Archive for February, 2016

Matthew 5:38-42

February 29, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Beth Bruce.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-42

To read these verses without a bit of context, would have most people thinking that in today’s world, that Christians are doormats, fools, or just naïve. It is not natural for us to allow others to take advantage. We can’t take care of everyone and we are not perfect like Jesus.

To put this in context with the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, will help us figure out what to do with this today.

Jesus set the stage earlier in Matthew chapter five with the Beatitudes. Here, Jesus reminds us of our vertical relationship with God, in which his perfect love is with us forever.

In our “horizontal” worldly lives, this same example of love without limits gives us a glimpse of the way he is asking us to live. We are to serve or neighbor without limits, because we are blessed with God’s grace and love.

Jesus meant what he said. These words are binding, even for us, but we know that in understanding the intent of God’s law, we can translate this into ways to live today.

For example, Jesus is not suggesting that we teach our kids to let them be bullied. He is suggesting is that we teach our kids not to bully, and more importantly to help others who are suffering at the hands of bullies. Jesus is not trying to prevent us from defending or protecting ourselves!

He gives us these words after having already re-assured us that we are blessed and Christ has come to fulfill this law in our place. On the cross, Christ becomes the ultimate doormat, and does not keep score. Jesus shows us we are free to love without limits in our daily lives as we are blessed with his grace.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, today, please help us to ignore insults, to not seek revenge, to forgive and forget. Remind us always to pray for sinners, pray for our enemies, and to love others without limits. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Mark 10:13-16

February 26, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Lorah Gough.

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16

In this scripture, we see Jesus really getting upset with his disciples who want to prevent him from holding and blessing the children who were brought to him. Maybe they are trying to keep the crowds away from him or maybe they think that children are not as important as adults in those days, but the disciples are wrong.

Jesus wants to be with them because they belong to the kingdom of God.

When I think of children, I think of these words: sweet, pure, honest, trusting, humble, playful, and loving. Woe to adulthood. We spend our entire lives growing out of childhood and away from possessing the very qualities Jesus said we must have to “receive the Kingdom of God.”

As time goes on, we are exposed to sin and we do sin (sometimes). We are exposed to lies and untruths and learn to mistrust. We read about gangs, criminals, and terrorists of different races, colors, and religion and become hateful and discriminatory. We see the power of money and become greedy. We are compelled to work long hours to get ahead or promoted, and don’t leave enough time for play or prayer.

Unless we are very careful, we will soon become everything that a child is not. We know that Jesus is forgiving, but we must become strong in prayer and faith so we too, will be able to trust, love, and forgive everyone, every day, the way Bible teaches us.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, please compel us to spend time with children, playing, loving, and praying with them. Let us watch them and learn from them. Let us not only show kindness to the children and youth that we encounter each day, but also our neighbors, our co-workers, and those that live in our communities. Let us pray that we do not lose all of our child-like qualities as we grow older. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Mark 6:7-13

February 25, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Stacy Williams.

He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.

He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. Mark 6:7-13

We can go about our daily lives and sometimes forget that we are Christians.

Jesus sent his disciples out with all they needed in order to bless those with whom they came into contact.

We are in contact with different people every day of our lives. Do we testify to those with whom we come into contact? Do we tell them of the Gospel of Jesus?

Why do we feel as though we are not equipped to do that daily? We have all we need to go into the world and deliver the words of Jesus.

If what we offer is not accepted or welcomed, we should not stop there. We should shake the dust off our feet and continue on casting out demons and anointing with oil. This is what we are called to do!

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we come to you with open hearts and arms that you give us the strength to go out into this world and bless everyone we come in contact with faith, hope, and love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 5:25-34

February 24, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Joann Welton.

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it.

But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:25-34

What a difficult life this poor women had, until she met and trusted in the healing power of Jesus. She had an illness that caused her to hemorrhage for 12 years and no doctors had been able to help her. Today, that would have been uncomfortable, but in Jesus’ day it was so much more – she was an outcast.

According to the laws of the day (Leviticus 15: 19-29), she was unclean and anyone or anything that she touched was unclean. Her life must have been terrible – so lonely.

So, it was out of desperation that she boldly reached out and touched Jesus hoping, beyond hope, that He could heal her.

