Daily Scripture and Prayer September 2021
Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church
For the past several weeks we have been reflecting together on the questions Jesus asks his disciples and us. The first few days of September we consider perhaps his most poignant questions during the time of his betrayal, death and in his first resurrection appearances. We will conclude on September 4th with the powerful question, “Whom are you looking for?” From that question I have no doubt that we will each realize in a deeper way that Jesus himself is all we really need. From that moment of awakening, we begin to consider what the Spirit of Christ dwelling within us and moving through us really means for our lives. To explore that together, we will enter into a journey with Galatians 5:22-23. Each Sunday’s devotion will consider one element of the Spirit’s fruit in our lives and through the following week consider different scriptures to help us better understand the concept. I pray that this will be a fruit-filled journey for us at just the right moment! So that you will have a full week to explore each aspect of the Spirit’s fruit, this month’s devotions extend through October 2nd.
September 1, 2021 Luke 22:48 - Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?
In Mark and Matthew, Judas announces his presence and sets his plan in motion with a kiss. Here in Luke, Jesus takes the initiative and prevents the kiss by identifying himself to the gathering opponents. Perhaps the intimacy of that kiss was just too much to bear. How often I have spoken sweet love of Jesus and turned to betray him in the very next breath! I love you, Lord,” I say. “But I will not extend your love to that one. I will not offer your forgiveness to that one. I will not pray for the enemy you instruct me to love. I love you, but not a 10% tithe? But serve on ministry team? But work for peace?! But wear a mask and get a shot?” The love we declare is not always obvious in the choices we make, is it? Ponder Jesus’ question: Is it with a kiss that you are betraying me?
Prayer: Dear God, when we remember your betrayal and arrest, we are aware of all of our own betrayals of your will and ways. We are so sorry. Help us to start again. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
September 2, 2021 - Matthew 27:46 - And about three o’clock Jesus cried with
a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema, sabachthani? that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Why did it have to come to this, O Lord? We know the theological answers, but our hearts are heavy with the memory of your pain and suffering. We ache for you! How those last moments haunt us! You felt so alone. You could not even feel the presence of God. The desolation of it shudders through our hearts this moment. Sometimes we feel abandoned, too. When our bodies fail, when someone we love dies, when life comes apart, when pandemic lingers, we, too, cry out, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” Perhaps that feeling of abandonment is just a part of the human experience. If so, it helps that Jesus has known and understands what we experience. It helps, also, that we know what he experienced. It is a bond that we share and an honor to share it. Ponder Jesus’ question: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Prayer: Dear God, today we sit with you in mourning the loss of your son, Jesus, and all your children who suffer and feel alone today. We feel your anguish. We are awed by your saving love. Thank you that, in you, we are never alone, no matter how it may feel. That is all we know to say. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
September 3, 2021 - Luke 8:25 - He said to them, “Where is your faith?”
The crowds have dispersed. The disciples, those who stayed to the end and those who fled, must now sit with the death of their dreams. Jesus came as a wind of hope into their lives. He somehow lifted them from the muck of despair, oppression and hardship into the values, the very presence of God. He showed them a new kingdom ruled by other worldly rules. Now he is gone, and the images of his gruesome death and their own cowardice are all they can see when they close their eyes. What is left? Can they, should they, carry on now? What did his life mean? What did his death mean? Is it possible to believe in him when he is not with them? Is it possible to carry him within? Those are questions for us as well. Ponder Jesus’ question: where is your faith?
Prayer: Dear God, today we ponder what it means to ‘believe anyway’. We have walked with you to the cross. We know what is coming next, but we don’t need to approach the mystery too soon. Some days we simply sit with the absence of
your presence. Help us to have faith when we do not see you and courage when we do not feel your presence. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
September 4, 2021 – John 20:15 Jesus said to her, Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?
