Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

The Lesson

May 10, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 15:18-27 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Cheryl Stonestreet):

Since the book of Proverbs is the wise sayings of King Solomon, one would think that they are organized into some sort of order. And since the proverbs were compiled and passed on as lessons on how to live a righteous life, I assumed that the passage I was assigned to write about would have some sort of intended theme(s). But it took some effort to glean a particular message. I read and re-read the verses. I thought about them for quite some time. I read them again. Each verse did seem like a wise saying — in and of itself. Some verses were more convoluted than others; that’s not a surprise. Thousands of years have passed and who knows how many translations and cultural shifts they’ve gone through. “What is the point?” I kept asking.

I decided to take each verse and rewrite it in my own words. Maybe then some sort of general theme would bubble up. If I were to guess the central theme, I would say it is be careful with whom you surround yourself. But that’s not the lesson I really learned. What I really learned is how the Bible is a living text.

When I ask the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts and meditations, and I ask God to tell me what I am supposed to write, I am often led into an unexpected direction. Instead of some ancient staunch black or white commandment, I am given a living, breathing, insightful, and current understanding of how God wants to work through me.

When I put the words into my own vernacular, the lesson became more personal and meaningful to me. God wants me to pick up this book and read it. God wants me to struggle with some of the verses. God wants me to think about it and re-read it and think about it some more. This is how I learn. This is what keeps the Bible fresh and living. It’s a good practice, especially if I follow the advice of verse 22.

Thought for the day: Abba, guide my thoughts and actions today so that they reflect your loving ways. Thank you for your word.

My translation — in the event you were wondering.
18: Hotheads make it hard on everyone around them. Slow tempered folk dissipate drama.
19. Lazy people make life hard on themselves. Stay on top of things and life is easier.
20. It’s stupid to love one parent and resent the other.
21. Childishness may be fun, but it will get you nowhere.
22. Ask smart people to help you. Wise people help make your success more likely.
23. It’s fun to know the right answers. Study, learn. It’ll make you feel better in the end.
24. Take the high road. The low road is hell.
25. Love watches over the meek. The proud? Not so much.
26. Love abhors evil intentions. Seek love.
27. Greed and unjust gain hurt everyone around you. Do the right thing.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Santa Claus Gets the Best Gift Ever!

May 9, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 15:1-7 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Tommy Chittenden):

Can’t do it. I can’t write about today’s scripture.

Not because there’s not wisdom in these seven verses. I’ve meditated on verse three for the last four days considering the thought, “God doesn’t miss a thing.” But a conversation occurred with someone in our church family this week that made me set that aside (sorry Mr. Editor) in favor of writing about a beautiful memory.

It seems these conversations take place when some of our brothers and sisters, having been raised in traditional, conservative churches, discover that the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus is coming to church to help with special events. This conversation probably happens in many other churches too, not just LifeJourney! I’m blessed that when these discussions happen here (LJC), we are all free to express our opinions, whether based on doctrinal beliefs, long-held cultural practices, and even family traditions — or just feelings about inviting Peter Cottontail or Old Saint Nick “into the church building.” We honor and respect these differences, choosing to love and value everyone who is seeking what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

In 2009, while serving as an AmeriCorps member at Step-Up, Inc., I was asked if I would consider “being Santa” for the Damien Center’s Christmas Party, the annual event that brings together families who are affected by HIV/AIDS. This year the event was held at another local church. I happily agreed to play the part, but I had no idea that decision was going to have such an impact on me.

The evening began with a meal, singing, an opportunity for the children to pick gifts, and then precisely at the perfect moment, the arrival of Ol’ Saint Nick! After several minutes of “Ho-ho-ho’s” and lots of photo moments, Santa makes his way to the stage. And for the next hour, I personally beckoned for each child to come up and sit on Santa’s lap and tell what they were hoping Santa would bring them.

