Daily Devotional 8-1-19

A Covenant Prayer
By Julie White  
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Colossians 4:1
John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer is a prayer used for the renewal of believers’ covenant with God.  It is often recited in special worship services but is also a prayer for individuals who want to affirm their commitment to God. While it is referred to as Wesley’s Covenant Prayer, when Wesley introduced the prayer at the first covenant service held in 1755 in London, he is said to have given credit to Richard Alleine for the moving words.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, may not have written the original words, but it was his decision to include the prayer and covenant service in the Methodist books of liturgy. The Covenant Prayer and service are recognized as one of the most distinctive contributions of Methodism to the liturgy of the church in general. Since that time, this prayer has become a standard part of the Christian journey of many people.
The traditional Covenant Prayer makes it very clear that this affirmation is a serious one that embraces our whole life, in all its parts. Though the meaning of the words is a central part of our Christian life, a lot of people find it tough to say them and really mean it. In our culture, we tend to prize our ability to make decisions and to choose our own path in life. It can feel very hard to give that up. But this prayer is like a love poem. It is about surrendering to God in love and in joy.
A Covenant Prayer in the Wesley Tradition
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside by thee.
Exhalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine.  So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, help us devote ourselves to You with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

Daily Devotional 7-31-19

One Smooth Stone
By Julie White
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my Savior, my God, my rock in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, my place of safety. He is my refuge, my Savior the one who saved me from violence. I call on the Lord who is worthy to be praised. 2 Sam 22:2-4
Five stones were ready, but only one was needed.
For forty days, Goliath, a nine-foot tall Philistine bully with an attitude, mocked the Israelites and God.  Brave warriors were terrified of what harm Goliath could do. Goliath wore a bronze helmet, a bronze coat that weighed 125 pounds, bronze leg armor, and he carried a bronze javelin with a spearhead that weighed 15 pounds.
Young David arrived on the scene and was instantly outraged by Goliath’s taunting remarks. While his brother tried to discourage him from getting involved, David was stirred by his confidence in God. With five smooth stones and a slingshot in his hand, David set out to conquer Goliath in the name of the Lord God Almighty. He didn’t have to trust in equipment. Knowing and believing that the Lord would deliver him from his enemy, David triumphed with just one stone!
Goliath had a definite advantage over David from a human standpoint, but Goliath didn’t realize that in fighting David, he also was fighting God.
Years later, after facing many enemies, David used the rock image in a Psalm describing his confidence in God (Psalm 18). God was his rock, he said, the only one needed to defeat any enemy. God delivered David from all his enemies and made him King of Israel! What enemies are taunting you?
What are your giants? Is it finances, hectic schedules, loneliness, anxieties, uncertainties? I know what mine are. Let’s call on the name of the Lord God Almighty to be our refuge, our fortress, and our rock. With confidence in God, we can and will triumph.
PRAYER: Dear God, help us remember that the battle is yours, that we are not alone, that you are the source of our strength. We thank you Lord, that you are always our shield and our one smooth stone. 

Daily Devotional 7-30-19

Blessings Carry Weight
By Julie White
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing: May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.  May the Lord show you His favor and give you his peace.’ Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in My name, I Myself will bless them. Numbers 6:24-27
A blessing is one way of asking for God’s divine favor to rest on others. The blessing in these verses helps explain what a blessing is supposed to do.
Its five parts conveyed hope that God would: protect them (keep them safe); smile on them (be pleased and make His presence known); be gracious (merciful and compassionate); show His favor toward them (give His approval, pleasure and affection); give peace (originally “shalom,” Hebrew for a positive state of rightness and fullness of well-being). The pronouncement of this blessing also placed God’s covenant name (Yahweh) on the people. Profound, right?
So, when we ask God to bless others, we are asking Him to do those five things. Words spoken in a true Biblical blessing are to be meaningful and significant expressions that can shape reality. In light of that perspective, it makes sense that God would tell His people to pronounce blessings on each other, then and now.
Blessings you offer help people who receive them, demonstrate love and encouragement, and provide a model for how to care about other people. When we align our words with God’s heart and His purposes, God, who desires to bless, responds to our words by declaring that He will.
Blessings carry weight, and in a very real sense, they carry His presence.
PRAYER: Lord, may my words be an instrument of Your shalom. May I impart blessings to others through my words and may Your Spirit inhabit those words in power. 

