Archive for March, 2014

Ezra 3:10-13

March 31, 2014

During the Lenten season, members of Faith Lutheran Church have written our daily devotions.  Today’s writer is Jimmy Zunker.

 

10When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, according to the directions of King David of Israel; 11and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away. Ezra 3:10-13

 

The Jewish people have returned home after 70 years in captivity and are rebuilding the temple. These verses describe the celebration after laying the foundation of the temple.  They anticipate having a place to come together and worship God as a community of believers.  The temple was not finished but the basic structure enabled them to hold a worship service. Worship was an important part of their heritage and they looked forward to being able to worship God in the temple as their ancestors had done. The people sang, shouted praises and gave thanks to God proclaiming His goodness and mercy. We also sing, praise and give thanks to God when we come together to worship each Sunday.

 

Some people wept because the new temple was not as splendid as Solomon’s temple but the joyful shouts covered the weeping so it could not be distinguished.  This reminds us that it is not the building that is important but rather the worship that takes place in the building.  Worship of God was important to the Jewish people and worship is also an important part of our heritage.  Worship of God is one of our core strategies in accomplishing our mission of following Jesus in blessing the world with faith, hope and love.

 

Let us pray:  Lord, we praise you and thank you for our place of worship and the freedom we have to gather together as a community of believers.  We thank you for your everlasting love.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Jeremiah 29:10-14

March 28, 2014

During the Lenten season, members of Faith Lutheran Church have written our daily devotions.  Today’s writer is Joye Roll.

 

10For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29:10-14

 

We all know this verse – For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.  It is often quoted as a reminder that God has great plans for us especially when we are facing difficult circumstances in our lives.  However, the context of the verse shows us that it is not a promise to each of us to have a life full of blessings.

 

God is telling the exiled Jews living in Babylon that they will have 70 years of captivity.  While in captivity, they are to be rooted and build new lives, seeking the welfare of their new cities and neighbors.  But while doing this, they are to remember that God has a plan – one that will not leave them alone or in exile. They must pray, seek and obey God, and God will gather them together again. 

 

What do these verses mean for us today? We are to be blessings wherever we are. In our difficult times, when we feel like we are in exile, God will be with us.   We should seek him with all our hearts.  Above all we live with a different covenant than the Jewish exiles Jeremiah was writing to.  Jesus promised us life eternal with God himself, never to be separated. 

 

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, we know our future with you will be wondrous beyond earthly understanding.  Until then, help us to live as blessings to others.   Help us to seek a relationship with you.  Be with each of us when our lives here on earth are difficult and surround us with your love and your peace.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

 

Jeremiah 25:8-11

March 27, 2014

During the Lenten season, members of Faith Lutheran Church have written our daily devotions.  Today’s writers are Jon and Nancy Holmes.

 

8Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9I am going to send for all the tribes of the north, says the Lord, even for King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these nations around; I will utterly destroy them, and make them an object of horror and of hissing, and an everlasting disgrace. 10And I will banish from them the sound of mirth and the sound of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Jeremiah 25:8-11

 

Wow!  This Prophecy of Jeremiah is harsh to say the least!

 

It is not always easy to do what God wants us to do.  We want what we want and obedience is difficult.  Sometimes God grabs our attention in ways we do not like.  As parents our authority is tested by our children.  Limits and punishments are set so we can help them learn to “do the right thing”.  We wonder if God feels as frustrated with his children, as parents sometimes feel with their own children.

 

We are so thankful that God forgives us and will give us as many chances as we need.                        As human parents it is not that easy.  Our patience is pushed to its limits.  We feel like they will never “get it”.  But we know love is what helps all of us deal with the harshness of punishing our kids.  God’s ability to love is always there.  His love endures forever. Jesus gave up his life on the cross to show us this.

 

 Through the cross grace is given.  Forgiveness is given.  Love is given.

 

Let us pray: God, Thank you for giving us the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Because of him we are confident you will help us understand what it means to do the right thing.  Help us be obedient to your word.  To remember to forgive as you have forgiven us.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jeremiah 18:1-11

March 26, 2014

During the Lenten season, members of Faith Lutheran Church have written our daily devotions.  Today’s writer is Meric Pinkerton.

 

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2“Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.5Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.

 

11Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the Lord: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings. Jeremiah 18:1-11

 

God has created us in his image. Even though we are beautiful, wonderful creations of God, we sometimes break from His mold and we might say or do things that are not what He created us to say or do. He is always present around us, giving us guidance whether we know it or not. When we stray from His mold He gives us many tools, like family, friends and even strangers to guide us back His correct image.

