Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Devotional Reflections on Revelation 15:3-4


Special Note:  This will be the last devotional in this series. I have been writing these since the middle of March and feel like I must take a sabbath break.  I apologize for the abruptness of this announcement. However, I believe I have hit the proverbial wall and need some time to regroup.  Hopefully, you have found these helpful over the last few months. 

Before reading the passage, grab a pen and paper, find a quiet place, take a few deep breaths and let them out slowly.  Release some tension with each breath.  God is with you.  God loves you.  God is listening.

We conclude our look at various passages in the New Testament that feature a poetic/hymnic style with this selection from Revelation.

As you read the passage, what are the feelings that are stirred up in you?  What is familiar to you?  What is unfamiliar?  What seems confusing?

Revelation 15:3-4 (NET)
3 They sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:
“Great and astounding are your deeds,
 Lord God, the All-Powerful!
Just and true are your ways,
King over the nations!
4          Who will not fear you, O Lord,
 and glorify your name, because you alone are holy?
All nations will come and worship before you
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
*Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2005.

Close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes. Write down a few notes about what you observed in the passage and in yourself.  Write down any questions or thoughts that you would like to remember for later. 

Read the passage again with the following in mind.  This song from Revelation has a complicated context.  However, for our purposes, it is enough to focus on the immediate context and the words of the song itself. This is a song of the faithful in the heavens standing beside a sea of glass mixed with fire. This setting reminds us of the Israelites standing upon the shores of the Red Sea in victory during the Exodus.  At that time Moses sang a song of victory and praise to God (Exodus 15:1-18).  Now, a similar song is sung on a cosmic scale beside a cosmic sea.  In this new exodus, all of humanity is being led to salvation by the Lamb (Jesus).   
     
After you have read the passage a second time, close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes. 
   
As you meditate on these verses, think about what is being attributed to God.  Who is the true ruler of the universe?  Who is included as being under God’s rule?  Why is it important that God’s ways are “just and true”? 

This hymn reminds us of God’s rule and care for the people of all nations.  It envisions all of creation under one kingdom, God’s kingdom.  How does this heavenly vision of the nations conflict with how we often view them from our more earthly perspective?  What are some of the teachings of Jesus that can lead us to a more heavenly perspective of the world, the nations, and our neighbors? 

What is the Spirit leading you to pray for today?

Monday, June 29, 2020

Devotional Reflections on 1 Peter 3:17-18

Before reading the passage, grab a pen and paper, find a quiet place, take a few deep breaths and let them out slowly.  Release some tension with each breath.  God is with you.  God loves you.  God is listening.

We continue our look at various passages in the New Testament that feature a poetic/hymnic style with this selection from 1 Peter 3:18. Verse 17 adds a little context for the verse.

As you read the passage, what are the feelings that are stirred up in you?  What is familiar to you?  What is unfamiliar?  What seems confusing?

1 Peter 3:17-18 (NET)
17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil.
18        Because Christ also suffered once for sins,
 the just for the unjust,
to bring you to God,
by being put to death in the flesh
but by being made alive in the spirit.
*Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2005.

Close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes. Write down a few notes about what you observed in the passage and in yourself.  Write down any questions or thoughts that you would like to remember for later.
 
Read the passage again with the following in mind. Just like the verse we looked at from 1 Timothy, verse 18 is a statement of belief, possibly a quotation from an early Christian hymn.  Take note of the first word of the verse, “because”.  How does that word relate verse 18 with verse 17?  How is Christ’s suffering related to any suffering that we may endure?     
  
After you have read the passage a second time, close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes.    

Verse 18 reminds us that Christ suffered for sins, but not his own.  He was “the just” who suffered for “the unjust”.  This is a reminder of a very basic Christian teaching that is found throughout the New Testament.  Christ suffered for God’s enemies, for sinners, for the ungodly (Romans 5:6-11).  We do not come to God on our own. Christ brings us to God with his suffering and puts us into a right relationship with him.  Flesh and spirit is not a contrast of two parts within the same person, but a contrast between the whole person’s mortality versus the whole person being made alive eternally through the power of God’s life giving spirit.  In 2 Corinthians 5:4, Paul describes this as “what is mortal” being “swallowed up by life”.

Verse 17 relates all of this to us.  The action that it encourages is that we should do good even if that brings us pain.  Based on verse 18, how do you think “good” is defined in this passage?  For whom are we called to do this good if we are following Christ’s example?  What does that look like for you?  How does it make you feel?

What good is God calling you to do today? 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Devotional Reflections on 1 Timothy 3:16


Before reading the passage, grab a pen and paper, find a quiet place, take a few deep breaths and let them out slowly.  Release some tension with each breath.  God is with you.  God loves you.  God is listening.

