Daily Devotionals

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Today’s Scripture: John 14:15-21

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

 

Today’s Devotional

Besides being an advocate who will never leave us – we learn in this passage that the Holy Spirit leads into all truth. I don’t know about you, but I NEED this aspect of the Holy Spirit.

You see, we’re not really good at telling ourselves the truth. We’re also not really good at picking out the truth – we can get so overwhelmed with information that it can be difficult to know what’s real and what’s in our imaginations.

We tend to ignore facts and go with feelings. We tend to make mountains out of molehills. We tend to let one loud opinion trick us into believing “everyone thinks this”. This is where the Holy Spirit can come in.

Jesus tells us in this passage that the Holy Spirit leads into all truth. The Holy Spirit is a truth-teller and one who guides us to that truth! When we are feeling like we just don’t know what is happening – when we can’t discern what is real and what is our own overactive imagination – when we allow ourselves to believe the worst about a situation or a person – the Holy Spirit is there to lead us into all truth.

Try this. The next time your world seems confusing or you find yourself sinking down a hole of “everyone thinks this” – ask the Holy Spirit to show you the truth. That’s what’s the Holy Spirit is there for! And I think we could all use some Holy Spirit truth in our lives.

 

Today’s Prayer

Holy Spirit, life can get really crazy. Help us to see the truth instead of fiction. Help us to see truth instead of emotion. Help us to see truth instead of our own desires.

Amen

Wednesday May 26, 2021

Today’s Scripture: John 14:15-21

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

 

Today’s Devotional

There are two important things we learn about the Spirit in this passage from the Gospel of John. We’ll look at the first one today and the second one tomorrow. First, we learn that the Holy Spirit is our Advocate.

The Greek word translated “advocate” in this passage is paraclete. In other places you might see paraclete translated as “comforter” or “encourager”. These are important aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit. For example, when we feel a calmness come over us in the middle of stress or we notice a feeling of comfort in our grief – this is the Holy Spirit. When we feel encouraged even though things might be going in a direction we don’t like – this the is the Holy Spirit.

But the Holy Spirit is also our advocate. What does that mean exactly? Well, it means that the Holy Spirit is God being on our side. “If God is for us, who can be against us,” is the way Paul put it in the letter to the Romans. In other words, it’s the Holy Spirit who has our back. It’s the Holy Spirit who cheers for us, supports us, points us in the right direction. It’s the Holy Spirit who will speak for us – like an advocate in court. It’s the Holy Spirit who is focused on our well-being.

Sometimes we can feel like we are all alone. We can get to thinking that there is no one on our side and that the things we are going through just aren’t important to anyone else. In times like these we can shut down and not want to move forward at all. But the paraclete is made for times like these! We have an advocate – someone in our corner – someone who is ready to guide us in the right direction and fight for us even if we don’t think we can fight for ourselves.

 

Today’s Prayer

Thank you God for sending us an advocate. Remind us when we feel alone that we have a paraclete on our side at all times.

Amen

Today’s Scripture: Acts 16:6-10

Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.

That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.

 

Today’s Devotional

When I was in my last church, we had a staff member who had a sign in her office that read “Never Ignore A Prompting From the Holy Spirit”. I thought about that sign last week as I was working on Pentecost worship. And that got me thinking about her. So, I took the sign to heart and reached out to her.

Turns out things have not been going great. She now has a business that was severely impacted by the pandemic. Her health is not great. She just needed some encouragement which I was happy to give.

This is the way the Holy Spirit sometimes works. We receive a “prompting” – a nudge to do something. It’s not in your face and it’s usually easy to ignore it.  If we do ignore the prompting, the world is not going to end. But if we recognize it and follow it some amazing things tend to happen.

Promptings usually involve other people – but not always. Sometimes it’s a prompting to take care of ourselves or to take a break from what it is we are letting run our lives at the moment.

Promptings are little pushes that help us navigate the world we live in. We sometimes call it gut instinct – and I believe the more we listen to the Holy Spirit, and act on what we hear – the more promptings we will get. Promptings are real and we need to pay attention to them.

