I last wrote/talked. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have much to say. Sometimes I’m afraid I won’t say it right. Maybe I just need to do it. So I am.  Amen.

October 23rd

“Pray along these lines: ‘Our Father in heaven, we honor your holy name. We ask that your kingdom will come now. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. Give us our food again today, as usual, and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. Don’t bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One. Amen.’

Matthew 6:9-13 (TLB)

 

Reflection

John Beck was an in-between pastor. We didn’t call them interims back then. He was retired and filled in where ever the bishop needed him. The congregation was, honestly, cantankerous and to be more honest, nasty. They weren’t just mean to others, they were mean to each other. And they were mean to their pastors. They caused many pastors to resign.

At the first meeting with this council, John said very little. They went through their business and their arguments. Then as they were closing, they all stood, held hands and began the Lord’s prayer. When they got to the line of “forgive our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us” John slammed down a Bible on the table and said, “Don’t you dare finish that prayer, until you plan to do it!!” Things started to change in that congregation.

 

Reflections Questions

How do you say the Lord’s Prayer? Do you do it so automatically, that you don’t even hear what you are saying?  If you only say the Lord’s Prayer using old-fashioned language, what does that say about how you pray it?

 

Faith Activity

Can you say the Lord’s prayer in a different language?

How about substituting your version with another for a week?

What about changing the pronouns in the “traditional” version with commonly used ones? How do those changes make you feel?

 

Prayer

Lord. You said it all in the prayer you gave us. Help me to think more about what it means than just getting it finished.  Amen.

October 24th

Take heed to yourselves— If your brother sins, rebuke him. And if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in the day, and returns to you seven times saying ‘I repent’, forgive him”.

Luke 17:3-4 DLNT

Reflection 

Enough’s, enough. We’ve all heard it. Maybe we’ve even said it ourselves. I kinda have my limit forgiving. My brother was a drug addict. He ruined his life and the lives of all around him several times over. I wish I could say that I forgave him each time. After the first few relapses, ok. For me, it got harder – and longer –  each time.

I can mentally understand forgiveness. Actually doing it takes me longer. When I read this portion of scripture, I see how far short I am of being the person God wants me to be. And I’m grateful that God does forgive unreservedly, everytime.

 

Faith Activity

  • Imagine a small child has spilled their water. While it is frustrating, time after time, you still forgive them, because they are a child.
  • Imagine a young adult has wasted their money again. While it is frustrating, time after time, forgive them, because they are a child of God.
  • Imagine a spouse has betrayed a trust. While it is frustrating, time after time, forgive them, because they are a child of God.

 

Prayer

Lord, I have trouble forgiving time after time. Help me see you in their faces. Help me to forgive.  Amen.

October 25th

20 When it was evening, Jesus took his place with the twelve;* 21 and while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’ 23 He answered, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’ 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’ He replied, ‘You have said so. ’The Institution of the Lord’s Supper  While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the* covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 26:20-28

 

Reflection

We are familiar with this story of the Last Supper.  We know how Judas betrayed Jesus for a bag full of coins.  This happened just before Jesus and his disciples, all of the disciples, sat down for that supper. Read this passage again.  Notice that Jesus shared the bread and the wine with all of the disciples, even Judas, the one who had betrayed him.

How incredible that Jesus knew what was in store for him, his betrayal, his best friend’s denial of him, and he still chose to leave his friends with forgiveness.  He left his friends, he leaves us, with a meal that helps us go forward no matter what has happened in the past.

 

Reflection Questions

When was the last time you felt forgiven by another person or by God?  What was happening in your life?

Reflect on what Jesus did on the night of the Last Supper.  What does this mean about God’s feelings for you?

 

Faith Activity

The next time someone offends you—in anything large or small, like cutting you off in traffic, being inconsiderate at work, or by not doing what they said they would do—practice forgiving them.  Say, “I forgive you,” aloud.  How did this feel?  Did it help you forgive them in your heart?

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, on your last night with your friends you chose to offer them food and forgiveness.  What amazing gifts!  Help us to recognize these exact gifts from you in our lives.  Amen.

