My Eyes Have Seen

We live in a cynical world. Many of us are so used to news and information turning out to be false and misleading that we don’t believe anything anymore, and rightfully so. Media outlets who are more interested in pay-by-views than good, honest investigative journalism have conditioned us to react to things this way. Long gone are the days of reliable information. Instead, we have infotainment, vitriol, hate speech, and inflammatory language.

Where is Walter Cronkite when you need him?

Let’s join a man named Simeon who delivers the good news of what his eyes have seen:

Luke 2 (Common English Bible)

25 A man named Simeon was in Jerusalem. He was righteous and devout. He eagerly anticipated the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple area. Meanwhile, Jesus’ parents brought the child to the temple so that they could do what was customary under the Law. 28 Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said,

29 “Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word,
30  because my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
32 It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and a glory for your people Israel.”

His eyes truly did see the Lord’s Christ, but in baby form. But the eyes of his soul saw the prophesied salvation, the light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory for Israel. Simeon saw and then told.

33 His father and mother were amazed by what was said about him.34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too.”

This last sentence is so hard to read. I think of Mary, cradling her sweet baby boy at his dedication, and hearing that she will be pierced in her innermost being. It pierces me, too. We will talk more about Mary as we move toward Lent, but already we see her heart breaking.

So often women’s stories are overlooked in the Bible, but here we see that there was a “female correspondent” on the scene as well. Anna is an inspiration to us all, as she devoted her life to worship in the temple and praying night and day. She was able to be a reporter for the truth whose name was Jesus:

Anna’s response to Jesus

36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, who belonged to the tribe of Asher. She was very old. After she married, she lived with her husband for seven years. 37 She was now an 84-year-old widow. She never left the temple area but worshipped God with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 She approached at that very moment and began to praise God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Did you notice how much attention is paid to her age? Luke writes that “she was very old” and that “she was now an 84-year-old widow”. Hmmm, no mention of Simeon’s age … but we’ll move on. One of the better aspects of this passage is to see a woman in her golden years find a new calling as the one who delivers the news that everyone had been waiting for … the redemption of Jerusalem had been born. This reminds us that it’s never too late to start a new thing.

She went out and spoke to everyone.

Jesus as a child in Nazareth

39 When Mary and Joseph had completed everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to their hometown, Nazareth in Galilee. 40 The child grew up and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.

Simeon and Anna saw with their eyes what we can only see with our heart. But the urgency to report the truth of his good news is just as powerful today. Do you know Jesus? Can you see his glory revealed in Scripture? Do you hear his stories repeated often in worship? Do you teach them to your children? Do you spend time in prayer and behold him there?

God calls us to deliver the good news of what we have seen with the eyes of our hearts. Go, and tell.

Morning Glory by Michelle Robertson

Blow Your Horn

What is it with trumpets this week in the lectionary?

If you read the last devotional, you might have picked up on two trumpet references. (Like a Trumpet.) In the Message version of today’s scripture, we see another invitation to “blow a trumpet for God.” As a former bassoonist, I protest. We never see our instruments elevated like this! Flutes, lyres, harps, drums, and trumpets get all the glory in the Bible. But you will never read, “David lifted his bassoon and soothed Saul with his music.” Nope, not gonna happen.

Unfair!

In today’s reading, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and laid out an argument against the arrogance of the Jews and Greeks who were proclaiming that the crucifixion and resurrection were utter nonsense. He built the case that God chose humble, ordinary folks like them to reverse the ideas of wisdom and stupidity, miracles and anti-miracles, strength and weakness, etc., and invited them to celebrate their “nobody” status:

1 Corinthians 1 (The Message)

18-21 The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,

I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I’ll expose so-called experts as shams.

So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered stupid —preaching, of all things! —to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.

“God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered stupid — preaching, of all things! — to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.” Amen, brother. Speaking for myself, sometimes my preaching is truly stupid, and surely all of us, laity and clergy alike, sound stupid to the non-believer when we preach forgiveness of sins, salvation through Christ, and the resurrection we all share with the Son of God himself. Stupid, indeed.

