Archive for devotions

Daily Walk Jan 3 – 9

Monday, January 3, 2011: Feast
Daily reading: Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 21:1-4
This text looks forward to the day when God’s promised restoration will be fulfilled. No longer will God’s people need to hide in walled cities for fear of war. Instead, God’s Kingship will be celebrated with a feast on God’s mountain. The poor, the needy, and the alien will be special guests. God will be a faithful refuge for his faithful people, and God will restore all that has been broken by sin. Just as in John’s revelation, death will be swallowed up and every tear will be wiped away. God’s people will be restored. This is one of many texts that portray the consummation of God’s work of reconciliation and recreation as a wedding feast. There will be abundance for all people, provided free from God’s gracious hand. Think of the most fabulous feast you’ve ever experienced. We simply can’t imagine the greatness of this feast that God has planned. In your life, look for ways that you can experience a “foretaste” of the feast to come. Pray for God to open your vision of the future to what God has in mind.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011: Manna
Daily reading: Exodus 16:31-36; Revelation 2:16-17
We cannot pray these simple words, “give us this day our daily bread” without being catapulted back into the story of the exodus. God’s people wander through the wilderness, crying out in hunger, “Why did God drag us out of Egypt just to starve us to death?” God responds by sending bread from heaven. Manna, a white flaky substance, covers the ground each morning. God commands the Israelites to gather enough manna to make enough bread for one day. Here the story gets interesting, because some of the Israelites gather more than they need for the day, perhaps to ensure they have enough for tomorrow. But what was left over rotted. When we pray “give us this day our daily bread,” we’re not only asking that God would provide just what we need for this day, we’re also asking that we might learn to live one day at a time, trusting in God’s daily provision. Are trusting that God will provide just enough for each day? Ask God to help you trust in God’s provision for today.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011: Foretaste
Daily reading: Leviticus 23:4-8; Matthew 26:26-29
The Bible often talks about God’s vision for the future as a great banquet in which there is abundance for everyone. Perhaps this isn’t so much a prayer for whatever we need to sustain us today. Perhaps it’s actually a request for a “foretaste of the feast to come,” a nibble, an appetizer to keep our faith alive and whet our appetite for the future. For Christians, the Lord’s Supper is one form of this “foretaste” of the coming feast. When we gather at the table we get just a glimpse of the coming reality of the Kingdom. We are God’s people who know the promise of God, that one day God’s Kingdom dream will be fully revealed. What things in your life give you a “foretaste” of the feast to come? In your prayers, ask God to remind you of this coming feast in the small and ordinary things of life.

Thursday, January 6, 2011: Prayer
Daily reading: Matthew 6:5-15
Jesus’ teaching about prayer falls in the middle of his Sermon on the Mount, his teaching about life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus focuses on our hearts more than the outer form of prayer. Prayer is not about performance, but relationship with God. The number of words matters less than our heart’s inclination. In your prayers, do you ever struggle to find the right words? Don’t worry. You don’t have to use the right words. Incline your heart toward God and trust that God listens to your prayers and, in time, will answer them.

Friday, January 7, 2011: Prayer 2
Daily reading: Psalm 39:12; Matthew 21:21-22
Jesus says two core things about prayer. First, it’s a matter between you and God. While Jesus isn’t forbidding public prayer, he is saying that God is the recipient of prayer, not other people. How often do you get hung up on your words when you pray? Some who pray in public try to impress others with their smooth words, and some refuse to pray publicly because they are afraid that they aren’t articulate enough. The question is, “articulate enough for whom?” The second thing Jesus says about prayer is that we don’t need to pray with an endless amounts of words. The “pagans” that Jesus refers to could be those who prayed magical incantations, repeating the same words over and over, in an attempt to get God’s attention. But we already have God’s attention. Our prayers need to be honest, heart-felt, and to the point. God wants our prayers, and we need to pray. Today, talk to God in an honest, heart-felt, to the point way.

Saturday, January 8, 2011: Persistence
Daily reading: Matthew 6:7-8; Acts 2:37-42
You might ask: “If God already knows what I want and need, why should I bother to pray at all?” It’s a logical question! One answer is that words affect relationship. For example, your wife knows you love her, but it’s important for her to hear it from you, and it’s important for you to say it. Prayer also opens our hearts to give God access. What’s unspoken is not as available to God because God won’t forcefully engage us in conversation. And prayer is more about allowing God to change us than about us changing God. This tension is a mystery, but it explains why Jesus is so persistent about teaching persistence in prayer. Do you pray with persistence? Ask and keep asking, seek and keep seeking, knock and keep knocking.

Sunday, January 9, 2011: Framework
Daily reading: Matthew 6:5-15 again; Luke 11:1-4
Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer to serve as a framework. Notice the core topics that the Lord’s Prayer addresses: It begins by reminding us who God is, and therefore who we are. It reminds us of what God’s primary agenda is, and what ours is to be. We are invited to pray about our needs and the needs of the world. It addresses the need for healthy relationships and reconciliation. We are encouraged to pray for protection. It ends with a doxology in later manuscripts. Allow this framework to shape your conversation with God.

