Devotions

This page has devotions from the Great Plains District. It is written by laity, clergy, and many others. If you have any comments or questions, email me, Pastor Bianca, at belliott @ greatplainsumc.org. Enjoy!

Today’s Lectionary Text

Matthew 12:22-32

Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see. All the crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.” He knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Today’s Devotional

Criticism can be defined as the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes. There are two types of criticism, negative-destructive or positive-constructive criticism. We face criticism from all fronts during our lifetime. There are people who, even when they are not subject matter experts, feel a need to provide unsolicited critique of the work or actions of others. Often, these “critics” offer the worst type of criticism, much like condemnation and negativity which can be hurtful or does not add value to what is being criticized. 

Constructive criticism on the other hand, is the type of criticism that helps a person to grow or the situation to improve. It adds value to the subject at hand.  People who want to grow and improve often seek out feedback from others: “What could I have done better, differently?” These critics are often objective and focus on both sides of the coin: Where you have done well and where you need to improve. This way, one has examples of how they might do things differently. An older school of thought subscribed to the notion of not telling people how good they are as they thought that that was not helpful. Children and young adults, especially, need to hear positive feedback as that helps generate creativity and give them something to feel good about in their work.  
Projected criticism is an emotional, negative reaction to something one has said or done. For example, if someone rants about how irresponsible you are, it may be that you something which emotionally threatened them.

Projected criticism is simply a projection of a person’s psyche. It is the result of envy, insecurity, or anger. It says more about the person giving the feedback than one receiving it. Often such feedback is ignored for lack of value.

In our Scriptural context the scenario correlates with the Projected Criticism Syndrome. Our Lord Jesus was fully anointed, performing mighty miracles. This is evidenced by Matthew when he says, “Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” (Matthew 12:22-23) This miracle laid the foundation of projected, emotional criticism towards Jesus. They even associated him with “the prince of demons.” Jesus on the other hand, turned the tables on them and provided them with constructive feedback explaining that it was by the Spirit of God that he cast out demons.

I see the scripture applying to our lives when we are faced with criticism, negative or positive. When we are confronted with negative criticism, we should not take it personally, rather be graceful and gracious. Take the opportunity to respond to the critics as a teachable moment, providing positive feedback just like Jesus did in educating the Pharisees about where his strength to cast demons came from. God’s power enabled Jesus to do mighty works. We are his servants in this great vineyard. We can manage criticism through the power of Holy Spirit. Stay positive and blessed.

-Rev. Ever Mudambanuki United Church of Bennington-Soloman Yoked Parish
EMudambanuki@greatplainsumc.org

Prayer for Reflection

O God teach us to manage all forms of criticisms in our walk of faith. We pray for strength, courage, and wisdom in managing criticism in every aspect of our lives. Help to learn from Jesus’ strategy on managing his critics. Amen

Today’s Lectionary Text

John 9: 1-17


As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”

Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. While it’s daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After he said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means sent). So the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see.

The man’s neighbors and those who used to see him when he was a beggar said, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”

Some said, “It is,” and others said, “No, it’s someone who looks like him.”

But the man said, “Yes, it’s me!”

So they asked him, “How are you now able to see?”

He answered, “The man they call Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes, and said, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

They asked, “Where is this man?”

He replied, “I don’t know.”

Then they led the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus made the mud and smeared it on the man’s eyes on a Sabbath day. So Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.

The man told them, “He put mud on my eyes, I washed, and now I see.”

Some Pharisees said, “This man isn’t from God, because he breaks the Sabbath law.” Others said, “How can a sinner do miraculous signs like these?” So they were divided. Some of the Pharisees questioned the man who had been born blind again: “What do you have to say about him, since he healed your eyes?”

He replied, “He’s a prophet.”

Today’s Devotional

As Jesus walked along, He saw a man who was blind from birth. (v.1). Those of us who can see like to think that we are seeing! As we go along our daily lives, we do look at many things, other people, and the beauty of creation. While we can see, we are also blind.

Yep, you read correctly – we are blind. Blind to really seeing what is taking place right before us, in our lives, communities, states, nation and the world. When we do not wear a mask and physical distance from others, we are blind to the 183,000 deaths in the United States, of which 450 of those deaths are from Kansas, and 400 deaths from Nebraska. As United Methodists we agree to do no harm and prevent further damage. When we continue to allow government policies that only benefit white people to continue, we are blind to equality for people of color. It’s easier to stay blind, to continue to be like the blind man in our passage. If we are blind then we don’t have to get involved, right? Wrong!

