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

Glimpses of Grace for August 7, 2017

Devotional Reading: Mark 8: 11-21

Text: The Pharisees came and began to argue with Him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test Him. (v. 11)

Proof is not faith and faith is not proof.

In today’s reading even the disciples of Jesus, His followers, wondered who He was. Had those closest to Him, who walked with Him every day, forgotten the miraculous feeding of the 5000? He asked. Had they so soon forgotten the healings, the restorations, and the everyday wonders of walking with Him? Did they, too, need “proof?” It seemed as if they did.

While we cannot always understand the events of life, but can we at least believe that God is in the mix somewhere, working out the Divine Purpose in ways beyond our understanding? Maybe God’s “back story” is yet to be revealed.

It may be that we simply need to tell ourselves, “I don’t know what God is doing or what this all means, but I know that God is faithful. God is here with me. God will show me the way when I see no way.”

I remember picking my way across a creek near my house. I looked for rocks that were above the water line. Some were slippery and best not used, but I managed to “pick” my way across the creek one step at a time. Maybe we need to “build a bridge” as we walk over troubled waters.

That little mental reminder can be a source of strength and courage and hope.

Lord, help me to never forget that You are with me in all of life’s circumstances and events. Give me the faith to trust in Your Presence. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for August 6, 2017

Devotional Reading: Psalm 23

Text:  The LORD is my shepherd. (v. 1a)

At the end of the day, when I lay in bed and close my eyes, I say a silent prayer to myself. I then mentally review the day now finished. I don’t dwell on any one moment, I just do a quick review, kind of like watching a home movie. Often, before falling to sleep, I will begin to recite the 23rd Psalm, an evening psalm. I may not finish the psalm before “the sandman” carries me off but one of the last words I silently say to myself are, “The LORD is my shepherd.”

The LORD is with me in all of the day’s events. I frequently, silently ask for help; wisdom, courage, strength. At the end of the day I know that the LORD watches over me as I sleep. And the LORD will be there when I close my eyes one last time–whenever that will be.

My baptism was a confirmation that I am a child of God. God claimed me as a child even before I was aware of God’s existence. God claimed me as a child even if I denied God’s existence. God’s claim on my life is not based on me but upon God.

There is comfort in knowing this. I hope that you have this comfort, too.

Whenever we celebrate a baptism at the church I serve, we sing “Borning Cry.” The composer of the hymn recently experienced “one more surprise” as he passed from This Reality into the Eternal Reality. I close this devotion with his lyrics as a prayer.

“I was there to hear your borning cry,
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.
I was there when you were but a child,
with a faith to suit you well;
In a blaze of light you wandered off
to find where demons dwell.”
“When you heard the wonder of the Word
I was there to cheer you on;
You were raised to praise the living Lord,
to whom you now belong.
If you find someone to share your time
and you join your hearts as one,
I’ll be there to make your verses rhyme
from dusk ’till rising sun.”
In the middle ages of your life,
not too old, no longer young,
I’ll be there to guide you through the night,
complete what I’ve begun.
When the evening gently closes in,
and you shut your weary eyes,
I’ll be there as I have always been
with just one more surprise.”
“I was there to hear your borning cry,
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.”*

*John Ylvistaker, 1937-2017

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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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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for August 4, 2017

Devotional Reading: Mark 7: 24-37

Text: (Jesus) said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered  Him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (vss. 27 & 28)

There are a lot of things in life I do not understand. Cancer, for example. It hits the youngest and oldest, good and the bad alike. That seems most unfair. I don’t understand it.

It you read today’s devotional reading you are no doubt troubled by the exchange between Jesus and the woman asking Him to free her daughter from a demon. The majority of commentaries that I read say that Mark is the first gospel written and the most unedited. Other gospels may “clean it up” a bit but that doesn’t change the troubling nature of the story. If there is any good news to be had, it is that Jesus I exorcize the child’s demon. But, it’s still troubling, and I still don’t understand. I doubt I ever will, this side of the grave.