Daily Walk Dec 27-Jan 2

Monday, December 27, 2010: Present to Give Us Hope
Daily reading: Isaiah 62:6-12
According to some scholars, the book of Isaiah is really a melding of three prophets. If that’s true, our text is from third Isaiah. Third Isaiah is written to the Israelites after their return from exile, facing broken walls, a destroyed temple, and chaos. The condition of the holy city leaves them hopeless. Chapter 62 is meant to address these feelings. Third Isaiah paints a picture of Zion’s future glory, the glory of a city reborn. The people are to pray for the city day and night until God restores it and it becomes the talk of the town; indeed the whole earth (6-7). God promises that the inhabitants of the city will not be plundered again by a foreign nation who will devour their grain and wine. Instead, the people of God will enjoy the produce of the land and the fruit of their labor. Where in your life are the walls broken down? Ask God for the gift of hope for a new day.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010: Present to Point to Jesus
Daily reading: Isaiah 62:6-12 again
Salvation and restoration are indeed coming to the people of Israel who once walked in darkness; they will be compensated for their suffering (11). Once they had felt unclean and abandoned in exile, and perhaps in the currently destroyed city, but their new names point to the reality that they cannot yet see, that they are not forsaken, but sought after in love. Sorrow will give way to salvation. Read through the lens of Christmas, third Isaiah points to a reality far greater than Jerusalem. Through the gift of God’s grace in the Christ child, we are now a people who are sought out, redeemed, saved and deeply loved, even though we don’t always see it or feel like it in this broken world. Where do you need God to be more present in your life? Ask for God’s presence to point you to Jesus.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010: Present to Shepherds
Daily reading: Luke 2:8-20
Anyone but shepherds! If you had a daughter, you’d rather she marry a tax collector than a shepherd. They worked on the Sabbath, let their sheep graze on land that didn’t belong to them, and smelled like sheep. They were so low on the social scale that they were not allowed in the city, not allowed to testify in court, or even to enter the Jerusalem temple. They couldn’t be any lower on the social scale. Yet these were the very people to whom God chose to reveal the birth of his Son into the world. God often uses surprising people in surprising ways. Sometimes, when we encounter a new person, we judge them by their looks or the way they dress. It would be easy to judge a shepherd this way, but the angels know what they are doing. Who is a surprising person in your life that God is using in a surprising way? Ask God to lead you to surprising people today.

Thursday, December 30, 2010: Present for Everyone
Daily reading: Luke 2:8-20
The Savior has come for the humble of this world, those who know they haven’t got a prayer. While Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy to Abraham, the father of the Jews, Luke traces it to Adam, the father of all humanity (chapter 3). The Messiah is not just for the Jews; he has come for ALL people, and he has cosmic implications. It isn’t the righteous and religious who “get it.” It is those on the outside who respond with faith: a peasant girl, shepherds, Roman centurions, lepers. Jesus is found by and found in “the least of these.” Remember that Jesus is descended from David, who was also a shepherd. Jesus will shepherd his people. Are there people you think are outside of God’s plans? Ask God to lead you to “the least of these” today.

Friday, December 31, 2010: Present in the Face of Evil
Daily reading: Matthew 2:13-23
Another angel appears to Joseph, allowing the baby Jesus to escape Herod’s wicked intentions. We see the violent reality of the world that Jesus was born into: the slaughter of male children two years and under. Evil is one reality of every time and generation, and Jesus has come among us to be God’s presence with us, even in the midst of a cruel and messy world. This escape to Egypt echoes stories in the Old Testament and foreshadows Jesus’ fate. A peasant girl and her husband, with a new child, far from home, might not have the funds to make the journey that the angel encourages. Some scholars believe that the gifts of the Magi were the way God provided for their escape. In your life, do you see where the presence of God confronts evil? Ask God to actively confront evil in our world.

Saturday, January 1, 2010: Present in Silence
Daily reading: Isaiah 62
The relationship between God and the people of Israel resembles that of a parent and a child. The parent calls the child to a certain way of life marked by good health and sound living. But from time to time the child disobeys, tries to “do it on their own,” discovers that won’t work, and returns to the heart of the parent. The parents don’t always jump in and rescue the child; nor should they. The child must learn on his or her own. We could call this a silence; not a “silent treatment,” but certainly a learning kind of silence. This parent/child relationship is played out in Isaiah. Leading up to chapter 63, God is in silent mode. The people of Israel misunderstand, thinking that God has not fulfilled God’s promises. But God remains faithful, and does fulfill promises. Do you ever feel like God is in silent mode? Ask God to help you learn from these times of silence.

Sunday, January 2, 2011: Present in Steadfast Love
Daily reading: Isaiah 63:7-9
In our times of trouble and despair, when we are overwhelmed by life, God is not silent. We can give thanks, honor and praise to God, who shows steadfast love. The word “hesed,” or “steadfast love,” is an important word in Hebrew Scriptures. Of the 250 times it appears, eight are in Isaiah. God’s love for us is steadfast, cannot be moved, shaken, loosened or undone. It’s like a knot: it grows stronger and tighter when you pull away from it. At Christmas we celebrate the presence of God’s steadfast love in our lives. Do you sense God’s steadfast love in your life? Ask God to guide your life in 2011.

Daily Walk Nov 15-21

Monday, November 15, 2010: Branding
Daily reading: Leviticus 19:18; John 15:12-17
Branding is a big deal in the business world. You can probably recall the logo of Target, Best Buy, or Honda. Most people would be able to identify the company represented by that logo. So, what’s the brand identity of Christianity? What’s our logo? Some might say that it’s the cross, but at least in our culture every gangster with bling and every rock star wears a cross. Wearing a cross no longer accurately identifies us to the world. Others might say it’s a fish, but have you seen the way some people with fish symbols on their cars drive? John would say that our logo, our brand identity as individuals and as a “corporate culture,” is love. In your life, would people be able to identify your “brand” as love? In your prayers, ask God to reveal new ways for you to walk in the way of love.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010: Movitation
Daily reading: Micah 6:8; Isaiah 29:13-14
Isn’t it interesting that we’re told to “do justice,” but we’re not just told to “be kind”? We’re commanded to love kindness. Why is that? Why is God so interested in our loving kindness? God seems to care more about our hearts than our hands. God doesn’t seem terribly interested in obedience for obedience’s sake. God doesn’t want us to worship each week to just check it off our list and think we’re good to go. That kind of worship doesn’t honor God. That kind of worship is motivated by guilt or fear. Instead, God desires worship that comes from love and gratitude for who God is and what God has done for us. What motivates your worship? Ask God to empower you to worship with deeper gratitude and love.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010: Love
Daily reading: Psalm 31:23-24; I John 4:7-12
John seems to be saying that the identifying mark of true believers is love. In this passage, John makes the following affirmations. First, love comes from God; God is the source of real love. Second, everyone who loves is “born of God and knows God.” If you don’t love others in the Christian community, you don’t know God because God is love. Third, the kind of love that John is referring to – the kind of love that we are called to live out – is the same love that God demonstrates through the cross of Christ. In your life, are there people who bear the identifying mark of a true believer? Do you bear this mark, as well? In your prayers, ask God help you live in greater love for God and for others.

