Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, Martin Luther, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalm, Psalms, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 14, 2017

As you walk west up the streets of Edinburgh’s “Royal Mile” an imposing figure looms before you; The Edinburgh Castle. Standing on a craggy volcanic rock, it has been a place of refuge and symbol of power for at least 3000 years. Above the drawbridge gate there  is a crest with inscription written in Latin; Anemone me impugned laces sit, which means, “No one attacks me with impunity.”

As I read those words in this, the 500th year of Luther’s birth, I recalled his great hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God,  A bulwark never failing.” 

God is our refuge and our strength,” the Psalmist wrote, “very present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear.” (Psalm 46: 1&2a)

We live in a very fearful time. The late Edwin Friedman described this as “a time of free-floating anxiety” manifested by a “failure of nerve”. We seek quick answers and easy fixes. Your team isn’t winning? Replace the coach. Business is lagging? Replace the CEO. Not  happy at home? Find a new spouse. But the problem isn’t “them”, it’s “us”–we just don’t have the “nerve”, the “courage” to own up to it. 

I suspect that the Psalmist faced such a time as this when he penned the words to Psalm 46. “Though the waters roar and the mountains shake …God is in the midst. (vss. 3&5) Those are truly words of grace … Glimpses of grace. 

Let we forget Whose in charge, the Psalm ends on a note of faith and conviction. Be still and know that I am God … The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (vss. 10a & 11) That’s more than words; that’s a promise. 

Lord when my heart is troubled or worried or anxious, give me the grace to rest in Your Presence. Remind me that You are in the midst of life’s storms and turmoil. Remove me fear and give me courage as well as a peace that passes all human understanding. Amen.

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Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, I John, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace for October 13,2017

Standing in the quiet silence of the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral,  I saw the North Sea in the distance. The  wind and mist blew in my face and I fell into a trance of wonderment of what was. The Present broke in, though, by the distant sounds of children at play, the distinctive tweet of a teacher’s whistle, and the snap of a kicked soccer ball.

Jesus once told His disciples, as they stood in awe of the grandeur of the Temple, that there would come a day when not one stone would lie upon another. It was hard for the twelve to hear and others simply didn’t want to hear it, but Jesus knew that nothing in this world last forever. Nothing. New cities are built on long forgotten ruins. In these new cities couples fall in love, babies are born, children laugh and play with each new beginning calling us, no, inviting us, into an unknown Future.  Remember this: in the midst of ruins there are always new beginnings.

Jesus’ death was not the End. It was the precursor of  a New Beginning. And even now The Story–God’s Story–has not ended. The Resurrected One continues to call, guide and lead us into a Future that is known only to God. This Future did not frighten the writer of John’s first letter. It didn’t frighten him because he knew something that we often forget. He preached it to his dying day. “God is love…and perfect love casts out fear.” L(1 John 4:9&14) Let this be today’s glimpse of grace: be not afraid. We may not know what the future holds, but we do know in Whose Hands it is held.

Lord, give me the courage to commit my whole self, my very life and the lives of all whom I love, into Your loving hands. 

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Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for August 9, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 8: 34-9:1

Text: For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and the gospel, will save it. (v. 35)

My biggest regrets in life is when I played it safe; I was afraid to take a chance. Too often I was afraid, to be painfully honest. Opportunities were lost because of my fear. I cannot help but to wonder if God was disappointed in me, not in a bad sort of way, but in the way a parent feels for their child when they don’t apply themselves. It’s a disappointment born of sadness.

I think that while God understood my fears and even forgave me, I also think that God wished that I would have trusted Him more. My lack of trust diminished His glory.

I don’t know where I would have been if I had trusted more. I still struggle trusting God but I am getting better at it.

If you have trouble trusting God with your future, I will pray for you…for all who are fellow strugglers in the journey.

Lord God, give me a discerning heart and the courage needed to take Jesus seriously, for it is only in taking Him seriously that we will find Your purpose in our lives. Amen.

 

 

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Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, Feeding of 5000, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for August 5, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 8: 1-10

Text: They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. (v. 8)

I once hired a personal trainer to help me regain some of the strength of my younger days. He wasn’t, what I call, a “frog man” with muscles not found in nature or pictured in the back of the comic books of my childhood. He looked like a normal everyday kind of guy with no visible body fat. Our workouts were an hour, and he would encourage as well as challenge me. When I thought I could do no more, he’d ask me to do just one more. Lo and behold, I always managed to do one more!

I thought of him after reading today’s gospel story. Individual followers of Jesus, as well as groups of us, do not know how much we can really do if push comes to shove. Often we are satisfied with “good enough” instead of doing just one more.

The disciples did not know how they were going to feed the 5000. Jesus asked them to bring their resources to Him. He blessed it before giving it back to them.  “Okay, let’s see what we can do.” They did far more than they ever imagined; as a matter of fact, they had left-overs.

