Make Every Effort

Luke 13

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” 

In thinking about one’s faith, how easy is it to get caught up in the motions of religion. “I go to church every week, I attend Sunday school, I make food for the potlucks, I give an occasional offering, I went to church camp as a child, etc…when the kingdom comes, surely I will be known and in relationship with the Lord.” 

‭‭Luke‬ ‭13‬:‭25‬-‭27‬ 

“Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’”

Thinking about where your heart is and what kind of faith you have takes courage, honesty, and oftentimes real change within our daily habits. 

Today is a perfect day to renew or strengthen your relationship with God and his son Jesus Christ. This looks different for all in many ways. When I picture a narrow door, I think of a door that not many choose to enter through. This “door” may not be the popular choice, the easy choice, or the fun choice. However, choosing to live a life that is pleasing to God is more rewarding than any earthly desire or temporary pleasure. I encourage you to take a moment today and consider one tangible way that you could get to know God on a deeper level this week. This may be through prayer, worship through song, spending time in nature, reading your Bible, serving others, etc. 

May we be a people who stand outside the door and are fully known as our hearts align to God through his son Jesus Christ. 

-Kayla Elwell

Reflection Questions

  1. Choose at least one way you could get to know God on a deeper level this week? When will you do it? Where? How? Why?
  2. How does “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door” work with Ephesians 2:8&9. Do you think Jesus would say that there are some people who rely too much on their works? Do you think Jesus would say there are some people who rely too much on God’s grace? How do you keep from being in either camp?

Family

Luke 8

Thursday, December 15, 2022

The words we see Jesus speaking in the Bible aren’t simply a set of rules for a better life on this earth. They are an invitation to accept adoption into the family of God. We see him referring to this family and clearly opening its doors to us in Luke 8:21.


“Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. And it was told Him by some, who said, ‘Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” ’ – Luke 8:19-21


Under the New Covenant, Christ opened up who a relationship with the God of Abraham is available to. To be part of the Family of God is no longer simply to be a Jew; it is free to be accepted by both Jew and Gentile. In this text Jesus is not dissing his earthly mother in any way, in contrast, his words flow from a place that embraces all and desires every person to take part in the family of God. At the time, the disciples assumed that Jesus would put his own family in a higher position than all the other people to whom he had no obligation. But in the following verse, he reveals that every human being can become a member of his family. Closeness to Jesus depends only upon “hearing the word and doing it.”


Those who hear the word of God and do it are disciples; disciples are followers of Christ; followers of Christ are Christians. Christianity is not something you must be – or even can be – born into. Even if one is born into a Christian family, to become a part of the family of God is something different. It’s a choice to be part of something bigger than yourself and this life. To become a true Christian is to embrace your identity as a child of God and follower of Christ. It does not require a specific gene or to be part of a familial bloodline. It does not require
anything, in fact, other than total commitment to the Gospel and a relationship with God.

-Isabella Osborn

Reflection Questions

  1. Do you think that a relationship with our heavenly Father requires effort and nurturing, in the same way that your relationship with your mother, brother, or sister requires nurturing to grow and thrive?
  2. What must you do to accept a place in the family of God? Once accepted, what steps can be taken in order to keep your faith and relationship with God growing stronger and stronger? What about to strengthen your relationship with your brothers and sisters in Christ?
  3. What might “hearing the word and doing it” entail? How will you make the conscious, deliberate decision to “hear the word and do it” as we approach a new year?

Our Bodies Belong to God

1 Corinthians 7

June 8

1st Corinthians chapter 7 presents us with Paul explaining to the church the importance of Christian liberty in marital relations. This chapter is all about the importance of the Christian concept of marriage and how it needed to be established in the early church.

            In Paul’s letter he writes about the principles of marriage, but he also writes about singleness, in 1st Corinthians 7:4 Paul says,

            “A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does.

In a marital relationship, the husband and wife belong to one another, just as we belong to God in our relationship with him. We can also see this in how Elihu speaks to Job in Job 33:6.

            “Look, you and I both belong to God. I, too, was formed from clay.

We all belong to God in everything we do. We are to trust God in his decisions for our lives and the places we are to go, just as our spouse is to rely on us in our relationships.