Thursday, November 18, 2010: Hesed
Daily reading: Hosea 12:6; 1 John 4:12-21
According to scholar Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, the word “hesed” describes the loving kindness that we are called to live into. Hesed has four characteristics. First, the word is used when the help of another is essential; the person in need cannot help themselves. Secont, it is used when help is desperately needed; without help, the person’s situation will go from bad to worse. Third, it is used when the circumstances dictate that one person is uniquely able to provide the help that is needed; there is no alternative if this person doesn’t help. Fourth, the person in need has no control over the decision of the person whose help he or she needs. In your life, have you ever experienced hesed? How did it come to you? From whom? In your prayers, ask God to move you from simply loving to hesed.

(– from “Love (OT),” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, Doubleday.)

Friday, November 19, 2010: Stewardship
Daily reading: Proverbs 22:6-9; Matthew 19:21-24
This call to love kindness also has implications for the stewardship of our lives. It calls us to consider the daily investment of all that God has given us (“ourselves, our time and our possessions, signs of your gracious love”). If we invest only in ourselves, we perpetuate the “negative branding” that our culture perceives. We add to the negative narrative that undermines people’s willing participation in Christian community and all that we seek to do in Jesus’ name. What would happen if we radically turned our lives inside out, started to believe in God’s abundance, and so allowed God’s love to fill us that our lives couldn’t help but spill over with love for others? What might that kind of kindness do to the world? To our neighbors? To our church? To our own soul? In your prayers, ask God to direct you toward greater generosity and better stewardship of your resources.

Saturday, November 20, 2010: Perception
Daily reading: Micah 6:8; Matthew 7:1-5
A recent survey of non-Christians reported their perception of Christians to be judgmental, hypocritical, sheltered, and too political. Similar surveys show no correlation of these perceptions to Jesus Christ. This is a huge disconnect. Micah says that God requires that we “love kindness.” Kindness has been described as “love in action,” so God requires that we love “loving on people.” According to 1 John, this is to be our brand identity, our hallmark, our reputation. And the good news here is that this love isn’t something we need to conjure up. God is at work in our lives. God’s transformational love is daily forming us into a loving community. How can we change the perceptions of others toward us? Ask God to show you where you appear to be judgmental or hypocritical.

Sunday, November 21, 2010: Logo
Daily reading: Jeremiah 29:11; 1 Timothy 6:17-19
What is God’s will? What do we mean when we pray “thy will be done”? It means that we, as the body of Christ, do justice and love kindness in such a way that no one is “those people.” It means that we are a people so deeply loved by God in Christ that we are both empowered and compelled the share that love with the world in tangible ways. The day will come when hesed is the living corporate logo for the body of Christ in the world. The day will come when hesed is the church’s corporate logo. But that journey cannot begin until hesed is the logo of our lives. Pray today that “thy will be done.”

Daily Walk Nov 8-14

Monday, November 8, 2010: Commands
Daily reading: Micah 6:8 and Matthew 22:37-40
Micah 6:8 contains three simple, yet profound, commands from God. What does God require of us? It’s simple and clear: do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. Micah 6 is a courtroom scene in which God calls the people of Israel – especially the people of Jerusalem – to account for their actions. The people have forgotten God, especially God’s mighty acts on their behalf. Having forgotten God, the people have become increasingly corrupt, dishonest and violent. When Jesus is asked “What is the most important commandment?” he responds, “Love God; love neighbor.” It is precisely the failure of God’s people to uphold these commandments that has so angered God. Where, in your life, have you forgotten God? In your prayers, ask God to give you a willing and open heart to live as God has commanded us to live.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010: Restorative Justice
Daily reading: Isaiah 10:1-2 and 1:16-17, Hebrews 11:32-34
God’s definition of justice is not “people getting what they deserve.” It’s people getting what they need to be whole in body, mind and spirit. It’s not that God turns a blind eye to sin, but that God is more interested in restoration than retribution. When God requires that we “do justice,” God is primarily asking that we advocate and provide for the powerless, voiceless, impoverished and oppressed people in this world. If you read Scripture carefully you will find this theme of restorative justice repeated over and over. Where do you need God’s restorative justice in your life? Where do we need God’s restorative in our world? In your prayers today, ask God to lead you to someone who is powerless, voiceless, impoverished or oppressed. Be the hands and feet of Jesus for someone this week.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010: God’s Will
Daily reading: Micah 6:8 again; John 3:39-40; 1 Thessalonians 4:3
This profoundly powerful verse in Micah gives shape to the question, “What do we mean when we pray that God’s will be done? What is God’s will?” We don’t want to give the impression that this is the definitive statement on the will of God. There are many others, including the John 3 and 1 Thessalonians texts. But issues of justice, kindness and humility are foundational to loving God and loving neighbor, and these things are at the very center of God’s will for our lives. Where do these issues of justice, kindness, and humility connect in your life? Ask God to reveal one new way for you to more fully live into God’s will.

Thursday, November 11, 2010: Genuine Generosity
Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 8:7-9; Psalm 8
Genuine generosity often comes from a grateful heart; the psalmist expresses this gratitude. In 2 Corinthians we see a gratitude problem with this church. Because of the persecution that has broken out in Jerusalem, Christians are suffering severe hardship. Paul travels to the churches to receive offerings to support the suffering saints. The Corinthians were well off, and have enthusiastically supported the idea, but are slow to deliver. In order to encourage the Corinthians to give, Paul points to the Macedonian churches. While impoverished and probably suffering persecution themselves, the Macedonians give “beyond their ability” to support those in Jerusalem. Paul calls this generosity a grace that God has given the Macedonians. They are so compelled to give that they plead for the privilege of giving. Paul is blown away by this experience. Have you ever been “blown away” by unexpected generosity? In your prayers, ask God to show you how you can experience the joy of giving more fully.