I am reminded of what the Risen Lord said to Paul; “My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9) When we say, “There’s not enough”, God says, “Yes, there is.” When we say, “I’m not enough,” God says, “Yes you are!”

Lord, Let me not see scarcity but plenty. Let me not be afraid to try even if I fail. Let me never think that I am not enough, because You know that I am. Amen.

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Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, Forgiveness, I John, Love, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for May 2, 2017

Devotional Reading: I John4: 7-21

Text; No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us. (v. 12)

I don’t read a lot of poetry but today’s devotional reading drew me to two poems in Gordon and Gladis DePree’s book of poetry, Faces of God (Westminster Press, c. 1974).

Recognizing the stranger/ As a face of God/ Takes so much of the suspicion and hostility/ Out of Life./ Perhaps I have never met you before…/But if I look at you with an open face,/ Accepting you as a valid person,/ With no need to judge/ Whether you conform to my standards or not,/ Will you really seem to be a stranger?/ Or will we have the vague feeling/ That we must have met somewhere before?’

Somehow viewing the stranger as a face of God/ Changes the other as well as me./ For if I have seen God in the other,/ How can he see less in himself?

*****

When I think of myself/ And you/ As faces of God,/ Praying seems different …/ Should I still close my eyes/ And pray to somewhere,/ Or should we open our eyes/ And look at each other,/ Aware of our mutual life/ And the source of life beyond us both?

What would happen if we prayed about a problem,/ Looking at each other?/ If we prayed about a worry,/ Looking at each other?/ If we prayed about an anger,/ Looking at each other?

It is not as though we pray to each other,/ But how could I look into your face,/ A face of God,/ And be a hypocrite?

When the Old Testament patriarch, Jacob, decided that he had to return home and face the brother he wronged, he was afraid. But for once in his life he decided to trust the God’s Providential Care. He had a fitful night’s sleep, wrestling with a Stranger on the banks if the Jabok River.

The next day, when he met his brother Esau he was surprised to be met not with a sword but with unconditional love. Looking into Esau’s face he said, “To see your face is like seeing the Face of God.” (Genesis 33:10)

Our challenge today, and every day, is to see the face of God in the other for each one of us have been created in the Divine Image. When we learn to love the other, we learn what God’s love for us really is.

Lord, open my eyes that I may see Your reflection in everyone that I meet, even in the faces of those I wish to avoid. Amen.

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Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, Love, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Gospel of John, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for April 23, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 14: 1-7.

Text: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. (v. 1)

I find this reading to be one of, if not the, most reassuring passages in the Bible. It occurs on the last night, after Jesus showed His disciples what discipleship means by washing their feet–the lowest of all household tasks.

And then He assured them not to be afraid because God’s love is neverending. A place has already been prepared for them in the Presence of God. A nameplate has been placed at their seat in the Kingdom. They are already checked into the Eternal dwelling place, so what is there to be afraid of?

Jesus went on to answer Thomas’s question by reminding the 12, and us, that He has shown us a new Way of life, a better Way of life. In the early days His disciples were known as “people of the Way.”  They lived in the Way of Jesus, their Lord; a Way marked by forgiveness, generosity and unconditional love.

There will be stumbles along our journey. There will be times when we will betray, deny and maybe even leave the Cross of Jesus, but we are never separated from His Love, despite ourselves. Because, you see, in the end it is not about us, but God.

Lord, let not my heart be troubled. Give me the strength and the courage to walk in the Way so that everyone that I meet will know that You are God and that I am Your child. Amen.

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Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, Glory, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), Temptation, The Gospel of John, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 34th Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 12: 37-50. Morning Psalm 43; Evening Psalm 31.

Text: for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God. (v. 43)

The words jumped out at me; “they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.” No truer words were ever written or spoken. My mind immediately raced to the scene during Holy Week when Pilate, “afraid of the crowd”, ceremonially washed his hands of the events that would lead to the crucifixion of Jesus. Our politicians are too often make decisions based on poll numbers and fleeting popularity rather than on what they believe to be right. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we are no better than they are. Peer group pressure has a hold on us not matter what our age.

Human glory is an intoxicating Siren call. It speaks loudly and passionately. It demands attention. God’s voice, though, is that still small voice that we hear deep in the soul. It is the voice that Elijah heard (I Kings 19: 11-13) at the mouth of a cave. It is a voice that whispers in the stillness of the moment or the darkness of the night. It comes unexpectedly but unmistakably. As I write this I am drawn to Jesus’ words, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33)

In this season of Lent, let us remember how fickle human glory is. It waves branches in celebration one day and cries “Crucify him, crucify him” before the end of the week.

Lord, make me attentive to Your still small voice. While I must live in this world I need not be of it. Let me see You as my guiding North Star throughout life. Amen.

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