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Care for Others With Gentleness

Read: Galatians 6:1-16.
Luke 10 speaks of a mission to those who have not received the message of the kingdom Jesus brings. Galatians 6 speaks to how that same message of Jesus shapes the life within the body of Christ, the church. There is an important mission to care for those who have already received the Holy Spirit and are part of the “family of faith” (v. 10). It is important—but not easy—to give and to receive care that includes a need for correction. We are to do so with gentleness, not forgetting our temptations to sin (v. 15). The “law of Christ” (v. 2) is to carry another’s burdens. As the Lord is our Good Shepherd, we are to shepherd one another in all humility as part of the “new creation” (v. 15). To follow this rule or principle is to share peace and mercy with others (v. 16). When has someone gently and lovingly given you important correction and guidance in the Christian faith? How have you tried to offer that same gentle and loving care to others?
Pray: Almighty God, thank you for your care and loving guidance. Help us to provide that same gentle and loving care to others. Amen.

Taking Faith Home Devotions and Scriptures for July 7

Jesus Gives New Life

Read: Luke 8:26-39. 

Being burdened by personal limitations or even oppressed by others takes on many different forms. In Luke 8 a man was tortured by unclean spirits. We may not call our personal issues “demons” as described in Luke, but we certainly know of the hurts and harassments of physical and mental illness, of abuse by others, and even the more subtle, yet equally painful experiences of being ignored as though you were not even there. The reign of God that Jesus brings heals a world of hurts. In our story of the man with many demons, Jesus not only restores him to sit at Jesus’ feet fully clothed and in his right mind, Jesus also sends him out to spread the good news to others. How has your life been touched by Jesus’ healing and cleansing power? How has that impacted your life to share the good news of Jesus Christ? 

Pray: Merciful Jesus, heal me where I have hurts and guide me to a life that cares for others in your name. Amen. 

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Jesus Prays For Us And The World

Read: John 17:20-26.

This concludes Jesus’ farewell address to his disciples. It immediately precedes his return to a familiar garden where he will be met by Judas and the officials who will take him away to die. In the Gospel of John, those who are opposed to God are described as “the world.” At the same time Jesus prays for his followers, he prays for the world so that the world may believe that Jesus’ Father has sent him. Even as his own suffering and death was about to happen, he prayed for his followers and for those who would oppose him and his followers. God’s work in Christ is the work of reconciliation that gives us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Jesus prays for unity and reconciliation even while the forces of sin and destruction are closing in on him. Understanding and resolving differences will require the love of the Father and of Jesus to be in us as disciples. Jesus prays for us to have a loving and empowering relationship to God. How would you, as a follower of Jesus, describe your relationship with God? With others?

Pray: Loving God, come to me that I may love the world as you have loved me, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Reaching Out To Others

Read: Acts 11:1-18. 

This story is about one of the most important developments in the early church. Followers of Jesus now included Gentiles as well as Jews. There were objections from the early church believers in Judea (vv. 1-3). Peter’s response was that it was not his doing, but God’s. Peter was sent to the home of Cornelius (Acts 10) through a vision and an invitation from Gentiles. Interestingly, the real objection was not Peter’s preaching, but his fellowship and eating with Gentiles. Establishing relationships, having fellowship, and being a guest in another’s home are all hallmarks of the expanding mission field of outreach in the church, both then and now. The Gentiles end up having a similar response to the preached word by receiving the Holy Spirit as Jewish believers did in Acts 2. The believers in Judea hear all this and are silenced in a way that must have led to a repentance that turned to praise of God for what has now happened. Is there a difference in what you do and say when you are host and when you are a guest? What are those differences? Where might God be leading you to fellowship with others? 

Pray: Loving God, help me and all who claim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord be empowered by the Holy Spirit to share the Easter faith and reach out to others with love. Amen. 


Psalm of Trust: Psalm 23

Read: Psalm 23.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is the Good Shepherd Sunday. Some part of John 10 and Psalm 23 are always part of these lectionary texts. The passages connect the resurrection life celebrated throughout the Easter season with God’s providential care that provides security in the midst of tough times and a promised future of peace. Psalm 23 is a psalm of trust in the midst of crisis. However, the crisis here is not clearly identified. There are allusions to the forty years of exodus wanderings. The theme of needing nothing in verse one is paralleled in Nehemiah 9:21 where for forty years the people “lacked nothing,” the same Hebrew word translated as “shall not want” in Psalm 23:1. While difficult times—the darkest valley—beset all people, including all of God’s people, faith in Christ still allows one to see and experience beauty and peace. The term “follow” in verse six also means “pursue.” Here it is contrasted with its usual Old Testament association of being pursued by an enemy. Even more, in this psalm we are pursued by the love and protection of our Good Shepherd. When you read Psalm 23, what words stood out for you? How do those words relate to what you are now experiencing in your life?
Pray: Good Shepherd, give me eyes to see and a heart to believe that you have set green pastures and still waters before me and that your goodness and mercy pursue me always. Amen.

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May 5

Read: Acts 9:1-20.
Few of us have the experience of Saul who would become the Apostle Paul. On the road to Damascus a flash of light blinds him and he hears Jesus speaking. But even for Saul, his dramatic experience does not stand alone. Ananias soon greets Saul as “Brother” in the home of Judas (not Iscariot) and speaks Jesus’ message to Saul. Saul’s experience is confirmed by the voice and message of others. He receives the Holy Spirit and is baptized in the same faith as all other Christians. Saul is guided on his way and soon is proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God. In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of himself as the “Good Shepherd”(10:11). In John 21, Jesus now extends that shepherding ministry to Peter. Peter had denied his discipleship in John 18:15-27. Now his discipleship is reclaimed as he follows Jesus’ lead to serve as another good and loving shepherd. The Christian faith is like that: cared for and shepherded by people like Judas, Ananias, Peter, Paul, and countless other followers of Jesus. How have you shepherded others? How have others shepherded you?

Pray: Nurturing God, thank you for caring for us through others. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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April 28

Read: John 20:19-31. 

In the Gospel of John, Jesus performs a number of signs, beginning with the wedding at Cana (2:1-11). These signs point beyond themselves in order that people may have a relationship to Jesus, believe in him, and have “life in his name” (v. 31). Jesus sends out his followers just as he was sent by his heavenly Father, and he sends them out to extend God’s peace and forgiveness empowered by the Holy Spirit (vv. 21-23). The mission of Jesus’ followers, the mission of the church, is to be sent out as those who believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and, thereby, live a life that goes out into the world to offer peace and forgiveness. Followers are sent out through a surprising power; it is the power of the resurrected Jesus who still bears the wounds of the crucifixion as seen by Thomas and the other disciples. Christian followers trust that the crucified and risen Lord has the power to forgive, the source of true peace on earth. How do you experience peace and forgiveness as a follower of Jesus? How are you sent out to extend this same power of peace and forgiveness to others?  

Pray: Dear Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus, give us the faith to believe and to be sent out with your power to forgive and to bring peace to others. Amen.