Walking With Jesus

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended. Isaiah 51:6
These words from the prophet Isaiah were spoken to a people who were coming out of exile and returning to Israel. They are in the same geographical area, Mesopotamia, where Abraham and Sarah began their faith journey. They are starting over, which shows how far backwards the Israelites have gone. When they look backwards in their history they see people like Abraham and Sarah and many others who were strong, but when they look at themselves they see they have become weak in their faith and in living out their faith. But in looking back to some of their ancestors they gain some encouragement for their future.
God tells them to also look up to the heavens and down at the earth. These are things that all human beings take for granted. We just rely on them to always be there, but God says even these things we depend on will change. Yet God assures them, “My salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never end.” Sometimes it seems like everything is in flux in our lives and in our world, changing so fast that we can’t keep up, or adjust.
With the onset of COVID-19 and its devastation, with millions of people dying and so many terribly ill, I wonder if we have taken good health and health care for granted just as we take the solid earth beneath us, or the sun coming up in the morning. God is saying to us today, as well as to the exiles in Isaiah’s day, that we can only depend on God and look ahead to God’s faithfulness.
I am surrounded by people in our twin communities of Bryan-College Station, Texas who have the coronavirus and many have died. Businesses have been forced to close, and many who are still open are losing money because of declining business. Many people are out of work, and do not know when they can return to work. Many are becoming homeless. Schools are struggling to discover how to educate our children and youth. Everything is in flux and no one knows what tomorrow will bring. We need to hear and trust in the message of God that Isaiah brings today. God’s salvation will be forever and God’s deliverance/faithfulness will never end. We need to act on that faith that God is our deliverer.
Perhaps it would be good for us to remember how our ancestors must have felt when they left their homeland to come to a land they had never seen. They must have depended on God for their deliverance. All those who put whatever they could haul in a covered wagon and made their way to new lands from the east coast to the west coast of our nation must have trusted in God’s deliverance/faithfulness. We too can trust in God for our deliverance. God is calling us to bring God’s Grace and love and assistance to all we can so that others come to know and believe in God’s faithfulness.
Questions:
1. How can you be involved in helping those who need assistance?
2. How can you be God’s Hands in God’s work of deliverance?
3. What is God laying on your heart to do to help others know God’s faithfulness/deliverance?

Morning Prayer

Loving God, help us to see and understand that living in your Spirit is being a part of all that is, for you are God of all. and in all. In that awareness we pray for all who are suffering, all who are living in fear of COVID-19, all who are struggling with loneliness, loss of income, returning to school and learning in new ways, or mourning the loss of a loved one or friend. Increase our unity of spirit and soul in prayer and study of your Word, as we struggle at being physically separated from others. In Jesus Holy name we pray. Amen.

Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, during these days give us the wisdom to persevere in the chances and changes of life, so that we recognize that you are always there with us even when we cannot see or feel your presence. In the solitude of our homes grant us a sense of the church universal, so that we can be surrounded by the communion of saints during this time of sheltering in. Watch over all who are infected with the corona virus and bring healing and comfort to each one. In the name of our Lord Jesus we pray. Amen.

Morning Prayer

Lord God, as our Shepherd may your strong hands ever lift us from our sinful straying ways. Keep reading the deepest longings of our hearts, and encourage us to abandon all our ways of rebellion, living only for ourselves and not caring for others first. Help us to assist our brothers and sisters in ways that lift them up spiritually and encourages them in faithfulness to you. Seek us out of our hiding and lost places and lead us to pastures of peace and safety. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Morning Prayer

Loving Father, when all the world seems threatened by evil and a deadly coronavirus, remind us of your protection, your love for all people and your creation. When we take justice into our own hands, help us to remember that we risk committing further injustice and destroying what you sent your Son to redeem. Keep us from dealing with others in harsh ways and cruel actions, and lead us to reflect your love, your patience, your gentleness even when evil threatens to engulf us. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.

