Today, I'm doing something different for this daily devotion. I'm not picking a text for you to read. You'll have to do that for yourself in a minute.
Today is the day that is often filled with scary images of witches, bats, ghosts, ghouls, and other creatures. It is Halloween. We put on masks and costumes and often try to scare other people. Our kids go door-to-door and ask for tricks or treats. Black is the color of the day.
Life is often as scary as Halloween. There can be times when the future seems scary or circumstances we are dealing with are scary. I just heard about a friend whose daughter was in the hospital and they couldn't figure out what was wrong. They gave a list of options and one was a fatal disease. That would be scary.
In times like these, I think God can help us ease our fears. We can return the Word of God and wrap ourselves in the stories of grace, given freely by our loving God. And so today, as you navigate through little goblins and the scariness of Halloween, sit down and take a little time to look up something in the Bible that will calm your fears. If you don't know what to look up, sit down with your Bible, ask God in prayer to guide you , and then open up your Bible and discover a surprise from our Lord. I bet you won't be scared! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Psalm 34: 1-10, 22 (Click to read text)
Reflection: This Psalm was written by David, a long time before Jesus came to earth. But yet, it says in this passage, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." When I read that line, I immediately thought of Holy Communion. We often hear that line before partaking in Eucharist. But when David wrote these words, the Last Supper had not even taken place yet.
Which reminded me that God's story is so interwoven. Jesus is present in the Old Testament readings. And it reminded me that our God is part of all our senses: touching, eating, smelling, hearing, and seeing. How great to be reminded of that.
This Sunday, as many congregations commemorate All Saints Sunday, it will be good to remember the saints and their impact on our lives. It will be good to celebrate their faithfulness. And, it will be good to remember how they now can taste and see that the Lord is good. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: 1 John 3:1-3 (Click to read text)
Reflection: "Jesus Loves the Little Children" is one of my favorite camp songs. The little children love it. The big children love it, too. Sometimes when Chad and I are leading songs after a meal, we use the song as a transition between other songs. Sometimes we just sing it over and over with various voices, volumes, etc. I have used it at off-site day camps to get control of a rowdy bunch of kids. Just start singing it and they will follow and give you their attention. Why am I talking about it? Let’s sing.
Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
--Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff
Reading: Revelations: 7: 9-17 (Click to read text)
Reflection: There is a whole lot in the book of Revelations I simply do not understand but this passage at least is more comprehensible than most. All the details of the great multitude in white robes and their songs of praise are amazing and wonderful. I can imagine that. The text ends with, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (v. 17c) Imagine that!
Everyone has had reason to cry and we seek God for comfort and strength in times of sorrow. But sometimes the tears still fall. Imagine in heaven when God will wipe away every tear? Every tear! As much as it will be a joy to hear the heavenly chorus of multitudes, the individual comfort of our own tears being wiped away brings a song to the heart. --Ruth Gates, Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Reading: Matthew 5: 1-12 (Click to read text)
Reflection: This Sunday, many of congregations will commemorate "All Saints Sunday." It's a day when we remember the great cloud of witnesses who have come before us, and often we commemorate those in our midst who died in the last year.
I know of several ways that congregations "celebrate" this day. In my home congregation, a votive candle was lit for each of the dearly departed since the last All Saints Sunday. Where I attend church now, our pastor usually talks about those saints during her sermon and during the prayers of the people, the list of names is read as a bell tolls for each of the saints.
Last September, I had the opportunity to preach on September 29. On that day in our church year, we commemorate St. Michael and All Angels. As I was arriving to worship, I got a phone call to tell me that my aunt had died. That particular day, during worship. we sang a song about the angels and the heavenly chorus. I smiled (and teared up a bit) when I thought that my aunt was now among them, singing with God.
As our Bible passage reminds us today, our hardships here on earth are temporary. Jesus tells us that as His chosen people, our reward will be great in heaven. As we remember saints in our life, we can smile knowing they are enjoying that reward! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Hebrews 13 (Click to read text)
Reading: Psalm 46 (Click to read text)
Reflection: My favorite hymn is "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." It was written by a man, Martin Luther, who I have admired since I was a child. Luther had so many good things to say and I think some of his best words are in that song. The verses tell us that God is our strength and will never fail us. We may have to fight the forces of evil, but good will prevail. Should we lose all of our possessions and all those we love on earth, we will still have our rock- God, our father. I share Luther's hymn, based on Psalm 46, with you today:
A Mighty Fortress is Our God, a sword and shield victorious
He breaks the cruel oppressor's rod, and wins salvation glorious
The old satanic foe, has sworn to work us woe
With craft and dreadful might, he arms himself to fight
On earth he has no equal.
