Christian, devotion, Mark, Prayer, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for August 11, 2017




Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 9: 14-2

Text: (Jesus) said to (the disciples), “This kind can come out only through prayer.” (v. 29)

“If all else fails, pray.” Or, “I’ve tried everything else, all I can do now is pray.” Prayer as a last resort.

Several years ago I read a little known book by Jonathan Bathke entitled Jesus>Religion. A line in that book was revelatory to me.  We rarely bother to consider whether or not our plans are God’s plans. Too often we ask God to bless our plans rather than asking God what He wants us to do.

Maybe the place to start is not with plans but with prayer. The story in Mark 9 is a difficult one. It seems that the disciples pulled every trick out of their sleeves, did everything they ever saw Jesus do, except one thing. Pray.

Some things are only possible through prayer. Every member of the 12-step recovery group knows this. Everyone who lives in extreme poverty knows this. Everyone who suffers great loss knows this. It’s just that most of us just don’t believe it.

A few weeks ago, after over three decades of being a minister, I realized that I don’t really know how to pray. So, I am asking God to teach me. And I am learning, one step at a time.

Lord, teach us to pray. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, Luke, Gospel of, Prayer, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace for July 1, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Luke 22: 39-51

Test; Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from ye; yet not my will but yours be done. (vs. 42, bold is writer’s emphasis)

Many of you are familiar with the ACTS prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. In teaching new people to take Jesus seriously I add an additional S; Submission. Submission is the most difficult part of the prayer.

It is relatively easy to offer petitions of Adoration to God, especially when we consider the blessings, both great and small, that we have received in a given day or in our lifetime. Confession is a bit harder because, especially in our culture today, we do not like to admit that we did something wrong. We see confession of guilt or error as a sign of weakness. But, if we remember Paul’s insight into the human condition, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Confession becomes a bit easier. Thanksgiving, like Adoration is easy if we just take the time to count our blessings, as the old hymn says, “one by one.” And we are experts at Supplication. We’ve been doing it from childhood and became embolden upon Santa’s knee when he asked, “What do you want for Christmas?” Yes, we are experts at these four petitions.

But Submission, well that is another story. This is the hardest petition because we are asking God to do His will even at our expense. And yet, Submission is at the very heart of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden before His crucifixion.“If it be possible,” He prayed, “let this cup pass from my lips; but not My will but Thy will be done.” 

Can you trust in the Goodness of God even if you do not get what you pray for? Can you trust in God’s Grace even if your dreams, plans and desires go unfulfilled? This is the true test of discipleship, of taking Jesus seriously? It is to pray at Jesus prayed, “not My will but Thy will be done.”

I do not know if your can or can not but I do know this, I continue to struggle. And in the struggle, I’m getting a little better.

Lord, despite all of my wishes and prayers, not my will buy Thy will be done. Amen.

Christian, devotion, Prayer, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for June 27, 2017

Devotional Text: Psalm 30 (an evening Psalm)

Text: I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me. (v. 1)

Sometimes the day simply gets away from you. The night before you set your plans but then … then the proverbial train goes off of the track. So as I write today’s entry my day is drawing to a close. On my To Do list for today, THIS is the only thing that I will be able to complete. That is not to say that my day was not a good day. I did not get to do what planned but I did what God planned. Of that I am certain because in my morning prayer I gave today to God.

So often we view the unscheduled occurrences of the day as “interruptions”. But they are not interruptions, at all. They are “God Moments”. I think that it was Thomas Aquinas who once observed that “Man proposes; God disposes”.

So, after I say my prayers tonight, I will praise God for bringing me safely through another day. There will be a tomorrow, and I cannot help but wonder what surprises God has in store for me.

May that be true of you, too.

Lord, I praise you for you led me through another day. Complete what I left undone, repair whatever I did in error and bless me sleep. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, James, Prayer, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for May 24, 2017

Devotional Reading: James 5: 16-27

Text: The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.(v.15)

Prayer is essential. We cannot prevent ourselves from praying. Even when we are angry with God, prayer sneaks into our lives.And prayer changes things. A black free-church minister once told me that prayer changes God, God changes people, and people change situations. While I don’t agree with that theology, I do agree that prayer changes me and I can be a “change agent”.

I often pray with people for healing, especially when they are in the hospital or facing a terrible illness. But I learned long ago that not all healing is physical. The most important healing is spiritual. All of us will die from some cause. It is my prayer and hope that it does not happen for a long long time but even the New Testament figure, Lazarus, whom Jesus brought from the grave in the gospel of John, is not longer with us in the flesh.

