Devotionals

88 posts

Dead Week

This week is already a lot. So, we’re keepin’ it simple: A worship song and a Psalm. We hope that the time you spend here today will settle your heart and mind and be a chance to breathe in God’s perfect peace even if just for couple minutes.

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

 

Have a favorite song or set of verses that bring you peace? Submit your suggestions here, completely anonymously, no explanation required. 

The Good Part

by Ruth Hallstead

Only 696 hours until finals are over. But who’s counting, anyway? It’s easy to get wrapped up in thinking, I just have to make it until _____. Counting down the days, hours, minutes until something exciting, whether it be the end of a class, a vacation, summer, a concert, anything. This is a dangerous place to be though—if you’re always looking forward to something exciting, you often miss all the fun stuff along the way! When I was younger, I used to get so excited for the end or beginning of something, that by the time I got there it couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations and I was almost always disappointed. Not only that, I realized I was totally blind to any small (or even big) things in between. Getting to sleep in, seeing a nice sunrise, running into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, stuff like that. I was always so ready for X to happen that I missed A-W! I worked (and continue to work) really hard to fix this mindset, because while sometimes you do simply have to grin and bear it, that only gets you so far. Every day has something wonderful in it—or at least not totally awful. On a grander scale, sometimes Christians are criticized for our view that this life is temporary, and greater things await us in heaven. Let’s go to the Psalmist for some wisdom about that. “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13). In this Psalm, David alternates between praising the Lord, asking to be delivered from his enemies, and speaking about life after death. I think we can take a major life lesson from David here. Yes, life everlasting is going to be amazing. But so is life now! For the short term, yes, being done with finals will be great and it’s okay to be excited. But don’t let anticipation take over your life. We CAN’T skip to the good part. Or we’ll miss all the good parts in between! As you trudge through this week and the next, go ahead and get excited about fun things coming up. But don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. Bask in the sun. Read a chapter of a good book. Lay in bed for five more minutes. Rejoice in whatever is happening right now. And then rejoice in whatever happens next!

Battlefield

by Hannah Alford

On Monday, Alexi talked about the Armor of God, one of my favorite passages from the Bible, and how it arms Christians in their mission to further the message of Jesus’s love. I wanted to go more in depth of it because these verses have so much packed in them and such a great message! Obviously, when we’re talking about the armor of God, you’re not going to wearing a giant metal suit everywhere you go, but, that doesn’t mean it is not important to carry it with you at all time. On a battlefield (a battlefield, a battlefield) you have to have your full armor, you can’t go without your helmet of salvation or breastplate of righteousness, or any piece of armor, because you’re vulnerable without it. But, with the full armor of God on your side, you’re not fighting with swords that kill, you’re fighting with words. To be a Christian is to be a representation of the mission Jesus instilled when he died on the cross. Our truth holds our beliefs (as a belt), we defend ourselves with faith (as a shield), and we spread the gospel of peace (as shoes) by going out into the world and making known the salvation in every single person on this Earth. Paul wraps it up beautifully by bringing it back to prayer, the foundation in our relationship with God and the strongest link in making connections with others.

“And pray in the Spirit in all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:18)

 

Here is the Armor of God passage as well if you want to look back on it 🙂

“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Battlefield

Ah, 2009. What a year. Among other gems, we got this hit-ballad from Jordin Sparks asking why love always feels like a battlefield (a battlefield, a battlefield). Now, to be fair, I think it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t the model for a super healthy romantic relationship – especially since she doesn’t even know what they’re fighting for. But, when we follow Jesus, sometimes love does feel like a battlefield (a battlefield, a battlefield) (sorry, I’ll stop now). Following Jesus can be challenging because Jesus has enemies aka Satan and, as Christians, we are called to resist the temptation and evil that is thrown at us – which is really, really hard. Like Jordin says one minutes it’s love and you’re on a spiritual high from service or your morning devo and then it’s the smallest things that tear you down. So, let’s skip a few verses ahead and take some advice from the song – “You better go and get your armor (insert echo).” Our armor is laid out in Ephesians 6:11-18.  Often called the armor of God, this passage is modeled after the Roman armor of the day because the recipients of this letter would have a clear image of what this looked like and the Roman army was the most formidable force in the world.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

There are a few things I find particularly interesting about this – the first being that Roman armor had no backplate because they weren’t allowed to retreat.  Where have I started to retreat from the battleline out of fear, pressure or just distraction? The other interesting piece of this, to me, is that we are only provided with one weapon – the Word of God (vs. 17).  Now, I don’t know a lot about Sword fighting, but I’ve watched a lot of Reign, and I’ve learned that no soldier would go into battle without being very familiar with his weapon.  How familiar am I really with the weapon I am given? What can I do to make myself more familiar with it? If we’re on a battlefield, let’s do our best to be prepared.  

