Cycle of Love


Devotional for Thursday, April 2

Philippians 1:3-11 (NLT)

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

I want to introduce you to a resource. As some of you already know, many pastors use something called the “lectionary,” a cycle of readings in line with the themes of the church calendar, to guide their preaching. The lectionary is broken into Years A, B and C. Right now, we’re in Year A.

I use the lectionary on a regular basis because it keeps me from clinging to pet ideas I may overemphasize. I also am continually surprised at how a planned cycle of readings can be so timely, providing answers to current concerns. I suppose this is because God’s teachings are timeless.

A lot of people don’t know there also is a daily lectionary, which can be very useful for people serious about delving into the Bible. One of the advantages of the internet is it makes the daily lectionary much more manageable. For example, you can go to this Vanderbilt Divinity Library web page and find all of Year A’s readings listed, the citations linked to their full texts on Bible Gateway. One click and you can explore the daily readings in just about any translation you want.

The Philippians verses I quoted above are part of today’s readings. Paul was writing to a church he loved, one from which he was separated while in prison. Physically separated from most of you at Luminary, I found the words particularly poignant.

It is my prayer that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. I know that one of the best ways to gain knowledge and understanding is to spend significant time in the Bible, learning to wrestle with the principles found within and rejoicing in the story.

So today, I simply offer you a tool. May it be a blessing.

Lord, as we open ourselves to your word, let it truly sink into our souls, giving us deep discernment. Amen.

Let’s Make a Prayer


Devotional for Friday, March 20

Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

We’ve all experienced worry at some point in our lives, but I think it is safe to say more of us than usual are feeling an extended kind of anxiety right now. Isolation is hitting many of us hard. Many of our businesses and investments seem in jeopardy, and we fear any light we see in the tunnel is an oncoming train.

God has a lot to say about worry, of course. The Big Guy, with his big-picture, outside-time-and-creation view, tells us repeatedly through prophets, disciples and even the Messiah to fear not, to stop worrying. And when we grasp the big picture, we see why God is able to say this. The hard work is done—Jesus has died on the cross for our sins, and his resurrection is a foretaste of what we will experience.

None of that is to deny, however, that we are little people who perceive our lives to be lived out in one tiny brush stroke on God’s vast canvas. And we worry. So God gave us ways to seek comfort.

Let’s not simply talk today about the greatest tool God has given us, prayer. As a church, let’s join together in prayer. Let’s build a prayer list, and let’s pray over it as we see it grow.

If you’re reading this on the website, at the bottom of this devotional you’ll see either a link saying “Leave a comment,” or an actual comment box. If you’re reading from the automated email that went out, you’ll see a comment button at the bottom.

However you get to the comment section, enter your prayer requests there. We will see those build through the day. FYI, you may not see your prayer appear right away; I have to approve comments before they go on the site. I’ll check regularly for new comments, though.

You check back regularly to read them, too. And throughout the day, pray about what you see!

Lord, as we pray, may our anxieties be transformed to hope and joy. Amen.