Pastor Charlie Woodward writes a daily devotion for the days of the pandemic, until things are back to “normal,” whenever that may be. This is an opportunity to stay connected, to be together. Each devotion will include a Bible verse, a brief reflection and prayer.  
 
This devotion has undergone a name change to One in the Spirit. Learn more here.
 
Access each day’s devotion below, or sign up here to receive the devotions to your inbox every morning. Choose the “Devotions” distribution list.

God’s Hands and Feet

James 2:14-26

 

Faith Without Works is Dead

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. 23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.
 
 

Martin Luther was not a big fan of the Book of James. He didn’t think it expressed the “nature of the Gospel,” it appeared to contradict Paul’s statements about justification by faith, and it didn’t directly mention Christ. He wrote, “Therefore St. James’ epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it.”

 

But, let us not simply dismiss this epistle because Luther didn’t regard it as highly as the other epistles. There are still great words to be gleaned from it.

 


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Daily Prayer and Touchpoint

Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20-25

 

The Great Commandment

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

20 When your children ask you in time to come, “What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 then you shall say to your children, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 The Lord displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household. 23 He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 Then the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our lasting good, so as to keep us alive, as is now the case. 25 If we diligently observe this entire commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, we will be in the right.”
 
 

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Saving Touch

Reformation Sunday

 

John 8:31-36

31Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

 34Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
 
 

A couple went up in a hot air balloon. Soon, things went awry and they were way off course. They were TOTALLY lost and had no idea where they were when they finally came down in the middle of an open field. A man was standing at the edge of the field and had watched the balloon land. The woman called out to him, “Sir, can you tell us where we are?”


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Delivering Bibles to Our Third Graders

Deuteronomy 32:44-47

44 Moses came and recited all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he and Joshua son of Nun. 45 When Moses had finished reciting all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them: “Take to heart all the words that I am giving in witness against you today; give them as a command to your children, so that they may diligently observe all the words of this law. 47 This is no trifling matter for you, but rather your very life; through it you may live long in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess.”
 
 

Pastor Jay and I had the honor and privilege of delivering Bibles to our third graders. We usually do this in a worship setting, but in case you haven’t heard, we are in the middle of a pandemic. So, we decided to deliver them in person.

 

I want to tell you that it was the highlight of my week to see the joy on the faces of these children as they received a Bible from the church just for them. I also want to share that a small group from the church offered to purchase the Bibles for these youth.

 

Martin Luther said the Bible is like a cradle that holds Jesus Christ. These are the words that feed us, carry us, comfort us and share with us the promises of God.


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God Finds Us

Deuteronomy 9:25-10:5
 

(This is Moses speaking)

25 Throughout the forty days and forty nights that I lay prostrate before the Lord when the Lord intended to destroy you, 26 I prayed to the Lord and said, “Lord God, do not destroy the people who are your very own possession, whom you redeemed in your greatness, whom you brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27 Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; pay no attention to the stubbornness of this people, their wickedness and their sin, 28 otherwise the land from which you have brought us might say, ‘Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land that he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to let them die in the wilderness.’ 29 For they are the people of your very own possession, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm.”

 

10 At that time the Lord said to me, “Carve out two tablets of stone like the former ones, and come up to me on the mountain, and make an ark of wood. I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets, which you smashed, and you shall put them in the ark.” So I made an ark of acacia wood, cut two tablets of stone like the former ones, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. Then he wrote on the tablets the same words as before, the ten commandments that the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain out of the fire on the day of the assembly; and the Lord gave them to me. So I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tablets in the ark that I had made; and there they are, as the Lord commanded me.
 
 

So, this is the second time God (Yahweh) gave the Ten Commandments to Moses to share with God’s people.


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Waiting

Psalm 118:14-24

 

14 The Lord is my strength and my might;

    he has become my salvation.

15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:

“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;

16     the right hand of the Lord is exalted;

    the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”

17 I shall not die, but I shall live,

    and recount the deeds of the Lord.

18 The Lord has punished me severely,

    but he did not give me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,

    that I may enter through them

    and give thanks to the Lord.

20 This is the gate of the Lord;

    the righteous shall enter through it.

21 I thank you that you have answered me

    and have become my salvation.

22 The stone that the builders rejected

    has become the chief cornerstone.

23 This is the Lord’s doing;

    it is marvelous in our eyes.

24 This is the day that the Lord has made;

    let us rejoice and be glad in it. 
 

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A Due or Cheerful Response?

Matthew 17:22-27

 
Jesus Again Foretells His Death and Resurrection

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, 23 and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” And they were greatly distressed.

Jesus and the Temple Tax
24 When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” 25 He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” 26 When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. 27 However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”
 
 

I found this article on the internet. Let me first say that some of these statements are assumptions and not based on anything more than that. The type of coin, the type of fish, etc.

 

YOU CAN still order St. Peter’s Fish at restaurants in Tiberias, a town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and you will be served Tilapia. 
 

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Let All Creation Praise the Lord

Psalm 98

 

Praise the Judge of the World

A Psalm.
 

O sing to the Lord a new song,

    for he has done marvelous things.

His right hand and his holy arm

    have gotten him victory.

The Lord has made known his victory;

    he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.

He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness

    to the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen

    the victory of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;

    break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,

    with the lyre and the sound of melody.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

    the world and those who live in it.

Let the floods clap their hands;

    let the hills sing together for joy

at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming

    to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with righteousness,

    and the peoples with equity.
 
 
 

This past weekend, my wife and I traveled for the first time since February. We took a plane to Boston for our niece’s wedding. The outdoor setting proved to be ideal for the mid-October wedding. The park where the wedding took place has a pond with a fountain, a gazebo on the shore, and beautiful trees all around. The colors of the trees and the bright sunshine made for a lovely backdrop for a lovely wedding. The bride and groom, nervous and happy, and the families gathered filled with joy for these two. A small group of us gathered, due to, well, you know… But we were able to be present for a special day.


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Making Time for Mosey Monday

Psalm 63

 

Comfort and Assurance in God’s Presence

A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.
 

O God, you are my God, I seek you,

    my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

    beholding your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

    my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

    I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,

    and my mouth praises you with joyful lips

when I think of you on my bed,

    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,

    and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.

My soul clings to you;

    your right hand upholds me.
 
 

Several years ago, the congregation I served participated annually in a program called the Appalachia Service Project (ASP). This organization was first established by the United Methodist Church and later expanded to other faith communities. ASP works in the counties that make up Appalachia in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia. The staff would work with local agencies to find where the greatest needs were that could be addressed by volunteers to make homes drier, safer and warmer.


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The Faithfulness of God

Matthew 22:15-22

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap [Jesus] in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
 
 

About six years ago, I led a group of 14 on a trip to the Holy Land, and in that group were my wife and my mother-in-law. Any time we talk about going on a trip, people will ask, “Is it safe?” On the one hand, we had the news reports of the unrest. On the other hand, we had the people who lived there and the travel company saying all was safe, including the contact we made with the pastor who served the Lutheran church in Jerusalem. I had a group that trusted me to make a wise decision about the trip. And while I was confident we were going to be safe, I was also aware of those who placed their trust in me. Some people decided not to go on the trip, because they were concerned about the unrest.

 

Where do you turn? Who can we trust?


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