Jesus spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (this word means sent). So, the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see. (vv. 6b & 7). We are at the time in these disasters where we need for Jesus to spit on the ground, form the mud, and smear it over our eyes. It doesn’t stop there. We need to hear His voice as He tells us to go and wash in Siloam. Afterwards we need to embody the name of the pool of water and go as we are sent to make a difference. We say we are on a mission to transform lives for Jesus Christ. There is no way we can transform a life if our eyes are still covered in mud and we refuse to go into the pool of water to clean away the mud.

Now is the time – jump into the pool of healing – let the mud fall from our eyes – then, and only then are we able to be that disciples, who lives like Christ.

-Rev. Hollie Tapley Disaster Response Coordinator htapley@greatplainsumc.org

Prayer for Reflection

Holy Trinity, we claim to be made in Your image. We claim to be Christ-like. Claiming does not provide healing or action. Forgive us, for we have not allowed You to wash the mud from our eyes. Forgive us … forgive us. Amen.

Today’s Lectionary Text
Exodus 2:11-15
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and saw their forced labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsfolk. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, he saw two Hebrews fighting; and he said to the one who was in the wrong, “Why do you strike your fellow Hebrew?” He answered, “Who made you a ruler and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses.But Moses fled from Pharaoh. He settled in the land of Midian, and sat down by a well.

Today’s Devotional
Anger has two facets, positive and negative. Anger is an emotion entrenched within humanity, generally because of something untoward that happens to us. Elisabeth Kubler Ross’ stages of grief illuminates anger as the second stage in grieving a loss. In one of my previous lives before becoming a minister, I worked as a counselor I encountered a young woman whom I will call Sheila. At the age of 8, Sheila suddenly lost her mother Miriam from a seizure. Sheila could not believe this and was devastated. Following the death of her mother, her aunt took Sheila and her little sister in. While thinking about writing on the topic of anger, Sheila came to my mind. Sheila’s anger stood out to me in a way that emphasizes that anger must be dealt with, otherwise it can be very destructive not only to the one who carries the anger, but to those around him or her. Sheila had mourned her mother in silence and never displayed her emotions to her aunt or those around her.

The anger of losing her mother enveloped Sheila’s soul and life. She could not comprehend why God would take her mother. She asked herself, “Where is God in this world of grief? Why is God silent when I suffer at the hands of my evil aunty?” Sheila was so consumed by this anger that she hated everybody. She ended up needing intervention therapy to overcome her anger. This was the time I encountered her; helping and supporting her through managing her long-standing grief. Her anger was deeply rooted in her not having dealt with her mother’s death. It took time and many sessions to get Sheila to acknowledge the root cause of her anger. One lesson from Sheila’s hidden anger was that when one is passive or too aggressive, it backfires strongly. Sheila and I worked through identifying her triggers and outlined steps to help and support her while dealing with her prolonged grief.

Indeed, many stories could be told concerning anger. The story in our scriptural context highlights Moses’ anger to his opponent, an Egyptian slave master. Moses had encountered many endless and unbearable life challenges. The enslavement of the Hebrew people was a thorn in his flesh even though he lived in the palace. I imagine Moses told others about the life he lived as a baby for three months, placed in the Nile River, his adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter, and experiencing the luxuries in the palace while his Hebrew brethren suffered the pain of slavery. There must have been an upsurge of Moses’ hidden anger as portrayed in the text. “11One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.” Moses, a Hebrew by blood, could not watch the abuse levied on his own people through slavery. He murdered the Egyptian abuser to protect his own native brother.

Well, honestly Moses committed a murder because of the hidden anger. He could not hold back his emotions and acted aggressively and ruthlessly. Can you imagine the courage he had to kill the Egyptian and bury the body in the sand right away? Additionally, imagine how he felt as he fled to Midian when he was identified as a murderer. One would agree that this was the darkest side of prophet Moses’ life. These are the consequences of anger. Anger can be very destructive and consume the one who carries it.

The scriptures speak to us too in many ways. We may have our “Moses moments” when we express our emotions. We may have tangible negative emotions in our speech, writings, teachings, and even preaching. Hidden anger is very destructive and destroys the soul.

