Confession

Read Psalm 51:1-12

If you happen to watch many crime and drama shows, you know that the ultimate goal of the police investigators is to get the perpetrators of a crime to confess. Depending on the show, the tactics used to elicit such a confession varies. If a confession is extracted legally, the wheels of justice can then begin to move  forward. Watching such shows, you also know anyone who has committed a crime is usually not eager to confess. People do not wish to take ownership of their wrongs because they fear the punishments which may be forthcoming.

As believers in God, we know the importance of confessing our wrongdoings. The author of Psalm 51 demonstrated the need to confess. Confession is an important step for us as we seek forgiveness and cleansing. The confession in this psalm acknowledges the need for God. Only God is able to wipe clean the negative impact of our sin. God alone is the one who can restore us to our created nature.

As we are currently in the season  of Lent, we experience a stronger focus on the value of confession. Perhaps as a spiritual practice for the next week, you may choose to read the words of these verses every day during your prayer time. Pause to consider what you are saying as you read the words outloud or in your thoughts.

Unexplainable God

Read Isaiah 55:8-9

Have you ever noticed how frequently there are times in life when we witness or experience something which does not make sense? Occasionally, new insights and understandings will help make sense of these things but not always. A change of perspective might also benefit us as we attempt to unravel the mystery. The reality is that we will never be able to explain everything which we experience in our lives. This is especially true when it comes to God.

The prophet Isaiah relays a message from God to the Israelites and to us. As part of the message, the Lord makes it clear that we will never fully  understand all of God’s thoughts and/or actions because they are not akin to human thoughts and actions. There is a mystery pertaining to God because God is spiritual and not human.

How often do we attempt to require God to adhere to human ways? We attempt to explain what the Lord thinks, does and chooses by human understanding. Our attempts to conform God’s reactions and viewpoints to our actions and viewpoints are comical when we examine them. God is much bigger than any one of us, or even all of us combined. The Lord’s insight, knowledge, abilities, and power eclipses any human level possible. Humans are finite while God is infinite. This is a good reality. 

Our goal should be to live in and accept the mystery of God. Knowing the Lord is about relationship, not being able to explain. A god who can be explained away is not a god but instead is an overly powerful human. We need a God who is beyond our explanations so we can trust God to do what we cannot.

Mortality and Sin

Read Genesis 3:19

Today Christians in all parts of the world attend services for Ash Wednesday. This day marks the start of the Lenten season in the Western Church. On this day we remember our mortality and the cause of death, sin. It is a day of reflection, solemnity, and humility. As part of the worship service, the person has ashes placed on their forehead or hand in the shape of a cross to serve as a visual reminder of our sin and death, but also the rescue found in the cross. When the imposition of the ashes takes place, the worship leader often says, “You are dust and to dust you shall return.”

When you read the verse for today from Genesis, you see the source of the phrase used on this day. This verse is part of the story of humanity’s choice to ignore God as a first step of disobedience  which we refer to as sin. God is explaining to the first humans the consequences of this choice. One of the consequences is death. God indicates we were from the earth and to the earth we will return. Our mortality is the consequence.

While this is an important day to acknowledge our mortality and our sin which has brought it into the human experience, that is not the last word. As I said, today marks the first day of a forty (Sundays are not included in the count.) day journey to the Easter celebration. The Easter celebration reminds us that Christ claimed victory over death and the cause of it, sin. Jesus’s obedience overcame our disobedience. This is why the cross is placed on us as a sign of victory even in the midst of our humble repentance today.

Wonderfully Created

Read Psalm 139:13-16

Anyone who has studied the human body must be amazed by it. All of the parts work and interact in a way which creates such synchronicity. Whether we examine how the body moves, the way food is digested for energy and cell building, or how the brain serves  to make life possible while creating all levels of thought, there is nothing haphazard about the creation of the body. The human body should cause each of us awe whenever we consider it.

The psalmist raises our awareness of this awe in the wards of Psalm 139. Credit for the creation of a human being is given to God. Not only the physical aspects of the human but the mental and spiritual components of the person are acknowledged as being made by God. The psalmist names the creation of the person as wonderful, made in a way that leaves an observer awestruck (fearful).