Of course we have to be discerning. Sometimes we think we have a prompting when in reality we just want some gossip. So maybe we don’t go around saying “The Holy Spirit told me to call you” or “The Holy Spirit told me to take this afternoon off.” Instead, just follow the prompting and see what happens. The more we do this the more we will learn what is from the Holy Spirit and what is not.

So keep your Holy Spirt antennae up this week and see how God might use you!

 

 Today’s Prayer

Holy Spirit, we are open to any promptings you might give us. Help us to discern what is from you and what is not. Help us to act instead of ignore. Give us wisdom to know what is from you and what is not.

Amen

Today’s Scripture: Genesis 1:20-22

20 Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”

 

Today’s Devotional

Lessons From The Pond

As we end our week about lessons from the pond, I wanted to share another poem with you from Mary Oliver. It’s called: “Spring at Blackwater: I Go Through The Lessons Already Learned”.

 

He gave the fish

her coat of foil,

and her soft eggs.

He made the kingfisher’s

quick eye

and her peerless, terrible beak.

He made the circles

of the days and the seasons

to close tightly,

and forever –

 

then open again.

 

Today’s Prayer

Thank you God for using nature to remind us of truths about you and about life. Help us to see you and your handiwork today. Help us to remember that you created it all.

Amen

 

Today’s Scripture: Mark 6:35-44

35 Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. 36 Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.”

37 But Jesus said, “You feed them.”

“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!”

38 “How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.”

They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.”

39 Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.

41 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. 42 They all ate as much as they wanted, 43 and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. 44 A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed.

 

Today’s Devotional

Lessons From The Pond

Last week I walked by the pond in the church courtyard and saw several black things swimming around. I made my way over the pond (scaring the fish into retreat under the waterfall) and discovered…tadpoles! Not just a few tadpoles either. I counted over 50!

Immediately my mind went into a small panic. Are we about to have a plague of over 50 frogs overrunning the church courtyard? What will we do? Will we have to trap them? Will there be so many we can’t walk out there? Will they all jump on me when I walk by. (In case you missed it, I’m not a huge fan of frogs.)

My brain was going into what I call “future catastrophe” mode. It takes one piece of information and immediately catastrophizes it into the future. For example, a little pain in my knee means it has to be replaced. A friend not returning a text for a few hours means I’ve done something to upset them and I’ll never have any friends again. A gas pipeline being shut down for a week means I need to buy a bicycle and will never again be able to fill my car. Yup, I’m very good at catastrophizing.

We are going to get frogs in the pond, that’s true. But it won’t be a plague. Most of the tadpoles won’t mature. The truth is, our future catastrophes almost never materialize into actual catastrophes. But when we allow ourselves to go there, our bodies react as if it’s true. And it seems that when we future catastrophize, we tend to leave God out of our thinking.

The disciples did this with Jesus and the feeding of the 5,000. They saw dinnertime coming and immediately thought – this is going to be a catastrophe. It’s almost like they forgot who they were dealing with! Of course, Jesus took the potential catastrophe and made it into a demonstration of his care and love and power.

Maybe we should remember that the next time our minds want to run to the worst-case scenario!

 

Today’s Prayer

Thank you God for using nature to remind us of truths about you and about life. Help us this day to not catastrophize but to instead trust that you have our future in your hands.

Amen

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 14:22-27

22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

 

Today’s Devotional

Lessons From The Pond

The fish that live in the pond in the church’s courtyard have given me a complex. When I walk up to the pond, they are usually swimming in the middle of it. However, just as soon as I get near, they skedaddle to under the waterfall – away from my presence.

Sometimes one of them doesn’t notice me and stays out swimming – until my shadow crosses its path. Then, like a bullet, it dashes to the safety of the waterfall. Some of the fish never even leave that safe place.

The fish don’t know that I’m safe too. They see a sense a large shadow from above and their innate protection scheme kicks into gear. “I just want to look at you” I say. But they still swim away scared.