Stupid-smart, as it turns out.

22-25 While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so cheap, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”

Paul is exactly right. Human wisdom is cheap and impotent next to the absurdity of the cross.

26-31 Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”?

This is when being a nobody is the greatest thing in the world. Do you ever feel like a nobody? Never mind. You truly are somebody to God.

That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”

Everything we have comes from God through Jesus Christ our Lord. And Christ gave us his everything. His heart, his mind, his teaching, his healing, his life on the cross, and the promise of life abundant. He didn’t withhold a thing. Neither should we. Now that is something to blow a trumpet about!

Or even a bassoon.

Horn Blowers by Michelle Robertson

Like a Trumpet

I came across an interesting detail in our lectionary passage today. Matthew 5:1 says that Jesus “opened his mouth and taught.” The Greek word for “opened” here is translated as more of a loud and earnest proclamation than a quiet teaching. The famous commentator William Barclay said this: “In Greek, the word for “opened” is used of a solemn, grave and dignified utterance. It was used, for instance, of the saying of an oracle. It is the natural preface to a most weighty saying.” Charles Spurgeon pushes it a little farther: “Jesus Christ spoke like a man in earnest; he enunciated clearly and spoke loudly. He lifted up his voice like a trumpet, and published salvation far and wide, like a man who had something to say which he desired his audience to hear and feel.” (Learn more here.)

I had a flashback to a time years ago when I was chaperoning my daughters’ band at a football game. The cheerleaders came out after the first quarter and threw little footballs printed with the school’s name into the stands. A few minutes later, I noticed a little boy from my church frantically waving at me as he made his way over to the band bleachers. “Pastor Betsy, they won’t throw me a football and I want a football. Make them throw me a football!” he cried.

I chuckled a little and wanted to explain to him that while I had some authority to speak in our church and be heard, I had no authority here as a band mom to do as he asked. So, I did the next best thing. I turned to the trumpet section behind me, many of whom had caught a football, and asked if anyone would share with the little boy. One immediately tossed his ball to my little friend, and all was well.

I just love band kids.

Jesus is surrounded by “the multitudes” in his outdoor, makeshift church, and he “opened His mouth” with authority and power, and proclaimed the secret to good living to all who would hear:

Matthew 5:1-12 (New King James Version)

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

If we were to internalize the Beatitudes, we might just find the key to a great life. We would find comfort, inheritance, fulfillment, mercy, peace, and the promise that we can participate in the kingdom of heaven. With these words, we are invited to see God and the kingdom on earth that he desires for us.

What is important enough in your life for you to use your voice like a trumpet to help others? Would you encourage those who are poor in spirit and who mourn? Would you demand that the arrogant shut up and be meek? Would you seek righteousness in your own walk and invite others to follow? Would you shout a word of peace over the rebellious?

May we encourage one another today with mouths wide open to be the merciful and pure in heart, for then will we see God. Rejoice and be glad!

Blessed by Michelle Robertson

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Worries and Distractions

Do you ever get up in the middle of the night just to worry?

It’s 4:00 in the morning and my mind is not at rest. There is something about the “witching hour” that catches up with me more nights than I would like to mention. I get awake and start the video replay of all the things I have to do, all the things I wish I had said, all the things I regret saying (!), and a multitude of other non-sensical items dance through my head. Sometimes it can take up to an hour to fall back asleep.

Yesterday, I preached a sermon on Mary and Martha as part of our Epiphany series on “Seeing God through different things.” My emphasis was on seeing God through sitting at Jesus’ feet (Bible study) in order to arise and serve, as Mary does in this passage. I didn’t spend too much time on what was happening to Martha, so let’s take a moment to unpack that. Watch for the words distracted and worried:

Luke 10 (New Revised Standard Version)

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him.[k] 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at Jesus’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her, then, to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, 42 but few things are needed—indeed only one. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Last night I was blessed to lead the youth group in a study on this passage, so naturally I focused on distractions and worries. Their responses were very telling! Everyone was able to name their distractions, and number one among the responses was “my phone.”