            Paul also speaks of singleness in chapter 7. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 7:8-9, and verses 32-35.

            “I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am. But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, since it is better to marry than to burn with desire.

            “I want you to be without concerns. The unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord. How he may please the Lord. But the married man is concerned with the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The unmarried woman is concerned about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But the married woman is concerned with the things of the world, and how she may please her husband. I am saying this for your own benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but to promote what is proper and so that you may be devoted to the Lord without distraction.

Paul isn’t saying we shouldn’t be married or have relationships, but he is saying, that when we are in them it is important to not lose sight of your faith, and to devote yourself to God first. Sometimes our seasons of singleness are God’s way of pulling us closer to him, and that is one of the most important periods in our life. We have an opportunity to be devoted to only God and spend time learning who he wants us to be.

This is where I have been in my life lately. I’m realizing that my relationship with God must come first before I am able to have a relationship with someone else, so that we can strengthen each other through our faith in Christ. God wants a relationship with us, and for us to trust in him first and foremost.

-Hannah Eldred

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Whether you are single or married, how can you deepen your devotion to God?
  2. What is the person to do who is married to an unbeliever? Why?
  3. If you will be choosing a spouse, what does Paul say he/she has to be? Why?
  4. If you are married, how can you work (ideally, together, with your mate) at keeping God first?

Resolution 2: Exercise Less

Zechariah 7-8

It was roughly two and a half years ago when I sat down at a Walmart because I wasn’t feeling particularly well. My seat – the automated blood pressure cuff, because I felt like I needed to get a reading. I felt tense, short of breath, and was sweating for no particular reason.  My suspicions were confirmed when my blood pressure came up 160-something, over 100-something.  Yikes!  My wife was pregnant with twins at this point, and as a soon-to-be-dad, the mental, physical, and emotional stress hadn’t even really started.  With a history of heart issues running through my family tree, I thought, if my blood pressure is this high now, how am I going to be able to play with my kids?  I knew something had to change.  I made a few changes to my diet, but mostly, I began to exercise to get rid of extra poundage that was contributing to the toll I was placing on my body.

The super-short version of the story is YAY! My blood pressure is normal, I play with my kids, and I’m down about 50 pounds.  Running (a lot) is now part of my weekly routine.  But now that I’m where I want to be with my health, I am finding that exercise can simply be exercise. A repeated motion, causing a bit of sweat, but sometimes to no real purpose. If I run 40 laps around the track, I will start and end in the same place. Nothing achieved. I can celebrate the fact that I can snag an extra donut on Teacher Appreciation Day, or score,  a McDonalds breakfast (I didn’t say my blood pressure was great, just normal) without the guilt, or eat eight desserts at Thanksgiving (sad, but true), but I’m not really going anywhere.  I am in maintenance mode, like those awaiting a second temple here in Zechariah. 

“Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? – Zechariah 7:5-6

Now, before I move any further, it needs to be said I am healthier because I run. Spiritual disciplines are not unlike this. These routines are important, and even more, necessary. Prayer, worship, and reading God’s Word should be part of your to-dos every. single. day. BUT what those items shouldn’t be are chores sandwiched between taking the trash out to the curb and picking up the milk.  Are you doing these things because you want to draw into a closer relationship with God? OR are you doing these things because you are doing these things.  I mean, how did you get here to read this blog today?  Is it part of your exercise or your routine?  If so, is it because you desire more about your loving God and his calling on your life? Or do you use it as a means to build credit in the God bank so you can have the extra donut, or eighth desserts? It’s tough. Right? Live for a moment outside of the routine.  Today, start exercising less and engaging more. Throw out the score card because God already has you beat. Enter into the purpose of what you are doing, seek Him, and draw nearer to His Spirit.  Find a way to share His justice, His mercy, and His many compassions because you are compelled to show the love of God, not simply run to the next item on your list.

This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ – Zechariah 7:9-10

-Aaron Winner

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zechariah 7-8 and Revelation 18

Not What You Expected

2 Kings 5-6


As ignorant, stuck-up, entitled humans, we often think we know what we need. We have this nice little idea of what will make our lives better, and we go to God expecting Him to grant us our wishes. But the thing is, we don’t know what we need; we don’t know how God works or what He plans to accomplish through us, or how He even uses our situation for His glory.