His guidance can come in the simplest of ways. Sometimes on a busy day we might snap at our children when they are getting rowdy in the grocery store, but when we get home and they give us a heartfelt hug, then we remember that we should be more patient. Other times a complete stranger can be the reminder for us to be more understanding like when we did not let that one car merge into our turn lane and then the very next day, we are running late to work and a kind soul allowed us to merge into his lane. A last example could be when you run in to your local coffee shop and you realize you have left you wallet at home after you placed your order. Then the customer behind you generously offers to pay for your coffee. What a wonderful reminder that giving can come in the smallest of ways.

God is with us at all times and He is there guiding and redirecting us to be the person
He wants us to be. We are touched in the smallest of ways that help us make the biggest changes in our lives. He does this for us because we are so loved by Him.

Let us pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, you have created us in your image. You molded us with your own hands. Sometime in our hectic worlds, we drift away from your mold. Please be with us every day to help guide us back when we drift from the beautiful creation you made us to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jeremiah 11:6-8

March 25, 2014

During the Lenten season, members of Faith Lutheran Church have written our daily devotions.  Today’s writer is Margo Faulkner.

 

6And the Lord said to me: Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them. 7For I solemnly warned your ancestors when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. 8Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of an evil will. So I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not. Jeremiah 11:6-8

 

I have exclaimed many times, “I told y’all someone was going to get hurt if you played like that.”  I am usually saying this over the loud wailing of an injured superhero, or ninja, or pirate, or lately, a WWE wrestler.  No matter how many times I say, “Someone is going to get hurt if you play like that”, my boys will follow the desires of their stubborn hearts, play rough, get hurt, and run to me to bring healing (ice packs and bandaids) and then bring the offending party to justice (my kids would testify to time out being the biggest curse there is). 

 

Sometimes I wonder, “When will they learn?”  Sometimes I wonder, “Why won’t they just OBEY ME?”  Sometimes I wonder how many times God has asked himself the same thing about me. 

 

I can fool myself and say, “Well, if God would only speak to me as loud as I speak to my kids, then I would really know how to obey God.”  The simple truth is God calls us to obey him by doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with Him every day.

 

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, thank you for every day that we have which is an opportunity to obey you.  Thank you for grace and mercy that we never deserve and for loving us like the stubborn children we never cease to be.  Give us strength and wisdom today to hear your voice and to choose obedience even when it’s not easy. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

March 24, 2014

During the Lenten season, members of Faith Lutheran Church have written our daily devotions.  Today’s writer is Kristen Krueger.

 

4Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:4-10

 

“One day you will wish she would be quiet.”

 

As we waited for our speech-delayed preemie to speak, we heard that phrase often. I would smile and then silently vow to never take her words for granted. And I would remember the story above, that God put words into the mouth of a child.

 

One year after finishing speech therapy, there are indeed days that I wish for quiet but I do not forget the gift of a child’s words. Each Sunday during the prayers of intercession, Cora and I whisper our own prayers to help her connect to worship.  She prays for rocket ships, bunnies, and our dog Abby. I say prayers of thanksgiving for all the people who worked to help her learn to form those words and express her every thought (even the ones I’m not so fond of).

 

When God called Jeremiah, God blessed his prophet with the gift of words. In the same way, God gives each of us the things we need to answer our own calls through our conversations that demonstrate our faith to others.

 

Let us pray:  Dear God, Thank you for the gift of words, particularly the words that come when we do not feel prepared to speak on our own. Just as you equipped Jeremiah when you called him to serve, please bless us with words and actions to share your story. In Jesus’ name. Amen

2 Kings 17:5-8

March 21, 2014

During the Lenten season, members of Faith Lutheran Church have written our daily devotions.  Today’s writer is Mardi Mayerhoff.

 

5Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria; for three years he besieged it. 6In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria; he carried the Israelites away to Assyria. He placed them in Halah, on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.7This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lordtheir God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They had worshiped other gods 8and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had introduced.  2 Kings 17:5-8

 

Like the Israelites, who had been rescued from slavery, brought out of Egypt, and led to the promised land, we continue to sin against God, even though he gave us Jesus’ life to take away our sins.  We worship other gods (money, status, overindulgence, risk taking) and the ways of the culture in which we live – TV, movies, passion for sporting events, hero worship of athletes and movie stars who make millions of dollars for what they do. 