Mary, in the wee small hours, has come to the tomb to weep and to honor Jesus. She has come wrapped up in death. Her grief is overwhelming. In the midst of it, Jesus, the one whom death and grief cannot contain, asks her the most poignant of all questions: Why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for? Before he could identify himself to her, he had to be sure that she was really looking for him and not some other god of her own desiring. Perhaps Jesus knew that the only way to find him is to get clear about the one for whom we are looking. Are you looking for a God who will do what you want, give you what you want, protect you from change, overlook your broken behavior? You will not find that one at the empty tomb. Are you willing to be astounded, confounded, transformed? If so, the empty tomb is for you! Ponder Jesus’ questions: Why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?
Prayer: Dear God, every day is Easter Day for us! Every day is the day that changes everything. Every day is the day that we learn the depth of our truth: Hope is warranted! Love wins! Death has no power over us! Alleluia! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
The Fruit of the Spirit:
Explore Love this Week
Sunday September 5, 2021 - Galatians 5:1;22-25 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery….By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Scholars do not know for sure where the churches were to which this letter was addressed. What is apparent is that Paul was furious with them! Apparently some legalistic Jewish-Christians had been stirring up trouble. They believed that to be a Christian one must first become circumcised. Paul
saw this as a first step back into the requirements of the law as a means of salvation and wholeness. The issue for him was Justification (how people are saved)by grace alone. The Jewish Christians said that Christ (grace) and circumcision (law-keeping) gave one right standing before God. Paul maintains that it is Christ alone who does that. The bulk of the letter makes the argument that we are free in Christ from the bondage of the law. In this passage, Paul addresses the reality that freedom does not mean license and then describes what the Spirit at work in us actually produces. The word ‘freedom’ is a technical word used in the transactions that were done to free actual slaves. In the Greek there is an article with the word freedom which makes clear that it is not freedom in the general sense that is meant here. Paul is talking about a particular kind of freedom which is the result of having been made right before God by Jesus. In other words, it is the freedom bought for us by Christ that issues in the Spirit’s fruit. Before he tells us what Spirit does, he gives a long list of the character traits and behaviors that are not, and cannot be of the Spirit. (You might want to go back and look at those words. If you would like a study sheet on them, email me and I’ll be happy to share.) This week we explore the Spirit’s fruit of love. Notice that all of the aspects mentioned are the Fruit. They are not different fruits like a menu from which we choose the one’s we like best. They are together and inextricably what Spirit produces in a freed in Christ life. The word love is one we know well: agape. It is self-giving, active, unconditional benevolence. How have you experienced Love changing you or through you changing others?
Prayer: Dear God, your Spirit amazes us every day. You sow love into our hearts and pour it upon us in our lives. We hear birds sing and they are love songs. We see flowers bloom and they are gifts from the beloved. We do nothing to earn grace and yet we often hoard it. Help us today to look for ways in which you can love through us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Monday September 6, 2021 - Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
The book of Leviticus gathers together the early community’s wisdom about how to live love together, the rules and boundaries of love infused lives. It can be hard to see that sometimes because of the cultural understandings that we no longer share with the ancestors. Still, it tells us that love does certain things
and doesn’t do other things. It also tells us that we are not the center of the universe, that neighbors are just as important as we are. Think today about any people (neighbors) toward whom you have hard or negative feelings. Who tends to irritate you? Who do you avoid? Why do they get to you? What can they teach you? What is their gift to you? Take a moment to close your eyes and visualize these people (if it is not too painful) and pray love and forgiveness into their lives. You don’t have to initiate contact. It is enough for now just to send love in your heart.
Prayer: Gracious God, you flood our lives with love. It is so ever present that we sometimes cease to even see it and get entranced by dissatisfactions and grievances. Help us today to release those burdens and dwell in love instead. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021 - Matthew 10:37-38 “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
This is one of Jesus’ hard sayings! He is not saying that we are not to love our families deeply and even above all earthly things. He is simply saying that anything that is more important to us than he is will, in the final analysis, rules our lives. What things have become more important to you than Jesus? How can you love your family rightly this week? What opportunities might you have today to show your love for Jesus and to put your relationship with him first? Take moments today to say thank you to God for those whom you love. Make appointments throughout the day with Jesus in prayer. Tell him how important he is to you and ask if he needs anything from you today.
Prayer: Gracious God, help us today to notice the ways you love us and open ourselves to the joy of loving others in your name. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Wednesday, September 8, 2021 - Read John 13:34 “I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another.”