Daily Devotional 7-29-19

Sabbath Grace
By Julie White
Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. For in six days the Lord made the heavens the earth and the sea, and everything in them, but on the seventh day He rested.  That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. Exodus 20:8-11
Keeping the Sabbath holy helps us maintain the balance that is crucial to a life of faith and to remember the reason for all our activity. Without a break from activeness, life loses its meaning. Taking time out is not easy for some people today; it was the same in Moses’ day as well.
The Sabbath has significant purpose: It is a day to gather together to worship God; a day to cease working and relax in God’s care for us, to be refreshed spiritually and physically; a day to stop the things that occupy our workdays and participate in activities that nurture relationships, peace, celebrations and thankfulness; a day to clear away the distractions of our lives so we can experience God’s grace in a new way.
If we allow it to, observing the Sabbath can connect us, experientially, to the basic truth that nothing we do earns God’s love. We are loved apart from what we do. On work days, we have to think about deadlines and all we need to get done, but on the Sabbath, we are to forget all that and simply enjoy what is.
The Sabbath frees us from outside pressures, and that freedom communicates God’s grace. It gives us time to reflect: Who do I really care about? Where is God leading me? What are my deepest longings? What specific purpose does God have for my life? Taking time to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy, gives us a reprieve from the values that our culture imposes upon us and a day to experience God’s unconditional love and acceptance that do not depend on our “doing.”
Prayer: Holy Spirit, Scripture tell us that God commanded His people to make one day every week holy, the Sabbath. We thank you for the opportunity to serve you every day; help us honor You, especially on the Sabbath, by dedicating the day to you.

Daily Devotional 7-26-19

By Julie White
God answered, “I will be with you and this is your sign that I am the One who has sent you. Then Moses said to God, “Indeed when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’, and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” 
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” Thus, you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you. Moreover, God said to Moses, thus you shall say to the children of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob has sent me to you.  This is My name forever and this is my memorial to all generations. Exodus 3: 13-15
Jesus makes many “I AM” statements throughout the Bible. But, perhaps the most profound and powerful of them all is His claim that He simply is “I AM.”
The Egyptians had many gods by many different names. In this Scripture, Moses wanted to know God’s name so he could tell the Hebrew people exactly who sent him to them, and what that name signifies regarding their circumstances. Calling Himself ‘I AM WHO I AM’ articulates God’s eternal power and unchanging character. I think it means something like this: I am truly He who exists and who will be dynamically present then and there in the situation to which I am sending you.
In other words, His name was His person, His character, His authority, His power, and His reputation. Our Lord is not defined by or determined by anything other than Himself. His promise is sure and He is active and with us every second, as He was with those in generations past, and will be in generations to come. He is faithful and trustworthy, unchanging in His word as well as in His nature.
Jesus Christ is always the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8
In a world where change is constant, we can find stability and security in our unchanging God.  We are who we are because of I AM WHO I AM.
PRAYER: Thank you, God for Your wisdom that spans the ages; from generation to generation, thank you for your promises that continue to give meaning and direction to our lives. We praise you Lord!

Daily Devotional 7-25-19

Serving God Well
By Julie White
God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of Spiritual Gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10
Our God gives gifts! They don’t come to us tied in bright ribbons because they are spiritual. Particular gifts, activities, and places of service vary, but they all have their ultimate effects when they honor God and motivate others to do the same.
We are a diverse people, but in Christ, there is unity in diversity. Because of diverse needs in the community of Christ, different gifts are essential in order to meet those needs. Each one of us has a specialized ability, a God-designed role to play in glorifying God and drawing others closer to Him.
You may be familiar with Handel’s Messiah, the musical composition written by George Frederick Handel. Though Handel’s ability to compose music was undoubtedly God-given, his compositions were not immediately successful. In fact, Handel was heavily in debt following a string of musical failures and was close to being sent to debtor’s prison.
Then, two events changed Handel’s life. Handel was given funding to compose music for a benefit performance that would help free men from––debtor’s prison! Near that same time, a good friend wrote a libretto from the Bible, based on the life of Jesus, and gave it to Handel. Handel used it and composed the 260 page “‘Messiah” in just 24 days without getting much sleep or even eating much food. When he completed “The Hallelujah Chorus,” he reportedly told his friend, “I think I saw Heaven before me, and the great God Himself seated on His throne, with His company of angels.”
The writing gift of Handel’s friend combined with Handel’s gift of music composition, both pointing to Christ, empowered faith in each of these men and came together in a way that honored Jesus, lifted up others, and continues to change hearts for Christ today! This is a mighty example of God’s power by way of our Spiritual gifts: When hearts are focused on glorifying God and on serving others, there is unity in diversity.
PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for the spiritual gifts you put inside people on purpose. Help me to determine and use my gifts to Your glory.

