Strengthening our relationship with God

Even though COVID-19 restrictions have eased in Australia and New Zealand, some members are still missing out on worship with their local congregations due to being unwell or caring for those who are. However, these devotional pages are not just for those unable to get to church. We can all benefit from reading or hearing some encouraging words and experiencing a sense of God’s closeness during the week as well as at Sunday worship. Nurturing our faith at home through regular devotions strengthens our relationship with God. We pray that you will be blessed by the devotional materials here and in the Church@Home resources collection online at www.lca.org.au/churchhome

Lisa 

Psalm 121:7,8
The Lord will keep you from all harm … the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

DEVOTIONS FOR HOME WORSHIP

These reflections are adapted from a collection of devotions written for our LCANZ family and friends to help us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus no matter what we face. You can find these and many others on the LCA website at www.lca.org.au/daily-devotion and you can subscribe to receive them daily via email by clicking on the link on that same page.

What do I have to do? by Darren Pope

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? (Psalm 15:1).

Read Psalm 15.

Alarm switched off, out-of-office reply set – hooray for holidays! Woohoo, it’s time to do nothing! As I ponder breakfast choices, the list of jobs attached to the fridge door catches my eye. Okay, that’s for later. Back in the bathroom, the squeaky door bugs me again. That’s for later, too. A check of the mailbox reminds me of the tall grass that needs taming out front. Can that wait for later, also? Hmm, I just started holidays, and I feel loaded with all the stuff I have to get done. There’s a long and impossible list of tasks. Maybe it is relaxing that will need to wait until later!

As the psalmist, David often shares beautiful imagery, lyrics or poetic prose. In Psalm 15, we read questions from David seeking clarity about needing to be blameless, righteous, truthful, do no wrong, not change his mind, give away his money and keep all his promises to be in relationship with God. So, what’s with the long list of impossible tasks? If this all relies on me, it is not going to happen. There is no way I can make and keep a promise to do all of that, all of the time. If I need to do all those things to earn God’s love, I’ll fail!

Here’s the great news. David didn’t know God’s plan yet. It’s actually Jesus that does all those things on the long and impossible list – and more. He does them for us. He lived fully human and fully God, so he understands how hard it is every day. More than this, he died and rose for us. It’s always God’s work, not ours, that matters. His love is free, unconditional and never-ending. So, what do I have to do? Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

We are saved by his grace through faith.

Lord of love, thank you for walking with me today. The list feels long, but I know you’ve got this. I live in your grace and love. Amen.

You can handle the truth by Pastor Reid Matthias

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16:13a).

Read John 16:12–15.

n the movie, A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson plays a passionate yet deceitful military officer, confronted by an upstart lawyer accusing him of the heinous crime of covering up the chain of command, which leads to murder. During the most iconic scene, Nicholson takes the stand, swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him, God.

When posed with a yes or no answer as to whether he ordered the hazing of a marine, Nicholson gives an impassioned speech, criticising the lawyer and openly questioning those who don’t understand the military’s role. At the end of the monologue, his face full of fury, he iconically states: ‘You can’t handle the truth’.

There are many times in my life when I feel like that. When the next straw falls on top of the last one, our backs feel broken, and our spirits crushed, I wonder if I can handle the truthful statement that life really isn’t fair.

In our reading today, Jesus, about to be led to Golgotha, describes the unfairness of what will happen to him and the struggle the disciples will encounter afterwards. Knowing that his disciples could be overwhelmed by the entirety of the news of his death (and not listen to the good news following), he tells them, ‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear’.

In other words, I don’t have enough time to ease you into this and to be honest, you couldn’t handle the truth.

Thus, Jesus promises the Spirit of truth, the one who will guide them into all the promises that Jesus has for them. The Spirit of truth, the Advocate, the one who will speak to them and for them, will reveal that there is much more to this life than death and despair, pandemic and pestilence, inflation and unfairness.

There is the resurrection. And the hope. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

That is the truth they can handle.

Heavenly Father, through your Spirit who listens to the Son, please guide me into all the truth of your promises and relieve me from the fears that press in so closely. Amen.

PRAYER

THE GOLDEN CORD
Through every minute of this day,
Be with me, Lord!

Through every day of all this week,
Be with me, Lord!

Through every week of all this year,
Be with me, Lord!

Through all the years of all this life,
Be with me, Lord!

So shall the days and weeks and years
Be threaded on a golden cord,

And all draw on with sweet accord
Unto Thy fullness, Lord,

That so, when time is past,
By grace, I may at last,
Be with Thee, Lord.

– John Oxenham, (1952-1841, published in ‘Bees in Amber’ 1913). Oxenham was a novel writer, journalist, poet, and Christian teacher. Sourced from justprayer.org

Matthew 24:35
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

At home with Martha and Mary by Ruth Olsen

Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her (Luke 10:42).

Read Luke 10:38–42.

Imagine being at home with Martha and Mary. Luke tells us that it was Martha who opened her home to Jesus, and she had a sister Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. In John 12:1–3, we read that the village is Bethany, and Lazarus lived with them also. In both settings, Martha is serving, probably exercising a gift of hospitality. Jesus was obviously at home with them, more than welcome to be there.

Luke says that Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She was probably feeling under pressure and increasingly frustrated doing what needed to be done. Many of us, and predominantly women, most likely, can identify with her, whether we have the gift of hospitality or not. And if we are not responsible for preparing the food, we probably don’t even give it a thought.

From observation, Mary’s focus and priority were not on preparing food for the guests, and we can imagine there were other people in the home listening to Jesus also. Where would you be – in Martha’s shoes or Mary’s? Hospitality and food preparation are necessary parts of life. In any culture where it is expected that women do the food preparation and serving, people would agree with Martha’s frustrated plea to Jesus for him to tell Mary to help her. Do you sense the moment? Jesus heard Martha’s request, knew her heart in her frustration, but said, ‘Martha, Martha … only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’. Do you sense a shift in priorities? And that sitting at the feet of Jesus is open to women also?

What catches your attention in this Scripture passage? Are you willing for Jesus to be at home with you?

Lord Jesus, we welcome you to be at home with us also. Enable us to hear what you are saying to us, and by the power of your Spirit, enable us to change focus to pursue listening to you. Thank you!

Set your face towards the lost sheep of Israel by Pastor Tim Castle-Schmidt

But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6).

Read Matthew 10:5–23.

When God calls, we are in a privileged place to be invited into God’s mission. Sometimes that takes us along smooth paths, but more often, we get called to roads we neither expect nor might choose. That’s certainly been my experience.

And when God calls, he typically sets our faces towards the lost. Indeed, if we are honest with ourselves, we are all lost (and so terribly lost!), and until we acknowledge that, we cannot be found.

Jesus came, remember, to seek the lost.

And so, as soon as we can recognise that we are as lost as the next person, the sooner we can know that God is actively seeking us. But God never leaves us where he finds us. Whether that is to a new station in life, a new town or country, or a new mindset, God leads us to a new place.

We, the lost, are found and then sent with a new call on our lives. That may be a call to see things differently in our own backyard or a whole new backyard. Either way, we are called to set our faces towards the lost.

Lord Jesus, you set your face towards us because we were lost and then call us to seek the lost sheep of Israel. Help me acknowledge my own lostness so that you can truly find me, and then give me eyes to see the lost ones you lead me to. Amen.

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