October 26th

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage,* he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.* 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.* 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” 13 But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?* 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”* 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’*

Matthew 20:1-16

 

Reflection

We generally think that those who work the hardest deserve the most rewards. If you study hard in school, you will receive the highest grades; if you put in overtime at work, you will receive a promotion. This seems to be the logic of the word: if you want to get ahead, you need to work the hardest. In today’s parable, however, Jesus reminds us that God does not operate the same way we do. In the story, an owner of a field hires day-laborers to work in his field and agrees to pay them a fair wage. As the day goes on, he keeps hiring more workers to get the task completed. Some of these workers work one hour, others work all day. When it is time to get paid, they all receive identical wages. Those who worked longer argue that they have been cheated—don’t they deserve more since they worked longer?  The owner reminds them, though, that he paid them an agreed upon fair wage. While we may sympathize with these workers, the message of the parable centers on the nature of God. God does not reward people for good action, but instead bestows grace abundantly on the underserving, the sinner, and the lost. Just as the owner of the vineyard can give grace and treat everyone justly, so too, God gives grace to those who do not appear to deserve it. It is precisely when we are low, lost, lonely, and the least that God gives us abundant grace.

Reflection Questions

What were your initial thoughts on reading this parable? Do you think the owner treated everyone fairly? What does this parable tell us about the nature of God?

Faith Activity

A central message of Jesus’ ministry is that God’s love comes to the little, the lost, the least, and the losers. Today, do an act of kindness for someone who is not at the top of the social world, but is among the lowly.

Prayer

God, your abundant love does not operate by the logic of the world. You give grace freely to the lowly and the lost, even when it appears that we don’t deserve it. May we remember your great love for us as we seek to love our neighbors.  Amen.

October 27th

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’  So he told them this parable: 4‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

‘Or what woman having ten silver coins,* if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’

Luke 15:1-10

Reflection

Jesus’ ministry was marked by a profound love of the little, the lost, the forsaken, and the downtrodden. Jesus did not simply preach about the importance of loving the disinherited, but he also lived with and among them, eating and drinking and befriending those who were otherwise despised. Precisely by doing so, Jesus’ ministry provoked controversy: shouldn’t religious folk only associate with good religious folk? Shouldn’t we care about our appearances? What will others think? In today’s reading, Jesus addresses these concerns head on.  Jesus tells three stories of things lost and found: a shepherd loses a sheep, a woman loses a coin, and a father loses a son. In each story, the main character goes to great lengths to recover what was lost. For Jesus, this was precisely how God acts— God’s love is searching, it tirelessly seeks to love even the lowly and lost; God’s love does not reward those who are good, but is lavished on the undeserving; God’s love is for those who earn it, but extends to the despised and lowly. God does not wait, but is active in seeking to spread grace on all. To follow this God means to put ourselves outside our comfort zone and love the unlovable, just as God loves us.

Reflection Questions  

Think of a time you lost something important and later found it. What was your reaction? How does this feeling relate to the rejoicing in heaven when someone lost is found?

Faith Activity   

Discuss with your family ways you can actively love those who are despised or different or friendless. Where is God calling you to love your neighbor?

Prayer  

Loving God, Out of your abundant grace and love, you seek out the sinner, the small, the lowly, and the lost. May we receive your grace with joyful hearts. Empower us to love our neighbor and those who need your love.  Amen.

October 28th

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ* before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Ephesians 1:3-8

 

Reflection

Think about adoption. Every time a parent adopts a child, they are making a deliberate decision to give that child a future which this child might otherwise not have.  A commitment of faithfulness and love is made to a stranger.  Adoption includes equal measures of love and risk.  Kindness is shared without any knowledge that it will be returned.  The Apostle Paul shares with us that God adopts us.  Imagine God taking such a risk out of love for you!  What’s equally as astounding and surprising is that it gives God pleasure to adopt us!  It gives God pleasure or joy to make us a part of God’s family.

 

Reflection Questions

What gives you pleasure?  What is it about this thing which sparks joy in you?

The idea of God taking pleasure in our world is counter to many ideas about God.  Why do you think it gives God pleasure to adopt you?

How do you feel that God chooses you to be God’s child, despite the risks involved?

 

Prayer

Holy God, thank you for continuing to take pleasure in our world, even when it’s messed up.  Thank you for adopting me as your child and as an heir to the promises of Jesus.  Amen.