Are you constantly distracted by your phone? Do you find yourself in a live conversation with someone and you keep glancing down at your text messages? I was grateful that they could name it, and then five minutes later had to ask two of them to put their phones down.

Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she was worried. Who could blame her? Wouldn’t you worry if Jesus was coming to your house for dinner? I mean, what do you serve the Son of God if he came to dinner? I told my congregation that I would immediately call the church’s Care Team and request a meal to be brought over, preferably Rendy’s famous Chicken Pot Pie with a lot of side dishes. I would proudly serve that to Jesus. He’s probably never eaten as well as the Methodists do at a potluck supper! Casseroles galore over here!

We went on to talk about things we worry about, and a very lovely High School Senior said, “Disappointing other people.” She told a story about how she cried at her Spanish oral exam because she could tell that the teacher, whom she adores, appeared to be let down at how she was doing. The sting of disappointing someone hurt her heart.

I can completely relate and might even add that the FEAR of disappointing someone is often a “negative motivator” for me when I have to get something done. What a terrible burden we carry when we feel that way!

What distracts you? What are you worried about?

Now that we’ve acknowledged that we are all Martha, let’s see what Mary did. Mary instantly put her distractions and tasks aside the minute Jesus walked into the house and sat at his feet to listen to his teaching. And there is the answer for us when anxiety overwhelms us. We need to set down the worries we are focusing on and sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.

So, the next time you are awake at 4:00, open your Bible and listen. Get down on your knees and pray but be sure to listen. Take out your journal and list your worries, and then look at them again while you listen to God as he swoops in and gathers them to his bosom.

In a world full of worries and distractions, be a Mary.

Listen to the Dawn Arise by Michelle Robertson

In the Day of Trouble

Once upon a time there was a ginormous pig who escaped her yard and went on an escapade all over Kitty Hawk Village. Over the hills, through the woods, and onto the very curvy road she went. She startled me as I came around a bend on my way to my office, and I saw a pickup truck going too fast that almost hit her. In his defense, nobody would have expected a 300+ pound pig to be smack in the middle of the road. I quickly parked at the police station and jumped out of my van. From there I proceeded on foot in what we cops call “hot pursuit.” She seemed intrigued by my efforts and slowed down as I followed her in and out of people’s yards,. To be honest, she wasn’t moving very fast. So, I started to call, “Suuuu-EEE! Suuuu-EEE.” I don’t even know what that means. I might have thrown a little “here Piggy, Piggy” in for good measure.

Surprisingly, this lovely gentle giant turned and sauntered over to me, so I walked her back to the police station, stopping traffic on the busy road as we crossed it. What else was I going to do with a lost pig?

I opened the door and called into the receptionist that I was here to report a rogue pig. She probably thought I had just come from the Black Pelican bar and had been over-served. But when the pig snorted loudly behind me, she came out for a look. This pig was obviously well loved at home because she nuzzled us like a dog and enjoyed a good ear rub. As you can see, she even posed for pictures. What a ham!

An officer came out and said, “Caroline, what are you doing here? Did you take yourself for a walk again?” It turns out that Caroline lives in the big yard behind the police station and he was able to walk her home.

Not to sound like a hero or anything, but I did save her bacon that day.

Do you know that God wants to save you, too? In the day of trouble, God will pursue you as you are wandering away from him. He won’t let you out of his sight until you come home safely into the house of the Lord:

Psalm 27 (New International Version)

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple

For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.

Are you running away? Are you feeling unsafe and untethered? No matter what the reason is, whether the situation you are facing is a result of your bad choices or your enemies pursuing you, God offers the safety of his tent:

Then my head will be exalted
    above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
    I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Caroline was wise enough to come when she heard the voice of her rescuer. I pray that in your day of trouble, you will seek God’s face and listen to his voice. He will come, and he will be merciful.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
    be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
    Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
    do not turn your servant away in anger;
    you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
    God my Savior.

God is your Savior, and you will be saved. Thanks be to God!

I told you she was big!