Consequently, there is a need to manage our anger. We have various backgrounds and rooted stories which cause hidden anger. I am reminded about Jesus’ anger in the temple courts. “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. (Matthew 21:12-13)

For the longest time in his ministry, Jesus saw the filthiness, the selling of doves, and money exchanging happening in the temple. Jesus’ anger was vented during Holy Week when he whipped the money changers and turned the tables upside down. One would regard this as “Jesus’ righteous anger.” What would we then call Moses’ hidden anger? Well, I would call it “justified anger.“ Truth be told, anger has its facets and must be managed well. We must be careful of the hidden anger!
-Rev. Ever Mudambanuki United Church of Bennington Solomon Yoked Parish
EMudambanuki@greatplainsumc.org

Prayer for Reflection
O God, we confess strongly our negative emotions inhabited within our hearts. Teach us to be angry and not sin. Renew our hearts and minds to manage anger and impart the virtue of self control in us. Amen
 
Today’s Lectionary TextActs 10:17-34

 Peter was bewildered about the meaning of the vision. Just then, the messengers sent by Cornelius discovered the whereabouts of Simon’s house and arrived at the gate. Calling out, they inquired whether the Simon known as Peter was a guest there.While Peter was brooding over the vision, the Spirit interrupted him, “Look! Three people are looking for you. Go downstairs. Don’t ask questions; just go with them because I have sent them.”So Peter went downstairs and told them, “I’m the one you are looking for. Why have you come?”They replied, “We’ve come on behalf of Cornelius, a centurion and righteous man, a God-worshipper who is well-respected by all Jewish people. A holy angel directed him to summon you to his house and to hear what you have to say.” Peter invited them into the house as his guests.The next day he got up and went with them, together with some of the believers from Joppa. They arrived in Caesarea the following day. Anticipating their arrival, Cornelius had gathered his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in order to honor him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Get up! Like you, I’m just a human.” As they continued to talk, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them, “You all realize that it is forbidden for a Jew to associate or visit with outsiders. However, God has shown me that I should never call a person impure or unclean. For this reason, when you sent for me, I came without objection. I want to know, then, why you sent for me.”Cornelius answered, “Four days ago at this same time, three o’clock in the afternoon, I was praying at home. Suddenly a man in radiant clothing stood before me. He said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayers, and your compassionate acts are like a memorial offering to him. Therefore, send someone to Joppa and summon Simon, who is known as Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, located near the seacoast.’ I sent for you right away, and you were kind enough to come. Now, here we are, gathered in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has directed you to say.”Peter said, “I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another.

Today’s Devotional
We are in the midst of a disaster. A disaster not producing natural destruction, but destruction of the human being. We have COVID-19 and Multi-Symptom Inflammatory Disease (children to young adult) happening to people all around us. There are ways to lessen the effect of these two diseases. Data is kept, charts are posted, and we can follow the course of watching cases continue to rise in our conference.

The other disaster, one that data and charts are not being shared on daily basis is racism. Racism is taking a toll on human beings, on all humans. We should be just as concerned with the damage of this disaster as we are other disasters. Just like a natural disaster, COVID-19, and MSIC, how to deal with racism belongs to the community. Community means you and me!

Growing up in the ‘60s, I saw the news and heard about how my brothers and sisters in Christ were being treated, yet our dinner time conversation was around how all people are created in the image of God. We had people of color in our home, and we went to their homes. We dined together. Even though I knew what was happening in the state of Alabama and beyond, that knowing did not become a part of me. I was taught that all people are the children of God, and that is how I have always treated everyone. The racism taking place, the pictures, news stories from this summer have rocked my life. I am so disheartened that individuals treat others the way pictures and stories have shown.

Now, here we are, gathered in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has directed you to say. Peter said, I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another. (vv.33b -34). Church (people of God) – we cannot wait for others to fix our disaster. We cannot wait for government to make the much-needed change to policies. Now is the time for us to be the change.

Will you be the change?

-Rev. Hollie Tapley Disaster Response Coordinator htapley@greatplainsumc.org

Prayer for Reflection
Creator God, Who made humanity in Your image to reflect the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, may we strive to hear Your words, it is good, very good. Amen.
Today’s Lectionary Text
Exodus 2:15b-22
When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses.But Moses fled from Pharaoh. He settled in the land of Midian, and sat down by a well. The priest of Midian had seven daughters. They came to draw water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. But some shepherds came and drove them away. Moses got up and came to their defense and watered their flock. When they returned to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come back so soon today?” They said, “An Egyptian helped us against the shepherds; he even drew water for us and watered the flock.” He said to his daughters, “Where is he? Why did you leave the man? Invite him to break bread.” Moses agreed to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage. She bore a son, and he named him Gershom; for he said, “I have been an alien residing in a foreign land.”

