Give thanks to God!

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Devotional Guide

Daily Bible Readings

Monday, November 14. Read Isaiah 42:10-13. 1) What in the Isaiah text resembles Psalm 98? 2) What effect would such praise have on those who report it? 3) In other words, how do you think it would affect the church today to be so full of praise for God?

Tuesday, November 15. Read Exodus 15:1-2, 20-21. 1) In verse one who is singing? What about? 2) In verse 2 who is singing. 3) What does this community song do for the nation?

Wednesday, November 16. Read Luke 1:39-55. 1) Where does Mary go in verse 39? 2) What does she do in verses 46-55? 3) Why do you think she chose this form (poetry/song) to speak to Elizabeth, and what effect do you think it had?

Thursday, November 17. Read Luke 2:25-33. 1) Who is this text about? 2) What does he do, and what does he say? 3) Look at verses 29 and 33. What effect does this event have on Simeon and Jesus’ parents?

Friday, November 18. Read Luke 3:2-6. 1) Who is this text about? 2) What does he say about what God was doing? 3) How might this have been similar to Psalm 98?

Saturday, November 19. Read Psalm 98. This is Sunday’s sermon text.

Prayer for the Week:

Creator God, you have made this world – our little solar system, and our galaxy, so vast that it alone defies comprehension, let alone all the other millions and billions of galaxies who are our neighbors. May our orientation always be toward you and not ourselves.In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hymn of the Week:

Lord of all being, throned afar
by Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1848

Lord of all being, throned afar,
Thy glory flames from sun and star;
Center and light of every sphere,
Yet to each loving heart how near.

Sun of our life, Thy quickening ray
Sheds on our path the glow of day;
Star of our hope, Thy softened light
Cheers the long watches of the night.

Our midnight is Thy smile withdrawn,
Our noontide is Thy gracious dawn,
Our rainbow arch Thy mercy’s sign;
All, save the clouds of sin, are Thine.

Lord of all life, below, above,
Whose light is truth, whose warmth is love,
Before Thy ever-blazing throne
We ask no luster of our own.

Grant us Thy truth to make us free,
And kindling hearts that burn for Thee,
Till all Thy living altars claim
One holy light, one heavenly flame.

Devotional Article of the Week:

God’s Good Creation
Why such a sour look on our faces?
by Rubel Shelly 

We tend to forget that Christianity was formed in the womb of Judaism. Born into first-century Hebrew culture. Received and interpreted to us by apostles and evangelists who knew Jesus in the context of his Jewishness. Yet most of us know the Christian faith as it has been passed through the vocabulary, culture, and mindset of Greco-Roman culture. So what?
One of the major “so-what’s” is the difference the two mindsets take toward material things. The human body in particular. And pleasure.

Greek religion and philosophy separate material and spiritual, body and soul in a way foreign to Judaism. Hebrew thought sees persons as “living souls” in their totality. The invisible, spiritual part of a person is not trapped in a body (i.e., the Greek idea), but is made real and functional by means of it. Thus the goal is not to escape or to chastise the body but to direct its energy Godward.

Pleasure is not wicked. Laughter is God’s gift! But, that is hardly the notion most non-Christians reflect back to believers. They see us as a pretty joyless crowd. Rather prune-faced. And more inclined to scowl than to laugh.

We seem to have worked hard to create that unhealthy — and, I might add, uninviting — image. Our “saints” tend to be dour, rather than smiling. They look austere, rather than lovable. They often appear rigid and forbidding, rather than humane and merciful. What a pity!

Jesus went to parties. He enjoyed life so much that his critics tried to make him out to be a drunk and a glutton. He had friends. Enjoyed being with people. And made people feel comfortable around him. I have no problem whatever in seeing him raise a glass to say, “L’chaim.” To life!

A long list of negatives is a poor way to define the gospel. The very idea of “redemption” is less about going to heaven when we die as it is making life here something positive and holy. Paul says Jesus “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age” (Galatians 1:4). Peter reminds Christians “that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you” (1 Peter 1:18).

Steak, golf, sunsets, music, sex, money — not one is unholy. All are given by God to meet human needs. Directed toward him, each is both a celebration of his goodness and a participation in his fullness. Divorced from him, both pleasure and pain become vulgar. Not the act, but its God-ward direction makes it holy.

Each is a celebration of God’s goodness.
In a world of wrinkled brows and wringing hands, one has to wonder if the rediscovery of godly joy might be our best advertisement for the faith we profess.
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:4-5 TNIV).

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