Jesus loved us selflessly, compassionately, with understanding and forgiveness. He wants that kind of self-emptying love to be the hallmark of our
relationships as well. In what ways does self-emptying love mark your relationships? When you look at your life, who is included in the ‘one another’? Who is excluded? Why? Take a moment to close your eyes and let the faces of all the people in your life come into your mind’s eye. Thank God for the many loves in your life and ask Jesus to help you love in the same way he does.
Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for the opportunity to choose love today. Help us to cut through the clutter of life and see within us your divine love pulsating with our heartbeats. Help us to be the pulsebeat of love in our homes and community. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Thursday, September 9, 2021: Read Rom. 12:9-10 “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”
Here Paul is writing to people he does not know and distilling for them the essence of the Christian faith. Sometimes we think that the love of other people must be a deep emotional feeling. For that reason, we think that we cannot genuinely love if we do not ‘feel’ loving. On the contrary. Love is a choice. To love genuinely is to choose to do the best for the other. Often when we choose to love, loving feelings catch up with us. Think today of people for whom you can do a loving act. Perhaps it is as small as helping with a household chore or sending a note of thanks for a specific kindness. Rehearse in your mind today all of the good qualities of each of the people in your life. Think of the tender ordinary moments and give thanks to God for those who have chosen to love you.
Prayer: Gracious God, help us today to remember that what makes love genuine is wishing another completely well in body, mind, spirit, and circumstances. Transform us a little more by your love today so that can be used by you to transform the world. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Friday, September 10, 2021- In your Bibles read the 13th chapter of Read 1 Corinthians ending with verse 13 And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
The word ‘greatest’ in Greek is a comparative form of the word megas. It denotes intensity, weightiness, and power. Make a list of each of the qualities
of love that Paul outlines in this incredibly beautiful poem to love. Ask yourself to what extent these qualities are obvious in your life with those closest to you? With your acquaintances? With your church family? In your community? As you prayerfully read the chapter, ask the Holy Spirit to inspire you in your love walk. Ask the Spirit to give you special insight into the ways and character of Christian love. You might want to read the passage over three times and come back to it during the day. It is the cornerstone of Christian community. Make a commitment today to bring love to mind throughout the day and to try to express love in all that you do.
Prayer: Gracious God, help me today to embody the type of love that you both desire from me and reveal to me. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Saturday, 11, 2021: Read 1 John 4:16 “So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God.”
The essence and nature of God is love. God is not sentimental or overly permissive but ethical and never ending. God always chooses the best for us, at every moment in every circumstance. God is brimming with compassion, delight, and forgiveness. How might you make your day a more love-filled one? How can you abide in God’s love today? Are there worries or feelings of inadequacy or guilt that you need to get rid of? Send them off on the great stream of God’s love as if they were tiny boats made of leaves. Whenever your mind wanders today, draw it back to God’s love for you. Stop for a moment and feel the sweet truth of your life: you are God’s delight, God’s pride and joy, God’s reason for salvation. Thank God for that great love that frees you and ask that God will mold you into a person whose primary characteristic is love.
Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for your great unending love and compassion. Help us to open our hearts to your love. Mend our every wound with it so that we may be your healers in our broken and fearful world. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Explore Joy This Week!
Sunday, September 12, 2021 – Re-read our theme verses today. Galatians 5:1;22-25 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery….By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
The word Paul uses in this verse that we translate as joy is the chara. It is inseparable from love and impossible with out it. It is a deep settled inner delighted trust that no matter what is happening, God and life are good, eternal and filled with blessings. This is the word most often used to describe the experience of early Christian martyrs even at their death. It is used of everything from wild hilarity to a calm and settled delight. It is rooted in unshakeable awareness of God’s love and resurrection hope. Settle yourself for a moment and see if you can feel a settled disposition of hope in your heart. Does it make you smile? Does it make you want to dance? Does it open your eyes to see beauty, humor, and possibility? If so, you have experienced a moment of Spirit Joy no matter how small or simple. So, rejoice! Joy lives inside you waiting to dance free.
Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for the settled hope you give us that is born from love and gives rise to joy. Help us today to open our hearts to experiences of joy and to share moments of joy with others. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Monday, September 13, 2021 - Read Psalm 30:5 b “Weeping may linger for the night but joy comes in the morning.”
God’s intention for each of our lives is that we live each day filled to the brim with joy and happiness. That doesn’t mean that we never experience pain or challenges. It simply means that we know that they will not last forever and so we see them in a broader context. Ponder today some of the times when joy has broken through in your life even in the midst of hardship. What are the things that bring you joy? How can you incorporate those things into your life today? Thank God often today for the joy of God’s presence that transforms any hardship.
Prayer: Gracious God with thank you for your presence with us that steadies and keeps us grounded in joy. Today help us to sow joy into our lives by taking moments for what we most enjoy and sharing a smile with someone else. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Tuesday, September 14, 2021 – Read Matthew 25:21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
In this startling parable Jesus shows us that what we do matters to God and what we do for God matters supremely. The more we deepen in faith and service the greater the joy we experience in our lives. Robbie and I have a new rescue dog, Bonnie. Unlike Abigail who was motivated by treats, Bonnie is motivated by praise. When we say, “Good Dog,” she wags all over. She wags so vigorously it looks like her tail will come unscrewed. What might you choose to do today that would allow God to say, “Well done!” to you? How do you feel God’s pleasure in your life? In what ways do you experience the joy of the Master? Imagine yourself wagging all over and basking in God’s delight in you. After all the Greek root for ‘worship’ is the word for a dog licking a master’s hand in joy. Thank God today for the joy of service and ask how you might spread joy today in all of your actions and relationships.
Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for the delight you take in us. Help us today to be wiggle-tailed in our service of you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Wednesday, September 15, 2021 - Read John 15:11 “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
Jesus has just told his friends a little more about his relationship with the Father and the depth of the disciples’ connection to him. Using the imagery of the vine and branches he talks about abiding in us. Then he says an even more startling thing. He tells that ALL that he says is so that we can experience joy! Remember that the word for joy can mean everything from wild hilarity to calm delight. Can you think of a hilarious moment this week? God laughed with you. Can you think of a moment when you just felt a centered small happiness? God shared that moment with you. What do you need today to make your joy complete? Ask God to speak to your heart on these matters and to fill you up with the joy you are created to live.
Prayer: Gracious God, what a wonder it is that your deep desire is our joy! Help us today to live into that desire and to spread it wherever we go. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Thursday, September 16, 2021 – Read Psalm 5:11 “But let those who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you.”
The Book of Psalms is the prayer book of God’s people. In it the whole of the human condition is poured before God in personal and corporate worship. The psalms are said, sung, whispered, and memorized. They tell our life stories. Psalm 5 is a psalm written, prayed, and sung during a time when Israel’s enemies were fiercely upon them. It was a time when fear reigned, and joy was hard to come by. Still, the psalmist moves from sighing and helplessness to reaffirm that God is not only the source of the rejoicing of victory, but that God’s protection and love are reason enough to experience joy. Have there ever been times in worship or personal prayer when you came dragging and despondent and then left uplifted having found a moment of joy in the midst of trouble? Have there been times when you felt like your problems were too big for you to manage and God was your only hope for protection or deliverance? Is this such a time? If so, imagine yourself on the other side of the trouble, safe and held by God’s love. Do you smile at that imagining? Rest for a moment in the joy of knowing that God is with you and moving you to a good place.
Prayer: Gracious God, sometimes we have so many struggles we forget to stop for a moment and notice you protecting us and turning divine handstands to get our lips to curve into a smile. Help us today to rejoice with great joy that you love us, and we belong to you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Friday, September 16, 2021 – Read Psalm 30:5 “For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Yesterday’s psalm was written in a time of difficulty and reflected the power of God’ protection and presence to engender joy. Today’s psalm is written after trouble has passed. Specifically, it is written as a prayer of thanksgiving after recovery from a grave illness. In this psalm we are reminded that while sorrow may come in battalions, as Shakespeare said, joy always come eventually. It is always more durable. Joy is the natural companion of thanksgiving. When we feel grateful for any type of grace, joy comes rolling into our hearts like powerful waves hit the shore. Today, think about times of deliverance in your life. Maybe a job challenge was resolved, or a broken relationship was restored. Maybe you didn’t know where your next meal
would come from or where you could turn for help. Maybe you were ill or frightened. Think about each of those moments with thanksgiving. You made it! God did it and you helped! So, rejoice!
