Reading: Psalm 17: 1-7, 15 (Click to read text)
Psalm 17 is a plea for justice in the face of false accusations. It was written by David while he was being persecuted by Saul. Though in verse 3 it sounds like he is saying he is sinless, David's claim was an understanding of his relationship with God ~ one of close fellowship and constant repentance and forgiveness. David was continually seeking after God.
What do we seek? We deceive ourselves when we measure our happiness or contentment in life by the measure of our wealth or possessions. The true measurement of happiness or contentment is found in God's love and doing his will. There is eternal value in our relationship with God. That is our true goal! --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Closing Prayer: Dear God, may I be satisfied with seeing your likeness when I awake and all through my days. Amen.
Reading: Romans 9:1-5 (Click to read text)
(I admit, I had to go to my daughter’s New Student (Study) Bible (NRSV) to figure this one out and I will be drawing from the margin notes. They comment how chapters 9-11 contain some of Paul’s strongest words ever. I obviously would need help!)
I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. (v. 2) Rejection by the Jews was a crushing blow to Paul. Members of his own race were rejecting the gospel he had committed his life to and this was so upsetting to him he even offered to forfeit his own relationship with Christ for the sake of his race. (v. 3) Paul just couldn’t rest until he linked the theology he set forth in Romans to God’s past, present and future activity among the Jews. God does not break his promises!
Does anything bring more pain to a new Christian than rejection by family or friends? What is good news for the Christian may be seen as bad news by others. Some can melt down the walls of suspicion and hostility while others end up living in emotional quarantine. Same dilemma Paul faced. But God can be trusted. He keeps his promises. --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Closing Prayer: Dear God, your gospel message is good news to all past, present and future. Work with all your people as we commit our lives to you. Amen.
Reading: Genesis 32: 22-31 (Click to read text)
Jacob was alone. He got up in the night and sent his wives, servants, sons and all his possessions ahead across the ford of the Jabbok. He was left alone and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. Was this a battle he knew he had to do on his own? Get the women and children out of here and no help from the servants allowed?
Sometimes we have to wrestle alone. No phoning a friend. No polling the audience for their input. No asking to have two out of four wrong answers eliminated. We have to figure it out on our own perhaps wrestling with God even if it takes a long time.
What did Jacob end up with? A new name (Israel), a blessing and a limp. God left Jacob with a physical sign of his presence - a limp. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been preserved." (v. 30) --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Dear God, you know our names and we are blessed with your love, mercy and grace. We may carry wounds in body our spirit but you came to us in Jesus and our lives are preserved. Thank you. Amen.
Reading: Matthew 14:13-21 (Click to read text)
This is the account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand—a great and marvelous story. When I read it this time, I read something I don’t ever remember seeing before: When Jesus went ashore, He saw a great crowd; and he had compassion on them and cured their sick. And cured their sick. Spoken as a matter of fact. No fanfare, no preparation, no celebration, just “he cured their sick.” Like, that’s what Jesus does.
One recent Friday night staff worship this summer included a service of healing and anointing with oil. We were broken in so many ways. Illness, worry, tired, mindful of others’ struggles. We gave our brokenness to Jesus trusting that He can make us whole. Well that weekend one of the staff’s dog was diagnosed with Lyme's Disease. A friend’s cancer returned. Another staff member broke her elbow. Another bruised an elbow. A knee got sprained. Head stuff is going around. It seems that this staff is just plain broken. Some of us laughed and said, “So much for a healing service.” But, we trust in Jesus, that we will experience the wholeness he has for us. And we continue to “Live in God’s Time” with our campers.
Jesus does make us well. Even if we continue to have the sniffles or have to wait for bones to knit. Even if our friends continue to be sick. Or when we wait for death to bring wholeness. Or the world seems to experience new brokenness every day. Still we trust Jesus. We trust that he will hold us in our pain. We trust that he will give us what is good for us. We trust that the wholeness he has for us is better than the wholeness we want for ourselves.
And he cured their sick.
--Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff
Reading: Psalm 105: 1-11, 45b (Click to read text)
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. (verse 4)
Just joined Gold's Gym a couple months ago. Needless to say there is a lot of intense cardio and weight training equipment there for heavy duty serious work outs. Almost intimidating! I am simply trying to get back in shape. Coming up on a milestone birthday next month and want to feel strong going into that next decade. So far, so good. Strength for the body!
The Psalmist reminds us where to look for a different kind of strength: the Lord's strength. We are to look to the Lord; seek his face. Strength for the soul!
