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.

Nothing More Important

John 11:45-57

 

The Plot to Kill Jesus

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. 53 So from that day on they planned to put him to death.
 
54 Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.
 
55 Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.
 
 
Today’s lesson follows immediately after Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead.
 
Can you imagine what it was like for Lazarus and his family after that happened?

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Reconciled

2 Corinthians 5:17-21
 
17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
 
My bachelor’s degree is a B.A. in Accounting. My first job out of college was for an engineering company as a cost accountant. This was in the days before computers (okay Boomer!), so all the accounting transactions were done by hand.

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Living Stones

1 Peter 2:4-10
 
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:
 

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone,

    a cornerstone chosen and precious;

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

 

To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
 

“The stone that the builders rejected

    has become the very head of the corner,”
 
and
 

“A stone that makes them stumble,

    and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
 
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
 

10 Once you were not a people,

    but now you are God’s people;

once you had not received mercy,

    but now you have received mercy.
 
Today’s devotion is based on a sermon by Pastor Vince Gerhardy.
 
Peter – whose name means Rock or Stone, explains that we are “living stones.”
 
    • We are living stones because and only because of the relationship our living Lord Jesus has with us. We were once dead because of our sin, but now we are alive in Christ (Rom 6:11). 
    • We are living stones because of what Jesus has done for us – he has rescued us from being dead like a rock and made us fresh, new, and alive again through the forgiveness he has won for us.
    • We are living stones because he has given us eternal life now and beyond the grave, a glorious life with him in heaven forever. We have been given the kind of life and future that only Jesus can give.

 

Without Jesus we would just be stones, without life, jagged, with sharp edges, useless, without much of a future.
 
Without Jesus we would be stones that are inanimate, without life, “dead”, without hope. But with the power, presence, and warmth of Jesus our Savior we become “living” stones.
 
There are times when we find the situations in life overwhelming. We, too, can easily be caught in a sea of worry and fear, tortured by the hopelessness of the situation, feeling as if no one can help us, desperate to be rid of our troubles, desperate for someone to understand us, to guide us and point us to the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
 
We can be so preoccupied with our worry and hopelessness that we are distracted from looking at the one who has demonstrated his love for us on the cross, has called us to follow him, and to trust him in the midst of the storms of life. We forget that he is in charge, that he is the one who gives life its meaning and purpose.
 
The people to whom Peter was writing had been rejected. They were persecuted, and they were despised by the people who were their neighbors. But, their teacher reminds them in his letter that they are chosen and precious in God’s sight. What the world has rejected, God has chosen. It might seem that they are alone, desperate, and without hope, but God has chosen them in their baptism and promises to always be their God through thick and thin.
 

Remember that Jesus went through this same kind of thing. He, too, was alone, desperate, and powerless, and rejected by people. He went to his death with people ignoring him, laughing at him, and when he cried out to God the Father, he heard no answer. Peter sums this up, saying, “Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable.”

 

Let us pray:

We are your people, O God. Use us to build your kingdom here, one stone at a time! We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


It’s Not Mine?!

Matthew 21:33-46
 
[Jesus said to the people:] 33“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ 39So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”
 
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?
 
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”
 
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
 
What is ours, and what belongs to God? I shared this before, but I think it speaks well to the lessons for today. A list of “Toddler’s Property Laws”:
 

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When was the last time you took a Sabbath day?

Exodus 23:10-13

 
Sabbatical Year and Sabbath
 
10 For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.
 
12 Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed. 13 Be attentive to all that I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.
 
 
Sabbath. When was the last time you took a Sabbath day – a day where you rested, refrained from any work, and solely focused on God?
 
In the Jewish tradition, Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday. There is a beautiful scene in the musical, Fiddler On The Roof, as the family is getting everything done so that the Sabbath can be observed. The family rushes around frantically until they gather at the table. The matriarch offers the prayer at the table, and lights a candle. As she performs this simple task, she covers her eyes three times, asking God to forgive her for even the work of lighting the candle.

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Try This Bible Study Method

I want to invite you to try something with today’s lesson. It is a Bible study method I have used with groups over the years, and I have found it to be insightful.
 
 
  1. Read the passage for today, printed below from the New Revised Standard Version translation. Read it slowly and consider the word or phrase that catches your attention.

 

Philippians 2:14-18 and 3:1-4 (NRSV)

14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. 16 It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— 18 and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.

CHAPTER 3

Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard.

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh— even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.


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When Evil Whispers

Psalm 19

 

God’s Glory in Creation and the Law

To the leader. A Psalm of David.
 

1The heavens are telling the glory of God;

    and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours forth speech,

    and night to night declares knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words;

    their voice is not heard;

yet their voice goes out through all the earth,

    and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,

 

which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,

    and like a strong man runs its course with joy.

Its rising is from the end of the heavens,

    and its circuit to the end of them;

    and nothing is hid from its heat.

 

7 The law of the Lord is perfect,

    reviving the soul;

the decrees of the Lord are sure,

    making wise the simple;

the precepts of the Lord are right,

    rejoicing the heart;


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Carry or Be Carried?

Matthew 9:2-8

 
Jesus Heals a Paralytic
 
And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
 
 
There is a parallel story to this found in the Gospel of Mark, the second chapter. In it, we hear that the crowd around Jesus is so large that the friends who bring the paralytic to Jesus CUT A HOLE IN THE ROOF and lower him in to where Jesus is teaching.
 
Jesus offers not only a word of healing, but a word of forgiveness as well. For Jesus comes not just to heal but to make whole. 

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What’s God up to in Your Life?

Psalm 42

 

Longing for God and His Help in Distress

To the leader. A Maskil of the Korahites.

 

As a deer longs for flowing streams,

    so my soul longs for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God,

    for the living God.

When shall I come and behold

    the face of God?

My tears have been my food

    day and night,

while people say to me continually,

    “Where is your God?”

 

Why things I remember,

    as I pour out my soul:

how I went with the throng,

    and led them in procession to the house of God,

with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,

    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,

    and why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

    my help and my God.


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Beloved

Philippians 1:3-14

 
Paul’s Prayer for the Philippians
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
 
Paul’s Present Circumstances
12 I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14 and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.
 
What I appreciate in St. Paul’s words to the Philippians is how often he lifts them up, reminds them they are God’s beloved, and are partners with him in proclaiming the Gospel.
 

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