Prayer: Gracious God, you have brought us through many challenges in our lives. You have given us gifts and skills to find our way sometimes and brought miraculous protection and deliverance at other times. We thank you and rejoice that we are your children now and forever. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Saturday, September 17, 2021 – Read Nehemiah 8:10 “Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’”
The people of Israel, the remnant remaining, have returned from Exile in Babylon. They have come home to a home they do not recognize. Many have never even been there. Those who married foreign wives and had children had to either send them away or leave with them and forfeit their ancestral land. The wall of Jerusalem was in shambles and the temple destroyed. The people entered into a time of national mourning and repentance when they saw what they had wrought and what had been wrought upon them. They yearned for God’s blessing. They yearned for God’s favor to rebuild their land. Nehemiah was governor in this post-exile time and Ezra was God’s prophet. To prepare the people for their moment in history, they gathered the whole company of the Israelites in one place and read to them all day from the words of God’s law. The people wept, whether from the beauty of the law or from remorse at their failings, or fear of their inadequacy to the tasks ahead, we do not know. But as they sit in their new reality, knowing who they are and what they are called upon to do, Nehemiah says to them not to be overwhelmed with grief but to rejoice because the joy of the Lord will be their strength for the days ahead. Are there times when your life feels overwhelming to you? Are the moments when you cannot imagine how to rebuild after loss or pandemic? Are there moments when the sweetness of God’s ways, and how far your life has strayed from them, wash over you with tears? If so, scripture reminds you to eat good food, have a glass of sweet wine and rejoice. Tell a joke. Watch a funny movie. God’s joy will strengthen you for today and tomorrow. It is good for your health!
Prayer: Gracious God, when we are overwhelmed or confused, fill us with joy. Help us to laugh and embrace the fullness of the life you give us. You are our strength and we are grateful. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Explore Peace This Week
Sunday, September 19, 2021 - Re-read our theme verses today. Galatians 5:1;22-25 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery….By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
The word we translate as peace in the New Testament is not the simple, or not so simple, cessation of hostilities. Rather, it refers to a whole person experience of that which brings complete wellbeing and wholeness. Peace it the experience of being completely as one was created to be. It is not the absence of war per se. It can be experienced even in the midst of conflict. It is a quality of Spirit operative in a person that is not tied to any circumstance. It is the deep knowing of the true self in relation to God and all others. It is unshakeable and results in a profound sense of serenity and clarity of mind. New Testament peace is always unilateral. It is something Spirit does inside a person. It is never dependent on what anyone else does or does not do. The experience of Spirit’s peace is rooted in the unshakeable conviction of God’s sufficiency. It is not something that we create. It is something that we practice and with which we cooperate. Spirit peace is what allows mystics such as Julian of Norwich, an English anchoress during the time of the bubonic plague, to say with complete assurance, “All will be well. And all will be well. And all manner of things shall be well.” Today, practice breathing this kind of wellness in and out. Just stop and breathe saying, “Peace.” Allow what rises in your mind to move through you and pass away. Then repeat.
Prayer: Gracious God, you sent your son to be our Prince of Peace, help us today to open our hearts to the peace you have placed within and to experience the wonder of your presence. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Monday, September 20, 2021 - Read Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”
In the beautiful Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sums up the whole of his teaching and values. The word for ‘blessed’ in the beatitudes means ‘happy’ or ‘in a good condition’. Here Jesus tells us that those who work to expand peace in their souls and in the world are not only happy and in a good place; they are also heirs of all that God has and have an honored share in God’s household. How can you be a peacemaker today? Are there those in your life toward whom you have hard feelings or are carrying a grudge? Is there room for change there? Are there warring ideas or issues within your own heart? How might the blessedness of Christ’s peace put that to right? Ask God today to open a new measure of peace in your heart, relationships, and priorities. Notice any feelings of peaceableness that arise and give thanks!