Knit Together

Click. Click. Slide. Click. Click. Slide. That was the sound of my childhood, sitting on the couch next to my mother as she busied herself with knitting. She was a wonderful knitter. I remember watching her knit every evening from the time I was little. Our family still enjoys “Grandmere’s” beautiful lacy throws and blankets in every color combination imaginable. In my closet is an intricate winter sweater that she knit for her own mother one year for Christmas, which was passed down to me. The idea of taking different skeins of yarn in their individual packages and weaving them together into something wearable or useful still fascinates me.

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul reminded the people that they were meant to be “knit together.” This passage from 1 Corinthians is painful to read. Paul addressed the many divisions that had formed in the church in Corinth and basically told them to knock it off. People had aligned themselves with different church leaders and were standing in opposition to each other. Their unity had completely unraveled. Division in the church?? Say it isn’t so

It is so.

The history of the Christian church in America is filled with schisms, mergers, disaffiliations, and strife. My own denomination is going through a time of splits and separations, and it is extremely painful. United Methodism has become Untied Methodism and it breaks this pastor’s heart. I grieve the fact that we are not meeting Paul’s standard for how a church should behave:

1 Corinthians 1 (New Revised Standard Version)

10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you but that you be knit together in the same mind and the same purpose.11 For it has been made clear to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 

13 Has Christ been divided?

Here is the heart of the issue. Christ has not been divided. Christ calls us into a “oneness” of thought, belief, and purpose. One of the last things he did before he made his way to the cross was to pray that his disciples and those who come later, meaning us, would be “one.”

John 17 (Common English Bible)

21 I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me.22 I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. 23 I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.

We have utterly and completely failed.

Paul continued his argument with the Corinthian church:

1 Corinthians 1 (New Revised Standard Version)

Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel—and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

What can you do to bring unity and harmony to your world? Does everything have to be fought over? Can you just agree to disagree with someone rather than fracture the relationship?

God desires that we would be one in our families, our schools, our workplaces, and our churches. Is God calling you to change your attitude?

Reflecting God’s Beauty by Michelle Robertson

Immediately

This weekend I was blessed to be invited to a nearby church to do a talk about on my book Psalms by the Sea. The organizer had done a terrific job planning the entire thing and had ordered my books from Amazon for the women who wanted to purchase them. Thinking that they would have the books in front of them, I prepared my presentation in a way that I could use volunteer readers and have some of the psalms read out loud together. When I got there, she told me that the books had not come yet, so I quickly shifted to a more “author book reading style,” which turned out just fine.

We joked about why the books failed to arrive on time. Our little island’s single curvy road is under construction. Perhaps the books are stuck at the first portable stop light waiting for the little flag to go up and the light to turn from red to yellow. Or perhaps Amazon sent them by boat and our recent high winds and strong waves were too much for the poor guy rowing them across the sound. Or maybe they had been delivered and were sitting outside the organizer’s house in an odd place. This has happened to all of us, as our beachy houses on stilts don’t have a discernible front door and we often find packages left days earlier in weird places.

So, when I read the assigned scripture today about Jesus calling Peter and Andrew to follow him, the word “immediately” jumped out at me:

Matthew 4 (Common English Bible)

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishers. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 

Wouldn’t it be lovely if things happened immediately?

“Georgia, stop barking.” And Georgia stopped immediately

“Kids, go get ready for school.” And the kids got ready immediately.

“Honey, it’s time to leave for the movie.” And honey got up from the couch, turned off the football game, and immediately got into the car.

“Immediately” would be such a blessing at the DMV, when you’re on the phone holding for a “representative,” or in the overcrowded Urgent Care waiting room. Peter and Andrew had been preveniently moved by the Holy Spirit to respond to Jesus’ invitation to drop everything and become a disciple.

21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus surely had the power to move people immediately in a way that we don’t. I also think this scripture points out that we don’t respond to God’s calling quite as quickly as those early disciples, and perhaps we should learn from their example. It took me two years of discernment to decide to go into the ministry. These things must be thought out carefully but there are also times when God tells us to speak a kind word to someone who is hurting or stop what we are doing to attend to a need right in front of us and we ignore those prompts and continue to do our own thing.