No strength of ours can match his might, we would be lost rejected
But now a champion comes to fight, whom God himself elected
You ask who this may be, the Lord of Hosts is he
Christ Jesus, Holy Lord, God’s only son adored
He holds the filed victorious
Though hordes of devils fill the land, all threatening to devour us
We tremble not unmoved we stand, they cannot overpower us
This world’s prince may rage, in battle he’ll engage
But he is doomed to fail, God’s judgment must prevail
One little word subdues him.
God’s Word forever shall abide, no thanks to foes who fear it
For God himself fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit
If they should take our house, goods, honor, child or spouse
And wrench our life away, they cannot win the day
The kingdom’s ours forever.
--Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Romans 3: 19-28 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Life (in some respects) is just not fair. So many things influence a person’s life. Place of birth, nationality, skin color, socio-economics, education, intelligence, DNA … you can add some I missed. But all of those things have the potential of determining whether you are an athlete, professor, laborer, parent, wealthy, poor, law-abiding citizen, prisoner, president, pauper … All that means that we can look around the world and describe it as an uneven playing field. Some folks just have a tougher time than others. Some folks live on easy street.
But listen to St. Paul, “there is no distinction.” Hmmmmmm. That would level things out. But how does that work? “All have sinned sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Well, I guess that puts everybody in his or her place. (drum roll please) “They are now justified by his grace as a gift.” That really levels the playing field doesn’t it? They are all justified by a gift.
Today we can go about our business observing both the uneven playing field and the level playing field. We can observe that, for whatever reason, people have different lives. We can also remember that they are all are gifted by God’s grace. And that gift may not be fair, either. But then, God isn’t about being fair. So, we live our lives today as one who is justified. And live and work among all sorts of folks all of whom are also justified—just like us.
In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north,
All children of the living God are surely kin to me.
(ELW 650, vss. 1 & 3)
--Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff
Reading: Jeremiah 31: 31-34 (Click to read text)
"I (the LORD) will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people." (v. 33)
Reflection: The Old Testament is a lot of covenant and laws. In that book, we hear the story of the covenant with Abraham and Israel; and laws from "Do not eat of the fruit of the tree" to the big Ten Commandments to smaller laws beyond count. Still, there were problems. The written law, though useful, did not have the power to transform inner attitudes. But the Good News of the Gospels and the New Testament does. Through the Holy Spirit, we are changed from the inside out! The law is in our minds and written on our hearts. That way we all know Him, from the least to the greatest. --Ruth Gates, Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Prayer/Song: Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart Lord Jesus. Come in today; come in to stay. Come into my heart Lord Jesus. Amen
Reading: John 8:31-38 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Even the Jews who believed in Jesus were confused when he spoke to them about freedom. They understood that their Jewishness meant that they were always free. (Somehow they must have forgotten about their ancestor’s long sojourn in Egypt.) So what did Jesus mean when he speaks to them about freedom?
We, too, are probably a bit confused by this conversation about freedom. What does Jesus mean? We may first think of freedom in the political realm. We in the the United States enjoy many freedoms that some in other places do not. We often see and hear, “This is a free country.” So there is that.
There is also economic freedom. We also hear about “free market economy.” That is the basis of our economic system. And whatever else that does for us, it makes it possible for us to have a large range of choice in supermarkets. Lots of stuff to choose from and the economic freedom to choose.
Confused about what Jesus meant about freedom?
I was, too, until I looked at the whole thing in context. Jesus talks about sin, truth and then freedom. If we know the truth we will be free. Free from what? The truth about what? Free from sin and the truth about ourselves. See, at times we convince ourselves that we are o.k. That somehow we free ourselves from sin. Actually that is not the truth. Our liturgy has it right: “Most merciful God, we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.” There it is. That’s the truth. Now what? “So if (read ‘since’) the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” What a nice place to be led by the truth. We can’t free ourselves from sin. Jesus can. Jesus does.
Now, that’s independence day!! --Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff
Reading: Hebrews 13:8 (Click to read text)
Reading: Psalm 99 (Click to read text)
Reflection: When I first read this Psalm, it reminded me of last week's Psalm that also had a list of some heroes of the faith. Today, we are reminded about Moses and Aaron and Samuel. We are reminded of their faithfulness.