In 2 Kings 5, we read about one particular ignorant human who went to Elisha hoping to be healed of his leprosy, despite being a gentile and enemy of Israel. Now this man, Naaman, wasn’t mistaken in thinking he would receive the help he needed, but what he thought he needed and what God knew he needed were two separate things. When Elisha told Naaman to wash 7 times in the river Jordan, he became angry and almost turned around to head home, because this wasn’t the grand solution he expected to hear. Fortunately, however, his servants reminded him what was at stake, and what he should be willing to try for the sake of healing his leprosy. So Naaman, I imagine quite reluctantly, went down to the river and followed Elisha’s instructions. And what do you know – he was healed!


After experiencing this miraculous restoration of health, Naaman knew who the one true God was (and is), and came back a changed man. Even in the few paragraphs we read about Naaman, we can see a drastic difference in his overall attitude and behavior. God changed his heart. If Naaman wasn’t lucky enough to have those servants around, he would’ve missed out on everything he gained in his short encounter with Elisha. Because of his own pride and desires, he
was prepared to walk away from the only chance he would ever get at healing his fatal disease, and finding a relationship with his Creator.


Naaman’s story can serve as a reminder to let go of our self-conceived ideas of what is best for us, and instead trust God to handle every situation His way. God’s way is always the best way, whether or not we are capable of understanding it. He has a plan for all His children, and this plan has already been set in motion. He answers our prayers in ways we could never imagine,
and sometimes in ways we can’t even see. We have to trust that our loving, heavenly Father knows what’s truly best for us, and that everything He does is part of the ultimate plan He has for us to live together with Him in His eternal Kingdom.


God knows what you need, all you have to do is trust Him.

–Isabella Osborn

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 5-6 and Proverbs 7

The Goal

Psalm 24

Psalm 24 1 NIV

I think the ultimate goal of Christianity is to have a relationship with God. I think this is ultimately the goals of our lives as well if you believe in God. I once heard Pastor Vince Finnegan, Sean’s dad, say that as long as he had his relationship with God nothing else really mattered. He said this years ago and it has still stuck with me to this day. This is crazy because despite my ability to intensely focus on things there are days that I would forget my head if it wasn’t attached to my body.

Back to my point I wanted to open up by reminding you what is the point of our lives.

No one starts out running marathons by just running a marathon or hiking really huge mountains by just going and doing it. You have to start out by training for a marathon or hiking smaller mountains. You need to build endurance to complete formidable tasks. The cost of admission for hiking that larger mountain or running that marathon is rigorous training before hand. If you only do half of the marathon training, you probably won’t be able to run the whole marathon. That’s generally just a rule of life.

The real life long question for me is how can I draw closer to God and I think Ps. 24 lays out a way in which we can do that. You should go ahead and read it all the way through right now then we will talk about it some more.

I love the way this Psalm opens and I think it is super appropriate for what David is going to ask in verse 2 as well. David opens up the Psalm by acknowledging and praising God for his creation. He says that the earth is the Lord’s and all who dwell in it. If you read yesterday’s devo you know I love the idea that all I am and all I have is God’s. “I deserve nothing and I have been given everything” is probably my favorite saying and David’s opening lines feed directly into that. The reason I think it is so appropriate that David opens the Psalm like this is because he is acknowledging the greatness of God. He is acknowledging that we really haven’t done anything and don’t really deserve anything from God.

Verse 3 is the focal point of this psalm. David says “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?”. This isn’t just talking about standing on a hill or standing in God’s holy place just to stand there. And to clarify no one is worthy. Well, except Jesus. Jesus is always the exception and the answer. Haha.

Back to what I was saying before I distracted myself. David isn’t only saying this to proclaim God’s greatness. Ascending the hill of the Lord and entering his holy place are ways in which we can draw close to God. Psst… remember the opening paragraph. So, whatever comes next may be pretty important for us.

Verse 4 says “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, and doesn’t lift up his soul to what is false?” Remember what I was saying earlier about the cost of admission? Here it is. The disappointing part is that even if we cover the cost of admission we still need God’s help to cover the rest of it but that’s in the next verse. So, what do you think clean hands and a pure heart is? I think I can probably define it but I’m gonna take the easy way out with this one and say being like Jesus. Remember the answer is ALWAYS Jesus. So, to define living like Jesus is much easier for me; it’s living a life where from my heart my actions reflect love of God and his people. I just don’t see Jesus getting angry because he had to help another person because his actions where overflowing from a pure heart. The goal here is becoming more like Jesus.

