Thurs. March 7

Thursday March 7, 2019

Today’s Focus          Seeing the Beauty in God’s desires

Scripture Reading for the Day        Deuteronomy 11:1-28

“You must love the Lord your God and always obey his requirements, decrees, regulations, and commands. Keep in mind that I am not talking now to your children, who have never experienced the discipline of the Lord your God or seen his greatness and his strong hand and powerful arm. They didn’t see the miraculous signs and wonders he performed in Egypt against Pharaoh and all his land. They didn’t see what the Lord did to the armies of Egypt and to their horses and chariots—how he drowned them in the Red Sea[a] as they were chasing you. He destroyed them, and they have not recovered to this very day!

“Your children didn’t see how the Lord cared for you in the wilderness until you arrived here. They didn’t see what he did to Dathan and Abiram (the sons of Eliab, a descendant of Reuben) when the earth opened its mouth in the Israelite camp and swallowed them, along with their households and tents and every living thing that belonged to them. But you have seen the Lord perform all these mighty deeds with your own eyes!

“Therefore, be careful to obey every command I am giving you today, so you may have strength to go in and take over the land you are about to enter. If you obey, you will enjoy a long life in the land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors and to you, their descendants—a land flowing with milk and honey! 10 For the land you are about to enter and take over is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you planted your seed and made irrigation ditches with your foot as in a vegetable garden. 11 Rather, the land you will soon take over is a land of hills and valleys with plenty of rain— 12 a land that the Lord your God cares for. He watches over it through each season of the year!

13 “If you carefully obey the commands I am giving you today, and if you love the Lord your God and serve him with all your heart and soul, 14 then he will send the rains in their proper seasons—the early and late rains—so you can bring in your harvests of grain, new wine, and olive oil. 15 He will give you lush pastureland for your livestock, and you yourselves will have all you want to eat.

16 “But be careful. Don’t let your heart be deceived so that you turn away from the Lord and serve and worship other gods. 17 If you do, the Lord’s anger will burn against you. He will shut up the sky and hold back the rain, and the ground will fail to produce its harvests. Then you will quickly die in that good land the Lord is giving you.

18 “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 20 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.

22 “Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the Lord your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him. 23 Then the Lord will drive out all the nations ahead of you, though they are much greater and stronger than you, and you will take over their land. 24 Wherever you set foot, that land will be yours. Your frontiers will stretch from the wilderness in the south to Lebanon in the north, and from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.[b] 25 No one will be able to stand against you, for the Lord your God will cause the people to fear and dread you, as he promised, wherever you go in the whole land.

26 “Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse! 27 You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. 28 But you will be cursed if you reject the commands of the Lord your God and turn away from him and worship gods you have not known before.

Pastor’s reflection from January 15, 2014 (A snowy, wintery day)

Wow!  What a wintery wonderland it is outside!  Yesterday, I began my morning nice and early thinking that I would get to Bethlehem and work as long as possible before the worst of the snow hit.  As I was travelling out interstate 78 and merged onto 22 the traffic and the roads became worse than I anticipated.  I decided that I would stop by our synod office to speak with Rev. Catherine Ziel my new associate to the bishop.  We spoke for some time about our shared hopes and dreams for God’s children who gather at St. Peter’s.  After about an hour I continued my trek toward Bethlehem, only now the West bound lanes of 22 were completely stopped, the snow had definitely become more intense, and the roads were now bad (which is truly something for me to say because I enjoy driving in the snow)!  I called our church secretary, and shared with her that she should “head for the hills” and get home before we were snowed in.  I decided that I would come to St. Peter’s, pick up my computer, and head back to the safety and comfort of my house.

One obstacle after another continued to present itself to me.  Unfortunately there are two funerals now scheduled for this week, there are sisters and brothers in Christ who are in the hospital, my computer is malfunctioning, in short… many things seemed to be going wrong with the world!  What started out as a day when I thought that I would get a great deal accomplished in God’s vineyard, became a day that was filled with frustration and anger at my situation!