I encourage you to consider what it means to have been perfectly made in every detail. This perfection is not how humanity might define perfect but instead here meant there is purpose and meaning in every little detail of what and who we have been created to be. Ponder the truth that you have been “fearfully and wonderfully made” by the Almighty One. What you may see as imperfections and unworthiness are viewed by your Creator as exactly what should be for you to be you. God has been purposeful in making you just as you are. God deeply loves who you are.

Give A Blessing

Read Numbers 6:22-27

In most of the southern states of our country, you can often hear a phrase, “bless your heart.” This phrase can also be used in reference to a third person, “bless his/her heart.” When used, the phrase can be a sincere blessing but sometimes it can be a sarcastic way to express displeasure or unkind thoughts toward another person. Placing a blessing or curse upon another individual has been common among all human civilizations.

Our reading for today comes from a set of instructions which God is giving to Moses. We read here God telling Moses a blessing which the priests, Aaron and his sons, are to use with the Israelites. God indicates that by the use of this prescribed blessing, the leaders will be in essence placing the Spirit of God on the people.

Our interactions with people can be extremely varied. Some of them may be formal in nature while others may be exactly the opposite. Circumstance and the type of relationship dictate how we interact. Imagine what impact may occur in regard to our interactions if we verbally or mentally bless each person  who we have contact with during our day. If we utilize the blessing found in the passage each time, we would in essence be placing God’s Spirit upon the other person. Having done this, we may alter the manner in which we treat and speak to the individual.

I challenge you to attempt to make this a practice. The blessing God gave Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons is an easy one to memorize. Use it either out loud or just in your mind as you engage with others throughout your day. See if it changes the direction of those interpersonal situations.

By the Spirit

Read 2 Timothy 1:6-7

After an extended hiatus due to moving and complications related to the move, I am back. The difficulties which we experienced easily could have defeated my spirit. I have even considered whether I would resume my writing of online devotionals. What gave me the strength to push through the challenges, and also return to writing, has been the Spirit of the Lord. Through frequent and earnest prayer, I was able to be enveloped in the Spirit. The spirit gave me strength when I was emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. This same Spirit has nudged me to resume writing devotionals.

In our focus passage for today, Paul is giving instruction to one of his proteges, Timothy. He writes in his letter to Timothy that he must fan the gift he has received from God until it becomes a burning flame. Paul reminds Timothy that God has given us a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline, not one of timidity. Paul’s words are intended to urge Timothy to boldly develop and use the gift which comes from  God.

Each of us have moments when we do not think we can push forward. We have times of doubt in which we may not find value in a gift, or gifts, God has given to us. Giving up, quitting, may seem appealing. We may even attempt to convince ourselves that ceasing our efforts is the best course of action. These periods in our lives is  when Paul’s words speak to us the strongest. Being reminded of the importance to expand and use God’s gifts is the prompt which we need. Receiving the assurance that God has not placed a spirit of timidity in us but one of boldness in power, love, and discipline encourages us. I know it does me. Maybe it does you as well.

Come Into the Field

Read Matthew 9:35-38

For centuries, the economy of the United States was agrarian. The farming of our nation’s fertile land and raising of livestock was the bedrock of the economy and life in general. It required many hands to raise the necessary food to sustain a growing population. Whether directly involved in planting, tending, or managing the agricultural components, or not, every person was reliant upon agriculture in some fashion. When the industrial age arrived, the number of individuals needed to run the farms was reduced by the efficiency of new machinery and technology. People migrated off of farms and into cities where industry and service fields flourished. While agriculture continues to be vital to our survival, the number of individuals actively engaged in it is greatly reduced.

Jesus uses an agricultural reference in today’s passage from Matthew. Speaking to his disciples, who were actively engaged in forms of agriculture, Jesus tells them to request from God a number of laborers to work in the field of humanity. It is clear that Jesus says this as he has just witnessed the magnitude of the needs of humanity. Jesus is acutely aware that it will take a large number of people to actively address the needs of the multitudes. Only by responding to the needs will the people be ready to comprehend the message of grace which Jesus has come to share.

