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February 19, 2013

By Abby Deaton, a junior psychology and communication double major from Indianapolis, Ind.
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

I was talking to someone recently about my “life’s plan.” After uttering that phrase, my friend simply laughed and said, “You see why that’s funny, right? When has your life ever gone according to plan?”

She’s right. In the past week and a half, what I’m going to study, where I’m going to live and what I am actively pursuing as a career has changed drastically. I have had those elements of my life planned out since 5th grade. It took three days for everything to change. So much for my plans.

Abram and Sarai were faced with the reality that Sarai wasn’t able to conceive. It was a tough reality, but a reality none the less for them. With this in mind, Abram and Sarai made “life plans.” Abram lets God know that “a servant in my household will be my heir.” That’s the plan. Even after God promises children to Abram and Sarai, Abram has a child with his slave Hagar. Sure, Abram and Sarai would have loved to completely trust in God, but they couldn’t. Sarai wasn’t getting any younger. Heirs were needed. Decisions were made. That’s that.

Years go by. Ishmael is 13, Sarai is 90 and Abram is 99. God reminds Abram that the promise God made still stands: Sarai will conceive and they will have a son. Abram responds by rolling on the floor and laughing. Good one, God.

It’s not that Abram and Sarai don’t want to believe God. They just don’t see how their life could pan out any other way. Often times, I have found myself feeling the same way. It’s always nice to think that things are going to work out alright, that God has a better plan than we have. But sometimes, it just doesn’t seem like there is any other way. Our plan is the only option.

When has life ever gone according to plan? Abram and Sarai did have a child. They named their son Isaac, which is Hebrew for “he laughs.” We will make our life plans. We’ll work towards them and laugh at the idea that there is a better alternative. But just remember, God gets the last laugh.

SCRIPTURE: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 (NRSV)
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.’ But the word of the Lord came to him, ‘This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.’ He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’ But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.
When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,
February 18, 2013

By Becky Horst, associate registrar
THIS WEEK’S THEME: We will take courage and wait on the Lord
DEVOTIONAL:

This week’s twin themes of courage and waiting seem like opposites, but they have the same source: trust in God.

In the past two years, I have walked alongside my husband Ken on his journey from good health through a rare heart disease to a heart transplant, with several complications. Last month, he ruptured a disc in his spine while playing racquetball. Now he is dealing with severe pain and a slow process of rebuilding his muscular strength.

Ken has always been physically courageous, but he is not someone who likes to wait. He enjoys motorcycles, model rockets and sports like racquetball that rely on fast-twitch muscle response. But Ken’s health issues have pushed him to new levels of courage and have taught both of us how to wait on God.

The two practices that help us most are Gratitude and Hope. Most days, Ken looks for beauty of some kind to photograph. Each night we name the things we are grateful for. Each morning, we welcome the new day with hope.

When we focus on Gratitude, it builds our trust in God. Trust gives us Hope. It gives us the courage to face difficult or unknown circumstances. It gives us the patience to wait for God’s timing.

PRAYER:

God, we are grateful for your love, and the ways you have helped us in the past. Give us courage to face an unknown future. Give us patience to wait for you. Help us to trust you with our whole hearts. AMEN

February 15, 2013

By Liliana Ballge, financial aid assistant director
SCRIPTURE: Luke 4:1-13 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

The life of a Christian isn’t without test or trials, rather our assurance is in knowing that God is in control. However, as Christ himself exemplified in Luke 4:1-13, we too must equip ourselves with God’s Word as a weapon against the devil himself or as a tool for facing any test or trial. I have found this to be true in my own life.

Like Jesus, God’s Word has been the sustaining power while dealing with the illness and death of my mother-in-law. Three years ago, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and underwent treatment and was healed. However, a couple months later, she again became sick and this time the cancer was more severe. During the same week that we were preparing to celebrate my husband’s graduation, we were also at the hospice house watching my mother-in-law lose her life at the young age of 55. To this day, tears fill my eyes and my heart feels the pain of losing her, but I am comforted by God’s Word that Jesus Christ is my comfort and strength, her Healer and our Savior.