Sorry Not Sorry

On Monday, Ruth wrote about saying #sorrynotsorry and showing off your love, despite looking like an odd man out.

Her message reminded me of the story of Daniel (I know – a classic). While my interpretation here is not unique, I always think it’s inspiring to read the stories of people who lived their faith despite immeasurable odds. Daniel provides many examples. SO, as a refresher, here’s the knock-off spark notes versions:

  • First, Daniel and his buds get drafted into the king’s army and ordered to eat a bunch of junk food and have allll the booze. Daniel was like “Nah, fam that’s not what God would want” so he and his friend’s found a loophole. God gave them crazy cool skills and they were stronger than all the other people. God:1 King:0 (Daniel 1)
  • Later, the king made a golden statue of himself and people were supposed to bow down and worship it (real humble guy) and Daniel’s besties was like “yeah, no #sorrynotsorry” and even though they all had super high positions, they still got thrown into a furnace where they were supposed to die but God saved them and the king worshipped God. God: 2 King: 0 (Daniel 3)
  • A little bit later, after Daniel had gotten another promotion, a bunch of his coworkers got jealous and convinced the king to make it illegal to pray to anything other than the king. Again, Daniel was like #sorrynotsorry and so they threw him into a lion’s den. He lived because God was on his side and the king was like “whoa hey that God is legit.” God: 3 King: 0 (Daniel 6)

Now, if you were raised in a church, these stories probably seem pretty familiar. But, for me, every time I hear them I am reminded to ask myself how can I be like Daniel today? What should I say #sorrynotsorry to? Participating in the latest gossip sesh? Turning in only mediocre work? Ignoring my friend who asked for a ride? How will my witness benefit (or be hurt) by what I am about to do? 

When we listen closely to God and say #sorrynotsorry to things of this world, we grow closer to God as disciples and servants, all the while, allowing our hearts to be shaped more in his image.

 

Sorry Not Sorry

by Ruth Hallstead

During the Good Friday service at First UMC, the pastor approached the message as though he were speaking directly to God. He took the words “Father forgive them” and turned it into a question. He questioned why Jesus would let them go without punishment. Halfway through though, he switched gears from “how could you forgive them?” to “Oh no, I am them”. As he discussed this, he spoke about denying Jesus, being ashamed of your faith, and being Peter before the cock crowed. This really resonated with me. I am not ashamed of my faith, yet I don’t always show that. I have to send a weekly report to one of my advisers, and I always say something like have a good weekend, or enjoy the sunshine or something so that it isn’t just a blank email with an attachment. This week when I sent it I paused though. My instinct was to say Happy Easter… after all, the Lord was about to rise!! But I still hesitated before writing Happy Easter. Yesterday was exciting: Jesus rose! We cannot stay quiet about that, if we truly embrace what just happened. Not only did a dead man rise from the grave after three days of being dead, but that man rose to save us even after we denied, beat and betrayed Him and then killed Him in the worst possible way (essentially slow suffocation)! What?! And guess what, He’s stayin’ risen! While as Wade so eloquently put it, we shouldn’t be those weird Christians, we’re always going to be a little odd (if we follow the guy who ate with sinners, cleaned a blind guy’s eyes out with mud, and forgave men who crucified Him for being different). So someone might be a tad bit uncomfortable if you tell them Happy Easter, or they might think differently about you if you say no to something because it conflicts with your Bible study, and maybe they will laugh at your invitation to the Rising. Tell them anyway. Invite them anyway. Laugh with them. Because, Sorry, we’re not sorry for rejoicing in the joy of the Lord. Christ the Lord is risen today, and every day after…join me in singing Alleluia!