Prayer: Gracious God, there are many things in our hearts and world that block our awareness of your peace and presence within us and among us. We forget your sufficiency. We forget your presence. We forget that all will be well and so we suffer needlessly. Help us today to expand our hearts to experience your peace. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Tuesday, September 21, 2021 - Read John 16:33 “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have overcome the world!”
The world is not at peace. Even we ourselves are often not at peace. Yet it is clear that that state of harmony is Jesus’ clear intention for us. Here Jesus tells us that the hope of peace rests in him. We can move into peace because he has dealt with all that tears us apart. In what way can Jesus enter into your heart today to bring you peace of mind? How do the small decisions you make each day affect the peace of the world? The peace of the good earth itself? How can you work for peace and harmony in the world? Choose one small thing that you can do today and do it as an act of faith. Thank God for the gift of peace and pledge yourself to live in peace each day.
Prayer: Gracious God, we are grateful for your peace. We know that we do not always live from its deep resources. Help us today to pause and find the reserves
of Spirit peace that lie within us and to live from that deep well of wellbeing. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Wednesday, September 22, 2021 - Read Lamentations 3:17 “my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is;”
The Book of Lamentations is a short book of the Old Testament that is traditionally ascribed to the hand of the prophet Jeremiah, but that is disputed. Regardless, the author was certainly a witness to the destruction of Jerusalem and its aftermath in 586 B.C.E. The country has fallen. It is barely recognizable. The institutions and beliefs he thought would always hold have crumbled and life as he has known it is gone. The tone is mournful throughout the book. Yet even in the midst of his grief and seeing no way forward, even just a few verses after the one we read today, he proclaims his trust in God’s steadfast love. Yes, we grieve, but as Peter says, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. When peace seems impossible, lament is warranted. Sometimes we have to clear away a bit of our sorrow to find the still small voice of Spirit peace underneath it. Are there areas of your life or of our common life that you find bereft of peace? Are there losses from which you see no road forward? Do your own insecurities cause you to feel restless or just dead inside? If so, today bless God and thank God for the love in your heart that makes it possible to grieve. Ask God to comfort and encourage you in large and small ways. Let yourself feel the comfort and find its peace.
Prayer: Gracious God sometimes we feel no peace at all. Our hearts are shattered or else have turned to stone. Comfort us today in our grief and confusion. Turn us back to your peace that lies waiting even in our broken hearts. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Thursday, September 23, 2021 – Read Isaiah 9:6 “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The book of Isaiah is one of the longest and most important books in the Bible. The events described decades, if not centuries, of the struggles, faith, and faithlessness of God’s people. In these early chapters, the prophet known as Isaiah of Jerusalem, speaks truth into the death dealing realities of his time. Kings are putting their faith on the back burner and yet calling on God’s name for protection. Assyria is growing stronger, and all Israel is living in fear that Jerusalem could fall again. Even in the midst of that growing threat, Isaiah tells
us that God has a plan to save. This verse has been seen by Christians as a prophecy of the coming of Jesus. Jesus himself uses the words of Isaiah as his personal mission statement. (Luke 4:18-19) This verse is so rich that we cannot fully explore it today. For now, ponder what it means for Jesus to be your Prince of Peace, the world’s Prince of Peace. What does it mean for Jesus to be the one who rules from wholeness, wellbeing, and serenity? What might it be like for you to really believe that those qualities are what God insists upon for you, Spirit plants in you, and Jesus assures for you? How would trusting that truth change you today?