 

We have decided if we are not breaking any man made laws, we are living within the law.  We are captured and deported from the protection, peace, and hope that come when we obey God’s commands.

 

Let us pray:  Thank you God for your Word that reminds us of the people who preceded us, their successes and failures in honoring you and your commands.  Thank you for your forgiveness as we muddle through life making some of the same mistakes they made in spite of your Biblical examples and teachings.  Help us to come to you for guidance as we live in our world of material wealth where we are surrounded by the message “more makes you happy”.           In Jesus’ name. Amen

1 Kings 11:9-13

March 20, 2014

During the Lenten season, members of Faith Lutheran Church have written our daily devotions.  Today’s writer is Jennifer Finley.

 

9Then the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice,10and had commanded him concerning this matter, that he should not follow other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord commanded.11Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. 12Yet for the sake of your father David I will not do it in your lifetime; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13I will not, however, tear away the entire kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.” 1 Kings 11:9-13

 

OK, let’s start this reflection with the fact that Solomon was the son of the man who was “a man after God’s own heart.” I mean Solomon is the son of David and Bathsheba – they knew about God. They knew all about God’s overwhelming mercy and grace on one hand and his impatience with sin on the other. Surely, they passed their faith on to Solomon, right?  Silly Solomon, what were you thinking?!!? Why couldn’t you keep your eyes on God and defeat other temptations, other interests, other things you wanted to do?!!? (Oh wait…I don’t think I’m talking about Solomon any longer)

 

Our God’s expectations are really not that confusing or difficult to understand, but we are like a car that constantly needs its tires to be aligned. We are always veering off the road with God. We are selfish, short attention-spanned creatures who are always focused on ourselves. And often – that will have consequences. Not often, will it mean the relinquishing of a kingdom, but it can be other things in our life equally as devastating.  Alcohol, drugs, pornography, work, success, “me-time,” there are a never ending list of idols vying for our time and attention. Solomon followed these “other gods” right out of his family’s kingdom. We can learn from this.

 

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, we know that all good things come from you, but we are constantly in a struggle between your will and our own. Please break our wills and form us to be who you created us to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

1 Kings 2:1-4

March 19, 2014

During the Lenten season, members of Faith Lutheran Church have written our daily devotions.  Today’s writer is Nancy Caraway.

 

When David’s time to die drew near, he charged his son Solomon, saying: 2“I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, 3and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn. 4Then the Lord will establish his word that he spoke concerning me: ‘If your heirs take heed to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.’ 1 Kings 2:1-4

 

As a parent, I understand King David’s desire for his children to succeed in life and to give advice.  King David emphasized to Solomon that he should be faithful to God and keep His laws, commandments, and word.  Solomon undoubtedly was very familiar with all of these through formal studies starting as a young boy. 

 

My youngest daughter, Kristen, started confirmation in 6th grade to learn more about her faith. From the beginning parents were expected to attend with their child and this format was different from my past experiences.  However, attending confirmation has been a blessing for Kristen and me. It has given me a better understanding of the Bible and the history of the church, an opportunity to get to know other parents and an impetus for Kristen and me to discuss our faith.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, Thank you for claiming us as your own and may we always keep you in the center of our lives.  Help us to take time to pray, worship and learn about your word and commandments with our children and live in faithfulness to you with all of our heart and soul. Amen.

2 Samuel 5:1-5

March 18, 2014

During the Lenten season, members of Faith Lutheran Church have written our daily devotions.  Today’s writers are Ken and Liz Trunnel.

 

Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. 2For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” 3So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. 2 Samuel 5:1-5

 

Even though Saul was the King, David led Israel in battle.  The people knew and respected David as their true leader. The Lord had said of David, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’

 

When all the tribes (their elders and leaders) came to David to anoint him King of Israel they made a covenant with him before the Lord. They were all of one body, just like our Christian community is.

 

We as Christians have been welcomed into the new covenant that God made with us through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  We accept Him as our Lord and Savior.  It is all in God’s hands and He is in control, not us.

 

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father you gave the Israelites a David to lead and shepherd them through their lives. You have given us the tools for the guidance in our lives in the Bible, Pastor Kerry and our Faith community.  Please open our eyes and hearts to hear what you are saying through them.  Let us truly see that all is in your hands and that when we give control to you our lives will be calmer. Give us the strength and courage to live our lives as a reflection of you so that others may find a way to you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.