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Home Altar: Week of January 23, 2022

by Andy Gilkinson

Third Sunday after Epiphany

Sunday, January 23

Psalm 19:1-6

Living Skies

I’ve lived on the Canadian prairies for most of my life, and one of the most beautiful aspects of the prairies is the sky. The nature of the prairies allows you to see the sky stretched as far as your eye can see. You can see an unobstructed view of all the colours of a sunrise and a sunset, storms brewing on the horizon, lightning flashing across the sky, the beauty of the Northern Lights dancing among the myriad of stars. The skies make such an impression that one province calls themselves “the Land of Living Skies.” The psalmist reminds us in this passage how the heavens are declaring God’s glory. While they do not speak an audible word, they remind us of God’s power and glory. Wherever you live, take some time to pause and look at the skies. See God’s mighty power and creativity and be reminded that you call him “Father” through Christ.

Father, thank you for revealing yourself in creation. Amen.

Monday, January 24

Nehemiah 8:1-3

The Voices We Hear

While we often take it for granted, we do a great deal of listening in a day—whether you’re listening to the news, podcasts, music, movies, or another person. Some voices we listen to more attentively than others. The voices we pay attention to have a way of deeply forming us. There were many voices challenging the remnant Israelites who were seeking to restore Jerusalem. In the midst of that cacophony of voices, the people stopped to take time to “listen attentively” to the book of the law. And they didn’t listen for ten minutes—the people listened from “daybreak until noon.” God’s people sought to immerse themselves in the story of God’s gracious rescue to challenge the other voices vying for their attention. In the midst of our own flurry of voices, let us pause and make space to listen attentively to the God-breathed words of Scripture and heed his instruction.

Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening. Amen.

Tuesday, January 25

Nehemiah 8:5-6

The Gift of Scripture

My family and I moved to our current church during the pandemic. Our new location often brought a reminder of the many things that had been lost. We moved into a new place with limited connections, and we had minimal opportunities to gather with others due to the restrictions. It’s the closest experience to exile that I may ever experience. In this text, God’s people are still recovering from their exile experience. As they seek to strengthen Jerusalem, they gather around God’s Word. As the people gather around God’s Word, they begin to worship God in thanksgiving. In that moment, they were able to recover something that had been lost in the exile. The people were all gathered in one place to hear God speak. Sometimes, it is easy to take Scripture for granted, but what an incredible gift of God to his people.

Father, let me not take your Word for granted but receive it as a gift. Amen.

Wednesday, January 26

Nehemiah 8:8-10

True Joy

My dad once received a card with these words on the front: “To the pastor who brings rest to my soul.” On the inside was a comical drawing of a man sleeping in a pew. While all preachers have brought such rest to others, through Ezra’s ministry, we see the rest that God’s Word can provide. Ezra and his ministry team read from God’s Word and explained it simply so that the people could understand it (v. 7). From there, we see the impact of God’s Word. First, it brings repentance as the people weep over their sins and recognize their need for restoration. But second, it brings joy because the story of the Scriptures is one of God’s divine rescue amidst human failure. The people were invited not only to repent but to rejoice in God for his salvation. Christ’s cross gives us this same privilege. Today, may we weep over our sin and rejoice in God’s forgiveness.

Father, I rejoice in your forgiveness through Christ. Amen.

Thursday, January 27

Psalm 19:7-10

Delighting in the Law

As a kid, I never liked bedtime. Now with kids of my own, I find that this “law” has about the same appeal to my kids as it did to me when I was their age. Let’s be honest, many of us don’t like being told what to do. Which is why the psalmist’s perspective can seem so strange to us. In this passage, we see an unbridled delight in God’s law. The Hebrew word for law can also be translated “instruction.” When I discovered this, it helped to shift my thinking toward God’s law. God’s law is not simply a way to show me I was a sinner, it is also an invitation to being truly human. After all, Jesus lived in full obedience to the law and delighted in it. It is in Christ’s perfect obedience that I put my faith as I learn to delight in God’s perfect law.

Father, teach me to love your instruction as Christ did. Amen.

Friday, January 28

Psalm 19:11-14

Deep Forgiveness

If you’ve been in church long enough, you’ve probably run into someone who is smug and self-righteous (I know I’ve been that guy). Sometimes that person is blind to their own attitude and behavior. The hypocrite we see across from us should be a reminder that each of us have hidden faults and sin within us. While we can seek to avoid “willful sins,” it is much harder to deal with sins we haven’t even considered or addressed. Thankfully, the promise in verse 12 of today’s passage is that God’s forgiveness reaches those faults hidden within us. Christ’s death paid for every sin, even the sins we are unconscious of at this moment. Thanks be to God for his commitment to our forgiveness!

Father, thank you that your forgiveness of my sin goes farther than the sins I am conscious of. Amen.

Saturday, January 29

Luke 4:14-21

A Gospel for the Whole Person

I didn’t grow up in the Covenant, but one of the affirmations that drew me in was our commitment to the whole mission of the church. As I was growing up, it was common to see churches that focused primarily on spiritual needs and others that focused primarily on social needs. In this text, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 61, announcing the kingdom that he is bringing. This kingdom is not for disembodied souls but for whole persons. This is observed in the way Jesus does his ministry throughout Luke’s gospel. Jesus not only proclaims the good news to the blind, he also gives them sight. Jesus not only frees people from oppression and bondage, he proclaims the gospel to them. Jesus shared the Lord’s favour with broken people. And this undeserved favour that has been shared with us, he invites us to share with the world, both physically and spiritually.

Father, thank you for your favour. Help me to share it with others. Amen.

About the Author: Andy Gilkinson

Durban, Manitoba
I am a husband to Heather and father to two wonderful children. I have served as a pastor in the Canada Conference since graduating from Bible college. We live in the Swan Valley, a rural area about 300 miles north of Minot, North Dakota. It’s a wonderful place to live with plenty of farmland, hills, and hunting. I was recently ordained within the Evangelical Covenant Church and have been serving Valley Evangelical Covenant Church since 2020. When I’m not preaching, you can find me reading, playing video games, or playing sports. Being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan consistently reminds me that my best hope for glory is found in Jesus.

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