Soul strength helps us to love God and our neighbor. Soul strength leads us to be thankful and to call on the Lord's name. Soul strength helps us through danger, disease and despair. Soul strength reminds us to praise and worship as we humbly remember and tell of the wonders God has done. Praise the Lord! --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Closing Prayer: Dear God, help us to look to you and your strength. May we seek your face always. Thank you for the wonders you have done. We praise you! Amen.
Submitted by Ruth Gates
Reading: Romans 8:26-39 (Click to read text)
There is so much good material in this passage that I could probably write for a week. But, since this is just a simple first light devotion, I think I’ll comment on just the first 2 verses. These are a part of our curriculum this summer for day 5—Living in Pentecost.
What a lovely, comforting thought: For we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. Sighs to deep for words. Imagine that. I know, it is so intuitive it is hard to comprehend. But then, maybe we don’t really need to understand, just experience it. We don’t have to have the perfect words, we just need to have the sense of need or praise or thanksgiving. The Spirit takes it from there.
I’ve done a lot of work this summer helping the staff offer prayers at meals, worship and GROW times. It is important that when we pray in public that we make some sort of sense. But, in the end, properly constructed sentences with rolling phrases just aren’t that important. The Spirit gathers up our stammering and intercedes for us and God knows. Sighs too deep for words, indeed. --Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff
Reading: Genesis 29:15-28 (Click to read text)
Jacob apparently fell in love the moment he saw Rachel. But, it wasn’t as simple as that. Jacob worked two seven-year stints for Laban, Rachel’s father so he would give Jacob permission to marry Rachel. After the first seven-year stint he got tricked into marrying Leah, Rachel’s older sister. The older sister had to be married before the younger one. See what I mean about it wasn’t a simple matter? Any how. Jacob really loved Rachel and worked 14 years for the privilege of marrying her. That’s doing a lot for love.
What do we do for love? For God’s love? Keep the commandments? Work at being perfect? Go to church regularly? Give lots of money to charity? Work hard to have enough faith to believe? Maybe even pray “the believers prayer” so God knows we are serious? And after all that and maybe much more there is this:
(A)ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3)
If Laban had followed this rule, he would have graciously given Rachel to Jacob the moment he asked. That’s the way it is with God’s love. It is a gift that we don’t and can’t earn. God just loves us. That part is pretty simple.
So, let’s revise the thought for today. Now that you know that God loves you, what will you do? That part isn’t too simple. But, we can start with the reassurance that God does, indeed, love us. --Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff
Reading: Matthew 13:31-32 (Click to read text)
Ahhhh. The Parable of the Mustard Seed. What a problem this is. I know what size a mustard seed is. I’ve seen them. But, I’ve never seen a mustard shrub or tree. Well, let’s just fix this.
This summer I planted 6 rows of corn—3 white and 3 yellow. Those are not very big seeds. In fact, they looked rather precarious lying there in the shallow ditch. But I covered them up knowing that most of them would emerge. And they did!! A little weeding, good rain fall, nice warm sun…
Oklahoma!! The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, and it looks like its climbing clear up to the sky!!
I can’t wait. This is going to be a bumper crop of corn. Nothing better than going out to the corn patch, pulling a few ears, husking them and tossing them in the waiting pot of boiling water. --Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff.
Here is another look at this week's Epistle reading:
Reading: Romans 8: 12-25 (Click to read text)
Mondays at camp we live in hope. It is Advent…we hope for God to come into our lives. For some that is Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus centuries ago. For others that hope expresses itself by finding God present in our lives here and now. For still others, it may be the hope of living in God’s presence that is fulfilled only by death.
What is your hope today? To get a project completed? To reconcile with someone? To just sit and relax? To cook a wonderful meal? To go swimming? Play a round of golf?
I hope that whatever your hope is for today that God comes into your life in a marvelous way. Maybe a way that you have never thought of before. Something really new.
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
--Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff.
Reading: Psalm 139: 1-12, 23-24 (Click to read text)
Someone recently asked me, "Do you ever sit down?" It had been a busy week and the days ahead were just as packed. I was simply trying to let the person know where I had been and where I was going to be next. I think I simply confused her. Must admit, without my calendar, I might be confused some days, too.
"Oh Lord... You know when I sit and when I rise;... You discern my going out and my lying down. You hem me in behind and before;..." (verses 2,3,5)
Yes, we are a people seemingly on the go all the time but the Lord keeps up. His presence is with us in all times in all places. We cannot flee from Him. His hand will guide and hold us fast. (from verses 7, 10) --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Closing Prayer: Dear Lord, search our hearts and lead us in the way everlasting. Amen.
