Devotional 11-30-10

Scripture: Isaiah 1:3
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, online make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Thought for the Day: The Catholic writer Edward Hays notes in his book, The Pilgrim’s Almanac, that “thirteen Americans are presently frozen in hope of one day coming back to life!  Why wait to come alive?  The season of Advent is a winter thawing of frozen hearts by prayer, charity to the poor and needy, and an awakening of a love for God.  There is perhaps no more certain way to come back to life.” I would add that even in Florida there are many who need to have their hearts thawed.
Prayer: Let the warmth of your spirit move over me, O God, so I am no longer lukewarm to you and the message of the season.  Amen.

Devotional 11-29-10

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-2
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, look and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, thumb the spirit of wisdom and understanding, buy the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Thought for the Day: “Didn’t we just do this a year ago?”  That was a question asked by a youth during my early years of ministry.  He was referring to the Advent scriptures, and I explained the church year and how it begins with the first Sunday of Advent.  This explanation did not suffice as a follow-up question was asked, “But why?”   I wanted to answer by saying, “If you don’t like it, you don’t need to have Christmas this year which will mean no presents.”  I’m sure it would have ended the questions, but I’m glad I chose a different approach.  Questions are important in the life of faith.  It would take more than a life time to reflect upon the ideas shared in this Advent season, including the idea that God chose to reveal the Good News in a powerless baby instead of an authoritative army.  Wisdom and counsel are God’s chosen tools of transformation, not humanity’s usual tools of threats and manipulation.  “But why?”  Good question, and let’s take these next few weeks before Christmas to ponder it.
Prayer: The depth of your love, Lord, would take more than a life to explore.  Thank you for giving me the freedom to explore and experience it.  Amen.

Devotional 11-28-10

Scripture: Luke 1:67-71

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, nurse for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.  He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us…”

Thought for the Day: Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, finally spoke after a lengthy time of silence.  He shared a wonderful dream of a world transformed by the redemptive work of God.  Nelson Mandela, the former South African president, said: “If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to that goal.”  We must be capable of dreaming God’s dream and also believing that if it is God’s dream there will be roads that lead to the realization of that dream.

Prayer: Let me glimpse what you dream for this world, O Lord, and then I will live my life in a way that will help make your dream come true.  Amen.

Devotional 11-27-10

Scripture: Isaiah 46:12-13
Listen to me, cheap you stubborn of heart, you who are far from deliverance: I bring near my deliverance, it is not far off, and my salvation will not tarry; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.
Thought for the Day: The people of God had walked away from God through idolatry and unjust actions.  It almost sounds as if they have moved beyond God’s ability to rescue them with the words, “…you who are far from deliverance.”  There are times when humanity moves an immeasurable distance from God, yet we hear the amazing news that God will bring near the gift of deliverance, and this gift is coming soon.  That is the promise of Advent, the Christian season we begin tomorrow.  We may stumble and feel as if we are no longer within the reach of God, but the message of Advent is that God came close in Jesus and God will continue to seek us out no matter how far we might have wandered off.
Prayer: Gracious God, let me trust in your saving presence that comes again this Advent season.  Amen.

Devotional 11-24-10

Scripture: Psalm 106:1-3

Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, doctor for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.  Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord, seek or declare all his praise?  Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.

Thought for the Day: It is said that a true optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day.  I’m generally an optimist, though I probably would not take the leap into a new diet on Turkey Day.  Though because I am an optimist, I believe in a day when we will move from charity to justice, from simply feeding the hungry to eliminating hunger.  Notice how the author of this prayerful Psalm ties together thankfulness and acting justly.  No one can equal the enduring love of God, and trying to do so with utterances of praise will always fall short.  Instead, we are asked to express our gratitude in acts of justice.  On this Thanksgiving Eve, I express appreciation for all those who have given to good charities in hopes of feeding the hungry.  Let us make sure our charity is tied to an ongoing work for justice in the world.

Prayer: Happy are those, O God, who give bread to the hungry today while working to bring an end to hunger.  Amen.

Devotional 11-23-10

Scripture: 1st Chronicles 29:12-13

Riches and honor come from you, ed and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all.  And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name.

Thought for the Day: The author, Henry Van Dyke, wrote: “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”  For all we have received, let us make sure we follow the path presented by Van Dyke and make it to Thanksgiving…not so much the holiday as the act.

Prayer: For all that I have received, O God, I am more than thankful…I allow this feeling to express itself in acts of thanksgiving.  Amen.

Devotional 11-22-10

Scripture: 2nd Corinthians 9:6-8
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, discount and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, and not reluctantly or under compulsion, pharm for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.
Thought for the Day: What is enough?  That is one of the great questions that human beings have tried to answer ever since we started walking the face of the earth.  As human beings gained more resources, the line between need and want became much more gray.  We argued and fought over those things that we perceived as needs, but were nothing more than selfish wants.  The old adage remains true, ‘We should live simply so others may simply live.’  During this time of Thanksgiving, let us be mindful of how reducing our wants will give rise to others having what they need.
Prayer: Continue to work on my spirit of generosity, O God, so I might sow bountifully.  Amen.

Devotional 11-21-10

Scripture: 1st Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you…
Thought for the Day: That’s easy for you to say!  Well actually, advice probably not.  The Apostle Paul was on the road, ask facing constant persecution, being vilified by many and all along figuring that he would meet the same fate as Jesus.  So for Paul to suggest that we are to give ‘thanks in all circumstances,’ makes you wonder how he would have been able to do so.  I think where some people get hung up with those words is that they believe Paul is telling them to give thanks to God for their difficulty.  I could see how they might think that, but that was not Paul’s intention.  We are to give thanks to God who does not cause suffering or disease, but is the One who stands with us amidst such problems.  God is not the source of hate or violence.  Instead, God is the source of love and hope.  When I think of it in those terms, it is much easier to allow words of gratitude to slip from my lips even when life is bad.
Prayer: I give you thanks, O Lord, for you are the One who is worthy of my gratitude.  Amen.