Close to the end of the “scheduled” time for visits with Santa, a young boy walked confidently up to me and just stood. I let out a big Santa chuckle and invited him to take a seat. I asked his name. “Jonah” he replied. “Are you having a good time tonight Jonah?” “Yes, Santa, I have been.” “And just what is it that you would like for Santa to bring you this year?”

This is “what Love looked like” in this moment for me, for this boy, and anyone who could hear the conversation.

“Santa, there are some really cool toys and games I would like to have… <short pause> …but what I would really like this year is for you to bring a cure for HIV so I know I will have my Dad with me next Christmas too.”

Have you ever seen or heard Santa praying? In my heart I am asking, “God please don’t fail me now, give me the words that will make a difference and give this young man something to hold on to.” After what seemed like hours, I looked him directly in the eyes and quietly said, “Lad, that just has to be one of the most unselfish and loving things I have ever heard from a boy your age. And that is precisely what all of Santa’s helpers are working around the world to do — and with God’s help and everyone working together, we will find a cure and your Dad will be with us for a long, long time.”

At that he hugged me and ran off the stage into the outstretched arms of his Dad. I sat there so powerfully reminded why the work I do is important. That night God used this ol’ Santa Claus to offer hope and promise to a boy who simply wanted his Dad to be in his life. Perhaps he will never forget that in a church auditorium in Indianapolis at a Christmas party, God spoke through Santa to deliver words of hope!

And so, after all is said and done, perhaps I did touch on verse three after all — because in absolute confidence, I can report that our God, who doesn’t miss a thing, didn’t miss that moment and will not let me ever forget it. On that night a 56-year-old “Santa” received one of the best gifts ever.

Thought for the day: God, may I never forget that you are the One who specializes in the impossible and that your word will not return void — even if the message is delivered by Santa Claus!

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

What Stinks?

May 8, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 14:28-35 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (David Zier):

When a situation happens in life, do you ever ponder the ramifications, the motives of the people involved, and the potential outcomes as if this was reality, when reality just slips away? Kind of what a political pundit does on TV, choosing to analyze (and over-analyze) what someone says and does, telling the viewer what the person said and what it means all the while choosing to pull everything out of context to give it their own spin.

At a work meeting one day, we had to select the people to participate on a project. There were many people who were interested, but we could only select a handful. Everybody thought this was going to be the coolest project, so everyone wanted to be a part of it. One individual asked how we would prioritize the selection process. Another person indicated that performance reviews would be available for each person, and we could use that process to help select the project team. Someone from personnel was invited to the meeting to explain the evaluations and a process that has been used in the past for selection. As the discussion began, the person from personal wondered why I asked him to be there, and why I was so wound up about the selection process for the team. I thought, “Why is he acting as if I am questioning his integrity about performance reviews and job selection. We just want to do the right thing, and most people here have not done this before!”

I could smell the stench of my bones rotting! In verse 30 we are told, “a tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot.” Passion in this case I think means strong emotional passion that leads our minds away from peace; not productive passion that drives us to do what is right. This brings to mind Philippians 4:6-9:

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

When reading the entire passages of today’s scripture beyond verse 30, we can see more of Paul’s message. Thinking on right things goes beyond thoughts, and leads to actions. What we think is what we become. How we treat others, how we dispel our anger, how we treat the poor can help us rid the stench in our lives and have more peace.

Thought for the day: How am I thinking? Is it stinking? What am I saying, and what am I praying? Is my mind tranquil?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Don’t Look Now — Your Folly Is Showing

May 7th, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 13:9-16 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Robert Ferguson):

I am convinced that no other Old Testament book, and perhaps no book in the whole Bible, gives us greater insight into the will of God than does the Book of Proverbs. That fact, however, does not always mean that these little disconnected nuggets are easy to follow and understand.

This particular passage had me stuck. I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. All I saw was a random list of wise sayings. At the end of the list all I could say was, “Okay, I agree.” But verse 16 jumped out: All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly. And it got me wondering — am I prudent or am I a fool? And if I’m a fool — is my folly exposed? I had to know more.