Daily Devotional 7-24-19

Pure-Air Peace
By Julie White
For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace. 1 Corinthians 15:33
Peace. I think most people would agree that peace can be thought of as the opposite of stress, and one of the outward stress inducers many of us may face daily is noise. We live in a noisy society where too many unwanted sounds are like pollution – the kind that needs getting rid of and not recycled. To enjoy a peaceful atmosphere, we often must intentionally create one in order to “be” with God. I have a certain place in my living room where I sit and recover. It is a soft couch near a window that has a view filled with trees and birds. Sometimes I sit there and just breathe.
Resting is not necessarily idleness, as some people perceive it. Being still in mind, body, and spirit has a soothing effect on us. When we remain in quietness for a while, intentionally relaxing in God’s company, we begin to feel calmness envelop our souls. “In returning to me and resting in me you shall be saved; in quietness and trust is your strength,” (Isaiah 30:15). Peace produces more peace. We cannot live noisy lives continuously and expect to feel peaceful.
Jesus made sure He took time away from it all; time to be solitary. He ministered to the people but He also slipped away regularly to be alone and to pray. “Now, in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, Jesus went out and departed to a solitary place to pray,” (Mark 1:36).
If Jesus needed this type of lifestyle, then we do too. Waiting with God quietly does wonders to restore our bodies, minds, and emotions. We need it regularly. Insist on having it! Peace comes from God – “The Author and Promotor of Peace” (2 Corinthians 13:11), and we become peace-filled by spending time with Him.
Noise-stress is inevitable in this world, but so is God’s final victory. At that time, we all will stand quietly before our Lord. So, it’s appropriate for us to wait quietly now, as well, using time each day to be still and know that He is God. It is in the knowledge of God’s presence and of His deliverance that we find the purest air, the air of true peace.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, thank you for helping us rearrange our lives in a way that allows your clean-air peace, which surpasses all understanding, to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

Daily Devotional 7-23-19

Honoring God’s Omnipotence
By Julie White
How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways!  Romans 11:33
Babies and young children learn language by listening and imitating. They try out words and phrases and come to understand, by trial and error, what works and what doesn’t. Over time, the language becomes part of them – without analyzing verb tenses, without thinking of grammar rules. They don’t learn the parts first; they learn the whole.
Adults usually try to learn a language by studying the parts – analyzing grammatical patterns, memorizing vocabulary, learning pronunciations. And, I think sometimes we try to understand God’s ways in the same manner. The challenge is that the ways of God are not predictable. They can’t be separated into discernable parts.
My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you can imagine. Isaiah 56:8
It’s true that God’s character always stays the same, but His methods for achieving His purposes are ever-changing. If we try to master His system, we’ll feel like new-language learners, trying to wrap our brains around the rules and patterns of a language rather than trying to just speak it from our hearts.
Maybe this is one reason Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Children listen and imitate. They do this because they trust us. Children don’t feel supremely powerful, perfectly righteous, or totally autonomous. Those are adult delusions. Children have little to bring, yet everything to receive. Jesus tells us to trust Him, to receive Him with this same childlike faith. We don’t need to understand the mysteries of the universe; these things are in God’s holy vocabulary. It’s enough to know that God loves us deeply, and that Jesus wants to speak for those who need Him the most. Our job? Trust and obey, listen and imitate, seek the whole of God’s presence.
Prayer: Dear Father, thank you for being a God who knows far more, sees far more, and does far more than our finite brains can ever imagine or understand. Let recognizing and honoring Your omnipotence, and caring about and praying for others be the native language of Your people always. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Daily Devotional 7-22-19

Hide and Seek
By Julie White
I said to myself, “I will get up and roam the city, searching in all its streets and squares. I will search for the one I love.”  Song of Solomon 3:2
Hide-and-Seek is a game I played by the hour as a kid, and the more kids who played, the better. “Close your eyes and count to a hundred” and the game begins. The hiders find the most unexpected spots and the seeker finishes counting and goes looking and listening for friends who don’t (but really do) want to be found. It could be frustrating if it went on too long, but it didn’t. All the hiding places were eventually discovered. The locations of the hiders were only a matter of time.
It seems like God plays games of hide-and-seek too, and they are meant to be fun. He makes Himself obscure, frustratingly so for those who don’t understand there’s a game on, and waits for us to find Him. I like to think there’s something about our quest that warms His heart; He enjoys our searching. And He rewards it too. He doesn’t stay obscured so long that those with faith will get discouraged and give up. He reveals Himself to those who keep seeking.
If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me. Jeremiah 29:13
He wants to be found.
If God seems obscure to you, don’t give up your search. Let Him enjoy your seeking, an endeavor that He fully intends to reward. Like the beloved in the Song of Solomon, go into ‘all the streets and squares’ of your life in pursuit of the One who loves you. Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter” and I think He does it to see who is serious enough about Him to search it out. If you really desire His presence, you won’t quit searching until you’ve found Him.  And He will make your quest worthwhile. As you commune with others in worship, pray daily, study the scriptures, and share His love with others—you are searching for Him.
PRAYER: Lord, I know you’re there. Please lead me deeper in my search for You. Give me the courage to search for others who don’t (but really do) want to be found and to show them where You are.