Today’s Devotional
We’ve all had a chapter in life when it seems things just weren’t going our way. When Moses settled in Midian, he had to wonder when his fortune was going to turn around. He went from living in the court of Pharaoh to living on the run. And as the cliché says; no good deed goes unpunished. He ended up there for trying to do the right thing.
 
He had killed an Egyptian. But Moses was defending a Hebrew who was being beaten. He’s called out on it because he steps in to break up a fight between two Hebrews. Moses has done nothing other than seek justice for people who were being victimized, and now finds himself a stranger in a strange land.
 
This doesn’t stop him from continuing to stand up for those who are victimized. He defends women who are having their flocks driven away from the well. But this time, his good deed isn’t punished.
 
Something does go his way. He finds himself welcomed to a meal after stepping in on behalf of the priest’s daughters, which leads to a wife and a son.
 
We know God will soon call Moses to stand up not for one person, or seven, but for God’s people who are enslaved in Egypt. Before he encounters God in the burning bush, he is already starting to do what he will be called to do. Moses doesn’t see the ups and downs of his life as part of God’s plan, but God is working in God’s time.
 
I believe our lives can be that way. Even without moving away, we can feel like we’re a stranger in a strange land. Losing a job, a relationship ending, an injury or a serious illness may disrupt our lives; then we’re not even sure why we’ve ended up in this new and foreign situation. But if we continue to live as we’re called to live as children of God, and we continue to listen for the ways we’re called to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world, I believe we can find the clarity and purpose Moses later finds.
-Pastor Michael Turner Topeka Grace and Big Springs
michael.turner@greatplainsumc.org

Prayer for Reflection
Ever present God, in those days when we feel lost and wonder where we are and why we are here, help us remember to listen for your voice. And as we hear your voice help us use our gifts to respond to your call with wisdom, strength, and courage. Amen. 

Today’s Lectionary Text

Job 6:1-4, 8-15, 21 

Job responded:

Oh, that my grief were actually weighed,
    all of it were lifted up in scales;
    for now it’s heavier than the sands of the sea;
        therefore, my words are rash.
The Almighty’s arrows are in me;
    my spirit drinks their poison,
    and God’s terrors are arrayed against me.
 Oh, that what I’ve requested would come
        and God grant my hope;
    that God be willing to crush me,
    release his hand and cut me off.
I’d still take comfort,
    relieved even though in persistent pain;
        for I’ve not denied the words of the holy one.
What is my strength, that I should hope;
    my end, that my life should drag on?
Is my strength that of rocks,
    my flesh bronze?
I don’t have a helper for myself;
    success has been taken from me.

Are friends loyal to the one who despairs,
    or do they stop fearing the Almighty?
My companions are treacherous like a stream in the desert,
    like channels that overrun their streambeds,
That’s what you are like;
    you see something awful and are afraid.

Today’s Devotional

Wet sand – I do not think there is anything heavier! Ask any of our ERTs who have carried shovel after shovel of wet sand up basement steps after a home has been flooded. In our passage, Job, in defending his anger, says that his grief is heavier than the sands of the sea. (v.3). As a kid, we would cover one another up with sand, just leaving the head out. Some of us (I confess) would use buckets of water to pour over the sand. We did not know any better, we did not know that our play was actually very dangerous. The weight of wet sand can suffocate the life out of someone.

Job is weighed down, and his words are bitter and harsh. He is downright mad at God, and Job’s words are not calm nor passive. Can’t you hear Job as he yells “My God, my God, why have You left me?” Job is anything but patient. If you were ever covered by wet sand, do you remember attempting to get up? Do you recall the struggle? It is like wrestling with someone else. At first, you must begin to move your arms and legs to start loosening the sand around you. Finally, you will break free, yet it takes work.

Job feels completely alone and helpless, while he is attempting to get out from under the wet sand. He turns to friends for help. He just wants them to look at him and listen to the truth of his pain. He wants his friends to tell him what he has done in his life to deserve such pain and burden. Job is wanting his friends to help him to get out from under the heavy wet sand.

For Job, the struggle was real. Our struggles are real. The weight of the wet sand seems to get heavier and heavier at times. Like Job, if we can keep our endurance during the struggle, we will break free. The endurance, the patience to hang in and keep wrestling will lead us to a powerful encounter with God. We will come out a little sandy, yet free and changed.