Reading: Romans 8: 12-25 (Click to read text)
Our text today tells us that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now. I've seen the pains of labor up close twice in my life. It's not the most pleasant thing to witness. But it is bearable because in the midst of a woman's labor, you know that something good is coming. The birth of a baby is a miracle and is a beautiful thing to witness.
Perhaps that's why Paul used this imagery for the Romans. It reminds us that something good and better is coming. Even in times that are unpleasant, we know that God is with us and will help us get to better times. Even though we can't see it, we can wait with patience for the "baby" God will deliver. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Genesis 28: 10-19 (Click to read text)
I've gone on enough overnights at camp to know that it's not fun to sleep on a root. That's why I'm amazed that Jacob just took a stone and laid his head down on it. That doesn't sound comfortable to me!
But yet, even with these circumstances, Jacob is overjoyed the next morning. He said the place was even awesome. He took what could be viewed as a negative and turned it into a positive.
That's what our staff is doing this week at camp. On Sunday, I declared that this was "Thanksgiving Week." Anytime the staff has a negative thought or comment, they are to turn it around into something positive. For instance, if they are about to complain about the rain, they should instead thank God for weather that provides water for the earth.
How can you turn your negative thoughts into positives this week and any week?
Reading: Matthew 13: 24- 43 (Click to read text)
In my years of teaching young adults, often they have questions and don't understand a concept. If I sense that they "just don't get it," I often try to think of an analogy that relates to something that they will understand.
I think this is what Jesus was doing in today's reading. He told three different parables and it seems like he told them to the same crowd of people. I bet he was sensing that they didn't understand what he said initially, so he decided to tell them the same lesson in another way.
What are some ways that you have done this in your work? How do you think God has sent you different messages over the years so that you'd understand them? --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Luke 7: 18-30 (Click to read text)
Ever hear of the phrase “actions speak louder than words”? As a kid, I can remember my parents telling my brothers and me this phrase. This phrase carries over to adult life as well. I’m sure everyone has had an encounter with someone who brags about what a good Christian he or she happens to be, that he or she never misses a Sunday at church, but when the congregation needs another volunteer for the soup kitchen, or cookies for a youth event, the same person is too busy bolstering their image to help out.
In the passage for today, Luke 7:18-30, John the Baptist’s disciples come looking for Jesus asking, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replies to the question, “Go tell John what you have seen and heard. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cured…” So many times in our lives, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves if our actions are portraying our beliefs and values. Are our actions speaking louder than our words? A few years ago, I was in the mall wondering what to get my siblings for Christmas. I couldn’t think of anything besides candy that was in my budget. They really didn’t need candy, but I didn’t know what to buy. I noticed that my church was sponsoring a mission mall where one gives a donation to various causes in lieu of a gift. I knew I couldn’t get anything with my money alone, but realized that if my brothers and I put our gift money together, we could buy something that would make a difference. That year we bought a mosquito net for a family in a tropical region to keep them safe from mosquito transmitted diseases while they slept. Every year since, we have compiled our money and picked a gift that is very much needed by others who aren’t as fortunate. Just as Jesus answered John’s disciples by pointing to action, we need to question ourselves if our actions are truly showing the love of God that we talk about. In the end, it is not words alone that will bring a person to God, but the love and acceptance of those demonstrating that love. -- Maria Kuba, Maple Village Leader
Occasionally, we will reprint prior devotions that now reflect on the coming lectionary texts. This is a reprint from a devotion originally published on April 2, 2014.
_Reading: Romans 8: 1-11 (Click to read text)
The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. --Romans 8: 6
I never managed to finish the book, Battlefield of the Mind, by Joyce Meyer. Most likely because there was a battle going on in my mind: Should I be sitting here reading this book or tending to my lengthy to-do list? It's a battlefield alright and the dustbunnies won.
Remembering an Amy Grant song from way back, Old Man's Rubble:
Are you living in an old man's rubble?
Are you listening to the father of lies?
If you are then you're headed for trouble;
If you listen too long you'll eventually die.
But if you're living as a new creation;
If you're listening to the Father of light,
Then you’re living in a might fortress
And you’re gonna be clothed in power and might.