Friday, November 12, 2010: Love and Generosity
Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 8:7-9 again; Leviticus 19:17-18
There is a direct link between love and generosity. God has so richly blessed the Corinthians in faith, knowledge, speech (tongues) and love, but they have not yet learned to express their faith and gratitude through giving. Just as God loved and so God gave (John 3:16), the Corinthians are challenged to express their love through generosity. In Leviticus, we find the command of God to love, but true generosity cannot be commanded. It must be freely given. In fact, Paul calls this generosity a test of the genuineness of the Corinthians’ love for others. Love and generosity are clearly linked. How is generosity an extension of the love you have received? Ask God to give you a generous heart as an extension of genuine love.

Saturday, November 13, 2010: Inequity
Daily reading: Job 5:8-15; Luke 19:1-10
What do we mean when we pray, “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”? We’ve all heard the phrase “the truth hurts.” Here are a few statistics: 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to clean water, and 2.6 billion people lack basic sanitation. One in three children (640 million) in developing countries do not have adequate shelter. Around 27-28% of children in developing countries are underweight and stunted due to lack of food. 121 million children worldwide have no access to education. 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized. When we hold up those statistics against the global reality that every day in this world 30,000 children die of starvation and preventable disease, we, as disciples, are forced to consider God’s call for justice. Today, can you do one simple thing to “level” the inequities in our world? In your prayers, ask God to guide you to one simple act of justice.

Sunday, November 14, 2010: Obstacles
Daily reading: 1 John 2:15-17; Psalm 40:7-8
When we pray “thy will be done” we are, among other things, praying that God will make us agents of justice in this world, people through whom God works to make the Kingdom of God a reality right here and now. There are obstacles on the road to justice. The complexity of the word’s problems is overwhelming. We can easily become hopeless if we forget that God is at work in and through us. We will not travel far down the road of justice before we realize that we need to change much in our own lives. We will need to make different choices daily. We cannot truly battle injustice in this world and live in the kind of excess that almost every one of us lives in. Nor can we ignore the impact of our daily decisions upon others around the globe. What changes can you make to more clearly connect your lifestyle with justice for everyone? Ask God for wisdom and courage to walk this road.

Daily Walk Nov 1-7

Monday, November 1, 2010: A New Thing
Daily reading: Isaiah 43:15-19; Matthew 9:17
God is doing something new. What is it? Will we know it when we see it? This new thing is some sort of massive miracle that will transform all life. This new thing, however, is not just freedom from exile. The new thing is a cosmic transformation so big that the entire world will take notice. This new thing moves beyond our old rigid dogmas and into a new world of possibilities. There’s a warning in Matthew 9 about how transformative this new thing is going to be. The old religious containers won’t be able to hold this “new wine.” The wineskins will break. Is God doing something new in your life? Do you think you’d be able to see it if it were true? Ask God to show you one “new thing” that God is doing in you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010: Entrenched?
Daily reading: Isaiah 43:15-19 again; Matthew 23:13-15
Jesus often railed against religious entrenchment. In the Matthew reading, he takes on the scribes and Pharisees for their misplaced piety. The prophet Isaiah says a similar thing to his audience. The people have become so entrenched in their faith tradition that they don’t believe they have anything more to learn about what is possible with God and God’s activity in the world. Faith becomes static, dogmatic, and unable to imagine that God could do anything new. This is a faith that is seized up, catatonic, totally compromised by the current culture. Are there parts of your life that are religiously entrenched? Where are you seized up or catatonic? Ask God to break you free from those places where your life is compromised.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010: Exile?
Daily reading: Isaiah 43:15-19 again; 1 Peter 2:11-12
Isaiah uses imagery of the Israelites fleeing from Egypt and the army of Egyptians overwhelmed in the Red Sea to speak to people exiled in Babylon. Prophets often used historical images to remind people of God’s faithfulness while calling them to return to faith. Israel’s faith is deeply rooted in the far-reaching past acts of God. But in this text, the prophetic formula changes. The prophet first reminds the people of God’s power and God’s favor. But then he challenges them to step into a future where God will do a new thing. God is powerful and has done great things, but turn your face into a new future. 1 Peter reminds us that there are exiles today, as well; people of faith dispersed throughout the world. Are you exiled from your real home? Have circumstances led you to believe that God cannot possibly do a new thing in your life? Ask God to remind you of what God has done in your past, and give you a new hope for the future.

Thursday, November 4, 2010: Enough?
Daily reading: Romans 3:19-28; Psalm 1:1-2
This section of Romans is part of Paul’s final argument about judgment. Paul concludes that the entire world is guilty before God. The law gives us knowledge of sin, but no amount of dutiful law-following will save us from it. So while the law is useful, and a gift to the Jews (and the whole world), it cannot free us from the power of sin. Paul defines sin as more than individual transgressions against God; it’s deeply connected to the human condition. The question changes from “Have we done enough?” (a question that has no answer), to “Do I have faith, and do I believe?” This argument from Paul to the Romans (which began in Galatians) is so new and radical that we are still wrestling with it today. It’s one thing to delight in God’s law and quite another to believe that you can somehow do enough to fulfill the law. Do you have faith? Do you believe? Ask God for the gift of faith, and then trust God to provide it.

Friday, November 5, 2010: Religiosity?
Daily reading: Luke 5:33-39; Jeremiah 31:33
One of the biggest arguments Jesus has with the Pharisees is that they are so consumed with their own piety and religiosity that they have forgotten the moral demands of that very religion. It is clear to the Pharisees and the followers of John the Baptist that the Jesus movement is not religious enough, so Jesus, the leader, is questioned. Jesus responds by refusing to debate the merits of their practices. He shows no interest in arguing the finer points and details of religious life, something the Pharisees love to do. God’s law is written on our hearts, yet we simply cannot behave according to the law. Is that how we end up with religiosity? Is there a part of you that’s simply putting up with religiosity? Ask God to take away anything that’s getting in the way of you become a new creation.