As I sat in the silence of my apartment, after having contacted the families that needed to be contacted, I shared a prayer with our God.  To be more truthful… I kind of yelled at God.  I said “Why are all these things happening to block me from doing YOUR work!”  Just then our dog “Minnie” started playing with a toy.  Now Minnie is 14 years old and let’s just say that she’s not the most energetic dog these days.  Her playing me made laugh.  Then I looked outside and was stunned by the beauty of the falling snow as it created an opaque veil which temporarily concealed the beautiful hill behind my apartment.  My heart, my soul, and my spirit were now completely at peace when only minutes earlier all I could feel was frustration, anger, and anxiety!

It was in that moment that I remembered that in my most anxious times, in times that are filled with stress, in moments of great sadness or grief, that our Lord is always right beside us to provide us with comfort and peace.  Indeed in my attempt to minister to others, God was ministering to me saying “slow down Jerry!  Take a moment to enjoy the brief respite and beauty of the creation which I have given to you to enjoy!”

So, as you continue through this week in those moments when you feel tired, frustrated, or anxious, I encourage you to open your eyes and open your heart and see if God is trying to minister to YOU in your moment of need!

Some questions for reflection

  • Based on this Scripture reading, why is important that “believers” understand and live by God’s desires for our lives?
  • What are some of the “real world” benefits of following God’s decrees? Do they still apply today?
  • What types of things in our time and place can deceive us and “turn us away” from God?

Today’s Pilgrimage Challenge

  • Share with others, how you see people you admire/respect living out the mandates of God’s Word. Are there practices that you can make part of your daily living that will help show others what you believe?  Remember:  Sometimes the only Bible people see are the way believers actually live.

Today’s Prayer

Teach us, good Lord God, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, except that of knowing that we do your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen

7 thoughts on “Thurs. March 7

  1. Pastor Jerry

    This devotion today ended up revealing itself in very powerful ways in my personal life. During the course of our Bible studies, what was truly revealed are that “living out God’s desire for our lives” allows us to participate in “light revealing activities in the world!” This, while it may sound “pastory”… is incredible powerful and was working within our midst today as sisters and brothers in Christ shared stories in Bible study about times in which they harbored ill feelings for someone else, but with God’s help they came to a place of forgiveness. Stories about times in which people were hurt in their lives, yet holding fast to trust in God anchored them through stormy moments. These my friends are the “real world” discipleship and living in God’s will provide functional and tangible benefits not only for us personally, but literally for the world in which we live! This evening a gifted child of God shared a piece of artwork with our community that will be shared in worship this coming weekend. This artist did not know what we were going to talk about at Bible study, nor did I know that this art or artist would be attending Bible study. The result of God’s children allowing God’s desires to work through their lives was “palpable and tangible” when the artist shared her art in the Bible study group based on what we had literally just been talking about and discussing. Can’t wait to share the art with everyone this weekend! A wonderful friend of mine used to make a point of “finding something positive to affirm” in at least 5 people everyday and sharing that affirmation with the person. My hope and prayer is to attempt to do a better job providing a witness to the light that dwells in people whom I am in contact with on a daily basis! Thank You Lord, for the abundant blessings and gifts You have provided for the disciples walking on this journey!

    1. Mel Olenwine

      That was an amazing piece of art!!! Talk about all of the feels!! Incredible…the power of God!! Peace and love.

      1. Pastor Jerry

        Right? Still get “tingles” thinking about it! Can’t wait to share!
        Peace, blessings, and love

  2. Mel Olenwine

    Reflection. Why is it important that believers understand and live by God’s desires for our lives? Well, not only so we can enjoy that long life in the land of milk and honey, but because the generations that came after never actually experienced the greatness of God and the miracles he performed. So if we are not to live out our lives as God wants, we can’t convey the message to future generations who didn’t live it firsthand. Raise up a child in the way they should go, they won’t depart ….. And obviously many years later, people are still seeing and believing in the stories and word of God. We forget history rather quickly but God and Jesus have not been forgotten…. Real world benefits of following God’s decrees are peace, fulfillment, trust, hope, faith. All still applies today. Many people wander this earth seeking peace and calm, without even knowing for what they are searching. We miss the big picture. We get caught up in the “things in our place and time”, the conveniences, the toys, the idols, fame, fortune, and the manipulation by those who insist we can have it all now, whatever “all” may be. Buy now, pay later, have what you want whether you worked for it or not….lying, manipulating politicians, a media bent on distorting the truth….a world full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Wait…that’s Shakespeare…but…a lot in today’s world can deceive us and turn us away from God. I guess I have to buy somebody coffee tomorrow. I’ll go to Starbucks…Dunkin is not my favorite 😉