I love the way that David phrases this second part ‘don’t lift up your soul to what is false.’ It speaks of something so true. Anything that we look to for satisfaction from, other than God, is false. We can give it life and make it out to be true but it will not satisfy.

In verse 5 it says that, “He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” It says here that we will receive righteousness from the Lord as well. God is even supplying righteousness in the areas in which we are lacking in order to draw close to him.

Verse 6 gets to the heart of what we have been talking about here. God is looking for those people who will seek his face and draw close to him.

I pray that God will help me to draw closer to Him by cleansing my hands and purifying my heart and helping change my heart. That my actions would be an out pouring of my heart and I could become holy as he is holy and draw closer to him.

Bonus Material: If you wanted to read another Psalm similar to this one Psalm 15 is great as well.

 

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+1-2%2C+15%2C+22-24%2C+47%2C+68&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 89, 96, 100, 101, 105 & 132 as we continue with the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Do You Have a King?

Judges 19-21

Judges 21 25 NIV

If Judges 19-21 were made into a movie, I would not go and see it. It’s too gruesome. It’s too graphic.

And yet, it’s recorded within the Word of God.
Why did all these terrible and awful things happen? We’re told at the beginning of Judges 19 and it’s stated again at the end of Judges 21, as well as recorded multiple times throughout the book of Judges: “In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”
When societies and individuals do nothing to invest in a relationship with God, our moral compasses become messed up, our values and priorities get out of alignment, our behavior goes out of control.
Let’s not sugar coat this – this passage of Scripture certainly doesn’t – our actions have consequences. What may seem like something small and innocent can end up wrecking havoc on not just your life, but the lives of others.
Twenty years ago I was rear-ended by a drunk driver. I was stopped at a red light and I heard screeching tires behind me and suddenly my car lurched forward hitting the car in front of me. I had a cassette tape (Google it) sitting half-way in the tape deck. Thanks to Newton’s First Law of Inertia, it ended up in my back seat. And I ended up with whiplash. My neck and back have never quite been the same.
I’m sure that the driver had no intention of getting into a car wreck as he consumed his alcohol and then decided to get behind the wheel, but it happened. I certainly had no realization that when I got in my car to head home from a friend’s house, that my life would change due to someone else’s reckless choices, but it happened.
Whether it’s drinking and driving, or telling a “small lie”, or cheating on a test, or being unfaithful in a relationship these behaviors have consequences. When we start to do our own thing rather than submit to God, life gets messed up and people get hurt.
Thankfully, God sees fit to forgive and redeem. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” How awesome is it that God longs to still want to have a relationship with messed up people?!?! This includes you and me.
We have a King – will you acknowledge Him? Instead of letting your passions and desires rule your heart, will you humble yourself and submit to Him? Let the love of God cover you today.
Bethany Ligon
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=judges+19-21&version=NIV
Tomorrow we will be reading the book of Ruth as we continue (or begin) our Bible reading plan.  Print your own copy here 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan and mark off each day’s reading.  What is God wanting to tell you in your waiting – open His book and find out!  

Seek!

Jer 29 13

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares YHWH, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

Most Christians, myself included, are eager for God’s blessings, assistance, and attentiveness to our needs. We crave to know our Creator in an intimate way and desire that He listens to our prayers. However, we often forget that there needs to be effort on our part as well. In the same way that a relationship with a spouse is a 2-way street, requiring effort from both members of the relationship, so we are expected to put some effort into our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We are told, clear as day, that we will only achieve that intimate relationship with God when we “seek after Him with all of our heart”.

 

When I was growing up, I often went to church services and programs, but never put any effort into developing my faith. I assumed that, because Jesus died for my sins, that I wasn’t expected to do anything else. I told myself, “God knows I’m just young and dumb. He will forgive me”, without ever considering how much I personally needed to change and seek after Him. It took a dramatic act of God to get my attention and drive me to look deeper into my relationship with Him. Fortunately, God led me to Atlanta Bible College, where I was able to pursue Him intentionally and with great vigor. It was during this time that I truly felt that my relationship with Him had really  begun.