Jesus Ministers to Crowds of People

23 Jesus went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

This may be a stretch, but I wonder if the fact that his posse responded immediately to his call propelled Jesus into his teaching and healing ministries. He didn’t have to continue to go around Galilee looking for a team: they were in place, and he could turn his attention to his own calling.

Where is God calling you to do something immediately? It may be as small as a phone call you’ve been putting off, or as big as starting to plan a mission trip.

Whatever it is, do it.

Immediately!

Follow Me by Michelle Robertson

Strength to the End

Two of my friends lost their mothers in December, and it always brings back memories of my own mother’s passing when that happens. If you have lost your Mom, you understand the special kind of painful hole that her death creates in your soul. Your mother, whether she was good or not, whether she was supportive and encouraging or judgmental and harsh, was the very first person to know you from the inside-out. There is a blood bond or an adoptive bond that can’t be denied. And if your mother was good, the hole is cavernous and hard to navigate, especially in the first weeks and months. Her lack of presence in this world is disorienting and foreign.

I had a good mother, so I know this pain.

Our lectionary passage today has a beautiful phrase that made me think of my friends’ new grief and my own well-worn sadness over losing our mothers. The blessing of my mother’s passing came in the way she died, as we had spent the evening together and I made her tea and helped her get ready for bed. A few hours later she died in her sleep. We didn’t know it was coming. What a tremendous gift of grace that was!

God gave both of us strength for the end.

Paul assures the church of Corinth that God will also strengthen them to the end. This is a powerful promise that we can all grab ahold of when a loved one dies or as we face our own mortality. I think this can also apply to the end of a relationship, losing a job, graduating from college, moving away from your home, adult children going off on their own … all those things that at some point must come to an end.

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the partnership of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until it’s season, something God alone can see.
(Hymn of Promise, Natalie Sleeth, UMH #707)

God is faithful indeed.

The End and the Beginning by Michelle Robertson

Deep Within

Good intentions. Everyone has them. Most people follow them. Some stray far. I always think of New Year’s resolutions as good intentions. We intend to do better at our jobs, lose weight, change habits, be more present with family, etc. but for the most part, our resolutions barely make it to February.

One good intention I hope you have is to stay in God’s Word this year. Be it a New Year’s resolution or just a desire, being centered in God’s will by staying centered in God’s word is good for the soul. This is why I write these devotionals … to help all of us approach and access Scripture in easy to digest bites. I begin 2023 with the same commitment, and I thank each one of you for following along! May we make a commitment together to read every one. If you read these on Facebook or Twitter, don’t forget that you can also sign up on my website to receive them in your email inbox every morning.

Psalm 40 reminds us of the importance of reading, learning, studying, and incorporating Scripture into our lives. The psalmist proclaims, “I want to do your will! Your Instruction is deep within me.” This could be our resolution as well.

Psalm 40 (Common English Bible)

I put all my hope in the Lord.
    He leaned down to me;
    he listened to my cry for help.
He lifted me out of the pit of death,
    out of the mud and filth,
    and set my feet on solid rock.
        He steadied my legs.

I recently tripped going up the stairs and broke my left arm. It is still healing, and it hurts to type. This last phrase, “He steadied my legs” will be my new prayer for 2023. Lord, in your mercy, save me from my stairs!

He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise for our God.
Many people will learn of this and be amazed;
    they will trust the Lord.
Those who put their trust in the Lord,
    who pay no attention to the proud
    or to those who follow lies,
    are truly happy!

Do we pay too much attention to the proud and those who follow lies? Watching the fifteen rounds of votes that it took to elect a Speaker of the House last week had me turning off the news and shaking my head. Lord, in your mercy, save us from the proud!

You, Lord my God!
    You’ve done so many things—
    your wonderful deeds and your plans for us—
        no one can compare with you!
    If I were to proclaim and talk about all of them,
        they would be too numerous to count!
You don’t relish sacrifices or offerings;
    you don’t require entirely burned offerings or compensation offerings—
    but you have given me ears!