    1. Pastor Jerry

      That’s awesome! I have many friends who tend to believe that “the church” is basically a business fabrication whose purpose is to deceive and receive from the world. It’s hard for me to imagine that this is possible simply due to the fact that story has been consistent, has held steady in a world which has attempted to dismantle it, and whose power and impact continues to be felt even today. The experience you, I, and the others bore witness to last night at Bible Study once again bore witness to God’s Spirit effectively moving among us and through us. You’re soo right when you say “We miss the big picture. We get caught up in the “things in our place and time.” I know this is simply very human, yet in our faith journey we can transcend that humanness and also have the ability to experience the divine reality that dwells among us. Coffee is always good…. let me know when you go to Starbucks…. I’ll try to get in line behind you:)
      Peace, blessings, and love

  3. Keith Ricks

    Great evening everyone! Before I blog on my Journey for the days’ reflection and reading I wanted to write on My Spiritual Discipline(s) I have chosen for Myself. I understand this is a “Share this with your friends and ask them to help hold you accountable” activity, however, Well, You’ll understand. I have long felt Nudged to include not only the word “God” but more conversations of Peace, Love and Human Fellowship in My daily conversations. I have tried various ways over the Years and all have been unsuccessful. However, in the last few Months, I had a God experience that has allowed me to evolve from Conversations with God to the inclusion of Asking God for Help. There is truly Value in this and I can not believe I never Brought this One Topic to the table until this morning… unintentionally… So, the answer I received resolved more for me than this issue… as God seems to enjoy throwing Extra Love around… I am going to incorporate it into my natural Fun Loving Humorous (I call Fun Uncle Keith because of all my Nieces and Nephews) Personality and stop trying to re-activate Keith, the Serious Intellectual Adult to have conversations about God… giggle… because the real DUH I got this morning was, that was Keith Prior to allowing God back into my Life! So, Yeah, that was no train or Ice slipping off Your Roof this morning it was God Laughing; “Jesus! Come here, Son! I have to play this Prayer back for You! Snicker~Snicker. Yeah, it’s another Keith Prayer!…. This time He thought…”
    Oh, the second discipline, well this is gonna be the hard one. But it’s relatable. I am going to try to be kinder to myself and make time for me each day, say to read a bit, write (I love to write… Surprised? Really?), call Family or Friends, and do this Blog… when I say all this I mean in the face of Chores and Responsibilities that are Always looming I put off “Keith Time” until everyone is asleep and most times I just am too tired and do the “maybe tomorrow” bit. Keith.

    1. Pastor Jerry

      One of the things that really draw me to this Lenten journey is the idea of accountability. I really appreciate both you and Mel sharing what you will attempt to do during the Lenten season to make a regular part of your lives. Sometimes it is helpful to help “keep us on track” if every once in a while we ask each other, “how are ya doing with….”
      I really enjoyed your comment “God seems to enjoy throwing extra love around!” I think that is awesome, and if indeed, as I believe, God lives and dwells in and among us…. then there is a lot of “untapped” love to go around!
      I am so thankful for the many gifts and talents that you share in the world my friend and brother! It is a true joy bearing witness to God working in your life. I know that you already know what I am about to say, but I share for any who may be reading this, As you begin allowing the divine to be seen in “the many faces and personalities” of Keith, what you are really doing is allowing God’s presence to be felt in every fiber of Keith’s life which is already a reality, but one that we often place “veils” over to keep ourself and others safe! I suppose the difficult part is finding the right “balance” but I have great trust and confidence that you will do great with us…. and obtw…. if you make a mistake…. “There’s a bunch of grace left for that!”
      I also really appreciate you bringing up you’re second discipline, I often think there are many people who simply place themselves on the “back burner” and often run out of time or energy to take care of self. I think it’s AWESOME that you will be seeking intentional time each day to be kinder to yourself! Observation mode at a hospital? Reading an amazing article? writing about earth worms? All would seem to nourish and sustain you! May God grant us all the strength and perseverance to follow our chosen spiritual disciplines for Lent!
      Peace, blessings, and love


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