When spiritual healing occurs we are at peace with ourselves, others and God. This is the peace that the apostle Paul meant when he wrote about “the peace of Christ that passes all understanding.” It gives us the ability to sing the words of the old hymn “It is well with my soul.”

It is my prayer for you today, that you have this peace. And that in having this peace, you will know both the love of God that will never let you go and the fellowship that knits us together into the Body of Christ on earth.

Lord, grant me peace. Give me the courage for reconciliation. Let me learn from my past but remember that it is past. This is a new day, one that You created and blessed. Amen.

Christian, devotion, Luke, Gospel of, Prayer, Presbyterian Church (USA), Serenity Prayer, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for May 8 2017

Devotional Reading: Mark 2: 23-27

Text: Jesus said to them, “The sabbath was made for man not man for the sabbath. ” (v. 27)

This text is one of my favorite teachings of Jesus.

Sometimes rules, regulations and laws get in the way of doing Kingdom work. Sometimes they create more injustice than they prevent. Sometimes they are a means to maintain an unjust reality. And sometimes I think that we simply make rules and laws to avoid the hard work of using the gray matter God placed between our ears.

Jesus was criticized, variously, for feeding the hungry, healing a person with a crippled hand and giving sight to the blind on the sabbath. His critics cited Exodus 20:8–Remember the sabbath and keep it holy. In doing so they forgot why God created a sabbath. God made the sabbath for us, not us for the sabbath. There has to be a balance in our lives between labor and rest otherwise we experience burnout, which neither glorifies God nor is beneficial to anyone.

Human need can present itself at the most inopportune times.  Our challenge is what I call “the goose that laid the golden egg syndrome.” We need to be productive but we also need to be mindful of our limits. I see us–myself included–getting this wrong more often than not.

Perhaps the most important prayer to the work of the Kingdom is not the believer’s prayer but the serenity prayer. Here’s a challenge: Begin each day this coming week with the serenity prayer. Then, at the end of the day take five minutes to reflect upon the day and write down an insight or two. See if you don’t become a better follower of Jesus.

Serenity Prayer attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.


Christian, devotion, faith, Love, Prayer, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for May 6 2017

Devotional text: 3rd Letter of John: 1-15

Text: Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. (v. 11)

While cooling down from a recent run, a preschool aged boy pointed a stick at me an said in a stern adult-like voice, “Don’t you do that, young man!” I simply smiled and waved. Earlier in the day, at the preschool in the church I serve, I overheard a little girl telling her friends a story. With her left hand on a hip thrust to the left and pointing her finger, she said, “Well, let me tell you …” I smiled and wondered who she was imitating.

The apostle Paul once said that we should imitate him in as much as he imitates Jesus. (I Corinthians 11:1) Imitation is the highest form of flattery, and it is how we learn to be who we are, for better or for worse.

I am intrigued by John’s last phrase in today’s text: whoever does evil has not seen God. In his first letter John wrote that God is love and whoever lives (abides–takes up dwelling) in love, lives in God and God lives in him. (I John 4:16). Have “evil-doers” simply not experienced God-like unconditional love? Has the evil of the world so broken them that they find it difficult to trust, let alone love? Are there not enough Jesus followers sharing the love that God first gave to us?

I have to think about that. Maybe I’d better do a better job at loving. Then, maybe, I’d be a better glimpse of grace. How about you?

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is despair, let me bring hope. Where there is darkness, let me bring light. Where there is sadness, let me bring joy. Let me be worthy of imitation so that you may be glorified. (This prayer is a modification and abbreviation of a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.)













Christian, devotion, faith, Holy Spirit, I John, Prayer, Presbyterian Church (USA), Temptation, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for May 1 2017

Devotional Reading: I John 1: 3: 19-4:6

Text: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (v. 4:1)

Test the spirits. Not every one of my whims is God given. Nor is every idea divine. I need to test the spirits. When the writer of the letter we call I John gave this advice he knew how easily any of us can be led astray. As Robert Bellah wrote centuries later in Habits of the Heart, we can be fooled by the cultural and non-biblical myth that everything is a matter of personal opinion, belief and preference.

The early Church knew better. They believed that an individual found wholeness only within a greater community. Charismatic leaders can too easily lead us astray (Recall Hitler or do a Google search on Jim Jones, for an example).