Tomorrow, you will read a devotion that I wrote about a revelation I had last week about the state of the church and what might be wrong or missing today. Perhaps you'll agree with my thoughts. Maybe you will not.
As I read this Psalm, and as I've been reminded a lot lately, whatever the current circumstances you are facing, God is there. God is present, in our midst. And God is faithful. People like Moses and Aaron and Samuel looked to God for help. So should we. If all these years later they are still examples of us, think of how we can be examples to our loved ones and others if we, too, are faithful.
"Extol the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy." --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther
Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (Click to read text)
Reflection: The Thessalonian Church was born in violence. For extra credit today, read Acts 17:1-9. There was a mixed reaction to St. Paul and Silas’ initial preaching and teaching in Thessalonica. Some believed in Jesus and joined with Paul and Silas while others were offended and “jealous.” They “formed a mob and set the city in an uproar.” The Thessalonian Christians were probably surprised, frightened, upset and defensive. They certainly didn’t want their city in an uproar. And more than likely they blamed others for the disturbance. And, in turn, they were persecuted. Not a good environment for starting a church and proclaiming the gospel. Sounds more like an invitation to enmity, turmoil and ongoing finger pointing.
But in today’s reading we hear that the Thessalonian Christians “received the word with joy… (and) became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” They became known throughout the region for their “faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” I think that is exciting. They learned what Christianity is all about. The way of the Lord became a part of their being. They lived it out. So much so that they became well-known for faith, love, and steadfastness. What a difference their attitude and actions made in that part of Greece in their day.
So, what are Christians in this part of the world known for in our day? And what difference does it make? What are you and I known for? What kind of difference do we make? --Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff
Reading: Exodus 33: 12-23 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Isn't it a little unsettling when God tells Moses, "You cannot see my face, for no one shall see me and live."? It brings back one of the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Very scary. But actually, Moses at first requests, "Teach me your ways so I may know you." In the end, Moses sees all the Glory of God pass by while in a cleft in a rock and covered by God's hand. He could see all the glory but could only catch a glimpse of God's back. Did Moses get what he asked for?
That was enough for Moses and is enough for us. Look for and see God's glory! It is passing in front of us all the time and, if we are watching, we will surely get a glimpse of God. Then we can also say, "Teach me your (glorious) ways so I may know you." --Ruth Gates, Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Reading: Matthew 22:15-22 (Click to read text)
Reflection: In Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race there is a political ad which has people saying among other things that they just can’t wait to pay more taxes. The point, of course, is that the one candidate is going to raise your taxes. And nobody wants to have taxes raised. That evil government is just going to waste your money. They will take it out of your pocket and just plain squander it.
“Give therefore to the emperor (read ‘government’) the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
But, it all belongs to God. Both the Kingdom of God and the civil government of this world are God’s. Even that government that wants our money. In so many ways God uses government and the church to accomplish the same thing. It could be summarized in the idea of social justice. Both government and the church seek to help those who can’t make it on their own. It isn’t too farfetched to say that government is one of the ways that God gets done what God wants done. Sometimes government acts more effectively than the church. Sometimes the secular agencies get much more done than the church does.
Is there waste in government? Of course. Is there waste in the church? Of course. Is either institution perfect? Of course not. Are they both creatures of God? Of course.
There is a lot of government bashing going on. Perhaps for a day we can give God thanks for government and what it accomplishes. --Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff
Occasionally, we will reprint prior devotions. This is a reprint from a devotion originally published on October 3, 2013.
For today's devotional, again we will use the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Book of Faith questions, which is part of Camp Mount Luther's GROW Time with campers. First, read the passage and then discuss/ponder the four questions below. Conclude by reading the reflection and closing presented.
Reading: Psalm 103
QUESTION 1: What scares, confuses, challenges, or doesn’t make sense to me in this text?
QUESTION 2: What delights me in this text or is my favorite part of the story?
QUESTION 3: What stories or memories does this text stir in me?
QUESTION 4: What is God up to in this text?
Reflection: God is exalted above the heavens and God's glory is on the earth. God shows compassion for those that fear God and knows how we are made. We have eternal life through our belief in Jesus Christ, the son.
As for those who do not believe, their days are like grass. They wither away and will be no more. God's kingdom, however, is forever. We will live on.
