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Consider Your Ways (20210723)

opened book
Now this is what the LORD of Hosts says: “Consider carefully your ways. You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough. You drink but never have your fill. You put on clothes but never get warm. You earn wages to put into a bag pierced through.” Haggai 1:5-6

What fruit is your life bearing? What benefit are you reaping from how you are organizing your time and resources? 
The people in the time of Haggai were spending what they had to rebuild their lives in Jerusalem. Putting homes back together, relaunching their businesses, buying new clothes. But their lives didn’t feel any more full. It wasn’t working. Success wasn’t coming. 
The problem was they had missed the most important thing: church. They didn’t think to invest in their faith, or their relationship with God. 
How common it is for us today to do the same thing. We can get so caught up in the pursuits of this world that we neglect the deeper work. We neglect turning first to God, who has provided for us all things now and forever. We neglect Jesus, who has given himself for us freely. And our lives can feel just as empty and void, like we are getting no return on our investment. 
Consider your ways. Consider where God might be calling you to invest your time and energy into eternal things- like the body of believers, the faith of a relative, serving a neighbor, or getting involved in a Bible study group. It might not seem like the best investment, at least using worldly standards. But God promises- this is the way to true blessing and real success- to be present with Jesus both now and forever.
Prayer: Lord, Help us to live in such a way that we glorify You in all that we do. You have created us, redeemed us, and filled us with life. We give ourselves to You and dedicate ourselves to Your purposes. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


Enough Rest (20210722)

white and silver analog alarm clock on white couch
Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread. Proverbs 20:13
Researchers have concluded firmly that the average human needs 7-8 hours of sleep every night to be fully rested and optimally healthy. Your brain and body reset while you sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, there’s a price to pay. 
But can we get too much sleep? “Love not sleep,” the Scriptures say. God has designed ⅓ of our lives to be sleep, so it is not that we shouldn’t sleep. Most Americans do not come close to getting 8 hours of sleep, yet we probably still don’t do a good job of living by this proverb.
More than just closing your eyes to sleep at night, the proverb helps us to look at what we are doing with our awake time. “Open your eyes!” God wants us alert, attentive, and ready to follow God’s ways. Getting enough sleep actually makes us better at this. 
How well are you following God when you are falling asleep? Are you getting enough rest, so that you can do enough work? God has created us for both work and rest. 
Get some sleep, but make sure to open your eyes with the morning light, look to heaven, and thank Jesus for the life he has won for you through his death and resurrection. Thank him for guaranteeing you life forever, and as long as we have breath in our lungs, may we work to share that joy with the world. 
Prayer: Dear Lord, You marvelously created all things, and You have designed us to be reliant on You for our needs today and forever. Enable us to rest at peace in Your hands, and empower us to open our eyes and do Your will. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.


All Other Gods (20210719)

black cross statue
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,

    but the Lord made the heavens.
Psalm 96:4-5
All people have a god. No matter who you are or where you are, it is certain that you have something which you fear, love, and trust above other things. That is how Martin Luther sought to help us define “other gods” in the 1st Commandment- anything that we trust more than anything else. 
It can be career, reputation, money, sex, substances. Your god can even be yourself. Other faith systems, other social programs: they can all be that thing in which we put our ultimate trust.
Where is your trust these days? What are you fearing? What are you loving? There is only one worthy of our praise- the One who stands outside of the world. The God who sits enthroned above all things, Lord over all things.
Let your fear, love, and trust be placed in the God who loved you and gave His Son for you. Worship the Lord!
Prayer: Dear Father, give us a Spirit of true worship and empower us to find our glory in You. You alone are worthy of our praise, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This we ask in the powerful name of Jesus, Amen! 


It’s Time for Faith to Grow (20210716)

green plants on black metal train rail during daytime
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.” Galatians 5:16-17
Maybe it’s not what is growing but it’s what’s missing that matters. This week we’ve been speaking of what’s growing in the garden of our lives. We’ve focused on the fruit of the Spirit, both that which is being planted now and that which we have seen growing for years. That’s natural. Everyone sees first the plants that are tall, flowering and healthy.
But perhaps we can also think today about what is missing. Did your garden always look this good?  Maybe you started with a clear, empty window box or a raised bed. No weeds?  There was no soil in that box to start, so of course it was clean. You take that for granted with a start like that.
But maybe you inherited a garden that was more weeds than actual flowers. Long before you planted, you spent hours uprooting Canadian thistles and dandelions. They might be blooming, but they’re not staying!  Now you’ve got the real plants in and the geraniums and marigolds are taking hold.  That bed of thistles and dandelions is a dim memory.
The garden of our lives has this combination of growing fruit and the memory of what used to be there. Paul makes that point when he notes the things that are of our past. Those are the weeds that have been plucked up, though they certainly try to come back. But remember that they don’t have the free reign that they once had. If their rebellious seeds linger, thankfully they are not the two-foot-high thistles that they once were. So, while we sometimes impatiently want the fruits of love, joy, peace, and patience to grow faster and taller, remember that they have crowded out so much of the hated, despair, fear and selfish impatience that could be flourishing. While we give thanks for what God is growing, let’s also give thanks for those empty spaces where weeds once reigned but now they are driven under the spreading branches of the Spirit’s fruit.

Our Heavenly Father, thank you for clearing out so many spaces in our lives, uprooting the weeds that flourished. Continue to grow the fruit of the Spirit to fill all the space in our lives, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


It’s Time for Faith to Grow (20210714)

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:24-25
It’s that middle time of the summer when you hope to see results. You probably did something new to the yard, the garden or the house this spring or early summer. You put in the new grass seed over that bare spot, tried new flowers in the window box, and repainted the shutters even though you weren’t sure you got exactly the right shade of brown paint. But all in all, we try.  You put in the effort and now it’s time to step back and see the results.
So, how’s that new grass seed doing? How’s the window box look? And no one has complained or even commented on the shutters, have they?  They must be looking good.  And what’s more, there’s nothing more to do.  It won’t pay to pour more seed on that bare spot, or try to cram in more flowers in the window box.  It’s time to be patient with some of these things we’ve planted and see what comes.
On Monday we spoke of the fruits of the Spirit and the fruit that we can still plant and cultivate. Today, let’s focus on the patience that goes with the planting of these fruits. We all want more of the fruits of love, joy, peace, and patience. And it’s right that we ask for those as we did with Monday’s devotion. Today, we can focus on the patience of the one who has planted the seed and puts it all in God’s hands.
When I was in 5th grade, our teacher had us plant a seed in a Styrofoam cup and put it by the window. Of course, I wanted my seed to be up and growing the next day. It wasn’t. No one’s was. But I wondered if there was something wrong with mine, so I dug around in the soil, found the seed, and put it back in.  As you can guess, I did this day after day and, yes, the seed never grew. My classmates who did nothing but water their plants grew great plants. Me, not so much.
Patience would have been better than worrying that little seed to death. Trust along with not comparing my seed to others would have been good too. So also, perhaps with the fruits of the Spirit. The planting has been done by the Spirit and we can pray for the fruit to have good growth. But we can also pray for the trust that leaves growth in God’s hands and takes away the comparing with others.  The seeds are sown and now is the mid-summer time to trust his growth.

Our Heavenly Father, thank you that you have sown all the seeds of the fruits of the Spirit and they are growing. Give us patience and trust in you as we see that fruit grow. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.