Sunday Devotional: Zechariah 7:8-10

“The word of the Lord came to Zechariah:  “The Lord of Hosts says this: Make fair decisions. Show faithful love and compassion to one another.  Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor, and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another.”  (Zechariah 7:8-10)

Zechariah was a prophet of the Lord.  He was given the task of sharing the words of the Lord to the people after their return from exile in Babylon.  Some of these words are in the passage here.  The Lord wanted the people to remember these things.  To be fair in their decisions.  To have love and compassion for one another.  To not be oppressive to those hurting or those in need.  And to not plot evil against one another.

These words, written down thousands of years ago, still hold true today.  God still wants those that love and worship Him to do these things.  He wants us to “make fair decisions”.  He wants us to “show faithful love and compassion to one another.”  He wants us to “not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor” and to “not plot evil” in our hearts towards one another.

We see today much anger and hurt and sin around us.  There was much anger and hurt and sin in Zechariah’s day.  But just as God called the people in Zechariah’s day to this standard of fairness, compassion, love, grace and mercy, we are called to do the same.  So this week let us not be about anger and hate and division.  But let us be about fairness and love and compassion and hope.  And we are able to have those things because of Jesus Christ.

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Sunday Devotional: Titus 3:4-7

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love
for mankind appeared,
He saved us—
not by works of righteousness that we had done,
but according to His mercy,
through the washing of regeneration
and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
He poured out this Spirit on us abundantly
through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that having been justified by His grace,
we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.”  (Titus 3:4-7)

In conversations this week I was reminded again of God’s grace on each one of us.  It is by God’s grace we have the opportunity to be forgiven our our sins.  It is not by anything we can do to earn salvation.  Jesus did all the work on the cross to pay for our sins.  He’s the one that makes us justified before the Father.

And the scandalous thing is this grace is open to anyone and everyone who repents and believes.  In God’s lovingkindness and mercy, He offers this grace and mercy to any and all.  He pours out this grace and mercy abundantly to all people.  No matter how sinful, if one only repents of their sins and trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior and follows Him, salvation is there.

This week, let us remember how much we have been blessed.  We have been blessed by a loving and merciful God who has shown us much mercy and grace.  We have been blessed that we have someone in Jesus Christ, who knows what we’re going through and loved us so much to die for our sins and gave us the opportunity for new life.  And we are blessed with the Holy Spirit to remember these things and to help us to keep pressing on being faithful to the calling of following Jesus.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 6:27-36

“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either.  Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back.  Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.  Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”  (Luke 6:27-36)

Jesus shared this words to His disciples as well as the large crowds that gathered to hear Him speak.  These words are a part of His Sermon on the Mount (also found in the book of Matthew).  He made a point to tell His disciples that being a follower of Jesus meant loving others even your enemies.  Loving one’s enemies goes against what people think and feel.  People who are one’s friends are to be loved, people who are one’s enemies are to be hated.  But Jesus made it a point to so say “love your enemies” and to bless them.

When He said this, there was no guarantee that the enemy would love back.  In fact, He says to “expect nothing in return”.  Those enemies may keep on hating, may keep on taking, may keep on being ungrateful and hurtful.  Yet, as followers of Jesus, we are called to love them.

We live in a day and age where divisiveness is prevalent.  Hate is almost celebrated and anger is cheered.  Yet even in the midst of this, Jesus’ calling for us to love our enemies still rings true.  We are still called to love our enemies.  We are still called to bless those that curse us.  We are still called to do what is good and lend expecting nothing in return.  Because that is what Jesus would do and being a follower of Jesus means doing what He would do.

This week let us demonstrate that love to others.  Let us show love and let us show mercy.  This world needs that desperately.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)

This is a song that Mary the mother of Jesus sung just after her visit to her cousin Elizabeth.  Mary had just received the news from the angel that she was to give birth to the Messiah.

Mary in these words reflects on God’s greatness and glory.  She shares about God’s might and holiness.  And how in all His glory, He chose someone like Mary to be the one to give birth.  She is just a humble girl but yet God will use her for His glory.

God in his goodness and lovingkindess uses us as well.  He calls us to follow Him and to help proclaim the good news of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  The message that was given to Mary is the good news that we get to proclaim as well.

As we get closer to Christmas, let us remember the great message that comes from it.  Immanuel = God with us.  What a great gift indeed.

Sunday Devotional: Psalm 40:11-17

“As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
    your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!
For evils have encompassed me
    beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
    my heart fails me.

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
    O Lord, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
Let those be appalled because of their shame
    who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
    say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
As for me, I am poor and needy,
    but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    do not delay, O my God!” (Psalm 40:11-17)

The last couple of Sundays, I’ve looked at the previous 10 verses in Psalm 40.  This week is the remaining verses in the psalm.  Here David is continuing to share about God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.  It is not boring nor is it bothersome for David to repeat over and over this theme.  It is so important to him that he continues to sing this over and over.

David knows that the one who is faithful is the one who is able to deliver from sin and evil.  David knows that the one who is steadfast is the one who rightly deserves to be praised.  The one who it should be said “Great is the Lord!”  God is all that and so much more.

Like David, we struggle.  We endure pain and loss.  We are poor and needy.  But thankfully the Lord takes thought of us like he took thought of David.  Let us rejoice in that.  Let us celebrate that we are not left alone but that He loves us and wants to deliver us.

This week, let us be mindful of this.  And let us continually repeat over and over again in our hearts and minds God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

Sunday Devotional: Psalm 123

“To you I lift up my eyes,
    O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants
    look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
    to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
    till he has mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
    for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough
    of the scorn of those who are at ease,
    of the contempt of the proud.”  (Psalm 123)

Many of the psalms are songs of prayer and this is one of those.  The writer in these short verses knows where to lift his eyes to as he prays and sings, it is to the Lord.  He know the one who shows mercy and that is the Lord.  The writer sings to the Lord asking for mercy because he is going through a rough time.  He knows the Lord provides mercy and trust that the Lord will deliver.

Many of us may be going through tough times.  We may be struggling and hurting.  We may feel scorned.  But we know that God brings grace and peace.  He will bring mercy and love to us.  Let us call out to Him and trust that he will provide mercy and grace this week.  And let us be sure to share with others that God provides for all who call upon Him and trust Him.

Sunday Devotional: Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.” (Psalm 23)

This chapter of Psalms is one of the most well known chapters in all of the Bible.  It is also one of the most comforting chapters.  That assurance that God watches over us like a shepherd.  That He is there to lead us through the hills and the valleys of life.  We have that assurance that He is there to comfort us when we need comforting.

We can trust that He is there for us, that He wants what best for us if we follow Him.  We can have the joy in knowing Him and dwelling and abiding in Him.  This week, let us remember and dwell on that.  Sometimes it’s good to go back and reread Scripture such as Psalm 23.  It gives us that reassurance that He is watching over us, that He is caring about us and that He loves us.  Let us share that news with ourselves and with others.