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These daily devotionals, written by members of Southwood, will connect you with our fall theme, God’s Story. Our Story. We will be digging deeply into the Bible stories to see how they connect us to God. Sign up (below) to receive a daily devotional email at 6:30 a.m. every weekday and Saturday. We are excited to share this new daily resource with you and are grateful to the many writers who are sharing their gifts with their Southwood family!
Friday April 26
This entire reading of Paul and Silas in prison has many meanings for me. On first review, it means that opening your eyes to a miracle might nudge you to believe in Jesus. However, after reading it over and over it came to mean something else.
31 They answered, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Many of us are not as vigilant as Paul and Silas were when imprisoned. We may not react with prayer and song if beaten and thrown in jail. We don't have to be perfect stewards of doctrine or perform a certain number of good acts in order to believe and be in a relationship with God. Sure, we have the Ten Commandments, which if followed, cover all the rules. But what is more amazing is the grace behind the reading. We are really asked to seek God with an open heart. Seek a relationship with Him. That is all. If this is done, the rest essentially takes care of itself!
When I am feeling closest to God, I find myself WANTING to please Him. I don't feel pressured or guilty. I feel love and grace. And, I want to share it with others. I want to be a servant. Isn't that what God wants too? And often when I am not feeling close to God because of my own insecurities, others are there to remind me of His love. Those people are there to remind me of my belief in the Lord. Wow. We are all a family. We are saved by God's grace.
Questions for Reflection
- What does this reading mean to you? Is it something entirely different?
- When do you feel closest to God?
Lord, nudge me. Remind me that a relationship with you is very simple. I simply need to open my heart to You. You are my savior. Thank you. Amen.
Tuesday January 15, 2013
In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of the gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. NIV
I read and reread these verses. What do they mean to me? I already "see" and "hear" so what will be different? I am not "needy" so how will I rejoice?
Prayer and quiet time turned the light bulb on. Oprah calls it an aha moment. I call it God speaking to me. Aren't we all blind and needy? We are often blind and deaf to God's gifts and grace. We are needy for the body and spirit of our Lord.
The nudge God gave me was to stop, look and listen. Stop being so self-centered in thinking I already know all there is to know! There are those around us that we long to have see and hear the words of the Lord. We itch when we see their need and twitch when they express self-reliance. Be free! Open your eyes and ears and He will not disappoint I say to them (or if I am having an insecure moment about evangelizing, I pray it for them). Still, if I reflect, I need to open my eyes and ears as well. Stop taking God's grace for granted. Stop acting humble and be humble before Him.
Pray for those who need to see and hear. Pray for those who are humble as they will be rejoicing! I don't know my path, your path or any paths for that matter. But I do know that God has a lot to teach me. The Word is a good start to figuring it out. Pastor Olson said recently in a sermon that we are anxiously awaiting the return of the Lord. I need to commit myself to being better prepared for His arrival tomorrow than I am today. And, it is my responsibility to help those who are blind and deaf to begin seeing and hearing. Because, on that glorious day, we will ALL be hearing seeing and rejoicing to its fullest!
Questions for Reflection:
- How good is your hearing and sight?
- Are you reaching out to those who are blind and deaf?
Someday You will return Lord. Guide me to better prepare for your arrival and to minister to those who are blind and deaf. Teach me humility to better receive your gifts and rejoice in Your grace and love. Amen.
Wednesday December 12
Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. (New Living Translation)
Even though it is now December and political advertisements have been traded in for Christmas ones, I am writing this devotional in the height of the presidential campaign. As with all elections, I am so disappointed. I am disappointed that both Parties fling so much irrelevant information around. The public eats it up. Can we step back and focus on what the candidates really wish to accomplish if elected? Can we focus on how to work together regardless of our political affiliations? Instead, we focus on ethnical backgrounds, generational backgrounds, and verbal miscues. Hmmm?
We all mess up. We all treat someone "differently" at some time or another because of our preconceived notions or stereo-typing tendencies. I am guilty of this behavior and sometimes don't even realize I've done it until reflection afterwards.
My son has taught me a lot about people. He, and many of his friends, do not see color when they look at someone. They see a person. No conversation ever started by him saying "my black friend" or "my Asian friend"; the conversation started with "my friend". Right! That is what God sees!
In some ways we are all going through our own struggles. Some struggles are obvious: homelessness, certain mental illness, joblessness. Others are less obvious: a cheating spouse, certain mental illness, impure thoughts. The list of those clear and those hidden from the public eye goes on and on. Just because Neighbor Joe appears to have the ideal life, doesn't mean he is not struggling. Measuring burdens and judging people according to our own ability to handle those stressors is absurd. But we do it. One person may have lost a child. Another may be caring for an aging parent. Who are we to judge which pain and obstacles are worse? Yet, many of us find ourselves judging others by what WE think should be done or felt. What? As stated, again, we all share the same Spirit. We are all looked upon by Christ with the same loving and giving heart.