 

While not everybody’s story is the same as mine, the same command from God applies to all of us: “Seek me”. We need to be intentionally developing our relationship further with our Father if we expect Him to do the same for us. So, as we begin a new year and a new decade, I want you to consider the following questions:

 

  1. How is my relationship with God and Jesus currently?
  2. How much effort am I putting into that relationship?
  3. What can I do to develop that relationship further this year?

 

May you be blessed as you seek after your Heavenly Father in 2020!

-Talon Paul

 

One way to be Seeking God in 2020 is to commit to daily being in His Word – a most wonderful place to find Him!  Come join us on a chronological Bible reading plan!  Print out the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan and start reading on January 1.  Subscribe to be a follower at the SeekGrowLove.com site and you will receive daily email devotions based on that day’s reading.  Come Seek Him!  You won’t be disappointed when He shows Himself to you.  It’s well worth the effort!   And, change a life by inviting a friend to seek with you.                                         – Marcia Railton, Editor

Overcome

Revelation 2

To him who OVERCOMES
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”  Revelation 2:7
One of the phrases I would like you all to notice and underline when it repeats is this, “To him who overcomes”. This phrase refers to specific obstacles in Revelation 2 however this phrase could mean any obstacle in the way of your relationship with God. If you overcome your greatest fears and struggles and rely on Jesus, your relationship with God will thrive.
Jesse Allen

Tâmîym, ʼâbad, kâlâh and kârath

Psalm 37 22

            Today, we are in the middle of the week and we find ourselves in the middle of our Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading) of Psalm 37.* Today’s reading is a little more in-depth, so if you’re in a hurry you might wish to come back to this at a time later today when you can invest a few minutes into reading/praying.  My goal here is not just to give you a fish and feed you for a day but to teach you how to fish so you can learn to feed yourself for the rest of your life (and feed others).

            Remember, the purpose of Lectio is to draw us into God’s presence and rest through reading, meditating upon and praying with the Bible.  While the goal is not simply intellectual understanding, but relationship with God, it is still important that when we read and meditate we are doing so correctly.  We want to be as accurate as possible about the meaning of God’s Word.  We want to think about what it actually says and what it meant when it was written and what it means for us today.  It wouldn’t make much sense to spend a lot of time meditating upon something that was not correct.

            If you have internet access, there are some tools readily available which cost nothing and can help you.

            One tool is Bible Gateway.  I began working in a Christian bookstore when I was attending George Mason University back in 1982.  I became aware of a lot of different Bible translations that were available (beyond the King James).  I started building a library of various Bible translations and nearly 40 years later I have over 50 different translations on my bookshelves.  You can now get almost every one of those translations (and many more) on Bible Gateway.  Choose the text you wish to study, and choose which translations you wish to use and you can see a side by side comparison of the texts.  This can be helpful when you are studying a Biblical passage.  It can help you understand the nuances of meaning.  Some translations are more or less word for word, while others are more thought for thought.  There are also paraphrase versions which attempt to convey the meaning in modern contextual language.

            The second tool is Blue Letter Bible.  While the available translations are fewer than on Bible Gateway, BLB allows you to do a detailed analysis and word study of various words.  You can look up the original Hebrew/Aramaic or Greek words and see some of the various ways that word is used in the Bible and have a greater understanding of what the Bible was saying back when originally written and you bridge that into modern day language/ways of thinking and speaking.

            With that said, I’ve identified 4 key words that are used in today’s reading and give you a summary of the word meaning and usage in the Bible:

תָּמִים tâmîym, taw-meem’;  entire (literally, figuratively or morally); also   integrity, truth:—without blemish, complete, full, perfect, sincerely, sound, without spot, undefiled, upright, whole.

אָבַד ʼâbad, aw-bad’; to wander away, i.e. lose oneself; by implication to perish:—break, destroy(-uction), not escape, fail, lose, (cause to, make) perish, spend, be undone, utterly, be void of, have no way to flee.

