Wednesday, September 23
10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
We cannot make it snow or rain. We cannot prevent its coming, for its power is inherent in the earth of which God is the Creator. We see good in the rain and snow as well as the way it can wreck havoc on our lives. Too much rain or snow at one time can be catastrophic! The good is that it nurtures crops and provides for our sustenance.
In the same way, Isaiah reminds us that God’s ways are beyond our partial understanding. God is not for us to control, as much as we might think we can! God’s word has an effect beyond what we may imagine. God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We cannot put limits on God, any more than we can force changes in the weather. We cannot demand that God act on our timetable. God has a purpose that will be fulfilled in God’s perfect timing.
God gives us promises in Isaiah that God has fulfilled in Jesus Christ our savior. God asks us to confess when we have gone astray, so that we may turn to God to find the resources we need. When we turn to God, we are able to see the power in God’s word, to accomplish what God wills. We are not God, but God is. God has a bigger plan, a wider vision, and the means to fulfill what God intends.
Forgive me, Lord, if I have tried to hem you in by my understanding, or tried to define you according to what I want. I praise you, for you are bigger than my self-centered wishes. Let me receive your Word; let it infiltrate my being so that I may give you all praise and glory. For you are God; I am not. Guide me to fulfill your plan, in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Tuesday, September 22
4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
The truth in this prophecy from Isaiah is that God punished Jesus for our sake. He was afflicted, took up our pain, bore our suffering. He transferred our sorrow and grief unto himself. All that is painful in our lives, Jesus knows intimately, because he took it all on himself.
He was pierced. He was crushed. He took the punishment. He was stricken, bruised and wounded because of things we have done wrong. He took the punishing blows on himself, but the result is our peace and our healing.
This is our confession – we like sheep have gone astray. We wander onto dangerous pathways because of our own obstinate pride, thinking we know best. We turn away from God our shepherd, thinking we don’t need him to guide us. Forgive us, Lord, for we need Jesus to intercede on our behalf. Help us realize what an amazing and perfect gift we have been given in Jesus our Savior!
Gracious God, out of love you provide for us a way out of the wilderness where we have become ensnared. You send us Jesus, who did for us what we cannot do on our own. Through him we are forgiven. Through him your justice is made complete. We praise you and honor you in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Monday, September 21
Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength!
Put on your garments of splendor, Jerusalem, the holy city.
The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again.
Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter Zion, now a captive.
For this is what the Lord says: “You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.”
Today is a brand new day. Maybe you woke up energized for the tasks ahead, or perhaps you groaned to get out of bed, because you weren’t ready to meet the day’s challenges. But wait and consider how God is ready for you. God has prepared garments of strength for you from the strength of God’s word. Put them on. God is waiting for you to wear this clothing of strength and splendor.
Something changes when we decide to put on God’s clothing. This is something like what Paul calls the whole armor of God in Ephesians chapter 6. Putting on God’s clothing is to decide to act with faith and make full use of the resources God has for us. God will give us the power to do what needs to be done. By faith we work out of God’s strength; by faith we respond to God’s word by shaking off the dust of the past and doing what is right.
The people of Israel were taken into captivity – they were sold for no compensation paid. The prophet says that they will also be redeemed without money. Consider whether you have allowed yourself to be sold into a kind of slavery – putting up with wrongdoing, being content with only a partial good, living with the wrong priorities on top. Yet we are redeemed – redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. He took our wrongs and we are forgiven by grace.
Thank you, Lord, for the gifts of grace and strength and purpose and vision, for calling us to service and giving us the means to serve you well. Shake us awake and clothe us with your strength so we can do what you ask us to do. Guide us in Jesus Christ, to the glory of your name. Amen.
Saturday, September 19
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3 A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
For the past few months, I have reposted devotions on significant highlights from the Old Testament, selections from chapters that reveal something of God’s character and work, caring for his people Israel, even disciplining them as a parent seeks to mold a child. God brought them out of Egypt, out of slavery, to become free people living in their own land. God’s only demand was for them to give God their allegiance and obedience. They could or would not, and finally God allowed them to be taken into captivity in Babylon.
But in this passage the prophet Isaiah shares God’s words of comfort and hope. Tell them that they will not remain captives forever. They will be released. But even greater is the coming hope of one who will prepare the way for God’s messiah, God’s only son who would come to offer salvation, freedom from sin, for all of humanity. Then they would be free indeed!
This is a wonderful chapter, as Isaiah proclaims that soon good news would be shouted around Judah, saying, “Here is your God!” He will come with power but he will also come in love as a shepherd gathering his sheep in his arms, leading and protecting them.
For those who heard Isaiah’s words, they could look forward to Christ’s coming in hope, even if they did not experience it themselves. For us, we are privileged to know him and call him savior.
Thank you, dear God, for the blessing of knowing and receiving Jesus Christ as our savior! Thank you that when we falter or fall away from doing your will, we may ask you for forgiveness and know that in Christ, it has been given. He has taken upon himself all our wrongdoing. He did it all on the cross for our sake. We give him all honor and praise, for he is our shepherd and our king. Amen.