Prayer: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, we thank you that when it seems that all human plans falter you are present and preparing a new and better way. We thank you for the gift of Jesus and your plan of our salvation. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Friday, September 24, 2021 – Read Matthew 10.34 “‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Matthew chapter ten gives us a poignant, honest and disturbing picture of the costs that can sometimes accrue when we decide to follow Jesus. It is a sad truth that, sometimes, following Jesus’ commands leads to division and strife even in our own families. His early followers would have understood this clearly. The rabbis taught that when the Day of the Lord came families would be divided and members forced to choose whether they would follow God or their families’ wishes. Here, Jesus reminds us that truth comes in ways that often divide before it conquers. In those days we cannot expect an easy superficial ‘getting along.’ That is not the real peace of faith. Can you think of times when your faith set you at odds with others in your family, extended family, faith family or community? Have there been times when you compromised on what you thought God wanted for you to do, be or say in order to ‘keep the peace?’ How do you go about sorting ‘which ditches you are called to die in’ from the battles that are not yours to fight? Ask God to give you a steady disposition of faith. Rest in that even in the midst of the turbulence of change.
Prayer: Dear God, sometimes when we follow the Prince of Peace, we find ourselves at war, at war with our families, our neighbors and even our own desires. Help us today to sort truth from ego lies and to follow you, trusting that your path will always lead us rightly. In Jesus holy name we pray. Amen.
Saturday, September 25, 2021 - Read Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Paul writes this beautiful benediction at the conclusion of a lovely poem of praise to God. He is approaching the end of his life, although he probably does not know that for sure. He has faced persecution, imprisonment, ridicule, rejection, and poverty. He has also known the bliss of Christ’s presence, the joy of serving God’s people, and of sharing Christ with others. What he tells us here is that the key to joy and peace is found in ‘believing’, a Greek word that simply means ‘trusting’. Our trust in God is the source of much of our joy and all of our peace! Are there areas of your life in which you need to deepen your trust? Are there areas in which you resist trusting? What are the consequences of that resistance? Take time today to silently repeat the prayer, “I trust you, Lord.” Do this especially with anything that is troubling you or over which you seem to have no control. Thank God for the new joy and peace you are experiencing this week and commit to deepen your trust day by day.
Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for the mystery and the wonder of your peace. Help us to rejoice in where you have brought us and trust in where you are taking us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Explore Patience this Week
Sunday, September 26, 2021 - Re-read our theme verses today. Galatians 5:1;22-25 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery….By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
The word patience used here is active and forceful. When we commonly use the word patience in our day, we often mean a kind of quiet waiting. In Greek the word for that experience (hupomone)is often translated in the scripture as endurance. It means something like cheerful, hopeful endurance. The word used here, however, (makrothumia) refers to persistent, long-tempered not rising to the bait. It is sometimes translated as long suffering, but that too
misses the essence. Makrothumia refers to that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation or wrong which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish even when one can. It is quiet, waiting, wisdom and compassion that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial. It is not passive and is sometimes described as ‘concentrated strength’ that is at the same time mild, gentle, and constant in all circumstances. The opposite is being quick to anger or having a short fuse. I like to describe makrothumia as having a very long and supernaturally compassionate fuse. It is not a natural human trait. It is a Spirit within trait. This week simply try to notice that quality or urge as it arises in you. That is Spirit calling you to a higher way. Notice, as well, when the opposite response arises. What shortens your fuse? What makes you lash out or grumble at your lot? Offer these reflections to God in prayer.
Prayer: Gracious God, sometimes we have buried this Spirit fruit deeply indeed. We are impatient, grumbling, and angry with little provocation. Help us to consider why we respond as we do and cut through the underbrush of pain or fear so that you beautiful patience can manifest in our lives. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Monday, September 27, 2021 - Read 2 Cor. 6:2b-6 “See now is the acceptable time; see now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance….by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit….”
Paul is writing to a church in trouble. They are fighting about almost everything. In this section he is trying to help them, and us, to see that the way we behave and treat one another is our witness. Our behavior is how the truth of Christ will be judged by those we seek to reach. If we are impatient with, and unkind toward, others then the whole of our message is undercut. Who are those who have tested your patience this week? Have you found yourself speaking sharply to anyone, especially in the presence of others? Ask God to fill you with forgiveness and patience as you deal with other people. Ask also for an awareness of the wonderful responsibility you have as a Christian to make the faith look good. When you are irritated, take a moment to breathe and ask yourself how your response will make Christ look?