–Rev. Hollie Tapley disaster response coordinator htapley@greatplainsumc.org

Prayer for Reflection

God, during our times of being covered and weighed down with wet sand, help us to hold on to our endurance. Amen.

Today’s Lectionary Text

Psalm 18:2-32


The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
    so I shall be saved from my enemies.

The cords of death encompassed me;
    the torrents of perdition assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
    the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon the Lord;
    to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
    and my cry to him reached his ears.

Then the earth reeled and rocked;
    the foundations also of the mountains trembled
    and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
    and devouring fire from his mouth;
    glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens, and came down;
    thick darkness was under his feet.
He rode on a cherub, and flew;
    he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering around him,
    his canopy thick clouds dark with water.
Out of the brightness before him
    there broke through his clouds
    hailstones and coals of fire.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
    and the Most High uttered his voice.
And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them;
    he flashed forth lightnings, and routed them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
    and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
    at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

He reached down from on high, he took me;
    he drew me out of mighty waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
    and from those who hated me;
    for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity;
    but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
    he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
    and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his ordinances were before me,
    and his statutes I did not put away from me.
I was blameless before him,
    and I kept myself from guilt.
Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
    according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

With the loyal you show yourself loyal;
    with the blameless you show yourself blameless;
with the pure you show yourself pure;
    and with the crooked you show yourself perverse.
For you deliver a humble people,
    but the haughty eyes you bring down.
It is you who light my lamp;
    the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
By you I can crush a troop,
    and by my God I can leap over a wall.
This God—his way is perfect;
    the promise of the Lord proves true;
    he is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

For who is God except the Lord?
    And who is a rock besides our God?—
the God who girded me with strength,
    and made my way safe.

Today’s Devotional

I recently bought a new car and I will admit it is too fancy for me. I have never owned or driven anything with so many features and I am trying to learn them all. One of my favorite features so far is a light on my side mirrors. Anytime there is a car in my blind spot it flashes at me to let me know there is a car there.

Perhaps you have this feature in your car and know how useful it is. I think even when we are off the roads, we also need a flashing light in our personal lives. We need to find our blind spots: those ideas or experiences of others we do not see. In my drive to seek justice and compassion, I often fall short and miss what is going on around me. I am so focused on my path and the journey I am headed on I forget about the others around me. It is so easy not to check our blind spots or simply want to ignore them.

However, God calls us to check those blind spots. God is there as a flashing light saying, “Look over here!” “Look toward your neighbor and see them!” “Look to what is going on the world and hear the voices which are crying out!” Sometimes we must look beyond our own path and experiences to see more.

I love the flashing light on my car because it helps keep me safe. But I also have the choice to take the warning or ignore it. So, are you checking your blind spots? Do you see the flashing light of God? And how will you respond?

-Maddi Baugous Pastoral Intern First United Methodist Church Omaha
maddi.baugous@fumcomaha.org

Prayer for Reflection

God of light. At times we ignore the things we cannot see. Give us your eyes and perception to see beyond, so that we might see those around us, and keep each other safe. Amen.

Today’s Lectionary Text

Hebrews 13:16

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Today’s Devotional

Stanley called me a couple of days ago. I did not know who Stanley was. He said that he is my neighbor in Pitkin, Colorado. He is a man that moved into a house in Pitkin last summer. We visited two or three times. He said, “I drove by your house this morning, and I have been watching for your vehicle, but since there has not been one, I thought that I should check on you.” Stanley is going to be a great person to have as a neighbor.

 When we do something loving and neighborly, I believe that God finds it pleasing. I have come to think about what a response to our pleasing God would look like.

Hebrews 13:16, “Do not forget to do good and to help one another, because these are the sacrifices that please God.”

It is wonderful that we have a personal and intimate relationship with our God. I must admit that I find this mysterious and hard to put into my systematic theology. Does God smile when She is pleased? Since we do not believe in works righteousness, what happens? There must be something that happens when we please God. I do not get a reward for helping someone in need. I choose to describe the mystery as “God’s nod.” Just a nod in our direction recognizing the thing that we have done that pleases Him.

I John 3:22, “We receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”
Rev. Garry Winget Retired Elder Wichita, KS gwinget@greatplainsumc.org

Prayer for Reflection

O Lord we seek to please you, so lead us into our world where we are needed to be the instruments of your grace. Amen

Today’s Lectionary Text
Ezekiel 36: 33-38
“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.” Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Once again I will yield to Israel’s plea and do this for them: I will make their people as numerous as sheep, as numerous as the flocks for offerings at Jerusalem during her appointed festivals. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

Today’s Devotional
I love to hike. One foot in front of the other for as long as it takes. I found a trail this summer that I just had to walk. It appeared treacherous but oh so challenging. Actually, I was afraid to hike it alone because it looked very demanding. I could find no one to go with me, so, in defiance of it all, I decided to boldly hike it alone.
 