There is a sure-fire threefold test that can be used to “test the spirits.”

First, ask if it is biblical. Is there overwhelming evidence of it in the bible’s story of faith.

Second is it God-glorifying as opposed to Self-glorifying. We can do all kinds of mental gymnastics to convince ourselves that what we are doing is really for God. So, maybe we need to ask ourselves, “If I never got the credit, would I still want to do it?” This takes a lot of serious honest soul searching. And, it isn’t foolproof because fools can be very ingenious in fooling themselves.

Third, does the larger community of faith that I am an active part of agree that it meets the first two standards; ie. biblical and God-glorifying?

In Infinite wisdom God decides to create us in the Divine image and make us stewards–responsible for God’s Creation. We are to care not only for all things of the earth but for every living thing for all of it belongs to God. And, we are to care for one another. Not every inkling is Heaven sent. We need to test the spirits.

Lord, give me a heart of wisdom and the courage to test the spirits lest I be tossed to and fro by the fickle winds of the world around men. Amen.


"Red" Barber, Christian, devotion, Evening, Prayer, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalms, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Evening Devotion for April 24, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 17: 1-11

Text: Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.  (v. 11b)

While I could talk about how our divisions hurt God (that may be the subject of a sermon), I decided to turn toward Jesus’ prayer for His disciples then and now.  As this day draws to a close it does us good to reflect upon how God “protected” us throughout the day. We may have had a very hard day, with all kinds of bad news and challenges that we did not know how to meet. Or, the day may have been one of relaxation and ease. Probably it was somewhere in between. But no matter what kind of day it was, here we are. The day is done. It is time for us to regroup and consider how we will tackle tomorrow. No matter what the future holds we will tackle it confident of the grace of God and a Holy protection.

I read many years ago that the great baseball announcer, “Red” Barber would end each day with this prayer from the Psalms. I will close this devotion with those words of prayer.

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.  (Psalm 4:9). Amen.


Christian, confession, devotion, I John, Prayer, Presbyterian Church (USA), sin, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for April 24, 2017

Devotional Reading for the Day: I John 1: 1-10*

Text: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (v. 8)

In our weekly worship service we include a prayer called the Confession of Sin and an Assurance of Pardon or Forgiveness. The Confession of Sin is for the world as well as for ourselves. Like the ancient prophet Isaiah we live amongst a people and in a world with “unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5)

From time to time someone say that the “Confession of Sin” is depressing.  It’s something that we should not include in worship. I’ve never found it depressing but, rather an exercise in honesty and humility. And frankly, we could use a little more of each right now.

No one is perfect. If we think we are, those nearest and dearest to us can straighten us out on that count!  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) We participate in evil intentionally and unintentionally, through neglect as well as well-meaning but misguided attention. We can’t help it. We are broken people living in a broken world. And this brokenness is why Jesus came into the world; to extricate us from brokenness; our separation from one another as well as from God.

Health–spiritual and physical–being begins with honesty.

Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

Lord, forgive us our debts and our trespasses. Amen.

*I am sorely tempted to write a Glimpse on the Gospel lesson assigned for today in the Common Lectionary and may write an evening entry. But, I John is such a wonderful letter with so many practical teachings. 


Christian, devotion, Prayer, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalms, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for April 21, 2017

Devotional Reading: Psalm 148

Text: Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise God in the heights! (v. 1)

For several years the first thing that I do when I wake up in the morning is to lay in bed for a few minutes, collect my thoughts, and think about three things that I am thankful for; three things that bring me joy or make me smile. More often than not, they are people. Sometimes it is the breakfast that I’m going to eat or the cup of coffee or tea that I’m going to drink.  At the end of the day, when I go to bed I quietly say a rote prayer I learned in my childhood and recall three things that I accomplished or made me happy. I always try to fall asleep with a “happy” thought and a smile.

Today’s “Devotional Reading” is a morning Psalm but it is appropriate at any time of day.  It is a call to “be thankful.” It is easy for us to become consumed by the worries of the day, various problems that cropped up, and dealings with difficult people.  We can lose our perspective and forget that each day is a gift, and an unmerited gift at that. We can forget that God walked beside us throughout the day, and watches over us at night.

Beginning and ending the day with a moment of thanksgiving is the least that we can do to show our appreciation and even our love for the Creator of the Ends of the Earth and the Keeper of All Time.

Lord, put into me a thankful heart. Direct your Spirit to move me to begin and end each day with the spirit of gratitude. Amen.