כָּלָה kâlâh, kaw-law’; to end, to cease, be finished, perish, consume, destroy (utterly), be done, , expire, fail, faint, finish, fulfill, wholly reap, make clean riddance, spend, take away, waste.

כָּרַת kârath, kaw-rath’; to cut off, down or asunder, by implication, to destroy or consume; destroy, fail, lose, perish.

With that background in place, you are ready to proceed with today’s Lectio Divina reading of Psalm 37:18-22.

  1. Read.  Read through the passage slowly, at least 3 times:

18 The blameless (תָּמִים tâmîym, taw-meem’) spend their days under the Lord’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
19 In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

20 But the wicked will perish (אָבַד ʼâbad, aw-bad’):
Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
they will be consumed (כָּלָה kâlâh, kaw-law’), they will go up in smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;
22 those the Lord blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be destroyed (כָּרַת kârath, kaw-rath’)

  1. Meditate.  Choose a word or phrase from the text to  meditate upon/ think deeply about.

For me, I chose 3 words- perish, consumed, and destroyed.  Those who are wicked will perish, be consumed and destroyed.  The Hebrew abad contains the idea of wander away, lose oneself, have no way to flee, be destroyed.

            As I think about what this means I’m reminded of the story of Christopher McCandless whose story is recounted in the book “Into the Wild” (and later movie) written by Jon Krakauer.  Chris was just a few years younger than me and grew up just a few miles from me in Northern Virginia.  After college he decided to ditch everything and walk into the wilderness of Alaska and live off the land.  Unfortunately, he did almost no preparation and he lacked the minimal survival skills necessary for such an adventure.  He crossed through a small stream and found temporary shelter in an abandoned school bus.  Unfortunately, within a short time the stream swelled to an un-crossable raging torrent and Chris was essentially trapped.  He spent weeks and months unable to escape that spot and soon ran out of food and was forced to forage.  He ended up dying of poisoning from eating poisonous berries.

            I tell that brief story because it illustrates the meaning of abad, kalah and karath.  He wandered away and got lost, trapped and had nowhere to flee to and his own foolishness ultimately destroyed his life.  That’s what the Psalm says is happening or will happen to the wicked.  I know that sometimes people have trouble thinking that a loving God would punish or destroy people.  As I think about this Psalm, the greater nuance emerges – God doesn’t choose to punish anyone.  Ultimately we end up punishing ourselves when we wander off the path that God has given us to life.  It’s a matter of cause and effect.

A few weeks ago I went hiking in Zion National Park in Utah.  A gorgeous place.  It had paths and the signs on the paths warned “stay on the path- it is dangerous and life threatening if you leave the path.”  I stayed on the path, it was difficult at times, but I remained safe and returned alive.  Had I veered off the path and ended up falling down a steep embankment to my death, then I alone would have been responsible for my destruction, not the park rangers, or God.

            This Psalm is like the sign on the path: stick to the path or you’ll destroy yourself.  But if you stick to the path, you’ll be blessed with a beautiful inheritance God has planned for you.

            As I personalize this reading I have to ask myself.  When have I gotten off the path God told me to stay on?  Have I ever wandered and gotten lost?  Isaiah 53 says that I, like everyone else, am like a sheep that sometimes wanders away.  How has Jesus, the good shepherd, come searching for me when I’ve wandered astray?  How does the Gospel reveal God’s merciful love and grace that sends his son to seek and save me when I’m lost.  How am I called by Jesus to do this same work of seeking those who are lost and leading them back to the path?

            You might choose a different word or phrase upon which to reflect, but that is an example of how my deep reading of a short part of this text raises some important issues in my mind and heart.

  1.  Pray– I pray a prayer of gratitude to God for loving me enough to go looking for me when I get off the path.  I pray a prayer of confession to God, for I am still “prone to wander” off the path.  I recognize the important mission that I’ve been given by God to join the search for others who have gone off the path and the responsibility I have to point the people in my care- my family, my Church, my co-workers, my community, to the one who guides them back to the right path and helps them stay on the path, Jesus.  I invite you to bring to prayer whatever you’ve been meditating upon.
  2. Rest in God.  I’m so grateful to God for his mercy and love.  I’ve been lost, but now I’m safely in the arms of my loving God.  I invite you to rest in God too.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer back to the Sunday, August 11th  devotion.

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