While we maybe two thousand years removed from the time in which Jesus shared these words, the situation remains much the same. There are still thousands of people who have needs which prevent them from hearing the Good News. We are these workers who the Lord desires to send out. Whether it be in our own neighborhoods or in another country, the harvest is abundant and just waiting for us to come and do the work. All of this begins by each of us addressing the needs of those around us. If each of us makes an effort, the work can be less burdensome. When we take care of the needs of a person, we make them more receptive to hear about the Lord’s loving grace.

Do Not Stop

Read Acts 5:27-32

One of the challenging lessons for parents to teach their children is not to succumb to peer pressure. This is a lesson which must be learned because throughout our entire life we will encounter people who try to pressure us into a variety of actions and situations. There are also times when we pressure ourselves to conform to the desires and priorities of others. A person needs to learn to stand for their own convictions and beliefs while being open to learning from the perceptions of others and possibly adjusting when appropriate.

The followers of Jesus are trying to understand what it means to continue to follow even though Jesus is no longer physically present. Meanwhile, The Jewish leadership is trying to eliminate any further following of Jesus. The leaders in Jerusalem had instructed the apostles to cease doing acts in Jesus’s name or share his teachings with others. Yet the apostles continued to do as Jesus had told them to do. In today’s passage the apostles are brought before the leadership to answer for their disobedience. The apostles tell the leaders that they cannot and will not succumb to the pressure of the leadership. They declare that they must do what Jesus, who spoke God’s instructions, told them. The Holy Spirit has affirmed this to them.

We are to be like the apostles in what we read here. There are people who tell us to not speak of Jesus. We are told to no longer share the stories of Jesus and how Jesus has worked in our lives. Some mock us when we attribute the works of compassion, mercy and grace which we perform in the name of the Lord. Our faith, beliefs, and understandings of the Lord should be kept private so we make no one uncomfortable is what we are told. The apostles tell us in this passage not to let peer pressure stop us from doing as God instructs. We are to have the courage to stand by our convictions and beliefs. Let us pray that we will follow the example of the apostles. 

Stones

Read 1 Peter 2:4-10

Individuals who have property which is at a different elevation than the property beside it often have to utilize retaining walls. These walls keep the soil contained so it does not erode away. Usually a retaining wall is made of stones or bricks. Over time, and often due to the movement of water, one or more of these stones may move out of place and threaten the integrity of the wall. Each stone is vital for the wall to effectively serve its purpose.

In the passage from 1 Peter, the writer uses the image of stones to communicate our role in exhibiting the grace of our Lord. The chief stone in this demonstration is Jesus who is the cornerstone.  Jesus stands as the greatest exhibition of God’s grace. Each of us become stones which build upon the cornerstone.

Understanding this passage in our life begins by realizing our role in the demonstration of grace. Like the stones in a retaining wall, each one of us is vital. With the grace shown through Christ as the base of our display, we add our witness of God’s grace in our lives. Each of these witnesses combine together to create a profound message of the grace of God active in the world.

Be that living stone which demonstrates grace. You are an important part of the beautiful display for others to see.

So Good

There are times in a person’s life when memories from our childhood can come flooding back into the mind. Certain experiences or events can trigger those memories. Recently, some events in my life created one of those instances. I was reflecting upon how certain situations fell into place. I had a need for the Lord to intercede in my life and the lives of some individuals who I deeply love. Naturally, this prompted me to engage in a sustained period of frequent and diligent prayer. I turned to family and trusted prayer warriors in my life. While I firmly believe that the Lord always works faithfully in the lives of God’s children, I could have never foreseen the great show of faithfulness which I recently experienced. This led me to remember a song from my childhood.

Growing up in a small, rural community, I had the blessing of being nurtured into the Christian faith by loving people in a small church. Every Sunday morning, children, youth, teachers and the pastor would gather in a basement room for the Sunday School opening. We would sing songs, hear a passage from Scripture, and say a prayer before splitting into our classes by age. One song which we sang frequently is, God is So Good. I would also later sing this song at church camp.

As I considered the Lord’s recent guidance and blessings in my life, the words of this song flooded my mind.

God truly is good and has been extremely good to me. I love God so!