Wednesday, February 24 Matthew 4:1-11 Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him. (v. 10) The familiar phrase, "You are what you eat" means that if I eat only junk food, I will be unhealthy; if I eat lots of veggies and whole grains, I will surely have better health and more energy. The same is true of our spiritual lives. What and whom we take into our lives; on what or whom we depend for well-being; indeed, where we direct our worship - all of these will be reflected in what we become. For example, we may dedicate heart, mind, and energy to achieving a certain standard of living. That's not necessarily bad, but along the way we may miss out on time for family or rest. When Jesus faces hard choices in the wilderness, we see he has already been living "by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (v. 4). He has entrusted his life to God. His responses to temptation reflect his assurance and devotion. As we choose the object of our worship, trust, and service, we do well to ask, "Is it life-giving? The resounding call of scripture is to choose to worship God - the ultimate life-giver. Lord, remind us often to worship only you, for you alone are life-giving. Amen. Prayer concern: All held captive by life's "idols"
Thursday, February 25 Romans 3:21-31 On the contrary, we uphold the law. (v. 31) Many people struggle with the concept of discipline in their faith life. While freedom is restricted in some parts of the world, in most of Western society people can live as they wish as long as they don't hurt others. Yet individualism can also be our downfall. When we equate God's gift of salvation through love and grace with unconstrained freedom, we miss God's true desire for the world. It's no wonder we get confused; Paul writes to early Christians who were also unclear about relationship between justification by faith and God's ancient law. "Does salvation as a free gift of God through Jesus' death and resurrection mean we can now toss out the law altogether?" they might have wondered. "By no means!" says Paul (v. 31). In light of faith, we are neither saved nor chained by the law. Disciplined adherence to the law guides us in living out our salvation as God has always intended: as God's children in community, with compassion and justice for one another. Dear Lord, help me to discipline myself according to your word. Amen. Prayer concern: Those who work within the justice system
Friday, February 26 Psalm 22:23-31 Future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance. (vv. 30-31) This psalm could easily sound like reading material from a course on evangelism. First, we are reminded of how much we love God and value our faith relationship. Second, we hear how that should compel us to share the good news with all nations and generations. Not an unimportant sentiment considering the messages we hear these days about declining church attendance. Yet I'm not sure attendance figures are what evangelism is really about. Telling future generations about God is less about convincing them to attend church, and more about their becoming a living message of God's goodness. We tell others about God not giving in to our fears because we trust the power of divine love. We tell about God's goodness by walking alongside people even in uncomfortable situations - disaster recovery, illness, advocacy for human rights - and serving those in need. We "proclaim [God's] deliverance," which as Christians we know in Jesus, by practicing forgiveness with the same abandon he did. Holy God, let my life tell the story of your great love. Amen. Prayer concern: Those hurt by the church
Saturday, February 27 Mark 8:27-30 [Jesus] sternly ordered them no to tell anyone about him. (v. 30) I have always been mystified by Jesus commanding his disciples to keep silent about him. Of course, biblical scholars and theologians have proposed explanations for this theme in Mark's story, the most satisfactory ones having to do with the central focus on Jesus' coming passion and death. Still, I remain captivated by Jesus' cryptic words. Then I listen to all the voices telling us who Jesus is - or rather, their idea of who he is. We are told in many different ways what Jesus truly stood for, what his life was about, and what it means to follow him. Yet when Jesus asks us directly along with his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" we are not being called to answer with only words. Rather, Jesus is calling us to follow him on the way to the cross, to respond with the way we live for God and for others. As a saying attributed to St. Francis urges, we are to "preach the gospel at all times, [and] when necessary, use words." Lord, let my actions speak who you are to those in the world who need to hear the good news of salvation. Amen. Prayer concern" Those who lack basic needs for living
Sunday, February 28 Mark 8:31-38 He began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering. (v. 31) Suffering is one of the most challenging aspects of Christian life. Conceptually, we understand that suffering is an unavoidable part of the human experience. Yet we live in a world that likes to avoid acknowledging that suffering exists. The events of war get depicted without showing the cost to both civilians and soldiers. Commercials convince us that we need the luxuries they sell without showing the impact on the environment and the most vulnerable who produce them. The Son of Man doesn't undergo suffering for suffering's sake. The Son of Man undergoes suffering because, as the story of the good news tells us, it is part of God's design that the Son of Man should come to serve and give his life for all. Suffering is never an end in itself; it is what happens in the way of God's love that reaches through suffering and the cross to the glorious resurrection of Jesus. We are Easter people. The last word of the story is that in Jesus' death and resurrection God promises us life. Lord, help me to trust you amid life's suffering, and to trust your promise of life eternal. Amen. Prayer concern: Those who suffer from trauma