I, for one, could not actually consider myself prudent in its most basic definition. Money and I don’t have the best relationship. However, does that necessarily make me a fool? Proverbs 22:3 says The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. So by that definition I can say that I am indeed prudent. There are times when I can clearly see danger ahead or think to myself, if I go there or hang out with that person there will surely be trouble. I am sure we have all had that experience. My grandmother used to say, “”You don’t get to be old bein’ no fool.” I like that saying and as I get older I find it to be very true. Grandmother had lots of nuggets of wisdom like that. In fact, had you known her you might have found it hard to believe that she only had an 8th grade education. Due to her lack of education some may have branded her a fool.

Our culture doesn’t think much of fools. If someone called you a fool, I suspect you would not feel complimented and admired. In fact, the primary definition of the word is “a silly or stupid person; a person who lacks judgment or sense.” I have to tell you, I’ve had nicer introductions than that. No, there are many words we would rather have used in describing us.

However, when we read 1 Corinthians 3:18, we get a refreshing view of what being a fool actually is. Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. Paul wants us to understand that true wisdom is found only in Christ, and it is rooted in the reality of the cross. Out of brutal death has come eternal life. What the world considers foolish is actually the greatest wisdom we can ever obtain. Jews seek truth in the Law and Gentiles seek truth in their own minds, says Paul, but the truth of God is found in the sacrificial, atoning death of Jesus Christ. What makes no sense from a human perspective is the greatest truth anyone could ever discover.

Prayer for the day: God, help me to find wisdom and prudence in Christ.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Tell It Like It Is

May 4th, 2012 • Category: Encounters with Jesus

Today’s scripture: Luke 7:11-17 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Tommy Chittenden):

In the recent Be Still entry titled Friend Of The Groom, David Squire offered a wonderful insight into the miracle Jesus performed at a wedding feast. David observed that “Jesus cares about the little stuff. There’s nothing so small that we can’t take it to Jesus and ask, “What do you think about this? Can you help me out?”

In the real world, aka life, how often do we find ourselves picking and choosing the problems, challenges, fears, and issues we feel are big enough or important enough to “have a conversation with God” over? Are we guilty of saying “God, here’s what is going on in my life that I believe you would want me to bring to the table. Surely you wouldn’t want to be bothered with the little stuff?”

Now I’m going to ask you to stop and read today’s scripture again.

Consider this. Did this mother, already a widow, ask Jesus to bring her only son back to life? Luke doesn’t indicate she did. The death of her only son was an incredibly significant event for her, personally and socially — one that would have invoked heart-wrenching begging for a miracle from most mothers in her situation. If only she knew who this Man was who approached her! Look at verse 13. “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry’.”

From turning water into wine so that the guests could continue to celebrate (and by doing so saving a friend from embarrassment) to restoring life to a widow’s dead son, turning her grief to joyous celebration (and perhaps, reinstating her only source of support and security) Jesus’ conscious intention is to tangibly express compassion and understanding no matter what the situation or who he encounters in the course of a day.

I will always remember how excited my sons were the first few minutes they arrived home from school. (As a youth pastor, I had the opportunity to often be at home when the school bus arrived.) They had stories, papers, announcements, and more to show and tell. I’ll also remember the very difficult conversations about relationships, death, and rite of passage moments we shared. As a parent, I’m so grateful they chose to share so many things in their life with me — big and small alike.

We absolutely make ourselves ineligible for the wisdom, power, and compassionate love of our Creator, the Source of Life, when we exercise our free will to “opt-out” of having those conversations with God regarding whatever is impacting our lives! Could this possibly be what Jesus is teaching in Matthew 7:7-8? What an open invitation from Jesus — it’s still available to you and me today!

Thought for the day: Jesus, in my desire to have a closer, intimate relationship, remind me to become like a child again — removing all of my self-imposed filters — and tell it like it is!