As I started the journey I prayed for courage and safety. As I prayed, I realized I wasn’t alone at all. The Lord was with me and kept me safe. I felt His presence and talked to Him occasionally to make sure He was still with me.
 
The trail became even more difficult than I imagined. This world created by God is so magnificent, awesome and immense. I can’t take it all in. It was so high yet also so low. It is difficult to imagine the glaciers, the ocean, the volcanos all used to build these gigantic monuments for God and then the rain and wind and earthquakes to tear it down
 
Perhaps our world goes through these cycles, periods of building up and then times of tearing down. The question begs: Where are we today? Building up or tearing down?
 
We build with science, education, vast resources, and the love of God. Strong communities take care of the poor and marginalized.
 
We tear down with systemic racism, angry politics, and a pandemic virus. People filled with hate, bigotry, anger, and greed. Where are we Lord? Building up or tearing down?
 
With Faith and Love, I hope we are at a turning point. Have we learned enough from the tearing down that we can begin to build back up? Rebuilding our communities, churches, nations, and the world. Can we build the world that God intended?
 
Are you with us Lord? I am with you, always.

 –Mary Feit Great Plains Conference Director of Lay Servant Ministry
marykfeit@windstream.net 

 Prayer for Reflection
Dear Holy One, we are filled with despair, sadness, anger and frustration with the world today. We praise and honor your Holy Name and the magnificent world you have created for us. Forgive our lack of faith and replace it with hope. Help us to rebuild the world you intended. In Jesus precious name we pray. Amen and Amen.
Today’s Lectionary Text
Psalm 124
If the LORD had not been on our side— let Israel say— if the LORD had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away. Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
 
Today’s Devotional
Often, we do not realize how close we are to danger, harmful situations, serious illness or even death. The Lord protects us in various ways. His grace is abundant. His love is sustaining. He even sent His Son, Jesus Christ to the earth to live with the people, show and teach them the ways of God then the ultimate sacrifice of death on the cross was made. Yet, the resurrection of Jesus to defeat death has given us the opportunity for eternal life. 

As David gave credit to the Lord for saving him and his people as stated in Psalm 124, we should give God acknowledgement for saving us. David is known for seeking the Lord and God made Himself known to him. God is always open to us. Why should we wait until we are at harm’s way or even in a near-death situation? By giving God the credit for guiding and directing us in all that we do, where we go and the words that we use, opens the door to the blessings of the Lord. 

This is our life that God has given us. Let us look to Him for all things. Not depending on ourselves, but His grace. Yes, we should continue to strive for the very best through our prayers, our family and our work. Never forgetting that God is our protector, our defender and His Son is our savior. With the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are so blessed. 
 –Brad Zimmerman Pastor, Bucklin UMC

Prayer for Reflection
Dear Lord, let us always remember that you have saved us from death and have given us eternal life through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today’s Lectionary Text

2 Corinthians 10:12

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense.

Today’s Devotional

I’m sure every individual in my generation has heard this same idea countless times. For some reason, people are obsessed with labeling social media as this life-consuming unnecessary past time.?However, if being a science major has taught me anything it’s this; if you want to save a sick tree, you have to start at the root. 

I don’t think social media itself is a bad thing. I purpose, the root issue that makes social media such a problem, is it encourages the act of comparison; an evil that’s been around since biblical times. 

To put it succinctly, comparing yourself to others separates you from God and puts earthly desires as a priority. Teddy Roosevelt said it best, “Comparison Is the thief of joy”. The Apostle Paul has quite a bit to say about the dangers the follow comparing yourself to others. In his letter to the church in Corinth, (2 Corinthians 10:12) he says?“For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, they are without understanding.” 

In a letter to the church of Philippi (Philippians 4:11-12), he writes “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things, I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” 

But more importantly, every individual is loved and cherished by our heavenly creator, just the same. Do not rob yourself of joy by focusing on things that don’t matter.?Freedom from comparison and a sense of peace in whatever situation we find ourselves in is only possible by putting God back as the focus of our lives. 

Kate Basore  Emporia State Campus Ministries kbasore12@gmail.com