We continue our look at various passages in the New Testament that feature a poetic/hymnic style with this selection from 1 Timothy chapter 3. 

As you read the passage, what are the feelings that are stirred up in you?  What is familiar to you?  What is unfamiliar?  What seems confusing?

1 Timothy 3:16 (NET)
16 And we all agree, our religion contains amazing revelation:
He was revealed in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.
*Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2005.

Close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes. Write down a few notes about what you observed in the passage and in yourself.  Write down any questions or thoughts that you would like to remember for later. 

Read the passage again with the following in mind. Note how the lines can be read in pairs that contrast each other (flesh and Spirit; angels and Gentiles; world and glory).  Also, note that this is creedal statement about Christ, telling the story of his incarnation, resurrection and ascension.     

After you have read the passage a second time, close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes.  
  
Compare this poetic verse with the hymn from Philippians chapter 2 that we read yesterday.  Why is the story of Christ’s incarnation such and “amazing revelation”?  What does it reveal to you about God, the world, Christ and yourself?

What does Jesus’ story have to do with your own story?  How can you proclaim the story of Christ through your own life today? 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Devotional Reflections on Philippians 2:5-11


Before reading the passage, grab a pen and paper, find a quiet place, take a few deep breaths and let them out slowly.  Release some tension with each breath.  God is with you.  God loves you.  God is listening.

We continue our look at various passages in the New Testament that feature a poetic/hymnic style with this selection from Philippians chapter 2. 

As you read the passage, what are the feelings that are stirred up in you?  What is familiar to you?  What is unfamiliar?  What seems confusing?

Philippians 2:5-11 (NET)
5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,
6 who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.
8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross!
9 As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow —in heaven and on earth and under the earth—
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
*Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2005.

Close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes. Write down a few notes about what you observed in the passage and in yourself.  Write down any questions or thoughts that you would like to remember for later. 

Read the passage again with the following in mind. The words translated as “You should have the same attitude” in this passage (touto phroneitehave to do with a mindset or worldview, how one thinks. Paul is urging us to pattern our own ways of thinking about ourselves and others after the example of Jesus Christ.  What characteristics about Jesus are highlighted by the hymn in verses 6 to 11?     

After you have read the passage a second time, close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes.    

What is Christ’s attitude towards himself?  How did that attitude guide his actions in regards to himself and others?  If you can think of one word to describe that attitude, what would it be?  How can you follow his example?  What would that look like in your own life?

Thank Jesus for emptying himself for the sake of the world and for your sake.  Pray for Christ’s attitude to be awakened in you. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Devotional Reflections on Romans 3:9-20


Before reading the passage, grab a pen and paper, find a quiet place, take a few deep breaths and let them out slowly.  Release some tension with each breath.  God is with you.  God loves you.  God is listening.

We continue our look at various passages in the New Testament that feature a poetic/hymnic style with this selection from Romans chapter 3.  The quotations in verses 10 through 18 are from several places in the Old Testament (verses 10-12 is a quote from Psalm 14:1-3; verse 13 comes from Psalms 5:9 and 140:3; verse 14 is from Psalm 10:7; verses 15-17 is from Isaiah 59:7-8; and verse 18 is from Psalm 36:1). 

As you read the passage, what are the feelings that are stirred up in you?  What is familiar to you?  What is unfamiliar?  What seems confusing? Also, think about what ties all these quotes (verses 10-18) together and why Paul put them in the order that he did. What effect does the compilation and its order have on you?

Romans 3:9-20 (NET)
9 What then? Are we better off? Certainly not, for we have already charged that Jews and Greeks alike are all under sin,
10 just as it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one,
11 there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves, they deceive with their tongues, the poison of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 ruin and misery are in their paths,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
20 For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
*Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2005.

Close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes. Write down a few notes about what you observed in the passage and in yourself.  Write down any questions or thoughts that you would like to remember for later. 

Read the passage again paying special attention to the verses surrounding this compilation of quotes from the Psalms and Isaiah.  How do the quotations support the point that Paul is making, namely that there is no one righteous?  What does Paul mean by the word righteous? And why can’t anyone be declared righteous by the works of the law (Torah)?  

    
After you have read the passage a second time, close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes.    

Verse 20 is instructive for Paul’s understanding of how we might understand and use Torah instruction as followers of Christ. The instruction or law given to the people of Israel does not make one righteous (put us in a right relationship with God and one another).  It can be a mirror that shows us our sins, those things that lead us away from loving God and our neighbors, the two great commandments (Matthew 22:34-40).