October 29th

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ 33 They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’

34 Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8:31-36

 

Reflection

For most of the 1500 years before Jesus shared these words, the Jewish people were slaves.  They were slaves to the Assyrians and the Babylonians. As Jesus was talking with them, they were gathered together to celebrate God freeing them from slavery in Egypt!  So why would they say that they had always been free? From the very beginning of time, God’s desire is for people to love and know Him and love their neighbors.  Through heartbreak, physical slavery, and spiritual upheaval, God was faithful to his people.  In Jesus, we are set free from trying to do life on our own, trying to be perfect, even our own sin.  Freedom in Christ means being connected with God, or as scripture says, freedom in Christ means we abide or live in God. Our relationship with God is marked by knowing each other.

A few years ago, we went on vacation to the Florida Keys.  At John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, we took a boat from the land to snorkel above and besides a quarter mile long coral reef.  It was a perfect eighty degree day, the water was warm, and the coral reef was filled with brilliant, almost neon fish and vegetation.  After purposefully snorkeling to see it all for an hour, I floated in the waves, completely effortlessly.  I knew the glory of the Lord in the beautiful colors, the perfect day, and God’s incredible creation.  I felt like I knew God’s love for our world. Floating in that water, I felt forgiven and free in Christ, and I felt completely known and loved by God.

 

Reflection Questions

How do you know God?  How does God know you?  How do you shape your days so that you abide in God?

When do you feel free?  Free from sin and guilt?

Think of the most beautiful place you’ve ever been: Pelican Lake, the Florida Keys or a baby delivery room.  What insight can we glean about God from beautiful places?

 

Prayer

Gracious God, in you, we are free.  Thank you for loving and forgiving us. Help us to abide in you. Amen.

October 30th

Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,* a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, ‘Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.’ 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this good news* is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

Matthew 26:6-13

 

Reflection 

Jesus taught his followers that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Christianity has repeatedly emphasized the importance of giving to the needy, caring for the less fortunate, and putting aside one’s own desires for the good of the neighbor.  Given this strong emphasis, today’s story can appear strange—a woman comes to Jesus and dumps out an expensive bottle of perfume on his feet. His disciples question this—wouldn’t it have been better to spend this money on something useful, like giving to the poor? Instead of agreeing with them, though, Jesus defends the woman—he says that she has done a beautiful thing for him. Why doesn’t Jesus agree with them? Is he changing his mind about the need to help others? No. Instead, this story reminds us that while we should give to the poor and we should focus on helping our neighbor, we must never forget the lavish nature of grace. At some points, we need to give to others; at other times, we need to receive gifts from others and receive them as grace. Grace upsets our moral sensibilities; but it is precisely in these moments that we may experience love, kindness, and God’s abundance.

Reflection Questions

Where in your life have you experienced the lavishness of grace? What was this experience like? How did you receive these lavish gestures of grace?

Prayer

Giver of all good gifts, you call upon us to share your abundant blessings in the world. You also call upon us to receive these blessings in a spirit of love and gratitude. Please help us experience your grace in all things.  Amen.

October 31st

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present* help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of the city;* it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. 6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. 7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.* 8 Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth.  9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. 10 ‘Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’  11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.*

 

Psalm 46

Reflection

On this day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. These theses questioned the authority of the pope, the practices of the church, and the role of grace in the life of Christians. The theses provoked a great controversy and the church demanded that Luther retract all of his writings. At a hearing in front of the religious and political leaders of the time, Luther bravely proclaimed: “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand: may God help me.” Luther was condemned as an outlaw and excommunicated from the church. Yet, Luther found solace in God alone. Luther knew, as the Psalm proclaims, that God alone, and not the church or the state, is our refuge; God alone is our strength, a very present help in trouble. In Luther’s words, God is a mighty fortress, a very present help in trouble.

 

Reflection Questions

What has been your experience reading the Bible for thirty days?  In what ways has God been a refugee or strength to you? How can you rely more upon God?

 

Faith Activity

Read a book or watch a movie about the life of Luther. What strikes you about his life? How did his faith keep him strong in times of trouble and fear?

 

Prayer

God, you are a mighty fortress. You provide comfort to the afflicted and defend us against all wrongdoing. Keep us safe in your mighty arms.  Amen.