I love how the psalmist says, “you have given me ears.” How many times during the day do we neglect to use them? Are you busy looking at your phone so much that you don’t hear your family talking to you? Lord, in your mercy, help us to listen better.

So I said, “Here I come!
    I’m inscribed in the written scroll.
    I want to do your will, my God.
    Your Instruction is deep within me.”
I’ve told the good news of your righteousness
    in the great assembly.
    I didn’t hold anything back—
        as you well know, Lord!
10 I didn’t keep your righteousness only to myself.
    I declared your faithfulness and your salvation.
I didn’t hide your loyal love and trustworthiness
    from the great assembly.

As we look toward this new year before us, may we commit to not missing a chance to be in God’s Word, whether it is by reading these devotionals, joining a Bible study, attending weekly worship, attending Sunday school, etc. Lord in your mercy, draw us into your Scriptures every day.

11 So now you, Lord—
    don’t hold back any of your compassion from me.
Let your loyal love and faithfulness always protect me
.

God offers us loyal love and faithfulness. How will you return those things to him this year?

God Leans Down by Jan Wilson

Come and See

The images still haunt us. A healthy, young, 24-year-old athlete lay dead on the football field. Players who surrounded him were weeping. An ambulance drove across the grass as an athletic trainer performed CPR for nearly 10 minutes. An AED was used to shock the young man’s heart back into life. Oxygen was administered. When he was finally stabilized enough for transport, he was taken to the ICU of the nearest hospital, which happened to be only two miles away. Today, Damar Hamlin is recovering and making tremendous strides. He is breathing on his own and talking. Thanks be to God!

This morning I read a thread on Twitter from a hospital chaplain asking that people not label this as a “miracle.” His reasoning is that by labeling everyday medical procedures as miracles “we end up with people who deny its legitimacy.” A doctor retweeted it and gave a lengthy explanation of all the step-by-step medical science that was the reason for Hamlin’s recovery, calling each step a miracle. I have to say I’m with the doc on this one. The doctor saw what the chaplain couldn’t. God was with Hamlin every step of the way. Life after death is a miracle. I don’t care what avenues of medical science God uses … he is still the author of all life who performs miracles every day. Who’s with me on this?

Today’s lectionary passage is all about people seeing for themselves. Jesus invites us all to “come and see.”

John 1 (The Message)

29-31 The very next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and yelled out, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb! He forgives the sins of the world! This is the man I’ve been talking about, ‘the One who comes after me but is really ahead of me.’ I knew nothing about who he was—only this: that my task has been to get Israel ready to recognize him as the God-Revealer. That is why I came here baptizing with water, giving you a good bath and scrubbing sins from your life so you can get a fresh start with God.”

32-34 John clinched his witness with this: “I watched the Spirit, like a dove flying down out of the sky, making himself at home in him. I repeat, I know nothing about him except this: The One who authorized me to baptize with water told me, ‘The One on whom you see the Spirit come down and stay, this One will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ That’s exactly what I saw happen, and I’m telling you, there’s no question about it: This is the Son of God.”

Come, See for Yourself

35-36 The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb.”

37-38 The two disciples heard him and went after Jesus. Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, “What are you after?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

39 He replied, “Come along and see for yourself.”

I believe miracles are happening all around us every day. From the profound to the ordinary, God is present. Here is an example from the mundane: my husband and I drove 12 hours on I-95 through four states a few days ago and never once slowed down. If you’ve ever driven that route, you know that was a miracle!

They came, saw where he was living, and ended up staying with him for the day. It was late afternoon when this happened.

40-42 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). He immediately led him to Jesus.

Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”).

Finding the Messiah in the ordinary is miraculous. Receiving grace and compassion from a stranger is a miracle. God sending his son to forgive the sins of the world was the best miracle of all. You have the opportunity to come and see this Passover Lamb for yourself and then invite others.

Come and see!

The Power of Prayer photo by the New York Times via Facebook