Friday, September 18
“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
This is Job’s reply to God. Job realized that God is in charge, not him. Job finally saw God for who God is, and realized as he didn’t before what a huge gulf exists between God and humanity. He felt compelled to repent and lower himself down before the presence of our awesome and almighty God.
I am reminded of words from Isaiah chapter 64. He cries, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! …Come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! …Since ancient times… no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you.”
I think too of lyrics from the song, “I Can Only Imagine.” “I can only imagine, what my eyes will see, when your face is before me… Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel – will I dance for you Jesus, or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in your presence, or to my knees will I fall, will I sing hallelujah; will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine.”
When we are confronted with the amazing fullness of God’s being, how can we do anything but compare ourselves and recognize how small and insignificant we are? Keep going a few verses in this chapter of Isaiah, and he writes, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” There is no comparison with God.
Praise God for his love and mercy. We are unworthy of such love, but it is ours even so. When Job bowed down before the Lord, repenting of his presuming to speak for God, God restored all that Job had lost – giving him family, herds of livestock, wealth and a long life.
Gracious God, let us humble ourselves before you, to remember the greatness of your being. You do great things for us as we put you in the center of our lives where you belong. Forgive the wrongs we do, and one of them is pride. We would give ourselves wholly to you today, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Thursday, September 17
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
This is one of those chapters where God gets a little salty with Job, as one of my daughters would say. Job has spent the past 30 chapters or so with three friends, as each of them shares thoughts on Job’s afflictions. He asks, why must he suffer? Was it because of some sin he committed? Was he not blameless before God? Job ponders his relationship with God and how he can appease God in His justice. His one friend decides Job must be wicked to suffer as he does, and that Job’s complaining must be an act of rebellion against God.
God interrupts their conversation, calling out to Job from a whirlwind. God’s reply to Job is basically along the lines of, “So who are you to be telling me what to do? Do you know God’s master plan? Where you there at creation? Did you set the world into motion?”
I think about Jesus saying that God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45) I don’t think Job would have liked that reply either, because Job wanted a tangible reward for being good, rather than simply being righteous for God’s sake.
There’s a powerful poem written by an unknown Jew in the Cologne concentration camp during WWII. It is also powerful as a song, sung by Spirit Bound. It goes in part: “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love, even when there’s no one there. And I believe in God, even when he is silent.” That reflects the same truth. God is still God, whether we are experiencing trials or happiness. God is not absent during difficult times, and tragedy does not come because God is displeased with us.
Dear God, let me praise you because you are God and we are not. Let me not presume to tell you what to do or how to run your world. Through both times of blessing and days of sorrow, let me give you all honor and glory, for you made me and all of creation. Thank you for being God. Amen.
Wednesday, September 16
Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
You may be somewhat familiar with the story of Job. He was very, very wealthy, blessed by God in all he did. Satan was allowed to take away his material possessions, his family, his wealth, his friends, his health, –everything but his life. And still Job blessed God and did not curse Him. At the end, all was restored.
The thing that made Job distinctive was his consistent life dedicated to God, his prayer, his obedience, his honoring the Lord. So much so, God didn’t only bless him with worldly stuff, He also blessed Job with protection. Satan, in his accusation, said to God, “You’ve put a hedge around him – a protection – nothing can harm or hurt Job.”
But Job knew that all his belongings, even his sons and daughters belong to God. Job was merely a good steward of God’s stuff. So when it was all taken away from Job, Job didn’t whine, complain, or get all anxious or fretful because it wasn’t his to begin with. Did he suffer loss? Yes. But it was God that had control of Job’s heart, not the worldly things. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21). Job’s treasure was not in the things that make you wealthy in this world, his treasure was in the eternal, in his relationship with God. So did God put a hedge around Job’s things, or around his heart?
When we’re beset by loss, by failure, by rejection, do we mourn our loss, or do we turn to God, who loves us more than any of the things we lose? God can grow a hedge around us, like He did with Job. Then our love for Him will not falter, even in the midst of crisis and loss.
“Give me the heart of Job. Let me be so devoted to You O God, that everything else pales in comparison. That in spite of what my circumstances show me, I will remain faithful and true to You. “ AMEN
What We Believe
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only son and our savior, who lived among us to teach us and die for us. He rose again to give us the promise of eternal life in him John 3:16. He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is God dwelling in us John 14:15-17. We seek God’s word in the Bible, the foundation of our faith. Our mission as a church is to proclaim the good news of Christ to all. We honor Christ through worship and fellowship, encouraging one another in faith, hope and love 1 Corinthians 13:13, and serving our neighbors with compassion and justice.
We belong to the United Church of Christ. As a congregation we are granted the autonomy to govern our local church, and prayerfully make the best decisions we can on how to live out our calling as believers. Each person has the freedom and responsibility of discerning for themselves how faith in Jesus Christ impacts their daily walk and their worldview. We respect one another’s differences because even though we are diverse, we are still part of Christ’s body.
We look forward to welcoming you some day soon. Peace to you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Sundays - Outdoors this summer
10:00 am Worship Service
with Children's Moment
Live Outdoor Worship 10:00 am @ Township Park next to the church. Bring a chair. Plenty of room for social distancing. Or stay in your car. Masks are encouraged. More details below in the June newsletter.