Saturday, November 6, 2010: Renewal?
Daily reading: Luke 5:33-39 again; Isaiah 35:3-7
Jesus says that the coming Kingdom of God should be celebrated. This renewal is new: reaching out across boundaries, living into the Kingdom in the present. Jesus’ second point, made more dramatic through the parables of the cloth and the wineskins, is that this new thing that Jesus is doing cannot and will not fit into any previous religious paradigm. It is so new that it is actually dangerous to the Pharisees. Jesus’ message that the Kingdom of God is near is incompatible with the existing religious systems, and, in many ways, it’s also incompatible with many Christian systems today. The Isaiah text describes this renewal in physical ways, with new strength and recovery from weariness. Where do you need renewal today? Ask God to make it possible for you to run and not be weary.

Sunday, November 7, 2010: Open?
Daily reading: Luke 5:33-39 again; Isaiah 65:17-18
There are times when our own imagination about God’s ability to do new things succumbs to a static religious dogma. What new thing is God calling us to be about? What religious systems have we created that Jesus would declare too unstable for his new wine? Can God do something new within us? How can we remain open to the movement of God and still be faithful? Many people hear the word “open” and they immediately assume that the word of God is being compromised. Is God’s future open or determined? In Isaiah, we sense the prophet’s excitement about the new thing that God will do. Where in your life has static religious dogma taken hold? Ask God to make you open to what God is able to do through you.

Daily Walk Oct 25-31

Monday, October 25, 2010: God in a Box
Daily reading: Joel 2:28-29; Ephesians 1:16-22
In the new documentary, God in a Box, filmmakers embark on a cross-country journey. At interesting locations, they invite people to step into a large box to describe what God means to them and draw their visual interpretations of God. Scholars analyze their comments, and interesting observations emerge. The text from Joel talks about new dreams and visions. The Ephesians text uses human language to describe what seems to be beyond description. Chances are, our image of God is limited, contained, small, and unimaginative. How is your image of God in a box? Ask God to expand and explode your image of God’s power and authority.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010: Judgment and Grace
Daily reading: Joel 2:1-9; John 1:14-18
Joel is writing to people who have become complacent in prosperity and are taking God for granted. They are mired in self-centeredness and idolatry. Joel warns them that this lifestyle inevitably brings God’s judgment. There are three broad themes in this short book: punishment, forgiveness and the promise of the Holy Spirit. But Joel wants to be clear about God’s judgment and grace, which always go hand in hand. Given God’s power and mercy, why would we want to live outside of that, and go on our own? Yesterday’s reading from Joel 2 is an oracle of promise pointing to a future redeemed and restored by God. The term “afterward” in verse 28 points beyond the immediate restoration of blessing indicated in the preceding prophecy; a double promise of God’s abundant grace. The reading from John invites us to see that this grace is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. How do you think judgment and grace are connected? Ask God for wisdom to understand how judgment and grace go hand in hand.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010: The Image of God
Daily reading: Colossians 1:15-16; Psalm 97:6-7
Jesus is the image of God. The word for “image” in Paul’s time was used for likenesses on coins, portraits, and statues. To us, it would be like having a photograph of the original. Jesus is the perfect representation of God. J. B. Phillips translates verse 15 this way: “Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God.” Hebrews 1:3 tells us that the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s being. Psalm 97 warns us to not count on false representations of God: idols. Are there images of God that you worship instead of the One named Jesus? In your prayers today, ask God to give you a new image in your mind of the true God.

Thursday, October 281, 2010: The Firstborn of All Creation
Daily reading: Colossians 1:15-16 again; Psalm 89:27-28
Jesus is not only the perfect picture of God, Jesus is in the highest and loftiest position of anything in the universe. Colossians says that Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. Firstborn is a term of rank more than it is a word of time (see Psalms 89:27). In ancient cultures, if you were firstborn you had privilege and authority. Firstborn is the most honored position in the family. Jesus is the firstborn – the highest rank – in all of creation. When we think of Jesus, we often remember the Christmas accounts of his birth and come to believe that he was born two thousand years ago. This text tells us that Jesus was not only present at the creation of the universe, but caused it all to happen. How might this change your image of Jesus? In your prayers today, ask God to open your mind to see Christ as the one who created all things.

Friday, October 29, 2010: Creator and Sustainer
Daily reading: Colossians 1:16-17; John 1:3
The text from Colossians tells us that Jesus holds the highest rank in creation because he is the Creator of all things. There is nothing in the created order that Jesus did not create. John 1:3 confirms this idea. The One who creates has absolute supremacy over all creation. We know that only God can create, and since Jesus is Creator, he is also God. Jesus is more than the perfect image of God, he is divine. He is God. Jesus not only creates all things, but also sustains all things, holds everything together. Because of Christ, the universe is under control and not chaotic. Does this change your image of Jesus even further? Ask God to help you more fully comprehend the incredible greatness of the One who created and sustains all things.

Saturday, October 30, 2010: Reconciler
Daily reading: Colossians 1:19-20; Ephesians 2:16
Not only is Jesus the perfect image of God who creates and sustains all things, he also is the great reconciler of all things. Reconciliation has to do with the restoration of relationships between two parties that have been at war. The text describes this peace that Jesus brings as a result of blood shed on the cross. He is the full embodiment of every attribute of God and God’s saving grace. Jesus is moving all the world toward a ceasing of hostilities, greater harmony, and ultimate healing. He is the great reconciler. Does this continue to change your image of Jesus? In your prayers today, ask God to reconcile those places in your life where there may be hostilities.

Sunday, October 31, 2010: Thy Kingdom Come
Daily reading: Joel 2:28-32 again; Psalm 145:13
When we pray “thy Kingdom come,” what are we praying for, and what should we expect? When we read in Joel that God is going to pour out his spirit on all flesh, what does “all flesh” mean? If this time is characterized by prophesy, dreams and visions by the young and old, men and women, what will that look like? It is quite possible that God is way ahead of us, working in and through all people in very surprising ways, and through people that might surprise us. Are there people you know who you believe God could never work through? Is it possible for God to work through them in surprising ways? Ask God to open your mind to the possibility that God can work in surprising ways through people who may surprise us.