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to start, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

What are you lookin’ at?

May 3, 2012 • Category: Book of Daniel

Today’s scripture: Daniel 4:30-37 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJVWhat might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (David Squire):

I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me.

Ever been in a place where life was going crazy?

I can think of two specific times when it seemed like the world was spinning completely out of control — almost like I was losing my mind.

The first was just after high school, when I was struck with a serious illness. (I’ve written about that before on Be Still.) This wasn’t anything I’d brought on myself, like Nebuchadnezzar did, but I surely lost my focus for a time. Rather than looking up, I was looking down, at myself — “Why, oh why, did this happen to me? Poor meeeee…..” Ever been there?

The second time was, in a way, my own doing. When I came out to my parents, it really felt like I had detonated a grenade — like the world was blowing up and all I could do was try to duck the shrapnel. This time, rather than looking up or down, my focus was sideways, on my family —“Why are you acting this way?”

It’s certainly normal, when life throws us a curve we weren’t expecting, to need some time to adjust. It’s been studied and documented — there are natural stages of grief that we all move through. PFLAG has even documented the typical stages of parental adjustment when a child comes out. I think all of these normal progressions are a matter of regaining our focus. It’s easy to let current circumstances overwhelm me, and make me lose sight of what my life is really all about.

That’s what the King did. He had been so full of himself, drunk on his own power and glory, that he lost sight of the Source of it all. But when he was able to “lift [his] eyes to heaven,” he got his mind back.

So when I’m stuck in the crap of life — whether it’s something I’ve brought on myself, or it’s way beyond my control — I try to remind myself that this isn’t what my life is about. It’s a distraction, and I’m probably looking in the wrong direction.

Thought for the day: What is distracting me today? What is keeping me from looking up?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Piece of My Heart

April 30, 2012 • Category: Encounters with Jesus

Today’s scripture: John 3:1-21 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Tammy Mills):

After seeing Melissa Etheridge live in concert, I just can’t get my mind off of her. I guess that is why I started thinking about buying my first Melissa CD when I read this passage. I remember it like it was yesterday…

I went to my local Wal-Mart and headed for the music department. I was just sure everyone in the store could tell I was going to buy a “Melissa” CD. I could feel their judgment and name calling. I felt sure everyone was thinking, “Oh, she must be one of those.” When I did spot the CD, I was afraid to pick it up.

I ran out of the music department. I did some other shopping and then returned to the music department, determined to pick up my Melissa CD. You can’t imagine how quickly I picked up the CD and ran out of there!

You should have seen me trembling, as I placed the CD on the conveyer belt for the clerk to ring up. I was certain she was going to get on the loud speaker and shout out, “This lesbian needs a price check on her lesbian music!” My heart was beating fast and I was just sure I was going to be “outed” at the Wal-Mart!

I wasn’t outed at Wal-Mart, thank goodness — though that would have been a great story! I felt like I was taking a risk, purchasing my Melissa music, but I also knew I desperately needed to find someone I could relate to, who might share some of the experiences I was going through. There was a real hole in my soul and I was willing to take some risk to figure out what might fit in that place.

I think Nicodemus might have had some of the same feelings. He was a powerful guy. He had money and an important job. He was taking a risk going to see that rabble-rouser, Jesus. Even though it was risky, he knew he had to find out more. There was a hole in his soul and he wondered if Jesus might be what would fill it.

Jesus warmly received Nicodemus and gave him some powerful truth about what it might take to fill that hole in his soul. We all know John 3:16, but be sure to look at the verse that follows. Jesus wasn’t sent here to condemn, but to save. The world might have condemned Nicodemus, but Jesus didn’t. The world might condemn us, but Jesus never will.

Thought for the day: Am I living like I am condemned or am I living like I am a person set free? What risk am I willing to take to get to know Jesus better?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. Use the item above as a starting point, or consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.