There now! Who needs that battlefield book? I just typed out those lyrics completely from memory. The message IS in there; IN my mind! And I have always found with the Spirit and a song in my mind, there truly is life and peace. --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luthe
Closing Prayer: Dear God, there is a battle going on for our minds and the voice we listen to is going to win. Help us to hear the voice of your Spirit louder and clearer. Thank you for the life and peace that brings. We rejoice in the Spirit and pray in Jesus' name. Amen
Reading: Psalm 119: 105-112 (Click to read text)
Our church makes a point of encouraging families to remember and celebrate baptism birthdays with the relighting of the candle received at baptism. We added the giving of a small meaningful gift. One year the gift was a bicycle headlamp. Why? Well, for safe cycling at dusk, of course, and also as a reminder ~ Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119: 105. I thought it was clever at least.
Cleverness aside, the wisdom of the Psalm is true. I just finished reading, The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom. Corrie was in her 50's when she and her family joined the Dutch Underground Christian Resistance movement during WWII. Imprisoned and sent to a concentration camp for helping the Jews, the scriptures led her and her family through the darkest of times and most dangerous of places. His strength sustained them through profound horror. Corrie spent her life reaching out to others with God's love and the Gospel message. Her path was certainly lit by His Word. --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Closing: Watch this YouTube video of "Thy Word," by Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant.
Reading: Genesis 25: 19-34 (Click to read text)
As I write this, we've just finished Family Camp here at Mount Luther. I had a conversation this week with a family who have two children, one in college and the other in high school. They are two years apart in age.
I was told that now that the children are older, they get along more than when they were younger and at home together.
I've experienced the same thing. When I was growing up, my younger sister and I didn't always see eye-to-eye. But now that we are adults, we support each other more and can hang out without getting into fights.
In today's story, we read about a great time of sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau. Esau loses the birthright. I'm sure the subsequent fights between the brothers were not pretty.
But I also know that God was in their midst. Despite the fighting, God worked through them to make sure that everything worked out for good. When we are facing tough times or are fighting with a "brother or sister," we need to look for God and see how we can make good come out of the difficult situation. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Matthew 13: 1-23 (Click to read text)
You've probably heard this parable before. And, you've probably heard a preacher give an explanation as to what Jesus was talking about when he told this story. I'm not going to do that today.
Today, I want you to focus on the first two verses. Jesus was sitting by the sea. So many people came and gathered around him, that we went out into the sea and preached to them from a boat. He had to improvise! We do that a lot at camp. Sometimes things don't go quite as planned and we have to adjust what we were going to do to fit the current reality.
When I read these two verses, I was reminded that as we tell the story of Jesus to others, we, too, might need to improvise. We may not have a Bible handy to read the scriptures, so maybe we'll need to tell them by heart. It may not be the most convenient time to talk about our faith, but we have to take the time to share Jesus with others. Just like Jesus, we have to get in a boat and go out into the sea so others can see and hear the good news! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Psalm 33 (Click to read text)
When our forefathers were creating this nation in the 18th Century, I think they really had God in mind. From historical accounts that I have read, it seems to me that they looked to God for guidance and strength in their endeavors. Our ancestors had come to America partly for religious freedom. Religion was a priority when framing our new way of life.
Our nation's motto is "In God We Trust." When we say the Pledge of Allegiance, we say that we are "one nation under God." The founders of the U.S.A. knew that we could not have independence without the help of our Father and Creator.
As we celebrate America's birthday today, let us not forget to thank God for our independence and the ideals our country upholds. We are the great nation on this world, giving opportunities to so many people. Let us be thankful for what men like Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin did to set up the freedoms we enjoy today. God Bless America! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Meditate on or discuss with others this quote from Martin Luther, "The more a person loves, the closer her approaches the image of God."
Reading: Psalm 40: 10-17 (Click to read text)
"I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly." --Psalm 40: 10
"I am going to camp today!" That is what the sticker says along with the Camp Mount Luther name and logo. It is sent with your camp registration confirmation along with a packing list and other helpful information. The sticker is to be worn the day you leave for camp so all you see may know. Camp usually starts on a Sunday so folks at church will see the sticker, wish you good times and keep you in prayer. Maybe your neighbor will watch the minivan being loaded with suitcase and sleeping bag, come over to say farewell and see the sticker. Perhaps the cashier will notice the sticker as she is ringing out your last minute purchase of bug spray and sunscreen and ask about it. Tell the great assembly, "I am going to camp today!" - a place to learn about God's love and truth!
We don't always wear a sticker to tell people where we are going and what it is all about. Still, the Psalmist encourages us not to hide God's righteousness in our hearts. We are to speak of God's faithfulness and salvation. Think about how you can do that everyday and everywhere. --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Reading: Romans 7:15-25a (Click to read text)
“When I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.”