Many people had no doubt touched Jesus’ robe on that day, but even Jesus understood that this was something special. So He stopped, listened to her story, and then confirmed that it was her faith that had made her well.

When our lives become overwhelming, we too need to stop, pray, and have faith, in Jesus’ ability to heal the broken places of our lives.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, Jesus is the healer of our souls. Help us to listen to our hearts and trust that no problem is too great, if we truly believe in Jesus. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Mark 4:35-41

February 23, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Art Grove.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.

A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:35-41

We all live in a world of storms and tempests. Rain, wind, and flood can completely upset our lives. We experience these at home or work or even here at Faith.

The figurative storms in relationships, illness, or financial waves threaten to swamp our lives and distract us from Jesus. Stormy lives may obscure our faith.

Jesus asks why we are so timid. How is it that we have no faith?

We should pray for help when we are in distress. We should pray that the Holy Spirit restores our faith and brings stillness to the storm that we live in.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please quiet the wind and subdue the waves that threaten our stormy lives. Holy Spirit make us bold to pray for the stillness to listen for the healing words of the Gospel. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 3:1-6

February 22, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Marlaena Dobbins.

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.”

 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. Mark 3:1-6

I have learned that in life we must make decisions that may be good or bad. Every action we take is both judged and ridiculed. This is especially the case for me.

As a high school senior, I’ve never had to make so many decisions in life. Not only which college to attend and Prom dates, but also who to eat lunch with so I maintain a positive social life. I also have to think about if I’m going to look weird trying a new hairstyle, whether or not I’m eating too much, or if my makeup is just right. Although you don’t have to be in high school to experience this anxiety.

We have expectations that we place on others which mirror our own insecurities. Phrases like “she only comes to church on Easter and Christmas”, “he’s always checking his phone during the service”, “she’s still wearing her wedding ring”, and “I can’t believe that’s how they raise their kids” are waiting and expecting mindsets.

We constantly wait for our peers to fumble so that we may ridicule and judge them, allowing us to soothe scorn of our own burdens. We endlessly expect others to do the same to us.

As a black female that comes from a non-affluent family, there are so many people that watch and expect me to be a role that society has constructed. If I am assertive, I am an angry black woman. If I speak without any grammatical errors, I am trying to be white.

How can I make decisions in life, when every possible choice leads to condemnation?

There may be certain traditions or rules set in aims to restrict us. People say that the church is dying, that the traditions, and customs aren’t the same. Yet, Jesus teaches us specifically that death is sometimes necessary so that we may have everlasting life. Christianity teaches us that we do not fear death, yet seek the ways in which we can make life better for those around us.

Let us pray: I pray that we me learn to accept ourselves for who we are. Humans that are capable of making mistakes and being completely imperfect. That we may do the right thing with care for only the eyes of God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Luke 20:20-26

February 19, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Suzanne Girouard.

So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor.

So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” They said, “The emperor’s.” He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent. Luke 20:20-26

Just as in the scripture above, we are aware there are many people trying to catch us off guard, trying to trick us when they ask pointed questions regarding our  loyalty as a citizen of this country and our love and loyalty to our God.

As citizens, we are obligated to obey the laws of this country and pay our taxes. We are talking about two important facts of love and loyalty to our government and more importantly to our Savior Jesus Christ.

Jesus died to save us from our sins and we should lead our life looking through the eyes of Jesus in everything we say and do. We should show that love to those around us known and unknown.

Jesus in the passage above says render unto God those things that are of God. As followers of Christ through him, we learned LOVE which is of God. Reflecting LOVE of him and his people, we share goodness, kindness, patience, and honesty.

At Faith, we have many opportunities to serve our brothers and sisters through services such as the Grace Bags for the Homeless, students feeding the homeless, providing food through the Souper Bowl of Caring, participating in the CCSC programs, providing school supplies for the underprivileged through Back to School, gifts for needy children through Jingle Bell Express, and working at the Emergency Service Food Pantry.

We share our church facility with programs around the city such as Cornerstone, Narcotics Anonymous, AA, ESL, Bellaire Moms of Multiples, and more.

We are servants of God with many opportunities to show our caring and kind spirit to many, which is LOVE. As we learned from Jesus “Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And second is like: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, thank you for your example of sacrifice of your Son and caring for all of us. Help us to have a loving heart and spirit as learned from you. Guide and show us where we are needed and give us the strength to do these things in your name. Praying this in the name of your son Jesus Christ, Amen.