Fear is like this. It’s built deep into our brains. In fact, scientists have discovered that fear does not begin in our frontal cortex – where we reason. Instead, it starts in our amygdala – with fight or flight. Something gets triggered in us and we immediately react with fear.

Of course, fear itself is not bad. It keeps us alive. The problem comes when our frontal cortex does not dial the fear back. We get stuck in a loop of worry and anxiety which can lead us to being in a state of low-level fear just about all the time. It can feel like we are always living under the waterfall and never enjoying swimming.

I believe fear is one of the most dangerous issues facing believers. Jesus spoke A LOT about fear. The Psalmist wrote about it. It seems like God is saying to us that if we get trapped in fear, we are not experiencing the life God wants for us. Fear pushes us under the waterfall, but God wants us out enjoying the pond.

 

Today’s Prayer

Thank you God for using nature to remind us of truths about you and about life. Help us to recognize fear in our lives today and to turn that fear over to you.

Amen

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 6:25-27

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

 

Today’s Devotional

Lessons From The Pond

As you know, Westwood has a courtyard with a pond in it. I will admit to you that this pond has been life-giving to me during these months of the pandemic – especially last Spring.  So I thought this week in our devotionals I would give you some lessons from the pond that I have learned over these months.

Today’s lesson: no matter how crazy life is – it’s calm in the pond

You may remember before we went into lockdown that we had some really large goldfish in the pond. These guys were always slow movers and would actually lower your blood pressure if you stared at them long enough. I hate to share bad news – but none of these guys are still with us.

We really don’t know how old they were. Ginger Beecher, the keeper of the pond, says they were donated to us. I am sure they lived a long and full live. And of course, they spent their last years in one amazing pond!

I have to admit that I was sad to see them die. They were comforting to watch, and I miss them. They really did help calm me down. But there are still other fish in the pond. And these guys – while not as big and not as graceful – still provide that calming effect. It seems that no matter how crazy life can get above the pond, below the surface life just keeps moving along at a steady, calm pace. Sometimes things can disrupt the calm of the pond (like a branch falling in). But pretty quickly the pond adapts and goes back to normal.

Maybe God is using the pond to remind us to just keep swimming and leave anxiety and worry above the surface.

 

Today’s Prayer

Thank you God for using nature to remind us of truths about you and about life. Help us today to remain in the calm cool waters of peace – no matter what might be happening above the surface.

Amen

Today’s Scripture: 2 Samuel 15:9b-12

So Absalom went to Hebron. 10 But while he was there, he sent secret messengers to all the tribes of Israel to stir up a rebellion against the king. “As soon as you hear the ram’s horn,” his message read, “you are to say, ‘Absalom has been crowned king in Hebron.’” 11 He took 200 men from Jerusalem with him as guests, but they knew nothing of his intentions. 12 While Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel, one of David’s counselors who lived in Giloh. Soon many others also joined Absalom, and the conspiracy gained momentum.

13 A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell David, “All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!”

14 “Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.”

 

Today’s Devotional

David’s family was not perfect. That’s an understatement. One of his son’s raped one of his daughters. Another son killed his brother. That same son tried to overthrow his father and become King. It seems that most of David’s later life was caught up with the problems caused by his kids. Today we would call this family “dysfunctional”. However, I’ve never really liked that term. Families are families. Sometimes they work well, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes individuals in families act with love, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes things happen that rock the peace of the family. Rather than label a family dysfunctional – maybe we can call them “a work in progress”.

All families are works in progress. Families are complex systems made up of complex individuals with separate egos and ego needs. When you put all these ingredients together, they sometimes don’t mix well. And sometimes they explode. This goes double for church families!

But all families are a work in progress. No family is perfect. We are going to get things wrong. Individuals in our families are going to make us mad, disappoint us, and keep us up in the night worrying about them. But our job is to keep working on it.

Our job is to keep on loving. Our job is to ask for forgiveness for how we treat each other and to grant forgiveness for the way they treat us.  Our job is to live like Christ.