Daily Walk Oct 18-24

Monday, October 18, 2010: Power and Wealth
Daily reading: Matthew 20:20-22; Deuteronomy 8:17-20
We are fascinated by power. In film, a series of superheroes (Batman, Superman, etc.) possess extraordinary powers and show up just at the right time to protect the public good. Generally, good defeats evil in a supernatural way. In our culture, power is always connected to something. We might be tempted to think that power is connected to wealth and success. The mother of James and John probably just wants her boys to succeed; doesn’t every mom? In Deuteronomy we have a warning, and a reminder of where real power comes from. Where does your power come from? Ask God to reveal the places where you are trusting in the wrong things.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010: Power and Pride
Daily reading: Psalm 20
This psalm may have been used liturgically by the worshiping community as the king and his armies prepared to go out into battle. Verses 1-5 are a communal intercession on behalf of the king, asking that God would go with the armies of Israel, perhaps reflecting the ancient belief that God literally went ahead of the armies into battle. Verses 6-9 are likely a prophetic oracle, assuring the people that God has heard their prayers and that victory is assured. The work of the people is to believe God’s promises. The people of Israel are not to find their security or their pride in their strength, but in the strength of the Lord. What are you proud of? Pray for God’s Spirit to increase your pride in God’s strength, not your own.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010: Power and Submission
Daily reading: Matthew 20:17-19; Isaiah 40:28-31
Verses 17-19 form an interesting contrast to yesterday’s reading. While the psalm envisions God moving out of Jerusalem as a mighty warrior to battle the human enemies of the Israelites, Matthew pictures Jesus walking into Jerusalem as a humble servant to battle the power of sin and death on the cross. The contrast between power and submission is so startling that neither the Jews nor the disciples can see Jesus as the Messiah. It is this misunderstanding of real, divine power that sets up the interaction between Jesus and the mother of the sons of Zebedee in 20-28. The power of God is often revealed in ways that Isaiah describes; strength to the faint of heart and energy to the exhausted. To what powers in your life are you submitting? Ask God to reshape the desires of your heart to submit more fully to God’s plans and purposes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010: Power and Kingdom
Daily reading: Matthew 20:23-28; Psalm 145
Jesus’ disciples and the mother of James and John have a flawed understanding of the Kingdom of God. While Jesus’ disciples think the Kingdom will be an earthly, political, military kingdom in which the Israelites will vanquish all their human foes, Jesus comes to vanquish all the enemies of humanity and establish a spiritual Kingdom with profound earthly implications. So when James and John’s mother ask that her sons sit at Jesus’ right and left hand, she is asking that they hold positions of power and authority in an earthly kingdom. Where are you striving for power and authority? Ask God how the Kingdom Jesus intends can be revealed more fully to you today.

Friday, October 22, 2010: Power and Real Greatness
Daily reading: Matthew 20:26-28; Ephesians 1:16-23
Real power and greatness in Jesus’ Kingdom will not be “power over” others, but “power under.” This “power under” is ultimately submission to God expressed as submissive service to others. It is this power that Jesus will demonstrate as he washes the disciples’ feet and dies on the cross. This is the power that God honors, validates, vindicates and glorifies. The Ephesians reading summarizes the real greatness that belongs to us because of Christ. How do you measure real greatness? In your prayers today, ask God to work in you to produce something really great through service to others.

Saturday, October 23, 2010: Power and Death
Daily reading: Matthew 20:17-19 again; Acts 12:1-5
Jesus refers to the cup of suffering, the same cup he references in the garden of Gethsemane. By saying that James and John will indeed drink from this cup he is referencing the fact that both will die as martyrs. James is one of the first disciples to die violently, while John dies in exile. In the movie Gran Torino, Walt Kowalski (played by Clint Eastwood) sacrifices his life to break down walls of racism in his community. The death of Martin Luther King, Jr. galvanized the civil rights movement and caused great change in our society. How do you relate to suffering in your life? In your prayers today, ask God to reframe your thinking about suffering and death.

Sunday, October 24, 2010: Power and Change
Daily reading: Matthew 20:26-28 again; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
By what power does Jesus change the world? By what power does he defeat sin, death and the devil? It is the power of love lived out in submission to God and service to others. This is the power of the Kingdom. It is also the power that all disciples are called to live. Militant Muslims and Christians alike are seeking to change the world by forcing their will upon others, either with guns or legislation. But this “right-hand power” will never change the world. While it may temporarily force people to behave differently, it will never change the heart. But love, lived out in submission to God and in service to others, can lead to reconciliation, redemption and restoration. We are changing every day from one degree of glory to another, into Christ’s likeness. How are you changing today? Ask God to change you more and more into the likeness of Christ

Daily Walk for Sept 27 – Oct 3

Monday, September 27, 2010: Two Are Better Than One
Daily reading: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; John 15:12-17
In Ecclesiastes 4, Solomon reflects on the nature and benefits of friendship as opposed to a life alone. We often hear this text at weddings, but it’s intended to speak beyond marriage relationships. There is value in two people doing things together. In working, it’s simply easier and safer to work together. In walking, if one falls down, there’s someone to help. In most aspects of life, it’s good to have a friend. In your life, who is the friend you can count on? Do you have a friend in your workplace? Pray for your friends throughout the day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010: A Threefold Cord
Daily reading: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 again, Psalm 139:1-6
Notice how Solomon starts with the number one and then moves to the number two and ends with the number three. The wisdom in these verses teaches us that friendship is not only desirable, but necessary. The metaphor of a single cord that is easily broken is a vivid example of how fragile a solitary life can be. Add another cord and it’s not so easily broken. Add the third cord and there’s even more strength and sturdiness. The writer might be implying that God’s presence in a relationship can be the third cord, giving it sturdiness. Do you sense that God is present and active in your friendships? Is there something you can do to become more aware of how God works in friendships? Ask God to help you see how God is present and working in your relationships.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010: Unity
Daily reading: Ephesians 4:1-16; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
As is true of many of Paul’s letters, Paul spends the first half of Ephesians talking about what God has done, and then spends the second half talking about what that means in practical terms for daily life. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians this transitional hinge is between chapters 3 and 4. Since we’ve been saved by grace, since we’ve been reconciled, since we are one in Christ, since all the old barriers that separated us have been leveled on the cross … how, then, shall we live? In today’s passage, Paul begins to answer that question by talking about the unity of the body of Christ (1-6) and the diversity of the body of Christ (7-16). The unity of the body of Christ is a gift and an objective reality. The challenge for the church is to live out this reality by faith in daily life. Have you ever experienced real Christian unity? Do you remember what that felt like? In your prayers, ask God to reveal how you can be an instrument of God’s peace and bring unity to the body of Christ.