Prayer: Gracious God, it is sometimes daunting to know that people will often think of you the way they think of us. Help us today to expand our hearts and
create new and open space for Spirit patience to take root and take over in our behavior. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Tuesday, September 28, 2021 - Read Eph. 4:1-3 “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
The author of Ephesians recognizes that the way we treat each other is not only a threat to the spread of the gospel, but it can also tear the believing community apart as well. There can be no unity in the body without Spirit qualities like patience. What are the things about which you have the shortest fuse? What things in the life of the church do you think should have been taken care of yesterday? What seems to trigger your impatience most? When you feel impatient with others, what are the thoughts that you have about them at the time? Ask God to help you replace those negative feelings toward others with a genuine understanding and compassion. Today, look for ways to change your thoughts toward those who irritate you.
Prayer: Gracious God some days we don’t want to change the way we think of others. We just think they are wrong and want you to change them and not us. We know that will never get us far on this journey of faith. Help us today to practice compassionate and patient thoughts even when we are most irritated. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Wednesday, September 29, 2021 - Read Col. 1:11 “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Patience is necessary to live with joy, endurance, strength, and power. How powerful and joyful do you feel when you give in to impatience? Not very, I expect. We all have feelings of impatience. The issue is not to eradicate them. Rather it is to transform them, to replace them with the Spirit’s gift of patience. Notice today any times that you feel rushed, any times that you do not have room for interruptions. What is motivating you at those times? Often you will find that your motivator is not really love. When you find yourself
feeling irritable, try thinking of something joyful instead. For example, if you catch yourself thinking something like, “I can’t believe she is keeping me waiting this way!” Think instead, “I am overjoyed to have a moment on my own.” Or, “The anticipation of our visit is just as sweet as the time together.” Ask God to transform your impatience into a time of prayer.
Prayer: Gracious God, how amazing it is that even our moments of missing the mark can be transformed into a time of prayer and quiet intimacy with you. That is, if we will allow it to be so. Help us today whenever we feel distress to pause and reframe that uncomfortable feeling as an opportunity to experience you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Thursday, September 30, 2021 - Read Col. 3:12 “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.”
In this verse we see that while patience is a free gift of the Spirit, it is also something that we can pick up and put down, put on or take off just like a sweater or a jacket. Today, notice any times that you may feel held back, or that your timing is tampered with. When you begin to react negatively, visualize yourself putting on the sweater of patience. Remind yourself that you are not in danger, that you can control your responses to situations. Ask God to surround you with patience today as your protective covering. Nothing can get to you or threaten to undo you through that marvelous cloak of Spirit’s own patience.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you that you place within us all the gifts and skills we need to live joyful and peace-filled lives. Help us today to snuggle into your cloak of patience. Warm our hearts and soften our responses. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Friday, October 1, 2021 -Read Hebrews 6:11-12 “And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
What amazing verses these are! Here the author links patience with faith as the vehicles through which we attain all that God has promised to us. Faith
here simply means trust. Patience in this instance means more than having a long fuse. It also means to have confidence in God’s timing and not to become impatient with God. Are there times when you have felt impatient with God? Can you think of a time when you thought God should do something for you and it didn’t happen as you wanted or when you wanted? What this verse tells us is that trusting in God’s ways and God’s timing is necessary for us to receive the things God longs to give us. Today, as many times as you can think of it, pray today’s prayer aloud, if possible.
Prayer: Gracious God, I trust that your timing is perfect. Nothing can shake me because I am right where you want me to be. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Saturday, October 2, 2021 - Read James 5:9-10 “Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the judge is standing at the door! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.”
James recognizes that grumbling is deadly to community, and he looks to the lives of the prophets as examples of their waiting on the Lord. He makes the point that we are to model our behavior toward others on the way the holy prophets of old treated the Lord. Have you behaved this week toward anyone in a way that you would not like to behave toward God? Have you said anything to or about another that you would not like to say to God? Have you grumbled and complained about anyone? Ask God to bring to mind any instances of this behavior and to forgive you. Ask God to help you to see Christ in every person and to treat each one as you would Jesus.
Prayer: Gracious God, may we see you in all we meet today and respond as if we are responding to you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.