John 7:32-36

February 18, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Kathy Patrick.

The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”

The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me and you will not find me’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” John 7:32-36

“What does he mean?” Why can we not go where Jesus goes?

I was raised in a faith tradition that emphasizes individual, personal confession of sins. Yes, we’d rather not. Yes, we flinch when we ponder what we’ve done. But, yes, if we fail to do so “we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Each time I went to confession, something holy happened. But there’s one confession I’ll never forget.

I went to confession spewing frustration and exclaimed to Father Jacques, “So now I’m here. And I keep asking myself, ‘What would Jesus do?’” And Father Jacques laughed out loud and said, “Well, that may be the silliest question ever! Why would you ask that? Jesus was both God and a 30 year old celibate man. You’re not God. You’re a married woman with two kids. Jesus didn’t face your troubles, so the question isn’t ‘What would Jesus do?’ it’s ‘What would Jesus want you to do?’”

In that moment, I heard the answer to the question, “What does he mean?”

What Jesus meant is that he is God and we are not. What Jesus meant was that he’d made me free to face my sin, to confess it, and to move on from it, knowing I would be forgiven again, in an endless cycle of love and mercy. And having received that forgiveness, I am free to pray openly,

Let us pray: “What do you mean, Lord? What, today, would you have me do?” And then, in silence, I listen…

Mark 1:16-20

February 17, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Yvonne Moody.

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. Mark 1:16-20

Have you ever stopped to think about the reality of what happened in this story? Here are these guys…ordinary hardworking guys going about their daily work. Fishermen doing labor intensive, and very unglamorous work.

How many family members were they trying to support? How long were their days? Did they even enjoy what they were doing? And then comes Jesus. He simply says “Come, follow me.” And they immediately stop what they are doing and follow him!

No arguing, no convincing, no rationalizing the risk versus return of the proposal. They just go “at once” and “without delay”. That took tremendous faith.

I sometimes wonder if I were in their shoes, would I have gotten the message? What did they see in Jesus that compelled them to follow Him without question?

It is hard to imagine putting ourselves in the position of those early disciples, but that is not what God is asking of us right now. God only asks us to believe – to have faith that with Jesus as our guide, we really can make a very simple choice to just trust that following Him will make our life better.

Does that mean that life will be easy or trouble free? Not at all. Each one of us will face obstacles in life. Some of them will seem insurmountable, but with Jesus by our side, all we really need to do is follow and He will help us to do the next right thing. One day at a time.

He will give us the courage to stand up for the marginalized, to comfort the lonely, and care for the sick. To share our faith with those we meet and to look for opportunities to serve.

I feel fortunate that I have never been asked to walk away from my family or my work to prove my faith, but I do have choices to make every day. When someone tells me of a sick relative or a difficult family situation, will I have the courage to say “I will pray for you” and then follow through and do just that? When I am asked to serve on a church committee or show up to help with an event, will I prioritize my time and be there when I am needed?

When Jesus calls will I follow?

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, You call us to listen, to trust, and then to act. Give us the courage to follow wherever you lead, and the strength to walk away from the things in life that distract us, and look toward you. Amen.

Matthew 2:13-18

February 16, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Daniel Castillo.

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.

Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:13-18

Often I’ve heard people say, “Hey, I had this crazy dream last night, want to hear it?” And honestly it’s tough to listen let alone trust in a dream. But Joseph trusts to the point that he leaves “by night”.

There’s an urgency to go, when I’d want to wait pray and figure out how to even get to Egypt. Here God speaks and Joseph acts quickly.

It’s also hard to avoid noticing that the parents of the children killed by Herod do not receive any message. No dreams or angels but this is how our world works. But it does make you wonder why?

Why isn’t everyone saved when people like Herod kill babies or those that shoot up schools kill children or when people like Hitler kill Jews? We do not understand it and I doubt I ever will.

I do know that when it comes to stuff like Herod killing babies we either find peace or endlessly search for why. God does not simply fix these problems in our world. Instead, God comforts those who suffer.

Let us pray: God, remind us to seek peace. Remind us that your will comes in dreams and messengers. Help us to trust you like Joseph, to go “by night” or whatever you may call us into. In Jesus’ name. Amen.