This reading means one thing to me. We are ALL God's children, created with love by Him. We are loved equally by Him. All saved by Him. So, aren't we all the same?
Maybe taking a closer look at this verse will help us to consider how we view ourselves and others.
Questions for Reflection:
- Do you treat everyone the same because you know we are all God's children? If not, why?
- What steps can you take to move toward loving our neighbors as ourselves?
Lord, I am flawed. Teach me to see the world as you see it. Teach me that we all belong to you and are loved equally by you; therefore I should treat each person with the same love and compassion as you give to all of us. Amen.
Wednesday November 7, 2012
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven and from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 21: 1-6a – NIV)
My father has gone through some life-changing health issues in the last few years. The once gruff and strict man became a gentle teddy bear. What has remained constant for him is his love of family and nature. I grew up appreciating all plants, including the lawn! We had a trailer on land on Woman Lake in Minnesota. He taught my sister and me to love the forest, love the water and love all God's creatures. I never knew my dad to turn down the purchase of a flower or bush if my mom showed any interest in it. He has always treasured time outdoors enjoying both his family and the environment provided by our Savior. It hurts him to see land developed as he worries about the impact on both plants and animals.
During a particular tough patch with his health, my father confided he was ready "to go". He expressed his thankfulness for a wonderful life that included my mother, my sister and me and our children. He said he would be sorry that others might mourn him being gone from this earth. But, more importantly, he expressed how much he was looking forward to life in heaven. He was anxious to greet family and friends. My dad also has a lot to talk over with God. He doesn't know quite what the makeup of heaven will be, but he is certain it will be a beautiful and majestic place. My father has limited lung capacity but looks forward to taking deep breaths and absorbing the beauty of what our Father has in store.
With that outlook, it seems unreasonable to complain about tall grass, raccoons eating fish from our pond or rabbits chomping down on those newly planted flowers. Look around at the beauty before you! And, if you think this is impressive, just wait! As the scripture reads, "I am making everything new. " Not only do we have a magical place to look forward to, we will have our Savior dwelling among us!
Questions for Reflection:
- Are you appreciating the earth now and anticipating an even greater heaven?
- What is your vision of heaven?
Lord, remind me to appreciate the earth as you have provided it for us. I don't always understand why a tornado, hurricane or other such storm kills a family or why a family member suffers an illness, but I do know you have a new heaven for us to "live" in. Thank you for grace and love. Amen.
A couple weeks ago I read a Facebook post one of my friends had written regarding a trip to the Grand Canyon she made with her husband. She had opted out of the 2 day hike into the canyon. Instead she promised to use their binoculars to track her husband's descent and subsequent ascent. She said she initially panned the area and was awed by its majestic beauty. "Why does it take tracking my husband to make me REALLY look at my magnificent surroundings", she posted. "Even the dark shadows and dangerous slopes seemed to be so beautiful."
She said she spent the day writing down in great details all the spectacular views she was seeing so she could share and compare with her husband when he came back out of the canyon. The weather turned stormy in the evening. She could see her husband's climbing group setting up camp, working to find shelter and safety. The beautiful majestic scenery wasn't so appealing to her any more. It seemed dangerous and black. She found herself praying for a quick storm and safe return of her spouse.
Prayer was answered. After squeezing her honey and muttering a quick thank you to God, she started babbling about the incredible views she encountered while watching him climb down the canyon the day before. Her husband interrupted her and said, yes, but did you take in all the beauty during the storm. He talked about how the storm sounded and smelled. He said it was like watching an etch-a-sketch being shaken and a new pictures emerging over and over. He told my friend the group had said a prayer thanking God for the opportunity to witness God's majestic landscape that many others might never see on a trip down the canyon.
Her story makes me realize that all of God's works are majestic and glorious. We often forget to see them. We forget they are in our visual experiences as well as our physical experiences. Then, when the situation or scenery becomes dark or cloudy we hurry to pray for change. God honors his covenant to us, just maybe not always in ways we can see or understand. His grace is so steadfast.
Questions for reflection:
- Do you ever miss the daily works of the Lord?
- What's one thing you can do on a daily basis to honor and praise the Lord?
Lord, thank you for honoring your covenant to us. Help us to in turn glorify you and rejoice in your gift of love and grace. Amen.