Sometimes it seems like St. Paul is so pessimistic that reading his words is like living in a garbage pit. Nothing good whatsoever comes out. Just stinky odors and a pile of rotting flesh. Certainly, life is better than that. Certainly, humans are capable of some good. Certainly there are times for cheering.
Yet, when we listen to the news or read the paper, it seems that Paul may, indeed, be right. Humans have an incredible capacity to harm each other. And, it seems that we do that often and we do it well. It is true when we look at the world, “evil lies close at hand.”
What to do, what to do. How can this change? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! That is Paul’s answer. Only God can fix this. But, that does not excuse us from trying. Even if evil gets involved in our doing good, God can manage it. If God can turn a crucifixion into resurrection and new life, our mess-ups should be little challenge. So, with confidence, we do our best and trust that God will bring good out of our mess-ups.
Last Sunday I lead a healing service. “Service for Wholeness” we call it. I encouraged the folks to come for the laying-on-of hands and anointing for more than themselves. I encouraged them to bring the broken world forward that we could pray and anoint, that God will make it well and whole. I encourage you today to pray for the well-being of this broken world. And I urge you to do what you can to make it well. --Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff.
Reading: Genesis 24: 34-38, 42-49, 58-67 (Click to read text)
If you've been associated with Mount Luther in the past, you probably know the camel story. It's the story about how camels came to Central PA and how the camp has stewarded this beast throughout the years.
I was pleasantly surprised when I read our Bible story for today that there is quite a few mentions of camels. And, I think it only appropriate because this is a story about belief. Often people ask me if there really are camels here at camp. The question is one of disbelief. My usual answer is that I've seen there. Sometimes you just have to believe in order to see.
Issac believed that he would find a wife. When are times in your life when you believed and something happened? Where did you find God in that experience? --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Read the "Legend of the Camel." Reflect on "belief."
Apple trees once populated the land that is now Mount Luther. The acreage was an apple orchard, bordered by a large sawmill. Loggers worked the forests surrounding the orchard, cutting down trees and transporting them to the sawmill so they could be cut into lumber boards for use in building.
The name of the operator of the successful sawmill is unknown. As he cut down more and more trees, and sawed more and more boards, the sawdust in and around his sawmill built up. It didn’t take too long before the sawdust impeded the man’s work. His team of horses and donkeys could barely walk in the sawdust. They sank in the sawdust like quicksand! The sawmill owner faced a big problem. If his animals could not get around the lumberyard, he could not cut up the wood and sell it. If he could not sell his lumber, he could not feed and clothe his family.
He remembered his cousin, Rashid, who lived in the desert of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, and thought he might be able to help. Rashid used the camel as his beast of burden. Sawdust and sand are similar in consistency. The camels walked on the sand with no problems. Perhaps they could easily move about atop the sawdust.
The man sent Rashid word of his idea. In short order, a pair of camels arrived at his sawmill in Union County. He tried out his theory right away and found the camels could walk easily on the sawdust. Using the camels, the man’s business boomed again!
Life in Pennsylvania challenged the camels at first, especially during the winter months, as they ate new food, survived in an entirely new environment, and adapted to the new climate. Their new owner took extra special care of them until they could adjust.
In a few years the number of camels grew, but the available land for logging decreased. People soon began using metals and other products to build things instead of using just wood. The sawmill owner decided to sell his homestead and move west. He and his family didn’t need the camels anymore. They untied them from their posts, allowing them to roam free. The camels went scurrying into the woods near what is now Mount Luther.
If you visit the camp, look out for the camels. They play an important role in the camp life. The campers go on camel hunts to try to find them. The maintenance staff milks the camels on summer mornings to provide milk for cereal at breakfast. At one time, near the Administration Center, there was a Camel Crossing sign. Because they play such an important role at Mount Luther, it is fitting that they have their own crossing. It crosses the path that leads to all that happens at Mount Luther- whether you are a junior camper, intermediate camper, ten day camper, senior high camper, member of the staff, or a guest.
Some think the legend of the camel came from the fact that the initials of Mount Luther remotely resemble the word camel. Some say the camels weren’t seen at Mount Luther until 1983 when a counselor, Morgan Hummel, first told the story. Whatever the case may be, these camels are our friends and help us tie Mount Luther’s past with the camp’s present and future. It also is Mount Luther’s meta-story, capturing in a legend the whimsical, open-ended wonder toward God and the world that campers, staff, and visitors experience at Mount Luther. Throughout the camp's history, people perceived and affirmed the presence of God, even if sometimes it seemed to their human eyes to be a little like the fugitive camel.
Anyone is welcome to contribute! If you'd like to write for us, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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