Thursday, September 30, 2010: Humility and Gentleness
Daily reading: Isaiah 57:15 and Philippians 2:1-8
Both the Greek and Roman cultures considered humility and gentleness to be weak character traits showing a lack of self-respect. The Old Testament, however, paved the way for a positive connotation of humility because God lives with the humble (Isaiah 57:15). Jesus exalted humility as a virtue. Self-centered living fractures community. Putting the needs of others first builds unity. As you live this day, be mindful of how humility and gentleness lead to greater unity. You might experience the opposites of these two characteristics, as well. How can you be a living example of humility and gentleness as you live this day? Ask God to lead you to specific situations in which you can be humble and gentle with others.

Friday, October 1, 2010: Patience and Loving Forbearance
Daily reading: Galatians 5:22-26; 1 Corinthians 13
The problem with community is that it involves imperfect people! Building healthy, unified community requires putting up with one another’s weaknesses and flaws. Elsewhere, Paul reminded believers that love is forgiving and keeps no record of wrongs. While this is challenging, Paul is merely urging us to give to others what we have already abundantly received from Christ. In your life today, you will encounter the flaws and imperfections of those around you. How will you deal with them? Can you demonstrate patience when something is taking too long? Can you exhibit loving forbearance when you would rather walk away? In your prayers today, ask God for patience in all situations. As you live this day, practice patience and forbearance.

Saturday, October 2, 2010: Live Out What God Has Done
Daily reading: Ephesians 4:4-6; Jeremiah 29:11-14
Why should we care about unity? Why work together with the Spirit to build and maintain unity? Paul answers that question in verses 4-6. He affirms the objective reality that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all. Once again Paul is emphasizing that the life of faith is frequently little more than choosing to live out what God has already done. How can believing people live in disunity when, in fact, God has already made us one? How can you live into this reality of unity today? How can you live more fully into all that God has done for you? In your prayers today, ask God to show you the places in your life where the Holy Spirit can bring unity.

Sunday, October 3, 2010: Uniformity
Daily reading: Ephesians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Unity is different than uniformity. Paul is not advocating for sameness. He is advocating for a profound and healthy interdependence in which the diverse gifts of each person are invested toward the same ends: unity of the faith; unity of knowledge of Christ; and maturity of the body, becoming like Christ. We are all gifted uniquely, and these gifts, when used in unity, form the body of Christ. The diversity of Christian community can and should be a strength! How are your unique gifts being used to build up the body of Christ? Is there something you can do today to use these gifts more fully? In your prayers, ask God to clarify your spiritual giftedness and then lead you to new ways to use those gifts

Daily Walk for Sept 20-25

Monday, September 20, 2010: Prophecy
Daily reading: Luke 4:16-19, Isaiah 61:1-3
Luke communicates several important aspects of Jesus’ Kingdom work as the Messiah in this section. The good news he proclaims is for the poor, captive, blind and oppressed, those normally thought to have been abandoned by God. The good news is for the Gentiles, not just the Jews (the point of 4:25-27). The good news will be rejected by some, especially those with power and status to protect. How does Jesus go about fulfilling this prophecy for the poor? The blind? The captive? The oppressed? In your prayers today, pray for people who might fall into any of these categories.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010: Authority
Daily reading: Luke 4:31-37, Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus leaves his hometown of Nazareth and moves 20 miles north to Capernaum, a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee which becomes his missional home base. As is his custom, he begins teaching in the synagogue, because his mission is first to Israel. The people are astounded at his teaching, because he teaches as one who has authority, first-hand knowledge of God. Jesus isn’t just spouting theology he learned in school. In the synagogue, Jesus encounters a man possessed by an unclean spirit. Jesus is able to cast out the demon without destroying the man who is possessed, and does so with words, connecting him to the One who created all things by speaking them into being. When Jesus speaks, he speaks with authority. Throughout the scriptures, how does Jesus choose to demonstrate his authority? In your prayers for today, ask Jesus to speak a new word of hope into your life.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010: Resurrection
Daily reading: Luke 4:38-39, Matthew 22:23-33
The scene changes to Simon Peter’s home, where his mother-in-law lies sick with a fever. This is our introduction to Simon in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus casts out the fever just as he cast out the demon, by rebuking it. Once again, there is a focus on the power of Jesus’ words. Immediately Simon’s mother-in-law rises up, a phrase that carries subtle implications of resurrection, and she serves Jesus. Word about Jesus spreads, and he heals many more from sickness and demonic possession. It seems as if Jesus brings resurrection to everything and everyone he touches. What needs a resurrection in your life? Pray for Jesus’ resurrection life to touch you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010: Fulfillment
Daily reading: Luke 4:40-41, Acts 1:6-8
These incidents illustrate the truth of Luke 4:16-30. Jesus is indeed the embodiment of Isaiah’s words. He is the promised Messiah. Now that the King has come to inaugurate his Kingdom, the enemies of the Kingdom are beginning to fall: Satan, sickness and death. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy read out loud in the Nazareth synagogue earlier in this chapter. Unlike people in his hometown, who dismiss Jesus based on his lowly upbringing, the people of Capernaum focus on Jesus’ authority and power. Like God’s creative word, Jesus’ word does something. While the demon knows who Jesus is, the crowds are still uncertain. Among other things, this incident shows the power of the new King to defeat the enemies of darkness, and to set humanity free. Through the power of his words and his actions, Jesus demonstrates that he is the fulfillment of all that God has promised. In the pattern of Jesus, how can your words and actions really do something new today? In your prayers today, ask God for a new way to join your words to your actions.