David wrote many songs praising God. You may not be a song writer, but you can praise our Lord in your own way each day. And we should, for we have been truly blessed. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Discuss with others or meditate on this quote by Ed Cole, "The torment of the temptation of sin is nothing compared to the torment of the consequences of sin."
Reading: Psalm 106 (Click to read text)
Reflection: This Sunday, the psalm is a collection of verses from Psalm 106. But today, I'd like you to read the entire Psalm and reflect on it with me.
As I read it, it reminded me of the passage in the New Testament (I think it's in Hebrews) that recalls a long list of faithful people and how they overcame obstacles. This psalm does the same. But look at the last verse. It reminds us that we should, in all circumstances, praise God.
I read a Facebook post today which the writer said she was going to list some of the trials of her day. But she didn't, because she spoke to a friend who had worse obstacles to overcome. That put everything into perspective.
When we keep God in our hearts and minds and have an attitude of gratitude, our outlook each day will be bright! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Occasionally, we will reprint prior devotions that now reflect on the coming lectionary texts. This is a reprint from a devotion originally published on September 26, 2013.
1. What do you do when you are worried about something?
2. How do you find comfort and peace in God?
Reading: Philipians 4: 1-9 (Click to read text)
This verse tells us that we should not worry about anything. Instead of worrying, we should let our requests be known to God in prayer. By praying about things that worry us, we can find peace in God. That peace will guard our hearts and our minds. When we worry, if we turn our thoughts to Jesus Christ, we will feel peace.
The next time you are in a worrisome situation, pray about it and turn your thoughts toward God. There, you will find peace. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Discuss with others or meditate on this quote by Lao-tzu, "To see things in the seed, that is genius."
Reading: Exodus 31: 1-14 (Click to read text)
Reflection: What were they thinking? That is what I have always asked myself when I read this passage. What were the Israelites thinking grumbling after all God had done for them? And Aaron? What was he thinking coming up with the Golden Calf idea? And Moses, poor guy having to walk back into this mess and then try to defend the motley bunch to God! It all seems like everyone single one of them had either already or at that point had cause to throw up his or her hands in disgust and say, "I am sooo through with you!" Even the Lord was pretty much ready to destroy them.
Yet, Moses, dear Moses, sought the favor of the Lord his God (v. 11) and the Lord relented and did not bring up on his people the disaster he had threatened. (v. 14)
When have you been ready to be sooo done with someone? When has someone had reason to be sooo done with you? Isn't it such a good idea to take a step back, recall blessings and seek favor? If Moses can convince the Lord, surely we can convince ourselves and each other to relent from our threats of ill will. --Ruth Gates, Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Reading: Matthew 22: 1-14 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Last Monday, my wife and celebrated our wedding anniversary. The year we got married, there were many preparations, including sending out invitations to our friends and family. When we did the rough draft of the guest list, we had over 400 people. We knew we our venue could not hold that many people so we had to whittle down the list. We eventually settled on about 250 people, as I recall.
We were anticipating a big crowd for our big day. But what would have happened if we had made all the preparations and when we arrive on that day, no one was there. I'm sure our emotions would have run the gamut from being surprised to being hurt to being angry.
This is just what the king felt in our story today. He also planned a wedding banquet and no one arrived. He sent people out to bring folks off the streets, just so there would be attendees. Jesus likened it to those who did not accept the grace that God gives to all.
I also think this story is a reminder that when we make a commitment, we should stick to it. If we say we are going to attend an event or do something for a friend or relative, we need to follow though and do it. The disappointment the king felt may very well be the same disappointment felt by the person you made the commitment to. I recently talked to a youth group leader who is frustrated when her youth say they'll attend an event and then bail out at the last minute.
The story of the wedding banquet should be a reminder to us to do what we say we are going to do. (And, don't forget to return your wedding invitation RSVP card!) --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Psalm 19 (Click to read text)
Ever read a Bible passage and go, "Huh?" That's what happened to me today when I read this Psalm. I was particularly struck by verse 2 which says, "...night to night declares knowledge." And I thought, "What does that mean?"
And then I thought of all the reading I've done in my lifetime at night. I like to read before bedtime and have done that since I was very young. I can remember cuddling up to a book under my covers when I was in elementary and middle school. I've been told that when you study for a test, you'll remember the information more if you read it right before you sleep. Once, I even tried to put a book under my pillow, hoping the knowledge would come into my mind by osmosis!
So, I guess it is appropriate that David reminds us that we get knowledge in the night. There are lots of good lessons to learn after the sun goes down. What have you learned in the dark? --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
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