While we mourned for her loss, we rejoiced that she is no longer in pain and is resting in peace. God showed us his salvation by coming to this earth in the form of a human named Jesus and overcoming death. I thank God that because of his resurrection power, we have a new heaven to look forward to. A place described in Revelations 21:4 where “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

SCRIPTURE: Luke 4:1-13 (NRSV)
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” ’
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.” ’
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you”,
and
“On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
February 14, 2013

SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 26:1-11 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

The Book of Deuteronomy is comprised largely of three sermons of a very old Moses speaking to a new generation of people about to enter the Promised Land. In this text, Moses sounds a bit like a mom or dad driving their family on the journey of a lifetime with tired kids in the back seat complaining, “Are we there yet?” “Not yet, kids,” he responds, “But when we get there, I promise you that half the fun of this trip will be in looking back at the memories we are making right now. We’ll look back at pictures taken in Iowa’s “Field of Dreams.” We’ll laugh at running out of gas in Gallup. We’ll remember the thrill of seeing a bear and her cub in Yellowstone, the shiver of fear on the Grand Canyon Skywalk. We’ll recount sleeping under the stars in Joshua Tree. And you know what, it’s hard to appreciate it right now on this God-awful barren stretch of desert, but it will be worth it, the minute you see the Pacific Ocean. I promise. ‘Then we’ll rejoice in all the good things the Lord our God has given us!’”

And so it is that on this Lenten journey over hills and through the vales of life, on this Lenten journey through trials and tribulations, on this Lenten journey on the barren road to Easter, let us remember in advance, how God heard the complaints of our spiritual ancestors in like moments and delivered them into a land flowing with milk and honey in God’s perfect time. Let us remember and bow.

SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 26:1-11 (NRSV)
When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, ‘Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.’ When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.’ You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.
February 13, 2013

By Bob Yoder, campus pastor
WELCOME:

Welcome to Goshen College’s on-line devotionals for the 2013 Lenten season! Our theme this year, taken from the Mennonite Church USA worship resources found in Leader magazine, is “Ashamed No More”; the four paragraphs below represent a brief summary of the writing team’s introduction to this year’s theme. Every Monday an author will introduce the sub-theme, whereas the following weekdays authors will reflect on a specific Scripture passage. The theme for this week, Lent 1, is “God Will Show Us Salvation.”

DEVOTIONAL:

The biblical stories emerge from Eastern cultures where honor and shame are important — to a degree Westerners might have trouble understanding. Personal, family, community and national honor are of paramount concern. To be shamed, to be recognized as less than the image one has carefully crafted to bestow honor to one’s family and community, destroys people psychologically and spiritually. Therefore in this context, one may go to extreme lengths, such as lashing out violently against the instrument of shame, to restore one’s honor.

Western cultures base their biblical understanding of salvation mainly on judgment and guilt. For example, salvation is about having guilt removed through Jesus who died on the cross, thus restoring our relationship to God. Jesus takes away our guilt, freeing us of the effects of sin. However, honor and shame thinking is also part of a Western approach. For instance, we worry what people will think if they find out about a marital divorce in our stable family and wonder “How will it reflect on us if the world finds out?”

We need salvation from the disgrace we suffer and need to have our honor restored. Which is the better motivator to change our ways: the approach of judgment and guilt OR of honor and shame? Compare the effect on a misbehaving child when the parent says, “What you did is bad” versus “You should be ashamed of yourself.” Both seem to have their place, especially when linked to an offer of forgiveness and a new beginning.

In the parable of the prodigal son, a key Gospel text of the Lent-Easter season, we find that the prodigal son comes to his senses and makes a decision to return to the father not because he feels guilty but because he is ashamed of how he is living. As a Jew facing ruin and starvation, he is reduced to the level of tending pigs and desiring their food. However, his shame is overcome when the father takes the shame upon himself and restores the son to his original place.

PRAYER:

God, the Restorer of all that is broken and pained in our lives, help us to experience your salvation. May we live in your desired ways and extend forgiveness to those who have harmed us, and receive forgiveness from those whom we have harmed.

February 1, 2013

Goshen College again offers an online resource to help believers make time and space in their hearts and minds to reflect during the season of Lent.

Beginning Feb. 13 (Ash Wednesday) and culminating on March 31 (Easter), Goshen College students, faculty and staff will provide weekday reflections based on the Sunday’s upcoming lectionary Scripture passages. Many writers will reflect on the theme: “Ashamed No More,” taken from Mennonite Church USA worship resources.

The devotions will reflect honestly on the Scriptures and offer words of assurances of faith. The spiritual offerings will include poetry, personal stories, reflections and prayers, all intended to more closely examine the call to change and follow Christ.

Since 2001, Goshen College annually celebrates special seasons of the church calendar, particularly Advent and Lent, with online devotions.

 

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