Friday, September 24, 2010: Kingdom Reality
Daily reading: Luke 4:42-44, Luke 9:57-62
Verses 42-44 are a summary statement of this chapter. All that Jesus has done in this section is a living proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom has come; it is here and now. And we recognize its arrival because the enemies of the Kingdom are beginning to fall at the hand of the King. Can you identify things in your life that are enemies of the Kingdom of God? In your prayers today, ask God to give you new eyes to see those things that work against the Kingdom reality of God.

Saturday, September 25, 2010: Upside-Down!
Daily reading: Luke 6
In the chapters that follow, Jesus’ power will overcome leprosy, paralysis, the law, a withered hand, even death – all of them signs of the in-breaking of the new Kingdom. Everything is turned upside down. The poor, hungry, grieving and persecuted are blessed in the new Kingdom. The rich, full, prideful and popular will be brought low. Enemies are to be loved. Judging has no place in the Kingdom. People will be known by their actions, not their words or their status. Living into this new Kingdom reality by faith will bring blessing, joy and stability to life. Are there things in your life that need to be turned upside-down, or shaken up? In your prayers this week, invite God to come and turn your life upside-down.

Sunday, September 25, 2010: Good News!
Daily reading: Luke 4:42-44, Matthew 11:2-6
Luke’s Gospel begins with Jesus teaching in the synagogue, quoting Isaiah (Luke 4:16-30). Luke communicates several important aspects of Jesus’ Kingdom work as the Messiah in this section. First, the good news he proclaims is for the poor, captive, blind and oppressed, those normally thought to have been abandoned by God. Second, the good news is for the Gentiles, not just the Jews (the point of 4:25-27). Third, the good news will be rejected by some, especially those with power and status to protect. It is important to note that when Jesus proclaims this good news, it’s for everyone. It’s been said that if the gospel isn’t good news for everyone, then is isn’t really the gospel. In your life, who have you thought stood outside of this good news? In your prayers, ask God to open your heart to everyone, and become a good news proclaimer on behalf of Christ.

Daily Walk for Sept 13-19

Monday, September 13, 2010 John 21:1-14 – Full Circle
No one knows exactly why Peter decides to go fishing, but because he is a man of action, and fishing had been his prior profession, it shouldn’t surprise us that he decides to go out. He invites six other disciples to join him. They fish in the Sea of Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee) at night. This Gospel story has come full circle. Remember, at the beginning of John, Jesus asks them to join him in becoming fishers of men. Now they return to the occupation they know so well after three years of ministry. In your life, what has come full circle? In your prayers today, thank God for being faithful to you in ways you have seen, and in ways unseen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 John 21:4-6 – The First Miracle
The professional fishermen labor all night long and catch absolutely nothing. We can imagine their frustration, which is only compounded by a perfect stranger calling out directions from the beach. Jesus cries out, “cast your nets on the other side of the boat.” On the surface, this suggestion is just plain stupid. Why would there be fish on one side of the boat and not the other? The first miracle of this story is that the disciples comply well before they know that the stranger is Jesus. When have you needed to do something that seemed completely illogical in order to be obedient to God? In your prayers today, ask God to lead you into deeper obedience.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 John 21:7-9 – Recognizing Jesus
And why don’t they recognize Jesus? Does the rising sun and the haze on the water obscure their vision? Does Jesus wish not to be recognized? Does Jesus’ appearance dramatically vary post-resurrection? No reason is given in the story. The real point here is that this story is about revealing what was not previously known, and this revealing happens on multiple levels in this chapter. What is it that keeps you from recognizing Jesus today? In your prayers, ask God to reveal the presence of Christ to you more clearly.

Thursday, September 16, 2010 John 21:9-11 – The Second Miracle
The second miracle of the story is the amazing catch itself. Much is made of the number 153, which is the number of fish caught. Some propose that this was the total number of species of fish known to the ancient world, a metaphor pointing to the fact that all nations would be “caught up” in the gospel. Based on the fact that John is a detailed recorder, it might simply mean that they caught a lot of fish, period. The second miracle is that God provides in such great abundance that sometimes we can’t even comprehend it. Where has God’s abundance, beyond your comprehension, shown up in your life? In your prayers, ask God to direct you to new and creative ways to use your abundance for others.

Friday, September 17, 2010 John 21:12-14 – God’s Presence
By meeting the disciples in the mundane, everyday moments of life, even when they don’t recognize him, Jesus reminds them once again that he would always be with them. We’re reminded of the same thing whenever we break bread. This story reminds us of the abundance of wine at the wedding at Cana, and the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus is revealed in the breaking of the bread. When we share in Holy Communion, the risen Christ is present with us, and is revealed in the breaking of the bread. Where and when do you sense God’s presence? In your prayers, invite God to come and be present to you.

Saturday, September 18, 2010 John 21:15-19 – God’s Purpose
Jesus has a purpose for the disciples’ lives, and for ours. It’s a purpose he gave them when he first called them to be “fishers of people.” Here, at the end, he points them in that direction again. We, too, are called to fish for people, to plant seeds of love that connect people to Christ. Luther once said, “We are all mere beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.” As you move through this Saturday, how are your actions connected to God’s purpose for you? In your prayers, ask God to reveal your purpose more clearly every day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010 John 21:4-6 – God’s Provision
Notice again the theme of abundance that comes from these vers­es. Note the fact that the disciples had caught nothing, and then, when Jesus shows up, there’s more fish than they can imagine. Each time we take a step of obedience as disciples, Jesus meets us with abundant provision. We will always have enough to do all that we’ve been given to do. Stop and meditate on that phrase: we will always have enough to do all that we’ve been given to do. In the realm of the Kingdom of God, we are called to tasks that we’re equipped to do. In the realm of the Kingdom of God, we are given the exact amount of what we need to accomplish God’s purposes. Where in your life have you stopped believing in an abundant God of provision? In your prayers this week, ask God to lead you into deeper trust that God really can provide for our needs.