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.

The Wonder of God’s Creation

Psalm 8

 

Divine Majesty and Human Dignity

To the leader: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

 

O Lord, our Sovereign,

    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

    Out of the mouths of babes and infants

you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,

    to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

    the moon and the stars that you have established;

what are human beings that you are mindful of them,

    mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,

    and crowned them with glory and honor.

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;

    you have put all things under their feet,

all sheep and oxen,

    and also the beasts of the field,

the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,

    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign,

    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
 
 

This is another detour from the selected texts for today. 

 

Here’s part of a list of camping tips from a man named Bruce Cochran which was published in the September 1996 issue of Backpacker magazine. The list is too long to read in its entirety, so I’m only going to mention a few:


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Taking Time is a Gift

1 Peter 5:1-5
 
Tending the Flock of God
 
Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for
 

“God opposes the proud,

    but gives grace to the humble.”
 

 

A leader who has no one following him is just a guy out for a walk, yes?

 

In my faith journey, and I imagine this is the case for many of you as well, the leaders that have been the most influential in my life have been those who have walked with me. As stated in our reading, it is those who do not lord it over those in their charge, but are examples to the flock.

 

Before I entered seminary, a mentor of mine shared with me that his approach to ministry had been to offer a ministry of presence. He not only talked about it, but he lived it in his pastoral office. He made sure he was there for surgeries and crises, as well as joys and celebrations. It’s a ministry of presence.


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The Mirror Always Tells the Truth

James 1:17-27

 

17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
 
 

Again, I’m going off-script, if you will, and using a different text than one of those assigned for today.

 

One of my son’s favorite cartoons is the one called Fox Trot. It is about a family with three children who pick on each other, as children do. The youngest boy, Jason, the brain of the family, teases his big sister, Paige, as often as possible.


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God Never Runs Out

John 6:25-35
 
25 When the crowd found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
 
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
 

Today’s devotion is from a sermon by Dr. Luke Bouman,

former Pastor at Valparaiso University.


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Look to the Cross

Philippians 3:13-4:1

 

13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.

17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. 

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
 
 

The letter to the Philippians is a good one! Paul is definitely focused on the end goal. He has a lot of accomplishments he could list from the past, but his focus is forward, centered on Christ.

 

What I love about our worship spaces at Epiphany is that the cross is prominent. It is our focus. It centers us. It reminds us who we are and whose we are. Our focus is on the cross, and the One who bore the cross for you and for me, Jesus the Christ.


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What Verse Will Help You Face Today?

Psalm 34

 

Praise for Deliverance from Trouble

Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.

 

I will bless the Lord at all times;

    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul makes its boast in the Lord;

    let the humble hear and be glad.

O magnify the Lord with me,

    and let us exalt his name together.

 

I sought the Lord, and he answered me,

    and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him, and be radiant;

    so your faces shall never be ashamed.

This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,

    and was saved from every trouble.

The angel of the Lord encamps

    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good;

    happy are those who take refuge in him.

O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,

    for those who fear him have no want.

10 The young lions suffer want and hunger,

    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

 

11 Come, O children, listen to me;

    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

12 Which of you desires life,

    and covets many days to enjoy good?

13 Keep your tongue from evil,

    and your lips from speaking deceit.

14 Depart from evil, and do good;

    seek peace, and pursue it.


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Accept the Gift

Matthew 22:1-14

 

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
 
 

It was a Sunday a few years ago, like many others before it and since. The service progressed from the welcome and confession and forgiveness, hymns, readings, sermons. You know the routine. The offering was gathered, and the table was set. All had been made ready, and now it was time to welcome the people to the feast. Communion – I had presided at the table at least a thousand times, as best as I can figure. I have had the privilege of administering the sacrament over and over again. I know it by heart, and I could probably do it in my sleep. Some think I have!

 

But that day, as I lifted up the bread, and raised the cup,


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That is the Truth

John 8:31-38

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They 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’?”
 
34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. 38 I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.” 
 
 

Again, I am going away from the selected texts for today and pulling in another one. I figure I can take this liberty as this is devotion number 200! Since the end of March, I have written 200 devotions and shared them with you. Thank you for joining me in this journey. I have no intention of ending these any time soon. But I may go off the selected readings every now and then. I hope you don’t mind.

 

This passage from John is often used on Reformation Sunday, and the focus is on the TRUTH that will make you free.


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Because…

James 4:4-10

 

Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,

 

“God opposes the proud,

    but gives grace to the humble.”

 

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
 
 

That is probably not how you wanted to be addressed the first thing this morning, or whenever you are reading this. “Adulterers!” But I imagine it got your attention.


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Comfort in Translations

Psalm 23

 

The Divine Shepherd

A Psalm of David.

 

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

2    He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

3    he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

   for his name’s sake.

 

4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

   I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

   your rod and your staff—

   they comfort me.

 

5 You prepare a table before me

   in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

   my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

   all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

   my whole life long.
 
 
The 23rd Psalm: I have shared it at dozens of funerals over the past 30 years. There is a comfort in these words of a loving shepherd who protects and provides.

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