Yet, I don’t need to understand the story or even much of life in order to be faithful. I know that God is good, that God is love, and that perfect love casts out fear. I know that God does not need my understanding to redeem the broken. I know that God can bring “possible” out of the “impossible”. As the old gospel hymn declared, God can make a way out of no way.

Lord, thank You for not depending upon my small mind to understand Your ways. Bless my questioning and my doubting. Redeem my brokenness and the brokenness of this world. Amen.

 

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for August 3, 2017

Devotional Reading: Mark 7: 1-23

Text: ‘This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.’ (Jesus quoting the prophet Isaiah v. 6b)

When I was a kid the “big issue” in the church my family attended was whether or not women could wear slacks in the sanctuary! Oh my! Over the years the “big issue” has changed. Are blue jeans acceptable? How about shorts? How short can shorts be before they are too short? What about coffee or tea? I really don’t know the answer to any of those questions but I’ve lived in enough different places to know that such questions are a reflection of local custom, culture and upbringing. As a minister I’m just happy that they’re in worship!

Jesus quoted the Old Testament prophet Isaiah in response to criticism that His disciples were not keeping the traditions of the elders. Jesus was respectful of the elders and kept the traditions Himself, but He also knew that in Him God was doing “a new thing.” Some traditions had to be put to rest for they served their time.

I think that God is still doing a new thing. There have been many books recently written about this. I don’t know exactly what God is doing but I trust God. In the meantime I just have to sow the mustard seeds of God’s love every day.

Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? Help me answer honestly, O Lord. Amen. (based on the writings of Henri Nouwen)

 

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for August 2, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 6: 47-56

Text: “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” (v. 50)

My father had a tattoo on his right forearm. He got it in Cuba during World War Two. When I was small it still had its colors but by the time he died it was merely a blue blob.

I have found that there is a story behind every tattoo. His was a ribbon with “Mother” in memory of his mother. Above it was an American flag with 48 stars. Below was a flower.  One has to be careful because skin art is essentially forever.

I often wondered what tattoo I would have if I ever got one. I think that it would be today’s text; “Be not afraid.”

I’m afraid of many things. Irrational things. I always have been. Yet Jesus’ words to the disciples is the same word the angel spoke to Mary. It is what God whispered to the Old Testament prophets. It is a word that God still whispers in the hearts of those who decide to take Jesus seriously.

“Be not afraid, it is I.” Yes, be not afraid;  God is right here.

Lord, you did not give me a fearful spirit but a spirit of  power and strength and discipline. Let me never forget that. Amen. 

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

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for August 1, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: (Mark 6: 30-46)

Text: “You give them something to eat.”  (v. 37)

“You know, somebody really ought to do something about that!”

“I hope that someone steps up and takes care of that!”

“I just hope that someone takes responsibility and fixes that!”

You’ve probably heard those expressions and may have even said all or one of them yourself. I know that I have.

Today’s lesson is the “feeding of the 5000”, the only “miracle” that appears in all four of the New Testament gospels. Overwhelmed by the magnitude of feeding so many people the disciples ask Jesus to them them away–to send them home–or to at least do something about it! And He does, but what He does may surprise you!

In the movie Bruce Almighty the main character thinks that he can do a better job at being God than God can. So God gives Bruce the reins and watches him make a mess of everything. Suddenly Bruce realizes that being God is hard and complicated and simply too much. A humbler Bruce tells God that he gives up.

“You know what your problem is, Bruce? You wanted a miracle. Well, Bruce, you be the miracle.”*

Jesus turned the tables on the disciples. He told them to feed the 5000. I believe that with all of the hurt and brokenness in the world, Jesus still calls those who would take Him seriously to do something about it. But how? It’s really quite simple and oh, so hard.

Inventory your resources, all of them. The truth of the matter is that we have more than we give ourselves credit for having. Second, dedicate our resources to Him. Then, when Jesus gives them back to you, use them to do the work you are called to do.

You be the miracle.

Lord, give me insight and courage; insight to see my assets and courage to follow You. Amen.

*A summary of the dialogue for brevity.

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