The good news is that Christ sets us in a right relationship with God as a gracious gift (Romans 3:24).  That gift is meant to free us from the ways that are illustrated by the quotations in verses 10-18. 

Pray for the Spirit to show you how to better love God and neighbor in your daily life.  Pray for God’s will to be done in your life and in the world.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Devotional Reflections on Luke 11:1-4


Before reading the passage, grab a pen and paper, find a quiet place, take a few deep breaths and let them out slowly.  Release some tension with each breath.  God is with you.  God loves you.  God is listening.

We continue our look at various passages in the New Testament that feature a poetic/hymnic style with Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer.

As you read the passage, what are the feelings that are stirred up in you?  What is familiar to you?  What is unfamiliar?  What seems confusing?      

Luke 11:1-4 (NET)
1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he stopped, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 So he said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, may your name be honored;
may your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And do not lead us into temptation.”
*Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2005.

Close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes. Write down a few notes about what you observed in the passage and in yourself.  Write down any questions or thoughts that you would like to remember for later.
 
Read the passage again with the following in mind.  Because we are so used to reciting a version of the Lord’s Prayer that is longer (and much closer to Matthew’s version), it is sometimes jarring to read Luke’s. Gospel writers often edited and arranged their material in ways that were intended to have an effect on the reader/hearer.  Meditate on each petition.  What effect does their inclusion have on you?  What effect does the omission of other petitions that are included in Matthew’s version have on you?  Why do you think that Luke did not include them?    
  
After you have read the passage a second time, close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes.    

In focusing on these petitions, think about what it means to pray for each one. When you pray for these things, how do you participate in the fulfillment of each petition? 

In praying for God’s name to be honored, how do you honor God’s name, especially as you bear that name wherever you go as a baptized child of God?
 
When you pray for God’s kingdom to come, think about what God’s kingdom is.  You are not praying for heaven, but for God’s reign or rule to be where you are.  How do you live under God’s rule in your daily life? 

Again, what is “daily bread” and how do you participate in receiving it? Consider what Jesus says about the ravens in Luke 12:24: “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” How does God feed them?  Does God drop the food in their nests or do the birds also have a role in being fed by God?  Also consider what Jesus says to the devil in Luke 4:4, "It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’ ” (NRSV). 

When you pray for the forgiveness of sins, what are you asking?  What sins, specifically, do you need forgiven? Note also that Luke’s version of this petition uses the words “for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”   Is that true of you? 

When you pray for God to “not lead us into temptation”, what are you asking?  The petition is not trying to imply that God tempts people to sin.  Other translations use the word “trial” or the word “testing” instead of “temptation”.  This word is also used of Jesus being “tested” by the devil in Luke 4:2. When we pray this, we are asking for God to put us on the right path, to keep us from being tested.  In fact, Jesus has been tested in our place.

Pray Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer, with all that in mind, before going on with your day.      

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Devotional Reflections on Luke 6:20-26

Before reading the passage, grab a pen and paper, find a quiet place, take a few deep breaths and let them out slowly.  Release some tension with each breath.  God is with you.  God loves you.  God is listening.

We continue our look at various passages in the New Testament that feature a poetic/hymnic style with the blessings and woes from Luke.

As you read the passage, what are the feelings that are stirred up in you?  What is familiar to you?  What is unfamiliar?  What seems confusing?      

Luke 6:20-26 (NET)
20 Then [Jesus] looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God belongs to you.
21 “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject you as evil on account of the Son of Man!
23 Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy, because your reward is great in heaven. For their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort already.
25 “Woe to you who are well satisfied with food now, for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets.
*Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2005.

Close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes. Write down a few notes about what you observed in the passage and in yourself.  Write down any questions or thoughts that you would like to remember for later. 

Read the passage again with the following in mind.  This passage is the beginning of Jesus’ discourse that is sometimes called “The Sermon on the Plain” (see Luke 6:17).  Jesus came to a level place and healed many people (Luke 6:17-19). Then he began to teach them with these words of blessings and woes.  How do you think these words are related to Jesus’ acts of healing the crowd and to the following verses where Jesus tells the disciples to love their enemies?    

After you have read the passage a second time, close your eyes and be still for a minute. 

Open your eyes.    

How do Jesus’ words turn common ideas about blessings and woes, God’s favor and disfavor, upside down?  What effect do you think Jesus intended these words to have on those who heard them?  What effect do they have on you?  Why?

The main goal of the biblical prophet and the message that the prophets proclaimed was to move people towards repentance, to change their orientation away from sin and self and idolatry, towards the love of God and neighbor.  This passage and the words of Jesus that follow them are intended to do the same.  In what ways do these words prepare you for repentance?