Weekly Devotionals February 4th – February 8th

MONDAY                                                                     LUKE 2:22-40  
Is there anything you’ve longed for in your life? A desire or hope to be fulfilled that runs deeper than the surface level wants and needs of our daily lives?      
In today’s scripture we find an old man named Simeon. He has waited years in faith and hope for the long promised Messiah, the one to bring liberation and peace to a troubled world. Enter the Holy Family. We might not expect Simeon to recognize Jesus as the Messiah while he is still so young, but we are told that, through his waiting, the Holy Spirit rested on him and guided him. With eyes of faith, Simeon recognizes who this little baby is and praises God. Put yourself in Simeon’s shoes, what do you feel as you take baby Jesus into your arms?      
Simeon never sees Jesus’ adult ministry. He is never fed or healed by one of Jesus’ miracles. He never hears a word proclaimed from his mouth, yet, at the very sight of Jesus, he is fulfilled. His hope has always been in the promise of God to his people and the world. Jesus is the sign that God’s promise is true. Take a moment and talk honestly with Jesus about what you long for. What are you waiting and hoping for? What signs would you recognize of these hopes being fulfilled?  
TUESDAY                                                                        MARK 5:25-34  
Where do you turn, initially, when faced with a difficult situation?    
The woman in today’s scripture suffered greatly for twelve years. We’re told that she exhausted her resources in search of a cure. She tried everything in her power, but was no better. She was actually getting worse. Can you imagine her desperation?     Not only was she physically unwell, but, according to the Law, she was considered unfit to worship God and unfit to be with others. The rejection and isolation added a spiritual and emotional illness to her physical malady. Then, one day, she hears of this Jesus who has entered her town. Not only that, he is making his way through the town only a short distance from her home. Yet, she has nobody to advocate for her for Jesus to pay her a visit. Having exhausted every other option, she turns to Jesus. Read the story again, only put yourself in the woman’s place. Imagine Jesus’ face as he responds to the power leaving him and then again as he faces you.  
When the woman falls down before Jesus and confesses, he responds with compassion, understanding, acceptance (“daughter!”), and healing. Where do you need this from Jesus in your life? Speak with him honestly now.  
WEDNESDAY                                                                MARK 6:1-5  
How do you detect the difference between divine moments in your life and the ordinary moments?    
Jesus returns to his hometown. He has garnered a growing reputation as a teacher and miracle worker. As he enters the synagogue to teach the townspeople are shocked, but their shock quickly turn to offense. “Who are you to teach us?! We know you and your family. You’re just Jesus, the carpenter, Mary’s son.” He is quickly disregarded because he is too well known. Have you ever been disregarded or dismissed because someone “knew” you? How did you respond?    
Nazareth was a small, unimpressive village in a region where Greek and Roman cities were built as glorious tributes to gods, emperors, and conquerors. The great people were made immortal in statues of marble expertly crafted and placed throughout the city. How could anything of significance come from Nazareth? Is there anything or anyone you are in danger of disregarding?    
One of the deepest truths of God revealed in Jesus is that there is no distinction between “divine” and “ordinary” (or secular) moments or places. God is found everywhere if we are willing to train our eyes and ears to see and hear. Pray a prayer of increase – to increase your faith to see God’s power and love in ordinary things, people, and places.    
THURSDAY                                                                     MARK 6:7-13
Jesus sends his disciples out on their mission with specific instructions on how to handle acceptance and rejection, success and failure. “If you are welcomed, stay. If you are not, shake the dust off your feet and move on.” Simple, straightforward advice, but we don’t always follow this way. Are you every embarrassed to accept generosity, or hospitality, or aid from other people? Do you ever counter someone’s offer with the thought, “I really should be able to take care of myself”?  
Feeling accepted can be difficult enough, but we all have an experience of feeling rejected. We are told in scripture that God created us to be in community and relationship with one another. Experiencing rejection can shake us to the core, especially if our identity and worth is tied up in what other people think of us. When you meet rejection or failure, do you “shake the dust off your feet” and move on, or do you take it personally and feel hurt and resentful, and let the rejection fester in your heart and mind?    
Jesus’ instruction may seem difficult to follow. You may feel defeated at your lack of ability to live as Jesus invites us to live. Hear Jesus’ words as Good News. When you are working for God, the Lord will provide; God will give you the help you need. Your worth is not founded in what others think, but what God knows about you. What help or grace from God do you need right now?  
FRIDAY                                                                   HEBREWS 13:1-8  
We live in difficult times. Many people deal with the realization of failed expectations. Whether it is financial difficulties, relational problems, uncertainty about the future, health issues, or unemployment or homelessness. If things aren’t going well for us, we can be tempted to blame God for not caring for us or loving us. Have you ever asked God, “Why me?!” or “Where are you!?” in the midst of a disappointing season?    
On the other hand, if life isn’t so bad for us right now we may feel guilty (or defensive) that it is difficult for others. The author of Hebrews lived in an equally precarious world, but somehow managed to hold it all before the Lord and to recognize in the good and the bad that God is present in it all. It’s a spiritual matureness that inspires us today. Are there any of the examples he gives of mutual love that strike you? What does it make you desire?    
What would it take for you to be able to say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”    
Is there anywhere in your life that you need to hear Jesus say, “I will never leave you or forsake you”? In your prayer, tell Jesus where you are. Are you disappointed, burdened with guilt, defensive, lost? Allow him to remind you of his love.

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