Worthy of Our Praise
SUNDAY, October 30
A couple of years ago, I was taking a walk early on a Sunday morning. I was feeling that God was hiding from me, doubtful of God’s love, frustrated with my own lack of faith. I came around a corner and heard a robin in one tree calling to a robin in another tree across the street. As I walked, I listened to their antiphonal praise, thankful that they could offer praise when I wasn’t able to. Their sunrise song encouraged my heart. Today’s psalm reminds me of that. Sometimes I am able to praise God wholeheartedly along with the psalmist. And other times, I read the psalms of praise and feel it is difficult to join in.
No matter your posture today, take heart! God’s people have been singing his praises for thousands of years, and whether your heart rejoices in God’s goodness today, or you find yourself struggling for hope, God is good and draws near to you today. “The Lord is gracious and merciful….His praise endures forever!” (v. 4, 10).
God, you are worthy of our praise. Strengthen our bodies and encourage our hearts that we may give thanks to you today. Amen.
PRAYER FOCUS: WISDOM FOR OUR CHURCH LEADERS
MONDAY, October 31
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Paul, arguably the most influential teacher and leader in the history of the Church, has two core convictions: that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and that the Word of God is on the loose. These convictions have radically changed his life and purpose: he is in chains for the gospel, suffering as a criminal. But it is all worth it “that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus” (v. 10). I love this dichotomy—Paul is in chains, but God’s Word is not. Paul, the great missionary, holed up in prison. What would become of the gospel message? “But the word of God is not chained” (v. 9)!
What limitations do you feel today? What gifts do you feel may be too small to make a difference? God isn’t limited by our limitations. God’s Word isn’t hindered by our meager gifts. God’s Spirit is at work in us and around us. The Word of God is on the loose!
Holy Spirit, give me eyes to see the ways you are at work in and around me today. Amen.
Wholeness through Returning
TUESDAY, November 1
Author Dr. Amy Kenny makes the distinction between Jesus’s work
in the Gospels of both curing people and healing them. Curing, she explains, “is a physical process that…concentrates on eliminating disease.” Healing is “a sociocultural process that is about restoring the social and spiritual dimensions.” Healing connects to the idea of wholeness. I think this is the dynamic at play in this story of ten men with skin disease. All ten are cured—they no longer bear the marks of their disease. But only the Samaritan returns to give thanks, and only he was “made well.” In recognizing Jesus as the true high priest, this man returns and experiences continued wholeness and healing.
Sometimes it feels like we are needy to return to Jesus every day. Like we should have figured out how to move past this anxiety, this fear, this bad habit. But as in the Samaritan, wholeness is truly found through coming back to Jesus and recognizing him as the source of wholeness. Not just a one-time cure, but a lifetime of returning.
Jesus, we return to you today, recognizing you as the Source of our true wholeness and healing. amen.
PRAYER FOCUS: THANKSGIVING FOR THE SAINTS IN OUR LIVES
WEDNESDAY, November 2
Luke 17:20-24, 33
Have you ever lost something—a set of keys, a cell phone, sunglasses—only to realize that as you were frantically searching that the lost item was in your hand or in your pocket? Isn’t it frustrating to realize you’ve wasted all that time searching? The Pharisees were desperately waiting and trying to anticipate the kingdom of God. They knew the Scriptures and were well-versed in what the Messiah might be like. Perhaps they were asking Jesus what to watch for so they could announce it to the people. As they were busy trying to figure it all out, Jesus reminded them, “The kingdom of God is among you” (v. 20). The Messiah was working and moving in their midst—and they didn’t realize it!
Eugene Peterson, in The Message, paraphrases verse 33 like this: “If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms.” True life that God offers—isn’t that what we ultimately want?
God in our midst, pry our fingers loose from trying to control our own lives. We want the life you offer to us. Amen.
THURSDAY, November 3
In a number of stories in the Gospels, people come to Jesus with ulterior motives. Today’s passage is one of them. “They watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest” (v. 20, NRSV). That’s a hard phrase for me to move past, because it sets up their entire encounter with Jesus.
How do we come to Jesus? Do we approach Jesus with sincerity? With openness? A willingness to be seen? Do we have an agenda, or do we have trouble trusting that God is truly good? Being honest with God opens us up to his healing in our lives. Jesus’s answer was cryptic and hard for these insincere people to take, because Jesus saw through their lies and discerned what was truly going on in their hearts. Jesus knows exactly what is happening in our own souls too, and he has compassion for us. Are there areas of your soul that you feel you have to hide from God? Open yourself to him today, and come to Jesus in sincerity and honesty.
Father God, we know that you love us more than we can imagine. Help us bring our true selves into your presence today, holding nothing back. Amen.
PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE PERSECUTED FOR THEIR BELIEFS
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4
Are you a people-watcher? Many people love going to malls and airports to sit and watch people—they are endlessly fascinated by watching others. It’s like a recreational sport!
When I read this story of Jesus and his disciples, I imagine they are people-watching. I picture them sitting on a bench across from the temple, resting and watching the goings-on around them. We read that some rich people came by and dropped their gifts into the money box, followed by a poor widow. Isn’t it fascinating that Jesus sees and praises the poor widow’s offering? Boaz Johnson, in his book The Marys of the Bible: The Original #MeToo Movement, points out that the Bible “directly countered against perspectives of women” that were common in that day. Jesus again and again elevates the experiences and worth of women in his day—which was counter-cultural. No matter how public or hidden your ministry is, God sees you and loves you today.
Jesus, we needed this reminder that you are not drawn to what is loud and flashy. You see our hearts. Amen.
Shaped Through Our Worship
SATURDAY, November 5
Rod Dreher writes, “Without recognizing that there are limits written into nature by nature’s God, there is nothing to keep humankind from transgressing nature, including human nature, to reshape it into our image.” God created us as humans with limits. It is part of God’s good creation. And today’s psalm is a call to live rightly before God—honoring God together. It is another invitation to praise the Lord together!
The cautionary tale in this psalm is that those who create idols from the earth worship and eventually become like those idols. In our readings this week, we encountered three people who worshiped God: Paul, the Samaritan, and the widow. But we also read about others who were reluctant to worship Jesus as he was. God knows that we will be shaped by what, or who, we worship. This call is an invitation to be loved and shaped in the likeness of God—the One whose image we bear!
Creator God, tune our hearts to sing your praise today. Amen.
PRAYER FOCUS: COMFORT FOR THOSE IN PAIN