Family work is hard work. In fact, living as Christ inside a family might be the hardest place to do so! And yet families are a gift from God.

So keep working on yours. It’s worth it.

 

Today’s Prayer

God thank you for our families – even though they frustrate us sometimes. Help us to keep working on them. And help us to be more like Christ as we interact with them.

Amen

Today’s Scripture: 2 Samuel 11:6-11

Then David sent word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent him to David. When Uriah arrived, David asked him how Joab and the army were getting along and how the war was progressing. Then he told Uriah, “Go on home and relax.” David even sent a gift to Uriah after he had left the palace. But Uriah didn’t go home. He slept that night at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard.

10 When David heard that Uriah had not gone home, he summoned him and asked, “What’s the matter? Why didn’t you go home last night after being away for so long?”

11 Uriah replied, “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I would never do such a thing.”

Today’s Devotional

The book of 2 Samuel covers David’s reign as king. It was quite an interesting kingship! One of the racier items was when David slept with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah which resulted in a pregnancy.

David tried many different things to cover up his sin – including what is described in this passage. Ultimately David had Uriah killed by placing him on the front line of a battle.

I wonder what would have happened if David had just confessed to God? It seems David never contemplated this course of action. And yet in the end the truth still came out. The only difference was the extra damage done by David’s attempt at a cover-up – including the death of Uriah and the death of the child.

We really do not want to fess up to God sometimes. Maybe we are embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid of consequences. But time and time again in scripture we see that God wants us to be honest with him – and God always forgives. Yes, we are embarrassed and ashamed and yes there are always consequences. But in coming clean before God we soon realize that we are loved and forgiven.

Since Easter Sunday we have had a moment of confession in our worship time. There is a reason for that. We need to get in the habit of coming before God with the ways we have failed to live as God would have us live and love as God would have us love. We need to be honest about our failures instead of learning to cover them up. And we need to hear those words of assurance – that we are forgiven, thanks be to God.

 

Today’s Prayer

God forgive us for not coming to you with our confessions. Forgive us of our cover-ups and the ways that we try to downplay what we have done. Remind us that you love us and you want honesty from us. Remind us also that we are forgiven.

Amen

Today’s Scripture: I Samuel 18:6-11

When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. This was their song:

“Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his ten thousands!”

This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

10 The very next day a tormenting spirit from God overwhelmed Saul, and he began to rave in his house like a madman. David was playing the harp, as he did each day. But Saul had a spear in his hand, 11 and he suddenly hurled it at David, intending to pin him to the wall. But David escaped him twice.

 

Today’s Devotional

I once had someone tell me “Jealousy doesn’t look good on you.” Um, excuse me? I quickly added anger to my jealousy look. And now that I look back on it – both are not good on me.

Jealousy rarely looks good on anyone. And yet we constantly are comparing ourselves with others and measuring what they have against what we have. If we let jealously fester, it can turn quickly into toxic competition and seething anger. It can damage any hope of a relationship with the person we are jealous of. It leads us to breaking one of the 10 commandments (Thou shall not covet). And yes, it looks bad on us.

Saul begins to get jealous of David when the people start singing David’s praise and insinuating that he was a better fighter than Saul. The jealousy burned in him so much that he occasionally lashed out – even throwing a spear at David – twice! In the end, the jealousy of Saul leads David into exile in order to protect his own life. Jealousy can do a lot of damage.

And yet, jealousy can be hard for us to see in ourselves. We usually need a trusted friend to point it out to us. (And yet, we still might get mad at them!). The thing is – jealousy is real and can do a lot of damage to our relationships. It can hinder our connection to others and even draw our attention away from the things God has given to us. Take a moment today and do a jealousy check and then ask God to help you move on.

 

Today’s Prayer

God forgive us for the times we put our trust in what other people have instead of what you have given us. Forgive us for holding on to jealousy. Forgive us for allowing it to turn into covetous feelings. Help us to identify jealousy in our lives and lead us to confession when we find it.

Amen