Morning Prayer

Father in heaven, as young Solomon prayed for wisdom so we ask for wisdom and understanding to live in our time so we can bless those around us. Replace our earthly wisdom that tears down, with your wisdom which encourages and strengthens our faith and witness to your love and forgiveness. Fill us with your peace and give us grateful hearts so that we share the goodness of your love and mercy with those around us. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Morning Prayer

Giving and forgiving God, we pray for forgiveness of our tendency toward favoritism. Help us not to befriend only those who can benefit us, but to give openly to others as you give to us. Give us the courage to reach out to those with whom we may feel uncomfortable. Remind us that you sacrificed your Son for all humanity and continue to minister to all. Teach us to accept all with your grace and love as Christ has accepted us, and spare us from being judgmental and looking down on those with whom we disagree. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Morning Prayer

Gracious Lord, as the Caananite woman was persistent regardless of her social and religious standing in Jesus eyes, help us to be persistent in our prayers. Show us your mercy even though we are unworthy of your gifts of grace and forgiveness. Open your heart to our loneliness and isolation, to our weak resistance to greed, and our sickness of pride. Heal us and open our hearts and minds to the needs of others and create in us hearts of love and compassion for others. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Weekly Devotional

Walking With Jesus
22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matt. 15:22-28
I have always seen this event where Jesus put this woman in a class with dogs always seemed so unlike a compassionate Lord. Yet, Jesus was human, and he asked this brash Canaanite woman if it was proper for a Jewish rabbi to give Jewish things to a gentile. In other words, is it proper to take the children’s food and give it to the dogs? Was this an offensive question? O yes, but probably not as offensive to her as it is to us. Since Jewish things were meant for Jewish people by Jewish religious standards, and non-Jews were not worthy of them, the metaphor is apt. We are offended today because we are hung up on our own inborn dignity and worth standards and generally not trained in those first century Jewish standards.
This woman’s reply however indicated that her appeal came from her faith and not from a desperate attempt to try just anything she might have heard about. When she said, “Even the dogs eat the children’s table scraps,” she showed that she was not just looking for a magic trick; she recognized Jesus’ standing and authority and the genuineness of His ministry, she admitted her own unworthiness to receive it, and she prevailed upon His grace. This is where God’s Grace in action overruled religious doctrine and tradition.
Whatever you want to call it, chutzpah, gall, guts, boldness, or faith that this Caananite woman demonstrated, she was on her knees in the dirt at Jesus’ feet not giving in to the cultural and religious teachings of the Jews. Her persistence at seeking healing for her daughter and believing in her heart that Jesus could heal her child cut through the religious argument that Jesus has been taught as a Rabbi, that Caananites were evil and unsalvageable by God. There she was bowed down and begging Jesus for the life of her child and her total dependence on Him in faith unlocked Jesus’ heart. Dogs may live off of scraps, but Jesus did not give her scraps. He had compassion and healed her daughter of the demon at that moment.
I wonder about us today, we who have been raised in the church, and remained faithful to worshipping and serving God in the church.
Questions:
Have we allowed any religious traditions to prevent us from seeing how the power of God’s love reaches beyond any of our cultural or traditional religious boundaries?
Are any of our religious practices or traditions preventing us from reaching out to those who see the church as biased or it’s people as hypocrites?
Is it time to check our own religious practices for what may prevent others from knowing the healing grace of God?
Do we need to change in some ways to offer the saving grace of God’s love for all people, not just those who might come occasionally to check us out on a Sunday morning?

Morning Prayer

Lord God, your word teaches us to not worry about what we will eat or drink, or about tomorrow. Help us remember that life is more that rising to the top financially, professionally, or socially, but to seek your kingdom and your righteousness first. Help us remember that all our other needs will be given to us as well. Center our hearts and minds on you. Open our hearts to share what we have with others who need assistance, and to pray for others in their daily struggles. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord we pray. Amen.